Thursday, May 03, 2007

I am immortal

Last nights talk was on immortality in the context of Plato and Aristotle. Considering that 40% of the worlds population testify to believing in life after death in one form or another it should still be considered a live issue. I for one became interested in philosophy through a morbid fascination with my own death and saw a possible way out in Plato’s republic. Here is what it is: good things perish, but goodness itself is eternal. “Eternal” can be seen not to signify a very long period of time, but timeless, unchanging, outside time. In the same way people can use the term “priceless” to mean very expensive. In particular contexts “priceless” can mean £150 000. But really priceless means not being measurable in money at all. Eternal then can be thought of as not being measured in time. Could our souls be eternal in this sense?
It seems that our souls participate in goodness in an essential way. Goodness is the light by which we understand things. This is not a contemporary thought. English speaking philosophers tend to think we understand things in terms of their truth conditions. But if we don’t know the value of something, then there is a very real sense in which we do not know that thing at all.
So my version of Plato’s version of Socrates version of the immortality of the soul is that when we understand things, we participate in the good, so in understanding we are eternal.
This is good enough for me, it certainly feels that way when one thinks a certain type of thought. “I think therefore I am”. This is always a valid argument, whoever thinks it. Either “I” is an indexical, or we are all immortal whenever we think this thought.
However, I suspect that the two billion people who believe in life after death want the afterlife to be a bit more personal than this.

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19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an argument for immortality:

Nobody is immortal.
My ex-girlfriend says I'm nobody.
Therefore, I am immortal.

R.

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a confusion between immortality and eternity.

Consider the first statement:

"A Platonic form is eternal".

This means that the platonic form of 'X' [whatever 'X' is] is eternal in so far as it is immutable, permanent and unchanging.

E.g. the Platonic form of 'Good' is a concept that applies to all 'good' things, all at all times and places. i.e. it exists eternally.

However, compare this with 'immortality'.

Can we replace the predicate 'eternal' with 'immortality', salva veritate in the previous example?

Consider it once again:

"The platonic form of 'good' is immortal"?

Answer: No.

Why?

Because immortality is a predicate applied to living things: 'X' is immortal if 'X' is a living thing and cannot die/be destroyed.

It is trivially true that you cannot destroy/kill a concept.

A platonic form is a universal concept. So to say such a thing is 'immortal' is clearly fallacious.

So what would it mean to say that Jonny is 'eternal', in the platonic sense?


well, it would mean that jonny is immutable, timeless and unchanging.

In short, he would exist outside of time itself.

if this were so then Jonny would not be jonny, for to be human is to change, have thoughts, and be conscious. You cannot be conscious outside of time, [as we currently understand the term].
Ergo, Jonny cannot be 'eternal' in the sense discussed in last nights talk.

As 'immortality' is different from the platonic sense of 'eternal', predicated of platonic forms, it follows that none of these properties can be predicated of the term 'immortality'.

ERgo, Jonny ain't immortal.


R.

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“I think therefore I am”. This is always a valid argument, whoever thinks it. Either “I” is an indexical, or we are all immortal whenever we think this thought.
However, I suspect that the two billion people who believe in life after death want the afterlife to be a bit more personal than this.


The confusion here is one of identifying the argument/idea with the thing being argued/thought about.

e.g. the idea 'immortal' is different from being immortal.

we can have an idea for anything, but it doesn't make it true.

J.

6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A further point to note here is that, by an object/entity embodying the platonic of something 'X', the object/entity is said to 'participate' in the platonic form of 'X'.

But what would it mean for something to participate in the platonic form of immortality?

They would have to be immortal.

But the distinction, as 'J' pointed out, between the platonic form 'immortal' and the thinker of the thought is different.

To participate in the platonic form is to embody it.

Thinking a thought about something is to not participate in the form itself, but to merely participate in the thought of it.

E.g. Consider the platonic form of flying.

Just contemplating the platonic form of flying, or indeed, of perfection, does not gives us that form to predicate of ourselves.

N.

11:25 AM  
Blogger bloggin the Question said...

