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Is there really anything left to dicsuss?

  1. Aug 26, 2005 #1
    It seems to me all the philosophical questions have been discussed exhaustively much, and that there isn't much original thought left.
    Maybe we need to wait for science to bring us new possibilities?

    After being deeply into philosophy for almost 3 years, I feel like I've hit a brick wall, there's literally nothing left to discuss.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 26, 2005 #2

    Les Sleeth

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    IMO, as long as there are issues not understood, we have reason to contemplate and discuss it all. However, I wonder why you seem to assume it is science that will bring us the hottest new possibilities for philosophical consideration?
  4. Aug 27, 2005 #3
    Glad you asked that question.
    First off, philosophy right now has tons of unanswered questions, of which philosophy seems unable to answer. The only thing there is to discuss is to teach new people what they need to get up to speed, not find out the solution to these problems.
    (For example the mind body problem.)

    My brother deeply believes that there are some things in this universe science and technology will never ever be able to explain.
    Namely the problem of explaining a first person experience in a third person scientific point of view.
    For example how do we explain the joy of listening to music with math or science?
    It seems impossible because science can and never will be able to explain a first person concept. Or will it?

    Then again, to my original post, we do not know how consciousness and emotions work, we only have psychology to somewhat objectively describe and predict the human mind.
    But that may not always be the case.
    When we get new technology, new sciences will arise, for example nanotechnology or supstring theory observed.
    Maybe then we can describe and predict the human mind in a third person pov but still keeping the essence of first person.
    After this is done we will then see new philosophical topics arise, as we now have new possibilities in the universe.

    Can you tell me one single philosophical topic that has not been talked about exhaustion?
    And one that we can still figure out the solution to without new technology or new science?
    I can't think of any personally.
  5. Aug 27, 2005 #4
    I'd say that the value of philosophy lies exactly in showing us what we can and cannot know about reality by reason alone. As you've discovered, there a many such facts that cannot be known in this way. Metaphysics might reasonably be defined as the study of what we cannot know by reason or, equivalently, as the study of whether the assumptions we have to make about reality when we reason about it are true or false.

    Metaphysical questions, questions about what is ultimately true, are formally undecidable in a strict mathematical sense. No philosopher has ever shown that they have decided one, and even mystics say that the two answers to all such questions are neither exactly true nor false.

    Did the universe arise from something or nothing? Is there a God? Does freewill exist? Is matter made out of something material or 'something' immaterial? Does a true cosmological theory need to be background-dependent or background-independent? Do events happen to things or are things just events? Is the universe finite or infinite? Are fundamental 'physical' entities particles or waves? Does mind cause brain or does brain cause mind? The list goes on and on. All such questions can be shown to be undecidable.

    There is no doubt that A.N. Whitehead's well-known comment, made in the mid-twentieth century, that metaphysics consists of a series of footnotes to Plato, will be just as true in another two thousand years. You seem to have reached this conclusion. However, this does not mean that metaphysics is not worth studying. It is precisely the futility of studying metaphysics that makes it worth studying, for only by studying it can we become completely confident that it is not worth studying. Then we can be confident that either there is a better way of finding out the truth about reality than doing physics or metaphysics, or we cannot ever know the truth about it.
  6. Sep 1, 2005 #5
    The usefulness of studying metaphysics in not what WE decided but what I ( the individual) decides. If I decide there is a God/god, and behave as if there really is one, then it really does not matter if anyone else decides I am wrong. In the realm of the metaphysical, the individual determines what is TRUTH. If someone else agrees with you, so much the better.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2005
  7. Sep 3, 2005 #6
    Nothing to discuss?

    We could discuss nothing for a very long time.

