Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

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anonymous66
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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by anonymous66 » March 17th, 2020, 1:56 pm

Count Lucanor wrote:
March 16th, 2020, 12:15 am
anonymous66 wrote:You're contradicting yourself. On the one hand you appear to claim that everything that exists can be described in terms of its physical properties (so everything reduces to the physical)- on the other hand you claim that the mental is real.
The "mental" is a concept that entails a process, or a group of dynamic processes carried out by material systems. Processes and relations are real and necessarily tied to the physical entities involved, but claiming that they are real does not imply that they are physical, concrete substances, forming discrete, static entities. So, a better description of my claim is that the universe (everything that exists) can be described in terms of the dynamic relations of physical entities. If one is to perform an epistemic reduction, one would argue that a theory of the universe is the logical and necessary derivation of a theory of dynamic relations of physical entities, which is not the same as saying that a theory of the universe is derived from the sum of the properties of physical entities.
It seems as if you and Nagel are on the same mission- you both want to understand how it is that- given we only have physical substances to work with- mental states (including consciousness) could be real.

Other people (the Churchlands, for example), because of their commitment to physicalism/materialism have come to the conclusion that mental states and properties are not real- the actions of the brain are only physical- there is nothing mental going on. (So when people say- "I'm feeling sad" what they really mean to say is "these specific ____ hormones in my physical body are kicking in"). So for eliminative materialists like the Churchlands, only physical properties are real.

And of course, many people take Dennett- because of his commitment to physicalism/materialism- to be arguing that consciousness itself is an illusion (even thought Dennett himself denies that is what he is saying) created by a physical brain.
Going back to the common table salt example, a theory of how salt comes about will require explaining the relations between the ions of sodium and chlorine, but will have to take into account that putting the properties of each chemical side by side, without any other interaction, will not add up to produce the properties of salt. In that sense, the properties of salt are not reducible to the properties of sodium and chlorine, even though salt is derived from them.
Are you saying that mental events are physical events in the brain: Ψ = Φ (where Ψ is a mental event like pain or a taste sensation and Φ is the corresponding physical event in the central nervous system) in the same way that NACL = salt?

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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by Consul » March 17th, 2020, 10:51 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
March 17th, 2020, 1:56 pm
Other people (the Churchlands, for example), because of their commitment to physicalism/materialism have come to the conclusion that mental states and properties are not real- the actions of the brain are only physical- there is nothing mental going on. (So when people say- "I'm feeling sad" what they really mean to say is "these specific ____ hormones in my physical body are kicking in"). So for eliminative materialists like the Churchlands, only physical properties are real.
To be precise, Paul Churchland is an antirealist about propositional attitudes but a reductive realist about sensations.

QUOTE>

"As we have seen in the preceding pages, the relevant science currently indicates that our sensations-of-color are indeed identical with our opponent-cell activation triplets. Which means that the former are just as physical as the latter. And just as real as the latter. Which returns us to eliminative materialism. Where the common-sense ontology of sensations is concerned, eliminative materialism looks to be false. Sensations are not likely to be eliminated from our scientific ontology. They are already in the process of being smoothly reduced thereto."

"By contrast with the domain of sensations, a nontrivial case for the failings of folk psychology in the domain of the propositional attitudes has been in the textbooks for almost 25 years (Churchland, 1981)."

(Churchland, Paul M. "The Evolving Fortunes of Eliminative Materialism." In Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind, edited by Brian P. McLaughlin and Jonathan Cohen, 160-181. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007. P. 171)
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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by Greta » March 17th, 2020, 11:42 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
March 17th, 2020, 1:01 pm
Greta wrote:
March 15th, 2020, 4:28 pm

I'm open to panpsychism.

If Consul (or anyone) shows me verified studies that prove without doubt that consciousness is generated in the brain, then I will stop being open to it. It's easy enough to do. All they need to do is take a pattern of neuronal activity and explain how those patterns translate into experience. The findings so far in this area? Zero, just a hypothesis or two that no one knows how to test (which makes such hypotheses durable enough to start being accepted as truth).
Doesn't the fact that there have been successful animal head transplants suggest that consciousness is generated in the brain?
None were successful long term.

Still, if an (unfortunate) animal transplantee (or is it the transplanter?) is conscious for a short time, it only demonstrates what we already know. That the brain is responsible for high order information processing. I understand there has been a full digestive system transplant, but one would expect the physical effects to be so profound that it would be pointless to analyse possible psychological impacts.

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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by anonymous66 » March 18th, 2020, 7:56 am

Greta wrote:
March 17th, 2020, 11:42 pm
anonymous66 wrote:
March 17th, 2020, 1:01 pm


Doesn't the fact that there have been successful animal head transplants suggest that consciousness is generated in the brain?
None were successful long term.

