Poll

What is the purpose of purpose?

God only knows
Purpose is a human construct and therefore has no purpose.
Purpose is a human construct and therefore is an illusionary interpretation of non-purposeful evolutionary processes.
Purpose is an essential property of the cosmos which manifests in different ways existentially.
It's unknowable and therefore irrelevant.
It's an ordinary part of life. Beaver dams and bee hives are no less purposeful than human constructs.
Only human consciousness is capable of purpose. It's an aberration in the Universe, arrived at randomly, and not really real like atoms and molecules.
Even God doesn't know, since creating purpose requires that purpose already exists.
Purpose is just the sad delusion which humans cling to while they block out the horror of the existential catastrophe of their own meaningless mortality.
It's to teach us a lesson. To help us grow.
To help us grow subjectively toward a next incarnation/state of being.
Purpose doesn't need a purpose because it's not really a thing, it's just a word.
Purpose? What purpose? There is no evidence that purpose exists, therefore asking the question is really a special pleading strawman..
Purpose or teleology is the complement to teleonomy - both crucial to understanding our role in the cosmos.
other

Author Topic: Teleology 101  (Read 8308 times)

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Offline Immediacracy

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Teleology 101
« on: June 08, 2010, 09:55:11 PM »
i vs i

"That which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe."
- John Archibald Wheeler

Offline Operator_A25

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2010, 10:08:59 PM »
You should be able to edit the poll. What do you need edited?

If you look to the far right, bottom corner of the poll frame you should see the edit link.
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Offline alihaymeg

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2010, 10:10:25 PM »
I chose: Purpose is a human construct and therefore is an illusionary interpretation of non-purposeful evolutionary processes.

And Other: To give an animal that has evolved past operating on pure instinct the necessary motivation to continue performing essentially arbitrary tasks.

Offline Emily

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2010, 10:17:28 PM »
You should be able to edit the poll. What do you need edited?
I was just going to correct aberration and see if there was anything I could do to linebreaks to make it look cleaner. How does it work? When I try I just get the text box below to edit.

I think polls are only editable prior to a first vote. If someone has posted then you are no longer able to edit the poll. If you wish to have the poll change you have to ask a mod.
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I edit a lot of my posts. The reason being it to add content or to correct grammar/wording. All edits to remove wording get a strike through through the wording.

Offline Immediacracy

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2010, 10:21:07 PM »
I think polls are only editable prior to a first vote. If someone has posted then you are no longer able to edit the poll. If you wish to have the poll change you have to as a mod.
Thanks. Makes sense. Polls usually are squirrely like that, just hadn't done one here before.
"That which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe."
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Offline alihaymeg

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2010, 10:23:05 PM »
Sorry about that! I guess I was a little too quick on the draw.

Offline Operator_A25

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2010, 10:41:43 PM »
Thanks. Makes sense. Polls usually are squirrely like that, just hadn't done one here before.

I suppose that is to keep people from dishonestly editing the poll entries out from under people who have already voted.

Anyway, I fixed your spelling aberration, but didn't feel too confident on the linebreaks issue.
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Offline Emily

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2010, 10:48:35 PM »
I suppose that is to keep people from dishonestly editing the poll entries out from under people who have already voted.

I read on an SMF forum that that is exactly why. It's a way of keeping the integrity of the poll.

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I edit a lot of my posts. The reason being it to add content or to correct grammar/wording. All edits to remove wording get a strike through through the wording.

Offline dloubet

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2010, 12:47:38 AM »
The purpose of purpose is to focus the intent of the purposer.
Denis Loubet

Offline plethora

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2010, 05:00:06 AM »
I voted "other" because none of them fit IMO.

Purpose is a human construct. I think it is a by-product of the evolution of the human brain as it became capable of abstract thought and of creating complex conceptual models of reality. Consciousness beyond ourselves, so to speak.

Evolution has given us a natural instinct to survive. We fear death as a result. As our perspective as humans widened, we gradually constructed purpose for ourselves in order to cope with the prospect of our own inevitable death as individuals and as a species.

