• Olivier5
    730
    Relax, this is philosophy. Some people see a difference, others do not. And it is a fact that you statement "strong emergence is definitionally like magic" is false, as per your own quote.
  • Isaac
    3k
    The latter can either be because metaphysically boring material stuff, arranged the right way, magically gives rise to something metaphysically novel (strong emergence); or else that whatever it is that a real human is supposed to have that a philosophical zombie wouldn't -- which is not anything functional, because a zombie is functionally identical to a human -- is just something that everything has.Pfhorrest

    Why would you be surprised at the sudden emergence of something metaphysically interesting? What's metaphysically interesting is just a function of human minds giving it meaning. If I randomly threw Scrabble tiles onto a board some of them would spontaneously become linguistically interesting, but that's nothing to do with the tiles, but rather the observer of them.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.3k
    Strong emergence definitionally differs from weak emergence. Things that meet the criteria for strong emergence are “like magic”; things that only meet the criteria for weak emergence are not. So things that are not “like magic” — not of the same character as the things compared to magic — are not meeting the criteria for strong emergence.

    @Kenosha Kid, please back me up here.

    This whole subtopic is a huge waste of time anyway. All the examples of emergence you give are what I would count as weakly emergent and do not object to. Access consciousness, which is the thing that I think people normally mean by consciousness, is weakly emergent like all those other things, on my account. So we have substantive agreement everywhere it matters.

    Where we disagree is that I acknowledge that other philosophers mean something different by “consciousness” than we do, something distinguished from the thing we mean as “phenomenal consciousness”. They define that in a way that it could not possibly weakly emerge from non-mental properties. So either it strongly emerges, in a way completely unlikely any of the examples you’ve given, a magic-like anti-physical way; or else nothing, including us, has anything like what they’re talking about; or else everything has something like what they’re talking about, from which our form of it can weakly emerge.

    In counter to that, you just deny that anyone is talking about anything besides the weak emergence of access consciously. It’s fine if that’s all you want to talk about, because that’s the important part, but if we’re going to dismiss these other people who think human consciousness is magical, we have to address the other stuff they’re talking about: phenomenal consciousness, and strong emergence, which like it or not are different topics than access consciousness and weak emergence.

    Why would you be surprised at the sudden emergence of something metaphysically interesting?Isaac

    It’s not the interesting part, it’s the novel part.
  • Olivier5
    730
    Strong emergence definitionally differs from weak emergence.Pfhorrest

    From your link:

    Strong emergence describes the direct causal action of a high-level system upon its components; qualities produced this way are irreducible to the system's constituent parts.[11] The whole is other than the sum of its parts. An example from physics of such emergence is water, which appears unpredictable even after an exhaustive study of the properties of its constituent atoms of hydrogen and oxygen.

    What is so difficult to fathom about "the direct causal action of a system upon its components"? Why do you see that as magic, pray tell?
  • Isaac
    3k
    It’s not the interesting part, it’s the novel part.Pfhorrest

    Same thing. Metaphysical novelty is just a human construct. We don't bring a thing into existence by our treatment of it. The idea of the Scrabble tiles is that a new thing 'a word' has arisen randomly from the casting of the tiles, but this 'thing' is a human construct, words don't exist outside of human minds, so the casting process hasn't done anything we should find unexpected, or odd.

    Likewise with first-person experience. The fact that we find some cellular interactions significant enough to provide them with their own language game does not mean in doing so we've brought anything into existence. We don't need to answer the question of how this arose because we put it there.
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.2k
    Strong emergence definitionally differs from weak emergence. Things that meet the criteria for strong emergence are “like magic”; things that only meet the criteria for weak emergence are not. So things that are not “like magic” — not of the same character as the things compared to magic — are not meeting the criteria for strong emergence.

    @Kenosha Kid, please back me up here.
    Pfhorrest

    Yep! The examples I gave earlier are where emergent properties of a system are modes of interaction that are inaccessible to individual components, but still qualitatively the same thing. Like solidity from certain atomic structures but is nonetheless just modes of electrostatic interaction, itself manifest in atoms.