Still, if an (unfortunate) animal transplantee (or is it the transplanter?) is conscious for a short time, it only demonstrates what we already know. That the brain is responsible for high order information processing. I understand there has been a full digestive system transplant, but one would expect the physical effects to be so profound that it would be pointless to analyse possible psychological impacts.
What do you mean by "not successful"? They only "failed" because the host bodies rejected the transplanted parts ( or because they were euthanized)....

From where I'm standing, a valid theory of consciousness will need to explain how it is that a transplanted mammal head IS conscious.

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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by Consul » March 18th, 2020, 11:08 am

Greta wrote:
March 15th, 2020, 4:28 pm
I'm open to panpsychism.
An interesting conversation between a panpsychist (Philip Goff) and a non-panpsychist (Massimo Pigliucci):

https://letter.wiki/conversation/277
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by Consul » March 18th, 2020, 1:31 pm

Two fundamental errors of panpsychism:

1. the dissociation of consciousness (experience/sentience) and life
2. the dissociation of experiential/phenomenal qualities (qualia) and physical complexity: even the simplest physical things have/undergo (simple) qualia.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by Greta » March 18th, 2020, 9:27 pm

Consul, you may be right. You might also be wrong. I would rather push the idea too far than to make he same mistake as every prior generation.

It's hard to imagine a non-biological entity experiencing anything. Complexity is clearly part of it. There is extreme complexity everywhere in nature, not just in brains. They are just the most denesely complex parts of reality, but not the most complex per se.

Too busy ATM to get into much detail ATM, alas.

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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by Hereandnow » March 18th, 2020, 11:03 pm

Count Lucanor
t is always a problem how one lays out the concepts using language and proposes interpretations, at the same time one is interpreting what others proposed. Outside of analytical or logical investigations, everything must be explained with some particular framing that is not neutral, and such things can hardly be rooted out of discourse, as objective as one may want to be. But one can make the case for realism, in which the world does exist and has a nature, or is nature, independently of our determination of its ontology by our subjective understanding, and the case for hermeneutic idealism, in which our understanding of things ultimately determines such things. It is often posited, it seems, that the shortcomings of Positivism regarding its potential for grabbing the real, once the real has been framed as that which is reducible to laws of empirical regularities, automatically only leaves us with the options of subjectivism, the relativism of hermeneutics and so on. We might be entangled with semantics, and we must disentangle ourselves to progress in these inquiries, but that's not the end of the problem, just the beginning. Having said that...
It's not a matter of laying things out in such and such a manner; rather, it's that the laying out itself, or, laying out as such is such and such a manner. What does it mean for something to be laid out at all? Of course, the case for realism is made constantly, and only an extraordinary delusional mind would deny that there is a bus, there, far down the road; it's the kind of thing that is there, always and confidence is never wavering in matters of the sun rising in the morning or continental drift or a spectral analysis of stars, and these occurring independently of our control. This is our world, but this is not what philosophy is for, a simple continuity of the everyday world. The point of philosophy is not to explain science as science would explain science; it is to explain the foundations of science. To begin with natural science for basic analytical assumptions is like beginning an examination of the stars with a telescope, but then, not understanding the priniciple of magnification, electromagnetic spectra, and so forth, at all.
Look at the issue at hand like this: Any observation of the natural world found in a science logically presupposes perception, and any account pf perception that is grounded in this kind of observation also presupposes perception, and if one does not study the perceptual event, its structure, features, to get to the, well, the reductive/emergent foundation sought after, one is just whistling Dixie. This is the point the phenomenologist makes. Such a study reveals the world itself an emerging condition, or a reductive condition (not to take that issue up; Husserl calls his epoche a reduction, but his meaning is different for he doesn't mean to say naturalistic observations are exhaustively accounted for by dismissing presuppositions about X which are peripheral to its essence. He is only trying to isolate the "thing in itself"), but emerging out of what? If you're Husserl or Fink or Levinas, you have reached an extraordinary locus of understanding, for you have discovered analytically the transcendental threshold of world construction, or, enworlding, as Fink outs it. Heidegger famously denied this kind of thing, putting enworlding within the hermeneutic "disclosure" of language. But the point is: there is a LOT to say about this.I believe that analytic philosophers who take empirical science up in their studies, have, and will inevitably, move toward phenomenology; it's inevitable.
I still can't see any of this as quantitative. We're not talking here about sets, which might qualify as an order of things where the quantities of objects define certain ontology. I wonder if even the hardest reductionist would say that an arc is just a set of bricks, without ever considering the qualitative properties of an arc. Maybe a stack of bricks can be understood, mereologically, as a sum of bricks, where each individual brick contributes to the whole, but consider something like common table salt (NaCl), composed of two chemicals with their own properties (some of them being that they are poisonous to humans), which do not apppear in the resulting substance. The properties of sodium are not simply added to the properties of chlorine, so that salt becomes the collection of those properties, actually it presents all new properties for itself. Perhaps your assertion that this are quantitave issues blends with your assertion that this is a hermeneutical problem underpinned by the frames of language. And so, everything is the unity, in eidetic impressions, of many properties, that can be separated. But this is clearly a phenomenological operation that has little to say about the ontological nature of the objects of study.


