Behe Tangles with Two Philosophers

Over at “ID The Future” there are three discussions I think are worth listening to. Hopefully it should stimulate some civilized discussion among critics and sympathizers of Behe and ID in general.

They can be accessed herehere, and here.

183 thoughts on “Behe Tangles with Two Philosophers

  1. DNA_Jock to Corneel:
    It’s the rapidity with which apparently inconsistent positions are presented.
    Strangely, I had just been told that green was the “lifeless” color of plants, positively corpse-like compared with the peach-blossom of humans. Now, that same greenery is fresh and vibrant, contrasted with the color-draining of decay.

      (Quote in reply)  (Reply)

    Hopefully I can clarify things a little.

    What does Steiner mean by stating that green represents the lifeless image of the living plant? He compares this to a portrait. Look at the image below, it is a lifeless representation of a once-living person. No matter how vibrant Van Gogh’s use of colour, the portrait will never spring to life.

    Now look at a green field. Your vision alone will not reveal the life of the green plants in that field. For that you need to comprehend the living processes of the plants.

    You have provided an image of a beautiful autumn scene, but it is only a lifeless snapshot of the life processes in that place itself.

    Have you ever composted grass cuttings? Observe the living growth of the lawn and then watch as the grass is cut and composted. Watch the process whereby the once vibrant green turns yellow and eventually fades to brown. To understand the life of these plants we need to “see” the whole process. Without these added concepts the green meadow is a snapshot, a lifeless image.

  2. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: In order to posit a thinking subject we must already have thought of the concept of the division into subject and object and its underlying representational relationship.

    Kantian Naturalist: I worry that this conflates two different ways of understanding the subject/object distinction.

    On one version, we talk about objects as having fully determinate natures independent of all subjects and we talk about subjects as having their own fully determinate natures independent of all objects. Given this picture, the question then becomes how to think about the relationship between subjects and objects, and then we introduce the concept of “representation”: the contents of subjects are representations of objects external to and independent of them.

    On another version, we think about subjects and objects as mutually co-determining: there’s no conceptual grasp of something even being an object without some possible subject, and conversely, no conceptual grasp of something even being a subject without some possible object. There’s a fundamental mutuality of self and world, with neither thinkable with the other.

    In other words, is the “representational relationship” an external relation or an internal relation?

    Depending on whether we think of “the representational relation” as external or as internal, we’ll confront different questions about what is needed to “overcome” it — if indeed anything is.

    The fact that you have these worries only shows that your thinking about the relationship between subject and object is becoming more nuanced. But before this could happen you already had the concept subject/object to work with.

    CharlieM: Steiner’s starting position is “there is thinking”, not “I as subject think”.

    Kantian Naturalist: It’s quite true that “there is thinking” is in some sense logically prior to “I think”. Nietzsche makes this point, and it becomes important for Rudolf Carnap (in The Logical Construction of the World) and Jean-Paul Sartre (in The Transcendence of the Ego and Being and Nothingness). (However, I would not be at all surprised if Nietzsche lifted it from someone else he had read. His originality is highly over-rated.)

    In any event, I don’t think “there is thinking” can work at all in the way Steiner says. On your view of Steiner:

    CharlieM: By realising that by adding concepts to that which we perceive gives us the full reality. The “thing in itself” is just a speculation about a hidden reality with properties borrowed from our phenomenal experience. The only entity that we do not first experience without the corresponding concepts is thinking. It is directly apprehended in its full reality. Thinking is the self enclosed reality which we need add nothing to.

    Kantian Naturalist: I don’t see how this is supposed to work. “Thinking” is also a concept, and we couldn’t recognize thinking as thinking if we didn’t have the concept of it. So we can’t encounter thinking if we are abstracting away from all concepts.

    I think that a much sounder approach was scouted by C. I. Lewis in his Mind and the World Order (1924), when he pointed out that if we abstract away from all concepts, what we’re left with, as “the Given”, is completely ineffable and indescribable.

    At this point, however, we encounter a very difficult problem: whether the Given can be a foundation or starting-point for epistemology.

    In order for something to function as a foundation for epistemology, it must have logical entailments: you have to be able to logically derive something from it. If it’s logically inert, so to speak, it doesn’t have any inferential consequences.

    What Steiner seems to want is something that is both epistemically efficacious — it can serve as a foundation for epistemological statements — but also epistemically independent — since it has to be devoid of all presuppositions.

    And this is logically incoherent.

    Here’s why: logical structure is conceptual structure. Without conceptual structure, there are no logical properties, no inferential properties, and no epistemic properties.

    According to you, Steiner wants to place the sheer awareness of thought as an epistemic foundation. But his argument for this (as far as you can tell us) is that the awareness of thought is prior to all conceptual discrimination.

    And that’s simply false, since one could not even recognize thought as thought without the concept of thought. (There could be thinking without the concept of thought, but not awareness of thought as thought, which is what Steiner is after.)

    But if we insist on the idea that the foundation of knowledge must be without presuppositions, and then say that we can only get rid of presuppositions by abstracting away from all conceptual discrimination, then we aren’t left with thought: we’re left with what Lewis calls “the Given”, which has no conceptual features at all and therefore no epistemic properties at all.

    It cannot, in fact, be described at all — it is ineffable and indescribable — though William James probably comes closest when he uses the phrase “a blooming buzzing confusion” to describe the awareness of a newborn infant.

    In other words, if we avoid all conceptual determinations in order to uncover the Given, when what we find cannot be a foundation for epistemology.

    I think you are misunderstanding Steiner’s position. His starting point is not the given. Nor is he abstracting away from all concepts.

    We cannot obtain any knowledge directly from the given. We only make sense of the given when we combine concepts with what is given. And our concepts come to us by means of thinking. There is only one process where this combining act does not have to happen. That is the process of thinking itself. In thinking the given and the concept do not come from two different directions because they are never apart in the first place. In thinking the given and the concept are a direct unity. I know thinking in its fullness without the need for any combination.

