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 Post subject: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:58 pm 
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Hi

Image

The above passage was taken from a letter written by the Stoic philosopher and Roman statesmen Seneca to his mother which was aptly titled ‘Consolation to Helvia’ (trans. C.D.N. Costa). For someone like Seneca the display of Roman gluttony signaled a lack of restraint which would crush a person’s judgement under the growing weight sensuous experiences.

I happen to think this could almost double for a description of Mormon Apologetics be it Nibley’s obsessive search for ancient parallels or Terryl Givens anxious project of pinpointing anything that vaguely looks like a Mormon precursor in the Western canon. In fact I think Daniel Peterson pretty much pantomimes what Seneca describes weekly on his blog.

If you swap out the food being consumed with books being consumed I think the metaphor is too clear to deny. Dan consistently quotes from non-fiction books from a very broad range of topics from an equally broad range authors, yet rarely does he give his readers much in the way of context other than passing remarks about finding this particular quote “interesting” or “suggestive” in light of a vague paraphrase of some unnamed critic. Dan never really offers up his own ideas on any of the topics broached unless they are non-committal platitudes, but he’ll never fail to drop any names that he can. If I’m allowed some speculation I’d like to offer that I don’t think Dan ever really reads the authors and books he so often invokes, but rather picks through things looking for something that is quotable and in some way related to critics of his church. He only accumulates sources so that he can spew them back up before any nutritional content can be absorbed which is why the man never really develops as a person or a scholar, he is the same man he was when he traded barbed emails with James White of Alpha & Omega ministries (those emails dates from 1998) with no more wisdom, learning, or additional virtues than what he had 20 years ago.

Recently Dan has posted what would usually be just another data point for my observations above, but this time I want to invest some effort in fleshing out the thesis introduced by Dan and try to provide a broader and deeper context of the issues than one might find on the usual blogs dedicated to Mormonism and philosophy. This will take me some time and multiple posts to do, so I’d like to invite anyone and everyone to contribute to this thread as they feel moved to do so. I appreciate the usual banter that takes place here on the Terrestrial Forum.

We are going to start with Dan’s citation of Keith Ward from his book ‘Why There Almost Certainly Is a God: Doubting Dawkins’:

Keith Ward wrote:
When we come to consciousness, things get much worse. The problem of consciousness is so difficult that no one has any idea of how to begin to tackle it, scientifically. What is that problem? It is basically the problem of how conscious states — thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions — can arise from complex physical brain-states. Even if we are sure that they do arise from brains, we do not know the sorts of connections that conscious states (such as ‘seeing a train’) have with brain-states (such as ‘there is electrical activity at point A in the brain’). We do not know if conscious states can have a causal effect on brain-states, or if they are somehow reducible to brain-states in some way that we cannot yet explain.

If Dawkins was a radical materialist, he would state, like his philosophical friend and ally Daniel Dennett, that conscious states are ‘nothing more than’ brain-states and brain-behaviour. Dennett wrote a book called Consciousness Explained, in which he defended this radical theory. Most competent philosophers were unconvinced, and privately referred to his book as ‘Consciousness Explained Away’.

The main reason they were unconvinced is that you could very easily have brain-states and behaviour without any conscious states at all. Nobody can observe anyone else’s conscious states, and we cannot really be sure that anyone else has any conscious states at all.

The philosopher A. J. Ayer, who was one of the people who tried to teach me philosophy, used to say in seminars that he could not be sure that other people around him had any minds with thoughts in them at all. We did our best to confirm his suspicions. Most of us, however, accept that other people are often thinking, even though we can have no idea of what is going through their minds.

We could attach them to a brain-scanner or put electrodes in their skulls, and record electrical activity and chemical interactions in the brain. But to find out what they are thinking when we do this, we have to ask them. We have not yet got to the stage where we can just attach someone’s brain to a recording device and examine their thoughts without asking them to write examination papers, just by measuring electrical activity in their brain.

Dan does nothing much in the way of introducing the topic or pointing out what exactly is supposed to be relevant to his readers other than titling this blog entry as ‘The Problem of Consciousness’ and providing the source of the quote (and wikimedia image!). All that follows from the Keith Ward text is Dan telling us he is pleased to have found a youtube video uploaded by Mormon.org of a Mormon scientist recounting the time God aided him in finding his daughter’s lost dance shoe (I really wish I was making this up).

