Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Divine Brat

"There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness."
-The Dalai Lama

“We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.”
-Kalu Rinpoche

"Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me...)
-God (aka: Yahweh)

***

Since I don't really believe in the supernatural, I see a 'spiritual' person as a person that is very non-egotistical, is very empathetic and loving, is almost impossible to anger, is completely selfless, and lives in the moment rather than in the past or the future, thereby being ready to accept whatever life has to offer and to enjoy it all to its fullest, even the sad parts. A person who has genuinely attained an inner serenity.

Such a person almost invariably causes joy in those around them.

Given that definition, you can see why I so strongly differentiate 'spiritual' from 'religious.'

My readers may note that my idea of what constitutes a spiritual person is a very hard thing to attain, but is attainable, since such people have existed and do exist. Some Buddhist monks get there. Also some Christians and indeed some few people of every disparate faith, or even of no faith or belief at all, do seem to occassionally make it to that point.

Basically, the introspective ones get there, sometimes.

One may also note that my definition of a spiritual man is the very diametric opposite of the Old Testament God Yahweh. He's a self-centered egomaniacal small-minded wrathful self-righteous vindictive jealous asshole.

And that's supposed to be great somehow? Something to love? Something to emulate?

More like a cautionary tale. “Now Johnnie, don’t kill ants with that magnifying glass! You wouldn’t want to end up like GOD, now would you?”

(Little Johnnie pisses pants and promises to be a good boy, mommy)

I think it is a point worthy of pondering that a mere man, as noted above, can, albeit rarely, get to a much more spiritually evolved point than can the Christian God and most of His followers put together. Don’t you?

Of course, this is because Christianity is not a spiritual path. It is more like an immature misbegotten attempt at one at best. Something a child would think up in response to being told about the nebulous concept of spirituality from an adult… “I am too spiritual! I am! I am!”

(In a Trelayne voice, of course)

(Time to come in now, Yahweh…)

***

(The reader should also note that I am not even close to my own definition of what constitutes a spiritual man, nor do I claim to be)

***

For my readers like Botts (where is he, anyhow?) and all other more spiritual, less dogmatic (nicer/saner) Christians, I would add that most (but not all) of the portrayals of Jesus Christ in the Bible coincide with my definition of a spiritual person.

So there's that.

I certainly don't see that as somehow special to Him, though. As noted above, a mere human can most certainly attain it, too. It’s not easy, I’m told, but it’s definitely possible.

But not Yahweh. Not the Old Testament God of the Hebrews. No way. Lost cause, that one. He's way too immature. Way too wild. Still at the “Id” phase. He needs a SPANKING more than any kid I ever knew, and I’m even against corporal punishment. What a little snot He turned out to be!

I guess it’s only natural that an all-powerful orphan with no one ever around to discipline Him ever would turn out to be the Ultimate Immoral Spoiled Brat with no respect nor love for anyone but Himself.

Why, He even went and had a Son out of wedlock like that and all. So on top of everything else he’s kinda ‘white-trashy’ too.

And poor Joseph. Being cuckolded by your own deity has to suck. Who do you beat up?

***

Too bad He didn’t have a mommy and a daddy to raise Him up right. Take Him down a notch when He got too full of Himself.

Maybe if He had parents, decent loving parents, He’d be a little more like "Our Lord" and a little less like “Our Lord of the Flies..."

Sad, really. He had such potential. What a waste.

523 comments:

  1. You should read this interview with Thom Stark. It answers some of your questions about how Yahweh could be such an immature prick.

    And Thom Stark is a Christian.

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  3. In a Trelayne voice, of course:

    (But I woulda won...I woulda... I woulda...)

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  4. A portion of one of Stark's comments from way down the comments page:

    "But [Christianity] continues to be my tradition, in large part, because I want to take ownership of the reality that my tradition has done so much harm. When I call myself a Christian, that's more like a confession of guilt, an admission of my complicity with Christianity's sins. It's not that I don't know how to let go of my faith, and it's not that I'm "trying to hang on." A big part of it is that I feel a responsibility to continue to identify as a Christian, precisely because Christianity has been so destructive. Let me use an analogy. It's not going to be a perfect analogy, but hopefully it'll get the point across. Say I'm a rich white boy who grew up on his family's plantation in the eighteenth century. We had African slaves. Slowly over time I realize that it is immoral to own slaves, and I'm overcome with guilt for my complicity in the institution of slavery. Of course, I didn't buy the slaves. I didn't order them around. But I reaped the benefits of their exploitation. So I'm complicit, whether I like it or not. Now, if I were just to disown my family and run off, change my name from White to Black, even if I opposed slavery wherever I went, that would be irresponsible of me. I would be lying to myself about my complicity in the system. The responsible thing to do would be to stand against slavery as a White. To speak as a member of the White family, even while in strong opposition to many of my family's beliefs and practices. But of course, because I am a White, I also know that not all of my family's beliefs and practices are wrong. There are some valuable things in there too. Some things my family passed on to me make me proud to be a White, even if many or most of the traditions I learned as a White are wrong.

    So, that's why I'm a Christian."

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  5. You should read this interview with Thom Stark. It answers some of your questions about how Yahweh could be such an immature prick.

    Enjoyed reading, interesting ideas.

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  6. I'm sure everyone has heard that Ken Pulliam has died. This asshole is the douche who posted a schmarmy comment implying Ken was now in hell on the memorial Facebook page.

    Anyway, if anyone who wanted to tell this fucking douche just what a fucking asshole he is, feel free.

    Not sure why this pissed me off so much.

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  7. I read the comments, Ryan, at least the ones he had the balls to let stand.

    What a fecal remnant that guy is...and his friends.

    There's no point in posting anything on his blog. If it hits too close to home, he'll just delete it.

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  8. I'm not proud, but I do feel better.

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  9. Here's one for Eric to chew on...

    "1. To believe that a theistic creator deity exists, the believer must imagine their deity was in some timeless fashion akin to "before" existence alone in a timeless, non-spatial, void, without matter, energy, location, dimensions, fields, concepts, knowledge, symbols, perceptions, physical natural law, logic, or referents. And that it then wished existence to instantiate.

    2. Consciousness is an axiomatic irreducible primary process that at the most common denominative rung on the ladder of complexity consists of awareness of existence.

    3. Consciousness of consciousness essentially requires primary consciousness to first obtain as awareness of existence.

    4. Prior to existence there could not have been anything to be aware of.

    5. Without anything to be aware of, there could not have been any awareness.

    6. Without awareness there could not have been any consciousness.

    7. From 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 there could not have been a primordial consciousness prior to existence.

    8. Creator gods are defined as primordial consciousness.

    9. From 7 and 8 Creator gods cannot exist."

    From the blogger profile of Robert Bumbalough

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  10. Jesus was a racist.

    But most tribal people were back then. I don't hold it against him like I would modern day racists.

    ------

    And just to bitch to people who understand, later on today I will be voting not on any special issues, and there are some pretty fuckin important ones no?

    I will be voting for the least institutionalized douchebags. I love poly-ticks.

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  11. I don't know why you bother Ryan. That bossmanham isn't interested in the truth, he's interested in "The truth of Jesus Christ".

    This can be summed up by any Christian, any time, talking about any subject, all the while implying that, of course, "This certainly isn't the time to turn the other cheek!"

    The truth of Jesus Christ, is interpreted to be suggestions, or at the very least, Jesus just forgot to add, ".. when it is convenient for you to do so."

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  12. "Here's one for Eric to chew on..."

    Ed, please tell me that you meant that as a joke, and that you can in fact detect the glaringly obvious logical fallacies contained in that argument. There's nothing at all to chew on there; it has as much substance as cotton candy.

    By the way, I have no idea who Bumbalough is, but I can tell you from reading that argument that he's an Objectivist (i.e. a follower of Ayn Rand's philosophy). You can always easily identify an Objectivist by the phrases they use (almost every one quotes Rand's popular phrases verbatim).

    Anyway, if you can't spot the fallacy, I'll give you a hint: Look up "the primacy of existence" (this is the assumption the whole argument rests upon) and then look up "begging the question" (the fallacy the argument commits). Any argument that purports to show that god does not exist cannot assume the primacy of existence without begging the question. Do you see why that's so?

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  13. I hate me some Ayn Rand...

    Actually, I never knew her, so that's not fair. But wow, the people who think she's the totality of philosophy are some of the most annoying people in the world.

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  14. Is that as in 'Bumbalough has it tough,' or 'Bumbalough in the bungalow?'

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  15. I think he's right Ed, for what it's worth.

    But on the bright side, Eric cussed... 'damn' even, so perhaps we're making headway :-)

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  16. "But on the bright side, Eric cussed... 'damn' even, so perhaps we're making headway :-)"

    As Peter Kreeft has said, the Church isn't a sanctuary for saints, but a hospital for sinners. I'm not a Christian because I think I'm such a great guy, but because I know what a bad guy I am. (I know you weren't being entirely serious, but I see nothing wrong with using a joke as an opportunity for clarification).

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  17. Eric ...because I know what a bad guy I am.

    How terribly sad.

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  18. I haven't read any Ayn Rand.

    Just trying to keep you coming back, Eric.

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  19. Any thoughts on the election results so far?

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  20. Ed; I'm happy to see the democrats lose one house, I just hate to see how smug the republicans are going to get.

    Eric; and after reading triablogue and some other comments this week, I think church is more a clubhouse for sinners and assholes. Usually, people get better in hospitals (not always, but that's the idea).

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  21. A local TV station asked viewers to send tweets in to say what they thought the new Governor's first act in office should be.

    I considered (but ultimately didn't) send in in one that said,

    "He should banish Jennifer Granholm back to Canada."

    But I heard she's going to find a new position in teh Obama Administration (maybe as the next supreme court nominee?). I'll keep y'all posted, but if it has anything to do with creating new jobs, watch out!

    "In 2006 Granholm, promoting her administration and the Legislature's tax breaks and subsidies for corporations said in her address to the state legislature "In five years, you're going to be blown away by the strength and diversity of Michigan's transformed economy". At that time Michigan's unemployment rate was 6.8 percent, in November 2009 it was 15.3 percent."

    There's a t-shirt available in some stores in Michigan that says,

    "Still waiting to be blown away..."

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  22. Ed, that's awful... man.

    When the company I worked for went bankrupt, I at least knew the cause wasn't one of our trusted elected servants.