  3. CharlieM: We cannot obtain any knowledge directly from the given. We only make sense of the given when we combine concepts with what is given.

    OK, no problems with that.

    And our concepts come to us by means of thinking.

    I think that “comes to us” is ambiguous here. We become aware of our concepts by reflecting on them — making explicit (usually but not always through language) what we are using in the process of thinking. That’s not to say that the process of reflection is the origin of our concepts.

    There is only one process where this combining act does not have to happen. That is the process of thinking itself. In thinking the given and the concept do not come from two different directions because they are never apart in the first place. In thinking the given and the concept are a direct unity.

    I don’t think that this is correct. The process of thinking involves conceptual interpretation of the Given.* The awareness of the process of thinking involves making this explicit, or taking one’s thoughts as the contents of awareness. But this involves just as much interpretation as the process of thinking at the first order. (Reflect on how difficult it can be to find exactly the right words for expressing what one means!)

    And there are plenty of pitfalls and obstacles here, well-documented in the history of the philosophy of psychology, as to how difficult it was for us to become aware of what thinking really is. Even today there’s room for reasonable doubt that we’ve completely figured it out

    * This is how C. I. Lewis puts it, and while I have my issues with Lewis, it’s acceptable for the time being.

    I know thinking in its fullness without the need for any combination.

    It may seem to you as if you do, but this claim has not yet been demonstrated.

  4. Kantian Naturalist: It cannot, in fact, be described at all — it is ineffable and indescribable — though William James probably comes closest when he uses the phrase “a blooming buzzing confusion” to describe the awareness of a newborn infant.

    After an initial dramatic increase in neural connectivity with babies the unused connections are then pruned. That initial highly connected state must be very different to experience.

    This has always interested me as it seems somewhat counter intuitive. My natural inclination is to think that neural connections are made in response to things you learn/do, not that an initially highly connected network is pruned to achieve the same thing. But apparently that’s what happens.

  5. CharlieM: It is important to understand that Steiner was giving these lectures to artists who would have been trying to capture images of their models in their paintings.

    If Steiner was just telling people that peach-blossom goes really well with green on a painting then as far as I am concerned that’s just peachy (heh). But please correct me if I am wrong: I was under the impression that Steiner pursued a synthesis between science and spirituality and that, like you, he maintained that there is such a thing as an etheric life principle, that it can be perceived in living things by some gifted individuals and that, if perceived, it gives a sensation akin to viewing the colour “peach-blossom”. Those claims to me sure look like they are meant to be relevant for the biological sciences.

    However when challenged to provide some support for those claims, suddenly it can’t be defined nor explained but just needs to be “observed” although apparently it doesn’t interact with anything in the physical world. Moreover, all supporting text turns out to not be for consumption by scientists but are just meant as pointers on colour combinations for artists.

    So what’s it going to be? Are we talking natural sciences or art? Both? Neither?

  6. CharlieM: Have you ever composted grass cuttings? Observe the living growth of the lawn and then watch as the grass is cut and composted. Watch the process whereby the once vibrant green turns yellow and eventually fades to brown. To understand the life of these plants we need to “see” the whole process. Without these added concepts the green meadow is a snapshot, a lifeless image.

    Yes, the colour green needs to be seen in context. If some bloke turns from a lovely “peach-blossom” colour to green, you know he shouldn’t have eaten that piece of halibut after the expiration date.

    What does any of this tells us about the “human etheric body” or the “life force” of grass, except that we tend to have certain associations with colours?

  7. Corneel: What does any of this tells us about the “human etheric body” or the “life force” of grass, except that we tend to have certain associations with colours?

    Philosophical understanding of colour perception perhaps reached its pinnacle with Goethe’s “theory” of colour perception. Steiner appears to have been much taken by it. However it hasn’t provided much help in understanding how minds/brains interpret/translate emitted, absorbed,reflected, refracted light waves of varying wavelengths into visual perception. Referring to qualia doesn’t get us any further either.

  8. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: We cannot obtain any knowledge directly from the given. We only make sense of the given when we combine concepts with what is given.

    Kantian Naturalist: OK, no problems with that.

    CharlieM: And our concepts come to us by means of thinking.

    I think that “comes to us” is ambiguous here. We become aware of our concepts by reflecting on them — making explicit (usually but not always through language) what we are using in the process of thinking. That’s not to say that the process of reflection is the origin of our concepts.

    Okay, we become aware of concepts by means of thinking. We cognize by combining the given with thinking.

    harlieM: There is only one process where this combining act does not have to happen. That is the process of thinking itself. In thinking the given and the concept do not come from two different directions because they are never apart in the first place. In thinking the given and the concept are a direct unity.

    Kantian Naturalist: I don’t think that this is correct. The process of thinking involves conceptual interpretation of the Given.* The awareness of the process of thinking involves making this explicit, or taking one’s thoughts as the contents of awareness. But this involves just as much interpretation as the process of thinking at the first order. (Reflect on how difficult it can be to find exactly the right words for expressing what one means!)

    How it is interpreted is not relevant here. What matters is the means used in the interpretation. Inner experiences are also within the given. I feel pain and if I am to understand its cause I use thinking. I think and if I am to understand its cause I use thinking. Pain is given and thinking the interpreter, also thought is given and thinking the interpreter. In the former the given and the interpreter are not the same, in the latter they are no different.

    Steiner:

    The true shape is not the first in which reality comes before the I, but the shape the I gives it. That first shape, in fact, has no significance for the objective world; it is significant only as a basis for the process of cognition. Thus it is not that shape which the theory of knowledge gives to the world which is subjective; the subjective shape is that in which the I at first encounters it. If, like Volkelt and others, one wishes to call this given world “experience,” then one will have to say: The world-picture which, owing to the constitution of our consciousness, appears to us in a subjective form as experience, is completed through knowledge to become what it really is.

