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The Forlorn Quest for the Immaterial Soul


mikespenard

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http://www.memeoid.net/books/Spenard/Spenard-Dueling_with%20Dualism-DRAFT.pdf

An attempt at explaining, comprehensively, the likelyhood for there to be souls, spirits, ghosts etc. of a non-physical nature. And a hint of an alternative way to think about the mind and self. For those interested in such topics. Briefly, the essay attempts to tackle the idea of mind-brain duality; the idea of a physical body and an immaterial mind, i.e. 'substance dualism'. It starts off with a brief historical account, then ventures into analysis from physics, biology and then a linguistic and conceptual look. It's a conglomeration of various arguments from philosophy of mind, squished into a /somewhat/ brief form. And with hopefully some semblance of flow and skill.

Any feedback would be great. Thank you.

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Is there something that Greeks know about consciousness that Canadians cannot know?

Well, I wouldn't be surprised! I have never been a fan of Canadians! :P

Seriously, I am pretty busy at the moment, but have gotten to about page 18 so far, which is where the argument is beginning in earnest. This is a problem I am fascinated with, and will be getting back to you.

Frankly, I think there are only a very few of us on this board who will be interested in this and at least a little competent to discuss it. I haven't gotten into it enough to know where you are coming from, but I am a pragmatist a la James Dewey and company with a good dose of Wittgenstein thrown in, and I have recently become interested in what I call "first person propositions" which I think go to the heart of the issues you are discussing, so I am looking forward to hopefully making a few comments.

One bit of advice is that you might want to briefly summarize your central argument and post it as an edit in your initial post, perhaps in a question form to get people stirred up and interested in the topic. Make it a little controversial.

One thought that I think might be irrelevant to your discussion, but I have not gotten into it far enough to know yet, is the fact that according to LDS theology, the spirit is in fact material. Perhaps you know that, perhaps not. Anyway, looking forward to getting back to you when I have a chance to finish reading the paper.

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Yep, on the first quote, the one by James Clerk Maxwell. "What is done by what is called myself is, I feel, done by something greater than myself in me." The word "then" needs to be changed to "than." Also, you might note that he is reported to have said that on his deathbed, which adds a bit of interest to it.

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Well I finished reading it; and I think it is an excellent explication of the problem, you clearly understand the issues, but there is not much said about a solution. I am still busy, but we can talk about possible solutions. I think the pragmatists have it solved frankly by looking at human experience as all that we can know and talk about.

My view of the solution lies in the difference between third person statements which are verifiable descriptions and fist person statements which though not verifiable to third person observers nevertheless have truth value, perhaps only knowable to the speaker. What is ultimately true is what works and what affects our lives and causes us to take action.

In this way the dualism becomes a linguistic difference between 1st and third (including second person lingusitically) statements, or really the difference between statements about the self vs statements about everything which is "non-self". Really that is all we can know. We can personally know without doubt that "I am hungry" is true; others may measure our blood sugar etc and conclude that the statement is likely to be true, but not know for sure.

Statements about non- self items are verifiable by observation of others and make up kind of a communal reality.

But all we can really know is experience itself- both first and third person statements are only verifiable through experience and anything else is in principle unknowable.

The upshot of this for religous experience is that we can know the truth of it as surely as we can know that we are hungry etc, but it is not provable to others.

Anyway, gotta go for now.

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Yep, on the first quote, the one by James Clerk Maxwell. "What is done by what is called myself is, I feel, done by something greater than myself in me." The word "then" needs to be changed to "than." Also, you might note that he is reported to have said that on his deathbed, which adds a bit of interest to it.

Ah, good call CS. Didn't notice that typo of mine (there are still a few to weed out). And I'll add the 'deathbed' reference. Thanks!

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Well I finished reading it; and I think it is an excellent explication of the problem, you clearly understand the issues, but there is not much said about a solution. I am still busy, but we can talk about possible solutions. I think the pragmatists have it solved frankly by looking at human experience as all that we can know and talk about.

Well, this essay (or possible chapter in a future book) isn't the place for giving a comprehensive positive account of what consciousness IS; since it's an exercise in 'conceptual ground clearing' and the burning some dead wood. However, I do try and leave the hint of a very general position, bundle theory, for the reader to jump tracks too.

It sounds like you are in the Searle & Chalmers camp with the non-reducibility of subjective experiences , i.e. qualia, and that they have their own ontology? Is this accurate? If so how do you deal with the imposing threat of solipsism that this position implies? Also, do you reduce qualia to 'intentional objects' as they do?

