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The Intentional Stance

A former member
Post #: 1,002
iDave: With all due respect, I cannot take The Pretentious Stance seriously in any context but Rortian wordplay. I think you have plenty of open questions on your plate from me and others so will not contribute additional food for thought at this time.

Ken Roberts: Which questions would you like me to address, uDave?

Personally, I find it easier to manage one at a time.

Regards,
iDave
A former member
Post #: 59
iDaveI think you have plenty of open questions on your plate from me and others so will not contribute additional food for thought at this time.

Ken Roberts: Which questions would you like me to address, uDave?

Personally, I find it easier to manage one at a time.

Regards,
iDave

Ah. I thought you might have something specific in mind.

Just a quick point: like the vast majority of philosophers, Dennett is, himself, political to the bone. This, of itself, doesn't mean that he is pretentious or that he is posturing (and, in any event, it wouldn't matter: his case would still be true, false, or somewhere in between). It does mean that one does well to take this into account in evaluating his arguments.

Best,
Ken
A former member
Post #: 1,003
Hi Ken,

Ken Roberts: Just a quick point: like the vast majority of philosophers, Dennett is, himself, political to the bone. This, of itself, doesn't mean that he is pretentious or that he is posturing.

Yes, Daniel Dennett is biased but, like Paul M. Churchland and M. D. Robertson, he knows it and "tells the truth":

Daniel Dennett (IS pg 4-5): Some useful skirmishes in this campaign do consist of rigorous, formal explorations of particular sets of hunches. That is in fact the best light in which to view the various formalist failures of philosophy -- as if they had been prefaced with "What if we made these assumptions and proceeded under these constraints?" As Fodor says, "The form of a philosophical theory, often enough, is: Let's try looking over here. (1981a p. 31) Every formal system in philosophy must be "motivated," and the informal task of providing that motivation typically contributes more philosophical illumination (or at least doctrine) than the system for which it paves the way. There is always more than one candidate system or perspective crying out for philosophical exploration and development, and in such an unruly arena of thought, tactical considerations play an unusually important role. These tactical considerations often masquerade, however, as first principles.

It is the last sentence that may lead rational agents in The Intentional Stance to ascribe pretension to interlocutors. It is no different than a dialogue with Pope Benedict: he believes certain things or has biases, which is fine, but he claims his bias is somehow fact rather than opinion and there ends the dialogue; the Pope simply cannot engage a formal exploration of divergent views, to wear another's shoes as it were, and I suppose it's not in his job description to do so.

As with gods, so go essences and aside from your passing the buck to old books (which most of us don't have time to rush out and read), you provide your Emergentism wikipage yet it too is marked up with "citations required" (since 2005?) for fuzzball assertions like "emergentism is when two things are identical and different." Nice.

So Mr. Roberts, the best I can do is compare this to wordplay. "Magic" doesn't sound scientific, so let's call it "emergentism." The Atheists (eeeek!) own "materialism" so let's call it "physicalism" and retain some woo woo. "Creationism" is down in the polls so let's say "intelligent design." It's truly a Rorty heyday.

Regards,
iDave.
A former member
Post #: 60
There is always more than one candidate system or perspective crying out for philosophical exploration and development, and in such an unruly arena of thought, tactical considerations play an unusually important role. These tactical considerations often masquerade, however, as first principles.

It is the last sentence that may lead rational agents in The Intentional Stance to ascribe pretension to interlocutors. It is no different than a dialogue with Pope Benedict: he believes certain things or has biases, which is fine, but he claims his bias is somehow fact rather than opinion and there ends the dialogue; the Pope simply cannot engage a formal exploration of divergent views, to wear another's shoes as it were, and I suppose it's not in his job description to do so.

As with gods, so go essences and aside from your passing the buck to old books (which most of us don't have time to rush out and read), you provide your Emergentism wikipage yet it too is marked up with "citations required" (since 2005?) for fuzzball assertions like "emergentism is when two things are identical and different." Nice.

So Mr. Roberts, the best I can do is compare this to wordplay. "Magic" doesn't sound scientific, so let's call it "emergentism." The Atheists (eeeek!) own "materialism" so let's call it "physicalism" and retain some woo woo. "Creationism" is down in the polls so let's say "intelligent design." It's truly a Rorty heyday.