As it turns out if you've read one Keith Ward book you kinda have already read them all, so I'm going to draw on another Ward book to help fill in the gaps in Dan's train of thought. The following images come from 'God and the Philosophers':
Image

The guy likes to remind people who he studied under, doesn't he? Regardless Ward doesn't deny that this philosophical doctrine of materialism doesn't have its own able advocates in his own sort of backhanded manner:
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Yet Ward does not fail to cast materialism in unfavorable terms connected to religious attitudes:
Image

So we know there is a philosophical position called "materialism" and that two vocal atheists (Dawkins and Dennett) are being saddled with the accusation they are adherents to materialism. According to Ward it may be the case that materialism is in fashion, but when it comes to the topic of human consciousness materialism faces multiple conceptual issues that give the impression that materialism is a doomed project. What does any of this have to do with God (whom is referenced in the titles of both of Ward's books)? Consider this:
Image

This is Ward's own way of framing what is called the "argument from consciousness" which is a philosophical argument that attempts to use the experience of human consciousness as evidence for the existence of God. In my next installment I want to place the argument from consciousness in the broader context of contemporary philosophy of religion and talk about the deeper metaphysical issues at work in the philosophy of mind. The goal of that is to set the stage for walking through the argument as it is expressed by one theistic philosopher and how it is challenged by another atheistic philosopher.

Until then!
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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:03 pm 
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Oh those were the words of someone else. Well, then I take it back somewhat, but in the future the blog author should read with a little skepticism.

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=48406


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:23 pm 
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If you would be so kind MrStak to make the words smaller in the copies you present. They are cut off on the right edge. THANKS, looking forward to reading this!

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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:36 pm 
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Mr. Stak,

Thanks for an interesting and thought provoking post. Here's my basic understanding of consciousness:

https://youtu.be/JQVmkDUkZT4

And the follow-on video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotatio ... fYbgdo8e-8

I'm limited to cartoons to understand things like... science... math... philosophy... so forgive my lack of knowledgeability in the area of consciousness as it relates to philosophy. Feel free to mock me because I'm out of my depth here, but wouldn't physicalism or materialism be, in layman's terms, that our consciousness, who we are, is really a group consciousness that arises out of all its parts? Kind of like how an ant colony, I believe I saw it on Planet Earth, where the colony acts as an organism that can create complex and efficient farming, superstructures, so and so forth. The ants are individually specialized, but working in concert a sort of colony consciousness arises.

Wouldn't our own consciousness be the same thing, arising out of the individual specialized agents that comprise us in toto? Hence the reason why, say, damage to a physical area of our brain will alter our personality?

Am I tracking this correctly, that that is materialism as it relates to consciousness?

- Doc


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:55 pm 
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The ants are individually specialized, but working in concert a sort of colony consciousness arises.


if that's you're angle, look up Paul Churchland or read about neural networks, which is the "brain as swarm" model.

Dennett's point would be that you can simulate a computer with a neural net or vice versa.


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 10:24 pm 
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here is a post on that blog

"No one actually knows THAT brain activity produces conscious thought."

Wow, I wonder how many "competent philosophers" would agree?


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:07 pm 
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Oh man, sometimes life is too easy. I'd never heard of Keith Ward until today and it appears I haven't been missing much. But what a display of religious thinking we've seen today. Whatever his professional background may be, he seriously misrepresents Dennett in that quote. The quotes I've seen from Ward, and I don't have a great representative sample here from just a few minutes of google searches, but he maybe, assumes that new atheists are mere extentions of Ryle and Ayer. Things have changed a bit since then.

But still, bad as his mashing of Dennett is, after some googling it turns out the guy is legit enough that you know, he can't suck so bad that he would say something like this: "No one actually knows THAT brain activity produces conscious thought".

Anyway, a few minutes after I made my "wow, I wonder..." comment, I tore myself away from the Black Mirror -- now there's some quality philosophizing -- because Ward couldn't, I mean, he just couldn't be that irresponsible. Sure enough, I was right, as usual.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCidiF669wA

The very first words out of ward's mouth in this clip:

Keith Ward wrote:
I don't think there is any serious doubt that consciousness is a function of the highly complex integrated human brain.


sig line for sure. LOL!

here's how the religious masses stay chained: Somebody who should know better either takes liberties isn't thorough because, you know, his audience is the willing believer -- Dennett and the topic physicalism get misrepresented badly. This is taken unskeptically by the blog author who should know better, who doesn't bother to try to understand the subject and in turn, apparently reads in a far more extreme view that the author flat out denies. Then, the little people cheering in the comment section who we probably shouldn't expect too much from will likely misunderstand the blog authors position and read in an even more extreme position when chatting with their friends at church. The religious literally educate themselves in the same way that Big Foot and Three Nephite sightings get passed around. It's incredible.


