Are there arguments for materialism?

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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby felix dakat » Thu Oct 14, 2021 1:32 pm

Bob wrote:
At the core of the contemporary world is the reductionist view that we are, nature is, the earth is, nothing but a bundle of senseless particles, pointlessly, helplessly, mindlessly, colliding in a predictable fashion, whose existence is purely material and whose only value is utility.
Neither Plotinus nor Schrödinger would have been impressed. I cannot remember a time when I thought this sounded at all convincing and a lifetime thinking and learning has done nothing to allay my scepticism. Not only is it mistaken, I believe, but actively damaging; physically to the natural world and psychologically, morally and spiritually, to ourselves, as part of that world. It endangers everything that we should value.
Dr Iain McGilchrist in the introduction from his new book The Matter With Things


That is quite an attack on reductionism.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkD4Gh7BDr0


But reductionism is essential to science as controlling knowledge. And that's where modern technology comes from. And that's what's driving the world system today. So it's easy to give lip service to metaphysical idealism. But to actually live a life based on metaphysical idealism would be radical. Exponentially more radical still would be a society with MI at its core like materialism is today.
The purpose of my life would seem to be to express the truth as I discover it, but in such a manner that it is completely devoid of authority. By having no authority, by being seen by all as utterly unreliable, I express the truth and put everyone in a contradictory position where they can only save themselves by making the truth their own.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby Bob » Thu Oct 14, 2021 2:07 pm

felix dakat wrote:
Bob wrote:
At the core of the contemporary world is the reductionist view that we are, nature is, the earth is, nothing but a bundle of senseless particles, pointlessly, helplessly, mindlessly, colliding in a predictable fashion, whose existence is purely material and whose only value is utility.
Neither Plotinus nor Schrödinger would have been impressed. I cannot remember a time when I thought this sounded at all convincing and a lifetime thinking and learning has done nothing to allay my scepticism. Not only is it mistaken, I believe, but actively damaging; physically to the natural world and psychologically, morally and spiritually, to ourselves, as part of that world. It endangers everything that we should value.
Dr Iain McGilchrist in the introduction from his new book The Matter With Things


That is quite an attack on reductionism.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkD4Gh7BDr0


But reductionism is essential to science as controlling knowledge. And that's where modern technology comes from. And that's what's driving the world system today. So it's easy to give lip service to metaphysical idealism. But to actually live a life based on metaphysical idealism would be radical. Exponentially more radical still would be a society with MI at its core like materialism is today.

The case that McGilchrist makes, according to the list of contents of his book, which is out in November, covers two volumes and is very intricate. He is, of course, the brain man, and consequently his arguments are based on his experience in that field. We'll have to wait to read his books, but the introduction is available to be listened to on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkD4Gh7BDr0
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby pood » Thu Oct 14, 2021 2:40 pm

felix dakat wrote:
But reductionism is essential to science as controlling knowledge. And that's where modern technology comes from. And that's what's driving the world system today. So it's easy to give lip service to metaphysical idealism. But to actually live a life based on metaphysical idealism would be radical. Exponentially more radical still would be a society with MI at its core like materialism is today.


I don’t think so. In fact, I don’t think you can ever distinguish between the two. A world that is idealist would seem to us in all details the same as a world that is naturalist. That’s why we can have this discussion in the first place — you can’t rule out either of these isms or others besides, including supernaturalism, because they all yield the same predictions.

In the case of supernaturalism, a miracle or series of miracles might incline us to accept supernaturalism. But we don’t see any such unfalsifiable miracles, at least in the present day. Jesus was alleged to have performed miracles, but because we have no contemporaneous accounts of them, we are entitled to discount such claims, in the same way we discount claims of miracle workers today, because upon investigation we always find some naturalist account of them or trickery on the part of the alleged miracle worker, such as with seances where it can be shown that the medium is not in fact talking to dead people but performing elaborate tricks.

In his paper, David Lewis cites the gestalt of seeing a picture, say a face, in what at bottom is nothing more than a collection of dots. This is supervenience, the face emerging from, or being an epiphenomenon of, the reductive pattern of dots. The physicist Sabine Hossenfelder cites this kind of example too in her discussion of science as reductionism — the face is reduced to the dots, and there is no mystery.

