Is materialism a form of dualism? I think maybe it is.

While I tend to see materialism, or any ism really, as misguided attempts to to translate the epic poem of reality into a language of limits, the universe to an Upanishad, the unknown and unexpected cuisine of eternity into bite sized morsels of processed food by-product. Ultimately, I think isms, including materialism narrow the minds of the porters stuck with the baggage. Like a person forced to wear a hat two sizes too small, like a fundamentalist’s child taught to feel shame at the first whiff of curiosity about something potentially interesting, isms discourage freestyle boogie on the cranial dance floor. They attempt to definitively answer the important question, “Why?”*. At least, that is my general attitude. I can and occasionally do trot out tome lubricant for my neurons in order to formulate a logical support for the idea, but I just ran across a printed copy of this paper in a file folder which accidentally traveled with me this week.

I was delighted to discover it. One because I’m kinda bored sitting in a hotel room trying to distract myself, and two, because it makes a formal argument which is similar to my perhaps more…, I like to call it lyrical, statement and the piggybacking saves me on the brain lubricant bill.

I will post a short excerpt but it’s worth a real read if you think the topic is worth discussion. I know that many of our members are anti materialist, and, though I prefer to simply note the point of view of materialism and consider it information rather than truth, I notice that I have been drawn to materialistic statements lately for some reason, and I universally find myself equating the materialist position with a theistic position.The structure intuits the same way in my mind.

I’m reasonably sure this paper rattled around in my brain for a while and probably colored my views on some things but I haven’t adopted the arguments, preferring to stop at the far easier point of, “That is a simple assertion and your warrant is also a simple assertion. However, most people don’t seem satisfied with this line of argument. It turns out though, that this paper basically says the same thing but makes a formal statement about it to satisfy the logic buffs and philosophers. And I know I am delighted to see that he doesn’t try to attach an ontology outside of the straightforward argument for monism. To that end, :

Towards a Proper Monism

Filip Radovic
Dept. of Philosophy, Göteborg University
Poster presentation at:
Toward a Science of Consciousness, Tucson III
April 27-May 2, 1998, Tucson, Arizona, USA
1. Summary

My analysis of the mind-body problem suggests that the mind-body problem is a “problem” because:

• There are discrepancies in use between scientific notions like “physical” and philosophical notions like “phenomenal character”.

• Phenomenological conceptions of the mind are primarily used as contrast-terms in arguments against metaphysical physicalism.

• “Qualia” and similar terms – properly analysed – reveal that they do not, as often claimed, have a “folk-psychological” origin. Rather these terms should be described as highly sophisticated technical terms and should not be confused with non-philosophical notions expressing experiential content.

Dualists are obliged to offer us a positive, thus substantive, account of what they mean by “subjective experience” and similar idioms. This is, as I shall point out, a very hard task, mainly due to the strong contrast-mode in which these terms are used. When disconnected from the paradigmatic contrast-context these terms appear more or less out of place. But when faced with a hard-core reductionism the appeal to “phenomenal qualities” seems very appropriate. In my analysis, terms like “what it is like” and “experiential character” are concept that, as such, make perfect sense, but only in a limited context. The strong contrast mode in which these terms are used, I think, also explains why it is so hard to give a satisfactory semantic account for these terms.

 

And here is the TOC so you can navigate the idea from here:

Contents:

1. Summary
2. Introduction
3. False and proper monism
4. A note on Descartes´ demarcation of the mental and the physical
5. “Phenomenal experience” as a complementary contrast term
6. The exaggerated emphasis on the subjective character of mind
7. The assumed status of “qualia” as a folk-psychological notion
8. Can we solve the mind-body problem?
References

Thoughts?

 *I adapted this first paragraph from something I wrote somewhere else so you might feel a weird familiarity but it is just the halcyon talking. Pay no attention.

41 thoughts on “Is materialism a form of dualism? I think maybe it is.

