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Ch. 1 - Why are people? 
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tbarron wrote:
So I would claim that equality and genes *don't* have independent existence of their own. They only exist as concepts in some kind of representation -- written, depicted, recorded on videotape, or thoughts in someone's mind.

tbarron, did you mean to write 'memes' instead of 'genes'?



Mon Oct 12, 2009 8:00 pm
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DWill wrote:
tbarron wrote:
So I would claim that equality and genes *don't* have independent existence of their own. They only exist as concepts in some kind of representation -- written, depicted, recorded on videotape, or thoughts in someone's mind.

tbarron, did you mean to write 'memes' instead of 'genes'?


Thank you for the question, DWill.

No, I meant 'genes' in the sense of something that persists over long periods of time. The instances don't persist beyond the individual organism that contains them, and that's all I would say exists in the physical world. A genetic pattern is an idea. A species is an idea. What we see in the world are instances of those ideas, not the ideas themselves.

Memes, of course, are another example of something that we encounter only as instances.

So my opinion is that abstract patterns and categories (genes, memes, species, equality) are concepts that we create based on similarities among objects and events we see in the physical world. Those concepts are often very useful and in part because they are, we find it easy to confuse the concepts with things and come to see the concepts as having an existence of their own, independent of their representations (mistakenly, IMO).

Maybe I should be writing in the thread about "What I believe but can't prove." :)



Tue Oct 13, 2009 6:24 am
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tbarron wrote:
No, I meant 'genes' in the sense of something that persists over long
So my opinion is that abstract patterns and categories (genes, memes, species, equality) are concepts that we create based on similarities among objects and events we see in the physical world. Those concepts are often very useful and in part because they are, we find it easy to confuse the concepts with things and come to see the concepts as having an existence of their own, independent of their representations (mistakenly, IMO).

Thanks for that reply. I have been arguing that, concerning memes, a mistake is to speak of them as hthough they have some independent existence in the world. You seem to go much farther than I'd be inclined to when you disqualify genes and species as things with physical existence. True, it is objects or instances themselves that have this realness, but once we hang a name on even one individual, we have created the concept of a group. So this seems unavoidable if we are to use language at all. Is your concern that if we detach the name from the physical instance, we will be mistakenly wielding it as a real thing in itself? Maybe we do this with concepts such as communism and freedom. Or this may not be what you mean, and perhaps giving an example would help me understand.



Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:31 pm
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Before continuing the marathon on the philosophy of evolution and knowledge with Interbane, may I say thanks and warm welcome to Tom Barron for finding us here at Booktalk and engaging in this discussion. The idealist theme Tom raises of persistence through time as the criterion of reality is one that I have mentioned often, without finding traction, perhaps because idealism has come to be seen as such anathematic wool.

I’m tempted to say where there’s wool there’s a way, along the lines of where there’s smoke there’s fire, but the pun is too bad and the content rather dubious. Too much woolly thinking is simply false. However, my sense is that the high Dawkins ethic of precise quantified logic does wrongly exclude areas of thought that are potentially allies to his cause, with Platonic idealism a prime candidate.

A key issue here is that there are two sorts of reality, the reality of matter and the reality of information. The philosophical challenge, as I see it, is to produce a systematic schema in which the relation between matter and information is properly described. Information persists through time in a way that has a material substrate but which cannot be simply explained in terms of that substrate. We see this clearly in genes, where the information embedded in the DNA code persists as adaptivity to an ecological niche, so the reality of the gene is seen in its phenotype (embodied trait) rather than simply in the chemical bases. The ‘river of time’ is made of matter, but its direction and logic is made of information.

tbarron wrote:
DWill wrote:
tbarron wrote:
So I would claim that equality and genes *don't* have independent existence of their own. They only exist as concepts in some kind of representation -- written, depicted, recorded on videotape, or thoughts in someone's mind.
tbarron, did you mean to write 'memes' instead of 'genes'?
Thank you for the question, DWill. No, I meant 'genes' in the sense of something that persists over long periods of time. The instances don't persist beyond the individual organism that contains them, and that's all I would say exists in the physical world. A genetic pattern is an idea. A species is an idea. What we see in the world are instances of those ideas, not the ideas themselves.
Where I take issue here is the claim that a concept exists only as represented. Genes persist in the world as units of information. Like the truths of mathematics, these units and their relations can be discovered, and are not created by human description. The information exists in the physical world, but its existence is ideal rather than material.
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Memes, of course, are another example of something that we encounter only as instances. So my opinion is that abstract patterns and categories (genes, memes, species, equality) are concepts that we create based on similarities among objects and events we see in the physical world. Those concepts are often very useful and in part because they are, we find it easy to confuse the concepts with things and come to see the concepts as having an existence of their own, independent of their representations (mistakenly, IMO).

