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The Silly Philosophy Poll


Philosophical Questions  

33 members have voted

  1. 1. Your position on free will

    • Hard determinism (no free will, determinism is true)
      3
    • Hard incompatibilism (no free will, determinism is false)
      2
    • Compatibilism (there is free will, determinism is true)
      17
    • Libertarianism (there is free will, determinism is false)
      6
    • Other
      5
  2. 2. Epistemology: how should we gain knowledge?

    • Empiricism (sensory experience is the ultimate source of knowledge)
      2
    • Rationalism (knowledge gained independently of sensory experience)
      3
    • Some combination thereof
      20
    • Skepticism (Is knowledge possible in the first place?)
      7
    • Other
      1
  3. 3. Abstract objects: nominalism or Platonism?

    • Platonism (existence of non-physical, non-mental, abstract objects)
      18
    • Nominalism (the opposite of Platonism)
      9
    • Other
      6
  4. 4. Meta-ethics: the nature of morals

    • Universalism (morals apply universally to all people)
      11
    • Relativism (morals are subjective and apply differently to different people)
      11
    • Moral nihilism (nothing is intrinsically wrong or right)
      6
    • Other
      5
  5. 5. Normative ethics: how do we determine what is ethical?

    • Virtue ethics (based on the character of the person)
      2
    • Deontology (based on adherence to a set of rules)
      2
    • Consequentialism (based on the outcome of the action)
      7
    • Some combination thereof
      17
    • Other
      5
  6. 6. Ontology and the mind: physicalism vs. non-physicalism

    • Physicalism (everything is physical)
      17
    • Non-physicalism (the mind is nonphysical, etc.)
      13
    • Other
      3
  7. 7. Your ideas related to the meaning of life

    • Life's meaning has a supernatural component related to a deity or other deities.
      7
    • Life's meaning has a supernatural component related to a spiritual substance.
      2
    • Life's meaning is natural, subjective, and varies from person to person.
      5
    • Life has an objective, natural meaning independent of the mind.
      0
    • Life has no inherent meaning (nihilism)
      13
    • This question is silly in the first place.
      5
    • Other
      1


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1. Compatibilism, and I take it seriously. Specifically I hold that determinism is largely necessary for free will. To the extent that anything is non-deterministic, it is random, and randomness is not willed at all.

 

2. Epistemology is a fascinating field, but sometimes it gets a little tangled up on itself and divorced from reality. Obviously pure rational deduction has a lot going for it; equally obviously, many truths about reality cannot be arrived at deductively and require observation. So both.

 

3. Trying to nail down what non-concrete things really are strikes me as one of the more navel-gazing aspects of philosophy, and saying so probably means that to the extent that I'm anything I'm probably an idealist. Abstract objects exist per se as rational/psychological constructs, and I'm not interested in the metaphysics.

 

4. I voted for universalism, but I think there's a strong case for moral nihilism. It's meta-ethical moral relativism that I'm skeptical of; a good moral system really ought to be universalizable. (Except that's a loaded term in ethics!)

 

5. I take my utilitarianism very seriously, problems and all, while acknowledging that an evaluative moral system and a practicable moral system may not be identical.

 

6. Physicalism. We're all just meat.

 

7. I go for cheerful existential nihilism. Life is without meaning, so we might as well enjoy it. In fact, it's a moral imperative!

 

—Alorael, who likes his philosophy like his coffee: black, bitter, and yet somehow delicious and great for getting you up and moving.

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1. Hard determinism. Free will is a meaningless phrase stemming from the cognitive illusions of our conscious minds. It signifies absolutely nothing. It is an empty altar.

 

2. Skepticism. Nothing can be trusted, everything is superstition. Speaking of altars.

 

3. What Alo said.

 

4. Nihilism. Right and wrong are human inventions, not features of the universe.

 

5. Evaluating the worth of actions and the worth of the person performing those actions are different questions. That said, strict consequentialism is the only way to determine whether an action is right or not.

