Understanding an argument i was presented with by a theist.

zntneo
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Understanding an argument i was presented with by a theist.

I wish to understand this argument for the mind being an immaterial thing.

It goes like this.
1. We have universals
Universals are, from what I understand, like axioms. The number 2 was presented as a example of a universal.
2. Universals by definition have to be immaterial
3. we know universals
4. therefore there must be something immaterial

I'll try to explain better any part that someone doesn't understand. I still have the original conversation i had and if i can't make it clearer i may just post the conversation I'll see.

Thanks for the help.


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It seems as though this is

It seems as though this is attempting to argue that the fact that there are concepts proves God exists.


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zntneo wrote:I wish to

zntneo wrote:
I wish to understand this argument for the mind being an immaterial thing. It goes like this. 1. We have universals Universals are, from what I understand, like axioms. The number 2 was presented as a example of a universal. 2. Universals by definition have to be immaterial

This is an assertion. Where's the proof?


Quote:

3. we know universals 4. therefore there must be something immaterial I'll try to explain better any part that someone doesn't understand. I still have the original conversation i had and if i can't make it clearer i may just post the conversation I'll see. Thanks for the help.

 

His argument is circular, he merely begs the questions that numbers must be immaterial, and then gives a number as an example of something immaterial!

This is the same old logical blunder theists put forth all the time for immateriality.

 

Here's how you refute the person. (Watch out, insults will likely fly in response)

Terms like "supernatural" or "immaterial" are broken concepts: They cannot actually refer to anything, because they are defined solely in negative terms (what they are not) without any universe of discourse (anything left over for them to be).

Immateriality - defined as neither matter nor energy. So, what's left over for it to be?

Supernatural - defined as 'not nature' or 'above nature' or 'beyond nature'. So again, what's left over for it to be?

Now some might respond at this point: but we use negative definitions all the time, and they are meaningful. But this response simply ignores that negative definitions provide information through their universe of discourse - what is not ruled out by the definition is identified indirectly. For example, if I were to hold out a box with a penny and a pencil in it, and say "the object in the box I am thinking of is not the penny", you'd know from the universe of discourse, (the 'things in the box&#39Eye-wink that the object I was thinking of was the pencil. The negative definition and the universe of discourse provide the information together.

But terms like 'immateriality' and 'supernatural' rule out any universe of discourse. And please note: attempts to 'solve the problem' through using euphemisms like "beyond nature' or 'above nature' still fail to solve the problem, unless you can show how these distinctions lead to a difference, the phrases are ontologically identical - they all rule out any universe of discourse.

Counter arguments:

Counter argument: "Supernatural" simply means "beyond what is natural." There is nothing in that definition per se which means that there is no grounds for believing it."

Response: My essay is written to refute this very point. You define 'supernatural' as 'beyond what is natural". This means you've given your term a negative definition without anything left over for it to be. So what's leftover for it to be? If your answer is "nothing" then how can your term have any ontological status?

Counter argument: You're 'begging the question' that to have ontological status is to be material.

Response: No, on the contrary, immateriality is not being ruled out a priori. You are beinng challenged to give an ontology for your theory. If you want to talk of things such as 'immateriality' or 'supernatural' you must show how these terms are meaningful. If all you can do is provide a set of negatives, devoid of any universe of discourse, then the reality is that your terms are broken concepts.

As it stands, your own response begs the very question being debated: whether or not the terms 'immaterial' or 'supernatural' are meaningful terms is the very question under consideration: you can't simply assume the terms are coherent through naked assertion! You're being asked to demonstrate how your term can be coherent.. you're being asked to provide either a 1) positive ontology or 2) a universe of discourse or 3) a concession that your term is in fact meaningless.

Counter Argument: "To support your claim, one must introduce an additional supposition -- namely, that the physical universe is all that exists. This supposition is unproven and unsubstantiated."

Response: Again, no one is ruling out your term a priori. You are being asked to provide an ontology for your theory - so provide an ontology for your theory, not a set of complaints. If you want to hold that the term 'immateriality' or 'supernatural' make any sense, you must provide either a postive ontology or a universe of discourse. If you cannot do this, if all you have is a negative definition, without any universe of discourse, then you must concede that your terms are stripped of any actual meaning... you must concede that your terms can only point to 'nothing'.

Here's some help in providing an ontology for your term:

1) Can you show that anything exists other than matter or energy? What are its "properties" - i.e. is it something natural? If not, how can we 'know" or "infer" anything about it. If we can't, what use is your 'hypothesis"? If it has no use, then why are we having this conversation?

Helpful guide: The most common error at this point is for the theist to respond by just asserting that something is immaterial (usually supported by an argument from ignorance) and then offering up this 'thing' as an example. That's the fallacy of begging the question. Again, you have to provide a postive ontology for you theory, not just an assertion that something is 'immaterial/supernatural'.

