Does Santa Claus really not exist?

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distractedSofty
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Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby distractedSofty » Sat Aug 13, 2011 1:37 am UTC

Now, obviously, there is no rotund slave driver with a magical flying sleigh living in the arctic. But there is a deeper question:

Is there any meaningful evidence against Santa Claus' existence that does not also disqualify your own?

(For the sake of this discussion, assume that there is nothing supernatural about your own existence. That is, if you exist, there must be some empirical evidence for it.)

The first and most obvious evidence that I find unsatisfying is that of physical presence. It is common for death to be refered to as the end of one's existence, but physically, there is nothing different about a just deceased body and the living one from a second earlier. Human existence therefore, must be related to the state of being alive. Likewise, removing body parts does not affect your existence: a person with no arms or legs, one lung, one kidney and half a liver still exists. I could continue on with this reasoning, but the end result is: human existence seems to be linked to the brain.

But, if we assume that you are your brain, then death should not affect your existence. As I said earlier, your brain is physically the same before and after death.

It seems then that the nature of human existence must be similar to that of a novel, or computer program: you are information. "You", or "your mind" are/is a polymorphic program that runs on the wetware of a brain. When the brain stops doing anything, you cease to exist.

The best evidence for your existence that we have, then, is through the actions of your body. The theory that you exist is supported by the evidence of a brain/body doing things that you want.

But, behaviour being sufficient evidence for your existence is complicated by another hypothetical being. One who wants for children to receive presents on the morning of December 25.

Lo and behold, a great deal of bodies work to accomplish that goal. (Including the one that you claim dominion over, potentially.) It would appear that the behaviour of bodies is even greater evidence for the existence of Santa Claus than it is for you, since only a single body works for you, but millions work for Santa Claus.

It would seem to me that I must admit that Santa Clause is real, after all.

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Glmclain » Sat Aug 13, 2011 1:40 am UTC

distractedSofty wrote: It would seem to me that I must admit that Santa Clause is real, after all.


This is seriously just Atheism vs. Theism all over again.

Anyone can logically prove that Santa Clause does not exist.

Your argument is seriously hurting my brain with how silly it is.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby distractedSofty » Sat Aug 13, 2011 1:51 am UTC

Glmclain wrote:Anyone can logically prove that Santa Clause does not exist.

Well, that's kind of the point of my post: I can't logically disprove santa claus without also logically disproving myself. I choose to accept Descartes' assertion that I must exist. So how do I know that Santa Claus doesn't? It's obviously simple to you, but it's not to me, so I'd appreciate it if you took some time to enlighten me.

(And yes, when I started thinking about this earlier today, I was thinking about god. But since I'm not interested in god in a supernatural way, but rather a "god" who is the same kind of being that I am, I choose a different being to think about.)

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby TrlstanC » Sat Aug 13, 2011 2:05 am UTC

If you set the parameters strickly enough (for example, not allowing things to be disproved just because they don't physically exist), than its not possible to disprove the existance of anything. What would be really interesting is: can you prove that Santa Clause does exist? I think if you can than you could prove that anything exists, which isn't all that useful.

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby thc » Sat Aug 13, 2011 2:06 am UTC


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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Soralin » Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:04 am UTC

distractedSofty wrote:It is common for death to be refered to as the end of one's existence, but physically, there is nothing different about a just deceased body and the living one from a second earlier.

As I said earlier, your brain is physically the same before and after death.

These statements are false. There is a physical difference, otherwise you wouldn't be dead, two physical states that are identical would behave identically, and vice-versa(other than uncertainty-level stuff). They may not be much apparent difference visible on the surface, but look down on the level of cells and such, where the actual work gets done, and there will be a large difference.

Also, information only exists as states of matter. In your computer that happens as the configuration of magnetic fields, or concentrations of electrons, or such. In your brain, it's in the pattern of firing of neurons, and in the physical properties of neurons and the connections between them. Anytime you learn or remember anything, it happens by actually making physical alterations in your brain. Information can't exist independent of physical objects (including light and such, if you want to quibble on "physical objects" or "matter")

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby distractedSofty » Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:35 am UTC

Soralin wrote:These statements are false. There is a physical difference, otherwise you wouldn't be dead, two physical states that are identical would behave identically, and vice-versa(other than uncertainty-level stuff). They may not be much apparent difference visible on the surface, but look down on the level of cells and such, where the actual work gets done, and there will be a large difference.

