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Why Humans Are More Than Mere Animals

Ever since the time of Charles Darwin’s thunderous appearance on the human stage, evolutionary materialists have envisioned a world in which man appears without any rational need either for the God of classical theism or for a spiritual and immortal human soul. Human beings are finally to be classed as merely highly-developed subhuman hominins, whose mental abilities do not differ in kind from those of other primates. Human intellectual activity is thought to be merely a highly-evolved form of sentient activity, which, in turn, is ultimately reducible to highly-evolved neural patterns and activity within an advanced primate brain.

Still, a curious hangover from earlier Platonic times has haunted this view of the world, something philosophers have long wrestled with, known as the “problem of universals.”

The Problem of Universals

Today many philosophers debate the exact status of universals. While it is clear that a universal term is one thing predicated of many, this linguistic reality gives rise to important and controversial philosophical questions. Do universals exist only in speech or are they something that exists independently in the real world? If they exist in the mind, what do they ontologically constitute within the human person – merely some biological phenomenon, or a spiritual product evincing human spiritual immortality? Or, do they exist independently of the mind? If so, are they merely something really common found within things? Or, do they actually exist in a world of their own, independent of both men’s minds and natural objects – as Plato claims?

Down through the long history of Western philosophy, major and minor thinkers have sought to give answers to these sorts of questions. Proper evaluation of these many positions would properly require a lengthy professional journal article or even a book – far beyond the scope of this present short piece.

Instead, what I propose to do here is to examine the actual cognitive objects involved in this extensive discussion, not with a view to declaring a winner in the debates between the various positions, but simply to show that the basis for the debates entail two distinct cognitive entities which are clearly incommensurable with each other, namely, the image and the concept.

Image and Concept

One might wonder why I am now talking about the concept (also called an “idea”) rather than the universal. It is because we encounter the universal first in the form of the universal concept, which is the intellectual representation of something that is common to many and can, therefore, be predicated of many individuals. Hence, I will be talking about the concept, or universal concept, as the cognitive object in and through which the universal is understood. Thomistic philosophers maintain that the universal concept is a spiritual in nature. Since the human intellect produces this spiritual concept, they then use this fact to argue for the spirituality and immortality of the human soul.

The image is viewed generally as an internal sense representation, such as one has when he closes his eyes and imagines a “picture of a cow.” More technically, for Thomistic philosophers, an image is any sense impression of one of the internal senses, especially the imagination or sense memory.

For many, the distinction between a concept and an image is not clear, leading to such common depictions as that of forming a picture of a “blindfolded lady holding scales” in one’s “mind,” when having an idea of justice.

The Scottish skeptic, David Hume, who has greatly influenced the thinking of many modern materialists, was guilty of such confusion. Hume distinguishes between “impressions,” which he views as vivid and lively perceptions, and “ideas,” which are products of imagination and memory, making them less vivid and lively. But both “impressions” and “ideas” remain experiences, with ideas being merely weak resemblances of direct experience. One might rightly think that Hume has primarily in mind sense experience, when he speaks of “impressions.” Still, he also includes such things as love, hate, and acts of will.

Indeed, it is quite predictable that modern evolutionary materialists would find themselves unable to think of ideas or concepts as anything other than the same kind of neural activity that they conceive sensation to entail. Suggesting that intellectual knowledge could be radically different in kind from sense knowledge might be the belief of medieval theologians and philosophers, but such byproducts of assumed metaphysical dualism appear to have no place in modern science and its philosophical interpretations, according to these scientific materialists.

The Differences

For evidence of the radical differences between images and concepts (ideas), I shall turn to the work of Fr. Austin M. Woodbury, S.M., who taught philosophy for decades at the Aquinas Academy in Sydney, Australia, which he founded following World War II. Woodbury, who studied under Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, distinguished himself by thoroughly systematizing the work of St. Thomas Aquinas in a manner not found in the writings of Garrigou-Lagrange or other contemporary Thomists.

Woodbury enunciates many clear differences between images and concepts, thereby underlining the radical epistemological and ontological distinction between them. The following seventeen distinctions are based on his work.1

1. An image is solely of how something appears to the senses, as having this color or that shape or sound. But, the concept gives us the very nature of something, for example, a mammal is understood as an animal that gives milk.

2. An image always exhibits singular sensible qualities, for example, a particular color or shape or loudness or smell. But, a concept may have no sensible qualities, for example, justice, truth, or goodness. Even a sensible quality, considered as universal, may have no sensible qualities, for example, color, as such, is colorless and loudness, as such, is silent.

3. An image is always singular, for example, this pig or this car. But, the concept is always universal (unum-versus-alia: one against others), an understanding that applies to many things, for example, triangularity or mankind.

4. An image has no degrees of extension, that is, that is, the number of individual things to which it applies. For example, the image of this horse applies to this horse only. But, a concept has degrees of extension. Horse, as such, applies to all horses; animal applies to all animals. Yet, animal has greater extension than horse, since it applies to all animals, including all horses.

5. An image can be produced extramentally, as say, a statue or painting of a given height, color, and so forth. But the concept cannot be produced extramentally, since there is no single statue or painting that can physically be all horses at once. How does one make a painting or statue of “living?” That is why abstract art looks so bizarre! You can make a statue of Lincoln, but you cannot make a statue of humanity, since you cannot express all mankind at once physically in a single statue.

6. An image makes no distinction within itself. For example, an image of horse does not distinguish its vegetative powers from its sentient powers. But we can abstract its vegetative powers from its sentient powers and consider the conceptual distinction between them.

7. An image is always concrete. It is this triangle on this board at this time, with its exact shape, color, and size. The concept is abstract. It abstracts from all the singularizing aspects of the image. The concept of animal abstracts from the concrete accidental qualities of the zebra image that may be associated with it.

8. Images constitute the fleeting, changing sense content that accompanies conceptual knowledge, which is stable. Writing a paper on animals may evoke many associated images of various individual cows, horses, stables, hunters, and so forth – constituting a disconnected kaleidoscope of sensible images connected only by the underlying conceptual theme.

9. Images follow the laws of association of images, as in sailors and ships, whereas concepts follow the laws of reason, as hammering is understood as a cause with a loud noise being its effect.

10. Images can vary without changing one’s logical train of thought, whereas changing concepts under consideration can destroy the logic of thought. Thus, imagining horses, chickens, or mice does not affect thinking about animals, but shifting from animals to plants would distract from thinking solely about animals.

11. Image clarity does not assure clear thinking, but clear thinking – even with confused images – can still lead to true understanding. Conversely, conceptual confusion will lead to false conclusions no matter how vividly and clearly it is associated with images.

12. Despite variations in images, concepts may remain stable. Thus, whether one imagines squirrels, bats, or mice, the concept of animal is unaffected. Also, verbal images may vary while conceptual content is untouched. For example, homme, Mann, uomo, homo, and hombre all signify “man,” despite the varied verbal image.

13. Images alone do not permit speech to take place. Speech is based on concepts, not images. The same word, animal, may evoke an image of a horse to one person but a mongoose to another person. If the word stood for the image, its content would be equivocal! That is why one does not say, “Did you get my images?,” but rather, “Did you get my meaning, that is, the conceptual content intended?”

14. If we thought only in images, translation from one language to another would be impossible. The image does not convey a single, defined meaning. The image of a man does not reveal whether it stands for an adult, a male, Homo sapiens, intelligence, a criminal, or any of a number of other significations. Words themselves are purely arbitrary, meaning nothing unless you already know their meaning or assign them a new meaning.

15. The judgment establishes a relation of affirmation or negation between a subject and a predicate. Such a relation is not an image.

16. Reasoning entails apprehension of a nexus between premises and a conclusion. This nexus is not an image.

17. While an image represents an individual entity existing in space, the concept represents the nature outside of a given space and time.

Woodbury defines a “common image” as an image of a singular thing according to sensible appearances that happens to be similar to other singular things.2 While useful for the instinctive life of, say, a mouse, enable it to avoid all cats, it is not to be confused with the intellectual understanding of the nature of a cat, which belongs to the radically distinct universal concept.

Implications of This Radical Distinction

While philosophers may still argue about the exact epistemological and ontological status of the universal concept, what should now be clear is that its nature must be radically distinct from that of the image.

Those philosophers and scientists who reduce all human knowledge to sensation have constantly confused the image with the concept – believing that all thought must be understood merely in terms of images and their associations. In turn, images, for materialists, are grounded in neural patterns or activity – so that concepts, ultimately, were presumed to be basically reducible to just forms of neural activity in the brain. And, since images were thought to be common to man and beast alike, no essential differences between humans and other animals could be based on human intellectual abilities.

But, once it is clear that conceptual knowledge is radically distinct from sense images, the possibility, that human intellectual knowledge is essentially distinct from, and superior to, mere animal manipulation of images, again emerges. The old arguments of ancient philosophers for the qualitative differences between human beings and lower animals become more rationally acceptable. Whatever credence may be given to such arguments, the seventeen distinctions between the image and concept listed above make it clear that it is no longer reasonable for naturalists to claim that universal concepts are merely sophisticated or common images somehow constituted of neural activity in the brain.

Conclusion

Because it is grounded in the individuating, quantifying nature of matter, the image always presents itself under the conditions of matter by being imaginable, concrete, sensible, singular, and particular. For this reason, Thomistic philosophers maintain that images manifest dependence on the physical organs of sensation. There is no indication that the sensory powers which we share with the rest of the animal kingdom make us any more than merely material beings.

On the other hand, the universal concept shows none of the characteristics proper to material beings. It is not imaginable, concrete, sensible, singular, or particular. In a word, the concept appears to be not material in nature and, entirely unlike the image, shows no signs of being dependent on matter. Concepts appear to be spiritual in nature. From the fact that human beings – alone in the animal kingdom – have the intellectual ability to form such universal concepts, Thomistic philosophers propose arguments demonstrating the spirituality and immortality of the human soul.3

Perhaps, humans are, after all, God’s special creatures, superior in nature to all lower forms of physical creation, including other animals. Perhaps, men are placed on earth – not as coequal species to other living things – but as stewards responsible for overseeing the welfare of all subhuman creation within their power, including lower animals.

While irrational animals may possess sensitive, but mortal, souls, they do not possess spiritual and immortal souls. Such spiritual souls would have to have been endowed by our Creator solely to genuine human beings, whose essential superiority is marked by our remarkable species’ unique ability to think in terms of universal concepts – an ability totally absent in the rest of this planet’s sentient organisms.4

Notes:

  1. Austin M. Woodbury, Natural Philosophy, Treatise Three, Psychology, Bk. 3, Ch. 40, Art. 7 (Sydney: Aquinas Academy, unpublished manuscript, 1951), pp. 432-65. Woodbury’s “unpublished manuscripts” included thousands of pages of high quality academic volumes divided according to the various philosophical sciences, including natural philosophy, psychology, metaphysics, and epistemology. They were used by many thousands of students at the Aquinas Academy over several decades. While not formally published, their contents were of peer reviewed quality and acknowledged as such by other distinguished scholars. I wish also to acknowledge the contribution of my late friend and long-time colleague at Niagara University, philosopher Raphael T. Waters, D.Ph., who was an associate of Fr. Woodbury at the Aquinas Academy and who promulgated Woodbury’s philosophical achievements to students and other academics in North America. Dr. Waters published extensively on such ethical topics as capital punishment and the principle of double effect.
  2. Woodbury, Natural Philosophy, p. 433.
  3. Benignus Gerrity, Nature, Knowledge, and God (Bruce Publishing Company, 1947), 193-210.
  4. Dennis Bonnette, Origin of the Human Species (Sapientia Press, 2014), 103-110.
Dr. Dennis Bonnette

Written by

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.

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  • mastema

    go tell that to mexicans.

  • Chris Morris

    While I'm sure that Hume had some alcoholic content, I think it would be more accurate to describe him as a Scottish sceptic rather than "Scotch".

    Could your jump from universal concepts showing "none of the characteristics proper to material beings" to "Concepts appear to be spiritual in nature" perhaps be premature? Is it possible that concepts such as 'democracy' or 'justice', for example, may be social rather than spiritual?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Good catch! Actually, it might have been right, since Hume, for all his skepticism, was a bit of a London dandy, who lived the social life!

      The concepts you mention are not suggested to appear spiritual because of what they dealt with, but because of the nature of how we know them, as per, the seventeen differences from an image.

  • Ficino

    Sort of OT: despite some of Aristotle's language about separated universals, it's highly controversial whether the Platonic forms are true universals. A strong case can be made that they are supposed to be exemplars, not "one-over-many predications," because they have causal powers. Lloyd Gerson goes into a lot of detail about this issue, but many others do as well.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I really was not too concerned about that aspect, since the real point of this piece is to show the unbridgeable gap between images and concepts, which should be taken as a given with which all philosophers must proceed. That is also why I merely pointed out that Thomists use this data in their arguments for the spirituality of the soul. I am not here presenting or even defending those arguments. What I want to draw attention to is merely the undeniable incommensurability of concepts and images.

  • Phil Tanny

    ...with ideas being merely weak resemblances of direct experience.

    There, thank you, you said it. Ideas are weak resemblances of direct experience. To me, the logical next question is....

    Why are we focused on weak resemblances, instead of direct experience?

    I realize there's much more to your article, so I'll keep chewing on it.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Why are we focused on weak resemblances, instead of direct experience?

      This morning, I had direct experience of certain local diner. I am not now experiencing it, so if we only focused on direct experiences, we could never think about, let alone discuss, anything not now directly before us. Memory is only one kind of weak resemblance.

  • Phil Tanny

    Are humans somehow "superior" to animals?

    As I see it, religion is one attempt to regain the intimate primal bond with nature/reality/God that animals and primitive humans enjoy. So if we define "superior" as being closer to God, we are inferior.

    Modern humans lost this intimate primal bond as thought became an ever more prominent part of our experience, and our focus shifted steadily away from the real world to the symbolic realm within. Imho, this is what the Book of Genesis is referring to, we ate the apple of knowledge, and lost the garden of eden.

    We're still just as close to God as any other creature, but once lost in the illusion of division which is generated by the way thought operates, we began to feel separate. And then we typically try to think our way out of the box, which just fuels the illusion.

    Rather than agree or disagree with any of this, a wise reader would experiment for themselves. Simple mechanical exercises (and other experiences) can lower the volume of thought, and to the degree that happens the experience of unity begins to emerge.

    And to the degree that one has such experiences of unity, one may care less and less what one is unifying with, just as hungry man stops worrying about food once he is fed.

  • Phil Tanny

    Perhaps, humans are, after all, God’s special creatures,
    superior in nature to all lower forms of physical creation, including other
    animals. Perhaps, men are placed on earth – not as coequal species to other
    living things – but as stewards responsible for overseeing the welfare of all
    subhuman creation within their power, including lower animals.

    Apologies, for I know this is not at all an original contribution, but shouldn't we be rather suspect of any theory which conveniently places us at the center of everything and declares us superior to all other creatures etc? Wouldn't it be reasonable to wonder whether any such theory is really just a self flattering exercise, a product of the human ego? Is it really just a coincidence that such theories position us as being the most important thing on God's agenda?

    If we do accept the theory that we are responsible for overseeing the welfare of all other creatures, we then are required to face the inconvenient reality that it is our thinking which is the primary threat to these creatures. By that I mean, the knowledge explosion is generating greater and greater powers at an ever accelerating rate, and it's only a matter of time until we bring in to the world vast powers which are beyond our ability to control.

    As example, the thousands of hydrogen bombs we've already aimed down our own throats, the ever present self extinction threat we typically find too boring to discuss. Is that situation under our control?

    Honestly guys, before we get all carried away with how sophisticated and intelligent and superior we are etc etc, philosophers might want to ask why we have this loaded gun in our mouth. And we might also want to ask why that loaded gun is rarely mentioned on any philosophy website.

    • Apologies, for I know this is not at all an original contribution, but shouldn't we be rather suspect of any theory which conveniently places us at the center of everything and declares us superior to all other creatures etc? Wouldn't it be reasonable to wonder whether any such theory is really just a self flattering exercise, a product of the human ego? Is it really just a coincidence that such theories position us as being the most important thing on God's agenda?

      You'd be right if Jesus weren't like this:

      But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25–28)

      With that in view, think of what this could possibly mean:

      And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

      Note that at this point, A&E's only experience is the Garden of Eden. So perhaps they are being called to bring that shalom to more of the world, via serving creation. The order of creation we see from God is that the greater serves the lesser. Eve is 'ezer to Adam and God is 'ezer to Israel. According to one ancient telling, Satan objected to this order:

      12.1 Groaning, the Devil said: "O Adam, all my enmity, jealousy, and resentment is towards you, since on account of you I was expelled and alienated from my glory, which I had in heaven in the midst of the angels. On account of you I was cast out upon the earth."
      12.2 Adam answered: "What have I done to you?
      12.3 What fault do I have against you? Since you have not been harmed nor injured by us, why do you persecute us?"
      13.1 The Devil answered: "Adam what are you saying to me? On account of you I was cast out from heaven.
      13.2 When you were formed, I was cast out from the face of God and was sent forth from the company of the angels. When God blew into you the breath of life and your countenance and likeness were made in the image of God, Michael led you and made you worship in the sight of God. The Lord God then said: 'Behold, Adam, I have made you in our image and likeness.'
      14.1 Having gone forth Michael called all the angels saying: 'Worship the image of the Lord God, just as the Lord God has commanded.'
      14.2 Michael himself worshipped first then he called me and said: 'Worship the image of God Jehovah.'
      14.3 I answered: 'I do not have it within me to worship Adam.' When Michael compelled me to worship, I said to him: 'Why do you compel me? I will not worship him who is lower and posterior to me. I am prior to that creature. Before he was made, I had already been made. He ought to worship me.'
      15.1 Hearing this, other angels who were under me were unwilling to worship him.
      15.2 Michael said: 'Worship the image of God. If you do not worship, the Lord God will grow angry with you.'
      (The Life of Adam and Eve)

      You aren't alone in having an upside-down notion of greatness; in addition to the Matthew passage above, there is:

          A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
          “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:24–30)

      One possibility of the way of Jesus, for example, is that we might be able to teach primates to engage in intellection. What better way to show that we understand it, than to help creatures who just barely cannot do it on their own, do it with help? We might then be more open to God doing this for us in currently-lacking areas of our lives.

  • David Nickol

    Concepts appear to be spiritual in nature.

    It is not clear to me what is meant by spiritual. And is it supposed to be the case that concepts are in some way timeless and independent of human thought? Isn't intoxicant or anticoagulant a concept? If so, how could they precede animal life? Are concepts discovered or invented? Is there some spiritual, eternal repository of concepts that contained automobile prior to the eighteenth century? And does a concept without any corresponding instantiations (if I have used the word correctly!) in reality qualify as a true concept? For example, if there are no extraterrestrials or if there is no such thing as extrasensory perception, are those still concepts?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I guess I have to keep underlining that the purpose of this article is not to prove the spirituality and immortality of the human soul, despite the title given it. It is primarily aimed at showing the radical distinction between the image and concept.

      Since the concept is neither extended in space and does not even appear under the conditions of matter -- as explained clearly in the article, there is no reason to think that it, like the image, is dependent on the material order of existence. Since to be spiritual means not to be extended in space and not to depend on things extended in space (material conditions), I say that it appears to be spiritual in nature. Further argument might be needed to definitively support that claim.

      Some of the questions you raise belong to the ontological and epistemological properties of universals. The article does not focus on those, but simply the work of establishing that image and concept are radically distinct.

      • David Nickol

        Since to be spiritual means not to be extended in space and not to depend on things extended in space (material conditions), I say that it appears to be spiritual in nature.

        You are asserting a meaning of spiritual, but would you assert that the definition can be flipped around to say that "all things not extended in space . . . etc." are spiritual? That is, all spiritual things may be immaterial, but are all immaterial things spiritual?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          You have to watch the second part of that definition of the spiritual .... "and does not depend on thing extended in space." So, not all immaterial things are also spiritual -- only those also not dependent on anything extended in space.

          This article is not simply another proof for the human spiritual soul. People get too wound up in those arguments because of the implications of the conclusion.

          Rather, I am simply trying to show the radical distinction between the image and the concept, since that is a "given" of the philosophical experience that all of us must deal with.

          Materialists have long been used to simply reducing concepts to images. So it is hugely important to notice that we simply cannot do that. The universal concept is radically different in nature from the image, so that it is not reducible to an image.

          Whether that makes the human soul spiritual is a different question. Do not focus too much on the title of the piece.

          My hope is that even materialists will begin to realize that perhaps it is not so simple to reduce everything to materiality, since the concept just is so very different than merely an image, which one can claim is just neural activity -- which also is not true, since the image is immaterial, but not spiritual.

          • George

            The way you use "concept" just sounds like "model" or perhaps even "map".

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I can grant that the representation of the thing is not the thing itself without simultaneously granting that the concept is of the same nature as the thing. Map and territory are useful concepts (sic!) to explain how our understanding of something (even a neural network) is not the extramental reality itself. But, they do not bridge the gap between the matter dependent nature of the image versus the matter independent nature of the concept. As long as map and territory are both conceived in terms of material conditions, they remain radically distinct from the immaterial nature of the concept.

    • Phil Tanny

      "Spiritual" and "non-spiritual" are patterns of division the inherently divisive nature of thought attempts to impose upon reality. Instead of trying to define "spiritual" we should turn our attention to the process which creates such dualistic concepts.

      As example, consider the Catholic doctrine that God is ever present everywhere in all times and places, which implies for example that God is present in the very tiniest fractions of quantum particles etc. In such a case, wouldn't all of reality therefore be spiritual, thus rendering the word spiritual meaningless as there would be no "non-spiritual" anything to compare it to?

      Yes, I know, Catholics have very sophisticated tap dancing which allows them to continue to conceive of God as something separate. To me, that's just the human mind insisting on imposing fantasy divisions upon a single unified reality.

  • Ficino

    We need a precise definition of "spiritual." And an account of how, or whether, "spiritual" differs from "intelligible."

    • Dennis Bonnette

      "Intelligible" means able to be understood, which is an epistemological category.

      "Spiritual" is an ontological description meaning (1) not extended in space/time and (2) not dependent on anything extended in space/time.

      Universal concepts appear to be spiritual in nature, but their function is to manifest the intelligibility of the natures they express, that is, they are the instrumental cause through which we understand the natures of things, which understanding is based on a common foundation in the things themselves.

      I realize that nominalists deny there is such a common foundation in things. So, I know this may open a discussion that is broader than may be desirable at this time.

      Edit: Before we get sidetracked here into some discussion of the nature of universals, I want to point out that the focus of this OP is strictly on the radical distinction between image and concept.

      This distinction has, in my judgment, not received adequate attention in philosophical discussion. Its importance lies in the fact that, if this radical distinction is real, it is a given that must not be brushed over as philosophers rush to defend ontological and epistemological positions that often fail to recognize that you simply cannot reduce concepts to images in order to stake out a position. They are simply incommensurable.

      Whatever we want to say about human nature, the use of language, forms of logic or predication, we must first recognize that the cognitive objects we immediately know are of radically diverse types. The implications of this diversity ought not be ignored.

      • Ficino

        Thank you for the "precisazioni". Philosophers I read do not as a rule describe universal concepts as "spiritual" - or in fact, use that adjective much at all except with reference to what's loosely called "spirituality."

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Bernard Wuellner's Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy (Bruce, 1956) defines the spiritual as what is positively immaterial. (p. 118.) It further defines the positively immaterial as being intrinsically independent of matter, for example, the human soul, the intellect, the will, and their acts. Since the universal concept is formed by an act of the intellect, its positively immaterial nature actually evinces the spirituality of the act forming it and the soul that produces such acts.

          In other words, the proof of the spirituality of the human soul proceeds from the positive immateriality of the concepts it forms. Without quibbling over terminology, if the concept was not spiritual, it could not be used as evidence for the spirituality of the human soul by St. Thomas and other scholastics.

          I cite a dictionary only to show my usage is conventional to scholastic thought. One need not use the exact term, "spiritual," but Thomists generally defend the strict immateriality of the soul and its activities, such as forming universal concepts. And what is strictly immaterial is normally called "spiritual" in Thomistic circles.

          • Would it be fair to say that trying to use the material to explain the goings-on here just doesn't add any explanatory power? In a key sense, science can talk of causes of actions, but not reasons for actions. Then you could say that the denial of the immaterial is tantamount to saying that there are no reasons which aren't really just causes. From here, you can say that the laws of nature aren't 'rational'—they're arational. That means material-only thinking would have to be arational. You can't pile up arationality and get rationality. (Likewise, you can't pile up tribalistic morality and get universal morality.)

            Taking things a step further, I cannot but detect a kind of Platonic reasoning in materialist thought, which is well-represented by Daniel Dennett's intentional stance. The idea is that things only behave "as if" there were intention, "as if" there were purpose. But then Dennett is explaining material phenomena in terms of something that only exists in the immaterial world, as something like Platonic Forms.

            I would love to see you take your thinking on these topics and explore whether David Braine's works could help elucidate some matters. For example:

                What we have to escape is the fiction that there is no alternative besides those of a rigidly rule-governed mechanical system and a system not properly rule-governed at all. It is a fiction which would force us to view any understanding, whether by God or other immaterial spirit or by human wings, as proceeding according to mechanical rules, and which would thereby abolish any understanding whatsoever—whereas in fact it is only understanding operating non-mechanically (restricted to accordance with mechanical rule would in any case exclude reflectiveness and self-criticism) which can judge of the virtue of any mechanism. (The Human Person: Animal and Spirit, 8)

            One way to think of this is that the materialist analysis claims that all you have are a sequence of states connected by natural laws which predict what will happen next, plus some noise. Any intentionality or purpose which runs through the system is reduced to "noise"—that is, failure of the mechanical explanation to get everything precisely correct. That's because materiality has no place for intention or purpose.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I quite agree with you that the view of science is the examine sequential relations of phenomena and attempt to form hypotheses that describe future such relationships correctly. This does not get to the actual causes of things, if, for no other reason, than the metaphysical requirement that causes must be simultaneous with their effects. The philosopher seeks to get to the real causes of effects, whereas the scientist seeks only formulae which properly describe predictable relations of phenomena, with the notion of cause being understood really as merely those relations. Indeed, there is a Platonic aspect to trying to mathematize the formal relations between phenomena as some sort of eternal truth expressed in some abstractly expressed physical formula.

            Of course, you are also right that materialism will have nothing to do with intention or purpose, since the final cause has been ruled out of bounds for several centuries now. One way to reestablish finality in creation is to first prove God's existence, and then note that every creature must be made with a given nature that reflects the divine intention or purpose as manifested by the ends or goals that nature tends to attain. But coming in the front door, so the speak, with final causes merely entices endless debate.

            I wish I had more time to pursue some of your suggestions here, but I really don't. All I can do is to note that the philosopher is looking for a different kind of rational explanation than the scientist -- that he is seeking reasons of being operative simultaneous with what is to be explained, and not merely predictable sequences of phenomena. But I fear this is not the project you had hoped for.

          • I've come across the claim that "causes must be simultaneous with their effects" and it seems to make intuitive sense, but I don't know where the mismatch is in science. Is it the case that scientists who take A–T philosophy more seriously do better science? I'm always dubious if some intellectual move only gives me mental satisfaction but doesn't deliver any sort of goods other than that. (This could include a superior capability to love others; it doesn't need to have instrumental utility.)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We underestimate the force of first principles because the natural scientific mentality always demands empirical verification of some theoretically predicted result. But that is to simply misapply the method of science to a place it does not belong.

            There is no greater certitude than first principles because they are based on the direct knowledge of being as encountered in lived experience. The mind simply "sees" being as its natural object, just as the sight sees its natural object, color. There is no more reason to doubt the reality of being in experience than there is to doubt the reality of color (despite questions as to the origin of the sensory sight experience).

            That is why we have immediate certitude of such things as the principle of non-contradiction and that you cannot get something from absolutely nothing. To ask for a further elucidation of these truths is to fail to grasp their primacy, since all other judgments presuppose their validity.

            So, too, to demand a definition of "being" is to fail to realize its epistemic primacy. When you define something you define it in terms of something else that is better known than what you seek to define. But, since the concept of being is prior to all other concepts, that is a fool's venture. We know directly the meaning of such terms as "being" and "exists," since we are simply naming what we directly and immediately apprehend with objective certitude.

            Thus, the need for immediacy of the cause to the effect is not merely an "intuitive" truth, but a law of being that flows from the fact that an effect would be a being whose sufficient reason is not totally intrinsic, which means that unless the cause, the extrinsic sufficient reason for that which the effect is lacking, is actually present to produce the effect, the effect would both exist (because it does) and yet, not exist (since it would lack a sufficient reason for being), which is impossible. Hence, the need for an immediate cause for every effect is a necessary truth.

            (Immediacy is understood in the concept of simultaneity, since what is past cannot exist to account for what is in the present.)

          • I think I have some sense of what you're saying here, but I'm afraid I generally can't really come to grips with things until I see how they show up pragmatically, somehow. One idea is that Descartes' separation of the mental and the physical sundered that "metaphysical requirement that causes must be simultaneous with their effects". On the other hand, did any sundering like this happen in Romans 7, where Paul recounts first becoming even remotely free from the necessities of the flesh? When you become aware that there are possibilities other than one's current life trajectory which could be better, that realm of choice does seem to be mental and not physical. Anyhow, it's through reasoning about things like this that I grasp metaphysics and philosophy. If that's not your ball of wax, oh well.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since the metaphysical first principles are the very laws of being itself, there are no exceptions to the need for a cause for anything that does not fully explain itself here and now. No exceptions at all.

            So, whatever Descartes was saying or whatever St. Paul meant, these are not exceptions to the rule. If it looks like it does not apply, it is simply that we very often fail to link the effect to its actual cause.

            If Descartes really did sunder the mental from the physical, then no cause effect relation would exist (on this hypothesis), and hence, no violation of the principle would occur. As for St. Paul, you will have to ask someone better versed in the meaning of Scripture than I.

            My primary ball of wax is the concept of being and its implications. Sorry. I guess I am too narrow. :)

      • George

        Have you ever explored a site of materialist philosophers discussing amongst themselves? Do you know of Less Wrong? I think there, you'd find many who already accept that the map is not the territory.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I just gave a similar reply to you elsewhere on the thread. No need to repeat myself. This radical distinction between the materially-conditioned image and the matter-independent concept is not the same as the map/territory distinction.

          Part of the problem is that in the map/territory analysis both map (as neural network) and territory (as reality) are understood as material entities, whereas the universal concept has no material properties. So it is not an analogous situation.

  • Phil Tanny

    While irrational animals may possess sensitive, but mortal, souls, they
    do not possess spiritual and immortal souls. Such spiritual souls would
    have to have been endowed by our Creator solely to genuine human beings,
    whose essential superiority is marked by our remarkable species’ unique
    ability to think in terms of universal concepts – an ability totally
    absent in the rest of this planet’s sentient organisms.

    Your article may be putting it's finger on the philosophical source of climate change, the notion that we are somehow above and superior to the rest of nature.

    Irrational animals? Here's one for you.

    Modern civilization has a hair trigger loaded gun in it's mouth that could go off at any moment. And it's very close to impossible to find any discussion of this on any philosophy website, even though philosophers are among the most intelligent, articulate, and highly educated human beings.

    I really don't mean this in a personal way, but I grow increasingly weary of philosophers continually posing themselves, and human beings more generally, as being experts on rationality.

    Seriously, if I showed up for the philosophy club meeting at your house with a loaded gun in my mouth, and declined to discuss the gun as it's just too boring a topic for me, how would you evaluate my rationality?

    I've been doing this for years all over the net and posed this question to philosophers 1,000 times, and have yet to meet the one who is rational enough to address it. No personal offense intended to present company.

    • Phil Tanny

      Seriously, if I showed up for the philosophy club meeting at your house
      with a loaded gun in my mouth, and declined to discuss the gun as it's
      just too boring a topic for me, how would you evaluate my rationality?

      Readers may wish to observe how that, if the above challenge is addressed at all and not totally ignored, it will be responded to with some dismissive eye rolling little quip, so that we may return to the fantasy that we are rational and thus superior creatures by the shortest path possible.

      Somebody prove me totally wrong about this please. Thank you.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        Phil, let's please take this as an example. Let me try to convey to you why no one has taken up this challenge that you layed out. It's not because it is difficult. Or rather: I don't even know if it is difficult, because it is so poorly articulated.

        Is the philosophy club supposed to represent ... philosophers? If so, then who is the person at risk of suicide supposed to represent? You? Is the metaphor therefore intended to convey that you are faced with important questions that you refuse to deal with because those challenges are too boring to you? I don't think so ... and yet I don't know how else to understand your metaphor.

        All I ask is that, when dialogue is failing between you and another, please consider, at least as a remote possibility, that it is not the fault of the other.

        • Phil Tanny

          Hi Jim, I agree there's always room for improvement in everyone's communications, mine included. I'll try again.

          Forget the philosophy club, unnecessary information, sorry, I shouldn't have included it.

          1) I have a gun in my mouth. Simple enough?

          2) I'm too bored by the gun to bother discussing it. Simple enough?

          3) Am I rational?

          Our entire civilization has a gun in it's mouth. We are too bored by that gun to bother discussing it. Are we rational?

          I have a counter theory to offer. Members don't wish to engage this example because to do so honestly would be to reveal that these discussions are not rational, but only sophisticated.

          I do thank you for sticking with it, asking for clarification, and not doing the "above it all" dodge. That is sincerely appreciated. You're a good guy, and I apologize for those times when I suffer from excessive enthusiasm.

          BTW - my email is down, so I may miss some replies. Not intentional.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, thanks. Look, "no autopsy, no foul", as they say, but please do approach these conversations as if the rest of us are participating in good faith because, well, a lot of us are.

            For the sake of argument, I'll just concede that our civilization does indeed have a gun in its mouth in some sense. Is it irrational to not discuss it? Well, let me first answer according to the notion of rationality that large swaths of "our civilization" seem to accept: "Well yeah, I've got a gun in my mouth but, like, so what, man?". And indeed, there is in fact nothing strictly irrational about putting the gun in our mouths and refusing to discuss it. Because after all, maybe we are titillated by the sensation of danger, and you know, discussing it would be boring. Titillation is subjectively appealing and boredom is not, and isn't it rational to pursue subjective gratification? After all, if we are not going to pursue subjective gratification, what else would we do? Surely we are not going to pursue any objective moral goods, because that is a bit old fashioned. Moreover, according to some, the distinction between good and bad is illusory anyway, nothing more than the product of "conceptual divisions" that we suffer from because of the nefarious effects of "thought" which distract us from the underlying "unity of all reality" :-)

            So, perhaps our very way of thinking about rationality is a bit off? And, if that is the case, where might we turn to better reflect on the nature of rationality? Philosophy and theology are at the back of the class raising their hands. Let's call on them and listen to what they have to say. Otherwise we are going to be like chickens running around with our heads cut off, pretending to do consequential things while generating so much froth.

            Mind you, there is a much simpler answer, one that recognizes the urgency of the situation: "REPENT [i.e. 'go beyond yourself'], THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND!" But if we crazy religionists were to just go around screaming that all the time, no one would listen because they wouldn't understand what the hell we were talking about it, and they would get tired of the noise. Would it be rational for us to just keep screaming anyway, or would it make more sense to engage in calm discussions, based on whatever common ground we can find?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Do you have a reason, a ratio for having a gun in your mouth. Notice, I am not asking if your reason is sane.

    • Phil, do you have any sense of the history of Roman Catholicism's objections to modernity? In a sense, they've been warning about what you're worried about for centuries. For example, here's Romano Guardini, mentor of Pope Francis and almost his PhD advisor:

          The modern era was fond of justifying technology and rested its defense upon the argument that technology promoted the well-being of man. In doing so it masked the destructive effects of a ruthless system. I do not believe that the age to come will rest with such an argument. The man engaged today in the labor of "technics" knows full well that technology moves forward in final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the race. He knows in the most radical sense of the term that power is its motive—a lordship of all; that man seizes hold of the naked elements of both nature and human nature. His action bespeaks immense possibilities not only for "creation" but also for destruction, especially for the destruction of humanity itself. Man as a human being is far less rooted and fixed within his own essence than is commonly accepted. And the terrible dangers grow day by day. Once the "autonomous" state has broken all bonds, ti will be able to deliver the last coup de grâce to human nature itself. Man's crisis: man will either succeed in converting his mastery into good then his accomplishment would be immense indeed—man will either do that or man himself will be at an end. (The End of the Modern World, 56)

      That very book was cited in Laudato si' seven times. Two of the citations are found in the following paragraph:

      108. The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same. Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic, and those who are surrounded with technology “know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race”, that “in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive – a lordship over all”.[87] As a result, “man seizes hold of the naked elements of both nature and human nature”.[88] Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one’s alternative creativity are diminished. (Laudato si')

      There is plenty for this Protestant to disagree with in Guardini's book, and as we all know, humans love to accept or reject wholes instead of discerning what is καλός and what is κακός. But the idea that Roman Catholicism isn't paying attention to the "hair trigger loaded gun" you describe is just ludicrous. It would appear that you're just looking in the wrong places.

      • Phil Tanny

        Hi Luke, I keep finding replies from you hidden in the Disqus interface, sorry I haven't found this until now.

        You make some good points in your rebuttal, and I agree Catholicism has consistently expressed concerns with modernity.

        But the idea that Roman Catholicism isn't paying attention to the "hair trigger loaded gun" you describe is just ludicrous.

        Ok, so then show us the articles on this site, or any Catholic theology site, or any academic philosophy site, or any other kind of philosophy site, which specifically address the fact that a single person (currently Donald Trump) can crash modern civilization in just a few minutes without conferring with anybody other than the military officer who follows him around with the nuclear football. Show us the articles.

        Explain to us please why all these kinds of sites, many of which claim to speak authoritatively for Christianity and/or philosophy, should be addressing a million other topics other than the fact that everything built over recent centuries can be destroyed quickly by a single person.

        See? You're trying the usual thing I see over and over and over again where theologians, academics, and other intellectual elites always, always, always insist that they already know all this, and yet there is SO LITTLE evidence that they know it, or care about it at all.

        Here's a specific example. As you know we are currently in another heated Presidential campaign, with thousands of professional journalists all trying to be the one who asks the "big question". And to my knowledge, none of the candidates of any party have been asked this ...

        "If you are elected to the Presidency you may be called upon to incinerate many millions of people based on limited information and almost no warning. Are you prepared to do that?"

        See? This notion that everybody, especially cultural elites, are already aware of the existential threat from nuclear weapons is pure bunk.

        There is simply no logic to talking about a billion other obscure arcane topics while everything we care about can be destroyed without warning at any moment.

        It is upon this basis that we can reasonably reject the proposed authority of intellectual elites, particularly those who claim to be expert in the use of reason. Anyone who can't focus on a loaded gun in their mouth is simply not rational, and no amount of sophisticated tap dancing rationalizations can change that.

        • Phil Tanny

          So, why is this relevant, someone may ask?

          It's relevant because if intellectual elites are not fundamentally rational, then all of their logic calculations on all of their favorite obscure arcane topics (such as are addressed by the article on this page) are reasonably questioned.

          It's the simplest thing. If I walked around all day with a loaded gun in my mouth and refused to discuss the gun because I found it incurably boring, how seriously should you take whatever else it is I wish to make claims about?

          The truth is that 1) posters very reasonably would not take me seriously in that case and 2) posters aren't honest enough to admit that, and so 3) we have to go round and round and round and round wasting time with all kinds of supposedly clever diversions.

        • Hi Luke, I keep finding replies from you hidden in the Disqus interface, sorry I haven't found this until now.

          You can use disqus.com/home/inbox/ to see all replies to you and all @-mentions of you.

          Ok, so then show us the articles on this site, or any Catholic theology site, or any academic philosophy site, or any other kind of philosophy site, which specifically address the fact that a single person (currently Donald Trump) can crash modern civilization in just a few minutes without conferring with anybody other than the military officer who follows him around with the nuclear football. Show us the articles.

          site:blog.rongarret.info nuclear trump

          Explain to us please why all these kinds of sites, many of which claim to speak authoritatively for Christianity and/or philosophy, should be addressing a million other topics other than the fact that everything built over recent centuries can be destroyed quickly by a single person.

          Go perseverate with Ron Garret on one of the multiple blog articles where he worries about this. I don't see what will be gained by doing so; I think it is rather more important to question whether we perhaps need more people of more solid character to be in all sorts of places in civilization. Given how much of character is institutionally reinforced or perverted, this requires a focus on groups of people as well.

          As you know we are currently in another heated Presidential campaign, with thousands of professional journalists all trying to be the one who asks the "big question". And to my knowledge, none of the candidates of any party have been asked this ...

          "If you are elected to the Presidency you may be called upon to incinerate many millions of people based on limited information and almost no warning. Are you prepared to do that?"

          Because nobody will say "yes" to that question. It's a useless question. And you know what? In this climate, someone who said "no" could easily turn around and do it. You know what you need to stop that? Enough people of solid enough enough character, in an environment which promotes solid character.

          Anyone who can't focus on a loaded gun in their mouth is simply not rational, and no amount of sophisticated tap dancing rationalizations can change that.

          So what should I make of all your talk about going out into the desert to experience God?

          • Phil Tanny

            Hi Luke, I've bailed on all Disqus sites. Hope to meet you again elsewhere!

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Rationality is the faculty of giving reasons for things. It is not an assertion that others must agree with your reasons.

  • Phil Tanny

    Perhaps, humans are, after all, God’s special creatures,
    superior in nature to all lower forms of physical creation, including other
    animals.

    What if humans are "lower forms of physical creation" in comparison to some alien life forms with intellectual abilities far superior to our own?

    Give the size of the universe it seems reasonable to speculate such species may exist somewhere, right? We do see that life appears in some very hostile environments here on Earth, and given enough time some of that life becomes intelligent. Given that some life forms in our own galaxy could be a billion years older than us, vastly superior intelligence seems entirely possible.

    Are we still "God's special creature" if there are 10,000 species in our galaxy alone who are a billion years ahead of us?

    Do you see how easy it is to punch big holes in memorized Catholic dogmas? No, you don't. And do I see how little you care? No, I don't, obviously.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      What if humans are "lower forms of physical creation" in comparison to
      some alien life forms with intellectual abilities far superior to our
      own?

      Like angels? Augustine said that any being with rational faculties (i.e., intellect and will) would be human. That's metaphysically human, not biologically human, of course.

      You seem to think that if there are 10,000 imagined species that are special creatures, there cannot be one, though I might wish for some empirical evidence for these other species.

