Stolen Concepts: All Materialist Arguments Are Self-Refuting
|June 24, 2013||Posted by William J Murray under Philosophy, Darwinism, Physics, Animal minds, Logic and First Principles of right reason|
The stolen concept fallacy is a form of self-refutation.
From Wikipedia: Stolen Concept – the act of using a concept while ignoring, contradicting or denying the validity of the concepts on which it logically and genetically depends.
In an ongoing, multi-thread sub-debate at The Skeptical Zone, I have been making the case that when materialists argue, they necessarily employ stolen concepts, such as those referred to by the following terms and more: “I”, “we”, “prove”, “evidence”, “reason”, “logic”, “determine”, “conclude”, “error”, “fact”, “objective”, “subjective”, etc.
Generally agreed upon by many of those at TSZ (although now I suspect we’ll get a barrage of disagreement via DDS), human beings are material computations of physics, meaning that everything a human does, says, thinks, believes, concludes, etc. is generated by a non-linear and largely unpredictable cause and effect sequence of physics. Also agreed to is that seemingly unrelated material input, both interior and exterior, can be necessary (but not sufficient) causes for any output of the physics computation – IOW, a butterfly can flap its wings in Brazil, or a person can eat a pizza on Wednesday, and through a sequence of effects those things can be the necessary element required to get the materialist to say, think, conclude or do a particular thing (chaos theory).
When a person that believes in Libertarian Free Will (LFW) says “I conclude, by using logic and reason, that the evidence directly implies X”, the concepts they are employing that underlie those terms give such a statement significant meaning. “I” is taken as an autonomous, uncaused source of free will that is not compelled by physics or anything else to reach any particular conclusion. “Using logic and reason” implies that this locus of LFW has the capacity to utilize an absolute arbiter of true statements towards sound conclusions (even if such use is imperfect, what is being used is considered perfect and non-arbitrary). “Evidence” is taken as something that should be recognized as such by other such entities. That the evidence “directly implies” a particular conclusion is definitely not a statement that “butterfly wind and pizza” may have caused me to think such, but rather that other LFW individuals can access the same absolute means of arbitration and should (if properly used) reach the same conclusions via the same implications by the same consideration of the evidence. The movement from premise to inference to conclusion is considered directly linear and causal by absolute standards, and any imperfections lie in quality of evidence and argument, not in the tool (logic) that is being used.
But, none of those supporting concepts are available to a materialist when they say the same sentence: “I conclude, by using logic and reason, that the evidence directly implies X.” They are (under a charitable reading) mistakenly constructing a claim out of terminology that relies upon concepts they have no right to employ because of their ideology.
Unpacking the same statement using materialist-available grounding concepts, what has the materialist said? What is the “I”? The “I” is a both the product of and the ongoing, local, idiosyncratic computation of physics. The “I” is whatever the computation is and outputs. A “conclusion” generated by the computation is just whatever the computation happens to label as “conclusion”. Logic and reason are nothing more than whatever that particular, idiosyncratic, local computation defines those things as, and how it uses that bit of programming, with no absolute standard to judge it by. If a local computation puts the label “logic” on a bit of programming that compares all ideas and inferences and conclusions against what is written in the Bible, or against whatever tiles one draws from a pile of Scrabble tiles, that is what “logic” is for that individual, and it is as much “logic” as any other individual computation. Evidence is whatever the computation labels with that word, and the “evidence bin” of one’s computation is whatever the computation happens to put in there. The “implied conclusion” is – again – whatever the computation internally labels as “implied conclusion”, by whatever means it happens to produce the so-labelled output.