Even worse, the basis for this argument is an argument from ignorance: "I can't explain how numbers, or abstractions like 'freedom' could be matter, ergo they are not matter. (The most common response is for theists to asser that abstractions are immaterial.) But if you want to assert that abstractions are immaterial, you must demonstrate how they are immaterial, and not simply argue from ignorance, that they are because you are unable to work out how neurons work. If you're unable to grasp how a concept like a number or a generalization like 'freedom' can be encoded in neurons, your not free to simply believe that they both exist as 'nothing' at all.

2) How does something that is neither matter nor energy interact with our natural world?

Don't just assert that it 'does', provide a detailed positive account of how this occurs, without stealing from naturalism.

3) How do you avoid violating the principle of conservation of energy? If no physical energy or mass is associated with "immaterial things", then there is a serious problem: a fundamental principle of physics is that any change in any physical entity is an acceleration requiring the expenditure of energy - but if these things have no matter or energy, where does the energy come from? what you have here is something akin to the impossibilty of perpetual motion - energy from nowhere. Dan Dennet states that these questions represent the fatal flaw in any dualistic argument (i.e. to immateriliaty) (- 1990 Consciousness Explained.)

Don't just assert that it works just like 'naturalism', in other words, don't steal from naturalism.


I only get two types of responses.

1) Reassertions of the very points already refuted here. (Hello St. Michael.)
2) Personal attacks.

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rexlunae
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zntneo wrote: I wish to

zntneo wrote:
I wish to understand this argument for the mind being an immaterial thing.

It goes like this.
1. We have universals
Universals are, from what I understand, like axioms. The number 2 was presented as a example of a universal.
2. Universals by definition have to be immaterial
3. we know universals
4. therefore there must be something immaterial

I'll try to explain better any part that someone doesn't understand. I still have the original conversation i had and if i can't make it clearer i may just post the conversation I'll see.

This sounds exactly like a user who was banned a while ago, StMichael. He would cloak the argument in such archaic, obtuse language that you had to really push him for a clear understanding even of what he is trying to say, otherwise I might suggest you go look for some of his old posts, but I'll summarize the key points since he never expressed what he meant in a clear a concise way.

'Universals' come from Plato, created without any understanding of neurology or psychology, to explain how we understand general concepts. The idea was that when we see a chair, we don't just see that specific chair. We understand the general concept of 'chair'. Plato concluded that there must be an immaterial idealized 'chairness' that we were perceiving, a 'Universal'. If this Universal is immaterial, then he concluded that there must be an immaterial component of the human mind, and that component is the soul.

Of course, this is a long-outdated and ignorant theory, which indicates a failure to understand how the brain works. There is no reason to believe that anything the brain does cannot be done by a fully material organ, and there is a lot of evidence that the brain works on material principles. Add to that the impossibility of a supernatural entity (like a soul) interacting with a physical one (like the body), and it's really a big plate of gibberish.

One last warning: If you start hearing phrases like "the mind knows more intelligible things more clearly", don't bother discussing any further with the target theist. StMichael would stubbornly cling to ignorance, and pretend not to understand the counters to his arguments. There was definitely some intellectual dishonest being practiced, so don't get too frustrated.

It's only the fairy tales they believe.


zntneo
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In fact it was StMichael!

In fact it was StMichael!


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rexlunae wrote: This

rexlunae wrote:
This sounds exactly like a user who was banned a while ago, StMichael.

It was St. Michael. Funny!

Quote:

He would cloak the argument in such archaic, obtuse language that you had to really push him for a clear understanding even of what he is trying to say, otherwise I might suggest you go look for some of his old posts, but I'll summarize the key points since he never expressed what he meant in a clear a concise way.

Well said, and thank you.

Quote:

'Universals' come from Plato, created without any understanding of neurology or psychology, to explain how we understand general concepts. The idea was that when we see a chair, we don't just see that specific chair. We understand the general concept of 'chair'. Plato concluded that there must be an immaterial idealized 'chairness' that we were perceiving, a 'Universal'. If this Universal is immaterial, then he concluded that there must be an immaterial component of the human mind, and that component is the soul. Of course, this is a long-outdated and ignorant theory, which indicates a failure to understand how the brain works. There is no reason to believe that anything the brain does cannot be done by a fully material organ, and there is a lot of evidence that the brain works on material principles. Add to that the impossibility of a supernatural entity (like a soul) interacting with a physical one (like the body), and it's really a big plate of gibberish. One last warning: If you start hearing phrases like "the mind knows more intelligible things more clearly", don't bother discussing any further with the target theist. StMichael would stubbornly cling to ignorance, and pretend not to understand the counters to his arguments. There was definitely some intellectual dishonest being practiced, so don't get too frustrated.

 

Well said. I already refuted St. Michael's argument above, he could at least acknowledge the arguments, but he refuses to do so.

 

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

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todangst wrote: rexlunae

todangst wrote:

rexlunae wrote:
This sounds exactly like a user who was banned a while ago, StMichael.

