• Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    But physics is the study of the mathematic principles which determine the behavior of these material objects.Dusty of Sky

    lol
  • whollyrolling
    482


    Yes, they do exist in the material world, or senses wouldn't be able to sense them. Symbols are just manipulations of material. Their conceptualization is processed, transmitted, received, memorized by way of chemical and energetic functions within physical locations--brains. That we perceive them as non-physical doesn't affect their being physical or not. Perception is also a physical and energetic exchange between the senses and the brain.
  • Dusty of Sky
    65
    ↪Dusty of Sky I'm asking for an explanation of just how the physical property of liquidity arise from a liquids purported constituent particles. I can't see that you have given anything like that so far.Janus

    Particles in a liquid move in a different way than particles in other states of matter. They'll don't resist being rearranged the way particles in a solid do, but they can't be compressed the way particles in a gas can.

    Aren't you relying on science to tell you all that? I can't tell whether you are accepting or rejecting physical explanations of the experience of wetness.Janus

    I partially accept physical explanations. We know from experimentation that experiences correlate with brain states. But I'm not a Cartesian dualist. I think experiences like wetness or surprise or the color blue have real substantial existence. I think it's self evident that they do, because we experience them. I think that physical objects only exist in the sense that they can explain the world we experience. And physical explanations are compelling enough that I think it's pretty safe to say that there really is something (let's call it OR for objective reality) corresponding to our concept of the physical world. But we don't what OR is. We only know how it affects our experiences. I'm drawing the same distinction that the Orthodox Christians use when they talk about God. They can know the energies of God, but they can't know his essence. So when I talk about the physical brain, I'm just referring to the causal source of experiences. I'm not specifying what the nature of the source is. And I'm also drawing the Aristotelian distinction between different types of causes. The physical brain might be the efficient cause of our experiences, but I don't think it's the material or formal cause. The material causes of experiences are not neurons, but the components of experience itself such as colors and sounds and feelings. And the formal cause of experience, I think is best described by what Kant referred to as the schemata: the functions by which our manifold of sensations are arranged according to space, time and the Categories. I'm happy to defend and elaborate upon my own ideas, but I'll just remind you that the original purpose of this post was to challenge the idea that everything that exists is physical.
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    And these abstract principles (e.g. F=G(m1m2)/r^2) surely don't exist in the material world. You can't locate them under a microscope. So acknowledging that the laws of physics exist seems to contradict the theory of physicalism. Thoughts?Dusty of Sky
    D.M. Armstrong developed a physicalist metaphysics that is consistent with these abstract principles. In a nutshell:

    Everything that exists is a state of affairs (SOA). An SOA is composed of 3 types of constituents:
    a particular, its properties, and its relations to other SOAs. The gravitational force between 2 objects is a relation between those objects (states of affairs) that is describable as a function of the internal properties of their respective masses and of the distance between them.

    The relation described by the gravitation equation does not exist independent of the objects; it exists only in the objects (states of affairs).
  • Andrew M
    1.1k
    I think my reply to TogetherTurtle basically covers your argument. If the laws of physics are just descriptions of the way things happen to be organized, then they are not laws. And if the laws of physics aren't actually laws, then why does the universe obey them. It can't be random. What are the odds that every physical object, in the absence of laws, would always act as if it were governed by laws? Statistically infinitesimal, I would say.Dusty of Sky

    Physical laws are expressed as mathematical equations. So they are not merely descriptions of the past but are also predictions of the future. Scientists observe structure and patterns and hypothesize testable laws and explanations. That seems to work pretty well.

    So it appears you are asserting a Euthyphro-style dilemma. Either the universe obeys a law external to it or else there can be no law (in which case we should expect a disorderly universe). Would that be a fair description?
  • TheMadFool
    7.9k
    Physicalism is the idea that nothing exists except for concrete objects in the material world. But physics is the study of the mathematic principles which determine the behavior of these material objects. And these abstract principles (e.g. F=G(m1m2)/r^2) surely don't exist in the material world. You can't locate them under a microscope. So acknowledging that the laws of physics exist seems to contradict the theory of physicalism. Thoughts?Dusty of Sky

    That there are certain patterns to the interaction of matter and that these patterns can be described mathematically doesn't undermine physicalism.