 

6. Physicalism. I'm not a barbarian.

 

7. I take my nihilism black. No hedonist sugar or existentialist cream. Nihilism. Nothing else. Nothing at all, in fact.

 

I dunno why some people have trouble taking simple philosophical positions to their logical extremes.

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1. Hard determinism, and I'm a puppet who doesn't like his strings.

2. Both, but in moments of great angst I wander towards skepticism. I'm also a fallibilist.

3. I never really understood Plato's forms and whatnot. Nominalism

4. Morals are constructs, but useful constructs; I think that constructed morals should be applied universally, so I'm sort of a combination of nihilism and universalism.

5. Consequentialism

6. Physicalism and naturalism. Our minds are matter and are little more than complex clockwork.

7. I'm a nihilist; meaning is constructed.

 

Pastrytarianism. The best cake for the greatest number.

Hmm… sugary utilitarianism.

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I think you meant to say "platonist" and not "Platonist" given your description.

 

I'm a platonist on principle (really the only way to be one) but even I was shocked to see so many votes for it. That kind of makes me wonder how reliable the answers to the questions are, at least for those questions where it's hard to get around the need for a little background information.

 

My one potentially interesting answer is that, so far from being a physicalist, I'm an immaterialist.

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I'm a platonist on principle (really the only way to be one) but even I was shocked to see so many votes for it.

 

i think if you asked most random people whether numbers really exist they'd say yes

 

i mean i wouldn't but most people would. people wouldn't get into huge dumb arguments about things like whether 0.999999... = 1 if they didn't think there was some fact of the matter to be discovered as opposed to the answer just being the logical implication of a set of definitions made by human beings for our own convenience

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1. Free Will?

I generally use Free Will as the starting point for many of my philosophies, standards, and principles. I find the absence of free will utterly anathematic. No free will? That kills the concept of choice, responsibility, guilt, innocence, good, evil, purpose, meaning, right, wrong, competence, deserving, and a whole host of other ideas that would make for a very bleak and pointless existence indeed.

 

2. Epistemology?

Empiricism without rationalism is shallow and short sighted. Rationalism divorced from empiricism is too prone to error and outright delusion. Rationalism may give us insight in ways Empiricism can't possibly offer, but often times the strongest believing can only come from seeing.

 

3. Nominalism or Platonism?

Platonism. The notion that existence ceases at the limits of mankind's well proven skewed, limited, and downright pitiful perceptions rings arrogant and false in my mind.

 

4. Universalism or Relativism?

Universalism. Relativism is too much of an excuse, and nihilism is even worse. In either case, you're no longer talking morality but simple social and cultural norms and standards which fall further from a question of good and evil and instead move into blithe practicality.

 

5. Normative Ethics?

While the Road to Hell may be paved with good intentions, failed good intentions are not necessarily a sign of failed ethics. That said, extremely few people view themselves as unethical, literally "evil" and have yet committed atrocities. To this end, ethics as a global declaration are often a question of retrospection rather than outcome vs. intent.

 

6. Physicalism vs. Non-physicalism

Non-physicalism - Physicalism is wholly incompatible with the notion of Free Will. The physical mind is, no matter how complicated, slave to the same wholly predictable physics as every other physical entity, rendering free will illusionary in this scenario. If there is no deeper conduit of existence, if thought is merely the result of physical expression, then once more all choice evaporates and you're back to free will being dead.

 

7. Meaning of Life?

The physical world, based off raw observation and logic is wholly divorced from the concept of meaning. Meaning indicates purpose, and no greater purpose has been hinted at through clinical observation. This leads to either two notions - that there is no true meaning to anything or that the purpose in question lies beyond the mundane observable.

 

I hold to my religion, and will leave it at that.

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1. Free Will?

Bah. If there's any question that is pointless in philosophy, it's this one, that's for sure. I don't care either way, given that an understanding of life as determined (perhaps pre-determined as the Calvinists would say) still holds plenty of opportunity for scathing moral judgment.

