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August 09, 2012


The transmission of information from the camera’s lens, viewing the glaring sun, finds its way to the television set. When a hammer is then taken to the television set, the image is distorted, or, it disappears all together. Therefore, because the television set is a part of what exists, the glaring sun never existed in the first place. Even the television set is doubtful. The Hammer is the only Real Thing that Actually Exists. This is the logic of some. It is not the logic of most.

"All is illusion, all is illusion..... we're not real....." If objective reality is dispensed with and all is illusion, then there can be no "actual" illusion; thus illusions become impossible. What we really would mean by illusion is simply yet one more irresistible trick played by unthinking photons upon yet one more cluster of non-seeing neurons, and this would be but one more act of Non-Think upon but one more bundle of Non-See. There could be no "mistake" for there could be no "actual" from which to mistake off of. If our own Non-See of blind reverberations joins forces with our own bundle of Non-Think lipid bi-layers, how then do we actually see actuality?

We must be careful here to avoid invoking any Is-Statements of the purely Contextual sort and then attempt to argue that there really are no such things as round squares in any context whatsoever.

Does Man, though not knowing infinitely, have Eyes which see to the End of Ad Infinitum? What is Conscious Logic? How is this different than Conscious Love? Where does each live? Are there round squares in Some-Context Somewhere? None in All-Contexts, Anywhere, Ever, Always? With what sort of Immutable-Semantics of what sort of Eternal-Language would we make such an Immutable Is-Statement? How does our brain’s “in here” see such Immutable Is-Statements external to itself “out there” all the way to the End of Ad Infinitum?

How does the Finite See the Infinite?

Or, do we really believe that there just may be, somewhere, somehow, in some context, round squares? The Eternal Language and Immutable Semantics of Logic and Love have much to say of Consciousness, and vise versa.

We really cannot help those who argue that Contextual Semantics is a Proof that there just may be round squares in Some-Context somewhere as they attempt to deny the All-Context reality of Consciousness and of its Logic and of its Love.

Many people love to talk like this. It’s ‘all brain no mind’ all day in the coffee shops, in the laboratories, etc. Everything changes when you start talking about them, however. Until you start talking about something that matters to them.

Don’t speak of the love expressed when cradling a child, or the love one has for their spouse. Don’t speak about the emotion that erupts when hearing a child say, “I love you daddy.”

See, that’s not playing fair.

Hey scbrownlhrm--------what the?

Let's assume, probably contrary to fact, that there is a 1-to-1 correspondence between mental states and brain states. Let's take it a step further. Let's suppose that each mental state is identical to the brain state it corresponds to.

This question still remains: Is materialism true?

What is the reason for supposing that if the brain state is identical to the mental state that the mental state somehow reduces to the the brain state? Why not suppose instead that the brain state reduces to the mental state?

It seems a lot more plausible to me that the brain state is just a mental construct explained by my mental state than that my mental state somehow boils down to the motions and positions of physical objects. At least I can describe positions and motions entirely in terms of sense experiences (which are mental states). It's really impossible to see how you'll ever describe tastes, inferences, doubts, desires smells, realizations and a whole host of other mental states it terms of the motions of atoms in the void.

And I know that mental states exist. Brain states? Maybe, maybe not. Ockham's Razor seems to suggest that the brain states (understood as something different from mental constructs) should go.


1) It's possible that an immaterial mind (if such things exist) might be able to animate a body with a complex brain, a simple brain, or no brain at all.

2) If the mind is something the brain does entirely on its own then the brain MUST be complex.

Do you agree with the following?


I mean Do you agree?

I probably agree with the second claim for the same reason I agree with every if-then statement that has an impossible if-clause: I agree because it has an impossible if-clause.

The mind cannot be done by the brain. For starters because "the mind" is a noun, not a verb. But more to the point, human thought and experience bears no resemblance whatsoever to moving molecules, whether inside a brain or in any other physical object (e.g. a silicon chip). It makes no sense at all to identify the one with the other. It's a category error to attempt it.

