STAN: A Step Forward, A Step Back

Stan responds to my previous post, as follows:

In terms of the mind-brain problem, much of the opposition to dualism is couched in terms of reductivism and / or sheer denial. Even Dennett refutes the eliminative materialism concept. Others have shown it to be self-refuting. In order to refute the dualist idea these days, it is now necessary to refute some actual science. The “elasticity” of both brain and neuron is shown, starting with studies in OCD, and studies in brain mapping of monkeys and then humans. In OCD it has been shown that the mind can force a change in the mapping of brain. Brain mapping of monkeys has shown a number of things, one of which is that the map is never the same when it is remapped. Plasticity is no longer in question. (Ref. “The Mind and the Brain”, Schwartz, Begley, Harper-Collins, 2002; “The Brain That Changes Itself”, Doidge, Viking, 2007).

In neural configurations, it has been shown that an individual neuron, far from being a “digit pipe”, can have many inputs, contains many logic “microcircuits” of complexity including flip-flops, and can reorganize itself (has plasticity). Neurons taken in this complexity have the ability to perform complex parallel computations. Moreover they can be focused and refocused, depending on the usage requirements. (Ref. “Biophysics of Computation”, Christof Koch, Oxford University Press, 1999). The parallel nature of the neuron / brain structure does not refute the supposed serial nature of the mind; with synchronicity and managed propagation delays parallel operations can perform serially; The complexity of this seems to refute the supposed accidental nature of the neural brain.

These developments do not help the case for the mind and brain being identical (monist).

Antonio Demasio, in “Descartes Error”, bases his conclusions solidly on metaphysical naturalism. The premise that Descartes was wrong is based on the presupposition that there is no “spirit” and no separation of the mind from the brain. Classical circularity in thinking, it proposes that, because there is no separation of the mind and brain, therefore: monism. The most generous interpretation would be that Demasio has created a tautology, defining monism based on an unproven axiom, assumed to be true.

Now as for Peirce (‘e’ before ‘i’, in his case), his lifelong pursuit of rationalism did include his invention (discovery?) of abduction. However, in the end he relegated it to the formations of hypotheses, and confined it to the first of three steps of inquiry. This is in line with with the process of empiricism, and not with historical science, which should be forensic and not abductively speculative.

Popper's contribution of falsification is only valid to point, that point being, "which of the premises for falsifying are valid?" As Stove has shown this produces a similar infinite regression to that of the original proposition / syllogism. However, it can be practical as in the simple case of the black swans falsifying the statement "All swans I have seen are white, therefore all swans are white" (induction). However, falsification is far from a sure thing in complex cases.

Finally Scott says,

“Bottom line: if you want to use intuitions as part of argument in science, you will need to justify their usage at every step. Justification will essentially boil down to this: in asserting that this or that item is axiomatic, do we gain testable claims, or not?”

It is not my intention to suggest that intuitions should be used in science. The intent here is to try to move OUTSIDE science. The question is whether there is any evidence that might not be meaningful to tactile science, yet might be considered valid in the pursuit of reality outside the clutches of functional naturalism? Scott seems to wish to dwell firmly in the realm of the tactile, and that’s OK, but it’s not my purpose to prove empiricism as a valid pursuit yet again. (Of course intuition is valid, but only in the proposal phase, not in the proof phase). As I have said before, I agree totally with the use of functional naturalism as a voluntary limit to the process of empiricism. Totally agree. But I also feel that there is reality which cannot be touched by tactile inputs. Maybe Scott disagrees, and if so, this conversation would be fruitless, since proving or disproving such a metaphysical reality using tactile inputs is not possible.

I recently came across an Atheist website which fairly tersely summed up the metaphysical naturalist position. He said (I’ll try to quote as nearly as I can remember it): “I have searched the natural universe and there is no evidence of supernatural phenomena”.

This is like saying, “I have searched all the brothels in the world, and there are no nuns to be found”. If one insists on an empirical proof, then the naturalist limitation to tangible phenomena locks out all other possible evidence. Yes, evidence.

Is there any evidence of any entity beyond the external physical entities that tickle our sensory inputs? If, like Descartes, we deny all sensory inputs as possible delusions, do we have our “selves” left? (BTW, the Cogito is indeed a tautology; tautologies are not fallacies, they are definitions in the sense that they express a bottom principle of truth or existence concerning a specific entity; ie, they form an absolute).

Is there no possibility of introspection, of creative abstraction, of internal experience that is non-physical? It is possible to deny these things, but the denial is hollow because we all experience them, and we know, intuitively, that they exist. It is possible to reduce them in theory to hardwiring; this is refutable. It does not seem possible to refute them, empirically.

It is this intuitive knowledge that I wish to discuss, not the impossibility of empirical justification for the metaphysical, which is granted. So put in Scott's terms, no, intuitive claims are not empirically testable; they are in fact internally testable using our innate faculty of discrimination (per John Locke). Ultimately it is our internal faculty of discrimination that provides a rational basis for thinking about things both physical and introspective, as well as internally experiential. It is an innate analytical tool for tactile inputs and internal experiences that are not tactile.

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