The Self-Contradictory Definition of Physicalism and the Indeterminate Nature of the Physical

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The Self-Contradictory Definition of Physicalism and the Indeterminate Nature of the Physical

(To a large extent, this thread will serve as a critique of "physicalism" as defined in Wikipedia.)

Wikipedia defines physicalism (a.k.a. materialism) as follows:

Quote:

Physicalism is a philosophical position holding that everything which exists is no more extensive than its physical properties; that is, that there are no kinds of things other than physical things.

(source: Wikipedia: Physicalism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism

Please note, according to this defintion, that physicalism holds that the only things that exist are PHYSICAL THINGS and that everything "is no more extensive than its PHYSICAL PROPERTIES (emphasis mine)".

Also, Wikipedia states the physicalism is whatever that which is defined by the science of physics:

Quote:

The ontology of physicalism ultimately includes whatever is described by physicsnot just matter but energy, space, time, physical forces, structure, physical processes, information, state, etc.

(source: Wikipedia: Physicalism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism

But "space" and "time" are clearly abstractions, not physical things at all. Also, what about information? Is information a physical thing?

Wikipedia gives the following rationale for why the term "physicalism" is preferred to the term "materialism:"

Quote:

Physicalism is also called "materialism", but the term "physicalism" is preferable because it has evolved with the physical sciences to incorporate far more sophisticated notions of physicality than matter, for example wave/particle relationships and non-material forces produced by particles.

(source: Wikipedia: Physicalism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism

Non-material (i.e. nonphysical) forces? Doesn't that blatantly contadict the definition of physicalism which holds that only the physical exists?  Why call it "physicalism" if you believe in the reality of nonphysical forces?

And what about "matter?" Based on the theory of quantum mechanics, matter has a dualistic nature - namely, it reduces to either waves or particles. Probability waves are clearly mathematical abstractions and are therefore not physical. But what about particles? Well, physics represents particles as geometric points (i.e. abstractions) that have location in space (i.e. a nonphysical aspect) and time (i.e. a nonphysical aspect) but lack dimension (i.e. an immaterial aspect).

But doesn't a particle have "mass?" Yes, but what is mass? Well, mass is matter. But Newton's second law defines mass as follows: m = F/a...where "m" equals mass, "F" equals force, and "a" equals acceleration...Therefore we can conclude that matter (i.e. mass) is actually immaterial  because we have already determined that force is immaterial.

But doesn't Einstein's special theory of relativity hold that matter is convertible with energy? Yes, but what is energy? It would appear that physics doesn't know?

"We have no knowledge of what energy is" - Richard Feynman (Nobel laureate in physics)

It seems to me that physics has reduced the physical world to an abstract process consisting soley of mathematical abstractions.

Merriam-Webster's third defintion of "matter" (listed below) is the one that seems to be most germane to what physics is actually describing.

Quote:

3 a : the indeterminate subject of reality; especially : the element in the universe that undergoes formation and alteration b : the formless substratum of all things which exists only potentially and upon which form acts to produce realities

(source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/matter

But what is this "form" which acts on this formless substratum to produce all things? Mathematical abstractions?

To speak of mathematical abstractions as having causal-efficacy is sheer nonsense. Moreover, to speak of mathematical abstractions existing independently of a mind that abstracts is unintelligible. However, this is precisely what physicalism (which is based on the language of physics) reduces the physical world to - an abstract process comprised soley of mathematical abstractions.

Lenin (the Marxist revolutionary and Russian communist), realizing that the new advances in physics (i.e. the "theory of relativity" and "quantum mechanics" which I briefly discussed above) were undermining materialism (the metaphysical system upon which Marxism is based), argued that the defining property of the material world is that it is "an objective reality" existing outside the mind.

Quote:

"For the sole 'property' of matter with whose recognition philosophical materialism is bound up is the property of being an objective reality, of existing outside of the mind." - Vladimir Lenin

(source: Wikipedia: Dialectical materialism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectical_materialism

Okay. For the sake of argument, let's accept this definition of the physical or the material world - that it is "objective."

Wikipedia also defines physicalism as a position in the philosophy of mind which holds that consciousness is physical.

Quote:

In contemporary philosoophy physicalism is most frequently associated with philosophy of mind, in particular the mind/body problem, in which it holds that the mind is a physical thing in all senses. In other words, all that has been ascribed to "mind" is more correctly ascribed to "brain".

(source: Wikipedia: Physicalism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism

However, this position does not hold water. It clearly violates the definition of physicalism - namely, "that everything which exists is no more extensive than its physical properties." Consciousness has no physical properties. Moreover, it violates Lenin's redefinition of materialism because it does not have the property of being objective. Consciousness is not objective; it is subjective.

Now, I have encountered more than a few atheists on this forum who will attempt to salvage materialism by arguing that consciousness is an "emergent property." This is tantamount to invoking "magic." But more than that, emergentism in regards to philosophy of mind is actually a DUALISTIC position because it holds that the mind is IRREDUCIBLE to the physical (i.e. supervenient physicalism) or that it is simply a nonphysical byproduct of the physical (i.e. epiphenomenalism).

Quote:

Emergentism is a theory which came to popularity in the early twentieth century. It is a form of non-reductive supervenience, but one where reality is considered to supervene in a manner more akin to layers, rather than patterns within a single layer, as per later physicalism. These layers are said to be genuinely novel from each other (i.e., the psychological vs. the physical), and is thus a type of dualism.

(source: Wikipedia: Physicalism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism

Quote:

epiphenomenalism, also known as 'Type-E Dualism', is a view according to which some or all mental states are mere epiphenomena (side-effects or by-products) of physical states of the world.

(source: Wikipedia: Epiphenomenalism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiphenomenalism

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v4ultingbassist

v4ultingbassist wrote:

Wouldn't the inability to connect the various sciences violate monism?

Not necessarily. Naturalism doesn't require unified science.

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Marquis wrote:natural

Marquis wrote:

natural wrote:
Science is based on naturalism, not physicalism.

That doesn't even make any sense. In fact, I call it archaic-mystical bullshit.

Lol! You're kidding, right? ... Oh. You're not? Well, then.

Marquis, I suggest you do a bit of reading on naturalism and/or physicalism before you dig yourself deeper into the hole you're digging.

If you equate naturalism with mysticism, I just don't know what to tell you except go do some homework. I'm not about to do it for you.

Quote:
You call yourself "natural" so I suppose that's the root of this strange exchange.

Myself, I'd say it's your ignorance of the topic.

Quote:
But your absurd claims to own the language

Please point to such a claim. You won't find it. Your accusations are ridiculous and reek of projection.

Quote:
is gobbeldygook on line with claiming gods and pixies as valid arguments, so please get your head out of your 18th century ass, will you? And stop bringing up nonsense such as how psychology might have a supernatural (i.e. non-physical) cause.

There you go equating non-physical with supernatural again. I can't fix your brain. That's going to take effort on your part.

Quote:
It really ought to go without saying that the so-called "social sciences" (which I suppose is based in socialism the same way "natural sciences" is based in naturalism) have to bootstrap their departing points into existence with some pretty wild leaps of conjecture in order to establish an axiomatic foundation. But, if anything, this invalidates them as scientific disciplines way before it says anything about science - i.e. knowledge, physical facts - itself.

Okay, I guess you don't understand what science is, either, then.

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Strafio

Strafio wrote:

v4ultingbassist wrote:
I think it is stupid* because I can't understand how chemistry can NOT reduce to physics without violating a monist reference frame.  If science is monist, and naturalism is monist, they both agree there is only one type of interaction in the universe.  If science finds something that violates its own monism, then neither of the two philosophical views would be true.  As such, isn't it necessary that the basis of science match up with the basis of naturalism?  I.e.  If science is monist, and physics is its basis,

natural wrote:
You keep slipping in that extra assumption as if it's just a given. It is not. The idea that physics is the only basis of science is physicalism. You're assuming what you're trying to prove.

No assumption required.
Last I heard, all the elements in Chemistry had been shown to be constructed from physical ones.
And more recently, all the elements in Biology had been shown to be constructed from chemical ones.

Strafio, you're only addressing the chemistry question. Here, VB is arguing that monism in science requires physicalism. Here's the full quote:

v4ultingbassist wrote:
If science is monist, and physics is its basis, for science to be monist what is physical must correlate to what is natural in a naturalistic perspective, right?

He's assuming physicalism, and then claiming that physicalism must be true. That is the assumption I was pointing at. I originally truncated the quote to make the assumption more obvious.

