Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

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Consul
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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 29th, 2020, 2:56 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
June 29th, 2020, 4:06 am
Consul wrote:…everything that exists, is real.
If, here, you mean "real" as the antonym of "abstract" then you're saying that everything that exists is extra-mental. I disagree.
No, here I use "real" neither in the sense of "non-mental" or "mind-independent", nor in the sense of "non-abstract"/"concrete". In the "thin" sense, to be real is simply to exist.
Steve3007 wrote:
June 29th, 2020, 4:06 am
When you quoted David Lewis, later in that post, did you do so because you agree with what he said or just because you thought his views were worth airing?
I agree with what he says about replacing the good old label "materialism" with "physicalism", and I also agree with what he says about supervenience.
"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 29th, 2020, 3:15 pm

Consul wrote:Okay, let's try this one:

x is a physical entity =def x is part of the subject matter of physics (the basic science of matter-energy-space-time [MEST]), or x is causally-compositionally (mechanico-mereologically) realized by (complexes of) entities belonging to the subject matter of physics.
Again, in a fancy way, you're just essentially saying "the physical" is the stuff that physics is about. As I said, since physics is an empirical study of the patterns in observed phenomena, this seems to agree with what I said in the second paragraph of the OP. Fair enough. Glad we're in agreement. But, to me, that makes both Materialism and Physicalism problematic in ways that I'll explain later.
No, here I use "real" neither in the sense of "non-mental" or "mind-independent", nor in the sense of "non-abstract"/"concrete". In the "thin" sense, to be real is simply to exist.
Okay. Understood. You're using "real" to mean "exist". In that case, I agree with you when you say "everything that exists, is real" for the same reason that I would also agree with you if you said "everything that exists exists". (I wouldn't even need to know what "exists" means to agree to that.)
I agree with what he says about replacing the good old label "materialism" with "physicalism", and I also agree with what he says about supervenience.
Okay.

I agree with some aspects of the things he says, but I'll deal with that in a separate post.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 29th, 2020, 3:33 pm

Consul wrote:
June 29th, 2020, 2:47 pm
x is a physical entity =def x is part of the subject matter of physics (the basic science of matter-energy-space-time [MEST]), or x is causally-compositionally (mechanico-mereologically) realized by (complexes of) entities belonging to the subject matter of physics.
QUOTE>
"Physicalism is the view that all phenomena are in some sense physical – that is, they are either the subject matter of physical science, or constituted by things which are the subject matter of physics."

(Crane, Tim. "Reply to Tanney." International Journal of Philosophical Studies 6/2 (1998): 279–282. p. 281)
<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 Steve3007 » June 29th, 2020, 3:34 pm

Okay. So you've also quoted someone else essentially saying "the physical" is the stuff that physics is about.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 29th, 2020, 3:41 pm

QUOTE>
"Physicalism – The global view that takes all entities in nature to be identical to, or composed by, the entities of microphysics."
(p. 360)

"Anti-Physicalism – The position that there are entities in nature that are not ultimately composed by the entities of microphysics."
(p. 356)

(Gillett, Carl. Reduction and Emergence in Science and Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.)
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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Steve3007 » June 29th, 2020, 3:44 pm

Good. So we've established that a lot of people define "the physical" as the stuff that physics is about. I think we can probably park that now and move on.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 29th, 2020, 3:53 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
June 29th, 2020, 3:34 pm
Okay. So you've also quoted someone else essentially saying "the physical" is the stuff that physics is about.
Narrowly defined, the physical is the MEST stuff physics is about. Broadly defined, the physical is the MEST stuff physics is about plus the sum total of (higher-level) things composed of or constituted by things which are part of the MEST stuff physics is about. ("MEST" = "Matter-Energy-Space-Time")
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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Consul » June 29th, 2020, 4:39 pm

Consul wrote:
June 29th, 2020, 3:41 pm
QUOTE>
"Physicalism – The global view that takes all entities in nature to be identical to, or composed by, the entities of microphysics."
(p. 360)

"Anti-Physicalism – The position that there are entities in nature that are not ultimately composed by the entities of microphysics."
(p. 356)

(Gillett, Carl. Reduction and Emergence in Science and Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.)
<QUOTE
Adherents of emergentist materialism will object that physicalism is compatible with macrophysical attributes (properties or relations) of composite material objects which emerge from and depend on microphysical attributes without being composed of them.
"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 Papus79 » June 30th, 2020, 12:08 am

Reading what I have of this thread I'm assuming instrumentalism / instrumentation to be (paraphrasing) the idea that certain sensory data yield predictable results and that it's a way of saying - short of knowing anything about absolute reality - that these ideas seem to be a solid pattern within the constellation of information that we have available to us?

I personally wouldn't try too hard to untether physicalism and materialism because I can't think of any areas where the views of what's physical or material diverge or the areas of relative silence diverge all that much (although people like John Vervaeke perhaps make people who'd use the term 'physicalist' seem, at least culturally, a bit more progressive than conservative with respect to focusing on complex issues in subjectivity).

