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How to Prove that Transcendentalism is True

Transcendentalism

Editor's Note: This is a follow-up piece to Dr. Peter Kreeft's article from earlier in the week titled "Why Reality Includes More (Not Less) Than You Probably Think". Be sure to read that one first.


 

Merely refuting reductionism does not yet give us any positive evidence for transcendentalism, however, just as merely refuting atheism does not give you positive evidence for theism.  We might well be stuck in agnosticism, unable to prove either of the two contradictory propositions, that there is or that there is not a God, or a Santa Claus, or any S that is more than P. So today I a proof for transcendentalism, in one area of human experience: thinking, which corresponds to the ideal we all want: truth.

The Demonstration of Metaphysical Transcendence

The commonest form of metaphysical reductionism, and the most philosophically interesting and controversial one, is materialism, which is the claim that everything that is real is material; that there is not a second dimension or kind of reality that is immaterial, or spiritual, or mental, but that what we call mind and mental phenomena can be reduced to and explained as merely material phenomena.  According to materialism, all that happens when we calculate that 21+31=52, or when we judge that murder is evil, or when we believe that God exists, or that we perceive the sky as blue, or when we predict that we will die, is that certain bundles of physical energy are doing certain physical things, like moving across synapses or producing chemical reactions, in our brains.  The claim is that there are no immaterial phenomena that cannot be explained as material phenomena.

Now there is one very easy refutation of this argument for materialism.  It is simply that the premise does not entail the conclusion.  For even if we grant the premise that we find no immaterial phenomena that cannot be fully explained as material phenomena, this does not logically entail the conclusion that there are no immaterial phenomena, any more than the fact that we find no convex curve in the Canadian border of America that cannot be explained as a concave curve in the American border of Canada entails the fact that there is no Canada but only America.

In fact, the very same argument that the materialist uses to justify materialism can be used, with equal force, by an immaterialist, that is, by someone who believes that matter does not exist and all is mind.  For we can find no material phenomena that cannot be explained as immaterial phenomena, as projections of consciousness or forms of consciousness.  For as soon as you think about a thing, even if that thing is a supposedly material thing like a rock, that thing has become an ingredient in your consciousness.  It is in principle impossible to think of a rock that cannot be explained as the thought of a rock.

(And if the thought is true, by the most common definition of truth, there is nothing different in the thought than in the thing, that is, nothing different in the “rock” in quotation marks and the rock without quotation marks, except the quotation marks; and the quotation marks are not part of the material inside the quotation marks.  Insofar as there is any difference between the thought in the quotation marks and the thing outside the quotation marks, the thought designated by the quotation marks is not true, because it is not the same as the thing.)

You can explain all supposedly material phenomena as immaterial just as you can explain all supposedly immaterial phenomena as material.  Imagine the two sets of phenomena listed in two parallel columns.  There is no phenomenon in either of the two columns that does not have an identical twin in the other column.  The two columns match perfectly, so that monistic materialism, common sense dualism, and monistic spiritualism all explain the data.  (So does William James’ “neutral monism,” although that one neutral stuff that is neither matter nor spirit cannot be defined or conceived except negatively.)

But this leaves us undecided among the three (or four) alternative metaphysics.  It does not refute any one of them, all of which explain the data.  It only refutes the materialist’s claimed refutation of spirit and the immaterialist’s claimed refutation of matter.  I want to go farther: I want to refute materialism, as my primary example of metaphysical reductionism.

The Refutation of Materialism

The refutation depends on one simple and obvious premise: that the knowledge of a thing is not one of the parts of that thing.  I shall first prove this premise (that will take some time), and then I will use it to prove my conclusion that knowledge transcends matter (that will not take much time at all).

Let’s say you want to know x.  Let’s say x is Beatrice and you are Dante.  Now all knowing, insofar as it is knowing, is true, is accurate.  And this means, according to common sense, that it is all that the thing known is.  Aristotle’s “identity theory” of truth is simply what common sense means by truth.  A true thought matches the real thing so that there is nothing added or subtracted.  If there is a lack of identity between the objective thing and the subjective thought of it, there is a fault in the thought, a lack of knowledge.  There is no such thing as false knowledge.

Of course none of us can have complete knowledge of anything or anybody, not even a flea, much less Beatrice.  Only God is omniscient and infallible, by definition; that is, only God, the creator and designer of Beatrice, if He exists, could know everything there is to know about her. And we are not God.  (I apologize if this news upsets any of you.)  Yet not only do “all men by nature desire to know,” as Aristotle famously said, but we want to know everything there is to know about everything there is to know, in Bernard Lonergan’s formula.  That is what curiosity means.

Now let’s suppose you are Dante, and you know something new about Beatrice: that she ate a plum this morning.  Then that knowledge is a new fact about you, a new piece of knowing for you; but your knowing this new fact about Beatrice does not add anything new to Beatrice, as the plum did.  If it did, then that would falsify the Beatrice you want to know, which is Beatrice-as-she-is-in-herself, not merely Beatrice-as-known-by-you.  There is no problem at all in knowing Beatrice-as-known-by-you; that happens automatically, by definition.  You want to know more than that; you want to know Beatrice-as-she-really-is-in-herself; and because you usually do not succeed at this task, it is a struggle and not an automatic success.

If Beatrice sees you looking at her, this changes her; this is a new fact about her.  But if she does not see you looking at her, your looking does not change her, only you.  New facts about you do not of themselves constitute new facts about her.

(If you are thinking about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle here, and wondering whether the observation of B by A might not change B as well as A, I am here assuming that Einstein was right and Heisenberg wrong about the Uncertainty Principle; that the act of knowing a thing, mentally, does not change the thing, unless it also changes it physically, by interfering with light waves, for instance.  If the mental act of knowing B changed A (whether B is Beatrice or a subatomic particle), then knowledge of B would be impossible, because things would change and jump outside our knowledge as soon as we knew them, as if the target would jump away from the arrow just as the arrow was about to enter it, so that no arrow would ever hit its target; no knowledge would ever know its intended object—even the mental object labeled ‘Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.’  Thus the Uncertainty Principle, interpreted ontologically, seems self-contradictory, like all forms of universal skepticism.)

(I am also implicitly assuming an epistemological realism in assuming that we are like archers, and acts of knowing are like arrows, and bows are like minds, and targets are like the things we want to know.  I am assuming that ideas are not targets but arrows; that ideas are means-of-knowing or acts-of-knowing, not objects-of-knowing; that real things are our targets, or objects-of-knowing.  I am assuming that Aquinas is right in ST I, 85, 2 when he defines ideas as means of knowing and real things as objects of knowing, and that Locke is wrong in the very first sentence of his Essay, when he defines an idea as the object of knowing.  For if that were true, then we could never know whether or not any of our ideas corresponded to or were identical with the real world, and we would have to draw Hume’s skeptical conclusion.  We would be like prisoners in a jail cell who saw only pictures of the outside world on a TV screen; without a direct knowing of the outside world, we could never know which of the pictures were true and which were not.)

So Beatrice’s plum is a new part of Beatrice, not of me (Dante), and my knowing this is a new part of me, not of her.  That this must be so can be shown by a merely logical analysis.  Let us suppose that 9,000 facts about Beatrice constitute the whole Beatrice.  If my knowing these 9,000 facts constituted fact #9,001 about her, then I could not know her, because the Beatrice I knew would be “Beatrice minus fact #9,001,” and that is not the true Beatrice, any more than Beatrice-without-a-plum is not the true Beatrice this morning.

Knowledge cannot commit suicide in the very act of coming to life; and that is what it would do if each act of knowledge changed the old object to a new one in the very act of trying to know the old one.

From this crucial premise, that I have taken such a long time to expound, I quickly deduce the falsity of materialism.  I do this by adding just one more premise, namely that modern science is possible.  Modern science claims to know some principles that are true for the whole universe, principles like F=MA or E=MC squared.  Now since the universe is the sum total of all material things (matter, time, and space being correlative), it follows that modern science knows some truths about all of matter.

Now take this second premise—that by science we can know the universe, and combine it with our first premise, that the knowledge of any thing is not one of the parts of that thing, and you get the conclusion that our knowledge of the universe is not part of the universe, but an addition to it, transcending it.

The conclusion is shocking to the reductionist.  As C.S. Lewis puts it in Miracles, it gives us a metaphysic that is like the moon: a material body pockmarked with craters caused by things that came from outside, like meteors, fingerprints of transcendence.  Each of these meteors symbolizes an act of knowing.

  • Reductionism gives us a picture of reality that is like the moon with craters caused from within by its own volcanoes (which many astronomers believed to be the true source of lunar craters until the middle of the 20th century).
  • Transcendentalism gives us a picture of the universe that is like the moon with craters caused by meteors that come from beyond the moon.  Intelligent extraterrestrials looking at the farms and cities of our globe from their space ship would not explain these things in the same way as they would explain earth’s geological formations, for they are effects not just of material forces but of acts of knowing material forces and knowing how to change them.

The simple “bottom line” is that since any act of knowing transcends its object, the act of knowing the universe transcends the universe.
 
 
Originally published at PeterKreeft.com. Used with permission.
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Dr. Peter Kreeft

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Dr. Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and a noted Catholic apologist and philosopher. He is a convert to the Catholic Church from reformed Protestantism. He earned an A.B. degree from Calvin College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral work at Yale University. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 60 books including Making Sense Out of Suffering (Servant, 1986); Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics (Ignatius, 1988); Catholic Christianity (Ignatius, 2001); The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion (IVP, 2002); and The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings (Ignatius, 2005). Many of Peter's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Find dozens of audio talks, essays, and book excerpts at his website, PeterKreeft.com.

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  • This is pretty easily refuted. The premise the "knowledge of any thing is not one of the parts of that thing" is not true.

    We can have knowledge about ourselves. If Dante eats a plum, the addition of the plum changes him, he is also aware of this fact, which is another change. If Dante has a brain tumour he may not know, but he is changed by this anyway. His doctor tells him about it and he is both changed the existence of the tumour and his different brain state.

    The universe exists and we are part of it, our having knowledge of the universe is easily accounted for by our change of state within it. There is no need for immaterial or transcendent substances.

    • "This is pretty easily refuted."

      That's a pretty bold claim. Let's see if it's true...

      "If Dante eats a plum, the addition of the plum changes him, he is also aware of this fact, which is another change."

      This doesn't refute Dr. Kreeft's statement that "knowledge of any thing is not one of the parts of that thing". His knowledge of the plum is not part of the plum. Similarly, his knowledge of the plumb being assimilated into his body is not equivalent to the plum assimilating into his body.

      "If Dante has a brain tumour he may not know, but he is changed by this anyway. His doctor tells him about it and he is both changed the existence of the tumour and his different brain state."

      Again, this fails to refute Dr. Kreeft's premise. In fact, it does just the opposite--it supports it! It affirms that knowledge of something (i.e., the existence of, or the effects of, a brain tumor) is not equivalent to the thing itself (i.e., the brain tumor.) The knowledge of a tumor is independent of its effects, which shows that knowledge transcends the tumor.

      "The universe exists and we are part of it..."

      Of course...

      "[O]ur having knowledge of the universe is easily accounted for by our change of state within it. There is no need for immaterial or transcendent substances."

      This begs the question because it assumes that the universe includes our thoughts. But if the universe is defined as the total collection of space, time, matter, and energy, this assumption would only be true if our thoughts are spatial, temporal, material, or somehow related to energy states. But that's precisely what's under discussion. You can't assume that as part of your attempted refutation.

      I see no good reason to presume that our thoughts are material, or to use Dr. Kreeft's language, that our thoughts are "nothing but" material processes. They are more.

      • Kreeft's argument is that our thoughts/knowledge about the universe cannot be material, because of this disputed premise that knowledge about A cannot be part of A. I don't at all see what this is the case. Brains can know things about themselves. Universes can know things about themselves.

        The universe is a complex and changing interaction of material things, if knowledge is an arrangement of material in brains, as I propose, there is nothing illogical about one part of the universe being in a state of knowledge about itself.

        It may very well be that there is another substance than matter. Indeed this was presumed for centuries. However, in the last few hundred years more and more of the things that were presumed incapable of explanation by material, such as mental activity, have been very well accounted for by material means. This doesn't entail a deductive proof of materialism. But it, and many, many other observations, make a very strong inductive case for it. And, after all in virtually all questions, ultimately, all we can do is make inductive arguments.

        • "It may very well be that there is another substance than matter. Indeed this was presumed for centuries. However, in the last few hundred years more and more of the things that were presumed incapable of explanation by material, such as mental activity, have been very well accounted for by material means."

          This suggests that past people generally held to a "transcendentalism of the gaps." Catholics would of course agree that you shouldn't reject materialism simply because there are some realities that are, for at least the time being, unexplainable in materialistic terms.

          Instead, we believe there are certain realities (such as thought, consciousness, morality, mathematics, etc.) that cannot, in principle, ever be explained in materialistic terms, regardless of future scientific advances.

          "And, after all in virtually all questions, ultimately, all we can do is make inductive arguments."

          Just because many questions are adjudicated through inductive reasoning doesn't mean this one must. That's a non sequitur.

          Dr. Kreeft has provided a coherent deductive argument against materialism.

          • Catholics and theists are certainly not alone in being substance dualists, many atheists are as well, and accept that the abstractions you reference are indeed existent immaterial "things". I see no reason to infer this.

            I agree that Kreeft has made a coherent deductive argument, it is also valid. But the premises are contested and he has not demonstrated they are true. Coherence and validity add nothing to the strength of the argument. The premises must also be true. This premise is false

          • I think that even within the context of Godel - that there can be truths outside the context of the 'system'. Maybe sometime someone can explain this better so that I can understand within my 'limitations'. Validity only - empty arguments. The concept without the percept. I'd rather report even my feelings as some kind of evidence to 'consider', than to make a syllogistic construct for instance, the only criteria of 'truth'. I do believe that 'truth' can be found in poetry, for instance. But I'm not a lawyer!!! (Coherence - the parts fit into a whole? Yes, perhaps this is easier to attain structurally, in math and in logic, for instance, than within the possibility of finding 'coherence' within say, even the 'wholeness' of the 'self'. Coherence to unity. Took a course on coherence, once - way back. As with correspondence and consistency. If you can achieve all three -- well ----

          • stevegbrown

            Hi there Loreen, It's been a while since I've commented of SN. You may find Roger Penrose helpful.

            "In the course of the above argument, we have actually established that Pk(K) is a true statement! Somehow we have managed to see that Pk(k) is true despite the ...
            fact that it is not formally provable within the system.
            The strict mathematical formalists should indeed be worried, because by this very reasoning we have established that the formalist's notion of 'truth' must be necessarily incomplete. Whatever (consistent) formal system is used for arithmetic, there are statements that we can see are true but which do not get assigned the truth-value ~ by the formalist's proposed procedure, as described above."

            (p.120 Emperor's New Mind)
            The whole chapter on Truth, Proof and Insight is worth a read.

          • I bought 'The Emperor's New Mind', after a discussion wherein it was rejected, (my understanding) because his scientific theory attempted to find some agreement with Catholicism. I haven't had time to read it yet. I can't keep up with all the links I place in my list 'to read', that I get from these sites. But I am aware of The Incompleteness Theorum, etc. etc. Russell placing both Mathematics and Logic within the same structure. Kant included the necessity of 'intuition' that what the analytic philosophers consider to be 'analytic, and thus perhaps empty statements', are by Kant considered to be synthetic a priori, because we have to consider the time taken within the thinking process, and therefore, yes, some movement? on consciousness must be recognized. So lots of structures - of different kinds, etc. Attempting to understand these, and be more coherent about them, even in expression, will be a life long task. I do believe, however, that the science (scientism to use the pejorative expression) could perhaps be a little too 'self-confident'. So to sum up there are three alternatives to consider, the logical - a in Bertrand Russell, the formalists, which I think comes from Russia, as with their critical literary theory, and the intuitionists, which is my interpretation of that emphasis within Kant's a priori. I, of course, admit of my ignorance, but that's for pointing me to p. 120.
            P.S. I keep expressing my refusal to rely merely on argumentative debate. It's much more difficult to find 'a true premise' than to give an 'empty argument'!!!!!! I do hope my 'humor' is appreciated. I can be such a 'meanie'. But I'm going to remain 'between' religion and science, enough thought I have become most aware that this can end up putting me in contradictions I cannot personally handle!!! Thanks for sending me a comment......(I also think the personal or subjective is just as important as the 'objective'!!!! to use another choice of mere terminology: :)

          • stevegbrown

            I think that your humor is appreciated. I have never heard that of that charge leveled at Penrose's book: that he was trying to accommodate Catholics.