    Our theory of knowledge supplies the foundation for true idealism in the real sense of the word. It establishes the conviction that in thinking the essence of the world is mediated. Through thinking alone the relationship between the details of the world-content become manifest, be it the relation of the sun to the stone it warms, or the relation of the I to the external world. In thinking alone the element is given which determines all things in their relations to one another.

    Thinking is as much a part of the world as condensation or evapouration.

    Kantian Naturalist: And there are plenty of pitfalls and obstacles here, well-documented in the history of the philosophy of psychology, as to how difficult it was for us to become aware of what thinking really is. Even today there’s room for reasonable doubt that we’ve completely figured it out

    * This is how C. I. Lewis puts it, and while I have my issues with Lewis, it’s acceptable for the time being.

    CharlieM: I know thinking in its fullness without the need for any combination.

    Kantian Naturalist: It may seem to you as if you do, but this claim has not yet been demonstrated

    I know my thoughts intimately because I am their producer.

    Steiner again:

    This transparent clearness in the observation of our thought-processes is quite independent of our knowledge of the physiological basis of thought. I am speaking here of thought in the sense in which it is the object of our observation of our own mental activity. For this purpose it is quite irrelevant how one material process in my brain causes or influences another, whilst I am carrying on a process of thought. What I observe, in studying a thought-process, is not which process in my brain connects the concept of thunder with that of lightning, but what is my reason for bringing these two concepts into a definite relation. Introspection shows that, in linking thought with thought, I am guided by their content not by the material processes in the brain

    I am the producer of my thoughts and I know this through thinking.

  9. OMagain:
    Kantian Naturalist: It cannot, in fact, be described at all — it is ineffable and indescribable — though William James probably comes closest when he uses the phrase “a blooming buzzing confusion” to describe the awareness of a newborn infant.

    OMagain: After an initial dramatic increase in neural connectivity with babies the unused connections are then pruned. That initial highly connected state must be very different to experience.

    This has always interested me as it seems somewhat counter intuitive. My natural inclination is to think that neural connections are made in response to things you learn/do, not that an initially highly connected network is pruned to achieve the same thing. But apparently that’s what happens

    Studying how hands and feet are formed shows us that this involves the pruning of cells to create form. In a similar manner nervous system paths are shaped by thinking and will activity. As we mature it becomes more and more difficult to reinstate broken pathways.

  10. Corneel:
    CharlieM: It is important to understand that Steiner was giving these lectures to artists who would have been trying to capture images of their models in their paintings.

    Corneel: If Steiner was just telling people that peach-blossom goes really well with green on a painting then as far as I am concerned that’s just peachy (heh). But please correct me if I am wrong: I was under the impression that Steiner pursued a synthesis between science and spirituality and that, like you, he maintained that there is such a thing as an etheric life principle, that it can be perceived in living things by some gifted individuals and that, if perceived, it gives a sensation akin to viewing the colour “peach-blossom”. Those claims to me sure look like they are meant to be relevant for the biological sciences.

    Steiner related his experiences, he did not ask or wish for anyone to believe him on faith.

    As soon as we begin to grasp the reality of polarity, the etheric becomes understandable. How organic development is a combination of material expansion from a concentrated point with form production from the periphery.

    An artistic understanding gives a good grounding because artists are used to producing form from negative space. A point is not just a single dimensionless entity, it is also the focal point of an infinity of planes.

    And working with colour gives a painting “movement” through the polarity of light and dark. The red/yellow edge spectral colours of attenuated light gives the impression of advancing towards the viewer and the blue/violet edge spectral colours give a receding quality to an area, as if it were receding into the surrounding darkness. When these spectra come together from one direction they merge into green which produces a stillness and when they come together from the opposite direction they merge into magenta which has a dancing, lively quality.

    Corneel: However when challenged to provide some support for those claims, suddenly it can’t be defined nor explained but just needs to be “observed” although apparently it doesn’t interact with anything in the physical world. Moreover, all supporting text turns out to not be for consumption by scientists but are just meant as pointers on colour combinations for artists.

    So what’s it going to be? Are we talking natural sciences or art? Both? Neither?

    We are talking about a complimentary qualitative science which does not operate through definition by number and measurement. It brings in the much neglected peripheral pole which gives completeness to the physical world. Without this aspect the world is seen in a one-sidedly pointwise way. Reality is reduced to a series of measurable movements with all other qualities stripped away.

    And this is why projective geometry is an excellent case in point of this qualitive aspect. It is a dynamic, form building mathematics which does not rely on measurement.

  11. CharlieM: We are talking about a complimentary qualitative science which does not operate through definition by number and measurement. It brings in the much neglected peripheral pole which gives completeness to the physical world. Without this aspect the world is seen in a one-sidedly pointwise way. Reality is reduced to a series of measurable movements with all other qualities stripped away.

    I get that you don’t like current scientific practices, but speaking ill of it does not elevate Steiner’s teachings to the status of “science”.

    Science has been spectacularly succesful at what it is supposed to do, which is furthering our knowledge of the natural world. What exactly do you expect science to provide you with which is now lacking? And is it really science’s job to provide this supposedly missing ingredient? To me it looks more like a job for all the writers, poets, painters, pastors and vicars of this world

  12. Corneel:
    CharlieM: We are talking about a complimentary qualitative science which does not operate through definition by number and measurement. It brings in the much neglected peripheral pole which gives completeness to the physical world. Without this aspect the world is seen in a one-sidedly pointwise way. Reality is reduced to a series of measurable movements with all other qualities stripped away.

    Corneel: I get that you don’t like current scientific practices, but speaking ill of it does not elevate Steiner’s teachings to the status of “science”.

    How do you get that I don’t like scientific practices? I don’t like scientific practices that cause animals undue suffering, but I do like scientific practices that gave us an accurate understanding of the composition of blood.

    I do not regard the practice of science as one undifferentiated exercise, so it is meaningless to say that I dislike scientific practices.

