Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

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Gertie
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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Gertie » June 30th, 2020, 11:35 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 9:26 am
Gertie wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 6:58 am


I find it useful to talk about 'experiential states' as the phenomenal aspect of consciousness, it makes it clear what you're talking about then, hopefully.

And if you have an experiential state, a 'what it is like' experience, you know you have it, because that's the nature of experiencing. And you can't mistake the experience of seeing a red apple with a green one, whether or not you're right about the colour of the apple.



Right, there's a difference between thinking to yourself the propostion ''this is a mental experience of seeing a tree', and just seeing the tree. There's also a difference between focusing on a particular tree, and the 'field of vision' around it which is there, but indistinct.

But I am still having all those different types of 'what it like' experiencing, which involves directly knowing the 'what it's like' content of that experience. Not necessarily in a propositional linguistic way narrated by the thinky voice in my head. But that voice is just another type of experiential state, the one which creates a coherent, edited narrative which helps me navigate the world. Focus, awareness, self-reflection do too. Similarly vision, touch, memory, sensation, mood, imagining, believing, reasoning, etc. I think of them as different flavours of experience, but they all experienced in a 'what it is like' way, and so directly known in that sense.

So in terms of experiential knowledge, I would say intentional experiential states such as ''this is the mental experience of seeing a tree'' is made of the same stuff-of-experiencing as just the qualia experiential state of seeing a tree, or a less distinct field of vision. Just different flavours of experiencing, of 'what it's like', fulfilling different roles.
Are you saying that for you, there's never just a tree, say, without any sense/concept of self (experiencing the tree) attached to it?
No, I didn't address that. Depends what you mean by sense of self.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Gertie » June 30th, 2020, 12:18 pm

Steve
But it's strange how some people seem to interpret the statement: "to figure out how the world works and what's in it, I have to observe it" as the completely different statement: "the world only exists insofar as I, or someone else, is looking at it."
Well they're offering a different phenomenological interpretation. It's possible for example that there is some relational process between consciousness and stuff which changes both, in ways which you could call 'bringing objects into existence', but it's a tough one to argue for against more immediately obvious ideas like materialism. And my tomato plants offer a pretty good refutation by growing overnight when nobody's watching...

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Terrapin Station » June 30th, 2020, 2:24 pm

Gertie wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 11:35 am
Terrapin Station wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 9:26 am


Are you saying that for you, there's never just a tree, say, without any sense/concept of self (experiencing the tree) attached to it?
No, I didn't address that. Depends what you mean by sense of self.
Ah, well that was the whole point of what I wrote. Often there's just a tree with no sense or concept of self (experiencing the tree) attached to it.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Gertie » June 30th, 2020, 3:00 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 2:24 pm
Gertie wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 11:35 am


No, I didn't address that. Depends what you mean by sense of self.
Ah, well that was the whole point of what I wrote. Often there's just a tree with no sense or concept of self (experiencing the tree) attached to it.
I agree.

I addressed that indirectly in terms of 'flavours' of experiential states which seemed the relevant way to answer your post, which I took to be about 'knowing'.

Sometimes the experiential state is the thinky voice inside your head which entails an in-the-moment sense of self as the narrator. Sometimes it's indistinctly registering some field of vision type of experience which probably doesn't. Sometimes it's looking at a tree and thinking something about that tree like it's an oak, which probably has something of a sense of self about it, in terms of knowing you aren't the tree, you're a Subject with a first person pov here-now.

So not all of those 'what it's like' experiences involve an in-the-moment 'sense of self' as I'd put it.


What is your definition of 'sense or concept of self'? And what do you think I'm missing?

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 30th, 2020, 3:44 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 3:16 am
Consul wrote:Narrowly defined, the physical is the MEST stuff physics is about.
What you appear to be saying is that, in your view, Physicalism improves on Materialism by adding three more things (EST) to the list of entitites that are deemed to exist. That appears to me to be just as arbitrary as sticking to M. And some people who regard themselves as both Materialists and Physicalists will pointlessly argue with you as to whether those extra 3 should be included, or should be regarded as properties1 of M.

