• Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Panpsychism has always been a problem for physicalism because it seems to be decidedly not what physicalists want to posit, but at the same time it is in no way ruled out by mainstream physicalism. Partly because no physicalism that precludes panpsychism has been developed that doesn't seem to spawn massive problems for the theorist. It isn't easy to say "mind exists, but it can only exist in some places," without knowing what it is that "causes," mind. But that's exactly the unfortunate position a physicalist who wants to deny panpsychism finds themselves in.

    To be honest, it's really weird to me how physicalism is the most popular ontology writ large, but in the context of metaphysics as a specialty it's like a battleship that's taken direct multiple direct torpedo hits, is listing to one side, its magazine blew, and it looks liable to break in half. I think what that tells us is just how unattractive the alternatives are lol. It might be sinking, but the lifeboats are filled with holes too.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k

    Perhaps it can be attributed to what I'll call "naive materialism". That is to say, if you were to never consider the hard problem, and you go about your everyday thinking about the world as a "modern" scientifically-minded person, you just assume various scientifically informed processes are the metaphysical basis of various phenomena. Thus, consciousness is clearly neuronal and other biological processes, without considering how it is that these processes are "what it's like" experiential qualities.

    For some people, it's not even grasping the hard problem because they are so used to the easy-problem framework of how problems are supposed to be solved.

    It's as if when writing up blueprints for a house, you forgot the house is 3-dimensional.
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    Panpsychism has always been a problem for physicalism because it seems to be decidedly not what physicalists want to posit, but at the same time it is in no way ruled out by mainstream physicalism.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I don't see any real problem. Panpsychism seems like nothing more than an unfalsifiable hypothesis that has no significant explanatory value, and Ockham razor seems like sufficient justification for dismissing panpsychism. From my perspective panpsychism doesn't seem to present any more challenge than solipsism.

    Partly because no physicalism that precludes panpsychism has been developed that doesn't seem to spawn massive problems for the theorist.Count Timothy von Icarus

    This seems to me, more a matter of unrealistic expectations on the part of critics of physicalism, than it seems a problem for physicalism. Brains are enormously complex, and I say this as an electrical engineer who routinely deals with highly complex systems. Yes there is a huge way to go in developing a understanding of how brains instantiate minds, and no guarantee that human minds are up to the task of developing something approaching an ultimate explanatory theory. However, substantial explanatory progress has been made over my lifetime, and that progress is ongoing. I don't see how anything similar can be claimed for panpsychism.

    In any case, I'm interested in hearing more about what you see as "massive problems" for physicalism.

    To be honest, it's really weird to me how physicalism is the most popular ontology writ large, but in the context of metaphysics as a specialty it's like a battleship that's taken direct multiple direct torpedo hits, is listing to one side, its magazine blew, and it looks liable to break in half.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Well, philosophers have proven themselves capable of believing all sorts of weird things, and this appears to me to be an example of such. I think physicalism (in a general sense) is in about as much danger as the heliocentrism of the solar system.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    I don't see any real problem. Panpsychism seems like nothing more than an unfalsifiable hypothesis that has no significant explanatory value, and Ockham razor seems like sufficient justification for dismissing panpsychism. From my perspective panpsychism doesn't seem to present any more challenge than solipsism.

    If everything intrinsically has some form of first-person subjective experience that would explain why there is first person subjective experience. We still need to explain why some entities have more depth of experience than others, but not experience itself, since it is an unanalyzable primitive. That would seem to be the explanatory value. Knowledge of the brain already does shed much light on why it is that different people experience subjective life differently, so this seems like a far more tractable problem. At least that's the argument panpsychists give; I am not terribly convinced.


    This seems to me, more a matter of unrealistic expectations on the part of critics of physicalism, than it seems a problem for physicalism. Brains are enormously complex, and I say this as an electrical engineer who routinely deals with highly complex systems. Yes there is a huge way to go in developing a understanding of how brains instantiate minds, and no guarantee that human minds are up to the task of developing something approaching an ultimate explanatory theory. However, substantial explanatory progress has been made over my lifetime, and that progress is ongoing. I don't see how anything similar can be claimed for panpsychism.

    I think you've misread my point. My point was that physicalism/panpsychism isn't a mutually exclusive dichotomy. If we discovered some sort of empirically observable phyche particle or property of mass/energy that suffuses the universe, and we were able to associate that with the emergence of first-person experience on a level with our own, we would say "aha, that's the physical entity related to consciousness."

    Panpsychism doesn't posit a suis generis substance responsible for consciousness; most formulations just say that subjective experience is a property of physical substance, period. So, the problem isn't that I expect physicalism to debunk panpsychism, it's that, if the physicalist wants to say "panpsychism is not commensurate with physicalism," they have to explain why this is the case. On the face of it, there doesn't seem to be any ontological reason for this to be the case. But it's much harder to explain what consciousness can't be caused by if you don't know what it is caused by.

    I agree with the rest of what you said. And perhaps this critique just reduces to Hempel's Dilemma. After all, if we had solid scientific evidence of psychic powers or ghosts, physicalists would probably also want to point to the mechanisms by which we found those phenomena to work and say "see, look, ghosts are physical, it's the physical ectoplasm that explains it." But then the problem is that physicalism has just turned out to be "whatever there is widespread support for." The key problem there is that, at least in physics, and at least for those that publish metaphysically minded papers and books, it seems that the scientists who should be guiding "scientific realism" towards physicalism have a tendency to advocate for ontologies that don't seem very physicalist (e.g. "It From Bit," ontic structural realism/Platonism, etc.)

    In any case, I'm interested in hearing more about what you see as "massive problems" for physicalism.

