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Author Topic:   Materialism
Faith 
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Message 13 of 114 (738159)
10-05-2014 1:38 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dr Adequate
10-04-2014 10:02 PM


Mind-Body Problem
This question can be put in terms of the "Mind-Body Problem" too I think, or at least it's related to it. That is, is mind a function of the body so in some sense material like the body, which is the monist view (there is only one substance), or is it not material at all, which is the dualism some have mentioned here (substance and something else). The question gets pretty convoluted but I agree with those here, PaulK at least I think, who simply say that mind or consciousness is not material, not a "substance" in itself, even if you regard it as a function of the material body. I think most of us regard mind, consciousness, thoughts, feelings and other such "epiphenomena" as real but not material in themselves.

ABE: Perhaps the problem starts to get stickier, or more relevant to your concerns in the OP, if you include the soul or spirit, ghosts, angels, demons, "spiritual beings," God Himself, and that sort of thing, which materialists are not obliged to believe in at all because they can't find evidence for them.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : just the usual futzing around trying to get it clearer

Edited by Faith, : punctuation


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 18 of 114 (738183)
10-05-2014 7:06 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by Dr Adequate
10-05-2014 6:59 PM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
Although I've encountered people who claim that some of the spirits do have a degree of materiality or physicality, the usual idea is that they are "made of" the same thing mind is made of. (PaulK's definition that materialism is about what things are made of is really most to the point here.) So would you say the same about mind -- consciousness, ideas, thoughts, feelings etc? That it must be made of "mindium" or something like that?

ABE: Yes I know the question is silly, but I'm sure you acknowledge the reality of mind despite its nonmateriality. Christians would extend this to the soul or spirit of a human being and from there to disembodied human spirits or ghosts, and to other spiritual entities like angels and demons.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 17 by Dr Adequate, posted 10-05-2014 6:59 PM Dr Adequate has replied

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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 20 of 114 (738185)
10-05-2014 7:19 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by Dr Adequate
10-05-2014 6:59 PM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
OK, here's another question. If you simply decide that ghosts are made of ghostium, that's imputing a material nature to them isn't it, and in that case, wouldn't you expect science to be able to detect it and do things with it, since that's what science does? Merely naming it is rather a cop-out if you are talking about science. At the very least science would want to collect some to put under a microscope or into a test tube.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : change of to OK


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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 22 of 114 (738192)
10-05-2014 11:27 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by NoNukes
10-05-2014 9:41 PM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
Dr. A's point was that if a ghost was "detected" it would be regarded as material and given a name like ghostium, so it would then be regarded as among the things science studies, and his point was of course that he doesn't think there is anything nonmaterial or outside the realm of things science can study.

The point about the Mind-Body Problem is that there are real things that are not material, and Mind is the category opposing Body or Matter in the problem. Who denies that mind is real and yet not material? Yet mind can't be known directly, certainly not by the materialist methods of science.

Maybe it's best not to put mind in a category with spiritual beings, ghosts and angels etc., because although people will readily acknowledge that mind is real they won't so readily agree that spiritual beings are real. We have evidence for mind or consciousness, because we can see the effects of mind in people's behavior, even in the behavior of most animals when it comes to that; but disembodied spiritual entities would have to be detected directly, and that doesn't happen except under very exceptional conditions to very few people, and materialists won't even allow that those things really happen at all, being all from Missouri and having a profound distrust in the honesty of their fellow man.

I think it's kind of interesting that the only categories of things that aren't material are mental or spiritual things, qualities or activities of living things, or the contents of mind such as concepts, ideas etc., and other qualities of mentality such as feelings and motivation etc. Could there even be a category of nonmental nonsentient things in the universe that are also nonmaterial?

I guess the problem could be confined to the Mind-Body level, but I think it only really gets interesting when you try to make the case for disembodied spiritual beings.

Or here's one to consider. Materialists don't normally believe in Karma but if it's real it certainly implies that we live in a spiritual universe. "What goes around comes around" is a pretty simplified version of Karma and there do seem to be many people who would say they've experienced this, usually in the form of negative experiences following on their own behavior they recognize as unjust. Or they'll say "The Universe is trying to tell me something" and that sort of thing. As a Christian I regard the concept as an imprecise human experience of the Law of God as found in the Bible. When I first believed in God, not Jesus Christ yet, but God as more or less conceived through Hindu ideas of God, I thought of Him as Universal Mind, that the entire material universe exists within this Mind, even as a sort of Spiritual Soup. Such a Universal Mind would of course be undetectable to science because nonmaterial. You only know of it by interacting with it. God has become a Person to me since then but He is still all-pervasive, everywhere at once. You'll never detect Him by materialist means because He is Spirit, though He brings about events in the material universe.

Sorry, I wandered quite a bit there and didn't even end up making a point, did I?

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.


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Replies to this message:
 Message 24 by Dr Adequate, posted 10-06-2014 12:05 AM Faith has replied
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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 25 of 114 (738195)
10-06-2014 12:08 AM
Reply to: Message 23 by Dr Adequate
10-05-2014 11:58 PM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
Yes ghosts would have to have some materiality if you can actually see them but all the testimonies are that only some can see them sometimes, that they can "manifest" and aren't always visible. This is even more descriptive of angels and demons. Since they are conscious beings with a will to avoid detection in most cases, there's a lot going against making them the objects of scientific study.

