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 #: 1,715
Derik,

What I meant was my difficulty, in part, of knowing what you are referring to in:

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.

One part of the sentence that I am having trouble with is "beliefs that the Subjective Model considers 'chosen'". I am having trouble understanding what "Subjective Model considers 'chosen'" means or is referring to. In the way I use these words, I would not come up with this combination. The reason that I am asking is because I know that these concepts are very difficult to talk about and that it is very easy for people to fail to understand each other because of difference in the way of using words. I have the vague, and possibly incorrect, impression that you may be using the words differently than I do in the presentation, and that I may have failed to convey accurately what I was trying to convey, leading to misunderstanding. I am looking for any such non-optimal parts of my presentation, so that I can make them better, if possible.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,716
I keep trying to understand, and I do get the impression I am understanding a little more. I can see you are referring to the free will vs. determinism issue. I am wondering if you could be meaning "Mental Model" instead of "Subjective Model." This is indeed where there would be the greatest difficulty making a distinction. There is also the question as to whether one can "choose" to believe. I didn't cover that explicitly in the book, except for alluding to something like that in the concept of optimizing one's spirituality.

I think there is some interesting ambiguity to explore here. I know I had to read my own material over and over to get it straight in my own mind. I would have to read much of what I had written so far in order to write the next parapgraph or two, and I would have to go back and correct earlier sentences that I had written that I could now see were manifesting the problematic way of thinking that my new paragraphs were addressing. (It was a grueling process.)

I am also aware that such a process could make it easier to feel increasingly confident about a mistaken idea. That's why presenting ideas to "fresh brains" can be so valuable in getting the flaws out of one's own thinking. This area of thought is related to the one about choosing to believe, and of course is related to the idea of "brain washing." Maybe I washed my own brain as I kept going through that grueling process. Hopefully the detergent was not contaminated. (So I'm trying to do a good job of rinsing.)
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 142
I keep trying to understand, and I do get the impression I am understanding a little more. I can see you are referring to the free will vs. determinism issue. I am wondering if you could be meaning "Mental Model" instead of "Subjective Model." This is indeed where there would be the greatest difficulty making a distinction.

Yes, I think you are right! If I had to write it over again (and I'm beginning to taste the bitter stew of endless writing and rewriting on which you must have dined nightly!), I would say something like:

...both the mind-body and free will vs. determinism problems arise from disagreement over the nature of "the 0.1%", that slice of beliefs that are not automatic, that a Subjective-Mental Model would consider "chosen" and an Objective-Physical Model would consider probabilistically dictated by natural laws.

The sole reason I included it in my list of three big learnings from reading the book was because it opened my eyes to the sheer volume of expectation-based or automatic beliefs by which we all live. Astounding to consider that the biggest problem in philosophy may originate from just ~0.1% of human beliefs!
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,718
Thanks, Derik

I can now see that there is indeed a problem. The way you are using the terms indicates that you have not really understood yet the basic ideas in the presentation, because you are putting together two incompatible Models that mean entirely different things according to the presentation. There is no Subjective-Mental Model in the presentation, and to write as if there were would be to negate the whole idea of the book.

But I am very sympathetic with regard to this. I indicated in the book that it would probably have to be re-read quite a bit. This is because of what I know from what I went through in writing it. In fact, I do indeed wonder how many people will undergo the time and effort to really understand the book. And then there is also the danger that I could be mistaken and that the book is not worth reading even once. I still believe it is an extremely important problem, that underlies much pain, suffering, disability, and early death, and that I am making a very significant contribution. But how many people have also thought that and been wrong. I am hoping that you will have the interest to re-read it and, indeed, critique it. If it is worth what I think it is worth, then the effort will be worth it. If not, then I want to find out and take appropriate action (maybe work on the problem further, knowing what is wrong with the approach so far).

