Thought vs Matter/Energy

Discussions on the philosophical foundations, assumptions, and implications of science, including the natural sciences.

Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on November 30th, 2019, 2:56 am 

In his book 'Our Existence Part 1 : The Nature and Origin of Physical Matter", Christophe Finipolscie explores a major distinction between the alternate philosophies of Existence - relating to 'Causality'. One phrase he gives us is this:-

"Thought is the only thing that can cause Matter/Energy to deviate from its inevitable chemical path."

I love this quote, but I'm intrigued to see whether you feel this might be true?

To provide a context, Finipolscie argues that ….

Materialism and Determinism are firmly based on the strict scientific principle that "A single precise starting point can only have one precise outcome'. From this, many senior physicists will talk about the inevitability of activity within matter/energy. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that this is true within Matter/Energy, and it is a prime reason why science is able to use mathematics to define its theories.

All alternate viewpoints, to varying degrees, suggest that true change is possible, and therefore outcomes are not inevitable. Indeed, this is the basis of Free Will - on which we structure the laws of our society.

Finipolscie argues that true/fundamental change either requires

Spontaneity - actions without a prior cause
Randomness - actions where more than one outcome is possible

ie. the opposites of cause & effect.

He is effectively placing the old philosophical debate on a scientific footing.

While he acknowledges that the easiest examples of spontaneity or randomness are potentially found in Thought, he also he provides a series of scientific findings from the past 50 years or so, which suggest that randomness or spontaneity may truly be occurring - although they seem rare events in the purely physical rather than mental realm.

Do you feel that the old philosophical debate is still valid?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby davidm on December 2nd, 2019, 12:39 pm 

Based on what you have written here, it seems your author thinks that the only choices on offer are agent-causal (contra-causal) libertarianism, or else hard determinism. This is a bifurcation fallacy. Has he ever heard of compatibilism? Or neo-Humeanism?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on December 2nd, 2019, 3:02 pm 

I don't quite see why it should be thought versus matter/energy. Isn't thought also matter/energy?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on December 5th, 2019, 8:29 pm 

davidm

The author doesn't present a binary choice.

If you read the books, he takes a very pro-science approach but explores the different ways in which the evidence might be interpreted - leaving the reader to choose their preferred interpretation while being aware of the others.

He uses materialism/determinism vs 'Idealism' to mark different extremes along the full range of different philosophies.

I like this approach - and I like some of his one liners, but I'd say he was 'an' author rather than 'my' author.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on December 5th, 2019, 8:49 pm 

Hello charon

I don't quite see why it should be thought versus matter/energy. Isn't thought also matter/energy?


The argument presented in the books is that Thought has some familiar characteristics which might not be explained by strict causality. If you accept those examples, then he suggests that logically, Thought may not come entirely from matter/energy if the latter is entirely bound by strict causality.

He then presents more potential examples of randomness and spontaneity from scientific findings in a range of fields - and if these are also not unreasonable to consider that way, then he argues that there would be more evidence of this broader capability as a real factor in existence as a whole. It could explain a lot of things that currently defy explanation.

Referring to this factor as 'another type of stuff' with different capabilities to matter/energy, (as a simple way of considering the possibilities), he acknowledges that if we truly see randomness and spontaneity at the quantum level of existence then the notion of another type of stuff may actually just represent different levels of existence. However there is a real question over whether the unpredictability of quantum effects truly represents randomness or a merely the causal influence of an unknown factors

He also indicates how the different factors might fit within different philosophies.

Hope this makes some sense.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on December 10th, 2019, 8:55 am 

But everything is energy/matter. That's what life is. Energy forms are material and thought is material. There's nothing else it could be.

I think he's trying to make the facts fit the theory.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on January 15th, 2020, 6:07 am 

Charon, you clearly believe that matter/energy is everything, and that is fine for you, but that is clearly not the only philosophy. This is a philosophy forum - you should know this. Dualism, the many forms of Pluralism, the many shades of grey in between should be clear evidence of this.

When there is scientific evidence to suggest that there may be other types of stuff because matter/energy can't provide an explanation of proven facts, due to matters of underlying principle, then are scientist not obliged to test the alternatives?

