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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Imminent Supernaturalism

Two types of scientists:

Suppose some astronomers are looking at Jupiter through a telescope. Call this Group A. While they do this, another group of material engineering researches confiscate the telescope and analyze it's material properties. They look at it's shape and the shapes and situations of it's components. They examine each piece for it's physical properties and interactions and for it's chemical properties. Finally, they publish a complete physical chemical description of the telescope and insist that this is all there is to it. Call this second group of scientists, Group B. It is quite likely that Group A will say wryly to Group B, "No that's not all there is to the telescope. One thing that is a fact about the telescope that is not in your description is that you can see Jupiter through it".

Group A might be amused by the selective approach of Group B, saying that they looked at only what they wanted to and prejudiced themselves against the most important feature of the telescope. And then after a laugh, Group A returns to their study of Jupiter.

But Group A turns out to be trying to determine a physical and chemical description of the Jovian planet. They also want to determine it's physical, mechanical, and chemical (including possible biochemical) features, with the belief that when they have this they will have a true and complete description of Jupiter.

And here Group B may justly fault Group A for it's own selectivity. There is the same difference between what we see when we look at Jupiter and the alleged final description of Jupiter. Just like Group B, Group A has neglected the most important fact about Jupiter, namely that Jupiter is itself a certain kind of "scope", showing us an object distinct from the true description of it's extended and extrinsic interaction. Whatever may be found in this description, Jupiter is also and on top of that an intentional object and an embodied artificial substance.

We cannot really separate the idea of the supernatural from the natural into air tight zone. How "ordinary nature" presents itself to our minds is more that the instrumental conditions that are correlated with that presentation. So even the ordinary objects of the world are signs of supernatural realities.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

There is no Dancing without a Dancer.

No Dancing without a Dancer

Rather, there can be no dancing without a choreographer.  There is dancing, therefore there is a choreographer. 

The support for the premise is that we have often seen or at least heard reports from people who have seen people dancing, whether they call it ballet, square dancing, ballroom dancing, or disco. In all these cases, we have people who observe that dancing is going on and with the certainty of direct perception.  We may ask what are we seeing when we see what we call dancing.  One thing we might be saying is that there is some behavior of description XYZ that when we see it we say, “Look! Dancing!”  But it seems that something can exhibit behavior of description XYZ but not be dancing. 

This is because dancing is taken to be a form of self-expression, a complicated gesture to express a person’s ideas and feelings.   Imagine a humanoid automaton that a scientist builds to behave strictly according to a description of the behavior of a dancer when she performs according to certain choreography and imagine the automaton doing this alongside the choreographer performing her own choreography which is the same as that used by the scientist.  In the case of the choreographer, we would say that her dance expresses her ideas and feelings, but the automaton is not being expressed by its “dance”. This is because dance is not mere behavior but also has intentionality.  To dance is to express one and so there is something to be expressed.  Dancing is about something and indicates something.

We can imagine a quadriplegic choreographer who is able to program a computer by hitting keys on a keyboard with a dowel in her mouth.  She may have the keyboard to program the scientist’s automaton and program it to perform original choreography.  Someone observing may think they are watching a dancer that is not an automaton.  In this case, what makes possible the perception of a dance is the ability of the audience to recognize the behavior of the automaton as dancing, as a gesture that indicates someone’s ideas and feelings.  The choreographer is expressing herself through the automaton.  In this case, the expression of the dance in the automaton is derived from and presupposes the original expressive design of the choreographer which is intelligible to the audience.  If the automaton were to behave that way without the choreographer and without the audience, there would be nothing expressed and no dancing going on.

If the world were a space-time block all the way down, there would be nothing being expressed.  All behavior would be just extrinsically correlated phenomena in space and time.  On this view the choreographer would herself be no different from the automaton – an automaton controlling another automaton – so that its automatons all the way down.  But if that is true there would be no dancing.  Similarly, if Hume is right and all behavior are custom forward and backward which is characterized by conditioning all the way down and through and through.  And therefore Hume is wrong in thinking that skepticism does not remove any of the wonder of the world because it would wipe away dancing and similar things.  But if there is dancing, then the world is not just a block of space-time.  Embodied in that space-time are minds that dance and which are distinct from world of mass.