1867: "Physics Confession"

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby ucim » Fri Jul 28, 2017 9:56 pm UTC

Kit. wrote:Yes. It is a question about the results of the attempts to shape rocks into different tools.
I'm not talking about a shaped (by somebody) rock. I'm talking about a found-in-the-wild rock that just happened to be there. The chain of events that brought the rock to be involved plate tectonics, glaciers, weathering, a landslide, and other natural causes having nothing to do with windows. When I wanted to break a window, I picked it up as is and threw it at the window.

I can see how the mass, hardness, and density of the rock would make it suitable for certain tasks, but how does the question "What is a rock good for?" involve the chain of events that brought the rock into being?

Jose
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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Soupspoon » Fri Jul 28, 2017 11:33 pm UTC

ucim wrote:What is a rock good for?"
Rock? Huh! Absolutely nothing... (Say it again!)

((It ain't nothing but a rock-breaker. Friend only to the flintmaker. Oh, rock's all rubbley like all stone kinds. The pointed rocks blow my mind...))

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby morriswalters » Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:13 am UTC

Soupspoon wrote:
ucim wrote:What is a rock good for?"
Rock? Huh! Absolutely nothing... (Say it again!)

((It ain't nothing but a rock-breaker. Friend only to the flintmaker. Oh, rock's all rubbley like all stone kinds. The pointed rocks blow my mind...))
War. Good god.
ucim wrote:I can see how the mass, hardness, and density of the rock would make it suitable for certain tasks, but how does the question "What is a rock good for?" involve the chain of events that brought the rock into being?
Gravity.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby ucim » Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:39 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:
ucim wrote:I can see how the mass, hardness, and density of the rock would make it suitable for certain tasks, but how does the question "What is a rock good for?" involve the chain of events that brought the rock into being?
Gravity.


Huh? Could you be a little clearer in step two?

Jose
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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Kit. » Sat Jul 29, 2017 9:59 am UTC

ucim wrote:
Kit. wrote:Yes. It is a question about the results of the attempts to shape rocks into different tools.
I'm not talking about a shaped (by somebody) rock. I'm talking about a found-in-the-wild rock that just happened to be there. The chain of events that brought the rock to be involved plate tectonics, glaciers, weathering, a landslide, and other natural causes having nothing to do with windows. When I wanted to break a window, I picked it up as is and threw it at the window.

I can see how the mass, hardness, and density of the rock would make it suitable for certain tasks, but how does the question "What is a rock good for?" involve the chain of events that brought the rock into being?

We could discuss what exactly we mean by "bring into being a rock", but I think we digress.

The original argument was "you're not asking for a description of the <X> or of the chain of events that brought the <X> into being or anything like that". Which is I think is not true. The human knowledge of what a rock is good for is a part of the human knowledge of what a rock is, which is descriptive, not prescriptive. It, as I said, describes the results of human use of similar rocks. The answer could be shaped into a prediction, but this prediction is no more prescriptive than a prediction of any other physical property.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby morriswalters » Sat Jul 29, 2017 1:31 pm UTC

The rock serves the purpose of being a thing through which gravity can act. The general form of the question is what is the purpose of matter. A rock belongs to an hierarchy of things. It's the statue of David, or an asteroid tumbling through space. But in general it's a matrix through which gravity acts. That's its functionality.

I had a momentary lapse of reason when Soupspoon invoked Edwin Starr.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby ucim » Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:29 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:The general form of the question is what is the purpose of matter.
...and the general form of the answer is it is a thing whose purpose is to have a purpose. But the general form is not useful for making distinctions between specific forms.

There are three classifications of interest here:
1: Things that just happen to be (a rock)
2: Things that are the result of a feedback loop (an eardrum)
3: Things that are the result of sentient design (a hammer)

There are two kinds of purpose:
A: The original purpose of the thing: this existed before the thing itself existed, and is a reason for the thing to have come into being.
B: The proximate purpose of the thing: this is created when a thing is actually used.

You can argue that some of these are the same as others, i.e. that (1) and (2) are not useful distinctions, or that (A) and (B) are not useful distinctions. But if so, I'd like to hear reasoning that supports that contention. Granted, in most everyday interactions we don't worry about things like this, but sometimes we do, and sometimes significantly bad things happen as a result. Laws get passed or overturned, wars are fought, tyrants rise or fall, civilization succumbs to superstition, entire classes of humanity are subjugated.