    Corneel: Science has been spectacularly successful at what it is supposed to do, which is furthering our knowledge of the natural world. What exactly do you expect science to provide you with which is now lacking? And is it really science’s job to provide this supposedly missing ingredient? To me it looks more like a job for all the writers, poets, painters, pastors and vicars of this world

    Indeed science has been spectacularly successful in understanding nature in the most intricate detail. Goethean science is concerned with understanding the world in its wholeness. And the details provided by conventional science is a great help in gaining a Goethean type understanding.

  13. CharlieM: How do you get that I don’t like scientific practices?

    Because you keep describing the current state of science as if it is lacking something. However, you seem to be incapable of articulating what that something is. Apparently it involves the “peripheral pole”, whatever that means.

    CharlieM: Goethean science is concerned with understanding the world in its wholeness. And the details provided by conventional science is a great help in gaining a Goethean type understanding.

    But the Steiner flavour of Goethean science doesn’t add understanding and doesn’t qualify as science at all. Rather, it is adding unsubstantiated nonsense like the “etheric life principle”. So what sort of understanding exactly does it bring you? And in what way is that a scientific understanding? I still do not understand.

  14. CharlieM: And the details provided by conventional science is a great help in gaining a Goethean type understanding.

    And from understanding often comes utility. What can we do, make better or extend? What can we research that we could not before?

    Corneel: So what sort of understanding exactly does it bring you? And in what way is that a scientific understanding? I still do not understand.

    Exactly so. What can we now build upon as a solid foundation for the next thing to understand?

  15. CharlieM: Pain is given and thinking the interpreter, also thought is given and thinking the interpreter. In the former the given and the interpreter are not the same, in the latter they are no different.

    I think that there some mistakes here that need to be unpacked very carefully.

    It’s true that the awareness of pain, as an episode of sensory consciousness, has a brute ‘there-ness’ to it that’s independent of our ability to express it in pain-behavior, whether non-verbal or verbal.

    But I think that the same is true of thought, and that we can notice this by observing how difficult it can be to put our thoughts into words. Our best thinking involves a feedback loop between externalization (in language) and internalization, and frequently involves dialogue with others. Reasoning itself is essentially dialogical, not monological.

    I know my thoughts intimately because I am their producer.

    It’s true that we are frequently aware of our thoughts, just as we are aware of our sensations. But it doesn’t follow that we aware of our thoughts because we have produced them.

    I don’t even know what “we have produced our thoughts” means and I suspect it’s nonsense. (What would mean to produce a thought? Are thoughts the kinds of things that can be produced?)

    We should also be mindful of the existence of unconscious thoughts — not all thoughts are conscious.

    As I see it, our understanding of our own thoughts comes in degrees, and that we achieve a much clearer understanding of our own thoughts through the process of attempting to communicate them — a process that also involves a good deal of constructive criticism, if all parties are committed to the ideal of mutual understanding.

    CharlieM: Steiner related his experiences, he did not ask or wish for anyone to believe him on faith.

    Yet those who desperately wish to believe always manage to convince themselves.

  16. Corneel:
    CharlieM: How do you get that I don’t like scientific practices?

    Corneel: Because you keep describing the current state of science as if it is lacking something. However, you seem to be incapable of articulating what that something is. Apparently it involves the “peripheral pole”, whatever that means.

    It’s not so much lacking as limited. Practicing conventional science is one way of gaining knowledge but it is not the only way.

    The ideal for most scientists is to become a specialist in some particular field and in this way they become part of an exclusive club which outsiders must consult if they want to receive a share of this knowledge.

    Goethean science is a method whereby essential knowledge can be gained of the whole while still recognizing the particulars. It looks for commonalities in the separate entities. And it does this not by reduction to the simplest but in the complexity of the whole.

    CharlieM: Goethean science is concerned with understanding the world in its wholeness. And the details provided by conventional science is a great help in gaining a Goethean type understanding.

    Corneel: But the Steiner flavour of Goethean science doesn’t add understanding and doesn’t qualify as science at all. Rather, it is adding unsubstantiated nonsense like the “etheric life principle”. So what sort of understanding exactly does it bring you? And in what way is that a scientific understanding? I still do not understand.

    “Etheric” is just a word and it will conjure up different meanings to each individual depending on our biases. It is important to get over the word and to reach the actuality. For me the “etheric” is that aspect of the being which cannot be perceived by the eye but can be perceived by the mind. In the case of a plant or animal it is not the organism as I see it in front of me; it is the organism in its becoming over time excluding no aspect of its life. It is much more than just a thing in space.

  17. OMagain:
    CharlieM: And the details provided by conventional science is a great help in gaining a Goethean type understanding.

    OMagain: And from understanding often comes utility. What can we do, make better or extend? What can we research that we could not before?

    Utility brings us a more comfortable life and has shrunk our world. We have instant communication between continents and we have machines to carry out menial tasks for us. But does this bring us more fulfilment and satisfaction? I don’t think so. A life without purpose or aims may be an easy life but it won’t necessarily be a happy life.

    Corneel: So what sort of understanding exactly does it bring you? And in what way is that a scientific understanding? I still do not understand.

    OMagain: Exactly so. What can we now build upon as a solid foundation for the next thing to understand?

    A good question.
    Enipedocles:

    I…In turn they conquer as the cycles roll,
    And wane the one to other still, and wax
    The one to other in turn by olden Fate ;
    For these are all, and, as they course along
    Through one another, they become both men
    And multitudinous tribes of hairy beasts ;
    Whiles in fair order through Love united all,
    Whiles rent asunder by the hate of Strife…

    Understand the polarity of Love and Strife at work in the world.

    If the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of strife, then more division will only compound the problem. Recognizing the unity that underlies the differences in existence brings a feeling of love for the other.

    I would say that the next thing for me to understand is that I need tolerance and recognition of the justification for views which do not align with my own. I do try to refrain from making too quick judgements.

  18. CharlieM: Practicing conventional science is one way of gaining knowledge but it is not the only way.

    I can agree with that. However, spouting woo does not add anything to our knowledge.

    Goethean science is a method whereby essential knowledge can be gained of the whole while still recognizing the particulars. It looks for commonalities in the separate entities. And it does this not by reduction to the simplest but in the complexity of the whole.

