/ Women can't be Bishops -- part 2

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Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
Seems to have auto-archived the first part, so here's a continuation
of http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=528121

In reply to Tim Chappell:

> That is a question for physicists on which I decline to be drawn.

So, the answer to how we decide what "exists" is this (taking the example of the Higgs Boson):

If it has an affect on our detector (in line with that expected for a Higgs) then it "exists".

It if doesn't have an affect on our detector (in line with that expected) then it doesn't "exist".

So, you see, physicists are effectively using my definition to determine whether something "exists", namely "existence" is all about whether something can, in principle, have some discernible effect.

So, can philosophers do better than this definition? Well, from what you've said, they either cop-out or leave it to physicists. In other words the de facto definition being used is my one.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


Oh dear. Another essence/ existence confusion.

In the procedure you describe your physicists are not making any claims at all about how to define "exists". What they're doing is applying tests to determine whether a HB exists.

Would the phrase "out of your depth" have any resonance at this point, I wonder?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:


> In the procedure you describe your physicists are not making any claims at all about how to define "exists".
> What they're doing is applying tests to determine whether a HB exists.

But the two are intimately linked. The tests to determine whether something is in a category are essentially the definition of that category.

> Would the phrase "out of your depth" have any resonance at this point, I wonder?

Talking to yourself Tim?
Moomin.williams on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

First up thanks to all the contributors to this thread I've learnt new stuff and it's generally made interesting reading.
I'm going to make the mistake of jumping in now I'm sure I really am out of my depth because to me this thread has gone full circle.
Coel has a defintion of exists, the reason Tim really doesn't like it is because it doesn't work for stuff that he believes should exist but don't....
Women Bishops (or God if that's easier!)
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
>
> [...]
>
> But the two are intimately linked. The tests to determine whether something is in a category are essentially the definition of that category.
>

I'm sorry, but that's just wildly wrong. This remark suggests that you not only don't understand the word "exists", you also don't understand the word "definition".
Sarah G on 27 Nov 2012
Something that keeps getting lost is that believing in god (or any chosen deity) is about just that...belief. It's called having faith, and yes, we scientists can have that faith. Belief in God and having a scientific mind are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Mind you, i know waht IS lacking round here...and that's tolerance! Debate all you want, yes, but in the end, tolerance is the key. One can have a wonderful, healthy debate (the god-bothering ones on here are great)and be tolerant of other people's views, without having to give up your own.

Sxx
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Moomin.williams:
> (
> Coel has a defintion of exists, the reason Tim really doesn't like it is because it doesn't work for stuff that he believes should exist but don't....


No, you're way off the mark there. I'm contesting what Coel is suggesting because what he's suggesting is wrong, that's all. I don't really mind what the consequences are for philosophy of religion, if any. (If I believed in the ontological argument, presumably I would want to say that existence IS a property.)
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Sarah G:
>
> Mind you, i know waht IS lacking round here...and that's tolerance! Debate all you want, yes, but in the end, tolerance is the key. One can have a wonderful, healthy debate (the god-bothering ones on here are great)and be tolerant of other people's views, without having to give up your own.


I did suggest something like this myself, higher up the thread: I suggested that what explanatory power you're prepared to buy at the price of positing what entities was a judgement call on which intelligent people can and do differ. And that how they make that judgement call is often what divides theists from atheists.

I don't know if anyone but you perhaps has taken up this eirenic suggestion of mine.
John Gillott - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> Seems to have auto-archived the first part, so here's a continuation
> of http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=528121
>
> In reply to Tim Chappell:
>
> [...]
>
> If it has an affect on our detector (in line with that expected for a Higgs) then it "exists".
>
> It if doesn't have an affect on our detector (in line with that expected) then it doesn't "exist".
>
> "existence" is all about whether something can, in principle, have some discernible effect.


Come on Coel, this is one of your weaker moments; best concede it and move on.

Aside from everything else, that 'in principle' is a hopeless link in your argument.


Sir Chasm - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Sarah G: I don't know about tolerance but the thread was pretty even handed, both coel and tim slung petty ad hominems with gay abandon.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:


If I have been ad hominem, then I apologise.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I'm sorry, but that's just wildly wrong. This remark suggests that you not only don't understand the
> word "exists", you also don't understand the word "definition".

I suggest that it is you who is wildly wrong. I'm suggesting both a meaning of the word "exists" and a method of determining whether something "exists". (Both of these are de facto used by scientists.)

In contrast, you are not offering a meaning/definition of "exists", not offering any way of determining whether something "exists" and are offering only declarations of "you're wrong".
Sir Chasm - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: No apologies necessary, it's quite amusing. As is your "if".
In reply to Coel Hellier: Noooooo! MAKE IT STOP!
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: You have completely lost me here. Are you saying we just *know* whether something exists or not? That we understand the definition of exists is axiomatic? A bit like the axiom that (I think) 0+1=1?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Sarah G:

> Mind you, i know waht IS lacking round here...and that's tolerance! Debate all you want, yes, but in
> the end, tolerance is the key. One can have a wonderful, healthy debate (the god-bothering ones on
> here are great)and be tolerant of other people's views, without having to give up your own.

You're hitting on one of my personal bug-bears here. Sure we should be "tolerant" of other people's ideas, but that only means accepting other people's right to express them, it does not mean respecting those ideas or being nice about them.

It's important to keep these concepts clear! http://coelsblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/religions-are-entitled-to-tolerance-but-not-to-respect/
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


There is no merit in making positive claims if they're total nonsense, as yours are, to be honest.

I haven't denied that "exists" has meaning. I've denied that it can be defined in any useful and non-circular way. You've said nothing that suggests otherwise.

However, now I have to go and see a man about an aardvark.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
>

As is your "if".

Ah. You noticed ;-)

Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Come on Coel, this is one of your weaker moments; best concede it and move on.

You're not presenting a refutation ...

> Aside from everything else, that 'in principle' is a hopeless link in your argument.

Why?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I haven't denied that "exists" has meaning. I've denied that it can be defined in any useful and non-circular way.

So what is the meaning of "exists" then? (Close synonyms don't answer that question.)

Or, to take an example, explain the exist/doesn't-exist distinction between X-rays and N-rays, and explain in what way that distinction is meaningful.
John Gillott - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Tim's general points seem sound to me on this one.

Perhaps I'm running the risk of muddying the waters by linking categories to concrete claims, but here goes. According to your way of looking at it:

Did the Higgs exist 100 years ago? Do Tachyons exist now? Will they exist in 300 years time when we have different detectors and different theories? Does, to re-raise a question I asked earlier, 'quantum indeterminism' exist? If it does now did it prior to the early 1900s and will it in 300 years time?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


I have, as I say, no definition of "exists" for you, 'cos there ain't one. As for the meaning of "exists", your query reminds me of the Prince Regent in Blackadder on Johnson's Dictionary. "Tchah, fat lot of good telling us what all these words mean when we already know!"

I can however give you what Aquinas calls a "convertibile" of "exists": namely "good". Whatever exists is good, and vice versa.

That's why the right basic attitude to the world is one of love.

I call as one witness Father Zosima:

love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery inthings. (Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (Chicago: Great Books 1952), p.167)

And as another Evelyn Underhill:

Gather yourself up, as the exercises of recollection have taught you to do. Then—with attention no longer frittered among the petty accidents and interests of your personal life, but poised, tensed, ready for the work you shall demand of it—stretch out by a distinct act of loving will towards one of the myriad manifestations of life that surround you: and which, in an ordinary way, you hardly notice... Pour yourself towards it, do not draw its image towards you. Deliberate—more, impassioned—attentiveness: this is the condition of success. As to the object of contemplation, it matters little. From Alp to insect, anything will do, provided that your attitude be right: for all things in this world towards which you are stretching out are linked together, and one truly apprehended will be the gateway to the rest. (Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism (New York: Meridian Books, 1955), 93-4)

It would be unrealistic to expect you to like this stuff; but I hope at any rate you find it chewy.

Now, about that aardvark...
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Did the Higgs exist 100 years ago?

Yes, because 100 years ago the Higgs had a causal connection to other matter and so could, in principle, have been detected.

> Do Tachyons exist now? Will they exist in 300 years time when we have different detectors and different theories?

I don't know, but the answer is the same for both of those. That's what the "in principle" means, as in, leaving aside us and issues of technology and practicality.

> Does, to re-raise a question I asked earlier, 'quantum indeterminism' exist?

As far as we know, yes

> If it does now did it prior to the early 1900s and will it in 300 years time?

Same answer as just above. None of those things make any difference to an "in principle" interaction with other matter that could in principle be discerned.
Moomin.williams on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Moomin.williams)
> [...]
>
>
> No, you're way off the mark there. I'm contesting what Coel is suggesting because what he's suggesting is wrong, that's all......


Can't help myself now, I knew I was out of my depth and shouldn't have tried to get involved in a discussion that was so well established.
But,
I can't see where you have described what is wrong with the definition. I agree that if something defininitely "exists" then it's little pointless to define the word exists.
Basic example: the two of us are in a room and there is a red ball on the floor between us. If we both agree that it is there then there's no point in defining the word exist as that is inherent in the fact we have agreed. But if one of us states that the ball is not there then we need some sort of way to work out who is right, or do we just go our separate ways agreeing to disagree.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I can however give you what Aquinas calls a "convertibile" of "exists": namely "good". Whatever exists
> is good, and vice versa. That's why the right basic attitude to the world is one of love.

?@@??!&#!?? So the smallpox virus and Ian Brady and sin are all "good"?

> It would be unrealistic to expect you to like this stuff ...

You have a point there.
Sir Chasm - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Love gas chambers, apartheid, bigotry...
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
>
> I have, as I say, no definition of "exists" for you, 'cos there ain't one. As for the meaning of "exists", your query reminds me of the Prince Regent in Blackadder on Johnson's Dictionary. "Tchah, fat lot of good telling us what all these words mean when we already know!"
>
>

Sorry, as above:

You have completely lost me here. Are you saying we just *know* whether something exists or not? That we understand the definition of exists is axiomatic? A bit like the axiom that (I think) 0+1=1?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

No, didn't say any of that, and don't wish to.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> No, didn't say any of that, and don't wish to.

Can you attempt my earlier question?

Or, to take an example, explain the exist/doesn't-exist distinction between X-rays and N-rays, and explain in what way that distinction is meaningful.
John Gillott - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

You gave us this at the top of the thread:

'So, the answer to how we decide what "exists" is this (taking the example of the Higgs Boson):

If it has an affect on our detector (in line with that expected for a Higgs) then it "exists".'

Now you give us this:

'That's what the "in principle" means, as in, leaving aside us and issues of technology and practicality.'

So can we decide or not? And if you allow things to exist before we discover them, what do you say about things we discover then change our minds about? Did the ether exist for a while then stop existing? Will it make a comeback, existentially speaking?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> So can we decide or not?

The first was about how *we* determine whether something exists. The second was about whether something does exist. Those are different; whether we know something exists or can in practice determine whether it exists is different from whether it does exist.

> what do you say about things we discover then change our minds about?

We've changed our minds. That of course does not change whether something exists. I suspect that you're not understanding what I mean by "in principle" here. All I mean is that there is a chain of casual links between two things. Whether we humans can, in practice, follow that chain is irrelevant to the "in principle".

John Gillott - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
>
> We've changed our minds. That of course does not change whether something exists. I suspect that you're not understanding what I mean by "in principle" here. All I mean is that there is a chain of casual links between two things. Whether we humans can, in practice, follow that chain is irrelevant to the "in principle".

I'm understanding alright. I'm trying to use the 'in principle' claim of yours to point out that you are mixing things up that should be kept distinct. When you make the 'in principle' point you retreat or move from an empiricist approach to something else, a specific kind of ontological claim. You claim that by listing all the elements of the set you define the set. There is some merit in that idea. The problem is that you haven't listed them all and in fact you admit that we (humanity) might not be able to - the fact that we cannot now and might never be able to 'follow that chain' in all cases is very relevant for the argument you have made.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> When you make the 'in principle' point you retreat or move from an empiricist approach to something else,
> a specific kind of ontological claim.

Yes, I'm distinguishing between what "exists" and what humans can determine to "exist".

> You claim that by listing all the elements of the set you define the set.

I'm not doing that, I'm specifying a property ("able to have a discernible affect") that something must have to qualify for the set "exists". (Note that the effect being discernIBLE is different from whether humans can discern it.)
Jimbo W on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> In reply to Jimbo W:
> > Existence according to PMP is: Everything that is, which to me is equivalent to everything that has being.

> Which is just giving close synonyms for the word, not defining it. Can you give me an operational test for deciding whether something "exists"?

Existence must be assumed, which is why you believe that something "having" being" is just a synonym and not a definition. It is a definition... ...it's a definition that recognises a judgement about that thing whose essence cannot be established a priori. To put it another way, to say something "exists" (outside of just the mind) is to admit a personal commitment to that reality and knowledge about it. Put still another, no knowledge of reality is without some kind of a personal commitment to reality. This harks back to the kind of assumptions I suggest you use, but you deny. Appeals to mere empirical data re the Higgs boson presupposes something about what "exists" means when you make that conclusion based on the empirical data, and therefore Tim is correct, wanting it to be defined in that ways is to provide a circular definition. Perhaps some words from Einstein might help?

A few more remarks of a general nature concerning concepts and [also] concerning the insinuation that a concept - for example that of the real - is something metaphysical (and therefore to be rejected). A basic conceptual distinction, which is a necessary prerequisite of scientific and pre-scientific thinking, is the distinction between "sense-impressions" (and the recollection of such) on the one hand and mere ideas on the other. There is no such thing as a conceptual definition of this distinction (aside from, circular definitions, i.e., of such as make a hidden use of the object to be defined). Nor can it be maintained that at the base of this distinction there is a type of evidence, such as underlies, for example, the distinction between red and blue. Yet, one needs this distinction in order to be able to overcome solipsism. Solution: we shall make use of this distinction unconcerned with the reproach that, in doing so, we are guilty of the metaphysical "original sin." We regard the distinction as a category which we use in order that we might the better find our way in the world of immediate sensations. The "sense" and the justification of this distinction lies simply in this achievement. But this is only a first step. We represent the sense-impressions as conditioned by an "objective" and by a "subjective" factor. For this conceptual distinction there also is no logical-philosophical justification. But if we reject it, we cannot escape solipsism. It is also the presupposition of every kind of physical thinking. Here too, the only justification lies in its usefulness. We are here concerned with "categories" or schemes of thought, the selection of which is, in principle, entirely open to us and whose qualification can only be judged by the degree to which its use contributes to making the totality of the contents of consciousness "intelligible." The above mentioned "objective factor" is the totality of such concepts and conceptual relations as are thought of as independent of experience, viz., of perceptions. So long as we move within the thus programmatically fixed sphere of thought we are thinking physically. Insofar as physical thinking justifies itself, in the more than once indicated sense, by its ability to grasp experiences intellectually, we regard it as "knowledge of the real."
Jim at Work on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
Hmmm... there are billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, so presumably billions upon billions of planets. so out there will be many entities vastly cleverer than us. We don't 'know' this, but they still exist, at least that is my belief - just as others believe in god (which I never have) I'd argue my belief is a bit more empirical though. Possibly some of these entiities will also believe in gods?
Higgs - assuming it does exist, not knowing about it previously does not dis-exist (!) it, it merely means we were unaware.
as once said 'there are things we know we know...etc'

by the way, did anyone ever discuss women bishops on this? not much point I suppose. Oh well.
Sir Chasm - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Jim at Work: There isn't much to say about women bishops, the CoE has said no. I think that means they don't exist.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

To illustrate what I mean by "in principle", consider a super-observer who knows everything about every proton, neutron and electron around, and who can manipulate them into any detector-configuration, and who has infinite time to make a detection (this to get round possible light-travel-time limits on causality). If this super-observer could discern the effect of something, then it "exists"; if there is no way that he could, then it doesn't "exist". That super-observer is what I mean by "in principle", as in ignoring any practical considerations.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Jim at Work:

> Higgs - assuming it does exist, not knowing about it previously does not dis-exist (!) it, it merely means we were unaware.

Obviously.
ripper - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: I just don't understand why women are so upset that they can't bash the bishop. surely smacking the pony is a worth alternative?
John Gillott - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> To illustrate what I mean by "in principle", consider a super-observer who knows everything about every proton, neutron and electron around, and who can manipulate them into any detector-configuration, and who has infinite time to make a detection (this to get round possible light-travel-time limits on causality). If this super-observer could discern the effect of something, then it "exists"; if there is no way that he could, then it doesn't "exist". That super-observer is what I mean by "in principle", as in ignoring any practical considerations.

I'm tempted to say, no I will say... you're assuming the existence of an all-powerful God in order to construct a definition of 'existence' that you will go on to use to cast severe doubt on the existence of God? Have I got that right?

You don't know what is possible or not possible in the future and we don't have infinite time. And given that you're a non-believer you don't think God does either. So, what have you achieved with this definition? Not much.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> you're assuming the existence of an all-powerful God in order to construct a definition of 'existence'

Nope, I'm illustrating what I mean by "in principle". And I'm a bit baffled as to why it is such a hard concept.

> You don't know what is possible or not possible in the future and we don't have infinite time.

Sure, and that is a limitation on **human** knowledge about what exists. That does not mean that it is a limitation on what exists.

> So, what have you achieved with this definition?

I've achieved a definition of what "exist" means and it accords with methods of determining whether something exists. That's quite a bit more than the philosophers have achieved, according to Tim.

But yes, it wasn't supposed to be some amazing advance, it's just a definition of a word. I'm not wedded to it, I'm just not aware of a better one.
Robert Durran - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> But yes, it wasn't supposed to be some amazing advance, it's just a definition of a word. I'm not wedded to it, I'm just not aware of a better one.

Please can we go back to quantum indeterminism, emergence and evolution. So much more interesting than quibbling over definitions.

MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> But yes, it wasn't supposed to be some amazing advance, it's just a definition of a word. I'm not wedded to it, I'm just not aware of a better one.

Out of interest, is it one you developed, or is there another source?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


You haven't defined "exist". If you had, then it would be logically inconceivable that something should exist and not be detected by your (oh the irony here) Omniscient Observer. But it is logically conceivable that something exist and not be so detected. Fail. And a pretty bad fail, too: it seems you don't understand the ground-rules for formulating definitions.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: I still have no idea what you are getting at. "Whatever exists is good, and vice versa. " just seems bonkers read straight. I assume you and other philosophers do mean something sensible by phrases such as this. Perhaps you could attempt to explain in normal language?

But anyway you seem to be trying to use "exist" in a highly technical/jargony sort of way. Coel's approach seems a reasonable starting point from a practical point of view wouldn't you say? Is that a spoon or an illusion?

Ah, I can pick it up, it interacts with me, therefore it exists.

or

Ah, I try and pick it up and there is nothing, I must be imagining it. It doesn't exist.

(and please don't get hung up on "imagining" or "illusions", that's not the point).
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

> Out of interest, is it one you developed, or is there another source?

I'm not aware of any source for it, so I think it's one I came up with. But as I say, it's only a suggestion, and if people can produce a better one ...
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:]

you seem to be trying to use "exist" in a highly technical/jargony sort of way.


Sorry about that; we humble philosophers do occasionally find a bit of technicality helps precision. Unlike physicists, of course.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


It's not even a suggestion!
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> >
> Ah, I can pick it up, it interacts with me, therefore it exists.
>
> or
>
> Ah, I try and pick it up and there is nothing, I must be imagining it. It doesn't exist.



There's no problem with these inferences. But they have nothing to do with whether "exists" can be defined or not.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> You haven't defined "exist".

Yes I have.

> But it is logically conceivable that something exist and not be so detected.

That depends on how you define "exist", doesn't it? So far you haven't.

> Fail. And a pretty bad fail, too:

You haven't shown anything wrong with it.

> ... it seems you don't understand the ground-rules for formulating definitions.

Back to your "arguing" by simply declaring yourself right. That's feeble. Tim, you're evading again. Care to address my earlier challenge?:

"Or, to take an example, explain the exist/doesn't-exist distinction between X-rays and N-rays, and explain in what way that distinction is meaningful."

If you don't like the physicsy nature of that one, try horses and unicorns instead.

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


Look: for a definition to work, the definiens has at least to supply a necessary and sufficient condition for the definiendum. Your supposed definition fails that minimal test. Therefore, it can't be an adequate definition.

If you don't understand this, or won't, I'm not sure what I can say to help you.

I think I might be better spending the time on my aardvark, frankly.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Your supposed definition fails that minimal test.

In what way?

And you're once again failing to explain what you think the meaning of "exists" is or the distinction between "exists" and "doesn't exist".
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I think I might be better spending the time on my aardvark,

Did you know JRR Tolkein defined aardvark for the OED?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


Listen very carefully: there is a possible situation in which something exists and is not perceived by your Omniscient Observer. This possible situation is a counterexample to your supposed equivalence.

I have already explained what I think "exists" means. It means "exists". It's a basic term. You can gloss it, e.g. by saying if it exists you can bump into it, if it exists you can count it, etc., but you can't define it because there is no more basic vocabulary in which to define it.

Got it now?
John Gillott - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> If this super-observer could discern the effect of something, then it "exists"; if there is no way that he could, then it doesn't "exist".

According to your definition God can say whether something exists or not, but mere mortals can't - how could humans know that 'there is no way that he could'?

Your definition fails, clearly, for making definite statements about non-existence. But it's not even great for making statements about things that we want to say do exist - if we change our minds, we got it wrong you say. Wrong in what sense? Wrong in relation to objective existence you say. Oh that, that undefined out there that you were supposed to be defining.
999thAndy on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
Physicists use maths to ensure precision / avoid ambiguity. Maybe philosophers could do something similar ?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to 999thAndy:


We do. And we use logic. Where appropriate. And "where appropriate" is an extremely interesting and rather murky question....
Shani - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
>
> Listen very carefully: there is a possible situation in which something exists and is not perceived by your Omniscient Observer. This possible situation is a counterexample to your supposed equivalence.
>
> I have already explained what I think "exists" means. It means "exists". It's a basic term. You can gloss it, e.g. by saying if it exists you can bump into it, if it exists you can count it, etc., but you can't define it because there is no more basic vocabulary in which to define it.
>
> Got it now?


So Tim, does/do god/s exist?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Shani:


Yes, but that wasn't what we were discussing.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Are there other concepts you regard as indefinable?
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Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

"Possible" and "Necessary" are the usual examples: they're not usefully definable except via each other (possibly p = not necessarily not p; necessarily p = not possibly not p).

"Actual", perhaps.

Maybe other things. Very probably "God", for instance.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Listen very carefully: there is a possible situation in which something exists and is not perceived by your Omniscient Observer.

Whether that is possible depends on your definition of exists! Since you haven't given us a definition of "exists" you have no basis for asserting the above!

> This possible situation is a counterexample to your supposed equivalence.

You haven't shown that it is a counterexample because you haven't shown that an item that is "not perceived by my super-observer" could be in the category "exists".

> I have already explained what I think "exists" means. It means "exists". It's a basic term.

Ok if you're happy with that, but I think my definition does better. And surely you accept that you need a process for deciding what does exist and what doesn't exist? What is your process for doing that?

Are you really saying that you have no way whatsoever of determining whether something "exists"? If you do, tell us how you do it. Or are you claiming that you just "know" what "exists"?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Oh, and "not".
999thAndy on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: well could you prove that "exist" is undefinable, using maths? Or any other logical tool - apart from written English ?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
>

Oh for goodness' sake. I'm not going to repeat myself again, just because you can't or won't understand. I've already explained myself fully. If you still don't get it, I don't know what to suggest.

I wonder what the dictionary says under "exists"? I don't think I've ever looked.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> According to your definition God can say whether something exists or not, but mere mortals can't ...

Mere mortals have limited knowledge yes. I don't see that as a problem for my definition! Mortals can determine that something does exist (by detecting it), and they can determine that something does not exist provided that that thing is postulated such that its effects would be detectable by humans.

> Your definition fails, clearly, for making definite statements about non-existence.

I'm sorry, there's nothing "clear" about that to me, can you elucidate?

> if we change our minds, we got it wrong you say. Wrong in what sense?

Wrong in the sense that our knowledge about the world was wrong. That happens a lot. I'm utterly baffled by why this is such a big issue for you.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


But one comment I can't resist:

Are you really saying that you have no way whatsoever of determining whether something "exists"?


Of course I'm not. I'm saying I don't do it by defining "exists". And neither do you.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Oh for goodness' sake. I'm not going to repeat myself again, just because you can't or won't understand.
> I've already explained myself fully. If you still don't get it, I don't know what to suggest.

You're the one who is totally failing to get it Tim!

Tim, how do you decide whether something "exists"? What is your process for doing that?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

>> Are you really saying that you have no way whatsoever of determining whether something "exists"?

> Of course I'm not. I'm saying I don't do it by defining "exists". And neither do you.

So how do you do it?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


By looking at the evidence, of course.

Coel, you really are out of your depth on this topic. I've disproved your supposed definition, and you don't even get the disproof. I don't think there's any point in continuing this.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I wonder what the dictionary says under "exists"? I don't think I've ever looked.

I did ten minutes ago- "is part of reality". I can see *that* is circular.

MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Taking Coel's (rough) definition of Exists=detectable. Are you saying it is circular because you could turn it round and say detectable=exists?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> By looking at the evidence, of course.

Exactly. So "exists" becomes defined as "there is evidence for it". Now if we ask about types of evidence, we get back to discernible effects on things we can observe.

If you don't agree with that, explain some other way in which the distinction between "exists" and "doesn't exist" can be meaningful.

> Coel, you really are out of your depth on this topic.

Wrong.

> I've disproved your supposed definition, ...

Wrong.

> and you don't even get the disproof.

And you don't get why your "disproof" is not a disproof.

> I don't think there's any point in continuing this.

Not unless you can do better than you currently are, no.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

My 1950s OED says exist = DEF "to be, to have objective being". And gives "to live" and "to continue to live" and "to survive" as subsidiary meanings.

Dictionary evidence is not conclusive; but this does I think support what I've been saying, that "exists" isn't non-circularly or non-trivially definable.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> Exactly. So "exists" becomes defined as "there is evidence for it".



You're doing it again, Coel. For a definition to work, it has to be inconceivable that the definiens should come apart from the definiendum. But it's not inconceivable that what exists should come apart from what there is evidence for. Once again, you're just showing that you don't understand what a definition is.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> But it's not inconceivable that what exists should come apart from what there is evidence for.

Under my definition, it is (given the addition of an "in principle"). Thus my definition is self-consistent; you have not shown any problem with it.
John Gillott - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> Mere mortals have limited knowledge yes. I don't see that as a problem for my definition! Mortals can determine that something does exist (by detecting it), and they can determine that something does not exist provided that that thing is postulated such that its effects would be detectable by humans.
>
> [...]
>
> I'm sorry, there's nothing "clear" about that to me, can you elucidate?
>
> [...]
>
> Wrong in the sense that our knowledge about the world was wrong. That happens a lot. I'm utterly baffled by why this is such a big issue for you.

Clearly (geddit) we're both baffled by the other's failure to grasp what appear to each of us to be ABC points. I've got to go out in a bit I'm afraid so will have to leave it soon (for today).

My general point is that you are attempting to use a pragmatic empiricist approach, one which serves science well, to do something else, define 'existence'. I think that fails. Humans, though they might change their minds, can say, according to your definition, that some things exist and that some things do not exist. What they cannot do is say that certain things cannot exist. On your definition only God could do that. Now, as I understand it, your definition depends on being able to do what humans cannot do, say that certain things could not exist. Therefore, your definition fails because it is a definition made by a human for humans to work with.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Then your definition is (a) circular and (b) counter-intuitive.

a) My claim was that there is no *non-circular* definition of "exists". Your definition of "exists" is "seen by the super-observer, who sees everything that exists". Which is patently circular.

b) It's highly counter-intuitive that it should be *absolutely inconceivable* for something to exist, but not be perceived by such a super-observer. Unless of course--oh the irony again--that super-observer is God.

Face it, you're stuffed.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> What they [humans] cannot do is say that certain things cannot exist.

Agreed, not with certainty, no. Human knowledge is provisional. That's an accepted part of science, so I don't see why this is any problem for my definition.

> Now, as I understand it, your definition depends on being able to do what humans cannot do, say
> that certain things could not exist.

No, not at all. It doesn't depend on anyone doing anything at all. Here, I'll restate the same thing without the "super observer" if you prefer:

{Entity} "exists" if there is a chain of possible causal links between {entity} and our sense data. If there is no possible chain of causal links then {entity} does not exist.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
>
> {Entity} "exists" if there is a chain of possible causal links between {entity} and our sense data. If there is no possible chain of causal links then {entity} does not exist.


If that's supposed to be a definition of "exists" it is utterly hopeless. On this definition, there cannot be more than one space-time continuum.
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Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Your definition of "exists" is "seen by the super-observer, who sees everything that exists". Which is patently circular.

But then that's not my definition! And my actual definition is not circular.

> It's highly counter-intuitive that it should be ...

Being "counter-intuitive" is not really a problem for my definition, that in itself is not a killer.

> Unless of course--oh the irony again--that super-observer is God.

As I've just done, I can restate the definition without the "super-observer" -- that was only an illustration of "in principle", it wasn't part of the definition.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> If that's supposed to be a definition of "exists" it is utterly hopeless. On this definition, there
> cannot be more than one space-time continuum.

(1) Yes, (2) Why is that a problem?
Jimbo W on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to 999thAndy:

> Physicists use maths to ensure precision / avoid ambiguity. Maybe philosophers could do something similar ?

Such dependence on maths is a form of idealism, which in my view only encourages anti-realism.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
>
>
> If that's supposed to be a definition of "exists" it is utterly hopeless. On this definition, there cannot be more than one space-time continuum.

Since this definition implies that nothing outside this causal order exists, it also entails that numbers don't exist, unless numbers are part of the causal order. But that surely shouldn't follow just from the definition of "exists".

Your new definition is (if anything) less promising than your previous one.

Face it, you really are stuffed.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> (1) Yes, (2) Why is that a problem?



Oh for heaven's sake... because it's conceivable that there could be more than one. Indeed lots of physicists are busy conceiving it.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: Your original definition was, I think

"could not, even in principle, have any discernible effect on anything we're aware of"

I assume Tim is objecting to (although why he won't say what he thinks clearly is beyond me) "... effect on anything we're aware of" as being circular. If this is indeed what he is saying, I think he has a point, no?
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
>
>
>
> Oh for heaven's sake... because it's conceivable that there could be more than one. Indeed lots of physicists are busy conceiving it.

But then the would be detectable surely, and hence exist under Coel's definition?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

No, because conceiving is not detecting.
victim of mathematics - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

All this banter between you and Coel is very endearing, but rather tedious.

I'm not saying I agree with his definition, and if Coel claimed that 'exists' meant 'was green', then he'd obviously be wrong. But you couldn't argue against the validity of his definition without offering an example of something which 'exists' but isn't green, which involves invoking an alternative definition of 'exists'.

Waving your hands around in the air and crying about circularity is all very well, but it means you cannot disprove Coel's definition. So stop pretending that you can.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> No, because conceiving is not detecting.

I can conceive of a dragon, that doesn't mean dragons exist.

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to victim of mathematics:

without offering an example of something which 'exists' but isn't green, which involves invoking an alternative definition of 'exists'.


--This is the bit where you go wrong-- I don't need an alternative definition of "exists". I just need an account of the meaning of "exists". Which I've given. Hence...

it means you cannot disprove Coel's definition.

--But I can. I keep on doing, every time he offers one. I've disproved all his suggestions so far, simply by providing counter-examples to them-- conceivable cases where we have his definiens, but not his definiendum, or vice versa. I'm confident I can keep it up, aardvark permitting, pretty well indefinitely. Now there's a threat ;-)

This is *why* I deny that "exists" can be defined: because whatever anyone comes up with as a definition, it's going to go the same way.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
> I can conceive of a dragon, that doesn't mean dragons exist.

I agree. Conceivability isn't a criterion or definition of existence either, because conceivably there are inconceivable existents.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: So Coel's definition survives.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

Eh? No.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Can you clarify whether my post at 17.06 summarizes your objection?
victim of mathematics - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to victim of mathematics)
>
> without offering an example of something which 'exists' but isn't green, which involves invoking an alternative definition of 'exists'.
>
>
> --This is the bit where you go wrong-- I don't need an alternative definition of "exists". I just need an account of the meaning of "exists". Which I've given. Hence...

I'm not sure what you mean by "An account", but all you've offered here is some nonsense about all that exists being good, which is patently nonsense without some context that you haven't deigned to share with us.

>
> it means you cannot disprove Coel's definition.
>
> --But I can. I keep on doing, every time he offers one. I've disproved all his suggestions so far, simply by providing counter-examples to them-- conceivable cases where we have his definiens, but not his definiendum, or vice versa. I'm confident I can keep it up, aardvark permitting, pretty well indefinitely. Now there's a threat ;-)
>
> This is *why* I deny that "exists" can be defined: because whatever anyone comes up with as a definition, it's going to go the same way.

But you aren't 'disproving' anything. You haven't provided any "Counter-examples", just waved your hands about and made smug pronouncements about how right you are, without any actual counter-examples or proof.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

No, it doesn't... various posts by, er, myself would do that :-)
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Eh? No.

Eh? Yes! The definition doesn't mention conceiving, just detecting.

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to victim of mathematics:


I'll ignore the abusive bits, and confine myself to saying: if you don't think I've provided counter-examples, take another look.

E.g. Coel said something about existence having to do with being possibly in causal touch with us; I pointed out that other spacetime continua and numbers are both counter-examples. Does that satisfy your exacting requirements?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

Nope. Cp. my earlier counter-examples.
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MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> No, it doesn't... various posts by, er, myself would do that :-)

Well clearly not. Look at the number of people clearly baffled by your posts. If you can't explain what you mean to a range of obviously reasonably bright people either a) you don't really know yourself or b) you are being awkward, AKA trolling. I am going increasingly for b).

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

No, I'm just trying to get at the truth, which, except on jokey threads, is all I ever do really.
victim of mathematics - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Ignore the bits you don't like because you can't/don't want to address them, you mean? That's your debating style in a nutshell.

But anyway, if there are other spacetime continua (is that really the plural?) then by Coel's definition either they are detectable to us, in which case they exist, or they aren't, in which case they don't. This isn't a counter-example unless you invoke a definition of 'exist' whereby other continua which we can't interact with do. But you've refused to do that. The same with numbers. You can't offer them as a counter-example without saying that they exist, which involves invoking an alternative definition of 'exist' and if you won't define what that is then you don't have an argument, just some waffle.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to victim of mathematics:

If you are abusive to me, I don't really see the point of being abusive back. YOu want me to be? Is that your debating style, in a nutshell?

You write:
if there are other spacetime continua (is that really the plural?) then by Coel's definition either they are detectable to us, in which case they exist, or they aren't, in which case they don't

You have noticed that you contradict yourself here, haven't you? "If there ARE other spacetime continua... they don't exist"?

I mention this simply because it illustrates nicely that we don't need a definition of "exists" to use the concept.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> You have noticed that you contradict yourself here, haven't you? "If there ARE other spacetime continua... they don't exist"?
>


How is that a problem, other than one for language? If these other entities can't interact with us, then defining them as non-existent seems fine to me.

I suppose in theory you might need a bigger word at some point to include all the various things that can't interact with us too.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

Of course it's not all right to say "they can't interact with us, so they don't exist"!
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Of course it's not all right to say "they can't interact with us, so they don't exist"!

Why?

dek - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
FFS Tim! Tell the pompous pricks you didn't expect the "Spanish Inquisition"! :-)
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:


Well, I'm tempted to say it's not all right morally--there's a sort of local chauvinism about it.

But the point here is that Coel(until he mysteriously disappeared from this thread) was trying to define "exists". You can't deal with a counter-example just by saying "Oh yeah, but who cares".
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to dek:

But actually I did expect it-- it's always like this. If nothing else it's a workout: "What does not kill us makes us strong" :-0
Trangia - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> Seems to have auto-archived the first part,
>
>

How can you be sure that wasn't Divine intervention? :)
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
>
> Well, I'm tempted to say it's not all right morally--there's a sort of local chauvinism about it.

I am sure non-existent entities will cope with us being rude about them.

> But the point here is that Coel(until he mysteriously disappeared from this thread) was trying to define "exists". You can't deal with a counter-example just by saying "Oh yeah, but who cares".

But there still hasn't been a counter-example!

dek - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
Okay, fetch Cardinal Tim Ximinez a comfy chair!!
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

I don't know how you can think that. Coel suggested "exists" = DEF "is possibly in causal contact with us". I pointed out *two* counter-examples, numbers and other spacetimes. How can you deny that there are counter-examples? I'm genuinely baffled.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to dek:

THREE DEACONS: confess! confess! confess! confess!

FOURTH DEACON: I confess!

FIRST DEACON: not YOU!
solocavediver - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: the philosopher Nietzsche, that mighty inspiration to Adolf Hitler, who invented the dodgy statement "whatever does not kill me makes me stronger" had syphilis which first made him sick and then sent him bonkers, even more bonkers than he already was. Not sure if it eventually killed him; certainly not immediately. There are a lot of people missing limbs, confined to wheelchairs etc. who wouldn't really agree that "whatever does not kill me makes me stronger". I think I rather favour a graffiti from my undergraduate days: `"God is dead" - Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" - God.`
dek - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
But I only came in to tell thee, there was 'trouble at tmill'!!
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> I don't know how you can think that. Coel suggested "exists" = DEF "is possibly in causal contact with us". I pointed out *two* counter-examples, numbers and other spacetimes. How can you deny that there are counter-examples? I'm genuinely baffled.

Other space-times we just did - either they are detectable and exist under the definition, or they are not and don't exist. Numbers are the closest you have come, I think, to a counter-example. They clearly don't exist under the definition but maybe that is because they don't in fact exist - I think there was suggestion above they are mental abstractions, a bit like "happiness".

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to solocavediver:


I'm not actually much of a fan of Nietzsche, but he had some great one-liners. And I think it's absolutely certain that he would have *despised* Hitler.

If you want a philosopher to blame for Hitler, I'd go for Heidegger, who has no one-liners at all; he doesn't even have one-paragraphers.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
> Other space-times we just did - either they are detectable and exist under the definition, or they are not and don't exist.


That's too quick. These other spacetimes only need to be conceivable. And they are clearly that.
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MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
>
> That's too quick. These other spacetimes only need to be conceivable. And they are clearly that.

We did that too! And agreed conceivable things (e.g. dragons) don't have to exist.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:


That they don't have to exist isn't the point. The point is that the question of the existence of dragons is not settled by their being in causal contact or not with us.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to dek:


I came in here for a good argument!
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
>
> That they don't have to exist isn't the point. The point is that the question of the existence of dragons is not settled by their being in causal contact or not with us.

It is under the definition we are discussing. If you don't like the definition, propose another one that includes non-causal dragons.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG: In reply to PMP's post that might reappear!

I mentioned this above, and I think you are probably right, but apparently it isn't Tim's objection, which I am still trying to understand.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

No, the definition said: to exist is to be possibly in causal contact with us. The general form of my response is: there are things that conceivably exist, but aren't possibly in causal contact with us. Other spacetimes are an example. Such cases are counter-examples to the proposed definition. Therefore the definition fails. That's it.
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

The basic problem is that Coel's whole approach is circular on numerous levels:

eg. If the definition of "exist" is something that we can detect then only things that we can detect exist. Obviously.

By establishing definitions in this way one can establish a coherent and logical framework which is obviously something Coel feels comfortable with.

Conversely, definitions and terms which are "open ended" and don't lend themselves to "evidence" of the form that Coel requires but will not define are regarded as inadequate.

But that the latter does not make them wrong. It simply acknowledges that there may be something(s) that either we are never able to be aware of or if we are aware of it we have not way of understanding what it is that we are aware of. It is simply a reflection of the idea that that there are things of which we cannot know and therefore cannot define that the terminology to describe this will not be as precise as that used to describe something more limited.

I can't help but be reminded by the former of a child covering his eyes with his hands and believing that he's invisible.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> No, the definition said: to exist is to be possibly in causal contact with us.

The general form of my response is: there are things that conceivably exist,

But you are using (an unspecified) definition of "exist" here ^^^ which is different to the one in the previous sentence.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:


No, I'm not using any such definition. I don't have a definition of "exist". I have an account of what "exist" means, but no definition. My position (it's a pretty standard one in philosophy) is that there can be no informative, non-circular definition, because "exist" is a logically basic concept. I've said this several times now.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
PS Perhaps this helps: think again about "possibly" and "necessarily". All you can do to define "possibly" is say "not necessarily not". Conversely, all you can do to define "necessarily" is say "not possibly not". Beyond that rather neat but also rather trivial interdefinition, these terms aren't definable. What I'm saying about "exists" is similar, except that there's nothing that stands to "exists" as "possibly" stands to "necessarily".

Oh I don't know, maybe that doesn't help...
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
>
> No, I'm not using any such definition. I don't have a definition of "exist". I have an account of what "exist" means, but no definition. My position (it's a pretty standard one in philosophy) is that there can be no informative, non-circular definition, because "exist" is a logically basic concept. I've said this several times now.

Indeed you have but it seems to be an entirely different (non)definition to the one Coel is proposing and also to that used by scientists and people in everyday life. As above, if you are going to use technical definitions of words you need to be clear about that and recognise it and also explain it to others when you are doing so. If I use "stress" at work it will mean something quite different to how you would use it. I can't simply assert I am right and you are wrong.

I think Coel's is probably circular, but assuming for the moment it isn't, it does appear practically useful as it defines what we can interact with, in principle, which strikes me as a useful category. I can't really see a use for your non-definition.

Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)

> I think Coel's is probably circular, but assuming for the moment it isn't, it does appear practically useful as it defines what we can interact with, in principle, which strikes me as a useful category. I can't really see a use for your non-definition.

To include somthing that we can't interact with.

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

"Scientists and people in everyday life" don't, in my experience, use any definition of "exists" at all. They may be looking for particular kinds of things, e.g. Higgs Bosons, and therefore look for particular kinds of signs or evidence that whateveritis exists. But they don't use definitions. So my account maps their behaviour perfectly well.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
> [...]
>
> To include somthing that we can't interact with.

Have you ever needed that concept?

owlart - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> How is that a problem, other than one for language? If these other entities can't interact with us, then defining them as non-existent seems fine to me.
>
> I suppose in theory you might need a bigger word at some point to include all the various things that can't interact with us too.

Just a thought, but if this other space-time continuum has people in it who can't interact with us, just as we can't interact with them, then presumably by the same argument they would define us as non-existent. Does this mean that we don't exist? And if so, does that mean I don't have to bother getting up in the morning? :-)
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> Have you ever needed that concept?

Yes, but what has that got to do with it?

MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> "Scientists and people in everyday life" don't, in my experience, use any definition of "exists" at all. They may be looking for particular kinds of things, e.g. Higgs Bosons, and therefore look for particular kinds of signs or evidence that whateveritis exists. But they don't use definitions.

But they do (at least a de facto one) and that definition they are using must approximate Coel's. If they show they interaction with HGs, they will decide it exists. If there is no interaction, they will decide it doesn't exist. Under your "account" there could be HGs all other the shop that don't interact with us in any way that exist. I would be quite happy to say they don't exist.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to owlart:
And if so, does that mean I don't have to bother getting up in the morning? :-)

Yep, just explain to your employer you no longer exist. All problems solved.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
> Yes, but what has that got to do with it?

Oh OK. You need a new word then.

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to owlart:

There are theorists of possibility (e.g. David Lewis) who say that "actual" is indexical, so this world is only real from the point of view of this world, and each other world is equally real from its viewpoint. (Each world is an isolated spacetime continuum.)

So from any other world, you are indeed non-existent, or at least, non-actual, and therefore face only possible consequences if you don't heave your possible sorry arse out of your possible stinky bed of a possible morning :-)
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Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
> But they do (at least a de facto one) and that definition they are using must approximate Coel's. If they show they interaction with HGs, they will decide it exists. If there is no interaction, they will decide it doesn't exist. Under your "account" there could be HGs all other the shop that don't interact with us in any way that exist. I would be quite happy to say they don't exist.


What you say goes on, but it isn't defining "exists".

MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
>
> What you say goes on, but it isn't defining "exists".

Right. We have looped. And anyway, I need to go and play squash. Night!

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
Under your "account" there could be HGs all other the shop that don't interact with us in any way that exist. I would be quite happy to say they don't exist.


You've contradicted yourself here, too: "there could BE HGs" etc., then "they don't exist".

If there ARE such HGs, then don't say they don't exist!

Enjoy your squash.
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> Oh OK. You need a new word then.

No I don't. Coel needs one to embrace his caveat to the term.

victim of mathematics - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Sigh.

It seems MG and I are of the same opinion. We aren't necessarily saying Coel's definition is correct, but that your so-called 'counter-examples' are nothing of the sort.

Since you are getting hung up about definitions, just because there "are" HGs, that doesn't mean they "exist", unless you can offer a definition of "exist" which includes "are". Which you won't, and therefore there isn't a contradiction.
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to victim of mathematics:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
>
> Since you are getting hung up about definitions, just because there "are" HGs, that doesn't mean they "exist", unless you can offer a definition of "exist" which includes "are". Which you won't, and therefore there isn't a contradiction.

Is "are" the same as "is" ?

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to victim of mathematics:
> unless you can offer a definition of "exist" which includes "are". Which you won't,


Sure I'll offer a definition of "exist" which includes "are". In fact, I already have. Check out my quotation from the OED above.
crossdressingrodney - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Hi Tim,

I'm another one struggling to understand your point.

You don't have a definition of "exists" and in fact you claim it can't be defined. OK, fine. But you seem to believe that some things nevertheless do in fact exist, so you must have some way of recognising at least some of those things that do exist. It would be helpful if you could say whether the following exist, as you understand the term:

- you
- me
- happiness
- The natural numbers
- electrons
- the Higgs Boson
- an integer that is both even and odd
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:
>

you seem to believe that some things nevertheless do in fact exist,


--"nevertheless"? As if there were tension between x's existing, and "exists" not being definable? Don't see the tension TBH.

so you must have some way of recognising at least some of those things that do exist.

--Sure. Ways rather than way, but yes.

It would be helpful if you could say whether the following exist, as you understand the term:

--I don't actually see how it helps, but since you ask...

> - you
Yes--last time I checked, anyway
> - me
Yes (so far as I can tell, though I bet CDR isn't your real name)
> - happiness
Yes
> - The natural numbers
Yes
> - electrons
Yes
> - the Higgs Boson
Pass-- I'm waiting for the physicists to tell me
> - an integer that is both even and odd
No, because this is a contradiction

victim of mathematics - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Pass-- I'm waiting for the physicists to tell me

But how will they know? If there isn't a definition then how do you know that their "ways" of knowing whether something exists or not are the same as your "ways"?

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to victim of mathematics:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> But how will they know? If there isn't a definition then how do you know that their "ways" of knowing whether something exists or not are the same as your "ways"?


Sure, and how will the baby find the nipple without a definition of milk?

What on earth makes you think that we can't know anything until we have definitions of everything?

Have you been talking to that Socrates? ;-)

Jimbo W on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> The basic problem is that Coel's whole approach is circular on numerous levels:
> eg. If the definition of "exist" is something that we can detect then only things that we can detect exist. Obviously.

Yes, and it presupposes:
a) existence
and b) "exist" must also be an intrinsic part of "detection", both physically in terms of apparatus to do the detection, which has to "exist" and intellectually "in terms of other foundational aspects of physics that have been previously established to "exist" and which are being relied upon.

This kind of definition is completely circular, and it goes back to what I was saying earlier on in the previous thread to do with the presumptions / assumptions one makes about reality, which Coel simply denies, e.g.

Me:
> > I am saying that when you move from your knowledge of yourself in your inner world to an evaluation
> > of the external world you assume that the outer world exists, and would continue to exist even in
> > the absence of your ability to experience it, i.e. if you died, or all animals died ...

Coel:
Well yes, but this isn't a fundamental a priori assumption, it's an evaluation of evidence. For example, plenty of humans have died, and the world just carried on without them; and all the evidence says that we are similar to other humans. Again, if you want some other account to be taken seriously, then it needs to be developed to the point of doing a better job overall given everything we know about the universe.

From:
http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=528121&v=1#x7110147

The point is you have to make a fundamental commitment to existence / being / reality before you can start to unravel its mysteries, e.g. do science. Defining these things with intrinsic reference to themselves is just to posit circular definitions. It also doesn't allow for things that we can't detect, but do exist, and denying this is to have the word "exist" suit your prejudice / worldview. My own view is that exists isn't definable in an absolute sense, but it is a concept established because of the one thing we think we know for sure, which is that "I am", and I call that "being". The question posed by what my external senses perceive is one which I can deny (skepticism) or commit to. That commitment involves an attribution of "being" to the things one experiences, and that is to believe that they also "exist".
victim of mathematics - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

That's a delightfully tangential aside, but it misses my point entirely.

If you are relying on somebody else to tell you whether something exists or not, how can you be confident in that information if you don't (and even by your argument, can't) agree what it means to exist?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to victim of mathematics:

Why do you think that finding a definition of "exists" is the only way of agreeing what "exists" means? And why do you think that *agreeing* what "exists" means is essential to *knowing* what "exists" means?

To repeat the aside-- do you think babies are stuck for food until they agree what "milk" means?

If you want to know where I'm coming from with all this, the answer is Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations.

I would apologise if that sounds pretentious, except that I fear it's a little late for that :-)
Jimbo W on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> You don't have a definition of "exists" and in fact you claim it can't be defined. OK, fine. But you seem to believe that some things nevertheless do in fact exist, so you must have some way of recognising at least some of those things that do exist.

Again, my view is that the way we do this is with the coordination of our senses of our external world with the one piece of knowledge we think is securely established, that I am. This feeling, quality, which we call "being" is something we attribute to things appreciated by our sense of the world around us, i.e. that the world also has "being". We can't define these terms, but there is a referential "essence" that we can appreciate subjectively and attribute to other things.
sg - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to victim of mathematics:

This is all a bit ridiculous isn't it? I'm can't really find a side to take here but having trawled the whole thread I noticed Jimbo's sane contribution which then seemed to be ignored and a lot of really pointless debate.

I then went back to the top and re-read Coel's original post:

If it has an affect on our detector (in line with that expected for a Higgs) then it "exists".

It if doesn't have an affect on our detector (in line with that expected) then it doesn't "exist".

If you re-word his statement it's basically saying that you make a hypothesis and a device to test it with and if the evidence you gather has been produced under controlled, unbiased conditions and is reliable then it can be used as evidence to support the hypothesis. You could even say you could add it to a theory. All the stuff about existence was surely ditched by most philosophers long ago, including most of those of faith (I may be completely wrong on the last point).
sg - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to victim of mathematics)
>

>
> If you want to know where I'm coming from with all this, the answer is Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations.
>
> I would apologise if that sounds pretentious, except that I fear it's a little late for that :-)

Agree (!).

sg - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to crossdressingrodney)
>
> [...]
>
> Again, my view is that the way we do this is with the coordination of our senses of our external world with the one piece of knowledge we think is securely established, that I am. This feeling, quality, which we call "being" is something we attribute to things appreciated by our sense of the world around us, i.e. that the world also has "being". We can't define these terms, but there is a referential "essence" that we can appreciate subjectively and attribute to other things.

Again, I agree with Jimbo (!). But what he's saying isn't so difficult, and I'm not sure there's much worth adding to it, is there?

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

In reply to Jimbo W:

That sounds a bit like G M Hopkins' philosophical writings...


[W]hen we consider the mind; when I consider my selfbeing, my consciousness and feeling of myself, that taste of myself, of I and me above and in all things… is more distinctive than the taste of ale or alum, more distinctive than the smell of walnutleaf or camphor, and is incommunicable by any means to another man… Nothing else in nature comes near this unspeakable stress of pitch, distinctiveness, and selving, this selfbeing of my own. Nothing explains it or resembles it, except so far as this, that other men to themselves have the same feeling… But to me there is no resemblance: searching nature I taste self but at one tankard, that of my own being.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Comments on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola” [1880], in Gardner 1953: 145-6
john arran - on 27 Nov 2012
I'd go with Coel's line of reasoning in limiting our definition of Existence to our potentially knowable world, i.e. that set of entities which are causally connected, or some such.

Sure we can conceive of potential entities outside of this set and we can conceive of them having some kind of alternate Existence utterly (and necessarily) independent of our world with no possibility of ever interacting with any entity in our world. So because they cannot be included in Coel's definition of Existence we therefore need another word big enough to include conceptual things which could never be anything other than conceptual to observers in our world.

How about we call this set of all unknowable things Wishful Thinking?

I can name at least One thing I'd put in it for a start.
ads.ukclimbing.com
999thAndy on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to victim of mathematics)
>
> Why do you think that finding a definition of "exists" is the only way of agreeing what "exists" means? And why do you think that *agreeing* what "exists" means is essential to *knowing* what "exists" means?
>
Clearly there are differences between what you and Coel think is meant by 'X' exists, therefore a definition of 'exists' would seem to be a requirement to bring this thread to an end before we all run out of bandwidth.

Earlier you stated that such a definition was not possible and I asked whether you could prove, mathematically, logically or otherwise that such a definition is impossible, but you haven't. If you could that would be great and I'd be interested to read it.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to john arran:
>
> Sure we can conceive of potential entities outside of this set and we can conceive of them having some kind of alternative Existence utterly (and necessarily) independent of our world with no possibility of ever interacting with any entity in our world.


So here you admit that Coel's definition--which you've just signed up for--does not in fact work. Oh well, never mind, eh?
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to john arran:
> I'd go with Coel's line of reasoning in limiting our definition of Existence to our potentially knowable world, i.e. that set of entities which are causally connected, or some such.
>
> Sure we can conceive of potential entities outside of this set and we can conceive of them having some kind of alternate Existence utterly (and necessarily) independent of our world with no possibility of ever interacting with any entity in our world.
>
ie.Actually you don't accept Coel's definition
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to 999thAndy:


What would a proof of this look like? The evidence that persuades most, not all, philosophers to say that "exists" can't be defined is basically the argument that I've been advancing-- i.e., any attempt to define "exists" gets shot down in flames because it meets counter-examples that almost anyone can see.

I was thinking about replying to you, but I didn't get round to it because other people distracted me with other stuff--and also, there was a hungry aardvark to accommodate.

What I was going to say was that in modern formal logic it's presupposed--but not argued--that existence is not a property, and hence (presumably) not the kind of thing that can be defined. Because in modern formal logic existence is represented by the existential quantifier, backwards E, not by the property-variable F.

So in modern formal logic the way to say "Tim has brown hair" is

(Fa)

--where F is the property, brown-hairedness, and a is the subject of this property, Tim.

Whereas in modern formal logic the way to say "Tim exists" is

Ex (x = T)

--to be pronounced "There exists something such that it is identical with Tim". (Sorry, I can't get that E to go backwards.)

So, being identical with Tim might be a property in modern logic. Existing isn't.

I accept that presupposing that existence isn't a predicate is not arguing that existence isn't a predicate. On the other hand, that presupposition has served formal and philosophical logic pretty well in the 140 years since Frege first proposed it.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Come to think of it, if someone wanted to offer "is identical with something" as a gloss on or even definition of "exists", that would be fine by me. But this isn't a substantive definition of the kind Coel was after (before he vanished utterly). It's more like defining "possibly" as "not necessarily not".
john arran - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

That's where your argument gets ridiculous as you fail to make any distinction between thought and existence. I said we can conceive of potential entities. I didn't say that they were a reality in any sense other than conceptual. Hence the wider term.

And your patronising tone would be funny if it weren't laughable.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to john arran:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
I said we can conceive of potential entities.


Then you concede the key point, which is that there are possible counter-examples.

I'm sorry you don't like my tone. Though perhaps my actual tone is not quite what you take it to be, at the other end of the ether and filtered, perhaps, through a variety of preconceptions. I'm just trying to get things straight, as usual. I am the humblest of all pilgrims on the road to truth, and delighted by any and every company on that journey including yours.
999thAndy on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to 999thAndy)
>
>
> What would a proof of this look like? The evidence that persuades most, not all, philosophers to say that "exists" can't be defined is basically the argument that I've been advancing-- i.e., any attempt to define "exists" gets shot down in flames because it meets counter-examples that almost anyone can see.
>
Thing is, in maths, it only takes one counter argument to prove something is not true. So the question of 'persuausion' doesn't arise.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to 999thAndy:

But this isn't maths. It's philosophical logic. So the question of 'persuasion' does arise-- just as it does in philosophy of maths.
999thAndy on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

So there is no 'true'?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to 999thAndy:

Did I say that? I don't remember saying that :-)
john arran - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Then you concede the key point, which is that there are possible counter-examples.

Are you deliberately being ridiculous or is it not entirely clear from what I said that any possible counter-examples can to us never be no more than conceptual and therefore fall into the Wishful Thinking set rather than the Exists set.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to john arran:


It doesn't matter what set you put them in, provided you admit that there are possible existents that don't fit the definition.

And no, I'm not being deliberately ridiculous. Nor indeed unintentionally ridiculous.
john arran - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> It doesn't matter what set you put them in, provided you admit that there are possible existents that don't fit the definition.

... which is why you'll find I didn't admit anything of the sort. I merely said we could conceive of such a concept. It's the concept that exists not the conceived entity. We can conceive of dragons and gods too but that equally says nothing about their potential for any kind of reality outside of our own imagination.
999thAndy on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Well you used a quasi mathematical series of statements, which lead me to assume that, just as in real maths, such statements would be 'true' or 'false'.

I didn't realise you philosophers read a paper then took a vote on it.
crossdressingrodney - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> you seem to believe that some things nevertheless do in fact exist,
>
> --"nevertheless"? As if there were tension between x's existing, and "exists" not being definable? Don't see the tension TBH.

Well, I guess I don't know how to reason about things that I can't define. Perhaps this is a mathematician's hang-up, but it seems like the 'tension' is not just felt by me!

> --Sure. Ways rather than way, but yes.
Like what? Being able to point at the thing?

> Yes (so far as I can tell, though I bet CDR isn't your real name)
Correct on both counts. Plausible deniability to future employers.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to john arran:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> I merely said we could conceive of such a concept.


That's the admission I'm talking about. Thank you.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to 999thAndy:
>
> Well you used a quasi mathematical series of statements, which lead me to assume that, just as in real maths, such statements would be 'true' or 'false'.

And so they are.

>
> I didn't realise you philosophers read a paper then took a vote on it.

No one except you is suggesting that "we philosophers" do anything like that. Isn't this snarky sarky stuff a bit pointless, Andy?
john arran - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Ok so now I know you are definitely being ridiculous. I gave you more credit than that.
ripper - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: can I have a pound on Tim to be this week's top poster please?
ads.ukclimbing.com
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
> Well, I guess I don't know how to reason about things that I can't define.

Of course you do. Do you need to know how to define "bus" to work out whether you can catch the 3.45?

>
> [...]
> Correct on both counts. Plausible deniability to future employers.

If I were naming a femme persona, I think I'd name her Marlene Beatnik. I'd get to wear fishnets, and very very short skirts...

<double takes>
<gives himself good hard slap>
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to john arran:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> Ok so now I know you are definitely being ridiculous.


I'm sorry you think that; I can't see why.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to ripper:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)


Looks like he's fled the country :-)
999thAndy on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

If your statements are true or false in the mathematical sense, why does anyone need persuading?

ripper - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: I can't claim to have followed the argument time but I salute your stamina sir, and your indefatigability (second time I've said that today!)
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to 999thAndy:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> If your statements are true or false in the mathematical sense, why does anyone need persuading?


Because there are other kinds of truth or falsity besides mathematical.
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to ripper)
> [...]
>
>
> Looks like he's fled the country :-)

May have fled the planet to a new one, at least conceptually :)
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to ripper:


Thanks.

Do I get to bet on whether I'll be this week's Top of the Nerd Parade?
999thAndy on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to 999thAndy)
> [...]
>
>
> Because there are other kinds of truth or falsity besides mathematical.

Then you're using the wrong tool for the job.
ripper - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: i think you'd be a strong contender - if such a thing existed...
999thAndy on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to 999thAndy: Horlicks time. See you all tommorrow.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to 999thAndy:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
> Then you're using the wrong tool for the job.


Why so? The job isn't mathematical, so neither are the tools.
john arran - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I'm sorry you think that; I can't see why.

Perhaps something to do with your wilful misinterpretation of my having postulated the existence of a concept as the existence of the conceived entity itself, as I explained already, which you chose to overlook.

It shouldn't come as any surprise to you that my Wishful Thinking set, being full of concepts only, is entirely consistent with being a subset of Coel's Exists set. No indication then of anything outside of Exists for you to get excited about, and certainly not the counter-example you seem to presume was obvious.

Anyway I'm off to bed now - I'm in a different time zone and it's 3 hours later here and after midnight. You can pretend I'm running away too if you like.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to john arran:

I haven't *wilfully* misinterpreted anything. If I've misinterpreted anything, then sorry.

As far as I can see, you admit that there can be possible counter-examples to the definition of "exists" that you favour. But that shows that the definition is wrong.

Calling these possible counter-examples "concepts" or "conceptual", as you seem keen to, doesn't change the basic point.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to ripper:


Sorry to go wildly off-topic and all-- but can I just say that I think it's a crying shame the CoE's House of Laity narrowly voted down the proposal to allow women bishops?

Night all :-)
Sir Chasm - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Yes, it's a shame the CoE decided women can't be bishops.
john arran - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

>
> Calling these possible counter-examples "concepts" or "conceptual", as you seem keen to, doesn't change the basic point.

I rather think it does. They aren't possible counter-examples; they're imaginings. In the same way as a sketch of a fantastic creature is just a sketch (in the set of sketches) and says nothing of the potential for existence of the creature depicted. Maybe we'll just have to disagree as I don't think it can be made any clearer.

Good night
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to john arran:


Ah now I see a bit more clearly what we're disagreeing about.

A sketch of a dragon is just a sketch, sure. But that doesn't mean that the sketch says that dragons couldn't exist. On the contrary-- the clearer and more determinate you can make the sketch, the more reason your sketch gives you to think that dragons *can* exist.

As philosophers put it, the possibility of a determinate imagining of x tends to support the possibility of x.
Sir Chasm - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: A lovely painting of a dragon makes it more likely that dragons exist?
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to john arran)
>
> I haven't *wilfully* misinterpreted anything. If I've misinterpreted anything, then sorry.
>
> As far as I can see, you admit that there can be possible counter-examples to the definition of "exists" that you favour. But that shows that the definition is wrong.
>
>
Of course it does! For the nth time, we can all conceive of dragons, but they don't exist. Conceiving of someting isn't a counter example.

Hope the aadvark sleeps well. I won at squash.
MG - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (
> As philosophers put it, the possibility of a determinate imagining of x tends to support the possibility of x.

What! You can't draw something into existance. If I draw £1000000 in my bank, I am no more likely to be a millionaire.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

Then for the n + 1th time, definitions have to be modally robust: counter-examples to them don't need to be actual, only possible.

Well done at squash. The aardvark is restive, but in his crate.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell) A lovely painting of a dragon makes it more likely that dragons exist?



I meant something modester than that, something more like: if you can't even conceive it in detail, it's unlikely to be real.
Sir Chasm - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: So "the possibility of a determinate imagining of x tends to support the possibility of x" is the way philosophers put it, but it doesn't apply to dragons. Does it only apply to things that philosophers want to believe in?
crossdressingrodney - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> Of course you do. Do you need to know how to define "bus" to work out whether you can catch the 3.45?

Well I need to be able to recognise a bus so I know to get on it. And I need to be able to distinguish buses from not-buses so I don't try to catch a banana by mistake. That provides a definition of bus doesn't it?

Rob Exile Ward on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: So just to pluck an example out of the air, the fact that I can't conceive of a god in general, let alone in detail, means that they are unlikely to be real? Seems fair.
Sarah G on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Sarah G)
>
> [...]
>
> You're hitting on one of my personal bug-bears here. Sure we should be "tolerant" of other people's ideas, but that only means accepting other people's right to express them, it does not mean respecting those ideas or being nice about them.
>
> It's important to keep these concepts clear! http://coelsblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/religions-are-entitled-to-tolerance-but-not-to-respect/

Disagree with you totally, pet.

Sxx

johnj on 27 Nov 2012 - 188.30.193.255.threembb.co.uk
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

Indeed a bus is a bus like you could have a Earth bus, a Mars bus or a Pleiadian bus, all just a basic means for transport. Same with human beings, like dogs you get different breeds so in an infinite universe we will have thousands of different cousins all on different star systems some no doubt more enlightened that the other.

This thread is just plain retarded what kind of confused individual starts a thread called 'Women can't be Bishops part deux' scuse my french, then starts rambling on about existence of things what we can't see? It's a bit like some goldfish arguing about the pretty colours out side the tank been gods or just stars, then when one of them swims under the bridge they forget what they were discussing and start all over again just with a slightly different context. I did always wonder why my old fish used to keep bumping into the side of the tank like it was trying to get out! And that's another thing, why do Bishops hats look like fish, surely woman would look kinda sexy in em, maybe they're worshiping fish and chips?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
> Well I need to be able to recognise a bus so I know to get on it. And I need to be able to distinguish buses from not-buses so I don't try to catch a banana by mistake. That provides a definition of bus doesn't it?

No. That was my point. Or one of them.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to johnj:

Whatever you're on-- can I have some? Please?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell) So just to pluck an example out of the air, the fact that I can't conceive of a god in general, let alone in detail, means that they are unlikely to be real? Seems fair.



What you would need to deal with that, is for God to come to us and make Himself conceivable...

Oh look, we're back at the Incarnation :-)
Rob Exile Ward on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Some of us think you already are.
johnj on 27 Nov 2012 - 188.30.193.255.threembb.co.uk
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I'm just on my bed, and no sorry you can't have any of it as then i'd fall on the floor ;+)
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Hello All,
Been busy with stuff. Reading this I am amazed by Tim's obtuseness. MG, John Arran and Victim and others can all see why Tim has not provided counterexamples.

Tim's claimed "counter examples" amount to this: "if I can point to things that *in* *my* [Tim's] *opinion* "exist", but do not "exist" under Coel's definition, then I have a counter-example. This is, of course, hopeless reasoning -- since those things don't exist under my definition they don't provide counter-examples to my definition because they don't "exist" under my definition!

Tim's prime counter-example is other space-time continua:

Tim> Oh for heaven's sake... because it's conceivable that there could be more than one [space-time continuum]

Sure, it is conceivable that there "are" other space-time continua. Do they thereby "exist"? Not under my definition, no. Do they "exist" under some other criteria, such as Tim's opinion? Why yes, they do. So what? You can't claim that because they exist in Tim's opinion, but not under my definition, therefore by definition is refuted -- it is merely that the definitions differ. I'm not obliged to include entities in my set "exists" just because they Tim's-opinion-exist.

[Note: I'm using "Tim's opniion" here because he hasn't given us an actual definition of "exist" or a method of establishing whether something meets the criteria to be in the set "exists".]

Tim> Indeed lots of physicists are busy conceiving it.

Just an aside: In the multiverse scenarios being considered today (e.g. chaotic inflation cosmology) the separate universes are NOT casually disconnected, thus they would "exist" under my definition.

Tim> You have noticed that you contradict yourself here, haven't you? "If there ARE other spacetime continua... they don't exist"?

There's no contradiction if you stick to my definiton of "exists". Nothing in my definition says that things that "are" must necessarily "exist". Indeed I haven't defined "are"; all I've defined is "exist", and it's entirely coherent to state that if there "are" causally disconnected meta-realities, then they don't meet my criterion "exist".

Tim> "Scientists and people in everyday life" don't, in my experience, use any definition of "exists" at all.

Yes they do, they use my definition. What you mean is, they don't bother consulting philosophers for advice on whether particles "exist", they just, de facto, go with my definition.

The other claimed counter-example is "numbers". Again, Tim is merely asserting that because they Tim's-opinion-exist therefore my definition is faulty unless it includes them. That simply does not follow.
Duncan Bourne - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
There is an interesting point here. Does something exist if it is unobserved? For instance There could be a green goblin living out a quiet life on some backwater planet as far as it is concerned it exists but as we have not observed it it doesn't to us, or to put it another way did black holes exist before we had the means to measure them? There seems to be a trade off between what we can measure and know to exist and what potentially does exist. Once we get into the realm of potential existing things then we get into likelihoods and that very much depends upon our own expectations. Alternatively may be existence is what can be described mathematically, as most of our robust theories seem to start off with maths
victim of mathematics - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to victim of mathematics)
>
> Why do you think that finding a definition of "exists" is the only way of agreeing what "exists" means? And why do you think that *agreeing* what "exists" means is essential to *knowing* what "exists" means?

If you can't describe it (i.e. define what it is) then you have absolutely no way of knowing that you both agree what something is. If I say "that bus is red", how can you know if I am correct (assuming you can't see the bus), without knowing what I mean by red or bus? The very fact that you and Coel clearly understand different things by the word 'exists' illustrates the problem here very clearly.

You seem to be arguing that everyone just somehow knows in their bones what exists means, without being able to put their finger on what that meaning is. Is that fair?

>
> To repeat the aside-- do you think babies are stuck for food until they agree what "milk" means?

This is still utterly tangential. I don't know why I'm bothering to address it, but since you insist - a baby clearly has no concept of definitions, so that's a ridiculous statement. Even ignoring that, the baby doesn't have to agree whether something is milk or not with anybody, they just have to get fed.

>
> If you want to know where I'm coming from with all this, the answer is Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations.
>
> I would apologise if that sounds pretentious, except that I fear it's a little late for that :-)

I don't care what philosopher you claim to be channeling, you're either doing a good job of misrepresenting them horribly, or they weren't much of a deep thinker in the first place.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> The basic problem is that Coel's whole approach is circular on numerous levels:
> eg. If the definition of "exist" is something that we can detect then only things that we can detect exist. Obviously.

There's nothing circular about that, it's just a definition of a word.

> Conversely, definitions and terms which are "open ended" and don't lend themselves to "evidence" of
> the form that Coel requires but will not define are regarded as inadequate.

I'm struggling to interpret that. I do indeed regard claims that are not supported by evidence as inadequate.

> But that the latter does not make them wrong.

You're sort of right, a claim with no evidence could indeed be, by lucky chance, right, but it's very unlikely. E.g. A claim about next week's lottery numbers is unlikely to be right, because you won't have any evidence to bear. But it's easy to get evidence about *last* week's lottery numbers, and thus a claim about that, supported by evidence, would be much more likely to be true.

> ... there are things of which we cannot know ...

Absolutely, but don't then claim to know them!

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


I'm sorry, Coel, but I've read this through quite carefully, and there isn't a single new point in it; you're just repeating the same wrong points you were making before.

I'm going to leave you to it now. I've been pretty patient, I think, but there are limits. So long and all that.
victim of mathematics - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Arf. He's repeating himself because you're 'rebuttals' of his argument are all nonsense. I'm pretty sure the onus there is on you to come up with some actual counter-arguments, not on him to come up with something new to say when you haven't addressed what he's already said. At least I think that's how arguing is meant to work.
victim of mathematics - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Now look what you've done, you made me write you're instead of your. I don't know how you can live with yourself.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Sir Chasm - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: That's abit rich coming from somebody who thinks that imagining things makes them more likely to be real.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> The point is you have to make a fundamental commitment to existence / being / reality before you
> can start to unravel its mysteries, e.g. do science.

And my reply is that you can make working hypotheses and then test them. Nothing here has to just be taken on trust.

> It also doesn't allow for things that we can't detect, but do exist, and denying this is to have
> the word "exist" suit your prejudice / worldview.

It does allow for such things! They just don't "exist" (under my definition), they do something else instead, how about we say they "meta-exist" if they "are" but are causally disconnected from us. So, we'll use "meta-exist" for other, disconnected space-time continua, and we'll use "exist" for causally connected things within our space-time continuum.

Happy everyone? Note how Tim's supposed "counter-example" of other space-time continua doesn't refute my definition -- pointing to things which "meta-exist" doesn't show that I need to include them in my set "exists".
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I'm sorry, Coel, but I've read this through quite carefully, and there isn't a single new point in it;

You're right, there isn't. It's just a clear statement of why you've been wrong all along.

> ... you're just repeating the same wrong points you were making before.

Yep, indeed, in a vain hope that you might finally get it. Lots of others on the thread have.

> I've been pretty patient, I think, but there are limits. So long and all that.

That's ok, no problem. Let's leave it to others to decide which of us doesn't understand.
crossdressingrodney - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> No. That was my point. Or one of them.

Well this is what I don't understand. If there is a way of recognising buses then there is a function A which takes the value 0 on x exactly when x is a bus:

x a bus <==> A(x)=0

So then {x | A(x)=0} defines the set of buses.
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> There's nothing circular about that, it's just a definition of a word.
>
Why can it not be both? It just happens that by a fortunate quirk of fate you have alighted upon one possible definition which happens by it's circular nature to support your view.
You can indulge in your own word games all you like to claim that the words "is" and "exist" mean what you want them to mean not what others, including those who have spent a lot more time than either of us considering the subject, consider them to mean but it doesn't make you right, or, more to the point it doesn't make them wrong.
>
> I'm struggling to interpret that. I do indeed regard claims that are not supported by evidence as inadequate.
>
I didn't refer to "claims", I referred to "definitions" and "terms".
>
> You're sort of right, a claim with no evidence could indeed be, by lucky chance, right, but it's very unlikely.
>
See above,this point is irrelevant.
>
> Absolutely, but don't then claim to know them!

What are you referring to that I claimed to "know"?

Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
>
Note how Tim's supposed "counter-example" of other space-time continua doesn't refute my definition -- pointing to things which "meta-exist" doesn't show that I need to include them in my set "exists".

No, there is no reason to invent the term "meta-exist" to replicate the meaning of the term "exist". The onus is on you to create a term for your caveated definition of "exist"



Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
> Note how Tim's supposed "counter-example" of other space-time continua doesn't refute my definition -- pointing to things which "meta-exist" doesn't show that I need to include them in my set "exists".
>
What, incidentlly, is your definition of "meta-exist"?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> You can indulge in your own word games all you like to claim that the words "is" and "exist" mean what
> you want them to mean not what others, including those who have spent a lot more time than either of us
> considering the subject, consider them to mean but it doesn't make you right, or, more to the point
> it doesn't make them wrong.

Hold on, I'm not claiming my definition of "exists" is *right*; I'm not claiming that there is a "right" definition of the word and that mine is closest to it, I'm just saying that it is one possible definition -- and I adopt it because I've never encountered a better one! There are no "right" definitions of words, they're just agreed means of communication.

(And, to me, the cop-out of treating "exists" as "basic" and thus saying you don't have to define it is deeply unsatisfactory. With no definition of "exists" you have no way of establishing whether something meets the criteria for "exists". Tim just says he'd judge that on the evidence; judge it how, against what standard, what criteria? How do you know when something has qualified as "existing"?)

>> Absolutely, but don't then claim to know them!

> What are you referring to that I claimed to "know"?

I wasn't referring to anything in particular. You're pointing out that, given our human limitations, there may be things that exist yet we have no evidence for them. I agree, that's entirely true. But it's not an excuse for people to then go believing in such things. (That's generic "people", not you in particular.)
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> No, there is no reason to invent the term "meta-exist" to replicate the meaning of the term "exist".

Ah, so "exists" has a meaning does it? Then please tell us about it! So far Tim has failed. (Close synonyms don't answer this question of what exist "means".)

> What, incidentlly, is your definition of "meta-exist"?

I don't have one. I'll leave that to anyone who wants to postulate such stuff. I'm happy sticking to what "exists".
Jimbo W on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> And my reply is that you can make working hypotheses and then test them. Nothing here has to just be taken on trust.

I don't see how creating a working hypothesis and testing it helps. Indeed, these denials really aren't substantive and are rather highly teleological.

Lets try a different tack:
Existence is a priori true.
Because if you object to it, then you recognise a standard (that exists) with which you can judge that statement by.

Being is a priori true.
Because if you object to it, you deny your own subjective being that is objecting.

> It does allow for such things! They just don't "exist" (under my definition), they do something else instead, how about we say they "meta-exist" if they "are" but are causally disconnected from us. So, we'll use "meta-exist" for other, disconnected space-time continua, and we'll use "exist" for causally connected things within our space-time continuum.
> Happy everyone? Note how Tim's supposed "counter-example" of other space-time continua doesn't refute my definition -- pointing to things which "meta-exist" doesn't show that I need to include them in my set "exists".

Perhaps there is a job opening for someone to create a new language for an alien species for the next star trek series?

Can I please refer you back to my initial circularity points in my post you are responding to here, and also to my post above that includes the Einstein quote.
Robert Durran - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to ripper:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell) I salute your stamina sir, and your indefatigability

Isn't that what George Galloway said to Saddam Hussein?
Jimbo W on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Ah, so "exists" has a meaning does it? Then please tell us about it! So far Tim has failed. (Close synonyms don't answer this question of what exist "means".)

If existence is a primary concept, which I think it is (and was I believe Tim's original point), it isn't definable except by recourse to synonyms and philosophical explanations that attempt to explain what is felt and understood implicitly by most of us who freely use the word.
Jimbo W on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Could I also please ask you to comment on my response to crossdressingrodney above:
http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=528871&delete=7113540#x7113174
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Ah, so "exists" has a meaning does it? Then please tell us about it! So far Tim has failed. (Close synonyms don't answer this question of what exist "means".)
>
It has the same meaning as "is" means in its plural as in "are" but are causally disconnected from us.
Claiming not to recognise the meaning of the term "is" doesn't make the term invalid.
>


Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> There are no "right" definitions of words, they're just agreed means of communication.
>
Yes, and yours is a peculiarly narrow concept of the word which may be agreed to be useful in specific scientific circles but not in broader usage.
>
> >> Absolutely, but don't then claim to know them!
>
>
> I wasn't referring to anything in particular. You're pointing out that, given our human limitations, there may be things that exist yet we have no evidence for them. I agree, that's entirely true. But it's not an excuse for people to then go believing in
>
Nor is it for me which is why, along with Sean kenny I think the only rational position is to say "I don't know" or "it doesn't matter".
But then again this depends partly on your non definition of evidence. Personally I think at if thirty people at the site of a crash say it was the blue car that caused it I regard it as "evidence" even if the photographic evidence "proves"otherwise. Courts have to weigh up evidence all the time. That some of it is wrong doesn't mean it is not evidence.

Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

The point is , Coel, that if you simply said that whilst acknowledging the possible theoretical existence of realities or meta-realities of which we may be unaware or may in principle be undiscernable and not causally connected, you regard the latter as irrelevant because they are causally unconnected and undiscernable and regard the evidence for the former as thoroughly unsatisfactory then fine.

Instead you feel the need to create circular and self serving definitions or understandings of terms in order presumably to meet your need to find a neat and coherent argument when things may not be so neat or coherent.
Sir Chasm - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: What's a meta-reality?
Postmanpat on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) What's a meta-reality?

See coel's use of the term. A reality not causally connected to our reality I think.
Tim Chappell - on 28 Nov 2012
One thing occurs to me, thinking it over: perhaps some people on this thread are confusing "definition" with "characterisation". That confusion probably explains why people apparently think I can't say anything at all about "exists" without a definition.

It's fine not to know the difference, of course--people don't always know stuff: this happens. Unless you claim to know exactly what you're talking about in this debate, and yet don't know the difference. If that's true of you, then you're in a muddle. I think Coel is pretty obviously in that muddle; his problem, or one of them, is that he doesn't understand what a definition is. And repeating himself won't get him out of it.
Tim Chappell - on 28 Nov 2012
One clear example of this confusion from Coel:

With no definition of "exists" you have no way of establishing whether something meets the criteria for "exists".


Complete rubbish. Do you need a definition of "bus" to know whether something counts as a bus? No, you just need a characterisation of "bus".
ads.ukclimbing.com
Sir Chasm - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Could you contrast a characterization of a bus with a definition of a bus for us?
Tim Chappell - on 28 Nov 2012
Coel apparently doesn't understand argument by counter-example, either:

Happy everyone? Note how Tim's supposed "counter-example" of other space-time continua doesn't refute my definition -- pointing to things which "meta-exist" doesn't show that I need to include them in my set "exists".



*Sigh* OK, so suppose Coel says all bananas are brown. And I say "No, this one here is green, and that other is yellow". And Coel says "What rubbish you talk! Can't argue for peanuts! Out of your depth! By my definition, those are meta-bananas!"

Good response? Err, no, not really.

Coel, when you're wrong, don't shout louder and get abusive and endlessly repeat yourself. Just admit you're wrong. Isn't that kind of epistemic humility basic to the good practice of science?
Tim Chappell - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

A definition of a bus would give necessary and sufficient conditions for a bus, conditions such that it would be inconceivable that anything could fit them and not be a bus, or be a bus and not fit them.

There are no such N & S conditions for "bus", and for lots of other concepts too, including "exists".

A characterisation of a bus, on the other hand, is something much looser: it's anything that lets us know what a bus is. Here's one:

http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?q=bus&um=1&hl=en&sa=N&tbo=d&biw=1680&bih=921&...

Plenty more where that came from.
Sir Chasm - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: So no, you can't contrast a characterization of a bus with a definition of a bus for us.
Tim Chappell - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:


????? So yes, I just have contrasted a characterization of a bus with a definition of a bus for us.

This is like trying to play poker with chickens...
MG - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
>
> *Sigh* OK, so suppose Coel says all bananas are brown. And I say "No, this one here is green, and that other is yellow". And Coel says "What rubbish you talk! Can't argue for peanuts! Out of your depth! By my definition, those are meta-bananas!"
>
> Good response? Err, no, not really.


It's a perfectly good response if you wish to define bananas as brown and exclude green and yellow items from the category banana. This probably isn't very helpful so no one would agree with your definition.

However, in the case of Coel's "exist" definition, lots of contributors here seem to think it is at least worthy of consideration, so it is indeed a good response to say you are out of your depth when you insist on a non-definition that no one except perhaps PMP finds useful.

Basically you seem to be wrong in insisting that "exist" is a basic concept that everyone understands and feels in way that can not be described.
Sir Chasm - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: No you haven't, what is your definition of bus? Perhaps you think you have done so, a bit like the tripe you were peddling last night that if you can draw a picture of dragons they really exist.
Tim Chappell - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:


1) No, it's a hopelessly circular response.

2) If lots of people on here think it's "worthy of consideration"-- well, you know, sorry, but so much the worse for them. What was it Robert Durran said about not settling truth by majority vote?
Tim Chappell - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell) No you haven't, what is your definition of bus?


Goodness me, you really don't get it, do you? I've just told you: there is no definition of "bus".
Tim Chappell - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

Basically you seem to be wrong in insisting that "exist" is a basic concept that everyone understands and feels in way that can not be described.


If that's your summary of what I'm saying then you have completely missed the point.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell) No you haven't, what is your definition of bus? Perhaps you think you have done so, a bit like the tripe you were peddling last night that if you can draw a picture of dragons they really exist.