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2018 9:47 am 
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I think you have hit upon something in the Mormon experience and this is the best outsider description of something I experienced as an insider when you say this:

MrStakhanovite wrote:
I happen to think this could almost double for a description of Mormon Apologetics be it Nibley’s obsessive search for ancient parallels or Terryl Givens anxious project of pinpointing anything that vaguely looks like a Mormon precursor in the Western canon. In fact I think Daniel Peterson pretty much pantomimes what Seneca describes weekly on his blog.

If you swap out the food being consumed with books being consumed I think the metaphor is too clear to deny. Dan consistently quotes from non-fiction books from a very broad range of topics from an equally broad range authors, yet rarely does he give his readers much in the way of context other than passing remarks about finding this particular quote “interesting” or “suggestive” in light of a vague paraphrase of some unnamed critic. Dan never really offers up his own ideas on any of the topics broached unless they are non-committal platitudes, but he’ll never fail to drop any names that he can. If I’m allowed some speculation I’d like to offer that I don’t think Dan ever really reads the authors and books he so often invokes, but rather picks through things looking for something that is quotable and in some way related to critics of his church. He only accumulates sources so that he can spew them back up before any nutritional content can be absorbed which is why the man never really develops as a person or a scholar,


When I was a believing member I just read books differently than I do now. For many believing Mormons, the LDS church is the repository of all truth, or at least the really important truths. Thus reading a book becomes an exercise not in following the argumentation (why bother, we already have the truth) but in seeing how much of the book I can believe in because it parrots or supports truths I already know. Or it became an exercise in ignoring large swaths of a book because it couldn't support or be made to support what I knew to be true. The end result is that the book becomes a disjointed series of quotes supporting my position. What you see on Dan's blog may be the public presentation of this phenomena I experienced many times myself.

For example, I read as a believing Mormon Vermes' translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, largely because Nibley made them seem like the greatest thing ever and just loaded with "proofs" that Mormonism was true. At the time I highlighted things that were important to me. Fast forward 15 years and I'm now not a Mormon with a pretty good understanding of the Qumran community. I leafed through the highlights and was just flat out embarassed. All of my highlights were of tangential issues that I had highlighted because they seemed to be supporting of one or more Mormon doctrines. Of course read in context they did no such thing. But reading it without a context, or even worse the context provided by Nibley, made those quotes seem relevant. The bottom line was that I really wasn't interested in the Qumran community or its literature as such, I was interested in the Qumran community as confused or crypto Mormons.

If you took those highlighted quotes and just blasted them decontextually on a blog you would have something similar to Dan's blog. Of course they would be "interesting" and "suggestive", they couldn't be anything more than that. They couldn't never provide any understanding or knowledge because they had been ripped from their context with the sole intent of being slotted into a Mormon context.

Another thing I did after my break from Mormonism was to choose 3 of Nibley's essays at random and re-read them. I was shocked at how bad the argumentation was and how sloppy the evidence was. But now I can see why I liked them at the time. What I wanted was decontextualized quotes that could be slottted into the Mormon context, thereby "proving" the Mormon church to be true. But, I didn't even have to do it myself, Nibley had taken the trouble of going through a vast amount of literature and doing it for me.

MrStakhanovite wrote:
he is the same man he was when he traded barbed emails with James White of Alpha & Omega ministries (those emails dates from 1998) with no more wisdom, learning, or additional virtues than what he had 20 years ago.


As far as I can tell James White really doesn't deal with Mormons anymore. He has basically said that there really isn't much of a point anymore because 1) Mormons are coming to an awareness of their history and 2) Mormons are for the most part jettisoning their doctrines and don't believe much of anything anymore. Really ironic because FARMS heavy handed use of postmodern argumentation has I think done a lot to cause #2. But the ultimate irony is that over and over again in those emails Midgely and Peterson told James White that the only thing he should do is shut up and go away. I think this may be one reason the LDS church did shut down FARMS. FARMS was largely set up to defend against counter cult apologetics. Now that people like James White have disengaged there really isn't a need for FARMS. But the downside for Peterson is that he has lost his position of power. Even more damaging for Dan is that nobody really gives a crap what he has to say which is deadly for someone whose career was largely based on a steady stream of jousting partners he could feel good about defeating for God and the LDS church.

MrStakhanovite wrote:
This is Ward's own way of framing what is called the "argument from consciousness" which is a philosophical argument that attempts to use the experience of human consciousness as evidence for the existence of God. In my next installment I want to place the argument from consciousness in the broader context of contemporary philosophy of religion and talk about the deeper metaphysical issues at work in the philosophy of mind. The goal of that is to set the stage for walking through the argument as it is expressed by one theistic philosopher and how it is challenged by another atheistic philosopher.


