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Naturalism’s Epistemological Nightmare

Metaphysical naturalism, usually identified with scientific materialism, is not to be confused with methodological naturalism, which maintains, at least in principle, that the scientific method confines itself to natural explanations without any philosophical bias against the supernatural. Metaphysical or philosophical naturalism insists that only entities empirically verifiable by natural science exist, which excludes all supernatural beings, especially God. The truth value of all scientific statements depends strictly upon empirical verification. Since God is not empirically verifiable, He does not exist.

Scientific materialism agrees with Aristotle in saying that all knowledge begins in sensation. Yet, how do we know that we can trust our senses? Consider the case of the power of sight. Natural science tells us that light bounces off objects, passing through space, to enter the eye. Photons striking the retina are then converted into nerve impulses which pass through the optic nerve into the occipital lobe of the brain, where visual processing takes place. The question is what exactly do we experience in vision: (1) the external object as it is at some distance from the eye, (2) the external object as it is presented to the end organ in the eye, (3) changes in the end organ itself, or (4) changes inside the brain which appear to terminate the visual sequence?

Assuming that vision is a purely material process, this causal chain of events necessarily implies that what we know, in the last analysis, is not the external object, but rather changes in the occipital lobe deep inside the brain. The immanent logic of scientific materialism forces the conclusion that what we actually know by empirical verification is not the external world at all, but some sort of presumed image or neural representation of it inside our heads.

Empirical verification presupposes epistemological realism—meaning that through sensation we know directly the exterior physical world around us. Natural science proclaims that it discovers the nature of the real physical cosmos, external to our brains or subjective selves. Yet, when we trace the optics and physiology of the sense of sight, we find ourselves entrapped in epistemological idealism -- meaning that we do not know external reality, but rather merely some change within our brains that we hope to be an accurate representation of the external world.

Worse yet, naturalists tell us that modern science has discovered myriad ways in which the brain adjusts, fixes, completes, smooths, and modifies the incoming neural data so as to make the subjective sensation potentially quite different in content and meaning from that which the “raw data” of the external senses provide.

If we accept the foregoing depiction of visual sensation as correct, what does this imply for the “empirical verification” principle so dear to the hearts of naturalists? Specifically, how do we know that we have a head, a brain, an occipital lobe, light waves, or even an external physical world at all? The only way we have developed this scientific worldview of how sight works is by using our eyes to observe the component parts of the physiological/physical process entailed in vision. Someone had to use his eyes to view the brain of a cadaver and draw the pictures of a brain found in Gray’s Anatomy, or to verify that instrument readings are accurate. Yet, empirical observation using senses or instruments presupposes the validity of epistemological realism. Scientific findings about the visual chain of events, from external object to internal brain, drive the objective scientist into subjective idealism: we don’t directly sense the external world at all.

At this point, the naturalist likely resorts to defending epistemological realism by means of pragmatic verification: It works. Science has made massive progress through direct sense observation and repeatedly validates its theories through predictions that are empirically verified. Still, you simply cannot prove that the senses are reliable by using them in order to prove that they are reliable.

To verify scientific claims about the reliability of the senses, one must already trust them to apprehend external objects with sufficient accuracy so as to “empirically verify” the initial assumption that the senses apprehend external reality—the real physical world that natural science studies. Such circular reasoning proves nothing.

One naturalist defense is the distinction made between map and territory, between belief and reality – a distinction proposed by Alfred Korzybski, who insists that “the map is not the territory” in a book that claims to introduce “non-Aristotelian systems.”1 Unfortunately for naturalism, the “map,” in this case, is its own invention, since the causal chain from external object to occipital lobe is a product of scientific materialism. This naturalistic “map” itself must be wrong, since it leads to a subjective idealism that contradicts its own starting point: epistemological realism.

The final defense of naturalism is to insist that, though paradoxical, there is simply no alternative to scientific materialism and its acceptance of the validity of sensation.

But there is.

Naturalism entails assuming the philosophy of materialism. Materialism not only denies all non-material entities, but today would include as “matter” both matter and energy and, indeed, anything describable in terms of quantum field theory. While it may not be the physically extended “stuff” of the nineteenth century atomic theory, even energy or quantum fields remain locatable in spacetime dimensions. That is the fatal flaw of the materialistic causal sequence of vision described above. While the external object and its effect on the end organ of sight are both locatable external to the knower, the change in the brain, the image, the representation, is not external, but locatable internal to the knower. Thus, in knowing, ultimately, only changes inside himself, the materialist is logically forced into an epistemological idealism that contradicts his assumed starting point, the observation of external things. All of this flows from his a priori philosophical commitment to materialism. The scientific method does not demand materialism. But, the naturalist’s philosophical bias does.

What alternative is there to scientific materialism and its naïve epistemology? First, we must notice that all knowers start in the exact same place – prior to any scientific methodology. We all start with the same direct experience of the world, known through the senses – naturalist and Aristotelian philosopher alike.

The naturalist is right in taking as given an external physical world that he knows directly through sensation. But, he is wrong in trying to meld this experience with his philosophical position of materialism.

The immediate experience of sentient beings is of an external world of real things. Human beings, possessing the spiritual power of intellect, know not only of their own act of sensing but also are reflexively aware of the personal self which is having this experience of external objects.

One need not assume materialism to be the sole reality principle. If the above analysis demonstrates that materialism necessarily entails a self-defeating epistemology, then materialism must be false and some form of dualism must be true.2 That is, reality must include some non-material entities as well as material ones.

Aristotle maintains that co-principles (matter and form) compose physical substances. In living things, form is called the soul. In man alone, the soul is strictly immaterial  (spiritual). Contrary to atomism, wherein nothing is a single thing (substance) above the atomic (or subatomic) level, substantial form makes the living organism to be a single, unified being of a given nature.3 Since all sentient organisms sense through powers of the soul, and since the soul is not itself physically locatable or extended, an ontological basis for epistemological realism exists. More simply, this means that since the soul’s sensation is not extended in space, and thus, physically “locatable,” it is not “trapped” in the interior of the brain as would be the case with scientific materialism. Our immediate experience of external reality shows that the living soul enables the whole organism to do things that exceed the capacities of a purely physical nervous system alone.

Instinctively rushing to reject Aristotelian metaphysical dualism, the naturalist might object that sensation ends in the interior of the brain, making such direct knowledge of external reality impossible. But, such an objection exposes again the contradiction inherent in combining philosophical materialism with epistemological realism. That is, the naturalist claims to know an external physical cosmos billions of light years in extent, and yet, his materialism forces the conclusion that he cannot know the external physical world at all – only images or neural patterns inside his own brain.

Naturalism cannot escape its own epistemological nightmare—a nightmare directly caused, not by natural science itself, but by illicitly attempting to identify natural science with the false philosophy of materialism.

Notes:

  1. Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics (Institute of General Semantics; 5th edition, 1995).
  2. Aristotle’s hylemorphic dualism distinguishes soul from body as co-principles of the same being, whereas Descartes’ extreme dualism views mind and body as entirely distinct substances.
  3. For the best single volume refutation of naturalism and exposition of Aristotelian-Thomism, see Br. Benignus Gerrity, Nature, Knowledge, and God (Bruce Publishing Company, 1947).
Dr. Dennis Bonnette

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Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. He taught philosophy there for thirty-six years and served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He lives in Youngstown, New York, with his wife, Lois. They have seven adult children and twenty-five grandchildren. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. Dr. Bonnette taught philosophy at the college level for 40 years, and is now teaching free courses at the Aquinas School of Philosophy in Lewiston, New York. He is the author of two books, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence (The Hague: Martinus-Nijhoff, 1972) and Origin of the Human Species (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, third edition, 2014), and many scholarly articles.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • I would say that the criticism here of empiricism is fair. Because of the problem of sollopsism we do not know, or indeed have any reason to believe, that we have eyes, light, and so on. Even if it were true that these things exist as we perceive them, because of the problem of induction, we have no reason to believe that our image in our brain is a result of the light hitting our eyes etc.

    I think it is also fair to say that the reason empiricists adopt empiricism, is because we have no alternative. For example, I have an experience of seeing an apple, I assume that this is true. Otherwise, other than my senses, what other means do I have to assess this question of whether there is an apple there?

    Where I think this piece goes wrong is the belief that there is some alternative process or ability to obtain knowledge. Indeed it seems clear that Dr Bonnette would agree that absent a sense experience of an apple, we would not be justified in saying the apple exists. But he is saying that there is a way to know we can trust our senses if we adopt the existence of something he labels a "spiritual soul".

    He states that "Our immediate experience of external reality shows that the
    living soul enables the whole organism to do things that exceed the
    capacities of a purely physical nervous system alone."

    I see no justification for this. I have no idea what he means by "living soul" or why we should accept one exists. I have no reason to accept that such a soul enables us to do anything. (Not to mention that there is no argument here that if it exists it cannot be material or natural.)

    It seems he is just saying there is a problem of sollopsism and there is a McGuffin he calls an immaterial (supernatural?) spiritual soul intellect, or something, that allows us to trust our senses. I see no reason to believe this is the case.

    I think the source of his error is a commitment to an unstated premise that we must be able to trust our senses. Only if you accept this, does it entail that because material empiricism will never be able to provide an epistemological justification, there must be a non-material, non-empirical justification. But this begs the question.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      I have no idea what he means by "living soul"

      It's a bit of a tautology. A soul just is the substantial form of a living substance. The substantial form of a chlorine atom, otoh, is not a soul, since chlorine atoms are not living. That is, they do not digest, grow/develop, reproduce, or maintain homeostasis.

      Nor is Dr. Bonnette writing of mere solipsism. Rather, he is demonstrating that something inherent in the hypothesis of materialism results in a contradiction regarding epistemology. In the old Scientific Revolution, this would have meant that the theory (materialism) is wrong; or in our new lingo, "falsified." However, we Late Moderns have mastered the manly art of self-contradiction, so it no longer bothers us to grip on materialism with the one hand but hang onto epistemological idealism with the other.

      The reason why Aristotelianism (and even Cartesianism) are alternatives is that they do not insist on a purely materialistic ontology. Once we recognize that some things are substances -- that is, that they are "things" and not "heaps" -- and thus not simply matter but unions of matter and form, then we can no longer insist that sensation/sentience be localized, with all the problems Dr. Bonnette mentions, and therefore epistemology is not constrained to fall into idealism.

      • "demonstrating that something inherent in the hypothesis of materialism results in a contradiction regarding epistemology"

        What is he saying is the thing in the hypothesis of materialism and what does it contradict with?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          cf. the whole Kant business in the essay and the termination of knowing in the brain state. I'll wait here.

          Finished? Then the point is that if all is matter, the only thing that is really known is the brain state inside your head, and not the state of the putative objective world. Werner Heisenberg, one of the few Late Modern scientists who had an appreciation of this, put it rather more succinctly when he wrote in Physics and Philosophy: "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning." Or more humorously: if the only tool you allow yourself is a hammer, nature will look like a nail.

          • Materialism doesn't say that. it says that the thing that "knows" is the brain. It knows about the outside world by way of the material causation. There is no contradiction there. You may not accept it works, but it's perfectly coherent.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            What you say is correct if it is built on an Aristotelian foundation. But for an empiricist, the only thing "known" is the brain patterns. That these patterns represent the world is something that we accept on an idealist basis.

          • But for an empiricist, the only thing "known" is the brain patterns.

            You seem to falsely equate knowledge with certainty. I don't need certainty in order to justify a claim that I know something.

            At the end of the day we need some method for navigating the world, because, no matter how smart you think you are, I've yet to meet anyone who can argue with gravity when they walk over a cliff.

            If you want to crap all over empiricism, but offer nothing that offers us a better way to navigate the world, then you're just being cynical.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You seem to be missing the point of what Kant sought to demonstrate. It had nothing to do with "certainty," which comes only through mathematics and logic. You claim that you don't need certainty in order to "know" something is in line with the very Aristotelianism that Kant sought to overthrow. The point is simple:

            Materialism or Empiricism.
            Choose One.

          • We seem to be working with different definition of knowledge.

            Materialism or Empiricism.
            Choose One.

            Why are these mutually exclusive?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Why are [materialism and empiricism] mutually exclusive?

            See OP for details. See Kant, Immanuel for even more details.

            See Mathematics for examples of things that are neither material nor empirical, yet constitute knowledge.

            We seem to be working with different definition of knowledge.

            Indeed, there are three broad areas of knowledge. That which we know for certain because we have demonstrated it ("QED"). Properly speaking, this is mathematical knowledge. Then there is knowledge that is held only probabilisitically, but which may be shown at another time to be false. This is "scientific" knowledge, based on empirical evidence. Finally, there is knowledge also held as certain but which is held by faith, such as that an objective world exists. (This cannot be shown empirically, since one must first assume that an objective world exists in order to know that one even has empirical evidence to begin with.

          • Rob Abney

            Finally, there is knowledge also held as certain but which is held by faith, such as that an objective world exists.

            Your explanation seems to contradict what Dr. Bonnette is claiming about the objective world.

            direct knowledge of external sense objects is not merely an assumption, but an immediately given certitude of sense experience. Its proper epistemological defense is a treatise far exceeding the limits of the present topic.

            Do you have any idea how he can support his conclusion?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            My comment in answer to Mr. Newman regarded the question of knowledge. It was based on Aristotelian premises. The OP was a critique of materialist premises, demonstrating that sensory knowledge of external objects is ultimately incompatible with materialist metaphysics. This critique of Kantian philosophy is neither new nor especially controversial.

            Several commenters here, however, seem to think he was criticizing reliance on sensory experience. This was either because they did not understand the essay or because they did understand it and were deliberately using misdirection.

          • See Mathematics for examples of things that are neither material nor empirical, yet constitute knowledge.

            Yes, mathematics is not an empirical subject, it's an analytical subject. Everything that we accept as "true" in mathematics is true by definition and axiom. I only considered this as knowledge if it has some useful application in the real world, otherwise I can make any arbitrary definition of a valid system of symbol and operators, and claim I have knowledge, even if the system doesn't map onto reality in any way.

            That which we know for certain because we have demonstrated it ("QED"). Properly speaking, this is mathematical knowledge.

            Yes, this effectively has shown that from definitions and axioms that your statement is true. It's much like "Joe is a bachelor. All bachelors are unmarried. Therefore Joe is unmarried."

            Finally, there is knowledge also held as certain but which is held by faith, such as that an objective world exists.

            I wouldn't classify these as knowledge, rather I would classify these as [basal] assumptions. Without believing that objective reality exists, I'm very stuck with how to make an decisions.

            I'll also say that people like to use these kinds of statements to say "you have faith that objective reality exists, and I have faith that God exists, so they're equal." The problem with this line of reasoning is that I'm presented with reality every second I'm awake. I have no presentation for God.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I only considered [mathematics] as knowledge if it has some useful application in the real world,

            Which begs the question of the "real" world at the heart of the essay above: IOW, the only admissible knowledge is knowledge gained by natural science and applied by business and industry.

            Yet Riemannian geometry was "known" mathematically well before Einstein applied it to the modeling of relativity. So was it not knowledge beforehand, but suddenly became knowledge afterward, even though the content of Riemannian geometry did not change? This is sheer magical thinking.

            [mathematics] effectively has shown that from definitions and axioms that your statement is true. It's much like "Joe is a bachelor. [etc.]"

            I wouldn't classify [belief that an objective world exists] as knowledge, rather I would classify [it] as [basal] assumptions.

            You have only shown that by redefining "knowledge" you can make your statement true. Otoh, I hold that I really do know it, and I do not merely assume it inside my own head.

            Without believing that objective reality exists, I'm very stuck with how to make an decisions.

            So far, no one has said that an objective reality does not exist; only that you cannot demonstrate that it does using natural science.

            I'll also say that people like to use these kinds of statements to say "you have faith that objective reality exists, and I have faith that God exists, so they're equal."

            For an empiricist, you lay claim to formidable mind-reading skills. I can only read my own mind, and I made the statement simply because it is true. No branch of knowledge can prove its own postulates or axioms. There will always be statements which cannot be proven within the discourse.

            Perhaps you believe that 'faith' has something to do with 'God' rather than with 'beliefs held without evidence.' Not all beliefs are equal, however, just as not all scientific conclusions are equal. Cf, phlogiston, theory of. Or Millikan's measurement of the electron charge.

            I'm presented with reality every second I'm awake.

            But that is the explanandum, the very thing to be explained. Is the cascade of sense impressions crashing against your nerve endings "reality" or are they simply photons, sound waves, et al. organized by your brain neurons into patterns that have enabled you to survive long enough to reproduce? As an empiricist, you are not allowed to assume your conclusion ["What I perceive is reality."] as evidence for it. You see the problem, I hope: Not that the conclusion is true or false but that from a materialist-empiricist POV, it's hanging in mid-air.

          • Which begs the question of the "real" world at the heart of the essay above: IOW, the only admissible knowledge is knowledge gained by natural science and applied by business and industry.

            I didn't say that it must be usable by business or industry. Rather it must have empirically testable predictions so as to inform my decisions. A model which makes no testable predictions is functionally useless to everyone!

            Yet Riemannian geometry was "known" mathematically well before Einstein applied it to the modeling of relativity. So was it not knowledge beforehand, but suddenly became knowledge afterward, even though the content of Riemannian geometry did not change?

            Factoid would be more accurate to describe it. Without some way to use it to inform our understanding of reality, it's virtually useless "knowledge".

            So far, no one has said that an objective reality does not exist; only that you cannot demonstrate that it does using natural science.

            Never claimed that anyone did. You're sticking words in my mouth.

            My point was that in order to make sense of my sense experience, I have to assume that my senses are picking up something from reality. Hard solipsism is a problem that we can't get past without these kinds of assumptions.

            For an empiricist, you lay claim to formidable mind-reading skills. I can only read my own mind, and I made the statement simply because it is true.

            Never claimed otherwise. I simply made an aside that I hear these kinds of claims, and they're junk.

            Perhaps you believe that 'faith' has something to do with 'God' rather than with 'beliefs held without evidence.'

            I would count belief in God as a belief held without [credible] evidence. I don't think anybody should hold any position based on "faith". Faith is an excuse, and a lame one at that.

            I have good reason to believe that objective reality exists. I can't prove it, because I cannot disprove hard solipsism, but I can say I have very good justification for believe that there is an objective reality, all of which are pragmatic.

            As an empiricist, you are not allowed to assume your conclusion ["What I perceive is reality."] as evidence for it. You see the problem, I hope: Not that the conclusion is true or false but that from a materialist-empiricist POV, it's hanging in mid-air.

            And I have yet to see that I have anything better! Like I said at the start, you just seem to be cynical about empiricism. I accept both naturalism, and empiricism, for pragmatic reasons.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I didn't say that it must be usable by business or industry. Rather it must have empirically testable predictions so as to inform my decisions.

            So now "practical" and "useful" get stretched to accommodate your beliefs.

            Factoid would be more accurate to describe [Riemannian geometry]. Without some way to use it to inform our understanding of reality, it's virtually useless "knowledge".

            Whereas "knowledge" gets shrunk to accommodate your beliefs.

            You're sticking words in my mouth. My point was that in order to make sense of my sense experience, I have to assume that my senses are picking up something from reality. Hard solipsism is a problem that we can't get past without these kinds of assumptions.

            But now who is sticking words in others' mouths. No one is arguing for solipsism. Only that materialism and empiricism entail a contradiction. See Kant for details. But some seem so wedded to materialism that they take this as an attack on empiricism!

            For an empiricist, you lay claim to formidable mind-reading skills.
            I simply made an aside that I hear these kinds of claims

            And mine was a sardonic comment on the attempt to deflect the conversation onto religious matters.

            I don't think anybody should hold any position based on "faith".

            I have good reason to believe that objective reality exists. I can't prove it, because I cannot disprove hard solipsism

            IOW, you believe in objective reality based on faith. But you don't think anybody should hold any position based on faith. An interesting, if incoherent position. The problem is not "solipsism," hard, soft, or squishy. It is that any "evidence" must assume the existence of an objective reality a priori. An Aristotelian has no problem with this, since he accepts the reliability of the senses by introspection and does not try to "prove" it from prior principles. But empiricists do not accept introspection, so they have created a "problem" where none had existed, just as they have created the "problem" of the qualia, the mind-body "problem," and so on.

            Like I said at the start, you just seem to be cynical about empiricism.

            No, actually I am skeptical about materialism. My observation is that things are comprised of matter and form, not simply of matter alone. The two are inseparable but distinct. Matter is itself not formal; and form by itself is immaterial. As the saying has it: "Every thing is some thing." Even "atoms," originally envisioned as identical particles indifferently aggregated to form heaps turned out on closer inspection to consist of arrangements (forms) of parts (matter). A chlorine atom and a sodium atom comprise the same parts: protons and electrons. (Neutrons are thought by many to be a fusion of a proton+electron.) But what gives them their distinct powers -- one a poisonous gas, the other a flammable metal -- is the number and arrangement of those parts. IOW, not their matter, but their forms; and form is not material.

          • But what gives them their distinct powers -- one a poisonous gas, the other a flammable metal -- is the number and arrangement of those parts. IOW, not their matter, but their forms; and form is not material.

            The internal shape of the atom is explained by the forces of the standard model. Their electrical reactions with other atoms is what gives them the properties you describe. Those properties aren't fixed, they're relational. Sure chlorine is 'poisonous' to us, but oxygen is 'poison' to anaerobic organisms and sodium is only 'flammable' in the presence of hydrogen. I don't see what adding the concept of form adds to any of this.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The internal shape of the atom is explained by the forces of the
            standard model.

            For example, the positive charges on the protons in the nucleus will cause all the protons to repel one another and fly off in all directions, whereas the negative charges on the electrons will cause them to be attracted into the protons. Or something. Since this is manifestly not what actually happens, we hypothesize two other forces (the nuclear and radiative) that counteract the electromagnetic (and gravitational) ones. Of course, Heisenberg did not think that subatomic particles even possessed objective existence and regarded them more as Aristotelian potentialities.

            We have been assured by others right here on this board that mathematics is simply an analytical tool by which one merely obtains the results of the axioms, so it's not clear whether a "model" does any "explaining" but only "describes."

            In any case, it is evident that an electron bound in a valence shell (whatever that may mean) behaves in an entirely different way than a free electron. That is, it acts as a "part of a whole" rather than as a "thing in itself."

            Sure chlorine is 'poisonous' to us, but oxygen is
            'poison' to anaerobic organisms blah blah

            Shorthand, dude.

            I don't see what adding the concept of form adds to any of this.

            It enables us to grasp things intelligibly. For example, we can speak of "atoms" because we grasp the form of atoms in however vague a way. Likewise we can distinguish between protons and electrons because we grasp the differences in their forms. Otherwise, we could not even so much as give names to them.

            Form is what causes a thing to be some specific thing: for example, a petunia instead of an opossum; a triangle instead of a supernova. There are essential forms and accidental forms. For example, a big blue bouncy ball may be painted red or may lose its bounce, but still remain essentially a ball.

            Equally important, it makes "emergent properties" into something more than "then magic happens." It means that wholes have properties that the parts do not. (Which does not mean that there are no causes that work upwards as well as downwards in the hierarchy.)

            https://web.archive.org/web/20041127002931/http://home.comcast.net:80/~icuweb/c02002.htm#4

          • Finally, there is knowledge also held as certain but which is held by faith, such as that an objective world exists.

            Yes, if "faith" is just a synonym for "assumption."

          • On Christian definitions related to the doxastic experience:

            Faith defined: [1] http://disq.us/p/1gaid51 and [2] http://disq.us/p/1jpx6zj

            And,

            A reply to this or that straw-man definition of Faith: [3] http://disq.us/p/1k6c2ip

          • When I'm conversing with Ye Olde Statistician, the only definition that matters is his.

          • The definitions offered fit his description of the doxastic experience relative to the reality of the external world.

          • The definitions offered fit his description of the doxastic experience relative to the reality of the external world.

            If he tells me so, I'll take his word for it.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The two terms are different categories. "Faith" (fides) is properly an act; "an assumption" is a noun. Faith is a mid-13cent. word meaning "duty of fulfilling one's trust," from Latin fides, meaning "trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, belief," the root being fidere, "to trust."

            Faith is therefore the latinate version of the AS (triewð) "trust" or "truth." To keep faith simply means to trust someone or something. To keep faith with your spouse, for example, is to be true to her; to trust her.

            An assumption may be used ad hoc but may or may not be relied upon as truth. The five "Common Notions" of Euclid are not simply arbitrary assumptions used to start off the Elements, but are accepted as true without proof. That is, faith is not a leap into the void, but is based on the reliability of that in which faith is placed, whether in the testimony of eyewitnesses, the examinations of witnesses, the writings of experts, etc.

          • So, Olde Mathematician, in your lexicon, my assumption that an objective world exists is not a statement of faith. In that case, I do not have faith that an objective world exists.

          • If you don't trust the testimony of your doxastic experience with respect to your own existence and so on, and so on down the ontic-line, then no, you don't have faith because your epistemology falls off of a cliff at some ontological seam somewhere. In a kind of nightmare or some such thing-y. Faith trusts in that which has proven reliable until a sufficient defeater arrives on scene.

          • Simply put, "....faith is based on the reliability of...."

          • If you don't trust the testimony of your doxastic experience with respect to your own existence and so on, and so on down the ontic-line, then no, you don't have faith because your epistemology falls off of a cliff at some ontological seam somewhere.

            I don't consider my personal experience to be any kind of testimony. Testimony is something I get when other people communicate with me.

            Faith trusts in that which has proven reliable until a sufficient defeater arrives on scene.

            I'm neither affirming nor denying faith in any general way because I never know what other people mean when they use the word faith unless they tell me. I will affirm that I trust sources that I judge to be reliable. If, in your lexicon, faith is just another word for trust, then I will tell you that I have faith in sources that I judge to be reliable. But when the next Christian comes along, I won't tell them that I have faith in anything until they tell me what they mean by faith.

          • That's fairly accurate. We all traverse unknowns, Theist and Non-Theist alike, and, we all navigate those unknowns by leaning on various knowns which have proven reliable. And, obviously, "within" all of that there are "layers" and "degrees", so to speak.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, I wrote that fides is something that is held as true without either a demonstration (certainty) or a determination.(probability). One source of such certainty is personal experience: in my parents' front yard there was a tall sycamore tree that was given them as a present by my mother's mother after the German custom for new houses. It was the sister of two other sycamores given to my mother's two brothers to celebrate their own houses. This cannot be demonstrated with a mathematical proof and can no longer be determined by empirical facts (two of the three trees in question are gone, and there is no surviving documentation of the gifting). You may take it as fact on faith to the extent that it is not your personal experience but that you have trust or reliance on my testimony. "Faith" is reliance on trustworthy testimony, as when a couple pledge their "troth" (truth) they pledge to be faithful to each other.

            In the same manner, the existence of an objective world cannot be proven by empirical means. It must be taken on faith. It is not a mere assumption secundum argumendum, made for convenience. It is held to be actually true.

          • So, Olde Mathematician, in your lexicon, my assumption that an objective world exists is not a statement of faith. In that case, I do not have faith that an objective world exists.

            No.

            The entire remainder of your post contradicts that "No." All you have shown is that my belief in an objective world is an act of faith as you define faith. I am not disputing that. You can attach any label you like to any belief I hold. But faith is a label I choose not to use because in my epistemology, it has zero communicative utility.

            My epistemology is foundationalist: Every proposition I accept as true is, or ought to be, either an assumption or an inference. My belief in an objective world is not an inference. Therefore, it is, for me, an assumption. If, for you, it is something else, so be it. All any of this proves is that you and I just aren't talking about the same thing when we talk about assumptions.

          • Your reference to communicative utility is well put. I'm not seeing that there's any real disagreement and, after all, we should not be surprised at the universal nature of the doxastic experience.

            Using different terms to referent the same X is fine and, on the up side, such clarification helps us purge the playing field of the (...all too common...) notion that "faith" is void of knowns and is constituted entirely of unknowns (...by "knowns" we mean X's which have proven reliable, and so on...).

            Sean Carroll and many others eventually give up on X's which have proven themselves reliable – else God – and begin to, then, *assume* in some sort of bad dream sort of epistemic:

            "....it’s little wonder that many atheist physicists (most notably Sean Carroll) are willing to accept these limitations and argue that it’s time to dispense with testable predictions in science. If a theory is “elegant” (in their view) and at least fits observation, it is de-facto true...." (... from http://www.wall.org/~aron/blog/will-the-real-god-god-please-stand-up/ ...).

            So much for reliable assumptions given that, perhaps, not all Faith-ing, or not all Assum-ing, can actually toe the line and still avoid logical absurdity as some seem to come upon the need to adopt an epistemic finally shaped by the illusory. Given, that is, physics-full-stop → also "known" as → Naturalism. That said, at least it’s a very Poetic Naturalism.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            All you have shown is that my belief in an objective world is an act of faith as you define faith.

            Well, as Plato, Aristotle, and a bunch of other folks defined faith (jn Greek, Latin, and other languages) long before the Moderns came along and mucked everything up.

            To have faith in something is to rely upon it. (The root meaning is the same as trust/truth.) I suspect that you don't merely "assume" the physical world exists, but rely upon it as a matter of fact.

            The binary classification into "assumptions" and "inferences" seems less supple than Aristotle's trinary classification into things known certainly by demonstration; probably by determination; or by faith in direct sense experience and/or trust in reliable witnesses. Where is there room for deductions alongside the inferences?

            I'm not sure why you object to Aristotle's classification. The only difference I can see is that fides implies that you really do accept the reality of the universe as a trustworthy fact whereas "assumption" seems to imply merely a convenience sec. arg. (I've seen many theorems in mathematics that begin "Assume X..." but they do not compel assent or even pretend to. That's why it seems a much weaker 'tude.)

          • long before the Moderns came along and mucked everything up.

            I will not worship at the altar of Ancient Wisdom.

          • Rob Abney

            Why would you discount wisdom based on the time it became known?
            My guess is because you don't trust those who have passed it on to us.

          • Why would you discount wisdom based on the time it became known?

            I am not discounting it on that basis. I am not discounting it at all. I am only refusing to grant it any privilege on the basis of time.

            My guess is because you don't trust those who have passed it on to us.

            Whether I trust a source has nothing to do with when they lived. Collectively, I don't trust modern thinkers any more, or any less, than I trust ancient thinkers.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That particular "mucked it up" comment from YOS has nothing to do with trusting or not trusting ancient wisdom. What got "mucked up" is the meaning of words. You can't evaluate the claim of an ancient thinker if you don't understand what the words meant, and how they were used in the context that the argument was being made. And in particular, since Catholicism is (relatively speaking) an "ancient" tradition, you can't evaluate and critique the core claims of Catholicism unless you understand the meaning of the words in those claims in the context of that still-ongoing-but-nonetheless-2000-years-old tradition.

            And for that matter, it's not just a problem of language. It's not just the fact our vocabularies have changed. To use Charles Taylor's terminology, it is more fundamentally our social imaginaries that have changed. Approximately: it's not just that we have just labeled the map differently, it's rather that core elements of the map (those elements that we take on board pre-reflectively, just by virtue of participating in a particular culture) themselves have changed.

            All that needs to be taken into account if we are going to talk carefully about things like "faith", "souls", "nature", etc. in the context of the Catholic tradition.

          • What got "mucked up" is the meaning of words.

            That is a manifestly pejorative comment. The meaning of words has evolved. That evolution has been going on for as long as humans have used language, and there is nothing privileged about the original meaning of any word. Ancient usage is in no sense more correct than modern usage. The only correct usage is whatever is mutually understood by everyone participating in a particular discussion, and that sometimes entails choosing an alternative word about whose meaning there is no disagreement.

            All that needs to be taken into account if we are going to talk carefully about things like "faith", "souls", "nature", etc. in the context of the Catholic tradition.

            If a Catholic tells me I should have faith in X, and I ask, "What do you mean by faith?" and they say "I mean trust," then we can discuss whether I should trust X. It won't be me who starts an argument about whether "trust" is the "true meaning" of the word "faith."

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It need not be understood as pejorative. If we no longer understand what they meant, then our ability to understand them has been "mucked up".

          • It need not be understood as pejorative.

            I'm under the impression that it is usually so intended. If YOS tells me he had no such intention, I'll apologize to him for my misunderstanding.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The meaning of words has evolved. That evolution has been going on for as long as humans have used language, and there is nothing privileged about the original meaning of any word.

            There is if you are going to discuss things people wrote using those original usages.

            In language, some evolutions are clearly mucked up. Linguistic changes that obscure important distinctions are undesirable; those that clarify are desirable. The medievals were well-known, perhaps even infamous, for making distinctions, sometimes to the point of tedium. But at least when they made a point, you knew exactly what the point was, where it was applicable and where not, whether you agreed with the reasoning or not.

            For example, in a panel discussion on intelligence, I heard the same panelist use the terms "intelligence," "sentience," "consciousness," et al. as if they meant the same thing.

            There is a good deal of truth to the idea that medieval philosophy simply never ends: there is one subtle distinction after another, one school-controversy after another, and by the time one gets to Gabriel Biel or John of St. Thomas it is not clear whether all the amassed distinctions involve precisions that people can actually see. There is a corresponding amount of truth in the idea that modern philosophy never begins, there is just one critique and condemnation of ones predecessors after another in an attempt to get the first things right; and by the time one gets to Heidegger we are declaring that philosophy can finally get started for the tenth time in two hundred years.
            -- James Chastek

          • there is nothing privileged about the original meaning of any word.

            There is if you are going to discuss things people wrote using those original usages.

            Everything I am attempting to discuss in this thread was written in the year 2017.

            Linguistic changes that obscure important distinctions are undesirable;

            And yet, people sufficiently skilled in the use of modern English always manage to make themselves clearly understood, provided only that they want to be clearly understood.

            The medievals were well-known, perhaps even infamous, for making distinctions, sometimes to the point of tedium.

            That may be to their credit, and I’ll keep it in mind the next time I’m talking with somebody about some Medieval writing.

            For example, in a panel discussion on intelligence, I heard the same panelist use the terms "intelligence," "sentience," "consciousness," et al. as if they meant the same thing.

            Maybe they did, to that panelist on that occasion. Context matters. In some contexts, any distinctions that could be made are irrelevant, and so in those contexts they do mean the same thing.

            There is a corresponding amount of truth in the idea that modern philosophy never begins, there is just one critique and condemnation of ones predecessors after another in an attempt to get the first things right; and by the time one gets to Heidegger we are declaring that philosophy can finally get started for the tenth time in two hundred years.

            The only philosophy I’m defending here is my own, and I’m not going to infer that my defense fails just because you find it inadequate.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Or at the altar of Modern Wisdom? But we're not talking about wisdom, only understanding. It's just a matter of understanding what people meant when they wrote what they did. When Jane Austen wrote that Darcy was noble in fact as well as word, "fact" meant "deed, act." When Chaucer mentioned whales and walruses as fish, the word fysche meant anything that swam.

            In the present instance, these ancient and medieval usages are important because they have continued in use to the present day in theology.

          • It's just a matter of understanding what people meant when they wrote what they did.

            In this venue, the only people I'm trying to understand are people living and writing in the year 2017.

            these ancient and medieval usages are important because they have continued in use to the present day in theology.

            I was not aware that the subject of this discussion was theology. I thought it was epistemology.

          • Marty

            Good summary!

          • Not at all. Call it brain patterns, but more accurately we should say the mental experience of an active brain.

            "That these patterns represent the world is something that we accept on an idealist basis." No, why would that be? If Idealism were true we would have no ability to trust our mental experience of reality either, in fact, by being an idealist we would assume that our mental impression of reality was false. It appears to be a material world but cannot be since material does not exist.

            On materialism, we believe that we have this mental experience because stimulus is affecting the neurology and causing this mental image. There is no contradiction here. You may not accept it, you may even have a better explanation, but it is coherent and it isn't a nightmare. Actually if basically just says the world is generally as it appears intuitively to be.

          • You're all over the illusory map:

            Actually it [non-theism's approach] basically just says the world is generally as it appears intuitively to be.

            ...and then you contradict yourself with...

            ...it [theism's approach] suffers from the same problem that all cosmological arguments do. It applies intuitions about causation from our daily lives cannot be applied to other contexts. I reject this....

            ...and also....

            ...Sure if you follow a material causation back in time it stops making sense. Because time space and causation stop making sense....

            Messy. You're doing the best you can with what the concept of "Brute Fact" forces on you as it removes not just "our ability to reach the explanatory but in fact the entire category of explanation as the fundamental first-principle of the self-explanatory is expunged. Enter "brute fact" in the search box at Feser's blog.

            BTW, only in Trinity will you find the reference frame of Self-Reference holding lucidity throughout, though that's off topic from the topic of Non-Theism's epistemic.

            As your quotes show us, your upstream ontology is completely divorced from your downstream epistemology. In fact, even this and that slice of your epistemic is completely divorced from other, neighboring slices of your epistemic.

            The nature of the problem being addressed by Bonnette is not that it stops making sense down the line and forces absurdity down the line. Everyone already knows that. In fact Non-Theists have progressed in their thinking vis-à-vis that fact and are finally catching up to what the Christian’s metaphysic has always affirmed.

            The focus of Bonnette's essay is that "that" isn't the real problem and, you seem to be missing that point of Bonnette's. The focus is, instead, that right HERE and right NOW IS absurd given your concession on the breakdown which happens downstream. You are in fact now demonstrating the essay's point yet again by suggesting that you are intellectually justified in your embrace of the irrational. And let’s be careful to note that irrational does not mean stupid, but, rather, it means irrational. There's a difference.

          • There is no contradiction in what I said. If you think mm ther is you will have to point out which facts asserted by me are in conflict.

            I am not at all asserting or dealing with brute facts.

            I'm afraid I just can't follow your point here. I don't think I have suggested any embrace of the irrational.

          • You say of your own "IT" that "IT" is reliable in that the world is as it intuitively appears to be, and, also, you say of that same "IT" that "IT" breaks down further downstream as the reality which we intuitively affirm in fact fails to hold up on its own.

          • I am sorry, but what is this "IT" you are talking about?

            If you are talking about the problem of solipsism or our ability to trust our senses, I have never said there there is a solution or that we can trust our senses. This thread specifically states this:

            "Because of the problem of sollopsism we do not know, or indeed have any reason to believe, that we have eyes, light, and so on. Even if it were true that these things exist as we perceive them, because of the problem of induction, we have no reason to believe that our image in our brain is a result of the light hitting our eyes etc."

            I have been very clear that my acceptance of trusting the senses is not justifiable, other than I see no alternative. It would be literally paralyzing otherwise.

            What you seem to mean by "down stream" is the Big Bang singularity. Yes, we once we accept as fact that our senses are generally accurate, and that induction works, we can make all kinds of inferences, we can infer all the way down to the Big Bang singularity at which point all of the laws of physics and even causality break down. We cannot say anything about this state of affairs. So even on the assumption of our senses being accurate, and induction working, we can currently get no further than this.

          • ....my acceptance of trusting the senses is not justifiable, other than I see no alternative....

            Think it through and be careful.

            You are saying that you have no alternative but to embrace the breakdown to absurdity on *all* fronts. In case you're tempted: surely you can see ... as in see... that there is no possibility there of "holding a little bit back for "me" right "here".

            You're choosing. You have an alternative and that alternative is reason itself. Of course that would, by necessity, force far too many doors wide open.

            In essence and in premise you are lumping reason in with nature in that we *know* that arrangements of elementary particles different than our current "physics" can and do exist exactly because the present arrangement testifies, blatantly, of its own inability to self-account and in fact forces the breakdown you spoke of, akin to S. Carroll's sort of "useful but not true" poetry.

            Your premise seems to be that "that" breakdown is the concern or the point or the terminus of the problem, as if "that" carries reason over the edge with it, as if "that" carries reason into the absurdity which "physics-full-stop" forces with it, into the very breakdown you (...and Carroll etc...) acknowledge, poetically or otherwise.

            You'll have to justify that premise.

            Yet you can't because you've in fact gotten everything exactly backwards in that the very break point or fracture line you're going on about here leaves reason standing, waiting, arms folded, ready to move on, ready to get busy traversing the next "IT", whatever that may be.

          • I never said I embrace anything, much less absurdity.

            I do embrace reason.

            I have not lumped in reason with "what we know"

            I don't claim to have any accounting for fundamental particles.

            If by "that" breakdown you mean the Big Bang singularity, it is not my premise, it is a function of the Big Bang theory. It is well established in Physics. I can get you sources if you don't accept it.

            I'm afraid I don't see any actual challenge to anything I've said. Rather you seem to think that because the Big Bang theory leads to a singularity that I am being absurd.

            Keep in mind that neither I nor physics are saying that in a singularity everything breaks down. It's more that our physics cannot work. So there is something wrong with our physics or a different physics applies. Maybe some ordered state of affairs or perhaps something else. We just don't know nor is there any plausible way of knowing or guessing.

          • Recall that the Christian is happy to grant you all knowledge of all physical systems. The problem Non-Theism faces remains. The argument keeps getting stuck inside of just one more physical system if we are not careful to remain clear. The status of "not knowing" isn't the problem. The problem is the fate of reason. That is why I noted above that the nominalism with respect to the Self which Carroll rightly embraces is an open embrace *not* of reason's mere subservience in some sort of partnership, but of reason's concrete annihilation.

            ANY metaphysic which finally trades away reason itself, leaving her expunged by the concrete furniture of reality, eventually gets to S. Carroll's stopping point. It's not physics that suffers the fate. It's reason. Reason Itself does not exist in ANY Non-Theistic metaphysic. That is one of the reasons I respect Carroll's honesty. He moves past all the hedges and gets to the point.

            Only in the Christian's metaphysic of Infinite Consciousness in and of the Divine Mind do we find that the concrete furniture of reality is in fact Necessary and Sufficient to precede, fill, and outdistance all else.

          • Again you keep asserting that Sean Carol has anihilated reason, but made no attempt to demonstrate this. So I can't really comment on whether he has or not. You don't seem to believe I have abandoned reason or embraced this nominalism of the self, whatever that is.

            I see no problem identified by you with respect to non-theism and I don't know what argument is supposed to be getting stuck.

            You keep on about metaphysics that trade away reason, but neither theism nor naturalism do this, so why keep saying it?

            Reason certainly does exist in naturalism, which is a non theistic metaphysic.

            I would say that Christian metaphysics, and naturalism are rational positions. I don't know what you mean by concrete furniture of reality or why you think this is only explainable by an infinite consciousness.

            I'm afraid I'm going to have to cut it off soon.

          • I can't think of any reasons, other than intuition. But that is fair, I guess. Wait oh yes no alternative. Yes that's a reason.

            That is very Poetic. We see similar attempts to somehow connect the epistemic content of “I’m intellectually justified” to the epistemic content of “…it’s useful but not true…” from so many of our Non-Theist friends. Sean Carroll's Poetic Naturalism embraces an absurd nominalism where the I/Self/Perceiver is concerned despite the end of reason → that choice is made not because Reason is not available as the only alternative terminus, but because his collection of various a priori premises demand that choice of him. See http://disq.us/p/1l2dbxd

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Otherwise, other than my senses, what other means do I have to assess this question of whether there is an apple there?

      First, just to hopefully clarify what you are saying, in a way that I don't think you will disagree with (but, of course, tell me if you do) :

      [As the OP also acknowledges, in line with Aristotle, etc.], sense experience is your only entry point to knowledge. But to be clear, one builds on that sense experience with critical reflection, using reason to determine whether particular sensations (e.g. your sensation of the apple) cohere with our globally integrated understanding of all information received through the senses. E.g. if you also determine (through your senses, of course) that someone nearby is playing with an apple hologram projector, that might prompt a rational critique of whether the apple that you detected is in fact real. In other words, critical realism, and not just naive realism, is called for. We can get a lot of bang for our buck if we assume, not only that our senses are mostly reliable, but also that the world rationally coheres. What the roots of our experience take in from the soil of reality is transformed into something more through the sunlight of rational reflection and critique.

      With that qualification out of the way, I would address your "what other means" question this way: in addition to your primary experiences of the material relatively-easily-to-quantify world, you also have primary experiences of very-difficult-to-meaningfully-quantify things like alienation, longing, belonging, freedom, love, etc. I would say that these experiences are also entry points to knowledge.

      Now, one may assume, as a matter of dogma, that the very-difficult-to-meaningfully-quantify things are ultimately explicable in terms of the relatively-easily-to-quantify things, with the latter assumed to be more "fundamental" (to use the word that I think Sean Carroll uses). That, as I understand it, is basically the assumption of materialism (in any case it is an assumption in what Sean Carroll calls "poetic naturalism"). That assumption doesn't seem completely crazy to me, but I just don't see what justifies it, either epistemically or pragmatically. What is the "value added" of the materialist assumption? Why would I assume that it is only my sense experience of the physical world (i.e. the relatively-easy-to-quantify world) that provides an entry point to knowledge? Isn't it more reasonable to assume that my primary very-difficult-to-meaningfully-quantify experiences of the world also provide an entry point to knowledge, perhaps -- just possibly -- a type of knowledge that is even more "fundamental"? (Albeit the latter types of experience must also always be subject to critical reflection, in the same way that my experiences of the physical world must be subject to critical reflection.)

      • No, I wasn't saying the only way to knowledge is through the senses. The question is clear, I don't know how to rephrase it any better.

        The issue I'm getting at is to show that the OP is trying to provide a method to justify trusting the senses, rather than saying the soul is spiritual radar.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I could be wrong, but I don't think the OP is attempting to do what you think it is attempting to do: it is not trying to provide a positive justification for trusting sense experience. It is saying that one metaphysical system makes it possible to speak of knowledge of the external world without speaking total nonsense, and another metaphysical system does not. Neither of those systems necessarily provides any justification for trusting sense experience, but one system at least makes that trust be not nonsensical and irrational.

          If the "I" that I refer to when I say, "I see an apple", is purely material, then -- as far as we can tell based on our current science -- that "I" must be physically sequestered behind the terminus of sensation. But if "I" is physically localized in that way, then knowledge of the external world is not possible. I'm not totally comfortable that that argument is correct, but I believe that is the argument.

