Let's put this common refrain to rest~ something that I hear all the time in arguments concerning religion.  It goes something like this:

" Remember, you can't prove a negative!"

Really people?

This has become much more common, especially in the arguments amongst Atheists and agnostics concerning certainty, and it really puzzles me how people can be skeptical and free-thinkers, yet take to an idea so easily and not question it.  I will elaborate on this a little more once I have the time, but let me start all of those "can't prove a negative" types off with a question~ " I am not sitting at my desk."  Thats a negative claim.  Are you telling me that there is no way to confirm or disprove that?

Views: 1646

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

You understand me very well now and I can see you disagree with me whole heartedly. My belief that knowledge requires evidence is Cane-speak, but it also is a very good way to describe reality. You have not proven to me that I should not continue to believe it. I have seen a glimpse of what you "know" and it does not fit my current belief, so I will keep an open mind, but will remain sceptical as I can be.


Identity is analytic a posteriori knowledge and is similar to experiential definitions of entities. For example, "Bob" is a person with a certain personality and habits; the only way to define Bob is by a collection of evidence about him. Identity is transient, so Bob in 10 years is not the same identity as Bob now. All existent structures have identities, though they are generally only relevant for growth-based entities (like people, social structures, etc).


If I understand you correctly, then the idea, definition, description of god is not an identity.

Others in this discussion disagree with my oversimplified understanding. I would like to understand further the positions of the others (and yourself if you do not agree with my observation).

Correct, "god" is not an identity. However, personal beliefs are mental identities. Hence the issue that you can't push someone out of religion by disproving their concept of god-- because that's not actually the existent component of religion.
So, let me get this straight. Your concept of identity includes a certain class of beliefs? I do not fully understand analytic a posteriori knowledge. Can you explain further? I see that you agree with me, but there is a but. I'd like to know what that is. Would you be so kind as to explain it to me?

"Mental identities" refers to the structural nature of beliefs, memories, and mental processing as interactional patterns within the brain. The content of those structures is the various types of knowledge. It's much like the distinction between sound waves and speech.


The underlying mismatch you may be sensing is that I view existence in terms of a progressive-structural model, where 'progressive' means all things are some extension from a null value (like Kelvins in temperature) and 'structural' means that all entities are constrained to fundamentally unified but variegated mechanical behaviors. So while we've generally lined up when using compatible terms, I can't actually accept 'beliefs' or 'irrationality' or even 'wrong' as meaningful concepts.


My own approach necessitates that I consider all things as exactly real but contextualized into different forms according to a regular system, so I see mental phenomena as structural entities and interactions that are in most ways identical to their physical counterparts. This creates a fairly major disjunction between our perspectives because, as presented so far, I don't believe your approach can consider any experiential data about the mind. So it's that topic that I've probably been hedging into unintentionally. 

So while we've generally lined up when using compatible terms, I can't actually accept 'beliefs' or 'irrationality' or even 'wrong' as meaningful concepts.


What terms would you use?


My own approach necessitates that I consider all things as exactly real but contextualized into different forms according to a regular system, so I see mental phenomena as structural entities and interactions that are in most ways identical to their physical counterparts.


Experiential data = subjective evidence

I can consider it, but am very skeptical of it. 




Instead of 'beliefs', I would consider 'mental structures' (or 'personal identity'), 'perceptual processing', and 'decisional processing'. The connotation of 'beliefs' is that the mental phenomena are unnecessary or irrelevant to the physical world, while my views frame the mind as a direct extension of the physical world.


In the same sense, 'irrationality' suggests mental action which is baseless and unconnected to physical subjects, but in a mechanistic perspective the mind is structurally constrained to 'rational' operation-- though there are still phenomena which allow for imperfection in mental processes. So simply calling something 'wrong' is a weak, relative term to use when it's possible to precisely identify processing breakdowns.


And continuing in the same line, a unified structural approach doesn't consider 'subjective' viewpoints, so data is data in all cases. The domain of the data source is critical for determining when the data qualifies as evidence, but otherwise it's an equal currency.

I am not fully understanding your "mental structures" et.al. How would you describe the idea of marriage in your view?

Your paragraph about "irrationality" and "wrong" can be summarized in this sentence: Those terms are not enough because they don't explain why.


How does a "unified structural approach" deny "subjective evidence"?

The "domain of the data source", I think, means considering the source. How do you consider and choose between the myriad of sources?

I wrote some explanatory sentences for that, but I trimmed it out since a lot of my responses have been running a bit long.


Mental structures are identical to their physical counterparts in all but two respects: they display macroscopic discontinuity (instead of at nano-scales) and they are surrounded by impermanent flows of information (instead of a void-like environment). Otherwise, all the same phenomena in physics, engineering, etc. have equivalents within the mental context.


