Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What I've learned from movies

I've seen enough movies to notice a pattern.

Person A: "I have something to tell you!"

Person B: "I have something to tell you, too!"

Person A: "Well you go first!"

Person B says something disappointing to Person A that causes Person A not to say what he was going to say.

Or the scenario might look more like this:

Person A: "I have something to tell you!"

Person B: "Okay, but first let me tell you something!"

Then the same thing happens. The whole time we're sitting there thinking, "If only Person A had been allowed to go first! This whole thing could've been resolved! Augh! You idiots!"

So I've decided that if you've got something to say somebody, you should just say it. Or if they tell you they have something to say to you, then you should just listen. Otherwise, you could postpone the resolution to your drama for another hour or more.


cellisangel said...

The other lesson learned from movies is that you should never go look when you hear a strange noise.

Steve said...

more posts Sam!

How about you put up your thoughts on that Christian convert in Afghanistan?

I would be interesting in reading whether or not you believe, in terms of Calvanism, any person who dies for in the name of Jesus Christ will go to heaven, or if its theoretically possible that this individual could die in the name of Christ and go to hell.

ephphatha said...


I haven't heard of that person. I'll have to look that up.

Angie, you should also never walk backwards when you find yourself in a scary movie.


Steve said...

Psiomniac said...

I have been reading some of your posts (and have commented on a couple from August 2005).

I just wanted to say how well argued they are, particularly when in dialogue with somebody on your level, like Dr Logic.

It has made me think about raising my game. There is a lot of work for me to do.

ephphatha said...

psiomniac, thanks for stopping by. I went back and read your posts in August. They would've raised some good debate back then. I'm going to let it go, though, except for one issue you raised. You raised the issue about how the soul interacts with the brain. All I'm going to say about that is that how the soul interacts is a completely separate question and not relevent to the question of whether the soul interacts with the brain. I think we can discover that they interact without even worrying about how they interact. As interesting a question as it is, it's not important to the case for substance dualism.

But all Cartesean dualists know good and well that the soul interacts in the peneal gland! :-)


Psiomniac said...

Thanks for taking the time to go back. I realise that I came to those debates a little late.
I accept that the question of whether is logically separate from how but I do not accept that this means the issue is irrelevant for the following reason: If one encounters serious difficulties in tackling the 'how' question that lead one to think substance dualism might be untenable, one would naturally wish to recap one's arguments on the 'whether' question in order to detect possible flaws. That's why I raised it, as I was pointing to one possible flaw at the time.
I am not suggesting my objection was conclusive of course, it would take a lot more work to really nail it, but I do think your arguments for substance dualism are flawed.
Also, I am not sure that your 'whether' arguments to date have answered the epiphenomenalist onslaught, although I am sure you could do that before breakfast if you wanted, and anyway I am veering towards materialist monism. Its a work in progress for me. Thanks again for taking the time.

ephphatha said...

It seems to me the "how" question can only be made relevent if you can argue somehow that it "can't." But merely raising the question of "how" doesn't seem to address any of the arguments I make about "whether."

I took physics for engineers in college and in the navy, and we studies motors, generators, electrostatic forces, magnetism, and all that, and it is still a mystery how a moving charged particle can cause a magnetic field. I know good and well "whether" it does, but I can't even begin to imagine "how." I've questioned my professors about it thoroughly, too, and the best I've gotten is detailed descriptions of what happens, but nothing touching how it happens. In the navy, they used to say it's "PFM," which means "pure f***ing magic."

So I think that we can certainly discover "wether" without ever concerning outselves about "how."

There are volumes on the mind/body problem in philosophy, so I'll probably never address every view that's out there. The entries you read were only meant to be short versions of arguments for substance dualism, which addressing all the alternatives or arguments against them. It's just a blog after all.

It is something I'm pretty interested in, though, so I may write more about it sometime.

Psiomniac said...

Well I see what you are getting at here but I don't think it is the right comparison. Setting aside the assertion that physics for engineers is quite a long way from the ongoing project of a unifying description of the physical universe (who knows some successor to string theory may well answer the charged particle question), we have, in physics, very good evidence as to 'whether' and an ongoing project regarding the 'how'. What we have with substance dualism is an area of philosophical controversy on the 'whether' and serious difficulties on the 'how'. So it would be true to say 'can't' would make the issue relevant if this were like physics, but actually as we are dealing with philosophy, serious difficulty is enough.
I like your blog though. I know the form does not promote a detailed development of complex argument but given that, his one does extraordinarily well.

