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First post. Introduction and invitation.
Posted: 22 January 2008 10:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]  
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keith 22 January 2008 06:11 PM [ # 43 ]
The challenge starts to emerge at the level of differential equations, especially when we find simple and elegant ones that seem to both perfectly describe and unify all sorts of previously non associated phenomena. [Classic example being the simple harmonic motion equations, which tie together pendulum motion, spring oscillations, sound waves, water waves, vibrating strings, and AC electric current.] In the face of this kind of consilience – and also, as often happens, our discovery of mathematical relationships before that of the physical systems that they seem to so perfectly describe – it’s hard to resist the idea that the equations are offering us some qualitatively deeper understanding of reality than is possible through ordinary language. But I do resist it. Ultimately, even at this level, Point #1 seems to me to govern. I can’t yet explain the apparently deeper correspondence, but I believe that we will someday be able to do this without requiring the idea of a qualitative step or discontinuity in our knowledge.


I guess we all gotta rub one out every now and again.  All oow oow symphonies aside, the words of Ewald Einoder are about as close as I come…

 

                                                  Where From?
Fully identified with, yet only minimally aware of our conditioning (programming, personality, survival strategy), we forget that we are finite expressions of the infinite and that the part (the human being), seeks its source.  We even forget that we have the capacity to observe, to listen and look without judgment, to be truly intelligent and hence see the fact rather than the opinion about the fact.  We insist on having choice, forgetting that choice means conflict.  We are convinced that the answer to our restlessness lies in the world of objects, to achieve our pre-conceived goals, have things, and be somebody.  We strive for security and comfort because the brain cannot function without security and we fall for the cultural myth of consume and be satisfied.
We are compelled to pursue what we want.  Should you be too inhibited to do what you want, you are unlikely to realize that every achievement is but a servitude, it compels you to yet a higher achievement.
Achievements give you at best only temporary freedom and happiness.  You realize that everything in existence sooner or later ‘dies’; all your connections sooner or later are severed and depression and suffering is inevitable.  Everybody suffers in one way or the other and the question arises: “What’s it all about?”


                                                Where To?
Most human beings sooner or later become dissatisfied with the process of living.  Many realize that nothing in the world can give them lasting freedom or happiness.  They begin to sense the limitations of trying to think things out.  Something is missing no matter how well you succeed in your endeavors.  Becoming aware of this can be the turning point.  As you begin to examine your life, you become an observer, a witness rather than a thinker or interpreter.  As a consequence, you start to discern the great difference between opinions (beliefs), and facts (the truth for now).  You start to become aware that the brain can attend without thinking—achieve a state of pure observation, see, hear, touch, taste and smell without a single thought or emotion. 
This attention happens only in the present, whereas thinking and emotion always relate to the past.  When there is no thought or emotion there is no judgment or evaluation, just the here and now.  In this state, you realize the miracle of pure perception; the absence of suffering; LOVE and LIFE without form come into existence.  Your sense of separateness and alienation vanishes; you realize that you are an integral part of the WHOLE.  Social life becomes less binding.  You have returned to your source, the NO-Thing.  The simplicity of this process belies the great difficulties experienced in achieving it.  However, by slowing down enough to look and reflect, you begin a journey that will unerringly lead you to wisdom and a more meaningful, happier life.

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Posted: 23 January 2008 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]  
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I, Lalla, entered the jasmine garden,
where Shiva and Shakti were making love.

I dissolved into them,
and what is this
to me, now?

I seem to be here,
but really I’m walking
in the jasmine garden.

- Lalla
14th Century North Indian mystic

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Posted: 23 January 2008 08:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 22 January 2008 10:55 PM
M is for Malapert - 13 January 2008 11:23 PM

For instance, you prefer “X is observable” to “X is observably true”, but you are going to come a cropper here (in this forum, I mean) over how “observable” is to be defined.  We have people here who believe that the Bible is evidence; we have others who stoutly defend their own subjective “experiences” as observations. 

Bruce Burleson, for instance, has had an “experience” which I don’t think he has ever described, but which convinced him that Jesus walks and talks with him (apparently).  And your request that he take you to where you, too can have the same observation will be dismissed.  Maybe you can get through to him to explain why he shouldn’t do that, but none of the rest of us can.