That was indeed attempted by Gisin and others in their experiments to test Bell's Theorem and get rid of this 'other stuff nonsense' once and for all - yet the results always go the wrong way.

This may indicate other hidden properties of matter/energy in your eyes, but it is a more natural line of thinking to suggest that properties which defy the defining principles of matter/energy might indeed point to a secondary influence - another type of stuff.

Isn't that part of the wonder of science - that true facts open us to new possibilities?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on January 15th, 2020, 10:09 am 

lateralsuz -

you clearly believe that matter/energy is everything, and that is fine for you, but that is clearly not the only philosophy


Philosophy? This has nothing to do with philosophy, it's to do with scientific, physical facts.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby davidm on January 15th, 2020, 1:40 pm 

When there is scientific evidence to suggest that there may be other types of stuff because matter/energy can't provide an explanation of proven facts. …


What are these “other types of stuff” that matter/energy “can’t” explain, as opposed to “has not yet explained”?

… due to matters of underlying principle


What “underlying principle”?

… then are scientist not obliged to test the alternatives?


Sure. Just explain, with specificity, what “other types of stuff” exist that matter and energy can’t explain; what “underlying principle” you are talking about; and what alternatives are there, that scientists are supposed to “test”? And how can scientists test them?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby TheVat on January 15th, 2020, 1:55 pm 

Lateral --

What I just posted in Biology forum, regarding supporting claims and defining terms, applies here as well.

This a science oriented website, not a Gwyneth Paltrow new age healing vagina candles website.

And allusions to dualism (Cartesian or otherwise), a philosophy largely discredited in the last 300 years, don't really fly here unless you are in possession of some extraordinary revelation that will overthrow all of physics. I recommend you check the SEP on objections to dualism, first.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby davidm on January 15th, 2020, 4:05 pm 

I suppose I can venture a stab at what lateralsuz is trying get at, despite his maddeningly vague terminology in this and other threads, like “can’t explain,” “underlying principle,” and the ever-undefined “control.”

He might be talking about Chalmers’ “hard problem of consciousness." Chalmers contends that science cannot explain, even in principle, how consciousness arises from configurations of matter and energy, and more specifically, how qualia emerge — the felt experience of the redness of a rose, its sweet aroma, the tactile prickiness of its thorns, and so on.

Before going on, I should think that this sort of discussion doesn’t really belong in a “philosophy of science” forum, which, I think, deals with the philosophy underpinning the various scientific methodologies — demarcation, underdeterminism, auxiliary hypotheses, the pessimistic induction, etc. I think a better fit for a discussion like this would be General Philosophy.

Now I think there is something to be addressed here, as I have indicated in other threads. If we ask, what is a rose, we generally begin by describing our sensory experience of it — red, sweet, prickly, etc.

Yet it must, I think, be acknowledged that these descriptors exist only in the mind — red, sweet, prickly, etc., do not exist outside sensory organs and brains/minds. None of these qualities are intrinsic to a rose — they could not be. Different brains with different sensory organs would experience a different rose — a brain with eyes that saw in different wavelengths, for example, would not see the rose as red, but some other color, perhaps unimaginable to humans. Pigeons have primary five color receptors compared with our three — what color is a rose to them? Since they have two extra primary-color receptors, they must see colors that we cannot even conceive. Hundreds of millions of them, in fact, since all colors arise from irreducible primary colors (three for us, five for pigeons).

If we look at a rose from a reductionist, scientific point of view, we can hold that intrinsically, it is a bunch of atoms, or quantum fields, or suchlike. Yet even here, we must acknowledge, I think, that concepts like “atoms” and “quantum fields” are models, mediated yet again through our particular sense organs and cognitive architecture. A different, alien intelligence might have no such concepts, but different concepts that make perfect sense to them, yet perhaps would be incommunicable to us — as ours might be to them. Many even contest the idea that we can use math to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligence — see: Underdeterminism (II), and Would Aliens Understand Lambda Calculus?