    We're not through yet except for governor in PA, Corbett he's a party person (he wrote with chagrin).

    All in all I voted both parties and one vote for Gandhi.

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  23. I finally found the correct translation for something Jesus said on the cross. It's puzzled me for years.

    "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthan?"

    Supposedly, according to Mark, it's, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?"

    But it wasn't really a question at all, it was a command.

    "Don't Panic."

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  24. "Any argument that purports to show that god does not exist cannot assume the primacy of existence without begging the question."

    Another little word trap, then?

    If there is a choice in our mind about whether existence(outer reality) exists whether there are consciousnesses to be conscious OF it OR whether consciousness is necessary for existence(outer reality) to exist, THEN it cannot simply be question begging to use the fact that material things DO exist to support the idea that consciousness springs from material things.

    By extension, if consciousness springs from material things, i.e. consciousness is a material(electro-chemical) process, then there CANNOT BE a timeless, materialless, spaceless consciousness, nevermind one that has any power over energy/matter whatsoever.

    Where's the question begging here?

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  25. Or, Eric, when confronted with the notion that a mind is a material process, you just say, "No it's not!", then?

    Teehee.

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  26. Ian, no, he claims that mental states are intentional, ergo the mind is not material. Whatever that means...

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  27. I cannot imagine that Eric is so naive as to imagine anyone would fall for such a weak, old-fashioned argument in the 21st. Century.

    Of course we'd get some bluster about some (secret squirrel)philosophical meaning of 'intent' and 'intention'.

    But I think that the fact that debaters tend to leave their intent as muddy as possible, interpret responses in the weakest sense possible and such, to the point of avoiding what are 'givens' for themselves and are, in reality the crux of the whole debate.

    Is there a spiritual realm? Eric imagines that this is a given. He might deny this point blank using some word-play, basically to show me up as being wrong, but, if he believes the thrust of the Bible, then he MUST believe it.

    Taking this piece of chicanery as an example, of course he can talk 'black into being white', but that doesn't make it so, when it comes to consciousness unsupported by any material, existing.

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  28. Is there a spiritual realm?

    This is a great question. I'm not aware of any empirical evidence for one, just argumentation that one is possible.

    Given you can argue just about anything that's not a contradiction is possible, I think we need empirical evidence.

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  29. I finally found the correct translation for something Jesus said on the cross. It's puzzled me for years.

    "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthan?"

    Supposedly, according to Mark, it's, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?"

    But it wasn't really a question at all, it was a command.


    I have wondered about this for years. Would you explain how it is translated to a command rather than a question?

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  30. Is there a spiritual realm?

    I think it would depend upon the definition of spiritual realm. I remember when I was a child thinking it meant something along the line of goblins, and ghost. Now I think of it quite differently. As a child I could not understand the power involved in Gandhi's unwillingness to eat unless his country men quite fighting each other. It worked to a remarkable degree, and now I think of it as being part of the spiritual realm. The same power that prevailed when ML King advanced human rights. There has been many studies of giving promoting physical, and mental health which not only is beyond logical understanding, it demonstrates there is powers that are not clearly understood. I would think this could be called the spiritual realm.

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  31. Jerry; I think you missed Harry's joke. It was obscure and referred to 80's British Sci-Fi...

    But that line is one of the most puzzeling in the gospels (for me). On one hand, I think they might have invented it to tie back to the OT. On the other hand, it's a very strange thing for "God Incarnate" to say, even while dying in agony, and the tie back to the OT is not all that significant (in my mind).

    To me, it seems like a hopeless cry from someone who may have thought he was the messiah, accepted his fate at as martyr, but didn't quite understand how bad it would be and had a moment of clarity at the end that the whole thing was a sham and he wasn't anything special. Death is a great equalizer...

    No doubt there are plenty of apologists with handy answers to why god would feel forsaken by himself at the time of his death...

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  32. Started posting at triablogue... feel like I'm trapped behind enemy lines... It's really bad over there... Maybe I'm a masochist...

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  33. "Ian, no, he claims that mental states are intentional, ergo the mind is not material. Whatever that means..."

    Ryan, it's actually pretty simple: an intentional state is a state that is about something; it points beyond itself to something else. (It's irrelevant whether that something exists or not; my thoughts about unicorns are intentional, i.e. about unicorns, even though there are no unicorns.) So, if I'm thinking about my cat, my mental state possesses that property of intentionality, i.e. of being intentional, i.e. of being about something, in this case, it's about my cat.

    Now here's the problem: assume that all mental states just are physical brain states. Now we start with this assumption, but we must find a way to square it with the fact that our mental states exhibit intentionality. In other words, how can a physical state be about something?

    That's basically the problem of intentionality: We know, from our first person experience of our own mental states, that thoughts are intentional (that is, about something), and we know that if all mental states are ultimately reducible to brain states, and if brain states are purely physical, that it therefore follows that there must be a way for physical states to be intentional. However, once you understand what a physical state is, you can see that it's not the sort of thing that could be intentional (just as, once I understand what a prime number is, I can see that it's not the sort of thing that could be the president of the United States). Therefore, mental states cannot be reducible to purely physical brain states. Therefore, some form of dualism obtains.

    One somewhat popular way out of this conclusion is to deny that thoughts are intentional, but that's incredibly problematic: First, if you're denying that your thoughts are about anything, then why should I pay any attention to your thoughts on the mind? Second, it's just plain obvious to us that our thoughts are about things. This is more obvious than the existence of the external world is, so if you're going to deny that our thoughts are intentional, then you've must satisfy the very high burden of providing a plausible error theory that saves the phenomenon; no attempt so far has been, in my opinion, even close to successful.

    Anyway, to deny that the intentionality issue is a problem for the naturalist/physicalist/materialist is absurd. It's a huge problem, which is why so much effort has been put into developing a plausible physicalist account of intentional states.

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  34. Yes Ryan, that is a punishment. Why don't you work on the boat instead? It seems like it would be a lot more fun.

    ----

    Obscure sci-fi... :-P

    Only somebody who's not a nerd would say that. I exclude you from my clubhouse for your normalcy.

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  35. Here's another way to think about the intentionality issue. Suppose that you line up 100 Pepsi cans and 100 Coke cans. Suppose that they're facing one another, but separated by a distance of 25 yards. Suppose that the cans are each shook up and then opened alternately, i.e. one Coke can followed by one Pepsi can, and so on. Now suppose that as each one pops open, the liquid randomly sprays but forms words on the ground: "Coke is better than Pepsi!" "No, Pepsi is better, and here's why..." "But here's what's wrong with your argument, and here's why Coke is better..."

    Now keep in mind the fact that these words are indeed formed randomly; no one set things up so that the liquid traces on the ground would form these words. (This is certainly possible, though it's *highly* improbable.) Here's the question: Could we say that the cans are having a debate? It looks to us as if they are; the liquid traces on the ground make sense to us, and they seem to fit very well the overall pattern of a discussion. But, of course, none of us would say that the cans are having a debate, because we just know that the random shape that the liquid spray from a soda can leaves on the ground is meaningless, even if it accidentally forms words from a known language. So what is it that the cans and their liquid traces lack that renders their apparently meaningful back and forth meaningless? *Intentionality*. And we could make the spray process as complicated as we like; complexity alone here, it seems to me, will never allow us to derive intentionality from soda cans. But then why think that any physical process, however complex, can do so?

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  36. Well, I deny that thoughts are states.

    Thoughts are processes. Memories may be statelike, in as much as, when you access the memory, you feel that it is the memory of that learning process.

    Still, memories can be altered by conscious and unfocused activity to one which matches one's cognitive biases, I'm sure Pliny has something 'cool' to add to this.

    Seems to me that there is a confusion about physical states and mental 'states' here.

    Once again, simply poo-pooing what I have said by suggesting that there is a special philosophical meaning of the word 'state', certainly wouldn't be trying to clarify anything at all.

    I just hope that no-one is suggesting that the mind or the consciousness is 'solid state' and/or that a thought can be traced back to a certain matrix of molecules in a person's brain.

    I don't feel that this is the 21st. Century understanding of how the brain and thought works at all.

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  37. "Once again, simply poo-pooing what I have said by suggesting that there is a special philosophical meaning of the word 'state', certainly wouldn't be trying to clarify anything at all."

    Well actually it would, but that's unnecessary. Are your physical brain processes about anything? If they are, then they're intentional, and you're still stuck with the problem of explaining how physical states can be about anything. If they're not about anything, then I have no reason to listen to you, since by your own admission your thoughts aren't about anything. So which is it?

    I just hope that no-one is suggesting that the mind or the consciousness is 'solid state' and/or that a thought can be traced back to a certain matrix of molecules in a person's brain.

    I don't feel that this is the 21st. Century understanding of how the brain and thought works at all.

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  38. "I don't feel that this is the 21st. Century understanding of how the brain and thought works at all."

    That's funny, since it's one of, if not the biggest question in this area that 21st century thinkers, from philosophers of mind to cognitive scientists, are grappling with. It's a subquestion of what Chalmers calls "The Hard Problem" of consciousness.

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  39. Sorry, that should have been:

    Are your physical brain processes about anything? If they are, then they're intentional, and you're still stuck with the problem of explaining how physical *processes can be about anything. If they're not about anything, then I have no reason to listen to you, since by your own admission your thoughts aren't about anything. So which is it?

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  40. Eric; I take you to be saying that because animals (and some vegetables) act different from minerals, a mind is magical.

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  41. "I take you to be saying that because animals (and some vegetables) act different from minerals, a mind is magical."

    No honest and reasonable person could read what I wrote and "take" me to be saying that.

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  42. Yes, you are saying because animals have consciousness, and consciousness is not like something avalanches and rivers and lighting and supernovae do, then it must not be natural.

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  43. Ed; what happened to Thom Stark's site?

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  44. "Yes, you are saying because animals have consciousness, and consciousness is not like something avalanches and rivers and lighting and supernovae do, then it must not be natural."

    No, I'm saying that because thoughts are intentional and physical states/processes are not, therefore thoughts cannot be physical states/processes. My argument is logically valid, while your caricature is a non sequitur.

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  45. All physical states/processes are not intentional?

    That's a might big claim.