I hear you, philosophy of mind is incredibly complex and cannot be adjudicated by just quoting people at random. There is a large area of interplay between theology and philosophy in these issues, but I think most people are too ignorant of both areas to really understand what is going on. For example, I think most people think that the only two positions that one can take are eliminative materialism and Cartesian dulism. On that mindset, showing eliminative materialism to be false proves Cartesian dualism. Except of course all the other positions out there make that argument fallacious. Assuming of course one has shown eliminative matierialism to be false.

The real problem is that people on both sides seem to be moving away from that traditional dichotomy. For example, Thomas Nagel, a thorough going atheist has basically said that eliminiative materialism can't be true, but he isn't going to church or becoming a Cartesian dualist. Likewise, people like Edward Feser don't much care for Cartesian dualism but prefer a form of hylomorphism. Hylomorphism can pretty much ignore the mind/body problem and agree with physicalists on a whole range of issues because their metaphysics of the soul is just fine with that.


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2018 11:46 am 
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Quote:
Aristotle Smith
When I was a believing member I just read books differently than I do now. For many believing Mormons, the LDS church is the repository of all truth, or at least the really important truths. Thus reading a book becomes an exercise not in following the argumentation (why bother, we already have the truth) but in seeing how much of the book I can believe in because it parrots or supports truths I already know. Or it became an exercise in ignoring large swaths of a book because it couldn't support or be made to support what I knew to be true. The end result is that the book becomes a disjointed series of quotes supporting my position. What you see on Dan's blog may be the public presentation of this phenomena I experienced many times myself.

For example, I read as a believing Mormon Vermes' translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, largely because Nibley made them seem like the greatest thing ever and just loaded with "proofs" that Mormonism was true. At the time I highlighted things that were important to me. Fast forward 15 years and I'm now not a Mormon with a pretty good understanding of the Qumran community. I leafed through the highlights and was just flat out embarassed. All of my highlights were of tangential issues that I had highlighted because they seemed to be supporting of one or more Mormon doctrines. Of course read in context they did no such thing. But reading it without a context, or even worse the context provided by Nibley, made those quotes seem relevant. The bottom line was that I really wasn't interested in the Qumran community or its literature as such, I was interested in the Qumran community as confused or crypto Mormons.

If you took those highlighted quotes and just blasted them decontextually on a blog you would have something similar to Dan's blog. Of course they would be "interesting" and "suggestive", they couldn't be anything more than that. They couldn't never provide any understanding or knowledge because they had been ripped from their context with the sole intent of being slotted into a Mormon context.

Another thing I did after my break from Mormonism was to choose 3 of Nibley's essays at random and re-read them. I was shocked at how bad the argumentation was and how sloppy the evidence was. But now I can see why I liked them at the time. What I wanted was decontextualized quotes that could be slottted into the Mormon context, thereby "proving" the Mormon church to be true. But, I didn't even have to do it myself, Nibley had taken the trouble of going through a vast amount of literature and doing it for me.


This resonates with me as the Liberty Bell! Oh my gosh what a perfect description of my own methodology, including the EXACT SAME BOOK(S) you did, and the EXACT SAME THING I did with Nibley years later! It's how I literally discovered what a fundamental literalist he was, to the point of ridiculousness. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane here Aristotle. I also did this with a lot of the FARMS materials (I bought them ALL, as well as ALL of Nibley's stuff, as well as a majority of the sources Nibley used in his books "Abraham in Egypt," "The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri." Hell I blew thousands of dollars in this 20 year enterprise.....ayiyi......

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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2018 12:17 pm 
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An absolutely fantastic post, Mr. Stak.

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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:02 am 
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I find the best way to introduce the philosophy of mind is to start with Mind/Body problem. The Mind/Body problem is very much related to the problem of human consciousness, but is a problem of different order and one that also frames the issues around human consciousness. The Mind/Body problem is actually a large cluster of problems around the question of how do our bodies relate to our minds; we know that our body is very much connected to our mind and vice versa, but what is the exact nature of that connection? The most common strategy (though not the only one nor necessarily the best) is to ask what is the most fundamental building block(s) that constitute our shared reality:

Image

Monistic theories of mind assert that there is one kind of fundamental thing that constitute the building blocks of reality and as you can probably guess Dualistic theories of mind assert that there is two kinds of things that constitute the building blocks of reality. Let’s take a closer look at the different ways of characterizing Monism:

Image

Physicalism (also called Materialism) is the idea that the fundamental building blocks of reality is whatever Physics says there is, that in principle an exhaustive description of our universe could be given in physics that accounts for all beings, their properties, and behavior. That doesn’t entail that humans could ever come to that kind of knowledge of physics and I think most physicalists would readily agree that humans are forever limited in what we can ultimately know about the universe and so will never come to any sort of complete theory of everything, only that it is there to be discovered.

