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Questions on Ontology.

  1. Jan 25, 2005 #1
    Why does the epistemic differences established by mind-body distinctions necessitate an ontological divide? What is the defining difference between ontologies? How could two entities, from separate ontologies, ever be connected?

    Any related comments or answers are, as always, greatly appreciated :smile:.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 25, 2005 #2
    I believe that there is but one reality where everything co-exists in a consistent paradigm. In my opinion, the distinctions and labels we use are all man made based on our epistomology. Of course, there has to be something about the ontology that leads to the epistemic differences, but I think the ontologies are consistent whereas, our limitations many times result in the epistemic differences not being consistent. This is why I am so torn on what to believe when it comes to ontology. Sometimes I feel like I'm skydiving without a parachute. :surprised
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2005
  4. Jan 25, 2005 #3
    So, you think there are more than one ontology, but you think they are consistent with one another?

    I guess that takes one back to the question of what would connect two ontologically distinct entities...I know this is all very familiar to you. We've had these discussions before (though it seemed inexorably tied to the homunculus problem that I could never explain worth crap :grumpy:)...good times :cool:.
  5. Jan 25, 2005 #4
    I'm not real sure what you mean when you say two distinct ontological entities. I'm not sure I believe that is the case. It depends on what you mean. For example, if we're talking about mind and body then I believe that ultimately it's all the same "stuff". Our disagreements likely center around the nature of that "stuff".
  6. Jan 26, 2005 #5
    If mind and body both reduce to an underlying form of consciousness then does this solve the problem? It would mean that mind/matter are, in Fliptions terms, the result of an epistemilogical difference, but that they share the same ontology. This avoids dualism and there is then no need for an 'ontological divide'.
  7. Jan 26, 2005 #6
    Well, that's not necessarily so. Ontological dichotomies needn't be limited to mind-body duality.

    Anyway, if one is to think of "mind" and "body" as being "made of the same stuff", then one has to assume that there is more to "mind" than what can be explained in terms of "body". One must then, in turn, assume that they are both made of some underlying form of consciousness (as Canute suggests) in order to get rid of the problems of ontology. Isn't that anti-Ockham's Razor?
  8. Jan 26, 2005 #7
    But, if they're made of the same "stuff", then they're not ontologically distinct.

    What I'm really wondering about is whether the developement of "ontological divides", in early philosophical thought, was due to having made a bad assumption earlier on. There are those who (for one example) would insist that the difference between "universals" and "particulars" is ontological. This clearly comes from the bad assumption that universals even exist. If, instead of seeing instances of something interesting as "particulars" of something "universal", we just see them as instances of something interesting that can be categorized along with other such instances that bear a certain resemblance, we could eliminate this particular dichotomy.

    After reading Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, along with some of Rorty's writings, I'm wondering if the "mind-body problem" might not be solved in a similar way (or rather, avoided completely in a similar way).
  9. Jan 26, 2005 #8
    Metaphysics proposes universals of which in epistemology provide a natural briding ground for any separation. It may be possible that in epistemology among ontological division that there is no connection between very broad areas down to very specific areas. Yet, the connection is found more fundamental operational or prehaps if not historically both of which can lead back metaphysics but often not it only requires a look back to the material causes of division. Althought one must note that all division indicative in a material or mental atmosphere must have causes in a metaphysical manner for this is the original basis for reality and all pertainable to it.
  10. Jan 26, 2005 #9
    Perhaps it would be better if you laid out how that works. As you may recall, we've had a few of those "Wittgenstein" folks participate in some discussions claiming grand things about how language causes all philosophy problems but then they never have the patience or competence to explain their position.
  11. Jan 27, 2005 #10
    I'd rather say the opposite. Making mind and body the same substance reduces the number of hypothetical fundamental substances to one. There are other problems of course, but I don't think Ockham is one of them.

    I believe that Charles Peirce argued that to explain anything fully required a fundamental trinity of terms from which to construct the explanation. (He wrote a book on trinities but I've never got around to tracking it down). If he was right then this would explain why we cannot explain mind and body properly. Not enough terms. Adding a third would allow us to reduce mind and body to one, and would, in principle at least, allow a solution to the mind/body interaction problem. I'd have a job arguing that mind and body do reduce to a third term (or substance or entity), but it is at least the right kind of solution, it does at least allow us to swap dualism for monism, which is not a complete solution, but it's a start.

    I don't think it implies that there is more to mind than body, except inasmuch as in the final analysis, at a fundamental level, the experiencer is distinct from mind. I suppose it suggests that there is more to being conscious than being aware of the contents of our minds.

    Fliption - I'm interested that you believe mind and body reduce to the same stuff. What's your view on what sort of stuff they reduce to?
  12. Jan 27, 2005 #11
    I can tell you that my thinking on this is not based on a solid argument that I can defend at the moment. Of course, my opinion is influenced by many of the topics that go on here but largely my opinion is intuitive and may be entirely different tomorrow :tongue:. I think that the essence of this stuff is beyond words to describe much like the experience of red is. I suspect it is very much tied to experience and consciousness as it makes more and more sense to me that these things are fundamental to reality. But I think our experience is but an aspect of it. Which is why the dual aspect ideas are appealing to me. The idea of a single substance balanced between two extemes is appealing (the Yin and the Yang!). Les Sleeth has called it "potentiality". While this word may be accurate, it is unappealing because it tells us nothing about its essence. But I think this gets back to our inability to place words on it without losing something.

