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 PhDimwit on March 2nd, 2016, 4:21 pm 

Nothing/No thing in this predominant present context of being human can be absolutely defined, interpreted, experienced, only approximated. All common approximations are the compilation of the majority's sense abilities. After experiential imprint by the senses, the brain/body forges a programmed pattern for survival, though, in most cases, is not the optimum program. If physicalism was a constant, and the only determinant, our programs would be identical, and less likely to crash.

Are senses feelings? They are tactile feelings, but not interpretive feelings. Today I feel positive/content; tomorrow negative/depressed. My 5 senses may feel the same in both instances. Chemical imbalance in brain/body? Not substantiated as cause, only effect. Some think if enough variables in synapses, neurons and elements are monitored, all behavior could be encapsulated. The bugaboo in this is abstract thinking, which seems an inherent potential of the human condition, else there would be no need/desire to discuss it, especially the materialist.

The sum of the senses seems greater than the parts, and there may be a ghost in the machine. In effect, what's the matter with matter?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby TheVat on March 2nd, 2016, 7:30 pm 

Really helps to read the entire thread, figure out what the central topic is, and then formulate a specific reply based on a genuine acquaintance with this area of philosophy. This greatly increases your odds of getting a response. Best of luck.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on March 2nd, 2016, 11:25 pm 

I appreciate your post, BiV.
Braininvat » February 29th, 2016, 11:42 am wrote: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)

How do you interpret this “knowledge-how”?

Jackson might argue that if we know how to identify the wavelength of light, if we know how some phenomenon such as the interaction of fields we call light, interact with other physical things, then we still don’t know what the correlating phenomenal experience is like. Not because we don’t understand how today. Not because we couldn’t at least know in principal, the physical state of every neuron, every molecule, every atom of the brain. But we couldn’t possibly know what the correlating phenomenal experience is like because the information we need to create that understanding is not physical information. The information needed to describe (to understand) what the phenomenal experience is like is not the same information needed to understand what the physical state is of any given chunk of ‘physical stuff’.

I don’t like the blue banana by Dennett. It simply isn’t a good bit of philosophy IMHO. Consider the inverted spectrum. If the ONLY bit of information you have about the color of a banana when you look at it for the very first time is the experience you have when you see it, then you have no basis for determining the wavelength. You need someone to tell you that the sky is blue, the lemon is yellow, and blood is red. Yes, Mary can take colored bits of paper with her and place them next to the banana and find it is blue. But she has no ability to identify color when she walks out of the room without bringing a reference with her, because there is no physical description for what she sees until she has the knowledge (associated with memory) of what a color looks like. She has no ability to associate one phenomenal experience with another until she actually experiences the phenomenal experience in question!

BiV, BJ, moranity, you’ve all mentioned something having to do with how one person can’t experience something another person experiences. I think that line of thought is unfortunately, going to lead this thread astray. I don’t see how it helps draw out the problems Jackson is trying to identify.

I think, to understand the concept of physicalism, we have to first understand what is meant, and what it means to be able to find physical information that describes some given phenomenon. For example, can we find physical information that describes economies and the economic laws that govern economic systems? I think we can. I think there is purely physical information that can be used to describe every higher order science. All the ‘sciences’ in the humanities or social sciences, should in principal, be explainable using purely physical information. I think we also need to understand what it is to describe something using purely physical information.

Thanks for the thoughts.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 3rd, 2016, 12:51 am 

Dave C -

Jackson is suggesting that the knowledge of how something functions is the same as the experience of it. I said many posts ago that you can study everything you need to know about riding a bike but that doesn't mean you know what it is like to ride a bike.

There seems to be confusion about knowing-about-something and experiencing-something.

I think, to understand the concept of physicalism, we have to first understand what is meant, and what it means to be able to find physical information that describes some given phenomenon. For example, can we find physical information that describes economies and the economic laws that govern economic systems? I think we can.


Can you show then please so I have a better idea of what you are talking about?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 4th, 2016, 3:04 am 

Somethtung else that has come to mind is that I can know with certainty what 1 is but never experience 1 physically. Numbers are the quantifiers not the quantity and because of this they can be experienced on by everyone as knowledge but not as a physical fact.

I think this is something worth considering when we are talking about physical information. If we move the story arou d a little and talk about Mary being a very strange individual that cannot appreciate numbers then when we talk about numbers to her we find she has no appreciation of quantity. Can we ever expect this Mary to appreciate numbers without any ability to conceive of different quantities?