The prospect of the universe culminating in complete annihilation of life as we know it can only be concieved by humans (without speaking of possible intelligent life elsewhere in the universe) and it goes against our evolutionary motivation and instinct for survival. Therefore, we tend to reject it.

In an attempt to maintain the motivation to live, we embrace the purposes our families/communities/societies have given us and/or create our own purposes.

Hence, the purpose of purpose is to cope with reality and maintain the will to live and prosper as long as we can.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2010, 05:03:23 AM by plethora »
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Offline One Above All

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2010, 05:06:57 AM »
I agree with plethora
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
We choose our own gods.

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Offline Immediacracy

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2010, 08:26:01 AM »
Purpose is a human construct.
Are beaver dams, beehives, and anthills not purposeful? If not, what makes them ontologically different from our dams, buildings, and cities?

Quote
Evolution has given us a natural instinct to survive.
It seems to me that every mobile organism at least exhibits some behaviors consistent with having an instinct to survive, to move toward food/life supporting conditions and away from pain/life threatening conditions which it can recognize. Even plants bend and grow toward the sun. The survival instinct doesn't evolve at all, it is the subjective definition of life.

Quote
We fear death as a result. As our perspective as humans widened, we gradually constructed purpose for ourselves in order to cope with the prospect of our own inevitable death as individuals and as a species.
It doesn't make sense to me. I see a fallacy in using purposeful logic to explain that purposeful logic didn't exist until we gradually constructed it for a logical purpose (to cope with our awareness of death). If the construction of purpose fulfills any sort of purpose whatsoever, then purpose exists a priori to it's supposed construction, no? This is actually the main point I wanted to get into with this whole poll. How can you explain purpose without resorting to purpose?

Quote
The prospect of the universe culminating in complete annihilation of life as we know it can only be concieved by humans (without speaking of possible intelligent life elsewhere in the universe) and it goes against our evolutionary motivation and instinct for survival. Therefore, we tend to reject it.
I don't see this as a very compelling explanation. Why would the knowledge of annihilation necessarily have a negative effect on our evolutionary motivation? Just as atheism doesn't inhibit motivation or instinct, it seems like a weak argument to say that humanity had to invent purpose because evolution backed them into a philosophical corner with the capacity for abstract thought (which itself, is sort of indistinguishable from purposeful thought, isn't it?).

Quote
In an attempt to maintain the motivation to live, we embrace the purposes our families/communities/societies have given us and/or create our own purposes.
Except that, according to your first statement, we are the only species to have ever required purpose to maintain our survival instinct. Our huge brain power doesn't make us embrace pain and suffering, so I don't see why any species motivation to live would be compromised by intelligence. If intelligence is even possible without purpose...I don't think that it is.

Quote
Hence, the purpose of purpose is to cope with reality and maintain the will to live and prosper as long as we can.
So calculus is sort of a crutch which enables us to do what cockroaches already do effortlessly? Intelligence is actually an obstacle to evolutionary efficiency which must create an excuse for itself to be a more successful cockroach?

Do you see why someone might find this explanation unlikely?

Edit: "Why would the knowledge of annihilation necessarily have a negative effect", typos
« Last Edit: June 09, 2010, 09:17:54 AM by Immediacracy »
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- John Archibald Wheeler

Offline Immediacracy

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2010, 08:33:05 AM »
Anyway, I fixed your spelling aberration, but didn't feel too confident on the linebreaks issue.
Thank you. 'ppreciate it, as they say.

Of course, it occurs to me that the idea of misspelling aberration is itself revealing of another aspect of this thread. Mistakes vs statistical aberrations, coincidence vs serendipity. Are humans the only thing in existence to experience mistakes? Are successful mutations mistakes? 
"That which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe."
- John Archibald Wheeler

Offline Immediacracy

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2010, 08:38:32 AM »
The purpose of purpose is to focus the intent of the purposer.
Interesting but I think semantic. Intent is already purposeful, if not functionally the same as purpose depending on the context? Couldn't you say 'the intent of intent is to focus the purpose of the intender'?
"That which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe."
- John Archibald Wheeler

Offline Noman Peopled

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2010, 09:13:54 AM »
bm
"Deferinate" itself appears to be a new word... though I'm perfectly carmotic with it.
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Offline plethora

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #15 on: June 09, 2010, 09:29:51 AM »
@Immediacracy

My bad for not defining "purpose" or asking for it to be defined.

