I interpreted the expression 'the opposite of science' as being the idea that 'intuitive/mystical thinking' and 'scientific thinking' are dichotomous, or opposed, but I might have misinterpreted what was said.Fooloso4 wrote:What Plotinus and the others are talking about is the opposite of science and discursive knowledge.
Reading Fooloso4's post again, he said:Neopolitan wrote:If someone can explain precisely what an "unmediated experience" or what "unmediated experience" is, and how it relates to "biological materialism", I would be much obliged. If the person who is defining it is also advocating it, a quick explanation of how it would work and what subjects of "unmediated experience" are being considered, this would also be appreciated.
Which I think is perfectly true. The snippet I provided from Plotinus, is very much like the kind of thing you would find in Buddhist texts. Fooloso4 is saying that such expressions arise from 'descriptions of unmediated experiences', which in Zen Buddhism refers to experiences of 'kensho' or 'satori', meaning 'attaining great insight' or 'realizing the Way' in the Buddhist lexicon. As he then says, however, really understanding what that means, is not at all easy - in other words, people fool themselves into thinking they are understanding such things when they actually don't - and grasping such ideas wrongly is worse than not grasping them at all.We hear these descriptions of unmediated experience, but unless or until we have such experience ourselves we are necessarily thinking in terms of mediated experience and concepts. I cannot dismiss such experience, but hearing such descriptions is not the same as having them. This was a point made in the passage from the Republic. All too often those who have not had this experience fool themselves by thinking they understand and now feel qualified to make metaphysical statement about which they have no understanding. They somehow overlook the very thing that is being pointed to.
What I then referred to in my post#54, was the idea of 'unmediated experience' as the basis for the claim that meditative experiences converge on a common core or as Huston Smith (religious studies scholar) might say a 'common vision' among many different spiritual paths. To put it colloquially: that is the view that 'there are many paths, but only one mountain'.
How this relates to biological materialism: I should say that the term 'biological materialism' is simply 'scientific materialism' using the language of biology: genes, natural selection. and so on, as being the basis of everything about life and mind. Materialism is simply the view that 'all that exists is ultimately physical'. Nowadays, that means 'consists of and can be explained in terms of mass-energy, or those things and forces which are studied by physics'.
As for 'biological materialists', they are those who advocate the kinds of views quoted earlier in this thread, namely, Crick, Dennett, Dawkins, and many others. When those kinds of thinkers speak in terms of biology, they do so in terms of genes and natural selection as an 'algorithm'; i.e. comparable to a computer program. But that still rests on the basis that ultimately everything is explainable in principle in terms of physics, even if we can't explain all the details right now; biochemistry is ultimately just complicated chemistry, and chemistry is ultimately just complicated physics, and physics describes all that really exists.
So their view is that what we know as 'mind' is the culmination of an essentially physical processes, which in turn are understandable in principle via the natural sciences. So the developmental hierarchy is, first primitive life forms, which evolve over billions of years to complex life-forms, which eventually develop sufficiently complex organs to give rise to what we now understand as mind (which ultimately can be understood in terms of neurosciences).
That view has a clear historical basis in the way science developed from late medieval times until the present, however I and many others still believe that there is a fundamental problem with it, which is what this thread is about. Suffice to say here that, not being a materialist, I don't accept that the 'fundamental reality of the universe' is either physical, or is the subject of the science of physics, or can be described in physical terms. Cruse and Zimmer, whose essays are linked at the top of the thread, believe that 'mind' is an irreducible aspect of the entire process, i.e., is not something that is a product of physical causes.
So that brings me to:
There is a recent upsurge of interest in panpsychism 'Panpsychism is the doctrine that mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists throughout the universe', with Galen Strawson being one advocate of this approach. He too thinks that it is impossible to explain he nature of conscious experience with regards to physical entities. As for 'emergence', he saysRadar wrote:Either unconscious matter-energy has a latent power for consciousness — in which case the absence of consciousness is phenomenal only and not fundamental — or else it is the veil of a consciousness which emerges out of a state of involution that only appears to us as unconscious. Either way, biological materialism is seriously undermined.