For me if someone cannot conceive of differing quantities then there is no way they could be expected to appreciate numbers and it is certainly not like I can show them a physical number.

I admit there are many more reasons to dismiss this thought experiment than the colourless Mary room. Why question is why? And does this help us understand better what qualia is?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby moranity on March 4th, 2016, 7:39 am 

i think the crux of the problem is that people think that there is something special occuring when their brain makes the noise "one" on request from them.
people think that "knowing the number 1" is something more than being aware that a specific network of neurones (which could encompass neurones all over ya brain) is being excited, eliciting awareness of the number 1.
edited to remove extra explanation
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Neri on March 4th, 2016, 9:51 am 

Braininvat,

Your comments raise the following difficult questions:

(1) If we argue that the conscious experience itself has both a subjective and an objective aspect, do we not make a claim of substance dualism when these two aspects, though they may arise from the same source, have completely different modes of existence?

(2) If we argue that conscious experiences have an irreducibly subjective ontology, do we not likewise make a claim of substance dualism in that these experiences have a mode of existence quite different from whatever has an objective ontology?

To resolve these issues we need to understand that the questions presented are essentially epistemic.

Through the senses, the brain obtains phenomenal knowledge of the world—knowledge of how things in the world appear to its conscious faculty. Yet these appearances correspond spatiotemporally to real events, at least to the degree necessary to appraise and avoid threats.

Our disposition is to call such sensory experiences “objective”--by which we mean that the objects of these experiences exist, as we experience them, in a way that is independent of our knowledge of them. Yet, as we have observed, this is not quite the case.

On the other hand, qualia are called “subjective” because they do not necessarily require the intercession of the senses. For the same reason, qualia are not thought of as physical. Yet this is not actually the case.

The brain has an inner sense that relates to its immanent physical interactions. It creates a phenomenal experience of these interactions, much as it does when they originate outside of it. In other words, the brain knows by direct experience how it appears to itself, not as it really is. Yet unlike the external sense, the internal sense did not evolve to provide knowledge of the brain’s inner workings.

A quale has no object apart from itself, yet it is part of the content of consciousness. The purpose of qualia is to encourage some sorts of behavior and to discourage others --depending on which tends to foster survival. It does this through pleasure and pain [in the most general sense of the latter expression]. This is, of course a matter of natural selection.

In all this, are we dealing with substance monism or dualism?

We are talking about two ways of knowing the same thing. That thing, consciousness, is caused by spatiotemporal interactions in the brain. It is a kind of energy. Therefore, consciousness, as a physical process does not differ from the substance of the rest of the world. This is monism.

The conscious faculty of the brain can know directly how it appears to itself [i.e. without need of the senses]. Obviously, this is not empirical knowledge.

However, in both the case of direct knowledge and empirical knowledge, we are dealing with appearances that at least to some extent correspond to their objects.

The conscious faculty of brains gains empirical knowledge of their own functioning by means of sensory experience regarding such things as: electro-chemical interactions among neurons and the effects on consciousness, qualia and reasoning of drugs, trauma and disease. Brain activity can also be studied by means of magnetic scans, EEG’s, the stimulation of certain areas of the brain and the like. All of this involves the study of the brain objectively (as though it were a thing apart from the conscious faculty we call “ourselves”).

The point is this: The spatiotemporal interactions in the brain remain what they are regardless of how they are experienced in the conscious faculty of the brain—that is, whether by means of either sensory or direct knowledge. Those interactions in themselves have only one aspect, a physical one.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby moranity on March 4th, 2016, 9:58 am 

HI Neri,
that was my extra explanation, done much better than i could have done.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby TheVat on March 4th, 2016, 10:41 am 

"Aspect (n)...

3. a way in which a thing may be viewed or regarded; interpretation; view:
both aspects of a decision."

This would be the meaning of aspect, as used in the term "aspect dualism."

From the outside, we see a brain. From the inside, we see a mind. The functional process of the brain, regardless of how it's viewed, is..physical.

I will review Dennett on blue fruit, before replying further.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby rdai on March 4th, 2016, 1:23 pm 

Neri » March 4th, 2016, 9:51 am wrote:A quale has no object apart from itself, yet it is part of the content of consciousness. The purpose of qualia is to encourage some sorts of behavior and to discourage others --depending on which tends to foster survival. It does this through pleasure and pain [in the most general sense of the latter expression]. This is, of course a matter of natural selection.


that much is what we know about quale...

