A Call for Arguments against Mysticism/Spirituality


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We have many individuals who disagree with the epistemological stance for rationally considering mysticism/spirituality as pertaining to reality. Among these individuals are Barbara, Ba'al, and Roger... as well as other brilliant minds on OL.

:hmm: The basic argument against mysticism is simply: there is no evidence to support existence of God, spirit, etc.

:angel: The arguments made recently (and historically) on OL for considering mysticism is: there is evidence through observations unrelated to either the senses or the logical mind.

I am creating this thread specifically to list out all the arguments against the current evidence for mysticism.

It is no longer tenable to argue that no evidence exists to support mysticism without invalidating the evidence that is presented in support of mysticism. Therefore, any arguments against mysticism must, to further discussions of mysticism on OL, be aimed at undermining the current arguments.

With so many sharp minds, I hope that some really good arguments against mysticism can be made. To offer a first step, one which I'm surprised has not been brought up, here is one I think about:

Mystical perceptions are supported by the fact that mutiple individuals can act to repeatedly observe (through meditation, etc.) the same phenomena and confirm their experiences amongst one-another, much as sensory perception is observed and confirmed by others (such that the observer knows he/she is not schizophrenic).

My argument is this: aggressive behavior against another person generally elicits anger in the victim. The elicitation of anger is an emotional phenomena, and can change one's perception of the situation radically such that the victim perceives the aggressor as evil. Many people who are aggressed against by the aggressor will confirm the same phenomenon (anger) and intepretation (evil). Therefore, the elicitation of anger and subsequent interpretation is repeatedly observed by the instigating behavior, and that experience is shared among multiple people. Shouldn't the experience that the aggressor is evil be considered a fact equivalent to mysticism? Yet, since emotions are subjective value assessments that pertain only to self-in-the-world (rather than a metaphysical truth about reality), the anger is subjective to the observer. Therefore, mysticism, although shared by many, should also be considered subjective to the observer.

Anyway, that's my best attempt. However, I'm really looking for others (like Barbara, etc.) to state their case against the current epistemological position in support of mysticism. I'd rather not have anyone support mysticism in this thread; that's not the goal. The goal is to learn and evolve discussions regarding the rationality of mysticism further by accepting arguments against.

Christopher

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Chris:

"My argument is this: aggressive behavior against another person generally elicits anger in the victim. The elicitation of anger is an emotional phenomena, and can change one's perception of the situation radically such that the victim perceives the aggressor as evil. Many people who are aggressed against by the aggressor will confirm the same phenomenon (anger) and intepretation (evil). Therefore, the elicitation of anger and subsequent interpretation is repeatedly observed by the instigating behavior, and that experience is shared among multiple people. Shouldn't the experience that the aggressor is evil be considered a fact equivalent to mysticism? Yet, since emotions are subjective value assessments that pertain only to self-in-the-world (rather than a metaphysical truth about reality), the anger is subjective to the observer. Therefore, mysticism, although shared by many, should also be considered subjective to the observer."

"...generally elicits anger in the victim..." I do not believe that that is a valid statement - fear and or submission might outweigh anger.

However, "Shouldn't the experience that the aggressor is evil be considered a fact equivalent to mysticism?" Not at all sure what you mean here.

"Yet, since emotions are subjective value assessments..." Some emotions are, all hmmm

Just some quick thoughts.

Adam

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"...generally elicits anger in the victim..." I do not believe that that is a valid statement - fear and or submission might outweigh anger.

However, "Shouldn't the experience that the aggressor is evil be considered a fact equivalent to mysticism?" Not at all sure what you mean here.

On the first quote, you're right. Other emotions could arise. I'm just suggesting that we can find many people to validate seemingly-common phenomenal states that are still personal and not metaphysical outside ourselves.

On the second, I meant that experiencing the aggressor as evil might seem metaphysical to the victim and conforms somewhat to both repeatability and confirmation among others.

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We have many individuals who disagree with the epistemological stance for rationally considering mysticism/spirituality as pertaining to reality. Among these individuals are Barbara, Ba'al, and Roger... as well as other brilliant minds on OL.