            I believe that he was definitely responding to Douglas Hofstadter's book "Godel, Escher and Bach" and the "hard" AI proponents.

            I have an atheist friend who loves Penrose's book. Penrose has said that he would regard himself as being a Platonist.

            But I don't think that his point was about intuition but simply that we know things as being true with our reason and yet they weren't arrived at through a formal machine-like algorithm.

            Don't worry though, you didn't hurt my feelings. I enjoy your erudition.

          • Thanks for letting me know a little about it. Will read. Will read. Will read. Yes. There is a lot of Platonism in Catholicism, though. !! Does or could an AI have 'intuition'. Not expecting n answer. Just asking?

          • A strong argument will be logically valid and have true premises. Validity has to do with the structure of the argument it is valid in this sense if and only if it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.

            What gives an argument strength is when it is valid, and had true premises.

            For example, "all trucks are made of yarn, Jim is a truck, therefore Jim is made of yarn." is valid. The problem is with the premises.

            It would be invalid if it read "all trucks are made yarn, Jim is made of yarn, therefore Jim is a truck".

            But the point is that the validity or the argument adds nothing to its strength or persuasiveness. The above example is 100% logically valid, it is absolutely logically coherent. but it is still a ridiculous argument and extremely weak! because of the problems with the truth of its premises.

            So, obviously Kreeft's argument meets the coherence and validity standard, which is meaningless absent premises that are true.

          • Yeah I've been going over links such as the following: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Modus_ponens_and_Modus_tollens Have also run across a site which gives mathematical puzzles every day, - the world of math that I have never 'dared to enter before'. We are dealing in both cases with 'structures'.. And thus your reply merely was redundant with what I said. i.e. I'd rather find a true premise, or speak the 'truth', than rely on the structures of validity, which are 'empty' of content. That's all.

          • My apologies. I was not precisely 'speaking to the point' and I did within the comment you were referring to, (not the one I was thinking about when I read your critique) neglect to note that I had in fact asked for other alternatives. So besides the quantitative structures of mathematics, there are what Kant calls 'schemata'. Don't understand where 'logic' fits into this. It may be the basis of Kant's schemata for instance, which are: quantitative, qualitative, relational, and modal categories. The relational I have speculated are indeed the original 'principles' of Aristotle. They are the categorical, the hypothetical, and the relational. All of these are logical distinctions. The categorical (these are all speculative statements, I keep trying), would be (the assertive, perhaps the necessary, all I do is play with these concepts checking them out within my 'experience'. I am more confident that the 'hypothetical' as in the if-then statements, relates to possibility, and thus can not be assumed to be 'without contradiction'. Like in Godel, and in the link I gave you, many

            empirical truths are not admitted as evidence, even in cases of law. Right? And of course, the either/or, both/and, and both and, and more and, is I believe rightfully placed by Kant as the third, and thus the possible synthesis, at least in theory. (I do try thought, but I do admit that it is highly likely that there will be no end to my 'incoherence'.!!!

          • But J.S. Mill demonstrated in his book on induction, that deduction follows or is built upon a primary induction. One is (as I tend to simplify) merely the reverse order or consequence of the other. We couldn't for instance have the premise All men are mortal, unless there had initially been induction from a 'Socrates' to the concept of mortality. Of course you can also make deductions based on the concept of 'immortality' as well!!! So does this at least 'imply' that there 'could be' contradictions between different 'forms of syllogistic reasoning'. Are these not what Kant explores in his discussion of the 'antinomies'? No - it' true, I'm not very good at logic or argument! I'm tired. It's way past my bedtime. If only I could stay away from these --- no word for it!!! I'm obsessed with Catholicism vs. modernism and the post - and now the post-post. Goodnight. Amen.!

        • Phil

          Hey Brian,

          The universe is a complex and changing interaction of material things, if knowledge is an arrangement of material in brains, as I propose, there is nothing illogical about one part of the universe being in a state of knowledge about itself.

          Remember Dr. Kreeft's point though--he said that science can make universal truth claims about the universe (in fact, if materialism is true, then science must ultimately make at least one universal truth claim about the entire universe).

          But if our knowledge of this truth is reducible to this truth claim we are trying to make then we can't make any universal truth claim.

          So you can either hold that materialistic-reductionism is false or that science cannot make any claims that are true about the whole of the physical universe.

          • I disagree that science makes universal truth claims about the universe. Science proposes models to understand empirical evidence, all of its claims are contingent, and can and often do change. Scientists propose theories to explain empirical evidence, some of the theories are better established than others.

            In terms of your dilemma, it is the latter, science cannot claim that any of its theories are absolutely true.

            Materialism and reductionism are not scientific theories, they are philosophical positions.

          • Phil

            disagree that science makes universal truth claims about the universe.

            If science is not aiming to make universal claims then the scientific method is completely undermined. Is not the purpose of science to make models and propose explanations that are repeatable so that they can be confirmed and tested? If the claim is not universal, then repeatability is destroyed.

            If a person makes a claim that is not universal to a certain type of material being, then there is no way that repeatability is possible and should even be expected.

            For example, a scientist runs a test in Arizona many times and keeps getting the same result. He proposes that it is a universal truth that when he does X to Y, Z happens. The only way to scientifically confirm this in China is for another scientist to run the same test. But if science is not making universal truths, not only can the scientist in China not confirm the American scientist, the American scientist can't trust his own test because he could do the same test 1000 times and he still can't declare a universal truth from it (because on your account, science can't discover universal truths)!

            So on the view you are proposing, you have killed science...RIP ;)

          • Sure, I'll retract that. Science makes truth claims, with the caveats I noted above. But I've totally lost your point.

          • Phil

            But I've totally lost your point.

            Okay--so we agree now that science is aiming to make universal truth claims about material reality. This leads right into Dr. Kreeft's point that if the human intellect (which is what is "doing science") is purely a material entity, and science is trying to make universal truth claims about material reality, this includes the material intellect that is trying to make the truth claim.

            Truth is knowing reality *as it actually exists*, as Kreeft points out. So as you try and make a new truth claim about reality using a purely material intellect, that material intellect has changed and you now can't know reality as it actually is. In fact, you can never know reality as it actually is because the knowledge of material reality is part of material reality itself (if the intellect is purely a physical entity). So you are aiming for a moving target (i.e., truth) that you can never hit.

            We must conclude that universal and objective truth is not possible if materialism is true.

            (Which matches up exactly with the conclusion of my argument from my essay 2 months ago which came at this question from a slightly different angle, but nonetheless reached the same conclusion.)

          • "...science is trying to make universal truth claims about material reality,
            this includes the material intellect that is trying to make the truth
            claim."

            No, a scientist making a claim of universal truth about the universe may be making no claim about his own brain, or any brain. For example, a claim that hydrogen gas in sufficient density will undergo nuclear fusion into Helium is a scientific universal truth claim, but has nothing to do with brains.

            "Truth is knowing reality *as it actually exists*"

            I disagree. Truth is better described as "reality as it actually is", not "knowing" reality as it actually is. Reality would be what it is, irrespective of if there is any intellect or not.

            "you can never know reality as it actually is" I agree, you can believe you know reality as it was, recognizing that in the time it has taken for the information to be received and processed in your brain, reality has changed. You can never be certain that it even was that way because, ultimately, you cannot be certain of your senses. You can only hold beliefs about how reality is. Beliefs about reality that are very confident we might call knowledge. But technically speaking, these are beliefs.

            You seem to be saying that materialists believe they can know everthing about the universe with certainty? That may be what you mean by universal objective truth claims? This is not what I believe, nor what I think any materialist believes. For the reason you advance and mine, and the uncertainty principle.

            "We must conclude that universal and objective truth is not possible if materialism is true." I do not see why this is the case. Truth is truth, irrespective of whether there is only material in the universe, substance dualism, or idealism is true.

          • Phil

            You seem to be saying that materialists believe they can know everthing about the universe with certainty? That may be what you mean by universal objective truth claims? This is not what I believe, nor what Ithink any materialist believes. For the reason you advance and mine, and the uncertainty principle.

            Not at all. There are three main positions: (1) Complete skepticism, (2) Realism, (3) Complete certainty. The materialist is left in a state of complete skepticism, they can know nothing (which is an absurd position).

            The hylomorphic realist (i.e., most Aristotelian-Thomists) believes you can know much, but not everything, about reality with a good certainty, but not perfect certainty.

            I do not see why this is the case. Truth is truth, irrespective of whether there is only material in the universe, substance dualism, or idealism is true.

            Yes, truth is truth. But what kind of metaphysics (e.g., materialism, dualism, hylomorphism, idealism) supports the fact that we could actually know truth is up for grabs.

            Remember, we are dealing with two things--the truth of reality and our human intellect and ability to actually know truth. So if we hold a position that concludes that the knowledge of truth is not possible (e.g., materialism), we either must hold that an incoherent (i.e., untrue) position is true--which is contradictory--or we simply state that materialism is not true.

            For example, a claim that hydrogen gas in sufficient density will undergo nuclear fusion into Helium is a scientific universal truth claim, but has nothing to do with brains.

            Before the scientist even starts looking at hydrogen atoms and fusion, she must have other universal principles about matter/energy that under gird all of material reality. This means it will also apply to a purely material human intellect. So again, the target is necessarily constantly moving.

          • I don't think certainty can have levels. One can have levels of confidence in beliefs, the highest level being certainty.

            I think we need to talk about the problem of induction here, this is that we have no way of knowing with certainty that the past will be like the future. In fact, we have no reason at all to believe this, other than circular reasoning. This would be a crippling state of paralysis if we required such certainty, which is called complete skepticism. This applies to all metaphysical positions and there is no way out of it.

            Most people just assume that the future will be like the past, once you do this you can make all kinds of claims about reality. This is how we "overcome" the problem of induction. We ignore it.

            You seem to be saying that substance dualism provides a way out of this, that your belief in an immaterial substance allows you to be more confident in your conclusions about reality. But again, I just do not see how this is the case.

            You seem to be advancing presuppositionalism, that god has a way of instilling truths in your psyche, that are unavailable, unless one believes in the immaterial?

      • I always thought that St. Thomas Aquinas was a kind of 'first existentialist', that Being was considered prior to Knowledge. The original post did however go back to the Augustine/neo-Platonic tradition of the original Catholicism - right? But I assume that 'incarnation', even the 'resurrection' hopefully after the separation of the immaterial intellect from body after death is brought hopefully within a glorified materiality. Yet even the 'anger' of the angels that they had not bodily form, (although in some respect they could assume such in kind) are all indications of a primary importance given to some kind of 'materiality'. I must confess, however, again, my difficulty as always, in finding that I am always running into contradictions within 'Catholic' thought, perhaps because I don't understand the 'matter' with respect to my immaterial intellect? In any case, maybe some day I can understand 'how' these ideas can have an effect on my body, including all of those aspects of my mind/soul that I don't believe this philosophy acknowledges as 'immaterial'. But the 'how' is I believe what is studied within the domain of science. So I can 'study scientifically' my thoughts, etc. i.e. the study of the particular, and even with respect to understanding my virtue and vices, a little scientific reductionism, with respect to their 'materiality', can possibly be helpful.
        I just wonder whether the immateriality is something related to ideas, specifically, i.e. with respect to language, primarily, not the mind/body distinction, generally. And that explains all the problems with respect to nominalism, etc. etc. In this respect, I certainly find it easy to accept the 'emptiness' of tautologies, for instance, and the 'nothingness' of mere universals, not placed within the context of a sentence or proposition, (from the analytic philosophers, perhaps Wittgenstein, I forget). I like to think of 'angels' in this regard, as being iconic of the thoughts that I would like to have - if only I were 'intelligent' enough to have them!!! (Hope I've not been too verbose. Thanks.)

      • Doug Shaver

        I see no good reason to presume that our thoughts are material

        And I see no good reason to presume the contrary. In neither case is anything proved about the materiality of our thoughts.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    I think I have a problem with the first premise: "the knowledge of any thing is not one of the parts of that thing." A better way to phrase it is that "The knowledge of a thing is a part of the thing that holds the knowledge."

    It is true that in the Dante/Beatrice example, Dante's knowledge of Beatrice was not part of Beatrice. But this is because Dante is seperate from Beatrice. Knowledge of Beatrice became a part of Dante. The only reason Beatrice didn't change is because the knower and the thing being known are two separate things.

    But things change significantly in the universe/science example. In this case the knower and the thing being known is one and the same. Science is a way for the universe (or at least, a part of it) to know more about itself. So yes, coming to know something in the universe does change the universe (just like if I learn something about myself, I have also changed myself.) The premise does not seem to hold.

    • "Science is a way for the universe (or at least, a part of it) to know more about itself."

      The "universe" can't know more about itself (or anything about itself) because it's not actually a "thing" that is even capable of self-knowledge. It's simply a set of all space, time, matter, and energy--a useful fiction.

      It would be better said that through science, certain objects in the universe (e.g., humans) can know more about other objects in the universe.

      But this in no way refutes the premise that "the knowledge of any thing is not one of the parts of that thing."

      (Also, see my reply to Brian for an explanation about why "knowledge" can't be presumed to be part of the universe, properly defined.)

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        It would be better said that through science, certain objects in the
        universe (e.g., humans) can know more about other objects in the
        universe.

        But when we learn about the universe, we learn about ourselves as well, not just objects outside ourselves. E=mc2 applies to humans as well. So to rephrase your statement: "Certain objects in the universe (e.g. humans) can no more about other objects and themselves" So when we learn about the universe, we learn about ourselves and and this adds something to ourselves.

        (Also, see my reply to Brian for an explanation about why "knowledge"
        can't be presumed to be part of the universe, properly defined.)

        I've read your reply... You say that we are presuming that thoughts are spatial, temporal, etc (ie material). I agree that this is the topic under discussion, so we should not assume it to be true, but neither should we assume it to be false. If thoughts are material, then they can be part of the universe. If they are immaterial then they cannot. If, as you say, Dr. Kreefts refutation of materialism requires making this later assumption, then I'm afraid that would be begging the question.

        (Note: I am not sure that Dr. Kreeft actually did make this assumption, but your response to Brian did.)

        • "You say that we are presuming that thoughts are spatial, temporal, etc (ie material). I agree that this is the topic under discussion."

          Great!

          "...so we should not assume it to be true, but neither should we assume it to be false."

          I agree!

          "If thoughts are material, then they can be part of the universe. If they are immaterial then they cannot."

          Right on.

          "If, as you say, Dr. Kreefts refutation of materialism requires making this latter assumption, then I'm afraid that would be begging the question."

          The latter assumption is not question-beggining because this fact is independent of the argument. It's definitional: the universe, by definition, includes the totality of space, time, matter, and energy. Immaterial thoughts, by definition, are not included in any of the categories of space, time, matter, and energy. Therefore, immaterial thoughts (if they exist--this isn't assumed), by definition, must transcend the universe. They must, in other words, be transcendental.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            And similarly, material thoughts are by definition, material (if they exist) and must be a part of the universe. I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.

            The point is, if knowledge is material, then gaining knowledge (ie learning) changes a material part of the universe. In other words, knowledge about the universe is part of universe. Dr. Kreeft's premise is wrong if materialism is true.

          • "Dr. Kreeft's premise is wrong if materialism is true."

            Of course! Which is why he doesn't just assume the premise; he defends it. Per his article:

            "The refutation depends on one simple and obvious premise: that the knowledge of a thing is not one of the parts of that thing. I shall first prove this premise (that will take some time), and then I will use it to prove my conclusion that knowledge transcends matter (that will not take much time at all)."

            You've given no solid reason to think his defense failed. The only two arguments you've given against the premise is the "universe" counter-example (which I showed doesn't work) and the assertion that if materialism is true, this premise would be false. But that's question begging: assuming an alternate conclusion to deny one of the premises.

            "The point is, if knowledge is material..."