    And that’s an example of thinking (if you can call it that), that does not add anything to our knowledge.

  19. CharlieM: The ideal for most scientists is to become a specialist in some particular field and in this way they become part of an exclusive club which outsiders must consult if they want to receive a share of this knowledge.

    I am not surprised that you think this, but you are wrong in two important aspects. Firstly, specialization is not an “ideal”, it is the unfortunate consequence of the enormous quantities of germane information. Secondly, the club is not at all “exclusive” – outsiders do not have to “consult” members; they do, however, have to put the basic grunt work in to acquire that background knowledge. Very, very few people are willing to put in the effort. Don’t blame the club for your own laziness.

  20. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: Pain is given and thinking the interpreter, also thought is given and thinking the interpreter. In the former the given and the interpreter are not the same, in the latter they are no different.

    Kantian Naturalist: I think that there some mistakes here that need to be unpacked very carefully.

    It’s true that the awareness of pain, as an episode of sensory consciousness, has a brute ‘there-ness’ to it that’s independent of our ability to express it in pain-behavior, whether non-verbal or verbal.

    Kantian Naturalist: But I think that the same is true of thought, and that we can notice this by observing how difficult it can be to put our thoughts into words. Our best thinking involves a feedback loop between externalization (in language) and internalization, and frequently involves dialogue with others. Reasoning itself is essentially dialogical, not monological.

    The feeling of pain and out thoughts about that pain are two separate experiences and they are of a different kind.

    Thinking about an object, say a ball, and subsequently thinking about my thoughts on the ball are also two separate experiences, but they are of the same kind.

    CharlieM; I know my thoughts intimately because I am their producer.

    Kantian Naturalist: It’s true that we are frequently aware of our thoughts, just as we are aware of our sensations. But it doesn’t follow that we aware of our thoughts because we have produced them.

    I don’t even know what “we have produced our thoughts” means and I suspect it’s nonsense. (What would mean to produce a thought? Are thoughts the kinds of things that can be produced?)

    We should also be mindful of the existence of unconscious thoughts — not all thoughts are conscious.

    As I see it, our understanding of our own thoughts comes in degrees, and that we achieve a much clearer understanding of our own thoughts through the process of attempting to communicate them — a process that also involves a good deal of constructive criticism, if all parties are committed to the ideal of mutual understanding.

    Steiner makes clear in his books what he means by thinking. It is not pondering what to have for lunch, daydreaming, fantasizing, any unconscious activity, or such like. The “thinking” he discusses is a very specific activity. He means consciously, mindfully attending to an entity. I can share concepts with others but I cannot share my thinking activity.

    I have just been thinking about a ball in my garden (pictured below). What was the source of my thoughts about that particular ball? What made me decide to think about that particular object? Was this decision forced upon me from somewhere outside of myself?

    CharlieM: Steiner related his experiences, he did not ask or wish for anyone to believe him on faith.

    Kantian Naturalist: Yet those who desperately wish to believe always manage to convince themselves.

    Thus the timeless motto, “Know thyself”.

    In the early days of reading Steiner my impressions on much of what he wrote was one of disbelief. But they did prompt me to think more deeply about those subjects. I have since learned that I can benefit from thinking about a topic without feeling it necessary to form an immediate judgement.

  21. Neil Rickert:
    CharlieM: Practicing conventional science is one way of gaining knowledge but it is not the only way.

    Neil Rickert: I can agree with that. However, spouting woo does not add anything to our knowledge.

    And I can agree with that 🙂

    CharlieM: Goethean science is a method whereby essential knowledge can be gained of the whole while still recognizing the particulars. It looks for commonalities in the separate entities. And it does this not by reduction to the simplest but in the complexity of the whole.

    Neil Rickert: And that’s an example of thinking (if you can call it that), that does not add anything to our knowledge.

    Have you ever practiced Goethe’s “gentle empiricism”? It involves what Barfield termed controlled participation.

  22. DNA_Jock:
    CharlieM: The ideal for most scientists is to become a specialist in some particular field and in this way they become part of an exclusive club which outsiders must consult if they want to receive a share of this knowledge.

    DNA_Jock: I am not surprised that you think this, but you are wrong in two important aspects. Firstly, specialization is not an “ideal”, it is the unfortunate consequence of the enormous quantities of germane information. Secondly, the club is not at all “exclusive” – outsiders do not have to “consult” members; they do, however, have to put the basic grunt work in to acquire that background knowledge. Very, very few people are willing to put in the effort. Don’t blame the club for your own laziness.

    Whatever you think, most researchers would be proud to be considered experts in their field.

    It is indeed an unfortunate consequence. And the members may not want their club to be exclusive but that is what is happening.

    I witnessed it here. Some posters are reluctant to comment on topics in which which they do not feel they have sufficient knowledge. Does “basic grunt work” go far enough to enable a full enough grasp of the details?

  23. CharlieM: Whatever you think, most researchers would be proud to be considered experts in their field.

    ROFL. And whatever you think, they would be even prouder to be considered experts in a broader field. You used the word “specialist”, not “expert”. I honestly think that you don’t even read what YOU write.

    CharlieM: It is indeed an unfortunate consequence. And the members may not want their club to be exclusive but that is what is happening.

    So these scientists are not being exclusive, it is rather the laziness or incompetence of the people who claim to want admission to the club, then. Okay.

    I witnessed it here. Some posters are reluctant to comment on topics in which which they do not feel they have sufficient knowledge. Does “basic grunt work” go far enough to enable a full enough grasp of the details?

    I am a big fan of learning about an area before commenting. Comments here often motivate me to do some research, then comment. Frankly, I find people who repeatedly do it the other way round rather inconsiderate.

  24. CharlieM: Goethean science is a method whereby essential knowledge can be gained of the whole while still recognizing the particulars. It looks for commonalities in the separate entities. And it does this not by reduction to the simplest but in the complexity of the whole.