I was using purpose in the sense of an ulterior motive or reason for us to exist at all. Something that makes our lives meaningful in some way rather than pointless.

I didn't mean purpose only in the sense of utility. Of course a beaver's dam has a purpose.

However, a beaver is not asking itself why it exists in the first place and what the point is of spending his life meaninglessly building and maintaining dams to ultimately end up dead. Hence it doesn't need to assign purpose to anything it does.

Let me see if I can organize my thoughts here...

I think our human need to assign purpose to our lives (i.e. overall meaning) has a purpose as a coping mechanism. We have come unto a realization that the beaver could never come to. However, that doesn't mean the process by which these purposes arose has a purpose in itself.

Think about the process of evolution. Evolution itself has no purpose, no goals and no intent. However, the process results in lifeforms with parts that serve a purposes and behaviors that serve purposes... and also complex enough beings like us who actually assign purposes.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2010, 09:31:29 AM by plethora »
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Offline Immediacracy

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #16 on: June 09, 2010, 10:09:55 AM »
I was using purpose in the sense of an ulterior motive or reason for us to exist at all. Something that makes our lives meaningful in some way rather than pointless.
Oh, yeah, I don't generally try to get into philosophical-conceptual stuff like that. Mainly I'm interested in getting the broadest, most elemental grasp of the cosmos that I can.

Quote
However, a beaver is not asking itself why it exists in the first place and what the point is of spending his life meaninglessly building and maintaining dams to ultimately end up dead. Hence it doesn't need to assign purpose to anything it does.
I agree, although it's just because of the degree of the complexity of their neurology and not because there's something special about humans.

Additional food for thought on non-human intelligence/purpose. Prairie Dog language.

Quote
Evolution itself has no purpose, no goals and no intent. However, the process results in lifeforms with parts that serve a purposes and behaviors that serve purposes... and also complex enough beings like us who actually assign purposes.
Evolution depends not only on it's own purposeless teleonomy, but on the highly ordered properties and dynamics of what it is that's evolving. That's why I say that teleology and teleonomy are two sides of an inseparable whole.

Teleology really has the advantage if you think about it. There's no way to get order out of an utter ontological void of order or pattern (it wouldn't even be able to get to step one), but you could get randomness out of order. I think this is why theism is the anthropological default and not materialism. Nonsense is more likely to be a kind of sense than the other way around.

To me, theism doesn't help explain anything though. It just personifies order/purpose/teleology, when in fact, it's not necessary. Why not just let order be what it is?
"That which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe."
- John Archibald Wheeler

Offline penfold

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #17 on: June 09, 2010, 01:39:48 PM »
Interesting poll Imm. I hope you get enough votes to show a pattern; will be interesting to see the results.

The distinction between teleology and teleonomy is instructive:

Are beaver dams, beehives, and anthills not purposeful?

The traditional answer to this is that a beaver dam is teleonomic. The modern zoologist would say that:
“The beaver's dam building behaviour provides it with shelter” [teolonomic]
rather than:
“The beaver builds dams in order to obtain shelter” [teleological]

The former implies that the behaviour is pre-programmed; the beaver builds because of its evolutionary history, ie it is backward looking. The latter implies that the beaver behaviour is purposive, ie it is forward looking.

However that same zoologist would use the latter (teleological) formulation to refer to a human dam.

Which leads us to your question:
Quote
If not, what makes them ontologically different from our dams, buildings, and cities?

I think though that question is wrong in presupposing that 'purpose', as we understand it, corresponds to anything ontological. It seems to me that the teleological/teleonomical distinction can be understood as epistemological thus relating to the phenomenal not the ontological.