            I'm very curious about this belief. Do you personally think knowledge is material or are you just proposing this as a possible defeater? If you do believe it, where is this material knowledge? Can I touch it? Can I shape this "knowledge matter" into other forms? At the risk of sounding crass, can I eat a bowl of knowledge or drink a cup of it?

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I never said that Dr. Kreeft assumed his premise. I said that you seem to be assuming that materialism is false in order to support Dr. Kreeft's premise. I also said that I think you are misunderstanding Kreeft's position.

            You did not show that the universe example doesn't work. You merely asserted that the universe cannot have knowledge. But the materials position is that the the universe can contain knowledge. In other words, you are assuming materialism to be false. Your refutation is question-begging.

            But returning to what Dr. Kreeft said, I and the other commenters have said that it is possible for someone to know something about themselves. Kreeft seems to agree that knowledge becomes a part of that person (he writes "...and my knowing this is a new part of me...") and it possible for someone to know something about themselves. Therefore, knowledge about yourself becomes a part of yourself. This is contrary to Dr. Kreeft's premise. His long defense of his premise was only examining a special case of it, while ignoring a counter-example.

            If Dante's knowledge of Beatrice eating a plum becomes a part of him, then similarly, Beatrice's knowledge of Beatrice eating a plum becomes a part of her.

            ...and the assertion that if materialism is true, this premise would be false

            But don't you see why this is a problem?? Kreeft is trying to disprove materialism. If materialism is true, your interpretation of his premise fails, and then the refutation of materialism fails! I'm not assuming materialism to be true. I'm saying that if it is, then his refutation (or at least your interpretation) doesn't work. That's where the question-begging is.

            As to your snarky questions: Since knowledge is an arrangement of material, (typically within a brain) then sure... you can eat someone's brain if you like. If you're interested in drinking, then I suppose you could come up with a brain milkshake recipe (I'd call it "Brain Freeze". Hah!) Don't expect to gain any knowledge from it other than discovering new tastes. But if you want to dismiss materialism, you should probably try to learn a bit more about it, since these questions demonstrate you haven't.

          • William Davis

            If you're hungry enough, you could also eat a book or a computer hard drive ;)

          • Steven Schloeder

            >You did not show that the universe example doesn't work. You merely
            asserted that the universe cannot have knowledge. But the materials
            position is that the the universe can contain knowledge. In other words, you are assuming materialism to be false. Your refutation is question-begging.

            On the terms of physicalism/materialism, you would have to show some physical/ material mechanism to contain and categorize and use the information. I suspect that you are really just speaking analogously when you suggest the universe itself can have knowledge. If not, please show me where this information is contained in space and time.

          • William Davis

            If not, please show me where this information is contained in space and time.

            Check out more of my comments. I show that in detail when it comes to the human brain. The fact that knowledge is material in books, computer memory, ect. is obvious. If you'd like me to link to specific comments I can. The example of the man with a removed hippocampus is especially instructive.

          • Steven Schloeder

            William:

            There is no doubt that the brain itself stores data, and that information can be encoded and stored in matter, whether books or computer code or DNA.

            The question is whether the universe itself can have knowledge ("You merely asserted that the universe cannot have knowledge"). The universe is not a knowing thing -- it is just what we call all the physical things.

            Knowledge and data and information are three different things.

            Data is just some quantitative/ qualitative point of reference that needs to be interpreted and situated in relationship to other bits of data to be useful. All physical things are data in that sense.

            Information is different in that data becomes useful when organized by the mind to "in form" -- to give form to a shape, idea, object, characteristic, quality, quantity, etc to understand something.

            Knowledge is the understanding derived from the process of rationally judging and categorizing the data that informs the mind as to the reality of the thing.

            So for the universe to have knowledge, there must not only be some mechanism for organizing data (real "information"), but also some mechanism for understanding that information.

            All the universe has is data. There is no information (the universe does not sort out the data and organize it), and there is no knowledge (the universe does not understand or hold in memory or be capable of creative intention).

            It seems a completely reasonable assertion that the universe cannot have knowledge, since it has no mind by which to know.

            I don't see any way around that.

          • Ladolcevipera

            I agree. As I commented somewhere else: in order to "know" or "think" one needs a self-awareness that is aware of itself as a self-awareness. I think only human beings match these conditions. Computers f.i. don't.

          • Doug Shaver

            Computers f.i. don't.

            Not yet.

          • Ladolcevipera

            I'll contact you again the moment they do!

          • William Davis

            Most experts estimate 30-50 years for that, and I don't think we will ever see computers be self aware, they are the wrong kind of thing (thinking computers can think isn't being materialistic enough). Neural networks are the beginnings of artificial brains, and they are just now becoming useful enough to begin to see widespread usage. Give Moore's law time to work on them for a while :) (P.S. There is not reason to think self awareness will happen by accident like in movies, it will take years of intentionally pushing that)

            We are already using reinforcement learning for artificial intelligence, and one could consider that a low level form of self reflection (like running what happened over and over in your head). This is also sometimes called rumination.

            The program’s second, complementary form of intelligence—reinforcement learning—allows for a kind of unsupervised obedience training. DeepMind’s A.I. starts each game like an unhousebroken puppy. It is programmed to find a score rewarding, but is given no instruction in how to obtain that reward. Its first moves are random, made in ignorance of the game’s underlying logic. Some are rewarded with a treat—a score—and some are not. Buried in the DeepMind code, however, is an algorithm that allows the juvenile A.I. to analyze its previous performance, decipher which actions led to better scores, and change its future behavior accordingly. Combined with the deep neural network, this gives the program more or less the qualities of a good human gamer: the ability to interpret the screen, a knack for learning from past mistakes, and an overwhelming drive to win.

            http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/deepmind-artificial-intelligence-video-games

          • Ladolcevipera

            I suppose artificial brains are unavoidably on their way. But then my question is: how are you, scientists, going to "educate" them? A lot of ethical problems will arise. The more complicated the performance of the computer/robot, the complexer the problem . I was thinking of a very simple example: the self-driving car. I suppose a set of algorithms tells the car what to do. But accidents will happen (though probably fewer than with a human driver). Suppose a child runs across the street and the car is either going to hit it (and kill it), or hit another (smaller) car leaving the passenger of the first car unharmed, or hit a wall (avoiding the child and the second car but almost certainly killing its own passenger). What will the car "decide"? How will it be programmed? Are we dependent on a(unemotional) computational activity or can the non-driving passenger intervene and chose what to do? The capacity to chose is what makes us human. I don't think we can "teach" a computer the immensely complex human values system.
            Perhaps it will be possible soon to "create" computers that are far more intelligent than we are. But is it morally acceptable to create all we can create? In theory a computer could become so intelligent that it would be impossible to prevent it from f.i. killing us, humans. Can we take the risk?
            P.S.: Sorry for my funny English. It's only my third language and computer terminology is not at all my field ...

          • William Davis

            Currently google is educating perception narrow AI (it can identify objects including letters and numbers in pictures) by streaming them with 1000s of identified pictures, much like you'd teach a person to recognize something. If you are interested in more detail, here is a relatively short video

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40riCqvRoMs

            Of course this feet has been achieved with standard computing hardware, but some pretty beefy hardware in general. From what I've seen they are using a mathematical model of neuron function, but this will always be more more inefficient (I think) than an actual neuron, though we could likely make an artificial neuron more efficient than biological ones (maybe not, but possibly WAY more effiecient we'll see)

            With regards to self-driving cars, they can "freeze" the AI so it stops learning (the same think would happen to you if someone removed your hippocampus). In a real since learning and knowing are very different things (knowing involves current neural configuration, learning involves altering it) so it's not extremely hard to get an AI where you want it and then lock it in.

            Ethics are a big deal. Google has spent a pretty good amount of money on an ethics board to make sure it doesn't accidentally cross lines it doesn't intend to cross.

            http://www.forbes.com/sites/privacynotice/2014/02/03/inside-googles-mysterious-ethics-board/

            I know google has been consulting law makers on how liability will work with self driving cars, but I don't know if any decisions have been made...guess I should google it ;) (Notice how smart google search is now? It's using a form of narrow AI)

            Of course, these types of AI are a long way from being self aware (I'd say accident avoidance and injury mitigation are more about physical rules than ethics). Like an insect, it's possible to have very good motor control and sense of direction without complex self awareness (only the awareness of it's own position and obstacles are necessary). Personally I'm confident self-driving vehicles will save a ton of lives...humans tent to be bad at driving because we are so easily distracted, get tired/angry ect. We'll see, but self driving cars are already on the roads in California. Riding in one of these things is definitely going to feel weird.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdgQpa1pUUE

            With regards to the ethics of complex strong AI (human like or above), there has been a lot of talk about that recently. A lot of it has been over this book by a brilliant Swedish philosopher named Nick Bostrom.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superintelligence:_Paths,_Dangers,_Strategies

            Bright minds like Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates agree that superintelligence is a concern (even though no one thinks AI will involve a robot uprising, it probably won't even have a survival instinct unless we give it one but the more intelligent it is, the more unpredictable it will be). Philosophy is very relevant today, but I think the biggest issues now are with this, economics, and bioethics.

            I could say a lot more, but I've droned on too long for now :)

          • William Davis

            It seems a completely reasonable assertion that the universe cannot have knowledge, since it has no mind by which to know.

            I like your separation of data, information, and knowledge. I think humans are a subset of the universe, however so the universe doesn't have a single "mind" per se, but has "minds", us. To me, demonstrating the material nature of the mind, and how damage results in not only alterations in knowledge (not just memory) , but also of intelligence itself.

            Is there an argument for the human mind not being a subset of the universe (if you gave one, I missed it sorry).

            Also note that the way our brains encode memory is quite different from the way a computer encodes fact. Declarative memory could be considered "information", but not the other types...they are knowledge.

            I consider knowledge to be in many ways comparable to long-term memory, if you include both 'what you know about X' and 'what you know about what you know about X,' such as how X is related to other subjects.

            The first section below divides long-term memory into explicit or declarative memory andImplicit or procedural memory.

            The second section subdivides declarative memory into episodic memory and semantic memory.

            EXPLICIT (DECLARATIVE) AND IMPLICIT (PROCEDURAL) MEMORY

            Long-term memory is often divided into two further main types: explicit (or declarative) memory and implicit (or procedural) memory.

            Declarative memory (“knowing what”) is memory of facts and events, and refers to those memories that can be consciously recalled (or "declared"). It is sometimes called explicit memory, since it consists of information that is explicitly stored and retrieved, although it is more properly a subset of explicit memory. Declarative memory can be further sub-divided into episodic memory and semantic memory.

            Procedural memory (“knowing how”) is the unconscious memory of skills and how to do things, particularly the use of objects or movements of the body, such as tying a shoelace, playing a guitar or riding a bike. These memories are typically acquired through repetition and practice, and are composed of automatic sensorimotor behaviours that are so deeply embedded that we are no longer aware of them. Once learned, these "body memories" allow us to carry out ordinary motor actions more or less automatically. Procedural memory is sometimes referred to as implicit memory, because previous experiences aid in the performance of a task without explicit and conscious awareness of these previous experiences, although it is more properly a subset of implicit memory.

            These different types of long-term memory are stored in different regions of the brain and undergo quite different processes. Declarative memories are encoded by the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex and perirhinal cortex (all within the medial temporal lobe of the brain), but are consolidated and stored in the temporal cortex and elsewhere. Procedural memories, on the other hand, do not appear to involve the hippocampus at all, and are encoded and stored by the cerebellum, putamen, caudate nucleus and the motor cortex, all of which are involved in motor control. Learned skills such as riding a bike are stored in the putamen; instinctive actions such as grooming are stored in the caudate nucleus; and the cerebellum is involved with timing and coordination of body skills. Thus, without the medial temporal lobe (the structure that includes the hippocampus), a person is still able to form new procedural memories (such as playing the piano, for example), but cannot remember the events during which they happened or were learned.

            EPISODIC & SEMANTIC MEMORY

            Declarative memory can be further sub-divided into episodic memory and semantic memory.

            Episodic memory represents our memory of experiences and specific events in time in a serial form, from which we can reconstruct the actual events that took place at any given point in our lives. It is the memory of autobiographical events (times, places, associated emotions and other contextual knowledge) that can be explicitly stated. Individuals tend to see themselves as actors in these events, and the emotional charge and the entire context surrounding an event is usually part of the memory, not just the bare facts of the event itself.

            Semantic memory, on the other hand, is a more structured record of facts, meanings, concepts and knowledge about the external world that we have acquired. It refers to general factual knowledge, shared with others and independent of personal experience and of the spatial/temporal context in which it was acquired. Semantic memories may once have had a personal context, but now stand alone as simple knowledge. It therefore includes such things as types of food, capital cities, social customs, functions of objects, vocabulary, understanding of mathematics, etc. Much of semantic memory is abstract and relational and is associated with the meaning of verbal symbols.

            The semantic memory is generally derived from the episodic memory, in that we learn new facts or concepts from our experiences, and the episodic memory is considered to support and underpin semantic memory. A gradual transition from episodic to semantic memory can take place, in which episodic memory reduces its sensitivity and association to particular events, so that the information can be generalized as semantic memory.

            Both episodic memory and semantic memory require a similar encoding process. However, semantic memory mainly activates the frontal and temporal cortexes, whereas episodic memory activity is concentrated in the hippocampus, at least initially. Once processed in the hippocampus, episodic memories are then consolidated and stored in the neocortex. The memories of the different elements of a particular event are distributed in the various visual, olfactory and auditory areas of the brain, but they are all connected together by the hippocampus to form an episode, rather than remaining a collection of separate memories.

          • William Davis

            One other thought, I think we can call this AI's neural net memory "knowledge". This thing taught itself to play atari games extremely well, and I don't think you can call it's knowledge of how to play atari games anything but that. It isn't data per se, or information a human can read, only the artificial intelligence can use it to play the game.

            http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/deepmind-artificial-intelligence-video-games

            Artificial intelligence is basically a machine that teaches itself, it isn't a program in the traditional sense (I write software as a part of my job (I automate building), and went to school for electrical engineering, so I have a deeper understanding about what is at work here than most)

          • William Davis

            P.S. Sorry if I'm throwing too much at you, but I find this topic to be both interesting and important because of the ramifications it has to how we view ourselves. This comment makes me think you have a solid grasp of the counter position, making debate with you worthwhile. Hopefully you agree that the key is demonstrating the proposition that the mind is a subset of the universe (as I've said this isn't a death blow to Christianity or Thomism as such) I think these two papers are relevant:

            Current research is beginning to outline a neuromoral network with a hub in the VMPFC. This research has implications for understanding the organization of our moral sense in the brain and has implications for clinical and forensic neuropsychiatry. The findings reviewed here are preliminary, but this story promises to rapidly unfold as more research is done on the neurobiological basis of morality in normals and in brain-injured patients.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3163302/

            Again I think it's all of the background knowledge I have of neurology and information processing that feeds my materialistic worldview (I don't think I have any desire for materialism to be true, it just seems to be true from all the evidence). This paper has a lot of good info and even discusses Phineas Gage.

            http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/GreeneWJH/GreeneCohenPhilTrans-04.pdf

            This discusses the implication of neurology on Justice, and it will likely embody itself (justice at least) more as prevention than retribution. I think the concept of retribution (which is completely) creates problems for justice, i.e. standard human nature is not ideal for ideal justice. I agree with you about a somewhat standard human nature, but there is a lot of flexibility and room for what we call "free will".

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Do you believe that a book contains information? If that information is justifiably accurate, then it would be knowledge. Books certainly exist in space and time. This is one example.

            In either case, I was responding to Mr. Vogt's assertion that knowledge cannot exist in the universe. So the burden of proof would be on him to show that it cannot, not on me to show that it is.

          • David Nickol

            At the risk of sounding crass, can I eat a bowl of knowledge or drink a cup of it?

            Well, I would say sound is physical, but you can't eat a bowl of sound or drink a cup of it. You can encode it (by either analog or digital methods) and play it back.

            You can't eat a bowl of pain, but pain would appear to be physical. Unless animals are automatons (which, as I recall, you hinted might be the case), they seem to experience pain (not to mention any number of other sensations).