Also, information only exists as states of matter. In your computer that happens as the configuration of magnetic fields, or concentrations of electrons, or such. In your brain, it's in the pattern of firing of neurons, and in the physical properties of neurons and the connections between them. Anytime you learn or remember anything, it happens by actually making physical alterations in your brain. Information can't exist independent of physical objects (including light and such, if you want to quibble on "physical objects" or "matter")

Sure, my wording was off, but if you want to say that "the firing pattern in this brain is me", then the same problem is still there: how do you know that the firing pattern is you, and not santa claus?

The whole purpose of that part of my post was to distinguish between "your body" and "you", without turning this into a ship of theseus argument.

The point about the physicality of information is actually what spurred my musing on santa: Your brain is not physically the same as it was half a second ago. If you are still the same person as was reading the bit up there about the ship of thesus, then what are you? You can't be the brain(since that will outlast you), or the physical configuration of the brain (since that's are gone now), therefore, you must just be an idea. If a person is just an idea that a monkey had, then is it possible that there are "free people" who aren't bound into one monkey?

As a corollary, when we say that someone "achieves immortality" through fame, is there something to that idea?

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Soralin » Sat Aug 13, 2011 4:15 am UTC

distractedSofty wrote:Sure, my wording was off, but if you want to say that "the firing pattern in this brain is me", then the same problem is still there: how do you know that the firing pattern is you, and not santa claus?

Because I am not santa claus.

The whole purpose of that part of my post was to distinguish between "your body" and "you", without turning this into a ship of theseus argument.

Except when you get down to it, there isn't a difference between them, you really are your current physical state.

The point about the physicality of information is actually what spurred my musing on santa: Your brain is not physically the same as it was half a second ago. If you are still the same person as was reading the bit up there about the ship of thesus, then what are you? You can't be the brain(since that will outlast you), or the physical configuration of the brain (since that's are gone now), therefore, you must just be an idea.

You're right, my brain is not physically the same as it was half a second ago, and consequently, I am not the same person that I was half a second ago. I was mostly the same person, almost exactly the same person, but not identical. A person is not static, a person learns and changes, and therefore could not correspond to something that was unchanging. Just because my brain, and it's physical configuration changes, does not mean that it can't be me, because I change, and therefore, by definition, whatever is me, whatever you define me as must be changing as well.

If a person is just an idea that a monkey had, then is it possible that there are "free people" who aren't bound into one monkey?

Ah, I see the idea you're getting at, existing as a sort of mental virus, stealing processing power from a whole bunch of people's brains. Except there's nothing coherent there, nothing to hold it together between different people's minds, no independent persona, but instead just a fractured contradictory idea with nothing to tie it together except for the very very slow methods of communication such as speech and writing. Many orders of magnitude slower than data transfer within our brains, even with the absurd level of compression we do to convey ideas with such a tiny amount of bandwidth. And what is transferred that way is just imperfectly copied, and not in a way that it could coordinate things. I mean, 10 monkeys have a lot more processing power together than a single human does, but they can't use it as any sort of a coherent whole, which makes all the difference. And 10 humans can't do some singular task 10x better than a single human can. And it's not something that would have any of it's own processing power, it couldn't think it's own thoughts, or have any direct control over the world. It's just something that lives in the part of our minds that deal with modeling what other people think, see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_mind

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Whimsical Eloquence » Sat Aug 13, 2011 4:21 am UTC

distractedSofty wrote:
The whole purpose of that part of my post was to distinguish between "your body" and "you", without turning this into a ship of theseus argument.



Except that distinction doesn't really exists...
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Qaanol » Sat Aug 13, 2011 4:23 am UTC

TrlstanC wrote:What would be really interesting is: can you prove that Santa Clause does exist?

If this sentence is true, then Santa Claus exists.