    So if it is possible for a single entity to exists in a balanced dance of convergence and divergence creating a dual aspect, then this would be the ontological explanation for differences in epistomology. But would Mentat call such an entity a single ontology? I would.

    This is the best I can do. I have expressed this opinion in this thread because there is no way I can defend the view that there truly are two separate ontologies like mind and matter. To Mentat's point, I see no way to reconcile a fundamental separation like that. I stated that Mentat and I likely disagreed on the nature of this "stuff" because I assume he would claim there is but one aspect and its most fundamental parts are simply characters in a theory of physics i.e. quantum physics etc etc.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2005
  13. Jan 28, 2005 #12
    Thanks. I think you're right.
  14. Jan 28, 2005 #13
    That's because Kantian, Aristotelian, Cartesian, and Lockean biases are so deeply ingrained in the reasoning of most people. I'll give it a try:

    Through a Wittgensteinian approach we can first see language as not a singular process or ability, but as many. He calls each individual process/ability a "language-game", and the "family resemblances" between such "games" are many, but there is no singular quality that exists in all of them.

    Now, games all have their own pieces and their own rules. Taking the "language-game" concept into history, Rorty thinks we will start to see (for an example) "ontological dichotomies" of mind and body or of universals and particulars as merely social conventions of language. IOW, whereas the mind-body distinction was originally designed (and later refined) specifically to establish a framework of things that could not be doubted -- from which we could extrapolate other "truths" and against which we could rigorously test conjectures, theories, even whole paradigms -- Wittgenstein does away with "absolute grounding" for truth (Rorty refers to "absolute grounding" as "polishing our Mirror of Nature, so that our inner representations are as accurate as possible"), and adopts a more relativistic viewpoint. Then, all that is left is to solve the puzzles that our language-games can create.

    As an example, let's look at the concept of "a-consciousness" and "p-consciousness". These stand for "action-consciousness" and "phenomenal-consciousness" in the philosophical language-game. No other language game uses a distinction even remotely like this, because no other game needs it. Thus, it is only a puzzle brought on by an aspect of this particular game. Now, let's dissect the "pieces" and their roles.

    "Phenomenal" is a term that has reference to events occuring in the mind, or otherwise being of a mental nature. Specifically, phenomenal-consciousness is that consciousness that is more than just neural processing of information or the uttering of responses. It is, to put it yet another way, the perception of "redness" beyond the simple electro-chemical processing of photonic information.

    Now, why do we even have this concept (this "piece" in our "game")? Well, our philosophical language-game has allowed for such a distinction for some time (ever since Descartes). But why did Descartes come up with it? Well, if one looks at the time in which he was living, one can easily see how it would become necessary for him to try to establish which things could and could not be doubted. And, since you have first-hand priveleged access to what you are perceiving, that must be undoubtable. IOW, it's the one thing about which you could be allowed (by society? by other philosophers?) to be incorrigible, and nobody would mind; nobody could contest it, since it was your experience.

    But, now, if "redness" was just a reflection of how something seemed to you, and had nothing to do with anything real...and if neuroscience could establish a well-grounded understanding of how we process every different kind of phenomenon, then you might not be allowed to be so incorrigible. After all, you could tell us how it seemed to you, but the neurologist could tell us how it actually was. And this is not so strange as it may seem, since people have always talked about how things seemed to them (for example, there are those who percieve an order and intelligence in the Universe...perfect clock-work) until science came in and showed them that their views needed correction (quantum mechanics, for example, does away with the clock-work Universe concept fairly well).

    All I'm basically saying (for those of you who skipped ahead to the end :wink:) is that our ability to be incorrigible about how something seems to us was blown way out of proportion (eventually becoming considered an ontological dichotomy (of all things!)), and has become the basis for a large slew of words (p- and a- consciousness among them) that would have had no meaning whatsoever without that misconception.

    The usual objection is that our conscious experience ("experience" here being used in a way quite different than in any other language-game) cannot be doubted. How something seems to us cannot be overruled by someone else, and pain, "redness", love, etc, have no more existence other than how they seem to us. But, pace Rorty, I ask if that is really so. Is it really even comprehensible to speak of a "pain" without speaking of a being that is in pain? Much like beauty or valor, which cannot be spoken of intelligently (at all, really) without referencing the context (how can you speak of beauty without speaking something that "is beautiful"). What has happened, which has infected our philosophical language-game, is that words we use to describe these states have indeed been used to refer to particulars, our of context.

    That is why it is nothing more than a language puzzle: it has no substance outside of one specific language game, and only has substance therein because of a misconstruition of a state for a particular.

    There's obviously more to this (much more), but I'll stop here for now.
  15. Jan 28, 2005 #14