            Your comments seem to me to raise the question of what it means to say that everything is physical. I am not going to tackle this myself, but the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy does a good job in the article on Physicalism, introducing a very important concept I have never seen discussed in any of the arguments about materialism on SN. The concept is supervenience.

            I admit to being in way over my head here, but it seems to me Kreeft is, too. If he really thinks he can conclusively demolish materialism/physicalism in two blog posts, something is seriously wrong.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Information can certainly be eaten in the sense that we eat DNA all the time. If you eat calf brain you are eating the matter in the arrangement of molocules that constitute the calf's memories. Of course we are not actually eating information or memories but just the matter in which they are coded. So I wonder where the actual content is.

          • William Davis

            I realize everyone is piling on, but I think you have to be able to demonstrate where immaterial knowledge is held, or how it is transmitted. I've demonstrated the material nature of every repository of knowledge we know of, the brain, a book, a hard drive, a record, ect. I can also demonstrate how all knowledge (ideas at least) are transmitted via material like light, sound, or material shape as is true with brail.
            Perhaps the idea of immaterial knowledge could be demonstrated by psychic powers or the ability to know things without any physical input.
            To me, the idea that knowledge is immaterial is a testable hypothesis. I've tried to present a mountain of evidence (via the material that makes up computers and the internet) to demonstrate the materialist side of the story. I don't know of any evidence (as opposed to just arguments) for the other side.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't think I would argue that knowledge is stored in the intellect. We know perfectly well that information is stored materially in DNA, in an animal's memory, in books, in zeros and ones, and is transmitted from one being to another through the material senses, whether directly or through some technology. None of that would be surprising to Thomas Aquinas.

            I think what is not explained is what the human intellect does with knowledge. It can abstract from individual things their forms, it can compare and contrast material things and do the same for ideas. It can think about things that have no existence anywhere, like geometry.

          • William Davis

            What is "intelligence" is a very good question. Perhaps the simplest definition I've seen is that it is the ability to make predictions based on pattern, at it's core. I think it is clearly tied to memory, but one can have a great memory (ability to recall) and be unable to use that memory to make predictions about the future and not be intelligent. I don't think anything can be intelligent without a memory, and declines in intelligence always come with declines in memory.

            For me, at least, the idea that intelligence is material comes from a couple of things. First it's inextricably tied to DNA, human DNA is the core difference between us and animals. Just human DNA isn't enough, there are plenty of genetic diseases that result in a seriously deformed intelligence, such as Down Syndrome. Intelligence can also be seriously compromised by brain damage and drugs. I know many (like YOS and Phil) like to call the brain a "lens" for the intellect, but I don't see how altering a lens could affect the decision making process in the way it does, especially with split brains (I think I've talked to you about split brains before, patients who have had hemisphere's surgically split and one side makes different life decisions than the other).

            I do think split brain patients would surprise Thomas Aquinas, so would the man who had his hippocampus removed. The man without a hippocampus could not remember anything new (I linked to him in my comment to Brandon) past 15 minutes, thus he was unable to learn new skills that required anything but motor memory (remembering how to walk is a bit different from remembering your address because it is processed by different areas of the brain). In a way he was still intelligent since he possessed older memories, but he couldn't gain new intelligence in anything else, even people. 15 minutes into a conversation, he would start asking people their name again, as he had completely forgotten their name. There could be no abstracting new universals for him without new memories, so again I think reducing mind to intellect and memory as separate things is a false reduction that doesn't really exist. Some things aren't reducible in some ways, just like thinking isn't reducible to emotion and reason as separate independent things (I agree with many things Aquinas had to say about the mind). Think about a new born baby. The baby has raw learning ability, but we wouldn't say the baby is intelligent until it has learned some things, especially the ability to talk. Usually intelligence is associated with the ability to do something (think emotional intelligence, math intelligence, verbal intelligence, as separate types of intelligence). In our age the most valuable type of intelligence is the ability to predict markets and trends in economics. This is the intelligence of entrepreneurs and billionaire market traders like Soros. I think this intelligence requires a specific set of memories related to the subject, however. If those memories are erased, that type of intelligence goes along with it.

            It can think about things that have no existence anywhere, like geometry.

            Well, there isn't just one geometry. We typically think of geometry as euclidean, but there is no reason to think the first geometry could not have been some other type. The way geometry works out depends on the axioms you start with.

            http://www.regentsprep.org/regents/math/geometry/gg1/Euclidean.htm

            Some expect AI to end up with it's own math, but for now it's already able to help with mathematical proofs:

            http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/03/computers_proving_mathematical_theorems_how_artificial_intelligence_could.html

            I used matlab a lot in electrical engineering school, and it's amazing the things you can do with it (though it was a far cry from AI)

            AI also can now recognize universals visually, but we have a ways to go (I believe) before it will be capable of really understanding the meaning of those universals and developing intentions. Unlike some materialists, to me it's clear that beliefs, intentions and universals exist, but unlike some philosophers I can't see any reason to think they exist separate from the mind which is what the physical brain does. It seems I often find myself in the middle of an argument ;)

            I may have linked this to you before, but I think this guy does a good job of explaining one of the best theories about what intelligence is, and how he hopes to reproduce it.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izO2_mCvFaw

          • George

            Where is this immaterial knowledge?

          • Steven Schloeder

            Show us the mass, measure, and location of justice. If knowledge is only material then ideas must be material (and not merely stored in physical structures such as the brain organ). Physical things can be located in space and time and measured. Ideas cannot. Therefore, all knowledge is non physical.

            This is the core issue at stake in this whole discussion.

          • David Nickol

            Physical things can be located in space and time and measured. Ideas cannot. Therefore, all knowledge is non physical.

            How do ideas exist? Do you believe in something like Platonic Forms? Is there a spiritual warehouse somewhere that has "Justice" in it to which we somehow have access when we want to determine if something is just or not?

            It seems to me ideas are really experiences that thinking beings have, and that we can encode those experiences with spoken language, written language, and various other means that we access with the senses. All of the great libraries of the world are full of knowledge, but if all human beings die off, the knowledge in the libraries is no longer knowledge. You can have all the knowledge of the world encoded on 5.25-inch floppy disks, but it is totally worthless without the necessary disk drive.

          • Steven Schloeder

            I obviously come at this from a position of the Logos -- not the same a "Platonic Forms" but all things in the mind of God. I indeed think there is a stable human nature, that we have a real telos, that there is an objective moral path to human perfection, happiness, and the realization of that telos, and that there is an objective appeal to justice that all humans ought to pursue and that society has a right to demand.

            If ideas are experiences -- then if no one experiences a triangle, does triangularity still exist? Is everything the imposition of mind taxonomically ordering reality?

            Can we really appeal to justice as a knowable, objective thing apart from the minds that happen to experience the idea and think it is meaningful?

            The question (for me) has not only to do with encoding -- water is water regardless if we understand it to be H2O, and those hydrogen and oxygen molecules still form a polar covalent bond even if there is no language to express H2 or O or covalency -- but with what it means to be a human being in relationship.

            If our experience of reality is completely mechanical, completely immanent to our own isolated and individual biomachines, then everything we call "justice" or "morality" or "love" or "will" is completely reducible to the chemicals that produce those "experiences". And so all of society becomes nothing more than the experience of physical forces acting with or against each other.

            The dominant forces always prevail against the weaker force, but there is no real appeal to justice or morality -- if you think X is good or bad, salutary or evil, it can only remain a subjective experience in the complex of atoms and electrochemical activity of your biosystem (and those other isolated biosystems that happen to have the same response to stimuli as you do). There is no objective judgment against the thief -- there is only the collective power of some biosystems against other isolated biosystems. The Nazis weren't wrong, they were just overpowered by other forces.

            Sorry if this is a bit too compressed, but these all come together in the discussion of physicalism vs the spiritual sense (nonmateriality, metaphysical transcendence).

            I can elaborate if you wish, but don't want to dump too much if its not of interest to you.

          • William Davis

            I very sympathetic to your position on this, but I think human history demonstrates the subjectivity of morality that will always be with us. Appeals to objective morality did not help in Germany, nor any other Christian nation. Objective morality in the Catholic Church took a long time to reject slavery as such. The appeal to the consequences of subjective morality does not solve the problem that morality appears to be subjective ( or at least always contain a subjective component).

            I personally think that the Christian notion that we are all "children of God" is helpful with morality in general. The biggest "problem" with human morality is that it values those inside one's group more than those outside it, and we draw group lines everywhere. Christians themselves have fallen into this trap with their historical condemnations of non-Christians. Putting everyone inside your "group" can go a long way to solve moral problems, but the difficulty lies in convincing someone that everyone should be in their group. The Nazi's clearly put Jews outside their group as untermensch.

          • Michael Murray

            I always thought that was the point

            ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

            A radical message if you have spent the last 10 million years as a small kinship band of primates!

          • William Davis

            It's a point that carries over to humanism quite cleanly. I think humanism could learn from religions, however, that this point is made better with some artistic inspiration (and philosophy) behind it :)

          • David Nickol

            Thank you for your detailed response, but aren't you basically saying that, as you see it, materialism is too disturbing and frightening to believe in? If materialism is true, you might want things to be otherwise, but that is not a reason to believe that they are.

            I will make an attempt at a more detailed response later, but if materialism is true (and I don't pretend to know whether it is or not), I don't things are as bleak and meaningless as you say. I think, for example, that it is still reasonable to speak of justice.

          • William Davis

            Phineas Gage is a textbook case of how altering the material brain changes one's sense of justice. He went from being a mild mannered man to someone who was "no longer Gage" that uttered profanity almost constantly (isn't that considered sinning?)
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phineas_Gage

            This is evidence that the human comprehension and sense of justice requires the right hardware.

      • GCBill

        "The "universe" can't know more about itself (or anything about itself) because it's not actually a "thing" that is even capable of self-knowledge. It's simply a set of all space, time, matter, and energy--a useful fiction."

        Okay, but then transcending a "useful fiction" doesn't refute materialism. Materialists are generally happy to concede that non-fictitious things exist.

      • Ladolcevipera

        I agree. In order to "know" one needs a self-awareness that is aware of itself as a self-awareness.

  • joey_in_NC

    the knowledge of a thing is not one of the parts of that thing

    So if Beatrice was aware she ate a plum (I would certainly hope so), then that knowledge of herself is not part of Beatrice?

    As others have noted, the first premise can be easily refuted. That, or I must be completely misunderstanding something.

    • "So if Beatrice was aware she ate a plum (I would certainly hope so), then that knowledge of herself is not part of Beatrice?"

      The answer is that her knowledge about "her eating the plum" is not the same as "her eating the plumb." Nor is her "self-knowledge" equivalent to "her".

      (The only instance in which self-knowledge is equivalent to the self is in a purely actual being, a being that is purely and self existent. This is what Aristotle called "the self-thinking thought" and which Anselm leaned on in his ontological argument.)

      • joey_in_NC

        Nor is her "self-knowledge" equivalent to "her".

        But Kreeft's first premise doesn't say "the knowledge of a thing is not equivalent to that thing", but rather "the knowledge of a thing is not one of the parts of that thing". So isn't one's self-knowledge one of the parts of your self?

        Kreeft says this...

        So Beatrice’s plum is a new part of Beatrice, not of me (Dante), and my knowing this is a new part of me, not of her.

        But why focus on Dante concerning knowledge of Beatrice's plum? Why not focus on Beatrice concerning knowledge of Beatrice's plum? Isn't Beatrice knowing this (Beatrice's plum) a new part of Beatrice as well?

        There seems to be two distinct things: the plum and knowledge of the plum. Why can't both be "parts" of Beatrice? It is logically possible that the plum can be inserted into her stomach without Beatrice's awareness, in which she would be a different person than if she is aware of the plum being in her stomach.

        It seems that I'm still missing something. (BTW, I'm not a materialist.)

      • U don't know about this. Yes I love that Descartes I think - I am - self-contemplation, Buddhist like intuition of self, etc. Maybe God can be actual enough to do that. But if so, then why 'create' the universe. Indeed would that be possible. (Obviously I'm not a qualified professional philosopher here). But I have experienced awareness of reflective consciousness, or self-consciousness, and I have also experienced the consequences of being in a state of self-reference, (Godel) and incoherence possibly related to attempts at self-intospection..

        Attention! Attention! Everybody! There is now, (I just got their advertisement on FB today) a school of meditation/mindfulness that is offering a discount - (pay $39.00 rather than $l?? forget) for 9 classes, in which one learns to examine 'self'-'mind' within a social interaction, rather than merely within a Buddhist solipsistic pose! Isn't this exciting news? But I understand the Pope might not be too happy about this, after reading about various critiques of such 'thought', but, which I really thought was a new. 'application' of an accepted and traditional technique. So I guess I'm not the only one who 'thought this idea up'. Maybe I should have taken some lessons before striking out 'on my own'. But potency vs. actuality-- 'incredible' concepts --- but?????? a transcendent actuality? That is just 'too difficult' for my little brain to handle. No wonder I fall into contradiction/paradox!!! Like with the meditation/mindfulness technique!!! Hallelujah!!!!

  • Someone help clarify something for me, before I go deeper into this argument.

    Dante knows something about Beatrice. His knowledge isn't part of Beatrice. It's part of Dante. I got that. But his knowledge is part of Dante + Beatrice. Call Dante + Beatrice the Universe. Knowledge about the universe is part of the universe, since it's part of Dante and Dante's part of the universe. Doesn't Kreeft's own example defeat his Premise 1?

    This seems too obvious to be accurate. Probably I'm missing something. Help me people: what am I missing?

    • "Knowledge about the universe is part of the universe"

      This is your key confusion, and it sounds like other commenters are stumbling over the same assumption. I've responded to it below.

      • I've read your responses to others. I'll pretend to be a materialist for the day, so I can understand better this premise.

        I assert: Knowledge is identical to a particular set of molecular arrangements. To say that a computer knows that '1+1=2' and I know that 1+1=2' is the same as to say that a computer has a particular molecular arrangement that is functionally equivalent to a particular molecular arrangement I have.

        If this is the case, then Dante's knowledge of Beatrice is identical to a molecular arrangement in Dante. Learning involves changing molecular arrangements. 'Dante + Beatrice' changes when Dante learns about Beatrice.

        There are unsettled issues here, about memory, what happens when Dante thinks about his own knowledge about Beatrice (things change again! But how?), etc. But none of these seem to provide much evidence for Premise 1. They seem to make Premise 1 even more incredible.

      • William Davis

        I would like to add to Paul's statement, the most prevalent theory of how knowledge works in the brain. It's called sparse distributed representation and it explains why brain damage to a specific area doesn't necessarily destroy a specific week of memories, it is more likely to erase parts and details of memories since the storage is basically all over the neocortex. Enough brain damage can of course cause significant amnesia where memories and thus knowledge never come back.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4009432/

        New research is also helping to understand how the brain does this:

        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091223125125.htm

        The hippocampus is a specific part of the brain that is required for forming new memories and thus gaining new knowledge. Physical damage to this occurs in diseases that affect the memory.

        http://www.memorylossonline.com/glossary/hippocampus.html

        Older attempts to resolve epilepsy (once thought to be demon possesion) often involved removing parts of the brain. This brain man had his hippocampus removed for that purpose, and was still intelligent, but could no long remember anything new after 15 minutes, a strange situation indeed. Certain motor skills can still be learned without the hippocampus, but most people do not equate motor skills with "knowledge" as such.

        http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/corkin-hm-memory.html

        To me, all this (plus more if you are interested) makes a compelling case that all knowledge is stored physically in the brain. I can easily demonstrate how knowledge is stored in computer memory also, not to mention the obvious that books are quite material. I don't think any of this detracts from knowledge, it just seems that being material is a permanent property of knowledge, at least as far as we can tell.
        P.S. I realize our conversation on the last thread was getting off-topic, so perhaps we can one day resume when it on topic. Until then, thanks for discussing! :)

        • Knowledge or different 'levels' of consciousness, including self-consciousness? Does the choice of term make a difference? What is the inter-relationship between them?
          The question for me is - can any of these be considered 'transcendent' in the sense even, of being a requirement at some level of 'organization' as an origin or state with respect to possible consequent affects within subsequent interaction, and/or organization of 'other' neurons within the brain. (such as neutrons related to attainment of knowledge of 'concepts', may allow for the governance over emotions for instance, something that I understand takes 'conscious effort 'to develop over time.) .Have you never had the experience that you felt was most appropriately described as 'mind over matter'. ? Could there even be a different 'kind' of materiality involved,in some conscious states, (if you want to be an 'absolute' materialistic reductionist) - to push it -as an example - even at the 'quantum level'. The up down vs. down up dichotomy!!!!! Can we affect the organization of our brain cells, even if only indirectly ,through our conscious thought? Could knowledge thus be considered a transcendental even if only within this context? If this is not a 'matter' of interest. to you. Never 'mind'!! :)

          • William Davis

            Could there even be a different 'kind' of materiality involved,in some conscious states, (if you want to be an 'absolute' materialistic reductionist) - to push it -as an example - even at the 'quantum level'.