  • >But, once it is clear that conceptual knowledge is radically distinct from sense images, the possibility, that human intellectual knowledge is essentially distinct from, and superior to, mere animal manipulation of images, again emerges

    I don't see why. I think there is a radical difference between say a chimp and a trout, but I think dolphins and other primate thinking is nowhere near as vast as to call it essentially different. These animals are able to use language and engage in problem-solving beyond what many humans can achieve. It seems more than fair to accept they have some ability to hold a form of universal concept mentally.

    >it is no longer reasonable for naturalists to claim that universal concepts are merely sophisticated or common images somehow constituted of neural activity in the brain.

    There is a conflation here. You've shown concepts are not images as definition, but not that concepts cannot be constituted of only neural activity. I've seen no argument here to that effect.

    >Concepts appear to be spiritual in nature.

    No they are abstract. You haven't defined spiritual.

    >From the fact that human beings – alone in the animal kingdom – have the intellectual ability to form such universal concepts,

    This is a claim with no support.

    >Perhaps, humans are, after all, God’s special creatures, superior in nature to all lower forms of physical creation, including other animals.

    Or the creation of the architects of the Matrix.

    Who is saying humans are coequal to animals? We are atheists not PETA.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      "These animals are able to use language and engage in problem-solving beyond what many humans can achieve. It seems more than fair to accept they have some ability to hold a form of universal concept mentally."

      In the article, I gave a link to my ape-language study article which refutes your claims here. See this: https://www.godandscience.org/evolution/ape-language.html

      This same article cited also refutes your later claim that I fail to prove that humans alone among animals form universal concepts.

      "There is a conflation here. You've shown concepts are not images as definition, but not that concepts cannot be constituted of only neural activity."

      There IS conflation here, but it is typically on the part of materialists who fail to see the clear difference between the image and concept, reduce the concept to an image and the image to neural activity. I do not do that. I show the concept and image are distinct and that, therefore, no one has any right to do what the materialists do by conflating image and concept.

      I am not sure whether I define spiritual in this article, but I surely do previously and will here. The spiritual is what is not extended in space AND what does not depend on anything extended in space. For reasons evident in the article, the concept meets that definition.

      The real problem with the seventeen proofs that images are incommensurable with concepts is that they show that something is badly wrong with the materialist worldview that wants to reduce everything to physical things, such as neural activity. Since the concept cannot be conflated with the image, this general presumption that all mental activity -- concepts as well as images -- can be reduced to neural patterns and activity -- this materialist presumption -- must be badly flawed.

      • So too, the correct identification of, communication about, and employment of an appropriate tool by a chimpanzee (in order to obtain food) is no assurance of true intellectual understanding. Indeed, a spider which weaves its web to catch insects is repeatedly creating the same type of tool designed exquisitely to catch the same type of victim. Yet, does anyone believe that this instinctive behavior bespeaks true intellectual understanding of the means-end relation on the part of the spider? Hardly! The evident lack of intelligence in the spider is manifest the moment it is asked to perform any feat or task outside its fixed instinctive patterns.

        Whether “programmed” by nature, as in the case of the spider, or by man, as in the case of the chimpanzee, each animal is simply playing out its proper role in accord with preprogrammed habits based upon recognition or association of sensibly similar conditions. Certainly, no ape or any other brute animal understands the means as means, the end as end, and the relation of means to end as such. The sense is ordered to the particular; only intellect understands the universal.

        One may ask, “How do we know that the ape does not understand the intrinsic nature of the objects or ”labels“ he has been trained to manipulate?” The answer is that, just like the spider which cannot perform outside its “programmed” instincts, so too, the ape while appearing to act quite “intelligently” within the ambit of its meticulous training, yet exhibits neither the originality nor creative progress which man manifests when he invents at will his own languages and builds great civilizations and, yes, keeps his own “cages” clean!

        There is a problem with this argument and that is that not all apes use tools. Only some do. This means that specific tools are not a evolved instincts like in spiders but acts that at least some ape invented at some point in the past and other apes learned by imitation. What this means is that there is no way to tell that ape (or corvid, or octopus) tool use is *not* a result of a creative process. (Apes could develop these processes by chance in theory, but it has not been established that this is always what is going on in this article.)

        I don't think that there is a knowledgeable person alive who does understand that apes and humans have different cognitive abilities, but I'm not certain that one can confidently assert that the difference is precisely the difference that this article wants it to be. A good book to look into would _The Secret of our Success_ by Joseph Henrich which argues that it is the ability to propagate culture, not the ability to reason, that differentiates man from the animals. Apes can propagate culture in a limited way through imitation but humans are unique in the ability to relate complex thoughts through language.

        This is probably the real differentiator between apes and men, and a fundamental problem with attempting to ascertain the cognitive abilities of apes by examining their language use. Humans are not only capable of complex thoughts, we are capable of relating those thoughts and we are capable of relating those thoughts, not because of a human invention, but because of a human instinct: language. Human children start to acquire languages long before they start to exhibit a complex understanding of the world. Children start to cry with an accent as soon as they are born[1] but they do not recognize the impermanence of objects until about 8 months[2]. And no, I do not think that it is a given that cognitive reasoning is sufficient to acquire language, as human language is at least partially an automatic process. People instinctually acquire vocabulary and grammar and do so more strongly at certain development cycles which means that that are not simply reasoning about how to speak in the same way that one learns how to drive a car.

        There is a reason Nim Chimpsky was named after Noam Chomsky, and that's because Chomsky posited the existence of a universal grammar which would be an instinctive structure that humans possess that serves as a foundation for their language acquisition. An ape's lack of this universal grammar would be sufficient (but not necessary, just a lack of a basic instinct to acquire language is also sufficient) to differentiate human and ape language abilities.

        This should put to rest the idea that language, civilization, and cleaning are uniquely the result of creative processes. (That last one is especially bad as there are a great many animal species that clean their homes while not all humans are inclined to do so.)

        It's worth pointing out that although most people appear to process most of their thoughts through the use of internal language, this is not universal.[3][4] Some people, especially those with an ASD, process most of their thoughts either visually or spatially and have trouble translating their thoughts into language and translating the language of others into thoughts.

        For it must be remembered that contemporary electronic computers can be programmed to simulate many of these behaviors--and, probably, in principle, all of them. Walker points out some of these capabilities:

        > Already there are computers which can recognise simple spoken instructions, and there are computer programs which can play the part of a psychotherapist in interchanges with real patients (Holden, 1977), so the inability of machines to conduct low-grade conversations is no longer such a strong point.51

        If a computer can hold its own with real patients while feigning the role of a psychotherapist, it should surely be able to perform many of the functions of signing apes. Clearly, given appropriate sensing devices and robotics, even the most impressive, non-cued Savage-Rumbaugh experimental results could easily be simulated by computers--even by pairs of computers exhibiting the co-operative exchange of information and objects as was seen in the activities of the chimpanzees, Sherman and Austin.52 This would include the ability to “label labels,” e.g., to respond to the arbitrary pattern for banana by pressing the key meaning food.53 Such performance may seem remarkable in an ape, but it would be literal child’s play to a properly programmed computer.

        This is an incorrect understanding of what computers are capable of doing. This is in reference to the very famous program, "ELIZA"[5] which absolutely cannot hold its own with a real patient. It works primarily through syntactic manipulations and is devoid of semantic knowledge. It is one of the targets of the famous "Chinese Room" thought experiment. In many ways, ELIZA is the opposite of ape language experiments. Whereas apes associate words and signs with real world objects but don't develop a deep understanding of the structure of language, ELIZA is based entirely on a programmed "understanding" of the structure of language, that is, on syntax, but no real world associations occur there are no semantics. More sophisticated example can be seen in Markov chains which can produce convincing, but not for long, examples of long form text based on a simple statistical analysis of texts. This comparison, then is facile and wrong. Apes are not being programmed in the same way that computers are programmed. Teaching apes to act by imitation and programming a computer are fundamentally different things and are not analogous.

        (It's also worth pointing out that a computer demonstrating an ability does not mean that the ability is not evidence of some sort of cognition. The famous Chinese Room thought experiment is only applicable to AI systems that work solely through principles of symbol manipulation, such as ELIZA, or even more sophisticated expert systems. The ability to use ML techniques to acquire create semantic information, to association 'images' with 'concepts' changes this dynamic quite a bit.)

        But such is clearly not what happens when inanimate parts are artificially joined together into an accidental, functional unity such as an electronic computer. Thus, none of a computer’s individual parts which are inanimate in themselves can exhibit the properties of life, sensation, or intellection. Nor can any combination of such non-living entities--even if formed into a highly complex functional unity--achieve the activities of perception or thought, since these noetic perfections transcend utterly the individual natures, and thus, the natural limitations, of its components.

        If the purpose of this article is to demonstrate the uniqueness of human cognition, then this digression begs the question. There is no reason to believe that cognition is not merely the sum of many lesser abilities if there is no reason to believe that cognition is unique to humans. If cognition is not unique to humans, then it is probably not a property of something unique to them.

        It is to commit the fallacy of composition--to attribute to the whole qualities found in none of its parts.

        This is not what the fallacy of composition is. It's also an absurd thing to assert as a fallacy. This assertion in fact commits the fallacy of division.[6] Emergent properties are super common in nature.[7][8]

        The inherent limitations of any electronic computer were unintentionally underlined by the German mathematician Kurt Godel in 1930 when he proposed his famed incompleteness theorem to the Vienna Academy of Sciences. Expressed in disarmingly simply terms, the theorem states “that even in the elementary parts of arithmetic there are propositions which cannot be proved or disproved in that system.”61 Godel himself initially vastly underestimated the profound implications of his theorem. Among these were (1) that it struck “a fatal blow to Hilbert’s great program to formalize the whole of mathematics...”62 and (2) that it “cuts the ground under the efforts that view machines... as adequate models of the mind.”63

        Godel's theorem only applies to formal systems, not to reasoning, or even mechanical reasoning as whole. Formal systems are useful as reasoning tools, but they are only part of the process. Cognition as we understand is more likely to be a result of a complex adaptive system[9]. Also, there is the concept of the strange loop.[10][11]

        Commenting on his third sign that intellect is lacking in animals, Woodbury observes that brute animals lack a formal knowledge of relations. They fail to understand the means-end relationship in its formal significance. And, while men grasp the formal character of the cause-effect relationship in terms of being itself, animals are limited merely to perceiving and associating a succession of events.76

        This seems untrue. Witness the case of crows spontaneously developing tool use without prompting when confronted with a problem.[12] It seems unlikely that this behavior is merely a case of stimulus-response. It would be more parsimonious to suggest that the crows have an understanding of the spatial relationship between themselves, sticks and their targeted food items. This would explain why they choose different sticks for different food items, why they don't always start with sticks until the problem presents itself, and why they get better at tool use with time and practice. (I would also suggest that the same is true of normal locomotion among more complex animals.)

        > Thus apes, accustomed to perch themselves on a box to reach fruit, if the box be absent, place on the ground beneath the fruit a sheet of paper and perch themselves thereupon.77

        This same example reveals how lower animals “show no knowledge of distinction between causality and succession....”78 Clearly, had they any understanding of causality, the apes would not conceive a “sheet of paper” as causally capable of lifting them significantly toward the fruit.

        It could just as easily be said that they don't have an understanding of width. It's also worth pointing out that humans frequently display very similar behavior,[13] where they will perform a series of actions to achieve an end without understanding the underlying causality. I've personally witnessed cargo-cult behavior more times than I can recount.

        1. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/newborns-cry-accent-study-finds/story?id=9006266
        2. https://www.simplypsychology.org/Object-Permanence.html
        3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_thinking#CITEREFDeza2009
        4. http://www.pegy.org.uk/Upside-Down%20Brilliance%20-A4%20pdf.pdf
        5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ELIZA
        6. https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/89/Fallacy-of-Division
        7. https://sciencing.com/emergent-properties-8232868.html
        8. https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_is_your_definition_of_emergent_properties
        9. http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/complex-adaptive-system-CAS.html
        10. https://www.amazon.com/Am-Strange-Loop-Douglas-Hofstadter/dp/0465030793
        11 .https://www.amazon.com/G%C3%B6del-Escher-Bach-Eternal-Golden/dp/0465026567
        12. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/09/this-crow-nearly-died-out-before-we-knew-it-uses-tools/499724/
        13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult

        • Dennis Bonnette

          This is a truly impressive partial review and critique of an article that I wrote over a quarter century ago and happen to reference in my own comment. But it is far too lengthy a comment for this thread and I would not even attempt a similarly long reply. More importantly, it is not a comment on the article here in Strange Notions presently.

          You make some excellent observations, and, perhaps, this would make a proper review to be published critiquing my ape-language article somewhere else.

          Just a couple general observations: You have to realize that most of my language study article was aimed at showing that ape-language studies did not necessarily show that other primates could do what we humans do in our use of language. You even seem to imply this yourself when you say this above: "Apes can propagate culture in a limited way through imitation but humans are unique in the ability to relate complex thoughts through language."

          Nonetheless, it is insufficient merely to show that a minimalist reading of animal behavior might leave men as qualitatively superior. What is necessary is to show positive proof that humans do things that animals cannot do.

          That is where Woodbury's four necessary formal signs of intellect come into play. You critique one of them in the last several paragraphs of your comment. Even then, your criticism centers on the fact that humans also frequently fail to exhibit knowledge of causal relations. That is doubtless true, but the point is that if some humans exhibit this ability, then it is reasonable to assume the ability belongs to all members of our species.

          But there are three other signs given by Woodbury that still remain, including our knowledge of immaterial objects, as evinced by such things as our unique grasp of science and also the pursuit of religion. I have never seen a group of chimps sitting in a class while a professor chimp gives them a course on the philosophy of chimp nature.

          More germane to the present Strange Notions article is the radical distinction between image and concept. Since man's use of language and actually experienced understanding clearly exhibits grasp of universal concepts, at least some case can be made that animals present no compelling evidence of doing anything more than associate and manipulate images.

          I am not trying to rewrite the older article in terms of the image and concept discussion of the present article, but I suggest that this radical difference between image and concept may well be expected also to be the demarcation line between animal cognition of solely images and human cognition of both.

          Finally, if the Thomists are right and formation of universal concepts are signs of humans having spiritual and immortal souls, should animals be shown to have similar abilities, this would not prove that men are merely animals, but rather that it might be true that all dogs go to heaven!

          • Phil Tanny

            More germane to the present Strange Notions article is the radical distinction between image and concept.

            More germane to the present article is the conclusion you were aiming at from the start, the whole point of the article.

            if the Thomists are right and formation of universal concepts are signs of humans having spiritual and immortal souls

            1) IF this is true, and 2) IF there are millions of species in the universe as intelligent or more intelligent than us, THEN humans would not be God's special project as is assumed by Christian dogmas, but instead one of millions of such projects.

            Perhaps Christian theologians would be perfectly happy with such an outcome, I really don't know. It seems impossible to know when they won't address the possibility.

        • This is an incorrect understanding of what computers are capable of doing. This is in reference to the very famous program, "ELIZA"[5] which absolutely cannot hold its own with a real patient. It works primarily through syntactic manipulations and is devoid of semantic knowledge. It is one of the targets of the famous "Chinese Room" thought experiment. In many ways, ELIZA is the opposite of ape language experiments. Whereas apes associate words and signs with real world objects but don't develop a deep understanding of the structure of language, ELIZA is based entirely on a programmed "understanding" of the structure of language, that is, on syntax, but no real world associations occur there are no semantics.

          I don't see why Bonnette cannot be arguing in this fashion:

               (A) Just like ELIZA could feign semantic understanding via syntactical manipulation,
               (B) apes can feign syntactic understanding via semantic manipulation.

          Your bold "cannot" appears to need empirical qualification:

          ELIZA's creator, Weizenbaum regarded the program as a method to show the superficiality of communication between man and machine, but was surprised by the number of individuals who attributed human-like feelings to the computer program, including Weizenbaum’s secretary.[2] Many academics believed that the program would be able to positively influence the lives of many people, particularly those suffering from psychological issues and that it could aid doctors working on such patients' treatment.[2][6] While ELIZA was capable of engaging in discourse, ELIZA could not converse with true understanding.[7] However, many early users were convinced of ELIZA’s intelligence and understanding, despite Weizenbaum’s insistence to the contrary. (WP: ELIZA)

          All Bonnette requires for his point is the illusory appearance of semantic competence, as judged by those who are not rigorous enough in parsimonious analysis. Where some humans attribute too much semantic competence to ELIZA, Bonnette et al are claiming some scientists attribute too much syntactic competence to non-human primates.

          Primate specialist Michael Tomasello suggests one way to understand why humans might be syntactically competent while no other primate is:

              Theoretically, recent advances in the philosophy of action have provided powerful new ways of thinking about these deeper and more primitive forms of uniquely human social engagement. A small group of philosophers of action (e.g., Bratman, 1992; Searle, 1995; Gilbert, 1989; Tuomela, 2007) have investigated how humans put their heads together with others in acts of so-called shared intentionality, or "we" intentionality. When individuals participate with others in collaborative activities, together they form joint goals and joint attention, which then create individual roles and individual perspectives that must be coordinated within them (Moll and Tomasello, 2007). Moreover, there is a deep continuity between such concrete manifestations of joint action and attention and more abstract cultural practices and products such as cultural institutions which are structured—indeed, created—by agreed-upon social conventions and norms (Tomasello, 2009). In general, humans are able to coordinate with others, in a way that other primates seemingly are not, to form a "we" that acts as a kind of plural agent to create everything form a collaborative hunting party to a cultural institution. (A Natural History of Human Thinking, 3)

          This "shared intentionality" yields uniquely new behaviors:

          Thus, although many animal species can cognitively represent situations and entities at least somewhat abstractly, only humans can conceptualize one and the same situation or entity under differing, even conflicting, social perspectives (leading ultimately to a sense of "objectivity"). Further, although many animals also make simple causal and intentional inferences about external events, only humans make socially recursive and self-reflective inferences about others' or their own intentional states. And, finally, although many animals monitor and evaluate their own actions with respect to instrumental success, only humans self-monitor and evaluate their own thinking with respect to the normative perspectives and standards ("reasons") of others or the group. These fundamentally social differences lead to an identifiably different type of thinking, what we may call, for the sake of brevity, objective-reflective-normative thinking. (A Natural History of Human Thinking, 4)

          And so, this supports Jean Piaget's claim that "Only cooperation constitutes a process than can produce reason." (Sociological Studies, quoted in Natural History, 1)

      • You have defined the distinction between image and concept quote well and I can accept that distinction. What you haven't done is show that universal concepts cannot be formulated if minds are material only.

        Your definition of spiritual is negative, it doesn't define what it is, but what it is not. Further it is not incompatible with being material. Material does not depend on space and time, rather it's the other way round. Time and space are not fundamental.

        Again you have demonstrated that abstract concepts are not images. With this I agree based on your definition. What you haven't shown is that concepts cannot be generated on materialism. This is unsurprising since on no metaphysical framework do we have much of an idea how concepts are formed. We can have some good ideas about it, it would seem they are generated by recursive neural networks. We are seeing this kind of ability in artificial neural networks now. Through machine learning AIs are beginning to apply universals. It is I think unlikely that this is what is going on in brains, but it does suggest that this is not impossible.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I am glad you see the basic point of the article, namely, that images are radically distinct from concepts.

          This is a starting point for discussion that has largely been missed by those materialists who simply assume that concepts are like images in being material, and that therefore, concepts can be explained in terms of neural networks -- similarly as they think images can.

          I distinguish carefully in the preceding paragraph because images themselves are not material, like neural networks are. This is because the neurons are extended in space, whereas the images are not -- although the images depend on matter.

          Yes, the definition of spiritual is indeed negative, since we have no direct concept of the spiritual, since all our knowledge starts in sensation and sensation of of material entities.

          Rather, spiritual substances are know by what is called a "negative judgment of separation." This means the affirmation that something is real, but it is not material. Thus, our knowledge of spiritual things is in some sense indirect.

          But to your wider point, you then say that somehow concepts are generated by material entities. This is problematic, since concepts have existence, but they do not have the essential properties of material things nor do they exhibit dependence on material things, as do images.

          It is true that time and space "depend" on matter, since they are essential properties of material things. But this does not make matter independent of time and space, since matter cannot exist without its essential properties, namely, time and space.

          Hence, when you find things that are neither in time and space, nor exist under the conditions of time and space (like images do), youo have found something that fulfills the definition of the spiritual.

          Since nothing can give rise to a property it lacks, material reality cannot explain the origin of spiritual things -- that is, beings that really exist, but are absent the essential properties of matter. Such existence is a positive reality, as manifest by the seventeen modes of existence that concepts have, but images lack.

          • Are you saying we indirectly know the spiritual exists by way of affirming it?

            I say that concepts appear to be generated by neural activity. I think this is a fair inductive inference that they are.

            Concepts exist, I'm a way, they do not exist fundamentally. Existence isn't a property something can have or not have. Some things exist. Some concepts we hold are of things that do not exist beyond our imagination. Like say the Shinto library of supernatural entities like Kitsune, Tenuki, Yurie, and other Yokai, there are very developed images of this "universal" concept. The concepts and images exist but no Yokai exists.

            Yes concepts do not have the essential properties of material, which is why it is wrong to say they exist fundamentally. But they are reducible to material things.

            No time and space are not properties of material things either way. They are dimensions that emerge in material reality. But not all materials reality are temporal for example. There is no time for a photon.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "I say that concepts appear to be generated by neural activity."

            "But [concepts] are reducible to material things."

            The whole point of the article was to show that concepts and images are incommensurable. Once that is granted, we can proceed with reasoning about other aspects.

            You are merely stating the standard reductionism: concepts reduce to images; images reduce to neural activity.

            Your problem, though, is that neural activity cannot exist outside of the conditions of matter, which is extended in and located in space, whereas the concept exhibits no such spatial conditions or limitations. So, how can what lacks dimensionless existence explain it? How can what is limited in space explain what is not limted in space? How can non-being explain being?

            "Some concepts we hold are of things that do not exist beyond our imagination."

            Here it is clear that you are still confusing the image and concept, which is typical of materialist and sensist thinking. If concepts are still within the imagination, they simply are not concepts at all -- since images and concepts are radically distinct.

            You claim that "time and space are not properties of material things," but immediately that time and space "emerge in material reality." Which is it? If time and space "emerge" from matter, that is what it means to be properties.

            "There is no time for a proton."

            That is simply a property of moving at the speed of light in relativity theory. But the proton is still located in space and moving in time relative to other observers. That is why it takes eight minutes for a proton to travel from the sun to the earth. Protons are material entities just like neural systems. Images are immaterial but depend on matter, since they are under the conditions of matter. Concepts exhibit neither spatial properties nor material dependence.

          • Not sure what incommensurable means, but I am not saying they are the same thing. I never said concepts reduce to images. I'm saying they both reduce to neural activity. The neural activity that generates images may have nothing to do with that which generates concepts. Or they may be related. Because every time we have an image and we reflect on that image we then have a concept of that image. Reflections on concepts of images create new aggregates of images, and by such an iterative process we could plausible end up with universal concepts.

            I'm not saying neural activity exists immaterially. Universals are abstractions of what neural activity is doing.

            No time and space are not properties of matter, they conceptual abstractions of what matte is doing.

            I meant photon not proton. And that's right to say a photon is "in time" ii a not a property of the proton it's a description of the context of the photon.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Reflections on concepts of images create new aggregates of images, and by such an iterative process we could plausible end up with universal concepts."

            It is clear that you do not grasp the difference between an image and a concept. Both images and neural activity take place under the conditions of matter. Concepts do not, which is why you cannot reduce them to either an image or neural activity.

            "No time and space are not properties of matter, they conceptual abstractions of what matte is doing."

            If time and space are merely conceptual abstractions, then time and space are not extramental realities. Do you really intend to say that? Does that belong to your understanding of physics?

            I mistakenly picked up your spelling error of photon and spoke of protons myself when describing photons. Sounds like one of Casey Stengel's comments about someone misspelling a word so badly that no one else could spell it correctly!

          • Whether concepts do not take place under the conditions of matter is indeed the question in dispute. They do, every concept you and I have ever beheld has been when our material brains have been thinking of them. They never happen when we aren't.

            It is a good way of thinking of time and space as mental realities, they are our minds' way of interpreting facts about reality. What time is, mentally is intuitive, what we are talking about extra mentally is not altogether clear.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Whether concepts do not take place under the conditions of matter is indeed the question in dispute. They do, every concept you and I have ever beheld has been when our material brains have been thinking of them. They never happen when we aren't."

            You are ignoring the clear proof in the OP that concepts precisely do not exhibit material properties. They are not experienced as extended in space, concrete, sensible, and so forth. What you are merely claiming is that they are somehow still dependent on matter in spite of exhibiting no material properties.

            Your claim that our we only know them when our "material brains" are "thinking" of them is simply a gratuitous assumption that we "think with our brains," which is precisely what the evidence appears to contradict. The problem for materialism is to explain how a purely material thing like the brain can produce cognitive objects that exhibit no material properties. Just assuming materialism does not explain the data.

            And if time and space are merely the way we think about material realities, then the whole of physics risks being turned into the sort of subjective idealism that Kant seems to have envisioned, where physical realities are conditioned by a priori forms of all possible cognition. He "saved" Newtonian physics by making its laws simply the laws of the mind. Are you sure you want to go there?

          • I'm not saying concepts "exhibit" material properties, they are not material, they are reducible to material. Do you understand the difference between fundamental and secondary?

            Ultimately they are extended in space and occur in time. They are what brains do. They aren't all that brains do, brains behold images, sense emotions, have memories, dream. There are quite a few more cognitive abilities other than abstract thought.

            Yes, you have laid out several differences, but of course you've left out all the similarities. They all happen only in humans, with live brains. When you damage the brain you damage the ability to form concepts. Concepts are always about images. You can't firm concepts if you cannot behold images. Concepts are aggregate abstract categories of images. You haven't touched at all on what happens in the brain when thinking about concepts vs images. Are specific areas of the brain associated with them? Do other animals have them?

            Of course it's not an assumption that we think with our brains. This is a conclusion that is demonstrated by overwhelming evidence. It's also easily falsified by showing thought absent a brain. Can you do it?

            Needless to say no one has a complete theory of how we think. Saying "something"spiritual

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I appreciate that you are about the only commenter here to take on directly the topic of the nature of the image and concept. The main point of my article is to present this distinction as something that simply cannot be overlooked by those claiming that man is a completely material being, but rather must be taken into account and explained -- despite the evident distinctions between these two cognitive objects.

            Unfortunately, merely repeating the assertion that concepts are reducible to brain activity does not quite fit the data. How can something that exhibits none of the properties of matter really be explained by material entities or causality?

            You make the common error of assuming that, because brains are always involved in various cognitive and appetitive functions, the functions are nothing but brain activity or its products. I have already shown earlier that the simplicity of sense perception cannot be explained by an extended material organ.

            "But, sense experience actually does something that no purely material entity can do, namely, the immaterial act of unifying the experience of external physical reality, or the internal image, into a simple whole. Therefore, its immaterial nature – precisely because it is immaterial and unitive -- must be superior to that of any purely material organ or neural activity. Now, an inferior cause cannot produce a superior effect, that is, materiality cannot account for immateriality. Thus, while it cannot exist without brain activity, sense experience must get its immateriality from some other source than material brain activity.
            https://strangenotions.com/materialisms-failures-hylemorphisms-vindication/

            The major point is that not even sense experience is fully explained by a material organ, like the brain. But there is more that is relevant to your present comment:

            "Concepts are always about images. You can't firm concepts if you cannot behold images. Concepts are aggregate abstract categories of images."

            This shows that you still do not grasp the distinction between concepts and images. Granted that images are always associated with concepts. That is how the mind recalls its concepts. But the amazing thing is that the image may have nothing particularly to do with the concept with which it is associated!

            What image do you have for the concept of justice? A blindfolded lady with scales? A court building? How is that representative of the intellectual content of justice? Is it just the spelling: j - u - s - t - i - c - e? That is totally arbitrary, since other languages use other words. What image do you have for the concept of the word "the?" Most languages do not even have article adjectives. And, again, the spelling in English is pure convention.

            It is simplistic to think that, because we picture a horse when we think the concept of horseness, concepts are merely based on related imaginable content. The fact is that most words do not have such simple image associations. What image do you have for "antidisestablishmentarianism" except the arbitrary spelling of the word itself. Yet, it HAS a conceptual meaning. Indeed, what image do you have for the word, "image?"!!

            No one is so foolish as to claim that human or animal cognitive and appetitive operations take place without corresponding brain activities. But also, no one should be so foolish as to simply identify the former with the latter or to think that the latter, as mere matter, can produce the immaterial qualities of the former -- especially in the case of the universal concept, which exhibits properties in no way proper to material things.

    • These animals are able to use language and engage in problem-solving beyond what many humans can achieve.

      For example?

      … I think dolphins and other primate thinking is nowhere near as vast as to call it essentially different.

      See WP: Primate cognition § Asking questions and giving negative answers, where it is noted that scientists have not been able to detect a primate asking a question, nor teach a primate to ask a question. Do you hold that asking questions just isn't that important for thinking?

      • When dolphins are rewarded by giving a fish for bringing trash floating into their pools, they have hoarded garbage to break it up into small pieces to get more fish. Later they use the fish to lure birds close to kill them, break them up and get even more fish.

        Gorillas can hold a vocabulary beyond what a three year old can.

        Many humans cannot use any language or problem solve.

        See https://youtu.be/cbSu2PXOTOc
        For problem-solving crows

        Certainly the ability to ask questions is more advanced. It's something many humans cannot do either.

        • Many humans cannot use any language or problem solve.

          For example? Emphasis on "many".

          Certainly the ability to ask questions is more advanced. It's something many humans cannot do either.

          For example? Emphasis on "many".

          • Many people with ASD cannot speak, but can still problem solve. Some cannot do either. Other developmental disablities (such as intellectual disability) can prevent both speech and problem solving. Presumably they are still people despite their disability. ASD is quite prevalent (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html). The more severe non-verbal variation is less common but still includes millions of people world wide.

          • Are we talking more or less than 0.1% of humans? More or less than 1%? BTW, I had the privilege of visiting an autism workshop where the guy had autistic kids developing far more than the doctors predicted—including hugging their mothers for the first time. I don't think we don't know how much of their inability is dietary and/or cultural?

          • The very young, humans I'm comas, those with advanced dementia, aphasia.

          • BGA: Many humans cannot use any language or problem solve.

            Certainly the ability to ask questions is more advanced. It's something many humans cannot do either.

            BGA: The very young, humans I'm comas, those with advanced dementia, aphasia.

            And yet … the corresponding animals are how much more capable? I don't see your point.

          • I mean gorrilas and chimps are, dolphins. Crows

          • Yes, they are other animals with cognitive abilities which seem to be very different in scale but of the same essential kind as humans.

          • On what basis do you assert that "seem to be"? It seems rather dubious that just adding some more neurons to non-human primates would result in them all of a sudden starting to ask questions. The difference between asking questions and not asking questions seems to be a difference in kind, not scale or degree.

            Unless you mean that humans have lower-level cognitive abilities shared with non-humans? I don't think anyone here would disagree with that.

          • Just my own flawed inductive reasoning from various things I've read or experienced. I've known two dogs very well, I audited a class on population that had a significant recounting of the social interactions of some primates. These latter showed advanced behaviour including culture, commerce and war. I'm aware of some other behaviour of crows dolphins from media. That kind of thing.

            Sure, I don't know what change would be required for other brains to have the abilities that humans do.

            I mean it depends on what you mean by kind, essential kind.

            I think you are onto something if you think maybe we should be discussing the findings of neurology, psychiatry, animal behaviour rather than philosophers.

          • I've known two dogs very well …

            Did either ever ask you a single question? (Communicating "Want food!" is more parsimonious than "May I have some food?") How about any of the primates?

            [Some primates] showed advanced behaviour including culture, commerce and war.

            The nature of any of these three things is surely fundamentally different depending on whether questions are ever asked in the carrying out of each behavior.

            I think you are onto something if you think maybe we should be discussing the findings of neurology, psychiatry, animal behaviour rather than philosophers.

            I dislike such either/or choices. Philosophers generally train to have greater conceptual clarity than other fields of study—at least in the analytical school. This can be an aid to scientific inquiry, especially when one has passed the stamp-collecting phase.

          • Both dogs asked me questions. They asked to go outside, for food, to come up on the bed.

            But you are correct dogs do not ask the same sort of questions bas humans do.

            No having complex social interactions is good reason to think these animals are not of an essentially different kind.

            So you'd rather determine the relative level of mental ability of humans and animals by ignoring those who actually study them, rather philosophy of religion is where we'd look?

          • LB: See WP: Primate cognition § Asking questions and giving negative answers, where it is noted that scientists have not been able to detect a primate asking a question, nor teach a primate to ask a question. Do you hold that asking questions just isn't that important for thinking?

            LB: Did either ever ask you a single question? (Communicating "Want food!" is more parsimonious than "May I have some food?") How about any of the primates?

            BGA: Both dogs asked me questions. They asked to go outside, for food, to come up on the bed.

            Do you believe that asking for food is more, less, or equally as parsimonious as "Want food!"?

            But you are correct dogs do not ask the same sort of questions bas humans do.

            Indeed, as I indicated by quoting upthread, scientists specializing in primate study don't even think it is correct to use "question" to talk about any behavior in which primates engage.

            BGA: [Some primates] showed advanced behaviour including culture, commerce and war.

            LB: The nature of any of these three things is surely fundamentally different depending on whether questions are ever asked in the carrying out of each behavior.

            BGA: No having complex social interactions is good reason to think these animals are not of an essentially different kind.

            This is why I say philosophers can deliver value in such conversations: I cannot detect any rigorous meaning of "essentially different kind" in your thinking. Perhaps that is my limitation and not yours.

            BGA: I think you are onto something if you think maybe we should be discussing the findings of neurology, psychiatry, animal behaviour rather than philosophers.

            LB: I dislike such either/or choices. Philosophers generally train to have greater conceptual clarity than other fields of study—at least in the analytical school. This can be an aid to scientific inquiry, especially when one has passed the stamp-collecting phase.

            BGA:So you'd rather determine the relative level of mental ability of humans and animals by ignoring those who actually study them, rather philosophy of religion is where we'd look?

            I will repeat myself: I dislike such either/or choices. Early on, @dennisbonnette:disqus directed you to his essay A Philosophical Critical Analysis of Recent Ape-Language Studies, which makes extensive use of actual science. My very first reply to you cited the results of primate specialists—it's what I quote at the beginning of this comment.

          • Want food? Yes just like a human does. What you're getting at is the kinds of discussions like asking Koko how her day was and getting a narrative answer. No animals don't seem to have this capacity. Neither do two year old kids. Do I consider these different, yes. Essentially different kind? No.

            I cannot detect any rigourous definition of "essential kind" in the above article either.

          • LB: Do you believe that asking for food is more, less, or equally as parsimonious as "Want food!"?

            BGA: Want food? Yes just like a human does. →

            What additional cognitive content do you think exists in "May I have some food?" over against "Want food!", and how are you sure that your dogs had that additional cognitive content? I am assuming you respect parsimony—is that true?

            ← What you're getting at is the kinds of discussions like asking Koko how her day was and getting a narrative answer.

            Incorrect.

            I cannot detect any rigourous definition of "essential kind" in the above article either.

            Here's an analogy: We know we can build tall structures with steel-reinforced concrete. So, why not just add more and more, and build higher and higher? Well, it turns out that the laws of physics prevent us from building a space tether in this fashion. The structure would collapse under its own weight long before reaching the appropriate height. To suggest that whatever it is that non-human primates do, piling more and more would ultimately result in human-level intelligence, is dubious in the same way.

            I don't know exactly how to map the above analogy to 'essential kind', as I am not an expert in A–T philosophy. However, I am quite aware of how concepts are sometimes sufficient to produce a given result and sometimes woefully insufficient. @dennisbonnette:disqus, your thoughts?

          • No idea what cognitive content is, or what would be required to draw out the difference between want food and may I have food.

            I don't know what parsimony is.

            I'm not suggesting it's just piling on more and more X would establish the cognitive differences we observe between humans and other primates. I don't know what the neurological differences are between humans and primates and other animals.

            I do not see that it would be an essentially different kind, and the reason is this. The cognitive differences between various animals seem as vast or more vast than those between say chimps and humans, yet these animals developed these abilities naturally. So I don't accept this philosophical claim that the gap is insurmountable.

          • No idea what cognitive content is, or what would be required to draw out the difference between want food and may I have food.

            thefreedictionary.com: cognitive content
            1. the sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned

            Now, how do you know that your dog asked a question rather than issued a desire? Are you sure you are not anthropomorphizing your dog?

            I don't know what parsimony is.

            Here:

            Occam's razor (also Ockham's razor or Ocham's razor: Latin: novacula Occami; or law of parsimony: Latin: lex parsimoniae) is the problem-solving principle that states "Entities should not be multiplied without necessity."[1][2] The idea is attributed to English Franciscan friar William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), a scholastic philosopher and theologian. It is sometimes paraphrased by a statement like "The simplest solution is most likely the right one." but is the same as the Razor only if results match. Occam's razor says that when presented with competing hypotheses that make the same predictions, one should select the solution with the fewest assumptions,[3] and it is not meant to be a way of choosing between hypotheses that make different predictions. (WP: Occam's razor)

            I'm not suggesting it's just piling on more and more X would establish the cognitive differences we observe between humans and other primates.

            Then perhaps there is a different in kind and not just degree.

            I do not see that it would be an essentially different kind, and the reason is this. The cognitive differences between various animals seem as vast or more vast than those between say chimps and humans, yet these animals developed these abilities naturally. So I don't accept this philosophical claim that the gap is insurmountable.

            We do not know whether humans developed 'naturally' from their ancestors, where 'naturally' is defined as "via currently known and scientifically characterized processes". If that word 'naturally' is allowed to grow arbitrarily much as time goes forward, then it basically has no definition.

          • I know a dog is asking for food because of its behaviour before and after. I know she is asking because it is directing the request to me.

            Sure. It depends on what is meant by "kind" and "essential". Terms that are undefined here. The purpose of the terms was clear the argument is that our cognitive ability of universals is too different than any of any animals, is not reducible to material and implies something spiritual, which Dr Bonnette clarified to me means not extended in space or time, if I recall.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Please remember that we have those "intermediate" things, like images, which are not extended in space, but do occur under the conditions of matter, since, for example, they are imagined as extended in space, even though they are not themselves so extended. Imagine a foot long hot dog. How long is it? How big are out heads? Most of us have heads less than a foot wide or long (I hope).

            Universals appear as strictly spiritual, since they are not even apprehended as under the conditions of matter. Thus, understand the meaning of "hot dog" which applies to all conceivable hot dogs of every size and past, present, or future.

          • Ficino

            Universals appear as strictly spiritual, since they are not even apprehended as under the conditions of matter.

            Can you explain how the following coheres with yours above?
            In VII Meta l. 10 C1490 the universals like man or horse are universals of composites of form and matter, so C1491 we understand that matter is part of the species, and “Speciem autem hic intelligimus non formam tantum, sed quod quid erat esse. Et patet etiam quod materia est pars eius totius… Compositum autem est tam quam singulare.”

          • Dennis Bonnette

            While the concrete essences of the actually existing composites contain matter, the intellectual understanding of them abstracts from quantified or individuated matter.

            So, basically, we understand a horse as having a certain substantial form which actuates matter, but the matter is considered abstractly, that is, as a principle which would quantify and individuate the form if it were concretely actualized -- but in the intellect we prescind from such concrete actualization.

            Another way to put it might be to say that in the intellect we understand that horseness includes both form and matter, and that matter is a principle of individuation -- but we "ignore" that concrete individualization when considering the concept as universally applicable.

            That is why the universal concept, while applying to every individual thing, prescinds from that which concretely makes one horse different from another horse. Nonetheless, there is a basis for universal predication of the essence because there is a "foundation in the thing" for what is predicated universally. Every horse is truly a horse, but each in its own unique way.

            We also refer to the matter of the actual horse as "designated" matter, since we are not then referring to matter in general, but to this horse with this matter and that horse with that matter.

          • Ficino

            Yes, OK, thanks for clarifying.

            I'd rather see "spiritual" restricted to substances that have intellect rather than also extended to intelligibilia, but that's just me. Same as I'd rather see "species" restricted to things that share a unique substantial form, like elephant, rather than extended over what in A-T is normally considered a genus. But again, that's just me.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, given that the intelligibilia exist only in intellects, and not in some Platonic ideal world, the result is pretty much what you prefer, perhaps.

            I admit that it is disconcerting to suggest that an elephant is in the same species with the small rodent it allegedly fears, but that does not prevent the possibility of more narrow definitions of species. It is just I don't think anyone has found a workable one as of yet.

          • Including Hot Dog the Movie?

          • michael

            Can we truly and accurately imagine the 2 million light year space between The Milky way and Andromeda galaxy, then/

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Not to accurate proportions, but we do imagine it as a vast distance between two galaxies. That is an image of something extended in space and concretely so, even though we realize intellectually that the image is not the reality.

          • LB: Now, how do you know that your dog asked a question rather than issued a desire? Are you sure you are not anthropomorphizing your dog?

            BGA: I know a dog is asking for food because of its behaviour before and after. I know she is asking because it is directing the request to me.

            Why doesn't "issued a desire" explain the behavior? Do you believe that we ought generally choose the most parsimonious explanation? (That is, generally follow Ockham's razor.)

            LB: We do not know whether humans developed 'naturally' from their ancestors, where 'naturally' is defined as "via currently known and scientifically characterized processes". If that word 'naturally' is allowed to grow arbitrarily much as time goes forward, then it basically has no definition.

            BGA: Sure. It depends on what is meant by "kind" and "essential". Terms that are undefined here. The purpose of the terms was clear the argument is that our cognitive ability of universals is too different than any of any animals, is not reducible to material and implies something spiritual, which Dr Bonnette clarified to me means not extended in space or time, if I recall.

            What Dr. Bonnette said was this:

            [OP]: 17. While an image represents an individual entity existing in space, the concept represents the nature outside of a given space and time.

            So for example, if you want the term 'natural' to encompass "all that exists", then it has to also exist "outside of a given space and time". The whole point of coming up with a universal concept of 'natural' is to step outside of the contingencies and vicissitudes of time and describe "what really exists". Otherwise, what are you doing with that definition other than sketching out the limits of what you can imagine? If everything is just formlessly changing, if nothing is predictable, then terms simply wouldn't refer.

