Physicalism, true or false?

Discussions on the nature of being, existence, reality and knowledge. What is? How do we know?

Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby TheVat on March 22nd, 2016, 12:14 pm 

I like the short blog on zombies - pretty much where I land - the clock analogy, with the hands running backwards, is a good one. If we construct a human being that is identical, down to its microstructure, to a living human, there is really no compelling reason to believe it does not have phenomenal experience and is a zombie. The burden is on the zombie theorists.

And there's also a common sense response to Chalmer's scenario of a zombie in a zombie universe, sitting here reading about zombies: well, if that's the way that universe runs, then why would there be articles about zombies or, for that matter, the entire subject of phenomenal experience and "what it's like" being hotly debated? The basic premise, that there could be zombies identical to humans, is thus suspect even as the premise of a thought experiment, and begs all kinds of questions about evolution and selective pressure for large brains and so on. Indeed, the most salient feature of consciousness is that it seems so very necessary for our survival .

Further research may include a re-viewing of "Shaun of the Dead."
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 23rd, 2016, 4:28 am 

I cannot see a colour without hue, I cannot hear a sound without tone.

To go further I cannot see a colour or hear a sound!

I hear something with a tone or see something of a certain hue. I never see the hue of a colour or hear the tone of a sound.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Don Juan on March 24th, 2016, 10:43 pm 

The Zombie Argument may be a valid argument but it is not sound. One has to violate his actual knowledge and experience to accept a normal human without consciousness. Conception and validity alone cannot support soundly the conclusion of the Zombie argument because it ignores relationships between the dynamics involved in the normal brain and consciousness.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Don Juan on March 24th, 2016, 10:46 pm 

BadgerJelly » March 23rd, 2016, 10:28 am wrote:I cannot see a colour without hue, I cannot hear a sound without tone.

To go further I cannot see a colour or hear a sound!

I hear something with a tone or see something of a certain hue. I never see the hue of a colour or hear the tone of a sound.


What do you mean be 'see' and 'hear'? what are assumed when one says "sound" or "colour"?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 25th, 2016, 2:15 am 

Don -

It is of something. I don't literally see brightness I see the birghtness of SOMETHING. To say I see colour is a misdirection of language away from the intended object that has the a quality of colour.

Colour exists as an aspect of an object as does sound. I don't just "blindly" see or hear. If if I imagine, I imagine something.

No object of intention is no meaning. Consciousness of no thing is not consciousness. Absense is conditional of something being present. You can say this in numerous ways.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on March 25th, 2016, 9:56 pm 

Thanks for the comments. I looked into the clock analogy. Alex says,
Here’s an analogy, think of a mechanical clock, indeed, an exact duplicate of a mechanical clock you’re acquainted with. Can you conceive of the duplicate’s hands running anti-clockwise, rather than clockwise, or not running at all? You certainly could form a mental picture of the clock and say ‘and the hands run backwards’. But under close inspection, it’s not clear one could maintain this picture under scrutiny without making some change to the clock — say by rearranging the gears, or changing the direction of the motion imparted by the motor.

Granted, a clock won’t run backwards without some change to the clock as Alex points out. But I think Alex has misrepresented the argument. We agree on the clock but this argument fails to address the salient point of the zombie argument.

In his book, “The Conscious Mind” (pg 96), Chalmers says,
The idea of zombies as I have described them is a strange one. For a start, it is unlikely that zombies are naturally possible. In the real world, it is likely that any replica of me would be conscious. … But the question is not whether it is plausible that zombies could exist in our world, or even whether the idea of a zombie replica is a natural one; the question is whether the notion of a zombie is conceptually coherent.


The question of whether a clock can run backwards without some physical change is not the point. Clearly, there has to be a physical change for the clock to run backwards.

Can an apple float up in the air when it breaks off from a tree? Yes, if gravity is pushing upwards for some reason, but gravity does not ‘push’ it ‘pulls’ so although we might conceive of an apple floating upwards instead of falling in our world, this requires either a change to our physical laws or a change to the configuration of the Earth and the apple tree. Given today’s apple tree, an apple can’t float upwards, so this is not conceivable in the sense Chalmers wants.

