Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

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Gertie
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Gertie »

Gertie wrote: ↑Today, 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.
I don't see why the standard model couldn't in principle explain chemistry and biology in term of reducibility (causal and ontological) to fundamental particles and forces.

Psychology and sociology, as well as abstract concepts, epistemology, meaning, value and suchlike only come into play once conscious entities arrive on the scene. If/when we understand the mind-body relationship, we might have a way of reducing psychology and sociology to standard model physics - or we might find the model is incomplete/flawed or not fundamental. You're right gravity hasn't been integrated into the model, and neither have whatever dark matter and energy are. This is recognised. But theere is no place holder like 'dark matter' for experience, it's simply not there, because of its peculiar non-physical properties.
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.
Maybe, but the model claims to describe the entirety of the universe in terms of its fundamental stuff and the way those particles interact in terms of forces, with the exceptions you noted which they are working on. The universe being unimaginably complex hasn't prevented the creation of this 'in principle' model, while not claiming to be able to give detailed explanations for every complex phenomenon.

Emergence is a concept which might enable experience to find a place in the physicalist model. We agree that experience as an ontologically irreducibile emergent property looks very problematic, and you think emergence which is ontologically reducible to brain stuff in motion, which in turn is reducible to particles and forces, is probably correct. And gave me the link as a way this could be true.

My reading of the link is it's considering Emergence as a result of randomness, complexity, chaos and/or limited observation/measurement as the factors behind emergent properties manifesting. As I understood it anyway - have I misunderstood? I didn't find it easy to see exactly what the claim was or how it could be applied to conscious experience. Orch Or came to mind because it's looking at a 'heirarchy interface', which doesn't exclude quantum randomness, or the causality associated with classical physics. I could vaguely see that as a potential way of testing one of the ideas thrown out in the link.
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.)
What does epistemological phenonemon mean? (Google wasn't helpful)
(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.)
The sort of physical processes involved in genetic copying imperfections which result in new traits has no obvious link to how physical processes can in principle manifest experiential properties, that's the issue.

"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."
I don't understand quantum theory either, but this looks like a sensible line of enquiry, and the three frameworks outlined here make sense to me. Note 2 and 3 aren't an obvious fit with experiencing being an emergent property of brain stuff in motion.

"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.
Hmmm. My understanding is physicists went looking for the Higgs bosun to make the model work because they realised something was missing. They predicted it must exist, then set about finding it and incorporated it into the model. They have nothing which predicts experience should exist, that's the point. So there is the possibility the standard model is flawed, incomplete or not fundamental. On the other hand experience might be an emergent property, which is what we're discussing.
Gertie
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Gertie »

And I personally don't see how anyone is in a position to pick which possibility, if any, is correct.
Gertie
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Gertie »

Consul wrote: July 18th, 2021, 7:02 pm 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)
Agreed, there's no good reason I've seen to discount ontologically reducible emergence.

Where-as the apparent self-contradiction I pointed out in ontologically irreducible emergence looks difficult to get past for physicalists imo.
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Consul
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Consul »

Gertie wrote: July 19th, 2021, 2:51 pmAgreed, there's no good reason I've seen to discount ontologically reducible emergence.

Where-as the apparent self-contradiction I pointed out in ontologically irreducible emergence looks difficult to get past for physicalists imo.
Ontological emergence entails epistemological emergence, but epistemological emergence doesn't entail ontological emergence.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars
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Consul
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Re: Conscious Experience and Ontological Reductionism (off topic continuation)

Post by Consul »

Gertie wrote: July 19th, 2021, 2:40 pm
Consul wrote: July 18th, 2021, 6:29 pmI'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.
I don't see why the standard model couldn't in principle explain chemistry and biology in term of reducibility (causal and ontological) to fundamental particles and forces.
Yes, if ontological reductionism is true, and all chemical, biological, and psychological entities are nothing over and above complexes of microphysical entities as postulated by the standard model, then reductive microphysical explanations of them should be possible in principle at least, if not in practice.

There are doubtless enormous and perhaps insurmountable practical and technical problems. For example, a complete microphysical description of the human brain and its dynamics would have to encode detailed information about trillions, quadrillions, quintillions…(I don't know how many) of single elementary particles, their states, motions, connections, and interactions. Will there ever be a supercomputer capable or processing and storing such a gigantic amount of microphysical information?
Gertie wrote: July 19th, 2021, 2:40 pmPsychology and sociology, as well as abstract concepts, epistemology, meaning, value and suchlike only come into play once conscious entities arrive on the scene. If/when we understand the mind-body relationship, we might have a way of reducing psychology and sociology to standard model physics - or we might find the model is incomplete/flawed or not fundamental. You're right gravity hasn't been integrated into the model, and neither have whatever dark matter and energy are. This is recognised. But theere is no place holder like 'dark matter' for experience, it's simply not there, because of its peculiar non-physical properties.
Especially with regard to psychological and sociological phenomena, the physicalistic problem of reduction and reductive explanation is basically an integration problem:

QUOTE>
"How can we give an account of ourselves, with our peculiar human traits—as mindful, rational, speech-act performing, free-will having, social, political human beings—in a world that we know independently consists of mindless, meaningless, physical particles? How can we account for our social and mental existence in a realm of brute physical facts? In answering that question, we have to avoid postulating different ontological realms, a mental realm and a physical, or worse yet, a mental, a physical, and a social. We are just talking about one reality, and we have to explain how the human reality fits into that one reality."

