Elayne Level 03
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Posts by Elayne

    Don a good book with a summary of research on the sensation of knowing is Burton's "On Being Certain." There has been more research since then, but it's a good intro to the neurobiology.

    We would be wise to always remember that our sense data is obtained subjectively, through the perspective of a particular subject, and although it is real it is never experienced as an absolute, objective point of view, there being no such thing. I think people who worry about including emotion and feeling do not understand that our brains function as a whole, and these aspects of experience are not really separable. But if we remember our senses are also subjective-- not opinions, but particular to subjects-- maybe that will place things in context.

    Although I've just said we can't really fully separate our brain functions in everyday life, I'm going to break things down a little to show you what I mean by the difference between sense perception and abstract thought.

    Seeing a table right now, in this moment, is a sense perception. Recognizing it as an object separate from the background is due to innate, rudimentary physics expectations-- a sort of pattern recognition present even in newborns, which I would term as a prolepsis rather than as a formal concept. The "object permanence" of the table, the expectation that it will still be there in the next minute, is a similar phenomenon which emerges on a tight developmental schedule, across cultures, which is not seen with purely learned cognitions. These innate physics expectations are strengthened by experience but are not solely empirical.

    But too quickly for us to perceive, we immediately connect what we see with the word "table", the function of being able to put things on top of it, how it relates to similarly shaped objects, ideas about where the material came from such as the type of wood-- conceptual thinking. If I were to say "I know that is a table", I'm going beyond the Canon just a tiny hair, into concepts, but I'm still going to have a strong sensation of certainty. It would be hard to talk me out of it. If it started moving and growling, showing itself to be some strange animal camouflaged as a table, like in movies where characters step on what they think is a stone but which turns out to be a creature, I would change my mind, and this would also involve some conceptual thinking.

    Even the words "I know I am really seeing what I'm seeing" are conceptual-- the whole idea that "there is a reality" is conceptual. But the experience of perceiving reality is non-conceptual. The idea of "truth" is conceptual, but encountering the phenomena we label as true is not conceptual. That actual perception is what we are talking about with the Canon.

    Almost all our thinking involves some slight level of concepts of this type. However, in addition to concepts about knowing, we also have an inner sensation that goes with it, which isn't always accurate but is often more pleasurable to people than uncertainty. Moving from uncertainty to certainty is a dopamine, seeking driven process. We can want it without liking it, but usually that moment of discovery of a conclusion feels pleasurable and reinforces our wanting more.

    Although the distinction between emotion and feeling is interesting, for most of us in real life we have strong associations between certain emotions and pain or pleasure. Epicurus was correct in assigning anxiety to the pain column. Some people do get an endorphin rush from fear-- that's why we have horror movies and roller coasters-- but the endorphin pleasure is a second event while the initial fear is not a pleasure. It's more of a pain that can lead to pleasure. For almost all of us, emotions like contentment, gratitude, or affection for others-- are pleasurable, and those words wouldn't be accurate communication with the feeling of pleasure removed. Try to imagine feeling gratitude that had no pleasure but pain instead -- it wouldn't make sense! Instead you'd choose a word like indebted or obligated or guilty. The emotion of guilt is painful-- if it were pleasurable we'd say satisfaction or pride in our actions.

    Again, this sensation of knowing isn't always going to correlate with the level of certainty science can demonstrate-- a high degree of statistical probability regarding the causal chain. Even so, we can't extricate it from our experience of living, so it's useful, IMO, to know about it, to be conscious of it. Is it unsafe to enjoy it? I think Epicurus would object to that idea. He was very focused on relieving anxiety and substituting certainty. The wisest thing is to decide on some level of certainty such that you won't be highly upset if you are wrong, and it inevitably involves a subjective experience. You can't remove that from the process of a person deciding how much accuracy they want. If your level of accuracy is low, you'll possibly wind up with more pain than pleasure, so that's the main factor-- how much accuracy do you need for a pleasurable life? There can't possibly be an absolute answer to that question.

    Don and Cassius

    I'm confused as to why my words were taken that way. I was being descriptive.

    In EP, we observe reality through our senses, part of the Canon. We feel our feelings, also part of reality. We have the prolepses. These are the 3 direct ways we know what is real. These 3 ways of knowing reality are non-conceptual-- they are direct. Not abstract.