          On the other hand, if the "I" that I refer to when I say, "I see an apple" is not merely material, then within this less restrictive metaphysics there is at least the possibility of speaking meaningfully of knowledge of the external world. At least in this case we are not immediately contradicting a fundamental premise of our metaphysical system.

          • "If the "I" that I refer to when I say, "I see an apple", is purely
            material, then -- as far as we can tell based on our current science --
            that "I" must be physically sequestered behind the terminus of
            sensation"

            Not so much the "I" isn't physically sequestered or behind anything it IS the material.

            "But if "I" is physically localized in that way, then knowledge of the external world is not possible."

            Why not? Why can't the epistemology run as it seems to? The apple is there, light reflects to an eye, that sends a signal to a nervous system. That nervous system is the observer? There is no contradiction.

            I still don't know what "fundamental premise" is being contradicted. Can you state it expressly?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            The fundamental premise (according to the understanding of metaphysical naturalism advanced in the OP) is that "only entities empirically verifiable by natural science exist".

            If one adopts that stance, and if one further believes that the "I" is entirely physically localizable, then the statement "the apple is there, light reflects to an eye, etc" becomes a statement about non-existent entities (because the "I", so understood, can't empirically verify anything; there is an unbridgeable gap between subject and object; it doesn't work to say that that gap is bridged by some connecting causal chain, because the localized "I" can't empirically verify the causal chain, so the causal chain itself -- on this understanding the "I" and on this ontology -- does not exist). Empirical verification only becomes possible if the "I" is not (entirely) physically localizable.

          • If we have to verify those causal chains, repeatedly, intersubjectively, I guess it's resort to pragmatism in the very same way that we're forced to put aside solipsism. And from a naturalist materialist perspective we appear to all be in the same situation.

            What guarantees the immaterial soul's reliability anyway? I've yet to meet a theist who doesn't have some recourse to skeptical theism(or "mysterious ways") buried in their web of beliefs. That technically undercuts any belief one has about souls, God, or a God's motives. God could cause you to believe something untrue for reasons you can never know

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If -- for all practical purposes, at least -- we put aside solipsism, then we have already -- for all practical purposes, at least -- affirmed the existence of things that we can't empirically verify, and so we have disavowed any metaphysics that says that "only entities empirically verifiable by natural science exist".

            I didn't say (or imply) anything about the "reliability of the immaterial soul", nor did the OP, so I'm not sure what you are getting at there. In that, and in your remaining comments, I think you are perhaps projecting some views onto me that I don't necessarily have.

            That said, it would probably be fair to call me a "mysterian". To quote Noam Chomsky (in an essay very relevant to this discussion!) :

            The “new mysterianism,” I believe, is misnamed. It should be called “truism”

          • I think the term "empirically verifiable" has always included those caveats and limitations, at least since Kant and Hume.

            So instead of

            "only entities empirically verifiable by natural science exist".

            It's more like:

            We give the highest probability to the existence of entities that are repeatedly and intersubjectively testable, given our reliance on our limited physical senses and limited brains.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think that is sort of moving in the right direction ... but do you mean "tested" in the sense of controlled experiments? I ask because you have already advanced to the stage of believing in the existence, not just of external objects, but also of external subjects (otherwise you would not have access to intersubjective corroboration), and I'm assuming you don't detect subjectivity by controlled experimentation. Could we refine your criteria in such a way that it would allow us to give high probability to the existence of other subjects whom we (at least partially) trust? (We will need to at least partially trust those other subjects if we are going to rely on intersubjective criteria).

          • That sounds right. We're not obligated to have a complete metaphysics and epistemology before we do anything. In reality we learn, refine, and revise and confidence in provisional results change over time. I think like all of us, I believed in external reality and other minds before I tried to justify those beliefs.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Exactly. That's why "common sense" should be the bedrock of our metaphysics, and not the other way around. Metaphysical reflection should elaborate, critique, revise, and extend the deliverances of common sense, but we shouldn't put the cart before the horse.

            So, there you go: as noted in the OP, you begin by knowing that you know things about the external world. That should be a bedrock assumption, one that should not be dislodged by a later metaphysical preference. So, if one sees a contradiction between materialism and the fact that we know that we know things about the external world, it is the former belief that should be jettisoned, not the latter.

          • Common sense fails all the time! Our monkey brains are subject to countless biases, our senses so easily vulnerable to illusion.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hence the need for rational critique. (Including critique based on scientific investigation).

            "Common sense" is probably not really the term I want to use, because that kind of means something like "folklore of the hoi polloi".

            What I mean to refer to are the set of beliefs that "everyone starts out with". As you said: the belief that the external world exists, that we know something about it, that other minds exist, etc. I'm not sure how best to refer to that "common core", but hopefully I've conveyed what I mean.

          • I get that, but I think those traits evolved long before the ability to reflect on them. It was evolutionary useful to be able to construct fairly accurate mental maps of the world around us, and to detect agency in others.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I believe that as well, but that is a deliverance of science, and everything I know based on science is grounded in those more fundamental assumptions: that I know that I know something about the external world, etc. It doesn't make sense for science to dislodge that assumption, because science is grounded in that assumption. The belief that I know something about the external world is far more secure than any particular scientifically-based belief. Whatever fragilizes the former, fragilizes the latter even more.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            at least since Kant and Hume

            It was precisely Kant's philosophy that concluded that the human mind did not have knowledge of external objects but only of the mind's impressions. This is what Dr. Bonnette has shown to be incompatible with empiricism.

            We give the highest probability to the existence of entities that are repeatedly and intersubjectively testable

            Well, there go all the social sciences out the window.

            BTW, what's a "probability"? Is it repeatedly and intersubjectively testable? (Hint: Probability does not exist unconditionally. It is always conditional on some assumed model.)

          • It was precisely Kant's philosophy that concluded that the human mind did not have knowledge of external objects but only of the mind's impressions.

            That's why I mentioned it, any definition of "empircal" I would use already includes that fact.

          • It was precisely Kant's philosophy that concluded that the human mind did not have knowledge of external objects but only of the mind's impressions. This is what Dr. Bonnette has shown to be incompatible with empiricism.

            Empiricism assumes that in ordinary circumstances the mind's impressions are approximately accurate in their depiction of external objects. That establishes compatibility.

          • Rudy R

            I didn't say (or imply) anything about the "reliability of the immaterial soul", nor did the OP

            I beg to differ about you assuming the OP didn't imply an immaterial soul as a reliable defeater.

            His words:

            If the above analysis demonstrates that materialism necessarily entails a self-defeating epistemology, then materialism must be false and some form of dualism must be true. That is, reality must include some non-material entities as well as material ones.

            He then introduces one of the co-principles of dualism: the soul.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Where does he talk about the reliability of these immaterial entities? Where does his argument depend on any such reliability?

            ETA: in other words, the argument is simply that something immaterial must exist, not that that something must be in any sense reliable.

          • Rudy R

            Where does he talk about the reliability of these immaterial entities?

            "Our immediate experience of external reality shows that the living soul enables the whole organism to do things that exceed the capacities of a purely physical nervous system alone." Reliability of the soul is implied.

            Where does his argument depend on any such reliability?

            It doesn't; he offers it.

            (Edited)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            The argument implies that immaterial entities must exist. It also sort of implies that those immaterial entities are what has classically been called "souls". (Although, it is really just putting that forward as a particular scheme that is compatible with the existence of immaterial entities).

            If the argument somehow implies that those immaterial entities / souls are reliable, I'm afraid I'm not seeing it.

            Are you distinguishing between capability and reliability? I am (possibly, with very low probability) capable of getting a hit off of Chris Sale. I would not, however, be a reliable hitter against him.

            The argument makes it clear that something like a soul must have the capability of knowing the external world. This sub-thread started with Jimmy S.M. asking me what guaranteed the soul's reliability.

          • Rudy R

            If the argument somehow implies that those immaterial entities / souls are reliable, I'm afraid I'm not seeing it.

            "The final defense of naturalism is to insist that, though paradoxical, there is simply no alternative to scientific materialism and its acceptance of the validity of sensation.

            But there is."

            Dr. Bonnett then proffers Aristotle's co-principles (matter and form) as the alternative. Is not the soul implied as a reliable epistemological method as a means to understanding reality?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            No, it is not. It seems that you are getting the argument exactly backwards.

            He doesn't argue that the existence of our souls implies that we have knowledge of the external world.

            His argument is the converse: the fact that we know that we know something about external world implies that we must have souls (or something like souls).

          • Rudy R

            Dr. Bonnett should actually weigh in, but the argument you present is actually a weaker argument than the one I think is implied. The fact we know something about the external world does not necessarily imply we must have souls, as is, the way a frog would know something about the external world would not necessarily imply the frog must have a soul. What differentiates humans from frogs, is that humans have the capability to build models that represent how the world works and frogs, presumably don't.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            a weaker argument

            Weaker? Or just less ambitious in its objectives? Per his initial clarification: "my sole intention was to prove that the philosophical position of scientific materialism [as defined in the OP] entails a flawed epistemology".

            Re: frogs. The type of conceptual knowledge that he is talking about is distinguished from perceptual "knowledge" in the OP: "Human beings ... know not only of their own act of sensing but also are reflexively aware of the personal self which is having this experience of external objects." To put it in your terms, human knowledge includes a conceptual model of the knowing self.

          • Ok, I do not agree with the premise that "only entities empirically verifiable by natural science exist" Nor do I think that is a fair representation of metaphysical naturalism.

            Metaphysical naturalism would say only "natural" entities exists, in other words there is nothing "supernatural" or non-natural. There are not two distinct categories. Metaphysical naturalism would take no position on epistemology. This is a metaphysical worldview.

            Empiricism is an epistemological tool, it is not a metaphysical worldview. It states that we can gain knowledge by way of observation. It does not preclude other epistemological tools, such as abstract reasoning, or indeed some sort of supernatural revelation, it just states these are not empirical.

            Methodological naturalism is an epistemological approach that science adopts. It says, we will restrict ourselves to natural explanations and not entertain supernatural hypotheses. It does not rule out the supernatural, as does metaphysical naturalism, it just excludes it from consideration, for, I would hope obvious reasons.

            None of these takes the position in the premise you outline, as all can accept that there could be entities that are unverifiable by empirical means. Metaphysical naturalism would say "such entities must be natural", empiricism would say "if such entities exist we could not find them by empirical means" and Methodological Naturalism would say "if such entities exists they must be natural for us to find them by way of Methodological Naturalism"

            What you are describing would better be labeled Metaphysical Empiricism, which, I think is a straw man.

            You say "there is an unbridgeable gap between subject and object;" why? The material causal chain is the the bridge.

            You further say "the localized "I" can't empirically verify the causal chain, so the
            causal chain itself -- on this understanding the "I" and on this
            ontology -- does not exist)."

            Not at all, the "I" does exist, it IS the material localized self, and it verifies things empirically all the time by way of material causation and observation. Am I missing something?

            You may not adopt this, or agree with it, but there is no contradiction.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, I thought we were dealing with the terms of debate set up by the OP. If you think those terms of debate are not right, then that's the issue you want to take up, and I probably don't have any quarrel with you on that point.

            Metaphysical naturalism would say only "natural" entities exists, in other words there is nothing "supernatural" or non-natural. There are not two distinct categories.

            Well, if that's the case, then some very important theists are in fact metaphysical naturalists. E.g. N.T. Wright (bold emphasis mine) :

            The very word ‘miracle’ itself, and for that matter the words ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’, are in fact symptomatic of a very different range of possible worldviews from those which were open to Galilean villagers at the time. The evangelists use terms like paradoxa, things one would not normally exxpect; dunameis,, displays of power or authority; terata or semeia, signs or portents. The closest we come to ‘miracle’ is the single occurrence of thaumasia, ‘marvels’, in Matthew 21.15. These words do not carry, as the English word ‘miracle’ has sometimes done, overtones of invasion from another world, or outer space. They indicate, rather, that something has happened, within what we would call the ‘natural’ world , which is not what would have been anticipated, and which seems to provide evidence for the active presence of an authority, a power, at work, not invading the created order as an alien force, but rather enabling it to be more truly itself.’

            https://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/n-t-wright-on-miracles/

            and elsewhere:

            It is now widely believed by would-be Christian apologists that part of the task is to defend something called ‘the supernatural’, in which a normally distant divinity invades the ‘natural’ world to perform ‘miracles’ or even, in the Christian story, to become human. But this merely reinscribes and perpetuates the Epicureanism which still serves as the framework for the discussion. ... Rather, I want to insist that to understand the first Christians we must understand the radical difference between the ancient Jewish worldview and the ancient Epicurean worldview (remembering not least that one of the sharpest insults a Rabbi could offer to heretics was to call them apikorsim, Epicureans). In the ancient Jewish worldview, the one God was not removed from the world, but was mysteriously present and active within it, at least in theory, so that if he remained absent, as in the second-Temple period, there was precisely a sense of that absence.

            http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/imagining-the-kingdom/

            As Steve Dillon just pointed out in a separate comment, it all comes down to what one means by "natural". People spend so much time focusing on this issue of whether the "supernatural" exists, and no one even knows what the word means! Since the Enlightenment the terms "natural" and "supernatural" have come to have different meanings than they had for most of the history of Christianity.

          • "Well, if that's the case, then some very important theists are in fact metaphysical naturalists."

            Indeed, this seems to be showing a conflict in their views. If God is just part of the natural world, why call him "God"?

            I agree it comes down to what we call "natural". I don't really know what supernatural means when theists use it either. I use it, in this context, to refer to imaginary powers, usually in fiction, magic, superpowers, powers of deities.

            I think we might actually not be in disagreement.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I hope this doesn't seem like splitting hairs, but I don't think a theist could reasonably say that God is "part of" the natural world. In order to be God in anything like the classical sense, God has to transcend the natural world, and infinitely so. But to an incarnationally-oriented theist, God's presence is in the natural world (to put a finer point on it, God is in all things in the natural world). Incarnationally-oriented / Trinitarian theism is, if not a form of panentheism (not pantheism!), something very close to it.

            why call him "God"?

            Well for starters, we don't have to. We can speak of "being itself", or "unconditioned reality", or "the mystery that underlies all things", or "the deepest level of reality" ... there are, of course, many ways of naming God.

            But if one wants to reap the spiritual harvest of human history, if one wants to tap into the reservoir of experiences and reflections that have guided our forebears, it helps to be conversant in the ways that they referred to this mystery. And in the Anglophone tradition, they used the word "God" quite a bit.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I should add also that for a kenotic God (such as Christians believe to have been revealed in Jesus Christ), God is continually emptying his own freedom into creation, to such an extent that created beings exist as distinct from God. This doesn't mean that there is God on one ("supernatural") side and created ("natural") stuff on the other. It just means that we aren't all subsumed in the identity of God. This is perhaps a distinction from what is normally meant by panentheism.

          • Jim, if I may briefly chime in... God transcending the natural world does not seem to be compatible with any definition of "naturalism" I'm aware of. Pantheism though might be, in some forms.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hi Michael. Well, that could be. But I suspect that's because "nature" is usually defined either vacuously, i.e. defined only by supposedly contrasting with the "supernatural" while leaving the latter unspecified, or else it is defined in such a way that "naturalism" (the belief that nature is all that there is) is patently false (e.g. if nature is defined as consisting only of those entities that can be verified by the methods of natural science, then naturalism clearly fails, as the OP shows).

            I was responding specifically to Brian's criteria for naturalism that "there are not two distinct categories". I am saying that in the broader Christian tradition (or at least in its roots), there is also not a distinct category of the "supernatural" (there is a categorical distinction between Creator and Creation, but that's a whole different dimension of separation). In the tradition that N.T. Wright refers to in the quotes I provided above, the natural / supernatural distinction is not used to distinguish two distinct categories of reality. It is rather used to distinguish what is ordinary and therefore not conveying any fresh semantic value ("nature") versus what is is surprising and semantically rich (paradoxa, dunameis, simea, none of those being especially well translated by "supernatural" as most people now understand that word). The divide between what is ordinary on the one hand, and what is surprising and semantically rich on the other, is a porous, permeable, vague divide. It it not a divide between two distinct categories. So, in that sense, the classically "supernatural" fits comfortably with at least that aspect of Brian's "naturalism".

            As I mentioned parenthetically above, a theist does have to maintain that there is a categorical distinction between Creator and Creation, but that's another ball of wax. The Creator manifests himself in both natural (ordinary) and supernatural (extraordinary) ways.

          • Yes, this can be problematic. However "supernatural" often is defined by something that lies "beyond nature" in some senses, and cannot be explained by natural laws, which your definition of God seems to clearly fall under. Granted, it all depends on the definitions.

            From what I understand, at least for some miracles are distinguished by being acts of primary causation from God. I.e. not having been done by any intermediary natural laws. Thus the supernatural.

            I do realize that there are many views about what constitutes a miracle however. Certainly the idea of a Christian naturalism is familiar to me and seems possible. I personally hesitate to use the term naturalism in part due to difficulties such as these.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yes, there is this idea of miracles not being mediated by the laws of secondary causality, but the question is how that Scholastic primary causality / secondary causality distinction maps to contemporary notions of what is "natural".

            I am told (e.g. by Brian Green Adams, among others) that "naturalists" don't necessarily define "nature" as consisting only of entities that are verifiable through natural science. I assume it is also the case that such naturalists (very reasonably) allow that there might also be "natural laws" that are not verifiable by the methods of natural science, even in principle (due to the physical and cognitive constraints that we humans have to deal with). So, how does this category of not-knowable-through-science-but-still-natural laws map to the Scholastic primary causality / secondary causality distinction?

            I can't offer an authoritative answer to my own question, but I can offer a somewhat-informed guess: I think that when we speak of not-knowable-through-science-but-still-natural laws, we are referring to something very similar to what Scholastics might have called "the divine order", or the "the supernatural order". Divine acts unmediated by secondary causality were not understood as ad hoc contradictions of the natural order - they were instead understood as God acting according to His higher-level order, one that added to, but was not in conflict with, the lower level order. In other words, what appears, from a "lower viewpoint" to be law-like behavior plus ad-hoc exceptions, could be seen from a higher viewpoint (God's viewpoint) as a completely orderly manifestation of God's will, without any ad-hoc exceptions. (We could quibble about whether all order is necessarily law-like; musical accidentals are ordered to the structure of musical compositions, but they are not law-like in the sense of being predictable based on the rest of the song). So anyway, that Scholastic idea of God acting without the benefit of secondary causality sounds an awful lot to me like not-knowable-through-science-but-still-natural laws. Hence I am not sure that God acting without the benefit of secondary causality is really properly understood as something "outside of nature" in the sense that Brian and others use that phrase.

          • Interesting thoughts. However, it seems impossible to ever distinguish some unknown natural laws that God uses from unknown natural laws of a godless universe.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Who would need to make that distinction? The non-theist has no need to distinguish because s/he has already concluded that there is no God, and so the allegedly "supernatural" phenomena in question cannot be God's self-revelation. The theist has no need to distinguish either because s/he has already concluded that every phenomenon (whether natural or supernatural), is ultimately revelatory of God, and so the particular phenomena in question must also be viewed as at least the indirect self-revelation of God.

          • I guess I'm thinking more of the undecided.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yeah, fair enough. With regard to those who are undecided, I agree: I don't see how objective evidence about a putatively miraculous event could sway such a person one way or the other.

            Certainly, the subjective experience of a transcendent event -- being enmeshed in it oneself -- could be persuasive. But a cool rational analysis "from the outside", not so much, I would think. Surprising evidence can easily be accommodated in both theistic and non-theistic worldviews.

          • Ah, well so much for the argument from miracles then. I guess that God would be argued for on other bases, if any.

            How do you think this would work in practice? If say walking on water isn't a supernatural event, just an unknown natural phenomenon, was it one set up from the beginning such that only Jesus and perhaps a select few others could do this?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the argument from miracles. Truth be told, I don't get very excited about any so-called "proofs" of God, although I find that some of Aquinas' five ways make for fun intellectual diversions.

            As to your question: if, by "set up from the beginning", you are referring to a deist-concocted scenario where God just set up the initial conditions and the laws and then let everything run on auto-pilot according to an impersonal determinist logic, then no, I don't believe that. The determinism that I believe in is a personal determinism, where agents (us and God at least, maybe throw in some angels too for good measure) have the freedom to make consequential decisions in real time. Or to say it another way, I believe that God's ongoing act of creation (and our ongoing act of co-creation with God) is "live music".

            I think that God's will is a sufficient explanation for Jesus walking on water in the same sense that your intention to lift your arm is a sufficient explanation for why your arm "defies gravity" (*) and goes up in the air. It's not that you violate any of the laws of physics when you lift your arm; what you intend is achieved through the laws of physics. But your intent is the causal explanation. Ceteris paribus, if you had not intended to raise your arm, it would have stayed down by your side.

            ETA: (*) just to be mind-numbingly clear for the broader audience, I mean this tongue and cheek: my point is precisely that, in that act of arm-raising, the laws of gravity are not, in fact, "defied".

          • I see. Then if I might ask you, is there any rational basis for belief in God? Or is it by faith alone?

            I wasn't thinking about that specifically, but whether the law preexisted before the miracle (or whatever we want to call it). If it didn't this seems little different from the usual view of God altering something for this purpose.

            I think the problem would be that so far as we know walking on water is impossible according to the laws of physics, unlike raising your arms.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Oh sure, of course I think there is a rational basis for belief in God.

            But it's like this: suppose I have a really cool random dot stereogram , and I want you to have the experience of having that intelligible "3D" pattern jump out at you. Maybe you have a lot of trouble getting your eyes to "unfocus" in order to see the image. At that point I could try to prove to you, algorithmically, that that arrangement of dots is inconsistent with unintelligible random scatter. The Shannon Information Index is too low, or whatever. That's a long, complicated argument. It's an interesting argument in its own right, and it's a correct argument ... but the problem is, even if I succeed in convincing you by way of that argument, you still haven't had the 3D experience of the image.

            So, my strongest interest is in inviting people (rather than logically coercing them) to look at the image in different ways, perhaps helping them clear away some conceptual or psychological roadblocks that make it difficult for them to perceive the image, but mostly just saying, "you might try looking at it this way...". I like this approach for two reasons: 1. For most people (not all), the experiential route is a "short cut" relative to the algorithmic proof (and I'm lazy and I like short cuts), and 2. as mentioned previously, I don't merely want to get people to the point of intellectual assent: I want to share an experience with them.

            For those reasons, I naturally incline away from philosophical approaches. But as you know, most of the clientele here incline toward philosophical approaches, so I do my meager best to play in that swimming pool as well.

            Which law of physics is it that prevents people from walking on water?

          • Interesting. So just looking at things from different angles? It may be a better approach in some cases. Argumentation may perhaps be overly confrontational at times.

            I like philosophical approaches, but hopefully both can be combined. Seeing things in different ways can come from philosophy with me.

            I don't know whether there is just one. Our weight is too great though (except when it's frozen, obviously).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Our weight is too great

            OK, so, gravity. But in the arm-raising example, we already acknowledged that the effects of gravity can be offset by a physiological manifestation of our intent.

            In the walking on water example, we don't have a proposed mechanism (like the electrochemistry of our physiology) through which God might be offsetting the effects of gravity. However, we are working under the assumption that there there are such things as not-knowable-by-science-but-still-natural laws. So, God could be manifesting his intent through "natural" (whatever that means) laws that are both unknown and unknowable to us. There is no reason to think that natural laws would have to be violated.

          • Well, the force of gravity is not so great that you can't life your arms (while on Earth anyway). That is not the case for walking on water.

            Sure, could be. We might also propose that telekinesis exists so some people have an ability to counteract gravity in this or other ways. However, back to my question: would this natural law be something that had existed from the beginning with the others, or not? I mean, just a guess.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm always happy to guess!

            I mean, if we're calling it a "natural law", the "law" in there already implies a sort of permanent, unbreakable pattern. So, can I rephrase your question as:

            Do you think the phenomenon represented a (potentially still natural) singularity in space time, or do you think it was a manifestation of some latent potentiality that is always there (and which therefore could be described in terms of mathematics by a sufficiently intelligent being)?

            If that's the question ... well obviously I don't know ... but generally speaking I view the life of Jesus and the associated Gospel event as a sort of singularity in the history of the universe. I think God meant to call attention to that moment by doing things that only happen at a rate of once-per-universe.

            Does that answer your question?

          • I think so. This doesn't seem too different from a view like Hume's that "a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature", except we can substitute "violation" with "interruption". I don't really go for the "laws" terminology anyway. "Principles" may be a better word to use. I see these as regularities rather than necessities. So assuming we knew someone could walk on water, our understanding has to be updated then. As you say, unknown natural phenomena can exist (and most likely do). It's descriptive, not prescriptive. There is a good article on the philosophy of this:
            http://www.iep.utm.edu/lawofnat/

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Interruption ... eh ... OK, I can live with that. But only in the same way that James Brown's grunts "interrupted" his songs. I mean, they weren't necessarily expected based on the "regularities" in rest of the song, but they fit in the song. They elevated the song. They didn't work against the "regularities". That kind of interruption.

          • Well, that may not be the best way to put it. "Out of the ordinary" or "unexpected" perhaps. They don't undo the regularities. In fact we need regularities for recognizing something unusual like that.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Exactly. "Out of the ordinary", or "extra-ordinary", or ... "super-natural" :-)

          • Oh no, not supernatural again. I know, semantics.

    • Even if it were true that these things exist as we perceive them, because of the problem of induction, we have no reason to believe that our image in our brain is a result of the light hitting our eyes etc.

      We can't prove it with deductive certainty. That doesn't mean we have no reason to believe it, unless you're claiming that nothing except deductive certainty counts as a reason to believe something.

      I think it is also fair to say that the reason empiricists adopt empiricism, is because we have no alternative.

      Having no alternative looks like a pretty good reason to me.

  • There are many assumptions here. First is that naturalism entails materialism. That is not the case-there are naturalist idealists and dualists. Second that it requires a strict empiricism. Third, that assuming this, the only thing that we "know" is our own perception, not thing as they truly are. Fourth, that an Aristotelian soul would lend this knowledge to us. I don't find any of these assumptions to be well established in the article.

  • Steven Dillon

    Graham Oppy addresses many of these concerns in his "The Best Argument Against God", where he maintains that all a naturalist is committed to is the belief that Nature is all there is -- whether "Nature" turns out to include things such as immaterial minds or not. At best, it seems to be, what this argument should do is convince naturalists that Nature includes immaterial objects or properties; but, not that naturalism is false. After all, the Aristotelian will hold that forms are naturally occurring (although Thomists will say the rational form must be created ex nihilo). What one would have to show to someone like Oppy is that we should posit something more than Nature. Of course, one can complain that "Nature" is ill-defined, but as he points out, this is a problem for both naturalists and theists: they both believe in Nature, the theist just posits something else, and the naturalist sees no need to take that extra step. I'm no fan of naturalism, but it seems to me that the reach of this post's argument exceeds its grasp.

    • Well said. Since you mention creation Ex Nihilo, are you familiar with Felipe Leon's work on this subject?

      I found the interview below very interesting, as it seems to be a defeater for some apologetics on some theologies. I am not sure in the interview that it is fully explained, but it kind of blew my mind.

      https://realatheology.wordpress.com/2017/07/02/ra012-interview-felipe-leon-on-ex-nihilo-creation/

      • I have listened to that interview 4 times, agree it's mind blowing

      • Steven Dillon

        I've never heard of him, but thanks for the link! I'll give it a listen. The doctrine of creatio ex nihilo strikes me as deeply confused, and entirely unnecessary in light of the doctrine of emanationism worked out by the Platonists.

      • Steven Dillon

        Ah, I don't think his argument is really aimed at "classical" theism. That is, those who work in the classical tradition will not, I don't think, feel Leon's argument is relevant to their views.

        On the one hand, when explaining what his material causal principle means, he says the idea is basically that you can only get new stuff from old stuff. But, on "classical" theism, creatio ex nihilo doesn't involve creating "new" stuff: God is categorically distinguished from everything else, such that creation does not involve the bringing about of additional stuff, but the bringing about of stuff full stop.

        On the other hand, when justifying his material causal principle, he treats the creative act like an "action" of a type that we experience. So he appeals to our experiences of causality like a representative sample by which to understand how any causal act -- including the putative creative act -- should work. But, on "classical" theism, a distinction is drawn between primary causation and secondary causation, where the latter encompasses the horizontal chains of causes that we engage in and experience whereas the former involves a vertical causation whereby the secondary chains are made to be whatever they are and enabled to do whatever they do. The creative act is understood to be an act of primary causation, and so while the causality we experience would resemble it, it would not be reasonable to attribute to the creative act properties of secondary causal acts.

        Unfortunately, I think his many other arguments and points discussed are not really relevant to "classical" theism, for similar reasons. But, he's an analytic philosopher and is engaging with the forms of theism -- sometimes called "classical" -- that are best represented by his peers, so I can't fault him. I think his argument is certainly insightful and poses severe challenges for non-classical theism.

        • "But, on "classical" theism, creation ex nihilo doesn't involve creating "new" stuff:"

          If it isn't creating new stuff, why call it "creation"? If that which is created is not new, how can it be ex nihilo?

          "The creative act is understood to be an act of primary causation, and so
          while the causality we experience would resemble it, it would not be
          reasonable to attribute to the creative act properties of secondary
          causal acts."

          This is where I was wondering if he had properly laid it out. But I think they do address this move. You seem to be saying that Classical Theistic creation is categorically different, we cannot rely on our induction from daily life in terms of causation and apply it to the creation of the universe (something I also agree with). Therefore, the intuition of the story of a man saying "I made this log cabin out of nothing" being absurd, is misplaced if the man is God and the cabin is the Universe.

          But, saying the category here is Classical Theistic creation, is begging the question. This presumes theistic creation, which is the conclusion. Really the category is the origin of the Universe. And you can still make the move that the origin of the Universe (or maybe the non-God world) is in its own category, but then you cannot rely on our intuition that something cannot come out of nothing, therefore the universe must have a cause. This intuition comes from our everyday experience too. Indeed, all of our intuitions do. This seems to defeat the Cosmological Argument.

          Doesn't it?

          • Steven Dillon

            Creation would be the bringing about of stuff as such rather than the bringing about of "new" stuff: ex nihilo just means that God creates *everything* rather than one thing out of another.

            As far as whether it is begging the question to categorically distinguish the creative act from causal acts that we experience, one need not assume the creative act in order to speculate about what it would have to be like if it were real.

            The thing is, because the creative act would cause *everything*, it could not, by definition, involve making one thing out of another: rather than rearranging blocks into new shapes, it would cause the blocks themselves to exist, as well as the shapes they configure into and whatever makes them do so, etc. A categorical distinction is thus just a consequence of what a truly creative act would have to be, whether or not it's real: causing all of being and its categories and constituents just would be, almost as a truism, "ex nihilo."

          • But this creative act cannot cause everything, if there is some kind of deity responsible for the creative act it cannot be both cause and effect? Even on classical theism the universe is created intentionally by an agent isn't it?

            But if you say yes something can be a cause and effect, why can't the universe? It would seem if you make this move you can no longer say that the universe needs a cause for its existence.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But if you say yes something can be a cause and effect, why can't the universe?

            Nothing can cause itself.

            The relevant argument regarding causation is precisely that the hierarchy of caused essential causes cannot regress indefinitely since then nothing would exist. Therefore, there must be an uncaused cause. This is not an entity that has caused itself. It is one that simply exists. Since the uncaused cause is also the unchanged changer and the "universe" is in constant change, it does not fit the job description.

          • Sure so why can't the universe just exist?

          • flan man

            It can, but Thomism is a game of special pleading where certain "things" are called "things" that have "thing-ness" that demands a "cause" and this one other "thing" isn't a "thing" that demands a "cause" and yet we will keep referring to this "thing" as "He" and "It" and "God" while always maintaining this "thing" isn't actually a "thing". The relevant wordplay is God doesn't exist, he IS existence. This won't stop anybody from talking about God like he exists and does stuff, though.

            It's kind of like a card a trick. On one side of the card it reads, "UNCAUSED CAUSE, UNKNOWABLE MYSTERY, PURE ACT" and on the other it says, "YAHWEH, JESUS". Either side can be displayed depending on the need at the moment.

          • Yeah.

          • why can't the universe just exist

            One can claim the universe just exists but then you inherit yet one more proof of Dr. Bonnette's premise with respect to deflationary truth values at, not one or two, but every level of reality, perception and all, as the self-explanatory is in fact forfeited and with it the whole category of explanation (...the gift which Brute Fact grants to those who embrace it...). Further, you've not been accounting for the principle of proportionate causality in how you've been treating / defining the creative act.

          • I don't understand this. Can you dumb it down for me?

            I'm not claiming the universe just exists. I'm asking why I can't.

          • Why *can* it always exist?

            Exactly what always exists? Time? Quarks? Sean Carroll's syntax of Poetic Naturalism starts out strong and useful and gently fades into the illusory. If you don't disagree with his epistemological terminus then what is "universe" when you are asking about the "universe" and what do you mean by "always"?

            1. There is no good reason to believe quarks, or time, or the illusory, or whatever you mean by "universe" just inexplicably exists.

            2. There is no good reason to believe quarks, or time, or the illusory, or whatever you mean by "universe" is/are in fact self-explanatory.

            3. There is no good reason to embrace an epistemological terminus of brute fact.

            Yes, the opposite claims need to be justified too, sure. But let's leave all of those water tight logical reductions to the side. Let's just stay with "Why can't it always exist?" Let's just grant you that it can. And has.

            Would you then, there, be satisfied?

          • flan man

            1. There is no good reason to believe quarks, or time, or the illusory, or whatever you mean by "universe" just inexplicably exists.

            There is no good reason to believe that it doesn't either.

          • The grant was an honest one.... If we grant that it can, and has, are you then, there, satisfied? It seems you are satisfied with that conclusion. Which is fine. A past eternal universe doesn't solve the problem facing Non-Theism, but, so it goes. And besides, since it seems?? that you didn't define the illusory and come up with a reason why the illusory is real, and why the illusory can go on existing past-eternal and forward forever, well, again, that's fine. It doesn't solve the problem facing Non-Theism, but, so it goes.

          • I think you've made an error here assuming I am making some claim about the nature or origin of the cosmos or something. That isn't the case. This discussion began about a premise often used by theists that the universe or cosmos was created by a God out of nothing. Because it couldn't come out of nothing on its own. It is this latter premise we are discussing and what basis could support it.

            I have no position on the ultimate origin of anything or their explanations. I think we lose the ability to understand what we are talking about as you identify.

            Terms like always, things, and "exist" lose any useful meaning in this context.

            I don't know if we can ever gain enough ability to reach conclusions on ultimate origins but I can say that the premise is not supported.

            Yes, I would actually be satisfied with an admission that we cannot say whether the universe has always existed.

          • I was simply directing your attention to the inverse of your question, namely, to ask, "How can X have always existed?" Start with X and start following the bread crumbs, as it were. The other half of the reply only mentioned that a past eternal universe does not relieve the Non-Theist's paradigm of the problem at hand. Interestingly, the Non-Theist Alex Vilenkin states the universe began to exist, based on the evidence. He also seems to then make some epistemological bad-dream-ish sort of moves with respect to coming into being from nothing, as discussed at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/vilenkin-on-the-universes-coming-into-being-without-a-cause I find it easier to just grant the past eternal universe and note that the nature of becoming is, by accepting said grant, not solved for Non-Theism.

          • But there is just no need to take a position on ultimate origins of the the universe or cosmos. And it is unreasonable to do so until we have some way to assess these questions. At present we don't even have any context to frame the question. We are worse than people trying to guess the shape of an ice sculpture from a puddle.

            Sure if you follow a marterial causation back in time it stops making sense. Because time space and causation stop making sense. I could say, "well there is some material way of existing that I don't know about or understand that accounts for it" but you would rightly say that this is mere vague unwarranted speculation.

            But the theists or immaterialus fares no better by saying there is some non material explanation that is God. This also is vague unwarranted speculation.

            We have a mystery with the singularity here. We could use our intuitions about causation from the world we do understand. But this tells us that every caused thing has a material cause. You can reject that, because our everyday experience doesn't apply to ultimate origins. But when you do that you can no longer make any inferences about ultimate causation.

            Sure it's fair to say that the incident when time and space as we basically understand them is the beginning of this universe, but no physicist will tell you that science implies this was caused or that they can say anything about such a cause.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Interesting discussion. Someone might want to take a look at this: http://godandscience.org/evolution/creation_implies_god.html

          • Dr. Bonnette,

            See http://disq.us/p/1kxvxeu

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Hope you see this. I found one post where you gave me two or three links. Looked at one excellent long one, but could not get back to starting post and cannot find it again. Either you or I are lost inside this thread, like in the matrix! I hesitate to post my email on this thread, but would offer it to you if I dared. You can try sending me a message on my web page at drbonnette.com -- but I am not sure it is working. :(

          • Got it. I lumped a few of my latest comments together at http://disq.us/p/1l7j3f2 just fyi. Also have a link to your webpage on my webpage's links to resources/blogs etc. Thanks for the essay at SN and the enjoyable discussion with the always-insightful folks there. Very helpful :-}

          • flan man

            Nothing can cause itself.
            This is relying on causation within the universe as we know it. Once you begin talking "outside" the universe, whether it be a God that exists "outside time and space" or the origin of time and the universe, we can no longer rely on conditions being the same. We simply have no way of knowing what would be the same and what wouldn't.

            The "uncaused cause" is simply the universe itself. It simply exists, uncaused and uncreated. The universe is not in constant change. Or let us say it is unchanging in essence if not in substance. God, the Christian God, anyway, is not "unchanging" in any meaningful sense. But then the God of the Theologians is not the God of Abraham.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            the universe ... simply exists, uncaused and uncreated.

            The universe is not a thing, but a collection of things. Newton's absolute time and space do not exist. So one cause of the universe is the existence of all the galaxies, stars, planets, et al. that comprise it.

            The universe is not in constant change.

            At one time it consisted of a singularity or something much like one. It has expanded, and by all measure, is still expanding. The quark soup has become a photon soup and has "frozen" into the present configuration. Galaxies have formed, rotated, spawned Seyferts, collided, stars have condensed, imploded, fused hydrogen into helium, into lithium, supernovaed into heavier elements. Planets have congealed from the debris, whirled around stars. I mean, c'mon, dude. What do you mean by "not in constant change"?

          • Steven Dillon

            This is where the categorical distinction comes into play: the creator could not be a part of "everything", it would instead be that from which "everything" comes. It wouldn't even be among those things that exist, because existence itself would be but an imitation of it. This of course isn't to imply that it wouldn't be real, just to say that its reality would be what existence is only an imitation of.

          • Seriously? So when you at "everything" you mean "some things". and you seem to be saying god doesn't exist?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            If it isn't creating new stuff, why call it "creation"? If that which is created is not new, how can it be ex nihilo?

            Most of what we experience in nature is not "creation." Typically, it is just "moving matter around," iow: "transformation." That is, matter that had originally possessed one form is rearranged into another form. Thus A→B.

            In creation, otoh, there is no "left side" to the equation, so to speak. It is "joining an essence to an act of existence."

            We can make analogies in the sense that what an artist or a composer does can be called "creative," but even a novel, sonata, or painting will typically make use of tropes and motifs that already exist and simply arrange them in a new and pleasing manner.

            And of course the greatest art is to arrange things so that they unfold by themselves. Think about elaborate arrangements of dominoes set to topping, of fertilzed eggs and morphogenesis, and so on.
            +++
            The universe need not have a cause, since the universe is not a thing. It is a collection of things: presently comprising stars, planets, hydrogen, cosmic rays, and sundry other gimcrackery. Dark matter is hypothesized as an epicycle to correct for some problems in observation. And of course in the baby universe, many of these things had not yet come to be. What does demand causes are these individual things that have thinginess to them; that have, in the original sense "natures."

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Time for some clarifications:

    First, given the length restrictions of my article above, I had no intentions whatever of (1) giving an adequate defense of epistemological realism, (2) attacking all possible forms of naturalism, (3) proving the Aristotelian theory of hylemorphism, (4) proving the existence of God, or any of a number of other tangential issues that have appeared in the comments section.

    Second, my sole intention was to prove that the philosophical position of scientific materialism entails a flawed epistemology, since it begins by assuming that we know external objects, and yet, is forced, by its own premises, into concluding that we know only changes inside the brain. I realize that there are other forms of naturalism, which is why I said that metaphysical naturalism is “usually identified
    with scientific materialism.” While various semantic disputes easily arise in
    discussing this matter, what I intend to address is the ordinary, garden variety of materialism that besets a huge number of people today – especially those with a scientific background. It assumes that the physical world is all that exists, and that this world is built up of subatomic entities that become the “stuff” of present experience through eons of cosmic and biological evolution. Things above this “atomic” level do not possess substantial unity, and hence no formal causes are needed. All truth is determined by the methodology of natural science. If a conflict appears to arise, a pragmatic solution suffices.

    A careful reading of my piece above will show that my purpose is accomplished – that scientific materialism as conventionally understood begets an epistemology that entails a self-contradiction, which shows that its philosophical assumption of metaphysical materialism is flawed. The final recourse to pragmatic verification is also addressed therein.

    Third, if one really wants to deal with naturalism in its broadest signification, then the proofs for God’s existence become relevant. See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, book one, question two, article three, objection one, which essentially claims that all nature explains itself without need for God. All valid proofs for God’s
    existence must demonstrate that finite beings of any and all types need a
    transcendent, infinite First Cause for their adequate explanation.

    Incidentally, our direct knowledge of external sense objects is not merely an assumption, but an immediately given certitude of sense experience. Its proper epistemological defense is a treatise far exceeding the limits of the present topic.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Thanks for a nice post, Dr. B.

      One minor quibble:

      Since God is not empirically verifiable

      If one properly distinguishes between observability and empiric verifiability isn't God, in fact, empirically verifiable?

      To elaborate: scientific theories traffic in unobserved and unobservable quantities. For example, a theory might be stated in terms of the true speed of light, even while all we can ever directly observe are estimates of the true speed of light. I think most people would still say that such theories are empirically verifiable because they can be tested through observation, even while being stated in terms of quantities that are unobservable.

      Judea Pearl makes a similar point in this paper: hypothesized causal relationships are empirically testable, even though they make reference to (counterfactual) unobservable quantities.

      And similarly with unconditioned reality: we cannot directly observe unconditioned reality, but we can empirically verify its existence by noting that (conditioned) things exist. This data is consistent with the hypothesis that unconditioned reality exists, and is (arguably, of course) inconsistent with the hypothesis that no unconditioned reality exists. That is an empiric verification of the existence of an unobservable entity.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Thanks, Jim. You are quite right. God is empirically verifiable -- but not in the manner that scientific materialists will allow. They want some predictions based on God's existence that they can experimentally verify. Metaphysicians do not do it that way. They begin with empirically verifiable realities, such as the existence of things in motion. They then use metaphysically certain first principles, such as sufficient reason, to follow the necessary inferences from that empirical fact, so as to conclude to the existence of a First Cause of the starting data. They never actually leave the empirical order, since all reasoning is grounded in the empirically verified point of departure. Scientific materialists will never accept such a procedure because they are wedded to the methodology of natural science that demands predictive verification. They simply confuse the two distinct scientific orders, demanding that all science be reduced to natural science.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          use metaphysically certain first principles

          At some point (in another post, perhaps) I'd be interested to hear more about what you mean by this, and (in particular) the "immediate given certitude of sense experience".

          I understand that some assumptions have a "pay-to-play" status, in the sense that you either make such assumptions or you forego all ability to reason meaningfully about anything. However, even for assumptions in that category, it doesn't seem correct to claim certitude.

          Metaphysics aside, and just in terms of Christian anthropology, how can a human enmeshed in Original Sin have the confidence to claim absolute certainty about anything?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Try to lay hands on a copy of the book I list in end note 3 above. See pp. 306-313.

            Grace and sin, respectively, perfect and wound human nature. They do not destroy it. The intellect is made to know truth. Its function remains. But I am not a theologian and ought not elaborate further.

    • Rob Abney

      our direct knowledge of external sense objects is not merely an assumption, but an immediately given certitude of sense experience. Its proper epistemological defense is a treatise far exceeding the limits of the present topic.

      since this subject is beyond the scope of this article and combox discussion, where would you direct someone to read the arguments supporting it?
      Thanks for a fine article.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Try to lay hands on a copy of the book I list in end note 3 above. See pp. 306-313.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          C'mon now Dr. Bonnette, now you have both Rob Abney and me, both asking :-)

          If there are universally discoverable metaphysical certainties, then it seems odd that we should have to scour the rare books aisle and then thumb to page 306 in order to understand what makes them certain! Sincerely and respectfully, I appreciate that you offered the reference, and I'm sure it's a great exposition ... but how can something so certain require such a delicate and lengthy exposition?

          I accept that the intellect is made to know truth, and I accept that sin hasn't destroyed that capacity. But neither, it seems to me, has grace yet perfected it. I can know truth now, but only through a glass, dimly. Perfect, certain knowledge ... that sounds to me like the stuff of the beatific vision.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am really trying to stay out of this thread and allow commenters to exchange views. Besides, you are asking two very different things at once! Both questions are more complex than you realize. If I start explaining them, I will get a dozen more questions, especially from skeptics. That leaves me in the position either of getting stuck in a tar baby of endless answers, or giving the impression that I do not know what I am talking about.

            Benignus' book should be available in any good Catholic college library. If not, Amazon has it in PoD form for about $40. It used to be available used for maybe $15, but I don't see it lately. The book is a gem, if you are serious about Thomistic philosophy and the errors of naturalism. It gives the wisdom of the major early twentieth century Thomists, but all in one book -- except it omits ethics. You will see my review of it on Amazon books.

            You may be confusing certain knowledge with perfect knowledge. I am certain that 2 +2 = 4, but that does not give me perfect grasp of mathematics.