In response to N, I'm not saying that we participate in immortality by contemplating immortality, and therefore we are immortal. That would be absurd, as you rightly point out. When I think about flying, I am not flying. It is more that when we recognise (apprehend, grasp, understand, know) goodness in something, then we are apprehending goodness itself. We have a one to one relation with something that is timeless, so in a sense we are timeless too. A second thought is that when we are good, when we act in a way such that goodness is predicated of us, we are participating in something eternal: goodness. I am not a Plato scholar and I don't want to make any claims about what platonic forms are, but for these purposes I only want to talk about the good. Unlike "flying" or "immortality", goodness is irreducible and indispensible to reasoning. The reasoning being is guided by goodness. The value of an event is perspectival and relative in that the same event can be good to one person and bad to another. But this does not mean that value isn't objective and eternal and independent of the sum of its instances.
So to address R's point: Yes, this is a mistake on my part. Even if I can get this dodgy argumet through about participating in the good making that participant eternal, then there is still a difference between "eternal" and "immortal". So I confess that I am not immortal in any coherent sense. I fully expect to die by modern medical standards. My heart will stop beating, my brain will cease to function etc. Neither do I believe that I will come back to life. I.E. get up off the operating table to the amazement of the sceptical medical staff at St Thomas's hospital after lying dead for three days.
The concept of immortality I mean is merely the opposite of mortal. My soul, such as I have, will not die. There is no thing that I have that persists through my life unchanging that is "Jonny's soul" that I refer to using "I" which will perish along with my body. This is merely to go along with Hume and accept that I can no where in my thoughts or elsewhere observe anything that fits this discription. If there is no such thing, then neither can it persist after my death, nor can it cease to exist at the point of my death. This is an ancient idea that is revisited again and again. The Hindu's believe that the self is an illusion that causes suffering and the cycle of life and death. Some Bhuddist thinkers think that if one can quite the incessant chatter of the ego one awakens to the true self which is the nothingness at the heart of the universe. Parfit also demonstrates that any concept of the self that persist fully throughout the life of one person, then ceases at death breaks down under the pressure of various well known thought experiments. So what is there to immortality? The contemplation of eternal truths. When we think thoughts that are always true then we transcend time.
So R' joke argument is actual what I believe: I am nobody and nobody is immortal.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ah, that's an interesting thought: we have immortality by the act of apprehending/contemplating the platonic form of immortality.

This is fine, but for one problem:
P
1)In order to participate in immortality (as a platonic form), one must contemplate it.
2) But in order to contemplate it, one must be thinking about it, having the platonic form of immortality as an object of thought.
3) But we cannot contemplate immortality all the time.
4) So we can participate in it, we can only do so temporarily.
5) But to be temporarily immortal is to be mortal.
6) Ergo, we cannot be immortal.


---------------------------------


We have a one to one relation with something that is timeless, so in a sense we are timeless too.


Yes, we can indeed have a one-to-one relation with something that is timeless, but our relation with the timeless entity is not itself timeless.

We are, in a sense, 'timeless', but only for so long as we are contemplating timelessness. But as the previous argument for immortality shows, we cannot apprehend/contemplate timelessless all the time. To be timeless we ourselves would have to contemplate timeless for eternity.

If this is correct (despite being impossible), then quite frankly I think I'd rather be dead, as who would want to spend eternity contemplating eternity???? Not me! (;-/

---------------------------------


A second thought is that when we are good, when we act in a way such that goodness is predicated of us, we are participating in something eternal: goodness.


Indeed, when acting in a way that is good we are participating in something eternal, i.e. 'goodness'.

But the key word here is 'participating'. In order to be deemed good ourselves, we would have to be forever good, all the time.

This is impossible, for the simple reason that sleeping is required, so we cannot do good things all the time. Ergo, we cannot 'be' good.


---------------------------------

Re. Buddhism: their idea of Dukkha, viz., that unhappiness is characteristic of unawakened, worldly life. And the so-called 'cure' for such suffering, (which is caused by desire), can be cured by following the Noble Eightfold Path, which is divided into three aspects: Sila (which concerns wholesome physical actions), Samadhi (which concerns the meditative concentration of the mind) and Prajñā (which concerns spiritual insight into the true nature of all things).

But all of this seems to conflict with the idea of suffering: if suffering, according to the Buddhists is due to desire and the ego, then why does the eightfold path preach Sila, which is about morality?

For surely, if there are no egos, only an empty cosmos for contemplation as the true reality to, then it shouldn't matter how you treat others?

And 'Samadhi' preaches mastery over ones own mind: but if reality is at one with itself, as nothing, then your mind is at one with it. So by trying to control ones own mind, you are therefore attempting to control reality. But Buddhism is about acceptance and freeing oneself from the cycle of life!

