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spiral
June 23rd, 2009, 04:48 AM
In this video Dawkins defines theism, deism, pantheism and atheism, so it could have been posted in a few different forums... I put it here because I'm particularly interested in his definition of pantheism.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl7ll-1aD3M&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpantheists.ning.com%2Fvideo%2Fdawkins-definitions&feature=player_embedded

Do you agree with him? Is pantheism simply 'sexed up' atheism? Is that necessarily a bad thing?

*oonagh*
June 23rd, 2009, 10:23 AM
i'm not really sure what he means by "sexed up atheism". what does that mean?

but, i do agree with his definitions.

Louisvillian
June 23rd, 2009, 11:00 AM
Meh. His definitions are highly framed around the Judeo-Christian god, which is what his definition of "theism" is of. It's somewhat understandable, as deism and pantheism, in the original terms they develop as, sprang from a Judeo-Christian understanding of deity. However, the strict adherence of those definitions to their original forms is somewhat anachronistic.

memnoch
June 23rd, 2009, 11:06 AM
Dawkins is an idiot, he is to atheism what Phelps and Robertson are to christianity.

Infinite Grey
June 23rd, 2009, 11:34 AM
Dawkins is an idiot, he is to atheism what Phelps and Robertson are to christianity.


:alol: If Dawkins really is the Atheist equivalent to Phelps, we have a distinctly mild variety of fanatics by comparison.

Louisvillian
June 23rd, 2009, 11:41 AM
Dawkins isn't an idiot, by any means; the man did a lot for modern evolutionary biology. He's a very intelligent guy.
He's just a loudmouth jerk sometimes. Comes with the territory.

TygerTyger
June 24th, 2009, 03:16 AM
His definition of Pantheism reflects his agenda as an atheist, nothing wrong in that but it was too throw-away for me. More like a soundbite than an appraisal.

green aventurine
June 24th, 2009, 05:15 AM
His definition of Pantheism reflects his agenda as an atheist, nothing wrong in that but it was too throw-away for me. More like a soundbite than an appraisal.

yeah, soundbite is exactly the word I would have used. I would imagine from the perspective of some pantheists, Dawkin's atheism could be described as "castrated" pantheism :hahugh:

oonagh - I've run out of internet download for this month but when it refreshes on the 26th, I'll have a look at the video clip and hazard a guess at what he means by "sexed up".

*oonagh*
June 24th, 2009, 09:32 AM
His definition of Pantheism reflects his agenda as an atheist, nothing wrong in that but it was too throw-away for me. More like a soundbite than an appraisal.

i'm not sure it is meant to be anything other than a soundbite.

@ green adventurine
thanks. yeah...what is "sexed up" atheism or "castrated" pantheism?

does it mean "humanized"? i'm just not getting it.

TygerTyger
June 24th, 2009, 09:48 AM
i'm not sure it is meant to be anything other than a soundbite.

@ green adventurine
thanks. yeah...what is "sexed up" atheism or "castrated" pantheism?

does it mean "humanized"? i'm just not getting it.

Soundbites are just throw-away quips meant to sound profound but are ultimately shallow.

"Sexed up atheism" means nothing but sounds good.

"Castrated Pantheism" is equally meaningless but sounds just as good, perhaps because it carries with it a barb seemingly directed at Dawkins himself! Well that's my interpretation of it anyway.

spiral
June 24th, 2009, 12:22 PM
I'm not sure exactly what he means by sexed up either, lol. Maybe atheism that is sort of romanticised, or made more appealing to people who don't want to call themselves athiests?

I read someone's comment on it who interpreted it in a positive sort of way... pantheism is 'sexed up atheism' in that atheism is about what you don't hold to be true, and pantheism is about what you value instead... So the description 'pantheist' gives more information about the way a person views and feels about the universe.

I think that's the point he was making, I'm not sure if I explained it very well. I guess for me it's like this... an atheist is technically what I am, but the term pantheist is more meaningful to me because it describes a way of perceiving nature that is very important to me. I also feel that the term pantheist is more accepting of practices which might be called 'spiritual' (e.g. feeling deeply connected to the earth, ritualistic celebrations, conceptualising nature using deities are metaphors etc).

TygerTyger
June 25th, 2009, 03:14 AM
That's actually a very good explanation Spiral.

However, for my part I don't accept the close similarity suggested by such a phrase as "Pantheism is just sexed-up Atheism".

I'm not an Atheist, I do believe in a God. This may not be a traditional God, it has no homonoid form, neither is it revealed in sacred texts, in fact I think God is so far removed from us that we are almost imperceptible to it, but we still both exist and there is a connexion.

I don't think that Atheism would allow for that concept but Pantheism, or at least my Panthesim, does

Infinite Grey
June 25th, 2009, 06:22 AM
That's actually a very good explanation Spiral.

However, for my part I don't accept the close similarity suggested by such a phrase as "Pantheism is just sexed-up Atheism".

I'm not an Atheist, I do believe in a God. This may not be a traditional God, it has no homonoid form, neither is it revealed in sacred texts, in fact I think God is so far removed from us that we are almost imperceptible to it, but we still both exist and there is a connexion.

I don't think that Atheism would allow for that concept but Pantheism, or at least my Panthesim, does

I'm not sure what Dawkins said in the linked source - but in the past he describes pantheism as "sexed up atheism" simply because in a practical sense there is a little difference. Deism to. There are fundamentally no doctrines, nothing taking a personal interest in our behaviour or deeds, no rewards or punishments after death. In a day to day life, the differences between a pantheist, a deist and an atheist are negligible.

Of cause, Dawkins is being a bit of git in phrasing it thusly - but in this case he is talking mainly to militant atheists and pointlessness of debating people that are essentially on the same side.

