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Is Sam a dualist?
Posted: 05 May 2007 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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In Sam's debate against Andy Sullivan, he noted that he was not convinced that this is the end.

Mr. Harris, are you a dualist?

I wonder if he's read Consciousness Explained by Dan Dennett… it's quite a book—and it debunks the Cartesian model of consciousness.

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Posted: 05 May 2007 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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[quote author=“Trent”]In Sam’s debate against Andy Sullivan, he noted that he was not convinced that this is the end.

Mr. Harris, are you a dualist?

I wonder if he’s read Consciousness Explained by Dan Dennett… it’s quite a book—and it debunks the Cartesian model of consciousness.

Well but Dennett’s is not the majority expert opinion.

However, you are correct that the majority opinion of philosophers of mind (of which Dennett is one), is that dualism is false.  But take a look at David Chalmer’s The Conscious Mind for a spirited defense of dualiam

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Posted: 05 May 2007 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”][quote author=“Trent”]In Sam’s debate against Andy Sullivan, he noted that he was not convinced that this is the end.

Mr. Harris, are you a dualist?

I wonder if he’s read Consciousness Explained by Dan Dennett… it’s quite a book—and it debunks the Cartesian model of consciousness.

Well but Dennett’s is not the majority expert opinion.

However, you are correct that the majority opinion of philosophers of mind (of which Dennett is one), is that dualism is false.  But take a look at David Chalmer’s The Conscious Mind for a spirited defense of dualiam

Don’t fall for Dennett’s rhetorical trickery.  I recommend the paper “Dennett and the Deep Blue Sea” that appeared in the Journal of Consciousness Studies in 2000, it shows a number of the problems with Dennett’s arguments.  Chalmer’s book is good, but I’m not sure that he would call himself a dualist, he seems more of a panpsychist.

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Posted: 09 May 2007 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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If I understand Sam correctly, it’s not that he’s a dualist so much as it’s that he is open to dualism/panpsychism/Penrosean quantum consciousness, or other theories of mind that are not strictly physicalist.

Sam asserts in The End of Faith and some of his articles that physicalism has not accounted for subjective experience, and unlike Dennett he thinks there’s something there needing accounting. (Though I’d be surprised if he subscribed to Cartesian dualism, which, to the best of my knowledge, isn’t favored even by modern non-physicalists.) I think he’s right. I don’t know how committed Sam is to non-physicalism, though, and it may well be to a degree that is less than prudent.

But he does also say ( here , for instance) that we should be “very slow to draw metaphysical conclusions” from observations about consciousness. I think he’s right on that too.

By the way, Trent, Harris has almost certainly read Consciousness Explained, seeing as philosophy of mind is clearly one of his interests, but more importantly the book shows up in the bibliography for The End of Faithsmile

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Posted: 31 May 2007 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“AmericanHumanist”]If I understand Sam correctly, it’s not that he’s a dualist so much as it’s that he is open to dualism/panpsychism/Penrosean quantum consciousness, or other theories of mind that are not strictly physicalist.

Sam asserts in The End of Faith and some of his articles that physicalism has not accounted for subjective experience, and unlike Dennett he thinks there’s something there needing accounting. (Though I’d be surprised if he subscribed to Cartesian dualism, which, to the best of my knowledge, isn’t favored even by modern non-physicalists.) I think he’s right. I don’t know how committed Sam is to non-physicalism, though, and it may well be to a degree that is less than prudent.

But he does also say ( here , for instance) that we should be “very slow to draw metaphysical conclusions” from observations about consciousness. I think he’s right on that too.

By the way, Trent, Harris has almost certainly read Consciousness Explained, seeing as philosophy of mind is clearly one of his interests, but more importantly the book shows up in the bibliography for The End of Faithsmile

Not that it matters, I mostly agree with this.  However, in a way, I think that opinions expressed End of Faith appear to be closer to the type of “dualism” of Chalmers.  However, I wouldn’t call Chalmer’s a panpsychist. 

