Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

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Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Gertie »

For background, as I understand it, Property Dualism and Searle's Biological Naturalism basically suggest that brain processes causally result in conscious experience, and in that sense conscious experience is a novel emergent property of brain processes. But some property dualists say conscious experience isn't itself 'made of', or composed of (ontologically reducible to) brain processes. So while conscious experience is causally reducible to (emergent from) brain processes, it is not ontologically reducible to them, it is ontologically irreducible, fundamental. And neither is it a different substance to the material brain processes it emerges from.

There's a fair chance I've got some of this wrong, but anyway this thread has been started in order to continue a convo I was having with @Consul about this which got locked. So here's where we were at -
Gertie wrote: ↑July 10th, 2021, 6:01 pmThanks. So when you say conscious experience is 'ontologically emergent' from material brain processes, you're saying conscious experience's constituents are different, and can't be broken down into something more fundamental, including the things (physical brain stuff in motion) it emerged from?
Yes, an ontologically emergent property or occurrence (fact/state/event/process) is a fundamental higher-level entity occurring in a physical system such as a brain; so it cannot be broken down or decomposed into the lower-level entities which constitute its emergence base, simply because it isn't composed of any of them.
Gertie wrote: ↑July 10th, 2021, 6:01 pmWould conscious experience therefore have to be a substance (non-identical with brains in motion), in order to have different irreducible constituents? Or if not, in what other aspect is it irreducible?
Experiences emerging from neural processes are nonsubstantial occurrences (facts/states/events/processes) rather than substances. The substrates of emergent experiential occurrences are material substances such as brains. Emergent occurrences or properties are higher-level entities in a complex or system which depend on, but aren't composed of or constructed from any lower-level entities; and that's why they are irreducible.
How do you then tackle the objection that a property, or an occurence, is by its nature a property OF something?

So if an apple has the property of being 8cm diameter, the measurement is OF the constituents of the apple. If my cat is fat, the fatness is related to the constituents of the cat. (There are other types of properties which we minded critters can assign like my cat is adorable, or water feels wet, but lets stick with natural emergence for now).

Ontological irreducibility seems to claim that a property is constituted of whatever its property is, right? The property of conscious experience is composed of the property of conscious experience. As if to say fat is composed of fatness, or speed of speedness.

To sum up -

Properties and states have to be constituted OF something, have constituents. Occurences are constituents in motion. If experiencing isn't ontologically reducible to brains in motion or something else, what are they properties, states or occurences OF?

If experiencing isn't a property, state or occurence of something else, and isn't a substance in its own right, what is left for it to be?
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Consul »

Gertie wrote: July 16th, 2021, 3:02 pmThere's a fair chance I've got some of this wrong, but anyway this thread has been started in order to continue a convo I was having with @Consul about this which got locked. So here's where we were at -

How do you then tackle the objection that a property, or an occurence, is by its nature a property OF something?

So if an apple has the property of being 8cm diameter, the measurement is OF the constituents of the apple. If my cat is fat, the fatness is related to the constituents of the cat. (There are other types of properties which we minded critters can assign like my cat is adorable, or water feels wet, but lets stick with natural emergence for now).

Ontological irreducibility seems to claim that a property is constituted of whatever its property is, right? The property of conscious experience is composed of the property of conscious experience. As if to say fat is composed of fatness, or speed of speedness.
Here's my reply: viewtopic.php?p=389806#p389806
Gertie wrote: July 16th, 2021, 3:02 pmProperties and states have to be constituted OF something, have constituents.
Simple properties (and simple entities in general) aren't constituted by or composed of anything (else).
(I'm talking about mereological simplicity.)

States (of affairs) are never simple, because (following Roderick Chisholm's terminology) they have both a substrate, i.e. a substantive component (at least one thing/object/substance), and a content, i.e. an attributive component (property or relation). An atomic or basic nonrelational state (of affairs) has the form x being/having Y, and a relational one has the form x being R-related to y.
A state is always a state of something in the sense that its content is always an attribute of something.

