Unidentified subject!

From: Doug Porpora <porporad.domain.name.hidden>
Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2004 08:03:07 -0500

Uh, okay.

First Stathis: Yes, of course our preferences have no bearing on the
truth of things, but they do bear on how we think about things. I
cited what I consider the moral ghastliness of endless universes not
as an argument against it but only as a reason why I have been
thinking about it so intently. I strongly share by the way your
preferences regarding global bullying, but that is an item probably
better left for the activist list.

Norman and Bruno: I myself am not defending a dualist position (body
+ soul, mind, whatever). I am prepared to say the body is the only
substance that exists. That does not mean its behavior is
explainable in terms of physics alone.

Yes, I would say that whenever we think anything, our brains are
doing something. It may just be though -- and i think it is -- that
our brains give us the capacity to engage in linguistic behavior that
is itself non-physical. Whether an idea is logical or illogical,
whether it is relevant or off the point, whether or not an essay is
disorganized -- these are not physical properties. I cannot even
fathom what it would mean to say there is a physical state that is
the irrelevance of a point.

Bruno, I don't know what "comp" refers to. Is it computational
theory of mind? In any event, there seem to me no prospects
whatsoever on the horizon for eliminative materialism. Here is the
crucial consideration: Do you think the linguistic exchanges we are
having -- point / counterpoint; question / answer are causally
efficacious? Is it, for example, a question that causally elicits an

If so, then the next question is whether the content of the question
causally affects the content of the answer.

If so -- and it seems clear to me the answer is yes, then Norman and
Bruno both, do you think we will ever be able to read the content of
either a question or an answer off from a brain state or a quantum

Keep in mind, as I have been saying, the ideas we express with
language are neither finite nor closed. Thus, even if you just
stipulated that this or that propositional attitude is identical with
this or that physical state, you would never, from the physical
states alone be able to explain new thoughts and the behavior they
lead to.

Reduction requires not just correspondence but also an ability to
explain without the higher level of reality -- in this case
linguistic. Again, there is just no evidence for our ever being able
to do this.

The strongest argument people make against reductionism is that to
deny reductionism is to embrace some form of mystical dualism, and
that just is not necessarily the case.

So Sergio: Yes, what you say makes sense to me. I agree with you.
It is the position I am trying to articulate here myself.

Martin: I really like your Bible example. It also expresses perhaps
even better what I have been trying to express. I am not sure what
you mean in your last paragraph. . .

At 9:39 AM +0100 1/16/04, Martin Keitel wrote:
>Hence if there are infinite universes, there are also several where
>the Bible rearranges itself. If it's more likely that this happens
>as an act of a "higher force", then there should be more this kind
>of universe than those where it happens accidentally...

. . .but it strikes me your example, if successful, is a kind of
reductio ad absurdum of Tegmark's thesis. I will have to think more
about it.

I think your other message also came through on the list. Although I
have been defending here a position that is called nonreductive
materialism rather than dualism, I definitely have my own mystical
leanings and, Bruno, some sympathies with Buddhism, and so am
attracted to what you suggest.

Your idea sounds similar to an idea of philosophers Hegel and, more
recently, John Leslie who argued that at bottom the universe is
driven if not by a supernatural mind then at least a supernatural
ethical imperative -- which, Stathis, some large, arrogant countries
continue to flout.


doug porpora
dept of culture and communication
drexel university
phila pa 19104
Received on Fri Jan 16 2004 - 11:14:48 PST

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