Which wasn't what he said.
victim of mathematics - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Basically you seem to be wrong in insisting that "exist" is a basic concept that everyone understands and feels in way that can not be described.
>
>
> If that's your summary of what I'm saying then you have completely missed the point.

Then what IS your point? That's exactly what I thought it was.
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>

>
> Tim's prime counter-example is other space-time continua:
>
> Tim> Oh for heaven's sake... because it's conceivable that there could be more than one [space-time continuum]
>
> Sure, it is conceivable that there "are" other space-time continua. Do they thereby "exist"? Not under my definition, no. Do they "exist" under some other criteria, such as Tim's opinion? Why yes, they do. So what? You can't claim that because they exist in Tim's opinion, but not under my definition, therefore by definition is refuted -- it is merely that the definitions differ. I'm not obliged to include entities in my set "exists" just because they Tim's-opinion-exist.
>
> [Note: I'm using "Tim's opniion" here because he hasn't given us an actual definition of "exist" or a method of establishing whether something meets the criteria to be in the set "exists".]
>
> Tim> Indeed lots of physicists are busy conceiving it.
>
> Just an aside: In the multiverse scenarios being considered today (e.g. chaotic inflation cosmology) the separate universes are NOT casually disconnected, thus they would "exist" under my definition.

Tim and others have pointed to the way you are limiting what 'exists' by your definition. You are ruling out certain things. But that aside points to something else - there is always a get out clause which when used brings us back to a point I made earlier: you haven't established much at all. In this particular case you point to current theories allowing a causal connection between separate universes. But the 'in principle' part of your definition of causally connected means that a connection is always lurking around in the background as a possibility because current theories might be superseded. Take, for example, this entry from Wikipedia on ideas about the size of our universe (so not multiverse scenarios, just ours):

'Definition as observable reality
See also: Observable universe and Observational cosmology
According to a still-more-restrictive definition, the universe is everything within our connected space-time that could have a chance to interact with us and vice versa.[citation needed] According to the general theory of relativity, some regions of space may never interact with ours even in the lifetime of the universe, due to the finite speed of light and the ongoing expansion of space. For example, radio messages sent from Earth may never reach some regions of space, even if the universe would live forever; space may expand faster than light can traverse it. It is worth emphasizing that those distant regions of space are taken to exist and be part of reality as much as we are; yet we can never interact with them. The spatial region within which we can affect and be affected is denoted as the observable universe. Strictly speaking, the observable universe depends on the location of the observer. By traveling, an observer can come into contact with a greater region of space-time than an observer who remains still, so that the observable universe for the former is larger than for the latter. Nevertheless, even the most rapid traveler will not be able to interact with all of space. Typically, the observable universe is taken to mean the universe observable from our vantage point in the Milky Way Galaxy.'

Whoever wrote that isn't following your approach ('it is worth emphasizing...'). But my main point is to note the dependence of the statement about non-interaction on current theories of space-time.

(as an aside, and back to the 'it is worth emphasizing...', what do you think about the point about an observer who travels to a different location being able to come into contact with a greater region of space-time? Would you reformulate that to say that more space time has come into existence? If you would, aren't you taking a rather earth-centred perspective?)
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

> Basically you seem to be wrong in insisting that "exist" is a basic concept that everyone understands and feels in way that can not be *defined*.

Corrected that for you. Now, can you justify how that position is wrong?

Sir Chasm - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: He said "the clearer and more determinate you can make the sketch, the more reason your sketch gives you to think that dragons "can" exist". Draw a nice picture and dragons are more likely, as I said, tripe.
Bruce Hooker - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

All very interesting (maybe) but what has this exchange to do with the subject, ie. whether women can be bishops or not, or to rephrase it, whether an organisation should be allowed to discriminate against one gender in the 21st century and in Britain?
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

"Can" being the operative word that was being clearly emphasised. The concept defines a relatedness between the subjective and the objective. The clearer an idea can be sketched, crystalised etc the more likely the idea inheres upon the subjective appreciation of objective reality. Thus he went on to say:

> I meant something modester than that, something more like: if you can't even conceive it in detail, it's unlikely to be real.

Its really quite a basic idea.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

> All very interesting (maybe) but what has this exchange to do with the subject, ie. whether women can be bishops or not, or to rephrase it, whether an organisation should be allowed to discriminate against one gender in the 21st century and in Britain?

Nothing. I think everyone except Coel, thought it was a ridiculous decision. Coel didn't mind the decision because he felt it undermined the church, and that is something that he wants.
cb294 - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Here is my take on the topics discussed in the last 500 posts:

Modern natural science works on the basis that there is a reality external to our mind, which is constituted of the totality of elements that are in principle able to interact causally.

As scientists we are therefore employing an operational definition of existence, which must of course include some precept of testing this. Direct observation using our senses (controlling for illusions) is the obvious way, i.e. I would accept that unicorns exist if I see one.

However, for current questions the means of detecting interaction with entitities we accept as existing are much more complicated and rely strongly on implicit assumptions (i.e., we trust and control that the instruments we use to measure some property really work as we think).

The key difference between science and philosophy/religion appears to me that we scientists are happy with such an operational definition, as it has served us well in generating a consistent, adaptable, framework for formulating theories describing the world we live in. The practical output in form technological progress comes as a bonus and illustrates this point.

The level of this progress is such that in disciplines like neurobiology and physics/cosmology we can now address questions (i.e. the origin of the mind or the origin and fate of the universe) that until recently were not testable and hence in the realm of speculation/religion and philosophy.

Clearly, these fields of course lose sovereignity of interpretation as natural science gains it, as it is happening since the age of enlightenment.

This is not to argue that philosophy does not have an important place in modern society, ethics being one prominent example.

However, by clinging to some shrinking god-of-the-gaps explanatory monopoly or engaging in neo-angels-on-pinheads sophistry philosophers run in danger of making themselves look like fools.


CB




cragtaff - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: I am, at least I think I am, therefore I must be.
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Sir Chasm - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: Well we've got 2 statements, one saying that a good sketch makes the it more likely that the object exists and one saying that if you can't conceive of the details the object is unlikely to be real. Those 2 statements don't make the same claim. So which is the basic claim?
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Yes, and yours is a peculiarly narrow concept of the word [exists] which may be agreed to be
> useful in specific scientific circles but not in broader usage.

So "broader usage" often talks about things that have no causal connection to our universe? Can you give me examples of things commonly talked about that have no causal connection with us?

> Personally I think at if thirty people at the site of a crash say it was the blue car that caused it
> I regard it as "evidence" even if the photographic evidence "proves"otherwise.

So would I, and I've not said otherwise.
Postmanpat on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> Here is my take on the topics discussed in the last 500 posts:
>
> Modern natural science works on the basis that there is a reality external to our mind, which is constituted of the totality of elements that are in principle able to interact causally.
>
> As scientists we are therefore employing an operational definition of existence, which must of course include some precept of testing this. Direct observation using our senses (controlling for illusions) is the obvious way, i.e. I would accept that unicorns exist if I see one.
>
>
> CB

This limited usage of "exist" is a useful for the purpose of defining that which can be "observed" or "analysed" by our own perceptions and technologies. One cannot conclude from this that nothing else "is".

I can define "sport" as "football" but however much I insist on this I have not demonstrated that no other sports exist.

Indeed, Coel has acknowledged that things other than those "discernable" to us may "be". Since "science" seems to have adopted a definition of "exist"that excludes the "undiscernable" or apparantly "not causally connected" what would you like to call the discipline that considers these "things"?

Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Instead you feel the need to create circular and self serving definitions ...

I'm still baffled as to why you think my definition is circular. Can you spell that out?

> ... in order presumably to meet your need to find a neat and coherent argument when things may not be so neat or coherent.

If you mean, I try my best to understand things as best I can, then yes I do; and I do fully accept that that understanding might be piss poor compared to true reality.

MG - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> [...]
>
> Corrected that for you. Now, can you justify how that position is wrong?

Well as this thread demonstrates there are a variety of different concepts of what exists means.

Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Since "science" seems to have adopted a definition of "exist"that excludes the "undiscernable"
> or apparantly "not causally connected" what would you like to call the discipline that considers these "things"?

Metaphysics perhaps?
Rob Exile Ward on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: 'understanding might be piss poor compared to true reality. '

I would say more than that - it is inevitable. What evolutionary benefit would have been derived from having a brain powerful enough to 'truly' understand the nature of reality, whatever that might mean? Zip - the philosopher would always have been beaten to the girl by the lad with the smaller (though still remarkable) brain but bigger muscles.
Postmanpat on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> So "broader usage" often talks about things that have no causal connection to our universe? Can you give me examples of things commonly talked about that have no causal connection with us?
>
Did I say they were "commonly talked about"?
>
> So would I, and I've not said otherwise.

So you'll agree there is lots of evidence for phenomenon like telepathy, ghosts etc etc?
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Coel apparently doesn't understand argument by counter-example, either:

Tim apparently doesn't understand argument by counter-example, either:

> *Sigh* OK, so suppose Coel says all bananas are brown. And I say "No, this one here is green,
> and that other is yellow".

That only works if it is agreed that the "this one" and "that one" that you point to were indeed "bananas". If that were agreed, your counter-example would indeed hold.

> And Coel says "What rubbish you talk! Can't argue for peanuts! Out of your depth! By my definition,
> those are meta-bananas!"

Exactly. If it were *not* agreed that the green and yellow things you are pointing to are "bananas", if, say, they were pears, then your counter-example would not be demonstrated.

> Good response? Err, no, not really.

I'm genuinely baffled as to your inability to understand this point -- plenty of others on this thread see it!

> Coel, when you're wrong, don't shout louder and get abusive and endlessly repeat yourself.

Try listening to yourself sometime Tim, take your own advice. It's not only me who thinks you are wrong on this point.
MG - on 28 Nov 2012

Is there something about philosophers that means they can't talk to the rest of the world? Tim and Jimbo seem to understand whatever it is they are saying, and the rest on this thread seem to understand each other. But both groups are completely baffled by the other. Has philosophy become so detached from "normal" people that it can no longer communicate with them?

Postmanpat on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> I'm still baffled as to why you think my definition is circular. Can you spell that out?
>
Because it simply restates the conclusion in another form.
>
> If you mean, I try my best to understand things as best I can, then yes I do; and I do fully accept that that understanding might be piss poor compared to true reality.

Do you think that human abilities are capable of understanding the "true realites" and "meta-realities"?
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Tim and others have pointed to the way you are limiting what 'exists' by your definition.
> You are ruling out certain things.

Yes and yes (though only as "existing", not as "meta-existing"; I'm fully aware that I'm only defining a word, not changing reality by that definition).

> you haven't established much at all.

Agreed, you don't "establish" facts about reality by making definitions, you establish those facts by evidence.

> as an aside, and back to the 'it is worth emphasizing...', what do you think about the point
> about an observer who travels to a different location being able to come into contact with a
> greater region of space-time? Would you reformulate that to say that more space time has come into existence?

Under my "chain of causal links" definition, those distant regions are always causally connected and so always "exist" in my definition (regardless of our ability to see them from Earth -- again, you're focusing on the wrong part of what I'm saying, I am *not* making a definition that is peculiar to humans or to earth, and I re-stated in terms of "chain of causal links" to make that clearer).
Postmanpat on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Metaphysics perhaps?

"Metphysics"-"the study of things that are not".

Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

>> I'm still baffled as to why you think my definition is circular. Can you spell that out?

> Because it simply restates the conclusion in another form.

Can you spell it out further? What conclusion? I'm really not understanding why this definition is circular.
MG - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: If I imagine a dragon (say) and that makes me happy. Does that mean the dragon exists under your definition as it has affected me?
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Do you think that human abilities are capable of understanding the "true realites" and "meta-realities"?

No idea; possibly not.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

> If I imagine a dragon (say) and that makes me happy. Does that mean the dragon exists under
> your definition as it has affected me?

No, the only thing that has affected you is the idea of the dragon, not the dragon. Yes, the idea of the dragon exists.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

>> So would I, and I've not said otherwise.

> So you'll agree there is lots of evidence for phenomenon like telepathy, ghosts etc etc?

Nope, because the evidence is that human observers are often reliable on reporting car colour, especially if a number of them concur. The evidence says that humans are fairly unreliable in reporting claims of telepathy, ghosts etc.
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
>
> Under my "chain of causal links" definition, those distant regions are always causally connected and so always "exist" in my definition (regardless of our ability to see them from Earth -- again, you're focusing on the wrong part of what I'm saying, I am *not* making a definition that is peculiar to humans or to earth, and I re-stated in terms of "chain of causal links" to make that clearer).

Well, under current theories, those distant regions are not causally connected to us. Agreed?

Let's now think / speculate about a multiverse in which the different universes are not causally connected to each other, and so everywhere outside of our universe is not causally connected to us. You would say they don't exist. But each part of each one is causally connected to something.
Postmanpat on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> >> So would I, and I've not said otherwise.
>
> [...]
>
> Nope, because the evidence is that human observers are often reliable on reporting car colour, especially if a number of them concur. The evidence says that humans are fairly unreliable in reporting claims of telepathy, ghosts etc.

Actually, the evidence is that humans are pretty unreliable at reporting both.
Anyway, another of your circular arguments.

ads.ukclimbing.com
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Could I also please ask you to comment on my response to crossdressingrodney above:

Quoting:

"Again, my view is that the way we do this is with the coordination of our senses of our external world with the one piece of knowledge we think is securely established, that I am. This feeling, quality, which we call "being" is something we attribute to things appreciated by our sense of the world around us, i.e. that the world also has "being". We can't define these terms, but there is a referential "essence" that we can appreciate subjectively and attribute to other things."

At root we have sense data and experiences. All attributions of "being" are best attempts to make sense of that. We can make hypotheses, then test them. We attribute "being" to an external world because that makes sense of our sense data and experiences. We can then go further and ask how far we should attribute "being". I'm going as far as attributing it to everything in a chain of causal links with that primary sense data.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Well, under current theories, those distant regions are not causally connected to us. Agreed?

There is a chain of causal connections connecting them to us. Very distant bit A is causally connect to slightly-nearer bit B which is causally connected to .... us at Z. The limitation here is the finite speed of light/communication which limits the speed at which causes can travel along that chain of causal links. But, there is still a chain of causal links, and thus the distant regions "exist" under my definition.

> Let's now think / speculate about a multiverse in which the different universes are not causally
> connected to each other, and so everywhere outside of our universe is not causally connected to us.
> You would say they don't exist.

Yes. Though I'd be happy to say that they "meta-exist".
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> A characterisation of a bus, on the other hand, is something much looser: it's anything that lets us know what a bus is ...

You're getting very hung up on the difference between a "definition" and a "characterisation". They are much the same thing, one is just a bit looser (and often useful when a category doesn't have a clear-cut boundary, but merges into another category; cf, sapling, shrub, bush, tree).

But fine, if you prefer, I'll restate my questions using "characterisation" instead:

Please give us your characterisation of the category "exists". What does it mean to say something "exists"? How does one establish whether something qualifies for the category "exists"?

You're right that you can do this without a rigid definition if you instead have a decent characterisation. So what is your characterisation of "exists"?
Shani - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
>
> Is there something about philosophers that means they can't talk to the rest of the world? Tim and Jimbo seem to understand whatever it is they are saying, and the rest on this thread seem to understand each other. But both groups are completely baffled by the other. Has philosophy become so detached from "normal" people that it can no longer communicate with them?

I quite agree. The difference is that Coel's postion posits models that allow us to predict. That is quite a powerful difference between the 'scientific' position and the navel-gazing of theologians who seem too wrapped up in linguistics.


NS has a take on 'what truly exists':

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628920.200-what-truly-exists-structure-as-a-route-to-the-rea...
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> There is a chain of causal connections connecting them to us. Very distant bit A is causally connect to slightly-nearer bit B which is causally connected to .... us at Z. The limitation here is the finite speed of light/communication which limits the speed at which causes can travel along that chain of causal links. But, there is still a chain of causal links, and thus the distant regions "exist" under my definition.
>
> [...]
>
> Yes. Though I'd be happy to say that they "meta-exist".

Far be it from me to query a statement by you on physics, but, well, are you sure about that first bit (causal connection A - Z)? Plenty of talking head theoretical physicists on more than one recent Horizon argued otherwise, and it looks like someone who agrees with them wrote that Wikipedia entry I quotes from earlier.

I can't get very excited about this new concept meta-exist I'm afraid. It seems like an evasion. You're a non-believer so invoking God as the being who was going to detect these causal influences was odd on your part I thought. You re-formulated it without him, but that didn't solve the problem. Now it seems you are trying to get away from human limitations by talking about meta-existence. It can't be done. 'In Principle' is the Achilles heel of your definition.
cb294 - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to cb294)
> [...]
>
> I can define "sport" as "football" but however much I insist on this I have not demonstrated that no other sports exist.
>

Exactly. It would be easy to observe other sports being played. The only reasonable conclusion is therefore to reject your definition as wrong.

The important bit is that we can confidently make a statement on whether football exists because we can clearly say how to test for it, and then do the experiment (although watching my home team Nuremberg one cannot be so sure...).

Less easy for the Higgs boson, where it took some effort to finaly demonstrate that it exists.

On the other hand Quidditch (Sp?), at least the proper version involving flying brooms, does not exist, even though we can make very detailed images of it being played.


I obviously assume that you agree that your definition of sport is wrong. In this you follow teh common sense approach that Coel and to a lesser extent I have argued: A definition of existence is useless unless it tells you how to decide whether some entity fulfils it.


> Indeed, Coel has acknowledged that things other than those "discernable" to us may "be". Since "science" seems to have adopted a definition of "exist"that excludes the "undiscernable" or apparantly "not causally connected" what would you like to call the discipline that considers these "things"?

Speculation? Insanity?

Seriously, we should not even expect to be able to detect everything that exist, simply because our human facilities are too limited. Even 150 years ago we had no means of identifying viruses, although they definitley existed and killed people.

However, this practical limitation does not prevent us from defining existence as an ability to affect other things known to exist. At least for the bits of reality we can observe this works nicely, and leads to a consistent and functional description of the world.

CB
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> well, are you sure about that first bit (causal connection A - Z)?

Yes. Your quote from wiki was: "It is worth emphasizing that those distant regions of space are taken to exist and be part of reality as much as we are; yet we can never interact with them".

That states that the two ends of the chain of causal links can never swap information with each other, because the information takes a finite time to travel along the chain, and the chain is lengthening as it travels (because of the expansion of the universe), and the chain gets longer at a faster rate than the signal travels.

However, that doesn't alter the fact that there is still a chain of causal links between those two ends, and that any part of that chain can communicate with its neighbouring links.

> I can't get very excited about this new concept meta-exist I'm afraid. It seems like an evasion.

I'm not excited about it either, but it's not really evasion, it's more a genuine attempt to answer a worthwhile question: if there are "other realities" that are causally disconnected from our universe, such that even in principle there can never be any information exchange between those "realities" and our "reality", then can they be said to "exist"? People are welcome to answer that as they see fit ... it just comes down to what one means by "exist". So far I'm the only one who has attempted a characterisation of "exists".

> Now it seems you are trying to get away from human limitations by talking about meta-existence.

It's not me who wants to posit meta-existences.

> 'In Principle' is the Achilles heel of your definition.

I'm still totally baffled as to what your objection is.
Postmanpat on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> Exactly. It would be easy to observe other sports being played. The only reasonable conclusion is therefore to reject your definition as wrong.
>
Yes, but it is wrong not because you keep saying it is wrong but because you have positive observable evidence it is wrong. A lack of evidence (which anyway depends on Coel's circular definition of evidence) is not a proof of something.
>
>
> I obviously assume that you agree that your definition of sport is wrong. In this you follow teh common sense approach that Coel and to a lesser extent I have argued: A definition of existence is useless unless it tells you how to decide whether some entity fulfils it.
>
Only if you believe that anything that is not neat and coherent is not "useful"
> [...]
>
>
> Seriously, we should not even expect to be able to detect everything that exist, simply because our human facilities are too limited.
>
So, you acknowledge that things can "exist" that we are not aware of and may or may not be causally connected?

> However, this practical limitation does not prevent us from defining existence as an ability to affect other things known to exist. At least for the bits of reality we can observe this works nicely, and leads to a consistent and functional description of the world.
>
Of course it's "consistent and functional" and therefore within the scientific context, useful. I have sad that several times. A definition of sport as football may be useful but that does not make its assumptions true.
Other defintions useful in other "metaphysical" or "philosophical" contexts.

crossdressingrodney - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> There is a chain of causal connections connecting them to us. Very distant bit A is causally connect to slightly-nearer bit B which is causally connected to .... us at Z. The limitation here is the finite speed of light/communication which limits the speed at which causes can travel along that chain of causal links. But, there is still a chain of causal links, and thus the distant regions "exist" under my definition.

Can you clarify: I thought the term "causally connected" applied to events (or regions) of space-time, rather than points in space: A is causally connected to B if there exists a time-like path from A to B. So shouldn't you be talking about regions of space time, rather than of space?

Also, causal connection is directed. Writing A -> B for "B is in the forward light-cone of A", you get

A -> B and B -> C implies A -> C

but you don't get

A - > B and C -> B implies A -> C

so you can't causally connect regions of space-time outside the observable universe.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> Can you clarify: I thought the term "causally connected" applied to events (or regions)
> of space-time, rather than points in space: A is causally connected to B if there exists a
> time-like path from A to B. So shouldn't you be talking about regions of space time, rather
> than of space?

Yes.

> so you can't causally connect regions of space-time outside the observable universe.

True, yes. But there is still a chain of causal connections connecting the two (see above reply to John Gillot).
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Causal connection even though it is impossible to exchange information? How does something at A have a causal connection to something at Z if it is impossible for information to pass from A to Z? The limitation is the same isn't it? Neither influence nor information can pass from A to Z according to current theory.

You are trying to specify a definition of 'exist'. In part you do it by using the phrase 'In Principle'. But you can't clearly specify what 'In Principle' means because you can't escape the limitations of current theory. You say, eg, multiverses don't exist if there is no causal connection between them. But then you have your aside that current theories say some kinds are connected so you say those kinds do exist. In 300 years time we will no doubt think different kinds exist under your definition. It's a moving feast and you haven't really ruled much, if anything, out.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Causal connection even though it is impossible to exchange information?

*Chain* *of* causal connections, even though it is impossible to exchange information between the *ends* of the chain.

> How does something at A have a causal connection to something at Z if it is impossible for information
> to pass from A to Z?

I'm not positing a "causal connection" between A and Z, I'm saying that A and Z are linked by a *chain* *of* causal connections.

> You are trying to specify a definition of 'exist'. In part you do it by using the phrase 'In Principle'.

Then use my "chain of causal connections" definition instead, which doesn't depend on the "in principle" observation.

999thAndy on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to 999thAndy)
> [...]
>
>
> Why so? The job isn't mathematical, so neither are the tools.

compare with:

Me: Well you used a quasi mathematical series of statements, which lead me to assume that, just as in real maths, such statements would be 'true' or 'false'.

You: And so they are.

See the confusion? Either you're problem is resolvable using a maths lookaike in which things are true or false in which case the tool for the job is a maths lookalike OR the problem is not resolvable using such tools, in which case you need to use something else.
999thAndy on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to 999thAndy: And sorry for the delay in replying, but I did enjoy the horlicks.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> You say, eg, multiverses don't exist if there is no causal connection between them.

Yes. Or rather, that is the definition of "exist" that I've arrived at. Maybe it would be helpful to explain more about why I like that definition.

Suppose we allow that "causally disconnected other universes" exist. Now let us a posit a new type of particle, say a Hoggs Boson, that is to postulated to interact with other Hoggs Bosons but is also posited to be casually disconnected with all other material in our universe, and so has no interactions whatsoever with any material in our universe, and so can never (even in principle) be detected.

Would you say that that Hoggs Boson "exists"? Physicists would not say that. They would either say that it didn't exist, or they'd shrug their shoulders and say that the concept was irrelevant or uninteresting. But they would not say that that thing "exists".

How about you, what you you say? (And Tim, what would philosophers say, would they accept that such a thing would/could "exist"?)

If you say that it wouldn't "exist", then why are you giving a different answer to this question than about the causally disconnected other-universe?

If you say it it would or could exist then you hit big problems. You then have no way of establishing whether something "exists"; you could postulate ghosts, unicorns, faeries and all sorts, just with the rider "sure they exist, it's just they have no interaction with our universe", and so there could never be evidence for them.

That, to me, ends up making the concept "exist" pretty meaningless, and thus, by thinking back through the above, I then want to say that the causally disconnected other-universe also does not "exist".

If someone wants to posit a meta-existence for the Hoggs boson and faeries and disconnected other-universes and so forth then they are welcome to do so.

> In 300 years time we will no doubt think different kinds exist under your definition.

Why, ***sure***. What I'm getting at is what we mean by "exist". That's a very different thing from whether humans know whether something exists.

> It's a moving feast and you haven't really ruled much, if anything, out.

I'm not trying to rule anything out! You don't change reality by changing definitions! (Only Tim is silly enough to think that if you change a definition then it changes how the world is.) All I'm doing is trying to think through what we mean by "exist" and thus define the word. What do *you* mean by the word? Does the Hoggs Boson "exist"?
crossdressingrodney - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

I'm not sure this chain of connections from A to Z really warrants the label "causal" if the two points A and Z are not causally connected!

Also, I'm pretty sure that every path in space-time can be locally deformed into a collection of these causally connected chains, if you don't mind that the arrow-of-time changes direction along the way (as you appear not to). So perhaps a more natural way of stating it is just that A and Z can be connected by a path in space-time.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

> Is there something about philosophers that means they can't talk to the rest of the world? Tim and Jimbo seem to understand whatever it is they are saying, and the rest on this thread seem to understand each other. But both groups are completely baffled by the other. Has philosophy become so detached from "normal" people that it can no longer communicate with them?

I'm not sure "the rest of the thread" does anything of the sort!

PMP seems to have his own thoughtful expressions on this issue, as does John Gillott, sg and indeed Sir Chasm. For sure there are certainly a number of sheep following their shepherd Coel, regurgitating and repeating his teleological and circular explanations. You show no evidence of having tried to understand our position. Indeed two posts of mine re: circularity, and the other re: einstein, and another, re: a priori truths have still gone unanswered. The philosophical ideas being expressed here are far from new, and not ours, they are commonly understood problems of epistemology and our relationship to reality. Being an anti-philosopher is fine, which seems to me to be really what's going on here, but it should be recognised for what it is, a prejudicial position that involves alot of wishful thinking, a number of assumptions / pre-suppositions so as to place science and its methodology at the heart of everything, even so as to redefine linguistics. Its a quite hilarious form of scientism expressed to the level of absurdity.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Indeed two posts of mine re: circularity, and the other re: einstein, and another, re: a priori
> truths have still gone unanswered.

This isn't really true, I've answered you as best I can. To the extent that I don't answer you it's likely because I don't understand what you're getting at.

The gist of my last reply to you was this: you are saying that we have to make a priori and unchallengeable assumptions and base our worldview on that. I'm saying we don't, we make working hypotheses and then challenge and test them.
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

It seems to me that the idea that both you and Coel have, that we 'attribute' existence to things is very similar to the old mistake of regarding existence as a predicate. Mind you, some say it is. One of hardest essays I ever had to write at university was in answer to the question 'Is existence a predicate?'

Just throwing that into the cauldron, because I have absolutely no time today to discuss it, sadly.
Shani - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)

> Just throwing that into the cauldron, because I have absolutely no time today to discuss it, sadly.

The French Mathematician's reply! ;)
MG - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: on phone so brief.

OK there are a few more on the philosophers bench

I and obviously others arent anti philosopher but simply wanting a coherent statement of what is being said! I apparently after many posts have still missedTims point. I really do wa t know what he is trying say but he cant seem to put it languagr that communicates it to me. Likewise he clearly doesn't get my posts. I cant make anything of what you post either. There seems to be a split in the language and basiv assumptions so great that communicatiom is impossible.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> It seems to me that the idea that both you and Coel have, that we 'attribute' existence to
> things is very similar to the old mistake of regarding existence as a predicate. Mind you, some
> say it is. One of hardest essays I ever had to write at university was in answer to the question
> 'Is existence a predicate?'

The answer (it seems to me) is that we can go with either. We can have existence as a predicate, or not, as we see fit. The language and categories we use do not affect reality, and thus, so long as we're clear about what we're saying, we can proceed with either.

(This again illustrates the philosophers' tendency to want to construct arguments by examining words, contrasting with the scientific emphasis on emprical evidence.)
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> Yes. Or rather, that is the definition of "exist" that I've arrived at. Maybe it would be helpful to explain more about why I like that definition.
>
> Suppose we allow that "causally disconnected other universes" exist. Now let us a posit a new type of particle, say a Hoggs Boson, that is to postulated to interact with other Hoggs Bosons but is also posited to be casually disconnected with all other material in our universe, and so has no interactions whatsoever with any material in our universe, and so can never (even in principle) be detected.
>
> Would you say that that Hoggs Boson "exists"? Physicists would not say that. They would either say that it didn't exist, or they'd shrug their shoulders and say that the concept was irrelevant or uninteresting. But they would not say that that thing "exists".
>
> How about you, what you you say? (And Tim, what would philosophers say, would they accept that such a thing would/could "exist"?)
>
> If you say that it wouldn't "exist", then why are you giving a different answer to this question than about the causally disconnected other-universe?
>
> If you say it it would or could exist then you hit big problems. You then have no way of establishing whether something "exists"; you could postulate ghosts, unicorns, faeries and all sorts, just with the rider "sure they exist, it's just they have no interaction with our universe", and so there could never be evidence for them.
>
> That, to me, ends up making the concept "exist" pretty meaningless, and thus, by thinking back through the above, I then want to say that the causally disconnected other-universe also does not "exist".
>
> If someone wants to posit a meta-existence for the Hoggs boson and faeries and disconnected other-universes and so forth then they are welcome to do so.
>
> [...]
>
> Why, ***sure***. What I'm getting at is what we mean by "exist". That's a very different thing from whether humans know whether something exists.
>
> [...]
>
> I'm not trying to rule anything out! You don't change reality by changing definitions! (Only Tim is silly enough to think that if you change a definition then it changes how the world is.) All I'm doing is trying to think through what we mean by "exist" and thus define the word. What do *you* mean by the word? Does the Hoggs Boson "exist"?


You're not trying to rule anything out? I thought you were saying the Hoggs Boson doesn't exist, and neither do multiverses if they can't, in principle, interact with our universe.

Let's look at this hypothetical Hoggs Boson. Presumably as a specific entity it is put forward for a reason - perhaps it pops out of a highly mathematical theory which in turn was put forward to deal with some anomaly in some other theory to do with something or other about the nature of the universe. It has no doubt been attacked by some physicist as a speculative theoretical construct that cannot be interrogated using existing machines.

Now, here's the rub: you are claiming that it can never be interrogated using the methods of experimental physics. You seem to be certain of this and on the back of that certainty have declare that the Hoggs Boson does not exist. How are you so certain? How can you be certain that in 300 years time we won't have re-contextualised our thinking around the Hoggs Boson with new theories which imply that there are in principle tests for the Hoggs or something like it (for, after all, the new theories may also have modified our concept of the Hoggs)?
Moomin.williams on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to All:

Having read through both the threads and already used up far more of my time on it than I should have, it has been an interesting discussion, I think I'm happy to declare that I am happy to go forward with 2 categories:
Exists: Stuff that has been proven and demonstrated to be part of the universe we live in or interact with it.
May exist: Everything else. This is a very big category that includes everything anyone can think of and has a spectrum of likelihood the Higgs Boson was in this category until recently at one end of the scale and dragons, unicorns and personally god are all at the other. Stuff can move from one category to the other. Where you put things in the "May exist" category on the scale of likelihood is entirely personal.
This is not an attempt to bring the discussion to a close, as I know this isn't going to happen. Nor is it an attempt to provide a solution to Coel and Tim's disagreement, because I'm sure it won't. Just thought I'd share where I've got to, which I'm not sure is anywhere different to where I was before this thread started!
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> You're not trying to rule anything out? I thought you were saying the Hoggs Boson doesn't exist,
> and neither do multiverses if they can't, in principle, interact with our universe.

Exactly, I really am not trying to rule anything out! If you think I am then you're likely doing a mental flip between your-intuition-"exist" and my-definition-"exist".

I am not ruling anything out; I am only defining what goes into *my* category "exists". If there is a "causally disconnected meta-universe" then whether or not I put that into my category "exists" doesn't change whether or not there is a "causally disconnected meta-universe", all it changes is the language that *I* use about it! Changing definitions does not change reality, it changes only the words we use.

> Now, here's the rub: you are claiming that it can never be interrogated using the methods
> of experimental physics. You seem to be certain of this ...

That's because it is postulated such that it would never be detectable. That is the postulation I was making, and was considering whether *that* could be said to "exist". I was *not* considering some hypothetical particle about which we don't know whether or not it can interact with our detectors.

> How can you be certain that in 300 years time we won't have re-contextualised our
> thinking around the Hoggs Boson with new theories which imply that there are in principle tests for the Hoggs ...

Because, ex hypothesi, the Hoggs doesn't interact with our detectors. A hypothetical particle which did interact with our detectors would therefore not be the Hoggs. It might be something else, but it wouldn't be that as-postulated Hoggs particle.
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> [...]
>
> The answer (it seems to me) is that we can go with either. We can have existence as a predicate, or not, as we see fit. The language and categories we use do not affect reality, and thus, so long as we're clear about what we're saying, we can proceed with either.

The whole question of Is existence a predicate actually homes on on a discussion of reality. That's what it's about (coupled with logic)
>
> (This again illustrates the philosophers' tendency to want to construct arguments by examining words, contrasting with the scientific emphasis on emprical evidence.)

No, it's a metaphysical question that has nothing to do with the words we use to discuss it. And there we are no doubt in agreement.

Postmanpat on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> Exactly, I really am not trying to rule anything out! If you think I am then you're likely doing a mental flip between your-intuition-"exist" and my-definition-"exist".
>
> I am not ruling anything out; I am only defining what goes into *my* category "exists". If there is a "causally disconnected meta-universe" then whether or not I put that into my category "exists" doesn't change whether or not there is a
>
So what is the difference between "exists" and "is" that is apparent in the above sentence but not when I used the terms and was told they were "synonyms"?
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Well, if that isn't circular reasoning and word jugglery I don't know what is!

You have given yourself the ability to define something for all time - the precise nature of the Hoggs. In real life we would have a slightly flexible definition of the Hoggs that would mutate as theories developed. Ideas around field theories, eg, or black holes, or multiverses are real life examples of how this works. If you could live forever, were someone to discover a Hoggs in 300 years' time you'd no doubt be on hand to say 'no, don't give them the prize, they haven't discovered THE Hoggs. No one can discover THE Hoggs. I've made sure of it.'

This private definition of 'exists' that you have created is turning out to be rather limiting for physics never mind bad philosophy.
MJ - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to the thread:

This thread has really confused me.
Just to make it clear, what's got the highest wobble factor: Orange or Strawberry jelly?
Sir Chasm - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott: Bad philosophy? The history of philosophy seems to comprise of people getting things wrong and other philosophers trying (failing?) to correct those errors. Can you give a couple of examples of good philosophy that philosophers agree on?
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

Coel dislikes circular reasoning and word jugglery. He's the tough empiricist.

But wait, all of a sudden he's postulating this, he's ex hypothesi that, he's developing an idea about the view from everywhere and nowhere, he's playing with words and definitions.

Perhaps I should have said dubious reasoning? What would you say?
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Okay, I'll restate then:

> And my reply is that you can make working hypotheses and then test them. Nothing here has to just be taken on trust.

Please can you show how creating a working hypothesis and testing it helps; without supposing anything is, are, exists, has being, is real etc.

Lets try a different tack to illustrate what I mean further:
Statement: Existence is a priori true.
Because if you object to this statement, then you recognise a standard (that exists) with which you can judge that statement by.

Statement: Being is a priori true.
Because if you object to this statement, you deny your own subjective being that is doing the objecting.

Therefore:

> Ah, so "exists" has a meaning does it? Then please tell us about it! So far Tim has failed. (Close synonyms don't answer this question of what exist "means".)

If existence is a primary concept, which I think it is (and was I believe Tim's original point), it isn't definable except by recourse to synonyms and philosophical explanations that attempt to explain what is felt and understood implicitly by most of us who freely use the word. Or another way of looking at it, is that we say what we mean by putting it in a set of other related linguistic terms (synonyms) that help us to understand what it means.

Re: circularity:
PMP
> The basic problem is that Coel's whole approach is circular on numerous levels:
> eg. If the definition of "exist" is something that we can detect then only things that we can detect exist. Obviously.

Yes, and it presupposes:
a) the idea of existence
and b) "exist" must also be an intrinsic part of the empirical "detection", both physically in terms of apparatus to do the detection, which has to "exist" and intellectually "in terms of other foundational aspects of physics that have been previously established to "exist" and which are being relied upon in the empirical process. Even if you go back and back in terms of empirical type interactions with the world around us you have the same problems, e.g. I'm going to see if a rock is hard, I, my eyes, rock and the concept hard, are presupposed. Ultimately there are two metaphysical choices here:
1) Commit to reality and let all knowledge be established a posteriori of that commitment, and not worry about that commitment
2) Recognise that there are some concepts that are a priori true: existence, being, and recognise those qualities in what I sense in the world around me. This still necessitates a commitment to reality, but it is one that does not disclude subjective knowledge.

This is pretty much what Einstein does and this commitment is what I spoke about:

> Which is just giving close synonyms for the word, not defining it. Can you give me an operational test for deciding whether something "exists"?

Existence must be assumed, which is why you believe that something "having" being" is just a synonym and not a definition. It is a definition... ...it's a definition that recognises a judgement about that thing whose essence cannot be established a priori. To put it another way, to say something "exists" (outside of just the mind) is to admit a personal commitment to that reality and knowledge about it. Put still another, no knowledge of reality is without some kind of a personal commitment to reality. This harks back to the kind of assumptions I suggest you use, but you deny. Appeals to mere empirical data re the Higgs boson presupposes something about what "exists" means when you make that conclusion based on the empirical data, and therefore Tim is correct, wanting it to be defined in that ways is to provide a circular definition. Perhaps some words from Einstein might help?

A few more remarks of a general nature concerning concepts and [also] concerning the insinuation that a concept - for example that of the real - is something metaphysical (and therefore to be rejected). A basic conceptual distinction, which is a necessary prerequisite of scientific and pre-scientific thinking, is the distinction between "sense-impressions" (and the recollection of such) on the one hand and mere ideas on the other. There is no such thing as a conceptual definition of this distinction (aside from, circular definitions, i.e., of such as make a hidden use of the object to be defined). Nor can it be maintained that at the base of this distinction there is a type of evidence, such as underlies, for example, the distinction between red and blue. Yet, one needs this distinction in order to be able to overcome solipsism. Solution: we shall make use of this distinction unconcerned with the reproach that, in doing so, we are guilty of the metaphysical "original sin." We regard the distinction as a category which we use in order that we might the better find our way in the world of immediate sensations. The "sense" and the justification of this distinction lies simply in this achievement. But this is only a first step. We represent the sense-impressions as conditioned by an "objective" and by a "subjective" factor. For this conceptual distinction there also is no logical-philosophical justification. But if we reject it, we cannot escape solipsism. It is also the presupposition of every kind of physical thinking. Here too, the only justification lies in its usefulness. We are here concerned with "categories" or schemes of thought, the selection of which is, in principle, entirely open to us and whose qualification can only be judged by the degree to which its use contributes to making the totality of the contents of consciousness "intelligible." The above mentioned "objective factor" is the totality of such concepts and conceptual relations as are thought of as independent of experience, viz., of perceptions. So long as we move within the thus programmatically fixed sphere of thought we are thinking physically. Insofar as physical thinking justifies itself, in the more than once indicated sense, by its ability to grasp experiences intellectually, we regard it as "knowledge of the real."
Sir Chasm - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott: I would say that you're both word jugglers and I admit I struggle to understand your disagreement. Now about those examples of agreed philosophy...
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to John Gillott) Bad philosophy? The history of philosophy seems to comprise of people getting things wrong and other philosophers trying (failing?) to correct those errors. Can you give a couple of examples of good philosophy that philosophers agree on?

I'll chip in with two:

The need to avoid 'category mistakes' i.e. to apply the wrong language to the wrong subject. One classic example (first highlighted by Hume) being to try and derive 'ought' from 'is'.

The rejection of the idea that the mind starts at birth as a 'tabula rasa' and then magically applies concepts to sense data, before it has any necessarily sophisticated conceptual scheme.
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

Come now, don't be so modest. You've got more to add than that. Have a go at writing a paragraph or two.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Well, if that isn't circular reasoning and word jugglery I don't know what is!

It really isn't!

> You have given yourself the ability to define something for all time - the precise nature of the Hoggs.

Yes, it's a thought experiment. I have defined the "Hoggs".

> If you could live forever, were someone to discover a Hoggs in 300 years' time you'd no doubt
> be on hand to say 'no, don't give them the prize, they haven't discovered THE Hoggs.

Exactly. Ex hypothesi, it wouldn't be the Hoggs, it would be something else. To be the Hoggs it would have to have the properties of the Hoggs, and that includes not interacting with detectors.

> This private definition of 'exists' that you have created is turning out to be rather limiting
> for physics never mind bad philosophy.

It is neither of those.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> So what is the difference between "exists" and "is" that is apparent in the above sentence ...

In my sentence, "exists" had the specific meaning I gave it. "Is" can have a broader meaning.

> but not when I used the terms and was told they were "synonyms"?

You didn't define either term; as *you* were using them they were close synonyms.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> But wait, all of a sudden he's postulating this, he's ex hypothesi that, he's developing an idea
> about the view from everywhere and nowhere, he's playing with words and definitions.

