Mod+ Why David Bentley Hart thinks choosing a tie reveals more about consciousness than near death experi

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Dec 22, 2015.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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    Why David Bentley Hart thinks choosing a tie reveals more about consciousness than near death experiences |298|
    by Alex Tsakiris | Dec 23 | Consciousness Science, Spirituality

    Theologian and Philosopher Dr. David Bentley Hart has little patience for sloppy thinking atheists. Looks to consciousness and spirituality.

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    photo by: André Batista

    The wooden pews in the Greek Orthodox church I grew up in were hard and uncomfortable. I think it was by design. The spiritual path of my ancestors was one of sacrifice, suffering… and of course, fear. The pews fit the path, but the path didn’t fit me. Fear kept there for a while, but even that wore off over time. As the years passed, my forced indoctrination was transformed into a genuine curiosity about human consciousness, science and soul. But all along I always wondered what had kept everyone else in those pews. How did they find Gnosis/truth/bliss/God through the ridiculous ritual and ceremony that dominates Orthodox Christianity?

    Today’s guest, author, philosopher and theologian, David Bentley Hart may have found a way through. From his scathing and intellectually rigorous dismantling of the physcialism/materialism that mesmerizes secular culture, to his thorough understanding of Eastern and Western religious traditions, Hart’s deep thinking is almost enough to get me back to those pews… well, almost:

    David Bentley Hart: If you examine the act of consciousness in which you are engaged when you’re choosing a tie you already find dynamisms that exceed the possibilities of the naturalist picture of reality.

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  2. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Alex's question at the end of the podcast:

    Extraordinary, or ordinary? Dr. Hart says he's explicitly drawn his attention away from extraordinary human consciousness (NDEs, medium communications, OBEs, etc). Instead, we should look at "ordinary" experiences in everyday consciousness and note their extraordinariness. What do you think about that?
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2015
  3. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Extraordinary, or ordinary? Dr. Hart says he's explicitly drawn his attention away from extraordinary human consciousness (NDEs, medium communications, OBEs, etc). Instead, we should look at "ordinary" experiences in everyday consciousness and note their extraordinariness. What do you think about that?

    I would have been very interested to hear more about this from Dr. Hart himself, but apart from mentioning it, he didn't seem to explore it further. I'm off to YouTube to see if I can find anything more, and if I do, will come back, post the link(s) and comment further.
     
  4. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    BTW, Alex and everyone else, I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
     
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  5. Vortex

    Vortex Member

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    Oh Alex, your Greek Orthodox Church at least had pews, even if quite hard and uncomfortable ones. In the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), visitors are not met with such a corrupting Western lenience - there are no pews (or chairs, benches, or any other kind of sitting stuff) at all: ones who are faithful should have enough resilience and fortitude to stand for the whole prayer-and-ritual sequence (and a devastatingly long sequence it is!). I still remember from my short and painfully disappointing adolescent love affair with the ROC the fatigue and irritation of this exhausting and murderously boring standings.

    (The branches of the ROC which reside in the West did purchased a few sitting furniture for the ones who are bodily weak, yet they were quite reluctant, if not openly unwilling, to do it.)

    I'm so happy today that this period of my spiritual search has passed rather quickly - not only because of the discomfort and boredom, and plain absence of any noticeable "feeling of divine grace" that was promised, but also because of openly reactionary and authoritarian nature of the ROC - the nature which was quite evident even in its milder previous years, and become quite blatantly obvious nowadays, when the ROC is a de facto branch of Russian Government, praising and promoting its xenophobic and sex-negative intitiatives. Free, Western-style spirituality definitely suits me much better.
     
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  6. Alex

    Alex New

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    funny.

    BTW did you see:

    great movie.
     
  7. Alex,

    You are concerned with the drop off in participation in the forum... it might have something to do with your anti-Christian sentiments. The podcast is unfriendly to atheists and Christians, that leaves about 6% of the population to participate in the forums.


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    Last edited: Dec 23, 2015
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  8. I think Dr Hart should do what he thinks is right, what he thinks is interesting. For myself I think both approaches are interesting and I cover both philosophical and empirical approaches on my blog and web site. However, I think the number of people who will be able to appreciate the philosophical arguments is much smaller than the number of people who can understand NDEs, evidential mediums, apparitions, death-bed visions, and past life memories.