Case one: that sentence is true. Then, since it is true, Santa Claus exists.
Case two: that sentence is not true. Then, since it takes the form “If P then Q”, in order for it to be untrue we must have both P true and Q false. But P is “that sentence is true”, and for that to be true would contradict our hypothesis “that sentence is not true”. Therefore case two is impossible.

Since there are no other cases, and case two is impossible, it must be that case one applies, hence Santa Claus exists.

TrlstanC wrote:I think if you can than you could prove that anything exists, which isn't all that useful.

But I like having natural language be an inconsistent system!
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sat Aug 13, 2011 5:34 am UTC

Santa Claus exists, but is actually a teapot somewhere between the orbits of the Earth and Mars.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby PeterCai » Sat Aug 13, 2011 6:01 am UTC

This is why people hate philosophy

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby nitePhyyre » Sat Aug 13, 2011 6:16 am UTC

Soralin wrote:
distractedSofty wrote:If a person is just an idea that a monkey had, then is it possible that there are "free people" who aren't bound into one monkey?

Ah, I see the idea you're getting at, existing as a sort of mental virus, stealing processing power from a whole bunch of people's brains. Except there's nothing coherent there, nothing to hold it together between different people's minds, no independent persona, but instead just a fractured contradictory idea with nothing to tie it together except for the very very slow methods of communication such as speech and writing. Many orders of magnitude slower than data transfer within our brains, even with the absurd level of compression we do to convey ideas with such a tiny amount of bandwidth. And what is transferred that way is just imperfectly copied, and not in a way that it could coordinate things. I mean, 10 monkeys have a lot more processing power together than a single human does, but they can't use it as any sort of a coherent whole, which makes all the difference. And 10 humans can't do some singular task 10x better than a single human can. And it's not something that would have any of it's own processing power, it couldn't think it's own thoughts, or have any direct control over the world. It's just something that lives in the part of our minds that deal with modeling what other people think, see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_mind

Would anonymous be one of these 'free people'? The actions of that guy Anon is created by all of the people who are Anon. The Hive Mind.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby netcrusher88 » Sat Aug 13, 2011 6:46 am UTC

That's a very Discworld theory of existence you've got going on there. There's a distinction though - I can, independently, cause a change in the universe. I can move a mouse or flip a switch, or make a thing. An (ultimately) abstract concept which is projected through imagination on a meatspace analogue cannot.

Now, I guess you could say that the actions taken by people to invoke said concept constitute actions by it, which I guess is true to a degree - but between people and particularly between cultures or subcultures those actions vary wildly, which hardly indicates a coherent entity.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby PAstrychef » Sat Aug 13, 2011 11:19 am UTC

Sorry a live brain and a dead brain are physically different. The processes of being alive, the continued changes of neural functioning, neither of these is present in a dead brain. The loss of electrical charges powering cellular function throughout the body is one way to define being dead. If there was no difference between beingnalive and being dead this whole topic would be meaningless.
You aren't your brain. Mind is an emergent feature of brain, occurring only when the correct conditions are met. Neural complexity, proper connectivity between neurons and other nerves, electrochemical processes taking place-then you can see a mind. Hunk of tissue in a jar? No mind there see.
In a very real sense, it's a perceptual universe. If you are willing to accept as real things which you have never directly experienced bit only heard reported, then Santa could be as real as the moons of Jupiter.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sat Aug 13, 2011 12:27 pm UTC

PAstrychef wrote: If you are willing to accept as real things which you have never directly experienced bit only heard reported, then Santa could be as real as the moons of Jupiter.


Fuck that, I've seen the Moon's of Jupiter with my own eyes.

Anyway, there's a big difference between accepting as fact things which are verifiable and observable (even if you personally haven't observed/verified them) vs. accepting inter-planetary teapots, invisible unicorns and/or jolly old elves.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Charlie! » Sat Aug 13, 2011 2:20 pm UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:
PAstrychef wrote: If you are willing to accept as real things which you have never directly experienced bit only heard reported, then Santa could be as real as the moons of Jupiter.


Fuck that, I've seen the Moon's of Jupiter with my own eyes.

