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

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    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    I think that "natural" and "supernatural" are perfectly clear in the context of a philosophical dualism in which reality is split between two distinct domains--the physical and the spiritual (or "occult"). Those two domains can interact causally with each other, so phenomena in the physical world can have supernatural causes and vice versa. So a spiritual being such as a god can perform miracles in the physical world, and events in the physical world can cause effects on spiritual beings. A "naturalist" then would be someone who rejects that concept of dualism and believes that there is just one "natural" domain. All things that happen, including all mental phenomena, therefore have physical causes. Conventional dualism holds that at least some mental activity takes place independently in the spiritual realm.
    Yeah.

    Dualism is very popular, and demonstrably wrong.

    But as philosophers typically don't know much advanced physics, they are comfortable with assuming that it's not necessary to know advanced physics in order to have an informed opinion on the matter.

    Dualism persists solely because of Dunning-Kruger syndrome.

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    I think that "natural" and "supernatural" are perfectly clear in the context of a philosophical dualism in which reality is split between two distinct domains--the physical and the spiritual (or "occult"). Those two domains can interact causally with each other, so phenomena in the physical world can have supernatural causes and vice versa. So a spiritual being such as a god can perform miracles in the physical world, and events in the physical world can cause effects on spiritual beings. A "naturalist" then would be someone who rejects that concept of dualism and believes that there is just one "natural" domain. All things that happen, including all mental phenomena, therefore have physical causes. Conventional dualism holds that at least some mental activity takes place independently in the spiritual realm.
    Yeah.

    Dualism is very popular, and demonstrably wrong.

    But as philosophers typically don't know much advanced physics, they are comfortable with assuming that it's not necessary to know advanced physics in order to have an informed opinion on the matter.

    Dualism persists solely because of Dunning-Kruger syndrome.
    But you don't need to be a physicist to show that Cartesian dualism is extremely unlikely. We all know that physical changes to the brain have a direct effect on mental activity, and there is no evidence to suggest any mental function that does not correlate with physical brain activity.

    I think that a philosopher would tend to take the position that Cartesian dualism cannot be ruled out as impossible. Advanced physics can help us to understand why dualism violates Occam's Razor, but dualism cannot be ruled out from a logical perspective. The problem with trying to use science to disprove dualism is that science is grounded in the unproven assumption that all physical phenomena have physical causes. If we dropped that assumption, then scientific proofs would be impossible. So it would ultimately be circular to try to use science to prove or disprove an assumption that science is based on.

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    Super Moderator Torin's Avatar
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    @bilby

    Let's say the supernaturalist argues that all of the observed laws of physics have only held up to now due to the work of the supernatural, undetectable, and incomprehensible Physics Elves. However, the Physics Elves are mischievous, and can reverse the laws of physics at their leisure if and when they choose.

    This is absurd and arbitrary, but I see no conceivable way of disproving it.

    Are you saying this assertion can be disproven?

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    I had the impression that the contrary position to dualism was monism, not naturalism. No?

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    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torin View Post
    @bilby

    Let's say the supernaturalist argues that all of the observed laws of physics have only held up to now due to the work of the supernatural, undetectable, and incomprehensible Physics Elves. However, the Physics Elves are mischievous, and can reverse the laws of physics at their leisure if and when they choose.

    This is absurd and arbitrary, but I see no conceivable way of disproving it.

    Are you saying this assertion can be disproven?
    I am saying it can be proven to be absurd. We know that mass and energy are interchangeable. Any force acting on matter must therefore be associated with a particle whose mass is proportional to the energy exerted.

    And this interchangeablility is observable - put enough energy into one place, and every possible particle must arise (unless QFT is wrong, which it's not). That's how the hypothetical Higgs boson was discovered - we built a machine that concentrates vast amounts of energy in a tiny space, and looked at the particles that this generated.

    In order to have an effect on the universe at human scales, the hypothetical physics elves must interact via one of the forces in the Standard Model (unless QFT is wrong, which it's not). We now have a complete list of all of the particles and forces that can exist at the relevant scale - any 'unknown' particle or force must either be so weak as to only have significant effects on vast scales, or so energetic as to vaporize anyone it interacts with. And this fact applies to your physics elves, just as much as it does to any other interactions.

    You can hypothesize all you like - but you need to recognise that by doing so you are asserting (by implication) that our most robust and well tested scientific theory is completely, wildly, and utterly wrong, and that we have failed to notice that fact. This is a considerably less reasonable and rational assertion than that the Moon really is made of cheese, but we haven't noticed.

    That's as close to disproof as it is possible to get outside pure mathematics. It's as robust a claim as any claim can be, at our current state of knowledge, so to question it is truly absurd - and tantamount to a claim that we know nothing at all, and that all of our technology, engineering, and infrastructure works not because we figured out how to make it work, but because we have been incredibly lucky, and it has worked despite our theories about how it works being utter crap.

    Such absurd claims are just mental masturbation. They are a waste of everybody's time.

  6. Top | #26
    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    I had the impression that the contrary position to dualism was monism, not naturalism. No?
    Sure; But if only one realm exists, it would be rather strange to insist that it isn't the material realm, given that we can kick stuff.

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    Super Moderator ruby sparks's Avatar
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    I’m good with dualism in principle, by which I mean that I would not rule it out. That said I am not sure what sort of dualism I mean.

    In principle, that the mental is pretty fecking different from other stuff is not some thing I would deny.

    Of course, it could just be that what we call the mental is just a type of physical that we can’t get our heads around (this is in fact my favourite opinion).

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    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    I’m good with dualism in principle, by which I mean that I would not rule it out. That said I am not sure what sort of dualism I mean.

    In principle, that the mental is pretty fecking different from other stuff is not some thing I would deny.

    Of course, it could just be that what we call the mental is just a type of physical that we can’t get our heads around (this is in fact my favourite opinion).
    It's the only possibility.

    And frankly, the leap from "I don't know how it works" to "therefore it must use some special stuff that's by its nature is beyond understanding" is one that has been made many times before, and has always been found to be false. It's also massively egoistic, and stupidly unparsimonious.

    The only reason to invoke duslism seems to me to be the desire to avoid admitting ignorance (or at least to hedge that admission with a claim that ignorance is the only possibility, so it doesn't qualify as a failing).

    "I don't know, but I hope one day to find out" appears to be very hard for many people to say, and the result is a lot of rather foolish speculation that cannot stand scrutiny. Dualism is ultimately a turbocharged argument from ignorance: "I don't know, so nobody ever shall".

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    I had the impression that the contrary position to dualism was monism, not naturalism. No?
    I tried to make it clear that I was only talking about Cartesian dualism. Recall that there are different philosophical positions on types of dualism, e.g. substance (aka Cartesian) dualism and property dualism. That is, there are alternatives to Cartesian dualism.

  10. Top | #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    I’m good with dualism in principle, by which I mean that I would not rule it out. That said I am not sure what sort of dualism I mean.

    In principle, that the mental is pretty fecking different from other stuff is not some thing I would deny.

    Of course, it could just be that what we call the mental is just a type of physical that we can’t get our heads around (this is in fact my favourite opinion).
    My stance is similar - that subjectivity is distinct enough to keep wondering at it and we're not near an answer to what everything is yet. Property dualism might be the sort of dualism you mean. See panpsychism and neutral monism also, if interested.
    Last edited by abaddon; 04-28-2020 at 01:58 AM. Reason: removed the word "so" from a sentence...

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