The second statement seems to be logically similar to this claim:

If Batman is the number 2 in disguise, then Batman must be equal to 1 + 1.

Batman can't be the number 2 in disguise. It's a category error to suppose that he could be.

As for the first claim, I'd first like to be shown that the human body, whether its brain is complex, simple or non-existent, is anything more than just a theoretical construction.

I've never seen a good reason to think that it is anything more than a theoretical construction. Indeed, I'm more than a little convinced that the idea that it is anything else is incoherent. And because the body is just a theoretical construction, there's no need for the mind to 'animate' it.

L Schulz,

Merely a few posts for the inevitable truth claims that nothing can be known external to the self all the while asserting truth statements which require a vantage point external to the self, all of which are, for all we know, arbitrary at best, or, illusion at worst, such as the assertion of 'Mr. Pierce' on All-That-Is-Real-Everywhere.

"the mind" is a noun

Come on.

(e.g. a silicon chip)

That's more like it. The brain can do the mind without being mere "moving molecules". That's a straw man.

Greg tried to tell a caller once their phone conversation - because of its interactive nature - would be impossible but for dualism. You don't agree with that, do you?



If "mind is something the brain does entirely on its own then" or if it is "done by the brain", then it is "a noun, not a verb" as you require.



Do you live as if "the body is just a theoretical construction"?



Do you live as if life, or anything at all, matters? The greatest good and the least pain for the most/least? Well then, I have mathematical formula which gives us a [Proof] of Slavery comming to sit in the throne of such a misguided and arbitrary Highets-Ethic.

hi scbrownlhrm,

Do you live as if life, or anything at all, matters?

Yes. Many things do matter to me and that affects how I live.

This is not evidence of dualism. Nor would my living as if nothing mattered be evidence for dualism.



Please tell me how living as if the body is just a theoretical construction differs from other types of living.

Do you imagine, for example, that I would not be worried about damage to my body?

But, of course, I'm worried about damage to my body. For two reasons (at least):

  1. Long, and sometimes bitter, experience of my own and reports of the experience of others has taught me that when i perceive that damage is done to my body, pain follows. And, for obvious reasons, I don't like pain.
  2. The same experience and reports of experience has also taught me that damage to my body might result in a reduced ability to perceive and act, e.g. people who have lost their eyes report that they can no longer see. And as such, they cannot do all sorts of things, like drive cars. But I want to be able to keep on doing those things.

BTW - By "perceiving that damage to my body" I mean the ordinary thing: I perceive that it is cut, burned, bruised, ravaged by cancer and so on. I can, of course, perceive that about a theoretical construction just as easily as I can of some weird mind-independent entity. (Indeed, more easily, I actually don't understand how one could perceive anything at all about a mind-independent entity.)

And, I suspect that you, who live as though your body had a mind-independent reality, are worried about damage to your body for precisely the same reasons and no others. The fact that your body somehow exists apart from the mind is of no importance at all.

Glad to see such interesting things here. It is my view that the brain is the vessel that mind, and by extension, the soul inhabits in a physical body. That is why the brain is so complex: to be able to contain the essence of a person and allow them to interact with the physical world.
However, the brain is very much like an extremely complex computer. And computers to not make decisions. They just follow a basic input and output pattern. But we as humans do not follow that patter since we can disregard the clear conclusion of input data and make a decision that is independent of that. Because our decisions don't correlate necessarily with the logical decision, we cannot be just a brain that has specific outputs to each input we receive. And, to say that merely the brain exists invokes physical determinism which destroys free will. So if your decisions matter, then you probably have a mind separate from the purely physical laws the govern the brain.

Let’s assume that one day we will know everything there is to know about the physical brain. Let’s assume that we will know exactly how it works and all the so-called mysteries of the brain are no longer mysteries but have been made clear through years of research and experimentation.

Does anyone actually believe that the information in such a case and time would fully describe every aspect of the mind as well?

