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Theoretical Philosophy » What are your favorite ways of showing the first cause is God? » 3/14/2018 2:32 pm

One reason to accept PSR is because otherwise one is faced with the existential problem of things being able to cease to exist for no reason, and us being forced to take this idea seriously.

The only way out of this dilemma is to affirm PSR, and thus end up accepting that reality won't magically cease to exist. But that means reality is rational, and that the ultimate cause of existence is rational as well, and is also commited to keeping the universe in being. But this also implies final causality / teleology, so you get the idea.

Theoretical Philosophy » Rational Animals » 3/13/2018 6:13 pm

Greg wrote:

To add a bit more, I think it is (to put it this way again) generous to say that he is asking what things are and "generalizing" color and shape. As Pepperberg says in the video, distinguishing colors and telling when two berries look the similar enough is something lots of animals do, quite competently. I once read that cats regard their owners as big cats. I don't know whether that is true. But clearly lots of animals can distinguish different types of food, different types of foe, perhaps human beings if they live around them, trees, water, etc. Over and above other things, Alex has names for some of those and other things, and he has been taught to ask for names. But there is a difference between knowing what something is called and knowing what something is.

If that's the case, then I guess this means that his seemingly amazing understanding of  "same" and  "different"  is exactly that, seemingly amazing. This then also applies to him associating number signs with numerical quantities,  as well as all of the other behaviours, both the equally impressive feats and the less impressive ones.

Greg wrote:

As for syntactic manipulation, if you think that suffices for intellect then you ought to be far more worried about computers than parrots.

I agree.

Anyways, thank you for helping out with regards to this issue! It's appreciated!

Theoretical Philosophy » Rational Animals » 3/13/2018 5:01 pm

Greg wrote:

I make very little of it.

If you don't mind, would you explain exactly why this isn't impressive to you? Especially as it relates to Alex asking what things are (Quid est?), and being able to generalise color and shape succesfully, which is the closest thing to abstraction and most important development Pepperberg et al. claim he has done?

Theoretical Philosophy » Rational Animals » 3/13/2018 1:46 pm

Greg wrote:

What examples do you have in mind?

After searching around a bit, I've found this article:

The most notable questions he asked are, well, here are the relevant excerpts from the article:

"Besides being the first animal to fully show that he knew of his own existence, Alex also expressed opinions and asked many other questions such as what a carrot was and where Pepperberg was going."

The word  "opinions"  there is highlighted and leads to another article about him by the NYT, which is also relevant:

But as far as the questions go, Alex was quite the inquisitive animal, asking what carrots were and where his owner is going and doing so spontaneously and without experimental motivation, so we should take that into account. As for the context in which Alex asked about his own color, the article from which I first quoted says:

"Unlike other animals such as dolphins and chimpanzees who can answer questions, Alex is so far the only one to ever ask one about himself. One day, while learning colors, Alex looked into the mirror and asked, “What color?” A research assistant then told Alex that he was a gray parrot. After repeating the question six times, Alex learned the color gray. "

Here is another source for this, namely a YouTube video:

It would be good to watch the entire video through, but the most relevant timestamps are 6:22 - 6:30 where Pepperberg explains how Alex would ask what color and what shape something was if it was a new thing that entered the lab, 6:40 - 7:10 is where Pepperberg mentions Alex's concepts of same and different, and it shows Alex recognising the difference between two objects being  their color and the [b]similarit

Theoretical Philosophy » Rational Animals » 3/13/2018 11:55 am

Greg wrote:

No, I'm not saying that Alex is using our concepts of bigger, smaller, same, and different, only "practically" and without true understanding. I am just saying that he does not in fact have our concepts, though he makes the same sounds we do in a small subset of the circumstances in which we would apply those concepts.

How would then that explain, says, him asking what color he was? He clearly had a desire to know since he asked the question. And it seems the right way to go would be to say that Alex was accustomed to associating the sound  "color" and "what"  with perceptual experiences associated with how colored an object was.

This wouldn't explain his desire to know by asking questions, or him answering questions with further questions though.

Greg wrote:

(My argument doesn't ride on the following, but on the face of it, Alex's calling an apple a "banerry" is not at all an indication that he has a suble understanding of bananas, cherries, or English syntax. In English, things which resemble other things are typically not named after those things. Why not just say that he was not sure what to say in response to something that resembled both a banana and a cherry so he blurred two words together, failing to identify that it was neither, and lacking the ability to ask what it was?)

His word  "banerry"  is actually pronounced as rhyming with some pronounciations of  "canary", so I don't know how that would affect your argument. And as for his lacking the ability to ask what a thing is, again, he not only asked what color he was once when he looked into the mirror (recognition of oneself in the mirror is itself sometimes posed as evidence of intellect), but even asked Pepperberg's questions with his own questions.

Theoretical Philosophy » Rational Animals » 3/13/2018 10:59 am

Greg wrote:

It's far more impressive than most other animals, but I don't really see why it gives us reason to believe that more has happened than that, over a long period of time, a parrot learned to form a number of associations and responses.

So I guess we could dispense with 6 by explaining it as simply verbal-imaginative association that Alex learned to remember. But this still leaves us with 7 and 8. 

Is having a real intellect a requirement to be able to ask a question (in this case, Alex asking what color he was and him learning it was gray after the word gray was repeated 6 times)? And even to answer questions with further questions of one's own making?

