The "Materialist View"

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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:50 am

jeeprs wrote:
shel wrote:Of course. I will assume that you believe Fromm and D. T. Suzuki converge sensibly without the notion of many lives (and beliefs of similar nature) also, without an explanation as to how they converge. Again Fromm was apparently a scientist and not more concerned with meaning/mysticism/religion in his work, so wherever they converged it would seemingly not have been through mysticism or faith based notions. You probably don't regard "many lives" as a faith based notion and if that's the case I'd be happy to hear you make sense of the idea in a way that converges with Fromm's work.


I don't think of Fromm as a scientist. He never published any scientific papers, although I suppose in his day, psychoanalysis was regarded as, or was trying to be regarded as, a scientific discipline. But as to his background:

Wikipedia wrote:Central to Fromm's world view was his interpretation of the Talmud, which he began studying as a young man under Rabbi J. Horowitz and later studied under Rabbi Salman Baruch Rabinkow while working towards his doctorate in sociology at the University of Heidelberg and under Nehemia Nobel and Ludwig Krause while studying in Frankfurt. Fromm's grandfather and two great grandfathers on his father's side were rabbis, and a great uncle on his mother's side was a noted Talmudic scholar. However, Fromm turned away from orthodox Judaism in 1926, towards secular interpretations of scriptural ideals.

The cornerstone of Fromm's humanistic philosophy is his interpretation of the biblical story of Adam and Eve's exile from the Garden of Eden. Drawing on his knowledge of the Talmud, Fromm pointed out that being able to distinguish between good and evil is generally considered to be a virtue, and that biblical scholars generally consider Adam and Eve to have sinned by disobeying God and eating from the Tree of Knowledge. However, departing from traditional religious orthodoxy, Fromm extolled the virtues of humans taking independent action and using reason to establish moral values rather than adhering to authoritarian moral values.


So, very much in the tradition of secular humanism, but based more in hermeneutics - the re-interpretation of traditional texts - than science per se. His whole notion of 'freedom' was founded on a re-interpretation of the meaning of 'the fall' in relation to the human condition.


I'm not sure what it means to deny that someone with a PhD in sociology and trained in psychoanalysis was a scientist. It's like saying that someone with an art degree is not an artist, which could well be the case, at least subjectively speaking. I guess you have some reason to believe that Fromm was a lousy scientist, so there is no point in talking about him any further in that framework.

Fromm extolled the virtues of humans taking independent action and using reason to establish moral values rather than adhering to authoritarian moral values.

Perhaps you could explain how this is convergent with Zen Buddhism or D. T. Suzuki's writings.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Indrajala » Wed Feb 06, 2013 5:53 am

jeeprs wrote:I quite agree. I think Ian Stephenson was another man who was basically ignored, if not vilified, because of what he chose to research. He was a very sober, careful, methodical individual, but the whole subject is so taboo in Western science that he was ostracised by the scientific community.


Yes, and in his retirement he lamented that scientists didn't take his research seriously. However, Jim Tucker carries on his research, in particular in respect to children in the west with past life memories, which helps to expand the field outside of countries where rebirth is basically axiomatic and not so extraordinary. I really hope it continues to expand.

I believe one reason that mainstream orthodox science ignores such research is because of financial interests. Science, like organized religion, is capital intensive and depends either on state funding or private benefactors. Religion in the west is no longer funded by the state, but instead those funds go towards scientific research, even if that research has minimal practical benefits.

In Canada, for instance, the government funds an institution for theoretical astrophysics where people hammer out and discuss theories about the creation of the universe (big bang, etc...). This has no more practical benefit to the tax payers than theologians being paid to discuss the finer points of genesis.

So, having a well-funded and prestigious position, I suspect a lot of scientists are reluctant to give any leverage to people who would undermine them. Despite there being evidence for psychic phenomena and rebirth, such research is ignored or labelled pseudoscience. There is too much to lose materially if these theories and the accompanying evidence are taken seriously. How many neurology researchers would have their careers crushed if it became widely accepted that the brain does not produce consciousness? It is akin to geocentrists in astronomy losing out to the heliocentric model. The initial reaction was hostility. In the social arrangements of the time it meant losing reputation and perhaps more importantly material perks.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Wed Feb 06, 2013 5:57 am

Shel wrote:I'm not sure what it means to deny that someone with a PhD in sociology and trained in psychoanalysis was a scientist. It's like saying that someone with an art degree is not an artist, which could well be the case, at least subjectively speaking. I guess you have some reason to believe that Fromm was a lousy scientist, so there is no point in talking about him any further in that framework.


If you enrolled in a science degree at University, in which unit would you be likely to encounter Erich Fromm? I don't think that he is known for being 'a scientist', which is not to say that he's anti-science.