    See: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/

    But note that these are philosophical problems with coherently defining physicalism, not empirical arguments against it. Physicalism can move along so well despite these because they aren't issues that concern most people. Also, part of the reason it has received so many wounds is simply because it is popular. If another ontology became as popular it would probably also have more people analyzing it, which would then lead to more problems being identified.

    Consider:

    1. Physicalism is true at a possible world w iff any world which is a physical duplicate of w is a duplicate of w simpliciter.

    2. Physicalism is true at a possible world w iff every property instantiated at w is necessitated by a physical property.

    But the most influential objection to supervenience physicalism (and to modal formulations generally) is what might be called the sufficiency problem. This alleges that, while (1) articulates a necessary condition for physicalism it does not provide a sufficient condition. The underlying rationale is that, intuitively one thing can supervene on another and yet be of a completely different nature. To use Fine’s famous (1994) example, consider the difference between Socrates and his singleton set, the set that contains only Socrates as a member. The facts about the set supervene on the facts about Socrates; any world that is like ours in respect of the existence of Socrates is like ours in respect of the existence of his singleton set. And yet the set is quite different from Socrates. This in turn raises the possibility that something might be of a completely different nature from the physical and nevertheless supervene on it.

    One may bring out this objection further by considering positions in philosophy which entail supervenience and yet deny physicalism. A good example is necessitation dualism, which is an approach that weaves together elements of both physicalism and its traditional rival, dualism. On the one hand, the necessitation dualist wants to say that mental facts and physical facts are metaphysically distinct—just as a standard dualist does. On the other hand, the necessitation dualist wants to agree with the physicalist that mental facts are necessitated by, and supervene on, the physical facts. If this sort of position is coherent, (1) does not articulate a sufficient condition for physicalism. For if necessitation dualism is true, any physical duplicate of the actual world is a duplicate simpliciter. And yet, if dualism of any sort is true, including necessitation dualism, physicalism is false.

    Further, consider that if the physical supervenes on all mental events we could as easily flip the script and say that the mental supervenes on all related physical events. And yet physicalism generally wants to say that only one set is relevant for causal explanations, thus we need something more than mere supervenience.

    Also, supervenience itself seems unable to deal with a process-based metaphysics. It is an idea born of substance thinking. However, the natural sciences have overwhelmingly tended to move away from substance explanations: heat is now thought of in terms of average motion not caloric, combustion is a process not the substance phlogiston, atoms have a beginning and end and will eventually decay, they are patterns of mass energy not primary substances, "fundamental" particles are now often thought of as mere patterns in a field, etc.

    A final topic that I will consider is that of supervenience. The intuition of supervenience is that higher level phenomena cannot differ unless their supporting lower-level phenomena also differ. There may be something correct in this intuition, but a process metaphysics puts at least standard ways of construing supervenience into question too.

    Most commonly, a supervenience base — that upon which some higher-level phenomena are supposed to be supervenient — is defined in terms of the particles and their properties, and perhaps the relations among them, that are the mereological constituents of the supervenient system [Kim, 1991; 1998]. Within a particle framework, and so long as the canonical examples considered are energy well stabilities, this might appear to make sense.

    But at least three considerations overturn such an approach. First, local versions of supervenience cannot handle relational phenomena — e.g., the longest pencil in the box may lose the status of being longest pencil even though nothing about the pencil itself changes. Just put a longer pencil into the box. Being the longest pencil in the box is not often of crucial importance, but other relational phenomena are. Being in a far from equilibrium relation to the environment, for example, is a relational kind of property that similarly cannot be construed as being locally supervenient. And it is a property of fundamental importance to much of our worlds — including, not insignificantly, ourselves.

    A second consideration is that far from equilibrium process organizations, such as a candle flame, require ongoing exchanges with that environment in order to maintain their far from equilibrium conditions. There is no fixed set of particles, even within a nominally particle view, that mereologically constitutes the flame.

    A third, related consideration is the point made above about boundaries. Issues of boundary are not clear with respect to processes, and not all processes have clear boundaries of several differentiable sorts - and, if they do have two or more of them, they are not necessarily co-extensive. But, if boundaries are not clear, then what could constitute a supervenience base is also not clear.

    Supervenience is an example of a contemporary notion that has been rendered in particle terms, and that cannot be simply translated into a process metaphysical framework [Bickhard, 2000; 2004]. More generally, a process framework puts many classical metaphysical assumptions into question.

    Mark Bickhard - Systems and Process Metaphysics - The North Holland Handbook of the Philosophy of Science: The Philosophy of Complex Systems

    Of course, not all physicalism is supervenience physicalism, but it is what most people generally mean by the term. Second, if what is physically not present has causal power, as in information theoretic ontologies, absential phenomena, etc., then this seems to violate the causal closure principle as it is commonly put forth for physicalism (although it might be recoverable through reformulation). Really, if information is "the ontological basement" as some physicists contend, or even if it is fundamental, "coequal with energy" as others assert, it is hard to see how classical physicalism's causal closure principle works, even if reformulated in process terms.

    IMO, it's unclear is a "process physicalism" is worthy of the name. Physicalism always struct me as a substance metaphysics, partly because of how it came to define itself historically in terms of an opposition to substance dualism.

    Or consider:

    A third problem, which we mentioned briefly above, is the problem of abstracta (Rabin 2020). This concerns the status within physicalism of abstract objects, i.e., entities apparently not located in space and time, such as numbers, properties and relations, or propositions.

