Philosophy Corner: Burrowing out of a Dead End

Part of an ongoing conversation. This is in answer to several comments by Dr. A, our local materialist. He is suffering spasms of frustration, and accuses me of not heeding his arguments and being frivolous in my reply:

If all this time you have not understood what I meant by final versus mechanical cause, or qualitative versus quantitative statements, or measurable phenomena versus non-measurable numena, then, despite my many many examples and very patient explanations, the conversation has been in vain.

As I said when we reached this same impasse last year, you are motionless in a set of axioms that you have not (I assume) yet examined. Because have not examined them, you are reduced to merely repeating your axioms as if it were self evident.

Just take my word for this: it is not self evident that all things both material motions and non-material ideas and their non-moving logical relations can be reduced to a description of a material motion. I have given you not once but many times an argument that alleges to show that the matter is not only NOT self-evident, that it is in fact self-contradictory. Whenever I do, you start talking about your magical brain atoms or going off on some unrelated tangent.

These kind of communication failures happen for one reason and one reason only: one of the two persons involved, or both, are making an assumption not yet articulated at a more basic level of philosophy.

In order for the conversation to continue, that more basic level has to be addressed.

The idea that either one of us is deliberately being stupid, or deliberately not listening, or deliberately is ignoring the evidence or the argument is childish. It may happen among politicians or public speakers or other persons with a reason to treat the argument like an opportunity for rhetoric, but if either one of us were merely trying to score points and not have an earnest conversation, we both would have quit months ago.

We did not quit months ago. Both of us are serious. Both of us are listening to the other. Neither is making sense to the other. Ergo: what is the hidden assumption that severs our worldviews one from the other?
My experience leads me to suspect the hidden assumption is one of two things: a metaphysical assumption (as if you were arguing that thought must be material because all real things are material) or an epistemological assumption (as if you were arguing that since only material facts are open to empirical verification, therefore only empirical facts describe reality, therefore only material facts are real.)

It could be an assumption like this, or some other. Either we must address these deeper issues, or we must find something else to discuss.

As to your various accusations, the reason why I am using the ink marks analogy is not frivolity on my part. It is because the analogy is clear even to an amateur. The technical term is extensive versus intensive properties. Without any reference to ink marks as an analogy, my same argument could be restated thus:

1. The extensive properties of brain atoms in motion can only describe or be described by other extensive properties.

2. No intensive statement can be deduced from an extensive statement by definition (since an extensive statement is one that can be deduce from an extensive statement).

3. Statements that refer symbol-to-symbol or symbol-to-fact are intensive, that is, they are statements about ideas or of ideas.

4. Ideas qua ideas have no extensive properties. (The marks or symbolizations used to memorialize ideas, of course, do have extensive properties).

5. Statements that refer to measurable properties of sense impressions are extensive, that is, they concern facts taking place in extension, that is, in the field of that part of reality open to sense impressions.

Now, by your argument, the properties of (for example) a right triangle do not exist at all, except as encoded in the specific brain atom motions of those persons thinking about right triangles.

Would changing the brain atom motions of those parts of those brains change the properties of right triangle such that the Pythagorean theorem would be, in every sense of the term, false?

If so, the Pythagorean theorem is empirical, particular and contingent (dependent on particular sets of facts) rather than rational, universal and necessary (true if truly deduced from true axioms.)

Likewise for the theory of philosophical materialism. Neither the theory of materialism, nor of Pythagoras, nor any other theory has a symbol-to-fact relationship called “universal truth” because the theory of philosophical materialism rules out the possibility of any but empirical, that is, contingent and particular statements.

If so, then it may be that we happen to inhabit the universe at the particular time and location where philosophical materialism is not true because the encoded of the specific area of the brain for all persons thinking about it has been changed from a true value to a false value.  Please produce the evidence you have that this is not the case, or cannot be the case?

If you can write a reasonable answer addressing these points, I will not return to the analogy of the ink marks on a page.

If, instead of merely telling me that you believe all concepts are made of brain atoms, you can tell me why you think that statement is true, (1) what is truth (2) what all being is or must be material (3) and how you (or anyone) can come to know the truth about all being, then and only then the conversation can move to the next step.

If you can answer these points, we can at last break out of the dead end corner in which we find ourselves.

As it is, I suspect I have not made it clear even to what the analogy refers. The ink marks are the extensive properties of the brain elements; the ideas toward which the symbols point are the intensive properties of the thoughts contemplated by the mind.

I suspect I have not made it clear because your response was irrelevant, or so it seemed to me.  Here is why: Extensive properties of brain atoms in motion do not become intensive properties of thoughts contemplated merely by multiplying a number, any more than adding thousands of inches in a straight line to millions of inches in a straight changes them from inches to cubic inches in a volume.

Please read and support my work on Patreon!