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Offline coberst

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Is God a practical joker?
« on: 03/05/2009 23:42:23 »
Is God a practical joker?

But love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement.—Yeats

The rose in the midst of the thorn and sex in the midst of the anus.--coberst

One might think of God as a great practical joker.  S/he creates a species that considers it self to inhabit an area between god and animal.  Humans then seek to repress the animal side of its nature and to inflate the imagined god like part of its nature; its aspect that is in various situations considered as soul, or consciousness, or mind, or…

Jonathan Swift is perhaps the most famous of authors to parody the human eccentric behavior in attempting to repress recognition of our animal body.  If there is a God s/he must be a very witty practical joker.  Can you imagine the delight s/he must enjoy while observing humans contending with the problems relating to the pitching of the love mansion among the eliminating portals of the human body?

Psychoanalysis is about the nature of repression; the essential characteristic of the human psyche.

There is a constant conflict between the conscious and the unconscious. Societies repress the individual and the individual represses the self.

Neurotic behavior, dreams, and various “Freudian slips” provide us with e-mails from the unconscious that elude the conscious repression mechanism. These behavior characteristics are meaningful because they manifest the purpose of the unconscious that remains hidden from consciousness.

The conscious mind strenuously disowns and resists the rumblings of the unconscious. The conscious self disowns and resists its human nature.

Neurosis is the label given to these human phenomena of conflict between the conscious and unconscious self. All of us are neurotic to one degree or another. When this neurosis interferes with “normal” human behavior then, and only then, does it require outside interference by society.

Universal neurosis is the analogy of “original sin” for theological doctrine.

“The most scandalous pieces of Swiftian scatology are three of his later poems—“The Lady’s Dressing Room”, “Strephon and Chloe”, “Cassinus and Peter”—which are variations on the theme:
                             Oh! Caelia, Caelia, Caelia, %&@*$
Aldous Huxley explicates, saying, “The monosyllabic verb, which the modesties of 1929 will not allow me to print, rhymes with ‘wits’ and ‘fits’.”

Swift’s metaphor for humans as Yahoo’s, which are excrementally filthy, is even more in tune with his overall parodying human eccentricities when it comes to recognizing the nature of the body.

It appears to me that logical positivism, more appropriately called logical empiricism, is philosophy’s attempt to separate completely the human mind from the human body.  Logical empiricism travels on the back of a system of symbolic logic whereby a scientifically codified set of symbols is developed which permits ordinary human language to be converted into a system of symbols for the purpose of analyzing conscious thought for its truth value.  Anything that does not fit into this ‘symbol system epistemology’ is rejected as meaningless.

As best that I can understand it logical positivism is a philosophy that attempts to define meaning as being confined to empirical observations modified somewhat by rational processes, which does deposit some characteristics to the observed data.

I am a retired electronics engineer and while working I took courses in Symbolic Logic from the philosophy dept of a local university. This was 35 years ago and my thoughts might be a bit foggy but this is as I remember it to be.

Symbolic logic was proposed as a means to readily analyze complex arguments for their validity.  There were standard symbols available for application to phrases and sentences.  Since this mode of truth telling (logical positivism) comprehended all meaning as being consciously constructed necessary and sufficient definitions, meaning was fairly easily discovered. 

Then by manipulating these symbols in prescribed algorithms one could ascertain the validity of the very complex arguments.  This made computer generated analysis a piece of cake.

coberstakaDutchuncle


 

Offline graham.d

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Is God a practical joker?
« Reply #1 on: 04/05/2009 01:02:53 »
Logical Positivism has the attribute that it enables conversations regarding truth and logic to have meaning. I think it a useful device to enable statements to be made that represent a general position without the necessity for vast numbers of caveats and qualifications. If I say I am an atheist you would take it to mean that I do not think there is a divine being or beings governing our existence or life after death (for example). I can say this from a LP perspective. However if I do not take an LP position I must say I am agnostic because, in truth, I cannot know that such beings do not exist. Of course this same reasoning makes stating anything in normal language impossible. I cannot really make any logical assertion at all unless based on a logical progression from a set of premises. Whilst this is more accurate it does render discussion somewhat cumbersome and nobody outside a university philosophy department actually does this. It can also render the politically or religiously committed to appear to speak with more authority when the only people opposing their certainties say they are not wholly sure. This is one reason why Dawkins has taken such a stance against religion; he sees the weakness of the philosophically correct non-positivist position.

Symbolic logic does not wholly depend on positivism as such. Provided the language is defined as symbols and the definition is clear, caveats that may limit the value of any deductions can be inserted. You can deduce from the phrases "All birds can fly" and "Ducks are birds" that "All ducks can fly", but this does not mean that this deduction is right if the initial assertions are wrong. In this case, "all birds can fly" has to have a string of caveats regarding the age, health and species of the bird.
 