Kit. wrote:We could discuss what exactly we mean by "bring into being a rock", but I think we digress.
Magma cools, is pushed to the surface, part of it is scraped off by a glacier... the point being it's not part of a feedback loop that selects for "better" rocks, and there's no "intelligent design" in geology.

Jose
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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Kit. » Sat Jul 29, 2017 4:00 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Kit. wrote:We could discuss what exactly we mean by "bring into being a rock", but I think we digress.
Magma cools, is pushed to the surface, part of it is scraped off by a glacier... the point being it's not part of a feedback loop that selects for "better" rocks

But that's "rock", an aggregate, akin to "sand" and "gravel". What, if not a specific kind of human attention to an object that can be used as a tool, brings it into being "a rock"?

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby ucim » Sat Jul 29, 2017 4:23 pm UTC

Kit. wrote:What, if not a specific kind of human attention to an object that can be used as a tool, brings it into being "a rock"?
The property of being one object. It happens to be the one object we are talking about, but do you really propose that it had the inherent purpose of being the object of our discussion?

Jose
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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby morriswalters » Sat Jul 29, 2017 5:06 pm UTC

All your distinctions are useful in one way or another. For you. Or more generally, people. It provides a useful way of thinking about things. But the structure of the universe exists independently of those distinctions.

A hammer represents a useful restructuring of matter for some purpose we create as a process of being alive and living in a place that will kill us absolutely randomly. It's implicit in the structure of the universe that a thing like a hammer is possible. We then discover those possibilities and give them purpose. The universe itself has structure but no purpose. A process like sentience is also implicit in that structure.

Purpose implies meaning, and meaning exists only so long as we do. If you stood on a city on a dead world, you could find purpose in what you see, but that purpose, would only have context in terms of the structure of sentience.

So when I say a rock is a rock, I'm saying that I haven't given that rock meaning. Now that's the way I see it. So yes, I think those distinctions have meaning, I'm just clarifying the context. I'm leery of the idea that anything ought to be true, since it implies morality is a fixed point, and history tells me that things change. As such it allows me to evolve what I believe, if I take the time to examine those beliefs, and find that my baked in beliefs are wrong. And quite frankly I don't always know that it is happening. It isn't conscious.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby orthogon » Sat Jul 29, 2017 6:30 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:It's implicit in the structure of the universe that a thing like a hammer is possible. We then discover those possibilities and give them purpose.

You make me wonder whether this "purpose" vs "good-for" distinction is related to the difference between invention and discovery. Invention is supposed to involve some creative process in which a designer produces something out of nothing, whereas discovery is supposedly a process of recognising and understanding something that was there all along. But this distinction has strange anomalies: for example, I'm always taken aback whenever somebody talks about the "discovery of the Fast Fourier Transform algorithm". I think I understand the reasoning, but for me the FFT is as much an invention as a wheel or a hammer, or vice versa. In the terms of this thread, a mathematician might say that the FFT is good for calculating the DFT in fewer operations, whereas, as an engineer, I would say that Cooley, Tukey et al designed the algorithm with the purpose of calculating DFTs more efficiently. To a "discoverist", Cooley and Tukey just kind of found the FFT lying around and noticed that they could use it to calculate DFTs, just in the way Ug found a rock and noticed (s)he could use it as a tool.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Kit. » Sat Jul 29, 2017 6:57 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Kit. wrote:What, if not a specific kind of human attention to an object that can be used as a tool, brings it into being "a rock"?
The property of being one object. It happens to be the one object we are talking about,

But sand and gravel also consist of individual objects.

ucim wrote:but do you really propose that it had the inherent purpose of being the object of our discussion?

Not inherent. Learned. Or selected by natural selection that works on humans, not rocks.

Humans somehow learned to objectify individual pieces of rock.

orthogon wrote:Invention is supposed to involve some creative process in which a designer produces something out of nothing, whereas discoveryis supposedly a process of recognising and understanding something that was there all along.

So, "discovery" ("opening") means luck, and "invention" ("coming to") means effort?