TygerTyger
June 25th, 2009, 06:44 AM
I'm not sure what Dawkins said in the linked source - but in the past he describes pantheism as "sexed up atheism" simply because in a practical sense there is a little difference. Deism to. There are fundamentally no doctrines, nothing taking a personal interest in our behaviour or deeds, no rewards or punishments after death. In a day to day life, the differences between a pantheist, a deist and an atheist are negligible.

Of cause, Dawkins is being a bit of git in phrasing it thusly - but in this case he is talking mainly to militant atheists and pointlessness of debating people that are essentially on the same side.

I see your point. Even though I believe in God it's not the judgemental god of Abrahamic religion.

Unfortunately the link did not identify either the context in which the statement was made or the audience to whom it was presented.

Infinite Grey
June 25th, 2009, 06:57 AM
I see your point. Even though I believe in God it's not the judgemental god of Abrahamic religion.

Unfortunately the link did not identify either the context in which the statement was made or the audience to whom it was presented.

That comes with knowing what Dawkins is about on a whole - I've never read any of his books (I do not see the point really)... but I've listen and watch a few of his lectures and debates. He tends to talk to the audience as if they were atheists; not the best of tactics, but never-the-less there you have it.

*oonagh*
June 25th, 2009, 10:11 AM
Soundbites are just throw-away quips meant to sound profound but are ultimately shallow.


thank you...that one i know :uhhuhuh:.

Nicholas
June 25th, 2009, 12:08 PM
That comes with knowing what Dawkins is about on a whole - I've never read any of his books (I do not see the point really)... but I've listen and watch a few of his lectures and debates. He tends to talk to the audience as if they were atheists; not the best of tactics, but never-the-less there you have it.

Tends? I've watched and read transcripts from a lot of Dawkin lectures because I had to write my English term paper on him. I feel he exclusively treats his audience as Atheists. I do agree they are not the best tactics, but I think he's under the assumption that religious people hate him so much they would not show.

Infinite Grey
June 25th, 2009, 12:11 PM
Tends? I've watched and read transcripts from a lot of Dawkin lectures because I had to write my English term paper on him. I feel he exclusively treats his audience as Atheists. I do agree they are not the best tactics, but I think he's under the assumption that religious people hate him so much they would not show.

shhhh :shhhh: I was trying to leave some wriggle room!

Nicholas
June 25th, 2009, 12:13 PM
shhhh :shhhh: I was trying to leave some wriggle room!

:toofless: Whoops.

Everyone ignore my last comment!

Infinite Grey
June 25th, 2009, 12:15 PM
:toofless: Whoops.

Everyone ignore my last comment!

Oh well! It's out now.

People! When Dawkins does his thing, he is speaking under the assumption that his listeners are atheists - adjust contextual meaning appropriately.

green aventurine
June 27th, 2009, 07:10 AM
Yes, most of what I was going to say has been said in my absence of the last couple of days either on here or this thread:

http://mysticwicks.com/showthread.php?t=216735 (http://mysticwicks.com/showthread.php?t=216735)

especially by people like Shanti, Infinite Grey, Nicholas and Aranarose on the first page.

My quip was really about saying that it's a matter of perspective really and you could just as easily reframe Dawkins’ version of atheism as a stunted form of (some versions of) pantheism. I initially thought Dawkins was about the philosophy of religion but I've realised now he's purely about politics.

My thoughts about why he was twisting pantheism and deism was more that his initial objections only really applied to things like fundamentalist Christianity and he was having problems accommodating other religions etc but I couldn't listen to more than about an hour of ‘the god delusion’ (mp3 book version) so I don't really know what he says on there. With regards to the lectures and addressing people as atheists etc that make sense to me as well (although it seems to me he is assuming all atheists would accept his [metaphysical] picture of the universe and his version of evolutionary theory and human nature etc).

memnoch
June 27th, 2009, 07:58 AM
Dawkins isn't an idiot, by any means; the man did a lot for modern evolutionary biology. He's a very intelligent guy.
He's just a loudmouth jerk sometimes. Comes with the territory.

just because you are bright in one area doesn't mean you aren't an idiot in others...and loudmouth jerk is also putting it mildly.

green aventurine
June 28th, 2009, 12:42 PM
For your consideration, Tyger (and others):



‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God. I shall here assume that the God in question is that of a sophisticated monotheism. The tribal gods of the early inhabitants of Palestine are of little or no philosophical interest. They were essentially finite beings, and the god of one tribe or collection of tribes was regarded as good in that it enabled victory in war against tribes with less powerful gods. Similarly the Greek and Roman gods were more like mythical heroes and heroines than like the omnipotent, omniscient and good God postulated in mediaeval and modern philosophy….

At its simplest, pantheism can be ontologically indistinguishable from atheism. Such a pantheism would be belief in nothing beyond the physical universe, but associated with emotions of wonder and awe similar to those that we find in religious belief. I shall not consider this as theism…..

However there are stronger forms of pantheism which do differentiate the pantheist from the atheist (Levine, 1994). For example the pantheist may think that the universe as a whole has strongly emergent and also mind-like qualities. Not emergent merely in the weak sense that a radio receiver's ability to receive signals from distant stations might be said to be emergent because it is not a mere jumble of components (Smart 1981). The components have to be wired together in a certain way, and indeed the workings of the individual components can be explained by the laws of physics….