I for one, do not.

So my question is what sort of knowledge or discovery is left to the scientist at that point? It seems to me he hangs up his white lab coat and goes out for a drink. A drink that his mind would fully appreciate.


Even short of that there is still much that is opaque to science. But our faith in the un-proven drives us forward. Sort of like religion.

"Each event comes from a previous event. But what happens if you trace this process backwards? To ask this is not exactly the same as to ask where "things" come from; how there came to be space and time and matter at all. Our present problem is not about "things" but about events; not, for example, about particles of matter but about this particle colliding with that particle. The mind can perhaps acquiesce in the idea that the "properties" of the universal drama somehow "just happen to be there"; but whence comes the play, the story? Either the stream of events had a beginning or it had not. If it had, then we are faced with something like creation. If it had not (a supposition, by the way, which many physycists find difficult), then we are faced with an everlasting impulse which, by its very nature, is opaque to scientific thought. Science, when it becomes perfect, will have explained the connection between each link in the chain and the link before it. But the actual existence of the chain will remain wholly unaccountable. We learn more and more about the pattern. We learn nothing about that which feeds real events into the pattern. If it is not God, we must at the very least call it Destiny; the immaterial, ultimate, one-way pressure which keeps the universe on the move." C.S. Lewis.


I don't agree with Greg about dualism, let alone interactive dualism. I'm an immaterialist. I believe in minds and their properties. Bodies are mental constructions. Their reality is 100% mind-dependent.

BTW, my quibble about grammar comes to this: It's popular to attempt to 'solve' the mind-body problem precisely through that sort of linguistic distortion. Some materialists, for example, think it makes a lot of difference if you say "I am being appeared to redly" rather than "I see red".

I find this idea ludicrous.

And to make sure that none of that kind of argument is being smuggled in, I prefer to hear minds, bodies and there properties spoken of in standard English. You use a phrase like "The mind is what the brain does" and all sorts of alarms start going off. No the mind is not what the brain does. The mind is not an action, so it cannot be done by the brain or anything else.

Did you mean to say that mental activity is identical to brain activity?

Fine, then say that.

(And as soon as you do say that, the question I raised about which reduces to which immediately arises. And the answer remains far from obvious.)


Please tell me how living as if the body is just a theoretical construction differs from other types of living.

It leads you to bother mentioning that the body might be no more than just a theoretical construction.

Do you imagine, for example, that I would not be worried about damage to my body?

Do you imagine you are ahead of me? That far? Why?

Suppose we go back to my comment at August 09, 2012 at 08:40 PM and start over? Seriously.


Sorry. Failed to preview although it is my 100% rule.


I already remarked on the 8:40 comment. Your challenge about whether I live like an immaterialist came after those remarks.

It's good to see that I'm not the only immaterialist here.

Never mind then.


So what do you mean by 'immaterialist' - or 'materialist' for that matter.


I will make one other comment on your question:

Do you live as if "the body is just a theoretical construction"?
Now I suspected, and still suspect, that what that was leading to was the idea that immaterialism would somehow commit one to the idea that what happens to one's body doesn't matter. And I replied to that.

But now it seems that, according to one of your more recent quotes, what it leads to are behaviors like this:

It leads you to bother mentioning that the body might be no more than just a theoretical construction.

So do I live as though the body is just a theoretical construction, by bothering to mentionin that the body might be no more than just a theoretical construction?

If that's the question, then I guess the answer is: Yes


Immaterialism is the doctrine that material substances (in a Lockean or similar sense) do not exist. In the context of this discussion, WisdomLover appears to be (perhaps tentatively) taking the position that material objects reduce in some way to ideas, and hence are mind-dependent. If I am reading him correctly in that regard, then he is correct.

For more info, try checking out Berkeley's Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. You can find it for free on Google books.


I prefer his Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous (also available on Google Book and lots of other places for free). But they're both good.


