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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Ooh! Spooooky!

P.S. Huff notes how many prominent 20th century philosophers have rejected materialism... and the majority of them are not "religious" in any usual sense of the term. (Bertrand Russell, for example, was a strident atheist.) One reason is there really has never been forwarded any decent argument for materialism, while it introduces many well known difficulties. Evidence of this lack of good arguments for materialism is the frequent resort of many advocates of materialism to sheer name calling, the most typical name invoked being "spooky," with "magical" perhaps running a close second. Anyone who says, as, for instance, Chalmers does, that consciousness must somehow be a fundamental component of the universe, is accused of invoking "spooky" entities in his metaphysics, and calling upon "magical" causes.

The silliness of this tactic can be readily understood by how easily it is turned around on its practitioners. The universe was originally totally devoid of consciousness, but "magically" completely insensate matter gave rise to "spooky" consciousness haunting its realm. The material universe itself "magically" boot-strapped itself into existence, from the "spooky" realm of the quantum vacuum.

The invocation of these terms is propaganda, not philosophy!

UPDATE: Oh, and I should have mentioned, as Berkeley so clearly pointed out, there is nothing in all of metaphysics as "spooky" as the matter posited by the philosophers of the scientific revolution: as Descartes, Malebranche, Locke and others made clear, this matter is invisible, inaudible, untouchable, unsmellable, and untasteable: none of these properties are properties of matter, as they conceived it, but are instead caused in our minds by our encounters with matter. Now, that's a spooky entity: matter has no color, no sound, no taste, no smell, no texture, and yet it "magically" causes, in our minds, color, sound, taste, smell, and texture. This "matter" in itself is entirely beyond perception, yet it somehow, "spookily," is at the root of all we perceive. And even though we never, ever can even possibly perceive it, we must believe in it nevertheless!

17 comments:

  1. "Anyone who says, as, for instance, Chalmers does, that consciousness must somehow be a fundamental component of the universe, is accused of invoking 'spooky' entities in his metaphysics, and calling upon 'magical' causes."

    Old habits die hard. Even Newtonian gravity was pummeled for involving "occult" action at a distance.

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    1. It still is. Modern physics has abandoned the action at a distance notion in place of fields and carrier particles.
      Newton himself disliked the action at a distance aspect btw.

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    2. "Modern physics has abandoned the action at a distance notion in place of fields and carrier particles."

      And now contains the much, much less spooky Bell-inequality violations, hey?

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    3. It sure does. I wouldn't call them less spooky; I'd say 'spooky' is a prejudice, reflecting our experiences. The Bell's thing just seems to be true.

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    4. "It still is."

      Not at all. Newtonian gravity was abandoned on empirical grounds, not because it failed to play nice with the prejudice against action at a distance.

      "Newton himself disliked the action at a distance aspect btw."

      Not really. See here.

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    5. I say Newtonian gravity is still 'pummeled' for action at a distance, and it still is when it's taught, and it is in the books I learnt it from, and it was by my high school and university profs, and you say not at all.
      Your link shows Newton wasn't happy with action at a distance too. So unhappy he jsut shrugged and said, oh there must be some intermediary I don't know what let's move on.

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  2. I wish I could remember my own evolution on these things. For sure, there was a point when I was a rabid atheist and materialist, and now I am a theist and a dualist. I'm pretty sure during my transition, I was a theist and a materialist (even though that sounds weird!) but I don't think I was ever an atheist and a dualist.

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    1. "I'm pretty sure during my transition, I was a theist and a materialist (even though that sounds weird!)"

      Interestingly, Hobbes was (or at least pretended to be) both a materialist and a theist. He's been accused of atheism, though.

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    2. Also, sometimes early Greek materialists were also polytheists: they just said the gods were made of atoms like everything else!

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    3. FWIW De Rerum Natura is my favorite Roman book (in translation only alas.) The newer Penguin translation is pretty good.

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    4. "FWIW De Rerum Natura is my favorite Roman book."

      You need to read more Roman books!

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    5. I'm a big fan of Penguin, lots of good old stuff. Haven't read much of Roman philosophy, though.

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    6. It's a poem actually.

      There's a good book from a year or so ago, The Swerve, about De Rerum Natura's rediscovery and its importance in the renaissance. Motivated me to re read it.

      @PS Huff: if there are more that good then I do!

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  3. My own thinking on the subject of materialism has been greatly influenced by this Bas van Fraassen paper. Basically materialism is a moving target. If science suggests that a certain type of entity exists, then materialists will re-interpret materialism to be compatible with such entities, regardless of what they would have said beforehand.

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  4. I'm gonna take this debate over to FreeAdvice Gene. I don't like waiting to see the comments, and I like the way Bob cannot discuss even neurobiology without invective. It's spooky!

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    1. True, you don't have to wait to see your own comments, Ken, but the flipside is Major Freedom's appear immediately.

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    2. Gene 1 Ken B 0

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