    Strong emergence describes new qualitative properties that are present in a system that are not present at all in its components, not just new modes but a new kind of thing. An example is consciousness as described by dualists who dip a toe in materialism but don't commit. Their idea of consciousness is not modes of neurological behaviour, but an entirely new thing that emerges when atoms are configured into brains. There's no explanation for it, no evidence to support it, it makes no logical sense, but it is essential to them because they need the universe to be anthropocentric: we cannot be an accident.

    , since you see no difference between weak and strong emergence, the two things are one and Pfhorrest and I call this 'weak emergence'. Since you see no emergence as being like magic, weak emergence is non-magic. Magic emergence isn't real, obviously, so if anyone proposes a new kind of emergence that is magic, you know this isn't real. Pfhorrest and I call this nonexistent magic emergence 'strong emergence'. It doesn't matter what it is, because it doesn't exist.
  • Olivier5
    730
    That would be dandy, except that "magic" is a very vague term, often applied to things we don't quite understand but seem nevertheless real. The magic of the gap. And this is the case here: Pfhorest's use of the word 'magic' only denotes that he doesn't understand something, and thus rejects it as impossible.
  • Olivier5
    730
    The idea of the Scrabble tiles is that a new thing 'a word' has arisen randomly from the casting of the tiles, but this 'thing' is a human construct,Isaac
    The Scrabble metaphor can be pushed a bit further.

    Imagine a game with the following rules:

    1. Scrabble tiles get thrown randomly on a surface or board. When they land closely enough to one another, they tend to bind with each other to form strings of 2 or more tiles. Let's call these strings "words". When a tile lands far away from others, it just stays as an individual tile, that can also be seen as a "word" composed of only one tile.

    2. A selection rule cranks in, by which any "word" created by the procedure above and not listed in a given dictionary is eliminated from the board, dismantled and returned to the status of mere tiles, to be thrown again randomly on the board at stage 3 below. Only the strings of tiles that do correspond to an entry in the dictionary stay on the board. For instance "phenelat" dies, but "elephant" lives.

    3. Repeat processes 1 and 2 for a large number of times, say 10^100 times, and you should get a certain finite number of selected "words" (strings of tiles randomly created and yet corresponding to dictionary entries) on the board.

    4. The next step is to take the "words" as an input in processes 1 and 2 above; that is to say, to throw whole strings of tiles randomly on the board. Strings that land closely to one another can form "sentences", aka strings of stings of tiles. If a "sentence" syntax is correct as per a given English grammar book, then the sentence stays on the board, but if it is not a correct sentence from a grammatical view point, it gets dismantled: its elements ("words") are returned to the status of mere detached "words", to be thrown again on the board. For instance: "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously." lives, but "Furiously sleep ideas green colorless" dies out of purely grammatical ground.

    5. Repeat process 4 a large number of times, say 10^1000000 times, and you should get some "sentences" on the board that happen to be grammatically correct.

    6. Now apply another selection process on your random yet grammatically correct sentences: only those sentences that have some sort of meaning (as asserted by a random guy or panel) would live, while nonsensical sentences are eliminated. So "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" is eliminated (dismantled into words) but "I can't believe the tediousness of this argument" lives.

    7. Now repeat the process at the level of full sentences. Select the strings of sentences that appear to make some sense to an average reader.

    At the end of all this you would supposedly get a few randomly produced texts in English that make some sense to an average reader. One could legitimately say that these meaningful texts have "emerged" from the application of the random-cum-selection processes 1 to 7 above. These texts would mean things to a reader that no amount of analysis of the property of individual Scrabble tiles will ever be able to tell you.

    Therefore, by a succession of small steps that one could described as "weak emergence", one can arrive at something that could be described as "strong emergence".
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.2k
    That would be dandy, except that "magic" is a very vague term, often applied to things we don't quite understand but seem nevertheless real. The magic of the gap. And this is the case here: Pfhorest's use of the word 'magic' only denotes that he doesn't understand something, and thus rejects it as impossible.Olivier5

    And yet it looks exactly like you don't understand and he does. Weird how these things go.
  • Olivier5
    730
    Does "you're another" count as a philosophical argument?
  • Pfhorrest
    3.3k
    Where did the dictionary come from? That’s where the magic happens. It’s not just building up from things inherent in the tiles, bottom-up: something other than the behavior of the tiles is exteriorly imposed on them from the top down.