    To see the problem, suppose that abstract objects, if they exist, exist necessarily, i.e., in all possible worlds. If physicalism is true, then the facts about such objects must either be physical facts, or else bear a particular relation (grounding, realisation) to the physical. But on the face of it, that is not so. Can one really say that 5+7=12, for example, is realised in, or holds in virtue of, some arrangement of atoms and void? Or can one say that it itself is a physical fact or a fundamental physical fact? If not, physicalism is false: the property of being such that 5+7=12 obtains the actual world but is neither identical to, nor grounded in or realized by, any physical property. (Sometimes the problem of abstracta is formulated as concerning, not abstract objects such as numbers or properties, but the grounding or realization facts themselves; see, e.g, Dasgupta 2015. We will set this aside here.)

    There are a number of responses to this problem in the literature; for an overview, see Rabin 2020, see also Dasgupta 2015 and Bennett 2017; for more general discussion of physicalism and abstracta, see Montero 2017, Schneider 2017, and Witmer 2017.

    One response points out that, while the problem of abstracta confronts many different versions of physicalism, it does not arise for supervenience physicalism. After all, since numbers exist in all possible worlds, facts about them trivially supervene on the physical; any world identical to the actual world in physical respects will be identical to it in respect of whether 5+7=12, because any world at all is identical to the actual world in that respect! But the difficulty here is that supervenience physicalism seems, as we saw above, too weak anyway. Indeed, one might think that the example of abstracta is simply a different way to bring out that it is too weak.

    Another option is to adopt a version of nominalism, and deny the existence of abstracta entirely. The problem with this option is that defending nominalism about mathematics is no easy matter, and in any case nominalism and physicalism are normally thought of as distinct commitments.

    A third view, which seems more attractive than either of the two mentioned so far, is to expand the notion of a physical property that is in play in formulations of physicalism. For example, one might treat the properties of abstract objects as topic-neutral in something like the sense discussed in connection with Smart and reductionism above (see section 3.1). Topic-neutral properties have the interesting feature that, while they themselves are not physical, but are capable of being instantiated in what is intuitively a completely physical world, or indeed what is intuitively a completely spiritual world or a world entirely made of water. If so, it becomes possible to understand physicalism so that the reference to ‘physical properties’ within it is understood more correctly as ‘physical or topic-neutral properties’.

    But of course if there are "physical" and "topic-neutral properties" then we actually have two types of things.
  • Gnomon
    3.7k
    Intriguing! I have at times thought about conceptualizing reality in terms of information. I think I have quite a way to go before I can consider myself to have a precise well-thought out kind of manifesto about what I actually believe about reality or how I should view it. Still have to think out a lot of kinks.Apustimelogist
    I began to "conceptualize reality in terms of information" about 15 years ago, when a quantum physicist --- studying the material foundation of reality --- exclaimed that he had just realized "it's all information!". His, oh-by-the-way exclamation led me back to John A. Wheeler's 1989 "it from bit" postulation*1. What he meant by that cryptic quip is : every-thing (its ; material stuff) in the world can be reduced down to binary information (bits ; mind stuff). That equation of mind & matter would not go down well with committed Materialists though, because it opened the door to such spooky ideas as "mind over matter" (magic).

    I don't see any reliable evidence of spooky magical powers in the world --- other than deception by distraction, by manipulating information --- but it is evident that the human mind has gained almost magical*2 control over the natural world by the application of Mind Power (the power of ideas)*3 in completely mundane sense. An idea begins as a bit of information in a mind (noumena), then is expressed in the material form of sounds & text (seeds), which then is trans-planted into other minds (memes), and eventually is transformed into action (energy), and finally into physical form (phenomena).

    One way to "conceptualize reality" in terms of Information is to think about how the Big Bang created material & mental reality from nothing more than a Singularity (program code). The EnFormAction hypothesis*4 is my own "manifesto". It's an extrapolation from E=MC^2 ; to Causal Information ; to Teleological Evolution ; to the current state of reality that is changing faster than we can comprehend it. The Webb telescope is now allowing us to look back in time, to gain information about the beginning of Time itself. From top to bottom, reality is all about the creative power to enform*5 ; to transform reality into ideality. :smile:


    *1. John Archibald Wheeler Postulates "It from Bit" :
    "It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom — at a very deep bottom, in most instances — an immaterial source and explanation
    https://historyofinformation.com/detail.php?id=5041

    *2. Almost Magical :
    Compared to natural processes prior to the emergence of the human Mind, and thence the formalization of information.
    https://gnomon.enformationism.info/Images/Cosmic%20Progression%20Graph.jpg

    *3. The Power of Ideas :
    "Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come." ___Victor Hugo, on Political Revolution
    Note : Vlad Putin's motivating idea (irresistible force) of a re-unified Russian Empire has encountered a countervailing idea (immovable object) in the sovereign nation of Ukraine.

    "Right now it's only a notion, but I think I can get the money to make it into a concept, and later turn it into an idea". ___Woody Allen

    "Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard". ___Guy Kawasaki
    Note : Information is easy to find, but hard to implement into novel forms.

    *4. The EnFormAction Hypothesis :
    Therefore, as a hypothesis, I accepted the axiom of a First Cause as a reasonable premise, and began to follow the dots through history. And since this new creation myth is grounded on our modern understanding of pluripotential Information, I use a lot of computer-related analogies and terms. Clearly, the Cosmos was not created as a perfect fait accompli, but as an ongoing process working toward consummation.
    https://bothandblog3.enformationism.info/page23.html

    *5. What is Information? :
    So, in answer to a request for a general definition, as it “pertains to inorganic (physical), organic (biological), and semantic types of information”, I have defined “Information” in the context of various real-world instances of ubiquitous enforming power.
    https://bothandblog6.enformationism.info/page16.html

    "Information is neither matter nor energy, although it needs matter to be embodied and energy to be communicated" ___The Information Philosopher

    Information and causation are one and the same thing”
    ___Giulio Tononi , Phi
  • Apustimelogist
    435


    Thus, while we can abstract the picture from the photograph, and we can say that there are isomorphisms between different copies of the same image, these are causally irrelevant.Count Timothy von Icarus

    This doesn't violate causal closure due to the fact that everything about the world we create are models or constructs which depend on various contexts. The fact that I can create various different models of the world at different scales and levels of abstraction doesn't have a bearing on causal closure in this context.

