Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

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Terrapin Station
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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Terrapin Station » June 28th, 2020, 10:01 am

Just curious if there are any regular posters on the board other than me who are physicalists.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Steve3007 » June 28th, 2020, 11:42 am

hegel wrote:I don't see how physicalism can be described without appealing to instrumentalism. The physical is only definded as that which has properties of the physical.
I agree that physicalism can only be meaningfully defined instrumentally because "the physical" can only be defined instrumentally. i.e. I think it can only be defined in ways that are equivalent to the way that I briefly described it in the second paragraph of the OP. Some people might say that "the physical" is "stuff that theories of physics tell us about", but since the theories of physics are descriptions and predictions of the patterns in observations, it amounts to the same thing.

If we tried to define "the physical" purely ontologically, without reference to possible observations (or the extent to which "the physical" is useful in connecting those observations), I think physicalism's definition would end up being tautological and empty.
Consul wrote:Supervenience may be sufficient for nonreductive physicalism, but it's not sufficient for reductive physicalism. For example, the mental states of immaterial souls might supervene on the physical states of bodies; but if so, they would still be nonphysical, physically irreducible states of nonphysical, physically irreducible things, in which case reductive physicalism is false.
On what basis do you decide whether something is non-physical?
As for the concept of physicality, there's only one adjective in (standard) English, "physical", but there are two ones in German: "physisch" and "physikalisch". The latter means "having to do with physics", "relating to physics", "pertaining to the subject matter of physics".
So, based on those observations about language, do you conclude that "physical" means "pertaining to the subject matter of physics"? If so, given that the subject matter of physics is tied to the patterns in the observations made by experimental physics, I think you're giving the same definition that I did in the second paragraph of the OP. If not, what do you understand by "the physical"?
Marvin_Edwards wrote:I really dislike the term "supervenes on". There is an intuitive sense that if A "supervenes on" B then A is somehow influencing B.
I don't have that intuitive sense myself. I think an example of A would be software and an example of B would be hardware.
But as I understand it now, "supervenes on" can be replaced with "follows from". To say that A "supervenes on" B means that A follows from B. It means that B was there first, and A was derived from B.
I'd say "derives from" is reasonably close. "Is a property of" might do too.
I believe you are using it correctly Steve, and that you are saying that physicalism is the idea that everything proceeds from a physical foundation.
Yes, that is what I'm saying. As I've discussed above, that leaves open the question of what is a "physical foundation".

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » June 28th, 2020, 12:09 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
June 28th, 2020, 11:42 am
Yes, that is what I'm saying. As I've discussed above, that leaves open the question of what is a "physical foundation".
The physical foundation of things is the material stuff that they are made of. It's the hardware part of the computer. The software part embodies the purpose. The running process is the life of the thing.

The physical sciences deal with inanimate objects. Inanimate objects behave passively in response to physical forces. A bowling ball on a slope is controlled by gravity, and always rolls downhill. The life sciences deal with living organisms. Living organisms behave purposefully: to survive, thrive, and reproduce. A squirrel placed on a slope is not controlled by gravity, but may go up, down, or any other direction that he thinks may lead to his next acorn. The social sciences deal with intelligent species. Intelligent species have an evolved neurology capable of imagination, evaluation, and choosing. They can behave deliberately, by reason and calculation, choosing the means by which they satisfy their biological drives.

So, do the ideas in the minds of intelligent species have a physical foundation? Only in that the life is a process that is running upon a physical platform.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Steve3007 » June 28th, 2020, 12:21 pm

Marvin_Edwards wrote:The physical foundation of things is the material stuff that they are made of.
Fair enough. You're just equating "physical" with "matter". I don't think that alters the point I made about instrumental definitions. It just introduces a synonym.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by The Beast » June 28th, 2020, 12:52 pm

Physicalism is a useful tool. Everyone is a one paragraph physicalist. Keeping your mental health is important. Physicalism is instrumental. However. It is my opinion that the lifeforce exist as an evolving consciousness. If we know where it has been, we intuit where it is going. As part of this consciousness there may be the normative of the real or physicalism. Obviously, what is in a label (Physicalism) is a matter of explaining with physicalist language the conscious experience. The absurdity of some is immense. Here, the absurd is a non-existent label until it is attached to an entity.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 28th, 2020, 1:14 pm

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
June 28th, 2020, 7:25 am
When trying to understand supervenience, in the article on supervenience I was reading, the descriptions they used seemed to be suggesting that "if A supervenes on B" then A and B were essentially the same entity. Because how else could their covariance be necessary?
And if that is the actual meaning, that A and B are essentially the same thing, then it would be simpler to just say that. Or, more importantly, to explain why A and B were co-varying so precisely if they were not the same thing.
Supervenience neither excludes nor includes identity. Identity trivially includes supervenience, since if A = B, then A cannot change unless B changes.