And ditto Re. Prajñā (wisdom which apparently purifies the mind).

And don't even get me started on Hinduism! ;-)

-------------------------------

Parfit also demonstrates that any concept of the self that persist fully throughout the life of one person, then ceases at death breaks down under the pressure of various well known thought experiments.

Yes, it's true that the notion of the self as a persisting entity through time (viz., diachronic identity) is a philosophically problematic one.

But there's a point missing here:

Part of the notion of the 'Self' is to change.

If someone remained the same through their life then they'd be rather odd surely. Change is an intrinsic part of the human condition: our thoughts change, we read new books,think new thoughts, and so on. You take that away, all you have is flesh and dust, not a person (well, not a person I'd like to meet).

P.s. Re. St Thomas Hospital: You don't want to go there, I've heard they've got a serious MRSA problem. (;-)

R.

1:19 AM  
Blogger bloggin the Question said...

Thanks, R. Sorry to leave it so long. But hey, we've got all the time in the world. Although that's probably not enough time to sort through the Buddhist stuff. Here's something in what you say that seems paradoxical.
1. People Change. (You seem to hint that this is an essential property of being a person)
2. In order to have something predicated of one, one must be in a continous relation with it. (When you stop doing good acts you stop being good)
So what is this thing that you are in a continous relation to, whether you are asleep, awake, drunk or unconscious, but that you cease to be in relation to when you die? I say there is no such thing. So your argument fails because there is nothing that answers to the subject who ceases to be immortal when asleep but is immortal when contemplating the good.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My, my, I'm duelling a gifted sophist... (;-)

Impressive reductio, now here's my reply:


1) People Change. (You seem to hint that this is an essential property of being a person)


This is indeed my view: people are born, become children, teenagers, adults, grow old, then die.

This is part of being human.


2. In order to have something predicated of one, one must be in a continous relation with it. (When you stop doing good acts you stop being good)


Mmm, trixy, but I prima facie agree with this premise.



So what is this thing that you are in a continous relation to, whether you are asleep, awake, drunk or unconscious, but that you cease to be in relation to when you die?


What am I in a continuous relation to?

Answer: myself of course!

This whole argument hinges on a presupposed theory of Identity of the Self [worthy of its own blog spot surely...?].

If one assumes that continuity of the self consists in having the same body, then hit a bump in the road: all the cells in the body are replaced in a cycle, so after several years, say, person A [let's call him Adam] is not, strictly speaking, the same person he was the previous year...

So your argument goes through.

But surely one wouldn't identify themselves solely with their cells? The whole is greater than the sum of their parts.

I don't know if this would be a successful defence position for a solicitor to adopt in defending their client:

"Your honour, the person who robbed those banks is not the same person you see standing in the dock today: these crimes happened eight months ago, and since then, all the cells in my clients body have died and been replaced with new cells, so technically speaking, the man in the dock is NOT the man seen on those bank security tapes... "


I think not.... (;-)
?!?!?

What about memory? surely we are what we remember... how could I forget...

In which case, we have a continuity of the self through memories.

Memory defines both identity and intelligence.

As identity of the self is preserved through the continuity of the self via the preservation and development of memories, new experiences join with old ones, we see a continuity of the self, something that can stand in a continuous relation to these fleeting moments for a more solid viable diachronic relation.


R.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a thought experiment to buttress my thesis, viz., that the identity [and ipso facto, continuity] of the self is defined by our memories:

Consider me, 'R'.

Right now I have a huge mop of straw-like hair potruding from my head.

I am considering having a severe haircut.

This would result in lots of my cells being separated from my body.

Would this change me?

Of course not.

Why?

Because hair cells [well, the ones over a cm or so] from the scalp are 'dead', so to speak. So by removing dead tissue from my body, I am neither adding nor removing a part of myself, in the form of my identity.

What if I had my right hand removed in an accident? Or my left foot?

This wouldn't stop me being me.

What about if I had a horrendous accident and could no longer walk or move my body. Would I still be me?

Of course I would.

But what about my abilities.

I've heard people use the phrase "We are defined by our actions". [usually uttered in a very pretentious contrite way].

Now, I play the piano. So, what if I woke up one day to find that I could no longer play the piano, and couldn't play a single Chopin Prelude or any of Brahms' variations on a Theme by Paganinni?

Would I still be the same person?

Answer: yes. I would be the same person, only I would no longer be able to play the piano.