In all this, are we dealing with substance monism or dualism?


that would be how we interpret it.....it is not yet confirmed by science.....either choice is kind of believing.....


The conscious faculty of brains gains empirical knowledge of their own functioning by means of sensory experience regarding such things as: electro-chemical interactions among neurons and the effects on consciousness, qualia and reasoning of drugs, trauma and disease.


that's right...but right now there is NOT even any pseudo code or architect work could be drafted out to reproduce Quale in a computer system.....which means it might too early for us to tag Quale from either substance monism or dualism......

Brain activity can also be studied by means of magnetic scans, EEG’s, the stimulation of certain areas of the brain and the like. All of this involves the study of the brain objectively (as though it were a thing apart from the conscious faculty we call “ourselves”).


We might see some flashing dots on the screen when measuring human brain activity under some stimulation or during conversation.....but then logically it does not tell us what caused Qualia for the same reason when Hume was discussing cause and effect.....
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 5th, 2016, 2:59 am 

Neri -

It is exactly because of these questions that phenomenology helps. You are correct in calling these things out because it is all too easy to say objectivity has more value when in fact objectivity is only arrived at by a subject. I find it better to say there are extrinsic and intrinic phenomenon but they are both nevertheless phenomenon and representative of the subject.

In phenomenology I believe these are called poles of identity and the terms "noetic" and "noematic" may be of use in this discussion. I will leave that up to you whether or not you find use in these terms for this topic.

Hahaha!! Just realised ontology is extrinsic and epistemology is intrinsic! Man I am so stupid sometimes. No wonder I looked upon them as one and the same XD hahaha!!
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Neri on March 7th, 2016, 8:45 am 

Braininvat,

The problem of clarity is the ghost that has always haunted philosophy.

At the risk of quibbling, I will set out the general meanings of the following nouns:

Attribute—A quality or feature that is an inherent part of something.

Aspect—A particular part or feature of something.

Property—A quality or characteristic of something.

The above expressions--together with others such as “quality,” “part,” “feature,” and “characteristic”--are ontologically centered. That is, they are supposed to tell us what a thing is by listing what is inherent in it.

My analysis is epistemic. It is concerned with how we come to know whatever it is we think we know about ourselves and about whatever may lie outside of us. In this context, I use the expression, “appearances” in preference to any of the above-mentioned nouns.

Accordingly, if both the physical and the mental are intrinsic to the brain as qualities, attributes, properties or whatever else you wish to call them and if the subjective is not reducible to the objective and conversely—we are talking about two entirely different modes of existence in the same thing.

Quite apart from the incongruity of such a notion is the fact that it is a disguised form of substance dualism [with the only addition being that both irreconcilable categories of existence occur in the human brain].

The whole matter is made clearer if we say that we know only how we appear to ourselves and only how what is outside of us appears to us. Of course, the pronouns, “we,” “ourselves” and “us” really refer to the conscious faculty of the brain. I may go so far as to say that first-person pronouns refer to how that faculty appears to itself.

However, I add to this an important exception. Our knowledge of time and space corresponds to the same conditions as they occur in the interactions in both the brain and the rest of the world. That is, action and change are not mere appearances.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby rdai on March 7th, 2016, 2:55 pm 

Neri wrote:Braininvat,
The whole matter is made clearer if we say that we know only how we appear to ourselves and only how what is outside of us appears to us. Of course, the pronouns, “we,” “ourselves” and “us” really refer to the conscious faculty of the brain. I may go so far as to say that first-person pronouns refer to how that faculty appears to itself.

However, I add to this an important exception. Our knowledge of time and space corresponds to the same conditions as they occur in the interactions in both the brain and the rest of the world. That is, action and change are not mere appearances.


If I am not getting it wrong, this should be the original meaning of Kant......I think he did not use the term "brain"......what Hegel added to Kant's theory is that we also know what is going on in our mind, i.e. what we are thinking......I think he might also referred to Descartes' famous "Cogito ergo sum"....of course, What Hegel said is more than "I think, thus I am"......

When it comes to Qualia, it should also includes what we think since we do know we are consciously thinking......
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Neri on March 8th, 2016, 10:16 am 

Rdai,

Kant held that time and space were pure intuitions that were conditions precedent to all human understanding--that is, that nothing can be meaningful to us unless it is placed in an ideal framework of time and space. Because he believed that time and space were not real in themselves but only real to us, he denied action the status of what he called a noumenon.