As for the chapter "Supervenience and Ontological Innocence" in the SEP text, I'd say supervenience isn't "ontologically innocent" or an "ontological free lunch" (Armstrong) unless there is identity.

QUOTE>
"It will be used as a premiss in this work that whatever supervenes or, as we can also say, is entailed or necessitated, in this way, is not something ontologically additional to the subvenient, or necessitating, entity or entities. What supervenes is no addition of being. Thus, internal relations are not ontologically additional to their terms. Mereological wholes are not ontologically additional to all their parts, nor are the parts ontologically additional to the whole that they compose. This has the consequence that mereological wholes are identical with all their parts taken together. Symmetrical supervenience yields identity.

It is not clear how the thesis that what supervenes is no addition of being is to be proved. But that it is a plausible thesis may be seen by considering that when we contemplate hypotheses of isolated monads, or different possible worlds, we find no difficulty in allowing that they are related by internal relations, in particular by resemblance or by difference of nature. This suggests that the supervenient entities, the internal relations in this case, add nothing to the monads or to the worlds. The terminology of 'nothing over and above' seems appropriate to the supervenient. One may call this view, that the supervenient is not something additional to what it supervenes upon, the doctrine of the ontological free lunch. Like other free lunches, this one gives and takes away at the same time. You get the supervenient for free, but you do not really get an extra entity."

(Armstrong, D. M. A World of States of Affairs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. pp. 12-3)
<QUOTE

His first mistake is to equate supervenience with entailment or necessitation; and his second mistake is to say that "the supervenient is not something additional to what it supervenes upon," because supervenience does not include identity—not even if it is equated with entailment or necessitation. For if A supervenes on, is entailed or necessitated by B, it just doesn't follow that A = B. On the contrary, it will usually be the case that A ≠ B, such that A is an "addition of being", an "extra entity".

What I think he's right about is the ontological innocence of mereological composition, because I too think that composition includes identity. However, I know that quite a few philosophers disagree, thinking that wholes are something over and above the sum of their parts. But this is a topic for another thread…
"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 28th, 2020, 1:33 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
June 28th, 2020, 9:47 am
Consul wrote:
June 27th, 2020, 9:58 pm
If the domain of the universal quantifier "everything" isn't only the set of existent things but the union of the set of existent things and the set of nonexistent things, then it is false that everything is physical
False. To physicalists, everything is physical.
Physicalists wouldn't say, "There are nonexistent things that are not physical." Insofar as there is anything, to a physicalist, that thing is physical.
Yes, but that's to be formally expressed as Ax(E!x –> Px) ["For all things x, if x exists, then x is physical"] rather than as AxPx ["For all things x, x is physical"], because if the universal quantifier ranges not only over existent things but also over nonexistent ones, then it is plainly false that everything is physical.

I wouldn't say either that there are some things which don't exist. What I say is that some things don't exist. From the perspective of classical logic there's no difference, because the so-called existential quantifier "some" is not existentially neutral therein, such that "some x is such that…" is synonymous with "there is some x such that …". But there are other, nonclassical logics which regard "some" as existentially neutral; and nonclassical logicians prefer to call it "the particular quantifier" or "the intentional quantifier" instead.
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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 28th, 2020, 1:34 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
June 28th, 2020, 10:01 am
Just curious if there are any regular posters on the board other than me who are physicalists.
I'm one.
"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 The Beast » June 28th, 2020, 2:51 pm

It is then that some may be referring to “some-thing” or to “some-thing else.” Supervenes and necessary maybe absurd as absurd supervenes reason and vice versa. It is known that absurd and reason coexist in the same multisensory processes. So, a non-instrumental definition is ‘Reasoning or coexisting with the absurd.' Another is: 'How physical and absurd or how reasonable and absurd coexist

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Terrapin Station » June 28th, 2020, 3:10 pm

Consul wrote:
June 28th, 2020, 1:33 pm
Yes, but that's to be formally expressed as Ax(E!x –> Px) ["For all things x, if x exists, then x is physical"] rather than as AxPx ["For all things x, x is physical"], because if the universal quantifier ranges not only over existent things but also over nonexistent ones, then it is plainly false that everything is physical.