Here I see the problem, as I alluded earlier in my summary of the battle of Gods and Giants from Plato’s Sophist, that modernism has been so heavily indoctrinated with the claim that only material things exist that people find it very hard to recognise an alternative schema in which information has its own existence, as concept rather than as thing. The helical pattern of the genetic code was not created by Crick and Watson (or Franklin or Miescher), it had existed in all organisms since the dawn of life, waiting to be discovered. The same applies to phenotypes, which are abstract universal concepts that describe how DNA is expressed in the world. These concepts are not created by scientists, but describe what is uncovered as a conceptual reality that persists through time.



Tue Oct 13, 2009 5:14 pm
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RT: "Before continuing the marathon on the philosophy of evolution and knowledge with Interbane"

Better than crosswords puzzles! You won't get alzheimer's at this rate.

My problem with the distinction between what is real and what is merely for our understanding is that I haven't yet encountered a criterion for demarcation between nonphysical things. Focusing on the physical aspect of it all is like limiting yourself to spatial dimensions. Finding a framework that integrates time is essential. There are some things we can point to as real in time, such as causality and motion. However, I'm sure there is much more. For example, arbitrary 'rules' can be said to be real if whatever framework we use includes a good understanding of the human brain in order to link a 'rule' to a process. It may sound silly at first, but I think some criterion of demarcation is necessary. There should be an anchor to the spatio-temporal.

Rules have real impact, but an examination of them at first glance has no anchor to anything spatio-temporal. However, we can rely on the description that information is real contingent upon an interpreter. There is no 'reflection of reality' unless we have a way to interpret it as such. Perhaps this is a better way to understand the two sorts of reality as you mentioned. Genes are interpreted by the interpretive function of growth. If what is interpreted does not fit within the niche, the information isn't selected for the gene pool. The phenotype which is interpreted from the gene is the interface with the environment, but the phenotype is contingent upon the genes. It is the genes that are selected for, vicariously through the phenotype.

There is something to be said of states of mind. If there is a rule we all decide to live by, the neural arrangement is similar amongst all people that abide by that rule. One thing to note is that I'm not saying the category of 'rules' is real, but rather each rule as an instance. They govern our physical action. The realness of rules is different from other types of information. Some information is an abstraction, a loose reflection of reality. Rules are known to be within our minds, as contingencies we abide by, they don't claim to reflect anything in reality. Their reality is that they are a part of the system of human behavior, an 'on/off' switch of neurons. With this reasoning, we can say that rules are a real part of a process. The reasons we come up with rules are a different topic. If you'll note, this is a concession of mine. I've also used the word 'reflection'. However, all of this fits within my worldview. This is your best segway into returning to the discussion of guiding principles.

RT: "A key issue here is that there are two sorts of reality, the reality of matter and the reality of information."

I agree with this, but I would include 'processes, energy, and forces' in with 'matter', to include temporal reality rather than only spacial reality. As I said before, I think the reality of information is contingent upon an interpreter or an interpretive function. If we try to picture 'information'(such as a magazine) as drifting idly through space with no humans or aliens or computers anywhere near, we still have the sense that it contains something real. However, I think that is a reaction that is based on the fact that we immediately interpret our perceptions(this would be an internal perception). We can't divorce our own interpretive tendencies from our thoughts, it's what we are.

So this intuition pump would be better served by thinking of some different type of information, such as an exact 'replica' model of a solar system. This does away with most of the interpretive requirement to see it as representing something else. However, without an interpreter, what is it, really? Just a jumble of organized matter? I would hesitate to be so reductive again. We can perhaps assign some objective characteristic to this piece of information so that it is unique from random matter. We could say that it has 'interpretive potential', similar to how a heavy rock on a hill has potential energy. I am okay with this explanation.

RT: "We see this clearly in genes, where the information embedded in the DNA code persists as adaptivity to an ecological niche, so the reality of the gene is seen in its phenotype (embodied trait) rather than simply in the chemical bases."

This doesn't fit. A phenotype is still a concept we use to understand reality. We can find instances of the category everywhere, but connecting the dots is done within our minds to form the category. This is an example of the type of information that is different from 'rules'. There is nothing special about phenotypes unless we look beyond them to the genes that specify them. The genes have interpretive potential, but the phenotypes do not.



Tue Oct 13, 2009 10:35 pm
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I need to use my brain again RT, come back. My brain is fuzzier after responding to Stah.



Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:37 pm
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Interbane wrote:
I need to use my brain again RT, come back. My brain is fuzzier after responding to Stah.
:laugh:


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Tue Oct 20, 2009 6:33 pm
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Hi Interbane, I feel almost like I am becoming a Richard Dawkins expert, what with now reading The Extended Phenotype as well. Although I don’t know if it has been studied, I’m wondering about the evolution of dopamine as an example of group selection, as a response to the adaptivity of group level goals. Which ever tribal group had the best genes for operating as a group (ie strategic goals as neural adaptation) would have prospered, so there is a form of group selection inherent in rationality.

Interbane wrote:
My problem with the distinction between what is real and what is merely for our understanding is that I haven't yet encountered a criterion for demarcation between nonphysical things. Focusing on the physical aspect of it all is like limiting yourself to spatial dimensions. Finding a framework that integrates time is essential. There are some things we can point to as real in time, such as causality and motion. However, I'm sure there is much more. For example, arbitrary 'rules' can be said to be real if whatever framework we use includes a good understanding of the human brain in order to link a 'rule' to a process. It may sound silly at first, but I think some criterion of demarcation is necessary. There should be an anchor to the spatio-temporal.


