On the Same Topic

A question for any friendly materialist out there willing to answer.

Randall says: i believe matter exists. It’s just Occam that leads me to the assumption that nothing non-material exists.

Mike Flynn answers: 

Obviously, you believe Ockham’s Razor exists. Is it material? If so, of what matter is it composed? Of course, few understand what Brother Ockham, OFM, really said. In modern terms, he said, "Don’t have too many terms in your models, or you won’t understand your own model." He placed no limitation on reality, which he said could be as complex as God desired. The Principle of Parsimony was not original to Ockham, and bears his name only because he famously applied it to the then-consensus model of cognition. It is a metaphysical principle, and thus, non-material.

But given that you also believe in Truth, of what material is Truth composed? Is it earth, water, air, or fire, or some compound of these? How much does it weigh? (All material objects have mass and, in an acceleration frame, weight.) How long is it? (All material objects have extension.) Where is it? (All material objects have location – which makes the materiality of photons/electrons problematical.)

In what material sense can we say that Stone’s Theorem (that every metric space is paracompact) is made of matter?

I wanted to give Mike’s question its own journal entry, to emphasize it.

Randall also says: "I’m hard-pressed to even conceive of something which could be discovered (that is, something that’s measurable) which *isn’t* material."

This is definitional. "Material" in this contest means something discovered through and only through the senses, which can be reduced to a measured magnitude.

All phenomenal objects can be reduced to measurements of mass, length, time, current, temperature, amount, and luminosity. They can be expressed as magnitudes of meters, grams, seconds, amperes, degrees, moles, and candles. They are a posteriori. They can be seen, numbered and measured.

There are certain objects in our experience, such as consciousness and self-consciousness, value judgments, acts of will, assent and dissent, impulses to action, and so on, which cannot be reduced to measurements of magnitudes. They are a priori. A priori thing are those which, while they might not occur if no sense impressions were present, clearly do not depend on a particular sense impression for their existence, and sense impressions would make no sense without them.

Instead, these mental objects are judges according to standards of truth or falsehood, logical or illogical, beautiful and ugly, just and unjust, useful or useless. They are understood in terms of categories such as means and ends, symbol and subject, cause and effect, abstract and concrete, universal and particular. They cannot be seen, numbered or measured. 

1. Since all material objects can be reduced to mass, length, time, current, temperature, amount, and luminosity; and

2. Since no mental objects such as truth and logic, self-awareness, justice, beauty, causality, willpower, impulse, means-and-ends, cause-and-effect, substance-and-accident and so on can be reduced to mass, length, time, current, temperature, amount, and luminosity; therefore

3. No mental object is a material object

This is a syllogism of three steps. This syllogism is both true and logical, and I am aware of it, ergo at least one of the mental objects mentioned in the minor premise must themselves exist in order for the syllogism to exist. Ergo these are mental objects that exist and that cannot be a material object.

I do not see how anyone who understand the meaning of the words can disagree with the conclusion. Please explain the warrant for your disagreement.

Now, you yourself say that material things are measurable. What do you make of things that cannot be reduced to a measurement, such as, for example, how sad the ending of a tragic story might be? I can say the end of OTHELLO is sadder than the ending of MALTESE FALCON, but I cannot reduce my sorrow to a measurement of the masses and location of brain atoms recording that experience.

Please do not simply deny the minor premise. You have done so ad nauseam. Give us your warrant for the minor premise.

Show us how, even if you had a complete theory of the mind-brain relation, or the concept-word relation, the mind could be described in terms of the brain, or the concept in terms of the word.

Just take one concept, such as cause-and-effect. What units is it made of? Perhaps we can measure degrees of causation in "humes." Show me how to measure humes and reduce a unit of hume into units measuring mass, length, and duration.

I suggest the ‘diogenes’ as a unit of truth. A false statement contains zero, and a half-truth contains 0.5.

I suggest ‘ships’ as a unit of beauty. Helen had a face that launched a thousand ships, so a woman half as fair would launch 500.

Logic, of course, is measured in ‘spocks’, or, if that seems frivilous, in ‘rands’. The statement that ‘A is A’ contains one spockof logic; a syllogism with an informal error, but which may be true in some cases, contains a measured fraction of logic.

Here is the proof (I.15) from Euclid that opposite angles are equal. Let line AB cross CD at E. The whole angle formed by AEC and CEB is two right angles, as is the whole angle formed by CEB and BED. Removing the common angle CEB, it follows that AEC equals BED. QED.

Now, I did not actually draw the lines mentioned, and yet, somehow, my conclusion is true. If logic is an emergent property of matter, and if truth is an emergent property of matter, then somewhere there is a bit of matter you can move, either in my brain or in a text by Euclid, which can make that proof false. But the proof is universal, and is true even if it is miswritten or wrongly remembered in any given man’s brain or any given mathematician’s library. The proof was true before life existed on Earth and will be true after the Earth is lifeless again. Every material atom in the universe could be whisked out of existance without influencing the truth of Euclid I.15.

But if materialism were a true philosophy, a diabolical neurosurgeon delicately disordering my nerve tissues could make it so that Euclid I.15 itself was not true.

And I do not mean that a  neurosurgeon could make me forget the proof, or instill in me a false belief that the proof reached a different conclusion. You do not put out the sun by putting out Sampson’s eyes. A bottle of whiskey, if I drank it, could make me forget Euclid I.15, or, failing that, the bottle broken over my head. But even if everyone, and I mean everyone, in Oceania agreed with Big Brother that opposite angles were not equal, and every material book containing the proposition were shoved into the memory hole, and every mathemacian killed, would Euclid I.15 itself become false?


Please read and support my work on Patreon!