On the other hand, I have maintained that action is real in itself and that time and space are ideas derived from action--that is, that time and space are discursive and not intuitive. However, I have argued that time and space are well founded in reality, because they purport to measure action. This is an important difference.

To say that one is aware of what he is thinking is to say that he is conscious. In other words, to be real, consciousness must have some content, however minimal. It is not possible to be aware that one is thinking unless one is thinking about something.

As far as qualia are concerned, one is aware of what he is feeling, because all feelings have a recognizable quality.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby rdai on March 8th, 2016, 11:22 am 

Neri » March 8th, 2016, 10:16 am wrote:Rdai,

Kant held that time and space were pure intuitions that were conditions precedent to all human understanding--that is, that nothing can be meaningful to us unless it is placed in an ideal framework of time and space. Because he believed that time and space were not real in themselves but only real to us, he denied action the status of what he called a noumenon.


You are right....I realized later that I was not very careful when I made the previous comment......actually I personally discussed somewhere else my disagreement with Kant's opinion on time and space...

What I was really trying to add in that previous comment is that Hegel had pointed out that we do know what we are thinking......Actually I would say that is the ONLY addition he added in terms of Noumenon......but what he did was like he added lot since he spent a lot to discuss what's wrong with Kantian doctrine in that aspect.....

On the other hand, I have maintained that action is real in itself and that time and space are ideas derived from action--that is, that time and space are discursive and not intuitive. However, I have argued that time and space are well founded in reality, because they purport to measure action. This is an important difference.


For the realness of time and space, physicists have told us more of it right now through LIGO detection and so on.......but what Hegel emphasized was that the meaning of now and this is very personal.....I think Bertrand Russel made further efforts trying to point out that we are living in our own coordinate systems, and our systems are in some kind of correlations.....

To say that one is aware of what he is thinking is to say that he is conscious. In other words, to be real, consciousness must have some content, however minimal. It is not possible to be aware that one is thinking unless one is thinking about something.


This is correct.......I think Hegel was stressed more on the whole contents.....if I am not remembering wrong, he even mentioned something like that we do know what is going on in our culture------obviously that is something that Kantian Noumenon cannot cover, or we might agree with Hegel that Kant was not very right by not covering that aspect in real world in his doctrine......

As far as qualia are concerned, one is aware of what he is feeling, because all feelings have a recognizable quality.


Here, we are struggling with our language again because very often we are not relating "thinking" to "feeling".....

cheers
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 8th, 2016, 11:40 pm 

Neri/rdai -

Don't want to get off topic but what you seem to be saying about Kant is misconstrued. Not going to go over the nuances of Noumeneon and Pure Intuitions here though.

Kant was getting at the point that experience needs a foundation to lie upon which were his Pure Intuitions of space and time. Don't get me started on Noumenon! XD haha

Also

To say that one is aware of what he is thinking is to say that he is conscious. In other words, to be real, consciousness must have some content, however minimal. It is not possible to be aware that one is thinking unless one is thinking about something


I think this needs some fleshing out. I could easily be thinking without thinking about thinking. Needless to say I don't quite understand the meaning of the line in bold.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Neri on March 9th, 2016, 9:41 am 

BadgerJelly,

What I am saying is really quite simple.

To say that one is conscious is to say that he is conscious of something.

For example, I am now conscious of typing this post and of the thoughts and reasoning behind it. I am also conscious of the singing of a bird outside my window. All the while, I am aware that I have pain in both knees.

That is, I am conscious, because I am aware of WHAT I am thinking and feeling.

It is not possible to be aware THAT I am thinking unless I am thinking or feeling something, however minimal. To use the philosophical expression, “consciousness always intends an object.”

If I were infused with propofol for a surgical procedure, for example, I would be conscious of nothing. In other words, I would be unconscious.

I believe I explained this earlier.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby TheVat on March 9th, 2016, 10:11 am 

https://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/dennett/p ... yfinal.htm

Dennett addresses the faulty "intuition pump" of Mary in the room, and considers the blue banana. Had a chuckle at his attack on Ned Block's love of the word "surely."
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 9th, 2016, 10:35 am 

Neri -

I think my problem is that half of what is said I just don't look at the same way others do. I guess phenomenology is my thing and not really anybody elses.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby rdai on March 9th, 2016, 2:35 pm 

BadgerJelly » March 9th, 2016, 10:35 am wrote:Neri -

I think my problem is that half of what is said I just don't look at the same way others do. I guess phenomenology is my thing and not really anybody elses.



