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Post 20

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 3:14pmSanction this postReply
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MSK,


If we're talking about physical entities, their attributes are ideas, abstractions. The attribute of redness still exists (as concept) even though the apple is gone, because I ate it (burp).

I do wish someone who thinks they understand all this would use a concrete example to clarify (he whined).



Post 21

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 3:52pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Randy,

You just illustrated perfectly what I am trying to get at. I have detected a logical sleight-of-hand for some time on this issue that leads to all kinds of weird conclusions.

In your example, the attribute of redness of your apple went away with the apple when you ate it. The entity went and so did all of its characteristics.

The wave spectrum that human beings identify by the word "red" can be an attribute of another entity, though, or even be an entity in itself. But it can no longer be an attribute of that apple, because that apple doesn't exist any longer.

A concept - the mental unit itself - exists in a brain completely independently of what it signifies. In this example, the concept "red" stayed after the apple was gone (even the concept "apple" stayed for that matter - including the conscious brain that perceived it). But the attribute of that apple itself no longer exists.

Now we move onto the thorny problem of whether a concept is a physical entity in its own right or not, regardless of what it stands for. I postulate that it is, but that human knowledge about the physical attributes of such an entity is very sketchy at the present. This also entails postulating that a concept can be measured, which I do. It exists.

(That's why I liked Luke's approach in the article.)

There are those who postulate a rational non-physical existence, but I have yet to come across anything that makes any sense to me, unless you talk about spirits or a noumenal realm or irrational things like that.

I hate to say it for the gazillionth time, but A is A and existence exists.

(errgghh... gotaa get out of Randroid mode, but there it is...)

Michael




Post 22

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 4:08pmSanction this postReply
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Luke: “2. The identification (and quantification) of particular relationships is measurement.

4. Therefore, [for an existent] to be actually ‘immeasurable’ would be to bear no relation to anything else (from 3).”

Can you clarify a point here, Luke. In (2) you seem to be saying that the outcome of the process of identification of relationships – that is, an action of consciousness -- is measurement. This implies that the measurements are a product of consciousness.

But in (4) you imply that the measurements are also attributes or features of existents, since you make measurability a condition of existence.

In that case:

1) Do the measurements have real “metaphysical” existence, and does consciousness merely identify what already exists, that is, the measurements? or,

2) Are the measurements a product of consciousness, that is, they have no real “metaphysical” existence, but depend on consciousness for their existence?

Brendan




Post 23

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 4:20pmSanction this postReply
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MSK writes:
>Now we move onto the thorny problem of whether a concept is a physical entity in its own right or not, regardless of what it stands for. I postulate that it is, but that human knowledge about the physical attributes of such an entity is very sketchy at the present.

I could be wrong, but this looks to me like a simple case of *hypostasisation*. That is, treating what is abstract as if it were concrete. For these and other reasons hypostasisation (or reification) is usually considered a logical error.

- Daniel



Post 24

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 4:42pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,

I'm having difficulty deciding whether or not I agree with you here. Going down the checklist:

1) A concept - the mental unit itself - exists in a brain completely independently of what it signifies.
Check.

2) ...a concept is a physical entity ... I postulate that it is, but that human knowledge about the physical attributes of such an entity is very sketchy at the present.
A hesitant half-check. Just the 'ch'. This seems to be a topic very closely related to how human memory works, which I don't know much about and neither do scientists right now. This just seems like saying consciousness exists (which it does) and we can measure it (Um, wha-?). Maybe I'm just stuck in scientist mode or haven't read enough about this "typology of measurement" but the assertion that we can measure consciousness or concepts just doesn't make a damn bit of sense to me.

That which concepts represent, i.e. characteristics of reality, exist without a doubt. But if you're saying that concepts exist within the rational brain, and I'm assuming that this implies that they exist only within the rational brain, wouldn't concepts exist only in the presence consciousness? Is this a, dare I say, primacy of consciousness argument?

Sarah



Post 25

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 5:04pmSanction this postReply
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Sarah writes:
>Maybe I'm just stuck in scientist mode or haven't read enough about this "typology of measurement" but the assertion that we can measure consciousness or concepts just doesn't make a damn bit of sense to me.

Same here. This sort of thing seems to be mostly verbalism to me. In my view, the issue of consciousness as a whole could do with a hell of a lot less philosophising and a hell of a lot more science. The physicist/mathematician Roger Penrose described the current situation as "the missing science of consciousness", and that about sums it up. The good news is that the science side of things has improved greatly with the spread of MRI technology a decade or so back. The even better news is that there's still a long way to go, which means it's a very exciting, open field.