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    Which "epistemic differences" do you speak of?
    Aside from being aware of the fact that brain states are strictly not mental states, I don't think we can say more. I don't think it would make sense to say much more. We can say, perhaps, that brain states cause mental states, but how do we talk about the differences? The thing is, the words we use in general, we use to describe the things of our perception, i.e. we know attributes which apply to the contents of our perceptions (among other things). We can say one apple which we perceive is bigger than another, since bigness/size is an attribute we know how to attach to a perceived apple. But we don't talk about perceptions as things in themselves. What is it about the attributes of perceptions themselves which differ from the attributes of the physical world (and the body) in itself? Can we fill in the blank: "perceptions are _______ and physical entities are not?" At this point, I think we would simply have to define a new term. We know that there certainly is a difference between perceptions and physical entities that are represented in those perceptions, if we want to label that difference, we'd have to make one up. Similarly, we know what it means to be physical, to be real, to exist, etc. but we cannot explain what these things mean in other terms. To repeat, we do know what they mean, but not in terms of other words. So we do know that the attributes of perceptions and mental things in general are different from physical things, if you want to label that set of attributes, I think you'll have to make it up.
    Is there any reason to think that they shouldn't be connected? We have that : "Two different types of things are connected." To me, this is so vague that I don't even know how any can find it problematic. It has to remain vague, since we aren't in the habit of observing the mental "world" from a separate standpoint, and characterizing it, comparing it to other "worlds", and noticing the patterns and relationships in the world itself from the outside. Our perception is directly immersed in the perceptual world. As a crude analogy, you can think of us as reading a word document, instead of looking at a folder containing the icon for that, and other, word documents. We don't know what perceptions look like from the outside, if that makes any sense. So, the incredibly vague sentence, "two different types of things are connected" is so vague that it cannot possibly imply a contradiction in that these two different things cannot be connected. We can't really put a word on how these things are different, so how can we say they cannot be connected?

    Consider connecting the gross national product to a baseball. Clearly, that doesn't make sense. Those things are different in a sense that they cannot be connected metaphysically. Even here, it's hard to put words to explain the differences between the two, but we have a pretty good idea as to how these things differ and so can't be connected. But mental things and physical things just differ. We can't put words as to how they differ, so we can't say that they can't be connected. We only know that they differ, not how. And just to avoid confusion, the GNP is not a mental thing. Of course, it's something we think about, and we often refer to it as a concept, but the GNP is, and again, we know that there's a difference but can't describe what it is, quite different in its nature from things like perceptions, beliefs, etc.
  16. Jan 28, 2005 #15
    Actually, that isn't why. In these particular cases, the people were arrogant know-it-alls who had no ability to attempt to lay out the idea the way you have just done. The fact that none of those people are currently members here any longer says alot.

    I'm sorry. I don't get it. I can't argue against it or for it because I don't understand any of it enough to even begin to analyze it. At the moment I do not believe this is because I have been brainwashed by cartesian thinking. I just don't understand the sentences. They don't say anything to me. I have no idea what is meant by terms like "particulars" and "universals" etc.

    But I will bet all my money in the bank that any theory that blames all philosophical problems on language is dead wrong and a cop-out:tongue: But I can't prove it because I don't understand it enough to evaluate it.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2005
  17. Jan 29, 2005 #16
    Epistemology has to do with knowledge and the aquisition thereof. The epistemic difference I refer to just have to do with the differences in ways of aquiring information.

    But does it make sense to speak of "mental states" in the first place. What is a mental state?

    To refer to things of different ontologies is to ascribe a difference in terms of "types/realms of reality". To refer to a connection 'twixt the two is to refer to what it always refers to: connecting things. What complicates this issue is that ontologically distinct entities couldn't be connected by anything within their own ontologies (they're already in their own ontologies, so what good is an attempted bridge that is of the exact same ontological nature?), and it couldn't by anything of a third ontology because then you have the same problem of what connects it to entities of separate ontologies.

    But they have nothing to do with one another. OTOH, for those who claim that "mind" is of one ontology and "body" is of another, there is a clear co-existence and correlation between the two, inspite of the problems of ontology.
  18. Jan 29, 2005 #17
    I recall RageSk8 using a somewhat Rortian view, and (AFAIK) he wasn't banned or even considered problematic.

    OTOH, that these others were "arrogant know-it-alls" is not surprising, given the Wittgensteinian nature of their ideas. Wittgenstein's own intellectual arrogance and inability to relate his ideas intelligibly to others cannot help but show up in his followers' attempts at doing the same.

    Finally, how do you know that it isn't those biases which keep you from comprehending the Wittgensteinian view? Let me put my (rude?) assumption to the test: What distinguishes you from the rest of the animal kingdom?

    Then it is I who am sorry. I'm not very good with explanations, as you well know. I still don't have a more comprehensive way to explain the homunculi problem, much less the possible resolution (or, perhaps, rational side-stepping) of all the philosophical "problems" throughout history.

    Could you maybe point out something in particular that doesn't makes sense to you?

    That's a bit of philosophical jargon, nothing more. Indeed, aside from philosophy, they don't really have much/any meaning at all. In fact...maybe the fact that statements that require those terms don't make sense to you is indicative of their having no real substance. I don't know.

    Well, to start with, is there any philosophical problem that could be stated without using language?
  19. Jan 29, 2005 #18


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    I'm not following. What differences in ways of aquiring information arise from a mind-body distinction?
    I was using it vaguely. Perceptions are related to mental states, brain activity is related to physical states. Clearly, the two are different; science suggests that brain activity causes perceptions.
    What exactly does it mean to be of a different ontology? We can understand this in a vague sense, but not in a very concrete sense. Two objects in totally isolated rooms cannot be connected by rope. This is a very concrete example, and we can see why they cannot be connected by rope. On the other hand, why does being of a different ontology mean that two things cannot be connected? You say that the "thing" connecting them would have to be of some ontology, and that this would give us problems. Why would there have to be a "thing" connecting them. Why does the connection between the two ontologies have to have an ontological status itself? At any rate, if such a vague question did need answer, the following possibilities could be considered:

    1) Mental states and physical states are of the same ontology, fundamentally. They are things which "appear" to be different, but are fundamentally same in nature, thus there's no problem connecting them. This option actually illustrates why answering this question is unnecessary. What is the difference between being different ontologically, and appearing different? How could we possibly tell? It's so incredibly vague, and so beyond our ability to understand that the question is pointless, if not meaningles.

