Rex Allen wrote:
> Brent and 1Z (the "twins"...a dynamic duo of blunt skepticism):
> 
> 
> On Fri, Aug 14, 2009 at 2:43 PM, Brent Meeker<meeke...@dslextreme.com> wrote:
>>> 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.  he 
>> operational
>> definition of an explanation of an event is what you would do to effect or 
>> prevent that
>> event.
> 
> Oh.  Is that what we're interested in here?  Operationally defined 
> explanations?
> 
> I apologize.  I had not realized.  I thought we were discussing deeper
> issues.  So sure, if you want to stick to "operational explanations",
> things are pretty straightforward.  Physics is indeed the language for
> operational explanations and perhaps we should confine ourselves to
> discussions of the latest developments in physics.  I propose a name
> change, from the "Everything List" to "Everything Physics-related
> List".
> 
> Though, actually, I thought that we were discussing the *ultimate*
> underlying nature of reality.  Not operational explanations that
> provide us with strategies for avoiding car problems in that reality.
> So, upon further reflection, I think I'm in the right list.  You,
> however, may not be.
> 
> Okay, sarcasm over, though I think my point above is valid.
> 
> BUT, actually I do very much appreciate your response, as it forces me
> to examine, clarify, and articulate my own thoughts.  Which is the
> whole point of this exercise I think.  So, the only thing worse than a
> negative response is no response!  Ha!
> 
> 
>> In general there are multiple things you could do and hence multiple causes 
>> of
>> an event.
> 
> There are many ways the history of the world could have played out
> differently that would have resulted in your wife's car not having an
> empty gas tank (many of them quite gruesome) but if physicalism is
> correct then there's only ONE way the world DID play out...and that is
> the causal structure that led to your wife's situation.
> 
> 
>> 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.
> 
> I follow your meaning, but it just means that the chain is a directed
> acyclic (presumably!) graph, that can be divided into layers, with
> each layer viewed as a link in the chain.  But there must be a base
> layer, right?  An infinite past is a possibility too, I suppose, but I
> don't think that negates my argument, it just changes the wording a
> bit.  But let's not go there just yet.
> 
> 
>> 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.
> 
> 
> Okay, two scenarios:
> 
> 1)  Physicalism is true, you're in the real world, and your wife ran out of 
> gas.
> 
> 2)  Physicalism is true, you're in a computer simulation of the real
> world, and your virtual-wife ran out of virtual-gas.
> 
> SO, in both scenarios, your operational approach to explanation is
> useful.  But it isn't meaningful in the context of what I take us to
> be discussing:  the underlying nature of reality.
> 
> Your operational explanations have SUBJECTIVE MEANING.  Not absolute
> meaning.  If they had absolute meaning, then they wouldn't apply in
> both scenario 1 and scenario 2.
> 
> My point is that there IS NO absolute meaning.  And where there is no
> meaning, there can be no explanation.  In an absolute sense, things
> just are what they are.  Tautology.

There seems to be a lot switching back and forth between cause and meaning and 
explanation 
as though were interchangable.  And even those have different modes, e.g. first 
cause, 
effective cause, proximate cause,...  Meaning=standing for something else.  
Meaning=having 
inherent value (to someone).

I agree that one can always ask "Why?" as children sometimes do; and the 
ultimate answer
is, "Because I say so." So you may well say, "Things are just what they are." 
but that
doesn't mean that we cannot have and explanation of QM and gravity and 
consciousness, and
after than an explanation of the explanation ad infinitum. So I guess I'm 
unclear on your
point. Are you advising that we give up all explanation and just chant "It is 
what it is."

Incidentally, there is a different form of explanation/cause which people 
schooled in
logic tend to reject at first sight, but which I think actually has merit. 
Bruno wrote it
once as: NUMBERS -> "MACHINE DREAMS" -> PHYSICAL -> HUMANS -> PHYSICS -> NUMBERS

Yes, I know it's circular. Thats the point.  But I think it can be a virtuous 
rather than 
a vicious circle, and the wider the circle the more virtuous.

Brent



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