    You don’t get a dictionary by randomly combining scrabble tiles; if you did, that would be weak emergence. But if the act if randomly combining scrabble tiles somehow invokes a premade dictionary out of nowhere which then acts upon the tiles, you no longer have something just emerging (weakly) from the behavior of the tiles, but something wholly new popping into being in response to the tiles... like magic.
  • Olivier5
    730
    Where did the dictionary come from? That’s where the magic happens. It’s not just building up from things inherent in the tiles, bottom-up: something other than the behavior of the tiles is exteriorly imposed on them from the top down.Pfhorrest

    Good question. The Scrabble game is only a metaphor. In the reality of how matter emerged from the Big Biggy, and how life could (must?) have emerged from inanimate matter, it's a bit more complicated. As you righty pointed out, the rules themselves are emerging too, progressively, as the game evolves. For instance, predation.

    The objective behavior of predation (one living organism using another as a source of rich metabolites) could only emerge after the reduction of CO2 into biomass was made a large scale reality by photosynthetic blue algae and other primitive life forms, because before that, there was not enough biomass out there to eat from. But once it appeared as an objective behavior (circa 1 Gya) -- and we must assume that it did appear through random mutations à la Scrabble game -- then predation soon became a rule: eat or be eaten, because it is a great shortcut to energy acquisition so it was very successful... This rule shaped living organisms further, for instance with capacities to catch and escape being progressively selected. Hence mobility as a survival strategy, hence animals (animals are by definition mobile predators of other animals or of plants), hence senses and brains (being able to move from A to B is more useful when you can 'see' what's in B than when you can't 'see' it), hence minds.

    I posit that we and quite a few other animal species have minds because we eat other lifeforms, something which requires mobility and a capacity to spot other lifeforms. Plants don't have minds because they eat carbon dioxide and sun rays, which requires immobility to save energy. And no, rocks don't have minds either.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.3k
    So the dictionary weakly emerges from the behavior of the scrabble tiles, which as I said is fine by me.
  • Olivier5
    730
    So the dictionary weakly emerges from the behavior of the scrabble tiles, which as I said is fine by me.Pfhorrest
    Yes.

    The whole point is that many 'weak emergences' add up to a 'strong emergence'. There's just one form of emergence, continuously emerging. And yes, it leads to structures that are far more than the sum of their parts, in the sense that a living organism's behaviors cannot be understood at the lower, elemental level, e.g. in terms of its atoms trying to eat or copulate with other atoms. These behaviors only make sense at the level of organization at which they appear: at the level of a living organism in a competitive environment.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.3k
    The whole point is that many 'weak emergences' add up to a 'strong emergence'.Olivier5

    Except they don’t. All you’ve described here is weak emergence. Strong emergence is something beyond that. Something that doesn’t happen, but we have to acknowledge that it’s a thing people talk about to even deny that it happens.
  • Olivier5
    730
    Nah. Emergence is one thing, not two different things. And a lot of it looks 'strong' because then the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and acts as a cause.

    I suspect this is what you cannot get: the capacity of structures to be causal. For you, causes are all elemental, for some strange reason.
  • Malcolm Lett
    41
    Thanks @Pfhorrest, this is a nice summary of the variations on the topic, and of your particular stance. I'm still working through the whole thing, but I find your arguments compelling.

    A subject's phenomenal experience of an object is, on my account, the same event as that object's behavior upon the subject,Pfhorrest

    Supernatural beings and philosophical zombies are ontologically quite similar on my account, as for something to be supernatural would be for it to have no observable behavior, and for something to be a philosophical zombie would be for it to have no phenomenal experience. Both of those are just different perspectives on the thing in question being completely cut off from the web of interactions that is reality, and therefore unreal.Pfhorrest