I think that pre-deciding that physics is about MEST (and things that are consituted of them or are properties of them1) makes no more sense than pre-deciding that it's only about M (ditto1).

In my view, it makes no sense to restrict ourselves in that way. It's about whatever we observe to be the case with regard to the patterns and regularities in those observations. If that means MEST, fine. But if it does mean that, it's because it's observed to mean that.
I disagree. Physics isn't just "empirics" with "whatever we observe" as its subject matter.

QUOTE>
"Physics—the study of the laws that determine the structure of the universe with reference to the matter and energy of which it consists. It is concerned not with chemical changes that occur but with the forces that exist between objects and the interrelationship between matter and energy."

(Oxford Dictionary of Physics, 8th ed., 2019)
<QUOTE

The author should have added "…the spatiotemporal universe…".

Matter, energy, space, and time are the four central categories generally circumscribing the subject matter of physics. Physics is the basic science of the MEST world. That's not an illegitimate "pre-decision" or a priori dogma, because that's simply what physics is. It makes no sense to object that it may turn out empirically that physics is actually about something else, something that has nothing to do with MEST.

I'm aware that physics doesn't entail physicalism or physical realism about MEST. There are antimaterialistic and antirealistic interpretations of physics in the context of idealism, phenomenalism, and strict empiricism—e.g. Berkeley, according to whom material objects or bodies are nothing but clusters of "ideas of sense"; and Kant, according to whom space and time are nothing but subjective forms of sensory intuition.

The subject matter of physics is psychologized by these guys, because it's no longer about "things in themselves" (which are deemed either nonexistent or existent but "noumenal", i.e. imperceptible and inconceivable in principle) but about sensory "ideas", sensory appearances, sense-impressions, sense-data and their integration into complex sense-fields, whose nature and structure is the subject matter of physics from the point of view of idealism/phenomenalism/strict empiricism.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 30th, 2020, 3:51 pm

Consul wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 3:44 pm
Matter, energy, space, and time are the four central categories generally circumscribing the subject matter of physics. Physics is the basic science of the MEST world. That's not an illegitimate "pre-decision" or a priori dogma, because that's simply what physics is. It makes no sense to object that it may turn out empirically that physics is actually about something else, something that has nothing to do with MEST.
Note that to say so is not to endorse any particular (meta-)physical theory of matter, energy, space, or time!
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Steve3007 » June 30th, 2020, 4:01 pm

Gertie wrote:Well they're offering a different phenomenological interpretation.
I'd say that they say two different things.
It's possible for example that there is some relational process between consciousness and stuff which changes both, in ways which you could call 'bringing objects into existence',
I wouldn't call it "bringing objects into existence". But observers are things in the world, not ghosts, so to a greater or lesser extent they affect other things in the world, including things that they may be observing. In everyday life we're often used to it being a lesser extent, to the point of being negligible.

If you're standing looking at a tree, then the light entering your eyes, and hitting the rest of your body, is not doing what it would have done if you weren't there. Of course, for most purposes that doesn't matter.

All obvious really.
but it's a tough one to argue for against more immediately obvious ideas like materialism.
I don't really understand this comment. What would you say is tough to argue for?
And my tomato plants offer a pretty good refutation by growing overnight when nobody's watching...
I also have tomato plants, and they also grow when nobody's watching. I guess it would be pretty crazy to say that they didn't!

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 30th, 2020, 4:10 pm

Consul wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 3:51 pm
Note that to say so is not to endorse any particular (meta-)physical theory of matter, energy, space, or time!
For example, I see no contradiction between the definition of physics as "the basic science of the MEST world" and Rovelli's "radical" (quantum-)physical ontology:

QUOTE>
"What is the world made of?

The backdrop of space has disappeared, time has disappeared, classic particles have disappeared, along with the classic fields. So what is the world made of?

The answer now is simple: the particles are quanta of quantum fields; light is formed by quanta of a field; space is nothing more than a field, which is also made of quanta; and time emerges from the processes of this same field. In other words, the world is made entirely from quantum fields.

These fields do not live in spacetime; they live, so to speak, one on top of the other: fields on fields. The space and time that we perceive in large scale are our blurred and approximate image of one of these quantum fields: the gravitational field.