- Daniel



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Post 26

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 6:51pmSanction this postReply
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Michael, I think you've made a subtle mistake -- and opened up a Pandora's Box here.

Concepts are modes or methods, not mental entities. Concepts aren't THAT WHICH we understand (when understanding their referents), concepts are THAT BY WHICH we understand particulars -- to be of a class or kind. Concepts are tools to make products, they're not the products in-and-of-themselves (that's Kant's mistake).

Ed



Post 27

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 7:07pmSanction this postReply
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Sarah,

Here basically is where I am coming from.

Point 1. A concept needs a living brain to be made (let's forget artificial intelligence for the time being, which also needed a living brain to invent it). Once that living brain dies, all the concepts inside that brain die also.

Point 2. The concepts created by a brain are contained in that brain during the life of the conscious organism. They do not ever jump out to somewhere else in a "non-physical" plane, unless you are a mystic and postulate a spirit world or whatever.

Point 3. Concepts, like all organic entities, can grow. Thus they can die.

Point 4. Drugs like LSD, which alter the physical support of concepts (brain cells), also alter the concepts themselves so long as the drugs' effects last.

Point 5. Concepts are stored in a living brain and retrieved by it by volition.

Anyway, enough about concepts. The point is that concepts are dependent on a physical support (a living brain) to exist and can be altered and/or terminated by altering and/or killing that support. This points to a physical existence, even if science does not know precisely the form or measurability of such for now.

In Objectivist epistemology, a concept is a mental unit representing two or more extremely similar things (Ayn Rand calls them "units" and they are physical entities or mental units, which I hold are a special category of physical entities), with the particular measurements omitted (ITOE, p. 13).

I just skimmed over your link. (sigh) Will there ever be a link without 25 hours minimum of reading in it? Anyway, I found there a kindred sentiment that there is much science does not know yet - and that it is still discovering some pretty basic stuff. I agree heartily. Discovering the physical forms of consciousness is one of them.

About consciousness being measurable, you never heard of an IQ test? How about all those animal intelligence and awareness tests? Brain scans? I am not expert in this field, but these are definite measurements of attributes of consciousness.

All you ever measure are attributes anyway. Can you imagine measuring a tree, for instance, without specifying an attribute like height, thickness, age or whatever? Just measure "tree." The idea becomes comical.

But that's what some people try to impose on consciousness. You must measure the whole consciousness, not its attributes. No wonder it appears to be non-physical.

If there really does exist a "non-physical," i.e. "non-measurable" plane, I would say that whoever postulates this idea should at least come up with some way to become aware of it instead of arguing by metaphors, which is what I have seen mostly.

Michael


Edit - Ed, our posts crossed. Kant's "error" was that concepts are "things," but they do not exist in the phenomenal realm - they exist in the noumenal (non-knowable) realm. The present "error" I see is an inversion of this, that consciousness is part of some "non-physical" existence when everything about it depends on this very physical phenomenal realm - including its birth and death.

Second edit - Sarah, I just reread your post. You are spot on correct about one thing. Memory is the key word. Once the physical mechanisms of memory (including differentiation and integration) are more fully understood, volition will be next.

Third edit - Sarah, the primacy of consciousness idea does not apply. Existence exists irrespective of concepts, which are specific things inside a conscious brain with a conceptual faculty, not things the brain garners from external reality. They are used for identifying, grouping, measuring and evaluating that which exists without having to hold all that exists within a perceptual field.

(No more edits, caramba!)

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 7/10, 7:14pm)

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 7/10, 7:20pm)

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 7/10, 7:27pm)




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Post 28

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 8:07pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,

What? You don't have 25 hours to spend reading every link? For shame.

I agree with your points.

I should have been clearer and said primacy of consciousness in regard to concepts, rather than the whole of existence. Edit: Which, as I see it, is what your points are saying. A brain with consciousness is required for the existence of concepts.

I'll bite my tongue on the rest of it. I think a deeper understanding of neuroscience is needed to have a meaningful discussion about this topic.

Sarah

(Edited by Sarah House
on 7/10, 8:15pm)




Post 29

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 8:12pmSanction this postReply
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Ed speaks:
----------------
Adam & Luke, I often find I get more clear on things the more folks challenge my beliefs. Is there anything said above, which you find unclear or wanting?
----------------

Adam answers:
----------------
Ed,

There is more to the ontology of relations than you - or Rand - appear to admit. I don't have time to get into details at this point, but one cannot have a metaphysics that is coherent with reality, that excludes the ontological reality of emergent attributes. And emergence is a relation.
----------------

Adam, I'm as confused as before -- and I blame you. Your challenge is empty. For now, it is just a groundless assertion against Rand and me.