At the level of the epistemological the teleological/teleonomical distinction makes sense. We call a beaver dam building teleonomical because our explanation for it is evolutionary; that is how we understand it. We call human dam building teleological because our explanation for it is purposive; that is how we understand it. At an epistemological level the distinction between conscious purpose and unconscious behaviour is easily apparent. There are of course grey areas; the play of an infant can be understood in both teleological and teleonomical terms; however as this distinction is at an epistemological level that is not a problem (ie it points to ambiguity in how we understand the world, not an ambiguity in the world itself).

However, we could presuppose an ontology that is either teleological or teleonomical. In fact many people do. The teleological ontos we call god, and is the position of the theist. The teleonomical ontos we call the cosmos, and is the position of the atheist. The problem is that ontological structure is not accessible to us. All we can know is the phenomenal. The ontological may have purpose it may not. We cannot possibly know either way. Wittgenstein realised this, for him not just 'purpose' but ALL MEANING must reside in us not out there. So on the question of whether the ontological is teleological or teleonomical we should follow his great dictum: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.”

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away." - P.K.D.

Offline Immediacracy

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #18 on: June 09, 2010, 02:52:25 PM »
However, we could presuppose an ontology that is either teleological or teleonomical. In fact many people do. The teleological ontos we call god, and is the position of the theist. The teleonomical ontos we call the cosmos, and is the position of the atheist.
I wouldn't restrict the teleological ontos to 'god' necessarily (although it's a valid example) - it could be 'life, freewill, orderly sequence, etc', and the teleonomical ontos I might describe as 'material substance, coincidence, reactive consequence'. I think that only through the combination of teleonomy and teleology that there can be an experience of cosmos.

Quote
The problem is that ontological structure is not accessible to us. All we can know is the phenomenal. The ontological may have purpose it may not.
The ontological structure of the cosmos isn't accessible to us but what is accessible to us directly is our own phenomenal teleology. The Self, as a part of the cosmos, demonstrates that teleology is as much of a phenomenal reality as teleonomy, at least locally to this organism. Obviously there is a lot of interplay - consciousness has both material substrates and subjective capacities which have complex relationships to each other, but each side of the coin has a coherent reality which is very different from the other on a phenomenal level.

Quote
We cannot possibly know either way. Wittgenstein realised this, for him not just 'purpose' but ALL MEANING must reside in us not out there. So on the question of whether the ontological is teleological or teleonomical we should follow his great dictum: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.”
For me, it's not a matter of seeking to explain a truly nuomenal ontology, but rather a reconciliation of the full phenomenal range of the cosmos, whether interior and subjective or exterior and objective. I think that everything that's in us came from out there in the first place, so in a sense, our expression of purpose is putting back into the cosmos an anthropomorphically transformed subset of what the cosmos puts into us.

As for beavers and bees, did you see the Prairie Dogs? I think that the only reason we don't give these behaviors the teleological benefit of the doubt is because we can't know what it's like to be them. I'm not positing that beavers are capable of the kinds of abstract reasoning of human beings but I wouldn't say that the teleonomy distinction applies in a truly definitive way. Abstract reasoning seems to me to be an elaboration, refinement, and conditioning of animal instinct rather than a completely novel capability.

Losing our body hair as homo sapiens is teleonomy. Shaving regularly is teleology. Cleaning our hair when it feels dirty, well, that's something we probably share with a lot of mammals. It's a continuum rather than a binary distinction, don't you think?
"That which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe."
- John Archibald Wheeler

Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #19 on: June 09, 2010, 07:16:46 PM »
The purpose of purpose is to make us think it is a dolphin, Young Jedi.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline Immediacracy

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #20 on: June 09, 2010, 08:09:42 PM »
The purpose of purpose is to make us think it is a dolphin, Young Jedi.
It's ceotainly a cetacean situation (with a Three Stooges pronunciation).
"That which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe."
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Offline penfold

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #21 on: June 10, 2010, 04:43:59 PM »
Losing our body hair as homo sapiens is teleonomy. Shaving regularly is teleology.

