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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At this point it is no longer clear what your position is. It appeared that you firmly rejected a universe of discourse larger than the class of existing objects.

Now you seem to want to include among existing items anything that has existed at any time. In other words your class of existents includes Napoleon and you seem to accept that Napoleon exists is a true statement in your point of view. That leaves the problem of how you justify that Napoleon no longer exists is true, but Napoleon does not exist is false.

Again, if your universe of discourse contains only existing items, how do you accommodate hypotheticals?

No, anything with mass has gravity. It doesn't require two masses. Gravity is a bending of space/time.

The unusual use of language here ("has gravity") is apt to induce confusion. To view gravity, as it is viewed in general relativity, as a bending of space-time means that it is a property of space-time rather than a property of massive objects, which spoils your point.

That leaves the problem of how you justify that Napoleon no longer exists is true, but Napoleon does not exist is false.

No, Napolean does not exist is true...not false. Napolean does not exist, but he existed at one time. Existence is temporal, it happens within a specific time and space. We can address past, present, and even future (the sun existed yesterday, it exists today, will -most likely - exist tomorrow, but perhaps not 10 billion years from now after it burns out).

Again, if your universe of discourse contains only existing items, how do you accommodate hypotheticals?

Not "discourse". In discourse we can address non-existing items, items that once existed, items that will exist, items that are most likely to exist, existence possibilities, etc. In fact, if the universe is indeterminism, determinism doesn't exist, if vice versa, determinism does exist. The "discourse" addresses both possibilities, even though only one is "true" (we just don't know which one). It's a mistake to conflate discourse about what may or may not exist with what does or doesn't exist. Hypotheticals are in the realm of not having absolute knowledge (epistemology). Epistemology (an epistemological standard) needs to precede our ontological understandings. In this sense, any ontological claim is "hypothetical" to some degree (e.g. if reality is like we experience, then X exists, if not, X may not exist).

To view gravity, as it is viewed in general relativity, as a bending of space-time means that it is a property of space-time rather than a property of massive objects, which spoils your point.

It only exists due to objects that have mass. The two are not mutually exclusive. If you feel it's more correct, we can say that there exists no matter that doesn't bend space-time (be missing the property that bends space-time). The point is relevant to the mistaken claim that an "object" needs to exist which doesn't carry a property for one to exist that does carry it. If all objects in the set carry the property that bends space-time, then none do not carry that property. 

Anyway, the point is moot because it simply doesn't follow logically that you need to have an object in a set to not have a property for one to have a property. It doesn't follow that all objects in a set cannot all have the same property (or that there needs to be one in another set that does).

Putting aside whether there is anything under E besides M, it is apparent that any kind of existence besides M must be a kind of existence different than M. Does that seem tautological, or is it just me?

No, it seems quite correct that anything not included in the material universe must be immaterial and exist in a different sense. I can see trying to make a case for saying that some immaterial objects such as numbers exist, but on if you can distinguish them from supernatural objects—an interesting problem.

Per my assessment, there are physical things, and then there are relations which are conceived by the mind. Science doesn't purport to answer whether these things ontologically "exist", as per whatever metaphysical definition you come up with. If there is any existence under empiricism, it is the object; it is incoherent to assert that anything besides the object exists in physical space.

Our semantics of the word exist are so different that to discuss this is moot. Everything is "conceived by the mind" including "physical objects", "physical relationships",  "physical properties", etc. Yet only one is placed under your word "exist", and it's quite arbitrary. The roundness of a ball precedes the word "ball" in which the roundness is needed for such descriptions. Yet somehow "ball" exists, but not the roundness (it's just "true" - not "true that it exists inherent in the ball"...but simply "true" for whatever that means?).

As an empiricist, it's simply not true that only the object exists in physical space, as there is no such thing as "object" without the emergent properties. You might as well reduce everything down to it's smallest quantum parts and say only those parts "exist", as any identification of a configuration of those parts relies on relationships, properties, qualities, and so on. 

For physics, time exists just as much as any "object", but under your usage of the word exist it doesn't. I frankly can't relate with this (and again, I'm as much of a materialist that one can get). If we use your semantic of the word "exists", we simply need a new word to pinpoint that those other things "are" - in reality, physical configurations and happenings (without saying they "exist" - which is, IMO and most others opinion, absurd).

