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the presumption of naturalism
Posted: 06 April 2011 10:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 136 ]
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dougsmith - 06 April 2011 08:41 AM
inthegobi - 06 April 2011 06:56 AM

To me, *of course* naturalism denies non-natural predicates as real ‘in themselves’ - as distinct and independent in any way from natural predicates.

I think before making the accusation you will need to unpack what that odd expression “in themselves” is supposed to mean.

Is a house real “in itself”, even though it is made up only of bricks and mortar?

Is a hydrogen atom?

Okay, I will bite at this a *bit*.

My moves are in summary first to state the issue of reducing chemistry to QM and show that QM fails to ‘even approximately’ reproduce the periodic table and thus reduce atomic concepts to QM ones. Then, I apply this a fortiori to any other reductive enterprise like it. (If we can’t even do the first, simplest step, then the whole project has a foundation of sand.) In the second part, I take dougsmith’s claim that we need to allow for a handful of irreducible *natural* sciences. Then, I take this as automatically a failure of the spirit of reduction: we were supposed to have a *single, unified, master* science - Science! - and if that project is claimed to be a failure, why stop at a cluster of natural levels: we might as well give up reduction as a failure and go ahead and posit non-natural entities and properties as needed. Okham’s Razor is not our problem here: the right alternative isn’t a *bloated* ontology of spooks and orbiting invisible teapots: only that sometimes our observations *are* better explained by a distinct and irreducible field of concepts. And so while moral facts, or beauty, or even God isn’t *proved* just by this argument, but the reductionist argument that we don’t ‘need’ irreducibly non-natural entities and predicates does fail to have bite.

This first part is derived from papers by the chemist and philosopher Scerri, especially ‘Has Chemistry Been at Least Approximately Reduced to Quantum Mechanics?’ (PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Volume 1994, Issue Vol. 1, Contributed Papers, 1994, pp.160-70). I’m not claiming he’d endorse my use of it, btw. 

[1] Leave the article aside for a moment. ‘Hydrogen atom’ is a chemical notion. Sure, it’s *made of* something, in the sense that a house is made of bricks etc. But just as the notion house is not defined by its materials, so chemical atom is not defined by its materials. There’s no *conceptual* bar to hydrogen being made of other unconceived materials. So the idea of hydrogen atoms isn’t fully, or even well analyzed by ‘made of such-and-such’ without unpacking exactly what those somethings are.

[2] But that’s too abstract even for my tastes. What about the subatomic theory we have now: Aren’t hydrogen atoms well analyzed by subatomic physics? Okay, maybe that’s too stringent - I don’t want to scotch reductionism in chemistry just because insufficient work has been done. So are chemical atoms at least *approximately* analyzed into subatomic physics? One might think of this as taking quantum mechanical theory and ‘turning the crank’ of it to produce ersatz observations: given QM, here pops out the hydrogen atom with its properties, and next comes helium, then lithium, and so on.

From the introduction:
“I follow most authors . . . by starting . . . with Nagel (Nagel 1961) . . . he stipulates two formal conditions, namely connectabiity and derivability should be fulfilled in order to say that reduction of theory T2 to theory T1 has occurred. In addition . . . a non-formal condition, that the primary or reducing science should be supported by experimental evidence.
“Furthermore . . . reductions occur in two main varieties . . . . In homogeneous reduction the terms used by the reducing theory are also common to the theory to be reduced. . . . Newton’s theory of mechanics absorbed or reduced both [Galilean and celestial mechanics]. . . . no new concepts are needed to describe motion. In heterogeneous reduction the distinctive traits of some subject matter are assimilated into those of a set of quite different traits. Nagel see this type of reduction as problematical and worthy of analysis unlike homogeneous reduction. . . . for example . . . the concept of a chemical bond [one of the most important ideas in chemistry] cannot be found in [quantum mechanical] calculations. . . .”

