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Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Feb 13, 2007.

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  1. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Well, most of the teachings on this matter came from Joseph Smith, who had, after all, started his career by saying he had personally met God.

    And "anthropomorphic" can mean either physically or emotionally. But then again, if God does have those traits, He had them first, so He is not anthropomorphic, we are theomorphic (hence I say "anthropomorphic" in quotes).
     
  2. CartesianFart

    CartesianFart Chieftain

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    Interesting. Was it an apparition?

    Nice "converse (Theomorphic VS anthropomorphic)." Either way, It is still silly to me.

    I wonder which one was the first invented concept?:hmm:
     
  3. Ayatollah So

    Ayatollah So the spoof'll set you free

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    You're usually really good with philosophy but I think you went too fast there.

    If I know that the Morning Star is a planet, and I know that the Evening Star is a planet, do I know two facts thereby, or one? In more general terms, can there be multiple (psychologically different) ways of grasping one and the same fact, such that a perfectly logical person could grasp one and not the other?

    I would answer "one" and "yes" respectively, although I could see how someone might use the word "fact" differently, so that the answers would be "two" and "no". But if you answer "two" and "no", do you think your answer is forced on us by the plain English meaning of the word "fact"?

    If there can be multiple, psychologically different ways of grasping one and the same fact, then your conclusion doesn't follow from its premise. All that would follow is that there's a way of grasping the facts about experience, which way does not deploy physical concepts.
     
  4. zstep18

    zstep18 Chieftain

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    Hello, this is my first post. I've been reading through this thread for a while, and it's very good.

    You said that the NIV translation wasn't that great. What, in your opinion, is the best translation?

    Who are your favorite contemporary theologians/philosophers? Are there currently any prominent theologians who are not religious?

    I'm not exactly sure if these questions have been asked, but if they have, I'm sorry.
     
  5. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    Well he did have that Jesus-Mary thing, maybe that plays a role.
     
  6. DNK

    DNK Member

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    Well, I do continuously try to find an answer, but it tends towards looking at it the other way around: a consciousness-centric approach, rather than a physical-centric one. I guess this puts me at odds with science in a way. Either way it makes my head hurt!

    That was just explaining the conclusion I keep coming to again and again.
    Good thread to start posting in! I think this was my first question here, too (this thread, that is).
     
  7. zstep18

    zstep18 Chieftain

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    Ah, sorry about the repeated question.
     
  8. DNK

    DNK Member

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    No problem. The problem with these threads is how hard it is to find info when they get so long. I'm sure Plotinus could repeat his answer (I've written it down somewhere for when I have the time to actually read the thing, all 5 years that will take me!).
     
  9. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Well, I was just citing the argument, not presenting it as my own. However, I'm not sure about your rebuttal. You are right that "The Morning Star" and "The Evening Star" refer to the same entity, so that any proposition about one is also a proposition about the other (except when they are used intentionally - for example, "I see the Morning Star" does not express the same proposition as "I see the Evening Star" if the speaker doesn't realise they are one and the same). But is a proposition about the chemical and physiological causes of a sensation also a proposition about what it is like to experience that sensation? When the archangel understands perfectly how smell works, is what he understands really the same set of facts as what it's like to smell something, understood differently? If it is the same set of facts, that seems to me to be far from obvious. In fact it seems plain counter-intuitive.

    The RSV, or the NRSV. The NEB is good too.

    Most theologians who are famous for being theologians are the kind of theologians who do theology themselves, so almost by definition they're religious. I'm not sure who I would say is my favourite. I do like Cupitt although I think he's completely barking up the wrong tree. As for philosophers, I like Quine, although it turns out that he's dead now so he's not exactly contemporary. I've increasingly come to agree with one of my former professors that most of the interesting work in philosophy and theology alike was done before the eighteenth century, and most of that was before the fourteenth century!

    And you know perfectly well that that's a caricature. Christians don't believe that God is literally the father of Jesus.
     
  10. GenMarshall

    GenMarshall Ghost Agent

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    Why are some religions open to Syncretism while others consider Syncretism a heresy? I noticed that acceptance of Syncretism is more prominate in Eastern Religions and Philosophies where as Western Religions and Philosophies dont accept Syncretism and cast it as a heresy.
     