Offline coberst

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« Reply #2 on: 04/05/2009 10:15:50 »
Logical Positivism has the attribute that it enables conversations regarding truth and logic to have meaning. .

The problem here is that our traditional philosophy has limited meaning to this very limited area of discourse.  It is like a man who has learned only how to use a hammer and thus everything that looks like it can be fixed is fixed with the hammer.

SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) has proposed theories that broaden dramatically the meaning of "meaning".
 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #3 on: 04/05/2009 12:13:06 »
As far as I can see, and my understanding of this subject is very limited, protagonists of SGCS wish to link cognitive processes to something which is outside the realm of possibility to be replicated by symbol manipulation. I rather think that some of these concepts are to do with various professors wanting to make a name for themselves by claiming a paradigm change, when in fact they are rather vocalising something that is not new but was just not emphasised as being a key factor. There has been great hostility between various schools of thought in the USA in the fields of linguistics and in AI which have given rise to strongly defended "new" theories.

Even the strongest of Strong AI protagonists would not deny the influence of the body on how the mind works. Douglas Hofstadter, for example, made this point quite clearly in his work without trying to start a whole school of "new" thinking based on it. Much is also made of the idea that "analogy" can not be part of any system based on symbol manipulation and logic. This is simply not true. It is well beyond the enthusiastic, though unrealistic ideas that the world would have intelligent computers soon, but very few of the strong AI people claim this and I fear it is used too often as a straw man in discussions. It is too easy to underestimate the effects of complexity, intended or unintended, in what may be considered to be a deterministic (Turing) machine.

It would be nice to see some of these academics just working on developing the ideas rather than giving the impression that they have made a revolutionary leap and that what has gone before is total rubbish. The work of Chomsky in linguistics was, indeed, a great leap in human knowledge and understanding in the underlying structure of language. It may need modifying and improving, but it is too early to throw out the idea that language can be mapped into a system that works by manipulation of abstract symbols.

 

Offline coberst

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« Reply #4 on: 04/05/2009 22:08:06 »
It appears to me that CS has two paradigms, symbol manipulation (AI), and conceptual metaphor.  When I speak of CS here I am speaking of the conceptual metaphor paradigm.

Cognitive science has radically attacked the traditional Western philosophical position that there is a dichotomy between perception and conception.  This traditional view that perception is strictly a faculty of body and conception (the formation and use of concepts) is purely mental and wholly separate from and independent of our ability to perceive and move.

Cognitive science has introduced revolutionary theories that, if true, will change dramatically the views of Western philosophy.  Advocates of the traditional view will, of course, “say that conceptual structure must have a neural realization in the brain, which just happens to reside in a body.  But they deny that anything about the body is essential for characterizing what concepts are.” 

The cognitive science claim is that ”the very properties of concepts are created as a result of the way the brain and body are structured and the way they function in interpersonal relations and in the physical world.” 

The embodied-mind hypothesis therefore radically undercuts the perception/conception distinction.  In an embodied mind, it is conceivable that the same neural system engaged in perception (or in bodily movements) plays a central role in conception.  Indeed, in recent neural modeling research, models of perceptual mechanisms and motor schemas can actually do conception work in language learning and in reasoning.

A standard technique for checking out new ideas is to create computer models of the idea and subject that model to simulated conditions to determine if the model behaves as does the reality.  Such modeling techniques are used constantly in projecting behavior of meteorological parameters.

Neural computer models have shown that the types of operations required to perceive and move in space require the very same type of capability associated with reasoning.  That is, neural models capable of doing all of the things that a body must be able to do when perceiving and moving can also perform the same kinds of actions associated with reasoning, i.e. inferring, categorizing, and conceiving.

Our understanding of biology indicates that the body has a marvelous ability to do as any handyman does, i.e. make do with what is at hand.  The body would, it seems logical to assume, take these abilities that exist in all creatures that move and survive in space and with such fundamental capabilities reshape it through evolution to become what we now know as our ability to reason.  The first budding of the reasoning ability exists in all creatures that function as perceiving, moving, surviving, creatures.

Cognitive science has, it seems to me, connected our ability to reason with our bodies in such away as to make sense out of connecting reason with our biological evolution in ways that Western philosophy has not done, as far as I know.

It seems to me that Western philosophical tradition as always tried to separate mind from body and in so doing has never been able to show how mind, as was conceived by this tradition, could be part of Darwin’s theory of natural selection.  Cognitive science now provides us with a comprehensible model for grounding all that we are both bodily and mentally into a unified whole that makes sense without all of the attempts to make mind as some kind of transcendent, mystical, reality unassociated with biology.