    Physicalism basically claims all is matter. It doesn't deny that there are patterns/laws in the way matter behaves.
  • Isaac
    3.3k
    the laws of physics are just descriptions of the way things happen to be organized, then they are not laws. And if the laws of physics aren't actually laws, then why does the universe obey them. It can't be random. What are the odds that every physical object, in the absence of laws, would always act as if it were governed by laws? Statistically infinitesimal, I would say.Dusty of Sky

    You're begging the question here. Why would you say "it can't be random", what is preventing that from being the case? You've already presumed there are laws which prevent certain things from being the case by claiming that particles cannot randomly act in the exact manner they do. If there are truly no laws at all, then one of the things that can be the case is that all particles simply behave the way they do for no reason at all. With no laws, what is there to prevent them from doing so? Also, with no laws, there is no such thing as statistical liklihood either, so you can't even say it is unlikely.
  • Wayfarer
    10.4k
    Everything that exists is a state of affairs (SOA). An SOA is composed of 3 types of constituents:
    a particular, its properties, and its relations to other SOAs.
    The gravitational force between 2 objects is a relation between those objects (states of affairs) that is describable as a function of the internal properties of their respective masses and of the distance between them.
    — D M Armstrong

    I wonder where/how maths fits in this ensemble?

    Also, with no laws, there is no such thing as statistical liklihood either, so you can't even say it is unlikely.Isaac

    It’s only because of ‘observable regularities’ that science can even do its work. In a totally unordered universe, how could there be any specific thing? I mean, science presumes natural order, surely.
  • Isaac
    3.3k
    In a totally unordered universe, how could there be any specific thing? I mean, science presumes natural order, surely.Wayfarer

    I wasn't talking about a totally unordered universe. I was talking about a universe which was ordered the way it is for no reason at all. I'm saying that that to presume order must have a law enforcing it is to presume the natural state of affairs is disorder, which is question begging, presuming we already know enough about fundamental particles to know they cannot become ordered without some force compelling them.

    I agree that in a universe without any perceived order, there could be no individual thing, but that does not require such order to actually exist, nor does it require such order to have been enforced by laws external to that which is thus bound.
  • sime
    526
    Consider all that happens when teaching a physical law:

    i) We write a statement which expresses a physical law.
    ii) We demonstrate the meaning of the written statement by performing an experiment.
    iii) We summarize the result of our demonstration: "Performing action U in state A resulted in state B, in accordance with the law"

    According to realism, we've demonstrated the truth or coherence of the law as well as the meaning of the written statement, but the meaning, agency and whereabouts of the law itself mysteriously lie elsewhere.

    In contrast, according to anti-realism our demonstration is part of the very meaning of the physical law. That is to say, the physical law is in part an anthropological description of what physicists do in certain situations to achieve a sense of coherence.

    Of course, the anti-realist shouldn't forget the role and responsibility of the environment in the truth of experimental outcomes, that is to say the construction of such outcomes. The difference is, the anti-realist includes the very actions, perceptions and mentation of the physicist as part of the very definition of the physical law he is verifying.
  • Isaac
    3.3k
    the meaning, agency and whereabouts of the law itself mysteriously lie elsewhere.sime

    What is it about realism that you think commits it to believing these "mysteriously lie elsewhere"?

    Meaning lies in the minds of those understanding the concept, agency is not required since not everything has to have agency, and the law itself is no more a thing than a name is.
  • sime
    526
    What is it about realism that you think commits it to believing these "mysteriously lie elsewhere"?Isaac

    By realism I mean the idea that the meaning or truth-makers of a proposition are fully transcendent of the process of it's verification. For instance, take Hooke's Law.