:-)

Quote
The ontological structure of the cosmos isn't accessible to us but what is accessible to us directly is our own phenomenal teleology. The Self, as a part of the cosmos, demonstrates that teleology is as much of a phenomenal reality as teleonomy, at least locally to this organism.

[...]

 I think that everything that's in us came from out there in the first place, so in a sense, our expression of purpose is putting back into the cosmos an anthropomorphically transformed subset of what the cosmos puts into us.

This is a pleasing idea. As the much missed Carl Sagan said the mind is the universe's way of realising itself. It is undeniable that to try and separate the observed from the observer is a mistake; but science tries to and so the quantum physicist loses sleep over the measurement problem.

However, I think you are making a mistake in assuming that our phenomenal epistemic structures bear any relation to the ontological structures of the cosmos. While we are as much a part of the universe as any stella object, it does not follow that we can read back from 'in us' to 'out there'.

Whether we see something as teleological or teleonomical depends upon our structure. Let us take the example of astrology. Here a mind sees purposive structure (whether it be teleological or teleonomical) in the correlation between stars and people. It is true to say that a bit of the universe, (that bit which is the mind), contains that purposive structure. It is only by inference that we claim that the bit of the universe which contains the stars and the people has that same purposive structure.

The problem with that inductive leap is that there is no way to substantiate it. Moreover there is historical precedent to show the danger of making such inductive leaps. Whether it be the Pythagoreans' suppression of irrational numbers; the Catholic Church's insistence upon the anthropocentric universe; or Einstein's resistance to quantum physics; it turns out that not even the phenomenal universe corresponds to our intuitions as to its structure. Why on earth would you suppose that the ontological does?

« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 04:48:10 PM by penfold »
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Offline Nam

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #22 on: June 10, 2010, 05:37:33 PM »
I dislike polls where I have to participate to see the results.  Sometimes I do not have an answer, and I wish to see what others think and mold that over my mind, and perhaps I would have an answer.  Can't do that here.

Oh well.

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This is my signature "Nam", don't I have nice typing skills?

Offline Immediacracy

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #23 on: June 10, 2010, 08:09:59 PM »
However, I think you are making a mistake in assuming that our phenomenal epistemic structures bear any relation to the ontological structures of the cosmos. While we are as much a part of the universe as any stella object, it does not follow that we can read back from 'in us' to 'out there'.
Right. I understand what you're saying and I agree as far as not being able to translate or project the subjective onto the objective. Where I differ is that I think that the worldview most of us in the West are using unintentionally conflates objective phenomenon with the ontology, or gives it much more of the benefit of the doubt. I see the subjective and objective as two ends of a phenomenological continuum, which maps fairly smoothly in the middle (sensation vs perception) but is radically dimorphic at the extreme (quantum physics vs mythology).

We both agree the ontology is unknowable, and more to the point, irrelevant. It's the phenomenal politics that we disagree on. We can and do know what's in here, and while we also know that what's out there is very different and supervenes upon the in here in objective matters, we also know that we don't know about what's in there and that in our voluntary control of own Selves at least, our subjective will does supervene upon the exterior Universe.

Quote
Whether we see something as teleological or teleonomical depends upon our structure. Let us take the example of astrology. Here a mind sees purposive structure (whether it be teleological or teleonomical) in the correlation between stars and people.
No, that's a caricature of astrology. It's okay, I'm not trying to say it's something people should be expected to know about, it's just an fyi - astrology has nothing to do with stars (other than the celebrity kind). It's just about the apparent orbits of the planets. It's an illustrated analog clock with eleven hands.

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It is true to say that a bit of the universe, (that bit which is the mind), contains that purposive structure.
:)

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It is only by inference that we claim that the bit of the universe which contains the stars and the people has that same purposive structure.
That's exactly what I thought was the most relevant thing about it before I looked into it and found that how it 'works' isn't really the important thing - as insane as that sounds, and I know it sounds insane, but you have to remember that this is at the intuitive - far subjective end of the spectrum. Infra-red. UHF. In that range, it's not a how, it's a who - a when and where. Animal archetypes. Stories and histories. I'm not expecting you to believe me, I'm just trying to explain it in case someone is interested.