Yes, granted, getting my haircut drastically short, or waking up to find that I could no longer play the piano at the level of skill that I used to, would perhaps have an effect on my self identity, viz., how I perceive and identify myself within society, and indeed, how other people would identify me, but that wouldn't stop me being me.

Why?

Because I'd still have the same memories.

What if my subjective tastes change?

E.g. What if I suddenly woke up and hated all my favourite foods, didn't like the sort of clothes I normally wear, changed what colours I liked, etc, etc.

I.e. What if all my likes and dislikes were reversed, would I be the same person?

Well, at the social level, no I wouldn't be the same person, as my personality would be different.

But we're not talking about personality: Personality is a psychological notion, referring to our preferences, etc.

We're concerned with the philosophical issue of continuity of the self.

As long as this new me retained all the same memories, I would still be the same person, the same me.

Peoples sense of taste changes as they get older, but it doesn't stop them being the same person.

We are what we remember.

That's why we find diseases such as Alzheimers' so disturbing, as by losing our memories, we lose our sense of identity.

So, to conclude, we are what we remember [how could I forget]. (;-)

It is our memories that legitimize our notion of a continuity of the self throughout change, and permits diachonric predication.

R.

8:21 PM  
Blogger bloggin the Question said...

Lets take the memory criteria of personal identity. This actually brings us closer to the Meno. The first off problem with memory is that at any particular time I am not remembering very much if one takes remembering to be a specific action, a mental event. It is much more plausible to ground P.I. in what a person is disposed to remember, or is able to remember. Now the objects of memory need to be discussed, but it is plausible that the objects of memory are FACTS or TRUE PROPOSITIONS.
Although some memories are easily accessible, other memories need awakening, provoking, jogging etc.
So there is a bit of a shadey border between remembering and learning.
In the Meno geometrical inference is put on the memory side. Let us just accept this for the reason's Plato lays forth and generalise to any a priori reasoning is something like a memory. This is plausible if one takes conclusions of deductive arguments to contain no more information than the premises. One learns nothing new through a priori reasoning, so the results must be a kind of recollection.
So the propositions of mathematics, for example, are all memories, and are therefore all a part of what constitutes personal identity.
Some memories won't be accessible after death, since they rely on brain functions, what I did last week for example.. But the a priori memories are always accessible to anyone rational. Even if I completely forget that 2 x 23 = 46, I will be able to recollect it. This ability doesn't depend on any brain function since this fact will always be a priori accessible without learning. In so far as such facts constitute my personal identity, then I am immortal.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



"The first off problem with memory is that at any particular time I am not remembering very much if one takes remembering to be a specific action, a mental event".


A good point.

People don't remember everything all the time.



"It is much more plausible to ground P.I. in what a person is disposed to remember, or is able to remember. Now the objects of memory need to be discussed, but it is plausible that the objects of memory are FACTS or TRUE PROPOSITIONS".


This is a rather interesting idea.

But by referring to PI in terms of what a person is disposed/able to potentially remember, PI would then be framed in terms of counterfactuals.

Furthermore, you're implicitly smuggling in the notion of PI through the back door, viz., you're assuming there's person for whom you can predicate these counterfactual conditions for potential memory recall at different times.



"In the Meno geometrical inference is put on the memory side. Let us just accept this for the reason's Plato lays forth and generalise to any a priori reasoning is something like a memory. This is plausible if one takes conclusions of deductive arguments to contain no more information than the premises.
One learns nothing new through a priori reasoning, so the results must be a kind of recollection".


This is simply wrong.

This is NOT a case of memory at all.

You could have already learned a mathematical/geometrical truth, e.g. Pythagoras Theorem, and then recall it when asked or faced with a [Euclidean] geometrical problem, but mathematical and geometrical knowledge is NOT recollection: it's a priori ability.

Some people will intuitively grasp the meaning of the proposition that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the two adjacent sides of a triangle. Others will not grasp this.

Consider a more technical geometrical 'truth', the "Fermat's Last Theorem":It is impossible to separate any power higher than the second into two like powers. Or, more formally: if an integer n is greater than 2, then the equation an + bn = cn has no solutions in non-zero integers a, b, and c.

This is true, but its truth is most certainly not a case of 'recollection' as you or Plato had used the term.

Or consider a slightly more sophisticated geometrical proof, e.g. a proof of the existence of a nine-point circle.

