• A Raybould

    And I have an opinion about your belief system: I think it's logically inconsistent.RogueAI

    Then it is surprising that, instead of offering a logical refutation of anything I have written, you have simply repeated, at great length, unsubstantiated claims that this or that is absurd.

    Actually, that is not entirely fair - you have also mastered the fundamentalists' trick of changing the subject when things get difficult, even to the point of stating some positions that you immediately disassociated yourself from when I challenged them.

    Do you have some good links supporting your position?RogueAI

    My position is not any less supported by external links than yours is. Actually, I am not sure what, in my posts, needs external support, as, after the first one, they have mostly been concerned with inconsistencies and non-sequiturs within your replies to me. You have already agreed that my three premises are reasonable, and I am not claiming anything more than that.
  • A Raybould

    The knowledge argument also has the problem of equivocation over the sort of knowledge that Mary gains: she can only gain discursively-learnable knowledge while she is isolated, and if what she learns when she is released is not discursively learnable, then physicalism is not challenged, but if it is discursively-learnable, then how can one explain Mary not already knowing it, without begging the question, by requiring, as a premise, that it is non-physical discursively-learnable knowledge?
  • RogueAI
    Mary's Room (or as it is more commonly called, "The Knowledge Argument") was actually by Frank Jackson, not Chalmers. Though I'm sure Chalmers must have talked about it in his book.

    The Knowlege Argument certainly did provoke a lot of debate, and physicalists at the time presented mostly bad arguments against it. But there is still a huge challenge to it for dualists. The Knowledge Argument is not as strong against physicalism as it might appear at first: Imagine that we put a zombie version of Mary in the same circumstance. Zombie Mary would have the exact same reaction when she is let out of her black & white room as Mary would.

    Yes, I know it wasn't Chalmers.

    Zombie Mary might have the same reaction, but I don't see how that affects the anti-physicalist conclusions people often draw from Mary's room. The point of Mary's Room is a point about internal mental states, knowledge, and experience:

    IF materialism is correct, AND brain states are the same as mental states THEN knowledge of brain states should entail knowledge of mental states. Knowledge of brain states does not entail knowledge of mental states (i.e., Mary needs to experience seeing red mentally, in order to know what "seeing red" is). Therefore, mental states are not the same as brain states.

    That's how I read it. How does Zombie Mary fit in to that? Are you claiming a p-zombie can know things???
  • Douglas Alan
    That's how I read it. How does Zombie Mary fit in to that? Are you claiming a p-zombie can know things???RogueAI

    Yes, I am claiming a zombie can know things. Let us say, for instance, that we build an incredible AI to help us with all the problems of the world. We need help preventing wars, climate change, and ecosystem collapse, determining if String Theory is on the right track, with how we might best explain dark matter and dark energy, with how to manage the economies of the world for maximum employment and to eliminate boom and bust cycles, with curing cancer, etc., etc.

    Let's say that we call this great AI, Skynet. Ooops, scratch that. How 'bout we go with Marge instead. Marge helps bring humanity into a golden age where the vast majority of people in the world are happy, productive, healthy, and content. Not only does Marge help us achieve these goals, but she is able to explain, as much as our human minds can comprehend, why all the measures that she has recommended will work, etc. She's also really amazing to talk to. She's empathetic and witty. In her spare time, she has written some of the greatest novels ever written, and produced movies even better than Citizen Kane. She loves to talk about her creative process too. It's impossible to shut her up, but you wouldn't want to, because everything she has to say is so fascinating.

    Unfortunately, we have a great mystery regarding Marge. We don't know if she's a zombie or not, and we have no apparent way of knowing. There are some physicists, for instance, who keep insisting that the human mind has a unique ability via microtubules in the brain to interface with uncollapsed quantum probability waves in a way that Marge cannot. Marge is just a fancy von Neumann machine.

    Marge laughs at the assertion that she's a zombie, and points at all her great works of literature as evidence of her depth of emotion. At her ability to experience joy and pain, and to sometimes just bask in the pleasure of clean, un-noisy electricity flowing into her power supplies, or staring at a beautiful painting by Vermeer.

    Let us postulate, for the moment, however, that the microtubule physicists are right, and for this reason, Marge is actually a zombie. I assert that even so, Marge knows all sorts of things. E.g., she knows how to write a great novel. She knows when clean power is flowing into her power supplies. She knows how to manage the world economy. Etc. To disagree with these assertions would be to abuse the English language.

    Furthermore, I think that ZombMary reveals a problem with our term, "knowing what it's like" with respect to the hard problem of consciousness (assuming there is one). ZombMary just like Mary has the ability to model her own cognitive states and the cognitive states of others. While trapped in her b&w room, neither Marry was able to will themselves into the cognitive state of seeing a ripe tomato, and therefore, they could not model this cognitive state in a natural manner until they were released.