I wouldn't say either that there are some things which don't exist. What I say is that some things don't exist.
You wouldn't say that the things that don't exist have properties, would you?

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 28th, 2020, 3:49 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
June 28th, 2020, 3:10 pm
Consul wrote:
June 28th, 2020, 1:33 pm
I wouldn't say either that there are some things which don't exist. What I say is that some things don't exist.
You wouldn't say that the things that don't exist have properties, would you?
No, what I would say is that nonexistent things are represented as having properties that they don't really have, because they are really nothing in themselves, being nothing but mere Gedankendinge ("thought-things"), intentional objects of thought or imagination.
You might object that, then, a nonexistent object has the property of being a thought-object at least; but it doesn't, because that is not a real property. Being thought about/of doesn't entail being.
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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Steve3007 » June 28th, 2020, 3:51 pm

Consul, in this post:

viewtopic.php?p=361326#p361326

you said a whole load of stuff about the definitions of some German words:
Consul wrote:As for the concept of physicality, there's only one adjective in (standard) English, "physical", but there are two ones in German: "physisch" and "physikalisch". The latter means "having to do with physics", "relating to physics", "pertaining to the subject matter of physics".

A physikalische Entität is an entity which is thematically part of physics, in the sense that it is part of what physicists qua physicists talk and think about—or in the sense that it would be part of what physicists talk and think about if they knew it exists; and it is also an entity which is ontically part of physics, in the sense of being part of its ontology, of being one of those entities which constitute the ontology of physics (qua basic science of MEST, the matter-energy-space-time system)—or in the sense of being such that it would be added to and included in the ontology of physics if the physicists knew it exists.

Galen Strawson has coined the term "physicsal" ("physicSal"), which is a good translation of "physikalisch". Now we have two English adjectives corresponding to the two German ones: "physical" and "physicsal".

Given this verbal distinction, I define a physical entity (physische Entität) as one which is either a physicsal entity (physikalische Entität) or an entity composed of or constituted by nothing but purely physicsal entities.

All physicsal entities are physical entities by (this) definition; and according to reductive physicalism, all nonphysicsal, i.e. all chemical, biological, psychological, or sociological entities, are physical entities too by being ontologically reducible to (reductively identifiable with) purely physicsal ones.
I read it again to try to work out whether it was anything more than a German lesson. (Not that I've got anything against German lessons). All I can get from it is: "Physical entities, and things that are reducible to physical entities, are the stuff of physics."

Was there anything more than that intended?

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 28th, 2020, 3:54 pm

Consul wrote:
June 28th, 2020, 3:49 pm
You might object that, then, a nonexistent object has the property of being a thought-object at least; but it doesn't, because that is not a real property.
It's not even a real property if the object of thought is an existent one. For if x thinks about/of y, then x (really) has the active property of thinking about/of y, whereas y doesn't (really) have the corresponding passive property of being thought about/of by x.
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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 28th, 2020, 4:18 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
June 28th, 2020, 3:51 pm
Consul wrote:…Given this verbal distinction, I define a physical entity (physische Entität) as one which is either a physicsal entity (physikalische Entität) or an entity composed of or constituted by nothing but purely physicsal entities.…
I read it again to try to work out whether it was anything more than a German lesson. (Not that I've got anything against German lessons). All I can get from it is: "Physical entities, and things that are reducible to physical entities, are the stuff of physics."
Was there anything more than that intended?
It depends on what exactly is meant by "the stuff of physics". Many things aren't part of the subject matter of physics, in the sense that physicists qua physicists don't talk and think about them, and that the concepts or words we use to represent them aren't part of the scientific vocabulary or terminology of physics. For example, chemical, biological, psychological, and sociological topics aren't part of the subject matter of physics. For instance, physicists qua physicists don't study art or sport. However, it doesn't follow that the entities constituting the respective ontologies of sciences other than physics are ontologically irreducible to (complexes of) entities belonging to the ontology of physics. Reductive physicalists can happily acknowledge all sorts of nonphysicSal entities as long as they are still physical entities (as defined by me above).
"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 28th, 2020, 4:23 pm

I'm still none the wiser as to how you would define "the physical". It may be be as I did in the OP. But I'm not sure.

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