 

I hold certain anti-humanist tendencies. Nurture and nature both shape us a lot more than we're willing to admit. That said, I believe there is still room for individual agency that contravenes cultural and 'natural' drives, but ultimately we are a scene of history more than anything else.

 

2. Epistemology?

The world of knowledge is not tabula rasa. We are always already incorporated into a system of knowledge that is socially constructed, which ultimately is how I view epistemology. It's formally called standpoint epistemology.

 

3. Nominalism or Platonism?

Nominalism. I'm no solipsist, but I do recognize that the socially constructed system of culture from which we derive a knowledge base as individual and collective units is ultimately arbitrary. I quote Nietzsche to say, "Plato is boring."

 

4. Universalism or Relativism?

Of course things are relativistic. Nihilism makes the boring assumption that nothing exists, but in reality, though the morals and ethics we construct are just as arbitrary as any other historically contingent set of principles, the have a material effect on the world and are thus worth serious consideration instead of intellectual laziness in disregarding.

 

5. Normative Ethics?

Virtue ethics leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It's calculative and ultimately could reduce the value of life to nothing. Consequentialism is also calculative, so I have a loose modification of it based on deontological ethics. That said, I'm not one to rigidly follow ethics myself, so it's not the most important issue to me.

 

6. Physicalism vs. Non-physicalism

Physicalism. Descartes is the only philosopher who I despise on any level equivalent to Plato. The separation of "the soul" or whatever people will call it from "the body" as such is the justification for ascetic practices that deny life and instead enact ressentiment.

 

7. Meaning of Life?

There is no Truth, so feel free to figure it out yourself.

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1. Free Will

 

It's the Newtonian Mechanics of philosophy: a useful abstraction that is technically incorrect, but necessary in practice.

 

Some people would call it an outright lie. To them I would say: do you factor in relativistic mass changes when calculating the kinetic energy of a baseball? Because if you use good old (1/2)mv^2, then by that definition, you're lying to yourself.

 

(On the other hand, as with Newtonian mechanics, relying on the concept of free will everywhere is a terrible idea.)

 

2. How should we gain knowledge?

 

Logic, empirical evidence, whatever; but make sure other people, with different ideas, vet your work.

 

If you want to get technical we can't really be certain of anything. Senses can be decieved, logic can be distorted by ingrained biases. I've seen people use this as a basis for saying that there is no reality external to our senses, we live in a "shared subjective reality" or somesuch. IMO this is a failure to acknowledge that distrusting all your senses by default is basically solipsism - if you can't trust your senses at all, you can't even trust that other people exist.

 

Is it possible that I'm a Boltzmann Brain floating in a sea of hallucinations? Sure. But if I assume that, I might as well throw away everything. Given two equally likely assumptions, one of which can only be harmful and the other generally helpful, you might as well take the helpful one.

 

3. Abstract Notions

 

I don't think it even makes sense to talk of non-physical things existing, except as useful illusions/abstractions/whatever (see again Newtonian mechanics). No, numbers aren't real, nor concepts like monetary value, etc. I can't even say what they actually are physically. Certain patterns of neurons firing? But they're useful, so we keep them.

 

4-5. Ethics

 

My views on these are wildly inconsistent at the best of times, but personally I've developed a deep suspicion of ethical viewpoints that are internally consistent. I'm going to let this one pass, I think.

 

6. The Mind

 

I'm quite sure it's physical.

 

7. The Meaning of Life (and the Universe and Everything)

 

IMO the question is absurd. It's like asking what an atom "means," or a person, or a planet, only even bigger and more ridiculous.

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I generally use Free Will as the starting point for many of my philosophies, standards, and principles. I find the absence of free will utterly anathematic. No free will? That kills the concept of choice, responsibility, guilt, innocence, good, evil, purpose, meaning, right, wrong, competence, deserving, and a whole host of other ideas that would make for a very bleak and pointless existence indeed.