The argument here is that mind, with its qualia, supervenes on a neuronal pattern, or is an epiphenomenon of that pattern. But this is analogous only, and analogies can be misleading. In the case of the picture supervening on the dots, we know exactly how and why this occurs. In the case of the color red, or any other quale supervening on neuronal patterns, we have no idea how or why this happens. This is the hard problem of consciousness.

It may in fact be the case that there is a gestalt from the color red to neurons, in the same way there is a gestalt from the picture to the dots. But unlike the picture to to dots, we don’t have a stepwise account of this for the color red from neurons. All we have is a claim, with the picture rising from dots being an analogy. And all analogies run into trouble sooner or later.

As to Lewis himself, I think it is fair to say that he believes metaphysical idealism is actually true — just not at our world. This is because he argues that all logically possible but non-actual words are in fact actual, but only to their inhabitants. For Lewis, there are actual worlds at which pigs fly, donkeys talk, and the Greek gods are literally real. Therefore there are worlds, for him, at which metaphysical idealism holds. A world, for him, is a spatio-temporally closed (isolated) realm that actually exists provided it is logically possible (can be conceived without logical contradiction). From this, it follows that there are no actual worlds in which four-sided triangles exist, for example.

This doctrine, called extreme modal realism, does not embrace the possibility of the Christian version of God, because such an entity is defined to be necessary. So if such a God fails to exist at one possible world, it necessarily fails to exist at all possible worlds. For Lewis, such a God fails to exist at this world, and so necessarily fails to exist. Greek gods, on the other hand, are contingent entities — could have failed to exist or could have exhibited different properties — and hence there are possible worlds at which they exist, worlds that are actual only to their inhabitants (but not to us).

Lewis also believes everyone lives forever from their own point of view, but with terrifying consequences (not a supernatural hell, but hell on earth). He was said to be very afraid upon his own death.

Lewis was one great philosopher but also one strange cat. He also wrote a paper on the metaphysical implications of backward time travel that is a classic of philosophy, resolving, among other things, the Grandfather Paradox.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby felix dakat » Thu Oct 14, 2021 2:56 pm

Metaphysics is such fun! Now we're speculating about the consequences of a change in worldwide dominance of theories of metaphysical speculation. Shall we call this meta speculation? Or better : second order speculation.

It seems to me that a shift like that already occurred from the idealism that prevailed before the advent of science (Platonism) to the materialism that dominates now. Yes ? No?

And if so, the change resulted in a radical change in culture and society. The transformation from the pre-modern to the modern world.
The purpose of my life would seem to be to express the truth as I discover it, but in such a manner that it is completely devoid of authority. By having no authority, by being seen by all as utterly unreliable, I express the truth and put everyone in a contradictory position where they can only save themselves by making the truth their own.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby pood » Thu Oct 14, 2021 3:20 pm

Consider how accepting the idealist metaphysics would affect science. Not at all, I would think.

A rough-and-ready description of science is that it investigates the external world to collect data and seek patterns, and then it concocts theories about how all this hangs together, theories that can make testable predictions. If the tests turn out positive we gain confidence (though not certainty) in our theories about the external world.

How would that differ under idealism?

It would just go like this:

A rough-and-ready description of science is that it investigates our mental states to collect data and seek patterns, and then it concocts theories about how all this hangs together, theories that can make testable predictions. If the tests turn out positive we gain confidence (though not certainty) in our theories about our mental states.

Sabine Hossenfelder, a physicist who is a reductionist, takes no stand on whether an external world exists.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby felix dakat » Thu Oct 14, 2021 5:00 pm

pood wrote:Consider how accepting the idealist metaphysics would affect science. Not at all, I would think.

A rough-and-ready description of science is that it investigates the external world to collect data and seek patterns, and then it concocts theories about how all this hangs together, theories that can make testable predictions. If the tests turn out positive we gain confidence (though not certainty) in our theories about the external world.

How would that differ under idealism?

It would just go like this:

A rough-and-ready description of science is that it investigates our mental states to collect data and seek patterns, and then it concocts theories about how all this hangs together, theories that can make testable predictions. If the tests turn out positive we gain confidence (though not certainty) in our theories about our mental states.