He, like Harris, appears to be open to the “mysteries” of consciousness and believe that such “mysteries” are open to scientific inquiry, in ways that Dennett does not seem to acknowledge.  Chalmers, like apparently Harris, believes that much in the study of consciousness involves the “hard problem.”  However, I recently read Blackmore’s Conversations on Consciousness and in that book Chalmers stated that he does not think that consciousness survives death, but rather it dies or disintegrates with the brain.  This doesn’t really mesh with panpsychic thought.  Actually, I hope that Harris will begin to join the conversation on consciousness, as he clearly has a lot to contribute.

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Posted: 06 June 2007 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Tat Tvam Asi - Thou Art That

There is no subject/object split between us and the world. Checkout Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality. The author of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle” explains it all quite eloquently.

Also, “The Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra is an excellent book to give perspective on the subject.

Basically, with our understanding of quantum physics - it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for everything in the universe to not be connected - because everything is at once, both a wave and a particle.

Everything in this universe is a FIELD. The Higgs Field, the “god” boson/field of quantum physics should be found next year.

It’s like the micro/macro world of cosmology and quantum physics. Both seem to be completely disconnected - but both are contained one and the same - like the layers of an onion.

THE TENTH DIMENSION
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4280922161474483340

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Posted: 06 June 2007 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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I have no axe to grind, except perhaps with the pervasive humanism I find wrapped up in discussion of this and many other issues we deal with here. I’m reading something by S.J. Gould just now (not because he’s my paragon of evolutionary biologists, but because the book fell into my hands.) Gould reminds us that the revolutions in classical science alone, that have taken place over the last half-millennium have only served to undo anthropocentrism as the default.

Freud (living as close as he did to Darwin’s monumental departure in thought) sought to explain the pervasive resistance to accepting this scientific revolution. He did it with narrative, to be sure, but as with all storytelling, there is at least a grain of truth in it.

The understanding that the universe is large and old (relative to us, at least) is a severe assault on this narcissism. Retreating into a radical skepticism regarding the nature of reality, as mystics and new-agers do here on a regular basis, is a perversion of the implications of quantum theory, and a total failure to understand the implications of “mere” MO theory for the physical properties (equation of state, solvent action, transport phenomena, etc.) of molecules in a beaker of distilled water or adsorbed in a monolayer on a grain of crystalline phyllosilicate.

None of this answers any “why” questions. Then again, nobody else’s efforts here seem to have provided definitive answers (compelling, to use burt’s language), and seem generally to reflect the continuing sway of the same old anthropocentricism. Biologically, human beings do not stand on some rung of an infinitely-extensible ladder with only sky above. Right now, the genus Homo sports only a single species. Based on the evidence presented in the history of life, this is not a lot of diversity. The human species is a single wispy twig on a very large tree.

Debates about “consciousness” are nothing but anthropocentro-humanism with a lot of fancy quanto-psycho-what-the-bleepo verbiage slathered on for gravity.

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Posted: 21 October 2007 02:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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I’ve read both Dennett and Chalmers, and think that Chalmers’ distinction between the “easy” and “hard” problems is an extremely important point that Dennett just doesn’t seem to acknowledge.

If I understand correctly, Chalmers believes that everything that humans do (talking, understanding jokes, writing books, philosophical debating, etc.) can be explained in entirely physical, materialist terms. Dennett entirely agrees on this point.

The difference is that Dennett seems to think that, once you’ve explained human behaviour (what you can observe from the outside), there’s nothing more to explain. Chalmers’ point is that it is logically possible to imagine a universe in which the information processing in the human brain happens in exactly the same way, producing exactly the same behaviour, but without any subjective experiences. In other words, it wouldn’t be like anything to be a person in such a universe.

He argues that it is a fundamental fact of our universe that the physical activity in our brains (and probably animal brains, or even machines), leads to subjective experience. He merely points out that this fact is not implicit in the physical laws of nature, and requires some sort of explanation. I agree entirely with him on this point.