 

Non-physicalism - Physicalism is wholly incompatible with the notion of Free Will. The physical mind is, no matter how complicated, slave to the same wholly predictable physics as every other physical entity, rendering free will illusionary in this scenario. If there is no deeper conduit of existence, if thought is merely the result of physical expression, then once more all choice evaporates and you're back to free will being dead.

Thanks for the soapbox!

 

Whether the mind is wholly physical or not has implications for determinism but surprisingly little bearing on free will. The mind's just meat? Okay, outcomes are determined by the state of the universe. And, because quantum mechanics, possibly the determinism is statistical. There's some immaterial soul at the wheels? Fine! Our decisions come from some balance of the physical state of the universe and the spiritual state of the soul. Will has to come from somewhere!

 

Given that will is based on whatever drives the mind, physical or not, free will means choices that are determined. If someone tied you up and then gave you the choice to get five dollars or be brutally tortured, it's not really a choice at all. You take the money, because based on your history and preferences leading to that moment, five dollars are nice and torture is not. The same is true for less silly, obvious choices: you could have water or beer or soda or whatever else to drink right next time you're thirsty. All are reasonable choices. At that moment, however, you will choose based on your priorities in the moment, which are the product of who you are and everything you've experienced up to that point, and that's true whether it's body or soul doing the choosing. If you could choose against all your priorities... what kind of will is that? It is, at best, statistical noise tipping the balance when you're near equipoise.

 

—Alorael, who also goes in for unenlightened egoism. And nihilist duopsism.

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Free will in that sense communicates nothing meaningful whatsoever. If you can only possibly make one choice, then you aren't making any choices at all. It is, by definition, impossible to make a choice - you have no original input on that process. Everything that feels like "making choices" to the conscious mind are just the effects of causes that lie outside of the self. You're a part of the universe and the product of the same physical forces as anything else - does Earth -choose- to orbit the sun, just because the physical laws that determine the chain of cause and effect have resulted in an outcome where it can do nothing but orbit the sun? Does my computer -choose- to operate in the specific way it is operating right now? No. It doesn't have choice. I am not fundamentally different, and the perception that I am is cognitive illusion. Why would you differentiate the mind - whatever that is - from this system? Where does free will - and the act of choosing that it requires - come from? Does only my brain have agency? Does all of it, or just specific structures? Do individual neurons have agency? Do the atoms making them up?

 

Anything that doesn't create itself with zero input from anything else - anything that is in any way bound by causality - cannot possibly have a choice. And I can't imagine what something unbound from causality would look like, so the discussion of such a thing is ultimately worthless. Free will is a completely meaningless idea. It is ill-defined in the first place and sets up inherent and irresolvable contradictions in the nature of the universe as we know it. It should be discarded as simply as the four elements are discarded.

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Your determinism ignores a lot of the randomness and chaos inherent in the universe, Nalyd. Statistics and measurements, even at their theoretical maximum sophistication, cannot every fully be predictive. There is a law of large numbers, but there is no similar law of small numbers. Sometimes stuff just happens.

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That has no bearing on free will, either way. The origin of my will is either randomness built into basic physical laws, or deterministic cause and effect stretching back to the beginning of the universe. Neither of those things are me making anything, let alone an impossible choice.

 

Never mind that we don't have to fully perceive everything, or anything, about the universe for it to function. The limits of statistics and measurements are not necessarily the limits of the universe. Could be, but could not be.

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Statistics and measurements, even at their theoretical maximum sophistication, cannot every fully be predictive.

That we know of, maybe. Surely you're not suggesting there couldn't be something to the mechanics of the universe that we don't understand -- either don't understand yet, or won't ever.

 

We don't actually know that there is randomness inherent in the universe. We know there are things that LOOK like randomness to us, but there are possible explanations for those things that aren't actually random.