  1. This is really a response to a comment by BWE in another topic. My response doesn’t fit with the other topic. It doesn’t quite fit here, either, but it is a better fit.

    For example, is matter real?

    Yes, matter is real.

    There’s a problem here, and that is the problem of “What does ‘real’ even mean?” From physics, we have learned of the relativity of motion, an idea that probably goes back at least to Galileo. There is, similarly, a kind of cognitive relativity. Whether matter is real is relative to what we mean by “matter” and what we mean by “real”. Just as there is no such thing as absolute motion, there likewise is no such thing as absolute meaning. What “real” means is relative to us. And I doubt that any two people have the exact same meaning for “real” or for other ordinary words.

    For me, there is no question that matter is real. The words “matter” and “real” mean what I want them to mean, and with my meanings, matter is real.

    Does Math exist independent of mind?

    Yes, it does. However, when I am talking mathematics, the word “exist” takes on a rather different meaning from the way that we use it in ordinarly life. In terms of the mathematician’s meaning of “exist”, them math exists independent of mind. In terms of the ordinary life meaning of “exist”, no mathematics does not exist independent of mind, and perhaps for what some folk mean by “exist”, mathematics does not exist at all as a thing – it exists only as peculiar system of behaviors by mathematicians.

    For myself as mathematician, I am a fictionalist. I take mathematical entities such as numbers to be fictions. That is, they can be said to exist in the mathematician’s sense of “exist”, but not in the ordinary sense of that word. So they are best seen as useful fictions.

  2. No, I don’t think materialism is a form of dualism. But I do agree that it is misguided.

    Ultimately, I think isms, including materialism narrow the minds of the porters stuck with the baggage.

    Yes, I agree. I tend to be skeptical of all isms, and that includes being skeptical of skepticism.

    Thanks for that link to the Radovic article. I have skimmed through it, but I do owe it more time.

    My own view of dualism, is that I see it as a kind of theory of mind. And, it seems to me that dualism is a better fit than materialism. That does not make dualism correct, of course. Both dualism and materialism exist in an environment of philosophical assumptions. Those assumptions include epistemology, and philosophers seem loathe to question their basic assumptions. I see dualism as a better fit to the assumptions of epistemology. If you want to get rid of dualism, you have to dump epistemology in its current form. The commonly heard assertion “a belief is just a disposition to behave” seems little more than a rationalization. Beliefs are still discussed as if they are made of the Cartesian immaterial substance.

    I have been thinking of posting something about mathematical duality to my own blog. My own view of human cognition is based very much on mathematical duality, which is quite different from Cartesian dualism. From what I have read thus far, what Radovic writes does seem somewhat along the lines of mathematical duality.

  3. What’s weird is that I found that paper by accident yesterday and had been thinking about exactly the same topkic all day. I put in in a folder some years ago and filed it under dualism/monism. Also, isms. Yep. It was that comment which prompted me to post this op. It seemed fairly off topic there. Maybe I should move it into this thread as a conversation starter but I think it would be a better thread if we could focus on the artical. Especially his description of qualia. And too, I have the very same problem he mentions when I read Dennett even though I quite admire Dennett’s scholarship and attention to detail and credit him with being among the vanguard that got us thinking outside the processor in terms of AI and consciousness studies as it relates to neuroscience. He was among a small group who changed the whole question and with that the whole academic field by employing very detailed observation and stopping at each component long enough to check if it really does what we assume it does. It was a difficult idea to articulate and his group succeeded. However, it’s a schematic which means there is no ‘there’ there. Functionally, its very useful to mechanics and technicians but not particularly useful to drivers.

  4. Neil Rickert,

    I forgot to say thank you for this post. It’s very thoughtful and seems to sort of agree with Radovik, specifically here:

    Non-dualistic solutions, are those that deny “matter” and “consciousness” as sound philosophical categories. As I see it, all bridging-strategies involving a heavy revision of our present conception of matter are consistent with this kind of non-dualistic solution, since a re-conceptualisation of “matter” will (eventually) entail the possibility of phenomenal qualities6. A non-dualistic solution is also compatible with a (common sense) naive pre-theoretic approach in line with the anti-theoretical style employed by Wittgenstein (1953) among others7. Finally, the Spinozian way of presenting a pure classical metaphysical theory – transcending both matter and mind can also exemplify a non-dualistic solution. I have proposed three feasible routs to escape dualism. All of them are instances of what I call proper monism8.