Sabine Hossenfelder, a physicist who is a reductionist, takes no stand on whether an external world exists.


I doubt that you're before and after picture is correct. But if it is that's a radical change. The consequences of a shift from an idealism to a materialism can be seen, in premodern Europe when it shifted from platonism to aristotelianism. The shift of modern materialism went through an intermediate stage with Descartes mind-body dualism. "Mind" gradually fell away and became reduced to brain. It is only the irreducibility of consciousness that has arrested the trend. Bob can say more about this than I can but Kastrup's idealism attempts to put consciousness back at the center.
The purpose of my life would seem to be to express the truth as I discover it, but in such a manner that it is completely devoid of authority. By having no authority, by being seen by all as utterly unreliable, I express the truth and put everyone in a contradictory position where they can only save themselves by making the truth their own.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby pood » Thu Oct 14, 2021 7:18 pm

I’d say the kind of idealism Kastrup advocates also denies Descartes’s dualism. It just flips the script: Rather than the mental supervening on the material, the material supervenes on the mental. But both are metaphysical positions that can’t be tested. It’s why I objected earlier, not to Kastrup’s advocacy of idealism, but to his declaration “materialism is baloney.” He may think it is and may be right, but he can’t show that it is.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby felix dakat » Thu Oct 14, 2021 7:49 pm

pood wrote:I’d say the kind of idealism Kastrup advocates also denies Descartes’s dualism. It just flips the script: Rather than the mental supervening on the material, the material supervenes on the mental. But both are metaphysical positions that can’t be tested. It’s why I objected earlier, not to Kastrup’s advocacy of idealism, but to his declaration “materialism is baloney.” He may think it is and may be right, but he can’t show that it is.


I agree. Kastrup is an ideal monist. Cartesian dualism was historically an intermediate stage on the way to material monism. First person consciousness stands in the way of that. A proverbial fly in the ointment of total materialism. What is Kastrup's next step from there? Maybe Bob will tell us. The title "materialism is baloney" may be nothing more than his way of being provocative in order to sell the book. Sometimes a title is a publishers idea with that motive in mind.
Last edited by felix dakat on Thu Oct 14, 2021 9:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The purpose of my life would seem to be to express the truth as I discover it, but in such a manner that it is completely devoid of authority. By having no authority, by being seen by all as utterly unreliable, I express the truth and put everyone in a contradictory position where they can only save themselves by making the truth their own.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby pood » Thu Oct 14, 2021 7:56 pm

felix dakat wrote:
pood wrote:I’d say the kind of idealism Kastrup advocates also denies Descartes’s dualism. It just flips the script: Rather than the mental supervening on the material, the material supervenes on the mental. But both are metaphysical positions that can’t be tested. It’s why I objected earlier, not to Kastrup’s advocacy of idealism, but to his declaration “materialism is baloney.” He may think it is and may be right, but he can’t show that it is.


I agree. Kastrup is in ideal monist. Cartesian dualism was historically an intermediate stage on the way to material monism. First person consciousness stands in the way of that. A proverbial fly in the ointment of total materialism. What is Kastrup's next step from there? Maybe Bob will tell us. The title "materialism is baloney" may be nothing more than his way of being provocative in order to sell the book. Sometimes a title is a publishers idea with that motive in mind.


Yeah, that could be. I’ve read his essays at Scientific American but not his books. I’ll try to grab the book. Hopefully it is online because I practically live online now. :mrgreen:
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby Ecmandu » Thu Oct 14, 2021 8:19 pm

Modal realism isn’t true. I mean, to explain it as simple as possible, it’s the idea that something can’t come from nothing; therefor if you imagine it, it must be actually existent.

Fortunately for all beings in existence, there is a realm of unsubstantiated imagination.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby Mr Reasonable » Fri Oct 15, 2021 4:01 am

bob i think in laymens terms what lewis is basically saying is that if we have a good physical description of something, that unless a description that refers to the metaphysical increases our understanding of it that its superfluous and can be discarded for the purpose of increasing our understanding.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby Mr Reasonable » Fri Oct 15, 2021 4:02 am

Ecmandu wrote:Modal realism isn’t true. I mean, to explain it as simple as possible, it’s the idea that something can’t come from nothing; therefor if you imagine it, it must be actually existent.