            I don't think there is any good reason to propose a different kind of material for the brain, after all, you are what you eat. There isn't really any evidence that quantum mechanics are directly involved in brain activity, but I won't say that has been ruled out, per se. With regard to the brain reorganizing itself, this happens constantly. New synapses can form within minutes, and the brain does a lot of work reorganizing during sleep (there is likely a certain amount of "rewiring" so to speak that can only happen when consciousness is offline). To some it up, the mind is what the brain does, but the mind clearly shapes the brain. The man with the missing hippocampus is an exception to that rule, thus the hippocampus is a key structure the brain/mind uses to shape itself.
            Personally I don't see how understanding how the brain works, and the fact that it's material detracts from any meaning or value in life. It's only people who have psychologically bound meaning to "immateriality" who have a problem with it. My view of meaning is bound to the way reality is, without the need to presuppose how it is, or some way it "must" be. If philosophy disagrees with observable reality then it is the philosophy that must be revised, obviously we can revise reality ;)

          • Well, on the other hand, I'm not discounting the 'possibility' that higher forms of consiousness might entail some kind of 'leap' within the structures of materiality. At first when I ran into this recent reductionist thesis, I was completely floored, and thus my attempts at introspection. I don't mind my 'incoherence'. I can accept it, but ever since my first logic course, I have had a 'fundamental' aversion to mere logical constructs, alone. Thus I am constantly looking for other structures: like in differences between paradigms, models, and theories. I just don't believe any of us are up to par, with respect to a conscious use of words. But with respect to the ontology of this reductionism, - remember me saying, in response to yet another coincidence that happened to be part of my experience at that time, that I was disappointed with Father Baroon's summary, because it neglected the possible compatibility between this 'theoretical ontology' and the belief in the resurrection of the body. Unfortunately, on a mere observation of the actions and comments by people on these sites, including my own, I am yet to have 'faith' that this new ontology in any way could be described as a 'glorified body/materiality' :) !!!
            P.S. I have dared to post some rather 'uncomplimentary' comparisons between the 'intellectual Catholicism' which I think may describe SN and the 'scientism' which apparently is presented by EN. But perhaps I will after all, after saying I wouldn't - post that 'speculative fiction' I came up with, to describe the way I was sorting through the 'current contradictions' at that time. In any case, I really am - trying to stay away, a Buddhist detachment, whatever - so whether or not my comments are deleted - I'm not the god....evil or good. A friend I met just described me as a 'passionate thinker' would you believe. He didn't seem to ever think I was 'incoherent' just a 'bit "scary" sometimes,with what I talk about, I guess - like Nietzsche!!!
            So I'll post the Avengers and The Handmaid's tale. Thanks, always William.

          • I did say the quantum idea was 'but' an 'example' of 'possibilities'!!!

      • Whatever happened to 'love'. Is it different in some way from 'knowledge'. I understand that this too 'might be considered a transcendental' in the sense you speak of it. But do we not also want love to be part of the universe. Of course, Catholicism IS 'the' intellectual religion'. Ask any Buddhist!!!

    • Dare I? I was going to respond 'immediately', but fortunately I now have the video you posted and look forward to watching that instead. You are aware that you are not the only experimenter, and also perhaps that my 'self- reflections' on whether my mind could indeed be merely brain did produce much 'incoherence' within my thought, and even the suggestion that I was using people, despite my posting that I was attempting same, and that my comments were not required reading!!!.
      Is not there some 'incoherence' 'everywhere'. You are possibly aware even that within your first paragraph, the concept/term 'Beatrice' not only suggests entirely different contexts and even 'levels' of experience, but different interpretations with respect to 'meaning'. Also what is essential is I believe the importance of developing awareness whether the reference and/or use of the word is epistemic or ontological. Because of my limited capacity to convey the contradictions I am finding in discourse, perhaps it's best to learn to hold my 'piece'.
      But reductionism is not new. The distinctions between empiricism/rationalism, science/religion, reductionism/transcendentalism, however were put on a different level though Kant's Copernican revolution. But the recent distinction, is according to my understanding merely an ontological distinction. Thus I will remain between the two. After all, within the context of the phenomenology since Kant, we cannot, contrary to Dr. Kreeft, know the 'thing in itself'. The term 'immateriality' continues to give me much trouble however, particularly as we admit within this Idealist in contrast to the Christian realism, when it comes to the noumena, God, and what I assume to be once again a constant confusion between ontology and epistemological distinctions. I am at the moment merely observing them. But because the epistemological 'problems' will continue even is we assume 'epistemologically' that yes ideas and images really can be placed within an ontological monism, the 'play between opposites' will continue no matter what epistemological position we take. Does that prove that we cannot know? or that these comments reflect 'little faith'? Ontologically we do not 'know' what constitutes matter, even as we do not 'know' what constitute mind, may I suggest. Indeed, distinction with regard to the mind body problem ignore the possibly relevance of 'energy', sometimes, or 'black matter and energy', and the possibility of more than three dimensions. Perhaps I have been a bit too involved in my life with 'mere' philosophy. Maybe as my children have always said I am always 'up there', more than I should be. I just find it another ironic incoherence, that the statement from Hamlet in the last post: There is more in heaven and earth than in your philosophy, is still made within the context that it is a philosophy that can establish the distinctions? Or is it just me that sees irony in this? Yes, hopefully reductionism, will give us more information regarding 'particularly', but do we not have the quest to find some unity within the contradictions of logic, and the physical paradoxes we meet within the world of experience. I personally, have come to some understanding that it is how I interpret realism that is of farm more importance than the 'logical' but often limiting constructs. Thanks Paul. Hope I was not just mouthing off here. I'm still puzzling over the suggestions from Catholicism/Aristotle" that the intellect is immaterial because it does not have a 'structure'!!! That's quite a 'hypothesize', and of course presents several possible interpretations to my mind, even without the ability to argue coherently with respect to any of them!!!!! No. I'm definitely not a linear thinker!!!!

  • David Nickol

    Something that bothers me very much about this post is that Kreeft uses know in different senses at different times. The word know in "Dante knows Beatrice" has quite a different meaning than the word know in "Dante knows Beatrice ate a peach." Knowing a person is utterly different from knowing facts about a person. I have read several biographies of Abraham Lincoln and know all kinds of facts about him. But I wouldn't claim to know Lincoln!

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I thought Kreeft defined "know Beatrice" as knowing the sum total of things that make up Beatrice? Eating a plum (Prufrock was the guy afraid to eat a peach) would be one of the 9000 facts about Beatrice.

      You don't know Lincoln because you don't know enough things about him.

      • David Nickol

        You don't know Lincoln because you don't know enough things about him.

        I don't know Lincoln because Lincoln is dead. I will never know Lincoln, at least not in this world. If one read everything written by Lincoln, and everything written about Lincoln by his contemporaries and by historians relying on reliable sources, it would no doubt be possible to know more facts about Lincoln than Lincoln remembered himself at the time of his death, or more facts about Lincoln than Mary Lincoln knew about him. But no matter how many facts I know about Lincoln, I could never claim to know Lincoln. Knowing a person, it seems to me, is a reciprocal relationship. It would not make sense for me to say, "I know President Obama, but he doesn't know me."

        Exactly how damaging to Kreeft's argument it is that he uses different meanings of know as if they were the same I am not sure.

        • Geena on EN posted, with respect to the last discussion, a list of other senses than the five honored ones! Perhaps she can come up with a similar expansion of possibilities with respect to knowledge. Yes, there is a place for even epistemological reductions. Is not that what science is all about? Are they not discussing an ontological reductionism of thought to matter in this post? Seems like we really need that epistemology!!!!

      • I also suggest, that his 'knowledge' of Beatrice could indeed affect Beatrice, (I believe he denied this possibility?) even without him knowing it, as his comments do not include the possibility that Beatrice could be aware of some change in him,(perhaps even a physical change) whether or not it would require him knowing that Beatrice 'knows' of some increase or something in his 'knowledge'.or that Beatrice herself, is explicitly aware of what knowledge he might have of her or anything else. (I hope indeed that you take this as evidence of a complete confusion within my thought: an 'incoherence' with respect to both theory and practice!!!!!)

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I think the materialists are winning this argument. Dr. Kreeft needs to step in!

    • First, I don't think this is a battle with winners and losers. Second, I don't think there have been any strong materialist arguments so far--but we'll stay tuned!

      • Doug Shaver

        I don't think there have been any strong materialist arguments so far

        I won't claim it's a strong argument, since I've never seen it change anyone's mind, but as a defense of materialism, parsimony works for me.

        • "I won't claim it's a strong argument, since I've never seen it change anyone's mind, but as a defense of materialism, parsimony works for me."

          Parsimony is not just a strong argument, it's not even an argument at all. Parsimony is an explanatory tool which can be used if you have two equally compelling explanations, one of which is simpler than the other. But I don't think materialism is a compelling explanation of the facts, much less as compelling as transcendentalism.

          • Doug Shaver

            But I don't think materialism is a compelling explanation of the facts, much less as compelling as transcendentalism.

            Obviously, our judgments differ on that issue.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    If materialism is correct, then knowledge of a fact is (1) a particular arrangement of molecules in our heads that (2) plays something like a movie in our heads (composed of other arrangements of molecules) which (3) is observed by another arrangement of molecules in our heads. In the case of a material thing we know, the fact in our head is a material similitude that really does correspond to that material thing.

    It could be many arrangements in many parts of the brain producing many sense images that are somehow integrated into one, the way our everyday consciousness unifies the input from our five senses when we watch Beatrice eat a plum. A transcendentalist in Kreeft's parlance would not have a problem with this, since we assume all animals share in this kind of consciousness of the material world.

    In the case of an immaterial thing (like a concept), I can see how the concept can be stored in our brain in an arrangement of molecules. This arrangement is material similitude that really does correspond to that immaterial thing.

    But how does materialism explain ideas themselves, things that have no actual material existence. What about our ability to form ideas about ideas and the way we can mentally compare ideas?

    • I am a materialist, I am not aware of anything that has not material existence. Concepts are brain states, as far as I can tell. They are material.

      • Ged Eduard Narvaez

        Freedom of will is one that is immaterial. Universal good and evil is also immaterial. Thus, is the concept of universal good and evil subject to our brain state or many brain states? Where's the absolute truth here explained in materialistic sense (e.g. atoms, brain tissue/ brain state, molecules, sound, zeros and ones,, space, time, energy)? Can you prove that all concepts are just matter? But if such are all matter (e.g.simplified to atoms, brain state, etc.), where does Free will comes in? universal goodness? And are they really TRUE, objectively speaking.

        • William Davis

          If you keep reading, I explain all that, we even get to use Aquinas in neurology ;)

          • I like his category of angels, and his philosophy of personalism.....Yes. Are you a little like me, a bit of a cherry picker, dependent on what I am capable of integrating however, in the sense of becoming more integrated, whole, - coherent!!!

        • I don't subscribe to these notions of free will or "universal goodness" either. Not sure the standard you apply to prove, but I do think I can demonstrate that when humans think about abstract concepts, there is distinct brain activity. There are also material events that we associate with these abstract concepts. But I am unaware of any immaterial aspect to them. Or even that any such immaterial substance exists.

    • Kraker Jak

      It could be many arrangements in many parts of the brain producing many sense images that are somehow integrated into one,

      I can tell that you have been paying attention to what Mathew Newland had to say in a previous topic. A wise man.

      • Well, it is after all the Dominicans (Aquinas) who are looking at his Ph.d. thesis regarding the 'materiality' of consciousness. But as even Aristotle considered only some aspects of the soul to be 'material', I'm still wondering whether they will insist the 'intellect and will' must still be considered immaterial. Personally, I'd rather my soul all be in one piece, (one thing or another!!) so I told Mathew that he was my only 'hope'. If only this most recent ontological reduction came with an explanation, in some way, of how to develop a 'glorified body', perhaps there would be 'no problem'. !!!!!

    • William Davis

      But how does materialism explain ideas themselves, things that have no actual material existence. What about our ability to form ideas about ideas and the way we can mentally compare ideas?

      How the brain makes decisions is a really difficult problem to solve, and I don't think anyone has a complete answer to that. Some of the better answers are a mouthful, like this one, goal-directed decision making as probabilistic inference:

      https://www.princeton.edu/~matthewb/Publications/SolwayBotvinick_PsychRev_12.pdf

      From what I can tell, what "we" are is a product of what our entire brain is doing at once, though the whole brain obviously isn't engaged at once. From best we can tell most of the work in decision making is concentrated in the pre-frontal cortex, and this is where most think short term memory is located.

      http://www.sharonzspace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/brain-basic_and_limbic.gif

      One weakness of this type of diagram is that the brain seems to be able to allocate neural tissue as needed, so brain to the frontal lobe can sometimes be recovered over time by the brain utilizing other regions for the needed purpose, it's an impressive organ. Thanks to new imaging techniques, scientists are getting to the point where they can essentially have a wiring diagram for the brain. It's going to be fascinating to see what kinds of discoveries this will lead to

      http://www.technologyreview.com/news/409070/a-wiring-diagram-of-the-brain/

      I think Johnboy Sylvest did a good job of explaining that non-reductive materialism is a valid philosophy for Christianity, though an afterlife is more likely to involve more of a copy of an individual based on their information as opposed to some essence leaving the body at death. The afterlife can easily be imagined in such ways, and weird people like Ray Kurzweil (he thinks we will be able to upload our brains into computers, but I think he's wrong and isn't being materialistic enough, a computer is the wrong kind of material).

      • Kevin Aldrich

        "How the brain makes decisions."

        Since I take it you are not referring to unconsciously biological functions but to conscious ones, don't you see that you are begging the question? You have already decided that it is the brain that decides.

        When you were thinking about marrying your wife, your brain presented to you all sorts of data. But did your brain also make the decision or did you make it? Didn't you have the power to stand above everything your brain presented to you and turn them over, weigh them, and come to a decision? A person can know what he knows and know he cannot know enough to make a perfect decision but still make a free one.

        • William Davis

          See my other comment about reasons I think decision making and intelligence is in the material brain.

          When you were thinking about marrying your wife, your brain presented to you all sorts of data. But did your brain also make the decision or did you make it? Didn't you have the power to stand above everything your brain presented to you and turn them over, weigh them, and come to a decision? A person can know what he knows and know he cannot know enough to make a perfect decision but still make a free one.

          Contrary to what some materialists say, it's clear to me that free will exists. I think Walter Freeman (a pragmatic Thomist YOS and Johnboy led me to) does a great job of explaining it. We usually think of causation in the material universe as linear, i.e. A causes B which causes C in a straight line. The brain does not work like that at all. There is a tremendous amount of feedback where A might cause B, but B pushes back against A while A is pressuring C and so forth. One way to model it is different areas of the mind arguing with each other to make a decision (again splitting the brain separates the communication of one side of the brain to the other resulting in a different communal decision on one side as opposed to the other). I'll quote the split brain example again:

          Gazzaniga and Sperry's split-brain research is now legendary. One of their child participants, Paul S, had a fully functional language center in both hemispheres. This allowed the researchers to question each side of the brain. When they asked the right side what their patient wanted to be when he grew up, he replied "an automobile racer." When they posed the same question to the left, however, he responded "a draftsman." Another patient pulled down his pants with the left hand and back up with the right in a continuing struggle. On a different occasion, this same patient's left hand made an attempt to strike the unsuspecting wife as the right hand grabbed the villainous limp to stop it.

          https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-superhuman-mind/201211/split-brains

          Having a different life goal on different sides of the brain is a pretty big deal for free will and decision making. I think it flies in the face of the "lens" idea.

