Rex Allen wrote:
> Brent,
> 
> On Tue, Aug 11, 2009 at 3:02 PM, Brent Meeker<meeke...@dslextreme.com> wrote:
>>> Uncaused things can't be explained.  They just are.
>> Didn't anyone ever explain arithmetic or geometry to you?  Not every
>> explanation needs to be a causal one.
> 
> Well, I think that's what I'm saying.  Causal explanations are not
> really explanations, because you can never trace the causal chain back
> to it's ultimate source.  

That's silly.  If my wife's car won't start and I explain that it's out of gas, 
that's 
really an explanation even if I don't know why it's out of gas.  The 
operational 
definition of an explanation of an event is what you would do to effect or 
prevent that 
event.  In general there are multiple things you could do and hence multiple 
causes of an 
event.  The image of a causal chain leading back to an ultimate link is 
misleading - it is 
more like causal chain mail that branches out as you trace it back.  But just 
because you 
can't trace it back to a single ur-cause doesn't nullify my advice to my wife 
to put gas 
in the tank.

>Or if you do, the ultimate source is itself
> uncaused.  So, if you rephrase the answer in terms of ultimate causes,
> you end up inserting either "unknown" or "uncaused" everywhere.
> 
> So causal explanations are subjective...only meaningful within a
> limited context.  Going back to my granite block example:
> 
> Let's consider two adjacent specks of white and gray found within a
> block of granite.  Why are they adjacent?  What caused them to be
> adjacent?  Well, if we consider this block of granite within the
> context of our universe, then we can say that there is a reason in
> that context as to why they are adjacent.  There is an explanation,
> which has to do with the laws of physics and the contingent details of
> the geologic history of the area where this block of granite was
> formed (which is in turn derived from the contingent details of the
> initial state of our entire universe).
> 
> BUT if we take an identical block of granite to be something that just
> exists uncaused, like our universe, then there can be no explanation.

There can in the same way QM explains the decay of unstable nuclei.  That's 
what 
cosmogonists are searching for.

> The two specks are just adjacent.  That's it.  No further explanation
> is possible.
> 
> So in the first case, the geologic explanation makes sense in a local
> subjective way, but not in an absolute way, because the universe that
> provides the context for the geologic explanation has no reason behind
> its initial state or it's governing laws of physics.  The universe
> just is the way it is.  Therefore, ultimately the block of granite
> just is the way it is.
> 
> 
>> And being uncaused doesn't
>> prevent explanation - for example decay of an unstable nucleus is
>> uncaused, i.e. it is random, but it is still explained by quantum mechanics.
> 
> So you can explain it within the context of the laws of our universe,
> but this just raises the question of why the laws of our universe are
> what they are.
> 
> Ultimately your answer is:  unstable nuclei decay because that's what
> unstable nuclei do.  Tautology.

No, it's not a tautology because there is an underlying theory that explains 
why some 
nuclei are stable and some aren't and exactly how unstable they are.

> 
> 
>> I think you point is better made by observing that an explanation must
>> be of something less known in terms of something better known.  Since
>> nothing can be better known than our own subjective experience, it
>> cannot be explained.
> 
> Well, that is pretty good.  I'll file it away for future use.  Thanks!
> 
> 
>>> So I am saying that no matter how this system evolves, no aspect of
>>> the system can ever be given a meaningful explanation.
>> Now you've introduced another term "meaningful" explanation.  If one can
>> understand it, it must be meaningful.
> 
> So when people find hidden messages in the Old Testament using the
> "Bible Code", these are meaningful messages?  Really?
> 
> If something means something to me...that's subjective.  It means
> something TO ME.  I have a conscious experience of finding that thing
> meaningful.  There's something that it's like to find it meaningful.
> Qualia.
> 
> I'm not sure where I'm going with this point, but...I think it means
> something.  To me.  Ha!
> 
> 
>>> And neither is
>>> there any reason to think that it won't continue it's predictable
>>> pattern.  The system follows it's own "uncaused" rules, which we may
>>> be able to guess at, but which we cannot know, due to the system's
>>> fundamentally uncaused nature.
>>>
>> You seem to take the position that because knowledge isn't certain no
>> knowledge is possible.
> 
> Well, no.  That's not what I'm saying.  I'm saying that the conscious
> experience of knowing is somehow more fundamental and important than
> what is known.

Was the conscious experience of knowing the Earth is flat more fundamental and 
important 
than the fact that the Earth is spherioidal?

> 
> If conscious experience is uncaused and acausal, then in some sense
> knowledge is irrelevant.  Your uncaused experience could be of
> believing that you "know" something which is actually false (e.g.,
> that 121 is prime).

Why do you suppose you have uncaused experiences?

> 
> If conscious experience is caused, then knowledge is...still
> irrelevant.  But for a different reason...in this case what you *can*
> know is determined by those external causes.  You could be caused to
> believe that you *know" something which is actually false (e.g., that
> 121 is prime).  But if you then trace the causal chain back, you will
> never find what ultimately caused you to be wrong

Why do you think this?  Maybe I found 121 in a table of prime numbers that was 
erroneous. 
  Maybe a friend told me 121 was prime.  Maybe my calculator malfunctioned due 
to a cosmic 
ray hit.

>...when you phrase
> your answer in terms of the ultimate causes, it will just be "I was
> wrong because that's the way the universe is".

Why would I try to phrase my answer in terms of "the ultimate cause"?   Why 
would I even 
suppose there is such a thing as "the ultimate cause"?  And why would the 
absence of an 
ultimate cause have any relevance to my explanation in terms of proximate 
causes?

> 
> Do you see what I'm getting at with all of this "uncaused" stuff, and
> the equivalence between an uncaused universe and just an isolated
> uncaused conscious experience?  At all?  Anyone?

Nope.

Brent
"It does not matter now that in a million years nothing we do now will matter."
        --- Thomas Nagel




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