Epistemology outlines how Man Makes his thought correspond to reality. Epistemology is Man-Made, but reality-constrained.


----------------
... one cannot have a metaphysics that is coherent with reality, that excludes the ontological reality of emergent attributes ... emergence is a relation.
----------------
What in the hell is that supposed to mean? I acknowledge emergence. I acknowledge relations. What am I missing?

Ed




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Post 30

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 8:16pmSanction this postReply
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Michael, I apologize for redundancy ...

------------------
I still have a problem with all this. I'll put it as an emperor-has-no-clothes-on question.

How can an attribute exist separately from the entity it belongs to?

Once you eliminate the entity, can the attribute sort of hang around? Or does it go away too?
------------------
Attributes (all of them) ontologically depend on entities. Without entities -- they're toast. Hell, attributes don't even change. Only entities change -- by taking on "different" attributes. Attributes themselves, never change.

Ed




Post 31

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 8:30pmSanction this postReply
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Sarah, you wrote:

"I think a deeper understanding of neuroscience is needed to have a meaningful discussion about this topic."

Amen.

We talk the same language. The advances in this field should be fascinating over time.

(Corollary - I consider neuroscience to be the study of physically existing brains and nerves - i.e. well within physical existence.)

Ed,

<bonk>

("Bonk" is an attribute of Michael's approval, which is ectoplasmic in appearance but in reality is quite physical - especially since this attribute emerges from time to time in order to relate.)

Michael

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 7/10, 8:32pm)




Post 32

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 8:36pmSanction this postReply
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Michael, the Biggie (the Kantian thing):

-------------
A concept - the mental unit itself - exists in a brain completely independently of what it signifies.
-------------

This is the Pandora's Box of which I spoke. It is incorrect (and terribly misleading) to view concepts as things existing in brains -- as things which are "perceived" by minds/brains.

Minds don't merely perceive objects, they conceive of them. And we gain a conceptual awareness of different kinds of things this way -- an awareness that mere perception could not, itself, afford. This mistake allows for the stale, skeptical, Humean ignorance of identity -- which gives rise to his ignorance of proper induction, for instance.

Ed







Post 33

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 8:48pmSanction this postReply
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To recap, the running theme -- of which Hume, Kant, and 90% of subsequent thinkers are victims to -- is to view the mind as a purely perceptual organ/power.

If minds only perceived, then we could never be aware of anything but bare particulars. We would be stuck -- in the sciences, for example -- with mere enumerative induction, ala Hume. But this is not the case.

We have more than a probablistic view of whether or not helium will combine with sulfur (ie. we KNOW it won't). We don't say that it is improbable -- ala Hume -- from the mere fact that it hasn't yet occurred, over many attempts. Instead, we say that it is impossible -- because we now understand how molecules form from the bonding atoms (ie. via the sharing of electrons).

We don't have to rely on mere perception to make inference. We can -- via conceptual powers of awareness -- UNDERSTAND the mechanisms behind relations and property attributions.

Ed



Post 34

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 9:02pmSanction this postReply
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Ed,

When you are able to make the concepts in one particular brain survive the death of that brain, I will agree with you. Until then, concepts are "things" inside that brain.

These "things" have their own nature (especially as to capacity for differentiation and integration and other tasks of cognition), but they still exist. Just like nerve cells, brain cells, bone cells, atoms and molecules exist.

You can train how to use them and make them grow. Graft them onto each other. Kill them. Store and retrieve them. They obey every single organic essential that I can come up with.

You just can't see them yet with our limited five senses and state of knowledge. What hasn't been done is to get an image of them, but this is still an incipient science. At the beginning of last century, if you talked about brain waves, you would have been thought of as crazy - yet these waves are very physical and vaguely measurable now. This will get better over time.

How about DNA back then?

How about other things like brain entrainment? Brainwashing? There are some really scary experiments going on to put concepts into people's heads through the senses.

Remember the Coca-Cola and popcorn experiment in motion picture projections? Phrases saying buy more of these items were interspersed on some film frames in a normal movie at a distance to each other so that the human eye could not perceive them when the film ran. Then the film was projected in a theater with an audience and sales increased drastically. Nowadays that little experiment looks like peanuts. They are starting to have remote artificial reading and induction of thoughts.