  11. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    I'm not so sure about it. I mean I know that God didn't have intercourse but there's some sort of divineness to Jesus' conception that makes it special with God taking on some fatherly role.
     
  12. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    It's not as cut and dried as that. Syncretism of some kind is inevitable whenever a religion comes to a new society, because that religion will necessarily change to some degree simply because it is in a new cultural context. This is why Christianity is so different in different places. Moreover, there are plenty of westerners who are perfectly happy about syncretism and even encourage it, so it's not like all easterners like it and all westerners don't.

    However, it's true that westerners tend to be more suspicious of such tendencies, and I think this is because western religions tend to define themselves in terms of doctrine far more than eastern ones do. In the west, a religious community will set out the doctrines which, in its opinion, distinguish it from other communities. If you don't accept the doctrines, you're out. So they would tend to discourage any doctrinal dissent, especially syncretism, which is about modifying doctrines under external influence. Easterners are less likely to define themselves doctrinally in the first place, and therefore less likely to be bothered about doctrinal variety.

    No, the orthodox view is that Jesus' conception is miraculous, not that God plays the part of the father. It's not that the conception is normal but with God taking the father's role - rather, God miraculously makes Mary conceive without any father at all.

    Similarly, to call Jesus "son of God" merely expresses the belief that he finds favour with God. Many people are called "son of God" in the Bible, including the entire Hebrew nation; just as "son of man" expresses mortality. It never means that the person in question is quite literally God's son.
     
  13. frob2900

    frob2900 Chieftain

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    Operatively, I'd say, yes. As long as two different facts about the same object allow one to manipulate the object into the same useful purposes (e.g. understanding agriculture from a medieval or a modern scientific perspective etc.) they are effectively the same.

    The two sets of facts can only be said to differ if on closer analysis one finds differences in the expected behaviour of the object.

    The point of view I just presented is used all the time in e.g. physics.. That is, two theories which on the surface are different but which present the same predictions of behaviour are the same. Apply Occams Razor and throw the more complicated one into storage (one may need to look at it again in case new experimental data comes in).

    As to "is my perception of red the same as yours" type arguments, they are not really productive in the sense that as long as the difference in perception produces no observable difference in attitude to red, then (for all intents and purposes that could possibly be useful to humanity) yes "our perceptions are the same".

    I'm not saying that this is useless reasoning in and of itself. Such reasoning can be interesting and I have nothing against it in principle. It's just not scientific and doesn't imho belong in an academic setting.
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I have to say that seems completely wrong to me. If someone else has the experience that I call "green" when they see things that cause in me the experience that I call "red", and they have the experience I call "red" when they see things that cause in me the experience that I call "green", then our experiences are different. Such a situation is different from one where red and green things look the same to both of us, even though we behave no differently. In fact I would say that this fact demonstrates that a "predictive" theory of facts, such as the one you give, is false. Suppose that one day you wake up and green and red have switched places: for no apparent reason, things that previously caused in you the experience you called "green" now cause the experience you called "red", and vice versa. On your theory, nothing would have changed. Yet that seems absurd.

    It seems to me that you're effectively relying on a pragmatist theory of truth, one according to which things are held to be true inasmuch as they are useful to believe. There are well-known difficulties with theories of this kind (such as the fact that it's easy to think of things that are useful for people to believe, but false, and other things that are not useful to believe, but true). But perhaps I'm misattributing it to you.

    Two theories that are predictively similar aren't necessarily the same theory. For example, imagine a universe which is ruled by a capricious deity who sometimes does good things and sometimes does bad things. And imagine another universe which is contested between a good deity and a bad deity. Exactly the same things could happen in these two universes - an apparently unpredictable combination of good things and bad things - but the causes are quite different in each case. In either universe, the inhabitants could try to explain their experiences by positing either a capricious deity or two competing ones, and in each universe, either explanation would be as explanatorily useful, and as probably true, as the other, and they would be predictively identical too. But each explanation would only be the correct one in one of the universes. So they cannot be one and the same theory.