I know, however, that you are responding to something different than the issue that I am commenting on, namely, your increased awareness of the immensity of the number of beliefs that the brain holds. I agree.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,719
Derik,

Would you be willing to go chapter by chapter with me and look for any problems with clarity and make sure that I am successfully conveying what I am trying to, by making sure that we are understanding the same things by what is written? That would be very valuable to me.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 143
Derik,

Would you be willing to go chapter by chapter with me and look for any problems with clarity and make sure that I am successfully conveying what I am trying to, by making sure that we are understanding the same things by what is written? That would be very valuable to me.

I'd like nothing more than to do as you suggest, Bill. I am, however, concerned that what has happened before will happen again. More specifically, I'm concerned that, because of our differences in metaphysics (e.g., for one, our prima electio, or "first choice", the belief in the origin of our universe), any critique of your book would find us meeting too high up "in the branches" of our trees of beliefs. In other words, our disagreement about this or that would be colored by differing metaphysics that we both believe and yet cannot conclusively defend with evidence.

So, that being the case, isn't it better that a reader like myself glean what new insights he can from your book, celebrate the impact those insights had on my life, and so too celebrate the diligence of the author who selflessly did his best in the undertaking? It may be that, in the end, the author is left to bow his head despondently at the inability of his reader to apprehend the insights he intended, but perhaps this is the curse of every author who writes to an imperfect readerverse.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,722
Derik,

Would you be willing to go chapter by chapter with me and look for any problems with clarity and make sure that I am successfully conveying what I am trying to, by making sure that we are understanding the same things by what is written? That would be very valuable to me.

I'd like nothing more than to do as you suggest, Bill.
Great! Then let’s do it!
I am, however, concerned that what has happened before will happen again. More specifically, I'm concerned that, because of our differences in metaphysics (e.g., for one, our prima electio, or "first choice", the belief in the origin of our universe), any critique of your book would find us meeting too high up "in the branches" of our trees of beliefs.
I don’t believe that is exactly what happened. I saw the problem as a linguistic one, in which what I meant by my words was interpreted with a different meaning. (In fact, I don’t have a belief about the origin of the universe.) But perhaps I am wrong. We could go back to that discussion and analyze specifically what was happening. I would be pleased to do that and was saddened when you declined to continue.
In other words, our disagreement about this or that would be colored by differing metaphysics that we both believe and yet cannot conclusively defend with evidence.
Okay, so let’s find out whether your prediction comes true, and then let’s take a close look at exactly what those differing metaphysical beliefs are. But see, I think this book specifically addresses the problem of such differences, so it would be very valuable to see how the book fails to address them if it does.

So, that being the case, isn't it better that a reader like myself glean what new insights he can from your book, celebrate the impact those insights had on my life, and so too celebrate the diligence of the author who selflessly did his best in the undertaking?
No, I think it would be better that a reader like you share with a diligent, selfless author like me your very best critique of what I have written, so that my diligence and selflessness will pay off for both me and other readers and especially the members of the CPDG, who want to explore all differences of all philosophical opinions in order to achieve greater depth of understanding. And who knows? Maybe there are additional insights awaiting you to celebrate about, and additional ones for me to celebrate about, if we engage in this cooperative venture.
It may be that, in the end, the author is left to bow his head despondently at the inability of his reader to apprehend the insights he intended, but perhaps this is the curse of every author who writes to an imperfect readerverse.
My despondency is over the enormous pain, suffering, disability, and early death that we humans inflict upon ourselves and each other simply because, instead of diligently exploring the differences in our beliefs in order to come together with greater understanding and ability to empathize and cooperate, we divide up into groups depending upon what we believe and then either politely refuse to have dialogue with each other about important issues or torture and kill each other because of our different beliefs, or somewhere between those two extremes. I wish for us to demonstrate that we can do better than that.

My despondency will be alleviated to the extent that progress can be made. I for one will forge ahead in that effort, and I am asking you to come with me and make use of your talents for analytic thought in behalf of making the world a better place. I think Jesus would be proud of us.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,734
So, Derik, what do you think about my proposals? Let's really find out where we diverge in our belief systems. I think the mind-body problem book is a good way to begin. What is the very first sentence that is problematic for you, and why?
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 146
So, Derik, what do you think about my proposals? Let's really find out where we diverge in our belief systems. I think the mind-body problem book is a good way to begin. What is the very first sentence that is problematic for you, and why?