Okay, I realize this is really a paper. Allow this to be just an introduction to the direction i will take - or *would* take, if you decide this will get much too long. Anything here we can concentrate on? My method is a bit Goedelian: take a fragment of our ‘total’ language; if our analysis turns up as P, then we expand to P* as applying generally.

Sorry - after asking you to go first, i jumped through the doorway!

inthegobi

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Posted: 06 April 2011 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 137 ]
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faithlessgod - 06 April 2011 09:19 AM

InTheGobi has repeatedly failed to address my points which have provided answers for all the complaints that InTheGobi is repeatedly making.

Well - I’ve failed because - sorry - i’ve found your way of putting things confusing. I’ll try harder.

I’m just not interested in presidents and money. (For evidence I submit that I never choose the right candidate, and I’m broke.)

One is invented by human beings for governance, the other as a handy way to trade widely different kinds of real wealth. I find both difficult to analyze in terms of - what? Higgs bosons? Biochemistry? Mere Humean desires for status? (and what’s so naturalistic about *human* status, versus wolf or chicken status? not much.)

Again, I’ll try harder. But careful: maybe, just maybe, your questions are not well formed? maybe that’s why i’ve avoided them? I’m not your teacher, but if you want a tutor it’s 20 bucks an hour.

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Posted: 06 April 2011 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 138 ]
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inthegobi - 06 April 2011 10:17 AM

I’m just not interested in presidents and money. (For evidence I submit that I never choose the right candidate, and I’m broke.)

Then how do you know these non-natural predicates have no natural grounding. You cannot both complain about this and then say you have no interest in this!

I find both difficult to analyze in terms of - what? Higgs bosons? Biochemistry?


Why would anyone want to do that? You are making an absurd demand.

Mere Humean desires for status?

Desires are, arguably, more relevant as being the proximate casual facts in much social interactions But that is just one way of looking at it,as for why it is “mere” and just for “status” that is possibly why you are finding it difficult to comprehend. I suggest you start with some Philosophy of Society such as John Searle’s later work, and , for contrast, middle Dennett, there are many others.

(and what’s so naturalistic about *human* status, versus wolf or chicken status? not much.)

It is entirely naturalistic to be tribal and this counts for speceism too - it depends on how big a circle is drawn. However status is only one derived feature of such system, not sure why you are focused on that one.

Again, I’ll try harder. But careful: maybe, just maybe, your questions are not well formed? maybe that’s why i’ve avoided them? I’m not your teacher, but if you want a tutor it’s 20 bucks an hour.

Apart from one question I gave your answers, which you have ignored. If you need advice on the difference between questions and answers well I charge $3k- $4k a day but I suggest you use the internet, its far cheaper and this is not hard stuff.

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Posted: 06 April 2011 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 139 ]
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faithlessgod:

I’m sorry, but i won’t be browbeaten into attempting to answer your questions. We are too far apart in language to talk to each other well. I have been polite enough to attempt ot answer the questions of yours that I can understand or answer without a lot of riders and clarifications.

In the future, direct your questions to dougsmith, who is also a trained philosopher and well, i think you’d respect his answers more, even if they end up the same as I’d give.

Pax?

[ Edited: 06 April 2011 10:44 AM by inthegobi ]
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Posted: 06 April 2011 11:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 140 ]
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All proposed theories are attempts at explanation. Not all theories are provable by experiment,

Not quite. A scientific theory as understood and defined by science is a well tested and highly probable explaination of observed fact. The criteria being that it be both observed and the most probable explaination having been tested by way of experiment and or further observations.

If it has not been tested, at best, it’s a hypothosis.

If it cannot even be tested, it’s not science.

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Posted: 06 April 2011 11:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 141 ]
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Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 06 April 2011 11:10 AM

All proposed theories are attempts at explanation. Not all theories are provable by experiment,

Not quite. A scientific theory as understood and defined by science is a well tested and highly probable explaination of observed fact. The criteria being that it be both observed and the most probable explaination having been tested by way of experiment and or further observations.

If it has not been tested, at best, it’s a hypothosis.

If it cannot even be tested, it’s not science.