            I may at some later point do pieces on universal metaphysical first principles of being. Do not confuse them with the immediate certitude we have of an extramental object encountered in sense experience, for example, when you open your front door and find a lion attacking you.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I know that tar baby quite well! Fair enough, I totally understand. Thanks.

            (

            To be honest, I have to confess that I am not especially serious about Thomistic philosophy or errors in naturalism :-) I've had to become mildly conversant in philosophy in order to take part in conversations here, but generally speaking I find most philosophy just bores me to tears. (And I'm a statistician!)

            What I have come to appreciate is that Thomistic philosophy (or the modern derivatives of it, perhaps) seem to provide more intellectual space to understand and articulate the full range of my experience of being human. It provides a richer ontology than what my mama raised me with. That part of it interests me and excites me. But the whole business of proving whose metaphysics is right and whose is wrong ... I don't know, I find it hard to get excited about that.

            )

          • generally speaking I find most philosophy just bores me to tears.

            It does me, too, and I majored in it. Fortunately, nearly all my coursework covered the parts that, to me, are anything but boring.

    • not merely an assumption, but an immediately given certitude

      What's the difference?

      • Dennis Bonnette

        An assumption is literally something "taken up" without evidence. An immediately given certitude is "immediate" in that it is not proven from prior premises, but rather is its own evidence. Thus it is neither assumed nor proven. The only two things fitting this category are (1) self-evident first principles, such as non-contradiction, and (2) immediate objects of perception, whether internal (images or ideas) or external (the lion about to eat you). The latter two, although psychologically undoubtable, require further detailed epistemological analysis and explanation in order to be properly understood.

        • I have a problem with the concept of self-evidence, but in the present context, I don't think the time we could spend arguing about it would be well spent.

          • ...I have a problem with the concept of self-evidence...

            The self-evident permits a brief segue into the epistemology under review. The self-evident such as the I/Self/Perceiver is indeed, on any epistemic bracketed by Physics-Full-Stop, yet another venture in non-being, in the illusory, as in,

            …..we are collections of vibrating quantum fields held together in persistent patterns by feeding off of ambient free energy according to impersonal and uncaring laws of nature, and we are also human beings who make choices and care about what happens to ourselves and others…” (S. Carroll)

            Recall Carroll's realism and nominalism. The Self lands in the latter, not only with respect to the "me" but also regarding that "me" actually "doing" any will-ed anything. As for the "act" of "perceiving", that too finds trouble ahead.

            When it comes to Carroll’s causal paradigm, we find him describing http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2011/07/13/free-will-is-as-real-as-baseball/ free will to be as real as baseball, and in such moves he simultaneously seeks the fulfillment of three wishes:

            [1] To remain within the causally closed paradigm afforded by physics, the “real”, the fundamentally impersonal (terms which in fact “….refer to the fundamental furniture of the universe. At this level of discourse he is a realist…”).

            [2] To retain the intellectual right to employ terms of causality with respect to personal causation (the useful but not real, a “nominalist discussion about concepts, not a realist discussion of what is true about nature….” [and hence not true of human nature].

            [3] It's a bit blurry, but the third wish seems to fall along the lines of retaining the intellectual right to refute both emergentism and reductionism, forcing him into places between his realism and his nominalism. It’s real, but not really, and, it’s useful, but not true of reality’s fundamental nature, which ipso facto includes humanity’s fundamental nature, causally and otherwise.

            Many people disagree with S. Carroll and his epistemological (and explanatory) terminus in the illusory. Including S. Carroll himself. Just because someone foists that contradictions are not contradictory doesn't make it so. It's easy to be immune (or claim immunity) when you're all over the illusory map.

            More annihilation of the self-evident:

            [1] Does Logic Exist Outside of the Universe? http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-logic-exist-outside-of-the-universe

            [2] The Non-Theist’s Repudiation of Logic at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/atheistic-physicists-repudiation-of-logic-and-probability-theory

          • The only alternative is the irreducible vis-à-vis Reason Itself, or, as some say, the contours of the Divine Mind. Perhaps this:

            "I think solipsism is always an interesting topic because if we start "mid-stream" in our epistemology by rejecting solipsism (as I think most of us probably do), it is then interesting to try to infer what "upstream" structure of our thoughts must have led to this rejection. There is some hope that by swimming upstream in this manner we will discover certain "first principles" that lie unrecognized at the wellspring of our beliefs." (Jim (hillclimber))

            The Soul is *not* the terminus here for we too are contingent in our very being and, just as Being Itself brackets our very being, so too over inside the affairs of Reason Itself.

            And so on down the proverbial "ontic-line".

  • Still, you simply cannot prove that the senses are reliable by using them in order to prove that they are reliable

    I have to use reason to reason that I'm reasoning correctly.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Either that or you can have faith that you are mostly able to reason correctly, and then use your trusted-as-mostly-correct ability to reason to rationally critique your faith, and then iterate, again and again and again. Triangulating the truth, so to speak. Or, as JPII wrote: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth".

      • iterate, again and again and again. Triangulating the truth, so to speak

        Again, I think that is exactly what we do with our reason and senses(and both together!), contra OP

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I'm not sure that is contra the OP. I know Dr. Bonnette refers to some "metaphysical certainties" (not in the OP, but in the comments), and one doesn't iteratively revise one's certainties ... but I believe the "certainties" he is referring to are basically the preconditions for any iterative search for truth. They are meta-metaphysical truths, things that must be true on any metaphysics for it to be coherent and meaningful. Whether those propositions are "certain" or not, the point is that they are necessary: if you don't assent to them, your iterative process can't even get off the ground.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Metaphysical first principles, such as non-contradiction and sufficient reason, arise in universal certitude because they are based upon the intellect’s first encounter with “being.” They are not assumed, but immediately known to be true. Thus, the starting point of philosophical reasoning is not assumed at all, but is based on truths readily known and followed by every human being, even a child. These sorts of principles are used and presumed in every moment of judgment and discussion about the world. Even the act of denying them implicitly affirms them since, for example, every denial implicitly denies a simultaneous affirmation, and every assertion of denial is prepared to give a reason for its truth, or else, does not expect to be taken seriously.

            Fully to develop this topic, though, would require another entire article, or, perhaps, a full college course.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I am sorry. I skipped over this comment several times, not realizing that there could be real confusion being caused here.

      What I am describing in saying that the scientific materialists are trying to use the senses to prove their own reliability is not an attack on sensation itself. Materialists justify their own belief that the senses tell them about external objects by pointing to the great progress science has made based on that assumption as evinced by repeated successful experiments. My objection was that they had to use the same senses to judge that the experiments were successful – so that they were proving the validity of external sensation by means of judgments also based on external sensation. This process of reasoning is manifestly circular, and thus, invalid. My piece is an attack on the inconsistency of the materialist’s own claims about how sensation works. Everyone knows that inconsistency is a sign of error and falsity.

      This is not a matter of the senses judging the senses, since the senses do not judge at all. Senses are powers that enable a sentient organism to apprehend sensible objects. What is illicit is materialists using circular reasoning about the validity of sensation. This is a matter of reason judging another process of reasoning to be invalid.

      Yes, reason can and does judge itself. Judgment is the natural act of reason. In its ability to reflect on its own conformity to reality, reason judges itself. What should it do? Appeal to some further judgment outside of itself? Every argument on this thread is based on the pursuit of truth and exposure of error. Convincing another of one’s position entails getting him use his reason to see the truth about reality as you do yourself.

      It is natural for reason to judge reality or being itself, as well as to judge its own conformity or lack of conformity to reality or being. That is what it does. The fact that it does so is immediately evident when it is in the act of doing so. Thus, I do not know that one plus one equals two because you tell me so, but because I see the truth myself. I could memorize that one plus one equals three, but I would never understand it to be true, since it is not so.

      How does reason get this ability? I do not know, since to know how it gets it would be to know how to create such an intellective power, which is the prerogative of God, not man. Still, it is like tripping down the stairs two at a time. One can do it and know he is doing it. But if you try to understand how you do it at the same time you are doing it, you may wind up in the ER. Still, you know you are doing it successfully, even without knowing how you do it. So, too, the intellect knows true being by its very nature, even though it cannot explain how it came to be that way. Through intellectual reflection, the intellect knows that it itself is in conformity with true being.

      • pointing to the great progress science has made based on that assumption

        Far less is required to establish the broad reliability of the senses. We can start with everyday experience and success in navigating the world. You treat "the senses" a singular thing, but they can establish intersubjective reliability even among themselves, no other minds required. If I can touch what I can see and the inputs correspond. To argue both or more are being fooled simultaneously is far closer to arguing against solipsism or a Cartesian demon. Others here have claimed you're not doing that, but if you dispute this, you almost certainly are.

        It is natural for reason to judge reality or being itself, as well as to judge its own conformity or lack of conformity to reality or being. That is what it does

        How does reason get this ability? I do not know, since to know how it gets it would be to know how to create such an intellective power, which is the prerogative of God

        Ok so it's ok for reason to be circular. This is getting awfully close to Van Tillian presuppositionalism. But I agree, that is what reason evolved to do, although it often fails. Why does it ever fail if god created it? Sensing the external world. That is what the senses evolved to do, although they often fail. Under your senses+magic explanation, why are the senses ever fooled by illusions? The occasional failure of reason and senses is perfectly explicable on naturalism.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          You badly misunderstand the point of my article if you think I am challenging the reliability of the senses. I am not. Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy insists that the senses are reliable, unless there is a defect in either the medium or the sense organs themselves.

          What I am challenging is the illicit reasoning of naturalists in defending external sensation by means of evidence from external sensation – when the internal logic of their own claims about sensory science lead to concluding that sense knowledge is only of events inside the brain. Naturalists’
          reasoning is circular because they are assuming the validity of external sensation in order to prove external sensation. Please reread what the article actually says.

          Reason’s validity does not entail similar circular reasoning. I am not assuming the validity of reasoning in order to prove its validity. Its validity is not assumed at all, since it is self-evident. What is assumed is “taken up” without evidence, as in the case of the naturalist assuming the validity of external sensation when their own findings imply that all we know is objects internal to the brain.

          Reason is not assumed, but rather is its own evidence – since the intellect “sees” directly the truth it judges. In knowing that it conforms to reality, the intellect does not engage in circular reasoning, but rather in direct self-reflection, which does not entail a process of reasoning at all. It simply "sees" its conformity. Because it is a spiritual power, it can do what no material thing can do: it can reflect entirely on its own object and its own act by which it knows the object, and thereby simultaneously judge that its knowledge is in conformity with the object known.

          This is the same act by which you are judging whether my
          words are true or not. If you judge them untrue, it is because your mind sees that reality does not conform to them – which would imply that your mind does see the truth, which actually would be consistent with my position. All argument aims at finding the truth. The Intellect is a truth-seeking power which is quite able to judge its own correctness, that is, its own conformity to reality. Were this not the case, truth would be unattainable and we would not be arguing with any hope of finding it, or knowing it when it is found.

          By the way, “reason” did not “evolve” to do anything, since it could not be the product of any natural process of evolution. Reason is the human intellect, which, as a spiritual faculty of the soul, like the spiritual soul itself, could not be the product of unaided naturalistic (materialistic) causation. Mere matter cannot beget spirit. God alone has the power to create the human spiritual soul. This means that direct divine
          intervention was required in order to create the first true human being with the power to reason: Adam. See my article, entitled: “The Philosophical
          Impossibility of Darwinian Naturalistic Evolution,” linked at http://www.godandscience.org/evolution/philosophy_darwinian_evolution.html

          • You badly misunderstand the point of my article if you think I am challenging the reliability of the senses.

            You're saying the naturalist can't justify the reliability of the senses and I'm saying he can, to the degree we can justify anything. I'm disputing what I take to be one of the premises of your argument. You should really lay this argument out in syllogism if you want to go any further, so your premises and conclusion are explicitly stated.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am saying that the naturalist cannot logically justify his own position that the senses are reliable with respect to external sense objects, because he has already shot himself in the foot by describing the process of sensation in such a materialistic manner that its necessary inference is that he directly knows only neural patterns internal to his brain.

          • 1. The physical account of sensation is coherent, external stimuli can lead to internal mental models.
            2. It's logically possible that internal mental models correspond to a real world
            3. If those models are intersubjectively verified among the senses(I can see what I can touch) and lead us to successfully navigate the external world, it is rational to believe they are mostly accurate.
            4. Therefore, it is rational to believe ones internal model of the external world is mostly accurate.
            5. If ones internal model of the external world is mostly accurate, it is rational to believe an external world exists

            If the point of your argument is to dispute #5, all I can say is that I disagree for the reasons in #3

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I just found this two days later. Sorry.

            One problem is point 3. "If those models ... lead us to successfully navigate the external world."

            You have no way to verify this claim without direct observation of the external world. If the materialist causal chain leads to knowing only the interior neural states of the brain, such external verification is impossible.

          • I'm arguing that what you're calling "direct observation" is not necessary to be rationally justified in believing in an external world. And of course, I don't believe it's possible to have that kind of "direct observation"

          • BCE

            I think it can be a reach and maybe unnecessary to distinguish
            the body/mind and sensory perception from supernatural/spirit/soul
            for the "body and soul but truly one" .....the unity of soul and body so profound...are not two natures.
            If you say there is a spiritual intellect, and a material intellect and brain
            then you are defining man by dividing the human person into two natures
            The use of "material matter" (inheritable and the form/DNA) of the human person becomes "living" because of its soul; and the soul only separates at death.
            So materialism doesn't insult or diminish God.
            While matter( animal or human DNA and biologic process) can not create or modify a distinct spirit( by any process including evolution) if their matter(form) evolved, God would always breath into them( at their own particular conception) the spirit that conforms to the life in them.
            If there is evolution, you couldn't distinguish the formation of soul and body, because with life, both come to be in a unity as one nature.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            See end note 2 on the article. Most of what you comment here can be properly understood in terms of the Aristotelian theory of hylemorphism. Soul/form and body/matter are not two distinct substances, as in Cartesian metaphysics, but rather are two really distinct, but inseparable, co-principles of a single substance. The human spiritual soul is the substantial form of the body, but can exist independent of the body after death.

          • Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy insists that the senses are reliable, unless there is a defect in either the medium or the sense organs themselves.

            Optical illusions satisfy neither of those criteria. Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy falsified?

            http://docs.opencv.org/trunk/checkershadow_illusion4med.jpg

          • Dennis Bonnette

            An illusion is a distortion in the senses, having to do with the way in which the internal and external senses organize and interpret sense objects. Usually these appear in vision in the form of optical illuisions, distortions commonly shared by most people. The sense organs are, by definition, the organs of the senses. The sense powers necessarily use sense organs. Nothing mysterious here, nor a violation of the position held.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    [This is more of a reply to your "additional layer" comment, but Disqus shows that comment no longer active, so I'll post here.]

    I correlate a lot of your comments about "timeless reciprocity" with the idea of creatio continua. Once one treats the universe as "a given", something is lost. The sense of God's freedom is lost, because he's already given that gift, and we've taken ownership and that's that. The trick, it seems to me, is to realize that it's not "a given", but rather a "gift still being given". From that perspective one can make some sense of Privation. Why doesn't He just let us "take the gift" and be done with it? I think Neil Young answered that when he wrote, "Love is a rose but you better not pick it. Only grows when it's on the vine." Privation and dynamism are two sides of the same coin.

    • Jim

      My comment to Brian has stayed, however, both my comments to you have been present for over an hour (hence your replies etc.) and then one disappeared, and so I placed it again. An hour later the other comment was gone/deleted. So it seems an hour or so is all I get with you, though my reply to Brian is now five hours old and still here.

      Perhaps if I call you Brian instead :-}

  • (Edited to add: I posted this before discovering Bonnette's followup post below.)

    The truth value of all scientific statements depends strictly upon empirical verification.

    Not exactly. This should read: The truth value that we should assign to all scientific statements depends strictly upon empirical verification. We need empirical verification to justify believing a scientific statement, but the statement could actually be either true or false regardless of our justification for believing it.

    Yet, how do we know that we can trust our senses?

    That depends on the meaning of “know.” If only infallible knowledge can count as knowledge, then the answer is: We don’t know that we can trust our senses, and we don’t know anything else about the material universe, either. But under the conventional philosophical definition of knowledge as justified true belief, a merely hypothetical possibility that P is false is not sufficient to negate a claim that someone knows P.

    It should also be noted that no naturalist would claim “we can trust our senses” without qualification. The claim is that we can trust them under certain conditions that usually obtain in our normal lives. That is the claim that needs to be falsified by any anti-naturalism argument.

    The question is what exactly do we experience in vision: (1) the external object as it is at some distance from the eye, (2) the external object as it is presented to the end organ in the eye, (3) changes in the end organ itself, or (4) changes inside the brain which appear to terminate the visual sequence?

    Why not all of the above?

    Assuming that vision is a purely material process, this causal chain of events necessarily implies that what we know, in the last analysis, is not the external object, but rather changes in the occipital lobe deep inside the brain.

    Notice the shift from “what . . . we experience” to “what we know.” They’re closely related, but they aren’t the same thing.

    Yes, there is a sense, useful in certain contexts, in which our visual experiences are just whatever is going on in certain regions of our brains. But the claim that such an experience is nothing more than that is to engage in what Daniel Dennett has called greedy reductionism. That is not naturalism. That is eliminative materialism, which lots of us naturalists reject.

    The immanent logic of scientific materialism forces the conclusion that what we actually know by empirical verification is not the external world at all, but some sort of presumed image or neural representation of it inside our heads.

    OK, the author did say, “Metaphysical naturalism [is] usually identified with scientific materialism,” and it is true that most metaphysical naturalists are also materialists; but, an argument against materialism is not ipso facto an argument against naturalism. In particular, an argument against eliminative materialism, which this statement represents, is not an argument against naturalism.

    Empirical verification presupposes epistemological realism . . . . Yet, when we trace the optics and physiology of the sense of sight, we find ourselves entrapped in epistemological idealism

    An epistemological idealist would probably make just that argument. As an epistemological realist, I reject it, and here’s why. Our sense of sight—whatever it is that we directly experience when we experience vision—is explained by optics and physiology, but that explanation is not the sum total of the knowledge we can obtain from that experience. Given the explanation, we can go on to make some justified inferences about whatever phenomena outside of our minds could be causing the experience. That is exactly what we all do, usually without giving it much if any analytical thought (i.e. subconsciously), before we learn anything about optics or neurophysiology.

    naturalists tell us that modern science has discovered myriad ways in which the brain adjusts, fixes, completes, smooths, and modifies the incoming neural data so as to make the subjective sensation potentially quite different in content and meaning from that which the “raw data” of the external senses provide.

    Should I infer that the author himself doesn’t actually know what science has to say about all that? Why else must he rely on what “naturalists tell us” about what science says about it?

    I happen to know something, from reading actual scientific literature, about modern discoveries of how the brain processes incoming neural data. None of it justifies any general skepticism about the reliability of our sensory experiences.

    Yet, empirical observation using senses or instruments presupposes the validity of epistemological realism.

    Yes, it does . . . and therefore, what? Every worldview has its presuppositions. Some are justified and some are not, but lack of justification has to be demonstrated, not just alleged.

    Still, you simply cannot prove that the senses are reliable by using them in order to prove that they are reliable.

    No, but you can prove the consistency of a worldview that presupposes their reliability.

    This naturalistic “map” itself must be wrong, since it leads to a subjective idealism that contradicts its own starting point: epistemological realism.

    There is no contradiction just because one anti-naturalist says there is a contradiction.

    Naturalism entails assuming the philosophy of materialism.

    No, it doesn’t. There is a correlation, but not an entailment. Besides, if materialism is an entailment, then it cannot also be an assumption.

    First, we must notice that all knowers start in the exact same place – prior to any scientific methodology. We all start with the same direct experience of the world, known through the senses – naturalist and Aristotelian philosopher alike.

    OK, I’ll stipulate that.

    The immediate experience of sentient beings is of an external world of real things.

    Agreed.

    Human beings, possessing the spiritual power of intellect, know not only of their own act of sensing but also are reflexively aware of the personal self which is having this experience of external objects.

    I cannot agree that our intellect is a spiritual power. As a naturalist, I don’t believe in spiritual anythings. This is blatant question-begging against naturalism.

    But yes, we do, all of us, experience something that we call self-awareness.

    If the above analysis demonstrates that materialism necessarily entails a self-defeating epistemology, then materialism must be false and some form of dualism must be true.

    Sure: If A, then B. But A has not been demonstrated.

    Aristotle maintains that co-principles (matter and form) compose physical substances. In living things, form is called the soul.

    Aristotle’s maintaining it doesn’t make it so, but my argument is not that he’s wrong. My argument is that I have seen no good reason to think he is right.

    the naturalist might object that sensation ends in the interior of the brain, making such direct knowledge of external reality impossible.

    Not this naturalist. To the contrary, I maintain that our knowledge of external reality is as direct as it needs to be.

    the naturalist claims to know an external physical cosmos billions of light years in extent, and yet, his materialism forces the conclusion that he cannot know the external physical world at all

    My non-eliminative materialism forces no such conclusion.

    • James Chilton

      A very well reasoned set of objections to Professor Bonnett's thesis, but I still don't understand what position a non-eliminative materialist takes on the mind-body problem.

      • but I still don't understand what position a non-eliminative materialist takes on the mind-body problem.

        I’m not sure there is a consensus, but many of us agree with Dennett that the problem doesn’t really exist. The mind is just what we call certain things that the brain does, especially but not only those things that we happen to be aware of.

      • A very well reasoned set of objections to Professor Bonnett's thesis, but I still don't understand what position a non-eliminative materialist takes on the mind-body problem.

        I could have sworn I posted a response to this, but I don’t see it now. Either the Disqus software ate it, or my memory is playing games with me.

        From reading other materialists, I’d say most of them don’t think there really is a problem. The body, including the brain, does what it does according to natural law, and the mind happens as a result. It’s what we call those activities of the brain of which we happen to be aware (and some of which we’re not aware), and that awareness of self is just one of those activities.

        The alleged problem is that we have no good answer to the question: How does this happen? And of course, any unanswered question is a problem. We don’t deny the problem in that sense. What we deny is that our present inability to answer it is a special problem for materialism—special in the sense that it constitutes a falsification of materialism. Arguments that a materialist worldview is and forever will be incapable of answering it are, in our judgment, unpersuasive.

        • James Chilton

          Okay, the material brain does what it does, and an immaterial mind happens as a result. It's still a mysterious "happening", and though you seem confident it will eventually be explained without recourse to metaphysical speculation, I am not so sure.

          • though you seem confident it will eventually be explained without recourse to metaphysical speculation, I am not so sure.

            You seem to have given my position its due consideration, and I can ask no more. I think your reservations are not unreasonable.

    • I'm not sure you've even begun to get past the thin layer of topsoil http://disq.us/p/1kxtmqi up there in the surface.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Your post is nearly two-thirds the length of my original article. I don’t intend to respond in such detail.

      Once one wades through all the elaborate semantic objections you offer of my wording in the article, the bottom line appears to be that you consider yourself simply not to be the kind of materialist I was writing about – which is, as I noted in a post below, “the ordinary, garden variety” of materialist.

      You call yourself a “non-eliminative materialist.” Well and good, whatever that is, I shall happily stipulate that I was not writing about you. That is, unless your form of materialism happens still to fall into the epistemological nightmare that I was writing about.

      In fact, you appear to agree with me – except that you deny that I am writing about you. You cite my piece:

      “Assuming that vision is a purely material process, this causal chain of events necessarily implies that what we know, in the last analysis, is not the external object, but rather changes in the occipital lobe deep inside the brain.”

      You object, “But the claim that such an experience is nothing more than that is to engage in what Daniel Dennett has called greedy reductionism. That is not naturalism. That is eliminative materialism, which lots of us naturalists reject.”

      Okay, well, what you call “eliminative materialism” sounds a lot like the “scientific materialism” that my piece, according to your own words, correctly attacks.

      When I say that scientific materialism leads to knowing only neural representations inside out heads, you again appear to agree with me:

      “…it is true that most metaphysical naturalists are also materialists; but, an argument against materialism is not ipso facto an argument against naturalism. In particular, an argument against eliminative materialism, which this statement represents, is not an argument against naturalism.”

      Now you admit "that most metaphysical naturalists are also materialists."

      You are making the point that not all naturalists are scientific materialists. Well and good. I presume this means that naturalism, as you understand it, primarily affirms a natural world without any spiritual entities or God. But that is simply not what I was talking about, as I am sure you realize by now.

      In affirming your own position in favor of epistemological realism, you say, “I happen to know something, from reading actual scientific literature, about modern discoveries of how the brain processes incoming neural data. None of it justifies any general skepticism about the reliability of our sensory experiences.”

      I could not agree more. Some commenters here keep suspecting that I am not myself an epistemological realist. But I am. In any act of human knowing, the most common direct object known is sensed objects external to the self.

      In fact, you agree with me that, “prior to any scientific methodology,” we all start with the same direct experience of the world” and that “the immediate experience of sentient beings is of an external world of real things.”

      After making clear that you reject the non-material principles of Aristotelian philosophy because you are a naturalist (no great surprise), you once again distinguish yourself from my position, wherein I say that naturalists would claim that “sensation ends in the interior of the brain.” You demur, “Not this naturalist. To the contrary, I maintain that our knowledge of external reality is as direct as it needs to be.”

      I must say that, from the way in which you dance around exactly what is known in sensation and how your “non-eliminative naturalism” somehow avoids the logic of my article, I remain unsure exactly what your position really is – except that you are certain that you do not believe in any “spiritual anythings.”

      I think the best critique of my article above should be that I am not a genius, posing some truly original thinking about the epistemological problems of scientific materialism.

      Ye Olde Statistician made the point very well several days ago:

      “The OP was a critique of materialist premises, demonstrating that sensory knowledge of external objects is ultimately incompatible with materialist metaphysics. This critique of Kantian philosophy is neither new nor especially controversial.”

      • You call yourself a “non-eliminative materialist.” Well and good, whatever that is, I shall happily stipulate that I was not writing about you.

        You were writing about naturalism. I’m a naturalist.

        what you call “eliminative materialism” sounds a lot like the “scientific materialism” that my piece, according to your own words, correctly attacks.

        I thought your piece was attacking naturalism by claiming that it entails eliminative materialism, i.e. that one could not, with logical consistency, be a naturalist without also being an eliminative materialist.

        I presume this means that naturalism, as you understand it, primarily affirms a natural world without any spiritual entities or God. But that is simply not what I was talking about, as I am sure you realize by now.

        With apologies, I have not realized it yet. Perhaps your article should have been differently titled, but seeing “Naturalism’s Epistemological Nightmare” led me to read it with the expectation that its purpose was to discredit any affirmation of “a natural world without any spiritual entities or God.”

        I must say that, from the way in which you dance around exactly what is known in sensation and how your “non-eliminative naturalism” somehow avoids the logic of my article, I remain unsure exactly what your position really is – except that you are certain that you do not believe in any “spiritual anythings.”

        My position is that you have not demonstrated that materialism per se implies the “epistemological nightmare” that your article talks about.

        I am not as widely read in the philosophical literature as I would like to be, but I thought I should by now have encountered “scientific materialism” as a term of the epistemological art. I had not, so I did a brief Google search, which turned up two usages. In a Scientific American article, it seems from context to refer to the kind of materialism characteristic of the scientific method and to be more or less synonymous with methodological naturalism. In the half-dozen or so other articles at the top of the list, the usage is not clearly (if at all) defined but is manifestly pejorative, referring to whatever kind of materialism the writer thinks is embraced by us naturalists, who are obviously the writers’ primary targets.

        I think the best critique of my article above should be that I am not a genius, posing some truly original thinking about the epistemological problems of scientific materialism.

        I have seen similar arguments, though not this particular formulation, before now; but in this venue, I don’t think the originality of your argument is especially relevant.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Doug, could you elaborate a bit on what "non-eliminative naturalism" means to you? Others who identify as naturalists here seem to be in the same camp as you. I gather, from what you have said so far, that this stance doesn't disavow the reality of things just because they are beyond the reach of natural science. Sounds good to me. But "non-eliminative materialism" must eliminate something (otherwise, why delineate it as a form of "naturalism"?). What does it eliminate? What is considered to be outside the confines of "nature"? Or do you just kind of know it when you see it?

          Or, to ask in another way: if you don't understand the word "nature" to refer to that which is (in principle) discoverable by natural science, then what do you take to be the meaning of the word?

          • could you elaborate a bit on what "non-eliminative naturalism" means to you?

            It means nothing to me. It’s Bonnette’s phrase, not mine. So far as I’m aware, there is no such thing as eliminative naturalism, and so there is no kind of naturalism that is not eliminative.

            But "non-eliminative materialism" must eliminate something (otherwise, why delineate it as a form of "naturalism"?). What does it eliminate?

            Wikipedia’s article on the subject is pretty good. It begins thus:

            Eliminative materialism (also called eliminativism) is the claim that people's common-sense understanding of the mind (or folk psychology) is false and that certain classes of mental states that most people believe in do not exist.[1] It is a materialist position in the philosophy of mind. Some supporters of eliminativism argue that no coherent neural basis will be found for many everyday psychological concepts such as belief or desire, since they are poorly defined. Rather, they argue that psychological concepts of behaviour and experience should be judged by how well they reduce to the biological level.[2] Other versions entail the non-existence of conscious mental states such as pain and visual perceptions.[3]

            I consider this an example of what Dennett calls greedy reductionism. I am a reductionist. I believe that our mental states do reduce to neurophysiological states, but that doesn’t mean that our mental states don’t exist. We do experience them, and our experiences are as real as anything else.

            What is considered to be outside the confines of "nature"?

            The answer will depend on which naturalist you’re talking with. The usual response seems to boil down to: whatever is beyond the reach of scientific inquiry. My inner philosopher has never been entirely comfortable with that identity, notwithstanding that it looks like a good one. In many particular instances, it seems to beg the question of just what are the limits to scientific inquiry and whether those limits, whatever they are, are coterminous with the limits to our epistemic capabilities.

            I’ll try to illustrate what I mean. If nothing else, naturalism, whatever it is, denies the existence of the supernatural, whatever that is. So, what about miracles? According to some Christian apologists, they’re actually natural, because God uses natural law to make them happen, and therefore we naturalists cannot object to the possibility of their occurrence. After all, we naturalist do admit, because must admit, that science has not yet achieved a complete understanding of natural laws. We’re not yet in a position to prove that miracles, if they actually happen, constitute violations of natural law.

            Another example, not necessarily encumbered with any religious baggage, would be certain psychic phenomena such as out-of-body experiences. Most naturalists think that if they are real, there can’t be a naturalistic for them, but why, exactly? Just what puts them beyond the scope not just of current science but of any possible future science?

            My own interpretation of naturalism was inspired by an essay on this very issue written, I’m pretty sure, by Richard Carrier. I read it somewhere on the Web a few years ago but cannot now relocate it. Whatever, having given credit where probably due, I can say I agree with it. Whatever else it might mean, naturalism affirms the nonexistence of any disembodied mind, which certainly includes God by just about any theist’s definition. It thus also denies the occurrence of any event or other phenomenon for which the explanation must posit the existence of spirits, angels, or other disembodied intelligent agents. I think this is consistent with the more conventional usage because, it seems to me, there is no way that either current science or any conceivable future science will be able to accommodate disembodied minds. If they exist, then they are supernatural. For just about anything else, I’ll say there must be a natural, i.e. scientific, explanation.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Sorry, I meant to ask you about "non-eliminative materialism", the position you put forward as your own.

            I read the WP article on eliminative materialism, but I wanted to know what non-eliminative materialism entails. In declaring yourself to be a non-eliminative materialist, are you thereby saying that you are a reductionist, but not a greedy reductionist? Just how greedy are you? (A silly way of asking a sincere question.) If you aver that mental processes reduce to electrochemical interactions, then it seems to me that you eliminate the mind as an entity with irreducible causal power (such that when you then say that your intent caused something, you really just mean "intent" / "mind" as a short-hand for the interaction of all those molecules). That is eliminating mind from your fundamental ontology, so you do eliminate some things. I'm trying to figure out how you decide what to eliminate.

            The answer will depend on which naturalist you’re talking with.

            Ooh, this one's easy! I'm talking to you! :-)

            If nothing else, naturalism, whatever it is, denies the existence of the supernatural, whatever that is.

            This not at all obvious to me, at least not if we are understanding the word "supernatural" in its traditional sense. After all, the word is supernatural not non-natural or unnatural. Supernatural things are, in a sense, excessively natural, hence the "super". It's natural plus special sauce, not "special sauce, hold the nature". I can't have a superabundance of zucchini if I don't have an abundance of zucchini.

            psychic phenomena such as out-of-body experiences. Most naturalists think that if they are real, there can’t be a naturalistic for them, but why, exactly?

            Indeed.

            Whatever else it might mean, naturalism affirms the nonexistence of any disembodied mind ... because, it seems to me, there is no way that either current science or any conceivable future science will be able to accommodate disembodied minds

            Well, science can very easily accomodate the existence of disembodied minds, it just has no tools to verify their existence. But then, science also doesn't have any tools to verify the existence of embodied minds either (by which I mean, one can't scientifically verify that anyone has any subjective experiences whatsoever).

          • Just how greedy are you? (A silly way of asking a sincere question.)

            That’s OK. An occasional bit of silliness can do a lot to maintain the civility of these discussion.

            I haven’t found a good algorithm for deciding how much reductionism is too much. It probably has a lot to do with explanatory utility. My experience of seeing the words I type as I type them, and my experience of thinking the ideas that I intend those word to communicate to my readers, and my experience of imagining those readers, are all explicable in terms of neurochemical events occurring in my brain. And, all of those events can be described without any reference to my experiences. So, there is some sense in which, having described the neurochemical events, you have described my typing experience, and so, in that same sense, my typing experience is equivalent to the neurochemical events, and so we could talk about what I’m doing right now just in terms of the neurochemistry and not say a word about my typing, thinking, imagining, and whatever else I seem to be aware of. Yeah, we could do that. But what would be the point? Anyone who wants to understand what I am doing at this moment or why I’m doing it isn’t going to learn anything useful by being told what’s going on in my cerebral cortex and other regions of my brain.

            There is also a purely logical issue. You cannot, without contradiction, affirm the equivalence of A and B while denying the existence of only one of them. If you won’t say they’re both real, then you’d better say neither is real.

            If you aver that mental processes reduce to electrochemical interactions, then it seems to me that you eliminate the mind as an entity with irreducible causal power (such that when you then say that your intent caused something, you really just mean "intent" / "mind" as a short-hand for the interaction of all those molecules). That is eliminating mind from your fundamental ontology, so you do eliminate some things.

            Fundamental ontology, eh? You really had to bring that up, did you?

            Really, I welcome the challenge, but this one is going to take some extra time. Please stay tuned.

            After all, the word is supernatural not non-natural or unnatural. Supernatural things are, in a sense, excessively natural, hence the "super".

            Excess is not the primary sense. The primary sense is over or above. Thus: superscript, above normal placement; supersonic, above the speed of sound; supervisor, overseer. Whatever is over or above is not necessarily excessive. It can be in some cases, but only contingently so. Excessive or not, though, whatever is over or above X is somewhere that is not X.
            That doesn’t mean that whatever is super-X can’t have something in common with anything that is X, but there has to be some characteristic of it that makes it not X. In the case of the supernatural, that characteristic seems to be scientific explicability.

            Obviously, whatever is not-X can coexist with whatever is X, and methodological naturalism concedes the possible existence of the supernatural. Philosophical naturalism, though, affirms that whatever actually exists is a natural phenomenon.

            I should be a little more explicit, actually, because we who call ourselves philosophical naturalists have our own disagreements about exactly what we’re defending. Some of us would put it this way: Naturalism is the position that the natural universe—the universe accessible to scientific inquiry—is causally closed. This means that even if anything supernatural exists, it can have no effect on the observable universe and so its existence is irrelevant. It thus makes no difference, in terms of what we can know about reality, whether anything supernatural is real.

            Well, science can very easily accomodate the existence of disembodied minds, it just has no tools to verify their existence. But then, science also doesn't have any tools to verify the existence of embodied minds either (by which I mean, one can't scientifically verify that anyone has any subjective experiences whatsoever).

            I’m not sure what accommodation without verification would mean in a scientific context. As for the subjective experiences of embodied minds, I agree that those can’t be verified. But they can be assumed to exist, and that is an assumption we all make, because without that assumption, we can make no sense of our interactions with one another.

            Is this a proof of their existence? Of course not. Nothing is true just because we assume it. But we can’t do any thinking at all without some assumptions. Descartes tried. He tried very famously, and he tried very hard. And he failed. Without beginning to realize it, he brought a ton of assumptions to his cogito argument. Not that I fault him. Hidden assumptions can be really hard to see. That’s what makes them hidden.

            It would be tedious—and, I suspect, impossible—to seek out and identify every last assumption we make when we think about these things. We’re obliged only to do the best we can with whatever intellectual resources we have, and with as much good faith as may be at our command. And then when we find them, we can ask whether we need them. An assumption isn’t true just because we need it, and it isn’t false just because we don’t need it. With all due respect to Occam, I wouldn’t say we have to lose every assumption we don’t need, but we do at least have to admit that we don’t need it. I can’t begin, in this post, to explain how I think we can figure out whether we need a given assumption beyond noting that if nonsense happens without it, we’d best hang on to it.

            But, if necessity doesn’t make them true, then what does? Their correspondence with reality does that. Do they correspond with reality? We cannot infallibly answer that question. If we could, we wouldn’t have to assume anything. If we had an infallible guide to reality, some inerrant source of all true propositions, we could just check it to answer all our questions. But we don’t have that. There is nothing we can’t be wrong about, any of us.

            Ever since long before Plato, the best philosophers have done their best work trying to find something we could believe about this world concerning which we are incapable of error. Until about a century ago, they thought it was probably mathematics, but it wasn’t, and no other candidates were left. There is and will always be some irreducible uncertainty about life, the universe, and everything, and we just have to live with that.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Fundamental ontology ... this one is going to take some extra time. Please stay tuned.

            OK, I look forward to that. Some aspects of that that I think would be interesting for you to consider:

            1. When we talk about what is fund-amental, what exists au fond, we are (implicitly, at least) using the metaphor of depth to signify what stays constant beneath the surface ripples of reality. When we talk about dur-ability, what exists for a dur-ation, or what per-dures, we are using the metaphor of hardness to talk about what lasts. Do you think the metaphor of depth (fundamentality) and the metaphor of hardness (durability) are basically getting at the same thing, i.e. some sort of unchanging-and-perduring quality?

            2. If so, I think that unified concept should ideally be connected with different conceptions of eternality. Because if something perdures in some ultimate sense, we should say that it is eternal. But then, there are different conceptions of what eternal means, including at least:
            * There is eternal in the sense of "true for every t in (ordinary/secular) time", a.k.a. sempiternality, corresponding to what I think is common contemporary usage.
            * There is eternal in the sense of "true in a way that is outside of time" (or to be quasi-mathematical: "true on sets of the time domain that have Lebesgue measure zero"). This, as I understand it, is the Platonic conception of eternality, or something close to it.
            * Then there is eternal in Augustinian/ Catholic liturgical sense: "that which 'integrates' time, that which brings all of time together". In this understanding, one can sensibly say things like, "Things are pretty hum-drum today, but just last Tuesday I was participating in eternal bliss [or eternal damnation, depending on what one was doing last Tuesday]."

            In summary, what I am saying is: our notions of fundamentality are connected to our notions of time and eternality. So, it might be useful to situate your conception of fundamentality using the rubric I provided for eternality. I am not suggesting that you grapple with all three notions of the eternal that I listed, just that it might be helpful to pick the one that is most related to your conception of fundamentality and discuss the connection.

          • Whatever else it might mean, naturalism affirms the nonexistence of any disembodied mind, which certainly includes God by just about any theist’s definition. It thus also denies the occurrence of any event or other phenomenon for which the explanation must posit the existence of spirits, angels, or other disembodied intelligent agents.

            I forget what your thoughts are on Lawrence Krauss' A Universe from Nothing, in which he posits that our space–time, matter–energy universe came from something which has neither space, time, nor matter. (It's not clear what 'energy' is if it is not convertible to matter, but perhaps we can leave that for the time being.) Anyhow, Krauss' pre-universe something would appear to qualify as 'disembodied', there being no body (no matter, no extension in space). Perhaps your stance is that disembodied non-intelligence is fine? Or do you think that Krauss' explorations in this domain are distinctly non-natural?

          • I forget what your thoughts are on Lawrence Krauss' A Universe from Nothing, in which he posits that our space–time, matter–energy universe came from something which has neither space, time, nor matter.

            Since I haven't read the book, any thoughts I might have expressed wouldn't have been worth much.

            Perhaps your stance is that disembodied non-intelligence is fine?

            In order to explain what?

            Or do you think that Krauss' explorations in this domain are distinctly non-natural?

            I've watched a few YouTube videos in which he discusses his thesis. I get what he says about the quantum background of apparently empty space, and I see nothing non-natural about it.

          • The YouTube videos should be sufficient. What you've missed is that the "quantum background" is not "empty space". Spacetime originated with the big bang. Before the big bang, there is no "body". Nothing is embodied. So you seem left endorsing one of the following:

                 (1) disembodied ⇒ non-natural
                 (2) disembodied intelligence ⇒ non-natural

            My assumption is that you don't want to endorse (1). But if you endorse (2) and reject (1), that drives us to a question: if Lawrence Krauss can infer a disembodied non-intelligence to explain what we see (and have that be scientific), why can the theist not infer a disembodied intelligence to explain what we see (and have that be scientific)?

          • What you've missed is that the "quantum background" is not "empty space".

            I did not miss it. I decided not to comment on it.

            So you seem left endorsing one of the following:

            (1) disembodied ⇒ non-natural
            (2) disembodied intelligence ⇒ non-natural

            I'm endorsing (2), which I thought I said rather explicitly.

            why can the theist not infer a disembodied intelligence to explain what we see (and have that be scientific)?

            I haven't said they can't. I've only said we don't need a disembodied intelligence to explain anything we see.

          • DS: I get what he says about the quantum background of apparently empty space …

            LB: What you've missed is that the "quantum background" is not "empty space".

            DS: I did not miss it. I decided not to comment on it.

            Huh? You said "quantum background of apparently empty space".

            I'm endorsing (2), which I thought I said rather explicitly.

            Sure, but you left uncertain whether you also endorse "(1) disembodied ⇒ non-natural". I was obviously getting at whether you do or not, with "My assumption is that you don't want to endorse (1)."

            I've only said we don't need a disembodied intelligence to explain anything we see.

            Ummm, do we need naturalism to explain anything we see? (I took said quote to be about more than just what we currently need to explain what we currently see.)

          • You said "quantum background of apparently empty space".

            And I used the word "apparently" for a reason. I wished to avoid getting into a discussion of whether Krauss was justified in referring to empty space as "nothing."

            Ummm, do we need naturalism to explain anything we see?

            I'm not arguing that it is necessary. I'm disputing the OP's claim that it is not sufficient to explain our ability to know certain things.

          • And I used the word "apparently" for a reason. I wished to avoid getting into a discussion of whether Krauss was justified in referring to empty space as "nothing."

            It is not empty space. Spacetime began with the big bang. This has nothing to do with Krauss' equivocation of "nothing". It has everything to do with your "disembodied".

            DS: I've only said we don't need a disembodied intelligence to explain anything we see.

            LB: Ummm, do we need naturalism to explain anything we see?

            DS: I'm not arguing that it is necessary. I'm disputing the OP's claim that it is not sufficient to explain our ability to know certain things.

            Wait, "certain things" or "anything"?

          • I'm disputing the OP's claim that it is not sufficient to explain our ability to know certain things.

            Wait, "certain things" or "anything"?

            Any things relevant to the OP's argument.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Doug, for goodness sakes.

            If Krauss posits that our universe came from something which has neither space, time, nor matter, then he believes that the universe came from something disembodied. Correct?

            Then, given that you

            1. See nothing non-natural in Krauss's hypothesis, and that you also
            2. Believe that a sine qua non of naturalism is the rejection of disembodied intelligences,

            We are left to conclude that do believe that a disembodied causal nexus can be natural, as long as that nexus is not a "mind" or "intelligence".

            ???

          • If Krauss posits that our universe came from something which has neither space, time, nor matter, then he believes that the universe came from something disembodied. Correct?

            In my judgment, that is probably a reasonable interpretation of what he says. For a definitive judgment, you'd have to ask Krauss. But, since my position does not depend on the correctness of Krauss's speculations about the origin of the universe, I fail to see any relevance to my response to the OP.

            We are left to conclude that do believe that a disembodied causal nexus can be natural, as long as that nexus is not a "mind" or "intelligence".

            I have no idea. What, in your thinking, is the difference between a cause and a causal nexus?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But, since my position does not depend on the correctness of Krauss's speculations about the origin of the universe, I fail to see any relevance to my response to the OP.

            I understand that your position doesn't depend on whether Krauss's hypothesis is correct, but the point of all this is to use his hypothesis as a prism through which to understand what you mean by "naturalism". Whether his hypothesis is right or wrong, our question is whether you see it as consistent with naturalism. It would appear that you do ... but we are (or I am, at least) still wondering how that can be consistent with your claim that naturalism disavows things that are real but disembodied.

            What, in your thinking, is the difference between a cause and a causal nexus?

            No difference. I was originally going to write "something causal", but I was trying to shy away from implications of "thingy-ness", because we are talking about "something" that is immaterial.

          • still wondering how that can be consistent with your claim that naturalism disavows things that are real but disembodied.

            That is not my claim. My claim is that naturalism disavows one thing that is real but disembodied: a mind.

            We are left to conclude that do believe that a disembodied causal nexus can be natural, as long as that nexus is not a "mind" or "intelligence".

            I'm guessing that would depend and what you would call "disembodied." Nothing happens unless some force makes it happen, and all the forces we know about are transmitted by particles of various kinds, possibly except for gravity. Are photons disembodied things? I wouldn't object to somebody saying they were.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            My claim is that naturalism disavows one thing that is real but disembodied: a mind.

