Nutshells

Note: Consciousness is abbreviated throughout as ‘css’,
Universe as ‘U’.

Tools for Thinking

CLARITY

A writer has a duty to be so clear that you can see when he’s cheating.

STUPIDITY

What is stupidity? Thinking you can’t be wrong.

SCIENTISM

‘In Science, you can have as many dimensions as you want, provided none of them contains ghosts, life after death, God, or contradicts Charles Darwin.’
You can also have as many Universes as you want. (Adapted from Scarlett Thomas, The End of Mr Y, p 19.)

SOME THINKERS

Some thinkers prefer straitjackets to ideas.

MAGIC

Science has satisfied our yearning for magic. All the ancient spells (7-league boots, far-seeing mirror on the wall, etc.) except the cloak of invisibility have been created.
But does that mean it can tell us everything? That it not only disproves all religions but replaces them?

CLEVER PEOPLE

Even clever people make mistakes. The cleverer they are, the more ingenious their mistakes and the more wary we must be of being deceived.

EMOTIONS

Are emotions necessary for intelligence?
Yes. People who lack emotions don’t seem to be intelligent in quite the right way.

“MYSTERIAN”, ACCUSATION OF

If you forbid mysteries, then no-one will ever again discover anything.

ACADEMIC CLOSED SHOP

Academics practise a closed shop. Free speech in academe is allowed only within frontiers, not across them. They build impenetrable walls around their “fields”. Anyone who blithely trespasses on someone else’s field must never be mentioned again.

LANGUAGE & PHILOSOPHY

Some philosophers find language such a powerful tool that they began to think it was the test of every truth.
And some find science such a powerful tool that any question it can’t answer can’t be a real question. (“Arrest that question! Gag it! Forbid it to speak!”)

TWO KINDS OF PEOPLE

The psychologically insecure, who insist on certainty;
The psychologically secure, who can tolerate doubt.

UNDERSTANDING

As in the lecture hall. Understanding is not a word-perfect repetition of the lesson. That is parroting.
Understanding is digestion, assimilation, adaptation to one’s own purposes, living the lesson meaningfully.
Word-perfect repetition is a proof you have not understood. Machines therefore cannot qualify for understanding.

WORDS (& DESCRIPTION)

Words cannot describe, because they don’t have colour, taste, sound, shape, texture, etc. They merely POINT at things that have colour, taste, etc. It’s our minds, our remembered experience, which fills in the gaps left by those absent colours, tastes, shapes, etc.
The word “Manchester” is like a road-sign pointing to Manchester. It doesn’t “contain” or “describe” the city, it merely points at it.

GALLOPING CATACHRESIS

The “Table-Leg Problem”. There was no word for the supports of tables and chairs. So people were forced to extend the word ‘leg’. Used this way, it’s a metaphor. It’s a forced metaphor – forced because there’s no other term for a table-leg. But because you use the word ‘leg’ of tables, it doesn’t mean they can walk, or dance, or kick you. The technical term for extensions / metaphors of this sort is CATACHRESIS.
Because of the way the modern world perpetually pours out inventions, we have endless quantities of this figure of speech. I.e. we have Galloping Catachresis. BUT did insects ‘invent’ winged flight? No. Does Radar ‘see’ a plane? No. That would be like saying your spectacles see a plane.
Similarly, Machines don’t have ‘memories’, They don’t ‘store information’, they’re not ‘intelligent’. They contain machinery which produces a small number of the effects of these human capacities, but only when we are using them. Computers are (in Raymond Tallis’s beautiful phrase) ‘prosthetic extensions of the conscious human body’.

THE ‘MEANING’ OF WORDS

A symbol is meaningless without knowledge of its referent. A word is meaningless without knowledge of what it ‘stands for’. Living human beings all understand the “same” word slightly differently; and it’s only the highest common denominator which can be even pointed at by dictionaries.

Neo-Darwinism

ALTRUISM, DARWINIST EXPLANATIONS OF

Just as in the philosophy of materialism, consciousness is to be explained by its contradictory, i.e. consciousness is claimed to emerge from unconsciousness — so neoDarwinians seek to explain altruism by selfishness. Like deriving a toad from a horseshoe. Like swearing that black is white.

MATTER

In science, ‘matter’ simply means ‘What science, so far, is capable of measuring.’ (See Does It Matter?, Graham Dunstan Martin, Floris 2005)

What is matter? Matter is appearance.

