"A note on Creationists: I've been "arguing" with a few creationists lately out of curiosity to see what they thought, and I think I learned something. I think I realize now how their minds work (if they have minds and if they work). Dumb me, I thought it was about religion, but come to find out they think evolution is a left-wing political conspiracy, and that it is responsible for increasing crime, drug use, high divorce rates, and other societal ills. I had no idea." --You watch too much Hovind material, whether for a good laugh or not, its effecting your mind!
quote:Originally posted by robinrohan: A note on Creationists: I've been "arguing" with a few creationists lately out of curiosity to see what they thought, and I think I learned something. I think I realize now how their minds work (if they have minds and if they work).
I was going to take offense to this, but I was reminded of a Scripture : Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential .... But God chose the foolish things of the world ... (1 Cor 1:26,27) I guess what you said shows the truth of Scripture.
quote:Originally posted by robinrohan: I think there are degrees of fuzziness, and that "mentality" and "physicality," though problematic, are a lot less fuzzy than Platonic forms.
Is this an appeal to how your brain works?
quote:We have experience or apparent experience with mentality and physicality, but I have no conscious experience, real or apparent, with the world of Forms.
We have experience of perceptions alone. Anything more involves assumption. This is the realization Hume had. There is no mind, no substance, no spirit, nothing, in fact that is directly observable but the perceptions themselves. This puts pretty much everything on the same playing field.
It may seem obvious to you that we have a mind or that there is a physical world, but they are assumptions nonetheless. This is the reason I asked if you were appealing to the way your brain works. That you think something is obvious, does not make it so and it certainly does not add anything to its truth value.
quote:Platonic forms are ideas in the mind of God. Mental or spiritual, whatever you prefer. These forms are not constructs but "essences." They are eternal and immutable. That's all I know about it.
Platonic forms are no more than the circuitry in our brain which allows us to generalize the vast amounts of input we recieve.
The brain recieves several terrabytes of information every day. Were it to simply "store" this information, we would almost instantaneously run out of memory space. The storage capacity in our brain, even though it is quite large, is not infinite. There are something on the order of 10^9 neurons, and 10x12 synaptic connections.. so there is a limit.
So how is evolution going to solve the problem of processing, storing, and making informed decisions on this vast amount of information our senses pick up. Well.. as it turns out, the same things keep popping up in the information over and over again. In information science, this is called redundancy. The information the brain recieves through its senses is highly redundant.
So what are these redundancies? Well, oddly enough they're what plato called "forms". They are lines, circles, cubes, spheres, cylinders, solid patches of color, patches of color with highlights and shadows, textures, wood, trees, eyes, faces, arms, water, sky, etc.
So evolution has produced neural circuitry that exploits these redundancies to dramatically reduce the amount of raw "data" that the brain processes while at the same time extracting the maximum amount of meaningful "content". What you call "forms" are recognized in the perceptual centers of the brain in a multi-stage process, where first the basic processing and filtering is done with edge detection, region detection, texture detection, shape and size inference from shadows and highlights, texture, color, etc. Then this information is matched against the set of instinctual or learned sets of basic patterns and sent further up the chain until you percieve a "girl", or an "apple".
The ideal form is an agreggate match pattern stored in the brain that will match a set of qualities of sensory input. In other words, the ideal circle is a neural pattern used to match the various real circles you see and turn the large amounts of data used to represent the pattern of the circle into a single bit of data "circle" that the brain can more easily process.
That plato and other philosophers dimly recognized that something of this nature was going on is clearly evident. However, they misunderstood what was really happening. Instead of a magical world of "Forms" existing somewhere in fairy land of which the rest of the world is shadows.. what we really have here are the products of symbolic data compression and pattern recognition to make the data percieved by the brain useful.
If plato knew what we now know about how the brain works, perhpas the dialogs on "forms" might read a little differently, and mention things like "shannon information", "redundancy", and "symbolic pattern recognition".
As an aside.. I read about forms long before I knew anything about information theory or artificial intelligence. Its odd how a magical and obviously fanciful idea such as the idea of "forms" can become so solidly implanted in the consciousness. Certainly there is nothing that would indicate that there is a world of "forms" somewhere.. yet the question as to what forms really are was a puzzling one. If they didn't exist somewhere, then what were they.
I think this is similar to the various other forms of superstitious beliefs about the stars, the moon and sun, and the earth that existed before these were explored empirically. Once we began to learn about information, perception, and how the brain works (including now increasingly detailed knowledge on the visual system), these philosphical fables based on a fuzzy inkling of the truth began to go the way of the rest of the myths.
A large chunk of what is considered part of the philosophical cannon today (or was considered part of it) is likely to go the same way as we use empirical methods to discover more about perception, consciousness, and thought. Not that the debate will ever go away, but many of the questions philosophers have pondered over the years will be (and probably in most cases already are) conclusively settled from a scientific standpoint.
quote:Originally posted by robinrohan: John,It may seem obvious to you that we have experience of perception alone (whatever that means), but that is an assumption.
It is observation WITHOUT assumption. Imagine a red screen filling you field of vision. Do you see a red wall, or do you see 'red'? When you type a letter do you feel the key, or do you feel a sensation? It is assumption to say that the key is a thing. All you have is the sensation. It could be a phantom, like the phantom pain felt by people who have lost a leg. It isn't me making assumptions.
quote:Don't expect everybody else to have your assumptions.
Why not robinrohan, this is precisely what you expect?
quote:Originally posted by robinrohan: My point is this:
This was your point was it?
quote:your pose of radical empiricism is just that: a pose.
Scanning back through your posts I notice that you have addressed very little head on, but mostly just restate the argument you had when you got here. You have also demonstrated a rather profound ignorance of the ideas you sweep under the rug. So I am not very inclined to care what you think of my position.
quote:Radical empiricism is impossible.
Actually, its not impossible. It is damned easy actually, but you end up with virtually no knowledge.
quote:If you like, I will explain why.
Does this explaination consist of more than stating your opinion and stamping your foot really really hard? If so, do tell. You'll be famous for it.
quote:But I'm beginning to think that pinning down the physical nature of a "mental" image involves us in an infinite regress. We have an illusion of an illusion of an illusion . . .
This may be a valid statement from a metaphysical sense, but from an empirical one there's really no problem. Just as Rationalist discussed how the brain processes incoming perception and memory, the "mental image" is merely an internally generated version of the same thing - except it doesn't rely on external cues. I'm not sure this can be considered an "illusion" except maybe in a philosophical sense (i.e., questions on the nature of reality and whether a mental or cognitive affect is "real"). It certainly has no extrinsic existence outside the brain. IMO, it is nonetheless real (because measurable) for all that.