Are you familiar with the concept of thought experiments? What is your problem with them? They're useful and very good at clarifying things. All along you've been taking my thought experiments and worrying about practicalities, which is not the point of them! I really am seriously baffled by your whole approach to this. Why aren't you ok with the "thought experiment" concept of a particle that doesn't interact with anything else? What is the problem with considering that?
Sir Chasm - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: No, they won't do at all. Your first example of using the right language applies to any endeavour, if I say I'll meet you in the pub we both need to know what a pub is, hardly philosophy? Or is it that simple? Your second example is a joke surely? The idea of a tabula rasa was accepted by many philosophers until science proved them wrong, now it isn't mentioned.
tom.e - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott: All he's saying is that according to his definition of "exists", particles which have no detectable (by any detectors) effects do not exist.

You are saying that particles which interact with something (the future detectors) DO exist.

It's not circular reasoning, and you are in agreement with Coel.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Postmanpat on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> In my sentence, "exists" had the specific meaning I gave it. "Is" can have a broader meaning.
>
So define "is"
>


Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Please can you show how creating a working hypothesis and testing it helps;

If we can test the hypothesis then it isn't a basic assumption that we just have to trust.

> ... without supposing anything is, are, exists, has being, is real etc.

We can test hypotheses about what those things means.

> Lets try a different tack to illustrate what I mean further:
> Statement: Existence is a priori true.

I don't know what that statement means. What does it mean to say that "existence" is "true"? Does it mean "some things exist"? By "a priori" true, do you mean "we have to take on trust that some thing or things "exist"?

> If existence is a primary concept, which I think it is (and was I believe Tim's original
> point), it isn't definable except by recourse to synonyms and philosophical explanations
> that attempt to explain what is felt and understood implicitly by most of us who freely use the word.

As I've said before, that seems to me a cop-out; it essentially says, let's just proceed with an *intuitive* idea of "exists". and let's not examine it further. If we're asking basic questions, we need to examine it further, or admit our lack of understanding. Saying it is "a primary concept" isn't an explanation, it's a cop-out.

> Yes, and it presupposes: a) the idea of existence

No, I *define* what I mean by existence. It's not a presupposition.

> Ultimately there are two metaphysical choices here:
> 1) Commit to reality and let all knowledge be established a posteriori of that commitment, and
> not worry about that commitment
> 2) Recognise that there are some concepts that are a priori true: existence, being, and
> recognise those qualities in what I sense in the world around me.

I disagree, as I see it there is a third possibility:

3) Examine what we mean by terms such as "reality" and "existence" and examine whether those concepts are in line with the evidence, or whether better concepts would explain the evidence better.

John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

They're useful if they are specified in the right way. I don't think yours are. They should connect up with something, an idea, a physical concept, or whatever and allow us to explore something that is up for debate. As you have concluded it, your Hoggs one just now was self-contained, with the conclusion entirely entailed by the starting point. If you define the Hoggs as you do, of course it leads to the conclusion you draw. So what? What have we learnt from the thought experiment? That you can define the Hoggs in such a way that it doesn't exist according to your definition of existence and if someone claims to have found it they can't possibly, ever, have found THE Hoggs? We didn't need the Hoggs to learn that you can do that.


Hoggs aside for the minute, and back to contemporary physics, I'm still perplexed by this idea of a discernible influence from something in a part of our universe that is unable to exchange information because it is outside our light cone. Can you explain this more?
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> So define "is"

I'm just allowing that it might include things beyond those in my category "exist", for example it could include things that "meta-exist". I don't know whether such things "are". Since I'm not making claims about what might meta-exist I don't really need a more concrete definition.
cb294 - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)

>
> If existence is a primary concept, which I think it is (and was I believe Tim's original point), it isn't definable except by recourse to synonyms and philosophical explanations that attempt to explain what is felt and understood implicitly by most of us who freely use the word. Or another way of looking at it, is that we say what we mean by putting it in a set of other related linguistic terms (synonyms) that help us to understand what it means.
>

But this is a blatant cop out, especially with regards to the not so well hidden question behind this discussion, i.e. whether or not god exists.

Yes, you can treat "existence" as a primary, nonreducable concept and decline giving a test for ascribing existence to a given entity. This will allow you to treat anything and nothing as "evidence" for the existence of god. It will also lead to the blatantly idiotic conclusion that drawing pictures of dragons has anything to say about their existence.

I and others would argue that this approach renders the category "exists" defined in this way useless, and that conversely, a useful definition of any category must include a means of deciding whether a given entity fulfils this definition.

In this context, defining "existence" as the ability to interact in principle with other stuff accepted to exist in a base reality external to our mind seems a reasonable and workable approach.

CB
Postmanpat on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> I'm just allowing that it might include things beyond those in my category "exist", for example it could include things that "meta-exist". I don't know whether such things "are". Since I'm not making claims about what might meta-exist I don't really need a more concrete definition.

Good, thanks for providing me a definition of the meaning of exist, for which "is" is a synonym. I'm happy to use "is" as opposed to its synonym "exist" if you prefer. Easier than inventing new words.
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to tom.e:

I am saying he hasn't achieved anything with his definition of 'existence'.

If you agree with Coel, please specify what you mean by 'any detectors'.

To carry on the point about thought experiments, they often get useful and interesting when people get a bit more precise about what they mean. Is God erecting these detectors or are we? Now or 1 million years in the future? On earth or anywhere God fancies?
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> If you define the Hoggs as you do, of course it leads to the conclusion you draw.

Good!

> So what?

So IT CLARIFIES WHAT **I** MEAN BY MY CATEGORY "EXISTS".

> What have we learnt from the thought experiment?

We've learnt what my category "exist" amounts to.

Look, *all* this is is a definition of one word. That really is ALL. It is NOT a claim that, by making definitions, one thereby learns about the world around us! The only person who has gone from "this is my definition" to "therefore this is how the world is" is Tim! I really am baffled by this: which bit are you not getting?

> I'm still perplexed by this idea of a discernible influence from something in a part of
> our universe that is unable to exchange information because it is outside our light cone.

Again, I'm *not* saying that there is a discernible influence of A on Z. I am saying that A has a discernible influence on B, and B on C and C on D and etc all the way to Z, and thus that A is linked to Z by a *chain* *of* causal links.
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
>
> Again, I'm *not* saying that there is a discernible influence of A on Z. I am saying that A has a discernible influence on B, and B on C and C on D and etc all the way to Z, and thus that A is linked to Z by a *chain* *of* causal links.

OK, so you've changed your definition, the one you began this thread with?:

'So, the answer to how we decide what "exists" is this (taking the example of the Higgs Boson):

If it has an affect on our detector (in line with that expected for a Higgs) then it "exists".

It if doesn't have an affect on our detector (in line with that expected) then it doesn't "exist".'


Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> So IT CLARIFIES WHAT **I** MEAN BY MY CATEGORY "EXISTS".

Which is totally irrelevant. As I said, there'd be a job for you inventing a new alien language in a star trek series.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> I am saying he hasn't achieved anything with his definition of 'existence'.

I am NOT TRYING TO ACHIEVE ANYTHING by my definition of "exist", other than clarify what we mean by "exist".

> Is God erecting these detectors or are we? Now or 1 million years in the future? On earth or anywhere God fancies?

Oh FFS. With regard to the Hoggs, it DOES NOT MATTER. The whole point of the Hoggs is that -- ex hypothesi -- it does not interact with detectors. Thus it does not matter whether the detectors are here, there, in the future, or whatever. Ex hypothesi the Hoggs cannot interact with ANY detectors, any where, any time, any how -- so why are you asking about the detectors??????

Sheesh, you really are spectacularly successful at missing the point of any thought experiment I present!
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Which is totally irrelevant. As I said, there'd be a job for you inventing a new alien language in a star trek series.

Well, given that you haven't explained what you mean by "exists" I'm at least doing better than you.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> OK, so you've changed your definition, the one you began this thread with?:

No.

> 'So, the answer to how we decide what "exists" is this (taking the example of the Higgs Boson):
> If it has an affect on our detector (in line with that expected for a Higgs) then it "exists".
> It if doesn't have an affect on our detector (in line with that expected) then it doesn't "exist".'

And the crucial parts of that are "in line with that expected". The point about the Higgs is that -- ex hypothesi -- it is expected to have a detectable effect in a given energy range in CERN detectors. If it didn't then it would not "exist".

As for stuff beyond our observable horizon, it is *not* expected to have any discernible effect on our Earthly detectors, because it is too far away.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Good, thanks for providing me a definition of the meaning of exist, for which "is" is a synonym.

I have not done that. Under my definition of "exist" "is" is not a synonym -- as I quite clearly explained.
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> I am NOT TRYING TO ACHIEVE ANYTHING by my definition of "exist", other than clarify what we mean by "exist".
>
> [...]
>
> Oh FFS. With regard to the Hoggs, it DOES NOT MATTER. The whole point of the Hoggs is that -- ex hypothesi -- it does not interact with detectors. Thus it does not matter whether the detectors are here, there, in the future, or whatever. Ex hypothesi the Hoggs cannot interact with ANY detectors, any where, any time, any how -- so why are you asking about the detectors??????
>
> Sheesh, you really are spectacularly successful at missing the point of any thought experiment I present!

I was simply asking rhetorical questions of Tom. The Hoggs as you present it is a very uninteresting thought experiment because there is nothing to explore through it.

You're a physicist, you must know better than me the history of some of the great arguments pursued through thought experiments. They were great because they weren't self contained; they were not in effect tautologies. Sometimes, the point I was making to Tom, they were interesting because it was when the protagonists thought deeply and concretely about the setup that the argument got going. I was suggesting to Tom that he thinks about what 'any detector' might mean.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> The Hoggs as you present it is a very uninteresting thought experiment because there is nothing to explore through it.

Other than the meaning of "exists". What do people think? Could you imagine saying "Yes, in my opinion the Hoggs exists"? (Again, the Hoggs is, ex hypothesi, a particle which interacts with other Hoggs but has not interaction at all with anything else.)
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> No.
>
> [...]
>
> And the crucial parts of that are "in line with that expected". The point about the Higgs is that -- ex hypothesi -- it is expected to have a detectable effect in a given energy range in CERN detectors. If it didn't then it would not "exist".
>
> As for stuff beyond our observable horizon, it is *not* expected to have any discernible effect on our Earthly detectors, because it is too far away.

Brilliant. You now have a category of things that 'exist' because we can't expect to detect them? Such as multiverses with no causal connection to our universe? Unicorns wearing impossible to overcome invisibility cloaks designed by an all powerful God for the fun of it on his day of rest?
Shani - on 28 Nov 2012
Whatever the misgivings the philsophers have about what 'exists' means and how this punches a big hole in 'science', I would hazard a guess that 'science' and the scientific method that they find so wanting when it comes to god, is something they are perfectly happy with when it comes to medicine or travelling by aircraft.
Postmanpat on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> I have not done that. Under my definition of "exist" "is" is not a synonym -- as I quite clearly explained.

Not under yours, no, so as a matter of politeness I shall use "is" to avoid confusing you.

Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Brilliant. You now have a category of things that 'exist' because we can't expect to detect them?

No, not "because" of that. If they "exist" it's because they are part of a causal chain of links that we can link to.

> Such as multiverses with no causal connection to our universe?

Nope, those do *not* exist in my definition!

> Unicorns wearing impossible to overcome invisibility cloaks designed by an all powerful God for the fun of it on his day of rest?

I have no evidence that such things exist. Do you?
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owlart - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: You've told us that your definition of 'exists' is so far the best one available, and that as far as you're aware it's entirely original and your own work.

Have you thought of publishing this in a relevant Philosophical Journal to further advance mankind's knowledge and understanding? I'm not sure an online climbing forum is the place to limit such discoveries to.
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

How do you propose to investigate whether anything is a part of a causal chain that we can link to? By detecting an influence? But no, it can't be that because you have said that is not what you mean - you are quite prepared to accept that our universe might contain regions that exist but which have no discernible influence on us and could not under current theory.

I have no evidence for Gods, Unicorns or Multiverses. I do not believe in the first two (believe, note). I don't know what I think about the last one.

Tell me more about your evidence for the existence of regions beyond the observable universe.
Wonko The Sane - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: Reminds me of Coel and Tim

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lL4L4Uv5rf0
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:

> But this is a blatant cop out, especially with regards to the not so well hidden question behind this discussion, i.e. whether or not god exists.

No its not, and this is just a statement about your wishful thinking. I don't see what this has to do with god, but seeing as you bring it up, just because you can a priori recognise existence doesn't mean that you can willy nilly decide what you mean by it, there has to be frames of reference involved, which is I believe the acceptance of my own subjective existence (pretty concrete established knowledge). A belief in god does not work a priori: "God exists" doesn't work, either because "exists" is not a predicate, or because using it as a predicate does not make it real. The only person who is deciding freely to define terms to suit their own endpoints is Coel, and its a meaningless exercise.

> Yes, you can treat "existence" as a primary, nonreducable concept and decline giving a test for ascribing existence to a given entity. This will allow you to treat anything and nothing as "evidence" for the existence of god.

No, it just recognises a primacy in the concept, which is I think an expression of our recognition of being, and attributing such to the external things we sense. Did you try and successfully defeat my above a priori tests on existence and being? It does not recognise anything as evidence.

> It will also lead to the blatantly idiotic conclusion that drawing pictures of dragons has anything to say about their existence.

No, its just a truism. What Tim is delineating is that, because you have an experience of reality, the things that you can sketch (conceive of and describe) in detail are more likely to be real than things that you cannot. If you cannot describe them then you are unlikely to be experientially / empirically inspired by the object that you sketch. This doesn't mean in an absolute sense that you can will dragons into existence!! For example, the only reason so many are familiar with and can sketch and express the idea of a dragon is because they do exist as images on a page, in a book probably historically inspired by some other creature etc. Something that causes and apple to fall to the ground can exist because it is a phenomenon that can be experienced.

> I and others would argue that this approach renders the category "exists" defined in this way useless, and that conversely, a useful definition of any category must include a means of deciding whether a given entity fulfils this definition.

It hasn't been defined, its been posited as a primary truth which we can recognise.

> In this context, defining "existence" as the ability to interact in principle with other stuff accepted to exist

Well that's the most honest expression of Coel's idea yet, and you can't see the circularity and teleology of it?!!!!!!
mark s - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: one thing this thread has left me and im sure others thinking is why do people even bother with philosophy these days.pointless springs to mind.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> How do you propose to investigate whether anything is a part of a causal chain that we
> can link to? By detecting an influence?

Yes.

> you are quite prepared to accept that our universe might contain regions that exist but which have no
> discernible influence on us and could not under current theory.

Yes. In other words there are limits to what humans can know. That is not the same as a limit to what can "exist". There are lots of well-posed and genuine questions to which humans cannot know the answer.

Indeed I wrote a whole blog post on that: http://coelsblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/scientism-and-questions-science-cannot-answer/

> Tell me more about your evidence for the existence of regions beyond the observable universe.

I don't have evidence for them, other than as "more of the same" extrapolations of what we do know about. Again, I'm not claiming that humans can know everything there is to know or answer all well-posed questions.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

>> In this context, defining "existence" as the ability to interact in principle with other stuff accepted to exist

> Well that's the most honest expression of Coel's idea yet, and you can't see the circularity and teleology of it?!!!!!!

Nope I can't. Can you explain explicitly?
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> If we can test the hypothesis then it isn't a basic assumption that we just have to trust.

How do you test the hypothesis: I? Or I am?
How do you test the hypothesis: Reality? Or reality is?
How do you test the hypothesis: Reality exists apart from me?

> I don't know what that statement means. What does it mean to say that "existence" is "true"? Does it mean "some things exist"? By "a priori" true, do you mean "we have to take on trust that some thing or things "exist"?

No, I mean it is logically impossible to object to the a priori truth of existence and being.

> As I've said before, that seems to me a cop-out; it essentially says, let's just proceed with an *intuitive* idea of "exists". and let's not examine it further. If we're asking basic questions, we need to examine it further, or admit our lack of understanding. Saying it is "a primary concept" isn't an explanation, it's a cop-out.

No, it creates a coordination of the objective world with the subjective experience of it, because I am.

> No, I *define* what I mean by existence. It's not a presupposition.

So what inspired this personal unique definition, and why the use of the word "exists" rather than "Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptangya Ziiinnggggggg Ni!" Of course you have presupposed, because the concept of existence has inspired your definition, and because you cannot define you word without recourse to some aspect of the concept existence / is / are / have being / are real etc

> I disagree, as I see it there is a third possibility:
>
> 3) Examine what we mean by terms such as "reality" and "existence" and examine whether those concepts are in line with the evidence, or whether better concepts would explain the evidence better.

What is the concept of "existence" and "reality", and how was that established in your brain experientially?
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

OK, thanks. I've got to go out soon so will sign off for today.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> How do you test the hypothesis: I? Or I am?

Sorry, what hypothesis?

> How do you test the hypothesis: Reality? Or reality is?

Ditto.

> How do you test the hypothesis: Reality exists apart from me?

You accumulate all information and evidence about "myself" and about "reality", and you see whether explanations and predictions work better under "Reality exists apart from me" or under "I am the only thing that exists".

> No, I mean it is logically impossible to object to the a priori truth of existence and being.

Do you mean "there is at least one thing that exists and that one thing is me"?

> So what inspired this personal unique definition ...

See my reasoning for it about the Hoggs boson up-thread.

> What is the concept of "existence" and "reality", and how was that established in your brain experientially?

I've explained and defined "existence" as that which can impinge on sense data, and that which has a chain of causal links to what which can impinge on sense data. This idea was established in my brain from a consideration of sense data.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> >> In this context, defining "existence" as the ability to interact in principle with other stuff accepted to exist

> Nope I can't. Can you explain explicitly?

I don't think you can get more circular. Can you really not see it? To paraphrase: Things have the property existence that have a relationship (termed interaction in principle) with things that exist. More simply, existence is defined with respect to things that already have the property existence. So how do we first establish this concept existence without defining it wrt itself?
cb294 - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to cb294)

>
> Well that's the most honest expression of Coel's idea yet, and you can't see the circularity and teleology of it?!!!!!!

That is what you see, I see beauty in functionality.

Unlike the philosophers´ approach, such an operational definition generates a consistent and testable model of reality and thus scientific and intellectual progress.

(OK, that is slightly exaggerated, but still!)

CB
cb294 - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

>
> [...]
> So how do we first establish this concept existence without defining it wrt itself?

By rejecting solipsism and accepting that our sensory experiences and their mental representations in our mind do indeed reflect a base reality external to our mind.

CB
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Sorry, what hypothesis?
What's difficult? The hypothesis: I am

> Ditto.
The hypothesis: reality is

> You accumulate all information and evidence about "myself" and about "reality", and you see whether explanations and predictions work better under "Reality exists apart from me" or under "I am the only thing that exists".

How has the "I am" been established here, and where has the concept of "reality" derived from?

> Do you mean "there is at least one thing that exists and that one thing is me"?

No, it wasn't a difficult concept.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> I don't think you can get more circular. Can you really not see it? To paraphrase: Things have
> the property existence that have a relationship (termed interaction in principle) with things
> that exist. More simply, existence is defined with respect to things that already have the property
> existence. So how do we first establish this concept existence without defining it wrt itself?

Ah, I see what you're getting at now. However, I don't define it as "Things have the property existence that have a relationship (termed interaction in principle) with things that exist". I define it as "things have the property existence that have a relationship (termed interaction in principle) with my sense data". Thus "my sense data" is the starting point. That isn't circular.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> What's difficult? The hypothesis: I am

I am what? Is it: "I am the sort of thing that impinges on my sense data and thus exists"? If so, yes, I make that hypothesis, and can test it.

> The hypothesis: reality is

Reality is what? Unless you define "reality" and "is" I don't see how that's even a hypothesis.

> How has the "I am" been established here ...

The starting point is the experience of primary sense data.

> ... and where has the concept of "reality" derived from?

It's been derived from trying to make sense of sense data.
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
>
> [...]
>
> Ah, I see what you're getting at now. However, I don't define it as "Things have the property existence that have a relationship (termed interaction in principle) with things that exist". I define it as "things have the property existence that have a relationship (termed interaction in principle) with my sense data". Thus "my sense data" is the starting point. That isn't circular.

Can't resist, one more before I go out.

I'm sure I rememeber you reversing this as well: things don't exist if they can't interact with my sense data.

Do you still reverse it, and what does this imply for regions of the universe beyond the observable universe?
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Ah, I see what you're getting at now. However, I don't define it as "Things have the property existence that have a relationship (termed interaction in principle) with things that exist". I define it as "things have the property existence that have a relationship (termed interaction in principle) with my sense data". Thus "my sense data" is the starting point. That isn't circular.

Of course it is, unless you'd have it that your sense data doesn't exist. If you think your sense data exists, your still defining the term with respect to itself, its just a little more hidden.

Thats what was mean by the hypothesis: "I am"? Which can be more simply states as "I"? Einstein above had a good response to this, and now cb294 has too.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:

> By rejecting solipsism and accepting that our sensory experiences and their mental representations in our mind do indeed reflect a base reality external to our mind.

Nice one! Now we're getting somewhere! Before we've made any assumptions and decided on the question of solipsism or external reality, is there anything we can know? Such as "I am"?

There is a correlation between this and these tests:

Lets try a different tack to illustrate what I mean further:
Statement: Existence is a priori true.
Because if you object to this statement, then you recognise a standard (that exists) with which you can judge that statement by.

Statement: Being is a priori true.
Because if you object to this statement, you deny your own subjective being that is doing the objecting.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> things don't exist if they can't interact with my sense data.

Or rather, things don't exist if they don't have a possible chain of causal connections with my sense data.

> what does this imply for regions of the universe beyond the observable universe?

They do have a possible chain of causal connections with my sense data.
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Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Before we've made any assumptions and decided on the question of solipsism or external reality,
> is there anything we can know? Such as "I am"?

Well, there is our sense data. As I've said, that experience is the starting point.

> Lets try a different tack to illustrate what I mean further:
> Statement: Existence is a priori true.

Again, I don't understand what that means.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:

> That is what you see, I see beauty in functionality.
> Unlike the philosophers´ approach, such an operational definition generates a consistent and testable model of reality and thus scientific and intellectual progress.
> (OK, that is slightly exaggerated, but still!)

Good comment, but I don't think the two are mutually exclusive! Its just that its true there is a commitment involved somewhere along the line. You're right about the beauty in functionality though, because what Coel is defining is an algorithm for establishing empirical facts, which I'm happy with, it just can't give rise to the concept of existence.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Well, there is our sense data. As I've said, that experience is the starting point.

Still circular

> Again, I don't understand what that means.

Okay try again.. ..this is the form that wiki has it in:
Epistemology studies criteria of truth, defining "primary truths" inherently accepted in the investigation of knowledge. The first is existence. It is inherent in every analysis. Its self-evident, a priori nature cannot be consistently doubted, since a person objecting to existence according to some standard of proof must implicitly accept the standard's existence as a premise.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Okay try again.. ..this is the form that wiki has it in:

That doesn't explain what is wrong with (or circular about):

1) There is the experience of sense data.
2) I define as "existing" those things that cause sense data.
3) As best I can judge (from analysis of sense data), things X, Y and Z exist (i.e. can cause sense data). As best I can judge I also "exist" (I can cause sense data).
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> [...]
>
> [...]
>
> That is what you see, I see beauty in functionality.
>
> Unlike the philosophers´ approach, such an operational definition generates a consistent and testable model of reality and thus scientific and intellectual progress.
>

I think you are unfair to say 'unlike the philosophers' approach' because your functional and testable view of reality seems to me to be a rather close modern articulation of Aristotle's view of the world.

Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

By 'world' of course I mean in modern terms 'universe'. i.e. I slipped into old philosophical jargon there, sorry!
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> That doesn't explain what is wrong with (or circular about):

It wasn't meant to. It shows how the concept of existence can be regarded as a primary truth.

> 1) There is the experience of sense data.

Does this sense data exist or not? If yes, you are still requireing something that has the property existence to decide on the concept of existence. Its still circular.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Does this sense data exist or not?

That's something we decide on the evidence (given my definition of "exist"); the verdict seems to be "yes".
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> That's something we decide on the evidence (given my definition of "exist"); the verdict seems to be "yes".

Still doesn't work. Does the "evidence" exist or not? Otherwise you're still using the something with the property "existence" to define what you think "exists"! As I said a very long time, this is logically a self fulfilling prophecy, a circular definition. Its good if you want to use it as an algorithm to establish new facts, but you can't define "existence" that way.

And do you dispute the primary truth argument? If so why?
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Still doesn't work. Does the "evidence" exist or not?

That's something we decide by interpreting sense data; the verdict seems to be "yes".
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> That's something we decide by interpreting sense data; the verdict seems to be "yes".

And again rendered circular with the question of the existence of the sense data... ...ad infinitum. No matter how many times you restate the same thing in different ways doesn't make it true!!!! You're just walking over very very old tired ground.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

And do you dispute the primary truth argument? If so why?

Epistemology studies criteria of truth, defining "primary truths" inherently accepted in the investigation of knowledge. The first is existence. It is inherent in every analysis. Its self-evident, a priori nature cannot be consistently doubted, since a person objecting to existence according to some standard of proof must implicitly accept the standard's existence as a premise.

Or are you just going to continue with the scientism and anti-philosophy?
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> And again rendered circular with the question of the existence of the sense data... ...ad infinitum.

It's not circular. You do not have to accept that the sense data "exists" before considering it. You can decide whether it "exists" afterwards.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> And do you dispute the primary truth argument? If so why?

I don't accept that "existence" is a primary truth as I've defined "existence". I do accept that the experience of sense data is a starting point.
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

But one probably has to accept that sense date 'exist' in the sense of the phenomena, and in well set up scientific experiments that those phenomena have some kind of external physical cause ? ?
Robert Durran - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker)
>
> [...]
>
> Nothing. I think everyone except Coel, thought it was a ridiculous decision.

I thought Coel approved because it was a ridiculous decision!
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> But one probably has to accept that sense date 'exist' in the sense of the phenomena, and in well set up scientific experiments that those phenomena have some kind of external physical cause ? ?

Yes. One has to accept the sense data exists as a phenomenon (whether or not it refers to something else existing is another matter). Its still circular.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I thought Coel approved because it was a ridiculous decision!

Yes, you're right!.. ..and because it would be bad for the church.
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> [...]
>
> Yes. One has to accept the sense data exists as a phenomenon (whether or not it refers to something else existing is another matter). Its still circular.

I don't follow you. How can sense data that are not internal to the observer, e.g lights in space, not refer to something other than the data?
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> I don't accept that "existence" is a primary truth as I've defined "existence".

But that's not got anything to do with existence (except as a fallacious circular definition unique to Coel world), and I think you should call it "Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptangya Ziiinnggggggg Ni!" to stop it being confused with existence, besides which, its a far better name for the algorithm-al tool you're describing!

Anyway, can find a fallacy in the primary truth argument? Or are you denying trying it because of your new derivative circular invention.

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Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> I don't follow you. How can sense data that are not internal to the observer, e.g lights in space, not refer to something other than the data?

Well clearly senses are phenomenal, they must be acceoted to exist, but what stimulates them might not because a hallucination is not the same as a desert oasis, and red is not the same as green etc. Something exists to stimulate the senses. If we're not careful, we're getting closer and closer to....
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

... we are getting closer and closer to accepting that some physical thing or force exists to cause the sense data. If we don't accept this we end up in Bishop Berkeley's absurd position of thinking that the 'tree' data he observes 'in the quad' - that can be observed, touched, or collided with by hundreds of independent witnesses (or even have branches sawn off it for firewood) - is a figment of his and their collective imagination.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> ... we are getting closer and closer to accepting that some physical thing or force exists to cause the sense data. If we don't accept this we end up in Bishop Berkeley's absurd position of thinking that the 'tree' data he observes 'in the quad' - that can be observed, touched, or collided with by hundreds of independent witnesses (or even have branches sawn off it for firewood) - is a figment of his and their collective imagination.

Yes. Something exists. Its just not definite what. What is definite is that we are experiencing something, and that experience in itself exists.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

And I was going to say:

......closer and closer to the parallel criticisms that defeat "I think therefore I am", because I (a thing which exists), think (a sense / feeling I have that exists) proves that I exist. Its coel's problem all over again.
Solaris - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> I do accept that the experience of sense data is a starting point.

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=VLz2F1zMr9QC&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22The+scientific+ima...

Try chapter 1.

captain paranoia - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Coming late to the 'exist' problem, and giving up trawling through the thread at about halfway, it seems to me that Tim's problem with your 'if we can detect it, it exists' definition is that there may be things that we are currently unable to detect with our limited understanding of the world. Hence the question about whether the Higgs boson existed 100 years ago; at that time, we would not have had the ability to detect it, and therefore it would not 'exist'. I know you added 'in principle', but the problem is that we're not yet the omniscient observer.

Things that we might not yet be able to detect might include ghosts. Or God.

In which case, it does, as we might expect, come down to pure belief in something that we are currently unable to detect. Although I think Tim has argued that there's plenty of what he considers to be evidence of God's existence, even if I don't think any of that evidence is valid.

None of which makes me feel the need for God to exist, or to believe that he does.
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

No, I don't accept that. With scientific sense data (as observed at Cern) we are not talking about things that exist in the sense of emotions, but physical things in the broadest sense of the term. Certainly external to us. Don't many scientific experiments consist of independent tests that confirm the same hypothesis? E.g to use the tree in the quad example. Someone could cut off a branch and then put it in a fireplace, and then toast some bread with the heat. Unless some piece of magic /conjuring trick was employed we would have to accept the reality of the wood that 'causes' both the original tree phenomemon and the later warmth phenomenon
craigloon - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Solaris:

Summarise it for us lazy buggers, there's a good chap.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> No, I don't accept that.

What don't you accept? That the physical aspects of our sensing system exists, because it is that that does the experiencing. I'm not trying to remove the situation to mind and thus cartesian dualism, I am merely recognising that the subjective experience, a phenomenon, exists. If you deny that, you necessarily deny your being.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Yes. One has to accept the sense data exists as a phenomenon (whether or not it refers to something
> else existing is another matter). Its still circular.

No, you don't have to accept that the sense data "exist" (in the sense of my definition), one merely has to accept that one is experiencing them.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> What is definite is that we are experiencing something, ...

Yep, and that's all.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> No, you don't have to accept that the sense data "exist" (in the sense of my definition), one merely has to accept that one is experiencing them.

So you have to accept "one" is. Same problem. Seriously, this doesn't work.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Yep, and that's all.

Nope, there is the existence of the we (or I) and the existence of the experience to deal with.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Nope, there is the existence of the we (or I) and the existence of the experience to deal with.

You're repeatedly telling me that I must accept the "existence" of those things when you haven't explained what "existence" means. That's a rather bizarre concept, telling me that I must accept something undefined. I think it is you who would be clearer if you used a silly alternative:

Jimbo:

Nope, there is the Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptangya Ziiinnggggggg Ni! of the we (or I) and the Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptangya Ziiinnggggggg Ni! of the experience to deal with.
Robert Durran - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> Nope, there is the Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptangya Ziiinnggggggg Ni! of the we (or I) and the Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptangya Ziiinnggggggg Ni! of the experience to deal with.

.........anyway, what do we think of strong emergence?

cb294 - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
> [...]
>
> So you have to accept "one" is. Same problem. Seriously, this doesn't work.

But is does work (at least for me)!

Natural scientists tend to treat existence as an operational definition and ignore potentially underlying philosophical principles, while philosophers run into the need to appeal to fundamental priciples after one step of reduction and thus can´t do anything useful anymore (this should of course be read cum grano salis ).

What I find amazing is that a thread started on an essentially political question can turn to philosophy, trigger autoarchiving, and run to hundreds of posts in its reincarnation (1000+ in total) on a climbing forum!

CB

Robert Durran - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> What I find amazing is that a thread started on an essentially political question can turn to philosophy, trigger autoarchiving, and run to hundreds of posts in its reincarnation (1000+ in total) on a climbing forum!

Yes, this is the 1250th post of the combined threads. UKC at its best -though the definition of "exist" is beginning to drag a bit. But I still want to know what we think about strong emergence.......
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:

> But is does work (at least for me)!
> Natural scientists tend to treat existence as an operational definition and ignore potentially underlying philosophical principles, while philosophers run into the need to appeal to fundamental priciples after one step of reduction and thus can´t do anything useful anymore (this should of course be read cum grano salis ).

You've made your commitment to reality, as did Einstein, accepted it for what you think it is, existent / real, and moved on. You haven't unless you want to start again try to say that the concept of existence is establishable through a circular argument vis a vis Coel. You as far as I can tell accept that having accepted reality, Coel's kind of method is good for defining other facts about existence. As someone who does think philosophy is important, and valuable, I'm not so different to you, I've accepted reality for what it is and moved on.
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

Well, I'm a total philosophical 'realist' in that I accept as a starting point that there is an external world, independent of me. No Cartesian doubt whatsoever. But you say you accept reality 'for what it is'. This is where I'm lost, because that's just the problem we've been talking about: we don't know what the reality is, even if we are certain (on basis of applied logic alone) that it must exist. What it is is the job of science to explore, and never something that they can or should 'move on' from. We've come light years in unravelling quite a lot of these mysteries in the last century and a half.

The question for both philosophers and scientists is not whether there is reality, but what it is. The philosophical solution tends towards saying that there are many different kinds of reality, for different beings, and another one again when it's all reduced to the pure physical facts of particles, forces, and (apparent) 'laws of nature', etc.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> The question for both philosophers and scientists is not whether there is reality, but what it is.

I agree, which is why I don't like the "accept it as primal and don't ask questions" approach that Tim outlined. Maybe I'm weird, but I do consider it an interesting question as to whether a causally disconnected universe would "exist".
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John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

In reply to John Gillott:

> things don't exist if they can't interact with my sense data.

Or rather, things don't exist if they don't have a possible chain of causal connections with my sense data.

> what does this imply for regions of the universe beyond the observable universe?

They do have a possible chain of causal connections with my sense data.


You are positing a chain of causal connections as the key thing. You are saying they can exist even if they do not and cannot interact with sense data, for under current thinking nothing could ever be detected beyond the observable universe and yet you posit a causal chain stretching from unobservable regions to us. If you extend the meaning of causal chains this far, how do you know causal chains exist? Perhaps you are applying the word 'possible' to the chain rather than the influence running along the chain? I don't think you can have it twice - possible influence via possible chains. If you stretch it that far you'll have a definition of existence we can all agree on, or should I say characterisation, with a nod to Tim's earlier comments?
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> ... yet you posit a causal chain stretching from unobservable regions to us. If you extend the meaning
> of causal chains this far, how do you know causal chains exist?

I don't "know" that there are causal chains linking us to beyond the observable universe; I can't know that there is existence beyond the observable horizon. But that's just a limitation on what we humans can know. If there were such causal chains then the stuff would qualify for my category "exists". But I'm not claiming that we can ever know about everything that qualifies (indeed we clearly can't). All I'm doing is outlining the properties that stuff would have to have for me to say it "exists".
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> [...]
>
> I agree, which is why I don't like the "accept it as primal and don't ask questions" approach that Tim outlined. Maybe I'm weird, but I do consider it an interesting question as to whether a causally disconnected universe would "exist".

Coel, I know you're weird in lots of ways (joke), but not in this crucial one. Asking questions - and, actually, never quite being satisfied with any of the 'answers', because they always inevitably fall short - is absolutely central to philosophy and science alike. Not that they are, or ever have been, very far apart.

John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> I don't "know" that there are causal chains linking us to beyond the observable universe; I can't know that there is existence beyond the observable horizon. But that's just a limitation on what we humans can know. If there were such causal chains then the stuff would qualify for my category "exists". But I'm not claiming that we can ever know about everything that qualifies (indeed we clearly can't). All I'm doing is outlining the properties that stuff would have to have for me to say it "exists".

I don't mean just to ask how you know a causal chain stretches from us beyond the observable universe, I mean also to ask how you know there is such a thing as a causal chain, ie an entity that is a causal chain, if it can include a chain that you cannot in principle experience / experience the effects of.

Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> I don't "know" that there are causal chains linking us to beyond the observable universe; I can't know that there is existence beyond the observable horizon. But that's just a limitation on what we humans can know. If there were such causal chains then the stuff would qualify for my category "exists". But I'm not claiming that we can ever know about everything that qualifies (indeed we clearly can't). All I'm doing is outlining the properties that stuff would have to have for me to say it "exists".

I have always been of the opinion that there is a fuzzy boundary of knowledge that we are always pushing back (amazingly), and an equally amazing ability to reconstruct our conceptual framework, as if there are no limits to our possible understanding, within the universe that we can observe. (Being a bit cheeky now, as an agnostic, but it would be rather bloody embarrassing, wouldn't it, if we were one day to discover that there *is* some kind of creative higher intelligence at work in the universe? Please take this latter quip as a joke. I have no desire to discuss anything so outrageous right now.)
Rob Exile Ward on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: 'it would be rather bloody embarrassing, wouldn't it, if we were one day to discover that there *is* some kind of creative higher intelligence at work in the universe?'

Not embarrassing, not to me, not at all. It would however raise a difficult question how such a higher intelligence could have watched children wrenched from their parents to be herded into gas chambers (personally, the worst thing I can imagine, but it happened) without some practical intervention.

And yes I know what Tim's respone will be, and it will simply display the paucity of his imagination and empathy.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> I mean also to ask how you know there is such a thing as a causal chain, ie an entity that is a causal chain, ...

We know that there are causal chains. We know that one particle can affect another particle, we know that the second particle can affect a third, and the third can affect a fourth, etc. That's all I mean by a casual chain.
John Gillott - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

We know these affects exist because? Because we can detect them? Are you putting detection centre stage again rather than the existence of causal chains? I think you need to make the attempt to specify very specifically what you are saying about detection and causal chains, taking great care at each step not to use a circular argument.
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth) 'it would be rather bloody embarrassing, wouldn't it, if we were one day to discover that there *is* some kind of creative higher intelligence at work in the universe?'
>
> Not embarrassing, not to me, not at all. It would however raise a difficult question how such a higher intelligence could have watched children wrenched from their parents to be herded into gas chambers (personally, the worst thing I can imagine, but it happened) without some practical intervention.
>

What you're talking about is some kind of (sorry to say) rather old-fashioned notion of a higher intelligence that I've never understood or ever been remotely interested in, because it makes no logical sense. If we're going to talk about ancient ('primitive') depictions of the idea I'm talking about, the Hindu concept of Shiva was remarkably percipient. Picked up later in a rather similar vein by Spinoza and Einstein, to name just two.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Well, I'm a total philosophical 'realist' in that I accept as a starting point that there is an external world, independent of me. No Cartesian doubt whatsoever. But you say you accept reality 'for what it is'. This is where I'm lost, because that's just the problem we've been talking about: we don't know what the reality is, even if we are certain (on basis of applied logic alone) that it must exist. What it is is the job of science to explore, and never something that they can or should 'move on' from. We've come light years in unravelling quite a lot of these mysteries in the last century and a half.
> The question for both philosophers and scientists is not whether there is reality, but what it is. The philosophical solution tends towards saying that there are many different kinds of reality, for different beings, and another one again when it's all reduced to the pure physical facts of particles, forces, and (apparent) 'laws of nature', etc.

Can an advocate of Spinoza be a total philosophical 'realist'?!! What I mean by accepting reality 'for what it is' is that I accept reality as real and furthermore accept what it reveals about itself. I agree with the starting point Einstein takes in my quote above. I diverge a bit though because I think there is a fundamental inherence between reality and our ability to conceive of it, and there is a fundamental personal component involved in theory about reality, which means science is never just an empirical exercise.

I could make a distinction about what I think about reality.. ..I am a realist, not a skeptic, a monist, and otherwise uncommitted, but I think the world is not independent of me, nor me of it. I want to be a realist with regard to science. However, what I think about the state of science is that it has an objectionable character of anti-realism about it that is largely unconcerned with truth, and is rather content with "empirical adequacy" (Massimo Pigliucci's description). I think Coel's divulgence and discussion around his ideas betrays exactly that kind of closed minded form in what he regards as exists. We see the same when Hawking says (debating with Penrose) about quantum theory:
I don't demand that a theory correspond to reality because I don't know what it is. Reality is not a quality you can test with litmus paper. All I'm concerned with is that the theory should predict the results of measurements. Quantum theory does this very successfully.
Where's the truth of reality in all this?
cb294 - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to cb294)
> [...]
>
> Yes, this is the 1250th post of the combined threads. UKC at its best -though the definition of "exist" is beginning to drag a bit. But I still want to know what we think about strong emergence.......

Secondary trolling?



Sir Chasm - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: You've alluded to this "higher intelligence" often, do you think it exists?
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to the thread:

Just thought I'd add: One of things that led me to my definition of "exists" was considering Everett's Many Worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics, which as we all know, solves a lot of conceptual problems about quantum mechanics. The drawback is that it postulates a universe that is continually splitting up into from-then-on-disconnected multiverses, and doing so ad-infinitem. One can then ask whether these disconnected universe are actually "real" or not. About half the proponents of MWI think they are real, about half don't.

Under my interpretation of "exist", one can accept the WMI, and accept a continually splitting multiverse, and then declare that the newly disconnected parallel existences ... don't actually "exist", since they're disconnected. This way you get the best of both: the many benefits of MWI, without the drawbacks of postulating the "existence" of a continually-splitting multiverse. Many notable physicists (Max Tegmark for example) opt for a many-worlds QM interpretation without the many worlds being "real".
Postmanpat on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> [...]
>
>
> However, what I think about the state of science is that it has an objectionable character of anti-realism about it that is largely unconcerned with truth, and is rather content with "empirical adequacy" (Massimo Pigliucci's description). I think Coel's divulgence and discussion around his ideas betrays exactly that kind of closed minded form in what he regards as exists.
>
+1
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Are you putting detection centre stage again rather than the existence of causal chains?

