The logical nonsense of naturalism

A try to formulate Naturalism

Naturalism may be expressed by the following statements

There is some general stuff called "Nature", which at its fundamental level has nothing to do with consciousness
In Nature, some stuff happens to come to successively exist (be actualized) after other stuff at different places
At any time and any place (with given considered limits, such as the size of a human being), the existing stuff can be effectively (for all practical purposes) well enough described by "states of material systems" which are of finite complexity (this complexity can be tracked to the finiteness of states numbers of systems in quantum mechanics). In other words, some very large but finite file of data.
Therefore we might say that Nature happens to "bring into existence" such big files of data at successive times and places, unlike many other mathematically "possible", therefore "mathematically existing", versions of such files (as abstract math would say). Therefore, this kind of "existence" given to those files must be of a different nature than mathematical existence. Now what kind of existence can that be ? We may still deny the presence of any problem here, saying that this kind of "existence" given to those files does not need to mean anything real at all, but these data files themselves and the claims of their "existence" are only fictional concepts, an emergence effect which the scientist or philosopher is casting over Nature when trying to describe it. So far so good. But more serious difficulties come with the next steps of the story...

Among these many files so brought to this fictional existence, some are of a special kind in that they are descriptions of "conscious structures". Hello, that's us.
By virtue of the special logical structures of these files we are made up of, and only because these do happen to be brought into this fictional existence, we have a strong sense of being endowed with such a special kind of existence "here an now" not reducible to abstract mathematical existence. And just because we (these files) so strongly feel so, we are most probably right on this point of actual existence (the other view, mathematical monism, would require a separate discussion), though these, insofar as we are only discussing conscious states rather than pure raw stuff, are all merely fictional concepts. On the other hand, while the rest of possible (mathematically existing) versions of conscious structures structurally feel the same, their right to have their feeling of actual existence get a status of legitimacy is being denied (cancelled) here and now by the circumstance of them not being so physically actualized here and now.
In particular, since we strongly feel from our finite memory that some "previous versions" of these files (us) which fit some specific features (details we are clearly remembering) have been recently brought to successive "existence" of that kind (satisfying the above mentioned structural relation with Nature in its recent times), while some other abstractly possible variants didn't, well, let us assume for simplicity that it must be true and make real sense, even though it might as well be untrue and/or a claim devoid of sense... by the way how can a claim be meaningfully true if it is not meant as "true here and now" but only true about "somewhere else", and the point of it all consists in that this "somewhere else" is more precisely meant as somewhere in our universe rather than another possible parallel universe ?
Also as we have a strong sense that some variants of such files have "positive feelings" and so are morally "better" than others, so that we should help such versions into "existence" against others with "negative feelings", well, let us anyway keep doing as if it all really made sense... even though, ultimately under a naturalistic view, it all comes about as a mere fiction.

Correcting Descartes argument for the distinction between mind and matter

(or at least an argument often attributed to Descartes, I won't check the reference)

The argument goes as follows:

It is known that this argument is fallacious. However a slight modification can turn it into a much clearer argument (which may not necessarily convince but at least is not fallacious anymore): Naturalism ultimately regards conscious beings as choices of large but finite mathematical structures which happen to be picked up by physical circumstances. But that remains a senseless ontology as neither the mathematical structures which consciousness supposedly consists of, nor the physical circumstances which bring them to "existence" can explain : Ultimately the nature of the difference between possible (non-realized) and actual states of consciousness would supposedly reside in the physical stuff which would make it INSTEAD OF in the emerging mathematical structures of consciousness which would receive such existence. How is that ???
On the other hand, as I hold the physical universe as a choice of mathematical structure which was picked up by consciousness, it is free of any problems, as it lets consciousness have all its own existential dimensions, while the physical universe does not account for its own existence which stays relative to consciousness, as there is neither a reason why it should exist independently of consciousness, nor even any clear meaning in the hypothesis that it would be the case.

Conceptual vacuity of naturalism : which is the "mystery view" ?

