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About Geoff

  • Rank
    MA #12
  • Birthday 09/09/1968

Profile Information

  • Gender: Male
  • Location: Brighton, England
  • Real name: Geoff Dann
  • Interests: Ecology, mycology, philosophy, canals.
  • About me: I'm still here.

Geoff's Activity

  1. Geoff added a post in a topic The Boundaries of Scientism   

    It only seems like "free will" events are common in this universe from our perspective as intelligent, conscious, living beings. If, as seems likely at the moment, intelligent life is either very scarce in the cosmos or even unique to our home planet, then these lawless causes would be very unusual indeed. If true then in 99.99+% of the cosmos, they don't exist at all. I'd say most atheistic skeptics find lawless causes to be deeply problematic. To them it is "woo."

    i.e. "Woo". This word I believe to the ultimate example of a meaningless pseudo-philosophical term, which is partly why I have attempted to redefine "natural" and "supernatural" to mean something less meaningless...

    As commonly used, the term "supernatural" is used by most atheists/skeptics interchangeably with "woo". It means little more than "something I personally find unbelievable and/or ridiculous". The distinction between woo and non-woo is indeed "an artefact of the culture wars and not indicative of anything real."
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  2. Geoff added a post in a topic The Boundaries of Scientism   

    "Black magic", if such a thing exists, is not reducible to mathematical laws. From my POV, and from Crowley's, it would have to be an extreme manifestation of free will.

    That depends on what you believe consciousness is. Assuming a person actually accepts that consciousness exists then the next question is whether or not consciousness is causally efficiacious over matter. If it's not then the behaviour/causality of consciousness is nothing more than behaviour/causality associated with brains, and that, presumably, is reducible to mathematical laws. "Discoverable" is not actually a helpful description. I think we must assume that if something is describable by mathematical laws then we can in principle discover them. In the case of consciousness then we (scientists) simply do not know the answer to this at the moment.

    Yes. Why is that a problem? As far as I am concerned, if free will exists then it is indeed classifiable as a supernatural phenomenon and I suspect many atheists/skeptics/materialists would agree with this (and deny that it exists). If ANY supernatural phenomena are real then it follows that everything which happens in the physical world is being affected by it, since all parts of the physical world are connected to all other parts (by gravity). "Supernatural" then becomes a label for form of causality which are being directly caused by something non-reducible to laws (such as God or free will) and natural forms of causality are those which involve purely mechanistic connections between different parts of the physical world. The "supernatural" component in your example is just your conscious decision to hit the ball (a causal connection between your brain and the agent of your free will) but the causal connections between your brain, your arm, the racket and the ball are all natural.
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  3. Geoff added a post in a topic The Boundaries of Scientism   

    For me "natural" and "supernatural" are categories of causality and "natural" means "reducible to discoverable mathematical laws". This definition means that science, by definition, can only investigate natural causality. "Supernatural" causality would be anything which can't be reduced to mathematical laws, which would include everything from free will and synchronicity to the will of an intelligent God. One also has to make a caveat regarding probabilistic laws. Maybe you can't reduce quantum randomness to a mathematical law, in which case it is either objectively random (and therefore natural) or it just appears random but is actually supernatural i.e. "caused" by something like free will.

    I don't think natural and supernatural can be considered as "realms of existence", because most supernaturalists believe that supernatural phenomena occur in the same (physical) world that science describes.
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  4. Geoff added a post in a topic Giving up on the case for theism   

    Where I come from (England), the government does not control the religion.
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  5. Geoff added a post in a topic Giving up on the case for theism   

    Personally I don't draw any sharp distinctions between philosophy, religion and art. What you have called "religion" I would call "organised religion", as epitomised by the catholic church. This form of religion places a human power hierarchy between the people and God, and we all know what the results of this are likely to be.
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  6. Geoff added an answer to a question Philosophically opposite   

    According to Wittgenstein, the opposite of solipsism is realism (from the tractatus), but somehow they can both be true at the same time.
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  7. Geoff added a post in a topic Exploring Suicide   

    That's like trying to convince economists and politicians to abandon the goal of increased consumption and economic growth. There's all sorts of things we could possibly do (where "possible" means "logically and physically possible") but which can't/won't happen because they are ideologically impossible. And it is no use asking intelligent machines how to do things better either. Politicians already set up "quangos" to deliver expert advice on all sorts of problems, from economic issues to drugs policy. When the quango suggests something eminently sensible but ideologically unwelcome, the advice is ignored. This is why the UK's drugs advisory quango went into meltdown. What is the point in providing expert advice to politicians when those politicians then do the exact opposite?
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  8. Geoff added a post in a topic Exploring Suicide   

    Yeah, that's about it. At this point in human history, people in the developed world are about as far away from any natural place in the ecosystem as it is possible to be. Our society has become disconnected from nature. When I was growing up, for various reasons, I bonded better with nature than I did with people who make up that society, and ultimately I ended up not fitting into society because of this. I now watch from the sidelines, feeling unable to take part.
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  9. Geoff added a post in a topic Exploring Suicide   

    I can only speak for myself. It's not exhaustion. Meaninglessness and horror have something to do with it.

