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 moranity on February 25th, 2016, 12:00 pm 

BadgerJelly » February 25th, 2016, 2:58 pm wrote: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?


a qualia is a raw feel, a basic sensation, like a pin-prick or a bell ring, as far as i know.
so whilst qualia is obviously a concept, the real thing it represents is meant to be the building blocks of thoughts and other sensations, i think... so a qualia can be a thought, or any sensation that is arbitrarily sectioned off from the constant stream of sensation for reflection on
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Serpent on February 25th, 2016, 12:16 pm 

moranity » February 25th, 2016, 10:46 am wrote:
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


Does that [?]sentence have any intelligible content? If we analyzed it, would we have useful new information?

What has misinformation or disinformation got to do with the meaning of words? If you ask for bread and they give you a lump of coal, what have you learned? Next time you're hungry, you ask for coal and somebody slaps your face, because they interpreted it as a racial slur. What have you learned?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby moranity on February 25th, 2016, 12:40 pm 

Serpent » February 25th, 2016, 4:16 pm wrote:What has misinformation or disinformation got to do with the meaning of words?

If you are told that you can eat coal, that is misinformation about the meaning of the word coal, is it not?
You would have learned something about coal, but that thing you learned would not be true, unless you were a coal eating bacteria, then it would be true.
Serpent, to me, being able to expand my definition of an object is a major part of how i learn
I learn about new things and i learn new things about old things
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Serpent on February 25th, 2016, 3:56 pm 

moranity » February 25th, 2016, 11:40 am wrote:
Serpent » February 25th, 2016, 4:16 pm wrote:What has misinformation or disinformation got to do with the meaning of words?

If you are told that you can eat coal, that is misinformation about the meaning of the word coal, is it not?


Maybe. But it may also be misinformation about the nature of food, about your digestive system, and about the nature of coal. I very much doubt your parents would have played such a dirty trick on you. In order to learn a word that corresponds to a thing, a baby has to hear the same word used consistently for that same thing. When you go to another country, you learn a different word for the same thing, but only if they use it consistently for that same thing.
Not if it means something different each time.
You would have learned something about coal, but that thing you learned would not be true, unless you were a coal eating bacteria, then it would be true.

None of those. You already knew what coal was, but you didn't ask for it: you asked for bread. Now, you might think these new people's word for coal is "bread", but the next time you use the word, it means something else. So you have learned nothing, except distrust and maybe fear.

Serpent, to me, being able to expand my definition of an object is a major part of how i learn
I learn about new things and i learn new things about old things

Not if the words keep shifting. You cannot define or describe an object without words that retain their meaning from one communication to the next. You can add to your vocabulary and to your ability to measure and evaluate and discuss objects - but only from a dictionary that's not written on sand.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby moranity on February 25th, 2016, 5:31 pm 

Hi Serpent,
expanding your definition of the sun to include new information about it, is called learning more about the sun, is it not?
to call the sun the moon is not expanding, adapting, a definition of the sun to fit in new information, it is changing which object is called the sun.
i thought BadgerJelly was talking more along the lines of expanding the definition of a thing, rather than changing what the thing was called, or what thing had that name.
As you say, there is no point in having names if people keep moving em about, no one gets anywhere.
That is different to the process of coming to an agreement about what a word means in a discussion, through people expanding their definition of a term to fit in new attributes so as to allow discussion to progress coherently.
We have not yet agreed what "physical" means.
for me there is nothing but the physical, what we call "meaning" and "truth" is just neurones coming together (being excited together in a nice round way) in a way that produces the pleasure we call "meaning" x=x or understanding
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on February 25th, 2016, 8:32 pm 

Hi BiV,
Braininvat » February 24th, 2016, 11:45 am wrote:
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!

Most of that, a dualist would agree with. What you're suggesting, for the most part, does not support nor deny physicalism. Yes, purple can be a 'summary of perceptual input of light' regardless of whether it is a physical percept or a nonphysical one. Qualia are generally understood to be summaries that use (ie: emerge from) information compression algorithms'. That in fact, is what computationalims states and computationalism is moot on the argument. There are both physicalists who are computationalists and dualists who are computationalists. "The fact that spoken language doesn't fully encompass all of our perceptual summaries..." is consistent with a dualist's argument since we can't describe something that is non-physical in physical terms. But it might also be consistent with a physicalist's argument. And because you can't describe certain physical processes doesn't support any argument unless you are suggesting that one can't describe for example, digestion in physical terms even in principal which is surely something any physicalist would reject. We can in principal, describe digestion in physical terms. In fact, we can say everything there is to say about digestion in physical terms without remainder. There's nothing left over once we describe all the physical stuff happening during digestion. Wouldn't you agree?