Idealism (also called Immaterialism) takes the opposite stance of physicalism and asserts that the fundamental building blocks of reality is some kind of mental stuff and anything that exists ultimately depends on the mind for its existence. The most famous advocate of this position was the Irishman George Berkeley, the good Bishop of Cloyne (Church of Ireland). Bishop Berkeley is one of the fiercest advocates for Empiricism in Western thought and is typically grouped in with John Locke, Isaac Newton, and David Hume as expositors of that epistemology. G.W.F. Hegel is probably the most influential Idealist because of his influence on Marx and Marxism’s conscious rejection of Idealism in favor of a kind of physicalism. Francis Herbert Bradley was a very influential English Oxford philosopher at the end of the 19th century along with John McTaggart at Cambridge whom taught the likes of Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore; Russell and Moore despised the doctrine of Idealism which helped reorient English speaking philosophy towards anti-Idealist trends that we still see today. Another fun fact is that the poet T.S. Elliot wrote a dissertation for the Harvard Philosophy department on the work of Bradley but the Great War broke out and Elliot never defend his thesis.

Neutral Monism denies both Physicalism and Idealism and asserts that the fundamental building blocks of our universe is something that is neither physical or mental in nature. For the curious, this is the position I take and draw my inspiration from the physicist Ernst Mach of the Vienna Circle and Bertrand Russell (who gave us the term Neutral Monism), though Spinoza and William James are traditionally thought to have articulated doctrines that would fall under the rubric of Neutral Monism.

Image

Dualism really only comes in two distinct flavors, what I would term attributive dualism and substance dualism. Attributive dualism is the idea that a being in our universe can hold two attributes simultaneously; physical and mental. Substance dualism would deny that beings could possess physical and mental attributes but that in reality there are two distinct kind of beings, those beings with only mental attributes and those with only physical attributes. Probably the most famous Dualist is Rene Descartes and in many ways the Dualist project has impacted our culture; the distinction we make between physical health and mental health for example.

Image

Naturally not all those who hold to and defend Physicalism are the same and there are important differences. Eliminative Physicalism is the idea that psychological beings don’t really exist and that the way we talk about psychology today should be disregarded as a failed scientific theory and replaced with something that gives a better account of human behavior. If you take a look at how we talk in the English speaking world, there is often an unspoken assumption of some kind of Dualism and the Eliminative Physicalist would say that our scientific language should take into account the ontological commitments of how the language is used and we ought to discard talk of psychological states because they don’t really correspond to anything going on in the brain.

Some Physicalists would disagree with the Eliminative Physicalists and say that talk of psychology does (roughly) correspond to some kind of brain event. The prediction is that eventually the natural sciences will advance to a point where we will be able to identify psychological states with specific activity in our brain which then would allow us to say with some confidence that the psychological is reducible to a kind of physics. This position would be called Reductive Physicalism.

The final category of Physicalists would join the Reductive Physicalists in their rejection of Eliminative Physicalism, but they would not agree that psychology will be or even can be reduced to some kind of physics. These kind of Physicalists usually look to modern physics and psychology and point out that both physics and psychology are very different projects in what they set out to achieve and so contemporary physics is not the best way to talk about brain events because its purpose is not the same as psychology. The term for this kind of Physicalist would be Non-reductive Physicalism. I do want to point out that Non-reductive Physicalists still hold to the idea that the brain events discussed by psychology are still physical events, but the best way to talk of these events will not always been contemporary physics.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive discussion of all the possible ways to frame the mind/body problem, but it does give a brief introduction to the most important aspects of the problem that dominates English speaking philosophy. Hylomorphic theories, for example, rely on some Aristotelian ideas that doesn’t fit easily into the traditional discussions about physicalism and dualism.

More to come...

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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:15 am 
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Doctor CamNC4Me wrote:
Am I tracking this correctly, that that is materialism as it relates to consciousness?


It is a closely related issue, but a different one typically called problems of identity. What is a human person and how does that personhood persist through time, which consciousness plays an important role. As those videos allude to, you can see the difficulty in pulling on that particular thread.

Materialism/Physicalism is the idea that whatever consciousness is, it is a product of physical causes and only physical causes. The notion about consciousness being something like an ant colony would be something that is very much compatible with physicalism.


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:17 am 
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Philo Sofee wrote:
If you would be so kind MrStak to make the words smaller in the copies you present. They are cut off on the right edge. THANKS, looking forward to reading this!


Not sure I'm understanding, the text in the picture itself? Or do the pictures screw with the formatting on the entire post?