:hmm: The basic argument against mysticism is simply: there is no evidence to support existence of God, spirit, etc.

:angel: The arguments made recently (and historically) on OL for considering mysticism is: there is evidence through observations unrelated to either the senses or the logical mind.

I am creating this thread specifically to list out all the arguments against the current evidence for mysticism.

It is no longer tenable to argue that no evidence exists to support mysticism without invalidating the evidence that is presented in support of mysticism. Therefore, any arguments against mysticism must, to further discussions of mysticism on OL, be aimed at undermining the current arguments.

With so many sharp minds, I hope that some really good arguments against mysticism can be made. To offer a first step, one which I'm surprised has not been brought up, here is one I think about:

Mystical perceptions are supported by the fact that mutiple individuals can act to repeatedly observe (through meditation, etc.) the same phenomena and confirm their experiences amongst one-another, much as sensory perception is observed and confirmed by others (such that the observer knows he/she is not schizophrenic).

My argument is this: aggressive behavior against another person generally elicits anger in the victim. The elicitation of anger is an emotional phenomena, and can change one's perception of the situation radically such that the victim perceives the aggressor as evil. Many people who are aggressed against by the aggressor will confirm the same phenomenon (anger) and intepretation (evil). Therefore, the elicitation of anger and subsequent interpretation is repeatedly observed by the instigating behavior, and that experience is shared among multiple people. Shouldn't the experience that the aggressor is evil be considered a fact equivalent to mysticism? Yet, since emotions are subjective value assessments that pertain only to self-in-the-world (rather than a metaphysical truth about reality), the anger is subjective to the observer. Therefore, mysticism, although shared by many, should also be considered subjective to the observer.

Anyway, that's my best attempt. However, I'm really looking for others (like Barbara, etc.) to state their case against the current epistemological position in support of mysticism. I'd rather not have anyone support mysticism in this thread; that's not the goal. The goal is to learn and evolve discussions regarding the rationality of mysticism further by accepting arguments against.

Christopher

After we prove the validity of mysticism we won't need evidence any more. So, why prior? Does oil need water? Does water need oil? But to simplify: Evidence is not a proof.

--Brant

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After we prove the validity of mysticism we won't need evidence any more. So, why prior? Does oil need water? Does water need oil? But to simplify: Evidence is not a proof.

--Brant

Empirical evidence supporting a general proposition is not proof of the general proposition, but evidence against a general proposition is definite disproof of the generality. The commonest instance of this is a counterexample negating a general proposition. So in the negative case, evidence is proof.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Usually, these kind of topics are setups. Sometimes, though, people are honestly asking.

I cannot say this is the case here, because, for one, the poster has been, from what I see, very forthcoming, and offers many new facets to old arguments.

But usually in O-world, this turns into something where you can argue until your gums recede. It is usually about self-validation.

Heaven help if something happened to disturb the various comfort levels. Worse yet, to approach the idea that we don't know everything about everything, regardless of our finest efforts.

Classic O-drilldowns are like period food: sometimes you just need it. It's either that, or go out to the back and sleep in the hut, so you don't contaminate the rest of the tribe.

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Usually, these kind of topics are setups. Sometimes, though, people are honestly asking.

I cannot say this is the case here, because, for one, the poster has been, from what I see, very forthcoming, and offers many new facets to old arguments.

But usually in O-world, this turns into something where you can argue until your gums recede. It is usually about self-validation.

Heaven help if something happened to disturb the various comfort levels. Worse yet, to approach the idea that we don't know everything about everything, regardless of our finest efforts.

Classic O-drilldowns are like period food: sometimes you just need it. It's either that, or go out to the back and sleep in the hut, so you don't contaminate the rest of the tribe.

Well, Rich, I'm still waiting for Chris's response to your request for his definition of mysticism.

--Brant

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I've been thinking about the definitions, and here's what I've thought:

Mysticism: the set of knowledge and beliefs that arise from mystical peceptions

Mystical perceptions: Repeatable phenomenal observations that arise as a result of specific mental practices and are experienced as pertaining to the true nature of reality.

