Realism matters

  • Oscar I may eventually move this thread to Physics or epistemology, but I bet it would be helpful for someone coming across this to have a quick and dirty explanation for what "magical thinking" means. Is the context of this discussion whether a "supernatural" exists, or is this more of a mathematical / logical theory discussion?

  • Love it, Oscar! The weeds of magical/idealistic thinking are hard for people to get off their feet. I would love to find a way to do that-- to free people from getting stuck in them.

  • Interestingly enough, Mettrie has quite a few quotes on the subject, decades before Darwin.

    "The first generations must have been very imperfect. Here

    the esophagus will have been lacking; there the stomach, the vulva, the

    intestines, & so on. Obviously the only animals that will have

    have been able to live, conserve, & perpetuate their species, will have been

    those who have been provided with all the parts

    necessary for reproduction, & which in a word no

    essential part will not have been missed. Conversely those

    who have been deprived of some part of a necessity

    absolute, will be dead, or shortly after their

    birth, or at least without reproducing. Perfection

    was no more the work of a day for nature than for art."

    "People say that all eyes are made optically and all ears mathematically! How do they

    know that? Because they have observed nature; they were astonished to see that its

    productions were so equal, and even superior, to art. They could not do otherwise

    than suppose that it had some aim or enlightened purposes. Nature thus existed

    before art, which was created following in her steps and came from her as the son

    comes from his mother. And a chance arrangement, providing the same privileges

    as an arrangement made on purpose by all possible hard work, earned our common

    mother an honor which is due only to the laws of movement."

    "By what an infinite number of combinations matter must have passed before

    reaching the only combination which could result in a perfect animal, and through

    how many others before reproduction reached the degree of perfection it enjoys


    "Everything doctors & physicists have written about

    the use of the parts of the animated bodies, always appeared to me

    unfounded. All their reasoning on the causes

    finals are so frivolous that if Lucretius had refuted them so wrongly then he must have been a bad physician as he was a great poet"

    "The elements of matter, by dint of twitching &

    mingling, having managed to make eyes, it was

    impossible not to see, as not to see oneself

    in a mirror, either natural or artificial. The eye has found itself

    the mirror of objects, which often serve them in turn.

    Nature did not think more of eyeing to see, than

    water, to serve as a mirror for the simple shepherdess. The water is

    found suitable for returning the images; the shepherdess saw there

    with pleasure, her pretty face. This is how the author of the Machine Man thinks."

    Mettrie made sure to reject all of the supernatural and to stay firmly within a naturalistic and material view of the world, often conceding to Lucretius and disagreeing with his former Cartesian colleagues .

    “If the joys found in nature are crimes, then man’s pleasure and happiness is to be criminal.”

  • We probably need a separate forum on theories about the mechanics of evolution. I will set one up and link here. This comes to my mind because there are no doubt lots of interesting theories on how far things go by "chance" combination until something else kicks in. For example a 1969 Dodge Charger, or a Great Pyrenees dog, doesnt just spring out of the ground by chance. Something happens at early stages without any guidance at all, and then at some point (in at least some parts of evolution) intelligent selection takes over. I am by no means up to date on all the various theories about how gradual things are, or how "leaps" take place, but I bet over time some people will want to post about things like that.

    Edit: Well duh, that's exactly where we are, aren't we? :) I was thinking we were in one of Charles' threads on pas Epicureans but i see we are in exaclty the right place. Although, if someone expands to far on the mechanics of evolution, it would be a good idea to start a separate thread in this same forum.

    Origin of Life / Development of Life / Evolution