    2) Some "thing" that is a continuum-like mixture between the two ontologies connects the two. Detergent is a molecule that has a hydrophobic end and a hydrophilic end. One end dissolves in water while the other dissolves in oil (stains on you clothes, etc.).
    That there is a correlation between mind and body is after the fact; after the fact of their connection. We can say that, perhaps, mind and body have fundamentally nothing to do with each other, but given some metaphysical connection, they do. Similarly, baseballs and the GNP have nothing to do with each other, and if we could connect the two, then there would be some correlation, but connecting the two is meaningless.

    It seems to me that we can ask:

    Does body produce mind?
    Did they come about independently?
    Are they of the same "substance" (ontology)?
    Why is there a connection between the two?
    How are the two connected?
    Can things of different ontologies be connected without a thing connecting them?

    Only speculative answers are possible. Any sufficiently vague response to any of these questions will be plausible. None of them will be verifiable.

    I can offer one theory, answering the above questions in order:

    Obviously not, by above.
    The brain created the mind, that's why there's a connection.
    Since they are the same substance, there is some natural connection.

    The above is perfectly consistent, and neither provable nor disprovable. Yet another theory:

    No, the existence of a brain allows for a mind to connect to a body (which is why only things with brains appear to have minds).
    Because of some special property of the brain which allows it to be connected to a mind.
    By some strange, mixed-ontology duct tape.
    Yes. Sometimes, things of different ontologies just are connected. There is no rule which states, "All things of different ontologies cannot be connected, and/or all things of different ontologies that are connected must be connected by some 'thing'." It just so happens that this metaphysical duct tape connects our brain and mind.

    I can't even start to understand why there's a difficulty in presuming things of different ontologies have some connection. As I said, the above is so vague that I can't see where there's sufficient detail to even suggest a problem. There's nothing in the word "ontology" which suggests that different ontologies will have problems connecting (that's what I mean when I say that there is insufficient detail to even suggest a problem). Perhaps there is some intuitive, gut-feeling that irks you about different substances connecting, but I can't even sympathize with that, i.e. I can't understand how "Different ontologies can connect" could be counter-intuitive. We're dealing with things that are sufficiently abstract that intuition would have little to say on the matter.

    Anyhow, the second theory above is also consistent, and again, undecideable. In some, the whole problem is uninteresting. We can't really give "proper" answers, nor should that concern us. Whether the connection between brain and mind "just is", or results from metaphysical duct tape, who cares. Can you prove either option right or wrong? No. None of the questions really give us any problems (for those who assert duality between body and mind). Whether we can answer them or not doesn't affect the dualist's position.

    When a scientist observes that an apple falls from a tree towards the ground, whether or not he can explain why the apple falls towards the ground does not affect the truth of his observation that the apple does indeed fall to the ground. Whether we can explain how or why mental states and perceptions are related, it's clear that they are, and it's clear that they're different. The apple you see on your desk is not the electrons in your brain, nor your brain itself, nor the actions of your brain, nor the state of activity of the brain. It is caused by those things, it is nonsense to say that it is those things. Perhaps this is all we can say, but we need not say more unless we enjoy answering unanswerable, irrelevant questions.
  20. Jan 29, 2005 #19
    Well, pace Kant, isn't there a distinction between those things which we percieve from objective stimulus and those things which are immediately present before our minds (such as our own existence, our imaginings, etc)?

    "Perceptions" makes reference to something. Is there such a thing as a singular "perception", or is not the typical and better use of the word in terms of the process of "percieving"?

    No it doesn't. Science doesn't deal with "perceptions", it deals with the process of percieving.

    But they could be if one drilled holes in the wall(s) that separated the two rooms.

    One cannot drill holes in realities to facillitate the passage of, or connection to, something that is ontologically distinct.

    Are you familiar with the actual definition of "ontology". By this definition, anything that is "real", in any sense, must "be of some ontology" (as you put it).

    It is definitive. Anything that can be referred to can be assigned ontological status.

    I'm not the one who assigned them different ontologies. I don't even assign "mental states" the right to be referred to outside of scare-quotes, when I write. They don't (yet?) mean anything to me, and so I can hardly care about whether or not "mental states" (if they exist at all) are ontologically (or otherwise) distinct from physical states. As it is, many other philosophers have indeed postulated such an ontological dichotomy, and I am interested in the problems that this presents.

    It's a matter of definition, nothing more (though I don't know what it would mean for something to be "more" than a matter of definition).

    Why should we be able to "tell" in order to discuss it? Philosophers have been doing it for centuries, without being able to explain comprehensively how we can "tell" that different ontologies even exist.

    "Continuum-like mixture between the two ontologies" would be a separate ontology. The very fact that it is not of one or the other ontology makes it of a third. And the fact that you refer to a "mixture" just begs the question of how you can get things of different ontologies to react/mix/interact/even notice each other.

    What do you mean?

    If they both exist, and both do what we think they do...sure, they must have something to do with one another.

    Yes, but philosophers haven't been puzzling over baseballs, the GNP, and the correlation between the two for the past 400 years.

    I beg to differ.