Is an intellect necessary in order to understand the turn taking of communication and to be able to manipulate verbal syntax so as to designate names for new objects in one's own perception without even being prompted to do so, as with Alex's calling an apple a  "banerry"  by using parts of banana and cherry which have similarities to the apple that Alex could see (which shows how Alex is smarter than the great apes, considering how the great apes have to be put in experimental / laboratory conditions and be presented with new objects and taught the appropriate verbal designation in order to know the name of an object)?

Greg wrote:

There's no problem using words like "concept," "know," "believe," "understand" in the case of non-human animals (including animals far less intelligent than Alex was), just as there is no problem using them in the case of human children. But they are, I think, being used on analogy to our own case, with some distance, even here.

So what you are saying is that Alex need not have any clear intellectual understanding of what the concepts of bigger, smaller, same and different are in order to (more primitively, without intellect) understand and use them practically, and that he could have simply learned this via perception and sound-association?

Theoretical Philosophy » Rational Animals » 3/13/2018 6:16 am

I've been reading Mortimer Adler's book  Ten Philosophical Mistakes, and in it he discusses the nature of the human intellect and the presence of intellect in non-human animals.

He points out how animal behaviourologists make the common mistake of collapsing intellection into sensation, and how from this we get all sorts of claims about how non-human animals have concepts and how this supposedly shows humans are different from other animals only in degree. He then analyses the alleged evidence of concepts among other animals such as discrimination between different geometrical shapes and objects, colors and designation of names for specific objects, and points out how all of this is done using simple perceptual discrimination and generalisation, artificial designation of names that are based strictly on specific perceptionss, and concludes by saying that there is no empirical evidence to suggest that animals have ever designated and understood a name using other names, and how their entire power of generalisation is strictly based on direct perceieved objects and has never gone beyond the realm of the sensible and imaginable, completely unlike human intellection and conception.

But there is an interesting case that Adler was not aware of, namely Alex the Parrot. Alex (1976 - 2007) was an African gray parrot that had an unusually developed intelligence and was trained by his owner, animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg. Pepperberg studied Alex and his development for over 30 years, and during this time found out how much a parrot's intelligence can develop as she claims that at the end of his life he had the emotional intelligence of a 2-year-old. 

Here are the most astounding and most relevant skills Alex developed during his life, on which I would like to hear your opinions on. As written on Wikipedia:

1) Pepperberg said he could understand the concepts of "bigger", "smaller", "same", and "[i]d

Theoretical Philosophy » Is there any hope for atheism as a philosophical position? » 3/08/2018 2:46 pm

Miguel wrote:

Since I think atheism faces enormous problems (as mentioned in the thread), I don't think anything like PoE or divine hidenness can save it. To me the best defense against PoE is a positive case for the existence of God, so I think the latter takes precedence, and the problem of evil has become so popular nowadays because knowledge about classical arguments of natural theology has declined. If there are no strong reasons to believe God exists, then why would one be inclined to accept skeptical theism or a theodicy?

To add to your point Miguel, if God does in fact exist, specifically as a rational necessary being that is responsible for keeping things in existence right now, then this entails that the universe is fundamentally rational.

It stands to reason then that the universe will in fact continue to exist, since for God to cease creating everything would be a frustration akin to stopping a beautiful symhpony half-way through. The latter above, as well as the former consideration that the universe is fundamentally and ultimately rational, also entails that there is a reason for why everything exists, and thus by implication why any and all possible evils also exist.

To deny this is to say that God allowed something to happen for absolutely no reason, which would be a violation of PSR. What this then means is that there must be SOME reason as to why evils happen, for the same reason that all of creation ultimately has some sort of purpose if God created it.

So if one believes that God is rational, nay, rationality itself, this entails that there must necessarily be a reason as to why evil exists or why creation exists and an answer as to what creation itself amounts to in the end.

Theoretical Philosophy » Is there any hope for atheism as a philosophical position? » 3/03/2018 7:06 am

Aren't there Thomists who disagree with the fine-tuning argument on the grounds that it presupposes a view of the laws of physics that is mechanistic or horribly vague? By contrast, the common-sensical views of the laws being rooted in existing objects that Thomism accepts would seem to throw some water on the premise for the fine-tuning argument that the laws are somehow fine-tuned.

In other words, Thomism seems to reject the very existence of the laws of physics if we conceive them as being an occult force or something positively  "out there"  so-to-speak which the Fine-Tuning argument requires to even get off the ground.


Theoretical Philosophy » Getting Rid of Quantum Mechanics » 2/26/2018 3:40 pm

Johannes wrote:

Basically, you can either accept random causation as a legitimate explanation, as Pruss suggests in the quoted passage, or bet that Bohmian Mechanics can be developed to accommodate present science and is the accurate description of reality from God's viewpoint.

If we accept constructive empiricism, we may easily be able to construct an alternative quasi-Bohmian / non-Bohmian alternate interpretation of QM such that it accounts not only for all of the empirical observations of QM, but is also perfectly compatible with the rest of present science including relativity and quantum field theory, without having the additional supra-quantum-mechanical empirical drawbacks that the Bohmian interpretation has with relativity and other realms of science, and without having to be mired deep into the empirical sciences.

This would then push the issue back into the realm of philosophy instead of the scientific realm.

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