At this point, I am very confused, but I don't think this is due to anything I have written here. Reviewing the thread, you said:

Shel wrote:Getting back to Fromm, he says that the way to become truly free in an individual sense is to become spontaneous in our self-expression and behaviour and respond truthfully to our genuine feelings. This is crystallised in his existential statement "there is only one meaning of life: the act of living it". He seemed to believe that being truly in touch with our humanity is to be truly in touch with the needs of those with whom we share the world. Anything else is just moving from one pair of spectacles (belief system that offers meaning(security)) to another, to use your analogy.


Which is where I made the remark 'you can see the convergence with Suzuki'. So why did I say that? Because that statement of his about 'the meaning of life being in the living of it' is something that would not be out of place in one of Suzuki's essays on Zen. Same with the 'truly in touch with the needs of those with whom we share the world', which is very much in line with the Bodhisattva vow. I know that Fromm and Suzuki were associates, because it is mentioned in the biographical film about Suzuki that I saw parts of last year. So I don't quite understand what problem this is causing for you. Perhaps you can try and spell out your concerns a little more explicitly.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:46 pm

jeeprs wrote:... that statement of his about 'the meaning of life being in the living of it' is something that would not be out of place in one of Suzuki's essays on Zen.

According to Buddhism life is characterized by suffering or dissatisfaction, and there are causes for and solution to this suffering. That's the basic framework for a system of meaning. It's the framework for an elaborate pair of spectacles, if you will. "the meaning of life being in the living of it" is a meaningful perspective also, but it's obviously far less structured, and being so doesn't offer the possible security or identity of a belief system like Buddhism.

Offhand I don't know if Suzuki held Buddhist beliefs or, like Fromm, wrote secular interpretations about them.

Same with the 'truly in touch with the needs of those with whom we share the world', which is very much in line with the Bodhisattva vow.

All virtuous qualities are in line with the Bodhisattva vow.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Fri Feb 08, 2013 12:40 am

A well-known and well regarded US philosopher, Thomas Nagel, published a book in October last year, called Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. As the title states, this book is highly critical of the current materialist account of the evolution of human mind.

The modern materialist approach to life has conspicuously failed to explain such central mind-related features of our world as consciousness, intentionality, meaning, and value. This failure to account for something so integral to nature as mind, argues philosopher Thomas Nagel, is a major problem, threatening to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology.


Nagel is not a religious type, in fact he is a self-proclaimed atheist. Nevertheless the religious critics of Darwinism have seized on this book, mostly in support of it, although not of his atheism. The mainstream academy has, predictably, been extremely hostile towards it, with one reviewer calling it the most despised book of 2012 (although that review is actually favourable).

I read this book as soon as it came out. I am pre-disposed to agree with its general thrust, having debated the topic at length on Philosophy Forums, and having always been opposed to philosophical materialism. The basic argument is this: materialism understands 'mind' as being something that has emerged from matter. The process of evolution results in more intelligent species, and intelligence is an attribute of the brains of such species. 'Mind' is not something that exists in the abstract, but is solely the output of the evolved brain. So to the universe is simply a material phenomena which is not animated by any purpose; the evolution of life begins fortuitously, and proceeds according to Darwinian types of algorithms, which in the case of Earth happens to have produced h. sapiens.

Nagel argues that this account of mind is inadequate. He argues in favour of a 'natural teleology', 'teleology' being goal-seeking behaviours. He remarks a couple of times that the emergence of intelligent beings is, in a sense, the Universe becoming aware of itself. This is an idea I have always been drawn to.

Anyway, I am glad I don't have a professional stake in this game. Nagel's critics are all academic heavyweights and popular intellectuals, and they are basically outraged by his critique. Of course, in my view, they don't even understand it. My interpretation of materialism is that it is based on avidya and so the mistaken notion of the absolute existence of the objects of perception. it is a view, if you like, that has no inkling of Śūnyatā, and so regards the objects of sense as being the sole criteria of reality. That is basically why I gave up trying to argue against it, although as you can see from this post, I am interested in the topic. But it takes a really basic turnaround in your view of life to break away from the materialist view. It is a deeply-rooted aspect of the modern outlook.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Fri Feb 08, 2013 1:27 am

"failed to explain" is a rather open-ended critique. Can anyone adequately explain the pen on my desk? What is most relevant to us can be explained, but there are ways to explain it that we can't even imagine.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Feb 08, 2013 1:53 am

shel wrote:"failed to explain" is a rather open-ended critique. Can anyone adequately explain the pen on my desk? What is most relevant to us can be explained, but there are ways to explain it that we can't even imagine.