    You forgot the part where you assume that there is such a thing as "mind" (or, for that matter, such a thing as "body").

    Then you give no reasoning to support the idea that they are of the same ontology, thus side-stepping the age-old philosophical problem.

    Then you assume that the brain created the mind (though that's technically your first stated assumption), but explain not how this is so or even what it would mean.

    Not it's not. It's not clear to me that they are different.

    It is nonsense to say that the apple is "caused" by anything having to do with my brain or the electro-chemical processes therein. That apple exists regardless of my brain.

    You mean, unless we're Philosophers? :yuck:
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2005
  21. Jan 29, 2005 #20


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    Are you suggesting that there is no such thing as a perception? The image you see of your computer right now, for example, is (part of) a perception. A dream is what one experiences when dreaming, a perception is what one experiences when perceiving.
    Why not? Why can't we drill "holes" and connect the two ontologies with metaphysical duct tape? Sounds absurd, for sure, but this seems to be the type of response such a question invokes.
    I can refer to my perception, so do you agree that it has an ontological status? That there is a connection between two things does not entail that there is a "thing" connecting the two. Simply that the two have a relation. Now, if you want, you can say that the relation itself has an ontological status. If we wanted, sure, we could assign ontological statuses to things like relations, actions, properties, etc., i.e. "things" that require some level of abstraction to be thought of as "things."

    If you require that some "thing" connect the two ontologies, then metaphysical duct tape will be my answer. If we realize that what's going is simply that the mind and body are related, not that some "thing" is attaching them, then the question becomes meaningless.
    Well, if it is a matter of definition, let's define them to be of the same ontology to quell your worries that they are of different ontologies, and thus no duct tape could ever hold them together.
    This wasn't meant to be an emprical problem, but one of definitions. The question wasn't, what evidence could we bring forth to show that they were of different ontologies, but, what the heck does it even mean to be of different ontologies? If, as you put, it is nothing more than a matter of definition, and as you seem to imply, it is somewhat arbitrary, why should we bother worrying about the problem of ontologically different things being connected when that problem could just be no different then the problem of how things in two different rooms could be connected.

    You have to show that distinguishing between body and mind, and their ontological statuses, actually does define a problem, i.e. that to be of different ontological statuses really does mean that there is a problem if one suggests that the two are connected. And since it is pretty vague to say that x is of ontological status X, and y of ontological status Y, show that the actual distinction that dualists makes produces any sort of problem.
    I really don't think it does. Somehow, people create detergent molecules that get a hydrophobic molecule to "notice" a hydrophilic one. Although this "continuum-like mixture" would be a third ontology, it would still be a mixture of the previous two, and would still facilitate the connection. The question of how a mixed-ontology thing could exist remains to be answered, but the sentence preceeding this one was already quite absurd, this is just getting worse. The truth is, I don't know how a mixed ontology thing came about, but I never claimed to make it. It just is. I don't think such a thing defies some absolute law, so what's the problem? Maybe it's a third ontology that has special properties that make it soluble in the other ontologies. Do you have any way of denying that such a thing is possible? Any whacky, sci-fi answer will do, so long as it is consistent. I can probably come up with numerous, always consistent but increasingly absurd and fantastic explanations, all of which will be irrefutable (and undemonstrable as well).
    What I meant was that the mind and body only have something to do with each other because there is a connection between the two (which could mean simply that they are related for some reason, or that some "thing" connects them), whereas there is no relation between GNPs and baseballs. But if some relation were conceived, or some metaphysical connecting thing came between them, then there would be a connection.
    How could I explain how it is so? The question keep getting more and more absurd. Just because I can't explain how something is so does not deny that it is a fact (if it is), especially if I don't claim responsibility. It wasn't my decision to make the brain create the mind, that's just what it does. If I kick you in the back of the head, and your head gets injured, but when you turn around you see no one, the fact that your head is injured is not denied by the fact that you don't know how it came to be that way. My point was not to give any reasoning or explanation, just to show that I can provide a consistent theory that can neither be demonstrated nor refuted, and moreover, that I could present two such theories that were incompatible with each other (but internally consistent).
    Sorry, the image of the apple is what I was referring to. I can certainly refer to the image of the apple. It is more than just a play on words, the image of the apple is really there, in fact I am more sure of the existence of the image of the apple than I am of the existence of the apple-in-itself. The image of the apple is neither the electrons, nor the brain, nor the brain in action, nor actions of the brain, nor any of this things related to the physical aspect of the process of perceiving. These actions of the brain cause the image of the apple to exist, but the image is not the brain. It is clearly something, and moreover it is something quite different. On the other hand, refering to the connection between mind and body as a thing, although possible, seems to be more of a play on words. You and I are different. In other words, the properties attributed to you are different from those attributed to me. So there is a difference between you and I. Shall we attribute some ontological status to the difference? We could, and this would be a rather abstract thing, but it seems, especially in the context we're dealing with, to not treat it as such. Similarly, it makes more sense to think of the connection between body and mind as a relation between the two, not something we should be referring to as a thing in the "normal" sense. The connection is as much a thing as a "difference" is. Clearly, a difference is not a physical thing. It does not have mass or energy, it is not located in space or time. So how can a difference with one ontological status exist between two physical beings of the same ontological status, but different from that of the difference? Is the difference between the ontological status of the difference and our ontological status itself a thing which holds some ontological status? This will naturally just lead to absurdities.