Hello again, uDave.

Thanks for the clarification. (I like the Fodor quote.)

The single "citation needed" is a call for a footnote with a page number. If this was a paper I was doing for a class in graduate school or something, I might be bothered (mainly because I'd be required to be, not because it would add any real value). It isn't a complaint about anything substantive.

As with this forum, there's neither the time nor the space to dive into the depths in a Wikipedia entry. That's what books are for, and what the internet is not for. If you happen to have time for old books, well and good. If not, also well and good, but all complaints will be stamped "return to sender." (On a site that I edit, the average visit duration runs somewhere between 40 and 130 seconds.) Obviously, I don't get paid anything for contributing to the Wikipedia, and in any case I actually only wrote the entry under protest, so to speak, because the entry that was there before mine was really, truly awful. The fact that it has stayed up there unchanged for years, given the nominally controversial nature of the subject, suggests to me that I did a fairly good, and evenhanded, job of exposition.

Anyway, onward.

Please reread the part of the Wikipedia entry that concerns isomers. Nothing magical there, just established science. Even more telling are the divergent properties of molecules exhibiting identical structure with different chiralities (right or left-handedness). Again, no magic, just established science, or, dare I say it, brute empirical realities. I'm afraid the differing physical properties of molecules with different chirality delivers a knock-out punch to anti-emergentists (which implicitly includes Dennett).

So the claim that emergentism somehow resembles magic (presumably to a greater degree than contemporary physics) is decades out of date. It's invariably made by people like Jaegon Kim who never knew anything about science to begin with, and who, on this foundation of illiteracy, then proceeded to launched straw-man attacks in their published work.

Too, this claim ignores the fact that much of settled physics actually does resemble magic. Phenomena like entanglement, "spooky action at a distance," the dual wave and particle-like nature of basic physical entities are all "brute empirical realities" that physics neither offers any real explanation for, nor currently even aspires to explain -- and at some level this is true of everything at the foundations of physics. At the limit, all physicists can offer is some variation of "it is what it is." The very existence of the universe, at least pre-big-bang, is essentially magical. (The big bang must have been caused by something, but people like Hawking essentially say "it's meaningless to ask what came before," which may sound like science, but actually translates fairly nicely into "woo woo.")

Best,
Ken
A former member
Post #: 1,005
Ken Roberts: Please reread the part of the Wikipedia entry that concerns isomers. Nothing magical there, just established science.

True, "magic" is not the right word. Seems that "emergentism" is essentially the modern term for "vitalism" in the "vitalist" versus "mechanist" debates of years surrounding 1900. A resistance to change brought by the juggernaut of science.

Still, there is nothing especially "emergent" about isomers: they are different molecules that happen to have the same atoms but the atoms are arranged differently so their electrical and chemical properties are different.

Ken Roberts: I'm afraid the differing physical properties of molecules with different chirality delivers a knock-out punch to anti-emergentists (which implicitly includes Dennett).

Show me right here, right now, if you want me to take you seriously, Ken. I totally don't see this "knock-out" problem you suggest. Give us one concrete example or it's off to woo woo camp for you.

Ken Roberts: [1]Dennett is, himself, political to the bone. This, of itself, doesn't mean that he is pretentious or that he is posturing (and, in any event, it wouldn't matter: his case would still be true, false, or somewhere in between).

[2] So the claim that emergentism somehow resembles magic [is] invariably made by people like Jaegon Kim who never knew anything about science to begin with, and who, on this foundation of illiteracy, then proceeded to launched straw-man attacks in their published work.

You seem more concerned with Jaegon Kim's background than with Daniel Dennett's whose bias was evidently irrelevant in assessing the value of his message. In any case, your assertion is specious. The abstract metaphysical theories addressed by Kim, theories describing levels (of complexity or whatever) and their properties, are far removed from science. Science may be relevant historically but this is essentially a math problem and Kim shows that Emergence Revision 2.0 got the math wrong.