          I won't rattle on, but here is a great paper from Freeman on how this seems to work in the brain. Freeman proposes uses Aquinas for philosophy of mind, and I think it works very well, minus the immaterial intellect part (which was just a theory from Aquinas). Here's the summary:

          1. According to behavioral theories deriving from pragmatism, Gestalt psychology, existentialism, and ecopsychology, knowledge about the world is gained by intentional action followed by learning. In terms of the neurodynamics described here, if the intending of an act comes to awareness through reafference, it is perceived as a cause. If the consequences of an act come to awareness through proprioception and exteroception, they are perceived as an effect. A sequence of such states of awareness comprises consciousness, which can grow in complexity to include self-awareness. Intentional acts do not require awareness, whereas voluntary acts require self-awareness. Awareness of the action/perception cycle provides the cognitive metaphor of linear causality as an agency. Humans apply this metaphor to objects and events in the world to predict and control them, and to assign social responsibility. Thus linear causality is the bedrock of social contracts and technology.

          2. Complex material systems with distributed nonlinear feedback, such as brains and their neural and behavioral activities, cannot be explained by linear causality. They can be said to operate by circular causality without agency. The nature of self-control is described by breaking the circle into a forward limb, the intentional self, and a feedback limb, awareness of the self and its actions. The two limbs are realized through hierarchically stratified kinds of neural activity. Actions are governed by the self-organized microscopic neural activity of cortical and subcortical components in the brain. Awareness supervenes as a macroscopic ordering state, that defers action until the self-organizing microscopic process has reached a closure in reflective prediction. Agency, which is removed from the causal hierarchy by the appeal to circularity, re-appears as a metaphor by which events in the world are anthropomorphized, making them subject to human control.

          http://sulcus.berkeley.edu/freemanwww/manuscripts/IF8/99.html

          Here is Freeman's paper on using Aquinas for philosophy of mind, I'll quote the first paragraph:

          We humans and other animals continuously construct and maintain
          our grasp of the world by using astonishingly small snippets
          of sensory information. Recent studies in nonlinear brain dynamics
          have shown how this occurs: brains imagine possible futures and
          seek and use sensory stimulation to select among them as guides
          for chosen actions. On the one hand the scientific explanation of
          the dynamics is inaccessible to most of us. On the other hand the
          philosophical foundation from which the sciences grew is accessible
          through the work of one of its originators, Thomas Aquinas. The
          core concept of intention in Aquinas is the inviolable unity of mind,
          brain and body

          http://sulcus.berkeley.edu/wjf/CR%20FreemanAquinas.pdf

          I don't think Thomism and materialism/physicalism are necessary incompatible at all, it just should alter how you conceive of the "soul". The soul seems to be completely in this universe 100%, but that doesn't mean God can't read the soul into an afterlife if he so chooses. As Johnboy said, salvation is grounded in God's love, not a particular philosophy. I like that idea, even if I still have problems believing it's true.

          • Maybe it depends on whose version you're reading!!! -re what is included in a definition of my 'soul'. I never thought I'd run into so many contradictory explanations, philosophical interpretations, etc. etc. Yes, I will stay away. EN vs. SN is too much, too much, too much. Salvation??? I'm still working on it!!!! I like the idea of universalism, - we're all in this together. So it might take a little 'bit of time'.....!!

          • stevegbrown

            Well you may have already read this blog entry, William. Don't know: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/03/was-aquinas-materialist.html
            Have you read Bernard Lonergan's tome Insight? It's long but I pick a chapter here and there every now and then.

          • William Davis

            I have not read Insight. There's just so much out there to read, lol. To be honest I'm relatively new to philosophy (been into science, math and history for the majority of my life, however). Philosophy of mind is of particular interest to me, since we need a coherent philosophy to understand the data we get from neurology to make theories. I think philosophy of mind is key to philosophy in general, as I don't think anyone doubts that philosophy comes from minds.

          • stevegbrown

            I also forgot to mention that Freeman's work using Aquinas to me at least demonstrates a very rich "toolkit" of terms that have a real connection to our knowing. I think this is also true for Aristotle.

      • TomD123

        How does the claim "most of the work of decision making is concentrated in the PFC" inform the materialism debate?
        Because, what the statement actually tells us is this: "When a person makes a decision, certain parts of the brain, specifically the PFC are especially relevant to the process"
        But that doesn't seem to move the ball forward, or am I missing something?

        • William Davis

          If you read the rest of my comments, I'm pretty sure it will be clear. It really doesn't matter what kind of philosophical arguments you have when all the evidence from testing reality shows that all knowledge and intelligence exist in material form.

          • It doesn't matter whether you're a dualist, hylomorphism or not, a monist, neutral like Russell (not William James) or what not? Or perhaps that God is a kind of mediator within a dualism, (or MY higher awareness as in Buddhism????) but all of this seems to imply some kind of structure. I am consequently have much difficulty with the Catholic immateriality not having 'structure". How do they come up with concepts like this. No structure - nothingness? order out of chaos? I understand I'm at a disadvantage because I'm always looking for 'meaning'. I try to understand the science, (not all of which on EN even I intuitively feel is 'good science'!!) but my abilities to know are indeed based on my memories of my past. One comes up. In 1963 we played Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at either Yale, or Harvard, - forget.
            But when it came to eat they thought of putting me in the costume of one of the males dressed as women, (women not allowed on stage in Shakespeare's time) so that I would be allowed, under similar restrictions to eat. There were I understand exceptional cases that admitted some women to these elite colleges, but not the general rule! So if the knowledge of an object doesn't really change the object, although it may change the person who has the knowledge, how would Catholicism explain all those concepts like Incarnation, Word made flesh, etc. etc. I remember once sitting on my bed, and thinking - if I just close my book....(what- all my problems will disappear, or something!!) It's perhaps a sort of 'common dream' of having power of direct effect of thought over something, maybe!! But, also, if you deny that premise, then perhaps you are also denying the possibility that a conscious intent, or something can have an influence on the brain mechanism, the 'mind' affects the 'neurons'. And this I believe I have experienced as a possibility/of/actuality. But that may be the loop Hofstadtler spoke about. Perhaps part of my 'problem' is that I don't easily discredit the possibilities. Yet I'm not always convinced of what they call scientific theories, either, as from personal experience, I am very aware of the importance of such things as misrepresentation, misinterpretation, especially as these scans, my understanding, require some input or confirmation by the patient of what the scientist observes. Thanks always for your feedback, and your patience, etc. (It's OK here, just been 'expressive') I guess 'irony' 'satire' is also a kind of 'skepticism'!! (But sorry, what I have read about the hippocampus is not I believe, in conformity with what is above. No problem though, I'm not contradicting you. I just know that studies in neuroscience are 'ever-changing'.....although I'm not smart enough to be an active participant in 'dialogue'.

          • William Davis

            I just know that studies in neuroscience are 'ever-changing'

            I agree but things are slowly getting clearer, and more intuitive. Technology is a big help. Regardless, I think we are well past the point where there is any reason at all to think that there is anything immaterial happening in you head.
            I think I've built my mental world on materialism from the ground up, so I don't so how anything being "immaterial" has any bearing on meaning as such. If God exists, however, I think it's only reasonable to think his idea of meaning will be so much more advanced and complex it won't map to ours at all. It would be like trying to reconcile an ants world with a human's but that doesn't mean we can't try :)

          • William. I was most impressed by your sentence: things are slowly getting clearer, and more 'intuitive'.
            Been thinking over my relationship over the last couple of years on this blog and how things, have changed, particularly my, may I say, status. But with respect to my 'self-knowledge', was just thinking how different I am from the many 'scientists, etc.) on especially EN, as I have spent my life with an involvement in some kind of study or experience of individual human 'beings'. I remember even my studies in the 70's of Analytic Philosophers, and although I enjoyed Russel's Theory of Description, G.E. Moore's ethics, Ayer on Language and Truth, etc. etc. etc., I believe I understand now that they were always, to me, a bit boring, simply because they were somehow 'too objective'. I don't know if you can make any sense of that, or understand what I am attempting to convey here. I do remember that you said, I believe, something like 'acting is a kind of lying'. Not 'necessarily'. It's a kind of learning from the inside out. I understand through my study of Kabbalah, and thus of Judaism, generally, that they can use one of the acting techniques I was taught, i.e. that you assume in reading the story of Moses, for instance, that you are - Moses, the Pharaoh, etc. etc. That each of us potentially can be, if I can express it this way, within one role or another. Oedipus Rex, for instance, Count no Man Happy until he has passed through life, (or something). No I am grateful that have had had as many different experiences of life, as I have had. I have indeed played many 'roles'. I hope, in my attempted 'objective criticism', that I haven't been too narrow in focus. But Kreeft is correct - or rather Shakespeare is, that there is indeed more in heaven and earth - the 'realities' than is expressed within the simple contents of 'the play'. Do you 'get this'? Yes, all those contexts of placing historical issues within a chronological sequence. One can forget that it is still possible, however, to find a little bit of wisdom in Ecclesiastics, and in The Psalms. In that sense, I have found a great deal of richness in all the religions and philosophies, and literature I have been fortunate enough to read. There are indeed benefits within an Arts program, that I do hope, might find more appreciation within the scientific community. Geena is somewhat versed in this. I feel I need to find my 'Buddhist-Stoic detachment' again though. Being involved in this site, has become difficult for me. With respect to Catholicism, I only got the insight within say a year ago, that the Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom, Fortitude, Temperance, Piety, and Fear of the Lord, are 'Not' the scientific categories - again it's a matter of interpretation, but a mapping of the interior consciousness of the individual. Yes, science within this ongoing struggle can 'blame' religion, as as the disastrous acts continue although there is seemingly no direct command from God, perhaps a little self-reinterpretation might be necessary????? You have noted the 'particularity' of individual philosophies, yes - but I'm also aware of how they develop, one from another. A bit likie how we 'learn from one another', perhaps. Yes, I have been finding that remarks, and posts like that we read and talk about today, are perhaps all a little too 'scientifically' generalized; that even the Identity of Discernible can be interpreted a little differently than might be expected: and that if we could 'discern' with greater 'subtlety' we could indeed find Blake's 'eternity in a grain of sand' - 'heaven in a wildflower', in a way I guess in which the wave and particle, (have I got this right) have been found within the quantum field. (Yes, indeed, when it comes to science I'm a 'dummie')!! I shall continue, on the example of all of you, in my efforts to understand the 'objectivity' you give in science, although, 'personally' I think the subjective is a very important concept, particularly if that is what is involved in assigning intelligence to the God you mentioned as perhaps 'existing'! What is omniscience!. Even the Buddha was considered to be omniscient, but I believe within a very different context than what I assume is meant within the Western 'credo' --of course I only think!!!! ..........

          • TomD123

            I have read most of your other comments, and I pick up the theme. What I'm trying to say however is that I don't quite see the relevance of such things to whether or not materialism is true.

            For example, take the claim about the PFC and decision making. Decision making may heavily involve and even depend on certain neurological events taking place in the PFC. Regardless, it doesn't show that decision making is reducible to the functioning of the PFC.

          • William Davis

            Regardless, it doesn't show that decision making is reducible to the functioning of the PFC.

            That's correct, the entire brain, in a sense, is involved in decision making because it requires access to your memories and everything else in your brain to work. The PFC is simply a focal point for much of the work of decision making. It think the importance of the pfc is best demonstrated by what happens when it's damage. My wife has a friend who's brother was involved in a bad car accident recently. His frontal lobes were damaged by pressure from inflammation, and his sisters says he is a different person. He's angry, resentful, all kinds of character traits have changed due to the injury, but hopefully he will recover more with time. An altered pfc is an altered you, enough alcohol has a strong impact on the pfc. This link may help:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frontal_lobe_injury

            I think what you (and many philosophers) are getting at is the value of conceiving thoughts to be immaterial. Just because something isn't true (thoughts aren't immaterial) doesn't mean it isn't a useful shortcut that shouldn't be employed when thinking about thinking. For example, when I'm writing computer software, I don't think about the hardware and how it implements the software; I imagine the software to be immaterial when dealing with it. I think that will always be the case with the brain to, conceiving of thoughts as material requires extra effort that doesn't help much. Again the functional value is separate from the truth value.

          • TomD123

            (1) Of course it isn't just the PFC that is involved in choice, a lot of what the brain does is a feature of the interacting whole more so then a cluster of neurons. I'm aware of that, but my point stands: the fact that damage of a certain part of the brain impairs cognitive function does not entail the claim that cognitive function is reducible to the functioning of that part, or any part of the brain. An additional premise is necessary in order to justify that claim in particular. I'm not saying you are incorrect, only that more is needed to justify the conclusion.

            (2) I don't see how linking to an article about damage to the frontal lobes helps push the argument downfield. For one, many (if not most) readers here are aware that damage to the frontal lobes (or any part of the brain for that matter) causes serious cognitive impairments and/or changes. Second, the evidence only reinforces the claim that various cognitive processes are heavily (if not entirely) dependent on certain neurological structures. Still, as I said in point (1), an additional premise is necessary to show that the cognitive function is reducible to the functioning of the neurons.

            (3) You say "I think what you are getting at is the value of conceiving of thoughts as immaterial." I don't see how that's what I'm getting at. I haven't said "thoughts are immaterial." I've only said that showing how a certain brain structure is important for a cognitive function does not entail that the cognitive function is reducible to the functioning of the brain structure.

          • William Davis

            Perhaps this is the argument you are looking for:
            1) Human minds contain knowledge
            2)Human minds are a subset of the universe
            3)The universe contains knowledge since minds are a subset of it.
            This further explanation of memory and how certain types are encoded as knowledge will be helpful :)
            http://strangenotions.com/how-to-prove-that-transcendentalism-is-true/#comment-2067751558
            I have yet to see anyone give me a reason to not believe humans are a subset of the universe. To say human minds can't be a part of the universe because it can't contain knowledge would obviously be circular.

          • TomD123

            (1) Your argument is an issue. Let's break down premise 2. Suppose I read universe to mean "everything that is physical." In this case, premise two becomes "Human minds are a subset of everything physical." This is unclear and I could read it in two ways (a) "Human minds are reducible to physical things" or (b) "Human minds are in part constituted by physical things" or something similar such as (b')"Human minds are dependent on physical things." Nearly all dualists would accept (b) and (b'). That said, (b) and (b') coupled with your initial premise do not yield any interesting conclusions as far as I can tell.

            Now, if you read premise (2) as (a), then you are begging the question, because that is precisely what is at issue in the argument. Therefore, that reading is problematic.

            So my question remains: I agree, as neuroscience shows, the brain is heavily involved in mental function. In fact, in many ways, if not all ways, mental function is dependent on brain function. However, it simply does not follow from these facts that mental function is nothing but brain function.

            (2) You keep posting articles and information about neuroscience and cognitive science etc. I don't know what that accomplishes in the context of the argument at hand. Further, the brain stores memories...does anyone deny that?

            (3) "I've yet to see anyone give me a reason..." I think the problem is phrased wrong. Human minds are part of the universe. A dualist won't deny this. A dualist will deny that human minds are reducible to physical things. Maybe you have yet to see a good argument for that conclusion. That's fine. I haven't argued for that conclusion. I have only argued that neuroscience doesn't give us evidence for a reductionist account of the mind unless you add an additional premise. That is what I am asking you to do.

    • William Davis

      Speaking of brain imaging, here is a video showing the level of detail in some of the new equipment (this is from UCSF)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAIQeTeMJ-I

      Here's the website it's from

      http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2014/03/112606/beauty-and-brain

      • Kevin Aldrich

        That is fun and it is amazing to think of what will be discovered about the brain and our mental activity and what can be done to repair defective or damaged brains and to improve brain activity for the rest of us.

        But, that a lot of stuff is going on in the brain itself does not mean much. That should not be surprising. An incredible amount of activity goes on even in a single cell of our body.

  • David Nickol

    As I understand the "bottom line," the argument is that knowledge of a thing is not part of that thing. Therefore, knowledge of the universe is not part of (transcends) the universe. Isn't this the "fallacy of composition"? Just because something is true about individual items in the universe does not mean it is true about the universe itself.

