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Switch to Forum Live View Naturalism and its discontents
4 years ago  ::  Jun 14, 2013 - 6:22PM #11
Stumbler
Posts: 347

I don't, of course, claim that any of this amounts to "proof of the supernatural." That would be silly. But having spent the last 30 or so years studying this kind of thing, I gradually found that I had "lost my faith" in naturalism. That is, I no longer have a great deal of confidence that a naturalistic account of these things is forthcoming. The confidence that I used to have, I've come to realize, was achieved by ignoring, as far as possible, the core problems, and by a desire to see myself as a fully modern person.


The philosopher Colin McGinn has argued that we are "cognitively closed" to these things. That is, we're just not equipped to grasp the full naturalistic picture that he's convinced is there. For a while, I bought that position, until it occurred to me that his conviction that there "must be" a naturalistic answer, even though it's unknowable by creatures like us, is as pure a statement of faith as any version of theism. And as such, I have no problem with it. I found, and still find, that I can Gestalt-shift between the naturalistic and supernaturalistic worldviews, but eventually I couldn't escape the pull of the "something more".


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4 years ago  ::  Jun 19, 2013 - 9:45AM #12
Stumbler
Posts: 347

I was thinking about this some more and realized that I overlooked another problem for naturalism. In fact, it's another facet of the problem of consciousness. The core problem, as already described, is that there are such things as properties/states that are only knowable in the first person. The subsidiary problem is the so-called unity of consciousness.


I decide to take a pan out of the oven, believing that it wasn't in there long enough to get really hot. I grasp the pan and experience burning heat in my fingers, and then regret not using an oven mitt. The decision, the belief, the volition, the sensation, and the regret are all mine. That is, they all are apparent to one and the same subject: me. But the neuroscientific picture is modular: one module handles beliefs; another deals with sensations, and so on. The mind according to neuroscience is a committee of limited-purpose structures, not an individual.


This is sometimes called the "binding problem", i.e., the problem of how modular functions are bound together into the experiences of a single individual. Kant called this the "transcendental unity of apperception."


Hume notoriously denied the existence of the self, claiming that he couldn't "find" it introspectively. Kant explained that it's misguided to look for the self as an object. Our inferences to the existence of the self is transcendental, i.e., we recognize it as a necessary condition for having the kind of subjectivity we have. These days the word "transcendental" for this kind of inference is out of fashion. "Abductive" or "inference to the best explanation" are the currently used jargon.


Some contemporary philosophers, such as Dennett, follow Hume and simply deny the unity of consciousness. It's a tough case to make, though. If the unity of consciousness isn't real, it's an illusion. If it's an illusion then it's a case where appearance doesn't match reality. But if the unity of consciousness is mere appearance, then who or what is appeared to? The very idea of illusion presupposes the existence of a subject who is deceived.


I'd note in passing that this is a metaphysical question on which the Abrahamic religions and Buddhism part company. The Buddhist doctrine of anatta is an explicit rejection of the existence of a unified self. After spending some years trying to "experience" the truth of this doctrine in meditation, it finally occurred to me that I couldn't even make sense of what I was doing, at which point I ended my sojourn in Buddhism.

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3 years ago  ::  Mar 20, 2015 - 8:38PM #13
Nino0814
Posts: 1,795

Here's another one of those stories:  www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/boy-says-he...


Does it make you wonder, laugh, or something else?

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3 years ago  ::  Apr 14, 2015 - 3:05PM #14
Stumbler
Posts: 347

Mar 20, 2015 -- 8:38PM, Nino0814 wrote:


Here's another one of those stories:  www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/boy-says-he...


Does it make you wonder, laugh, or something else?




I haven't read Tucker's book, but I read a fair amoung of the work of his mentor, Ian Stevenson. These cases vary in their evidential strength (i.e., the degree of support they give to the reincarnation hypothesis), but some are striking indeed. This one is pretty strong.


Skeptics like to argue that these cases are a combination of parental "coaching", deliberate or inadvertent, and confabulation. I find these "debunking" explanations woefully inadequate in the face of the stronger cases, and the skeptics seldom or never do the hard work needed to support their hypotheses. They typically use the slogan "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" to shift the burden of evidence to the one claiming reincarnation (etc) while accepting no responsibility to provide evidence for their own scenarios, which are generally just made up.