If there is a way to explain it,one can imagine it.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Fri Feb 08, 2013 2:07 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote:"failed to explain" is a rather open-ended critique. Can anyone adequately explain the pen on my desk? What is most relevant to us can be explained, but there are ways to explain it that we can't even imagine.


If there is a way to explain it,one can imagine it.
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How you figure? Our imaginations are very limited. The basic purpose of a pen is writing, which is one way, the most relevant way, of 'explaining' a pen. A pen could also be explained chemically, or molecularly, or historically, etc. We can't explain what is beyond our experience, knowledge or capability.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Indrajala » Fri Feb 08, 2013 6:17 am

jeeprs wrote:The mainstream academy has, predictably, been extremely hostile towards it, with one reviewer calling it the most despised book of 2012 (although that review is actually favourable).


Modern scientific materialism, despite rejecting religion, has adopted the same approach of religious fundamentalists: that it is unacceptable for anyone to believe something different from what you do, and that they need to be undermined whether they like it or not.

I think it is fine to disagree, and even be vocal about it, but quite often what you see in the mainstream academy is active hostility. It isn't enough to just denounce your opponent and criticize them. You have to go out of your way to vilify them and undermine their future ability to acquire resources (in academia that means seeing that they don't get tenure or funding).

This actually extends outside of science into archaeology. For instance, the Hueyatlaco affair demonstrates what happens when a researcher steps out of bounds:

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

After excavations in the 1960s, the site became notorious due to geochronologists' analyses that indicated human habitation at Hueyatlaco was dated to ca. 250,000 years before the present.


The 1981 statement:

The evidence outlined here consistently indicates that the Hueyatlaco site is about 250,000 yr. old. We who have worked on geological aspects of the Valsequillo area are painfully aware that so great an age poses an archeological dilemma [...] In our view, the results reported here widen the window of time in which serious investigation of the age of Man in the New World would be warranted. We continue to cast a critical eye on all the data, including our own.


Steen-McIntyre had her career ruined as a result of insisting on the data. Despite all the scientific approaches that confirm the anomalous dating, it gets ignored. It is risky to assert that the present status quo might be wrong. It would ruin a lot of careers.

Actually, the process of "information filtration" is an ongoing problem where data that the mainstream disagree with is ignored to preserve the preferred models and paradigms.

There is evidence for psychic phenomena (like Sheldrake explores) and rebirth (Ian Stevenson), yet this does not fit in with the mainstream picture, so the evidence is ignored. Evidence is made to fit theories, and not the other way around. It is quite unscientific, and if you say otherwise people accuse you of pushing pseudoscience.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby 5heaps » Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:08 am

jeeprs wrote:The basic argument is this: materialism understands 'mind' as being something that has emerged from matter. The process of evolution results in more intelligent species, and intelligence is an attribute of the brains of such species. 'Mind' is not something that exists in the abstract, but is solely the output of the evolved brain. So to the universe is simply a material phenomena which is not animated by any purpose; the evolution of life begins fortuitously, and proceeds according to Darwinian types of algorithms, which in the case of Earth happens to have produced h. sapiens.

is that really the basic argument?
i think the basic argument is that the mind does exist in the abstract, meaning as just a theory or just a term used to refer to actual discrete physical interactions (or to a collection of actual discrete physical interactions, etc).
and that 'intelligence', 'intention', etc are completely nonexistent as far as qualia ie. actually existing things, they exist only in an abstract sense
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:11 am

5heaps wrote:i think the basic argument is that the mind does exist in the abstract, meaning as just a theory or just a term used


Where do 'theories' exist, and by what is 'meaning of terms' understood?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby 5heaps » Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:25 am

jeeprs wrote:
5heaps wrote:i think the basic argument is that the mind does exist in the abstract, meaning as just a theory or just a term used

Where do 'theories' exist, and by what is 'meaning of terms' understood?

they have to assert emergence while at the same time denying qualia ie. the existence of functioning subjective experience,
so they would chalk it up to [complex] physical interaction. all rules of syntax, structure, logic, maths, etc, would be findable as brain/body algorithms and systems
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:58 pm

So, how to conceive of 'consciousness'? Whereas energy is something that can be objectively measured, consciousness does not appear as an objective phenomenon. Conscious beings appear as phenomena, but direct perception of the nature of consciousness is only known in the first person. So I think comparisons of consciousness with energy or any other external phenomena are misleading in that respect. It is *like* energy, in that it flows and is transformed, but it has the attribute of intrinsic sentience or awareness. I don't think physical energy has that attribute of sentience or awareness. Scientific analysis wishes to understand sentience or awareness as the product of insentient matter. I think this is because it always wishes to proceed in terms of analysis of objective realities, rather than subjective self-awareness, which it wishes to leave out of its reckonings. But sentience or self-awareness is the very nature of being itself, it is not something external or objective to us. That is why understanding it requires a different way of knowing, which is what is studied through meditation. That is why meditation opens us up to a completely different way of being out of which a different understanding of the nature of reality arises. And that understanding cannot be communicated in strictly objectivist terms.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby 5heaps » Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:15 am

jeeprs wrote:Scientific analysis wishes to understand sentience or awareness as the product of insentient matter.