I'm really interested to know the arguments against. It's important to live an integrated life with an integrated belief system. If a belief cannot hold up under scrutiny, then it needs to be reconsidered. Because there is so much dissention on the topic of mysticism/spirituality, I think it's important we have the minds come together to discuss it. Subjective experiences need not necessarily be considered mysticial if a different explanation can be offered. If a different explanation can be offered, then the experience can be better understood, and that is a heartening thought to understanding our world and ourselves.

Christopher

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Chris:

An authentic burning bush seen by three people would qualify, correct?

Would a person with the stigmata, e.g., causing blood to "pour" out of the palms of their hands?

Adam

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Chris:

An authentic burning bush seen by three people would qualify, correct?

Would a person with the stigmata, e.g., causing blood to "pour" out of the palms of their hands?

Adam

I don't follow you, and I'd rather not attempt to defend mysticism in this thread. If I think of more arguments against mysticism, I'll post them. But I'm biased... there are smart unbiased people online who I want to hear from. What do you have to say against mysticism?

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Chris:

Nothing.

I was asking you if those observed phenomena would qualify under your definition of mysticism.

Adam

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I've been thinking about the definitions, and here's what I've thought:

Mysticism: the set of knowledge and beliefs that arise from mystical peceptions

Mystical perceptions: Repeatable phenomenal observations that arise as a result of specific mental practices and are experienced as pertaining to the true nature of reality.

I'm really interested to know the arguments against. It's important to live an integrated life with an integrated belief system. If a belief cannot hold up under scrutiny, then it needs to be reconsidered. Because there is so much dissention on the topic of mysticism/spirituality, I think it's important we have the minds come together to discuss it. Subjective experiences need not necessarily be considered mysticial if a different explanation can be offered. If a different explanation can be offered, then the experience can be better understood, and that is a heartening thought to understanding our world and ourselves.

Christopher

Well, can we describe mysticism as irrational, non-rational, rational? How do we adduce evidence for "mystical perceptions"? General Semanticist would say that these are actually "non-verbal" abstractions.

Look, if your mysticism is "rational" it isn't mysticism or is only a sub-category of rational. After all, you are trying to argue rationally for it, so that'd make it a phenomenon, not truly a method. Now, how can I use mysticism to fly an airplane, drive a car or buy food or refute a generally accepted scientific proposition? All that happens is you stew in your own juice or in the juice of a guru mystic you've subordinated yourself to.

--Brant

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Well, can we describe mysticism as irrational, non-rational, rational? How do we adduce evidence for "mystical perceptions"? General Semanticist would say that these are actually "non-verbal" abstractions.

Look, if your mysticism is "rational" it isn't mysticism or is only a sub-category of rational. After all, you are trying to argue rationally for it, so that'd make it a phenomenon, not truly a method. Now, how can I use mysticism to fly an airplane, drive a car or buy food or refute a generally accepted scientific proposition? All that happens is you stew in your own juice or in the juice of a guru mystic you've subordinated yourself to.

Sounds like question begging to me, Brant. You're assuming that mysticism is irrational or invalid without making any arguments for your position. And no one ever said that mysticism was useful for flying airplanes, driving cars, buying food, etc., any more than microscopes are useful for determining the correctness of a syllogism, or linguistic analysis is useful for measuring a waistline.

Judith

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Well, can we describe mysticism as irrational, non-rational, rational? How do we adduce evidence for "mystical perceptions"? General Semanticist would say that these are actually "non-verbal" abstractions.

Look, if your mysticism is "rational" it isn't mysticism or is only a sub-category of rational. After all, you are trying to argue rationally for it, so that'd make it a phenomenon, not truly a method. Now, how can I use mysticism to fly an airplane, drive a car or buy food or refute a generally accepted scientific proposition? All that happens is you stew in your own juice or in the juice of a guru mystic you've subordinated yourself to.

Sounds like question begging to me, Brant. You're assuming that mysticism is irrational or invalid without making any arguments for your position. And no one ever said that mysticism was useful for flying airplanes, driving cars, buying food, etc., any more than microscopes are useful for determining the correctness of a syllogism, or linguistic analysis is useful for measuring a waistline.

