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  #21  
Unread January 19th, 2006, 08:59 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

> All of this seems to boil down to whether there is objective truth and whether we can know it...

In philosophy we distinguish two different fields of inquiry:

1) Metaphysics - the study of what is, what exists.
2) Epistemology - the study of knowledge, what (if anything) we can know about it.

It would seem that either phi is finite or it is infinite regardless of whether we ever manage to construct a proof either way.

Sometimes people think they are intimately connected so, for example, it is senseless to talk about a reality that is beyond our grasp as a matter of principle. But it seems to make sense that either there is a super-natural entity or there is not (which is to say there is a fact of the matter) regardless of whether we can ever know that fact or not.

Kant distingushed between two senses of reality that roughly map on to my mind-independent / inter-subjective distinction. Noumena (things in themselves) are beyond our grasp as a matter of principle. Phenomena (how things appear to be) are within our grasp, however. If you add up all the observers observations of the world... Then you get inter-subjective reality. What does an experiment purport to show us but 'if you did the experiment then you too would observe these same results'. If we consider science to be the investigation of mind-independent reality, then radical scepticism will always be a problem. Radical scepticism appears as the question 'how do you know things are (in themselves) the way they appear to us to be?' We simply cannot grasp mind-independent realilty (how things are in themselves) as a matter of principle. This is because to grasp it is to bring the mind into it once more. If we consider science to be the investigation of inter-subjective reality (so that the aim is convergence on observations) then radical scepticism isn't a problem. I think that mind-independent reality isn't really what interests us anyway. I think that we are more interested in inter-subjective reality. We are more interested in what we are likely to observe in the future (predictions) and explanations for our observations. We aren't so much interested in the essential nature of the world as we are interested in our experience of the world (though all of this is controversial).

> mathematics seems to explain the physical world amazingly well

Does mathematics 'explain' or does it describe? Does mathematics tell us what exists and does not exist, or does it merely describe what is observed and provide a formula that when applied to our observations delivers fairly accurate predictions on what will be observed in the future?

> the issue is whether 1 + 1 = 2 is real and objectively true, or whether it’s merely social constructivism. As I see things, 1 + 1 = 2 is an objective truth—mathematical realism holds that mathematical entities exist independently of the human mind, that we don’t invent mathematics but rather discover it, and that any other intelligent beings in the universe would presumably do the same.

Given the meanings of the terms '1', '+', '=', '2' the statement is true by definition in the same way that 'p=p' is true by definition or 'either p or not p' is true by definition. It is contingent / arbitrary (or a social construction if you like) that we have assigned those meanings to those terms, but given the fact that we have assigned those meanings to those terms the statement is true by definition.

> Many working mathematicians, and certainly all the great ones, are/were mathematical realists (essentially Platonists, if not openly then certainly in their hearts); and I suspect the same could be said of the greatest physicists.

Platonic realism is typically considered (in philosophy circles) to be old, outdated metaphysics. Consider 'redness'. Does redness exist? Would redness exist if there weren't any red things? Consider 'seven'. Does seven exist? Would seven exist if there weren't seven things? Why posit an entity that resides in a Platonic realm of forms? Why consider that redness or seven would exist if there weren't any red things or if there weren't seven things? We don't believe in an ideal table existing in Plato's realm of forms, we don't believe in redness existing in Plato's realm of forms, so why believe in the number seven existing in Plato's realm of forms?
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  #22  
Unread January 20th, 2006, 06:00 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Quote:
AK: Does seven exist?
If 7 = 7, or 1 = 1, isn’t real and true, what then can ever possibly be true?

But here’s the rub: While 1 = 1 is timelessly and objectively true, “1 thing = 1 thing,” in our physical world, probably isn’t since “things” never seem to be truly identical in our physical world. Plus, best I can tell, “1,” in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily seem to exist in our physical world.

Nevertheless, “1 = 1” is a timeless and objective truth that we all seem to have access to, and that existed b/f there were evolved creatures with subjective mental constructs and definitions.

Should anyone unable or unwilling to acknowledge the reality and objective truth of 1 = 1 ever be taken very seriously? I’d say no, but maybe that’s just me.
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  #23  
Unread January 20th, 2006, 07:43 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

> But here’s the rub: While 1 = 1 is timelessly and objectively true, “1 thing = 1 thing,” in our physical world, probably isn’t since “things” never seem to be truly identical in our physical world.

