Shermer: Are consciousness, free will and God insoluble mysteries?

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Are consciousness, free will and God insoluble mysteries?

Quote:Are these “hard” problems, as philosopher David Chalmers characterized consciousness, or are they truly insoluble “mysterian” problems, as philosopher Owen Flanagan designated them (inspired by the 1960s rock group Question Mark and the Mysterians)? The “old mysterians” were dualists who believed in nonmaterial properties, such as the soul, that cannot be explained by natural processes. The “new mysterians,” Flanagan says, contend that consciousness can never be explained because of the limitations of human cognition. I contend that not only consciousness but also free will and God are mysterian problems—not because we are not yet smart enough to solve them but because they can never be solved, not even in principle, relating to how the concepts are conceived in language. Call those of us in this camp the “final mysterians.”

Quote:The above column generated a lot of online attention, some of it critical attention by professional philosophers, who strongly suggested that I misrepresented a number of concepts related to these topics. On July 16, 2018, I published a followup to address some of that criticism. Read “Mysterianism Redux” on ScientificAmerican.com.


I don't know if he changed his mind, but I salute the maturity he displays here. [Which is not to say I agree with him Big Grin ]
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2019-01-08, 10:22 AM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
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The problem is that these concepts don't lend themselves easily to logic and analysis.  As a Christian, I have often debated philosophically with people but I am painfully aware that I cannot prove a thing.  I have found that logic gets me so far, then I have to have enough faith to test, and only then does the proof come and only to me.  I cannot hope to pass on to anybody else why I am so certain of my faith - that's the bit that only God himself can do!  Consciousness is much the same.  How can one analyse, other than philosophically, something that appears to have no material substance?
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(2019-01-08, 10:20 AM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Are consciousness, free will and God insoluble mysteries?




I don't know if he changed his mind, but I salute the maturity he displays here. [Which is not to say I agree with him Big Grin ]

I've grown to have more and more respect for a few of the atheists that I used to consider "the enemy" 10 years ago... Michael Shermer and especially Sam Harris.
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(2019-01-08, 01:18 PM)Hurmanetar Wrote: I've grown to have more and more respect for a few of the atheists that I used to consider "the enemy" 10 years ago... Michael Shermer and especially Sam Harris.

I quite like listening to Sam Harris (And Michael Shermer), but I do think he’s naive or blinkered about some things, like here...

https://samharris.org/podcasts/145-information-war/
Oh my God, I hate all this.   Surprise
(2019-01-08, 11:57 AM)Brian Wrote: The problem is that these concepts don't lend themselves easily to logic and analysis.  As a Christian, I have often debated philosophically with people but I am painfully aware that I cannot prove a thing.  I have found that logic gets me so far, then I have to have enough faith to test, and only then does the proof come and only to me.  I cannot hope to pass on to anybody else why I am so certain of my faith - that's the bit that only God himself can do!  Consciousness is much the same.  How can one analyse, other than philosophically, something that appears to have no material substance?

I think the proofs of God as Prime Mover and Universal Intellect are pretty good...though they don't really point to a God who would care about worship...it's not even clear such an entity even has regard for the Universe...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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(2019-01-08, 07:19 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: I think the proofs of God as Prime Mover and Universal Intellect are pretty good...though they don't really point to a God who would care about worship...it's not even clear such an entity even has regard for the Universe...

I don't think it is a matter of having regard for the universe, I think that is placing such a god outside the universe looking in (or down, or upon). The universe, to my way of thinking, is within - a living part of - that which we might call God. Thus everything that happens within is "felt" - in some form of feedback - by the so-called Prime Mover.
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
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(2019-01-08, 07:57 PM)Kamarling Wrote: I don't think it is a matter of having regard for the universe, I think that is placing such a god outside the universe looking in (or down, or upon). The universe, to my way of thinking, is within - a living part of - that which we might call God. Thus everything that happens within is "felt" - in some form of feedback - by the so-called Prime Mover.

Ah true, I should note I am talking about a very specific idea of a Prime Mover, a being that cannot change because it is purely actual with no potential.

There is another conception, I know at least Whitehead spoke of it, that there is a Mover who is not top-down but participating in creation as the source of Harmony/Novelty. The Neo-platonists also had their distant One but also the more immediate divinities who did care and could change.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2019-01-08, 08:02 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
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(2019-01-08, 08:00 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Ah true, I should note I am talking about a very specific idea of a Prime Mover, a being that cannot change because it is purely actual with no potential.

There is another conception, I know at least Whitehead spoke of it, that there is a Mover who is not top-down but participating in creation as the source of Harmony/Novelty. The Neo-platonists also had their distant One but also the more immediate divinities who did care and could change.

Thanks Sciborg, I can't claim your knowledge of philosophy but I think Whitehead might have been on to something there. Wink
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
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(2019-01-08, 08:07 PM)Kamarling Wrote: Thanks Sciborg, I can't claim your knowledge of philosophy but I think Whitehead might have been on to something there. Wink

Heh I'm still working through Whitehead after all these years...I feel he has many answers but they are hidden within the complexity of his writing which involved a lot of new vocabulary...

A lot of this stuff would be easier argued through artwork and animation in tandem with text, ideally this starts happening. I've had some thoughts on this myself but sadly couldn't make it happen yet...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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(2019-01-08, 07:57 PM)Kamarling Wrote: I don't think it is a matter of having regard for the universe, I think that is placing such a god outside the universe looking in (or down, or upon). The universe, to my way of thinking, is within - a living part of - that which we might call God. Thus everything that happens within is "felt" - in some form of feedback - by the so-called Prime Mover.

One of the problems here is that we are accustomed to thinking in terms of three dimensions. Another, regardless of religious belief or lack thereof, at least in the Western tradition, is this idea of god as being somehow separate. Especially the atheists. They hold some of the strongest beliefs about the nature of god. After all, if one is opposed to something, one must picture it clearly, is that not so?

But, as I discovered on a personal journey, there is no distance at all. What we seek, what we discuss, what we ignore, is right here. When we think of some form of influence on activity within living cells, for example, we don't need to look outside, like say the gravitational field of Jupiter. We are not astrologers, after all.What we are is people who observe the world around us, and the influences are right here, within this world. That doesn't imply that only the material world exists, rather, only the material is directly observable. Just as there are ultra-violet and infra-red, outside our human eyesight, there is more to explore, right here, just a hair's breadth away.
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