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v4ultingbassist

v4ultingbassist wrote:

Paisley wrote:

But "space" and "time" are clearly abstractions, not physical things at all. Also, what about information? Is information a physical thing?

As the article said, those are physical. 

This is not entirely true. The article states that physicalism defines itself by whatever is described by the science of physics. But it does not necessarily follow that everything described by physics is actually physical. In fact, the article states that physicalism incorporates "non-material forces." This is one of the reasons why I am arguing in this thread that the definition of physicalism is inherently self-contradictory. Non-material forces are not physical by definition.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism 

v4ultingbassist wrote:

Yes, information is physical.

Okay. I was just raising the question. I am skeptical whenever abstract terms like "informational" are employed to represent the physical basis for the universe. So, can you please elaborate. What exactly are the physical and informational constituents of the universe?

v4ultingbassist wrote:

You seem hung up on equating materialism and physicalism; they are not synonymous.

The article stated that physicalism and materialism are interchangeable terms.

Quote:

Physicalism is also called "materialism."

(source: Wikipedia: Physicalism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism

v4ultingbassist wrote:

Things that are physical do not need to have 'substance' of some sort.

Well, that's the very point I am making. There is nothing substantial about physicalism. Physics appears to be describing "physical" phenomena that can be better characterized as ephemeral (a characteristic that we conventionally associate with apparitions).

 

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Atheistextremist wrote: Ok

Atheistextremist wrote:

 

Ok - fine. I know I have subjective awareness within myself - in my subjective awareness.

Accepting reality is the first-step back to sanity.

Atheistextremist wrote:

And I also know if you hit me on the head with a hammer, my subjective awareness would stop. Researchers could stick electrode pads to my skull and see the change in brain patterns indicative of my non awareness. They could objectively test for the electrical signals of my no longer present subjective awareness and measure the lack of them.

I agree that the physical influences consciousness. But the converse also holds true.

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natural wrote:Marquis

natural wrote:

Marquis wrote:

natural wrote:
Science is based on naturalism, not physicalism.

That doesn't even make any sense. In fact, I call it archaic-mystical bullshit.

If you equate naturalism with mysticism, I just don't know what to tell you except go do some homework.

 

But of course! That is how I naturally react to bumping into something which seems to be cohesive, and yet it makes no sense to me. I always assume that the error must lie my own bias, in how I observe said phenomenon, and/or how I organise and classify the data that I am picking up. So I have done a lttle research and found out that I was indeed right all along. "Naturalism" may seem to make sense to people who do not immidediately see the concept of "nature" as a mystical one, such as I do. I mean... think about it. What, exactly, is "nature"? We have a case of irreducible complexity. (And take this from someone whose childhood heroes were the Stoics, who held "nature" to be the only valid parameter for "truth".) But "nature" just isn't good enough. It is fundamentally flawed insofar that it is neither precise nor all-encompassing; hence, useless to the discipline of physics. It does, however, interact quite well with common sense.

[A little digression: I don't consider psychology to be a science. I would rather describe it as 'a field of study which is based in common sense and to some extent is subjectable to scientific methodology'. In fact, I will remain staunchly skeptical to the - in its purest sense - scientific validity of all such "social sciences", because in those fields of study you constantly run into mystical concepts such as "nature" or "life". Again, irreducible complexity. The question 'what are their basic parts and how does these basic parts work in unison in order to create the phenomenon we are observing' may not be asked without changing the premises for defining the concepts themselves. But there is one thing that is scientific, and that is memetics, or the study of how information evolves within an abstract environment of "consciousness" (another mystical concept!). You can, quite literally, trace how memes move within "bodies of consciousness" (which can be individuals or groups) by observing their behaviour - but what's even more important; it's predictable.]

natural wrote:
equating non-physical with supernatural

I see your point. I should probably use an entirely different word, such as "metaphysical" - but that is already kind of taken, in the sense that it already describes something which is not related to the point I am trying to make, so I shall have to invent a word: Dysversive. (From dys; bad, abnormal, and versum; rolled into, changed. In the vernacular; non-interacting.) Consequently, something may have a dysversive relation with physics, but it is still a real (physical) phenomenon. It is not an example of irreducable complexity. The problem is in observational methodology and data handling. In this light, we see that even though something may be dysversive to physics (as a science) this doesn't mean it invalidates physics, rather that you have run into an irreducible meme (the idea cannot be reduced to smaller parts without losing cohesive meaning).

natural wrote:
you don't understand what science is

This is a possibility. But I hold it to be unlikely. I am quite capeable of understanding a lot of things. But I don't call myself a scientist, I am a philosopher. (My interest in science is only secondary, as a subset of ontology.) As you of course already know, the way of a philosopher is observation without evaluation.  This does however not mean that "anything goes". There is right and there is wrong... and it all begins with common sense. Science is nothing without common sense. Any kind of insanity can be elaborated into a highly accurate system of thought which is dysversive to common sense; it couldn't survive in the memetic environment without belief. In other words, it needs to interact on an emotional level. This will allow a lot of things that violate common sense to survive and evolve inside bodies of consciousness (memetic hosts). What is different with science is that it never violates common sense (although it might take some mind work to wrap your head around it at times). But it is dysversive to belief systems. If is can't be corroborated by common sense, it isn't science, no matter who you are and how much you believe in it.

And here is where my personal quirk steps in: If it isn't reducible to physics, it isn't science. It's a belief system. "Nature" is such a belief system, or rather a self-supporting memetic structure built from assumptions based in sentiment and mysticism. There is of course the "real" "nature", the one which exists, objectively, out there, but that one is a physical phenomenon, subject to laws of physics. Which means that physicalism - which encompasses all things described by physics, according to its definition - trumps naturalism on the evolutionary stepladder which departs from common sense.

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Strafio wrote: Paisley

Strafio wrote:
 

Paisley wrote:
The ontology of physicalism ultimately includes whatever is described by physicsnot just matter but energy, space, time, physical forces, structure, physical processes, information, state, etc.

(source: Wikipedia: Physicalism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism

Believe it or not, that quote actually answers most of your questions.
Anything that is described by physics is "physical"
.
I know it can often be synonymous for "material" in layman usage, but when used in the philosophical sense (i.e. how it's being used in these debates) it means anything described by physics.

That is the very point that is being contended here - namely, the assertion that physics only describes the physical. To wit, the article states that physicalism has incorporated "non-material forces." Therefore, why call yourself a physicalist if you actually believe in the reality of the nonphysical?

Strafio wrote:

Paisley wrote:

But "space" and "time" are clearly abstractions, not physical things at all.

Space and time are described mathematically by physics, are part of a physical description of the world and therefore part of "physicalism". That said, I wouldn't call them "existing things" either, I'd more consider them the structure within which there is existence. i.e. when we talk of "things" "existing", we're talking about them having a place within space and time.

Agreed. Space and time (or spacetime) are described mathematically by physics. But the point is that physics is describing something here that is not physical.

Strafio wrote:

Paisley wrote:

Also, what about information? Is information a physical thing?

Information is described by physics.
Again, it's more a part of the description rather than a "thing" itself.

Agreed. But once again, physics is describing something here that is not physical.

Strafio wrote:

Paisley wrote:

Non-material (i.e. nonphysical) forces?


Um... last I heard, forces were described by physics and are therefore physical...

Okay. So, you believe the Wikipedia article got it wrong.
 

Strafio wrote:


Paisley wrote:

"We have no knowledge of what energy is" - Richard Feynman (Nobel laureate in physics)

Maybe so, but it is still described by physics, so it's therefore physical.

Well, if physics does not really know what energy is, then you really have no basis for saying that it is physical.  

Strafio wrote:

Paisley wrote:

It seems to me that physics has reduced the physical world to an abstract process consisting soley of mathematical abstractions.


Physics describes the world in a mathematical language.
You seem to go from "x is described using mathematics" to "x itself is mathematics".
Non sequiter mon ami!!

No. Quantum theory reduces matter to probability waves (i.e. mathematical abstractions) and geometric points having location in space and time but lacking dimension. That's what the mathematics is representing - something that is inherently immaterial and therefore nonphysical.

Strafio wrote:

To be honest, your criticisms of Physicalism have so far amounted to word play.
Even after posting that snippet on why people are "physicalists" rather than "materialists", you still kept trying to identifying them as the same thing and making the inference "non-material => non-physical".