    I think people's characterizations of physicalism are generally quite vague which is why so many people are intuitive physicalists despite this criticism you gave which would trivially refute the strict characterizations of physicalism you and perhaps many other philosophers give it. I would look at physicalism more in terms of how central our physics models appear in our view of the natural sciences and therefore the world which is totally coherent with the idea of having various levels of abstraction.

    Information is another abstraction and any notion of information depends on the ability for an observer or detector to make distinctions; information is therefore not really a thing but is something that can be characterized in the interaction between a stimulus and observer / detector. What this means is that any notion of information would be at least implicitly embodied in the physical processes that enable an observer to make distinctions (e.g. so that I can recognize a photo or a neuron can selectively respond to different inputs): the information is physical, just not in any way independent of an observer.

    Physicalism says that everything that can be known about seeing red is physical. There is nothing else. Perhaps experiencing red is a different experience than knowing "how red is experienced." This is fine, but it's going to lead you to physicalism with type or predicate dualism (which may or may not be physicalism depending on who you ask).

    The thing about what you're saying is that it suggests that our notion of ontology about reality should be limited by our inherent capacity to perceive or think about it which I don't think is the case. The fact that I can conceptualize reality with both mental and physical concepts or that there are limits to how I can directly perceive reality should not necessarily be confused with reality itself.

    In fact, I can plausibly imagine a completely physical world where you have a physical machine which receives sensory inputs about the world, learns their statistical structure and creates theories about the world. I can totally imagine trivial contexts where that machine would be incapable of explaining aspects of its own inputs and reconciling them with its own physical models... would that entail the physical world exists in has things that are not physical? No, its just the limits on what a machine can explain.

    If physicalism isn't going to fall to Hemple's dilemma and define itself as "just whatever currently has evidential support," it seems like it has to pick a hill to die on, and superveniance is the most obvious hill.

    To be fair, I think similar sorts of problems show up for idealism
    Count Timothy von Icarus

    As said in a previous post, I think that the idea of fundamental ontology is inaccessible to us, perhaps cannot be made coherent. My characterization of physicalism is more about the role of our models of physics and I guess the natural sciences more generally
    in our view of reality and arguing against the need to posit ontologically separate mental phenomena above and beyond them.
  • Apustimelogist
    435


    I think though that fundamentally, our natural sciences seem to characterize the nature of the universe with physics in a way that doesn't depend on the notion of experience. It is not needed for those models to work and would be adding something in addition which isn't required and doesn't make a difference to our understanding of the universe. I think therefore physicalism is more appropriate than panpsychism.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    Information is another abstraction and any notion of information depends on the ability for an observer or detector to make distinctions; information is therefore not really a thing but is something that manifests in the interaction between a stimulus and observer / detector. What this means is that any notion of information would be at least implicitly embodied in the physical processes that enable an observer to make distinctions (e.g. so that I can recognize a photo or a neuron can selectively respond to different inputs): the information is physical, just not in any way independent of an observer.Apustimelogist

    I think you are making the hidden dualism mistake here. Check the OP of this thread:
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/14569/hidden-dualism/p1

    Specifically this:
    I find it interesting how many materialist/physicalist accounts of the mind assume the very thing they are explaining. This is often called a "hidden dualism" and amongst other things, I take this to mean that the dualism is "hidden" from the arguer.

    Often times this looks like a sleight of hand between process/behavior and mental events.
    Example: The neuron fires (process/behavioral). The neurons fire (process/behavioral). The networks form (process/behavioral). The sensory tissues/organs are acted upon (process/behavioral). A line or shape is processed in a visual cortex (mental). An object is perceived (mental). An object is recognized (mental). A long-term potentiation (process/behavioral). A memory is accessed (process/behavioral). "Fires together, wires together" (process/behavioral), associating one thing with another (mental).

    As you see with these examples, these often are interchanged all the time, leading to a belief one is talking purely behavioral, when in fact it is a mix of process/behavioral and mental. This muddling of the two is where the hidden dualism comes into play. It is this constant category error that trips people up into not understanding any "hard problem". It leads to blind scientism, and a constant not "getting" the problems that arise from philosophy of mind.
    schopenhauer1
  • Apustimelogist
    435


    I don't think there is anything problematic in entertaining both the mental and physical as concepts that we have constructed due to the nature of our brains.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    I don't think there is anything problematic in entertaining both the mental and physical as concepts that we have constructed due to the nature of our brains.Apustimelogist

    The problem isn't entertaining both but replacing one with the other without explanation. You said:
    "embodied in the physical processes that enable an observer to make distinctions"

    That is placing the observer in the equation without explanation, as supposedly in physicalism, the explanation is somehow physical regarding the "observer". That is begging the question.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    What do you mean?Apustimelogist

    I mean what I said ha.

    But if you are asking me to explain more.. You said, "...physical processes that enable an observer to make distinctions".