You are blurring the distinction between a thing and a concept. You describe causality and motion as things, but would you call love and justice things? In my opinion, the criterion of demarcation you are looking for is how nonphysical things relate to time. There are three classes of nonphysical concepts, the logical, the physical and the ethical, each of which have their own form of eternity.

Here is a short chapter from my essay that I have been discussing with Camacho

1. A way of bringing these divergent approaches to time within a common framework is to look at the differing meanings of eternity demarcated by the criterion of time. Three different meanings of eternity are illustrated by the three disciplines of logic, physics and ethics studied in Plato’s Academy. Considered together, these disciplines cast light on how the scientific and historical paradigms address the meaning of time.
2. The first meaning of eternity is illustrated by logic. To say the theorems of logic are eternal means they are outside time, in the sense of principles which are neither dependent on matter nor subject to change. Mathematical theorems are eternal in this sense - pure logical relations, such as pi, the constant ratio between the diameter and circumference of a circle, are independent of time, matter and knowledge. Traditional theology claims that God’s eternity is similarly independent of time and beyond the changing universe.
3. It is hard to understand how a God who is outside time can appear in history. The answer derives from a second meaning for eternity, that of perpetual endurance within time or lasting forever. The laws of physics exemplify this second meaning of eternity. Scientific laws, such as the laws of gravity and entropy, last forever and do not change, they apply absolutely to the totality of reality, and their truth is independent of human understanding of them. The laws of physics have a different temporal basis from those of pure mathematics in that they only describe the behaviour of matter. For this reason the laws of physics, unlike the theorems of logic, exist only within time and have no meaning separately from time. Through such laws, God as eternal truth within time brings every moment of time together into the immortal unity of the whole.
4. A third meaning of eternity applies to unchanging ethical values such as love, faith and justice, which are thought of as universal and enduring forever. The ontological status of pure ethical ideals differs from that of the laws of physics and logic, in that ethical ideals are meaningful only in relation to human life and spiritual truth, and have no existence independently of human life. The timeless ideals of love and justice only become meaningful in application to human circumstances.
5. The three meanings of eternity established respectively by logic, physics and ethics view eternity as outside time, lasting forever within time, and encapsulating a timeless spiritual truth. These approaches meet the requirement imposed by the principle of the unity of truth that ideas must make sense within the eternal stream of time of the universe, pointing to ontological structures that define the nature of time and the relation between humanity and eternity. The essential demarcation provided by time is between unchanging eternal truths, including the laws of logic, physics and ethics, and the changing temporal realm of historical facts. This model makes time a uniting factor for systematic thought, as the relation of ideas to time is considered an essential criterion for defining their status.
6. A rigorous approach to the meaning of time and eternity enables time to be used as both a unifying criterion to categorise reality and a critical prism to assess ideas and critique false beliefs. The sort of spirit in which I am trying to use time is similar, at least in its goals, to the way the message of God is presented in the prophets of the Bible as “like a refiner’s fire”, discarding the dross and trying to retain the pure truth. For illustration, time can be used as a logical tool to evaluate central ideas of traditional Christianity, such as the traditional idea of personal salvation expressed in the belief in an afterlife in heaven. The idea of continued individual life after death in a mythical heaven touches deeply felt hopes, but heaven, as traditionally conceived, is entirely separate from the stream of time observed by science, so science has the greatest difficulty in seeing the idea of an afterlife in heaven or hell as more than a primitive myth based on the pre-scientific flat earth model. From the scientific perspective, heaven looks more like a comforting story people have invented to cope through hope than a meaningful idea of salvation. Leaving aside questions which are unprovable, the principle of the unity of truth requires that religious ideas such as heaven and hell should be assessable against scientific criteria. In making such assessment, it is important to note that criticism of simple literal interpretation of myth can be a part of looking for deeper underlying meaning.



Wed Oct 21, 2009 1:24 am
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You are blurring the distinction between a thing and a concept. You describe causality and motion as things, but would you call love and justice things? In my opinion, the criterion of demarcation you are looking for is how nonphysical things relate to time. There are three classes of nonphysical concepts, the logical, the physical and the ethical, each of which have their own form of eternity.


The paragraph you quoted says much the same thing. That there are nonphysical things which need to be distinguished somehow. This cannot be done without an anchor to something 'real'. An example is causality. There are causal processes which determine human behavior. This unavoidably must tie into ethics, whether you would like it to or not. Of course, such a discussion would lead us straight into discussing the merits of Free Will, and I'm willing to do that. There are a few books I've read that I can recommend to get us on the same page.

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There are three classes of nonphysical concepts, the logical, the physical and the ethical, each of which have their own form of eternity.