Here's a link for an example of a proof [there is more than one way to prove this]:

http://jwilson.coe.uga.edu/EMT668/EMT668.Folders.F97/Anderson/geometry/geometry1project/existenceproof/existenceproof.html

-----------------------------

You then write that:

"So the propositions of mathematics, for example, are all memories, and are therefore all a part of what constitutes personal identity".


The argument above demonstrates this view is false.

Why?

Because mathematical proofs are NOT part of memory, unless of course, one has already learned them!

-----------------------------
You also write that:


"[...]One learns nothing new through a priori reasoning...".


Also false, as Kant demonstrated mathematical and geometrical knowledge, whilst being a priori, is also synthetic.

Fermat's Last Theorem and the Nine-Point Circle proof examples above also support this.

-----------------------------


"Some memories won't be accessible after death, since they rely on brain functions, what I did last week for example."


"Some"? As mind is matter, and when the matter perishes [viz., the brain dies, so does the mind. So I'd rephrase the above sentence with 'All'.

---------------------------

"But the a priori memories are always accessible to anyone rational. Even if I completely forget that 2 x 23 = 46, I will be able to recollect it".


This is incorrect.

This is NOT simply about memory: yes, it helps if you've already learned the rules of mathematical., viz., what the operators mean, fundamental theorems, etc, that will aid you in solving a new problem.

But it's about ability!

Andrew Wiles [the guy who solved Fermat's Last Theorem] was able to solve the theorem [with a little help] "a priori", in a sense.

But could someone else have done this a priori?

Many other great minds had tried before him, and failed.

So I don't see that anyone would be able to solve it or "recollect" it!

----------------------------


"This ability doesn't depend on any brain function since this fact will always be a priori accessible without learning".


Again, this is incorrect.

There is a mental disorder known as 'Dyscalculia' . This is a mental disorder in which the sufferer experiences acute difficulty in learning and apprehending mathematical/arithmetical statements and facts.

Recent research suggests that dyscalculia can also occur developmentally, as a genetically-linked learning disability which affects a person's ability to understand, remember, and/or manipulate numbers and/or number facts (e.g. the multiplication tables).

It seems to have a physical [i.e. neurological] root cause, as it's been associated with lesions to the supramarginal and angular gyri at the junction between the temporal and parietal lobes of the cerebral cortex.

Furthermore, studies of mathematically gifted students have shown increased EEG activity in the right hemisphere during algorithmic computational processing. There is some evidence of right hemisphere deficits in dyscalculia.

Another related mental disorder, known as 'Acalculia ' results in the sufferer experiencing in difficulty performing simple mathematical tasks, such as adding, subtracting, multiplying and even simply stating which of two numbers is larger.

A key difference between dyscalculia and Acalculia is that the latter tends to develop in later life, typically due to neurological injury [e.g. after suffering from a stroke].

Acalculia has been specifically associated with lesions [i.e. damage]to the parietal lobe (especially the angular gyrus) and the frontal lobe and can be an early sign of dementia.

Furthermore, studies of patients with lesions to the parietal lobe have demonstrated that lesions to the angular gyrus tend to lead to greater impairments in memorized mathematical facts, such as multiplication tables, with relatively unimpaired subtraction abilities. Conversely, patients with lesions in the region of the intraparietal sulcus tend to have greater deficits in subtraction, with preserved mulitiplication abilities (Dehaene and Cohen, 1997). These double dissociations lend support to the idea that different regions of the parietal cortex are involved in different aspects of numerical processing.

Other mental disorders directly related to neurological problems [e.g. Gerstmann syndrome].

So, to conclude, mathematical and geometric cognitive ability is directly related to neurological structure. There is a causal connection between mathematical/geometrical ability and certain regions of the brain [e.g. the supramarginal and angular gyri at the junction between the temporal and parietal lobes of the cerebral cortex].

If they are impaired then so is our mathematical/geometrical ability.

So mind is matter, and matter dies, and when it does, so does the mind...

So I regret to inform you, that you are notimmortal, and neither am I...

R.

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would also like to address a common fallacious argument that seems popular among philosophers regarding PI. The argument doesn't seem to have a name coined for it, so I shall simply refer to it as the Argument for Cell-Replacement.

It runs as follows:

Over a period of time, most cells in the body die and are replaced with new cells.

So, over a certain period of time, most of the cells that make up the body are different.

Ergo, the body is not the same one it was.