He is inclined to see the fact that (at least certain kinds of) information processing lead to conscious experience as a fundamental law of our universe, analogous to, but distinct from the physical laws of nature. He terms his theory “naturalistic dualism”. The practical implications of his theory don’t seem to differ much from standard materialism. For example, since he agrees that conscious experience arises as a result of brain activity, I’m almost certain that he would not believe that the mind could survive death.

I see one big problem with Chalmers’ idea: as he himself admits, philosophers in his hypothetical no-subjective-experience universe would still write weighty tomes on the problem of explaining subjective experience! I just can’t accept the idea that philosophers would reflect on their own subjective experiences, even though they didn’t have any subjective experiences. On the other hand, philosophers have spent a lot of time debating the nature of the divine, so perhaps my objection is not a serious one…

For me the “hard problem” of consciousness is a profound mystery, and I can suggest no theory of my own.

I realise that I’ve just spent a lot of time summarising my understanding of Chalmers’ views (no doubt poorly), when I should just have included this link:

http://consc.net/papers/facing.html

It’s a good read.

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Posted: 31 October 2007 01:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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The universe is an infinite monistic whole comprised of eternal dualities. To embrace the one without the many is to reject the one.

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Posted: 31 October 2007 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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“The universe is an infinite monistic whole comprised of eternal dualities.”

I’m only, say, twelve years old. Can you put that in a form that I can better understand? As it is, it sounds somewhat like a quote.

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Posted: 01 November 2007 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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mcalpine - 31 October 2007 02:16 PM

“The universe is an infinite monistic whole comprised of eternal dualities.”

I’m only, say, twelve years old. Can you put that in a form that I can better understand? As it is, it sounds somewhat like a quote.

Well, the interesting point revealed here is that questions of ontology are really more intricate than labeling oneself an “atheist” or a “christian” or whatever and then denouncing all who disagree with you for the nitwits they so obviously are.  LOL.

I myself am a convinced non-pantheistic monist, meaning I intuit the universe is ONE, ultimately, timeless and infinite, and I view the world of phenomenology as temporal, impermanent, transient.  In my view “our” universe may be - and probably is - a finite “bubble” within an infinite and timeless reality (mega-universe, so to speak) that can only be inferred, not detected empirically.

I see “mind” or “consciousness” not as substances, but as gerunds (verbs expressed as nouns) - such seems the activity of our brains. (I think what convinces me is that we never can have a mind without a brain, apparently).

I am very much convinced of this - the logic convinces me - but I do not claim to be absolutely sure of it, as in “I can prove it”. 

Now, I am agnostic about pantheistic monism, i.e., that the One reality is somehow utterly and throughout alive or conscious.  Maybe - maybe not - I don’t really see how it matters - so far it seems to me that the truth of such is theoretically forever beyond individual human experience (in this life).  But I am always open to argument and/or offers of proof of such (similar to Harris).

As to theism, deism, animism and other forms of actual dualism - I see all such ideas as illogical.  I pretty much dismiss all these possibilities of hand, though I certainly do condescend to argue with adherents of such, simply because, like crab grass, they are everywhere and, thus, hard to ignore (unless I one day finally decide to retire to a log cabin in the woods sans a PC, TV, radio, etc.

Dualism seems an empty theory to me - a baseless hypothesis.  What are the two (or more) eternal substances. energies, forces, or realities?  How exactly do they interact?  Dualism violates Occam’s Razor in ways monism can only dream about.  Dualism seems based merely in the argument from incredulity (regarding monism).  Last time I checked that is a fallacy.  LOL.

[ Edited: 01 November 2007 01:13 PM by JGL57]
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Posted: 05 November 2007 08:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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mcalpine - 31 October 2007 02:16 PM

“The universe is an infinite monistic whole comprised of eternal dualities.”

I’m only, say, twelve years old. Can you put that in a form that I can better understand? As it is, it sounds somewhat like a quote.