    But, you are correct to note that the very nature of Philosophy is that there are no answers... nothing that says something as direct and simple as..... YOU CAN MAKE GOOD BLUE PIGMENT BY CRUSHING AZURITE CRYSTALS. There are no concrete answers in Philosphy. There are only things they call "food for thought" or "something for further discussion". You are not going to find out why Andrw Wyeth's "Scarecrow" sold for 18 million dollars the other day because Philosophy can't answer for the tastes of other people or for the reasons gravity developed in the universe. Philosophy simply uses all these elements in its continuing quest to dominate all living creatures with robots. (not really)
  8. Sep 4, 2005 #7
    I agree that we should make up our own minds as to what is true and false. But when you decide there is a God you are not doing metaphysics. Rather, you are avoiding doing it. The truth is whatever the truth is, just as it is in physics or mathematics. However, reasoning has its limits and can reach no conclusion on the existence or non-existence of God. So you can believe in God without worrying that metaphysicians are ever going to prove your belief false.
  9. Sep 4, 2005 #8
    Can reason conclude on the existence of anything at all?

    I've been following your posts and you seem to think the problem of solipsism cannot be solved. But even if that is the case, then reason must be capable of concluding the existence of at least one thing. But... what should we call that thing?

    As far as I can see every single attempt to give a name to "the thing which absolutely exists" is bound to fail, regardless of the fact that the thing exists and its existence can be asserted by reason. So what exactly is going on here?

    If a person decides to give "the thing which absolutely exists" the name "God", would they be doing physics, metaphysics, or something else?

    If solipsism can't be falsified, can we say for sure that there is no difference between physics and metaphysics?

    As to the thread's question, my opinion is that there has always been and there will always be one and only one thing to discuss in philosophy, which is how to bring it to its own end. Philosophy is quite curious in that the fulfillment of its goals implies its own destruction. Once a philosophical question is answered, it ceases to be philosophical. Once all philosophical questions are answered, philosophy itself ceases.
  10. Sep 5, 2005 #9
    You're right, I don't think the problem of solipsism can be solved. But only in the sense that the question "Is solipsism true or false?" is undecidable. I don't feel that solpsism is a problem. It is a problem only if one assume that it is either true or false. Then one must try to verify its truth or falsity and this is where problems arise, for it cannot be done.

    The problem can be avoided by adopting the 'nondual,' 'mystical,' or 'Middle Way' account of reality. In this account solipsism is neither true nor false, and therefore can never be demonstrated (or known) to be true or false. This is said to be unknowable by reason but the general idea can be undertood by a thought experiment.

    Imagine that everything that exists in our multiverse is one thing. Imagine also that all differences and distinctions between the infinity of things that exist within this infinity of individual universes are illusory and thus that all 'things' are illusions of some kind. Imagine that this incudes all material and all mental phenomena.

    This may or may not be the multiverse, the one we seem to be in, but as far as anyone knows it could be. Either way, we can at least imagine such a multiverse.

    (Many physicists argue that 'things' are illusory and that only events really exist. This seems to be a case of out of frying pan into the fire to me, for how can events happen between things that are not really things? In this case events are not really events. However, this shows that it is not 'unscientific' to imagine that all things are in some sense illusions which are reducable to some fundamental phenomenon. In Buddhist teachings phenomena (dhamma) are termed 'thing-events' in acknowledgment of their two-sided nature.)

    But back to the experiment. This 'one thing' we have imagined as underlying all other things is a fundamental phenomenon from which all other phenomena arise, a fundamental substrate. We need not try to really imagine it for that would be impossible, but we can at least imagine that there is such a thing and then leave it unconceptualised, an undefined term.

    Now imagine that you and I are a sentient being living in one of these imagined universes. Is solipsism true or false for us? As individuated beings we would find that solipsism is unfalsifiable. Clearly something that we call 'I' or 'me' would exist but we would be unable to demonstrate to ourselves or to anybody else that anything other than than 'I' or 'me' exists.

    But in this imagined multiverse we have assumed that all things are ultimately identical, that all things share the same indentity in an ontological sense. We have imagined all things as being rooted in one thing. You or me, as individuated sentient beings, would be like waves on the ocean, grasstips, emanations of 'God', sparks of Divine Light, little bits of what is fundamental. All things would be epiphenomenal on just one fundamental phenomenon.

