Friday, October 17, 2008

What is Metaphysical Naturalism? Part Five: Summary

What is Metaphysical Naturalism? Part Five: Summary

The caveats to the Academy's Strong Definition of Naturalism needed inclusion because the main body of the Definition was not precise enough. It was not precise enough to stand alone for reasons that will be made clear below, and which were made clear in Part One.

To include the caveats within the body of the definition, however, will take some extraordinary thought, and some very precise writing, if the caveats are to be incorporated without altering the definition's meaning. One wrong word, one misplaced comma, and the result would be the spectacle of a misunderstanding.

("A well regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." It took 221 years for that nightmarish sentence to be untangled by the Supreme Court. Why did Jefferson put a comma after "Arms"? What change did it make?

But the comma that caused all the problems was the first one. Did Jefferson mean to say that the right to keep and bear arms hinged on the need for a well-regulated militia, as the sentence seems to indicate? No one wanted to believe that, but a strict reading would make it necessary.

(However, a reading of Original Intent, whereby the Justices read the historical documents of the day, the minutes of the Constitutional Assembly, and other related and pertinent documents, led them to understand that the Framers did not mean to imply arms were a right only on the condition that a militia was kept, and kept well-regulated. Yet, that little comma had left the question in the air for 221 years.)

I will for that reason leave the Academy's Definition as-is, for now, except for possible amendings. This does not mean that the Academy's Definition is anymore correct or unimpeachable than the Second Amendment, now that that has been ruled on by the Court. After all, I have amended it twice already after adding the caveats, and I did not add the caveats until after some of its mistakes and shortcomings were pointed out to me by critics.

The caveats are--
that: this [definition] neither explicitly nor implicitly excludes the existence of the human soul, nor of free will,

when: soul is a "veridical perception" of consciousness;" and:

'free will' is the mind’s freedom "to think or not;" (Ayn Rand) and

that: "consciousness" is "the faculty of awareness—the faculty of [veridically] perceiving that which exists;" (AR) and

that: "that which exists" is "an 'existent' be it a thing, an attribute or an action;" (AR) and further
that: an existent is of veridical* perception and memory of empirical or abstract content, and is not fictitious, revealed revelation, hallucination, mirrage, etc.;

where: *veridical perception is a direct relation of awareness between a conscious subject and an object of empirical or abstract content that is not . (CEC) (Dict. of the Academy of Metaphysical Naturalism; unpublished)

What a mouthful. Their are more kinds of "naturalism" than the two discussed in this series: metaphysical, and scientific. The "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy" says in its first sentence on the subject "Naturalism": "The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy."

It goes on a few paragraphs later: "So understood, ‘naturalism’ is not a particularly informative term as applied to contemporary philosophers. The great majority of contemporary philosophers would happily accept naturalism as just characterized—that is, they would both reject ‘supernatural’ entities, and allow that science is a possible route (if not necessarily the only one) to important truths about the ‘human spirit’."

Soul, Spirit, and God

The problem with truths about the human spirit is that scientific and ontological naturalism often equate that spirit with soul, refusing to split hairs and say that one is one thing and the other is another thing. "On a scientific understanding of ourselves, there’s no evidence for immaterial souls [or] spirits..." says one website.

Certainly the soul is made of the elements of the physiology of life, and is therefor made of "material." But if spirit is not immaterial as a metaphysical existent, then one cannot say that he or she has the spirit of an individualist, or a pianist, or a great quarterback.

Immaterial does not mean transcendental. It means that metaphysically the soul or spirit is a concept that extends beyond the idea of the scientifically measurable; that while certain areas of the brain may "light up" when triggered, they do not indicate nothing more than chemical and electrical activity. Meta physical means "conceptually beyond the physical"; it does not mean ignoring the physical, nor does it mean irrationally conceptualizing it as supernatural and transcendental of the life that gives it physiological substance.