Ken Roberts: The very existence of the universe, at least pre-big-bang, is essentially magical. (The big bang must have been caused by something, but people like Hawking essentially say "it's meaningless to ask what came before," which may sound like science, but actually translates fairly nicely into "woo woo.")

There was no time before the big bang so there is no before the big bang.

I don't have time to explain this now but you will find a good starting point in Robert Wald's "General Relativity."

Regards,
iDave.
A former member
Post #: 1,006
I have zero time for emergence-speak this weekend. Having said that, allow me to offload two points,

Ken Roberts: As with this forum, there's neither the time nor the space to dive into the depths in a Wikipedia entry. That's what books are for, and what the internet is not for. If you happen to have time for old books, well and good. If not, also well and good, but all complaints will be stamped "return to sender."

Chicken.

At least three of our hundreds of avid readers have posted self-contained bite-sized articles, book extracts, and argument summaries ranging from Daniel Dennett's view to neo-emergentism and neo-dualism.

2. The apparent "battle" between vitalists and mechanists may be overblown:

Daniel Dennett (IS pg 287): Sometimes it takes years of debate for philosophers to discover what it is they really disagree about. Sometimes they talk past each other in long series of books and articles, never guessing at the root disagreement that divides them. But occasionally a day comes when something happens to coax the cat out of the bag. "Aha!" one philosopher exclaims to another, "so that's why you've been disagreeing with me, misunderstanding me, resisting my conclusions, puzzling me all these years!"

(IS pg 339): It would be strange, and distressing, if the "major differences" between these philosophical theorists turned out to be all that major -- if, in particular, it turned out that one side in each controversy was flat wrong about something important (as contrasted, say, with having put rather too much emphasis on one aspect of the truth). It would be distressing because it just shouldn't be the case that a group of such smart people might read and discuss the same books, work in the same (Anglo-American) tradition, be familiar with roughly the same evidence, endorse the same methodology, and yet some of them utterly fail to comprehend the significance of it all, in spite of their colleagues' wisest efforts at enlightening them. Everybody makes mistakes, of course, and no one is immune to confusion, but unless philosophy is just a mug's game, as some of its detractors think, other things being equal we should expect that these theorists could be seen to be making common cause, each contributing something to an emerging common enlightenment about the nature of the mind and its relation to the body and the rest of the physical world.

I especially like Daniel Dennett's "centrism" in this book: He walks a razor's edge to include the best of both sides, realism but not Realism. Compare his ideas to British Emergentism,

and compare (version 4.7 of) British Emergentism (1920) with Willard Quine (1960),

So everyone is in happy agreement on this fine Saturday.

Regards,
iDave.
A former member
Post #: 1,007
Hi all,

I would like to apologize to Pope Benedict and any Catholics among our hundreds of avid readers. The pope is human, like us, and we could certainly have a dialogue on, or a formal exploration of, many topics and it would be like a dialogue with any other human. The main difference in a philosophy group like this, I think, is that the pope's worldview includes important quasi-propositions which, as we saw in the Scott Atran review, are propositions that one takes to be true and then "discovers" what they mean rather than the more usual other way around. In short, the pope has faith (indeed he represents an institution of such faith). So the dialogue would be ordinary as long as we did not question the truth of a quasi-proposition. If we did, it may not even make sense to the truly faithful, it is not an option. The best we can do is influence the meaning of what is taken to be true (and that's a lot in case you are more interested in influencing others than in "being right").

OK then (ducks). Onward and upward.

Ken, sorry to give you a rough time but I do not think you should bash Jaegwon Kim so casually. His paper, Making Sense of Emergence, and much more is available online. He writes clearly and includes simple examples in this challenging but manageable paper (read slowly). I take it this is philosophy of science or philosophy of mind and it clearly does not require training in empirical science, it is more like something Kurt Godel would enjoy, mathematical logic.

Jaegwon Kim reviews the various historical fuzzy conceptions of "emergence" and asks if they make sense, are they consistent or self-contradictory and incoherent. It is very high-level and abstract, remarkable what one can do up there.

The paper is especially compelling because Jaegwon Kim himself supported non-reductive physicalism (what some readers have labeled "magic") at one point in his career, but his persistent fascination with the mind-body problem has led him to change his own views. He learns. Change America wants.