I subsume states (of affairs) under the ontological umbrella term "occurrence".

States (of affairs) can be static (by containing a static property), but they can as well be dynamic (by containing a dynamic property). A property is dynamic iff it is a "motion-property", "action-property", or "passion-property". For example, swimming and walking are dynamic properties—and so is experiencing.
Gertie wrote: July 16th, 2021, 3:02 pmIf experiencing isn't a property, state or occurence of something else, and isn't a substance in its own right, what is left for it to be?
Experiencings (experiential passions) are dynamic properties of subjects of experience; and, from my materialistic perspective, they are constituted by neural processings in the brains of subjects.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Gertie »

Ah I hadn't spotted the continuation on the other thread, sorry.
Gertie wrote: ↑Today, 3:02 pmIf experiencing isn't a property, state or occurence of something else, and isn't a substance in its own right, what is left for it to be?
Experiencings (experiential passions) are dynamic properties of subjects of experience; and, from my materialistic perspective, they are constituted by neural processings in the brains of subjects.
Thanks I was getting muddled there.

What I'm still struggling to get to, is what reality is being described here.

You seem to be saying that experiencing can be described as simple (irreducible) stuff in motion, if you agree a property can't exist indepently of its constituent(s) stuff/substrate/substance.

But simultaneously have constituents/parts ie brain stuff in motion (neurons, chemicals, etc interacting).


It looks like two contradictory, mutually exclusive ways of describing the same real phenomenon of experiencing.


Calling experience a property or occurence doesn't change that as far as I can see, and my suspicion is the abstract language might be blurring the contradiction.
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Consul »

Gertie wrote: July 16th, 2021, 5:42 pm
Consul wrote: July 16th, 2021, 4:31 pm Experiencings (experiential passions) are dynamic properties of subjects of experience; and, from my materialistic perspective, they are constituted by neural processings in the brains of subjects.
Thanks I was getting muddled there.

What I'm still struggling to get to, is what reality is being described here.
You seem to be saying that experiencing can be described as simple (irreducible) stuff in motion, if you agree a property can't exist indepently of its constituent(s) stuff/substrate/substance.
But simultaneously have constituents/parts ie brain stuff in motion (neurons, chemicals, etc interacting).
It looks like two contradictory, mutually exclusive ways of describing the same real phenomenon of experiencing.
Calling experience a property or occurence doesn't change that as far as I can see, and my suspicion is the abstract language might be blurring the contradiction.
I'm not sure I get your point.

Experiences qua occurrences (states/events/processes) are havings of experiential properties by something/somebody.
(Some materialists say the havers of experiential properties, i.e. the experiencers or experiencing subjects, are whole organisms, whereas others say they are brains or brain-parts.)

Both neural processes and—if experiences are neural processes—experiences are fundamentally complexes of simple elementary particles in motion and interaction.
We are not introspectively aware of the neural and microphysical complexity and composition of our experiences, but nonperception of complexity is not the same as perception of noncomplexity. (Our inner perception of our simple-seeming experiences is a case of holistic "gestalt perception": We perceive the whole but not its parts and their interrelations/interactions.)

From the point of view of reductive materialism, first-person phenomenological descriptions of experiences and third-person neurophysiolgical ones describe one and the same portion of basic physical reality: certain cerebral complexes of simple elementary particles in motion and interaction.
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Gertie »

Both neural processes and—if experiences are neural processes—experiences are fundamentally complexes of simple elementary particles in motion and interaction.
That is my point.

How then, according to physicalism, can experience be ontologically irreducible if its constituents are physical stuff?
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Consul »

Gertie wrote: July 17th, 2021, 10:34 am
Both neural processes and—if experiences are neural processes—experiences are fundamentally complexes of simple elementary particles in motion and interaction.
That is my point. How then, according to physicalism, can experience be ontologically irreducible if its constituents are physical stuff?
According to reductive physicalism, experience is certainly not irreducible; but according to nonreductive physicalism, it is, because the mental properties instantiated by complexes of elementary particles are different from any (structural) physical properties of them. Whether nonreductive physicalism is still a genuine form of physicalism is another question.