    In this case we might conclude that even though solipsism is unfalsifiable in our dreamed up world, just as it is in this one, solipsism is in fact true there, for solipsism must be true for a phenomenon that is fundamental. In other words, if we imagine that our essence as individual beings is identical with a fundamental phenomenon then for us solipsism is true, we (in some sense of 'we') really are all that exists.

    On the other hand solipsism would also be false. If, when we imagine ourself in this other universe, by a lack of knowledge we mistakenly assume that we are individual and discrete beings, objects separate from other objects, then when we ask "Is solipsism true?" it is false. An infinite number of discrete 'thing-events' exist relative to that discrete 'I' or 'me'.

    This multiverse we have imagined is, roughly speaking, our actual reality according to the mystics. Thus a Buddhist, a Taoist, a Sufi or whomever would neither ask the question about solipsism nor give an answer. The answer depends on the underlying assumptions of the person asking it. Just as physicist Lee Smolin writes in 'Three Roads to Quantum Gravity' - "It is not easy to find the right language to use to talk about the world if one really believes that the notion of reality depends on the context of the person doing the talking."

    The situation is in fact even more complicated that this, for Buddhists say that this fundamental phenomenon we've imagined to exist does not in fact exist, or rather, that it cannot properly be said either to exist or not-exist. Even this existential distinction is in some way a false one. Thus the Christian mystic Evagrios advises us that what is fundamental must be approached non-conceptually or not at all.

    If this is correct, that the existence/non-existence distinction cannot be made for what is fundamental, then it's not entirely clear whether solipsism is true or false even for what is fundamental. In a way it's true and in a way it isn't, depending on how you look at, and even in the final analysis neither answer is quite right. If Buddhists, Christian mystics and the rest are right it is quite simply a fact about reality that determines the unfalsifiability of solipsism. It's unfalsifiable because it isn't false.

    Yes, or, as Lao-Tsu puts it, "The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao." If the mystical account of reality is true, describes what is the case, then "the thing that absolutely exists" cannot be named, conceived, represented, visualised, imagined or otherwise idolised. What is fundamental, if it were to conceive of itself, would have to divide itself into conceiver and conceived, imaginer and imagined, subject and object and so forth to conceive of or imagine itself, and this is two things, not one. If what is fundamental is not two things then it cannot be known as two things. The mystical literature abounds with warnings of the dangers of dualism.

    But again, the situation may be more complex. The distinction between 'exist' and 'not-exist' is said by meditators to be non-fundamental, not applicable to what is fundamental. For this reason, they say, it cannot be truly said that there is anything that absolutely exists, not even whatever it is that is fundamental. Sometimes it is said that this fundamental phenomenon "is," but never that it exists.

    I don't rightly know. I suppose they'd be doing theology. Certainly they'd be making some big assumptions.

    Good question. Speaking for myself never been able to find a boundary between physics and metaphysics that doesn't seem arbitrary. It appears impossible to do physics without doing metaphysics, since the idea that physical things and the spacetime that contains them really exist is a metaphysical assumption. My impression is that most physicists have no problem with the idea that they cannot avoid metaphysics, but they like to keep the two as distinct as possible, for practical reasons, except maybe on Sundays.

    This is also pretty much my opinion.
  11. Sep 5, 2005 #10
    But I have solved it for myself, although I can't communicate the solution. The fact that I can't communicate the answer is in fact part of the solution.

    Interestingly, I start my solution from the same basis.

    It's certainly not a problem for people who kick stones and hurt their toes :smile:

    I suppose your analysis may be correct, although you seem to have as much trouble explaining your solution as I have explaining mine. I certainly can't make any sense of this nondual/mystical stuff. Not that I haven't tried; I spent quite some time studying Buddhism before I decided it is nonsense. (I mean nonsense for me, other people certainly see value in it)

    I can't imagine that. My brain just won't do it.

    But the interesting thing is, if there are multiple solutions to solipsism, and they are all incommunicable, is it possible they are all equivalent? That would be strange.