Detection (aka evidence) certainly is centre stage in considering what *we* can know. And we detect the causal chains. Again, the distinction here is between (1) what we mean by "exists", and (2) what we can know "exists".
cb294 - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> [...]
> We see the same when Hawking says (debating with Penrose) about quantum theory:
> I don't demand that a theory correspond to reality because I don't know what it is. Reality is not a quality you can test with litmus paper. All I'm concerned with is that the theory should predict the results of measurements. Quantum theory does this very successfully.
> Where's the truth of reality in all this?

The truth lies in the fact that a physical model of the world which is based on this specific concept of reality works.

If it didn´t, you would have to decide whether to reject your model or your concept.

CB
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

Also, could I make a plea that you refrain from making bitchy comments about other posters, particularly your judgement about their 'paucity of imagination and empathy' etc? As such words bounce around the internet they have a nasty habit of taking on an ironic life of their own.
Coel Hellier - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Where's the truth of reality in all this?

Maybe Hawking's quote *is* the truth about "reality"?
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth) You've alluded to this "higher intelligence" often, do you think it exists?

Oh, for goodness sake, just get out a dictionary to see what agnostic means. It means, no, I have no reason to think so, but that I'm a relatively ignorant kind of guy who could be proved wrong.

Robert Durran - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> Secondary trolling?

No. Genuinely interested.

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Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Maybe Hawking's quote *is* the truth about "reality"?

No, its the truth about his attitude to it.
Robert Durran - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
>
> [...]
>
> Maybe Hawking's quote *is* the truth about "reality"?

In a sense that means there is a reality out there but (pessimistically) believing that we'll never know anything of any substance about it?

Sir Chasm - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: No need to be snippy, I think I know what agnostic means but I don't see how that means you could be proved "wrong" in thinking that some things are currently unknowable. But anyway, you've brought up a higher intelligence so many times I think you're just a bit coy.
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth) You've alluded to this "higher intelligence" often, do you think it exists?

OK, I was a bit peremptory with my last posting to you about this. I have a hunch that there is some kind of 'intelligence' at work in nature, that is utterly unlike our human, conscious intelligence, but very intelligent all the same. I.e. that nature has some kind of innate 'intelligence' that we haven't begun to understand yet. Very broadly, my reasons for this hunch boll down to nature looking far too systemic, from the periodic table onwards, for it to be merely the product of sheer chance and necessity. I'm not at all sure that chance could do it, because I have an unshaking belief that logic is more powerful than mere dice-throwing.

As I say, it's just a hunch, based on some philosophical ideas, that could be proved completely wrong. But no big deal, because it's certainly not any kind of theory that I'm clinging to, despite logical voices that are screaming to me the whole time that we just have not got the overall picture right.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> You're repeatedly telling me that I must accept the "existence" of those things when you haven't explained what "existence" means. That's a rather bizarre concept, telling me that I must accept something undefined. I think it is you who would be clearer if you used a silly alternative:

Existence cannot be defined because it is a primary truth, an axiom, upon which all theory and knowledge must rest. I'm agnostic about the absolutes of how this axiomatic truth emerges, but it is realised in all of us as a function of our childhood development. Self awareness emerges, and solipsism is eventually rejected. Objects start as conceptually impermanent and become permanent. Somewhere during this process we achieve this axiomatic realisation as a function of our emerging subjective awareness. The assumptive realisation "I am", leads to the logical inference "they also are", and eventually to "everything is". All this happens not as some ex post facto empirical scientism, like Coel would have it defined, but as a basic inherence between our emerging self and the world around us. The remarkable fact is that we do pretty much collectively understand what we mean by the word existence, even despite its lack of formal definition, and despite that we can only express what we mean by recourse to other related concepts: being, is, am, are real, and without the necessary expertise of either a scientist or a philosopher.

Neither can philosophical critical thinking establish a definition for existence, but it can bring us back to one piece of knowledge which we can be absolutely sure about, that I am, that I exist (though there are some philosophical objections to this), which of course is an expression which is tautological as the "I" also is presupposed to exist. This is to utter a non-logical axiom, what is believed to be a basic statement of truth.
Rob Exile Ward on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: Given that I didn't refer to any other poster, then 'if the cap fits...' would appear to apply.

And no; it is fundamental. Any pathetic concept of 'God is love' must shrivel when faced with the reality of what we know humans have experienced/inflicted, in our own lifetimes certainly, and in the lifetimes of our parents on an industrial scale. There's a moment in Mervyn Peak when he describe something evil so vividly, that you move on - and then you remember, he's not making that up, he saw that, he was there.

So no, I think 'paucity of imagination and empathy' in people who purport to believe in an omniscient and benevolent god reflects my view pretty well.
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> I don't see how that means you could be proved "wrong" in thinking that some things are currently unknowable.

I was talking only about things that could, one day, be knowable. Nothing rules out the possibility that they could become within the reach of science, and thus that I could be proved either completely right or completely wrong on this.

Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to the thread)
>
> Just thought I'd add: One of things that led me to my definition of "exists" was considering Everett's Many Worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics, which as we all know, solves a lot of conceptual problems about quantum mechanics. The drawback is that it postulates a universe that is continually splitting up into from-then-on-disconnected multiverses, and doing so ad-infinitem. One can then ask whether these disconnected universe are actually "real" or not. About half the proponents of MWI think they are real, about half don't.
>
> Under my interpretation of "exist", one can accept the WMI, and accept a continually splitting multiverse, and then declare that the newly disconnected parallel existences ... don't actually "exist", since they're disconnected. This way you get the best of both: the many benefits of MWI, without the drawbacks of postulating the "existence" of a continually-splitting multiverse. Many notable physicists (Max Tegmark for example) opt for a many-worlds QM interpretation without the many worlds being "real".

Wow. Its like fitting pieces of a puzzle together! Give yourself a clap on the back, resting assured that you've taught us something new about reality!!?
Robert Durran - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> Nature has some kind of innate 'intelligence' that we haven't begun to understand yet. Very broadly, my reasons for this hunch boll down to nature looking far too systemic, from the periodic table onwards, for it to be merely the product of sheer chance and necessity. I'm not at all sure that chance could do it, because I have an unshaking belief that logic is more powerful than mere dice-throwing.

Isn't the entire periodic table a product of a few simple laws of nuclear physics? And, for example, the whole of evolution from primitive replicating molecules to us is the product of "dice throwing". I cannot see the need for your "innate intelligence".
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

> I and obviously others arent anti philosopher but simply wanting a coherent statement of what is being said! I apparently after many posts have still missedTims point. I really do wa t know what he is trying say but he cant seem to put it languagr that communicates it to me. Likewise he clearly doesn't get my posts. I cant make anything of what you post either. There seems to be a split in the language and basiv assumptions so great that communicatiom is impossible.

Are you any the wiser now?!
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth) Given that I didn't refer to any other poster, then 'if the cap fits...' would appear to apply.
>

You did. You referred quite specifically to another poster by name, at 21:59. That was what I was referring to. Nothing else. Honesty surely applies on the internet as elsewhere in life.
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Well, quite a few of the top experts do not agree with you on this. See, e.g. Scerri's recent book.
Rob Exile Ward on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: You are correct, my mistake.
Jimbo W on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Isn't the entire periodic table a product of a few simple laws of nuclear physics? And, for example, the whole of evolution from primitive replicating molecules to us is the product of "dice throwing". I cannot see the need for your "innate intelligence".

But a physical law doesn't exist does it, except as a description of what "stuff" does, but what makes the "stuff" do it?
Robert Durran - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> [...]
>
> But a physical law doesn't exist does it, except as a description of what "stuff" does, but what makes the "stuff" do it?

Ok, but whatever makes the stuff do what it does seems to do so in accordance with unchanging patterns which we describe by physical laws. If there is an intelligence at work, it seems to me it's effective role has been confined to having decided on those patterns and perhaps initial conditions to produce interesting outcomes; it has fixed the patterns and stuck to them.

Sir Chasm - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran: And if something makes "stuff" do it what makes something make "stuff" do it?
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

Again, Aristotle gave the perfect, rather cheeky response to this over two milliennia ago. You either want an infinite regression or you don't. If not, you have to posit a Prime Mover that is not itself moved. It was more or less a completely logical point. That didn't prevent his concept of a Prime Mover being completely misunderstood, as if he had said much more than he actually did.
Sir Chasm - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: Those are the only 2 choices? I think we've got beyond things being true because we "want" them to be so.
Robert Durran - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

So do you see your "innate intelligence" sticking to predetermined patterns or meddling as things go along? Or something else entirely?
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Ok, but whatever makes the stuff do what it does seems to do so in accordance with unchanging patterns which we describe by physical laws. If there is an intelligence at work, it seems to me it's effective role has been confined to having decided on those patterns and perhaps initial conditions to produce interesting outcomes; it has fixed the patterns and stuck to them.

Confined by who, what, itself? I have never recognised the consistency of reality as being an argument against god.. ..it just doesn't make sense, especially if one imputes that god has agency. If you were god, would you set up creation as "toy soldiers in a miniature dirt war type scenario", or "an internally consistent reality, with agents that are essentially free, with all the potential pitfalls that invokes"? No, order is an argument for god, not against. Furthermore, panentheism is probably the best characterisation of the relationship of the christian idea of god to reality, both creator and sustainer, both part of and independent of reality. The order of the universe can be seen as god's order, as indeed the early scientific pioneers of the enlightenment, who wanted to explore his order in nature: order was a theologically derived assumption that was the ground and grammar upon which modern science emerged. Ironic that order and consistency is one of the weapons atheists use to thump a view theists. Of course it doesn't help that the 20th century and ongoing trend of fundamentalism in theology, as well as equally in scientism, has brought about internal literal interpretations of scripture and political movements like creationism and intelligent design, as well as inspired a dogged fundamentalist atheism that also reads scripture in the literal way Christian fundamentalists do (also highly ironic), and thus emerges a caricature from within and without.
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alicia - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) on phone so brief.
>
> OK there are a few more on the philosophers bench
>
> I and obviously others arent anti philosopher but simply wanting a coherent statement of what is being said! I apparently after many posts have still missedTims point. I really do wa t know what he is trying say but he cant seem to put it languagr that communicates it to me. Likewise he clearly doesn't get my posts. I cant make anything of what you post either. There seems to be a split in the language and basiv assumptions so great that communicatiom is impossible.

I think you might be being a bit generous in assuming that the reason you can't understand Tim's point is because he is a philosopher. I have plenty of experience of philosophy and from what I've seen here, the reason you can't understand Tim's point is because he hasn't made a single logical, responsive, and coherent reply to the arguments of Coel and others, not because of a language barrier...
johnj on 29 Nov 2012 - 188.29.103.30.threembb.co.uk
In reply to alicia:

Maybe that's because you don't want to try and understand what Tim is trying to say, this is what happens on the current technology which we use as discussion boards, lots of evidence gets presented, and then piece by piece only selected soundbites get repeated over and over again.

Those that don't fit with the current paradigm held by the majority who repeat the information get somehow overlooked, till a agreed viewpoint is reached. Obviously the majority is down the middle and the somewhat fuzzy views cant be accepted as they are too futurist, and someone then puts in a caveat of something like once we make a machine to detect it exists but until then its just crazy talk. The logic isn't circular it's cyclic i.e same conversation with same characteristic gets trotted out over and over again, I really don't understand how these so called professionals do their well paid jobs when they shoot the shit on here every day. The closed minded options of some are properly laughable.... (yes come on johny you shouldn't get all judgmental now, that's trap number 1)

So picture the scene,

lets use a little story (note none of these personas are real, nothing like this would happen would it, its just a silly little story)

So little lets call him Antony, starts school with his other classmates, and teacher starts with the programming, which is, telling the children some facts which may or may not be correct but it comes from authority, now this isn't math, no too logical, this is much more than math, this is training for life.

So many of the young children think bullshit, but they don't know the word for bullshit yet so they just look out of the window at the nice grass and dream about running around, jumpers for goalposts and doin' knee slides into the corner flag...

But not little Antony, he's lapping up the programming, every time authority tells him stuff, he repeats it back without thinking if its right or wrong, just getting that fluffy feeling from been at the top of the tree.

So skip forward a while, and repeated information has got him so far that, he's now a very important man, and some cats tell him some events are going to happen, and his job is to repeat these factoids which they give him, and tell him to use his skills to convince the rest of them, and if he doesn't want to do it, well you can guess whats going to happen.
So off he goes this is his moment, top of the fookin world man, and the whole shooting match kicks off, looks pretty fishy to a lot of people but the programme has been so reinforced that; The truth whatever that may be isn't told as that would be too easy, keep em fighting keep em divided easier to manage.

So all i can see on this thread so far is there has been a long debate about the three or four dimensional aspects of reality which we currently have a handle on, for example higgs has to be super massive really in the big scale of things, cos if you believe the building blocks stop at what we can see with some fancy 3d simulations which give the same results as what is predicted, whilst no doubt a black ops star-gate project is proliferating from it. Wait till we get the same quantum commuting on our home pc's, infinite states between 1 and 0 not this stone age binary, and silly dark age forum comms....

have a nice day ya'll :+)
craigloon - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to johnj:

Yes, well... moving swiftly on...
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to alicia:

Well if you are someone with a lot of experience of philosophy, then you should always be able to think through the integrity of an argument, try to see why it is being proposed and whether it holds up. You should also be able to think through and propose possible counter arguments. So, I wonder, will you put your money where your mouth is and do that here regarding coel's proposed concept of existence? I don't think tim was making any profound philosophical points, if I understand him correctly, his main point being that some words are not easily definable, and proposed existence as a primary truth, which is a pretty basic epistemological idea, isn't it? So, what's your take, not your personal world view, but your philosophical arguments for and against?
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Well, quite a few of the top experts do not agree with you on this. See, e.g. Scerri's recent book.

So what is their argument about the periodic table. We're not going to leave it as an appeal to authority are we?
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Robert Durran) And if something makes "stuff" do it what makes something make "stuff" do it?

I'd like an answer to this too. As well as an answer to why because there is gravity the universe can and will create itself via a via Hawking. If by nothing he means a false vacuum, then that's not nothing, is it. His argument also assumes the existence of gravity. We aren't any further forward are we? I can't see what has shifted Hawking from his previous rejection of a theory of everything on Godelian grounds?
Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> So do you see your "innate intelligence" sticking to predetermined patterns or meddling as things go along? Or something else entirely?

Ah! Now we get to the difficult questions :) As if I have the answers ... but I certainly can't see that anything is predetermined (and, anyhow, how would we know?) i.e there's zero evidence of that. The idea of meddling too has no place in my philosophy as it suggests some kind of separate being 'doing its own thing' and that's sheer scientific nonsense (having the status of an old wives' tale). I believe there are such things as laws of nature, physical constants, forces, matter, anti-matter etc, and we're in no position to speculate that there is anything outside of what we can discover through scientific methods. Well, we can speculate, but it will get us precisely nowhere. I guess you could say that what I'm talking about is an unconventional way of seeing nature, best summed up by saying it appears to be deeply 'inventive'. As I say, just a way of seeing - just as many see it as all being 'meaningless', I see it as 'clever'. Of the two claims, I think mine is the less outrageous because it lacks the certainty of tone of the former. One thing's for sure, nature continually surprises i.e. does not do what we expect or predict ... almost every day at Cern it seems they are being surprised.

(To work now.)

Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
>
> Wow. Its like fitting pieces of a puzzle together! Give yourself a clap on the back, resting assured that you've taught us something new about reality!!?

Sorry coel, that was a bit intemperate! But a struggle to see what this does to help our understanding of reality.
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
> Ah! Now we get to the difficult questions :) As if I have the answers ... but I certainly can't see that anything is predetermined (and, anyhow, how would we know?) i.e there's zero evidence of that. The idea of meddling too has no place in my philosophy as it suggests some kind of separate being 'doing its own thing' and that's sheer scientific nonsense (having the status of an old wives' tale). I believe there are such things as laws of nature, physical constants, forces, matter, anti-matter etc, and we're in no position to speculate that there is anything outside of what we can discover through scientific methods. Well, we can speculate, but it will get us precisely nowhere. I guess you could say that what I'm talking about is an unconventional way of seeing nature, best summed up by saying it appears to be deeply 'inventive'. As I say, just a way of seeing - just as many see it as all being 'meaningless', I see it as 'clever'. Of the two claims, I think mine is the less outrageous because it lacks the certainty of tone of the former. One thing's for sure, nature continually surprises i.e. does not do what we expect or predict ... almost every day at Cern it seems they are being surprised.
>
> (To work now.)

But where does that get you? All you have is an anthropomorphic view of reality that isn't going to help us scientifically and I'm not sure where it gets you philosophically? I meant he idea of basic creativity is allowed for in the laws of thermodynamics, and I seem to remember a proposed 4th law that articulated this concept. Even if there was a basic form of creativity in the universe articulated in law, it doesn't mean nature is clever, and the universe being inventive isn't an unusual idea, it a normal one. Where does this leave you, as an agent, in this view of nature? Why are you so convinced that Einstein was of the same kind of view?
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
> Ah! Now we get to the difficult questions :) As if I have the answers...

So if everything before was so straight forward, perhaps you could give as a philosophical criticism of the strengths and weaknesses of Coel's definition of existence? Should be Boy Scouts stuff, no?

Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
> One thing's for sure, nature continually surprises i.e. does not do what we expect or predict ... almost every day at Cern it seems they are being surprised.

If this is true, it's not really surprising given the mathematical idealism inherent in physics at the moment!
John Gillott - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to the thread)
>
> Just thought I'd add: One of things that led me to my definition of "exists" was considering Everett's Many Worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics, which as we all know, solves a lot of conceptual problems about quantum mechanics. The drawback is that it postulates a universe that is continually splitting up into from-then-on-disconnected multiverses, and doing so ad-infinitem. One can then ask whether these disconnected universe are actually "real" or not. About half the proponents of MWI think they are real, about half don't.
>
> Under my interpretation of "exist", one can accept the WMI, and accept a continually splitting multiverse, and then declare that the newly disconnected parallel existences ... don't actually "exist", since they're disconnected. This way you get the best of both: the many benefits of MWI, without the drawbacks of postulating the "existence" of a continually-splitting multiverse. Many notable physicists (Max Tegmark for example) opt for a many-worlds QM interpretation without the many worlds being "real".

Jimbo's initial reaction wasn't all that surprising. The unkind interpretation is that you don't like the idea that 'existence', 'the real world', call it what you will, could have certain properties, so you have created your own definition of 'existence' that rules out such possibilities.


Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> ... so you have created your own definition of 'existence' that rules out such possibilities.

Again, a mere definition doesn't affect reality, so doesn't rule anything out. At most it changes what words we use about it.
John Gillott - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> Again, a mere definition doesn't affect reality, so doesn't rule anything out. At most it changes what words we use about it.

Perhaps we should shift focus: what are you trying to achieve with your choice of words?
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Again, Aristotle gave the perfect, rather cheeky response to this over two milliennia ago. You either
> want an infinite regression or you don't. If not, you have to posit a Prime Mover that is not itself
> moved. It was more or less a completely logical point.

Isn't there a third option? Namely, that we reject the premise that "everything has a cause". In other words you can have a beginning without a "Prime Mover". You just start with particles coming into existence (pair production say), but those particles are not any different from any other particles. Do we have any proof that everything needs a cause?
Solaris - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)

> You just start with particles coming into existence (pair production say), but those particles are not any different from any other particles. Do we have any proof that everything needs a cause?

This is an easier read than van Fraassen, and the author is not a believer:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html

Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Perhaps we should shift focus: what are you trying to achieve with your choice of words?

What I'm trying to do is to think about what "existence" means, and to do that I have to think about what the words I'm using mean. As explained above, it's about asking the question: could there "be" a causally disconnected universe parallel to our own? What would it mean to say that such a thing "exists"? Could there "be" particles which interact with themselves, but have no interaction whatsoever with anything that we can observe? Could they "exist"? What would it mean to say they "exist"?

In physics, we know of four basic forces (strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravitational). We know of particles that don't interact with one of more of those -- for example the neutrino doesn't interact with the EM or strong forces. How about a particle which doesn't interact with any of those four; could that be said to "exist"? Or is interaction with at least one of those four a necessary condition for "existence"?

Physics is of course trying to unify those forces into fewer (electroweak unification, grand-unified theories, etc), and may succeed in reducing those 4 to different aspects of the same one-and-only force. Is interaction with that one force then a necessary condition for "existence".

As I said, maybe I'm weird, but I find these questions worthwhile and interesting. And, so far, I'd say that, yes, causal coupling to the rest of the universe (which is equivalent to interaction with at least one of those forces) is a necessary condition for "existence". Physicists would certainly have a hard time regarding something as "existing" if it doesn't do that. From there, for consistency, I'd then have to say that a causally disconnected parallel universe also doesn't "exist". Nor do the other universes in Everett's MWI splitting multiverse.

Anyhow, that's the train of thought that led me to my (provisional) definition of "existence". It seems that few others are interested in these questions, since all the discussion about it ignores these questions and goes into all sorts of other stuff (somewhat to my frustration).
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Existence cannot be defined because it is a primary truth, an axiom, upon which all theory and
> knowledge must rest. [...] All this happens not as some ex post facto empirical scientism,
> like Coel would have it defined, but as a basic inherence between our emerging self and the world around us.

I guess we're not all that far apart on this. I'd word it slightly differently, however, and say that "awareness of sense data" is the only primary starting point. Figuring out what "exists" and whether we have "a basic inherence between our emerging self and the world around us" is then derivative from that, and not a primary axiom.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> ... as well as inspired a dogged fundamentalist atheism that also reads scripture in the literal way
> Christian fundamentalists do (also highly ironic) ...

Yeah but there is no "dogged fundamentalist" atheism that "reads scripture in the literal way" -- the suggestion is a complete strawman.
Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
> [...]
>
> If this is true (surprises at Cern) it's not really surprising given the mathematical idealism inherent in physics at the moment!

Or maybe we just havn't got the correct mathematical idealism yet. Why read more in to it?

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Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> I.e. that nature has some kind of innate 'intelligence' that we haven't begun to understand yet.
> Very broadly, my reasons for this hunch boll down to nature looking far too systemic, from the
> periodic table onwards, for it to be merely the product of sheer chance and necessity

My problem with this is that it doesn't solve the problem, it just makes it worse. Some sort of systematic order is surely a pre-condition for intelligence (I don't see how anything totally chaotic could be "intelligent", and certainly any intelligences that we're aware of derive from highly ordered patterns). Thus, it is more parsimonious to start with "order" instead of trying to start with "order+intelligence" in order to explain "order".

Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> [...]
>
> Or maybe we just havn't got the correct mathematical idealism yet. Why read more in to it?

It's more of an interpretation that leaves open the possibility that there may be 'more'. The whole history of science since the Englightenment seems to have been one of 'more'. Why should that unfolding suddenly stop, or stop at this juncture? Week by week they seem to be discovering more at Cern.

Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
> > Well, quite a few of the top experts do not agree with you on this. See, e.g. Scerri's recent book[]
>
> So what is their argument about the periodic table. We're not going to leave it as an appeal to authority are we?

A quick google suggests that Scerri thinks that some of the properties of the periodic table might not be reducible to fundamental physics. So is he a proponent of strong emergence?

Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> [...]
>
> My problem with this is that it doesn't solve the problem, it just makes it worse. Some sort of systematic order is surely a pre-condition for intelligence (I don't see how anything totally chaotic could be "intelligent", and certainly any intelligences that we're aware of derive from highly ordered patterns). Thus, it is more parsimonious to start with "order" instead of trying to start with "order+intelligence" in order to explain "order".

Maybe 'order' and 'intelligence' are aspects of the same phenomenon - perhaps one and the same? i.e I'm thinking of the Greek (pre-religious) notion of the Logos.


Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
> It's more of an interpretation that leaves open the possibility that there may be 'more'. The whole history of science since the Englightenment seems to have been one of 'more'. Why should that unfolding suddenly stop, or stop at this juncture? Week by week they seem to be discovering more at Cern.

So what's the problem? We refine or change the theories to take account of what is discovered. That's how science works isn't it? Not a matter of more or less; just a fuller picture or deeper understanding. No reasonn for that to stop.

Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> [...]
>
> A quick google suggests that Scerri thinks that some of the properties of the periodic table might not be reducible to fundamental physics. So is he a proponent of strong emergence?

Well, no: he leaves it as a completely open question at the end of the book. He simply lays the cards on the table, saying that it doesn't appear that the properties of the periodic table are completely reducible to fundamental physics.

John Gillott - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

OK, so let's talk, mainly, physics and the words you are using when writing about physics.

When I read what you say about many worlds the question that leaps out at me is - how is our universe 'real' and the others 'unreal'. The story told, eg, is that in our universe I am typing this, while in one other at least I paused a moment ago to make a cup of tea instead and a new branch was created. Or something like that. In so far as I 'believe' the many worlds interpretation to be true (I don't in fact) I picture all the many worlds as being equally 'real'. What are you privileging the one in which I continued typing rather than breaking off for a cuppa (take my word for it that I didn't break off then come back and continue writing after making a drink).

You're the professional physicist so I know I'm cheeky to keep asking this, but in what way are distant regions (beyond the observable limit) of the current universe causally coupled? Up the thread you said A links to B, B to C, C to etc etc then Y to Z, so we have A to Z across the threshold. But is this the way most physicists look at it? Are you straining the physics to fit your definition of existence / your metaphysics? No causal influence can pass from A to Z as far as I understand it, so is there not something wrong in your creation of the chain or your notion of what a causal chain is?
Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Your notion of fuller appears to be what I mean by more. Except perhaps, not quantitively more, but different, in sense that quantum physics is different from Newtonian physics.
Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
> Well, no: he leaves it as a completely open question at the end of the book. He simply lays the cards on the table, saying that it doesn't appear that the properties of the periodic table are completely reducible to fundamental physics.

Well, if that's not strong emergence, what is it? A meddling intelligence?

Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> [...]
>
> Isn't there a third option? Namely, that we reject the premise that "everything has a cause". In other words you can have a beginning without a "Prime Mover". You just start with particles coming into existence (pair production say), but those particles are not any different from any other particles. Do we have any proof that everything needs a cause?

Sorry, I missed this earlier qu of yours (BTW, this is desperate, trying to work - a lot of photoshop work this morning - plus marketing matters - and do philosophy at the same time - I'm afraid this discussion will have to stop)

Your position seems logically very odd - that you insist on a 'causal coupling to the rest of the universe' as 'a necessary condition for "existence"', and that 'a causally disconnected parallel universe also doesn't "exist"' and yet say this causal coupling just suddenly stops. ie that every thing must have a cause except the first thing.

... Er ... which is not so odd ... and just what Aristotle was saying with his Unmoved Mover. Only he has just one, and you have many such 'particles'. So maybe you are right.

:)

Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
> [...]
>
> Well, if that's not strong emergence, what is it? A meddling intelligence?

Scerri doesn't know, and I certainly don't.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> I picture all the many worlds as being equally 'real'. What are you privileging the one in which I continued typing ...

I don't know, I don't pretend to understand either the WMI or the "decoherence" alternatives to it.

> Up the thread you said A links to B, B to C, C to etc etc then Y to Z, so we have A to Z across the
> threshold. But is this the way most physicists look at it?

Yes, I think so.

> Are you straining the physics to fit your definition of existence / your metaphysics?

I see it as just trying to come up with a coherent account; if others have better ideas then please speak up. I'm still interested in whether people would consider a particle that didn't interact at all with anything else to "exist".

> No causal influence can pass from A to Z as far as I understand it, so is there not something wrong
> in your creation of the chain or your notion of what a causal chain is?

I don't see a problem with this. The limitation would simply be from the finite speed at which information can be transmitted. I don't see that that practical speed limitation should determine what "exists". Posting that the universe ceases to "exist" at our observable horizon is utterly horrible for several reasons (it would mean that stuff comes into or out of "existence" as time passes, and that what "exists" depends on where you look from).

Yet, if, as an alternative, you don't require any causal linkage, then you have to allow the "existence" of causally disconnected particles. I guess you could do that, but that leads to equally weird notions, such as the "existence" of faeries that "of course do exist, they just keep themselves to themselves and can never be seen or detected".
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Your position seems logically very odd - that you insist on a 'causal coupling to the rest of the
> universe' as 'a necessary condition for "existence"' [...] and yet say this causal coupling just
> suddenly stops. ie that every thing must have a cause except the first thing.

It seems consistent to me. To "exist" the stuff must have forward causal chain, not necessarily a backward causal chain.

Thus, if we look outwards from our primary sense data, we discern "stuff A", so it "exists". Stuff A can be affected by Stuff B, so Stuff B exists, and so on along a chain of causal links. But there is nothing inconsistent in saying that that chain stops at J, and doesn't continue to infinity. If J is uncaused then that's fine.

Is this any different from the "unmoved mover". Yes, in two ways. As you say, there is not only one such thing; there could be myriads of such uncaused particles continually coming into existence (and then causing forward chains). Second, the stuff J is not any different from E or F or G -- any of these particles could have been the start of a chain.
John Gillott - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
>
> I don't see a problem with this. The limitation would simply be from the finite speed at which information can be transmitted. I don't see that that practical speed limitation should determine what "exists". Posting that the universe ceases to "exist" at our observable horizon is utterly horrible for several reasons (it would mean that stuff comes into or out of "existence" as time passes, and that what "exists" depends on where you look from).

As I see it, you're failing to separate the concept of existence from your definition of existence, even though you have told us many times that you are doing that, ie making a distinction (such as when you say words and definition don't change what exists). The things you find horrible arise from you conflating the two in various ways.

> Yet, if, as an alternative, you don't require any causal linkage, then you have to allow the "existence" of causally disconnected particles. I guess you could do that, but that leads to equally weird notions, such as the "existence" of faeries that "of course do exist, they just keep themselves to themselves and can never be seen or detected".

Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> As I see it, you're failing to separate the concept of existence from your definition of existence ...

The "concept of existence" is only meaningful if it has a definition or characterisation. By making my definition I'm attempting to get at that characterisation. If you have a better definition then please tell us.

All along people have been replying to me, essentially saying: "I have an intuitive understanding of "existence", and your definition doesn't match it". (That was Tim's endlessly stated complaint.) I KNOW THAT IT DOESN'T! That's the whole point! I'm trying to get something more specified then merely "let's use intuition".

For one thing, intuition is simply something programmed into us by evolution, and is not an ultimately reliable guide to reality. And intuition seems to fail when we consider the hypothetical causally disconnected particle. According to people's "intuition", does that "exist"?

> The things you find horrible arise from you conflating the two in various ways.

No, it's everyone else who is conflating them, in their criticisms of my definition.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> All along people have been replying to me, essentially saying: "I have an intuitive understanding of
> "existence", and your definition doesn't match it".

Just to reinforce this point, and to try to reduce the huge amount of mis-communication over this. People (particularly Tim) seem to think that I am saying: "Here is a definition of "exist" that encapsulates your intuitive understanding of "exists"". (Tim then replies "I intuitively consider that X exists; it is not within your definition, therefore I have a counter-example).

But I am NOT saying that. I am saying "Here is a definition of "exists" that I KNOW FULL WELL MAY NOT BE IN ACCORD WITH YOUR INTUITIVE UNDERSTANDING OF "EXISTS", and is being proposed as an ***alternative**".

Sorry to shout, but I'm slightly frustrated about 300 posts of mis-communication resulting from people not getting this point.
John Gillott - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

If it's not intuition that's guiding you, what is, when you say certain notions of existence are 'horrible'?
Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>

> Is this any different from the "unmoved mover". Yes, in two ways. As you say, there is not only one such thing; there could be myriads of such uncaused particles continually coming into existence (and then causing forward chains). Second, the stuff J is not any different from E or F or G -- any of these particles could have been the start of a chain.

Nice one. But ... maybe there were/are lots of unmoved movers E, F, G as well as 'The' unmoved mover :)

Your neat solution still leaves something of a scientific riddle, though, doesn't it? Perhaps it's not so much That particles come into existence that is the riddle (though it's a very big one) so much as What they do?

Sadly, can't stop - am now involved in friendly banter with Andy K on Twitter on top of every thing else this a.m.

Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> If it's not intuition that's guiding you, what is, when you say certain notions of existence are 'horrible'?

It's a mixture of intuition and reason. By using both I'm trying to do better than just going with intuition and not trying to understand "existence" any further. I might be failing in that, but it's at least worth a try, rather than giving up and coping-out.
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Just to reinforce this point, and to try to reduce the huge amount of mis-communication over this. People (particularly Tim) seem to think that I am saying: "Here is a definition of "exist" that encapsulates your intuitive understanding of "exists"". (Tim then replies "I intuitively consider that X exists; it is not within your definition, therefore I have a counter-example).
>
> But I am NOT saying that. I am saying "Here is a definition of "exists" that I KNOW FULL WELL MAY NOT BE IN ACCORD WITH YOUR INTUITIVE UNDERSTANDING OF "EXISTS", and is being proposed as an ***alternative**".
>
> Sorry to shout, but I'm slightly frustrated about 300 posts of mis-communication resulting from people not getting this point.

Oh, I think we got it, we just don't accept it on the grounds of:
a) the obvious circularity
and b) the fact that when you propose this new definition, you unavoidably still have a reference in mind of your own intuitive understanding of what "existence" means (just like Tim), which is why you think your re-definition has the possibility of some relevance. So your disputing of Tim's criticism outlined above can be equally be returned at you. If you deny this reference to the intuitive concept of "existence", then your newly invented word has no place in a discussion about "existence", it should be a proposal for a new word for an algorithm that might help to establish causally connected facts: something like "scientogenesis" might be a better new label to use.
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Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> ... then your newly invented word has no place in a discussion about "existence",

Since the word "existence" is currently undefined (so we're told) I feel entitled to lay claim to it!

Of course people are welcome to present a better definition/characterisation, but just saying "it's intuitive and I refuse to explain or enquire further" isn't all that satisfactory (to me, anyhow).
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

I'll ignore your ridiculous misrepresentations of what I've said, and just make this point about what you're now saying. What it comes to is:

"I want to be allowed to stipulate what 'exists' means. If what I stipulate doesn't fit with what we normally mean by 'exists', too bad for what we normally mean. And if what I stipulate allows us to argue that it is a consequence of my stipulation that this or that doesn't exist, then hurray for my stipulation."

Say that if you like. The price is (a) that anyone else can equally well say what they like, and (b) that you don't have any good reason to think that what you've got hold of is the concept of "existence", because you're not even trying to fit your stipulation to the way we actually use that concept.

Rather than play your fantasy game of stipulation, I think I'll stick with the more demanding and difficult business of engaging with reality, thanks very much.
owlart - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> Sorry to shout, but I'm slightly frustrated about 300 posts of mis-communication resulting from people not getting this point.

If so many people don't get your point, maybe you're not explaining it very well?
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
>
> (b) that you don't have any good reason to think that what you've got hold of is the concept of "existence", because you're not even trying to fit your stipulation to the way we actually use that concept.


In fact, on reflection, it's worse than that: if you have hold of a stipulative definition of "exists" that has consequences for what exists, then your definition is clearly mistaken just for that reason. For there isn't *anything* such that its existence or non-existence is a consequence of the definition of "exists". That's one way of expressing the reason why the ontological argument for God's existence doesn't work.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> "I want to be allowed to stipulate what 'exists' means. If what I stipulate doesn't fit with
> what we normally mean by 'exists', too bad for what we normally mean.

OK so far. And the reason is that "what we normally mean" by "exists" is vague and undefined. At least, for the things that we bump into every day it is well-enough understood, but in other contexts it can get vague and undefined. A lot of science/philosophy is about trying to clarify vague and undefined concepts.

> And if what I stipulate allows us to argue that it is a consequence of my stipulation that this or
> that doesn't exist, then hurray for my stipulation."

But I'm not the one who thinks that changing a definition actually changes reality -- it was you who made that argument! I am indeed trying to get at a coherent account of what does and what doesn't exist; and I don't see anything wrong with attempting that.

> The price is (a) that anyone else can equally well say what they like ...

Absolutely. And I've repeatedly asked whether anyone has any better definition or characterisation of "exists". I've asked you, and you've not managed to answer.

> and (b) that you don't have any good reason to think that what you've got hold of is the concept
> of "existence", because you're not even trying to fit your stipulation to the way we actually use that concept.

Sorry, there you are wrong. My definition does indeed fit very closely to the de facto definition that scientists use when they are deciding whether a postulated particle "exists". And you admitted that you'd defer to physicists in determining such things.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> In fact, on reflection, it's worse than that: if you have hold of a stipulative definition of
> "exists" that has consequences for what exists, then your definition is clearly mistaken just for that reason.

Tosh! The definition of a category does indeed have consequences for what then qualifies for that category! If I have two different definitions of a "tall" person, one as anyone over 6ft and the other as anyone over 6ft2, then which definition I use does indeed have consequences for who is then in my set "tall".

Of course the definition doesn't change someone's height, it doesn't change reality, but it does change the words humans use and what goes into those human-specified categories.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Whether things *exist within some physical system*, e.g. the kind of thing studied within a scientific experiment, is something to be tested by seeing whether those things have effects within that physical system.

That isn't a claim about what existence is; that isn't a characterisation or definition of existence. It's a claim about how to test for the existence of one among many kinds of thing. It's fine, I expect, so long as you're only concerned with that kind of thing. But there are many other kinds; not all science is physics, and not all knowledge is science.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> Tosh! The definition of a category does indeed have consequences for what then qualifies for that category!


When the category is a predicate, yes. But existence isn't a predicate. Have you read Kant yet?
victim of mathematics - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to owlart:

He's explained it well enough for plenty of us to understand what he means. Whereas I'm not sure anybody knows what Tim's point is, since every time somebody explains what it seems to be he just get's annoyed that we're misrepresenting him.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> When the category is a predicate, yes. But existence isn't a predicate. Have you read Kant yet?

Whether you have existence as a predicate seems to me entirely arbitrary, one can define the categories either way.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Wrong. This is interesting; we're getting at the fundamentals of your misunderstanding here, I think.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> It's fine, I expect, so long as you're only concerned with that kind of thing. But there are many
> other kinds; not all science is physics, and not all knowledge is science.

Do you have evidence for those meta-physical things?
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

The point is that the word "exists" and our category "exists" are human constructs. The question is then, how well do those ideas/categories map to the nature of reality? That question is one we have to examine on the evidence; I don't think we can just intuit that our human intuitions/categories accurately reflect the nature of reality, because human intuition is unreliable.

All I'm doing is treating that mapping (human-intuition-"exists" onto nature-of-reality-"exists") as something we can enquire into. I gather that your treating "existence" as primary amounts to assuming that that mapping is 1-to-1 accurate.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


I do indeed have evidence, and so do you, and so does anyone who's ever studied a species, sat on a chair, wondered about a crisis, set a bank rate, played a game, been to a zoo to look at the elephants, or danced a dance. The world is full of all sorts of things, and only some of them are physical (i.e. the kind of things that physics studies, the only clear sense the word has).

But even if I didn't have such evidence, it would remain true that your claim isn't a claim about what existence is; it's a claim about how to test for the existence of one kind of thing.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (
I gather that your treating "existence" as primary amounts to assuming that that mapping is 1-to-1 accurate.


Then you misgather. I certainly don't think that *your* mapping is 1-to-1 accurate.
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> The point is that the word "exists" and our category "exists" are human constructs. The question is then, how well do those ideas/categories map to the nature of reality? That question is one we have to examine on the evidence; I don't think we can just intuit that our human intuitions/categories accurately reflect the nature of reality, because human intuition is unreliable.

On the basis of that argument I presume you are dropping your aversion to this previous argument of mine:

> Neither can you conceive of evidence that could be non-physical. Well, i'd suggest that the mind itself could respresent such evidence because:
> 1) The coherence between mind and our apparent ability to understand the universe that might suggest an inherent frame of reference that has a basic coherence with physical law.. ..i.e. physical law is a representation of mind. Afterall, can such laws be said to exist?
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> (i.e. the kind of things that physics studies, the only clear sense the word has).

In that narrow sense, ok. Of course, as you know, the term can be used in a broader sense.

> it would remain true that your claim isn't a claim about what existence is; it's a claim about how
> to test for the existence of one kind of thing.

Then what does "existence" mean? Above you said you didn't have a definition of "exist" but instead had a characterisation of it. What is that characterisation? What other kinds of things "exist" other than those that compose the material universe? What properties must something have in order to "exist"?
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Then you misgather. I certainly don't think that *your* mapping is 1-to-1 accurate.

Then on what basis are you asserting that *your* intuition about "exist" maps 1-to-1 accurately with reality? If you accept that it might not do, then you need to be open to alternative conceptions of "exist", and be open to considering which is better.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> On the basis of that argument I presume you are dropping your aversion to this previous argument of mine:

My contention with your argument isn't an a priori rejection, it's an evaluation that, overall, it works much less well than the explanation of "mind" as an emergent pattern of material.
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> When the category is a predicate, yes. But existence isn't a predicate. Have you read Kant yet?

Well that was Kant, but are we still there?
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Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> My contention with your argument isn't an a priori rejection, it's an evaluation that, overall, it works much less well than the explanation of "mind" as an emergent pattern of material.

