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Self-defeating immaterialism?

UrsangusUrsangus Registered User
edited September 2010 in Debate and/or Discourse
Forewarning: Be prepared to sit down for a read. By no means is this something you can casually glance at and get the entire meaning.

I've been revisiting this initial idea I had a few years ago, and have yet to come up with a definite answer. So I think to myself, "Maybe the infinite wisdom of teh interwebs will provide some insight!" Here's hoping I can at least prove this much.

If you take a theory that is completely immaterial in its' execution, does writing down the mechanics of it eliminate the immaterial aspect of it?

This is gonna require some more in-depth exploration.

A piece of paper will never be the sun. A piece of paper will never be my aunt's cream of chicken noodle soup. A piece of paper only has a limited number of things it can become, revert to, or be reduced to. It is, after all, a piece of paper. Said paper could become a frog via origami, compressed into the casing for a rear-view mirror, or a simple paper airplane signed by "Johnny" thrown at some ancient figure of educational authority (hence getting Johnny into trouble while you are, in fact, Ted.)

So, what's the point of discussing paper? It's an example that something material, something we can touch, see, smell, taste (college-ruled tastes like ass, btw), and hear, yet, lacks unlimited potentiality. It has limits.

So, how do we eliminate these limits?

What limits the paper? Well, it's flammable, tastes like ass, and it will only take up a certain amount of mass unless it is built upon or destroyed. No matter what you fold paper into, the paper itself will always take up the same amount of physical space. It may appear larger, but you have to consider the air between the various planes. The space that the paper occupies will remain the same, short of intense gravity or a lack of it. Flammability, taste, smell, touch, sound, and sight can be altered depending on the kind of paper it is, but it will still occupy space. And therein lies the most limiting factor of all. Fix this idea in your mind, and hold on to the constant. It will always occupy space.

Now then, replace the paper with something else. For this, we'll use one of the various Dr. Pepper cans littering my desk. Again, it has the same aspects as the piece of paper. No, my Dr. Pepper can is not made of paper, and it very much so does not taste like ass. But we can still see, touch, smell, taste, and hear it. The aluminum it's made up of will always occupy space. Take a look around your desk. I'd bet good money that all of these aspects can be applied to everything on your desk (including your Edward "action figure".)

All good now? Glad to see you're coming with me on this. I have to explain it to myself every time I get back to this topic, so you're not the only one lost, just bear with me.

So now that we've all agreed that these things all share the same basic aspects, how do we eliminate them? Burn them all to the ground, you say? No, no. That only converts them to either energy or another form of matter. We can still feel heat, and we can still feel the remains of your once proud Hawaiian Punch Temple. So all we've done is either converted or altered what it used to be. Okay, so that didn't work. Round two. Fight!

Before you throw that first punch or get decked by Lil' Mac, stop and consider what the real constant is. All these objects consist of matter. Even the air inside and around them is made up of it. We'll always be able to pick up on some form of it.

"But I'm confused, Ursangus. What does this have to do with immaterialism?" Take that image of a piece of paper in your head, and remove it. Don't imagine it burning, folding, dry-humping a pencil, or becoming the ever-feared despot of Uruguay. It's gone. Not a thing left. Es diparut!

Why did I just spend the last 30 minutes describing a piece of paper to you? To eliminate the existence of something, you have to be familiar with just what it means. So! With no matter to make it up, what are we left with? Certainly not paper. It dined and dashed. What will take it's place? I have literally no idea, and that's the point. Without matter to make it up, we're left with absolutely pure potentiality. But what to do with it? We can't touch it, taste it, hear it, see it, or smell it.

Now then. I want you to take this massless pure potentiality, and build a machine out of it. I don't rightly know what the machine is for, but whatever it does, we're gonna need blueprints for it. But, if you take a theory that is completely immaterial in its' execution, does writing down the mechanics of it eliminate the immaterial aspect of it?

Go nuts with it.

I-beams need lovin' too!
Ursangus on

Posts

  • _J__J_ Pedant Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    edited September 2010
    Ursangus wrote: »
    So, what's the point of discussing paper? It's an example that something material, something we can touch, see, smell, taste (college-ruled tastes like ass, btw), and hear, yet, lacks unlimited potentiality. It has limits.

    Or we can deny Realism and so paper's materiality is brought into question.

    Ursangus wrote: »
    All these objects consist of matter.

    Or not, because either we deny Realism or we've read Berkeley.
    By Matter, therefore, we are to understand an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure, and motion do actually subsist. But it is evident from what we have already shown, that extension, figure, and motion are only ideas existing in the mind, and that an idea can be like nothing but another idea, and that consequently neither they nor their archetypes can exist in an unperceiving substance. Hence, it is plain that that the very notion of what is called Matter or corporeal substance, involves a contradiction in it.
    Ursangus wrote: »
    Without matter to make it up, we're left with absolutely pure potentiality.

    Not really, no. Without matter we have what we have: colors, tastes, sights, smells, etc. Whence the need for a materilaity to paper when all that is described are the qualitites of said paper? Why does there need to be a "matter" behind the whiteness?