  • David Nickol

    I would be getting in way over my head, but I think there is some bad physics in the OP regarding the Uncertainty Principle. Kreeft says:

    If you are thinking about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle here, and wondering whether the observation of B by A might not change B as well as A, I am here assuming that Einstein was right and Heisenberg wrong about the Uncertainty Principle; that the act of knowing a thing, mentally, does not change the thing, unless it also changes it physically, by interfering with light waves, for instance.

    Wikipedia says:

    Historically, the uncertainty principle has been confused with a somewhat similar effect in physics, called the observer effect, which notes that measurements of certain systems cannot be made without affecting the systems. Heisenberg offered such an observer effect at the quantum level (see below) as a physical "explanation" of quantum uncertainty. It has since become clear, however, that the uncertainty principle is inherent in the properties of all wave-like systems, and that it arises in quantum mechanics simply due to the matter wave nature of all quantum objects. Thus, the uncertainty principle actually states a fundamental property of quantum systems, and is not a statement about the observational success of current technology. It must be emphasized that measurement does not mean only a process in which a physicist-observer takes part, but rather any interaction between classical and quantum objects regardless of any observer.

    I don't think the Uncertainty Principle as currently understood maintains that knowing a thing (mentally) changes that thing. The Uncertainty Principle is about the limits of measurement of position and momentum on the quantum level, which limits are not dependent on the observer, but are the result of fundamental facts of nature.

    Thus the Uncertainty Principle, interpreted ontologically, seems self-contradictory, like all forms of universal skepticism.

    It is unclear to me whether Kreeft is declaring the Uncertainty Principle itself to be false, or some particular interpretation of it to be false. But of course the Uncertainty Principle is generally taken by contemporary physicists to be an accurate observation of the nature of reality. Is Kreeft really putting himself in opposition to contemporary physics?

    • Only 'passively' understood, of course. But try and try again. Thanks.

  • Kraker Jak

    What is thinking?....One cannot have a thought without memory,....and thinking is part of memory. If one had no memory at all one could not think. Our brain is the instrument of memory. There does not have to be anything ethereal spiritual or transcendental about this. Experience, knowledge and memory give rise to thought. No one can deny that, and no one can deny that memories and the and sense of self awaerness are material and stored in the neurons of the brain.....without resorting to woo woo.

    Is experience different from the experiencer? If there is no experiencer...is there an experience? The experience and experiencer are the same. The thinker is not separate from his thoughts. Do not flee from the reality of this truth.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxWPGkzG8Lk

    Memories are our brain's interpretation of who we are.This material, wet jello brain/system is what constitutes you and me and everyone else.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLyrhD7kdFs

    • Hi Krakerjack. But I understand the the brain is the central area of organization of some kind of neuronal system that extends to all parts of the body. He 'admitted' as much, when he said that a hurt finger could indeed contribute to a 'sadness'. I especially like this 'idea' as it is indicative of yet another possible 'unity' of body/mind. (And indeed - that 'everything in the universe is 'connected' - From the thought of Leibniz to the Buddha!!!!)

      • Kraker Jak

        everything in the universe is 'connected'

        On the material level that seems logical enough....everything in the universe eventually effects everything else in the universe at some sort of deterministic level at some point in time. But to carry that over into a collective universal consciousness paradigm seem to be a bit of a stretch into the realm of transcendental woo woo. I respect your musings into this type of speculation. And who am I to say it is not possible?

        • William Davis

          I guess a materialist could agree that all brains are the same kind of thing, so to speak, so on that level they are connected in a functional way. Similar brains tend to solve problems (and approach reality) in similar ways, but there tend to be different approaches we try to group together and call "philosophies" ;)
          Philosophies are like art, there is no one true philosophy, just like there is no one true approach to art, but some philosophies are clearly better than others.

        • Hi. Hopefully you and I have a bond in that we at least thing that we are being somewhat 'successful' in maintaining a kind of 'independence" :) I guess that excuses my sometimes 'mean' often self-protective, defensive? satire?
          But, although I have always wondered about it, I believe this 'interdependence' with respect to Buddhism, is considered to be found as a 'transcendence' of the continuity of consciousness, which is ruled by the 'law of karma'., a cause and effect relationship.. According to my understanding, it is the 'transcendence' of this 'law' or rather 'state of being' that constitutes the enlightenment they speak of as: a state of nirvana, in which the illusion of 'self-ego' (as in Hume and J.S. Mill I believe is 'dissolved?'.
          I have a specific personal interpretation with respect to this, but I will limit this comment to what I understand to be within the 'orthodoxy'. And yes, I believe it is a 'materialistic' theory.
          Is there not a similarity however, with respect to 'the rationalist/idealistic pre-established harmony' that governs those independent windowless monads, or 'souls' with the philosophy of Leibniz? These latter do not, within this theory, directly affect one another!!!! The cause I guess, could be described as the prime mover, or law-maker, whatever!!!! Western tradition???"
          Very different 'world-spiritual-perspectives'. Granted. But is there not within both a recognition of some kind of causal element? As well as a bit of 'transcendental woo woo', which together with the 'reductionism' within so many contexts I'm not going to ignore, because I do recognize that these 'exist' either as real, or ideal epistemological paradigms, models or even theories, or as a recognition of the ontic, or ontological, i.e. within a specific or general/universal reference. (terminology from Heidegger.)
          But I 'specululate' Yet, are you asking whether another speculative "woo woo" fiction is 'warranted'.......!!!!!!! Does philosophy merely introduce more and more 'categories? Are the 'categories' possibly becoming ever more and more specific or particular. A kind of metaphysical/ontological 'reductionism'. Is it possible that maybe sometime in the future, 'everything' within 'empirical reality' could have a 'name'? :) :) :) P. S. What's a woo woo?

          • Kraker Jak

            Hi. Hopefully you and I have a bond in that we at least think that we
            are being somewhat 'successful' in maintaining a kind of 'independence" :)

            Yes...perhaps that is true. Neither of us fit into any commenter mold and we seem to retain a certain independence in that respect. Which I don't think is a negative.:-) At least not for us.

          • Thanks Krakerjak. I just got this in my e-mail box, after sending you my last comment as an 'explanation?' I am just so pleased that I don't have to 'argue' with you. From one 'oldie' to another!!!

          • William Davis

            I probably belong in your and Loreen's idiosyncratic not quite atheist but definitely not quite Christian "club" ;) I like all my thinking to be spiced up with imagination.

          • Hi William: But as you said today in a comment on EN, it can be difficult to balance the 'deism' with the 'materialism' in your 'thinking'. I'm glad they are considering the semantic implications in today's comments as well as the formal/logical criteria generally dominating the 'arguments'. At least they 'banned' me only because I was incoherent, and not because I was not logical. There's quite a difference! But I do think, if they really do get into semantics they they have not assessed the (transcendental) nature of the problems they are getting into. As all our knowledge as humans for instance is dependent on language, (even the conception of creation they flew about today, as well as the concepts of space and time, (as distinct from Kant's intuitions) there could well be argued to be a 'justification' for the use of an epistemic sense of 'transcendental' which does indeed 'transcend' our concepts of space and time.......(Please regard this as one of my ironically

          • William Davis

            for the use of an epistemic sense of 'transcendental' which does indeed 'transcend' our concepts of space and time

            In materialism world this is called supervenience. I think it's clear that minds add value and meaning to the material world, but that value does rest materially inside the brain/mind (considering the brain the matter and the mind the energy the matter is directing). This is the core reason for so much subjectivity in philosophy (in my opinion) if the values/meaning were really out there in objective reality we would have found them by now. To me it's quite fascinating how we add entire dimensions to reality that don't exist without us.

          • Now William, You are surely not suggesting that I knew the meaning of supervenience 'without knowing the meaning of supervenience'!!! There are philosophers of language who have/are investigating same, in language which I suggest, believe, would be as far beyond the comprehension of those on EN as mathematics is beyond my 'understanding'. To 'relate' language to consciousness, is yet another matter. And to relate it to the brain is yet another matter. And to relate it to 'awareness' is yet another matter. So, in essence, I think we 'agree on the matter'!!!! I think I will go back to my book on 'insanity' - even Carl Jung held the thesis that no one would be considered to be 'insane' if they could only make the effort to 'understand' them! I believe it was called 'the collective unconscious'... Maybe that was his idea of God. And thus a proof of his/her 'existence?' It is true, we can do things with language that we do not really 'understand'!!! There also is the saying Stoic saying: (A paraphrase). They determined that only a Stoic sage could be considered sane, but they looked for one and could not find him/her. No. Nietzsche's Will to Power could indeed have rises from the complexities of his individual life, and even though the Catholics might consider him the anti-Christ,and perhaps a modern psychologist would say he was merely attempting to 'empower' himself. He did live a difficult life. May you enjoy the 'subjectivity' of your consciousness. May you find 'meaning' in life. (P.S. I rewrite sometimes some of my comments in the hope of bringing them closer into the criteria of Descartes, clear and distinct ideas????. (His circular proof?). I'm glad the materialists are 'doing what they are doing', but I really doubt that they will achieve their goal of becoming gods, in the way that their comments suggest to me is a major attribute of their 'desire'!!! Understand!!!!! Is it Kevin Aldrich who says: Christi Pax. (This may only be a spelling mistake!). Take care. Love you. But don't be a 'people pleaser'!!!!!

          • Am still having difficulty understanding the 'meaning' precisely of supervenience: Definition; the lower properties 'determine' the upper properties. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/supervenience/ Another expression of epiphenominalism. Do the upper properties ever determine the lower properties? Super- above, beyond, transcendent. even = meta!!!???? I'm not 'giving up'. The search for 'coherence' - wholeness is a life time project. The most important thing for me is to 'understand my self', even if that implies examining contexts which may seem 'irrelevant' to others. But I do believe that in attempting to understand historical situations, we should be aware of their relationship to our understanding of current events, etc.etc.etc. It is the understanding of 'relationship' that is most important to me. Also - the term Mike used - creation. Can this not essential define an object, subject as 'contingent'??? No I agree neither with the arguments of Sn and En. Both to my interpretation are 'fundamentally evangelists' pushing primarily their own - point of view. Although the arguments may be said to be more 'coherent' on EN, I find that there is more 'freedom of expression' on SN. Just my take. But I'm perhaps 'prejudiced' because BV hasn't banned me or given my comment, or person, a negative judgment. Thanks again, BV. And have you noticed, in the past while, some EN people have admitted to some 'snark' in humor? Anyway, I don't want to follow their example and go on about it for years and years. I really have better things to do. Love, again. I really know so little, and yet I can 'believe' in the concept immortality, especially as I once had a supervenience?, rational intuition? of what I interpreted to be evidence,i.e. revelation of same. And I 'allow' you to be free to interpret this in any way you like! My mind perhaps does include a 'level' of 'apprehension' intuition, whatever that is indeed transcendent to 'space and time' If it did not I would not be able to 'apprehend' a generalized/universal concept that was inclusive of the phenomena. At least so I think/believe. But please, correct me or enlighten me as to whether this is indeed so, and hopefully better than that: 'how' it is that I can have such an experience. Yes, let's be scientific about this, but please don't be like some psychiatrists and even priests, etc. etc. and treat me like an 'object'. Thanks.

            .

        • Just trying to decide where to talk about some thought I've been having, and read your above quote and thought I didn't really answer your question. So - on one example I suggested hopefully that a cause and effect hypothesize could explain 'connectiveness' , even with the objections of Hume that such were but based on associative thinking. So we know about the 'limits of Hume's thoughts, though, don't we. Not even an assumption of a 'sufficient reason'???? So then I suggested even without a direct interaction there could be posited a 'harmony'. Perhaps in logic, as applied even to cause and effect, it an be argued that a connection can be found. Hopefully that is enough I have something else to talk about.
          Been musing about the notion of meaning. I wish I had the time to study more of Aristotle, and what I now understand is the origin of the term 'metaphysics' as that which follows, - (transcends) scientific understanding. So with this recent discussion of 'meaning' connotative and denotative, I'm wondering that that is what is 'talked' about in 'metaphysics'. Our understanding of 'ontology' which is now the term most commonly used instead of metaphysics. So many ways to interpret - meaning!! And we get the words/meanings mixed up all the time. (Another issue).
          So about a comment on EN. Perhaps they do have a metaphysic/ontology after all, if the suggestion that a more appropriate 'meaning' can be assigned to 'creature' on the basis of Darwinism than on any theology,spirituality, whatever.
          Won't go into details, but I would not want my search for meaning to be limited by any specific ideology, or 'belief System'. And I don't want to be a God/dess!!!!
          Enough said. While coming here, there was another post from Just Thomism, which posts I look forward to. Seems like they are approaching this same issue from another 'angle'. Wish I could have studied math, what with all its irrational numbers, the meaning of which I know not, etc. etc. and all the other terms that are beyond my comprehension. I could even understand that in the past people have developed religions based on mathematics, but on Darwinism???? Math, my understanding, excludes the qualitative. but there are also the categories of relation and modality, (in my used of Kant's categories in the hope of making 'sense' of things!!) Anyway here a link to the post I was talking about: https://thomism.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/confusions-in-curricula/ I may indeed go back to my writing. There's a link to it on my Disquis profile. I certainly don't want to get involved in tomorrow post. So whatever happens, I've not disappeared, ---yet!!! Thanks Krakerjak. .
          .
          0

    • Kevin Aldrich

      When you refer to the concept of the immateriality of the intellect as woo woo, you are effectively flipping it the bird. Can you make a point without being contemptuous?

      • Kraker Jak

        Can you make a point without being contemptuous

        Can you not reply without being confrontationaional?...I don't think so. Woo woo is an acceptable term for most persons other than theists I suppose. The normal translation for most, is as follows...as if you didn't know? adj. concerned with emotions, mysticism, or spiritualism; other than rational or scientific;

        I've been watching the "Your Brain is You" series. It's interesting and a lot of fun but why did you post it?

        In keeping with your tone....I post the following cartoon. :-)

        • Doug Shaver

          Woo woo is an acceptable term for most persons other than theists I suppose.

          I don't know how you define "acceptable," but I have never seen it used except with obvious intent to insult.

        • Woo woo is an acceptable term for most persons other than theists.

          Perhaps you missed the possibility that there was some intended humor in the last two sentence in my comment. The first on the possibility of having a name for all 'things' in the universe, and the second, whether or not we have or can have an exact meaning for 'Woo woo'.
          I believe Wittgenstein referred, perhaps only indirectly to the issue when he said: I paraphrase: Of what we cannot 'know' (through language?' we must hold our peace.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I've been watching the "Your Brain is You" series. It's interesting and a lot of fun but why did you post it? Do you think this series proves nothing immaterial takes place in the human person? It does nothing of the sort. It says very little about higher level thinking, in fact, mostly focusing on how to be a better teacher and learner.

  • BrianKillian

    Not sure this refutes every form of materialism. A functionalist or epiphenomenalist could agree that thoughts are not identical to the physical universe but are still reducible to it as the cause and explanation.