Fields that live on themselves, without the need of a spacetime to serve as a substratum, as a support, and which are capable by themselves of generating spacetime, are called 'covariant quantum fields'. The substance of which the world is made has been radically simplified in recent years. The world, particles, light, energy, space and time – all of this is nothing but the manifestation of a single type of entity: covariant quantum fields.

Covariant quantum fields have become today the best description that we have of…the apeiron, the primal substance of which everything is formed hypothesized by the man that could perhaps be called the first scientist and the first philosopher, Anaximander."

(Rovelli, Carlo. Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity. London: Allen Lane, 2016. pp. 167-8)
<QUOTE
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Gertie » June 30th, 2020, 4:44 pm

Steve
Gertie wrote:Well they're offering a different phenomenological interpretation.
I'd say that they say two different things.
It's possible for example that there is some relational process between consciousness and stuff which changes both, in ways which you could call 'bringing objects into existence',
I wouldn't call it "bringing objects into existence". But observers are things in the world, not ghosts, so to a greater or lesser extent they affect other things in the world, including things that they may be observing. In everyday life we're often used to it being a lesser extent, to the point of being negligible.

If you're standing looking at a tree, then the light entering your eyes, and hitting the rest of your body, is not doing what it would have done if you weren't there. Of course, for most purposes that doesn't matter.

All obvious really.

But a phenomenologist might say the sense data is what really exists, you don't need to posit the existence of anything beyond that.


Others might say the world is fundamentally relational, and the presence of conscious experience is a necessary condition for fundamental stuff to become material, or somesuch. (I think of it in terms of everything being a part of some interwoven field with bits being sparked into material existence by interaction with consciousness - but that's just my personal take on what that's getting at, I can't really speak to that). In other words the interaction has two-way effects, the observer is affected by the interaction ((seeing, feeling, etc) but so is the observed stuff which takes on particular (eg materialist) properties as a result of the interaction. I think.
but it's a tough one to argue for against more immediately obvious ideas like materialism.
I don't really understand this comment. What would you say is tough to argue for?
And my tomato plants offer a pretty good refutation by growing overnight when nobody's watching...
I also have tomato plants, and they also grow when nobody's watching. I guess it would be pretty crazy to say that they didn't!

I meant if stuff changes outside the presence of a conscious/experiencing observer, it's tough to argue it's observer-dependant for its existence. That's what my toms tell me anyway.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Steve3007 » June 30th, 2020, 5:16 pm

Consul wrote:I disagree. Physics isn't just "empirics" with "whatever we observe" as its subject matter.
It also creates laws, based on the patterns in those observations, to describe and predict them. On the wording in your quote from the Oxford Dictionary of Physics...
Physics—the study of the laws that determine the structure of the universe with reference to the matter and energy of which it consists.
I'd say we don't discover them; we create them. And they don't determine the structure of the Universe; they describe it. At least, that's one way of looking at them.
Matter, energy, space, and time are the four central categories generally circumscribing the subject matter of physics. Physics is the basic science of the MEST world. That's not an illegitimate "pre-decision" or a priori dogma, because that's simply what physics is. It makes no sense to object that it may turn out empirically that physics is actually about something else, something that has nothing to do with MEST.
So, in your view, why do those particular four thing define the subject matter of physics? We didn't find a tablet of stone with those four things written on it, did we? If we decide that those are the four things that form the core of physics, it's because observation has led us to do so, is it not?

So let's take energy. Why has observation led us to think of energy as one of the key objects of study? What is it about energy that has led us to do that?

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Steve3007 » June 30th, 2020, 5:50 pm

Gertie wrote:I meant if stuff changes outside the presence of a conscious/experiencing observer, it's tough to argue it's observer-dependant for its existence. That's what my toms tell me anyway.
Yes, it would be tough to argue that. I don't think it's rational to argue for it. I think if people suggest ideas like that it's often a result of misunderstandings of, or unjustified extrapolations from, some of the discoveries of quantum mechanics.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Terrapin Station » June 30th, 2020, 7:16 pm

Gertie wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 3:00 pm
Terrapin Station wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 2:24 pm


Ah, well that was the whole point of what I wrote. Often there's just a tree with no sense or concept of self (experiencing the tree) attached to it.
I agree.

