I know this has been discussed before, but I have read Sam Harris' book Free Will and Michael Shermer's book The Believing Brain, and I must say that I agree with both authors. Studies show that our brains make a decision on an unconscious level three tenths of a second and sometimes more before we even consciously know we're going to act. To take a short quote from Shermer's book: "The neural activity that precedes the intention to act is inaccessible to our conscious mind, so we experience a sense of free will. But it is an illusion, caused by the fact that we cannot identify the cause of the awareness of our intention to act".
When we use a word we are "referring" to something else (an object, an action, a composition, a quality, an interaction, a property, a relation, etc). In ontology these can all be said to "exist".
This is incorrect. An object exists. Actions, compositions, qualities, interactions, relations don't exist. An object is said to have certain properties. The properties are classifications of senses that describe the object. Properties are not things in themselves, despite being nouns. This is an artifact of language.
Actions, compositions, qualities, interactions, relations don't exist.
You need to study ontology a little here, because the claim that "objects" exist is no different that the claim actions, compositions, qualities, interactions, relations exist. If an object is said to have certain properties, we are saying those properties "exist". Again, your idea of "things" is incorrect if it only pertains to objects. And certainly these other "things" exist. To say that an event takes place but doesn't exist misunderstands that "existence" is implies in "taking place".
You really do need to think about what it means to say "
Actions, compositions, qualities, interactions, relations don't exist.
Existence simply means "being" or "to be". Also (like all words), the very word "exists" is conceptual. So for you to say X doesn't exist because it's conceptual, is no different than saying "existence doesn't exist", which is self-contradictory.
I agree with you on that one, Jonathan.
What Jonathan has explained here reminds me of a variation of what Alan Watts has said here...
Likewise, E=MC^2, while true, is an analytical fact, a numerical representation. It is incoherent to say that E=MC^2 exists unless one imagines some metaphysical form. You would say that energy exists, but not E.
To which Trick replied:
There is no difference between E and the word "energy". Again, words and symbols categorize. E=MC2 simply means energy is the same thing as mass times the speed of light sqaured. It's a description of what "exists" (of the energy that exists).
This is tricky, because I'm sure when Jonathan said, "Energy exists, but not 'E'," he was not referring to the word 'energy,' but actual energy. While Trick replied there's no difference between the 'E' and the word "energy." Yes, this is true, there's no difference in that they're both symbols, perhaps one is just in an abbreviated form, but basically no difference. They're both symbolic, but Jonathan's point was, or at least my interpretation of his point was, that the abstract concept represented by the symbol is not the same as energy in actuality.
It's sort of like how it's said of the the mathematical theory of everything model for our universe is a posteriori knowledge. Would it then hold that determinism would be a posteriori knowledge, too? After all, it's only a conscious mind that can consider this "ontological claim." It's only a conscious mind that can consider determinism, free will, or any such concept, because without the mind there's no one to know.
E=MC2 is addressing the composition of what "exists". E and MC2 is just another way to saying what "energy" is.
If I was to say W=water, then W exists just as much as water exists. If I was to say W=H2O, then H2O exists just as much as W and "water" exists. And these "exist" in actuality. The symbols ("water", "W", and "H2O") don't exist in "reality, but they all reference something that does.
The understanding of E=MC2 is also based on a posteriori observation. We model such deductively, but we verify it inductively. If our empirical evidence didn't correlate with our deductive model, our deductive model is incorrect (e.g. if our model of mass and light speed aren't consistent with what we observe). Same with H2O, if the chemical compsition of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen doesn't make water (in our observation), then water=H2O is incorrect, and H2O doesn't exist as "water". If it does make water then H2O exists as water. Ther is no distinction simply because we are using a different symbol to represent it.
Regardless, when addressing what "exists" that can be done both a priori and a posteriori. If I were to say "only non-married bachelors exist" I'm using a priori knowledge to assess the existence of married bachelors (there are none) and non-married bachelors (if bachelors exist they are not married). For a posteriori, If I were to say brains exists in cows, I can infer such existence through prior observation of the biology of cows. Ontology isn't exclusive to one or the other.