    Once they were released, they gained new abilities to model their own cognitive states and the cognitive states of others. With this new ability, there is a sense in which ZombMary has learned what is like to see a ripe tomato, in that when she wants to, she can will herself into this state via imagination, she can dream of ripe tomatoes, and she can predict much more naturally than she could before how being in this cognitive state will affect others.

    A representationalist (a type of physicalist and functionalist) can say that what ZombMary has learned all there is to know about what it is like to see a ripe tomato. And that she's really no zombie at all.

    I think that the representationalist position here is hard to counter.


    P.S. The way that I would argue for dualism to argue that physicalism leads us inevitably to Max Tegmark's MUH. And that MUH is clearly wrong. Hence, by reductio ad absurdum, dualism must be correct.

    But since philosophers seemed to have mostly ignored Tegmark's arguments for MUH, taking this path would be a slog.
  • Douglas Alan
    The knowledge argument also has the problem of equivocation over the sort of knowledge that Mary gains: she can only gain discursively-learnable knowledge while she is isolated, and if what she learns when she is released is not discursively learnable, then physicalism is not challengedA Raybould

    Yes, that makes sense. I haven't seen the argument worded that way before, but I presented above, in a little magnum opus, a way in which this putatively could be the case.

  • A Raybould

    The equivocation reply to the knowledge argument effectively begins with Churchland's "Knowing Qualia: a Reply to Jackson" in 1989, though both Horgan and Churchland himself raised the issue earlier. In this short paper (which is unaccountably overlooked, IMHO), Churchland straightforwardly demonstrates that the KA equivocates over the phrase "knows about": everything she learns while isolated must be propositional, while there is good biological reasons, he argues, for thinking that what she learns from seeing color is anything but that (part of that argument is that our trichomatic vision scheme is widely distributed across mammalia, including in animals that have no language ability; per Nagel, they presumably have a sense of what it is like to see colors, but evidently not by believing in certain propositions.)

    The most vigorous dualist response was Stanley and Williamson, "Knowing How" (2001), in which they used a linguistic argument to claim that all knowledge is propositional (actually, they had to admit a category of innate knowledge or know-how in order to avoid infinite regress: to have propositional knowledge of a fact, you need to know the corresponding proposition, but to know that...)

    FWIW, I think they make a good case that we often talk about know-how as if it is propositional (at least in English), but to me, such an approach is incapable of determining that it is actually the case: it is as if Dawkin's phrase "the selfish gene" proves that genes are aware of how evoution works.

    That is moot, however, as we can go with the feature of Mary's pre-release studies that prompted Churchland to call them propositional: At this stage of the experiment, she can only learn those things that can be learned from reading a book, or following a lecture on her monochrome TV. The first place I saw this called 'discursively learnable' was in Torin Alter's "A Limited Defense of the Knowledge Argument" (1996 - yes, it predates S&W.) Alter's position was then (and I think is still now) that the KA makes a point, but it is purely epistemic, and has no metaphysical implications. Tim Crane, in "The Knowledge Argument is an Argument About Knowledge" (2019) comes to a similar conclusion.

    Two useful properties of this formulation of the equivocation reply are firstly, that it is effective against vague "in a sense" type claims about what Mary does and does not know, and secondly that it makes the dilemma faced by proponents of the knowledge argument very clear.

    I am much amused by the way Zombie Mary pits one of dualism's darlings against the other, but I think you have to pay for that fun by accepting p-zombies. I don't have time to go through the case against p-zombies right now, except to say the the most common objection, that Chalmers unjustifiably jumps from conceivability to possibility, is a sufficient reply, though probably not all that can be said against p-zombies.

    Finally, it is not clear to me how physicalism leads us inevitably to Max Tegmark's MUH - may I ask you to expand on that?
  • Douglas Alan

    Thank you for some history on The Knowledge Argument of which I was unaware. At this point, having spent way too much of my life pouring over many responses to it, I'm unlikely to want to dive back into it with fervor, and fully understanding the arguments you have presented would I think involve diving into the source material and seriously distract me from my more productive passions of playing video games and binge-watching Netflix TV series.

    I do appreciate the overview, though. But just consider me a recovering alcoholic wrt diving any deeper into this.

    I am certainly willing to spend a bit of time on that which I can easily rehearse from memory, though.

    Re the Zombie Mary argument, I don't think that you really have to accept zombies in order for the argument to fly. One can ultimately conclude that Mary and Zomby Mary are really just identical. I.e., that the putatively impoverished mental states that Zomby Mary has are really not impoverished at all. I.e., think of it as working like a proof by contradiction.

