How should we define the supernatural?



Could you explain this?

Do I need more than the physical arrangement of parts and charges in the computer in order to convey the design to the 3D printer?

(Neil Rickert) #162

I’ll go with this.

Thinking exists as a process. Maybe we can say that a stream of though exists. But individual thoughts with no method of individuation? Those are surely fictions.

(Ashwin S) #163

Of course you do… unless you think the arrangement itself is intrinsic to the system.
There is an arrangement in this case because someone did the arranging, then they made a system to interpret specific arrangements in a specific way so that the 3D printer would move in a specific way.

The same design could be replicated through other means. The design does not depend on any specific arrangement of matter. It can be represented and generated by numerous different arrangements of matter.

(Ashwin S) #164

Do ideas exist?


In the case of the brain, all of this is done by the genome during embryonic development, and later on by interactions with the environment. Where is this outside force in the building and maturing of the brain?

(Ashwin S) #166

Are you suggesting that every thought a person has is determined by his/her biology + environment?

This is definitely not a conclusion based on any empirical science.

Edit: Besides, people with different brains and under different environments have the same idea/thought quite often.


I don’t know of anything else that influences thoughts. Do you?

It is based on the empirical science of neurobiology.

Google Chrome on the Mac and PC are run by very different programs, yet the program on the screens of both computers looks nearly identical and functions nearly the same.

(Ashwin S) #168

Last time I checked, your not know something , did not mean it does not exist…
This is another logical fallacy.

I think you are exaggerating the evidence.

That’s because they have the same design.
You are proving my point.


I will take that as a no.

The only evidence we have is for material causes, and no evidence for immaterial causes. In this type of situation, I lean towards a tentative conclusion of material causes.

They don’t have the same design. The programs are different, as is the hardware.

(Ashwin S) #170

Everything you consider evidence is processed through your consciousness.
You are basing you conclusions on two philosophical ideas.

  1. Scientism
  2. Materialism.

Design is not just the software or hardware… the interface is designed to give the same feel in both PC as well as the MAC. The similarity in the interface didn’t happen by accident.

(Jordan Mantha) #171

Hmm, I thought the conversation had turned to “Does anything immaterial exist?” not immaterial causes (that was earlier).

I think there is a long tradition of understanding/philosophy that says ideas as immaterial that can have material manifestations or representations. One can certainly argue about it (as philosophers have for centuries) but @Ashwin_s position doesn’t seem unusual.

I don’t think @Ashwin_s is objecting to material interactions in the brain or that the brain has a material cause, only that all ideas, thought, etc. can be reduced to the material. It’s a both/and, not an either/or.

A computer program can be just an idea, can be written down and shared, or it can be “actualized” by running it on a computer. I think @Ashwin_s, and many others, would say that all of these have different amounts of material and immaterial “substance”.

(George) #172

I think you left out some terms in that definition. Here is the definition:


[met-uh-fiz-iks] noun (used with a singular verb)
"the branch of philosophy that treats of first principles, includes ontology and cosmology,
and is intimately connected with epistemology."

The terms left out are
[i] “ontology”, which is the study of “being”,
[ii] “cosmology” which includes the study of “origins” for the entire Universe, and
[iii] “epistemology”, which is the study of how we know things.

This textbook version of the definition is in sync with the historical use of the word, as coined by Aristotle who used the term to refer to his discussions after his discussion of physics.

The “connotation” or “slang” application of the term includes other things, which touch on the
“imagined” ideas of how the Universe and humans Exist, and how we know these “imagined”
things exist (or at least, how we think we know).

  1. souls < big piece of “blue collar” metaphysics. Do souls emerge from the complexity of mortal tissues? Or are souls manufactured by deity? If souls aren’t a direct repercussion of our metaphysical conclusions, then what is a direct repercussion?

  2. deities < another huge part of Western metaphysics. If the general definition of “god” is something that is immortal, are angels immortal? Or are angels disqualified from being considered Gods because they are created by another God? Would the Greeks have agreed that “created immortals” are not really gods?

  3. Freewill < another massive slice of Western metaphysics, still disputed.

Where am I going with all this, @jongarvey?

You have taken the least controversial elements of Metaphysics and paraded them for inspection. “See… no harm here!” But it’s the other luggage… that depends on the harmless stuff… that is causing all the problems for this thread and others.

And ignoring them doesn’t solve the problem… it only postpones the day of reckoning.

(George) #173


You aren’t “avoiding” the discussion … you are dismissing anything super-natural. The category doesn’t exist for you.

(Neil Rickert) #174

It’s really the same sort of problem. We treat them as entities so that we can talk about them. But we can never pin down what they are.

(Jon Garvey) #175

I’m not ignoring anything - souls, deities and will are all basic ontological matters. What is a human mind? What is the source of everything? How can it be that I can alter the world by choice?

It’s just as much metaphysics to say “minds are illusory, matter is the source of everything, and physical events determine what we call the will.” Everyone has some kind of metaphysics - it’s just that some masquerade behind hidden assumptions.

(Neil Rickert) #176

I wouldn’t put it that way.

Yes, I describe some things as natural. If I ever come across something that seems supernatural, I’ll say so. But, thus far, it has not happened.

(George) #177


Exactly. Agreed.

So… can we define what is “natural” and what is “as of today, still only metaphysical realities”?


Those are the same things you use to come to your conclusions in 99.9999% of cases.

You are off in the weeds now.

(Ashwin S) #179

I don’t have much of a problem pinning down what an idea is.
You seem to have a problem imagining that something can exist without being defined by matter.
Is that the issue?

(Ashwin S) #180

No. They are not.

So you think the similarity of how Google works in a Mac Vis a Vis a PC is an accident?
That’s a pretty wierd stand.