• javra
    2.5k


    Got it. Thank you for the clarification. I'm in agreement.
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    Natural selection would never ensure that phenomenal experiences don't drift arbitrarily far from whatever the world is actually like because the contents of awareness have absolutely no bearing on reproduction if they don't affect behavior. It's self refuting.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Such confusion. Talk of "phenomenal experiences" is just the standard sin of reifying a process as a substance. Tell me what process you might have in mind here and we will get a lot further. Consciousness is a pragmatic modelling relation with the world and not a "thing" or a "state of being".

    And even if you reify the ability to act mindfully in the world – to have a flow of experience that constitutes a semiotic Umwelt – it is always going to have a bearing on reproductive success in a biological creature that depends on reproduction to exist.

    Yours is the argument that self-refutes. The semiotic approach indeed explains how our phenomenology indeed does "drift arbitrarily far from whatever the world is actually like". The world is not actually coloured, is it? The redness of a rose, the sweetness of its scent, are neurological constructs rather than material properties.

    Our primate eyes are tuned to making a sharp red~green wavelength distinction for the pragmatic purpose of ecological tasks like making the very slight reflectance difference of a ripe fruit "pop-out" of the green background of a forest's foliage. Evolution inserts a hue difference that leaps out in a binary fashion when a more "realistic" reaction would be seeing two barely distinguishable hues of grey.

    The mind doesn't need to represent the world in faithful Cartesian fashion. It in fact wants to ignore the world as much as possible so that only what matters in terms of significant information "pops out" in ways we just can't miss.

    All the worthwhile theories of mind are based now on this semiotic principle. Perception itself is an encoding of telic purpose. What matters in an evolved information processing sense is built into the structure of our sensations let alone our cognition.

    All we have is multiple competing "suggestive" theories, none of which can gain currency.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Friston's Bayesian Brain seems to have taken the field by storm. We were discussing it 30 years ago when it was still rather radical and leftfield. Now he has the field's highest impact rating – even if a lot of that is due to his work sorting out the analysis techniques needed for functional brain imaging.

    On the other hand, if a theory allows for something along the lines of "strong emergence," to get around these problems, I have no idea why we would be talking about mindless entropy gradients and intentionality as good in a remotely univocal or even analogous way.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Strong emergence is just reductionism plus supervenience. A complete non-theory. A way of hand-waving rather than actually explaining.

    Goodness, as we experience it, would be defined in terms of an irreducible intentionality.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Good luck with that. I thought you were here to discuss pragmatism in some way.
  • javra
    2.5k
    that is there cannot be, logically speaking, an overarching purpose without a transcendent purposer.Janus

    Logically there can, but one needs to make use of premises other than those of current mainstream religions (the very same with which most of today's atheists are indoctrinated and make partial rejection of).

    Try to forget all about "the world was created by a creator" and, in modified general metaphysical keeping, that the universe resulted from either a first cause or else somehow emerged ex nihilo (as though indefinite nothingness of itself brought about the effect of a primordial universe as thought indefinite nothingness were of itself a cause).

    Instead of these premises, entertain the premises that existence is either without initial creation or else cause or, otherwise, that no one (human or supernatural if the latter were to in any way occur) can have any knowledge of how old existence is or else of how it started if it at all ever did. Easily referenced examples of systems that do this are both Buddhism and Hinduism.

    Then make use of the premise that awareness (in its many plural instantiations) is.

    Then, be more concise, entertain the premise of idealism - one wherein everything that is perceptual, including everything physical, is in any number of means brought about by said awareness.

    Lastly, entertain the premise that there is a final end-state to this awareness (with awareness's many instantiations) which is existentially fixed (not created, nor caused, nor in any way perishable) and which could be had were said awareness to be so wanting/intending. Quick examples could here include being at one with Brahman via Moksha, obtaining Nirvana without remainder, or to bring things back slightly into Western perspective (a global and complete) henosis with the Neo-Platonic "the One".

    While this will not of itself evidence the case that physicality must necessarily then be purpose driven in manners devoid of a "purposer" (which is obviously to me taken to be a singular ego), these set of premises do at the very least allow for the logically valid obtainment of this conclusion (given far many more details and arguments to be presented and made).

    For instance, were it to be upheld - such as C. S. Peirce did - that everything physical is effete mind whose natural laws (and systems of stable causality, etc.) are global habits emerging from the activities of (awareness-endowed) mind (again, neither mine nor yours but all coexisting minds in the cosmos in general), then physicality in general and all of its particular aspects will be - or at least could be here validly concluded to be - purposeful though neither holding intentions nor being so due to one single ego as "purposer". Physicality here would then adhere to the laws of thought, for one example, for it is ultimately resultant of them. And such an interpretation of physicality is in general metaphysical keeping with Heraclitus's Logos as well as that of the Stoics - wherein the laws of Nature are in their own way reasonings.

    [For further illustration, here is one easy to read summation of Peirce's views:

    “Matter,” he described, “is effete mind, inveterate habits becoming physical laws.” Peirce sees matter as being constructed out of habits of mind that have become so deeply ingrained that all of their fluidity has been removed until they froze into our experience of solid materiality. In this way Peirce held that there was not a sharp line between mind and matter. Instead Matter was solidified mind and so consciousness and material were part of the same continuum.https://philosophyisnotaluxury.com/2010/09/the-inquiring-mind-of-charles-sanders-peirce/
    ]

    Such an understanding of physicality is also in keeping with Peirce's notion of "agapism": a universal process of, well, agape, by which the cosmos in whole evolves. To which can be further conjoined "evolves toward the end-state of absolute agape". Which in turn can be deemed one and the same as, for example, the Neo-Platonic "the One".