I described the experience in detail about 1000 posts ago. I have mercifully refrained from rubbing your noses in it again. I’m apparently not very good at taking others to the place where they can have the same experience. I don’t want to be dismissive - I’m just not capable of giving you a formula that will reproduce the same situation. It’s “personal.”

That may be the point Bruce, you can’t take others to a place where they have the same experience beause, as you say, it was personal.  But what about taking others to a place where they can have their own experiences (which, depending on their cultural and personal background might result it an exclamation on the order of “Hari Khrishna!”).

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Posted: 23 January 2008 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 22 January 2008 10:55 PM
M is for Malapert - 13 January 2008 11:23 PM

For instance, you prefer “X is observable” to “X is observably true”, but you are going to come a cropper here (in this forum, I mean) over how “observable” is to be defined.  We have people here who believe that the Bible is evidence; we have others who stoutly defend their own subjective “experiences” as observations. 

Bruce Burleson, for instance, has had an “experience” which I don’t think he has ever described, but which convinced him that Jesus walks and talks with him (apparently).  And your request that he take you to where you, too can have the same observation will be dismissed.  Maybe you can get through to him to explain why he shouldn’t do that, but none of the rest of us can.

I described the experience in detail about 1000 posts ago. I have mercifully refrained from rubbing your noses in it again. I’m apparently not very good at taking others to the place where they can have the same experience. I don’t want to be dismissive - I’m just not capable of giving you a formula that will reproduce the same situation. It’s “personal.”

Okay, sorry, must’ve missed that original post.  But never mind.  The question is, do you find yourself at all disturbed in your certain “knowledge” that this happened to you, by Keith’s demand that you take him to where the same thing can happen to him?

Will you agree on a discussion format that eliminates your “knowing” as invalid if you can’t take him to that place?

Because unless I misunderstand him, he thinks that we can so agree, and that if you can’t take him to where he too can observe the same thing, you will give up your claims.

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“I will tell you with the utmost impudence that I esteem much more his Person, than his Works.”

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Posted: 24 January 2008 05:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]  
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For Salt Creek and M, regarding ‘woo woo’:

From recent posts I must assume that you two are hard-boiled take-no-prisoners materialists. Steven Weinberg; ‘nothing but atoms and the void’; etc. If so then let me say that I have a lot of sympathy for this position, but believe it to be wrong. At least for now. If, in reference back to my essay’s Point #1, we look honestly at our main systems of divisions for reality (our languages), a couple of things seem obvious: (1) That their roots reach back at least 60,000 years; deep into what native Australians call ‘the dream time’. (2) That even in their modern forms they remain full of vagueness, bias, subjectivity and redundancy. My implication here is that we lack pure objectivity in even the most basic systems that enable our thought processes. Or, to make the point explicit, that neither you nor any of the rest of us can entirely escape from ‘woo woo’. I understand that you guys would like less woo woo. Perhaps, ideally, none at all. But for my part, I have no intrinsic problem with woo woo. I just can’t find anything better or stronger than reason, or, from that realization, any reason to continue our charade of having a qualitatively superior knowledge basis from which irrational woo woo can be maintained. But now, of course, you may say that woo woo is necessarily irrational. That it is irrational by definition. If so then your program will not amount to development and improvement for whole human minds, but to their attempted bifurcation. You will need to split reason off in some way, and move forward only with it, while leaving our old subjective mind components (love, desire, fear and so on) behind. As noted above, you just don’t seem to me to have the equipment to do this; and I’d probably need to be told again, and explicitly, before even being able to believe that you genuinely want to do it.

So let’s consider the flip side; that there is no necessary opposition between reason and woo woo. Or even the more extreme position – as developed by Dawkins in Unweaving the Rainbow, E. Wilson in Consilience, and my own little ‘Spiritual Development’ vignette – that our old brain levels in which woo woo is generated can actually generate better woo woo, through a cooperative feedback interaction with the modern brain’s continued development of reason and science, then they can when allowed to maintain their own separate little fiefdom. And you know the word and concept that seems to me to have been enabling their maintenance of the separate little fiefdom.

Best regards to both,

Keith

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Posted: 24 January 2008 07:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]  
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Hello, Keith.  A belated welcome to the forum.

keith - 13 January 2008 11:08 AM

Hello to All,

I have been wandering the net for a few years now in search of my intellectual home. Basically; looking for the world’s most unequivocal and hard core group of atheists/rationalists. I’ve had a few hopeful initial contacts with various forums, and am still active on a couple of them, but in general I’ve found even the most ardent of my fellow antitheists to be uncomfortable with the idea of any straight and head-on intellectual confrontation with the theists. [With finally clearly demonstrating to them that their beliefs are false and should be abandoned].

I may be one of those theists whom you could engage in a straight and head-on intellectual confrontation.  However, your goal of demonstrating that my beliefs are false and should be abandoned may compromise the objective that I would have in such a confrontation.  My objective would be to convince you that neither theism nor any form of non-theism has any meaning in and of itself; (non)theism is merely a structure.  Rather, what is meaningful is our willingness to extend our (un)faith as a means toward nurturing growth in one another.  I think you have begun on the wrong foot in your essay and that this can only lead to your continually being off balance.  Let me begin an explanation.

Your essay Truth begins with a reference to the pioneering work of Karl Popper:  “All of our ancient systems of institutionalized irrationality - and in particular, our theistic religions - are vulnerable to a fatal rational attack from the philosophical position developed by the late Sir Karl Popper. This essay makes that attack.”

In his book Open Society, Popper introduces his objective in terms of an often overlooked summary of all of his work:  “You may be right and I may be wrong, and with a little effort we may get nearer to the truth.”  He argues that the birth of philosophy in the west was brought about by the clashing of numerous cultures especially on the periphery of the Persian Empire, for instance in Ionia.  In my view, the result of these clashes was not a discrediting of the older religious systems; rather, it was a transformation of the basics of these systems into philosophical discourse.

For instance, consider the following section from Plutarch’s Isis and Osiris:

The images from [the soul of Osiris] with which the sensible and corporeal is impressed, and the relations, forms, and likenesses which this take upon itself, like impressions of seals in wax [Theaetetus], are not permanently lasting, but disorder and disturbance overtakes them, being driven hither from the upper reaches, and fighting against Horus, whom Isis brings forth, beholden of all, as the image of the perceptible world [Timaeus]. (Plutarch Isis and Osiris.54)

In the bold print I have highlighted where the meaning of the Egyptian myth was transformed by Plato into his philosophy.  The goal of the philosophy, according to his Republic was that a disciple learn to honour the gods and their parents, and to value friendship with one another (Book III).  In the Theaetetus, Socrates argues from the position that the soul is immortal and experiences direct knowledge of the truth.  Using the image of a wax block, Socrates argues that the truth is imprinted only on the soul that is soft and malleable rather than the soul which is hardened.  It would follow from this that if one does not honour the faith system of those with whom he engages, he cannot come to experience the truth which Socrates et al experienced.

In your discussion with Bruce Burleson, for instance, you may experience the same kind of experience that Bruce has experienced if you fulfill the same kind of submission that he has fulfilled and vice versa you would never experience what he has experienced if you pursued it as a matter of objectivity in and of itself.  You would not have to call your experience the experience of an actual entity or god; however, you would come to understand your experience in terms that might be outlined in the texts of those who did believe in the actual existence of a god.

[ Edited: 25 January 2008 07:08 PM by John Brand]
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Posted: 25 January 2008 07:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]  
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keith - 24 January 2008 10:48 PM

that our old brain levels in which woo woo is generated can actually generate better woo woo, through a cooperative feedback interaction with the modern brain’s continued development of reason and science, then they can when allowed to maintain their own separate little fiefdom

Don’t you just mean “better self-congratulatory metaphysical wanking” resulting in stronger metaphysical contractions of metaphysical pelvic floor musculature around metaphysical ganglia?

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Posted: 25 January 2008 07:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]  
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M is for Malapert - 23 January 2008 05:44 PM

Okay, sorry, must’ve missed that original post.  But never mind.  The question is, do you find yourself at all disturbed in your certain “knowledge” that this happened to you, by Keith’s demand that you take him to where the same thing can happen to him?

