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First post. Introduction and invitation.
Posted: 21 January 2008 03:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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This is just vaguely related to the topic of superstition ofcourse but what I wanted to point at is that self insight really is the most powerful tool for objective thinking.
If there is a good way to teach children to question their own beliefs and reasons, and teach them to understand how they think, that would really be a victory for rationality.
A theist who wakes up and understands how he believes in Christ, will be more instrumental to undermining his faith than any argument from a free thinker could ever be.


K: Hello Unbeliever, and sorry for the very long delay. I enjoyed your bus story. It seemed to me to be about reason ‘coming in over the treetops’ to sort out yet another emotional/subjective problem. I love such stories, and am trying to engineer one on an almost inconcievably vast scale with ‘Truth?’

On education: Better understanding of how we think will indeed be a very important part of the picture. I suspect that Sam’s most valuable contribution will eventually come in this area; though I’d have to confess that I’ve greatly enjoyed his present tossing of rocks into the theist’s bee hives. This also was, and is, needed.

BR,

Keith

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Posted: 21 January 2008 04:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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goodgraydrab - 14 January 2008 05:45 PM

Keith,

I suggest you view Salt Creek’s post ‘P. W. Atkins at Beyond Belief, under Science topic, and view the video. Cursorily, your proposal sounds like it could be an unknown replacement factor which Atkins suggests. But I posed the question whether it is possible to truly divorce science from philosophy given that both processes are rational endeavors of the human mind.

In your essay, I find underpinnings of eastern philosophys’ concept of enlightenment (watch all hell break loose). That is, the notion of the art of experience. The idea that the process of naming things and referring to them with words or numbers leads us to mistake them for the object themselves. We tend to believe that when we label, name or explain something, then we know it and understand it. When in fact, the name or label serves as a ‘substitute’ for experience or the external reality. Consequently, how do we define pure ‘truth’? If knowledge from science requires labeling, wisdom from insight is said to be wordless, and puts you into the realm of pure experience. “Insight transcends the twin poles of the intellect and the imagination. It is neither the restricted logic of deduction nor the broad vision of inspiration, but a direct reality no matter how brief. Insight is the eye of truth. It is a state of non-thinking, a moment of no thought. It is a brief seeing, a fleeting and momentary enlightenment.” (Ozaniec).

I may be way off track here. Undoubtedly, Unbeliever’s suggestion of skepticism is essential for arriving at truth. But now what, we can’t know truth? Perhaps truth is neither this nor that. In any case, my opinion is that one will never be able to reason with a Theist, there are too many built-in outs. They won’t relinquish their truth, even if we give up ours. They still must seek it for themselves.

Keith,

After reading your post #12, I get a better understanding of your premise and admit I seem to be off base. Also, I’ve been called on a couple of things. If I thought I was right, I would stick to my guns. This is to save you reading another post. Have you checked your private messages Under Profile or Control Panel?


Hello Goodgray,

I’ve had a great reception from this forum, and enjoyed meeting all who have so far commented on ‘Truth?’, so I hope that they will understand and forgive me when I say that the one to which my heart most goes out is you.

Your understanding of links between ‘Truth?’ and zen/taoism is perceptive. I didn’t make these links explicit in the essay because I want it to stand, or fall, first and foremost on its appeal to reason. But - between you and I - I will post something here that I think will show the links at least a little more clearly. It’s something that I wrote for another forum, around 18 months ago, in answer to a post of the theist’s old dead horse about their irrational knowledge systems being ‘necessarry for our spiritual development’. It ended up as something rather more poetic than my standard dry and convoluted writing, but I think that you may enjoy it. I guess that a good title for it might be something like ‘Spiritual Development sans Theism’:

——————————

First: learn science. Drink deeply from the lake of all that we now know about how ancient, enormous, complex, intellectually exciting, and ultimately downright beautiful physical reality can be seen to be.

Now go out alone into nature. To a deserted beach, or the high desert, or a mountaintop. Think about where all of that more-beautiful-then-you-could-ever-have-imagined reality stops, and ‘you’ start. Think about your defining skin, the top layer of which is dead, and continually sloughing off cells. At what point does it cease to be you? Think about your blood; which was water yesterday, and will be urine tomorrow. Try to find the clear points of those transitions. Think about the oxygen that you are now absorbing from your inhaled air, and the CO2 that you are exhaling. At what point does the former become you, and the latter cease to be you? As it passes through your nostrils, or into your lungs? As it diffuses into solution across your alveolar membranes? As it enters, in your cells, into the chemical reactions of respiration? Think about your experience of clear and distinct consciousness. Are the thoughts dreams and ideas that define ‘you’ merely your own? Did you create them, and will they die with you?

Now think about your deepest division. The one that underlies your experience of self consciousness. Who maintains it, and for what purpose? Is it reality rejecting you? Is it really, in some sense, external? Or is it merely your assumption of a position from which knowledge can be held? And as you get the right answer to that one go ahead and let it, all of the rest of your self maintained divisions, fall away. Let your consciousness flow out in all directions. Down into your soil, and the teaming life therein. Out into all of your winds and waters and rocks and ice, and creatures and processes of joy and pain. And if you’re in the high desert at night, then on out across your billions of light years, and back through eons of time. Through other life on other worlds, and the births and deaths of solar systems and galaxies. Feel it all. Remember, in your bones, who/what you really are. You won’t be able to function in this state. You won’t be able to do a damn thing, because with all divisions suspended the limited little entity that can make decisions, and so ‘do things’ will no longer exist.