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Soupspoon » Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:27 pm UTC

(Not sure if this is useful to the arguments, herein, but I'd say that discovery is revelation where invention is innovation. That is, hidden knowledge coming to the fore, vs. existing knowledge being novelly applied(/combined). But can be fuzzy if a recent (in an arbitrarily short span of time!) discovery is combined with existing knowledge (ancient or also recentishly discivered) to create an innovation that was effectively impossible prior to the revelation. Neither is 'out of nothing' and neither was necessarily 'there all along', given that the conditions must have existed to give rise to both, but they may be recent or even transient preconditions that mean that a thing not discovered/invented (fossils, or a particular way of creating forward motion out of stored energy) might never be discovered, or invented, after the opportunity to do so has passed and leave as-yet-unseeable future alternatives awaiting their realisation - in either capacity... And luck/effort applies to both.)

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby morriswalters » Sat Jul 29, 2017 10:40 pm UTC

You can't discover what isn't implicitly part of the universe. How would that work? If FFT's transforms are useful to you it's because they are representative of something in the world we call real. FFT's simply describe that.

However it came into being, everything that was ever possible to happen in the universe was set at that instant. Whatever we call it innovation or discovery, the person has to be friendly with the Great RNG. One of the saddest things about DaVinci to me is, that he was born in an era that didn't let him do everything he could think of. I have no competence as a Philosopher, I am simply describing the world as it appears to me.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby ucim » Sun Jul 30, 2017 4:59 am UTC

Kit. wrote:But sand and gravel also consist of individual objects.
...and if I were talking about a grain of sand, then that would be the one object we are talking about. I don't see what you are getting at. In any case I'm talking about one object; it thus has the property of being the object I'm talking about. "But that's not important right now."

Even on a planet that had no humans to objectify objects, there could be individual pieces of rock. Earth had individual pieces of rock long before humans; in fact, long before any kind of life form existed on earth.

morriswalters wrote:All your distinctions are useful in one way or another. For you. Or more generally, people. It provides a useful way of thinking about things. But the structure of the universe exists independently of those distinctions.
I'm not talking about the structure of the universe. I'm talking about the purpose of an object that has purpose, and the lack of purpose of an object that, while it could have a use, has no (inherent) purpose. Purpose is a high level concept which, while like all concepts only exists in our minds because we have minds (made of matter) that can code for them, acts as a useful embodiment of the important aspects of a topic of discussion. Purpose is a useful package in that regard. It distills the aspects of an object and its relationship to a user or creator that are important in this discussion. Breaking it into its components ("the structure of the universe") loses that focus.

The fact that we will die ("as a process of being alive and living in a place that will kill us absolutely randomly.") is irrelevant. The fact that a hammer is possible is irrelevant. The point is, the creator of a hammer had in mind some reason to create it the way he (or she) did. That reason gives the hammer an inherent purpose, despite the fact that it might be better suited to some other purpose, and actually used for a third one.

morriswalters wrote:Purpose implies meaning
How so? If aliens came upon our (long dead) civilization and found a claw hammer, that hammer would still have been created to drive nails. That's what it was made for. That's what it was for. That was its purpose. Now, with no humans left to drive nails, it may no longer have that use, at least to us, but it was still made with that in mind.

Likewise, an eardrum evolved in a self-referential feedback loop; that particular loop gave the eardrum the purpose of translating air movements into bone movements, in the aid of allowing a creature to perceive sounds.

Unlike that, rocks (or grains of sand) are not created for any purpose; they have no place in any feedback loop, and no design plan exists for their use. They just are.

morriswalters wrote:I'm leery of the idea that anything ought to be true...
...and I'm not claiming anything with an ought. To be explicit, when I say a hammer has the purpose of driving nails, I am not saying that therefore, we ought to drive nails with it.

Jose
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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby morriswalters » Sun Jul 30, 2017 8:01 am UTC

ucim wrote:It distills the aspects of an object and its relationship to a user or creator that are important in this discussion. Breaking it into its components ("the structure of the universe") loses that focus.
I'm making a different distinction. Humans give purpose, objects are objects. Your hammer today is something else at some point in time. Moving in either direction on the arrow of time. And if your trying to confuse me with this, it's working.
I'm talking about the purpose of an object that has purpose, and the lack of purpose of an object that, while it could have a use, has no (inherent) purpose.
A tool was made to be a tool, a rock wasn't, is that it? I'm okay with that, if so.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby rmsgrey » Sun Jul 30, 2017 12:03 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Even on a planet that had no humans to objectify objects, there could be individual pieces of rock. Earth had individual pieces of rock long before humans; in fact, long before any kind of life form existed on earth.