Neither radical monism nor radical dualism can be true.  Radical monism is contradicted by simple empirical experience of separation between mind and body, of a universe of things and knowledge of things.  There are numerous examples of philosophical systems which try to explain away duality - that in the end, it is an “illusion”  - but they do not convince a scientific realist who slams his/her hand against the table and sees, feels and hears the result.

On the other hand, dualism - that mind and body are separate - has its own flaw.  Dualism, in a manner of speaking, is the ultimate monism.  In a universe of matter without mind the question of mind would never come up,  because there would be no mind to ask the question.  In universe of mind without matter - which is what many mystical traditions posit is the ultimate case - there would be no means of making of any distinctions, ever. Not before, not now, and not then.

In fact, mind and matter co-exist, and must co-exist in a mutual relationship: they depend on each other, and that is the way the universe is constructed.  There is no neither no pure subject and no pure object. The pioneers of quantum mechanics in the first quarter of the 20th century came to this or a substantially similar conclusion: i.e. that a subatomic particle of matter does not exist in a certain space at a certain time until it is observed as such.  Before being observed, there is only a probability of it existing at any point.  Albert Einstein, as one famous example, could not handle this: as a dyed in the wool realist, this sort of idealism was unacceptable (“God does not play dice”).  Unfortunately for him, he could never disprove it.

This relationship between mind and matter is referred to in the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism as “non-dualism” - which is neither monism, nor dualism.  It is the same relationship, in that school, as between the universe of Being, and the cause of Being, between the One and the Many, between the Self (Atman) and the Absolute (Brahman). Not-Two is the ultimate intuition.

Which is what, I believe - and correct me if Im wrong -  Yahun was driving at.

Of course, twelve year olds probably have other matters on their minds.

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Posted: 05 November 2007 08:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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mahahaha - 06 November 2007 01:33 AM

It is the same relationship, in that school, as between the universe of Being, and the cause of Being, between the One and the Many, between the Self (Atman) and the Absolute (Brahman). Not-Two is the ultimate intuition.

Let the peanut gallery chip in then.

The above suggests the mind leaping out beyond the bounds of space and time until it loops around from the far ends of the Universe, all T.S. Eliot-like, until it comes back to kiss its own ass.

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Posted: 05 November 2007 09:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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mahahaha - 06 November 2007 01:33 AM

...This relationship between mind and matter is referred to in the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism as “non-dualism” - which is neither monism, nor dualism.  It is the same relationship, in that school, as between the universe of Being, and the cause of Being, between the One and the Many, between the Self (Atman) and the Absolute (Brahman). Not-Two is the ultimate intuition…

Well, of course.  I was seeking to avoid confusing the issue too much for non-initiates - those entangled in Maya, i.e., I was using the word “monism” as a condescension.

And, actually, if you study Vedic scripture, such as the Astravakra Samhita, the Kaivalya Upanisad, and the Avadhuta Gita, you can blow your mind after realizing that Brahman does not self-exist as a brute fact but rather evolved from Turiya, “The Fourth”, a.k.a. “The Silence” (that lies beyond AUM, and even beyond beyondness).

Have a pleasant day.

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Posted: 06 November 2007 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Salt Creek - 06 November 2007 01:58 AM

The above suggests the mind leaping out beyond the bounds of space and time until it loops around from the far ends of the Universe, all T.S. Eliot-like, until it comes back to kiss its own ass.

You again entirely miss the point.  Situation normal.

It is the POINT that the mind can NOT leap beyond the bounds of space and time.  The mind is locked into space and time.  The mind and space and time are co-equal partners in the joint venture which is reality as you know it.  Knowledge = facts which exist within space and time.  Humans cannot speak about “outside of” or “before”  space and time - because that is precisely non-sense.  All we could say would be something like “void,” even though that really has no meaning.  To conceive of void is an utter contradiction in terms. Void is not a concept.  Think about it.