Anyways, it 'works' not because the planets and their orbits are purposive, but because our lives are subject to changing temporal influences which can be projected, Rorschach-like onto the firmament of a massive, and massively consistent pattern like the solar system. In the micro, you have I Ching, Tarot cards, tea leaves, etc; in the meso there's graphology, palmistry, automatic writing; in the macro there's astrology, numerology, alchemy.

Quote
The problem with that inductive leap is that there is no way to substantiate it. Moreover there is historical precedent to show the danger of making such inductive leaps. Whether it be the Pythagoreans' suppression of irrational numbers; the Catholic Church's insistence upon the anthropocentric universe; or Einstein's resistance to quantum physics; it turns out that not even the phenomenal universe corresponds to our intuitions as to its structure.
I totally agree. Projecting subjective architecture onto the objective part of the universe is only useful as a starting place. To know about the exterior cosmos you must use your physical body and practical mind - build tools, use them to improve your objective knowledge, build more tools, etc.

I have no problem with that at all. Science and technology is more miraculous than religion and art ever dreamed of being (ironically). What the problem is now, is that we've been so successful at suppressing the subjective suppression of the objective that we have lost touch with it altogether. We imagine ourselves transparent vessels of pure logic uncontaminated by subjective woo. We identify with the physical universe of unconsciousness and see ourselves - our own living, breathing, thinking beings as a coincidence, an aberration. Seen from that distorted perspective, everything makes sense only when we aren't in the picture. As if every pattern we observe and every thought we have comes from some alien wonderland and not from the very same stuff that the cosmos is made of when we look at it through a microscope or a telescope.

Yes, it's important to guard our scientific worldview and to remain skeptical of applying interior subjective architectures to exterior objective realities, but you know, the Inquisition is over. The greater threat now is that the world is so divorced from it's own humanity, it's own subjective values, that it has literally transformed civilization into a kind of automated, idiot proof Hell. This is the reason that people won't let go of God - not because they are just all too stupid or lazy to think about it logically, but because they don't see the benefit of losing their own subjective significance and trading it for WalMart. The richness of the psyche can no more be addressed from the outside than RNA transcription can be predicted by the I Ching. That fact doesn't make one side of the continuum more real than the other, it just puts warm and fuzzy meaning at one end and cold hard facts at the other.

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Why on earth would you suppose that the ontological does?
I don't. We agree, the ontological is something we are never likely to be acquainted with directly. If we were, we wouldn't be us anyways.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 08:16:22 PM by Immediacracy »
"That which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe."
- John Archibald Wheeler

Offline penfold

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #24 on: June 11, 2010, 01:43:28 AM »
Fair enough Imm, phenomenal politics it is...

I disagree with your assessment on two points. Firstly on the issue of looking inward the interpretation of pattern. Secondly in terms of the contemporary situation.

We can and do know what's in here, and while we also know that what's out there is very different and supervenes upon the in here in objective matters, we also know that we don't know about what's in there and that in our voluntary control of own Selves at least, our subjective will does supervene upon the exterior Universe.

We do not know what is in here. Our minds are not readily accessible to us; as you point out we are not “transparent vessels of pure logic uncontaminated by subjective woo”; we are complex. While the strict dichotomy of Freud's ego and id is perhaps overzealous but there is no denying the truth of his central thesis, that the vast majority of our mental processes are dark to us. Consider the sensation of solving a puzzle, how the answer arrives fully formed in your mind. Or how a smell can invoke an unlooked for memory of shocking intensity. More subtle, but more profound, is how our sense data arrives in our conscious 'pre-interpreted' [if you doubt this consider the potent effects that can be exerted upon this subconscious sense interpretation by the ingestion of chemicals like psilocybin].