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:26 am 
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Gadianton wrote:
here is a post on that blog

"No one actually knows THAT brain activity produces conscious thought."

Wow, I wonder how many "competent philosophers" would agree?


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:08 am 
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It seems to me that intellectual gluttony has been around for thousands of years. As long as there have been books, there have been those who have been gluttons for book knowledge. Of course, book gluttony does not guarantee quality of thought. There are those who mistake evidence of book gluttony for quality of thought. It takes a strong intellect and/or solid training to detect the difference. I am not all that upset that Mormons tend to collect a hodgepodge of knowledge and ideas from many books. The culture of book gluttony does inspire some people to read more than they might otherwise do. Some will progress beyond book gluttony to cultivating true wisdom and coherence of thought. I have a long way to go before I get to that kind of mental acuity and ability. In the meantime I will shamelessly devour books, pecking away at the rough stone of my intellect here and there as I go.


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:43 pm 
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That was a good summary Stak. This is really important:

Stak wrote:
If you take a look at how we talk in the English speaking world, there is often an unspoken assumption of some kind of Dualism...


This problem is so bad that it even affects otherwise rock-solid skeptics; Gemli himself made a comment about uploading our consciousness into a Mac Book.

Also, you may be getting there, but as far as "eliminativism" goes, it's important that mind is usually roughly broken into two components, thinking and feeling; feeling as in hitting your finger with a hammer or the rush or boredom that goes along with thinking. So eliminativism could refer to rejecting either mind altogether or only one of these components. So Churchlands: reduce qualia to physics; eliminate psychology altogether and Dennett: eliminate qualia altogether; reduce psychology to computation; but computation doesn't reduce to physics (although physics is required for computation).


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 8:32 pm 
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Gadianton wrote:
Also, you may be getting there, but as far as "eliminativism" goes, it's important that mind is usually roughly broken into two components, thinking and feeling; feeling as in hitting your finger with a hammer or the rush or boredom that goes along with thinking. So eliminativism could refer to rejecting either mind altogether or only one of these components. So Churchlands: reduce qualia to physics; eliminate psychology altogether and Dennett: eliminate qualia altogether; reduce psychology to computation; but computation doesn't reduce to physics (although physics is required for computation).


Excellent comment Dean Robbers.


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2018 4:59 am 
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Oh! Hello there. Now where was I? Ah yes, we’ve established some philosophical terminology but before going any further I’d like to quickly establish where Mormons are committed in terms metaphysics:
Doctrine & Covenants 130:22 wrote:
The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.

Doctrine & Covenants 131:7-8 wrote:
There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.


In my estimation there is four interesting things one can extract from the texts quoted above:
M1: There is only matter nothing can be considered immaterial. (Metaphysics)
M2: The Father and Son have material bodies similar to humans. (Theology)
M3: The Holy Ghost is without a body but still has personhood. (Theology)
M4: Human cognition is damaged (impure) and cannot perceive all matter until repaired (purified). (Epistemology)

No matter how interesting M2, M3, and M4 are, what really matters for the purpose of this thread is M1; it commits people who consider Doctrine & Covenants canonical to the doctrine of Monism and some type of Physicalism/Materialism. With this in mind let us circle back to Keith Ward’s book ‘God and the Philosophers’ and move from where Ward articulates the "argument from consciousness" (p.141) and go to the Introduction where Ward discusses just what type of God is talking about (p.1):
Keith Ward wrote:
This book defends one main thesis. It is that the Western classical tradition in philosophy—found in the works of the ‘great philosophers’ who would normally be studied in Colleges—accepts the God conclusion. There is a supreme spiritual (non-physical) reality which is the cause or underlying nature of the physical cosmos, and which is of great, and maybe the greatest possible, value or perfection.


Notice my underline on the part that mentions a non-physical reality. Ward goes on to say something else relevant to our discussion here (p.2):

Keith Ward wrote:
I conclude by arguing that modern materialism is probably already out of date, and that at the very least it is an incomplete theory on a number of counts. If accepted it would of course rule out the existence of God. But I argue that it is not a strong enough theory to bring the main Western theistic tradition to an end.

Now I can guarantee to you that Ward’s understanding of God in ‘God and the Philosophers’ is identical to the understanding of God in Ward’s other book ‘Why There Almost Certainly Is a God: Doubting Dawkins’. In the passage above Ward even goes so far as to say that the metaphysical doctrine of materialism is incompatible with God’s existence.

Yes Daniel C. Peterson, the erudite and clever Chesterton of Mormon orthodoxy, is invoking a book by a religious philosopher on the topic of God that contradicts the explicit teachings of Doctrine & Covenants on the matter of God’s ontology.

