Sorite’s Paradox Reconsidered: Materialism Defeated
According to the Sorite’s Paradox there is no true meaning to qualitative quantities. The most popular example of explaining this paradox is the term ‘heap.’ If a pile of sand is first recognized as a heap of sand, then where would the line be drawn on how many grains of sand would have to be removed for the remaining grains of sand not to be considered a heap? The paradox states that there couldn’t possibly be any precise number of grains of sand would define the pile as a heap, and therefore everyone’s perceptions are wildly different and the word has no real meaning.
It seems preposterous to believe that such a word has no relative meaning to different people. If I was in front of a pile of sand, and one grain of sand was removed at a time I can guarantee that the pile would never be less than a certain size whether my internal definition be 10285 grains of sand or 5621 grains of sand. An exaggerated example of what I mean is that I would never let the pile get lower than 10 grains because that would violate my perception of a heap of sand. Now if this experiment was done 1000 times on me I might get all different numbers of what my final grain count was, but it would never get to lower than 10 grains of sand. There is a finite range of numbers that create this barrier between heap and not a heap. Since there is a finite difference in my perception of heap, this word does have meaning. The Global meaning of the word heap will differ, but can be expressed with relatively little difference between two different people without mentioning exact quantifications. The fact that humans are able to communicate qualitative descriptions to each other such as feelings and so forth means that our brains are not just physical machines. Therefore we cannot be duplicated by artificial intelligence. I am not a robot; I have a brain and a soul.
I was previously very materialistic on my views of the mind, but now I’m leaning more towards dualism. Am I jumping the gun here? As I realize it is a very steep dismount.
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Haha, I know that baby thing was a little off, I was just trying to make a point. Thanks for your insight, I’m glad this website exists in order for people to converse about random philosophy. Good times
@dalniente, Exactly, the infinite that cannot be understood by our simple, finite minds. Is this all there is? Going so deep down the rabbit hole until you realize what you seek cannot be understood with out paradox but only experienced? Are our brains the creator of consiousness or are they the receivers? That’s the trick.
@ijesuschrist, I’ve stayed up too long working on my Mindmap thing.
There was a communication error between us, which I partly blame on how tired I’ve been for the last several hours. Various causes can lead to qualitative experiences in individuals; consciousness allows those individuals to be aware of those experiences. Something isn’t “sour” or “loud” unless they’re experienced that way. So of course qualitative experiences are the end result. I think the confusion is rooted in the question of how those experiences emerge: is the current model on the right track, or do we owe consciousness (those qualitative experiences, etc) to something immaterial? I meant that I think it’s much more likely that the current model is on the right track.
@dkman, Sure, modern computers may be incapable of producing qualatative statements. However, human brains are the end result of billions of years of evolution. Computers are are the end result of, at most, a few hundred years. Is it a surprise that our brains can do things that computers cannot? Of course not.
@splashartist, I said that I was using the supernatural definition of “magical.” While I agree with you that there is a possibility that our consciousness is a product of some immaterial (the opposite of materialism)…thing, there is no evidence to support that, and (as you probably know) assumptions should not be used lightly in science. I was really remarking on the OP’s non sequitur reasoning.
I have thoroughly enjoyed tuning in on this discussion, but I ask that @ijesuschrist restates what his position on the mind’s capacity to find mutual understanding in matters that are, to simply say, enumerated.
I understand the rational behind @dalniente‘s argument here. He makes a strong, conservative perspective.
Are you in some way eluding to the concept of “inherited experiences” or are you suggesting that, given science’s minimal understanding of the brain, there is some shared, omnipotent consciousness on which brainwaves travel?
I believe our brains are a lot like computers, the only thing really separating it is emotion. Our brain is just complex chemical reactions of neurons, much like a very advanced circuit, hard drive memory, RAM short term, etc. Like others have said before, qualitative is just a comparison. A computer could potentially take an average of sizes of “a heap of sand” and compare them qualitatively to others. Isn’t our brain doing the exact same thing subconsciously?? You may say you have specific favorite colors or something, but that could be related to emotion. Or potentially we all have the same favorite color, we all just interpret colors differently in our minds and have learned different names for what we believe is each color. For example, my blue looks like your orange, but you have always been taught to call it blue. Qualitative measurements do not really separate us, they are just comparisons to our past that we interpret. If we lived in some place where sand was an extremely rare commodity, then 10 grains of sand may seem like a heap. Who knows where computers could be some day, we are basically giant walking computers.
@ijesuschrist, going off of what you and I said…
You: “…the mind is able to contemplate “consciousness” in its own actions.”
Me: “So of course qualitative experiences are the end result.”
One of my faults (especially when my judgment is impaired, like it is now in my sleep-deprived state) is that I sometimes fail to communicate things that are bleeding obvious to me. I take them for granted. Sometimes that can result in a communication error.
In the case of the confusion over “process,” my mind used two different meanings:
1) To process, as in processing quantitative things into qualitative experiences. Of course qualitative experiences are the end result!