    Physical processes are supposed to explain the observer. The way you said it there, the observer is already in the equation, and so was not explained.
  • Apustimelogist
    435


    I don't see the problem. It seems to me that under your characterization, physicalism would be falsified if there existed any concepts that were not physical: e.g. organisms, economies, mountains. They are all just labels that describe our empirical observations at different scales nd levels of abstraction. I can think of an observer the same way, I just mean more or less something that can respond differently to different inputs. That seems to be the kind of minimal characterization of information processing.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    I don't see the problem. It seems to me that under your characterization, physicalism would be falsified if there existed any concepts that were not physical: e.g. organisms, economies, mountains. They are all just labels that describe our empirical observations at different scales nd levels of abstraction. I can think of an observer the same way, I just mean more or less something that can respond differently to different inputs. That seems to be the kind of minimal characterization of information processing.Apustimelogist

    Well we are having a philosophical discussion, so paying attention to these distinctions matter in the dialectic and debates at hand.

    So you said:
    It seems to me that under your characterization, physicalism would be falsified if there existed any concepts that were not physical: e.g. organisms, economies, mountains. They are all just labels that describe our empirical observations at different scales nd levels of abstraction.Apustimelogist

    Well, you are doing it again. "Concepts" is a loaded word there and you are going to start going down a rabbit-hold of a different debate regarding how concepts represent the world. It's advised to be careful with language here...

    Rather, the issue at hand is how it is that mental phenomena are physical events. It's not an issue of what mental event is associated with a physical event (the easy problems), but the hard problem, why it is that some physical events have this mental quality to them, other than just asserting that they do. It would even have to explain hidden dualisms such as "illusion that's why!" because the illusion now has to be explained.

    I can think of an observer the same way, I just mean more or less something that can respond differently to different inputs. That seems to be the kind of minimal characterization of information processing.Apustimelogist

    Ok that is a little more precise. Right, information processes.. But this doesn't really solve the problem I mentioned earlier in the last post about mixing behavior/process and mental (what it's like aspects).

    Thus information can process with no "what it's likeness" to it. It is just behavior all the way down. And wherever there is "what it's likeness" happening, "what" then is that as opposed to the other behavior that was going on? Then you are back to a dualism of some sort of mental space that pops out of physical space which is basically the question all over again.
  • Bob Ross
    1.5k


    Hello Apustimelogist,

    Just a some things I would like to clarify about the hard problem of consciousness:

    1. It is technically, at best, only a problem for reductive physicalism. One could be a irreductive or elimativistic physicalist (although I personally find other problems with them).

    2. There is no such thing as refutation in metaphysics (and thusly not in philosophy of mind): no one can claim that physicalism is refuted by anything but, rather, they can describe reasons that they think count against the theory.

    3. Due to the nature of metaphysics, one can reconcile even reductive physicalism with the hard problem, even when granted it as true, because one can metaphysically justify virtually anything. Thusly, a person could say that it is expected that consciousness would not be reducible to the brain states since they are, after all, the representations. However, the idea in using the hard problem as an epistemic token against reductive physicalism is that it makes it significantly less coherent or at least less plausible: all we directly know is mental (and not physical) and if one is conceding that they cannot explain reductively mentality, then it appears as though nothing one directly knows can be sufficiently explained. The trade off, allegedly, is that the theory fits with the rest of our knowledge; but why would we posit this extraneous physicality when we can reductively explain it in the reverse direction? Anyways, the idea here (that I am trying to convey) is that metaphysics is all about tradeoffs: what counts in favor and against the theory?

    4. If mentality is not explanatorily reduced to physicality, then what reasons does one have to believe it is reducible to it (in theory)? That’s like me saying this property A is reducible to B but that I can never prove it: so why think that is actually the case?
  • Apustimelogist
    435


    My view isn't so much about falsifying qualia but about whether our concepts of qualia and their irreducibility can plausibly arise through information processing. If that is the case then it strongly suggests to me that dualism is an illusion because it would entail epiphenomenalism which is absurd. On the other hand it suggests one might be able to defend the identity between brain processes and qualia even if one cannot be reduced to the other. This would allow a physicalist to defend the notion that everything is physical, or more specifically that nothing extra is needed to describe reality.
  • Apustimelogist
    435


    Its all about the meta-problem of consciousness. If it is plausible for a physical statistical learning architecture to generate experiential concepts but be incapable of reducinh (correction) them to its knowledge of the physical world then it seems to render the role of phenomena in our knowledge of our own consciousness as epiphenomenal and absurd. The idea that a representation would not carry information about what physically instantiates that representation is one suggestion about why some kind of statistical learning architecture would not be able to reduce or explain experiential concepts it might generate.
  • Bob Ross
    1.5k


    I am unfamiliar with a 'meta-problem' of consciousness; but I don't find it plausible that 'learning architecture' will ever be conscious.

    It seems to take more than merely quantitatively generating a 'experiential concept' (whatever that may be) to have qualitative experience. There is something it is like in and of itself to have qualia, which is not something mere algorithms can produce (at least there's no foreseeable conceptual explanation of how it would work at all). A very easy way of seeing the incredibly difficulty in giving a conceptual account of the reduction of mental properties to physical properties is mary's room.

    What AI will end up being is a philosophical zombie--a really convincing mimick of proper minds.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    My view isn't so much about falsifying qualia but about whether our concepts of qualia and their irreducibility can plausibly arise through information processing.Apustimelogist

    Yeah and how about that theory? How does it "arise"? "What" is it that is "arisen"?