Thus naturalism is not science. (that alone makes it neither false nor unestablishable nor impossible to prove likely; just not science.)

[ Edited: 06 April 2011 11:18 AM by inthegobi ]
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Posted: 06 April 2011 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 142 ]
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inthegobi - 06 April 2011 10:07 AM

Okay, I will bite at this a *bit*.

My moves are in summary first to state the issue of reducing chemistry to QM and show that QM fails to ‘even approximately’ reproduce the periodic table and thus reduce atomic concepts to QM ones. Then, I apply this a fortiori to any other reductive enterprise like it. (If we can’t even do the first, simplest step, then the whole project has a foundation of sand.) In the second part, I take dougsmith’s claim that we need to allow for a handful of irreducible *natural* sciences. Then, I take this as automatically a failure of the spirit of reduction: we were supposed to have a *single, unified, master* science - Science! - and if that project is claimed to be a failure, why stop at a cluster of natural levels: we might as well give up reduction as a failure and go ahead and posit non-natural entities and properties as needed. Okham’s Razor is not our problem here: the right alternative isn’t a *bloated* ontology of spooks and orbiting invisible teapots: only that sometimes our observations *are* better explained by a distinct and irreducible field of concepts. And so while moral facts, or beauty, or even God isn’t *proved* just by this argument, but the reductionist argument that we don’t ‘need’ irreducibly non-natural entities and predicates does fail to have bite.

This first part is derived from papers by the chemist and philosopher Scerri, especially ‘Has Chemistry Been at Least Approximately Reduced to Quantum Mechanics?’ (PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Volume 1994, Issue Vol. 1, Contributed Papers, 1994, pp.160-70). I’m not claiming he’d endorse my use of it, btw. 

[1] Leave the article aside for a moment. ‘Hydrogen atom’ is a chemical notion. Sure, it’s *made of* something, in the sense that a house is made of bricks etc. But just as the notion house is not defined by its materials, so chemical atom is not defined by its materials. There’s no *conceptual* bar to hydrogen being made of other unconceived materials. So the idea of hydrogen atoms isn’t fully, or even well analyzed by ‘made of such-and-such’ without unpacking exactly what those somethings are.

[2] But that’s too abstract even for my tastes. What about the subatomic theory we have now: Aren’t hydrogen atoms well analyzed by subatomic physics? Okay, maybe that’s too stringent - I don’t want to scotch reductionism in chemistry just because insufficient work has been done. So are chemical atoms at least *approximately* analyzed into subatomic physics? One might think of this as taking quantum mechanical theory and ‘turning the crank’ of it to produce ersatz observations: given QM, here pops out the hydrogen atom with its properties, and next comes helium, then lithium, and so on.

From the introduction:
“I follow most authors . . . by starting . . . with Nagel (Nagel 1961) . . . he stipulates two formal conditions, namely connectabiity and derivability should be fulfilled in order to say that reduction of theory T2 to theory T1 has occurred. In addition . . . a non-formal condition, that the primary or reducing science should be supported by experimental evidence.
“Furthermore . . . reductions occur in two main varieties . . . . In homogeneous reduction the terms used by the reducing theory are also common to the theory to be reduced. . . . Newton’s theory of mechanics absorbed or reduced both [Galilean and celestial mechanics]. . . . no new concepts are needed to describe motion. In heterogeneous reduction the distinctive traits of some subject matter are assimilated into those of a set of quite different traits. Nagel see this type of reduction as problematical and worthy of analysis unlike homogeneous reduction. . . . for example . . . the concept of a chemical bond [one of the most important ideas in chemistry] cannot be found in [quantum mechanical] calculations. . . .”

Okay, I realize this is really a paper. Allow this to be just an introduction to the direction i will take - or *would* take, if you decide this will get much too long. Anything here we can concentrate on? My method is a bit Goedelian: take a fragment of our ‘total’ language; if our analysis turns up as P, then we expand to P* as applying generally.