-----------------------------

The problem with this argument is that, yes, it is true that some body cells die and are replaced.

Over a 12 to 24-hour period, the cell's energy powerhouses, the mitochondria, shrink. Its genetic material fragments into pieces, and the remains of the cell are 'eaten' by scavenger cells called macrophages.

But organs and tissues vary as has to how quickly dead cells within them are replaced. In skin and bowel tissue, for example, cell turnover is fast – cells die early and are replaced quickly.

HOWEVER, In others, like muscles and the brain, they last a long time but when they do die, they aren't replaced at all!

So, as brain cells are NOT replaced, and cognitive abilities and memories are located in the brain [as my previous post discussed], it follows that the common argument for cell replacement does not have a bearing on Personal Identity whatsoever.

R.

12:54 PM  
Blogger 1dying said...

Immortality can be reached by balancing consciousness right, to cancel it's effects but still have them.

Having the cake and eating it to.

So there is a total possibility. From that total possibility #% happens. Then we speculate the rest until 100% and so nothing ever changed. This way we have the cake, but we're immortal.

But how can we know the total possibility? By looking at basic pieces.

But I've done it already. I just need one man more with me in order to apply it.

www.scatteredpiecesof1dying.blogspot.com

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

uh, p-huh?

12:18 AM  
Blogger bloggin the Question said...

I’d like to thank “R” on behalf of bloggin the question for your erudite and intelligent comments. However I’m not prepared to give up immortality without a bit more discussion. You say:

“But by referring to PI in terms of what a person is disposed/able to potentially remember, PI would then be framed in terms of counterfactuals.

Furthermore, you're implicitly smuggling in the notion of PI through the back door, viz., you're assuming there's person for whom you can predicate these counterfactual conditions for potential memory recall at different times.”

I accept this, but this is a problem for any memory account of PI, which was your suggestion. It is not down to me to defend the memory thesis. I am happy to accept that memory is important to PI. The interesting thing is what constitutes memory. This is where we disagree

“This is NOT a case of memory at all.

You could have already learned a mathematical/geometrical truth, e.g. Pythagoras Theorem, and then recall it when asked or faced with a [Euclidean] geometrical problem, but mathematical and geometrical knowledge is NOT recollection: it's a priori ability.”


Now this is the crux of the matter, and I know that I am swimming against the contemporary current a little, but that something is an ability does not mean that it is not a memory. Knowledge and memory are very close concepts. It is difficult to come up with a clear case of knowledge which is not a case of memory. There is a well understood distinction between knowing how and knowing that. The distinction easily applies to memory. One can remember how and remember that. To point out that a priori reasoning is an ability therefore does not automatically mean that its products aren’t memories. Intellectual abilities can yield true propositions from known propositions. For example, I can remember that any number that ends in 2 is even. This yields the proposition “102 is even”. Whether we would want to say that I therefore remember that 102 is even is up for discussion. Take this argument:
A I know that every number ending in 2 is even.
B 352 ends in 2.
C Therefore I know that 352 is even.
It seems to still be valid if “remember” is substituted for “Know”:

A* I remember that every number ending in 2 is even.
B* 762 ends in 2.
C* Therefore I remember that 762 is even.

You might want to say that these arguments are invalid since B and B* are missing the intentional operator. If B* were changed to
*I remember that 762 ends in 2*
then the argument would be valid.

However in many cases its seems perfectly reasonable to have B style premises without the intentional operator.

A** I remember the height of all the children in my class at school.
B** John was a child in my class.
C** Therefore I remember John’s height.

This last argument may only be valid because A** is quantified over a finite set so it is in effect a conjunction of propositions of which B** is among the conjuncts, you may say. Whereas the former two arguments are not valid because it is the rule that is remembered, not the instances of the rule. I admit that propositions generated by rules could plausibly not count as “remembered” by a competent speaker of 21st century English. But this is certainly not the case for knowledge. Suppose I want to know which way is North at 6pm in Greenwich. I don’t know. Suddenly I remember that the Sun is always due West at 6pm GMT in Greenwich. I now know which way is North. Have I remembered which way is North? I certainly know by remembering.

I want to focus on knowledge rather than memory. This is because the important essence of being a subject is free action. So it is plausible that a person could be in essence a function of what they know and what they value. With these two plus a decent decision theory one could predict and explain all the actions of a person. What is learned through experience does seem contingent to personhood since a great deal of one’s experience is accidental. It seems accidental to who I am that I learned French at school for example. Had I not learned French, I would still be me. Given this observation it seems that the rules for generating knowledge are more essential to who one is than the propositions generated by the rules. The really important knowledge is know how. Given know how, knowing that comes for free.

