• Marchesk
    2.3k
    What is the difference between these three positions? If non-reductive physicalism is the case, then that means certain things can't be reduced to physics, in principle. If they can't be reduced, then how are they physical?

    With strong emergentism, new ontological categories come into existence at certain stages of complexity, which in principle could not have been predicted beforehand by a God-like being who knew all the physical facts.

    If something fundamentally new is coming into existence, something that couldn't be predicted knowing everything about physics beforehand, how is this new domain physical?

    To put it another way, the physical state of the universe does not logically determine strongly emergent or non-reductive properties. They could not in principle be deduced by all the rules and facts of the entire state of the universe before they came into existence.

    Both seem like a form of dualism to me. I'm wondering in what sense physicalists consider these sorts of properties, events, domains to still be physical?
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    If they can't be reduced, then how are they physical?Marchesk

    If I understand Lewisian supervenience correctly (of course there's many different views), it's that something is "physical" or "supervenes on the physical" just if every possible world with the same organization of physical substrates has the same supervening phenomenon. C is physical iff A and B are physical and A + B = C in all possible worlds that A and B are organized in the same manner.

    Of course the biggest issue with physicalism is that there isn't any good definition of what the physical is supposed to be. Usually physicalists, or "materialism" in the vogue sense, is more of a reaction to what is seen as "spooky" dualism. They don't want to admit into their ontology "spooky" minds, so they shift in the exact opposite way and reject anything "like that". It's really more often than not a metaphysical view held for political and aesthetic reasons (a la Jamesian psychology of metaphysics), one that isn't as open-ended as naturalism (which is also less politically powerful). But since they have a hard time explaining what the physical is (and not just what it's not), "material" or "physical" become just as spooky as the apparently-spooky dualism they are against.
  • m-theory
    1.1k

    I don't agree that physicalism is a reaction to dualism it is simply monism for the sake of not multiplying beyond necessity.
    We don't need dualism to describe the world, it is not necessary.
    Nothing spooky about that.

    Physical descriptions may be incomplete at this point, but there is substantially more physical description of what is than we find offered by dualism with regards to the non-physical.
    So it is interesting to me that you feel physicalism has a hard time defining the physical.
  • TimeLine
    2.7k
    With strong emergentism, new ontological categories come into existence at certain stages of complexity, which in principle could not have been predicted beforehand by a God-like being who knew all the physical facts.

    If something fundamentally new is coming into existence, something that couldn't be predicted knowing everything about physics beforehand, how is this new domain physical?
    Marchesk

    Why would an external agency be unable to reconcile emergentism with downward causation?Schrödinger equation? Quantum descriptions may contain principles distinct from physical samples but that is because we restrict it to a mere collection of independent and probabilistic classical samples; from a dualistic point of view, probabilistic calculus and QM formalism encounter a similar dilemma by attempting to explain the link through things like identifying the physical of mental data
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    To put it another way, the physical state of the universe does not logically determine strongly emergent or non-reductive properties. They could not in principle be deduced by all the rules and facts of the entire state of the universe before they came into existence.Marchesk

    This is the advantage of a pansemiotic physicalism.

    The meaning of symbols cannot be read off the physics of marks. The realm of sign or code is opaque from the brute physicalist point of view.

    And yet physicalism predicts the constraints to which the freedom of any naturally arising code system will respond. Any symbolic form of existence will have to have the general purpose of furthering the goal of the second law of thermodynamics.

    So physicalism predicts the existence of symbols - the zeroed dimensionality of a code being a physical freedom that can't be constrained (because how can you restrict dimensionality to less than nothing?).

    And then physicalism predicts what will happen as a result of the evolution of symbolic complexity. Global entropy will be significantly increased.
  • TimeLine
    2.7k
    So physicalism predicts the existence of symbols - the zeroed dimensionality of a code being a physical freedom that can't be constrained (because how can you restrict dimensionality to less than nothing?)

