miscellaneous notes

(Last modified 2010-11-19. More planned.)

from my phone

My phone has a what it calls a memo feature that I have occasionally used to write down thoughts. It is limited to fifty memos of 100 characters each, and I ran out of space a long time ago. Unfortunately the memos are not dated – the phone does not do it for me. Because of the length limitation, I have been forced in some cases to be quite succinct – probably a good exercise. Those I still agree with I will copy verbatim, but any I have reservations about I will put in quotes; many are followed by a commentary.

• Is getting belief right in some cases getting belief wrong?

• “Nothing, when mentioned, is – has being – just as much as something, when mentioned is – has being.”

The only thing I think I would alter here would be to put “at least” before both instances of “when mentioned”. I did not have space for that in a single memo.

• “The cause(r) of everything (we’ll ever experience) is demonstrably intentional only if it speaks.”

I have occasional doubts about this, and sometimes wish it wasn’t true {the case}. It summarizes my critique of “intelligent design”, “natural theology”, “general revelation”, and the “teleological cosmos”, which all seem to me to be much the same thing. By intentional I mean volitional {having or being a will}. Actually, I think nothing is demonstrably intentional {volitional} unless it communicates, though demonstrably is not all that clear-cut I admit. By communicate and speak I mean convey information using a language {(sequence of) signal(s)} the recipient is already familiar with. I would like to reserve the term natural to mean precisely those things that do not have a will, something I’ve recently discovered Thomas Aquinas also did. Another thing that needs elaborating on, I think, is the use of we here. This is all about the problem of other minds.

• Only communication by the possessor of a will demonstrates that will (and its possessor).

A concise version of much of my commentary on the previous note. Does a will without a possessor make sense? I don’t think so. Willing is a conscious experience, which implies there’s something doing the experiencing.

• Lack of evidence is evidence of lack. The absence of a cause explains the absence of its effect(s).

This is one of my early neutrality-of-being thoughts.

• “‘Natural selection’ is merely a self-satisfied label for the phenomenon of nonuniform persistence.”

I’m now not sure I should be so sweeping in my (implicit) judgement of those who use the term, or even that I should be passing judgement at all. At the time I also wasn’t sure that self-satisfied quite conveyed the right sense.

• “The phenomenon of nonuniform persistence (differential survival) amounts to change and nothing more.”

A follow up on the previous thought. I remember dithering for ages on how to finish this off (within the 100-character limit). The upshot of these last two is that natural selection is just a pretentious and confusing term for biotic change – a bit harsh perhaps, but I think under relentless analysis that’s what it boils down to. I hope to elaborate on this eventually.

• Psyches-spirits-minds-consciousness not entirely dependent on mindless nature-physics: possible?

A question I would like ardent adherents to naturalism or scientism at least to consider. I would probably put “entirely” in parentheses now. This is to do with the necessity and sufficiency of matter {nature} for mind {volition}, not just in general but for different types of mind considered separately.

“Arts = Geisteswissenschaft = theories drawing on conscious and other experiential phenomena.”

Geisteswissenschaft is a German word that is nearly always used (in my experience) in the plural, Geisteswissenschaften, in which case it corresponds closely to the English word humanities.

• “‘Science’ = Naturwissenschaft = theory not ultimately drawing on conscious choice.

Naturwissenschaft is another German word, this time often (I think) used in the singular. It refers to natural or physical science. The point of the previous two notes is to highlight a clear-cut distinction that can be made about explanations for things, and to propose words to use for each of the two kinds of explanation. Controversially, I suspect, I would classify psychology and social sciences under the arts {humanities}, because they help themselves to voluntary action to explain things (don’t they?). Despite partial success in predicting such (supposedly) voluntary acts in others, their practitioners fail (like everyone else) to predict their own (by and large). I do not see how unexplained {uncorrelated, not-part-of-a-pattern} voluntary choice can be ruled out. All explanations start with a given that just is (otherwise there would be infinite regression, and, if there were, that would just be, and the explanation would start with that [or there would be another infinite regression …]!). One possibility for such a happens-to-be thing – one that (partially) composes {constitutes} a starting explanation – is a choice {voluntary act} of an implicit conscious entity {being}, which, if it is unexplained, itself also partially composes the starting explanation.

• Meaning as inductive inference from experience versus meaning as intended message signified.

• Meaning as mattering, as the inducing of pleasant experiences or valued feelings. Meaning as satisfying purpose.

• Meaning as moral (inductive inference), mattering (inducing eupathy), message (inducing belief).

• belief, opinion, view, outlook, perspective, thought, conception; judgment, conclusion

A list of near synonyms, the last two distinguished by their referring to necessarily derived rather than possibly intuitive conscious apprehensions.

• ‘Random’ distribution theory taken to extreme: every possibility/contingency exists therefore we exist.

A conclusion from a lot of thought about “randomness”, statistical distributions, probability, multiverses, and the anthropic principal. To do justice to what random is used to refer to and the many (to my mind) false accompanying ideas would take more space and time (I think) than I am prepared to devote to it here and now. The idea of every possibility existing founders on the fact that some (if not all) possibilities are mutually exclusive; it is therefore impossible for every possibility exist. Things have to be a particular way. Contingency {non-necessity} is necessary (a paradoxical necessary truth). The anthropic principal is utterly vacuous.

• “Belief by force of will (a.k.a. [blind] “faith”, credulity, denial, wishful thinking, suspending disbelief, ?confirmation bias): self-confidence trick, invoking one’s ‘power within’”

This one is longer than 100 characters because I saved it as a draft text message. I suspect it is incomplete (it had no “.” on the end) and I no longer remember what I understood by the term power within. I think I had heard it not long before I wrote it and it seemed at the time to articulate just what I was thinking. Although I’m still not sure how exactly to characterize the idea of credulity (denial just being credulity of a negative), I now (2010-11-19) distinguish between an involuntary belief {conviction} (something someone is or has become convinced of) and voluntary thought sequences (thinking as an activity engaged in at the will of the thinker). To the extent that I do have a conception of credulity, I’m convinced it is a bad choice, since it risks bringing on false belief, which is never beneficial (improving of their experience) for those seized by it.

• “All truth is both subjective and objective, in that it both takes a subject to apprehend it and also is independent of which subjects do so.”

This one is also an unsent text message, hence its greater length. My only misgiving now about this one is its possibly unconventional use of the term subjective. I am not using it here to mean true (only) of a particular subject or some particular subjects; in such cases a distinct truth applies to the subject(s) concerned. My point is, rather, that it takes subjects (conscious entities) for truth to be grasped. In an imaginary world without subjects, the concept of truth is superfluous. I suspect I may be accused of abusing the the term objective, too, actually. What is really going on here is an attempt to clarify the idea of truth. There is a way things actually are, regardless of anyone’s beliefs or “knowledge”. Propositions that refer to the way things actually are constitute truth (as I would like the term to be understood). Truth, thus defined, is utterly independent of perspective, view, belief, opinion, and the like. It may be believed or “known” by no one. Only its negation may be believed by anyone. But it is still truth. (It still takes a subject to apprehend it, though. It needn’t ever actually be apprehended.)

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