    On the other hand, if you insist that the connection between the mind and body is a thing, again, that thing is metaphysical duct tape. How does it work, how does it attach two ontologies? That's just its special property. It doesn't defy the Law of Ontology, I doubt there even is one, so I don't see how you can see this as problematic. If it does give you problems, let's just say Goddidit and move on, okay? God didn't rest on day 7, he made mind-body-connecting duct tape.
    Quite true.
  22. Jan 30, 2005 #21
    Oops. I wasn't referring to RageSk8. My apologies. I was referring to a few people who entered into the "consciousness" threads last year.

    Lol. Yes, I think one of them even said the same thing about himself! Arrogance is a pet peeve of mine. I detest it immensely. It is quite frustrating because I really am interested in understanding a view that can make the claims these people were claiming.

    I'm sorry, I think you misunderstood. I didn't mean that I could not comprehend the idea of what you were saying. I'm claiming that the language itself doesn't make sense to me. I don't understand what the philosophical concepts being used to make the point actually mean. Can a person who has never learned language comprehend ecomonics? You cannot know until you teach them the language!

    Not really. The whole idea seems a bit confusing and presumptive.

    That's just what I mean. I can't understand the philosophy if I don't understand the jargon.

    "Stated"? Since to "state" anything means to express something in language then the answer to your question is "no", by definition. But can a philosophical problem be "conceived" without language? I say yes.
  23. Jan 31, 2005 #22
    A perception? Yes. The process of perceiving? By no means.

    IOW, I am indeed suggesting that there is no such thing as a (singular, quantitative) "perception". However, it is clear and undeniable that the process of "perceiving" is carried on by some beings (myself included).

    What "image of my computer"? I am not looking at an image, I am looking directly at my monitor.

    Oooooh...I see. Not really.... Are you saying that a dream, no matter how long, is considered a quantum (a singular entity)? I didn't know this. I thought the point was to "be dreaming", not to {insert activity here} dreams.

    I just don't see why we are looking at processes in terms of particles. Why should we change the good concept of "perceiving" into the very bad (IMHO) concept of "a perception". If it were an accurate description (and there really were "perceptons" (not a typo, I purposely named our new particle a "percepton")), then someone would have to explain to me what it is that I do with such things, and how that relates in any way to "perceiving". :confused:

    Because, my friend, the duct tape would have to be made of something (anything made of something is of a certain ontology, btw...this is a priori and should not be questioned, as it would reduce the argument to a debate on whether Mr. Webster is right about etymology), as would whatever we used to dig our "ontological holes".

    Really, AKG, how long can you expect to hold onto this concept?

    I knew you were going to say that. Of course perceiving has ontological status. Not a different status from, say, breaking down glucose to release energy, but status nonetheless.

    Wrong. Two things can be related, but still never interact with one another. OTOH, they cannot interact without being connected. It is a different concept altogether.

    I don't "require" anything. It is an inescapable result of reasoning on different ontologies. Metaphysical "duct tape" requires its own ontology, for the simple reason that it can be referred to, but doesn't belong to either of the ontologies that it connects.

    No, we can't just refer to them as "being related". If mind and body are of separate ontologies, they can be as "related" as you like, and still not be any closer to interacting. Being "related" implies similarities, maybe even concomitance, but they are no closer to interacting because they are still ontologically distinct.

    They're not my worries. That's the point. You could define them to be of the same ontology, but then the concept would no longer be admissable in this thread. The point of this thread is to discuss things that are ontologically distinct.

    It means that they are not of the same reality.

    What else would it be?

    All definitions are, aren't they? Think of the distinction between "alive" and "non-living". I have discussed this distinction at length in the past, and it has been shown to be nothing more than an arbitrarily assigned title (or lack thereof), with a series of vague definitions. But that doesn't mean that I'm not alive.

    But it is different, as I have shown.

    I have shown this.

    I have also shown this.

    That's because they are not ontologically distinct, and no philosopher (or anyone else, for that matter) in his right mind would argue that point.

    No, it wouldn't, it would only make things worse. A "mixture" is the product of a pre-occuring reaction between to substances/elements/etc. To postulate that such a "mixture" already exists, is to postulate that the two ontologies have already interacted on a previous occasion (and done so without the posited "mixture" at hand, since they created that "mixture" in the reaction).

    You have yet to present an "irrefutable" anything. You have, however, produced some "absurd and fantastic explanations", and I don't mind. The very fact that they need to be "absurd and fantastic" to even qualify as possible explanations is further indication that philosophers have made some awful mistakes in the past. That's good enough for me (for now).

    There are indeed "relations". I don't think it would be all that difficult to conceive of baseballs having something to do with baseball players, who in turn have something to do with their families, who in turn may have everything to do with the gross national product.

    It doesn't matter, because no one has claimed ontological dichotomy between GNP and baseball. Philosophers have, however, claimed such for mind and body.

    You "claimed responsibility" when you made the statement. English is not my first language, but I'm fairly sure the expression "own it" would come into play here (and I'm not just being sarcastic, English really isn't my first language, and I'm really not sure about the expression).

    Oh, it does, does it?

    I know that, AKG. What is important is that you are making a statement that is not backed by anything I've ever seen to be true (in fact, a series of such statements). Thus, the burden of explanation and proof rests on you.

    What "image"??

    This is all very interesting. Please substantiate at least one of the many statements you've made here.

    How am I to believe that there is such a thing as an "image of an apple"? I percieve no such thing.