If you can conceive of "non-existents", then wouldn't it be fair to say that they are non-existent in the universe?

Sure, pink flying unicorns are non-existent in the universe. They don't exist. This is different than saying "non-existents exist in the universe" (e.g. non-existent pink-flying unicorns exist in the universe) - which is self-contradictory.

Either something existed, exists, or will exist... or it didn't exist, does not exist, or will not exist.

We can also talk about what might exist, what is likely to exist, and so on, given our limited epistemological standard.

If you believe epistemology precedes ontology, then you should also believe the necessity to conceive an alternative before something is asserted as a property. "White" as a property of all unicorns can be asserted precisely because it is possible to conceive of a grey unicorn. 

"Conceptions of" and "what is actual" are not the same thing. I also don't think you need to conceive of a grey unicorn to conceive of a white one (even though it is possible to conceive of a grey one, it has nothing to do with the conception of a white one).

However, it is impossible to conceive a property of all material things that it not a property of any material thing,

I'd agree with this, if it's a property of all material things it's also a property of "any" material thing. Not sure what that has to do with?

because there is no other class besides materials that are perceivable. If such a property is invoked, then it is meaningless.

The word "material" itself is a "property" (e.g. material objects - objects made of "matter"). The fact of the matter is, we don't "perceive" sub-atomic particles (the "matter"). We only "perceive" the properties they emerge into, or a measurement of them. Emergent properties are "perceivable", relationships are "perceivable", and so on. To say such things don't "exist" is to reduce ontology down to nothing really.

Also, pointing to the "meaningless" of something is in itself "meaningless" as it says nothing about if such a property can or cannot be invoked (logically). I'm also not convinced it would be "meaningless" (for whatever that would mean in the context of some sort of "meaning" such would be without).

Everything is "conceived by the mind" including "physical objects", "physical relationships",  "physical properties", etc.

As an empiricist...

It is questionable how you can even purport to be an empiricist when you do not distinguish between mental inferences and physical things. If all things are conceived by the mind, then you are a rationalist, not an empiricist. As empiricists, we make this distinction between sense and other inferences. Objects of which are sensed are conceived in the mind, to be sure, but not all that is conceived exists.

The roundness of a ball precedes the word "ball" in which the roundness is needed for such descriptions. Yet somehow "ball" exists, but not the roundness (it's just "true" - not "true that it exists inherent in the ball"...but simply "true" for whatever that means?).

Movement, action, is just the change in position of an object, not an actual thing in itself. And what are properties but aspects of the object itself? A property is not a thing separate from the object it is a property of; it is the manner in which we relate to the object. In physical space, it is the ball that exists, not the roundness. When we colloquially assert that "Roundness exists", we mean that there exists objects which are round. This is a fundamental grammatical error to say that because adjectives can be objectified into noun form, that they become "things". There are many examples of this in language: We can make the assertion "There are conceptions which are non-existent as things ontologically", which can be stated more succinctly as "There are non-existent things". This means that there are things which do not exist, not that there exists things which are non-existent. Existence is not a property.

You might as well reduce everything down to it's smallest quantum parts and say only those parts "exist", as any identification of a configuration of those parts relies on relationships, properties, qualities, and so on.

Those parts exist, as does anything comprised of them, which are the physical objects of which we base our mental conceptions of them. Atoms do not create "roundness", they create round objects.

If we use your semantic of the word "exists", we simply need a new word to pinpoint that those other things "are" - in reality, physical configurations and happenings (without saying they "exist" - which is, IMO and most others opinion, absurd).

I posit that most empiricists, logicians, atheists... can appreciate making distinctions in the nuances of what exists in reality and what exists in one's mind, even when these mental inferences model reality. I have no problems with someone colloquially using "exists" to describe actions and properties, but in a philosophical discussion, he better understand the greatness in difference between what he purports to "exists" and actual physical existence.

"Conceptions of" and "what is actual" are not the same thing. I also don't think you need to conceive of a grey unicorn to conceive of a white one (even though it is possible to conceive of a grey one, it has nothing to do with the conception of a white one).

The inability to perceive any color besides white renders the description "white" meaningless. It would be the same as if I described the universe as "the mortal realm", even if it were impossible to meaningfully conceive any other realm. My description might as well have been gibberish. Of course, this gives rise to illusions of grandeur used to justify the description. After all, if you could describe a unicorn as "white", then there must be an alternative! Instead, we should strike it with Occam's Razor.