Or did it?

Okay, there were particles arranged in patterns that we would call individual rocks, but them being rocks is because we, as humans, have identified a particular class of pattern as being an object. If you look at things from a particle scale, then the particles making up the individual rocks are migrating in and out pretty much constantly rather than there being a fixed set of particles in a fixed configuration that all stick together. If you look at things from a cosmological scale, an individual rock is just a transient blip, rather than a useful object to track.

The very idea of a rock as an object is a result of the scale we work at rather than some cosmic truth.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby ucim » Sun Jul 30, 2017 1:17 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:A tool was made to be a tool, a rock wasn't, is that it? I'm okay with that, if so.
Yes, and being made to be a tool reasonably leads to the statement "its purpose is to {whatever the tool does}". Nothing profound about purpose, just that that's what it was made for by some sentient entity. I extend this to feedback loops (eardrum) but not to happenstance (rocks).
rmsgrey wrote:...but them being rocks is because we, as humans, have identified...
No. Them being rocks is independent of us. Them being called rocks of course depends on us, but what a thing is is not the same as what it is called. This theory, that I have, which is mine....

Jose
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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby morriswalters » Sun Jul 30, 2017 3:52 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Yes, and being made to be a tool reasonably leads to the statement "its purpose is to {whatever the tool does}". Nothing profound about purpose, just that that's what it was made for by some sentient entity. I extend this to feedback loops (eardrum) but not to happenstance (rocks).
Physicists gave rocks a purpose, to create gravity. The rock you find is somebodies pet rock. And so on. While the fact that a claw hammer exists, may give you evidence that somebody created it, it doesn't preclude it having another purpose unrelated to its creators. For doorstops, a rock is functionally the same as a claw hammer.

What I'm describing is redundancy. The more ways you can describe a thing the more likely it is that we can come to an understanding about what a word means. A claw hammer has more redundancy A rock has less. When I commented on your sentence, what I told you in effect was that, constant reuse reduces redundancy.

Holy Roget's Thesaurus Batman! :lol: I'm sorry, I may be Wylie Coyote, and just ran off a cliff somewhere past your point. Let me know if I have to pick myself up at the bottom and navigate back.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby ucim » Sun Jul 30, 2017 4:02 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote: While the fact that a claw hammer exists, may give you evidence that somebody created it, it doesn't preclude it having another purpose unrelated to its creators. For doorstops, a rock is functionally the same as a claw hammer.
Yes, exactly. The creator imbued it with "original purpose", and the user imbues it with "proximate purpose".

I claim that a rock has no original purpose, but the person who throws a rock at a window gives it the proximate purpose of breaking the window.

I claim however that it is meaningful to say that an eardrum does have an original purpose, despite there being no Creator. The feedback loop of evolution is sufficient.

I'm not convinced that physicists "created gravity" by purposing a rock though. I have a feeling gravity predates physicists. Can't prove it though. :)

morriswalters wrote: I'm sorry, I may be Wylie Coyote, and just ran off a cliff somewhere past your point. Let me know if I have to pick myself up at the bottom and navigate back.
Become the opposite of a physicist, and break up a rock to un-invent gravity. You'll float right back up.

And up.

and up....

More seriously, my original point related to "purpose" (a specific relationship between an object and its surroundings); your point seems to be about the meaning of the word used to describe the object.

Jose
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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sun Jul 30, 2017 5:00 pm UTC

ucim wrote: To be explicit, when I say a hammer has the purpose of driving nails, I am not saying that therefore, we ought to drive nails with it.

To be clear, I was never saying anyng like that either. Rather, I was saying that, if you are to drive nails (which maybe you ought or ougn't who knows, but if you are), then maybe you ought to use a hammer. It's not the case that you ought to use a thing only for its one singular purpose; it's the case that a purpose is any reason that you ought to use a thing. There being a hammer doesn't imply you ought to drive nails; but needing to drive nails could imply you ought to use a hammer.
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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Kit. » Sun Jul 30, 2017 5:21 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Kit. wrote:But sand and gravel also consist of individual objects.
...and if I were talking about a grain of sand, then that would be the one object we are talking about. I don't see what you are getting at. In any case I'm talking about one object;

I'm not sure. It seems that at the moment you are speaking about a class of objects, not about one particular existing object.