One strong form of pantheism ascribes mental properties to the cosmos…. Samuel Alexander asserted, rather than argued, that mentality strongly emerged from space-time, and then that at some future time there will emerge a new and at present hardly imaginable level which he called ‘deity’ (Alexander 1927). It is hard to tell whether such an implausible metaphysics should be classified as as pantheism or as theism. Certainly such a deity would not be the infinite creator God of orthodox theism. A. N. Whitehead, too, had a theory of an emergent deity, though with affinities to Platonism, which he saw as the realm of potentiality and therefore he connected the atemporal with the contingent temporal deity (Whitehead 1929). Such views will not deliver, however implausibly, more than a finite deity, not the God of core theism. God would be just one more thing in the universe, however awesome and admirable….

At any rate, whether or not we accept pantheism as a sort of theism, what we mean by ‘atheism’ will vary according to what in the dialectical situation we count as theism.


http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/#1 (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/#1)



A fully adequate conception of God, Findlay said, would see God as not only unlimited in various admirable properties but also as a necessarily existing being. Thus ‘There is one and only one God’ would have to be a logically necessary truth.


http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/#2 (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/#2)

ffetcher
June 29th, 2009, 06:10 AM
THe tends to talk to the audience as if they were atheists; ...

Actually, I find him even more annoying than if that were his attitude. He treats his audience as if there were two groupings: atheists, and people who would be atheists if they only thought about things more carefully. Since Dawkins himself has changed his theories since he published "The Selfish Gene", adding in "Memes" and suchlike to cover for where the original work demonstrably doesn't hold water, I don't find this a particularly helpful attitude. (I'd be more forthright, but my wife is a fan of his, from the point of view of cell biology at least. :) )

blessings
ffetcher

Infinite Grey
June 29th, 2009, 10:55 AM
Actually, I find him even more annoying than if that were his attitude. He treats his audience as if there were two groupings: atheists, and people who would be atheists if they only thought about things more carefully. Since Dawkins himself has changed his theories since he published "The Selfish Gene", adding in "Memes" and suchlike to cover for where the original work demonstrably doesn't hold water, I don't find this a particularly helpful attitude. (I'd be more forthright, but my wife is a fan of his, from the point of view of cell biology at least. :) )

blessings
ffetcher

What are you talking about?

ffetcher
June 29th, 2009, 02:08 PM
What are you talking about?

There were two points: I'll try to clarify both but if I fail, please PM me.

I've heard Dawkins talk on a number of occasions, both at lectures aimed at a lay audience and at peer-reviewed conferences. His attitude to atheism/pantheism/religion in general, both in the talks and in Q&As/panel discussions, has always appeared to me to be 'if you disagree with me you haven't thought this stuff through'. Not, IMO, a particularly helpful academic position. Several of his students/co-workers/followers are equally adamant that they're right, but are at least prepared to enter into discussion, so this isn't simply a by-product of his theories.

With regard to his own modified position, if you go back and re-read "The Selfish Gene", you'll find that it doesn't quite reflect his current stance - he's had to add new things to cope with concepts such as altruism, which simply don't fit with the original concepts. Susan Blakemore, an academic who fits into the 'prepared to enter into discussion' class, has published some fairly accessible stuff on how they got here from there, particularly as regards the concepts of 'Memes'.

Not that he's modified his stance over Catholic education being 'child abuse', which was the reason he wrote "The Selfish Gene" in the first place, but at least he's come clean over the last few years.

Other than that, I'm having trouble clarifying my point any further; sorry.

blessings
ffetcher

Infinite Grey
June 29th, 2009, 09:15 PM
There were two points: I'll try to clarify both but if I fail, please PM me.

I've heard Dawkins talk on a number of occasions, both at lectures aimed at a lay audience and at peer-reviewed conferences. His attitude to atheism/pantheism/religion in general, both in the talks and in Q&As/panel discussions, has always appeared to me to be 'if you disagree with me you haven't thought this stuff through'. Not, IMO, a particularly helpful academic position. Several of his students/co-workers/followers are equally adamant that they're right, but are at least prepared to enter into discussion, so this isn't simply a by-product of his theories.



With regard to his own modified position, if you go back and re-read "The Selfish Gene", you'll find that it doesn't quite reflect his current stance - he's had to add new things to cope with concepts such as altruism, which simply don't fit with the original concepts. Susan Blakemore, an academic who fits into the 'prepared to enter into discussion' class, has published some fairly accessible stuff on how they got here from there, particularly as regards the concepts of 'Memes'.

So? That is science.


Not that he's modified his stance over Catholic education being 'child abuse', which was the reason he wrote "The Selfish Gene" in the first place, but at least he's come clean over the last few years.

What does that have to do with his scientific work?


Other than that, I'm having trouble clarifying my point any further; sorry.

blessings
ffetcher

I think I see where you're going wrong.
1> Scientific Theories are subject to Alteration, Correction and Abandonment as new data is discovered and comprehended. Or do you believe an apple falls on a scientist's head and the theory is born? Indeed the selfish-gene theory is really just an adjusted view of selection theory and quintessentially a scientific theory on its one right.
2> You seem to wantonly mix Dawkins scientific work with his activist work - that would be a mistake as while Dick will use his scientific work and the scientific work of others as a tool for his activism, they are essentially independent.

ffetcher
July 1st, 2009, 06:43 AM
Apologies to anyone who feels that this is straying too far off-topic from the OP, but...


So? That is science.

it sure is...


I think I see where you're going wrong.

Aha. The old "when did you stop beating your wife?" approach. The intention is presumably that by making any response at all, I concur with you that I'm wrong. I do indeed hold a viewpoint with which you clearly disagree, but that disagreement doesn't by itself make me wrong.


1> Scientific Theories are subject to Alteration, Correction and Abandonment as new data is discovered and comprehended. Or do you believe an apple falls on a scientist's head and the theory is born? Indeed the selfish-gene theory is really just an adjusted view of selection theory and quintessentially a scientific theory on its one right.