But to reduce mind and its contents to the brain is cheating. The question has to do with those things in themselves, not the brain activity that is assumed to be their cause and from which you could never figure out their contents.


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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 26 of 114 (738196)
10-06-2014 12:09 AM
Reply to: Message 24 by Dr Adequate
10-06-2014 12:05 AM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
OK velocity makes an interesting example. There must be others. However, to be accurate, velocity isn't a "thing."

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 24 by Dr Adequate, posted 10-06-2014 12:05 AM Dr Adequate has replied

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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 27 of 114 (738197)
10-06-2014 12:20 AM
Reply to: Message 23 by Dr Adequate
10-05-2014 11:58 PM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
About seeing ghosts, first of all just to be clear I don't believe in ghosts because I believe that human beings don't stay on earth after death, but demons can impersonate people and that's what I think those apparitions are. Second, there is thought to be a capacity some people have for seeing into the spiritual realms, that others don't have or don't have as well developed, so that what is seen doesn't have to have materiality to be seen, but their being seeable is a function of the capacity of the seer. In Hinduism this is called "the third eye" which is located in the forehead and can be opened under certain circumstances, and from what I've read about it I'd rather not have that ability. (ABE: That's because we're fallen, we've lost the original connection Adam had with God and the only spiritual realms we can see in our natural state are those that belong to the demons. Even being regenerated in Christ, which reverses the Fall, doesn't change many things in our fallen nature, which will only be corrected after our death. /ABE)

So there's a lot to this nonmaterial world of things, but of course if you can't detect it yourself, since our physical senses can't detect it, and the material methods of science can't detect it, it's easy not to believe it exists at all.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.


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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 32 of 114 (738210)
10-06-2014 12:55 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by NoNukes
10-06-2014 11:11 AM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
You're right, it isn't always a distrust of people's honesty, but of their rationality or good judgment. In any case with spiritual phenomena where the only evidence is people's experiences you either believe them or you don't and materialists by definition don't.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.


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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 33 of 114 (738211)
10-06-2014 12:56 PM
Reply to: Message 30 by NoNukes
10-06-2014 11:32 AM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
I think including energy would make this subject far more complicated than it needs to be. I still like PaulK's definition: it's about what things are made of. We can get that one confused enough as it is.

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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 34 of 114 (738212)
10-06-2014 1:07 PM
Reply to: Message 31 by Dr Adequate
10-06-2014 11:43 AM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
However, to be accurate, velocity isn't a "thing."

Well, that would depend on what you mean by "thing". If you mean a material object, then no it isn't, that's the point. But in that respect isn't it like the other things (or not-things, pesky English language) that you mention, such as feelings? Is boredom (for example) a "thing" --- or is being bored something (pesky English language again) that my mind does, just as a car travels at 30 mph (or "has" a velocity of 30 mph)?

To take another example, consider inflation. It would sit uneasily on the tongue to say "There is no inflation" or "Inflation doesn't exist" --- that makes it sound like we're saying the inflation rate is 0%. But it is far from being a material substance. (It does have a material substrate, the exchange of physical things such as goods and money.) Might we not say that it stands in the same relation to the economy as an emotion does to my mind or brain?

I would claim that some of the nonmaterial things are things but I think you are right to raise the question. Mind must be a thing in this context, but the products of mind may not properly be things, though I'm not sure I could say why not. Should ideas or concepts be considered things? But that would make mathematics a thing too, which PaulK convinced me it isn't. I don't think velocity should be considered a thing though. Why? I guess because it's an action. Neither should inflation but it's hard to say why not. Pesky English language for sure.

Having a physical substrate (mind-brain) doesn't make the mind a thing though, it's a thing because it's a thing. A nonmaterial thing.

Ghosts, angels and demons must be regarded as things for sure -- well, beings, but they have thing-ness in existing as objects.

I'm for going back to mind versus body/matter.

ABE: In any case I think the point has been made that not everything normally understood to be real has materiality, and mind seems to be the most undisputed example of that.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.


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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 37 of 114 (738216)
10-06-2014 2:04 PM
Reply to: Message 35 by NoNukes
10-06-2014 1:51 PM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
The problem with your take is that the question is complicated. The inherent sloppiness in defining materialism as "What things are made" is exactly the point of the OP.

I don't think it's sloppy at all, although it doesn't succeed in simplifying the problem as much as I'd hope it would.

We can talk about matter alone, but every interaction between material objects is about a transfer or a change in form of energy. I don't believe it is possible to talk with precision about the boundaries of materialism without acknowledging energy and forces.

Talking with precision about this is a remote objective at this point. it seems to me we should be trying to simplify it as much as possible, and as far as the Mind-Body Problem goes it doesn't require us to get into the scientific definitions. which weren't known to the philosophers who originally formulated the problem anyway, we should stick to intuitive categories as much as possible. Forces and energy in relation to matter aren't exactly intuitive, but "what things are made of" comes pretty close to such a definition.