One of the great feats of the mind is the creation of pattern and symbol. It is this capacity that gave rise to language and changed our prehistoric grunts to the poetry of Ginsberg. The fact that our language is symbolic is symptomatic of how our minds, and especially the processing in our subconscious, work. The problem is that we have no access or control over this subconscious pattern formation. A good example of this in action is how even after we have had an optical illusion explained to us we cannot help but still see it as an illusion. The power of the subconscious to supervene upon the conscious is clear. It is important to realise that because this pattern formation is opaque to us we have no way of assessing its truth or utility. Moreover we have countless examples of erroneous pattern formation (think optical illusions again). So we know the process is flawed, in that correlation to the way things actually are (at the measurable phenomenal level) is not guaranteed.

That is not to say that patterns we intuit have no use or interest. It is our capacity to find structure and pattern, even in the random, that allows us to be creative. It is the wellspring of humanity's most quixotic labour: art. It also allows us to be fooled; our unconscious finding of pattern explains how the Barnum statements of the 'psychic' or astrologer work. It explains why ritual behaviour develops: rain dances, burial rituals, doctrine, etc... To my mind there is a real danger in elevating this uncontrollable pattern finding behaviour to the status of knowledge.

Which brings me to the second point:

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Yes, it's important to guard our scientific worldview and to remain skeptical of applying interior subjective architectures to exterior objective realities, but you know, the Inquisition is over. The greater threat now is that the world is so divorced from it's own humanity, it's own subjective values, that it has literally transformed civilization into a kind of automated, idiot proof Hell.

Here we profoundly disagree. We live in a world where almost everyone knows their star sign but where few could tell you that a good approximation for the force of gravity between two masses is the multiplication of these masses and the gravitational constant all divided by the square of their separation. We live in a world where people buy homoeopathic remedies in record numbers and yet are sceptical of the MMR vaccine. In Africa and South America religion is a growing force. In the middle east superstition and ritual keeps neighbours at war. In India Brahmin can demand food from the straving poor by virtue of tradition. In many dark corners of the world your beleifs, or lack thereof, can get you killed. The inquisition may have gone but things are not much improved.

I do have sympathy for what you are saying. It is a shame that, in the west, we have lost the shaman, that we channel the most creative and gifted into conventional moulds, that, as Thomas G Sanders pointed out, education systems are "more preoccupied with the transmission of knowledge than with the creation among other values, of a critical spirit”. Yet the idea that somehow some bleak materialism has emerged victorious is just wrong. If anything the balance is too far towards superstitious thinking; and this is no benigin social force.

« Last Edit: June 11, 2010, 01:47:18 AM by penfold »
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away." - P.K.D.

Offline Immediacracy

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #25 on: June 11, 2010, 08:23:13 AM »
So we know the process is flawed, in that correlation to the way things actually are (at the measurable phenomenal level) is not guaranteed.
I agree with almost everything up to here, where I would offer that there are a lot of black box nooks and crannies in the psyche, just as there are glitches in our exterior cosmology still - like dark matter and qualia, but that just means it's an exciting place to try to explore. There is a lot we don't know now and maybe can't know ever, but my point is that we do have evidence that this part of the cosmos in here has managed to project something beyond unfeeling, unconscious randomness. To me this means that either all parts of what the cosmos is made of potentially contains something which can develop in similar directions, or, it means that the human brain has somehow managed to utterly transcend the entire rest of the cosmos (seems much less likely).

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To my mind there is a real danger in elevating this uncontrollable pattern finding behaviour to the status of knowledge.
Absolutely. I wouldn't elevate it, rather accurately locate it on the bleeding edge between insight and delusion. The air there is too thin to breathe but being that high provides an interesting view.