You may have to explain to me or copy/paste what you've written previously explaining why 'physical' is in the class of nonphysical concepts. Contrasted with nonphysical concepts, do you propose physical concepts, with a physical class of physical concepts? :hmm:

A way of bringing these divergent approaches to time within a common framework is to look at the differing meanings of eternity demarcated by the criterion of time.

I'm can't place this concept into my head; that time is a criterion of demarcation for eternity. Perhaps events within time would be, but time itself is a component of the idea of eternity, not a criterion for demarcation. You also mention different 'meanings' of eternity. Do you instead mean components of eternity, or aspects of eternity? You use some ambiguous wording Robert. Even though you may have the idea well versed in your head, you still have to use the right words to get it through to others. Of course you know this. I stopped at this first sentence since it seems pivotal to the rest.

Thanks for the reply, I ponder stuff on my 1/2 hour drive to work each day, it passes the time.



Wed Oct 21, 2009 12:15 pm
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Interbane wrote:
Quote:
You are blurring the distinction between a thing and a concept. You describe causality and motion as things, but would you call love and justice things? In my opinion, the criterion of demarcation you are looking for is how nonphysical things relate to time. There are three classes of nonphysical concepts, the logical, the physical and the ethical, each of which have their own form of eternity.


The paragraph you quoted says much the same thing. That there are nonphysical things which need to be distinguished somehow. This cannot be done without an anchor to something 'real'. An example is causality. There are causal processes which determine human behavior. This unavoidably must tie into ethics, whether you would like it to or not. Of course, such a discussion would lead us straight into discussing the merits of Free Will, and I'm willing to do that. There are a few books I've read that I can recommend to get us on the same page.
My point is that the real anchors for logic, physics and ethics are conceptually distinct, structured by different relations between these fields of enquiry and the nature of time and eternity.
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Quote:
There are three classes of nonphysical concepts, the logical, the physical and the ethical, each of which have their own form of eternity.


You may have to explain to me or copy/paste what you've written previously explaining why 'physical' is in the class of nonphysical concepts. Contrasted with nonphysical concepts, do you propose physical concepts, with a physical class of physical concepts? :hmm:
There are non-physical physical concepts! Gravity, entropy, causality and evolution are examples. These concepts depend on physical entities for their existence, and are perpetual in the universe, but are not themselves physical entities.
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A way of bringing these divergent approaches to time within a common framework is to look at the differing meanings of eternity demarcated by the criterion of time.

I'm can't place this concept into my head; that time is a criterion of demarcation for eternity. Perhaps events within time would be, but time itself is a component of the idea of eternity, not a criterion for demarcation. You also mention different 'meanings' of eternity. Do you instead mean components of eternity, or aspects of eternity? You use some ambiguous wording Robert. Even though you may have the idea well versed in your head, you still have to use the right words to get it through to others. Of course you know this. I stopped at this first sentence since it seems pivotal to the rest.
The three different meanings of eternity, deriving respectively from logic, physics and ethics, are outside time, perpetual within time, and values. Mathematical relations are outside time, physical laws last for ever within time, and good values seek to define and approach an eternal ideal.
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Thanks for the reply, I ponder stuff on my 1/2 hour drive to work each day, it passes the time.
You’re welcome Interbane, I wrote this material a few years ago, and it is fairly dense so I’ve not really discussed it much before.



Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:01 pm
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My point is that the real anchors for logic, physics and ethics are conceptually distinct, structured by different relations between these fields of enquiry and the nature of time and eternity.


I don't see that it's necessary for the real anchors to be distinctly separate. Just as different fields of physics have had their boundaries blurred with the advancement of theories, the same can hold true for nonphysical concept categories in philosophy. I think the work of philosophers of the mind such as Dennet are advancing in the correct direction.

Quote:
2. The first meaning of eternity is illustrated by logic.


Here’s an interesting thought by Neitszche, on the evolution of logic:

“…logic [came] into existence in man's head [out] of illogic, whose realm originally must have been immense. Innumerable beings who made inferences in a way different from ours perished…”

It’s also necessary to note that logic and evidence cannot establish that the laws of nature(physics) last forever.

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4. A third meaning of eternity applies to unchanging ethical values such as love, faith and justice, which are thought of as universal and enduring forever.


I do not think of them as universal and enduring forever. They are contingent upon evolution and environment. What is an ESS for one sentient species may not be an ESS for another. Loving one’s neighbor may be a global ESS for humanity, but not for other species. Note that an ESS is considered a behavioral phenotype. What applies to our species does not necessarily apply to other species. This is the case even if the ESS is arrived at by using reason.

I can definitely see how it would be a fun and productive undertaking to consider an ESS for all of humanity. However, our having evolved the ability to use reason almost begs for another interpretation. I'm not sure if the ability to reason can be considered a behavioral phenotype, but it doesn't seem to be the case. However, even though we may arrive at a strategy for global stability using reason, it is still an evolutionary stable strategy. It might be important to add the fact that it was arrived at by reasoning rather than evolution alone(thus the other interpretation). An RESS for example, a reasoned evolutionary stable strategy. This would beg the question of ‘why’ love is a necessary component for an RESS. The answer depends on where you’re asking the question from. The simplest answer, parsimoniously, is that love is necessary because it results in stability. No further investigation is required, the issue is solved analytically. Unless your starting point is with the Ultimate Aim of finding a gap into which you can place god.