Or have you ever asked yourself, without my hints, "what is this grain of sand (in contrast to that grain of sand) good for?"?

What am I getting at? I am suggesting that the human activity of segmenting the picture of the observed world and classifying the resulting segments adds to the human meaning of "purpose" for any particular classified segment obtained as a result (being it a rock or, with a bit more of the human effort, a grain of sand).

ucim wrote:Even on a planet that had no humans to objectify objects, there could be individual pieces of rock. Earth had individual pieces of rock long before humans; in fact, long before any kind of life form existed on earth.

The same could also be said about the Moon Rabbit. Or any other segment of the observed world (and/or any other imagined entity) seeming to be stable enough in time.

However, what were those individual pieces of rock good for?

I'd say "nothing". "Goodness for" does not follow from being a stable entity in spacetime. "Goodness for" follows from being useful for (edit: or to?) lifeforms and/or rational agents that have access to this entity, and for that those lifeforms need to be adapted by natural selection, and those rational agents need to do their homework.

ucim wrote:This theory, that I have, which is mine....

We all have some theories. Some of us have many. Some of these many are in conflict with each other (such as QED and GR), which doesn't prevent them from being useful.

Here's one more theory for you.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby morriswalters » Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:49 pm UTC

ucim wrote:I'm not convinced that physicists "created gravity" by purposing a rock though. I have a feeling gravity predates physicists. Can't prove it though. :)
It's a good thing that I didn't say that then. They uncovered the structure and put a label on it. Now it is no longer just a rock. It has a purpose.
ucim wrote:More seriously, my original point related to "purpose" (a specific relationship between an object and its surroundings); your point seems to be about the meaning of the word used to describe the object.
I propose that the two things are exactly the same. The point is who is standing there to make the distinction.
Pfhorrest wrote:There being a hammer doesn't imply you ought to drive nails; but needing to drive nails could imply you ought to use a hammer.
An existing phrase describes that condition. Form follows function.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby ucim » Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:09 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:but needing to drive nails could imply you ought to use a hammer.
Yes, for the "weak" sense of "ought" (the sense which does not imply moral imperative, but merely implies likely utility).
Kit. wrote: It seems that at the moment you are speaking about a class of objects, not about one particular existing object.
I'm talking about one object; an arbitrary member of a particular class of objects.

Kit. wrote:However, what were those individual pieces of rock good for?
They can be good for many things, without having been made for anything. And "(original) purpose" has to do with "made for", not "good for". Further, "(proximate) purpose" has to do with "used for", not "good for".

morriswalters wrote:They uncovered the structure and put a label on it. Now it is no longer just a rock. It has a purpose.
No, it's still just a rock, albeit one we know a little bit more about.

morriswalters wrote:
ucim wrote:More seriously, my original point related to "purpose" (a specific relationship between an object and its surroundings); your point seems to be about the meaning of the word used to describe the object.
I propose that the two things are exactly the same. The point is who is standing there to make the distinction.
I guess it's my turn to imitate Wily Coyote. "wat?"

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby morriswalters » Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:36 pm UTC

ucim wrote:No, it's still just a rock, albeit one we know a little bit more about.
We seem to be traveling in circles.
ucim wrote:I guess it's my turn to imitate Wily Coyote. "wat?"
Beep, beep. :D Give me back my pet rock which you found. If that doesn't make it clear than it isn't possible to make it clear.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Soupspoon » Sun Jul 30, 2017 8:50 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:We seem to be traveling in circles.
Either that, or maybe in entirely straight lines through a looped spacetime... ;)

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Kit. » Sun Jul 30, 2017 9:30 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Kit. wrote: It seems that at the moment you are speaking about a class of objects, not about one particular existing object.
I'm talking about one object; an arbitrary member of a particular class of objects.

Which means you are speaking not about the object, but about the class of objects.

If you are going to claim that classes exist independently of the results of natural selection or experience that created their classifiers, that could be understood, but that devalues the idea of "existence" of individual rocks as material objects. In my opinion, it just tautologizes the predicate "exists", making it useless.

ucim wrote:They can be good for many things, without having been made for anything.

I don't see how they could be good for anything when they could not be used for anything, as there was no one to use them.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby SuicideJunkie » Mon Jul 31, 2017 4:43 pm UTC

Kit. wrote:
ucim wrote:They can be good for many things, without having been made for anything.