            OK, this is the clarity that I was seeking, and that I believe Luke was as well. It wasn't clear whether you thought naturalism rejects disembodied minds because it rejects all things disembodied, or whether it rejects only disembodied minds specifically. Now that much is clear.

            So is it a fair summary to say that naturalism, on your understanding,

            1. does not necessarily reject embodied minds, and it
            2. does not necessarily reject disembodied realities generally, but it
            3. does reject disembodied minds specifically?

          • So is it a fair summary to say that naturalism, on your understanding,

            1. does not necessarily reject embodied minds, and it
            2. does not necessarily reject disembodied realities generally, but it
            3. does reject disembodied minds specifically?

            Yes, that is a fair summary.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, thanks for the clarification.

            FWIW, as one looking in at naturalism from the outside, I must say this seems like a peculiarly ad hoc restriction to place on one's ontology.

          • I must say this seems like a peculiarly ad hoc restriction to place on one's ontology.

            I can sort of see why it seems that way. I'm still working on a Reader's Digest version of my fundamental ontology. Maybe it will seem less ad hoc after I post that.

          • Do you mean to include a naturalistically-explainable connection between subjective experience and external reality in "things relevant to the OP's argument"?

          • Do you mean to include a naturalistically-explainable connection between subjective experience and external reality in "things relevant to the OP's argument"?

            Yes.

          • Even given the following discussion you had with @jimhillclimber:disqus:

            J(hc): … science also doesn't have any tools to verify the existence of embodied minds either (by which I mean, one can't scientifically verify that anyone has any subjective experiences whatsoever).

            DS: … As for the subjective experiences of embodied minds, I agree that those can’t be verified. But they can be assumed to exist, and that is an assumption we all make, because without that assumption, we can make no sense of our interactions with one another.

            ?

          • Even given the following discussion you had with Jim (hillclimber):

            Yes, and you'll have to tell me why it's a problem. I don't see one.

          • It would appear that if naturalism can explain "the subjective experiences of embodied minds", no such explanation could be verified. Have I got it wrong? If not, how do you not see that as a problem?

          • It would appear that if naturalism can explain "the subjective experiences of embodied minds", no such explanation could be verified.

            Do you think it can be verified that gravity explains planetary motion?

          • Yes. More strictly speaking, I am unaware of us having measured anything which falsifies general relativity when it comes to planetary motion, at least planetary motion in our solar system.

          • I am unaware of us having measured anything which falsifies general relativity when it comes to planetary motion, at least planetary motion in our solar system.

            Right. That it has not been falsified does not mean it cannot be falsified, and in science, failure of falsification is verification (or, for the nitpickers, confirmation).

            So, are you claiming that there is no way to falsify the hypothesis that naturalism suffices to explain subjective experiences?

          • So, are you claiming that there is no way to falsify the hypothesis that naturalism suffices to explain subjective experiences?

            Ummm, I'm working with your claim that "the subjective experiences of embodied minds … can’t be verified". I'm trying to understand what that does and does not entail. It seems to entail that no explanation for "subjective experiences" can be verified. I took your use of "verified" to mean "verified by naturalistic means". Was this incorrect?

            failure of falsification is verification (or, for the nitpickers, confirmation).

            If you're going to use 'falsification' according to Karl Popper's definition, then the opposite is actually 'corroboration'. Popper takes pains to pit it against the notion of 'verification' advanced by positivists. To corroborate a scientific theory is not to say that it is absolutely true; it is merely to say that one has not found any domains in which that scientific theory is false. The word 'corroborate' therefore allows for successive approximation of reality, whereas the word 'verify' has a sense of finality.

          • I'm working with your claim that "the subjective experiences of embodied minds … can’t be verified".

            I was responding to a comment by Jim (hillclimber). I was assuming that he was referring to the "other minds problem," according to which we cannot prove that anyone but ourselves has a mind. I agree that we can't. We can only assume it, but it is about as reasonable an assumption as any assumption gets.

            From the assumption that other people have minds relevantly similar to our own, it follows that if we have subjective experiences, then so do they. As for our own subjective experiences, to deny them would just be incoherent.

            If you're going to use 'falsification' according to Karl Popper's definition, then the opposite is actually 'corroboration'.

            OK. It's been a few years since I read Popper himself, and that was after I'd seen several references to his work. Some of those references, to the best of my vague recollection, claimed that Popper contrasted falsification with confirmation. That might have colored my memory of Popper's own wording.

          • Saying that an assumption is "reasonable" does not automagically make it consonant with naturalism. And yet subjective experience and its relation to external reality is the core of the OP. This makes your stance rather problematic:

            DS: I've only said we don't need a disembodied intelligence to explain anything we see.

            LB: Ummm, do we need naturalism to explain anything we see?

            DS: I'm not arguing that it is necessary. I'm disputing the OP's claim that it is not sufficient to explain our ability to know certain things.

            LB: Wait, "certain things" or "anything"?

            DS: Any things relevant to the OP's argument.

            Or do you not see any problem?

          • Saying that an assumption is "reasonable" does not automagically make it consonant with naturalism.

            By consonant, do you mean consistent? I have never encountered consonance as an epistemological issue.

            If you are just talking about consistency, then no, I don't see any problem. Of course calling it reasonable does not make it consistent, but if I thought there were any inconsistency, then I would not judge it to be a reasonable assumption.

          • By consonant, do you mean consistent?

            No. Mere consistency does not suffice for your argument to go through. Need I demonstrate this?

          • Mere consistency does not suffice for your argument to go through. Need I demonstrate this?

            You need to state your objection in terms I can understand.

          • Your stance is that naturalism suffices to explain "Any things relevant to the OP's argument."

            You say that "subjective experiences of embodied minds … can’t be verified".

            You say that there is simply "an assumption we all make".

            I questioned whether naturalism can explain that assumption.

            You attempt to pass the assumption off as merely "consistent [with naturalism]".

            Surely you know that an axiom can be consistent with a formal system without being entailed by it? Likewise, naturalism can be consistent with an assumption without explaining it. Consistency is not enough.

          • Surely you know that an axiom can be consistent with a formal system without being entailed by it?

            Sure. I even know that if it were entailed, it wouldn't be an axiom.

            The assumption, by each of us individually, that we all have similar subjective experiences establishes those experiences as a fact to be explained. This is analogous to the assumption, by Newton and the other founders of modern science, that the planets actually move through the heavens the way they appear in our telescopes to move.

            Consistency is not enough.

            Right. It is not sufficient, only necessary. But I still don't see the problem. Are you claiming that we have good reason to suspect that this particular axiom might not be true? If other minds don't exist, then that is one less thing that any of us needs to explain -- though we do then have to explain why everybody thinks they have a mind.

            [Revised 20 minutes after initial posting.]

          • LB: Surely you know that an axiom can be consistent with a formal system without being entailed by it?

            DS: Sure. I even know that if it were entailed, it wouldn't be an axiom.

            My bad; I should have been more careful and said that an axiom which is not contained within a formal system can nevertheless be consistent with it while not being entailed by it. In such a situation, we would say that the formal system does not "explain" the axiom. This is why "Mere consistency does not suffice for your argument to go through." Make sense yet?

            LB: Consistency is not enough.

            DS: Right. It is not sufficient, only necessary. But I still don't see the problem.

            You've claimed that "[naturalism] is sufficient to explain our ability to know [[a]ny things relevant to the OP's argument]". That would appear to be false, in a way that is central to the OP.

          • You've claimed that naturalism is "[naturalism] is sufficient to explain our ability to know [[a]ny things relevant to the OP's argument]". That would appear to be false, in a way that is central to the OP.

            I get it that it appears false to orthodox Christians. I get it that the OP attempted to prove its falseness. I am arguing that the attempted proof was invalid.

          • It appears false based exclusively on your own statements, plus the assumption that you intend all your statements to be consistent with each other.

          • It appears false based exclusively on your own statements

            You say so.

            plus the assumption that you intend all your statements to be consistent with each other.

            You seem to have been trying to demonstrate an inconsistency. Perhaps some readers think you have succeeded.

          • I questioned whether naturalism can explain that assumption.

            If naturalism explains our brains, it explains everything our brains do, including the making of assumptions.

          • Do you believe that "naturalism explains our brains"? As far as I'm aware, there is a tremendous amount about our brains for which there is currently no explanation. At most, naturalism can proffer promissory notes. Those notes can be examined, as the OP is doing. We must remember that they are promissory notes, not established fact.

          • As far as I'm aware, there is a tremendous amount about our brains for which there is currently no explanation.

            In which branch of science is it not not the case that a tremendous amount remains unexplained?

            At most, naturalism can proffer promissory notes. Those notes can be examined, as the OP is doing.

            The OP claims that naturalism cannot deliver on those notes. I am arguing that the OP has failed to prove that.

          • In which branch of science is it not not the case that a tremendous amount remains unexplained?

            That's your problem, given that you're the one who advanced the following as if it were relevant:

            DS: If naturalism explains our brains, it explains everything our brains do, including the making of assumptions.

            LB: At most, naturalism can proffer promissory notes. Those notes can be examined, as the OP is doing.

            DS: The OP claims that naturalism cannot deliver on those notes. I am arguing that the OP has failed to prove that.

            First, you've claimed/​argued rather more: "[naturalism] is sufficient to explain our ability to know [[a]ny things relevant to the OP's argument]". You've also said that "subjective experiences of embodied minds … can’t be verified". You've committed yourself to an "an assumption we all make" which is not clearly entailed by naturalism.

            Second, I doubt the OP would be much changed if it were amended with the bare possibility that some smart philosopher or scientist might some day come up with an ingenious solution that doesn't require us to slap on ad hoc assumptions to naturalism. Very smart people have been working very hard to fit subjectivity into naturalistic frameworks. Continued failure does not bode well for any of those frameworks being a good fit to reality.

          • In which branch of science is it . . . not the case that a tremendous amount remains unexplained?

            That's your problem,

            I’m not claiming that yet-unanswered questions are a problem. You are. Will you now claim that Christians have answered all the questions that have ever been asked about their religion?

            You've committed yourself to an "an assumption we all make" which is not clearly entailed by naturalism.

            Assumptions cannot be entailed by anything. If they are entailed, they are no longer assumptions.

            Very smart people have been working very hard to fit subjectivity into naturalistic frameworks. Continued failure does not bode well for any of those frameworks being a good fit to reality.

            The only failure I have noticed is that of believers in the supernatural to change their minds. No argument is a bad argument just because it doesn’t persuade many people.

          • I’m not claiming that yet-unanswered questions are a problem.

            Your "If naturalism explains our brains" makes it a problem.

            Will you now claim that Christians have answered all the questions that have ever been asked about their religion?

            Of course not. And those unanswered questions are problems for Christianity. You on the other hand seem rather content to sweep problems for your naturalism under the rug.

            LB: You've committed yourself to an "an assumption we all make" which is not clearly entailed by naturalism.

            DS: Assumptions cannot be entailed by anything. If they are entailed, they are no longer assumptions.

            Then would you agree that naturalism fails to explain that "assumption"?

            The only failure I have noticed is that of believers in the supernatural to change their minds.

            Your view of subjectivity is looking awfully super-natural at this point in time.

          • Your view of subjectivity is looking awfully super-natural at this point in time.

            I don't know what else I can say to make it look otherwise, at least from your perspective.

          • That's easy: you can explain it from naturalism, without additional ad hoc assumptions. After all, your position is that "[naturalism] is sufficient to explain our ability to know [[a]ny things relevant to the OP's argument]".

          • you can explain it from naturalism

            Not without a few years of studying neuroscience, I can't. The OP claims that no naturalistic explanation is possible in principle. I have been arguing for nothing more than the denial of that claim.

          • DS: Your view of subjectivity is looking awfully super-natural at this point in time.

            LB: That's easy: you can explain it from naturalism, without additional ad hoc assumptions.

            DS: Not without a few years of studying neuroscience, I can't. The OP claims that no naturalistic explanation is possible in principle. I have been arguing for nothing more than the denial of that claim.

            You've given zero justification for the idea that with "a few years of studying neuroscience", you could. Therefore, you seem to be reversing position on your claim that "[naturalism] is sufficient to explain our ability to know [[a]ny things relevant to the OP's argument]". As to the OP's alleged "in principle" claim, I already addressed that:

            LB: Second, I doubt the OP would be much changed if it were amended with the bare possibility that some smart philosopher or scientist might some day come up with an ingenious solution that doesn't require us to slap on ad hoc assumptions to naturalism.

            Naturalism's apparent inability to deal intelligibly with the subjective realm is an enormous deficit.

          • I doubt the OP would be much changed if it were amended with the bare possibility that some smart philosopher or scientist might some day come up with an ingenious solution that doesn't require us to slap on ad hoc assumptions to naturalism.

            Such an amendment would contradict the OP as presently written. If you would consider that not much of a change, I can't imagine what you would consider a substantial change.

          • People often overstate their case, from "all known X have property P" to "all X have property P". Sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn't. I fail to see how it matters, here. You don't seem to know of any X which fails to have property P.

          • People often overstate their case, from "all known X have property P" to "all X have property P". Sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn't.

            What matters to my argument is what Bonnette himself has said. I posted a full critique of the OP (https://disqus.com/by/disqus_fRI0oOZiFh/), and he responded to it (https://disqus.com/by/drdennisbonnette/). He expressed some uncertainty as to the meaning of some of my statements, but he did not claim that I misunderstood or misconstrued his primary thesis regarding the "epistemological nightmare" entailed by naturalism.

            [Added in edit: Apparently, those links don't work, and I don't know how to fix them.]

          • What matters to my argument is what Bonnette himself has said.

            Yeah, and it's obvious that he meant to talk about the vast majority of naturalism he had encountered. You appeared to deviate enough from that such that he wasn't going to spend the requisite time to understand your allegedly different position:

            DB: Once one wades through all the elaborate semantic objections you offer of my wording in the article, the bottom line appears to be that you consider yourself simply not to be the kind of materialist I was writing about – which is, as I noted in a post below, “the ordinary, garden variety” of materialist.

            I have spent that time, and it seems rather obvious that you only surmount the objections in the OP by slapping some ad-hoc assumptions onto naturalism. Bonnette did detect your vagueness by the way:

            DB: After making clear that you reject the non-material principles of Aristotelian philosophy because you are a naturalist (no great surprise), you once again distinguish yourself from my position, wherein I say that naturalists would claim that “sensation ends in the interior of the brain.” You demur, “Not this naturalist. To the contrary, I maintain that our knowledge of external reality is as direct as it needs to be.”

            I must say that, from the way in which you dance around exactly what is known in sensation and how your “non-eliminative naturalism” somehow avoids the logic of my article, I remain unsure exactly what your position really is – except that you are certain that you do not believe in any “spiritual anythings.”

            You may "maintain that our knowledge of external reality is as direct as it needs to be", but (i) this does not clearly derive from naturalism; (ii) subjectivity would appear to be non-natural, thus qualifying as a "spiritual anything".

          • it seems rather obvious that you only surmount the objections in the OP by slapping some ad-hoc assumptions onto naturalism.

            The only assumption I've made that is relevant to the OP is the nonexistence of disembodied minds. Unless that assumption leads to the epistemological nightmare described in the OP — and neither you nor Bonnette has demonstrated that it does — then my argument stands unrebutted.

            You may "maintain that our knowledge of external reality is as direct as it needs to be", but (i) this does not clearly derive from naturalism;

            Right. It derives from my epistemology.

            (ii) subjectivity would appear to be non-natural, thus qualifying as a "spiritual anything".

            You have asserted that. You have not proved it. Of course, if it appears so to you, then I cannot argue that it actually appears otherwise to you. I can only argue that your perception is inaccurate.

          • The only assumption I've made that is relevant to the OP is the nonexistence of disembodied minds.

            I see the following as extremely relevant to the OP:

            DS: As for the subjective experiences of embodied minds, I agree that those can’t be verified. But they can be assumed to exist, and that is an assumption we all make, because without that assumption, we can make no sense of our interactions with one another.

            The connection between those experiences and objective reality is … absolutely central to the OP. And yet, that connection cannot be verified by naturalism.

            LB: You may "maintain that our knowledge of external reality is as direct as it needs to be", but (i) this does not clearly derive from naturalism;

            DS: Right. It derives from my epistemology.

            So is it a problem for naturalism?

            LB: (ii) subjectivity would appear to be non-natural, thus qualifying as a "spiritual anything".

            DS: You have asserted that. You have not proved it. Of course, if it appears so to you, then I cannot argue that it actually appears otherwise to you. I can only argue that your perception is inaccurate.

            Actually, it's you who said that "the subjective experiences of embodied minds … can’t be verified". Unless you're positing a realm of natural objects which are completely impenetrable to science—that is, methodological naturalism?

          • The connection between those experiences and objective reality is … absolutely central to the OP. And yet, that connection cannot be verified by naturalism.

            Unless supernaturalism denies the connection, there is no conflict.

            LB: You may "maintain that our knowledge of external reality is as direct as it needs to be", but (i) this does not clearly derive from naturalism;
            DS: Right. It derives from my epistemology.
            So is it a problem for naturalism?

            Not that I can see.

            it's you who said that "the subjective experiences of embodied minds … can’t be verified".

            From that alone, it does not follow that I’m obliged to doubt their existence. You do believe, don’t you, that we can be justified in believing some unverifiable things?

            Unless you're positing a realm of natural objects which are completely impenetrable to science

            It depends on your intended meaning of “natural object.” As I understand the term, I am not positing any natural object that is impenetrable to science.

          • LB: The connection between those experiences and objective reality is … absolutely central to the OP. And yet, that connection cannot be verified by naturalism.

            DS: Unless supernaturalism denies the connection, there is no conflict.

            Just like "consistent" is not enough, "no conflict" is not enough. Either "[naturalism] is sufficient to explain our ability to know [[a]ny things relevant to the OP's argument]" is true or it is false. Right now, it appears false, because something additional is required to make things work, as you've admitted on one count:

            LB: You may "maintain that our knowledge of external reality is as direct as it needs to be", but (i) this does not clearly derive from naturalism;

            DS: Right. It derives from my epistemology.

            It seems like you're conflating naturalism with your epistemology, and have been doing so for some time.

            LB: Actually, it's you who said that "the subjective experiences of embodied minds … can’t be verified".

            DS: From that alone, it does not follow that I’m obliged to doubt their existence. You do believe, don’t you, that we can be justified in believing some unverifiable things?

            You have a choice: doubt their existence, or doubt the sufficiency of a philosophy which makes them unverifiable. Similarly, when a scientist encounters a datum in conflict with established theory, sometimes [s]he rejects the datum and sometimes [s]he rejects the theory.

            It depends on your intended meaning of “natural object.” As I understand the term, I am not positing any natural object that is impenetrable to science.

            How can a thing be both "unverifiable" ("can’t be verified") and yet not "impenetrable to science"?

          • It seems like you're conflating naturalism with your epistemology, and have been doing so for some time.

            It’s not a conflation. It’s an unavoidable relationship. Are you telling me that you can defend your supernaturalism without any mention of any epistemological principle? I’d like to see any theist try to do that.

            Either "[naturalism] is sufficient to explain our ability to know [[a]ny things relevant to the OP's argument]" is true or it is false. Right now, it appears false

            It appears false to you. I have seen no demonstration that it actually is false.

            because something additional is required to make things work,

            It requires an epistemology. What worldview doesn’t?

            From that alone, it does not follow that I’m obliged to doubt their existence. You do believe, don’t you, that we can be justified in believing some unverifiable things?

            You have a choice: doubt their existence, or doubt the sufficiency of a philosophy which makes them unverifiable.

            That doesn’t answer my question, unless you’re about to tell me that your philosophy makes no assumptions about anything.

            Similarly, when a scientist encounters a datum in conflict with established theory, sometimes [s]he rejects the datum and sometimes [s]he rejects the theory.

            If an assumption is consistent with a theory, then by definition it is not in conflict with that theory.

            How can a thing be both "unverifiable" ("can’t be verified") and yet not "impenetrable to science"?

            How do you logically deduce "impenetrable to science" from "can’t be verified"?

          • It’s not a conflation. It’s an unavoidable relationship.

            Is that why you were careful to note how important your epistemology is in making "[naturalism] is sufficient to explain our ability to know [[a]ny things relevant to the OP's argument]" true? Surely I just missed it in my discussions with you.

            Are you telling me that you can defend your supernaturalism without any mention of any epistemological principle?

            I'm going to put aside the claim that I hold to "supernaturalism", as I don't know what you mean by the term. But of course ontology and epistemology are intricately intertwined. Whenever an epistemology renders some aspect of ontology inaccessible ("can’t be verified"), one is justified in questioning whether that aspect of ontology exists. Or, if we are rather sure about the existence of that aspect of ontology, then the epistemology is suspect.

            It requires an epistemology. What worldview doesn’t?

            All do. But when your epistemology appears to merely paper over potential problems, your interlocutors ought to balk.

            If an assumption is consistent with a theory, then by definition it is not in conflict with that theory.

            Oh, theories can always be buttressed by ad hoc hypotheses—and/or assumptions—which magically make problems go away. We are right to be skeptical of ad hoc hypotheses and such assumptions. Naturalism is a beautifully objective account of reality. But its strength is also a weakness: it hasn't a clue what to do about subjectivity. To respond blandly by saying "Whatever it is we're doing, it's working well enough!" is to shirk intellectual responsibility. It's fine pragmatically, but Galileo's paradigm shift wasn't pragmatically useful until well after his death.

            How do you logically deduce "impenetrable to science" from "can’t be verified"?

            Instead of my taking you through exactly how I connected the two (I didn't merely do a logical deduction), how about you just explain what you mean by the underlined:

            J: Well, science can very easily accomodate the existence of disembodied minds, it just has no tools to verify their existence. But then, science also doesn't have any tools to verify the existence of embodied minds either (by which I mean, one can't scientifically verify that anyone has any subjective experiences whatsoever).

            DS: I’m not sure what accommodation without verification would mean in a scientific context. As for the subjective experiences of embodied minds, I agree that those can’t be verified. But they can be assumed to exist, and that is an assumption we all make, because without that assumption, we can make no sense of our interactions with one another.

            You seem to think that lacking ability to verify doesn't prevent scientific investigation; perhaps you could talk about what scientific investigation is like with ability to verify and without ability to verify.

          • Is that why you were careful to note how important your epistemology is in making "[naturalism] is sufficient to explain our ability to know [[a]ny things relevant to the OP's argument]" true?

            I don’t remember putting any special emphasis on it. After all, it never occurred to me that you might think epistemological issues were unimportant to this discussion.

            Whenever an epistemology renders some aspect of ontology inaccessible ("can’t be verified"), one is justified in questioning whether that aspect of ontology exists.

            In my epistemology, no assumption is except from being questioned, but questioning does not imply rejecting. When we’re done with our questioning of any particular assumption, we might justifiably conclude that we’re epistemically entitled to keep it.

            Or, if we are rather sure about the existence of that aspect of ontology, then the epistemology is suspect.

            I don’t see why. And if it were true, then all epistemologies would be equally suspect, because no epistemology can demonstrate the truth of all true propositions.

            But when your epistemology appears to merely paper over potential problems, your interlocutors ought to balk.

            My interlocutors ought to expect me to justify what I say. Whether they ought to balk depends on whether they agree with you that my justification is nothing more than a papering-over of potential problems.

            Oh, theories can always be buttressed by ad hoc hypotheses—and/or assumptions—which magically make problems go away.

            And any theory that depends on an unwarranted assumption can be rejected for that reason alone. But if you’re going to do that, you need to affirm your denial of that assumption. Unless you yourself reject the existence of minds other than your own, you cannot consistently reject any worldview just because it assumes that those other minds do exist.

            Naturalism is a beautifully objective account of reality. But its strength is also a weakness: it hasn't a clue what to do about subjectivity. To respond blandly by saying "Whatever it is we're doing, it's working well enough!" is to shirk intellectual responsibility.

            It would be shirking our intellectual responsibility to deny its existence for no better reason than that we cannot verify it.
            Wegener proposed continental drift in 1912, but he couldn’t verify it and neither could anyone else at that time. The scientific community in general rejected it for the next several decades, but not primarily because it hadn’t been verified. The main problem was its prima facie implausibility, and for most scientists, that problem was decisive until the development of plate tectonic theory. But the reality of our subjective experiences is not prima facie implausible. Quite the opposite.

            How do you logically deduce "impenetrable to science" from "can’t be verified"?

            Instead of my taking you through exactly how I connected the two (I didn't merely do a logical deduction), how about you just explain what you mean by the underlined

            How about you don’t leave yourself free to respond to anything I might say with “But that isn’t what I meant”?

            You seem to think that lacking ability to verify doesn't prevent scientific investigation;

            Why should it? An investigation of any X can proceed on the assumption that X does exist or that X doesn’t exist. Whichever the investigator assumes, any data they find can be either consistent or inconsistent with that assumption. If it’s consistent, the assumption can be sustained. If it’s inconsistent, the assumption can be either modified or rejected.

          • You may "maintain that our knowledge of external reality is as direct as it needs to be", but (i) this does not clearly derive from naturalism;

            Right. It derives from my epistemology. I am maintaining that naturalism creates no nightmares for my epistemology. If it creates a nightmare for someone else’s epistemology, then they need to challenge my epistemology to demonstrate its inadequacy.

            (ii) subjectivity would appear to be non-natural, thus qualifying as a "spiritual anything".

            I don’t see why.

          • To link to a comment, right-click the timestamp (e.g. "10 hours ago") and copy that link.

          • Thank you. Now that you tell me, I vaguely recall somebody else telling me a long time ago, but I'd forgotten. It isn't quite intuitive.

          • And those unanswered questions are problems for Christianity.

            But Christian apologists generally insist that they're not the sort of problem that would justify anyone's rejection of Christianity.

          • Sure, and the naturalist can be open and honest about problems with naturalism while asserting that there is no better alternative. You, however, have not given the slightest hint that you think naturalism has the slightest problem—at least not from what I recall on this page.

          • You, however, have not given the slightest hint that you think naturalism has the slightest problem

            I have admitted that under naturalism, none of us can prove the existence of anyone's minds except our own.

          • That doesn't mean you think it is "the slightest problem".

          • You're going to have to tell me exactly what, other than "unanswered question," you mean by "problem."

          • If you judge your system of understanding to be on track to answer that question, then it's not a problem. If you want such a judgment to be considered anything other than mere opinion, you'll have to defend it rationally. (So far, I see no such defense proffered.)

          • There are questions that naturalism has not yet answered. There are questions that Christianity has not yet answered. Unanswered questions are as much, or as little, a problem for one worldview as for the other. If unanswered questions don't make Christianity indefensible, then they don't make naturalism indefensible. That is a matter of logic, not of mere opinion.

  • Rudy R

    Still, you simply cannot prove that the senses are reliable by using them in order to prove that they are reliable.

    I value living over death. I'm alive and in the middle of a street, my eye detects an oncoming car, I step away to prevent death, and I'm still alive. I used my senses and they simply proved to be reliable.

  • "...cannot know the external physical world at all – only images or neural patterns inside his own brain."

    And the alternative to in-direct knowledge of the world is what? Consider ripping out your sensory organs, all of them, or less violently, just sitting in a sensory deprivation tank alone for a couple years. Tell us what kind of knowledge you'd come up with then, and what you would be thinking about after years of sensory deprivation. With no further external input your mind would probably hallucinate and eventually decay. Or consider children raised in an orphanage where they are given minimal care and minimal human contact each day for years, and the low I.Q.s and difficulties they have learning things later in life.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      The citation above from my article describes the logical implications of the materialist position, not my own. As I have said repeatedly, I am an epistemological realist. I accept that we directly experience/know external sense objects. So the rest of your paragraph, after the first line, simply does not apply to my position.

      But, your first line is interesting. You say, “And the alternative to in-direct knowledge of the world is what?”

      By say this, are you implying that you think that our knowledge of the world is merely “in-direct?” If so, you are admitting the very point I make in my article, namely, that scientific materialism leads logically to denial of direct knowledge of the external world – a position that contradicts the universal belief of natural scientists, namely, that science tells us about the real world outside the human brain. You appear to reaffirm my inference that scientific materialism leads to subjective idealism -- an idealism that contradicts its common sense starting point, namely, that we sense the real extramental physical world around us.

      • Not sure what you mean by your "acceptance" that we "directly experience/know external sense objects."

        Have you considered the analogy of the "pincushion hidden by innumerable pins" that Coleridge suggested was the perfect analogy for the essence of objects hiding behind the limitations of what we can sense of their matter-energy?

        Have you read about the distinction Kant drew between the phenomenal and noumenal worlds, and why the noumenal realm remained a total mystery? Has metaphysics breached that great divide? There's Plato's admission that we sense shadows on the wall of the cave and don't really known reality; and Saint Paul's admission that we see in a mirror dark; or admissions concerning the "hiddenness of God," and, "dark nights of the soul."

        Robert Anton Wilson, wrote late in life: 'I don't believe anything, but I have many suspicions. I strongly suspect that a world "external to," or at least independent of, my senses exists in some sense. I also suspect that this world shows signs of intelligent design, and I suspect that such intelligence acts via feedback from all parts to all parts and without centralized sovereignty, like Internet; and that it does not function hierarchically, in the style an Oriental despotism, an American corporation or Christian theology. I somewhat suspect that Theism and Atheism both fail to account for such decentralized intelligence, rich in circular-causal feedback. I more-than-half suspect that all "good" writing, or all prose and poetry that one wants to read more than once, proceeds from a kind of "alteration in consciousness," i.e. a kind of controlled schizophrenia. (Don't become alarmed -- I think good acting comes from the same place.) I sometimes suspect that what Blake called Poetic Imagination expresses this exact thought in the language of his age, and that visits by"angels" and "gods" states it an even more archaic argot. These suspicions have grown over 72 years, but as a rather slow and stupid fellow I do not have the chutzpah to proclaim any of them as certitudes. Give me another 72 years and maybe I'll arrive at firmer conclusions.'

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I am quite aware of Kant's lurch into idealism. Following Descartes, who said we know only ideas, and Hume, who said we know only mental impressions, Kant offers his own version of subjective idealism, insisting we know only the phenomena, never the noumena. To save Newtonian science, he insisted that we possess a priori forms of all possible cognition that condition the unconditioned (the noumena) so that universal scientific laws will always be verified. But the sad result was that science became reading the rules of the mind, and that the physical world that Newton claimed we know was forever unknown in itself.

          You don't need metaphysics to penetrate this mystery, just some common sense epistemology. Descartes was wrong to say all we know is ideas. We first sense external physical objects, from which we abstract ideas. Just as you never get an image of a cow unless you first see a real cow.

          So, too, what I am saying is exactly what the natural scientist begins by believing, namely, that scientific observation, just like all sensation, has as its primary object, the extramental things of the physical world around us.

          My problem with your earlier statement is that it appears to say that all we have is "in-direct knowledge of the world." This falls into precisely the trap my OP describes, namely, that we do not know the physical world around us, but only some sort of neural patterns inside the brain. This conclusion contradicts the natural starting point of sense observation which natural scientists have used forever.

          It also leads to precisely the idealism found in Descartes, Hume, Kant and most modern idealists. My OP claimed that scientific materialism leads to that sort of idealism and that that conclusion contradicts its own common sense starting point as well as the normal procedures of natural science. I think my case remains conclusive, namely, that naturalism, in its scientific materialistic form, leads one into an epistemological nightmare.

          • And my point is that epistemological certainty for every thought and/or every sensation does not appear to exist in either atheism nor theism. One can always continue to ask, How does one know that one knows that one knows, ad infinitum. So "nightmares" abound.

            So, scientific epistemology is a "nightmare," but the scientific investigation of phenomena seems to be progressing along relatively well, not a nightmare. It has even allowed us to communicate with each other via computers.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I do not accept your claim that no one can provide a solid explanation of a realist epistemology. I would contend that the Aristotelian-Thomistic synthesis can do precisely that. But I don't intend to start a sub-thread on that point right here. At least A-T is not tied to the same philosophy of materialism that my article demonstrates to be logically untenable.

            As for the progress of natural science, since A-T accepts a realist epistemology, it is fully on board with you in rejoicing about the developments of modern science. One still has to be careful, though, about scientific claims that are made, which are wedded to erroneous philosophical presuppositions, such as the article I read in Psychology Today many years ago, which explicitly concluded that what a rat knew was an image of an external object that was simply a pattern inside of its brain. That idealist inference was clearly an example of bad philosophy combined with experimental science. It perfectly fits the model of the argument made in my article.

          • Yes, everyone has their favorite philosophical or theological "system" that explains it all. Non-contradictory within that system, especially with the necessary a priori assumptions going unquestioned, and with added excuses for not having this or that actual hard evidence nailed down for one's system alone being the only true one.

            As for your rat example, I suspect the rat wouldn't know much at all if it either lacked a world to sense, sensory organs, or a brain. I guess science is just the purest self-contradictory idiocy for assuming and positing the existence of all three, and maybe it should cease studying matter-energy, sensory organs, and brain-minds.

            Read my blog piece, Prior Prejudice and the Argument from Reason https://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/01/prior-prejudices-and-argument-from.html

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have read both your latest posts as well as the blog piece you recommended. What appears to underlie your arguments is something more philosophical than scientific. You sound like Democritus and Leucippus in the fifth century B.C., giving the same old argument for atomism. Everything in the cosmos fundamentally reduces to some sort of atomic units, which, when combined in ever greater complexity, is claimed to explain all the superior aspects of the world – life, consciousness, intelligence, morality, and so forth. This is said to be so because the combination of atoms produces emergent properties not expressed in the constituent elements by themselves.

            You undercut all philosophical positions except naturalism by pointing to the wondrous developments of modern science vis a vis the seeming confusion and contradictions of other philosophical systems. Thus, you attempt to evade, through appeal to pragmatism, the epistemological attack I make in the OP – despite the abundant evidence that scientific materialism contradicts its own starting assumptions. See the OP for full explanation.

            In addition, you suggest that all philosophical systems begin with unprovable assumptions that render their positions essentially ungrounded in reality, whereas natural science can demonstrate its value pragmatically through continued progress and success of experimental results.

            I have no quarrel with natural science, but your claims
            that it is essentially the only rational game in town fail to take account of the fact that everything science does presupposes the acceptance of philosophical first principles that are applied universally in the manner I describe in this Strange Notions article: “Are Metaphysical First Principles
            Universally True?”

            See https://strangenotions.com/are-metaphysical-first-principles-universally-true/

            While I am certain you will attack my article on metaphysical
            first principles, there is no way you can do so without assuming that they are true yourself. Your reference to the newer forms of non-Aristotelian logic and other recent innovations about cognitive structures does not escape the
            presupposition and application of the first principles in their very act of being posited and argued for. Read my article.

            The relevant point of all this is simply that your entire
            worldview presupposes the validity of these first principles, since you use them in every scientific utterance and explanation. Moreover, there is absolutely no way to empirically prove that they are true by some scientific
            experiment. They are purely philosophical in nature.

            The whole point of metaphysical first principles is that they are not mere assumptions. Nor are they proven from prior premises. Rather, they are immediately-known and self-evident. Read the article.

            Thus, you have your own heavily science-dependent
            worldview radically dependent upon the universal validity of these metaphysical first principles that are clearly philosophical in nature and necessarily used as true by anyone outside of an asylum.

            On the hypothesis that someone managed even to appear to undermine these first principles, he would also thereby undermine the rational foundations of natural science. Do you think that natural science can still “prove” its worth through success and progress, even if its rational foundations are removed? Will not natural science have then entered into Alice’s Wonderland? Might not it be better just to admit that natural science is king of its own realm, but that its realm is supported by metaphysical certitudes that could also serve as a foundation for discovery of the God who creates and sustains the natural physical laws that science so brilliantly explores?

          • Also consider the epistemic question from this angle:

            We might not be able to explain exactly what is happening when it comes to "brain-mind" function because the brain-mind might be inherently incapable of understanding itself. After all, if the brain-mind were so simple we could easily understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't.

            Kind of like Heisenberg's uncertainty principal, or the inherent limitations of designating ultimate principles in math and logic as envisaged by Godel's Theorem.

            Also, when comparing religion and science, consider this:

            Religious beliefs like denominations, sects and churches, seem to branch out opinion-wise, leaving one with a mixed bag of claims, while science appears to continue to slowly acquire and concentrate more knowledge about the cosmos, expanding our sight and knowledge of the very small, very big, even of cognitive function (including cognitive biases) things we had not seen nor known as clearly in the past. Science has found ways to grow and preserve more food, fight disease, provide energy, warn against coming storms and earthquakes, transmit its knowledge across continents and through space via electrical and radio waves, and ignited tremendous interest in continuing to study (and aid) the world scientifically rather than via prayers, crystals, personal and written holy revelations.

            That doesn't mean science should become a new religion, but it does help explain the attraction of science to people interested in the world and how it works, including the internal mental world of human beings, i.e., compared with the continuing schisms and disagreements that have branched and spread out over time after the founding of each religion.

            And what about Christianity having to accommodate some of its revelation to things that science has revealed? The vast ages of the earth and of humanity, the shared ancestry of humans with the animal kingdom, and the debate still in progress among Christians concerning whether there ever was a "first couple," a literal "Adam and Eve?" Catholic doctrine still posits that one must believe in a first couple, as do many Evangelicals, but the science of genomics has increasingly challenged the idea that a literal first couple existed and instead argues that a population of humans evolved together. And the idea of a religious "fall" from grace no longer seems as clear or compelling as the idea that the human species as a whole, our brain-minds and bodies, arose via a lengthy process that involved plenty of suffering and death, aggression and community connection, and having been created via such a process we remain untame animals, mixtures of aggression and love.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Of course, most people are more enthralled with the advance of natural science than with the philosophical sciences, such as metaphysics and epistemology. After all, our daily lives are materially more impacted by natural science. But it is an error to reduce all important knowledge to natural science. People still reflect on the meaning and purpose of life itself, and huge numbers believe in an afterlife and in a transcendent God. They may not spend as much time discussing it as they do matters of natural science, but on their death beds, I suspect a bit more interest in the spiritual may appear.

            As St. Augustine long ago observed, the purpose of religion is not to tell us how the heavens go, but how to go to heaven.

            St. Thomas Aquinas warns Christians not to tie their religious beliefs to tightly to any particular scientific theory, lest the change or an error in the theory should prove a later embarrassment.

            Most Catholic doctrine, at least, is more restrictive in its scientific assertions, since it does not follow the literalistic reading of Scripture found in some fundamentalist sects. As for Adam and Eve, you may well know of the thesis put forth by Kenneth Kemp, suggesting that the present genetic diversity can be comported with theological monogenism, provided one allows a certain amount of interbreeding to have occurred.

            But to come back to the main point of my thesis, I am not trying to rewrite the entire world -- just pointing out a serious breach of logic that is inherent in the epistemology of scientific materialism. This may not seem serious to you, but it should make one pause before trying to explain all things exclusively through the materialistic kind of naturalism that my article describes.

          • You do realize you are admitting that your beliefs (framed via quotations from Augustine and Aquinas) are non-falsifiable? No doubt anyone and everyone can "reflect on the meaning and purpose of life itself" all that one wants. The question as always remains, how do we know for sure what is real and true, and how do we get others to agree with us?

            Idealistic religious philosophers are in what appears to be a leakier boat than the pragmatic philosophers and scientists (I do not call them atheist philosophers and scientists, just pragmatic, and many of them agnostic when it comes to claiming they possess the most valid and firm answers to a host of questions that humans have puzzled over from from the days of the ancient Greeks till today).

            If you think there is something so horribly wrong with the energy-matter and brain-mind epistemology of modern science's quest for knowledge that scientists should just give up trying to understanding matters further, then you'd have an argument of value. But it looks like the study of energy-matter, as well as the brain-mind system continues to discover new things about them and how cognition functions.

            As for philosophy and even the philosophy of logic, it continues to raise more questions than answers, demonstrating ever greater diversity and questions, not unity. Each philosophical problem has been and continues being dissected into thinner and thinner strips using finer and finer arrangements of words. How's that going? No wonder science departments in universities continue to grow, while philosophy departments continue to dwindle in size, and religious dogmatic beliefs continue to be questioned though not refuted since they remain non-falsifiable, involving undetectable spirits and spiritual realms governed only by God's miraculous decisions to create and sculpt things directly out of His will, power, etc.

            Aristotleʼs basic rules are no longer all there is to logic. Today thereʼs fascinating discussions concerning the nature of logic, non-classical logic, logical pluralism, paradoxes, vagueness, contradiction, questions concerning liars and heaps, new essays on the a priori, the origins of reason, the origins of objectivity, epistemological problems of knowing, empty names, shadows, holes, new essays on contradiction, noncontradiction, transconsistency, as well as discussions of learning, development and conceptual changes. See the latest works in the philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophy of mind. I work in a library, so I do see such books and read synopses. Fascinating, but the overall impression is that philosophy by itself has little it can prove and involves unending debates that leave the biggest questions still a mystery. While scientists also admit mystery, but are chipping away at smaller questions, but slowly entering questions of brain-mind functioning, having discovered more about memory and just beginning to discover more about consciousness as well as the many species of natural widespread cognitive biases and very weird symptoms indeed. Like the man who mistook his wife for a hat. I humbly suggest that science will probably come up with models of cognition and models of brain-mind functions that overlap as more delicate means of measuring the countless activities of a trillion connections between brain cells can be measured more precisely and in unison with what the person is sensing and/or thinking consciously at the time. But a lot will remain mysterious because so much of what we say, think or do happens before we see, think or do it, in the realm of activities of which we are not conscious.

            Read my blog piece, Prior Prejudice and the Argument from Reason https://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/01/prior-prejudices-and-argument-from.html

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Please see my response posted today to this comment and to another by you just four posts below this one -- further down. Just scroll down to our exchange below. It is disconcerting to have two discussions running between the same people in the same thread. Thank you.

  • The fallacy of this blog piece is that the brain-mind-body system cannot be interpreted by looking only at individual neurons but one must examine the system as a whole.

    See...

    Famed Neurobiologists on Emergence in Nature (and how their views and arguments compare with C. S. Lewis's Argument from Reason) https://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/09/famed-neurobiologists-on-free-will-vs.html

    And...

    Prior Prejudices and the Argument from Reason https://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/01/prior-prejudices-and-argument-from.html

    • Dennis Bonnette

      You have a very impressive blog, but that does not surprise me, since I recall some years back visiting one of your earlier versions.

      You write, “The fallacy of this blog piece is that the brain-mind-body system cannot be interpreted by looking only at individual neurons but one must examine the system as a whole.”

      The position you present appears to be simply a more sophisticated form of scientific materialism that claims that the incredibly complex interaction of trillions of neurons in the human physiology can account for phenomena formerly thought to be of philosophical significance – and if there are any extent epistemological mysteries left, it is just a matter of time until we can sort these out. To back this view up, you cite the works of numerous outstanding neurologists and other cognitive scientists who hold similar views.

      This would appear overwhelmingly impressive to the many readers, who may not be aware of the great strides that have been made in mapping the functions of the human brain and the progress in discovering of neurological interactions that far exceed the simplistic functions of more elemental mental constructions of previous times.

      To quote from your own blog, “…cognitive scientists have clearly demonstrated the validity of positing a level of mental representation. They study “perceptual apparatus, mechanisms of learning, problem solving, classification, memory, and rationality… The conjecture about the various vehicles of knowledge: what is a form, an image, a concept, a word; and how do these ‘modes of representation’ relate to one another… They reflect
      on language, noting the power and traps entailed in the use of words…
      Proceeding well beyond armchair speculation, cognitive scientists are fully
      wedded to the use of empirical methods for testing their theories and
      hypotheses… Their guiding questions are not just a rehash of the Greek
      philosophical agenda: new disciplines have arisen; and new questions, like the potential of man-made devices to think, stimulate research.”

      Still, one must recall that the common coin of most all of your researchers is highly likely to be a commitment to some form of evolutionary materialism. When scientists speak, hearers sometimes forget that they, too, have philosophical presuppositions and that claims that “mysteries” will be solved by science often reflect more faith than real science. The meaning and significance of scientific findings is often conditioned by philosophical presuppositions which are not manifest to the average reader, especially when we are told that they set aside the entire opus of Greek and classical philosophy.

      Philosophical questions remain that transcend any study of human neurology, or even evolutionary theory for that matter. Questions about the very existence and basic intelligibility of the cosmos are philosophical in nature. Even Stephen Hawking asks, why does anything exist at all? Attempts to reduce philosophical constructs, such as the form, image, concept, and word simply to the domain of cognitive science ignore the philosophical issues contained in these notions, issues that challenge the very material nature of them which these neurological scientists doubtless presuppose.

      To restate, you write, “… but one must examine the system as a whole.”

      I concur that we must examine the system as a whole, but the philosophical question that then arises is, what is the significance of the term, “whole,” here? Does “whole” mean some sort of mere composite of trillions of individual neurons acting as a total system without any real substantial unity, or does this kind of unity constitute a single living substance with a single act of existence, unified by an Aristotelian substantial form? I am sure you don’t want to say the latter, but presuming the former is again simply a presupposition of, not science, but of the philosophy of scientific materialism.

      And if, by the “whole” you mean the trillions of neurons contained within the brain itself, we still have the problem that the physiological chain of causation terminates deep in the brain, where vision is said to be processed. How does the “whole” reach to the external object that we agree is the object of sight in this case? The “whole” of a single, ontologically unified, living substance entails the whole organism and is made one thing by a single substantial form – a very different explanation.

      I do not see how positing that somehow the physiology entails some sort of neurological “whole” escapes the analysis of the causal chain I make in my article above, since the causal process still terminates inside the brain, whereas the actual experience is of an extramental sense object.

      • I don't think you answered the question at all of why higher forces or laws cannot exist in nature that supersede lower ones without being supernatural.

        For instance, the position of individual atoms in relation to one another inside a molecule are dictated by laws of molecular constitution moreso than by laws of atomic constitution.

        And the individual atoms inside any two molecules that interact with one another in nature are being being moved around due to inter-molecular laws of motion, not atomic ones.