QUOTE>
"[T]he most widely accepted form of physicalism today combines substance physicalism with property dualism: All concrete individual things in this world are physical, but complex physical systems can, and sometimes do, exhibit properties that are not reducible to “lower-level” physical properties. Among these irreducible properties are, most notably, psychological properties, including those investigated in the psychological and cognitive sciences.

[N]onreductive physicalism, as standardly understood, comprises the following four claims:

Substance Physicalism. The space-time world consists exclusively of bits of matter and their aggregates.

Irreducibility of the Mental. Mental properties are not reducible to physical properties.

Mind-Body Supervenience or Realization. Either (a) mental properties supervene on physical properties, or (b) mental properties, when they are realized, are realized by physical properties.

Mental Causal Efficacy. Mental properties are causally efficacious; mental events are sometimes causes of other events, both physical and mental.

Nonreductive physicalism, understood as the conjunction of these four theses, has been the most influential position on the mental-physical relation. We can think of property dualism as the conjunction of the first, second, and fourth doctrines—that is, all but mind-body supervenience/realization. Besides its acceptance of substance physicalism, what makes nonreductive physicalism a serious physicalism is its commitment to mind-body supervenience/realization. Property dualism that rejects mind-body supervenience/realization seems, prima facie, to be a possible position; however, this form of property dualism has not found strong advocates and remains largely undeveloped."

(Kim, Jaegwon. Philosophy of Mind. 3rd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2011. pp. 123-4)
<QUOTE

Here's a quote by Jack Smart, who's a reductive physicalist:

QUOTE>
"When I say that a sensation is a brain process I want to say that a sensation is some sort of four-dimensional entity. As a first shot (...) I want to think of a brain process as represented by a four-dimensional cat's cradle of world lines—the world lines of the particles which make up the process."

(Smart, J. J. C. "Further Thoughts on the Identity Theory." The Monist 56/2 (1972): 149–162. p. 153)
<QUOTE
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Gertie »

According to reductive physicalism, experience is certainly not irreducible; but according to nonreductive physicalism, it is, because the mental properties instantiated by complexes of elementary particles are different from any (structural) physical properties of them. Whether nonreductive physicalism is still a genuine form of physicalism is another question.
Yes! I'm questioning your position, which as I read it, is that you are a physicalist who believes experience is ontologically irreducible. Like Searle.

I'm saying it doesn't make sense to say experiencing is constituted by brain stuff in motion, but is also not, but rather is some simple, irreducible 'occurence' or 'property'

I'm saying just calling this simple irreducible something you're positing experience to be, an 'emergent property' or 'occurence' or 'state' doesn't answer or avoid that key apparent contradiction.

That's the point I'm addressing to you.
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Consul »

Gertie wrote: July 17th, 2021, 11:54 amYes! I'm questioning your position, which as I read it, is that you are a physicalist who believes experience is ontologically irreducible. Like Searle.

I'm saying it doesn't make sense to say experiencing is constituted by brain stuff in motion, but is also not, but rather is some simple, irreducible 'occurence' or 'property'

I'm saying just calling this simple irreducible something you're positing experience to be, an 'emergent property' or 'occurence' or 'state' doesn't answer or avoid that key apparent contradiction.

That's the point I'm addressing to you.
There's a misunderstanding, because I am a reductive materialist about experience by saying that all psychological entities are nonsimple entities fundamentally composed of/constituted by/constructed from nothing but simple physical entities.