In this instance, the parents would have had to dig up the 50+ details about this obscure actor/agent, much of which was not available on the Internet, as Dr. Tucker states. We're not told how old Ryan was when he started talking about these memories. The typical age is around 3, when the children are just becoming fluent in language. The memories usually fade away by age 8. According to the description in this video, www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGdqAzdH_ZE, Ryan was four when it started, but didn't talk about it until he was five.


To believe that Ryan was coached, at that young age, or somehow just "picked up" these details and fixated upon them to the point of internalizing them as his own memories is to believe something at least as extraordinary as the reincarnation claim itself.


I admit, I personally have a hard time with reincarnation. I can move my mental furniture around to accommodate a fair amount of paranormal stuff, but I really do tend to stumble on reincarnation. Maybe I just don't like the idea of it. But be that as it may, I have to concede that the best cases really are rather evidentially strong--and I say that having spent a lot of time studying them. (I will get around to Tucker's book one of these days, too!) If the path of wisdom entails following the evidence rather than leading it, I have to conclude that the evidence suggests that reincarnation happens to some people, some of the time. Why or how that could be so, I can't guess.


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3 years ago  ::  Apr 19, 2015 - 5:44PM #15
Nino0814
Posts: 1,795

Apr 14, 2015 -- 3:05PM, Stumbler wrote:

I admit, I personally have a hard time with reincarnation. I can move my mental furniture around to accommodate a fair amount of paranormal stuff, but I really do tend to stumble on reincarnation. Maybe I just don't like the idea of it. But be that as it may, I have to concede that the best cases really are rather evidentially strong--and I say that having spent a lot of time studying them. (I will get around to Tucker's book one of these days, too!) If the path of wisdom entails following the evidence rather than leading it, I have to conclude that the evidence suggests that reincarnation happens to some people, some of the time. Why or how that could be so, I can't guess. 



Reincarnation is a concept that attempts to understand the boy's experience. Some have referred to such spiritual experiences as "a thin place" (a point where some expereince a transcendent reality).  They may have a common source but understood very differently because that reality cannot adequately be relayed through our concepts.   


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3 years ago  ::  Apr 20, 2015 - 3:27PM #16
Stumbler
Posts: 347

Apr 19, 2015 -- 5:44PM, Nino0814 wrote:


Reincarnation is a concept that attempts to understand the boy's experience. Some have referred to such spiritual experiences as "a thin place" (a point where some expereince a transcendent reality).  They may have a common source but understood very differently because that reality cannot adequately be relayed through our concepts.   




Interesting stuff by Baker on thin places. I've been to the cliffs of Moher which, while also a tourist attraction, some describe as a thin place. bonniemckernan.com/2012/06/cliffs-of-moh...


In the history of Christianity, I think the notion of "heaven" has gradually morphed from a place somewhere "up", but in the same space-time continuum that we are in, to "another dimenstion", i.e., a space that is as much "here" as anywhere, but not in any direction from here. C.S. Lewis had the idea of death as "translation" into a different space, and something along those lines has pretty much overtaken the older "celestial" notion.


The spiritualists, starting perhaps with Swedenborg (maybe someone earlier?) use a similar notion of "levels", which they sometimes describe as "vibrational", not unlike different channels on a TV (old-style broadcast TV, especially). I can remember as a kid contemplating how, even with the TV turned off, I was somehow awash in all these programs, all occupying the same space. To this day, the same thought sometimes strikes me, amplified to include cell phone conversations, Internet content, and so on. I move through a sea of bandwidth, teeming with messages. The spiritualists say that some "discarnates" live just a flip of the channel knob away...


So, are there really places where the boundaries between realities -- assuming there are multiple realities -- are thinner, maybe even touching? Or are these just places where it is somehow easier to imagine such realities? I can't answer from my own experience, and I wouldn't expect science to be other than silent on the matter. If the multiverse hypothesis is credible, multiple realities cannot be dismissed out of hand. I don't think the theory requires that they must remain causally disjoint, only that they could be, so anything goes, really.


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