There is no reason to consider ethics as eternal. The laws of physics, perhaps. Mathematics, perhaps. Yet in both cases, neither evidence nor logic can establish that they will be eternal. It is a presumption that they are eternal. The problem here ties into the problem of induction in philosophy. That ethics is eternal is even more of a presumption. This has quite a bit to do with our discussion on the distinction between labels and referents, which we can analyze in further detail using the framework I mentioned.

For example, justice is a category. The instances it refers to are a category of acts in which a certain criteria are met. For example, if a person does another person great harm, then is subsequently run over by a bus, this is an instance of justice. It is the instance that is real, but ‘justice’ is nothing more than a category within which fall behaviors that meet certain criteria. What is most complicated about justice, and unnecessary to mention in our case, is what the exact criteria is. We can do without specifying the criteria if we are discussing the concept as a whole. In this sense, ‘justice’ is nothing more than an understanding, a category of real actions. It ‘feels’ real to us for the exact same reason that Plato’s forms feel real, as we previously discussed. It is only real in the sense that it helps us understand reality. The ambiguity of the concept of justice and other ethical principles gives too much slack with which to formulate superfluous philosophies.

It seems that most or even all of the field of ethics can be viewed through such a lens. This is not reductionist since the simplification of ethical concepts is by not needing to discuss the internal criteria. The internal criteria are what makes for the majority of the complexity of ethics. Ethics and all subcategories are nothing but categories of actions. Reasons why have to do with group stability and perhaps global stability. There is no reason to create an entirely new 'meaning of eternity' or anchor to reality for ethics. It is able to be examined as a behavioral phenotype. If not the same as evolved ESS's, at least very close. Something of a sister category of behavioral phenotype, one arrived at by using reason. In this case, the study would fall quite neatly under evolutionary studies, which are all physical processes.

This is simply my best understanding of how to anchor ethics into something real. My intuition tells me this is the correct direction.

What is also important to consider is the advancement of our understanding. Be cautious of placing god in the gaps. That ethics is currently an ambiguous subject does not mean that we will not at some point be able to apply mathematics to it. Game theory and the development of our understanding of behavioral phenotypes is an excellent example, as I've provided. This encroachment upon territory that you may see as sacred or off limits is only the case if you consider that territory from a different starting point; namely, that of attempting to provide a rational explanation for a deity. Once you divorce your thinking from this ulterior motive, it becomes clear that not only is it possible to apply mathematics to such things as ethics, but it is inevitable.

I think you’re approaching the view of global ethics from the wrong starting point. You should approach it with no other Ultimate Aim than the search for truth. Eliminate everything else(yes, even including religion and a deity). If it so happens that you arrive at a conclusion that permits the existence of a deity, then so be it. However, to pursue such a conclusion from the get go is to confuse your Ultimate Aim. In other words, it’s wishful thinking. You’ve said many times that it’s a mistake to kick away the ladder upon which we’ve built our morality. A better way to look at it is in the sense of a construction project. You have scaffolding and a building. Once the building is complete, the scaffolding is put away into storage. Atheists the world over have shown that there is no need of religion for morality. Norway is an excellent example of a secular society that tops the charts in many categories that rate peace, prosperity, and happiness. They rate much higher than fundamentalist America, for example.



Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:15 pm
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You’re welcome Interbane, I wrote this material a few years ago, and it is fairly dense so I’ve not really discussed it much before.


I'd be happy to browse through it if there's any more and play devil's advocate. One thing I'm worried about is posting inaccessible ideas. Grim has me worried that my posts are perhaps confusing and incomprehensible as his sometimes are. I edit them to fill in the blanks most times, but let me know if something I write comes across a bit confusing.



Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:29 pm
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Thanks Interbane. I'm home sick today, so good to catch up.

Interbane wrote:
Quote:
My point is that the real anchors for logic, physics and ethics are conceptually distinct, structured by different relations between these fields of enquiry and the nature of time and eternity.


I don't see that it's necessary for the real anchors to be distinctly separate. Just as different fields of physics have had their boundaries blurred with the advancement of theories, the same can hold true for nonphysical concept categories in philosophy. I think the work of philosophers of the mind such as Dennet are advancing in the correct direction.

Quote:
2. The first meaning of eternity is illustrated by logic.


Here’s an interesting thought by Neitszche, on the evolution of logic:

“…logic [came] into existence in man's head [out] of illogic, whose realm originally must have been immense. Innumerable beings who made inferences in a way different from ours perished…”
Nietzsche was wrong. As I just noted in the memes thread, logic came into man’s head from Animal Foraging and the Evolution of Goal-Directed Cognition. Adaptive behaviour is supremely logical, so Nietzsche represents a society with a fallen and lost vision, where the ground of logic was forgotten. No wonder he paved the way for Hitler and the Jewish Genocide.
Quote:
It’s also necessary to note that logic and evidence cannot establish that the laws of nature (physics) last forever.
Again, this is a rather dumb remark Interbane. It certainly appears from all scientific evidence that laws of the class I mentioned, gravity, entropy, causation and evolution, do last forever, so we should consider that settled. The law of evolution applies even when it is not understood. A post-human world dominated by trees would continue to evolve by exactly the same laws of nature now observed by science.
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4. A third meaning of eternity applies to unchanging ethical values such as love, faith and justice, which are thought of as universal and enduring forever.


