Philosophy | University of Northern Colorado
Philosophy | University of Northern Colorado
Home | Profile | Register | Active Topics | Members | Search | FAQ
Username:
Password:
Save Password
Forgot your Password?

 All Forums
 The Open Forum
 The Agora
 Is Everything a Thing?
 New Topic  Reply to Topic
 Printer Friendly
Author Previous Topic Topic Next Topic  

Da5id
Journeyman

52 Posts

Posted - Sep 29 2007 :  12:38:09 PM  Show Profile  Send Da5id a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
In my reading and discussions with others I have come across the concept of everything as a thing. The word "universe" is taken to mean "everything that is," and the universe is treated in discussions as if it, itself, were a thing.

I'm not sure I put that as clearly as possible. Hmm. Biologists talk of organisms and species. Both are real, and both are within the province of biology, but biologists don't make the category mistake of considering a species to be the same kind of entity (or category) as an organism.

Is saying that two or more things interact semantically equivalent to saying that they are parts of the same thing? I don't think so. The hard drive in my computer is a part of my computer in a way that the other computers connected to the Internet right now are not.

Alan Watts (on KGNU radio) seems to say that the separateness of the entities that make up the universe is an illusion. Has he mistaken interaction for identity?

Douglas Adams jokingly proposed a device that calculated the whole of creation by extrapolating from the effects that everything else must necessarily have on one particular object: a piece of cake. Of course, this couldn't work because such effects aren't discrete. Gravity, for example, is acting upon me. This force of gravity is the sum of the separate vectors of force caused by every other object in the universe. However, the sum of these vectors can't be analyzed back into the vectors that were summed. If I tell someone that I have summed one or more real numbers, and that the sum is zero, no one can infer how many (much less which) numbers I summed to get that zero. The possibilities are infinite.

Everything may have an influence on other things, but does this interaction of entities justify treating "everything" as a "thing" in its own right?

Particle physics sees a universe of particles that interact. It does not see the set of all particles as a particle. Nor does it conclude that the influence of particles on other particles means that there is, after all, only one particle.

David

[Lightly edited to enhance readability -TT]

Michael Threadgill
Newcomer

3 Posts

Posted - Feb 12 2008 :  11:12:46 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Well if one believes that a thing is a bearer of properites that exists in space-time, then possibly a thing could interact with two or more things to create one thing as a whole. This forum, for example, bears the properties of a number of people replying to a topic of one single person. These are the properties of the forum a topic being displayed, then multiple responses. Though the topic and each reply are seperate "things," they come together to create another entity or "thing" in the broader sense of the term. So the concept of everything can even be taken as a thing in the broadest scope of the viewing lens. The issue is this: can we rely on the information that a thing is a bearer of properties that exists in space-time?

[Lightly edited to enhance readability -TT]
Go to Top of Page

Wayne Nirenberg
Fledgling

15 Posts

Posted - Jan 14 2009 :  5:29:28 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
While it's true that David should be including Space/Time in his definition of the one big thing, I think while focusing on making his point, Michael misses David's point. If we're talking about "things" or subjects that come together causally we're including all cause into that one big thing.

The fact that our perspective is limited to only specific causes that present us with clumps of generalized causes that don't relate to our ability to distinguish between them, and therefore present contrastless backgrounds for others that we do recognize to use as an ether, ("space" would be one example), means that we're not willing and most of the time not even able to relate to these things as wholes. For example we look at other people, relate to them and think of them as individuals. But those individual persons are actually great clusters of cells, which in turn are great clusters of atoms.

The only reason we know about these little things and can relate to them as we do is because we've looked and in that way have been forced to function according to some of their more broad generalizations. From there we incorporated their identities into our minds' explanitory process. And finally we think with those generalizations. In the same way, if I were the size of a cell I would be forced consider many more of the rules that cells function by, also adding those into my functioning.

Now, keeping that in mind, there are speeds to time that go beyond us. If I think of the universe in terms of a causal ether that everything is a subject of, time would be one of those causes and our relation to time is part of what distinguishes our perspective. There are smaller causes relative to us, going at speeds relative to us that we'd consider them solid subjects. And there are causes large enough and slow enough that we'd consider them only systems that we live within. All three examples, "solids", "us" and "systems" are all still causes within the one big thing, the way we relate to them though keeps us from functioning with them objectively enough to understand them as being the same thing.

There's a range of time and space that we exist between. Conceivably there may be causes that exist within a wider scope than us but in the same way that a cell doesn't function according to us, (at least without our help) we can't consider those causes without a way to recognize beyond our causal range. Examples of some of these might be Gia or our galaxy; systems that are so large and move so slow it's hard for us to consider their systems as being as valuable as thought which moves much faster and is much smaller. These varying ranges of universal expression would be as wide and as small as the universe.