I believe those who subscribe to physicalism are the ones engaging in semantical games. Non-material does equal non-physical. It would appear that physicalists are merely attempting to redefine materialism because they know that quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity have undermined the materialist worldview.

Strafio wrote:

Anyhow, moving on to philosophy of mind:

Paisley wrote:

However, [physicalism] does not hold water. It clearly violates the definition of physicalism - namely, "that everything which exists is no more extensive than its physical properties." Consciousness has no physical properties. Moreover, it violates Lenin's redefinition of materialism because it does not have the property of being objective. Consciousness is not objective; it is subjective.

Now, I have encountered more than a few atheists on this forum who will attempt to salvage materialism by arguing that consciousness is an "emergent property." This is tantamount to invoking "magic." But more than that, emergentism in regards to philosophy of mind is actually a DUALISTIC position because it holds that the mind is IRREDUCIBLE to the physical (i.e. supervenient physicalism) or that it is simply a nonphysical byproduct of the physical (i.e. epiphenomenalism).

As it happens, I'm kind of an emergentist myself.

Then you are a "kind of dualist."

Strafio wrote:

I agree that mental concepts like "consciousness" and "thought" don't refer to physical entities.
You're right that emergentists often say "consciousness emerges from the physical" without really explaining the link, thereby making it seem magical.

Yes, they do appear to be employing magic.

Strafio wrote:

If you're interest I could give you my own take on the connection.

Okay. Go for it.

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Paisley wrote:"non-material

Paisley wrote:
"non-material forces."

 


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RatDog wrote:Paisley

RatDog wrote:

Paisley wrote:

Subjectivity (i.e. subjective awareness) itself cannot be explained or even described in objective terms.

Yes it can.  Any explanation for the existence of subjective awareness describes subjective awareness in objective terms.  This includes supernatural explanations such as god.  Unless you are saying god is a purely subjective experience. 

I will retract my previous statement. Behavioral psychology describes subjective experiences (at least to some degree) in objective terms. But this is assuming that consciousness is causally-effective (which is actually an impossibility on the materialist worldview).

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead


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natural wrote:Paisley

natural wrote:

Paisley wrote:

William James (the American psychologist and proponent of philosophical pragmatism) argued for the pragmatism of religious faith. Therefore, I trust that you will agree that religious faith has pragmatic value.

Despite your preconceived notions, pragmatists can disagree with each other. The pragmatism I speak of is based on prediction. James is old school. Times change.

Yeah, but that doesn't change the fact that faith may have pragmatic value. Besides, I have already established in one of my previous threads that induction (which is employed by science) is ultimately based on faith. IOW, you cannot do science without some element of faith. You can't make a prediction without an element of faith.

natural wrote:

Paisley wrote:

Then I trust you will consider the belief in the  "indeterminate" nature of God to be a strength of the believer, not a weakness.

No, and the difference is very clear: While the evidence mounting for physics becomes stronger and stronger pointing towards a single physical reality, the 'evidence' (imagined as it is, via faith) for gods point toward ever more diverse and incompatible gods.

No. This is patently false. The scientific evidence is mounting that the so-called physical universe is fundamentally indeterminate (which is problematic for the deterministic worldview of materialism).

natural wrote:

Simply put, actual evidence leads to growing agreement, whereas the 'evidence' of faith leads to growing disagreement.

Materialism (or physicalism) is a metaphysical position ultimately based on faith, not evidence.

natural wrote:

Paisley wrote:

And when we ask the question: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" The most parsimonious explanation is God.

The most parsimonious explanation is "We don't know."

Correction. That's not an explanation.

natural wrote:

Paisley wrote:

Certainly, William of Ockham would have agreed because he was, after all, a Christian monk.

Who would not have survived a day if he ever came out as an atheist in the time that he lived. Besides, just because it's named after him, doesn't mean he was the most consistent at applying it. I'm not defending William of Ockham's theism, I'm simply using a principle that he happened to articulate. I don't consider people infallible. Newton believed in God, too, but that doesn't mean I have to reject calculus or his laws of motion.

The bottom line is that you are indebted to believers (those whom you characterize as irrational) for some of your most cherished rational principles.

natural wrote:

Paisley wrote:

When you redefine the physical so that it is compatible with the nonphyiscal, then you render both terms meaningless.

When you are incapable of understanding the difference between physical and material, you render yourself irrelevant to the conversation.

You have failed to explain the difference. The truth is that the physicalist is simply moving the "goal posts" in order to mitigate the damage inflicted on the materialist worldview by the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.

natural wrote:

Paisley wrote:

Subjectivity exists (as made evident by our first-person experience). But is does not objectively exist. If it does, then you have failed to provide evidence for this or even an explanation of how this may occur.

The neuroscience of perception begs to differ.

You have failed to provide objective evidence that subjective experiences are objective.

natural wrote:

Paisley wrote:

Eliminative materialists (e.g. Daniel Dennett and Georges Rey) deny the existence of subjective experience because the subjective is not objective and the dogma of scientific materialism demands that only the objective is real.

Not this canard again. Dennett denies the existence of *supernatural* subjectivity, not subjectivity altogether.

Dennett denies the existence of qualia (i.e. subjective experience). That's why it is called "eliminative" materialism. It eliminates something from the picture - namely, subjective experiences. (Note: I am citing a source below to support my claim.)

Quote:

The most common versions are eliminativism about propostional attitudes, as expressed by Paul and Patricia Churchland,[6] and eliminativism about qualia (subjective experience), as expressed by Daniel Dennett and Georges Rey,[2]

(source: Wikipedia: Eliminative materialism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliminative_materialism

natural wrote:

Paisley wrote:

It only appears too easy for you because you are held spellbound by an illusion of knowledge - conflating an assumption with an established fact.

Oh, the irony of projection!

I was hoping that you were capable of crafting a better response. Evidently, I was wrong.

natural wrote:

Paisley wrote:

There is no scientific means to objectively test for the presence of consciousness.

It's called an EEG. Doctors use them all the time.

Correlations do not establish identification.

natural wrote:

Paisley wrote:

And many would argue that this would be impossible in theory.

Many people are idiots. Even philosophers.

The bottom line is that someone with your intellectual prowess has failed miserably to provide a rational explanation (let alone objective proof) on how the subjective becomes objective.

natural wrote:

Paisley wrote:

Why? Because subjective awareness is not objective. Such is the nature of the problem.

Such is the nature of a circular argument.

How is the argument circular? Subjective awareness is not objective by definition.

natural wrote:

Subjectivity objectively exists, and it is physical. Ask any anaesthesiologist. Go ahead, ask one. I dare you.

Christof Koch (a prominent researcher in neuroscience who is seeking to establish a neural basis for consciousness) has explicitly stated in the introduction of his book entitled "A Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach" that phenomenal states appear to be too complex to be reducible to brain states (reductionism is the basis for identity theory).

http://www.amazon.com/Quest-Consciousness-Neurobiological-Approach/dp/0974707708/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266617706&sr=8-9

Also, John Eccles (Nobel laureate in neurophysiology) subscribed to interaction dualism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Carew_Eccles 

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jcgadfly wrote:Paisley

jcgadfly wrote:

Paisley wrote:

I understand occasionalism to mean a complete denial of "efficient causation."  Where have I stated a  disbelief in efficient causation?

I subscribe to magic? Well that might be true except that I can point to the origin and say "it starts here" I can also say that I don't know how it works yet without having to claim a god and stop there. You can't.

Okay. Let's test this out.

1) What were the first sentient living organisms in the history of evolution?

2) At what time in the development of the human fetus does consciousness emerge?

jcgadfly wrote:

When you said that anything non-physical has to be supernatural ("God did it&quotEye-wink - you admitted that "created things cannot be efficient causes". Looks like a denial of efficient causation to me.

I never stated that. What I did state is that, historically speaking, a natural explanation was considered a physical explanation. Therefore, nonphysical explanations were deemed to be supernatural ones. I believe consciousness is nonphysical based on my first-person experience. I also believe that I have free will based on my first-person experience. Therefore I have evidence for supernatural causation. This should not be miscontrued that I deny the existence of efficient causation. It only suggest thats I believe in the reality of final causation (i.e. teleological).

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead


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Quote:But it does not

Quote:

But it does not necessarily follow that everything described by physics is actually physical.

 

By the very definitions of those words, you are wrong.

 

Quote:

The article stated that physicalism and materialism are interchangeable terms.

 

Check the wiki article on materialism.  It is an out-dated term.  They are not interchangeable in philosophical discussion.