  5. Neil Rickert,

    I hope you get a chance to read Radovik’s argument and respond to it. I find it a comfortable fit in most ways so I am suspicious that I might be giving it a pass where maybe I shouldn’t be. And I think it speaks heavily to the ID argument too actually. I am looking forward to W.J.M’s response if he has the time.

  6. BWE: I hope you get a chance to read Radovik’s argument and respond to it.

    Okay, I have now read it and these are some comments on it.

    The first thing to notice, is that it was presented at a poster session. Generally speaking, a poster session presentation is a booby prize offered for papers that don’t make it past peer review. I say this as a remark, but not as a criticism.

    While I don’t agree in all details, I do find Radovic’s article to be interesting and in somewhat the same direction as my own views.

    I very much agree with what Radovic says on qualia. Around two years ago, in an online discussion (Yahoo groups, the “analytic philosophy” group) somebody asked the question “Where do qualia come from?” I replied “From overly imaginative philosophers.” Some agreed with me, and some didn’t. The qualia arguments are still going on there to this day.

    I agree with Radovic, that the Chalmers version of the “hard problem” won’t be solved because it isn’t a real problem. Based on his description of Searle’s solution, it seems to me that Searle is just engaging in handwaving and not really saying anything interesting.

    I agree with Radovic, that the mind/body problem is mainly a creation of philosophy. They cannot solve it. If they wanted to, they could uncreate it. But there is no willingness to uncreate it, which is why Radovic was given the booby prize of a poster presentation. Roughly speaking, Radovic was pointing out that the emporer has not clothes. But cognitive science is filled with people who love the spend their time talking about the emperor’s new clothes.

    I agree with Radovic, that Nagel “What is it like to be a bat” was a major step in the wrong direction.

    I am never quite sure of what to make of materialism. I am inclined to think that everything we experience can be explained in terms of that which science studies. And, on some accounts, that should make me a materialist. On the other hand, materialism is said to include a belief in some sort of mechanistic reductionism. And people who declare themselves to be materialists seem to assert such a belief. I cannot find any basis for that kind of mechanistic reductionism, which is part of why I tend to deny that I am a materialist. To add to that, we don’t really know what matter is. We are still learning more about it.

  7. I think the terms “materialism” and “supernatural” are usually nothing more than front-men terms that hide what is really going on: theism vs anti-theism, and determinism vs libertarian free will.

    I’m not sure how one can make the case that any form of classic materialism can possibly be true, given what we now know about quantum physics. What we are left with is a rather vague and equivocated “materialism” that seems to actually just be a stand-in term for “non-theistc determinism”.

  8. Quantum mechanics revolutionized our view of how matter works, but I don’t see that it has any bearing on the question of whether anything exists other than matter (or matter-based phenomena).

  9. I’m happy to call myself a materialist (well, moderately happy, it doesn’t seem to me a terribly good word, because we don’t really know what matter is, and it certainly seems to be interchangeable with energy), but I don’t call myself a reductionist.

    I don’t think we “reduce” to material interactions. It seems blindingly obvious that we have properties that are not the properties of the material interactions we are accused of reducing ourselves too. Ergo, the reality of us, of minds, is not “reducible” to the stuff that produces them. That doesn’t mean that the stuff that produces them is not both necessary and sufficient, but that what emerges has properties of its own. Like the ability to conceive and execute a purpose.

  10. William J Murray:
    I think the terms “materialism” and “supernatural” are usually nothing more than front-men terms that hide what is really going on: theism vs anti-theism, and determinism vs libertarian free will.