But what are these "qualitative properties of an arc"? The answer will be in the form of quantitative analyses, the amount of stress varying through the system, the pressure variations; and the names of the chemical composition or other qualitative features are, as names go, merely nomenclature, that is, our language's concepts never tell us the WHAT of a thing, which is impossible, but serves only to designate: one of those. They are indexical. The point is, identify what you might be tempted to call a qualitative property in a natural science, and you will find a quantitative analysis to account for it. The "quality" is unsayable, and science may indicate it, but try to explain this, and there will be more quantifiable language, and I think you are right to say the hermeneutical issue asserts itself, for language is self referential, and the is no "nexus" that can connect thought to something external to thought. This is a major theme in existentialism.

You can't say a phenomenological operation that has little to say about the ontological nature of the objects of study for the phenomenological operation itself rests on the assumption objects of study in nature not separable from language. Language is the house of Being, Heidegger said, and he was echoing what Kant said long before: intuitions without concepts are blind; concepts without intuition are empty. Perhaps you're a fan of Wittgenstein who rightly made a similar case, in that outside the world of facts, there is only the unspeakable, and facts are never free of the logical conditions in which they arise. The "ontology" must remain within the grasp of meaningful ideas---and to speak of Jupiter as this were some timeless designation that ontologically had nothing to do with, at the level of basic, philosophical thinking, the structure of thought itself, or, to imagine that while given that structures thought may have a limited determinant role in saying what something is, this role does not preclude apprehending the objec itself as it is defined by basic science--well, this is just blatant question begging. How is it that I know something, again? S knows that P iff S believes P, is justified in believing P, and P is true; but this last premise is always question begging (hence the hermeneutic circularity) for in order to affirm P, you have link P to justification, then the terms of justification, which are empirical, then you will have deal with Kant. Analytic philosophers do NOT like Kant, because they cannot get around him.
f mental states were not constituted by material processes, then by what else? What do we have? It could be a problem for substance dualists or idealistic monism, since no one has ever been able to show empirically a disembodied consciousness, nor explain theoretically how such thing could be constituted, without falling into solipsism or joining the "anything goes" legion. For material monism, all sentience is unavoidably associated to organisms, to living material things. It makes more sense, but what matters the most is that the presumptions from which it departs, ultimately work.
This: since no one has ever been able to show empirically a disembodied consciousness, is not an essential part of phenomenology; in fact, Heidegger explicitly denies this Husserlian transcendental ego. Heidegger thought consciousness was a superfluous term that had no "presence" to be a suitable part of ontological consideration. But this is important idea: mental states ARE constituted by material processes, as long as the analysis does not turn to basic assumptions. When you ask, well, what how does anything out there get in here? then you find yourself in hot water, because material substance, in this matter, becomes an "out there" concept OUT if the context where it makes any sense, which is the natural sciences.

Dualism or idealistic monism or material reductionism all yield to phenomenology, which integrates them where they are genuinely integrated, which is where thought produces meaning. Most analytic philosophers, like Searle, believe physical science is relevant to philosophy, and should be philosophical significant because of the "best guess" principle, which says, when it comes to threshold thinking, where the words run out and one faces the ineffability of what IS, then the best we can do is the natural sciences. Searle likes things solid, clear, not messy and above all, not Kantian. Philosophers like this are, frankly, dogmatic, for what else do we call a fixed view that will not examine its errors? All that has ever been witnessed in the world is what presents itself IN the world, and this makes material substance of natural science a metaphysical abstraction, good for for doing science, bad for philosophy.