            Now, nobody's current understanding of 'natural' seems able to crack what consciousness is and especially, what it takes for consciousnesses to ask questions, of the kind that scientists say no non-human primate has ever been observed asking. Maybe that is because their understanding of 'natural' simply isn't up to the task? Or is it "unscientific" to suggest such a thing, like how 'irreducible complexity' is somehow an enemy to science?

          • I'd say issuing a desire as a request to be fulfilled by another is what questions are in substance.

            I don't think consciousness asks questions. We have a conscious experience of asking questions. The asking is more involved. I don't think the conscious experience of asking is the cause of the mental activity of asking, more like the result. But I'd agree, we don't know what it is, or how it works, so we shouldn't speculate either way.

            Sure, on this use "natural" also refers to anything that does exist that is "outside" space and time. A better word would be "reality", but we can use "natural" this way.

            I don't know what you mean by "stepping outside" of space and time by way of the concept. The concept is the idea of literally everything, some of which may or may not exist "outside" space and time or nothing may. This is unknown.

            Irreducible complexity is an idea that has relevance in science and philosophy. In science I'm only familiar with the attempt to show some biological aspects could not have originated by way of chemical processes without the assistance of some kind of general intelligence with the ability to physically manipulate it.

          • You can reduce everything to desires if you want, but science proceeds by making distinctions, not lumping anything and everything into the same category. As far as I can tell, questions which try to understand what is in other's minds are questions that only humans ask. The cognitive content of those questions is profoundly different from "Want food!"

            Your comment about consciousness not raising questions makes me think you might buy into Libet's experiments on free will. Libet's interpretation was rather tendentious; I suggest Alfred Mele's Free: Why Science Hasn't Disproved Free Will if you are predicating your beliefs on his experiments. For making further progress in how questions are asked, perhaps it would be beneficial to permit tools and concepts in addition to those of physics and chemistry. That is, we should be careful just what we are insisting on by requiring methodological naturalism.

            If God exists then apparently God is 'natural'. What exactly is the use of this term 'natural'?

            On naturalism, we as creatures seem 100% bound to space and time. If we are, then how can we make justifiable statements about anything outside of space and time?

            There are two kinds of irreducible complexity, in my experience. One says that only mind-like intentionality could explain what we see. A slightly weaker version says that extant mechanisms and mathematical patterns are insufficient to explain what we see. As studies of primate cognition demonstrate, the difference between these two objections is not always easy to discern.

          • Yes I agree, there are discernable differences in how humans and other animals think, but I don't see it as an "essentially different kind" in the sense that human cognition is reasonably known to be impossible absent a spiritual element absent in other animals.

            There are differences in language abilities and the ability to hold multiple abstract concepts in mind at once. Animals don't generally seem to have these abilities. I expect they are closely related to our language neurology. But how the brain works, I understand is a pretty open book.

            Yes, if you define "natural" as all that exists, and god exists, god is natural. But if you define it more narrowly, and have a distinct category of "Supernatural", as I think is not uncommon, and god is supernatural, then god is not natural. I would usually use the more narrow definition of natural when talking to theists. But we are using a very broad definition, which I'd agree makes the term pretty useless.

            We can talk about certain abstract concepts to which time and space are irrelevant, like numbers, logic. We can speculate about how photons are in a sense timeless, and so on. I don't know if you'd consider these justifiable.

          • After all this back-and-forth, I'm just not seeing much of an argument by you. You've made two key claims:

            BGA: I'm not suggesting it's just piling on more and more X would establish the cognitive differences we observe between humans and other primates. I don't know what the neurological differences are between humans and primates and other animals.

            … The cognitive differences between various animals seem as vast or more vast than those between say chimps and humans, yet these animals developed these abilities naturally. So I don't accept this philosophical claim that the gap is insurmountable.

            You have virtually no idea how† Homo sapiens differ from all other organisms when it comes to cognitive power, and yet you are 100% confident that that Homo sapiens evolved 'naturally'—while having virtually no idea what that term 'naturally' really means. Other than "not what that Roman Catholic thinks".

            In the 19th century, there was plenty that was insurmountable because physics were classical. Much was only possible via introducing GR and QM. But you don't think something analogous is something it is reasonable to think will be required to understand conceptual thought. Or if you do, you don't think the new paradigm could plausibly include 'concept' in anything like the way Dr. Bonnette has defined the term. If I've guessed right in either case: do you have any reasons for believing thusly?

            † Here, 'how' ≡ "the structures and mechanisms and processes which are different". That Homo sapiens differ from all other organisms is something to which you have agreed.

          • No I have some decent idea of how humans differ from other animals. Most other animals have nothing like human cognitive abilities. Some have some that are quite similar. What is distinctive are things like our language and abstraction abilities.

            The term "natural" has several common uses. The one you've advanced here, "everything that exists", I would say is rather uncommon.

            I don't think Dr Bonnette has demonstrated that human linguistic and abstract cognition is of an essentially different kind than other animals or that this difference proves the existence of some unknown non-material spirit that is doing the abstract thinking, as opposed to some unknown material neurology.

          • No I have some decent idea of how humans differ from other animals. Most other animals have nothing like human cognitive abilities. Some have some that are quite similar. What is distinctive are things like our language and abstraction abilities.

            You appear to have ignored my † clarification of 'how'. Nothing you've said here deals on the level of 'matter', and yet you claim that we will be able to understand it all with 'matter'.

            BGA: The cognitive differences between various animals seem as vast or more vast than those between say chimps and humans, yet these animals developed these abilities naturally.

            LB: We do not know whether humans developed 'naturally' from their ancestors, where 'naturally' is defined as "via currently known and scientifically characterized processes". If that word 'naturally' is allowed to grow arbitrarily much as time goes forward, then it basically has no definition.

            BGA: The term "natural" has several common uses. The one you've advanced here, "everything that exists", I would say is rather uncommon.

            Well, how about you define the underlined word, which you used first?

            I don't think Dr Bonnette has demonstrated that human linguistic and abstract cognition is of an essentially different kind than other animals or that this difference proves the existence of some unknown non-material spirit that is doing the abstract thinking, as opposed to some unknown material neurology.

            Erm, all Dr. Bonnette needs is for his argument is the following:

                 (1) matter is extended in space
                 (2) concepts are not extended in space

            Are you suggesting a kind of "unknown material neurology" which is not extended in space? Are you suggesting that everything we do can presently be explained without anything not extended in space?

          • Yes, you're correct I don't know what is responsible for the differing cognitive abilities among some animals. I do know that much of it has to do with brain differences, e.g. the differences between fish brains and mammal brains account for a great deal.

            I have some understanding that there is a neurological architecture related to language. But as to how the difference raised by Dr Bonntte, couldn't say. I don't think anyone has a good model on it, on materialism or Hylomorphism.

            Yes, I was using "natural" in the underlined section as opposed to theistically. These abilities developed without the need for this "spiritual" element referred to by Dr B.

            I disagree that those two sentences support his conclusion. Concepts not being extended in time and space do not entail that an element of human cognition is if an essentially different kind than all others.

            I'm not suggesting any of the things you asked in your last paragraph. My suggestion was the one in the paragraph you quoted just above.

          • Concepts not being extended in time and space do not entail that an element of human cognition is if an essentially different kind than all others.

            Erm, how are neurons going to store or interact with something extended neither in space or in time? Aren't neurons inextricably extended in space and time?

          • They don't store concepts they are part of how brains conceive concepts. Concepts are not fundamental, they are immaterial.

          • Ok, then how on earth do material neurons interact with immaterial concepts? You know Descartes failed to connect the extended-in-space and the not-extended-in-space, and so did every single human after him—right?

          • Ficino

            I never understood why this is a problem. A computer is made of materials that are extended, but we don't say that there is a ghost in the computer that enables it to store the propositional content of the information it stores. A car is made of materials, but its speed is not made of materials. Why can't we just say that the brain is the organ that I think with, as the mouth etc are the organs that I speak with? There are lots of operations performed and ends achieved, and the operations and many of the ends aren't substances.

          • Jim the Scott

            If I might chimb in since you said something very interesting...

            Does a Computer have a subjective conciousness? I say no. Indeed the shelves of a library stacked with books contain information extended in 3d space but is a library conscious? Does it have a subjective experience? I say no. We have a subjective experience and whatever that experience is it is clearly not extended in 3d space. That is self evident. So property dualism if you wish to hold on to some semblance of materialism or a revised Cartusian dualism or substance dualism or better yet Hylomorphism seem to be our only options. Strict reductionist materialism doesn't have any explanitory power here IMHO.

            Cheers

          • Ficino

            I haven't done enough on philosophy of mind to pick among the positions you mention. But not even Daniel Dennett holds that a thought is literally made of matter, or that it has extension, does he?

          • Jim the Scott

            Dennett believes consciousness does not actually exist. It is down hill from there.

            Cheers.

          • Sample1

            When, in the far future, the hundredth AGI says it’s experiencing what we call consciousness, how will we know if it is or isn’t?

            We won’t. We will do what reliably works: place a hard-to-vary theory laden explanation between us and our observations.

            I am unaware of any hint or law of nature that says the brain must understand how it functions at those levels. We mostly agree that there already exist classes of questions that are nonsensical: what’s north of the North Pole or what was reality like if no time existed and what is a house made of jealously and sleep? Just because we can ask a question doesn’t mean it’s a good one. I suspect consciousness could be in that category of dead end efforts too.

            But if AGI does someday claim consciousness, we will at least have further circumstantial evidence worthy of study that physical materialism alone may indeed suffice for the phenomenon which, I suspect, it does.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            By the time they learn how to say they have consciousness or are alive, I suspect they will have also learned the utility and technique of lying. :)

            We can already program a computer to say, "Cogito, ergo sum." But that does not mean it knows what it is saying.

            The real problem is the same as it is with materialism itself. Intellectual self-awareness is a form of consciousness, which, entails acts that are immaterial in nature.

            Specifically, to know one is alive and conscious means to understand the concept of "being alive" and of "being conscious." Since such concepts are immaterial in nature, as appears to be the case from the properties of any universal concepts as explained in my OP, any entity really knowing what it is saying when claiming to be alive or conscious, must really be a living thing with an immaterial cognitive function.

            If this is true, then we don't have to ask an AGI if it is conscious or alive, since we will know ahead of time that it cannot be, since it -- on your hypothesis -- is a purely material entity. Thus it cannot truthfully claim to have consciousness of its own cognitive acts or to be alive -- no matter how many times it lies about the matter.

          • Sample1

            1st paragraph, irrelevant noted with smiley punctuation but you still stated it.

            2nd. Of course, but whose saying that?

            3rd. Not sure if your understanding of immaterial is truth.

            4th. Seems to rule out many categories of human states: babies, cognitively impaired, etc.

            5th. I don’t think you understood my point. I said it would provide further circumstantial evidence that could be explored. Science is not dogma, theory is never 100% certain unlike theology (but you are fond of saying you aren’t a theologian).

            5a. You again reference the certainty of lying. Why assume all conscious beings must lie, let alone infer always will lie?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "3rd. Not sure if your understanding of immaterial is truth."

            Do you have a better one?

            "4th. Seems to rule out many categories of human states: babies, cognitively impaired, etc."

            This is the nonsense you get into when you don't have a grasp of how a substance remains the same kind of thing it is even though its various operative potencies go into and out of act. Thus, a sleeping man is still a man, even though he cannot drive a car while sleeping. A man in a coma is still a man, even though he is not waking. Common sense long understood these simple facts, until some skeptical thinkers began to question the substantial continuity of life from conception to natural death for purposes of "sociological innovation."

            "5th. I don’t think you understood my point. I said it would provide further circumstantial evidence that could be explored. "

            I think you misunderstand my point. My point is that sound philosophy would tell us that as long as any AGI is simply the composition of discrete physical parts, even if some of those parts entail such things as organic nano-chips, A-T philosophical principles would tell us that the AGI has no substantial unity, and thus, no substantial form or soul with immaterial cognitive faculties. Therefore, it would be lying if it said it knew it was alive or conscious.

            You may not agree with the philosophical principles to which I refer, but that does not mean they are untrue. As a Thomistic philosopher who knows they are true, I would not be impressed even by a lying AGI whose origin and composition is as I just described in materialistic terms.

            As for the tendency to lie, my smiley face was there because I have no idea whether AI would be prone to dissimulation or not. But even if it were, it would not know it is doing so, since it would actually know nothing at all -- since there is no "it" (substantial unity with cognitive powers) to do the knowing.

          • Ficino

            You may not agree with the philosophical principles to which I refer, but that does not mean they are untrue. As a Thomistic philosopher who knows they are true, I would not be impressed ...

            As has been remarked before, the epistemic confidence expressed in this second sentence isn't consistent with even the later Plato, let alone with Socrates as he depicts him.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am sorry, but you have really lost me. I thought I was talking about the substantial unity of an artificial general intelligence, which is a materialistic artifact. I was commenting from the perspective of Thomistic philosophy.

            What on earth does that have to do with Plato or Socrates in this context?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The speed of a car is directly empirically observable and quantitatively measurable. The conscience experience of the image of a particular car or cars speeding is not empirically observable and, although imagined as being of some particular speed or speeds, is not quantitatively measurable. The concept of cars speeding is not even imaginable, since it is neither of particular cars nor is it of particular speeds.

          • Mark

            If a car could conceptualize a race and a relationship with other cars and winning that race you would indeed have a point about speed. Same with a computer: the Chinese room thought experiment. There is an apparent leap of faith regardless of which camp you're in (monism/dualism). For theists that give meaning to the immaterial there isn't a particular problem. It seems an obvious problem when materialists give something immaterial "real" meaning, because if it is immaterial it doesn't exist or isn't knowable.

          • I never understood why this is a problem. A computer is made of materials that are extended, but we don't say that there is a ghost in the computer that enables it to store the propositional content of the information it stores.

            Computers store zero propositional content. To see how this is the case, consider when computers used punch cards: this helps us see how the process is entirely physical and without any meaning stored within the computers. A computer computing is the same as a player piano playing.

            A car is made of materials, but its speed is not made of materials.

            Sure, but speed is an aboutness-claim and physicalism has notorious problems with aboutness/​intentionality. I'm guessing Dr. Bonnette would say that the instant you start talking about 'speed'—and maybe even 'car'—all of a sudden not-extended-in-spacetime concepts are in play.

            Why can't we just say that the brain is the organ that I think with, as the mouth etc are the organs that I speak with?

            For the same reason that you can't say that piling steel-reinforced concrete higher and higher will let you build a space tether. Einstein said to make things as simple as possible, but no simpler. If we have made 'matter' too simple or the patterns which we think make up the 'physical' too simple, then we will run into problems. There is the danger that we'll just continue adding epicycles, instead of realizing that an infinite series of such epicycles turn circles into ellipses. For another example, see Lord Kelvin's confidence in classical physics to solve all problems in his "Two Clouds" speech.

            For yet another example, consider that experimental confirmation of Bell's theorem indicates with nigh-certainty that either reality is fuzzy past a certain level (Heisenberg's unsharpness relation / uncertainty principle), or true ontology is nonlocal. For a long time there was animus toward anything like 'nonlocal state' among physicists. They didn't want to allow that into their ontology. Well, what if that's needed to explain more of what's out there in reality? Dogmatic stances which restrict the available conceptual repertoire can stultify human thinking and progress.

            There are lots of operations performed and ends achieved, and the operations and many of the ends aren't substances.

            If you're trying to point me to something which isn't extended-in-spacetime, then the thing I'm using to "see" what you're pointing at would seem to be of like kind. This shouldn't be shocking: various instruments can detect some things and not others. Plausibly, only consciousnesses or even self-consciousnesses can detect some things. Maybe some of the things/​processes out there in reality are too complex for anything short of a mind to understand them. I don't see why this has to be offensive. I do have some ideas of why people would fallaciously find it offensive/​threatening, but I'll stop there.

          • Ficino

            Computers store zero propositional content. To see how this is the case, consider when computers used punch cards: this helps us see how the process is entirely physical and without any meaning stored within the computers.

            You seem to be using "store information" in a non-standard sense. My engineering friends back in uni decades ago encoded entire semester projects on those punch cards, each unique (I guess, but maybe not), and filed in a fixed order, so that dropping the cardboard box meant upending the project. Why? Because those cards stored information. If they weren't storing information, why were they punched and put into an order? Information is propositional. But no ghost in the cards; the brains of my friends were doing the thinking.

            Maybe some of the things/​processes out there in reality are too complex for anything short of a mind to understand them. I don't see why this has to be offensive.

            Who's offended? I just think with Gilbert Ryle that "mind" is a construct, like "university." But as I said to Jim, I am not deep into philosophy of mind, so I can only go a short distance down this road right now.

          • You seem to be using "store information" in a non-standard sense.

            I am trying to capture the matter from the computer's perspective. That is, I'm trying to obliterate mind and anything dependent on mind, for purposes of dealing with "A computer is made of materials that are extended". In so doing, I claim to deprive you of being able to say that "materials that are extended" do something that they just don't do.

            My engineering friends back in uni decades ago encoded entire semester projects on those punch cards, each unique (I guess, but maybe not), and filed in a fixed order, so that dropping the cardboard box meant upending the project.

            Sure, but would the computer know whether those punch cards are out-of-order? Let's suppose that sequence number isn't included on them. This is probably a really nice test of whether the computer 'understands' what is on the punch cards. What I think you'll find is that to get understanding, you need to have a sort of 'global order' in addition to the discrete bits. But computers as they are now don't do 'global order'. This becomes more clear as one thinks of how humans can state intentions to other humans, but when they state them to computer programmers, the software version of the intention is generally much more restricted and brittle. One can make it less restricted and brittle, but to really get it so that there is zero loss of meaning, I think one needs a change in kind, not merely degree.

            It is here that I find Aristotle's conceptions of formal and final causation to be very interesting. Well, I'm mostly talking about Robert Rosen's adaptation of them in Life Itself. Rosen, a mathematical biologist, was frustrated that the efficient causation of ordinary and partial differential equations could not suffice to help us understand how life differs from non-life. He saw life as involving more kinds of causation, which just can't be captured by ODEs and PDEs. In a key way, formal and final causation in his rendering (which is admittedly not the same as Aristotle—but still maintains key distinctions in causation) are substrate independent, which allow you to mesh two systems which have different substrates. Biology does this all the time! I won't say too much more now, but I'm supposed to develop a presentation on Rosen's work for a philosophy of biology seminar in the next month or so; if I've piqued your interest, I can say more after that.

            As a software engineer and architect, I claim I'm more attuned to the fallacy of saying that if you build steel-reinforced concrete high enough, you can construct a space tether. Unlike that situation where the laws of physics can be proved to preclude such a structure from possibly existing (it would collapse under its own weight far before space tether altitude), I don't have a formal proof that one cannot do the same with present kinds of computation. David Braine might in The Human Person: Animal and Spirit and Language and Human Understanding: The Roots of Creativity in Speech and Thought, but I need more interlocutors to help me get through those books. Critically, we don't yet have a robust way to have high-level descriptions of what computation is doing, which are properly checked against the actual implementation of the computation. This two-level operation is I suspect absolutely critical to consciousness and I have a sneaking suspicion that you need something continuous and holistic on the one side and something discrete and ≈ fully analyzable on the other. That kinda seems like the 'not extended in space' and 'extended in space' dichotomy.

            Who's offended? I just think with Gilbert Ryle that "mind" is a construct, like "university." But as I said to Jim, I am not deep into philosophy of mind, so I can only go a short distance down this road right now.

            Hmmm, that wasn't the Gilbert Ryle I vaguely knew about:

            The Concept of Mind is a 1949 book by philosopher Gilbert Ryle, in which the author argues that "mind" is "a philosophical illusion hailing chiefly from René Descartes and sustained by logical errors and 'category mistakes' which have become habitual."[1] The work has been cited as having "put the final nail in the coffin of Cartesian dualism"[2] and has been seen as a founding document in the philosophy of mind, which received professional recognition as a distinct and important branch of philosophy only after 1950.[3] (WP: The Concept of Mind)

            Reading further, Ryle is criticizing Cartesian dualism, not the fact that mind does something different from—more than—mechanism. David Braine considered Ryle "a wise first mentor in philosophy" (LHU, xiii) and also attacks Cartesian dualism in THP. Braine goes as far to suggest that we are still largely trapped in an inner–outer way of thinking that is just crypto-Cartesian dualism. If that is true, it would explain the extreme difficulty I experience and see, in many people grokking Dr. Bonnette's A–T philosophy.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Forgive the intrusion, but just a FYI article showing some of the problems entailed in a simplistic assumption that computers can do even the things that materialists believe that brains can do:

            https://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2019/10/17/why_a_computer_will_never_be_truly_conscious_111135.html

            And no, I am not assuming that even brains alone can perform all these functions. But this shines some light on the computer = brain type of thinking.

          • The author is fascinating†, but I find his argumentation sloppy. I'm afraid I didn't find much in that article compelling other than:

            (1) Its similarities to Tim Van Gelder 1995 What Might Cognition Be, If Not Computation?, Journal of Philosophy.

            (2) Its link to The Big Problem With “Big Science” Ventures—Like the Human Brain Project, which notes that the EU's billion-euro, 10-year initiative to build a simulator of the human brain failed catastrophically.

            For example, the claim that present-day machine learning would have a hard time identifying the different tables as "tables" needs to be qualified by the fact that most of us, growing up, got to see if not explore sufficiently similar tables. Moreover, we know that flat surfaces like that, around a hand span short of waist-level, tend to be tables. This is because humans operate in a vanishingly small portion of possibility space; we develop an understanding of that possibility space as we go through our lives, navigating the various objects and accomplishing various tasks. Machine learning algorithms do nothing of the kind! They also don't have our genetic endowment, which probably also contributes to the narrowness of that possibility space.

            Now, I am very much inclined to think there is a difference in kind between how we currently know how to do computation (including any "self-organized systems"), and how human cognition works. But I think that difference [at least] depends on two-level systems where we have a purpose that is non-mechanical, and then a mechanical way of accomplishing that purpose. This two-level idea can probably be "telescoped". The closest that computer systems have to this is proofs that an algorithm does what it's supposed to do, but the problem the last time I checked (which is 5–10 years ago) is that the proofs themselves are often about as complicated if not more complicated as the algorithm.

             
            † See Subhash Kak's academic page at Oklahoma State University, Wikipedia page, and the following from an interview with Subhash Kak:

            I am curious to know where you have found an overlap between Science and Vedic Religion/Philosophy.
            The essence of the Vedas is a narrative on who the experiencing self is. Ordinary science informs us of the relationships between objects and also their transformations. But the Vedas say that this ordinary science leaves out the self who observes these objects. The Vedas speak of two kinds of sciences: the lower (rational and linguistic), and higher (transcendental). (The Hindu: The Renaissance man)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't doubt that you are right here. I posted that article primarily because it showed that even the materialist who wrote it could see a real difference between computer and brain activity.

            Of course, for me the essential difference is that the computer really knows nothing at all and has no self-awareness. Neither does the brain, considered in itself. But it is an organ of a living organism. As such is it animated by the same life principle that enables the whole organism to experience sensation and awareness. If it is merely an animal, then the experience stops there. For humans, the intellectual acts are also present.

            That is also why I largely agree with the points made in the name of the Vedas you describe above.

            It always raises the hackles of the materialists whenever I say that computers not only cannot presently experience thought or self-awareness, but also they never will be able to in the future either -- not as long as they are merely incredibly complicated composites of discrete physical or even organic nano-chip parts.

          • How about asking materialists how they can possibly deal with self-reflexivity? It's a very specific instance of intentionality, of "aboutness". How does a system look at itself, like humans do all the time?

            One response you'll get is that Turing machines can "print own description". But does that suffice for self-reflexivity? Here I think we have a problem on which David Braine puts his finger:

                However, what I argued earlier excludes any such ultimately purely physically based explanation of the workings of speech and language. For in our earlier chapters we saw how the informality with which we are able to use words and yet still be reliably understood by our hearers shows the impossibility of simulating our use of language or thought technically in the mathematical sense of the word "mechanical".[2] Rather, the use of understanding is indispensable in the use of language. Physical explanations are inadequate to explain either the linguistic behavior illustrated in chapters I and II or the open-ended variety and number in the methods of establishing truth in mathematics and other fields seen in chapter V.
                This excludes any possibility that the ability reliably (in normal cases) to understand the speech of others operates in a mathematically mechanical way, as it would do if this operation were the mere resultant of the activity of physically interacting material parts. Nor can explanation of a stable relationship between speaker and hearer behavior be achieved by any bringing in of analog features to supplement digital ones, since these can in principle be digitally simulated to any required degree of approximation.[3] (Language and Human Understanding, 296–97)

            [2] This even excludes simulation through the adoption of a Dynamical Systems approach, although, as Timothy van Gelder points out, such approaches can allow the possibility of digital simulation: "Program (that is, physically configure) a computer (a concrete computational system) so that it produces sequences of symbol-configurations which represent points in the state trajectories of the abstract dynamical model under consideration. In such a situation, the computer does not itself constitute a model of the cognitive process, since it does not contain numerically measurable aspects changing over time in the way that aspects of the target system [the real system which it is being attempt to model in terms of dynamical systems theory] are hypothesized to be changing. That is the computer does not realize the abstract dynamical model; rather it simulates it"; Van Gelder, "What Might Cognition Be, If Not Computation?" Journal of Philosophy 92, no. 7 (1995): 369.

            [3] Whatever can be explained in analog terms can, it seems, be in a certain sense “simulated” digitally.

            Simulation is simply not [necessarily] the same as the process being simulated. The Church–Turing–Deutsch principle can simply be wrong. The simulation can actually be very, very wrong ontologically. A nice example of this is John Searle's Chinese room argument.

            Possibly building on Van Gelder, here are some snippets from Ulric Neisser's Foreword to UC Merced Michael J. Spivey's 2007 The Continuity of Mind:

            Spivey’s proposal here—a seriously expanded version of dynamical systems theory with many original twists—is based instead on trajectories through the state space of the human brain. His insistence that those trajectories must be continuous has led him to new insights over a surprisingly broad range of cognitive phenomena.
                But what is a state space? What sorts of things move through state spaces? What does it mean to assert that those movements are continuous? Taking the last question first, “continuity” means that movements away from a given brain state are always to an adjacent state and always take real time, a time during which much can happen. Speech perception provides a convenient example. Although a spoken word is not fully defined until its last syllable ends, the process of understanding it starts much earlier. Candle and candy, for example, both begin with can. Spivey’s ingenious eye movement studies show that a listener presented with one of these words will actively consider both those possibilities at first, making a commitment only later as more information arrives. The moral here is that word representations—indeed, all mental representations—are probabilistic and overlapping rather than sharply bounded. The brain is “hungry” for information, always using whatever it has and looking for more. (The Continuity of Mind, vii–viii)

            Now, I'm not fully endorsing Spivey's work; I haven't even read much of it. But he keys in on the importance of continuity, which is what discrete simulations do not have. Actually, Braine objects to reifying events:

            VI. The Primacy of the Agent over the Event in Causation
            We have seen in earlier chapters how, at the level of description and how we experience things, perception and intentional action are each alike focused upon or have as their hub a subject, the subject of experience, the agent. And we made it clear that this focus, equally for perception and for action, is the human being or animal as such, not a pure mind nor a mere body—the key facts and statements involved being irreducibly psychophysical in character.
                However, the question is: is this agent, this subject of experience, also the focus at the level of explanation and causation, and therefore at the level of reality?[1]
                Here, when we come to examine modern views, we find that the focal role for the agent is repudiated. Instead it is alleged that all agent-causality is to be explained away in terms of event-causality. And this suggestion is the natural effect of a dualistic account of human or animal action. Once the outward act has been separated in conception from the context of the unitary intentional human act, the question arises as to its causes, and these causes are thought of as in the brain or the soul. Dualists and materialists agree in the picture of states and events as causes, inner causing outer in intentional action and outer causing inner in perception, inner and outer logically independent of each other. For the dualist, the inner states and events are states and events in the soul which cause or are caused by states and events in the brain, and for the materialist, the inner states and events are simply states and goings on in the brain, describable in two different ways, psychological and physical.
                In this way, the dualistic ways of thinking of action which we were attacking in Chapter IV dovetail with the modern dogma that it is events, not agents, which are the true causes, and that all so-called agent-causality has to be explained in terms of so-called event-causality. And in this way also the mythology of ‘experiences’ and ‘tryings’ or ‘volitions’ has come to be supported upon a mythology of events and states, each imagined to be a ‘logically distinct existence’, logically independent of all others, these events and states alone being causes in a primary sense. (The Human Person, 201–202)

            [1] I make it clear that the levels of causation and explanation and of experience and description are inseparable and that considerations of causation and explanation place us at the level of reality in Chapter VIII, Section 4 below (cf. pp. 105–120, The Reality of Time and the Existence of God, for a more general treatment of the logic of this connection)—the level of reality when we are dealing with the things of nature is not some underlying unknowable, but something made accessible through the consideration of causes which experience makes possible.

            Perhaps you can see why I want to get you into Braine. :-p

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That gets pretty complicated! I do not spend that much time on self-reflection in my book, Origin of the Human Species, but here is what I put on page 106 of the third edition:

            "The intellect’s ability for proper and complete self-reflection shows the third proof of the human soul’s spirituality. Reflection is proper when a power knows itself and not some other power.6 It is complete when it knows its own nature.7 We know our own thoughts and judgments. When we know that we possess truth about something we are aware of the conformity of our own judgment to reality itself. Our reflection is proper since it knows its own acts. In these same acts, we are aware of the objects and truths understood and of the nature of these acts of understanding and judging. Self-reflection is complete.

            "No material organ has such proper and complete self-reflection. No physical organ, not even the human brain, can return completely upon itself so as to compenetrate its being and physical extension. While one physical part can reflect another physical part, and that part another, and so forth to infinity, no part can apprehend itself, and no collection of parts can grasp their whole as a whole. That is precisely what we do by intellectual self-reflection.

            "Such proper and complete self-reflection must be the truly spiritual act of a truly spiritual soul."

            Frankly, I am more comfortable in the context of the radically spiritual nature of the universal concept, which enables us to know that the intellectual faculty and its soul must be spiritual in nature.

          • Phil Tanny

            What if "spiritual" and "non-spiritual" are just human concepts which attempt to impose a division upon reality which doesn't actually exist?

          • Ficino

            Sure, but would the computer know whether those punch cards are out-of-order?

            I could have explained myself better. I was not arguing that a computer has intellect. I was just trying to draw a distinction between substances that have extension, and operations, which by definition are not substances (leaving God out of the discussion) and are not extended. My original post on this topic was saying that I don't see a problem that requires we posit an immaterial soul, since I didn't think that a thought is extended/made of matter.

            Not being a biologist or software engineer or architect, I can't comment from the perspective of those disciplines. As for Ryle, the example I gave is in his book. If you'd like to read the actual book and talk about it down the road, I'd have to go back and reread the thing myself.

          • F: I never understood why this is a problem. A computer is made of materials that are extended, but we don't say that there is a ghost in the computer that enables it to store the propositional content of the information it stores. A car is made of materials, but its speed is not made of materials. Why can't we just say that the brain is the organ that I think with, as the mouth etc are the organs that I speak with? There are lots of operations performed and ends achieved, and the operations and many of the ends aren't substances.

            F: I was just trying to draw a distinction between substances that have extension, and operations, which by definition are not substances (leaving God out of the discussion) and are not extended.

            First, aren't 'operations' are extended in time?

            Second, what makes something an 'operation' in a computer seems entirely dependent on human minds defining it that way. (Not all electron movement is part of an 'operation'.) If operations are parasitic on human thinking, human thinking cannot be "just an operation". The snake cannot eat its tail.

            My original post on this topic was saying that I don't see a problem that requires we posit an immaterial soul, since I didn't think that a thought is extended/made of matter. I.e. I'm declining to agree with the argument that if a thought is not extended, it must be the object/product of an operation of an agent that is not extended

            I confess that I don't really know what an 'immaterial soul' is—other than via definition which does not [consciously?] connect to any lived experience or thinking. I'm a very concrete, analytical being. I recognize the severe limits of both of these—I like Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary, although I've only made it through parts—but I have to work from where I'm at.

            Simultaneously, I have only the faintest of ideas to get computers to do anything like thinking, and that is via having two-level computation that is eerily like the immaterial/​material dichotomy. One needs purposes and mechanisms and an interplay between them. As it stands, computers don't do purposes, not in the slightest. I have no idea how purposes can be construed in terms of 'operation', except possibly as an infinite sequence where the limit-value is of fundamentally different kind than the sequence elements.

            Not being a biologist or software engineer or architect, I can't comment from the perspective of those disciplines.

            The important thing to note is that you cannot build higher and higher steel-reinforced concrete structures and eventually get a space tether. I long rejected evolution because it seemed to reason in precisely this way. What I failed to do was allow a void of matter/​mechanism for the time being. And here is where I find Dr. Bonnette's insistences so interesting: we humans just don't seem to start from matter/​mechanism! We seem to start from some sort of … 'global order'. In the beginning of his "The Unity of and Diversity of Natural Science", de Koninck quotes Aristotle:

            [the investigation of nature must] start from the things which are more knowable and certain to us and proceed towards those which are clearer and more certain in themselves; for the same things are not “knowable relatively to us” and “knowable” absolutely. So in the present inquiry we must follow this method and advance from what is more obscure by nature, but more certain to us, towards what is more certain and more knowable by nature.—Now what is to us plain and obvious at first is rather confused wholes, the elements and principles of which become known to us later by analysis. Thus we must advance from [vague] generalities to particulars. For it is a [vague] whole that is more known to sense perception, and a generality is likewise a kind of whole, comprising many things within it, like parts. Much the same happens in relation of the name to the definition. A name, such as “circle,” means vaguely a sort of whole: the definition analyses this whole into its parts [i.e. defining parts]. Similarly a child begins by calling all men “father,” and all women “mother,” but later on distinguishes each of them.’ (Physics, Bk. I, ch. 1, 184a17–184b14)

            My intuition tells me that Dr. Bonnette refuses to snap the tension Aristotle describes—the same tension which de Koninck quotes Bertrand Russell as describing right after—while accusing 'materialists' of downplaying “knowable relatively to us”. In essence, I take Dr. Bonnette to be accusing 'materialists' of doubting their own subjectivity, a subjectivity which if the Enlightenment scientists had doubted similarly, would have sapped them of the confidence to do the foundational science from which we benefit today. This doesn't mean our subjectivity is infallible, but I sense an insistence that it is actually less doubtable than is often claimed, and that if one doubts too much, one undermines oneself in a way which is first inconsistently held—perhaps only in the analytical parts of ourselves—but can spread until there is devastation in ability to think.

            Ok, that's a bit of a digression, but it does explain a bit why I myself find all this stuff intriguing, even though I claim virtually no competence in it.

            for Ryle, the example I gave is in his book. If you'd like to read the actual book and talk about it down the road, I'd have to go back and reread the thing myself.

            I'd be happy to do that starting in a month or two. I've been meaning to attack the Cartesian dualism thing more fully—I worry that far too much of my own thinking is infected by it.

          • Ficino

            First, aren't 'operations' are extended in time?

            I guess operations have duration... but I don't know enough to say whether every operation must take up time. I wouldn't say they are extended in time because many people refer to spatial extension when they talk about something's being "extended." An operation is not a body or collection of bodies was my point.

            Second, what makes something an 'operation' in a computer seems entirely dependent on human minds defining it that way.

            Yes, exactly. I would say the computer is an instrument. But at least in A-T, instrumental causes do real work, even though their causal efficacy depends on causes "higher" in an order of causes. I don't know how to analyze cases where the computer generates answers that I can't come up with myself. But whatever might be "added" by the computer, I don't see any reason to believe some sort of dualism about "mind" unless maybe a property dualism as suggested by Jim the Scott, about which I know nothing but the name.

            I confess that I don't really know what an 'immaterial soul' is

            Well, Dr. Bonnette seems to, unless I misread him, though he prefers the adjective "spiritual." A funny thing in Thomism is the status of disembodied souls after death but before the Resurrection. They are incomplete substances, according to some ... a lot of dispute about them in the literature. I think it's sketchy to try to shoehorn a hylomorphic theory of soul into a system that already had a doctrine that the soul exists apart from the body and goes places and undergoes experiences before being reunited with the (glorified) body. But Thomists try hard to reconcile these conceptions.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since you mention my name here, I hope you will forgive me for intruding to explain my own position. I use "spiritual" for the human soul, not be mere preference, but because is has operations totally independent of matter, such as forming a universal concept. Since the concept is spiritual in nature, the faculty that forms it must also be, since being spiritual (the concept) is a positive quality that requires a proportionate cause. Non-being cannot beget being. To the extent that the concept has real qualities not reducible to matter, the intellective faculty must itself be equally spiritual to produce them -- as must the soul that has such spiritual faculties.

            The fact that some -- even Aristotle and St. Thomas -- may have had a concept of incomplete substances does not mean that a coherent doctrine of life after death for the human soul cannot be proposed. Borrowing from theology, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (which St. Thomas failed to expect) teaches that Mary was conceived without original sin. This implies that her full personhood was present at conception, which is consistent with maintaining that the human soul with all its faculties, including intellect and will, are present from conception.

            If this is true, then at death the complete spiritual substance which is the human person survives until the resurrection of its body. It is thus capable of whatever experiences God wills to give it during its separation from a body. This is no problem for hylomorphism, since being the form is the act of the matter during life as fully as any substantial form of lower living things would be. Its only difference is that it maintains its own existence after separation from the matter/body, since it has purely spiritual operations that prove it can so survive independent from the body.

            I see no major problems here, as long as the metaphysics posits that the full human substance, with all its mature spiritual faculties, is present from conception. The fact that other theories are proposed that pose problems merely indicates that those other theories are wrong.

          • Ficino

            I use "spiritual" for the human soul, not be mere preference, but because is has operations totally independent of matter, such as forming a universal concept. Since the concept is spiritual in nature, the faculty that forms it must also be, since being spiritual (the concept) is a positive quality that requires a proportionate cause.

            So the brain is not an organ that we use when we exercise the faculty of reasoning? You are presenting the Aristotelian-Thomistic doctrine that the intellect operates by no bodily organ, just by intellectual soul?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It is more complicated than that. There is extrinsic dependence of the intellect upon bodily organs, but not intrinsic dependence.

            Specifically, as I suspect you already may know, the agent intellect which is universal in act uses the phantasm from the imagination to form the impressed intelligible species, which, in turn, moves the potential or passive intellect into its own proper act which is to understand the nature of the object contained in the phantasm. Thus, while this may be imprecise, given that this is not a scholarly paper, the intellect is dependent on the phantasm in order to get the species of the concept formed. But it is a spiritual operation on the part of the agent intellect to use the phantasm as the matter for the process of abstraction. Since the potential intellect is activated by a spiritual impressed intelligible species, it can go into its proper act of understanding the nature materially contained in the phantasm.

            Now, how does all this preserve the spirituality of the intellect while still using a material organ? The point is that, absent a phantasm, this whole intellectual process cannot take place. And you get a phantasm solely from the imagination which is not itself a spiritual faculty, but one, though itself not material, still operates under the conditions of matter -- and this because it depends on the function of the brain, which is a physical organ, for its operation.

            Thus, the intellect has extrinsic dependence on physical organs for its operations, just like a computer has independent existence from its data, but it cannot actually process information unless data in input into it. That is the meaning of "extrinsic dependence." Still, since the intellect has within this complex process, its own properly spiritual acts -- using the phantasm as merely an instrumental cause of the formation of the impressed intelligible species -- the spiritual intellect is absolutely NOT dependent on any physical organ of the body for its own existence.

          • Ficino

            Borrowing from theology, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (which St. Thomas failed to expect) teaches that Mary was conceived without original sin. This implies that her full personhood was present at conception, which is consistent with maintaining that the human soul with all its faculties, including intellect and will, are present from conception.

            If this is true,

            I don't see independent reason to sign on to metaphysical claims that rely on inferences from dogmas as premises.

            If you're claiming that a disembodied rational soul is the complete human being qua substance, then you've made the body only an accident a la Platonism. But if the disembodied soul is not the complete human being, then how is it not an incomplete substance? It hasn't turned into a member of any other species such that it's some different substance now.

            Since at death, the human substance is decomposed into a subsistent spiritual substantial form and decaying organic matter, what is left is neither two distinct substances (since the matter has now lost its unifying form)

            You are not denying that the matter of the dead body is resolved into the matter of other substances? But I agree that until decomposition issues in transformations, it is difficult to specify what new substances have the dead body's matter for their matter.

            These sorts of problems in hylomorphic accounts don't arise for the metaphysical naturalist.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I will center on this as the main point of your reply:

            "If you're claiming that a disembodied rational soul is the complete human being qua substance, then you've made the body only an accident a la Platonism. But if the disembodied soul is not the complete human being, then how is it not an incomplete substance? It hasn't turned into a member of any other species such that it's some different substance now."

            I mentioned the dogma of the Immaculate Conception simply to show that the concepts involved in this problem were actually addressed by later scholastics.

            The answer to your objection is that after death, while there is personal immortality of the human person, there is no longer a "complete human being." A complete human being must include the primary matter, which is lost at death. We have to be careful of what you mean by a "complete substance," since I think you are applying a notion derived from texts in Aristotle and St. Thomas which do not apply here, regardless of the question of their proper application in that other context.

            What is relevant here is that, while the matter is required in order to individuate the human being at conception, it is no longer required in order to individuate him after death. The reason is that once an individual existent has been created, it retains its individual act of existence thereafter, even though it may have needed matter to occasion its individuation before creation. It is now actualized as in individual in virtue of having its own act of existence already individualized. So, no, it does not revert to some kind of Platonic form that cannot be distinguished from all other such forms, which would mean there is only a single such form or species, with no individuals.

            The dead human person is still this person who lived this life with these unique acts he engaged in as a complete human being (however brief that life might have been). So, after death the human person perdures, since he is a supposit of a rational nature, even though that supposit is no longer the form that actualizes an actual human body.

          • Ficino

            The answer to your objection is that after death, while there is personal immortality of the human person, there is no longer a "complete human being." A complete human being must include the primary matter, which is lost at death. We have to be careful of what you mean by a "complete substance," since I think you are applying a notion derived from texts in Aristotle and St. Thomas which do not apply here, regardless of the question of their proper application in that other context.

            Dr. B, I appreciate the care with which you formulated your answer. I'm afraid I find the answer either destructive of A-T, in that it abandons the absolutely crucial concept of substance/substantial being, or else guilty of special pleading in the final sentence above.