I don't see how they could be good for anything when they could not be used for anything, as there was no one to use them.

I would still consider the hammer at the back of the shelf in the hardware store good for hitting nails, even if nobody ever buys it and it eventually gets thrown away.

Should there be a distinction between that hammer at the back of the shelf, and a hammer buried in concrete? Or a hammer buried in time?
It seems to me that the tool is merely increasingly inaccessible and impractical to use, but hasn't itself changed.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby orthogon » Mon Jul 31, 2017 4:51 pm UTC

SuicideJunkie wrote:
Kit. wrote:
ucim wrote:They can be good for many things, without having been made for anything.

I don't see how they could be good for anything when they could not be used for anything, as there was no one to use them.

I would still consider the hammer at the back of the shelf in the hardware store good for hitting nails, even if nobody ever buys it and it eventually gets thrown away.

Thrown away, you say?
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xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby rmsgrey » Mon Jul 31, 2017 6:38 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:...but them being rocks is because we, as humans, have identified...
No. Them being rocks is independent of us. Them being called rocks of course depends on us, but what a thing is is not the same as what it is called.

Them being a thing at all is because we have identified "rocks" as a thing something can be. Slice the universe into different chunks, and there's no "rocks", any more than there's "slood".

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Kit. » Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:13 pm UTC

SuicideJunkie wrote:
Kit. wrote:I don't see how they could be good for anything when they could not be used for anything, as there was no one to use them.

I would still consider the hammer at the back of the shelf in the hardware store good for hitting nails, even if nobody ever buys it and it eventually gets thrown away.

Should there be a distinction between that hammer at the back of the shelf, and a hammer buried in concrete?

While I agree that there is no hard boundary, I wouldn't consider a hammer buried in concrete good for hitting nails. I would consider it extremely bad for that purpose, and would try to seek alternatives.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby ucim » Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:51 pm UTC

Kit. wrote:I wouldn't consider a hammer buried in concrete good for hitting nails.
A hammer buried in my toolbox isn't good for hitting nails either. However, once removed from toolbox or concrete, it's no longer a "hammer buried in {whatever}". It's a hammer. It's the same hammer. It's good for hitting nails.

rmsgrey wrote:Them being a thing at all is because we have identified "rocks" as a thing something can be.
When Ug is hit by a rock, does it matter that Ug had never considered rocks a thing? When, after Ug learns that rocks are a thing and hits a slug with one, is the slug immune because slugs have never thought about rocks? When the last human dies, will rocks cease to be? Will they at least cease to be good for killing slugs and filling holes?

The map is not the territory.

morriswalters wrote:Give me back my pet rock which you found. If that doesn't make it clear than it isn't possible to make it clear.
Ok, physicists see a rock and use it to illustrate gravity. That (particular) rock now has the (proximate) purpose of illustrating (not creating!) gravity by doing it's thing of responding to the gravitational field in the usual manner. Once the illustration is done, the rock no longer has that purpose, though it once had that purpose. Another rock may serve that purpose in the future, as may the (shared) idea of a rock. However, neither in this case nor in your pet rock case was this an original purpose. The rock was not created with any purpose.

Kit. wrote:Which means you are speaking not about the object, but about the class of objects.
An arbitrary member of a set is not the same as the set itself. Similarly, the class of "grains of sand" is not the same as "sand".

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:06 pm UTC

I'm gonna cede the point. I think we are saying the same thing. But we could dance around in this statistical cloud forever and never be certain. If there is a difference, it lies in where the purpose lives. In the hammer or me.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby ucim » Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:09 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:If there is a difference, it lies in where the purpose lives. In the hammer or me.
Or in hammerspace.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:01 am UTC

ucim wrote:Yes, for the "weak" sense of "ought" (the sense which does not imply moral imperative, but merely implies likely utility).

