Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group Message Board › Dialogue between Derik and Bill (but others are welcome) related to the book

Dialogue between Derik and Bill (but others are welcome) related to the book on the Mind-Body Problem and other matters

Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,707
I have changed this thread to one just for Derik and me to continue our dialogue, which began presumably about the book on the mind-body problem, but has turned out to be about very unrelated matters of interest. I am leaving the first posts, consisting of material from the book, since the book has been the "jumping off place" for the discussion, but to really learn about and talk about the ideas in the book, please see the thread designed for that, and leave this thread for Derik and me to go where it will.

The book can probably best be read at HomoRationalis.com, but it can also be downloaded from the Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group, either as a PDF file or as a Word document. You would go to the menu above and click on “Other,” and then click on “Files.”

In this thread, as opposed to other threads, I am requesting that there just be dialogue between you and me, with you quoting the passage that you are talking about and giving your own ideas about it. I am contrasting that with “outsourcing” to material written by other people and to videos considered related to the subject. If you do have such material to share, it could be done by starting another thread or adding such material to another relevant thread already existing. I would of course be interested in those things also, but I wish for this particular thread to be focused entirely on what is specifically written in this book, especially any critiques of the wording and/or ideas in it, or any questions that specific passages seem to raise, or any elaborations on the ideas in such passages.

The next post will be just the table of contents, to give you an idea of what the book is basically about. The following post will present the Preface and the first part of the Introduction.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,708

FOR EVERYONE


THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM (AND FREE WILL VS DETERMINISM)

THE MOST IMPORTANT PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM



By William V. Van Fleet, MD

10/26/2012


TABLE OF CONTENTS



CHAPTER PAGE

PREFACE 3
INTRODUCTION 5
CAUSATION AND EXPLANATION 7
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL WORLDS 11

MODELING 13
SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE 17
THE SUBJECTIVE MODEL 22
THE OBJECTIVE MODEL: LINGUISTIC MODELING 27

OBJECTIVE MODEL: AGREEMENT 33
OBJECTIVE MODEL: RATIONALITY 39
OBJECTIVE MODEL: MEASUREMENT 42
MODELING MATERIAL 45

SUBJECTIVE MODEL, OBJECTIVE MODEL, AND REALITY 52
THE CONCEPT OF SUB-MODELS 59
THE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL SUB-MODELS 62
THE MENTAL MODEL 71

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL OBJECTIVE MODEL LANGUAGES 80
PHYSICO-MENTAL MODEL 83
THE CONCEPT OF THE “MIND” 91
FREE WILL 97

GENERAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE TRIPARTITE MODEL 104
IMPLICATIONS: SPIRITUALITY 107
IMPLICATIONS: GOOD AND BAD SPIRITUALITY 112
IMPLICATIONS: GOD 115

IMPLICATIONS: RELIGION 118
IMPLICATIONS: SUPERVISION AND PUNISHMENT 120
IMPLICATIONS: ABORTION AND ANIMAL CARE 123
CONCLUDING REMARKS 127



Note to reader:

Much attention has been devoted to using terms in this book in highly consistent ways. I request that the reader read this book in the order written, to prevent the misunderstandings that so frequently arise by virtue of the use of the same words with different meanings. Doing so will assure that the value of this book will be preserved.

William V. Van Fleet, M.D.

Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,709
Here is the Preface and beginning of Introduction


PREFACE



I wish to clarify something important about how this book is written.

It is customary, I know, for presentations about issues such as the one this book is about to refer plentifully to “sources,” so that the reader can explore further the specific issues being discussed. However, I have not done that in this book, for two main reasons.

First, the concepts being referred to in this book have been written about by many, many people, and there is no way to refer to one, or a few, of these people who would stand out as being unusually important.

Second, it is my belief that the very existence of this problem (the “mind-body problem”), and its related problems, is due to a great extent to linguistic confusion, produced by the inherent ambiguity of language. Therefore, in this book I have attempted to develop a specific, highly consistent lexicon, the purpose of which is to obtain as great clarity as possible in communication and understanding. As soon as I would refer to some other individual’s work, I would have to be taking into account how that individual was using his or her words in what he or she was presenting. This would immediately make this extremely difficult task dramatically more complex and difficult.

I also would like to clarify why I consider this problem, or set of problems, probably regarded by many as rather obscure and therefore unimportant, to be the most important philosophical problem that our species faces. This is because of my belief that it is extremely important, and increasingly so, that our species be able to come to agreement about certain basic things, and that what those basic beliefs are be as accurate as possible. Our species has become more and more able to do extremely influential things, and so while we have been able to do increasingly useful and wonderful things, potentially ultimately beneficial to us all, we have simultaneously become able to make extremely influential, and even tragic, mistakes, that will impact the whole future of our development as a species on this planet. Inaccuracy of our beliefs leads to the making of mistakes, and inability to agree tends to promote paralysis of decision-making.