Judith

Arguments for rationality? There may be mystical ways to knowledge, but that knowledge has to be validated. That's what reason is for. Newton under the apple tree.

--Brant

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Chris:

An authentic burning bush seen by three people would qualify, correct?

Would a person with the stigmata, e.g., causing blood to "pour" out of the palms of their hands?

Adam

I'm not sure these would qualify as mystical perceptions. Three conditions that are present in my definition:

1. specific practice (the act of observation)

2. repeatable

3. pertains to true nature of reality (unique type of experiential phenomenon)

And for validation, the observations and knowledge have to be confirmed by other "experts in the field" (people who have spent years meditating with a specific set of practices), according to Ken Wilber.

A bush burning is not a phenomenal event; it is a sensory experience.

A person with a stigmata... take a look and tell me what you think; I'm not very familiar with this subgroup of people.

Regarding my earlier argument against mysticism using anger as an example... it is true that people are hardwired to react in anger to violations of autonomy or hindrance of goals. Anger elicits interpretations against the target that suggest the target is evil, bad, or not good in some way. Rand stepped on a lot of intellectual toes during her lifetime. She angered many people. Perhaps those people could group together and all perceive her the same, all experience her the same, and so all could conclude that she is metaphysically a bad person. Of course, this judgment is merely subjective within the group of angered individuals... could mysticism operate the same way? Could mysticism merely be a natural way for people to respond to a specific set of practices that gives them some subjective value experience, but that actually has nothing to do with the metaphysical universe? That's my position against mysticism. Are we actually seeing reality, or are we seeing the inside of our own hardwired (phylogenic) mind in response to a specific action?

Christopher

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Could mysticism merely be a natural way for people to respond to a specific set of practices that gives them some subjective value experience, but that actually has nothing to do with the metaphysical universe?

What is "the metaphysical universe" as opposed to just the universe?

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Could mysticism merely be a natural way for people to respond to a specific set of practices that gives them some subjective value experience, but that actually has nothing to do with the metaphysical universe?

What is "the metaphysical universe" as opposed to just the universe?

Metaphysics Universe = that part of the world outside one's skin and not under one's control. Inside the skin are all the qualia, feelings and subjective experiences. So metaphysical reality (a term which I do not particularly like) is that which is independent of one's will and control and not connected with the internal operations of one's brain. This term is used mostly by O'ists and such like folk.

Reality, of course, includes everything including what is going on inside one's skin. Nature makes no distinction which subjective and metaphysical. What happens, happens. What is, is. The brain work that makes up our subjective experience is just another process another set of events that occur in the world.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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"...generally elicits anger in the victim..." I do not believe that that is a valid statement - fear and or submission might outweigh anger.

However, "Shouldn't the experience that the aggressor is evil be considered a fact equivalent to mysticism?" Not at all sure what you mean here.

On the first quote, you're right. Other emotions could arise. I'm just suggesting that we can find many people to validate seemingly-common phenomenal states that are still personal and not metaphysical outside ourselves.

On the second, I meant that experiencing the aggressor as evil might seem metaphysical to the victim and conforms somewhat to both repeatability and confirmation among others.

I am like this, but also see the next article

Culture

Some People Never Forget a Face

By LiveScience Staff

posted: 19 May 2009 07:12 pm ET

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Some people claim to never forget a face. And the ability can prove to be socially awkward.

A new study finds some people can remember faces of people they met years ago and only in passing. Others of us, of course, aren't blessed with that ability. In fact about 2 percent of the population have prosopagnosia, a condition characterized by great difficulty in recognizing faces.

The "super-recognizers," as they're being called, excel at recalling faces and suggest that there is — as with many things — a broad spectrum of ability in this realm. The research involved administering standardized face recognition tests. The super-recognizers scored far above average on these tests — higher than any of the normal control subjects.

"There has been a default assumption that there is either normal face recognition, or there is disordered face recognition," said Richard Russell, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology at Harvard. "This suggests that's not the case, that there is actually a very wide range of ability."

Super-recognizers recognize other people far more often than they are recognized. So they often compensate by pretending not to recognize someone they met in passing, so as to avoid appearing to attribute undue importance to a fleeting encounter, Russell said.

