We don't say everything is anything

My old buddy nails it again. His blogs can be long and sometimes hard to follow, but always full of gems. In this one he is addressing “Thomism” but I don’t think that is important to understanding the message, what’s important is how he addresses the fallacies.

Holm Tetens, Dinesh D’Souza, and the Crazy Idea of the Mind Radio • Richard Carrier Blogs

For example, the fallacy that non-believers and scientific thinkers take as a first principle that everything is natural and then build their logic from there. Nothing could be further from the truth. It took hundreds of years to arrive at that as the most probable description of reality. It may now appear to be an assumption because your 6th-grade science teacher didn’t explain that, they just told you and started showing you how to do experiments to demonstrate it.

As Richard says, “This is another fiction, invented by anti-naturalists, to straw-man naturalism. First, we do not “say from the outset” that everything is anything—we say everything is natural because that is the conclusion that follows from all the findings of all the sciences to date. It is a conclusion. It is not a first principle. Second, we do not say anything “must be explained and described by the sciences.” Plenty of things evade scientific inquiry, like the daily experience of our own lives, all the factual output of journalism, and even philosophy, which we use to fill in the gaps using the findings of the sciences as a probabilistic trendline (just as Carroll explained).”

Richard is not afraid to call a spade a spade, which makes him more fun to read. He uses the term “drunk uncling” to describe the guy he is critiquing. BTW, he’s translating from German and paraphrasing, so this is someone you’ve probably never heard of, but you’ve heard many similar arguments.

Chalmers and Dennet also get mentioned in a section on consciousness. Carrier isn’t making a case for either of those, more like commenting on how anyone should go about discussing something like that. He links to his talks on philosophy, which I’ve linked before, and comes down hard on Tetens, who simply waves a hand and says things like “no one talks about this”, failing to have ever googled the topic apparently. In science or philosophy, there is no point in presenting a point of view as if it is fact, or of naming a name and stating their point of view, then saying it’s wrong, without making any attempt to summarize or compare and contrast your own experience to theirs.

There is a lot in this blog and I hope to get to it in more detail this weekend.

The forum search turned up this summary of Carrier’s work

Another thing we see here to often. Quoting from the blog

Even when those so afflicted express comfort, finally, with any ambiguity, it always comes from a framework of certainty: that their religion and its solutions to their worries is certainly true and therefore they can only in that context tolerate ambiguity (you can see a lot of this reasoning across Tetens’ book, where he worries about something, solves it with religion, and reacts as though the problem is then actually solved).

And it continues on to talk about authoritarianism, what some might call the Abrahamic mindset. It’s the dismissal of probability and the embracing of the possible as if it’s real.

I have also encountered many versions of this straw man of naturalism

Tetens’ claim that naturalism thinks “the world of experience” constitutes “the whole of reality.”

To which RC responds

Almost all naturalists—and scientists—consistently agree “the world of experience” is a subjective reconstruction from sensory information of only some of the actual world, and the actual world is quite different from that, but can only be learned about, understood, and explained using that data (often in clever ways). For an example of how far this goes, and how indeed it implicates definite metaphysical conclusions, see my Bayesian Analysis of the Barkasi-Sant’Anna Defense of Naive Memory Realism.



Here’s a great analogy for many of the conversations going on here for the last year or more.

Second, we don’t need a complete accounting of propositional knowledge to also contain experiential knowledge. This is the Mary’s Room mistake: the Tetens of the world try to show that “knowing what the color red looks like” is not contained in a complete list of true propositions about color processing in the brain, therefore physicalism can’t account for it; but that’s like saying that a complete set of true propositions about the heart won’t pump blood, therefore physicalism can’t account for how hearts do that. That would be a nonsensical (and, frankly, stupid) thing to conclude. Obviously you can use those propositions about hearts to build one that will pump blood, and you can entirely predict that’s what it will do. But you still have to have the heart to get the blood pumped. Likewise, phenomenology. Knowing what it is like to be a process is only accessible from being the process (just as being an organ that moves blood is the only accessible way to produce blood flow). But propositions can contain all we need to know to build and run any process, and we can even predict what (if anything) that process will experience (whether colors or not, which colors, and so on). But we still have to run the process to ask it what it is like. Just as we still have to build and operate a heart to move blood. Physicalism in no way entails that can’t be the case.

It takes the “it’s like” thing that Chalmers did and puts it in its place. It’s true that I can only describe what it’s like to be, I can’t give you that experience in a neat package. All the writing, all the attempts at self-expression are mere shadows of what’s inside my head. But asking “what’s it like” is an essential part of science. It’s inquiry and experimentation. It’s bouncing objects off of other objects in the dark and making inferences about what’s there based on where the bouncing ends.

Carrier does have a way with words.

I wonder why Dark isn’t commenting here? What little I’ve had a chance to read from Carriers article.

Just in case this is referring to my musing on the “Abrahamic mindset” - I just want to be clear, I’ve never used “authoritarianism” in the same breath as Abrahamic mindset, thinking.

I’ve boiled “Abrahamic mindset” down to
“Self absorbed thinking and self serving actions” with its attendant near absolute disregard for all other peoples, places and things."
As demonstrated by the three dominant religions it birthed, along with a specific way of thinking about the world: God created this Earth to serve us, god’s own children, created in his likeness - and to hell with everything else.

Definitely had you in mind. But since Carrier is critiquing someone else, not every point is directly addressing you.

As for dark, he needs to control his narrative and only respond negatively to comments he statrts.

I have raised this before but it is such a wonderful example of experiencing different realities as far as the brain can determine can be found in color blindness and in what ways it alters the observation and experience of reality so completely that many people using corrective filters for the first time are completely overhwelmed by the literal appearance of a whole new world. It is heartwarming to witness the reactions, especially in younger recipients of the new data their brain is “discovering” and how that compares to the colors that are an agreed upon known quality. It’s remarkable.
Just press YouTube for reroute.

Reality is experienced differently by individuals, depending on its sensory abilities.
The greater the variety of sensory abilities, the greater the range of combined sensory abilities that allow us (everything) to experience reality from many different perspectives and find niches where we are functional until introduced to whole new data sets activating the brain to interpret.