well, this is what i disagreed with. if mind is an actual event which is discretely produced by the brain, that is called epiphenomenalism. however most scientists are not in that camp, they are in the camp which says that mind is merely an emergent property. in this view mind and qualia are not even functioning things ie. actual existents, they are only an appearance of activity and existents. in fact the people who assert emergent properties use the same arguments against the epiphenomenalists that we use against all nihilists, which is that the mind cant possibly be produced by something of completely different type. at least when gold emerges from whichever element it is that it emerges out of, at least they are both of similar type ie. they are both form, they both occupy space, etc.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Karma Dorje » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:55 pm

jeeprs wrote: And that understanding cannot be communicated in strictly objectivist terms.


Not even by asking "Who is John Galt?" as an analytical meditation?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Matt J » Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:01 pm

Why not?

Consider the things that science has revealed to be parts of the same thing: waves/particles; time/space; matter/energy. The primary manifestation of consciousness in living beings is energy, movement, etc.

jeeprs wrote: I don't think physical energy has that attribute of sentience or awareness.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Feb 09, 2013 11:58 pm

Matt J wrote:Why not? Consider the things that science has revealed to be parts of the same thing: waves/particles; time/space; matter/energy. The primary manifestation of consciousness in living beings is energy, movement, etc.


That amounts to physical matter witnessing its own (appearance of) existence,
and further, witnessing that fact of witnessing, and so on.

Since physical matter can be broken down infinitely,
any nanospeck, any duration of vibration of energy, whatever, can be divided.

Thus, you would have to determine where it is, along that path of infinite division,
that the appearance of self-awareness, or the causes of that appearance, begins.

Yes, there are the considerations of waves/particles; time/space; matter/energy.
But "who' is witnessing their interaction, and what is the basis of that "who"?

That's the crucial point.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:26 am

Matt J wrote:
jeeprs wrote: I don't think physical energy has that attribute of sentience or awareness.

Why not?


Because it is appears as an objective reality. Anything that appears objectively, only does so to a subject. It is the subject that has the attribute of sentience or awareness. The subject is (by definition) not an object of awareness. That is another way of saying that awareness is something only known in the first person.

Erwin Schrodinger wrote:There is no kind of framework within which we can find consciousness in the plural; this is simply something we construct because of the temporal plurality of individuals, but it is a false construction...


The essence of materialism is to invest some object or objective pheomenon, with ultimacy - to say 'this is the fundamental thing in terms of which everything else can be explained'. For most of history, this 'ultimate thing' was indeed the atom. The very word 'atom' means 'uncuttable' or 'non-divisible'. So the notion of the atom solved the problem of where the uncreated and the eternal existed in reality. Atoms themselves were eternal and uncreated, and all temporal and created things are simply combinations of atoms. But as we know, physics itself has show that there is no such thing. Now the fundamental realities are spoken of in terms of 'fields' and 'matter-energy', as if this constitutes some kind of ultimate explanandum. But even those notions are only ever grasped through mathematical reasoning. They are understood as 'models', and models exist in minds.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:09 am

shel wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote: If there is a way to explain it, one can imagine it.

How you figure? Our imaginations are very limited. The basic purpose of a pen is writing, which is one way, the most relevant way, of 'explaining' a pen. A pen could also be explained chemically, or molecularly, or historically, etc. We can't explain what is beyond our experience, knowledge or capability.


You have to imagine something before you can explain it.
Thus, whatever you can explain, you can imagine. Or as I phrased it before,
If there is a way to explain it, one can imagine it.
(one has already imagined it).

It is hard for language to keep up with imagination.
There are many things we can imagine which are very difficult to explain.

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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:13 am

shel wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote: If there is a way to explain it, one can imagine it.

How you figure? Our imaginations are very limited. The basic purpose of a pen is writing, which is one way, the most relevant way, of 'explaining' a pen. A pen could also be explained chemically, or molecularly, or historically, etc. We can't explain what is beyond our experience, knowledge or capability.


You have to imagine something before you can explain it.
Thus, whatever you can explain, you can imagine. Or as I phrased it before,
If there is a way to explain it, one can imagine it.
(one has already imagined it).

It is hard for language to keep up with imagination.
There are many things we can imagine which are very difficult to explain.
shel wrote:We can't explain what is beyond our experience, knowledge or capability.

Not unless we can first imagine it.
First, we can imagine it. Then we can explain it.
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