    However, when it comes to certainty in conclusions _about_ our sense perceptions, feelings, and prolepses, this is added on to actual contact with reality. Concepts and so on are not primary information.

    I thought we were discussing how people decide when certainty is sufficient for them-- which is an entirely different issue from saying what the primary contacts with reality _are_.

    There are two aspects to "certainty "-- the abstract concept, which can also be described mathematically, and an inner sensation of knowing something. There is _no_ absolute "thing" we can find through our senses, feelings, or prolepses which is "objective certainty", even though relative certainty can be described by math. This knowing sensation is a subjective experience that has been studied. It can be produced directly with brain stimulation, minus any content. The sensation of knowing is neurological but doesn't necessarily correlate with accuracy. It's one of those features selected for by evolution because it was close enough and humans who had it out-reproduced those who didn't.

    I report that for me, the sensation of knowing has a sort of "rightness" that I classify as pleasurable. Similar sensation to a picture being lined up evenly on a wall or the sensation of symmetry in justice. I experience it as satisfying. That doesn't mean I actually am correct. It's just a known human phenomenon which was relevant to our discussion of how an individual decides what amount of certainty is enough to act on. It's a subjective decision influenced by feelings. There is no way to find a fixed rule. What confidence interval do you want before you are going to try a new drug, for instance? There are statistical likelihoods that satisfy most researchers, but none of them are 100%. Whether a person wants to take a 1 in 100 chance of being wrong and will feel certain enough not to worry, 1 in 1000, 1 in 1 million-- there's no absolute rule.

    I would advise being cautious with that sensation of knowing, given that it can cause people to overlook primary data. Cherry-picking, etc, is a risk. Some people appear to feel very anxious without that sensation, more than others. Some people prefer a sense of uncertainty. These are biological reactions, and noticing them is primary canonical data, while drawing further conclusions about their function is abstract.

    I'm out of free articles this month, but I'll get to look in a couple of days! The part I can see looks silly, that we need a "balance" between virtue and pleasure 😂😂😂. David Brooks isn't enjoying his virtues, I guess. I have to wonder about people like that. Are they sitting around thinking that they'd rather be robbing and murdering us, if it weren't for the dang virtues? 😂 Are they only friendly acting because they think they are supposed to be, but secretly they hate being with us? What is up with that?!

    And the same for "common sense "-- we will be in error, possibly to the detriment of our pleasure, if we put more weight on common sense than on evidence. You might be amazed at how many research studies have been totally screwed up because scientists did just exactly that. They couldn't believe a finding could be right bc it didn't make sense to them, so they ignored data in favor of common sense. The delay in physicians adopting handwashing is a classic example but it happens still to this day!

    Cassius maybe my accent isn't clear-- I said "accurately described", not "adequately." And I definitely don't agree with FW. Hypotheses and reason do have a use, and so does imagination, but they are not the same as direct observations of senses and feelings and should play second fiddle. I think it's important not to conflate the observations we get from the Canon with the interpretations and predictions we make about those observations.

    I think we should not find ourselves saying "these observations don't fit my model so I'm going to disregard them because I like my model", but instead say "my model no longer fits my observations as well, so I'll either make a new model or wait for more observations-- and in the meantime I'll continue to have confidence that I can make observations of reality."

    Ha, as soon as we finished, I realized that I should have pointed out that whenever Lucretius appears to be using logic to fight against logic, what he is really doing is to show logicians that their logic leads to conclusions which they have never observed happening. He is using observations to point out that logic isn't as accurate, more than using logical arguments against logical arguments. Without the observations, this method would have no teeth-- it is an observations vs logic, and observations win, instead of a logic vs logic structure.

    I found this useful little summary, which is still relevant despite being several years old, about the difference between wanting (desire, which can often be unconscious) and liking (pleasure). Both must happen for a person to choose pleasure!

    These can be decoupled. In schizophrenia, for instance, anhedonia, the loss of pleasure, seems to be mainly a loss of anticipatory pleasure. The person doesn't get any expectation of pleasure with wanting, so they tend not to seek pleasure. But if guided to engage in an activity, they often do experience liking, pleasure. Without desire for what we like, we would never take action to obtain it.