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I think it's a reference to certain quantum theories and standards which at this stage make certain predictions completely impossible - Heisenberg, quantum field gibberish, and all that whole "God playing dice with the universe" notion Einstein was appalled at.

 

Could we later, possibly, maybe some day discover a means by which to accurately predict the position of a subatomic particle as well as its momentum and speed? Sure! We could also someday uncover that the big bang occurred when God rolled all sixes and shouted "Yahtzee!" You cannot, however, make judgements on what science might possibly know in a distance theoretical "someday" - you have to make judgements on what is known now.

 

As it stands right now there's an undercurrent of raw and absolute chaos to the universe which lies outside mankind's capacity to ascribe any rudimentary order to in any sense.

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As it stands right now there's an undercurrent of raw and absolute chaos to the universe which lies outside mankind's capacity to ascribe any rudimentary order to in any sense.

 

I feel that's a bit inaccurate. QM rules are profoundly weird and unintuitive, but they're still rules (of a sort).

 

An electron cannot have both a definite position and a definite velocity, period. (IIRC there is mathematical evidence that "hidden values" for position, velocity, etc. cannot exist.) Likewise you cannot pull a virtual particle out of the vacuum, and then make it stick around forever in violation of conservation of mass; you have to put some mass/energy into it or it will go back to not existing. (c.f. Hawking radiation.)

 

'Course I was only in physics for a couple years back in college (and sidestepped into IT instead of graduating), so take this as thou wilt.

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Could we later, possibly, maybe some day discover a means by which to accurately predict the position of a subatomic particle as well as its momentum and speed?

This is a common misunderstanding of the uncertainty principle. It doesn't say that we can't measure position and momentum to arbitrary precision. What it says is that those two variables are inextricably linked, and particles do not possess these properties to arbitrary precision. A particle located precisely in space has no defined momentum; a particle with precise momentum has no defined position. These are physical truths.

 

It's possible that the uncertainty principle is false, of course, but it's the best thing we've got and compatible with all our observations.

 

Anything that doesn't create itself with zero input from anything else - anything that is in any way bound by causality - cannot possibly have a choice. And I can't imagine what something unbound from causality would look like, so the discussion of such a thing is ultimately worthless. Free will is a completely meaningless idea. It is ill-defined in the first place and sets up inherent and irresolvable contradictions in the nature of the universe as we know it. It should be discarded as simply as the four elements are discarded.

Well, I think we basically agree. You say that free will is incoherent, so we don't have it. I say the ideal of free will without causality is incoherent, but fortunately we are casual and so have free will. It's a semantics difference, which if course is fruitful fodder for endless philosophical debate but not terribly meaningful in any practical way. A decision on some basis is determined by the basis; a decision on no basis may be in some sense free, but it doesn't match any sense of self I can really comprehend.

 

—Alorael, who has never taken silliness as a reason not to be extremely earnest.

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You cannot, however, make judgements on what science might possibly know in a distance theoretical "someday" - you have to make judgements on what is known now.

If you really adhere to that view, then you can't answer most of these questions, because we don't know the answers to most of them,

 

If you want to interpret the questions as asking what the current scientific consensus on a best theory is -- go for it. That's legitimate. But it's not the only legitimate way to answer. Any reasonable philosophy will accept science as disproof, but it will accept forms of reasoning that go to places empirical science has not reached. If you take a historical view, it would seem very short-sighted to assume that ALL current scientific consensus theories will remain our best explanation for ever. So if you see a compelling reason to consider an alternative theory, and there's no logical or empirical disproof -- what's the problem?

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That we know of, maybe. Surely you're not suggesting there couldn't be something to the mechanics of the universe that we don't understand -- either don't understand yet, or won't ever.

 

I actually would suggest the very thing. For one, I believe that randomness and chaos is inherent in the universe. Even if it weren't, however, I think that humans ultimately just don't have the depth of consciousness and mental capacities to understand. Humans are irrational in ways that we don't even understand yet. Psychology has documented many irrational beliefs and biases in humans, and I'd be willing to bet that there are yet more discoveries on that topic to be made.

