On Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 1:59 PM, Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com> wrote: > Rex Allen wrote: >> >> What caused it to exist? >> > > Who said it needs a cause?
Why this reality as opposed to nothing? Given the principle of sufficient reason, wouldn't "nothingness" be the expected state of things? But, given that reality exists, why are things this way as opposed to some other way? "St. Augustine observed that if someone were to stand barefoot on the beach for all eternity, then his footmark on the sand would be eternal too, but nonetheless it would still have its cause – the foot making it." - M. Heller, Ultimate Explanations of the Universe Further, to quote Roger Scruton on the same topic: “Suppose we were to accept the big bang hypothesis concerning the origin of the universe. Only a short-sighted person would think that we have then answered the question of how the world began. For what caused the bang? Any answer will suppose that something already existed. So the hypothesis cannot explain the origin of things. The quest for an origin leads us forever backwards into the past. But either it is unsatisfiable- in which case, how does cosmology explain the existence of the world? - or it comes to rest in the postulation of a causa sui - in which case, we have left the scientific question unanswered and taking refuge in theology. Science itself pushes us towards the antinomy, by forcing us always to the limits of nature.” And a final quote for Wittgenstein: “It’s not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.” - Proposition 6.44, Logico Tractatus Philosophicus >> >> Given determinism, what is the significance of a prediction generated >> from within the deterministic system? >> > > That your method of prediction has some truth to it. Even if you accept that various configurations of matter can result in conscious experiences, there's no reason to think that the experiences will in any way reveal anything about the underlying system that "caused" them, is there? >> Given randomness, what is the significance of prediction generated >> from within the random system? >> > > That your method of prediction will yield the right relative frequencies. For randomness there are no "right" relative frequencies, are there? Relative frequencies are just the number of times a particular event occurred divided by the total number of trials. For a random process, if you wait long enough you can get any relative frequency of events for any desired sample size, correct? Isn't it meaningless to speak of predicting anything about a random process? >> Why does it have the aspects that it has? How is it that it gives >> rise to conscious experience? >> > > My theory is that physical processes of great complexity corresponding to > what we call information processing and which include the construction of > narrative histories in memory instantiate consciousness of a human type. I > think when we understand these processes and the brain better we will come > to understand there are different degrees and kinds of consciousness and the > term isn't technically useful. You seem to have no problem with the existence of matter as a given. No explanation needed, apparently. Why judge conscious experience by a different standard? It seems to me that you are starting with a strong bias towards matter as fundamental, instead of starting with a clean slate and working forward from first principles. So we start with our observations, and then we construct narratives that are consistent with what we have observed. These narratives may be useful in analyzing recurring patterns in the records of our past observations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are true of anything that exists outside of our observations. The possible existence of matter in the form of quarks and electrons (or strings, or quantum fields, or whatever) is consistent with our observations, but obviously we have no direct knowledge of quarks and electrons or the rest. Their existence, and the physical laws associated with them, are inferred from our observations. Even something right in front of me, like my chair, I still only know through my conscious experience. I see a chair here, but I don’t know that the chair actually exists. I could be dreaming, for instance, in which case the chair exists entirely within my mind. Now, the world that I perceive is pretty stable and orderly. What could explain all of that order? Well…ultimately, nothing can explain it. Ultimately you have to conclude that my perceptions just are that way. For instance, let’s say that I explain the order that I perceive by postulating that a world of matter and energy with governing laws exists independently of me. Okay, now we just need to explain this external world. Where did the matter and energy come from? What causes the governing laws? Why this kind of matter and energy and physical laws as opposed to some other? In other words, what caused the cause of my orderly perceptions? And what caused that cause? And so on. As I said in an earlier post on another thread, you either have to postulate an infinite chain of causes, or a first cause. If go with a first cause that is itself uncaused, then you are saying that it just was the way that it was, and so everything that followed from it just is the way it was. And so there is no explanation for the order of the world we perceive…it just is that way. If you go with an infinite chain of causes, then why that infinite chain of events, as opposed to some other? In fact, why any chain of events at all, why not nothingness? I’ll tell you why: Because that’s just the way it is. SO, if postulating an independently existing external world doesn’t actually explain anything, and in fact only raises new questions (e.g., how does unconscious matter give rise to conscious experience? what is matter anyway…quantum fields? but then what are quantum fields? and what causes “causality”? what started the whole damn thing, and then what started what started it?)…then why go that direction? Ultimately, my perceptions, caused or uncaused, just are what they are. There is no explanation for this that isn’t itself unexplained…and this inexplicableness of it seems to be necessary, not contingent. It seems to me that nothing is lost in concluding that consciousness is fundamental, and that science is only about constructing plausible narratives that are consistent with past observations…not about an unexplained and inexplicable independently existing world made of mysterious substances referred to as “matter”. > But the ontology of physics refers to lots of things that are only very > indirectly related to our conscious experience (like the Big Bang, and > quarks). I don't think (2) is simple or useful at all. It is the extreme > positivist philosophy which attempted to recast physics in terms only of > relations between sense perceptions. Mach was one its proponents and he > refused to believe in atoms and considered them mere fictions because they > couldn't be seen. Now they can be "seen" by scanning tunneling microscopes. So obviously what we *know* are these relations between sense perceptions. From these it's "useful" to infer the existence of things like electrons and quarks. But that doesn't mean that electrons and quarks actually exist. We use analogy and metaphor as aids to understanding all the time. It's just the way the human mind works. >> So I’m not saying that the equations found in physics are wrong. I’m >> just suggesting that they don’t mean what you think they mean. >> > > What do you think I think they mean? I think you think they mean that there is a external world that exists independently of our experience of it. I am suggesting that maybe this is not the case, that maybe our experience is all that "exists". >> >> Why do the laws that govern molecular interactions hold constant over >> time? Why these laws and not some other set of laws? >> >> Unfortunately you haven't explained anything. >> > > No. I've explained a very great deal. I've explained why you and I can > communicate by typing. You've constructed a narrative that is consistent with our observations, but which includes no justification for itself. If I had asked "how does the internet work", then it would fine. > Why you will go to the doctor, instead of priest if you're ill. In a deterministic system, I go to the doctor because given the initial conditions of the physical system and the causal laws governing it, going to the doctor is what has to happen. The fact that I *experience" it as making a choice is just an interesting aspect of that particular system. If there is no explanation of the initial conditions and causal laws, then there is no explanation for why I went to the doctor instead of the priest. In a random system, there may be no reason at all that I go to the doctor instead of the priest. That's just the way the dice rolled that time. Randomness is...random, so again, there is no explanation for why I went to the doctor instead of the priest. So...in both cases, nothing is explained. Or rather, the explanation is: because that's the way it is. > Just not everything. "The longing to attain the ultimate explanation lingers in the implications of every scientific theory, even in a fragmentary theory of one part or aspect of the world. For why should only that part, that aspect of the world be comprehensible? It is only a part or an aspect of an entirety, after all, and if that entirety should be unexplainable, then why should only a tiny fragment thereof lend itself to explanation? But consider the reverse: if a tiny part were to elude explanation, it would leave a gap, rip a chasm, in the understanding of the entirety." -- Michael Heller -- Rex
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