I think even though there are meat and bones of phenomenology, the soul of it should be just saying that whatever we study is a combination of our own and the object, not purely object as natural scientists would normally assume.......That's why Hegel started his phenomenology by discussing the personal "now" and "this".......which basically became the base tone of other philosophers like Bergson, Russel, etc.....

Therefore, even though Hegel spent a lot to criticize Kantian doctrine, his own fundamentals are still built on the spirit of the Noumenon.......with exception that he introduced thought as a substance that we know......personally I think that's the main thing Hegel added...........

As for the Kantian intuition of space and time, as I mentioned in last post that when I made comment to Neri's passage I was not very careful that I quoted an extra part to what I really intended to comment.....:)

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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 10th, 2016, 2:05 am 

Dave C -

I guess then if we do know what chemicals are present it what parts of the brain and know about blood flow etc., we can in fact say with reasonabke certainty what someone is experiencing. The physical information may not be the most accurate but we can at least recognise basic functions such as motion, speech, sight, etc,.

All that said I do not think it is possible to explain how a bunch of molecules interacting with my senses gives me what it gives me. Meaning I can never look at a bunch of data (knowledge) and experience the phenomena it represents.

Being this thing called "conscious" is magical and special. That does not mean I think it is magic but I do think its special.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby TheVat on March 10th, 2016, 10:15 am 

You read the Dennett link I just posted?
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on March 10th, 2016, 11:05 pm 

BiV, thanks for posting the blue banana paper. It’s nice to be able to see other perspectives on the argument. I really do appreciate you reading through that and I would like your help in understanding what he’s written.

I presented an issue earlier that struck me as obvious, though I will admit I also had read a paper by Howard Robinson, “Dennett on the Knowledge Argument” who said the same as I had so I can’t take the credit for the earlier argument. It’s already in the literature.
http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.t ... gument.pdf

I have a problem with Dennett unfortunately. I can’t read more than a few pages of his material before I begin to pass out from his hand waving word salad. He drives me bonkers with his attitude. He strikes me as unscientific and illogical. He presents no scientific reason to believe what he says. In fact, he even says so right up front! He states:
… Perhaps a little dialogue would help bring out the intended point:

TRAD: What on earth do you mean? How could Mary do that?

DCD: It wasn’t easy. She deduced it, actually, in a 4765-step proof (for red-once she’d deduced what red would look like to her, green fell into line with a 300-step lemma, and the other colors-and all of the hues thereof-were relatively trivial extensions of those proofs).

TRAD: You’re just making all that up! There are no such proofs!

DCD: This is a thought experiment; I get to make up all sorts of things. …

Yes, Dennett made it up and he knows this. He admits this fully in his paper. He claims to have no scientific nor any logical reason to say what he wrote, he simply made it up and throws the burden of proof on those who would object and he admits this fully. This is not good philosophy. This is hand waving. It’s word salad. Dennett should be utterly ashamed of making these ridiculous arguments. Were he writing a scientific paper, made something up and then claimed that his opponents had to prove him wrong, do we really believe he’d ever get such a paper published in a peer reviewed journal? Dennett claims there is no way to disprove him. I think he’s absolutely wrong.

Dennett doesn’t see the implications of what he’s saying. Once he makes this claim about being able to know what some quale would be like when experienced, does he spend any time going over the implications? I honestly don’t know because I have to force myself to read Dennett and can only stomach a few pages at a time, else I become nauseous. There are a number of conclusions we can derive from Dennett’s contention that one can, in principal, know what a color looks like before we see it. Unfortunately for Dennett, these conclusions prove that Dennett is wrong.
1. Dennett is claiming we can know what is occurring at the microphysical level in our own brains purely by introspection. That is, we can somehow know, in principal, what color cones in our eyes are firing and to what degree since color and all the hues are mixtures of those. He offers no scientific reasoning to suggest how this can be so. We’re not looking for a practical solution, only one in principal. I wonder if anyone has attempted to tackle this one. To make this one very difficult, one must realize that each of us have different numbers of each of the 3 cones, so we have to know in principal, how we can by introspection, know how our cones are reacting to the light. Another individual with a different mixture of cones will have to adjust their own introspection of this microphysical level and know how their particular set of cones act. If we can’t know, in principal and simply by introspection, what cones are firing and by how much, we have to then try to decipher the brain and the underlying computations by introspection. I don’t know how to do this and his claim doesn’t pass “the red face test”, but then again, even if this is possible, Dennett then has to explain away these 2 additional conclusions.