  • Was even tempted after reading but the few comments posted on EN, (why so few? quite unusual?) to repost a kind of story I wrote: - : a kind of synthesis of what I had found to be 'contradictions' within the conversations regarding the post on 'perfection and the transcendent'. But it was but another of my attempts to be artistic, poetic, etc. etc. But, gratefully I found I had no need to 'post' anything. Had a long talk with Mike, the kid's dad, about the communism of the 60's 70's, today's politics, what's happening here on line, and of course our 'kids'. We joked about such things as: a conception of Catholicism I have run into by some Islamic friends, that yes, Paul's religion is fundamentally 'pagan': philosophy propped up with the story of Jesus. So yes, it's true, this blog, in being devoted to the 'truth' of logic, actually goes against a saying of Jesus, not to consider 'logic' or 'argument' if you are going to have faith!!!!
    And now we have within these last couple of posts - the polarity of transcendence and reductionism. Derrida, I believe, is/was not a 'dummie'. beOf course I'm not going to be 'logical' if I accept both thesis, in the multitude of context in which they can be considered. But rather than be logical, I'd prefer to live within the Kierkegaardian context he refers to as faith: living within paradox.
    Oh! and then to balance things, Mike reminded me of many characterizations of the New Atheism, as being a kind of 'fundamentalism'. It's so ironic. That the a-theists could be thought to be almost more like the Scholastics, than even the empirical analytic philosophers, who at least introduced the idea of a 'descriptive metaphysics'. So, I guess in the long run, it matters, not what you think of 'me???? as in essence I have been banned from EN. Obviously from even the example of this comment, I'll never meet the criteria of being coherent enough to be acceptable. I'm still waiting for instance, for the Evil Overlord to give me the Philosophy of Estrangement? But of course, I am repeatedly told that one does not understand John Searle's - the mind is what the brain does - to be anything else but a 'negative' - a rejection of a Theism (and Deism and pantheism, etc. etc???) of 'God', and may I conclude - philosophy. . If only I could have as much faith in my neurons as you seem to have., I indeed could place the concept of transcendence within a reduction to absurdity.
    I think I must come to 'accept' the possibility/reality, again, although I keep trying, that I can never become a positive contributor to either side of the argument. I just have too many ironic questions, which like even my question on the trinity, are 'revealed' to be 'mysteries', for which there you can give no answer. So may I extrapolate on this and at least 'contemplate' the possibility, that the revered apostles are somewhat limited in opening the doors, possibly because they do not have the 'keys' to salvation? But, heaven/state forbid, perhaps I am being 'poetically ironic?' again. This perhaps is but another way to 'look at what is the product or indication of my 'ignorance'. Again I shall attempt to accept a reduction to silence, and have the hope that I can transcend the constant temptation to become 'involved'. But perhaps I'm just doomed to hell because I find I cannot fit into the 'opposing tribes'. (The rest of my thoughts on this subject will remain 'immaterial', as they have not been committed to the safekeeping or storage within quintessential computerized being of 'the cloud'!!!) The rest is in piece!!! I will keep any 'personal philosophy' in safe-keeping and away from the arguments. Like: :Life will conquer over death. It is death, not 'consciousness' that is the illusion! But I'm sure that that is but a reduction of a transcendental!!! I can't help thinking that the old Latin Christianity I was brought up in as a child, died with the acceptance of Chesterton and Lewis as the renowned saints of modernism!!!

  • TomD123

    One can easily use Kreeft's argument to prove that the mind is not real:
    (1) Knowledge of a thing is not part of that thing
    (2) We can know reality
    (3) Knowledge of reality is not part of reality
    ...Knowledge of reality is unreal

    That's absurd.
    I think what the problem in Kreeft's argument, and a problem which many others have been pointing out is that knowledge of yourself is part of yourself so Kreeft's first premise must be qualified in such a way that makes his argument for what he is calling "transcendence" fail

  • David Nickol

    Kreeft says:

    Let us suppose that 9,000 facts about Beatrice constitute the whole
    Beatrice. If my knowing these 9,000 facts constituted fact #9,001 about her, then I could not know her, because the Beatrice I knew would be “Beatrice minus fact #9,001,” and that is not the true Beatrice, any more than Beatrice-without-a-plum is not the true Beatrice this morning.

    Then he says:

    Now take this second premise—that by science we can know the universe, and combine it with our first premise, that the knowledge of any thing is not one of the parts of that thing, and you get the conclusion that our knowledge of the universe is not part of the universe, but an addition to it, transcending it.

    So knowing Beatrice is knowing all 9000 facts about her, including the fact that she ate a plum. If we don't know all 9000 facts, we don't know the true Beatrice. But then what does it mean to say, "We can know the universe"? Kreeft has defined knowing Beatrice as knowing all 9000 facts about her. How then, does he define knowing the universe? By his own definition of knowing, apparently we would have to know all possible facts about the universe.

  • David Nickol

    How does Kreeft's rationale work if we substitute "taking a picture" for "knowing"? Taking a picture of something doesn't change the thing itself. And of course when you take a picture of something, you don't necessarily have to take a picture of all of it. Taking a picture of a person's face doesn't change the face. But taking a picture of the universe, even a part of the universe, does change the universe. If I take a picture of Beatrice eating her plum, it doesn't change Beatrice, but it does change the universe, because there now exists in the universe a picture of Beatrice eating her plum that did not exist before.

    If we are materialists and think of the brain as (among other things) a kind of recording device, it may be true that knowledge of Beatrice doesn't change Beatrice, but knowledge of the universe (or anything at all) does change the universe, because it makes physical changes in the brain. In order for Kreeft's analysis to be correct, it seems to me he must somehow prove that we can fully know the universe without changing the universe. It is not enough to say we can fully know Beatrice without changing her. As I said before, I think Kreeft commits the fallacy of composition. He argues that because we can know Beatrice without changing her, we can know the universe without changing it. But it seems to me he assumes what he is trying to prove in making the leap from knowing Beatrice to knowing the universe. He assumes that the act of knowing changes nothing in the universe.

  • David Nickol

    I have quoted Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI before on personhood being relational:

    "Finding an answer to this requires nothing less than trying to understand the human person better. It must once again be stressed that no human being is closed in upon himself or herself and that no one can live of or for himself or herself alone. We receive our life not only at the moment of birth but every day from without--from others who are not ourselves but who nonetheless
    somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those whom they love and in those who love them and to whom they are 'present.' Human beings are relational, and they possess their lives--themselves--only by way of relationship. I alone am not myself, but only in and with you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related in love, to be of and for.

    Whether or not this bears on Kreeft's argument I am not sure. But as I have argued, it seems to me strange and unfortunate to describe knowing Beatrice as knowing all 9000 facts about her, and to describe knowing only 8999 of the facts about Beatrice as not knowing the true Beatrice. This has nothing to do with the reality of one person knowing another.

    And in reality, knowing a person really involves two people knowing each other, and this kind of knowing does change each person. That is what a relationship is. If you have admired someone from afar, and you meet them in a way so that you both get to know each other to some significant extent, you have both changed. And you can never know another person fully if you are in a relationship with him or her, because that person's reaction to you, and your reaction to that person, will always be changing both of you.

  • Doug Shaver

    The claim is that there are no immaterial phenomena that cannot be explained as material phenomena.

    As a definition of materialism as I understand it, that's close enough for now.

    Now there is one very easy refutation of this argument for materialism. It is simply that the premise does not entail the conclusion.

    This definition does not contain any argument to be refuted. It would be the conclusion of any argument that a materialist might make, but it contains no premises.

    For even if we grant the premise that we find no immaterial phenomena that cannot be fully explained as material phenomena, this does not logically entail the conclusion that there are no immaterial phenomena,

    Right. Anyone who argues, "Nothing is inexplicable on materialism, therefore materialism is true" is making a logical mistake. But it does not follow that materialism is an unjustified belief.

    In fact, the very same argument that the materialist uses to justify materialism can be used, with equal force, by an immaterialist, that is, by someone who believes that matter does not exist and all is mind.

    Maybe that's why almost no materialist ever uses this particular argument.

    I want to go farther: I want to refute materialism, as my primary example of metaphysical reductionism.

    Kreeft just got through saying it's already been refuted, and easily refuted.

    . . . I quickly deduce the falsity of materialism. I do this by adding just one more premise, namely that modern science is possible.

    Modern science is possible. Agreed.

    Modern science claims to know some principles that are true for the whole universe, principles like F=MA or E=MC squared.

    Most modern scientists would say they know those things, but what should we take that to imply? Knowledge is a philosophical concept. Modern science originated as a branch of philosophy, but it no longer is one, and most modern scientists are not philosophers. What scientists are doing, with regard to certain principles, is assuming that they are invariant with respect to time and space. They assume that whenever, and only whenever, a particular force is applied to a particular mass, the mass will undergo a certain acceleration, no matter where the mass is located and no matter when the force is applied. They have reasons for making this assumption, and most of us think they are very good reasons, but it's still just an assumption.

    Whether we should count an assumption of this sort as knowledge is an epistemological question that has never been resolved to the satisfaction of all philosophers. One reason for the continuing debates is that philosophers are not unanimous about the meaning of knowledge itself. There is a broad consensus that knowledge of a proposition P is at least a justified true belief in P, which is to say that we don't know P unless (1) P is actually true, (2) we actually believe P, and (3) we have a sufficient reason for believing P. So truth, belief, and justification are generally regarded as necessary for knowledge. There is some disagreement about whether they are sufficient, but many epistemologists think they are, and most of the continuing arguments go to the question: What constitutes the justification that is required for a true belief to count as knowledge?

    Much of the debate is muddied by a supposition, usually not explicitly stated, that any claim to know P must be infallible, i.e. that the justification must be such that it renders the falsity of P logically impossible. I don't think that is a useful criterion to include in our definition of knowledge, because it in effect implies the impossibility of our knowing anything. Any justification, no matter how well or poorly reasoned, rests on some assumptions that, since by definition they cannot be proved, cannot themselves be proved infallible. We cannot have infallible knowledge without infallible assumptions.

    I see no reason to think we are infallible about anything, and much reason to think we could, just possibly, be wrong about anything, regardless of the certainty with which we believe it. That possibility need not distract us. The possibility in some cases is practically irrelevant.

    To say that an assumption cannot be infallibly proved is not to say that it cannot be justified. And if it is justified, and if it actually is true, then we know it. Proof that we don't know it would have to be a proof that it actually is false, or else a proof that our justification is inadequate. Proof of possible error is never proof of actual error.

    Modern science is possible because our assumption about the fundamental constancy of nature has been consistently confirmed. We have had to revise our beliefs about certain particular constants. Some things we thought were invariant turned out not to be invariant. But it has never been demonstrated that no constancy exists or that we have good reason to suspect that nothing is constant.

    Now all knowing, insofar as it is knowing, is true, is accurate.

    I agree that whatever we actually know is true, by definition, because if it is not true, then by definition we do not know it. However, I balk at the equivalence of true with accurate. Relativity shows Newtonian equations of motion to be inaccurate, but there is no useful sense in which it falsifies them. Einstein notwithstanding, we still know that F = Ma.

    (I am also implicitly assuming an epistemological realism in assuming that we are like archers, and acts of knowing are like arrows, and bows are like minds, and targets are like the things we want to know.

    Archery might be an interesting metaphor for epistemological realism, but it hardly works as a definition, much less as the basis for an epistemological argument.

    I am assuming that Aquinas is right in ST I, 85, 2 when he defines ideas as means of knowing and real things as objects of knowing, and that Locke is wrong in the very first sentence of his Essay, when he defines an idea as the object of knowing.

    Fine. But if I can reject this assumption, which I do, then I can reject the conclusion.

    For if that were true, then we could never know whether or not any of our ideas corresponded to or were identical with the real world,

    What follows, if it is true, is that we can never know anything infallibly. And as much as we wish we could, wishing will not make it so.

    the knowledge of a thing is not one of the parts of that thing.

    In general, perhaps. What we know of things external to ourselves is not part of the external things. Our knowledge becomes part of us, not of anything else. But we also know ourselves, and so in that instance our knowledge is part of something we know.

    Now take this second premise—that by science we can know the universe, and combine it with our first premise, that the knowledge of any thing is not one of the parts of that thing, and you get the conclusion that our knowledge of the universe is not part of the universeNo, we don't get that conclusion, unless we deny that we are part of the universe.

    Brandon raises this objection:

    it assumes that the universe includes our thoughts. But if the universe is defined as the total collection of space, time, matter, and energy, this assumption would only be true if our thoughts are spatial, temporal, material, or somehow related to energy states. But that's precisely what's under discussion.

    Very well, the argument assumes materialism, but it is not attempting to prove materialism. It attempts to refute Kreeft's claim that materialism is logically inconsistent. He says it entails a contradiction. I have shown, I believe, that it does not.

    • Thank you Doug. This I take to be one of the best, or best comments I have ever read on this site. I shall keep it for further reference, indeed that will be the case, as I have made a reply.

      Besides the example(s?) of justification you mention, there is also the 'justification by faith'. Whether or it is a question of reason supported by evidence, or a question of ideas alone, which I assume is implied by the priority of faith over reason, there is I believe also the distinction of having 'understanding' in both cases. I believe you actually referred to this in your mention of 'meaning'. That itself I suggest can also be categorized: meaning reference, connotative and denotative, are distinctions that come to mind. There are also relationships to be 'understood' within various contexts and categories. Possibly then, these could be considered another criteria of 'justification'.
      I don't expect that I have worded my perplexity in a way that is as logically presented as your arguments, and critique. I do not attempt to make arguments 'for' or 'against' any thing/idea.. I have recently found for instance that there can be multiple different mathematical formulations for a specific 'problem'. So that there were found to be different geometries, is not an isolated occurrence. True?? I merely 'get hints' at the vastness of the problem. I really do accept my fallibility, not only with regard to philosophical issues, alone, as but one of the 'justifications' for not even trying to present or argue against a formal proof. I would be far more interested in understanding the context of words spoken within the life of an individual. Within this frame of reference, I simply put forth my opinion, or problem. That constitutes, my understanding, the circularity of my thinking, the 'begging' not only of the question but of the answer. I shall continue however, to 'search for relationships'. .It's a bit like the state of a madman/woman searching for a way to put the puzzle together, and having the inkling that he/she does not have 'all of the pieces'. There is truth there, but it cannot be 'expressed'. Thankfully, I do have the categorical framework given in Kant's philosophy. Thanks.

      • Doug Shaver

        Thank you Doug. This I take to be one of the best, or best comments I have ever read on this site. I shall keep it for further reference, indeed that will be the case, as I have made a reply.

        You're very welcome, and I thank you in return.

        Besides the example(s?) of justification you mention, there is also the 'justification by faith'.

        Whether faith justifies a belief depends on how faith is being defined. Having seen a vast range of meanings used by Christians, I no longer assume that I know what any of them means when they talk about faith unless either they spell it out or the context makes a particular meaning quite obvious.

        • I'm with you there Doug. I find an unending 'chain' of contradictions within my attempt to understand Catholicism. So many unrelated 'definition'. The conflation of faith with belief for instance, being just one of them. The concept of faith as a 'theological virtue', which suggests it is not an 'idea' but a 'state of being'. Their whole undefined idea of 'gift'. I won't go into the dynamics of power, and what I feel is inherent in the cosmological proofs, in contrast to the proofs based on intuition. I am not discredit the possibility of finding new meaning with the old. Jurgen Habermas was explicit about this. And I do know within my life experience, that I have sometimes rejected something only to find it anew later. But I also find limiting factors within the EN thesis. I also am aware that I do not understand things 'perfectly'. If I define faith, as my own understanding of the paradoxes within my perceptions and conceptions of reality, (as per Kierkegaard) that gives me confidence to feel that I have 'personal' justification, even though my explanations of same may be considered 'incoherent' by others. There is a blessing in madness!!! (Just one point of view, or attempt at defining 'justification by faith'.....But I'm with you essentially on the vagueness of the meaning. Do we have faith in axioms, and mathematical constructs, for instance, which are unrelated to 'experience'. or should I say the 'empirical'.
          If I could live long enough I would reread all the philosophy I have to date, and maybe find that I could overcome a few 'prejudices'!!!!

  • Ladolcevipera

    "The commonest form of metaphysical reductionism, and the most philosophically interesting and controversial one, is materialism, which is the claim that everything that is real is material; that there is not a second dimension or kind of reality that is immaterial, or spiritual, or mental, but that what we call mind and mental phenomena can be reduced to and explained as merely material phenomena."

    One might just as well say that all reality is spiritual reality, as Plotinus (A.D. 205-270) does. In a superb, logical system he describes the hierarchy of being, with all its degrees and activities, linked together at the summit by the Absolute, the One. This is the first fundamental principle (or hypostasis). The Absolute is beyond and outside all categories of being. It is absolutely transcendent; nothing can be predicated of it; it does not even know itself. From the One emanates all being as a by-product of self-contemplation. There is no beginning and not time in this production. The second fundamental principle is Intellect (the “Nous” or Divine Mind). It can be analyzed and the subject-object antithesis is already there. The Nous contemplates the (Platonic) Forms, the archetypes of all the things that have present and future existence. Below Intellect comes Soul (the third fundamental principle). The external activity of Soul is Nature, the intelligible structure of all that is in the sensible world. The end of the chain is matter. Since the human soul participates in The One it can go from the lower to the higher. Hence the yearning to understand the ultimate reality.

    Is Plotinus right? I think we simply do not know. But it sounds so much more poetic than materialism. But maybe poetry can also be reduced to simply "matter"?