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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by Consul » March 19th, 2020, 11:37 am

Consul wrote:
March 18th, 2020, 1:31 pm
Two fundamental errors of panpsychism:

1. the dissociation of consciousness (experience/sentience) and life
2. the dissociation of experiential/phenomenal qualities (qualia) and physical complexity: even the simplest physical things have/undergo (simple) qualia.
Substance dualists and substance spiritualists go one step further by dissociating consciousness and physicality, mind and matter: a (mereologically) simple, zero-dimensional, and immaterial immaterial soul has a mind and consciousness.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by Consul » March 19th, 2020, 12:05 pm

Greta wrote:
March 18th, 2020, 9:27 pm
Consul, you may be right. You might also be wrong. I would rather push the idea too far than to make he same mistake as every prior generation.
If "might" expresses nothing but logical possibility or formal consistency, you are right about my possibly being wrong; but the interesting question is what we should believe in the light of our empirical evidence and our rational arguments. The mere logical possibility of being wrong is no good reason not to hold any positive or negative beliefs; for if it were, then not even beliefs based on strong scientific evidence would be justified, since they are all logically fallible.

A deliberate suspension of belief or judgement—called agnosticism or (linguistically more accurate) apisticism—is justified iff:
1. there are neither good reasons to believe that p nor good reasons to believe that ~p
or
2. there are both good reasons to believe that p and good reasons to believe that ~p, and the reasons to believe that p are as good as the reasons to believe that ~p.

(A reason to believe something is epistemically good or bad iff it meets or fails to meet certain intersubjectively valid epistemological norms or rules with regard to belief formation.)

QUOTE>
"Let the adherents of this phase of irreligion call themselves, not agnostics, signifying their lack of knowledge, but apistics, signifying their lack of belief; and let them call their system, not agnosticism, but apisticism."

(Rishell, Charles Wesley. The Foundations of the Christian Faith. New York: Eaton & Mains, 1899. p. 62)
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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by Count Lucanor » March 19th, 2020, 4:17 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
March 17th, 2020, 1:56 pm
Count Lucanor wrote:
March 16th, 2020, 12:15 am

The "mental" is a concept that entails a process, or a group of dynamic processes carried out by material systems. Processes and relations are real and necessarily tied to the physical entities involved, but claiming that they are real does not imply that they are physical, concrete substances, forming discrete, static entities. So, a better description of my claim is that the universe (everything that exists) can be described in terms of the dynamic relations of physical entities. If one is to perform an epistemic reduction, one would argue that a theory of the universe is the logical and necessary derivation of a theory of dynamic relations of physical entities, which is not the same as saying that a theory of the universe is derived from the sum of the properties of physical entities.
It seems as if you and Nagel are on the same mission- you both want to understand how it is that- given we only have physical substances to work with- mental states (including consciousness) could be real.
I'm not sure that's Nagel's mission, or that we are on the same ship, since he ultimately wants to undermine materialism, naturalism and monism.
anonymous66 wrote:
March 17th, 2020, 1:56 pm
Other people (the Churchlands, for example), because of their commitment to physicalism/materialism have come to the conclusion that mental states and properties are not real- the actions of the brain are only physical- there is nothing mental going on. (So when people say- "I'm feeling sad" what they really mean to say is "these specific ____ hormones in my physical body are kicking in"). So for eliminative materialists like the Churchlands, only physical properties are real.
That's one way of looking at the "real", but I would argue that relational properties, for example, entity X being besides entity Y, are real, even though they are not a concrete substance, and depend a lot on the relativity of the observer. But still refer to ontological aspects of concrete, real things.
anonymous66 wrote:
March 17th, 2020, 1:56 pm
And of course, many people take Dennett- because of his commitment to physicalism/materialism- to be arguing that consciousness itself is an illusion (even thought Dennett himself denies that is what he is saying) created by a physical brain.
Illusion only if one thinks that processes and relations are not real. But then again, wouldn't illusion itself be unreal if nothing that the brain does is real?
anonymous66 wrote:
March 17th, 2020, 1:56 pm
Count Lucanor wrote:
March 16th, 2020, 12:15 am
Going back to the common table salt example, a theory of how salt comes about will require explaining the relations between the ions of sodium and chlorine, but will have to take into account that putting the properties of each chemical side by side, without any other interaction, will not add up to produce the properties of salt. In that sense, the properties of salt are not reducible to the properties of sodium and chlorine, even though salt is derived from them.
Are you saying that mental events are physical events in the brain: Ψ = Φ (where Ψ is a mental event like pain or a taste sensation and Φ is the corresponding physical event in the central nervous system) in the same way that NACL = salt?
No, that's not what I was talking about. I was not explaining mental states, I was explaining that even if given an epistemic reduction of a materialist theory of the universe, it is not necessarily a theory derived from the sum of the properties of physical entities. There are reactions, of a chemical (physical) nature, that bind Na with Cl to make a new substance with different properties than those of the reactants. The reactions involve dynamic processes, states, etc., which put those elements in relation, and that relation is not a intrinsic property of the elements, except maybe for having the potential of being put in that relation.