I know there is no Elephant in this room. I know that there are no other large mammals in this room. I know that there are less that thirty planets in the solar system, and that there are less than thirty one, and less than thirty two. I know that actions in countless thought experiments are morally wrong. I can recognize an infinity of sound sequences as music, as my mothers voice, as the song of a sky lark. I know of an infinity of possible objects that they are blue, round, rough, hairy. The knowledge is infinite and timeless and makes up the essence of my soul.

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It is difficult to come up with a clear case of knowledge which is not a case of memory. There is a well understood distinction between knowing how and knowing that. The distinction easily applies to memory.


There are essentially three types of knowledge:

(i) Declarative [knowledge ‘that’].
(ii) Procedural [knowledge ‘how’].
(iii) Episodic [knowledge ‘when’].

But this is only a heuristic trichotomy.
Why?
Well, psychologists have discovered that the way we recall something depends on how we access it.
E.g. In a trivial sense, ALL knowledge is declarative, as we remember that ‘X’.
Consider this applied to a piece of mathematical knowledge

E.g. Take an example of episodic memory: Knowledge when something happened.

I can paraphrase this into declarative memory as follows:

“I remember that it is the case that ‘X’”.


One can remember how and remember that. To point out that a priori reasoning is an ability therefore does not automatically mean that its products aren’t memories. Intellectual abilities can yield true propositions from known propositions.


Yes, this is a case of using pre-existing knowledge and applying logical reasoning to it.
But this isn’t a case of solely memory.
Let us take your example:

For example, I can remember that any number that ends in 2 is even. This yields the proposition “102 is even”. Whether we would want to say that I therefore remember that 102 is even is up for discussion. Take this argument:
A I know that every number ending in 2 is even.
B 352 ends in 2.
C Therefore I know that 352 is even.
It seems to still be valid if “remember” is substituted for “Know”:

A* I remember that every number ending in 2 is even.
B* 762 ends in 2.
C* Therefore I remember that 762 is even.

Now, you know that every integer ending in ‘2’ is an even number and can therefore be divided by two to yield another integer by performing some calculations in school, learning your multiplication tables and doing long division, etc.
This is all true. The more we know the more we can hone and apply our logical faculties to.
But this is completely missing the point of my previous post.
I mentioned a psychological disorder known as dyscalculia, whereby sufferers are unable to grasp simple mathematical concepts and apply simple mathematical and logical rules.
The disorder is linked with specific regions of the brain, and our mathematical abilities are directly due to neurological activity.
It follows that our ability to grasp mathematical concepts and apply mathematical knowledge is dependent on these neurological structures, not some abstract philosophical notion of transcendental thought.
This is my central disagreement with your posts, as you explicitly stated that our mathematical ability is not dependent on our brains.
----------------


You might want to say that these arguments are invalid since B and B* are missing the intentional operator. If B* were changed to
*I remember that 762 ends in 2*
then the argument would be valid.

However in many cases its seems perfectly reasonable to have B style premises without the intentional operator.

A** I remember the height of all the children in my class at school.
B** John was a child in my class.
C** Therefore I remember John’s height.

This last argument may only be valid because A** is quantified over a finite set so it is in effect a conjunction of propositions of which B** is among the conjuncts, you may say. Whereas the former two arguments are not valid because it is the rule that is remembered, not the instances of the rule. I admit that propositions generated by rules could plausibly not count as “remembered” by a competent speaker of 21st century English. But this is certainly not the case for knowledge. Suppose I want to know which way is North at 6pm in Greenwich. I don’t know. Suddenly I remember that the Sun is always due West at 6pm GMT in Greenwich. I now know which way is North. Have I remembered which way is North? I certainly know by remembering.




The problem here is that it rests of a confusion.
Yes, we’re applying our cognitive abilities to pre-existing knowledge.
-----------------------

I know there is no Elephant in this room. I know that there are no other large mammals in this room. I know that there are less that thirty planets in the solar system, and that there are less than thirty one, and less than thirty two. I know that actions in countless thought experiments are morally wrong. I can recognize an infinity of sound sequences as music, as my mothers voice, as the song of a sky lark. I know of an infinity of possible objects that they are blue, round, rough, hairy. The knowledge is infinite and timeless and makes up the essence of my soul.


