Monday, February 15, 2016

Ontology isn't just about what is "material"

"Ontology ultimately concerns the meaning of existence. What are we actually claiming when we say, for example, that there are meerkats? Many people believe that this question is addressed to physicists or, more generally, to natural scientists. In the end, everything that exists could just be material. After all, we don’t seriously believe in ghosts, which can arbitrarily violate natural laws and unrecognisably whirl around us. (Well, most of us don’t believe this.) However, if for this reason we claim that only that which can be investigated by natural science exists and can be dissected, or pictured, by means of the scalpel, microscope, or brain scanner, we would have missed the mark by a long shot. For in this case the federal state of Germany would not exist, nor would the future, numbers, or my dreams. But, because they do, we justifiably hesitate to entrust the question of Being to physicists"
Markus Gabriel, Why the World Does Not Exist (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2015) pp. 7-8 


At 3/02/2016 6:38 AM, Blogger Edwardtbabinski said...

Are you suggesting some sort of supernatural explanation? I think holism and emergence makes more sense than supernaturalism because even a single cell like an amoeba can detect, pursue and corner prey, even without a brain. It can also pick up tiny pieces of calcium-- thin spiricules of calcium discarded by other organisms--and line them up to make a tetrahedron-like shell for itself, all without a brain. So naturally when you put together 100 billion cells with a trillion electro-chemical connections between them as in the human brain you might expect something that much more special to occur.

So I agree with you that scanning one single organ in one single human body (the brain), does not reveal the entire living breathing human organism's dynamic properties and abilities.

Nor does a single atom drive the dynamics of brain or body. That atom is at the mercy of whatever molecule is dragging it around and of which it is a part, and that molecule is at the mercy of other molecules and their peculiar inter-dynamic properties as they move each other around in a dance of chain reactions, and those chain reactions are at the mercy of each cell's reactions and properties that involve all the cell's actions and reactions within it, including interactions between cells and their immediate shared environment, and those groups of cells and their immediate shared environment are at the mercy of the tissues and organ of which they are a part, which is at the mercy of the dynamics and feedback loops of every organ inside an organism as a whole with it's brain, neurons, sensory organs, and a trillion electro-chemical connections throbbing in incessant feedback loops inside the brain and connected to that organism's body as a whole, including such dynamics as information retrieval from outside the body via sensory organs, and memory storage. And that embodied organism with its brain is at the mercy of interactions and feedback from other organisms and the environment they all live in, and with the aid of memory and foresight these organisms get concerned about things in ever widening circles, starting with themselves and extending to others, to the groups those others belong to, familial, city, state, nation, multi-national government agencies and corporations, the world, as well as work and play groups. Each of those are concerns of which that organism, consciously or unconsciously interacts with, right up to global concerns and the concern for the planet as a whole and all the living things on it. Difficulties arise when people try to judge what concerns should be the most important for all, because circles of concern don't all overlap for every embodied organism and the groups of which it is a member.

For more see

Famed Neurobiologists on Emergence in Nature (and how their views and arguments compare with C. S. Lewis's Argument from Reason)

Prior Prejudices and the Argument from Reason

The Moral Question

Complexity is how the Cosmos flows

At 3/02/2016 6:38 AM, Blogger Edwardtbabinski said...

Also, consider the function of words like "good" and "evil," and whether you think it is axiomatic that everyone already knows what is "good" and what is "evil" -- as if such words were things that already existed in some Platonic or divine realm.

...OR on the other hand maybe the word "good" and the word "evil" do not equal a Platonic entity, but instead such words are used because humans invented them in order to speak about enormous generalizations of things and activities that most but not all people or cultural groups find agreeable, disagreeable--or that incite happiness or sadness--or that incite pain or pleasure, etc. We humans share many ideas about what's better and worse, like murder being worse than stealing, or illness being worse than health, and these recognitions seem far more basic than the enormous generalizations known as "good" and "evil." No doubt the power of speaking in huge generalization does move people. But "good" and "evil" appear to be enormous closets in which we store countless individual experiences that we have judged to be either positive or negative throughout our lives and that we learned to judge via the experiences of those who went before us as well. Neither is my view necessarily atheistic. It's about holism and emergence.

Supernaturalism may lie behind it all. But I don't think that simply labeling specific things "good" and "evil" explains why a particular person or a particular culture put those specific things in either one of those two categories. There has to be sensory interaction and accumulated experiences, both individual and cultural, i.e., feedback from experiences of others in a culture that keeps being dynamically assessed and reassessed before any individual or their culture labels one experience or thing "good" and another "evil."


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