Anyway, there's a big difference between accepting as fact things which are verifiable and observable (even if you personally haven't observed/verified them) vs. accepting inter-planetary teapots, invisible unicorns and/or jolly old elves.

I.e. because other peoples' reports are also evidence if you have reason to think them reliable sources. These reliable sources, like NASA, can be contrasted with unreliable sources such as distractedSofty or Qaanol :P
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby distractedSofty » Sat Aug 13, 2011 9:03 pm UTC

netcrusher88 wrote:That's a very Discworld theory of existence you've got going on there.

Guilty as charged. The Discworld gods were a big influence on my newfound(since yesterday) belief in Santa.
There's a distinction though - I can, independently, cause a change in the universe. I can move a mouse or flip a switch, or make a thing. An (ultimately) abstract concept which is projected through imagination on a meatspace analogue cannot.

Now, I guess you could say that the actions taken by people to invoke said concept constitute actions by it, which I guess is true to a degree - but between people and particularly between cultures or subcultures those actions vary wildly, which hardly indicates a coherent entity.
PAstrychef wrote:In a very real sense, it's a perceptual universe. If you are willing to accept as real things which you have never directly experienced bit only heard reported, then Santa could be as real as the moons of Jupiter.

There's more too it than that though: consider the pope, or Barack Obama. If you attempt to interact with either of these men, your interactions will be filtered through any intermediaries in both directions, and when they come to making a decision, they'll rely on their advisors. In a very real sense, if you want to convince "Barack Obama" of something, you probably have 20 people to convince at an absolute minimum. And once you've convinced him, his previous position will still be having a continuous effect on the world(even more so for the pope).

So, when it comes down to it, the existence of the mind of Barack Obama or the pope is of the same kind as that of Santa: distributed over many people.

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Cheezwhiz Jenkins » Sun Aug 14, 2011 2:10 am UTC

Qaanol wrote:
TrlstanC wrote:What would be really interesting is: can you prove that Santa Clause does exist?

If this sentence is true, then Santa Claus exists.

Case one: that sentence is true. Then, since it is true, Santa Claus exists.
Case two: that sentence is not true. Then, since it takes the form “If P then Q”, in order for it to be untrue we must have both P true and Q false.


Someone tell me what's fishy about this kind of argument - I know it has a name, but I can't remember it.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Aug 14, 2011 2:37 am UTC

distractedSofty wrote:So, when it comes down to it, the existence of the mind of Barack Obama or the pope is of the same kind as that of Santa: distributed over many people.

I'm not really sure what you mean by "mind," but it plainly has fuck-all to do with the ordinary English meaning of the word.

Cheezwhiz Jenkins wrote:
Qaanol wrote:
TrlstanC wrote:What would be really interesting is: can you prove that Santa Clause does exist?

If this sentence is true, then Santa Claus exists.

Case one: that sentence is true. Then, since it is true, Santa Claus exists.
Case two: that sentence is not true. Then, since it takes the form “If P then Q”, in order for it to be untrue we must have both P true and Q false.


Someone tell me what's fishy about this kind of argument - I know it has a name, but I can't remember it.

Curry's paradox
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby distractedSofty » Sun Aug 14, 2011 3:32 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
distractedSofty wrote:So, when it comes down to it, the existence of the mind of Barack Obama or the pope is of the same kind as that of Santa: distributed over many people.

I'm not really sure what you mean by "mind," but it plainly has fuck-all to do with the ordinary English meaning of the word.

mind n. The non-material substance or set of processes in which consciousness, feeling, thinking, and will are based. (from wiktionary)

Would you not say that opinion and decision making are part of thinking?

For a potentially less objectionable to you version of the same idea, what about a "corporate mind"? People working for a corporation are required (potentially by law) to put aside their personal opinions and evaluate decisions based on the best interest of the company. It is common to hear the media refer to "Microsoft's opinion on the proposed changes" (or similar constructions), and it certainly seems that an opinionlike thing is held not by any one employee, but by the corporation itself.