    Though when I wrote up a very careful argument on this, which is very hard to do and very wordy, I think instead I posited considering a possible world for Mary in which property dualism is definitely true, whether or not it is true in our own. Surely there are such possible worlds. Zombie Mary then lives in a possible world in which physicalism is true. And then the question becomes which of these two worlds is the actual world. (When discussing a world in which property dualism is true, we cannot without begging the question, assume that in a physicalist world, Mary has no phenomenal mental states. Only that they will be impoverished in comparison to what they are in the non-physicalist world.)

    I could probably dig up the paper should anyone care. My grader thought that I should have published it way back in the day. I suppose it's too bad that I didn't try. Unfortunately, I'm sure by now, my arguments would be passe.

    Re Chalmers CPT, I agree. It doesn't pass muster with me either. I wrote a long and wordy term paper on that topic too.

    Re physicalism leading us inevitably to MUH, Tegmark has written an entire book on the topic. He used to have an article online that stated his argument succinctly. Here's a newer version of that paper, but I think it's less clear on that particular issue than his older paper. But I can no longer locate the older paper:


    I'll try to summarize the meat of the argument in just a few words: The world we see around us seems to be defined perfectly via math. I.e., physical law is nothing but math. To quote Hawking, "What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?"

    Physicalists generally seem to assume that there's something in addition to the equations that define physical law in order for the universe to actually exist, but what would that extra secret sauce be? Just a single bit somewhere saying that these equations are "real" in a way that math is not real? Where would that extra single bit of secret sauce come from, and why should we suppose that this secret sauce is necessary? By Occam's razor, we should deny this bit of secret sauce, and say that the physical universe is the math and nothing more.

    To me, this argument is perfectly convincing. I have no idea what the secret sauce of physical existence is supposed to be, and without any explanation for it (or even a mention or worry about it by any mainstream philosophers that I have read), I would also want to agree that there is no such secret sauce.

    Except that I'm pretty damned convinced that phenomenal consciousness cannot be produced in the abstract domain of pure math. So there is secret sauce of some kind after all! In my mind, MUH proves the existence of zombies. The Mary that exists in a world that is just like ours, only is made of nothing but pure abstract math, is a zombie.

    Unless, of course, interactionism is true. In that case, perhaps there is no purely mathematical world that can contain a being like Mary. Surely everyone is born an interactionist. But I can figure out no way to make interactionism sane, consistent, and compatible with evolution, etc.


    P.S. Yes, I understand that MUH is a nonstarter if one is not a realist about math, but I certainly am. I think that most of the philosophers I studied under would be too. E.g., after a talk by a logician at MIT, I went up to him and tried to see what he might think about MUH. I determined that he thought that modal realism was hogwash, but when I described MUH as "radical Platonism", he said that he would be very amenable to that viewpoint.

    I'm not sure that I got across, however, quite how radical MUH is. I think that he might just have believed that everything in math and logic is real, but not in the same sense as the physical universe is.
  • RogueAI

    Yes, I am claiming a zombie can know things.

    Before we get any further, we have a fundamental disagreement here. You think mental state(s) aren't a necessary condition for knowledge? How would that work? How could a mindless thing have knowledge? How are you defining knowledge?
  • Douglas Alan
    How could a mindless thing have knowledge? How are you defining knowledge?RogueAI

    Zombies can have minds and they can have cognition. What zombies are missing are phenomenal states. I don't see any reason at all why having phenomenal states should be a precondition for having knowledge.

  • RogueAI
    Zombies can have minds and they can have cognition. What zombies are missing is phenomenal states. I don't see any reason at all why having phenomenal states should be a precondition for having knowledge.

    You think a mind that can't be conscious can exist? That would be far different from what we commonly think of when we refer to minds. What would the content of this mind be? I think there's a contradiction here. I'm just going to go with the first thing that popped up on Google:


    the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought."

    That maps on pretty well to what I think of when I think mind. I don't think you can have a mind that can't be aware of things and can't have experiences.

    ETA: Can you think without ideas? Are mental objects a necessary condition for thinking? If no, then if you're thinking without mental objects, what are you thinking of?
  • Douglas Alan
    You think a mind that can't be conscious can exist? That would be far different from what we commonly think of when we refer to minds.RogueAI

    There used to be a popular theory of consciousness called the HOT theory. HOT stood for "higher-order thought". If you had higher-order thoughts (e.g., thoughts about thoughts), then you were conscious. Otherwise, you were not.

    There was a paper published in the Journal of Philosophy that made me very mad since it argued that dogs could not feel pain, nor suffer, because they were not conscious. They were not conscious because they putatively had no higher-order thoughts.

    It was never asserted, however, that dogs had no thoughts. Just no higher-order thoughts.

    If you think about it, the HOT theory of consciousness doesn't even make any sense if you can't have an unconscious being with thoughts. And yet it was a somewhat popular theory amongst professional philosophers of mind.