2) To process, an in “contemplating” or “thinking about” experiences. (“Hold on, let me process this.”)
@dunny79, thanks, but I hope this post (and the one before this) will answer part of your question. Going to bed now!
@dkman, Going from the Heap definition to not being a robot is a huge leap of faith, and not something I would agree with.
The thing is the brain is always comparing to what it has just seen – a single grain of sand removed from a heap is not very different than the previous heap. What a conventional computer would do different is that we would most likely program it to count the sands, or count the weight, or count the radius, and give a definition.
However, it would be just as easy to make a computer compare the new heap to the old heap, and make a qualitative distinction; is it pretty similar, or pretty different? If its pretty similar, its still a heap.
Now the mind isn’t stupid, so eventually we go out of context – we see from a new angle “If I were to simply sit down here now, I would probably not call this a heap”
This could not be done so simply with a computer as above, however it would be simple enough to program it do to do so – every few seconds or minutes re-check to make sure the total radius of the heap is in a certain range.
I was thinking along some similar lines, and I’m sure you’ve come across this question as well; if the entire human body was arranged, molecule by molecule, in the fraction of a second (don’t need to know how/why) – would this human body be conscious?
This is mainly in regards to idea of “consciousness being a byproduct of the brain”. I feel that there is something very important missing from the core of this statement; it detaches existence from the natural world. Essentially what I am trying to say is that we/everything is a manifestation of that natural world, humanity from the earth, earth from the sun, the sun from a massive cloud of dust and gas, that dust and gas from the death of one or probably many super novas or maybe just remnants of the big bang. I find it hard to believe that there was a point in existence where consciousness was not a part of thee equation. In my mind consciousness is a keystone of existence, it just manifests into different forms or rather Life/Being/to Be is experienced at different levels of consciousness. To bring it back to the heap of sand paradox… at what point in development of the human embryo does consciousness start, is there some key cell that forms and then, poof, consciousness? I believe that the brain in its many varying states is simply a means for consciousness to perceive reality/existence in a particular way. The complexity of the human brain merely results in our ability to perceive the world/reality in the way that we do, it seems that it is the complexity of the brain that is so important. This might sound bizarre but I believe consciousness is the underlying force/attraction between everything, the entity that resides between the space of the nucleus and electron cloud if you will.
I mean honestly, what is existence without consciousness? I think that we have a tendency to project human qualities onto everything around us and when those things don’t have similar human characteristics we cast them aside as being primitive or unaware, however these too are from the same origin that led to the creation of our complex molecular makeup.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this… these ideas race through my mind constantly these days. Maybe I’m thinking in some paradox I can’t see outside of?
your quote “consciousness is just some crazy crazy side effect of a complex brain” is self-contradictory to your own beliefs. How would you define a ‘complex brain’? Consciousness and anything subjective really cannot have any meaning to you if you truly believe what you typed.
@dalniente, I seriously don’t know what you’re getting at. I was quite drunk last night (finished my first semester of PhD! WOO!) and am still a bit hazy this morning…
When I said “The real weird thing is consciousness is aware of itself” it had nothing to do with any prior discussion, I was simply blurting out what I wanted to say.
Which is still weird, and has occupied my mind for the past 3 days now. (Oh and yes I agree things are qualitative, the color red, although grounded to a physical, quantitative wave-length, is a subjective, qualitative experience – if I were to deny this … I don’t know)
But anyway, am I missing something here? Am I getting lost in circular logic, because this seems incredibly odd to me:
In the standard, emerging model, we believe that the brain can account for everything, right? There is no soul, nothing unexplainable about the mind – all our feelings, thoughts, qualitative and quantitative that can be experienced, are processes of the mind.
Somehow, consciousness emerges from this brain, this mind, what some seem to believe is due to the entirety of the brain working = voila consciousness. As someone once said: “I don’t think anyone will solve the problem of consciousness in my life time. Its a hard problem.” Some famous Neuroscientist, idk who.
So consciousness is a product of the brain, and obviously the brain is aware that it is conscious, otherwise I wouldn’t be having this discussion. Yet consciousness itself usually lags behind actual neural network decisions, but we have this illusion that consciousness is doing everything. God damnit I’m losing myself again. I will come back to this. Maybe in a new thread cause kind of getting off topic here, now.
@marcellesmurdock, “The complexity of the human brain merely results in our ability to perceive the world/reality in the way that we do, it seems that it is the complexity of the brain that is so important. ”
Yeah, thats what I believe. I don’t know where consciousness is, but I know as the brain becomes more complex, we become more conscious. So there is some sort of correlation, some sort of connection.
It could be that the larger the brain, the more ability for the consciousness to communicate and experience things.
It could be the larger the brain, the more neurons firing creating consciousness.
At this point I don’t know which is which. Hell maybe, like you said, everything is consciousness, and consciousness is what makes our brains bigger O_O who knows. I don’t.