    I rather agree!

    I’m not sure how one can make the case that any form of classic materialism can possibly be true, given what we now know about quantum physics.What we are left with is a rather vague and equivocated “materialism” that seems to actually just be a stand-in term for “non-theistc determinism”.

    But not with this!

    I don’t think quantum physics makes any difference to the free will question – I used to, but not any more. I think the problem with the free will question is that it is usually badly posed. It is not “will” that is supposed to be either free, or not free, but me or you.

    In other words, the question is not “Do I have free will?” but “Can I choose?” to which the answer is clearly yes.

    Not only is it clearly yes, but it is clear that we make considered choices, not quantum-arbitrary ones. Indeed, I’d argue that the sense in which we are free is that we are free to weight up alternatives, not merely behave randomly, or predictably.

    And the key to understanding that, I think, is to consider the mechanisms by which we make decisions.

    Maybe more later….

  11. Nor, in my view, on the question of whether we are free to make considered decisions.

    But I know more about that part than the physics! Can you explain further?

  12. William J Murray: I think the terms “materialism” and “supernatural” are usually nothing more than front-men terms that hide what is really going on: theism vs anti-theism, and determinism vs libertarian free will.

    In that case, somebody is doing it wrong.

    I am not a theist, but I am also not anti-theist. And I fall on the free will side of the determinism vs. free will debates. Yet, when I post on UD, I am frequently told that I am a materialist.

  13. Naturalism is just what we can perceive with our senses or via science, it is equivalent to naive reality, wheras real science is all about descriptive and testable predictive models of natural phenomena.

    Supernaturalisim is about wishing thinking conflated with naive realism. The person wants to have a god, or for their prayer to work, or for reincarnation to be real, so it is-to them. While I am all for free will, and the freedom to think what we like, any and all ideas should be challenged.

    There is no real evidence for dualism as such, except what exists in some minds.
    We live in a deterministic universe as far as we can tell, but determinism does not conflate with inevitability.

    But it seems to me that any idea which claims soem value, such as a belief in god or whatever, has to pass through the same stringent tests as any other idea before it expects to be treated with merit. If mystics want respect as people, then they should tolerate criticisms of their beliefs, and for their own sake, try to understand that their ideas are not self-evident truths.
    As an atheist I accept that I could be totally wrong, that god could exist etc, but at least I went through the process of testing my atheist ideas. I find this rarely really happens with religious or other dogmatic ideas, such as fanatic idealism.

    Belief in Bushido may not be a religion, but it is still the “triumph” of belief over reason, and when that happens, it makes possible a Zero fighter plane to crash into an aircraft carrier in WW2 or a fanatic theist to crash into the Twin Towers in New York. The mechanism is exactly the same, so the specific beliefs do not matter. The only way to moderate belief is in the practice of reason. Reason takes the edge of blind belief.

  14. As an atheist I accept that I could be totally wrong, that god could exist etc, but at least I went through the process of testing my atheist ideas. I find this rarely really happens with religious or other dogmatic ideas, such as fanatic idealism.

    I wonder how one would go about testing “atheist ideas”. I’d like a specific example of an atheist idea that you tested, and how you tested it.

  15. William J Murray,

    When I was around eight years old, I recall my mother saying something along the lines of “God will strike you dead if you steal…” and testing this hypothesis by purloining some of her home-made strawberry jam which was wickedly delicious. You note that I am able to post this comment today. I think that was about the time I began to be sceptical about the flavour of Christianity that I was supposed to embrace.

  16. Alan Fox:
    William J Murray,

    When I was around eight years old, I recall my mother saying something along the lines of “God will strike you dead if you steal…” and testing this hypothesis by purloining some of her home-made strawberry jam which was wickedly delicious. You note that I am able to post this comment today. I think that was about the time I began to be sceptical about the flavour of Christianity that I was supposed to embrace.

    That’s not testing an “atheistic” idea. That’s testing a theistic idea. I do, however, find it interesting that your movement away from theism moved you towards stealing and and disrespecting your mother.