Also - would it help to tease this one out from the other end, ie. what do we have out there as far as the broader body of knowledge or ideas that one would say isn't instrumentalist or can't even be called a poor application of the principle?
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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Steve3007 » June 30th, 2020, 2:51 am

Papus79 wrote:Reading what I have of this thread I'm assuming instrumentalism / instrumentation to be (paraphrasing) the idea that certain sensory data yield predictable results and that it's a way of saying - short of knowing anything about absolute reality - that these ideas seem to be a solid pattern within the constellation of information that we have available to us?
Almost. The key point for me is that it makes no sense to pre-decide which entities we're going to say are real. Saying "everything is matter" is as arbitrary as following Thales in saying that everything originates from water, or Anaximenes in saying that everything originates from air. It is observations, and identifying the patterns in diverse observations, that tells us what entities it is most useful to regard as being the objectively existing causes of those patterns.

This often seems to be mistaken for a form of Idealism by people who see a simple binary division between Realism and Idealism. It isn't.

If we want a principle (an -ism), then I think a more sensible general principle than Physicalism or Materialism might be something that we could call Conservationism. That would be a principle that the entities which exist are those that are observed to be conserved; to be unchanging in total quantity with respect to time. So, for example, we observe that there is a quantity that we call energy which can take various forms but which is conserved. We can therefore think of energy as a thing that exists. Likewise with other quantities, such as electric charge. We use those conservation principles to make sense of the world - to predict what it's going to do next. Mass is another of those things. But it's not the only one. To say that it is is arbitrary.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Steve3007 » 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.

---

1 I would use the word "supervenes" here because I think it's appropriate and succinct. But I tried that in the OP and it seemed to result in lots of not particularly relevant argument about its appropriateness.

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Papus79 » June 30th, 2020, 3:34 am

Steve3007 wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 2:51 am
If we want a principle (an -ism), then I think a more sensible general principle than Physicalism or Materialism might be something that we could call Conservationism. That would be a principle that the entities which exist are those that are observed to be conserved; to be unchanging in total quantity with respect to time. So, for example, we observe that there is a quantity that we call energy which can take various forms but which is conserved. We can therefore think of energy as a thing that exists. Likewise with other quantities, such as electric charge. We use those conservation principles to make sense of the world - to predict what it's going to do next. Mass is another of those things. But it's not the only one. To say that it is is arbitrary.
I think this is where I find politics really holds a lot of sway. For example physicalism or materialism don't have to be complete, comprehensive, or even cohesive past a certain given range - ie. it's good enough that it's a worldview that can be explained to the average person and understood and that worldview disavows God, gods, angels, demons, etc.. and thus disavows claims to revealed knowledge as well as any authority vested in the social and political edifices surrounding revealed knowledge. This is where I get the sense that physicalism and materialism are held the way they are, like a beach-head, because the would-be invaders and barbarians at the gates are deemed more important, for now at least while they're still there, than whether truths discovered down the road that contain, include, and explain in more nuance the current edifice of human knowledge happens to be something better described in other terms than physicalism or materialism. That is - group cohesion, playing as a team, and following orders so as not to get swallowed by another waning or rising anti-scientific group is more important than intellectual and philosophic liberalism in the full sense.

In saying all of that I'm not intending it as an attack on physicalism / materialism as models compared to another set (many indeed are worse) so much as considering that it's particular place, at the moment, as a placeholder for what we don't yet know, is ensconced by both political and financial needs (which are real going-concern issues) and some of the issues you're bringing up regarding its philosophic coherence seem to take a back seat in deference to those concerns.
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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Papus79 » June 30th, 2020, 3:40 am

Papus79 wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 3:34 am
That is - group cohesion, playing as a team, and following orders so as not to get swallowed by another waning or rising anti-scientific group is more important than intellectual and philosophic liberalism in the full sense.
I probably should have added - there are plenty of people doing work in the area that straddles the zone between materialism and idealism, Consul mentioned one of them earlier, and the guess would be - rightfully - that things will stay as they are in terms of physicalism / materialism being the mainstream consensus until such a point where someone is able to make sense of the primitives underlying spacetime and give us a new theory that puts a deeper and more comprehensive wrapper on current knowledge.
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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Terrapin Station » June 30th, 2020, 3:51 am

Steve3007 wrote:
June 28th, 2020, 4:34 pm
To define "the physical" or "matter" without doing it in terms of the patterns in possible observations
This is a statement about your very quirky mental block where you can only understand anything in epistemological (really self-centered) terms.

You're basically asking people to help you understand you seem categorically incapable of understanding due to a mental block. Well, how are they going to do such a thing?

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Re: Can Physicalism be defined non-instrumentally?

Post by Terrapin Station » June 30th, 2020, 3:53 am

Typo--should have read ". . . help you understand what you seem . . ."

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