DAWKINS’ DODGE

Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker: the haemoglobin molecule consists of four chains of amino acids. One of those chains consists of 146 amino acids. The number of possible ways of arranging 20 kinds of thing in chains 146 long is 10190.
Dawkins agrees with us! But see his way out.

Dembski 2002 p 290: If you toss 100 pennies all together, till all are heads, then it’ll take you 1030 tosses.
One at a time, however, deliberately leaving each one lying on the carpet once it shows heads, it takes about 100 tosses. Dawkins’ device is the latter. So who or what, somewhere within the animal reproductive processes, deliberates, has planned or knows in advance what is needed, observes the correct placings and deliberately leaves them unchanged? For Dawkins (like all orthodox Darwinians) claims that the evolutionary process has no purpose, conscious control, plan, deliberation, etc.

SCIENTISM

Contrary to Dennett and others, science is not an ideology which states that everything is made of matter. Science is a method of inquiry into the mystery of Being. The true scientist has an open mind.

“EVOLUTION IS INDISPENSABLE”

Why do atheists hang onto Darwinism at all costs? Because it is the very foundation of atheism. It appears to explain how the U can achieve order and complexity by sheer blind accident. So it does away with the need for a supernatural designer-creator. So it’s the one big thing that enables them to be atheists. Hence their immoderate rage and fear at anyone who questions neoDarwinism.

Of course evolution happens. BUT is it by itself sufficient?
FOR
There are good arguments for supposing that Nature and chance cannot produce either the U or the living world. For the U starts off too complex for mere chance to be at work. And for the living world to be produced by evolutionary means, Earth’s history is not long enough.
And if Nature and chance cannot produce them, then something else did!

HOFSTADTER’S STRANGE LOOP

How can being a loop produce css? No matter how strange the loop!
It can no more produce css than can setting up two mirrors facing each other make these two mirrors conscious. No matter how often or how complicatedly the light goes to and fro, it still doesn’t start seeing itself.

MATERIALISM AS SELF-EVIDENT

“If everything is physicalistic, then anything must be possible to simulate / recreate.”
I.e. it must be possible to ‘model’ anything.
They conclude therefore: ‘Anything that can’t be made can’t possibly exist’, which is the same as saying: ‘Anything I don’t understand can’t possibly exist.’

Css, Dualism, & Soul

ATTACKS ON DUALISM

We know neither what matter is nor what mind is. So we cannot tell whether images like ‘the ghost in the machine’ are apt or not.
But in either case, they are merely metaphoric.
Metaphors are used in an attempt to make dualism seem absurd. We are asked whether a feather can drive a locomotive. But who (in the centuries before it was done) would have believed that steam could drive a locomotive?

In other words, what is it about solid objects that makes them so solid? It’s our senses. And what are our senses? Aspects of our css.

The Religion of Materialism

BIG BANG

What was there at the beginning of the U? An on / off switch?

BELIEF

Belief is embedded in people’s personalities, and held at an unconscious level. Vertigo overcomes people who are asked to abandon their beliefs. It’s like asking them to abandon their legs.

ANTI-AMERICANISM & ATHEISM

I sometimes think Europeans are atheists because Americans aren’t.

MINDS & MACHINES

The materialist claim is that ‘Just as we can make a motor-car, so we shall one day be able to make a mind.’ This supposes that a mind is made of material bits and pieces just like a motor-car.

It’s perhaps plausible that ‘If you can’t make an X, you can’t know how an X works.’ To take a further step, however, namely, ‘Anything that can’t be made can’t possibly exist’, is to take a step too far. Besides, this amounts to saying ‘Anything that can’t be imitated can’t possibly exist’; which amounts to saying ‘Anything that I don’t understand can’t possibly exist.’ These are not rational assumptions, yet the last of these statements is the working assumption of many materialists.

Whether machines can become conscious is not a technical question, it is conceptually and metaphysically impossible.

BIG BANG:

If not only was there no happening to be had, nor was there anything for it to happen to, how did the U get started?

OBJECTION TO INTELLIGENT CREATION

“God”, they claim, (or any similar creator) would have had to evolve, because the complex comes after the simple. So we can’t have him starting off the U.

Our habit of looking at things from an evolutionary perspective makes it hard for us to believe that an intelligence could be there at the OUTSET. However, Big Bang theory supposes that the U started as a huge, wound-up, energy machine. It’s been running down ever since. Entropy is low at the beginning. The U has to start with energy, complexity.