I do not think of them as universal and enduring forever. They are contingent upon evolution and environment. What is an ESS for one sentient species may not be an ESS for another. Loving one’s neighbor may be a global ESS for humanity, but not for other species. Note that an ESS is considered a behavioral phenotype. What applies to our species does not necessarily apply to other species. This is the case even if the ESS is arrived at by using reason.
If you had the choice of working towards a set of values of either peace, prosperity, and happiness, or war, poverty and grief, which would you say are more eternal and which more temporal? Clearly the adaptive values which promote future stability have a timeless quality. Granted, they may not operate in every nook of a putative multiverse, but the question for ethics is the nature of human perspective, in terms of which values to choose, the eternal or the temporal.
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I can definitely see how it would be a fun and productive undertaking to consider an ESS for all of humanity. However, our having evolved the ability to use reason almost begs for another interpretation. I'm not sure if the ability to reason can be considered a behavioral phenotype, but it doesn't seem to be the case. However, even though we may arrive at a strategy for global stability using reason, it is still an evolutionary stable strategy. It might be important to add the fact that it was arrived at by reasoning rather than evolution alone (thus the other interpretation). An RESS for example, a reasoned evolutionary stable strategy.
Surely reason is a human trait? As such, it is a necessary adaptive factor in a global ESS. I don’t think you can extract reason from evolution so simply, as if to imagine an alternative ESS might appear based only on gut instinct with no rhyme or reason.
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This would beg the question of ‘why’ love is a necessary component for an RESS. The answer depends on where you’re asking the question from. The simplest answer, parsimoniously, is that love is necessary because it results in stability. No further investigation is required, the issue is solved analytically. Unless your starting point is with the Ultimate Aim of finding a gap into which you can place god.
Stability can also be imposed by violence. However, the ESS analysis would say that the stability of repression is not stable, because it creates opposition. I agree with you that love is essential for a GRESS (global reasoned evolutionarily stable strategy), in that without the trust found in love there is little basis for human cooperation.
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There is no reason to consider ethics as eternal. The laws of physics, perhaps. Mathematics, perhaps. Yet in both cases, neither evidence nor logic can establish that they will be eternal. It is a presumption that they are eternal. The problem here ties into the problem of induction in philosophy. That ethics is eternal is even more of a presumption. This has quite a bit to do with our discussion on the distinction between labels and referents, which we can analyze in further detail using the framework I mentioned.
I must be a presumptive inductician then, boy, I even think the universe exists. :smile: We do need to consider ethics as eternal to have any demarcation between good and evil. Good is always good, while evil is always evil.
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For example, justice is a category. The instances it refers to are a category of acts in which a certain criteria are met. For example, if a person does another person great harm, then is subsequently run over by a bus, this is an instance of justice. It is the instance that is real, but ‘justice’ is nothing more than a category within which fall behaviors that meet certain criteria. What is most complicated about justice, and unnecessary to mention in our case, is what the exact criteria is. We can do without specifying the criteria if we are discussing the concept as a whole. In this sense, ‘justice’ is nothing more than an understanding, a category of real actions. It ‘feels’ real to us for the exact same reason that Plato’s forms feel real, as we previously discussed. It is only real in the sense that it helps us understand reality. The ambiguity of the concept of justice and other ethical principles gives too much slack with which to formulate superfluous philosophies.
My views on evolutionary justice are influenced by Friedrich Hayek in his The Constitution of Liberty. He argues that precedent through common law is a more evolutionary and adaptive method of justice than the civil code method of the French Enlightenment, and so that British law is more suited to respond to the emerging needs of capitalist society. I think there is plenty of scope to analyse the ambiguities within the concept of justice, especially regarding the relation between rights and duties. A traditional view holds that doing duty is just, whereas a more modern view locates the nature of justice more within the realm of rights.
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It seems that most or even all of the field of ethics can be viewed through such a lens. This is not reductionist since the simplification of ethical concepts is by not needing to discuss the internal criteria. The internal criteria are what makes for the majority of the complexity of ethics. Ethics and all subcategories are nothing but categories of actions. Reasons why have to do with group stability and perhaps global stability. There is no reason to create an entirely new 'meaning of eternity' or anchor to reality for ethics. It is able to be examined as a behavioral phenotype. If not the same as evolved ESS's, at least very close. Something of a sister category of behavioral phenotype, one arrived at by using reason. In this case, the study would fall quite neatly under evolutionary studies, which are all physical processes.
Yet, considering eternity as a criterion, we can say the most eternal values – love, truth, justice, mercy, equality – are the most important, while the most ephemeral values – TV, celebrity, appearance – are the least important, and that the relative importance of values can be ranked by their relation to time, whether fleeting or eternal.

