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Thread: The term "naturalism" is vague and bordering on being meaningless

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GenesisNemesis View Post
    If naturalism is vague the non-materialist worldview is even more vague. No one ever explains anything about how non-materialism is supposed to work. There is no working theory of non-materialism.
    I suppose much depends on what you mean by "theory". There can be no scientific theory of supernaturalism, because the scientific method is grounded in physicalism, the assumption that every event has a physical cause. However, in a looser sense, a theory can be considered a causal explanation of some sort. I have been arguing here that there is a kind of causal model inherent in Cartesian dualism--that physical events can have non-physical causes and vice versa. That isn't necessarily a testable theory, more of a conjecture that attributes a causal explanation to the gut feeling that perception and volition are essentially non-physical processes that play a causal role in our behavior. In that conjectural "theory", the immaterial side of our life forms can be separated from the physical hosts that they interact with while the host is living. Before and after death, the immaterial form can exist as a disembodied spirit that can still interact with physical reality in limited ways. So ghosts can exist and go around haunting people and places. More powerful disembodied spirits have stronger causal interactions with physical reality, and deities have ultimate control over some aspect (or all aspects) of physical reality.

    We get the sense that science disproves spiritualism from the fact that science never really proves anything absolutely. All it does is refine physicalist theories of how reality works. Scientific proofs are not logical proofs, although they rely on logic up to a point. We are at a stage where scientific explanations have been far more successful than supernatural explanations at predicting physical phenomena, including thought processes that were formerly thought to be immaterial. There is literally nothing about our mental experiences that cannot be linked to physical brain activity, so the spiritualist theories of mind simply don't buy us anything at all. You can't rule out spiritualism on logical grounds, but you can rule it out on grounds of plausibility.

  2. Top | #42
    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lion IRC View Post
    Non-materialism is only vague because the nature of matter is (still) vague.

    ...there is no single universally agreed scientific meaning of the word "matter".

    Sorry Plato. Sorry Democritus. Sorry Parmenides.

    Unified Theory of Everything. LOL
    Matter is just a form of concentrated energy.

    E=mc2

    Energy and matter are completely interchangeable. Plato, Democritus and Parmenides had the misfortune to live long before Einstein. You have no such excuse.

    And energy is the ability to do work.

    But you don't actually care about the definition of matter - you are just hoping that you can persuade your audience that there isn't one, so that you can claim that science has a gap in it. And you want science to have gaps in it, because you still haven't realised that the god of the gaps is a useless concept. Science has plenty of gaps. But it keeps on filling them in - and so far, EVERY gap has been claimed to be 'god', right up until science fills the gap, and demonstrates that no gods were ever there.

    You want people to have faith; But faith requires trust. And your (and your fellow theists) insistence on wedging god into every gap, and then abandoning that idea as soon as god becomes unnecessary, erodes trust like nothing else. Obviously nobody still thinks that thunder is the raging of the gods. And few believe that diseases are punishments from the gods. But sure, we believe you that matter is dependent on gods for its existence. Just like we believed all the other utterly failed claims for god's necessity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GenesisNemesis View Post
    If naturalism is vague the non-materialist worldview is even more vague. No one ever explains anything about how non-materialism is supposed to work. There is no working theory of non-materialism.
    The challenge is to the meaningfulness of the term 'naturalism'. Of course, that applies to 'non-naturalism' as well. The terms 'materialism' and 'non-materialism' may have similar problems, but had not been discussed in this thread before your post.

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    Veteran Member Lion IRC's Avatar
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    E=mc2 doesnt resolve the meaning/definition of matter.
    And it certainly doesnt do anything to help eliminate the vagueness of the word 'naturalism'.

    ...now, if only there were some clever way I could weave into the discussion
    an oblique reference to quantum spookiness

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    Veteran Member Lion IRC's Avatar
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    The term 'naturalism' is also undermined by so so many abstract concepts which naturalists themselves embrace. E=MC2 isnt strictly an abstract but 1+1=2 is.

    Mathematics is a field of endeavour which attracts tons of atheists - and theists. And yet mathematics is used as an argument for teleology - a transcendent Higher power designer.