Of course scientific theories get altered in the light of new information and/or research. That's precisely why I find Dawkins's apparent attitude of "I'm right, you haven't thought about it properly" academically unhelpful. Other people have had insights that he's adopted or adapted over the years. It is of course possible that he doesn't intend to imply that everyone with a conflicting viewpoint is academically imbecilic, but that's the impression I've had every time I've heard him speak.


2> You seem to wantonly mix Dawkins scientific work with his activist work - that would be a mistake as while Dick will use his scientific work and the scientific work of others as a tool for his activism, they are essentially independent.

Wanton isn't the description I'd have picked. I'm certainly deliberately conflating the two, and I feel justified in doing so. Richard uses his academic record to support his activism, and that's his right. But IMO, by so doing he negates any independence between the two. He tells me that I should give credence to his activism because of his academic track record. That's fine, but since he does so, I feel entitled to allow my disquiet with what I perceive to be his approach to academic debate to inform my attitude to said activism.

blessings
ffetcher

green aventurine
July 1st, 2009, 01:50 PM
Some more to consider re: why pantheism was referred to or distorted as ‘sexed-up atheism’ (NB: I haven't read all of this article or pretend to understand it fully):



With some exceptions, pantheism is non-theistic, but it is not atheistic. It is a form of non-theistic monotheism, or even non-personal theism. It is the belief in one God, a God identical to the all-inclusive unity, but pantheists (generally) do not believe God is a person or anything like a person. The fact that pantheism clearly is not atheistic, and is an explicit denial of atheism, is disputed by its critics. The primary reason for equating pantheism with atheism is the assumption that belief in any kind of "God" must be belief in a personalistic God, because God must be a person.
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pantheism/#Ath (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pantheism/#Ath)



The principal reason there has been relatively little advance in examining pantheism philosophically is at least twofold. First, contemporary analytic philosophy of religion remains dominated not merely by theism but by orthodox Christian approaches to theism. ….While there is currently debate about whether creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools, the fact that creationist doctrine is argued for by mainstream Christian analytic philosophers of religion (as above) goes largely unnoticed or remarked upon (cf. Levine: 1998; 1999; 2000). There is little room or interest in theologically progressive notions of deity in this milieu — let alone pantheism.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pantheism/#Whi (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pantheism/#Whi)


Also, flicking through the top four articles on here -- it seems to me they are mostly concerned with ‘orthodox Christian approaches to theism’ (apart from the tony blair satire piece).

http://richarddawkins.net/allTimeFavoriteArticles (http://richarddawkins.net/allTimeFavoriteArticles)


ffetcher: I'll come back to Dan Dennett and Susan Blakemore although I don't really have anything particularly earthshattering to say about them lol just a couple of comments, really.

Tyger: I'm still thinking about various forms of pantheism and what alterations might be needed (if any) to the standard model to accommodate them. I'll post some more on the other thread tomorrow.

TygerTyger
July 2nd, 2009, 03:31 AM
I don't believe in God as a person, that is a concept that I attribute to the Abrahamic religions and I left Christianity behind many years ago now.

I am not even sure of the nature of the God I believe in, but that is part of the process of discovery that is an integral part of my Pantheistic belief.

Also, I am not interested in adhering to one interpetation of Pantheism. From my point of view strict adherence is one of the problems of organised religion and divergence is often met with intollerance and opposition.

My beliefs are my own and not dictated by a head of church, a clergy or derived from a bible. That my Pantheism might stray close to another system of beliefs, such as Atheism, does not concern me overly, I don't claim to know the 'truth', I do know that the way I currently look at Existance allows me to be happy. Whether that is just a delusion or a state of being is another question, however, as my current belief seems to be supported by scientific fact then I feel quite secure.

green aventurine
July 2nd, 2009, 10:16 AM
This has been a very helpful thread for me. I think I am slowly beginning to get a grasp of what pantheism is about.

That was another very good post, Tyger. The question, or one question that springs up for me now is this:



Personhood. What is it to be a person? What is necessary, and what suffices, for something to count as a person, as opposed to a non-person? What have people got that non-people haven't got? This amounts more or less to asking for the definition of the word person. An answer would take the form “Necessarily, x is a person if and only if … x …”, with the blanks appropriately filled in. More specifically, we can ask at what point in one's development from a fertilized egg there comes to be a person, or what it would take for a chimpanzee or a Martian or an electronic computer to be a person, if they could ever be. (See e.g. Chisholm 1976: 136f., Baker 2000: ch. 3.)
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/#ProPerIde (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/#ProPerIde)

ffetcher:



With regard to his own modified position, if you go back and re-read "The Selfish Gene", you'll find that it doesn't quite reflect his current stance - he's had to add new things to cope with concepts such as altruism, which simply don't fit with the original concepts.

It's been a long time since I read a bit of the selfish Gene and had to discuss it in a tutorial but I was wondering how he reconciled it with his new theory of memetics. It seems to me he almost switched from biological determinism to social determinism of personality and behaviour. I wonder when there is a clash, which he gives precedence to for determining them and why. I'm more familiar with memes and the consequences for philosophy of mind and consciousness with Dan Dennett and books like consciousness explained. From what I remember, he wanted to completely deconstruct the self and eliminate consciousness while keeping intentional states like beliefs.



Susan Blakemore, an academic who fits into the 'prepared to enter into discussion' class, has published some fairly accessible stuff on how they got here from there, particularly as regards the concepts of 'Memes'.

I remember Susan Blakemore from studying psychology and that she changed from believing out of body experiences were literal to explaining them in terms of clashing maps of things like the body and the environment or the maps going out of sync with each other (eta: this hasn't been explained very well, I need to look it up really).