    As to the rest of it, well, it all requires that there's an "image of an apple", I don't think there is. Indeed, I don't see how it ever entered into the discussion. We talked of apples, and scientists, and ontologies...but I see no reference to images.

    That's the first thing you've said that I can manage to agree with. You are absolutely right here. Kudos.


    That "makes more sense" to you?

    That's because it's BS that has nothing to do with anything I've said. No offense, but are you even paying attention to what I'm saying to you? A difference is a comparison made by an observer (as is any other "relation"). No one can observe two ontologically distinct things at the same time, since he/she/it (the observer) would have to exist in both ontologies.

    There, now that we've gotten rid of the whole "relation" thing, can we return to my questions?
  24. Jan 31, 2005 #23
    I'm glad to hear it. I too despise arrogance (though I've been accused of it myself, more than once). It gets in the way of good debate.

    I see. Well, answer my question about animals and humans, and I'll see if I can determine how best to explain my position.

    Presumptive, no doubt. That was Wittgenstein's way. It was probably necessary, though, since (as I've mentioned) Kantian thought is quite deeply entrenched in the minds of most.

    Well, you have to remember that this is an eliminativist philosophy. Wittgenstein, Rorty, etc, are trying to get rid of most of those concepts. They are useless bits of jargon. However, you do indeed understand some of the "bad" terms that we're trying to remove, and you accept them (if I am to judge by previous conversations, that is).

    And what would it mean for one to "conceive" of a problem, without discussing it? In what way would that person be altered by such a "conception"?
  25. Jan 31, 2005 #24
    Alright. You asked, "What distinguishes you from the rest of the animal kingdom?"

    Assuming that you mean "you" as "you" in general as a human being and you aren't including other humans in the "animal kingdom" category, I suppose the biggest difference between me and the rest of the animal kingdom is the level of my reasoning ability as well as my ability to use my hands. Oh, and uhh I'm considered sexier in the eyes of human females :tongue2:

    I accept some concepts that make sense to me. It has not been sufficiently shown that they are "bad" in any way.

    Hmmm, the same thing it would mean to conceive of one and discuss it? What's the difference? I do not rely on books, forums, or conversations with people to establish what I think a philosophical issue is.

    Maybe I was a strange child but I can recall actually thinking about my own nature when I was young. How could I be what I am? How can a world that works the way science tells us it works(all they taught was classical physics in school when I was young) explain "me"? My ability to experience things perplexed me even as a child. I had no philosophical concepts to debate anyone with. All I knew is that I observed a feature of my existence that is not adequately explained. And I still observe it. I just don't see how any amount of conceptual trickery or semantic magic from a philosopher can change that fact.

    (BTW, this is kinda scary but even as a child I concluded that experience had to be fundamental to nature. Of course I didn't know any of these words and could not have communicated these thoughts to anyone but it was my thought at the time.)
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2005
  26. Jan 31, 2005 #25


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    I'm sure you're well aware of the image of your computer. When you see your computer, the light from the computer hits your eyes, creates activity in the brain, and then there is an image of the computer (the very one you are "experiencing" right now).
    What is the difference between the computer-in-itself and what you see? You don't see the computer in itself, you see an image, a representation of it, i.e. the computer-in-itself is not what you apprehend, it is an image of the computer, which exists because of some causal process that starts at the computer-in-itself, that you apprehend.
    What is a hallucination, and how is it different from a real perception? Clearly, you can't equate the perception, or that which you see, with that which is out there in "reality," because when hallucinating, something does appear to you, but it isn't out there. What you see and what is there are distinct. If you hallucinate a pink elephant, then the image of the pink elephant is a thing in some sense, but not a physical sense.
    So? What's the problem? Why can't the duct tape be made of something?
    I can refer to the image of the computer. Look at your computer. "Before" you is the image of a computer, correct? I.e. if you see a computer, you "have" an image of a computer. I don't think I can say it in any simpler terms. Anyhow, that image of the computer can be referred to, and has an ontology. You seem to equivocate the image of the computer (a thing) with the process involved in seeing the image, and since you think that the process of seeing an image is not of a different ontology, then neither is the image (or you deny the image altogether, I don't know, but I don't see how you could honestly deny that there is an image).
    The EPR paradox would suggest, I believe, that two things can interact with each other, "sharing" physical data while being very very disconnected, i.e. being very physically far apart. At any rate, fine, the mind and body interact with each other. There is postively no reason why a "thing" must be connecting them. Somehow, changes in the physical world initiate a change in the mental world (brain states causing mental states) in an "EPR-paradoxical" way. Or maybe, like it was suggested, they are fundamentally of the same ontology, so they are connected by the common foundation that they stand on.
    Why can't it be of mixed ontology? Sure, that's a third ontology, but is also both of the previous ones. Weird, yes. But, like I said, your questions elicit such responses.
    I think you missed my point. If we can't really say why being ontologically different is all that different from appearing ontologically different, and if you're willing to accept that things that appear ontologically different can interact, then what is the problem with accepting that things that are ontologically different can interact? What makes one ontology distinct from another, other than its "appearance?" If we see two things, and I say that they are of the same ontology and appear different, and you say that they are of different ontologies, is one of us right and the other wrong?

