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What is it to think?
Posted: 20 July 2006 02:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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I’ve begun reading an introductory book on Husserlian phenomenology.  I’m sure that others could articulate what it means much more clearly than I, but so far it’s pretty intriguing.

Husserl believed that the meaning of a phenomenon could be derived but only from the existence of the phenomenon.  Phenomena being the perception of an object as played on our consciousness (not the object itself).  This is in contrast to positivists, who believe only in what can be observed empirically but deny any intrinsic meaning.  Husserl believed that science could only be truly meaningful, however,  if it could derive and explain meaning.  He believed that his work was about developing a framework whereby the meaning of any particular phenomena can be derived scientifically.

I don’t quite know how to apply phenomenology to the question of “What is it to think?”

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Posted: 20 July 2006 03:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”][quote author=“TheChampion”]. . . Yes, homunculus, that is why Jesus spoke in parables.

Champ, I wasn’t referring to wisdom, but raw cognitive processing power. And my discussion about how smart a person is was only meant to clarify my points. People can learn from a wisely thought-out parable whether they have a high IQ or low.

Homunculus, absolutely, on any level.

(I was also referring to cognitive processing power when I mentioned your bandwidth, I threw in wisdom on a lark…..led by the spirit maybe?)

mudfoot, you gets no love from me right now. You’re on my s list. After that incredibly dark little tale you wove (your latest masterpiece). Can’t expect any recognition from me. All is withheld for the present time.

(however, I am bound to pray for your needs and your soul, that I will do, ya ......freaking troublemaker you…)

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matt 11:28-29

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Posted: 20 July 2006 04:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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[quote author=“TheChampion”][quote author=“homunculus”][quote author=“TheChampion”]. . . Yes, homunculus, that is why Jesus spoke in parables.

Champ, I wasn’t referring to wisdom, but raw cognitive processing power. And my discussion about how smart a person is was only meant to clarify my points. People can learn from a wisely thought-out parable whether they have a high IQ or low.

Homunculus, absolutely, on any level.

(I was also referring to cognitive processing power when I mentioned your bandwidth, I threw in wisdom on a lark…..led by the spirit maybe?)

mudfoot, you gets no love from me right now. You’re on my s list. After that incredibly dark little tale you wove (your latest masterpiece). Can’t expect any recognition from me. All is withheld for the present time.

(however, I am bound to pray for your needs and your soul, that I will do, ya ......freaking troublemaker you…)

OK I’ll bite.  What’s your problem with me?  Please don’t tell me to be nice to vegans…

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Posted: 20 July 2006 05:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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[quote author=“mudfoot”]I’ve begun reading an introductory book on Husserlian phenomenology.  I’m sure that others could articulate what it means much more clearly than I, but so far it’s pretty intriguing.

Husserl believed that the meaning of a phenomenon could be derived but only from the existence of the phenomenon.  Phenomena being the perception of an object as played on our consciousness (not the object itself).  This is in contrast to positivists, who believe only in what can be observed empirically but deny any intrinsic meaning.  Husserl believed that science could only be truly meaningful, however,  if it could derive and explain meaning.  He believed that his work was about developing a framework whereby the meaning of any particular phenomena can be derived scientifically.

I don’t quite know how to apply phenomenology to the question of “What is it to think?”

It would seem that Husserl was writing for a time like today and beyond. Isn’t Sam Harris studying ways to objectify mind phenomena?

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 20 July 2006 06:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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TheChampion,

I was responding to your idea that

TheChampion wrote:
Man has a free will. But will man listen to the voice of God.

And I ask, which voice do you say I should listen to?  Can you see that there are hundreds of voices of god? 

[quote author=“TheChampion”]
Brains and wisdom are two different things. Let him who lacks wisdom he should inquire with God, and if he does, he will find it, receive it, get it, understand it, use it.

Joseph Smith, in your opinion, is a liar or deceiver.  Smith boldly claimed that he saw god and Jesus and they formed their “restored” church through Smith.  You don’t believe Smith.  What else could you conclude if you, yourself are not Mormon? 

Yet, the Mormons listen to the voice of god.  How can so many be in error?  My good wife?  My parents?  They “know” Mormonism is true to the extent that my mother hardly speaks to me anymore because I am an evil influence as a Mormon apostate.  There is conviction for you.