Psiomniac said...

his = this in that last sentence

ephphatha said...


Thanks. Maybe some day it will become active again. Last year, I had a new post almost every day, but I hardly post anything anymore.

I think my illustration, and your response to it, both show that the "whether" question can be answered without any reference to the "how" question. Concerning charged particles, you say we have good evidence about the "whether" and an on-going project about the "how." That shows that one need not say how something happens before you can discover that it happens.

The principle applies whether anybody knows how moving charges cause magnetic fields or not. I have always assumed somebody out there knows or at least has a good theory. But whether they do or not is beside the point I mean to make. I personally haven't got a clue how it happens, yet I'm well-justified in knowing that it does.

The same is true in substance dualism (or anything for that matter). One need not say how something happens to know that it happens. In fact, we usually know that things happen before we try to discover how. Knowing that something happens is usually what prompts the question of how it happens in the first place.

Psiomniac said...

Actually I agree with you there. That's why I said you were right about the 'whether' question being logically separate to the 'how' question. The whether can be addressed 'without' reference to the 'how'. The knife can be used without the fork. So if the argument for substance dualism were bullet proof and there were no a priori difficulties on the 'how' question the analogy would hold. This is not the case however. What we have good evidence for is the correlation of brain states and mental states. Substance dualism really belongs on the 'how' side of this question. We have answered 'whether' brain states are correlated, what is at issue is 'how' and substance dualism is one answer.
I realise this is not your view, since you feel you have established substance dualism by rigorous means and can leave difficulties on how this happens without this impinging on your certainty. If this view is taken I agree with that statement.
Because I divide the whether/how question differently and because for me the argument for substance dualism is on shakier ground, for me it does not follow that because questions of 'whether' and 'how' are logically separate in your sense, that they are necessarily irrelevant to my argument. Suppose I wanted to persuade you that your justification for substance dualism was flawed. If I could show that the 'how' was impossible, then the probability that your argument is flawed is 1. You made this very point in your first reply. But what if I could show that the 'how' question had real difficulties, are you saying that would have no effect on the probability that your argument is flawed? It would only appear thus if you were certain that your argument was sound. Since I had addressed one possible flaw in the 'whether' separately from 'how', from my point of view the relevance is established. A full set of cutlery for me.

ephphatha said...

But what if I could show that the 'how' question had real difficulties, are you saying that would have no effect on the probability that your argument is flawed?

That depends on the nature of the difficult, as I've said. If the difficulty is in our inability to explain, measure, conceptualize, etc., then the difficulty amounts to ignorance and has no bearing whatsoever. But if the difficulty were in good arguments that demonstrate an impossibility (or even an unlikelihood), then yes, that would count against my arguments.

Psiomniac said...

I think that's agreement. Its been good to make contact. I look forward to your future posts. Maybe you will make some.
By the way, I was debating on the radio 4 message board here in the uk and somebody made the point that theologically the notion of god's purpose made no sense, since if god was perfect he could not have a purpose as such, as a purpose implies fulfillment yet to come, which is a kind of incompleteness. I responded by saying that most theologians accept that notions of perfection, like those of, for example, omnipotence have inherent limitations, such as avoidance of logical contradictions. So its not as cut and dried to assess what constitutes a tenable predicate of perfection for a deity. Also, fulfillment contains a temporal variable, and since God is outside time the objection does not hold anyway. I know you could have done better, but I think I have learned one or two things by reading your posts. I'm not a philosopher, I'm just a guitar player who has recently stumbled on message boards as a way to break up scale and arpeggio practice. I like to think it stirs the synapses anyway.

Vman said...

trivial, yet vital and important.

ephphatha said...

Well, I am a guitar-player, too, and only a wannabe philosopher. I hope you're still around when I get back into the swing of things. It's nice to have some civil and intelligent opposition. It keeps things interesting and prevents me from getting lazy and preaching to the choir.

Paul said...

Just had to share that I saw this come up as one of those random Blogger profile question:

"Your bow is not broken but you've run out of arrows. How can you fake being a bard?"