Metaphysical as "conceptually beyond the physical" means placing a value upon that which is being measured, a value that is specific to the life form in which the measured effect resides, and it means placing that value in a hierarchy. At the top of hierarchy must be "life." Without it, Man is nothing, non-existent. Metaphysically, "life" presupposes existence. Placing "life" somewhere other than at the top does not mean one does not presuppose existence with what he/she places at the top; it does mean that he/she values something believed--rightly or wrongly--to be an existent more than one values life.

But scientific naturalism would state that since we will probably discover what it is that causes life in the first place, all life and all its attributes become measurable; and as something measurable is nothing more than "natural", where "natural" excludes what is commonly called "supernatural." (A theologian could make the case that if God exists he would be "natural." Short of doing so, God has always been the "supernatural" and this designation has been in the attempt to raise God above the creations he is said to have authored. If God existed, he would certainly be "natural." But calling him "supernatural" is to metaphysically exalt him, not to seperate him from existence itself.)

Physiological Biochemistry and Metaphysics
A man wrote to the The National Post (of Canada), saying, "If all thought and behaviour are indeed only the result of the biochemistry of the brain, then free will cannot exist, and all we have left is pure determinism.

"Furthermore, any concept of moral obligation and responsibility is also nonsensical if determinism is true. But we do not live this way because we do not believe this way."

Unfortunately, the writer, in arguing against ontological naturalism, said that if all thought and behaviour is purely the result of neurochemical synapses in the brain, then there is no mind or soul independent of the brain.

It is unfortunate because the writer makes the mistake of asserting first that thought and behavior cannot be merely biochemistry of the brain; but then asserts that they must be independent of the neurchemistry that houses them.

If they are independent of the brain in which they reside, and independent of the biochemistry, then they are transcendental. In denying such transcendentalism, naturalism needs neither to assert the soul and free will as "merely biochemistry of the brain," nor as deterministic veridical perceptions.

Rational discourse will lead to the conclusion that the values one chooses in life, such as whether to love one's spouse or to be a cheater; to love one's children or to walk away before one ever knows them; to hold to a standard of high ethics in everything one does--can alter the neurology of the brain and overall the biochemistry of the body. It is, after all, within the physical human body that one feels one's soul and one's emotions. Different humans have differing emotions about the same subjects and objects because of their metaphysical value systems. It is why one Muslim writer was able to discuss "sharia banks" in the world banking system, and then sign himself "Prisoner Of Joy." More from Act! for America

The American metaphysics of individual freedom sends shudders of horror down the backs of Westerners over the prospect of sharia law. It is specifically the metaphysical values one holds that alters neuro and bio chemistry, thus disproving determinism. But naturalism does not need to assert determinism, yet much of it does, to its own harm.

Naturalistic science would show, if it took the time to do so, that people who have a low priority in ethics and metaphysics, or a non-chalant attitude toward intellectual honesty, or who embrace tyranny such as sharia and jihad, would have a far different brain-map than their opposing counterparts. Mohammed Atta, for example, would have a very different brain map than Brigitte Gabriel. Thoughts and images that mapped as "joy" or "excitement" in Atta's brain would map as "horror" in Gabriel's.

In other words, free will when used to gain or to keep things of objective value will affect the brain's biochemistry, as will being a profligate liar or a willfull thief or an uncaring parent--or a terrorist.

The mind, the soul, free will, and the conscience are independent of the determinate forces of fate, because such tests as brain mapping would corroborate that one group demonstrates one kind of brain biochemistry insofar as what values "light it up," and the other group's "lights" would look vastly different.

What we are is determined by what we want to be. We are not "fully caused" (determined) by memes, genes, environment, and other phenomena. We are the phenomena, obeying only the laws of the nature of reason in our willful actions, and we are self-made and we are responsible, not "fully caused" and determined by forces beyond our control. It is what we do about those forces that are beyond our control that are determined by our willful choice of metaphysical values.