    If that is the case then it strongly suggests to me that dualism is an illusion because it would entail epiphenomenalism which is absurd.Apustimelogist

    That's only one form of dualism and even that is not entailed in physicalism. Physicalism doesn't have room for mental events other than hidden dualism (has been my premise for a while).

    suggests to me that dualism is an illusion because it would entail epiphenomenalism which is absurd. On the other hand it suggests one might be able to defend the identity between brain processes and qualia even if one cannot be reduced to the other. This would allow a physicalist to defend the notion that everything is physical, or more specifically that nothing extra is needed to describe reality.Apustimelogist

    I think that isn't much of an argument other than we don't know. That is again, only one form of dualism, and it's one that's prone to physicalist accounts because it starts with the physical causing mental.

    Emergence does have to be explained here. How is it that emergent properties exist prior to the viewer, and all that. It's bald assertion to just say that "and it emerges", it's about as explanatory as saying, "it's an illusion".
  • Apustimelogist
    435


    Yeah and how about that theory? How does it "arise"? "What" is it that is "arisen"?schopenhauer1

    Well I am just talking about the concept of qualia and the inability for some kind of statistical learning machine to explain their own concepts; for instance, because those concepts are too primitive and they are representations which do not carry information about how those representations are instantiated. For instance, if you look at how some neural network works where input units cause states of hidden units to change through weights and thresholds etc, you might consider the network to learn about information in those inputs but theres no viable mechanism that would allow it to learn about and represent how that information is instantiated.

    That's only one form of dualism and even that is not entailed in physicalism. Physicalism doesn't have room for mental events other than hidden dualism (has been my premise for a while).schopenhauer1

    The point I'm trying to say there is that it would entail epiphenomenalism and epiphenomenalism is absurd so it cant be the case. It may allow some form of dualism where the physical and mental interact but i generally find this implausible because there is just no evidence or suggestion from science that this is or should be the case.

    I think that isn't much of an argument other than we don't know. That is again, only one form of dualism, and it's one that's prone to physicalist accounts because it starts with the physical causing mental.schopenhauer1

    Its not an "I don't know". Dualism is either not empirically motivated or incoherent. This incoherence can be seen in the idea of a p-zombie which says it is conscious and believes in the hard problem of consciousness.

    Emergence does have to be explained here. How is it that emergent properties exist prior to the viewer, and all that. It's bald assertion to just say that "and it emerges", it's about as explanatory as saying, "it's an illusion".schopenhauer1

    Emergence presumes dualism which I am not doing. I am saying there is no dualism.
  • Apustimelogist
    435


    Its not about generating consciousness but the idea that if something putatively non-experiential can generate experiential concepts, this leads to absurdities which make dualism implausible. P-zombies are an example of such absurdities. Of p-zombies are biologically identical to us they will say they have consciousness and have thoughts on the hard problem of consciousness even if they don't have experiences. This is absurd which can then be used as an argument against dualism.
  • Bob Ross
    1.5k


    Although I am not sure I am fully understanding your connection of dualism to your original OP, an argument against dualism does not count in favor of physicalism (if that is what you are suggesting here).

    Also, I likewise find dualism to be quite implausible, but I am not a physicalist.
  • Apustimelogist
    435


    Well the way I stated it in the OP was meant to just be a counterargument against irreducibility so that a physicalist could use it. But I think my view here is mostly just an argument against dualism. I don't think I am truly a physicalist, and clearly from various replies in this thread it can be seen there are some deep issues with turning the intuition of physicalism into a cohesive viewpoint but its the kind of intuition or view that reflects well on my sympathies so I often put myself on that side in a debate that can very polarized.

    At the same time, as I have said in several posts in the thread, I also don't think we can have access to a good characterization of what a fundamental ontology could be. In light of this, I don't think my view of reality has a real base, it is just filled with the models we have from the natural sciences and how they relate to each other; my inclination then is that embracing ontologies centered around experience add to this network of models in ways that are either not necessary or not very interesting/useful from my standpoint.

    I feel like my views don't need something more to explain existence because it appears to me from various areas of philosophy and neuroscience that as observers we are just naturally limited in how we can think and characterize the world and so there are just things about existence we cannot have epistemic access to in a coherent way. We cannot ever look at the world in a way that is independent of how our brains have been structured, the things that they are capable of doing and their limits.

    Edited: paragraphing, "intuition of physicalism", "have epistemic access to"
  • Gnomon
    3.7k
    Information is another abstraction and any notion of information depends on the ability for an observer or detector to make distinctions; information is therefore not really a thing but is something that can be characterized in the interaction between a stimulus and observer / detector. What this means is that any notion of information would be at least implicitly embodied in the physical processes that enable an observer to make distinctions (e.g. so that I can recognize a photo or a neuron can selectively respond to different inputs): the information is physical, just not in any way independent of an observer.Apustimelogist
    Yes, Information is inter-dependent. It's physical, in the sense that it is transmitted from mind to mind via physical vehicles (ink, sound, rhodopsin, etc). But information is also metaphysical, in the sense that Shannon defined it in terms of statistical probability (potential, correlations, not-yet-real).

    In its statistical state, Information is not a material thing, but --- as you implied above --- it is reified*1 as a "distinction" by an observer. Even more spooky, is that Information is an intentional process (an act) --- the "-ation" part of the word is an abbreviation for "action". So, Information is both an "abstraction" process in a mind, and the embodiment of an idea in matter.