Chalmers’ opponents generally fall into two camps: those who contest his claim that science cannot explain, even in principle, how consciousness/qualia arise from matter and energy; and those who contend that there is literally nothing to explain — that once you have a functionalist account of how brains work, as we do (and as Chalmers acknowledges that we do), then consciousness and qualia simply fall out of functionalism. This is the stance that Dennett takes, and the biochemist Larry Moran, and I believe also the biologist Jerry Coyne. This stance is called eliminativism. But this functionalist account, and its associated eliminativism, is precisely what Chalmers denies, and takes great pains to try to discredit. So an issue is joined here, one where science and philosophy at least partly overlap.

I partly agree with Chalmers. I agree that functionalism/eliminativism is not an explanation for consciousness/qualia. To say that it is, would be like saying that “gravity” is an explanation for why things fall. Consider: we observe how the brain functions … therefore, consciousness/qualia! And: we observe that gravity exists … therefore, things fall!

But neither is an explanation. Newton mathematically described gravity, but even he acknowledged that he was troubled by, and could not explain, this seemingly magical “force at a distance” that makes things fall toward one another. But later Einstein came along and DID provide an explanation, which seems sufficient: that gravity is a fictitious force, and the “falling” is explained by geodesics in curved spacetime.

I do not yet think we have an Einstein for consciousness/qualia.

But here is where I disagree with Chalmers: I do not think he has shown that it is impossible, even in principle, to have an Einstein for the explanation of consciousness/qualia.

If we reject dualism, as I think we should, what other explanations might be on offer, even provisionally?

Panpsychism seems to be exhibiting a minor resurgence. I believe it is successfully shredded by Jerry Coyne here, and by Sabine Hossenfelder here.

Metaphysical idealism, which I have raised before, and which bears some relation to panpsychism, is the idea the world consists primarily, and perhaps entirely, of mental states. In sum, it holds that brains supervene on minds, rather than minds supervening on brains, the stance of metaphysical naturalism. But, since, so far as I can tell, metaphysical idealism is empirically indistinguishable from metaphysical naturalism, and makes no testable predictions that differ from MN, then I cannot see what there is to scientifically recommend it. Of course, in this, MI vs. MN seems to be no different from Copenhagen vs. Everett in QM, and people still squabble over that one.

Bottom line, or so it seems to me: we have an unsolved mystery! But that is what makes science (and philosophy) so damned interesting — both are constantly works in progress, and the joy is in the journey more than in the destination. After all, how boring would it be if we knew everything? I feel sorry for God — in being infinitely knowledgeable, he must also be infinitely bored.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby davidm on January 15th, 2020, 6:33 pm 

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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby Dave_C on January 17th, 2020, 10:45 pm 

Molecular interactions do not have a specific “inevitable” (chemical) path, only a probability of following a given path. Tally up all those probabilities and given billions of interactions, we get classical mechanics and those interactions between huge numbers of molecules becomes “deterministic”. But at the lowest level where 1 molecule interacts with another, there is no inevitability, only probability.

Engineers, scientists, neuroscientists, meteorologists, etc… use the concepts of classical mechanics to predict how natural phenomena occur. Those analysis are ‘deterministic’ because they use classical mechanics. That isn’t to say the analysis done predicts exactly how nature behaves, only the analysis done is correct to the degree of accuracy that the model approaches reality.

One of the most significant logical dilemmas we’re faced with regarding the “hard problem” regards epiphenomenalism. There are many other dilemmas, and I might change my mind tomorrow regarding which is most significant… but let’s discuss that tomorrow. Consider that if neuroscience has everything correct regarding how the brain produces behavior, then there is a fully reductionist philosophy at work that can demonstrate, in principal, how our behavior emerges from the interactions of neurons. And since that’s true, it follows that our behavior follows from those neuron interactions which chug along independently of any allegedly higher level “emergent” phenomenon such as subjective experience (ie: qualia). If our behavior, our reports of experiences, actually match those emergent phenomena, then it is purely by accident. Those higher level phenomena can not influence the lower level ‘parts’ (ie: neurons). They are epiphenomenal.

Given what we know about neuron interactions and our philosophy of nature (science), suggesting we have a solution for the hard problem does not follow.
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