Fortunately for all beings in existence, there is a realm of unsubstantiated imagination.


theories are not true or false. that's not really how theories work.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby Mr Reasonable » Fri Oct 15, 2021 4:06 am

my take on it bob is that he doesn't prove materialism that he just kind of tells us that its better to speak in terms of materialism for science
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby Bob » Fri Oct 15, 2021 3:01 pm

pood wrote:I’d say the kind of idealism Kastrup advocates also denies Descartes’s dualism. It just flips the script: Rather than the mental supervening on the material, the material supervenes on the mental. But both are metaphysical positions that can’t be tested. It’s why I objected earlier, not to Kastrup’s advocacy of idealism, but to his declaration “materialism is baloney.” He may think it is and may be right, but he can’t show that it is.

Well, if you read his book, perhaps you could see how he demonstrates that materialism is baloney. Of course, "baloney" is an expression for pretentious nonsense, but his concerns go further (as we have seen above), and there is a paragraph where this is made clear.

The point I am trying to make is that, while acknowledging that there are many superficial worldviews operating simultaneously in society, there is a powerful core worldview that subtly pervades the deepest, often ‘subconscious’ levels of our minds, ultimately determining how we truly feel about ourselves and reality. This core worldview is materialism. Many of us absorb materialist beliefs from the culture without even being aware of it, all the while trusting that we hold other beliefs. Materialism suffuses the core of our being by a kind of involuntary osmosis. Like a virus, it spreads unnoticed until it’s too late and the infection has already taken a firm hold. I include myself among those who have been victimized by this pernicious, yet natural, epidemic. The recent history of my life has been a diligent, yet very difficult, attempt to restore reason and lucidity to, and remove unexamined cultural biases and assumptions from, the ‘subconscious’ layers of my thinking.
Kastrup, Bernardo. Why Materialism Is Baloney: How True Skeptics Know There Is No Death and Fathom Answers to life, the Universe, and Everything (S.8-9). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle-Version.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby Pedro I Rengel » Fri Oct 15, 2021 3:03 pm

Mr Reasonable wrote:theories are not true or false. that's not really how theories work.


Actually it is, it is a requirement for them to work. In some cases it is simply accepted that it cannot ultimately be determined if it is true, but it must function as if it were.

That's why they call it fal-si-fi-a-bi-li-ty.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby Bob » Fri Oct 15, 2021 3:06 pm

Mr Reasonable wrote:bob i think in laymens terms what lewis is basically saying is that if we have a good physical description of something, that unless a description that refers to the metaphysical increases our understanding of it that its superfluous and can be discarded for the purpose of increasing our understanding.

Thanks, I was on the road and unable to read it through completely.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby Bob » Fri Oct 15, 2021 3:16 pm

felix dakat wrote: I agree. Kastrup is an ideal monist. Cartesian dualism was historically an intermediate stage on the way to material monism. First person consciousness stands in the way of that. A proverbial fly in the ointment of total materialism. What is Kastrup's next step from there? Maybe Bob will tell us.

I can at best quote Kastrup:
The hypothesis I submit is that the function of the brain is to localize consciousness, pinning it to the space-time reference point implied by the physical body. In doing so, the brain modulates conscious perception in accordance with the perspective of the body. When not subject to this localization and modulation mechanism, mind is unbound: it entails consciousness of all there is across space, time, and perhaps beyond. Therefore, by localizing mind, the brain also ‘filters out’ of consciousness anything that is not correlated with the body’s perspective.

According to this ‘filter hypothesis’ of mind-brain interaction, no subjective experience is ever generated by the brain, but merely selected by it according to the perspective of the body in space-time, as Bergson so cogently argued over a hundred years ago.
Kastrup, Bernardo. Why Materialism Is Baloney: How True Skeptics Know There Is No Death and Fathom Answers to life, the Universe, and Everything (S.40). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle-Version.

Does that answer the question?

The title "materialism is baloney" may be nothing more than his way of being provocative in order to sell the book. Sometimes a title is a publishers idea with that motive in mind.

