The A Priori Case for the Paranormal? [companion discussion thread]

21 Replies, 234 Views

This is the companion thread for Sci's The A Priori Case for the Paranormal? thread, in which that thread's contents can be discussed. This thread was seeded by having existing meta posts split out of that one at Sci's request. That which follows is the first of those posts (otherwise unedited):

(2024-07-08, 08:22 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: My using "a priori" here means before even looking at any evidence, one can make a case for the paranormal.

Do you mean a case for the existence of the paranormal, or for the possibility (or even plausibility) of the existence of the paranormal?
(This post was last modified: 2024-07-19, 10:13 AM by Laird. Edited 3 times in total.)
[-] The following 1 user Likes Laird's post:
  • Sciborg_S_Patel
(2024-07-08, 09:37 PM)Laird Wrote: Do you mean a case for the existence of the paranormal, or for the possibility (or even plausibility) of the existence of the paranormal?

Possibility/Plausibility.

Basically before you even look at a single case or lab result indicating Psi / Survival, you can have - IMO at least - an expectation of such data because there are good reasons to think consciousness is not confined by supposed laws of physics.

Additionally, the idea that something is impossible because it will violate the laws of physics isn't a good argument. Largely because I don't think the laws, which are really observed regularities, are binding nor are they by necessity universal.
'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


[-] The following 2 users Like Sciborg_S_Patel's post:
  • nbtruthman, Laird
Got it. It seems like a good idea for a thread.
[-] The following 1 user Likes Laird's post:
  • Sciborg_S_Patel
(2024-07-08, 08:22 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: My using "a priori" here means before even looking at any evidence, one can make a case for the paranormal.

Off the top of my head a few things I think are worth covering:

- Irreducibility of Consciousness, which then includes the impossibility of "physical" matter to store memories.

- Ways in which Mind is different from Matter

- Ways in which studying Matter seems to run into potential cases of Mind (Fine Tuning, certain QM interpretations)

- The lack of any clear model for Causation.

- The varied -isms, including Theism, that can be argued for as live possibilities which would accommodate paranormal claims.

Will post some things for all of these, though admittedly it's not that likely to be new stuff. Just figured it might be useful to collect it all in one thread.

I'm not totally clear on what you mean by "before even looking at any evidence".

To even suggest those possibilities implies there is some evidence that they are true. Particularly "fine tuning" is based on evidence. I suppose you mean evidence of paranormal phenomena?

But if you are saying the evidence of fine tuning implies the possibility of paranormal phenomena being possible, it is because you believe fine tuning is a paranormal phenomena - ie fine tuning is evidence of paranormal phenomena.

And isn't that true for irreducibility of consciousness, the argument that the irreducibility of consciousness means that paranormal phenomena are possible is based on the belief that consciousness is a paranormal phenomena which makes it evidence of paranormal phenomenon.

Sorry for nit picking about the term "a priori" -  I think the arguments are worth discussing.
The first gulp from the glass of science will make you an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you - Werner Heisenberg. (More at my Blog & Website)
(This post was last modified: 2024-07-09, 02:50 AM by Jim_Smith. Edited 1 time in total.)
[-] The following 1 user Likes Jim_Smith's post:
  • Sciborg_S_Patel
(2024-07-09, 02:49 AM)Jim_Smith Wrote: I'm not totally clear on what you mean by "before even looking at any evidence".

To even suggest those possibilities implies there is some evidence that they are true. Particularly "fine tuning" is based on evidence. I suppose you mean evidence of paranormal phenomena?

But if you are saying the evidence of fine tuning implies the possibility of paranormal phenomena being possible, it is because you believe fine tuning is a paranormal phenomena - ie fine tuning is evidence of paranormal phenomena.

And isn't that true for irreducibility of consciousness, the argument that the irreducibility of consciousness means that paranormal phenomena are possible is based on the belief that consciousness is a paranormal phenomena which makes it evidence of paranormal phenomenon.

Sorry for nit picking about the term "a priori" -  I think the arguments are worth discussing.

Sorry, I am probably using "a prior" in a way that is odd.

When I was saying before looking at evidence, I meant evidence from parapsychology specifically, so Psi and Survival evidence.

I think Fine Tuning is a finding from accepted physics, because the constants are what they are whether you are an atheist or [a theist], physicalist or idealist, etc. Similarly QM yields oddities that can be interpreted to suggest mind is not physical.

I think those are interesting because attempting to understand matter, something Physicalists tell us has no mental character, ends up at minimum suggesting that minds are deeply involved with the nature of the physical universse.

Regarding irreducibility of consciousness, I think that is fully "a priori" because the argument is philosophical. There do seem to be a variety of people who've accepted consciousness is irreducible but would still reject Psi and Survival.

I guess the way I use "a priori" could be a bit loose, but my intent is to show that even before we look at any Psi data/cases or Survival data/cases we have good reason to think at minimum that nothing stops consciousness from manifesting Psi or surviving death. In the case of Survival I think we can even say we have reason to believe consciousness continues beyond bodily death.

There are also cases written about in Irreducible Mind that are not explicitly claiming to show Survival or Psi, but do suggest the mind seems capable of feats that at least hint that mind is non-physical. This could also be a grey area, so I figure I'll post some of that stuff after the other arguments.