You want us to listen to the voice of god, your very own special brand of evangelical god.  There are so many god voices.  Which voice do we choose?  How can we be sure yours is, incredibly, the really true voice?  Isn’t that arrogant of you?  Why does god allow for such confusion?  Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses firmly believe you are the one in error?  What about Catholics?  Bahai?  Eckankarists?  Scientologists?  You know the drill.  Why is the voice you listen to any more special or qualified than the voice the rest of the theists listen to?

(sorry. I am off topic).  Maybe I am not though.  Homunculus challenged us to formulate what it is to think.  We all cogitate on various items regarding life and death, we were taught by parents how to cope with the world… some better than others.  Is the voice of god nothing more than our human capacity to assuage ourselves of our existential fears?  Thinking triggers emotions.  In those emotions we can find explanation, epiphany… and some call that god.

Noggin

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Posted: 20 July 2006 11:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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Here’s what Nietzsche says on the topic of what it is to think (from “Twilight of the Idols”):

Today, in contrast, precisely insofar as the prejudice of reason forces us to posit unity, identity, permanence, substance, cause, thinghood, being, we see ourselves somehow caught in error, compelled into error — so certain are we, on the basis of rigorous examination, that this is where the error lies.

It is no different in this case than with the movement of the sun: there our eye is the constant advocate of error, here it is our language. In its origin language belongs to the age of the most rudimentary psychology. We enter a realm of crude fetishism when we summon before consciousness the basic presuppositions of the metaphysics of language — in plain talk, the presuppositions of reason. Everywhere reason sees a doer and doing; it believes in will as the cause; it believes in the ego, in the ego as being, in the ego as substance, and it projects this faith in the ego-substance upon all things — only thereby does it first create the concept of “thing.” Everywhere “being” is projected by thought, pushed underneath, as the cause; the concept of being follows, and is a derivative of, the concept of ego. In the beginning there is that great calamity of an error that the will is something which is effective, that will is a capacity. Today we know that it is only a word.

* * *

It will be appreciated if I condense so essential and so new an insight into four theses. In that way I facilitate comprehension; in that way I provoke contradiction.

First proposition. The reasons for which “this” world has been characterized as “apparent” are the very reasons which indicate its reality; any other kind of reality is absolutely indemonstrable.

Second proposition. The criteria which have been bestowed on the “true being” of things are the criteria of not-being, of naught, the “true world” has been constructed out of contradiction to the actual world: indeed an apparent world, insofar as it is merely a moral-optical illusion.

Third proposition. To invent fables about a world “other” than this one has no meaning at all, unless an instinct of slander, detraction, and suspicion against life has gained the upper hand in us: in that case, we avenge ourselves against life with a phantasmagoria of “another,” a “better” life.

Fourth proposition. Any distinction between a “true” and an “apparent” world — whether in the Christian manner or in the manner of Kant (in the end, an underhanded Christian) — is only a suggestion of decadence, a symptom of the decline of life. That the artist esteems appearance higher than reality is no objection to this proposition. For “appearance” in this case means reality once more, only by way of selection, reinforcement, and correction. The tragic artist is no pessimist: he is precisely the one who says Yes to everything questionable, even to the terrible — he is Dionysian.


And specifically on moral thinking:

Morality is merely an interpretation of certain phenomena—more precisely, a misinterpretation. Moral judgments, like religious ones, belong to a stage of ignorance at which the very concept of the real, and the distinction between what is real and imaginary, are still lacking: thus “truth,” at this stage, designates all sorts of things which we today call “imaginings.” Moral judgments are therefore never to be taken literally: so understood, they always contain mere absurdity. Semeiotically, however, they remain invaluable: they reveal, at least for those who know, the most valuable realities of cultures and inwardnesses which did not know enough to “understand” themselves. Morality is mere sign language, mere symptomatology: one must know what it is all about to be able to profit from it.

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Posted: 21 July 2006 06:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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[quote author=“Noggin”]. . .  Homunculus challenged us to formulate what it is to think.  We all cogitate on various items regarding life and death, we were taught by parents how to cope with the world… some better than others.  Is the voice of god nothing more than our human capacity to assuage ourselves of our existential fears?  Thinking triggers emotions.  In those emotions we can find explanation, epiphany… and some call that god.

Noggin

Thanks for pointing that out, Noggin. The better we are able to understand mental processing, the better we become able to escape our various detrimental brainwashings.