As Aristotle argued, an incompleted infinity is possible (such as the series of numbers – or an infinite future to time), whereas a completed infinity (such as an infinite past time) is a contradiction in terms. Therefore, when the U was created, Time too was created (along with Space).

The U sprang therefore from eternity, which is a different mode of time, a timeless time perhaps, not necessarily sequential as is our own familiar time. Notions of evolution are irrelevant here, because they depend on our notions of sequential time. The argument that only evolution can produce complexity is therefore beside the point in the context of the Universal Creation.

The Creator of All is not caused by a causal chain, s/he/it initiates the very existence of a causal chain.

Consciousness & the Immaterial

CRYONICS

The cosmologist Frank Tipler believes that, eventually, an electronic heaven will be devised, in which (converted into electronic pulses) we all will achieve deathless eternity. (This’ll be a long time in the future, but don’t worry! Our electronic descendants’ll come back for us. (What unparalleled altruism!)) This is because, he claims, “css is nothing but information.”
This is untrue: information isn’t css, it’s one of the things that consciousness is conscious of.

CSS & TIME

Is css perhaps what causes, constitutes, drives, or impels Time? Certainly it is inseparable from it.
Of course if there were no css, nothing would happen. Because nothing would be experienced.
Presumably therefore css exists so as to make things happen. I.e. it’s designed into the Universe so as to make things happen. It’s therefore a part of the U’s design and purpose. An essential part. We must therefore be fragments of an essential & immortal entity.

HAWKING. MATHS & REALITY

What puts the “fire” into the equations? Hawking asks on his last page. Maths doesn’t do it (though he would love it to, for it’s his lifeblood). He means, What makes the U real? It can’t be maths.
Well, exactly. Just as a map is an abstraction from the living landscape, so Maths cannot capture the nature of what the maths stands for!

PERCIPERE & PERCIPI

There is a basic metaphysical paradox. I.e. the World contains two kinds of things: (1) those which can perceive but not be perceived (i.e. css) and (2) those which can be perceived but cannot perceive (i.e. matter).

13 ELEMENTS OF CSS

1) The ultimate centre of Css is empty / featureless / pure: a mirror reflecting nothing;
2) Css is unlocatable;
3) Every css is isolated from every other css. (We cannot eavesdrop on each other’s minds; we cannot see what they are seeing. Even if we could, we would still be seeing, not what they see, but how we see them seeing it.)
4) Css is impregnable. Css is the magic castle that cannot be found (Unfortunately, when within our bodies it is subject to sensory communication from outside, and can be besieged by physical torture, but cannot be taken except by acquiescence).
5) With regard to Time, css is dual: (i) We cannot tell if it is either metaphysically (a) chained to Time or (b) constitutive of Time. But it also contains (ii) a deep eternal element outside Time (to be identified with (1) above;
6) Css is irreducibly Subjective (yet the Objective derives entirely from css).
7) Css possesses free will (Css does not only perceive, it acts);
8 ) Css constitutes Identity (Css just is our identity, and that’s all there is to it);
9) Css is ineffable. (The contents of Css, and particularly the qualia, are impossible to reduce to words, mathematics or any other symbolic system.)
10) Css is the unique source of all values. (For nothing has value or purpose to an unconscious object.)
11) Css permits no doubt. (For if I do experience something, then indeed I do experience something, even if this is adjudged to be an illusion.)
12) Css is prelinguistic. One sometimes finds it asserted that we are unconscious before we learn a language. This is plainly false. (However it handily allows those who assert it to deny css to the entire animal kingdom.)
13) Css is self-knowing (thereby resolving the basic metaphysical paradox). The basic paradox is this: there are two kinds of things: (a) those which can perceive but not be perceived (i.e. css) (I shall term this percipere), and (b) those which can be perceived but cannot perceive (i.e. matter) (I shall term this percipi). Css is the only thing in nature which (within its own css only) knows itself, which perceives itself, which resolves the absolute disjunction between percipere and percipi. I repeat: css resolves this disjunction.
I posit that this disjunction lies at the heart & origin of the U.

Almost all the above features of css are (a) unique in Nature and (b) completely different in kind from material phenomena.

CSS & THE BRAIN

To confuse css with the material brain is like supposing that it’s the telescope /microscope that does the seeing, and not the person looking through it.