Quotes from “Philosophy in the Flesh”


 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #5 on: 05/05/2009 14:03:47 »
You explain it well and I agree that brain has eveolved from a more primitive biology so that structures developed for one usage have been efficiently adapted for use in another. It isn't surprising that traditional philosophy (pre-Darwin) would not have understood this and have separated mind and body (and for mind read soul). It is just that I do not see that this has resulted in any recent revoltionary change in understanding of how the brain functions. Most people in all related fields of interests are aware of this.

An example is that the visual information from the eye is mapped on to the visual cortex in a surprising one-to-one manner. The visual cortex does a huge amount of filtering of the information it receives and passes on just what evolution has resolved to be the importent information. It is found that some people who are born without vision have adapted the visual cortex to process sound in a simlar way. The relationship between this change in a processing function from one field to another has a relation to a metaphorical approach to reasoning.

The brain is not the same as a modern digital computer in that there is much analogue weighting going on at a basic level. This can be copied somewhat ineffeiciently in Silicon but mostly the fundtion is mapped (also inefficiently) into conventional hardware. Neural networks can then be simulated with software. The key issue is that the function can be mapped (in a mathematical sense) into a conventional computer. I don't see there is any magic in how our senses fit in to this.

But I think you are saying that the brain's hardware, software and (crucially) it's sensors and interfaces need to be viewed holistically. I doubt that anyone would disagree so I still have trouble in seeing the greatness of the thought behind this. To understand the brain, in the sense of how we think, is clearly a case of understanding the forces (genetic and cultural) that have shaped its structure. The fact that we gather data from the outside world via our senses is clearly a key factor.

Maybe I am taking for granted some things that are obvious to everyone except those on traditional philosophy courses - it would not surprise me :-)
 

Offline coberst

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« Reply #6 on: 05/05/2009 20:09:24 »
We have in our Western philosophy a traditional theory of faculty psychology wherein our reasoning is a faculty completely separate from the body. “Reason is seen as independent of perception and bodily movement.” It is this capacity of autonomous reason that makes us different in kind from all other animals. I suspect that many fundamental aspects of philosophy and psychology are focused upon declaring, whenever possible, the separateness of our species from all other animals.

This tradition of an autonomous reason began long before evolutionary theory and has held strongly since then without consideration, it seems to me, of the theories of Darwin and of biological science. Cognitive science has in the last three decades developed considerable empirical evidence supporting Darwin and not supporting the traditional theories of philosophy and psychology regarding the autonomy of reason. Cognitive science has focused a great deal of empirical science toward discovering the nature of the embodied mind.

The three major findings of cognitive science are:
The mind is inherently embodied.
Thought is mostly unconscious.
Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical.

“These findings of cognitive science are profoundly disquieting [for traditional thinking] in two respects. First, they tell us that human reason is a form of animal reason, a reason inextricably tied to our bodies and the peculiarities of our brains. Second, these results tell us that our bodies, brains, and interactions with our environment provide the mostly unconscious basis for our everyday metaphysics, that is, our sense of what is real.”

All living creatures categorize. All creatures, as a minimum, separate eat from no eat and friend from foe. As neural creatures tadpole and wo/man categorize. There are trillions of synaptic connections taking place in the least sophisticated of creatures and this multiple synapses must be organized in some way to facilitate passage through a small number of interconnections and thus categorization takes place. Great numbers of different synapses take place in an experience and these are subsumed in some fashion to provide the category eat or foe perhaps.

Our categories are what we consider to be real in the world: tree, rock, animal…Our concepts are what we use to structure our reasoning about these categories. Concepts are neural structures that are the fundamental means by which we reason about categories.

Quotes from “Philosophy in the Flesh”.
 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #7 on: 06/05/2009 10:27:59 »
"The three major findings of cognitive science are:
The mind is inherently embodied.
Thought is mostly unconscious.
Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical."

Again, I doubt anyone (anyone in a related study area) would disagree with this, and this would be the case for the last 100 years or so I believe, and probably before. You are right that some philosophers had a different view in the past and this may have coloured some later philosophical thinking about the brain. However ideas moved on in other fields, including philosophy, so whilst I agree with the basic concepts associated with cognitive science, I still have a feeling that some professor is trying to make a name for himself by giving a name to, and taking credit for, pre-existing ideas. Sadly this happens a lot in academia I have noticed. Acclaim is the only reward that many academics get, so I don't blame them too much!

It reminds me of the Monty Python sketch with the academic's new theory on dinosaurs - they were thin at one end, thick in the middle, and thin at the other end.
 

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Is God a practical joker?
« Reply #7 on: 06/05/2009 10:27:59 »

 

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