Regarding reductive physical accounts, there are those (ex: Fodor, "Special sciences (or: the disunity of science as a working hypothesis)") who would argue that economics, and particularly Gresham's law, is nonreductive, but nonreductive phenomena such as economics are clearly physical and can be described in physical terms. Gresham's law being the obvious example. So yes, "explanations can occupy multiple levels where scale and complexity of information compression differ." . To Fodor's point, we may very well not be able to break down economic principles to the underlying physics. But that isn't to suggest and Fodor certainly doesn't suggest, that there is anything nonphysical about economics nor any of the higher level sciences. Those sciences can be explained without remainder in purely physical terms. So yes, there's no doubt this creates the illusion of mystery. But none of that backs up a physicalist argument unfortunately.

Are you familiar with Mary's room? Does Mary, once she leaves her black and white life, discover something new about how the brain represents or summarizes in some way, the perceptual input of light? Can Mary understand what the experience of seeing purple is like before she has that experience by understanding how the brain's physical algorithms work? For that matter, can we know what a bat experiences? These might seem like very simple, even stupid questions. Jackson's paper almost (almost) hides the point he is trying to make. I don't really like the way Jackson's original paper is written. Rather, I would suggest considering what phenomena can't possibly be explained in physical terms as I had stressed in the OP. Economics is a prime example. Morality is another. There are many. But what about those examples can't be explained in physical terms? What additional phenomena needs to be explained other than the physical interactions in an economic system to understand all there is regarding economics? Or any other phenomenon other than qualia for that matter?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby DragonFly on February 25th, 2016, 10:30 pm 

It would seem that underlying energy/mass/information (equivalent terms) can explain all that goes on of/from it, although it's often complicated and subtle.

ALL THAT LIES BETWEEN

Energy is a beauty and a brilliance
Flashing up in its destructance,
For everything isn’t here to stay its “best”;
It’s merely there to die in its sublimeness.

Like slow fires making their brands it breeds,
Yet ever consumes and moves on, as more it feeds,
Then spreads forth anew, this unpurposed dispersion,
An inexorable emergence with little reversion,

Ever becoming of its glorious excursions,
Through the change that patient time restrains,
While feasting upon the glorious decayed remains
In its progressive march through losses for gains.

We have oft described the causeless—
That which was always never the less,
As well as the beginnings of our quest,
And too have detailed in the rarest of glimpses
The slowing end of all of “forever’s” chances.

So then we must now turn our attention keen
To all of the action that exists in-between—
All that’s going on and has gone before,
Out to the furthest reaches, ever-more,

For everything that ever happens,
Including life and all our questions—
Meaning every single event ever gone on
Of both the animate and the non,
Is but from a single theme played upon.

This then is of the simplest analysis of all,
For it heeds mainly just one call—
That of the second law’s dispersion,
The means for each and every occasion,
From the closest to the farthest range—
That which makes anything change.

These changes range from the simple,
Such as a bouncing ball resting still
Or ice melting that gives up its chill,
To the more complex, such as digestion,
Growth, death, and even reproduction.

There is excessively subtle change as well,
Such as the formations of opinions tell
And the creation or rejections of the will.

And yet all these kinds of changes of course
Still become of one simple, common source,
Which is the underlying collapse into chaos—
The destiny of energy’s unmotivated non-purpose.

All that appears to us to be motive and purpose
Is in fact ultimately motiveless, without purpose.
Even aspirations and their achievement’s ways
Have fed on and come about through the decay.

The deepest structure of change is but decay,
Although it’s not the quantity of energy’s say
That causes decay, but the quality, for it strays.

Energy that is localized is potent to effect change,
And in the course of causing change it ranges,
Spreading and becoming chaotically distributed,
Losing its quality but never of its quantity rid.

The key to all this, as we will see,
Is that it goes though stages wee,
And so it doesn’t disperse all at once,
As might one’s paycheck inside of a month.

This harnessed decay results not only for
Civilizations but for all the events going fore
In the world and the universe beyond,
It accounting for all discernible change
Of all that ever gets so rearranged,
For the quality of all this energy kinged
Declines, the universe unwinding, as a spring.