Also, you may find this very short story interesting:

http://www.memeoid.net/books/Spenard/AnEthicalDualema-roughdraft.pdf

I attempt to show how when it comes to ethical judgments we are all really materialistic behavorists (in the Ryle-ian sense). That is, we all side with the Clair character.

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Well, this essay (or possible chapter in a future book) isn't the place for giving a comprehensive positive account of what consciousness IS; since it's an exercise in 'conceptual ground clearing' and the burning some dead wood. However, I do try and leave the hint of a very general position, bundle theory, for the reader to jump tracks too.

It sounds like you are in the Searle & Chalmers camp with the non-reducibility of subjective experiences , i.e. qualia, and that they have their own ontology? Is this accurate? If so how do you deal with the imposing threat of solipsism that this position implies? Also, do you reduce qualia to 'intentional objects' as they do?

Also, you may find this very short story interesting:

http://www.memeoid.net/books/Spenard/AnEthicalDualema-roughdraft.pdf

I attempt to show how when it comes to ethical judgments we are all really materialistic behavorists (in the Ryle-ian sense). That is, we all side with the Clair character.

Another quick reply-

I do like Searle a lot, he is part of my generation and I gave up on academic philosophy probably 30 or so years ago. Don't really know Chalmers.

I think there are problems with bundle theory - I just believe in experience, I am not into underlying substances so I am not sure what "is" bundled in the bundle. Is there something underlying the bundle? We cannot know that, so just talking about bundles confuses the issue.

I see no way this view entails solipsism, so I would like to hear about that.

Basically I got into philos-sophia as the love of wisdom and became an apostate from that true religon when I realized I could argue a lot of positions but was no wiser than when I started. And the politics of academia were not my thing either, so I decided to be just a seeker of wisdom rather than a philosopher.

Haven't read the story yet, gotta go do some stuff and may be back later- tomorrow for sure.

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I think there are problems with bundle theory - I just believe in experience, I am not into underlying substances so I am not sure what "is" bundled in the bundle. Is there something underlying the bundle? We cannot know that, so just talking about bundles confuses the issue.

Well, it certainly doesn't put an end to the questions. As it opens a second framework in which to ask them. We can think of our self as a monolithic and centralized meaner, i.e. the ego in 'ego theory', or we can think of our self as a conglomeration, i.e. the bundle in 'bundle theory', of non-centralized agents operating under one title "I". It's to present two frameworks in which to set about asking questions, not answer them. I think you of all people, even if you don't agree with the options, can appreciate trying to elucidate all the possible frameworks we can use.

I see no way this view entails solipsism, so I would like to hear about that.

Briefly, and admittedly all to briefly, if subjective experiences cannot be reduced to objective 3rd person phenomena, then they are locked away inside one's first person perspective. No one else has access, as the only means of access I have to your mind is through objective means (unless you believe in woowoo stuff like 'Psi'; but lets not go there), and these objective phenomena are not the subjective experiences e.g. qualia we are trying to get access too (by Searle and other Property Dualists definition). By its own conceptualization its solipsistic. If I cannot use objective means to find out your 'real inner phenomenal world' then I have no means, and your mind is locked away to everyone but yourself. Searle also thinks we cannot be wrong on our experiences, "...where consciousness is concerned the reality is the appearance. If it consciously seems to me that I am conscious, then I am conscious." [1997: 201, 197, 213]. If you consider yourself to be experiencing blueness, then you are ipso facto experiencing blueness; despite psychology clearly showing we CAN be completely mistaken. And it results in his position relying on the same axiomatic move Descartes made with "I think therefore I am", and the result is the exact same issue with solipsism. Searle's a smart guy, its been disappointing for him not to move past this and let himself stagnate in the same old inescapable abyss as Descartes.

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Well, it certainly doesn't put an end to the questions. As it opens a second framework in which to ask them. We can think of our self as a monolithic and centralized meaner, i.e. the ego in 'ego theory', or we can think of our self as a conglomeration, i.e. the bundle in 'bundle theory', of non-centralized agents operating under one title "I". It's to present two frameworks in which to set about asking questions, not answer them. I think you of all people, even if you don't agree with the options, can appreciate trying to elucidate all the possible frameworks we can use.