    And then physicalism predicts what will happen as a result of the evolution of symbolic complexity. Global entropy will be significantly increased.
    apokrisis
    Dude, what are you talking about?
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    Physical descriptions may be incomplete at this point, but there is substantially more physical description of what is than we find offered by dualism with regards to the non-physical.
    So it is interesting to me that you feel physicalism has a hard time defining the physical.
    m-theory

    I'm asking in what sense strong emergentism and non-reductive physicalism are not forms of dualism, as laid out in the OP.
  • quine
    119
    If they can't be reduced, then how are they physical?Marchesk

    Reductive physicalism is type identity physicalism. Non-reductive physicalism is token identity physicalism. According to reductive physicalism, the type of mental phenomena is reduced to the type of physical phenomena. Non-reductive physicalism says that some tokens of mental properties are matched with some tokens of physical properties.
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    Might be a reach, but sure, give it a go.
  • TimeLine
    2.7k
    Might be a reach, but sure, give it a go.apokrisis
    Give what a go?
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    You offered to make sense of your post.
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    I'm asking in what sense strong emergentism and non-reductive physicalism are not forms of dualism, as laid out in the OP.Marchesk

    They certainly all suffer the same issue of severing causality and so creating disconnected realms. But strong emergentism and non-reductive physicalism would still presume that mind arises from material systems "somehow" (a material system is all that is needed for the magic to happen) while dualism usually would be taken to be a claim about the need for a proper "other" to the material ... ie: the spiritual, the divine, etc.

    So it boils down to whether mind is being considered as a property of material organisation, or a property of an immaterial substance. And both break down in the same way because they do reductively think about nature only in terms of "substances with properties".

    That is, they both fail when it comes to explaining the causes of causes. They both in the end point only to the existence of "brute unexplained properties".
  • Terrapin Station
    4.5k
    What is the difference between these three positions? If non-reductive physicalism is the case, then that means certain things can't be reduced to physics, in principle. If they can't be reduced, then how are they physical?Marchesk

    This again isn't clear. Physicalism doesn't amount to some sort of endorsement of the science of physics (which we can see as a set of social facts/social activities). We need to better define just what reductive versus non-reductive physicalism is. And part of the problem with this is going to be that reductionism versus holism isn't necessarily defined that rigorously. It's often defined by holists in a straw man-like fashion rather.
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    ...reductionism versus holism isn't necessarily defined that rigorously.Terrapin Station

    Reductionism aims to reduce all causality to material and efficient cause - ie: bottom-up constructive cause. The story of substantial parts in contingent combination.

    Holism reduces causality to Aristotle's four causes. So formal and final cause are taking to be (physically) real as well. And together they are the downwardly acting constraints. So a difference in kind is recognised (as cause via constraint is fundamentally difference from cause via construction).

    Advanced holism shows how upwardly acting material freedoms and downwardly acting formal constraints are then each other cause, so closing the circle. Each is the emergent product of the other.

    Constructive cause is made possible by a restriction on local material degrees of freedom (parts gain particular properties because they are prevented from trying to do "everything").

    Global constraints are then the states of general coherent organisation that collections of these parts must consequently exhibit, or perpetually re-construct.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.5k


    I'm skeptical that a majority of people who identify as either holists or reductionists would see the issue as being about causality and that they'd be Aristotelians with respect to an analysis of causality. In my experience Aristotle's analysis of causality is seen as a museum piece by most philosophers.
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    Most people haven't looked into the issue rigorously so they would share your lack of rigorous insight.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.5k


    That's a good support of most people who identify as holists or reductionists seeing the issue that way and not seeing Aristotle's four causes as a museum piece. ;-)
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    If you have a quarrel with my rigorous definition, take it up with my rigorous definition.

    Maybe you meet all your "holists" down at the yoga retreat. But your arguments from personal incredulity are not actually any kind of argument you realise.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.5k
    Maybe you meet all your "holists" down at the yoga retreat. But your arguments from personal incredulity are not actually any kind of argument you realise.apokrisis

    You're not under an impression that you presented any sort of evidence or argument that that's a common definition though, are you?
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    Why would I be under the impression that I was describing some common definition rather than providing the rigorous one?

    Again, if you have a complaint about my definition, then back it up. As usual, your complaint amounts to "this is all news to me".

    But I guess from your comments that you haven't even caught up with Bacon's definition of reductionism in the New Organon. (And who do you think wrote the old Organon?)
  • Terrapin Station
    4.5k
    Why would I be under the impression that I was describing some common definitionapokrisis

    Because the job is to capture what it is that people idenfitying as reductionists and holists are talking about. Not to make up your own thing that you think they should be talking about.

    And re Bacon, why would we be focusing on 400 years ago rather than how people use the term now?
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    So reductionists have changed the definition of reductionism since Bacon so famously defined it?