    This is a cool idea.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.3k
    Thanks! :smile: :up:
  • Malcolm Lett
    41
    (Hey @Pfhorrest, an annoying technical thing. Your images in your OP don't show up in latest browsers - in this case Chrome. Technically the issue is that your website is only hosted on HTTP, whereas TPF is on HTTPS and browsers don't like HTTP-only websites nowadays.)
    image.png
  • Pfhorrest
    3.3k
    Thanks for pointing that out! I haven't done much web dev in nearly a decade and am just now in the process of polishing up my site for job-search purposes, so adding an SSL certificate should have been on my to-do list anyway. It should be done now (or within about 15 mins after installation finishes). Thanks again!
  • Malcolm Lett
    41
    Specifically, as regards philosophy of mind, it holds that when physical objects are arranged into the right relations with each other, wholly new mental properties apply to the composite object they create, mental properties that cannot be decomposed into aggregates of the physical properties of the physical objects that went into making the composite object that has these new mental properties.Pfhorrest

    An electric circuit with a gap is just a bunch of touching inanimate objects. At the moment that the circuit is completed, then suddenly the system is changed. From that moment it can react to inputs and produce outputs (lights, for example), whereas previously it was as dormant as a rock.

    I don't hold a strong view either way on whether the reality of consciousness is strong emergence or weak emergence of pan-proto-experientialism, but personally I do feel that the example of the electrical circuit shows that it is as least plausible that some things can undergo a discrete step-change from 'non' to 'is'. And it means that I can't rule out the possibility of strong emergence (though what the mechanics behind it could be seems most mysterious).
  • Pfhorrest
    3.3k
    From that moment it can react to inputs and produce outputs (lights, for example), whereas previously it was as dormant as a rock.Malcolm Lett

    True, because its configuration now enables all of those inanimate objects to interact in a certain way. But the kind of actions they do to each other are still actions that their constituent parts were capable of all along. Every copper atom is already capable of exchanging electrons with neighboring atoms; a closed circuit just gives a bunch of them motive and opportunity to pass electrons around with each other in a circle.
  • Malcolm Lett
    41
    True, because its configuration now enables all of those inanimate objects to interact in a certain way. But the kind of actions they do to each other are still actions that their constituent parts were capable of all along. Every copper atom is already capable of exchanging electrons with neighboring atoms; a closed circuit just gives a bunch of them motive and opportunity to pass electrons around with each other in a circle.Pfhorrest

    Yup. I thought you might answer something like that. So, the suggestion is that this is their proto-circuit nature. And in the same way, independent matter also exhibits a proto-experience.

    But it is only once that proto-circuit is arranged in a particular way that it transitions from proto- to actual. So there is still a kind of discrete step-change in force here....exactly the sort that distinguishes strong from weak emergence.

    I'm not sure that this is correct, but I'm also thinking of a crystal as an example -- a crystal requires a certain state, and then once in that state it holds to it strongly, but outside of that state it disintegrates to a liquid or whatever...It's another example in nature of a discrete step-change.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.3k
    It’s not the discreteness of any change at all that distinguishes strong emergence from weak emergence, but the sudden appearance of something irreducible to anything that was going on with the constituent parts.

    All kinds of physical behavior are, so far as we know, reducible to combinations of the behaviors of their parts. But phenomenal consciousness is stipulated to be something independent of behavior, such that it could not be reduced to the behaviors of its constituent parts. Which leaves it either not existing at all, springing into existence from nothing (strong emergence), or existing in some form everywhere (from which more sophisticated forms can weakly emerge).
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    So when it comes to phenomenal consciousness, either it is wholly absent from the most fundamental building blocks of physical things and so is still absent from anything built out of them, including humans — which I've already rejected above — or else it is present at least in humans, as concluded above, and so at least some precursor of it must be present in the stuff out of which humans are built, and the stuff out of which that stuff is built, and so on so that at least something prototypical of phenomenal consciousness as humans experience it is already present in everything, to serve as the building blocks of more advanced kinds of phenomenalPfhorrest
    I don't see that you've accounted for qualia. Consider Mary, who is the world's foremost expert on color, but has never experienced redness. She learns to associate her intellectual knowledge with the experience only after she actually has the experience.