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Cheezwhiz Jenkins » Sun Aug 14, 2011 3:55 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Curry's paradox


Thank you! I've tried to look for this before, but Googling "sentence that disproves itself" never turned this up, so I've never known quite what to call those "could God make a rock so big he couldn't lift it" type of propositions.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby PAstrychef » Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:58 am UTC

Guys, guys, guys--The curry paradox is that you're eating spicy food in a hot climate, which makes you hotter.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Qaanol » Sun Aug 14, 2011 4:32 pm UTC

Cheezwhiz Jenkins wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Curry's paradox


Thank you! I've tried to look for this before, but Googling "sentence that disproves itself" never turned this up, so I've never known quite what to call those "could God make a rock so big he couldn't lift it" type of propositions.

The latter quote you mention is not Curry’s paradox, it is the omnipotence paradox.

PAstrychef wrote:Guys, guys, guys--The curry paradox is that you're eating spicy food in a hot climate, which makes you hotter.

No you’re hotter.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Cheezwhiz Jenkins » Sun Aug 14, 2011 6:26 pm UTC

Qaanol wrote:The latter quote you mention is not Curry’s paradox, it is the omnipotence paradox.


(Yeah I know, I realized about 5 seconds after posting that someone would point that out. xD A better example is "The sentence below is false/the sentence above is true." It does still feel like the paradox is due to the sentence being deliberately set up to be self-contradictory, though)
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Vaniver » Sun Aug 14, 2011 7:24 pm UTC

distractedSofty wrote:Is there any meaningful evidence against Santa Claus' existence that does not also disqualify your own?
What does the word "evidence" mean?

Look at this from a probabilistic point of view. Suppose you have some claim- "Santa Claus, as defined in Appendix A, exists in the vicinity of Earth at the time this post was created." You assign some probability to that being true, and then other observations increase or decrease that probability based on whether that claim is more or less likely in a world with those observations.

Consider a toy example: you have a sensor on your sidewalk that can determine whether or not the sidewalk is wet. That observation, S, is either 0 (for dry) or 1 (for wet). You want to know whether or not it's raining outside (R), but don't have any windows- you can only use this sensor. Since you can't observe R directly, it's a claim that you consider in conjunction with other observations. Before we get into any math, we can state that S is evidence for R because is S is 0, that is more consistent with there being no rain, and if S is 1, that is more consistent with there being rain. A skippable mathematical example follows.

Spoiler:
From past experience, you know:
[*]It rains 20% of the time.
[*]If it is raining, there is a 99% chance that your sensor S reads 1 (sometimes, someone with an umbrella stands over it.)
[*]If it is not raining, there is a 5% chance that your sensor S reads 1 (sometimes, someone spills something on it or your neighbor waters the sidewalk with their sprinkler).

You begin with P[R]=.2, since that's the baseline probability of rain. You then read your sensor, and apply Bayes' Rule. If it says 1, then you now believe P[R|S]=P[S|R]P[R]/P[S]=.99*.2/(.99*.2+.05*.8)=.83. If it says 0, you now believe P[R|!S]=P[!S|R]P[R]/P[!S]=.01*.2/(.01*.2+.8*.95)=.0026. The observation S=1 is evidence for rain because it makes you believe rain is more likely, the observation S=0 is evidence against rain because it makes you believe rain is less likely.


With this view of evidence, there can obviously be observations which increase the likelihood that you exist and do not increase the likelihood that Santa Claus exists, and observations which decrease the likelihood of Santa Claus's existence without decreasing the likelihood of your existence. You should assign a very high probability that you exist and a very low probability that Santa Claus exists.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby distractedSofty » Sun Aug 14, 2011 10:26 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:With this view of evidence, there can obviously be observations which increase the likelihood that you exist and do not increase the likelihood that Santa Claus exists, and observations which decrease the likelihood of Santa Claus's existence without decreasing the likelihood of your existence. You should assign a very high probability that you exist and a very low probability that Santa Claus exists.

I was with you up until you got here: there are obviously observations that support the theory of my own existence that do not support the theory of Santa Claus' existence, but there are also observations that support Santa Claus without supporting me. And, as I said in the post above, my estimate is that orders of magnitude more actions are carried out that would support Santa Claus' existence than support my own.

What evidence supports your claim that my own existence is more probable than Santa Claus'?