    Ursangus wrote: »
    if you take a theory that is completely immaterial in its' execution, does writing down the mechanics of it eliminate the immaterial aspect of it?

    I have no idea what this question is intended to mean.

    _J_ on
  • UrsangusUrsangus Registered User
    edited September 2010
    Ursangus wrote: »
    if you take a theory that is completely immaterial in its' execution, does writing down the mechanics of it eliminate the immaterial aspect of it?

    I have no idea what this question is intended to mean.[/QUOTE]

    Meaning that if you write about something that is immaterial in composition, does that give it material, hence eliminating the immaterialism of it?

    Ursangus on
    I-beams need lovin' too!
  • _J__J_ Pedant Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    edited September 2010
    Ursangus wrote: »
    Meaning that if you write about something that is immaterial in composition, does that give it material, hence eliminating the immaterialism of it?

    Why do you assume that writing invokes materiality, or requires materiality?

    If we junk the idea of matter, per Berkeley, then nothing is material qua matter. So, then, everything is immaterial. Problem solved.

    _J_ on
  • UrsangusUrsangus Registered User
    edited September 2010
    You are expressing an idea on to a piece of paper, forum reply, or whatever. Hence making it visible. Doesn't that imply that it does have matter?

    Ursangus on
    I-beams need lovin' too!
  • _J__J_ Pedant Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    edited September 2010
    Ursangus wrote: »
    You are expressing an idea on to a piece of paper, forum reply, or whatever. Hence making it visible. Doesn't that imply that it does have matter?

    Nope. If X is visible then X is visible. There need not be some matter "behind" that which is visible to make it visible.

    In the history of Western Philosophy it was assumed that there was something "behind" that which was perceived via the senses, some kind of substance or foundation upon which the sensible was grounded. One of the names for this thing was "matter". But, as Berkeley points out, there is no need to assume such a thing.

    Take your example of paper. One sees the whiteness and the blue lines, one tastes the ass-ness, one hears the crinkle as one feels it being crumpled. Why posit some matter "behind" the white, the ass, the crinkle? What if paper is always only ever just the white, the ass, the crinkle. What if there are only those sensible qualities and the "matter", the supposed grounding, is sheer nonsense?


    You can argue that there is a matter "behind" the sensible qualities. The question is what evidence would support that claim. You can provide empirical evidence for the sensible qualitites of X (as most empirical evidence is naught but those sensible qualitites). But to proove that there exists matter...that is quite difficult.

    _J_ on
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    A piece of paper will never be the sun. A piece of paper will never be my aunt's cream of chicken noodle soup. A piece of paper only has a limited number of things it can become, revert to, or be reduced to. It is, after all, a piece of paper. Said paper could become a frog via origami, compressed into the casing for a rear-view mirror, or a simple paper airplane signed by "Johnny" thrown at some ancient figure of educational authority (hence getting Johnny into trouble while you are, in fact, Ted.)

    Uh. Paper, like everything we know, is just a specific arrangement of different atoms. At one point in time, those atoms were indeed part of a star (just as absolutely everything you can see on Earth was) - and in time, the atoms from a piece of paper might find their way into some cream of chicken noodle soup.


    Immaterialism is skull numbingly stupid at face value, so there's no need to go about creating an intellectual pretzel in any case: just ask an immaterialist what practical applications there are for their philosophy. What can they bring to the table to help improve anyone's life?

    Answer: None and nothing.

    The Ender on
    With Love and Courage
  • EgoEgo Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Ursangus wrote: »
    You are expressing an idea on to a piece of paper, forum reply, or whatever. Hence making it visible. Doesn't that imply that it does have matter?

    Isn't it already visible to the person thinking of it before committing it to paper? And material, given that it's composed in his mind, which is quite physical?

    Ego on
    Erik
  • Xenogears of BoreXenogears of Bore Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    How do you know the material world is actually there?

    I don't know the sun is material for instance. Hell if I write down the sun and look at the sun I can no more proof that one exists over the other. Sure, I can touch the paper, hell I wrote on it, but how do I know if I'm really there?

    We're all individuals and we can only know what we think we know. I'm pretty certain the sun is tangible and real enough to go along with in my everyday life. I even have proof that my guess is correct. But do I know for certain? Absolutely not. Nothing is certain.

    Xenogears of Bore on
    3DS CODE: 3093-7068-3576
  • Grey PaladinGrey Paladin Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    You are as unlikely to know if your whole reality is not a construct, or if the logic that operates within the 'illusion' is identical to that of the reality that transcends it. You cannot know if the most absurd of claims, such as a giant undetectable alien constantly gently caressing your nipples, is logically untrue once you enter this line of thought.

    What matters is, that within the limits of what is either the illusion or the real world, treating it as the real world and following its rules is beneficial, while acting on the concept of the alien or one of the other infinite number of possibilities is not. So far, everything you ever knew was the illusion, and so your identity is constructed around the illusion.

    At this point, whether its 'real' or not does not matters, because you are part of the illusion and so it is real to you. Thus realism is the only logical philosophy to follow, whether its correct or not.