    Phenomenology and holism, yes, so you keep telling us. But 200 years after Goethe I do not see the fruits of that method. What scientific insights has Goethean science, as advocated by Steiner, brought the world? Are there any?

    CharlieM: For me the “etheric” is that aspect of the being which cannot be perceived by the eye but can be perceived by the mind. In the case of a plant or animal it is not the organism as I see it in front of me; it is the organism in its becoming over time excluding no aspect of its life. It is much more than just a thing in space.

    So Goethean science brought you the insight that organisms change over time? Wowie. I am duly impressed.

    CharlieM to OMagain: Utility brings us a more comfortable life and has shrunk our world. We have instant communication between continents and we have machines to carry out menial tasks for us. But does this bring us more fulfilment and satisfaction? I don’t think so. A life without purpose or aims may be an easy life but it won’t necessarily be a happy life.

    This comment and the ensuing bit about “the polarity of Love and Strife” are demonstrating the crux of the matter: You expect science to deliver things it cannot.
    Let me ask again: Is it the task of science to fill your life with purpose, meaning and happiness? Me, I *love* sciencey things and can get a decent amount of fulfillment from it. But this is the realm of literature, music, family life, friendship, spirituality and religion too. Why do you need scientists to tell you what’s worthwhile in life?

  25. CharlieM: It is indeed an unfortunate consequence. And the members may not want their club to be exclusive but that is what is happening.

    This is the case for any line of work that requires a decent amount of education. Still, I never chided such professionals for being part of an exclusive club and then pursued being a Goethean car mechanic or such.

  26. DNA_Jock:
    CharlieM: Whatever you think, most researchers would be proud to be considered experts in their field.

    DNA_Jock: ROFL. And whatever you think, they would be even prouder to be considered experts in a broader field. You used the word “specialist”, not “expert”. I honestly think that you don’t even read what YOU write.

    I used the term, “specialist” to mean an expert in a particular field. I’m sure everyone would like to be considered experts in all fields, but reality intervenes.

    CharlieM: It is indeed an unfortunate consequence. And the members may not want their club to be exclusive but that is what is happening.

    DNA_Jock: So these scientists are not being exclusive, it is rather the laziness or incompetence of the people who claim to want admission to the club, then. Okay.

    No, it’s neither of those things. The experts become authorities in their field. Others may want to pick their brains without themselves having to spend the time and effort required to become specialists. It’s nothing to do with laziness or incompetence, it’s to do with the practicalities involved. It takes a great deal of time and effort to become a specialist. Even specialists, are laypeople in the vast majority of fields.

    Barfield talks about the “fragmentation of science” in his book, “Saving the Appearances” he wrires:

    There is no ‘science of sciences’; no unity of knowledge. There is only an accelerating increase in that pigeon-holed knowledge by individuals of more and more about less and less, which, if persisted indefinitely, can only lead mankind to a sort of ‘idiocy’ (in the original sense of the word)-a state of affairs, in which fewer and fewer representations will be collective, and more and more will be private, with the result that there will in the end be no means of communication between one intelligence and another.

    We are heading towards an academic establishment whose members have become isolated in their speciality.

    CharlieM: I witnessed it here. Some posters are reluctant to comment on topics in which which they do not feel they have sufficient knowledge. Does “basic grunt work” go far enough to enable a full enough grasp of the details?

    DNA_Jock: I am a big fan of learning about an area before commenting. Comments here often motivate me to do some research, then comment. Frankly, I find people who repeatedly do it the other way round rather inconsiderate

    So you would not use comments here as a way to research? Do you think that it is inconsiderate to ask questions here in the hope that a resident specialist will provide a helpful answer?
    I do try to do some research on the topics of the posts I am involved in. All I ask is a bit of tolerance and understanding of my ignorance. 🙂 We can all learn from our own mistakes. And I don’t mind getting things wrong if it lead to more clarity.

  27. Corneel:
    CharlieM: Goethean science is a method whereby essential knowledge can be gained of the whole while still recognizing the particulars. It looks for commonalities in the separate entities. And it does this not by reduction to the simplest but in the complexity of the whole.

    Corneel: Phenomenology and holism, yes, so you keep telling us. But 200 years after Goethe I do not see the fruits of that method. What scientific insights has Goethean science, as advocated by Steiner, brought the world? Are there any?

    This method has been used with great effect in the fields of medicine, agriculture, education, social care and no doubt more.

    CharlieM: For me the “etheric” is that aspect of the being which cannot be perceived by the eye but can be perceived by the mind. In the case of a plant or animal it is not the organism as I see it in front of me; it is the organism in its becoming over time excluding no aspect of its life. It is much more than just a thing in space.

    Corneel: So Goethean science brought you the insight that organisms change over time? Wowie. I am duly impressed.

    But I take it not impressed enough to do a any more research. 🙂

    CharlieM to OMagain: Utility brings us a more comfortable life and has shrunk our world. We have instant communication between continents and we have machines to carry out menial tasks for us. But does this bring us more fulfilment and satisfaction? I don’t think so. A life without purpose or aims may be an easy life but it won’t necessarily be a happy life.

    Corneel: This comment and the ensuing bit about “the polarity of Love and Strife” are demonstrating the crux of the matter: You expect science to deliver things it cannot.

    We have to understand that “Love and Strife” as understood by Emedocles, was vvery different from today’s usual concepts of these terms.

    Corneel: Let me ask again: Is it the task of science to fill your life with purpose, meaning and happiness? Me, I *love* sciencey things and can get a decent amount of fulfillment from it. But this is the realm of literature, music, family life, friendship, spirituality and religion too. Why do you need scientists to tell you what’s worthwhile in life?

    No, it isn’t the task of science to fill my life with purpose, meaning and happiness. But these things are a likely consequence of practicing Goethean science. And I would hope that for many conventional scientists, they are also a consequence of their work. If this is not the case they are probably following the wrong career.