 

Quote:

Well, that's the very point I am making. There is nothing substantial about physicalism. Physics appears to be describing "physical" phenomena that can be better characterized as ephemeral (a characteristic that we conventionally associate with apparitions).

 

I don't know how many times we can tell you.  If physics can describe 'non-material' forces, then those things are, BY DEFINITION, physical.  You continue to think that if something has no substance it is non-physical.  That is where you are wrong.

 

Quote:

So, can you please elaborate. What exactly are the physical and informational constituents of the universe?

 

I don't know enough about the uses of information in physics to say anything authoritative other than I know that it is a key aspect of physics and consequently is physical.  Physical things can lack substance.

 

EDIT: This quote from wiki should help too. (taken from the physicalism page)

 

"Physicalism is also called "materialism", but the term "physicalism" is preferable because it has evolved with the physical sciences to incorporate far more sophisticated notions of physicality than matter, for example wave/particle relationships and non-material forces produced by particles."


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natural wrote:He's assuming

natural wrote:

He's assuming physicalism, and then claiming that physicalism must be true. That is the assumption I was pointing at. I originally truncated the quote to make the assumption more obvious.

 

"Physics aims to describe the various phenomena that occur in nature in terms of simpler phenomena. Thus, physics aims to both connect the things we see around us to root causes, and then to try to connect these causes together in the hope of finding an ultimate reason for why nature is as it is."

 

"While physics aims to discover universal laws"

 

-wiki

 

My assumption is that physics is the basis of science.  If physics has given itself the task of finding universal laws to explain science's inherent monism, it is the basis of scientific monism.  Scientific monism and natural monism would consequently describe the same thing.

 


 


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And there was me thinking

And there was me thinking that you'd missed passed my post...

 

Paisley wrote:
I believe those who subscribe to physicalism are the ones engaging in semantical games. Non-material does equal non-physical. It would appear that physicalists are merely attempting to redefine materialism because they know that quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity have undermined the materialist worldview.

That's pretty much it.
That's why the new term was invented.
So materialism doesn't mean the same as physicalism, and it does include "non-material" concepts that have come up in modern physics.
 

Strafio wrote:
As it happens, I'm kind of an emergentist myself.

Paisley wrote:
Then you are a "kind of dualist."

Yes. I think that the technical term is "property dualist" - very different to "substance dualist".

Strafio wrote:
If you're interest I could give you my own take on the connection.

Paisley wrote:
Okay. Go for it.

I've had a little too much alcohol to do it tonight, but watch this space!! Eye-wink


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Eloise wrote:Paisley

Eloise wrote:

Paisley wrote:

But "space" and "time" are clearly abstractions, not physical things at all. Also, what about

information

? Is information a physical thing?

absolutely. Information may, indeed, be the only physical thing.

Well, John Wheeler (eminent physicist and later colleague of Albert Einstein) seems to think that the fundamental constituents are informational, but he describes them as immaterial and the basis for a "participatory universe."

Quote:

'It from bit' symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom—a very deep bottom, in most instances—an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are Information-theoretic) in origin and that this is a participatory universe. (John Archibad Wheeler 1990: 5)

(source: Wikipedia: Digital physics)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_physics

Wheeler's participatory universe is based on the "strong anthropic principle," which smacks with some form of pantheism and/or panentheism.

Quote:

"Observers are necessary to bring the Universe into being."

Barrow and Tipler believe that this is a valid conclusion from quantum mechanics, as John Archibald Wheeler has suggested, especially via his participatory univerise and Participatory Anthropic Principle (PAP).

(source: Wikipedia: Strong Anthropic Principle)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strong_anthropic_principle

By the way, doesn't this dovetail nicely with RQM?

 

 

 

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Eloise wrote:Paisley

Eloise wrote:

Paisley wrote:

And what about "matter?" Based on the theory of quantum mechanics, matter has a dualistic nature - namely, it reduces to either waves or particles. Probability waves are clearly mathematical abstractions and are therefore not physical.

You've not quite got this right yet have you Paisley. And this is not the first time I have called you on his point, either. The dualism of matter is not abstract, it's physical in the most literal sense. The probability cloud is the electron. Don't mistake this for the notion that the wavefunction is just, and only, the places a 'point particle' electron might be at any given moment, that is simply not the case.

Your dismissal of the electron wave as an 'abstraction' is fundamentally incorrect.

Well, the Wikipedia article on QM seems to support my basic characterization. The wave function (which represents the probability distribution of the electron) is a mathematical abstraction.

Quote:

In the formalism of quantum mechanics, the state of a system at a given time is described by a complex wave function (sometimes referred to as orbitals in the case of atomic electrons), and more generally, elements of a complex vector space.[5] This abstract mathematical object allows for the calculation of probablities of outcomes of concrete experiments.

(source: Wikipedia: Quantum mechanics)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mechanics

Also, the term "cloud" appears to be only a conceptual device to give us a visual. It is not to be taken literally.

Quote:

Contours of constant probability, often referred to as "clouds", may be drawn around the nucleus of an atom to conceptualize where the electron might be located with the most probability.

(source: Wikipedia: Quantum mechanics)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mechanics

Eloise wrote:

It is not an abstraction, uncertainty is the real state of physical matter, that is what the science tells us.

I agree that UNCERTAINTY is the real state of physical matter as depicted by present-day physics. But this only serves to underscore the point that I have articulated in this thread - that the nature of the physical is INDETERMINATE.

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead


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Eloise wrote:Paisley

Eloise wrote:

Paisley wrote:

But what about particles? Well, physics represents particles as geometric points (i.e. abstractions) that have location in space (i.e. a nonphysical aspect) and time (i.e. a nonphysical aspect) but lack dimension (i.e. an immaterial aspect).

You're right that there is really no such thing as a point particle. This is just a model we use and it is based upon certain logical postulates that have a long, and fruitful, history in science (ie Euclid's elements etc) but are neither absolute nor infallible in representing the physical reality which they are used to study.

I know that scientific models are not infallible. But the present model has not been falsified. And the present model represents "something" that has location in space-time but lacks dimension. (A geometric point is dimensionless).

Quote:

But in Quantum physics and Cosmology, there is a debate as to whether some elementary particles are not bodies, but are mere points without extension in physical space within space-time.

(source: Wikipedia: Physical objects)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_objects

Eloise wrote:

It's well understood in science that the point particle relates only to a certain kind of space which in turn relates well to only certain domains of the physical universe. Space and time are most decidedly physical aspects, the bottom line is they are the physical domain itself. Space and time are no more or less than the extent/extensions of physical events.

There seems to be disagreement exactly what space constitutes.

Quote:

The concept of space is considered to be of fundamental importance to an understanding of the physical universe although disagreement continues between philosophers over whether it is itself an entity, a relationship between entities, or part of a conceptual framework

(source: Wikipedia: Space)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space#Relativity

Eloise wrote:

Physics no longer takes those old, dualism-informed (and dare I say ever so slightly primitive), notions of independent fields of time and space providing a static backdrop for the universe seriously, Paisley. It's simply not true -- so no, time and space are not contradictory (read: immaterial) aspects of a scientifically informed monism, they are characteristic states of the fundamental substance, namely, those in which the character of the substance is one of extension.

I am fully aware of the space-time continuum. Thank you very much. But what I find perplexing is why a self-professed panentheist (that would be you) is arguing for the dogma of scientific materialism.

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead


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Eloise wrote:F = ma --

Eloise wrote:

F = ma -- suggests that mass itself is a force, and this is validated by the mass energy equivalence thus we have determined that matter and force are of the same substance.

That's what I was trying to establish...that "mass(matter) itself is a force." And if elementary particles are actually dimensionless (which the models would suggest and some scientists believe), then do they really qualify as substances?

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead


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Alright, having sobered up

Alright, having sobered up (if with a slight hangover) I'm ready for you.
You say that Emergentists leave the connection between mind and body as a bit of a "magical" mystery.
I'm going to give you a possible explanation for this connection.

 

Before we go on, though, we need to cover some background knowledge.
What do you know about Wittgenstein?
How familiar are you with his later philosophy?
Could you briefly summarise what he says on language and meaning and give your opinion on it?
(If you're new to him, it would help if you quickly skimmed through this page to get the gist of what he's saying.)

I'll trying to establish a couple of his ideas on language and build on it from there.
Let's see where this goes...


