Moonwood the Hare wrote:So let me work backwards through your responses and do the best I can. I quite agree that the natural/supernatural distinction is a modern one and for that reason we cannot definitely identify the gods of ancient polytheism as either natural or supernatural. However if we do insist on taking that distinction with us then to me it makes more sense to identify them as natural rather then supernatural.
You mean that it serves the purpose of those today who want to dismiss those beliefs as ridiculous. So of course modern day pagans would most certainly disagree with you on this and say no that it makes more sense to identify them as supernatural/spiritual.
Moonwood the Hare wrote: It should be clear at any rate that the worldview of Hebraic religion is utterly different to that of Greek or Norse religion and to try to conflate them around the concept God/gods is plain misleading. As for trying to find out what people millennia ago would have thought about modern science by asking modern pagans I think that is frankly silly.
Why? They are believers like those millenia ago, who simply have the information that those other lacked. What is ridiculous is letting someone like you who does not in any way shape or form believe what they believe, say what they would have thought.
Moonwood the Hare wrote:It is like saying we could work out what the reformers would have thought about something by asking present day evangelicals.
No it is more like asking Christians today what Jesus would have thought about nuclear power. Yes you are likely to get a diversity of opinions and that is where the fallacy of your example is. Instead of asking everyone today who shares the beliefs of those reformers you are choosing just one sector of them.
Moonwood the Hare wrote:I am not sure what you mean by non-time ordered causality but if you mean that the actions of an organism can be governed by their consequences then that is a fairly simple idea - it was proposed by B. F. Skinner to counter the heavy handed cause and effect determinism of the early behaviourists and Skinner was able to propose this while assuming the falsity of agency (ie that mind is never causally effective on matter). But I feel you mean something more subtle than this.
Well Aristotle describes four different kinds of causality: efficient cause, material cause, formal cause and final cause. With some adjustments from information from modern science we could explain the first three in scientific terms as follows: initial or preceeding conditions, the molecules/atoms/particles/energy of which it is composed, and the system of actions and force of which it is a part. But the last one, the teleological cause is not one that fits into modern science because it sounds like a reversal of the temporal order of causality which is not a type of causality recognized in modern physics. And yet the idea of teleological cause appeals to thinking human beings because they do things with a purpose towards an end, and so perhaps this strictly time-ordered idea of causality in science is not the only kind of causality there is.
Moonwood the Hare wrote:
Mitch I just don't get this:
There is no doubt about the fact that free will poses a difficult philosophical conundrum with some serious paradoxes. In the idea of free will we assert that we are the cause of our actions and yet that our actions are not determined by external events, yet we seem to be beings that came into existence as some point in time (whether by nature or by the act of creation by a deity) and thus if we only acknowledged time-ordered causality that seems to leave us with only two alternatives, either our actions are ultimately determined by things outside of ourselves from before we existed, or our actions are ultimately not determined by anything at all.
If we are the cause - or one of the causes - of our actions then they are not (fully) determined by external events - that is not a paradox as far as I can see. The fact that we come into existence as an agent through some kind of process which involves interaction with the external world does not seem to me to make that agency less real, rather the external world is a condition which makes agency possible - there has to be an environment for me to chose in.
Because that is the agency of a computer program. You can even label the variables in the program with names like "choice", "reason", "purpose", "will", "feeling" or whatever but none of that changes the fact that the computer does nothing more than what it was programmed to do. And that is even if it has learning algorthms and re-writes its own code. Ultimately the responsiblity for what it does lies 100% with those who wrote it and the computer program has no free will at all. It is just a big mathematical equation or machine that does what it was made to do and nothing else. Like dominoes, no matter how complex the setup may be, in the end its just gravity.
Yes choices require a context, just as the process of life requires an environment. It is in the response that life makes to its environment that agency is found, BUT there is a difference between the environment and the living organism precisely because what the living organism does is not just a product of environmental events. So the context of a choice does not mean that the choice is determined, for a response to the environment is not the same thing as an environmental effect.
Look if you are a compatabilist then I am afraid that there is just an unbrigable gap between us here that no amount of talking is going to make any difference to.
Moonwood the Hare wrote:But the philosophical issues here are huge as you say. I am not convinced that the three alternatives you offer are the only ones on the table.
Well it wasn't really meant to present all the alternatives and yet it is in the form of
1. A and not B
2. A and B
3. not A
A = everything in human thought consists of physical process
B = the physcial process in human thought are affected by quantum indeterminacy
And thus it is a little hard see any logical alternative to these three, since logic would say that one of these must be the case, unless you are arguing that A and B are not restricted to either true or false, in which case you would only say that these 3 alternative do not need to be exclusive, not that they don't cover all the possibilities.
Moonwood the Hare wrote:
1. You can believe that everything in human thought is determined by scientific laws (not affected by quantum indeterminacy).
2. You can believe that everything in human thought consists of physical process which are not completely determined by scientific laws (because quantum physics does play a role).
3. You can believe that not everything in human thought consists of physical processes.
Like you I don't find the first plausible.
I believe that I argued that I don't find this option probable on scientific grounds, but that the reasons of subjective experience were enough to convince me that it is wrong.
Moonwood the Hare wrote:I find the third implausible if it is held to imply some kind of non-material mind substance which has to find a way of interacting with matter/energy.
I believe that I argued that this option was not scientifically supportable.
Moonwood the Hare wrote: But it also seems clear that something in my mind, a proposition for example, is not physical.
Well it depends on what you mean. A proposition is an information structure and Information can be transmitted from one media to another. But any particular instance of that information most certainly is physical. You point to a specific instance of proposition and I can describe the physical processes that can destroy it, including any that may happen to be in your mind.
Moonwood the Hare wrote:If there is a way for quantum processes to generate agency I am certainly open to that as a possibility but I am just not able to judge any account of that that is given.
No I certainly do not believe in any such thing. The process that generates agency is the process of life, but that is a non-linear process and that is most definitely affected by quantum indeterminacy. Do I believe that this quantum indeterminacy is essential for there to be any agency in the process of life? Yes I do. You can set up a non-linear process in a computer and it is perfectly deterministic because you supply the intial conditions to perfect accuracy and thus the result is always completely determined by those initial conditions. No I do not think agency is possible in such conditions.
Moonwood the Hare wrote:(Frank Tippler had a go at this explaining agency through quantum indeterminacy but as he used Everett's many worlds theory he still ended up with every choice leading to a new branch in the multiverse which just looked deterministic on a huger scale to me. It has occured to me that your concept of God as energy could have affinities with Tippler's deity although his definitely is physical. I know Penrose had a bash at this idea of quantum events giving rise to agency as well but I can't claim to understand his answer either - and he says there are gaps in our knowledge which make a full understand impossible at present)
Not only I would I have a problem with Tippler's physical deity but also his belief in a multiverse. I see no commonalities. Yes there are gaps in our knowledge for understanding this but not I think as much as most people think. I think the pieces are there for assembling the big picture, but there is no doubt that we do not have all the details yet. Two scientific advances are the key to making this more concrete and confirming that picture: a working theory of abiogenesis and real artificial intellegence. In many ways, I think that we are not that far from either of these. In other ways, I think we are farther from them than most people realize, because I think there are some required paradigm shifts.