DENNETT & QUALIA

The behaviourists used to believe there is no such thing as css. To all intents and purposes, Daniel Dennett our contemporary believes there is no such thing as the colour ‘red’— or the smell of violets – or the sound of trumpets — or even the experience of pain — because he says qualia only ‘seem’ to exist — thereby denying that he himself has any sensations.
Maybe one should say ‘There seems to be a philosopher called Dennett.’

And these are the people who sneer at ‘folk psychology’! As Democritus said in the 5th Century BC: ‘How can I deny my senses when I get all my evidence from them?’

FUNDAMENTALS (1)

When asking “What is X?” questions, the answer has always to be couched in terms more basic than X. So “What is css?” has to be answered in terms more basic than css.
But what if css is fundamental? What if css (as Indian philosophy thinks) is the ultimate?
Then no analysing css down into more fundamental elements would be possible.

FUNDAMENTALS (2)

We don’t know what a quark “is”. Why, then, ask what css is? Knowing what fundamentals “are” is impossible.

On the other hand, it could be said that we do indeed know what css is – because we live it and experience it every moment of our lives. What else could “knowing” be?

FUNDAMENTALS (3)

Since perception cannot be constructed from anything incapable of perception, css (which is pure perception) must be a fundamental element of the U. Perhaps the fundamental element.

FUNDAMENTALS (4)

On the other hand, percipi can easily be constructed from percipere. (We do it every night in our beds asleep.)
This again suggests that css is the fundamental element.

CSS & INFINITY

Moore p 183: the infinitude of meaning. ‘The meaning of an expression has infinite possibilities woven into it.’ Can css therefore grasp infinity? Does it partake of it?

Religions

THE WORD “GOD”

If the U indeed contains an ultimate spiritual power, all words used of it must be inapt and inept. The word ‘God’ is particularly feeble, since it suggests all sorts of infantile images – besides absurdly insinuating that ‘God’ is ‘male’. Perhaps we should use expressions such as ‘the Ultimate’, ‘the Divine’, ‘the All-Mind’, ‘the Ground of All Being’.
Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite suggested that only description through negatives could even be approximately apt.

On the other hand, the word ‘God’ is useful shorthand, so long as it isn’t taken too seriously.

THE ULTIMATE

The two things are just one thing looking in a mirror. The world is the mirror.

SPIRITUALITY

True spirituality resembles the wild beauty of a beach somewhere on the West Coast of Scotland. Institutional religion is that same beach encumbered by deckchairs, donkeys, seawalls, ice cream vans and multistorey hotels.

DOCTRINES, DOGMAS & INSTITUTIONAL RELIGION

Religious doctrines must be amendable, alterable, corrigible, if they are about realities. For this is the situation in science, human knowledge being always fallible. Compare the great religions with each other. What they share is, sometimes, their truths. What divides them is, often, metaphoric – or naïve, trivial and disposable – or merely ritualistic.
To the extent that religions are mutually incompatible, each is merely an allegory.

What is the heart of religion? Wisdom, compassion, personal growth.
What is the irrelevant tinsel? Doctrine & dogma – which, understood literally, is often no better than credulity & superstition.

The spirit gives life, the letter kills.

FUNDAMENTALISM

Literalists suppose that words have one clear and definite meaning, and that they know it. However, language is fundamentally ambiguous. This is a basic necessity of its very nature. It cannot be otherwise.
Consequently fundamentalists never understand their own language, and therefore cannot understand their own sacred text.

FUNDAMENTALISM (MUSLIM)

Abou el Fadl 2005: ‘Puritans’ (i.e. extremists) show a methodical disregard on principle and in all circumstances for human reason, human wishes, human happiness or misery, and even for human virtues such as benevolence and compassion. All these are to be disregarded absolutely; only what they (falsely) imagine to be the law of God is to be observed.
In short, human beings are not to be allowed to think. Nor to feel.
All their values are negative.

They forbid:
Music, singing and dancing.
All TV programs unless religious.
The giving of flowers.
Clapping the hands in applause.
Acting in a play.
Writing novels.
Shaving one’s beard.
Eating or writing with the left hand.
Standing up to show someone respect.
Celebrating anyone’s birthday.
The voice of women should not be heard in public.
Women must not mix with men in public places.

This is merely a small selection.