    EDIT: As to the OP's question;

    Letters are abstract symbols that are used to invoke meaning. You can make someone think of an idea by passing them its abstract meaning through this arbitrary tool, but you have not actually put an abstract idea into the physical, because that is impossible by definition. An abstract concept exists by itself, while the means to hold it are physical - such as the chemicals in our brains or a computer's storage. The means of storing an idea have physical aspects, but they are not the idea itself.

    This actually connects rather nicely to Computer Science, which is not really about computers, or a science. It is a branch of logic/mathematics that studies how we do things. The computers are just tools that make use of this abstract theory. Watch up to 3:00 or so.

    Computer Science

    Grey Paladin on
    "All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible." - T.E. Lawrence
  • MrMisterMrMister A pup must first get in the water to be successful as a seal!Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Ursangus wrote: »
    You are expressing an idea on to a piece of paper, forum reply, or whatever. Hence making it visible. Doesn't that imply that it does have matter?

    No. Writing down some arithmetic on a page involves rearranging bits of ink and paper, but it doesn't imply that numbers are material. The bits of ink and paper represent the number without being the number, just like the line of text "the White House" can represent the White House without being the White House. If I write down "the White House" on paper it doesn't mean that the White House is actually in my notebook, and just the same thing goes for "2" and the number two.

    Alternate answer: what is "immaterialism?"

    MrMister on
  • durandal4532durandal4532 Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Man I don't know from philosophies, but get your writing style in order.

    You're pushing the "arrogant professor" too hard, it crosses over into the "jeez let's just hit him and leave".


    It's a delicate balance to maintain interest while being a jerk.


    Also yeah, what everyone else said: who cares because it's not like I base most of my life around an assumption that things are made of matter. I ain't a physicist.

    durandal4532 on
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  • UrsangusUrsangus Registered User
    edited September 2010
    Man I don't know from philosophies, but get your writing style in order.

    You're pushing the "arrogant professor" too hard, it crosses over into the "jeez let's just hit him and leave".


    It's a delicate balance to maintain interest while being a jerk.


    Also yeah, what everyone else said: who cares because it's not like I base most of my life around an assumption that things are made of matter. I ain't a physicist.

    Man, I didn't ask for you to criticize my writing, and I didn't ask you to care. All I posed was a question that I had hoped people would have some input on and let me take the idea further. Thanks for contributing...

    Ursangus on
    I-beams need lovin' too!
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2010
    Durandal made a very good point, Ursangus. You might have been going for a whimsical or grandfatherly tone in the OP, but it's not coming off quite the way you may have wanted; as someone who has only very recently registered and currently has four posts to his credit, you should probably know that this is ground that has been covered at some length in this forum before by our resident philosophy hobos and that adopting a lecture-hall tone of voice is not likely to usefully further the cause of discussion.

    All that said, welcome to the Penny Arcade forums. while you're here, allow me to encourage you to browse around and get to know your fellow forum denizens. I can almost guarantee there will be plenty here to interest you.

    Jacobkosh on
  • Apothe0sisApothe0sis Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    MrMister wrote: »
    Alternate answer: what is "immaterialism?"

    Clearly it is the philosophical descendant of Disidealism!

    Apothe0sis on
    Tide goes in. Tide goes out.
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  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Even the Taoists a long ass time ago figured out that to name something, or describe it, is to contradict what it actually is. OP himself initially describes paper as something touched, tasted, etc., rather than as a collection of particles. But OP later describes paper as "matter." There's a conflict to be reckoned there already. Making _J_'s solipsism an appropriate idea to introduce and clarify. Ursangus, which do you prefer? Is paper a collection in your mind of certain touches, tastes, sights, or is it a collection of some sort of actual material that merely results in touches, tastes, and sights?

    Not sure but I think OP is raising the qualia and/or consciousness debates. He's certainly asking for them to be raised. What was there that existed when I imagined a piece of paper? When I stopped imagining it, what went away? How was that different from when I imagined that there was a "real" piece of paper in front of me? What is the difference between me imagining paper and then not imagining it, vs. me sensing a piece of paper in front of me and then coming back later not sensing it there anymore?

    Yar on
  • FirstComradeStalinFirstComradeStalin Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    This whole argument could have been summed up in a paragraph. There's value in succinctness.

    That said, if you want to go the atomic route, you also need to think about yourself as a collection of atoms, not just the paper. When you think of a piece of paper, that's also just neurons firing away in a funky order. Then they stop. The fact that you give it value is on you.

    FirstComradeStalin on
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  • KamarKamar Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    I always feel out of depth in philosophy threads since I never studied it, but here goes:

    Concepts like this seem to be pointless on their face, but you can do some interesting thigns with them. It's like Determinism; well, great, we have no free will, but who cares, we act as if we do.

    Actually, though, there are some tricks you can pull using knowledge of the reality to achieve a goal in the illusion. I like to use Determinism, for example, to argue against a punitive criminal justice system and for socialized everything.

    This immaterialism concept is basically the same deal. On its face, it seems useless. But what about if, for example, we reach a level of technology where mind uploading is possible?

    You can sidestep the 'Is it me?' question with it by realizing it doesn't matter because there is no 'you', only the experience of 'you' by 'yourself' and others.

    Basically it's reality meta-gaming.

    Kamar on
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