Perhaps. It seems to me that the entire work conceals a set of underlying metaphysics that, before we do as you suggest, would first need to be stated with all possible clarity. There are parts of your writing where these metaphysics seem to run just below the surface. An example from page 6 (bolding mine):

And there are additional aspects to the problem, having to do with the origins of the physical and mental world. From within science, the idea has arisen, with much evidence supporting it, that the physical world that we see around us came into being about 13.8 billion years ago, perhaps in something like a "big bang," and it has been operating since then according to a set of rules, or “natural laws.” Somewhere along the line, however, this “lifeless” physical universe began to develop within it additional entities, opaque, invisible “minds,” at least some of which have been attached in an unclear manner to entities within the physical world, these minds seeming to have some additional effect on the physical entities that goes beyond the rules according to which the physical entities had been interacting with each other. There have been other scenarios imagined, also, such as that the physical entities and the minds came into existence at about the same time. How, when, and why these minds came into existence has been a question that has never been answered to the satisfaction of everyone, or even the majority of people.

And another from page 7-8:

(Now when I use the word “rule,” I am not implying that the rule came into existence by virtue of the decision of a deity or other entity that that's the way things were going to be. How these rules came into existence I do not presume to know or to have any valuable ideas about. We are used to the idea of things being “made,” and of those things therefore having a “maker,” but this way of thinking is just something that we are used to doing. The fact that things have a tendency always to happen in a certain way does not logically imply necessarily that someone or something has caused that tendency to exist. And even if someone or something, a maker, did indeed make it that way, we would want to know why, and why there was a maker, etc., so we would still be without a final explanation. So I am sticking only to talking about what we actually find that tends predictably to happen under given circumstances, i.e., certain kinds of situations.)

This second one is especially perplexing, seemingly worded so as to suggest that you abstain from making a god-or-no-god decision about the origin of the rules of our universe. You've stated many times you are an atheist, so why use language in your book that (a) doesn't clearly state your position on the god-or-no-god decision, and (b) asserts that one need not make a god-or-no-god decision to satisfactorily solve the mind-body problem?

To recap, I'll embark on this journey if and only if you are willing to first articulate all of your metaphysical beliefs that may have played a role in shaping your answer (likely all of your metaphysical beliefs!). I'll then do the same, stating the metaphysical beliefs that I hold (and so, would have colored my reading of your book). Only after working through our differences in metaphysics will we then be able to treat the content of the book on even footing.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,737
So, Derik, what do you think about my proposals? Let's really find out where we diverge in our belief systems. I think the mind-body problem book is a good way to begin. What is the very first sentence that is problematic for you, and why?
Perhaps. It seems to me that the entire work conceals a set of underlying metaphysics that, before we do as you suggest, would first need to be stated with all possible clarity.
Why do you assert this? Please note that the entire work does not conceal a set of underlying metaphysics, but instead clarifies them. Why are you introducing this hindrance to exploring those metaphysical issues in the systematic way the book presents them? It’s a book rather than a paragraph because of the complexity of the issues and the necessity to think about things in new and different ways.

There are parts of your writing where these metaphysics seem to run just below the surface. An example from page 6 (bolding mine):
And there are additional aspects to the problem, having to do with the origins of the physical and mental world. From within science, the idea has arisen, with much evidence supporting it, that the physical world that we see around us came into being about 13.8 billion years ago, perhaps in something like a "big bang," and it has been operating since then according to a set of rules, or “natural laws.” Somewhere along the line, however, this “lifeless” physical universe began to develop within it additional entities, opaque, invisible “minds,” at least some of which have been attached in an unclear manner to entities within the physical world, these minds seeming to have some additional effect on the physical entities that goes beyond the rules according to which the physical entities had been interacting with each other. There have been other scenarios imagined, also, such as that the physical entities and the minds came into existence at about the same time. How, when, and why these minds came into existence has been a question that has never been answered to the satisfaction of everyone, or even the majority of people.
Okay, please tell me what you see as running just below the surface, as opposed to being explicitly stated. Is there anything which is explicitly stated in this paragraph that you disagree with? What is the paragraph stating just beneath the surface that you are in disagreement with?

