A Critique of Biological Materialism

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-1-
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Re: A Critique of Biological Materialism

Post by -1- » March 31st, 2017, 1:58 am

I thought I replied to this, Togo1, and now I see my reply has disappeared. Maybe I was breaking some forum rules? I wasn't disrespectful, rude or even angry, so I don't know what happened.

In all, because of b), I see any future discussion futile. If someone insists that things happen without any cause, then I can't deal with that. My ineptitude, not theirs.

Your points c) and d) I don't understand. To me a statement's truth value can only be checked by having concrete references in it to reality. You say statements can exist and be evaluated for truth without any reference to reality. This I can't understand to be possible. Other than what constitutes exercises in logic. By reality I meant physical and metaphysical reality. You only meant physical reality -- this is another point where we are slipping away from each other's scope.

a) I agree with.

I think the schism is too wide and deep to bridge. I am sorry, I have to bow out.

It's a little wonder we got so deep into this discussion. You are talking apples, and I am talking oranges.
"You can always live without a lover, but you can't love without a liver."

Togo1
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Re: A Critique of Biological Materialism

Post by Togo1 » March 31st, 2017, 7:20 am

-1- wrote:In all, because of b), I see any future discussion futile. If someone insists that things happen without any cause, then I can't deal with that. My ineptitude, not theirs.
I'm not insisting that, I'm just not agreeing with the label you want to put on your own ideas on determinism, as being just cause and effect.

This is quite a cental point, and you should discuss it with someone, even if not with me. Unless you're willing to examine this assumption, you're assuming determinism a priori.
-1- wrote:Your points c) and d) I don't understand. To me a statement's truth value can only be checked by having concrete references in it to reality. You say statements can exist and be evaluated for truth without any reference to reality. This I can't understand to be possible. Other than what constitutes exercises in logic.
Well quite. Exercises in logic is what I'm talking about. Mathamatics, for example, is all about exercises in logic, to the point that it can be done with abstract numbers rather than physical amounts.

Events are just events, they aren't true or false. All that can be true or false is statements. They may be statements about reality as they are in science, or not, as they are in mathematics and logic.

So at the heart of any scientific experiment is a hypothesis, a formal statement of what the experiment is testing. The experiment is intended to test that hypothesis, via the logic of the statement compared to the observation, the mathematical relationship of the results to that logic, and the scientific design and concepts behind both the experiment and the hypothesis itself. The results are a critical part of that, tying the whole logical structure to the results/observations, and thus to the real world. But the structure itself still needs to be logically sound, and when you're considering the logical and mathematical relationships within the experiment, that's nothing to do with the actual results. In fact, it critically can't depend on the actual results set, it has to be independent. The logic and maths needs to work no matter what the results are. Far from being dependent on reality, you have to be able to demonstrate independence from reality, in order for it to be a valid test.
-1- wrote:I think the schism is too wide and deep to bridge. I am sorry, I have to bow out.

It's a little wonder we got so deep into this discussion. You are talking apples, and I am talking oranges.
<shrug> That's kinda what philosophy is all about.

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Papus79
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Re: A Critique of Biological Materialism

Post by Papus79 » May 2nd, 2017, 8:10 pm

I do hope to read this topic cover to cover, I'd present an opinion but I still don't feel like I'm informed as well as I'd like to be.

What I might say is that I'm at a point right now where I'm curious about the arguments regarding downward causation vs. supervenience. The downward causation bit is interesting from the standpoint that consciousness seems to intuitively fit something like a turn-around point or the apex of an ark where information is passed upward from internal sensory input sending data up through the nervous system to higher and higher levels of aggregation until a thought reaches the threshold of conscious consideration. Conscious consideration seems like it's a process, a piece that handles the various strings of data deemed salient enough to arise together for the conscious agent to weigh against one another and have about the most informed opinion that the neurological apparatus of the brain can provide with respect to proportional problem solving. Unfortunately the calibration, as some people like Mark Blyth have noted, is great for personal survival but terrible with respect to attempts to soberly contemplate much larger scales, such as trillions of dollars and what they mean or a 100 kilometer ice sheet moving at 3 cm per year.

I did recently catch a pretty good lecture on Youtube by Michael Silberman where he criticizes panpsychism and strong emergence in favor of neutral monism and particular open-system ideas like ontic structural realism and his contextual emergence. Unfortunately I couldn't tell quite how well he understood the topic or didn't - he seemed to, however I've also listened to lectures from James Ladyman, Peter Tse, a few more whose names I can't remember, and I'm realizing how complex and subtle the argument gets even just staying in the on-reductive physicalist quarters. I'm liking the approaches that tend toward functionalism right now, if for no better reason than that the theorists in this area seem to be working their hardest to think outside the box and throw out as many philosophic commitments as they can for the sake of navigating the data from a fresh perspective.

A few things I remain interested in:

- Attempts to align the layers being referred to correctly and take apart the confusion in ways that I feel like I can be sure of. For example, with downward causation, people seem to be having problems with this idea based on commitments to supervenience however it sounds a lot less radical (unless I'm showing my ignorance here) to me just considering that consciousness straightens out the signals and sends them back downward in a more synchronized manner.