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Strafio wrote:Alright,

Strafio wrote:

Alright, having sobered up (if with a slight hangover) I'm ready for you.
You say that Emergentists leave the connection between mind and body as a bit of a "magical" mystery.
I'm going to give you a possible explanation for this connection.

OKay.

Strafio wrote:
 

Before we go on, though, we need to cover some background knowledge.
What do you know about Wittgenstein?
How familiar are you with his later philosophy?
Could you briefly summarise what he says on language and meaning and give your opinion on it?
(If you're new to him, it would help if you quickly skimmed through this page to get the gist of what he's saying.)

I know who  he is but I am not very familiar with his thought. However, the Wikipedia article on his "Philosophical Investigations' provides the gist of what he is saying concerning language and meaning - mainly that words are defined by how they function in a given context, not in reference to the things or ideas one believe they represent.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_Investigations

Strafio wrote:

I'll trying to establish a couple of his ideas on language and build on it from there.
Let's see where this goes...

Okay.

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead


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v4ultingbassist

v4ultingbassist wrote:

Quote:

But it does not necessarily follow that everything described by physics is actually physical.

 

By the very definitions of those words, you are wrong.

Well, physics has never proved that the physical is actually fundamental. The belief that it has is a metaphysical position, not a scientific one.

v4ultingbassist wrote:

Paisley wrote:

The article stated that physicalism and materialism are interchangeable terms.

Check the wiki article on materialism.  It is an out-dated term.  They are not interchangeable in philosophical discussion.

The term "physicalism" is mainly employed in the philosophy of mind. And even here, philosophers use the term interchangeably. For example, Daniel Dennett (a philosopher of mind) describes himself as a materialist in his book entitled "Consciousness Explained." On the other hand, the term "materialism" is employed by scientists. For example, Richard Dawkins describes himself as a materialist.

v4ultingbassist wrote:
 

Paisley wrote:

Well, that's the very point I am making. There is nothing substantial about physicalism. Physics appears to be describing "physical" phenomena that can be better characterized as ephemeral (a characteristic that we conventionally associate with apparitions).

I don't know how many times we can tell you.  If physics can describe 'non-material' forces, then those things are, BY DEFINITION, physical.  You continue to think that if something has no substance it is non-physical.  That is where you are wrong.

Well, you're not actually responding to my comment. If there are no permanent substances, then how do you explain the process of changing forms?

v4ultingbassist wrote:

Paisley wrote:

So, can you please elaborate. What exactly are the physical and informational constituents of the universe?

 

I don't know enough about the uses of information in physics to say anything authoritative other than I know that it is a key aspect of physics and consequently is physical.  Physical things can lack substance.

That's what I thought. And your implication that information is non-material leads me to believe that what you call the physical ultimately reduces to abstractions. IOW, you don't have a very substantial argument (pun intended). 

 

 

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead


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Zaq wrote:Physics is not the

Zaq wrote:

Physics is not the only science.

Agreed.

Zaq wrote:

As such, something that is "not phyiscal" is not necessarily "supernatural."

If there was a process described by chemistry that did not, in principle, reduce to processes described by physics, then we would have a non-physical (not governed by physics) yet entirely natural (governed by the science of chemistry) process.

But something that is not physical is nonphysical by definition. Therefore, the term "nonreductive physicalism" is inherently self-refuting.

Zaq wrote:
 

Also, you cited a definition of physical, and then proceeded to not use that definition.  You even underlined the parts of the cited definition that you blatently contradicted in your strawman.  Way to kill your own argument there.

What definition was that?


 

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natural wrote:My point to

natural wrote:

My point to you, and to Marquis, was about the 'stupid' comment in regard to Zaq's point. It wasn't stupid. It's a correct and accurate point. Zaq's argument was not 'purely within a physicalist context'; it was pointing out an inherent limitation of physicalism, and a difference between physicalism and naturalism. (In fact, Zaq was correcting Paisley's misrepresentation of physicalism.)

How did I misrepresent physicalism in the OP?

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Paisley wrote: (To a large

Paisley wrote:

(To a large extent, this thread will serve as a critique of "physicalism" as defined in Wikipedia.)

Wikipedia defines physicalism (a.k.a. materialism) as follows:

Wikipedia's... objectivity varies deeply on the basis of

  1. The administrators currently in charge of the site, and of course, their pet peeves, religious participation (or cult membership, as sometimes is the case), their envisioning of how the website should be run, and... naturally, their intellectual biases.
  2. The desires and whims of whatever users happen to be accessing the site at one particular moment.
  3. The attempts of special interest groups (off the top of my head: Scientologists) to sway public opinion in one direction or another.

 

The Register wrote:
On one level, it's an encyclopedia. On another, it's The Comedy of Errors.

To base any argument on wikipeda is to simply say "I am not willing to do my own research on the subject"

“A meritocratic society is one in which inequalities of wealth and social position solely reflect the unequal distribution of merit or skills amongst human beings, or are based upon factors beyond human control, for example luck or chance. Such a society is socially just because individuals are judged not by their gender, the colour of their skin or their religion, but according to their talents and willingness to work, or on what Martin Luther King called 'the content of their character'. By extension, social equality is unjust because it treats unequal individuals equally.” "Political Ideologies" by Andrew Heywood (2003)


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Kapkao wrote:Paisley

Kapkao wrote:

Paisley wrote:

(To a large extent, this thread will serve as a critique of "physicalism" as defined in Wikipedia.)

Wikipedia defines physicalism (a.k.a. materialism) as follows:

Wikipedia's... objectivity varies deeply on the basis of

  1. The administrators currently in charge of the site, and of course, their pet peeves, religious participation (or cult membership, as sometimes is the case), their envisioning of how the website should be run, and... naturally, their intellectual biases.
  2. The desires and whims of whatever users happen to be accessing the site at one particular moment.
  3. The attempts of special interest groups (off the top of my head: Scientologists) to sway public opinion in one direction or another.

 

The Register wrote:
On one level, it's an encyclopedia. On another, it's The Comedy of Errors.

To base any argument on wikipeda is to simply say "I am not willing to do my own research on the subject"

To use Wikipedia for some subjects is akin to writing a junior high research paper.  You can't look at any encyclopedia as an authority, only a starting point.

Dolt:"Evolution is just a theory."
Me:"Yes, so is light and gravity. Pardon me while I flash this strobe while dropping a bowling ball on your head. This shouldn't bother you; after all, these are just theories."


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Strafio wrote:Alright,

Strafio wrote:
Alright, having sobered up (if with a slight hangover) I'm ready for you.

You say that Emergentists leave the connection between mind and body as a bit of a "magical" mystery.
I'm going to give you a possible explanation for this connection.

Before we go on, though, we need to cover some background knowledge.
What do you know about Wittgenstein?
How familiar are you with his later philosophy?
Could you briefly summarise what he says on language and meaning and give your opinion on it?
(If you're new to him, it would help if you quickly skimmed through this page to get the gist of what he's saying.)

Paisley wrote:
I know who  he is but I am not very familiar with his thought. However, the Wikipedia article on his "Philosophical Investigations' provides the gist of what he is saying concerning language and meaning - mainly that words are defined by how they function in a given context, not in reference to the things or ideas one believe they represent.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_Investigations

That's a decent enough start.
I still think it would help if you had a quick read through this page, but either way I'll give a quick summary of where I'm going with this.

Wittgenstein was concerned that philosophers could get themselves lost by letting language run away with itself. One example is "you cannot step in the same river twice", the implication being that next time you step in the river it will have changed slightly since the last time you stepped in it and no long be the same river. Wittgenstein would say that if we looked at what we mean by "same river" in real usage, i.e. the flow of water in the geographical location, then it would stay the same river each time we stepped in it. The claim "you cannot step in the same river twice" abuses the concept of "same river" by taking it out of the context how we really use it. He suggests that we can solve many philosophical problems by investigating the words we use, reflect on how we apply them in everyday usage in order to illuminate their proper meaning and context and then perhaps see where they are being abused.

I believe that the mind/body problem is of this type and can be solved by such an investigation.
I'd like to start by doing such an investigation into some our physical concepts.
I'll then give you a chance to comment/disagree with Wittgenstein and my investigation or physical concepts, and then request that you do a similar investigation into some mental concepts.

 

An Investigation of Physical Concepts

Here I'm going investigate some physical concepts by looking into how we apply them in everyday life.
These concepts are all used within the context (or "language game" ) of describing the physical world around us.
We use these concepts when describing the physical world that we touch, taste, etc...
It's used to describe the objects in this world and how they behave.
 