    The realist is the person who thinks "The elastic deformation of this spring is governed by Hooke's Law"

    The anti-realist is the person who thinks "The elastic deformation of this spring is part of the definition of Hooke's Law"
  • Isaac
    3.3k
    The realist is the person who thinks "The elastic deformation of this spring is governed by Hooke's Law"sime

    OK, so this is the bit that makes you want to reify the law. Cannot a realist say "The elastic deformation of this spring is described by Hooke's Law", and negate the need to reify?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    7.8k
    That there are certain patterns to the interaction of matter and that these patterns can be described mathematically doesn't undermine physicalism.

    Physicalism basically claims all is matter. It doesn't deny that there are patterns/laws in the way matter behaves.
    TheMadFool

    But patterns are not physical things. Doesn't physicalism dictate that all things are physical? How can one be a physicalist and accept the existence of such patterns?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    But patterns are not physical things.Metaphysician Undercover

    You'd have to explain that if you mean it literally. If you're saying that physical laws per se aren't physical things, that would be more understandable. Surely you're not claiming that, say, a pattern on a checkered shirt isn't physical?
  • TheMadFool
    7.9k
    But patterns are not physical things. Doesn't physicalism dictate that all things are physical? How can one be a physicalist and accept the existence of such patterns?Metaphysician Undercover

    Thanks. Realized that after I made the post. Was hoping it'd slip by.

    Anyway, I don't think we can use the existence of abstraction as an argument against physicalism because abstractions are functions of the physical brain isn't it?

    I understand that thoughts aren't physical but the interesting thing to note is that arguments that are based on it seem to be argumentum ad ignorantiams: ''Look. We can't explain mind in physical terms. Ergo, it must be non-physical.''

    Basically, what if mind is physical and we just don't know it yet. I'm willing to go only so far as to admit that there's something physical that hasn't been discovered rather than infer, possibly erroneously, that the mind is non-physical.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.6k
    Physicalism is the idea that nothing exists except for concrete objects in the material world. But physics is the study of the mathematic principles which determine the behavior of these material objects. And these abstract principles (e.g. F=G(m1m2)/r^2) surely don't exist in the material world.Dusty of Sky
    If these abstract principles don't exist in the "material" world, then how did they make their way into your post for me to see and read? Is an internet forum with people's ideas that you access via your computer an abstract principle? How did you come to know of abstract principles if not by the world itself, which you call "material" and "physical"?

    The problem with arguments like this is because they assume some type of dualism - where two or more kinds of substances exist and are so different that they are incompatible, or unable to interact.

    There is no "physical" or "non-physical". Everything is part of the same world, or reality, or substance that do interact. How do you explain your non-physical ideas being put into a physical form for communicating to other minds? How do you get your ideas into other people's minds, if not by your non-physical mind interacting with the physical and then vice versa, when I read your posts?

    These terms are incoherent and unnecessary. We can talk about the world without using such terms. Your mind is a representation of the world, and as such mathematics is a model of the world. We could use words just as well as numbers to describe the world and numbers and words are composed of visual scribbles or sounds if they are spoken. How did you come to know the existence of numbers and words if not by using your senses to access the world?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k


    The terms arise because people want to answer questions such as "just what are minds, anyway?" Some people think the answer to that is that minds are just brains in particular states. Some people don't at all agree with that. They believe that minds are a very different sort of thing.

    The distinction also arises in positing things like gods, souls, etc.
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    I wonder where/how maths fits in this ensemble?Wayfarer
    The relation between (or among) states of affairs can often be described mathematically. The point is that the equation is an abstraction, and doesn't exist independently of the states of affairs.

    Armstrong is a realist regarding laws of nature. He believes there are actual laws of nature, not just regularities. To Armstrong, "laws of nature are dyadic relations of necessitation ... holding between universals." Where a universal is a "state of affairs type".