    Moving to the meat of the [WLC versus Graham Oppy] debate, I think there was some miscommunication regarding Craig's statement that atheists have no explanation for the phenomena he adduces in his argument. I'm sure that's shorthand for the claim, not that atheists have no naturalistic explanations to offer, but that their naturalistic alternatives are explanatory failures.
    https://triablogue.blogspot.com/2020...py-debate.html


    In the first round they got bogged down on the question of what motivates mathematicians. Here I think Craig commits an unforced error in how he formulates the first premise of his argument....Initially, Craig's argument seems to hinge on scientific realism. Oppy gave examples which might support scientific anti-realism. I think Oppy had the better of that exchange.

  6. Top | #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    We may be in violent agreement that it is an implausible, untenable assumption, but it is a logical possibility.
    But that's not something I agree with. To qualify as an implausible, untenable assumption, a sentence first has to mean something.
    If you disagree with the assumption, you must be able to understand what it means. If it truly has no meaning, then you shouldn't say you disagree with it.
    Well, gee, then I guess I shouldn't have said I disagree with it. I guess I'll have to go find my statement and amend it. Let's see now, where was it that I said I disagree with it? Huh, that's funny, can't seem to find the spot.

    I didn't say I disagree with the assumption. You have a bad habit of putting words in my mouth.

    You should say that you don't understand it. But I think you do understand what I am saying and that you just want to defend the claim made in the OP.
    I understand what you're saying: you're saying dualism is a logical possibility. It's what dualists are saying that I don't understand. Likewise, if you were to say "'Blerks blark themselves' is a logical possibility", I'd understand you. But that wouldn't imply that I understood 'Blerks blark themselves'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    So do I. I'm not defending its plausibility, just its clarity as a model of how reality works. You are picking an argument with someone who also rejects Cartesian dualism. What I don't agree with is the claim that the natural/supernatural dichotomy is any vaguer than competing models of reality.
    Well then, if next year we discover another entity that affects our observations, what criterion will it have to satisfy to qualify as nonphysical?
    You still keep acting as if I were defending belief in spiritualism rather than the clarity of a belief that I reject as implausible.
    And you still beat your wife. No, I don't act that way, let alone "keep" acting that way, let alone "still" keep acting that way. Never have. You made that up out of whole cloth.

    I don't believe that the moon is made of green cheese, but that doesn't mean that the absurd claim is meaningless. Your implicit misrepresentation of me is why I keep accusing you of a straw man argument.
    I did not misrepresent you, implicitly or explicitly. There are only two plausible reasons you keep accusing me of a straw man argument. (1) You have a mental disability such as autism that obstructs you from grasping how to carry on a civilized discussion. (2) You have no inhibitions against acting like an arrogant dick. You have repeatedly crossed a line that normals know how not to cross. If you are autistic, tell me so and I'll make allowances. Otherwise, start behaving like a decent human being or else get lost.

    I don't know of any such criterion,
    But if you were to tell me that "the moon is made of cheese" is a meaningful claim, though absurd, and I were to respond by asking you what the criterion was for the moon being made of cheese, you'd be able to give me one. You could say it means a hypothetical sample of moon material would on chemical analysis prove to be composed of denatured milk proteins such as casein; or, if you lacked that level of chemical sophistication, you could at least say it means a hypothetical sample of moon material would look like earth cheese and taste like earth cheese and provide nutrition like earth cheese. If I asked you what it means for something to be "cheese", and you responded by angrily denouncing me for allegedly implicitly misrepresenting you as believing the moon really is made of cheese, you would be acting like a crazy person.

    but a spiritualist would likely just claim that they don't know.
    ...hence the appearance that spiritualists are making meaningless claims. If a spiritualist claims the moon is made of a special sort of green cheese that contains no protein and looks like black rock to human eyes and instruments, sensible people will doubt that he is saying anything substantive about the moon by labeling it "green" and "cheese".