Physical Objects
These are objects that we see, hear and/or touch with our senses.
Sometimes we're referring to a particular object, e.g. "my heart" or "your brain".
Other times we're referring to a type of object, e.g. "hearts" or "brains".
Ofcourse, there are physical objects that we cannot directly perceive, e.g. those too small like electrons.
Pedanticism aside; our bodies are constructed from, and are themselves, physical objects.

Physical Laws
Physical laws describe how physical objects behave.
E.g. a ball falls to the ground with an acceleration described by the law of gravity.
These physical laws determine how chemicals react, which in turn determine how biological organisms function.

Physical Causation
"A causes B" basically means that if A happens, then B will also happen.
In physical causation we're saying "If we have situation A, the laws of physics mean that the physical objects will behave in a way that results in situation B happening"
e.g. Letting go of a ball means that it will follow the laws of gravity and drop to the ground.
i.e. Letting go of a ball causes it to drop to the ground.

 

 

What I would like you to now do:
Firstly give your opinion on what Wittgenstein said about how we can solve certain philosophical problems by investigating use of language.
Then give your opinion on my investigation on physical concepts - I'm expecting that you might add a few ideas I've missed but will be surprised you go as far as to disagree with anything.
Then what I'd like you to do is do a similar investigation into the following mental concepts:
Desire
Personality
Free Will (You might do this one in terms of "choice", in which case describe the concept "choice" )
I'm looking for a description on how we came to be using these words, and how we use them in everyday context.
I'll then comment and give my 2c.
This will help us clarify what we mean by mental concepts, and then I'll have a go at using these foundations to analyse the mind/body problem.


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Strafio wrote:What I would

Strafio wrote:

What I would like you to now do:

Firstly give your opinion on what Wittgenstein said about how we can solve certain philosophical problems by investigating use of language.

Semantics are concerned with the meaning of words and the meaning of words are important if we intend to verbally communicate. Many (if not most) words have different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. Furthermore, language is dynamic and in a state of flux (like the river), which I believe is the point that Heraclitus was attempting to convey and the point that Wittgenstein apparently failed to grasp.

Strafio wrote:

Then give your opinion on my investigation on physical concepts - I'm expecting that you might add a few ideas I've missed but will be surprised you go as far as to disagree with anything.

I am willing to use your definitions as a working-hypothesis. But this should not be misconstrued that I necessarily agree.  For example, perhaps there really are no physical objects (just mental constructions). Perhaps, there really are no physical laws (just ingrained psychological habits). Perhaps, there really is no causation (just correlations and observations.)

Strafio wrote:

Then what I'd like you to do is do a similar investigation into the following mental concepts:

Desire

Personality

Free Will

(You might do this one in terms of "choice", in which case describe the concept "choice" )
I'm looking for a description on how we came to be using these words, and how we use them in everyday context.

desire = wish or want

personality = disposition, personal characteristics or traits

free will = voluntary choice not predetermined by a prior cause

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead


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v4ultingbassist wrote:Well,

v4ultingbassist wrote:

Well, technically sciences like biology, chemistry, sociology, psychology etc build on each other, and fundamentally on physics (i.e. what is chemical HAS to be physical, since chemistry is an application of physics).  That is the point, that physics is the application of mathematics to the universe.  It wouldn't make sense for a chemist to focus on quarks when looking at molecule chains, but those chains themselves are still describable by physics.  I don't see how any scientific study could not be reducable to physics.  There is an xkcd comic that shows what I am talking about.  Since physicalism is monist in nature, it follows that the scientific field it is named after is the one that seeks to explain the fundamental 'thing' of all reality.  Since physics deals with the smallest (or most fundamental), it gets the name for a monist philosophy of science.  At least that's the way I see it.

Okay. Let's take your scientific reductionism to its logical conclusion:

- Sociology is the application of psychology

- Psychology is the application of biology

- Biology is the application of chemistry

- Chemistry is the application of physics

- Physics is the application of mathematics

- Question: What is mathematics the application of?

                       

                         

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead


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natural wrote:The skeptic of

natural wrote:

The skeptic of physicalism would argue, rightly, that the burden of proof is on the physicalist to show that chemistry is entirely reducible to physics.

Agreed. I am a skeptic of physicalism. And I am asking you to provide proof that consciousness reduces to the physical. Hitherto, you have failed to provide sufficient proof that the physical is actually fundamental.

natural wrote:

There are still some (though many fewer than before) neuroscientists who argue for non-physical consciousness. The idea is not absurd.

Agreed. But you gave the impression before that it was absurd. In fact, you gave the impression before that science had already established that consciousness was physical.

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead


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Paisley wrote:Semantics are

Paisley wrote:
Okay. Let's take your scientific reductionism to its logical conclusion:

- Sociology is the application of psychology

- Psychology is the application of biology

- Biology is the application of chemistry

- Chemistry is the application of physics

- Physics is the application of mathematics

- Question: What is mathematics the application of?

Logic?

 

Paisley wrote:
Semantics are concerned with the meaning of words and the meaning of words are important if we intend to verbally communicate. Many (if not most) words have different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. Furthermore, language is dynamic and in a state of flux (like the river), which I believe is the point that Heraclitus was attempting to convey and the point that Wittgenstein apparently failed to grasp.

I think Wittgenstein and I have been unfair to Heraclitus and that you're being unfair to Wittgenstein.
Heraclitus was making a metaphysical point using a metaphysical concept of "sameness".
Wittgenstein was pointing out that this metaphysical concept of "sameness" is different to the common usage, meaning that we can step in the same river twice as common sense suggests, so long as we stick to the common usage. 

The reason I bring semantics up is because I think that the mind/body problem is rooted in semantic confusions, and should we settle them then there ceases to be a problem. The whole point of that "investigation" was to compare the semantics of physical concepts to the semantics of mental ones. I believe that the "dualism" is in the context.

Paisley wrote:
I am willing to use your definitions as a working-hypothesis. But this should not be misconstrued that I necessarily agree.  For example, perhaps there really are no physical objects (just mental constructions). Perhaps, there really are no physical laws (just ingrained psychological habits). Perhaps, there really is no causation (just correlations and observations.)

That's okay...
I wasn't really looking to make metaphysical claims here.
My point was that physical concepts are used in the context of describing what our senses see.
Physical objects are the object we sense, physical laws are a description of how these physical objects behave and causation is a relation between physical events. So it seems we're more or less on the same level here.

 

Strafio wrote:
Then what I'd like you to do is do a similar investigation into the following mental concepts:

Desire

Personality

Free Will

(You might do this one in terms of "choice", in which case describe the concept "choice" )
I'm looking for a description on how we came to be using these words, and how we use them in everyday context.

Paisley wrote:
desire = wish or want

personality = disposition, personal characteristics or traits

free will = voluntary choice not predetermined by a prior cause


Okay... I don't disagree with any of these.
I was kind of looking for the everyday context within which we use these concepts, especially in contrast to how we use physical concepts.

e.g. To learn what a brain is we could show a picture of a brain, or show a brain itself and say "that's a brain".
We would then know what the physical concept "brain" is.
Would we do the same for "want" or "desire"?
We wouldn't point to an object of our senses like we do for physical concepts, so what would we do instead?


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'Consciousness' does not

'Consciousness' does not 'reduce' to a physical entity (the brain), although it is totally dependent on physical processes, it is a high level manifestation of certain processes occurring in the brain. None of this requires 'dualism', rather a hierarchy of levels of description, from the lowest level of the fundamental physical components of 'reality' (Physics), studying sub-atomic particles, forces, energy, up  to the behaviour of highly complex structures, whether galaxies or sentient organisms.

It does not reduce to those processes, any more than the narrative in a printed book reduces to a collection of ink patterns on the pages of the book.

Biology is NOT reducible to Physics, although it is dependant on some of the entities and principles described by Physics, but it incorporates new principles and concepts not meaningfully ascribed to the entities that Physics describes. In principle most of Biology is not actually even dependent on Physics, it is a separate discipline studying the way certain categories of complex entities develop, grow, and interact. Those entities could, in principle, be ultimately composed of entirely different entities than atoms as we currently know them, as long as they supported the existence of a genetic system and cellular mechanisms, etc, entirely analogous to the ones we observe.

There are entire areas of study - Computer Science, Complex Non-linear Systems, - which are totally independent of Physics, and in fact Physics itself is themselves dependant on such disciplines, just as it is dependent on Math, but not 'reducible to' Math.