Sorry - after asking you to go first, i jumped through the doorway!

inthegobi

No worries.

Re. the primary issue of reducibility of chemistry to physics, I don’t have access to the paper or to the context in which it was written, nor to the (perhaps inevitable) rebuttals in the literature, either direct or indirect. So I can’t speak to the arguments there. I will only say that I’ve followed this debate from a distance for decades. Reduction of chemistry to physics is a fact, much as people will try to explode it around the edges. I’ve heard this from multiple sources in physics and chemistry, up to and including several Nobel Prize winners.  So one philosophy paper won’t do the trick for me there, I’m afraid.

(Add: a cursory look through Google leads me to THIS more recent paper by Scerri in which he takes issue with two other papers in the field, one by Brian McLaughlin (1992) and another by Robin LePoidevin (2005) that argue for ontological reductionism. And HERE I’ve found a 2007 paper by Scerri where he says explicitly that chemistry sort of is and sort of isn’t reduced to physics. Hmmm ... It would appear the matter is hardly settled, even as far as Scerri’s position goes).

For a bit of background, however, we should expect the fit to be imperfect so far, since our physics itself isn’t quite perfect. For one, we can’t yet reconcile QM with Einstein. But it’s close enough as done, otherwise. (And I should emphasize that a unification of QM and chemistry into a larger field like ‘quantum chemistry’ would be tantamount to reductionism).

Now, as for the secondary issue: the motivation for this ‘reductionist’ or quasi reductionist program was the epistemic one that I mentioned, earlier. Viz., the only road to knowledge comes through reason and experiment. Reason gives us math and logic, experiment gives us science. Our knowledge of the world comes through science. If it were to turn out that there were six sciences, then we would a fortiori have to reduce to those six sciences; that is, insofar as we could claim to have knowledge of some part of the world, that knowledge would be in virtue of our scientific (= evidence-based, objective, repeatable, statistically sound, etc.) study of that part of the world. It would be in virtue of the lawlike regularities we could find there, and our extrapolations from those regularities to adequate predictions.

Otherwise we could not claim to have knowledge.

Again, the main point here is to rule out non-scientific methods of gaining knowledge: revelation and undischargeable authority being two of the main bad ones.

Part of the problem with apparently irreduceable subject matter like ethics and aesthetics is that it is so difficult to come to agreement on when things are demonstrated. Now, lack of agreement in itself is no argument for relativism; but one ought at least to consider the issue. Only the sciences give us knowledge of the world that is intersubjectively testable and verifiable. Insofar as we want our bearings to be well moored we would be good to look to that methodology quite generally, and be suspicious of subject matters where it is unavailable. Perhaps its unavailability means that there is nothing much there to discuss objectively, rather as the sterile arguments about how many angels fit on the head of a pin or the color of Sherlock Holmes’s underpants are both sterile arguments, since there is no way to solve them appropriately. Or perhaps there is a way to make use of the methods of science, experiment and otherwise, but some of the people involved in the discussion are ideologically opposed to its use, either because they aren’t happy with the possible outcome or they wish to obscure the facts. Who knows? It must depend on the case.

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Posted: 06 April 2011 11:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 143 ]
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Thus naturalism is not science.

Actually, since it’s principles can be tested, it very much is a science. More to the point, it’s a combination of all scientific diciplines to explain the natural world as it really is and why.

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Posted: 06 April 2011 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 144 ]
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inthegobi - 06 April 2011 10:42 AM

faithlessgod:

I’m sorry, but i won’t be browbeaten into attempting to answer your questions. We are too far apart in language to talk to each other well. I have been polite enough to attempt ot answer the questions of yours that I can understand or answer without a lot of riders and clarifications.

In the future, direct your questions to dougsmith, who is also a trained philosopher and well, i think you’d respect his answers more, even if they end up the same as I’d give.

There is not much point on this topic since we (Dough and I )pretty much agree, at least, we have in the past IIRC. If you don’t want to rise to the challenge then your argument has no merit. Maybe someone else wishes to defend a critique of naturalism?