    They can quote a lot of atheists who claim that they don't know whether God exists, so why does anyone have to know how to prove negative claims about spiritual causes?
    Why the heck would one need to know how to prove a claim in order to know a criterion for it being true? If I claim Socrates was actually killed by an arrow rather than a cup of hemlock, I have no idea how to prove that but I can certainly give you a criterion for it being true.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    The problem with calling something a miracle because it involves causality crossing between the tiger and the untiger domains isn't that it's a model that's possible but absurd. The problem is that it's a non-model. It's empty, arbitrary, uninformative, content-free. If somebody told you such interactions are "miracles", that would give you no information about men or tigers; you'd only learn that he conceptually divides reality into a tiger part and an untiger part, and the border in his mind between those domains is important to him.
    I am going to say something to you that I want you to pay attention to. Here it is: Absurd claims are not content-free. Absurd claims are not meaningless. The fact that they bear a clear meaning is what allows us to declare them to be absurd.

    Now, I hope that that clarifies the point I am trying to make to you.
    I am going to say something to you that I want you to pay attention to. You don't get to talk condescendingly toward other posters and still have interesting philosophical discussions with them. If you have recognized that you're losing the argument and are therefore trying to drive me away by insulting me, it's about to work. Trying to persuade people who have no interest in being reasonable is not a good use of my time.

    I have given you zero cause to imagine that I am unaware that "Absurd claims are not content-free. Absurd claims are not meaningless. The fact that they bear a clear meaning is what allows us to declare them to be absurd." By painting me as being in need of learning that, you are once again misrepresenting me and misrepresenting what I said. My arguments have been 100% consistent with the lecture you felt entitled to bold at me as though I were an obtuse pupil. My whole line of argument in this exchange has been that dualism is not an absurd claim precisely because it does not have a clear meaning. How you could jump from that observation to the conclusion that I believe that absurdity and meaninglessness are compatible is beyond me. It's an epic logic fail on your part.

    We really are in violent agreement about rejecting the plausibility of the supernatural/natural dichotomy. Where we disagree is the part where you call it a meaningless or content-free distinction. It is not. It is just an absurd distinction. That's where the argument is here--over meaningfulness, not plausibility. You appear to be confusing plausibility with meaningfulness.
    No, I do not appear to be doing any such thing. You just made that up about me. I have been perfectly clear about plausibility vs. meaningfulness. You said dualism is implausible, and I said dualism would have to be meaningful before it could qualify as either implausible or plausible, and you keep dumping abuse on me because I disagreed with you. That's a nasty habit, and if you are unwilling to break yourself of it then we will just have to go our separate ways without agreeing.

    If you choose to respond to this post with yet another insult, misrepresentation, or trumped-up strawman accusation, I will treat it as an admission that you can't make a substantive case. This is your last warning.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    ... Cartesian dualism doesn't have what it takes to qualify as a model of how things work, any more than a division of the world into tiger and nontiger domains does. Those are just labelings of the world. They have no implications for what happens. What prediction can you make that follows from Cartesian dualism?
    Oh, it obviously predicts that there will be some physical phenomenon for which we cannot discover a physical cause, e.g. the claim that immaterial "free will" causes some physical human activity.
    That's not a prediction; that's a label. It depends on a circular definition of "physical".

    Incidentally, it's also not a prediction because it's already happened. We've observed countless "physical" phenomena for which we cannot discover any cause at all. We call them "unsolved crimes".

    That's where all those debates over free will come from.
    They come from systematic language abuse. People who believe in contracausal "free will" can't explain what they mean by it and why "free" is a suitable word for whatever they have in mind.

    I think that one can make such a claim about the theory of an immaterial component to "free will".
    To make such a claim substantive, one would have to come up with a noncircular criterion for "material".

    That doesn't mean that the theory of "God" is meaningless or contentless or even absurd. But there are good reasons to consider it implausible and absurd as part of a model of reality.
    I didn't say it's meaningless or contentless or even absurd. "God" is just a label. It's the additional claims that are made about the alleged properties of an alleged entity that make it plausible or implausible or absurd or meaningless.

  7. Top | #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Matter is just a form of concentrated energy.

    E=mc2

    Energy and matter are completely interchangeable.
    E = h nu, Planck's Constant times the frequency.

    E = mc2, mass times the speed of light squared.

    Therefore, h nu = mc2 .

    Therefore, m = h nu / c2.

    A photon's frequency (nu, i.e. the light's color) is nonzero. h is nonzero. c is finite.

    Congratulations, you've proven photons are massive particles. From which it follows that light goes at less than the speed of light. I don't think you can show that "matter" isn't vague this way.

    And energy is the ability to do work.
    And work is force times distance. Can you define force and distance?

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