(Searle, John R. Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. pp. ix-x)
<QUOTE
Gertie wrote: July 19th, 2021, 2:40 pmMaybe, but the model claims to describe the entirety of the universe in terms of its fundamental stuff and the way those particles interact in terms of forces, with the exceptions you noted which they are working on. The universe being unimaginably complex hasn't prevented the creation of this 'in principle' model, while not claiming to be able to give detailed explanations for every complex phenomenon.
Yes, despite its imperfection or incompletion, the standard model is meant to be universally applicable to all physical systems.

QUOTE>
"The Standard Model of Particle Physics is one of the very great achievements of science, and is the distillation of many decades of work by enormous numbers of scientists. The model is well validated by experiment, and brings together all the fundamental matter and force particles we know of. The foundations on which the standard model is built are QED, the electroweak interaction, and QCD. All the fundamental particles needed to build normal matter are here: from quarks, to nuclei, to atoms, to chemistry, to life, all the way up to the visible universe. Gravity is not included in the model because there is at present no viable theory of quantum gravity."

(Cottrell, Geoff. Matter: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. p. 112)
<QUOTE

By the way, the physicist (and Nobel prize awardee) Frank Wilczek developed an expanded base-level theory he calls the Core Theory (= Standard Model + Gravity):

QUOTE>
"As used in this book, Core Theory refers to the reigning theories of the strong, weak, electromagnetic, and gravitational forces, embodying the principles of quantum theory and local symmetry (including general relativity, the local version of Galilean symmetry).

The Core Theory, or its sub-theory excluding gravity, is often called the Standard Model. For reasons explained in the text, I feel a better name is called for.

(Why would anyone even consider excluding gravity in defining the Core? It is often said that there is a fundamental conflict between quantum mechanics and general relativity, and it is sometimes claimed that that conflict entails a paralyzing crisis in physics. Both statements are exaggerations, and the second is positively misleading. For example, astrophysicists routinely combine general relativity and quantum mechanics in their work without encountering serious difficulties.
One can bring general relativity into the equations of the Core in a unique, compelling way, using the same deep principle—local symmetry—that we use to get the other forces. The rules of quantum theory continue to apply.
The Core Theory, thus defined, fails to give convincing answers to thought experiments about certain aspects of black hole physics, and its equations become singular and unusable when we extrapolate to the origin of the cosmological Big Bang, so it is not a Theory of Everything. We knew that already, thanks to the family, dark energy, and dark matter problems, among others. Nevertheless it is a coherent, falsifiable, powerful, and economical theory. It is entirely appropriate to include general relativity as part of the Core, and I have done so.)"

(Wilczek, Frank. A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design. New York: Penguin, 2016. pp. 350-1)
<QUOTE

By the way, all other material objects in the known universe are less complex than the human brain. (There might be superhuman organisms on other planets with brains more complex than ours.)

QUOTE>
"The human brain is the most complex entity we know of. It contains at least 90 billion neurons (nerve cells). Each of these is a complex information-processing device in its own right and interacts with about 1,000 other neurons. Understanding this degree of complexity is a daunting task."

(Seth, Anil, ed. 30-Second Brain. London: Icon Books, 2017. p. 6)
<QUOTE
Gertie wrote: July 19th, 2021, 2:40 pm
Consul wrote: July 18th, 2021, 6:29 pmWhen 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.)
What does epistemological phenonemon mean? (Google wasn't helpful)
I meant to say that the apparent quantum randomness may result from the limits of physical knowledge or knowability.
Gertie wrote: July 19th, 2021, 2:40 pm
Consul wrote: July 18th, 2021, 6:29 pm"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."
I don't understand quantum theory either, but this looks like a sensible line of enquiry, and the three frameworks outlined here make sense to me. Note 2 and 3 aren't an obvious fit with experiencing being an emergent property of brain stuff in motion.
3 sounds like neutralism (neutral monism), of which there are both emergentistic and reductionistic versions.

"Quantum physics is the study of matter and energy at its most fundamental level."

Source: https://www.nature.com/subjects/quantum-physics

Thus defined, quantum physics is relevant to physicalist reductionism about consciousness.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars
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