    In some cases, wanting can itself be pleasurable-- there can be liking of wanting. An example is the pleasurable hunger when we know a meal is almost ready, and the hunger improves the flavor!

    In situations like addiction, the person has wanting without liking, and the wanting is not pleasurable either. It's a sensation of being driven but minus enjoying. There is a fair amount of published research in the marketing world about how to increase wanting without concern towards liking. For example, eye tracking can catch unconscious wanting of a product.

    This summary uses "natural" differently from Epicurus, and the distinction is key. Epicurus wasn't referring to manufactured things like synthetic or processed opiates as unnatural. He was referring to non-existent things-- things you could want forever but never get, like unlimited wealth, because such a thing is only imaginary. But he was still noticing that wanting and liking could sometimes get separated.

    So the underlying lesson is the same, and now we have more research to help us understand and predict which situations can lead to less pleasure, either due to desire without pleasure or loss of desire so that the person never takes action to get pleasure.

    The specifics will vary somewhat between people. A useful process might be to make some lists-- what desires can't be fulfilled and are also not enjoyable to want? What desires can be fulfilled but don't cause pleasure or lead to more pain? Can you limit those, such as by avoidance of sophisticated marketing triggers? What desires lead reliably to pleasure when filled? What pleasures are not, for whatever reason, triggering desire, so that you forget to pursue and enjoy them-- and can you overcome your lack of desire by developing habits of pleasure, such as by putting certain activities on your calendar?


    Cassius lol it's connected 😂. I finally watched that Krauss/Dawkins video last night, and it was excellent! It was clear that Dawkins was very excited about Krauss' "something from nothing" and was saying that it is a huge blow to religions, by demonstrating that something from nothing doesn't require a god. I agree with him. Although the "nothing" had gravitational fields, it had no matter but was unstable and then "something " appeared. It really is amazing that stuff, matter, could come into existence.

    It's definitely an example of how language, an abstraction, can't substitute for the reality it describes. But for most people, the phrasing is right. Most people don't consider a gravitational field with no particles to be a "thing". If you stretch the definition to include fields, then obviously the sentence falls apart and there is maybe no such thing as "nothing" anywhere, so it's a moot point.

    For most people, and I think for Epicurus based on his reasoning, getting all the "stuff" we see in the universe from a condition with no particles is at least like getting "more something" than you started with, and that's a violation of nothing comes from nothing. Because of that, something from nothing is closer to "more something from less something", and it's probably as good a description as can be made without coining new words.

    Epicurus' model really did not have elementary particles that could come from something else or change into each other. That is a big difference. They could come together to make different things but not one alphabet letter turn into another or a letter come from the page.

    I am with Dawkins on the god as barnacle!😂

    Anyway, Dawkins wasn't disagreeing with Krauss. If you mean the part where Krauss uses the analogy of biology from chemistry as something from nothing... it's again a difficulty of language, but Krauss is right in that consciousness remains confusing to the point that some researchers still wonder if it has to be some inherent property of matter that becomes more complex with structural complexity. Is consciousness emergent, a something of a new type, or something else? Nobody knows yet.

    You have said you don't like how Krauss acts as if we know this happened for sure, but he never said that! What he said is that it _could_ have happened, and that alone is marvelous. He was very careful not to exceed what was supported by observations. It was beautifully stated.

    It was also fun to hear them talk about the possibility that alternative physics could have arisen-- different universal constants, etc. Still minus god. There could have been, or maybe is, a universe where the observations we make about matter/energy are very different! But it still wouldn't need a god.

    I thought it was a lovely, friendly, enthusiastic discussion between friends. I'm glad I watched it. These men have the attitude towards science I wish everyone had-- they take delight in it. It's fun, pleasurable. And it consistently renders god a redundant barnacle of a notion. 😂

    The reason I care about the outcome of this conversation is that I want to see EP survive and not be made obsolete, because I get pleasure from the pleasure of other people. I also feel some pain when it appears to me that Epicurus, a cutting edge, revolutionary scientist in his day, would ever be considered to support a less than cutting edge position today, when he's not here to defend himself. That, I realize, is silly, bc he's dead and can't be hurt! 😂

    Here is my summary on which PDs can hold up:

    Pd1 Matter is uncreatable: no, not in the way he described matter. If we change it to matter/energy is uncreatable, that holds up, but may not have been true in the Big Bang when matter/energy may not have functioned as it does now. Since that happened so long ago, I don't mind saying matter/energy is not created, because of the "is". An "is" doesn't rule out things having been otherwise in the past, so I'll take it.