So this rational agent in The Intentional Stance believes Jaegwon Kim "tells the truth."

A couple final notes on unpredictability.

A central theme of emergentist concepts is that emergent properties are novel and unpredictable. This started, I think, in early 1900's before physicists had explained many properties of chemistry from The Physical Stance. So while we may eventually have a consistent theory of emergence, I think science will always push that dividing line between 1) what is reducible or can be explained in terms of more basic properties and 2) what we are not yet able to explain in this way. For example, we design molecules today (i.e., we can "predict" how combinations of atoms will behave). Science pushes the magic Up.

Regards,
iDave.

P.S. If you love Hearts of Space (hos.com) and iPhones, they just released their app. It is like having a transistor radio (remember those?) with no kitsch.
A former member
Post #: 61
Hi, uDave:

Well, you've been busy. There's a lot here, so I'm not quite sure what, in your view, it's most important to address. I guess I'll just start at the start.

I suggested that you:

Please reread the part of the Wikipedia entry that concerns isomers. Nothing magical there, just established science.

And you responded:

True, "magic" is not the right word. Seems that "emergentism" is essentially the modern term for "vitalism" in the "vitalist" versus "mechanist" debates of years surrounding 1900. A resistance to change brought by the juggernaut of science.

I think this is something of a mischaracterization, for several reasons:

(1) The vitalistm vs. mechanist debate focused primarily on biology, whereas emergentist materialism versus reductive materialism has implications for the entire range of the sciences, from particle physics through consciousness, and on into sociology, economics, and a host of other phenomena.
(2) The vitalists weren't materialists, while emergentists are.
(3) Emergentism has nothing to do with a "resistance to change." Reductionistic materialism, however, I think can be very aptly be characterized in those terms.

Continuing, you expressed some skepticism concerning the (well established) emergent properties of isomers. This skepticism reflects, I think, a misunderstanding of the emergentist position. Specifically, you maintained that:

. . . there is nothing especially "emergent" about isomers: they are different molecules that happen to have the same atoms but the atoms are arranged differently so their electrical and chemical properties are different.

The whole point here is that they "happen to have" the same atoms. Reductionistic materialism (at least on the main line of the theory, that stretches back at least to Logical Positivism, but really prior even to them) maintains that there are no properties above the level of the tiniest little bits of matter (which have, rather tellingly, shifted over time from atoms to quarks to strings) that are not, on closer examination, either actually the properties of those tiniest little bits of of stuff, or else (in a sense never made entirely clear) wholly "reducible" to them. Thus, in perhaps the clearest example of this claim, the weight of, say, 10 sulfur atoms is "reducible" to a multiple of the weight of an individual sulfur atom. That is, there is nothing new or emergent in the aggregate weight of 10 sulfur atoms, even though the aggregate weight happens to be different from the weight of a single sulfur atom: rather, we find only a sum of the weights, each in itself identical, over the entirety of the 10 atoms. Moreover, the aggregate weight of any further number of atoms, no matter what that number might be, can be predicted with mathematical certainty based upon the weight of a single atom.

Now, can something like this be said of isomers? (Again, the more telling example is identical molecules of differing chirality, which I'll discuss in a moment.)

Well, no. The arrangement of molecules isn't something that can be reduced to the arrangement of an individual atom (or quark, or string) in the way that the weight of an aggregate of atoms is simply a summation, or multiple, of the weight of an individual atom. Nor are the differing properties of two isomers knowable from the properties of their individual atoms.

As I note below, this is even more clearly the case with respect to molecules which are identical except with respect to their chirality (right or left handedness):

Ken Roberts: I'm afraid the differing physical properties of molecules with different chirality delivers a knock-out punch to anti-emergentists (which implicitly includes Dennett).

I say this because here even the arrangement of the molecules is the same, they're simply mirror images of each other and yet they have different physical properties. So, I'm afraid it's off to woo-woo camp for the reductionists. (And, if you still want to join their ranks, it's off to woo-woo camp for you, too -- and, it brings me no joy to say -- I won't be able to take you seriously.)

