Uh, okay.

First Stathis: Yes, of course our preferences have no bearing on the truth of things, but they do bear on how we think about things. I cited what I consider the moral ghastliness of endless universes not as an argument against it but only as a reason why I have been thinking about it so intently. I strongly share by the way your preferences regarding global bullying, but that is an item probably better left for the activist list.

Norman and Bruno: I myself am not defending a dualist position (body + soul, mind, whatever). I am prepared to say the body is the only substance that exists. That does not mean its behavior is explainable in terms of physics alone.

Yes, I would say that whenever we think anything, our brains are doing something. It may just be though -- and i think it is -- that our brains give us the capacity to engage in linguistic behavior that is itself non-physical. Whether an idea is logical or illogical, whether it is relevant or off the point, whether or not an essay is disorganized -- these are not physical properties. I cannot even fathom what it would mean to say there is a physical state that is the irrelevance of a point.

Bruno, I don't know what "comp" refers to. Is it computational theory of mind? In any event, there seem to me no prospects whatsoever on the horizon for eliminative materialism. Here is the crucial consideration: Do you think the linguistic exchanges we are having -- point / counterpoint; question / answer are causally efficacious? Is it, for example, a question that causally elicits an answer?

If so, then the next question is whether the content of the question causally affects the content of the answer.

If so -- and it seems clear to me the answer is yes, then Norman and Bruno both, do you think we will ever be able to read the content of either a question or an answer off from a brain state or a quantum state?

Keep in mind, as I have been saying, the ideas we express with language are neither finite nor closed. Thus, even if you just stipulated that this or that propositional attitude is identical with this or that physical state, you would never, from the physical states alone be able to explain new thoughts and the behavior they lead to.

Reduction requires not just correspondence but also an ability to explain without the higher level of reality -- in this case linguistic. Again, there is just no evidence for our ever being able to do this.

The strongest argument people make against reductionism is that to deny reductionism is to embrace some form of mystical dualism, and that just is not necessarily the case.

So Sergio: Yes, what you say makes sense to me. I agree with you. It is the position I am trying to articulate here myself.

Martin: I really like your Bible example. It also expresses perhaps even better what I have been trying to express. I am not sure what you mean in your last paragraph. . .

At 9:39 AM +0100 1/16/04, Martin Keitel wrote:
Hence if there are infinite universes, there are also several where the Bible rearranges itself. If it's more likely that this happens as an act of a "higher force", then there should be more this kind of universe than those where it happens accidentally...

. . .but it strikes me your example, if successful, is a kind of reductio ad absurdum of Tegmark's thesis. I will have to think more about it.

I think your other message also came through on the list. Although I have been defending here a position that is called nonreductive materialism rather than dualism, I definitely have my own mystical leanings and, Bruno, some sympathies with Buddhism, and so am attracted to what you suggest.

Your idea sounds similar to an idea of philosophers Hegel and, more recently, John Leslie who argued that at bottom the universe is driven if not by a supernatural mind then at least a supernatural ethical imperative -- which, Stathis, some large, arrogant countries continue to flout.


doug porpora
dept of culture and communication
drexel university
phila pa 19104


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