    PD2 Matter is indestructible : not true in the original description. Could reframe as matter/energy is indestructible. However, if there is a "big collapse" to conditions preceding another big bang, and everything we call matter/energy winds up taking no space and the physics we understand now changes-- then PD2 may not always be true. That doesn't change that it is true now and certainly during any survivable conditions for life. I'm fine again here with an "is" because it doesn't constrain the distant future. PD1 and 2 are accepted physics for the current universe, now that it exists.

    PD3 no, the universe does not consist of solid bodies and void. The hard body model of physics is over. That one cannot even be metaphorically accepted. And since we are including all known types of energy fields as matter, there's not much void if any, especially if what looks like void has dark energy. It's just wrong. But it doesn't change that there's no god.

    PD4 solid bodies are either compounds or simple. Just take out the word solid and it's ok

    PD5 the multitude of atoms is infinite. We could translate better and say the multitude of elementary particles is infinite. But to be accurate, we actually don't know. It is unclear whether the universe is infinite or just very big, and the answer depends on that. Either way, it's so big in comparison to us that it might as well be infinite. If it is finite, that doesn't mean there's anything outside it. And there's still no god.

    PD 6 the void is infinite in extent. Unclear. There are some observed areas of apparent void in space (not on earth) but they may not actually be empty-- they may have dark energy. We don't know enough to say this, and it's not relevant to being sure there's no supernatural god.

    PD7 the atoms (elementary particles) are always in motion. That one seems to have held up 😂

    PD8 the speed of atomic (elementary particles) is uniform -- that's not true. They can be accelerated, for instance. And since you are including particles like photons in matter, then those are (obviously) at the speed of light. You can look around without a physics lab and know that other stuff is not moving at the speed of light. PD8 can't be fixed-- it's just wrong.

    PD9 motion is linear in space, vibratory in compounds. Well, no. Elementary particles have vibratory motion even when they have linear motion. There's also rotational motion, orbital, and suborbital motion.

    PD 10 atoms (elementary particles) are capable of swerving slightly at any point in time. This physical description doesn't fit current ideas of probabilistic behavior of matter. Epicurus thought it was a literal swerve from linear movement and that's not what happens. It can be metaphorized to say future events are probabilistic, but imagining a little particle speeding along and suddenly, unpredictably changing course is not really what happens. I would leave out the "any point in time "-- I don't think we know that.

    PD 11 atoms (elementary particles are characterized by 3 things-- weight, shape, and size. That one would need updating to mass, charge, and spin

    PD12 the number of the different shapes (of elementary particles) is not infinite but innumerable. Shape is not a thing used to describe elementary particles, and so far there are a limited number of different types, nothing close to innumerable types. This one just needs to have a note for historical purposes -- it's not relevant any more. There's no way I can think of to re-state this in a way that is correct.

    So you see, some of this information is not controversial in being outdated. Some is still unknown, but some things actually need to be revised now.

    I agree it's important to question experts -- and also to question Epicurus. I don't put anyone on privileged footing when it comes to whether I would question them! So when you say why should we believe experts, I am with you, and it includes Epicurus.

    I agree it's important to know where his ideas came from, and his thought processes. And it's also important for people today to know they can come to his same overarching conclusions about this being a material universe, about absence of gods, and about pleasure as the goal, while studying ongoing discoveries in physics. It's not that I want to say Epicurus didn't have PD8 and 12-- he did.

    If we think of a conclusion like any of these PDs as a "diagnosis", and the observations as signs and symptoms-- parents sometimes get scared when they finally get a diagnosis for their kids' troubles. That's normal. And if the diagnosis changes, it's also scary. But what's true is that even though a diagnosis, a model of disease, provides useful information, the label doesn't change the child. The child is still who they are with or without the label. In the same way, reality is what it is with or without the concepts being applied.

    I mainly want people to know that PD 8 and 12 being inaccurate and almost all the others needing updating doesn't do a thing to mess up the overall conclusions. And to put more weight on observations than reasons-- to emphasize the Canon. That's my whole point.