    Alternatively, imagine a scenario where you, personally, are annihilated, and the next instant, a completely perfect replica of you appears in your place and continues to go about your daily business just as if you had - even complete with your memories and under the impression it was you. Surely such a situation would be different from one where this didn't happen and you continued to exist. From your point of view, there would be all the difference in the world. Yet to any observer, they would be indistinguishable. To an observer, the theory "frob2900 is alive and well as usual" would be explanatorily and predictively exactly similar to the theory "frob2900 has been annihilated and replaced by an exact replica". Yet clearly these theories cannot be one and the same theory, because they do not describe the same situation, and in any given situation, they can't both be true.

    In the case of the archangel and ammonia, surely it's just begging the question to claim that perfect knowledge of the chemical properties of ammonia, coupled with perfect knowledge of the physiological and neurological operation of the sense of smell, is the same thing as knowledge of what it is like to smell ammonia. Even by your own criteria of prediction, I don't understand why it would be.

    Now I must also object to the claim that non-scientific reasoning doesn't belong in an academic setting. Why shouldn't it? Discussions of this kind are non-scientific, in the sense that they do not use the scientific method, but I don't see why that makes them any less academic or worthy of academic study. You could say the same thing of mathematics or law.

    Finally, be aware that Ockham's Razor is misunderstood almost as often as it is invoked, especially by scientists. It does not state that you should prefer simple hypotheses to complex ones (which scientists always seem to suppose that it does); Ockham never said anything like that. He said that you shouldn't suppose the existence of entities that have no explanatory power. And that's not the same thing.
     
  15. frob2900

    frob2900 Chieftain

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    Since we behave no differently, and assuming we never will, there is no possibility of us being able to determine whether or not we perceive them differently. Hence it is not possible to demonstrate truth and falsity of any assumption on the subject and as such it is not science.

    Well do I personally notice this? If I do notice it and am distraught about it then there has occured an observable phenomenon, in contrast to the above point. (At the very least I should speak to a doctor)

    I can give you many examples of things in e.g. physics which are not exactly 100% true but are useful to believe. As long as one keeps the fact in mind that things are never absolute and at times the falsity of the belief may be disadvantageous, it doesn't really matter if one "believes" it operatively. Flexibility of thinking can solve most the problems of the approach.

    This illustrates the difficulty of constructing a theory given only one observation of the phenomenon (i.e. the history of the universe up until that point). If it were possible to reboot the universe and reobserve it many, many times then someone might start to discern differences.
    I meant two theories that give the same results, given many observations.

    But there would be absolutely no disadvantage for the rest of the world if they just kept on believing that I hadn't been annihilated and respawned. As long as my clone behaved the same in every future event as I would have, then yes, nothing has changed. Again this was an isolated event. If it started happening all the time, all kinds of issues crop up. How long is "the instant"? Are there measurable abnormal phenomena that occur during a swap etc.

    For all constructive purposes it is. If you were a cosmetics company, you might consider employing someone who can intuitively design "nice smells" out of their extensive experience with scents. On the other hand it would be equally ok to hire someone (who was born without a sense of smell) who can reach exactly the same results using advanced theoretical models and computer simulations of how people would react to the smells. As long as the results are 100% identical.

    Of course, they wouldn't be, I guess, so going back to the original example, if the difference in the Archangels and humans perception of ammonia led them to behave differently w.r.t. ammonia, then it matters. Otherwise it doesn't.

    You are of course, right when bringing up law. Any kind of subject that deals with human behaviour must by necessity have some non-scientific aspect to it.

    I suppose I was merely trying to criticize the "angels on pinheads" types of discussions that non-scientific reasoning can lead to w.r.t. questions about "the universe". I suppose the field is fraught with the danger of mixing up perception with cause and effect and never cleanly separating out what it is that is being discussed. But I won't argue this point too much as I'm sure that not all philosophers make this mistake (To be clear: I'm not saying that anyone here has done that)

    Ok, well, I'll just call it Ockhams Razor (physicists definition) then, for lack of a better word for the "choose the simpler option" rule. I'll still call it Ockham's Razor in daily speech though, because I'm rather certain that statistically the physicists definition is the one the person I'm talking too will follow.
     