I still hold that there isn't aren't two different senses there, just the same sense at different... depths of investigation, I guess you might say? Life is full of "ethically boring" conditional imperatives of the form "to do B you ought to do A", just meaning "A is useful toward accomplishing B". In turn, you might explain why you're trying to B in the first place by saying that it's useful toward accomplishing C, so to do C you ought to do B and in turn then you ought to do A since A is useful to accomplishing B. But then why accomplish C? Whatever D you give as a thing C is useful toward, you can ask again why D, and so on, and these perfectly ordinary everyday "ought in the sense of useful" instances regress into a deep philosophical problem of why ever do anything at all, what's the point of it all, what justifies any acts, and what acts cannot be justified, in other words all the deep moral questions. Ethics isn't about some different "stronger" kind of "ought", or a different class of acts, it's just about figuring out what grounds the ordinary "weak" sense of "ought" that involves normal everyday acts.

Completing that project is useful for pleasing your boss which is useful for keeping your job which is useful for getting money which is useful for buying food which is useful for staying alive which is useful for... what is life useful for? Making more life? What is that useful for? Suddenly you hit a philosophical problem without ever asking a different kind of question, just following the mundane kind of question far enough.

The same is true of epistemic justification. Every ordinary everyday thing that we know, we can give some other facts in light of which we know the first one in question, and this is boring normal unphilosophical explanation the whole time, but you can apparently keep asking "why" forever (this time an actually different sense of "why", asking for an explanation or epistemic justification, not a purpose or deontic justification) and that raises the big philosophical questions of whether that regress ever stops and where and why and now you're doing epistemology and metaphysics asking what's at the bottom of it all. Not because you want answers to a different kind of question than the ordinary everyday non-philosophical one, you just want to know where (or if) that line of non-philosophical questioning ends, and that makes it philosophical.

There's not some sharp boundary between mundane and philosophical topics. Philosophy permeates everyday life. It's just what happens when you look hard enough at the ordinary everyday questions.
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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby ucim » Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:29 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Life is full of "ethically boring" conditional imperatives of the form "to do B you ought to do A", just meaning "A is useful toward accomplishing B". In turn, you might explain why you're trying to B in the first place by saying that it's useful toward accomplishing C...
Yes, in that sense, you ought to use a hammer if you want to drive nails. Why do you want to drive nails? ... goal Z is an ordinary non-ethically-loaded thing you want to accomplish, and to do that you need to drive nails.

However, you ought to refrain from raping and pillaging the local high school students. Why? If it's ultimately (goal Z) because you want to stay out of jail, then you are using amoral reasoning here: if you don't mind going to jail, then it would be ok to rape and pillage. I maintain that, even if you don't mind jail, you ought to refrain from raping and pillaging the local high school students, no matter how much fun it might be. This is a sense of "ought" that is not merely practical, but ethical. It's a different kind of "ought".

We can debate what it is that makes something ethical or not, but so long as we agree that ethics is not merely practicality re-spelled, it would follow that ethics leads to a different kind of "ought". And even if you maintain that if you go deep enough it's all just physics anyway (thus denying the basic humanity of people), I'd maintain that even as an illusion, like "free will" it's a useful one in most ordinary circumstances. Ethics is an emergent property, and as such, does warrant its own domain, just like biology (applied chemistry, or applied applied physics) is also its own domain.

It's from there that I bring forth the ethical "ought" as different in kind from the practical "ought".

And it's along similar lines that I draw the distinction between original purpose and proximate purpose, and claim its significance here.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:48 am UTC

Why stay out of jail? Because jail is unpleasant? Why avoid unpleasant things? Maybe pleasure is an intrinsic end, and needs no justification? (Not necessarily saying that myself, it's just an easy short possible answer to get on with the point). Is it just your pleasure that's an intrinsic end, or is satisfying your pleasure just a special case of the end of people generally experiencing pleasure and not suffering? If the former... well, then you're an ethical egoist, and it would be consistent for you to think raping the high schoolers is okay if you can escape the consequences. If the latter, well, then that's a reason not to rape the high schoolers right there: to do so would be counterproductive to the ultimate goal you're aiming for.

If you're ultimately aiming to bring pleasure and not suffering to people generally, including yourself specifically, then all the ordinary everyday bits of practical reasoning you use to just get the things you want done in life done are all part of the same chain of ultimately moral reasoning, even if you don't normally think the whole connection through. If you're not aiming to bring pleasure and not suffering to people generally, then your moral outlook would generally be described as amoral, yeah, and you would disagree that there's any reason not to rape the high schoolers if you could get away with it. And people who see bringing pleasure and not suffering to people as a goal would see your potential actions as impeding that goal and act against against you accordingly, including possibly by trying to convince you to adopt that goal.