        Higher up we see how individual molecules are driven around inside the cell by chain reactions of which such molecules are a part, and the chain reactions depend on what the cell or parts of the cell are doing or reacting to, in feedback loops.

        And the cell is reacting to what other cells in its vicinity are doing and they react to what the tissue is doing, and tissues react to what the organ is doing, and organs function as organ systems that influence one another. And the living organism as a whole has its own dynamic drives, to reach out and seek food, a mate, a territory that is acceptable or appealing, and an instinct or desire to take in data, to learn about its environment and living things in that environment.

        And higher up still, inside the brain and nervous system we see dynamics that involve electro-chemical impulses traveling at speeds faster than any others inside the body and over a trillion interconnections between neurons.

        And animals with a brain-nervous system-sensory organs take in huge vistas of their surrounding environment (rather than focusing on individual atoms or molecules). The brain and nervous system (especially of large-brained mammals like elephants, cetacea, great apes and humans) incorporate wide vistas of knowledge on higher levels, memories of which form and change over decades from fetus to adult via incessant feedback.

        And each individual human is part of a far wider and larger cultural web of human interactions, experiences and learning.

        So there are higher level forces at work that supersede mere atomic forces, and that led to our species being able to recognize the world at large and make informed choices, and yet none of those higher level forces need be supernatural in order to be the movers of things on the lower levels.

        So once one notes differences in levels of organization, and new laws that apply at wider more all encompassing levels, and how new things can and do emerge out of simpler ones, what problem exists for naturalism as a philosophy? There are questions as to how individual things in nature and the brain-mind function, but as a philosophical worldview it appears as coherent within itself as other worldviews.

        Nobel Prize-winning Neurobiologist/Neuropsychologist, Roger Sperry, also does a good job providing explaining a naturalist emergentist view of the brain-mind:

        “Recall that a molecule in many respects is the master of its inner atoms and electrons. The latter are hauled and forced about in chemical interactions by the over-all configurational properties of the whole molecule. At the same time, if our given molecule is itself part of a single-celled organism such as a paramecium, it in turn is obliged, with all its parts and its partners, to follow along a trail of events in time and space determined largely by the extrinsic over-all dynamics of that paramecium. When it comes to brains, remember that the simpler electric, atomic, molecular, and cellular forces and laws, though still present and operating, have been superseded by the configurational forces of higher-level mechanisms. At the top, in the human brain, these include the powers of perception, cognition, reason, judgment, and the like, the operational, causal effects and forces of which are equally or more potent in brain dynamics than are the outclassed inner chemical forces…”

        “We deal instead with a sequence of conscious or subconscious processes that have their own higher laws and dynamics…that move their neuronal details in much the way different program images on a TV receiver determine the pattern of electron flow on the screen…”

        “And the molecules of higher living things are… flown… galloped… swung… propelled… mostly by specific holistic, and also mental properties—aims, wants, needs—possessed by the organisms in question. Once evolved, the higher laws and forces exert a downward control over the lower.”

        “Evolution keeps complicating the universe by adding new phenomena that have new properties and new forces that are regulated by new scientific principles and new scientific laws—all for future scientists in their respective disciplines to discover and formulate. Note also that the old simple laws and primeval forces of the hydrogen age never get lost or canceled in the process of compounding the compounds. They do, however, get superseded, overwhelmed, and outclassed by the higher-level forces as these successively appear at the atomic, the molecular and the cellular and higher levels.”

        “This does not mean these (higher forces) are supernatural. Those who conceived of vital forces in supernatural terms were just as wrong as those who denied the existence of such forces. In any living or nonliving thing, the spacing and timing of the material elements of which it is composed make all the difference in determining what a thing is. As an example, take a population of copper molecules. You can shape them into a sphere, a pyramid, a long wire, a statue, whatever. All these very different things still reduce to the same material elements, the same identical population of copper molecules. Science has specific laws for the molecules but no such laws for all the differential spacing and timing factors, the nonmaterial pattern or form factors that are crucial in determining what things are and what laws they obey. These nonmaterial space-time components tend to be thrown out and lost in the reduction process as science aims toward ever more elementary levels of explanation.”

        One might add that taking simple elements found in rocks and arranging them into just the right configurations can lead to the production of not just another rock, but a computer (perhaps even a ‘quantum computer’ one day).

        “In determinism, humans are not free from the higher forces in their own decision-making machinery. In particular, our model does not free a person from the combined effects of his own thought, his own impulses, his own reasoning, feeling, beliefs, ideals, and hopes, nor does it free him from his inherited makeup or his lifetime memories. All these and more, including unconscious desires, exert their due causal influence upon any mental decision, and the combined resultant determines an inevitable but nevertheless self-determined, highly special, and highly personal outcome. Thus the question: Do we really want free will, in the indeterministic sense, if it means gaining freedom from our own minds? There may be worse fates, perhaps, than causal determinism. Maybe after all it is better to be an integral part of the causal flow of cosmic forces than to be out of contact with these—free-floating, as it were, with behavioral possibilities that have no antecedent cause, and hence no reason nor any reliability relative to future plans, predictions, or promises. If one were assigned the task of trying to design and build the perfect free-will model, consider the possibility that the aim might be not so much to free the machinery from causal contact as the opposite, that is, to try to incorporate into the model the potential value of universal causal contact. In other words, contact with all related information in proper proportion—past, present, and future.”

        “At any rate it is clear that the human brain has come a long way in evolution in exactly this direction [from determinism to free will], when you consider the amount and the kind of causal factors that this multidimensional, intracranial vortex draws into itself, scans, and brings to bear in turning out one of its preordained decisions; potentially included, through memory, are the events and wisdom of most of a human lifetime. Potentially included, also, with a visit to the library, is the accumulated knowledge of all recorded history. And we can add, thanks to reason and logic, much of the forecast and predictive value extractable from all these data as well as creative insights newly conceived. Maybe the total falls a bit short of universal causal contact; maybe it is not even up to the kind of thing evolution has going for it over on galaxy nine; and maybe, in spite of all, any decision that comes out is still predetermined. Nevertheless it certainly represents a very long jump in the direction of freedom from the primeval slime mold, the Pleistocene sand dollar, or even the latest model orangutan.”

        In short, emergence is not mere hand waving, here is why in two propositions:

        1) Thoughts appear to require sensory apparatus and sensory input. How many thoughts does an embryo have and what quality are they when compared with the thoughts of someone at a more developed stage of brain-nervous system-sensory apparatus, and after having been raised, socialized and educated? And a person left in a sensory deprivation tank soon beings to hallucinated and might even conceivably deteriorate and/or go mad if deprived of sensations for a long enough period. And infants left in cribs all day at overcrowded orphanages who experience little daily human contact experience great learning difficulties later in life, sometimes such difficulties are impossible to overcome because too many neurons and neuronal connections that should have been forged during sensory interactions while young never developed but were pruned away at a young age.

        2) The brain-mind system does not focus on and react to individual atoms so much as notice and react to wide vistas relayed via sensory organs, and making sense of such wide vistas takes time and experience. The brain's neurons are constantly reacting, growing, dying, with a trillion inter-neuronal connections constantly altering via use and even altering during dreamless sleep, based on encounters during each day with wide vistas of input from the senses, present and past experiences. So it makes sense to view the brain-mind-body system making sense of the world at large, not merely at the whim of individual movements of atoms, but interacting with wide vistas of sensations, experiences, human knowledge interacting with human knowledge.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Just a couple thoughts:

          First, your descriptions of how evolution produces ever more complex and integrated systems is a beautiful exposition of what an Aristotelian philosopher would say is simply the material latticework sustaining higher and higher substantial forms for more advanced organisms. The key question is whether these more complex organic systems constitute substantial unities, or, rather are merely aggregated associations of smaller atomic units that somehow exhibit properties not found in the smaller units themselves. Clearly, even at a low level, sodium chloride exhibits properties radically diverse from the sodium and chloride ions that make it up, especially in terms of being safely ingested!

          If the higher units constitute truly unified beings of diverse natures, then hylemorphism reigns. If not, then atomism is true, no matter the complexity and sophistication of properties found in higher units. This debate is important, but was not the point of my OP at all. My critique of naturalism was strictly of an epistemological nature. I see nothing in all you describe above that avoids the problem I point out, namely, that sensation begins with the acceptance of really existing external sense objects, and yet, following a materialistic "no action at a distance" ontology (which appears to be the way natural science describes sensation), the terminus of sensation appears to be inside the brain. In that case, what we "really" know appears to be something inside ourselves, not the external object of sensation we assumed we knew in the first place.

          Granting the incredible complexity of higher organic entities in no way avoids the logic of this epistemological criticism as long as one maintains a materialistic ontology in which the causal chain of events in sensation, beginning with the external object and ending inside the brain, is maintained.

          • The question you raise is just a lead in to further questions because when it comes down to what we can know for sure about reality the theist and atheist is in the same boat epistemologically speaking.

            For thousands of years philosophers have debated whether the cosmos is made of "mind" or "matter." But such differences of opinion (and many shades of differences between them), continue to be debated, along with new understandings and hypotheses concerning what "mind" and "matter" are. And consider the heavy role played by intuitions when the intuitions of Berkeley (that the cosmos consists of nothing but mind) rubs up against the intuitions of Samuel Johnson:

            'After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal [everything is mind, not matter]. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it -- "I refute it thus."'
            --Boswell: Life of Johnson

            Philosophy also can't answer whether everything including memories arose an instant ago.

            It can't answer whether we might be brain in vats.

            It can't answer whether you are the only conscious being in the cosmos, and everything around you is a zombie of sorts generated by your god-like subconscious in perpetual "dream" mode.

            Intuition-wise scientists agree there is an external world and an internal representation of that world inside each brain-mind nervous system of animals including Homo Sapiens.

            But philosophically speaking, the options are wider and more diverse when it comes to disputing what reality really is and how things became as they are, because philosophical arguments are only limited by each philosopher's imagination, dueling intuitions, and hypothetical answers offered when further questions arise, as they always do, no matter one's worldview.

            Personally, I have argued at my blog that the idea of a Designer is not needed to explain the cosmos, because a Tinkerer rather than a Designer is a philosophically sufficient explanation for everything, or even the cosmos itself as a continual swirling mix that naturally complexifies in some places and deconstructs in others, a mix of life and death, evolution and extinction, both being in equilibrium with one another. And judging by the mass extinction events on this tiny bit of flying rock, one might even hypothesize or at least imagine whole cosmoses have arisen and also gone extinct. How many, I can't say. I can't even say what "time" is. For me the questions in religion and philosophy equal or exceed the alleged "final answers."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I really mean no disrespect -- since even a lifetime of serious study could lead to the same result, but your description of the state of philosophy reminds me of the typical impact of an introductory survey course in philosophy – the type usually given to college students in their core curriculum. After an entire semester trailing through the intellectual ashes running from Eastern philosophy, starting with the ancient Vedas, through the early Greeks and Medieval Period, through Descartes and the rest of the rationalists, empiricists, and idealists of the Modern Period, winding up with the contemporary existentialists, phenomenologists, and various forms of positivists and post-moderns – the average student is overwhelmed. Thinking that all these brilliant thinkers still don’t seem able to agree on whether the sun came up this morning, they tend to fall into various forms of skepticism, subjectivism, relativism, and historicism. If they don’t embrace the intellectual self-annihilation of a Gorgias, they often simply succumb to whatever version of reality fulfills their personal pragmatic comfort. In other words, they believe what they want to believe.

            I do not infer that we are all in the same epistemological boat, since the point of my article above is to demonstrate that the epistemological boat of the scientific materialism I
            describe has a major leak and has, in fact, sunk.

            Scientific materialism’s epistemology has sunk because it violates the metaphysical first principle of non-contradiction. As I describe in detail in the piece, it starts out by affirming that we are able directly to observe things in the physical world external to us as human beings, but is forced by its own description of the physiology and physics of sense knowledge, into concluding that we do not in fact directly know external reality, but only the internal neural contents of our brain.

            No, philosophy cannot answer everything. My article may not explain how we do in fact experience the direct knowledge of the external world that all natural science (and sane human
            beings) takes as a given. (The proper explanation would entail a good part of a course in epistemology.) But, it surely demonstrates that this particular materialistic explanation of sensation cannot be true.

            This is no substitute for development of an entire coherent system of philosophy, but it suffices to establish a tiny bit of objective truth is a sea of subjectivist confusion. In a world where no one thinks any truth is firmly attainable, knowing for
            yourself even a few objective truths is a pearl of great price.

            The significant take away from all this is that any system of thought that demands that all truth statements be empirically verifiable either through direct sense observation or experimental methods that are also sense verified is itself in serious epistemological error if its own principles and claims about sensation lead to the conclusion that what we directly know is not the external world that science claims to
            describe, but rather the interior of a brain whose own existence and nature can only be known by external sense observation.

          • If I may comment on your one paragraph summary, you wrote:

            "Scientific materialism’s epistemology has sunk because it violates the metaphysical first principle of non-contradiction. As I describe in detail in the piece, it starts out by affirming that we are able directly to observe things in the physical world external to us as human beings, but is forced by its own description of the physiology and physics of sense knowledge, into concluding that we do not in fact directly know external reality, but only the internal neural contents of our brain."

            Your argument fails to sink anything because it is one of the least relevant arguments ever devised. The evidence that science discovers things about the world is based more on phenomenological evidence than epistemic certainty. To debate epistemic certainty in science or religious experience or any other human endeavor is simply to dive into endless rabbit holes of questions as I already pointed out.

            But consider to the best of your limited knowledge, how and when did humans begin to learn about the benefits of producing eyeglasses, telescopes, microscopes, and continue to learn about nature and how to bend its phenomena to our interests and needs? How is it that we can communicate via computers?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Please understand that I have no quarrel with natural science. I have enough of a background both in physics and chemistry to love the domain of natural science. And I am well aware of the immense blessings that progressing technology has brought to the human race. Unfortunately, I am also aware that this very technology allowed us to kill more innocents in the twentieth century than any previous epoch in human history.

            I would contend that my argument did sink its target very effectively -- if you follow the logic. The fact that one does not think the point relevant does not make it wrong.

            I agree that science finds ever new and thrilling things about the world. Recall, that I am an epistemological realist myself. The real target of my article is a philosophy of materialism that begets such an epistemological self-contradiction.

            We can go on enjoying the immense fruits of natural science together. But I depart from a materialist metaphysics in the process.

          • Rob Abney

            Dr Bonnette, how would you consider the phenomena of Blindsight, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blindsight, when a person can see despite being blind.
            Is that an instance of intellect knowing being or is there an idealist explanation?
            Thanks.

          • Michael Murray

            Interesting page but it rapidly becomes "ugh" for me.

            We owe much of our current understanding of blindsight to early experiments on monkeys. One monkey in particular, Helen, could be considered the "star monkey in visual research" because she was the original blindsight subject. Helen was a macaque monkey that had been decorticated; specifically, her primary visual cortex (V1) was completely removed . This procedure had the expected results that Helen became blind as indicated by the typical test results for blindness.

            Sorry off-topic. The phenomena itself is fascinating.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't know enough about this phenomenon to comment fully. Still, anything to do with sight need not require intellectual activity, since sensation belongs to brute animal powers that are dependent upon matter for their operation. Idealism solves no sensory problems, since idealism leaves the knower not knowing the external sense object directly. Given the immaterial nature of the sensitive as well as the intellective soul, the restrictions imposed by materialism do not apply. So, maybe, there is a non-material answer here that remains in the sensitive order, not getting into anything spiritual at all.

            Real "blindsight" reminds me of the case at Lourdes, where someone had his eyesight fully restored, despite the fact that his optic nerve was still not functioning at all. Thus, he was seeing with eyes that could not "see."

          • Dr. Bonnette,

            The comment [A] http://disq.us/p/1l7ipyt may or may not make it through spam, and, so, that comment and its follow up comment [B] http://disq.us/p/1l8hmsc are over in the comment of http://disq.us/p/1l7j3f2 which opens with “Brian and Dr. Bonnette…” Once my comment section is up and running I'll be able to use that but till then I'm trying this :-}

          • Rob Abney

            Maybe blindsight was a preternatural trait and modern sight is a lesser ability.

            …6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

          • Your point about science inventing technologies that kill humans (and one might add, pollute the planet) was not the point about science I was making. I said that science works pragmatically to discover things about the world (including new things about how the brain and cognition systems function), things that anyone else can discover regardless of that person's religious beliefs or lack thereof. How does it do all this if it's as messed up epistemologically as you presume?

            Or maybe dwelling too much on airy epistemological questions based on linguistic definitions of words is what's messed up, because as the vast majority of people's experiences attest, no word equals a thing, no map equals the territory, and no model, even mathematical models, equals reality. Unless of course you have discovered evidence of such equivalencies, and what kind of evidence might that be?

  • Yes, Aquinas has been presented here many times. It suffers from the same problem that all cosmological arguments do. It applies intuitions about causation from our daily lives cannot be applied to other contexts.

    I reject this classification of reality into potency and actualization as unjustified and as hoc.

    I'd be happy to debate it if you'd like to present an argument.

  • It is also maybe worthwhile to explore the consequences of a world view that does not apply methodological naturalism as a basic epistemological approach.

    Say science gives this up. We have a thousand tests of dropping weights like Galileo did. They fall at different rates and this seems to correlate to their mass. The light objects like balloons and Styrofoam balls fall slowly, rocks and anvils much more quickly. We conclude that Galileo was wrong, things fall at different rates depending on mass. There is a criticism that suggests this is not an effect of gravity but air resistance another study repeats this in a vacuum and finds they all fall at the same rate. A further criticism is that God is everywhere and there can be no such thing as a vacuum. Therefore there must have been demons in that space, called up by man's sinful attempt to create a non-god space. These demons must have, or at least could reasonably have falsified the results.

    How do you rule the demons out. In fact, by what means do you argue that the suggestion of demons is unreasonable or unlikely? In fact how to you deal with the demon problem in any scientific study? This pill seems to cure, but has bad side effects? Exactly what demons would do, give us a false sense of security so we sell the drug widely and hurt a whole bunch of people and the cure won't work.

    Consider a murder trial. There is good evidence placing the victim in a room with no windows, one door and dozens of witnesses outside, the accused goes in, a scream is heard, the victim is there dead from stab wounds, the accused is holding the bloody knife. But the accused states another man walked through the walls and did the murder. The accused testifies. How do you cross-examine to impeach his credibility? You know that he is presumed innocent and that testimony is presumed credible unless shown non-credible. His demeanour is fine, he makes no inconsistent statements. Is there a reasonable doubt?

    The problem with epistemologies that do not apply methodological naturalism, is that they lose the ability to rule infinite possibilities out.

    You can say something like, well we can accept some phenomena, like spiritual revelation and ghosts as being real because many people recount them, whereas walking through walls and demons are rare and ad hoc and biased.

    But if you make this move aren't you really just doing a form of weak methodological naturalism? Saying we should exclude many supernatural phenomena, but not those commonly experienced. But what do we mean by common experience. These experiences are generally people alone, based on their own account, never observed by many people. Not in the last 100 years caught on film or digital tech. By what metric do we accept them as being "common"? If, on the other hand, supernatural phenomena happened commonly and observably, we would not consider it supernatural but mysterious and unexplained, like we do quantum weirdness.

    When Jesus resurrected, he was the only one to ever do this before or after. So it would not be reasonable for the witnesses who met him later to accept that he supernaturally resurrected, would it?

    Before we established science and methodological naturalistic approaches to epistemology, keep in mind that people did believe all kinds of explanations and these were often quite harmful. We held trials for witches and condemned them. People had all kinds of superstitions and ghost stories.

    So yes, metaphysically, believe what you want. But practically, we atheists and theists need to agree that we keep methodological naturalism in our serious disciplines like law, science, history, medicine.

    • The Christian metaphysic embraces methodological naturalism. However, not being as anemic as Non-Theism it simply has the wherewithal to avoid being forced into the unfortunate position of having to go on claiming to be "intellectually justified" in a move which embraces the all-encompassing kind of "illusory" at the expense of the lucid.

      Other than that, I'm not sure we've moved any further via your observation other than finding the new item on the table as you offer what you seem to believe is a "problem" to the Christian, which is that science does not measure how many Kilograms God weighs, which is, it seems on your view, a "problem" because otherwise how do we get rid of the demons. I'll let that line of reasoning speak for itself.

      Your premises there have left out the fact that Man is to master and tame and subdue the physical world (...outside of Eden it seems...). That is God's Go Out And...., and that speaks to those physical interfaces. There is also God's Come In and Know..., which speaks to quite another set of interfaces. When all of that cashes out we find that the sound bite of Kilograms ← → demons just doesn't speak to anything in the Christian metaphysic.

      The Non-Theist's options are as follows:

      [1] Methodological Naturalism
      [2] Philosophical Naturalism
      [3] Philosophical Scientism
      [4] Methodological Scientism

      They are, all, very Poetic vis-à-vis Naturalism.

      • Methodological Naturalism testifies of her own inability to explain her own self-explanatory terminus. Well, okay, on that last sentence, briefly:

        Methodological naturalism affirms its own inability to function as ontology. Just keep employing it and it keeps bringing you back to that same humility, and demonstrably so. It actually embraces that humility. Methodological Naturalism teaches us quite a lot. The Non-Theist and Physicist Sean Carroll (rightly) follows “Physics-Full-Stop” out to the painfully "illusory" ends of all syntax as "useful, but not true" is the driving current over in that corner. In short, cosmic absurdity forces an ultimately deflationary truth-value upon all claims upon reality. Given that the only other option to absurdity is God, his move is understandable *given* the sorts of Non-Christian and anti-scientific premises he is working off of. Why anti-scientific? Two reasons. First: Because we find in all such journeys a point, an ontic-seam somewhere, where one is forced to make the bizarre move of simultaneously claiming that one is [A] intellectually justified in choosing to reject reason's demands for lucidity through and through as it were while also [B] making moves which clearly expunge reason itself from one's proverbial Map of one's proverbial Territory. Second: Because he makes the irrational move of speaking "as-if" cosmology / physics are convertible with ontology and when Methodological Naturalism’s humility finally carries Carroll to that “Y” in the road where (on the one hand) it will be *GOD* / reductio ad deum or else (on the other hand) it will be the reductio ad absurdum (reduction to absurdity), well then Methodological Naturalism has given her testimony – and she rests her case.

        • "Methodological naturalism affirms its own inability to function as ontology."

          Of course, it is not ontology, it is epistemology.

          The rest of your comment is very hard to follow. Perhaps I would know more if I'd read Carroll's book.

          From what I can tell the rest of your comment is attacking this epistemology's failure to be able to prove itself.

          • His nominalism with respect to the Self is an open annihilation of coherence. That's not problematic given his metric of useful but not true, and so on.

      • "The Christian metaphysic embraces methodological naturalism. However,
        not being as anemic as Non-Theism it simply has the wherewithal to avoid
        being forced into the unfortunate position of having to go on claiming
        to be "intellectually justified" in a move which embraces the all-encompassing kind of "illusory" at the expense of the lucid."

        You say this, but this is exactly the opposite of what Dr Bonette argues. He argues because methodological naturalism cannot be or is not justified, it is a nightmare of epistemology.

        "you seem to believe is a "problem" to the Christian, which is that science does not measure how many Kilograms God weighs"

        I see no such problem and this is not my position. There is no epistemological nightmare or problem for theism or naturalism. The problem is not how we get rid of demons, but how can we assign any cause to anything if we give any weight to the possibility that it just looks that way because some supernatural cause is making it look that way.

        "Your premises there have left out the fact that Man is to master and tame and subdue the physical world"

        It is left out because it is irrelevant and I do not believe this to be true in any sense nor is there any good reason to believe this.

        Your list of options is nowhere near exhaustive nor are the options all mutually exclusive. They also seem to be a list with no clear category. 2 and 3 are metaphysics, 1 and 4 are epistemological. There are more non-theistic epistemologies and metaphysics.

        • [1] It's not the opposite of Bonnette in that the Christian embracing Methodological Naturalism is not equivalent to stopping at M.N.

          [2] It is not irrelevant that we are to subdue the physical world because that is how we can assign a cause to something as we give weight to differing possibilities and include the fact that it might look a certain way. For example, the nominalism which physics-full-stop forces as Carroll embraces finally deflationary truth values only looks necessary because of his materialistic assumptions.

          [3] The nominalism with respect to the Self which Carroll rightly embraces is an open annihilation of coherence. That's not problematic given his metric of useful but not true, and so on. Any metaphysic which finally trades away reason itself, leaving her expunged by the concrete furniture of reality, eventually gets to S. Carroll's stopping point. It's one of the reasons I respect his honesty. He moves past all the hedges and gets to the point.

          • I don't understand what you mean with number 1. Are you saying that the difference between atheist and Christian embrace of methodological naturalism is that Christians don't only use methodological naturalism but atheists do, in terms of epistemology? If so what do they add to it?

            Your first sentence makes no sense to me, are you saying that we identify causation of a certain thing by subduing it? How does this follow? You say you're giving an example but instead you provide another abstract phrase, that I can't understand. I'm afraid I don't know what this nominalism of the self you are criticizing is

            It seems you really just want to criticize Sean Carroll

            I'm afraid I still see no actual criticism of either naturalism, rather just a vague reference to some poorly articulated grudge with this idea of poetic naturalism.

  • I'm done. I see no actual criticism of naturalism other than what essentially amounts to name calling.

    It's no argument to simply say non-theism denies reason and so on. Maybe I'm not bright enough to follow, but I think we've gone as far as we can.

    • "Reason" involves intentional belief and far more. It's not new information. The elimination of the mind, that is, in the discussion of Theism / Non-Theism and explanatory power. See the Feser / Hart additions in the linked comment. "Denying Reason" just is to "Deny Mind". That has both content and context behind it. And, again, it's not new. Hence the additions of their quotes.

      • I don't agree that reasonable involves either intention or belief.

        Non-theism does not require the elimination of the mind or the denial of other minds.

        If I wanted Sean Carroll or Edward Feser's take I would read them. I want your views not references to others.

  • Metaphysical or philosophical naturalism insists that only entities empirically verifiable by natural science exist, which excludes all supernatural beings, especially God.

    Wrong. If you can't get it right in the first paragraph, what hope is there for you?

    Naturalism is not the same thing as materialism, and requires no epistemology that says "only entities empirically verifiable by natural science exist." You're confusing scientism or logical positivism with naturalism. Materialism is a subset of naturalism. Naturalism can technically allow for non-physical things like platonic forms like numbers existing, just no non-physical things like gods that have a causal influence on the spatio-temporal world. This doesn't mean all naturalists are platonists. Most aren't.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      You conveniently missed the opening line of the OP:

      "Metaphysical naturalism, usually identified with scientific materialism,...."

      I clarified this point a long time ago. "Usually identified with scientific materialism" makes clear that I was talking about the ordinary, garden variety of scientific materialism, which is correctly depicted in the piece.

      Everybody wants to say that I am not talking about THEM.

      • I get that a lot too when I talk about "religion" or "Christianity." But where in the definition of scientific materialism does it insist "that only entities empirically verifiable by natural science exist,"?

  • James

    This entire article feels like the author is trying to pull a fast one on the reader.

    The problem of materialism is that people cannot trust their senses to reflect reality, yet the author also claims that it is proper to trust our senses to reflect reality. The author creates a gap, then presents spirituality as the only way to fill the gap.

    It feels a lot like a case of "create the disease, sell the cure."

  • "Metaphysical or philosophical naturalism insists that only entities empirically verifiable by natural science exist". This is totally untrue. For example, electromagnetic fields existed long before science figured out how to measure or detect them. The existence of reality does not wait around for science to verify its existence. This includes the existence of God. The same applies to scientific materialism. These theories are passé. Probably most of reality is beyond our senses.

  • melihat

    " meaning that we do not know external reality, but rather merely some change within our brains that we hope to be an accurate representation of the external world."
    I think the author has made a false distinction here. He is describing what it is to know external reality. If there is some other way to know it, he ought to tell us.
    That we can only have knowledge of something through our senses brain, and reason is not somehow a limitation. That is how we know and what constitutes knowing. There's nothing left over.

  • Nova Conceptum

    Empirical verification presupposes epistemological realism

    Let's be very clear on this term "presuppose"

    Science provisionally postulates the basic reliability of the human senses. Science does not presuppose in the sense of implicitly assume or in the sense of explicitly assert that human senses absolutely are or must be detecting a true external reality.

    One may always speculate that one is god and what we perceive as reality is a grand divine dream. I have no way to prove to myself or to you with absolute certainty that the god speculation is not the case.

    We scientific materials assemble and by convention agree to proceed on the basis that the human senses seem to be some fair representation of a true external reality, and that a non-disprovable speculation lacking in positive evidence is to be cataloged, placed in the stacks, and perhaps remembered from time to time, but generally ignored for the purpose of proceeding on the mutually agreed upon provisional postulate that the human senses are basically reliable.

    we do not know external reality, but rather merely some change within our brains that we hope to be an accurate representation of the external world.

    Indeed, our experiences are, very literally, hallucinations. Our brains are trapped inside a bony case and only receive a flood of electrochemical signals, which are interpreted to create a hallucination that we experience.

    But, all is not hopeless, we are able to make predictions, act, and sense results. This provides us with confirmation of the probability that our hallucination is some fair representation of a true external reality.

    We can also communicate with others to arrive at confirmation of shared experiences, further increasing the probability that our sensed perceptions are at least fairly accurate.

    Now with the development of technology we can build machines that measure light, sound, and temperature so we can compare the results indicated on our equipment with our perceptions to identify areas where our senses are accurate and where they are inaccurate.

    Thus, we scientific materialists have amassed an enormous body of evidence that our senses are basically reliable as we provisionally postulated in the first place.

    Naturalism entails assuming the philosophy of materialism. .., That is the fatal flaw of the materialistic...

    If scientific materialism assumed in the sense of asserted to be provably absolutely true then that would lead to an irrational circularity, indeed.

    No actual irrational circularity is required for scientific materialism because no such assumption need be made.

    If the above analysis demonstrates that materialism necessarily entails a self-defeating epistemology,

    Scientific materialism is entirely self consistent, not at all self defeating, as I have clearly demonstrated above.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      As I said earlier, you have built an epistemological moat around your scientific materialism designed to protect it from all assaults.

      The only problem is that what you call a provisional assumption is what I would call a mere assumption.

      By your own admission, the logic of scientific materialism's description of the noetic situation necessarily implies that what we know is not directly external reality, but merely changes in the brain assumed to be caused by external physical reality, or, as you so strikingly put it, hallucinations. (I would not go as far as the latter conclusion myself.)

      Then you give a mass of data amounting to saying "it works" and we can prove it because of all the consistency in results that flow from the assumption that physical laws and reality actually exist as "hallucinated."

      Your proofs:

      "we are able to make predictions, act, and sense results. "

      "We can also communicate with others to arrive at confirmation of shared experiences,"

      "Now with the development of technology we can build machines that measure light, sound, and temperature so we can compare the results indicated on our equipment with our perceptions to identify areas where our senses are accurate and where they are inaccurate."

      Each of these claims essentially amounts to the pragmatic assertion that "it works."

      But none of them prove anything except that the "hallucinations" are internally consistent with the assumption that we know the external world through the representations in our brain and that there really are external people and objects that work as expected based on this assumption.

      The problem, as illustrated from the Kantian epistemology, is that all this merely indicates what may be an internal consistency in internal sense impressions.

      It is not proof that the sense impressions actually correspond to external
      reality -- only that they are consistent with themselves.

      The fact remains that the very science you develop on the assumption that we know external reality leads to the conclusion that we do NOT know external reality.

      Even the claim that we somehow indirectly know external reality through the representations ultimately presumes that the indirect knowledge accurately corresponds to external reality, which means the same thing: we assume that we know external reality as it really is.

      But the theory your materialistic scientism leads to says that we do not know external reality as it really is. All we can ever possibly know is internal sense impressions -- without even really knowing that they ARE
      "sense impressions," since them being sense impressions assumes that there are external physical objects causing a chain of events leading to changes in the brain. Read my OP on naturalism's epistemological nightmare for details.

      My conclusion is not provisional. It is not a mere assumption. It is a demonstration that your scientific materialism has an internal contradiction that you have not managed to refute by making everything provisional and relativistic and by trying to offer proofs that presuppose the very thing they claim to prove.

      • Nova Conceptum

        As I said earlier, you have built an epistemological moat around your scientific materialism designed to protect it from all assaults.

        Indeed, a good argument withstands assaults.

        I prefer the arguments I affirm to be unassailable.

        Then you give a mass of data amounting to saying "it works" and we can prove it

        I did not state or imply "proof", avoidance of that word being intentional on my part.

        Each of these claims essentially amounts to the pragmatic assertion that "it works."

        Agreed, to a high personal probability estimate, not a proof.

        But none of them prove anything

        Indeed. Science doesn't do proof in the absolute sense. A scientific proof is inherently a provisional demonstration to some level of probability based on the operative postulates of science. Scientists know all this so they don't bother with all that cumbersome verbiage at every instance.

        The fact remains that the very science you develop on the assumption that we know external reality leads to the conclusion that we do NOT know external reality.

        Science concludes that we DO know external reality to an extremely high probability, given the astronomical volume of cross confirmations of material manifestations and the paucity of evidence for the god speculation.

        But the theory your materialistic scientism

        I don't know of any scientific materialists who ascribe to scientism, which seems to be a strawman term coined and used exclusively by theists.

        It is a demonstration that your scientific materialism has an internal contradiction that you have not managed to refute by making everything provisional and relativistic and by trying to offer proofs that presuppose the very thing they claim to prove

        Proof is your word, not mine. To ascribe the word "proof" to my position is a strawman.

        Scientific materialism is entirely self consistent because it is self consciously based on provisional postulates and does not assert that the conclusions of science are proofs in the absolute sense.

        There is no irrational circularity in scientific materialism as I have described it. There is irrational circularity in strawman representations of scientific materialism, but I am not responsible to defend positions I have not expressed and do not hold.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Well, since you do not hold any positions at all with anything more than provisional opinion, I guess I am free to offer to the rest of the mankind my own objective proofs about the nature of being and the world without any clear refutations from you.

          I have other projects to work on, so you may have the last word.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Ok, so you concur then that scientific materialism is not self defeating and does not contain an irrational circularity.

            Thus your statement "epistemological trap that scientific materialism springs on itself, and one no one on this site has ever directly refuted." is no longer the case. One person has now directly refuted that scientific materialism entails an epistemological trap..

            One remains, as always, free to offer whatever one wishes about the nature of being, and a carefully constructed speculation cannot be strictly disproved by scientific evidence, any more than scientific evidence can disprove Russel's teapot. But of what positive value are such speculative assertions?

            Best wishes and good hunting on your other projects. Right now I am making my way through in installments Atheistic Materialism - Does Richard Dawkins Exist? - YouTube. A catchy title worth a good chuckle, and really quite a fair and non-trivial question on materialistic reductionism.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not saying that your logic does not entail an epistemological trap. I am merely saying that when you make all your judgments "provisional," there is not much left of substance to contradict.

            But to the extent you do try to make assertions about the real extramental world, your claims become self-defeating.

            Don't worry. You won't like the other project I am working on either.

          • Nova Conceptum

            If an epistemological argument cannot be contradicted then it does not contain an epistemological trap.

            Science is inherently provisional and based on a set of postulates well understood to be not fundamentally proved. Science does not offer proofs in the absolute sense.

            Where is the epistemological trap?

            The assertion of an epistemological trap in scientific materialism has in fact been directly refuted on this site by at least one person.

            But to the extent you do try to make assertions about the real extramental world, your claims become self-defeating.

            Where is the self defeating assertion.?

            Scientific claims about the extramental world are based on the foundational postulates of science and are contingent upon them. If it turns out that I really am god and you really are a figment of my divine imagination then all this science stuff is out the window. I am personally convinced I am not god, so my confidence level in the basic reliability of the human senses is very high.

            Dr. Bonnette, we scientific materialists figured this all out ages ago. I am not telling you anything new.

            There is no epistimelogical trap in scientific materialism when assertions about the extramental world are made because they are made within the framework as I have described.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"If it turns out that I really am god and you really are a figment of my divine imagination then all this science stuff is out the window."

            You don't have to be a god in order to have your sense impressions deceive you about external reality. All you need is deceptive impressions.

            Let me get this straight then. Scientific materialism cannot be self-defeated because everything it says is "provisional." If I understand "provisional" are really meaning "assumed," then I have every right not to take anything you say seriously.

            On the other hand, if you insist on making broad claims about human knowledge based on your scientific claims, then I have every right to point out that your claims entail the self-defeating inference that all you really know is sense impressions or images, which is contradictory to the general scientific belief that science is about the external world.

            Which way do you want it? That everything you say is a mere assumption? Or, that your claims can be robustly critiqued as being self contradictory?

            Always remember that scientific materialism is not the same thing as natural science. It is a philosophical system as subject to philosophical criticism as any other. You cannot hide behind natural science as if natural science somehow "proves" that scientific materialism is correct.

            Of course, this is perhaps unfair -- since you have admitted that your entire approach to knowledge is merely "provisional," which I read as "an assumption." This is entirely consistent with your admission, "Science does not offer proofs in the absolute sense."

          • Nova Conceptum

            Having established that scientific materialism does not entail an epistemological trap, you may fairly ask, ok, fine, but what good is it? The materialist admits uncertainty about the extramental world in every respect. You may well ask, what good are a bunch of guesses and assumptions?

            But how much is this uncertainty with respect to scientific materialism? What is the likelihood that our senses are so deceived as to make scientific materialism essentially useless and dismissed as pointless if not self contradictory?

            How likely do you consider it to be that you are living some sort of dream? How likely is it, in your view, that there are no real substances entailed in your eating? Your computer is just an illusion. Your house is just a mirage? Your body is imaginary? That is the uncertainty of scientific materialism.

            Those are the sorts of deceptive impressions needed to make scientific materialism false. For myself, I consider such speculations to be nothing more than baseless fantasy utterly at odds with everything I seem to know and others report they seem to know. Since my estimate of the probability of dream speculations would be to fill up this screen with zeros after a decimal point and them put a 1 at the end, I estimate the probability that scientific materialism is true to be vanishingly close to 1.

            And, it turns out, nobody can do any better. A and T both based their philosophies on what is manifest and evident to the senses. If our senses are so hopelessly distorted then A and T are just as wrong as everybody else.

            We are all in the same boat, just a brain in a bone case processing electrochemical signals. Those who claim certain knowledge beyond cogito ergo sum and a few close derivatives. are the ones with the epistemological trap.

            It is we scientific materialists who have succeeded in so many ways. Our philosophy is free of the circular reasoning that comes with unjustifiable claims to certain knowledge. We then proceed on the provisional basis that all common sense and science tells us, that our senses do correlate strongly with an extramental true reality. By iteratively cross checking each other over vast numbers of trials, and with the benefit of modern technology we have characterized known distortions of our senses and devised many ways to compensate accordingly.

            To say "it works" is not a proof in the absolute sense, that is coherently integrated into the scientific materialist philosophy. Rather, given the astronomical evidence that it works in so very many ways to say "it works" is to express a probability asymptotically approaching 1.

            For a brain in a bone case, that's as good as it gets. Life is uncertain and then you die.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It is you who say that scientific materialism does not entail an epistemological trap, not I.

            The stronger you make the case for knowing the physical world through images inside your brain case, the more tightly the epistemological trap closes in on you.

            How can you make any judgments whatever about external objects when all you know are images in your head?

            If you retreat to merely provisional knowledge, well and good -- but then you are reduced to mere assumptions.

            But if you insist more and more strongly that our scientific knowledge is of the external world, then your scientific findings more and more entrap you only inside your cranium.

            The cause of this dilemma is your embrace of what is called "the causal theory of perception." This says that knowledge is caused by external objects which result in changes in the brain, and therefore, all we know is changes in the brain. But if that is true, then we can never know that there were external objects in the first place to cause the changes in the brain! You are trapped and either don't see it or refuse to admit it.

            Aristotle and St. Thomas never make that mistake. They just say what we know is the external world as it presents itself to the senses. This is unlike Descartes and the rest of the Moderns, who assume the causal theory of perception and get entrapped forever by epistemological idealism in the process.

            I think this is all in my original article if you read it slowly.

          • Nova Conceptum

            How can you make any judgments whatever about external objects when all you know are images in your head?

            Because that is what a judgement is, a probability estimate. That's what it means to use judgement, or to pass judgement, or to exercise judgement. You don't know to an absolute philosophical certainty that your child did or did not take the cookie from the cookie jar, so you make a probability estimate, you exercise parental judgement. All judgements are like that, probability estimates that lead one to act absent the availability of absolute certainty. That's just life as we know it and live it.

            But if that is true, then we can never know that there were external objects in the first place to cause the changes in the brain! You are trapped and either don't see it or refuse to admit it.

            That asserted trap only occurs in the case of an asserted probability of precisely 1. When we introduce a probability only asymptotically approaching 1 then the imagined trap vanishes.

            Moderns, who assume the causal theory of perception and get entrapped forever by epistemological idealism in the process.

            Scientific materialism is the antithesis of epistemological idealism. I suggest you read my words slowly.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Because that is what a judgement is, a probability estimate."

            But your probability estimate has as its object an extramental reality that your own scientific inferences tell you you do not know at all, since your immediate knowledge is only of the changes in the brain -- a brain you don't even know you have, since it is known only as an extramental object observed by someone else who knows only changes in his own brain, and so forth to infinity.

          • Nova Conceptum

            But your probability estimate has as its object an extramental reality
            that your own scientific inferences tell you you do not know at all,

            Knowledge is also a probability estimate that X is or is not the case.

            I can assign a probability of 1 to just a few things. I have certain knowledge that I exist in some form, therefore there is an existence, and that existence is sufficient to support the perceptions I experience.

            Anybody who claims to have derived a system of certain knowledge of the extramental world in fact has their own epistemological trap, and is merely kidding themselves with faulty reasoning.

            I know about the extramental world just like everybody else, by estimating the probability that my perceptions correlate to a true existent external reality.

            You can't do any better, I know that because I can't do any better and nobody has ever published into general circulation a way of doing any better, so for a brain in a bone case that is simply as good as it gets.

            Scientific materialism is entirely lacking in an epistemological trap, circularity, or infinite regress of knowledge claims. That's because it is a philosophy of probability estimates and claims to provisional knowledge only.

            That might not seem very satisfying to you but that is as good as it gets, you cannot do any better, and it is good enough to function in life and build the vast successes of modern science.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"I know about the extramental world just like everybody else, by estimating the probability that my perceptions correlate to a true existent external reality."

            You don't seem to realize that every time you make an estimate of the "probability that [your] perceptions correlate to a true existent external reality" you are in fact making a judgment that includes the state of external reality as part of its knowledge content.

            But, since you are only a "brain in a bone case," your judgments are necessarily limited solely to the contents of your "bone case." Hence even making probability judgments that have any application whatever to external reality exceeds what you have admitted is the limits of your knowledge.

            That is, you are flat out contradicting yourself by (1) admitting you know only the contents of your own brain, and yet (2) claiming that your judgments of probability have any value whatever in reference to external reality.

            Moreover, every judgment of probability you make must be either absolute or itself merely probable. If it is absolute, then the content of your knowledge is not merely probable, but continuously filled with absolute judgments -- contrary to your own claims.

            If it is merely probable, then what is its probability? If less than 1, then your actual estimate of the probability that your knowledge of external reality is correct is a factor of your first judgment and your probability judgment of your first probability judgment.

            This leads to every judgment about external reality being merely a probability of a probability of a probability .... and so forth -- so that the entire sequence of probabilities in the judgment asymptotes at zero. That is, your probability system amounts to virtually no knowledge at all!

            Moreover, every judgment is, by its very nature, either affirmative or negative. Thus your judgment of probability is itself in absolute form merely because the only way the intellect knows being is in a judgment and judgments are intrinsically absolute. See my article on the principle of non-contradiction: https://strangenotions.com/the-principle-of-non-contradictions-incredible-implications/

            Your attempt to create an epistemological wall of probability around your scientific materialism leads to implications that are self-contradictory and absurd.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Being self aware that I am both making a judgement about the extramental reality as well as judging my own mental processes eliminates any sort of circularity or infinite regress.

            You don't seem to realize that every time you make an estimate of the "probability that [your] perceptions correlate to a true existent external reality" you are in fact making a judgment that includes the state of external reality as part of its knowledge content.

            Hence even making probability judgments that have any application whatever to external reality exceeds what you have admitted is the limits of your knowledge.

            Not when knowledge is regarded as a gradient of probabilities. All I have is the signals coming into my brain, but on the postulate that the senses are basically reliable that turns out to be enough to learn a very great deal about the extramental world. If it turns out that this is all just a dream then we are all completely wrong about nearly everything.

            If you don't care to hazard a particular guess for the numerical value of the grand illusion, fine, just leave the probability of the grand illusion in its symbolic form, say, G, because assigning a particular numerical value is not necessary for the formulation of a self consistent philosophy of scientific materialism.

            The grand illusion speculation is the only defeater for the realism of my basically reliable senses. If one wishes to be greatly concerned with the grand illusion speculation that is a personal choice. We scientific materialists have noted the grand illusion speculation, formulated our philosophy to be free of any circularity or infinite regress whatsoever, put that speculation on the shelf and have gone about the business of advancing human knowledge astronomically.

            That is, you are flat out contradicting yourself by (1) admitting you know only the contents of your own brain, and yet (2) claiming that your judgments of probability have any value whatever in reference to external reality.

            If I were arguing the strawman known as scientism such contradictions would be the case.

            You seem perhaps focused on something akin to positivism, or maybe what the religious call scientism. Positivism in its strong form contains the very self contradictions you ascribe to my words. Scientism is just an all purpose smear attribution that is merely a strawman of scientific thinking.

            What is the probability that the grand illusion is the case? I will call that number G, without the need to assign a particular value to G.

            Regarding 1) above, I know to a probability of 1-G that the signals coming into my brain correlate to an extramental true existential reality.

