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".

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Considering you can't even describe an object without describing it's properties, it's simply absurd to postulate that objects exist but properties do not.

Describing an object is a mental exercise, but for objects within my sensory range, I can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste them. Objects outside my range of my senses are posited by descriptions and, as a result, are less certain. For some objects we have direct experience as well as an idea of the object, while for others we have only the idea.

It is easy to distinguish between an object and the idea of the object. With properties there seems to be no difference: a property and the idea of the property appear to be exactly the same thing.

Bouyancy you cite as "a property of the water and the swan." That seems to me to involve a complex mental construct. Neither the swan nor the water can be said to be bouyant themselves so this property cannot be inherent in either. It appears by magic when the two come together.

It is easy to see that the swan floats—that is a state of affairs which can be apprehended visually, but as soon as you try to get behind the appearance and introduce the abstract notion of bouyancy, you have engaged in some mental construction. You can't see bouyancy itself, only the fact that the swan floats.

Once you accept Archimedes priniciple, then bouyancy completely disappears from view. The swan floats because the upward pressure due to displaced water balances the downward force of gravity on the swan. With the two forces in balance, nothing moves up or down. This state of affairs is adequately explained without any notion of bouyancy at all. In fact you would have to say that the notion of bouyancy is misleading in view of the physics.

Describing an object is a mental exercise, but for objects within my sensory range, I can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste them. Objects outside my range of my senses are posited by descriptions and, as a result, are less certain. For some objects we have direct experience as well as an idea of the object, while for others we have only the idea.

No, seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting are all mental exercises. There is no getting around that our mind  represents what exists (through the senses), and it does so by distinguishing properties - not "objects". Objects are what we label a grouping of properties we sense. We never have "direct experience" of an object.

It is easy to distinguish between an object and the idea of the object. With properties there seems to be no difference: a property and the idea of the property appear to be exactly the same thing.

There is no distinguishing factor between "object" and "property" in this regard. In fact, the very thing you might sense would be "shape", "color", "texture", "flavor", and so on, which only when a number of these are put together do you "objectify" it.

It is easy to see that the swan floats—that is a state of affairs which can be apprehended visually, but as soon as you try to get behind the appearance and introduce the abstract notion of bouyancy, you have engaged in some mental construction. You can't see bouyancy itself, only the fact that the swan floats.

No, we can understand that swans have properties that allow them to "float" (that those properties must exist).

Once you accept Archimedes priniciple, then bouyancy completely disappears from view. The swan floats because the upward pressure due to displaced water balances the downward force of gravity on the swan. With the two forces in balance, nothing moves up or down. This state of affairs is adequately explained without any notion of bouyancy at all. In fact you would have to say that the notion of bouyancy is misleading in view of the physics.

Bouyancy also explains the properties needed for "the upward pressure due to displaced water balances the downward force of gravity". Otherwise we can say that "The rock floats because the upward pressure due to displaced water balances the downward force of gravity on the rock", but obviously I can't just replace the object because the rock doesn't float. That is because the configuration of a rock outputs different properties than the configuration of a swan, and those properties do different things when placed in water (and that we must address those properties to understand the distinction that "exists" between them...even if the rock is shaped like a swan and painted to look like it. And no, bouyancy is not misleading at all. If just addressing the swan we can say the swan is bouyant and the rock is not bouyant, meaning one contains the properties that allow it to float and the other does not.

a particle behaves like a wave until measured

Not an accurate description of quantum mechanics anymore, if it ever was considered to be. The actual situation is much more complex as recent experiments have revealed.

Now you have introduced a new concept into the discussion: behavior. An object has properties which are inherent and engages in behaviors which are not properties and not inherent in the objects themselves, but nevertheless just as ontologically robust as objects or properties.

What about instinctive behaviors? Birds of a particular species build certain kinds of nests entirely on the basis of instinct, which seems somehow inherent in the bird. The behavior of types of bees would again seem to be inherent in its type and entirely instinctive.

The difference between properties and behaviors seems rather artificial.

Not an accurate description of quantum mechanics anymore, if it ever was considered to be. The actual situation is much more complex as recent experiments have revealed.