[ Edited: 06 April 2011 01:30 PM by faithlessgod ]
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Posted: 07 April 2011 01:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 145 ]
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From my favorite citations:

“Chemistry is the dirty part of physics”

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Posted: 07 April 2011 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 146 ]
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GdB - 07 April 2011 01:13 AM

From my favorite citations:

“Chemistry is the dirty part of physics”

It’s a funny *sentiment* - and how I miss that mess some days -  but chemistry has several concepts that have no place in physics - the chemical bond is one of the chief ones.

Chemical properties (1) have not been reduced to physics or there wouldn’t be so much controversy about it - thanks to Doug for finding those articles - and (2) considering things like bonding, it’s unlikely that it *can* be reduced to physics (or ‘analyzed’, or however). At best, you can say that subatomic stuff is necessary but not sufficient for chemical substances.

And *a fortiori*, (1+) we haven’t succeeded in reducing morals, universal notions or knowledge to natural objects (or there wouldn’t be such controversy about it among experts), nor (2+) given several central properties of those things, is it likely it is even possible. At best, you can assert that naturalistic stuff is necessary but not sufficient for these things.

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Posted: 07 April 2011 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 147 ]
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Hum.

Just for the record: controversy doesn’t demonstrate anything besides the fact that people like to argue. If you listen to certain circles, there is controversy about evolution and global warming, not to say the constant speed of light and the Big Bang theory. I’d submit there isn’t a single philosophical claim that isn’t controversial to someone.

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Posted: 07 April 2011 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 148 ]
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inthegobi - 07 April 2011 05:25 AM

And *a fortiori*, (1+) we haven’t succeeded in reducing morals, universal notions or knowledge to natural objects (or there wouldn’t be such controversy about it among experts), nor (2+) given several central properties of those things, is it likely it is even possible. At best, you can assert that naturalistic stuff is necessary but not sufficient for these things.

So? There are a variety of ontological bases for ethics and they mostly all converge and agree on many applications, the main outlier being theistic-based ethics. I prefer desire-based reductive naturalism as the most cogent and so best working hypothesis. Now there there might be disagreement but all these show that there quite a few ways to reduce morality facts to non-moral facts. It is not like no-one has found this impossible to do. Your use of “success” here seemed to imply (maybe unwittingly) that this was not even possible. The fact there are competing theories is a healthy sign, may the best one win! In ethics, theistic and other supernaturalistic theories are non-starters, their flaws mean that they have long failed to remain even candidates for consideration.

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Posted: 07 April 2011 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 149 ]
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dougsmith - 07 April 2011 06:19 AM

Hum.

Just for the record: controversy doesn’t demonstrate anything besides the fact that people like to argue. If you listen to certain circles, there is controversy about evolution and global warming, not to say the constant speed of light and the Big Bang theory. I’d submit there isn’t a single philosophical claim that isn’t controversial to someone.

In the very abstract, of course. but what about the claims of ‘reducing’ (in various senses) the chemistry we know to the physics we know? Do *you* think it’s been *done*? And what’s the proof? When I first read Scerri’s articles, I was rather surprised myself - I’d thought that *of course* it’s been done.

Scerri, btw, says that the sense in which (he thinks that) chemistry *has* been ‘reduced’ to physics is that chemical elements emerged from subatomics - ‘evolved’ from it is another word he used, which i thought was a weird word to use for non-living things.

btw - you really do want to read those articles just FYI (I had them but had misplaced them - thanks for finding them). There’s a fascinating little history of the rather big changes in what is supposed to be reduced to what. But maybe you knew that part.

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Posted: 07 April 2011 07:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 150 ]
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You’re right, I should read those articles carefully. But if I were to give them the justice they deserve I’d need to read the surrounding literature as well, to see where they fit. And I’ve been spending too much time blathering away here as it is, added to my ordinary duties of keeping the place ship-shape and spammer free. Would that this were a paid position ...

I’ll put it on the list.  downer

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