    EnFormAction*2 is the bridge between Noumena and Phenomena. A spectator on the sideline contributes the metaphysical component to physical information in the playing-field of the environment. Hence, the meaning of Information is dependent on the mind of the observer. Thus, my position on the phenomena/noumena controversy is BothAnd*3. :smile:

    *1. To Reify :
    reification transforms objects into subjects and subjects into objects
    When an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete, real event or physical entity
    https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/logicalfallacies/Reification

    *2. EnFormAction :
    “En-” within ; referring to essential changes of state
    “Form-” to mold or give shape to : it's the structure of a thing that makes it what it is.
    “Action-” causation : the suffix “-ation” denotes the product or result of an action.

    https://bothandblog2.enformationism.info/page29.html

    *3. The BothAnd Principle :
    Conceptually, the BothAnd principle is similar to Einstein's theory of Relativity, in that what you see ─ what’s true for you ─ depends on your perspective, and your frame of reference; for example, subjective or objective, religious or scientific, reductive or holistic, pragmatic or romantic, conservative or liberal, earthbound or cosmic. Ultimate or absolute reality (ideality) doesn't change, but your conception of reality does. Opposing views are not right or wrong, but more or less accurate for a particular purpose.
    https://blog-glossary.enformationism.info/page10.html
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    When an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete, real event or physical entityGnomon

    Cool stuff, but I think it goes too far. Enthusiasm for the subject doesn't pull the rabbit out of the hat, unfortunately. That is to say abstraction already needs the observer. Abstraction isn't the observer. If it is, then that has to be explained, and like "illusion" or "integration", it all becomes hidden dualisms of begging the question.
  • Gnomon
    3.7k
    Cool stuff, but I think it goes too far. Enthusiasm for the subject doesn't pull the rabbit out of the hat, unfortunately. That is to say abstraction already needs the observer. Abstraction isn't the observer. If it is, then that has to be explained, and like "illusion" or "integration", it all becomes hidden dualisms of begging the question.schopenhauer1
    I think the point of the quote is that Abstraction is a function of the Observer's data-filtering belief-forming system. Hence, not so much a Dualism but merely different aspects of the same process : interpreting incoming sensory information. Reality is complicated, but perception automatically simplifies our sensory signals into parcels (e.g. Gestalts), in part by omitting unnecessary data*1; before it appears into consciousness. Observing is Interpreting.

    This subtraction of unnecessary irrelevant data, and integration of relevant data into Concepts, is related to Don Hoffman's Theory of Perception*2. The Observer is separated (at arm's length) from the environment by his own built-in data-compression algorithms. The brain's programs (procedures) & memories (beliefs) are designed, not for absolute Truth, but for pragmatic Facts. Thus, the stripped-down mental model of reality is good enough to enhance the survival of living organisms.

    The Abstract model (a belief) is an Idealized (unrealistic) & Integrated (holistic) representation of Reality, not a glimpse of Heaven or ding an sich. It's a Dualism only in the sense that a Map is not the Terrain. However, the question remains : how does a neural map become conscious knowledge? I have a monistic/holistic hypothesis, but it may not appeal to those committed to reductive methods for answering philosophical questions. :smile:

    PS__ I just read two articles about Creative Emergence*3*4, in which novel structures (e.g. conscious Brain/Mind systems) emerge from the convoluted interactions of subatomic particles & forces. Maybe Perception/Conception is an example of subtractive Divergence, on top of additive Emergence. But that might require a new thread.


    *1.Data compression is a reduction in the number of bits needed to represent data. Compressing data can save storage capacity, speed up file transfer and decrease costs for storage hardware and network bandwidth.
    https://www.techtarget.com/searchstorage/definition/compression

    *2. Conscious Perception :
    . . . . our perception of the world is not accurate. In reality, it is a simplified representation and projection of something more complex that our brains have created for us. He argues that our perceptions are optimized for survival and reproductive success (so-called fitness functions) rather than for providing an accurate depiction of reality.
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2023/05/11/how-the-theory-of-conscious-agents-can-revolutionize-your-leadership/?sh=5eff0ca52318

    *3. Did physicists get the idea of “fundamental” wrong? :
    there’s a difference between phenomena that are fundamental — like the motions and interactions of the indivisible, elementary quanta that compose our Universe — and phenomena that are emergent, arising solely from the interactions of large numbers of fundamental particles under a specific set of conditions.
    https://bigthink.com/starts-with-a-bang/physicists-fundamental-wrong/

    *4. Novelty is Emergent :
    How does the new come about? This is the fundamental question of creativity
    https://emergentfutureslab.com/blog/systems-are-creative
  • Bob Ross
    1.5k


    Hello Apustimelogist,

    Well the way I stated it in the OP was meant to just be a counterargument against irreducibility so that a physicalist could use it. But I think my view here is mostly just an argument against dualism. I don't think I am truly a physicalist

    Oh I see! Yes, I agree that dualism is not a coherent way to go, for sure.
  • Apustimelogist
    435


    I actually think I more or less agree with a fair amount you talk about in the last two posts you make about information and the "arms-length" separation of observer, though maybe I would describe it in different language. I definitely do have a different perspective but there is definitely stuff I agree on, I think.




    I thonk you are begging the question by presuming dualism, presuming some separation that needs to be explained. My belief is dualism is false and so there is nothing to be explained but at the same time, there's nothing stopping me from having concepts of both the mental, the physical, or various other things.
  • Gnomon
    3.7k
    I actually think I more or less agree with a fair amount you talk about in the last two posts you make about information and the "arms-length" separation of observer, though maybe I would describe it in different language. I definitely do have a different perspective but there is definitely stuff I agree on, I think.Apustimelogist
    I understand that my discussions of the Mind vs Matter question may be difficult to follow, in part because I have no formal training in Philosophy, and partly because most of my knowledge of Information is derived from Quantum Physics instead of Shannon's mathematical theory of communication. Another hurdle in communicating my ideas about a Monistic theory of Mind/Matter is that I have been forced, by the complexity of the content, to coin neologisms (new language) that bundle contrasting concepts into single words : e.g. EnFormAction and Enformy.