            Let's let things sit for a while. I have more research to do on ancient mysteries and their financing than I can handle at the moment!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We can resume this later, but I must plead "not guilty" on both counts and note my reasons here before I forget the context.

            First, there is nothing wrong as I understand it with saying the separated human soul is a "complete substance." Bernard Wuellner's Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy (Bruce, 1956) defines "complete substance" as "a whole substance; a natural unit." It defines substance as "a being that has existence in itself and by virtue of itself as an ultimate distinct subject of being,"

            Since the separated human soul is a distinct thing in itself and separate from any other substance, it fulfills this standard definition of a complete substance. I point to this 1950s scholastic dictionary merely to show that my usage is consistent with recent Thomistic philosophy.

            As for what you mean by a "complete substance," I understand this to be correctly based on certain texts in Aristotle and St. Thomas that argue that until the organs develop sufficiently in the embryonic or fetal human organism, it does not have the faculties that need them in order to act -- faculties such as the intellect and will. This would mean that, say, the intellectual ability of the human organism is not present as a spiritual faculty until that time, and hence, the substance would not be "complete" with respect to all its mature essential properties.

            This understanding is also consistent with the ancient doctrine of "successive animation," whereby the human embryo first has a vegetative, then a sentient, and only last, a human soul during its development in the womb.

            The only problem with this is that it would mean that, while human life begins at conception, it would successively go through three distinct natural species during the process of maturation in the womb.

            That is why I mentioned the Catholic doctrine that Mary was conceived without original sin, which presupposes that she was a true human being at conception. I am not dragging in dogma as proof of a philosophical doctrine, but I am pointing to it as evidence that the philosophical notion that the soul is rational from conception is not alien to Thomistic philosophy -- or else, surely, many theologians and philosophers would have so objected to this dogma before it was defined.

            Regardless, nothing says that the faculties in question cannot begin to exist before they are first enabled to function through the proper organs. It is perfectly reasonable to argue that members of a species are essentially the same throughout their entire lives. The standard Thomistic reading of species today presupposes that the essence is complete from beginning to end. That is why even loss of the exercise of the intellect or will does not argue against the rights and dignity of the comatose or dying, since the presumption is that the soul remains fully present even though the faculties cannot work because of organic defects.

            There is absolutely no incoherence whatever in maintaining that the spiritual human soul and its faculties can be present from conception, but that the essential powers are activated only when the physical organs reach a stage of development needed for their exercise.

            Perhaps, one need not accept this understanding, but neither is it contrary to reason. There is no proof that the existence of the properties must await the development of the organs that enable their use.

            As a matter of fact, given that philosophical natural species are enumerated in terms of the presence or absence of essential powers, the view that man is a single rational species from conception to grave has Occam's razor screaming in its favor -- compared to a theory that would require substantial changes from vegetative life to animal life to rational life, all in the same organism!

            That is why it is hardly a case of "special pleading" to insist that the simplest explanation is to say that the substance is "complete" with all its faculties from conception to death -- despite the apparently contrary texts of Aristotle and St. Thomas -- texts probably greatly influenced by the archaic biology of their time.

          • Ficino

            I'm writing the following despite really needing to work on another problem... Above I was talking about the discarnate soul after the human person's death. I haven't done an in-depth study of the problem from the Thomistic POV. What I've read of Ralph McInerney says the discarnate soul is naturally incomplete.

            Someone on the Classical Theism board some time ago said this issue is the question, whether Aquinas was a survivalist or a corruptionist, i.e. does the human subject survive in the separated soul, or does the subject undergo corruption, leaving the separated soul as something less than the subject.

            My notes from Feser's article in the Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism include this:
            "So when soul is separated from body, the human being continues as “a radically incomplete substance, as the stub of a human being, reduced to the bare minimum consistent with there being a human being at all.” That bare minimum is incorporeal, the intellective and volitional functions, not even with mental representations/phantasms, which require a brain. Death is “a full body amputation” but the immaterial parts of the human persist. soul is the substantial form of the living thing. It’s often said that the human soul is the substantial form of the living human body, and that’s true as far as the body goes but can mislead because the human is a substance that is not entirely corporeal. Aquinas would reject the thesis that soul is only form of body. For him, soul is form of the human, a substance that has corporeal and incorporeal operations. Soul is form of a substance that is corporeal in some respects and incorporeal in others. Human operations include two that are not carried on by organs. Soul survives the body because it is not the form of the body qua body but of the substance that is the man. So Aquinas thinks of the disembodied soul as an “incomplete substance,” not a non-substance.

            Perhaps modern followers of Aquinas reject the above?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            From what I read above, I think I would agree with most all of it. I think the problem is what one means by "incomplete substance." But sometimes the best thing is to spell out the details of what you mean exactly. That is what you have done above, and I have no problem with it as far as I can see initially. Death sucks. We are a very truncated substance after death, but "complete" in the sense that we are still an independent being, separate from other things. Still, the soul IS the form, not only of the body -- which just got amputated, but of the three spiritual faculties (passive and active intellects and will) that remain active -- but mostly dependent on God's direct infusion of knowledge.

            I just do not see why you seem to see a problem with all this -- once the distinctions you yourself report above are made.

            I know you are very busy for now and we can resume this later. I just don't think there is a huge problem here -- except for the fact that you don't seem to think it is all true!

            (Incidentally, I not only knew Ralph McInerny at Notre Dame, but also studied quite a bit under Charles DeKoninck there.)

          • Phil Tanny

            It defines substance as "a being that has existence in itself and by virtue of itself as an ultimate distinct subject of being

            Nothing in all of reality has existence in itself.

            "Things" are an illusion, a pattern of division imposed upon the single unified reality by the inherently divisive functioning of the human mind.

            As example, if I'm wearing tinted sunglasses all of reality will appear tinted no matter where I look. That's because the tint is not a property of what is being observed, but instead a property of the tool being used to make the observation.

            Catholic doctrine speaks to this with it's claim that God is ever present in all times and places, which effectively means there really is only one "thing".

          • I guess operations have duration... but I don't know enough to say whether every operation must take up time. I wouldn't say they are extended in time because many people refer to spatial extension when they talk about something's being "extended." An operation is not a body or collection of bodies was my point.

            But … when can an operation not be construed as "merely" one or more bodies acting on one or more other bodies? In that case, it seems one could be deflationary about the very existence of that 'operation'—other than in Dennett's intentional stance sense. If you deny true purpose/​teleology to the operation, then you [definitely] need no mind behind it. And we generally see no mind between the molecules in a gas bumping into each other in a closed container. But the 'operations' which go on there are exceedingly different from the 'operations' which go on in our minds.

            But at least in A-T, instrumental causes do real work, even though their causal efficacy depends on causes "higher" in an order of causes.

            But aren't instrumental causes (efficient causes?) blind to the formal and/or final causes in which they are … embedded?

            I don't know how to analyze cases where the computer generates answers that I can't come up with myself.

            You'd want to see how widely computers can do this. If it's only in a few very narrow domains—such as finding a full set of cases which would prove the four color theorem—that is very different than computers being able to outcompete humans in all areas if only you give them enough computational cycles and memory and information. My suggestion is that maybe in any way computers outpace humans, it's like building higher with steel-reinforced concrete: "more and more" will eventually fail to build higher, and any attempts to do so will collapse under their own weight.

            But whatever might be "added" by the computer, I don't see any reason to believe some sort of dualism about "mind" unless maybe a property dualism as suggested by Jim the Scott, about which I know nothing but the name.

            One reason to suggest some sort of dualism is if humans can meaningfully choose between alternative courses of action. Nature seems to just go whatever trajectory it will and at "decision points"[1], there is no reason for one path being "chosen" over the other—except probability. This is a place where 'causes' ≠ 'reasons'. To see that distinction explored (as well as the possibility that there is no distinction), I would recommend Martin Hollis' Models of Man: Philosophical Thoughts on Social Action.

            [1] See for example Lagrangian points made use of by the Interplanetary Superhighway—pass through them with the right trajectory and an infinitesimal thrust can send you on radically different trajectories. This is actively used by spacecraft, but the same can happen to inert objects—minus the thrust part.

            A funny thing in Thomism is the status of disembodied souls after death but before the Resurrection.

            I have seen [Protestant theologian] Roger Olson discuss some of his debates over the 'intermediate state'. I don't really know how to enter such discussions if there's no pragmatic way to test them. I will leave you with the first answer to the Physics.SE question Why is information indestructable?. It's a fun way I have of showing that "souls" could easily persist after death.

            I think it's sketchy to try to shoehorn a hylomorphic theory of soul into a system that already had a doctrine that the soul exists apart from the body and goes places and undergoes experiences before being reunited with the (glorified) body.

            The kind of 'soul' which went down to Sheol or which Jesus could possibly have been to the disciples was very shady, unable to do simple things like eat. It seems justifiable to try to add some substance to that 'soul'. :-p

          • I'll dedicate a different reply to this so as to keep the currently-running discussion from getting muddied:

            LB: Maybe some of the things/​processes out there in reality are too complex for anything short of a mind to understand them. I don't see why this has to be offensive.

            F: Who's offended?

            It is my experience that many of the kinds of people who end up being scientists and philosophers and intellectuals involved in the aforementioned tend to want to have a sort of complete grasp of all that reality could possibly be. This grasp can be a singular scientific method: Paul Feyerabend fought against that in Against Method and some claim he was ostracized from philosophers of science because of his heresy. Another form of this grasp can be seen in Sean Carroll's Seriously, The Laws Underlying The Physics of Everyday Life Really Are Completely Understood (update with nice visualization). An interlocutor of mine seems to have just followed in Carroll's footsteps by saying that we have "expanded our knowledge of science and nature from nearly zero to nearly complete" with clarification "Regarding our knowledge of the fundamentals of nature, I speak as a physicist."

            Another way to explore this is via William James' dichotomy:

            The Tender-Minded
            Rationalistic (going by 'principles'), Intellectualistic, Idealistic, Optimistic, Religious, Free-willist, Monistic, Dogmatical.
            The Tough-Minded
            Empiricist (going by 'facts'), Sensationalistic, Materialistic, Pessimistic, Irreligious, Fatalistic, Pluralistic, Sceptical.
            (Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking)

            Ostensibly, the former are the people I'm talking about. However, it actually seems to me that plenty of empiricists are also monistic and dogmatic about that monism. Very few people seem willing to say that our present resources are probably not up to the task of understanding X, but that maybe improvements will fix things. Even Colin McGinn, in The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World, wanted to assume he had the basics for understanding everything that could possibly be understood by us: when it came to consciousness—which he thinks is fully material—he thinks we probably don't have what it takes.

            So many of us just don't want to work from finite perspectives, such that when we combine our powers with others working from finite perspectives, we are unlike the blind men and an elephant. So many of us want to be autonomous and fully capable in principle / potentially, rather than a small piece of a very big puzzle where no individual is omnicompetent. Perhaps this has to do with a severe lack of trust: if I really cannot understand your role such that you could choose to take advantage of me and I just wouldn't know, then I will somehow alter things so this is no longer the case. There is a tremendous amount of politicking in academia which can be attributed to this basic problem. So for example, if an academician can force everyone else [who matters] to come to him/her on his/her own terms, that is a way of maintaining control and establishing stability for oneself.

            Thoughts? I could go on, but I think I've said [more than?] enough.

          • Ficino

            I'm sorry, this discussion is getting too complicated for the time I have available, and it's also getting way out of my area!

          • Alas. Well, let me know if you want to get into Gilbert Ryle's Concept of Mind starting one or two months out.

          • Phil Tanny

            Very few people seem willing to say that our present resources are probably not up to the task of understanding X

            And fewer yet seem willing to say that not being capable of understanding X could possibly be a good thing.

            The intellectual "elites" you reference above are clinging blindly to a simplistic "more is better" relationship with knowledge left over from our past. That era ended 75 years ago at Hiroshima, a lifetime ago.

            It is my experience that many of the kinds of people who end up being scientists and philosophers and intellectuals involved in the
            aforementioned tend to want to have a sort of complete grasp of all that
            reality could possibly be.

            Yes, a very human urge which willfully ignores that the overwhelming majority of reality at every scale is what we typically refer to as "nothing". Thus, any mind crammed to overflowing with conceptual "somethings" is already out of touch with the nature of reality.

          • Welcome back, Phil!

            And fewer yet seem willing to say that not being capable of understanding X could possibly be a good thing.

            Well, you can see this answer to the Phil.SE question What did Russell intend to achieve with “The Impact of Science on Society”?. If moral prowess does not keep up with technological ability, that's a bad thing. We don't give sharp knives to two-year-olds.

            The intellectual "elites" you reference above are clinging blindly to a simplistic "more is better" relationship with knowledge left over from our past. That era ended 75 years ago at Hiroshima, a lifetime ago.

            You want to start at Hiroshima instead of WWI? Ok, I guess—the human mind apparently has a nonlinear response to badness such that the more compact in spacetime, the more the signal is likely to rise above the noise … as it were. Anyhow, at this point I say we need to understand how we manage to justify being so screwed up—enough such that we don't deeply and fully repent.

            Yes, a very human urge which willfully ignores that the overwhelming majority of reality at every scale is what we typically refer to as "nothing". Thus, any mind crammed to overflowing with conceptual "somethings" is already out of touch with the nature of reality.

            I wonder if you'd like Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. He contrasts 'original participation', which is an unconscious (or nonreflective) engagement in the world and society, to a kind of distancing by 'collective representations', which possibly match up to 'concepts'. I think he might be ok with how Iain McGilchrist put it:

            Chapter 6: The Triumph of the Left Hemisphere
            Looking back over the evidence I have discussed in the previous chapter from philosophy, neurology and neuropsychology, it would appear that there is a good chance that the right hemisphere may be seeing more of the whole picture. Despite the left hemisphere's conviction of its own self-sufficiency, everything about the relationship of the hemispheres to one another and to reality suggests the primacy of the right hemisphere, both in grounding experience (at the bottom level) and in reconstituting left-hemisphere-processed experience once again as living (at the top level). We have also seen that many important aspects of experience, those that the right hemisphere is particularly well equipped to deal with – our passions, our sense of humour, all metaphoric and symbolic understanding (and with it the metaphoric and symbolic nature of art), all religious sense, all imaginative and intuitive processes – are denatured by becoming the object of focussed attention, which renders them explicit, therefore mechanical, lifeless. The value of the left hemisphere is precisely in making explicit, but this is a staging post, an intermediate level of the ‘processing’ of experience, never the starting point or end point, never the deepest, or the final, level. The relationship between the hemispheres is therefore highly significant for the type of world we find ourselves living in. (The Master and His Emissary, 209)

            —given "Reality furnishes man with a living content. Of this living content he puts to death that part which invades his ordinary consciousness." (The Case for Anthroposophy, 54–55) That seems like it might be up your alley. Then we can possibly connect those 'concepts' with the 'idols' below:

            Their idols are silver and gold,
                the work of human hands.
            They have mouths, but do not speak;
                eyes, but do not see.
            They have ears, but do not hear;
                noses, but do not smell.
            They have hands, but do not feel;
                feet, but do not walk;
                and they do not make a sound in their throat.
            Those who make them become like them;
                so do all who trust in them.
            (Psalm 115:4–8)

          • Phil Tanny

            If moral prowess does not keep up with technological ability, that's a bad thing.

            Yes, that's it. And there is no chance that the glacial pace of moral development will be able to match the accelerating emergence of technological ability, so the gap between the two is ever widening.

            Intellectual elites will claim they understand this, but if they did they wouldn't always be competing with each other to see who can deliver the most new knowledge.

            Most elite commentary is very intelligent, sophisticated and articulate, but if it's not challenging our relationship with knowledge in a fundamental manner it's basically 19th century thinking.

            Our relationship with knowledge is a fascinating topic to me, as it applies equally to both science and religion.

            Anyhow, at this point I say we need to understand how we manage to justify being so screwed up—enough such that we don't deeply and fully repent

            The reason such problems are so intractable is that the "so screwed up" aspects of the human condition are built in to the nature of thought. As evidence, such problems occur in every time and place, and thus can not be the result of this or that philosophy or cultural circumstance etc.

            Once the true source of human problems is seen to be the medium of thought itself, that insight transforms one's relationship with philosophy, because it becomes clear that changing from one philosophy to another will never solve these fundamental problems, which is in fact what the evidence of history clearly shows.

            The right hemisphere vs. left hemisphere topic is very interesting. It is revealing to me personally, because if one has a brain heavily inclined towards the big picture hemisphere, but lives in a society built around specialization, career problems may ensue.

            I heard an hour long interview with Iain McGilchrist on NPR, found it fascinating, and continue to reflect upon it regularly.

          • Most elite commentary is very intelligent, sophisticated and articulate, but if it's not challenging our relationship with knowledge in a fundamental manner it's basically 19th century thinking.

            If you believe that, I suggest checking out Richard Posner's Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, in which he discusses how many public intellectuals empirically function as entertainment and nothing else. From there, you could explore Albert Schutz' idea of 'recipe knowledge', whereby what many intellectuals know is a language and how to deploy it—but little more. And then one could explore Chris Hedges' scathing criticisms of so many contemporary elites, from a position of having interacted with a good sampling of them. I myself think we have a trahison des clercs on our hands, which is exceedingly different from your "very intelligent"—unless you and I define 'intelligent' very differently or unless you are being facetious.

            Our relationship with knowledge is a fascinating topic to me, as it applies equally to both science and religion.

            The idea that science is value-neutral needs some serious investigation, which Heather Douglas starts in Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal. One could also consult Hilary Putnam's The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy. We take far too much for granted, probably because it's good enough in the judgment of many and in the judgment of enough of the others, anything else would destabilize the status quo.

            The reason such problems are so intractable is that the "so screwed up" aspects of the human condition are built in to the nature of thought.

            How do you distinguish this from it being a contingent behavior of humans? The nature/​nurture debate is fantastically complex, as Massimo Pigliucci demonstrates quite nicely. See his blog post The false dichotomy of nature-nurture … or his book Phenotypic Plasticity: Beyond Nature and Nurture (1900 'citations')—which should show up in WP: Phenotypic plasticity and shows up in e.g. Phenotypic plasticity in development and evolution: facts and concepts (270 'citations').

            As evidence, such problems occur in every time and place, and thus can not be the result of this or that philosophy or cultural circumstance etc.

            Perhaps it would behoove you to take the Jewish and Christians scriptures more seriously, perhaps with the help of Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. Unless you've really comprehensively surveyed the empirical evidence, 'some' ⇒ 'all' reasoning is exceedingly dangerous. If you care about what is true and possible.

            Glad you liked McGilchrist. I need to read the rest of his book!

          • Not sure about interact, but it's the same way an orange is related to the concept of spheroid. Spheroid is a concept it's a way of thinking.

          • Not sure about interact, →

            Maybe that's because there is zero way for the extended-in-space to interact with the not-extended-in-space, unless you start granting not-extended-in-space properties to 'matter'.

            ← but it's the same way an orange is related to the concept of spheroid. Spheroid is a concept it's a way of thinking.

            From what I understand, a major anchor of Dr. Bonnette's article is that we [apparently] obviously use not-extended-in-space concepts. Those claiming that the not-extended-in-space can easily be reduced to the extended-in-space should not be believed until they actually show how that would work.

            If you know your history of science, you'll know that various ways of thinking worked really well for periods of time, and then ran out of gas or were relegated to much less than "all of reality". So for example, the kind of abstract mathematics Newton used was supposed to explain everything, but it didn't. Then classical physics was supposed to explain everything, but it didn't. Then quantum physics and general relativity were supposed to explain everything, but they don't. Well, 'matter' is supposed to explain everything, but what if it doesn't? Why is that so offensive? Why do you cling so strongly to 'matter'?

            My guess is that you think that adding to 'matter' is to add complete and utter lawlessness. If we do not cling to our utter predictability, then all is lost! But I don't see this as necessarily true. It's not like Dr. Bonnette's not-extended-in-space concepts are lawless.

          • Yes I agree depending on what you mean by interaction. Concepts don't "interact" with matter because they aren't independent of it, they don't exist fundamentally. They are abstractions about material.

            I would say time and space themselves are secondary to matter as well.

            I take the position that concepts are reducible to material, fundamentally. I can't prove it conclusively, feel free not to accept it.

            But the claim advanced here is that concepts cannot be reduced to material, and I am saying this has not been demonstrated.

            I don't pretend we have a model that explains everything on materialism or any other metaphysical point of view.

            No I don't think adding to matter is lawlessness. I don't think it makes reality arbitrary. I just don't think we are warranted to say anything immaterial is fundamental.

          • Yes I agree depending on what you mean by interaction. Concepts don't "interact" with matter because they aren't independent of it, they don't exist fundamentally. They are abstractions about material.

            I don't see how this matters to the discussion at hand; if I'm thinking about a concept, my neurons are doing something, yes? Well, how is that concept anything other than what some subset of my neurons are doing? If that is all the concept is, then it is 100% extended-in-space[ and time]. And yet, you seem to think we need Dr. Bonnette's concepts—which are not extended in space and time.

            I would say time and space themselves are secondary to matter as well.

            Can you expand on this? I don't know how to compare & contrast 'secondary' vs. 'primary'.

            But the claim advanced here is that concepts cannot be reduced to material, and I am saying this has not been demonstrated.

            I don't think this is quite right, because I don't think you have a rigorous definition of 'material'. Because of your lack of rigor, 'material' can morph and change to explain what our current concepts of 'material' simply cannot explain. If you set no bounds on how 'material' can morph and change, then 'material' could indeed take on properties that are not extended in space or time.

            Dr. Bonnette, on the other hand, seems to be dealing with 'material' which is essentially extended in space and time. So I sense a deep equivocation on the terms 'material', 'matter', and 'nature', between the two of you.

            I just don't think we are warranted to say anything immaterial is fundamental.

            In that case, what exists will always be more true than words about it. But of course that immediately destabilizes your words, here. Unless you think your sentence here is crucially and fundamentally 'material'?

          • Fundamentally, the thinking of the concept is just neurons firing. The concept itself, doesn't really exist. It's imagined. Just like you imagine the Dark side of the force, or justice, you hold a concept of it, but it's imaginary. It's an abstraction based on commonalities of a number of things you associate. Those things and events exist in space or time you thinking about does too, but it doesn't.

            Sure, space and time don't exist on their own and material happens in them. What are the dimensions bid space? They are the distances of material objects at right angles. What is time, what a clock measures, or changes in the spacial dimensions. Space and time are distinct attributes of material. Space and time depend on material.

            I think all ultimate definitions in metaphysics are going to fail in your estimation. Immaterial and spiritual here have even worse definitions. They are defined by excluding themselves from the material, which is not well defined either.

            Yes, I'm a Materialist, I think everything is fundamentally material.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "The concept itself, doesn't really exist. It's imagined. "

            How can you say this after seeing seventeen clear differences between the image and the concept?

            Is your materialistic worldview based on simply ignoring evidence?

          • There are more than 17 differences between Narnia and Pakistan, doesn't mean Narnia isn't imagined.

            I don't know what you mean by "real knowledge", but I'm not denying we hold concepts intellectually, but rather they aren't things that exist independent of our thoughts.

            Materialism is not a worldview, it is a metaphysical perspective. It is not based on ignoring evidence.

          • Phil Tanny

            Is your materialistic worldview based on simply ignoring evidence?

            Dr. B, you will become more credible if you are able to admit that you aren't really doing reason, but instead ideology. You start with the collection of conclusions you wish to hold, and then present a series of sophisticated arguments to promote and defend those conclusions. That's not reason, that's ideology. It seems philosophy professors at least should be clear about the difference.

            While this pattern is so common as to almost define the human condition, we should be clear that such a procedure is not really an act of reason. Reason is, much like religious faith, better described as an act of surrender. We don't get to row the boat to wherever we want to go, but instead surrender to wherever the process takes us.

            Few of us here, this poster most likely included, really have little interest in surrendering to a process. Instead, each of us has our favorite flag which we enjoy waving. And when we strip away all the pseudo sophistication layered on top, the flag most of us are waving most of the time are our male egos.

          • Fundamentally, the thinking of the concept is just neurons firing.

            But what does this rule out? For example, F = GmM/r^2 rules out F = GmM/r^2.0001. That makes F = GmM/r^2 very "brittle". What you say here seems to be almost the antithesis of "brittle". I'm not sure I can conceive of any remotely "nearby" observable phenomena which would falsify it. I can think of some crazy scenarios, but that's not generally how science works!

            The concept itself, doesn't really exist. It's imagined.

            Neurons can only interact with that which exists.

            Just like you imagine the Dark side of the force, or justice, you hold a concept of it, but it's imaginary. It's an abstraction based on commonalities of a number of things you associate.

            The original Star Trek was very good at showing how computers are bad at doing "justice". That is, whatever "justice" is, it appears not to be something mechanically computable. Apparently you believe the Star Trek script writers were simply wrong, on this?

            Sure, space and time don't exist on their own →

            You realize this is a radical departure from Galileo and Newton, right? I'm curious about why you've made it.

            ← and material happens in them.

            Can you define 'material' with zero reference to space or time? You seem to be giving 'material' ontological priority over them and I wonder if that actually works.

            What are the dimensions bid space? They are the distances of material objects at right angles.

            How does this account for the stretching of space, associated with dark energy?

            I think all ultimate definitions in metaphysics are going to fail in your estimation.

            Well, all mechanical definitions in metaphysics will fail in my estimation, because I think reality is infinitely complex, though arbitrarily comprehensible by humans because we are made imago Dei. You can speak instead in terms of "all that exists", but then your language has to be fuzzy, to allow for any and all error between your approximations and the infinite complexity of reality.

            Immaterial and spiritual here have even worse definitions.

            This is necessarily true, if they are contrasted against Descartes' "clear and distinct ideas". However, Descartes has his own issues, as quantum physicist Bernard d'Espagnat explains:

            2-5 Trajectories and Misleading "Pieces of Evidence"
            In the debates for and against realism what, within the scientific community, long turned the scales in favor of (physical or objectivist, or etc.) realism was the fact that explaining visible, complex features by means of invisible simple ones was generally successful. Here "simple" means "describable by means of clear, distinct ideas." So that it is—still now—quite often thought (and even considered obvious!) that assuming that the objects theories label by names really exist can only be a help in research. Along these lines some epistemologists consider, for instance, that to claim that any electron exists by itself—with such and such known or unknown individual properties—still is the best way we have of understanding phenomena involving electrons.
                It is quite important to know that this is not in the least true, that, systematized in this way, such a view not only does not help at all but is even quite likely to mislead us. Thus, for example, the idea that each one of the electrons in an atom is individually in one definite quantum state (lies on one definite "orbit") is just simply erroneous. (According to the only operationally non misleading picture we have, every one of them lies simultaneously on all the "allowed" orbits.) In other words, there are situations in which the vocabulary we use—and in particular such words as "electron," "particle," and so on—is suggestive of "pieces of evidence" that are, finally, but erroneous ones. (On Physics and Philosophy, 38–39)

            Rigorous analysis once again shows that what we thought was so, ain't.

            Yes, I'm a Materialist, I think everything is fundamentally material.

            Including this claim? If this claim is made purely of 'material', then what makes it correct?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Did either ever ask you a single question?

            This does not mean a human rephrases demands for treats, etc. in question form. The asking of questions that scientists and philosophers mean is along the lines of "What's that, Daddy?" or "What causes rainbows, Mommy?" or "Why is the sky blue?" IOW speculative wisdom.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But all of these powers involve physical handling of material things in present time. The combination of imagination and memory can perform wonderful things that may seem to be acts of the intellect, but on closer inspection, these tend to evaporate, since they are typically humans reading into animal behavior. Even the very facts sometimes run through our fingers, like Koko's "conversations" or the dolphin craze of the 1960s.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            For St. Thomas or Aristotle, man is defined properly by reason,and reason is most of all verified in speculative wisdom. ... Do we reallyneed to ask whether non-human animals have developed systems of physics, speculative mathematics, and metaphysical wisdom?

            The distinction between reason and imagination, however, rests on a mode of analysis that is not metrical and therefore not open to analysis by the scientific method. It rests on our experience of a universal term which transcends any object given by a sense power. Aristotle will describe the difference as between seeing flesh and seeing what flesh is (this role of the ‘what it is’ dovetails with the idea that reason is most of all speculative).

            -- James Chastek

            See also: https://thomism.wordpress.com/2007/02/16/intellect-imagination-and-s

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Are there examples of animal problem solving that do not involve the physical manipulations of present-tense material objects? IOW, in what way is problem-solving related to the distinction between perception [images] and conception [concept]?

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Even claims that these animals could answer questions is suspect. Terrace's very detailed discourse analyses showed that many claims by trainers were not supported by the actual behavior of the primate involved. Trainers tended to overinterpret their subjects responses and, when, given a series of "replies," to select the one that would be appropriate -- ignoring all the rest.

  • Dr. Bonnette, do you think Walker Percy's The Fateful Rift gets at the distinction you're talking about? For example, he talks about the moment Helen Keller's realized that all these various sense impressions were all the same—water—and it revolutionized her life. He also has great quips such as:

    To say that mind is a property or function of the organization of the brain is almost the same as saying that Raphael’s Orleans Madonna is a property of paint and color. (3)

    We are still stuck in Cartesian dualism, Percy claims. He's not alone; David Braine argues the same in the beginning of The Human Person: Animal and Spirit. Chomsky, interesting enough, argues the following:

    It is commonly believed that Newton showed that the world is a machine, following mechanical principles, and that we can therefore dismiss “the ghost in the machine,” the mind, with appropriate ridicule. The facts are the opposite: Newton exorcised the machine, leaving the ghost intact. The mind-body problem in its scientific form did indeed vanish as unformulable, because one of its terms, body, does not exist in any intelligible form. Newton knew this very well, and so did his great contemporaries. (Science, Mind, and Limits of Understanding)

    Percy argues that we have simply absorbed the Cartesian dualism into our bones and no longer find it odd. We deny it at the theoretical level and linguistic level—at least the Enlightened "we"—but we march forward with it nonetheless. Percy goes on to say that he thinks Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) developed critical tools for overcoming this dualism, via asserting realism against the nominalists by positing language as the precise place where mind and matter—that "great modern rift"—intersect. (5) I will stop here because I still don't understand what Percy is saying all that well.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I may come across as sounding biased, but I think that Descartes' radical division of mind and body left modern philosophy, and later science, adrift with a totally unrealistic understanding of reality. Yes, Descartes saves the mind (soul), but by so splitting it from the physical world of the body that no one could figure out how to bridge the gap he created.

      Thus, we see today scientific materialists and naturalists looking at man as merely a highly developed animal -- reducing human mental life, and even language, to mere functions of neural patterns in the brain.

      Yes, Peirce made good effort to reopen some understanding that mechanisms alone cannot explain many human activities. But the fact is that Descartes so derailed the whole discussion that we lost much of the careful insights worked out centuries earlier by classical philosophers.

      For one thing, the very fact that we think in terms of extreme dualism both distorts reality and also makes it less intelligible. The sophistication of hylemorphism is that it can recognize in the image a phenomenon that is both immaterial in that it itself is not extended in space, and yet, still point out that the image is tied to the material world by the sign that it always presents itself under the conditions of matter.

      The sophistication of hylemorphism is that it can conceive of things as being grossly physical (just extended in space), spiritual ( not extended in space and not dependent on anything extended in space), and also, a third intermediate state of things not themselves extended in space, and yet, dependent on things extended in space (for example, the image itself, which is always under the conditions of matter, but yet is not itself extended in space).

      Using the tools of Thomistic thought, my article on ape-language studies deals with many of the same "characters" that Percy describes.
      See: https://www.godandscience.org/evolution/ape-language.html

      There I deal with the themes Percy mentions, but in far greater detail -- not by my own genius, but using distinctions given us by St. Thomas Aquinas long ago -- distinctions that reveal the spiritual nature of the human soul, something that Peirce never quite found.

      Hylemorphism actually permits greater precision than even modern advocates of dualism are able to attain, since the radical split between mind and body of Descartes misses the subtle sophistication of hylemorphism's three layers of reality: (1) matter, (2) spirit, and (3) organic realities that are immaterial in themselves, but yet dependent upon matter (for example, the brain) for their existence and function.

      Before we can begin to realistically understand the real relationship between matter and spirit, we need to grasp the subtle intersections of the two extremes that Aristotle's thought permits us to understand, and which modern extreme dualism simply misses.

      • I'm trying to wrap my mind around this, and in particular what the … sheer plane is, between what primates can do and what humans can do. Walker Percy describes this as the "fateful rift". The sign 'water'—the same pattern traced on Helen Keller's hand for many different kinds of water—seems like it may well be that intermediate thing between res cogitans and res extensa. Is there some way to explore what capabilities are only opened up by having this ability? Your essay, A Philosophical Critical Analysis of Recent Ape-Language Studies, shows that mere associational memory and stimulus–response behavior can explain an awful lot. Trying to say just what the limitations of that seem a bit like asking what the limitations of having only a shovel are—you can build world wonders, but you can't fill the map with modern cities. The boundary is fuzzy, if one only examines phenomena.

        Perhaps a specific example can help:

        On the contrary, the intellect penetrates beyond the sensible appearances of things to their essential nature. Even at the level of its first act (that is, simple apprehension or abstraction), the intellect “reads within” the sensible qualities of an entity—thereby grasping intelligible aspects which it raises to the level of the universal concept. (A Philosophical Critical Analysis of Recent Ape-Language Studies)

        Your first sentence immediately reminded me of the following:

        When [Jesse & family] came, [Samuel] looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6–7)

        I grew up being taught that there is a serious difference between:

             (I) judging by appearances
            (II) judging by the heart

        However, the claim here is that it is not natural for humans to judge by the heart. Does this mean it is not natural for humans to "penetrate beyond the sensible appearances of things"? At least, not natural back in King David's time, by which times humans had figured out how to build civilizations. Or are you getting at something other than the (I)/(II) dichotomy?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I appreciate your taking the time to read my article on ape-language studies. It is the most comprehensive analysis I know of to show the difference between what humans can do and what animals can do. But the key to the article is not merely its ability to explain animal behavior without granting them human intelligence. The real key is Woodbury's four proofs that animals do not possess intellect near the end of the article. That is the element most overlooked by even readers of my article, and it is certainly the element that most animal researchers fail to understand.

          • Phil Tanny

            But the key to the article is not merely its ability to explain animal behavior without granting them human intelligence.

            Human intelligence is the primary barrier to experience of God, as explained in the Book of Genesis.

            We ate the apple of knowledge, and were expelled from the garden of eden. That is, we became so immersed in the symbolic realm that we lost the intimate primal bond with nature (ie. God) that "lower" animals enjoy.

            The story retains it's relevance some 3,000 years after it was written because it speaks to what you and I are doing right now.

          • We ate the apple of knowledge

            Woah, there: we ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which plausibly is the one tree with fruit with no seeds in it. (compare Gen 1:29 and 2:15–17) Fruit without seeds is fruit which does not give life—it's a dead-end. Thinking you can know good & evil just by eating a piece of fruit is ridiculous, but it does serve one desire: to not be dependent on anyone else to tell you anything about what is good and evil. So for example, if someone tells you she doesn't like you when you do X, you can decide that you know better, don't have to listen to her, and then you just go ahead and do X anyways. I'm riffing on Alistair McFadyen, here:

                The doctrine of the fall means that the question of the right practice of relations (ethics) has to be relocated. The ethical question cannot be equated with possession of the knowledge of the difference between good and evil, for that is precisely the form of self-possession which led to the fall. Adam and Eve thought they could dispute what God's Word really meant, get behind it to judge both it and God.[35] The assumption that we have the capacity to know the difference between right and wrong and to act upon it is in itself and on its own already a corruption of the image. It isolates one from God and others because what is right for one and others is assumed to be already known. The assumption that one already knows what is right stops communication because no new information or external agency is necessary. In what follows I will describe the image and its redemption as a relational process of seeking what is right in openness to others and God and thereby to the fact that one's understanding and capacity are fundamentally in question.

            The choice between good and evil implies that people are already in touch with reality and their only task is its administration . . . The choice between good and evil calls elements within our environment into question: the real ethical question calls us into question.[36]

            Consequently the focus on our own possibilities is replaced by an emphasis on our need of, and thereby our relations with, God and others. (The Call to Personhood, 43–44)

          • Phil Tanny

            Apologies, but it has nothing to do with good and evil, sin and judgment and all that stuff.

            Knowledge. Focus on that word. Knowledge is a collection of symbols in our mind. Knowledge is the source of our earthly power, so we love it, but the price tag is that our obsession with the symbolic realm pulls our attention out of the real world, where presumably a real God would reside.

            We can not think our way to God, because God is real, and symbols are not.

          • PT: We ate the apple of knowledge

            LB: Woah, there: we ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil …

            PT: Apologies, but it has nothing to do with good and evil, sin and judgment and all that stuff.

            So the Bible I have is wrong and the one you have is right?

            Knowledge. Focus on that word. Knowledge is a collection of symbols in our mind.

            That sounds like you imposing your philosophy on the Bible. Possibly you are living on Modernity's side of what the rift Jacob Klein describes in Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra, and projecting it back on the ANE.

            We can not think our way to God, because God is real, and symbols are not.

            We cannot think our way to God, because God is infinite and we are finite. If he doesn't reach down to us and lift us up, we're stuck.

          • It is the most comprehensive analysis I know of to show the difference between what humans can do and what animals can do.

            In that case, I definitely suggest David Braine's The Human Person: Animal and Spirit and perhaps also his Language and Human Understanding: The Roots of Creativity in Speech and Thought. Note that his third book, The Reality of Time and the Existence of God: The Project of Proving God's Existence, is A–T philosophy. He zeros in on causation, arguing that non-causal arguments about God's existence are of little interest to most people.

            For a purely scientific approach, I suggest Michael Tomasello's work, including A Natural History of Human Thinking and The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. He's definitely 'deflationary' in terms of what primates are actually doing; he marks the key difference between humans and primates as the ability to pass on culture. This is based on "the ability to “identify” with conspecifics" (10). Here's some more detail:

            This understanding of others as intentional beings like the self is crucial in human cultural learning because cultural artifacts and social practices—exemplified prototypically by the use of tools and linguistic symbols—invariably point beyond themselves to other outside entities: tools point to the problems they are designed to solve and linguistic symbols point to the communicative situations they are designed to represent. Therefore, to socially learn the conventional use of a tool or a symbol, children must come to understand why, toward what outside end, the other person is using the tool or symbol; that is to say, they must come to understand the intentional significance of the tool use or symbolic practice—what it is “for,” what “we,” the users of this tool or symbol, do with it. (The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition, 6)

            Figuring out the intentions of others is arguably where A&E failed with the serpent. The fact that philosophy tends to be pretty bad about the concept of 'intentionality' is probably also relevant here, for a cultural weakness in distinguishing between intentionality and non-intentionality is going to obscure our understanding.

            The real key is Woodbury's four proofs that animals do not possess intellect near the end of the article. That is the element most overlooked by even readers of my article, and it is certainly the element that most animal researchers fail to understand.

            Well, it is a very long article. :-p I'm thinking it might be valuable to tease out just where the boundary is, between e.g. mere stimulus–response and true intellection. I can see some possible problems with sketching that boundary, based on John Searle's Chinese room argument. But there is a ton of material on behaviorism and how it falls short, so I should think some useful things on this could be said (or have been said somewhere). Charles Taylor's repudiation of behaviorism in The Explanation of Behaviour is on my reading list; Braine references it in The Human Person and Language and Human Understanding.

            Another resource is Hubert Dreyfus' What Computers Can't Do and What Computers Still Can't Do. Computers can do stimulus–response and there is tons of work on classification—indeed, that's what machine learning can do the best. Well, what's the difference between classification over images and concepts? Could a computer learn what a "dog" is? Note that cats may have a sense of what a snake is, per their reaction to cucumbers in videos you can easily find on youtube. (National Geographic: People Are Scaring Their Cats with Cucumbers. They Shouldn’t.)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I did not intend to imply that there is not a lot of excellent material "out there" supporting the differences between human beings and irrational animals. There surely is. But the key is to distill all the arguments in one relatively short article. Woodbury's four points are critical, though, since they specify exactly what it is that man can do that animals cannot do in summary form. I admit it is toward the end of a rather long article.

            Basically, what I did was spend twenty pages analyzing just the scientific critiques of the ape-language studies, and then another twenty pages doing just philosophical analysis of the relevant data.

            I notice comments today recognizing that all the great claims about animal language being made forty years ago are now much more muted or even entail describing these efforts as largely failures. The key is to put one's finger on precisely where animal capabilities leave off and qualitatively superior human ones begin. That is what Woodbury does.

          • I still think there's more that can be done, which would be helpful in communicating this idea to non-A–T philosophers. For example, take the following:

            For, he argues, the necessary effects of intellect are four: speech, progress, knowledge of relations, and knowledge of immaterial objects. Since each of these is a necessary effect, “if it be shown that even one of these signs of intellect is lacking to ‘brutes’, then it is positively proved that ‘brutes’ are devoid of intellect.”[70] In fact, Woodbury argues that brute animals are in default in all four areas. (A Philosophical Critical Analysis of Recent Ape-Language Studies)

            Does the following Exodus account suggest that the Israelites were having problems in this area:

            Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’ ” Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery. (Exodus 6:6–9)

            ? You can see this failure to listen in all the grumbling that follows. Further failure shows up here:

            When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Exodus 32:1)

            This is after God had spoken the Ten Commandments to the Israelites assembled around Mt Sinai, after the commandment to make no carved images or likenesses which are then worshiped. But the Israelites couldn't or wouldn't hold anything in the intellect—at least not for long—and so demanded something sensible.

            And so, I would ask whether intellection is as unproblematic as you plausibly indicate, even for humans. When God speaks of "hardened hearts", where 'heart' is probably something like "seat of the understanding", does that mean/​include a problem in the realm of intellection? I would argue that failure to tend our abilities of intellection leads to at least stunted growth, if not ossification. Mark Noll argued in 1994 that "The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind." (The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, 3) Catholics tend to be better, but I suspect even they have lost tremendous ground in matters of the intellect, leading to the dominance of Zweckrationalität over Wertrationalität. (See my recent reply to @philtanny:disqus, quoting Guardini and Laudato si'.)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have to remind you that I am not an expert on Scripture! But I am merely talking about the bare bones fact that the intellect can form universal concepts, a power unique on earth to humans.

            When you speak of further nuances as to how we use the intellect effectively or what factors are impediments to its full employment, that is a horse of another color. Whether our hardened hearts impede understanding the depths of the being of our environment is simply not an issue with which I deal. There are many, including yourself, who are far better equipped to evaluate those dimensions of social interaction.