Unfortunately, you went on to say:

Show me right here, right now, if you want me to take you seriously, Ken. I totally don't see this "knock-out" problem you suggest. Give us one concrete example or it's off to woo woo camp for you.

I hope it's now clearer that I've already shown you a concrete example -- but you "totally didn't see it" because you totally didn't understand the reductionist position (and you misunderstood that position, I suspect, because its proponents, like Dennett, never take the trouble to point out its absurdities).

Continuing, I pointed out that:

Ken Roberts: [1]Dennett is, himself, political to the bone. This, of itself, doesn't mean that he is pretentious or that he is posturing (and, in any event, it wouldn't matter: his case would still be true, false, or somewhere in between).

[2] So the claim that emergentism somehow resembles magic [is] invariably made by people like Jaegon Kim who never knew anything about science to begin with, and who, on this foundation of illiteracy, then proceeded to launched straw-man attacks in their published work.

You responded:

You seem more concerned with Jaegon Kim's background than with Daniel Dennett's whose bias was evidently irrelevant in assessing the value of his message.

True. The problem with Kim is that he doesn't know anything much about science (or emergentism), which, I'm afraid, is relevant to this debate. Dennett -- although he doesn't, in fact, either tell the truth or conduct formal walk-throughs of alternative views -- at least takes the trouble to learn the science.

More in a moment.

--K.
A former member
Post #: 62
Next up: you failed to detect the flagrant absurdity of Kim's position (not entirely your fault, however, as Kim is even worse than Dennett in harboring "Pope-like" beliefs):

In any case, your assertion is specious. The abstract metaphysical theories addressed by Kim, theories describing levels (of complexity or whatever) and their properties, are far removed from science. Science may be relevant historically but this is essentially a math problem and Kim shows that Emergence Revision 2.0 got the math wrong.

I'm afraid that it's Kim whose claim is specious -- wholly and flagrantly -- on both counts. Let's take the example of the chirality of two molecules resulting in different physical properties -- which, we'll recall, the reductionist says can be wholly accounted for in terms of the properties of their individual atoms.

This reductionistic claim is empirical, and therefore falsifiable. And, in fact, has been falsified. And has been known by scientists to have been falsified for decades. There is, it's true, a mathematics of more-emergent phenomena, just as there is also a mathematics of less-emergent phenomena (math and science go hand in hand). The initial work on the mathematics of emergentism was worked on by people like von Bertalanffy -- and no one has ever shown his math to be wrong, least of all by Kim. Development of that mathematics continues as we speak at places like the Santa Fe Institute (they like the term "complex" better than "emergent").

Next (among other examples), I pointed out that:

Ken Roberts: The very existence of the universe, at least pre-big-bang, is essentially magical. (The big bang must have been caused by something, but people like Hawking essentially say "it's meaningless to ask what came before," which may sound like science, but actually translates fairly nicely into "woo woo.")

To which you responded:

There was no time before the big bang so there is no before the big bang.

First of all, you cherry-picked here, you rascal, and didn't respond to my other examples (like "spooky action at a distance"). Second of all you don't seem to have fully grasped the wholly magical nature of this claim. It unpacks into a statement that looks something like this:

"There was no time, and there was no space. Then, in no-time and no-space (that is, in the absence of both time and space -- or "spacetime" as Einstein liked to call it, as the two are intertwined) the big bang happened for no reason."

Allrighty, then. Sounds like magic to me.

Lastly:

I don't have time to explain this now but you will find a good starting point in Robert Wald's "General Relativity."


Sheesh, uDave. You mean I have to go find some old BOOK to read? Chicken!

Best,
Ken
A former member
Post #: 1,008
Hi Ken,

Ken Roberts: Well, you've been busy.

Indeed, a virtual tango in Paris. Hey, I'm a philosophy geek (when time permits).

Ken Roberts: (1) The vitalism vs. mechanist debate focused primarily on biology, whereas emergentist materialism versus reductive materialism has implications for the entire range of the sciences, from particle physics through consciousness, and on into sociology, economics, and a host of other phenomena.