    Perhaps you can explain what has changed?
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    Holism reduces causality to Aristotle's four causes. So formal and final cause are taking to be (physically) real as well. And together they are the downwardly acting constraints. So a difference in kind is recognised (as cause via constraint is fundamentally difference from cause via construction).apokrisis

    Check! No problems there. But one question I would ask is this - if the source of the 'upwardly acting causes' - material and efficient - is the ground beneath our feet, what is the source of the downwardly-acting constraints? In some sense they're like rules, or the way things have to be in order to exist. But, to a reductionist they seem suspiciously like Dennett's 'skyhooks':

    [A] skyhook is … an exception to the principle that all design, and apparent design, is ultimately the result of mindless, motiveless mechanicity. A crane, in contrast, is a subprocess or special feature of a design process that can be demonstrated to permit the local speeding up of the basic, slow process of natural selection, and that can be demonstrated to be itself the predictable (or retroactively explicable) product of the basic process. … [T]he physicist Steven Weinberg, in Dreams of a Final Theory (1992) … distinguishes between uncompromising reductionism (a bad thing) and compromising reductionism (which he ringingly endorses). Here is my own version. We must distinguish reductionism, which is in general a good thing, from greedy reductionism, which is not. The difference, in the context of Darwin's theory, is simple: greedy reductionists think that everything can be explained without cranes; good reductionists think that everything can be explained without skyhooks.

    from Darwin's Dangerous Idea
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    Mine would be story about cranes rather than sky hooks because I am saying that the constraints would have to arise immanently from the world they also limit. So the constraints are what get constructed.

    The obvious analogy is that armies need to be composed of soldiers to really exist. So armies recruit young people (those with the most degrees of behavioural freedom or plasticity) and mould them to fit. As a set up, the army exists because it has narrowed human variety to produce some interchangeable set of near identical military parts.

    And then all those soldiers, acting together in ways that manifest their highly specific military properties, reconstruct the very system that made them. Good soldiers become drill sergeants, captains and generals. Good soldiers take their soldierly habits even back into civilian life. So soldiering perpetuates soldiering.

    Thus there is a synergy of the local and global in which a limitation of variety creates the components that are then able to self assemble into systems that keep churning out said components.

    Strong reductionism of course just presume components exist already formed. Thus anything they collectively construct is an accident without purpose. However a holist or systems view says components - the kind of regularity that gives us the many similar parts that could have a collective behaviour - must be deliberately shaped.

    Contingency has to be limited for there to be these parts. So already their existence is dependent on the reality of some global reason for being, and even an idea of the form of the part that would be necessary to the job in mind.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    So already their existence is dependent on the reality of some global reason for being, and even an idea of the form of the part that would be necessary to the job in mind.apokrisis

    (Y)
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.6k
    Mine would be story about cranes rather than sky hooks because I am saying that the constraints would have to arise immanently from the world they also limit. So the constraints are what get constructed.apokrisis

    If the constraints are immanent, then they must be inherent within the matter itself, so really it's all bottom up. There is no top down constraint, that's imaginary. There is no "the army", which constrains the soldiers from the top down. The soldiers unite willingly, creating an army from this willful act of unification. What appears to you as a top down constraint is really just a deeper, more fundamental form of bottom up constraint. It is necessary to assume this deeper form in order to account for the existence of matter itself.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.5k
    So reductionists have changed the definition of reductionism since Bacon so famously defined it?apokrisis

    If you'd simply read the IEP or Wikipedia entries on reductionism, you could easily learn some different ideas re what it refers to.
  • tom
    1.5k
    I'm asking in what sense strong emergentism and non-reductive physicalism are not forms of dualism, as laid out in the OP.Marchesk

    I've been puzzling over this. Is there a name for physicalists who admit dualism, but not in public?
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    Thanks for illustrating my point about how a reductionist would want to conceive the causal story.
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    So you said holism vs reductionism doesn't necessarily have a rigorous definition.

    I supplied my rigorous definition (one that I have to say is commonplace among the systems scientists and hierarchy theorists I know).

    You continue to reply with fatuous irrelevancies. And there we have it. :)
  • Terrapin Station
    4.5k
    I supplied my rigorous definitionapokrisis

    Yeah, but I'm talking about relative to the views of (a mass of) folks who identify as holists and reductionists. Obviously someone could just make up a rigorous definition if it doesn't have to have anything to do with what most of the folks who identify as the thing in question would say about their views. But that's not what I was talking about.
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