It is a fact that the entire human experience is fraught with contradiction, conundrum, infinite regress, circularity, mystery.  We know there was a Big Bang, followed by existence, time and space.  But we don’t - and we can’t - know how or when or why a transition from void to being occurred, or even if it is a matter of temporality.  That fact is what scientific realists, like you, either ignore, explain away, or gloss over. You don’t give a rat’s ass about it, but for some unfathomable reason have contempt for those who do.  And I’m not talking about the low functioning sorts who make up fantastic stories and myths and believe in imaginary beings to explain it.  I’m talking about intelligent people who don’t take anything on faith, including, no matter how hard you and other radical rationalists deny it, the act of faith which holds that time/space/existence “just happened” or “just is”, or however you explain it away.

Everything which is now, ever was, and ever will BE (i.e. exist)  commenced with and is contained by and within the Big Bang (leaving aside the problems above).  Hence, your very consciousness must consist of the same stuff that the rest of the universe is - whatever that may be.  It can’t be otherwise.  You don’t suggest that some magic from “outside” space and time somehow injected itself into the universe so matter could become aware, do you?  It all, as a matter of logic, must be self-contained, from the very beginning (if you need a temporal model).  Hence, whatever “you” may be, consists of the universe (whatever it is), reflecting upon itself.  That is a huge conundrum, my friend, whether you choose to recognize it or not.

Once again, I suggest you consult ask any of your quantum physics friends who MAY just have some philosophical bent (doubtful you have any) if they aren’t disturbed by the discoveries of the relationship between “consciousness” and “matter” which blew Albert Einstein’s mind.  If it blew his mind, I suppose I’m in good company.

The fact of the puzzle of existence is what gives those of us - and I welcome the “new” guys/girls in this forum - who are sufficiently disturbed it to push on and make further inquiry.  Like meditation of awareness on itself.

Nobody is suggesting that Truth or Reality or God or Being, or any of those nouns can be “understood.”  The mind and Truth are forever separated.  We know relative truths within time and space, and we have a duty to remain loyal to logic, reason, and empiricism within that sphere.  We cannot, however, by definition, “know” Absolute Truth outside of, other than, independent of, time and space.

But we are part of it and it is a part of us.  Move on from there and deal with it.  Be it.

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Posted: 06 November 2007 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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mahahaha - 06 November 2007 02:12 PM

Everything which is now, ever was, and ever will BE (i.e. exist)  commenced with and is contained by and within the Big Bang (leaving aside the problems above).

You do not know this, and I suspect you know that you do not know. The universe you can see may be a bubble embedded in some larger (presumably infinite) cosmos. But you don’t know that either.

My main point is that statements like JGL’s:

And, actually, if you study Vedic scripture, such as the Astravakra Samhita, the Kaivalya Upanisad, and the Avadhuta Gita, you can blow your mind after realizing that Brahman does not self-exist as a brute fact but rather evolved from Turiya, “The Fourth”, a.k.a. “The Silence” (that lies beyond AUM, and even beyond beyondness).

can be reduced in the following way:

And, actually, if you study P, such as the P-sub-Q, the P-sub-R, and the P-sub-T, you can blow your mind after realizing that Y does not self-exist as a brute fact but rather evolved from X, “Z”, a.k.a. “W” (that lies beyond M, and even beyond S-ness).

Once reduced, we see that they are just part of an infinite regress of nonsense statements made by people educated in a particular kind of jargon. If you can blow your mind that easily, you are using a twenty-amp fuse in a 500 amp circuit.

That is a huge conundrum, my friend, whether you choose to recognize it or not.

It may be a conundrum, but you haven’t made it a very interesting one, fraught as it is with so much navel gazing. What’s interesting about it is that you can say just about anything about P-sub-R that you care to, and people just have to let you be. Who’s going to tell you you’re wrong?

Meditation on awareness itself is cool; just let me know when you arrive at what P-ness is.

Be the P-ness.

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