Ah. At any one moment in time a thing is identical to itself. I think this is one of Leibniz laws (which Wittgenstein went on to mock because it does sound rather trivial indeed). So where you have the same thing on different sides of the = sign then the second equation would be true. Sometimes identity claims are not trivial so for example it was a significant discovery that the morning star = the evening star; that water = H2O (roughly); that superman = clarke kent (though this is disputed a little in the philosophical literature); and the identity theory of the mind-body relation holds that pain = brain state x (where x is to be determined by science).

Philosophy of math (or physics or logic for that matter) isn't really my area... But I guess I think of numbers as sets. There was work (Frege, Russell etc) on trying to reduce mathematics to logic (via set theory I think) and so the meaning of '1' might be a set with one member in it. Apparantly... Their program failed, but anyway... If '1' is a set with one member in it then the identity of the member is irrelevant. Like how if 'money' is defined by its function in social life then it can be multiply realisable on the physical level (could be coins, or paper, or cowrie shells). All that is relevant to numbers is... How many. There could be a set with one coin in it, another set with one piece of paper in it, another set with one cowrie shell in it and they are identical in the relevant respect in the sense that each set has just one member. Maybe we need to introduce a number line to deal with negative numbers... I don't really know...

> Nevertheless, “1 = 1” is a timeless and objective truth that we all seem to have access to, and that existed b/f there were evolved creatures with subjective mental constructs and definitions.

Yes. At any one moment in time... A thing is identical to itself.

> Should anyone unable or unwilling to acknowledge the reality and objective truth of 1 = 1 ever be taken very seriously? I’d say no, but maybe that’s just me.

1=1 is true by definition. If there were a race of alien beings who had a radically different logic or mathematics to us... Then we could not comprehend them. Logic and mathematics are considered to be the two a-priori disciplines. That is to say that (in theory) you don't need to look to the world at all. Once you have grasped the relevant concepts (the meanings of '1' '=' etc then... The rest of it deductively follows.

On a bit of a tangent philosophers often talk about possible worlds.
1) It is possible that I never posted to this board (for instance).
That seems to be true. Why is it true?
2) Because it is true that there is a possible world in which I never posted to this board.
But that entails
3) There is a possible world (that is not the actual world)
And that entails
4) There are possible worlds!
I do believe... David Lewis argues for the reality of possible worlds (or alternative universes causally isolated from our own, if you like) in this vein. He considers that it is too counter-intuitive to common sense to deny the truth of 2 and from there...

Am I giving philosophy a bad name yet?

;-)
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  #24  
Unread January 21st, 2006, 12:28 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Quote:
AK: Yes. At any one moment in time... A thing is identical to itself.
1 + 1 = 2. Using algebra we subtract 1 from each side and get: 1 = 1. I’d not consider this a “thing identical to itself.” You may equal yourself, but I doubt your clone and you would ever be truly, completely, objectively equal. Best I can tell, your sympathies lie with the social constructivism POV.

So I’ll finish with this: There are infinitely many prime numbers—this is a reality and a timeless objective truth—it was true when Euclid discovered it; it’s true today; and it was true before conscious beings evolved. I’d say the evidence is overwhelming that there is indeed a separate world of timeless and objective mathematical truth (and beauty?) that we are able to consciously access and comprehend. (But there’s currently no evidence indicating that there are infinite and/or alternative universes.) You get the last word, and enjoy LeDoux’s book.
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  #25  
Unread January 21st, 2006, 04:06 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

I'm getting a little lost truth be told. I found this if you are still interested, however, and it summarises a range of views on the issue.

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

My knowledge of math is extremely limited. I think I may have done something dodgey with the '=' sign. I think it may have a different meaning in math than it does in logic (where it symbolises an 'is' of identity).

Anyway thanks for chatting to me. I will be sure to get that book.
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  #26  
Unread January 21st, 2006, 04:48 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

"I'm getting a little lost, IF TRUTH BE TOLD (emph added)"

I'm glad that you two connected...Fred's Alzheimers won some tactical victories when he was between external foes...

And, I promise!, to weed through Alexandra's arguments and perhaps shake a leg to Wikkipedia!

Thanks both of you!