Wow. Ha ha. I was taking immaterialism as a synonym for dualism! My education is sorely lacking! Of course I can look at the book but it won't tell me about you.

0) Why are you an immaterialist?
1) What do you mean 'exist'?
2) Do you believe there was at least one mind before any material objects?


If the mind is not directing the activity we observe in the brain, there is no such a thing as volition. Without volition, there can be no personal responsibility. If there is no personal responsibility, no one should be held accountable for anything. Does that seem right to you?


(0) The super-short version is this: I don't know how to make coherent sense of the alternative.

(1) I just mean it in the ordinary sense, i.e. "is real."

(2) Not exactly. I like to use physics models as an analogy. In physics we have such models of the world, and we use those models to predict and control observations/experiences. Of course, they're just models. The observations/experiences are what actually exist outside those models. Well, our picture of the material world is just a kind of informal model. It gives us a way to make sense of our experiences, but the experiences are those things which exist outside the model.

Materialists like Locke posit that in addition to experiences, there are material "substances" which play some kind of causal role in us having those experiences, and which are external to our models. But I don't see that this Lockean concept of a material substance has any coherent meaning.

But this is all very abstract, and doesn't have much practical application. It's not saying much of anything that makes a difference internal to our models. So for instance, it doesn't change the way we should do science, study the brain, etc. And it certainly doesn't mean that prior to the (in-model) existence of minds there was no matter. From a perspective inside the model, we are physical beings who evolved via physical processes. But immaterialism is a doctrine which stresses that such perspectives are dependent on models, and hence dependent on minds.

RonH, Ben

I agree with Ben on the first two points.

On the third, I also agree with much of what you have to say, Ben. Though I think you are trying to have it both ways in the second half of your final paragraph.

And, of course, I do believe there was at least one mind before there were any physical objects...there has to have been one, since there is no mind independent physical reality. That mind is God.



I don't know how to make coherent sense of the alternative.


It's not saying much of anything that makes a difference internal to our models.

So, immaterialism makes coherent sense outside our models? I'm lost.

I followed you to some extent in the physics part. The electron of theory has some properties. Some have values that are reals; some integers, etc. We speak as if this were the thing in the world. But we don't really know that, right? Maybe we feel pretty confident that the electron of theory has a correspondent in the world. But we are much less certain in the case of the Higgs.

I'd like to see you and WL discuss God (which you disagree about) in the context of immaterialism (which you agree about) some more.



Berkeley had an argument for the existence of God based on idealism, but I don't know if WisdomLover subscribes to that. In fact I don't recall which if any arguments for the existence of God WisdomLover thinks are compelling.

As for electrons, we can sort of picture them in our mind's eye doing what they do on paper. And certainly the written physics models in which electrons appear help us predict and control our experiences. But whether we are talking about our mental imagery or on-paper calculations, in either case we are working with ideas. I've never actually seen or touched an electron, and I doubt anyone else has either.

And if someone ever did experience an electron in a more immediate way, then all he would have is his experience. But it wouldn't make sense for him to talk about something outside of experience.

One point of clarification: By "is real" I mean "is perceived or perceiver". I think that is the ordinary sense of "real". It's certainly how we tell that a thing is real in the lion's share of the cases.

Here's the way I see God fitting in with immaterialism. And I think it squares pretty strongly with Berkeley's own view.

We want to say all sorts of things about the world that we perceive. For example, we want to say that when I'm not perceiving a thing that it continues to exist. Furthermore, when I notice new things that had heretofore missed observation, we want to say that they were always there, it's just that no one noticed them. So, the Jovian moon, Mneme, was around before 2003. Now, it might seem that if existence is to be perceived or perceiver, then we cannot say those things. Unless there is some being, God, who is always perceiving those things, and whose constant perception maintains them in existence.

Looking at it from a somewhat different angle, it is a standard view of God's perception of reality that it not only is never wrong, but that it cannot ever be wrong...that He is infallible.

Now, how could that work?