(Some believe there are no simple physical entities, because they think matter is divisible ad infinitum, being "atomless gunk". ("Atomless" in the mereological, not the physical sense of "atom", since physical atoms have proper parts and hence aren't mereological atoms.) If they are right, I must formulate my position as follows: All psychological entities are nonsimple entities fundamentally composed of/constituted by/constructed from nothing but nonsimple physical entities.)
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Gertie »

Consul wrote: July 17th, 2021, 12:47 pm
Gertie wrote: July 17th, 2021, 11:54 amYes! I'm questioning your position, which as I read it, is that you are a physicalist who believes experience is ontologically irreducible. Like Searle.

I'm saying it doesn't make sense to say experiencing is constituted by brain stuff in motion, but is also not, but rather is some simple, irreducible 'occurence' or 'property'

I'm saying just calling this simple irreducible something you're positing experience to be, an 'emergent property' or 'occurence' or 'state' doesn't answer or avoid that key apparent contradiction.

That's the point I'm addressing to you.
There's a misunderstanding, because I am a reductive materialist about experience by saying that all psychological entities are nonsimple entities fundamentally composed of/constituted by/constructed from nothing but simple physical entities.

(Some believe there are no simple physical entities, because they think matter is divisible ad infinitum, being "atomless gunk". ("Atomless" in the mereological, not the physical sense of "atom", since physical atoms have proper parts and hence aren't mereological atoms.) If they are right, I must formulate my position as follows: All psychological entities are nonsimple entities fundamentally composed of/constituted by/constructed from nothing but nonsimple physical entities.)
My apologies then, I thought you were defending your own position.

This contradiction in the ontologically irreducible position is a problem I can't see a way around for the physicalist, unless you appeal to some more fundamental explanatory model than the standard model. And why simply citing the concept of emergence doesn't work imo.

Those physicalists who say consciousness is an ontologically reducible emergent property of brain stuff in motion, which is in turn reducible to particles and forces per the standard model, then have the problem of identifying the physical mechanisms and principles involved. Aka a Theory. When experience couldn't in principle be predicted by the standard model, the way physical brain processes can in principle be predicted and reduced in terms of physical particles and forces. That suggests to me that the standard model may be either incomplete or there is a more fundamental explanation.
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Consul »

Gertie wrote: July 17th, 2021, 1:41 pmMy apologies then, I thought you were defending your own position.
I was—by arguing against the possibility of ontological emergence: viewtopic.php?p=389795#p389795
Gertie wrote: July 17th, 2021, 1:41 pmThis contradiction in the ontologically irreducible position is a problem I can't see a way around for the physicalist, unless you appeal to some more fundamental explanatory model than the standard model. And why simply citing the concept of emergence doesn't work imo.

Those physicalists who say consciousness is an ontologically reducible emergent property of brain stuff in motion, which is in turn reducible to particles and forces per the standard model, then have the problem of identifying the physical mechanisms and principles involved. Aka a Theory. When experience couldn't in principle be predicted by the standard model, the way physical brain processes can in principle be predicted and reduced in terms of physical particles and forces. That suggests to me that the standard model may be either incomplete or there is a more fundamental explanation.
As far as I can tell, ontological reductionism is compatible with epistemological emergentism, so epistemic (bottom-up) nonpredictability doesn't entail ontic (top-down) nonreducibility. Psychological phenomena may not be predictable on the basis of microphysical knowledge as embodied by the standard model, but it doesn't follow that they aren't fundamentally composed of microphysical phenomena.

A reductive microphysical explanation of experience in terms of millions or even billions of single brain particles and their interactions would be much too complicated to be expressible; so the physicalist level of reductive explanation must be a higher one: the level of cellular&molecular neurophysiology. But no ontological reductionist doubts that the higher-level entities of neurophysiology are nothing over and above complexes of base-level entities of microphysics, viz. elementary particles.
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Terrapin Station »

On my view, emergentists aren't very clear about what they're claiming, exactly.

Whether they're intentionally unclear because they don't want to present views that can be "pinned down," (this unfortunately is often a motivation for a lack of clarity in general), or whether they have difficulty putting their views into words that would be clear re exactly what they claiming is often difficult to decide.