    Scientific discoveries satisfies our thirst for knowledge. Physically we need food to eat, water to drink and air to breathe. And to progress spiritually we take in knowledge. And following the scientific method of observation and thinking is the best way to acquire knowledge.

    But I still think it a fact that the comforts that have been brought to us by science and technology do not in general lead to a happier life.

  28. Corneel:
    CharlieM: It is indeed an unfortunate consequence. And the members may not want their club to be exclusive but that is what is happening.

    Corneel: This is the case for any line of work that requires a decent amount of education. Still, I never chided such professionals for being part of an exclusive club and then pursued being a Goethean car mechanic or such

    Who has chided the specialists? What choice do they have but to work within the system. Steiner advocated that any person who wished to become an anthroposophical doctor should first and foremost qualify as a conventional medical doctor. This gives them the relevant background knowledge they need in order to help others.

  29. CharlieM: The feeling of pain and our thoughts about that pain are two separate experiences and they are of a different kind.

    Thinking about an object, say a ball, and subsequently thinking about my thoughts on the ball are also two separate experiences, but they are of the same kind.

    Agreed that sensations and conceptualizations are distinct, but I’ve lost track of what point you think this establishes.

    In the second case, does it matter if there’s a distinction between having a mental image of a ball — imagining a ball — vs just deploying the concept of “ball”?

    Steiner makes clear in his books what he means by thinking. It is not pondering what to have for lunch, daydreaming, fantasizing, any unconscious activity, or such like. The “thinking” he discusses is a very specific activity. He means consciously, mindfully attending to an entity. I can share concepts with others but I cannot share my thinking activity.

    Ah, so he means what other philosophers call “phenomenological description”. OK.

    I have just been thinking about a ball in my garden (pictured below). What was the source of my thoughts about that particular ball? What made me decide to think about that particular object? Was this decision forced upon me from somewhere outside of myself?

    We haven’t established what “you” or “the self’ means — does external to you mean what’s outside of your body — beyond the surface of your skin? Or does it mean external to consciousness, so that unconscious mental states are outside of you? Or anything else besides one of those two options?

    In the early days of reading Steiner my impressions on much of what he wrote was one of disbelief. But they did prompt me to think more deeply about those subjects. I have since learned that I can benefit from thinking about a topic without feeling it necessary to form an immediate judgement.

    Just out of curiosity, what have you read in philosophy that isn’t Steiner, Barfield, etc.?

  30. CharlieM: This method has been used with great effect in the fields of medicine, agriculture, education, social care and no doubt more.

    In any if those disciplines, could you please mention one example that is generally accepted as valid by the science community?

    In my field I am familiar with Steiner’s take on the “archetype” and Rupert Sheldrake’s “morphogenetic fields” neither of which are generally accepted as serious science.

    CharlieM: Me: So Goethean science brought you the insight that organisms change over time? Wowie. I am duly impressed.

    Charlie: But I take it not impressed enough to do a any more research.

    My PhD research was on the topic of senescent ageing. Will that suffice?

    CharlieM: Scientific discoveries satisfies our thirst for knowledge. Physically we need food to eat, water to drink and air to breathe. And to progress spiritually we take in knowledge. And following the scientific method of observation and thinking is the best way to acquire knowledge.

    The scientific way of hypothesis-driven empirical research is the best way to acquire a certain type of knowledge, i.e. a decent understanding of the workings of natural phenomena. Knowledge of personal purpose and meaning, not so much.

    CharlieM: But I still think it a fact that the comforts that have been brought to us by science and technology do not in general lead to a happier life.

    Then you are wrong. Life expectancy and the quality of life have improved very much in the previous century.

    CharlieM: Who has chided the specialists?

    You did, when you wrote:

    The ideal for most scientists is to become a specialist in some particular field and in this way they become part of an exclusive club which outsiders must consult if they want to receive a share of this knowledge.

    Disciplines within science are not “exclusive”. Like practitioners in any other profession they just hardly warm up to people that refuse to acquire some basic background knowledge yet insist that the professionals have been doing it wrong all along.

  31. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: The feeling of pain and our thoughts about that pain are two separate experiences and they are of a different kind.

    Thinking about an object, say a ball, and subsequently thinking about my thoughts on the ball are also two separate experiences, but they are of the same kind.

    Kantian Naturalist: Agreed that sensations and conceptualizations are distinct, but I’ve lost track of what point you think this establishes.

    In the second case, does it matter if there’s a distinction between having a mental image of a ball — imagining a ball — vs just deploying the concept of “ball”?

    In the second case the focus of our attention is on the ball in the first instance and on our own activity in the second instance. In one the ball is central in the other it is incidental.

    CharlieM: Steiner makes clear in his books what he means by thinking. It is not pondering what to have for lunch, daydreaming, fantasizing, any unconscious activity, or such like. The “thinking” he discusses is a very specific activity. He means consciously, mindfully attending to an entity. I can share concepts with others but I cannot share my thinking activity.

    Kantian Naturalist: Ah, so he means what other philosophers call “phenomenological description”. OK.

    I may not have an accurate understanding of what they mean by “phenomenological description”, but for me this term has more to do with the product of thinking rather than thinking itself. The “phenomenological description” would be the concept.

    CharlieM: I have just been thinking about a ball in my garden (pictured below). What was the source of my thoughts about that particular ball? What made me decide to think about that particular object? Was this decision forced upon me from somewhere outside of myself?

    Kantian Naturalist: We haven’t established what “you” or “the self’ means — does external to you mean what’s outside of your body — beyond the surface of your skin? Or does it mean external to consciousness, so that unconscious mental states are outside of you? Or anything else besides one of those two options?

    These are good questions. The way I was using “myself” above was as I experience myself as a self-conscious thinking mind. Thinking about things in this way I regard my body and all it consists of to be, in a sense, outside of myself.

    But my question still stands. What made me decide to think about that particular object?

    In lecture 1 of “Mystery Centres”, by Steiner, he talks about the experience of thinking as he portrays it in his book, “The Philosophy of Freedom”.