Works less well in what sense, appealing to parsimony? That would be an aesthetic not a logical argument. Anyway, surely you can't have it both ways, humans are so fallable and can't be relied upon for inuitive understandings of concepts so we need to root linguistics only in logical terms, and yet think the remarkable coordination between the mind and reality, even when dealing with it in the most abstract and distal sense, is just an expected necessary phenomenon.
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> The point is that the word "exists" and our category "exists" are human constructs. The question is then, how well do those ideas/categories map to the nature of reality? That question is one we have to examine on the evidence; I don't think we can just intuit that our human intuitions/categories accurately reflect the nature of reality, because human intuition is unreliable.
> All I'm doing is treating that mapping (human-intuition-"exists" onto nature-of-reality-"exists") as something we can enquire into. I gather that your treating "existence" as primary amounts to assuming that that mapping is 1-to-1 accurate.

Incidentally what do you think comes first objects or language about them, phenomena, or language about them, concepts, or the linguistic articulation of those concepts. Do you not think that "existence" could be conceptually appreciated even without recourse to the full complexity of modern language. As such, that primary intuited concept of "existence" is only extended as the range of the concept increases and is informed by new knowledge, but I don't think it can fundamentally undermine the original mental conception.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Works less well in what sense, appealing to parsimony? That would be an aesthetic not a logical argument.

Parsimony is a logical argument (I gave that argument somewhere in the previous thread). But, anyhow, your suggestion works less well because everything we know about "mind" suggests that it is cobbled together by evolution to do a job aiding the survival/procreation of animals. And since natural selection works on material entities (genes) that suggests that mind is an emergent phenomenon of material. This has far more explanatory and predictive power than any alternative that I'm aware of.

> and yet think the remarkable coordination between the mind and reality, even when dealing with
> it in the most abstract and distal sense, is just an expected necessary phenomenon.

My above scenario predicts a close "coordination" between the mind and the rest of reality. If mind is just an aspect of matter, why wouldn't there be? Further, the whole point of "mind" is as a tool for decision-making in the material universe, and it would be pretty useless at that if it didn't cohere closely to the external reality.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Incidentally what do you think comes first objects or language about them, phenomena, or language about them, ...

Objects and phenomena come first.

> Do you not think that "existence" could be conceptually appreciated even without recourse to the
> full complexity of modern language.

To some extent, yes.

> As such, that primary intuited concept of "existence" is only extended as the range of the concept
> increases and is informed by new knowledge, but I don't think it can fundamentally undermine
> the original mental conception.

I do think that ongoing understanding could end up undermining the original mental conception. Thus the original mental conception is not basic or primary in that sense. This is what I mean about being able to test any part of our worldview, and not having to just take a part on trust.

A metaphor often used is that the "worldview" is a boat afloat on an ocean. You can renew and replace any part of the boat a bit at a time, and it remains afloat, and you can end up having renewed everything; you just can't do it all at once.
crossdressingrodney - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I bought the Scerri book (on your recommendation) after the last time reducing chemistry to physics came up. Haven't got to the last chapter yet, but the hints so far are merely that some of the rules of thumb that chemists use to derive facts about the elements have not yet been proven from quantum mechanics -- something called the "n+1 rule" has not yet been established, apparently.

Perhaps there's more to it than this (should I avoid spoilers?), but so far that seems a very weak reason to claim that chemistry does not reduce to physics - only that it has not yet been shown to.
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
>
> [...]
>
> Parsimony is a logical argument (I gave that argument somewhere in the previous thread).

Is it?! Can you write it out as a symbolic expression? I thought it was more an aesthetic and heuristic tool?
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> I do think that ongoing understanding could end up undermining the original mental conception. Thus the original mental conception is not basic or primary in that sense. This is what I mean about being able to test any part of our worldview, and not having to just take a part on trust.

Perhaps I should have said all of the original mental conception. Would you still say the same. I'm afraid I disagree and this sharply contrasts our conceptual understanding of the word "existence". I think there is an element that *is* basic, primary, foundational, and while it can be built upon conceptually, I don't think the axiomatic origin can be truly undermined.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Is it?! Can you write it out as a symbolic expression? I thought it was more an aesthetic and heuristic tool?

It's a good probabilistic argument. It starts from the point that the number of possible things greatly exceeds the number of things that actually exist. Thus, if you conceive of something at random, the chances of it being in the category "exists" and not the category "doesn't exist" is very low. Thus you are almost certainly going to go wrong in postulating something unless you have actual evidence for it. Which is Occam's razor.
crossdressingrodney - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

I'm still struggling to follow your causal-chain argument, Coel. I'm assuming that A, B, C, etc are physical objects (or world-lines in space-time), like an electron or a planet, rather than events in space-time, like the battle of Hastings -- is this correct?

Question: Suppose stuff A can be affected by stuff B and stuff B can be affected by stuff C. What happens if A and C are located in the universe such that any effect by stuff C on stuff B necessarily takes place after any effect of stuff B on stuff A? In such a situation, stuff C can have no possible affect on stuff A, even though A and C enjoy a chain of causal connections. If we are stuff A, does stuff C exists by your definition?
crossdressingrodney - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> It's a good probabilistic argument. It starts from the point that the number of possible things greatly exceeds the number of things that actually exist. Thus, if you conceive of something at random, the chances of it being in the category "exists" and not the category "doesn't exist" is very low. Thus you are almost certainly going to go wrong in postulating something unless you have actual evidence for it. Which is Occam's razor.

Steady on!
- You are using intuition based on probability of sampling from finite sets to infer things about sampling from infinite sets.
- It's not clear that the "set of things we can conceive of" is well-defined.
- It's not clear what "at random" means.
- It's not clear what probability measure you're using (if one even exists).
- It's not clear that probability is even a coherent concept to apply to such events.

I also apply these objections to Tim's argument about drawing dragons increasing the probability of existing.
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> It's a good probabilistic argument. It starts from the point that the number of possible things greatly exceeds the number of things that actually exist. Thus, if you conceive of something at random, the chances of it being in the category "exists" and not the category "doesn't exist" is very low. Thus you are almost certainly going to go wrong in postulating something unless you have actual evidence for it. Which is Occam's razor.

Is there a proof, or can it be refuted? What is a "thing" in this sense? Is that Occam's razor? I thought it was more like theories with the fewest assumptions are to be preferred unless more complex ones have greater explanatory range. The problem being that all it says is what you do with the evidence you've got, it doesn't say anything much about the accuracy of the theory with the fewest assumptions.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> I'm assuming that A, B, C, etc are physical objects (or world-lines in space-time), like an electron
> or a planet, rather than events in space-time, like the battle of Hastings -- is this correct?

I think of them as particles, but events like the Battle of Hastings are just collections of particles at particular times, so it could apply to them also.

> What happens if A and C are located in the universe such that any effect by stuff C on stuff B necessarily
> takes place after any effect of stuff B on stuff A?

So you're bringing time into it? OK, fine. But if entity B can no longer have any effect on A then it would be better to say it "existED" rather than it "exists". For example the "Battle of Hastings" existED. There was a time when it could affect A, and at that time it did exist. If it can no longer affect A (note that B here is the thing next to A, so if it can no longer affect A then we presume it can no longer affect anything) then it no longer exists.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> - You are using intuition based on probability of sampling from finite sets to infer things about sampling from infinite sets.

Yep.

> - It's not clear that the "set of things we can conceive of" is well-defined.

I only need it to be clearly greater than the set "exists". For example, for any instance that "exists", I can then conceive of several variations on it that do not exist. (E.g. crossdressingrodney exists; the variants crossdressingrodney with one extra freckle, or one less, or two extra, etc all don't exist.)

> - It's not clear what "at random" means.

Without regard to evidence.

> - It's not clear what probability measure you're using (if one even exists).

A frequentist one, sample at will from the superset {exists + doesn't-exist}.

> - It's not clear that probability is even a coherent concept to apply to such events.

Isn't it?
Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to crossdressingrodney)
>
> [...]
>
> I think of them as particles, but events like the Battle of Hastings are just collections of particles at particular times, so it could apply to them also.

But no amount of scientific study of the particles (as particles) that make up the Battle of Hastings will show you either the Battle or Hastings. So that 'just' can't be correct.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> But no amount of scientific study of the particles (as particles) that make up the Battle of
> Hastings will show you either the Battle or Hastings.

But scientific study of the patterns that particles make when they interact with each other will. (You're right that treating them as individual particles will get you nowhere, but reductionism doesn't say that, it says consider the particles and the interactions between the particles.)
John Gillott - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to crossdressingrodney)
>

> So you're bringing time into it? OK, fine. But if entity B can no longer have any effect on A then it would be better to say it "existED" rather than it "exists". For example the "Battle of Hastings" existED. There was a time when it could affect A, and at that time it did exist. If it can no longer affect A (note that B here is the thing next to A, so if it can no longer affect A then we presume it can no longer affect anything) then it no longer exists.

What about C?
crossdressingrodney - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> So you're bringing time into it?
I think time is essential, since we're trying to talk about whether things outside of the observable universe exist - and the reason we might say they don't is because light has a finite speed.

> I think of them as particles, but events like the Battle of Hastings are just collections of particles at particular times, so it could apply to them also.
OK, I was trying to determine whether the "connection of causal chains" in your definition join pairs of points in space-time or pairs of world-lines in space-time.

> OK, fine. But if entity B can no longer have any effect on A then it would be better to say it "existED" rather than it "exists". For example the "Battle of Hastings" existED. There was a time when it could affect A, and at that time it did exist. If it can no longer affect A (note that B here is the thing next to A, so if it can no longer affect A then we presume it can no longer affect anything) then it no longer exists.

Hang on, there's something wrong here. The battle of Hasting could still affect you -- and in fact is affecting you -- today. In the broad sense that the battle is in your backwards light cone, and in the more concrete sense that historians could no doubt point out how life today would be different if the battle had not been fought.

This is why I'm trying to pin down your definition exactly.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> What about C?

If C can find a possible chain of causal links with A then C exists. (It doesn't necessarily have to go through B if B no longer exists, it can go some other route).
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> The battle of Hasting could still affect you -- and in fact is affecting you -- today.

I'd prefer to say that the things that the Battle Hastings affected then affected other things which affected other things which could then affect me today.

John Gillott - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> If C can find a possible chain of causal links with A then C exists. (It doesn't necessarily have to go through B if B no longer exists, it can go some other route).

OK, I know I'm asking the same question again, but let me see if this helps:

1. Can C have a chain of causal links with A if C is not in A's observable universe?

2. Can C have an affect on A if C is not in A's observable universe?
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Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> I bought the Scerri book .......the hints so far are merely that some of the rules of thumb that chemists use to derive facts about the elements have not yet been proven from quantum mechanics.

Well that certainly would be no big deal - like not yet understanding how the mind works in terms of fundamental physics.

> Perhaps there's more to it than this (should I avoid spoilers?)

No (spoilers, that is).
crossdressingrodney - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> Yep.
Unfortunately, intuition about finite sets does not set you in good stead for intuition for infinite sets. E.g. if you add together finitely many numbers you will get the same answer even if you switch the order in which you add them; if you add together infinitely many numbers it turns out that the ordering does affect the result (!).

> It's not clear that the "set of things we can conceive of" is well-defined.
> I only need it to be clearly greater than the set "exists".
If it's not well-defined then it can't exist, and if it doesn't exist then it can't be larger than anything!

> For example, for any instance that "exists", I can then conceive of several variations on it that do not exist. (E.g. crossdressingrodney exists; the variants crossdressingrodney with one extra freckle, or one less, or two extra, etc all don't exist.)
OK, there is certainly something in that. But just because there are "more" elements in set A than in set B (in the sense you've just given), it doesn't follow set A is larger than set B (!). E.g. take the natural numbers. There are 'more' natural numbers than even natural numbers, because only every other natural number is even. And yet the sets are the same 'size' because there is exactly one even number for every natural number (1 -> 2, 2 -> 4, 3 -> 6, etc.). So your intuition does not necessarily bear out here.

> - It's not clear what "at random" means.
> Without regard to evidence.
Sorry, I didn't put this very clearly. I meant that it's not clear what "sampling at random" means because
(a) there can be more than one way to sample from a set (flipping a fair coin, flipping a biased coin, ...)
(b) there are "unmeasurable" sets where (I think) you can't define a probability distribution. This is a branch of measure theory I don't know much about.

> A frequentist one, sample at will from the superset {exists + doesn't-exist}.
That doesn't work because then probability = infinity/infinity.

> - It's not clear that probability is even a coherent concept to apply to such events.
> Isn't it?
Well, not to me. We're talking about whether something exists or not. It either does or doesn't. So what does probability even mean here? If it's saying something Baysian about what we know, how can you possibly say anything about the priors?
crossdressingrodney - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to crossdressingrodney)
> I'd prefer to say that the things that the Battle Hastings affected then affected other things which affected other things which could then affect me today.

OK fair enough.

I think John and I still haven't got to the bottom of this one. It seems to me that events outside the observable universe don't exist according to your definition. But I think you've said that they actually do.
Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> If you add together finitely many numbers you will get the same answer even if you switch the order in which you add them; if you add together infinitely many numbers it turns out that the ordering does affect the result (!).

Example please! (I'm not doubting you here, just intrigued)
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> It seems to me that events outside the observable universe don't exist according to your definition.
> But I think you've said that they actually do.

Yes they do. There is no physical change at that "observable horizon" boundary; laws of physics and causality apply across it just as they do between London and Birmingham. That chain of causal connections still exists across that boundary; if you were there it would look and feel and be the same as any other region of space.

All that is different is that, if you tried propagating an information signal from there along the chain to some very distant point in the chain, then at some point (owing to the expansion of the universe and hence the lengthening of the chain) the signal never gets there. Of course, as viewed from some other distant point in the universe, the "observable horizon" is between London and Birmingham. But nothing stops "existing" between London and Birmingham as a consequence.
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> Well, not to me. We're talking about whether something exists or not. It either does or doesn't. So what does probability even mean here? If it's saying something Baysian about what we know, how can you possibly say anything about the priors?

Reminds me of Schrodinger's cat. Is it alive or dead, or somewhere in between, and the debate between Hawking and Penrose that I partially quoted from before?

He's a Platonist and I'm a positivist. He's worried that Schrödinger's cat is in a quantum state, where it is half alive and half dead. He feels that can't correspond to reality. But that doesn't bother me. I don't demand that a theory correspond to reality because I don't know what it is. Reality is not a quality you can test with litmus paper. All I'm concerned with is that the theory should predict the results of measurements. Quantum theory does this very successfully.

Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> If it's not well-defined then it can't exist, and if it doesn't exist then it can't be larger than anything!

I don't need a well-defined definition of "sapling", rigorously distinguishing them from seeds or new sproutings or bushes or trees, in order for saplings to exist. Characterising the set is sufficient.

> There are 'more' natural numbers than even natural numbers, because only every other natural number
> is even. And yet the sets are the same 'size' because there is exactly one even number for each
> natural number (1 -> 2, 2 -> 4, 3 -> 6, etc.). So your intuition does not necessarily bear out here.

But if I randomly sample from that set I'm going to get twice as many qualifying as "natural numbers" than qualifying as "even natural numbers". That's all I need: I only need, when sampling from the superset {exists + doesn't-exist} to be much more likely to get a "doesn't-exist" than an "exist".


John Gillott - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to crossdressingrodney)
>
> [...]
>
> Yes they do. There is no physical change at that "observable horizon" boundary; laws of physics and causality apply across it just as they do between London and Birmingham. That chain of causal connections still exists across that boundary; if you were there it would look and feel and be the same as any other region of space.

How do you know this? You haven't been there, so I guess it is a postulate on your part?

> All that is different is that, if you tried propagating an information signal from there along the chain to some very distant point in the chain, then at some point (owing to the expansion of the universe and hence the lengthening of the chain) the signal never gets there. Of course, as viewed from some other distant point in the universe, the "observable horizon" is between London and Birmingham. But nothing stops "existing" between London and Birmingham as a consequence.

Viewed from a causally disconnected universe (back to multiverses, Everett and QM), do we exist? Do they find the idea that we might horrible?

Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> How do you know this? You haven't been there, so I guess it is a postulate on your part?

Yes, though it's part of the same extrapolation that posits an observable horizon, so if you accept the observable horizon it's sense to accept that.

> Viewed from a causally disconnected universe ... do we exist?

If there were such a thing then, under my definition, no, we wouldn't "exist" (though we might "meta-exist" from their "reality", just as they might "meta-exist" from our reality).

> Do they find the idea that we might horrible?

So now you're asking me to psychoanalyse postulated beings in some causally disconnected reality?? Wow! Do you find the idea that they might meta-exist "horrible"?
Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

I've been v busy today (with reprint of Fiva arriving at distributors a day ahead of schedule) but from a skim reading I must just say that this is surely one of the most intelligent and interesting philosophical/philosophy of science discussions that's ever been seen on UKC. Mainly because it hasn't descended into any kind of dead-end 'religious' argument or slanging match, but with everyone firing on all cylinders intellectually and dispassionately.
John Gillott - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

No Coel, that was a weak tease on my part as you know.

You will extrapolate about some places you can not even in principle observe and that can not even in principle influence us. And let's face it, I'm not postulating a sudden change at the horizon (from our point of view). Maybe it carries on being just the same for a long way further then something weird happens. Who knows? Not us that's for sure. But you won't do the same for other places with the same properties in this sense.

Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> I must just say that this is surely one of the most intelligent and interesting philosophical/philosophy of science discussions that's ever been seen on UKC.

Indeed I just wish I had had more time to try to follow the detail of the discussion!

> Mainly because it hasn't descended into any kind of dead-end 'religious' argument or slanging match.

Well there was a bit of that earlier!

craigloon - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

+1

Best UKC thread ever.
Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to craigloon:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> Best UKC thread ever.

And the longest (counting the old one!)?

craigloon - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Well that seems to have killed it off!
Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to craigloon:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Well that seems to have killed it off!

I hope not......

cb294 - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

OK, let´s keep the thread alive. I am wondering for quite some time why people spend their time discussing philosophy on a climbing thread.

Personally, I need to take short breaks from the stuff I am otherwise thinking about.

Currently I am in the funny situation of having crystal clear data that doesn´t seem to make sense. This is a nice change from the usual procedure of having rubbish data that doensn´t make sense. In addition, I am simply buried in administrative stuff and grant writing.

So, a sharp change of subject every now and then and a good argument recharges my batteries for the stuff that pays the bills.

Of course, I also find the subject of this thread fascinating, both the political start and the philosophical endpoint.

CB

Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:

> OK, let´s keep the thread alive. I am wondering for quite some time why people spend their time discussing philosophy on a climbing thread.

Its strange isn't it! I've not come across any other non-philosophy forum where this happens quite so intensely and frequently. I guess if there is a few to tango...
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> I've been v busy today (with reprint of Fiva arriving at distributors a day ahead of schedule) but from a skim reading I must just say that this is surely one of the most intelligent and interesting philosophical/philosophy of science discussions that's ever been seen on UKC. Mainly because it hasn't descended into any kind of dead-end 'religious' argument or slanging match, but with everyone firing on all cylinders intellectually and dispassionately.

I wonder if you have a moment to address my questions to you above? I do value the religion threads. Indeed I do value any exposure to argument that has the potential to affect my philosophy, worldview and faith. I do detest the slanging matches, which I think result so frequently because of a lack of humility in actually trying to appreciate an alternative perspective.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
>
> But no amount of scientific study of the particles (as particles) that make up the Battle of Hastings will show you either the Battle or Hastings. So that 'just' can't be correct.



Exactly right, Gordon.
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Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: Unfortunately I'm absolutely up to my eyeballs with work at the moment (I shouldn't even have spent 40 mins looking at this thread at 8.30 this morning, because I'm now way behind schedule) - but I will certainly try to get back to it, and your points, when I have some spare time. Maybe this weekend. Cheers.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
>
> Is it?! Can you write it out as a symbolic expression? I thought it was more an aesthetic and heuristic tool?


Yes, as I pointed out above, Ockham's razor is not a knock-down argument, but a way of summarising a variety of judgements about what entities are worth positing as the price for explaining what. Such judgements can be an are made differently by different intelligent people. That's one reason why (contrary to what is so often asserted) the difference between atheist and theist is not necessarily or always the difference between austere impartial rationality and blind faith.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:
> >
> I also apply these objections to Tim's argument about drawing dragons increasing the probability of existing.


I've been ignoring this ludicrous misinterpretation, for which as I recall we have to thank Sir Chasm, who is capable of misreading people badly enough to be capable, when I've just said that there are plenty of things we know about but can't define, e.g. buses, of immediately faulting me for not being able to define "bus".

But it is a ludicrous misinterpretation. What I said was not the above, but that being unable to conceive something clearly is one, defeasible, kind of evidence that it doesn't actually exist. Also that if you can't conceive something without contradiction, then it certainly doesn't exist.

And if you don't think that is what I said, please let's just move on, because this is certainly what I meant.
Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
> > But no amount of scientific study of the particles (as particles) that make up the Battle of Hastings will show you either the Battle or Hastings. So that 'just' can't be correct.


> Exactly right, Gordon.

But the battle (and its effects) is a collection of particles and (as Coel emphasised) their interactions. What else do you propose we study? Some other particles with nothing to do with the battle?
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
Finally in this round-up: to Coel's request for "my" characterisation of what existence is:

To be is to be the value of a variable.

Actually, this characterisation isn't mine; as you'll quickly see if you google it, it's the reductive physicalist atheist philosopher W.V.Quine's. But it's completely standard issue in contemporary philosophy. Almost no one disputes it. I certainly don't.

That's why I've found a lot of this thread rather surreal reading. I report fairly clear, simple, and obvious views about existence that every sane and competent philosopher and logician holds, and I'm told (a) that they're just my eccentricities, (b) that to hold them is a sign of insanity and incompetence, (c) that I only hold them because I'm bad-faithedly flogging the dead horse of theism, (d) that they're totally obscure, etc. etc. etc.

I often think on UKC that a lot of the trouble in UKC debates is caused by a simple lack of charity: charity in a number of senses, but primarily here I mean charity as in the principle of charity, as in reading what people say to give it the most fair and reasonable interpretation--rather than striving to twist it into something stupid and ridiculous. Sir Chasm's mythical dragon claim above is a good example of just this kind of deliberately uncharitable reading of what someone else is saying.

And without charity, as the man said, we are nothing.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (> But the battle (and its effects) is a collection of particles and (as Coel emphasised) their interactions.



No it isn't. You're confusing what it *is* with *what it's made of*. Or at any rate, with one kind of ingredient of a battle.

"What else should we study?" What an odd question. Is there nothing, then, for historians to study? Are they wasting their time? Should they all become physicists?
Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
>
> [...]
>
> But the battle (and its effects) is a collection of particles and (as Coel emphasised) their interactions. What else do you propose we study? Some other particles with nothing to do with the battle?

No, I propose studying the system they are within, and then the system that is within, and the system that is within - subsystem within subsystem - up and up the scale, until we end up with a particular, fantastically complex event on a particular date in human history on a particular part of planet Earth.

Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> "What else should we study?" What an odd question. Is there nothing, then, for historians to study? Are they wasting their time? Should they all become physicists?

Is reality layered?
Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Sorry, I should have said that in the plural throughout i.e 'systems they are within, then the systems those are within' etc etc
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

Eminently so. System within, and indeed upon, system.
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Finally in this round-up: to Coel's request for "my" characterisation of what existence is:
>
> To be is to be the value of a variable.


Isn't that a definition of being? Also, I wonder if you could offer some criticism of my arguments!
Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> Is reality layered?

Looks like it.

Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
>
> Isn't that a definition of being?


It's a characterisation, not a definition; and it's equally of being and of existence, because they're the same thing.

There is also this, which might be a definition of existence, but isn't really non-circular or non-trivial--it just sets up an interdefinitional relationship:

To be is to be identical with something.

> Also, I wonder if you could offer some criticism of my arguments!

Sorry, Jimbo. Time is pressing, but I will when I can!
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Eminently so. System within, and indeed upon, system.

Well I agree, but I thought it worth putting the idea up again, because I know Coel doesn't like it! Here's a question, are the layers of reality logically discrete?
Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
> No, I propose studying the system they are within, and then the system that is within, and the system that is within - subsystem within subsystem - up and up the scale, until we end up with a particular, fantastically complex event on a particular date in human history on a particular part of planet Earth.

So you are just studying whole bunches of particles at a time. It's still particles and their intereactions though.

David Martin - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I'd be quite chuffed if it was here, on UKC, after a pretty long thread, we came to a definite answer on whether God exists.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
>
What I said was not the above, but that being unable to conceive something clearly is one, defeasible, kind of evidence that it doesn't actually exist. Also that if you can't conceive something without contradiction, then it certainly doesn't exist.



There's a nice example of this in Plato's Meno. From possibly inaccurate memory, the example is this. Socrates asks the slave: if this side of the rectangle is 2 units long, and that side is 2, then what length is the diagonal? The slave says 3. Socrates first shows him that he can't picture clearly the situation in which it's that length; and then shows that supposing it's 3 leads to a contradiction.

What the slave boy pictures is first shown to be unclear, and then shown to be actually incoherent. That's a proof that the figure he envisages, a triange with sides 2-2-3, cannot exist.

Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
> [...]
>
> So you are just studying whole bunches of particles at a time. It's still particles and their intereactions though.


No: not it *is* particles, it's *made of* particles.
Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> "What else should we study?" What an odd question. Is there nothing, then, for historians to study? Are they wasting their time? Should they all become physicists?

Of course there is stuff for historians to study, but ultimately it is all particles and their interactions. Physicists study stuff at one level of systems, historians at another. What's the problem?

Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to David Martin:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> I'd be quite chuffed if it was here, on UKC, after a pretty long thread, we came to a definite answer on whether God exists.



He rang me earlier this afternoon to say I should let you know that yes, He does indeed exist.

Bingo! Can we stop now?
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Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
ultimately it is all particles and their interactions.

same comment: made of, not is.

> Physicists study stuff at one level of systems, historians at another. What's the problem?

No problem at all, as far as I'm concerned.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> Well I agree, but I thought it worth putting the idea up again, because I know Coel doesn't like it! Here's a question, are the layers of reality logically discrete?


I don't know what "logically discrete" means, I'm afraid. Are they different levels of analysis? Yes.
Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
>
> No: not it *is* particles, it's *made of* particles.

So?

Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:


So reductionism isn't true.
Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
>
> So reductionism isn't true.

Why do you think that?

MG - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

>
> Bingo! Can we stop now?

And leave the aardvark!!?

Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
> Why do you think that?


In a nutshell, because of the made of/ is distinction I've just made.
Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> Is reality layered?

I said 'looks like it' before, and then had to have bath, so couldn't add any more. Well, of course it's layered. That's what the last 100 years of physics has showed us: that there are at least three different layers. i.e. the way 'particles' behave on a quantum scale is nothing like the billiard-ball way that entities behave on the mundane/solar system scale of Newtonian physics. And again, as we zoom out in space-time, Newtonian physics is no longer adequate, and it all starts to behave in a different way at the level of the galaxies and the entire universe (that is what the Theory of Relativity has showed us). And it's looking like there could be another level again (viz. String Theory, though I think that's rather run into the buffers, hasn't it?)

Similarly, within biology there has been a quiet revolution over the last 10-12 years which Joe Public hasn't been told much about, that is looking at organisms on the larger scale, as systems. This hasn't so much invalidated the gene-centric view, but pushed it sideways, very much in the manner of the Copernican revolution, to show that genes no longer occupy a central position but belong to a much larger set of systems that is actually much more important. V exciting developments in the last year or so, with the whole DNA now being studied (the idea of junk DNA now being completely obsolete) - seen now as a vast 3-d system in which the proximity of different bits of DNA in the huge ball of wool of DNA is being seen as central importance to that part of the cell alone. Then there's all the rest :)

Sorry, very hastily written as I'm now going out to celebrate with my brother a rather good day with our publishing venture ...

Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I don't know what "logically discrete" means, I'm afraid. Are they different levels of analysis? Yes.

The layers are irreducible one to another. Or built up from known foundations. They each have their own laws unique to that layer discrete from each other. And what of emergence? Is it an epiphenomenon of a lower level of reality that becomes sustained an entrenched and expanded because of the emergence of its own laws? What is the way that these layers can be said to relate to one another?
Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

They relate completely to each other, through every layer. Top-down and bottom-up. They're ultimately all part of one system (well that we know of): the universe. But looking at one layer alone will not tell you (much) about the others.
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> They relate completely to each other, through every layer. Top-down and bottom-up. They're ultimately all part of one system (well that we know of): the universe. But looking at one layer alone will not tell you (much) about the others.

I completely agree with the idea that reality is layered, but I don't agree about this. If there are no boundary conditions, how do you know where one layer begins and ends, and therefore which rules are applicable when? There must be boundary conditions, and these are either a some sort of function of reality or arbitrary choices we impose upon reality in our attempt to comprehend it. I don't like that latter idea.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> The layers are irreducible one to another.

For most relations between two layers, I think this is true. There may be cases where some L2 does reduce to some other L1. But if so we shouldn't get all over-excited and conclude that because it happens in that case, it's bound to happen everywhere.

>They each have their own laws unique to that layer discrete from each other.

Definitely true.

> And what of emergence?

I think "realisation" would be my word. Minds are realised in bodies; battles are realised in movements of men and horses; economic systems are realised in banking systems; banking systems are realised in human agreements and conventions. And so on.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> That's why I've found a lot of this thread rather surreal reading. I report fairly clear, simple, and
> obvious views about existence that every sane and competent philosopher and logician holds, and I'm
> told (a) that they're just my eccentricities, (b) that to hold them is a sign of insanity and incompetence,
> (c) that I only hold them because I'm bad-faithedly flogging the dead horse of theism, (d) that
> they're totally obscure, etc. etc. etc.

I think you'd be hard pushed to find actual quotes of anyone saying any of those things about any "fairly clear, simple, and obvious views" that you've expressed. Maybe you're not adopting the principle of charity in reading what people actually said? ;-)
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> He rang me earlier this afternoon to say I should let you know that yes, He does indeed exist.

We've been led to expect burning bushes, pillars of fire, or booming voices; resorting to a telephone is rather a come-down.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> I think you'd be hard pushed to find actual quotes


Yawn. You know you do it. All the time. But let's move on.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> We've been led to expect burning bushes, pillars of fire, or booming voices; resorting to a telephone is rather a come-down.


Sorry about that. There was a hum on the line; does that count?

Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

>> ultimately it is all particles and their interactions.

> same comment: made of, not is.

Doesn't that reply ignore the "... and their interactions"? What "is" there other than particles and their interactions and the patterns they make?
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
>
> Doesn't that reply ignore the "... and their interactions"? What "is" there other than particles and their interactions and the patterns they make?



Lots and lots and lots of things.

If you think that there's nothing but physics, do you think that there should just be one academic subject, physics? If not, why not?
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> ... the idea of junk DNA now being completely obsolete ...

That's not really true. What has happened is that *some* of the DNA that might have been regarded as "junk" has been found to have function; there is still plenty of junk DNA around though.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

>> What "is" there other than particles and their interactions and the patterns they make?

> Lots and lots and lots of things.

Such as?

> If you think that there's nothing but physics, do you think that there should just be one academic subject,
> physics? If not, why not?

Different academic subjects are merely different arbitrarily defined areas of the same seamless whole of "knowledge". Some academic subjects study some of the patterns that particles make, other academic subjects study others of the patterns that particles make.
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Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> >
> Such as?


See my list above. Or consider Gordon's example of the Battle of Hastings.

What pattern of particles is maths about? Or logic? All of them, and none of them. Both are in different ways about the conditions of thought. So in a third way is philosophy.

Economics is not about particles or patterns of particles. It's about money.
Anna Karenina is not about particles and the patterns they make. It's about Anna Karenina.

Et cetera.

You move too quickly from "is made of" to "is".
Coel Hellier - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> See my list above. Or consider Gordon's example of the Battle of Hastings.

What is there about the Battle of Hastings that isn't particles AND THEIR INTERACTIONS AND THE PATTERNS THAT THEY MAKE?

> What pattern of particles is maths about?

Simple ones, mostly. Classical maths is the study of the simplest patterns that particles make. Some maths (e.g. chaos theory) has developed into the study of more complex patterns.

> Economics is not about particles or patterns of particles. It's about money.

What is money other than a means of interaction between collections of particles? (These collections being given the useful name "humans").

> Anna Karenina is not about particles and the patterns they make. It's about Anna Karenina.

What is Anna Karenina other than a collection of particles and the interactions and patterns of those particles?

> You move too quickly from "is made of" to "is".

You are overlooking the power of the concept "... interactions and patterns of ...".
Jimbo W on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> That's not really true. What has happened is that *some* of the DNA that might have been regarded as "junk" has been found to have function; there is still plenty of junk DNA around though.

Its getting smaller and smaller all the time though:
>10% telomeric / centromeric structurally and functionally important
up to 20% regulates
2% of coding DNA
Do you want to have a wager for how much will be "junk" in 20 yrs time?
We're only just beginning to unravel the function of the genome. E.g. one thing I'm interested in is fragile sites, regions of the genome that break easily during replication stress. The more we look the more we find that these sites are conserved throughout evolution, not in the sense that they the fragile sites share sequence homology, but because a decent number is found in humans through to yeast. Why would fragile chromosomes be useful? Do they do something functional? Well one thing we see them doing is replicating late.. ..this could be because they are difficult to replicate, or because they have late firing origins of replication (ORFs), its looking like the latter, so if they have late firing origins, could they be necessary markers of genomic replication completion present in sufficient number to contribute a signal once replicated to precede to G2 of the cell cycle. There isn't many areas of the genome where someone is positing some possible functional reason for their presence.
craigloon - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

Don't you get all technical with me lad.
Robert Durran - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> For most relations between two layers, I think this is true. There may be cases where some L2 does reduce to some other L1. But if so we shouldn't get all over-excited and conclude that because it happens in that case, it's bound to happen everywhere.


Why do you think this? You must, presumably, think you have some pretty powerful evidence for not thinking that, say, a table or an animal and its properties made (I have no problem with that word) from particles and their interactions is not reducible to those particles and their intereactions.



crossdressingrodney - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> Example please! (I'm not doubting you here, just intrigued)

I thought that might tickle your fancy! Consider the alternating harmonic sequence

1, -1/2, 1/3, -1/4, 1/5, -1/6, ...

Pick your favourite real number x. Exercise: add the numbers together in the right order to make the sum converge to x.

It might help to first figure out what happens if add all the odd ones together, and also what happens if you add all the even ones together.
Orgsm on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Clearly you and Tim are not causally linked as no information exchange seems to be happening.

You might want to read of Russels Paradox if you don't know it already. I learnt it in first year degree maths. It deduces some useful considerations in your debate, particularly for "exists". Consider which category does it fall under

http://www.jimloy.com/logic/russell.htm
crossdressingrodney - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> I don't need a well-defined definition of "sapling", rigorously distinguishing them from seeds or new sproutings or bushes or trees, in order for saplings to exist. Characterising the set is sufficient.

Ah, I see, there's a misunderstanding here. By "well-defined" I mean non-contradictory, rather than "precisely pinned down". So I'm concerned that the "set of things we can conceive of" might not be a mathematically well-defined thing. Set theory does have limits -- you can't talk about the set of all sets, for example, or you get Russell's paradox. (Disclaimer: I am not a set-theorist!)

> But if I randomly sample from that set I'm going to get twice as many qualifying as "natural numbers" than qualifying as "even natural numbers".
This pins one of the problems down exactly. What you have written is not true: it depends on how you sample from the natural numbers. You can't sample uniformly from the natural numbers because there are infinitely many of them. So under your sampling rules, what is the probability of obtaining, say, the number 1?

>That's all I need: I only need, when sampling from the superset {exists + doesn't-exist} to be much more likely to get a "doesn't-exist" than an "exist".
You need to say how you're sampling before you can talk about likelihood. And mathematically I don't know if it's possible to do so, even if the sets you're interested in do make sense.
Gordon Stainforth - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Been away all evening. Still looking good, though there are signs that it could degenerate. Please try to keep it clean and clever, chaps and chappesses. I have every hope that this could continue as a great intellectual discussion. Let's try to make this an unusually good and useful thread, I say.
crossdressingrodney - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> I've been ignoring this ludicrous misinterpretation, for which as I recall we have to thank Sir Chasm, who is capable of misreading people badly enough to be capable, when I've just said that there are plenty of things we know about but can't define, e.g. buses, of immediately faulting me for not being able to define "bus".
I agree Sir Chasm has misrepresented you on the thread, but I think his initial dragon comment was a fair and honest response to what you wrote. You have since clarified/modified that initial comment, but even so I'm struggling to see much daylight between

"if you can't even conceive it in detail, it's unlikely to be real"

and

"[being able to] draw a dragon increases the probability of its existence"

> But it is a ludicrous misinterpretation.
It was certainly not intended to misrepresent.

> What I said was not the above, but that being unable to conceive something clearly is one, defeasible, kind of evidence that it doesn't actually exist. Also that if you can't conceive something without contradiction, then it certainly doesn't exist.

I pretty much agree with that. But my actual objection was with your use of probability ("unlikely to exist"). I was questioning whether it makes sense to talk of the probability of such-and-such existing. I note that in your third statement you now talk about evidence instead.

Since you accuse me of misrepresenting you (with the strong implication that I did it deliberately), let me just point out that a large number of intelligent people on these two threads have failed to understand your points.
crossdressingrodney - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> Reminds me of Schrodinger's cat. Is it alive or dead, or somewhere in between, and the debate between Hawking and Penrose that I partially quoted from before?

Reading back, I think I misunderstood Coel on this point actually. Although he may be flagrantly abusing mathematics, he was not talking of the probability of such-and-such existing, but rather about proportions (however they are defined).

I think I'm happy with the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics, since it doesn't talk about the probability of some entity existing, only the probability of it being in some state or other. And when we describe a physical system with quantum mechanics, we can (in principle) rerun the exact experiment as many times as we like, so the probability distribution of the different outcomes of the experiment have a frequentist interpretation. At least with atoms. You probably can't exactly reconstruct the cat and run that one again.

> He's a Platonist and I'm a positivist. He's worried that Schrödinger's cat is in a quantum state, where it is half alive and half dead. He feels that can't correspond to reality. But that doesn't bother me. I don't demand that a theory correspond to reality because I don't know what it is. Reality is not a quality you can test with litmus paper. All I'm concerned with is that the theory should predict the results of measurements. Quantum theory does this very successfully.

Who's who in this?
Richard J - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Why do you think this? You must, presumably, think you have some pretty powerful evidence for not thinking that, say, a table or an animal and its properties made (I have no problem with that word) from particles and their interactions is not reducible to those particles and their intereactions.

I don't think it is that simple. Take your table example - one of the properties most characteristic of it is its rigidity. it's worth asking in what sense is "rigidity" a property wholly reducible to the particles it's made of and their interactions. Fundamentally, what's the difference between solids and liquids, why is ice rigid and water not rigid? in one sense this is explained by the particles and their interactions, in that if you do a good enough computer simulation of water at +1 and -1 C you'll see the property of rigidity emerge, but this doesn't seem a satisfying explanation. The simple things one was taught in school - that solids are different from liquids because the molecules are closer together and the forces between them are bigger - are just wrong. In fact there is a powerful and general way of thinking about rigidity which shows that it is associated with the breaking of translational symmetry by the emergence of long-ranged order - in a liquid the molecules can be anywhere in space (as long as they don't overlap) but in a solid there is a long ranged correlation between the position of the molecules, and this broken symmetry is a necessary and sufficient condition for rigidity.

So to say that the property of rigidity is explained by the properties of their particles and their interactions is at the same time too much of an explanation and too little. It's too much because you could imagine many different microscopic models that would produce the same macroscopic property, but it's too little as well because it doesn't capture the broken symmetry that is the essence of what is different between rigid and non-rigid things.

Here's another example - one of the reasons physicists like graphene so much is that the electrons in graphene behave as if they were highly relativistic particles. Does this mean that the electrons "really" have very small rest mass energy compared to their kinetic energy? No, it's that the way an electron strongly interacts with its surroundings conspires to produce this effect. When we talk about the "electron" we really mean some composite entity consisting of the electron itself and the interactions it has with its surroundings, which it is convenient to think of as if it were a single elementary particle. We often in fact talk about "quasi-particles" which combine the effect of an object and its mutual interactions with its surroundings. Do these quasi-particles "exist"? Well, they reflect something about the physical world, but in another sense they are just ideas we construct to help us think and talk about the world. What occasionally causes condensed matter physicists to stay awake at night is this - if these composite, hybrid objects, in which we are lumping all sorts of interactions we often don't fully understand, behave in much the same way as fundamental particles, and often obey theories with very similar mathematical structure - typically quantum field theories - to those fundamental particles - why should we think the fundamental particles are actually fundamental?

Jimbo W on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> Who's who in this?

Hawking is "speaking", and is the positivist, and he is accusing Penrose of being the idealist. I think there is an element of pot calling the kettle black, because Hawking is at the very least an idealist with respect to maths, and more neutral about truth versus an acceptance of theories fitting data.
Robert Durran - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> I thought that might tickle your fancy! Consider the alternating harmonic sequence
>
> 1, -1/2, 1/3, -1/4, 1/5, -1/6, ...
>
> Pick your favourite real number x. Exercise: add the numbers together in the right order to make the sum converge to x.

Cool! I like that.
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> What you have written is not true: it depends on how you sample from the natural numbers. You can't
> sample uniformly from the natural numbers because there are infinitely many of them.

I confess that when it comes to mixing probability with infinities it quickly gets into weird things that I don't understand. As a physicist I try to proceed on physicist's intuition, which seems to give "sensible" answer in such situations, though the mathematicians often disagree!

For example, here is an illustration of how mixing standard probability theory with infinities leads to an absurd contradiction. http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/infinite-lotteries-and-infinitesimal.html

I don't know how to resolve this; does anyone? (Got some lecturing and stuff to do this morning, but I might reply more to your posts later.)
Robert Durran - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to crossdressingrodney)
> I don't know how to resolve this; does anyone? (Got some lecturing and stuff to do this morning, but I might reply more to your posts later.)