Materialists like to call themselves "rationalists" as they have a strong faith that their view is the only scientific one, failing to logically distinguish "materialist" from "rational", and confusing all other views as "mysticism" and "irrational"; they fail to notice how irrational and unscientific they are themselves.
Except of my comment to Mathematics is Physics by Matthew Saul Leifer
I have yet to see a coherent formulation of naturalism. The Stanford encyclopedia article you refer to on this point, admits it directly : "The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy." It is remarkable to see that still after quite a long time that a majority of physicists and philosophers who care about metaphysics are trying to defend and develop naturalism, no clear formulation of its actual meaning could even reach a status of notability without being also loaded with big troubles (such as those of Bohmian mechanics); while I would explain the lack of well-known coherent formulation of idealism by the lack of serious tries by competent physicists and philosophers, a gap I care to fill by my essay.
Excerpt of my comment to Lee Smolin's essay in the FQXI essay contest which tried to defend naturalism (ifever he has any proper understanding of theoretical physics, he hides it well in his essay which displays an explicitly pro-crackpot ideology full of distortions with respect to the current state of physics ! Would it be a form of social intelligence in a world where obscurantism is so popular ?) :
One thing I was puzzled with when reading some naturalist views, is how they dismiss any idea of considering consciousness as fundamental, by calling this an "explanation by a mystery" and thus no explanation at all. Indeed it may look like this, in the sense that consciousness escapes all mathematical description. So if your condition to call something "non-mysterious" is to have a mathematical, deterministic description of it then indeed consciousness is "mysterious" in this sense. Which does not mean that noting can be said about it (as I did express some important features of consciousness for its connection with physics). However, on their side they claim to explain everything as "Nature". But what the heck do they mean by "nature", and, in lack of a clear definition for this kind of stuff and its working principles, how is an "explanation" of the world by an undefined "nature" assumed to be primary, any less mysterious than the view taking consciousness as primary ?

I once saw an "argument" that if a miracle is real then by definition it must be part of nature because nature is "all what exists" so that nothing can be meaningfully called "supernatural". Then well, if "all what exists" is the definition of "nature" then it makes naturalism tautological, but no more informative. To be informative we need to specify what kind of stuff is "nature" supposed to be. It seems supposed to mean "physical stuff". Well if we were in the 19th century, and still with General Relativity, it could indeed look like there was such a thing as "physical stuff" that the universe could be made of. However, quantum physics broke that.
The view I propose, Mind/mathematics dualism, is a rather clearly defined position, because : we naturally have an intuition about the nature of mind, as we are conscious beings; we can also study mathematics and analyze the nature of the mathematical universe. So it makes rather clear sense to specify that consciousness is not mathematical, and to claim that reality is a combination of both. Especially as I precisely described what kind of combination is this, and how it makes quantum physics natural.

Is complexity finite or infinite ?

As my reply to Smolin continued:
Namely, an important question I would have, is whether "nature" is supposed to be finitely or infinitely complex, or maybe just locally finitely complex, in case it could be considered locally (which you seem to reject as you seem to favor non-locality in interpretations of quantum physics). So for example if it is locally finitely complex but not locally causal then, finally, it is infinitely complex if the universe is infinite (in hope that the dependence of local stuff on the rest of the universe converges). Quantum physics makes the physical world locally finitely complex indeed. I consider consciousness infinitely complex. But if "nature" was physical and infinitely complex, how could it have definite causalities that depend on infinitely complex stuff ? Bohmian mechanics describes things as infinitely complex, but I suspect its laws to diverge when considered in their globality. that physical laws like those of Bohmian mechanics can harldly be any logically well-defined law at all... but if on the other hand we wished to take the hypthesis of finite complexity seriously (and anyway we come down to it when considering the phenomenon of consciousness as contained in the finite amount of chemical information contained in brains) we would run into troubles as described in both FQXI essays linked at the bottom of this page.

My answer in Quora "How can we prove the presence of soul by logic?"