Chaos may temporarily recede,
Quality building up for a need,
As when cathedrals are built and formed,
And when symphonies are performed,
But these are but local deceits
Born of our own conceits,
For deeper in the world of kinds
The spring inescapably unwinds,
Driving its energy away—
As All is being driven by decay.
The quality of energy meant
Is of its dispersal’s extent.

When it is totally precipitate,
It destroys, but when it’s gait
Is geared through chains of events
It can produce civilization’s tenants.

Ultimately, energy naturally,
Spontaneously, and chaotically
Disperses, causing change, irreversibly.

Think of a group of atoms jostling,
At first as a vigorous motion happening
In some corner of the atomic crowd;
They hand on their energy, loud,
Inducing close neighbors to jostle too,
And soon the jostling disperses too—
The irreversible change but the potion
Of the ‘random’, motiveless motion.

And such does hot metal cool, as atoms swirl,
There being so many atoms in the world
Outside it than in the block metal itself
That entropy’s statistics average themselves.

The illusions of purpose lead us to think
That there are reasons, of some motive link,
Why one change occurs and not another,
And even that there are reasons that cover
Specific changes in locations of energy,
The energy choosing to go there, intentionally,

Such as a purpose for a change in structure,
This being as such as the opening of a flower,
Yet this should not be confused with energy
Achieving to be there in that specific bower,

Since at root, of all the power,
Even that of the root of the flower,
That there is the degradation by dispersal,
This being mostly non reversible and universal.

The energy is always still spreading thencely,
Even as some temporarily located density—
An illusion of specific change
In some region rearranged,
But actually it’s just lingering there, discovering,
Until new opportunities arise for exploring,
The consequences but of ‘random’ opportunity,
Beneath which, purpose still vanishes entirely.

Events are the manifestations
Of overriding probability’s instantiations—
Of all of the events of nature, of every sod,
From the bouncing ball to conceptions of gods,
Of even free will, evolution, and all ambition,

For they’re of our simple idea’s elaborations,
Although for the latter stated there
And such for that as warfare
Their intrinsic simplicity
Is buried more deeply.

And yet though sometimes concealed away,
The spring of all creation is just decay,
The consequence and instruction
Of the natural tendency to corruption.

Love or war become as factions
Through the agency of chemical reactions,
The actions being the chains of reactions,
Whether thinking, doing, or rapt in attention,
For all that happens is of chemical reaction.

At its most rudimentary bottom,
Chemical reactions are rearrangements of atoms,
These being species of molecules
That with perhaps additions and deletions
Then go on to constitute another one, by fate,
Although they sometimes only change shape,
But too can be consumed and torn apart,
Either as a whole or in part, so cruel,
As a source of atoms for another molecule.

Molecules have neither motive nor purpose to act,
Neither an inclination to go on to react
Nor any urge to remain unreacted,
So then why do reactions occur if unacted?

Molecules are but loosely structured
And so they can be easily ruptured,
For reactions may occur if the process energy norm
Is degraded into a more dispersed and chaotic form,
And so as they usually are constantly subject
To the tendency to lose energy, as the abject
Jostling carries it away to the surroundations,
Reactions being misadventure’s transformations,
It then being that some transient arrangements
May suddenly be “frozen” into “permanences”
As the energy leaps away to other experiences.

So molecules are a stage in which the play goes on,
But not so fast that the forms cannot seize upon;
But really, why do molecules have such fragility,
For if their atoms were as tightly bound as nuclei,
Then the universe would have died, being frozen,
Long before the awakening of the forms “chosen”,

Or if molecules were as totally free to react
Every single time they touched a neighbor’s pact
Then all events would have taken place so rapidly
And so very crazily and haphazardly
That the rich attributes of the world we know
Would not have had the needed time to grow.

Ah, but it is all of the necessitated restraint,
For it ever takes time a scene to paint,
As such as in the unfolding of a leaf,
The endurations for any stepping feat,

As of the emergence of consciousness
And the paused ends of energy’s restlessness:
It’s of the controlled consequence of collapse
Rather than one that’s wholly precipitous.

So now all is known of our heres and nows
Within this parentheses of the eternal boughs,
As well as the why and how of it all has come,
And of our universe’s end, but that others become.

Out of energy’s dispersion and decay of quality
Comes the emergence of growth and complexity.