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  46. Eric said,

    "That's basically the problem of intentionality: We know, from our first person experience of our own mental states, that thoughts are intentional (that is, about something), and we know that if all mental states are ultimately reducible to brain states, and if brain states are purely physical, that it therefore follows that there must be a way for physical states to be intentional. However, once you understand what a physical state is, you can see that it's not the sort of thing that could be intentional (just as, once I understand what a prime number is, I can see that it's not the sort of thing that could be the president of the United States). Therefore, mental states cannot be reducible to purely physical brain states. Therefore, some form of dualism obtains."

    Ok, I don't have THE ANSWER, so don't press me and claim victory if I don't provide THE ANSWER...

    It seems this is a case of

    "There is something complicated going on here that we don't understand (intentionality) that seems to be unexplained by a mind composed of physical things only. Therefore, we must conclude X, Y and Z because we can't define it under 'physical phenomena'--YET."

    I said "YET" because we're just beginning to explore the physical aspects of what man calls "mind", and the jury is still very much OUT on the answers here.

    So 'dualism' as the only viable option is a non-starter.

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  47. "It seems this is a case of
    "There is something complicated going on here that we don't understand (intentionality) that seems to be unexplained by a mind composed of physical things only. Therefore, we must conclude X, Y and Z because we can't define it under 'physical phenomena'--YET.""

    No, that's not it at all. Rather, it's that once you understand what intentionality is, you understand that it *can't* be reduced to a physical state/process (remember my prime number example above?). There are a number of arguments supporting this conclusion, of course (e.g. the argument that any reduction of intentionality to physical processes/states must presuppose intentionality). So the problem isn't what we don't understand, but what we do understand, and just as no further information/discoveries about prime numbers will ever make it possible for a prime number to be a president, no further information/discoveries about intentionality will ever make it possible for a physical state/process to be intentional.

    "All physical states/processes are not intentional?
    That's a might big claim."

    Well, there's an obvious way to refute it: provide one example of a physical process/state that's intentional, and then explain how it's intentional. Go for it.

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  48. Ed; it's merely a digital business card now.

    I'll miss it. Especially his walloping of Matt Flannagan.

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  49. Eric "provide one example of a physical process/state that's intentional".

    The mind?

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  50. "The mind?"

    Um, you intentionally (pun intended) left out the explanation I aksed for. Anyone can say, "Why X is an example of such and such," but without providing any reasons to think this is the case, he's shown nothing. So *how* are the brain's physical states/processes intentional?

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  51. Eric; everything is a physical process. We don't understand lots of physical processes, like pulsars or black holes or even plantars fasciitis, but that doesn't mean there is any reason what so ever to assume the pulsars, black holes or foot pain are supernatural.

    I don't see how thoughts are any different.

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  52. Eric; how about we wait for the science and then decide if there are souls* are not?

    You position seems to be be because we can't demonstrate that souls don't exist souls do exist.

    *let's cut to the chase, why not?

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  53. Eric; I said "...if there are souls* are not?"

    My intent was to say "...if there are souls* or not?"

    Seems like an error occurred in that process.

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  54. "I don't see how thoughts are any different."

    They're different because they're manifestly intentional.

    And just saying "everything is physical" begs the question. It also leads to a host of other problems unrelated to the problem of intentionality. For example, if your thoughts are ultimately reducible to physical processes, and if physical processes are law governed, then your conclusions are only your conclusions in the sense that your height is yours; that is, it's a property we ascribe to you, but you did nothing to determine it, for it was determined for your. It's the same with your conclusions if everything is physical. When we say, "He concluded X" we normally mean, "He evaluated the evidence and the arguments for and against X and decided that X is true," but if everything is physical, as you say, then "He concluded X" really means, "complex physical processes cause him to act and speak in ways we interpret as meaning that he concludes X, but in reality he couldn't have concluded anything else." In other words, you will have removed all freedom, all reasoning, all logic, all evaluation, all responsibility, all choice and all discussion. A discussion no more involves an exchange of ideas than the running of my washing machine and dryer does. In each case, we have physical processes that act as they must according to their conditions, their material and the laws that govern both.

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  55. Eric "then your conclusions are only your conclusions in the sense that your height is yours"

    And maybe that's true.

    I tend to agree with this as written ""complex physical processes cause him to act and speak in ways we interpret as meaning that he concludes X, but in reality he couldn't have concluded anything else."

    Seems to me, given perfect information (past and present and I mean perfect) we could predict someones behavior and thoughts in any given situation. (Pliny?)

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  56. Eric said "A discussion no more involves an exchange of ideas than the running of my washing machine"

    Is your washer less complicated than a computer? Is a brain more complicated than a computer? Seems like a false equivalence.

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  57. "Seems to me, given perfect information (past and present and I mean perfect) we could predict someones behavior and thoughts in any given situation. (Pliny?)"

    But can't you see the reductio ad absurdum here?

    You think it's reasonable to conclude that your thoughts are determined, but if your thoughts are determined, then you could not but conclude that it's reasonable to conclude that your thoughts are determined. So you don't really think it's reasonable in any meaningful sense; you just think what you think because you could not possibly think anything else. And so do I and everyone else. Hence, all rational discourse is impossible, and if that's the case, all we're left with when dealing with one another is force and fraud.

    You're sitting on the end of the branch and you're blithely sawing away, apparently oblivious of the logical, existential, rational and moral fall that awaits you.

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  58. Eric; "but if your thoughts are determined, then you could not but conclude that it's reasonable to conclude that your thoughts are determined."

    Maybe if I spent all my time filling my brain with things that told me that couldn't be the case because God gave me free will, I wouldn't think that, but my unique path leads me to accept that.

    We're all star dust baby. That's not to say we're not the most complicated collection of star dust we are aware of and we haven't even scratched the surface on understanding our particular arrangement of star dust, but star dust none the less.

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  59. Eric; I think it may be one of those perspective things. I brew beer. Enzymes eat starch and by doing so produce sugar. Yeast eats sugar and poops alcohol and that is all "part of the process". Amylase and Saccharomyces cerevisiae are intentional enough to want/need to eat starch and sugar. Yet from my 30,000 foot view of their activity, they are hardly different from a chemical reaction or an avalanche or some other physical process that converts something to something else.

    Taking a perspective based on the scale of the universe, I'm not sure how we differ?

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  60. Eric said,

    "Well, there's an obvious way to refute it: provide one example of a physical process/state that's intentional, and then explain how it's intentional. Go for it."

    See? This is what I was arguing against.

    One of these days, (ask Pliny, he's working on it) humans are going to invent (create?) thinking machines that can completely mimic human thought processes, down to decision making in absence of complete information, and possibly (although this is likely a century or two down the road) even self-awareness.

    When they do, (and it's just a matter of time, if Skynet doesn't do us in first), there goes your argument about "intentionality can't be described by a material state".

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  61. Eric; "You think it's reasonable to conclude that your thoughts are determined..."

    Has an old song ever made you think of something? Of course thoughts are determined, it's just that they are determined in an almost infinitely complex way.

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  62. Eric.

    You touched on something there, and I want to see if we can unpack this a little:

    "...if your thoughts are ultimately reducible to physical processes, and if physical processes are law governed, then your conclusions are only your conclusions in the sense that your height is yours; that is, it's a property we ascribe to you, but you did nothing to determine it, for it was determined for you."

    Show us where it necessarily follows that if the mind is a physical "thing" that it's so simple that it must follow deterministic rules.

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  63. Why would I throw a cat? Because I saw a dude throwing a beagle.

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  64. Certainly there seem to be mental and physical processes which are intentional.

    We can see the intent of a plant growing, and there is no 'mind' or consciousness behind this.

    But I think you're playing 'chicken and egg' here and are going to claim the mind of GOD behind any physical process which seems to us to have intent.

    'Intent' is, it seems to me, one of those smug self-referential words where there needs to be a consciousness behind it, and dualists use it because they feel that they've 'got' us there.

    Any physical process in which we can show intent, is no doubt proof of either the observers consciousness or the process creator's consciousness.

    Is that it??

    This drivels back to the 'Design argument', because it is the exact same thing couched in a different way.

    Once again, we find ourselves being dragged back into Eric's Little Philosophy Class.

    I think that I can show consciousless intent, in the growth of living things, from quasi-living virii(viruses) through to the most complex of living organisms.

    I think that once again, the notion of 'intent' is being over-simplified by anyone who uses this argument.

    Certainly it is not as crystal clear as 'having intent' as opposed to 'not having intent', but we define our own actions, and the actions of other, in terms of 'intent', so it is THAT, that is begging the question, that that is a play on words.

    There's no getting away from the fact that a purposeful design implies a designer.

    There's also no getting away from the fact that to have deliberate intent is to have consciousness.

    But you're just playing with us Eric, and this is how religion can have such big followings, people are easily played with.

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  65. It's funny how Eric can read up on and regurgitate that trying to say that mental processes cannot be phyical processes because that's 'begging the question'.

    Seems to me that Eric is happy to ignore the implicaton of the word 'intent', which implies 'conscious intent'.

    How question begging is that??

    Can you show that consciousness can not be a physical process by invoking conscious intent?

    This is a frivolous quest for most of us. I'm certainly not about to study the biology of the brain, the chemistry of the brain etc. etc. to try to explain, in detail how it works, to you Eric.

    We know that, at some point, a bunch of pieces fit together to make a functioning whole, such as a car, a plane or the internet.

    Similarly, Evolution explains how, basic elements forming complex molecules can evolve into complex life-forms.

    But there is not 'why'. There is no reason for us to be on this planet being conscious of it. We just are.

    Intent/consciousness consciousness/intent wordgames are just that. Word games.

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  66. I still don't understand how the glib 'Intent' argument negates the physical processes involved in 'thinking'.

    We animals are very complicated machines in very complicated environments. Our bodies are complicated diverse organs supported by complicated electro-chemical feedback mechanisms.

    We are total products of our ever changing environment, not the least of which is our social environment.

    Now simple living organisms don't NEED 'intent' to survive and reproduce, or to survive TO reproduce, but we DO, since our environment is so much more complicated.

    But our having intent, and being able to deduce intent in others can be abused. For example we can see intent in living organisms which do not have conscious intent.

    For example plants growing towards the Sunlight, intending to gather more energy. But this is neither an intention of their consciousness, which they don't have, nor is it a consequence of some other consciousness that, perhaps, put that 'intention' into the plants.

    Attributing intent to cyclical events, such as weather, is the beginning of animism, dualism.

    "In the spring, the rains come to help our seeds grow."

    "The Sun goes to bed at night to let us sleep, to tell us that we must go to sleep."

    You see how it is possible to project 'intent' onto anything.