So, if the materialist were to rephrase the statement using terms that do not steal foundational concepts from ideologies he/she has no right to, the corrected statement would read: “This particular, local computation of physics has produced output X.” Nothing more, and nothing less, has occurred. “Logic and reason” are just locally labelled, idiosyncratic portions of the computation. “I” is the same. “Evidence” is the same. There is nothing but the computation, and all of those stolen concept words serve only to hide this fact from others, or from the materialists themselves. “Knowledge” and “science” are nothing more, and cannot be anything more (under materialism) than whatever any particular arrangement of physics defines them as, and populates those memory bank categories with. Even the idea of external consensus of views and definitions cannot be anything more than what any particular, individual computation computes it to be. “Objective” is just a term that means, and is populated by, whatever any particular subjective computation holds it as. Under materialism, every individual is a computational solipsist without any exterior standards that can be accessed or used.
When materialists argue, all they can be doing under materialism is, under compulsion of physics, outputting strings of words (whether they make sense to anyone else or not) for the supposed purpose of getting another local computation to change its output. But how do they expect to accomplish this? Since such outcomes, under materialism, cannot be predicted, and all computations are non-linear and unpredictable, there’s no way to determine how any particular string of words might affect the other computation. It might be more effective, as far as changing its output, to feed it pizza and beer and send it a jazz CD. Yet, materialists argue as if particular strings of words have the predictable capacity to alter the processing configuration of another computation.
Also, why even try to change the output, or outputting configuration, of another computation? It is no different in nature than a maple leaf attempting to get a fig leaf to change its configuration; the fig leaf is configured exactly as physics has produced. There is no “error” because there is no “standard” other than whatever physics happens to produce. If beliefs are simply configurations generated by physics, there is no “erroneous” belief, any more than there is an “erroneous” shape of a rock. The term “erroneous” in this sense is a category error using a concept unavailable under materialism. There is no means by which to determine what beliefs are “true” or “false” because the conditions and capacity for making such determinations lie entirely within the computation that produced the terms, and attached them to output, in the first place.
The ideas represent by the terms “error” and “truth” cannot be extracted from materialism, where such terms only mean whatever any particular, local, biological automaton (individual expression of physics) says they mean, and are applied wherever the biological automaton applies them. “It is true” and “It is false”, correctly stated under materialism, becomes “output = X”. And, as we all know with computers, Garbage In = Garbage Out (GIGO), and there is no means or resource for the computations to escape the GIGO problem, because that’s all that exists. Additionally, computations of physics are not necessarily “true” or “accurate” in any meaningful sense of those words; the “program” can be one that continually produces “false” or nonsensical output – but then, those terms would only have meaning if there was an absolute arbiter.
Suffice it to say, a local computation of physics can produce what we call madmen, fools, sages, scientists, Dahmer, Hiter, Gandhi, Darwin and Billy Graham, and whatever they believed and thought and did, whatever they considered true and false and logical and nonsensical, a dime for a dozen. So, not only does GIGO apply, but the computational system itself can be programmed to produce garbage even if there is good input (acknowledging that “garbage” and “good”, as used here, are terms that only apply outside of materialist ideology.
The problem is that virtually every post a materialist makes is constructed in a way that relies upon concepts unavailable to their ideology, whether they admit it or not, whether they realize it or not. Certainly if they make an argument, where they expect their opponents to be able to freely arbit the soundness of their logic, and to be able to freely examine the quality of the evidence, and reach a justified conclusion, they are necessarily assuming that butterfly wind and pizza cannot be necessary causal contributors, and are assuming (even if unknowingly) both are using an absolute standard of arbitration and not whatever any chaotic and non-linear permutations of physics happens to produce in each case. They depend on the individual capacity to supercede the GIGO problem and the individuals free capacity to access absolute standards and resources.
TL;DR: All materialist arguments, if materialism is true, amount to nothing more – fundamentally – than monkeys flinging feces at other monkeys, blindly hoping that this act will make the other monkey submissive to them. Any other understanding requires concepts unavailable to the materialist, regardless of the words and terms they use. When materialists argue as if they are making sound arguments their opponents should understand and accept, they are necessarily refuting their own metaphysical position.