    Here is my take on what he is saying.

    With their thinking people usually only get as far as having inner reflections and thoughts of the external world. They produce mental representations of the external world and these occupy their thoughts. This is the normal course of events from childhood on.

    But we can make the mental effort to concentrate on our own thinking. when we experience our own thinking in this way, we reach a state which transcends the body we occupy. Our bodies are experienced like any other “external” object. We expand into the cosmos, or the cosmos is actually within us, which amounts to the same thing.

    CharlieM: In the early days of reading Steiner my impressions on much of what he wrote was one of disbelief. But they did prompt me to think more deeply about those subjects. I have since learned that I can benefit from thinking about a topic without feeling it necessary to form an immediate judgement.

    Kantian Naturalist: Just out of curiosity, what have you read in philosophy that isn’t Steiner, Barfield, etc.?

    Yes. I’ve read a good deal of Plato, books such as Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason”, Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil”, and bits and pieces from many other philosophers some of which you may have recommended, like Wilfrid Sellars.

    I would like to read more but I never seem to find the time.

  32. Corneel:
    CharlieM: This method has been used with great effect in the fields of medicine, agriculture, education, social care and no doubt more.

    Corneel: In any if those disciplines, could you please mention one example that is generally accepted as valid by the science community?

    Why would I want to appeal to authority?..

    Corneel: In my field I am familiar with Steiner’s take on the “archetype” and Rupert Sheldrake’s “morphogenetic fields” neither of which are generally accepted as serious science.

    …as you just did in your argument from authority.

    Me (Corneel): So Goethean science brought you the insight that organisms change over time? Wowie. I am duly impressed.

    Charlie: But I take it not impressed enough to do a any more research.

    Corneel: My PhD research was on the topic of senescent ageing. Will that suffice?

    Well it will suffice for researching your speciality but not for researching Goethean science.

    CharlieM: Scientific discoveries satisfies our thirst for knowledge. Physically we need food to eat, water to drink and air to breathe. And to progress spiritually we take in knowledge. And following the scientific method of observation and thinking is the best way to acquire knowledge.

    Corneel: The scientific way of hypothesis-driven empirical research is the best way to acquire a certain type of knowledge, i.e. a decent understanding of the workings of natural phenomena. Knowledge of personal purpose and meaning, not so much.

    From “Saving the Apppearances, A Study in Idolatry”, Barfield writes:

    it may be well to pause here for a moment and consider the relation of scientific theories to truth and knowledge.

    What is the view taken by scientists themselves of that relation? The answer is not very clear. And it is a good deal less clear today than it was a generation ago (Barfield, 1988). The limited scope of all scientific enquiry is today often emphasized rather strongly by those engaged in it. So much so, that when we have heard them on the subject, we are sometimes left with the feeling that we ought to look on all scientific theories as mere “hypotheses” in the sense of the Platonic and medieval astronomers, and that it is wrong to take any of them with the “literalness” that embroiled Galileo with the Church. They are at best, we are assured, the mathematical formulae which up to the time of writing have been found the simplest and most convenient for-well, for saving the appearances. In physics in particular there is a marked tendency to teeat almost as an enfant terrible anyone who takes the models literally enough to refer to them in any context outside that of physical enquiry itself. It would seem to follow from this that, as Plato and the astronomers believed, scientific hypotheses have no direct relation to the real nature of things.

    On the other hand I find something equivocal in the public utterances of the spokespersons of science. For the same ones who have just been stressing this unpretentious view of scientific theory will frequently let drop some such phrase as ‘some day we may know’- or even ‘we now know’-when speaking, not of some particular hypothesis, but of quite general conclusions about the nature of universe, earth or man.

    Taking a good look at how science proceeds tells us a great deal about our selves. How all hypothesis-driven empirical research must be viewed in light of the current position of human consciousness.

    CharlieM: But I still think it a fact that the comforts that have been brought to us by science and technology do not in general lead to a happier life.

    Corneel: Then you are wrong. Life expectancy and the quality of life have improved very much in the previous century.

    I agree that science and technology does bring these things to some people. But how many people whose aim is to live a long and comfortable life do actually feel fulfilled in that life? I have doubts about the correlation.

    CharlieM: Who has chided the specialists?

    Corneel: You did, when you wrote:

    “The ideal for most scientists is to become a specialist in some particular field and in this way they become part of an exclusive club which outsiders must consult if they want to receive a share of this knowledge.”

    I am not apportioning blame here. It is a simple fact that with the success of the sciences to gather more and more detailed information it is inevitable that in order to gain expertise, individuals must be selective. As the number of specialized subjects increases so the ratio of experts in each field decreases. The amount of information able to be acquired by any single person is limited.

    Corneel: Disciplines within science are not “exclusive”. Like practitioners in any other profession they just hardly warm up to people that refuse to acquire some basic background knowledge yet insist that the professionals have been doing it wrong all along.

    Who are these people who refuse to acquire basic knowledge? And since when did acquiring basic knowledge make anyone an expert? And who is insisting that professionals are doing it all wrong?

    I would not know anything about protein folding, cell migration, molecular ‘motors’, microtubules or any other such amazing details without the work of these professionals.

  33. CharlieM:
    Charlie: This method has been used with great effect in the fields of medicine, agriculture, education, social care and no doubt more.

    Me: In any if those disciplines, could you please mention one example that is generally accepted as valid by the science community?

    Charlie: Why would I want to appeal to authority?..

    Isn’t that interesting? As soon as the “specialists” collectively reject something you hold dear, your respect for their position goes right out of the window.

    No, I am not asking you to accept the scientific consensus on faith. But you must understand that in order to qualify as science, the findings of Goethean “science” should be able to survive skeptical scrutiny and be capable of being verified by peers.

    CharlieM: I agree that science and technology does bring these things to some people. But how many people whose aim is to live a long and comfortable life do actually feel fulfilled in that life? I have doubts about the correlation.

    Sorry, providing fulfilment in life is not the task of science. That you’ll have to do yourself.

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