- Is dualism really dead? It seems like, from what I mentioned above, we have quite the nice closed loop where signals rise up the chain and can be sent back down. At the same time I don't know at this point (would like to) figure out what degrees of freedom would mean in any substantial sense with respect to decision making. While I haven't believed in libertine free will for close to a decade now (prior to that I had no commitment for or against) I do feel like my strong-determinist sense has softened a little, not to where I'd go back the other way but to where I understand that the feedback loops are complicated enough that our agency is almost never as dismally misinformed as to give in to a textbook illustrated example and it seems like when we do fall into pitfalls it usually involved having more high-stress processing rammed into our circuits than we can handle at once properly hence the more basal and survival-oriented mechanisms come online. I also think of a Sam Harris podcast I listened to recently where he was talking to David Chalmers about the philosophic zombie problem and Sam's wife had brought up a really good question - how could a zombie have the frame of reference to perseverate in questioning the meaning of its own self-awareness without having been informed in such a manner to do so by a self-conscious agent? It does seem like a lot of this is more generally falsifiable than we've given ourselves credit for

- As a person whose had quite a few, for the lack of better terminology to express such things, 'supernatural' experiences in my life - I'd really like to know, if these things aren't real, what it is that can make certain seemingly veridical perceptions or visitations from others seem so convincing. If our nervous systems are coughing this up it seems lightly important for us still to understand the context of this kind of data, the spirit in which the nervous system generates it, and where it's extrapolating its source material from. For example - touch at a distance working like sonar for things reportedly there but unseen (usually conscious agents themselves). Even for this to be a purely material phenomena the content of these experiences seems not to lend itself toward degraded thought but perhaps levels of conscious organization or perhaps 'peak experiences' of a variety we rarely tap into. At the more controversial end of that - if they are real, are they higher up a chain of hierarchical connections, much like we're the summations of our nervous systems, but something that finds its processing apex at a higher vantage point looking down at us? Some open-system philosophies, not necessarily even idealist ones but even considering some perspectives on neutral monism or functionalism don't necessarily rule that out - considering the absurdities given in for example in a lecture I heard where if we weren't closed systems it would mean that the country of China and its 1.6 billion people could share a group mind and that this mind could reach back downward and touch them. Memes and the zeitgeist complexes they can create are interesting but I do occasionally wonder if we should be checking into that direction before we miss it. For what PEAR, Dean Radin, and the random-number crunchers have been showing us we're not psychic, we're not bending spoons, but there's something of a seemingly weak but nevertheless organized wind of sorts blowing through our environments and perhaps touching us in ways that we wouldn't suspect as well as setting up many of the spontaneous currents of social conformity. To think of myself as a conscious node overlooking various subconscious components, each with varying degrees of neurological 'fame' as Dan Dennett put it, if we are subsets of a larger whole with subconscious chutes much larger than ourselves - the idea of deities even doesn't seem that strange, rather our history seems like a bumbling and often times obtuse effort to understand ourselves and our environments; the larger conduits that may perhaps organize us in that case weren't all that better informed than ourselves.

That last point I'd admit is pretty wild and open, and I'm not interested in defending it without having given the data and research its proper due, but that's part of why I'm doing a lot of the research that I am. I'm sure, no matter what's at the bottom of this, it's fascinating stuff and I think it's critical for the going concern of our race that we get to understand what makes us tick. For us not to understand ourselves is to see people killing in the name of bronze-aged books or, perhaps stranger still, rioting over the ideas of 19th and 20th century philosophers with the notions that either real utopia hasn't been tried yet or that they're fighting this horrific genocidal 'other' (which is quite likely to be a figment of their imaginations) and doubling down on that to the point where they're willing to maim police men and women in the process. If 2016 and 2017 are showing us anything, IMHO, it's just how difficult it is for us to dig ourselves out of our atavisms and how easy it is for us to shell ourselves off in bubbles and fall into Manichean tribal thinking of one type or another.

-- Updated May 2nd, 2017, 9:18 pm to add the following --

I just realized the orientation of my comment above to the rest of the thread could be confusing. Earlier on, especially in the first few pages, a lot of argument seemed to be going back and forth over mind, consciousness, etc. and its role in biology as well as to what degree it could be classed as a fully 'material' phenomena.

For abiogenesis which the thread seemed to steer more clearly toward later - I think my current outlook might be similar to what JamesofSeattle brought up earlier; that is the formation of RNA chains and their encasement in naturally occurring lipid spheres does seem promising. Again, I wouldn't claim to know what the whole story is and I'm sure we could, most likely will, spend hundreds of years or more fleshing out the details but I think that's on the right track at least.

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Re: A Critique of Biological Materialism

Post by 22go335 » July 4th, 2017, 5:19 pm

I really love all the contributions I have been reading here.

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Re: A Critique of Biological Materialism

Post by Togo1 » July 5th, 2017, 1:39 pm

Conscious consideration is certainly a process. It has a neurophysiological porfile, unique measureable performance characteristics, takes up time, and consumes energy.

Functionalism certainly has its benefits, however it has its pitfalls as well. In psychology there are a large number of highly functional models that fit observed behaviour very well. However, they generally have no relationship whatsoever, to how the brain or it's components actually work. The problem is akin to trying to work out how a computer program works by writing something that mimics the outputs of a computer. You can write a vast array of different programs that appear to get close to doing the job, but the chances of actually duplicating the code in the computer itself are very small. Functionalism, doesn't distinguish between these models, which sharply reduces its utility. The fact that it can support a vast number of fresh perspectives is precisely the problem.

Dualism isn't dead. We have a great many concepts, ideas and scientific theories around the mind, and a great many concepts, ideas and scientific theories around the brain. For monism to suceed, it needs to explain one of these in terms of the other. So far, attempts have fallen far short of this goal. This is why there is such emphasis in monist theories on restricting the problem to only certain kinds of events, or certain kinds of ideas, and eliminating everything else as either meaningless or non-existant.

Meanwhile dualism has to grapple with question of how what are in effect two different kinds of reality, actually interact or juxtapose in a meaninful fashion. Supervenience is the best attempt I've seen at this, but it relies on some very complicated ideas, and I'm not convinced it's a full explanation.

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