The word "material" itself is a "property" (e.g. material objects - objects made of "matter"). The fact of the matter is, we don't "perceive" sub-atomic particles (the "matter"). We only "perceive" the properties they emerge into, or a measurement of them. Emergent properties are "perceivable", relationships are "perceivable", and so on. To say such things don't "exist" is to reduce ontology down to nothing really.

In speaking of "materials", we refer to all conceptions of physical things, and the parts that constitute them. We describe these materials as we are able to sense them, but our psychological reflections of these objects are not inherent in the objects. Hence, a table is not really "brown", but the light that enters our iris makes it so. A table is not really "smooth", but the reception to our nervous system makes it so. The "table" that we speak of is a mental conception of a table, but based off of a physical atomic arrangement. Through physics, we have come to understand that atoms exist, and light exists, but physics does not show that "roundness" exists. Relationships and properties are not things in the first place, just as a "lie" or a "marriage" is not a thing, despite the possibility of referring to them as nouns.

"Material" has an identity relationship with "objects", while in colloquially speech, I suppose it is possible to say "material objects" as opposed to something like "spiritual objects". To sensibly refer to material as a property of an object, you needed to conceive of an object that is not material. What might that be?

Also, pointing to the "meaningless" of something is in itself "meaningless" as it says nothing about if such a property can or cannot be invoked (logically). I'm also not convinced it would be "meaningless" (for whatever that would mean in the context of some sort of "meaning" such would be without).

An idea that is meaningless cannot be meaningfully or logically invoked.

Either something existed, exists, or will exist... or it didn't exist, does not exist, or will not exist.

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.

It is questionable how you can even purport to be an empiricist when you do not distinguish between mental inferences and physical things. If all things are conceived by the mind, then you are a rationalist, not an empiricist. As empiricists, we make this distinction between sense and other inferences. Objects of which are sensed are conceived in the mind, to be sure, but not all that is conceived exists.

I understand that what we manifest mentally models what is "out there" empirically (and that includes properties, relationships, etc). It isn't actually what is "out there", but represents it. And I certainly did not say that all that is conceived "exists" (again, I can conceive of pink unicorns). That being said I'm more of a materialist.

Movement, action, is just the change in position of an object, not an actual thing in itself.

 Where we disagree is that "thingness in itself" is all that can be said to "exist".

And what are properties but aspects of the object itself? A property is not a thing separate from the object it is a property of; it is the manner in which we relate to the object.

No, I'm suggesting you have this reversed. Objects (what we categorize) are the properties themself that emerge from configurations of matter. Object does precede it's properties, it is a collaboration of all it's properties.

In physical space, it is the ball that exists, not the roundness.

What is "ball"? You can't even define a ball without it's properties. That's because it's the properties that make it a ball, not vice versa (e.g. roundness, etc)

When we colloquially assert that "Roundness exists", we mean that there exists objects which are round.

I'm saying it's not colloquial. Roundness exists just as much if not more than ballness (which just is a word to categorize the properties we see).

This is a fundamental grammatical error to say that because adjectives can be objectified into noun form, that they become "things".

Now we are getting into the semantic of the word "thing". Adjectives are descriptives, that doesn't imply they are nouns.

There are many examples of this in language: We can make the assertion "There are conceptions which are non-existent as things ontologically", which can be stated more succinctly as "There are non-existent things". This means that there are things which do not exist, not that there exists things which are non-existent.

I can agree with this.

Existence is not a property.

This doesn't follow from the previous "thing" you said.

Those parts exist, as does anything comprised of them, which are the physical objects of which we base our mental conceptions of them. Atoms do not create "roundness", they create round objects.

Shape precedes object (objects are defined by their properties, not vice versa)

I posit that most empiricists, logicians, atheists... can appreciate making distinctions in the nuances of what exists in reality and what exists in one's mind, even when these mental inferences model reality.

Sorry, but properties don't exist in ones mind any more than objects do. We model properties that we observe. We model relationships that we observe. And so on.

I have no problems with someone colloquially using "exists" to describe actions and properties, but in a philosophical discussion, he better understand the greatness in difference between what he purports to "exists" and actual physical existence.

