1. Human auras exist.

  2. There is a subset of the population who are capable of discerning their properties, by whatever means.

  3. Machines can not sense human auras.

Following these assumptions, how is physicalism true?

Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, or as contemporary philosophers sometimes put it, that everything supervenes on, or is necessitated by, the physical.


  • Just curious, why the downvote? Aug 21 '13 at 3:46
  • 1
    Although I didn't downvote your question, my guess as to why someone did is that it's off-topic here. Paranormal phenomena like auras and psychic powers usually belong to the realm of pseudoscience and New Age mysticism.
    – David H
    Aug 21 '13 at 4:46
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    @DavidH I agree that it's pseudoscience and New Agey, but not that it's off topic. Exploring arguments is my favorite part of philosophy, whatever the premises. And these seem like a fun group of premises to explore. Aug 21 '13 at 5:03
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    I meant off-topic for this website. Open-ended hypothetical questions, even if they are genuinely good philosophical questions, tend to be discouraged because they diminish the usefulness of the site as an educational resource. For more information, see the help center page for on-topic questions.
    – David H
    Aug 21 '13 at 6:05
  • Putting on hold for same reason as David H. suggests and as discussed in the META post. You need to narrow this downa bit; right now it's simply too broad to be reasonably answered in a complete way.
    – stoicfury
    Aug 26 '13 at 17:20

I can smell peach-flavored oolong tea and tell you what it is; a machine cannot (not yet, anyway).

This has nothing to do with mind-body duality. We simply haven't built chemosensors as diverse and sensitive as those in our noses.

Auras are, logically, just like the smell of peach-flavored oolong tea (except for not having good evidence that they actually exist).

  • A machine could tell that there was tea, even if it could not tell its composition. Auras (as I understand the concept) seem to be essentially dark matter without gravity, making their theoretical existence more complicated. Aug 21 '13 at 4:35
  • @cartomancer - A machine can tell there's a person. If it's not peach-flavored oolongness, it doesn't count.
    – Rex Kerr
    Aug 21 '13 at 4:36
  • That sounds like a solid argument to me. Thanks! Aug 21 '13 at 4:38
  • A machine is not able to discern whether something is a person or not regarding ALL parameters involved for 100%. As soon as you are regarding something, you are observing. And an observation is never the same as what something/someone actually is. Because you are observing information coming from the subject, not the subject itself. Like you can use a quantitative measurement of gravity to determine whether an object is nearby by observing the amount of gravity. But you are not observing what the object actually is using this method. Using a method makes its a determination based on chance. Aug 23 '13 at 13:50

Light isn't physical. If it would be, it wouldn't travel at the speed of light. As no physical object ever will, its relatively impossible. Not all is physical. Now regard the delayed choice quantum eraser experiment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_choice_quantum_eraser

Its results aren't explainable with the laws of physics. Its physically impossible. Yet its possible.

Now a great paradox: did physical things come into existence all the sudden, what was their origin? Don't they have an origin? Everything has an origin. What if (so apparently) physical objects are just sets of information bound by constraints, like a tree in a video game is. Would the player in the video game be able to tell that all physical objects in the game is all there is? Sure it will be able to, keeping itself within the bounds and constrains (laws) of the physical environment of the game. But its reality isn't ever becoming greater than that.

So if you wish to experience a larger/greater reality, that doesn't extend, but parents, this reality? Than you should beyond the constraints of the physical, and start experiencing the greater reality. Called mystical only by those who don't understand/experience the greater reality.

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    Photons have no rest mass, but they have mass by virtue of having energy. "Mass but no rest mass" is a strange place to put a boundary between physical and not. Anyway, cameras can detect light, so it's not germane to questions of machines vs. people. Also, the delayed choice experiment is very weird, but fully consistent with physics.
    – Rex Kerr
    Aug 23 '13 at 15:27
  • @RexKerr What is "fully consistent with physics" while they still do not have a general acceptation of a combined theory of quantum mechanics and general relativity? Aug 27 '13 at 10:09
  • You don't need unification in order to understand that photons have mass (but no rest mass!) and travel at the speed of light. Physics as a field is not complete, but these things are understood pretty well. Likewise, delayed choice fits fully within QM and is consistent there. (Weird, but consistent.)
    – Rex Kerr
    Aug 27 '13 at 14:07

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