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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by Greta » March 19th, 2020, 4:48 pm

Consul wrote:
March 19th, 2020, 12:05 pm
Greta wrote:
March 18th, 2020, 9:27 pm
Consul, you may be right. You might also be wrong. I would rather push the idea too far than to make he same mistake as every prior generation.
If "might" expresses nothing but logical possibility or formal consistency, you are right about my possibly being wrong; but the interesting question is what we should believe in the light of our empirical evidence and our rational arguments. The mere logical possibility of being wrong is no good reason not to hold any positive or negative beliefs; for if it were, then not even beliefs based on strong scientific evidence would be justified, since they are all logically fallible.
While our knowledge has been thoroughly and ingeniously accumulated, it remains possible that our perceptions of time and space are more subjective and less complete than we realise.

That is, I am open to the idea that we are still at a very early stage in understanding the nature of reality, rather than close to the end of knowledge, as some postulate. When faced with the possibilities of the universe over deep time, the level of advancement that could potentially be achieved. It's been said that any species evolved from humans in a billion years' time would be as different from humans as humans are from bacteria. Our current comprehension of reality would be infantile by comparison.

Meanwhile, after all these decades we are no closer to determining a pattern/qualia relationship in the brain. Postulating that living itself involves some level of experience is hardly left-field - noting that there will be organisms undergoing experiences that, to a human mind, would be considered unconscious. Yet there would still be a subtle, underlying sense of being present in simple, diffuse and sporadic sense impressions.

To a human (anthropocentric) perspective, the deep sleep state is considered to be completely unconscious. To a microbe, such a state would be a party. Just because we humans without our fancy brains and consciousness deem microbial experiences to be inconsequential doesn't mean that the organisms lack any sense of experience.

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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by Count Lucanor » March 20th, 2020, 12:20 am

Hereandnow wrote:It's not a matter of laying things out in such and such a manner; rather, it's that the laying out itself, or, laying out as such is such and such a manner. What does it mean for something to be laid out at all? Of course, the case for realism is made constantly, and only an extraordinary delusional mind would deny that there is a bus, there, far down the road; it's the kind of thing that is there, always and confidence is never wavering in matters of the sun rising in the morning or continental drift or a spectral analysis of stars, and these occurring independently of our control. This is our world, but this is not what philosophy is for, a simple continuity of the everyday world. The point of philosophy is not to explain science as science would explain science; it is to explain the foundations of science.
That's fine, but if we're talking about the foundations of science, we're also talking about the foundations of knowledge in general (including philosophy), and we are talking about epistemology. On what grounds can philosophy build any metaphysics in general or an ontology? How can philosophy explain its own foundations without referring to science? Or is it, perhaps, that undermining science comes in handy to philosophize unrigorously without the constraints of natural realism? Because it always comes down to the same: "no, we cannot deny the real objective, material existence of things, it would be delusional, but we don't want constraints to our speculations about non-material things".
Hereandnow wrote:To begin with natural science for basic analytical assumptions is like beginning an examination of the stars with a telescope, but then, not understanding the priniciple of magnification, electromagnetic spectra, and so forth, at all. Look at the issue at hand like this: Any observation of the natural world found in a science logically presupposes perception, and any account pf perception that is grounded in this kind of observation also presupposes perception, and if one does not study the perceptual event, its structure, features, to get to the, well, the reductive/emergent foundation sought after, one is just whistling Dixie. This is the point the phenomenologist makes.
So, perception becomes an object of study for the phenomenologist, one that he "observes" and assumes as part of a "natural world", even if it is the domain of pure experience in which subjects participate. The study of how things appear to our perception still rests on the assumptions that there's a real thing that appears to our perception, a real res cogitans that perceives, and a real res extensa that embodies these actions. Husserl thought that he really existed in the world. But what can someone start to say about the reality of experience beyond the phenomenologist's own experience? I mean, if the phenomenologist talks about the experience of subjects, of experiencing entities, independent of himself, that implies a lot of assumptions about the natural world, but at the same time refusing to use the telescope that gives us information about it.
Hereandnow wrote:But what are these "qualitative properties of an arc"? The answer will be in the form of quantitative analyses, the amount of stress varying through the system, the pressure variations; and the names of the chemical composition
There's no need to say anything quantitatively to describe the properties of an arc made of bricks. You can say it has a certain shape and it functions structurally by compression. It will explain what makes every arc distinct from any other structural element. You could even make a drawing or take a picture to describe visually an arc, and that will be enough to understand what it is. Sure, you can talk about proportions, angles, etc., which imply some geometrical and mathematical concepts, but that does not preclude the qualitative analysis.
Hereandnow wrote:The point is, identify what you might be tempted to call a qualitative property in a natural science, and you will find a quantitative analysis to account for it.
Try this: hollow bones allow birds to fly.
Hereandnow wrote:You can't say a phenomenological operation that has little to say about the ontological nature of the objects of study for the phenomenological operation itself rests on the assumption objects of study in nature not separable from language. Language is the house of Being,
That's just one assumption, in an ocean of assumptions. If it works to legitimize phenomenology's own project, fine, but it certainly cannot be the foundation to invalidate the project of science and the philosophical realism that it entails. If language is the house of being, if reality is just a subjective construction, the being of language gets drowned in it, too, and every assertion evaporates at the limits of contact with any other subjective construction. There's no metaphysical commitment to anything, phenomenology avoids it in favor of the pure appearance, the subjective construction. There's nothing objective it can say about science, realism, etc., as practices and events out there. Of course, it is forced to say the same about itself, because if objects are objects only as objects of a consciousness, then the practice of phenomenology does not guarantee any knowledge. Calling it hermeneutic circularity gives the whole thing a sophisticated, catchy name, but it's no different than shooting yourself in the foot.
Hereandnow wrote: Dualism or idealistic monism or material reductionism all yield to phenomenology, which integrates them where they are genuinely integrated, which is where thought produces meaning.
No, it doesn't. Phenomenology, or at least the idealist version of it, voluntarily abdicates the duties of any realist ontology, so that it can navigate the water of pure appearances. Phenomenology takes the illusion as the only reality and works from there.
Hereandnow wrote:Most analytic philosophers, like Searle, believe physical science is relevant to philosophy, and should be philosophical significant because of the "best guess" principle, which says, when it comes to threshold thinking, where the words run out and one faces the ineffability of what IS, then the best we can do is the natural sciences. Searle likes things solid, clear, not messy and above all, not Kantian. Philosophers like this are, frankly, dogmatic, for what else do we call a fixed view that will not examine its errors?
All that Searle does is to have a metaphysical commitment to materialism as a realist view of the universe. I don't think that commitment, which is well grounded in the methods of natural sciences, could be seen as dogmatic. Could it be dogmatic to feel confident about the sun rising in the morning, or continental drift, or a spectral analysis of stars? Things that, nevertheless, under the same methodical approach, are always open to be re-examined, challenged, and our current fixations with them, changed. Unlike the ungrounded speculations of idealism, for which science and philosophical realism appear to be an obstacle.