It's not a "description of QM", it's a description of particles behavior supported by various experiments. A "description of QM" is much more complex indeed.

"What about instinctive behaviors? Birds of a particular species build certain kinds of nests entirely on the basis of instinct, which seems somehow inherent in the bird. The behavior of types of bees would again seem to be inherent in its type and entirely instinctive."

Behavior only exists at the time it's acted.  How a bird "will behave" or "might behave" is not the same thing as it's ontological behavior through time. The behavior of the motion of the planet, gravity, and the sun is the planet orbiting around it (which is a constant momentum and velocity that compensates for the gravity of the sun). Orbiting "exists" in reality (it happens, we can observe it, and we can measure it).

Like I said, ontology doesn't just recognize "objects' but properties, relations, happenings, and so on. The expansion of the universe is ontologically real and is an output of the so called "big bang".

The difference between properties and behaviors seems rather artificial.

I can say the same thing of objects. Considering that everything we consider an "object' is a compilation of other objects, properties, relations, and behaviors, to suggest that any one of these doesn't exist pretty much knocks the object into non-existence as well.

Not an accurate description of quantum mechanics anymore, if it ever was considered to be. The actual situation is much more complex as recent experiments have revealed.

You seem to have infinite patience. 

There may be no omnipotent or omniscient being. 

But there seems to be a omnipatient being.

But there seems to be a omnipatient being.

And also an omnitangential being (the ability to go off on infinite tangents). ;-)

Sometimes it becomes too tiresome to continue.

If existence is subject to time, then it cannot comprise time (e.g. determinism). If concepts such as determinism "exists", then you cannot subject existence to time.

To be clear we'd be saying that "a deterministic universe exists". Determinism is addressing the causal process of the universe through (the dimension of) time (if the universe is entirely causal). 

Trick, are you familiar with  McTaggart's descriptions of time, the A-series and B-series? I was wondering if you held a position on either the A-theory or B-theory. Judging by what you've typed here, I'd say that you agree with the A-theory of time. Would this be correct or do you not espouse either? 

Time is another gigantic topic in itself and yes, I am familiar. And we have gone off on way too many tangents of the original subject. That being said, this will be a brief summary (compared to what it could be which is a book worth of info) of my thoughts and may be a little confusing (due to it's shortness), but here goes anyway:

I align with the B-series of time in that past, present, and future are "relative to", but at the same time I think the relation "exists" objectively so I don't agree with those B-series-ists who say there is no ontological reality to the properties that exist within relative temporal bubbles - and due to this have some ideas about A-series I think true.

I think a number of mistakes are made on both the A-series and B-series notions when attached to ontology. I'm a space-time-ist, which means I think time is just another dimention of space (duration), and that duration can stretch with speed (which can be measured only through relations) - special relativity. And of course the same type of time dilation happens with gravity (due to space-time being curved) - general relativity.

In this way I see no difference between the ontology of time and the ontology of space, other than one is just an extension of the other.

To put it another way, if a photon is bouncing at the speed of light up and down between mirrors, and it's on a train moving forward at a fast speed, the distance it's traveling from mirror to mirror is longer than the same setup on a platform, yet (obviously) the photon isn't traveling at faster than light speed. To account for that, time slows down within the relativistic bubble of the inside of the train, when compared to the platform (this type of special relativity has been proven experimentally with synched clocks on jets and various other experiments). At the same time, as with A-series theorists, I think that if we were to take a static snapshot of the universe, the clock on the platform would pause showing more hits, while the clock on the train would pause showing less hits, so I think we could assess a "past, present, and future" even with time depending on the actual relative bubble. In other words, those relations and energy/matter configurations "exist" inherently. The actuality isn't that time is ontologically different, but rather that space-time has a different ontological configuration due to motion and speed of light physical restrictions.

I know...that was a mouthful ;-)

I'm not sure how familiar you are, Trick, with "mystical experience," or let alone the very topic of "mysticism." I have to assume that you've not had such an experience, so I'd like to go over some details about it. I sort of indirectly alluded to it earlier in this thread by mentioning the fictional Tralfamadorian extraterrestrial race in Vonnegut's book and Michael Hoffman's "Ego Death theory" of religion.