(The verse lines, being like molecules warmed,
Continually broke apart and reformed
About the rhymes which tried to be nonintrusions,
Eventually all flexibly stabilizing to conclusions.)
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Serpent on February 25th, 2016, 11:06 pm 

moranity » February 25th, 2016, 4:31 pm wrote:...
As you say, there is no point in having names if people keep moving em about, no one gets anywhere.
That is different to the process of coming to an agreement about what a word means in a discussion, through people expanding their definition of a term to fit in new attributes so as to allow discussion to progress coherently.

That's all I've been saying. Words have definitions. Words are supposed to mean the same thing to all the people speaking the language in which that word is defined. A single word may have several definitions, in which case you choose one, designate your choice, and other people can accept that choice or object to it on specific grounds.
What you can't do is say it means something else, a subjective definition of your own, and expect others to accept that.

We have not yet agreed what "physical" means.

Then we don't know what the hell we've been talking about for three pages.
In which case nothing in this thread makes sense.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on February 26th, 2016, 12:32 am 

Serpent -

I am confused ... if what you say above is true then how on earth does anyone come up with and introduce new concepts into language?

I can say quite clearing for example that Serap means a dog standing on three legs and then use this word as I have stated. I can do this for any word. If you simply refuse to accept this even though it is perfectly understandable ( basically it is the same as using an acronym) then I don't know what to say.

I guess meme shouldn't be in the dictionary and that Dawkins had no right in using it. Should we petition its removal from our language or just except that he was trying to express an idea and used meme as a place holder so we could more easily understand what he was talking about.

People misuse words all the time. By misuse they take on new meanings and sometimes even replace old meanings. Language is fluid and changes. So I am perfectly within my rights to use a word to mean something if I believe it to help the reader better understand my point. If you are the reader with the attitude that I cannot then you'll never understand what I am saying because you simply refuse to do so and choose to blame me for possessing too small a vocabulary or just talking nonsense.

Also think about the first time you learn a new word. Often when we are introduced to a new word we misuse it because the concept is somewhat foreign to us. After repeated use and repeated reading of this word we come to a more clear understanding of it over time (this is easy to remember for anyone who has studied science and recalls their first introduction to terms like entropy).

In everyday speech we don't say light is physical because generally we refer to physical as something we can touch. It is my guess there is exactly the same problem going on when it comes to physicalism. You can choose to believe in what your senses tell you or you can take it with a pinch of salt. Depending on your stance you will be more inclined towards physicalism.

There is one way to view the world and one world to view. There is only my world. I don't actually believe that in the everyday sense and the question as always is why is that. I am limited and by being limited I am allowed to come to an understanding. Without limitation I would have no understanding. I cannot surpass my limitations but I can surpass my expectations. What I expect of reality is not reality it is the limit of my expectations.

Philosophy is actively always pushing towards the limits of language. Philosophy doesn't really care about the nature of reality it only makes the appearance of caring. Experiemental philosophy cares about the nature of reality (what we now call science) but its root is from the subjectuve individual who doesn't experience objects but has objects of experience.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby TheVat on February 26th, 2016, 10:34 am 

Hi, Dave C.


Are you familiar with Mary's room? Does Mary, once she leaves her black and white life discover something new about how the brain represents or summarizes in some way, the perceptual input of light? Can Mary understand what the experience of seeing purple is like before she has that experience by understanding how the brain's physical algorithms work?


Am familiar with M Rm. Limited time today, but will say that my view is that Mary having an understanding of brain's physical operation allows her to know what to expect, and to expect a new color. She doesn't know the "raw feel" just as we don't know the morning's news summary before we read it. But we know what news is and where it comes from. Guess I'm saying we shouldn't reify the subjectivity of phenomena. It's a perspective, not an ontology.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on February 27th, 2016, 12:38 pm 

Brain -

The whole confusion couls simply be that ontology is being used differently. Being more inclined towards ontological idealism than ontological materialism. As has been mentioned before I have previously tried to state that epistemology and ontology are pretty much the same thing for this reason. Even though I say that I understand that I can choose to see a difference if I choose to take more of a materialistic stance.

The way I see it if we assume Dave C is wrong then we have not even tried to understand him. I doubt I will ever agree with anyone to any large degree but I can at least hope to understand their ideas and maybe even find use for them in the future.

Dave C -

I am still having trouble with what you mean by qualia. To me it sounds like phenomenal experience. Is that what you mean when you say qualia? It may help me understand if you use quale to explain?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Serpent on February 27th, 2016, 1:02 pm 

BadgerJelly » February 25th, 2016, 11:32 pm wrote:Serpent -

I am confused ... if what you say above is true then how on earth does anyone come up with and introduce new concepts into language?