  17. William J Murray: “I do, however, find it interesting that your movement away from theism moved you towards stealing and and disrespecting your mother.”

    I find it interesting that your response attacks the messenger and not the message, in this case, an 8-year old.

  18. William J Murray: “Finding what Alan said interesting does not constitute an attack.”

    Implying an eight-year old has been motivated to steal and disrespect his mother is an attack on the messenger here and not his message.

    Claiming the main theme of your comment in this case was interest, is a courtroom tactic.

    Instead of trying to win debating points why don’t you actually talk to us?

    Leave your rhetoric and lecturing behind and assume we are at least as competent to understand the world as you are.

    What has led you to believe we are somehow not as capable at rational thought as you believe yourself to be?

    Is it because we have reached a different conclusion?

    That should tip you off that your conclusions may be wrong.

    If you want a really good debate, come to the table with a mind open enough to be changed.

  19. Don’t mistake your incorrect inferences for something I implied. What I showed interest in was nothing more than what Mr. Fox himself admitted to in his post.

    What has led you to believe we are somehow not as capable at rational thought as you believe yourself to be?

    I’ve never stated or implied that I believe any such thing.

  20. The reason it interests me is that Mr. Fox associated his behavior with the context of the post made by Darwinsbulldog about “testing” his “atheist ideas”. Is that how one tests atheistic ideas? By disrespecting parents and stealing from them – actions which supposedly vioate (again, in context) theistic commands?

    It brings up the whole question about moral and ethical behavior in lieu of a theistic grounding for such beliefs. Does the percieved lack of a god allow one to more easily steal and disrespect others? That is the implication provided by Mr. Fox; if there is no god ultimately imposing penalties for such behavior, then if one can get away with something as far as society is concerned, then why not?

    Note that Mr. Fox didn’t say that he simply found an isolated space and blasphemed in order to test theistic beliefs; he stole from his mother.

    There are studies that show a correlation between atheistic/materialistic ideas and less moral, less ethical behavior. It is also intuitive that if one removes an observing penalizer from the situation, it is easier for many to behave unethically and immorally.

    Conversely, studies have shown that if one simply feels like they are being observed, they will behave more ethically and morally.

    Ideas and beliefs matter.

  21. William J Murray: “Don’t mistake your incorrect inferences for something I implied. What I showed interest in was nothing more than what Mr. Fox himself admitted to in his post.”

    Mr. Fox did not admit to disrespecting his mother.

    That was an emotional element you decided to add yourself.

  22. William J Murray: ” Conversely, studies have shown that if one simply feels like they are being observed, they will behave more ethically and morally.”

    That is true. In the Soviet Union, people exhibited the proper behaviour, as expected by the society they lived in, because they knew they were being watched.

  23. William J Murray,

    From reading you posts, and those of StephenB and William Lane Craig, I get the same recurring theme, that of a father figure guiding and when necessary, punishing his children.

    I think that is the biggest difference between theists and atheists, and that is that atheists don’t look for someone to tell them what to do.

    It also implies that we accept that we must make our own decisions when we are adults.

    If god disappeared tomorrow, how would you cope with life?

  24. William J Murray: “Sure he did. Ignoring her will and stealing from her is disrespecting her.”

    No, he admitted taking jam, you decided to draw the conclusion, …on his behalf…., that he, *********admitted********, that he was disrespecting her.

    That is the key point, your insistence that he ***********admitted************, he disrespected her.

    He never admitted disrespect, you added that.

    What was “interesting” to you then, was your conclusion, not his admission.

  25. If you’re not willing to agree that ignoring your mother’s wishes and stealing from her (as described in his post) is in fact disrespecting her, we don’t have enough in common to communicate effectively, much less debate any meaningful points.

  26. From reading you posts, and those of StephenB and William Lane Craig, I get the same recurring theme, that of a father figure guiding and when necessary, punishing his children.