For most perceivers, we might allow that they might have infallible or nearly infallible knowledge of the contents of their own minds. I know infallibly that I'm thinking about Rugby, or smelling coffee, or whatever. But when it comes to perception of an external world separate from themselves, there is the possibility of misperception.

The way you could have infallibility in God's case is that God, yes, has infallible awareness of the contents of His own mind. And that He creates, with an irresistible omnipotence, the objects in the external world. That is, His perception of the external world and His creation of it are one and the same.


" I've never actually seen or touched an electron, and I doubt anyone else has either."

I've certainly touched quite a few when I was a kid, by accident. It resulted in an interesting interaction in a form of quite a jolt. It momentarily scrambled my thinking and initiated sweating. It is good that you've not had that kind of interaction...it can be fatal in some cases. I agree with your first portion...I didn't see them either. But that second portion...the electrons certainly touched me and I would not recommend the experience as a pleasant way to pass the day.


The reality of the electron, though, comes down to a shocking experience for you. And that is the point Berkeley and I are making. I believe Ben would also agree. What you have that's totally real is the shock.

Let's suppose that a few years from now, we come to realize that the electron theory of electricity is all wrong. I'm not imaginative enough to think of what kind of theory it might be replaced with, though it's worth noting that it did replace the notion of a continuous electrical fluid. Maybe that theory will make a resurgence and the things that moved us to the discrete charge theory of electricity, like the Millikan oil drop experiment, will be explained in terms of a continuous fluid.

Your experience 'of the electron' will be the same. Though we won't call it an experience of the electron, but of the continuous electrical fluid. That experience, not the electron and not the fluid, will remain the most really real thing in the whole discussion of your electrocution. What will change is our theoretical constructions.

Very well put, WisdomLover.


This bit just struck home in such a way that I think I can say something usefulThe electron of theory has some properties. Some have values that are reals; some integers, etc. We speak as if this were the thing in the world. But we don't really know that, right? Maybe we feel pretty confident that the electron of theory has a correspondent in the world. But we are much less certain in the case of the Higgs.Where does this idea that there must be something that corresponds to our theories come from?

Well, I think we want to say that our theories about the physical world have to be tested by getting some pushback from reality that corresponds to the theory. So, I think, the idea you have is that there is some 'real' electron that exists apart from any mind and that does what it does apart from any mind. Our theories about the electron get tested when this reality that corresponds to the theory pushes back.

But how exactly do we ever learn of this pushback. Well...by sense experiences, e.g. by reading a dial, or seeing some reagent change color, or seeing the bar of mercury move up in a thermometer or whatever. That is, we learn of the pushback entirely by mental phenomena.

This leads an immaterialist, such as myself, to look at the text two paragraphs up and says "Yes. Our theories do need pushback from reality." But where we differ is to say that the reality that pushes back, the reality that corresponds to our theories is nothing other than the experiences (which, even on your theory are the sole means by which we come to learn of reality's pushback).


I must have done something wrong with the html in the first paragraph of the prior post. I did preview it but then did a few edits before posting. In so doing I must have accidentally botched a tag.

Bad move.

Here's what it should have looked like:

This bit just struck home in such a way that I think I can say something useful

The electron of theory has some properties. Some have values that are reals; some integers, etc. We speak as if this were the thing in the world. But we don't really know that, right? Maybe we feel pretty confident that the electron of theory has a correspondent in the world. But we are much less certain in the case of the Higgs.
Where does this idea that there must be something that corresponds to our theories come from?

OK WL (and/or Ben),

What, in the view of an immaterialist, are our theories about?


I think that "this idea that there must be something that corresponds to our theories" comes from from intuition and from the apparent need for something to explain the cases where our experiences are shared and repeatable.

How does, for example, the existence of an electron explain anything that is not already better understood than the electron.

I mean, don't I already understand my own experiences better than the electron? And what I can't understand, at all, is how this strange electron, as you suppose it to be, even causes experiences or any other mental state (being, after all, mind-independent). Before the electron can be invoked to explain repeated and common experiences, it has to first be invoked to explain an experience.