I hope to see more takes on what it is to think. My own descriptions were strictly metaphorical, as opposed to the Husserl quote that Mudfoot provided. I find this difference important.  Do we attempt to hint at what goes on in our heads, or do we strike out directly toward what biochemistry/physics may be able to tell us? Do we try to enhance psychology or neurology?  Husserl certainly seems bold in this regard, though I’m pathetically ignorant of his work. I think CanZen has studied him, but he seems to have given up on this place, unfortunately.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 21 July 2006 06:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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[quote author=“The Agnostic Gnostic, quoting Nietsche”]
Morality is merely an interpretation of certain phenomena—more precisely, a misinterpretation. Moral judgments, like religious ones, belong to a stage of ignorance at which the very concept of the real, and the distinction between what is real and imaginary, are still lacking: thus “truth,” at this stage, designates all sorts of things which we today call “imaginings.” Moral judgments are therefore never to be taken literally: so understood, they always contain mere absurdity. Semeiotically, however, they remain invaluable: they reveal, at least for those who know, the most valuable realities of cultures and inwardnesses which did not know enough to “understand” themselves. Morality is mere sign language, mere symptomatology: one must know what it is all about to be able to profit from it.

Thanks for this, A.G. Nietsche is unfortunately another of the many authors I haven’t read. (And Champion thinks I’m such an intellectual.) Now if you’ll excuse me while I visit Amazon.com to order the above book. Hope I can find a cheap copy.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 23 July 2006 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”]How much of thinking consists of consideration/evaluation of previously learned lessons, and how much is autonomous? (i.e., 50/50? . . . 20/80? . . . etc.) Follow up questions: What role do words and their attendant concepts play in thinking? Is it possible to think without using or invoking the use of words and their attendant concepts?

I posted some thoughts on the first page, Homunculus.  I have a few more.

I can’t put an accurate ratio to prior experience generating thought vs autonomy as you request… but I can guess that thinking resides in the reactive state.  We bounce our thoughts off of things that we encounter.

I tried to meditate again last night before sleep.  I tried to empty my mind of thoughts and couldn’t do it.  I did give up and started to focus on a point of light in my mind.  Have you ever closed your eyes and seen the shapes that swirl around in the darkness there?  Well, the shapes took form and I found myself reacting to what I thought that they were forming.  I am not very skilled in emptying my mind.  If I had never encountered a picture of the stay puff marshmellow man on GhostBusters, I never would have seen that swirling in my mind take the form of him.  Hence, how can I ever truly have a genuine autonomous string of thought?  Or maybe I don’t know what you mean by autonomous.  Yeah, that is probably the case here.  wink

What role do words and their attendant concepts play in thinking?

If I try to generate an autonomous stream of thought, it is immediately tainted by my life experiences.  That is why I outlined the changing meaning of the word “gay” in my first post here.  It’s all relative.  Many words change meaning over time.  And we react according to how and what they mean.

Noggin

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Posted: 23 July 2006 06:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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Noggin, what I meant by “autonomous,” I meant relevant to the actual, real, natural, the now. What is the temperature? How does my stomach feel? What are the various nerve impuses right now informing me about, if anything? That kind of thing.

This, as opposed to previous lessons and concepts we’ve been taught about how we’re supposed to feel about various things. Morality comes into strong play here.

Sorry if this is cryptic. Getting things ready to leave for the day. Thanks for keeping the topic alive.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 23 July 2006 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”]Noggin, what I meant by “autonomous,” I meant relevant to the actual, real, natural, the now. What is the temperature? How does my stomach feel? What are the various nerve impuses right now informing me about, if anything? That kind of thing.

This, as opposed to previous lessons and concepts we’ve been taught about how we’re supposed to feel about various things. Morality comes into strong play here.

Oh, okay.

Incidentally, I have meant to throw out words of encouragement as you heal from your frightful accident the other… week.  I keep forgetting.  Hope you are well.

I’ve had to think my morality through since ditching the gods.  You should have seen me drink my first beer at age 35.  My former religion places such stigma on alcohol. 

Nothing is neither good or bad but thinking makes it so.

Beer is, by and large, nasty stuff.  It is an acquired taste I am convinced.  Occasionally I partake and always leave with a big question mark as to why people “love” beer.  The only beer that I have since tried that remotely tasted “good” was a pale ale… what the heck was it’s name… It was a Samuel Adams.  Oh and oddly, Coor’s light tasted good once.