Chemistry is more closely linked to, and so dependent on, but NOT 'reducible to, Physics, than other areas of study.

 

 

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Paisley wrote:natural

Paisley wrote:

natural wrote:

The skeptic of physicalism would argue, rightly, that the burden of proof is on the physicalist to show that chemistry is entirely reducible to physics.

Agreed. I am a skeptic of physicalism. And I am asking you to provide proof that consciousness reduces to the physical. Hitherto, you have failed to provide sufficient proof that the physical is actually fundamental.

I already explained (in my second reply) that the best defense of physicalism is pragmatism. It works, and there are no explanations that work better. We have no reason to believe that the non-physical exists. At best (for non-physicalists), we only have reason to believe that we haven't yet discovered all the physical mechanisms underlying all sciences. But we don't have any good reason to believe that there is some inherent limitation that will prevent us from finding them. So far, all of our sciences have been steadily shown to be more and more explicable as extensions of physics (chemistry, biology, now neuroscience, et al.). We have no reason to believe that trend will not continue indefinitely. Occam's Razor says: Physicalism wins.

Quote:
natural wrote:

There are still some (though many fewer than before) neuroscientists who argue for non-physical consciousness. The idea is not absurd.

Agreed. But you gave the impression before that it was absurd. In fact, you gave the impression before that science had already established that consciousness was physical.

I didn't argue it was absurd. I argued it was wrong. And, for the same reason physicalism wins, science has loads of evidence for physical consciousness, and none for non-physical consciousness. The arguments of non-physicalists are only arguments, they have zero evidence. Occam's Razor cuts through the crap.

Physicalism wins for the same reason atheism wins. There's no evidence for anything else.

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BobSpence1

BobSpence1 wrote:

'Consciousness' does not 'reduce' to a physical entity (the brain), although it is totally dependent on physical processes, it is a high level manifestation of certain processes occurring in the brain. None of this requires 'dualism', rather a hierarchy of levels of description, from the lowest level of the fundamental physical components of 'reality' (Physics), studying sub-atomic particles, forces, energy, up  to the behaviour of highly complex structures, whether galaxies or sentient organisms.

It does not reduce to those processes, any more than the narrative in a printed book reduces to a collection of ink patterns on the pages of the book.

Biology is NOT reducible to Physics, although it is dependant on some of the entities and principles described by Physics, but it incorporates new principles and concepts not meaningfully ascribed to the entities that Physics describes. In principle most of Biology is not actually even dependent on Physics, it is a separate discipline studying the way certain categories of complex entities develop, grow, and interact. Those entities could, in principle, be ultimately composed of entirely different entities than atoms as we currently know them, as long as they supported the existence of a genetic system and cellular mechanisms, etc, entirely analogous to the ones we observe.

There are entire areas of study - Computer Science, Complex Non-linear Systems, - which are totally independent of Physics, and in fact Physics itself is themselves dependant on such disciplines, just as it is dependent on Math, but not 'reducible to' Math.

Chemistry is more closely linked to, and so dependent on, but NOT 'reducible to, Physics, than other areas of study.

Bob, how are you using the word 'reduce'? I think these things are reducible, especially if you consider things like information and processes as fundamental to physics. Perhaps 'reduce' is not the right word, so I'd be interested to hear what you mean by it.

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natural wrote:BobSpence1

natural wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

'Consciousness' does not 'reduce' to a physical entity (the brain), although it is totally dependent on physical processes, it is a high level manifestation of certain processes occurring in the brain. None of this requires 'dualism', rather a hierarchy of levels of description, from the lowest level of the fundamental physical components of 'reality' (Physics), studying sub-atomic particles, forces, energy, up  to the behaviour of highly complex structures, whether galaxies or sentient organisms.

It does not reduce to those processes, any more than the narrative in a printed book reduces to a collection of ink patterns on the pages of the book.

Biology is NOT reducible to Physics, although it is dependant on some of the entities and principles described by Physics, but it incorporates new principles and concepts not meaningfully ascribed to the entities that Physics describes. In principle most of Biology is not actually even dependent on Physics, it is a separate discipline studying the way certain categories of complex entities develop, grow, and interact. Those entities could, in principle, be ultimately composed of entirely different entities than atoms as we currently know them, as long as they supported the existence of a genetic system and cellular mechanisms, etc, entirely analogous to the ones we observe.

There are entire areas of study - Computer Science, Complex Non-linear Systems, - which are totally independent of Physics, and in fact Physics itself is themselves dependant on such disciplines, just as it is dependent on Math, but not 'reducible to' Math.

Chemistry is more closely linked to, and so dependent on, but NOT 'reducible to, Physics, than other areas of study.

Bob, how are you using the word 'reduce'? I think these things are reducible, especially if you consider things like information and processes as fundamental to physics. Perhaps 'reduce' is not the right word, so I'd be interested to hear what you mean by it.

I see that what you may have in mind are concepts like "is dependant on", or "is derived from", rather than "is reducible to".

There are possibly two ways to see the word 'reduce' being applied here.

In one sense, the conceptual, you can only 'reduce' biology to physics if you literally throw away many fundamental concepts of the field, like evolution, in the process. In what meaningful way can you describe evolution in terms of quarks or energy flows???

Then there is the purely practical - even if you could in principle describe the process of sexual reproduction in terms of fundamental particle or atoms, it would be totally impractical and would completely obscure the essentials of the process in ultimately irrelevant detail.

If you mean that one area of knowledge may be expressible in terms of another set of concepts, like information, that seems plausible, to some extent. Something like information theory seems like a truly fundamental approach, which can apply to all scientific disciplines. Not sure if can efficiently or usefully apply comprehensively to all theories in any area of science, although it may well provide useful insights into all of them. 

However I see many sets of related disciplines, like Physics, Chemistry, Biology, being subdivisions of a whole set of knowledge which we have to sub-divide into the different disciplines for purely practical reasons, to make them manageable. In that view, 'reduce' makes even less sense. Each area has its theories and concepts which encapsulate the knowledge of the objects and processes it studies.

'Reduce' also implies a hierarchy, but I don't think that applies across all areas of study - as I said, most of Computer Science and related areas are not dependent on anything other than Logic and Math, ultimately. They are independent of the tree that Physics belongs in. It doesn't matter what are the specific physical properties of the components of any particular computer, as described by Physics.  Obviously they are closely dependent on Information Theory.

The relationship between all these areas is not a tree-like structure, there are too many cross-linkages. Most areas are depend upon one or more other areas, using concepts and tools derived in those areas. Many areas contain concepts which are not really expressible in the context of other areas. Some subjects can be identified as more fundamental, and I think all areas would be dependent on Logic and Math. Information theory is close to being a fundamental, although it obviously depends on Logic and Math. It can be employed in virtually all disciplines.

Logic is almost certainly the truly fundamental area, but I will wait for you to describe DNA replication in a series of logic statements...

It is the 'reduce' aspect of 'reducible' which give the lie to the concept - if some area of study is truly and practically 'reducible to' another, that means that it really should be regarded as a sub-discipline of the other.

I just don't think 'A is reducible to B' can validly and rationally be applied to any developed and useful area of study in terms of another, without actually reducing the information content.

I fundamentally object to 'reducible' in this context.

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"Reducible" means that the

"Reducible" means that the basic elements in Chemistry can be described into terms of physical elements, and the basic elements in Biology can be described in terms of Chemistry.
I've read all your objections to the term but they don't reflect how language actually works.
Every discipline has it's own terminology; a word is needed to describe a concept, someone assigns a "best fit" word and it becomes standardised.

While I understand some of your objections to Philosophy, you also have a bit of a grudge against it.


 


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Quote:Well, physics has

Quote:

Well, physics has never proved that the physical is actually fundamental. The belief that it has is a metaphysical position, not a scientific one.

 

This is a different concept than what I responded to.  What is described by physics is physical, again, by definition.  I know physicalism is a metaphysical position based on science, but not necessarily scientific.  It doesn't matter, because what is described by physics is physical, which was my claim to your 'it doesn't follow that everything described by physics is actually physical.'  It is your misunderstanding of what the word 'physical' means that is the problem.

 

Quote:

The term "physicalism" is mainly employed in the philosophy of mind. And even here, philosophers use the term interchangeably. For example, Daniel Dennett (a philosopher of mind) describes himself as a materialist in his book entitled "Consciousness Explained." On the other hand, the term "materialism" is employed by scientists. For example, Richard Dawkins describes himself as a materialist.