She is also a Buddhist from what I remember and I think with respect to the self she doesn't completely want to deconstruct it and would perhaps allow for, I suppose, Buddha nature or original nature? - I'm not sure if that's the right way to express it, I'm not that familiar with Buddhism. I would also be surprised if she wanted to eliminate consciousness like Dennett. Finally, I would imagine she is a lot more approachable if you wanted to have a discussion with her than with Dawkins from the little I know about them both.



He tells me that I should give credence to his activism because of his academic track record.


If he does actually make this claim, then for me personally, I would say that's irrelevant as I don't subscribe to the method of authority for believing that something is true or being obligated to have to take something seriously. I've wondered how seriously his books would have been taken if he hadn't been who he was.

ffetcher
July 3rd, 2009, 06:15 AM
It's been a long time since I read a bit of the selfish Gene and had to discuss it in a tutorial but I was wondering how he reconciled it with his new theory of memetics. It seems to me he almost switched from biological determinism to social determinism of personality and behaviour. I wonder when there is a clash, which he gives precedence to for determining them and why.

I'm on shaky ground over the genetic element - my wife is the one with a background in biology, and I'll ask her when she gets back from her current business trip - but as I recall it, he doesn't see 'clashes'; memetics explain the bits that genetic determination doesn't, so if genetic selection can explain something, that's fine, you don't need a meme. It appears, though, that there are others on this thread who could explain it better and probably disagree.


I'm more familiar with memes and the consequences for philosophy of mind and consciousness with Dan Dennett and books like consciousness explained. From what I remember, he wanted to completely deconstruct the self and eliminate consciousness while keeping intentional states like beliefs.

I should be on stronger ground here from my understanding of machine heuristics, but again maybe others on here can explain it better. However, I think he explains the sum of consciousness as being made up of a large number of simple biological mechanisms that are explainable in the same way as, say, self-repair (I seem to recall that's one of his examples). This makes sense to me, in that a computer program that learns to traverse a maze, for example, is constructed of a number (actually a remarkably small number) of simple algorithms. What to many people might look like a 'miraculous' ability (and again I seem to recall that he uses miracles and magic as analogies) is in fact just a sequence of 'this worked last time so it may well work again'. By extension, there's nothing actually in charge of said consciousness, but I can't recall right now whether he went that far.


I remember Susan Blakemore from studying psychology and that she changed from believing out of body experiences were literal to explaining them in terms of clashing maps of things like the body and the environment or the maps going out of sync with each other (eta: this hasn't been explained very well, I need to look it up really).

She is also a Buddhist from what I remember and I think with respect to the self she doesn't completely want to deconstruct it and would perhaps allow for, I suppose, Buddha nature or original nature? - I'm not sure if that's the right way to express it, I'm not that familiar with Buddhism. I would also be surprised if she wanted to eliminate consciousness like Dennett. Finally, I would imagine she is a lot more approachable if you wanted to have a discussion with her than with Dawkins from the little I know about them both.

Yep. At a conference a few years ago she managed to have discussions with both Todd Murphy (with whom she nowadays disagrees about the nature of OOBE's) and the Bishop of Oxford (with whom her disagreement is perhaps obvious :) ) without stooping to rubbish their thought processes or academic abilities. I enjoyed the gig enormously and it appeared that they all did as well. My abiding memory is of one of the inevitable discussions over coffee and wine after somebody's paper, with Murphy trying to explain his theories about romantic love, perhaps realising that the reasoning was going to take him outside everyone else's comfort zone, cutting it short and saying to the bishop something like 'you know, perhaps [Philip] Pullman's right: maybe fiction is a better tool for exploring this stuff than fMRI'.

More seriously and perhaps with greater relevance to the thread, Susan had asked Todd a couple of demon questions after his paper (which touched on OOBEs) at the end of day one, and the chairman was going to rule one of them out of order until Todd courteously explained why he didn't see it as an ad hominem attack. Susan, who had drawn the graveyard shift on day two to talk about assigning risk factors to memes, took a couple of minutes at the start to summarise the differences between their approaches and thank Todd for his patience. The civility wasn't forced, either: everyone there knew that everyone else had different opinions and the atmosphere for the whole things was "let's discuss..."

blessings
ffetcher

Xentor
July 4th, 2009, 07:56 PM
In this video Dawkins defines theism, deism, pantheism and atheism, so it could have been posted in a few different forums... I put it here because I'm particularly interested in his definition of pantheism.

Do you agree with him? Is pantheism simply 'sexed up' atheism? Is that necessarily a bad thing?

My own path tends to be a bit deist as well as pantheist. I believe there's more between heaven and earth than science can explain.

Some Atheists may allow for that, but the few I've met apply the scientific method, categorically refusing non-scientific explanations. Not that this is required by the word "atheism". A better word for it would be "scientism". But I digress.

No, pantheism is not a sexed-up version of atheism. Pantheism does not stem from atheism. Pantheism stems from animism and other nature religions. Atheism is a naturalistic reaction against theism.

Do we have things in common? Sure. Most religions have some thing in common (if only for the fact that they require people). That does not make us the same. For instance, I'd be surprised if any atheist would take animism seriously.

green aventurine
July 8th, 2009, 03:49 PM
All off the top of my head at the moment:



I'm on shaky ground over the genetic element - my wife is the one with a background in biology, and I'll ask her when she gets back from her current business trip - but as I recall it, he doesn't see 'clashes'; memetics explain the bits that genetic determination doesn't, so if genetic selection can explain something, that's fine, you don't need a meme.