            Regarding 2) above, I know to a probability of 1-G that my judgements about the extramental world have the great value of being correlated to the true nature of the real extramental world.

            I am not contradicting myself in the slightest. Others have contradicted themselves, but I have not.

            This leads to every judgment about external reality being merely a probability of a probability of a probability .... and so forth -- so that the entire sequence of probabilities in the judgment

            G is simply a single personal estimate that need not be specified numerically. One need only employ a symbol such as G to construct a philosophy of scientific materialism that is free of circularity and any call for a regression of estimates.

            What is the probability that our existence is a grand illusion? Just use an identifier as a placeholder and, done. no call for any sort of regression.

            Moreover, every judgment is, by its very nature, either affirmative or negative. Thus your judgment of probability is itself in absolute form merely because the only way the intellect knows being is in a judgment and judgments are intrinsically absolute.

            Fuzzy logic is one formulation to the contrary. There are others for example correlation analysis. Intuition is a part of our intelligence, one has a hunch and acts absent certain knowledge and absent becoming mired in an infinite regress.

            Your attempt to create an epistemological wall of probability around your scientific materialism leads to implications that are self-contradictory and absurd.

            Scientific materialism is entirely free of self contradiction or any call for an infinite regress of successive probability estimates.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            > "... on the postulate that the senses are basically reliable ...."

            Given that the logical inference drawn from scientific materialism is that all we know is changes in our brain, or, as you put it, that we are a "brain in a bone," we precisely have no right to postulate anything about the senses at all!

            Nor have we the even right to conclude that we are a "brain in a bone," since that requires reliance on "the postulate that the senses are basically reliable" when they externally observe a brain in a bone.

            I am in no way suggesting that everything is a dream or a grand illusion. What I am saying is that when you combine the philosophy of materialism with the causal theory of perception, you are forced to conclude that all you can legitimately know is the contents of your own brain.

            This makes any postulating about the reliability of the senses unsupportable, since you simply cannot make any judgment at all about the correspondence between what is in the brain and external reality -- since you know only one end of that correspondence, namely, the contents of the brain.

            Any probability or other judgments about the correspondence between the brain and external reality are impossible, precisely because your philosophy combined with the supposed mechanisms of sensation makes it impossible to know the other end of the correspondence, namely, the external object.

          • Nova Conceptum

            we precisely have no right to postulate anything about the senses at all!</blockquote Everything about my life tells me there is an extramental reality. Everything I see, smell, taste, touch, hear blares out at megavolume that a real external material existence is the case.

            The only counter to this inescapable cacophony of external signals coming in is a mere speculation that somehow this is all a grand illusion.

            I know of no individual who as ever expressed a personal conclusion that the grand illusion is the case. I suppose maybe somebody has, but I have never had any contact with any such person that I know of.

            Nor have we the even right to conclude

            We have every right to conclude to a probability of 1-G all those things that seem so very apparent, that we have a brain, that we detect a real outside existence, and that our senses are basically reliable.

            you simply cannot make any judgment at all about the correspondence between what is in the brain and external reality -- since you know only one end of that correspondence, namely, the contents of the brain.

            If it were my personal conscious job to sort out from scratch the correspondence between the incoming signals and the structure of the external world I would quickly die of starvation. Fortunately, evolution combined with learning as a baby makes it automatic.

            Any animal with a brain that does not process the signals coming to the brain to form models and responses to the real world quickly dies and does not reproduce and is therefor selected out of the gene pool.

            All this is manifest and evident to the senses. To assert the contrary is mere speculation.

            I know to a probability of 1-G that what my senses tell me are basically reliable.

            There is no circularity, call for a regression of probabilities, or unsupportable claims in scientific materialism as I have expressed it.

            How do you define knowledge? What does it mean to know? Some say knowledge is a justified true belief. In my view that definition is circular and of no value. How do we know what is true? How do we know that what we think is a valid justification really is a valid justification?

            Knowledge is a probability estimate that a fact is or is not the case. We know things to some probability. Of the extramental world that probability is always less than 1, not much less, but no matter how much evidence one has regarding a known fact it is always possible to concoct some sort of contrived counter speculation.

            The only knowledge immune to counter speculation of any sort is my personal cogito ergo sum, I exist in some form, therefore there is an existence, and that existence is sufficient to support the experiences I perceive. End of certain knowledge.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Scientific materialism is entirely free of self contradiction or any call for an infinite regress of successive probability estimates."

            What you just don't seem to grasp is that it is not the science, but the assumption of materialism that gets you into self-contradictions and philosophical absurdity.

            I have repeatedly stated the problem is clear terms: "What I am saying is that when you combine the philosophy of materialism with the causal theory of perception, you are forced to conclude that all you can legitimately know is the contents of your own brain."

            As a Thomistic philosopher, I would be the first to defend the reliability of the senses.

            But I do not try to combine this truth with the assumption of the philosophy of materialism.

            It is the materialism that entails the causal theory of perception which leads to the absurd conclusion that all we know are changes in the brain, or, as you somewhat crudely put it, that we are "a brain in a bone."

            Once you make the absurd inference that all we know are changes in the brain, all the rest of the self-contradictions and absurdities arise.

            But please note that this inference comes from assuming that sense knowledge is no more than a materialistic process. You have no a priori grounds for that assumption.

            And that assumption must be false, since it leads to the absurd conclusion that all we can know is changes in our brains.

            If you go back and reread my article with the above caveats in mind, you will see that the circularity in reasoning can be avoided if you would just abandon your gratuitously assumed materialistic philosophy.

            I am not being unscientific. I am simply not trying to combine science with materialism in a cocktail that leads to philosophic nonsense.

            Edit: When I say that you have "no right to postulate anything about the senses at all!," I am not denying the validity of sensation. Read it in context. I am saying that IF you infer that all you know are changes in the brain, THEN you have no right to postulate anything about the senses as telling us anything about external reality.

            In other words, my statement about not trusting the senses is a contrary-to-fact hypothetical based on the absurd inference you have made because of your scientific materialism that all we know are changes in the brain.

          • Richard Morley

            I have repeatedly stated the problem is clear terms: "What I am saying is that when you combine the philosophy of materialism with the causal theory of perception, you are forced to conclude that all you can legitimately know is the contents of your own brain."

            Do you claim to legitimately know more? What do you knowabsolutely beyond your own experience of the immediate moment? You "know" what you feel and remember now, but that is all. Your memories, senses and conclusions are all demonstrably fallible: you cannot refute the demonstration without rejecting thought, sense and memory. Which is unrefutable but sterile and useless.

            We canjudge far more usefully. We must acknowledge the fallibility of sense, memory and even reason, but that still allows us to make useful judgements. You apparently want to reject this, but what do you offer in its place?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, we must approach the noetic act with no philosophical presuppositions, such as materialism.

            Second, we must realize that Descartes made a fundamental mistake in saying that what we first know are ideas (for Hume, sense impressions).

            What we first know are extramentally-given objects. Only secondarily do we know images or ideas, although those are also directly known in the noetic act. That is, we would not know that an image or idea of a deer was such unless we first know the extramentally-given object, and then, by reflection realize that we retain an intramental image or idea when the object itself is not there.

            Third, we should note that there is no doubting the immediately experienced object. If a lion is standing in front of us, we are not epistemological skeptics. When we turn our back or shut a door to hide the lion, we may doubt its reality, but cannot doubt the reality of the image we still have of it.

            The reason doubt is impossible in direct experience is that to doubt there has to be a division between what I know and reality. I can think my car is black, but in the driveway it is white. But when immediately experiencing a given color, I cannot doubt the color as part of the content of my experience. Yes, I can hallucinate. But then I cannot doubt the reality of the content of my hallucination, even though I may realize it does not correspond to extramental reality.

            These are just the beginnings of a realist epistemology, which would take a full course to explore and is beyond what I can do on this thread.

            But the key is to abandon the materialist assumption and deal directly with the contents of actual experience.

            Lest you assume this is pure subjectivism, recall Descartes error in assuming everything was merely an image or idea, whereas our primarily given experience is of extramentally sensed objects.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Scientific materialism is a conclusion, not a presupposition.

            philosophical presuppositions, such as materialism.

            What we first know are extramentally-given objects. Only secondarily do we know images or ideas

            First we see an image, then we learn aspects of the object the image represents. First we hear a sound, then we learn aspects of the object from which the sound emanates.

            A baby in a crib reaches for the toy without knowing anything about it. First comes the image, then comes the cross checking by varying the sensory perceptions. She will grab it, suck on it, chew it, bang it around, and from that she learns more about the object. Science does essentially the same thing, using a vast number of cross checking experiments, measurements, and models to find our more about observed reality.

            If a large object is coming toward you it may be unknown as to what its specific traits are, but by inference you know to get out of the way lest you be crushed.

            Yes, I can hallucinate. But then I cannot doubt the reality of the content of my hallucination, even though I may realize it does not correspond to extramental reality.

            This is the materialist view as well.

            But the key is to abandon the materialist assumption and deal directly with the contents of actual experience.

            There is no materialist assumption in scientific materialism. Materialism is a scientific conclusion, which is why scientific materialism is free of circularity or any call for an unsupportable regress of probability estimates.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Scientific materialism is a conclusion, not a presupposition."

            Respectfully, I don't think so. You appear to assume a materialistic scenario every time you write a word.

            >"First we see an image, then we learn aspects of the object the image represents. First we hear a sound, then we learn aspects of the object from which the sound emanates."

            You don't even seem to realize you have presupposed the "causal theory of perception" here and always.

            No, you DO NOT first see an image! Look back at my example with the deer. First, you see the deer, and then you can close your eyes and see an image of the deer.

            To say the first thing we see is an image is to start with the assumption that all you know is images in your brain. That is a CONCLUSION forced by a mechanistic understanding of sensation that leads from the external reality through a causal chain of events leading to internal changes in the brain which is ALL you believe you know.

            If you were not a materialist and did not presume this entire physical causal sequence, you what say what every other human being says. First, I saw the deer, and then, I closed my eyes and saw an image of the deer.

            >"A baby in a crib reaches for the toy without knowing anything about it. First comes the image, then comes the cross checking by varying the sensory perceptions. She will grab it, suck on it, chew it, bang it around, and from that she learns more about the object."

            Make up your mind! Does she see "the image" or "the object." You cannot even keep your own story straight!

            >"Materialism is a scientific conclusion..."

            I just don't know how to react to this claim, except to point out that I have never heard any philosopher -- not even materialists -- make this claim.

            Science does not produce philosophy. This is just a total confusion of distinct disciplines.

          • Richard Morley

            First, we must approach the noetic act with no philosophical presuppositions, such as materialism.

            Or supernaturalism. Of course we do not, the point is that not doing so leads only to belief in that for which we have evidence - what you call 'materialism' even though it includes belief in many many things which are not 'material'. It just excludes (firm) belief in things like ghosts, goblins or God. For which we have no convincing evidence.

            What we first know are extramentally-given objects.

            Piffle. All we know at any moment is our perception of that moment. No idea as to whether some 'extramental' object induced it. If you want to whittle 'knowledge' down to such a useless sterile nub.

            Reason, memory, senses are all demonstrably fallible.

            The deer you see may be a hologram. Or a model. Or a hallucination. Or you may be a brain in a vat or just a simuation in Sims23867. The very concept of 'a deer' may be artificially induced by an experimenter or an omnipotent demon.

            You did not answer my question, Do you claim to know that this is not the case?

            Naturally we have to come to some pragmatic judgement about how reliable sense, reason, & memory are, and live accordingly, but this is where you appear to disagree and seem to think that you have some deeper level of knowledge.

            Third, we should note that there is no doubting the immediately experienced object.

            Again, Piffle. I can reliably induce the 'bloody mary' illusion and various others, and have done so. I have no doubt (in the usual sense, not in the sterile "I only know my current perception" sense) that my face has not, in actual fact, changed.

            Sense
            Is
            Fallible.

            Ditto for reason and memory.

            This is why Science wins out over your "I cannot fit this into my preconception" version of 'philosophy'.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have already responded to some of your objections in my replies to Nova Conceptum below -- even though Disqus seems to be raising more epistemological problems than you do, since it blanks out much of our comments and replies!

            To respond to the question(s) you claim I am ducking:

            "I have repeatedly stated the problem is clear terms: "What I am saying is that when you combine the philosophy of materialism with the causal theory of perception, you are forced to conclude that all you can legitimately know is the contents of your own brain." DB

            >"Do you claim to legitimately know more? What do you know absolutely beyond your own experience of the immediate moment? You "know" what you feel and remember now, but that is all. Your memories, senses and conclusions are all demonstrably fallible: you cannot refute the demonstration without rejecting thought, sense and memory. Which is unrefutable but sterile and useless." RM

            The central issue is do we only know the contents of our own brain or not. You challenge me to prove we know more. My point, as explained in detail to Nova, is that, if you remove the philosophical assumption of materialism, you have no solid ground to claim that all you know is changes in your brain.

            The proper phenomenological description of immediate experience is that it is primarily of an external physical world, with images and ideas being also immediately known, but also realized as being derivative from experiences of the external world.

            It is only by building up of natural science, based on acceptance of that experience of the external world, that we can then combine that science with a materialistic philosophy and assumption of the "causal theory of perception," that we then infer that all we know is changes in our brains.

            This is evidently circular reasoning, as I explained also to Nova, which occurs, not from science itself, but from adding metaphysical materialism to the mix.

            Science begins with the same thing all humans have in their immediate experience, acceptance of external reality as undoubtedly real.

            I do not deny that there can be errors in the senses or in the medium, or in memory, or in the event of such abnormalities as hallucinations. But these are secondary to an accurate description of the initial noetic act that all human beings experience.

            And unless you have some ulterior motive for insisting that it is merely "changes inside your brain," the actual experience is that of an external physical world.

            What causes this claim that we know only the contents of our brain is pre-packing the analysis with a materialistic interpretation of reality, a presupposition that is not warranted in the initial experience itself.

            The full circularity induced by this materialist hypothesis is explicated in my responses to Nova below. I cannot repeat them everywhere.

          • Richard Morley

            I have repeatedly stated the problem is clear terms

            Testify!

            90% of (online) philosophical discussions seem (to me) to be about agreeing on terminology. There is a quote I recall but cannot track down along the lines of "all the answers are easy once you have identified the right questions". Similar. Agree on the terms and the argument is not exactly gone, but generally trivial.

            The central issue is do we only know the contents of our own brain or not.

            As soon as you say 'brain' you are ssuming what you accuse us of assuming. A physical world and a materialistic explanation of consciousness.

            Rather, I say all we know is our immediate experience, including reason and memory and senses. For pragmatic reasons, one initially accepts these as provisionally accurate, then become increasingly sure that they are almost, but not entirely, reliable, and build an internally consistent model thereupon. Which leads to what you call 'naturalism' with no 'epistemological nightmare'. What do you do differently?

            Which part do you disagree with? The validity of the external world? Or of our senses or memory? Or that of logic? Or the idea that the brain is where thought and memory take place?

            You challenge me to prove we know more.

            Which you have not answered.

            you have no solid ground to claim that all you know is changes in your brain

            Piffle. We deduce that later on in the logical chain, it is not the starting ground, but if you disagree feel free to volunteer for a lobotomy.

            but also realized as being derivative from experiences of the external world

            Nope, we conclude that, but all we know is the immediate experience. Indeed, for most people 'concluding' that would depend upon trusting one's memory of the earlier stages of the argument.

            This is evidently circular reasoning,

            No, it is not. It is linear reasoning, from acknowledging our immediate experience, to provisionally accepting its validity, to building an internally coherent model based on what we experience, remember and think.

            You have not offered a better alternative model, you are even using the machine based on the science you claim to despise. You seem only to be attacking a straw man that no one has actually espoused. I could quote mine whole sections of your post that actually seem to agree with everything I have said here, so what exactly is your point?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            @novaconceptum:disqus

            You say I despise science. Not so. Along with philosophy, my background was also initially in chemistry. I value science, but not naturalism's philosophy.

            "you have no solid ground to claim that all you know is changes in your brain" DB
            "Piffle. We deduce that later on in the logical chain, it is not the starting ground," RM

            So what then is you "starting ground?" You say, "It is linear reasoning, from acknowledging our immediate experience, to provisionally accepting its validity, to building an internally coherent model based on what we experience, remember and think."

            So, you start with "immediate experience." (So, do I.) You say you are "provisionally accepting its validity." What precisely does this mean? It sounds like you mean that you accept knowing external physical reality, since you build natural science upon it, and natural science is based on knowing and observing the natural world.

            You say this is only "provisionally" accepted. But how can a "model" be built unless you "provisionally" assume that its premise is true?

            From the internal consistency of that model and its predictive success, you "deduce ... later on" that all one knows is "changes in the brain."

            BUT, the "starting point" in that whole "chain of reasoning" was the assumption of the truth of our experience that what we know is the external world.

            Or, do you deny that that is what we experience? Do you claim that the initial experience is of changes in the brain? Is that your experience? Or, your conclusion.? You say it is your conclusion or deduction. Then, what, pray tell, DO you experience?

            I submit that what you experience exactly what I experience, namely, being immediately present to a real physical world.

            If it is what we experience, then I infer that your "line of reasoning" has led to the contradiction of your initial "experience," since you begin by immediately experiencing a real extramental physical world and conclude that you are NOT immediately experiencing a real extramental physical world, but only changes in the brain.

            That said, you have a massive contradiction in your epistemology.

          • Nova Conceptum

            You say you are "provisionally accepting its validity." What precisely does this mean? It sounds like you mean that you accept knowing external physical reality,

            Provisional as opposed to a belief.

            To provisionally assert is to say "for the sake of argument let's just suppose X, although I retain the options to reject X in the end if overall X is shown to be incongruent with further observations and reasoning.

            In science this is associated with a hypothesis. It's like playing what if.

            Consider a puzzle, an ordinary board cut out type puzzle. We can start out with a few pieces that fit together. Then I can make a hypothesis, a provisional assertion, that the rest of the pieces will fit together in particular ways.

            When I am all done I find out that the pieces do fit together in those particular ways. I still don't know where the pieces came from or how the pieces came into existence, nor do I necessarily know exactly what each piece is made of, but I do know they fit together just as the hypothesis provisionally asserted.

            There is no circularity in this process. I have simply made an observation at the beginning, a hypothesis, and found that in fact the hypothesis is satisfied by a completed puzzle.

            Now, along comes a guy who says, "oh no, your are all wrong, because this is a circular puzzle, look I start at this piece, then it connects to another, and another, and another until we get right back to the starting piece.

            I say, no, it is your way of thinking that is circular, you are considering this piece, then a moment later you are considering the next piece, and this circularity you assert is just you thinking in circles over time. The whole puzzle just fits together in its entirety simultaneously.

            I submit that what you experience exactly what I experience, namely, being immediately present to a real physical world.

            ... you begin by immediately experiencing a real extramental physical world and conclude that you are NOT immediately experiencing a real extramental physical world, but only changes in the brain That said, you have a massive contradiction in your epistemology.

            Immediate experience of the outside world is a perceptual distortion.

            Human beings do not have the sort of self awareness needed to directly sense that material is propagating from an object, bending to form and image on the retina, cells send electrochemical signals by the millions, brain cells decode these signals and form a controlled hallucination we perceive as the outside reality itself.

            Science, or scientists, begin with the same human experience, a sense of immediate knowledge of the outside world. A hypothesis is formed that provisionally asserts all these elements are at work. Scientific analysis affirms this hypothesis which also withstands attempts at falsification.

            So, science catalogs another perceptual distortion to be characterized and compensated for when considering human perceptions of reality. What seems like a direct and immediate perception of the external real world is actually a very complicated process a material propagations leading to the brain decoding incoming electrochemical signals.

            There is no contradiction in our epistemology whatsoever.

            What is your proposed alternative, since you seem to object to the scientific view? How can you support the assertion of actually being immediately present? Do you deny the need for propagation delay for material to get from the external object to the eye or ear? Do you deny the propagation delay along the nerve pathways? Do you suppose that the eye/nerve/brain system is actually non-functional and instead the brain somehow supernaturally just knows in zero time the changes in distant scenery?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I do not deny either the facts of propagation delay from objects at a distance, nor do I deny science itself.

            I merely deny that the philosophical interpretation you are giving to the science is coherent.

            I don't think you are using "provisional" here the way you try to describe it with the puzzle example.

            If you merely concluded that the scientific analysis led from external things to changes in the brain, but that this did not settle the question as to what we really know in experience, then maybe your example would fly.

            But that is not what you do. You start with this hypothesis and from it produce a model and from the model finally conclude that all we really know is changes in the brain.

            Because your conclusion is definitive, one must conclude that your starting hypothesis was not a mere hypothesis, but something you assumed to be objectively true. Otherwise, you could not deduce as objectively true that all we know is changes in the brain.

            Because you are asserting the conclusion to be objectively true, and because this means the starting hypothesis is taken as true, the fact that the starting hypothesis (that we know external reality itself) contradicts the conclusion (that we do not know external reality, but only changes in the brain) is an absolute contradiction, and thus, not rationally tenable.

            Your total epistemological theory is self-defeating and incoherent.

          • Nova Conceptum

            No scientific conclusion is definitive. That is what breaks and terminates what would otherwise be circularity.

            Because your conclusion is definitive

            Because you are asserting the conclusion to be objectively true,

            I have repeatedly and clearly stated the opposite.

            See
            Evolution as Fact and Theory by Stephen Jay Gould
            cited previously as just one instance in the literature clearly stating the opposite of what you are attributing.

            Your attribution is a repeated strawman in the face of repeated corrections.

            Your total epistemological theory is self-defeating and incoherent.

            Your strawman is incoherent. I will not try to guess the psychological reasons why you continue to repeat your strawman and manifestly ignore the actual position.

            What is your proposed alternative, since you seem to object to the scientific view? How can you support the assertion of actually being immediately present? ...(questions removed because you answered them)...Do you suppose that the eye/nerve/brain system is actually non-functional and instead the brain somehow supernaturally just knows in zero time the changes in
            distant scenery?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, to be clear, I accept that objects at a distance are not known at the moment they are sensed. It would be scientific and realistic lunacy to suggest that a Proxima Centauri is being seen as it is now when the light rays were emanated four light years ago.

            Second, I do not deny the general scientific analysis you offer that indicates that the physiology of sensation results in changes within the brain. Contrary to your rising suspicions, we Thomists need not be scientific medievalists.

            My problem arises when you infer that what we directly know are those changes in the brain.

            Contrary to your claim that your initial premise was merely provisional, you clearly believe the truth of the scientific conclusion, namely, that what we actually know in sensation is the changes in the brain.

            My point is that the force of your conclusion derives from the truth of your provisional premise, since, unless you really know extramental reality at the outset, the entire scientific edifice on which you base your conclusion is at risk -- since your conclusion contradicts your provisional premise.

            Now, I think I understand your position. You are saying that our initial experience appears to represent an externally given world, and, given how it all turns out with the science, the initial assumption is confirmed, namely, that our internal experience really does more or less perfectly reflect how the external world really is.

            But my point is that, first of all, your initial premise is not actually that we experience a near perfect representation of external reality. Rather, we experience external reality itself. You would never even doubt this were it not for the subsequent scientific findings.

            The difficulty is that natural science is based on epistemological realism. Its starting point is NOT that we know representations of external reality. Its starting point is that we know external reality. All observations, experiments, and judgments are made as being of extramental physical reality. Were that not the case, we could never draw any conclusion about what is inside the brain as really being inside the brain, since we could never be certain that our knowledge was not merely about a representation of something, and not the thing itself.

            More than that, the very acceptance of the causal theory of perception -- meaning that external objects act through a series of causes to create internally experienced effects -- requires that we have knowledge that there exists an external cause in the first place. But we have no such knowledge on the assumption that your inference is correct.

            I know. You are still convinced that it was just a lucky case that it happens that our internal experience so perfectly represents external reality that all our science works out so perfectly as to show us that what we really experience reflects external reality as it really is.

            BUT, there is a real difference between saying that what we directly experience is a perfect representation of external reality and saying that what we directly experience is external reality itself.

            I submit that the only correct description of our actual experience is that we directly experience external reality itself. One would never come up with this "representational" theory unless, and until, other considerations come into play. But those "other considerations" do NOT exist in the actual experience human beings have before they become scientists and which scientists have before they examine the physiology of sensation.

            There is more to this than I can put in one comment. For instance, what is the A-T alternative that many seem so sure does not exist?

          • Nova Conceptum

            The difficulty is that natural science is based on epistemological realism. Its starting point is NOT that we know representations of external reality.

            I have never seen this asserted by a scientist or philosopher of science. Does this appear in the literature someplace?

            One place you might look is "Against Measurement" by John S Bell. I don't pretend to follow all the math is familiar detail, but there is enough basic math and common English to recognize that Bell was very much questioning what we know about the actual true reality we purport to measure,

            All observations, experiments, and judgments are made as being of extramental physical reality. Were that not the case, we could never draw any conclusion about what is inside the brain as really being inside the brain, since we could never be certain that our knowledge was not merely about a representation of something, and not the thing itself.

            An entirely unscientific view. I know of no scientist who writes in this manner. Again, do you have references for this asserted view?

            What you are saying is so foreign to science as scientists actually practice it that I am baffled as to where you got these ideas from.

            In sceince all observation, experiments, and judgements are taken as provisional and subject to later contradiction. Scientists draw scientific conclusions. "Scientific", among other purposes, serves as a qualifier in this context, meaning, among other things, "provisional", "not absolute", "not a certain proof".

            I know. You are still convinced that it was just a lucky case that it happens that our internal experience so perfectly represents external reality that all our science works out so perfectly as to show us that what we really experience reflects external reality as it really is.

            If our senses were not basically reliable we would not be here. Nature is manifestly harsh. If we are confused between a rock and food, a clump of dirt and a predator, we are dead.

            Evolution by natural selection is not simply luck. We are the way we are because having wacky senses would lead to death and extinction very quickly.

            One would never come up with this "representational" theory unless, and until, other considerations come into play.

            Clearly our senses are representational, you acknowledged as much at the outset by accepting the case of a distant star, nearby objects being only quantitatively, not qualitatively different in our perceptual process.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have no doubt that by now those scientists who are familiar with the physiology of sensation share your view, even among most philosophers of science (who tend to be materialists). That is not the point. What I am saying is that the methodology of science necessarily begins with the assumption, based on direct experience, that what we immediately know is the external physical world around us.

            >"In science all observation, experiments, and judgments are taken as provisional and subject to later contradiction."

            Again, I don't doubt this with respect to all other theories and explanations about physical reality.

            The problem is that the question of what we immediately experience is (1) not like any other problem, and (2) philosophical, not scientific, in its proper description of the act of sense experience.

            It is not like any other scientific problem, because other hypotheses describe some question about what is already taken to be part of the physical world, and then properly test its viability in terms of empirical verifiability in the physical world.

            This is the only case in which what is "provisional" is the content of immediate sense experience itself -- so that acting on the conviction that we directly know the physical world becomes part of the methodology of the very science which is called upon to decide the question of its own starting point. That is NOT like other hypotheses as I previously described.

            Moreover, this is a philosophical, not scientific, question as to the proper description of the content of sense experience itself. All you have to do is examine the history of such philosophical schools as phenomenology to understand this point.

            I have never said that the senses are not basically reliable. That is not the question. The question is whether what we first know in sense experience is external reality or merely some sort of internal state of the mind, senses, or brain.

            What I said about the fact that we do not perceive Alpha Centauri as it really is right now, but as it existed four years ago does not mean that I have conceded that all we know is internal representations of things.

            The real philosophical issue is whether what we immediately know in sensation is (1) something in ourselves, or (2) something external to ourselves. It is sufficient for purposes of realist epistemology merely to maintain that what we know is the external physical object as it presents itself to the end organs of the senses. The key question is do we merely know a change in the organ or the brain, or, do we know an externally given object as it impacts the external organ.

            This may sound like a trivial difference, but it is the difference between some form of epistemological idealism and epistemological realism. The key point in realism is that we experience ourselves as immediately present to an external physical world and its immediate "otherness" is given in that experience.

            Any scientific theory that claims that all we know are the internal changes within our body, rather than external reality, distorts and misrepresents our actual experience.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Science takes it as a provisional postulate that what we immediately know are changes in brain states that correlate to an external reality by a transfer function with known accuracies and inaccuracies in time and data content that must be compensated for in order to gain knowledge of external reality.

            What I am saying is that the methodology of science necessarily begins with the assumption, based on direct experience, that what we immediately know is the external physical world around us.

            Not the case, please see above.

            (1) something in ourselves, or (2) something external to ourselves.

            Modern science holds that we immediately know something in ourselves, our brain states, and they are so strongly correlated to external reality that in many practical cases one can approximate the experience as immediate sensation of an external reality.

            For example, if a scientist reads a weight on a scale, there is no need to go into a long analysis of the distortions of the eye/brain system. For that purpose one may simply read the number and take it a face value.

            Any scientific theory that claims that all we know are the internal changes within our body, rather than external reality, distorts and misrepresents our actual experience.

            It is our apparent experience that is the distortion, not the scientific view that all our brain has to go on is signals coming into it. The model of how those signals get to the brain, how the resulting experience is realistic, and how the resulting experience is distorted...that model is realistic.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Science takes it as a provisional postulate that what we immediately know are changes in brain states that correlate to an external reality by a transfer function with known accuracies and inaccuracies in time and data content that must be compensated for in order to gain knowledge of external reality."

            As I hope I have conveyed clearly in previous comments, I understand precisely what you are saying here as to the nature of your conclusion and the reasoning leading up to it.

            I have tried also to explain that the starting point, which is the immediate experience of any human being, is not the province of natural science, but philosophy -- since it is merely a matter of accurately describing what we experience. This is why I referred you to the contemporary philosophical school of phenomenology (even though I don't belong to it!).

            What we all experience is an extramental physical world. If you wish to argue from that to prove through the methods of natural science that our immediate experience is invalid and untrue, that is another matter. But then the problem is that the starting point for even scientists is the same as it is for philosophers and all other human beings, namely, an extramentally given world.

            The problem is that your scientific conclusion still contradicts your starting evidence and also the scientific methodology that relies on that evidence.

            Your hypothesis may indeed be provisional, but the evidence you use to demonstrate its correctness is taken from experience of a real extramental physical world. So, your conclusion, even if it is consistent with that hypothesis, still contradicts your starting premise, namely, that you know directly extramental reality.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Why would human experience somehow not be a subject of science?

            the immediate experience of any human being, is not the province of natural science, but philosophy -- since it is merely a matter of
            accurately describing what we experience

            Science is the only tool we have to account for human experience. Do you suppose that just armchair thinking about human experience will yield a realistic accounting of human experience?

            The problem is that your scientific conclusion still contradicts your starting evidence

            Ok, another starting evidence is that I observe the sun, moon, planets, and stars arcing across the sky while I observe myself to be stationary, hence the entirely obvious observation that the universe orbits a stationary Earth.

            Your observation of the immediate experience of an outside reality is as obvious and true as geocentrism.

            Philosophy did not solve these distortions, science did.

            So, your conclusion, even if it is consistent with that hypothesis, still contradicts your starting premise, namely, that you know directly extramental reality.

            In science there is no starting premise the we directly know extramental reality. That is a stawman you repeat even after you acknowledge that you have been corrected on your strawman. At what point do you stop repeating this strawman?

            In science there is a starting point that we experience the experiences we perceive ourselves to be experiencing. The correlation, accuracy, and transfer function between a postulated extramental reality and our experiences is the subject of further scientific investigations.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am trying mightily to resist the temptation of calling you guilty of that old bugaboo, scientism. But I yet may fail to resist. This sure sounds like it:

            >"Science is the only tool we have to account for human experience."

            I hate to tell you, but not all knowledge is subject to empirical verification -- but that does not mean it is meaningless either.

            I recall that you yourself said something to the effect that one thing you were certain of was your own existence. If so, how do you empirically verify that fact?

            I am talking about the sort of thing that moderns are beginning to call "qualia," immediate experiences that are real, but private and incommunicable, such as pain, imagining a horse, or knowing you exist.

            Even though you keep calling it a straw man, the fact remains that our immediately-given experience is primarily of external reality -- and just calling yourself a scientist and hypothesizing other scenarios does not do away with that fact. And it is that fact from which all our other judgments about the world proceeds.

            And yes, this is the province of philosophy, not natural science -- precisely because it is not something subject to empirical verification, while yet undeniably real.

            Indeed, you can do experiments and find changes in the brain that correspond to subjective experience of an objective physical world. But those external observations of what takes place in the brain are simply not the same thing as the experience itself, although materialists assume that they are. Recognition of this truth is what has forced modern philosophers to posit the existence of qualia.

            >"Your observation of the immediate experience of an outside reality is as obvious and true as geocentrism."

            Not true. St. Thomas and earlier Aristotelians were well aware that error takes place in the judgment, rather than the senses. Thus, the existence of extramental reality and of its motion is immediately given certitude. But what is in motion relative to what is simply a judgment that can be in error, and, in the case of geocentrism, was in error.

            What I said above still remains absolutely true: "The problem is that your scientific conclusion still contradicts your starting evidence and also the scientific methodology that relies on that evidence."

            As I have repeatedly said, I have no problem with natural science itself. The problems arise when you try to combine natural science with the assumption of metaphysical materialism. This leads to self-contradictory inferences, such as your explanation keeps making.

          • Nova Conceptum

            the fact remains that our immediately-given experience is primarily of external reality

            We immediately experience our experiences, not external reality. Maybe your strawman attribution of the starting point of science is a projection of your own misunderstanding. Science does not share your misunderstanding.

            Not true. St. Thomas and earlier Aristotelians were well aware that error takes place in the judgment, rather than the senses. Thus, the existence of extramental reality and of its motion is immediately given certitude.

            Wrong and wrong. I suggest you put the ancients on a shelf and truly learn modern science so you can stop repeating the gross errors of the ancients.

            The problem is that your scientific conclusion still contradicts your starting evidence

            What problem?

            We start with the evidence that the universe orbits the Earth, and our scientific conclusion contradicts that starting evidence arriving at the scientific fact of heliocentrism and the rest of modern cosmology.

            We start with the evidence of our personal perceptions of experience and our scientific conclusion contradicts that starting evidence by arriving at the scientific fact of the universe/sense/brain/experience process.

            Scientific facts often contradict starting evidence, that is what science does, among other things, expose human errors.

            This leads to self-contradictory inferences, such as your explanation keeps making.

            You clearly have some sort of mental block or fixation on strawmen you picked up somewhere along the way.

            You you even consider a central benefit of science, to reach conclusions in contradiction to starting evidence, as some kind of problem. I suggest you start there. Maybe if you can get your concepts of science clear on that point you will be on the path to ending your mantra of strawmen.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"We immediately experience our experiences, not external reality."

            Stop right there.

            We do not experience experience. We experience the content of our experience, of which external reality is the primary given.

            If you cannot grant that, we have nothing to discuss.

            And I already gave a perfectly coherent explanation of the geocentrism problem. We do not start with experience that the universe orbits the Earth. That is an appearance from which a faulty judgment was made. Even in ancient times, people knew well the possible errors we can make based on relative motion. They were not stupid. But they did make an error in judgment about what was in motion.

            Nonetheless, what I said was correct. What is given in experience is that there are external objects, such as stars, and there is motion.

            It is clear that there has been a confusion between hypothesis and premise in this dialogue.

            There is no problem with using empirical evidence in science to test an hypothesis and determine whether it can be falsified.

            But immediate experience of an external world is not an hypothesis. It is a given of experience that is then used as a premise in the scientific arguments leading to the conclusion that what we know is not the external world, but a very close replica within the brain.

            I can understand why this confuses and deceives you. But you still must follow the logic without trying to deny what is immediately given in human experience, namely, that our first knowledge is of an extramental world.

            When that is used as a premise that purportedly leads to the conclusion that we do NOT have immediate knowledge of an external world, you have what we call a "contradiction."

            Kindly explain why it is not one. Do you deny the premise? Or do you confuse it with your conclusion?

            And don't keep telling me it is a straw man. Try telling me that it is false to say that a proper description of our experience is that it is of an external world. Then your argument would have some teeth.

            Your argument would be valid, but your premise would be dead wrong.

            Edit: I must correct myself. If you deny the obvious truth of our experience, then even your argument could not proceed, since you would have then pulled the rug out from under your natural science which proceeds by making judgments about the real external world.

          • Nova Conceptum

            We do not experience experience. We experience the content of our experience,

            False dichotomy, actually it is both, I just don't take the time and space to expand every phrase in detail because that would make posts excessively long.

            We have the near term content experience of a sound, or a shape, or a color as these incoming signals are robotically processed, we also experience the experience using other parts of the brain. The brain is a massively parallel signal processing device, as well as a sequential algorithm processor, plus there are multiple processing networks working in a sequential /parallel set of complicated processes.

            So, we experience both the content and the experience of that content.

            which external reality is the primary given

            Given? By who or what? Most of us do indeed take for granted that our sense experiences accurately represent an external reality.

            Science makes no such assumption. That fact that we each have our experiences is undeniable, but their relationship to external reality is highly doubtable, and in fact has been scientifically shown to be distorted in a variety of very important ways.

            But immediate experience of an external world is not an hypothesis.

            Of course the connection between experience and a real outside world begins as a hypothesis. If there is to be any god at all it may as well be me and you are just a figment of my imagination in that case.

            On testing that hypothesis a great deal of evidence leads to the scientific conclusion that an external world is real and our senses provide a distorted but basically reliable correlation view of that external reality.

            It is a given of experience that is then used as a premise in the scientific arguments leading to the conclusion that what we know is not the external world,

            You have that back to front, again, for the umpteenth time. Sorry Dr. Bonnette, but no, no, and no.

            In science it is a given that we are experiencing in some way. Further investigation leads to the scientific conclusion that we are receiving signals to the brain that are decoded to form an internal model of an external reality though a complicated process of material transfers..

            our first knowledge is of an extramental world.

            Again, no, no, and no. Our first knowledge is of the experience. I become consciously aware of my robotic experiences and my emotional.experiences. The connection of my experiences to an outside reality is scientifically secondary, not primary.

            If you deny the obvious truth of our experience, then even your argument
            could not proceed, since you would have then pulled the rug out from
            under your natural science which proceeds by making judgments about the
            real external world.

            It is obviously true that we are having the experiences we perceive ourselves to be having.

            It is just as obviously true that the connection between those experiences and an outside reality is doubtable and entirely secondary. This has been known at least as far back as Descartes.

            And no, this does not pull the rug out from under scientific judgements, because of the word judgement, which is inherently probabilistic and uncertain and based on incomplete knowledge. A judgement is a probability estimate based on incomplete knowledge, which is one description of science.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Most of us do indeed take for granted that our sense experiences accurately represent an external reality."

            The do not "represent" external reality. They "present" external reality to us -- at least the initial ones do.

            Your very statement of what we experience contains within it the conscious (or possibly subconscious) claim that all we know are representations, not external objects themselves.

            I have tried to point out to you that we have direct and undoubtable experience of extramental objects. You continue to deny this.

            I can only conclude from this that you are confusing perceptive judgments with reflective judgments.

            When we directly perceive an external object, it is psychologically impossible to doubt its extramental presence. For example, try being confronted with an hungry lion and, in the same moment, doubt its external reality.

            You may well claim that you can do so. But the problem is that you are not presently confronted with the lion in reality.

            You are merely reflecting on what it would be like to be confronted with such a beast. The object of your attention is not the real lion, but merely with the thought of a lion.

            You are sure of the intramental lion in such a reflective act, but not of its extramental existence.

            The perceptive judgment of the lion's presence is undoubtable when you actually confront one, since the immediate object is now that which you directly experience.

            Doubt is possible when you shift your direct attention from the thing to the act of knowing it, since what you are doing is substituting in reflection the act of knowing for the thing as immediate object of the mind.

            This is why you don't see that direct knowledge of extramental reality is a premise in your argument.

            I submit that you have been accepting this "scientific conclusion" for so long that whenever you think about knowing external reality, you do not do so by confronting some actual external reality -- but by instinctively thinking about having a representation in your mind -- so that your "thought of knowing an extramental object" actually is replaced with the "thought of knowing an internal representation of an extramental object!"

            The real act of knowing has as its object extramental reality, such as the open jaws of the lion about to eat you.
            You are not reflecting upon the actual experience, but a plausible, imagined substitute, namely your hypothesis that what we know is simply a near perfect representation of external reality inside the brain.

            As long as you approach the act of knowing in this secondary and unauthentic manner, I will never be able to convince you that your initial premise is not what we actually know in sensation, but a hypothetical model you have adopted as your only way to imagine our experience.

            There are other reasons why the object of our experience cannot be located within the brain, but you never got even the first premise right, which is why you never got around to asking how the realist approach might be possible.

          • Nova Conceptum

            This is why you don't see that direct knowledge of extramental reality is a premise in your argument.

            That depends which part of which argument you are referring to.

            Our direct experience of vision is shapes and colors which most people take for granted are existent external objects.

            Science takes no such thing for granted, and is thus free from any circularity that would arise from from the assumption that our experience that seems so much to be a direct experience of real external objects is actually what it seems to be.

            Science makes no such assumption. People in their ordinary lives do make that assumption, science does not. This seems to be your core error in this context.

            It is not doubtable that I am experiencing the sensation of what seems to me to be real external objects. Your assertions that this is somehow relevant to science generally and somehow leads to a self contradiction in science is a fundamental error on your part.

            In science the connection between our sensed experiences and a real existent outside reality is both doubtable and a hypothesis set.

            In science a large number of distortions of the senses have been characterized. Further, outright hallucinations are well known to show that one can have the experience of what seems to be an outside real object even though no such object exists. Plus there is the classic grand illusion speculation to cast doubt on any real connection between our experience of what seems to be reality and what is actually existent outside of ourselves.

            Thus, it is a scientific fact that what seems to be a direct experience of outside real objects is in fact a time delayed, distorted, model of external reality constructed by the brain as it receives electrochemical signals along the nerves, which were stimulated to signal by prior material transfers.

            None of these scientific conclusions are circular in the slightest, your assertions of self contradiction and circularity are gravely mistaken, apparently stemming from a misapplication of what seems to be real in our immediate sensory experiences to the scientific analysis of a provisionally asserted external reality.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Thus, it is a scientific fact that what seems to be a direct experience of outside real objects is in fact a time delayed, distorted, model of external reality constructed by the brain as it receives electrochemical signals along the nerves, which were stimulated to signal by prior material transfers."

            You are here simply ignoring what I showed just above about perceptive judgments, which are not primarily about shape and color, but the basic fact that we are undoubtedly experiencing extramental reality, not only by the sense of sight, but from all five external senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell.

            How did you get from that initial undoubtable extramental experience to the claim that all we know is in fact just a "model of external reality constructed by the brain?"

            Now, remember, no matter how "reliable" you maintain this "model" is, it is simply a neural pattern inside the brain that you are trusting is a near perfect replica of the extramentally existing object.

            Yet, you trusted this model to enable you to build your entire scientific analysis that led you back to denying the initial perceptive judgment of extramental reality that was undoubted in the first place.

            And now, you are so sure of this model's accuracy that you said this earlier: "For example, if a scientist reads a weight on a scale, there is no need to go into a long analysis of the distortions of the eye/brain system. For that purpose one may simply read the number and take it a face value."

            May I remind you of two facts:

            (1) The "model" is in the wrong place, since it means that what you know is actually inside your head and is not external to your body although the model tells you that what you experience is outside the body. Good model!

            (2) Never forget that this model can only be known from outside observation and is never identical to the subjective experience it somehow conveys to us, which means that we really have no way of knowing whether what it is telling us is accurate -- except by comparing it to external reality that we know by using our senses in normal realistic perceptive judgments of external reality!

            In other words, how do you know that these internal representations are actually virtually identical to the actual external realities except by comparing them to external realities known by the normal examination with the external senses?

            And that is what natural science does all the time. It checks the internal accuracy by comparing it to the external world as measurable by external sensation.

            Again, I have no fight with science. I don't doubt that changes in the sense organs caused by external objects result in changes inside the brain. The problem is that when you combine these scientific facts with a materialist philosophy, you reach conclusions that violate our immediate experience of the extramental physical world and impose on science conclusions that go beyond what can be empirically observed.

            What can be empirically demonstrated is that sensation results in changes inside the brain. What cannot be empirically demonstrated, but is the result of a materialist philosophy, is the judgment that therefore what we actually know is not external realities, but only changes in the brain.

            I don't care how perfectly you claim the changes in the brain mirror external reality. That in itself is no proof that all we really know is those changes inside the head -- unless you sneak in a philosophy of materialism that leads to a conclusion that contradicts our undoubted immediate experience of extramental reality.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Wrong place? I never said you know nothing about science, but there are some basics you have yet to apprehend.

            A model is in one place, the object modeled is in another place, of course, what else? Do you suppose that a model and the object modeled somehow ought to be colocated? That seems to me to be a very odd objection indeed.

            Accuracy is improved by cross checking using the scientific method. No assertion of absolutely perfect accuracy is made, so no self contradiction is the case.

            Science does not assert certain knowledge of external reality, which is why there is no "epistemological nightmare" in science.

            Good, that is one of the things science does, show that what we take for granted as being real based on our immediate sensory experiences is in fact erroneous. That is not an "epistemological nightmare" that is making progress in human knowledge using well executed science.

            Knowledge is of a thing, not the thing itself. Of course knowledge is in the brain, and of external reality. What else? Do you suppose knowledge and external reality are colocated? Your knowledge of a star must be colocated with that star?

            Clearly you have yet to gain very much understanding of science, else you would never make such a strawman statement.

            No scientists claim any such perfection, which is why there is not circularity and no self contradiction in scientific materialism.

            Sneak? In the term "scientific materialism" the word "scientific" is a qualifier, among other things. In scientific materialism it is not the case that materialism is taken on ad hoc, nor is it held to be absolutely proven. Science has led to the scientific conclusion that all we know of is material, and material is sufficient to account for all we know of, that nothing other than material is either detected or necessary or called for, that there are no irreducible complexities in the structure of living organisms, or in the the structure of any observable system.