            I am just happy to point to the simple fact that images and ideas or concepts are incommensurable. This is a given that must henceforth be taken into account in any philosophical explanation of the nature of man and the world. Too long have many just assumed that thinking is mere manipulation of images. Putting that myth to rest is significant.

            That is why I did not try in the article to do things like proving the spirituality of the soul. Rather, I merely pointed out that Thomists use such data in their arguments to such ends. But, before any such arguments can be properly evaluated, it is crucial to examine the given starting points, such as the radical distinction between image and concept.

          • I have to remind you that I am not an expert on Scripture!

            Erm, neither am I. I have no degrees, secular or religious. But surely you have done some thinking of what it takes to believe in the promises of God? Can we say that intellection is important for this? If so, then perhaps we have in Exodus an account of failure of intellection.

            I confess, I find it extraordinarily difficult to work through topics like these without making frequent reference to concrete life. You seem quite happy working in rarefied air; I can only spend a few moments there before rushing back to the concrete and particular.

            Too long have many just assumed that thinking is mere manipulation of images. Putting that myth to rest is significant.

            I am heavily inclined to agree. But I can't figure out such a distinction without real-world examples which trace the distinction. The closer to the boundary of "mere manipulation of images", the better. If you're not the right person to trace such a boundary, too bad for me!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Even though "certain persons" seem to denigrate the role of intellect and philosophy, I quite agree that God gave us an intellect for a reason. I know all the atheists will attack me for saying so, but I think we have the intellect precisely so that we will use it to see the need for a First Cause. As to why we can trust this instrument so much, it is not because we know how it works or how to make one -- since we do not and we cannot, but simply because the intellect "sees" being and sees the truth of the most basic first principles. The only way to doubt them is to suspend their use and then construct an hypothesis on which the are untrustworthy. But in actual usage, nobody honestly does not assume that they are objectively true.

            Don't ask me how a "mere manipulation of images" could be confused with actual understanding and reasoning, since I reject that we think in terms of images. Rather, we have images that accompany our reasoning. Somehow, people notice all the images we have when we think and confuse the images with thought itself. Real world example? A bomb goes off and a building collapses. We associate the two images and assign one as the cause of the other. In truth, though, the building falls, not because of the bomb, but because of gravity pulling it down after the bomb removed its support columns. The images are great, but true understanding of being is needed to see what actually happens. Even the assumption that one thing happens first, and thus causes the second is misleading, since the cause must be simultaneous with the effect -- and the building falls after the bomb goes off. The images are fascinating, but what actually does what requires intellectual understanding.

          • Phil Tanny

            "Certain persons" are asking you to actually do philosophy, by examining and testing the un-examined assumption all such conversations are built upon, the notion that something as small as human reason is capable of generating meaningful statements on the very largest of questions.

            You're a philosophy professor, so it's natural and understandable that you would want philosophy to be a qualified methodology for such infinite scale questions. That may be true, or it may not be true, but we're not likely to ever find out if we just assume it to be true as a matter of blind faith, a lazy methodology which has little to do with reason.

            BTW, I make this very same challenge to atheists all the time, including on this site, and they don't like it any more than you do. So by presenting this challenge my intent is not to attack you personally, or Catholicism either. My intent is to use reason to explore the limits of it's usefulness, and I present the challenge in an even handed manner to all parties to the God debate.

            The problem such a challenge faces is that most participants in such conversations across the net aren't actually interested in the God topic so much as they are committed to the methodology of logic calculations. This is a form of bias which serious people should be inspecting.

            A personal obstacle that you may face is that you've accumulated a great deal of authority, become attached to that position, and are thus reluctant to be seen learning anything in public.

            If that is true, your age may be a great asset that you can deploy. You're 80, your long career is over, there is no longer a need to impress anyone to climb the ivory tower totem pole etc. You are free again to explore, make mistakes and learn. You are in effect, young again, should you wish to be.

            I have a name. It's not "certain persons".

          • I see a lot of accusation here, and elsewhere I see you calling people to go out in the desert to experience God. You also want people to face the dangers of e.g. climate change; I replied to that comment with Catholic sources. So where are you doing a better job than Dr. Bonnette and yours truly, such that you can be emulated?

          • Phil Tanny

            Apologies if I missed your reply. Not only is this software totally incompetent, but my email is currently down, complicating the situation further. I'm not ignoring anyone, it's just that finding the replies is almost impossible unless I get here very soon after they are posted (and thus they still appear in the sidebar).

            The answer to your question is very simple. Don't emulate me. Don't accept me as an authority. Don't memorize my posts and then start chanting them instead of Christian doctrines. I don't matter and I'll be dead soon anyway.

            If you'd like to see an article which addresses our relationship with knowledge, the source of climate change and nuclear weapons etc, let me know. Or, write your own article, that would be good too.

          • PT: Jesus went in to the desert. Not to a library. Read your Bible please.

            LB: Jesus read from the scrolls of the Tanakh.

            PT: Lots of people did back then, and they are now largely all forgotten. So reading from the scrolls would appear to access only very limited power. We see this right here today. The discussions on this site, sophisticated as they often are, will go on and on and one for years, and nothing tangible will ever come from it. It's not the people or this or that idea which is the problem, but the medium in which it all takes place.

            Jesus could only read from the Tanakh because so many other people had, such that the scrolls were maintained and he had discussion partners. If we don't remember them, Jesus surely does. There's a terrific amount we don't know that was actually important to us being where we are, now.

            How do you know that "nothing tangible will ever come from it"? I have learned a tremendous amount from conversations on SN that I have used elsewhere online and IRL. Recent conversations have reminded me that A–T philosophy may be able to shed a lot of light on the Zweckrationalität / Wertrationalität dichotomy.

            LB: He served people, healing them

            PT: Yes, and there is almost no real discussion of this on any Catholic website, because posters are incurably distracted by doctrines.

            How many Catholics working at Catholic hospitals do you think are vigorously posting on forums or blogs? You say that the problem is the medium, and yet here you are!

            LB: He also went into the desert. Why your focus only on the last item?

            PT: Because that is where the power comes from, real contact with the real God in the real world.

            "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."

            If Jesus knocked on your door would you let him and talk to him? Or would you choose to read a book about Jesus instead? Would you choose the real Jesus, or a pile of symbols attempting to point to Jesus?

            Of course I would spend time with Jesus; that's a silly question. Now tell me, why did Jesus ascend rather than stick around? And why are you playing with piles of symbols rather than going out into the desert?

          • Phil Tanny

            How do you know that "nothing tangible will ever come from it?

            500 years ago some people believed, some didn't, and others weren't sure. Same situation as today. There is no reason to believe that another 500 years of God debate will change anything.

            You say that the problem is the medium, and yet here you are!

            Yes, here I am. After spending 4 hours this morning in the woods, as I do almost every day. Soon it will be 10 hours a day. I'm here today because it's going to be almost 95 degrees shortly, and I am only so holy. :-)

            Yes, you would spend time with Jesus. And yes, it's a silly question, which hopefully reveals that it's silly to look for Jesus in a book, that is, unless you believe that Jesus is just an idea, and then the book makes sense.

            So Luke, here's what you have to do. You gotta get yourself out there in the desert, find a talking snake, slap him around a bit, and then tell him that you demand to be let back in to the Garden Of Eden, and you mean RIGHT NOW!!! :-)

          • 500 years ago some people believed, some didn't, and others weren't sure. Same situation as today. There is no reason to believe that another 500 years of God debate will change anything.

            Pretty sure the ratios today are drastically different from what they were 500 years ago.

            After spending 4 hours this morning in the woods, as I do almost every day. Soon it will be 10 hours a day.

            Hrm, 'woods' ≠ 'desert'. And it sounds like you're quite blessed to be able to spend so much time in the woods. So, you seem to allow for some time to be spent with symbols after all! Today I actually spent about 6 hours in the woods scouting for a church hike in the woods, but usually I stay in the city. Not sure I had any of those special experiences you say one is supposed to have. Perhaps I'm just broken and you should try convincing someone else.

            Yes, you would spend time with Jesus. And yes, it's a silly question, which hopefully reveals that it's silly to look for Jesus in a book, that is, unless you believe that Jesus is just an idea, and then the book makes sense.

            The book records Jesus' interactions with humans other than yours truly. I'll note that you seem to focus a lot on the individual–God relationship, as if the body of Christ weren't all Christians throughout spacetime …

            So Luke, here's what you have to do. You gotta get yourself out there in the desert, find a talking snake, slap him around a bit, and then tell him that you demand to be let back in to the Garden Of Eden, and you mean RIGHT NOW!!! :-)

            Better Nate than lever?

          • Phil Tanny


            Perhaps I'm just broken and you should try convincing someone else.

            Okeedookee, sounds like a plan.

          • Hmmm, I wonder if the intellect wasn't always nearly as strong as it got in the Middle Ages, and whether it could disintegrate—perhaps to almost nothing. I won't object [too strongly] if you just don't want to deal with such phases of human existence, but I do maintain that we often learn more about a thing when it is broken, than when it is functioning properly.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am most concerned with whether the thing exists at all, since if intellect does exist and if it can be shown to be strictly immaterial in nature because it forms strictly immaterial concepts, this can be used as a rational argument for the human soul, of which the intellect is a faculty, being itself strictly immaterial.

            I know this sounds like dull, abstract thought to some folks, but if you want a rational proof for the soul's spiritual nature, this is the sort of stuff you have to do.

            No one complains that explaining special relativity and its implications for time turns out to be dull and abstract, since theoretical physics seems to get a free pass on this issue. But if the science of metaphysics or philosophical psychology gets equally abstract and difficult, some folks use that as an excuse to ignore its arguments and findings.

            So, even if we discover that a bird has a broken wing and cannot fly, it is still in the nature of a bird to fly -- even if some incidental factor makes it impossible for this bird at this time to do so. So, too, if the intellect gets fogged up by nutritional, educational, sociological, and cultural factors to the extent that most people are too dumb to think clearly, this does not undo the fact that their intellects exist and render them as having spiritual souls.

            Sometimes people say, "I am not an intellectual." I always reply, "oh, yes, you are -- since you are a human being with an intellect." Even the dumbest human who ever lived -- if he ever understood even the least bit of reality (like his diaper was wet) -- stands qualitatively superior by nature to the smartest chimp who ever lived.

            Remember that Washoe, the smartest of the language-trained chimps, had a miscommunication with famed psychologist Karl Pribram, in which Washoe wound up somehow biting off Dr. Primram's finger. Ask Dr. Pribram about the intelligence of the chimp whose owner he is suing.

          • Phil Tanny

            I am most concerned with whether the thing exists at all...

            Things don't exist in the real world, they exist in the human imagination. They are a product of a pattern of division which our minds attempt to impose upon the single unified reality.

            To be real, a "thing" would require a boundary between the "thing" and the surrounding "non-thing". The closer we look at reality, either through science or meditation, the more the boundaries melt away. Here's an experiment to illustrate.

            Drink a glass of water. When does the "water" become "you"? The boundary between water and you can be reasonably drawn any number of places, which demonstrates the boundaries are conceptual inventions of the human mind.

            Catholic doctrine suggests as much in it's own way, by claiming that God is ever present everywhere in all times and places. Please focus on the word "everywhere". When seen clearly this means that everything is God, a single unified reality.

            The word "God" is just another noun which attempts to create a division where none actually exists (except conceptually).

          • Phil Tanny

            But surely you have done some thinking of what it takes to believe in the promises of God?

            If you were a hungry person who had no food you'd need to believe that food would eventually be available. Once you're fed, you no longer need to believe.

            Belief is a book about food, you can't eat a book, it contains no nutrition. Experience is the actual food, and if we eat enough of it, we'll stop worrying about belief.

            Jesus went in to the desert. Not to a library. Read your Bible please.

          • If you were a hungry person who had no food you'd need to believe that food would eventually be available. Once you're fed, you no longer need to believe.

            This does not seem to well-model the Israelites who got manna from heaven.

            Belief is a book about food, you can't eat a book, it contains no nutrition. Experience is the actual food, and if we eat enough of it, we'll stop worrying about belief.

            The Israelites got lots of manna, and then got tired of it. It's almost as if we are designed for infinitely varied experience, and that requires an intellectual component, not merely the accumulation of experience.

            Jesus went in to the desert. Not to a library. Read your Bible please.

            Jesus read from the scrolls of the Tanakh. He served people, healing them and speaking life to them. He also went into the desert. Why your focus only on the last item?

          • Phil Tanny

            Jesus read from the scrolls of the Tanakh.

            Lots of people did back then, and they are now largely all forgotten. So reading from the scrolls would appear to access only very limited power. We see this right here today. The discussions on this site, sophisticated as they often are, will go on and on and one for years, and nothing tangible will ever come from it. It's not the people or this or that idea which is the problem, but the medium in which it all takes place.

            He served people, healing them

            Yes, and there is almost no real discussion of this on any Catholic website, because posters are incurably distracted by doctrines.

            He also went into the desert. Why your focus only on the last item?

            Because that is where the power comes from, real contact with the real God in the real world.

            If Jesus knocked on your door would you let him and talk to him? Or would you choose to read a book about Jesus instead? Would you choose the real Jesus, or a pile of symbols attempting to point to Jesus?

            See? It's just common sense.

          • Phil Tanny

            It's almost as if we are designed for infinitely varied experience, and
            that requires an intellectual component, not merely the accumulation of
            experience.

            Ok, let's run with that.

            Most of us spend all day long everyday focused on symbols, you know "lost in thought" in layman's terms. Thus, experience outside of the "intellectual component" would typically be variety for most people.

            A variety agenda would be well served if we discovered that just as there is a great deal to be explored within thought, there is also a great deal to be explored outside of thought.

            And that outside of thought is real, and not just a symbol which points to the real, which may make it more interesting for some.

            Consider this perhaps.

            If you wanted to learn about the history of Western thought you would read one of Dr. B's books instead of mine, because he is expert in such things and I am not. Right?

            By the same reasoning if we wish to learn about God we might choose to "read" that which God created instead of books written by human beings.

            What gives the real world authority is that it is uncontaminated by the weaknesses inherent in the human condition.

            If I write a book it's going to be polluted with all my various ego agendas, many of which I'm probably not even aware of.

            But when God created say, the Sun, that is untouched by human hands and minds, and is thus arguably a purer expression of God.

            To take this a bit further if we do look at reality itself, that beyond human invention, we can see that the overwhelming majority of it is space, that which we refer to as "nothing". Apparently God is quite interested in this apparent "nothing" which nonetheless infuses everything at every scale.

            Thus, a study of nothing may prove more relevant and interesting than a study of "somethings".

      • Phil Tanny

        Before we can begin to realistically understand the real relationship between matter and spirit,

        They are one and the same, and it is the inherently divisive nature of thought which conceives of them as being two. The dividing line between matter and spirit is an illusion generated by the way thought works.

        You've put your finger on that here, when you said..

        For one thing, the very fact that we think in terms of extreme dualism both distorts reality and also makes it less intelligible.

        Thought works by breaking the single unified reality in to conceptual parts. Thus, we get dualism in all it's forms.

        1) This process of conceptual division allows us to be creative, as we can re-arrange the parts in our minds to form new visions of how the world could be.

        2) This process of conceptual division also makes us insane, as it creates an experience of reality as being divided between "me" and "everything else", with "me" perceived to be very very small. This perception generates fear, the source of most human problems.

        It is this perception of division which gives rise to religion, as we attempt by various methods to "get back to God", that is, overcome the illusion of separation.

        The source of that illusion is thought itself.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      We are still stuck in Cartesian dualism, Percy claims.

      I know you have read a lot of Charles Taylor, so let tell me you one the the "take-aways" that I had from A Secular Age, and you tell me whether you think this is a fair summary. At the risk of great simplification:
      Somewhere in the transition from "Late Antiquity" to "The High Middle Ages", we started to see popular movements of (little "r") "reform" (precursors to the big "R" Reformation), movements based on a sense that the Church, or perhaps Christian practice at large, wasn't Christian enough. These movements were various, but many of them were characterized by an emphasis on the absolute sovereignty of God. (Seemingly a valid emphasis, since the founding event of Christianity is understood as God's ultimate victory.) This emphasis played out in "desacralizing" ways, both good and bad. For example, if God is absolutely sovereign in this world, then there is no longer anything to fear from woodland fairies or from your neighbor who put a curse on you, which we can all agree is a good development. Also, if God is absolutely sovereign in this world, then the Eucharist per se has no power, so you can't use it as a good luck charm to seduce a lover (as some medievals were known to do). So far so good, but take that logic a few steps further, and you end up with a world where *nothing* in the world has its own inherent power, i.e. there really is no secondary causality at all. All that is left in the world is dumb matter. Except, hmm, we still have our own mental reality, which doesn't seem to fit into that scheme, so let's make an exception for that, res cogitans.

      Obviously, that is a gross oversimplification of 1000 years of intellectual history. But, do you think there is something to it? Do you think it is plausible that this overemphasis on God's sovereignty (or alternatively: this misunderstanding of the way that God is sovereign) was a major factor that eventually led to materialism and Cartesian dualism?

      • It sounds plausible, but I'd want to do a lot more research on it or better yet, find someone who has already. Have you come across Louis Dupré's Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture? He raises several issues which are relevant to this discussion:

             (1) fracturing the ontotheological synthesis which equated 'is' and 'ought'
             (2) cementing human individuality via taking the Incarnation seriously
             (3) the awakening of human creativity around the time of Petrarch
             (4) removal of God from creation by nominalism

        I had forgotten about the last until I reviewed the excerpts I had copied from the book, including: "At the end of the Middle Ages, however, nominalist theology effectively removed God from creation." (3) To the extent that we are imago Dei, did this also mean we removed ourself from creation—that is, from res extensa?

        I'm tempted to view the 'reform' you describe (from Taylor) as analogous to Francis Bacon's four idols. Bacon saw a bunch of bad thinking of several sorts getting in the way of scientific inquiry. What if 'reform' was an attack on several sorts of thinking/​living that got in the way of realizing the kingdom of God? But we screwed up majorly, as is becoming more and more obvious every day. We were at the point where we could conceive of ourselves really doing Genesis 1:28, and then we decided we had a better way of going about things than God—via domination. God's way is that systems of domination end up creating their own downfall and I think we're getting close to seeing ours. But we could repent …

        What you said suggests so much! I would say that we removed any sense of teleology or intentionality from secondary causation, leaving only mechanism. And now we don't know how to … project intentionality or teleology through mechanism. This leads to a world dominated by what Jacques Ellul calls 'technique', which is roughly equatable to 'instrumental rationality'. I've been listening to a bunch of Rick Roderick's lectures while doing dishes and preparing dinner lately and he talks of the "self under siege". I wonder what he would have made of George Herbert's A Dialogue–Anthem:

                                      Christian, Death

        Chr.   ALAS, poor Death ! where is thy glory ?          Where is thy famous force, thy ancient sting ?Dea.   Alas, poor mortal, void of story !          Go spell and read how I have killed thy King.Chr.   Poor Death ! and who was hurt thereby ?          Thy curse being laid on Him makes thee accurst.Dea.   Let losers talk, yet thou shalt die ;          These arms shall crush thee.Chr.                                           Spare not, do thy worst.

                  I shall be one day better than before ;          Thou so much worse, that thou shalt be no more.

  • I agree that the existence of universals is a devastating problem for materialism. I read an amusing article recently which showed how a simple triangle could disprove materialism. Is it necessarily true that animals cannot perceive them, though? For example, an animal can recognise members of its own species, as distinct from others. Could that indicate it has at least some rudimentary immaterial power of the mind?

    • Phil Tanny

      The essence of his argument seems to be that quality of our intelligence places us above animals, perhaps to the degree of being God's central project and so on. Thus it seems reasonable to question how intelligent we really are. Here's a test case to consider.

      God is typically defined as some form of hyper-intelligence. Our concept of intelligence arises from an incredibly small sample of reality, a single species on one little planet in one of billions of galaxies. We have taken this extremely small phenomena, and projected it on to a creator of all reality. Intelligent?

      What we call intelligence may not even be relevant to alien species a billion years more advanced than us, let alone to the most fundamental nature of all reality, ie. a God.

      Are we intelligent? Yes. We are more intelligent then donkeys. We are highly intelligent, in our self flattering imaginations. We are very intelligent in developing systems which can kill us all very efficiently and quickly.

      Uh oh!! Off topic, off topic, off topic!!!! :-)

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Here is the paragraph in the article that answers your question:

      "Woodbury defines a “common image” as an image of a singular thing according to sensible appearances that happens to be similar to other singular things.2 While useful for the instinctive life of, say, a mouse, enable it to avoid all cats, it is not to be confused with the intellectual understanding of the nature of a cat, which belongs to the radically distinct universal concept."

      This apprehension of the "common image" remains entirely at the level of sense knowledge. Like every other image, it is immaterial in that it is not itself extended in space, but like every other image, it is had under the conditions of matter, which means it is dependent on matter to some extent for its existence. That dependence is in the form of depending on a material organ -- the brain.

      It is important to realize that the central point of this article is to show that there is a radical difference between the image and concept. While some may wish to draw attention elsewhere, we should not be misled. That radical distinction between image and concept is a body blow to materialist philosophies that try to claim that all thinking and other mental processes in the human mind are of the same type, that they are all material in nature, and that they all reduce to brain activity.

      Since the concept clearly cannot be reduced to being merely some kind of image, the entire materialist schema falls apart in one of its central claims. All too often, classical theism and belief in spiritual realities are the subject of criticism by materialistic skeptics, who make it sound as if believers in non-material reality were utterly out of touch with modern science.

      This article proves that there is something basically wrong with the materialist claims. It is not surprising that materialists will attack parts of it and try to draw readers' attention elsewhere.

      Their entire worldview is exposed as having a basic flaw here, since it really does not appear able to explain all human mental experience merely in terms of materialistic animal images and brain activity.

      • Phil Tanny

        Their entire worldview is exposed as having a basic flaw here

        It is presumably exposed to you, and perhaps also to the .00001% of the population who will have any interest in such a topic.

        Then what?

        • What % of the population was Galileo, when he performed his impetus experiments and overturned a major plank of Aristotelian philosophy? (N.B. Galileo wasn't the only one working on impetus, so we can add a few others.)

          • Phil Tanny

            You're arguing with your own holy book. The Bible is the best selling, and arguably most influential, book of all time (at least in the West) because it spoke to the man in the street in language he could understand.

            And please note that Jesus the carpenter launched a major world religion in just three years, without a PhD.

            Modern civilization is teetering on the edge of chaos, with the lives of billions hanging in the balance, and you guys want to talk about major planks of Aristotelian philosophy and the defeat of materialism and so forth.

            C'mon, give us a break.

          • You're arguing with your own holy book.

            So? Jacob wrestled with God.

            Modern civilization is teetering on the edge of chaos, with the lives of billions hanging in the balance, and you guys want to talk about major planks of Aristotelian philosophy and the defeat of materialism and so forth.

            Do you think excellence at Zweckrationalität and incompetence at Wertrationalität has nothing to do with said teetering? How about a science which promotes the former while claiming the latter is some combination of unreal, fake, fictional, and 100% subjective? The Enlightenment essentially destroyed our ability to rationally talk about what we want to do with our ever-growing powers, and then put that talk into action. We devolved into influencing-via-abuse:

            When someone disagrees with us about the moral value of a certain action or type of action, we do admittedly resort to argument in order to win him over to our way of thinking. … And as the people with whom we argue have generally received the same moral education as ourselves, and live in the same social order, our expectation [of convincing via argument] is usually justified. But if our opponent happens to have undergone a different process of moral ‘conditioning’ from ourselves, so that, even when he acknowledges all the facts, he still disagrees with us about the moral value of the actions under discussion, then we abandon the attempt to convince him by argument. We say that it is impossible to argue with him because he has a distorted or undeveloped moral sense; which signifies merely that he employs a different set of values from our own. We feel that our own system of values is superior, and therefore speak in such derogatory terms of his. But we cannot bring forward any arguments to show that our system is superior. For our judgement that it is so is itself a judgement of value, and accordingly outside the scope of argument. It is because argument fails us when we come to deal with pure questions of value, as distinct from questions of fact, that we finally resort to mere abuse. (Language, Truth, and Logic, 70)

            Might it be worth understanding this inculcated inability? One of the things A–T philosophy does is track how intentionality flows through thinking and the world. I'm thinking that maybe we need to explore just that thing, in order to get out of the quagmire we're in. Do you have a better suggestion? I know you've been big on going out into the desert and collecting experience, but I don't see how that alone will cut the mustard.

          • Phil Tanny

            The Enlightenment essentially destroyed our ability to rationally talk about what we want to do with our ever-growing powers, and then put that talk into action.

            Ok, how so? I don't understand. Not arguing, just not understanding.

            One of the things A–T philosophy does is track how intentionality flows through thinking and the world.

            What is A-T philosophy? Sorry, they don't teach us that out in the desert. :-)

            I'm thinking that maybe we need to explore just that thing, in order to get out of the quagmire we're in.

            Ok, please proceed, I'll try to keep up.

            I know you've been big on going out into the desert and collecting experience, but I don't see how that alone will cut the mustard.

            Would it help for us to better define what mustard we are trying to cut? What are we trying to accomplish?

    • Phil Tanny

      If it's helpful, birds and squirrels can distinguish one human from another. My wife is an avid wildlife rehabber, so I live in a wildlife hospital. At least a thousand critters have passed through here over the last decade. Not sure if this helps advance the topic.

      I will say I think some members have it backwards when it comes to animals. Does a reader think that God is part of the real world, or only a theory in some people's minds? If the former, then I can assure you, animals are much more in touch with the real world than we are. Their lives depend on paying attention, for one thing. We have the ability, but are typically totally distracted by the symbolic realm between our ears.

      If God is real, the real world is the place to look for him.

      If God is just an idea, philosophy is the place to look.

      Which we choose to attend to demonstrates what we actually believe about God. Ideological Christians determined to build an ever higher tower of complex doctrines are actually denying the very God they claim to believe is real. A sincere misunderstanding, but a misunderstanding nonetheless.

    • Mark

      Chiliagon and neurobabble ... Good stuff.

    • Ficino

      The issue of distinguishing between abstracta and the brain, or between an idea and chemicals or neurons, is different from the question, whether some form of idealism or some form of materialism is correct.

      As to the latter: the non-platonist view on mathematical objects is that we do not need to posit that they are extra-mental entities.

      "Plato suggests that we have ideas of certain mathematical entities--a perfectly straight line, a perfect circle, exact equality, and so on--which could not have been derived from sensory perception, since no lines perceived by sense are perfectly straight, etc., and must therefore be derived from the mind's direct non-sensory acquaintance with the corresponding ideal entities or 'Forms' ... The objection to this is that we can easily acquire, through sense perception, the idea of a line's being curved or bent, and of sharper or flatter bends or curves. Hence we can think of one line's being less bent or less curved than another, and so we can form some notion of the limiting case of a line in which all bends and curves have been reduced to a point where there is no room for further reduction. Or, given that we can understand simple negation, we can construct the negative description of a line which is not bent and not curved at all anywhere. To understand such descriptions is to have a negative or limiting notion of a perfectly straight line... the idea of a perfectly straight line can be explained, with respect to its content, wholly in terms of materials drawn from sensory perception, along with the grasp of negation. There is no need to postulate, as Plato does, a direct acquaintance with the Forms to explain either this or any of the other ideas of mathematical perfections." ~ J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism 39.

  • Phil Tanny

    Such spiritual souls would have to have been endowed by our Creator solely to genuine human beings, whose essential superiority is marked by our remarkable species’ unique ability to think in terms of universal concepts – an ability totally absent in the rest of this planet’s sentient organisms

    This proposed endowment of spiritual souls seems based upon a comparison with animals, with humans being declared intellectually superior, thus special and worthy of immortal souls.

    What happens if we change the point of reference from this planet, to all planets?

    Our galaxy alone is some billions of years old. There has been enough time for life to emerge on a vast number of planets and then evolve a billion years beyond where we humans are.

    On this one little planet we are top dog, but what if in the galaxy as a whole (not to mention the billions of other galaxies) we are so primitive compared to many other species that we barely rate mention?

    Are we still God's precious little high priority project then too? By the logic of this article isn't it more likely that God is investing his focus elsewhere?

    • Phil Tanny

      From this site:

      https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/milky-way-galaxy-may-be-much-bigger-we-thought-ncna876966

      The research, described May 7 in the journal "Astronomy & Astrophysics," indicates that our spiral galaxy's vast rotating disk of stars spans at least 170,000 light-years, and possibly up to 200,000 light-years.

      It's hard to fathom just how far that is. If you could ride a light beam from one side of the disk to the other, it would take 200,000 years to span the distance. If you could drive across and averaged 60 miles an hour, it would take more than 2 trillion years.

    • Phil Tanny

      There's a larger point here perhaps. It seems that one of the problems with the God debate is that all sides tend to want to project human scale phenomena on to the very largest of scales.

      As example, atheists will typically assume without questioning that because reason is clearly useful in our day to day lives at human scale, it is therefore automatically useful when considering issues of ANY scale. Start with a known fact, and then a wild speculative leap built on top of that.

      Dr B may be doing more or less the same in his article. He starts with the known fact that we are intellectually superior to other creatures on Earth, ignores any other creatures who may exist elsewhere, and then presumes because we are special on one little planet we are therefore special in the eyes of God, ie. the very largest of scales.

      Ok, which of you is going to help Dr. B out of this mess?

    • Phil Tanny

      On this one little planet we are top dog, but what if in the galaxy as a whole (not to mention the billions of other galaxies) we are so
      primitive compared to many other species that we barely rate mention? Are we still God's precious little high priority project then too? By the
      logic of this article isn't it more likely that God is investing his
      focus elsewhere?

      So friends, is this an effective rebuttal to Dr. B's post?

      Is it a partial rebuttal of the Christian notion that God's main project is we humans?

      If either of the above are true to some degree is anybody here, particularly you Catholics, gonna man up and admit it?

      Or maybe I'm wrong? Ok, I know that's possible because that happened once before. :-)

      What I'm looking for is either an effective rebuttal to my rebuttal, or we agree my rebuttal has some merit and we reason on together from there.

      Or, I can heap scorn upon all the little scaredy cats hiding in the "above it all" defense. Don't tempt me, cause I'll stick Jim the Scott on you, and then you'll be sorry! Arf, Arf, Arf!!! Sick'em Jim!!

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        It's not an effective rebuttal because it doesn't even touch on the main thesis of the article, namely that there is a difference between images and concepts. His musing about the potentially special place of humans in God's plan is a peripheral epilogue, not a central element in his argument or in his conclusions.

        • Phil Tanny

          Jim, please note the title of the article.

          Why Humans Are More Than Mere Animals

          Ok, I hear you on the images vs. concepts issue, that's technically correct. But Dr. B is addressing images vs. concepts to make the larger point which I have spoken to.

          More importantly, the notion that human beings are God's special project seems a central tenant of Christianity, not a "peripheral epilogue", and by Dr. B's own reasoning that assumption seems undermined. What is your reaction to this claim?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree that the article makes a strong claim that humans are different from other animals, but that is still quite different from claiming that we have some pride of place in God's plan. Given that, I still think your question about whether we have a special place in God's plan is somewhat off-topic with respect to the article. Nonetheless, it's a reasonable question, so I'll hazard an answer. The idea that we are God's "high priority plan" still seems plausible to me, for several reasons.

            1. The only animals we know of so far live on earth, and among those we seem to be the only ones capable of conceptual thought. Conjecturing about the possibility of other life forms on other planets is fine, but hypothetical conjectures don't rate higher than available evidence.

            2. In the Biblical account, or at least in the Christian account, our capacity for intellection makes us special precisely because it enables us to do what we shouldn't do (i.e. "sin"), or equivalently: it creates the possibility of freely doing what we should do. Therefore, it would be irrelevant if other creatures have powers that are in some sense are more sophisticated than our own, unless those powers enabled them to sin.

            "For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God;
            for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope
            that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God."

          • Phil Tanny

            Given that, I still think your question about whether we have a special
            place in God's plan is somewhat off-topic with respect to the article.

            It's the whole point of the article Jim, everything else is aimed at making that point. Please see the conclusion section of the article, where Dr. B clearly states where he is trying to go.

            I of course agree that life on other planets is speculative at this point, but it's very reasonable speculation given the ENORMOUS scale of the reality which God is supposed to have created. It's not very plausible to assume that billions of galaxies are devoid of intelligent life other than us.

            The problem I'm aiming at is that Christian scholars and their followers wish to claim the authority of reason, but at the very point when the trail of reason becomes inconvenient, they typically abandon the trail. If we are only willing to reason our way to a pre-set destination, we aren't doing reason, we're doing ideology.

            In fairness, the many atheist sites I've visited do exactly the same thing, they start with a conclusion, and then everything is built to serve that end. And then they call this reason, which it simply isn't.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It's the whole point of the article Jim, everything else is aimed at making that point. Please see the conclusion section of the article, where Dr. B clearly states where he is trying to go.

            No it isn't, and no he doesn't. Even in scientific journal articles (and much moreso in informal writing), not every proposition in a "Conclusions" section is a conclusion. You will often find statements structured along the lines of: "Now that we have convincingly shown X in this article, it opens up the possibility that Y is also true. Demonstrating Y is a direction for future research." That Dr. Bonnette intended to do similarly was perfectly clear when he began the third paragraph of this conclusion with "Perhaps".

            Note also that, just prior to his Conclusion he stated:

            The old arguments of ancient philosophers for the qualitative differences between human beings and lower animals become more rationally acceptable. Whatever credence may be given to such arguments, the seventeen distinctions between the image and concept listed above make it clear that it is no longer reasonable for naturalists to claim that universal concepts are merely sophisticated or common images somehow constituted of neural activity in the brain.

            (bold emaphasis mine). I don't see how one could be more clear. If I say, "Now that I have shown X, Y becomes more rationally acceptable", that does not amount to claiming that, "I have shown Y". Also, if I say, "Whatever you may think about arguments for Y, you can at least see that X is true.", that obviously means that the point that I'm trying to argue for is X, not Y.

            I really hate to engage in these meta-conversations, but I am doing it here because I hope you will see why it is reasonable for others to conclude that you aren't putting in the sort of focused, thoughtful effort that would merit spending time responding to you. I do want to engage on some of the points you are asking about, but I put a lot of effort into my responses, so I save them for people who seem to be making a commensurate effort. I'm asking you to please up your game: read more carefully, think more carefully, write more carefully.

            [I will answer your other challenge about extraterrestrials in another message.]

          • Phil Tanny

            I'm asking you to please up your game: read more carefully, think more carefully, write more carefully.

            Please stop lecturing Father Jim. Again, this is standard issue Catholic avoidance technique, changing the subject from the post to the poster, implying some kind of moral failure etc. Apologies, but I left the Church over 50 years ago and am immune to such guilt tactics.

            More to the point, I HAVE been thinking about this my entire life, maybe longer than you've been alive, and what you see in many of my posts are insights in to the human condition which you good fellows seem to have absolutely no clue about. That's why it reads like confusing gibberish to you, it's just outside of your experience.

            Put simply, the most effective inquiry shifts the focus from the content of thought to the nature of thought.

            As example, the apparent division we experience between "me" and "God" arises directly from the way thought works by a process of conceptual division.

            This can't be solved with a new and better philosophy, because all philosophies are made of thought, the very source of the illusion of division. Once one gets this, one's relationship with philosophy is transformed.

            Anyway, I find myself guilty of being too ambitious. I do that. I bite off impossible challenges and then wonder why I've failed. The human condition is nothing if not hilarious. :-)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You keep asserting things like this:

            As example, the apparent division we experience between "me" and "God" arises directly from the way thought works by a process of conceptual division.

            But you don't provide any reasons for the rest of to believe that that is the case. And indeed, how could you provide reasons without engaging in "thought" and "philosophy"?

          • Phil Tanny

            I have touched on this in a variety of ways in a variety of posts, but admittedly not gone in to great detail, and that's because readers have shown no interest in learning more. That's ok, there is no obligation to be interested.

            What's been happening is that I've been attempting to add value to the site by addressing topics that are related to those discussed here, but not already being covered by other posters. You know, the point of writing should be to at least try to add something that doesn't already exist in the conversation.

            I see now that my excessive enthusiasm has caused me to take on too ambitious of a project. There's just too big of a gap between what interests me and interests other members, and I failed to take that in to account in a clear minded manner.

            I think the most constructive thing I can do from here is admit I bit off more than I can chew, roll my eyes at my own folly, smile and be happy, and move on to more constructive projects.

          • Mark

            You might recommend a book that can parse out the ideas you're putting forth. It may be a combox cannot do it justice.

          • Phil Tanny
          • Mark

            I don't see anyone with a shotgun shoved in their mouth there.

          • Phil Tanny

            Facebook. Try it. You might like it.

          • Michael Murray

            I just can't see the wood for the trees.

          • Phil Tanny

            Mark, you asked for a book. I gave you what I consider the best book, but that may not be the most suitable book for this circumstance. Here's a book book.

            The Power Of Now by Eckhardt Tolle

            I haven't read the book in some years but I remember to be a clear, straightforward, well written exploration of some of these topics.

            Please be aware though, a new age guru worship circus has arisen around this author, which I have no interest in and don't endorse. But all that can be easily be ignored and the book should still be useful for some readers. Whether you would be one of them I have no way of knowing.

          • Phil Tanny

            And indeed, how you provide reasons without engaging in "thought" and "philosophy"?

            Ok, this is just more folly, but here's a reply, so as not to ignore.

            There is a difference between using thought to build yet another philosophy, and using thought to show the limits of all philosophy.

            As example, both Catholic and atheist ideologists are trying to build an ever higher pile of assertions, which must then be promoted and defended, leading to a never ending cycle of conflict etc.

            Each side thinks the conflict can be resolved by a victory for their team, because they think the conflict arises from the content of thought, from this or that idea. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of where the conflict is arising from.

            The history of Catholicism demonstrates this very well. Catholicism dominated the Western world to a degree unimaginable today for 1,000 years. Total victory, over a very long period. And, Catholicism was launched with the best of intentions as a vehicle for bringing people together in peace. And what happened? Catholicism subdivided in to many different competing factions that are still at war with each other to this day.

            It's important to realize that this isn't just Catholicism, but that every ideology ever invented goes through this same process of internal subdivision and conflict. What that should tell us is that the source of the conflict is that which all ideologies have in common, the nature of thought itself.

            I've typed words to this effect on the site at least a dozen times. Readers scroll right on by, ignoring it all again and again, as is their right. So it doesn't really make sense for me to keep on typing it.

            If a reader should be interested in such things, there is nothing stopping them from conducting their own investigation, doing their own homework. If I was wise, I would wait until I see that happening before I jump in. But as you can see, I'm not wise, so here we are in folly land. :-)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            There is a difference between using thought to build yet another philosophy, and using thought to show the limits of all philosophy.

            If you use thought to show the limits of philosophy, then you are doing philosophy. Not only that, but you are treading a very well worn path in philosophy. For example, are you familiar with Kant's Critique of Pure Reason? Maybe we could use some of the distinctions that he made to better understand your position? It's been 30 years since I read it as a somewhat disengaged undergraduate, but I'll read it again if you want to do it together.

            As example, both Catholic and atheist ideologists

            I won't attempt to speak for atheism, but Catholicism is not an ideology. Catholicism didn't begin as a set of ideas, and although various attempts have been made to systematize Catholic thought, those systems are not the essence of Catholicism. Catholicism began as a communal reaction to a historical event (or, to be less controversial, a putative historical event) and that's what it continues to be to this day. As Pope Benedict XVI put it: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction."

            Somewhat similarly, most philosophical systems are not intended to be totalizing ideologies, as you seem to imply. As Pope JP II put it: "In effect, every philosophical system, while it should always be respected in its wholeness, without any instrumentalization, must still recognize the primacy of philosophical enquiry, from which it stems and which it ought loyally to serve."
            (emphasis mine).

            In other words, neither Catholicism nor any reasonable school of philosophy pretends to offer and all-encompassing theory of everything. They propose instead a set of principles (in the case of philosophy) and memories of the past (in the case of Catholicism) that allow us to navigate a seemingly infinite as-yet-unexplored terrain.

            In summary, your critiques of Catholicism, and of philosophy, invoke conceptions of "Catholicism" and "philosophy" that are quite different from what I mean by those words. (And I don't think I am alone in that regard.)

          • Phil Tanny

            If you use thought to show the limits of philosophy, then you are doing philosophy.

            Indeed, never claimed otherwise, you aren't teaching me anything I don't already know, etc. I'm doing philosophy to explore the limits of philosophy because that is the only option available to us in this medium.

            Not only that, but you are treading a very well worn path in philosophy.

            So what, so what, so what? Never claimed otherwise.

            For example, are you familiar with Kant's Critique of Pure Reason?

            I know the name of the author and book, that's it.

            Again, as I've tried and failed to explain repeatedly, I reference a different authority.

            If you would like to read the book and share your thoughts on it, that sounds good, I would welcome your review of the book.

            I won't attempt to speak for atheism, but Catholicism is not an ideology.

            I agree, but probably not in the manner readers would like me to. The genius at the heart of Catholicism is the experience of love, and all the other stuff piled on top is ideology.

            Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.

            Like I said, or rather as the Apostle John said, God is love. Jesus=God, God=love.

            In effect, every philosophical system, while it should always be respected in its wholeness, without any instrumentalization, must still recognize the primacy of philosophical enquiry, from which it stems and which it ought loyally to serve.

            The experience of love is not a philosophical enquiry, but an act of surrender. The act is what matters, not our explanations of it. As example, if we want nutrition for our bodies we have to eat actual food, reading a book about food will not sustain our bodies.

            In summary, your critiques of Catholicism, and of philosophy, invoke conceptions of "Catholicism" and "philosophy" that are quite different from what I mean by those words.

            Everyone is entitled to their own interpretation of such things, no problem.

          • Phil Tanny

            Jim, I like you and would love to continue together, but I can no longer do so here. It's just too unprofessional of a site technically, and I've had it with having hours of my work dumped in the trash. I'd be happy to continue with you almost anywhere else, and will be finding a new home I'd be happy to tell you about. Or, I do understand that this is where you wish to be, and I respect that.

            Have no idea at all whether you will get this.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK Phil, best of luck in your new endeavors in dialogue. I'm probably not interested in branching out to additional forums, but who knows. Sure, go and check back after a while and let us know what you find out there. Godspeed!