I understand the value of that to a degree but often I think it just doesn't matter to look at positions that don't work for me. I am at a point in my life where I am just trying to work out what is "true" as I see it so I skim through all that makes sense to me and throw out what does not, so I end up jumping over whole areas of argumentation as irrelevant to my needs. My method has been to try to define things for myself without getting bogged down in classifications of what is and what is not even "philosophy"-- much less who falls in what camp IN philosophy--that is something that my surrender of academic values has allowed me. I am kind of a Rorty renegade cross-disciplinary guy just trying to figure it all out and making sense of it all. I have found that when you get bogged down in classifications it can become partisan and even dogmatic.

Anyway, regarding bundles, I think the quote Cold Steel brought up is highly relevant to this whole issue, and I agree that in my own perception there is always "something more" than bundles of qualia, which is of course what we are talking about in the title of the OP. I would disagree that this "something more" is immaterial, but really that becomes a scientific and not a philosophical issue.

And as a pragmatist, I don't worry about a lot of the alleged "issues" in this area because if they don't make a difference in real life, there there is no point in arguing about them. So it doesn't matter one iota to me if my quale called "red" is somehow what you perceive as "green" because we can't ever know that difference, so it is a difference that doesn't exist as far as I am concerned. It makes no linguistic difference because we can't talk about it and discuss it. Which brings us to the second point you made:

Briefly, and admittedly all to briefly, if subjective experiences cannot be reduced to objective 3rd person phenomena, then they are locked away inside one's first person perspective. No one else has access, as the only means of access I have to your mind is through objective means (unless you believe in woowoo stuff like 'Psi'; but lets not go there), and these objective phenomena are not the subjective experiences e.g. qualia we are trying to get access too (by Searle and other Property Dualists definition). By its own conceptualization its solipsistic. If I cannot use objective means to find out your 'real inner phenomenal world' then I have no means, and your mind is locked away to everyone but yourself.

Nah, I'm not buying it. It is true you can never know what my experiences are, in the sense of qualia, but in another sense, that is what language is for. You know exactly what I mean by "red" and we would never argue about whether or not a car is "red" or "green" unless one of us was color blind or whatever- and that would be an objectively observable difference. No one acts like a solipsist. Solipsism is a position only available to the mentally ill. This is why I talk about subjective or private first person statements and third person statements. The objective is to reduce the "dualism" to linguistic convention, which is where I think the only differences actually exist in a pragmatic sense.

Searle also thinks we cannot be wrong on our experiences, "...where consciousness is concerned the reality is the appearance. If it consciously seems to me that I am conscious, then I am conscious." [1997: 201, 197, 213]. If you consider yourself to be experiencing blueness, then you are ipso facto experiencing blueness;...
I agree with Searle here, and the upshot for LDS is that if you consider yourself to be having a religious experience, you are having a religious experience, and you are not, nor can be, mistaken.
....despite psychology clearly showing we CAN be completely mistaken. And it results in his position relying on the same axiomatic move Descartes made with "I think therefore I am", and the result is the exact same issue with solipsism. Searle's a smart guy, its been disappointing for him not to move past this and let himself stagnate in the same old inescapable abyss as Descartes.

And that is I guess where we disagree. To me, the only distinction is a linguistic one that is used in every language- the difference between first person statements on one side and second and third person statements on the other. There is no other difference that "makes a difference" as Willim James would say.

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http://www.memeoid.n...alism-DRAFT.pdf

An attempt at explaining, comprehensively, the likelyhood for there to be souls, spirits, ghosts etc. of a non-physical nature. And a hint of an alternative way to think about the mind and self. For those interested in such topics. Briefly, the essay attempts to tackle the idea of mind-brain duality; the idea of a physical body and an immaterial mind, i.e. 'substance dualism'. It starts off with a brief historical account, then ventures into analysis from physics, biology and then a linguistic and conceptual look. It's a conglomeration of various arguments from philosophy of mind, squished into a /somewhat/ brief form. And with hopefully some semblance of flow and skill.

Any feedback would be great. Thank you.

How can the mind be "immaterial" and exist separately from the body, the brain in particular (I think that's what you're saying), when it is "the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and esp. reasons"? (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed.). In other words, doesn't the brain make the mind possible? Consequently, aren't the two inseparable?

Yes, I know, I'm in w-a-y over my head here, which suggests--given the number of responses--that it might be helpful for you to simplify your thesis (just a suggestion).