    But social animals have intent and see intent in others to survive in a social environment.

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  67. "But social animals have intent and see intent in others to survive in a social environment."

    And, it seems to me, this is precisely the crux of this entire discussion. Humans are, arguably, the most socially "dependent" of creatures (Bees and Ants, etc.
    notwithstanding). Thoughts of any kind do not exist absent some kind of sentient mind to think them. All minds require a living organism and are subject to the physical "processes" necessary to that life. It seems clear to me that when Eric postulates a "mind" that exists absent a living creature in the sense that we usually mean, and does so because of "intentionality", he has to presuppose an entity that exists outside time and reality as we know it. Such an entity, not subject to laws of physics and not dependent upon the existance of any similar entities with which to interact, begs the question of intentionality. The world of living things, as we know and observe it (but do not yet completely understand it) is all about interaction with other entities, both living (intentional) and non-living (non-intentional). Thus, the "intentionality" of our thoughts are, in a very real sense, the combined result of the physical process that allows the thoughts to occur and all of the experiences and instincts that preceded those thoughts.

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  68. I suppose all this comes down to 2 observations - in philosophy and imagination all sorts of constructs are possible. Language can be twisted in many ways to support these imaginings and it can all be marketed in a logically sounding package. It's still just fantasy.

    In reality far less is actually possible no matter how much we might wish it to be.

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  69. Pliny,

    See my comment above @ November 3, 2010 8:44 PM...

    What thinkest thou about the ultimate prospect for machine intelligence? Will we ever achieve a true synthetic awareness?

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  70. GHE

    Will we ever achieve a synthetic awareness? Yes, but I think you are 10x off on the time line. I suspect we are within a quarter century of that under some definition.

    Now the qualification. AI is evolving in a very different ocean from the one our brain came from. What such awareness will be is hard to know. Those of us in neuroscience and AI research aren't as romantic about the human mind as are the philosophers. It turns out that lots of tiny mechanistic processes arrayed in vast networks with lots of connectivity, can accomplish some stunning things. One need not resort to metaphysics to come up with compelling explanations for the mind. It's complex interplays of chemistry and structure.

    In our lab the AI systems are designed to mitigate the large number of known cognitive biases that resulted from the evolution of our brains and cognitive processes. One of the biggest shows up in blogs all the time - confirmation bias. This is a huge problem in human technical decision-making in addition to the rest of life.

    We are experimenting with methods for a computer system to be able to recognize its knowledge and physical limitations as well as the location of its data and hardware - one could call that a primitive form of self-awareness. In our lab we aren't interested in replicating our thinking processes, because they are vulnerable to so many crippling biases.

    The biggest limit to creating self-awareness is understanding the naturalistic processes that sequentially created our version of it. Not because there is some missing magical step, but because it no doubt evolved due a huge number of subtle pushes here and there that could have gone in other directions. Plus we are likely to miss other forms of awareness other than out own - though all will have to follow the laws of physics.

    It's very exciting stuff.

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  71. Sorry GHE - I missed one point you made. About 'some day we'll invent machines that can make decisions on incomplete data' - already accomplished. Systems exist that do this very thing. Our work is based around one such system.

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  72. I think it has something to do with how our brain is split. Have you guys tried twin computers each keeping an eye on the other's performance? Maybe even a third one comparing those two.

    I think that the more self-checking loops the more for your AI to be aware of, but I don't think that it is self-awareness that you're going for there Pliny.

    I don't imagine you'd like your creation to show up at your house at four o'clock in the morning telling you that it's lonesome.

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  73. pboy - you are correct in that we aren't particularly interested in making machines self aware since it doesn't improve the tasks they are designed to perform.

    But you illustrate the problem of self-awareness - there are many states that are aware that would not involve emotion for example.

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  74. Seriously though, I believe that 'intention' is a learned behaviour.

    Just from that point of view, it looks very bad for the possibility of a disembodied consciousness that had nothing to emulate.

    The very best we could hope for is that an A.I machine would emulate the very best in us, and how many stories have been written about A.I. that emulates the worst in us?

    I think that it is totally disingenuous of the Catholics to attempt to mystify the mind with this 'intent', to imply an OVERMIND and suchlike, yet treat their kids as if they were computers to be programmed with dogma, ritual, catechism, propaganda and THAT stuff.

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  75. Let me clear up a confusion that I see in a number of different posts here.

    'Intentionality' is a technical term. I explained in my first post on the subject (in response to Ryan) that it refers to the 'aboutness' property our thoughts undeniably possess. It does *not* have anything to do with 'intention' in the popular sense of the term, viz. a determination to act in such and such a way or to think such and such a thought. Let me clarify this distinction this way: If I decide to think about my cat, then my determination to do so means that I intended it (in the popular sense of the term), but the fact that my thought is about something, i.e. my cat, means that it's intentional (in the technical sense of the term).

    "One of these days, (ask Pliny, he's working on it) humans are going to invent (create?) thinking machines that can completely mimic human thought processes, down to decision making in absence of complete information, and possibly (although this is likely a century or two down the road) even self-awareness.
    When they do, (and it's just a matter of time, if Skynet doesn't do us in first), there goes your argument about "intentionality can't be described by a material state"."

    No, not at all. What you're missing is that intentionality (the aboutness of consciousness) requires qualia (the immediate experience of consciousness), and there's no reason to conclude that a machine that *acts* as if it's conscious is in fact conscious. But that's just another problem for physicalist/naturalist/materialist theories of consciousness, i.e. explaining how in the world a machine could not just respond to stimuli, but *experience* stimuli. We could create a machine that says "Ow, that hurts!" when it's damaged, or "Brrrr, it's cold!" when the temperature gets below a certain point, but no one thinks that the machine *experiences* pain or cold.

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  76. The very best we could hope for is that an A.I machine would emulate the very best in us, and how many stories have been written about A.I. that emulates the worst in us?

    -----------
    I actually don't agree completely with this. From my prospective I don't think that we actually have a clue what AI type cognition would ultimately look like. Since it is starting from very different perspectives than did ours, it likely will be very different from us - neither the best or worst of us - simply very different.

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  77. there's no reason to conclude that a machine that *acts* as if it's conscious is in fact conscious.

    ---------------
    My irony circuits blew several fuses and will require a reboot.

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  78. "My irony circuits blew several fuses and will require a reboot."

    Care to explain? Surely you're not a behaviorist; so why think we can conclude "X is conscious" from the premise "X behaves as if it were conscious"? Do you think the notion of 'zombies' (for those who don't know, in philosophy of mind a zombie is a being that behaves exactly as a conscious being does, but that completely lacks any experience of consciousness at all; so, if you step on a Zombie's toe, he will say, "Ouch!", and if you ask him if you hurt him, he'll say yes, but he won't actually experience any pain -- or anything else, for that matter) is incoherent?

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  79. "'Intentionality' is a technical term."

    YESSSSS!

    I called this!

    YESSSS!

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  80. "..and there's no reason to conclude that a machine that *acts* as if it's conscious is in fact conscious."

    "..and there's no reason to conclude that a philosopher who *acts* as if he's conscious is in fact conscious."

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  81. Eric: Let me clarify by drowning you in technical

    Us: Stop it

    Eric: Looks like I win again

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  82. "...What you're missing is that intentionality (the aboutness of consciousness) requires qualia (the immediate experience of consciousness), and there's no reason to conclude that a machine that *acts* as if it's conscious is in fact conscious. But that's just another problem for physicalist/naturalist/materialist theories of consciousness, i.e. explaining how in the world a machine could not just respond to stimuli, but *experience* stimuli. We could create a machine that says "Ow, that hurts!" when it's damaged, or "Brrrr, it's cold!" when the temperature gets below a certain point, but no one thinks that the machine *experiences* pain or cold."

    Why don't you just come out and say it, Eric?

    (repeat after me...)

    "I, (state your name) do hereby express my belief that it is impossible to develop (invent, create?) a mechanical, self-aware intelligence under any conditions, for all eternity."

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  83. "Eric: Let me clarify by drowning you in technical"

    Floyd, too bad I explained exactly what I meant by 'intentionality' in my very first post on the subject. Perhaps if you actually read posts before responding to them, you wouldn't have this problem...

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  84. Care to explain my response - sure. I find it extraordinarily ironic that a biological machine would say, 'there's no reason to conclude that a machine that *acts* as if it's conscious is in fact conscious.'

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  85. "Ow, that HURTS!" and "Brrr, that's COLD!"

    There's an invisible moving line between profound and ridiculous, Eric.

    How about, Slaps forehead on keyboard screaming, "Gawd that was a stoopid thing to say!"

    We'll call it Eric, after you.

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  86. Actually, I had thought that you were giving us an EXAMPLE of intent there, my boy.

    The popular notion of intending to do something is not so far off from 'thinking how stupid your cat is' or whatnot, yes?

    Not so far off that it suddenly makes no sense at all what we were saying.

    But if you want to quibble about technicalities, I dunno, I'd say that is because you can see your argument is lost.

    Make a brave face of it though.

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  87. "But if you want to quibble about technicalities, I dunno, I'd say that is because you can see your argument is lost."

    Right, Floyd has solved the problem of intentionality, one of the hottets topics in studies of consciousness today...sheesh. Get a clue, friend.

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  88. Be warned fellow commenters, when Eric talks about intent, he IS talking about his cat.

    LOL

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  89. It might be a 'hot topic' among you religious flim-flam artistes, Eric, so what?

    Take a look at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy sometime and you'll notice that 'existence' is a hot topic too! And 'reality' and drivelling on and on.

    Shit Eric, I'm guessing that the word 'philosophy' itself is a hot philosophical question.

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  90. "It might be a 'hot topic' among you religious flim-flam artistes, Eric, so what?"

    Floyd, do you ever do any research whatsoever before you post? It's a hot topic in all disciplines that study consciousness, and it has *nothing* to do with "religion." If there were no such thing as religion, there would still be a problem of intentionality.

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  91. Oh, let me explain that last remark.

    This is what comes of trying to explain shit with pure reason. I'm guessing you don't know 'the latest' on brain research, and I'm willing to admit that I don't know either, but I'm also willing to bet that this 'intentionality problem' is not as new, or hot, or non-religiously oriented as you are claiming it to be.

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  92. Eric said "Surely you're not a behaviorist; so why think we can conclude "X is conscious" from the premise "X behaves as if it were conscious"?"