            All this is arrived at completely free of any circularity or self contradiction. There is no "epistemological nightmare".

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Of course knowledge is in the brain, and of external reality. What else? Do you suppose knowledge and external reality are colocated?"

            When you say that "knowledge is in the brain," since all reality is material (according to you), that means that both the act of knowing and what is known are actually physically inside the brain. Correct?

            But you say the knowledge is "of external reality." Does this mean that what is known in the brain is like a photograph or image of an external object, but, since it is inside the brain, what is known is merely a representation of the external object -- whereas the external object itself is actually physically external to the body and not the direct object of the act of knowing, since the direct object is the image inside the brain? Correct?

            Thus, the knowledge of the object is not colocated with the external reality itself, since the former is inside the brain, but the latter is in the physical world outside the body.

            If all that is true, then please tell me how we can empirically verity any judgments about the accuracy of the conformity of the knowledge inside the brain to objects existing in physical reality outside the brain, since we have no direct knowledge of anything except the images or physical representations inside the brain?

            And please don't tell me anything about taking measurements or observations of external objects, since your own model precludes such direct observations.

            I may have limited knowledge of the scientific method, but I do know that it takes measurements and observations of the external world. It is not merely comparing one set of images inside the brain to another set of images inside the brain -- a "brain," incidentally, that can only be known through external observations made after you cut open a real, physical skull.

          • Nova Conceptum

            -If all that is true, then please tell me how we can empirically verity any judgments about the accuracy of the conformity of the knowledge inside the brain to objects existing in physical reality outside the brain, since we have no direct knowledge of anything except the images or physical representations inside the brain?-

            To an absolute certainty, we can't. If the grand illusion is the case, we are all wrong about nearly everything.

            But, supposing we play a bit of "what if", what if the senses are detecting a real external material existence by some transfer function of material, albeit distorted and inaccurate? What if external real material transfers to our senses in a fairly regular and repeatable manner such that the signals received by the brain are a function of an external real material existence? How can we characterize those inaccuracies by using the very system that has those inaccuracies?

            At first it seems rather hopeless, and indeed humans have progressed slowly over many thousands of years. But humans have devised many ways to increase the accuracy of measurements and technology

            The basic process is repeated trial, errors, corrections, writing, learning, and apparent improvements, over millions and billions of attempts.

            For example, try to mark out a square piece of land just by walking around and placing stones in the 4 corners. How accurate will that be? Not very. But now, if you get a number of stakes and put them in the ground in a row and sight down the row you can very accurately get the stakes placed in a straight line. Then you can take length of rope and lay it down repeatedly and make a fairly accurate length measurement along that line of stakes. Keep doing this over and over and over and you will get a set of corner markings very nearly describing a square.

            Human beings have worked out many ways to compensate for the inaccuracies of the senses, and now with our amazing technologies we can measure and detect to incredible inaccuracies over trillions of miles or a trillionth of an inch.

            Recall, science, and its logical derivative, scientific materialism, made no ad hoc assertion of absolute certainty, no presupposition of ultimate objectivity, no offers of absolute proofs.

            Thus, there is no circularity or self contradiction in science or its logical derivative scientific materialism.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            When I asked you "how we can empirically verify any judgments about the accuracy of the conformity of the knowledge inside the brain to objects existing in physical reality outside the brain, since we have no direct knowledge of anything except the images or physical representations inside the brain?", you finally have conceded the basic problem with your epistemological model by replying:

            "To an absolute certainty, we can't."

            Regrettably, if you can't be sure that the knowledge inside the brain conforms to the physical reality outside the brain, then there is no logical warrant to claiming that all that is lost is "absolute certainty."

            If you can't be sure the image or physical representation conforms to external reality, you simply can't be sure of anything about external reality. Period.

            You don't still have almost "absolute certainty." The sad truth is that you have no certainty at all. In fact, you may not have any useful knowledge at all!

            This is precisely why I called this result of scientific materialism an "epistemological nightmare."

            "Recall, science, and its logical derivative, scientific materialism,..."

            Natural science simply does not logically demonstrate what is clearly not natural science, but a philosophical school of thought known as scientific materialism. The claim that to be is to be material is known in the history of philosophy as metaphysical materialism. Anyone who knows the history of philosophy knows full well that, while some natural scientists may be materialists, many are not. While natural science studies the nature of the physical world, it is completely beyond its methodological competence to pronounce on the metaphysical make up of all reality.

          • Nova Conceptum

            The bot has run amok

          • Nova Conceptum

            -If you can't be sure the image or physical representation conforms to external reality, you simply can't be sure of anything about external reality. Period.-

            Indeed, life is uncertain, then life ends.

            -You don't still have almost "absolute certainty." The sad truth is that you have no certainty at all. In fact, you may not have any useful knowledge at all!-

            I have 1-G certainty. Whatever the probability of the grand illusion is reduces my certainty by that amount.

            I consider very useful the probable knowledge that there is apparently food on my apparent plate and that if I apparently eat that apparent food I will probably not be hungry anymore. If you do not find theses sorts of probability estimates of external reality to be personally useful to you, well, that is up to you.

          • Nova Conceptum

            -This is precisely why I called this result of scientific materialism an "epistemological nightmare."-

            You cited a supposed self contradiction and circularity as the "nightmare". There is no such self contradiction or circularity.

            Now you say universal uncertainty of external reality is a "nightmare". Perhaps it is your nightmare, so difficult for you personally to accept that you feel compelled to invent a false certainty for yourself so you can avoid this "nightmare". For myself I find the uncertainties of life to be deeply engaging and exciting. I love to try to solve a puzzle even knowing I can never place that last piece, even in principle. I feel a deep sense of satisfaction in being able to place a least a few more pieces of the puzzle.

            For some 3.5 billion years no life form could solve even any pieces of the puzzle at all. For thousands of years a few pieces were placed, but many were later found to be incorrectly placed. How very amazing and exciting it is for me to live at this unique age in the history of our solar system, perhaps unique in all the cosmos, that we have solved so very many pieces of the puzzle, while we continue to solve more and more and more. Not useful? My advice to you is to come out from behind your seemingly pessimistic and hopeless ruminations of epistemological futility and engage in the great age of discovery that is bursting out all around you.

          • Nova Conceptum

            -Natural science simply does not logically demonstrate what is clearly not natural science,-

            Right, scientific materialism is a logical derivative of natural science. Apply further logic to the findings of natural science and we arrive at scientific materialism.

            There is no "nightmare" of circularity or self contradiction because there is no circularity or self contradiction in scientific materialism.

            There is no "nightmare" of uncertainty for most people, who are adjusted to the fact that life simply is uncertain. Most people are not frightened by, or paralyzed into inaction by, the fundamental uncertainty of our knowledge of the universe outside of ourselves.

            We make judgements and take actions based only on incomplete information and uncertain knowledge. That is all part of the great adventure of life, not a nightmare at all.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I never said that the epistemological nightmare was that we wind up in inherent "uncertainty."

            What I said was that the logic of the materialist philosophy combined with an uncritical interpretation of the physiology of sensation leads many materialists to conclude that all we can know in mental images and that this conclusion contradicts their own starting point, which was that they initially accepted extramental reality -- a starting point which they now abandon to save the consistency of their hypothesis.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Dr. Bonnette, one thing you said above was:
            "You don't still have almost "absolute certainty." The sad truth is that you have no certainty at all. In fact, you may not have any useful knowledge at all!

            This is precisely why I called this result of scientific materialism an "epistemological nightmare.""

            That sure sounds like it is uncertainty that is the "epistemological nightmare". If not, maybe there is some very fine distinction I am not apprehending.

            The inherent uncertainty of scientific facts and scientific theories is not a nightmare for scientists, rather, a source of excitement that there is still so much more to be learned.

            "a starting point which they now abandon to save the consistency of their hypothesis."
            So, you acknowledge that correctly formulated scientific materialism has no circularity.

            You assert that previous formulations of scientific materialism had circularity, but present formulations of scientific materialism have a consistent hypothesis.

            Thus, you have acknowledged that there is no epistemological nightmare in scientific materialism because the uncertainty of scientific knowledge is not a nightmare, and there is no self contradiction or circularity in scientific materialism.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"a starting point which they now abandon to save the consistency of their hypothesis." DB

            "So, you acknowledge that correctly formulated scientific materialism has no circularity." NC

            Not at all -- for the simple reason that you have no right to abandon your starting point, which was that some extramental reality must be directly known.

            You do realize, don't you, that by abandoning that starting point you are more and more firmly embedding yourself into epistemological idealism -- which, yes, is a philosophical position?

            Edit: Clarification: No, the "epistemological nightmare" is not loss of certainty. It is, if you look at my preceding sentence, the loss of "any useful knowledge at all." And that, precisely because you have contradicted a necessary starting point, which is some direct knowledge of extramental reality.

          • Nova Conceptum

            "Not at all -- for the simple reason that you have no right to abandon your starting point, which was that some extramental reality must be directly known."
            I have not abandoned any such starting point. That never was my starting point.

            You acknowledge that without that starting point scientific materialism has a "consistent hypothesis"

            "You do realize, don't you, that by abandoning that starting point you are more and more firmly embedding yourself into epistemological idealism -- which, yes, is a philosophical position?"
            Scientific materialism is a philosophy arrived at by the application of further logic to scientific facts and scientific theories.

            You are free to attach whatever labels you wish, but I have no intention of defending those labels because those are your words or your characterizations of other people's words, in either case, not my words.

            In scientific materialism there is no presupposition that "some extramental reality must be directly known. " In scientific materialism there is only the absolute truth that I am experiencing images and sounds. The connection of those images and sounds to an outside world is a hypothesis, not a directly known absolute fact.

            Thus, by your own acknowledgement, a "hypothesis" so formulated is "consistent", and therefore not a nightmare.

            "Edit: Clarification: No, the "epistemological nightmare" is not loss of certainty. It is, if you look at my preceding sentence, the loss of "any useful knowledge at all.""
            You say uncertainty leads to the loss of useful knowledge, and in that you are simply mistaken, very clearly.

            You use probabilistic knowledge every day to great usefulness. People have gotten very wealthy through the clever application of probabilistic knowledge. Probabilistic knowledge absent absolute certainty is how we function and thrive, very useful indeed.

            Thus, again, there is no epistemological nightmare in scientific materialism, because uncertainty of knowledge is not a nightmare, lack of certain knowledge does not prevent its usefulness, and by your own acknowledgement a correctly formulated hypothesis is consistent, therefore not self contradictory or circular.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"The connection of those images and sounds to an outside world is a hypothesis, not a directly known absolute fact."

            But you just consistently fail to grasp that there is no way to judge whether there is any conformity whatever between your internal images and the external world unless you know BOTH the internal images AND the external world at the same time. Otherwise, you might just be checking the conformity of internal images to other internal images.

          • Nova Conceptum

            "But you just consistently fail to grasp that there is no way to judge whether there is any conformity whatever between your internal images and the external world unless you know BOTH the internal images AND the external world at the same time. Otherwise, you might just be checking the conformity of internal images to other internal images."
            Sorry, Dr. Bonnette, but it is you who just consistently fails to grasp that this apparent dilemma is obvious, and solved in scientific materialism.

            I don't have to judge the absolute probability of the grand illusion. I can formulate an entire philosophy around a symbolic representation of its probability, say, G.

            Thus, the probability that my senses do provided some fair representation of a real existent external world is 1-G.

            I can then form the philosophy into 2 branches, as I have described repeatedly. In the case 1-G resolves to true in reality I can use the scientific method, multiple sensory pathways, communication with others, and technological devices to characterize the inaccuracies of my senses, determine that the actual process is material transfers to signals which are processed by the brain, and to extend knowledge of the external world to fantastic extents vastly beyond what is sometimes call the naked eye.

            In the case 1-G resolves to false in reality then I am utterly deceived and all my apparent work is just a dream or grand illusion of some sort.

            Scientific materialism chooses to proceed on the postulate that 1-G resolves to true in reality. The evidence that the methods used in that case are valid is astronomical and all around you and obvious every time you press a key on your computer, and all the rest.

            Since no claim is made to know for certain that the apparent fruits of all this scientific work are absolutely known to be true, the whole philosophy is completely free of self contradiction or circularity.

            There is no epistemological nightmare in scientific materialism, because we scientific materialists find your assertion of an apparent dilemma to be obvious, and the coherent solution to it equally obvious, thus we arrive at an entirely coherent and self consistent philosophy that yields knowledge to such a high probability of truth as to be extremely useful, as you use the fruits of these endeavors every day.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >“In the case 1-G resolves to true in reality I can use the scientific method,…”

            No, I am afraid you cannot. The validity of the scientific method in this case depends on your assumption that you are in the correct branch of your dichotomy, which means that you ARE assuming that we know adequate representations of external reality inside our brains.

            Absent that assumption, all your scientific inferences lack any content from or about the external world, since all we know are representations of external reality and not the reality itself. Absent that assumption, your well worked out inferences fail to enhance your probability estimates one iota.

            The consistency of your results provide no enhanced probability that you are in the right branch, since if you were in the wrong branch, similar results could be obtained and would mean nothing.

            Besides, your argument then reduces to a form of pragmatism that in no way assures objective truth, only that it all seems to work – which might also be the case in your dilemma’s other branch as well and would also be even more rightly the case with epistemological realism, which natural scientists have, as scientists, always assumed to be true.

            Moreover, both branches of your dichotomy presume that all our knowledge is merely representational, which I deny. My position is that some perceptive judgments are true and undeniable and undoubtable, as I explained earlier.

            In no way do I suggest that we are victims of a grand delusion. I accept the findings of natural science for the very reason that I hold that its starting points do include some direct knowledge of extramental reality. Indeed, that is the reason scientists have always adopted a methodology that assumes epistemological realism, even though most of them, as scientists and not philosophers, have not articulated it as such.

          • Nova Conceptum

            "No, I am afraid you cannot."
            I just did.

            "The consistency of your results provide no enhanced probability that you are in the right branch, since if you were in the wrong branch, similar results could be obtained and would mean nothing."
            Hence, the absence of a claim to certainty and thus the absence of any circularity, self contradiction or epistemological nightmare.

            "Besides, your argument then reduces to a form of pragmatism that in no way assures objective truth,"
            No claim is made that scientific facts and scientific theories are objective truths, so there is no epistemological nightmare, unless you find the absence of objective truth to be nightmarish, in which case the nightmare is yours, not mine.

            "epistemological realism, which natural scientists have, as scientists, always assumed to be true."
            That is your misunderstanding of science, scientists, and scientific materialism. No such assumption is made, you merely attribute that assumption falsely.

            "Indeed, that is the reason scientists have always adopted a methodology that assumes epistemological realism, even though most of them, as scientists and not philosophers, have not articulated it as such."
            Scientists have not articulated it as such because they do not hold it, rather, it is your false projections onto scientists of positions they have not expressed and do not hold that have led you to such fundamental misunderstandings of science, scientists, scientific materialism, and scientific materialism epistemology as you have repeatedly expressed.

            That which you assert to be assumed is not assumed. That which you assert to be a nightmare is not a nightmare, at least for we scientific materialists, we are quite at peace with the thorough consistency and lack of circularity in our epistemology.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "The consistency of your results provide no enhanced probability that you are in the right branch, since if you were in the wrong branch, similar results could be obtained and would mean nothing." DB

            >" Hence, the absence of a claim to certainty and thus the absence of any circularity, self contradiction or epistemological nightmare." NC

            Then, I may take this as a concession that you have no proof whatever that you are in the right branch of your dilemma and that you offer no evidence of greater probability that you are right? If so, why should I be impressed?

            >"No claim is made that scientific facts and scientific theories are objective truths,..."

            I must say again that this is not a very impressive claim to my ears as a philosopher.

            And perhaps we are speaking to different scientists. Not all the ones I have known are scientific materialists. The simple fact is, as most professional philosophers would acknowledge, that scientific materialism is simply one form of philosophy, one heavily influenced by science, but certainly not the only belief system held by all scientists, nor even by all philosophers of science. It is true that the logical positivists of the 1920s and 30s were heavily into the "empirical verification only" line. But they were largely replaced by the analytic movement in the 1940s and later -- some of whose branches would not be properly denominated scientific materialists at all. So, you appear to be trying to make claims on behalf of all science which simply represent a certain take on science, one not held by all scientists, and certainly not by all philosophers.

            "Under the doctrinal influence of scientific materialism, the public has been led to believe that scientists know things about the mind of which they are in fact ignorant and to believe that ordinary human subjects do not know things that they do in fact know perfectly well."

            Confusing Scientific Materialism with Science : B. Alan Wallace
            https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195173109.001.0001/acprof-9780195173109-chapter-8

          • Nova Conceptum

            "Then, I may take this as a concession"
            To the extent that a concession is an acquiescence to that which was formerly denied, no, since uncertainty is central to the philosophy of scientific materialism.

            " If so, why should I be impressed?"
            Of what import is your personal impression to a valid philosophy? You can be impressed or unimpressed by whatever. How is your personal level of impression an issue of consequence generally?

            "I must say again that this is not a very impressive claim to my ears as a philosopher."
            Ok, fine, so what? You have made demonstrably false claims to an "epistemological nightmare" in scientific materialism. What impresses your ears is of no consequence to that claim.

            "1920s and 30s ... 1940s"
            That was 80 to 100 years ago. I am not responsible to defend the poorly conceived quotes from some individuals a century ago.

            I have shown again and again the coherence of and lack of circularity in scientific materialism today. The fact that a philosophy of scientific materialism that is free from circularity is the case today shows that the there is no epistemological nightmare inherent or intrinsic to scientific materialism, the dubious formulations of a century past notwithstanding.

            There simply is no nightmare. Science makes no claim to absolute certainty in its facts or theories. No such assumptions are presupposed. Scientific materialism is completely free of self contradiction, circularity, or any sort of "nightmare".

          • Dennis Bonnette

            So you claim to avoid circularity by descending from epistemological realism into universal empirical uncertainty?

            And this, as shown by my prior comment, being something of a empty victory on your part, given that your uncertainty does not even have the logical basis for claiming any verifiable measure of probability?

            Moreover, you are wrong in saying that natural science is always a matter of uncertainty.

            I have shown elsewhere the limits of natural science. But, such limits exist only when science attempts to demonstrate some universal hypothesis or theory by means of experimental results. While it is possible to falsify any hypothesis with a single negative result, the inductive method -- since it moves from the particular to the universal -- cannot achieve universal certitude no matter how many experiments, even "critical" experiments, appear to produce results consistent with the hypothesis. Thus, there is always a measure of uncertainty in every natural scientific theory.

            But not all science is experimental. Some of it is simply observation of immediate sense objects. And that, just like the immediate perceptual judgment of extramental reality, is known with complete psychological certitude -- a certitude that can be demonstrated, not by any further empirical experimental science (since that would, indeed, be circular reasoning), but by careful reasoning in the philosophical science of Thomistic epistemology -- whose genuinely scientific character you, doubtless, deny, even though you are also, doubtless, quite unfamiliar with it .

          • Nova Conceptum

            "And this, as shown by my prior comment, being something of a empty victory on your part,"

            Thus you acknowledge my "victory", but having been shown the error of your claim to circularity you then attempt to diminish the value of a non-circular formulation of scientific materialism.

            "given that your uncertainty does not even have the logical basis for claiming any verifiable measure of probability?"

            The probability of the grand illusion, I designated G, is not objectively calculable. Each of us makes our own personal assessment based on individual incredulity.

            The evidence that the grand illusion is not the case is vast in all we do, or so it seems. Hunger seems very real, and I know of no philosophers so committed to the grand illusion that they decide not to eat having philosophically concluded life truly is but a dream.

            For scientists there is no sense of emptyness in knowing that one can never be philosophically certain of a scientific fact or scientific theory, rather, that is all part of the excitement of the grand adventure of scientific learning.

          • Nova Conceptum

            "immediate perceptual judgment of extramental reality, is known with complete psychological certitude"

            Psychological certitude is not an objective certainty, and thus is not a counter example to the assertion that natural science is always a matter of uncertainty.

            It doesn't matter that one is personally convinced to a personal feeling of psychological certitude. That in no way makes certain the existential reality of the thing being perceived, only the absolute reality of the experience of the perception.

            "careful reasoning in the philosophical science of Thomistic epistemology"

            No amount of reasoning can prove that one's psychological certainty of the reality of extramental objects absolutely proves the existential reality of such objects.

            I have demonstrated your major claims on these subjects to be false. There is no epistemological nightmare, because, as you now acknowledge, there is no circularity or self contradiction intrinsic and inherent to scientific materialism.

            Thus, I find your claim to have available to you a proof, I am not familiar with, of an assertion that has been known broadly to be unprovable...well, I meet that claim of yours with high incredulity to say the least.

            But by all means, please do prove to an absolute certainty that the possession of a personal psychological feeling of certitude about the existential reality of external objects being perceived, when joined with further philosophical reasoning, can prove to an absolute certainty that those perceived external objects must in true reality exist externally.

          • Mark

            To "win" the argument of non-circularity you have:
            1/ premised a provisional certainty
            2/ concluded a perpetual uncertainty
            You have cut off your nose to spite your face. And you scoff men of faith?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not really all that concerned with who scores the most impressive intellectual points here. What matters is that we jointly find the truth.

            If you go back to my OP, I described the materialist's "epistemological nightmare" by saying that "the naturalist claims to know an external physical cosmos billions of light years in extent, and yet, his materialism forces the conclusion that he cannot know the external physical world at all – only images or neural patterns inside his own brain."

            The basic dilemma of scientific materialism is that either it must hold (1) that some extramental things are directly known, or else, (2) nothing is directly extramentally known.

            In your protracted efforts to avoid the first alternative, you have descended into total uncertainty without even a rational basis for probability -- as shown above.

            I accept the physiology of sensation as described by natural science. It does lead to the conclusion that the causal sequence terminates inside the brain. But scientific materialists make the mistake of over reading the results.

            The results prove that changes take place in the brain.

            They do NOT prove that sense knowledge is nothing but changes in the brain.

            That latter claim is the direct result of a materialist interpretation of the data that merely assumes that whatever takes place must be material, and, since physical sense processes terminate inside the brain, those processes themselves must be whatever we mean by "sense knowledge."

            It is totally illogical to assume that sense knowledge is nothing but the physical changes in the brain. Where is the evidence for that claim -- except in a philosophy that claims that to be is to be material? And, without the philosophy of materialism being assumed, natural science can only say what is evident, namely, that the physiology of sensation causes changes in the brain. Period.

            This is a glaring logical error based on the unwarranted assumption of the philosophy of materialism.

            Once you are locked into the invalid conclusion that all you know is changes in the brain, the rest of your epistemological tailspin becomes inevitable.

            I can defend epistemological realism, but given how deep this all is in the thread, I will be satisfied to show merely that scientific materialism does, indeed, get itself into an "epistemological nightmare" of its own making.

          • Nova Conceptum

            "I am not really all that concerned with who scores the most impressive
            intellectual points here. What matters is that we jointly find the
            truth."
            Indeed, I suspect you used the word "victory" in a simple
            conversational language manner, so my quotes around "victory" were
            intended as scarequotes of a term not to be taken literally or
            seriously.

            "If you go back to my OP, I described the
            materialist's "epistemological nightmare" by saying that "the naturalist
            claims to know an external physical cosmos billions of light years in
            extent, and yet, his materialism forces the conclusion that he cannot
            know the external physical world at all – only images or neural patterns
            inside his own brain.""
            That is how we know, because to know is to
            arrive at what seems to be a very high probability that an asserted fact
            is or is not the case in actual reality. If one insists that the only
            true knowledge must be absolutely certain then true knowledge is limited
            to cogito ergo sum and its internal close derivatives.

            "The
            basic dilemma of scientific materialism is that either it must hold (1)
            that some extramental things are directly known, or else, (2) nothing is
            directly extramentally known."
            If the grand illusion is not the case
            then the external reality is known by a basically reliable transfer
            function between external reality and the interpretation of nerve
            signals entering the brain due to material transfers. If the grand
            illusion is the case then only cogito ergo sum and its close internal
            derivative is known and all the rest is illusory.

            This presents
            no dilemma whatsoever, therefore no nightmare whatsoever. One may
            choose either branch hypothesis as a provisional basis to live ones
            life, up to you, and each of us, no dilemma whatsoever.

            "In
            your protracted efforts to avoid the first alternative, you have
            descended into total uncertainty without even a rational basis for
            probability -- as shown above."
            Life is uncertain, then one dies. I
            find that to be no descent. To me, it is amazing that I am that rarest
            of rare part of the universe that can consider such notions at all.

            Not
            only is life uncertain prior to death, there are some probabilities for
            which we have no demonstrable objective basis to calculate. Our sole
            available estimate of such probabilities is only a personal sensibility
            with no demonstrable objective basis.

            No dilemma exists in such
            scientific materialism. For you this might seem to be a nightmarish
            descent. I and virtually every practicing contemporary scientist find
            this state of affairs to be exhilarating and wonderful almost beyond
            descriptive superlatives, and most definitely free of any dilemma or
            nightmare whatsoever.

          • Nova Conceptum

            "I am not really all that concerned with who scores the most impressive intellectual points here. What matters

            is that we jointly find the truth."
            Indeed, I suspect you used the word "victory" in a simple conversational language manner, so my quotes around

            "victory" were intended as scarequotes of a term not to be taken literally or seriously.

            "If you go back to my OP, I described the materialist's "epistemological nightmare" by saying that "the

            naturalist claims to know an external physical cosmos billions of light years in extent, and yet, his

            materialism forces the conclusion that he cannot know the external physical world at all – only images or

            neural patterns inside his own brain.""
            That is how we know, because to know is to arrive at what seems to be a very high probability that an asserted

            fact is or is not the case in actual reality. If one insists that the only true knowledge must be absolutely

            certain then true knowledge is limited to cogito ergo sum and its internal close derivatives.

            "The basic dilemma of scientific materialism is that either it must hold (1) that some extramental things are

            directly known, or else, (2) nothing is directly extramentally known."
            If the grand illusion is not the case then the external reality is known by a basically reliable transfer

            function between external reality and the interpretation of nerve signals entering the brain due to material

            transfers. If the grand illusion is the case then only cogito ergo sum and its close internal derivative is

            known and all the rest is illusory.

            This presents no dilemma whatsoever, therefore no nightmare whatsoever. One may choose either branch

            hypothesis as a provisional basis to live ones life, up to you, and each of us, no dilemma whatsoever.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Your musings about your personal philosophy of life and science are all well and good, but both you and I know you have sidestepped and failed to directly confront the essential logical fallacy central to your entire claims about human cognition.

            Scientific materialism fails utterly to distinguish between (1) the neural changes in the brain as a result of sensing, and (2) the subjective experience of sensing.

            This confusion by materialists arises because of their false philosophy of materialism, which they mistakenly apply to the internal neural patterns when they confuse them with sense experience itself – a confusion for which there is no evidence whatever within pure natural science.

            Natural science can show that sensation results in changes in the brain. Natural science cannot show that these changes are identical to the subjective experience of sensation. That latter claim is a purely philosophical assumption based on a philosophy of metaphysical materialism.

            Not that I am buying into the analytic philosophical context into which this difficulty for materialism has finally been recognized, but even many modern philosophers now feel compelled to refer to these subjective experiences as irreducible to purely physicalist explanations. Thus, they have invented the term, “qualia,” to describe them.
            https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qualia/#Irreducible

            Please go back and read my previous comment and directly answer its claim that scientific materialism makes a logical error in identifying neural patterns in the brain with sense experience itself.

          • Nova Conceptum

            "I am not really all that concerned with who scores the most
            impressive intellectual points here. What matters is that we jointly
            find the truth."
            Yes, that is why I used scarequotes around your word "victory", Nobody wins or loses, it's about the ideas and gaining understanding.

            " you have descended into total uncertainty"
            If you consider any probability less than 1 to be total uncertainty that is true. By that analysis you are totally uncertain you will survive your next automobile use and you are totally uncertain a metorite will not strike you dead in the next minute.

            By your way of wording "totally uncertain" life is totally uncertain moment to moment. If that is how you wish to approach uncertainty that is up to you, I do not find your approach useful.

          • Nova Conceptum

            "It is totally illogical to assume that sense knowledge is nothing but the physical changes in the brain."
            We scientific materialists start with radical skepticism, the antithesis of assumption.

            Brain function is a scientific conclusion based on evidence. That's one of the things science does, reach scientific conclusions based on evidence.

            "Where is the evidence for that claim?"
            The whole of neuroscience, neurosurgery, injury effect study, neural networks and on and on. If you deny this then you would have no problem having parts of your brain removed, after all, knowledge is actually stored in the soul, which is immune to physical damage.

            "And, without the philosophy of materialism being assumed, natural science can only say what is evident, namely, that the physiology of sensation causes changes in the brain. Period.
            This is a glaring logical error based on the unwarranted assumption of the philosophy of materialism."
            In scientific materialism the philosophy of materialism is not assumed.

            Yes, natural science says what is evident, that the brain receives material signals, processes those materials, stores information using brain cell states, and takes material actions by sending out material signals to the rest of the body.

            There are literally libraries full of evidence for the above description of the process. All I can do is suggest you go to the local medical research library and start reading.

            There is no glaring error because there is no assumption.
            " I will be satisfied to show merely that scientific materialism does,
            indeed, get itself into an "epistemological nightmare" of its own
            making."
            Your assertion is based on a strawman so you have shown no such thing.

            The epistemology of scientific materialism is entirely sound and free of any circularity, tailspin, or nightmare. There is no assumption, only radical skepticism.

            It is a puzzlement to as to how you derive "assumption" from radical skepticism.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            After nine days, the only thing you have done here is to restate the obvious truth which I stated earlier: The physiological/physical processes of sensation terminate in changes in the brain.

            You have not addressed the logical fallacy of concluding from that fact that all we know is changes in the brain, since saying "there are changes in the brain" is not identical to saying "all we know are changes in the brain."

            You go from the former to the latter solely by assuming the philosophy of materialism, while you insist that all you are doing is simple science. Science proves the former. But it takes science plus the philosophy of materialism to infer the latter.

            What you have stated is a philosophical position hiding behind a philosophical interpretation of natural science, which a competent scientist would take care not to include, since it does not appear in his observations.

          • Sample1

            Great to see your rebuttals. Been busy lately and frankly, burned out here.

            While it may not be your interest, in all the years I’ve spent lurking here, one thing stands out to me about most of the back and forth discussions here: religious folk of all stripes counter skeptical push backs similarly. Namely, they attempt to go after what are perceived as the foundations of any position because that is what all other religions attempt to do for all other religions.

            Foundationalism is a prejudice, an accident of history. What matters should be explanations, not foundations. Foundations can always be wrong. Why? Because humans are fallible. Explanations on the other hand always have the ability of being improved, no foundations needed. Fundamentals sure, but foundations? Too risky. Too dangerous. Not in the least bit indicative of the humility required for a fallible species to make progress about what the human condition entails.

            I don’t know how to remedy a situation that claims 100% certitude for anything, except to continue asking for clarity for the proposed explanation. Without fail, 100% certitude is always a claim, never a demonstration.

            One would think that alone would raise an eyebrow or two among the religious, but when it does there are a host of coping mechanisms to grasp: sunk cost, invisible virtues, etc. I suppose that’s the crux: it’s easy to open up the hood, look inside and investigate how religion works but not so easy from inside the hood looking out.

            Then again, it’s being done more and more. These discussions are necessary even if some grow weary. So thanks for having them!

            Mike, fallibilist

          • Rob Abney

            "Explanations on the other hand always have the ability of being improved" That reads like a foundation statement to me!

          • Sample1

            Maybe you’d think differently if you studied the philosophy of foundationalism rather than the often interchangeable, colloquial words like foundation and fundamental which do have roles in explanations. Physics has foundations and fundamentals but engineers didn’t have to rethink building bridges when Newton was shown to be wrong. No philosophical foundation required that.

            When you anchor an explanation to a philosophical foundation you’re often mandating subsequent explanations to be derived from that philosophical foundation. That leads to the runaway “logic” found in religions and things like medical quackery, crank beliefs like TradFlats, and the never ending post hoc rationalizations of Thomism, for instance. When foundationalism is ignored, we are left with problems to solve that don’t depend on any kind of foundationalism source, as bridge builders know.

            We can only do what is possible and science is the art of what’s possible. This is a statement that welcomes criticism and uses criticism. It is nothing like a foundationalism perspective.

            Mike, lovingly excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            No matter how contorted your rationalizations are, I’m glad to see you back!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I can't resist commenting on your phrase, "lovingly excommunicated."

            Over half a century ago, Dietrich von Hildebrand, whom Pope Pius XII described as the greatest theologian of the twentieth century, drew me aside behind the Administration building at the University of Dayton. There he slowly and carefully explained to me why excommunication is actually an act of love. He said that it was a great act of love because it warned a person about the genuine danger that his soul was in.

            He knew then and you and I know now that there have been instances in history where this juridical act turned out to be ill-founded.

            But what he was trying to tell me was that this act was not intended primarily as a punishment, but as an act of charity aimed at encouraging someone to make certain that he achieved the greatest of all blessings, the attainment of eternal happiness in heaven.

          • David Nickol

            The following is from the newest OP (“All Men Are Born Free By Nature”: Theological Conceptions of Freedom)

            The concept of responsible and limited government enjoyed a major boost in 1215 when English nobles and churchmen forced King John (r. 1199-1216) to sign the Magna Carta or Great Charter.

            I am no historian, but I happened recently to have read a book about the Magna Carta by Dan Jones, and I was surprised at how ferociously the pope at the time (Innocent III) battled against those working to get King John to sign. What the OP does not say is that, while there were some "churchmen" involved in the negotiations with King John, Innocent III denounced the barons, excommunicated them, and after it was signed issued a bull calling the Magna Carta "shameful, demeaning, illegal and unjust" and declaring it "null and void of all validity for ever."

            So as with Galileo and the scientific revolution, the Catholic Church was on the wrong side of the fight over limiting the powers of absolute monarchy at a crucial time.

            But what he was trying to tell me was that this act was not intended primarily as a punishment . . . .

            That is certainly not impossible, but I wonder what the statistics would look like if every case of excommunication could be evaluated to see which ones were acts of love and which were attempts at coercion.

            [King John and Innocent III had clashed mightily beginning in 1207, and Innocent III had excommunicated John, but they has settled their differences by 1215, and Innocent had become a staunch supporter of John.]

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am only quoting Dr. von Hildebrand as to what excommunication ought to be, not how it has been used by individual clergy in the past.

            Christ came to save sinners. His Church is a Church of sinners. I would never want to be required to defend the actions of every Catholic prelate and pope. Doubtless, some popes are probably proving personally the doctrine on hell's reality as I an typing.

            It is a fundamental error to try to discern the truth of Catholicism by testing its members' behavior, except that we have some glorious saints in the midst of scandal-giving actions by others. It is a pity that many lose their faith because of the actions of some members of the Church. But her truth is defensible on other grounds for those who truly seek it. I am not an apologist, except in terms of the harmony of faith and reason.

            Your historical citation is interesting, as are many others concerning the clash of persons and beliefs in the history of the Church.

          • Mark

            Like any good anti Catholic historical revisionist you've left out the meat of the historical context here.

            First, the Catholic Church was not on the wrong side of the scientific revolution and you are showing you're bias and revisionist historical lenses in saying so.

            King John, who had swore allegiance to the papacy in 1215 as a papal fief to prevent the invasion of England from France, signed the MC then wrote to the pope and asked him to annul it. Viewing the rebellion of the barons in England, their collaboration with the French king and the intentions of France to invade contextually with the King's desire to avoid either invasion or civil rebellion and maintain power explains the papal bull and the pope's decision to honor the papal fief relationship. It wasn't because Pope Innocent was on the wrong side of the philosophical considerations of absolute monarchy. He was on the right side of absolute spiritual authority while respecting the temporal authority of the King and understanding the importance of a balance of monarchical power in Europe.

            He was an shrewd and successful politician that probably saved the papal states (and Europe) from a 6th century type of collapse while at the same time expanding the influence of the papacy to never seen degrees. Did he abuse that influence? Sure, but I think that historically you might consider how different Europe would be without this influence and the stability it brought because you don't get to have your cake and eat it both.

          • David Nickol

            I can see that I did not make one thing clear, but I doubt that you will be mollified by my clarification. I did not intend to say the Catholic Church was on the wrong side of the scientific revolution, whatever that would have meant. I intended to say that in a key moment in the history of the scientific revolution, the Church was on the wrong side, just as in a key moment in the history of individual liberty, the Church condemned the Magna Carta. I was not attempting to characterize the Catholic Church today or in any other times except those involving the Magna Carta and Galileo.

            I am bewildered that some are so defensive about the Church's treatment of Galileo when Pope John Paul II "rehabilitated" him in the early 1990s and apologized for his treatment.

            Like any good anti Catholic historical revisionist you've left out the meat of the historical context here.

            This is dangerously close to name calling and perhaps over the line. Not every criticism of the Church warrants the label "anti-Catholic."

          • Michael Murray

            Not every criticism of the Church warrants the label "anti-Catholic."

            Particularly not John Paul II's I guess. Unless we are talking SSPX or SSPV or SSP ??

          • Sample1

            Thanks for retelling something that is important for you. It’s a nice sentiment so for that it’s appreciated (your sentiment), not necessarily the story. :-)

            Mike

          • Michael Murray

            Be careful up your way Mike. You must be quite near the edge

            http://flatearthtrads.com/

          • Sample1

            Completely predictable, funny but sad. I’ll bet you all the mangoes in Adelaide that medical quackery is rampant within that religious fellowship. I’d like to meet some of them (looking for forums now). I’ll keep you posted if any decent forums are accessible.

            Ironically, a disk or flat world, while wrong for Earth, is technically more plausible than their other beliefs which do fall in line with the Catholic Magisterium. Sigh. Maybe they should rebrand as Flat Galaxyers or Flat universers, heh.

            Mike, living on the edge (you too).
            Edit done.

          • Ficino

            I thought it's been established that if the earth were flat, cats would have pushed everything [else] off it by now.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It appears that you have managed to convince Disqus of the righteousness of your position, since I posted a reply to your comment days ago and it is no longer in the thread.

            Without rewriting the whole thing, its sum and substance was merely to point out that your latest reply utterly fails to address the logical fallacy of your basic position that I described in my previous comment, namely, that just proving that the physiology of sensation leads to changes in the brain does not prove that what we know is merely changes in the brain.

            You get that final conclusion solely by adding a premise from the philosophy of materialism, namely, that nothing exists but the physical. From that you somehow infer that the changes in the brain must BE what we know, which is logically unwarranted.

            A careful scientist could only describe what is physiologically observable and stop there. Period. He could say nothing about the nature of sense experience itself, since sense experience is the subjective reality of the knower which simply cannot be observed by external measurements -- and surely without assuming the philosophy of materialism and some of its attendant assertions.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It would help if you knew a little about what the medieval philosophers actually taught. Specifically, St. Thomas Aquinas held, just as I told you, that geocentrism was not a necessary interpretation of the observed phenomena:

            "[i.e. the theory of geocentrism] is considered as established, because thereby the sensible appearances of the heavenly movements can be explained; not, however, as if this proof were sufficient, inasmuch as some other theory might explain them."
            Summa Theologiae, I, q. 32, a. 1, ad. 2.

            We do NOT start with the "scientific fact that the universe orbits the earth." And the citation from St. Thomas above proves that this was not evidence at all, but an erroneous judgment based on the real evidence, namely, that there was something there and that there was relative motion between that something and the observer.

            >"We immediately experience our experiences, not external reality."

            Being adamant about this does not make you correct. We do not experience experience. We experience something. And a proper description of that something is that it is primarily extramental physical realities. This is not a matter of scientific method, but of merely describing experience correctly. You may not like that description, but there is no other way to do it correctly.

            The fact that you infer something different because of your scientific analysis does not make our initial experience have a different content.

            I think I understand your frustration with me, since you think I know no science and am flying in the face of what science clearly teaches on this matter. Moreover, you think we start with a physiology that gives us representations in our brain that are so accurate that they enable us to work out the entire system of sensation in relation to external objects so perfectly that the whole system works. So, we can trust our senses as very accurately depicting actual reality.

            The problem is that there is a profound difference between saying that what we know is a very accurate representation of external reality inside the brain and saying that what we know is external reality itself.

            First, knowing something inside one's brain is hugely different from knowing a really existing external reality. It is, inter alia, simply in the wrong place!

            Second, despite your great enthusiasm about the accuracy of these representations, the fact is that our scientific ability to examine them inside the head is never identical to the qualia themselves, that is, the subjective experience which we assume is the same physical reality as the neuronal activity inside the brain. Every neuronal pattern of activity must be observed from the "outside," whereas the actual experience is always on the "inside." Even most modern secular philosophers are coming to that awareness.

            >"You even consider a central benefit of science, to reach conclusions in contradiction to starting evidence, as some kind of problem."

            Yes, I do. If you contradict your own evidence, you do have a problem. That is why I pointed out the difference between a premise and a hypothesis.

            You can test and invalidate a false hypothesis, which science does all the time. You must also realize that it is impossible to fully prove the truth of any hypothesis, even with empirical verification.

            But a premise must not be contradicted by a conclusion that follows from it. That is basic logic.

            And in this case, the premise is a given truth of sensory experience, namely that we experience objects as extramentally given. In this case, it is simply the only correct description of what we experience in sensation. Stop a moment and pay attention to what you actually are experiencing through your senses --- not some abstract theory -- the actual experience itself.

          • Chris Morris

            May I ask for a little clarification on a couple of points you've mentioned here?
            "...a proper description of that something is that it is primarily extramental physical realities. This is not a matter of scientific method, but of merely describing experience correctly." While I would agree with you that current scientific methodologies don't deal well with self-conscious systems, I'm inclined to question your claim that a correct description of what we are experiencing is primarily physical. Surely, our primary experience is of social constructions which are manifested in language. There may be a physical element involved here but we experience it through our social framework.

            "Every neuronal pattern of activity must be observed from the 'outside', whereas the actual experience is always on the 'inside'. Even most modern secular philosophers are coming to that awareness." Many philosophers are now working on 'extended cognition' and 'extended mind' theories which would suggest that "describing experience correctly" is primarily social.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't want to be like two trains going down different tracks here, but as far as I know what I am talking about is something so primitive in our experience that it is known prior to any social framework and even prior to any linguistic framework.

            Of course, I am of the school that maintains that first we know things, and then we invent language to describe them. So, we may call it, in English, "extramental physical reality," but this is merely one way of using language to express what is first immediately experienced. Sometimes we have to re-express our meaning to others because the hearer does not adequately grasp what the speaker intends.

            But really, this is just a matter of adequately describing somethat is "other than myself" and "extended in space, which is given with the objects known." Frankly, I am struggling to describe this because I have never had anyone suggest this is something conditioned by our social framework.

            Usually, when you speak of our social environment conditioning our experience, I think of this in terms of much more developed societal interactions and their significance to those impacted by others. I would consider such aspects of human experience far "down the line" from the primitive one to which I refer.

          • Chris Morris

            "I don't want to be like two trains..." I know it's awkward having two conversations on the same thread but I just wanted to suggest that there are other possibilities for describing our experience of reality.

            "I would consider such aspects of human experience far 'down the line' from the primitive one to which I refer." I suspect that societal interactions are rather more primitive than you suggest, perhaps dating back to the earliest forms of homo sapiens. For highly developed social animals the ability to interpret and predict the actions of peers is vital and it's reasonable to see the development of language as part of the process of gaining a better understanding of other minds. Certainly, words would then be used to describe the physical environment but language as a manifestation of social interaction would've been primary.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This does not seem to me to be particularly essential to what we are talking about here.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Extended_Mind

          • Chris Morris

            Perhaps this one might be more useful than 'Wikipedia':

            https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00831/full

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I read through it, and yes, it is a professional journal article, which is far better in its depth. Still, it ultimately does not appear to address the fundamental issues we have been discussing in this thread, even though it discusses some secondary issues of mental extensions from an analytic perspective.

          • Richard Morley

            You say I despise science.

            Well, you repeatedly make denigrating comments about anyone trying to draw conclusions from science, or including science in the thought process, accusing them of 'scientism', 'materialism' and various other presumably perjorative terms.

            Along with philosophy, my background was also initially in chemistry

            So no real science then?

            (I'm kidding, my background is in physics and the rivalry is stereotypical.)
            .

            So what then is you "starting ground?" You say, "It is linear reasoning, from acknowledging our immediate experience, to provisionally accepting its validity, to building an internally coherent model based on what we experience, remember and think."

            This is emblematic of your whole post. You angrily demand that I answer a question, then quote me where I have already answered it.

            Again, here:

            You say this is only "provisionally" accepted. But how can a "model" be built unless you "provisionally" assume that its premise is true?

            Yes, obviously. That is what hypotheses are.

            The only thing about which we can be 100% certain is our current instantaneous experience. Everything else is more or less provisional - but you apparently want to claim 100% certainty for your understanding of philosophy.

            From the internal consistency of that model and its predictive success, you "deduce ... later on" that all one knows is "changes in the brain."

            Your usual equivocation. All we know is our experience, our internally consistent and very successful model leads us to conclude that that experience is made up of changes in the brain. So two different meanings of the phrase "all we know is..."

            Once you or your kids fall ill, say with a brain tumour, I am pretty certain you operate on the same assumption. You would not discard the brain to 'save' the child, would you?

            BUT, the "starting point" in that whole "chain of reasoning" was the assumption of the truth of our experience that what we know is the external world.

            No, the "starting point" is the first one, the experience. The later ones, such as assuming that that experience reflects, at least to some extent, a 'real world', are not the first. That pesky maths again.

            Is that your experience? Or, your conclusion.? You say it is your conclusion or deduction.

            And again. What is it with you? Why ask if you then quote my already given, very clear, answer?

            I submit that what you experience exactly what I experience, namely, being immediately present to a real physical world.