I hope you will also reply to Richard's post above!

crossdressingrodney - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> Hawking is at the very least an idealist with respect to maths,
<Bragg mode>
Can you develop this theme a little for us?
</Bragg mode>
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

Can't I get round the infinity is some fashion such as?:

Define the set of everything that exists in the observable universe. Since the observable universe is finite, this set will be finite.

For each entity, conceive of 10,000 variations of the entity (in the style of "crossdressingrodney with one extra freckle, or one fewer or two more etc"). Add all of these to the set. Also add into the set any entity anyone wants to postulate as existing. This set is still finite.

Now sample randomly from the set. Unless you have something that guides you to the things that exist (aka ="evidence") the chances are that any randomly sampled entity will not exist. Hence Occam's razor.
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I hope you will also reply to Richard's post above!

When teaching duties allow ...
cb294 - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> [...]
>
> Similarly, within biology there has been a quiet revolution over the last 10-12 years which Joe Public hasn't been told much about, that is looking at organisms on the larger scale, as systems. This hasn't so much invalidated the gene-centric view, but pushed it sideways, very much in the manner of the Copernican revolution, to show that genes no longer occupy a central position but belong to a much larger set of systems that is actually much more important. V exciting developments in the last year or so, with the whole DNA now being studied (the idea of junk DNA now being completely obsolete) - seen now as a vast 3-d system in which the proximity of different bits of DNA in the huge ball of wool of DNA is being seen as central importance to that part of the cell alone. Then there's all the rest :)
>

If I wrote what I think of systems biology I would manage to get moderated in a philosophy thread. In a nutshell, I consider "systems" and "-omics" to be the latest fad that eventually will go away again. 15 years ago it evolution, and yes, we knew before that stuff had evolved.

Clearly, "junk" bits of DNA can be co-opted by the genome to perform some regulatory functions, but its impotance is being massively oversold: You can generate a fully functional, complex vertebrate without any of it.

Crown group teleosts are in no way more primitive than mammals, if at all they are more evolved when comparing with our last common ancestor, something that even most biologist misrepresent by their worm-fly-fish-mouse-man evolutionary ladder. Still, the genome of the pufferfish (Fugu rubripes) contains hardly any intergenic regions and has eliminated most introns (How??? Why???), and still manages to organize a complex organism .

Also, when you look at the different "-omics" approaches, every man and their dog know that biological systems show loads of crossregulation and feedback. Drawing this out in ugly graphs and sprinkling complicated greek letters on top is simply putting sand in the eyes of your audience.

I must know, because I am guilty of this as well: In a recent manuscript currently under review at a rather good cell biology journal we mathematically simulated something that should be obvious when drawing the pathway as a series of chemical equilibria. But who cares as long as the editors believe that mathematical formula must necessarily contain profound insights...

Cheers,

Christian
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crossdressingrodney - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:

> In fact there is a powerful and general way of thinking about rigidity which shows that it is associated with the breaking of translational symmetry by the emergence of long-ranged order - in a liquid the molecules can be anywhere in space (as long as they don't overlap) but in a solid there is a long ranged correlation between the position of the molecules, and this broken symmetry is a necessary and sufficient condition for rigidity.

Can you explain this more? It seems to me that solids have the greater symmetry. Crystal lattices (like salt) have an infinite discrete group of symmetries: you can translate the lattice, rotation it and reflect it in various plane. Whereas water molecules are all jumbled up and won't be fixed by any geometric transformation. Or is it the symmetry of the correlation functions that is important?
Jimbo W on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:

> If I wrote what I think of systems biology I would manage to get moderated in a philosophy thread. In a nutshell, I consider "systems" and "-omics" to be the latest fad that eventually will go away again. 15 years ago it evolution, and yes, we knew before that stuff had evolved.

> Clearly, "junk" bits of DNA can be co-opted by the genome to perform some regulatory functions, but its impotance is being massively oversold: You can generate a fully functional, complex vertebrate without any of it.

Pretty closed minded. Why can we tolerate so much mutational stress? Why can someone who smokes 40 a day live till they're 50-60+ before developing a bronchogenic carcinoma? Consider the mutational rate, and where those mutations occur, and why it takes so long for transformation to be triggered....
Tim Chappell - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

One way of seeing how much more e.g. the battle of Hastings is than the physical particles involved is to think about the kind of principles and laws and rules of inference--in short, the kind of science--that you need to explain the occurrence of a battle.

The kind is historical. You cannot explain a battle just by explaining the movement of particles.

A different though related point. In what you've been saying, you've admitted (at least I think you have) the existence of patterns. That's interesting, because a pattern is *already* something non-physical. Patterns may be realised in the movements of particles, or in the movements of many other things (e.g. horses, arrows, elephants, chairs, currencies...) But a pattern is not what it is realised in. For the very same pattern can be realised in all sorts of things.

In short, patterns are abstract objects. And abstracts are not physical objects. And your view is that only physical objects exist. So if you admit the existence of patterns, you have ALREADY decided to admit the falsity of physicalism.

If so: great decision. Sad day for the physicalist church.
Jimbo W on 30 Nov 2012
crossdressingrodney - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:
> We often in fact talk about "quasi-particles" which combine the effect of an object and its mutual interactions with its surroundings. Do these quasi-particles "exist"? Well, they reflect something about the physical world, but in another sense they are just ideas we construct to help us think and talk about the world. What occasionally causes condensed matter physicists to stay awake at night is this - if these composite, hybrid objects, in which we are lumping all sorts of interactions we often don't fully understand, behave in much the same way as fundamental particles, and often obey theories with very similar mathematical structure - typically quantum field theories - to those fundamental particles - why should we think the fundamental particles are actually fundamental?

It is very remarkable that two-dimensional field theories of anionic particles (more general than "just" fermions and bosons) describe real phenomena isn't it.
Sir Chasm - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Surely you can explain a battle by the movement of particles? Bigger and smaller lumps of particles, but particles nonetheless. Why the battle happened is another question.
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to A Game of Chance:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
> Clearly you and Tim are not causally linked as no information exchange seems to be happening.
>
> You might want to read of Russels Paradox if you don't know it already. I learnt it in first year degree maths. It deduces some useful considerations in your debate, particularly for "exists". Consider which category does it fall under
>
> http://www.jimloy.com/logic/russell.htm

Or, under Coel's definition, do causal chains / causal interactions 'exist'?

Jimbo W on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> In short, patterns are abstract objects. And abstracts are not physical objects. And your view is that only physical objects exist. So if you admit the existence of patterns, you have ALREADY decided to admit the falsity of physicalism.

And how an earth can you compare the pattern: he calls hurricanes with what he also calls a pattern "mind".
crossdressingrodney - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> I confess that when it comes to mixing probability with infinities it quickly gets into weird things that I don't understand. As a physicist I try to proceed on physicist's intuition, which seems to give "sensible" answer in such situations, though the mathematicians often disagree!

This reminds me of teaching 1st year undergrad maths-physics students Analysis (probably the most anal and pedantic course they have to do, but for good reason!). It was an uphill struggle to get them to accept results they didn't have physical intuition for, despite rigourous proofs.

Of course on the flip side, physicists can do this amazing thing where they can do "calculations" with ill-defined quantities and get results that actually tell you something very precise and accurate about nature (e.g. all of quantum field theory as far as I can see).

My favourite example is when quantum field theorists were calculating some correlation function and found that a term of the form

A = sum of all the natural numbers

had appeared. Normally when this happens, you do "regularisation", which seems to mean "tippex out terms like this". But this time someone came up with an intuitive "reason" (called "Zeta function regularisation") why A is actually "equal" to -1/12 (!). Later more careful mathematical treatment showed that they had arrived at the correct answer. As an aside, this calculation leads directly to the bosonic string living in 26 dimensions, a fact later verified mathematically.

I wrote something in more detail about this here:

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=497535&v=1#x6790563

> For example, here is an illustration of how mixing standard probability theory with infinities leads to an absurd contradiction. http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/infinite-lotteries-and-infinitesimal.html

I don't know (or expect) that it can be resolved. I think it's a good illustration that intuition + probability + infinity = mess, and maybe that probability just doesn't make sense for some real-life situations. I think you've already argued that intuition + probability = mess before on here haven't you? E.g. the Monty-Hall problem, and other John Cox threads.

Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> The kind is historical. You cannot explain a battle just by explaining the movement of particles.

Sure you can, so long as you consider the interactions and patterns that those moving particles make.

> ... a pattern is *already* something non-physical.

Well here we come back to the definition of "physical", but I disagree; a "pattern" of matter is, to me, physical. For example, a "proton" is a particular pattern of quarks and gluons; you can rearrange those same quarks and gluons and get something that is not a proton. Yet, everyone accepts that a proton is "physical".

> For the very same pattern can be realised in all sorts of things.

I agree; both the pattern AND the constituents of the pattern matter. For example, take again the pattern of quarks and gluons that we call a "proton". If we re-arrange the same quarks and gluons into a different pattern we no longer have a proton. But, also, if we have the same *pattern* as in an proton, but change one of the constituents (change one quark for another quark) then again we no longer have a proton.

So both the particles AND their interactions and patterns are crucial; the combination is the important thing.

> In short, patterns are abstract objects. And abstracts are not physical objects. And your view is
> that only physical objects exist.

That only holds if you consider that the pattern in itself and alone is the important thing (with what it is made out of being irrelevant). But that's not the case. Both the pattern AND what that pattern is made out of are crucial.

> So if you admit the existence of patterns, you have ALREADY decided to admit the falsity of physicalism.

No, patterns of particles are indeed "physical" (unless one wants to deny that protons and neutrons are "physical").
Jimbo W on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Well here we come back to the definition of "physical", but I disagree; a "pattern" of matter is, to me, physical. For example, a "proton" is a particular pattern of quarks and gluons; you can rearrange those same quarks and gluons and get something that is not a proton. Yet, everyone accepts that a proton is "physical".

Do they?
Sir Chasm - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: What are they if they are not physical?
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Do they?

Well if they don't it's news to me. Even under Tim's very narrow definition as "what physicists study" surely protons are "physical"?
Jimbo W on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:

> You can generate a fully functional, complex vertebrate without any of it.

But how long would it survive? To reproduction?

On average, lung cancer develops after 50 pack-years of smoking37. Candidate gene resequencing studies suggest that the mutation prevalence in NCI-H209 is similar to that of primary lung cancers38,39. If the majority of mutations derive from the mélange of mutagens present in tobacco smoke, the clone of cells that ultimately becomes cancerous would acquire, over its lifetime, an average of one mutation for every 15 cigarettes smoked. If this is the case in a localised cluster of cells, then the number of mutations acquired across the whole bronchial tree from even one cigarette must be substantial.

The mutational rate in skin due to UV irradiation is also thought to be pretty massive. Diet is also likely to be generally highly mutagenic. And we have no idea of how dangerous our metabolic by products are, but its hypothesised to be significant. For example we have a highly developed pathway to resolve DNA interstrand crosslinks (ICLs), that join two strands together and inhibit replication and transcription. Why do we need the FA pathway? Why do patients with defects in this pathway have so many abnormalities and die so young from AML, or other solid malignancies, and why are their stem cells particularly sensitive e.g. leading to haemopoetic collapse? There must be an endogenous (e.g. byproducts of lipid peroxidation) or common internalised enviromental toxins (aldehydes like formaldehyde derived from alcohols) that cause ICLs at a high enough rate that a complicated pathway has evolved to repair these lesions homologously.
cb294 - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

I don´t consider myself closed minded at all. Clearly, my post was provocatory, but I guess this is in the spririt of a forum discussion.

More to the point, noone disputes that genomes, cells, and even more so organisms are complex systems that contain lots of genetic and nongenetic buffering mechanisms that operate both at the level of individual molecules or pathways and at systems level. Genomes have clearly been selected for robustness: After all, they have to generate a functioning organism under the continuous influence of intrinsic (i.e., mutations) and extrinsic (e.g., eenironment) pertubations.

Just to give some examples from my own field, only 3000 of the 15000 genes in Drosophila have a visible or lethal phenotype when inactivated by mutation. In addition, only 3 genes are lethal when present in only one copy, and another handful leads to visible defects. Even more dramatically, even large segmental aneuploids (removing hundreds of genes in one go) usually support embryonic development to an amazing degree.

All this is to say that it is actually surprisingly hard to screw the system "fly" up badly enough to have a visible effect under lab conditions.

From Susan Lindquists work we also know that heat shock proteins acting at the post-genetic, protein level are responsible for masking a large part of the underlying genetic variation so it does not have a phenotypic effect.

In the light of this knowledge I find it a massive overstatement of what is known about non-coding bits of the genome to say they are not junk. Yes, the fact that these regions are transcribed to a much greater extent than previously known is interesting, but evolution can be expected to make use of what is there. Using a repetitive retrovirus graveyard (that at some point clearly was junk) as a source of regulatory RNAs is hardly unexpected.

I seriously object to the current hype surrounding all systems approaches, where every biological question has to be phrased in systems terms. This is not to say that there isn´t some really good systems biology, but most of what I see at conferences in my field (molecular cell and developmental biology) still is rubbish.

CB


cb294 - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to cb294)
>
> [...]
>
> But how long would it survive? To reproduction?
>

Sorry, I phrased that too flippantly. You or I probably cannot construct such an organism, but evolution has.

Puffer fish naturally have eliminated almost all of their "junk" DNA at some rather recent point in evolution, while the genomes of their closest relatives contain normal levels of junk.

CB
Tim Chappell - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

So now we need to know how you define, or characterise, the physical.

Oh look, a loop :-)
Richard J - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:
> Can you explain this more? It seems to me that solids have the greater symmetry.

You can translate a liquid by any arbitrary vector and it looks the same, a solid is only invariant under translation by a lattice vector, so it has less symmetry. You're right, though, it would be more precise to talk in terms of the correlation function (or the Fourier transform).

Richard J - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> It is very remarkable that two-dimensional field theories of anionic particles (more general than "just" fermions and bosons) describe real phenomena isn't it.

Yes, this is rather magical (not that I understand it that well, but my boss is currently obsessed by topological protection in Majorana fermions so he occasionally assumes I know more than I do about it). What's particularly magical is that these are fundamentally collective phenomena - it's the pattern that's important, not so much the particles, as illustrated by the fact that superfluids and superconductors behave in such analogous ways.
Richard J - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> So both the particles AND their interactions and patterns are crucial; the combination is the important thing.

This isn't really always true. Critical phenomena are a counterexample - we can describe the 2nd order transition from water to vapour, of iron from ferromagnet to paramagnet, and the transition in a 3d Ising model with quantitatively the same theory. This is despite the fact that the particles and the way they interact in the liquid and the magnet are quite different, and in the Ising model they're a completely unphysical toy model. Here it's the pattern that's everything, and what the particles and interactions are doesn't matter.
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crossdressingrodney - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> Can't I get round the infinity is some fashion such as?:
>
> Define the set of everything that exists in the observable universe. Since the observable universe is finite, this set will be finite...

If this set is well-defined and is finite then your argument bypasses all my mathematical objections. Do you think that only finitely many things exist? (In your sense of the word "exist"; I wonder if "are real" or "are physical" would be a better term?) I don't think it necessarily follow from the observable universe being finite in extent.
crossdressingrodney - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

One final thought before I pop off. Several of us are struggling to understand the difference between a definition and a characterisation and maybe something else.

In maths a definition looks something like this:

A natural number n is defined to be even if and only there exists a number m such that n=2m.

Do you agree that this is a definition? Is it also a characterisation? If so can you give an example of a characterisation that is not a definition?

PS Thanks to everyone for continuing, despite some unwarrented abuse and other distractions earlier in the thread.
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> So now we need to know how you define, or characterise, the physical.

As I've said, particles such as electrons, protons and neutrons are "physical", and so are the patterns that they make when they interact.

What I refuse to do is to define a boundary between "physical" and "existent but non-physical", because I don't have any concept of the latter (and if anyone does want to define such a concept and argue for it then they'll welcome to do so).
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> Do you think that only finitely many things exist?

I think that in a defined and finite volume of space only a finite number of things exist.
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> As I've said, particles such as electrons, protons and neutrons are "physical", and so are the patterns that they make when they interact.
>
> What I refuse to do is to define a boundary between "physical" and "existent but non-physical", because I don't have any concept of the latter (and if anyone does want to define such a concept and argue for it then they'll welcome to do so).

And what about what I was getting at earlier - how do causal interactions fit into your definition of existence? For comparison: suppose I say things exist if they connect to us via the road system. Under this definition does the road system exist?
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to crossdressingrodney)
>
> [...]
>
> I think that in a defined and finite volume of space only a finite number of things exist.

Faced with crossderssingrodney's objection are you putting an infinite universe into the meta-existing category now, or is it still a postulate, perhaps somewhere in between exist and meta-exist?

Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> Several of us are struggling to understand the difference between a definition and a
> characterisation and maybe something else.

As I see it, a characterisation is just a less-specific definition. I would differ from Tim in that I would insist that the definition/characterisation of a category is the same as the operational tests that one would use to determine whether an entity qualifies for the category. I don't see how they can be different.

So, turning to Tim's quote of Quine's "To be is to be the value of a variable". If that is a definition/characterisation then it means that "exist" cannot be basic or primal (as earlier advocated), since here it is dependent on "value" and "variable".

Indeed, I'm struggling to see that "To be is to be the value of a variable" means anything at all, without some decent definition of "value" and "variable", which is likely to then beg the whole question. Again there's a different in style from philosophy to physics, since "To be is to be the value of a variable" sounds like word-play to me.

Certainly, physicists don't use that concept: when they ask the question of whether the Higgs boson exists (or similar), they don't consult Quine's slogan, they ask the question: "Does it make my detector go "ping"?".

Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Faced with crossderssingrodney's objection are you putting an infinite universe into the meta-existing category now ...

No, I'm not putting a causally linked but infinite universe into "meta-exists". Note that crossdressingrodney's objection was to my advocacy of Occam's razor, so doesn't directly affect my definition of "exist".
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> how do causal interactions fit into your definition of existence?

Causal connections are the exchange of mediator particles, so yes they "exist".

> For comparison: suppose I say things exist if they connect to us via the road system. Under this
> definition does the road system exist?

Yes.
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> No, I'm not putting a causally linked but infinite universe into "meta-exists". Note that crossdressingrodney's objection was to my advocacy of Occam's razor, so doesn't directly affect my definition of "exist".

So an infinite causally connected universe is a well posed notion but not one that can be decided?
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> Causal connections are the exchange of mediator particles, so yes they "exist".
>
> [...]

And the mediator particles, are they connected via further mediator particles? Do we just presume this - turtles all the way down? Or do we draw a line and declare space 'empty' at some point and some particles 'basic'. Postulates or evidence?
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:

> In fact there is a powerful and general way of thinking about rigidity which shows that it is
> associated with the breaking of translational symmetry by the emergence of long-ranged order -
> in a liquid the molecules can be anywhere in space (as long as they don't overlap) but in a solid
> there is a long ranged correlation between the position of the molecules, and this broken symmetry
> is a necessary and sufficient condition for rigidity.

Haven't you just described two different patterns that those molecules can be in?

> So to say that the property of rigidity is explained by the properties of their particles and
> their interactions is at the same time too much of an explanation and too little. [...] it's too
> little as well because it doesn't capture the broken symmetry that is the essence of what is
> different between rigid and non-rigid things.

Why wouldn't it? A full description of the pattern of those molecules surely would capture the difference in rigidity.

> We often in fact talk about "quasi-particles" which combine the effect of an object and its mutual
> interactions with its surroundings. Do these quasi-particles "exist"?

Yes.

> if these composite, hybrid objects, in which we are lumping all sorts of interactions we often don't
> fully understand, behave in much the same way as fundamental particles ... why should we think the
> fundamental particles are actually fundamental?

Well we don't, do we? I've talked up-thread about how the proton (which could be considered as a fundamental particle), is really just a "pattern" of more fundamental things, just as your quasi-particles are.

OK, you might object, but the more fundamental things (leptons & quarks perhaps) *are* truly fundamental. Are they? String theory would regard them as excitations of a string. We could happily ditch the concept of a "fundamental" particle as unhelpful, and regard everything as "particles and their interactional patterns" -- including protons, including helium nuclei, including molecules, including quasi-particles, including people and including the Battle of Hastings.
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> And the mediator particles, are they connected via further mediator particles?

No, the mediator particles mediate by travelling across the space (they don't need further mediators).
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> So an infinite causally connected universe is a well posed notion but not one that can be decided?

Yes and yes.
Jimbo W on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> If this set is well-defined and is finite then your argument bypasses all my mathematical objections. Do you think that only finitely many things exist? (In your sense of the word "exist"; I wonder if "are real" or "are physical" would be a better term?) I don't think it necessarily follow from the observable universe being finite in extent.

Indeed, what about in the direction of small scales? If it is a Higgs, can it be split, can quarks be split into preons? Is it turtles all the way down? How do we know for sure? What about Godel's incompleteness theorem have to say?
crossdressingrodney - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> I think that in a defined and finite volume of space only a finite number of things exist.
What if it turned out matter could be arbitrarily subdivided?
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> No, the mediator particles mediate by travelling across the space (they don't need further mediators).

'Empty' space? Is that a thing that 'exists' under your definition?
Jimbo W on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

Whoops, I hadn't seen your post...
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> Yes and yes.

And it's something that you believe exists, right?

Tell me about your non-belief in God's existence.
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> What if it turned out matter could be arbitrarily subdivided?

That would be a problem for my argument, but I don't think the evidence is pointing the direction of "arbitrary" subdivisions. At the smallest scale, things look more and more as falling into a few distinct categories.
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Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> And it's something that you believe exists, right?

Depends what you mean by "believe". The evidence is that a more-of-the-same extrapolation beyond the observable horizon makes sense. Beyond that I have no opinion.

> Tell me about your non-belief in God's existence.

There's no evidence for it. And no amount of more-of-the-same extrapolation from what we do know points to it.
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> Depends what you mean by "believe". The evidence is that a more-of-the-same extrapolation beyond the observable horizon makes sense. Beyond that I have no opinion.
>


More of the same is an interesting idea re an infinite universe. Two questions / possibilities:

1. if it really is infinite, why more of the SAME, given that the observable portion would be, by definition, infinitesimal?

2. If more of the same, do you go along with the idea that it really is inevitable that there is a lot more of, an infinite amount more of in fact, EXACTLY the same. In some part of the unobservable universe a copy of me is typing the same reply to a copy of you?

Does either 1. or 2. make you want to go for more of the same but not an infinite amount more? I'm curious as to how you balance your gut and your reason when it comes to baseline presumptions about reality.

crossdressingrodney - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> Indeed, what about in the direction of small scales? If it is a Higgs, can it be split, can quarks be split into preons? Is it turtles all the way down? How do we know for sure? What about Godel's incompleteness theorem have to say?
Snap!. What is a preon?
I'm not sure what Goedel's theorem has to say about reality. As a colleague said to a visiting theologian yesterday, Goedel's incompleteness doesn't say anything about truth, just about what can proven about statements about arithmetic in particular axiomatic systems.
Robert Durran - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> We often in fact talk about "quasi-particles" which combine the effect of an object and its mutual interactions with its surroundings. Do these quasi-particles "exist"? Well, they reflect something about the physical world, but in another sense they are just ideas we construct to help us think and talk about the world.

Is this different to asking whether or not a table exists? Is a table not just a particular conglomeration of particles and their intereactions? A furniture salesman might, at their level, find it convenient to talk about tables just as a physicist might, at one level, find it convenient to talk about quasi-particles.
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> 1. if it really is infinite, why more of the SAME ...

Parsimony; Occam's razor; see above.

> 2. If more of the same, do you go along with the idea that it really is inevitable ...

Nope. As I say, a more-of-the-same extrapolation makes sense, but that's all we can say, we can't make any definite claims about it.

> ... that there is a lot more of, an infinite amount more of in fact, EXACTLY the same.

Well, actually, the chaotic-inflation multiverse model that is popular nowadays would say that it is more-of-the-same only as far the domain boundary with the neighbouring inflationary bubble. That would likely be distant compared to the observable horizon, but still a finite distance. Of course you can then ask about how far the sea of multiverse bubbles extends ...
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

OK, back to an earlier question: does empty space exist under your definition?
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> [...]
> Snap!. What is a preon?
> I'm not sure what Goedel's theorem has to say about reality. As a colleague said to a visiting theologian yesterday, Goedel's incompleteness doesn't say anything about truth, just about what can proven about statements about arithmetic in particular axiomatic systems.

True, but it might have something to say about attempts to create clear-cut definitions of 'exist'.
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> OK, back to an earlier question: does empty space exist under your definition?

There's no such thing as "empty" space. If there were such a "thing" as "empty space", and it was unable to cause anything then, under my definition, it wouldn't be a "thing" and it wouldn't "exist". But, as I say, in modern physics you can't really divorce the space from the matter.
Jimbo W on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> Snap!. What is a preon?

Preons? They're theorerical suggestions for sub-particles of quarks and leptons.

> I'm not sure what Goedel's theorem has to say about reality. As a colleague said to a visiting theologian yesterday, Goedel's incompleteness doesn't say anything about truth, just about what can proven about statements about arithmetic in particular axiomatic systems.

Isn't that what our fundamental theories are meant to do:

http://www.hawking.org.uk/godel-and-the-end-of-physics.html

I'm not quite sure why Hawking has volte face on this one, but suspect it was because he wanted some of what Dawkins was drinking....
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> No, the mediator particles mediate by travelling across the space (they don't need further mediators).

This picks up where we were. So, it's a kind of field theory? Particles only appear to travel across space. In reality they are knots in a field or whatever the technical term is? In which case it's not turtles all the way down, fields are the bottom line? But we only know about them because knots / particles can be detected? How precisely do fields exist under your theory?
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> How precisely do fields exist under your theory?

The things (whatever they are) that can affect things exist.
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Are you suggesting something in our observable universe now that we can never detect?
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

No
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

If you say Fields exist under your definition, this must mean they are causally connected to us.

But surely that's either a tautology (fields just run through the universe) or an untested (and untestable?) proposal (we detect the particles but not the fields).

Jimbo W on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Parsimony; Occam's razor; see above.

I really don't think you can apply the razor here.
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

As I said: things (whatever they are) that can affect things exist.

If fields are "things" that cause effects then they "exist"; if the concept "field" is merely a way of calculating, with fields not being causative agents, then fields do not exist (though the concept "fields" does). Pick either of those, given your preference as to what "fields" are.

Any chance you could ask interesting questions rather than endlessly asking me to restate my definition of "existence", which is what the last umpteen questions have amounted to?
Robert Durran - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> If the concept "field" is merely a way of calculating, with fields not being causative agents, then fields do not exist (though the concept "fields" does).

Any update on whether wave functions exist?!
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> As I said: things (whatever they are) that can affect things exist.
>
> If fields are "things" that cause effects then they "exist"; if the concept "field" is merely a way of calculating, with fields not being causative agents, then fields do not exist (though the concept "fields" does). Pick either of those, given your preference as to what "fields" are.
>
> Any chance you could ask interesting questions rather than endlessly asking me to restate my definition of "existence", which is what the last umpteen questions have amounted to?

Sorry Coel, I'm doing my best. Well, OK, I'm firing them off. Maybe I should slow down. But before I do give me one more answer to chew on. My series of questions, starting with the roads analogy for causal chains, was designed to get you to develop your answer to the first question: do causal chains exist? You said, categorically, that they did. Now, it is my contention that we have chased through our own little causal chain and come to Fields. So, you must believe Fields exist. Is that right? Tell me how you understand fields and why they exist under your definition.
Jimbo W on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Sorry Coel, I'm doing my best. Well, OK, I'm firing them off. Maybe I should slow down. But before I do give me one more answer to chew on. My series of questions, starting with the roads analogy for causal chains, was designed to get you to develop your answer to the first question: do causal chains exist? You said, categorically, that they did. Now, it is my contention that we have chased through our own little causal chain and come to Fields. So, you must believe Fields exist. Is that right? Tell me how you understand fields and why they exist under your definition.

Perhaps they are the only thing that exists?
http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1204/1204.4616.pdf
Jimbo W on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

So, on the basis of parsimony will you for Guowu Meng's theories?
http://arxiv.org/pdf/1203.3944v2
http://bit.ly/SzmGmo
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Richard J - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Haven't you just described two different patterns that those molecules can be in?

I have. The point is that the situation would be the same if they were molecules with different properties, or indeed not molecules at all. If matter, say, was made not of molecules, but of vortexes in the aether, if the vortices had long ranged order then we would still have rigidity.

> OK, you might object, but the more fundamental things (leptons & quarks perhaps) *are* truly fundamental. Are they? String theory would regard them as excitations of a string. We could happily ditch the concept of a "fundamental" particle as unhelpful, and regard everything as "particles and their interactional patterns" -- including protons, including helium nuclei, including molecules, including quasi-particles, including people and including the Battle of Hastings.

It may well be that quarks and leptons aren't fundamental, but are the emergent properties of some even more microscopic theory - turtles all the way down. But what we learn from emergence on larger scales is that many different microscopic theories could produce the same emergent properties. If we can't experimentally probe what's going on at the appropriate length and energy scales we'll never know which one is correct (though that won't stop Platonic theorists speculating about such theories and trying to find other non-experimental criterion for selection, like "elegance" or "beauty"). But that doesn't matter because our now non-fundamental theories will still work fine to describe the world on the length scales we can access.

Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> So, you must believe Fields exist. Is that right? Tell me how you understand fields and
> why they exist under your definition.

As I understand it, whether you fundamentally have "fields" or just the exchange of particles is an open question. I don't have to believe in fields, I can accept it either way. The concept "fields" could be just a calculational device (with the exchange of particles being "real"), or fields themselves could be "real". Either way is consistent with my definition.

Ditto for wavefunctions; I don't know whether they are "real" or just calculational methods. Some recent work suggests they are real: http://www.nature.com/news/quantum-theorem-shakes-foundations-1.9392
Richard J - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Is this different to asking whether or not a table exists? Is a table not just a particular conglomeration of particles and their intereactions? A furniture salesman might, at their level, find it convenient to talk about tables just as a physicist might, at one level, find it convenient to talk about quasi-particles.

I don't know, I didn't do Ontology 101. But I do know that whenever someone uses the word "just" in a context like that it's a rhetorical attempt to privilege one particular point of view that may not necessarily be the only one or even the most helpful one. A table is indeed a conglomeration of particles and interactions, but it's also an object made out of bits of wood, and it's also something one eats one's dinner off. I'm not sure that any one of these three ways of looking at the table is any more fundamental than any others.

Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> When the category is a predicate, yes. But existence isn't a predicate. Have you read Kant yet?

I was meaning to reply about Kant, but forgot:

Yes I'm aware of Kant's reply to the Ontological Argument. The Ontological Argument is essentially a sleight of hand, seguing from "conceiving of existence" to "existence". Kant's method was to remove "existence" from the predicates in order to isolate it and so shine a light on it, and by doing so show that the OA doesn't establish existence. That is a neat and valid refutation of the OA.

However, it isn't the only one. It is still easy enough to point out the sleight of hand (seguing from "conceiving of existence" to "existence") while leaving "existence" among the (other) predicates. Whether you do this or not is essentially arbitrary. Some philosophers prefer to, others don't (see this for an overview http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/existence/ ).

Either way, it is wrong to argue that doing one of these (including or not including "existence" as a predicate) is "wrong" -- really you can define your category "predicate" either way without that changing reality. (As usual, this points to philosophers getting too hung up on their own words and categories and not being interested enough in the real world.)
Gordon Stainforth - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

The whole point about an 'existent' is that it is a (completely undefined) 'thing' in the real world. Philosophers are interested in those real things, just as scientists are. I've never heard that they've got any kind of 'hang up' about it. It's certainly got nothing to do with playing with words, or linguistically predicating anything on anything.
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> I've never heard that they've got any kind of 'hang up' about it.

The "hangup" isn't about the topic of what "exists", which is entirely valid, it's their concentration on word-play rather than evidence. For example, only philosophers (and theologians) would even take the Ontological Argument seriously; I remember bursting out laughing when I first heard about it, aged about 13, in an RE class -- I literally thought it was satirical, a way of poking fun at theologians. I took some persuading that anyone took it seriously.
Gordon Stainforth - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> [...]
>
> The "hangup" isn't about the topic of what "exists", which is entirely valid, it's their concentration on word-play rather than evidence. For example, only philosophers (and theologians) would even take the Ontological Argument seriously; I remember bursting out laughing when I first heard about it, aged about 13, in an RE class -- I literally thought it was satirical, a way of poking fun at theologians. I took some persuading that anyone took it seriously.

The history of it is that very few philosophers ever took the Ontological Argument seriously, and that was many centuries ago. Like you, I burst out laughing when I first heard it, so (obviously) logically daft was it.

Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> The history of it is that very few philosophers ever took the Ontological Argument seriously, and that was many centuries ago.

So what's the standing of someone like Alvin Plantinga in the philosophical world? Of course he's basically an apologetic Christian, and he regularly gets laughed at by us "militant" atheists (but then we would, wouldn't we), but we're also told that has a recognised high standing in the philosophical academic world.

We atheists are repeatedly told that there is "serious" theology that we don't and can't address, and it is people like Plantinga, and his Modal Ontological Argument and his reply to the Problem of Evil, who gets pointed to.
Gordon Stainforth - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> [...]
>
> So what's the standing of someone like Alvin Plantinga in the philosophical world? Of course he's basically an apologetic Christian, and he regularly gets laughed at by us "militant" atheists (but then we would, wouldn't we), but we're also told that has a recognised high standing in the philosophical academic world.
>

I don't know. I think I've got a collection of essays that includes something by him somewhere, but I didn't get on with it; though I have quite a lot of time for Polkinghorne.

> We atheists are repeatedly told that there is "serious" theology that we don't and can't address, and it is people like Plantinga, and his Modal Ontological Argument and his reply to the Problem of Evil, who gets pointed to.

You make it sound as if atheists are generally opposed to philosophers, when I'm rather certain that the vast majority of philosophers are in fact atheists.
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> You make it sound as if atheists are generally opposed to philosophers, when I'm rather certain that
> the vast majority of philosophers are in fact atheists.

Perhaps, but atheists who are philosophers are much outnumbered by atheists who are scientists (scientists generally outnumber philosophers of course), and atheists with a sciencey outlook tend to be fairly critical of a lot of philosophers, atheist or not. (A handful of philosophers are excepted, Dan Dennett for example.)
Gordon Stainforth - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Yes the world is much fuller with scientists than philosophers (thank goodness, though arguably there are rather too few good philosophers around these days)
Rob Exile Ward on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: Compared to when?
Coel Hellier - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:

> The point is that the situation would be the same if they were molecules with different properties, or
> indeed not molecules at all. If matter, say, was made not of molecules, but of vortexes in the aether,
> if the vortices had long ranged order then we would still have rigidity.

But the patterns that particles are able to arrange themselves in are still a result of the properties of the particles. As an obvious example, you can make patterns out of bosons that you can't make out of fermions.

You are right that similar higher-level patterns can sometimes be made with many different types of lower-level particle (you could make an airframe out of carbon fibre or out of metal), but in all cases the pattern is still a result of the properties of the particle (you couldn't make the airframe out of butter).
Gordon Stainforth - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

I was going to say 50s and 60s, but really I mean 30s - 60s. The 50s and 60s seemed to be a bit of a Golden Age.
Rob Davies - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney: Well said.

Almost any (which in itself is a mathematical concept) mathematical theorem is atated so precisely that anybody who doesn't have the right training will misinterpret it.
Rob Davies - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: I don't know what Prof. Polkinghorne ia doing these days. I remember that he dropped out of his post in Cambridge to become a full-time priest in the C of E. We (Cambridge research students in physics 35 years ago) found it childishly amusing that his initials were "J. C.". In one of his [Polkinghorne's] lectures that I attended (on Quantum Field Theory) he made some snide remarks about Richard Feynman's mathematical abilioties - the only time I ever heard a roomful of Cambridge physics students actually wake up and protest.
Gordon Stainforth - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Davies:

OK, I don't want to give the impression that I'm particularly interested in these scientific theologians, because I'm not. The only other one I can recall reading I think was ?Templeton. It's right off the radar screen as far as I'm concerned, philosophically.
John Gillott - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

One more quickie if I may for me to mull (your answer that is) over the weekend.

On the other thread (part 1) you said that quantum indeterminism existed under your definition. My quick question is: under the definition of causal chains linked to us, how does quantum indeterminism 'exist'? Acausality rather breaks causal chains doesn't it? Are you standing back and saying, truth be told, you don't agree with quantum indeterminism? Perhaps you're more in line with Penrose (to cite him as a reference because he's already come up on this thread) and / or others who take a related approach?
Rob Davies - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: Of the lecturers I heard in Cambridge Martin Rees (who has, I am sure, never claimed to be a philosopher) made the most lasting impression. I have a T-shirt (bought in Boulder on a climbing trip) which reads "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence - Carl Sagan", but actually I heard Martin Rees say it many years earlier when I was a research student. I used this phrase in a business meeting well before I bought the T-shirt, without at the time even remembering where I'd heard it first. Just shows that even the most obscure part of one's education isn't wasted, I suppose.

Earlier this week I heard Rees say on a TV programme something along the lines of "I recommend my students to read good science-fiction as it's no less likely to be wrong than speculative scientific papers".

Years back he was interviewed by Joan Bakewll radio about why he, a professed atheist, attended services in King's College Chapel. His response was: "It is part of the culture of my tribe."
Gordon Stainforth - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Rob Davies:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth) Of the lecturers I heard in Cambridge Martin Rees (who has, I am sure, never claimed to be a philosopher) made the most lasting impression. I have a T-shirt (bought in Boulder on a climbing trip) which reads "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence - Carl Sagan", but actually I heard Martin Rees say it many years earlier when I was a research student. I used this phrase in a business meeting well before I bought the T-shirt, without at the time even remembering where I'd heard it first. Just shows that even the most obscure part of one's education isn't wasted, I suppose.

But that quote of Carl Sagan is just so right and important.

> Earlier this week I heard Rees say on a TV programme something along the lines of "I recommend my students to read good science-fiction as it's no less likely to be wrong than speculative scientific papers".

Oh, glorious stuff with more than a ring of truth about it. My goodness some trickery goes on in some papers I've read.

>
> Years back he was interviewed by Joan Bakewll radio about why he, a professed atheist, attended services in King's College Chapel. His response was: "It is part of the culture of my tribe."

Isn't that just the perfect answer? And the really important point is that we need to understand our own culture, where we've come from, and treat it with the greatest respect.

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johnj on 01 Dec 2012 - 188.29.104.145.threembb.co.uk
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I'm glad we've got onto Carl Sagan as if you've read anything of David Wilcock, you find he goes into some detail at certain times about the 1997 film Contact, which he describes along the lines of something like this is the closest us the general public will get to declassified viewing of developed technology for exploring Einstein-Rosen bridges.
Coel Hellier - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> you said that quantum indeterminism existed under your definition. My quick question is: under
> the definition of causal chains linked to us, how does quantum indeterminism 'exist'?

Quantum indeterminism doesn't "exist" in the sense of being an entity or an agent, instead it's a description of how things behave. The things that behave in a quantum indeterministic way do "exist".

> Acausality rather breaks causal chains doesn't it?

If something is totally without cause then it starts a new chain (as up-thread, I've no problem with that, indeed it's quite an attractive notion; my definition only requires that to "exist" a particle has a possible forward chain to "us", there's no requirement for a backward chain stretching indefinitely backward.) In the case of partial acausality, a particle is still capable of affecting other things, and so still qualifies as "exists".
Rob Davies - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to johnj: Does he have anything to say about the top secret blueprints for Santa's sled?
johnj on 01 Dec 2012 - 188.31.4.114.threembb.co.uk
In reply to Rob Davies: I haven't read anything about that. Maybe Santa's sled uses flux capacitor type technology?
Tim Chappell - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> As I've said, particles such as electrons, protons and neutrons are "physical", and so are the patterns that they make when they interact.
>
> What I refuse to do is to define a boundary between "physical" and "existent but non-physical", because I don't have any concept of the latter (and if anyone does want to define such a concept and argue for it then they'll welcome to do so).


So, in short, you can give some examples of the physical, but you can't say what the physical is.

Whereas I can: the physical is what physics is about. Which is why there's loads and loads that is non-physical. Chemistry for a start.

johnj on 01 Dec 2012 - 94.196.56.178.threembb.co.uk
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I find it fascinating that many people can fundamentally believe something cannot exist because our sensors cannot detect it. There are so many mysteries out there which are currently unexplained.
Robert Durran - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> The physical is what physics is about. Which is why there's loads and loads that is non-physical. Chemistry for a start.

Oh dear.

Coel Hellier - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> So, in short, you can give some examples of the physical, but you can't say what the physical is.

As far as I'm aware, everything that we know to exist is "physical". As I said, the only thing I'm not doing is defining a boundary between "physical" and "existent but non-physical", because I don't have any concept of the latter

> Whereas I can: the physical is what physics is about. Which is why there's loads and loads that is
> non-physical. Chemistry for a start.

I think that very few chemists would agree with you; they would agree that they're studying physical material. As I said up-thread, the division of our study of the world into different domains is largely arbitrary. There is no clear divide between the subjects "physics" and "chemistry", just a smooth transition; chemists accept that the stuff they study obeys the very same "laws of physics" and indeed they'd use most of the same laws.
Sir Chasm - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: I don't want to misinterpret you uncharitably, Tim, so could you clarify what you mean when you say that chemistry is non-physical?
Coel Hellier - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Whereas I can: the physical is what physics is about. Which is why there's loads and loads that
> is non-physical. Chemistry for a start.