    Trying to get through to convinced materialists is a tough problem. In my experience, if they aren't convinced by the empirical evidence when exposed to it, then they will be resistant to philosophical arguments too. We are all good at ignoring or dismissing inconvenient facts, but there is a much greater subjectivity in philosophy and therefore it's harder, not easier, to change someone's mind through philosophy than science. That professional philosophers disagree on many subjects attests to the fact that philosophical arguments are not necessarily convincing. Many people come to the debate with their minds made up and martial facts and arguments to support their beliefs rather than use them to determine the truth.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2015
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  9. KeithA

    KeithA New

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    I really like the idea of a kind of mystery in the ordinary. I guess if you take away what we normally call "ordinary" anyway, which is really something which builds up from lots of different repetitions of things, what's left is just mystery, the mystery of being and of substance and of Nature. Science gives abstract relations, they surely give important pictures which work to do so much for us but the picture isn't the reality.
    I have David's The Beauty of the Infinite - difficult! Very interested how such infinite can touch the finite in acts of creation of us, if we're not just biology which is necessary for beings like us in this present form. Gently, with great subtlety, I guess - the infinite is too big and dangerous, perhaps we are shielded necessarily. How this could be accomplished I suppose is kind of miraculous. And I guess we can be windows to this infinite.
     
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  10. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    The problem is that the ordinary - the cognition involved in selecting a tie - has been so smoothed into the scientific narrative, that it has lost the power to amaze - even though it probably should. In reality, I don't think neuroscience comes close to explaining even such mundane actions, but it certainly pretends to do so. The only way to break into that pretence is to look at events that can't possibly fit into the carefully constructed scientific narrative.

    To be honest however, I can't see myself reading any of David Bentley Hart's books. His writings on the internet seem pretty opaque. Here is an example:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/003-daniel-dennett-hunts-the-snark

    David
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2015
  11. dan

    dan New

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    Really enjoyed this interview. Great to hear more from DBH on Skeptiko who I agree is extremely bright and I've enjoyed listening to him debate at time ...Alex is right he usually beats his opponents so decisively its embaresing to watch at times out of sympathy for the atheists.

    With regards to the specific question I tend to agree with David Bailey's post above. DBH is quite right that Naturalism cannot adequately deal with everyday consciousness and the wider philosophy of mind Debate about how to account for subjectivity has no good answers in the naturalist framework. Nevertheless this argument is not that easily accessible to the lay person and the authoritative voice of mainstream neuroscience with its reductionist/eliminativist paradigm is often powerful enough to silence a generic incredulity in favour of an 'it's too complicated for me to understand' assumption. Hard evidence of nde's as veridical events breaks through all of this. DBH is right that the committed sceptic will dismiss this as anacdotal or will question the accuracy of the data but they are still powerful for many who are less ideologically constrained. To mount a powerful assault on naturalism we need to use both strategies together... Highlight the fringe events that blow the physicalist paradigm out of the water on one hand whilst being philosophically literate enough to challenge the standard explanations naturalism throws up for our everyday experiences on the other.
     
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  12. KeithA

    KeithA New

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    Hi. Have you come across the Free Will Theorem of Princeton mathematicians John Conway and Simon Kochen? While not a full proof in that it completely proves it, Conway is certain we have it. This bucks Sam Harris who doesn't believe we have. Not sure about Dennett who says consciousness is an illusion anyway. Thing is, if free will is not an illusion then this contradicts Dennett who probably hasn't factored in such a deep analysis into his ideas (he's not a physicist). My point is that here's something that's within the domain of "scientific narrative" and, though it doesn't trump a materialistic picture (unless quantum physics has non-materialistic issues - like the observer problem) one can get on the road to refute the "consciousness is illusion" crowd because free will isn't illusory.

    link here https://plus.maths.org/content/john-conway-discovering-free-will-part-i

    I did like his article in First Things, the link you gave. Just shows for me the power of the full use of language. And against the same person above - who thinks consciousness is an illusion. Cheers.
     
  13. KeithA

    KeithA New

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    I just wanted to pursue this "free will" idea. I found Dennett's view in an interview (Robert Kuhn - Closer to Truth) ...



    He's clear ...

    I think that people have been looking in the wrong place for 2000 years or more on this, they’ve been looking at physics, determinism, indeterminism in physics. They should have been looking at biology. Because the key to free will is understanding that free will is a biological- level phenomenon, it’s not a physical-level phenomenon. We are freer than our parts. Our parts don’t have free will. But we do.