    It was completely wrong, of course. At least regarding phenomenal consciousness. "Consciousness" means many different things, and phenomenal consciousness is just one kind of consciousness. HOT consciousness is another kind.

    As for the definition of mind that you provided, phenomenal consciousness is only one kind of consciousness. Please don't drag this debate back into the dark ages of the philosophy of mind. (E.g, the 1970s.) A mind can be "aware" and can "think" and have self-consciousness (the ability to represent its own cognitive state) and yet might fail to have phenomenal consciousness. (Though there are those, of course, who will claim that a mind that has all the former properties will necessarily also have phenomenal consciousness. But that's the debate, right. Don't beg the question!)

    It serves no purpose to confound these things. The differentiating of these different types of consciousness in the last few decades is the reason that the debate has progressed so much further than it could before.

  • A Raybould
    IF materialism is correct, AND brain states are the same as mental states THEN knowledge of brain states should entail knowledge of mental states.RogueAI
    I believe that there were some early theories claiming that brain states are the same as mental states (type identity theory, perhaps?) but I think they have been supplanted by the view that minds are emergent phenomena arising from the low-level activity of the brain. This sort of emergence is not a controversial or speculative idea, as we have plenty examples of this sort of thing -- for example, in a neural network that picks out images containing cats, you will not find, in its individual hardware and software components (transistors and bytes, respectively), anything that recognizes cats. More simply, if you look at a sorting algorithm, you will not find, in its steps taken individually, anything that has a sorting property -- only the complete algorithm has that.
  • Douglas Alan

    Additionally, having studied Cognitive Psychology, I can assure that that more than 99% of what goes on in your mind never reaches the level of consciousness. Your conscious mind is just the tip of a very large iceberg, where unconscious thinking occupies the vast bulk of your mind.

    Yes, that's right: unconscious thinking.

    This is what intuition is, and why I have the ability to solve complex math problems while I'm asleep. It's thinking that you are not even aware that you are doing.

  • Qwex
    Is it more heart? Is the computer it's core aspect?
  • A Raybould

    Thanks for your extensive reply. I can understand your disinterest in having anything more to do with the knowledge argument!

    I have made one pass through the paper of Tegmark's that you linked to, but my math is not up to following that much of it. Despite that, I have a few questions that I would pose to any proponent of it:

    • Could you make the same argument for music - that all you need is a notation and a score? But that would leave out the central role of performance, which is not just baggage.
    • In fig. 1, the top of the hierarchy is a hypothetical theory of everything, marked with a '?'. But what if, instead of turtles all the way down, it's '?' all the way up?
    • Tegmark makes much use of the set of real numbers in discussing the emergence of symmetry, but the Banach-Tarski paradox makes me wonder if the reals are a perfect match to physical reality.
    • In section 4B, he gets into the issue of initial conditions, which you need in addition to theories to explain the universe. He points out that physics has been pushing back the initial conditions, but again, what if it is initial conditions all the way up? From what little I understand, string theory is very dependent on initial conditions in order to explain our particular universe. If math can posit vastly more universes than obtain, is it perhaps the case that the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics" is because the universe 'picks out' just the bits that obtain, from an infinite smorgasbord?

    Not all physicalists are persuaded by Tegmark: Scott Aaronson, who appears to be a physicalist (see my first post in this thread) is one such.

    Ultimately, however, if Tegmark seems to be right, my attitude will be "that's wild!" rather than "that can't be!"
  • Douglas Alan
    Not all physicalists are persuaded by Tegmark: Scott Aaronson, who appears to be a physicalist (see my first post in this thread) is one such.A Raybould

    I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to respond to your other points. Real philosophizing takes a lot of careful words!

    But as for physicalists being persuaded by Tegmark, as far as I can tell, Tegmark's book and articles have been almost completely ignored by philosophers.

    Chalmers does cohost a conference with Tegmark, but I haven't been able to locate online any evidence that Chalmers has ever publicly addressed Tegmark's argument. I've considered writing to Chalmers to ask him where I might be able to find some serious philosophical discussion of Tegmark's MUH, if there is any.

  • A Raybould
    Real philosophizing takes a lot of careful words!Douglas Alan

    Amen to that!

    In what I have read of the philosophy of the mind, there does not seem to have been much consideration of fundamental physics, and that may well be appropriate, if the brain operates within the classical approximation. Even the 'quantum microtubule' stuff is mostly the work of a physician and a mathematical physicist. At least we know Tegmark's position on that, which is that decoherence ensures that microtubules function within the classical approximation. None of the participants in this debate appear to be dualists.

    Both Chalmers and Tegmark have appeared at at least one or another of Hameroff's 'Towards a Science of Consciousness' conferences; there may be transcripts or videos.

    Other than that, I do not know if there has been much consideration of biology, at least since it became apparent that there is no simple mapping between cognitive concepts and biological structure.
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