Eventually, prosaic biology will supervene. You’ll need a pee; or get thirsty, or cold. Through one path or another the familiar little game of normal consciousness will reassert itself. But you can carry back into this your memory of the deeper game. You can maintain an awareness of it; just beneath and all around you as you revert to your exciting role of being a vulnerable little spark of consciousness in a vast and indifferent universe. You can know both that return to the deeper and stronger game is possible, as/when you really need this, and that you will return to it for sure as/when your divisions collapse again in death. 

Having even once experienced this, you will be able to see clearly the worth of all of our odd little theisms. How silly and pathetic they are in relation to the magnificent thing that they purport to represent. And also how irrelevant they are to all that we understand as morality. Compassion, altruism, and reverence for life will now be intrinsic to who you are; rather than being imposed from without by some deity. They are, most simply, an inseparable part of the deeper and stronger game.

———————————

Now, perhaps, ‘all hell will break loose’.

All the best,

Keith

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Posted: 21 January 2008 05:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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Keith, you have yet to answer the question I posed about mathematical truth.

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Posted: 21 January 2008 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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keith - 21 January 2008 09:15 PM

It ended up as something rather more poetic than my standard dry and convoluted writing, but I think that you may enjoy it.

That it did. That I did. Thank you.

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Posted: 21 January 2008 09:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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keith - 21 January 2008 09:15 PM

——————————

First: learn science. Drink deeply from the lake of all that we now know about how ancient, enormous, complex, intellectually exciting, and ultimately downright beautiful physical reality can be seen to be.

Now go out alone into nature. To a deserted beach, or the high desert, or a mountaintop. Think about where all of that more-beautiful-then-you-could-ever-have-imagined reality stops, and ‘you’ start. Think about your defining skin, the top layer of which is dead, and continually sloughing off cells. At what point does it cease to be you? Think about your blood; which was water yesterday, and will be urine tomorrow. Try to find the clear points of those transitions. Think about the oxygen that you are now absorbing from your inhaled air, and the CO2 that you are exhaling. At what point does the former become you, and the latter cease to be you? As it passes through your nostrils, or into your lungs? As it diffuses into solution across your alveolar membranes? As it enters, in your cells, into the chemical reactions of respiration? Think about your experience of clear and distinct consciousness. Are the thoughts dreams and ideas that define ‘you’ merely your own? Did you create them, and will they die with you?

Now think about your deepest division. The one that underlies your experience of self consciousness. Who maintains it, and for what purpose? Is it reality rejecting you? Is it really, in some sense, external? Or is it merely your assumption of a position from which knowledge can be held? And as you get the right answer to that one go ahead and let it, all of the rest of your self maintained divisions, fall away. Let your consciousness flow out in all directions. Down into your soil, and the teaming life therein. Out into all of your winds and waters and rocks and ice, and creatures and processes of joy and pain. And if you’re in the high desert at night, then on out across your billions of light years, and back through eons of time. Through other life on other worlds, and the births and deaths of solar systems and galaxies. Feel it all. Remember, in your bones, who/what you really are. You won’t be able to function in this state. You won’t be able to do a damn thing, because with all divisions suspended the limited little entity that can make decisions, and so ‘do things’ will no longer exist.

Eventually, prosaic biology will supervene. You’ll need a pee; or get thirsty, or cold. Through one path or another the familiar little game of normal consciousness will reassert itself. But you can carry back into this your memory of the deeper game. You can maintain an awareness of it; just beneath and all around you as you revert to your exciting role of being a vulnerable little spark of consciousness in a vast and indifferent universe. You can know both that return to the deeper and stronger game is possible, as/when you really need this, and that you will return to it for sure as/when your divisions collapse again in death. 

Having even once experienced this, you will be able to see clearly the worth of all of our odd little theisms. How silly and pathetic they are in relation to the magnificent thing that they purport to represent. And also how irrelevant they are to all that we understand as morality. Compassion, altruism, and reverence for life will now be intrinsic to who you are; rather than being imposed from without by some deity. They are, most simply, an inseparable part of the deeper and stronger game.

———————————

Now, perhaps, ‘all hell will break loose’.

All the best,

Keith

Delightful statement Keith, I’m reminded of a very powerful (at least IMHO) scene in Doris Lessing’s book The Making of the Representative for Planet 8: Through the book, the characters names are also references to their positions in society and their world.  We follow their actions, reactions, and spiritual development as their world slowly freezes to death.  At a climatic point the final group still alive is gathered, together with a spiritual mentor figure.  Each in turn stands and and addresses him, saying that their position in society and their world no longer exists.  It still exists on some other planet, but not here.  And each finishes with a question: “So who am I, and what is my name?”  A favorite quote from the book:

  “I have often wondered, when I look at the tiny oscillations and pulsations that compose us, where, then, are our thoughts…?  Where, what we feel?  For it is not possible that these are not matter, just as we are.  In a universe that is all graduations of matter, from gross to fine to finer, so that we end up with everything we are composed of in a lattice, a grid, a mesh, a mist, where particles or movements so small we cannot observe them are held in a strict and accurate web, that is nevertheless nonexistent to the eyes we use for ordinary living—in this system of fine and finer, where is the substance of a thought?...
  “...if the minute dance that dissolves at the core which is no core at the heart of an atom is material, then so must be passion or need or delight.  Can you… see where the pulses of the atom dissolve into patterns of movement of which you can say: This is envy, this is love?”
  Doris Lessing, (1982)  The Making of the           Representative for Planet 8 (pp. 67-68)

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Posted: 22 January 2008 07:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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I see the woo-woo orchestra is tuning up again for a performance that never takes place.

The woo-woo orchestra consists entirely of oboes hooting tunelessly at one another. Having nothing to compare themselves to, they don’t know what a tune is.

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Posted: 22 January 2008 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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Salt Creek - 22 January 2008 12:03 PM

I see the woo-woo orchestra is tuning up again for a performance that never takes place.

The woo-woo orchestra consists entirely of oboes hooting tunelessly at one another. Having nothing to compare themselves to, they don’t know what a tune is.

Ah, but the immediate comparison is to this out of tune post.

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Posted: 22 January 2008 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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Far be it from me to rely on the review of the tone deaf music critic.

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Posted: 22 January 2008 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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Ah, it is marvelous to behold. The relentless circular self-congratulation of the woo-woo orchestra, hooting on and on about the transcendent depth and beauty of its appreciation of its own transcendent depth and beauty. This way of making oneself feel good about how good one is making oneself feel is also known as “mental masturbation”.

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Posted: 22 January 2008 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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Salt Creek - 22 January 2008 02:32 PM

Ah, it is marvelous to behold…. This way of making oneself feel good about how good one is making oneself feel is also known as “mental masturbation”.

At least ours is a group grope ... better than hooting on and on about voyeurism.

[ Edited: 22 January 2008 10:53 AM by goodgraydrab]
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Posted: 22 January 2008 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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goodgraydrab - 22 January 2008 03:36 PM

better than hooting on and on about voyeurism.

But in a vacuum, can the oboes even hear each other?

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

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Posted: 22 January 2008 01:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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M is for Malapert - 22 January 2008 05:42 PM

But in a vacuum, can the oboes even hear each other?

We’re romping in the forest.

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Posted: 22 January 2008 03:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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burt - 21 January 2008 10:22 PM

Keith, you have yet to answer the question I posed about mathematical truth.


Hello Burt, and thanks for the reminder.

I’m afraid that I reject even mathematical truth. But I would admit that it provides by far the gravest challenge to my position. The challenge is not from simple math, like arithmetic. Point # 1 of ‘Truth?’ seems to me to undercut this as fully and finally as it does all of our other observably self created divisions. Arithmetical statements are inarguably ‘true’ merely in that we define them to be. [4 is what we call two 2s; 1/2 is the relationship between 2 and 4; etc… There is no necessary suggestion of a relationship between any of this and reality.] 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.

BR,

Keith

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Posted: 22 January 2008 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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keith - 22 January 2008 08:11 PM
burt - 21 January 2008 10:22 PM

Keith, you have yet to answer the question I posed about mathematical truth.


Hello Burt, and thanks for the reminder.

I’m afraid that I reject even mathematical truth. But I would admit that it provides by far the gravest challenge to my position. The challenge is not from simple math, like arithmetic. Point # 1 of ‘Truth?’ seems to me to undercut this as fully and finally as it does all of our other observably self created divisions. Arithmetical statements are inarguably ‘true’ merely in that we define them to be. [4 is what we call two 2s; 1/2 is the relationship between 2 and 4; etc… There is no necessary suggestion of a relationship between any of this and reality.] 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.

BR,

Keith

Thanks Keith, I don’t know how familiar you are with the different schools of thought on the reality of mathematical objects, but I think I can give a pretty good argument against your position even in arithmetic.  However, you might appreciate the distinction that I’ve been making for a long time in the scientific reasoning course that I teach: between something that is true to fact, and something that is true to function.  The latter is something that need not correspond in any way to reality but behavior based on accepting that it does correspond is correct (e.g., in terms of survival).  The former is more complicated.  For example, it is as I see it an absolute truth that I am at this moment having the experience of typing into my laptop—or, more basically, experiencing the sensations that have that interpretation.  Whether or not I’m actually doing this, however, is an assumption and can’t be said to be true in any absolute sense (a version of the cogito?).  Likewise, it is an absolute truth that the Pythagorean theorem follows from the axioms of Euclidian geometry.  Whether reality has anything in it that exactly fits this theorem is another question.  I think that we are of somewhat the same mind, although your position seems to me more extreme and we may in the end be just quibbling about words and interpretations.

Cheers

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Posted: 22 January 2008 05:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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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.”

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