Nonlin Asks About Methodological Naturalism?

I don’t actually see this as an important question. Some people say that mathematics is real, that numbers are real. I say that mathematics is abstract and that numbers are useful fictions. But I don’t need to get into arguments with people over this. Mathematicians can agree on the mathematics without agreeing on what’s real about it.

And I think something similar can be said about other “is it real” issues.

Physics is that which physicist study. The way that we use the word “physics” has grown out of traditions, particularly traditions within the scientific community. We don’t need to pin it down.

I’m sure that it matters to you. But nobody else can be quite sure what you think, so it cannot matter as much to us as it does to you.

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Hello, Neil Rickert from TSZ.
Those were rhetorical questions - food for thought… and a reminder to be very careful with categorical statements.

“Natural” is just a word. What was magical in the past is very natural today (like nuclear energy). So what you consider “supernatural” now will be proven natural tomorrow until everything will be revealed to be natural.

So? Just because the barrier between material and immaterial might slightly shift over time based on the findings of science doesn’t mean that the barrier doesn’t exist.

You cannot model everything mathematically equally well. That’s what I mean by modelling mathematically. Can God’s behavior be modeled mathematically? How would one even start to do that?

I am not a materialist either, but you have not shown that the barrier between material and non-material is imaginary.

Can you explain to me what this quote means? What is “matter as such”, and how does it differ from “matter as not such”?
And you haven’t answered my questions:

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That is easy. I agree, materialism has no support whatsoever. Nothing in science presumes materialism. you appear to be boxing shadows.

That’s an interesting question. What I do know is that science cannot verify if a physical object has a mind or not. Science assumes that physical objects don’t have a mind. Instead, it assumes a mechanistic worldview where objects in nature act according to certain regularities that can be comprehended by humans. Because this is an assumption, not a discovery, science cannot judge whether something has a mind or not. Even if the object does have an immaterial mind, science is only analyzing the material, non-mind part of it.

I did not say that the “material” are things that can be defined mathematically. Rather, they are things that can be modeled using mathematics. And this is merely a sufficient, not necessary criterion, as some sciences, like biology, don’t always use mathematics in all their theories. What I actually mean is the material is that which can be explained in terms of regularly occurring mechanisms.

I agree with you that it is an odd definition, but it seems the best solution I can think of right now to avoid circularity. But my definition is motivated by the fact that I think the defining feature that differentiates a spirit vs. material is that the former behaves in ways that are unpredictable. Thus, one cannot treat a spirit as one would atoms in a lab. I touched upon this in a reply in another thread.

It would be nice to come up with a definition of the material which is both non-circular and explains the nature of its existence. How would you define the material vs. immaterial?

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It doesn’t avoid circularity. A set of all things “unpredictable” by human beings is not a fixed quantity with respect to time. So the definition itself is based on something that cannot be determined.
Besides, if quantum physics is right… some things such as location cannot be predicted in some situations. Which leaves a grey area.

To be frank, I think it’s an arbitrary classification made by human beings. I would define it as “the set of things that seems to interact with each other to create effects measurable to human beings”…
I don’t think we can avoid circularity.

As I replied to above, just because the definition is dependent on the state of human knowledge, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. One could just say that science can help us in the quest to find the exact definition of material vs. immaterial.

Even though there is some inherent uncertainty and randomness in quantum mechanics, for the most part we can model the equations to characterize the behavior of quantum systems very well. In that sense quantum systems are very material. And sure, I don’t discount the possibility that there might be a mind or spirit secretly operating in the realms of uncertainty in QM. We are just unable to study that scientifically.

If that is your definition of material, then how do we differ, exactly? I also think that is the set of things that seems to be measurable. By measurable I also mean repeatable, which is why I think the idea of regularity is important.

I don’t disagree with you… I don’t think does either. His point is that matter is not an ontological reality… The thing that makes matter matter is not real… it’s an arbitrary classification based on the limitations of human beings and the scientific method.
While this circularity is ok for science. It deals a death blow to materialism as a philosophy. I believe this is major point. He can correct me if I misunderstood.

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Well I don’t know if I would call that “arbitrary.” Arbitrary means without good reason or random. I don’t think the distinction between material and immaterial based on science is random. Every time we revise that distinction it’s based on careful experiments.

No offence meant. I am not trivialising science.
The “distinction” doesn’t get revised in a formal manner. Atleast not in the sense discussed here. In physics, the definition is “having mass or inertia and occupying a physical space”. This is a considered definition and does get debated and perhaps can be fine tuned. In chemistry, matter is “that which is made up of atoms”… (i.e light is not matter in this definition).However, the definition presented by you is arbitrary. And it’s not debated/discussed much by scientists… I am sure philosophy of science guys tackle it head on. The philosophical foundation of your definition of matter is very very weak. I don’t think it has a scientific foundation.

Again, no offence meant. I don’t think this discussion is about science… perhaps philosophy in general and philosophy of science in particular.

Why do you think it is arbitrary? Show me that my definition is random and/or without reason. Please show me the weaknesses of its philosophical foundations. I’d be interested to revise and refine my definition if there are good reasons.

It’s arbitrary because of the competing definitions in science. It’s not based on any empirical data. It’s a pragmatic approach and created for a particular purpose as necessary.
I am not equating arbitrary with random.I am equating it with governing bodies making decisions. If the word arbitrary gives negative connotations, perhaps we can try “ad hoc”?

Bye bye,

Your ability to make progress with a discussion has actually declined during the time you have been away.

That really doesn’t help me understand what you mean by “He moves matter around naturally”.

I think it’s “fields” all the way down…

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Where is the barrier? Where was the barrier 100 years ago? 200?

Now we’re debating “equally well”?

That’s the thing, Plank and Heisenberg were uncomfortable with “matter” and so should be anyone else.

If you’re not a materialist, what are you arguing about?

Perhaps your views are not mainstream?


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“Science” is a composite and won’t help you in your quest. And materialists don’t even think there’s a need for such quest.

Most people agree numbers exist, even though numbers are not material. Most people agree racism is wrong, even though this is nonsensical if only material exists. Seems mainstream to me.