Yes Daniel C. Peterson, the scholar and Holy Land tour guide, is quoting a passage that calls the doctrine of materialism into question, even though that if Keith Ward is correct it fundamentally contradicts Dan’s own canonical scriptures.

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Notwithstanding Dan’s aliteracy I was drawn to the argument from consciousness because it is not often encountered. I know William Lane Craig has utilized something very similar in some of his debates and other philosophers give a full treatment in professional literature, but when it comes to the usual introductory textbooks and anthologies the argument almost always gets passed over in silence. To give you an idea what I speak of, here are all the textbooks and anthologies I’ve acquired through the years and in all but one title explicitly mentions the argument from consciousness:
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Yujin Nagasawa’s ‘The Existence of God: A Philosophical Introduction’ mentions the argument from consciousness, but it is included towards the end at the concluding chapter under the header ‘Further arguments for the existence of God’ right after the fine-tuning argument:
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Really, the only reason I’m pointing this out is because I’m amused that Nagasawa considers this a version of the intelligent design argument and the fact that Dan went to the trouble of actually plagiarizing a Young Earth creationist (lol). Nagasawa is quoting a passage from Richard Swinburne’s ‘The Existence of God’ which also happens to be the only book I own where the argument from consciousness is fully fleshed out (the only other treatments I’m aware of come from J.P. Moreland and Robert Adams) and I also happen to own J.L. Mackie’s ‘The Miracle of Theism’ where he offers a rebuttal to Swinburne’s particular argument from consciousness. My goal here is to eventually lay all the groundwork needed for mapping out Swinburne’s argument and Mackie’s objections that is accessible to everyone.

Before moving on though I would like to devout some time to another book pictured above; ‘Contemporary Philosophy of Religion’ by Charles Taliaferro. He included a chapter that deals with the metaphysical doctrine of materialism and the challenges it poses to theism. Here is how he frames the topic (p.83):
Charles Taliaferro wrote:
The debate between naturalism and its alternatives will be considered at various places in this book. This chapter focuses on a specific, substantive naturalist claim that religious beliefs about a nonphysical, transcendent reality are either contradictory or empty of content. This charge is based on two, closely related positions that make up a robust form of naturalism widely represented since the Second World War: materialism and positivism. Materialism is a theory of what exists and positivism a theory of what can be known.


To put a finer point on things he goes on to say (p.83-84):
Charles Taliaferro wrote:
In brief, some materialists charge that there cannot in principle be anything nonmaterial. Because God (and other transcendent realities such as Brahman) is supposed to be nonmaterial, God does not exist. In this chapter we shall consider in some detail two forms of materialism that fuel this argument: eliminative materialism and essential materialism.


In this case his understanding of “eliminative materialism” is commensurate with the “eliminative physicalism” I describe above and “essential materialism” is pretty much what I defined as “physicalism”. We’ll deal with eliminative materialism first (p.85):
Charles Taliaferro wrote:
According to eliminative materialism, there are only material objects, properties, and processes, and there are no mental realities whatsoever. On this view, what many of us describe as mental states (thoughts, feelings, and sensations) are highly useful ascriptions for everyday activity and discourse but, in reality, they do not refer to anything that actually exists.


Which presents some difficulty for theism (p.85):
Charles Taliaferro wrote:
If eliminative materialism is accepted, “old fashioned” talk of pain may be retained for practical purposes, but it is difficult to sustain meaningful reference to such entities in our theories of reality. Eliminative materialism creates a radical break between our ordinary, practical conception of life and our theories of existence. It also seems to leave the theistic notion of God out in the cold...If eliminativists are right, then there is nothing at the base of our descriptions of human life to carry over to the task of thinking about God.


Moving on to essential materialism Taliaferro states (p.88-89):
Charles Taliaferro wrote:
Essential materialism, as the term is used here, is the view that there are mental realities (thoughts, feelings, desires, and the like), but they are physical and there cannot be anything nonphysical. Thoughts, feelings, desires and the like exist but they are either identical with or composed of material objects and processes (the brain or the physical body and its processes as a whole)...If essential materialism is plausible, then this places tremendous pressure on those who uphold traditional theism.


To give an example of what that pressure might look like (p.90):
Charles Taliaferro wrote:
The broader worry is that theists and others will wind up with descriptions that turn out to be pseudo-descriptions, descriptions initially thought to make sense, but that we later observe are without content. Religious believers sometimes claim that God speaks, but if speech requires the possession of a body then these believers must also claim that God possesses a body. If that is intolerable, then they may withdraw either the claim that God speaks or the claim that there is a God.