    As to scientific models of the universe, under such general interpretation of a purposeful cosmos devoid of a one superlative purposer, one could then adopt a Big Bounce model of the cosmos, which is currently a validly scientific model of cosmology regarding the beginning of the (currently known) universe that, though having its critics, has not yet be falsified by evidence.

    Such that - to here use more poetic language for brevity - the evolving universe incrementally approaches this end-state of absolute agape (which again can be deemed to be the Neo-Platonic "the One") and then possibly breaks apart from it due to not getting thing perfect, in the process bringing about a new reformation of the early and far more chaotic universe which once again reformulates its progressive evolutions toward the same end-state, this till the time the awareness-driven universe (see C.S. Peirce again as example of this) gets things perfect and the end-state is obtained.

    I'm not expecting these affirmations to be viewed as here being validly concluded by anyone. But this skimpily presented post regarding the matter does evidence how having a cosmos with an overarching purpose in the utter absence of a "purposer" is by no means a logical impossibility. If one works with different premises than those commonly employed in modernity.

    And, of course, this terse outline of a general outlook should be given some leeway in terms of details being better defined via some modification of what's be stated.

    Maybe needless to add, deny the premises addressed, and one will then deny the possible validity of all which has been expressed. But this does not then equate to a purposeful cosmos devoid of intentionality as an agent and of purposer as guiding factor being of itself logically impossible.

    ----

    Short on time at present. I'll post again if replied to in a week or so.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    Try to forget all about "the world was created by a creator" and, in modified general metaphysical keeping, that the universe resulted from either a first cause or else somehow emerged ex nihilo (as though indefinite nothingness of itself brought about the effect of a primordial universe as thought indefinite nothingness were of itself a cause).javra

    I don't think that will help, because I can't see how saying the Universe has an overarching purpose makes any sense at all without positing a purposer. I will go further; I think saying that anything has a purpose presupposes either that it has been designed for some purpose or that it is in some sense and to some degree a self-governing agent.

    In the life sciences there is talk of organs and such things as leaves, claws, teeth, stomachs, hearts and so on as having purposes, but this is really metaphor—such things have functions, they were not designed "on purpose", even if it is possible, as per epigenetics, that there can be feedback from the environment to DNA. In a sense we can look at the whole Earth as being self-organizing, but it doesn't follow that it has purposes, and even less does it follow that this self-organizing capacity constitutes an overarching purpose, a purpose from beyond the phenomenal realm, a purpose with some end in "mind".

    Peirce's characterization of matter as "effete mind" I think should be read more as a metaphor in that matter is being (again anthropocentrically) considered as something that can acquire habits, and in general anything conceived as such suggests a notion of mind. All of this speaks more to our human experience-based presuppositions, and the real litmus test would be as to whether such ideas can command agreement from any unbiased rational agent, as logical, and mathematically self-evident propositions, and testable empirical observations, can.

    What you need to understand about my position here is that I do not claim that all questions are capable of scientific answers. Much, even most, of what concerns us as humans cannot be definitively (that is in any intersubjectively testable sense) answered by science or philosophy, and each of us must think philosophically as we are rationally convinced to think, a thinking which is distinct from both scientific and logical justification and purported revelation.

    As Karl Jaspers says we have three modes of thinking—religious, that is dogmatic, faith, scientific knowledge and what he calls "philosophical faith" which is an existential and/ or phenomenological matter, a lifelong. open-ended pursuit of thought for each individual. We accept whatever philosophical ideas that we do accept on faith; no proof or empirical evidence of their truth is possible.

    We can engage in philosophical discussion, and we may be convinced by the thoughts of others, or not, but there are no definitive answers to philosophical questions that any unbiased rational agent would be compelled to accept. Philosophy is mostly untestable speculation, yet individuals are justified, in the sense of being entitled to entertain or believe whatever they authentically feel, after making every effort to expunge tendencies towards confirmation bias or wishful thinking, is most true for them. That something feels most true for you, however, does not entail that your feeling is a justification for expecting anyone else to agree with you.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    if intentions have no causal efficacy, if everything is determined by mechanism—by statistical mechanics, etc.—then the contents of phenomenal experience can never, ever, be selected for by natural selection.Count Timothy von Icarus

    You have your answer: pragmatism says that what is good, is the well-adapted, what survives. That extends beyond living organisms to the whole cosmos.

    In popular Darwinism, reason is purely an organ; spirit or mind, a thing of nature. According to a current interpretation of Darwin, the struggle for life must necessarily, step by step, through natural selection, produce the reasonable out of the unreasonable. In other words, reason, while serving the function of dominating nature, is whittled down to being a part of nature; it is not an independent faculty but something organic, like tentacles or hands, developed through adaptation to natural conditions and surviving because it proves to be an adequate means of mastering them, especially in relation to acquiring food and averting danger. As a part of nature, reason is at the same time set against nature–the competitor and enemy of all life that is not its own.