On my view, properties are factors of:
(a) matter, in the "chunks of stuff" sense,
(b) spatiotemporal relations of (a), and
(c) dynamics, or the fact that (b) is never static.

(a), (b) and (c) aren't ontologically or metaphyiscally separable, but obviously we can make some separation in them conceptually.

(a), (b) and (c) are the "parts" that everything is comprised of (and on my view (a), (b) and (c) is all that there is.)

So consciousness is identical to a subset of brain states/processes, and all properties are identical to some "set" of (a), (b) and (c). Properties in general are also not ontologically/metaphysically separable from (a), (b) and (c)--they're simply what dynamic relations of matter are like qualitatively. But again we can make a conceptual distinction.

Property dualism is simply the fact that what properties are like differs depending on the spatiotemporal reference frame or point that they're observed from (in the broader, nonpersonal sense of observation a la the sciences).

It's usually not very clear re emergentists whether they're saying that there are emergent properties "above" (a), (b) and (c) or whether they're simply not counting (b) and/or (c) as parts.
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Gertie »

Gertie wrote: ↑Today, 1:41 pm
My apologies then, I thought you were defending your own position.
I was—by arguing against the possibility of ontological emergence: viewtopic.php?p=389795#p389795
I don;t always read posts not addressed to me, esp when I've got a bee in my bonnet about something. Yours can be long and technical too, which is great, I've learned good stuff from you, but not always what I'm up for - pearls before swine ;). Anyway, turns out we agree!

Epistemological emergentism is a new one me, I'll have a look.
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Gertie »

Epistemological Emergence!

From your link
Predictive: Emergent properties are systemic features of complex systems which could not be predicted (practically speaking; or for any finite knower; or for even an ideal knower) from the standpoint of a pre-emergent stage, despite a thorough knowledge of the features of, and laws governing, their parts.

Irreducible-Pattern: Emergent properties and laws are systemic features of complex systems governed by true, lawlike generalizations within a special science that is irreducible to fundamental physical theory for conceptual reasons. The macroscopic patterns in question cannot be captured in terms of the concepts and dynamics of physics. Although he does not use the language of emergence, Jerry Fodor (1974) expresses this view nicely in speaking of the ‘immortal economist’ who vainly tries to derive economic principles from a knowledge of physics and the distribution of physical qualities in space-time.

Right. So how can this be squared with Physicalism. And specifically conscious experience as an emergent property of physical brain processes.

The link mentions various ideas to do with uncertainty, complexity, the limits of our precision, and chaos. I think basically saying the Standard Model as it stands is too crude, and will miss certain 'outlier' outcomes, which we currently attribute to 'emergence'.


Have I got that right?


That's hard for me to judge, or know how mainstream physicists think about this. But regardless, it's not obvious to me how randomness/uncertainty or the other ideas would lead to complex brains in motion somehow manifesting the property of conscious experiencing. Do you know if anyone has tried to make that specific case? If it's a physicalist foundation for experience as emergent property dualism then I'd imagine it's been tried? Is this the hypothesis what Orch Or is working on for example?
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Consul »

Gertie wrote: July 18th, 2021, 4:16 pmRight. So how can this be squared with Physicalism. And specifically conscious experience as an emergent property of physical brain processes.

The link mentions various ideas to do with uncertainty, complexity, the limits of our precision, and chaos. I think basically saying the Standard Model as it stands is too crude, and will miss certain 'outlier' outcomes, which we currently attribute to 'emergence'.
Have I got that right?

That's hard for me to judge, or know how mainstream physicists think about this. But regardless, it's not obvious to me how randomness/uncertainty or the other ideas would lead to complex brains in motion somehow manifesting the property of conscious experiencing. Do you know if anyone has tried to make that specific case? If it's a physicalist foundation for experience as emergent property dualism then I'd imagine it's been tried? Is this the hypothesis what Orch Or is working on for example?
I'm not a physicist, but I don't think the standard model of physics is "too crude". However, it's not a theory of everything physical—e.g. it doesn't include and explain gravity—, let alone a theory of everything, in the sense that all chemical, biological, psychological, and sociological conceptions, descriptions, and explanations can be reductively replaced with or translated into microphysical ones based on the standard model.