"Super-recognizers have these extreme stories of recognizing people," says Russell. "They recognize a person who was shopping in the same store with them two months ago, for example, even if they didn't speak to the person. It doesn't have to be a significant interaction; they really stand out in terms of their ability to remember the people who were actually less significant."

The finding could be important in courts, where one person's eyewitness testimony might thus be more credible than another based on their varying abilities to recognize a face. A study in 2005 found that people sometimes claim to identify criminals when the sheer physical distances of their accounts suggest facial recognition would not have been possible.

People from different cultures have different face-recognition skills, a study last year found. Westerners often concentrate on individual details, while East Asians tend to focus on how details relate to each other.

One woman in the new study said she had identified another woman on the street who served as her as a waitress five years earlier in a different city. Critically, she was able to confirm that the other woman had in fact been a waitress in the different city.

Often, super-recognizers are able to recognize another person despite significant changes in appearance, such as aging or a different hair color.

The research is detailed in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. The research was funded by the U.S. National Eye Institute and the U.K. Economic and Social Research Council.

Russsel sees an interesting historical aspect to the finding.

"Until recently, most humans lived in much smaller communities, with many fewer people interacting on a regular basis within a group," he said. "It may be a fairly new phenomenon that there's even a need to recognize large numbers of people."

Health

Brain Fast to Recognize Fearful Faces

By LiveScience Staff

posted: 14 October 2007 10:47 am ET

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Fearful faces tend to be processed faster by the brain than happy ones, possibly for evolutionary survival reasons. Credit: Vanderbilt University

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Fearful faces tend to be processed faster by the brain than happy ones, possibly for evolutionary survival reasons. Credit: Vanderbilt University

People recognize a fearful expression faster than any other, a new study finds.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University set out to test how quickly people become aware of fearful, neutral and happy expressions. Because human brains can process facial expressions with astonishing speed—in fewer than 40 milliseconds—the psychologists devised a way to slow down this recognition speed so that it would be measurable.

Study subjects looked at a screen through a viewer (similar to the eyepiece of a microscope) which allowed different images to be presented to each eye. Multiple flashing images were presented to one eye, while a static image of a face was shown to the other. The flashing images acted like visual "noise" to suppress the image of the face.

The subjects indicated when they first became aware of seeing a face, and it turns out they became aware of faces with fearful expressions faster than those with neutral or happy ones.

The researchers think that a region of the brain called the amygdala, which has a primary role in processing emotional information, shortcuts the normal brain pathway for processing visual images and causes the fearful face to jump out more quickly.

"The amygdala receives information before it goes to the cortex, which is where most visual information goes first," said study team member David Zald of Vanderbilt. "We think the amygdala has some crude ability to process stimuli and that it can cue some other visual areas to what they need to focus on."

Zald and his colleagues think the expression of the eyes in a fearful face holds the key to its quick recognition.

"Fearful eyes are a particular shape, where you get more of the whites of the eye showing," Zald said. "That may be the sort of simple feature that the amygdala can pick up on, because it's only getting a fairly crude representation."

The fast recognition of fear may be an evolutionary survival mechanism geared to direct attention to signals of potential threats in the environment.

"One of those signals is a look of fear," Zald said.

Happy expressions were the slowest to be recognized, the study (detailed in the November issue of the journal Emotion) found, which also fits into the evolutionary explanation.

"What we believe is happening is that the happy faces signal safety," Zald said. "If something is safe, you don't have to pay attention to it."

Adam

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Hardwired responses to visual (sensory) information. Could be the same for "mystical" information.

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I thought you would like those, just luck the first one was released today and the link led to the fear one! lol

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I learned that when you widen your eyes and rivet that wide eyed stare to an animal, e.g., a dog, who is an alpha/beta - dominant/submissive animal, it is read as "anger" or "hostility" and the submissive pack animal will literally shrink, drop ears, tail and if you continue to move in behind that stare, the animal can wind up on it's back with flank displayed.

Now this "fear" face could be another explanation.

Just typing out loud - anyone have any input on this?

Adam

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