To prove soul by logic, here it goes.
Clarify the concept of “soul” as : something not physical.
Clarify “physical” as : describable by mathematical laws; thus ultimately reducible to a mathematical object. “Mathematical” means fully describable by logic.
So, by these definitions, logic cannot describe the soul if it exists; however it can investigate the opposite view. Therefore, it is possible to look for logical proofs of the soul, in the form of reductio ad absurdum : assume that there is no soul, i.e. the mind is a mere computation, then look for logical consequences, and see how it enters in conflict with a number of things we can know about the nature of mind, about ourselves...
Do we exist ? What means “existing” ? Is “existence” as we know it, reducible to mathematical existence ? What makes things “exist” in a state more than in any other state which is equally conceivable, thus also “mathematically exists” (for example: a universe where I would be walking on Mars) ? Can I know that I really already existed 5 minutes ago and really did this or that which I remember (and which meaningful sense can be given to that claim, if any, unless we need to dismiss this question as senseless, but how serious would that be ?), and could I know it under the materialistic hypothesis, according to which all my memory consists of data stored in some material stuff, itself preserved by the virtue of some laws of physics which I have no way to directly verify to exclude the risk that my memory may have been fully re-written 2 minutes ago by some high-tech experimenter ? If a machine produced an exact copy of my body, would it make me exist twice ? Could I then safely die knowing that I would keep existing in the form of the other copy ?
followed by the reference to the above linked articles by Marc Séguin and William T. Parsons.
We can still reformulate the issue in other words, such as : note that it is in principle possible to encode the physical state of the universe, or of a planet, or of an individual in it (as you wish), as a number (a piece of data); then materialism says that what makes a conscious being exist, is that some number (computer file) encoding its state of consciousness, happens to be physically realized in... this universe (or in any universe, which might exist... in which range ?). So, depending on one or another encoding form you may choose (by the way does it matter which encoding you choose, and if yes why ?), that is some natural numbers somewhere in between 0 and something like 10^10^25 (for one individual) or 10^10^100 (for the whole universe), such as one encoding me here as I am, would just happen to get some status of "physical existence" making that number somehow "more real" than some other natural numbers such as those which would encode me walking on Mars. Now even before wondering about what might have caused the former kind of natural numbers to be more "physically real" than the latter, the first question is: what sense might it make to qualify some natural numbers as more "physically real" than some others ? That is a big problem of naturalism, for which naturalists such as Lee Smolin make the remarkable work of developing some more precise ways of believing that such concepts would make sense. But in doing so they actually develop the nonsense of it, since the resulting picture turns out to be just more explicitly full of nonsense after careful checking.
Related question: If someone made an exact duplicate of you with everything in the same place, would the duplicate have your same memories?

On the Darwinist explanation of the possibility of knowledge

The idea is discussed in this video from the "Inspiring Philosophy" Christian apologetics series (which seems to just repeat the famous Evolutionary argument against naturalism). I agree with some main aspects of the arguments there, but some improvements / clarifications / complements are needed.
It would be misleading to wonder whether the overall average cases of beliefs are more inclined to follow the actual truth than to follow the kind of probably useful belief (usually correlated with truth but who knows) that selective advantage would lead to. That would not lead anywhere, because the applicability of the argument can be very dubious : Indeed I have a strong case that important widespread beliefs are actually far from true, and at least some of these mistakes are explainable by being selectively advantageous, therefore challenging the idea of the mind being much more reliable at truth discernment than natural selection would explain. Big examples here and there.
Instead, to form a proper argument, one should focus on some possibly very few cases of knowledge which happen to be the clearest and most reliable, while there cannot be such a thing as a totally reliable knowledge from a naturalistic viewpoint. Namely, some of the clearest data of our memory. Now this idea of focusing on the most reliable cases of knowledge is what I do in the following.

Evidence from the foundations of mathematics

Also by almost pure logic (but not a strictly formal one), we can even discover some truths about mathematics itself, beyond what could be known by any reasonable candidate algorithm for mind, if mind was a machine. This way we can almost logically verify that we are not ourselves machines (of course it cannot be strictly logical, for if it was, then by it, machines could also check that they are not machines, which is absurd). Here is this argument : A much better Godelian argument against mechanism

Reply to Allan Steinhardt (about logical and metaphysical incoherence)