    Electrons and protons are two different "state of affairs types". Each electron has the property "-1 electric charge"; while protongs have "+1 electric charge." It is a "law of nature" that protons and electrons attract one another because of their properties. This attraction is a dyadic relation (involving any electron-proton pair) necessitated by their properties.
  • Dusty of Sky
    65
    So it appears you are asserting a Euthyphro-style dilemma. Either the universe obeys a law external to it or else there can be no law (in which case we should expect a disorderly universe). Would that be a fair description?Andrew M

    I will tentatively accept your summary as a fair description, although I'm slightly worried that you have an argument in store that will make me regret doing so.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.6k
    The terms arise because people want to answer questions such as "just what are minds, anyway?" Some people think the answer to that is that minds are just brains in particular states. Some people don't at all agree with that. They believe that minds are a very different sort of thing.Terrapin Station

    But that is what I was saying - that it doesnt help in using those terms to answer those types of questions. Minds are different in what sort of way? Apples and oranges are different fruit states but both are not so different that they can't interact causally, or are incompatible substances.
  • Aaron R
    195
    Physicalism is the idea that nothing exists except for concrete objects in the material worldDusty of Sky

    This is not accurate. Physicalism refers to a spectrum of positions, but it is most commonly formulated as a commitment to the claim that everything that exists supervenes (or in some way depends) on the physical, where "the physical" is defined in terms of the ontological commitments required by the physical sciences (whether future or current). Again, there are many nuances on this general theme - perhaps as many nuances as there are physicalists!

    But physics is the study of the mathematic principles which determine the behavior of these material objects. And these abstract principles (e.g. F=G(m1m2)/r^2) surely don't exist in the material world. You can't locate them under a microscope. So acknowledging that the laws of physics exist seems to contradict the theory of physicalismDusty of Sky

    Mathematics is a tool used to model relations that obtain within the physical universe, so I'm guessing that an appeal to mathematics is not likely to persuade physicalists who are willing to admit relations into their ontology.
  • Janus
    9.6k
    Oh look, Janus has reversed the roles, asking Dusty to defend physicalism. Janus, why are you asking Dusty to defend physicalist principles? if you recognize that liquidity cannot be explained by physical principles, then why not just accept the principles which Dusty is putting forward, and follow the conclusion which is made concerning physicalism?Metaphysician Undercover

    It should be obvious that I am neither defending physicalism nor asking @Dusty of Sky to defend it. Dusty seemed to be claiming that there are comprehensive, definitive reductionist physicalist explanations for liquidity. I don't believe there are any such reductive of explanations of what are considered to be emergent phenomena. Many thinkers, who will still call themselves physicalists consider emergent physical properties to be irreducible; which means that mechanistic explanations will be impossible in principle.

    Often people who wish to reject physicalism characterize it as a necessarily mechanistic model, which it only is insofar as it is in accordance with outmoded paradigms. This is nothing more nor less than knocking down strawmen.

    The interaction problem only exists for those who think of mind and matter as completely different substances. Positing a third intermediary which is a composite of both does not really help, since we have no good reason to consider mind and matter to be completely different substances in the first place. The whole of nature would be better considered to be composite like the intermediary in the tripartite model, that would be much more parsimonious.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    7.8k
    You'd have to explain that if you mean it literally. If you're saying that physical laws per se aren't physical things, that would be more understandable. Surely you're not claiming that, say, a pattern on a checkered shirt isn't physical?Terrapin Station

    There is the checkered shirt, that is a physical thing. Then there is the pattern which the colours are said to be in, that is not physical. So the pattern which a checkered shirt has, is not a physical thing.

    Anyway, I don't think we can use the existence of abstraction as an argument against physicalism because abstractions are functions of the physical brain isn't it?TheMadFool

    OK, let's say that an abstraction is what a physical thing (a brain) does. How can you construe what a physical thing does, as something which is itself physical? The brain is physical, but how is what the brain does something physical? For example, a person walks to the store. The person is something physical, the store is something physical, and the ground is physical. But how is walking something physical? Despite the fact that "physics" is involved in understanding the relations between physical objects, this does not mean that these relations are physical.