    The idea inherent in all idealistic metaphysics–that the world is in some sense a product of the mind–is thus turned into its opposite: the mind is a product of the world, of the processes of nature. Hence, according to popular Darwinism, nature does not need philosophy to speak for her: nature, a powerful and venerable deity, is ruler rather than ruled. Darwinism ultimately comes to the aid of rebellious nature in undermining any doctrine, theological or philosophical, that regards nature itself as expressing a truth that reason must try to recognize. The equating of reason with nature, by which reason is debased and raw nature exalted, is a typical fallacy of the era of rationalization. Instrumentalized subjective reason either eulogizes nature as pure vitality or disparages it as brute force, instead of treating it as a text to be interpreted by philosophy that, if rightly read, will unfold a tale of infinite suffering. Without committing the fallacy of equating nature and reason, mankind must try to reconcile the two.

    In traditional theology and metaphysics, the natural was largely conceived as the evil, and the spiritual or supernatural as the good. In popular Darwinism, the good is the well-adapted, and the value of that to which the organism adapts itself is unquestioned or is measured only in terms of further adaptation. However, being well adapted to one’s surroundings is tantamount to being capable of coping successfully with them, of mastering the forces that beset one. Thus the theoretical denial of the spirit’s antagonism to nature–even as implied in the doctrine of interrelation between the various forms of organic life, including man – frequently amounts in practice to subscribing to the principle of man’s continuous and thoroughgoing domination of nature. Regarding reason as a natural organ does not divest it of the trend to domination or invest it with greater potentialities for reconciliation. On the contrary, the abdication of the spirit in popular Darwinism entails the rejection of any elements of the mind that transcend the function of adaptation and consequently are not instruments of self-preservation. Reason disavows its own primacy and professes to be a mere servant of natural selection. On the surface, this new empirical reason seems more humble toward nature than the reason of the metaphysical tradition. Actually, however, it is arrogant, practical mind riding roughshod over the ‘useless spiritual,’ and dismissing any view of nature in which the latter is taken to be more than a stimulus to human activity. The effects of this view are not confined to modern philosophy.
    — The Eclipse of Reason, Max Horkheimer
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    For example, if such a grounding of intentionality reduces to mechanism, i.e. something like causal closure (is it supposed to?), then I would say such a theory has dire epistemic and explanatory issues.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I think this is right. @apokrisis seems to now be using "semiotics" to refer to an anthropological theory of cognition.

    Natural selection would never ensure that phenomenal experiences don't drift arbitrarily far from whatever the world is actually like because the contents of awareness have absolutely no bearing on reproduction if they don't affect behavior. It's self refuting.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Right. From what I understand semiotics began as the study of intentional sign use (among humans), and then eventually incorporated a study of the way that sub-human organisms utilize signs in a non-intentional manner. Given what @apokrisis says, what may now be happening is that humans are being appraised as organisms that utilize signs in a non-intentional manner, and one use of the word "semiotics" apparently refers to this anthropological theory of cognition.

    Of course humans do utilize signs in non-intentional ways, but when someone like apokrisis explicates an anthropological theory to explain the manner in which humans do this—which in this case seems to be premised on some combination of evolution and entropy—he is using intentional signs to explicate his theory, and is therefore back to the original sense of semiotics. As you say, this is self-refuting. It is self-refuting in the same way that an explanation of reasoning via reasoning would be self-refuting. In this case it is an explanation of human signs via human signs, or else an explanation of human being (including sign-use) via human signs. Such can never achieve a true explanation. In these cases the explanandum always outruns the explanans. Apokrisis' explanation of human sign use cannot, after all, manage to explain the sign-use he is involved in in this thread.

    I thought you were here to discuss pragmatism in some way.apokrisis

    Peircian pragmatism or some other? Most of the pragmatism that occurs on these forums is not Peircian, and I would assume the OP is referencing the forms that are common on these forums.
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    Most of the pragmatism that occurs on these forums is not PeircianLeontiskos

    This may be true. Philosophy ain’t a strong suit on PF.

    Pragmatism originated in the United States around 1870, and now presents a growing third alternative to both analytic and ‘Continental’ philosophical traditions worldwide. Its first generation was initiated by the so-called ‘classical pragmatists’ Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914), who first defined and defended the view, and his close friend and colleague William James (1842–1910), who further developed and ably popularized it.

    A second (still termed ‘classical’) generation turned pragmatist philosophy more explicitly towards politics, education and other dimensions of social improvement, under the immense influence of John Dewey (1859–1952) and his friend Jane Addams (1860–1935) – who invented the profession of social work as an expression of pragmatist ideas (and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931)

    Also of considerable importance at this time was George Herbert Mead (1863–1931), who contributed significantly to the social sciences, developing pragmatist perspectives upon the relations between the self and the community (Mead 1934),

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatism/

    Mead of course leant into the “anthropological theory of cognition”angle with his symbolic interactionism.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    The thing is, if intentions have no causal efficacy, if everything is determined by mechanism—by statistical mechanics, etc.—then the contents of phenomenal experience can never, ever, be selected for by natural selection.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Can you fill out your argument here? I'm not sure what you mean by "mechanism". As far as I know modern understanding in biology is organistic, not mechanistic. Also I wonder what you mean by "intentions"—do bacteria or plants have intentions in your understanding?

    Why would consciousness, the ability to reflect, plan, care and have purposes, not be advantageous to survival?

    The first is epistemic. If how we experience the world and what we think of it has no causal effect on behavior, then there is no reason to think science is telling us anything about the way the actually world is.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Who would be silly enough to claim that how we experience and what we think has no effect on behavior? We have every reason to think science is telling us something about the world on account of its enormous and internally coherent complexity and its predictive success.