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I actually would suggest the very thing. For one, I believe that randomness and chaos is inherent in the universe. Even if it weren't, however, I think that humans ultimately just don't have the depth of consciousness and mental capacities to understand. Humans are irrational in ways that we don't even understand yet. Psychology has documented many irrational beliefs and biases in humans, and I'd be willing to bet that there are yet more discoveries on that topic to be made.

 

i'm pretty sure you're actually agreeing with him and just got confused by the fact that his sentence contained a triple negative (seriously slarty what was the deal with that)

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I think the distinction is that Goldengirl moves from "something human brains may not ever really grasp" to "non-predictive" to "non-deterministic" (in the post I was replying to) while I am skeptical of the first jump for sure, and the second jump potentially depending on definitions. But the response was helpful as it located the disagreement more precisely in the jumps.

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It seems obvious to me that some of what we know now is false. It seems quite possible that there are some things humans will never know—some because they are simple facts about places we will never reach in our vast universe, and some because we'll never have the tools to observe. But claiming that we don't have the cognitive capacity to understand things? I don't know. On the one hand, it's impossible to disprove; these things could obviously be cognitive blind spots. On the other hand, there are things that are notoriously hard to grasp that we still manage to model mathematically without anything approaching intuitive understanding.

 

—Alorael, who just harbors some skepticism of anyone claiming comprehension is impossible. It smacks a little too much of argument from ignorance.

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—Alorael, who just harbors some skepticism of anyone claiming comprehension is impossible. It smacks a little too much of argument from ignorance.

 

I understand that hesitation. My rationale is based on a basic understanding of cognitive biases (in no sense formal) as well as my own personal observations of people. The notion of IQ can serve as an example, but there are other mental issues that can also serve as examples; learning disabilities immediately spring to mind along with the cognitive differences that emerge with the aging process.

 

Anyway, let me explain my personal hunch about IQ. Between two people of IQ's 80 and 160, there's a glaring difference between what each is capable of grasping. One is classified as Mensa level genius, the other as developmentally disabled. We simply do not expect that the individual of IQ as 80 can grasp all the nuances of, say, quantum physics at the same level as the individual of IQ 160. Of course, there are a lot of fundamental issues that make this comparison far from scientific. Ableism will serve as a constraint on the person of IQ 80 such that they wouldn't likely be taught or encouraged into quantum physics in the first place. Nevertheless, I believe there to be a kernel of truth somewhere in this comparison about the cognitive capabilities of people.

 

So, what's to say that there aren't even more vast differences between our genius with an IQ of 160 and some super human with an IQ of 260? Or a hyper-intelligent alien with an IQ of 1600? I don't know how intelligence scales, linearly, exponentially, or in a different manner altogether, but I'm willing to bet that our genius would have the cognitive abilities of a five-year-old (or less) in comparison.

 

I'm definitely open to being disproved. I'm by no means an expert on psychology, learning, or cognition. I'm just skeptical to the people who hold so much faith in human rationality, and this is without even mentioning the hard cap on what anyone can learn merely due to death.

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Understanding QM is really just a matter of being willing and able to crunch through some fairly intense math, and I think math is a big problem. Maybe math is really hard; I think there's also a huge issue in the perception that math is hard, that being good at math is lame, and most of all in that we are, as a culture really, really bad at teaching math. (Which culture? Good question. I can really only claim any familiarity with US culture.

 

But leaving that aside, we have yet to come across anything that non-genius humans can learn. Vaunted esoteric physics? There are lots of people who learn the discipline. They're called physicists. There might be things too difficult for any human, but we have no evidence of any such thing, as far as I'm aware.

 

—Alorael, who will also note that intelligence metrics get really shaky. What does super-human intellectual capability mean? How does it work? Does it let anyone do anything that can't be handled by a human and a computer can't do together? Your problem requires too many hypothetical things that are possible but show no signs of existing.