    The varieties [of free will] that matter. The varieties of free will worth wanting, as I’ve said, are perfectly compatible with determinism.

    So if he's not looking at physics and Conway/Kochen are right, then he's wrong. Conway/Kochen use indeterminism.

    It also seem this view of his is one that is very keen to "claim the high ground" of biology to explain free will and this may be a determined ontological position (without justification) he wants to take to preclude anything else "getting in" that might in any way upset the materialist project, if you like. I'm not saying any of this quantum free will analysis implies spirituality etc., etc., but if it's right the consciousness as illusion position is surely upset. He's been scientifically falsified (probably, at least on free will).

    Don't mean to be off-topic here ... just following from David's "look at events that can't possibly fit into the carefully constructed scientific narrative" idea to something (like a deep analysis of free will) that does fit, but which can contradict a view of free will that relies on determinism.
     
  14. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    That theorem looks pretty heavy, but it seems to assume that QM operates completely unchanged. I guess if we are saying that the brain has some sort of interaction with a non-material realm - for example, if consciousness could bias the way that certain wave function collapses took place (as opposed to just choosing to collapse or not collapse).

    I think if people want to find free will inside an exclusively physical system, that is a big ask!

    David
     
  15. KeithA

    KeithA New

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    The key they say is indeterminism which makes their free will so different from Dennett. Maybe this and the observer issue in quantum physics is the kind of "hinge" that allows an interaction of the brain/mind with this other exterior realm. They also say indeterminism is not the same as randomness at all, which in principle is measureable in a classical system. You just have to look with finer and finer detail. Just that the concept is completely not the same. Interestingly, Conway does not say they are ascribing consciousness to electrons, just free will. And I agree - the theorem is heavy!
     
  16. Alex

    Alex New

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    agreed. history seems to suggest that the steady drip of contrary evidence at the fringes is often how paradigms fall.
     
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  17. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Stapp has a model of the interaction of consciousness in which information is communicated to the physical world by the frequency of observations. This corresponds completely with the Copenhagen interpretation of QM. The point is that if an object starts off in state |a> and is observed after a certain amount of perturbation has taken place, it may be found in state |b>, but the probability of that goes up as the square of the time interval - (because QM probabilities depend on |ψ|^2 ) so repeated observations can effectively lock an observable in a given state.

    It has always seemed to me that this rather complex mechanism may not be necessary because the standard way of calculating the QM transition probabilities may only apply if the system is effectively being observed by many people, or maybe the wave function can also be collapsed by non-conscious mechanisms. If that is the case, it might be that consciousness can directly bias the outcome of wave function collapses! I read an account by Stapp recently with acknowledges that alternative.

    The thing about saying an electron is conscious is that they are supposed to be QM-identical - so all the electrons in the universe would have to be thinking the same thing! This is also my objection to panpsychism.

    David
     
  18. Vortex

    Vortex Member

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    Yes, I did saw the movie. It is quite captivating as itself, but the social context in which it was produced - and social consequences which it initiated - are even more important. To be short, "Leviathan" was massively condemned and anathemazied as being "anti-Russian", "blackening Russia", "slandering Russia" etc. In fact, this is the common fate of any movie (or book, or else) which shows any kind of negativity in Russian life, which make it into an annoyance for the official propaganda machine.
     
  19. Harry Parshall

    Harry Parshall New

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    For me words hide the depth of experience. When someone says they are happy I don't get a sense scale unless they express it with their body. Looking out on the world I measure other people's experiences by the range of my own, I map happy people to my happiness and sad people to my sadness. I've discovered some people have scales so wide my own are tiny in comparison. When they talk of happy or sad it is nothing like my versions but the words are similar. The words stripped of their depth I'm left with my own tiny map of happy or sad. When David Bentley Hart says "experience of the transcendent right within the midst of the ordinary–that every ordinary act of consciousness is already saturated with a primordial knowledge of transcendence" this is obvious for I have experienced this many times. The words hide from me whether he has experienced this aspect of consciousness or has arrived at the statement via his remarkable intellect. Word strip so much body out of our conversation I am amazed we can communicate anything other than simple thoughts. Having experienced the transcendence of the ordinary I wonder if it is so common our culture has discounted it into invisibility in our conversations and thoughts.
     
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  20. Harry Parshall

    Harry Parshall New

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    at 28:30 into the interview David Hart says what sounds like; "probably more like a toria experience." Does anyone know what he was referring to?
     

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