I addressed that indirectly in terms of 'flavours' of experiential states which seemed the relevant way to answer your post, which I took to be about 'knowing'.

Sometimes the experiential state is the thinky voice inside your head which entails an in-the-moment sense of self as the narrator. Sometimes it's indistinctly registering some field of vision type of experience which probably doesn't. Sometimes it's looking at a tree and thinking something about that tree like it's an oak, which probably has something of a sense of self about it, in terms of knowing you aren't the tree, you're a Subject with a first person pov here-now.

So not all of those 'what it's like' experiences involve an in-the-moment 'sense of self' as I'd put it.


What is your definition of 'sense or concept of self'? And what do you think I'm missing?
We're still overlooking the gist of what I'm talking about.

The whole idea is that sometimes there's just a tree as something phenomenal, that is, as something that simply appears, with no "subject" present during that event.

To arrive at a subject viewing or experiencing (or whatever) a tree, we often have to make a theoretical move.

In other words, there's a stance that seems to think that no matter what, there's always this relationship as something phenomenal

[subject] ----------------------> [tree]

I'm denying this.

Rather, often there's just

[tree]

and to get to the "subject" part, with the subject having a relationship to the tree, we have to do something theoretical.

So the default isn't at all that objects are mental phenomena. We often have to do something theoretical to get to that conclusion.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 30th, 2020, 8:03 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 5:16 pm
Consul wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 3:44 pm
I disagree. Physics isn't just "empirics" with "whatever we observe" as its subject matter.
It also creates laws, based on the patterns in those observations, to describe and predict them. On the wording in your quote from the Oxford Dictionary of Physics...
Physics—the study of the laws that determine the structure of the universe with reference to the matter and energy of which it consists.
I'd say we don't discover them; we create them. And they don't determine the structure of the Universe; they describe it. At least, that's one way of looking at them.
The ontology of natural laws is another issue; but laws qua law-statements are certainly human creations. The question is whether true law-statements have nonlinguistic laws as truthmakers that are created by God or Nature (or exist uncreated in an eternal "Platonic heaven"), and somehow "determine", "govern", or "rule" the world.

I think…

QUOTE>
"[T]he natural laws of a world have as their truthmakers the essential irreducible powers of the objects of that world."

(Molnar, George. Powers: A Study in Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. p. 162)
<QUOTE

So my conception of natural laws is "internalistic" rather than "externalistic":

QUOTE>
"An externalist conception of laws makes laws out to be entities in the universe—second-order universals—in addition to propertied objects. In creating the universe, God creates the objects and first-order universals, then adds the laws. An internalist conception, a conception that regards properties as powers, encourages the thought that laws are more aptly regarded as linguistic items: equations, formulae, or generalizations that are meant in effect to codify the contribution made by particular properties to the dispositional makeup of their possessors. Newton’s law of universal gravitation, for instance, expresses the contribution mass makes to what objects do or would do—how objects would affect one another—qua ‘massy’. To a first approximation, externalists think of laws as governing objects and holding under ‘ideal’ circumstances; internalists think of objects as self-governing and law statements as attempts to distill the contribution particular kinds of property make to objects’ capacities."

(Heil, John. The Universe As We Find It. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. p. 99)

"Externalist conceptions of laws make laws out to be players, entities in the world – second-order universals – in addition to propertied objects. In creating the world, God must do more than create the objects and first-order universals. God must create the laws by folding in second-order universals.
In contrast, an internalist conception, a conception that regards properties as powers, encourages the thought that laws are more aptly regarded as linguistic items: generalizations that in effect codify the contribution made by particular properties to the dispositional makeup of their possessors. Newton’s law of universal gravitation, for instance, could be taken to express the contribution mass makes to what objects do or would do – how objects would affect one another – qua ‘massy.’ Externalists think of laws as governing objects and holding under ‘ideal’ circumstances. Internalists think of objects as self-governing and law statements as attempts to distill the contribution particular kinds of property make to objects’ capacities."