The difference between evolution and mutation.
A new mutation manifests in a single individual. If that mutation is harmful, the individual will die, or fail to reproduce. If it's harmless but unproductive, it may lie dormant for generations, making no difference to the species. If it's useful, it will be passed on to the next generation and the next and eventually become a characteristic of the species.
If, on the other hand, the whole species is exposed to some radiation that generates sudden random mutation, that will cause havoc in the life cycle and the species will probably not recover.

The same thing happens to language. Natural change happens over time, as populations adopt a new word, or adapt an old word to a new meaning; then the dictionary is updated and literature follows suit, and the language remains robust.
Local slang is transitory: like individual harmless mutation, it lingers for a while, then disappears; it doesn't need to be included in the dictionary. When sudden extreme change is introduced by too many people tinkering with too many words, Babel happens.
When language is deliberately manipulated for political advantage, or by any special interest group for any reason, it becomes an instrument of oppression and a source of cognitive dysfunction. This is what Orwell was on about. This is what happened to the USA: Americans can't even read their own constitution; can't discuss their own governance or economic structure - because their words have been hijacked and mutated.

I guess meme shouldn't be in the dictionary and that Dawkins had no right in using it. Should we petition its removal from our language or just except that he was trying to express an idea and used meme as a place holder so we could more easily understand what he was talking about.

Petition? No. But I'm not using it, or taking anyone else's use of it seriously, until I see a coherent definition. As a place-holder for a nebulous idea, it's fine... I guess. But how many of those can a dictionary accommodate, before it becomes gobbledegook?

Language is the tool of thought. That's why I try to defend it.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on February 27th, 2016, 9:51 pm 

Hi BJ,
BadgerJelly » February 27th, 2016, 11:38 am wrote:Dave C -

I am still having trouble with what you mean by qualia. To me it sounds like phenomenal experience. Is that what you mean when you say qualia? It may help me understand if you use quale to explain?

Yes, qualia are phenomenal experiences and the terms can be used interchangeably.

moranity » February 25th, 2016, 11:00 am wrote:a qualia is a raw feel, a basic sensation, like a pin-prick or a bell ring, as far as i know.
so whilst qualia is obviously a concept, the real thing it represents is meant to be the building blocks of thoughts and other sensations, i think... so a qualia can be a thought, or any sensation that is arbitrarily sectioned off from the constant stream of sensation for reflection on

Just thought I'd add to this. Just as conservation of energy or conservation of mass are concepts, what they represent are not concepts, they are phenomena in the sense that the concepts pick out something that happens in our universe that is objectively observable and true to the highest degree we can measure. Similarly, we can consider the concept of qualia but the concept picks out phenomena in this world that are subjectively observable, not objectively observable, but that is an opinion I would share with dualists.

BadgerJelly » February 27th, 2016, 11:38 am wrote:The way I see it if we assume Dave C is wrong then we have not even tried to understand him. I doubt I will ever agree with anyone to any large degree but I can at least hope to understand their ideas and maybe even find use for them in the future.

I like this attitude. The only thing I'd mention is that it really isn't DaveC who is right or wrong, it is those scientists, philosophers and others who have written about the topic at length. Understanding what they are arguing about is much more important than worrying about what DaveC believes. I'd love to see arguments based on what Dennett and others have said on the topic.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on February 28th, 2016, 2:48 am 

I am going to struggle here then because I don't understand the meaning behind something being objectively observable as opposed to subjectuvely observable.

It may sound like nitpicking but I simply find more sense in saying I experience phenomenon not observe phenomenon. I make observations by way of phenomenal experience. Just because I can experience you experiencing it doesn't mean I have your experience but I can conclude that the experience is similar or not by interacting with you.

There is phenomenon that does not require interaction with anyone for me to grasp existence and experience existence. If there was not then I could never come to any objective opinion about ... er ... well anything (so to speak).

Physicalism works for us because we have something to work with and can say the world is comprehensible to us completely not now but at least possibly in the far future. If we deny physicalism we are mor einclined towards a kind of surrender to the unknown and are more willing to accept things as unknowable.