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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by anonymous66 » March 20th, 2020, 7:19 am

Count Lucanor wrote:
March 19th, 2020, 4:17 pm
anonymous66 wrote:
March 17th, 2020, 1:56 pm

It seems as if you and Nagel are on the same mission- you both want to understand how it is that- given we only have physical substances to work with- mental states (including consciousness) could be real.
I'm not sure that's Nagel's mission, or that we are on the same ship, since he ultimately wants to undermine materialism, naturalism and monism.
What Nagel wants to do is to challenge a form of dogmatic materialism- a materialism that refuses to consider the possibility that the mental and the physical are basic properties- not able to be reduced to anything else. He is challenging a materialism that insists that the mental must reduce to the physical. Less dogmatic approaches such as Strawson's and Stoljar suggest that it is possible to accept that both the mental and the physical are irreducible, and still consider oneself to be a physicalist- and Nagel is fine with approaches to materialism that accept that both the mental and physical properties are irreducible.

Re: Naturalsim- Nagel is pursuing a non-reductive naturalism... as opposed to the reductive naturalism that he is challenging.
Re: Monism- Nagel's view is that there is only one kind of substance- and that all forms of that substance has both mental (or proto-mental) and physical (or proto-physical) properties.
anonymous66 wrote:
March 17th, 2020, 1:56 pm

Are you saying that mental events are physical events in the brain: Ψ = Φ (where Ψ is a mental event like pain or a taste sensation and Φ is the corresponding physical event in the central nervous system) in the same way that NACL = salt?
No, that's not what I was talking about. I was not explaining mental states, I was explaining that even if given an epistemic reduction of a materialist theory of the universe, it is not necessarily a theory derived from the sum of the properties of physical entities. There are reactions, of a chemical (physical) nature, that bind Na with Cl to make a new substance with different properties than those of the reactants. The reactions involve dynamic processes, states, etc., which put those elements in relation, and that relation is not a intrinsic property of the elements, except maybe for having the potential of being put in that relation.
I'm puzzled by your approach to the subject of consciousness. On the one hand you suggest that you are a physicalist/materialist who believes that the mental and the physical are both basic properties (and that is consistent with Nagel's view except that Nagel thinks of himself as a panpsychist, not a physicalist)- but on the other hand you also say that you believe there was a time (before conscious life evolved, for instance)- when there was nothing mental. Do you see the contradictory nature of your beliefs? If there was a time before anything mental- then the mental must necessarily reduce to the physical. If both were not reducible to anything else, then it follows that there was always something mental (or proto-mental, if you want to go that route).