So what is the worry that God has a body or does activities we do with our own bodies? It isn’t usually what people might assume (p.90-91):
Charles Taliaferro wrote:
As noted earlier, the challenge of positivism is often linked to the case for materialism. In a material universe it appears that the world is open to public inspection. By comparison, a nonphysical reality seems to be not just unobservable but possibly of no intelligible substance whatsoever...If God were a physical reality then it would be possible in principle to identify God’s activities; there would be grounds for articulating the empirical content of “God governs the world”. But the concept of God as a nonphysical being places religious belief beyond our reach.


He includes a quote from William Rowe that I found interesting (p.91-92):
Charles Taliaferro wrote:
[Rowe writes that]One major difficulty with the view that terms which seem to designate mental activities (forgiving and loving) can be applied to God in their primary or literal sense is that the ways in which we tell whether an individual is forgiving or just do include bodily behavior—what she or he says and how she or he behaves. How then does one determine that a purely immaterial being has performed an act of forgiveness?


I’m very much intrigued by the idea that Mormonism is committed to some kind of physicalism/materialism yet those very ideas are quite hostile to Mormonism itself. I’d be interested in reading a Mormon’s attempt at formulating a physicalism/materialism that avoids the undermining specter that theists from non-Mormon traditions think physicalism/materialism poses to their doctrine of God.

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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:08 am 
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I don't think physicalism commits one to the idea that speech or thought requires physical bodies like humans have. The speech point is trivially true as we already produce human speech using processes outside of human physiology. It's not difficult in principle to imagine an "energy being" ala sci-fi if you adopt a computational theory of mind.

Once that is out of the way, it seems like traits such as "forgiveness" can be described in mental terms. Body language indicating mentation are clues, but not the mental properties themselves. It's not related to this discussion, but I think theology has a bigger problem in that the way we use those terms in reference to people doesn't really match what is being said in theology. It's a shell game.


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:20 am 
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With that said, *emotions* are the brain's interpretation of body states and cannot be separated so easily. Insofar as God is described as jealous, etc. that's near impossible to take literally if you accept those terms at their base refer to what's happening in a mammalian body.

In other words the physical signs of anxiety is literally what anxiety is then the term can only be thought of as referent of it. If "I am anxious" means "my parasympathetic nervous system is activated" then a being that doesn't have one can't literally be anxious.


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 Post subject: Re: Consciousness, Gluttony, and a Mormon Apologist
PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:51 am 
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MrStak continues to affirm our suspicions that Dr. Peterson is simply misusing any author he can to make a cheap and worthless point in favor of Mormonism (from a certain point of view) by hijacking an author's comments out of a proper context, which context in the large picture actually attacks Joseph Smith's unique God theology. :lol:

If Peterson would quit reading 126 books all at once (I used to have this silly habit imagining it was elevating my IQ by 16 points per book I read, because it was the Nibley methodology, hence I suspect it's also Peterson's imagining it's successful), then he might actually see what a fool he is for snipping things here and there out of books that overall, in toto and context, simply thwart what Peterson attempts to make the authors say. It is a very good reinforcement of a lesson I am still trying to apply in my life, quit trying to emulate and be Hugh Nibley, because his scholarly methodology was wrong, his personal methodology led to far too much misunderstanding of contexts, and the need to give hundreds of footnotes in every single Sunday School talk was actually quit unnecessary.

What particularly struck me with great force just the other week was when Peterson was reminiscing about one of Nibley's classes in Egyptian, how they sped through Gardiner's Egyptian Grammar twice in just one semester, while it took his friend in another college almost two entire whopping slow years to accomplish the exact same feat. The idea here was intending to show the greatness, the magnificent intellect, and stunning capability of Nibley - and by extension Peterson himself. But the thought struck me, WHY would you feel the need to speed read the hieroglyphics in order to have to go through the silly book (I have been through it and it ain't easy slogging!) instead of doing the obvious and slowing down and actually digesting and learning what it was all about? Peterson surely can't remember much of what is in Gardiner because of this hurry up and get through this thing as fast as you possibly can, instead of taking the I don't give a damn if it takes us 10 years, we are going to actually learn this grammar book. What's more important, bragging you went through 423 books in a year, or actually learning solidly so you will always have it what 15 books have taught you that you can use for the rest of your life? I used to do the former, and I know Peterson does, as he has more or less said so.

Someone ought to write Keith Ward and tell him to quit writing because his materials are giving Mormons the proof they need that their prophet and Book of Mormon and revelations are true, and see how he reacts. :biggrin: Kevin Graham did that with Gee and Peterson and Rhodes to Dr. Ritner, and that actually was a key leading event and development that completely wiped out the LDS apologetic credibility as Ritner had no idea, and he thus acted on this kind of misappropriation of his knowledge in an improper use by religious fanatics.

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