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Here we profoundly disagree. We live in a world where almost everyone knows their star sign but where few could tell you that a good approximation for the force of gravity between two masses is the multiplication of these masses and the gravitational constant all divided by the square of their separation. We live in a world where people buy homoeopathic remedies in record numbers and yet are sceptical of the MMR vaccine. In Africa and South America religion is a growing force. In the middle east superstition and ritual keeps neighbours at war. In India Brahmin can demand food from the straving poor by virtue of tradition. In many dark corners of the world your beleifs, or lack thereof, can get you killed. The inquisition may have gone but things are not much improved.
Well, no. I don't disagree with you there either. Both dystopian movements are afoot, and I think mutually reinforcing. My only point to make is that I think that the persistence of, and in some cases rising retrograde orthodoxy is partially due to the incomplete nature of the Western SEW. The political dimension of a worldview of nations privileged technologically and materially vs the rest of the world who have suffered setbacks, exploitation, colonization, genocide, and enslavement is a big part of it, but there is I think more than that.

It's great to believe that the world is your oyster, when, in fact, it is. But enlightening Somalian peasants to a worldview which strips them of all that they ever had - a spiritual connection to themselves and their lives, in favor of one where they are defined by the negligible market value of their labor, is not a solution. We can't expect the great and awful ideas which have occupied humanity for tens of thousands of years to just fold up shop because the temple mount looks like a convenient place for a gas station. If humanity is going to be saved, it's probably going to have to be a better idea than what we've seen - one which addresses both the completely realistic and the completely fantastic.

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Yet the idea that somehow some bleak materialism has emerged victorious is just wrong. If anything the balance is too far towards superstitious thinking; and this is no benigin social force.
Well it depends where on the pyramid you are. I'm here, on a forum like this, to talk to other people who might potentially relate to what I'm talking about. I appreciate that people here are fighting the good fight against the forces of socially sanctioned woo, and I enjoy participating in that occasionally too. It's just that I don't have anything particularly new or interesting to offer on that front.

What I see is that if more people at the top of the pyramid were more fully re-enlightened, there would be a positive effect of movement overall. It might be that the superstitious thirdworlders become more SEW oriented, or maybe they'd leapfrog SEW like they did the wired phone network and go straight into an integral worldview? Donno, either way, this type of stuff is what I seem to have been thinking about all my life, so it's just a matter of finding others who are interested too.
"That which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe."
- John Archibald Wheeler

Offline Omen

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #26 on: June 11, 2010, 08:29:11 AM »
Purpose=magic
"Religious faith is the antithesis to knowledge, it is the opposition to education, and it has to act in animosity against the free exchange of ideas.  Why? Because those things are what cause harm to a religions place in society most." - Me

Offline Immediacracy

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #27 on: June 11, 2010, 08:42:17 AM »
Purpose=magic
If there's a point to that, then you're a magician.
"That which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe."
- John Archibald Wheeler

Offline Omen

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Re: Teleology 101
« Reply #28 on: June 11, 2010, 08:53:02 AM »
Purpose=magic
If there's a point to that, then you're a magician.

As about as magical as:

There is a lot we don't know now and maybe can't know ever, but my point is that we do have evidence that this part of the cosmos in here has managed to project something beyond unfeeling, unconscious randomness.

You're a better magician then me obviously, retreat into ignorance and plead about evidence without evidence using emotive subjective descriptions which amount to no description of anything at all.

See, I can have a discussion about purpose and teleology, but I draw the line at using absurd rhetorical language just to reach a personal woo filled conclusion you've wanted to make from the very beginning.  It makes all the discussion surrounding purpose and teleology utterly meaningless, since we never actively discuss it at all in terms that anyone here accepts.  Just like many people here have to vote 'other' rather then being confined into the descriptions you want to project upon others with your choices above.  For you, purpose is magic, and you use it just like that.

Claimed without explanation, asserted without evidence, and concluded upon ignorance.  Effectively, you might as well say,"I don't know, but I do know."  You have a biased supernatural claim you want to make, without any reason to do so and effectively have to hide behind rhetoric in order to reach the conclusion you want to make.  That is rather then just admit you make it up as you go along, since none of the logic actually follows into the conclusion you want to make.
"Religious faith is the antithesis to knowledge, it is the opposition to education, and it has to act in animosity against the free exchange of ideas.  Why? Because those things are what cause harm to a religions place in society most." - Me