Will you agree on a discussion format that eliminates your “knowing” as invalid if you can’t take him to that place?

Because unless I misunderstand him, he thinks that we can so agree, and that if you can’t take him to where he too can observe the same thing, you will give up your claims.

Hello M,

There does indeed seem to have been a substantial misunderstanding here. I don’t ‘demand’ anything of anyone. I have what seems to me to be a rational requirement, for my acceptance of any proposal as knowledge; that I should be able to understand some coherent justification for doing so. On-demand-repeatable physical observation is merely my favorite of such. For me; not for the proposer. And I maintain below it a whole descending hierarchy of less favored justifications. From information gained from apparently credible scientific sources (which have the unique advantage of being peer reviewed), to one-time observations, to information gained from other apparently honest and non-malicious people, and so on eventually all the way down to the sub basement of information provided by the ‘the media’ and politicians.

As to Bruce’s alleged proposal; he seems to be a reasonable person, so I am not disposed to accept what would appear to be libelous allegations about him, other than from his own keyboard.

Bruce, do you believe yourself to be - or have been - in communication with an approximately 2000 years dead person, or live Supernatural Being? If not then please communicate this to M. If so then speak up boldly and let us mutually take a fair and honest look at your proposal.

Best regards to both,

Keith

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Posted: 25 January 2008 07:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]  
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John Brand - 25 January 2008 12:30 AM

Hello, Keith.  A belated welcome to the forum.

I may be one of those theists whom you could engage in a straight and head-on intellectual confrontation.  However, your goal of demonstrating that my beliefs are false and should be abandoned may compromise the objective that I would have in such a confrontation.  My objective would be to convince you that neither theism nor any form of non-theism has any meaning in and of itself.  Rather, what is meaningful is our (un)faith’s extending itself as a means toward nurturing growth in one another.  I think you have begun on the wrong foot in your essay and that this can only lead to your continually being off balance.

John,

Thanks for your welcome, and for your good and interesting answer. I’ve truncated most of it here, as it is late at night and I will need to return to do it justice. I will just predict, for now, that we will be able to have an enjoyable head-on confrontation without any compromise to your objective. Basically, we can meet on your ground or mine. My only stipulation in such matters is that there be some ground.

Best regards,

Keith

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Posted: 25 January 2008 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]  
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Good stuff Turnbull. It works for me.

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- Jos. Campbell

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Posted: 25 January 2008 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]  
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keith - 25 January 2008 12:37 PM
M is for Malapert - 23 January 2008 05:44 PM

Okay, sorry, must’ve missed that original post.  But never mind.  The question is, do you find yourself at all disturbed in your certain “knowledge” that this happened to you, by Keith’s demand that you take him to where the same thing can happen to him?

Will you agree on a discussion format that eliminates your “knowing” as invalid if you can’t take him to that place?

Because unless I misunderstand him, he thinks that we can so agree, and that if you can’t take him to where he too can observe the same thing, you will give up your claims.

Hello M,

There does indeed seem to have been a substantial misunderstanding here. I don’t ‘demand’ anything of anyone. I have what seems to me to be a rational requirement, for my acceptance of any proposal as knowledge; that I should be able to understand some coherent justification for doing so. On-demand-repeatable physical observation is merely my favorite of such. For me; not for the proposer. And I maintain below it a whole descending hierarchy of less favored justifications. From information gained from apparently credible scientific sources (which have the unique advantage of being peer reviewed), to one-time observations, to information gained from other apparently honest and non-malicious people, and so on eventually all the way down to the sub basement of information provided by the ‘the media’ and politicians.

There is a connection here to one of my pet themes, namely that science today uses rational and empirical criteria, but in terms of dealing with first person experiences and in general the nature of human consciousness and its possibilities it needs to develop new validity criteria.  One that I think has potential is “teachability”: if a person claims to have had certain revelatory experiences, or to have attained some particular state of consciousness then if this claim is to be taken seriously from a scientific perspective there has to be some way that others can be taught to have the same experiences or to enter the same state of consciousness.