We have to have a way of coming to agreement, and a way to optimize the chances of that which we are agreeing to being accurate. That would mean, I believe, that we should develop a relatively easily understood and agreed-upon lexicon for understanding and communicating about our most basic, fundamental ways of viewing everything. I do know that the vast majority of people will immediately say that what I am trying to accomplish is impossible, and therefore many people will simply not have any interest in pursuing the effort. I am hoping, however, that (1) I am correct, and (2) that there will be a few people who will make the effort to understand what I am offering, and will then advocate to others that such effort be undertaken.

Lest it be thought otherwise, I wish to assure the reader that I am fully aware of the possibility of a person being absolutely convinced that he or she has arrived at some “truth” that seems obvious and “undeniable,” only to be shown later (if willing to be shown) that there are fundamental flaws in his or her way of thinking. I wish to assure the reader that I do not have the kind of feeling of certainty and confidence that I was just referring to. So I will be among those who will be interested in whether or not what I have presented here stands the test of conscientious scrutiny by others. I truly hope that it will, because I currently maintain the tentative belief that I am making a significant contribution.

I do wish, also, that the reader will read what I have written conscientiously, with an effort to understand everything that is written within the context in which it is written. I am well aware that it is possible for someone who is reading something to have a strong wish to demonstrate that there are flaws, and therefore to be prone to read superficially and thereby allow the words and sentences being read to mean something different than what they are actually meaning in the context in which they are written. Most of the words that I use in this book can have more than one meaning, and if a meaning other than what I am using is assigned to my words, I can be made to appear to be saying things that I am not saying and would not say. I have already had this experience in other things that I have written. The reader should indeed look for flaws in what he or she is reading, but the flaws should be with regard to the actual meanings of what is being written, rather than substituted meanings produced by using the words differently.

I do hope that I am making a contribution, but I fully acknowledge that I could be mistaken. Only time will tell, so to speak, and, of course, I may never know. Nevertheless, what follows is the result of many, many hours of work that has been not only quite difficult but also quite solitary, since it has not been possible to have any kind of prolonged, in-depth, meaningful conversation about these issues. If you, the reader, fully understand what I am trying to convey in this book, I believe you will understand what I have just said. This remains to be seen.



INTRODUCTION



Throughout much of Western philosophical thought there has been an overt and/or underlying set of problems that have produced polarities of thinking, such as idealism vs. realism, but never to my knowledge any satisfactory conclusion. These problems have long been called “the “mind-body problem” and the “free will vs. determinism problem,” or referred to in some similar manner. They are actually problems associated with some of our species’ most difficult issues (involving major decision-making). I wish to solve these problems, and believe I have. See if you think I have.

The “mind-body problem” has to do with what the connection is between the two, including the issue as to how it can be that one may influence the other, especially when the physical sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.), that have made great strides in understanding how the body (including the brain) works, use formulas that contain no variables having to do with the mind. And the “free will vs. determinism problem” has to do with how, if everything in the universe occurs according to causal laws, we are able to make decisions, when what we do was already bound to occur anyway.

I wish, however, to be somewhat more specific about the nature of these problems before giving you my solutions. And it will be crucial that, in order to have adequate understanding, we will need to use words with specific, agreed-upon meanings for the purpose of this discussion. (There is much misunderstanding related simply to individuals using the same words with different meanings.)

Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 139
Just finished reading the book, Bill. A colossal achievement, congratulations!
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,710
Derik,

Thank you for reading the book. I'll be interested in any critique you have.

Were there any statements that seemed hard to understand in their context? Did anything sound inconsistent? Should there have been more elaboration of certain ideas? Did the implications seem correct? Etc.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 140
Derik,

Thank you for reading the book. I'll be interested in any critique you have.

Were there any statements that seemed hard to understand in their context? Did anything sound inconsistent? Should there have been more elaboration of certain ideas? Did the implications seem correct? Etc.

It was my pleasure!

Per your request for critique, is it worthwhile to spend time pointing out things that were hard to understand, seemingly inconsistent, etc.? It's not clear to me that would be nearly as helpful as sharing what I learned from the book and the resulting impact that learning will have on my life. A few thoughts on this:

1) A pragmatic approach to the mind-body problem

You've taken an approach that is both humble and helpful in so much as you acknowledge that the solution to the mind-body problem you are seeking is merely a solution that will help humans make better predictions. Indeed, the word "predict" (or extensions such as "prediction", "predictability", etc.) appears 219 times in the text, a rate of nearly twice per page. Your comment on page 13 probably sums up this focus best: "What I mean by 'modeling' should become increasingly clear in what follows, but a 'model' (as used in this presentation) is anything that is constructed or formed that allows for predictions about that which is being 'modeled' (that which it is a 'model of')." Most approaches to the mind-body problem I've encountered attempt to cut right to the heart of explaining the state of things as they absolutely are. Your approach, however, with its focus on providing utility in making predictions, is refreshing in that it acknowledges there are necessary limitations to observe when presenting a solution to such a daunting problem.