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If the human brain is Turing-complete, then lifespan and memory are the only limits. But the devil is in the details. Those are some pretty hefty limits, because the brain is slow - neural impulses move at something like 50 mph. And our lifespans are pretty short.

 

Memory is more vaguely defined with the brain. But our short-term memory is pretty shoddy too. Most people can IIRC recognize a maximum of 7 distinct objects at a glance, past that they have to count. And our attention spans are short... And brains do things that computers don't (e.g. deliberately introducing noise). Etc.

 

Anyway what I'm getting at is that - as with digital computers - there are thoughts that are physically impossible for a human to think, due to the architectural limits of the brain. And we don't know what those are because we can't think them. Assuming the universe wasn't designed from day one to suit human cognitive needs, I see no reason to assume that a Theory of Everything must be human-comprehensible.

 

So yeah, while I'm very dubious about IQ, I guess I basically agree with Goldengirl. Human "rationality," such as it is, occupies a tiny fraction of the modes and applications of logic that are possible.

 

Edit: BTW someone else had this idea first, and wrote it into a book that I read recently:

 

http://www.kschroeder.com/my-books/ventus/thalience

 

(I thought the book itself failed to break out of certain cliches, but hey, I should give credit where it's due.)

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I'm no neurologist, but I wonder if you could apply Cantor Diagonalization or Goedel's first incompleteness theorem to how our brains work. Actually, you don't even have to go that far: since we have a finite collection of neurons, the number of neuron activation combinations can only be finite. Certainly not uncountably infinite. Since the number of concepts is, that means our brains are incapable of imagining every possible concept. Of course, this assumes physicalism, and since that's one of the questions on the poll, it's an assumption not everyone may hold.

 

Even setting aside 'hardware', my intuition is that any system of reasoning (or ethics, for that matter) would be subject to the same fundamental limitations of mathematics and computability. I haven't really thought out what impact that actually has, though. I mean, it's not like Goedel killed mathematics, and Church-Turing didn't stop computing science in its tracks. Does it really matter if our thought systems are incomplete?

 

EDIT: HAHAHAHA I started typing this, then I went on a walk before I finished and I see I've been beaten to the punch.

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I don't mean to be harsh, but the fact that you are talking about the limits of human comprehension in terms of IQ scores and Mensa membership suggests that there is some serious confusion going on here.

 

Prefacing something with "I don't mean to be harsh" is almost always a great way to do the very thing. I am not confused, though IQ systems and Mensa may very well be. I'm just providing an example, and I provided a shorter one in the post as well about the differences between a child's brain and an adult's. The principle I'm arguing clearly isn't limited by that example, as Tavilo and Dint have shown.

 

Every time there's an unproven theory we run across something that we might be unable to know. The fact that so far we've solved problems doesn't mean that we always will be able to, and every time we run into a snag in the math or a roadblock in the theory is another time that we might have reached our limit. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try anyway, as we can never be certain that something is totally beyond our grasp, but it indicates that there are caps. Death is a pretty hard cap.

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The fact that there are thoughts we are incapable of thinking does not necessarily imply that there are aspects of reality that we are incapable of understanding. If all of physics can be broken down into mathematics, well, we're pretty adequate at handling math. And so far the universe has largely obliged there. It's possible that some of the universe runs on rules we really can't grasp, but it's also possible that it's all just number-crunching. Not all thoughts are meaningful or worth having, just like most possible books are not worth writing: there's a lot of garbage noise.

 

There are somewhere on the order of 10^11 neurons in a human brain. Each one can synapse with many other neurons, in many other ways. They can have different arrangements of supporting non-neuronal cells. They can express different receptors for different neurotransmitters in different numbers and different places. They can exist in different states. And they exist in physical locations within the space of the brain. Given the limits of Planck space there are a finite number of arrangements of cells within the human brain, but it is unfathomably vast. Yes, ironically it's big enough that we can't really cognitively grasp it; fortunately, we've devised tools, like that 10^11, to work with concepts we can't actually really think about. In any case, the physical potential of the human brain is so big that calling it a limitation is technically accurate while also being close to meaningless.