    I understand that thoughts aren't physical but the interesting thing to note is that arguments that are based on it seem to be argumentum ad ignorantiams: ''Look. We can't explain mind in physical terms. Ergo, it must be non-physical.''TheMadFool

    I don't see the problem. When it becomes evident that mind cannot be described in physical terms, we assume that it is not physical. How is that a problem? When it becomes evident that colours are not smells we assume that colours are not smells. Where's the problem? Colours are not smells, nor is mind physical. There is no problem unless you want to believe that everything is physical, then there's a problem

    Many thinkers, who will still call themselves physicalists consider emergent physical properties to be irreducible; which means that mechanistic explanations will be impossible in principle.Janus

    Despite your claim that "many thinkers" believe this, if you yourself think, you ought to recognize it as incoherent. If something is "emergent", then it emerges from something else, and it is therefore reducible to its constituent elements. It is contradictory to say that something which is emergent is irreducible.

    The interaction problem only exists for those who think of mind and matter as completely different substances. Positing a third intermediary which is a composite of both does not really help, since we have no good reason to consider mind and matter to be completely different substances in the first place. The whole of nature would be better considered to be composite like the intermediary in the tripartite model, that would be much more parsimonious.Janus

    There is very good reason to consider two completely different forms of actuality, and therefore two completely different substances. These reasons are evident all over this forum in the form of various philosophical problems. Mind and matter are apprehended as completely different. The so-called interaction problem is an argument used against the dualist description, which is to treat these two as different substances. But the third "intermediary" renders this interaction argument as impotent. Therefore dualism remains as an acceptable solution to these philosophical problems.

    When something is apprehended as "composite", a proper understanding of that thing requires an understanding of the individual elements of that composition, and the reasons for their union. So it does not serve us in our attempts to understand nature to simply say that nature, as a whole, is a composite, and ignore the fact that a composite is composed of distinct parts, united somehow. The division is evident to us, like the division between past and future, and to ignore the division in order to claim that the two distinct parts are really one, without understanding how the two distinct parts are united, is just a mistake.

    To summarize, we actually have very good reason to consider mind and matter as distinct substances. The so-called interaction problem has no bearing. And, if our goal is to understand nature, and nature appears to be composite, there is no reason not to make the appropriate divisions in analysis. So denying the dualist distinctions is just detrimental to the process of understanding.
  • Dusty of Sky
    65
    D.M. Armstrong developed a physicalist metaphysics that is consistent with these abstract principles. In a nutshell:Relativist

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Armstrong's theory is that physical properties are universals which particulars instantiate. So even if physical laws are just functions of properties, the properties have universal natures which exists over and above their particular instances. Are these universal natures real things? They're not physical objects. How do you resolve this problem without admitting non-physical objects into your ontology?

    The problem with arguments like this is because they assume some type of dualism - where two or more kinds of substances exist and are so different that they are incompatible, or unable to interact.Harry Hindu

    I'm not assuming dualism. There are a number of alternatives to physicalism and dualism. I personally prefer a sort of Kantian idealism. I believe in an external world of one kind or another, but I don't think we can know what it is. We can only know how it affects us.

    If there are truly no laws at all, then one of the things that can be the case is that all particles simply behave the way they do for no reason at all.Isaac

    That would be true if there were no laws of logic and statistics. But a universe without logic and statistics would be utterly absurd and inconceivable. A universe without gravity, on the other hand, is easy to imagine. The existence of a universe where mass did not affect the curvature of space-time would not violate any principles of logic or statistics. A universe where all objects always obeyed an intricate set of laws for no reason would absolutely violate statistics, and perhaps even logic. A random process can occasionally yield non-random results just by random chance. But if a random process exclusively yields non-random results, the chances of that draw closer to zero with each passing second.
  • Isaac
    3.3k
    a universe without logic and statistics would be utterly absurd and inconceivable. A universe without gravity, on the other hand, is easy to imagine.Dusty of Sky

    And why are we using the ease with which you personally can imagine something as a measure of what is, or may be, the case. What possible mechanism of reality could there be which ensures its inner workings are conceivable to a particular 21st century Homo sapiens?