Mind stretches the definition anyway: in what sense is it a "thing?" But I still like it because people agree that mind is real although it's nonmaterial. You apprehend your own mind and you see the effects of mind in others.


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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 39 of 114 (738231)
10-06-2014 10:16 PM
Reply to: Message 38 by NoNukes
10-06-2014 9:18 PM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
The Mind-Body Problem is not *my* dichotomy, this is a famous philosophical problem. Nobody finds mind to fall within the material, it's clearly not matter, or you could study it the way you study matter and you can't. The closest anyone comes to that is emphasizing the brain as its material substrate.

Skinnerian behaviorism treated the mind as a sort of nonentity, as an "epiphenomenon." I've always considered the mind to be more important than the brain myself, even more real than the brain in a way. long before I was a Christian too. We relate to each other's minds and personalities and never see each other's brains after all.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.


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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 41 of 114 (738236)
10-07-2014 1:00 AM
Reply to: Message 40 by NoNukes
10-06-2014 10:43 PM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
Oh I dunno, I get a piece of your mind from your posts at EvC all the way across the country without seeing your lips move or hearing the sound of your voice. Mind is far more what we *are* than any of the material apparatus that houses and conveys it. IMHO. But OK, you're a materialist, my worthy opponent.

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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 43 of 114 (738240)
10-07-2014 7:05 AM
Reply to: Message 42 by NoNukes
10-07-2014 3:10 AM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
Don't even get to see you write it, see your fingers plunk the keys that make the little marks that I can read as words. No big mystery, yeah, but the point is that the physical agencies of all of this are performing quite incidental mechanical mindless actions, while the main thing is that you are conveying your mind to mine by these mechanical actions. You, your mind, not your fingers, etc. The material part is just a tool of your mind, the mind is really the main thing.

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Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 767 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 51 of 114 (738262)
10-07-2014 5:10 PM
Reply to: Message 47 by Dr Adequate
10-07-2014 12:02 PM


Re: Mind-Body Problem
But if you then traced the causal chain back further, you'd find more physical events, you'd find electrical impulses going from his brain to his fingers, and then back still further you'd find neurons firing in his brain, and back still further you'd find photons from his computer screen hitting his retina ...

Yes, you'll find all that but in all that finding you're not going to find the mind itself. Ah the doggedness of the materialist is impressive. You'd find all those things happening in the apparatus that houses and conveys the thoughts of the mind, but the thoughts themselves, the contents of the mind itself, no, because the mind is its own thing, and it is not material. Granted it is intimately connected with the material apparatus and without it couldn't be communicated at all, at least in this material world, ahem, and the apparatus is useless without the mind to operate it too. Dead bodies are so sad, there is really manifestly "nobody there."

I've never seen why mental materialism, as applied to humans, is anathema to so many religious people. Why should the mind, or the "soul", not be instantiated as meat? --- especially since it evidently is.

Evidently is? What on earth are you contemplating when you say that? What it "evidently" is, is NOT meat.

I wasn't a Christian until my mid-forties, and before that I already despised all those notions of mind as material that I'd encountered mostly in behaviorist ideas. You don't have to be religious to object to such notions. Sane atheists can see the point just as well. It's really indisputable that mind is not material in any sense at all. If you measure it at all what you are measuring is what the apparatus does in connection with its activity, not the mind itself. Come on Dr. A, I've always considered you to be a sane atheist.

However, there are those who argue that mind and body aren't separable, that the mind is the workings of the body, and that's an interesting argument, an argument against Descartes who made a dualism of the problem. It's pretty much what you're saying I think. It doesn't make mind material but it does make it inseparable from the physical apparatus. Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind, and Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine, both wrote on this. I don't claim to understand all these arguments all that well, philosophy doesn't usually make a lot of sense to me, but anything that refuses to make mind material in itself always grabbed my attention against all the materialist nonsense I found around me.

ABE: Considering the mind as merely the workings of the body or brain isn't at all satisfying to me though. Mind is still patently its own thing, something you can never know by knowing the activities of the body. It's original, a bazillion kinds of thoughts and ideas are produced through exactly the same kind of physical apparatus.

I suppose in a way it is similar to the problem of music that was just brought up on this thread. The music wouldn't exist without the physical doings of all that goes in to producing it, but the music is clearly NOT the physical doings themselves. And again, a bazillion kinds of music can be produced through the same kind of physical apparatus.

And by the way, the music itself originates in Mind, too, all aspects of it, from its composition to its performance. /ABE

I wouldn't have thought mind and body were separable before I became a Christian but now I do of course, as scripture is clear that at death the soul or spirit returns to God while the body is lifeless, but that we'll be reunited with our bodies at the event called The Resurrection. And then there are those experiences people have had of being separated from their bodies, such as during operations, which seem to have some credibility.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 47 by Dr Adequate, posted 10-07-2014 12:02 PM Dr Adequate has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 53 by Dr Adequate, posted 10-07-2014 8:18 PM Faith has replied
 Message 58 by PaulK, posted 10-08-2014 1:40 AM Faith has replied

  
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