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This is simply my best understanding of how to anchor ethics into something real. My intuition tells me this is the correct direction.

What is also important to consider is the advancement of our understanding. Be cautious of placing god in the gaps. That ethics is currently an ambiguous subject does not mean that we will not at some point be able to apply mathematics to it. Game theory and the development of our understanding of behavioral phenotypes is an excellent example, as I've provided. This encroachment upon territory that you may see as sacred or off limits is only the case if you consider that territory from a different starting point; namely, that of attempting to provide a rational explanation for a deity. Once you divorce your thinking from this ulterior motive, it becomes clear that not only is it possible to apply mathematics to such things as ethics, but it is inevitable.
I’m not placing God in the gaps. If we define God as the mathematics of ethics, then God’s presence is manifest throughout logic, physics and ethics and there are no gaps. Ethics and Axiom have the same linguistic root in the Greek word Axa, reflecting their common meaning of highest values, with the same method applied to behaviour as to geometry.
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I think you’re approaching the view of global ethics from the wrong starting point. You should approach it with no other Ultimate Aim than the search for truth. Eliminate everything else (yes, even including religion and a deity). If it so happens that you arrive at a conclusion that permits the existence of a deity, then so be it. However, to pursue such a conclusion from the get go is to confuse your Ultimate Aim. In other words, it’s wishful thinking. You’ve said many times that it’s a mistake to kick away the ladder upon which we’ve built our morality. A better way to look at it is in the sense of a construction project. You have scaffolding and a building. Once the building is complete, the scaffolding is put away into storage. Atheists the world over have shown that there is no need of religion for morality. Norway is an excellent example of a secular society that tops the charts in many categories that rate peace, prosperity, and happiness. They rate much higher than fundamentalist America, for example.
Most of the world do not have Norway’s genes or their oil, which provide a felicitous combination for peace, prosperity, and happiness. With famine, war, plague and death stalking the world, the old scaffolding of faith is worth a further look to see if demolishing it is a wise choice. My approach to global ethics starts fairly simply from the Bible, with Jesus’ ideas about who is blessed by God (the poor in spirit, they who mourn, the meek, they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness) and his comment on who is saved (those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, visit the sick and visit prisoners.



Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:00 pm
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Nietzsche was wrong. As I just noted in the memes thread, logic came into man’s head from Animal Foraging and the Evolution of Goal-Directed Cognition.


I think he was wrong as well, but it's still interesting. The parallel he drew to nature selecting logical people over illogical people was fitting for this thread, that's why I posted it.

Quote:
Again, this is a rather dumb remark Interbane. It certainly appears from all scientific evidence that laws of the class I mentioned, gravity, entropy, causation and evolution, do last forever


I don't consider this settled, and it's not rather dumb.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_induction

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induc ... #NatEvoEpi

Quote:
If you had the choice of working towards a set of values of either peace, prosperity, and happiness, or war, poverty and grief, which would you say are more eternal and which more temporal?


I would say the former sets would result in longer lasting strategies, but most definitely not eternal. I expressed as much when I mentioned the question of "why" love should be a necessary component of a set of values; because it leads to stability. This does not make love eternal, of course, but rather it makes it useful.

Quote:
...the question for ethics is the nature of human perspective, in terms of which values to choose, the eternal or the temporal.


I wouldn't use the terms eternal and temporal to label these sets of values. This is a misrepresentation. Stable and unstable would be better.

Surely reason is a human trait? As such, it is a necessary adaptive factor in a global ESS. I don’t think you can extract reason from evolution so simply, as if to imagine an alternative ESS might appear based only on gut instinct with no rhyme or reason.

I agree, reason is a human trait. It is also a necessary factor in a global ESS. What I meant was to draw a distinction. We have territorial tendencies which have evolved into us(evolved behavioral phenotypes), and we also have altruistic tendencies which haven't evolved into us, but that we have arrived at by reason instead. I didn't want to venture too far into the realm of speculation by claiming that reasons for behavior are the same as behavioral phenotypes. This is exemplified by the fact that we can arrive at counter-evolutionary behaviors by reason. Wearing condoms and committing suicide. If you wish to say that reason is a factor in an ESS, I'm all for that! That makes things simple.

Quote:
Stability can also be imposed by violence. However, the ESS analysis would say that the stability of repression is not stable, because it creates opposition. I agree with you that love is essential for a GRESS (global reasoned evolutionarily stable strategy), in that without the trust found in love there is little basis for human cooperation.


Excellent reply. Hang on to that. Don't go adding superfluous baggage to it.

Quote:
We do need to consider ethics as eternal to have any demarcation between good and evil. Good is always good, while evil is always evil.


In that case, we do not need to consider ethics eternal. You're putting the cart before the horse. You wish to achieve the ends (demarcating between good and evil) thus conclude the means(ethics are eternal). This is backwards and incorrect reasoning. Otherwise known as wishful thinking. Do I desire a way to demarcate between good and evil? Yes, absolutely. Does that mean there is such a criterion for demarcation? No, of course not. The truth should be arrived at because it is true, not because of what we desire to be true.