But then, when it came to the one big thing it would stop relating to other parts of itself because it would be all things. So it wouldn't be able to represent itself or react to itself like our minds do relative to other parts of the universe.

Now I did start from the premise that everything is a thing and from that came to the idea that everything is a thing. But if you believe that premise, as far as I can tell, it is consistent with itself.

So we can't put universal wholeness in the same category that we would put the wholeness of a person or a rock. Subjective wholeness like physics or causes are functions of the mind in order to represent and organize input. Universal wholeness doesn't have any of these things, outside walls, or anything else that limits it. It's actually more a thing than anything else.


Edited by - Wayne Nirenberg on Jan 15 2009 07:01:26 AM
Go to Top of Page

Da5id
Journeyman

52 Posts

Posted - Mar 11 2009 :  2:45:49 PM  Show Profile  Send Da5id a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
Hmm. I was suggesting that some people in some contexts may be making a category error. I'm not sure where I picked up the term "category error," but I hope I can explain what I mean by it.

I assume you'd agree that, "I went out for coffee and doughnuts with the Arab/Israeli Conflict." sounds odd. It sounds odd because, although the Conflict is a "thing," it's not in the category of things with which one goes out to eat.

I'm accustomed to accounting for (material) things by identifing what caused them to exist. What strikes me as odd is being asked to account for the universe (i.e., everything) in this same way. If I knew that the universe was once one discrete particle, it wouldn't seem quite so odd, but (for me) "What caused the universe?" begs the question, "What member of the set of all material things are you asking me to account for?"

I hope that's clear. Hmm. Imagine that someone asked me, "Where was your family born?" For each member of my family that question has a different answer. For my family seen as one unit, is that question even answerable? I suppose it is if I'm vague enough (i.e., "We're from Earth.") I think the question is asked as a result of an unwarrented assumption: that all members of a family are born at the same location.

Can I assume that all members of the set of all material objects are part of exactly one causal web? Maybe they are, and maybe they aren't. It doesn't seem safe, or even intellectually honest, simply to assume that they are. (It's also conceivable that it could be a causal tree. One thing became more than one, and those each became more than one, etc. I suppose that's what believers in the Cosmological Argument envisioned.)

Leaving aside the question of accounting for the existence of material objects, it still seems to me that we're often justified in saying, for example, "This is one thing, and that is another."

David

quote:
Originally posted by Wayne Nirenberg

While it's true that David should be including Space/Time in his definition of the one big thing, I think while focusing on making his point, Michael misses David's point. If we're talking about "things" or subjects that come together causally we're including all cause into that one big thing.

.....

So we can't put universal wholeness in the same category that we would put the wholeness of a person or a rock. Subjective wholeness like physics or causes are functions of the mind in order to represent and organize input. Universal wholeness doesn't have any of these things, outside walls, or anything else that limits it. It's actually more a thing than anything else.



Go to Top of Page

Wayne Nirenberg
Fledgling

15 Posts

Posted - Mar 17 2009 :  6:09:38 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Da5id

Hmm. I was suggesting that some people in some contexts may be making a category error. I'm not sure where I picked up the term "category error," but I hope I can explain what I mean by it.


I hope I'm doing these quote things right. Anyhue, part of my point in the last blurb I blurbbed was that if the universe isn't thought of as of a physical ether but instead a causal one there are no categories. The idea that this here is a house (subject) and that over there is a tree (subject) is determined by the position of the materialization or expression of cause affected by the subject(the mind of a person). Defining cause is like defining species. They don't actually exist apart from how we relate to them; in this case, temporally. The idea of function is one way of looking at effect. Deterministically speaking, what else could a thing be but it's function according to all it relates to? Categories are then only relative to expressions reacting to a function or functions. The function of a cell then isn't minimal, it's only distantly valued by the things it has no effect on. Cause itself is interpretive. Being from Framingham, MA. is no more true than being from earth, it only relates to different functions. So your whole family is from Earth, applies in a different (but just as important) context relative to the universe as a whole and only is less functional in the subjective contexts that your mind and situations relate them to.

quote:
Originally posted by Da5id
I'm accustomed to accounting for (material) things by identifing what caused them to exist. What strikes me as odd is being asked to account for the universe (i.e., everything) in this same way. If I knew that the universe was once one discrete particle, it wouldn't seem quite so odd, but (for me) "What caused the universe?" begs the question, "What member of the set of all material things are you asking me to account for?" I hope that's clear.



Very clear.....I wish I could be as clear.