However, even if the sciences "above" physics turn out to be theoretically, semantically, and epistemically irreducible to or irreplaceable by (micro)physics—(micro)physical terms, theories, knowledge—, ontological reductionism about their respective subject matters isn't thereby refuted, because it doesn't follow that the irreducibility of the higher-level sciences to the base-level science is due to cases of ontological emergence. There may be other reasons—such as representational or computational supercomplexity that can make it impossible for scientists to describe and explain e.g. neural networks and human societies on the microphysical level in terms of single elementary particles and their interactions.

When quantum physics enters the stage, things get very complicated and obscure (not mathematically, but metaphysically). For example, is quantum randomness an ontological phenomenon or just an epistemological one? (According to Bohmian mechanics, a deterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics, it's not ontological.)

(Speaking of randomness, consciousness appeared in the high-level biological context of animal evolution through natural selection, where we find randomness on the genetic level. But whether or not an individual organism with its randomly or nonrandomly determined traits survives in its natural habitat and succeeds in producing offspring is not a matter of randomness.)

Quantum approaches to consciousness such as Orch OR are highly contentious; but, to be honest, I don't know much about them.

"It is widely accepted that consciousness or, more generally, mental activity is in some way correlated to the behavior of the material brain. Since quantum theory is the most fundamental theory of matter that is currently available, it is a legitimate question to ask whether quantum theory can help us to understand consciousness. Several approaches answering this question affirmatively, proposed in recent decades, will be surveyed. There are three basic types of corresponding approaches: (1) consciousness is a manifestation of quantum processes in the brain, (2) quantum concepts are used to understand consciousness without referring to brain activity, and (3) matter and consciousness are regarded as dual aspects of one underlying reality."
———
QUOTE>
"Even though the Standard Model is currently the best description there is of the subatomic world, it does not explain the complete picture. The theory incorporates only three out of the four fundamental forces, omitting gravity. There are also important questions that it does not answer, such as “What is dark matter?”, or “What happened to the antimatter after the big bang?”, “Why are there three generations of quarks and leptons with such a different mass scale?” and more. Last but not least is a particle called the Higgs boson, an essential component of the Standard Model.

On 4 July 2012, the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) announced they had each observed a new particle in the mass region around 126 GeV. This particle is consistent with the Higgs boson but it will take further work to determine whether or not it is the Higgs boson predicted by the Standard Model. The Higgs boson, as proposed within the Standard Model, is the simplest manifestation of the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism. Other types of Higgs bosons are predicted by other theories that go beyond the Standard Model.

On 8 October 2013 the Nobel prize in physics was awarded jointly to François Englert and Peter Higgs “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider”.

So although the Standard Model accurately describes the phenomena within its domain, it is still incomplete. Perhaps it is only a part of a bigger picture that includes new physics hidden deep in the subatomic world or in the dark recesses of the universe. New information from experiments at the LHC will help us to find more of these missing pieces."

Source: https://home.cern/science/physics/standard-model
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

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If ontologically reductive microphysicalism about all higher-level or macro-phenomena (particularly subjective experience) is true (in the sense that they are all fundamentally composed of or constituted by microphysical entities), we may still…

"…have higher-level predicates, laws, explanations, and theories that are indispensable for expressing truths about the case; and/or higher-level predicates, laws, explanations, and theories that are uncomputable/underivable/unpredictable from laws, explanations, and theories concerning components; and/or the case involves non-linear dynamics; and/or the case requires explanation by simulation; and/or we have relations of multiple composition in the examples; and/or the case involves feedback loops; amongst other features."

(Gillett, Carl. Reduction and Emergence in Science and Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. p. 304)
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