    Natural selection would never ensure that phenomenal experiences don't drift arbitrarily far from whatever the world is actually like because the contents of awareness have absolutely no bearing on reproduction if they don't affect behavior. It's self refuting.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I don't see your reasoning here. If phenomenal experiences "drifted arbitrarily far from whatever the world is actually like" then we could not survive. It seems obvious that the contents of awareness do have bearings on reproduction and on behavior in general. Who are you arguing against here?

    it would mean there is no reduction such that the goodness of practical reason can be explicable purely in terms statistical mechanics.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Again, I'm not seeing who you are arguing against. How could practical reasoning ever be explicable in terms of statistical mechanics and who would be foolish enough to claim that it could? You are responding to @Apokrisis, and I'm not reading him as claiming anything like that.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    I did say I didn't understand what he was talking about. I still don't lol, this may be on me. I was throwing out what I see as wrong in most theories of reductive/substance physicalism, to see how he could respond to them. I'm always interested in ways around these, having found few.

    That's why I said, at the end "if on the other hand conciousness is irreducible to physics, how are these two "goodnesses" univocal?"


    I don't see your reasoning here. If phenomenal experiences "drifted arbitrarily far from whatever the world is actually like" then we could not survive. It seems obvious that the contents of awareness do have bearings on reproduction and on behavior in general. Who are you arguing against here?

    Under most definitions of causal closure, the phenomenal/mental never, ever, on pain of violation of the principle, has any causal effect on behavior. So if something never affects behavior, how can it possibly selected for?

    Under reductionism, if physics is "mechanistic," then any and all phenomena can ultimately be explained in terms of mechanism.

    Regardless of the relevance of this point in the current conversation, I think it is underappreciated in general. Physicalism is normally defined in terms of superveniance paired with causal closure. It's not defined in terms of casual closure arbitrarily though, plenty of work, Jaegwon Kim's in particular, seems to suggest that jettisoning causal closure means jettisoning a lot of the basic assumptions of substance metaphysics.

    Of course, this is absolutely no problem for science because it will posit mental causes whenever it seems like a good explanation. This is, IMO, precisely the problem for reductive explanations—they must explain why something with no causal efficacy (the mental is just "along for the ride") seems so good at explaining things.

    And that's where my post comes from. I see this problem as very dire and difficult, and so "does it fix this problem," is one of the problems I ask of theories of intentionality.

    Of course, if a theory isn't reductive, it has to explain how it gets around being so, which also isn't at all easy. But I'm at least sympathetic to arguments that reductionism "must be wrong," even if we don't know exactly how.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Talk of "phenomenal experiences" is just the standard sin of reifying a process as a substance. Tell me what process you might have in mind here and we will get a lot further. Consciousness is a pragmatic modelling relation with the world and not a "thing" or a "state of being".

    I'm 100% willing to grant that experience and thought are processual. I don't see how the really changes anything though. I am referring to the process by which we have phenomenal experiences, "taste an apple," "think about work," or "feel pain," nothing more or less.


    Such confusion. Talk of "phenomenal experiences" is just the standard sin of reifying a process as a substance. Tell me what process you might have in mind here and we will get a lot further. Consciousness is a pragmatic modelling relation with the world and not a "thing" or a "state of being"...



    Yours is the argument that self-refutes. The semiotic approach indeed explains how our phenomenology indeed does "drift arbitrarily far from whatever the world is actually like"...


    All the worthwhile theories of mind are based now on this semiotic principle. Perception itself is an encoding of telic purpose. What matters in an evolved information processing sense is built into the structure of our sensations let alone our cognition.

    You are not describing a process where conciousness "drifts arbitrarily far" from the world. You are describing a process where its contents are based on what is useful for survival. This isn't "arbitrary" or "random." Things are presented based on their relevance to fitness in your description and presumably natural selection is selecting for "what experience feels like," here.

    But then you didn't answer my question: does subjective experience ever play a causal role in behavior? Does the way we feel about things dictate how we act, or are organisms' actions entirely explicable in terms of more basic physics?



    Strong emergence is just reductionism plus supervenience. A complete non-theory. A way of hand-waving rather than actually explaining.

    I'm not sure what to make of the first sentence. "Strong emergence," is defined in terms of superveniance and is the explicit denial of reductionism. I do agree that it's a way of hand waving though. It's a very popular way of hand waving because of seemingly intractable problems with physicalism defined under causal closure.

    I bring it up because phenomenal awareness being explicable in terms of statistical mechanics would seem to suggest causal closure because statistical mechanics is, as the name implies, mechanistic. If it doesn't, how is this avoided?

    Friston's Bayesian Brain seems to have taken the field by storm. We were discussing it 30 years ago when it was still rather radical and leftfield. Now he has the field's highest impact rating – even if a lot of that is due to his work sorting out the analysis techniques needed for functional brain imaging.

    There is probably a consensus that it gets "something" right. It certainly isn't the case that it is taken by more than a few to present a "fully adequate" explanation of how first person experience emerges, and it has plenty of critics. Indeed, the field seems dramatically less unified than it was two decades ago, which is not the sign of a mature field. You get conferences where like six different, mutually exclusive "ground up" theories of conciousness get presented.