    I meant to say "anxiety disorder", which is how I think of anxiety, a persistent false fear, vs fear which is reality based (tiger about to eat you). I disagree though that there is no other significant difference between our positions, because the fact remains that you are telling people modern physics models somehow threaten our philosophy, and it's not true. You are saying that the philosophy of reality can't survive new conclusions about reality, and it's not true. I am saying the philosophy can only survive by being open to (and not fearful of) new observations and conclusions on the specific ways reality functions. Imo that is not peripheral at all but central to preventing the philosophy from becoming something of only historical interest.

    And to clarify a little what it's like to place observations first: there is no amount of logic that can tell me I don't feel pleasure when I feel it 😂. There is no amount of logic, of any type, that can convince me I don't interact with reality through my senses, because the person would have to give me information via my senses-- I don't even have another way to receive their logic except through my body. This is a description of my certainty and not a logic conclusion. If they want to convince me I'm a brain in a vat, how will they even show me math except through my senses? 😂

    This is a bedrock sensation of certainty for me. I feel no obligation to believe in anything that has not been demonstrated to me. My prolepses, I have observed also.

    Ack. Relying primarily on observations does not mean we can't make pragmatic conclusions. I thought last night I was "done" with trying to explain myself but lol 😂 apparently I am not!

    1) The universe was not created by a supernatural god and this has not one thing to do with how long it has existed. There is no observational OR logical connection between those two things. So don't worry about new theories regarding the beginning of the universe.

    2) Not having "space" outside the universe for a supernatural god has not a single thing to do with there not being one. Such a being would still have to take action within the universe to be relevant to us, and it doesn't happen. There's space outside my living room but that doesn't mean I need to consider a magical unicorn being outside. Besides, this argument does not dissuade supernaturalists who believe in a supernatural realm apart from the material one, a realm invisible to all our instruments. The idea of material "room" would just make them roll their eyes. Recognize this as an endless "god of the gaps" situation and move on.

    3) We don't quite know yet how stability and predictability work at the smallest level, but we can clearly observe it happening at the macro level, so we do know these are properties of matter and energy.

    4) He who says he knows nothing may be technically correct, because the tiny degree of uncertainty is there, but it has no bearing on our lives unless we get obsessed with it. If getting obsessed with it causes a person maximum pleasure, then that's fine, but if it causes anxiety, there's therapy to get over obsessions. No amount of evidence can relieve someone's anxiety, according to evidence, but therapy can be extremely helpful. **** When someone clings to a conceptual conclusion as if adjusting it would make reality disintegrate before their eyes, given that reality doesn't in fact disintegrate, this is a dysfunctional anxiety situation as well and may not respond to more data.

    5) The most unreliable logic is casual; formal logic eliminates some of those errors; and the most reliable procedure is to spend time making observations from senses and feelings for premises, and when you form deductive models from those observations, remember that no abstract model can ever fully replace reality, models are thus inherently incomplete (the word "pleasure" is not the same as the feeling of pleasure), and even a deductive model is abstract. Models can be pragmatically useful despite being incomplete. Always subject your deductive models to the available evidence. Be aware of your innate pattern recognitions and of your concepts, and remember that these patterns, such as the sensation of justice, are experiential, and that there is no material item "justice" that is the same for every person.

    Cassius this is sad to me to hear, because Epicurus was cutting edge in his day and I do not think he would want to exclude intelligent scientists from his Garden. It is one thing if they exclude themselves but another to repel them by being unwilling to see that physics can be safely updated without injury to the philosophy.

    Interestingly, in this case, your quoted passage advises limiting reason and rules, which is the position I have taken, while you are arguing to stick rigidly with rule-like models. I am more like the ploughwoman here who says pay more attention to reality.

    If no one had ever made any further observations, then it would be understandable to take your position. However, observations have been made and are part of the popular press-- some of these observations have even been incorporated into technology which we use. And lay people, your ploughmen, read about these things! It is a disservice to tell them newer models endanger EP, when it isn't true. That leaves them in a confusing position where they could feel threatened unnecessarily by emerging observations. They would have to stick their heads in the sand like ostriches trying to block out the world which is moving on past them.

    I think I have exhausted my efforts to change your mind and that this will be my last comment on the subject. If you ever decide to reconsider, I think there's enough here between me and Elli that you can come back to it.