2. Dennett may be suggesting that we can know what our own experience will be like by introspection, but not someone else’s and not what a bat might experience. But this doesn’t seem like what he wants to claim. He may be trying to claim #3 below but I don’t think he’s thought it through sufficiently to even write about it. Again, I can’t bear to read his word salad so please set me straight if he’s addressed this rather obvious problem. So Mary, upon seeing the blue banana, might know what her own experience will be like by knowing everything physical about her own brain and eyes purely by introspection, but not what other experiences are like of other animals such as birds with 4 cones and the ability to distinguish more colors. Let’s say that’s what Dennett wants to argue and I’ll make that assumption for this paragraph. So Dennett realizes then that one can only know our own experiences and not the experiences of others (ex: birds) by knowing everything physical. If this is the case, he’s already shot himself in the foot since he’s saying we can’t know the experience of colors that birds see by knowing everything physical. I’ll leave it there, but there are additional concerns if he really feels this to be true. It’s an illogical conclusion and it doesn’t work.

3. Dennett may NOT be suggesting we know ONLY our own experience by knowing everything physical, he may instead be suggesting we can know ANY experience by knowing everything physical. Again, by introspection alone. But I’ll even grant that Dennett’s Mary has an amazing brain state detector that can analyze her own brain and provide a complete physical description of her brain through time. We won’t even force Dennett to remark on #1 above. Ok, so we can analyze our brain physically and Dennett therefore is saying that we can know how additional colors appear to birds for example (or what bats experience with sonar, etc…). We can know what phenomenal experience they are having to the same degree of accuracy as that animal experiences. Not only animals, but every animal ever born and every living thing conceivable. We can know what those phenomenal experiences are like simply by knowing what physical states the brain goes through over time. If this is true, that means we need to be able to imagine what those phenomenal states are like because clearly, Mary must know what her phenomenal state of blue is like without seeing blue. But here’s where I think Dennett’s argument again fails. Mary doesn’t HAVE any of the physical states of those other animals. Those experiences supervene on the physical state, not on our knowledge of what the physical state is. One can’t simply imagine how those physical states feel accurately without being in possession of those physical states. Those physical states have to supervene on Mary’s brain and they can’t. The only way Dennett is able to claim that Mary can know what blue would appear to be like is that she has the brain capable of experiencing blue. She has a brain that is capable of having the experience blue because that physical state can supervene on her brain. So if she doesn’t have a brain capable of experiencing additional colors, she can’t physically experience them. IOW, if she doesn’t have a brain that is physically capable of having a phenomenal state supervene on it, she can’t know what that experience feels like. Dennett’s argument fails again.

Ok, there’s one more possibility. Dennett could be claiming, as he does in “Quining Qualia”, that he can explain it away. That these phenomenal states don’t exist in any real sense. But as soon as he acknowledges that these phenomenal states are ineffable, private or whatever, he recognizes that these phenomenal states exist in some way, regardless of whether they are epiphenomenal or not. He may be suggesting that the physical state is all that there is and we can explain that and once we’ve done so, there’s nothing more to explain. Again, this doesn’t pass the red face test and by suggesting that there are qualia needing to be quined, he’s already acknowledged them, which is why he’s been accused of being a closet dualist.

Perhaps Dennett has addressed these issues. By all means, point out that out. They should be obvious to people as smart as Dennett. He should have written all about this but I just can't read his work. I feel like I'm reading some ISIS propaganda and he wants me to martyr myself for Allah.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby TheVat on March 11th, 2016, 7:11 pm 

I have similar problems with Dennett. He argues against the intuition pump but can't really reconcile introspection and outrospection (I just made that term up). He wants to dump qualia and have us believe that Mary can, through scientific procedures, anticipate what blue will look like...yet her research cannot let her actually have an advance (phenomenal) peek at
blue, not even rub a phosphene. So, her pure scientific approach is incomplete, because real science would include visual observation and comparisons with qualia lurking in there. The only way Mary is not surprised is if she is a zombie. Then there is no difference between the scientific account of blue and Mary's, because Mary registers light of 450 nm but does not experience it. In a sense, Dennett presupposes that consciousness has been explained away...and yes, much hand-waving.

Will try to look at this more, as time permits.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 11th, 2016, 9:54 pm 

I was under the impression from the link that Dennett was simply stating that thought experiments of this kind ignore the reality we know so they are of limited use in concluding anything yet they are treated as real.