Example of a quora answer to Does quantum physics really prove consciousness affects the physical world or is that a misconception of non-scientists?:
Allan Steinhardt wrote :
I hereby present a logical proof that the answer is no
My proof does not require any knowledge of either quantum or consciousness
It requires common sense logic and an understanding of what the word “science” means
  1. Quantum mechanics is a proper subset of science. This is so obvious that it doesn't require much discussion, and is in fact implicit in the OP question
  2. Consciousness it not a proper subset of science. We really have no clue whatsoever what makes me “feel” like I am me. I know I am not you and you know you are not me. I can't feel like anyone but me and I can't stop feeling I am me. This is deeply mysterious and has nothing to do with science. How can it? Science assumes things are fungible, every atom has the same property. Consciousness is about the one thing we know of in the universe that is not addressable by science. It is by definition a thingy that is not interchangeable. If you doubt that consciousness is outside science tell me what measurement/experiment would validate one and invalidate another of several opposing theories of consciousness? You can't ! There is no theory of consciousness that can be empirically debunked, not one! And science only deals with debunkable theories!
  3. It follows immediately irretrievably and irrevocably that science does not prove quantum requires consciousness. Why? Because if A is a proper topic of science and B is outside of science it is nonsense (in the sense of not making sense) to state that scientifically A implies B. You may as well ask if science proves Miranda Lambert is a better singer than Carrie Underwood!
What the heck can I do of that "argument", if not take it as a spectacular demonstration of dumbness, more precisely ignorance of one of the most basic facts of elementary logic : the possibility to prove something by contradiction ? Of course there would be one correct idea that can be found related with his "argument", that is : if consciousness escapes mathematical description then we would be short of ways to precisely express and experimentally verify more details about it, distinguishing one non-mathematical idea from another non-mathematical idea. However this actually is another topic : the topic here is not about distinguishing possible non-mathematical views from each other but about drawing the line between the mere 2 sides : the mathematical vs. the non-mathematical. And this distinction is actually clear.
Not only he is actually plain wrong in its denial of the possibility of a falsifiable statement expressing the immateriality of consciousness but his main "logic" just consists in concluding by denying the possibility of the very claims he gave in the course of his argument, that is : pointing out a fact about consciousness ("I know I am not you and you know you are not me") which escapes logical, naturalistic understanding, therefore, that such a thing exists... thus logically must affect the physical world in order for it to be written down as he wrote it down. Writing down the politically correct answer as based on having actually proven the exact opposite of it in the course of the argument, how the hell could this pass as the expression of the rational scientific consensus ????? What a joke !

A post I wrote in Reddit but it was censored

I often see even reputable scientists and philosophers make this terrible confusion. "Methodological naturalism", or I'd rather say, logical positivism (I think it is the same), is an epistemological position, saying that valuable knowledge about the world (thus beyond pure maths) should come empirically by checking the structures and properties of observed data. Physicalism on the other hand is an ontological position and expectation saying that all reality we are concerned with, thus all observed data according to logical positivism, will be fully explainable by physics (some ideal physics which we may not fully understand yet).

I see both clearly differing, as it is logically possible for some observed data to be unexplainable by physical causes. In particular, possible data can be sorted out in 2 kinds : whose which can be the output of some fixed algorithm (low algorithmic entropy), and those which can't (high algorithmic entropy); this division may not be strict as there can be a range of intermediate possibilities, described by a whole theory of randomness in mathematics (see the work of Gregory Chaitin), where data can be more or less "random", in the sense that algorithms able to produce it may be more or less complex and take more or less computation resources to proceed. Now if phenomena including consciousness are explainable by physics, while physics is so well described by mathematics, then data is expected to be of low algorithmic entropy, i.e. it should be possible for AI, once sufficiently developed, to behave the same (in probability) as human consciousness, thus to pass the Turing test. On the other hand it is conceivable that consciousness would behave according to another kind of law that, unlike physical phenomena, would not be well approached by any algorithm, in the sense that its actual probabilities of behavior would significantly differ from any computable probability law with reasonable complexity. This would mean that conscious behavior would differ from physical phenomena in the way they are usually conceived, i.e. well described in some mathematical terms. Then such a matter of facts (negation of physicalism) may be actually knowable from observations in the form of a persisting failure for AI to pass the Turing test, still after very long attempts to develop such AI. Indeed, while given algorithms may remain logically unable to distinguish between what is not determined from some algorithm (i.e. what is not of low algorithmic entropy) and "what is actually random" (its high algorithmic entropy is actually all what can be possibly known about it), the reality of a non-algorithmic law remains perceivable by a non-algorithmic judge who is able to decipher it in non-algorithmic way. Which is exactly what is meant by a persisting failure to pass the Turing test (judges, by their non-algorithmic analysis, succeed to discern possible non-algorithmic trends of phenonena).

We can even notice that so-called "methodological naturalism" is perfectly compatible with idealism, that is the claim that conscious perception (observation) is all there is. More comments developing my position of mind/mathematics dualism, in opposition to physicalism.

So I debunk a widespread nonsense but my genuine logical refutation is just censored while the nonsense has a full right to be repeated. That is philosophers logic !!!! Fortunately other participants do explain that difference between both kinds of "naturalism". Yet the presence of this confusion is real as appeared in the review of the philosophy of mathematics
External links : FQXI essays
Related pages : The decay of materialism - Review of "An evidential case for naturalism and against theism V_4" found in Facebook
The cult of skepticism (especially part 3)
Back to : Set theory and foundations of mathematics homepage