Anyhow, maybe this beer tangent applies.  I actually felt guilt while drinking my first beer.  I looked over my shoulder.  I felt like I was doing something wrong and I did it anyway.  Since then, I have lost the paranoia that any god will send me to the hot spot for drinking a beer.  I had a Guiness the other day while waiting for a parade to start and felt no guilt.  I just tried to enjoy the flavors.

With that, I think it is apparant that I am in the middle of a shift in values.  It is nice to be able to figure out for myself what is “good” and what is “bad” and watching my values weigh and measure is kind of fascinating.  Some things are no brainers, others I struggle with. 

Thanks for the topic.  It is keenly apropoe to my world right now and I will read what the forum has to input with much interest.

Noggin

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Posted: 23 July 2006 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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Noggin, You have a refreshing talent for directly translating your personal experience. I often feel I’m reading an unfiltered account of your world.

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Posted: 26 July 2006 06:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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[quote author=“Autochthon”]Noggin, You have a refreshing talent for directly translating your personal experience. I often feel I’m reading an unfiltered account of your world.

Aw thanks (I think?) Autochthon.  No that is totally true.  I am an open book and have always meant my posts to include the unfiltered.  It’s what I know to do.

Changing gears:
BTW has anyone read Daniel Dennett’s “Consciousness Explained”??

Good grief that is a deep and weighty book.  I just started it and I have been reading with this “What is it to think” thread of Homunculus’ in mind.  If anyone has read this book and would care to inject quotes from it relevant to this thread (as I am intending to do) I think that would be rather illuminating.  Comments on this book?

I have no clue as to what dualism is but am sure I will explore it here.

From page 39
...theorists tend to think of perceptual systems as providing input to some central thinking arena, which in turn provides control or direction to some relatively peripheral systems governing bodily motion.  This central arena is also thought to avail itself of material held in various relatively subservient systems of memory.  But the very idea that there are important theoretical divisions between such presumed subsystems as “long term memory” and “reasoning” (or “planning”) is more an artifact of the divide and conquer strategy than anything found in nature.  As we shall soon see, the exclusive attention to specific subsystems of the mind/brain often causes a sort of theoretical myopia that prevents theorists from seeing that their models still presuppose that somehwere, conveniently hidden in the obscure “center” of the mind/brain, there is a Cartesian theatre, a place where “it all comes together” and consciousness happens.  This may seem like a good idea, an inevitable idea, but until we see, in some detail why it is not, the Cartesian theatre will continue to attract crowds of theorists transfixed by an illusion

I mean, wow, man. gnarly.  Uh, but the problem I have with material like this is I am such the neophyte I have little basis for comparison or argument. I mean, half the fun with reading a book (for me) is picking apart and finding yourself disagreeing with the author’s premises and theories for x, y or z reason.  The other half of the fun is finding yourself agreeing with sound reasoning and side bar reasons that perhaps the author did not mention.  I don’t have an x, y or z reason in this field so I get bored because I feel like I am swallowing everything Dennett says whole without argumentation.

Noggin

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Posted: 26 July 2006 07:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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Hi noggin,
Cartisian duality is the seperation of Mind and body.  eg. my body is meat, my mind is an etherial thing that thinks itself into existence.

Now, what Dennett proposes is that the mind is the meat.  All your conciousness is a result of the chemical interactions of your brain.

This book recieved alot of criticism.  I remember one review that called it “conciousness explained away”.  Alot of people just can’t grasp this simple concept:  we are a result of electrical firings amongst tiny cells in a fist sized organ.

I really like Dennet.  I’d also recommend a collection he edited with Douglass R. Hofstadter called The Mind’s I,  and I would allways recommend Hofstadter’s Goedel, Escher, Bach, an eternal golden Braid

have fun, good reading.
craig.

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Posted: 27 July 2006 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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Noggin -  It was absolutely a compliment. I’m jealous ;p

I haven’t read Dennett yet but as Noggin mentioned he got much attention a while back. Consciousness is a popular topic on many discussion groups. Here is an example of one of many ongoing discussions over on IIDB http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=172644

edit: actually I realized there are better discussions more on point than the one I linked just wander around philosophy.

edit: Spelling correction to please TS wink I’ll try to proof in the future but scotch and posting never mix so don’t count on perfection.

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