I guess I don't understand Dennetts point or simply view his view and don't see what use it is for me. He is at least questioning the validity and usefulness of a reasonably common term so I am thankful for that.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby T. Burbank on February 29th, 2016, 4:32 am 

I'm not sure how well you can separate your consciousness from the other phenomena that you are conscious of, but to the extent that that is possible I would like to try again to state my view of the mind-body problem. It probably sounds pretty off the wall, but you've gotta go with what you've got so here goes:

There is nothing else that I am familiar with that is at all comparable to my conscious mind. Not my head on my shoulders, not my reflection in the mirror, not the rush-hour sidewalk I stride along brooding about this stuff, not the breeze nudging the fallen leaves across the sidewalk in front of me as I stride, not the dog straining at its leash to make physical contact with this approaching phenomenologist, not the apologetic smile on the face of the girl gripping that leash, not (with apologies to Serpent) the processes ("data reception, data storage, data-processing... etc.") being carried out by machines in that office building I just strode past, not (with apologies to BIV) burrito digestion, not my name or any other abstract concepts like (with apologies to DaveC) economics, not the Academy Awards....

Not even that other one-of-a-kind magical life experience - sex.

All of these things (with the exceptions of economics and my name) are phenomena in the everyday physical world around me. I would think that they themselves (although not my experiences of them, which are going to involve qualia) can all be completely explained in physical terms. At least potentially.

But while I am conscious OF these phenomena, I am not conscious of any consciousness that they themselves may have. I do of course infer the consciousness of other minds - i.e. those of other animals including humans. And who knows, maybe there are other things in the world around me - trees and plants, digestive enzymes, Mother Earth - that are conscious, and I just don't have the perception to recognize that in them.

All inference and speculation aside, however, this salient fact does remain clear: the ONLY consciousness in existence anywhere that I have first-hand awareness of is that of my own mind. (I'm sure anyone reading this will admit the same of his/her own conscious experience).

And so I think my mind can be said to be on a truly different plane of existence from these other phenomena. But as to whether it can be described by the term "non-physical".... well, I had thought mass and taking up space were sufficient to define physical, but seemingly not. I was thinking that, if s.th. is physical, then you have to be able to tell me (at least potentially) what it is made of, how much it weighs, where it is located... those kinds of things. Like you can tell me about "physical" things in the everyday world - my head on my shoulders, my reflection in the mirror, etc....

But that doesn't work for the mind. We can't say that the mind is made of molecules, atoms... any of the building blocks of matter. We can't say that it has a weight, or that it takes up space (even if its existence in the everyday physical world around us does seem to be localized). But how can something lacking these characteristics interact with things that ARE made of molecules and atoms and DO take up space? And yet the mind does interact with them. Somehow. Through the exchange of photons presumably. And so even if this is not ultimately a case of non-physical interacting with physical, it is still sort of incredible when you stop to think about it. Because at the level of everyday experience at least, the conscious mind seems very different in essence from everything else that it interacts with.

Now if I ever learn enough about quantum mechanics so that I can dive at least metaphorically down to the subatomic level, then maybe I will see that all of these differences in essence may break down and it is not incredible at all that my mind can interact with the "everyday physical" world. Maybe I will see that there is ultimately only one basic kind of substance. Until then... it sure doesn't look like that from up here.

Fun thought: It is interesting that, as we sit around discussing the nature of the mind, our minds are an inseparable part of that discussion. Can't have a discussion of anything without the mind. Nor run a scientific test of the subatomic nature of reality without the mind being an inseparable part of the reality being tested. And so, in the description of subatomic reality emerging from such tests, I wonder... what part of that description is it that reflects consciousness?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby TheVat on February 29th, 2016, 12:42 pm 

I found the SEP article on the "knowledge argument" (built on Mary in the Room thought experiment) rather helpful as a review of some of the arguments for and against -

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qualia-knowledge/

I found the Ability hypothesis interesting, that Mary's new knowledge of the color blue when she is released from the room, is not so much knowledge-of-what-it-is as it is "knowledge-how." IOW, if we know how to identify colors, how to separate them from each other, how they relate to other physical facts, then we are actually knowing what the "phenomenal" aspect of that color is. (Dennet addresses this with his "blue banana" example...) Or, to borrow Nagel's famous example, we could know HOW to perceive as a bat perceives, how to organize and interpret, and this how-to knowledge could be assembled from a physical explanatory scheme. Knowledge OF can be rendered as knowledge HOW TO. Those who wish to argue against physicalism (and thus for the knowledge argument of Frank Jackson), may want to read the objections that are summarized to the AH.