Isn't it simpler just to say that the shared and repeated experiences are the correspondents of our theories?


That's all true, but your last comment sort of gives the impression that the point is epistemic. In other words, you make it sound like we just don't have enough evidence for the existence of mind-independent objects. But I would go a step further and say that the very notion of mind-independent objects is not coherently meaningful.

I know what it means to say that X is experience, and I know what it means to say that X is in our models. But I don't know what it means to say that X is neither experience nor in our models. I have no conception of such mind-independent objects.

Stephen Pinker is often paraphrased

The mind is what the brain does.

So I thought I was correcting him when I said

The mind is something the brain does

But it turns out Pinker is often poorly paraphrased. This is what he wrote

This book is about the brain, but I will not say much about neurons, hormones, and neurotransmitters. That is because the mind is not the brain but what the brain does, and not even everything it does, such as metabolizing fat and giving off heat.
So, if I want to correct Pinker, I have to do more
The mind is something the brain does in coordination with other parts of the body.

Koukl (linked in the OP), clearly attacks not Pinker's view (which is close to that described in the Time Magazine article Koukl is responding to), nor even the poor paraphrase of it. He attacks the view that the mind is identical with the brain.

I read an article in Time magazine from July 17 on the mind and the brain. It's entitled "Glimpses of the Mind." Now that title is somewhat tongue in cheek, of course, because the point of the article really is to campaign for the idea that the mind is merely the brain.

This view is not expressed "Glimpses of the Mind". I'm not saying Koukl deliberately set up a straw man. But his piece fails just as if he had; he fails to address the view described.

You can read the Time Magazine article Koukl is reacting to here. It's old but gives a number of reasons to think the brain is up to the task ascribed to it.


Models of what, Ben? Of what?

Experiences of what?


I agree that a mind-independent electron is something that's not coherent. That's why I said: "what I can't understand, at all, is how this strange electron, as you suppose it to be, even causes experiences or any other mental state (being, after all, mind-independent)."

When I said "I can't understand it, at all" I suppose I should have been clearer and said: "it's incoherent". My feeble effort at understatement.


What do you mean when you say "Experiences of what?"

I can understand what it means to have experiences. Can you tell me, without contradiction, what it means for an experience to be of something that exists independent of the mind?


I think RonH is asking more of Model of what, as in, must "I" observe the tree for the tree to exist. Now, we trace this back to the Mind of
God, rather than the Mind of Man, and I think that is where you may be loosing RonH, but I don't mean to speak for him. Is Immaterialism campatable with being a Realist, etc....There comes a point when My-Mind can or cannot know Mind external to My-Mind. Or, perhaps not "external" so much as "Other". If we desolve into "one big amorphous mind" then that is much different than what I think this thread is moving towards.......

Can Mind know Mind? Or rather, is there more than one Self that "exists"?

We must be careful how we employ Contextual assertions as we bridge to a Mind which preceeds all Mind.


I'm going to take that as an actual question although it has a hint of something else. I'm having a hard time accepting that you two really are an immaterialist. So, I accept the possibility, though it is bizarre to me, that you think the notion of an experience being of something is contradictory.

So here's my answer - of the top of my head.

Other minds seem to exist and that they actually do exist seems to me the best explanation.
Other minds seem to share certain experiences.
Again, the best explanation seems to be that these minds actually do share experiences.
For some of these experiences, the best explanation seems to be that these experiences are of something.

I don't mean to imply that these common experiences are experiences of the very things they seem to be of.

I mean that it seems to me that, by far, the most likely explanation for the common-ness of certain experiences is that there is something independent of the minds involved that ties them together.

These - you may think it strange - I call experiences of something. I believe I am not alone here, though perhaps that counts for nothing.

To make these experiences tie together without their being something independent of the minds involved seems, to me, like fodder for Occam's razor.


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