I accept that you are a physicalist who is after a non-reductive view of the mental (but, it appears that your theory needs some work- witness the contradiction I pointed out above). I (and Nagel) was under the impression that every physicalist theory of consciousness was necessarily reductive- and Nagel specifically challenges those approaches.

He mentions:
Behaviorism
Functionalism
Reductive materialism
All forms of identity theory

Yours appears to be a new approach that is none of those. I was unaware that there was a "non-panpsyschist" way to accept that both the mental and the physical are non-reductive. You don't appear to be describing Integrated Information Theory (ITT). Does the theory of consciousness you are advocating have a name? Are there other followers? Or is this something you've come up with on your own?

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Count Lucanor
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Re: Nagel's Project in Mind and Cosmos

Post by Count Lucanor » March 21st, 2020, 1:15 pm

anonymous wrote:What Nagel wants to do is to challenge a form of dogmatic materialism- a materialism that refuses to consider the possibility that the mental and the physical are basic properties- not able to be reduced to anything else.


Let's look at the concept of reduction that may be implied in this statement. Let's say the mental is X, the physical is Y and something else is Z.

So, for X and Y to be reducible to Z, we would be saying that X and Y are nothing more than Z, or simplifiable to Z. Conversely, that Z is more basic than X and Y.

And for X and Y to be non-reducible to Z, we would be saying that X and Y are more than Z, or not simplifiable to Z. Conversely, that Z is NOT more basic than X and Y.

Now your statement stays like this:

What Nagel wants to do is to challenge a form of dogmatic materialism- a materialism that refuses to consider the possibility that X and Y are basic properties- not able to be nothing more than Z.

"Being nothing more than" means that no other thing, but Z, allows the existence of X and Y. It does not mean that Z is just a key or essential ingredient, leaving open the possibility that other elements participate in the existence of X and Y. By reduction it means that it categorically denies that possibility: X and Y are nothing more than Z. Nothing else but Z.

So, what this statement suggests is, first, that Nagel wants to consider the possibility that the physical (Y) is more than Z (whatever Z might be that is not the mental). At first glance, this seems to be incompatible with the views of materialism, but let's look first to what is called "the physical". Is it A) the primordial substance alone or B) the whole domain where this substance operates, including its dynamic processes, relations and properties? We could further divide B into other possibilities, but let's keep it that way for now. If A, then there's no other option, materialism will be incompatible with what you claim is Nagel's view. It is to be expected that such materialism will describe "the physical" (Y) as everything that is "nothing more than" fundamental particles (or something of that sort), in other words, reducible to something more basic (Z). However, B is also a materialist view, and it is not a reductionist view that allows the simplification of Y to Z. And this materialism also implies the view that the mental (X) is just one of the many complex and dynamic processes and relations of Y (just one of them, not an all-encompassing property that permeates all of Y). Being complex and dynamic means that they are highly undetermined, not simplifiable, down to a single circumstance (whether it is an entity, process or relation). It seems so far that Nagel decries A as the only materialism possible, which is obviously a straw man fallacy.

And secondly, the statement suggests that Nagel wants to consider the possibility that the mental (X) is more than Z (whatever Z might be that is not the physical). One can also ask here: what is called "the mental"? Is it C) the primordial substance alone or D) the whole domain where this substance operates, including its dynamic processes, relations and properties? If C, Nagel has a big problem. As you can see, as badly simplified as the materialism of A could be, at least it could be simplified to something (ironically, reducibility comes out as a big plus for this materialism), but this mental domain has nothing to hold on as a primordial substance, nothing intelligible, describable in its essence, it is completely lost into the ineffable. The very moment it enters the domain of Y (the physical) to describe itself, it has been self-defeated in both the views of C and D. We should turn the lights off and go home. All discussion about the reducibility or non-reducibility of the mental is then restricted to how one theory of the mental (C or D) is reducible to another simple theory, a purely epistemic reduction that has no bearing on the matter of what things are, but only in how things are explained. Of course, this last discussion extends to how materialist views (A or B) explain themselves, which brings to surface the notions of a theory of Y (the physical) depending on a theory of Z. We have to be aware of which reduction we are talking about, epistemic or ontological.
anonymous wrote:He is challenging a materialism that insists that the mental must reduce to the physical.