I'll try and be and brief as I can, 'cause I tend to go off on tangent with this topic, but I believe it has an intimate relevance. People throughout history who've been suspected to have such an experience often express an acosmist point-of-view. In Hinduism, you could posit that a "mystical experience" is the very goal of the religion. Of course, they don't call it that, they have other names like moksha, savikalpa samadhi, non-duality, etc. This so-called experience would be better described as a phenomenon in consciousness or a colossal altered state of consciousness such that if this were to happen to you, you'd have no iota of doubt that what you were experiencing was vastly different than your ordinary state of consciousness. I know you said at one point in your life you were interested in eastern philosophy, then you might be familiar between the distinction between a Buddhist and a Buddha. The Buddhist is the person interested in the philosophy or seeking nirvana or "truth," and the Buddha is someone who has awakened to truth, and therefore is no longer seeking.

The experience of "savikalpa samadhi" in Hinduism is often described as a dissolution into Brahman. Brahman is defined as being synonymous with the notion of sunyata in Buddhism. A void, but not void because it is nothingness, but void in the sense of "ultimate consciousness," a term Alan Watts used, and I'll attempt to describe what that means. It should be made clear first that Brahman, although some Hindus might consider it "divine," do not let that word mislead you. Brahman is not a God in the traditional sense of the word. Brahman is not an "all-powerful, all-knowing entity." The qualities given to Brahman are that it is unmanifest, formless, infinite, and eternal.

Now, more contemporarily, there is a term in the psychedelic community (the angle from which I came into this) and that is "ego death." I was prompted by Terence McKenna's advocacy of the "heroic dose" to actually pursue this, that is five dried grams of psilocybin mushrooms taken on an empty stomach. About five years ago, I had an experience which I could not deny that seem to be quite akin to how these so-called "mystical experiences" are described in religion. Of course, I wasn't interested in mystical experiences at the time, I was just curious about what would happen.

As I'm sure that maybe you've read, people often report during these experiences where time seemingly ceases to exist. After about five years of mulling this over, I've tried to sharpen my ability to describe what it felt like. There was an overwhelming impression of a panesthesia, the impression that I was undergoing every experience to be experience at once. Past, present, and future seemed to all melt together into one point, every point in time coalesced into a single point. People often use such phrases as "fourth-dimensional" or "beyond dimensionality" to describe this experience (if they're experienced with this terminology). Of course, if you're not, then you might be inclined to believe that you've met "God," or you've temporarily fused consciousness with the "Tralfamadorian" (not specifically the Tralfamadorian, but obviously an extraterrestrial consciousness eons and eons ahead of ourselves in evolution), or if you're a Hindu, you might be inclined to call it "Brahman."

So, from this vantage point, Brahman could very well be seen as synonymous as the "block universe" interpretation of Eternalism or even the "11-dimensional hyperspace" of M-theory. The absolute ultimate reality. I want to suggest a way to play with this notion. If you could imagine that "Brahman" or "11-dimensional hyperspace," for that matter is a "place where all possibilities are contained." A kind of pure unmanifest potential that is, essentially, every single possibility that could exist, that stretches infinite in every direction and is static and eternal. That is why I believe it is often referred to as the "ultimate reality." This, I believe, is what is meant when Alan Watts says "ultimate consciousness," it is often conceived of in eastern philosophy as consciousness, however it is a consciousness that has cognized of every single possibility, that is why it is void. There's nothing else to do, there's no time from the perspective of Brahman, everything, in a sense, is already done.

Now, to this day I ponder this experience, and I wonder how such an experience is even possible. I'm not sure how J. M. E. McTaggart conceived of his notion of the B-series of time, but you can almost sense a mystical undertone to it. I believe something like it must exist to account for the psychological content of this experience. Sam Harris is an atheist that openly admits to his use of psychedelics, and has experienced such phenomenon, but attempts to describe it in neuroscientific terms. There are avenues of research already set out to accomplish this very thing as in neurotheology and rational mysticism. Sam Harris thought that because these psychedelic compounds that have such a profound effect on consciousness, because they are essentially neurotransmitters themselves that have a lock-and-key fit into the serotonergic receptors which excite the pyramidal neurons which are located all throughout all the lobes of the cerebral cortex, then perhaps it is this sort of overhaul or excitation of these neurons throughout our brain, even dormant areas, that give way to an impression of having a full spectrum of experience at once. Perhaps so.