    Who knew? I'm a behaviorist! Good to know.

    Eric, just as an FYI, zombies don't exist. If something acts conscious, it probably is.

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  93. Quick glance at the old Encyclopedia and the bibliography on the topic of intentionality has an article from 1903!

    HAWT,HAWT,HAWT!

    Yea, sure, for the Catholic Church it's hawt nooz.

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  94. Floyd, try Google Scholar: there are almost 6,000 results for a search of 'intentionality' since 2010 *alone*. Now of course, not each and every one is about the sort of intentionality we're discussing, but I scanned a number of random pages, including the last page, and every one I looked at had at least a few articles dealing with the problem of intentionality that studies of consciousness grapple with. *And that's just 2010*.

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  95. "The term intentionality was introduced by Jeremy Bentham as a principle of utility in his doctrine of consciousness for the purpose of distinguishing acts that are intentional and acts that are not."

    Poor Jeremy died in June 1832.

    Seems this technical term of yours is being techifragisticallized a bit more, by you, to make your "You stoopid, me smart!", point, than old Jeremy might have anticipated.

    What do you say, Eric, was Jeremy just full of shit then?

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  96. If you search not 'intentionality,' but 'intentional' and 'mind' you get over 15,000 results since 2010. Again, not every one is dealing with the issue we're discussing, but many are.

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  97. Geez Eric, how many philosophers graduate every year?

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  98. Perhaps Jeremy was, not only a philosopher, but a seer who predicted the existence of your cat AND your thoughts about it?

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  99. Eric, there's 967 results for pboyfloyd.

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  100. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  101. And 1,720 results for

    "GearHedEd"

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  102. Now Eric, there's 222,000 results for "Catholicism intentionality".

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  103. Admittedly 221,999 are about the great Australian rock star, Buckminster Catholicism Intentionality Jones...

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  104. Philosophy is bullshit gets 1.33 million results

    Must be relevant...

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  105. Clear thinking about ultimate questions is bullshit?

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  106. clearly the number of results a search engine provides is irrelevant.

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  107. Eric, the brain works the way it works in all mammals, right?

    Why isn't intentionality just a pseudo-religious 'problem'?

    What's 'ultimate' about it?

    Seriously.

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  108. Seems to me that the scientific method is the only way to discover new things about life and the universe around us.

    If you want to cling to tradition and shite Aquinas said, and disregard anything these guys said that doesn't gibe with reality, I guess you are entitled to do that under the aegis of Catholicism, same as everyone else.

    All I ask is for you guys to stop proselytizing and stop trying to change common law into some perversion of your 'God's Law'.

    Since we don't believe that your God exists, what on Earth would make you believe that we'd want to live under the rule of God's-little-helpers????

    Honestly, no matter what D'Souza says, no one has been killed in the name of atheism, that's ridiculous, but many people have been killed for believing in the wrong version of someone's GOD.

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  109. You say you have a cat, Eric.

    Can you deny that cats are conscious, that they're some of the most intelligent animals we associate with?

    I have a cat, too. I can tell when he's hungry, not because I know I haven't fed him in a while, but because he comes up to me and tries to "lead" me to his dish and demonstrate that it's empty, while looking at me and even vocalizing. I've even heard that some cats are smart enough to be trained to use a toilet instead of a litter box, and even flush it when they're done.

    If this isn't prima facie evidence that cat's have thoughts "about" such things as communicating their needs and imitating some human behaviors like disposing of body wastes with toilets, then what IS it?

    I yell at my cat every day about fussing at a scar he has where his previous humans shot him before they moved to an apartment where they couldn't keep him; he stops when I yell at him, but he just ignores (and I swear he gives me this look that clearly says, "Fuck off, human. You didn't get SHOT.") me when he thinks I'm not watching, and licks his wound anyway.

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  110. "clearly the number of results a search engine provides is irrelevant."

    Ryan, Floyd said that intentionality was not a current issue. In this case, a search of scholarly articles and books published this year *is* relevant.

    "Why isn't intentionality just a pseudo-religious 'problem'?"

    If you read what I wrote and actually try to understand it, you'll see that it has nothing to do with religion. If you do some research, you'll find that it's being addressed primarily by people with no interest in religion. If you stop assuming that everything I write is an opportunity to play "let's find the trick that sneaky Catholic Eric's using," and instead consider for a moment the issue I'm addressing itself, perhaps you'll see that there really is a problem here.

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  111. "Honestly, no matter what D'Souza says, no one has been killed in the name of atheism, that's ridiculous"

    Ignorance on parade...

    Here's Solzhenitsyn on atheism and the millions of deaths under communists in the U.S.S.R:

    "Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.
    Since then I have spend well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."

    Hmm, whom should we trust: a towering intellectual like Solzhenitsyn, who *lived through* the horrors we analyzed and wrote about, or Pboyfloyd, who says on a blog post, "no one has been killed in the name of atheism"?

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  112. Hey, I thought that was the game, "Let's find the trick that sneaky Catholic Eric's trying to jam through now!"

    LOL

    Now, I'm willing to admit that, it's what I come to these blogs FOR. Not you specifically, of course.

    I'm thinking that it's YOU who just hasn't been paying attention to Brian's posts here, not me.

    As I recall, we were talking about the primacy of consciousness over primacy of matter, and THAT directly relates to the dualist, religious position, no?

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  113. "Now, I'm willing to admit that, it's what I come to these blogs FOR."

    I see, so there's no need for me to 'play along' anymore. Thanks for being honest, though. I won't be responding to any more of your posts now.

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  114. Eric; to show that people have been killed in the name of atheism, you'll need to provide a quote from someone doing the murdering in the name of atheism, not a quote from a victim/theist lamenting that his country had forgot god.

    Big difference, but I suspect you know that.

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  115. "Ignorance on parade...

    Here's Solzhenitsyn on atheism and the millions of deaths under communists in the U.S.S.R:"

    I don't care what Solzhenitsyn said. I don't care that HE blamed atheism.

    The Romans believed in many gods and that didn't stop them wiping out entire populations. The Christians believed in just the one 'true' one, and that didn't stop them ethnically cleansing the Americas.

    You cannot say that the Christians were doing it AGAINST God's Will, but I CAN say that Stalin and his Bolsheviks weren't doing it in the name of 'no gods at all'.

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  116. Although, to be fair, I'm sure someone, somewhere has been murdered in the name of atheism. Just not the Cathars, the Holocaust or on 9/11, etc... etc...

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  117. Ryan, read Marx and Lenin. The Marxian critique of religion is *foundational* to Marxism, not incidental.

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  118. Here's what Marx wrote in 'A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right': "the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism."

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  119. Eric; I've read them. What do you think their focus was, atheism or communism?.

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  120. I've read "The Communist Manifesto", Eric. Although it's been a couple of decades, what I got from it was the ideas of the power shifting to the proletariat (the 'important people' in any economic system being the workers who produce things rather than the rich bourgeoisie who scab off the backs of the workers), and that religion was an inconvenient belief system that told people that they were "special" and had "inalienable RIGHTS".

    So it wasn't so much a denial of God, as it was a preventer of BELIEF, and the right to congregate and plot the overthrow of the new order.

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  121. "the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism."

    Oh, wow, that is dark and murderous...

    You're missing the point. Atheist murder. Just like Christians. No denying that. But I can't think of anyone who killed in the name of atheism. The Soviets did not murder because of atheism, they murdered because of communism and power.

    Christians, however have been murdering in the name of Christianity for the last 2000 years.

    There's really no denying that either.

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  122. "What do you think their focus was, atheism or communism?"

    First, since atheism is central to Marx's understanding of communism, that's like saying, What do you think Aquinas's focus was, Christianity or Jesus?

    But second, anyone who says that Marx's writings focus on communism has never read Marx. The Marxian corpus has very little to say about communism; almost all of it is a critique of capitalism, a critique of religion, and a development of the economic 'laws' of historical development. Marx famously says very little about communism itself.

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  123. The people of the Soviet Union were still BELIEVERS, but they were not allowed to CONGREGATE.

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  124. "The Soviets did not murder because of atheism, they murdered because of communism and power."

    Again, this is silly: atheism is foundational to communism, so saying that the Soviets murdered in the name of communism but not of atheism is like saying that the Inquisition killed in the name of Christianity, not in the name of Jesus. When the Soviets murdered priests, they did so because of the central importance of atheism to their ideology; they knew that if the Orthodox priests could weaken the hold of atheism on the people, the hold of communism would weaken as well. So they murdered priests in the name of atheism, which was fundamental to their communism.

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  125. I remember watching CNN in 1991 when the Berlin Wall fell.

    I was on active duty in the US Army at the time.

    One of the things that was remarked upon by ALL the talking heads back then was the phenomenon of how quickly the Russians formed back up into their old Greek and Russian Orthodox churches within weeks of the Wall coming down.

    They never "forgot God".

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  126. The very first thing that religious leaders do when faced with a non-religious society(or even anti-religous, in the sense that the old society had leaders who felt they were destined by GOD), is to demonize them and tell their population that they are making gods of themselves and such.

    Religious leaders think nothing of hijacking entire countries to mobilize against communism and are willing to set the World at war! Isn't THAT right?

    Heh, it wasn't the indignity that the Russian people were suffering that the Christians cared about at all, now, was it?

    How can we cry about the indignity that the Russians suffered and conveniently forget the indignity suffered by many many people in 'Christian Nations'(as they like to call them)?

    Time and again we've seen how it is totally hypocritical propaganda, a kind of call for an ideal that they are not even TRYING to live up to themselves!

    Japanese waterboard U.S. prisoners? That's torture. Americans waterboard suspected terrorists? Why THAT is just Enhanced Interrogation Technique! This from a so-called Christian who still imagines that everyone's just going to forget all that and hail him as a hero in his time.

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  127. And priests being murdered was because they challenged the authority of the state, not because the state was "atheist".

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  128. This is one of the most absurd arguments atheists make, and I don't have the patience to take part in discussions with people who are so wilfully ignorant.

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  129. Eric; I understand the historical (but not practical) connection between communism and atheism, but the bottom line is one is an economic theory and the other a lack of belief in a positive claim. Communism can exist without atheism and atheism most certainly exists without communism.

    Your inquisition comparison fails because obviously, Christianity and Jesus are inseparable.

    You've really been off tonight.

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  130. Eric is getting ready to declare us Anathema.

    He's already excommunicated me!

    Nobody expects the Spanish Inquision!