:uhhuhuh: I'm guessing he might also say something like "you can't run Windows XP on a ZX81" kind of thing ie. biology will set certain constraints which social determinism, or even one's own efforts, can't override.

I'd be interested to hear what your wife has to say on this topic if you have time to talk to her and post something.



I should be on stronger ground here from my understanding of machine heuristics, but again maybe others on here can explain it better. However, I think he explains the sum of consciousness as being made up of a large number of simple biological mechanisms that are explainable in the same way as, say, self-repair (I seem to recall that's one of his examples). This makes sense to me, in that a computer program that learns to traverse a maze, for example, is constructed of a number (actually a remarkably small number) of simple algorithms. What to many people might look like a 'miraculous' ability (and again I seem to recall that he uses miracles and magic as analogies) is in fact just a sequence of 'this worked last time so it may well work again'. By extension, there's nothing actually in charge of said consciousness, but I can't recall right now whether he went that far.


see my PM. Also with respect to Dan Dennett and eliminating consciousness in general. I think this is one of the classic papers in that debate which is by him.

http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/quinqual.htm (http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/quinqual.htm)

I haven't read it yet though. I'm still looking at this and Eliminativism in general at the moment as I want to write some notes on it etc.



Yep. At a conference a few years ago she managed to have discussions with both Todd Murphy (with whom she nowadays disagrees about the nature of OOBE's) and the Bishop of Oxford (with whom her disagreement is perhaps obvious :) ) without stooping to rubbish their thought processes or academic abilities....

.... Susan, who had drawn the graveyard shift on day two to talk about assigning risk factors to memes, took a couple of minutes at the start to summarise the differences between their approaches and thank Todd for his patience. The civility wasn't forced, either: everyone there knew that everyone else had different opinions and the atmosphere for the whole things was "let's discuss..."


That sounded a lot of fun. I can believe she would act like that from the little I know about her. It would be nice if all conferences were like that :)

ffetcher
August 10th, 2009, 04:48 AM
:uhhuhuh: I'm guessing he might also say something like "you can't run Windows XP on a ZX81" kind of thing ie. biology will set certain constraints which social determinism, or even one's own efforts, can't override.

I'd be interested to hear what your wife has to say on this topic if you have time to talk to her and post something.

Sitting on the waterfront watching the sunset over the islands off Split, large glasses of the local beer in hand and discussing Dawkins? Well, it's different, certainly. :) Yep, you're limited by the biology and memes can't work outside the limits of the biology - although they can push the envelope- so she thinks that there can't be a conflict.

Materially related to this thread (I think, at least) is the comment Dawkins made at the end of the BBC Horizon programme "God on the Brain", to the effect that 'asking what is the evolutionary advantage of spirituality? is probably asking he wrong question. We should perhaps be asking what is the evolutionary advantage of a brain that's capable of experienceing spirituality?' (this is a paraphrase and he may have actually metioned religion rather than spirituality, but earlier in the programme he had failed to experience the sensed presence effect when wearing Persinger's hat, so spirituality is how we remember it.


see my PM. Also with respect to Dan Dennett and eliminating consciousness in general. I think this is one of the classic papers in that debate which is by him.

http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/quinqual.htm (http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/quinqual.htm)

I haven't read it yet though. I'm still looking at this and Eliminativism in general at the moment as I want to write some notes on it etc.

Looks like a good article, I'll add it to the list. Your comments have had me digging back into hard-bound log-books with handwritten notes in pencil. How retro :) I'm just starting to realise that (a) I've forgotten a great deal about agents and sub-units in the last ten years or so; and (b) a lot of what I did know is out-of-date. But I believe that when I get to the endI'm going to fins some stuff that's actually directly relevant to pantheism. I'll race you. :)

blessings
ffetcher

ffetcher
August 11th, 2009, 05:19 AM
with respect to Dan Dennett and eliminating consciousness in general. I think this is one of the classic papers in that debate which is by him.

http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/quinqual.htm (http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/quinqual.htm)


Ye ghods and little fishes :) I could wish I hadn't started this this morning - my brain hurts. The first section defines the verb 'quine' and attempts to do the same for 'qualia' (noun, plural). I read that bit twice and I'm still not sure whether he succeeds; ducks the issue accidentally or ducks it deliberately. However, since the purpose of the paper is to show that they don't exist, and since I do actually have a fair idea of what he's talking about, I just took it on trust and kept referring back when he comes back to what qualia are, which of course he does frequently.

Then we get to his summary of his method: I quote (fair dealing for the purposes of review)

"Rigorous arguments only work on well-defined materials, and since my goal is to destroy our faith in the pretheoretical or "intuitive" concept, the right tools for my task are intuition pumps, not formal arguments. What follows is a series of fifteen intuition pumps, posed in a sequence designed to flush out--and then flush away--the offending intuitions. In section 2, I will use the first two intuition pumps to focus attention on the traditional notion. It will be the burden of the rest of the paper in to convince you that these two pumps, for all their effectiveness, mislead us and should be discarded."

Whilst I'm not sure that I agree either with where he's going or even that if he's going there the first two 'pumps' are inappropriate, once you penetrate the (?deliberately?) dense language, the arguments make sense and do at times address material pretty close to Dawkins's definition that started his thread. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the later statements have been overtaken by recent fMRI studies, but to be honest I'm far from sure of that and I can't face a second read of the paper right now. :)

All in all, though, an interesting and thought-provoking read.

blessings
ffetcher

Xentor
August 11th, 2009, 11:30 AM
once you penetrate the (?deliberately?) dense language

Usually: yes, deliberately. Some people love to show off their knowledge by using unnecessarily complicated language structures, and then fault us for it when we demand a straight-forward explanation. Personally, I feel that jargon should be reserved for peers. If I wish to share my thoughts with a wider audience, I need to drop the jargon and rephrase my speculations using the simplest language possible.