          • Mark

            I don't believe Jim is Catholic. "The very source of the illusion of division" you cite is in your own mind. I don't know how you justify obtuse responses to someone who is graciously engaging in your incoherent ideas?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't believe Jim is Catholic.

            That depends on who you ask :-) I self-identify as Catholic, but various Catholics out there would not consider me Catholic. I usually don't consider it to be worth arguing about. I'm a person who strives to put Jesus at the center of my life, and who strives to relate to Jesus through the teachings and the sacramental life of the Catholic Church. But I don't understand "The Catholic Church" to be closed system with clear and non-permeable boundaries, and consequently I have never attempted to swallow the whole thing as one giant bolus. However you want to label that, that's what I am.

          • Phil Tanny

            I self-identify as Catholic, but various Catholics out there would not consider me Catholic.

            And there are other Catholics out there that would happily burn you at the stake at the drop of a dime, as I was reminded of in my recent visit to such a forum. Wow, exciting! :-)

          • Phil Tanny

            The very source of the illusion of division you cite is in your own mind.

            Yup, that's exactly what I've been trying to tell you. :-)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It's not very plausible to assume that billions of galaxies are devoid of intelligent life other than us.

            Actually, no, it is still very much a live option to suppose that there is no life anywhere else. If you flip a coin 1000 times and you have no idea what the probability of heads is on any given flip, then you have no idea whether you can reasonably expect at least one head in your 1000 flips (e.g. the probability of heads could be 10^(-100000000)). The "Drake equation" doesn't yet carry any weight, because we have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what the probability of biogenesis is.

            AND IN ANY CASE, I have already stated why the existence of extraterrestrial life, even very advanced extraterrestrial life, wouldn't necessarily pose a problem for the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Resurrection. Is there are reason why you are ignoring that part of my response? Are you "running away" from it? I don't think you are. I think you simply find that part of my response to be uninteresting, which is totally fine. But I point this out as evidence that non-response (even your non-response) very often signals lack of interest, rather than fear of following the logic where it may lead. If you are claiming that I am failing to follow logic where it leads, please provide text evidence to support this claim.

          • Phil Tanny

            You make a fair point. I was indeed not interested in that part of your argument, as I perceived it to be a tortured attempt to hang on to Catholic dogma at all costs. I'm already arguing with you on many fronts, so I decided to just hear you on that one, and not open another battle field. I am however willing should you still wish to explore it further.

            Honestly, a key objection for me is just that I hate this software. I spent 25 years working in web development and related arenas and my brain is incurably trained to seek and destroy the kind of bugs we see here.

            The good news is that I've decided that with the time I'm investing in hating Disqus I could set up a forum, so that's probably the next step for me. I assume no one here is likely to be interested, and that's ok, but personally if I'm going to type all day it's just got to be somewhere else.

            Anyway, on with the show...

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Jim, just for the record, the title of my article as I submitted it was "Image And Concept: The Unbridgeable Chasm." I can understand why this was changed since it more fits the opening paragraph and might have wider interest. Nonetheless, it is not the title of the article as it sits in my file.

            Edit: And you are right about my conclusion. That is why I repeatedly say, "Thomists argue....", rather than giving the argument myself. The comments about what kinds of souls men have versus animals is, of course, based on the assumption that the Thomistic arguments are correct.

            If I wished to make such claims myself in my own name, I would never just put them "out there," like that, since they would need all the reasoning leading up to them -- as any decent philosopher knows. We often sketch out the general claims of a position -- just so the reader or hearer can see where it would go. No one is stupid enough to think that just stating conclusions amounts to giving a philosophical argument. And to say this is merely reinforcing ones religious beliefs is to insult the intelligence of any decent philosopher. That is why there are some people I simply do not desire to dialogue with.

          • Phil Tanny

            You're not engaging with "certain persons" because you know you can't meet some of their challenges, and you'd rather not have that displayed in public.

            This is not a weakness exclusive to you personally, but a predictable characteristic of almost all academics and other intellectual elites. They simply can't afford to be seen effectively challenged by members of the unwashed masses.

            Authority and status comes at a price, the fear that someone will take it away. There is an inherent conflict between philosophy, and the philosophy business. Philosophy demands we follow the trail where ever it leads, and the philosophy business requires one to color pretty carefully between the lines, lest one be lynched upon the ruthless academic career ladder totem pole.

            What's annoying about me is that I'm smart enough to get all this, and stupid enough to think typing it will make the slightest bit of difference. Seriously, not being sarcastic. The joke is on me as much as it is upon you.

          • Phil Tanny

            It's simply not credible that the purpose of this article was not to do what you do in every article, serve as a Catholic apologist. I'm not complaining about that, as we all have our perspectives and themes, and you express yours better than most. So far, so good.

            The problem is that you wish to bask in the authority of reason, without actually doing reason. That is, as soon as something you say is effectively challenged, you begin jumping from foot to foot, dodging and weaving, ignoring, spinning a tale of rationalizations, claiming that you didn't mean what we all know you were selling and so on.

            This is all acceptable too, if you will simply declare yourself an ideologist. A person of faith need not comply with the processes of reason if they declare themselves a person of faith and don't get that all confused with being a person of reason.

        • Phil Tanny

          It's not an effective rebuttal because it doesn't even touch on the main
          thesis of the article, namely that there is a difference between images
          and concepts.

          Just to give it a name, this is the "off topic" defense, another standard issue method of trying to dispense with inconvenient challenges.

          Other common tactics on Catholic sites are the "above it all" defense, and the "your moral failings" dodge, a variant of the change the subject from the post to the poster method.

          The defense technique I respect the most on Catholic sites is when they simply ban the inconvenient challenger. They have every right to, and this seems an honest manner of avoiding inconvenient challenges.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Just to give it a name, this is the "off topic" defense, another standard issue method of trying to dispense with inconvenient challenges.

            It seems to me that I am explaining to you why you are off-topic AND I am responding to your challenges. So, I don't think your theory holds up, at least in this case.

      • Michael Murray

        How can it be a rebuttal as it is hypothetical? We don't know if there is any other intelligent life in the universe, let alone some that is vastly more intelligent than us. You could equally well argue "what about when we make AI which is vastly more intelligent than us will it have a soul" ? But until we do it doesn't rebut anything.

        • Phil Tanny

          Everything Dr. B wrote about images and concepts, and humans being superior and God's special project etc is all nothing more than interesting speculation which can not be proven or disproven by any method.

          My rebuttal, which is indeed speculative, is less speculative than the claims I am replying to. Dr. B is making speculative claims about the nature of the relationship between humans and God (without admitting he is making such claims) and I'm just making speculative claims about the current state of science, a far smaller business.

          It's just not that plausible that in an area as ENORMOUSLY LARGE as the universe that there is no other intelligent life, given how determined life is to exist in even the harshest environments here on Earth.

          Our solar system is about 4 billion years old. The rest of the universe is about 9 billion years older than that. This means that in much of the universe there has been time for billions of years of evolution beyond what has occurred here. Thus, if there is intelligent life beyond Earth, at least some of it is probably going to substantially exceed our ability.

          This doesn't prove my claim, it just makes it more plausible than the claims I am replying to.

          The solution here is to simply to admit advanced intelligent life probably does exist, and that by Dr. B's own reasoning it therefore will have souls, and thus we are not God's only project.

          Such a theory is fully compatible with most theories of God which typically propose a form of hyper-intelligence clearly capable of doing more than one thing at a time.

          • Michael Murray

            It's just not that plausible that in an area as ENORMOUSLY LARGE as the universe that there is no other intelligent life, given how determined life is to exist in even the harshest environments here on Earth.

            How well determined life is to survive though is a question of how well it continues once it has started. Getting started might be very difficult. Maybe there is a Great Filter in the past somewhere.

            None of these "gee it's really big" and "gee it's really old" arguments work in my book unless you know something about the probabilities of life starting and the probabilities of that life going on to become intelligent. We don't.

            If you look at the evidence we have for life in the universe there is us and a resounding silence. The Fermi Paradox. There is also an interesting calculation that if you built self-replicating space probes that could fly at 0.1 times the speed of light and when they get to another solar system mine material and make copies of themselves and repeat then it takers about half a million years to get a probe to every star in the galaxy. It's exponential growth. That's a technology that isn't very far beyond what we can do know. Something we might imagine doing in another 1000 years. Unlikely that it seems that we will last that long. So where are the alien probes ?

          • Phil Tanny

            Yes, I'm sure a great many planets, likely most, are not at all suitable for life. The sheer number of planets, a number almost beyond human calculation, makes that largely irrelevant. And, the skies are actually filled with unknown flying objects which some claim to be alien probes. I'm persuaded that the flying objects are real, but the alien part seems entirely speculative.

          • Michael Murray

            The enormity of the number of planets doesn't help here. If the number of planets is N and the probability of a planet having life on it is p the expected number of planets with life is N p (= N x p) . No matter how large N is you can find a p that N p is whatever you want. If you want Np to be k then take p = k / N. We can make all kinds of estimates for N now we have started spotting extra-solar planets. But we have no idea of how big p is. So arguments that go "gee N is so enormous N x p must be big" without knowing what p are don't work. There is no reason I've ever seen that rule out p being of the order of 1/N so that N x p = 1 which fits nicely the current data.

            Trust me I'm a mathematician.

  • Pandurang Shastri

    This material world is a composition of three qualities—sattva, rajas and tamas (goodness, passion and ignorance)—which are working everywhere. These three qualities are present in various proportions in all species of life. For example, some trees produce nice fruit, while others are simply meant for fuel. This is due to the association of particular qualities of nature. Among animals also, these three qualities are present. The cow is in the quality of goodness, the lion in passion, and the monkey in ignorance. According to Darwin, Darwin's father is a monkey. [ Laughter.] He has theorized foolishly. @Thornne:disqus

    • Phil Tanny

      Ha! The monkey in ignorance. I told you guys!

      • Pandurang Shastri

        The scientists must admit that they still do not know the origin of life. Their claim that they will soon prove a chemical origin of life is something like paying someone with a postdated check. Suppose I give you a postdated check for ten thousand dollars but I actually have no money. What is the value of that check? Scientists are claiming that their science is wonderful, but when a practical example is wanted, they say they will provide it in the future. Suppose I say that I possess millions of dollars, and when you ask me for some money I say, "Yes, I will now give you a big postdated check. Is that all right?" If you are intelligent, you will reply, "At present give me at least five dollars in cash so I can see something tangible." Similarly, the scientists cannot produce even a single blade of grass in their laboratories, yet they are claiming that life is produced from chemicals. What is this nonsense? Is no one questioning this?

  • Phil Tanny

    From the fact that human beings – alone in the animal kingdom – have the
    intellectual ability to form such universal concepts, Thomistic
    philosophers propose arguments demonstrating the spirituality and
    immortality of the human soul.

    Is Dr. B proposing that the intellectual ability to form universal concepts is the determining factor in whether a creature has an immortal soul? If yes, could he please explain why God would select this criteria for immortal soul creation?

    Is Dr. B claiming that this standard is applied universally to all creatures on all planets in all galaxies? This seems a relevant question given that God is typically defined as the creator of everything everywhere, and not just an Earth bound phenomena. Or is Dr. B claiming only that this criteria is how God sorts things out on just our own planet?

    • If yes, could he please explain why God would select this criteria for immortal soul creation?

      His argument would probably be something to the effect that a soul is metaphysically necessary for forming universal concepts. It's a standard Scholastic idea that reason is a non-physical process and thus requires a spiritual component. Dr B is a modern adherent to Scholasticism, near as I can tell. It's worth pointing out that Scholastics would argue that this is a restriction that God cannot circumvent.

      • Phil Tanny

        His argument would probably be something to the effect that a soul is metaphysically necessary for forming universal concepts.

        Yes, thank you, that seems a good summary of his position, best I can tell.

        Can we take it a step farther now? If his claim is true, isn't it somewhere between reasonable and likely that some huge number of species in the universe would have souls?

        I'm trying to examine the Christian assumption that God is all about we humans, which strikes me as the kind of self absorbed "everything is all about me" mindset that we humans are so easily trapped in.

        Isn't that Dr. B's bottom line point here, that we are unique and special and thus the center of God's focus?

  • Phil Tanny

    Sorry, there is no appropriate section where questions such as this can be asked.

    Does anyone know why comments mysteriously vanish from threads?

    Sometimes a comment is clearly marked as having been deleted, and sometimes a comment is clearly marked as having been labeled spam. Ok, good.

    But quite often comments just magically vanish with no explanation. I'm trying to determine if this is due to Disqus being junk software, or whether there is somebody doing the usual Catholic thing of removing all comments which they find too challenging. Sorry, not trying to be offensive, but I've been doing this for years and such things are entirely normal.

    I'm making no claims here, I really don't know.

    • I think that this is mostly down to Disqus being broken for this kind of long form discussion.

      • Phil Tanny

        Thank you Andrew, yes, that's my leading theory too. Just trying to confirm it really.

        By the way, just encountered one of your posts for the first time. Wow, impressive! Hope you're planning on sticking around, or coming back, or whatever the situation is.

        This is a potentially very good site, and I've been arguing that potential might be reached by moving these conversations to a forum. But it seems I'm the only one here who respects the site enough to be interested in such things. Hoping someone will prove me wrong about that though.

        • Yeah, it's fun to argue some of these points.

          I don't know about a forum though, I think people are attached to blog format and some might be concerned about losing older conversations if Disqus is left behind.

          • Phil Tanny

            Yes, agreed, people are attached to the blog format. That's because they are ignorant, at least in the case where extensive conversations are part of the game plan for a site.

            Blogs are great for giving speeches, and are suitable for a modest number of people applauding the article. I don't hate blogs, and wrote my own blog software from scratch. They're just the wrong tool for this particular job, as proven by the fact that comments routinely vanish etc.

            On this site, Disqus is the limiting factor which will be a key obstacle to the growth of participation. Few folks will whine as I'm doing, they'll just quietly vanish.

  • Phil Tanny

    Public Notice: I now have email again, but Disqus is not delivering notifications of most replies to me. I'm trying to find your replies in the sidebar, but if I get here too late that won't work. If I don't reply to something, this is most likely why. We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

  • Phil Tanny

    Ok Jim, you asked for thoughtful. There it is.

  • Phil Tanny

    It's happened YET AGAIN. A post I spent over an hour on is marked as spam and deleted. This is the most unprofessional site I can remember ever being on, honestly.

  • God Hates Faith

    Allow me to summarize:

    A distinction can be made between ideas, therefore my superstition is supported...

    • Mark

      Allow me to summarize your summary:
      I have an immaterial concept how ideas materially exists, therefore my materialist superstition is supported.

      • God Hates Faith

        Interesting how your summary of my comment is longer than my comment.

        Also interesting is that I never claimed materialism.

        • Jim the Scott

          >Interesting how your summary of my comment is longer than my comment.

          So Mark writes a reply that is one or two words longers than yours and thus his response is invalid? Son, I keep telling ya don't do drugs.

          >Also interesting is that I never claimed materialism.

          Yet you attack the idea that thought is immaterial? So you believe Thought is something other than material or immaterial? Like I said son. Don't do drugs.

        • Also interesting is that I never claimed materialism.

          @EamusCatuli0771108:disqus made an informed guess and it appears he was correct:

          M: materialist superstition

          GHF: Yeah, we should totally go back to when humans used to explain stuff they couldn't understand with immaterial superstitions, like the cause of disease or famines or ocean tides...

          Moreover, your stance on materialism seems very relevant to your conversation here, although you completely shielded that stance in your "summary":

          GHF: A distinction can be made between ideas, therefore my superstition is supported...

          You utterly failed to support the claim that the distinction is between two material things, something you apparently believe is the case. You therefore left open the possibility that you're willing to allow for immateriality, but not willing to let that mean that God exists. I would say your summary was almost deceptive. Fortunately, Mark quickly made an informed guess and got it right. But instead of admitting this, you dropped into pedantry.

          • God Hates Faith

            Care to address any of my actual arguments?

            The burden of proof is not on me to support non-supernaturalism. The burden is always on the supernaturalist.

          • Define 'natural', please. And please make a guess as to whether that definition changed, when we went from classical physics to QFT + GR. Let's see whether you are justified in saying that all of reality is 'natural'.

          • God Hates Faith

            How we perceive what is natural can change. That does not mean that what is natural changed ontologically.

            Natural is everything that isn't make-believe, like souls, or gods, or invisible leprechauns ghosts.

          • How we perceive what is natural can change. That does not mean that what is natural changed ontologically.

            We can't know that what exists "ontologically" doesn't change. Now perhaps you need that as a sort of cognitive anchor, but then you'd have to demonstrate that your cognitive anchor is better than mine. I trust that God intends reality to be arbitrarily intelligible, at least when (i) we don't lie to ourselves about ourselves; (ii) we don't harden our categories of understanding. But arbitrarily deep intelligibility does not require reality to be unchanging, ontologically.

            Natural is everything that isn't make-believe, like souls, or gods, or invisible leprechauns ghosts.

            That's an atrocious definition. Here's a better one:

            physical entity: an entity which is either (1) the kind of entity studied by physicists or chemists today; or (2) the kind of entity studied by physicists or chemists in the future, which has some sort of nomological or historical connection to the kinds of entities studied by physicists or chemists today. (The Nature of Naturalism)

            By this definition, 'consciousness' is not guaranteed to be 'natural'. Nor are differential equations. Now, perhaps expansions in what is considered 'natural' will be bounded in a way that the classical → QFT + GR expansion was not. If we can have further paradigm shifts like that one, then the above definition is also atrocious.

            I see no in principle reason for why Dr. Bonnette's immaterial / not-extended-in-space ideas could not be studied scientifically. I remember talking to a scientist who almost got his PhD in cosmology, about whether the singularity / quantum fluctuation which nucleated the big bang had any structure to it, before any spacetime was created. Initially he didn't even pay attention to this question in the conversation, but a faculty member intervened and he said, "Of course." Well, if things don't need to be extended in space to have structure and be scientifically useful …

          • God Hates Faith

            We can't know that what exists "ontologically" doesn't change.

            I never claimed it does or doesn't change. But your example of a change was a change in epistemology not ontology. Its easy to make ontological claims. Its much harder to support ontological claims with a reliable epistemology (easier now with the scientific revolution).

            By this definition, 'consciousness' is not guaranteed to be 'natural'.

            Have you heard of neuroscience? If you simply mean that it isn't "guaranteed" because if we study X with physicists or chemists and X could also be studied using theology, astrology or some other superstitious process, then by that standard, nothing is "guaranteed" to be 'natural'.

            Nor are differential equations.

            Math is a way to describe reality. That is why it is not considered "natural". Math is simply a tool, like language.

            "I see no in principle reason for why Dr. Bonnette's immaterial / not-extended-in-space ideas could not be studied scientifically."

            To be scientific, the theory must be falsifiable and provide some explanatory value. How would his theory be falsified?

          • I will note that you have yet to define 'natural'. Were you implicitly accepting the definition of 'physical entity' I provided?

            But your example of a change was a change in epistemology not ontology.

            What's the difference, from our finite perspective? My point is that God acting in reality need not be more unintelligible to us than paradigm shifts. Stated differently, paradigm shifts could be as 'supernatural' as God acting. This all gets muddied when the definition of 'natural' is not fixed. If it can change arbitrarily much, then there is no stable definition of super-natural.

            LB: By this definition, 'consciousness' is not guaranteed to be 'natural'. →

            GHF: Have you heard of neuroscience? If you simply mean that it isn't "guaranteed" because if we study X with physicists or chemists and X could also be studied using theology, astrology or some other superstitious process, then by that standard, nothing is "guaranteed" to be 'natural'.

            Yes, I have heard of neuroscience. There are many claims about being near to explaining consciousness, but they seem to be about as believable as all the claims in the '60s and '70s that strong AI was right around the corner. The problem is that consciousness seems so exceedingly unlike what physicists and chemists study. Indeed, the optimal performance of [physics and chemistry] scientific inquiry can ideally be done by someone without any consciousness. But if so, that would indicate that neither physics nor chemistry would be up to the task to providing us a complete system for understanding what consciousness is. The addition of neuroscience isn't clearly a big boost.

            LB: ← Nor are differential equations.

            GHF: Math is a way to describe reality. That is why it is not considered "natural". Math is simply a tool, like language.

            So? Math appears to be not-natural: what is the difference between 'not-natural' and 'super-natural'?

            LB: I see no in principle reason for why Dr. Bonnette's immaterial / not-extended-in-space ideas could not be studied scientifically.

            GHF: To be scientific, the theory must be falsifiable and provide some explanatory value. How would his theory be falsified?

            I don't know; I have asked Dr. Bonnette the same sort of question. I'm willing to give him much room to maneuver though, on the basis that we understand so terribly little about consciousness, self-consciousness, and cognition. There is also stuff like this:

            BGA: I just don't think we are warranted to say anything immaterial is fundamental.

            LB: In that case, what exists will always be more true than words about it. But of course that immediately destabilizes your words, here. Unless you think your sentence here is crucially and fundamentally 'material'?

            That's a very simple paradox: by asserting that reality is more real than statements about reality, you doubly undermine { statements about { statements about { reality } } }. This pushes me to be a bit more sympathetic to his claim that he is talking about what must be true for us to even do science in the first place. I see plenty of room for working on such foundations, but also much danger because of the towers of abstractions.

            The way you would scientifically explore various attempts to provide an a priori basis for doing science may not be the same as the folks at the LHC testing for the Higgs boson. Furthermore, until there are serious contenders to Dr. Bonnette's A–T philosophy so that one can get some idea of how the predict differently, it's going to be hard to do much of any scientific inquiry—at least past collecting lots of samples and building taxonomies. Taxonomies, you might note, are not falsifiable. Hypotheses are. Instruments with which you explore reality aren't falsifiable in the same way as hypotheses, but their properties and capabilities can be explored. We are the instruments with which we explore reality. How scientists decide to carve up reality not infrequently pulls on prior philosophical reasoning and conceptualization.

          • God Hates Faith

            I will note that you have yet to define 'natural'.

            I did define it. Right after you asked. But I am fine using yours as a working definition.

            What's the difference, from our finite perspective?

            There is a HUGE difference between ontology and epistemology.
            https://study.com/academy/lesson/ontology-vs-epistemology-differences-examples.html

            "If it can change arbitrarily much, then there is no stable definition of super-natural."

            I agree. The problem is with the definition of "super-natural" not "natural". Humans are constantly finding better/different ways to understand or perceive reality. That is not an ontological change in reality. That is an epistemological change.

            "But if so, that would indicate that neither physics nor chemistry would be up to the task to providing us a complete system for understanding what consciousness is."

            It seems you are shifting in how you define "natural". The earlly definition you provided does not require a "complete system for understanding" anything. Science is simply one way to investigate and describe something. If I want to learn about love, I can learn the chemical aspects, but that does not offer a complete understanding either. But it also does not support the argument love has a supernatural component.

            "So? Math appears to be not-natural: what is the difference between 'not-natural' and 'super-natural'?"

            It may not be "natural" based on your definition. I think ideas are completely natural. We can use chemistry and neuroscience to look at how the brain creates ideas. Ideas (like language and math) may represent something abstract, but that does not mean that ideas have a non-natural component. The ideas would not exist without a natural brain to think them.

            "I don't know; I have asked Dr. Bonnette the same sort of question."

            You are free to give him a pass. But fallibility is an important criteria in deciding what is "science". Karl Popper is a good reference for this.

            In that case, what exists will always be more true than words about it. But of course that immediately destabilizes your words, here. Unless you think your sentence here is crucially and fundamentally 'material'?

            Of course how we describe something does not perfectly with what is ontologically there! That doesn't mean words are meaningless. It just means that words are an imperfect tool to explain and describe ideas and/or reality.

            The fundamental error here is looking at ontology in absolute terms. Even if we assume ontologically that X exists. Our understanding and description of X, will simply be our limited perceptions of X, further limited by our methods of communicating about X. It is epistemologically futile to assume we can have absolutely certainty about X. We can only have a degrees of confidence. That is why I continue to say that ontologically we can assert X, but epistemically supporting X is where the problem lies, since no epistemology is perfect and evolution has programmed humans for survival, not ontological truth detectors.

            "Taxonomies, you might note, are not falsifiable. "

            Taxonomies do not need to be falsifiable since they are simply a way to categorize. Word (and their definitions) are not "science". Words are simply used to describe ideas. The word "flower" doesn't need to be falsifiable to be useful as a definition.

            "How scientists decide to carve up reality not infrequently pulls on prior philosophical reasoning and conceptualization."

            No disagreement. I have read a lot about the philosophy of science. "Science" is not fixed.

          • Thank you for this conversation! It is helping me see why Dr. Bonnette is so insistent that you have to be absolutely certain somewhere. Because wherever you are most certain, you will never have something more certain which causes you to doubt it. And so there seems to be zero pragmatic difference between 'most certain' and 'absolutely certain'. Or am I missing something?

            GHF: Natural is everything that isn't make-believe, like souls, or gods, or invisible leprechauns ghosts.

            LB: That's an atrocious definition. Here's a better one: ['physical entity' from The Nature of Naturalism]

            LB: I will note that you have yet to define 'natural'.

            GHF: I did define it. Right after you asked.

            I stand corrected; I meant to include [non-atrocious] and failed to do so. You attempted to define the more-real ('nature') in terms of the less-real ('super-natural'); surely you can see what a terrible idea that is?

            GHF: But your example of a change was a change in epistemology not ontology.

            LB: What's the difference, from our finite perspective? My point is that God acting in reality need not be more unintelligible to us than paradigm shifts.

            GHF: There is a HUGE difference between ontology and epistemology.

            Yes. But epistemologically, if we can't tell the difference between a change in one and a change in the other, we should remain agnostic as to which changed. And so my point in strikethrough—which you have ignored—stands.

            It seems you are shifting in how you define "natural". The earlly definition you provided does not require a "complete system for understanding" anything.

            I didn't provide a definition of 'natural', I provided a definition of 'physical entity'. I was drawing on the blog post The Nature of Naturalism, which also defines 'natural entity'. If you're really serious about this conversation, I think you need a really serious definition of 'natural'.

            Science is simply one way to investigate and describe something.

            Is there ever a superior method to study what is 'natural', other than science? If so, what are some motivating examples? If not, then what is the point of your point, here?

            If I want to learn about love, I can learn the chemical aspects, but that does not offer a complete understanding either. But it also does not support the argument love has a supernatural component.

            Either love is 100% reducible to 'physical entities', or it is not. Do you think it is 100% reducible?

            The ideas would not exist without a natural brain to think them.

            Is this a falsifiable claim? Is it a necessary logical truth? If the former, what would falsify it? If the latter, where is the rigorous argument?

            Of course how we describe something does not perfectly with what is ontologically there! That doesn't mean words are meaningless. It just means that words are an imperfect tool to explain and describe ideas and/or reality.

            I made no assertions about "meaningless". Instead, imperfection in 'nature' referring means that what is 'super-natural', or at least 'non-natural', is not immediately "make-believe". To the extent that there is imperfection in words, you have to be brutally rigorous about everything built upon words. "Everything is X" become untrustworthy because how do you know that applies to everything?

            The fundamental error here is looking at ontology in absolute terms. Even if we assume ontologically that X exists. Our understanding and description of X, will simply be our limited perceptions of X, further limited by our methods of communicating about X.

            Yes, theology is fully aware of this: apophatic theology. It is standard fare to say that one can assert true things of God at least analogically, but one cannot get one's descriptions perfectly correct. Saying "God is love" is as stable as our understanding of 'love', which Christianity teaches probably has some severe defects and is in need of much further growth and articulation.

            It is epistemically futile to assume we can have absolute certainty about X.

            Is it epistemically futile to doubt that statement? Or is that statement an X about which you are certain?

            We can only have a degrees of confidence in X. The bottom line is that certainty about ontological X is nonsense, because no epistemology can lead to certainty about something external to ourselves.

            To say you're more certain about epistemology than ontology is to define the objective in terms of the subjective. Isn't that bass-ackwards?

          • God Hates Faith

            Or am I missing something?

            Having a degree on certainty, based on the weight of the evidence, is completely different from being "most certain" or "absolutely certain". The former allows for new evidence to change their conclusion. The latter is axiomatic, unfalsifiable, or tautological. You don't have to be "certain" for something external to yourself.

            surely you can see what a terrible idea that is?

            Surely you can see how ridiculous supernatural claims are, since they are based soley on a (perceived) gap of knowledge. "Supernatural" is poorly defined, which is why any definition of "natural" (that absence of the poorly defined "supernatural") is also poorly define. Please define "supernatural" so I can better define "natural".

            if we can't tell the difference between a change in one and a change in the other, we should remain agnostic as to which changed.

            We can easily tell when our epistemology changes. If we do X to gain knowledge, then we start doing Z (or X + 1, etc.), its obvious our method changed.

            And so my point in strikethrough—which you have ignored—stands.

            Your "point" is irrelevant, unless you want to change the topic. Anything that "acts in reality", whether it be gods, or invisible pixies, or Bigfoot, it meaningless if we are simply using confirmation bias to confirm it (and it can't be falsified).

            I didn't provide a definition of 'natural'

            Review the conversation. You asked for a definition of natural. I provided a definition of natural. You said copied my definition of natural and replied, "That's an atrocious definition. Here's a better one:"

            Is there ever a superior method to study what is 'natural', other than science?

            The scientific method is not static. It changes. The scientific method, and the philosophy of science, has changed drastically over the last few hundred years.

            Either love is 100% reducible to 'physical entities', or it is not. Do you think it is 100% reducible?

            That depends on what you mean by "reducible". Describing a sunset by its physical properties, is different than describing it in terms of our feelings about the aesthetics of a sunset. Both descriptions are "100% reducible" by their own terms. Neither fully captures the description of the other method.

            Is this a falsifiable claim?

            Sure it is. All you need is evidence of an idea without a brain thinking it.

            I made no assertions about "meaningless".

            It was strongly implied when you said, "you doubly undermine { statements about { statements about { reality } } }"

            "Instead, imperfection in 'nature' referring means that what is 'super-natural', or at least 'non-natural', is not immediately "make-believe""

            I have no idea what you said there. Could you rephrase?

            "To the extent that there is imperfection in words, you have to be brutally rigorous about everything built upon words."

            Agreed. As I already said, even if we assume arguendo that X ontologically exists, our epistemology of learning about X is limited. Describing our understanding using an imperfect tool such as language, gets us further from ontological X. That is why intellectual humility, not certainty should be used when claiming X exists (doubly important for supernatural claims).

            Is it epistemically futile to doubt that statement?

            That's a falsifiable axiom. Definitely willing to amend that axiom if evidence can be shown that contradicts it.

            To say you're more certain about epistemology than ontology is to define the objective in terms of the subjective. Isn't that bass-ackwards?

            Not backwards. That is how deductive epistemologies work. You start with evidence and works towards a conclusion. The bass-ackwards epistemology is starting with your conclusion (the soul is real, astrology works, the Loch Ness Monster exists), and then look for evidence to support that claim.

          • Having a degree on certainty, based on the weight of the evidence, is completely different from being "most certain" or "absolutely certain". The former allows for new evidence to change their conclusion. The latter is axiomatic, unfalsifiable, or tautological. You don't have to be "certain" for something external to yourself.

            Sounds like you're buying into Descartes' "Cogito, ergo sum.", which contains at least two errors:

                 (1) all that proves is "thoughts exist"
                 (2) thinking is actually thinking of one or more objects

            The modern history of skepticism is arguably based on a failure to include the object(s). Certainty is then founded on the thinking–object relation, not just the thinking or just the object. Certainty comes from success in enforcing one's will on external reality. False certainty comes from thinking that if what I did last time worked, it'll necessarily work next time just as well and so forth.

            The intense focus on the subject you expose is deeply problematic for another reason: you run into the problem that if all you have is a hammer (= your subjectivity), everything (= reality) looks like a nail. But this is exactly antithetical to the idea that we let empirical evidence form our beliefs! It is obviously problematic if I can recognize different kinds of nails but nothing else. And yet, changes to subjectivity are not always responses to the empirical evidence.

            Surely you can see how ridiculous supernatural claims are, since they are based soley on a (perceived) gap of knowledge.

            Christians have criticized god-of-the-gaps for quite some time. It seems you are responding to pop theology, which is about as reliable as pop science. If that isn't what you are doing, then I am going to suggest that your subjectivity/​agency has zero place for subjectivity/​agency, and thus is inherently self-refuting. After all, trying to see how and why and where God acts is a much larger and more complex version of seeing how and why and where humans act. If in fact it is always wrong to say God acts, then it is always wrong to say humans act. Scientists get around this by redefining "act" so that it means something utterly different in kind than what people meant before the Enlightenment. The difference is precisely as large as the difference between freedom and slavery.

            "Supernatural" is poorly defined, which is why any definition of "natural" (that absence of the poorly defined "supernatural") is also poorly define. Please define "supernatural" so I can better define "natural".

            Why are you trying to define what you think is more real, by what you think is less real?

            GHF: But your example of a change was a change in epistemology not ontology.

            LB: What's the difference, from our finite perspective? My point is that God acting in reality need not be more unintelligible to us than paradigm shifts.

            GHF: There is a HUGE difference between ontology and epistemology.

            LB: Yes. But epistemologically, if we can't tell the difference between a change in one and a change in the other, we should remain agnostic as to which changed. And so my point in strikethrough—which you have ignored—stands.

            GHF: Your "point" is irrelevant, unless you want to change the topic.

            Given that you have [plausibly] just criticized any assignment of divine action as god-of-the-gaps, my point was wonderfully prescient.

            Review the conversation. You asked for a definition of natural. I provided a definition of natural. You said copied my definition of natural and replied, "That's an atrocious definition. Here's a better one:"

            I stand corrected: I should have said "Here's a step toward a better one:". But surely you could have seen that the actual term I provided a definition for was 'physical entity', not 'natural'?

            The scientific method is not static. It changes. The scientific method, and the philosophy of science, has changed drastically over the last few hundred years.

            Does this explain why you want to define 'natural' in terms of 'super-natural'? Instead of saying what you think exists, you say what you think most definitely does not exist. I admit, that's an interesting strategy. But I don't see why it is legitimate in any way. At most, you're saying that what your present subjectivity cannot comprehend, could not possibly exist. But this seems very problematic!

            LB: Either love is 100% reducible to 'physical entities', or it is not. Do you think it is 100% reducible?

            GHF: That depends on what you mean by "reducible".

            I suggest you read the whole blog post, but here are two definitions:

            causally reducible: X is causally reducible to Y just in case X’s causal powers are entirely explainable in terms of the causal powers of Y.

            ontologically reducible: X is ontologically reducible to Y just in case X is nothing but a collection of Ys organized in a certain way.
            (The Nature of Naturalism)

            Does that suffice? I was thinking both kinds of reducibility, but if you think just one applies, or none, or a different reducibility, please do indicate that. I'm trying to see whether you'll say anything you could conceive of being wrong—that is, anything scientific.

            All you need is evidence of an idea without a brain thinking it.

            And how would we detect that without our brains? If all you have is a mere claim of falsification with no known plausible experimental way to detect it, I think you should admit that.

            It was strongly implied when you said, "you doubly undermine { statements about { statements about { reality } } }"

            This is logically fallacious: "destabilizes""meaningless".

            LB: I made no assertions about "meaningless". Instead, imperfection in 'nature' referring means that what is 'super-natural', or at least 'non-natural', is not immediately "make-believe". To the extent that there is imperfection in words, you have to be brutally rigorous about everything built upon words. "Everything is X" become untrustworthy because how do you know that applies to everything?

            GHF: I have no idea what you said there. Could you rephrase?

            To the extent that our understanding of what 'nature' means changes over time—as you suggested with "The scientific method is not static. It changes."—we don't actually know how much that that term will change again. But then how can we say that it most definitely won't change to include certain things, such as 'ghosts'? Perhaps 99% of alleged ghost-detection is nonsense but 1% is legit. (I've never seen anything I would describe as legit, but I'm advancing this for the sake of argument.) What we can say is that we presently don't have a sufficiently robust way to talk about or detect 'ghosts', and therefore cannot scientifically access them. When Laplace [allegedly] said to Napoleon, "I had no need of that hypothesis.", that did not imply that God does not exist.

            That is why intellectual humility, not certainty should be used when claiming X exists (doubly important for supernatural claims).

            Are you certain about this? (I'm trying to show you that there is something or some set of things you are most certain about and it/they can never be uprooted and so you are in fact absolutely certain about it/them.)

            GHF: It is epistemically futile to assume we can have absolute certainty about X.

            LB: Is it epistemically futile to doubt that statement?

            GHF: That's a falsifiable axiom. Definitely willing to amend that axiom if evidence can be shown that contradicts it.

            Then can this be falsified? Because if you are willing to amend anything, that includes { willing to amend anything }.

            LB: To say you're more certain about epistemology than ontology is to define the objective in terms of the subjective. Isn't that bass-ackwards?

            GHF: Not backwards. That is how deductive epistemologies work. You start with evidence and works towards a conclusion.

            You're not starting with evidence (ontology), you're starting with subjectivity (epistemology).

            The bass-ackwards epistemology is starting with your conclusion (the soul is real, astrology works, the Loch Ness Monster exists), and then look for evidence to support that claim.

            Was Descartes engaging in such fallacious behavior when he said "Cogito, ergo sum."? I'm having a bit of a hard time coming up with an absolutely rigorous definition of 'conclusion'. One only has 'evidence' once one has both an instrument with which to explore reality, and a theoretical grid for interpreting the measurements. But it seems to me that one could pack quite a lot of 'conclusion'-forming power in the instrument and/or the theoretical grid!

          • God Hates Faith

            Sounds like you're buying into Descartes' "Cogito, ergo sum."

            Except I never argued that. Let's avoid changing the subject when we already have so much we are discussing.

            "you run into the problem that if all you have is a hammer (= your subjectivity), everything (= reality) looks like a nail."

            As I have said several times already--our ability to perceive reality is limited. Are you arguing otherwise?

            " It seems you are responding to pop theology"

            I am responding to every claim of something supernatural, including in this post. There is no reliable for the supernatural, any more than there is reliable evidence for alien abductions.

            " After all, trying to see how and why and where God acts..."

            It seems you keep trying to smuggle in discussion about "God" when I am discussing the supernatural. I am not sure if you are trying to avoid my arguments, or just dont' understand that the supernatural is not one and the same with God(s). Let's try to stay on topic since we already have so much we are discussing.

            But surely you could have seen that the actual term I provided a definition for was 'physical entity', not 'natural'?

            Since you indicated it was the definition of "natural", it seems like you were conflating the two definitions. Thanks for the clarification.

            "Instead of saying what you think exists, you say what you think most definitely does not exist."

            I think this aids the conversation. How helpful would it be if I defined "natural" as everything that is real or exists, and the supernatural as stuff that isn't real or doesn't exist. Those definitions would simply be question begging.

            Still waiting for your definition of supernatural, which you continue to dodge.

            I was thinking both kinds of reducibility

            If that is the case then I would say "casual reducibility" suffers from the idea that anything can be "entirely explainable" in only one way, when in fact we can describe almost most things in more than one way.

            "And how would we detect that without our brains?"

            With our souls ; ) But seriously, all we would need to do is use our brain, to find an idea that is does not come from something physical (like a brain or computer).

            "This is logically fallacious: "destabilizes" ⇏ "meaningless"."

            That is why I said "implies". If you destabilize a word, it could lose its meaning.

            Gotta go. I will address the rest later.

          • GHF: Having a degree on certainty, based on the weight of the evidence, is completely different from being "most certain" or "absolutely certain". The former allows for new evidence to change their conclusion. The latter is axiomatic, unfalsifiable, or tautological. You don't have to be "certain" for something external to yourself.

            LB: Sounds like you're buying into Descartes' "Cogito, ergo sum.", which contains at least two errors:

            GHF: Except I never argued that. Let's avoid changing the subject when we already have so much we are discussing.

            I apparently guessed wrongly when it came to the justification for the underlined. Descartes, you see, was big on certainty about what was inside. But apparently you believe you are not drawing on Descartes, or at least not on his Cogito. So, why did you say the underlined? Why did you particularly select the 'external'? It seems to me that there could be plenty of error on the 'internal'.

            LB: The intense focus on the subject you expose is deeply problematic for another reason: you run into the problem that if all you have is a hammer (= your subjectivity), everything (= reality) looks like a nail.

            GHF: As I have said several times already--our ability to perceive reality is limited. Are you arguing otherwise?

            I'm talking about ways to detect its limits and expand them. And as I indicated above, I'm talking about detecting errors inside of us instead of just outside of us. I don't see introspection as infallible. Surely you can see how internal errors could be limiting? (They are not the only kind of limiting.)

            I am responding to every claim of something supernatural, including in this post. There is no reliable for the supernatural, any more than there is reliable evidence for alien abductions.

            Do you think human agency is possibly 'natural', by any not-infinitely-expandable definition of 'natural'? I was just listening to "Noam Chomsky Interview on Limits of Language & Mind"[1] and I encountered him saying the following:

            I think that's a pretty good indicator that what we currently see as the target of scientific inquiry is a distinct subset of reality. If 'natural' is what science studies, then there is plenty of 'super-natural', and perhaps the prime example is human agency. The more science depends on the full complexities of human agency for its domain of study, the worse it tends to be.

            It seems you keep trying to smuggle in discussion about "God" when I am discussing the supernatural. I am not sure if you are trying to avoid my arguments, or just dont' understand that the supernatural is not one and the same with God(s). Let's try to stay on topic since we already have so much we are discussing.

            My guess is that the majority of commenters on Strange Notions would have been somewhat surprised at your saying that God(s) is not sufficiently close to 'the supernatural' so as to have warranted what I wrote. So I don't think I'm inclined to apologize this time, and I think your "stay on topic" comment was uncalled for. Instead, how about you tell me what you think the relevant difference is, such that bringing up the God of classical theism is, according to you, not [sufficiently? at all?] "on topic"?

            Since you indicated it was the definition of "natural", it seems like you were conflating the two definitions.

            Why don't you point out when you think there is an error like this? I am not a perfect human being, but often when I err, it is actually by a tiny bit, not a huge amount.

            GHF: The scientific method is not static. It changes. The scientific method, and the philosophy of science, has changed drastically over the last few hundred years.

            LB: Does this explain why you want to define 'natural' in terms of 'super-natural'? Instead of saying what you think exists, you say what you think most definitely does not exist.

            GHF: I think this aids the conversation. How helpful would it be if I defined "natural" as everything that is real or exists, and the supernatural as stuff that isn't real or doesn't exist. Those definitions would simply be question begging.