"Why not rape the kids?" could be rephrased "What are you trying to accomplish by not-raping the kids?" If your only answer is "avoiding jail" and, sans that, you would have no reason and would go ahead and do it, then yeah, you're just an amoral ethical egoist or nihilist or something. If your answer is "avoiding inflicting suffering" or something along those lines, then you have altruistic ends in mind, and that is the purpose for not-raping the kids; which is to say, not-raping the kids is useful toward the goal of avoiding the infliction of suffering.
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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby ucim » Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:13 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:...even if you don't normally think the whole connection through.
I think that's part of the key - biologists don't generally "think the whole connection through" to the subatomic level; for the most part their biological abbreviations are sufficient. It's what makes biology generally self contained as a science. (Of course nothing is completely self-contained; e.g. QM turns out to play an interesting direct role in the biology of photosynthesis.) Ethics is one of those things; ethical abbreviations are robust enough to form a useful system on their own.

Pfhorrest wrote:If your answer is "avoiding inflicting suffering" or something along those lines, then you have altruistic ends in mind, and that is the purpose for not-raping the kids; which is to say, not-raping the kids is useful toward the goal of avoiding the infliction of suffering.
This can also be stated as "being ethical is the ultimate goal, and not-raping the kids is useful towards that ultimate goal." Yes, ethics is "just" applied applied applied physics, but its abbreviations form a useful system on their own.

It is this that I point to in justifying treating ethical "oughts" as different from practical "oughts". Yes, ultimately it's all physics, but some physics is more conveniently bundlable, and the bundles give insight that the raw physics does not. I'd even go so far as to say that science is the art of finding appropriate bundles through which to think about the world.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby orthogon » Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:27 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Yes, ethics is "just" applied applied applied physics, but its abbreviations form a useful system on their own.

It is this that I point to in justifying treating ethical "oughts" as different from practical "oughts". Yes, ultimately it's all physics, [...]


You and Pfhorrest might agree on this point, but I don't think it's a given. To do ethics, you have to add axioms that don't, to my mind, correspond to fundamental physical laws and can't be confirmed by experiment. You've got to start from something like "all human beings are equal" or "all human beings have rights", or Kant's Categorical Imperative or the Golden Rule or whatever; you have, as it were, to hold certain truths to be self-evident. In the final chapter of How the Mind Works, Pinker lists morality as a mystery on a par with P-Consciousness: something that we somehow feel exists and yet can't begin to get a proper handle on. (In fact, he floats the conjecture that morality really is a kind of extra fundamental force in the cosmos, but then dismisses that as being unsatisfactory).
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1867: "Physics Confession"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:44 pm UTC

No I agree more with you orthogon. I'm a staunch supporter of the is-ought distinction. I think that there are two broad classes of attitude/opinion/question/assertion/etc, generally analogous but differentiated in an important way (direction of fit), and that we correspondingly build two different models of the world in our minds: one representing how it is, and the other representing how it ought to be. The natural sciences are all in the "modeling how the world is" category, and they all reduce to physics, but none of that even attempts at all to talk about how the world ought to be (nor should it, because that's a different kind of activity).

And before Jose thinks that everything else I've been saying contradicts that: the kind of pragmatic "oughts" I've been talking about are not descriptive in attitude, they are conditional imperatives, and therefore prescriptive. There's a difference between "A being the case implies B being the case" (a statement of a relationship between two states of affairs, without saying either that either of them is or that it ought to be), "if A is the case then B is the case" (a conditional description), and "if A ought to be the case then B ought to be the case" (a conditional prescription). These pragmatic "oughts" are of the latter form, though we wouldn't usually spell it out like that. "To drive nails, use a hammer" is a conditional imperative that we might also write as "if you are to drive nails, then use a hammer", and "you are to" is synonymous with "you ought to", it's an imperative telling you what to do. (e.g. "Sgt. Smith, you are to report to latrine duty on the double!", "All contestants are to check in with the stage manager before performing", "People are to treat each other always as ends in themselves and never merely as means", etc).

So if you ought to drive nails, you ought to use a hammer (maybe, depending on circumstances). Ought you drive nails? Well to connect these two boards, yeah, you ought to. Ought you connect these two boards? To finish building this house, yeah, you ought to. In order to get paid for this job. In order to have money in order to buy food in order to live in order to... etc.
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