Then again, sometimes we don't wish to reach a wider audience.

ffetcher
August 11th, 2009, 01:24 PM
Usually: yes, deliberately. Some people love to show off their knowledge by using unnecessarily complicated language structures, and then fault us for it when we demand a straight-forward explanation.

I remember (but can't place) a story he told about perception, talking about thinking he was looking at a Canaletto painting, which would have exquisite detail, and then finding that it was by someone else, who had just put in blobs that looked okay from a distance.

So he can do it.


Personally, I feel that jargon should be reserved for peers.

IMO, "jargon" between peers, is simply specialist language. I'm perfectly capable of using specialist terms in my own related field, such as "agents", "sub-units" and "specialist agents". But even in a learned paper I' want to be able to describe those terms, if not for full understanding by people with no background at all, at least so that people educated in related fields could absolutely understand what I was talking about.


If I wish to share my thoughts with a wider audience, I need to drop the jargon and rephrase my speculations using the simplest language possible.

yep.


Then again, sometimes we don't wish to reach a wider audience.

This last is getting wildly OT, but forgive me for being naive, and feel free to PM me rather than post on-list. Why? Or at least, if not why, then why publish?

blessings
ffetcher

green aventurine
August 11th, 2009, 02:53 PM
ffetcher: I'll post something properly in a while although I'm afraid my mind is rather soup-like at the moment so you might just have to take it with a pinch of salt (and with some croutons as well, perhaps, if they are to your palate :))

ffetcher and Tyger: I've been thinking about some of the things we have been discussing by e-mail and I'm wondering whether some of logical pantheism could be salvaged or re-written and whether some of the things I wrote were just wrong/hasty (which wouldn't surprise me lol) - I've learnt and developed a great deal from this site even since that post and my understanding and views on things like pantheism are constantly changing.

http://mysticwicks.com/showthread.php?t=212686

ffetcher
August 12th, 2009, 05:42 AM
ffetcher: I'll post something properly in a while although I'm afraid my mind is rather soup-like at the moment so you might just have to take it with a pinch of salt (and with some croutons as well, perhaps, if they are to your palate :))

In the light of the last link you posted, might we try cauliflower soup, and perhaps agree on a time to eat it?

(although I do recommend reading the paper, I won't be cruel. Denning uses the example that two people may have different opinions of the taste of cauliflower, and that the same person may experience it differently at times t and t', as part of his argument. It's an example with which I agree; I'm still trying to work out whether I agree with the conclusions he draws from it. :))

But, 'soup-like' I understand. I should be working up some music for the weekend; reviewing an article; configuring a new server. Hell, I should be removing the lime-scale from the bathroom. Instead, I'm trying to get a ten-year-old compiler working on modern kit, so that I can understand the notes I wrote at the time, and after the cribbage match last night (I won, the team lost) we started discussing/arguing about whether an over-arching controller program is necessary for machine heuristics. And then...


ffetcher and Tyger: I've been thinking about some of the things we have been discussing by e-mail and I'm wondering whether some of logical pantheism could be salvaged or re-written and whether some of the things I wrote were just wrong/hasty (which wouldn't surprise me lol) - I've learnt and developed a great deal from this site even since that post and my understanding and views on things like pantheism are constantly changing.

http://mysticwicks.com/showthread.php?t=212686

...you post a link to that thread. Okay, my initial question is whether we're discussing pantheism or consciousness?

There are some really nice butterflies on the lobelia outside the window and I'm finding my thoughts straying to the efficiency of the apparently random nectar-gathering algorithms. I think I'll just go and lie down for a bit.

blessings
ffetcher

green aventurine
August 12th, 2009, 12:20 PM
Ffetcher:
Sitting on the waterfront watching the sunset over the islands off Split, large glasses of the local beer in hand and discussing Dawkins? Well, it's different, certainly.
It certainly is different although sounds a pleasant way to spend one's time and discuss philosophy etc :)



Yep, you're limited by the biology and memes can't work outside the limits of the biology - although they can push the envelope- so she thinks that there can't be a conflict.

That's good, we are all on the same page. Always a good start for a discussion lol



Materially related to this thread (I think, at least) is the comment Dawkins made at the end of the BBC Horizon programme "God on the Brain", to the effect that 'asking what is the evolutionary advantage of spirituality? is probably asking he wrong question. We should perhaps be asking what is the evolutionary advantage of a brain that's capable of experienceing spirituality?' (this is a paraphrase and he may have actually metioned religion rather than spirituality, but earlier in the programme he had failed to experience the sensed presence effect when wearing Persinger's hat, so spirituality is how we remember it.

I would push it back even further and ask what the evolutionary advantage of any subjective experience was, personally.

This was a very important and seminal paper by Chalmers which helped reframe the mindbody debate as it is today and its agenda, I think. I also think it was originally a lecture at a conference around early-mid 1990s. If you take a look at section two it gives a very clear account of the hard and easy problems of consciousness and qualia etc, IMO.

http://www.imprint.co.uk/chalmers.html




Looks like a good article, I'll add it to the list. Your comments have had me digging back into hard-bound log-books with handwritten notes in pencil. How retro


Lol I gave up taking notes in lectures a long time ago. If you saw the state of my hand writing you'd understand why -- I would look at my notes a couple of days later and not be able to make out half of what I'd written lol



I'm just starting to realise that (a) I've forgotten a great deal about agents and sub-units in the last ten years or so; and (b) a lot of what I did know is out-of-date. But I believe that when I get to the endI'm going to fins some stuff that's actually directly relevant to pantheism.