Surely this is exciting, some of us may even change religions. Surely you have Some internet resource that summarizes this amazingly wonderful possibility on a web page, with pictures of dolphins and sh*t, so we can better understand and appreciate in simple terms these sweeping implications of emergentist materialism??? "Go read old fart Blanshard" just doesn't capture the raw thrill for me and raises the question, "Why are most of your references to dead people?"

Ken Roberts: (2) The vitalists weren't materialists, while emergentists are.

Easy for you to say. Jaegwon Kim, monster that he is, says Carl Hempel and Ernest Nagel -- claimed that the classic idea of emergence was confused and incoherent, often likening it to neo-vitalism. Seems that vitalists were bonafied dualists in the sense of Descartes' "physical substance" (like dirt) and a different "mental substance" (the vital non-dirt part, the soul, the ghost in the machine) whereas emergentists reword this as "physical material" (normal dirt) and "mental material" (fake dirt?). So instead of "mental substance" we have "mental material" and are still wondering what it all means.

This may be similar to the move eliminative materialists make when they say "OK, we don't know what the hell 'mental' means, so there is officially no mental, starting today" except they get an extra gold star from Occam for their lean ontology and leadership skills.

Ken Roberts: (3) Emergentism has nothing to do with a "resistance to change." Reductionistic materialism, however, I think can be very aptly be characterized in those terms.

smile I'm sure we could both provide compelling and conflicting stories (plug for The Intentional Stance goes here) but it might be a distraction.

Ken Roberts: Continuing, you expressed some skepticism concerning the (well established) emergent properties of isomers.

I'm still looking for "well established," Ken. When I google "emergent properties of isomers?", I find only pages that use the term "emergent" as a kind of adjective for "surprising new behavior when we mix this stuff together." I don't see a formal or well-established presentation of "emergent property" from biologists. Do I have to read Blanshard again?

iDave: ... there is nothing especially "emergent" about isomers: they are different molecules that happen to have the same atoms but the atoms are arranged differently so their electrical and chemical properties are different.

Ken Roberts: The whole point here is that they "happen to have" the same atoms. Reductionistic materialism (at least on the main line of the theory, that stretches back at least to Logical Positivism, but really prior even to them) maintains that there are no properties above the level of the tiniest little bits of matter (which have, rather tellingly, shifted over time from atoms to quarks to strings) that are not, on closer examination, either actually the properties of those tiniest little bits of of stuff, or else (in a sense never made entirely clear) wholly "reducible" to them. Thus, in perhaps the clearest example of this claim, the weight of, say, 10 sulfur atoms is "reducible" to a multiple of the weight of an individual sulfur atom. That is, there is nothing new or emergent in the aggregate weight of 10 sulfur atoms, even though the aggregate weight happens to be different from the weight of a single sulfur atom: rather, we find only a sum of the weights, each in itself identical, over the entirety of the 10 atoms. Moreover, the aggregate weight of any further number of atoms, no matter what that number might be, can be predicted with mathematical certainty based upon the weight of a single atom.

We were weighing sulfer atoms last weekend and everyone was surprised: those puppies are Heavy!

Ahem ... I hear you saying 1) isomers have the same atoms; 2) reductionist materialism in simplified form asserts the weight of an aggregate of 10 sulfer atoms is just 10 times the weight of 1 sulfer atom. OK.

Ken Roberts: Now, can something like this be said of isomers? (Again, the more telling example is identical molecules of differing chirality, which I'll discuss in a moment.)

Well, no. The arrangement of molecules isn't something that can be reduced to the arrangement of an individual atom (or quark, or string) in the way that the weight of an aggregate of atoms is simply a summation, or multiple, of the weight of an individual atom.

"The arrangement of an individual atom" does not exist since there's only one atom in "an atom".

Your statement then becomes "the arrangement of atoms (constituting a molecule) cannot be reduced to something that does not exist," something I enthusiastically endorse.

Perhaps I misread the text (as the fashionable expression goes).

Ken Roberts: Nor are the differing properties of two isomers knowable from the properties of their individual atoms.

I'm not sure about this. Since we design molecules today, this should be a question our team of researchers (?) can answer.

'Nuff for one day.

Regards,
iDave.
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