            That is what I conclude. I cannot rule out being a boltzmann brain or a brain in a vat or a simulation, I just reject those hypotheses as useless.

            That said, you have a massive contradiction in your epistemology.

            Or you have a colossal misunderstanding of simple english phrases that you have actually quoted back at me.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It helps to distinguish a premise from an hypothesis.

            The given we all share is experience. I am simply pointing out that it is, when we make a perceptive judgment, experience of something extramental.

            When confronted by a drooling lion, we have immediate psychological certitude that we confront something very real and extramental.

            When we close our eyes and pretend the lion has vanished, we then can make a judgment about out act of knowing the lion and maybe convince ourselves it was all in our mind , since then we are not having experience of the extramental reality, but an intramental act whose content might not correspond to extramental reality.

            What I am saying is that some of our experience is of the first sort, and that is what natural science uses to build up our knowledge of the physical world.

            We can form an hypothesis that all we know is of the second type, that is, just knowledge inside us -- and then ask whether it represents external reality. That is the hypothesis science then tests, but by using judgments of the first type to verify that hypothesis.

            That means that the hypothesis we seek to validate or falsify is tested by comparing the physiology we follow into the brain to see if it adequately reflects external reality as known by the first type of perceptual judgments. We can test and observe and measure what goes on in the physiology, but every judgment of its validity is made by comparing its results to external reality as known in perceptual judgments.

            The problem remains. The premise we start with is perceptual judments of external reality. The hypothesis we start with is a model that says internal brain states properly represent external reality. But there is no way to test that conformity without knowing both ends of the equation. That is we can only validate the model by measuring it against external reality using test methods and measurement methods whose validation is in external reality.

            So,all rhetoric aside, the entire enterprise of validating this model that says internal brain states properly reflect external reality can only proceed by comparing the "inside" to the "outside," and this cannot be done unless we have some direct knowledge of the "outside" to which to compare.

          • Richard Morley

            It helps to distinguish a premise from an hypothesis.

            Sure, whatever. Bearing in mind that a hypothesis can be a premise, and that the only thing that is a 'fact' and not not a hypothesis is "this is what 'I' currently experience'.

            Go from there. You (apparently) get to " I am an immaterial soul and there is a God", whereas I get to the laws of physics and me being embodied in a brain. Again feel free to give yourself and your kids lobotomies if you disagree that 'you' is embodied in your brain.

            When confronted by a drooling lion, we have immediate psychological certitude that we confront something very real and extramental.

            We deduce that, as we deduce the function of the brain. Again, if you disagree, then by all means volunteer yourself and your kids for lobotomies.

            The hypothesis we start with is a model that says internal brain states properly represent external reality

            No, we start with the experience. Then memory and reason. Only then do we hypothesise that what we 'experience' is in some way 'real'. It is frankly embarrassing that a philiosophy professor needs to have this pointed out.

            and this cannot be done unless we have some direct knowledge of the "outside" to which to compare.

            So you claim absolute knowledge that you are not a boltzman brain, or a brain in a vat or a simulation? How?

          • Jim the Scott

            >Well, you repeatedly make denigrating comments about anyone trying to draw conclusions from science, or including science in the thought process, accusing them of 'scientism', 'materialism' and various other presumably perjorative terms.

            Well he is a philosopher making a philosophical analysis & thus any science you bring into it is a category mistake. Also implicitly insisting all things must be subject to the analysis of science by definition is a form of scientism. You are a hammer so everything in the world to you is a nail.

            >(I'm kidding, my background is in physics and the rivalry is stereotypical.)

            So this explains everything. They say the only thing worst then a philosopher's incompotent attempts at doing physics is a physicist's greater incompotent attempt at doing philosophy.

            >The only thing about which we can be 100% certain is our current instantaneous experience.

            Very Cartusian of you but I know of a host of radical skeptics who dispute even that statement.

          • Richard Morley

            Well he is a philosopher making a philosophical analysis & thus any science you bring into it is a category mistake.

            Well, no. Science is philosophy but of course you do not get that. Did you not get that, or do you just not understand what you yourself are saying?

            Also implicitly insisting all things must be subject to the analysis of science by definition is a form of scientism

            Or the definition of 'scientism'. But since I have never done that, it is irrelevant. But that, again, will probably slip past you.

            So this explains everything.

            No, it just gives you the illusion of understanding 'everything'. again, stereotypical.

            Very Cartusian of you

            Close, but one vowel off.

            And so what? I would only be worried if no one disagreed with me.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Well, no. Science is philosophy but of course you do not get that.

            Stop equivocating it is tedious and unconvincing. Rather Philosophy is a Science(in the classic sense). In terms of modern convention we generally use the term "Science" to refer to Empirical & experimental sciences. In classic times empirical science was called "Natural Philosophy". Dr. B is using philosophy in the modern sense of the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language & or metaphysics and being. So enough of your equivocating.

            > Did you not get that, or do you just not understand what you yourself are saying?

            I understand perfectly you OTOH are clearly adept as sophistry but this is not my first rodeo.

            >Or the definition of 'scientism'. But since I have never done that, it is irrelevant. But that, again, will probably slip past you.

            I know Scientism rather well. You I am not so sure about.
            >https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174/

            Scientism is at best trivially true, at worst it is self refuting(see Dr. Feser's essay above). But morons who try to answer purely philosophical problems with science are like other morons who let us say dismiss natural selection because they can't prove it using a particle accelerator. Or still other morons who dismiss the existence of a Higgs Boson because they can't dig one up from a fossil record. Like I said Category mistakes.

            >No, it just gives you the illusion of understanding 'everything'. again, stereotypical.

            Rather you are like a drunk Irishmen. You just happen by happenstance to confirm a stereotype. Not that such a confirmation is really meaningful rather it is merely amusing.

            >Close, but one vowel off.

            Speelingg is not my strength and sometimes when I type I am distracted.

            >And so what? I would only be worried if no one disagreed with me.

            Ditto.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Feser begins with a series of strawmen and false assertions, as is his usual style, then proceeds with a tedious, meandering, pointless stream of text.

            -Scientism is the view that all real knowledge is scientific
            knowledge—that there is no rational, objective form of inquiry that is not a branch of science.-
            A scientific fact is not objectively true in the sense of certainly true or absolutely true, only provisionally true based on the postulates of science.

            So, Feser gets it wrong in the first sentence, and it is all downhill from there.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Feser begins with a series of strawmen and false assertions, as is his usual style, then proceeds with a tedious, meandering, pointless stream of text.

            His brilliant essay contains not one strawman nor a single false assertion. The same cannot be said for you. Nebulous dismissals on your part are what is truly tedious meandering and pointless.

            >-Scientism is the view that all real knowledge is scientific
            knowledge—that there is no rational, objective form of inquiry that is not a branch of science.-

            100% correct. Of course equivocating by confusing scientism with science is nether convincing nor a valid response. It is mere ignorant blather on your part.

            >A scientific fact is not objectively true in the sense of certainly true or absolutely true, only provisionally true based on the postulates of science.

            What does that have do with scientism? Yes you are confusing science with scientism and that makes your response comically ignorant and tedious.

            >So, Feser gets it wrong in the first sentence, and it is all downhill from there.

            You remind me of a Young Earth Creationist with a six grader's knowledge of Biology telling Richard Dawkins he gets evolution "wrong" only you are twice as comical. Gnu Atheists are simply intellectually inferior.

          • Nova Conceptum

            -Yes you are confusing science with scientism-
            Feser defines the made up nonsense term "scientism" in terms of "science". I am not confusing the two, it is Feser who derives "scientism" from "science".

            Scientismist knowledge (hey, if theists can make up nonsense terms, so can I) is scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge cannot be objective therefore scientismist knowledge cannot be objective, yet Feser absurdly attributes objectivity where it, by definition, cannot apply.

            Not content to make just that howler in the first sentence Feser goes on to attribute this nonsense to Dawkins and Hitchons, who know (knew) perfectly well and have have stated their views repeatedly in scientific terms, absent the strawman of absolute certainty.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Feser defines the made up nonsense term "scientism" in terms of "science".

            Feser made up the term "scientism"? The term goes back to Hayek. Your lack of knowledge is self evident & your ignorance is comical.

            >I am not confusing the two, it is Feser who derives "scientism" from "science".

            You blatantly are confusing the two. Feser didn't make up the term or it's various definitions. He didn't see the word "science" and make up the concept. You are clearly daft.

            >Scientismist knowledge (hey, if theists can make up nonsense terms, so can I) is scientific knowledge.

            Gibberish is not keen satire its just base mockery from the obviously ignorant. Any dull minded creationist with a 3rd graders' knowledge of biology can shout "Monkeys don't give birth to people" & imagine he has said something clever. You are no better here. Indeed you are worse.

            > Scientific knowledge cannot be objective therefore scientismist knowledge cannot be objective, yet Feser absurdly attributes objectivity where it, by definition, cannot apply.

            That is not what he precisely said & you cannot argue by spouting gibberish. Also any claim on your part that even empirical science is not "objective" is a philosophical claim not a scientific one. Which is the point of the essay. Science alone is not the sole means of knowledge and their is a certain primacy given to philosophy. What constitutes a scientific question or the nature of scientific knowledge is the province of the Philosophy of Science. Not the discipline of science itself.

            Being a Classical Theist Feser (& myself and Dr. B) don't believe the existence of God is a scientific question but a philosophical one only. To be demonstraghted by philosophical argument. Positivists/promoters of scientism spurn philosophy which leads to incoherence and what the Atheist Philosopher David Stove called "irrationalism".

            >Not content to make just that howler in the first sentence Feser goes on to attribute this nonsense to Dawkins and Hitchons, who know (knew) perfectly well and have have stated their views repeatedly in scientific terms, absent the strawman of absolute certainty.

            Dawkins and Hitchens are notorious for their erroneous belief science is the only legitimate form of knowledge sans philosophy. That is the point.
            I've seen Atheist philosopher Stephen Law argue the need and value of philosophy with Dawkins to try in vain to correct him.

            Their view is by nature a philosophical one (& an incoherent one as Feser shows) not a scientific one. Which is the point you seem to wish to go out of your way to avoid.

            Yes I get it you are a near radical skeptic and you hold an anti-realism view of science and knowledge in general. Which is fine but it has little to do with Feser's essay and it is clear you don't understand the difference between scientism/positivism vs Science.

            How droll.

          • Nova Conceptum

            -Feser made up the term "scientism"?-
            No those are your words, not mine.

            -That is not what he precisely said-
            "Scientism is the view that all real knowledge is scientific knowledge"Ed Feser.
            Scientismistic knowledge is scientific knowledge by Ed's own definition. To then attribute objectivity to Scientismistic knowledge is a howler in the first sentence, typical for Ed.

            -Dawkins and Hitchens are notorious for their erroneous belief science is the only legitimate form of knowledge sans philosophy.-
            Even if true that would not be a claim to objectivity, which Feser falsely attributes to Dawkins and Hitchens, because strawmen are necessary to the arguments of theistic philosophers.

          • Jim the Scott

            >No those are your words, not mine.

            You said "Feser defines the made up nonsense term "scientism" in terms of "science". END QUOTE. You obviously don't mean what you say. Or is English not your first language?

            >"Scientism is the view that all real knowledge is scientific knowledge"Ed Feser.

            Yes and your complaint was ""A scientific fact is not objectively true in the sense of certainly true or absolutely true, only provisionally true based on the postulates of science." You ignored that bit of the sentence and kvetched about the later bit "that there is no rational, objective form of inquiry that is not a branch of science."

            I called you on it and you responded with gibberish like you are doing now. It is most amusing.

            >Scientismistic knowledge is scientific knowledge by Ed's own definition.

            No it is in contrast to the corollary view of scientism/positivism that philosophical knowledge is not real or meaningful knowledge which is held by proponents of scientism. For example a proponent of scientism dismisses the existence of God because God cannot be proven to exist scientifically(which I agree with). When it is pointed out the existence of God(at least in Classical Theism) is a philosophical question subject to philosophical inquiry not scientific they dismiss philosophy and dogmatically assert God must be subject to scientific investigation. Which is the essence of scientism. Of course the concept of scientism cannot be investigated by science either so hilarity & incoherence ensues.

            That you don't get that simple concept is beyond entertaining. You are so dogmatically dull.

            >Even if true that would not be a claim to objectivity, which Feser falsely attributes to Dawkins and Hitchens, because strawmen are necessary to the arguments of theistic philosophers.

            Objective refers to objects and events in the world that anyone can, in principle, observe. Subjective refers to feelings and experiences that depend on the individual's own particular viewpoint and traits.

            I doubt Dawkins or the late Hitchens ever believed science didn't involve observation. How would you do experiments then?

            Go away you have nothing intelligent to say.

          • Richard Morley

            You said "Feser defines the made up nonsense term "scientism" in terms of "science". END QUOTE. You obviously don't mean what you say. Or is English not your first language?

            Apparently not yours. Defining a term does not mean that you invented it. Leibniz coined the phrase "Principle of Sufficient Reason", but that does not prevent Dr B from defining his "Thomistic Principle of Sufficient Reason" very differently.

            No it is in contrast to the corollary view of scientism/positivism that philosophical knowledge is not real or meaningful knowledge which is held by proponents of scientism.

            But you claim that philosophy is a science. So scientism would embrace philosophical knowledge.

            BTW, actual knowledge of philosophy would spare you from this kind of embarassment.

            For example a proponent of scientism dismisses the existence of God because God cannot be proven to exist scientifically(which I agree with).

            Unless, of course, he actually interacts with the world in any detectable way. Such as by creating it, or incarnating himself as a Jewish Carpenter's son, or working miracles. Otherwise, yes, he is as immune to scientific enquiry as Lord Voldermort or Invisible Pink Unicorns. And about as relevant.

          • Jim the Scott

            >quote>You said "Feser defines the made up nonsense term "scientism" in terms of "science". END QUOTE. You obviously don't mean what you say. Or is English not your first language?Apparently not yours. Defining a term does not mean that you invented it. Leibniz coined the phrase "Principle of Sufficient Reason", but that does not prevent Dr B from defining his "Thomistic Principle of Sufficient Reason" very differently.

            In other news water is wet. Do you have a point you can state plainly? But if Feser made up his definition of scientism I would need proof but I seem to recall AG Flew taking about Scientism in his book about his conversion to Deism. So that seems unlikely.

            Also the Thomistic Principle of Reason is mentioned by Feser as well. Do you want to claim he invented it too? Dr. B is 80 years old I think he got the idea from you know what he was taught in scholastic philosophy?

            Yah Think?

            >But you claim that philosophy is a science. So scientism would embrace philosophical knowledge.

            Which makes it trivially true if you read Feser's essay which you clearly did not or are you trying to equivocate again? Follow your own advise and read and think. I am not seeing it.

            >BTW, actual knowledge of philosophy would spare you from this kind of embarassment.

            I think the only one here who has embarrassed themselves is you? Classically Science is a body or discipline of knowledge. In modern times we use it as short hand for empirical science and the search for quantitative knowledge using the scientific method. Or did ye not know that?

            >Unless, of course, he actually interacts with the world in any detectable way.

            Which in principle cannot apply to a Classic Theistic God without a category mistake. At best that might apply to some ID Theistic Personalist "god"which I am a strong Atheist toward believing in and I am sure Dr. B is as well.

            >Such as by creating it, or incarnating himself as a Jewish Carpenter's son, or working miracles.

            Yep positively positivism/scientism.

            >. Otherwise, yes, he is as immune to scientific enquiry as Lord Voldermort or Invisible Pink Unicorns. And about as relevant

            further empirical proof of scientism. Using science here is a category mistake.

            Here learn something.

            https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2008/11/russells-teapot-does-it-hold-water.html

            We are not ID advocates here. Wrong "god".

            I so called fallacies of equivocation. I am so right and I will be a smug bastard about it.

          • Richard Morley

            In other news water is wet.

            Get out of town! But you miss the point. Reliably. The whole point is that defining a term does not mean that you invented it. If you finally buy a dictionary or learn to use Google, you will be able to do it. So your whole tirade is clueless.

            But you claim that philosophy is a science. So scientism would embrace philosophical knowledge.

            Which makes it trivially true if you read Feser's essay which you clearly did not or are you trying to equivocate again?

            You keep using that word. I do not think that it means what you think it does. And you again reliably miss the point. If philosophy is a science, then 'scientism' does not dismiss philosophy, does it?

            Which in principle cannot apply to a Classic Theistic God without a category mistake.

            Ah, the bailey position. A rather extreme one at that. You don't believe in a God who has any influence on the universe? Not even creation or incarnation or the physical assumption of Mary?

          • Jim the Scott

            >Get out of town! But you miss the point. Reliably. The whole point is that defining a term does not mean that you invented it. If you finally buy a dictionary or learn to use Google, you will be able to do it. So your whole tirade is clueless.

            I have a better idea. Rather than enabling Nova why don't you point out ranting "Feser made this all up and it is wrong because it is stupid" or whatever( I am obviously paraphrasing so not of your "where did Nova say that?" nonsense) is not a bright response?

            But then again you are the one who says "Science is Philosophy" without qualification and complains when I justly and rationally point out you are equivocating. Don't even get me started on yer false claims about Dr. B denying Evolution or Alien life based on philosophy. That is not what that paper he wrote said sir.

            >You keep using that word. I do not think that it means what you think it does.

            You do it again in the next sentence.

            > And you again reliably miss the point. If philosophy is a science, then 'scientism' does not dismiss philosophy, does it?

            Here is another example of you equivocating using two words in different senses and confusing the meaning of them. Like when you said "science is philosophy" in the other post. You are shameless at this point. Be a shameless arse, I respect that, but don't be shamelessly anti-intellectual or incoherent. It is truly offensive.

            In what sense is "philosophy a science"? Are you using it in the same sense we are here or Feser? Obviously not! So again you are equivocating.

            >>Which in principle cannot apply to a Classic Theistic God without a category mistake.

            >Ah, the bailey position. A rather extreme one at that. You don't believe in a God who has any influence on the universe? Not even creation or incarnation or the physical assumption of Mary

            Category mistake. Classical theism is a species of Natural Theology. Mary's assumption is not it is a species of revealed theology & at best remote historical theology. Mary's assumption rests solely on the authority of the Catholic Church which in principle cannot apply to knowing the existence of a Classic Theistic God without a category mistake. We believe in the Assumption based solely on the authority of the Catholic Church and we would use whatever apologetics we use(not my area) to establish why we believe the RC is God's true Church. That has nothing to do with the existence of God in the Classic sense or the use of philosophy to establish that fact. Many Protestants are Classic Theists (Paul Helm, Glieser etc) &they don't believe in the Assumption.

            So wrong.

          • Jim the Scott

            additional equivocations.

            >Apparently not yours. Defining a term does not mean that you invented it.

            Compared to

            >Feser defines the made up nonsense term "scientism" in terms of "science".

            Clearly there is a claim the term "scientism" is made up which is like accusing Stephen J. Gould of making up punctuated equilibrium or Stephen Hawkings of "making up" the no boundary proposal. Also WTF does "defines in terms of science" mean? Do you know what Nova is taking about
            Richard? Because it reads like gibberish.

          • Nova Conceptum

            "Scientism is the view that all real knowledge is scientific knowledge"
            Feser, first words of first sentence at the provided link.

            I never said Feser coined the term, only that he defined it in his own way at the provided link.

            Clearly, scientismistic knowlege is scientific knowledge by Feser's definition.

            "that there is no rational, objective form of inquiry that is not a branch of science."
            Feser, next words in the first sentence at the provided link.

            Scientific knowledge is not objective in the sense of certain knowledge or absolute truth.

            Feser contradicts himself in the first sentence with a howler, then goes on to make a further strawman of attributing views to Dawkins and Hitchens they did not express, scientismistical philosophy.

            Feser then goes on to the usual theistic errors about what he falsely asserts science presupposes, what supposedly cannot be reconciled, and an overview of various typical theistic philosophical errors.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I never said Feser coined the term, only that he defined it in his own way at the provided link.

            You said the term was "made up" which is silly, historically inaccurate and nebulous and you didn't show us how Feser supposedly changed it from this secret double probation definition that Richard alludes too but never states. You are not arguing rationally or even attempting a rational refutation. You are merely employing base mockery & mindless gibberish. Which is tedious.

            For example:
            >Clearly, scientismistic knowlege is scientific knowledge by Feser's definition.

            If you don't understand what you are reading try asking questions instead of spouting gibberish.

            >"that there is no rational, objective form of inquiry that is not a branch of science."
            Feser, next words in the first sentence at the provided link.
            Scientific knowledge is not objective in the sense of certain knowledge or absolute truth.

            I missed the part where Feser claimed science was objective in the sense of certain knowledge or absolute truth? Where does he make that claim? Nowhere, you just pulled that out of yer arse and threw it out there. Given the context of the essay "objective" merely refers to objects and events in the world that anyone can, in principle, observe. How anyone can claim with a straight face empirical science is NOT objective in this way is a mystery to me.

            >Feser contradicts himself in the first sentence with a howler, then goes on to make a further strawman of attributing views to Dawkins and Hitchens they did not express, scientismistical philosophy.

            There is no contradiction and Feser constructed no strawman but it is clear you did and shamelessly so. Both Dawkins and Hitchens are on record attacking theism from a scientific view. Neither has ever made a philosophical argument. Dawkins himself denigrates philosophy, Like Dr. Tyson. It is a myopia the lot of them have which limits their polemics to Young Earth Creationism or so called Intelligent Design arguments (which are Shite to a Classic Theist). None of these clowns has a clue how to credibly critique Classic Theism.

            >Feser then goes on to the usual theistic errors about what he falsely asserts science presupposes,

            Ambiguous much? What errors? If you read the essay closely the point is Science has NOTHING to say about things which strictly belong to the realm of philosophy. Even trying to figure out what is a scientific question and subject to scientific investigation requires not science but the Philosophy of Science. Like I said it's like claiming you can dig up a Higgs Boson "god-particle" in a fossil record etc... Category mistakes. Gnu Atheists would have no arguments at all if they didn't make them.

            >what supposedly cannot be reconciled, and an overview of various typical theistic philosophical errors.

            Like I said you have said nothing intelligent here. Even if there are no gods you have said nothing intelligent here. That is self evident.

          • Nova Conceptum

            -You said the term was "made up" which is silly,-
            Scientism is made up, it is fictitious nonsense attributed to scientists and scientifically minded people as a strawman smear. I don't know of a single scientist who ascribes to this absurd strawman, nor do I know of any philosopher who is a proponent of scientismistical thinking.

            Objective knowledge is knowledge that is know to be objectively true, as in an objective morality.

            If you want to call objective knowledge knowledge about objects that is rather odd, but OK, Then science is the only tool we have to learn about and gain knowledge of objects. Do you suppose you will learn about objects by philosophizing about them?

            Behold, a rock, now, close your eyes and philosophize its mineral content, its chemical composition, mass, hardness, molecular structure, melting point, or anything else about this rock.

            -Ambiguous much? What errors?-
            I told you a couple, you skipped those. After identifying the first few howlers from Feser unwinding the rest of his meandering nonsense really is not worth the bother.

          • Jim the Scott

            Like I said nothing intelligent. But answering it can be mildly amusing.

            >Scientism is made up, it is fictitious nonsense attributed to scientists and scientifically minded people as a strawman smear.

            No it is an incoherent philosophical view held by some misguided philosophers of science, Gnu Atheists, Scientific ID Theists, philosophically illiterate scientists and other clueless people who fail to think it threw like yourself. To see U call it "made up" is like when a YEC type rants Darwin "made up" evolution. Pure anti-intellectual nonsense even if there are no gods.

            >I don't know of a single scientist who ascribes to this absurd strawman, nor do I know of any philosopher who is a proponent of scientismistical thinking.

            Alex Rosenberg Atheist Philosopher explicitly holds it and scientists like Krauss & or Tyson clearly implicitly hold it. It is as plain as a Pin up of a Bulgarian supermodel.

            >Objective knowledge is knowledge that is know to be objectively true, as in an objective morality.

            That is a nebulous & ambiguous definition. Objective knowledge is knowledge we can all have in principle with observation. It is that simple.
            Inventing self serving tautologies and yer own made up definition is unconvincing to those of us with an IQ greater than the number 4 & is a tad bit hypocritical. Matt 23 and all that.

            >If you want to call objective knowledge knowledge about objects that is rather odd, but OK,

            Yeh I noticed what you just did there. You slightly changed the definition I gave you and that is about as subtle as when I was with my college girlfriend back in the day and I put my arm around her to get some side boob and she smiled and said to me "Don't think I don't notice where your hand is buster". Good times! Yer problem is I was at least smooth about it and rather good looking & of course handsome men are aways forgiven.
            Comboxes don't allow you to rely on yer looks laddie.

            > Then science is the only tool we have to learn about and gain knowledge of objects. Do you suppose you will learn about objects by philosophizing about them?

            Well that is like saying a metal detector is the only good way we can locate metal coins therefore metal coins must be the only things that exist and wooden or plastic coins are a myth because metal detectors can't detect them. Then when challenged on this nonsense pushing back by ranting that shovels and excavating are not as successful as metal detectors. Or claiming gardening and painting are worthless since paint brushes and hoes are useless in finding metal coins. You are just being daft.

            (BTW what I wrote above is called an analogy. It is not meant to be super literal. The first Gnu who takes it literally [I am looking at you Richard] I will verbally eviscerate with my savage wit)

            Metal detectors are good at exploring one aspect of reality but they don't exhaust reality. The same for science. Science tells us something about reality that it can observe and control but not all of it. Science relies on Philosophy for its own presuppositions.

            >Behold, a rock, now, close your eyes and philosophize its mineral content, its chemical composition, mass, hardness, molecular structure, melting point, or anything else about this rock.

            But none of that tells me about the nature of the Rock's being. For example is it a substance or an event? What is its essence and what is its final cause? What is its efficient cause? What is its formal cause? Why the rock? Science can only give us quantitative knowledge of the rock it cannot give us qualitative knowledge in principle and by definition. Science doesn't exhaust the rock.

            >>-Ambiguous much? What errors?-
            >I told you a couple, you skipped those

            You didn't tell me Jack Chick. In fact this post so far is your only attempt to make any arguments (such as they are). Not that they are any good but you get a trophy for participation.

            >. After identifying the first few howlers from Feser unwinding the rest of his meandering nonsense really is not worth the bother.0

            Yeh like I said you remind me of the YEC who "proves" Monkeys don't give birth to gerbils so he has "refuted" Darwins' "meandering nonsense" on evolution. What must it be like to live in your brain? It must be so calm. So simple like a goldfish in a bowl.....

            Cheers.

          • Nova Conceptum

            "No it is an incoherent philosophical view"

            That's what makes it made up nonsense every time it is attributed to a scientist or scientifically minded person.

            "Krauss"
            You have nothing when you have to scrape the bottom of the barrel like that. Krauss gave up on science when he decided to become a creepy woo monger.

            "You didn't tell me Jack Chick."
            I gave you several specifics. You ignored them. Up to you.

          • Jim the Scott

            You are just making it up as you go along M8.

            >That's what makes it made up nonsense every time it is attributed to a scientist or scientifically minded person.

            We attribute it to people who hold it like Alex Rosenberg or Krauss etc....it is clearly a view most Gnu Atheist types hold one way or another. Daniel Dennett (who in spite of his kvetching clearly leans in the scientism direction) said "There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination". Science gives you the data your philosophy interprets and models the data & the scientific method is based on philosophical presuppositions. Empirical Science is not a philosophy. Metaphysical Naturalism is a philosophy. Reductionist Materialism is a philosophy. Essentialism is a philosophy, Neo-Platonism etc.....

            It is very simple. Classic Theism relies on philosophy not science to know the existence of God. Learn and do philosophy or feck off. Just as if you showed up to an archeology dig & said "Do you think we can find a Higgs Boson particle?" the guy will tell you to go home and sleep it off. OTOH the second he finds out you are sober and serious he will tell you to feck off.

            >You have nothing when you have to scrape the bottom of the barrel like that. Krauss gave up on science when he decided to become a creepy woo monger.

            What is the difference between him and you since all I get from you is woo?

            >I gave you several specifics.

            You gave me nothing. You just put your ignorance on display.

            Now go learn philosophy so you may one day formulate plausible philosophical defeaters or feck off. It is that simple.

          • Richard Morley

            Rather Philosophy is a Science(in the classic sense).

            I would say that Science is a subset of Philosophy, not the other way around, but since we both agree that your objection was vacuous, why argue?

            So enough of your equivocating.

            You keep using that word. I do not think that it means what you think it does.

            I know Scientism rather well.

            I'm sure you do. I have known exactly one (1) atheist who apparently espoused scientism by any reasonable definition of the word, otherwise it seems to be strawman only ever raised by creationists and their ilk as a windmill at which to tilt.

            Did you miss the bit where I have never espoused anything reasonably defined as 'Scientism'?

            But morons who try to answer purely philosophical problems with science are like other morons who let us say dismiss natural selection because they can't prove it using a particle accelerator. Or still other morons who dismiss the existence of a Higgs Boson because they can't dig one up from a fossil record. Like I said Category mistakes.

            Or 'morons' who dismiss evolution or life on other planets because they cannot fit those into their philosophy? That would be your man crush Dr B, BTW, the one point where you show reasonable judgement.

            But yes, that would be a useful definition of 'scientism', but the only atheist I know of who espoused something like that (assuming Dr B will deny my characterisation of his point of view) is both dead and was apparently juiced to the eyeballs since before I knew him, so gets a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card as far as I am concerned. Otherwise 'scientism' seems to be a strawman only exploited by your side.

            Rather you are like a drunk Irishmen.

            How very dare you! I am Welsh, not Irish. And not..

            ..Not Irish. Let's leave it at that. (What? it is the weekend)

            Speelingg is not my strength

            Or thinking. Or pronunciation. Or politeness. Or answering questions. In fact, do you actually have a strength as such?

          • Jim the Scott

            >I would say that Science is a subset of Philosophy, not the other way around, but since we both agree that your objection was vacuous, why argue?

            So you where using the classic definition and I was using the modern. So we need not argue.

            >You keep using that word. I do not think that it means what you think it does.

            I think I do. For example. Zeus is a god. Yahweh is God. So they are both understood conception ally and philosophically in the same way by both Christians and pagan?. In short "no". Between Zeus and Yahweh the term "god" is equivocal because as a Catholic I believe Yahweh is Pure Act while the same cannot be said for Zeus.

            >I'm sure you do. I have known exactly one (1) atheist who apparently espoused scientism by any reasonable definition of the word, otherwise it seems to be strawman only ever raised by creationists and their ilk as a windmill at which to tilt.
            Did you miss the bit where I have never espoused anything reasonably defined as 'Scientism'?

            So you are not only equivocating you are begging the question as well because you have some double secret probation definition of "scientism".

            Would it kill ya to speak plainly?

            >Or 'morons' who dismiss evolution or life on other planets because they cannot fit those into their philosophy?

            No of which applies to me as a Theistic evolutionist and Catholic. I believe in one and the other I will wait for the evidence as it is a scientific question not a philosophical one. This sounds like the reverse of a scientism mentality which would be just as stupid.

            >That would be your man crush Dr B, BTW, the one point where you show reasonable judgement.

            I know Dr. B and last I checked he does except evolution and has never claimed nor would ever claim philosophy excludes extra-terrestrial life. You are bonkers.

            >But yes, that would be a useful definition of 'scientism', but the only atheist I know of who espoused something like that (assuming Dr B will deny my characterisation of his point of view) is both dead and was apparently juiced to the eyeballs since before I knew him, so gets a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card as far as I am concerned.

            Lovely but your "useful definition" is unstated therefore meaningless. Again would it kill ya to speak plainly?

            > Otherwise 'scientism' seems to be a strawman only exploited by your side.

            Rather your kvetching is the strawman.

            >How very dare you! I am Welsh, not Irish. And not..

            Well I did say "like" I didn't say you "where" a drunk Irishmen. I was making an analogy and you respond with equivocation. I am vindicated.
            Now I will do a Scottish jig.

            >Or thinking. Or pronunciation. Or politeness. Or answering questions. In fact, do you actually have a strength as such?

            Forget politeness. I am too old and cynical.

          • Richard Morley

            So we need not argue.

            Nope, I am right and you are wrong. We agree on that.

            >You keep using that word. I do not think that it means what you think it does.

            I think I do.

            Amusing. You are equivocating about the meaning of equivocating. Where do I use the same word in two different senses and try to obscure the difference? Or for that matter where do I espouse anything that might reasonably be considered 'scientism' in any meaningful use of the term?

            I know Dr. B and last I checked he does except evolution and has never claimed nor would ever claim philosophy excludes extra-terrestrial life. You are bonkers.

            Again, amusing, your 'speeling' has tricked you into telling the truth. You need to put a penny in the "accidentally did not lie" jar. See here

            And he has a point. Unsurprisingly I think that he is wrong - the obvious conclusion is that his philosophy is erroneous, not the observed facts - but he does not deserve to be called a 'moron' as a result.

            Lovely but your "useful definition" is unstated therefore meaningless. Again would it kill ya to speak plainly?

            Grief of the Gods. But charity to the simple is a virtue, so fine - one useful definition (the one my juiced up acquaintance seemed to espouse) is that only science, maths and logic count as 'knowledge'. A more extreme one, only (to my knowledge) used as a straw man by creationists and their ilk, is that only Popperian scientific conclusions count as 'knowledge'. Seriously. As though anyone rejects mathematical proofs as valid.

            Well I did say "like" I didn't say you "where" a drunk Irishmen.

            And I pointed out that I am Welsh. I am not 'where' scottish or Irish.

            I was making an analogy and you respond with equivocation.

            You keep using that word. I do not think that it means what you think it does.

            Forget politeness.

            You apparently did long ago, so I see where that leads. No thank you.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Nope, I am right and you are wrong. We agree on that.

            I agree as long as we are clear I am the "I" in that sentence.

            >Amusing. You are equivocating about the meaning of equivocating. Where do I use the same word in two different senses and try to obscure the difference?

            First give us your double secret probation "useful" definition of scientism?
            Yer the one who said "Science is philosophy" without giving any definitions or indications of what "sense" you are using either of these terms. How is that not an equivocation. "Science is philosophy" your words unqualified and given no sense. I at least put adjective in front of both those words. Metaphysics and or Empirical. What did you do?

            >Or for that matter where do I espouse anything that might reasonably be considered 'scientism' in any meaningful use of the term?

            Again given you have not expounded on your secret "useful" definition of scientism such a question is itself an equivocation. What do you hate defining terms? Would it really kill ya to speak plainly?

            >Again, amusing, your 'speeling' has tricked you into telling the truth. You need to put a penny in the "accidentally did not lie" jar. See here

            I know of that paper & what does Dr. B's denial or critique of a particular metaphysical modeling of evolution have to do with denying the mechanisms of evolution taking place or the existence of Extra Terrestrial life? None that I can see unless you equivocate between metaphysical philosophy and empirical science(which you clearly do). Dr. B's book ORIGIN OF THE HUMAN SPECIES presupposes naturalistic evolution across the board with the exception of the creation of the human soul. Did you miss that? Most likely but then again you are not as familiar with this subject as you pretend to be eh?

            Here is a tip. If you are going to argue from the titles of papers instead of content don't cite papers I already read.

            Quote"Genuine transformism from lower to higher natural species requires preternatural intervention, though such intervention need not be discernible to natural scientists." Yeh that is a dis against naturalism but I don't see that as a denial of evolution in general? That is clearly not a "dismiss evolution or life on other planets because they cannot fit those into their philosophy".

            Yep Physicists make lousy philosophers and you equivocated again. Tisk! Tisk!

            >And he has a point. Unsurprisingly I think that he is wrong - the obvious conclusion is that his philosophy is erroneous,

            Again ambiguous much? You can answer him with counter philosophy but the issue here is not science. It's naturalism vs supernaturalism and the limits of methodological naturalism. But to claim he "dismissed evolution or life on other plants" is dishonest at worst or badly stated at best.

            > not the observed facts - but he does not deserve to be called a 'moron' as a result.

            But you clearly do as someone with a professional level of academic knowledge who writes at best lazy sentences that accuse Dr. B of denying Evolution and or extra terrestrial life based on philosophy alone.

            You really merit my charges you are stick in a Scientism mentality and you equivocate all over the place. Cut it out! Yer a Physicist show some pride.

            >Grief of the Gods. But charity to the simple is a virtue, so fine -

            I will completely concede to you that personally you might be a very likable fellow if one gets to know you and I am a cruel vicious arse. Now can we move on? You won't change me. That is what Purgatory is for M8.

            >A more extreme one, only (to my knowledge) used as a straw man by creationists and their ilk, is that only Popperian scientific conclusions count as 'knowledge'. Seriously. As though anyone rejects mathematical proofs as valid.

            Well this is something to sort of work with but then again how do you explain the category mistakes & equivocation you keep making? Thanks for that.

            >>Forget politeness.
            >You apparently did long ago, so I see where that leads. No thank you

            Imagine if I dinna believe in Hell....oh the black hearted supervillan I would be.........

            You OTOH if you believed in God would be a male Mother Theresa. I say that without irony.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    >"Indeed, to doubt that I am experiencing the content of my perceptions is incoherent."

    Hate to tell you, but no, we still don't agree. When you think of the content of your perceptions, you are talking about the interior neural patterns in your brain - exclusively.

    I know it is hard to believe this, but that is just the Cartesian part of the equation -- the subjective part.

    What I am saying is that just as Descartes knew he knew images and ideas of things --- and stopped there, that is not enough. He failed to notice that our primary experience is of a real sensible extramental world around us. Yes, I mean that literally.

    You can see why you cannot doubt the content of your experience. I tried to explain why. But remember you are always imagining all this as a purely material process -- which is what I flatly deny!

    You gave a wonderful description of all the scientifically discerned physical mechanisms entailed in both direct sense perception and imagination and memory and hallucinations! Marvelous!

    From which you conclude: "The scientific conclusion with respect to human perceptions is that material processes are sufficient to account for our scientific observations, and thus the scientific conclusion is that with respect to human perceptions materialism is the case."

    The only problem with it is that it just does not describe our actual experience. That is because its final conclusion is that all we really know is changes in the brain. You really need to go back and look at my argument against all this. I keep repeating it and you don't seem to see it -- probably because it so contravenes everything you think to be true.

    Once again. If all we know is the contents of our brain, then we know nothing of the "outside world," meaning including all the scientific wonder stuff you just enunciated so brilliantly!

    You conclude that this means that material causes alone are sufficient to account for all our scientific observations, and thus materialism is true.

    But the problem is that your "scientific observations" are, according to your inference, NOT of the external world at all. They cannot be used to create this beautiful system of causes and effects leading to your conclusion -- that all you know is in your brain.

    You don't see that the problem here is NOT THE SCIENCE, but the philosophical conclusion that the experience process is purely material. Because you assume it is material, you are forced to buy into the causal theory of perception which leads to the conclusion that you do not know the world that science describes. THAT is the circularity.

    I understand your efforts to evade this circularity, and it isn't science's fault. It is materialism's fault. As long as every part of sensation must be a material mechanism, such as you so elegantly describe, the result will always be the same. All we know is the inside of our brains.

    This is getting much too long. But let me make a tiny suggestion. Go back, not to all you know from science, but to your immediate experience which all people have as the same starting point for all knowledge.

    I submit that just as certain as you are of your subjective experiences of images and ideas, you are equally sure that you are here and now directly experiencing an external world. Also, even your understanding of what an image or idea or even hallucination are is derived from the prior direct experience of the external world.

    If I am right about the circularity and unsolvable paradox your materialist interpretation of experience constitutes, then is it remotely possible that your direct and undoubtable knowledge of the external world results because sense experience itself is not a material but an immaterial act?

    This is enough for one comment.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      @Nova Conceptum
      I can see that you are trying to reply, but Disqus is repeatedly marking your comments as spam. We may disagree, but I want readers to know your comments are certainly not spam!
      I regret what must be your undeserved frustration.
      Perhaps it will be fixed by tomorrow. As you can see, it is also deleting lines and sections of text in comments even when it posts them. Sorry.

      • Nova Conceptum

        It is indeed a great tragedy for posterity that my sage wisdom is thus denied to the ages.

        But seriously folks, thanks for that message, very much indeed. In the most recent instance you replied in detail, then my message got marked as spam! So, I did not bother reposting since the message had already been replied to.

        I confess that when my messages are deleted I go through them (a saved copy) to eliminate whatever argumentative language I might have slipped into, and to depersonalize the language especially the use of pronouns in an accusatory tone, and try to craft the words around the ideas. It is a writing skill work in progress for me.

        It is entirely impractical for a site owner to code the whole blog server software himself, so each site owner is somewhat at the mercy of the specific algorithms and bugs in the platform used.

        Thanks again for the thoughtful administrative note,

    • Nova Conceptum

      Then the grand illusion is impossible, the probability of G is zero, in that case. If that is your position then it seems you give no weight whatsoever to such speculations.

      He failed to notice that our primary experience is of a real sensible extramental world around us. Yes, I mean that literally.

      Once again. If all we know is the contents of our brain, then we know nothing of the "outside world,"

      On the hypothesis that there is a material transfer function between external reality and received signals then we can know a very great deal about the outside world by decoding the received signals. There is astronomical evidence that we do in fact basically know how to decode the signals and therefore we do know about the external world.

      But the problem is that your "scientific observations" are, according to your inference, NOT of the external world at all.

      Then a blind man detects nothing with his cane. All he has is the handle in his hand, its slight changes in angle, the sense of forces between the handle and his hand. The blind man cannot know there is a drop in the pavement ahead, or that he is headed off the pavement to softer ground, or that he is headed for an obstruction. Yet he does, just from the cane, how?

      Because aspects of the transfer function have been deciphered. He has cross checked the cane in many ways and has come to learn that a push in his hand this way or that way is a coded signal for an external reality.

      Suppose we start with a multi part hypothesis:

      1Material progresses from real external objects to the signals entering the brain by complex but basically reliable encoding transfer functions.

      2Descriptions of material progressions (physics) are sufficient to account for realistic decoding of incoming signals to the brain.

      3No immaterial is necessary to account for sensory perception.

      On the postulate that the grand illusion is not the case, does science possess the tools to scientifically affirm that hypothesis set?

      The answer is that now, at long last, having taken centuries of work, yes.

      If the grand illusion is the case then we are all lost, or maybe only I am lost because in that case I am god and you are all figments of my divine imagination, but I am a stupid sort of god who doesn't even know he is god.

      Because you assume it is material

      It's a hypothesis, not a presupposition or assumption.

      Go back, not to all you know from science, but to your immediate experience which all people have as the same starting point for all knowledge.

      Fair enough, what is manifest and evident to my senses...that leads inexorably to scientific materialism.

      I submit that just as certain as you are of your subjective experiences of images and ideas, you are equally sure that you are here and now directly experiencing an external world.

      In that case you seem to consider the grand illusion impossible. Ok, but that only strengthens the case for scientific materialism.

      your direct and undoubtable knowledge of the external world

      I don't have undoubtable knowledge of the external world, cogito ergo sum doesn't stretch that far.

      This is enough for one comment.

      As always, I appreciate the time you spend on long and thoughtful comments.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        “On the hypothesis that there is a material transfer function between external reality and received signals then we can know a very great deal about the outside world by decoding the received signals.”

        You are confusing two quite different cases:

        First, arguing from changes in the brain back to external physical reality presupposes that what we know are changes in the brain. But a circularity is entailed, since we have no way of knowing that what we know are changes in the brain without presupposing a line of reasoning in which what we first know are NOT changes in a brain, but external reality. From this external reality, we develop the science that you claim leads to belief that all we know are changes in the brain!

        Once again I must point out that your conclusion contradicts your starting point. You first hypothesize we know external reality, and from that conclude that we do not know external reality, but only changes in the brain – since the only way to reach the conclusion that all we know is changes in the brain is by using a model based on actual knowledge of external physical reality, whose scientifically-described mechanisms lead to the conclusion that we do not know external reality.

        Saying this is merely an hypothesis, rather than an assumption, does not help your case, since the logic of your argument works solely if your hypothesis is true, which makes it a necessary presupposition or assumption.

        Now that you are locked inside your brain, you propose to argue back to the reality of external physical things by reasoning from internal effects back to external causes.
        Once again, just as you used science to “prove” that we do not directly know external reality, now you want to use the same “ill-gotten” science to prove that the external world exists. But that science was known to be real solely by hypothesizing that an external world existed in the first place!

        Second, your example of the blind man is no comparison to the first case, since it presumes he is starting with direct experience of the external world through, not sight, but the sense of touch.

        Unlike the first case, your blind man is not starting from knowing only the contents of his own brain. Rather, he is starting from using the sense of touch to experience directly the various positions of the cane in his hand.

        From these he infers other physical facts. But this is not like knowing only changes in his brain as a starting point. For here he directly knows where the externally existing physical cane is located and how it reacts to external pressures and motions.

        Yes, he is arguing from effect to cause, but in this case the effect is already external physical reality, NOT merely changes within his own brain – at least not as your example is depicted.

        “Fair enough, what is manifest and evident to my senses...that leads inexorably to scientific materialism.”

        No. Accepting what your senses tells you leads to science, not to the contradictions found in the philosophy of scientific materialism.

  • Mark

    You're certainly committed to provisional uncertainty.

    • Nova Conceptum

      Ha Ha Ha! Ok, but then, I always lie.

      But seriously folks, in some sense, yes, because a personal commitment, being personally convinced, is simply a strongly held conclusion or opinion, not an assertion of absolute certainty.

      Many or perhaps most people find all this uncertainty to be rather unsettling, and have a strong desire to find some anchor of absolute truth, which is one motivation for looking to an imagined god as a source of the ultimate truth. Many people find it quite comforting to believe a source of absolute truth is out there in the form of god.

      I also think there is a sort of absolute truth in the universe, namely, that the nature of the existence of the materials of the universe are whatever it is that they ultimately are.

      I see no hope that humans will ever be certain of that ultimate existential truth is, but it is an exciting and engaging process to attempt to asymptotically get there.