    Likewise, the stuff about the universe being cyclical, while certainly interesting, is extremely speculative. Forgive me if I'm skeptical of a skeleton key that seems to open many of the biggest open questions in the sciences.
  • Joshs
    5.4k


    There cannot be an intersubjectively valid metaphysics worth rational consideration which is not consistent with, and coherent within, the terms of science. That is not to say you are not free to believe whatever seems right to you for living your own life. We all have that prerogative, just don't expect such beliefs to be universally relevant, as science isJanus

    All scientific paradigms rest on an underlying set of metaphysical presuppositions, but it is not job of the scientist to make this metaphysics explicit. Occasionally we get a scientist who is up to the task of pointing to these philosophical presuppositions (Heisenberg, Bohm, Smolen, Prigogine). When a new paradigm replaces an older one, the underlying metaphysical framework changes , along with criteria of what constitutes evidence, proper method, and many other aspects of scientific conduct. The idea that there is only one scientific method, and that science is superior to philosophy because it relies on validation of evidence, is in itself a metaphysical presupposition.

    The difference between science and philosophy is that science translates its metaphysical assumptions into a conventionalized language of empiricism, whereas a philosophy fleshes out its underlying assumptions within a less conventionalized language. Neither domain, neither philosophy nor science, is superior to the other in terms of arriving at new metaphysical positions and thus new paradigms. They just use different conceptual vocabularies to get there.

    Often, philosophy will produce a new set of grounding assumptions before the sciences get there (Descartes and Spinoza vs Newton, Kant and Hegel vs Einstein, 19th century neo-Kanrianism vs cognitive science. As Jerry Fodor puts it, "In intellectual history, everything happens twice, first as philosophy and then as cognitive science.").

    Translating the metaphysics into the language of a science may make it accessible to a larger percentage of the population , and therefore more ‘universally relevant’, but by that same criterion the translation of a basic science into technological devices is more relevant that the basic science by itself. In any case, naturalizing and empiricizing it doesn’t make it more “intersubjectively valid” , it just makes the terms of its philosophical validity intelligible to a larger community.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Mead of course leant into the “anthropological theory of cognition” angle with his symbolic interactionism.apokrisis

    Thanks for the background. :up:
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Translating the metaphysics into the language of a science may make it accessible to a larger percentage of the population , and therefore more ‘universally relevant’, but by that same criterion the translation of a basic science into technological devices is more relevant that the basic science by itself. In any case, naturalizing and empiricizing it doesn’t make it more “intersubjectively valid” , it just makes the terms of its philosophical validity intelligible to a larger community.

    Sort of unrelated, but maybe there is a case for technology "objectifying natural philosophy," in the same way Hegel supposes that institutions "objectify morality." It's the concretization of theory in history.

    Obviously, this is a somewhat particular use of "objectifying," in which to "objectify" is partially to "make the terms of philosophical validity intelligible to a larger community." Such an objectification doesn't preclude later negation. New technologies bring about new contradictions and often eventually get replaced or modified beyond recognition.

    Just a thought I had, really not applicable to the topic I don't think.
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    "Strong emergence .... It's a very popular way of hand waving because of seemingly intractable problems with physicalism defined under causal closure.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I see I have already attempted to explain this to you ... how biosemiosis is indeed a way to close the explanatory gap, and how mechanicalism is involved in a surprising way.

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/667548

    And these further flesh out the thesis...

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/105999

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/67659
  • Janus
    15.9k
    Under most definitions of causal closure, the phenomenal/mental never, ever, on pain of violation of the principle, has any causal effect on behavior. So if something never affects behavior, how can it possibly selected for?Count Timothy von Icarus

    Are you familiar with Spinoza? He solved this conundrum, Descartes "interaction problem" centuries ago. As I have no doubt you know Descartes proposed two substances res extensa (matter) and res cogitans (mind) with the problem being how two totally different kinds of substance could interact. Spinoza proposed that there was just one substance—God or Nature—and that mind and matter were just different attributes of the one substance.

    So, the one substance acts, and we can see that action as a manifestation of mind, or of matter. In modern terms consciousness is understood as non-physical form one perspective (the experience of being conscious) and physical from another (the neural activity that is consciousness). From the neurological point of view, of course consciousness has a causal effect on behavior, just as all neural activity does. Consciousness as experienced is also neural activity, but we are, in vivo, blind to that activity, and so we find it difficult to understand how consciousness could be that activity.

    In modern terms you could call this "neutral monism".
  • Janus
    15.9k
    There have been a few great paradigmatic changes in science, but that does not guarantee that there will be such great changes in the future. I think most of the evolution of scientific understanding consists in incremental changes.

    The basic phase of science is really just an augmentation of the ordinary process of unbiased empirical observation, of just observing what is there to be observed. Then there is the phase of abductive reasoning—developing hypotheses to causally explain how what is observed might have come about. Testing hypotheses consists in making predictions that would seem to follow from them and then performing experiments and further observation to determine if these predictions obtain. That is the basic method of empirical science, and I don't believe that has changed,
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Yes, I see.

    As with a tornado, half the job of being alive and mindful is done. Then life and mind become a simple, mechanical, addition to the organic flows - semiotic codes colonising the great entropy gradients like the original "earth battery" of plate tectonics that drove the sea vent origins of life, and the daily solar flux that eventually put life on a much more generic photosynthetic footing

    And as you can see, I wasn't at all hostile to the approach, but I still don't think it answers a single one of the points I brought up.