    A universe where all objects always obeyed an intricate set of laws for no reason would absolutely violate statistics, and perhaps even logic.Dusty of Sky

    You'll have to explain this, as I'm not getting it from your assertion alone. How would such a universe violate the laws of statistics?

    A random process can occasionally yield non-random results just by random chance. But if a random process exclusively yields non-random results, the chances of that draw closer to zero with each passing second.Dusty of Sky

    I never said the process was random. Your term (which I used) described the cause, not the process. What I was asking is why all the particles in the universe could not behave the way they do (consistently) without the need for a guiding law? In order to see that as statistically unlikely you'd have to make two presumptions 1) the default position of particles in the absence of guidance is to act randomly, and 2) out of all the other universes with fundamental particles none of them (or very few of them) are like ours.

    As you don't have either of those two pieces of information, nor any reason to believe them, then I don't see why you would reach such a difficult conclusion.
  • Janus
    9.6k
    It is contradictory to say that something which is emergent is irreducible.Metaphysician Undercover

    Why would you think it is contradictory?

    There is very good reason to consider two completely different forms of actuality, and therefore two completely different substancesMetaphysician Undercover

    That's funny....I don't find anything in what you wrote, and I haven't seen anything anywhere else, that I would consider to be a good reason to hold that view.
  • TheMadFool
    7.9k
    OK, let's say that an abstraction is what a physical thing (a brain) does. How can you construe what a physical thing does, as something which is itself physical? The brain is physical, but how is what the brain does something physical? For example, a person walks to the store. The person is something physical, the store is something physical, and the ground is physical. But how is walking something physical? Despite the fact that "physics" is involved in understanding the relations between physical objects, this does not mean that these relations are physicalMetaphysician Undercover

    The brains's function (thinking) deserves special treatment is something I agree with, mainly because it hasn't yet been explicated well and understanding it would be awesome. However, there are many instances analogous to brain-mind that don't attract as much attention and that surprises me. Look at a car. It's made of metal, rubber, plastic and glasses that come in varird shapes. Separate they're nothing but together they acquire a property/function that can't be understood if we consider only the parts. Only the whole, all parts together, is what we call a car. I think brain-mind is something very similar and, so, shouldn't cause us to overactivate our imagination.

    I don't see the problem. When it becomes evident that mind cannot be described in physical terms, we assume that it is not physical. How is that a problem? When it becomes evident that colours are not smells we assume that colours are not smells. Where's the problem? Colours are not smells, nor is mind physical. There is no problem unless you want to believe that everything is physical, then there's a problemMetaphysician Undercover

    Well, if we take a cellular phone and time travel back to the 12th century it would be unexplicable and I'm quite sure 12th century folks will ''explain'' it as sorcery or something to do with spirits etc. The truth however is that cellular phones are correctly explained with physical radiowaves. This clearly shows that we shouldn't default to magical thinking just because something can't be explained readily with the physical sciences.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    There is the checkered shirt, that is a physical thing. Then there is the pattern which the colours are said to be in,Metaphysician Undercover

    The pattern is simply the arrangement of colored threads as they comprise the shirt, the relations of them to each other.
  • Andrew M
    1.1k
    So it appears you are asserting a Euthyphro-style dilemma. Either the universe obeys a law external to it or else there can be no law (in which case we should expect a disorderly universe). Would that be a fair description?
    — Andrew M

    I will tentatively accept your summary as a fair description, although I'm slightly worried that you have an argument in store that will make me regret doing so.
    Dusty of Sky

    Not a specific argument, just an observation. I think framing physical laws in that way implicitly assumes Platonic dualism. That is, Platonism assumes there is a material domain and a separate domain of forms. On that framing, subordinating form to matter would imply that physical laws are contingent and nominal rather than necessary and universal - and so not really laws.

    But a different approach is to reject the Platonist framing. Instead there is a unitary universe that can be investigated and described in both experiential and logical terms. The universe exhibits form rather than obeying it or creating it as the horns of the dilemma suggest.
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