He does point out that to look phenomenon as phenomenon can lead the investigator down various endless corridors if they are not careful. The problem is not denying phenomenon it is accepting it as something more than phenomenon. The same can be said of the thought experiment.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on March 11th, 2016, 11:00 pm 

Hi BJ.
BadgerJelly » March 10th, 2016, 1:05 am wrote:Dave C -

I guess then if we do know what chemicals are present it what parts of the brain and know about blood flow etc., we can in fact say with reasonabke certainty what someone is experiencing. The physical information may not be the most accurate but we can at least recognise basic functions such as motion, speech, sight, etc,.

I would agree and I don’t think anyone would disagree with this. If we know everything about the physical state (and I’m far from being a neuroscientist), what chemicals are present, voltage potential exists across a membrane, how that potential is changing, what neurotransmitters are being produced and how they are being received by other neurons, etc… and all those variables that neuroscience looks at when predicting the change in physical state of a neuron, one can in fact predict with a reasonable degree of accuracy today, what someone is thinking. In principal, if we knew everything there is to know about the physical state of a brain, then the only variation in how that brain actually changes state is due to some minor quantum fluctuations that are not worth talking about. Believe it or not, Victor Stenger even makes this very point in his book, “Quantum Gods” and I’ve also heard the same from many people whose opinion I’d respect. I think this is an excellent point.

Note that both physicalists and dualists would accept your statement however. It can’t be used as a point to make in order to prove that physicalism is true or false.

All that said I do not think it is possible to explain how a bunch of molecules interacting with my senses gives me what it gives me. Meaning I can never look at a bunch of data (knowledge) and experience the phenomena it represents.

If we can’t explain what we experience when we see ‘color’ or feel pain in words that describe the qualitative experience, even in principal, and if those experiences such as the experience of color, can’t be explained in purely physical terms, then we have a problem. Physicalism is false.

That might sound like a non-issue for some. We’ve grown up experiencing things. It’s nothing magical. We don’t consider the fact that we have experiences as being anything that isn’t natural. As we learn about nature and how things work, it seems that we never need to resort to explaining our experiences to determine how something is going to work, unless you’re a cognitive scientist or something along those lines. So generally, we (especially we in the hard sciences) dismiss those experiences as nothing more than …. something. Something we don’t want to nor feel any need to explain. I think this is where Dennett comes from quite honestly. But I think that’s because he doesn’t really understand what it means to understand how nature works. He’s a philosopher and has no need to understand it. He thinks he can accept that everything is physical so there’s a reason out there which will be based on pure logic, that says we don’t need to worry about it and we can explain everything going on without it. He takes this as a foregone conclusion.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 12th, 2016, 3:28 am 

How about this ... Physicalism and Dualism are thought experiments. So to ask which is true is not important because neither can ever be proven true or false due to the explanatory gap given by our singular perspective on the/our/my world more commonly called subjective experience.

We function naturally well by acting towards (intentionality) objects. This intentionality isn't worried about the materialism, physicalism, dualism, rationalism, etc., because it is apodictic and any steps beyond the apodictic are open to skepicism which allows us to become familiar with common phenomenon we call physical. Then we have this bizarre thing called language draped over the top of the physical contrual.

If we define qualia as phenomenal experience then to deny qualia is to deny your own existence which is utterly bizarre. I repeat, I do not see the need or worth of the term qualia if it is completely synomynous to phenomenal experience.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Neri on March 18th, 2016, 4:00 pm 

Regarding Color

Color is purely an appearance. It may be called a quale in the sense that each color has a quality that cannot be expressed in words. For example, there is no way to explain to a colorblind person exactly what the sensation, “red,” is.

Colors aid us in recognizing threats experienced as objects moving relative to us or to each other. It is possible for us to recognize threats of this kind in black and white, but colors aid in recognition. That is, an object of recognition stands out more clearly in a world of color. Indeed, sight corresponds to reality to the extent that it useful in the struggle to survive.

One should not overlook the fact that color is included in the normal sense of sight.

It may be said that color is a visual sensation corresponding to wavelengths of reflected light. In other words, it is how wavelengths of light appear to us. It is said that it is no accident that sight detects the predominant wavelengths of the light emitted by the sun.

Sensations can never be equated with what is sensed, for the former is an appearance and the latter a reality independent of whether or not it is experienced. To put it another way, colors help us to appreciate that a thing is real without telling us exactly what that thing may be [all that may rightly be predicated of it]. In other words, it is all really a matter of recognition and not of identification.