    For example, there is a fixed definition for "dog." If we see a cat and a dog, and I say they are both dogs, but just look different, and you say, no, one is a dog and the other is a cat. Both of are different families (or orders, or phylum, whatever). One of us is wrong, because there is a clear definition. Theoretically, we could offer a clean, precise definition for things like phylum, genus, family, order, etc. such that we can always tell if two animals are of the same family or not. Can we do such thing with "realities?" What defines a reality, and what must be common to all things in a reality? What makes something a member of reality A, and another thing a member of reality B but looks like a member of reality A? Do we have a clear cut way to draw borders between realities? I think it's somewhat absurd to claim that we do.
    That's tautological more or less. I don't need a dictionary definition, I want to know what salient implications result from the assertion that two things are of different ontologies, and then can you show that these implications are false, therefore proving that they aren't of different ontologies?
    Definitions are normally conventional, i.e. most people have to agree. In this case, it seems more arbitrary, since we don't have very clear ideas of what makes one ontology distinct from another, it's much more open to arbitrary distinctions. I can't go around arbitrarily calling cats dogs and claim that cats are of the same class as dogs when a conventionally accepted taxonomical system exists that distinguishes them. On the other hand, I don't think we have conventional rules and laws that govern how we speak about ontologies. That is why I think all the assertions like "No two ontologies can interact," are rather empty.
    That's not the case. I don't mean mixture as in, a batch of physical reality was mixed with a batch of mental reality, and the existence of this mixture came "after" the existence of the other two realities. There is one thing called mental reality, one thing called physical, and one thing made up of both realities.
    The theories I presented a couple posts ago are irrefutable, I think.
    No, it's simply indication that someone is asking rather absurd questions. To assume that, if we say that there is some distinction between mind and body, that suddenly we need a thing connecting these things, and that this thing cannot be of both ontologies nor can it be of a third, because two different ontologies cannot interact without a thing connecting them, is not based on anything true (just something you seem to assume) and leads to rather absurd questions.
    I mean that I did not mix the two ontologies. I don't have to explain how they were mixed.
    Maybe, maybe not. Asking me to prove this is absurd, and asking me to account for how the brain does so is also absurd. However, you can't refute that the brain does create the mind.
    Not at all. If you are kicked in the back of your head, and your head is injured, you don't need to provide an explanation as to how your head got injured and then prove that explanation if all you're doing is asserting that your head got injured. I'm only asserting that mind and body are different. I don't care about how this is so, so if I give you an explanation that duct tape allows for it, I don't care to prove it because it's not my assertion. Anyone who does attempt an explanation can only, as far as I'm concerned, give an explanation that sounds better than the duct tape one, but is not. It cannot be deduced from general laws of ontology, since I doubt there are any. It can't be inferred from observation and evidence, I don't see how we could bring meta-physical evidence to the table. However, the distinction between body and mind is clear. When you hallucinate a purple elephant, what is the ontological status of the purple elephant? Not physical, that's for sure.
    I suppose this is the key issue, and I can't really understand why it creates such a difficulty. If you don't know what image, I don't know how to explain it. Do you know what an image is?
    Well, hopefully the hallucination example will cover this.

    Now I understand your point on interaction being a somewhat stronger thing than just a relation. I still don't see any reason why two ontologies would have to be connected by a "thing" to interact.

    I'd like to refer to the EPR paradox one more time. Two very distant particles exchange information instantaneously. This contradicts an "intuition" that information cannot be exchanged instantaneously (specifically, that it cannot travel faster than the speed of light). But, this does not contradict an absolute law of the universe, otherwise it would never happen (and theoretically, it does). It is only paradoxical insofar as it contradicts an intuition, but if we relinquish that intuition, we realize that it is just really really weird, doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but hey, it's the facts, so there's really no need to press the argument. You assert, as though it is some Absolute Law of Ontology, that no two ontologically distinct things can interact without a "thing" connecting them. I see absolutely no reason whatsoever for this to be the case, and it should not form the basis of an argument. In your case, it is the very crux of your argument. But if I assert that mind and body are ontologically distinct, but interact without a connecting thing, it is possible that this assertion is fact because it does not deny any Absolute Law, just your intuition (I would think it is intuition, I really don't know where you're getting the idea of a "thing" being necessary, though). Now, if you let go of that intuition, and accept that different ontologies interact, then, like the EPR paradox, it tells us something very counter-intuitive, and to some, it may seem weird and may not make sense, but that doesn't stop it from being fact.

    Also, I think saying that different ontologies are different realities is misleading. I don't think that there can be many realities. That which exists has an ontological status. All that exists (i.e. all that has ontological states) is real, i.e. there is only one reality, and it is all that exists. There can be things of different ontologies within this one reality, some interacting, some not. Again, it is not very clear what it means to be of different ontologies (to state that they are of different realities is wrong), but for the context of this discussion, we need only deal with the assertion that there are things called perceptions, and they are not physical.

    The purple elephant is a thing (I can refer to it), it is certainly not physical, but I still see it. It is the content of my hallucination. Similarly, the content of my perception is non-physical, and the contents of hallucinations look the same as the contents of the perception, the only difference being that perceptions representations of things that actually have physical ontological status, hallucinations are not. How can we tell whether the images we see represent things with physical ontological status or not is a different question, and perhaps an unanswerable one (how do we know we're not always hallucinating?), but an irrelevant one to this discussion.

    Seeing is a process that involves a subject (the seer) and an object (the seen, i.e. the image, or sometimes, the thing that the image represents, depends on context). However, you can't say that since seeing is just a process that we can ignore the reality and existence of a non-physical thing, the object of seeing, the image.
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