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Posted: 25 January 2008 10:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]  
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burt - 25 January 2008 02:37 PM

There is a connection here to one of my pet themes, namely that science today uses rational and empirical criteria, but in terms of dealing with first person experiences and in general the nature of human consciousness and its possibilities it needs to develop new validity criteria.  One that I think has potential is “teachability”: if a person claims to have had certain revelatory experiences, or to have attained some particular state of consciousness then if this claim is to be taken seriously from a scientific perspective there has to be some way that others can be taught to have the same experiences or to enter the same state of consciousness.

If I may, Burt, IMO, meditation practice is one way to experience ‘some particular state of consciousness’ that would result in a shared and communicative experience. Also, it’s my understanding and anticipation that with the continued scientific study of the brain, at least certain processes or mechanisms will be identified with these types of experiences. At least, in as much that certain areas of the brain will be identified as having being stimulated, under what conditions, which stimuli, external or self-induced, including chemical, may be involved.

Unbeliever once described it in terms which he could find acceptable, as a re-organization of thought. IMO, it might also involve an expansion of thought whereby our intuitive process may gain greater useage by means of tapping into more of the thought process at any given time than is normally utilized. It might be like if you’re working on a problem and think of factors later as you’re mulling it over (thinking) to understand it and solve it, or you listen to someone who provides info you didn’t think of yourself, or they prompt you to think of something you hadn’t before, you might find the answer sooner. Or, I envision it also to be like using as much of your thought processes as possible at one time rather than allowing the mind to defer to any select few at a given time.

Thought itself is a first person experience and science doesn’t have a handle on it yet. This is the same area of study.

[ Edited: 25 January 2008 12:01 PM by goodgraydrab]
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Posted: 25 January 2008 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]  
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keith - 25 January 2008 12:37 PM

As to Bruce’s alleged proposal; he seems to be a reasonable person, so I am not disposed to accept what would appear to be libelous allegations about him, other than from his own keyboard.

After this, I’ll let you and Bruce deal with this together.

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“I will tell you with the utmost impudence that I esteem much more his Person, than his Works.”

  (Dryden, St. Euremont’s Essays, 1692.)

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Posted: 25 January 2008 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]  
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burt - 25 January 2008 02:37 PM

. . . [S]cience today uses rational and empirical criteria, but in terms of dealing with first person experiences and in general the nature of human consciousness and its possibilities it needs to develop new validity criteria.  One that I think has potential is “teachability”: if a person claims to have had certain revelatory experiences, or to have attained some particular state of consciousness then if this claim is to be taken seriously from a scientific perspective there has to be some way that others can be taught to have the same experiences or to enter the same state of consciousness.

Burt, if this is as revolutionary as your dreams go, I—a dismal materialist—applaud you. Teachability to me equates to repeatability, but only because I’ve repeated so many mistakes throughout my life.

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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: 25 January 2008 07:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]  
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Hello, Keith.

keith - 25 January 2008 12:58 PM
John Brand - 25 January 2008 12:30 AM

Hello, Keith.  A belated welcome to the forum.

I may be one of those theists whom you could engage in a straight and head-on intellectual confrontation.  However, your goal of demonstrating that my beliefs are false and should be abandoned may compromise the objective that I would have in such a confrontation.  My objective would be to convince you that neither theism nor any form of non-theism has any meaning in and of itself; (non)theism is merely a structure.  Rather, what is meaningful is our willingness to extend our (un)faith as a means toward nurturing growth in one another.  I think you have begun on the wrong foot in your essay and that this can only lead to your continually being off balance.

John,

Thanks for your welcome, and for your good and interesting answer. I’ve truncated most of it here, as it is late at night and I will need to return to do it justice. I will just predict, for now, that we will be able to have an enjoyable head-on confrontation without any compromise to your objective. Basically, we can meet on your ground or mine. My only stipulation in such matters is that there be some ground.

As this is your thread, I shall begin with your essay Truth from the vantage point of Plato’s Theaetetus as well as Karl Popper’s The Myth of the Framework: In defence of Science and Rationality (New York:  Routledge, 1996).  I will try to put something together for early next week.

All the best,

John

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