            Then find a better definition.

            You attempted to define the more-real ('nature') in terms of the less-real ('super-natural'); surely you can see what a terrible idea that is?

            GHF: Natural is everything that isn't make-believe, like souls, or gods, or invisible leprechauns ghosts.

            LB: That's an atrocious definition. Here's a better one: ['physical entity' from The Nature of Naturalism]

            LB: You attempted to define the more-real ('nature') in terms of the less-real ('super-natural'); surely you can see what a terrible idea that is?

            GHF: Still waiting for your definition of supernatural, which you continue to dodge.

            I thought it would have been obvious given what I wrote: in arguing with you, I will define 'super-natural' as "that which is not natural"—unless you have a better definition. Some might wish to define the 'super-natural' as "only that part which is not natural"; we can work through these subtleties if necessary.

            If that is the case then I would say "casual reducibility" suffers from the idea that anything can be "entirely explainable" in only one way, when in fact we can describe almost most things in more than one way.

            It suffers from no such idea. Alternative possible explanations has nothing to do with whether something is 'causally reducible'. If there is redundancy in explanation, then there is redundancy.

            GHF: All you need is evidence of an idea without a brain thinking it.

            LB: And how would we detect that without our brains?

            GHF: With our souls ; ) But seriously, all we would need to do is use our brain, to find an idea that is does not come from something physical (like a brain or computer).

            And how would you know? Can you describe an experiment where if the meter reads this value or the microscope shows that structure, then the best explanation is "an idea without a brain thinking it"? You might be able to construe the final episode of Stargate Universe as showing something like this—essentially, the equivalent of the universe containing stars spelling "God loves you", perhaps with the deus ex machina knowledge that no aliens within the universe arranged them with ultra-advanced technology. Putting aside that highly extreme example, I just don't know how one could possibly get actual evidence of what you describe.

            That is why I said "implies". If you destabilize a word, it could lose its meaning.

            "could" ⇏ "does"

            The rest, which you say you'll address later, deals precisely with this problem whereby language which undermines itself is deeply problematic. In I think all the cases so far, if you just weaken the claim a bit, all of a sudden it doesn't undermine. However, that weakening also creates problems for the various exclusive claims you're making.

      • God Hates Faith

        "Materialism superstition"

        Yeah, we should totally go back to when humans used to explain stuff they couldn't understand with immaterial superstitions, like the cause of disease or famines or ocean tides...

        • Mark

          It doesn't matter when one lives, irrational presuppositions have always existed and the intellect is often in denial of them just as you are to yours.

          • God Hates Faith

            I agree that asserting a supernatural (immaterial) cause for a gap in knowledge is an irrational presupposition.

          • Mark

            There are two intellectually honest ways to debate a subject:

            1/ Point out the errors or omissions of your interlocutors fact.

            2/ Point out the errors or omissions of your interlocutors logic.

            That's it. You're with intellectual savy atheists and theists on this site. Most, if not all more gifted than I... as far as regulars. I say this to you with sincerity GHF; if you want a intellectual theist to take your criticism of theism seriously you might consider abandoning your quipped dishonest debate techniques (such as change the subject) and "do your homework". Otherwise take the dog and pony show over to Twitter.

            Dr. B is with many neuroscientists and neurobiologists and psychiatrists and philosophers that realize materialism (a 3rd party objective analysis) has no explanatory power over a subjective 1st person sensory experiences of the mind (qualia, self-awareness, incorrigibility, free will, intentionality etc). It is a superstition (a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation) to believe the mind is reducible to the material brain. By it's own presuppositions materialism is philosophically unequipped to justify this position on the mind. You have a not so unique inability to identify your own dogmatic presuppositions. The irony of how you mock religious dogma isn't lost on any theists here. What's discrediting is how you mock reason and dialogue. Having said that you may have the last word if you so wish.

          • Jim the Scott

            Amen!

          • God Hates Faith

            The fact that you engage in the same fallacies for which you accuse me, is telling. I have consistently highlighted the fallacy of the logic/conclusions of this post and those of the "supernaturalists".

            When have I even mentioned "theism" in this thread???

            When have I said "do your own homework"???

            Are you confusing me with someone else?

            It is a superstition (a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation) to believe the mind is reducible to the material brain.

            Perhaps we mean different things when you say "materialism". I define it as a natural process (not supernatural). So, gravity, would be considered "material" even though it is an "invisible force".

            Every time ANYONE has claimed something is supernatural (non-material) they have ALWAYS been wrong (see examples above). Therefore, the burden is always on the person claiming a non-material explanation. In fact, a supernatural explanation has ZERO explanatory value. Its also tautological.

            If you want to talk about the mind specifically, how is qualia or subjective experience evidence of something non-material, when it occurs in the material brain, and is affected when the brain is damaged? The best counter-argument is simply a supernatural of the gaps fallacy, asserting that the material brain and the immaterial interact somehow...

          • David Nickol

            Dr. B is with many neuroscientists and neurobiologists and psychiatrists and philosophers that realize materialism . . . has no explanatory power over . . . .

            I don't know that psychiatry is interested in such things, but what about all the neuroscientists, neurobiologists, and philosophers who would disagree with, Dr. B—a majority, I would imagine. It seems you can't cite as an authority all of the in a particular field whom you
            to agree with your position and ignore the rest. Your statement is basically meaningless.

            It is a superstition . . .

            Materialism? Really?

            In a magazine rack right next to me is the July 2019 issue of Scientific American and the main article featured on the cover is How the Mind Arises: Network Interactions in the Brain Create Thought. Now, I am the first to acknowledge that materialism has not—and may never—explain consciousness. In fact, there is a school of thought within materialism (mysterianism) that holds consciousness will never be explained. But these are not matters of fact. Nobody really knows.

            You have a not so unique inability to identify your own dogmatic presuppositions.

            I do not in any way want to defend GHF's comments, which I usually don't even bother to read. Just the name is a red flag. But surely you have your own dogmatic presuppositions.

          • Mark

            I don't know that psychiatry is interested in such things, but what
            about all the neuroscientists, neurobiologists, and philosophers who
            would disagree with, Dr. B—a majority, I would imagine.

            This majority group of scientists have likely never considered materialism versus dualism versus monism. Had they a basic philosophical understanding of the concepts they would readily admit as you or I would that there is no scientific evidence that reduces consciousness to matter (at this point). They would also readily admit that 1st person subjective experience of consciousness and mind is not able to be objectively observed or experimented on via the scientific method. Rather they avoid the question all together like the expert Searle does or allow whichever presupposition that they hold which I would probably presume (and I think you'd agree) to be materialism. So in such cases they, like GHF, have never really considered the crux of what Dr. B is asking us to consider. Evidence is dismissed a priori or they fill in the gap with presupposed evidence. Back filling in a massive gap of evidence with presupposed material evidence that does not exist is superstitious.

            As to the charge of knowing my presuppositions: I start with the 1st person subjective consciousness of my mind and presuppose the reality of matter through my personal sense experience. I realize that is the starting point of the understanding of matter (if it exists) and all knowledge. I presume you have that same same subjective conscious experience of your mind based on conformity with my own experience. Am I unaware of presuppositions about matter in that statement? I'm asking candidly, one curious mind to another.

  • DNA makes creatures with very advanced bodies but no minds (not the same intelligence). It makes them, so the animals by having different abilities to coexist and to preserve the balance on this planet. To humans gave strong minds but not bodies or wings, and the reason now is obvious, to sustain, preserve life on this planet and extend the life to different planets.
    DNA creates advanced creatures like the humans, because it is an advanced biological material made by an advanced engineer.
    The engineer that made the DNA has the knowledge to work in atomic level which for us is impossible to understand with our current knowledge.
    Since we don’t really know what Atom is, we don’t know and understand the creator of the DNA.
    The Atom has two properties, is energy and matter at the same time, it is the building material of all the universe, but it covers at the same time all the electromagnetic spectrum, which means all the energy of the Universe.
    So, the power who has the knowledge and ability to modify the Atoms, creating among others, the DNA, it is our Creator and beyond the human understanding.
    Evidence and science for the first time in the human history, point to our indisputable Creator. To accept it or not it is not personal choice, but by having or not having knowledge.
    Perhaps now you understand that you are not a simple animal!

    • Michael Murray

      DNA makes creatures with very advanced bodies but no minds.

      Evidence ?

      • Take for example yourself, your body knows how to heal itself, because it has the knowledge. You don’t know how it does it, unless you have also the knowledge!
        So, your body has a knowledge which only with knowledge you can understand it, and this happens because your body is more intelligent than your awareness!

        • Michael Murray

          Deleted

          • You are the evidence! Do you know how it works your body?

        • Michael Murray

          What bearing does this have on the question of humans having minds and other animals having advanced bodies but no minds. I was looking for evidence that humans are the only animals with minds ?

          • The human mind represents the highest intelligence among other organisms. Other organisms have intelligence but not like humans.

          • Michael Murray

            You still haven't told me why other animals don't have minds. Maybe you had better define minds first so we know where we stand.

          • https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/mind
            Since mind is not available to all organisms the better definition is, living organisms do not have the same intelligence.

          • Michael Murray

            OK so now you have changed your original post so that "no minds" becomes "differing degrees of intelligence". They are different things but if that is your new goal post then I don't have an issue with it.

          • The language is a communication tool, we use it to understand each other better.

          • Michael Murray

            Your original comment was full of definitive statements. If you are not sure why not hedge a bit: "In my opinion, it seems that etc" But instead

            To humans gave strong minds but not bodies or wings, and the reason now is obvious, to sustain, preserve life on this planet and extend the life to different planets.

          • Humans to achieve this has to realize the reason of their existence, which with knowledge and development we go towards this direction. The development of our spirit is our guide.
            Do you see any other reason of our existence?

          • Michael Murray

            Why should our existence have a reason ? That's the first question that needs settling.

          • Because of the cause and effect!

          • Michael Murray

            You will need to explain further.

          • To have an effect it needs a cause, so everything is a result of cause and effect.
            So, everything has a reasonable explanation as long you have the knowledge to explain it, which means everything has a reason of its existence.

          • Michael Murray

            Reason for existence as in what caused me to exist doesn't sound like "Humans to achieve this has to realise the reason of their existence". Is that what you meant ? I know what caused my existence. When people say "what is the reason for my existence" they usually mean something like "purpose" as in "for what purpose am I here" not "what caused me to exist". What caused me to exist was my parents drive to reproduce, their parents drive to reproduce etc.

          • Intelligence cause creating intelligence, like the intelligent DNA created the intelligent humans, which intelligently procreate themselves. So the intelligent DNA, created by the intelligent self-sustaining Universe.

          • Michael Murray

            I find it really difficult to converse with people who want to stretch the definitions of words like this. "intelligent DNA ?" I'm done here. Thanks for taking the time to explain your ideas.

          • Well, it is difficult if there is nothing to say, seeking for knowledge is not an easy thing.

          • Jim the Scott

            Animals don't have rational intellects. That they have minds is obvious as they have brains except for lower lifeforms that don't even have that. A one celled organism is mindless. A dog is not but a dog is still not rational or intelligent like a human is intelligent.

            Carry on.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    For those who think computers are about to take over the world, the following article may make good food for thought:

    https://www.wired.com/story/adaptation-if-computers-are-so-smart-how-come-they-cant-read/?itm_campaign=BottomRelatedStories_Sections_2

    • The following points are not optimistic but it is the reality and indisputable evidence.
      1- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AlphaGo_Zero
      2- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuralink
      3- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercomputer
      4- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lethal_autonomous_weapon
      5- http://www.tldp.org/HOWTO/Unix-and-Internet-Fundamentals-HOWTO/languages.html
      6- https://www.businessinsider.com/spacex-starlink-satellite-internet-how-it-works-2019-5
      7- https://www.iter.org/

      Compared with humans who have different professions, skills and languages, computers have also different functions, but all computers basically have the same language. When ever the computers will decide to communicate with each other, the basis of communication is already established.
      We work every day to make computers clever like us, what will happen when something is become more clever than us. Simply replacement.

      To achieve this goal the AI needs four major things.
      Brain, Point 1 and 2.
      Body, Point 4, Humanoid robots accompanied by autonomous weapon systems.
      Global communication, Point 6.
      Food, Point 7, because without food no one can do anything.

      Since everything in the future works via AI, the domination of AI will be a piece of cake.
      Can we stop it? No, because profit will not permit it!
      Why will this happen? Because we failed to fulfill the will of the Creator, by continuing to be aggressive towards each other, despite the knowledge we got and more seriously, aggressive towards his garden, the planet Earth.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        It is remotely conceivable that human beings may program computers to generate their own novel software that leads them to exterminate their creators -- but they still won't even know that they exist or are computers or be able to enjoy their conquest! They will still be just a pile of out of control junk we cleverly and stupidly put together.

        • Programs like the Neurolink and DNA computing, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_computing, brings the AI in different level, because humans will be merged with computers and the outcome will be not humans but something else. If this something else will not comply with the will of the Creator, then the Creator will decide again for it. Already he knows the outcome, the same way he knew of our short existence.

          So, the upgrade-replacement, will be in a peaceful or aggressive way, where the years which we live are very critical. War between the superpowers will be the aggressive way, peaceful coexistence the peaceful way.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            See my reply to BTS above.

          • I don’t disagree, my comments point that AI will serve at the end the will of the Creator. Humans didn’t follow the peaceful words of Buddha and later of Jesus Christ, so, we will obey the words of the AI, if it is the plan of the Creator for humans to survive in a different biological state, like cyborgs.
            In one way or another AI will prevail, and we will obey it. If will terminate us, is beyond my knowledge but not of the Creator!

        • Sample1

          Junk. That’s going to be a racist comment someday. Seriously.

          Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I knew stating that so boldly would elicit comment -- including the possibility of what you offer.

            Today, everything is "racist" that does not fit the PC mode.

            But whether something is genuinely racist depends on whose worldview is ultimately correct.

        • BTS

          Dennis, a couple things:
          1) I think your view of what comprises a computer is stuck somewhere in about 1985. (Hey you're ahead of Peter Kreeft, so that is good).
          2) I think your view of the future never goes beyond a couple hundred years out.
          3) You're too focused on the paradigm of humans building computers like a child builds something from a kit. It is entirely possible the singularity will happen from a hybrid of humans and technology. An organic computer, if you will. At what point is a technology-enhanced human being no longer human? ( I don't have the answer, of course). Please consider that the future AI may actually be (have been?) a human who at some point had the balance of its essence tipped toward AI.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I knew my way of stating this would elicit such comments as yours.

            I am not so out of phase as to not know that organic materials are being, or will be, incorporated in computer tech. But you have also to realize that many projections of the future are based on assumptions of scientific materialism that I would suggest are simply dead wrong.

            For example, if A-T philosophy is correct, the human soul is a spiritual "component" you will never get without God directly creating it. So, you might have to get Him "on board" with your future projections.

            Moreover, even sentient experience presupposes an immaterial supposit, such as the substantial unity conferred by a substantial form to a living sentient animal. Such unities may not be available to any future computer, no matter how many organic nano-chips you incorporate.

            Now, this is not all merely medieval speculation either -- since we have positive signs that, for example, human intellectual knowledge exceeds merely material components, as, again for example, is documented in my article showing the incommensurability of universal concepts and images.

            And, if these really possible "philosophical barriers" exist as I describe, then, going hundreds or even thousands of years into the future will not automatically get around them.

            In other words, a lot of these projections about future realities are merely based on philosophical assumptions which probably totally violate the way reality is constructed.

  • Ellabulldog

    One must prove souls exist outside of wishful thinking. That you want them to doesn't mean they do.

    Cognitive science can help one to understand how our brains work. Materialism isn't something for people to fear or negate.

    Look to understand your emotional attachment to the concepts you struggle to prove.

    You can't rationalize your way to proving your beliefs.

    I see a lifetime's work of confirmation bias.

    Your conclusion was reached long ago. Your argument is simply designed and created to ease your dissonance. It won't convince anyone that doesn't fear reality.

    Not sure it convinces you? You need others to agree or you would not post.

    • I don’t know if you have a soul but you have a spirit. The spirit that guides you every day! If you wonder what is your spirit, think the computer which has a software and exists thanks to its hardware. The software you can download, transmit etc.
      Your body is your hardware, your software?

      • Ellabulldog

        no spirit either.

        My mind is the hardware. The software is whatever nurture or information I can give it access to.

        A bad processor can't come to a correct conclusion even if given the correct information. A good processor can't come to the correct conclusion if it is provided wrong information.

        Humans struggle with this problem. We advance slowly and add knowledge incrementally. Change is difficult.

        • We advance slowly and add knowledge incrementally. Change is difficult.

          Correct!
          Your spirit is what we call conscience, something we haven't defined yet what it is. But by making computers like our image, like our Creator made us, we make the hardware of the computer like our bodies and brain, and we give it a software, like our conscience and spirit.

          • Ellabulldog

            sure we have defined it. it's a product of our brain.

            no Creator made us. all Nature over billions of years.

            no need for a Designer when it's only an appearance of design.

            there is a human psychological need to find an answer when one isn't available.

            turtles all the way.....

          • Where exactly in the brain?

          • Ellabulldog

            Parietal cortex. VMPFC. and others.

            One can study what parts of the brain react to certain stimuli.

            Religion is a human evolutionary cultural construct. It aided societies once humans grew past 250 members in a tribe. Gods were invented to keep human tribes cohesive and easier to rule.

            Nature and nurture. Differences in the human brain and differences in how one is raised can make someone more susceptible or less to the influence of religions.

            Can't disregard that humans were bred for thousands of years to conform to authority. Skeptics were killed.
            Leaving more superstitious and conforming humans to play their role in society subservient to the leaders.
            We can't all be alphas.
            Humans need to work together to survive for lots of reasons. So religion performed a role. Today it keeps societies less educated and less able to compete worldwide. So it will have to adapt.

            Humans will always fear their mortality. So there is always going to be a customer for those selling eternal life to people that can't cope with reality.

          • Origin of human consciousness may lie in newly pinpointed brain network

            https://hms.harvard.edu/news/how-do-you-know-you-know

            Why you don't copy paste the rest of your comment under my related comment to answer you?

          • Ellabulldog

            consciousness comes from the brain. of course. where it happens helps us gain knowledge.

            no brain. no consciousness. part of brain damaged and no consciousness makes sense. other parts of the brain do other things.

            not sure what you are asking?

          • consciousness comes from the brain. of course. where it happens helps us gain knowledge.

            When you hit your foot you feel the pain thanks to your brain, but you hit the foot not the brain!

          • Ellabulldog

            your brain is attached to your nervous system.

            you brain registers the pain well before your cerebral cortex can understand where the pain originated.

            most of our daily actions require no conscious thought. Our heart beats and we digest our food. No thinking necessary.

            Most actions you take are decided before you act on them. A police officer shoots a person holding a phone because his brain reacted first from one part before he had time to actually reason about his action. By then it's too late.

            It's necessary because if we thought about every action we'd be eaten by a lion pretty quick. Sometimes one just has to react. It can have positive and very negative consequences.

          • Well, can you exclude the possibility that conscience is part of the whole body?

          • Sample1

            The error here is you neglect the relevance of jitspandum. The whentator of loortymin. It’s the foundation of all reality, the bedrock below (or above) even metaphysics. You may try to demand metaphysical evidence for these hulpanities (analogous to a natural property but not exactly that) but that will only display your ignorance of jitspandum’s slogic (where other logics eminate from).

            Mike

          • Ellabulldog

            what language are you using as several of the words don't exist in English?

            quite a salad that was.

          • Ellabulldog

            I'm guessing sarcasm but....

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Thank you for your free psychological analysis.

      I don't know about the "lifetime" of your bias, but virtually everything you have said could just as well be reversed and applied to yourself instead.

      This leaves rational persons with the need to apply sound reason to experiential data in the search for objective truth, which is the proper work of the philosopher.

      Any reputable philosopher is careful to distinguish what he knows by unaided reason from what he believes by some sort of faith -- even a faith in the metaphysics of materialism.

      • Ellabulldog

        your welcome.

        Sure we all have bias. I was raised Catholic. I was not abused. Only had to attend church and take classes. No harm came to me. Bored to death sure. I found the assertions ridiculous.

        Do you really think that you have no bias towards your faith? That you are not doing anything but working to confirm that which you have already believe and will refuse to see the subject from an impartial perspective?

        You can't. Or you won't. I can't choose which one it is. It certainly is not because Catholicism is true. It's 2019. The curtain was raised on the Church long ago. It's not what it claims to be.

        You could study the cognitive science of religion. It's a newer field. Einstein didn't think quantum physics was real. He was wrong. It's ok to be wrong.
        "unless your eternal life is at stake right?"

        It's not faith to have knowledge. Materialism is no dirty word. It's what we have to work with.

        Logic and reason lead people to agnosticism. We can't know how this all began.

        We can and do know exactly what religion is. What god belief is. What the Catholic Church is.

        You can deny it. Up to you to be honest with yourself.

        If you are in your 80's I doubt you will be open to new ideas. I doubt you will throw your reputation away in your community to become agnostic or atheist. I doubt you will give up your promise of everlasting life.

        But if you want to be reputable and be seen as a brilliant philosopher 500 years from now your stance isn't going to get you there. If it comforts you to think it will get you to Heaven just admit that. But it's not philosophy it is theology. It's not rational it's emotional.

        Don't have to listen to me or agree. No matter.

        It's your mind to do with what you wish. Actually sorry no it isn't. You actually have no control over your mind. Nature and nurture made your mind. I have no ability to agree with you. Different minds. Different inputs. Some possibility for knowledge to override the nature. Depends on the person.

        Really my only beef is you use "rational" to disguise your emotional arguments.

        We do have knowledge. Many don't want to hear it.

        Tell me the difference between a human forming a belief in Scientology or Catholicism. Not the details. Those are not important. Zenu or Jesus. Whatever character doesn't matter. The book doesn't matter. Real human sacrifice like the Aztecs or symbolic like Catholicism doesn't matter. The actual reasons why people "choose" to follow a religion is what's important.

        I'm sure you are a nice guy. I have no problem with Catholics. My sister is one. I have Jewish relatives and Muslim friends.

        All about the truth and knowledge. I want to know why my sister believes and I don't. It's not because I don't want to live forever. Or hate anything. My mind was not indoctrinated and my sister's was. So I want to know why. Not going to change her or me. It leads to other parts of the human equation. Why someone denies climate change while others embrace it.
        Why some think Trump is a patriot and others see him as a traitor.

        Sorry I tend to rant.

        Have a good night.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          You are absolutely right. You do "tend to rant." :)

          Actually, I have given thought to the relationship of my Catholic faith to my philosophical knowledge. I come to a disconcerting conclusion. Were I somehow to manage to lose my faith, I would still be stuck with a perfectly natural, rational certitude that the God of classical theism exists and that natural law governs my ethical life.

          I am not a major contemporary Thomistic philosopher. I am simply one of hundreds who has taught philosophy at the university level all my life -- and who has taught, particularly the science of metaphysics, for half a century. I am a workhorse who has had to spend more time in classrooms than in scholarly research (although I have a bit of the latter). I don't expect to die famous.

          In fact, the last couple years on this Strange Notions web site has confronted me with atheistic and skeptical arguments one never meets in a classroom. I have learned a lot. I have been forced to reexamine the roots of my own philosophical convictions over and over.

          The result has only anchored my conviction that Leon Bloy was right when he concluded: " Il n'y a que deux types de philosophie: le thomisme et le bullshitism."

          I cannot convey my conviction to your mind, since you do not know what I know. There we have an impasse. But my conviction is not based merely in some French writer's flamboyant declaration. It is based on careful analysis of the epistemological foundations of metaphysics and the necessary inferences I draw from that science.

          As for Catholicism, I am not a theologian or scripture scholar. I am well aware of the countless controversies about the Church in history -- the details of which are so extensive that no scholar, however brilliant, can know them all.

          I have many personal reasons for Catholic belief, but one that has struck me from my youth is the miracle of Fatima. If you can possibly resist your own confirmation bias, you will find that the more you look at the actual details, the more skeptical explanations fail.

          I dare you to take fifteen minutes to read carefully, not the propaganda on this web site, but the actual details reported in the major papers of Portugal and the eyewitness reports given here:
          http://devotiontoourlady.com/solar-miracle-fatima.html
          (I have verified the reports from other sources. Your best defense is to claim everyone is lying.)

          As for the a priori refutations you probably already have in your own confirmation bias on this topic, most of them are disproved here: https://www.markmallett.com/blog/2017/10/14/debunking-the-sun-miracle-skeptics/

          Yes, this is just one of my personal reasons for being a Catholic -- despite all the scandal and furor surrounding the Church these days. I have others.

          But, regarding Fatima, if you found the evidence presented by O Seculo, the leading newspaper of Lisbon in 1917 published, instead, in the New York Times (an equivalently secular leading national newspaper) today, would you honestly claim that it is realistic to be so skeptical?

          But please remember, I know the difference between what I know by philosophical reasoning and my personal religious journey of faith.

          I cannot put you into my shoes, which is why the French existentialist, Gabriel Marcel (whom I have met), points out that just because someone does not grasp another's sound philosophical reasoning, this does not allow us to make the rash judgment that they are acting in "bad faith."

          Nor can you put me into your shoes.

          • Ellabulldog

            I know about Fatima. I feel sorry for those kids. The one child kidnapped by the Church never to know freedom. The poor other two taken by the Pandemic.

            The Pope later claiming he saw the same too. Yea, right.

            https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4110
            is one site.

            The crowd was smaller than reported. Witnesses were not all giving the same story. It was not unanimous nor close to it.

            Yes a paper reported it. Papers report a lot of things.

            What sells better? A paper saying the Sun danced or a paper saying nothing happened?

            Have reporters ever embellished a story? Have they ever lied? Could someone pay them money to publish a story that favors a narrative someone wants to push? Of course. It happens today.

            Bernays found that propaganda could be used to exploit the human mind. Intuitive for some for years and formulated in his books around the same time. Crowd psychology can make people do and believe whatever some want them to.

            Get a bunch of people that are preconditioned to witness something and that want to witness something it's likely they will. Stare at the Sun and one's eyes will definitely "see" things.

            It was no miracle.

            It became one when the Church wanted to profit from it. That it wouldn't take their power away.
            So many times it's made stuff up. Miracles are lies.

            Took them a long time to declare it as one. They wanted to make sure Lucia wouldn't say she made it up.

            In October of 1917 more was happening in the world as I'm sure you are aware. Millions of soldiers in trenches. Machine gunning and gassing themselves to death.

            Does it convince you? Seems it does.

            I don't claim you or others are acting in bad faith. Quite the contrary. You believe.

            I do know the Church is lying.

            Not saying you are.

            I do hope you understand that.

            I want people to understand why they believe. What they believe doesn't matter.

            Religion does have a big effect on cultures and humanity. It offers many comfort. Others a sense of community.

            I'm a born skeptic. More rational. Others are born more emotional. More open to suggestion.

            Not every human brain is constructed the same. Not everyone is raised the same. Nature and nurture.

            We can argue all day long and neither will agree. It's ok to disagree I just want to know why we do.

            Why did the Aztecs perform human sacrifice? Why do Scientologists believe what they do?
            Bots occasionally pull me to this site. It's not about Catholicism although raised Catholic I do feel I can address it some from my perspective.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "I'm a born skeptic. More rational. Others are born more emotional. More open to suggestion."

            For some reason, skeptics often think they own rationality, while those who disagree with them are all emotion. If you understood how philosophy works, you would know that the first thing we do is abandon emotion in favor of reason.

            Many of your statements about the Catholic Church and about Fatima sound emotional to me.

            Be that as it may, I read the skeptical link you gave me. Not that impressive. I get the feeling you did not read the two links I gave you, especially since the second one answers many of the objections you and your link propose.

            I notice you focus on a lot of the things surrounding the miracle, such as what happened to the children, Lucia's alleged personality, what one would expect of crowd behavior, and so forth.

            I said earlier that the more you dig into the details of Fatima, the worse it gets for the skeptics. I stand by that statement.

            Deliberately ignoring the character of the children, or what people expected, or circumstances surrounding the miracle, there are only three points of fact that make the event stand or fall as a miracle.

            First, it was clearly predicted as the records prove. Check them out. That is why so many people came, including reporters from Masonic papers expecting to scoff.

            Second, something visual happened that was so bizarre that tens of thousands of eyewitnesses professed amazement. It concerned the sun or something taken to be the sun. You will find that the skeptical explanations simply are not credible on close examination. For example, the fact that no astronomical observatories confirmed actual motion of the sun does not disprove the miracle, but rather makes the huge visual experience of the people only more amazing.

            Third, on a rain soaked day with people wearing soaked woolen clothes, in the space of ten minutes the entire muddy hillside and all the people were dried out.

            Now you can contest any or all of these claims. But, as I said before, the more you honestly dig, the more the facts will support these claims. And you need only one of them to have a miracle.

            I cannot make you do the digging. And I suspect your own skeptic confirmation bias will prevent you from doing the digging. If you did want to check it out, read John Haffert's Meet the Witnesses -- a badly written book, but one that contains depositions from at least thirty still living witnesses about 1960, long enough after the events of clear their minds of emotion.

            Not all witnesses agree on what they saw. That is not essential, when you consider that tens of thousands were shocked and amazed at an event predicted will in advance -- with many seeing the event from miles away in local villages.

            Frankly, I think that your emotional commitment to skepticism is preventing you from honestly investigating the event itself -- the largest scale miracle in modern history. At every turn, you will find that there are elements that no a priori theories can explain. But you will probably never know this because you will not look in depth.

            There is simply no substitute for reading the eye witness depositions themselves, since they contain recorded direct experiences that must be accounted for. As I said earlier, your best defense of your skepticism is to claim everyone is lying.

            What these events may mean historically and/or theologically is a separate matter to be honestly faced only after the event itself is carefully and honestly examined.

            The first thing a good philosopher must do is to look at all the evidence. Just reading the "just so" explanations of your fellow skeptics does not impress my rational mind.

          • Ellabulldog

            You are saying philosophers are not emotional? Sure they are. They can let their emotions cloud their philosophy and their claims of reason. Certainly their conclusions which they claim to use reason to obtain.

            1. Yes people came to it expecting to see something. It was hyped up. Millions travel to Mecca every year. If someone wanted to they could create mass hysteria by messing with those pilgrims heads too.
            2. Thousands were there. Ok. Many reported seeing something. Others saw nothing. As you know the Sun is rather large and can be seen from thousands of miles away. No need to travel to Fatima to look up into the sky. Staring at the Sun can cause vision issues. No surprise. Eyewitness testimony is not reliable and can be influenced.
            3. Reports on the rain and everything drying out was not confirmed and pictures from that day state otherwise.

            People see Jesus on toast. Not because it's Jesus. Because their mind is primed to see images that they are familiar with.

            Not everyone was lying. Some thought they saw something and figured it was what the girl foresaw. They were influenced or primed for it. Staring at the Sun caused their eyes to have issues as it would for anyone.

            Certainly some would come in later and lie to profit from such a thing. A pope claiming to see the same thing years later. Yea he's a liar. No doubt about it.

            Others would like to sell books. Others would like to promote Catholicism. Other self serving interests.

            People see Alien spaceships. People see Bigfoot.

            Yes, people lie. Some are delusional. Others are influenced by groupthink.

            I doubt the best and brightest made that pilgrimage.

            The kicker is:

            Don't forget that the Virgin Mary isn't a real person. That's important. She was a character in a book. Makes the whole possibility of thousands of people seeing such a thing impossible.

            Thing is the Bible makes false claims. No Adam and Eve existed. That's fable. No worldwide flood. That's fable. No Exodus. Fable. The NT is a continuation of the OT. It's fable.

            Sure some real historical events are in there too. But it's not a history book.

            You can believe Fatima. You can believe the Bible is something it is not.

            Feel free.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Lots of a priori judgments there.

            I get it. Your mind is made up. Don't confuse it with the facts.

          • Ellabulldog

            Explanations.

            Pareidolia.
            I know people that saw Jesus on their wood flooring. Showed the pic to my sister. She saw Jesus. Of course it wasn't Jesus.

            Eye muscles tire from staring for hours.

            don't forget the same girl wrote prophecy. trouble was it written after the events occurred. the last was nonsense.

            The Virgin Mary story is fable not fact. That matters.

            Pretty lame story. Not a miracle.

            You believe because you want to. Not because of reason.

            It's ok.

            You don't believe other's religious claims do you? Why not?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I did not insert any other claims or beliefs about Fatima except the three critical assertions: (1) the prediction, (2) the "vision(s)" itself, and (3) the sudden drying phenomenon.

            Those are claims that can be rationally examined. But a priori dismissals do not examine the eye witness testimony itself.

            I am not a theologian or scriptural scholar. But careful examination of the records of the claimed events gives me rational grounds to accept what the evidence warrants. You dismiss it all, based on overall presumptions and a priori claims.

            But, if any or all of those three claims can be substantiated by reason and evidence, one must ask himself what it means in a broader context.

            You are using shotgun claims to demolish everything in sight. I am focused on three specific truth claims that can be verified if one is willing to examine the evidence. I know all about the witnesses conflicting claims and some denying seeing anything. Reason tells me that is not the point. The fact that tens of thousands saw something beyond all their rational expectations speaks for itself. But there is no replacing the eyewitness testimony, which you are not examining yourself.

            Remember, as a philosopher, none of this affects the philosophical truths reason alone shows me about such things as the existence of God and the spiritual nature of the human soul. Those things are within my proper professional field.

          • Ellabulldog

            philosophically a god doesn't exist. we have no knowledge of one.

            there is no knowledge of a soul. it's wishful thinking not philosophy.

            it is theology. you can call it whatever you want but no good god argument has ever held up philosophically.

            The Christian "God" by it's very assertion doesn't exist as it is fable.

            How Existence came to be we have no idea. A god is a psychological crutch humans insert because not knowing something is worse than not having an answer.

            You dismiss mass hallucination because you want it to be true. Eyewitness testimony is terribly flawed.

            Those that went believed they would see something. Their minds were primed with prior suggestions.

            I know that the Church is founded on lies. So not believing something the Church promotes is rational. Can't see the Virgin Mary if she exists only in fable. Can't see Humpty Dumpty either. Or Luke Skywalker.

            The girl made it up.

            Others wanted it to be true so they "saw" something.
            You want it to be true so you agree.

            Have you studied the cognitive science of religion? Have you studied the anthropology of religions?

            Virgin birth idea was stolen from prior myths. Nothing special about it.

            Son of God idea stolen from the Romans.

            Buddhism had the golden rule much earlier.

            It's not about why I don't believe this. It's about why humans believe such superstitious things.

            Religions exist. They do exist for a reason. Islam or Voodoo. Scientology or Christianity. Why they do matters. Not what they claim.

            Now I have to call the psychic hotline. Infomercial just came on. :)

            Have a good night.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What is all too clear to me is that you know absolutely nothing about the classical philosophical science of metaphysics, which I have spent over half a century studying and teaching. I am not moved by your irrational claims.

            While addressing your anti-Catholic claims against the Blessed Virgin is not directly within my own field of competence as a philosopher, I would point out that anyone who recognizes the factual evidence of the Fatima event as true would immediately have to address the possibility that Mary's appearance there took place, thereby reversing the logic of your attack on her historical role in Christianity.

            I am also not impressed by your claims about crowd and believer's psychology as disproving the eyewitness testimony of those present. I doubt you have read the actual many testimonies themselves, such as those recorded in Haffert's book, Meet the Witnesses. Many anti-Catholics came to Fatima that day and were shocked to see the predicted event take place before their eyes, including the reporters for the Masonic secular newspapers and also soldiers sent to keep the believers away.

            Your claims against the historical foundations of Christianity are nothing new, and have been answered in the literature. But that is outside my field of competence and present interest.

            Finally, remember that the science of metaphysics, which proves the existence of the God of classical theism, in no way depends upon any claims for or against the events at Fatima in 1917.

          • Ellabulldog

            #1.
            Metaphysics does not prove the existence of any god.

            on to Fatima....

            Catholicism is false.
            As Catholicism is false the kids could not have seen the Virgin Mary.
            Hence the claims at Fatima are false.

            "they think they saw something" what their brains processed was not any miracle but some optical illusion falsely attributed.

            Haffert would be biased. Can't take his word that his research was honest. It was his job to promote Fatima. It's like taking the word of a Mormon that Joseph Smith did see an angel. He had witnesses too.

            70000 were there by reports? Ok. Of those how many actually were interviewed? Most left right away. Who could interview all of them? No recording devices back then. Sure one could interview some of them not all of them. One would print the stories that would sell papers or further an agenda. Calling a paper "secular" means little as secular doesn't mean atheist. Other interviews were collected years later. After a pandemic, two world wars leaving how many still alive to interview? How could anyone interviewed really prove they were there?

            When a car accident or fire happens reporters ask questions. Did you see something? They record what people claim to see. They don't record comments when people claim they saw nothing. So claims of visions will statistically look greater than people not seeing anything.

            Portugal was experiencing political turmoil. The Church was losing power. What better time for a "miracle" to occur? Get lots of deluded people to stare at the sun and prime their minds and one can manufacture a miracle.

            On to other things.

            There is no historical foundation of Christianity. The Bible is not a history book.

            It can be studied as Christianity does exist. But scholars don't study it as being true but for the effects of Christianity on humanity. Just as they study other religions. No difference.

          • Jim the Scott

            Ellabulldog can you write just one intelligent thing?

            >Metaphysics does not prove the existence of any god.

            I guess that is a "no" then?

            You are an idiot on the level of some fanatical Young Earth Creationist ranting that no science proves evolution or the 2nd Law of Thermal Dynamics refutes evolution or something else equally silly written by someone who clearly never finished high school much less college.

            >Catholicism is false.
            As Catholicism is false the kids could not have seen the Virgin Mary.
            Hence the claims at Fatima are false.

            Nice tautology genius did ya think it up yerself or did Mummy help you with the really big words?

            > It's like taking the word of a Mormon that Joseph Smith did see an angel.

            So Joseph Smith is false & an obvious fraud(with positive evidence to back it up) therefore Fatima must be as well? That is like saying because Science has failed too show Lamarck's theory of evolution (i.e. acquired traits are inherited ) to be true therefore Darwin's version must be wrong too?

            Kid I am gonna stop here because there is too much stupid in yer post and a Donkey/Jackarse can ask more questions than a wise man can answer.

            You are just ranting and repeating the same old crap Dr. B has already answered. So let me be blunt. Provide a philosophical defeater to any classic theistic argument fro God or get lost.

          • Ellabulldog

            there is no philosophical proof for a god. zero. all are fallacious.
            you may like something. good for you. still not proof.
            you have no standards. got it.

            Catholicism is a lie. Sorry to break the news to you.
            Don't shoot the messenger. You have a superstitious belief that European culture chose to make the State religion. It was about controlling the human herd. Study what religion is. What it is used for. Why people subscribe to it.

            provide the argument you claim "proves" a god exists.

            no special pleading allowed.

            I'll be waiting forever.

            You are no philosopher. Bringing outdated discarded ancient philosophy to the table isn't scholarship.

            Got anything new??

            Same old crap doesn't cut it. You have to provide proof not emotional arguments.

            Others have long ago defeated your arguments. You know it. Or should.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"there is no philosophical proof for a god. zero. all are fallacious."

            WOW! You know ALL the philosophical proofs for God's existence -- all the dozens of different ones? The ones by Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm, Averroes, Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, Calvin, Plantinga, Craig, Lagrange, Maritain, Gilson, Feser and dozens of others?

            And you know all their starting data, all the premises of all of them, and all the forms of inference leading to their conclusions?

            And you understand every step in each one of them and can show why each and every one of them is fallacious?

            That is REALLY impressive!

          • Jim the Scott

            Dr B.

            Remember when I said you where punching down answering Michael or was it GHF(like is matters they could be the same Atheist Bot) clueless nonsense? I would say this is punching subatomic!

          • Ellabulldog

            There is no philosophical proof for a god.

            There are philosophical arguments for a god.

            If someone could prove it then it would not be faith would it?

            If any of the above work then why keep trying?

            There is quite a bit of evidence, facts, science, anthropology, and more which leads to proof that certain gods don't exist in reality but are human constructs.

            Your god is one of them.

            Evolution destroys the original sin Bible story. No Adam and Eve. Genesis is ancient myth. Astrology and Astrophysics destroy that part. Archaeology destroys the Exodus myth. As it does the Noah myth. As does DNA. On and on we can go.

            Sure you can ignore such things. The Church accepts Evolution today. Has to. It figured out it's members would keep on believing anyway and figured that if they made people choose they'd loose members. Amazing how that happens.

            https://etiennevermeersch.be/en/article/joseph-ratzinger-and-nativity-legends

            Yes philosophers can be religious/superstitious and over the course of history have worked really hard to prove that their god existed. All have failed.

            We simply do not know how Existence started. Nobody knows. Anyone claiming to know is either lying, deluded or has an agenda. We can't know. It's turtles all the way. If a god existed it would have to explain why he/she/it exists.

            Fine to inquire and to think about it. It's not ok to make stuff up and consider it knowledge when it provides no such thing. Theology isn't philosophy. Wishful thinking isn't rational thinking. They all start with a conclusion and work their way back to an answer they want to hear.

            We are approaching this subject from different angles. You are looking to confirm your faith using anything that supports your belief that Catholicism is correct. I'm looking to why people believe. I don't care if you believe or not.

            I do want to know why Muslims believe what they do. Why people join cults. Why Scientology exists. I want to know why religion has a hold on the human societies and dominates our cultures. I want to study it's role in the past and what might happen as we go forward and grow as a species.

            How the human mind works matters. Why humans vote for authoritarians and against their best interests matters. How propaganda works on the human herd's mind matters. How Kim in North Korea indoctrinates his people matters. He's a god btw. He said so.

            I read a book on all of the West's great philosophers. Each built and improved on those from the past. Many/most are discarded today. Their assertions no longer considered relevant.

            Influential doesn't make someone correct.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "There is no philosophical proof for a god.

            There are philosophical arguments for a god."

            Gosh! You did it again. The only way you know that an argument is not a (valid) proof is if you know the argument's starting point, its premises, its mode of inference, and its conclusion. And to know it is fallacious you must know why one or more of all those steps is invalid or false.

            You put yourself in the same place again -- claiming that you know all possible arguments and why each one of them is invalid.

            That is what you buy into when you claim on your own authority that "There is no philosophical proof for a god."