(and yes, I am returning to the OP, and a sub-link from one of its links)
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby moranity on February 29th, 2016, 1:39 pm 

i just don't see how saying you cannot recreate my experience in your own mind means that my experience is non-physical.
you cannot know a tree, you can only know it's effects on you, does that mean a tree is non-physical?
No two things are ever the same in reality, thats one of the rules, if nothing else, they are in different places, so are not identical.
no two brains are identical, so how can two people experience the same thing?
all dualists are saying really is that another person is a closed box to us, we are alone etc, why the introduction of magic?
none of us can know what it is for another to experience blue.
1) Mary has all the physical information concerning human color vision before her release.

(2) But there is some information about human color vision that she does not have before her release.

Therefore

(3) Not all information is physical information.

the information she gains on her release is given to her by her nervous system, it is apriori due to structure of her nervous system.
One might say this information is encoded in her structure but she is not aware of it until it is used.
no magic here
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on February 29th, 2016, 11:43 pm 

Things are consciously appreciated. Things are physically appreciated because of consciousness. From here we can either choose to say consciousness is because of the physical or the physical is because of consciousness. Consciousness cannot be doubted but the physical can. If we cannot doubt we cannot ken anything. So consciousness is only possible bwcause we can only grasp towards what we call physical and never envelope it.

I will always relate clnscious experience to physical phenomenon because that is what consciousness does.Just because consciousness is does not mean that is all there is and just because consciousness comes to be the way it is because of phyaical phenomenon does mean that that is all there is.

To say the consciousness is a physical thing makes as much sense as saying the physical is a conscious thing.

This is how I see the heart of the problem and why it cannot be explained away.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Neri on March 1st, 2016, 8:00 am 

There is considerable confusion surrounding the use of the expression, “physical.” To be physical, a thing need not be material. However, it must be spatiotemporal. That is, it must involve motion, change, happening, causation, light, heat and the like. Because all of these things are dynamic, energy is indispensible to whatever is physical.

Although material objects appear to be immanently unchanging (purely spatial), they are actually dynamic, however imperceptible their transitions may be.

A world without time and space is no world at all. Because a world in which time is a kind of space would exclude all motion, change, causation and energy--it is no more than a mathematical fiction.

The notion of a world that transcends time and space is a mystical fantasy unsupported by empirical evidence and as such deserves to be rejected out of hand.

Qualia are physical for the following reasons:

(1) A quale is temporally extended. Indeed, if one experienced it for no time at all, he would experience nothing.

(2) A quale is limited to the spatial extent of the brain. This gives it its subjectivity, its privacy.

(3) A quale is caused by spatiotemporal interactions in the
brain.

For the same reasons, beliefs, opinions, abstractions, moral judgments and the like are physical.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby rdai on March 1st, 2016, 10:55 am 

Neri » March 1st, 2016, 8:00 am wrote:There is considerable confusion surrounding the use of the expression, “physical.” .....energy is indispensible to whatever is physical.

......beliefs, opinions, abstractions, moral judgments and the like are physical.



well....here we need first to be not confused about the expression, "energy". We might say that GWs take away of energy from the system, or we might say that book is full of energy.....They are different kind of energy......

Of course we can say everything is physical without even any effort to debate on it....just define the word of "physical" to be "EVERYTHING".....then everything would be physical.......but that is against the common use of the term physical......
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby TheVat on March 1st, 2016, 12:42 pm 

The OP is not about the statement that everything is physical. It is rather about the thesis that everything can be completely described and understood by a purely physical account.

A thread on "is everything physical," would be called "Monism, true or false?" I don't think there would be much debate here on that one, because we have few supernaturalists here.

When people talk about dualism here, they don't mean Cartesian dualism, they mean "aspect dualism," which acknowledges that everything is physical but that some aspects of those physical things can only be understood as subjective phenonmena and will not be fully understood in terms of mapping their causal structure and objective measurements of all energy transactions. These two kinds of dualism are quite different from each other.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby rdai on March 1st, 2016, 1:04 pm 

Braininvat » March 1st, 2016, 12:42 pm wrote:that everything is physical but that some aspects of those physical things can only be understood as subjective phenonmena and will not be fully understood in terms of mapping their causal structure and objective measurements of all energy transactions.


this does NOT clarify whether we can use what Neri referred as physical to call Qualia as physical.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on March 1st, 2016, 10:33 pm 

Hi neri,
Thanks for chiming in.
Neri » March 1st, 2016, 7:00 am wrote:The notion of a world that transcends time and space is a mystical fantasy unsupported by empirical evidence and as such deserves to be rejected out of hand.

Qualia are physical for the following reasons:

(1) A quale is temporally extended. Indeed, if one experienced it for no time at all, he would experience nothing.