No, if the "dogmatic" view of materialism, as you or Nagel have claimed, is that "the mental (X) is reducible to Z (whatever Z might be that is not the physical), then he is describing idealism, and could not be describing materialism. Plain reductive materialism (which I called A above), simplifies Y to Z, not X to Y. And the type of materialism which I called B above, doesn't even reduce, neither Y to Z, nor X to Y, nor X to Z, it says X (the mental) is one of the many complex and dynamic processes and relations of Y, therefore not reducible, simplifiable to something else, or more basic, unless simplification entailed the subordination of one system to another, which would not be a good way to put it.
anonymous wrote: Less dogmatic approaches such as Strawson's and Stoljar suggest that it is possible to accept that both the mental and the physical are irreducible, and still consider oneself to be a physicalist- and Nagel is fine with approaches to materialism that accept that both the mental and physical properties are irreducible.
As we have seen, the separation between the mental and the physical, as both being starting points, proves to be a failure. If you are a physicalist, then there's no way you can use a mental substance as a starting point, it is self-defeating, it implies dualism, and dualism clashes with physicalism, by definition. Unless one is a idealist (monistic or dualistic), the mental is already embedded into the ontological notion of the physical, which does not mean reducible to it. I can think of sidewalks embedded into the ontological notion of cities, which does not mean cities are reducible to sidewalks. It makes no sense for a physicalist to think of the properties of the mental without reference (let's not say reduction, please), or independently, of the properties of the physical domain. Reducibility is irrelevant for that matter, whether one endorses reductive materialism, or non-reductive materialism.
anonymous wrote: Re: Naturalsim- Nagel is pursuing a non-reductive naturalism... as opposed to the reductive naturalism that he is challenging.
As a good old idealist, he's just taking shots to a straw man of materialism. I also suspect he's just trying to conceal, as hard as he can, his mysticism. That's what panpsychism is, anyway.
anonymous wrote: Re: Monism- Nagel's view is that there is only one kind of substance- and that all forms of that substance has both mental (or proto-mental) and physical (or proto-physical) properties.
If the mental properties are completely independent, not related to the physical properties, what would be the difference with proposing two kinds of substances with their own properties? This monism appears to have shaky grounds and falling very closely to dualist territory. But if there's a relationship between those properties, wouldn't Nagel be forced to always describe one in terms of the other in the same substance, in which case the distinction disappears? There would be just properties of the substance, neither material or mental. What are they, then?
anonymous wrote: I'm puzzled be your approach to the subject of consciousness. One the one hand you suggest that you are a physicalist who believes that the mental and the physical are both basic properties
As you can see, I don't suggest such a thing, which would make me a dualist and an idealist. I cannot say that the mental is a basic property independent of the physical, and still call myself a materialist.
anonymous wrote:but on the other hand you also say that you believe there was a time (before conscious life evolved, for instance)- when there was nothing mental. Do you see the contradictory nature of you beliefs?
I'm confident that by now I explained myself enough to dismiss this contradiction, that never existed.
anonymous wrote:If there was a time before anything mental- then the mental must necessarily reduce to the physical.
No, you're falling again in the error of thinking that everything must necessarily reduce to something else. You're forcing reduction, but on which philosophical grounds? Is it an epistemic reduction or an ontological one?
anonymous wrote: I accept that you are a physicalist who is after a non-reductive view of the mental (but, it appears that your theory needs some work- witness the contraction I pointed out above)
It must have been made obvious that I entirely deny any search for a "non-reductive view of the mental". I'm after a non-reductive view of materialism.
anonymous wrote:I (and Nagel) was under the impression that every physicalist theory of consciousness was necessarily reductive- and Nagel specifically challenges those approaches.

He mentions:
Behaviorism
Functionalism
Reductive materialism
All forms of identity theory
That's what I call his fallacious straw man argument against materialism. That list conveniently restricts materialism to non-emergentist versions of materialism, ignoring emergentist materialism theories like Searle's biological naturalism and Bhaskar's transcendental realism, all of which, in my view, could be reconciled with Dialectical Materialism, another noticeable absence in that list.
anonymous wrote: Yours appears to be a new approach that is none of those. I was unaware that there was a "non-panpsyschist" way to accept that both the mental and the physical are non-reductive. You don't appear to be describing Integrated Information Theory (ITT). Does the theory of consciousness you are advocating have a name? Are there other followers? Or is this something you've come up with on your own?
My approach to consciousness is just an extension of my understanding of the dialectics of nature, for which I claim no particular authorative basis, although it is consistent with Dialectical Materialism. As I said, I'm interested in emergentist, non-reductive conceptions of materialism. Particularly, regarding the problem of reduction in materialism as presented by Nagel, I endorse Bhaskar's views on the compatibility of epistemic reductions of naturalism, which he calls diachronic explanatory reduction, and synchronic emergence.

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