    So, if you are going to include energy fields with matter, then there is no documented void in the way Epicurus described it. Objects are not really made of particles and void, because matter is not the hard body thing he described. Unless I've understood incorrectly, even astronomical voids are thought to contain dark energy. That means there is maybe no pure "nothing" and the statement nothing comes from nothing is just nonsense anyway, talking about an abstract idea which doesn't exist.

    I don't see how you can escape the necessity of revising some of his conclusions unless you just dig your heels in and refuse to accept any modern observations.

    Wow, you are making a lot of straw man arguments Cassius . Conclusions about absence of gods can't be accurately made from logic. I would have insufficient confidence in a logic based conclusion. That would make me nervous.

    I put my confidence in my first-hand observations of nature, and in the complete absence of evidence for supernatural gods. And whenever more detailed evidence is obtained, at the level too small or too far away to investigate without instruments, never has any researcher found any observations a god was needed to explain. They haven't included gods in their models because none are necessary. So I am saying that new observations which invalidate old models have not challenged the conclusions about absence of supernatural gods. At every level, from the simple to the complex-- no supernatural shows up.

    You seem to want explanations which appeal to those with less education or intelligence, whether those explanations are correct or not. But a sturdy philosophy should not repel scientists who note inaccuracies or cling to conclusions that could result in less educated people feeling threatened by published reports about new observations. The philosophy must have integrity, so that the simple explanations are not saying inaccurate things. It is possible to state this material in simple ways without stating it inaccurately. In order to maintain structural integrity and be an ongoing source of reassurance, a philosophy has to occasionally adjust some of its statements about reality in response to new observations.

    Cassius extending the senses is entirely different from realizing that matter can be transformed into energy. There is also not really any known void in the way Epicurus described it, because of energy fields. When it comes to energy, if you want to make it the same as what Epicurus said, you've either got to classify it as matter OR as void -- it can't work as both in his model. If you want to include it in matter, then you need to admit he was wrong on void. If you include it in void, then there is something from nothing. Moreover, the Big Bang models that say the "something" that everything started from did not take up any space and that time didn't exist-- this is dramatically different from Epicurus' idea of "something". It's really not possible to stretch his descriptions to fit something so different.

    His model no longer works as described, even though it is a clear precursor, and a brilliant one. I feel pretty confident that if he were here today, he would tell you the current description of reality built on what he thought but is also substantially different.

    All that is necessary for the pain and pleasure understanding, pleasure as a goal, is observations of one's self and others. Neurobiology is sufficient. That wouldn't change even if there were meddling gods-- in that case, we would still be trying to gain pleasure, lol.

    But what is necessary for _accurate_ choices for pleasure is an accurate understanding of reality, and since that does not include meddling gods or an afterlife, we make our choices with that knowledge. None of the modern physics theories include meddling gods or supernatural realms. That is sufficient to be confident we don't need to include such issues in our life planning.

    On the conservation of matter, I am bothered by the notion that this can be purely derived from deduction. It actually had to be _observed_ before it was accepted-- it had to be tested. So the logic generated a hypothesis-- a known use of logic. And even then, it was not exactly correct! It needed to be modified as matter-energy. And if some other observations later require adjustments to that model, then that's what will be done.

    It's important to note that even though Epicurus wasn't exactly right, there is still no supernatural realm! So the philosophy did not fall apart just because conclusions were updated.

    I think it's inaccurate to stretch what Epicurus said to include energy. That is not the way he described matter. It is certainly amazing that he had so many ideas that fed into ongoing physics! And it's also the case that his conclusions have required adjustments over time, in response to observations.


    Well, I was using the standard meaning of "first principles"... I don't see DeWitt even using that term. Anything but an axiom, an unprovable first principle in the way that term is used by everyone I've ever heard use it, would be subject to revision and falsification from observations--- IF we agree that observations are how we know about reality.

    Otherwise, the philosophy is left in the dust by new observations and cannot adjust. It is a disastrous mistake to cling to a conclusion as if it must remain inviolable. And there is no reason that the rest of the philosophy falls apart just because some of these statements are not necessarily accurate. It's just not true. The philosophy is far more sturdy than you've made it out to be, Cassius ! Reality is an excellent and sufficient testimony to EP.