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  131. So, if communists killing people in the name of communism, and NOT atheism, is like Christians killing in the name of Christianity and NOT Jesus, then what is capitalism fearing the spread of communism?

    But our 'absurd' claims here, suggesting that communist dictatorships are simply out to maintain control as much as capitalist regimes and despotic monarchies are/were.

    The fact that religious leaders would tend to require insurrection from their flocks in the face of a communist regime, back in the day, turning said communist regime(s) slightly paranoid to say the least, this fact is lost on Eric, who wants to look at it from his, "You're either with us in demonizing atheism AND communism, or you're against us."

    I'm guessing that Eric must feel that he's talking to a bunch of communists here, since we're all atheists.

    And the likes of Ayn Rand and her brand of atheist capitalism? She's 'forgiven' because she was in love with 'In God We Trust', Almighty Dollars then?

    Seems like your willing to make a case for atheism to equal communism, Eric.

    Are you just as willing to make a case for atheism being equal to 'pure unadulterated greed' capitalism??

    I suppose the church isn't caring about the capitalism thingy 'cos they can still skim bucks off the top?

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  132. Then there's the 50s and 60s.

    Nukes in Turkey, a gun at the dirty commies heads, jim dandy!

    Nukes in Cuba, threatening the 'free world', unconscionable!!

    Oh yea, but that was a democratic government wasn't it?

    They didn't WANT to know that they had nukes pointing down the USSR's throat, did they?

    Which brings us to the 'free press'. I didn't see any fair and balanced representation of what was going on, no. All I heard was that the dirty commies were all being fed propaganda, so unfree to make up their minds for themselves.

    Not like us free men, in a free country listening to free world propaganda making up our free minds about the freedom loving free press's free truth.

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  133. "I understand the historical (but not practical) connection between communism and atheism, but the bottom line is one is an economic theory and the other a lack of belief in a positive claim. Communism can exist without atheism and atheism most certainly exists without communism.
    Your inquisition comparison fails because obviously, Christianity and Jesus are inseparable."

    Here's your problem: You're confusing 'communism' in general with Marxism in particular; that's like confusing 'religion' in general with Christianity in particular.

    Sure, Jesus is necessary for Christianity, but not for religion, and in the same way atheism is necessary for Marxism, but not for communism. The Soviets were not simply communists, *but Marxists*, just as the Inquisitors were not simply religious, but Christians. And atheism is indeed inseparable from *Marxism*, for it is a necessary condition of Marxism.

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  134. Eric said,

    "Here's your problem: You're confusing 'communism' in general with Marxism in particular; that's like confusing 'religion' in general with Christianity in particular."

    Here's the problem with your assessment, Eric.

    There has never been a communist regime that has adhered to anything like the ideals Marx put out. Marxism is utopian, in the sense that it cannot be achieved in practice, and you're aware of this.

    Furthermore, no regime that has ever called itself "communist" has ever really been communist. The economic systems of those governments falls under socialism. Communism as a macro-economic system (on the scale of large populations / societies) is unworkable.

    So, where's Marx in all that again?

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  135. Eric:

    When you were earnestly discussing the philosophical concepts of intentionality as opposed to the usually understood meaning of the word, I thought you had both some points worthy of consideration and (dare I say) some degree of authority, since you have obviously made an extensive study thereof. Now, however, when it seems you are trying to contend that totalitarian regimes that consider religion an obstruction to whatever control they seek over the masses are killing "in the name of Atheism" (as if this were just another organized religion), you have, I fear, disclosed your ultimate direction in this "debate" about the existance of a Deity that can ultimately be construed as Yaweh of the OT and NT. You have suggested to us that you are mainly interested in the logical and philosophical pathways that have led you to your present belief system as a practicing Catholic. Having followed many of your posts over the last many months, it seems to me that you are seeking to justif and confirm to yourself that you have arrived at the correct conclusion, rather than convincing any of us of that your reasoning should make us aware of any incorrectness or falsity of our own. In other words, it is clear that you have no interest in "converting" any of us; rather, you appear to want our agreement with, or, at least, our inability to refute your belief system. It is clear that when you are unable to get us to see the "logic" in your arguments that you get frustrated enough to "take your ball and go home" (at least for a while). Your persistance in these posts, even in the face of sometimes severe criticism or derision from us, suggests to me a reason for such continued effort on your part that goes past simple intellectual interest. Hence, my feelings, stated above, regarding you ultimate aims. Despite all of this, I have found your dialogues interesting, thoughtful and usually well reasoned, even if I disagree with your basic assumptions regarding the existance of a "prime cause" that is responsible for the Universe as we know it.

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  136. I wonder if it will always be true that a majority of people will confuse skillful debating tactics, marketing and semantic slight of hand with truth. So many think that reality is a popularity contest or that their deep feelings can alter it. If enough people believe something they think it can alter physics, or combat neuroanatomy, or overcome biology. Only in their minds is this true, though the forces that govern thought are not impressed. I find it frustrating and sad. So much wasted energy that could be used for something useful.

    One can debate and twist or create terms to describe nonexistent laws and follow amazingly convoluted logic trees, but in the end if it doesn't fit with objective facts - it's still just plain wrong.

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  137. Preach on Pliny.

    I think practicality in achieving happiness plays a role too.

    Delusion is easy once you get the hang of it, and one can easily Walter Mitty their way through life, or use religion to create an internal reality they need to cope. I sure as heck did, and once my de-conversion process started, I saw it all around.

    "I find it frustrating and sad."

    Exactly.

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  138. Eric; I see Ed already beat me to it, but Marxism didn't kill 50 million people in the Soviet Union. Soviet Communism did.

    So, does anyone know if the 20 million Russians killed fighting the Germans in WWII is counted in the "EVIL ATHEIST COMMUNIST DEATH TOLL"?

    Doesn't seem like it should be.

    Also, my problem with blaming "atheism" for the Soviet/Khemer/Chinese death tolls is it doesn't focus on the real problems, totalitarianism and communism.

    Kinda like blaming Boeing for 9/11.

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  139. I think an effective method of helping people out of, at least the Abrahamic religion's internal domination, is telling them about its false dichotomies.

    Eternal reward - Eternal punishment
    Believer - Unbeliever
    God - Rejecting God (or in Christianity's case Gods)

    etc.

    The Abrahamics make, indeed they have to make, these appear as such simple choices.

    I think the third option is one's life, often in the capacity that religion has had a false claim on: reason, aesthetics, simple joys, and compassion for others -obviously not the whole list. -

    No wonder Nietzsche called them nihilists.

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  140. Communism correlates itself with atheism, not the other way round.

    Swing and a miss Eric.

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  141. Also, I'd like to make Eric aware that I'm (we're?) at least aware of the superficial appearance of hypocrisy on the part of atheist who insist on separating atheism all the deaths caused by the communist regimes of the 20th Century.

    I don't just obstinately cling to things that support my view. If there was a valid case to be made that atheism played a major role, I’d accept it. But this really is apples and oranges. Why haven’t Sweden and Norway set up concentration camps? Is North Korea truly “without religion”?

    Seems to me, religious or not, countries do things, bad and good. But many countries have done bad and good things specifically because of religion. I can't think of any exmples of countries doing bad things "in the name of atheism".

    Harry’s spot on, Communism correlates itself with atheism, not the other way round.

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  142. "topocketa-topocketa-topocketa..."

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  143. I guess you could make a case that 1) if god exists and 2) if this god is the source of morality and 3) if our compliance with that morality makes our earthly governments "righteous" or somesuch, then I think you could, at the most, argue that the horrors of Stalin and Mao were an unintended consequence of atheism.

    But, despite what you might think, you've not done 1 and 2 and defintely not 3.

    And this doesn't take into account Norway...

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  144. Here's a little trivia for you guys:

    Back in September or October 2008, I saw a story on aol news about Ford stock trading at $2.15/share.

    I said in a post on Dinesh's old blog (looked for it, couldn't find it) that anyone who could afford to should put $10,000 into Ford stock right then.

    If you had, today that $10,000 would be worth more than $70,000.

    Just saying...

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  145. I read over my Eric's comments about Intentionality and my responses, and it seems to me that the 'thinking of his cat' is just a special case of intention, guaranteed to not translate in any way from the mental to the physical.

    Seems we need to imagine coke/pepsi cans appearing to have a debate there??

    And the 'mastermind' philosphers of our time cannot figure this out?

    Seems to me that here the philosophers are going to the edge of the 'known' to make their religious case, though Eric is willing to vehemently deny this is the ENTIRE POINT of the 'intentionality problem', "who caused the Big Bang" problem, and such.

    Eric seems to imagine that we are such rubes as not to notice that a case for duality is exactly a case for God.

    There's more.

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  146. Here's the thing with debating the nuts and bolts of religion, whether it's a formal debate, or an offhand conversation with a Jehova Witness that's come in for coffee and to save your soul.

    Example. Let's say I talk about the meaning of existence as far as God is concerned, and compare his apparent lack of it to a chair.

    I can see the chair, touch the chair, sit on the chair, smell the chair, scrape the chair on the floor etc.

    (your turn, Mr.Debater, Mr.J.W., whoever)

    Their first reaction is to give us examples of other things that exist that we can't see(air perhaps, electricty?), can't feel(the planet Mars?), can't touch(the Sun?) and so on.

    After much argument(discussion), we'll get nowhere. But if we keep boxing them in, if we get them to the point where they simply cannot 'slip through the crack', AND ONLY when we've got them to that point, THAT is when they will admit that God, in fact, "lives" outside of time and space altogether!

    And this doesn't seem AT ALL disingenuous, them arguing that God is(at least 'kind of') like the air we can't see, or Mars that we can't touch(for example), only to admit that God is like none of those things HE is compared to AT ALL!

    I can understand it as propaganda, this, "We teach them according to their understanding.", thing, even as a political tool.

    Just not as truth.

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  147. Here's why the intentionality thing is bullshit.

    From the opposite perspective, if we have some, (say)coal, and we arrange some of this coal into a word or a number, or shape.

    Let's say we arrange the coal into the number 13, one line with one 'double bumpy' line, where we can clearly read the most imfamous cypher of all, the number thirteen!

    Is there any way that this coal has anything at all to do with thirteen of anything at all?

    But isn't THIS a deep philosophical problem too? Isn't this a crazy unfathomable philosophical mystery how a physical arrangement of something can represent a mental concept???