It was St. Michael. Funny!

Wow, that's hilarious. I can't say I'm too surprised though. I mean, how many people still take Plato's universals seriously anymore?

@zntneo
Discussing religion with StMichael is like talking to a shoe. He won't acknowledge any valid points you make, and he'll keep repeating the same refuted stuff over and over. If you present todangst's refutation to him, he will probably ignore it, because he can't respond.

It's only the fairy tales they believe.


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Hmmm.. I think

Hmmm.. I think mathematicians come closer to god than anyone else.  


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I think that I have a

I think that I have a coherent definition of 'immaterial'
Numbers are immaterial as they do not refer to material entities.
Just like 'cutting' does not refer to a material entity.
However, the conditions of their existence still depend on a material world (just like 'cutting' depends on a material knife) and they aren't supposed to causally interact with the world so they couldn't be compared to an immaterial mind or 'soul'.


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Strafio wrote:I think that

Strafio wrote:
I think that I have a coherent definition of 'immaterial'

I'll alert the Nobel prize committee.

Quote:


Numbers are immaterial as they do not refer to material entities.
Just like 'cutting' does not refer to a material entity.

Are you kidding around? You're just doing what I asked people to avoid: begging the question that something is immaterial, and then asserting this begged entity as an example of immateriality.

"Cutting" refers to an action, a behavior. It's entirely material - the object cut, the object doing the cutting, the sentient being undertaking the action.

Looking for an example of immateriality is a fool's errand.

Quote:


However, the conditions of their existence still depend on a material world

The condition of their existence depends entirely on matter.

 

 

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Did you do your usual trick

Did you do your usual trick of "read as you reply", because my post had a more 'holistic' meaning this time...
Either way, I probably should've explained myself more clearly!
Something immaterial isn't a material entity itself but there's no reason why it can't be ontologically dependent on material conditions.

e.g. abstract entities aren't material but their existence relies on thought, i.e. material events. Surely that's a coherent distinction between 'material' and 'immaterial'.


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Strafio wrote:Did you do

Strafio wrote:
Did you do your usual trick of "read as you reply", because my post had a more 'holistic' meaning this time...

Yes, I almost always do that.

Quote:


Either way, I probably should've explained myself more clearly!


Something immaterial isn't a material entity itself but there's no reason why it can't be ontologically dependent on material conditions.

I can think of one reason: immateriality has no ontology. I don't see how you're solving the dilemma.

Quote:

e.g. abstract entities aren't material

I'm sorry, but I did in fact gather that was your point, but it changes nothing. I specifically identitfy and deal with this claim in my longer post, above: The questions remain:  How can abstractions be immaterial? How can something immaterial, exist? How can it interact with a physical brain? All the problems I have identified above remain.

To me, it's an error to take from the fact that my your person experience of the workings of your own neurons differ from my 3rd person view of my body, that abstractions are therefore 'immaterial'. All we know is that abstractions can only occur where a functioning brain exists. They are how we experience the workings of brain neurons.

Ablate part of a brain, and abstractions are influenced, some types of abstractions may even cease to exist. Is this proof that abstractions are material? No, it's not a proof, but it is a grounds for holding to the idea, whereas there is literally no positive reason why one should hold that abstractions are not material. 

Quote:

but their existence relies on thought, i.e. material events. Surely that's a coherent distinction between 'material' and 'immaterial'.

How can there be?  We define it as  'not matter". But this definition rules out everything we know of the universe, all we know, as La Metrie said, is "matter and motion"  - this means that definign something as  'not matter' equates 'it' with nothing.

By the way, Deepak Chakra tried to use the same argument you are using - but it falls apart under and Dennettian scrutiny.

 

 

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Strafio wrote: e.g.

Strafio wrote:
e.g. abstract entities aren't material but their existence relies on thought, i.e. material events. Surely that's a coherent distinction between 'material' and 'immaterial'.

 Abstractions aren't "material" in the sense, say, a chair is, because abstractions aren't things, they're processes. It's a category error, like asking for the color of digestion or the weight of an Internet forum. Abstraction is what we call the specific interaction of neurons that allows us to generalize from "this chair" to "all the the chairs I own" to "all chairs" to "things you put your ass on" to "things I can break my toe against". Because our brains are capable of giving names to processes and interactions as a whole, this sort of confusion arises, where people talk about concepts as if they were nouns, when they're really a sort of verb. Thoughts and ideas and speech and opera and abstractions are considered entities, but they're really a name for a specific form of interaction between entities. The entities themselves are material, and the mental abstraction that combines, say, a stage and singers and vocal cords and a script and an orchestra into the process we call opera, is itself an interaction of material things. Abstractions are immaterial only if interactions of material things, that are being treated as an entity by material neurons, are somehow immaterial.

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I guess my distinction

I guess my distinction between material/immaterial was an conceptual distinction rather than ontological. Now you mention it, I don't think anything can be ontologically immaterial.