Because the word doesn’t appear anywhere in the book except in the title, I think you are right.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby felix dakat » Fri Oct 15, 2021 3:51 pm

Bob wrote:
felix dakat wrote: I agree. Kastrup is an ideal monist. Cartesian dualism was historically an intermediate stage on the way to material monism. First person consciousness stands in the way of that. A proverbial fly in the ointment of total materialism. What is Kastrup's next step from there? Maybe Bob will tell us.

I can at best quote Kastrup:
The hypothesis I submit is that the function of the brain is to localize consciousness, pinning it to the space-time reference point implied by the physical body. In doing so, the brain modulates conscious perception in accordance with the perspective of the body. When not subject to this localization and modulation mechanism, mind is unbound: it entails consciousness of all there is across space, time, and perhaps beyond. Therefore, by localizing mind, the brain also ‘filters out’ of consciousness anything that is not correlated with the body’s perspective.

According to this ‘filter hypothesis’ of mind-brain interaction, no subjective experience is ever generated by the brain, but merely selected by it according to the perspective of the body in space-time, as Bergson so cogently argued over a hundred years ago.
Kastrup, Bernardo. Why Materialism Is Baloney: How True Skeptics Know There Is No Death and Fathom Answers to life, the Universe, and Everything (S.40). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle-Version.

Does that answer the question?

The title "materialism is baloney" may be nothing more than his way of being provocative in order to sell the book. Sometimes a title is a publishers idea with that motive in mind.

Because the word doesn’t appear anywhere in the book except in the title, I think you are right.


Yes it does answer my question. From consciousness, Kastrup's next step is to say that the brains function is to localize universal consciousness. And the focus of the locus (I liked saying that) is the body of an individual. So the brain is a filter. According to his theory, I suppose psychedelics like LSD and the sacred mushrooms neutralize the filtering effect of the brain. And the claim is that they can open up the gateway to universal consciousness. Of course the skeptic will say that Kastrup's "step" is a leap of faith.
The purpose of my life would seem to be to express the truth as I discover it, but in such a manner that it is completely devoid of authority. By having no authority, by being seen by all as utterly unreliable, I express the truth and put everyone in a contradictory position where they can only save themselves by making the truth their own.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby pood » Fri Oct 15, 2021 4:04 pm

Not having read Kastrup’s book, I can only go by these excerpts.

To say that the function of the brain is to localize consciousness, to pin it to a space-time reference point, seems to be a different metaphysics from idealism, almost a return to Cartesian dualism. Just on the face of what he says, he seems to be suggesting that the brain exists independently of the mind, but that while the mind is universal, the individual brain somehow pulls down a piece of the universal consciousness to give it a particular individual perspective. An analogy would be a TV. Someone without knowledge of how a TV works would think that the device itself generates pictures and sound. Instead it is a conduit for pictures and sound that exist independently of the TV. But that is a form of dualism. So now, just from the excerpts, I can’t tell whether Kastrup is a straight idealist or some modern form of dualist.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby Ecmandu » Fri Oct 15, 2021 4:14 pm

I don’t believe dualism is necessary in the sense of dichotomies.

I only believe that the perception of OTHER is necessary to sustain consciousness.

This is why I don’t believe in an omnibenevolent creator or cosmos.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby Bob » Sat Oct 16, 2021 4:22 am

pood wrote:Not having read Kastrup’s book, I can only go by these excerpts.

To say that the function of the brain is to localize consciousness, to pin it to a space-time reference point, seems to be a different metaphysics from idealism, almost a return to Cartesian dualism. Just on the face of what he says, he seems to be suggesting that the brain exists independently of the mind, but that while the mind is universal, the individual brain somehow pulls down a piece of the universal consciousness to give it a particular individual perspective. An analogy would be a TV. Someone without knowledge of how a TV works would think that the device itself generates pictures and sound. Instead it is a conduit for pictures and sound that exist independently of the TV. But that is a form of dualism. So now, just from the excerpts, I can’t tell whether Kastrup is a straight idealist or some modern form of dualist.