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Vaniver » Sun Aug 14, 2011 10:42 pm UTC

Look, I hate to break it to you, but your parents bought you those gifts.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Twelfthroot » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:48 am UTC

I would strongly recommend to the OP and anybody else interested the book I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter. I confess I am not far into the book, but he has touched on his ideas of theories of mind in books of his I have read, and this one is centered on his observations and discussions regarding consciousness and mind. He is a proponent of the idea that a 'soul' -- the persistent self -- is largely constructed and reinforced by our interactions with others, and in that sense can be distributed over a group. I doubt he would go so far as to say that Santa Claus exists as an individual entity, but it sounds like the sort of concept you're formulating.

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby distractedSofty » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:59 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Look, I hate to break it to you, but your parents bought you those gifts.

Did you not read the very first line of my first post?

If you assume that there are 100 million households in the United States, and 2/3 of those are christian households(based on estimates for total christians I have seen), and half of those have children, and only Christian households do the Santa thing and one person in each houshold spends just one hour in a year "being santa claus" (coming up with a list of presents, buying them, and then putting them under the tree), then more time is spent "being santa claus" (~30 million hours) only in the united states than is spent "being you" (~6000 hours). Now expand to the rest of the world.

Twelfthroot wrote:I would strongly recommend to the OP and anybody else interested the book I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter. I confess I am not far into the book, but he has touched on his ideas of theories of mind in books of his I have read, and this one is centered on his observations and discussions regarding consciousness and mind. He is a proponent of the idea that a 'soul' -- the persistent self -- is largely constructed and reinforced by our interactions with others, and in that sense can be distributed over a group. I doubt he would go so far as to say that Santa Claus exists as an individual entity, but it sounds like the sort of concept you're formulating.

Sounds like I will have to have a look at that book. Thanks for the recommendation

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby acablue » Mon Aug 15, 2011 4:33 am UTC

I think the criteria you're setting for acceptable evidence of one's existence is wrong. The manifestation of all the physical processes in the brain -- the mind -- is an emergent property, and the mind's self-awareness is evidence of its existence in itself. The way in which we use our minds to control our bodies is pretty irrelevant; a hypothetical conscious brain in a vat would still "exist" as a person, if you ask me.

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby distractedSofty » Mon Aug 15, 2011 4:49 am UTC

acablue wrote:I think the criteria you're setting for acceptable evidence of one's existence is wrong. The manifestation of all the physical processes in the brain -- the mind -- is an emergent property, and the mind's self-awareness is evidence of its existence in itself. The way in which we use our minds to control our bodies is pretty irrelevant; a hypothetical conscious brain in a vat would still "exist" as a person, if you ask me.

I agree with your last point, and I'm not actually excluding this as evidence for my own existence, it in fact formed the basis for the post: given that I have supreme evidence for my own existence (my observation of myself as a conscious being), what other evidence do I have?

The other evidence that I have is actions, and that evidence is also proof for other people (you, my family, friends, coworkers...). So I assume that you have the same kind of existence too.

But there is also action evidence for other "beings", who don't inhabit bodies: Santa, various gods, and Microsoft. Is there a good reason to discount them from existing too?

(Or in other words, I have observed one being (me) who does certain actions. This forms the basis for a slightly weaker link in the reverse direction: actions imply existence.)

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:13 am UTC

distractedSofty wrote:But there is also action evidence for other "beings", who don't inhabit bodies: Santa, various gods, and Microsoft.


Unless you are using some meaninglessly distorted definition of 'evidence'. no there isn't.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby acablue » Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:14 am UTC

distractedSofty wrote:But there is also action evidence for other "beings", who don't inhabit bodies: Santa, various gods, and Microsoft. Is there a good reason to discount them from existing too?

Actually, yes. Corporations don't actually exist. They're made up constructs that are useful for coordinating shareholders and the distribution of capital, labor, etc. That's why corporate personhood is such an offensive idea to most people. You can't look at a chair, or a house, and put it in the same category as Microsoft. Existence can't just be arbitrarily redefined in the way you've done. If something does not exist physically, or cannot physically manifest itself in any way (Microsoft itself cannot, but its constituents can), then it may as well not exist at all.