    Oh no!(running 'round pulling hair out!)

    Get on the phone, email some friends! Beat on the drums! Physical things CANNOT represent mental processes, can they???

    Well, yea. They do, intentionally(heh) AND unintentionally, just ALL THE TIME!

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  148. Here's an old joke.

    Two philosophers go on a fishing trip. They rent a boat and find a great spot, catch fish all day long, a great time had by all.

    One says, "You know we could come back tomorrow but we'll never find this spot again!"

    The other says, "I have a plan!", and he leans over and marks an X on the outside of the boat.

    The first one says, "You donkey! We're never going to get the same boat tomorrow!"

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  149. Damn Ed,

    Why didn't you do it?

    Well, 10 grand can be hard to come by.

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  150. "Damn Ed,

    Why didn't you do it?"

    In late 2008 I was sweating the likelihood that I would be getting laid off soon.

    In January 2009, I got laid off.

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  151. Message to Obama.

    You can't do anything right for these guys, go on vacation and stay on vacation.

    Hey, maybe THEN they'll love ya, who knows?

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  152. peeb,

    If that was aimed at me, know that I don't blame Obama for the mess we're in. Things were going south long before he took office.

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  153. Naw Ed, I didn't think that you were daft enough to jump on the Faux News bandwagon.

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  154. The tired old BS about atheism and genocide is utter nonsense and always has been. Ignorance, zealous beliefs, lack or empathy, and cults of personality are more likely contributors. And where does one always seem to find these in abundance?

    While on the subject of intentionality, what kinds of groups are always so intent on segregating those that adhere to one set of beliefs from all those with lessor (and downright evil) beliefs who do not?

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  155. I believe that religion is a confidence trick by the rich to make us all feel 'equal'(under God and all that), while being a hierarchy.

    A hierarchy is, "I'm the boss and you're equal all right, you do what I tell you."

    Now the hated socialism is 'everyone is equal', but religion doesn't WANT that, they want their flocks to do what they are TOLD!

    The ideal is to have three pillars of society, the government(law and army), business and religion.

    The business leaders(the wealthy) exchange recipes for how to make money and pretend that THAT is 'governing', and they use the government to enforce that with police nationally and army internationally. Religion comes in as a go between, between people who would otherwise tell the wealthy to go and fuck themselves, go fight in foreign lands for their own interests.

    Religion convinces the populace that their nation has God on it's side and the good and Godly thing to do is to fight for the businessmens' interests.

    Also, religion muddies the water constantly, keeping the people from realizing what is going on in time of peace. They're allowed and in fact encouraged by their own holy writings to be xenophobic and 'find' themselves to be superior in everything.

    Communism, unfortunately tends to emulate this, because it is human nature to imagine that we're superior when we gain power.

    "All men are equal, but some are more equal than others."

    The word socialism to me means a society where the business interests are not allowed to hurt or damage the population, weak members of the population are cared for, because we ARE equal, and 'law' means 'fairness'.

    But look at us. This is what we've come to. Holding each other hostage with nuclear weapons and giant armies for an economy based on black sludge that belongs to no one, or everyone depending on your point of view.

    How can it be that a snide, nasty bitch can possibly be being considered for leadership of one of the World's two super-powers. (don't forget China!)

    She's NOT a snide, nasty bitch, you say?

    Quote:-"How's that hopey changey thing working out for you?"

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  156. peeb, we both know that Palin was selected precisely for two things:

    her looks, and

    her relative anonymity on the national political stage.

    But it was a hasty decision in 2008, designed to offset the lumpy dinosaur's physical repulsiveness and advanced age.

    Her 'handlers' couldn't polish her presentation quickly enough to make her viable as a candidate, but they will have had four years to work on it before the question comes up again.

    The good news?

    The new Congress will likely be about as successful as the last one, and people, if they're smart (and this is the huge caveat) will take notice and refuse to hand this country to that "snide, nasty bitch".

    One can hope.

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  157. Eric's been silent for a bit now.

    Wonder what that sneaky little Catholic trying to pull NOW???

    LOL

    On 'Intentionality' as Eric meant it, it seems that philosophers are searching to pin some meaning to it or vying to pin their particular meaning to it.

    I just don't see anything 'magical' about our thoughts being 'about something'.

    When I say that our brain's operation, consciousness, is a physical process, I cannot fathom why, just because, basically we think of 'something', even if that 'something' doesn't exist outside our thoughts, this 'intentionality' idea means anything profound at all.

    Computer games have an 'aboutness' to them that only conscious beings can detect.

    But this is one of those topics that is unclear in the senses that philosphers give to it as well as the conclusions they jump to given their own particular slant on the sense they're using it.

    To say, "AI will never have intentionality!", is to declare that there will never really be AI, ever.

    That opens up another huge can of worms. 'What is intelligence?', 'what is it that philosphers are saying when they declare that our brain has such a special 'gift', if not duality?

    In the end, I think it boils down to us having imagination, which I believe is the reverse process of 'trying to make sense of the world', 'finding patterns', 'finding meaning', that kind of thing.

    Discovering the truth by pure reason, supposedly the philosophers greatest trick ever, is just not possible. We need the raw data.

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  158. Maybe they're trying to say, in a round about way, that a computer couldn't be semi-programmed, like we can.

    We can instill belief in children because they want to be like us, but we cannot show them a picture of GOD, so they have to sort of form their own.

    When you think of God, and all the restrictions you understand in the notion, what you you 'picture', what are you actually thinking 'about'?

    Easy to say, "I'm thinking about God and how it's all mysterious and stuff.", basically saying, "I dunno.", or saying something equally enigmatic like, "When I think of God, I think of spirituality!"

    I think that it's so easy to compare 'thinking of God' to 'thinking of infinity' or 'thinking of the vastness of space', basically thinking, "..no, bigger, no, bigger.." to yourself, for as long as you can.

    But if the universe is pervaded by this endless LOVE which spills over to outside the universe, outside of space and time, then what is this right here, right now? Hell?

    All we need to do is imagine any sermon and how we feel about whether it was a success or not. A good one is 'mesmerizing', a terrific 'show' kind of thing. Just a talent show by the show giver and a show of submission to the show givers will, by the audience.

    Peter Popoff's "Let's suspend our disbelief and pretend the magic of radio demonstrates miraculous powers!" shows spring to mind, but there's different ways to 'skin a cat', right Eric?

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  159. I loved the way that Eric couched communism in terms of Marxism, apparently undisassociatable from atheism.

    Seemingly, because HE cannot disassociate Christianity from Jesus, actually not a huge problem for non-Catholics at all, who regularly claim that there are some 2 or 3 billion Christians and yet only a few 'real' Christians(themselves included of course), he is putting on us the same restriction.

    A restriction which is non-sense as explained above, in the case of Christianity.

    But we're down to playing with words, since one can read anything and just take the stuff from it that is meaningful to you.

    To a 'believer', of course, the 'godlessness' of communism is it's worst attribute and superglued to it, if not identical with it.

    If this is the case, either libertarians just do not exist, or we're constrained to keep them apart in our minds and argue just the one thing about the one thing, i.e. over-analyse it, 'thank-you-very-much.'

    Sort of, "Let me demonize communism as the spawn of atheism, THEN we can hand-wave away the atheism of libertarianism. To try to reconcile both political stances only confuses the COMPLETELY SEPARATE issues of atheism and atheism, you see."

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  160. Ian; "I loved the way that Eric couched communism in terms of Marxism, apparently undisassociatable from atheism."

    Eric will think something to death if in doing so he can find support for his position, and he'll take the broadest view possible if thinking something to death won't lead to support for his position. Reminds me of DD, and it's intellectually dishonest.

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  161. Ian said,

    "...But if the universe is pervaded by this endless LOVE which spills over to outside the universe, outside of space and time, then what is this right here, right now? Hell?"

    This thought was one of the first things that made me an atheist:

    That if God is love, and the universe is His creation, then why does everything look so much as if it's totally indifferent; so totally NEUTRAL and RANDOM?

    There's no ultimate "purpose" to all this. It just IS.

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  162. "That if God is love, and the universe is His creation, then why does everything look so much as if it's totally indifferent; so totally NEUTRAL and RANDOM?"

    I think we can say two things about this.

    First, is it true that the universe looks just as we would expect if there were no god? I too, Ed, was once persuaded by this argument. But then I began to think about it a bit more carefully: is it really the case that the world looks as it would if there were no god? After all, we find in our universe (1) conscious, (2) rational and (3) free beings who, in every culture, (4) possess a moral core and who (5) seek after the transcendent. This is remarkable, no? This outcome is much more plausible in a universe created by god than it is in a godless universe. That is, your argument (and my old one) has it precisely backwards: The Christian is much more at home in the universe than the atheist. It is the atheist who must explain away rationality, consciousness, freedom, morality and the quest for the transcendent.

    Second, when we say god is love, we mean that (1) god is pure being, and that evil is thus a privation of being; (2) god's act of creation is gratuitous, since god has no needs, and so didn't have to create; (3) Aquinas defines love as willing the good of another, and god wills our good (incidentally, this explains why god demands worship: god is the summum bonum, the highest good, and god loves us, which means he wills our good, so god wants us to orient ourselves towards the highest good, i.e. him; it has nothing to do with any silly notions of god's being insecure, needing worship, etc..); and (4) god, in his trinitarian nature, is in a perpetual love relationship. Each of these points could be expanded on, of course, but they do go some way, I think, towards explaining why we say that god is love, and why we say that god's being love fits well into the world as we see it.

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  163. "Communism correlates itself with atheism, not the other way round."

    Where did I say that atheism correlates with communism? I said that it's a necessary condition of Soviet communism, because of its Marxist (dialectical materialist) foundation, but not of communism as such. (There have been Christian communists, after all.)

    "Eric will think something to death if in doing so he can find support for his position, and he'll take the broadest view possible if thinking something to death won't lead to support for his position."

    If you're saying that in the first case, I'll analyze and draw distinctions ("think something to death") until I get the result I want, while in the second case I'll avoid analysis and drawing distinctions ("take the broadest view possible") to get the result I want, then I of course disagree.