There was an article in Nature last week about physicists studying cancer tumours to see if they could bring new insight to curing cancer. Would you want to say that cancer tumours are "physical" while being studied by physicists but "non-physical" when being studied by biologists or doctors? Suppose a physicist was studying a cancer tumour at the same time as a medical reseacher, would that cancer tumour then be both "physical" and "non-physical" simultaneously?


Gordon Stainforth - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Wicked ;)
Jimbo W on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Wicked ;)

Again, tell me Gordon.... How is reality layered? How is one layer to be distinguished from another? Are there definable boundary conditions? If not, in what way is it at all meaningful or relevant to speak about a layered reality at all? Alternatively, are you really just choosing where you view layers in reality? How can that be justified? Seeing as you're a proponent of this idea, I think it only fair that you at least describe what you mean and give some examples (rather than scoffing at Tim with Coel's caricature). I happen to disagree with Tim on this so far, either because his position isn't sufficiently explained, or because his seemingly flippant responses are revealing his real position. Either way, I don't think we've found out anything yet about either of your positions on the layering of reality, and what this means. So please enlighten us with some actual substance.
Jimbo W on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> There was an article in Nature last week about physicists studying cancer tumours to see if they could bring new insight to curing cancer.

It wasn't a particularly enlightening article though.. ..and mostly an expression of wishful thinking.

> Would you want to say that cancer tumours are "physical" while being studied by physicists but "non-physical" when being studied by biologists or doctors? Suppose a physicist was studying a cancer tumour at the same time as a medical reseacher, would that cancer tumour then be both "physical" and "non-physical" simultaneously?

Physical, chemical and biological simultaneously, if the latter two are what Tim might mean by "non-physical" with respect to an irreducibility in the division so of thought and analysis of biological phenomenon, would seem to be an okay way to go... ...we have physicists here who are accurately modelling tumour invasion by defining physical behaviours of tumour cells vs surrounding stromal cells... ...but so what, they have managed to model a behaviour using very simple physical rules, in the context of an FEM modelling system, that looks very similar if not identical to what we see in real biological tissues, but what does that tell us that's going to help us intervene with the disease?
Jimbo W on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> (In reply to Tim Chappell) I don't want to misinterpret you uncharitably, Tim, so could you clarify what you mean when you say that chemistry is non-physical?

Yes, I do think it needs clarification.
Jimbo W on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Oh dear.

Perhaps a better question is:
How is it meaningful to describe chemistry, or biology in fundamental particle physical terms. Is a foundational view of reality, bottom up, really capable of describing biological phenomena?

Alternatively, are some phenomenon definitively explainable in non probabilistic terms, fundamentally, e.g. entropy? I mean what actually is entropy definitively? What does it physically correspond to?
Jimbo W on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Oh, glorious stuff with more than a ring of truth about it. My goodness some trickery goes on in some papers I've read.

Like what?

> Isn't that just the perfect answer? And the really important point is that we need to understand our own culture, where we've come from, and treat it with the greatest respect.

What, you mean like our theological origins of our physical science?
Jimbo W on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> OK, I don't want to give the impression that I'm particularly interested in these scientific theologians, because I'm not. The only other one I can recall reading I think was ?Templeton.

Templeton was a financier, who with his huge wealth set up the templeton foundation and its substantial prize. He was not a scientist, but he did write about reality and his views about it.

> It's right off the radar screen as far as I'm concerned, philosophically.

Perhaps some examples and justifications please. Lets keep this discussion meaningfully argued rather than a self indulgence of shared aspects of one anothers world views. Its truth we're interested in isn't it?
Coel Hellier - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> How is it meaningful to describe chemistry, or biology in fundamental particle physical terms.

You also have to talk about the patterns that the fundamental physical stuff makes. Indeed, that is the case when talking about physics also (e.g. my above example of the proton; or the physical distinction between fermions and bosons, which only means anything when you talk about the pattern of more than one particle, etc). Thus there is no great change in going from physics to chemistry/biology, the patterns just get a bit more involved.

Indeed, the only *meaning* of any characteristic of a fundamental particle is how it interacts with other particles or how it makes patterns with other particles. There isn't anything else. No property of a particle even has meaning if you consider only that particle on its own.

> I mean what actually is entropy definitively? What does it physically correspond to?

It's all about the patterns that matter makes, how you arrange particles.
Gordon Stainforth - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> [...]
>
> Again, tell me Gordon.... How is reality layered? How is one layer to be distinguished from another? Are there definable boundary conditions? If not, in what way is it at all meaningful or relevant to speak about a layered reality at all? Alternatively, are you really just choosing where you view layers in reality? How can that be justified? Seeing as you're a proponent of this idea, I think it only fair that you at least describe what you mean and give some examples (rather than scoffing at Tim with Coel's caricature). I happen to disagree with Tim on this so far, either because his position isn't sufficiently explained, or because his seemingly flippant responses are revealing his real position. Either way, I don't think we've found out anything yet about either of your positions on the layering of reality, and what this means. So please enlighten us with some actual substance.

I'm sure I answered that. (Anyway, I'm away from home having dinner with a friend at the moment so can't say v much) Roughly what I said, or hoped I might have said, is that there are no hard and fast boundaries, and each 'layer' is completely involved in each other layer up and down. It's really mostly about scale: how 'particles' work at a quantum level is not much/at all like the way much bigger things like planets and moons work. That's all. And then, as we all know, some very weird things start to become dramatically more significant as you get into bigger and bigger scales.

In a nutshell, nature seldom works in compartments, and such notions as 'modules' thus have to be treated with great caution. IMHO.

I can only talk about all this v casually and briefly at the moment because (believe it or not) I have been working very hard seven days a week on other much more mundane and commercial matters. Tonight is the first night I've been able to relax for about two months.

Gordon Stainforth - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> [...]
>
> Templeton was a financier, who with his huge wealth set up the templeton foundation and its substantial prize. He was not a scientist, but he did write about reality and his views about it.
>
> [...]
>
> Perhaps some examples and justifications please. Lets keep this discussion meaningfully argued rather than a self indulgence of shared aspects of one anothers world views. Its truth we're interested in isn't it?

You really are being totally unreasonable. I have joined this thread a few times around breakfast, lunch and in the evening over the last week or so, when I have been horrendously busy - simply because I am very interested by some of the puzzles and ideas that are being discussed here. I can't possibly trot out a doctorate type thesis at the drop of a hat about my rather complex views on these difficult matters.

If it's seen as an indulgence I feel inclined to disappear once again, back to the real world.

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Sir Chasm - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: Please don't go, keep posting to say you haven't got time to post.
Jimbo W on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> You really are being totally unreasonable. I have joined this thread a few times around breakfast, lunch and in the evening over the last week or so, when I have been horrendously busy - simply because I am very interested by some of the puzzles and ideas that are being discussed here. I can't possibly trot out a doctorate type thesis at the drop of a hat about my rather complex views on these difficult matters.
>
> If it's seen as an indulgence I feel inclined to disappear once again, back to the real world.

I am often unreasonable, I apologise for that! All of us work hard, and no one is producing anything approaching a page of a thesis in this discussion so far. For what its worth, I'm in the lab now, warming up media to set up a load of experiments. We're just exploring ideas, in a quest for truth, no? And I dislike it when I see haughty disdain for a position such as Tim's or some undefined theological scientists, when at the same time nothing is offered to back it up. I hope you have what is I'm sure a well deserved break tonight, but please try to offer some more structured criticism, or better still, some arguments of your own. Indeed, re: universe and creativity, I seem to remember you telling us you were exploring this and writing a book about it......
craigloon - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Patterns = behaviours?
Jimbo W on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> I'm sure I answered that. (Anyway, I'm away from home having dinner with a friend at the moment so can't say v much) Roughly what I said, or hoped I might have said, is that there are no hard and fast boundaries, and each 'layer' is completely involved in each other layer up and down. It's really mostly about scale: how 'particles' work at a quantum level is not much/at all like the way much bigger things like planets and moons work. That's all. And then, as we all know, some very weird things start to become dramatically more significant as you get into bigger and bigger scales.

Okay, but if there are no hard and fast boundary conditions, and there is involvement of what you term "layer" at all scales (presumably upwards) then how is a layer to be defined? And if it can't be defined, does it not say more about an intellectual/sense deficit, rather than being able to say anything about reality itself?

> In a nutshell, nature seldom works in compartments, and such notions as 'modules' thus have to be treated with great caution. IMHO.

What is a module, how is it defined and what reasons are there for the caution required
Gordon Stainforth - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

For the record, I have always regarded Tim's views with the highest respect, and have had some fruitful personal email exchanges with him on various philosophical issues.

I have been working on and off on my philosophy book for about 15 years now. There are, however, about three other books that have to take priority.
MG - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: Why the obsession with layers? Surely any concept of a layer of reality is just a convenient way of viewing the world. I can't imagine people seriously think there are any discrete layers of reality, although I think Tim needs to clarify his chemistry is not physical claim as it does read that way.
Jimbo W on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to MG:

> (In reply to Jimbo W) Why the obsession with layers? Surely any concept of a layer of reality is just a convenient way of viewing the world. I can't imagine people seriously think there are any discrete layers of reality

Why not? In what way can biological systems be explained at the level of quantum physics? "Made of" is not the same as "explicable with recourse to". How far can you get building up reality based on quantum physical building blocks? Are laws of one "level" of reality explicable by the laws of another? The question is, is it just a convenient way of viewing the world, an illusion, as you say i.e. a function of preference or a deficit in our sense or conceptual ability, or could it actually represent something objectively real? If so what? Why do we always look down in scale to explain everything, breaking things up into bits - isn't that a subconscious preference too? I'd like to know what Gordon and Tim really think, because I haven't seen a decent explanation emerge yet.

As Einstein said:
"whether you can observe a thing or not depends upon the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed". Put is another way, observations are always determined by theory, and in the "letting be" of the humble scientist, this always needs to be remembered.
Jimbo W on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to MG:

Put it another way: are complex aspects of order, say in biological systems, contingent upon history and the "patterns" derived from the lower scales, or do they actually represent a fundamental order and lawfullness in the universe that is not contingent upon history or the "patterns" of order recognisable at other scales?
MG - on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> [...]
>
> Why not? In what way can biological systems be explained at the level of quantum physics? "Made of" is not the same as "explicable with recourse to". How far can you get building up reality based on quantum physical building blocks?

All the way was my understanding, with perhaps some uncertainty still over how gravity is to be included in things. Quarks explain protons etc, which explain atoms, which explain chemicals and so on. Where is the problem with this that needs another "layer" of explanation? If there were some phenomenon that weren't explicable in terms of the known basics I might see you point but there isn't, that I am aware of.

Why do we always look down in scale to explain everything, breaking things up into bits

Because that is the way that things are explicable. We draw loose boxes around things and give them names like Chemistry, or Car Mechanics but that doesn't imply the subjects are disconnected with their own rules. It is just a way dividing things up into manageable chunks.
Coel Hellier - on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Put it another way: are complex aspects of order, say in biological systems, contingent upon history
> and the "patterns" derived from the lower scales, or do they actually represent a fundamental order
> and lawfullness in the universe that is not contingent upon history or the "patterns" of order recognisable at other scales?

In agreement with MG I'd say yes to the former and no to the latter. What I mean by that is, were someone to know everything about the lower level, and were s/he sufficiently intelligent to realise all consequences of the lower-level nature, then yes s/he could derive and understand the higher-level behaviour.

Another way of saying it is: were one to build a perfect simulation of the lower level, then that simulation would then necessarily exhibit the higher-level behaviour.
jayme - on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
Does anyone reading this thread still have any idea how all this relates to why women can't be bishops?
john arran - on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to jayme:
> Does anyone reading this thread still have any idea how all this relates to why women can't be bishops?

Just because no women bishops exist in a space-time causally connected to ours, or exist on a level which can be explained by examination of the levels we're familiar with, what gives you the idea they don't exist?

Then you have the gall to suggest not only that they don't exist but that they can't - presumably without having to believe in them.

Have you learned nothing from these 1500 posts?

;-)
cb294 - on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Put it another way: are complex aspects of order, say in biological systems, contingent upon history and the "patterns" derived from the lower scales, or do they actually represent a fundamental order and lawfullness in the universe that is not contingent upon history or the "patterns" of order recognisable at other scales?


I would definitely argue the former: Emergence from complexity can mask causality, certainly in practical terms, but doesn´t offer a way around it.

CB
Jimbo W on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Another way of saying it is: were one to build a perfect simulation of the lower level, then that simulation would then necessarily exhibit the higher-level behaviour.

Can you think of a way to falsify that hypothesis, an appropriate experiment, or is this presumptive because of what we "observe" when breaking things up into parts? I mean, how do we really know this? What examples can you give of lawfulness in biological systems that can be accounted for by the lawfulnes and particles at the quantum level? How is mendelian inheritance of genes explained by quantum physics? Remember here the distinction between made of, and explained by. What is entropy in reality, and how can basic physics account for the emergence of, not just order, but the self organising and sustaining order intrinsic in life?
MG - on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: I'll answer in kind by asking where think the break in the chain is? Selection is based on behaviour and physiology, which are explained by genes, genes are explained by chemistry, chemistry is explained by particle physics.

Surely that there was no good explanation (as acknowledged by Darwin) for how the incremental changes needed for evolution worked until genes were identified by Mendelev is a clear example of the continuity of knowledge. Otherwise we would be stuck "well incremental changes just, err, happen" as an explanation and numerous other similar ad hoc explanations for other phenomena. The fact everything can be traced back to four(?) forces allows for explanation of pretty much everything in a consistent manner.
Robert Durran - on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> How is it meaningful to describe chemistry, or biology in fundamental particle physical terms. Is a foundational view of reality, bottom up, really capable of describing biological phenomena?

It would be fantastically surprising if it wasn't in principle capable, given that biological stuff is made of fundamental particles. The onus should certainly be on those who say otherwise to come up with some very compelling evidence to the contrary if they want their views to be taken seriously; no one on here is doing so.
Jimbo W on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to MG:

> I'll answer in kind by asking where think the break in the chain is? Selection is based on behaviour and physiology, which are explained by genes, genes are explained by chemistry, chemistry is explained by particle physics.

You're missing the point and resorting to "made ofs". I don't necessarily dispute the "made ofs", but the question is, how can we show that basic physics explains these higher phenomena. Your example of genes is not sufficient because it derives a theory that finds its match in a phenomenon at the biological level. How does chemistry give rise to life, how is the entropy involved in a chemical reaction explained at the particle physical level. How can we formalise syntactically, mathematically or theoretically what you assume as the seamless continuity of knowledge?
Jimbo W on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> It would be fantastically surprising if it wasn't in principle capable, given that biological stuff is made of fundamental particles.

There is one massive heck of an assumption in going from "made of" to believing "in principle capable" is true, causally or in terms of formal theortical descriptions.

> The onus should certainly be on those who say otherwise to come up with some very compelling evidence to the contrary if they want their views to be taken seriously; no one on here is doing so.

Great! A bonus "onus". It is in the purview of anyone interested in truth to provide evidence and expound what really is - if it is so self evident, show how it is so. I am not convinced that there is any evidence of such a seamlessness to theoretical formalisations of knowledge, except perhaps at the level of "made ofs", which is quite quite different to theoretical causal seamlessness. Godel, Church, Kleene, Tarski and Polanyi have all shown that there is a necessary incompleteness in, not just mathematical formalisations, but in syntactical (linguistic) formalisations and within mechanical systems. Hawking too believed in this impossibility of a theory of everything, and while he seem to have done a volte face, I can't see any reasoning for that change in position. In any case this is what he said:

Up to now, most people have implicitly assumed that there is an ultimate theory that we will eventually discover. Indeed, I myself have suggested we might find it quite soon. However, M-theory has made me wonder if this is true. Maybe it is not possible to formulate the theory of the universe in a finite number of statements. This is very reminiscent of Godel's theorem. This says that any finite system of axioms is not sufficient to prove every result in mathematics.

Godel's theorem is proved using statements that refer to themselves. Such statements can lead to paradoxes. An example is, this statement is false. If the statement is true, it is false. And if the statement is false, it is true. Another example is, the barber of Corfu shaves every man who does not shave himself. Who shaves the barber? If he shaves himself, then he doesn't, and if he doesn't, then he does. Godel went to great lengths to avoid such paradoxes by carefully distinguishing between mathematics, like 2+2 =4, and meta mathematics, or statements about mathematics, such as mathematics is cool, or mathematics is consistent. That is why his paper is so difficult to read. But the idea is quite simple. First Godel showed that each mathematical formula, like 2+2=4, can be given a unique number, the Godel number. The Godel number of 2+2=4, is *. Second, the meta mathematical statement, the sequence of formulas A, is a proof of the formula B, can be expressed as an arithmetical relation between the Godel numbers for A- and B. Thus meta mathematics can be mapped into arithmetic, though I'm not sure how you translate the meta mathematical statement, 'mathematics is cool'. Third and last, consider the self referring Godel statement, G. This is, the statement G can not be demonstrated from the axioms of mathematics. Suppose that G could be demonstrated. Then the axioms must be inconsistent because one could both demonstrate G and show that it can not be demonstrated. On the other hand, if G can't be demonstrated, then G is true. By the mapping into numbers, it corresponds to a true relation between numbers, but one which can not be deduced from the axioms. Thus mathematics is either inconsistent or incomplete. The smart money is on incomplete.

What is the relation between Godel’s theorem and whether we can formulate the theory of the universe in terms of a finite number of principles? One connection is obvious. According to the positivist philosophy of science, a physical theory is a mathematical model. So if there are mathematical results that can not be proved, there are physical problems that can not be predicted. One example might be the Goldbach conjecture. Given an even number of wood blocks, can you always divide them into two piles, each of which can not be arranged in a rectangle? That is, it contains a prime number of blocks.

Although this is incompleteness of sort, it is not the kind of unpredictability I mean. Given a specific number of blocks, one can determine with a finite number of trials whether they can be divided into two primes. But I think that quantum theory and gravity together, introduces a new element into the discussion that wasn't present with classical Newtonian theory. In the standard positivist approach to the philosophy of science, physical theories live rent free in a Platonic heaven of ideal mathematical models. That is, a model can be arbitrarily detailed and can contain an arbitrary amount of information without affecting the universes they describe. But we are not angels, who view the universe from the outside. Instead, we and our models are both part of the universe we are describing. Thus a physical theory is self referencing, like in Godel’s theorem. One might therefore expect it to be either inconsistent or incomplete. The theories we have so far are both inconsistent and incomplete.

Quantum gravity is essential to the argument. The information in the model can be represented by an arrangement of particles. According to quantum theory, a particle in a region of a given size has a certain minimum amount of energy. Thus, as I said earlier, models don't live rent free. They cost energy. By Einstein’s famous equation, E = mc squared, energy is equivalent to mass. And mass causes systems to collapse under gravity. It is like getting too many books together in a library. The floor would give way and create a black hole that would swallow the information. Remarkably enough, Jacob Bekenstein and I found that the amount of information in a black hole is proportional to the area of the boundary of the hole, rather than the volume of the hole, as one might have expected. The black hole limit on the concentration of information is fundamental, but it has not been properly incorporated into any of the formulations of M theory that we have so far. They all assume that one can define the wave function at each point of space. But that would be an infinite density of information which is not allowed. On the other hand, if one can't define the wave function point wise, one can't predict the future to arbitrary accuracy, even in the reduced determinism of quantum theory. What we need is a formulation of M theory that takes account of the black hole information limit. But then our experience with supergravity and string theory, and the analogy of Godel’s theorem, suggest that even this formulation will be incomplete.

Some people will be very disappointed if there is not an ultimate theory that can be formulated as a finite number of principles. I used to belong to that camp, but I have changed my mind. I'm now glad that our search for understanding will never come to an end, and that we will always have the challenge of new discovery. Without it, we would stagnate. Godel’s theorem ensured there would always be a job for mathematicians. I think M theory will do the same for physicists. I'm sure Dirac would have approved.


From:
http://www.hawking.org.uk/godel-and-the-end-of-physics.html
Jimbo W on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> It would be fantastically surprising if it wasn't in principle capable, given that biological stuff is made of fundamental particles. The onus should certainly be on those who say otherwise to come up with some very compelling evidence to the contrary if they want their views to be taken seriously; no one on here is doing so.

Another way of looking at it is this. We have had a huge discussion on the nature and definition of "existence". Coel resorted to circular definitions while myself and Tim resorted to the notion of such a word being a "semantic prime", not definable without recourse to circularity. Coel baulked at this idea, but language is a formalisation of thought and as such is nececssarily incomplete relying at root on some basic undefinable words. See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_primes

While, Godel and many other mathematicians has shown that incompleteness is a necessary phenomenon of any attempt at a self contained axiomatic system or theory, so it is also so with language. If our language is necessarily incomplete than how can knowledge be articulated in anything other than an incomplete way?
Jimbo W on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to cb294:

> I would definitely argue the former: Emergence from complexity can mask causality, certainly in practical terms, but doesn´t offer a way around it.

Even taking complexity as a given area difficult to resolve, it isn't good enough to say that emergence masks causality. What are the essentially creative rules that appear to drive this emergence? Is it unique to each level at which it occurs, i.e. is the emergence of consciousness comparable to the emergence of life? What are the theoretical rules that describe this process in some energy driven systems?
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Jimbo W on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to MG:

I'm still hoping to hear from Gordon and Tim on this issue, as it would be nice to develop this further, because I believe it is relevant for this whole discussion, on how explicit we can be on what is physical (and what therefore might be non-physical), how far can empirically derived facts and theory get us, and are they necessarily incomplete, and what is existence, and how does this relate to physical reality.
Jimbo W on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Quantum indeterminism doesn't "exist" in the sense of being an entity or an agent, instead it's a description of how things behave. The things that behave in a quantum indeterministic way do "exist".

Does an electron, quark etc exist in that sense? We only observe them indirectly, so what we see is a phenomenon when we do an experiment, why should this necessarily be particular, and why does it "exist" in the way that you say quantum indeterminism doesn't "exist"?
John Gillott - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

And what about virtual particles?:

'The term is somewhat loose and vaguely defined, in that it refers to the view that the world is made up of "real particles": it is not; rather, "real particles" are better understood to be excitations of the underlying quantum fields. Virtual particles are also excitations of the underlying fields, but are "temporary" in the sense that they appear in calculations of interactions, but never as asymptotic states or indices to the scattering matrix. As such the accuracy and use of virtual particles in calculations is firmly established, but their "reality" or existence is a question of philosophy rather than science.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_particle
John Gillott - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> What I'm trying to do is to think about what "existence" means, and to do that I have to think about what the words I'm using mean. As explained above, it's about asking the question: could there "be" a causally disconnected universe parallel to our own? What would it mean to say that such a thing "exists"? Could there "be" particles which interact with themselves, but have no interaction whatsoever with anything that we can observe? Could they "exist"? What would it mean to say they "exist"?
>
> In physics, we know of four basic forces (strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravitational). We know of particles that don't interact with one of more of those -- for example the neutrino doesn't interact with the EM or strong forces. How about a particle which doesn't interact with any of those four; could that be said to "exist"? Or is interaction with at least one of those four a necessary condition for "existence"?
>
> Physics is of course trying to unify those forces into fewer (electroweak unification, grand-unified theories, etc), and may succeed in reducing those 4 to different aspects of the same one-and-only force. Is interaction with that one force then a necessary condition for "existence".
>
> As I said, maybe I'm weird, but I find these questions worthwhile and interesting. And, so far, I'd say that, yes, causal coupling to the rest of the universe (which is equivalent to interaction with at least one of those forces) is a necessary condition for "existence". Physicists would certainly have a hard time regarding something as "existing" if it doesn't do that. From there, for consistency, I'd then have to say that a causally disconnected parallel universe also doesn't "exist". Nor do the other universes in Everett's MWI splitting multiverse.
>
> Anyhow, that's the train of thought that led me to my (provisional) definition of "existence". It seems that few others are interested in these questions, since all the discussion about it ignores these questions and goes into all sorts of other stuff (somewhat to my frustration).


I've gone back to your statement of intent from last Thursday.

You want to improve on the characterisation 'everything that is'.

You have several categories: 'exist', 'meta-exist', non-existent.

You also admit ignorance, not simply your own but a barrier that no-one could ever overcome: some things might exist but can't be put into one of those categories and could never be - e.g. an infinite causally connected universe.

You think your definition and your overall scheme is not circular in the way that 'everything that is' is.

One way or another, as I see it, your critics think that your scheme falls down because it is in part tautological, circular and linguistic (the thing you criticise them for) and in part incomplete and / or inconsistent. I've been trying to get at all of those things with questions about exactly how you define / understand an infinite causally connected universe, how you place causal chains themselves within your scheme and why you find a causally disconnected universe 'horrible' (is it really true, btw, that most physicists would reject a causally disconnected multiverse?).
Coel Hellier - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> but the question is, how can we show that basic physics explains these higher phenomena.

For example, if you program a simulation with low-level fluid mechanics, then that simulation can produce hurricanes. You don't have to program in high-level "hurricane" properties.
Coel Hellier - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> We have had a huge discussion on the nature and definition of "existence". Coel resorted to circular definitions ...

You keep asserting that, but you asserting it doesn't make it true!

Coel Hellier - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Does an electron, quark etc exist in that sense?

Yes.

> We only observe them indirectly, ...

Which is fine. Nearly everything we only observe indirectly. Try "directly" observing the chair you're sitting on. Can you?

> and why does it "exist" in the way that you say quantum indeterminism doesn't "exist"?

"Electron" and "quark" are words given to entities. "Quantum indeterminism" is a description of behaviour. It's like saying that a "blue photon" exists, but that "blue" does not, it is not an entity, it's a description.
Coel Hellier - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> and why you find a causally disconnected universe 'horrible' ...

I didn't say that: I used the term "horrible" about saying that stuff beyond our observable horizon doesn't exist.

> (is it really true, btw, that most physicists would reject a causally disconnected multiverse?).

What do you mean by "reject"? They might speculate about such things.
Sir Chasm - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> the physical is what physics is about. Which is why there's loads and loads that is non-physical. Chemistry for a start.

Are we going to get the punchline? Don't keep me in suspenders.
John Gillott - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> I didn't say that: I used the term "horrible" about saying that stuff beyond our observable horizon doesn't exist.
>
Oh yes, sorry - you said this:

'I don't see that that practical speed limitation should determine what "exists". Posting that the universe ceases to "exist" at our observable horizon is utterly horrible for several reasons (it would mean that stuff comes into or out of "existence" as time passes, and that what "exists" depends on where you look from).

Yet, if, as an alternative, you don't require any causal linkage, then you have to allow the "existence" of causally disconnected particles. I guess you could do that, but that leads to equally weird notions, such as the "existence" of faeries that "of course do exist, they just keep themselves to themselves and can never be seen or detected".'

You see, this is where I and others think you're being circular and / or tautological and / or linguistic. Current theory forbids faster than light passage of information and causal influence. We take that to mean that such particles (separated by vast distances in an expanding universe) are causally disconnected. You don't, but your reasons seem to be definitional (in the way you define causal chains). You could say you are not limiting yourself to current theory, but that opens up a whole other can of worms (and objections to your approach).
>
> What do you mean by "reject"? They might speculate about such things.

They might speculate, but you don't. You say they don't exist:

'As I said, maybe I'm weird, but I find these questions worthwhile and interesting. And, so far, I'd say that, yes, causal coupling to the rest of the universe (which is equivalent to interaction with at least one of those forces) is a necessary condition for "existence". Physicists would certainly have a hard time regarding something as "existing" if it doesn't do that. From there, for consistency, I'd then have to say that a causally disconnected parallel universe also doesn't "exist". Nor do the other universes in Everett's MWI splitting multiverse.'

My question was, do they agree with you?

Jimbo W on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> You keep asserting that, but you asserting it doesn't make it true!

Do you reject this aspect of linguistics?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_primes

I have shown you how your argument is always circular, its just that you are doing the equivalent of "computer says noooooo". Think!
Gordon Stainforth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> I'm still hoping to hear from Gordon and Tim on this issue, as it would be nice to develop this further, because I believe it is relevant for this whole discussion, on how explicit we can be on what is physical (and what therefore might be non-physical), how far can empirically derived facts and theory get us, and are they necessarily incomplete, and what is existence, and how does this relate to physical reality.

I would still love to discuss this further, but my workload this week now looks like it's going to be even bigger than last week, so suspect it'll be much nearer Christmas before I can take this up again (though may make some comments late at night)
Jimbo W on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> You keep asserting that, but you asserting it doesn't make it true!

Do you reject this aspect of linguistics?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_primes

I have shown you how your argument is always circular, its just that you are doing the equivalent of "computer says noooooo". Think!
Sir Chasm - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: How come everything that is cited in that link as an example of a semantic prime has a definition?
Coel Hellier - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> You don't, but your reasons seem to be definitional (in the way you define causal chains).

Can you be more specific about what your objection is? The point is that, were you an observer just this side of our (Earth's) observable horizon (where we could see you) then you could see beyond our (Earth's) observable horizon. The point about causally disconnected particles is that they couldn't be seen from anywhere, anytime, anyhow. That seems to me conceptually a very big difference.

> They might speculate, but you don't. You say they don't exist:

Sure, they don't "exist" (by my definition), but they might "meta-exist". It's a word people! I'm not trying to specify how reality is by adopting a particular definition (only Tim was foolish to think that he could so that). Nothing about how I define "exists" prevents me speculating about causally disconnected universes.
Coel Hellier - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> I have shown you how your argument is always circular ...

Where did you do that?
Jimbo W on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

Definitions that are non-circular / non-synonyms? Do show us!
Jimbo W on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Where did you do that?

Do you reject this aspect of linguistics?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_primes
Sir Chasm - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: Any of them.
John Gillott - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
The point about causally disconnected particles is that they couldn't be seen from anywhere, anytime, anyhow. That seems to me conceptually a very big difference.
>

That's where you've introduced your definition of causality, which then backs up your definition of existence. Can't you see the circularity? I am suggesting to you that most people would not understand causality in that way. Most people, and most physicists I think, understand causally connected as meaning one thing can influence the other. By extension, a causal chain is something along which influence can run from one end to the other.

>
> Sure, they don't "exist" (by my definition), but they might "meta-exist". It's a word people! I'm not trying to specify how reality is by adopting a particular definition (only Tim was foolish to think that he could so that). Nothing about how I define "exists" prevents me speculating about causally disconnected universes.

It's a word. Is it 'only a word' as well?

I think Tim might have a different take on who is trying to specify how reality is through definitions, but I'll leave that to him to answer.
Coel Hellier - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Do you reject this aspect of linguistics?
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_primes

That seems to be all about *intuition*, as in things that humans have an intuition about. That's a very different issue from how reality is. For example, people also have intuitions about physics; some of the intutions are correct and some of them are not.

As Sir Chasm says, many of the words in your "semantic prime" list can be defined ("big", "small", "live", "die", "hear", "see", "kind", etc). That's different from whether humans *need* a definition of them, or whether they have an intuitive understanding of them.

Anyhow: I accept that humans have intuitions about "exist". That is not a good reason for not thinking further about the concept and asking how good a job that intuition does.

Further, I still reject the claim that you have shown that my definition is circular. It does rest ultimately on the experience of sense data. But, as I said up-thread, we can re-evaluate any aspect of how we make sense of that sense data. (Again, my analogy of a world-view being a floating boat, for which you can renew any part, and eventually renew the whole thing, though you can't renew the whole thing at once.)
Coel Hellier - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Can't you see the circularity?

Nope, I really, really can't. If people want to make claims of circularity, please can they spell them out fully explicitly?

> I am suggesting to you that most people would not understand causality in that way.

Maybe not. So? Can I repeat that I know well that my definition of "exists" does not fully accord with human intuition! That is the *whole* *point*. The point is to think about whether we can do better than just proceeding on an undefined, intuitive understanding. Saying "but that doesn't accord with my intuition" is not in any sense a refutation of that!

This was the whole problem with Tim, in that he was pointing at something that *his* *intuition* said "existed" and claiming that, since it didn't under my definition, then it refuted my definition. This misses the *entire* *point* of my definition!

> By extension, a causal chain is something along which influence can run from one end to the other.

So I have a causal chain that is expanding in time, such that, given the finite speed of light, there are limits on passing a signal along the chain. Again, just pointing out that this is different from your intuition is in no sense a refutation.
John Gillott - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

In that second extract from what I said, you truncated it before I claimed that most physicists would agree with me and not you.

Whose definition of causality is most widely accepted within the physics community, do you think?

Coel Hellier - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Whose definition of causality is most widely accepted within the physics community, do you think?

I'm not positing direct causality, I'm positing **chains** **of** causation. Can I point out that we've been through this already. From 6 days ago up-thread:

You> Causal connection even though it is impossible to exchange information?

Me> *Chain* *of* causal connections, even though it is impossible to exchange information between the *ends* of the chain.

You> How does something at A have a causal connection to something at Z if it is impossible for information
You> to pass from A to Z?

Me> I'm not positing a "causal connection" between A and Z,
Me> I'm saying that A and Z are linked by a *chain* *of* causal connections.
John Gillott - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> I'm not positing direct causality, I'm positing **chains** **of** causation. Can I point out that we've been through this already. From 6 days ago up-thread:
>
> You> Causal connection even though it is impossible to exchange information?
>
> Me> *Chain* *of* causal connections, even though it is impossible to exchange information between the *ends* of the chain.
>
> You> How does something at A have a causal connection to something at Z if it is impossible for information
> You> to pass from A to Z?
>
> Me> I'm not positing a "causal connection" between A and Z,
> Me> I'm saying that A and Z are linked by a *chain* *of* causal connections.

OK, can I take that reply as an acceptance that most physicists are like most people in having the same idea of causation as me? So we don't need your particular definition of causality to be rescued from a low level form of reasoning known as intuition when it comes to thinking about causality?

If yes, the point then becomes: why are you so keen to emphasise your particular notion of causal chains rather than another one, which I claim (feel free to challenge) is held by most people and most physicists - something along which influence can run from one end to the other?
cb294 - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to cb294)
>
> [...]
> ... What are the essentially creative rules that appear to drive this emergence? Is it unique to each level at which it occurs, i.e. is the emergence of consciousness comparable to the emergence of life?

I don´t think there are creative rules at all. We essentially are complicated physics (and women twice as complicated which is why they can´t be bishops...).

Behaviour in simple organisms is assembled from few cross-regulating agents which are largely hard wired but become increasingly flexibly implemented as brain complexity increases across evolution.

We can follow how simple circuits of maybe 300 neurons trigger specific behavioural programs in nematodes. With a little technological progress it should be possible to track all communication events between these neurons live and predict from this activity pattern which behaviour they will trigger.

One level up in complexity you can look at how indepently encoded agents coordinate e.g. flight, rest, and cleaning bahviour in flies, watch flies "dream" of bananas (at least, reprocess olfactory input for long term memory during sleep phases). However, although a wiring diagram of the fly brain is currently being assembled, I guess that for the foreseeable future we cannot map the entire activity pattern of the fly brain in the same way. So already at that level complexity effectively masks the emergence of the more sophisticated behavioural repertoire of the fly.

With mammals you don´t stand a practical chance of mapping the entire connectome and overlaying it with a activity map of all synapses. Still, given all the evolutionary baggage we see everywhere I have no reason to doubt that human conscience emerges from the complexity of our brain without invoking new rules.

CB
Sir Chasm - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to John Gillott: If A is causally connected to B and B to C and so on, how are you positing that A is connected to Z other than causally? Or is there only a connection if it is a chain of 2 links?
Jimbo W on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to cb294:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> [...]
>
> I don´t think there are creative rules at all. We essentially are complicated physics (and women twice as complicated which is why they can´t be bishops...).
>
> Behaviour in simple organisms is assembled from few cross-regulating agents which are largely hard wired but become increasingly flexibly implemented as brain complexity increases across evolution.
>
> We can follow how simple circuits of maybe 300 neurons trigger specific behavioural programs in nematodes. With a little technological progress it should be possible to track all communication events between these neurons live and predict from this activity pattern which behaviour they will trigger.
>
> One level up in complexity you can look at how indepently encoded agents coordinate e.g. flight, rest, and cleaning bahviour in flies, watch flies "dream" of bananas (at least, reprocess olfactory input for long term memory during sleep phases). However, although a wiring diagram of the fly brain is currently being assembled, I guess that for the foreseeable future we cannot map the entire activity pattern of the fly brain in the same way. So already at that level complexity effectively masks the emergence of the more sophisticated behavioural repertoire of the fly.
>
> With mammals you don´t stand a practical chance of mapping the entire connectome and overlaying it with a activity map of all synapses. Still, given all the evolutionary baggage we see everywhere I have no reason to doubt that human conscience emerges from the complexity of our brain without invoking new rules.

Which effectively means that you have to start to make analogical inferences as complexity increases. So, if no general creative rules can be derived, then how an earth can such analogical inferences be trusted?
John Gillott - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

If someone handed me a physical chain that was broken in one or many places I would say that they had handed me either a broken chain or separate chains. Take your pick as to how you want to pose that situation.

Either way that is a very poor analogy for what we are talking about here, but it is better than you have given. It is not in dispute that in the situation we are discussing (an expanding universe that is larger than the observable universe) A is not connected to Z in any physical way that permits exchange of influence.
Sir Chasm - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to John Gillott: My chain is unbroken, is A causally linked to Z?
John Gillott - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

Why do you call it a chain when no influence can pass from one end to the other?

Why do you choose to adopt your definition of a chain rather than a different one?
Sir Chasm - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to John Gillott: What would you like to call it? If A is causally connected to B and so on, is A causally connected to Z?
John Gillott - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

A cannot influence Z under any definition.

A is causally connected to Z by Cole's definition. It is not by mine.

Simple really.

So, answer my question: why do you choose to adopt Coel's definition?
Sir Chasm - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to John Gillott: It's not really a case of accepting coel's definition it's just that you seem a little incoherent. If A influences B, and so on, can you really claim that A hasn't influenced Z?
Jimbo W on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> That seems to be all about *intuition*, as in things that humans have an intuition about. That's a very different issue from how reality is. For example, people also have intuitions about physics; some of the intutions are correct and some of them are not.

Its about two things: intuitions, which are instant a priori forms of knowledge, as well as about the intrinsic deficits and incompleteness in language. Well "intuition" as it pertains to difficult phenomena that are studied only indirectly and incompletely, using mathematical tools that you aren't quite sure whether they are or aren't applicable can give rise to ideas about reality that aren't objectively real, but when it comes to a basic inherence between our subjective selves and the world about us, I think there is little to doubt about what is intuited, lest skepticism overwhelm us, or reality be basically different for us each of us.

I would suggest, however, that re: physics, people have intuitions about reality not based in a broad understanding of a wealth of empirical information, but rather the idealism of mathematical solutions. At the basic level, they aren't aimed at revealing truth, but empirical coherence.

> As Sir Chasm says, many of the words in your "semantic prime" list can be defined ("big", "small", "live", "die", "hear", "see", "kind", etc). That's different from whether humans *need* a definition of them, or whether they have an intuitive understanding of them.

Which ones don't require circularity, synonyms or antonyms to derive their meaning? It was, afterall, you who rejected these means of defining words as inappropriate.

> Anyhow: I accept that humans have intuitions about "exist". That is not a good reason for not thinking further about the concept and asking how good a job that intuition does.

Of, course, but that is what we are doing no.

> Further, I still reject the claim that you have shown that my definition is circular. It does rest ultimately on the experience of sense data. But, as I said up-thread, we can re-evaluate any aspect of how we make sense of that sense data. (Again, my analogy of a world-view being a floating boat, for which you can renew any part, and eventually renew the whole thing, though you can't renew the whole thing at once.)

Well, you are going from an acceptance of an intuitive basic understanding of "existence" to want to refine the definition according to different experiences achieved in the study of nature. Fine, but that does not stop there being a necessary referential basic locus in where you start from in the concept of "existence". There is still always a circularity involved.
John Gillott - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to John Gillott) It's not really a case of accepting coel's definition it's just that you seem a little incoherent. If A influences B, and so on, can you really claim that A hasn't influenced Z?

As Coel might say, physics isn't always in line with intuition:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe#Definition_as_connected_space-time
Sir Chasm - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to John Gillott: I'm not sure what you're trying to show there. Are you saying that if A influences B, and so on, A has had no influence on Z?
cb294 - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to cb294)
> [...]
>
> Which effectively means that you have to start to make analogical inferences as complexity increases. So, if no general creative rules can be derived, then how an earth can such analogical inferences be trusted?

Even if the complexity of the full system prevents us from recapitulating the emergence of specific properties (e.g. language, depression, etc.) this doesn´t mean that we cannot make inferences on the process (i.e. work backwards).

For example, genetic loss of a specific transcription factor can lead to very specific defects in higher mental processes such as an inability to deal with grammar.

We can look at what this gene does in the mouse, test the effect of corresponding mutations (they affect vocalizations). We can then look at the role of the corresponding gene on neuron wiring in the fly.

I simply don´t see the evidence of invoking a distinct mechanism for generating behavioural output in complex organisms. The fact that for practical reasons you need a new language suited to describe phenomena emerging at higher levels of complexity should not be confused with fundamentally novel properties of these systems.

CB

ajsteele - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

Imagine you are holding a chain at points A and Z and start to shake the chain at point A, you will never get movement coming through to point Z from point A given that the space between them say points b through y are expanding at the speed of light.

Thats probably not a great analogy but I think it is what John Gillott is trying to explain although he hasn't went for the 4 year old childs analogy.

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