One may properly object that we can only claim to have knowledge of such things as wave lengths of light by postulations that appear to be confirmed by sense information in the form of “data,” “evidence” and the like.

Hence, all knowledge is limited by the character and extent of our sensations. For this reason, we can never have perfect knowledge. Instead, we are limited to abduction—giving the best possible interpretations of the limited information we possess—which interpretations, we must admit, are always subject to falsification. This describes the human condition.

Regarding the Senses

When referring to our sense of the passage of time, we may properly refer to an inner sense as distinguished from an outer one (as I have done previously). However, we really have a large collection of individual inner and outer senses. They are individual because each is a different kind experience. In other words, all of the senses are different qualia.

For example, in addition to the traditional five outer senses, we have: the outer senses of hot and cold (sensitivity to external temperature); the sense of balance; the sense of degrees of weight (gravitation); the senses of inertia, acceleration and deceleration (of forces); the senses of the kinds of pain caused by things independent of the body. [This is not an exhaustive list].

Examples of inner senses are: the senses of hunger and satiety; the sense of thirst; the senses of a need to urinate and to evacuate the bowels; the sense of breathing; the sense of the beating of the heart under stress or excitement; the senses of vigor and weakness; the sense of sexual excitement; the sense of the movement of the arms, legs, fingers and toes [independently of the outer sense of sight], the senses of the kinds of pain caused by the inner infirmity of the body or of the irregularity of the functioning its internal organs. [This is not an exhaustive list].

The inner and outer senses together comprise the basic content of consciousness. If we experience none of these senses, we are unconscious. Thus, when under general anesthesia, we have no sensory experience of any kind. The same is true of the dead—the difference, of course, being that the former condition is temporary while the latter is permanent.
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby Dave_C on March 21st, 2016, 9:50 pm 

Interesting blog post by Alex Carruth
Understanding the relationship between the mind and the body remains one of the most vexed problems in philosophy, cognitive science, and neuroscience. Throughout much of the last hundred years, physicalism has been the orthodox position in the philosophy of mind. Physicalist views share the characteristic attitude that mental phenomena — such as beliefs, desires, experiences and emotions — are either nothing but physical phenomena — brain states, say — or are in some important sense accounted for or made real by physical phenomena.

Physicalism has not reigned unchallenged, however. A number of arguments have been raised which promote dualism in its place — the view that fundamentally, the mind and body are separate, and mental phenomena can never be adequately characterised in terms of physical goings-on.

Perhaps the most prominent and widely discussed of these is the ‘Zombie Argument’, developed and defended by David Chalmers over the past twenty-five years or so — although the line of thought behind it goes back at least as far as Descartes...

Read the rest here:
http://blog.oup.com/2016/03/imagining-z ... philosophy
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Re: Physicalism, true or false?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 22nd, 2016, 5:36 am 

Adequate ... Maybe that word says it all. For some people it is clearly adequate for them to talk about consciousness as a physical thing. For most people if they see a table, walk around it, touch it and kick it, it is adequate enough for them to say the table really exists and not question anything about it, for me that is not always adequate enough although admittedly I do take the table and other such objects as a given or I'd end up spending most of my life in the same room trying to figure it out.

I do not really get the point of the zombie arguement. For all I know everyone around me may be zombies or may not be. I will never really know for certain.

I would say that if I can conceive of something I can bring about its resemblance not the actual thought. Some resemblances may be better than others. For example I could glue a horn on a horse and call it a unicorn or maybe even graft it onto the horse or even make some genetic alterations. At the end of the day I am only creating a resemblance of a unicorn because to create a real living myth is to dispell the myth.

I guess the physicalist position is that the idea of "soul" or "spirit" is a myth. Information can be expressed that is all. I think it is a faulty question to ask if physicalism is true or false.

I also don't see the need for the term "qualia" if it is synonymous with phenomenal experience.

In regards to the zombie analogy. I can make something that looks like an apple but isn't an apple. If I was to cut it is half I would see ir wasn't an apple. The same goes for people. If I was able to experience exactly what you experience briefly then I would know you, but I cannot because I am me.

The real question is if we constructed a human being atom by atom would it be human? Would we be willing to believe it has phenomenal experience or not? We still wouldn't be any closer to bridging the gap which simply cannot be breached (at least with our current limited concepts).
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