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http://www.memeoid.net/books/Spenard/Spenard-Dueling_with%20Dualism-DRAFT.pdf

An attempt at explaining, comprehensively, the likelyhood for there to be souls, spirits, ghosts etc. of a non-physical nature. And a hint of an alternative way to think about the mind and self. For those interested in such topics. Briefly, the essay attempts to tackle the idea of mind-brain duality; the idea of a physical body and an immaterial mind, i.e. 'substance dualism'. It starts off with a brief historical account, then ventures into analysis from physics, biology and then a linguistic and conceptual look. It's a conglomeration of various arguments from philosophy of mind, squished into a /somewhat/ brief form. And with hopefully some semblance of flow and skill.

Any feedback would be great. Thank you.

No doubt there are aspects of ourselves that we cannot see. I think that thoughts are evidence of our souls. I imagine it is simply matter that the Divine has not allowed us to discover. When we had a need to defeat Hitler and the Axis powers, the Divine revealed nuclear technology in my mind as punishment not for mere murder, but for the blood of Jewish children that Hitler killed, and any nation like Japan that aligned themselves and shook hands with Hitler in his goal for world conquest.

If there were a need and man would not misuse it maybe God would grant us the knowledge to discover that technology. My guess is there is no need. And revealing it would prove the existence of God, if we could see the matter of the soul, it would prove the existence of God. And that in my mind would undermine the reason we are here on earth. To be able grow in our understanding of how to use our moral agency by faith, not by our ability to prove the existence of God.

My analogy of the matter of the soul and its existence would be the existence of sub-atomic particles smaller than protons and neutrons which we didn't know existed a 100 years ago. Just because we can't as humans identify and label something doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Some guys in the Bible were given the gift of discerning spirits. They could look at someone if they had the Holy Ghost and identify whether that person was in possession of the Spirit, or some other dark spirit. If their ability in that arena isn't proof of the soul then nothing is.

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No doubt there are aspects of ourselves that we cannot see. I think that thoughts are evidence of our souls. I imagine it is simply matter that the Divine has not allowed us to discover. When we had a need to defeat Hitler and the Axis powers, the Divine revealed nuclear technology in my mind as punishment not for mere murder, but for the blood of Jewish children that Hitler killed, and any nation like Japan that aligned themselves and shook hands with Hitler in his goal for world conquest.

If there were a need and man would not misuse it maybe God would grant us the knowledge to discover that technology. My guess is there is no need. And revealing it would prove the existence of God, if we could see the matter of the soul, it would prove the existence of God. And that in my mind would undermine the reason we are here on earth. To be able grow in our understanding of how to use our moral agency by faith, not by our ability to prove the existence of God.

My analogy of the matter of the soul and its existence would be the existence of sub-atomic particles smaller than protons and neutrons which we didn't know existed a 100 years ago. Just because we can't as humans identify and label something doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Some guys in the Bible were given the gift of discerning spirits. They could look at someone if they had the Holy Ghost and identify whether that person was in possession of the Spirit, or some other dark spirit. If their ability in that arena isn't proof of the soul then nothing is.

Mf pointed this thread out to me and it looks interesting. I'm going to have to take a cue from Mf, though, and read the paper later as I am on my way out the door.

When it comes to the mind, I think going beyond the techinical use of language into poetics and literature is approriate since in so many ways, it is the only effective way to evoke the mind/human experience in words.

From Faulkner's As I Lay Dying -

I can remember how when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mindâ??and that of the minds who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say it is the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town.

...

In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep.

And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you.

And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not. And

when you are filled with sleep, you never were. I don't

know what I am. I don't know if I am or not. Jewel

knows he is, because he does not know that he does not

know whether he is or not. He cannot empty himself

for sleep because lie is not what lie is and he is what

he is not. Beyond the unlamped wall I can hear the

rain shaping the wagon that is ours, the load that is

no longer theirs that felled and sawed it nor yet theirs

that bought it and which is not ours either, lie on our

wagon though it does, since only the wind and the rain

shape it only to Jewel and me, that are not asleep. And

since sleep is is-not and rain and wind are was, it is not.

Yet the wagon is ? because when the wagon is was, Addie

Bundren will not be. And Jewel is, so Addie Bundrea

must be. And then I must be, or I could not empty my-

relf for sleep in a strange room. And so if I am not

emptied yet, 1 am is.

How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof,

thinking of home.

...

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