    For the record, my solution to the problem rests on the fact that solipsism is impossible in a solipsist universe. (sort of like philosopher zombies can't possibly be right if they conceive of philosopher zombies). But I'll leave it at that.

    Physicists are not notorious for having much respect for everyday concepts. They seldom mean what they seem to mean when they say the things they say.

    Ironically, I read the very same thing in a book about Buddhism, something to the extent that there are no subject and object, only processes.

    That is not what I had in mind (although I might be missing something). The only reason the thing that exists can't be named is because there are no words in language for it. But we can always make one up, or choose an existing one. The only problem is, people won't understand us, but at least we can have the concept to think about.

    But orthodox Christianity is thoroughly dualistic (or trinitary, to make it worse!), and I see no compelling reason to see the ideas of mystics as being in any way superior to the ideas of the Church. In fact, I would like to ask an honest question: why does mysticism matter, and why does it seem to be so popular among people on this forum?

    And in what sense does "theology" make less assumptions than mysticism?

    In the end, since the more we understand reality, the less we can explain it to other people, does it really matter which language we use to talk about what we cannot explain? Isn't there, perhaps, a sense in which orthodox Christian theology and Eastern mysticism are really just the same thing?

    There is a boundary but it has nothing to do with reality. The difference between physics and metaphysics is that agreement on the former is easy while agreement on the latter is next to impossible.
  12. Sep 5, 2005 #11
    So, Bola, as has been demonstrated to you (illusion or not) there is much to discuss.

    But, its a little like being all dressed up with nowhere to go.

    As usual and as is the case with every individual... its not where you're going... its the journey that counts!

    Put another way... its not what the party can do for you, its what you bring to the party.
  13. Sep 8, 2005 #12
    Here's a topic you might like, why do you want to believe that you've hit a brick wall?
    When I get bored of something I try a different approach, for instance instead of discussing philosophy one might try converting to a hardcore disciple of a philosophy; for instance, hedonism or ascetisism, put it into practice in every area of one's life...it might take only a few hours to read about it, but months or even a lifetime to understand it, the good and the bad of it. I forget where I heard it but someone said, whoever would come to understand their own nature would be free of suffering. I'm fairly sure it makes a lot more sense to someone who's been down both hedonistic and ascetic roads, and like the joy of music it can't be easily explained. If I were going to be a hardcore hedonist I would buy a joker's hat with bells and such and wear it all the time to remind me of my purpose, for ascetism maybe a long black cape like dracula- that would look cool.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 8, 2005
  14. Sep 9, 2005 #13

    Well, there is always math, physic, and CS....etc There are planty....
  15. Sep 9, 2005 #14
    I was under the impression that, just deciding to believe in something (be it god, truth, gravity) is in a sense the opposite of philosophy. I mean - if you decide that you believe in a subject, rather than question it and its reasons, regardless if you find an answer, is in a sense anti-philosophical.
    Most times, when you ask a believer "why do you believe that", they answer "does it matter? do I need a why? I believe. It is enough for me". And this is what I think sd01g meant when writing.. "In the realm of the metaphysical, the individual determines what is TRUTH. If someone else agrees with you, so much the better."

    I think philosophy is as uncomfortable place to be for a believer as it gets ;) although I do acknowledge that there are religious/believing philosophers. (they musy be having harder time than atheist ones I bet)

    However, I think that many of the philosophical questions humanity dealt with over the years were a progression over older questions. Although, it does seem that philosophy has less/little going on these days, it might just be an issue of maturity of the field.
    Although I am in the opinion that it will always exist, since it seems our nature not to understand the reasons of things (even of things we ourselves do, not to mention things around us in what we call universe, that we have no understanding in whatsoever), fewer new questions, which might seem like the end of new questions for a short period of time, is only so in contrast of the field's progress in the last several hundreds of years. After all... what is even 10,000 years in a universe which we don't even know its age or if it has one in the first place.
  16. Sep 10, 2005 #15
    nothing is perfect
    in the space where nothing exists
    will one find perfection
    the perfect nothing

    accept nothing as fact
    question everything
    determine your own truth
    define your own reality


    logic and reason is not all it's cracked up to be, trust your instincts, value your intuition and never let the f*ckers grind you down...