(Heil, John. "Universals in a World of Particulars." In The Problem of Universals in Contemporary Philosophy, edited by Gabriele Galluzo and Michael J. Loux, 114-132. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. p. 124)
<QUOTE

For example, David Armstrong is an externalist about natural laws:

QUOTE>
"I assume the truth of a Realistic account of laws of nature. That is to say, I assume they exist independently of the minds which attempt to grasp them. …Laws of nature must therefore be sharply distinguished from law-statements. Law-statements may be true or (much more likely) false. If they are true, then what makes them true is a law."

(Armstrong, D. M. What is a Law of Nature? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. pp. 7-8)

"Suppose it to be a law that Fs are Gs. F-ness and G-ness are taken to be universals. A certain relation, a relation of non-logical or contingent necessitation, holds between F-ness and G-ness. The state of affairs may be symbolized as 'N(F,G)'. Although N(F,G) does not obtain of logical necessity, if it does obtain then it entails the corresponding Humean or cosmic uniformity: (x)(Fx –› Gx). That each F is a G, however, does not entail that F-ness has N to G-ness:

(1) N(F,G) –› (x)(Fx –› Gx)).
(2) ~((x)(Fx –› Gx) –› N(F,G).

A scheme of this sort has attractive features. …It is very natural to think of laws as linking properties. It seems natural to say that all Fs are Gs because being an F necessitates being a G."

(Armstrong, D. M. What is a Law of Nature? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. pp. 85-6)
<QUOTE
Steve3007 wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 5:16 pm
Consul wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 3:44 pm
Matter, energy, space, and time are the four central categories generally circumscribing the subject matter of physics. Physics is the basic science of the MEST world. That's not an illegitimate "pre-decision" or a priori dogma, because that's simply what physics is. It makes no sense to object that it may turn out empirically that physics is actually about something else, something that has nothing to do with MEST.
So, in your view, why do those particular four thing define the subject matter of physics? We didn't find a tablet of stone with those four things written on it, did we? If we decide that those are the four things that form the core of physics, it's because observation has led us to do so, is it not?

So let's take energy. Why has observation led us to think of energy as one of the key objects of study? What is it about energy that has led us to do that?
First of all, a historical remark: Before the 18th century "physics" referred broadly to natural science or "natural philosophy" in general; and then it was defined more narrowly as "the science, or group of sciences, treating of the properties of matter and energy, or of the action of the different forms of energy on matter in general" (Oxford English Dictionary), excluding chemistry and biology.

Physics is an empirical science, so its concepts and theories are certainly influenced by observations. Our understanding of the four physics-defining categories is surely informed by empirical or experimental data.

As for the concept of energy, its history and its central importance in physics, I cannot give a simple answer to your questions, especially as I'm neither a physicist nor a historian of physics. What I can do is recommend Jennifer Coopersmith's book Energy, the Subtle Concept.

"Energy is at the heart of physics…" (from the book description)

"This book is both a history of the emergence of the concept of energy and an explanation of energy through that history." (from the preface of the revised edition)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Steve3007 » July 1st, 2020, 4:39 am

Terrapin Station wrote:Are you saying that for you, there's never just a tree, say, without any sense/concept of self (experiencing the tree) attached to it?
Gertie wrote:No, I didn't address that. Depends what you mean by sense of self.
Terrapin Station wrote:Ah, well that was the whole point of what I wrote. Often there's just a tree with no sense or concept of self (experiencing the tree) attached to it.
Gertie wrote:I agree.
Terrapin Station wrote:We're still overlooking the gist of what I'm talking about.
Terrapin Station wrote:In other words, there's a stance that seems to think that no matter what, there's always this relationship as something phenomenal
A stance exists even if there is nobody around to assume it, eh?

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Steve3007 » July 1st, 2020, 5:00 am

Gertie wrote:But a phenomenologist might say the sense data is what really exists, you don't need to posit the existence of anything beyond that.
I guess they might. If they did, I suppose you could ask them what they mean by "you don't need". Since they've mentioned "need", ask them what purpose they have in mind.

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