    It also seems like that view is going to run into another problem. Lots of systems function like organisms: ant hives, ecosystems, cities, corporations. They are all shaped by selection forces and are explicable in terms of entropy gradients, and can certainly be described as self -organizing structures. "The Ascent of Information," is a neat, light popsci book on just this sort of take. But then it seems we should actually have tons of minds nested within each other. This is a problem for many formulations of IIT too, you get group minds everywhere, which seems to strain credulity. If Toyota, the City of Miami, and memes are all "concious" they seems to be so in at best an analogous way.

    But against this, we might consider global workspace models of conciousness and the decent empirical support that suggests they get something right, which would seem to suggest that something much more definiteness is required to result in phenomenal awareness than having a metabolism, etc.



    The solution is even older, it gets posed by Plato in the Phaedo and is there ascribed to the Pythagoreans. The material metaphysics is familiar, since it really hasn't changed much. For the Pythagoreans life was a process. It was said to be analogous to a harmony (tuning) on a lyre. The strings are what we observe around us, matter, the harmony, is us experiencing things. The harmony just is the vibration of the strings (ignoring the air for now).

    But as Plato points out, this implies something like causal closure. If intentionality just is mechanism "seen from the inside" it can never have any sort of causal relationship with mechanism, they are the same thing. Their relation is identity.For Plato, this is a reductio because, clearly, we sometimes do things because we choose to do them, because we find them pleasant, etc.

    So I think the same issues show up there. If our experiences were just mechanism as seen on the inside then there is no reason for the content of those experiences has to have anything to do with the underlying mechanism. You need some sort of explanation why mechanism must produce experienced that are "like" the mechanism that causes them. This seems hard to do if they just are the same thing, but maybe it's possible. Such an explanation doesn't exist though. That, and there seems to be a lot of good empirical support that experience "feels the way it does," in order to motivate us to do things, including misrepresenting reality for selection advantage.

    I consider this a difficulty for panpsychism as well. Even if we assume panpsychism, why do we assume that it has to result in experiences that relate closely enough to the underlying/flip side mechanism for us to trust our observation?. There is no prima facie reason they seem to need to. And then there is the issue I pointed to before which is that the psych part of panpsychism is seemingly unobservable "from the outside" and so not only unfalsifiable but also seemingly unconfirmable except maybe by process of elimination of plausible alternatives. This isn't true for all panpsychism, really just those ones that say there isn't anything more to explain because experience is just one side of the dual aspect of one thing, but that's the most common sort.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    It might not contradict itself, but ultimately it reduces all action to the momentary or arbitrary victory of some impulse over others. It is inchoate, even if it is not inconsistent.

    I just don't see how it is inchoate nor inconsistent nor (internally incoherent). The claim is simple: values are non-objective. Something matters only if one is concerned with it ("thinks or feels" it matters); so nothing actually matters but, rather, only what one holds matters.

    It is dissatisfying, but not internally incoherent. I mean, what would you say is an example of an internal incoherence with it? Something like: "a person who thinks that nothing actually matters can't think what they think matters matters"---is that it?
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    But against this, we might consider global workspace models of conciousness and the decent empirical support that suggests they get something right, which would seem to suggest that something much more definiteness is required to result in phenomenal awareness than having a metabolism, etc.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I was talking to Baars back in the 90s at the same time I was talking to Friston. While the workspace story had some metaphorical value, it wasn't a real theory. Friston has developed a real theory. It is mathematical rather than metaphorical. It actually claims to have the status of a mechanics – a Bayesian mechanics. It comes with equations.

    If Toyota, the City of Miami, and memes are all "concious" they seems to be so in at best an analogous way.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Again, this is simply because you have fallen into the Cartesian representationalist trap of reifying phenomenal experience as a mysterious substance. You can't get away from the primacy of the looks and feels. They have become what "must be explained".

    To break out of that, you need a more general account of what brains actually are doing – which is biosemiosis. Neurons, like genes or words, are ways of informationally constructing a modelling relation between an organism and its world.

    So step one for science is giving a mathematically rigorous treatment of this modelling relation.

    Step two is to turn from the generality of one mechanism that speaks to all kinds semiotic order – that of a corporation or tornado even – and apply that back to the human condition. What we as the only biology, and even neurobiology, to be enhanced with the further levels of semiotic technology in our language and logic systems, might "feel" as organisms engaged in just that kind of reality-modelling relation.

    Once you add enough social psychology, psychophysics, neurocognition and other good stuff to your understanding, it is easy to see why being on a modelling relation with a world would have to feel like something. How could it not feel like something to be a self engaged in a world in this feedback loop way?

    If I turn my head, do I feel my head turn or does the world suddenly spin before me in alarming fashion?

    Bayesian mechanics models that modelling relation for us. We build a world of intent and expectation in our heads so as to feel we are in control of the world instead of the world being in control of us. We insert our being into the world as the new centre of its being. Consciousness is the feeling of standing apart in ways that subjugate material reality to our mental whims. A difference between us and the world is what must be constructed so that there is then an us that can be deeply engaged in the flow of the world.