The concept of a whole is different from the concept of a part. Claiming that a whole can relate to another whole is misguided. It's more practical than idealistic. When I talk about "everything" I'm talking about the idealistic version of which there can be only one because another whole would be another thing and I said I'm talking about everything. The "idea" of everything is misguided too because you can't have everything and the idea of everything too. Everything is all things. The idea in my head is only a representation in my head of functions. Everything doesn't have to follow my interpretation of it. We, for example, tend to look for a time before everything. How can there be an everything without including time? Time is another generalization that we measure everything by that doesn't apply when I consider everything. Everything is timeless because it includes all time and therefore has no time to relate to. Beginings too are relative to ends and middles etc... These are all representations we have to understand the world by and they don't apply to everything in the idealistic or causal sense. There is no set of material things of which the universe is one. The universe isn't even material. It's causal. Wholes in the practical, colloquial sense have equals, but they don't in an idealistically causal existence.

quote:
Originally posted by Da5id
Hmm. Imagine that someone asked me, "Where was your family born?" For each member of my family that question has a different answer. For my family seen as one unit, is that question even answerable? I suppose it is if I'm vague enough (i.e., "We're from Earth.") I think the question is asked as a result of an unwarrented assumption: that all members of a family are born at the same location.


I love this question. :c) I think I already answered it though. Family members, locations, Earth.....none of them are anything but values you and I have a predispostion to hold because we're affected by them. Assume different values and you get different answers. In this case your comparing a person with a place on Earth, to more people spanning the Earth itself. I could just as well compare the back side of your foot to your whole foot and ask you where you stand. The identity of every subject depends on the functions affecting the expression (the person) defining these identities. The definition is only as accurate as it's applied to other causes.

quote:
Originally posted by Da5id
Can I assume that all members of the set of all material objects are part of exactly one causal web? Maybe they are, and maybe they aren't. It doesn't seem safe, or even intellectually honest, simply to assume that they are. (It's also conceivable that it could be a causal tree. One thing became more than one, and those each became more than one, etc. I suppose that's what believers in the Cosmological Argument envisioned.)


Ahhhhh.......I get it now. You're giving yourself away. You're an agnostic, not an atheist. lol Look, saying that there are things that aren't causal is based on imagination.....and saying that everything is causal is based on endlessly repeating things that happen to everyone everywhere. Even people that don't believe that everything is causal can't argue that cause and effect is going on throughout 99% of their experience. I do have a solid argument for this but it's really long and I'm not sure if I'm up to spelling it all out right now. For now anyway, I'll just compare this argument to creationism arguements. Evolution is more reasonable when you understand how it happens because the evidence is everywhere, while creationism requires huuuuge leaps of prejudgment. When everything is accounted for there's no reason to even consider taking those leaps.

Edited by - Wayne Nirenberg on Apr 08 2009 6:19:26 PM
Go to Top of Page

Da5id
Journeyman

52 Posts

Posted - Mar 20 2009 :  7:33:08 PM  Show Profile  Send Da5id a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
Interesting. We're having more than one conversation at the same time. Oh well, I've done essentially the same on this forum before.

quote:
Even people that don't believe that everything is causal can't argue that cause and effect is going on throughout 99% of their experience. I do have a solid argument for this but it's really long and I'm not sure if I'm up to spelling it all out right now.


This is interesting. 99% of what I see happening is not explained by causation? Do I understand this correctly?

I assume, based on my intuition gained from being aware for more than 50 years, that virtually every occurence I see is explainable in terms of cause and effect. Even the probabalistic predictions of modern physics are precisely calculable with the math (Shroedinger wave equation, etc.).

Digression:


I actually have the rather odd (for an atheist with a strictly materialistic, scientific world-view) notion (a hypothesis) that not every occurence in entirely explicable in terms of cause and effect. Specifically, I suspect that, to some extent, minds can be self-controlled. This would imply a different level of responsibility for our actions when those actions are a result of cogitation.

Biologists talk of voluntary and involuntary human actions. My heart's beating is involuntary, but tying my shoe is not. I think the "voluntary" actions may really be (to some extent) voluntary in the sense of being controlled by my "self-controlled" cogitation. I can see some objections to this hypothesis, but it's confirmed by my direct experience of my own cogitation. It would take extraordinary evidence to convince me that I don't decide to tie my shoe, and that I could decide not to.

The problem with my hypothesis is that it seems to require...what? Self-causation? "Acasuation?" Just what, if it exists, would "free agency" be?



However, despite the digression above, I still believe that the universe is almost entirely explicable, and that it can be accurately described with formal systems, like math. If it can be modeled with math, doesn't something like casuation have to be taking place?

David
Go to Top of Page

Wayne Nirenberg
Fledgling

15 Posts

Posted - Apr 08 2009 :  9:34:14 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Da5id
_______________________________________
quote from Wayne.

Even people that don't believe that everything is causal can't argue that cause and effect is going on throughout 99% of their experience. I do have a solid argument for this but it's really long and I'm not sure if I'm up to spelling it all out right now.
________________________________________
quote from David

This is interesting. 99% of what I see happening is not explained by causation? Do I understand this correctly?