 

—Alorael, who read that essay on thalience and was left unimpressed. Hypothesizing forms of thinking or logic inaccessible to humans does not make them true, and is not evidence for them. Signs of something humans can't actually think through would be good. QM vs. relativity gets tossed around a lot, but their incompatibility does not mean what most people seem to think it means and certainly does not prove any kind of failure of human reason.

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—Alorael, who read that essay on thalience and was left unimpressed. Hypothesizing forms of thinking or logic inaccessible to humans does not make them true, and is not evidence for them.

 

The limit is in practice, not in theory, if the brain is Turing-complete. My remake re "rational thought" was comparing to other known logics.

 

And I do have an example of a "thought" that a human could not think: a modern web browser. Executing Firefox in one's own head is pretty much impossible due to attention span limits. Doing it with pen and paper would probably be theoretically possible, but would also probably take a few thousand years.

 

... Or you could run it on your desktop computer. Just because we're unable to think something doesn't mean our tools are.

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Everything we've encountered thus far has at least been within the grasp of mankind's capacity to at least wrap our minds around in at least an elemental, conceptual sense. At this point, for all we know, the limits of human knowledge are likely more defined by the limits of human perception than by the limits of human cognitive abilities. Even when you talk about the limits of a singular human mind, those human minds will still have the capacity to develop things needed to overcome those limitations. Everything we've seen, we've some capacity to analyze - there are no Lovecraftian existential aberrations that escape mankind's immense capacity for creative and abstract thought.

 

The flip side of this, however, is... all we've seen points to the notion that we barely see and thus barely have even opportunity to comprehend anything. For all we know about all we can see, if current theories hold, we're still functionally blind. Dark Matter and Dark Energy either make up the vast, vast majority of the universe, or there are still such gaping, oozing holes in our understanding of the greater universe that it's baffling. We cannot see it, we cannot touch it, we cannot analyze it, and it makes up most of our existence.

 

Is it simply outside our capacity to perceive, or does it truly lie outside mankind's sheer capacity for thought? While we've never seen such a thing, if such a thing were to be, would we even know if we saw it? Yet, as it stands, all we've come to know says that the vast majority of what must be lies beyond us. Ultimately, In this universe matter and energy are rare and alien things, not just compared to empty space, but compared to everything that's a "thing" with the capacity to impact the universe in ways we can observe.

 

Who knows? Maybe for the majority of that which exists in the universe, we are the Lovecraftian aberrations, incomprehensible motes of erroneous existence, outside the bounds of rationality and thought.

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  • 3 months later...

I did not read through all the replies here (as I must get off of here and do some physical stuff shortly) but a few of my answers were "other" for the simple reason that some of these terms vary wildly in how they are defined by many. If I say for example that I agree with the nihilist position for one or more of the quests I am fearful of being accused of being the 'vilified nihilist' of movies and TV (a guy who cares nothing about anything or anyone yet for some reason still lives).

 

In short I am a pretty strict materialist/empiricist and card carrying skeptic (in the modern philosophical sense, not the "I doubt everything and nothing can be known!" radical form of skepticism which makes no sense to me). I have no attraction for idealism (or it's uglier sister solipsism) because it seems to be an unfalsifiable claim. I know what Descartes intended with his cogito ergo sum but I think he only really supported materialism with that. Plato contributed some worthwhile ideas but a lot of what he advocated seemed nonsensical to me and I tend to prefer Aristotle, Heraclitus and such.

 

I do not agree that anything is beyond possible observation or measurement but it is quite impossible for anyone to be omniscient. As Asimov was wont to say we will always have the unknown, but this in no way indicates anything is unknowable.

 

I believe in free will and not so much in determinism but I concede that there are different usages of determinism and perhaps some are more conducive to my thinking than others.

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