  16. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    This whole "red"/"green" discussion is amusing from the POV of someone who can't see colours!

    There are couple videos on perception I have found that would be useful to this discussion. If colours were to 'flip' for someone (upon waking) we could assume that it's merely a neurological event. What I call 'green' is merely a shade that I've noticed that other people call green. If I were to have seen this colour with colour vision, I'd still call it green.

    You should be able to predict the colour someone sees based on its signal down the optic nerve. At that point, you can compare it to your own optic nerve to determine what you'd see if you were seeing the same thing.
     
  17. frob2900

    frob2900 Chieftain

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    But color blindness is an observable phenomenon. A color blind person can't be e.g. a pilot.

    [EDIT] Another important way of looking at the Red/Green thing is that colors are only one thing:

    They are our brains way of discerning radiation of different frequencies. A color blind person has trouble doing this and mostly picks up radiation intensity rather than frequency (I believe som color blind people can still discern some colors). The grass is green because it reflects sunlight of a certain frequency.

    One might object that "we also perceive beauty in colors etc.", but the above proposition talked about two people with red/green flipped who behaved identically. I therefore also assumed this applied to aesthetics, which is really just the theory of whether or not we feel pleasurable when getting a certain mixture of electromagnetic waves in our face.

    (And, no I don't hate art/beauty. I love it. But it was already dismissed in the assumptions of the above argument so it's not relevant.)
     
  18. ironduck

    ironduck Chieftain

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  19. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Right, you will never be able to tell whether you perceive them differently or not. But truth has not nothing to do with that. It can still be true that you perceive things differently, even if you can never tell, and even if it makes no difference to how you behave.

    To illustrate, suppose you had a race of sentient but rather stupid creatures who were, intellectually, completely incapable of working out whether the proposition "If A and B are different names for the same object, then anything which is true of A is also true of B" is true or not. Whether or not it is true, they get on with their lives in exactly the same way. But it doesn't follow from that that the proposition has no truth value.

    In other words, you keep talking about what we can "determine" or "demonstrate", or "observe", or "manipulate", in an "operative" way. But none of those things has got anything to do with truth - they're all pragmatic considerations, concerned with what we can know and what use it is to know it.

    Say your memory is altered at the same time, so you don't remember perceiving things any differently. It still seems very clear to me that something would still have changed. You might never know it, and it might make no difference whatsoever to your behaviour, but it would still be true that you had changed. It just wouldn't be knowably true.

    Well, say that in this example they do. Say that these are completely deterministic universes, and that everything in them happens the same way every time you "boot" them, including the behaviours of the various deities. And say we have some external observer who can watch what happens over and over again, but who can't observe the deities themselves. Would you still say that, for this observer, the two rival hypotheses are actually the same hypothesis?

    Of course there would be no disadvantage or advantage for the rest of the universe, whichever hypothesis they believed. But how can you infer from that that there is no difference whatsoever between your own continued existence and your annihilation and replacement with a clone? Of course something has changed - you don't exist any more! Suppose that the moment of swapover is completely undetectable. And suppose that it could, in principle, be happening all the time. According to you, to say that this happens all the time is exactly the same thing as to say that it never happens. And if that is true, it would be just as reasonable to say that it happens all the time as it would be to say that it never happens at all. But that seems very peculiar!

    Cunning, but I think this fails even by your own standards. From the point of view of the person in question, there could be a big difference between having no sense of smell but an amazing knowledge of chemicals and having a good sense of smell. So there'd be an observable difference, even if they are the only person who can observe it. Which suggests again that it's begging the question to assume that there would be no observable difference - just as it's begging the question to assume that the observability of difference is the definition of truth.

    That's fair enough, although I don't really see what's wrong with "angels on pinheads" discussions anyway (not that that discussion ever occurred anyway, of course). I should hope that philosophers would confuse perception with cause and effect less than other people, not more - certainly the nature of causation is one of the perennial topics in philosophy, at least since Hume.
     
  20. MayNilad Man

    MayNilad Man Chieftain

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