2) The Tripartite Model

I was quite impressed by the core message of the book, that the mind-body problem is solved by asserting a three-part model. As you describe on pages 87-89...

"So you can see that this presentation of our modeling processes, our model involving the Subjective Model, the Objective Model, and Reality, is a candidate for the model that indeed integrates at a higher level the Physical Model and the Mental Model, and thus solves the 'mind-body problem'... So if we do believe that this new model, the one having been elaborated on in this whole presentation, is indeed an improvement over the Physico-Mental Model, and we wish to give it its own name, then my choice, for this presentation, would be the Tripartite Model, the model that is completely made up by three discrete entities, the Subjective Model (subjective experience and beliefs about that subjective experience acquired from the subjective experience alone); the Objective Model (the growing set of agreed-upon, by all those in the position of having an opinion, beliefs acquired objectively, independently of subjective experience other than the subjective experience of agreement with others regarding the symbolic modeling of those beliefs,
enhanced to a great extent by the rules of logic and the rules of evidence); and Reality (that which is assumed to exist that makes it possible for any models to work, that is, makes predictability possible, but manifests itself in no other way)."

I found the intellectual rigor and structure of your lead-up to this conclusion quite compelling, and the applications of this way of thinking are legion! In the case of a business professional seeking to persuade a colleague, for example, her challenge is to find a way to bring her own Objective Model and the colleague's Objective Model into a state that approaches agreement. But the only way she can hope to do that is by exposing the colleague to Subjective experiences. What would those experiences need to be? Perhaps those experiences that have been shown to predictably cause others Objective Model to change in past cases. I can imagine this having implications for business, education, health habits, and on and on.

3) Expectation

There's a wonderful little section on page 23 that probably deserves a whole book unto itself:

"What I am calling attention to is that a vast amount of what happens in your life is indeed according to what you believe is going to happen, that is, is not different from what you have predicted, or have come to expect. Most of your beliefs are accurate enough, meaning that everything is pretty much happening 'as usual,' or 'as expected,' or 'as predicted.' And most of this prediction or expectation is automatic. So when I speak of 'automatic prediction,' I am not referring to an intentional act, but instead to an expectation. Your
prediction is occurring moment-to-moment as perhaps a feeling of familiarity or continuing confidence, or even with no identifiable feeling at all, other than perhaps the feeling that everything is going 'smoothly.' The fact that you have a belief that things are a certain way may become evident only when you find out you are wrong and therefore experience surprise."

I agree with you, and might even peg your "vast amount" at upwards of 99.9% of the beliefs we have in life. It's astounding to consider that the mind-body problem itself arises from disagreement over the nature of "the 0.1%", that slice of beliefs that the Subjective Model considers "chosen" and the physicalist variant of the Objective Model (vice, for example, the evangelical Christian variant of the Objective Model) considers probabilistically dictated by natural laws.

- - -

Bravo, Bill, and many thanks for these learnings and many more!
Derik
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,712
Thanks, Derik

Can you perhaps say more about the following that you wrote:

I agree with you, and might even peg your "vast amount" at upwards of 99.9% of the beliefs we have in life. It's astounding to consider that the mind-body problem itself arises from disagreement over the nature of "the 0.1%", that slice of beliefs that the Subjective Model considers "chosen" and the physicalist variant of the Objective Model (vice, for example, the evangelical Christian variant of the Objective Model) considers probabilistically dictated by natural laws.

I wasn't able to follow it, so if you could elaborate some, that would be great!

Regarding the "vast amount," I did comment elsewhere that there is a vast amount of totally unpredictable subjective experience going on also, during which "you never know what you will see next." This is one part of what makes the concept of free will appropriate to the Subjective Model, while determinism is appropriate to the Objective Model, by definition. But all of this is rather difficult to talk about, and that may be one reason why I had trouble understanding what you wrote. So I'm interested, and please elaborate.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 141

I wasn't able to follow it, so if you could elaborate some, that would be great!

Well, not much to elaborate--simply put, I agree with your piece on page 23 stating that, "a vast amount of what happens in your life is indeed according to what you believe is going to happen, that is, is not different from what you have predicted, or have come to expect. Most of your beliefs are accurate enough, meaning that everything is pretty much happening 'as usual,' or 'as expected,' or 'as predicted.'"

When I first read this, I was compelled to think about the volumes of beliefs I hold and actions I take based while on "autopilot"--that is, automatically. It's an incredible volume indeed!
A former member
Post #: 948

I'll get off my dime and add to this.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,714
Great, Terry! (And be sure to re-read my very first post!)
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