However, there is this overwhelming impression that something like this "Brahman" that I've described here is experienced, it may be the mind, but the mind lit up to such a degree that the experiential content becomes seemingly God-like, incomprehensible, etc. Perhaps our consciousness is something like a fractal piece of Brahman, a fractal as you may know is a self-similar pattern expressed across scales. The piece contains the whole, but simply a smaller scale of it in the very same way that 7 buckets on the night ground would each contain a complete reflection of the full moon.

So, if you consider all this, our perception right now may be a projection of patterns into space-time. That this seeming duration that we experience is actually our minds that are projecting a three-dimensional slice into a higher-dimensional block that gives us the illusion of duration and experience. Hindus actually refer to this as "Maya," The Great Illusion. That we're only experiencing this higher dimension through lower-dimensional frames that pass through our perception.

Ah, I told you I'd go off on a tangent. I really got a find a way to end this. Well, I suppose I'd really like to ask you, Trick, if you'd ever consider taking psychedelics to perhaps challenge your ontological perspective of time. I know it's illegal in most countries, however there are countries where it's not, and I'm not asking you to break the law, but I find that most people who do seek such endeavors quite earnestly and yearn for a challenge often do. I suppose the law can be seen as part of the risk in the challenge, but if someone's not willing to do that, the only other viable option is to hop on a plane to Peru where this stuff is legal and they hand out ayahuasca freely to tourists. Most people, I'd imagine, don't have the money to do that. Another option is to induce it naturally through meditation, but most people don't have the patience for that, and it's not always guaranteed that you'd have such an experience. That's why I think most people opt for the on-demand psychedelic method which can guarantee you this experience. At the very least, you could read into it, I suppose. And maybe you have... Anyway, talk about a mouthful! ;-)

I'm not a drug sort of guy. That being said, in my youth (late teens and early twenties) I was much less of a critical thinker that I am today. Though I didn't (at that time) believe in god (I did prior), I believed in a whole bunch of obscure occult stuff. For example, I used to strongly believe in mind-body dualism, astral planes, and so on. I used to practice meditation and astral travel, and at that time I felt I actually "lifted" out of my body (by ears would pop sort of like on an airplane and I would rise out). I was able to see my body. The first few times I was pulled back in and awoke. Times after that I had problems getting through doors (I got stuck in a door). My objective was to find someone, observe what they were doing, come back to the body and wake up, and find or call that person to "verify" that what i saw was accurate. I was never able to make it to that point of observation and verification. 

I also believed that the astral planes had differing "time" in that the ethereal was on a faster plane. So you ask about mysticism, and though I've never done psychedelics, I can relate much to why people think the way they do in many f these regards.

Later on as I became more educated I became much more of a skeptic. I learned that the feeling of out of body experience could be replicated in the lab, and I also recognized that such was more of lucid dreaming where my desire for something drove what I experienced of it.

That is when I honed a more rigorous epistemological standard (standard of knowledge), and my philosophy began aligning more and more with the analytic variety (which I think has the most rigor). I'm no longer a mind-body dualist, no longer believe in astral travel (or that I actually accomplished it), and so on.

If taking psychedelics gave me a different experience, the chances are I'd write it off as a hallucination or drug induced manipulation of my senses, and (like dreams) not anything with any ontological significance other than my brain state changed in such a way that it gave me such and such experience. In other words, the experience would be real, just not the things experienced (if I experience a unicorn, that experience of the unicorn is real, the unicorn itself isn't).

Not sure if that answers your question or not...but I tried. ;-)

BTW, when I use time being a 4th dimension, I mean that there is width, height, length, (space) and duration (time) ---  as used in space-time - physics.

Laters. :)

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