    I’ve never said or argued anything even remotely comparable to the position you imagine I hold.

  27. William J Murray: “If you’re not willing to agree that ignoring your mother’s wishes and stealing from her (as described in his post) is in fact disrespecting her, we don’t have enough in common to communicate effectively, much less debate any meaningful points.”

    Our debate is public, not personal.

    When you say something that makes no sense, someone is going to point it out.

    Whether you reply to me or not, anyone following your comments is going to see me or someone else, point out the gaping holes in your logic.

    Your claim, is that Mr. Fox “admitted” disrespecting his mother, when he only admitted stealing jam.

    You made that “admission” up yourself and everyone reading this can see it.

    You have however, drawn attention to the messenger instead of the message and for that, I congratulate you.

    The other edge of that sword is that his “message” has not been successfully refuted by you which every reader of this thread can also see.

  28. William J Murray,

    That’s not testing an “atheistic” idea. That’s testing a theistic idea.

    The only idea that is essentially common to atheists is the null hypothesis that gods and the supernatural are human inventions. There are no specifically atheist ideas beyond that. And, as Elizabeth has remarked earlier, the burden of proof lies with theists to demonstrate evidence of their particular deity if they wish to do so.

  29. PS I love my mother to bits, notwithstanding that she is now a rather cantankerous lady of 92. Respect that has to be demanded rather than eafreely

  30. PS I love my mother to bits, notwithstanding that she is now a rather cantankerous lady of 92. Respect that has to be demanded rather than freely given is not respect. Perhaps it would have been better for her to have explained the concept of storing produce by pickling, bottling, preserving when there is a glut (we lived near the Vale of Evesham – notable for strawberries, asparagus and apples) and ensuring a supply over the year. It’s ingrained among the locals here where we (not my mother, though I tried to persuade her) now live.

  31. Testing a particular claim of a particular theistic view is – I’m sure you’ll agree – not a test about theism per se, but a test about a particular theistic claim.

    Anyone who makes a positive claim – even in the form of negative existence (such as: black swans do not exist) – have the burden of supporting their claim. Thus the claim “there are no gods” carries with it the burden of providing argument and evidence for such a claim.

    Atheism – which is the view that no gods exist – does not get to escape its burden of proof just because that claim is made in a negative format. If one is going to argue for atheism, one must provide evidence thereof or change their claim to neutral agnosticism.

  32. William J Murray,

    Thus the claim “there are no gods” carries with it the burden of providing argument and evidence for such a claim.

    I have nothing on which to base a general refutation of any gods because they all have the common attribute of only existing in people’s imagination. All such gods are, as I said, non-disprovable.

  33. I have nothing on which to base a general refutation of any gods because they all have the common attribute of only existing in people’s imagination. All such gods are, as I said, non-disprovable.

    Can you provide any support for your claims above? In case you can’t find them, I’ll list them below:

    … they all have the common attribute of only existing in people’s imagination.

    Please support this assertion.

    All such gods are, as I said, non-disprovable.

    Please support this assertion.

    I’ll continue on in anticipation of your failure to support those assertions.

    This is one of the reasons that I consider atheism an irrational position; it cannot be supported by any argument or evidence, and atheists can only attempt to shift the burden (a logical fallacy) onto others to prove that a god exists.

    It is the atheist, however, that has made the assertions above; it is not a theist’s job here to support the converse assertion at this point, it is the atheist’s job to support their assertions. Without shifting the burden, they have no argument or evidence (that I’m aware of) that provides their assertion any support.

    Neutral agnosticism as embodied by the statements “I don’t know if any god exists or not” or “I have not yet encountered any evidence or argument that compels me to believe a god of any sort exists” is at least position that doesn’t require support but only announces one’s ignorance of any compelling argument or evidence otherwise.

    However, even neutral agnosticism would have to defend its position against any offered evidence or argument for theism, because if such evidence or argument makes it even slightly more likely that a god of some sort exists than not, then even neutral agnosticism cannot be rationally maintained.