    ...try discussing philosophy with those outside of your culture
  17. Sep 10, 2005 #16
    Well, solipsism is unfalsifiable even for people who kick rocks and hurt their foot. It's unfalsifiable forever for everyone. But this is not necessarily a problem, just the way things are.

    Fair enough. I was just pointing out that in that nondual/mystical view it can be explained why solipsism is unfalsifiable.

    Can there be more than one true solution?

    That sounds interesting. Care to expand?

    Why "ironically"? One would expect science to converge on the mystical view if that view is correct.

    Well, we'll have a term for use in discussions, which is useful. But we cannot correctly conceptualise something just by giving it a name, especially if it's something that cannot be conceptualised.

    I feel your dualism comment is partly true and partly false. The kind of naive theism that Christianity has become over the years is dualistic. But the notion of the Holy Trinity may or may not be dualism, depending on the details. (If Father and Son reduce to Holy Ghost it is monism or nondualism, depending on the details. The link to Buddhism is that fathers and sons can have only a 'dependent existence' - they must both exist or neither. Substitute mind and body for father and son and the link becomes more apparent.)

    In orthodox Christian mysticism what the Church so often teaches is an oversimplification and misrepresentation of Jesus's teachings. As for the reason mysticism is superior to blind belief that's a big topic and probably best left for another thread. Glad to discuss it though, when the time comes.

    Because the truth matters to many people on this forum. Not everyone is content just to speculate about it, some want to know it.

    Because in mysticism assumptions are avoided like the plague, while theology is founded on an assumption.

    The teachings of Jesus in the non-canonical Gospels is perfectly consistent with Eastern mysticism, and Jesus is generally considered an enlightened being by mystics. However, these teachings are deemed false by the Church and are contradicted by the teachings of the Church. So in this sense Christian theology is inconsistent with mysticism and, some would argue, inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus. (In the same way, and for the same reasons, Sufi's often argue that the teachings of institutional Islam are not consistent with the teachings of Mohammed)

    In a nutshell, theology will always be inconsistent with mysticism since, to over-generalise, in mysticism there is no God. (But mysticism is not really Eastern or Western, it's the same everywhere).

    I suppose it looks that way. But metaphysics is 'first philosophy', coming before physics. So physics is impossible until one has made some metaphysical assumptions on which there is no agreement. Btw, there is complete agreement on metaphysical questions among the mystics. They say that it is the false assumptions entailed by dualistic thinking built into these questions that make them undecidable.
  18. Sep 11, 2005 #17
    I believe that we shall never contemplate everything, all that is. It saddens me. We are simply particles of dust in the entire universe. like an ant on the world. If we were to know everything, we could count ourselves as gods, rulers of the infinite. knowing all there is. Our hopes and dreams can no longer be greater than our neighbours. we shall become robotics. Then WHO would we rule if we all became gods the birds and beast with lower conciousness? we could give them greater level of intelligence we would have the power the knowledge to do so being gods then they prehaps will think they have evolved just as we did. Thinking they have freewill to do as they please in this tiny world of theirs, when every action when every thought of theirs is truly ours, our desire to become less than we are to return to the bliss of ignorence.
  19. Sep 11, 2005 #18
    You're suggesting nothing is a fact?
  20. Sep 12, 2005 #19
    "Dost thou reckon thyself only a puny form
    When within thee the universe is folded?

    Baha’u’llah quoting Imam Ali, the first Shia Imam
  21. Sep 12, 2005 #20
    For the record, my solution to the problem rests on the fact that solipsism is impossible in a solipsist universe. (sort of like philosopher zombies can't possibly be right if they conceive of philosopher zombies). But I'll leave it at that.

    Please don't leave it at that :)
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