    Cartesian representationalism reifies the self and its feels. It only sees the dualistic separation and not the triadic unity.
  • Joshs
    5.4k


    Bayesian mechanics models that modelling relation for us. We build a world of intent and expectation in our heads so as to feel we are in control of the world instead of the world being in control of us. We insert our being into the world as the new centre of its being. Consciousness is the feeling of standing apart in ways that subjugate material reality to our mental whims. A difference between us and the world is what must be constructed so that there is then an us that can be deeply engaged in the flow of the worldapokrisis

    Do we build a world of intent and expectation ‘in our heads’ or in our embodied patterns of material interaction with an environment? What’s the difference between a model and a representation, and the difference between both of these and the enacting of a world through sensori-motor coupling with an environment? Isnt normative point of view (intent and expectation) the hallmark of all living self-organizing systems rather than just conscious ones?
  • Janus
    15.9k
    For Plato, this is a reductio because, clearly, we sometimes do things because we choose to do them, because we find them pleasant, etc.Count Timothy von Icarus

    That would be the explanation from within experience. On the other hand, choosing to do things, finding them pleasant etc., are also neural activity. So, there is no ontological difference, but merely a descriptive and explanatory difference.
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    Do we build a world of intent and expectation ‘in our heads’ or in our embodied patterns of material interaction with an environment?Joshs

    The latter is of course the deeper phrasing. :up:

    What’s the difference between a model and a representation, and the difference between both of these and the enacting of a world through sensori-motor coupling with an environment?Joshs

    A model in the modelling relation sense is there as a machinery of semiotic control over the world. A model in the more usual sense – like a plastic kitset Spitfire – is indeed just a representation.

    So I am making that sensori-motor coupling distinction. Bayesian mechanics is about how brains minimise the environment's capacity to surprise us.

    It has all the energy. We have all the smarts. We learn to make it a predictable relation. And that is how we insert an "us" into "our world". That is how a modelling relation arrives at its biosemiotic Umwelt.

    Isnt normative point of view (intent and expectation) the hallmark of all living self-organizing systems rather than just conscious ones?Joshs

    Again, what else have I ever said? Humans even acting at the level of habit and automatism have that same hallmark. Metabolisms and societies too.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Again, this is simply because you have fallen into the Cartesian representationalist trap of reifying phenomenal experience as a mysterious substance.

    I don't think I have. I start to feel like a broken record here with how often I advocate for a metaphysics or phenomenology of process. I have long been a critic of representationalism and indirect realism, and an advocate of the semiotic model as a superior conceptual alternative. Descartes didn't invent the idea that we have experiences, this is a basic fact of life explored throughout the history of philosophy. "Why do some things have experiences and others do not appear to?" is not a question that only shows up if you suppose substance dualism. Even idealists of the sort that posit that everything is some sort of "process of mentation" feel the need to offer up some sort of explanation of why presumably stars are not conscious and people are (or else to claim stars are concious in a univocal way).

    You can't get away from the primacy of the looks and feels. They have become what "must be explained".

    Yes. Since this is generally proffered up as "the biggest open questions in human inquiry," I don't think I'm alone here.

    What we as the only biology, and even neurobiology, to be enhanced with the further levels of semiotic technology in our language and logic systems, might "feel" as organisms engaged in just that kind of reality-modelling relation.

    Once you add enough social psychology, psychophysics, neurocognition and other good stuff to your understanding, it is easy to see why being on a modelling relation with a world would have to feel like something. How could it not feel like something to be a self engaged in a world in this feedback loop way?

    I am not seeing how this is "closing the explanatory gap." This is presenting a certain sort of view of biology and physics, one I largely tend to agree with, at least in that is seems to get some things right, and then turning around to say "how could this not produce the experiences of a human?" IDK, I think most people studying conciousness would allow your core premises, but the idea that inner life of just the sort we have must follow from these premises doesn't seem to follow. At the very least the demonstration is extremely obscured because I can't even tell why you seem to think the premises imply your conclusion. For instance, saying that we can distinguish between which complex systems are concious based on their possession of an "umwelt" and "self-interested" pursuit of goals just seems to point to terms that assume the very thing in question. It's like saying a drug "makes one sleepy because it possessed a hypnotic property."

    What underlies conciousness just happens to line up with our naive intuitions about what sorts of things must have some sort of "inner life," because... "how couldn't it?." IMHO, this is a non-explanation, a hand wave on par with eliminative materialism or appeals to an unexplained "strong emergence." I don't see how this explanation avoids the problems of having group minds everywhere either, which is an ancillary concern, but still an important one.

    I'm still not really sure what you're proposing. It seems like some sort of dual aspect theory where certain sorts of mechanism just "have to" produce certain sorts of experiences. But I've already pointed out why I think such explanations have some serious epistemic and evidentiary hurdles to clear, and I don't see how they are addressed here.

    For what it's worth, the presentation seems to me a lot like most eliminitivism. You're presenting all sorts of facts and models, ones I largely find interesting and convincing, "good ways to think about things," and claiming all of this is evidence for your position vis-á-vis the explanatory gap. I don't see how it is, the idea that our experiences are just "how certain sorts of systems have to feel" just seems like assuming the conclusion as self-evident. If you want to to convince people (and maybe you don't, but surely most people don't think the explanatory gap has been solved) it might be helpful to lay out the core premises and how the conclusion is supposed to follow from them.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    If I have not made the difficulties clear, I fortuitously has an article in my feed that brings up most of the same problems:

    Something seems wrong here: pain-pleasure inverts [people who's experience of pain is like pleasure, i.e. inverted qualia] seem nonsensical. But if we accept Chalmers’ conceptual distinction between behavioral functioning and subjective experience, then pain-pleasure inverts ought to be just as conceivable as regular zombies. The only way to reject the coherence of pain-pleasure inverts is to reject the initial division between the “easy” problems of behavior and the “hard” problems of conscious experience.