I hope this clarifies things!
'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: 2024-07-10, 03:08 AM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 1 time in total.)
[-] The following 1 user Likes Sciborg_S_Patel's post:
  • Jim_Smith
Maybe another way of putting what you're trying to do here, Sci, is "to make a case that the prior probability - in the Bayesian sense - for the paranormal is very high".
[-] The following 1 user Likes Laird's post:
  • Sciborg_S_Patel
(2024-07-09, 03:10 AM)Laird Wrote: Maybe another way of putting what you're trying to do here, Sci, is "to make a case that the prior probability - in the Bayesian sense - for the paranormal is very high".

Hmm, I could see that maybe working. I just think trying to explain "a prior[i]" is easier to explain than "Bayesian". 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: 2024-07-09, 03:18 AM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
Mmm, I'm just thinking that one of the standard objections by hardcore skeptics to evidence for the paranormal is "my priors are so low that no amount of evidence could raise the posterior probability of the paranormal to a meaningful level", so I figured that you could be interpreted in this thread as arguing "but the opposite should be the case: your priors should be so high that the probability of the paranormal is more likely than not even before empirical evidence, and here's why".

Anyhow, the exact framing and phrasing isn't crucial - I get the general idea of what you're trying to achieve, and it's worthy.
[-] The following 1 user Likes Laird's post:
  • Sciborg_S_Patel
(2024-07-09, 03:38 AM)Laird Wrote: Mmm, I'm just thinking that one of the standard objections by hardcore skeptics to evidence for the paranormal is "my priors are so low that no amount of evidence could raise the posterior probability of the paranormal to a meaningful level", so I figured that you could be interpreted in this thread as arguing "but the opposite should be the case: your priors should be so high that the probability of the paranormal is more likely than not even before empirical evidence, and here's why".

Anyhow, the exact framing and phrasing isn't crucial - I get the general idea of what you're trying to achieve, and it's worthy.

I get what you're saying, and Bayesian arguments have actually been really useful in clarifying what people think about reality.

But in addition to many years passing since my last stats class...I guess for me Bayesian arguments are a subset of the arguments? For example the Argument for God from Psycho-Physical Harmony is an argument about how much more unlikely it is to get said harmony without God. And the deisgn argument from Cosmic Fine Tuning is comparing the likelihood of getting our life-enabling universal constants with or without Designer(s).

And I think both arguments ultimately do lean us into accepting the possibility of Psi and Survival because they posit at least one Mind is over and above all that is physical.

However I think an argument like Aquinas' Immateriality of the Intellect is not making a claim about what's more likely, it's an argument that the mental is radically different than what the "physical" is thought to be.

I guess such a metaphysical argument could be added to one's priors and adjust one's likelihood of believing in Psi/Survival evidence, but the argument on its own is meant to show the Mind is non-physical. Which to me means it isn't a strictly "Bayesian-type" argument.

But yeah ultimately the goal here is to say that given there are very good reasons to think Mind is non-physical and the laws of physics are not universal nor binding, the Psi/Survival evidence should not be judge by standards that are arguably insurmountable/biased. Rather we should treat said evidence as conforming to expectations we should - IMO at least - already have that Psi/Survival definitely exist or at least are very likely to exist.
'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


[-] The following 1 user Likes Sciborg_S_Patel's post:
  • Laird
(2024-07-09, 01:14 AM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: First post regarding the immateriality of Consciousess

Probably the most famous entry would be the Hard Problem of Consciousness by David Chalmers. I linked the IEP entry as I think it provides a pretty good introduction to the problem.

However, I'd also note that the consideration of the divide between the physical and mental can go back, even to the Ancient Grecian atomist/materialist Democritus:


As Democritus noted, the evidence for the supposed atoms must come by way of the senses that are part of the consciousness supposedly generated by the atoms.

The neuroscientist Smythies makes a similar observation when he asks, "How can the brain be in the head when the head is in the brain?"

Even atheist author of Why I am Not a Christian Bertrand Russell noted the divide when he said, "It is obvious that a man who can see, knows things that a blind man cannot know; but a blind man can know the whole of physics."

There are varied other examples of this "Hard Problem" divide between Mind and Matter being known in some fashion long before Chalmer's birth but I think it's worth expanding on the "Hard" aspects of Mind.

At least based on his original conception Chalmers seems to think there are in fact Easy Problems, relating to information process. However it's worth noting EJ Lowe's There are No Easy Problems of Consciousness.


Also see Fodor's Trinity, which notes that there are at least three Hard Problems:


Will get more into these divides in the next post...

Quote:This paper challenges David Chalmers’ proposed division of the problems of consciousness into the ‘easy’ ones and the ‘hard’ one, the former allegedly being susceptible to explanation in terms of computational or neural mechanisms and the latter supposedly turning on the fact that experiential ‘qualia’ resist any sort of functional definition. Such a division, it is argued, rests upon a misrepresention of the nature of human cognition and experience and their intimate interrelationship...

It seems to me that Chalmers' distinction is legitimate because the qualia of perception and awareness - "What it is like to be an aware conscious person" - are the essence of consciousness and completely immaterial in all regards, while reasoning, conceptualization, intentionality, etc. are all factors that can be physically observed and measured as behaviors, which behaviors can at least possibly be understood as the possible result of neural computations. That makes them at least not as hard as the Hard Problem.
[-] The following 2 users Like nbtruthman's post:
  • Smaw, Sciborg_S_Patel

  • View a Printable Version
Forum Jump:


Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)