Quote:
Yet, considering eternity as a criterion, we can say the most eternal values – love, truth, justice, mercy, equality – are the most important, while the most ephemeral values – TV, celebrity, appearance – are the least important, and that the relative importance of values can be ranked by their relation to time, whether fleeting or eternal.


This better expresses your idea I believe. However, ethics are not eternal, so using that term as your criterion is faulty. A better way to phrase it might be to say that values which are more stable or lead to the longevity of the human race are of higher value. Time is a constituent in the formula for longevity, so the idea makes sense.

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If we define God as the mathematics of ethics, then God’s presence is manifest throughout logic, physics and ethics and there are no gaps.


Then why don't we not define God as the mathematics of ethics so we can do away with the silly notion? This is again wishful thinking. The mathematics of ethics are the mathematics of ethics. To define god as such is simply to find a place in your worldview into which he fits.

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With famine, war, plague and death stalking the world, the old scaffolding is worth a further look to see if demolishing it is a wise choice.


You can't have the scaffolding without the risk of falling to your death. Norway shows that we can have happiness without religion. Why hang onto it if some of it's byproducts are terrorism, crusades, and bigotry? You will never convince the Stahrwe's of the world of your interpretation of the bible.

Quote:
My approach to global ethics starts fairly simply from the Bible, with Jesus’ ideas about who is blessed by God (the poor in spirit, they who mourn, the meek, they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness) and his comment on who is saved (those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, visit the sick and visit prisoners.


What makes you think jesus developed those ideas? If you're hoping to distill the supernaturalism away from your view of ethics, I strongly consider doing away with the long range healer who can come back from the dead! The ideas are of value, not the fictional character who supposedly expressed them.

I considered the question of "Why are People?" again. My initial problem with the question has panned out a bit. Many uses of the word "why" in a question express intent. Such as "why are you here?" The question begs a purpose. My problem with "why are people" is that it begs a purpose. There is nothing to suggest a teleological answer other than to comfort our inquisitive minds. Purpose is a human notion.



Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:20 am
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Interbane wrote:
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Again, this is a rather dumb remark Interbane. It certainly appears from all scientific evidence that laws of the class I mentioned, gravity, entropy, causation and evolution, do last forever
I don't consider this settled, and it's not rather dumb.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_induction
Whence
Quote:
David Hume

David Hume described the problem in An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, §4, based on his epistemological framework. Here, "reason" refers to deductive reasoning and "induction" refers to inductive reasoning.

First, Hume ponders the discovery of causal relations, which form the basis for what he refers to as "matters of fact." He argues that causal relations are found not by reason, but by induction. This is because for any cause, multiple effects are conceivable, and the actual effect cannot be determined by reasoning about the cause; instead, one must observe occurrences of the causal relation to discover that it holds. For example, when one thinks of "a billiard ball moving in a straight line toward another,"[4] one can conceive that the first ball bounces back with the second ball remaining at rest, the first ball stops and the second ball moves, or the first ball jumps over the second, etc. There is no reason to conclude any of these possibilities over the others. Only through previous observation can it be predicted, inductively, what will actually happen with the balls. In general, it is not necessary that causal relation in the future resemble causal relations in the past, as it is always conceivable otherwise; for Hume, this is because the negation of the claim does not lead to a contradiction.

Next, Hume ponders the justification of induction. If all matters of fact are based on causal relations, and all causal relations are found by induction, then induction must be shown to be valid somehow. He uses the fact that induction assumes a valid connection between the proposition "I have found that such an object has always been attended with such an effect" and the proposition "I foresee that other objects which are in appearance similar will be attended with similar effects."[5] One connects these two propositions not by reason, but by induction. This claim is supported by the same reasoning as that for causal relations above, and by the observation that even rationally inexperienced or inferior people can infer, for example, that touching fire causes pain. Hume challenges other philosophers to come up with a (deductive) reason for the connection. If he is right, then the justification of induction can be only inductive. But this begs the question; as induction is based on an assumption of the connection, it cannot itself explain the connection.

In this way, the problem of induction is not only concerned with the uncertainty of conclusions derived by induction, but doubts the very principle through which those uncertain conclusions are derived.


The nub here is Hume's view "it is not necessary that causal relation in the future resemble causal relations in the past". This claim has a failure of deductive reasoning, which can be illustrated from astronomy. We observe that the solar system is stable, that planetary orbits have very slow and predictable rates of change. Our assumptions about the stability of the earth are predicated upon the stability of the cosmos. As a matter of practical reason, and therefore of pure reason, we have no grounds to consider the stability of the solar system as other than a necessary truth. If the stability of the solar system is necessary for all human life, and this requires consistency of causal law, then Hume errs by claiming that it is not necessary that causal relation in the future resemble causal relations in the past. He is not speaking of actual necessity.

What I characterise as the Hume-Popper-Schultz philosophy - 'I know nothing' - is in error in its application regarding enlightenment on causality.



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