(2) A quale is limited to the spatial extent of the brain. This gives it its subjectivity, its privacy.

(3) A quale is caused by spatiotemporal interactions in the
brain.

Yes, qualia are understood to supervene on the physical. They supervene on the brain. What I mean by supervene is per SEP:
A set of properties A supervenes upon another set B just in case no two things can differ with respect to A-properties without also differing with respect to their B-properties. In slogan form, “there cannot be an A-difference without a B-difference”.

As we shall see, this slogan can be cashed out in many different ways.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/supervenience/

The belief that phenomenal properties supervene on physical properties in some way (ie: the physical state of the brain) is a belief held by both physicalists and dualists so I'm afraid we won't get much traction with this approach.

I believe BiV was responding to you but I won't put words in his vat. I know there are a number of different ways "dualism" can be interpreted but in the context here, I like the way BiV has defined it.

Note also that Chalmers calls himself a "natural dualist" as do many others. I do think though that once you go down this road of accusing mental states of not being physically describable, you realize the very serious trouble that can result in. I understand Jackson eventually rejected the Mary's room argument because of the issue of epiphenomenalism, but that is outside the scope of this thread.

BiV, thanks for the comments. I'll get back to you on those soon.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 2nd, 2016, 12:10 am 

Dave C -

What Brain refers to as "aspect dualism" is glaring obvious and unquestionable as we all possess subjectivity. I have to admit I don't understand what this is about anymore. The onky approach against this "aspect dualism" is to deny subjectivity or the illusion of subjectivity which is plain nonsense.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby TheVat on March 2nd, 2016, 12:41 am 

I gather the tricky part (and quite tricky for me, so much thanks for the vote of confidence Dave C, and always look forward to wherever you send this discussion...) lies in demonstrating that another subjective state is not only inaccessible in practice but also inaccessible in principle. So long as our subjective states are uniquely ours, so long as we "possess" them, then will aspect dualism feel like solid ground to most people. What if some kind of technology were to change the borders between subjective and objective, I wonder. What if there are amusement park rides in the future where you can experience what it is to be a bat, or what colors aliens see, or what it's like to be Marion Cotillard (am thinking it's pretty sexy...)? Or what if your brain was augmented so it could introspect in a way that you understand how qualia are arising from sensory inputs, so that you would know what you will see when you see a new color, called vleem. These things might be impossible in principle, I just don't have a good handle on that yet.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 2nd, 2016, 1:26 am 

Well ironically if another subjective state is wholly accessible, as in you can literally experience what it is like to be me completely, then I would have to say it could only be possible by some way other than physical because time and space would have to be momentarily transcended to have such an experience.

There is always a problem when trying to address any topic in philosophy because of the many branches that stem from what initially seems like an easy concept. The "isms" can sometime drown you!

There does forever seem to be a divide between isms such as materialism, empirism and physicalism and other clusters such as idealism and rationalism. None of them can stand alone and over time it appears we are intricating these terms more and more.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby T. Burbank on March 2nd, 2016, 3:19 am 

Neri - A quale is limited to the spatial extent of the brain.

Not sure we can say this. If I step on a sharp piece of broken champagne bottle the quale known as pain seems to be localized in my foot. The neurons in my brain are of course necessarily involved, as are the sensory nerve endings in that foot....
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 2nd, 2016, 4:57 am 

Burbank -

Forgive me if I am wrong but I think the point was that we work by what Kant called intuition. That is what we know is based on time and space because we cannot know anything in any other sense.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby T. Burbank on March 2nd, 2016, 8:10 am 

Oh... If so then oops, sorry about that Neri. Please disregard.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby rdai on March 2nd, 2016, 10:38 am 

BadgerJelly » March 2nd, 2016, 12:10 am wrote:Dave C -

What Brain refers to as "aspect dualism" is glaring obvious and unquestionable as we all possess subjectivity. I have to admit I don't understand what this is about anymore. The onky approach against this "aspect dualism" is to deny subjectivity or the illusion of subjectivity which is plain nonsense.


Agree! I learn and perceive things by comparison of commonplaces and differences....language helps us to mark the knowledge and concepts we learn......now we might see the commonplace of Qualia to what the term physical normally tells us and say Qualia is physical as Neri is trying to do...we might also see the difference of Qualia to what the term physical normally tells us and say Qualia is NOT physical.......It seems both are alright, but the trouble is that we only have one word "Physical" to play here....then we need to weigh out which way is better for human intellectual advancement......
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