There's so much to do - but saying that it does not exist will not make it go away. The bad guys aren't worried about this issue. They are merrily going on their way trying to figure out how to use these "things that do not exist" to control people.

Michael


Edit - Ed, more crossed posts caramba! Concepts can use other concepts as their building blocks, not just percepts. So where is the problem? If you break the entire conceptual chain down for the higher concepts we use to project the lack of bonding capacity between helium and sulphur - as you mentioned, you would have a tremendous pile of concepts (and percepts) that were integrated - even going back to the "no two things can occupy the same space at the same time" law in the history of its development - and on back further.

One of the great things about concepts is that they can be taught (i.e. produced in another living brain by transmitting conceptual information only), but still a person has to have grown up with a great deal of empirical perceptions and conceptual integrations of the world around him to be able to assimilate them. Otherwise they will be meaningless words and the concepts will not form in the learner's brain.
(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 7/10, 9:18pm)




Post 35

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 9:50pmSanction this postReply
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Michael, the Super-Biggie (please don't make me take this to a Super-Duper Biggie problem issue!) underlying problem:

-------------
A concept - the mental unit itself - exists in a brain completely independently of what it signifies.
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Concepts NEVER exist independently of referents (what is signified). Concepts are a tool that we use in order to think about bare particulars in a certain way (a way that allows for conceptual understanding of them).

I'm not saying that concepts don't exist (and that, therefore, we shouldn't be wary of mind control in movie theaters, etc.). I'm saying that concepts ALWAYS exist ONLY in relation to perceived particulars.

Perceptions provide ALL of the raw material for concepts. Concepts are tools used to understand how bare particulars relate. This explains the advance of science which is so anti-thetical to the "mind-as-perceiver-only" view of Hume, Kant, and 90% of contemporary thinkers.

Ed



Post 36

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 10:32pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,

Information identifying the concept exists in the brain. The concept qua concept is a relation between the information identifying the concept, which exists in the brain, and the perceived (or deduced) existents to which that information refers.



Post 37

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 10:35pmSanction this postReply
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Michael: “Until then, concepts are "things" inside that brain.”

Really? So how come we can have the same concept in different brains? The fact that a concept can be communicated between two brains -- or more accurately, minds – without loss of the original substance, strongly suggests that concepts are non-physical.

As for the subliminal advertising of Coca-Cola and popcorn in cinemas, I doubt that it was successful, and you suggest the reason why. If, as you say, the human eye could not perceive the advertising phrases, how do you think the movie patrons picked up the subliminal message – by ESP, or some other non-perceptual means?

Brendan




Post 38

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 10:43pmSanction this postReply
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Ed,

Gonna have to go Super-Duper Biggie.

The content of a concept is obviously only perceptual referents and other concepts - the capacity (and faculty) to do the integration and make the units themselves is not - and the "things" (the units) that are made all have similarities (integration, lack of measurement, etc.). That is why they can be identified, merged, manipulated, etc. That is why the concept "concept" can exist at all. These things also need a physical living brain to store them and handle them.

To simplify, the format of any one concept is identical to the format of all other concepts. The content is different for each.

Just on the perceptual level. If a group of light waves, for example, can have a physical reality, then why cannot the perception of that group of light waves also have a physical reality inside the brain that perceived it through a physical sense organ (the eye)? What on earth is the memory of that light wave once it is perceived - a floating abstraction (whatever the hell that is) flopping around inside a head - not physical or a "thing" but unable to get out anyway? Maybe it is something... er... nothing that is... er... a process... activity... ahem... whatever...

If that works for you, go for it. Meanwhile the bad guys are doing their thing.

I will give you, as Ayn Rand mentioned (ITOE p. 29), that awareness is an active process, not a passive state. So concepts are not nearly as static as talking about them being entities might seem. Sort of like talking about electrons or energy waves. They never stop, but they exist. And each one has specific similar attributes and individual attributes.

btw - What do you mean by a concept being a "tool that we use in order to think" if you are talking about something that does not exist anyway? A tool that does not exist? Hmmmmmmm....

Super-Duper Biggie or bust. Here we come.

Michael

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 7/10, 11:20pm)




Post 39

Sunday, July 10, 2005 - 10:49pmSanction this postReply
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"Subliminal" refers to information that is received and processed without producing a conscious awareness. One can learn to become aware of information that is intended to be subliminal, but it is neither automatic nor easy, and requires deliberate attention and training.



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