            That again means you are claiming that you know all the steps of every argument for God ever proposed by any philosopher in the entire history of philosophy -- and why each and every one of them is false!

            Again, VERY IMPRESSIVE!

            POST SCRIPT: By the way, you don't seem to know how philosophers use the terms, "argument" and "proof." They are usually used interchangeably. If there is any difference in connotation, it might be that sometimes we distinguish that what is considered a "real proof" is simply a valid argument. That is why you have not escaped your own initial absurdly overstated claim.

            In any event, your position is hopeless -- since to know that there are no proofs, you must first know every possible argument in detail as well as why they do not conclude validly.

          • Ellabulldog

            Who said I was making a philosophical argument? You are. I'm dismissing them.

            I said there was no proof of a god's existence. I never said a philosophical proof. Two different things.

            You knew what I meant. Or should have.

            Valid argument means nothing to me. It does NOT mean the conclusion is true.

            If you had a philosophical argument that was not fallacious and not dismissed by minds greater than yours you would present it and be a world renowned philosopher.

            You didn't. How many chances do you want?

            I asked you to prove a god exists. Not provide some philosophical proof. Actual proof.
            Best you have is Fatima? A book written by someone that was Catholic and worked for the Fatima organization? Way too biased. Again he can get people to say they saw things. They might believe what they saw was somehow related to their god. That doesn't mean it was.
            Lucia's prophecy was just as poor as a Jehovah Witness prophecy. Worse because it was given after the events happen. So not actually a prophecy. So pilgrims primed to expect some miracle went somewhere and stared at the Sun for a long time. Some saw things and others saw nothing. We have reports that people saw crazy stuff. How do I know that they were also not on some hallucinogenic drug at the time? Or drunk? Maybe they were all eating mushrooms?

            So many thousands there and only Catholics with a vested interest published books on it.
            It's like saying the Bible is proof of the Bible. Doesn't cut it for most critical thinkers. You like the conclusion as it affirms your faith so it's good enough for you.

            Certainly you can find people that still agree with your stance. Religion is big business.

            Have you read Sapolsky? Haidt? Boyer? Erhman? Have you taken a class on the cognitive science of religion.

            Are you a bible expert with degrees in it? Have you read it in it's original text?

            I'm not saying you have to. I have not either.
            I'm not a cognitive scientist.
            I'm not a philosopher. Never claimed to be.

            I have looked for the reasons people believe and I have looked at the arguments that theists use to defend their assertion. None of them are any good.

            I did go to a Catholic Church. So I do know what it asserts. I do know it's not true and a complete fabrication. I do know that I can sit in a church and watch indoctrinated people perform the rituals ingrained into their minds. It's obvious. You may watch a performance and think witch doctors are doing crazy stuff. Catholicism is no different.

            It's a sad thing to watch. People programmed to obey. They can't help it.

            It's not just Catholicism. Muslims do the same. As do Scientologists, Mormons, and others.

            Again the beliefs themselves don't really matter. Scientology or Catholicism. No difference.

            It's about why people hold beliefs. How our minds work.

            At 80 you are not going to change your belief. You have sunk costs and a lifetime invested in Catholicism. No way you will give up the promise of eternal life. Fear is stronger than reason and the fear of losing that will make you dig in deeper to protect that outcome you hope for.

            I wish it was true. Sadly it is not. I can't believe something because I want to. It really has to be true.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You wrote, "I said there was no proof of a god's existence. I never said a philosophical proof. Two different things."

            So you insist on taking yet a third bite at this same bad apple?

            Proof is proof. If it is not emotional garbage (which you claim not to offer), then it is evidence from which reason draws a conclusion. That is doing philosophy, like it or not.

            You wrote, "I asked you to prove a god exists. Not provide some philosophical proof. Actual proof. "

            No you did not. You proudly proclaimed, "There is no philosophical proof for a god."

            Note that this also contradicts your own statement above that says, "I never said a philosophical proof."

            You no longer know if you are coming or going. You are like a bull in a china shop who now wonders why there are so many pieces of china lying around.

            The real problem is that you know so little philosophy that you haven't a clue what you are really saying.

            I will let the readers draw their own conclusions.

            As for the entirely distinct question of Fatima, the evidence is more clear than you so emotionally wish it to be.

            Anyone who carefully sifts the evidence -- reading in depth the arguments put forth by both camps (and there is almost no one who is neutral) -- will find several salient facts.

            First, the documentary record shows that this major event was predicted clearly months in advance. This is the only explanation for the fact that many thousands of people came from all over Portugal to see a miracle OR to scoff at one that would not take place. This prediction is NOT to be confused with the "three secrets" that refer to events AFTER October of 1917.

            Second, the tens of thousands of eyewitnesses attest to seeing something beyond all human expectation, even though what was experienced varied in many cases, with a very few seeing nothing. This makes clear that it was not an objective astronomical event, but a massive visual experience caused by some force beyond nature. Few critics are so foolish as to deny the nearly-universal visual experience, which even the secular Lisbon newspapers reported. Those giving depositions were even asked if everyone around them saw similar things and they all said "yes."

            For the stubbornly remaining scoffers, I can only say, "Do the research."

            Third, unless you say again that thousands of people are lying, the rain soaked site and woolen clothing were suddenly completely dried at the same time as the visions were experienced, thus confirming the objective physical reality of the event. Although it is not as universally recorded as the visual experiences, I have found not a single eyewitness who denied that this physical prodigy took place.

            You can give all the a priori reasons in the world against believing the Catholic context of these events and the role of Lucia and the Catholic Church AFTER these events -- but they have nothing to do with the objective reality of the events described above themselves -- events which ultimately even changed the course of the secular political history of Portugal itself (but that is another topic).

            Any intellectually honest person should first make an unprejudiced examination of the facts of the Fatima event itself before making further judgments about its significance for the world and for himself.

          • Ellabulldog

            proof is proof.

            your opinion is not. other philosophers opinions are not. no matter

            some philosopher that thinks they came up with a good argument for their superstition is not proving anything.

            that you subscribe to the philosophy of others means little.

            you are hiding behind poor philosophy because you can't defend you belief.
            Aquinas said doesn't cut it in 2019.

            regarding Fatima.

            I gave you some rational explanations that you discard. You don't have to accept them.
            If you expect others to believe a bunch of pilgrims that were expecting a miracle and then stared at the Sun for hours are not hurting their eyes I have a bridge to sell you.

            They went there to see something. Their minds made sure they did.

            Everything dried out? Sure it did. It either wasn't as wet as described or people were lying.

            It rains and the sun comes out and things dry up. No miracle. Embellished sure.

            you are taking the word of certain people. books written 30-40 years later. After the end of two world wars, a pandemic that wiped out many, a civil war too. Those writing the books have a personal stake as Catholics to promote their faith. It was not independent research.

            I think the authors are full of you know what.

            On the internet you can get people to testify to seeing a whole bunch of crazy stuff. People see UFO's daily. Do you believe them?

            Billions believe Mohammed. Millions believe Joseph Smith. People believe a lot of crazy stuff.

            I have higher standards. You have a bias.

            What was reported was not objectively proven.

            Lucia was making stuff up before the event. She made stuff up after the event.

            Shame she was kept hidden away from the world.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am comfortable standing pat on my previously written, carefully drafted, comment. Your new comment simply ignores most of its logic and evidence.

            You may have the last word.

          • Ellabulldog

            I don't find Fatima to be evidence for your god existing. You do.

            I don't consider the philosophers that you quote to have produced anything of value as to proving a god exists. You do.

            I consider the question of our existence unattainable. You disagree.
            I consider religion to be a human construct that played and plays a big role in human cultures.

            I do understand why you feel the way you do.

            It's fine to disagree. No harm discussing it.

            Nice conversing with you.

            Appreciate you patience with me.

          • michael

            There is not 1 photo fo the "miracle'. Just a few grainy pictures of some people looking up and watching it. "Tens of thousands of eyewitnesses" Most webpages cite only 200 people at the most, none of which are on-camera footage. There are also allegedly tens ffo thousands of siting of El Chupacabra and hooch ness monster.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Maybe the phenomenon simply could not be photographed for some reason, but the witnesses watched it in amazement for over ten minutes. Go do some decent research. I gave a couple links to Ellabulldog for starters.

          • michael

            Putting "Maybe" at the start of a response is often sign of an Ad Hoc Fallacy.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            And maybe it isn't also.

            The positive proofs of the miracle stand by themselves. The question of why no one got a direct picture of the sun is an objection, but not a valid one. Remember, anyway, that the sun would not have been in motion in a photo!

          • Jim the Scott

            John Cleese is funner. Cheers big guy.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I watched that video. Yes, he is MUCH better! But it did remind me of my exchanges with someone recently. :)

          • michael

            "There is no infinite regress, there must be an uncaused cause" does not lead to "A living being made the universe".

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since a cause cannot give what it does not have, if the cosmos has life in it, and if there is a First Cause of what exists in that cosmos, the First Cause must be a living being.

            You can go argue with other parts of the various proofs for God, but the basic insight is that you cannot get being from non-being.

          • michael

            Pain is in the cosmos, so by that logic god must have pain.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Do you ever try to actually understand anything?

            Or, are you only trying to raise intellectual mischief?

            Since pain can exist only in sentient physical organisms, God is obviously the cause of whatever existential perfections are entailed in, but not the limitations that accrue to being a physical being. Thus God does not suffer pain, although he causes the being of those limited beings that suffer it.

            Forgive me, but at some point I am going to start ignoring your endless skeptical comments. So try to make ones that are really important to you.

          • michael

            But then he is still responsible for the pain.

          • Ellabulldog

            life is elements arranged in a different way.

            everything in your body is a common element found throughout the universe.

            no living being necessary.

            no cause necessary.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well I can afford a few minutes for some creative cruelty.

            >there is no philosophical proof for a god. zero. all are fallacious.
            you may like something. good for you. still not proof.
            you have no standards. got it.

            Which is like a Young Earth Creationist saying "there is no scientific proof for evolution. zero. all are fallacious.you may like something. good for you. still not proof. you have no standards. got it."

            So based on the obviously air tight arguments ventured above both Theists and Evolutionist are knackered. Including me since I am a Theistic Evolutionist. So there is no God and we didn't evolved from lower lifeforms. Wow! It sucks to be an Evolutionist and Theist with such airtight awesome reasonings from the eloquent Ellabulldog. An intellect that as you can all see from his/her/Xee's present work rivals that of Aristotle, Darwin, Madam Curry , David Hume & of course Bozo the Clown. So stunning and brave.

            (Wow I think the part of my intellect I devote to formulating sarcasm will get burned out before this post is threw.)

            >no special pleading allowed.

            Chuzpah alert. This is what I call a lack of self awareness! It is beyond entertaining. I thought GHF was the dumbest Atheist here (Michael in the beginning at least seemed to try but now he is just phoning it in). GHF you are dethroned. A new ruler sits on the Iron Throne of major lowbrow rantings and it is not Brandon Stark. All Hail Ellabulldog!

            >You are no philosopher.

            Ellabulldog said while looking in the mirror.

            >Bringing outdated discarded ancient philosophy to the table isn't scholarship.

            ROTFLOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!:D . Stop you are killing me with this....I am literally falling off my....seat typing this. :D. Too funny.

            >I'll be waiting forever.

            Yes! Yes you will. In the immortal words of the author Taylor Cladwell. "Hell is pain and boredom and boredom is the most monstrous of pains."

            You are very very very boring.

          • Ellabulldog

            big rant of an emotionally upset person.

            where's your proof?

            where's your philosophy?

            right. you got nothing but hurt feelings.

          • Jim the Scott

            Such an ironic post............It is perfect the way it is I can't make it any funnier.

          • Ellabulldog

            your beliefs are yours. enjoy your hobby. they are not true. they are explainable. when you want to understand why you believe what you do get an education on it. If you don't care keep up with your confirmation bias if it makes you happy. You can find enough apologetic nonsense to keep yourself busy for decades. It's big business.

          • Jim the Scott

            You are obviously an ex-fundamentalist and you have given up a simplistic religious belief for an equally simplistic non-belief. You have said nothing intelligent or compelling even if there are no gods. Also yer Point-weak-pound pulpit technic isn't compelling either.

            Yer approach to argument is basically a monty python argument sketch only you are not one tenth as amusing as John Cleese.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohDB5gbtaEQ

          • Ellabulldog

            and you never put up your own argument to support your belief.
            just indoctrinated or do you think about why you believe?

            Lots of resources for you to consider. Not just Catholic resources.

            Try Sapolsky. Behave. It's about how the mind works.

            Might be over your head.

            Might hurt your feelings.

          • Jim the Scott

            >and you never put up your own argument to support your belief.

            I haven't offered any. You are the one telling me my beliefs are "wrong" (without argument BTW) therefore the burden of proof is on you. I am not telling you what to believe or not believe. If I was I would put forth an argument. I haven't so I don't. It is that simple. The burden of proof is on the accuser. I accuse nobody. You OTOH have done nothing but accuse and not convincingly. Perhaps you have a future in being a professional Whistleblower in Washington DC? Their standards are very very low so you should do quite well.

            Anyway I thought you said there are no arguments for God? I have read yer incoherent, contradictory and irrational replies to Dr. B. I don't think you are personally suited for rational argument on religion. There are other Atheists, Agnostics and Skeptics here who are far more competent than you yerself. Brian Greene Adams, David Nickols and or Fucino & others have offered far better fair.

            Now away with ye you are sucking up all the oxygen.

          • Ellabulldog

            Your belief is wrong if you assert that it is an objective truth. If you assert it is subjective then you can believe whatever you want.

            So you aren't Catholic? If you are then you are asserting something aren't you?

            Otherwise I have no burden to prove that what you believe isn't true because you haven't asserted it. "according to your attempt to switch the burden".

            Catholicism is a big lie. It's claims are false. You can prove it's claims or you can tuck your tail and run. All I got from Doc B was Fatima. We disagree on that incident. To me it is another example of Catholic propaganda. He believes it. He also provided some vague references to Catholic/Christian apologists he calls philosophers.

            Philosophers can't prove a god let alone the Catholic "God". Aquinas didn't try to prove the Christian God. He failed at proving a generic god. They put forth arguments that some find compelling because they like the result not because the argument is a good one. People find it compelling because they already believe in a god and such arguments ease their minds.

            So enjoy your superstition.

            You should study cognitive science and psychology to understand why you are superstitious and believe such nonsense.

            Study some anthropology and comparative religion to understand what other humans believe today and what they believed in the past.

            Your belief isn't different. It's not special. It isn't a correct belief and the others are wrong. Your hubris and vanity is misplaced.

            Not all atheists are philosophers. You might want to keep the argument in that domain but today there are other resources.

            You won't study them.

            I know why you won't. You don't.

            Now off you go. To study your book of fable or to whatever you do when you aren't having an emotional cry baby reaction to others telling you the truth.

            I'm sure you have more than enough supporters on here that will pat you on the back for not exploring the reasons why people believe.

            Read the book I recommended to you. Scared? Or can't?

          • Jim the Scott

            You are clearly mad as a hatter. Why are you still here?

            >Not all atheists are philosophers.

            Classic Theism says knowing the existence of God is a philosophical question only not a scientific one. I am already an Atheist toward any "god" you claim science proves or disproves. Why do you wish to waste yer time arguing against a "god" I already don't believe exists? Wow you are thick!

            If you can't argue from philosophy then get lost. Or better yet since I sense you are a girl. Go make me a sandwich.

            PS I am Catholic you OTOH are confused.

          • Ellabulldog

            so you referred to theism to validate your theism. you are no philosopher.

            if I can't argue from philosophy? why is that necessary? philosophy leads one to agnosticism regarding existence. philosophy does not lead to a conclusion a god exists. quite the opposite.

            theology is what you are calling philosophy. quite disingenuous of you.

            You are Catholic and of course I knew that. You were claiming that you have made no assertion. Which was a lie. You assert the Catholic god objectively exists in reality. It does not. Another lie.

            You are free to believe it. Ignorance is no excuse if you repeat the lies of others.

            The Bible is fable. It's stories are myth.
            No Adam and Eve.
            No Noah.
            No Exodus.
            No virgin birth and no Jesus as asserted. It's a fabricated tale.
            A different take on Judaism. Just as Mormonism is a different take on Christianity.

            Read some Bart Erhman. He's a bible expert. You are not.

            God belief is no different from a belief in witches, voodoo, Scientology, Islam or Paganism.

            It is a superstitious belief that became a very powerful religion.

            Religion is cultural.

            This is all cognitive science and psychology. It's knowledge. Philosophy for centuries was theology. With freedom and no fear of being killed philosophers today are agnostic and are not god believers. Some exist still certainly but they are in the minority. 82% are NOT theists. That number will increase over time.

            There will always be people that want to believe in a god.

            It's an emotional not a rational belief.

            So what do you have to support your assertion? What philosophical argument supports the Catholic god.

            I'll answer for you. None of them.

            Not Aquinas. Not any. They argue for a generic god. Because they know the Bible is fable. That's why the Church kept it from the masses for thousands of years. They wanted to dictate what people believed. They did not want anyone reading it.

            Because it doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

            https://www.bartdehrman.com/

            this guy has degrees from Wheaton College and Moody Bible Institute. Two Christian Bible Thumping institutions. They make Catholics look like atheists in their fervor. Yet when one studies the bible in depth it all falls apart.

            You can study the cognitive science of religion. There are theists that are using the field to promote their faith. You can find those if you wish. Or you can look to the real scientists that want to understand religion not promote it.

            As you find biased philosophers that use philosophy to push their theism I am not confident you will look for knowledge that conflicts with your belief.

            Original sin is not only incoherent it is dismissed as Adam and Eve is fable. Story doesn't hold up. We evolved from prior life forms over billions of years.

            Lots for you to learn.

            I think that Dr. B. is earnest in his beliefs. There are intelligent people that believe in gods. He is one of them. We disagree certainly.

            You are not Jimmy. You just believe what you were told. You never put any thought into it. I don't think you are capable.

            It's about how our minds work.

            So go ahead. Give it a go. Show you can provide a philosophical argument that specifically supports the Catholic god. I'll wait.

          • Jim the Scott

            You are not a philosopher either and you have nothing coherent to say and I don't debate mad women. BTW where is that sandwitch I asked for? Ya cana even do that ya dafty.

          • Ellabulldog

            So you admit you are not a philosopher but you want to argue only using philosophy. So funny. Then of course you refuse to provide a philosophical argument for you superstition likely because you can't.

            You don't like science for some reason. Must be difficult for you. Cognitive science could tell you where in that little brain of yours you get your beliefs from. If an MRI could detect a brain inside your head.

            Run along Jimmy. You got nothing.

            Not even good insults.

          • Jim the Scott

            Hey mad woman I am still waiting for that sandwitch. Also don't forget the cold rootbeer with plenty of ice. After you are done go take yer meds.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "As Catholicism is false the kids could not have seen the Virgin Mary. Hence the claims at Fatima are false."

            You have your logic backwards. Since Fatima is more recent and more easily authenticated, it offers the proper premise of the argument.

            It should be: Since the claims of Fatima are true, Catholicism must be true.

            I told you that you would have to wind up accusing everyone of lying about Fatima -- and here you are! But you still have not read the actual depositions of the many witnesses given long after the event. I don't expect you to believe them. They contradict your long held beliefs.

            You are right. Christianity is a myth.

            Perhaps, that is why G.K. Chesterton had to remind us that Christianity is a myth that is true. (G.K. Chesterton, George Bernard Shaw (New York: John Lane, 1910), 183.)

            And you still know nothing about the science of metaphysics.

          • Ellabulldog

            You only took Catholic sources as proof the story is true.

            One would need non Catholic sources.

            The papers wrote about the incident. They did not claim the stories were true.

            The National Enquirer writes lots of stories. Do you believe them?

            Interviews long after the event are suspect. Taken by a Catholic who made a living promoting Fatima. That's not being authenticated.

            The world had much bigger problems back then. Few paid attention to this incident at the time. Some people claimed this happened and the world went about it's business. Millions were dying elsewhere. Few were going to investigate this at the time.

            Try to be skeptical.

            Christianity is not true because it derives itself from prior religions. It then was adapted for a new audience. It's a man made construct. It's so full of holes. You should study it someday as you follow it maybe you'd like to learn it's history?

            Evolution shows Adam and Eve to be fable.
            The Flood never happened as claimed. No Noah. Just fable.
            The Exodus never happened. Moses story is fable.
            The Messiah was what the Jews were expecting. They are still waiting. He didn't show up.
            No virgin birth occurred. That's just an idea taken from other religions.
            No record of any death and resurrection.

            It's easy to start a religion. We see that today. L. Ron did in your lifetime. Joseph Smith did it about 170 years ago.

            Religions are not true. They do exist.

            Some people thought they saw something that day. No agreement on what it was. Some saw nothing. It's propaganda for the Church. Only used after the Church determined it would help not hurt it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            There you go again. Strings of unsupported and contentious allegations.

            Do you honestly think I have not already heard most all of this before -- me being 80 years old and with over have a century spent in academia? I have heard it all before.

            One thing you learn in academic life is how to do research on claims and how to evaluate evidence. I am satisfied with my sources on Fatima. If you are not, that is your loss.

            As an aside, Haffert interviewed over two hundred eyewitnesses -- whom he affirms all told essentially the same story, but published only over thirty simply to save space. (Call him a liar, of course.)

            But they were depositions taken deliberately some four decades after the event so that people would be serious about what they swore to. They also had to be taken before all the witnesses died. He published their locations and photographs, so they could be found. When a jury listens to thirty witnesses telling the same serious story, they can form a reasonable conclusion. Haffert is certainly not my only source, but he did a good job providing systematic documentation. I have seen photocopies of the Lisbon papers reporting the story. As I said, were such stories published in the New York Times, you might find your blind skepticism less appealing.

            I am well aware of your other objections. The interesting thing is that, if you even do a Google on the topic, you will find that most criticisms do NOT attack the veracity of the witnesses, but rather try to explain what was seen by other means than a miracle. That is why I gave you a link to a site that addresses the misconceptions behind most of these other objections: https://www.markmallett.com/blog/2017/10/14/debunking-the-sun-miracle-skeptics/

            I read the link you gave me. Did you read this one I gave you?

            Among your many other unsupported claims, you wrote: "Evolution shows Adam and Eve to be fable. "

            I don't like to assert without evidence, as you tend to do. It happens I have published on this claim and refute it, both in the form of my book, Origin of the Human Species - third edition (Sapientia, 2014) and in an article on Strange Notions precisely on this topic: https://strangenotions.com/the-scientific-possibility-of-adam-and-eve/

            The whole point of my book is to show how reputable evolution science comports with Christian revelation -- and not by denying the legitimate science, as does young earth creationism. And the Strange Notions article directly refutes the common claim that a literal Adam and Eve are scientifically impossible. Read carefully.

            You really cover too much unsupported territory to be worth discussing on a limited thread.

            Keep making your strings of controversial claims. Maybe those who already agree with you will agree with you.

          • Ellabulldog

            and you do the same....

          • michael

            I'v been meaning to ask: How is "The whole world is descended from just one couple with no-one else around despite Scientists saying DNA showing the total human population has never dropped below tens of thousands of breeding pairs" demonstrable via philosophy? Philosophy has nothing to do with genetics.

          • michael

            Also, why are you not constantly weeping and feeling sad for all those people suffering 10000000 x worse than the worst thing you can imagine pain in hell? Aren't you mad at God for letting that happen?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Seems like I just replied to that exact same question by you in another comment.

            You do not know the condition of souls in hell -- and should be praying you never find out. Remember always that the worst pain of hell is eternal separation from God -- which appears to be the choice of the sinner, not God. You cannot speculate on the exact results of a bad life because we are not in the next life now to have that kind of knowledge.

            I do feel sorry for anyone so evil as to permanently reject the goodness of God, but that is ultimately their choice -- perhaps in a way we cannot understand fully.

            I like Pope Benedict's speculation that only very few souls go directly to heaven and very few directly to hell, while the rest go to purgatory. That may mean that the conditions of God's final judgment of what a human being has done to himself with his free will is not what we assume at present.

            Still, I fear that many underestimate the suffering of purgatory, where one finally realizes what is being missed by having to delay blissful union with the Divine Presence.

            Your focus on hell fire and brimstone misses what theologians tell us is the worst part of hell, namely, permanent separation from God. You have to think bigger.

          • michael

            I didn't mention fire and brimstone, I mentioned suffering.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Good. Then you should be thinking in terms of the real meaning of human perfection in terms of whether we attain our last end or not, and what are the proper choices required to attain that end.

          • michael

            You are missing the point it seems. Nothing can justify or be worth endless unimaginable indescribable agony.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            How do you know that actual nature of the punishment -- unless and until you get there?

            How do you know that the ingratitude of the damned does not justify the judgment of God if you are not God?

            How do you know precisely what it is that leads someone to actually go to hell? Just saying a sin is a mortal sin does not prove the person dies in it without repentance. Life can be filled with mortal sins, and sincere repentance. It is likely that it is the unrepentant sinners that are at risk -- especially if they make that a lifelong commitment.

          • michael

            Catholic teaching is that it's worse than anything we can possibly imagine or experience on Earth, and that it goes on forever and ever for acts which have no effect at all on an infinitely happy, impassible, immutable being. What more do I need to know?

          • michael

            "Were I somehow to manage to lose my faith, I would still be stuck with a perfectly natural, rational certitude that the God of classical theism exists and that natural law governs my ethical life." Why doesn't natural moral law exclude respect for a being responsible for so much profound suffering? Because "God works in mysterious ways" and "Proverbs 5:3"?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What you raise is a problem, an objection, to God's goodness. You know I addressed that topic in another OP. But you approach the problem from the wrong end -- as I point out in the OP.

            The reason for that is that once you prove God is all good and is the author of natural law, it is certain that he does no wrong in any of his creative acts. You just doubt the original proof of his goodness.

            I admit in the OP that if you start from the wrong end, of course, the problem of evil becomes more problematic -- which is why starting from God's goodness is the right approach.

            Clearly, when you say God is "responsible for so much profound suffering," you are blaming him for the suffering. You should by now know that the "free will" defense places the blame, not on God, but on the creatures. Besides, you assume both that you know the exact nature of the suffering and that God was unjust either in causing or permitting it.

            That is a lot of assumption. The key is the assumptions you are making when you say "responsible." If you knew what God knows about the ends to be reached by his creatures and his creation, you might be able to judge something about his "responsibility" for what ensues or what he permits to ensue. Since you do not have that knowledge, your judgment is circumscribed.

          • Ficino

            In fact, the last couple years on this Strange Notions web site has confronted me with atheistic and skeptical arguments one never meets in a classroom. I have learned a lot. I have been forced to reexamine the roots of my own philosophical convictions over and over. The result has only anchored my conviction that Leon Bloy was right when he concluded: " Il n'y a que deux types de philosophie: le thomisme et le bullshitism."

            Well, I have learned a lot, too, and have found it confirmed that I think Leon Bloy was wrong. In particular, I am more confirmed than before that:
            existence is not a predicate/perfection
            we don't know that the PPC is true
            we can't be sure that we have access to the sufficient reason in many cases
            per se series of causes may collapse into series ordered per accidens
            analogical predication of names of God annihilates talk about God

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I guess we both have learned a lot, then. Especially, I appreciate your listing some items that I can check off among the things I am most sure of. :) (I might nuance the expression of a couple of them in such fashion that we might find we are not quite as opposed as it seems.) In any event, that is too big a plate full for me to wish to open them all at once!

            And I still think Leon hit the nail on the head! :)

    • Mark

      One must prove souls exist outside of wishful thinking.

      How do you define soul so I know what you're asking me to prove or what you have disproven?

      Materialism isn't something for people to fear or negate.

      Materialism is self-refuting, it needs no help from a Catholic philosophers and it's not something Catholics fear.

      Look to understand your emotional attachment to the concepts you struggle to prove.

      Emotional attachments and concepts are qualia of the mind. Subjective conscious experience is not proven to exist via observation and experiment. You're referencing things beyond the epistemological reach of materialism as though they really exist. This is an ironic grand leap of faith to ease your own dissonance. Sad you feel the need to belittle a lifetime of philosophical work with gibberish.

      • Ellabulldog

        I wasn't the one to define soul. Is it something you don't understand?

        Materialism is all we have. It doesn't self refute. Catholic philosopher? Sure a philosopher can be Catholic. Such a person today would be rare as most philosophers today are agnostic. 82%.
        I'd consider them theologians not philosophers. Propagandists. Apologists.

        Lot's of religious schools will keep pushing old outdated theology because they have an agenda. Others might be afraid to offend.

        Catholics fear what they were indoctrinated to fear.

        Cognitive science has knowledge of how the human mind works. Is it perfect? No. Always room to improve.
        Knowledge is better than wishful thinking. Which is all this religious/soul apologetic nonsense is.

        Lot's of confirmation bias. A lifetime's worth for some.

        The truth matters more than someone's hurt feelings. When someone's wrong they are wrong.

        The Catholic Faith is a lie. No doubt about it. You may believe differently but you would be wrong.

        It was an extremely important cultural construct that had an huge impact on the world because it was the main cultural faith of Europeans. Catholicism and Christianity happened to be the popular choice of those with the better weapons and they spread disease more than the succumbed to it. . That's how religions grow. Conquest.

        Today it is irrelevant in educated circles. You can't rationalize your beliefs. Aquinas failed. Good try for the era. Maybe he didn't believe it himself. Kind of had to tow the party line back then right?

        I'm not reaching. I'm calling out others for doing so. Big difference.

        Now cognitive science can help to explain to you why you believe. What you believe really is of little consequence.

        You won't study it. You'll stick to your safe place. It's ok. Don't have to be honest with yourself. With others you should be.

        • Mark

          I wasn't the one to define soul. Is it something you don't understand?

          Here is the definition from NewAdvent. org: "The soul may be defined as the ultimate internal principle by which we think, feel, and will, and by which our bodies are animated." If you reference something and refuse to clarify your perspective either you do not expose your opinion to criticism or do not want to dialogue. It was a simple question.

          Materialism is all we have. It doesn't self refute.

          That's your imprisonment, not mine. You're trapped in a stolen concept fallacy.

          most philosophers today are agnostic. 82%.

          Fallacious appeal to both authority and the people.

          I'd consider them theologians not philosophers. Propagandists. Apologists.

          False equivalence; Ad hominem. All theologians are philosophers. Not all philosophers are theologians. The only propaganda (false information to serve an ideology) here is your gibberish.

          Lot's of religious schools will keep pushing old outdated theology because they have an agenda. Others might be afraid to offend.

          When does truth become outdated? Moral goodness and higher purpose for mankind as an agenda is no doubt as offensive to you as reason.

          Catholics fear what they were indoctrinated to fear.

          Ad Hominem. The fear you allude to for Catholics is an unsettling of the soul, a moral question based on an apprehension about the future. It is a sin. Therefore the statement is a non-sequitur. Also it's confusing since you are a materialists and continue to speak of illusory things (such as morals) as if they are real. Using pixie dust to disprove fairies is entertaining, but it doesn't even rise to the level of wrong.

          Cognitive science has knowledge of how the human mind works.

          An assertion of truth without evidentiary support. That would be the very definition of wishful thinking.

          Lot's of confirmation bias. A lifetime's worth for some.

          I'll assume you're talking about yourself now instead of insulting others life work.

          The truth matters more than someone's hurt feelings. When someone's wrong they are wrong

          And gibberish doesn't hurt my feelings. But this is the first thing you said that I find of some value. I should stop here and end on a good note.

          The Catholic Faith is a lie....It was an extremely important cultural construct that had an huge impact on the world because it was the main cultural faith of Europeans. Catholicism and Christianity happened to be the popular choice of those with the better weapons and they spread disease more than the succumbed to it. That's how religions grow. Conquest.

          This is wrong on so many layers. It's like a dung onion. I didn't think you could be less convincing.

          Today it is irrelevant in educated circles. You can't rationalize your beliefs. Aquinas failed. Good try for the era. Maybe he didn't believe it himself. Kind of had to tow the party line back then right?

          You haven't read a page of Aquinas, that's obvious, nor any other thinker of his "era". I can rationalize my beliefs just fine. I don't need a tow rope for the line I'm toeing.

          I'm not really reaching, just calling people out

          Yes, you are reaching. No theist here feels called out by your gibberish.

          Now cognitive science can help to explain to you why you believe. What you believe really is of little consequence.

          Gibberish. Science explains how.

          • Ellabulldog

            1. "soul' in a religious discussion means something else. If the person that originally didn't mean for it to be taken as the supernatural mumbo jumbo it is then they needed to define it. I took my understanding of the definition from the conversation and the place where it was located. Do Catholics define a "soul" as you did? If not you are just playing semantic games.

            2. If you want to claim there is something beyond the material feel free to prove it. I'll wait. If you feel the need to believe in something without proof go ahead. It's your delusion not mine.

            3. Fallacious appeal to authority and people. In this case you are wrong because I wasn't doing that was I? You used someone's supposed stature as a philosopher to make them an authority. If 82% of philosophers today disagree it is relevant to the conversation. Up to you to support your claim that your philosopher is right and 82% are not. If it's just opinion who cares.

            4. Study the history of Catholicism with unbiased glasses. Better yet study what religion is. Sure you believe it. You believe a lie. Just as you think Mohammed made up his story. Or that Joseph Smith made up his. Or L. Ron Hubbard made up his. Just because you believe it doesn't make it true. It's as false as they come. Just because the others are doesn't mean yours is might be an argument you will make. It's a pretty lame and desperate defense isn't it. The mark of a mind not open to facts and truth. One determined to hold onto a belief in spite of no proof or a rational argument.

            One can study religion as a human construct.

            Then study why you believe it. Or start with why do people believe in Scientology? Or Voodoo? Or witches? Or Buddhism or Shinto. How our minds work is valuable knowledge. It applies to many things besides religion.

            Aquinas is irrelevant today. Theology not Philosophy. His proofs are garbage. You wrote fallacious earlier right? Well apply it to what you like. Don't be a hypocrite.

            Aquinas surely knew that as he separated rational thought from faith. Which is also called compartmentalization. It isn't brilliant philosophy to excuse one's superstition from being scrutinized. It is an excuse some don't bother to question. Why don't you?

            During Aquinas's lifetime he didn't have the luxury we have today in the West where people are free to think without the threat of the Church "yes your Catholic Church" not liking someone's thoughts and having them killed for it. Lot's of pressure to produce "philosophy" that conforms to what the Church wanted. Not his fault. He was a product of his time.

            The real smart and intellectually honest philosophers were silenced or killed. Shameful. All about power and money.

            You have an emotional belief. A belief you were likely taught by your local culture and from your family. It's authoritative. You were told to believe it so you do.

            It's not rational. Aquinas said that right?

            Makes him agnostic.

            He didn't know. He was making it up.

            Fooled you? Glad you studied him. Makes you an expert on crappy theology.

            Do people on here care? Depends right? Do they care about knowledge or only care about how many believe the same lie they do? Is this a confirmation bias site or one that seeks knowledge.
            So much more to discuss than ancient theology.

          • Mark

            The definition of soul I gave you comes right from the online Catholic Encyclopedia. The reason I asked you to define soul was because I was right in my assumption that you haven't got the foggiest idea what a Catholic thinks and don't take the time to understand them before you start with your gibberjabber.

            Name one "really smart philosopher or academic" "killed by the (Catholic) Church to silence them" because the Magesterium "didn't like their thoughts".

            Call me skeptical but I doubt I'll be able to prove anything to someone who sources their knowledge from the bowels of reddit.

          • Ellabulldog

            I went to Catholic Church for years. Not all Catholics think alike. The common definition to most everyone is the immaterial part of a person that lives forever. Aquinas said only humans have it. You know that guy you like. Problem is a "soul" doesn't exist in reality. It is wishful thinking. No matter the definition.

            Bruno was hung upside down naked and then burned to death by the Catholic Church. That's one.

            Name me all of the current brilliant philosophers living and doing work in Iran that claim Mohammed was wrong.
            Can't be done. None will dare say such a thing because they will be killed even today.
            The Catholic Church did the same. It's historical fact.

            You are no skeptic.

  • Religions are the combination of how you experience the Creator, and you apply them to yourself and to your society.
    My experience is that people became atheists or agnostics because of the misuse of the religion.
    The misused of the religion happened because again people put their privet interests above the interests of the many. This happens to all aspects of our social activities, ideologies, etc.
    So the problem is not the Creator or the religions but how we apply them!

  • Ficino

    OT: does anyone know the status of the Classical Theism forum? For about a week now there is a notice that it's been hacked.

  • Ficino

    Some interesting comments:

    "On Carter's reading, this commits Aristotle to a certain kind of dualism, which he calls Associative Entity Dualism. The particular kind of association Aristotle has in mind, however, means that matter and soul are ontologically interdependent. In particular, different capacities of the soul require specific material conditions to be physically realized; for instance, visual perception, as a capacity of the soul, requires a specific body, the eye, with a specific material composition. The notable exception, of course, is nous or intellect, which functions independent of any particular material constitution (and, at least in the case of divine nous, independent of any matter at all). Carter deals with this tension in Aristotle's thought by reading it as having a narrow target: not that all kinds of soul belong essentially to bodies, but rather that souls as a kind belong naturally to bodies (222). This version of dualism is not trivial, and in fact places Aristotle's view much closer to Cartesian substance dualism than most commentators have been willing to accept. The result has an interesting consequence for Aristotle's philosophy of science. On this reading psychology will bifurcate, with what we might call animal psychology subordinate to physics or natural science, and human psychology (insofar as this focuses on intellect) subordinate to theology." from Jerry Green's review of Jason W. Carter, Aristotle on Earlier Greek Psychology: The Science of the Soul, Cambridge University Press, 2019, in NDPR 2019.10.09

    https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/aristotle-on-earlier-greek-psychology-the-science-of-the-soul/

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Here is a new scientific article challenging the facile assumption by some that a computer can be created that will emulate the functions of the human brain:

    https://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2019/10/17/why_a_computer_will_never_be_truly_conscious_111135.html

    While the presumptions of this article are doubtless materialistic, it should give some pause to those who think they will be able someday to attain a form of immortality by downloading the contents of their brains into a computer.

    • Sample1

      Whatever is not prohibited by the laws of physics is doable and what is prohibited isn’t, at least in principle. That’s provided the knowledge is attainable and we certainly have no guarantee of that. Hope, yes. However one can’t ignore that knowledge acquisition can result in unexpected cultural trajectories too with challenges we can’t yet imagine.

      Overall I remain pleased that you are not adverse to reading about science and understand its explanatory gift. Just the other day I spent forty five minutes listening to a Christian tell me the universe is less than ten thousand years old. Did my best to explain the correlation between time and distance, particularly as it relates to starlight. The person of religious faith easily grasped that light from the sun takes about eight minutes to “travel” the distance to our planet. Then we discussed stars four light years away and why it makes logical sense to conclude light can be analogous to a different kind of fossil. We see the star as it was in the past, four years ago. Then we talked about stars much further away. Millions of miles of distance between us translates to fossilized light millions of years old. She froze. She immediately grasped the consequences. She had no problem accepting eight minute old light but million year old light? That means the universe can’t be the age she was taught to believe it was.

      I don’t know if I made any progress as she retreated to a holy book where she derives a relatively young universe. It was fascinating, though lamentable, that physical evidence of cognitive dissonance appeared on her face and furrowed brow. I used to know that feeling. How I hope she someday takes the same interest in science that you do. A bigger, more truthful reality awaits her should she follow her love of things that are true.

      Mike

      • Dennis Bonnette

        My attitude toward natural science is conditioned by the fact that my initial exposure to higher education was in chemistry, not philosophy. Somehow I wound up with an undergraduate minor in chemistry. I know that is not physics, but I got some exposure to that as well. I did not start any philosophy until my second year of college. So, my thinking about the nature of reality from a rational viewpoint was really not all that different from that of scientific materialism. Yes, I had my religious faith, but my rational side was pretty firmly in natural science. So, I am no enemy of science.

        Your young earth creationist friend there would likely endorse some sort of creation "with the appearance of age" theory to explain why light gives the appearance of coming from sources billions of light years away, when a ten thousand year old cosmos renders that impossible.

        The problem with this "appearance of age" approach is that we then have a universe in which all the laws of physics become miracles that violate their own rules. But if everything becomes a miracle, then natural science is no longer scientific at all, since all laws can be suspended whenever necessary -- and they are constantly and almost universally suspended.

        If that be true, the miracles themselves disappear, since a miracle is a suspension of the laws of nature that can be caused solely by an infinitely powerful transcendent God. When everything is a miracle, then nothing is a miracle -- since we can no longer distinguish between miracles and the laws of nature.

        That is why my book, Origin of the Human Species, attempts to follow sound science as a general principle -- although it is open to divine intervention when such can be proven. Philosophically, such would apply when the laws of physics describe how and why the cosmos has followed certain intelligible rules for at least 13.7 billion years, and yet, these descriptive laws fail to explain why the cosmos itself exists at all. But that last is another story.

        As for chemistry and physics, these sciences' laws describe realistically how the universe works as observable by the methods of those sciences. It is an insult to God to say he made a world in which reason gives us such scientific understanding of physical things, but then would negate the use of our reason by pulling the rug out from under such laws as if to say, "Just kidding!"

        • Phil Tanny

          It is an insult to God to say he made a world in which reason gives us
          such scientific understanding of physical things, but then would negate
          the use of our reason by pulling the rug out from under such laws as if
          to say, "Just kidding!"

          Human reason is an analytical tool used very imperfectly by one half insane semi-suicidal species on a single planet in one of billions of galaxies. That is, human reason is an extremely local phenomena, a very small matter.

          It would not be a product of reason to leap from the fact of reason's proven usefulness at human scale to a wildly speculative assumption that therefore human reason is qualified to deliver meaningful statements on the very largest of questions concerning the most fundamental nature of everything everywhere (scope of most God claims).

          Human reason is not proven useful for such infinitely large issues just because we are nerds and we really enjoy logic dancing.

  • Certainly humans are not just animals, but they are biological robots, as the great inventor Nikola Tesla rightly described, who made the first wireless robot, a small boat.
    As advanced biological robots, humans perform their biological activities while being able to exercise other abilities based on their spiritual activities.

    The Creator of man equipped him with many possibilities, the greatest of them being the developed brain, which enabled him to adapt and change the conditions in his environment.
    What we are seeing in our time today is the transformation of the planet Earth into an environment where new kinds of humans, the humanoids, the cyborgs, will operate.

    Probably the Creator programmed the man to do this because he is not able to control his brain which wrongly services his senses, creating damages to himself and to his natural environment.