I'm saying it is not "colloquial". I'm saying these exist just as much as our "object" classifications. And as I said, most object classifications are reliant on these.

The inability to perceive any color besides white renders the description "white" meaningless.

Actually it doesn't (but there you go on this "meaningless" idea again)

It would be the same as if I described the universe as "the mortal realm", even if it were impossible to meaningfully conceive any other realm.

Whats a mortal realm? ;-)

My description might as well have been gibberish. Of course, this gives rise to illusions of grandeur used to justify the description. After all, if you could describe a unicorn as "white", then there must be an alternative!

It doesn't follow that there must be an alternative (though there is in this instance)

Instead, we should strike it with Occam's Razor.

I wouldn't call your explanation simpler (nor is Occam's Razor anything but a helpful tool that doesn't always apply)

In speaking of "materials", we refer to all conceptions of physical things, and the parts that constitute them.

Same with properties.

We describe these materials as we are able to sense them, but our psychological reflections of these objects are not inherent in the objects.

Same with properties.

Hence, a table is not really "brown", but the light that enters our iris makes it so.

No, light reflects off of and absorbs into the table and we call that certain reflection "brown"...no matter what we "see".

A table is not really "smooth", but the reception to our nervous system makes it so.

No, the table has less edges and bumps in the wood making it what we consider "smooth"

The "table" that we speak of is a mental conception of a table, but based off of a physical atomic arrangement.

I agree, and so are it's properties.

Through physics, we have come to understand that atoms exist, and light exists, but physics does not show that "roundness" exists.

Yes it indeed does. We know that a ball on a hill moves the particles to the bottom of that hill due to it's qualitative states of angularity (hill), roundness (ball), and gravity (curved space-time). Not just because "ball is ball", but rather because of how "ball" is understood (and described) - in physics. Physics doesn't really say that "ball exists", rather it labels the properties that emerge from "atoms (quarks, etc)" as "ball". If not for the existing properties, ball would be entirely non-descript of anything.

Relationships and properties are not things in the first place, just as a "lie" or a "marriage" is not a thing, despite the possibility of referring to them as nouns.

I don't know what you mean by "thing" but if you mean "object" I agree. If you are using a normal semantic of thing, these are indeed "things" and they are "things" that "exist". The keen difference between lie and marriage and relationships and properties - is that relationships and properties are used to describe the universe we live in. They are used in physics. Einsteins special relativity and general relativity are all about relationships that "exist". Relationships and properties are needed to describe "objects". In fact, objects are nonsensical without them.

To sensibly refer to material as a property of an object, you needed to conceive of an object that is not material. What might that be?

Again, you don't need to conceive of an object that is not material (even though you can) for it to be a property. This is just an assertion you are making. If all objects in a set are material, you don't need to conceive of an immaterial object for the set to exist.

An idea that is meaningless cannot be meaningfully or logically invoked.

It can be logically invoked...unless you are saying such has no semantic meaning. If that's the case I must wholeheartedly disagree that it's "meaningless" in that sense.

Do you find debating about semantics as boring as I do? Basically this discussion boils down to "I disagree with your semantic of exist and you disagree with mine"...and never the two shall meet. Oh well - it is what it is.  ;-)

Do you find debating about semantics as boring as I do? Basically this discussion boils down to "I disagree with your semantic of exist and you disagree with mine"...and never the two shall meet.

As long as it is simply disagreement, arguing about words is of little value. There is, another viewpoint, that of the analytical philosophers. It holds that language introduces confusions into philosophy that need to be removed for clear understanding.

physics does not show that "roundness" exists.

Yes it indeed does.

This is what Whitehead called the "fallacy of misplaced concreteness." Due to the way we use language there is always a temptation to reify objects of thought, but it is a mistake to do so because it introduces confusion between what is real and what is  imagined. It converts properties into objects. It is tempting to pass from the statement a ball is round to the notion that roundness is a thing that has existence just like a ball, when it is merely an abstraction.

Existence as a predicate was rejected by Kant and most modern philosophers have followed, especially those who subscribe to the correspondence theory of truth. The idea is that when we say that something exists, such as asserting for example that black swans exist we are not saying that black swans enjoy the property of existing, but that there is an object in the material world which simultaneously instantiates blackness and swanness. Blackness and swanness are not themselves components of the material world.

Now if you had free will, you could choose to ignore the whole thing.

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