And another from page 7-8:
(Now when I use the word “rule,” I am not implying that the rule came into existence by virtue of the decision of a deity or other entity that that's the way things were going to be. How these rules came into existence I do not presume to know or to have any valuable ideas about. We are used to the idea of things being “made,” and of those things therefore having a “maker,” but this way of thinking is just something that we are used to doing. The fact that things have a tendency always to happen in a certain way does not logically imply necessarily that someone or something has caused that tendency to exist. And even if someone or something, a maker, did indeed make it that way, we would want to know why, and why there was a maker, etc., so we would still be without a final explanation. So I am sticking only to talking about what we actually find that tends predictably to happen under given circumstances, i.e., certain kinds of situations.)
This second one is especially perplexing, seemingly worded so as to suggest that you abstain from making a god-or-no-god decision about the origin of the rules of our universe.
But what is wrong with abstaining from that decision? Why are you perplexed? I am simply asking you to evaluate my analysis of the mind-body problem. Why are you seemingly requiring me first to answer this question that no one has ever answered to the satisfaction of everyone else? Why is it relevant? Why can you not simply present to me the first sentence in the book that seems either incorrect or unclear, so that we can discuss it?

You've stated many times you are an atheist,
I don’t believe this is accurate. I believe I have said that most people would consider me to be atheistic, but that I would not consider that an accurate label, considering what the label refers to in most people’s thinking, because I have a very different way of approaching that whole area of thought. And indeed, that is partly what this book is about.

so why use language in your book that (a) doesn't clearly state your position on the god-or-no-god decision, and (b) asserts that one need not make a god-or-no-god decision to satisfactorily solve the mind-body problem?
Because that is what I believe. Are you willing to explore this possibility? All it involves is simply reading the book in the order written till you come to that first sentence that seems unclear or incorrect, quoting it in its context, and saying why you believe it is unclear or incorrect.

To recap, I'll embark on this journey if and only if you are willing to first articulate all of your metaphysical beliefs that may have played a role in shaping your answer (likely all of your metaphysical beliefs!).
But that is what the book does! It is a presentation of my metaphysical beliefs in the most concise, orderly, and comprehensive manner I am capable of. So why do you say that I have to do it differently before you will agree to evaluate my most concise, orderly, and comprehensive presentation?

I'll then do the same, stating the metaphysical beliefs that I hold (and so, would have colored my reading of your book). Only after working through our differences in metaphysics will we then be able to treat the content of the book on even footing.
I don’t follow this at all. I don’t even know what you mean by “even footing.” Since I am presenting an extremely difficult and complex philosophical topic that I have worked on for countless hours, why should we be on “even footing” with regard to the analysis of my rendering of it? What is the value of this thing called “even footing”? What is it? (If you had written a book about something and I were to review it and give you feedback regarding my reactions to it, it wouldn’t even occur to me that I should be on some sort of “even footing” with you with regard to such a task. I would consider you to have forged ahead of me in that area of thought, even though I might have some highly relevant feedback to give.) I am not interested in competition or “even footing”; I am interested in the exploration of philosophical thought. I want to know whether what I have written makes sense to other people, and I want to know whether I have made any mistakes. Why are you so reluctant to do this exploration, unless you and I first get into some sort of debate about the existence or non-existence of God?

But again, the book is my most concise, orderly, and comprehensive answer to your question. In order for you to understand the answer, you will have to read the book. If you read the book and give me feedback regarding any sentence that seems unclear or incorrect, you will be helping me. Hopefully, you will derive benefit from doing so. And our discussion, hopefully, will be helpful to others. And all of that is a purpose of the Message Board. Please let’s have that discussion.
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