    With respect to the atheism and communism issue, which I suspect you take to be an example of the second tactic, I'm sorry but I just find some positions to be so ridiculous that I see no reason to expend any effort to refute them. I pay no attention to young earth creationists, or to Holocaust deniers, or to New Agers. Similarly, I pay little attention to those who insist on denying the centrality of atheism to Marxism, of Marxism to Soviet communism, and thus of the relationship between atheism and the persecution and murder of priests and religious under Soviet communist regimes. Students in Soviet Russia weren't taught generic communism, but Marxism. The Soviet's believed that Marxism was *scientific* -- as scientific as physics or chemistry. It wasn't an ideology to them, as some claim. It was a description of the way things were, a complete description, in which art, literature, religion, morality, social relations, historical phenomena and everything else was explained in terms of the economic laws of historical development. To deny any of this is to demonstrate ignorance of the relevant area of study comparable with that which the young earth creationist exhibits.

    Now I haven't said that atheism necessarily leads to violence; of course it doesn't. And neither does Christianity. My only point is that it's obviously false that violence has never been motivated by atheism. Indeed, one can easily draw out a perfectly logical path from atheism to violence with the addition of a few widely accepted premises.

    Atheism is rational, and belief in god is irrational. Most atheists I've met are atheists because they believe this to be true.

    Irrational people can be dangerous. Many of us believe this.

    When large numbers of people are irrational, the potential for danger is multiplied many times over. Again, this is quite reasonable.

    Irrational people, especially large groups of socially connected irrational people, cannot be reasoned with. We know this to be true; the irrational beliefs of the group are reinforced through the social dynamics of the group, and sociologists tell us that whenever a group of like minded people get together, extreme views are likely to dominate. (I forget the technical term for this phenomenon).

    It's acceptable to use violence against dangerous people.

    So, there you have it: a clear path from atheism to violence against religious people. It's perfectly logical, and each premise is eminently reasonable. So even if it were true that no atheist had ever been motivated to harm another by his atheism, it's not the case that there's no clear path from atheism to violence. (If you object to my use of additional premises, then the argument from religious violence, in many cases, fails for the same reason.)

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  164. "Communism correlates itself with atheism, not the other way round."

    Where did I say that atheism correlates with communism? I said that it's a necessary condition of Soviet communism, because of its Marxist (dialectical materialist) foundation, but not of communism as such. (There have been Christian communists, after all.)

    "Eric will think something to death if in doing so he can find support for his position, and he'll take the broadest view possible if thinking something to death won't lead to support for his position."

    If you're saying that in the first case, I'll analyze and draw distinctions ("think something to death") until I get the result I want, while in the second case I'll avoid analysis and drawing distinctions ("take the broadest view possible") to get the result I want, then I of course disagree.

    With respect to the atheism and communism issue, which I suspect you take to be an example of the second tactic, I'm sorry but I just find some positions to be so ridiculous that I see no reason to expend any effort to refute them. I pay no attention to young earth creationists, or to Holocaust deniers, or to New Agers. Similarly, I pay little attention to those who insist on denying the centrality of atheism to Marxism, of Marxism to Soviet communism, and thus of the relationship between atheism and the persecution and murder of priests and religious under Soviet communist regimes. Students in Soviet Russia weren't taught generic communism, but Marxism. The Soviet's believed that Marxism was *scientific* -- as scientific as physics or chemistry. It wasn't an ideology to them, as some claim. It was a description of the way things were, a complete description, in which art, literature, religion, morality, social relations, historical phenomena and everything else was explained in terms of the economic laws of historical development. To deny any of this is to demonstrate ignorance of the relevant area of study comparable with that which the young earth creationist exhibits.

    Now I haven't said that atheism necessarily leads to violence; of course it doesn't. And neither does Christianity. My only point is that it's obviously false that violence has never been motivated by atheism. Indeed, one can easily draw out a perfectly logical path from atheism to violence with the addition of a few widely accepted premises.

    Atheism is rational, and belief in god is irrational. Most atheists I've met are atheists because they believe this to be true.

    Irrational people can be dangerous. Many of us believe this.

    When large numbers of people are irrational, the potential for danger is multiplied many times over. Again, this is quite reasonable.

    Irrational people, especially large groups of socially connected irrational people, cannot be reasoned with. We know this to be true; the irrational beliefs of the group are reinforced through the social dynamics of the group, and sociologists tell us that whenever a group of like minded people get together, extreme views are likely to dominate. (I forget the technical term for this phenomenon).

    It's acceptable to use violence against dangerous people.

    So, there you have it: a clear path from atheism to violence against religious people. It's perfectly logical, and each premise is eminently reasonable. So even if it were true that no atheist had ever been motivated to harm another by his atheism, it's not the case that there's no clear path from atheism to violence. (If you object to my use of additional premises, then the argument from religious violence, in many cases, fails for the same reason.)

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  165. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  166. Eric said "is it really the case that the world looks as it would if there were no god? [blah blah blah] This outcome is much more plausible in a universe created by god than it is in a godless universe."

    Is it? Please substantiate this assertion.

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  167. eric said "...and that evil is thus a privation of being;"

    And this one...

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  168. Eric said ") god's act of creation is gratuitous, since god has no needs, and so didn't have to create;"

    How the f would you know?

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  169. Eric "My only point is that it's obviously false that violence has never been motivated by atheism."

    Your claim about atheism being central to Marxism is ridiculous. It's more of a suggested condition.

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  170. "Please substantiate this assertion."

    If the sort of god Christians believe in exists, then conscious, free, rational, moral beings who seek the transcendent are precisely what we would expect to find, for the thesis is that god created us in his image to seek and know him. How can the atheist account for this? Well, we seek the transcendent, and seek it in almost every culture at every time, but not because the transcendent is real, but because of psychological reason x,y and z. Thus, the transcendent it explained away. We seem to apprehend moral truths, but these are evolutionary byproducts (this is never explained), so morality is explained away. We think we're free, but in fact our beliefs, thoughts and acts are determined by physics and chemistry, so freedom is explained away. We think we're rational, but all our thoughts are determined not by the laws of logic, but by natural laws, so rationality is explained away. And we think we're conscious, but consciousness is physical process we've simply failed to describe to ourselves properly, so we're left with a false folk psychology that must ultimately be reduced to material processes, so consciousness is explained away. In short, the Christian theist is at home in the universe as he experiences it, while the atheist must explain away all of the most fundamental aspects the "what it is-ness" of being a human being.

    (N.B. I'm referring here to a specific kind of atheist, viz. the scientific minded atheist, who seems to be the most common kind today, whether he actually knows anything about science or not. There are of course all kinds of atheists, who believe all kinds of strange things.)

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  171. I think the christian is at home in the universe they think they know. Only the agnostic is really at home...

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  172. Also, did I read you right in that you think we shouldn't try to find the explanation for things, that seems very YEC or New Agey of you...

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  173. "Your claim about atheism being central to Marxism is ridiculous."

    I'm sorry, Ryan, but you've just shown that you don't know the first thing about Marxism. Religion is part of what Marxists call the superstructure, and the superstructure is determined by economic conditions. If religion is merely the byproduct of underlying economic conditions, it cannot be in any sense true, and if religion cannot be, according to Marxist theory, in any sense true, Marxism is essentially atheistic.

    Re: evil as a privation, the central meta-ethical thesis of Thomism is the convertibility of the transcendentals, so god's goodness just is his being; hence, since god is pure being, all evil can be is a defect of some sort -- evil is a kind of negation, a kind of absence of being. But evil is not a mere negation; rather, it's a privation. Let me explain the difference between a negation and a privation with a common example: If a rock lacks eyes, that's an absence, a negation of being, but it's not a privation, and thus not an instance of evil, for a privation is the absence of that which should be there, given the essence and thus the final cause of whatever it is where talking about. So, if a rock lacks eyes, it's an absence but not a privation, for a rock doesn't have eyes essentially, and is thus not evil, but if a human being lacks eyes, it's a privation, and thus is an evil.

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  174. "did I read you right in that you think we shouldn't try to find the explanation for things"

    Absolutely not. We should push our explanations as far as we can in all areas.

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  175. You left off my next sentence, which was basically a very condensed version of what you restated. It's a suggested condition. It's not central.

    Also, explaining the theology of some guy named Thom is not substation, at lease by my book.

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  176. Eric "We should push our explanations as far as we can in all areas."

    Yeah, that's not what you said earlier.

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  177. Eric " but if a human being lacks eyes, it's a privation, and thus is an evil."

    Not evil, just non-standard.

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  178. "You left off my next sentence, which was basically a very condensed version of what you restated. It's a suggested condition. It's not central."

    No, it's not "suggested," and it's not a "condition." It's foundational to the Marxist critique.

    "Yeah, that's not what you said earlier."

    Where specifically did I say anything that contradicts my statement that explanations should be pushed as far as possible in all areas? I'm all for explanations, but they must be plausible, or they'll get the boot.

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  179. "Not evil, just non-standard."

    Not on Thomistic grounds. You asked for some clarification of the privation view of evil, and I provided it. As I said, it follows from the convertability of the transcendentals; if being and goodness are convertible, then blindness would be an evil, and not merely a 'non-standard' way of being human.

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  180. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendence_(philosophy)

    Seems there are three meanings to this word. What are the odd, if we start to talk about one, that Eric isn't meaning that at all, but is talking about one of the other two?

    Ought to be .33, really, no?

    But I think that the odds are 1:1, in this case.

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  181. Ah, I didn't realize "Thomistic" was in reference to Aquinas. That's enough...

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  182. Awesome. I've got three lizards and two fire bellied toads and a betta to start.

    Catch you guys later...

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  183. Oooo, everything is eeevul. Now we're implying that the blind deserved it somehow.

    Backward, childish thought pattern. Labelling things 'evil' like that. almost as silly as 'yucky poo-poo...'

    Religun iz dum.

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  184. Yeah, seriously, are the vestigial eye-sockets of the Proteus evil or good? Only Thom knows!!!

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  185. I've been on this blog way too long. I scroll down to the bottom and move upward in order to catch up. I know the shape of you motherfuckers' sentences before I even begin to read. In essence, seeing syntax before semantics.

    Reminds me of Eric, syntax before semantics.

    Ha.

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  186. Sorry about the 'mfers,' it was a sign of affection.

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  187. Thomist?

    For Aquinas crap?

    Shouldn't it be 'Aquabuddhaist'??

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  188. "..if being and goodness are convertible.."

    But they're not. They're not because if 'good' is, then 'evil' is, and if evil 'is' then being and evil are convertible too, or just not, 'cos this convertibility thing is contrived.

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  189. btw. .. Hi, Harry, you motherfucker!

    And Hi, Brian.

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