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby distractedSofty » Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:35 am UTC

acablue wrote:Actually, yes. Corporations don't actually exist. They're made up constructs that are useful for coordinating shareholders and the distribution of capital, labor, etc. That's why corporate personhood is such an offensive idea to most people. You can't look at a chair, or a house, and put it in the same category as Microsoft. Existence can't just be arbitrarily redefined in the way you've done. If something does not exist physically, or cannot physically manifest itself in any way (Microsoft itself cannot, but its constituents can), then it may as well not exist at all.

But you can say the same thing about a person: A person is just a made up construct useful for coordinating the functions of various areas of a brain. Since a person does not exist physically, it may as well not exist at all.

So you've answered my question by saying "you also do not exist". And that's a fair answer, but doesn't really agree with what you said to start with (that your subjective experience is proof positive of your existence).

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Zamfir » Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:44 am UTC

acablue wrote:Actually, yes. Corporations don't actually exist. They're made up constructs that are useful for coordinating shareholders and the distribution of capital, labor, etc. That's why corporate personhood is such an offensive idea to most people. You can't look at a chair, or a house, and put it in the same category as Microsoft. Existence can't just be arbitrarily redefined in the way you've done. If something does not exist physically, or cannot physically manifest itself in any way (Microsoft itself cannot, but its constituents can), then it may as well not exist at all.

Well, corporated organizations are legal and social fictions, sure. But lots of things are. Both you and a chair are just bunches of atoms in space. Giving them unity and meaning beyond that is a human fiction as well. We humans live in a world of such made-up concepts, that we apply to the vague world beyond to make it more tractable to us.

In some strict sense of existence, those concepts don't exist outside of human minds. But that strict sense of existence is rarely useful, since we live in our minds and need our concepts to understand the world. "Chairs" and "people" are real to us, as real as anything, so we nearly always use a sense of "existence" that includes aggregate concepts like them.

But once you start on that road, you won't find a point where some concepts are real, and others are made-up constructs. You say that Microsoft cannot physically manifest itself outside of its constituents, but neither can you, or a chair. Just because your fingers typed a message doesn't mean you didn't also wrote that message. And if an employee of Microsoft types a company message, then both fingers, employee and Microsoft are writing.

Often I will get an automatically-generated message. The number of people and things involved in getting me that particular message is very large and distributed. It makes little sense to attribute that message to anything but "Microsoft". Unless we're going to argue that I am not sitting on a chair, but only on a layer of fabric wrapped around foam held in place by a plastic shell etc.

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby DSenette » Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:36 pm UTC

distractedSofty wrote:
Vaniver wrote:Look, I hate to break it to you, but your parents bought you those gifts.

Did you not read the very first line of my first post?

If you assume that there are 100 million households in the United States, and 2/3 of those are christian households(based on estimates for total christians I have seen), and half of those have children, and only Christian households do the Santa thing and one person in each houshold spends just one hour in a year "being santa claus" (coming up with a list of presents, buying them, and then putting them under the tree), then more time is spent "being santa claus" (~30 million hours) only in the united states than is spent "being you" (~6000 hours). Now expand to the rest of the world.


and all the Yo Gabba Gabba characters are totes real monsters because there are all these people performing live shows dressed up as them every day.

if you want to argue that the "idea" of santa clause....the santa clause "ethos" of charity and giving is "alive and well" because people give presents every year, then your theory is STILL wrong. people don't do "santa caluse" out of charity and love for one another anymore. they do it because that's what you do in december, and most parents don't like waking up to wailing children in the morning.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:04 pm UTC

distractedSofty wrote: ...a person does not exist physically...


How do you figure?

edit:

Zamfir wrote: Both you and a chair are just bunches of atoms in space. Giving them unity and meaning beyond that is a human fiction as well.