The main advantage of a structural approach ('unified' was just trying to be a bit more clear) is that the mind is treated not as a private object, but more like one painting in an art gallery. The result is a situation much like reference frames in general relativity; regardless of how many minds are involved, there's still only one reality to describe, so subjectivity becomes a mostly trivial distinction when structural transformations allow interchangeable mental perspectives. 


The main challenge in doing that, though, is properly attributing data sources, as the discontinuity inherent in minds can make it challenging to decompose an experience or evaluation into their component sources. That's where a structural theory can be very useful for identifying disjunctive data and sorting it out.

I have reread your last post four times. And the fourth time was when I started to understand what you are trying to convey. Though I think it would have been much more enlightening for me if you would have included what you trimmed out, I will try to convey what I understood from your post.

Mental structures are ideas that equate to knowledge. So, an idea of ice cream is equivalent data to an idea of marriage. 

So, in our minds, reality is the accumulation of the "paintings"? What if one of those paintings is of a magician who stabbed his assistant but the assistant was not harmed. There is a conflict, but in real good deceptions, there may not be any conflict. Or are deceptions out of scope of what we were talking about?

I may be blind, but I do not see any explanation of how "structural theory can be  very useful for identifying disjunctive data and sorting it out".

I have been thinking a great deal about what you have said so far and thought of an analogy that you might agree with:

In math, there is a structure that would allow us to see data that would take much longer without it. With math, we can calculate 25 plus 25 equals 50 in a matter of a few seconds, but without math, we would have to count all 50 things get the same answer.

Does your mental structure have the same power as the structure of math?

I meant, more specifically, that the mind is a painting, a distinctive image which has been compiled over time using a unique palette of colors and pattern of strokes-- yet it remains fundamentally comparable to any other painting. I could also call it personality or personal identity, where specific ideas or belief systems are fragments of identity within the 'whole' mind of a person.


A strong historical trend in Western philosophy has been the conviction that the mind is private, which means that one person can only ever know what's in his own head; he can never look at another person and know that their minds work the same (or even that the other has a mind-- it's philosophically invisible to him). I wanted to make the point that I strictly reject that premise based on the comparable structural nature of minds, so when I say "red" and you say "red", it's possible to demonstrate that we hold identical concepts of "red" through structural means.


The main problem that occurs when discussing knowledge is misattribution. If, in the above example, I was pointing to a red object in front of me, but you were imagining a shade of red, then we are actually discussing distinct data sources-- one is a mental subject, while the other is a physical subject. The underlying issue with this situation is that human memory stores all its data in the same place, so two weeks later you'd be unable to distinguish between which red you saw and which one you simulated.


The role of a structural theory is to take that muddled data and cleanly break it apart according to clean structural divisions using the phenomenological indicators for each data source.


For example, if you have the memory of a man walking up to a wall, then suddenly appearing on the opposite side to continue walking, what type of knowledge is it? Since it clearly contains a major discontinuity (people can't teleport like that), it has to be a mental event (you imagined a man doing that, or someone communicated their imagining of such by some medium).


So with your magician example, the necessary step for clearing up the muddled situation is to sort the data: continued sensory data says the assistant is unharmed, and upon examination the memory of stabbing the assistant is fragmented, with no clear sense of what happened before or afterwards. This indicates that the memory of the stabbing contains mental data, not physical data, so while it will affect the magician's mind and his decisions, it cannot affect the condition of the physical world (the assistant will remain un-stabbed).


Your math example points out that there are multiple structural divisions to consider. I would label the main divisions as a priori/a posteriori (math vs. counting), analytic/synthetic (identification vs. deduction), and physical/mental (external a posteriori vs. internal a posteriori origin in memory). There are further structural breakdowns within the physical and mental categories, but these divisions are a good starting point for sorting out muddled data. 


To take a fairly close test case, how would you sort out the data involved in religious beliefs? What are the source(s) of the experiences which support a religious identity? Can these experiences be counteracted by philosophic argument (a priori data), or do they belong to a different structural class? 


^ It's hard to nail down fine details without getting posts this long, but the column shrinking exaggerates it some.


Your explanations are making sense to me. 

You are describing the way the mind works which would make terms like wrong a bit more complicated.

Personal identity - sum of all the parts of the painting.

Mental subject - an idea such as marriage or imagining a shade of red. Also, a memory.


Physical subject – sensory evidence. What you see, smell, feel, hear, taste.


In the example of the magician stabbing his/her assistant, what if all the data you had was the witnessing of the stabbing, but not of the fact that the assistant was unharmed?


Test case – Using your system, I would think that religious beliefs are mental synthetic a priori. The same would support a religious identity. Again, using your system, you probably would not be able to counteract these experiences with philosophic argument unless the mind is open to being convinced. I don’t know if you need another class.






Update Your Membership :



Nexus on Social Media:

© 2019   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: The Nexus Group.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service