JB
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  #27  
Unread January 26th, 2006, 10:56 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Quote:
JimB: Fred's Alzheimers won some tactical victories when he was between external foes...
Hmmm. I originally said that, “the principle of parsimony, not to mention a lack of evidence, seems to preclude any rational belief in multiple universes”; and you countered that, “nature is not parsimonious even though human beliefs attempt such in science." But then, responding to Margaret, you argued that, “As to ‘intelligence,’ please consider arguments that it's about getting laid, not about making the ‘best choices.’”

“Getting laid” sounded parsimonious enough to me, a position I’m disinclined to argue against—any chance the Alzheimer’s is more on your end? . . . although if it is, how would you know?
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  #28  
Unread January 28th, 2006, 12:07 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

I keep hoping to see some meaningful discussions here that would illuminate some of the ways that Evolutionary Psychologists would look at human nature that would be different from other psychologists and scientists.

I hoped that some of my past comments might have encouraged that type of discussion. Let me try this - is there a coherent functional model of the mind that most (or many) Evolutionary Psychologists would generally agree on? Something that would show the various elements of the mind and how they relate to each other - such as intellect, emotion, disposition, instinct, etc.

I've read several of the more popular EP authors and I get the gist of it (I think) but none of them seem interested in providing such a specific model. Maybe there is one out there and I just haven't found it yet.

Margaret
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  #29  
Unread January 30th, 2006, 12:00 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Quote:
Margaret: I keep hoping to see some meaningful discussions here that would illuminate some of the ways that Evolutionary Psychologists would look at human nature that would be different from other psychologists and scientists.
Hi Margaret: Perhaps not really what you’re looking for, and I don’t know that JimB necessarily sees things this way, but I like neuroscientist Joe LeDoux’s “mental trilogy” model of the human brain/mind (and its shaping by evolution and resulting weakness of cognitive influence over the emotional and motivational systems). I see it as the only reasonable way to begin to view and explain the brain/mind (and human nature and all the “unnecessary” human suffering that I myself have been wont to obsess over on occasion).

As I’ve already posted to Alexandra in another thread, the neuroscientist Ledoux notes how cognition, emotion, and motivation – the mental trilogy – actually work and what they are. In the last pages of his excellent book, Synaptic Self (2001), LeDoux writes the following:
Quote:
... there is an imperfect set of connections between cognitive and emotional systems in the current stage of evolution of the human brain. This state of affairs is part of the price we pay for having newly evolved cognitive capacities that are not yet fully integrated into our brains. Although this is also a problem for other primates, it is particularly acute for humans, since the brain of our species, especially our cortex, was extensively rewired in the process of acquiring natural language functions.

Language both required additional cognitive capacities and made new ones possible, and these changes took space and connections to achieve. The space problem was solved…, by moving some things around in existing cortical space, and also by adding more space. But the connection problem was only partially solved. The part that was solved, connectivity within the cortical processing networks, made enhanced cognitive capacities of the hominid brain possible. But the part that hasn’t been fully solved is connectivity between cognitive systems and other parts of the mental trilogy – emotional and motivational systems. This is why a brilliant mathematician or artists, or a successful entrepreneur, can like anyone else fall victim to sexual seduction, road rage, or jealousy, or… depression or anxiety. Our brain has not evolved to the point where the new systems that make complex thinking possible can easily control the old systems that give rise to our base needs and motives, and emotional reactions. This doesn’t mean that we’re simply victims of our brains and should just give in to our urges. It means that downward causation is sometimes hard work. ‘Doing’ the right thing doesn’t always flow naturally form ‘knowing’ what the right thing to do is. [From LeDoux’s Synaptic Self, (2001), pgs. 322-323]
Several years ago a Todd Stark—who I’ve not seen posting here for some time—and I discussed/argued this area at some length, and JimB sort of refereed. I’m not sure where we ended up, but I remain convinced that LeDoux’s mental trilogy model is currently the best and most realistic way of thinking about human nature.
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  #30  
Unread January 30th, 2006, 07:48 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Hi Fred, I haven't read LeDoux but it looks like I should. I just ordered that book from Amazon. Thanks. I have come to some generally similar conclusions as yours from reading DaMassio and Calvin and a few others lately.

Re: The LeDoux excerpt you quoted. LeDoux sees " . . an imperfect set of connections between cognitive and emotional systems in the current stage of evolution of the human brain."

My current view is that our conscious mind can only deal with cognitive images - while our actual motivation and decision-making occur at the emotional level largely unnoticed. We therefore "think" that our intellect is in charge. I think it's just along for the ride.

Margi
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