    I argue a lot about philosophy on social media, and I’ve found many people thinking evolution would explain why we’re not pain-pleasure inverts. But if you think about it carefully, that doesn’t make sense. Natural selection is only going to be motivated to make me feel pain when my body is damaged if that feeling is going to lead me to avoid getting my body damaged. If we lived in the bizarre universe of pain-pleasure inverts, where pleasure generally leads to avoidance behavior and pain to attraction behavior, then we would have evolved to feel pleasure when our body is damaged and pain when we eat and drink. Pain-pleasure inverts that eat and reproduce would pass on their genes just as well as us. In other words, evolutionary explanations of our consciousness presuppose that we’re not pain-pleasure inverts, just as they presuppose the existence of self-replicating life. In either case, evolution cannot explain what it already assumes...

    This has become known as the mystery of psychophysical harmony.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-mystery-of-consciousness-is-deeper-than-we-thought/

    Except this article misses the epistemological challenges that follow on from lacking an explanation of psychophysical harmony since there is now also no good reason to think experience has to have anything to do with the mechanism underlying it. Evolutionary psychology generally simply assumes that qualia intersect with intentionality to play a causal role in behavior, which seems like a fine assumption since it seems to be constantly verified by experience, but it doesn't explain how this interaction occurs.
  • Joshs
    5.4k


    Bayesian mechanics is about how brains minimise the environment's capacity to surprise us.

    It has all the energy. We have all the smarts. We learn to make it a predictable relation. And that is how we insert an "us" into "our world". That is how a modelling relation arrives at its biosemiotic Umwelt
    apokrisis

    I’m thinking of Merleu-Ponty’s position, where he states:

    “the world is inseparable from the subject, but from a subject who is nothing but a project of the world; and the subject is inseparable from the world, but from a world that it itself projects”

    It seems to me that this deviates a bit from a modeling relation, in that it relies less on symbolization and coding , directed from organism to world, than to patterns of making changes in a world whose features are defined by the nature of that normative activity. Producing a world doesn’t mean coding a world but performing one.
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    If you want to to convince people (and maybe you don't, but surely most people don't think the explanatory gap has been solved) it might be helpful to lay out the core premises and how the conclusion is supposed to follow from them.Count Timothy von Icarus

    No. I can happily leave you with your self-proclaimed mystification.
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    Producing a world doesn’t mean coding a world but performing one.Joshs

    But the claim is that this performance is based on a mechanism that connects. Take away genes, neurons, words and numbers, and what have you got? Can you still have your organism in a meaningful relation with its world?
  • Joshs
    5.4k


    If you want to to convince people (and maybe you don't, but surely most people don't think the explanatory gap has been solved) it might be helpful to lay out the core premises and how the conclusion is supposed to follow from them.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I think one’s explanatory toolbox is limited by the choice to translate philosophical concepts into a naturalistic vocabulary. I’m sure you’re aware that the pansemiotic empirical notions involved in this discussion draw heavily from Peirce’s unique synthesis of Kant and Hegel. Assuming your familiarity with their work, would you say that Peirce or Hegel offer a solution to the explanatory gap?
  • Janus
    15.9k
    but it doesn't explain how this interaction occurs.Count Timothy von Icarus

    a solution to the explanatory gap?Joshs

    If neural activity just is mental activity, if the two are one thing seen from two different (and conceptually incompatible) perspectives, then there is no interaction between them, and thus no explanatory gap.
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    If neural activity just is mental activity, if the two are one thing seen from two different (and conceptually incompatible) perspectives, then there is no interaction between them, and thus no explanatory gap.Janus

    Sounds good as this is most surely the epistemic reality, but the claims folk want to make are ontological in the most basic way.

    A "just neural activity" point of view is normally as guilty of avoiding the issue as a "I just know I have a mind from direct experience of it" point of view.

    The explanatory gap is at least correct in pointing to the failure of the conventional reductionist model of causality employed by even well-meaning scientists. If you end up saying there is all this busy material complexity and ... hey presto, strong emergence! ... then you haven't solved the causal issue at hand.

    That is why I set out Peirce's semiosis, Rosen's modelling relation, Pattee's epistemic cut and Friston's Bayesian mechanics as new models of causality that are not just generally holistic but deal directly with the question of how the two sides of the causal equation are joined in practice.

    So what is on offer from biosemiosis is an explicit model of the mind~world relation as a self-organising or organismic causality. It speaks to mindful systems in the ontologically general sense.

    Of course this then leaves non-science types dissatisfied as they want an specific account of their own phenomenology. They want not an account so general that it covers life and mind in any possible form within the constraints of our physical Big Bang universe, they want to have a science account of why their back itches right at this moment in the hard to put into words way that a back itches, but it must have been itching before you really noticed it, and then when you reach for the spot, it doesn't seem to be actually there, and it was also a little bit pleasurable while also rather annoying, and giving the skin a good dig with your fingers was painful, yet also better. Etc, etc.

    So reductionist science falls short. But we can fix that with not just a more holistic model of causality but a completely specific general model of mindful organisms.

    The trouble then is that this requires some very deep learning. It is hard work that takes a long time to relearn how to think and reason as a holist and not a reductionist, then as a semiotic holist and not just an ordinary "it emerges" one.

    The lay person with an interest in "consciousness explained" has a very long road ahead. They can easily grasp why reductionism – it just neurons firing – is a causally inadequate account. But even crossing through a grounding thermodynamic level of physicalist holism is a journey too daunting. Biosemiosis may as well be from another planet.
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