    The bottom line though, is that both physical Matter (phenomena) and metaphysical Mind (noumena) are derivatives from the pre-Big Bang essential causal Power to Enform (to create and to transform), that we now know scientifically as Energy. But, from my information-centric perspective, I call it EnFormAction or Enformy*1. Of course, religious-minded folks call it "God", or "Will of God". Philosophically, this notion is related to Plato's concept of an ideal realm of FORM, which is similar to Kant's hidden reality of ding an sich. It's also similar to Spinoza's & Aristotle's definition of essential Single Substance*2 as the First Cause of the Cosmos.

    That hypothetical eternal pool of Potential is unitary (monistic), but everything Actual in the real world is pluralistic*3, beginning with a dualistic distinction between This & That; before & after, Self & Other. Dualism is exemplified in the first stage of cell division, when one thing becomes two, and two further divides into the variety of parts of a holistic organism*4. The human Observer sees the Cosmos as a Part trying to understand the Whole*5. :smile:


    *1. Enformy :
    In the Enformationism theory, Enformy is a hypothetical, holistic, metaphysical, natural trend or force, that counteracts Entropy & Randomness to produce complexity & progress. [ see post 63 for graph ]
    1. I'm not aware of any "supernatural force" in the world. But my Enformationism theory postulates that there is a meta-physical force behind Time's Arrow and the positive progress of evolution. Just as Entropy is sometimes referred to as a "force" causing energy to dissipate (negative effect), Enformy is the antithesis, which causes energy to agglomerate (additive effect).
    2. Of course, neither of those phenomena is a physical Force, or a direct Cause, in the usual sense. But the term "force" is applied to such holistic causes as a metaphor drawn from our experience with physics.
    3. "Entropy" and "Enformy" are scientific/technical terms that are equivalent to the religious/moralistic terms "Evil" and "Good". So, while those forces are completely natural, the ultimate source of the power behind them may be supernatural, in the sense that the First Cause logically existed before the Big Bang.

    https://blog-glossary.enformationism.info/page8.html

    *2. Aristotle’s “Substance" :
    In one sense, substances are the fundamental subjects; in another sense, a substance is the “cause of being” of a substance in the first sense. A substance in the second sense is the essence (the “what it is to be”), the form (morphê or eidos), of a substance in the first sense.
    https://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/SubstanceNote.pdf

    *3. What is the philosophy of the one and many? :
    The problem of finding the one thing that lies behind all things in the universe is called the problem of the one and the many. Basically stated, the problem of the one and the many begins from the assumption that the universe is one thing. Because it is one thing, there must be one, unifying aspect behind everything.
    https://www.faculty.umb.edu/gary_zabel/Courses/Phil%20281b/Philosophy%20of%20Magic/Dante.%20etc/Philosophers/Idea/www.wsu.edu_8080/~dee/GLOSSARY/ONEMANY.HTM

    *4. Cell Division Duality within Unity :
    Out of Unity comes Plurality. But the potential for multiplication is inherent in the One.
    Mitosis.png

    *5. Physics vs Philosophy :
    Reductionism vs Holism ; Part vs Whole ; Mechanism vs System
    flammarion_engraving_custom-741e49ab7cc68a364f290fd15634c3c1f2ee30e5.jpg
  • Gnomon
    3.7k
    Thus information can process with no "what it's likeness" to it. It is just behavior all the way down. And wherever there is "what it's likeness" happening, "what" then is that as opposed to the other behavior that was going on? Then you are back to a dualism of some sort of mental space that pops out of physical space which is basically the question all over again.schopenhauer1
    That's an interesting way to phrase the "hard problem" of "what it's likeness". A computer can mechanically process information without bothering with mentally processing the mathematical data into personal (self relevant) meanings. Brainy Animals seem to be able to compute likeness (analogies) to some degree (gestures, behaviors), but not to the point of intentionally communicating meanings from mind to mind in the concise packages of intention we call "words".

    Likewise, the whole universe can be imagined as a computer*1 : mechanically processing mathematical information into the physics that scientists study. But, until homo sapiens eventually became Self-Conscious, there was no "what it's likeness" as postulated by Nagel. "Likeness" is the ability to make analogies & metaphors to represent experienced reality in abstract concepts. Animals seem to know what they are doing, but are not able to articulately enform other minds with that personal knowledge. The abstractions we call "words" require analytical abilities that allow precise control of conveyed meaning --- including more than just blunt emotions (danger!), but sharp reasons (look behind you, there's a monkey eagle).

    So, the "hard problem" of Consciousness --- to know that you know, and to let someone else know --- is only a problem for humans, who strongly desire to communicate subjective ideas & feelings to other minds*2, in a manner that is not too vague (gestures), and can be objectively tested (philosophy). After a football game, the on-the-field reporter points a microphone at the winning athlete, and asks "what is it like?". An animal answer would be, "it feels good, you know". No, I don't know! I don't have endorphins stimulating my body. Hence, the Hard Problem. :smile:

    PS___For humans, the dualism of Consciousness is Self vs Other, not necessarily Natural vs Supernatural, as typically argued.


    *1, Universe is a Computer :
    This leads to the extraordinary possibility that our entire Universe might in fact be a computer simulation. The idea is not that new. In 1989, the legendary physicist, John Archibald Wheeler, suggested that the Universe is fundamentally mathematical and it can be seen as emerging from information.
    https://www.sciencealert.com/expert-proposes-a-method-for-telling-if-we-all-live-in-a-computer-program


    *2. problem of other minds, in philosophy, the problem of justifying the commonsensical belief that others besides oneself possess minds and are capable of thinking or feeling somewhat as one does oneself.
    https://www.britannica.com/topic/problem-of-other-minds
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