Re: Placebo effect not physical

From: Steve Nichols (
Date: Wed Jan 10 2001 - 19:27:24 MST

Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2001 03:21:56 -0500 (EST)
From: Dan Fabulich <>
Subject: Re: Placebo effect not physical

Hi Dan

Have been travelling for a while and just back ... will get a
longer reply to this mailing when have time.

S> This just proves my point. Not only do you define everything that exists
S> or has been thought of as "physical" but everything that hasn't been
S> thought of as well! What "uses" do you have in mind, I find this
S> manoeuvre pointless.

>Here, I think you're overlooking the difference between the physically
>possible and the logically possible. While it is logically possible
>that non-physical things exist, it isn't physically possible. The
>physically possible is determined by the correct laws of physics,
>whatever they may turn out to be. The logically possible is bounded
>only by the rules of logic. It is logically possible for you to
>psychokinetically cause a fork and spoon to dance in the air, but, as
>far as we know, this is physically impossible.

I still maintain that your argument is merely semantically.
You are saying that "logical" (possible) existence is not
the same as "physical" existence (Laws of physics) ... and that
non-physical things therefore cannot be Physical ... but you
must conflate "physical" with "existence" to deny the existence of
anything non-physical.

As far as I am concerned, physical entities are composed of
physical properties (atoms and energy), so are describable
fully in terms of physics .... but imaginable (conscious or
logical) quantities might exist outside what is describable by
physics. No contradiction is entailed here. Beside, you admit
we do not really know what the "Laws" of physics are ... and
Heisenberg builds 'Uncertainty' into them anyway.

Maybe your "Laws" of physics are non-physical/ non-detectable
conscious entities .... maybe the work of some omnipotent
God or Goddess ..... but surely not reducible to dust, particles or
energy? I think they are abstractions, thoughts, or concepts.

If I manage to
>psychokinetically cause a fork and spoon to dance in the air,
do you then automatically want to ascribe physical causation?

>The point of figuring out what is physically possible should be
>obvious to you; it has been the project of physicists and scientists
>for centuries, and may well engage us for far longer than that. The
>utility of this knowledge has proven itself over and over again.

But fiction and the imagination has been the project of artists,
playwrights and writers over the ages .. and who can say their project
is any less valuable? I don't dispute the utility of scientific knowledge,
and am a scientist myself ... but I happen to think that your "one
size fits all" physicalism is a crude way of evaluating reality, and
naturally has problems with phantom limbs, MVT, and dreams &c.

>One characteristic of physical objects are the objects such that it is
>physically possible that they could exist. This does not include
>everything that could ever be thought of. Fairies, for example, are
>physically impossible, but could obviously be thought of. Fairies are
>not physical objects: they are fictional magical ones. They are
>logically possible, but physically impossible.

Agree they are logically possible ... but not necessarily that they
are physically impossible if we consider "all possible worlds."
I happen to disagree with supernaturalism in all its forms, since
a natural explanation is always better. But I am also not prepared
to use the "impossible" generalisation ... I want to keep open all
possibilities even if extremely unlikely and not a workable hypothesis.
In the consciousness case .. we DO all experience this (and perhaps
nothing else) ... so it doesn't require a leap of faith, like fairies or

MVT (strong version) fits in with a wider pattern of causation & only
requires a fairly small leap of faith, but I think that your physicalism
requires an even bigger one! You must assume that Laws exist that
we don't know, and deny ANY possibility of questionable entities while
allowing logical (imaginable) reality of these same entities. It is a pure
leap of faith that all there is are "atoms and the void" ... no experiment
can ever show this ...

S> observed or detected. What are "brain symbols" anyway, I have never
S> heard of these .....

>Brain symbols are abstract entities; they're the way information is
>encoded in the brain. It's intentionally pretty vague so as to make
>it possible to have a discussion about them without necessarily
>knowing the details. We know that the brain stores information
>somehow; when we refer to brain symbols we invoke "whatever it is that
>the brain is doing there."

I will reply to the remainder of your points in time .. but must ask for
clarification of "abstract entities" .... since I argue for the phantom
pineal eye as an "abstract entity" rather than a purely physical one.
Symbols are not physical, but you seem to be advocating non-physical
properties here .... as opposed to action-potential signals that are
clearly electro-chemical.

Live long and prosper
Post-Human, Pre-Vulcan

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