    One way I look it physicalism, is that if true, it should be possible, in principle, to construct a machine that operates identically to human consciousness. How would a machine experience qualia, in a non-zombie way?
  • Pfhorrest
    3.3k
    I don't see that you've accounted for qualia. Consider Mary, who is the world's foremost expert on color, but has never experienced redness. She learns to associate her intellectual knowledge with the experience only after she actually has the experience.Relativist

    I mentioned that in the OP:

    Against Eliminativism

    I am against eliminativism for the simple reason that I am directly aware of my own conscious experience, and whatever the nature of that may be, it seems that any philosophical argument that concludes that I am not actually having any conscious experience must have made some misstep somewhere and at best proven that something else mistakenly called "conscious experience" doesn't exist. But beyond my own personal experience, I find arguments put forth by other philosophers, such as Frank Jackson's "Mary's room" thought experiment, to convincingly defeat eliminativism, though not to defeat physicalism itself as they are intended to do.

    In the "Mary's room" thought experiment, we imagine a woman named Mary who has been raised her entire life in a black-and-white room experiencing the world only through a black-and-white TV screen, but who has extensively studied and become an expert on the topic of color. She knows everything there is to know about the frequencies of electromagnetic radiation produced by various physical processes, how those interact with nerves in the eye and create signals that are processed by the brain, even the cultural significances of various colors, but she has never herself actually experienced color. We then imagine Mary leaving her room and seeing the color red for the first time, and in doing so, learning something new, despite supposedly knowing everything there was to know about color already: what the color red looks like.

    This thought experiment was originally put forth to argue that there is something non-physical involved in the experience of color that Mary could not have learned about by studying the physical science of color, and I don't think it succeeds at all in establishing that, but I do think that it conclusively establishes that there is a difference between knowing, in a third-person fashion, how physical systems behave in various circumstances, and knowing, in the first person, what it's like to be such a physical system in such circumstances. In essence, I think it succeeds merely in showing that we are not philosophical zombies.

    A more visceral analogous thought experiment I like to think of is that no amount of studying the physics, biology, psychology, or sociology of sex will ever suffice to answer the question "what's it like to have sex?" Actually doing it yourself is the only way to have that first-person experience; at best, that third-person knowledge of the way things behave can be instrumentally useful to recreating a first-person experience. But even then, you have to actually subject yourself to the experience to experience it, and that experience that can only be known in the first person is all that's meant by phenomenal consciousness.
    Pfhorrest

    One way I look it physicalism, is that if true, it should be possible, in principle, to construct a machine that operates identically to human consciousness.Relativist

    I agree, and thing it is possible.

    How would a machine experience qualia, in a non-zombie way?Relativist

    The same way a human does: by instantiating the same function as a human, and so having its phenomenal experience (which correlates with function, in all things) be like that of all things that instantiate such a function, like humans.
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    How would a machine experience qualia, in a non-zombie way? — Relativist

    The same way a human does: by instantiating the same function as a human, and so having its phenomenal experience (which correlates with function, in all things) be like that of all things that instantiate such a function, like humans.
    Pfhorrest
    Instantiating the function isn't enough - a zombie could record the frequency of reflected light and proceed to function appropriately. I'll go a little further:

    Redness begins as sensory perception, producing a sensory memory that neurally connects with the other quales concurrent at the time. e.g. the first perception of redness is the site of blood from one's painful injury. Those neural connections are activated in future experiences of redness. Qualia like this do not seem problematic.

    On the other hand, the pain quale seems problematic. I know its function, but I can't envision a physicalist accounting of it. Redness is, at its core, a passive experience that gets associated with other memories. On the other hand, pain isn't like that - it's more basic. Its function is clear: to induce us to seek relief. But there needs to be more to it than that, because that's a zombie-like account.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.3k
    Instantiating the function isn't enough - a zombie could record the frequency of reflected light and proceed to function appropriately.Relativist

    That’s the part where my panpsychism comes in. Whatever it is besides mere function that human consciousness involves, I hold that EVERYTHING already has that in some form or another, and the specific form of it becomes more sophisticated along with the functionality, because it is the other half of functionality besides the behavioral output.

    The input into any function of any thing is some kind of phenomenal experience, on my
    account, and the specific qualities of that experience will vary with the function, such that something that functions like a human can’t help but have a human-like experience — and things that function differently also have different experiences. There can be no philosophical zombies, because there cannot be anything that does not have any qualitative, phenomenal experience.

    It’s just that most things, like rocks, whose function exhibits no noteworthy behavior to speak of, also undergo no noteworthy experiences to speak of, for the exact same reason. But inasmuch as they technically do do something, they also technically do experience something.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment