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 Serpent on February 18th, 2016, 10:27 pm 

moranity - - well Decarte coming up with the duality of body and soul freed science from the confines of religious dogma and allowed it to grow in europe, that's quite a big difference. It drew a line over which neither science and religion were allowed to cross and allowed science abit more freedom from the church


Are you sure? I thought he pretty much caved to prevailing dogma - or at least kept his nethers well covered. It may have kept the priests off his own back, but did nothing for scientists they found objectionable.
The bastard also said dogs were automata and their shrieks of pain, no more than the noises an unoiled machine makes.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on February 18th, 2016, 10:36 pm 

Serpent » February 17th, 2016, 10:12 pm wrote:
moranity -- so do you mean if a phenomenon is not explained by known physical laws it is not physical?


I'm also perplexed by the word 'description'. What is a physical description and how does it differ from some other kinds of description? What other kinds are there? What would be an example of a non-physical description?

What I don't understand that's most relevant here is the distinction between 'description' and 'explanation'. I'm not sure how those words are being used in the discussion of processes generated by, perceived by and experienced by physical entities, and how processes are distinguished from phenomena.

T. Burbank - - I can understand water emerging (can we say this?) from hydrogen and oxygen, but all three of them are physical. My mind is not physical

Emegence doesn't take up space or have mass; neither is/does hydrogen bonding, photosynthesis, or watching a movie. These are processes performed by matter that does take up space and have mass. We have no problem attributing single actions or easily traceable processes to a physical cause, and we can see and measure the physical result. Data reception, data storage, data-processing, risk-assessment, plotting, responding, etc. are all perfectly comprehensible physical activities when undertaken by a machine - even though not one operation can be weighed or sized.
Putting a collective name - mind - on a very long and complex series of actions performed over a long time by a great many co-operative micro-organisms doesn't put that process onto a different plane of existence. Mental process shouldn't present such a big obstacle. The problem is a superficial semantic one. Use verbs instead of nouns and you're fine.


Braininvat » February 18th, 2016, 11:56 am wrote:There's a lot we don't know about neutrinos …

Thanks for that, I think this might be getting to the heart of a lot of heartache…

I haven’t really tried to look up definitions of physical, description or explanation. I think it’s recognized that these are difficult to define. I quoted the below from Jackson in the OP precisely because it is widely recognized that trying to define definitions for certain terms like these can be very difficult. Here’s what he says about a definition for “physical information”:

I will use the label 'physical information' for this kind of information. I do not mean these sketchy remarks to constitute a definition of 'physical information', and of the correlative notions of physical property, process and so on, but to indicate what I have in mind here. It is well known that there are problems with giving a precise definition of these notions, …


My understand: physical information is used to describe objectively observable interactions between things. So when we describe the objectively observable interactions, that’s a description in the sense meant here. Take for example the way Hodgkin and Huxley describe the interactions within a squid axon by using an electrical circuit analogy. The description is of a physical phenomenon, so we can call it a physical description. For Jackson, the way we describe this physical phenomenon requires we describe it using physical information such as what Hodgkin and Huxley are doing. They are using physical information regarding voltage potentials, resistance, capacitance, etc… to describe what physically happens.

It wouldn’t be correct then to say that emergence takes up space or has mass. Emergence is a concept (or an adjective depending on its use) and concepts don’t take up space or mass. But hydrogen bonding, photosynthesis and interactions between neutrinos and matter are physical processes that have a physical description. So to describe hydrogen bonding, photosynthesis or neutrino interactions in any rigorous way will require we use physical information. Not only are these phenomena physical, they can be given physical descriptions using mathematical equations.

The question then is, “What physical phenomena can’t be given a physical description using physical information?” We would like to say every single phenomenon can be given a physical description, and it’s to this point I brought up the concept of finding a physical description for economics and morality in the OP. That may actually have been a bad choice on my part because understanding how to find a physical description of those things using physical information is very difficult, but I think we can find physical information for all objectively observable phenomena, economics and morality included. It’s just not as obvious as more simple examples such as squid axons.

The problem really is, how can we find physical information for some phenomenon that is not objectively observable? How can some phenomenon that is only subjectively observable be described using physical information? I suspect the problem some people will have is why we should be bothered to worry about how to describe these subjective experiences. These experiences supervene on, if not are caused by, physical processes, so what additional phenomenon is there which requires a description? The answer is qualia which has a qualitative, if not quantitative, description. Qualia, so the story goes, can't be described objectively because they are not objectively observable so we can't create an objectively observable (ie: physical) description of them.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on February 18th, 2016, 11:45 pm 

Dave_C -

As always its a language problem. Philosophy is about language and its applicability ... anyone who says otherwise doesn't understand language XD haha!

Serpent -

It is more about the attitude that language gives us about how and what we say we understand that I am getting at. Of course language is amazing in allowing us to give an outline of what we feel. My worry is always how precise what I say is compared to what I feel and when I verbalise it how I actually alter the feeling itself.

Simple words like true and false when looked at closely become impossible to define because language is self defining and when I talk about what I feel it is an approximation not a sensation that is being communicated. I image in the future we'll be able to transfer direct experience to someone else by some technological means but even then only I can feel what I feel and if you feel exactly what I feel you are not you you are me! (that may be pedantic but doesn't make it untrue! haha!)

Language is built on experience and uses experiences to function. The experience is the heart of communication not language. Simply put I can only describe an animal to you because you know what legs, teeth, fur, etc., is by experience.

In all this I am simply suggesting that physicality is a heuristic of experience. How useful this is or isn't simply depends on if you find a benefit from it or not.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby T. Burbank on February 19th, 2016, 1:26 am 

Serpent,

Thank you for your response. Regarding a couple of the points you raised:

Emergence doesn't take up space or have mass; neither is/does hydrogen bonding, photosynthesis, or watching a movie. These are processes performed by matter that does take up space and have mass.

I'm not thinking that "emergence" should take up space and have mass. But as I understand it "mind" is not identical to "emergence," it is the result of "emergence." And so, just as the emergent result of the process of hydrogen bonding (water in this case) takes up space and has mass....

I also don't think mind belongs in the same category of non-physical things that the process "watching a movie" belongs to. For one thing because mind is self aware.

Putting a collective name - mind - on a very long and complex series of actions performed over a long time by a great many co-operative micro-organisms....

Well, it isn't clear to me that this is in fact what I'm doing when I talk about my "mind." To me, my mind is the same one I had even before the last 24 hours for example of complex actions; it just has some new memories, etc. to work with now. While probably having lost a few more old ones that I don't even realize it lost yet. But I know you see the situation differently. Out of curiousity, do you consider "body" to also be a mere collective name for a complex series of actions performed over a lengthy time?


Moranity,

according to your definition light is non-physical

Exactly! And yet light does interact with the physical world! (Nahhhhhhh, just joking - sort of. I'm confused about the nature of light, and definitely not qualified to discuss it with any certainty. Although I guess a photon has energy, so can it ultimately be massless?)

Having mass and occupying space is clearly too restrictive to you as a definition of the physical. I note your comment earlier in this thread that you're "lost as to what physical means," but is there another alternative quality that you think should absolutely be included besides mass and spatial presence?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby moranity on February 19th, 2016, 8:07 am 

Hi T. Burbank,
if light is non-physical then all is non-physical, as most physical interactions between matter involve photons, be they virtual (short lived), or regular, photons. All contact your body makes with the external world is through the mediation of photons, excepting neutrinos and the weak force, which account for nuclear decay. Touch, site, smell, vibration are all through the mediation of photons, we know nothing of the world, except what photons tell us, well nearly nothing. The only senses that are non-photon based are inertia, acceleration and balance.
Physics deals with all this, i would say, as a cheatingly easy description, what physics deals with is physical. To me physics deals with objective reality, so all that is objectively real is physical.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Serpent on February 19th, 2016, 11:29 am 

T. Burbank - - Well, it isn't clear to me that this is in fact what I'm doing when I talk about my "mind".
To me, my mind is the same one I had even before the last 24 hours for example of complex actions; it just has some new memories, etc. to work with now. While probably having lost a few more old ones that I don't even realize it lost yet. But I know you see the situation differently.

How we talk about ourselves is rarely an accurate description of what actually happens. When we use the possessive form: "my mind", to whom does that mind belong? Suppose you "lose your mind", who experiences the loss? If someone can say "I've lost my mind" it is obviously untrue. When someone says "I'm losing my mind." it is usually hyperbole. When we say, "my body", to whom does that body belong? When your body dies, what does your mind experience?
In fact, the mind is a process of the body, just as digestion is a process of the body. The difference is one of complexity and self-regard: digestion doesn't agonize over its own identity and specialness. Yet, without digestion, the mind ceases to function. We don't think about "my electrolyte exchange" very much, or digestion and oxygenation or a thousand other dumb, unselfaware physical processes, even though every one of them affects the functioning of the brain and thereby the state of the "mind".
No, you don't carry the same mind through life, as you might a family heirloom, unchanged. But, because we experience life through linear time, we experience our own identity as continuous and unchanged. At least, most of us do. People who have had major trauma, brain tumour or psychotic break might not.

Out of curiousity, do you consider "body" to also be a mere collective name for a complex series of actions performed over a lengthy time?

Has a body no mass? Does it not occupy space? The body is that giant organized society of micro-organisms performing all those dumb, unselfconscious physical actions of which the mind is the latest, most self-important emergent process. If you don't believe it's a physical process, try cogitating in a vacuum or remembering without any sugar in your bloodstream. Minding requires energy.

Cartesian scientists have no problem regarding rats, pigs, dogs and monkeys are mere machines. No compunction about disassembling them to find out how they work. Yet these are intelligent animals, with "minds" very much like ours.

The big fat stumbling-block is simply: I Am Special!
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby moranity on February 19th, 2016, 1:20 pm 

Serpent » February 19th, 2016, 2:27 am wrote:
moranity - - well Decarte coming up with the duality of body and soul freed science from the confines of religious dogma and allowed it to grow in europe, that's quite a big difference. It drew a line over which neither science and religion were allowed to cross and allowed science abit more freedom from the church


Are you sure? I thought he pretty much caved to prevailing dogma - or at least kept his nethers well covered. It may have kept the priests off his own back, but did nothing for scientists they found objectionable.
The bastard also said dogs were automata and their shrieks of pain, no more than the noises an unoiled machine makes.


Hi Serpent,
i did say abit more freedom, not loads.
It's impossible to prove such connections through history, but there's definitely something to the argument that the strict dualism of Descartes separated matters of the soul from matter
and really i was saying that the argument as to what is physical or spiritual does have an effect on things, what side you come out on does effect your behaviour and so it does matter
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Serpent on February 19th, 2016, 3:53 pm 

moranity » February 19th, 2016, 12:20 pm wrote:i did say abit more freedom, not loads.
It's impossible to prove such connections through history, but there's definitely something to the argument that the strict dualism of Descartes separated matters of the soul from matter
and really i was saying that the argument as to what is physical or spiritual does have an effect on things, what side you come out on does effect your behaviour and so it does matter


Yes, I do get that. Descartes didn't live in a desert: he was both a product of his cultural matrix and a major player; he did influence subsequent thinking and attitudes, but he certainly wasn't alone.
Don't mind me: I'm just scapegoating him and Paul of Tarsus for the era of the clockwork universe. It probably would have gone ahead on schedule, and been just as destructive, without them.

What they accomplished with the matter - spirit distinction is to force us to choose "sides", often combative sides, rather than take a holistic view. But much worse, because of the political power of Christianity, they also silenced the more nature-friendly pagan attitudes, made the human soul - and its religious projections - the only spirit. It allowed us to be indifferent, contemptuous or downright hostile toward our sustaining planet. To me, this is not a positive outcome.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on February 20th, 2016, 8:31 am 

BadgerJelly » February 18th, 2016, 10:45 pm wrote:Dave_C -

As always its a language problem. Philosophy is about language and its applicability ... anyone who says otherwise doesn't understand language XD haha!

Hi BJ. Sorry, but I'm not aware of anyone (philosopher) who says anything about language being the problem with the physical description of phenomenal experience. Do you have any references?

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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby moranity on February 20th, 2016, 2:11 pm 

Serpent » February 19th, 2016, 7:53 pm wrote:Don't mind me: I'm just scapegoating him and Paul of Tarsus for the era of the clockwork universe. It probably would have gone ahead on schedule, and been just as destructive, without them.

I'm definitely with you on Paul of Tarsus being the cause of most of the worlds problems
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby T. Burbank on February 20th, 2016, 8:27 pm 

Moranity,

Tricky stuff, defining "physical." Obviously if everything that is is physical, then physicalism is true. Going down that road I would probably end up defining everything that is as ultimately non-physical, since I tend to think of physical as identical to the former term philosophers used – material – and it seems that concepts like mass and occupation of space that describe matter ultimately do break down.

But until now I'm thinking there are real, ultimate differences between things. For example, a photon I understand to be a manifestation of the electromagnetic force, but isn't it completely distinct in nature from the positive and negative charges behind that force? What is electric charge, actually? I can't picture it. I guess it's everywhere, but what does that mean? There are two electric charges, so they can't both be everywhere (unless there are two everywheres). Where "are" positive and negative charge relative to each other?

Serpent,

Understand how, in one sense, when I say "my mind" it could be seen as an imaginary entity. In another sense, however, it surely means something real to say that the T. Burbank writing these words to Serpent today is the same T. Burbank who wrote some different words to the same Serpent two days ago. Who is this "we" that as you say "experience life through linear time"?

So, okay, my mind and body are collections of processes. But they're not merely that, IMHO. There's something more - whatever it is that "collects" them I guess I could put it as. And ditto for animals' minds and bodies for sure.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Serpent on February 20th, 2016, 10:51 pm 

T. Burbank - - Understand how, in one sense, when I say "my mind" it could be seen as an imaginary entity.

Not imaginary; it is quite real, but misidentified: it's a manifestation of processes, not an entity.

In another sense, however, it surely means something real to say that the T. Burbank writing these words to Serpent today is the same T. Burbank who wrote some different words to the same Serpent two days ago. Who is this "we" that as you say "experience life through linear time"?

Can you step in the same river twice? Of course: it still bears the name Hudson or Ganges or Congo; it still consists of a groove in the same stretch of ground, more or less occupied by more or less fresh water, moving toward an ocean. And also, of course not: it's different water flowing past the same stationary point, with different leaves, gum wrappers, diatoms, fish, effluvia and corpses floating in it.
So do people change all the time, in small ways that don't alter their character or social designation or self-perceived identity. Sometimes, if a decade passes between meetings, you don't immediately recognize an old friend or old flame. Sometimes we are startled awake at night, turn on the bathroom light and don't, for a split second, know who that old person is in the mirror. Sometimes, too, people have life- or perception-altering experiences that change them suddenly and radically. Mostly, we stay approximately ourselves, or at least appear so from the inside.

So, okay, my mind and body are collections of processes. But they're not merely that, IMHO. There's something more - whatever it is that "collects" them I guess I could put it as. And ditto for animals' minds and bodies for sure.

What's "mere" about the fantastic agglomeration of interacting physicalities that manifests as a dolphin or an oak?
What "collected" Italy? It's an identifiable nation, with identifiably unique characteristics: location, size, shape, history, language, culture, government and laws. But then, so was Nubia - and it's not there anymore, even though the geography hasn't changed. What's changed is the people, their social structures and organizations. So maybe Italy, too, is "merely" something Italians do.

The 'more' doesn't need to be superimposed. When lots of organisms do something together, it can be quite amazing enough.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on February 21st, 2016, 10:57 am 

Hi serpent,
Serpent » February 20th, 2016, 9:51 pm wrote:Can you step in the same river twice? Of course: it still bears the name Hudson or Ganges or Congo; it still consists of a groove in the same stretch of ground, more or less occupied by more or less fresh water, moving toward an ocean. And also, of course not: it's different water flowing past the same stationary point, with different leaves, gum wrappers, diatoms, fish, effluvia and corpses floating in it.
So do people change all the time, in small ways that don't alter their character or social designation or self-perceived identity. Sometimes, if a decade passes between meetings, you don't immediately recognize an old friend or old flame. Sometimes we are startled awake at night, turn on the bathroom light and don't, for a split second, know who that old person is in the mirror. Sometimes, too, people have life- or perception-altering experiences that change them suddenly and radically. Mostly, we stay approximately ourselves, or at least appear so from the inside.
...
What's "mere" about the fantastic agglomeration of interacting physicalities that manifests as a dolphin or an oak? ...

Agreed. I think what your point here is that what makes up what we refer to as some physical thing or phenomenon, can change over time. Our brains can change physically over time and every single neuron, every molecule and atom can be replaced, but we still perceive and we can still call that same 'agglomeration' the brain or the Ganges. And the brain will continue to produce similar subjective experiences through time as it changes. These are all perfectly valid, but they do not address the issue at hand regarding physicalism.

[the mind is] Not imaginary; it is quite real, but misidentified: it's a manifestation of processes, not an entity.

So what is not imaginary/real? Here are a few options. Consider one or more but consider how they apply to the phenomenal experience, the qualia (qualitative experience) that supervenes on the brain.
1) It is a concept. Wikipedia seems to have a good definition here:
A concept is a generalization or abstraction from experience or the result of a transformation of existing ideas.[1] The concept is instantiated (reified) by all of its actual or potential instances, whether these are things in the real world or other ideas. Concepts are treated in many if not most disciplines both explicitly, such as in psychology, philosophy, etc., and implicitly, such as in mathematics, physics, etc. In informal use the word concept often just means any idea, but formally it involves the abstraction component.

From the OP:
“… the very idea of a phenomenal concept, conceived of as a concept very different in how it functions from concepts applied elsewhere, is itself confused. On this view, physicalists who have appealed to phenomenal concepts to handle the example of Mary's Room have been barking up the wrong tree (Tye 2009).” Tye is saying that qualia are not even concepts in any way, so this notion is flawed from the beginning.

So Tye is saying that one avenue explored within philosophy is in support of phenomenal experience being nothing more than a concept, but this in fact is not even a starter. He calls it "barking up the wrong tree" which I think we can agree with but explore further if necessary.
2) It is a physical object. I think the Webster dictionary definition works well here. Something that is physical has a material existence. It is something that relates to the natural sciences or to physics and is characterized by physical operations (ie: interactions). Clearly, the brain is one such example. But as Jackson points out, he's not concerned with the brain itself. He's concerned about the physical information that can be used to understand the subjective experience. If we call that a process, then it is not the physical object.
3) It is a process. Again, Webster's definition seems reasonable here.
[A process is} a series of actions that produce something or that lead to a particular result.
(1) : a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result <the process of growth>
(2) : a continuing natural or biological activity or function <such life processes as breathing>
b : a series of actions or operations conducing to an end; especially : a continuous operation or treatment especially in manufacture

Here's where it gets tricky. We can suggest the mind is the process that the brain undergoes. If we look at all the physical information regarding that process and describe that process, we might do something along the lines of what Markram wants to do. The Blue Brain project attempts to use compartment models of neurons and examine interactions between those compartments and also between neurons and higher level assemblies of neurons by utilizing a finite element type of program, similar to programs used for engineering, weather, and other natural sciences, called "Neuron". But is the examination of the physical information gleaned by the Neuron program and other analysis of it, sufficient to describe what it is like to experience a color for example? Birds and many other animals are tetrachromats with 4 cones in their eyes and can experience colors that humans with 3 cones cannot. Can humans know what color a bird experiences by examining the processes in the bird's brain by using FEA type programs such as Neuron or any other tools or analytical techniques used to predict, model or otherwise explain those physical processes in the brain? If not, then we have a case for a violation of physicalism. We can reject that line of thought as Dennett does, by saying it is inconsequential and that qualia, in any real sense of the word, "Does not exist". See for example, "Quining Qualia" by Dennett.
http://www.fflch.usp.br/df/opessoa/Denn ... Qualia.pdf
4) It is a something that occurs (a phenomenon). Let's call a phenomenon "Something that occurs". It can be something physical that undergoes a physical process and all of those objectively observable 'things' can be discussed, modeled, calculated, put into algorithms, etc... But the point regarding physicalism is that phenomenal experiences are in fact something which occurs in a brain, it is something that supervenes on the physical and it is something which in some way reflects the physical process. But is qualia the same as the process? Is it the same as the brain? Is a description of the objectively observable phenomena the same as a description of the subjective experience? And by that we have to mean that the physical information used to describe the objectively observable phenomena is all that is required to describe the subjective experience.


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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Serpent on February 21st, 2016, 5:19 pm 

3) It is a process. Again, Webster's definition seems reasonable here.
[A process is} a series of actions that produce something or that lead to a particular result.[*]
(1) : a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result <the process of growth>
(2) : a continuing natural or biological activity or function <such life processes as breathing>
b : a series of actions or operations conducing to an end; especially : a continuous operation or treatment especially in manufacture

* result doesn't have to be a thing: it can be an event or a change from one state to another, of the same physical entity.
Here's where it gets tricky. We can suggest the mind is the process that the brain undergoes.

We were okay until that last word. The nuclear electric facility doesn't undergo the process of liberating usable energy; it performs that process. The radioactive material undergoes the process. Subjective/objective cases. The brain uses cheesburgers and oxygen to produce mental activity and waste heat.

... But is the examination of the physical information gleaned by the Neuron program and other analysis of it, sufficient to describe what it is like to experience a color for example?


No, of course not. It's sufficient to describe how purple is manifested, how it is perceived and how it is processed - and all of descriptions are possible as a result of all those mental processes. So is the language we use to describe things. So is the ability to compile millions of observations and designate that segment of the spectrum which most humans perceive as purple, so that we can, quite practically, argue with our interior decorator over the nuances of lilac and mauve. It is not sufficient to the sharing of subjective experience.

So what? If the person you're talking to is blind from birth, you can't describe purple to him. That doesn't mean your sight is something other than physical.
If there wasn't a very well understood physical explanation for colour, how could we possibly know that birds - butterflies, octopi, etc. - perceive colour differently from humans?

Our inability to describe something doesn't mean that something must have a different cause from the things that we can describe. Just because nobody has been able to film or write or sing or bottle all of WWII doesn't mean it wasn't real.

You can always be special in your uncommunicable subjectivity, without necessarily being magic.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on February 23rd, 2016, 10:36 am 

Dave_C » February 20th, 2016, 8:31 pm wrote:
BadgerJelly » February 18th, 2016, 10:45 pm wrote:Dave_C -

As always its a language problem. Philosophy is about language and its applicability ... anyone who says otherwise doesn't understand language XD haha!

Hi BJ. Sorry, but I'm not aware of anyone (philosopher) who says anything about language being the problem with the physical description of phenomenal experience. Do you have any references?

Best,
Dave.


Already PM'd you but think this may show what I mean a little better.

We use language to describe the world around us. The physical is basically energy/matter, something physical doesn't need mass. To my understanding it has become more appropriate to look at everything as a field rather than a point mass object although in our everyday lifeworld this is less obvious.

Now when it comes to something non-physical we can only know of it as a kind of shadow in the physical world. How would we know of something like this? I think it is fair to say within the realm of the physical sciences we can only ever hope to skim over something non-physical as it interacts with the physical and by doing so it will be given the name and placed in the jurisdiction of the physical sciences.

I sometimes get the feeling people think I am against scientific method. The truth is I am just calling out science for what it is. A method, and a method we seem naturally inclined towards as curious creatures that are self aware and able to interact in various ways.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Serpent on February 23rd, 2016, 1:14 pm 

Long before there was scientific "method", there were senses: physical beings, such as amoeba, sunflowers, whales and apes, experienced the world through their sensory organs and responded to it by eating whatever tasted good and spitting out whatever was nasty. They also made observations about patterns and relationships" Where it's shady, more minnows - yum! Where it's sunny, more turtles - uh-oh! Maybe common senses are not reliable in the esoteric realm of modern physics, but it's worked pretty well for living.

I think it is fair to say within the realm of the physical sciences we can only ever hope to skim over something non-physical as it interacts with the physical and by doing so it will be given the name and placed in the jurisdiction of the physical sciences.

The bolded part is what I don't get. How does a non-physical anything interact with the physical - and how can you tell, when it did, that it was non-physical?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Don Juan on February 23rd, 2016, 7:08 pm 

Dave_C » February 14th, 2016, 9:04 pm wrote:The question: Is physicalism true or false?



Where is the allowance for uncertainty beyond the choices in this question?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on February 23rd, 2016, 11:19 pm 

BadgerJelly » February 23rd, 2016, 9:36 am wrote:Already PM'd you but think this may show what I mean a little better.

We use language to describe the world around us. The physical is basically energy/matter, something physical doesn't need mass. To my understanding it has become more appropriate to look at everything as a field rather than a point mass object although in our everyday lifeworld this is less obvious.

Now when it comes to something non-physical we can only know of it as a kind of shadow in the physical world. How would we know of something like this? I think it is fair to say within the realm of the physical sciences we can only ever hope to skim over something non-physical as it interacts with the physical and by doing so it will be given the name and placed in the jurisdiction of the physical sciences.

Hi BJ. Always enjoy hearing from you. Thanks also for the PM.

As soon as I wrote my response, I thought it might not convey what I meant very well and I suspect that's the case. As you say, it's always a language problem! lol

The knowledge argument per Jackson presents a serious dilemma for physicalism. Clearly, the best philosophers, scientists, engineers, etc... haven't come to agreement on this topic (let's call it, the "explanatory gap") and we won't resolve it here. But what I meant was that the gap that Jackson (and so many others) present is not one that can be resolved by finding just the right words. Regardless of how we might phrase a response to this dilemma, the problem isn't in finding the right verbiage to explain the problem away, the problem regards the phenomenon itself. The explanatory gap is that we can't find a physical description to explain qualia, even in principal. But if I'm not mistaken, you already agree with this, even if I haven't relayed my thoughts very well in writing!

I agree that language is always a problem in relating what we have in mind to others.

Best regards,
Dave.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on February 23rd, 2016, 11:31 pm 

Hi Serpent,
Serpent » February 21st, 2016, 4:19 pm wrote:
... But is the examination of the physical information gleaned by the Neuron program and other analysis of it, sufficient to describe what it is like to experience a color for example?


No, of course not. ... So is the ability to compile millions of observations and designate that segment of the spectrum which most humans perceive as purple, so that we can, quite practically, argue with our interior decorator over the nuances of lilac and mauve. It is not sufficient to the sharing of subjective experience.

So what? If the person you're talking to is blind from birth, you can't describe purple to him.

Why can't we describe purple so that anyone who is blind from birth can understand exactly what it is like to experience purple? Unfortunately, what you are saying here, is exactly the problem. Dennett has been accused of being a closet dualist for much less.

Our inability to describe something doesn't mean that something must have a different cause from the things that we can describe. ...

Many dualists such as Chalmers, Jackson, etc... would agree with this statement. Hence the title of Jackson's paper, "Epiphenomenal Qualia". Understanding the issues takes a lot of reading.

Best regards,
Dave.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on February 24th, 2016, 12:40 am 

Sepent -

No need for the bit about senses. Like I said we are naturally inclined from birth to adhere to a basic scientific method.

I have no idea how something non-physical can come to interact with something physical and if it could not it wouldn't exist for us ever so is utterly pointless for us to consider other than for exercises of fantasy.

Lets say for the sake of it that there is another plane of existence and that there are brief windows of opportunity for this plane to interact with ours. If these interactions became more and more frequent then the non- physical plane would come to be recognised more and more to everyday people and we would look for a pattern foe this phenomenon. This once utterly otherworldy plane then becomes a physical phenomenon.

So we find something coming from nowhere. Or rather we become aware of a physical phenomenon we previously couldn't/didn't have access to.

Physicalism is a philosophical term. It is used to in a field which is striving to intricate and develop verbal/written langauge in order for us to tackle our questions and develop new questions.

I am sure you'll agree with this ... Is physicalism true or false? It doesn't matter because we are naturally inclined towards a physical world (or for the phenomenologist, the life world). If some otherness exists and cannot, never has and never will interact with anything I have ever or ever possibly will come to now of then it doesn't exist in any realm of relevance by definition.

If something with numerous non-physical properties (whatever that may be - I remain skeptical to such an otherness having its otherness existence but know what I think I know of is limited and that my ignorance implores me to remain open to possibilities that lie beyond my possibly minute capacities) does interact partially with the physical life world I live in then I will only ever know of it by way of this physical manifestation.

There is of course another more fantastical possibility that I myself (whatever that means) possess a non-physical otherness ... going down this road though is not really something for direct objective investigation and will probably remain unknowable but forever seductive for those who wish to believe in the possibility of their immortality in soem sense or another.

I personally do think my existence is special and magical. I see no harm in thinking this. I do see harm in thinking my existence is more special or magical then anyone or anything elses is potentially a harmful and delusional way to view this wonderous thing we choose to call conscious existence.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on February 24th, 2016, 12:54 am 

Dave C -

Sorry to butt in ... Not really :)

We cannot describe purple to someone like that because they lack the experience to understand. We can try to use other senses to describe the impact of viewing such a colour and cross refernce with examples like a sharp sound and then explain the coolness of such and such a colour or how a colour effect us psychologically (culturally etc.) and physically - ie. In a blue room time subjectively seems longer.