Exactly, you would have to read the books, because, obviously, Kindle restricts the amount I can quote.
Moreover, in the discussion below, for ease of argument, I will more-or-less implicitly presuppose a dualist metaphor, which takes non-material consciousness and material brains to be different kinds of ‘stuff.’ This is just a metaphor. The worldview that will slowly unfold through the rest of this book is not a dualist one. In Chapter 4, I will transpose all the conclusions of the present chapter onto a non-dualist framework. You will then understand how and why dualism is the most appropriate metaphor at this early stage of our analysis.
Kastrup, Bernardo. Why Materialism Is Baloney: How True Skeptics Know There Is No Death and Fathom Answers to life, the Universe, and Everything (S.39-40). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle-Version.

On the use of metaphors, Kastrup says:
Our language is itself constructed around dualities like subject/object, verb/noun, past/future, etc. Therefore, it is impossible to talk about mind without objectifying it in some way. I ask for your alertness from this point on: whenever I seem to objectify mind, as in referring to it as a ‘medium’ or a ‘substrate’, I will be speaking metaphorically, because of the inherent limitations of language. The substrate of mind is not an object, nor a material. It is the It is the forever-elusive subject wherein all ‘objects’ arise as imagined figures.
Kastrup, Bernardo. Why Materialism Is Baloney: How True Skeptics Know There Is No Death and Fathom Answers to life, the Universe, and Everything (S.68). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle-Version.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby Bob » Sat Oct 16, 2021 4:30 am

Another book to read:
Ultimately, we have come to believe that, whatever I or anyone else may say – really – when the chips are down, when the rhetoric fades, and we have stopped trying to cheer ourselves up by believing in sentimental ideas such as virtue, love and courage, the possibility of truly unselfish behaviour, or a realm of spiritual value – really, we are nothing but blind mechanisms, the dupes of our equally blind genes, with no choice but to play out the sorry farce that the force of evolution, so much bigger and greater than we are, dictates. But at least now we have the dignity of knowing that we are not deceiving ourselves. So far, so familiar. Nonetheless, I want to suggest to you that this vision is less compelling than it looks. Logically, scientifically, less compelling. I think there is in fact evidence that it may itself be a cruel deception, one that we have been far too gullible in swallowing. And I think the explanation may have something to do with the evolution of our brains.
McGilchrist, Iain. The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning (S.4). Yale University Press. Kindle-Version.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby felix dakat » Sat Oct 16, 2021 2:56 pm

So to look at anything one has to be conscious. And to be conscious of this is self-consciousness. The proposition here is that self-consciousness is filtered universal consciousness. That's a possibility. Another possibility is that consciousness supervenes on a material substrate. How do we determine which possibility holds true?
The purpose of my life would seem to be to express the truth as I discover it, but in such a manner that it is completely devoid of authority. By having no authority, by being seen by all as utterly unreliable, I express the truth and put everyone in a contradictory position where they can only save themselves by making the truth their own.
Soren Kierkegaard– Journals, 432
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felix dakat
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby pood » Sat Oct 16, 2021 3:26 pm

felix dakat wrote:So to look at anything one has to be conscious. And to be conscious of this is self-consciousness. The proposition here is that self-consciousness is filtered universal consciousness. That's a possibility. Another possibility is that consciousness supervenes on a material substrate. How do we determine which possibility holds true?


I don’t think that we can determine which is true, which, I suppose, is why a lot of scientists hold philosophy in contempt and subscribe to the “just shut up and calculate” empiricism.
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Re: Are there arguments for materialism?

Postby pood » Sat Oct 16, 2021 3:32 pm

Ultimately, we have come to believe that, whatever I or anyone else may say – really – when the chips are down, when the rhetoric fades, and we have stopped trying to cheer ourselves up by believing in sentimental ideas such as virtue, love and courage, the possibility of truly unselfish behaviour, or a realm of spiritual value – really, we are nothing but blind mechanisms, the dupes of our equally blind genes, with no choice but to play out the sorry farce that the force of evolution, so much bigger and greater than we are, dictates.


I’ll go instead with Charles Darwin, from the close of Origin of Species:

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.


Grandeur is the perfect word for the fact of evolution, imo. And no, evolution does not rule out virtue, love, courage, unselfish behavior — it supports them. Nor does it rule out, though does not support, a spiritual realm.
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