I'm not going to go into Strawson's solution, which I haven't studied enough to really understand, but suffice to say he is taken seriously, and I take this to be one of the (many) signs that kind of materialism espoused by Dawkins and Dennett is on the wane (although still influential.)that emergence isn’t possible. ‘For any feature Y of anything that is correctly considered to be emergent from X, there must be something about X and X alone in virtue of which Y emerges, and which is sufficient for Y.’ But Strawson holds that there isn’t anything about matter in virtue of which conscious experience could arise from it; or that if there is, we have literally no idea what it could be. In particular, we can’t imagine any way of arranging small bits of unconscious stuff that would result in the consciousness of the larger bits of stuff of which they are the constituents. It’s not like liquids (Strawson’s favourite example of bona fide emergence) where we can see, more or less, how constituent molecules that aren’t liquid might be assembled to make larger things that are. How on earth, Strawson wonders, could anything of that sort explain the emergence of consciousness from matter? If it does, that’s a miracle; and Strawson doesn’t hold with those. 1
But I do think the old-style of idealism, which Bowne and others represent, is the better option.
To try and relate that to the earlier point about 'unmediated experience': the Buddhist idea of 'awakening' is such that, until we have undergone that, or realised what it is that Buddism is pointing to, our picture of the world is fundamentally distorted by 'avidya', or ignorance, meaning literally 'un-knowledge'; therefore, whatever theories we produce will be so irretrievably tainted by afflictive emotions that we are bound to misconstrue whatever we're looking at (at the risk of stating it too simplistically).
-- Updated October 2nd, 2014, 8:21 pm to add the following --
I quite agree that if you analyse the terms 'material', 'physical', and 'mind', it turns out that none of them are truly defineable in any ultimate sense. So what you're saying is technically correct, but that fact is not reflected in the actual debate. Materialism - scientific, philosophical and biological - is a recognizable set of ideas, axioms, and practices, which is indubitably influential in current culture, even if it is actually meaningless in the sense that you identify.Bohm2 wrote: There is no biological "materialism" to begin with, to be undermined. Primarily, because the "materialism" part is open, evolving and provisional. One can't undermine something that isn't well-defined.
When I was at Sydney Uni the Professor of Philosophy was D.M. Armstrong, whose best known book was 'A Materialist Theory of Mind':
Armstrong holds to a physicalist, functionalist theory of the mind. ... Armstrong did not accept behaviourism and instead defended a theory he referred to as the "central-state theory" which identifies mental states with the state of the central nervous system. In A Materialist Theory of Mind, he accepted that mental states such as consciousness exist, but stated that they can be explained as physical phenomena.
-- Updated October 3rd, 2014, 12:11 am to add the following --
The fundamental state of what? If you say the 'fundamental state of mass-energy' , we don't know what that actually is. The Large Hadron Collider has been built to arrive at a fundamental definition, but what it has produced so far is a lot of further questions. What we have are sets of models.Neopolitan wrote:Unless we have good reason to believe otherwise, some sort of evidence or a convincing argument that goes beyond baseless claims, it is rational to assume that mass-energy is non-conscious and that non-consciousness (the absence of consciousness) is the fundamental state.
Looked at objectively, consciousness is an attribute of sentient organisms and is in that sense contingent. But from another perspective, consciousness is the one indubitable datum as it is the basis of any theory, philosophy or view. So in this case, 'what is to be explained' is also 'that which is doing the explaining'; I think that puts the question as to 'what is the nature of consciousness' in a different category to the questions of the natural sciences concerning the nature of phenomena that can be analysed in objective terms.Furthermore, the only phenomenon worth talking about in this context is consciousness - not the absence thereof - and we have no good reason to believe that consciousness is anything but contingent.
See comment above from Strawson about the inapplicability of emergence in regards to consciousness. But I do agree that the notion that consciousness 'saturates' the universe is mistaken. I suppose I do agree that consciousness is a latency present in the Universe itself, which is manifested in evolutionary processes.In other words, as Fooloso4 alluded to, consciousness is quite likely an emergent feature of complex biological systems, not something that saturates this universe of ours. Consciousness is experienced and expressed by these complex biological systems, but it doesn't reside in those complex biological system in any meaningful sense.