Yes, I'm afraid I'm also about 10 years or so out of date which is more drastic for psychology than philosophy but I would imagine even in philosophy of mind there might have been some progress, perhaps, plus I've forgotten loads as well, unfortunately.




I'll race you.


I think you may win this race lol

ffetcher
August 13th, 2009, 05:52 AM
I would push it back even further and ask what the evolutionary advantage of any subjective experience was, personally.

I think we may be back to the machine heuristics example I sent to green aventurine in a PM. A lot of hobbyists and a fair few professionals build timy little robots powered by 'soiar' panels, which in this case take their power from ceiling lamps. If you give these things the ability to 'learn' to react to the environment, then the ones that don't 'learn' to turn around when it gets dark, will run out of power. My original question was 'does the robot know that it needs light?' The need for light is part of the construction (genes), and if the builder programmed it in it may also be part of the meme-set. But if that wasn't an original meme, but the behaviour has been 'learened' then it might be fair to say that the machine has learned to be 'scared of the dark', and that might be classed as a subjective experience. That might also be a way of answering Dawkins's re-formulated question.


This was a very important and seminal paper by Chalmers which helped reframe the mindbody debate as it is today and its agenda, I think. I also think it was originally a lecture at a conference around early-mid 1990s. If you take a look at section two it gives a very clear account of the hard and easy problems of consciousness and qualia etc, IMO.

http://www.imprint.co.uk/chalmers.html

You're right, it is much clearer than Denning's, just goes to show that it can be done. But...

in the summary of the hard problem, Chalmers writes:

"As Nagel (1974) has put it, there is something it is like to be a conscious organism. This subjective aspect is experience. When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations: the felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field. Other experiences go along with perception in different modalities: the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothballs."

...whereas Denning spends quite a while ('intuition pumps' four to six) trying to argue that these experiences can't be verified as being the same for everyone, so the qualia are inaccessible (and much later extending that to suggest that they don't exist, or at least I think that's what he's saying).

If recent neuroscience shows that Area 34 (Broca's area) reacts the same way when the subject is 'hearing' whatever they percieve as 'music', and that formal training in that 'music' modifies that reaction in a pretty much constant way regardless of what anthropologists call 'cultural determination' of that 'music' - just one example off the top of my head - does that undermine Denning's argument?

I shall think about that over the weekend. I'm now off to play the music from which this discussion has successfully distracted me for much of the week, and will return late on Monday (GMT) to see what has transpired here.

blessings
ffetcher

green aventurine
August 17th, 2009, 01:03 PM
I can't really focus on this at the moment (see my p.m.) but here's a couple of links that might provide some answers.



I think we may be back to the machine heuristics example I sent to green aventurine in a PM.

I actually had something like this in mind when I was talking about evolution and subjective experience:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness/#6 (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness/#6)




A lot of hobbyists and a fair few professionals build timy little robots powered by 'soiar' panels, which in this case take their power from ceiling lamps. If you give these things the ability to 'learn' to react to the environment, then the ones that don't 'learn' to turn around when it gets dark, will run out of power. My original question was 'does the robot know that it needs light?' The need for light is part of the construction (genes), and if the builder programmed it in it may also be part of the meme-set. But if that wasn't an original meme, but the behaviour has been 'learened' then it might be fair to say that the machine has learned to be 'scared of the dark', and that might be classed as a subjective experience. That might also be a way of answering Dawkins's re-formulated question.

It depends on what you mean by the word ‘know’, I'm guessing. This is an old thought experiment against strong AI (I think, it's been a while since I've looked at this):

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/chinese-room/#3 (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/chinese-room/#3)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room)


I'll get back to the rest and pantheism when I can.

green aventurine
August 20th, 2009, 10:43 AM
...you post a link to that thread. Okay, my initial question is whether we're discussing pantheism or consciousness?


I'm not sure lol maybe both? As a starting point, going from what Tyger told me, my understanding was that he wouldn't conceptualise the pantheist God as having a personality or behaviour that you could relate to in terms of human archetypes/categories (although it would still have beliefs etc perhaps? just nothing we could relate to?). I think what I wrote post#16 would have been more related to soft polytheism? if I've understood that term correctly? I also seem to remember from what Lunacie said that even in Wicca not everyone is a soft polytheist so it might not even apply to that necessarily.

http://mysticwicks.com/showthread.php?t=212686&page=2


Apologies to everybody if I've misunderstood your beliefs!


I think I was just wondering in general what you (or anybody else) thought about logical pantheism. I was also wondering if you could kind of look at the physical universe as a gigantic brain instantiating a mind involving particular states at particular times which could be influenced by previous states and also inputs, and then leading to other future states and outputs -- I'm not quite sure what the current consensus is on black and white holes but perhaps they could be outputs and inputs to and from other universes? or somewhere else? [ had a quick look here at origins and recent speculations but I'm none the wiser really lol

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_hole#Origin

] -- I'm kind of taking a functionalist approach to the mind of God:



Functionalism is the doctrine that what makes something a thought, desire, pain (or any other type of mental state) depends not on its internal constitution, but solely on its function, or the role it plays, in the cognitive system of which it is a part. More precisely, functionalist theories take the identity of a mental state to be determined by its causal relations to sensory stimulations, other mental states, and behavior.

For (an avowedly simplistic) example, a functionalist theory might characterize pain as a state that tends to be caused by bodily injury, to produce the belief that something is wrong with the body and the desire to be out of that state, to produce anxiety, and, in the absence of any stronger, conflicting desires, to cause wincing or moaning. According to this theory, all and only creatures with internal states that meet these conditions, or play these roles, are capable of being in pain.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/functionalism/#WhaFun


Not sure if that made any sense lol