Also 1=1 is true because of the law of identity (logic) same as apple=apple. 1 can be used to describe a count of what exists (1 apple in a basket). this means that 2 apples don't exist in the basket so "1" is an important qualifier surrounding what in fact "exists" (it helps describe the ontological claim)
"we are not measuring actual energy when we apply the generalization E=MC^2"
No, we are describing actual energy that exists in the universe. We are addressing what "exists". The ontology of the matter. You don't have to be "measuring" something to be addressing existence. And who said they have "no physical basis"??...this is "physics". E=MC2 is part of "physics". It's a description of what "physically" exists. To say the E=MC2 has no physical basis is to suggest that it's not physics.
That's what equations in physics do, they address the "physical". For example, special relativity addresses the various relation needed for objects in motion ---> how such needs to "exists". It also addresses the ontology of "space-time". General relativity addresses the ontology of gravity, etc. This is all part of "physics"
Various equations regarding QM address how particles behave, etc - physics (the physical). It's all about matter and energy.
I'm a realist, and a materialist. Physics addresses the ontology of matter and energy. That includes all of those symbols and equations.
I just think you are missing what the word "exist" applies to. In fact, it doesn't just apply to what "exists, but also what doesn't "exist". For example, colorless pink square circles don't exist - is a claim on what doesn't exist. It's a claim addressing an ontological impossibility. And that can be deduced without looking at every fathomable area in space for colorless pink square circles.
No, we are not describing any actual energy with E=MC^2, but the how energy should theoretically relate to mass. It is an a priori conception that requires no empirical observation, unlike the claim "There is a tree" would require the sense of a tree. Theoretical relations to energy 'exist' only as logical symbols, reducible to linguistics--there is no metaphysical form of energy or mass or the speed of light to be referred. There are actual occurrences of energy that physically exist.
To say that everything mentioned in physics must physically exist is a fallacy of names.
One must be aware that plurals must refer to multiple singular objects. There exists a brain in a cow, and there exists multiple cows, so we say that cows have brains. But there is no one object called "brains", despite our ability to conceive of the multiple. Thus, plurality doesn't exist as a thing. One must be aware of the difference between things, consequently symbols that refer to things, and ideas, symbols that refer to no particular thing. To say that the number 1 exist is not the same thing as saying one apple exists, despite that numbers can be applied to any discrete objects. An apple is physically observable in nature, a number denoting the number of apples cannot.
Forget colorless pink square circles, squares and circles do not exist unless someone draws one; otherwise they are theoretical shapes.
It is contradictory that a materialist should believe that some abstract concept that transcends any single state of the universe like "determinism" exists.
but the how energy should theoretically relate to mass.
Again, you are misunderstanding language itself. It addresses how energy (that exists) relates to mass (that exists)...and it's verified based by a posteriori knowledge. But like I said, apriori knowledge also addresses what "exists"
"To say that everything mentioned in physics must physically exist is a fallacy of names."
I never said anything about "must", but rather that it addresses what "exists". It could be a mistake that X exists in physics (science is never absolute), but it still is addressing "existence". And yes, this is everything in physics (otherwise it's not physics - physics doesn't make claims about non-existence or non-physicalness).
The claim "brains exist" is a claim on existence (and a correct claim at that). There doesn't need to be one object called "brains".
But we aren't talking about what exists, but rather what is addressing existence (e.g. if X is true, X exists) . If it happens that we are a brain in a jar, the sun might not exist...but the claim "the sun exists" is a claim on existence none-the-less. If how we perceive reality is true, then the sun exists.
Also, you seem to think only "things" that are objects exist. This isn't the case. Configurations exist, properties exist, states exist, qualities exist, relationships exist, elements exist, quantities exist, motion exists, gravity exists, the universe exists, behavior exists, and so on. Our words and symbols (e.g. in physics) are used to describe all of these different things that exist...not just "objects". The orbit of the Earth around the sun exists. It takes a specific trajectory (that we use mathematics and our understanding of general relativity to determine). Such orbit "exists". And all of these things are physical manifestations.
If every event in the universe has a cause, determinism "exists". If some acausal events happen, determinism doesn't exist (but rather indeterminism exists). Determinism and indeterminism are addressing ontology (what exists). These are the only two possibilities.
I'd also suggest causes exist (even though correlation doesn't imply causation, and we never actually see a cause, there is much evidence for the existence of causality). Our very scientific method is based on this understanding. These aren't claims that transcend materialism or physicalism.
An ontology as big as all outdoors may be difficult to defend. It would appear to imply that anything which can be thought of without contradiction has existence. This conjures up a whole host of things you might not want.