What? Really!? Things are not just made up of undifferentiated matter. A chair isn't just an arbitrary label applied to a cloud of atoms, it is a distinct arrangement of atoms that are interconnected to form a discrete object from its surroundings.
Furthermore, a chair has a physical existence that is not subjective. You and I can look at the same object, having never met and coming from disparate backgrounds, and can agree both that it is an object, and on whether or not that object is a chair.
I mean, there may be some minor semantic confusion say, as to whether or not a comfortable bench is also a chair, or whether a natural sitting spot in a tree or rock outcrop qualifies as a chair or whatever, but we can both look and see the same discrete physical arrangements and agree on the form they take. That is not an arbitrary fiction, that is objective, physical reality.
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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby Twelfthroot » Mon Aug 15, 2011 7:59 pm UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:A chair isn't just an arbitrary label applied to a cloud of atoms, it is a distinct arrangement of atoms that are interconnected to form a discrete object from its surroundings.


For all meaningful and useful purposes, yes, but if you "zoom in" to the "edge" of that chair, you're not going to be able to point to many electrons and say "that's part of the chair, not the surroundings". Since the location of the fundamental components of matter cannot be precisely specified at any point in time, saying that there objectively is a chair somewhere is just really really accurate and convenient, and objective for all useful senses of the word, but if we're going to discuss the philosophy of it, I would say there's a leg to stand on for claiming that there is no truly objective chair.

And, as you mention, there are always examples of things that are sort of maybe a chair. And if aliens who had no concept of sitting visited our planet, they certainly wouldn't find chairs until they learned enough about us to know that a bench is not a chair, despite the many similarities. The components of a chair are in no way objectively chair-like; we abstract from their arrangement in time and space their purpose of chair as is convenient for us. It seems stupid to quibble over because the notion of chair works under all normal circumstances, but almost any definition of something in the natural world will break down if you push it hard enough.

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Re: Does Santa Claus really not exist?

Postby TrlstanC » Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:19 pm UTC

If you assume that there are 100 million households in the United States, and 2/3 of those are christian households(based on estimates for total christians I have seen), and half of those have children, and only Christian households do the Santa thing and one person in each houshold spends just one hour in a year "being santa claus" (coming up with a list of presents, buying them, and then putting them under the tree), then more time is spent "being santa claus" (~30 million hours) only in the united states than is spent "being you" (~6000 hours). Now expand to the rest of the world.

Lets get this out of the way first: things aren't more or less real because they have an impact, or exists, for more or less time - they either exist, or not. A millisecond or a million years, it's not "how much" it's "if" when we're questioning if something exists.

But the real problem with this kind of argument is that it relies on one of two fairly common logical errors. And depending on how you frame the question it's possible to switch back and forth and justify Santa Claus in different ways. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, the same logic can than be used to prove the existence of anything, which isn't useful.

Possible Logical Flaw #1: "Affirming the consequent - A implies B, therefore B implies A." Things that exist have an impact on the universe, I observe things that could be caused by Santa Claus, and therefore Santa Claus exists. This ignores the possibility that something else is having the impact you're observing (something that isn't Santa Claus.)

Possible Logical Flaw #2: "Inconsistent Comparison." You assume that because I'm a human being I exist and also assume that things need to have an impact on the world to exist. The two assumptions use the same word "exist", but have different requirements to merit the judgment, this leads to an inconsistent comparison. The decision that I exist is biological judgment, and has a lot of strict requirements. For example, if I died, from a biological standpoint (the first assumption)I would no longer exist, but I would still exist under the second. The decision that Santa Claus exists can be justified under the second assumption, but not the first. These two assumptions can't be used in the same argument because they use the word "exist" in contradictory ways. If we just assume #1 (Humans exists) than there's no proof that Santa exists. If we just use #2, than both me and Santa exist, but so do Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and Fairies - it's true, but not a particularly interesting or useful statement.



Twelfthroot wrote:I would strongly recommend to the OP and anybody else interested the book I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter. I

I think Hofstader assumes that we know more about human consciousness than we actually do. The current research doesn’t really support the idea that we understand how consciousness works. The 'Strange Loop' theory of consciousness is certainly one way to think about the effect that we (or the idea of Santa Claus) has on the world, but I think it ignores that there's still a lot of work and research in neurobiology before we can say we understand how consciousness is created. (more thoughts on the book here:Defining Consciousness Discussion


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