(APOLOGISTS FOR TERROR)

Wahhabism began in the 18th C. While we were having our enlightenment, they were having their endarkenment. Mawdudi, Sayyid Qutb.

THE QUEST

‘Religion, for me, is a quest – a quest of faith, of meaning.’ ( Necla Kelek)
Religions are mere lanterns in the dark. Doctrines are like reducing the Spring to a formula.

THOUGHTS TO BE REARRANGED

“INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS NOT SCIENCE”

Perhaps yes, perhaps no, but it’s criticism of science. Science needs constant criticism so as to progress. So perhaps ID is science after all.

KNOWLEDGE

We know nothing about the world except through ourselves.
We know nothing about what other people think about the world except through ourselves.

MAPS VS LANDSCAPES

Where, when and how does the world take place? It doesn’t take place ‘out there’. It takes place in experience, i.e. in the consciousness of living beings.

QUALIA

The various modalities of the qualia, i.e. the senses of hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing, touching – are unimaginably different from each other. They just present themselves to us as if they were totally different dimensions. Seeing is nothing like tasting; hearing is nothing like seeing; smelling is nothing like touching. And so forth.

REALITY

The World is illusion – a dream summoned up by css. On the other hand, the only reality is conscious experience. So the World is not illusion.

RINGS OF A TREE

The tree has information, but doesn’t know it. Neither did we before we understood about tree-rings.

SCEPTICISM

Scepticism doesn’t go far enough. Heresy is the thing. Nonconformism. The only progress ever made in the world is made by people who rebel against the conventional wisdom.
As two very quotable contemporaries say, (1) ‘A “Given Fact” is a social agreement to stop thinking.’ (Dr Moerman) (2) ‘The most important question for any society to ask is the one that is forbidden.’ (Richard Halvorson)

REALITY

Hawking:’[…] Questions about reality do not have any meaning.’ (Quoted in Ferguson 1995, p 132) Here we have a man who wishes to replace reality by mathematics.

RULES, ORIGINALITY & FREE WILL

Programs are rules. Therefore no originality. Originality is precisely what breaks the rules deliberately (not accidentally) and turns out better than they. It is better because it serves the purpose better, or turns it to a hitherto unimagined purpose.

It seems plain that breaking the rules is precisely what css is for. For it is easy to imagine that, without css, the rules would never be broken save by breakdown.

1) A Turing machine cannot handle meaning.
2) Intelligent aware behaviour is not following rules. Nothing rule-based will give it you. If you try to model choice and decision-making through computers, they will merely model them on more and more rules.

How certain is it that we have free will? It’s as certain that I exercize my autonomy as that I’m speaking to you now.

SUBJECTIVE VERSUS OBJECTIVE

There is no such thing as a ‘public, objective fact’. Any so-called ‘public fact’ is always (first) observed privately by a number of individuals who (secondly) agree as to what they have witnessed, i.e. each of them privately observes him/herself as so agreeing. The phrase ‘an accepted scientific truth’ is both frank and exact. What science claims to be the truth is what most scientists in that particular field agree upon for the time being. Objectivity is the product of agreement between subjectivities.
As to what we term ‘private experiences’, these nonetheless repeat themselves in similar form in many different consciousnesses, and we can, as with ‘public experiences’) agree about them. When suffering is caused to different people on different occasions, nonetheless we can agree ‘We all experience that sort of thing.’ ‘Objectivity’ depends on subjectivity. Why then should an apple be regarded as more real than suffering?
Suffering is a much more powerful experience than tasting an apple.

MY BELIEFS

There are various valid paths to the Divine. Some of these are known as “religions” but must not be taken too literally, for the Divine is by definition beyond speaking.
There are also a number of paths which – despite their religious claims –lead into dark and cruel nonsense.

VIMFORTISM

I derive this word from the Latin vim (by force) and forte (by chance). For this is how materialists / determinists see the U, supposing it derives exclusively from (1) the laws of blind chance on the one hand and (2) the laws of inescapable causality on the other.
They deny all purpose, all meaning, all freedom, all possibility of a human mind interfering with mindless totalitarian determinism. In doing so they claim not to worship a god, but in effect they do – only that god is mindless.

REFERENCES

Martin, Graham Dunstan (2005) Does It Matter? The Unsustainable World of the
Materialists, Floris, Edinburgh
(2008) Living on Purpose: Meaning, Intention and Value, Floris, Edinburgh