    I have been living with thoughts of suicide for the last twenty years. I found myself having to make a choice twenty years ago between either ending my own life or continuing on a day to day basis having given up hope for the future - both my own and that of the civilisation I am part of. This is no way to live. When you have no hope then it is very difficult to maintain any sort of motivation to do anything at all. I just keep myself alive and try to find ways to occupy my mind. I think there is a double-whammy going on right now, which has not been the case for most of human history. Yes, people like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and Tolstoy and the existentialists have discussed these things in the past, but what they were talking about wasn't really what sent me over the edge twenty years ago. What sent me over the edge was abandoning my interest in green politics because I'd come to realise that there were no political solutions to an ecological catastrophe which I could clearly see coming then and which I now see happening. It was an appreciation of the timescale that hammered the final nails in. When you understand the timescales of geological and evolutionary history, and the history of human civilisation, compared to a the lifetime of a single human being then you are forced into some very uncomfortable conclusions. There is nothing anyone can do to prevent the catastrophe which is coming, and pretending it isn't happening and settling down to have a family requires a level of dishonesty to myself which I am not capable of. So I am left in limbo. I cannot actually end my own life, not least because I know first hand the consequences of suicide on family and friends. My own best friend through my school years committed suicide 6 months after my own breakdown 20 years ago (we were both 21 at the time). But at the same time I find myself unable to function as a "normal" part of society and most of the time I feel there is no point to my life, no hope of it ever having a point in the future, and I fully expect that the situation here on planet earth is going to rapidly deteriorate in the years to come.
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  10. Geoff added a post in a topic Philosophy & Mirror of Nature   

    I have a copy of this and consider it to be the most important book written since Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. I'm in.
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  11. Geoff added a post in a topic Are there animals that are self aware?   

    If there was a point it was to say that I'm not sure that dogs looking remorseful is indicative of self-awareness. It is as much to do with awareness of group rules and an ability to communicate.

    I'll get my coat...
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  12. Geoff added a post in a topic Are there animals that are self aware?   


    Domesticated dogs are a special case, I think. The thing I find most amazing about them is their inate ability to communicate with humans - both to understand what humans are trying to tell them and to find ways of expressing their own mental states back the other way. They understand human body language and (most) humans understand dog body language - including raised eyebrows (both ways), raised ears, position and motion of tail, etc... The reason for this is that both humans and dogs are specialist tribal animals whose evolutionary survival depended on their ability to be part of a team, and therefore their ability to communicate with each other. I think we may get the impression that dogs are more self-aware than they actually are because of this exceptional ability to communicate with humans - I don't think domesticated dogs see themselves as any different to the members of the human family they belong to and, at least in the UK, most humans also treat their dogs like a family member. I don't think they are self-aware to anything like the same extent the great apes are, although I'd probably agree they are self-aware to a certain extent. "Acting remorsefully" is simply knowing that the pack rules have been broken and not wanting to be punished for the transgression. I'll never forget one particular incident when my sister left a plate with two kippers and two pieces of toast on the coffee table and went back into the kitchen to get some vinegar. She came back 60 seconds later and found a clean, empty plate. Hiding under another table in another room, looking very guilty indeed, was our neighbour's border collie.

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  13. Geoff added a post in a topic Are there animals that are self aware?   

    I don't agree and here is why. I have seen footage of a chimp falling off the trunk of a fallen tree it was running along and its first reaction after hitting the ground was to quickly look around to see if any other chimps had seen what happened. To me, this indicated exactly the sort of self-awareness we recognise in humans - it was worried that somebody-else had seen it make a mistake - it didn't want other chimps to think it was clumsy and inept. Worrying about what other people/chimps think of you is what self-awareness is all about, isn't it? This is what we call self-consciousness in humans.
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  14. Geoff added a post in a topic Uncivilisation   

    Well, I read all that and I thought it was a load of empty babble.

    By the way...this is the same Jerry Fodor who claimed that his "language of thought" model of cognitive processes was "the only game in town" immediately before two schisms in cognitive science (first the schism between traditionalists and connectionists, second the schism between both of those and the "embodied cognition" crew) consigned his theory to the intellectual dustbin almost as soon as it had been invented.
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  15. Geoff added a post in a topic Uncivilisation   

    That's not what I'm saying. I said natural selection had been halted, and I think that this is logically inevitable in a situation where anybody who wants to reproduce gets the chance. Natural selection works by weeding out the less "reproduceively fit", which means they are less capable of producing offspring in a competitive environment where not everybody gets that chance. does not actually follow that the people in the rich countries are less reproductively fit. They might be, and they might not be. We would only find out if they were thrust back into a situation where some of the people who wanted to reproduce never got the chance i.e. where natural competition returned to the scene.

    Natural selection can only operate on a section of the population if some of them are denied the chance to reproduce. This is a basic tenet of evolutionary theory and I don't see how it can be wrong. I am not saying rich westerners are "more fit." I'm saying that their relative reproductive fitness has ceased to be a factor which determines whether or not they actually reproduce. Some right wing people will say that this inevitably mean the rich western population is drifting towards unfitness...these are the people who believe in the "marching morons" hypothesis - that stupid people have more children so overall levels of intelligence must be dropping. I'm not actually saying this either, although it may well follow from what I am saying...I'm not sure.
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