    Which is why, in the face of the pro-theistic argument (the various logical arguments for god) and evidence (anecdotal, testimonial, and empirical), the only rational positions are some form of theism, or agnosticism that holds it to be more likely that a god exists than not, leaving atheism as an entirely irrational and unsupportable perspective.

  34. I forgot to put this:

    I have nothing on which to base a general refutation of any gods because they all have the common attribute of only existing in people’s imagination. All such gods are, as I said, non-disprovable.

    .. in quotes above. Sorry for any misunderstanding. That a quote from Alan Fox’s comment.

  35. Can you provide any support for your claims above? In case you can’t find them, I’ll list them below:

    … they all have the common attribute of only existing in people’s imagination.

    More of an observation, really. Where you have or have had humans in socially organized groups, there is almost invariably some sort of religious dogma. But the dogma varies from group to group. Therefore either there are many small gods or people make stuff up.

    Please support this assertion.

    All such gods are, as I said, non-disprovable.

    Invisible pink unicorns, Sagan’s dragon in his garage, Russell’s teapot are non-disprovable. Unless you have evidence that some god actually impinges on reality, then so are gods.

  36. More of an observation, really.

    Unless you can observe someone else’s imagination, it’s not an observation, it’s an assumption.

    Unless you have evidence that some god actually impinges on reality, then so are gods

    As I said above: “This is one of the reasons that I consider atheism an irrational position; it cannot be supported by any argument or evidence, and atheists can only attempt to shift the burden (a logical fallacy) onto others to prove that a god exists.”

    Associating those gods with “Invisible pink unicorns, Sagan’s dragon in his garage, Russell’s teapot” is another logical fallacy. You are assuming the gods you deny exist are equivalent to those things in the first place without providing any support for that claim.

    Note how you have attempted to simply beg the question and shift the burden after being challenged to rationally support the atheistic position that no gods exist. and even after I said such arguments often attempt to shift the burden.

    As I said, atheism is ultimately an irrational perspective.

  37. William J Murray,
    Here is all of Alan’s quote.

    Alan Fox: “More of an observation, really. Where you have or have had humans in socially organized groups, there is almost invariably some sort of religious dogma. But the dogma varies from group to group. Therefore either there are many small gods or people make stuff up.”

    You can see that the **observation** is about groups and how the dogma **varies** between groups. If I study Hindu and Christian dogma, I can **observe** the differences.

    You however, answered something else:

    [William J Murray quoting Alan Fox:] “More of an observation, really.”

    William J Murray: “Unless you can observe someone else’s imagination, it’s not an observation, it’s an assumption.”

    I feel like you don’t finish reading what we say sometimes before you start to reply.

  38. More of an observation, really. Where you have or have had humans in socially organized groups, there is almost invariably some sort of religious dogma. But the dogma varies from group to group. Therefore either there are many small gods or people make stuff up.

    First, which I missed originally, this is a false dichotomy, and second, since he offered no evidence that “many small gods” do not exist, he must be relying on the latter (people “making stuff up”) as support for the position that those “many small gods” do not exist.

    That’s not an observation, unless he can see into their imagination to see what the are and are not “making up”. It’s an assumption based on convenient characterizations of believers and a false dichotomy.

  39. William J Murray,

    The observation:

    Alan Fox: “More of an observation, really. Where you have or have had humans in socially organized groups, there is almost invariably some sort of religious dogma. But the dogma varies from group to group.

    We can see this by comparing Hindu theism to Christian theism.

    We can **observe** that they are not the same, that they are different.

    Two groups of people, different gods.

    The conclusion:

    Alan Fox: “Therefore either there are many small gods or people make stuff up.”

    Notice that there is no preference offered up for either possibility, simply that one or the other applies.

    It is up to us to choose.

    His final conclusion has selected neither.

    So, no one’s imagination has been looked into.

    It is a purely empirical observation followed by a conclusion that gives equal preference to one of two possible explanations.

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