Of course these leave a lot to be desired but I find it fascinating to think about what the blind person would make of this and how the reality of the experience would comlare to their imagining it. It is the exposure to a new sense compared to what they would try to imagine of it that I believe will be impossible to explain and hard to understand and recall for the person experiencing this
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Serpent on February 24th, 2016, 12:31 pm 

Okay, then. I'm no philosopher. I leave you more sophisticated minds to wrestle with a problem I cannot perceive.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby TheVat on February 24th, 2016, 12:45 pm 

Why can't we describe purple so that anyone who is blind from birth can understand exactly what it is like to experience purple? Unfortunately, what you are saying here, is exactly the problem.
(DaveC)

The problem seems semantic. I can define "purple" as a summary of perceptual input of light found in some mammalian brains attached to fully functioning eyes. Qualia are perceptual summaries that use information compression algorithms to process a torrent of incoming physical events. The fact that some brains, due to an accident or genetic defect, lack visual input doesn't really take anything away from the definition. The fact that spoken language doesn't fully encompass all of our perceptual summaries, doesn't mean that qualia are somehow non-physical or metaphysically intractable. I can't fully describe what's going on in my stomach after eating a bean burrito to a poor burrito-deprived urchin, but that doesn't mean the process has some magical metaphysical peculiarity that should induce philosophers to tear out their hair. It's reasonable to suppose that if we cured someone's blindness so they could see color, and they are humans like us, then they will get a perceptual summary of purple that is much like ours.

Perceptual summaries, aka qualia, are sui generis summaries, so they don't match up precisely with purely reductive physical accounts. Why would they? I think this whole problem stems from a failure to acknowledge that, as with everything else in life, explanations can occupy multiple levels where scale and complexity and information compression differ. I guess this can create an illusion of mystery, when we don't realize which level we are talking about. Get on the wrong explanatory level and suddenly, whoa, there's a weird ghostly presence in the mechanism!
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on February 25th, 2016, 3:33 am 

What is mystery other than illusion? If something lacks all mystery it isn't mysterious hahaha!! What I find mysterious is how we can view anything without a sense of awe, how we can emotionally cope with anything at all. Why are we not all lying around laughing and screaming at the brilliance of existence (for those that take every literally that is a rhetorical question).

Life is and will remain a mystery to me. If I say life is magical that doesn't mean I believe it is ruled by magical forces.

Kant addresses this subject very well in critic of pure reason. He asks not just simply what we can know before experience but how and why we look beyond experience and to know beyond what is immediate to us. He uses one of his few metaphors about many shipwreaks on the shores of knowledge. Regardless of the empty void we continue to push out into the void in search of more even though there is nothing to suggest there is anything more than what there appears to be. Noumenon is only of use in the negative sense for limiting knowledge and allowing us to know in the first place.

Somethings are beyond our current comprehension. There are no doubt questions we haven't even got close to asking yet because we lack the basic concepts to do so.

What puzzles me about this thread and has puzzled me for some time is what qualia means and how appropriate a concept it is in each given setting. I have seen several times people arguing no end on these forums simply because one mistakes the usage of a word or point blank refuses to accept someone elses use of the word. If we cannot adapt our definitions briefly to accomadate another then why are we here?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Serpent on February 25th, 2016, 9:56 am 

I have seen several times people arguing no end on these forums simply because one mistakes the usage of a word or point blank refuses to accept someone elses use of the word. If we cannot adapt our definitions briefly to accomadate another then why are we here?


As to why we are here - various reasons, most commonly boredom/discontent/dissatisfaction with where we are and what we are doing in in real life.

As to the meaning of words: They are the only communication tool we have in common. If everyone makes up their own definition of any one word, and everyone else briefly accommodates that eccentric or ideological or partisan or mistaken definition, then that word loses its integrity; that word is lost to the common dictionary. Do it to enough words, and you might as well fry hopping brown frees with an ask and cheating your mouse with hood.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby moranity on February 25th, 2016, 9:57 am 

BadgerJelly » February 25th, 2016, 7:33 am wrote:If we cannot adapt our definitions briefly to accomadate another then why are we here?


indeed, adapting definitions is learning
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Serpent on February 25th, 2016, 10:39 am 

moranity » February 25th, 2016, 8:57 am wrote:indeed, adapting definitions is learning

Then what is propaganda?
I have to side with Orwell on this one.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on February 25th, 2016, 10:55 am 

Serious irony ... and again ... and again ... it never stops! Haha
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on February 25th, 2016, 10:58 am 

Dave C -

I am a little puzzled by what is meant by quaila not being a concept. What is meant by this and what other terms are there that are mistaken as being concepts like qualia is?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby moranity on February 25th, 2016, 11:46 am 

Serpent » February 25th, 2016, 2:39 pm wrote:
moranity » February 25th, 2016, 8:57 am wrote:indeed, adapting definitions is learning

Then what is propaganda?
I have to side with Orwell on this one.

what you learn is not always true, infact it never is in all circumstances
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