Various Forms of Naturalism and Intelligent Design
Wikipedia says that methodological naturalism is the same as scientific naturalism, referring to the assumption that explanations of observable effects are practical and useful only when they hypothesize natural causes rather than indeterminate miracles.

Wiki says metaphysical naturalism is the same as ontological naturalism, which refers to the metaphysical belief that empirical, material existence is is all that exists and, therefore, nothing supernatural exists. Natural philosophy welcomes, says Wiki, supernatural explanations for natural phenomena and supports theistic science.

Richard C. Carrier of the Internet Infidels identifies "Epistemological Naturalism, Ethical Naturalism, Aesthetic Naturalism, and Political Naturalism. Metaphysical Naturalism in principle encompasses all of these," he says, and he is correct, because, as he goes on to say, "all other aspects of the world derive ultimately therefrom."

But he says that epistemological naturalism is more commonly known as methodological naturalism. So, Carrier puts a different view on methodologicalism than Wiki. Carrier's associate, Bill Schultz, combines metaphysical naturalism with Intelligent Design!

"The essence of my assertions herein is that 'intelligent design' can occur without violating the bedrock principles of 'metaphysical naturalism.' In other words, you can have our universe be the product of 'intelligent design' and yet never require any supernatural phenomena to effect the "intelligent design" of our universe," writes Shultz.

Shultz is confusing "subject" and "object," by referring to the idea that one can objectify the design he/she sees in the mechanical operations of the universe; but this is not objective design; it is subjective design. The universe is of veridical perception and is therefor cognoscenti. Whatever "intelligence" one may see in the design of the universe is entirely within the intelligence of the observer, and Shultz confuses the issue of ID by attempting to combine it with naturalism.

Greg Frost-Arnold, who writes the blog "Obscure and Confused Ideas ", wrote this: "In the context of the debate over Intelligent Design, the anti-evolutionists often say 'Darwinism is a religious belief (perhaps atheism in disguise).' Many pro-evolutionists respond by drawing a distinction between methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism, where only the second is anything close to a religious belief. Here's a rough characterization: (Methodological Naturalism) Scientific explanations cannot appeal to supernatural causes. (Metaphysical Naturalism) There are no supernatural causes." [italics added]

It is a never ending circle of one camp having one belief that is different from another camp. As I wrote in Part One, "not even the naturalists themselves all agree, using different terminology for exactly similar philosophical positions; or using precisely similar terminology for differences that may be subtle, or may be extremely and fundamentally different." What is Metaphysical Naturalism? Part One

Determinism, or fate according to circumstances about which one has no control, seems to be the common element in all but religious naturalism, also called "natural theology," or "natural revelation."

"Simply put, ‘natural’ revelation, or ‘natural theology,’ is what one can learn about God running exclusively on your own steam without any assistance from God. Aristotle’s Prime Mover arguments and Aquinas’s ‘Five Ways’ are such efforts. Intelligent Design, when the inference is made that God is the Designer, is ‘natural’ theology at work." Anthony Horvath

The metaphysical naturalism of the Academy of MN affirms the validity of the soul as not only a veridical perception, but as an emotional element of the identity of the person whose neuro and bio chemistry give life to his/her soul; for without the empirical naturalism of those elements of our existence, the soul could not exist. It needs the body as the body needs blood.

Free will is the freedom to think or not, to choose A instead of B, C, or D. It means the ability to create B, C, or D where they did not exist before. It explains why some Muslims, to use a current example, choose to conduct what their victims call terrorism, and why some denounce terrorism, and why some Muslim nations follow Sharia and why some do not. Free will in politics explains why the U.K. is recognizing Sharia Law within its own borders while the U.S. will not.

Metaphysical naturalism does not have to be reductive and deterministic. It can be rational and promoting of individualism, individual sovereignty, egoism, free will, and a non-material yet veridical soul that is the direct representation of the human it inhabits from birth until death.

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