Mmmm, Yes, this is knowledge acquired by logical reasoning.

But what does it have to do with immortality?

You seemed to have missed the point of my previous post:

The logical/cognitive abilities you’ve admirably displayed [above] are dependent on certain regions of your brain functioning properly [the supramarginal and angular gyrus, etc].

Indeed, your mathematical abilities are dependent on these neurological structures: so when they decay, so do your abilities.

These self evident truths may be more self evident to one person than to another, because not everyone is endowed with such mental faculties.

Mind is matter, and matter decays. And when it does so do we.

I repeat: we are not immortal.

p.s. I don’t believe in such things as souls.


R.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok. This discussion seems to have become rather confused due to other topics muddying the waters.

So Here's a clarification:

The original topic of this post was concerned with immortality.

We were then faced with the following problem:

What is it that is immortal?

Initially the argumentation centered on a Platonic form of eternity. By participating in eternal perfect concepts/forms, we thereby participate in these eternal/perfect forms.

The fallacy with this line of reasoning was that, although we may well be capable of contemplating, and therefore 'participating' in the form of 'x', where 'x' stands for immortality of eternity, we can only contemplate it for a finite amount of time. As such, we cannot ourselves be immortal or eternal.

And besides, to contemplate eternity or immortality for eternity doesn't sound like much of a life to me!

Then, we discussed the intrinsically related problem of Personal Identity. We needed to first provide an account precisely what it is that we're referring to when we posit that an individual is immortal.

However, this is where we ran into problems, as we couldn't agree on what constitutes personal identity.

I initially identified PI with our memories.

But you pointed out that we sleep, etc, and may not be able to recall some memories all the time. So, if we're the sum total of our memories, it follows that, when we remember different things at different times, then we ourselves are not the same person at these respectively different times.

Jonny then suggested that it is our ability to reason, to 'recollect', as discussed in Plato's "Meno", whereby knowledge is a form of recollection.

So knowledge is like memory.

I strongly disagreed with this line of reasoning, as used psychological case studies as examples.

My argument against Jonny's view was as follows:

mental ability is nothing like 'recollection' in the Platonic sense whatsoever, as mental ability, e.g. geometrical/mathematical ability, is intrinsically and directly linked with neurological structures in the brain.

A causal connection has been established in neuroscience that certain regions of the brain [the supramarginal and angular gyrus or the parietal lobes of the cerebral cortex]. When these regions of the brain are damaged, the patient experiences an inability to grasp simple arithmetical and geometrical tasks.

This disorder is commonly known as "Dyscalculia".

As such, it follows that mental abilities have a neurological [viz., physical] basis. And all matter is perishable.

So when the brain decays, so does the mind. And when the brain dies, so does the mind. Full stop.

Ergo, there is no such thing as immortality for a human being.

We never actually addressed personal identity properly.

I concede that my formulation of identifying personal identity with our memories is flawed, but it is nonetheless a step in a reasonable direction.

I am willing to make a concession, and step back a step and withdraw my explicit identification of PI with memory.

Instead, I would simply identify the mind [and ipso facto, our personal identity] with the brain.

All our memories are, so neuroscientists believe], stored in the brain as electrochemical signals, similar [though in no way the same] as information is stored on a harddrive.

This has been established with electromagnetic activity in the brain and how Electroshock therapy can 'erase' some memories.

As memories are located in the brain, and as cognitive abilities are located in the brain [e.g. the Werner Brocke's area of the brain is linked with speech, etc], the brain is the mind.

And the mind is where personal identity is located, as it is abilities and memories that define us and give us identity.

As I stated in a previous post: memory defines both intelligence and identity: we are what we remember.

And our previous knowledge enables us to apply it to new knowledge, so our know grows incrementally.

The problem here is that very notion of self identity is a fluid concept: we remember some things some times, and other things at other times.

Likewise, we find we can do things sometimes and not so at other times.

E.g. sometimes I can play the piano beautifully, and other times I make a sound similar to that of a blind deaf pigeon too fat for flight being chased up and down an out of tune piano by a three-legged blind cat.

Personal identity is highly elusive. so it should come as no surprise that we have failed to reach an agreement on what it means within the space of a blog.

R.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be or not to be... that, my friends is the real question here.

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll give you two to one on Be, a bet I can't lose
Jonny

11:05 AM  

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