I assume, based on my intuition gained from being aware for more than 50 years, that virtually every occurence I see is explainable in terms of cause and effect. Even the probabalistic predictions of modern physics are precisely calculable with the math (Shroedinger wave equation, etc.)


First……Got me. Sorry ‘bout that. I got that wrong but you in your infinite wisdom caught me. I appreciate it. I have to watch myself. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! It looks like it’s another night in the woodshed for me.

Second…….umm…ok.

Buuut, just one thing. I don’t think math and even cause and effect can explain everything because the nature of explanation and everything dictates that everything can’t be explained. (If you're interested I can explain how this is next time. I just thought I'd avoid goin' down that path if you're not interested.) I’ll add to that too that cause and math, like everything else we “know” are only idioms that depend on our ignorance for their existence. They’re generalizations like all Blacks, Jews or Asians are like this or that. It's a Wittgenstein thing without words. They help us form a concept so that we can manipulate it in our heads and they exist only as that metaphor. They may be fundamental to the way we think, but I don’t see how they’re any more fundamental to existence, than the color blue.

quote:
Originally posted by Da5id
I actually have the rather odd (for an atheist with a strictly materialistic, scientific world-view) notion (a hypothesis) that not every occurence in entirely explicable in terms of cause and effect. Specifically, I suspect that, to some extent, minds can be self-controlled. This would imply a different level of responsibility for our actions when those actions are a result of cogitation.


You consider yourself strictly materialistic but you suspect that our having a responsibility for our actions is a good enough reason to break with the idea? Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions here…..I hope I am……but isn’t that like saying that you were an Atheist that had everything figured out, but then realized that you didn’t know anything and found Christ? They may have been Atheists but these people find God because they were looking for lame answers in the first place. If you ever were strictly materialistic why would you ever even consider something that isn’t? When somebody does a magic trick I don’t fall to my knees and offer him my first born. I say “Heeeyyy lol……come-onnnnnnn lol. How the hell did you do that?” no matter how good it was. And then, I’d probably throw-up on his shoes. Now, maybe I’m closed-minded but when your number one question is always “Heeeyyy lol……come-onnnnnnn lol. How the hell did you do that?” how is it that I can avoid assuming a mechanical (causal) explanation? Please let me know. Years of skepticism takes its toll. And I’m not getting anywhere with it. If I could forget all this crap and just believe, I’m pretty sure I’d begin anew. …sort of a Born-again materialist. I have to confess, the way you look at yourself in this regard seems very PC. At a time when fundamentalism is scary to the average American you’re a self-determinating materialist. Are you sure political correctness doesn’t have anything to do with this belief? I, on the other hand, AM NOT AFRAID TO SAYYY……I like sex with animals. There, it’s out there. What a relief.


quote:
Originally posted by Da5id
Biologists talk of voluntary and involuntary human actions. My heart's beating is involuntary, but tying my shoe is not. I think the "voluntary" actions may really be (to some extent) voluntary in the sense of being controlled by my "self-controlled" cogitation. I can see some objections to this hypothesis, but it's confirmed by my direct experience of my own cogitation. It would take extraordinary evidence to convince me that I don't decide to tie my shoe, and that I could decide not to.



:c) Soooo are you saying that if you believe it, it must be true? Or just that the nature of your being permits you to intellectualize the implication of cause and effect but that regardless, the concept has no context within your phenomenological perspective? If the former, heeeyyy lol……come-onnnnnnn lol. how the hell did you do that?. If the latter, you’re not alone at all, again, you’re taking the most popular position and trying to act as if you’ve got some insight on the matter. Sartre was an Atheist and he believed in responsibility in just the way you’re describing. I, personally, think he was a nut, but he did make for some really interesting conversation. Are you an existentialist? Did you ever see Waking Life? I love that movie. Although I was reading my Oxford Companion to Philosophy or The Mind or something and I found dialogue plagiarized for one of the characters. I can’t remember which one it was.

Being a determinist is a lot like Being John Malkovich……..no………wait…who am I kidding? There’s nothing here.

Being a determinist is a lot like being a kitty-litter box. People think they’re the wiser for NOT being one, regardless of the fact that, mannnn, we really got all the good shit! It’s fun to rise above people, but doing it without reason seems irresponsible to me. Bring me a reason. I’ll try and be reasonable about a reason. Until then, toodaloo. I shoulda’ called myself Zorro or something. Is it too late to change my name?

Edited by - Wayne Nirenberg on Apr 08 2009 9:40:32 PM
Go to Top of Page
  Previous Topic Topic Next Topic  
 New Topic  Reply to Topic
 Printer Friendly
Jump To:
Philosophy | University of Northern Colorado © 2004 tkt Go To Top Of Page
This page was generated in 0.14 seconds. Snitz Forums 2000