The clock and the apple are not examples of what is meant by conceivable. Yes, we can conceive of them, but no, they are not physically possible without a physical change. Clocks running backwards and apples floating upwards are NOT conceivable given our present understanding of nature. So the clock example is incorrect to begin with. Neither example is conceivable given the laws of nature as we understand them today.

What I believe Chalmers means is that one can imagine, and it is perfectly conceivable (ie: does not violate any physical laws / laws of nature as we know them today) to imagine a person, identical in every way to a person today, who has no phenomenal consciousness. For this to be true, we should be able to imagine examining every physical fact about a person without the need to resort to explaining phenomenal consciousness, and those physical facts should, in principal, provide sufficient explanation about the person to describe everything that can be observed or measured. We should be able to look at the interactions of all the neurons, all the molecules, and not need any other observation to describe everything that is happening. In principal.

If we can conceivably describe everything that happens to a person, their brain, their body, etc… without resorting to explanations about phenomenal consciousness, then zombies are conceivable. Phenomena that violate physical laws are not conceivable in the sense meant here.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 26th, 2016, 12:59 am 

Dave C -

Ah! So this is what you mean by physical information. More than anything it shows quite clearly the explanatory gap.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Don Juan on March 28th, 2016, 4:22 am 

Dave_C » March 26th, 2016, 3:56 am wrote:Granted, a clock won’t run backwards without some change to the clock as Alex points out. But I think Alex has misrepresented the argument. We agree on the clock but this argument fails to address the salient point of the zombie argument....Yes, we can conceive of them, but no, they are not physically possible without a physical change.


Carruth seems to be suggesting mental mapping of the physical as it says " think of a mechanical clock..." "...mental picture...", ie, when we consider such issues, we take note if whether our concept is close to the territory it is trying to represent. If we are in that mindset, it is hard to grasp what Chalmers is arguing, unless we ignore the connections between body and mind.

What I believe Chalmers means is that one can imagine, and it is perfectly conceivable (ie: does not violate any physical laws / laws of nature as we know them today) to imagine a person, identical in every way to a person today, who has no phenomenal consciousness.

Perfectly conceivable with respect to what? With respect to the current state of knowledge we have?
Where specifically is the point of coherence between the concepts of identical makeup and lack of phenomenal consciousness in the "zombie"?

If we can conceivably describe everything that happens to a person, their brain, their body, etc… without resorting to explanations about phenomenal consciousness, then zombies are conceivable. Phenomena that violate physical laws are not conceivable in the sense meant here.


What do you mean? Describing what happens to a person necessarily denies the existence of what he can experience for himself?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Don Juan on March 28th, 2016, 1:08 pm 

BadgerJelly » March 25th, 2016, 8:15 am wrote:Don -

It is of something. I don't literally see brightness I see the birghtness of SOMETHING. To say I see colour is a misdirection of language away from the intended object that has the a quality of colour.


Is it really a misdirection? Which do you have access first, what you see or the intended object?

Colour exists as an aspect of an object as does sound. I don't just "blindly" see or hear. If if I imagine, I imagine something.


But what do you actually see and what is presupposed in the statement that you see?

No object of intention is no meaning. Consciousness of no thing is not consciousness. Absense is conditional of something being present. You can say this in numerous ways.


Do you mean 'consciousness of nothing (whatsoever) is not consciousness? Would you like to clarify?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on August 7th, 2016, 1:11 pm 

Just stumbled across this YouTube video that goes through the knowledge argument very nicely.

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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby PaulN on June 18th, 2019, 1:19 pm 

Revisiting David Chalmers, in this new article in the NYT....

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/18/opin ... ogin-email

If you haven't read this thread, or the related threads you will find if you search "David Chalmers" here, this is a useful entry into the questions that have dominated his career as a philosopher of mind.

(if you are a nonsubscriber, at your free article limit for the NYT, just switch to Incognito Mode, or sign up for the free trial, which should give you about ten free articles)
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