 

So what?  They aren't the same thing, even if people use them interchangeably.  Physicalists are materialists in the sense that they see only energy (right now) as the thing that is substance.  The confusion is over the word 'material.'  Non-material forces aren't composed of matter, and aren't material in that sense.  They are, however, consistent with a monist idea of one substance, or 'material' for the universe to be made of, energy.

 

Quote:

Well, you're not actually responding to my comment. If there are no permanent substances, then how do you explain the process of changing forms?

 

Because what it means to be 'physical' and what it means to have 'permanent substance' do NOT equate.  Physical properties govern interaction of whatever it is that is the fundamental substance.  Right now, that substance is energy. 'Physical' encompasses both the 'substance of the universe' and how its various forms interact.

 

Quote:

IOW, you don't have a very substantial argument (pun intended).

 

I am aware of that, because physical properties AREN'T substantial.  They are abstractions detailing the interaction of the 'fundamental material,' i.e. whatever it is that is the base substance of reality, right now, it's energy.  What I call physical ultimately reduces to what is energy (until we know what energy is comprised of or if it is really an irreducible 'material').

 


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Paisley

Paisley wrote:

v4ultingbassist wrote:

Well, technically sciences like biology, chemistry, sociology, psychology etc build on each other, and fundamentally on physics (i.e. what is chemical HAS to be physical, since chemistry is an application of physics).  That is the point, that physics is the application of mathematics to the universe.  It wouldn't make sense for a chemist to focus on quarks when looking at molecule chains, but those chains themselves are still describable by physics.  I don't see how any scientific study could not be reducable to physics.  There is an xkcd comic that shows what I am talking about.  Since physicalism is monist in nature, it follows that the scientific field it is named after is the one that seeks to explain the fundamental 'thing' of all reality.  Since physics deals with the smallest (or most fundamental), it gets the name for a monist philosophy of science.  At least that's the way I see it.

Okay. Let's take your scientific reductionism to its logical conclusion:

- Sociology is the application of psychology

- Psychology is the application of biology

- Biology is the application of chemistry

- Chemistry is the application of physics

- Physics is the application of mathematics

- Question: What is mathematics the application of?

                       

                         

 

Physics is the application of mathematics to the 'substance' in reality.  In this discussion, I am positing physics as the scientific field addressing the most fundamental aspects of reality. 


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Same themes keep being

Same themes keep being smashed into a brick wall in these threads.

 

The free will argument/term needs to be thrown out. You don't have a time-machine, you have no way of verifying that you could have made any other choice. Which is actually funny because even if you did have a time machine, it might falsify free will instead of prove it.

 

You can't decide how to define physical an non-physical things? Seems to be quite obvious. Non-physical things should be synonymous with non-existing things! All we can ever know could only be contained in the form of experience. Whether those experiences were interpreted "correctly" by you or not is not the issue. 

           

The term physical seems to be a term that needs to be brought into context and not abused which is what's going on here. Matter (which is traditionally associated with physical solid objects in everyday layman's terms) IS energy (there is no other , therefore any interaction/transformation of those energies must also be defined as being physical. If you want to simply say that the physical sciences cannot describe consciousness then so what? We do not yet have the necessary tools and information to describe a lot of shit about the universe we live in. You can argue over the concept of sufficient evidence for beliefs but just remember that that concept is recursive. I'm skeptical whether consciousness can be shown to be anything other than a subjective term at this point since no amount of emulation and knowledge will convince some people, the goal post is always changing.

 

Just as using words that have multiple meanings in no context can be confusing, you have on the other end structures that can be described mathematically but not represented in any way by informal human language. We have to extend already existing concepts or come up with new artificial ones to explain these representations to our primitive brains. Using language to say "that rock is hard" really isn't all that different then using an equation for force interactions of particles, some people just have more archaic definitions stuck in their heads.

 


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Strafio wrote:"Reducible"

Strafio wrote:

"Reducible" means that the basic elements in Chemistry can be described into terms of physical elements, and the basic elements in Biology can be described in terms of Chemistry.
I've read all your objections to the term but they don't reflect how language actually works.
Every discipline has it's own terminology; a word is needed to describe a concept, someone assigns a "best fit" word and it becomes standardised.

While I understand some of your objections to Philosophy, you also have a bit of a grudge against it.

What you describe is not reducing Chemistry to Physics, it is merely agreeing with what I said, that elements of Chemistry are described in terms of physics, but that is not the whole of Chemistry as a field of study - it is only the 'elements' that it works with that can be so derived.

It is only the basic starting points of Chemistry that derive from or are described by Physics, and it is even more absurd to try to 'reduce' Biology in any sense to Chemistry.

I described a more subtle way of seeing the relationships between different disciplines, which encompasses the things you say, while presenting a wider, more accurate picture of the way different fields of study relate. This crude simplification of such ideas into "A is reducible to B", is just silly, and I know you are capable of "getting it".

Yes, differences in terminology is behind some of the differences, but to even hint that that is the main difference is deeply absurd. Solving the quantum mechanical wave equation for even the simpler biological molecule is a monstrous task, not to mention something like DNA, and it would not necessarily clarify how they behave in interactions with other such molecules. So we need a different context, starting with models of the behaviour of whole atoms and molecules, in ever greater aggregations.

Yes it is close to physics, but you would have to expand the area described by Physics to encompass Chemistry, not throw away all the extra frameworks introduced to conceptualize and model complex chemical interactions. It would be a pointless re-labelling exercise. Chemistry studies things that are not studied in Physics. It cannot be 'reduced' to physics. If you mean it uses many things which are derived or dependent on Physics, then say that, rather than use a word like reducible which has clearly incorrect connotations. Apply your knowledge of language, please.

Does your reference to Philosophy hint that this 'reducible' idea derives from some philosophical argument? If so you have just given yet another reason for consigning most (not all) of the subject to the dustbin of history where it belongs. Listening recently to some podcasts describing the work and ideas of several famous philosophers has made me further despair over the respect given such people. Descartes was a f**king idiot, for example.

I have a grudge against philosophy in general for a damn good reason. I started out enjoying it. I have read just so much crap from philosophers, I just snapped.

I have deep respect for a few Philosophers, such as Hume and Russell, and of course Dennett.

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BobSpence1 wrote:I see that

BobSpence1 wrote:

I see that what you may have in mind are concepts like "is dependant on", or "is derived from", rather than "is reducible to".

I tend to think of "is reducible to" as "is explainable in terms of", meaning that apparent entities can be 'reduced' to their simpler, constituent parts, until you reach a 'fundamental' level which resides entirely within the science of physics. In other words, all entities in biology are actually complex entities made from fundamental entities of physics, i.e matter/energy, spacetime, forces, information, processes, etc. We can explain everything in biology in terms of these more fundamental concepts. When I hear people like postmodernists complaining about 'reductionism' in science, this is the kind of thing they complain about: "Oh, you think we're all just atoms and molecules, and how dreary is that?!" This is the primary sense in which I try to defend reductionism. My response is: "Yes, we *are* entirely atoms and molecules and other fundamental physical entities, but that's not dreary at all. In fact, it's amazing!"

Quote:
In one sense, the conceptual, you can only 'reduce' biology to physics if you literally throw away many fundamental concepts of the field, like evolution, in the process. In what meaningful way can you describe evolution in terms of quarks or energy flows???

Evolution is a process. Processes deal with transformations of information. They are not necessarily restricted to a particular substrate such as quarks/atoms/whatever. For example, I consider biological evolution to be the same basic process as cultural evolution and the evolutionary algorithms of GA and GP. There are of course variations, but the core process can be considered the same or functionally equivalent in a meaningful way (analogous to how various NP-complete problems can be shown to be equivalent). Just as QuickSort can be implemented in a computer, or by a person manipulating pieces of paper by hand.

Since processes fall within information theory and physics, I consider the process of evolution to be reducible to physics. Eventually, we'll have a complete theory that relates information and processes to things like entropy and system stability, making this reduction more obvious and concrete. It's tantalizingly close already.

Here's a good thought experiment to show that evolution is a process independent of medium: What is a gene? Is it DNA? No. It can be RNA too. Maybe it's a sequence of nucleic acids. Okay, that seems to make some sense. But when we sequence a genome and store the genome in a computer file, is the gene still there, or does this not count as a gene? It's no longer encoded as three-digit base-4 codons, it's stored as a string of bits. And what happens if we compress that file, so that the representation appears random and has no obvious relation to the original codons?

Perhaps you may be tempted to say that this file does not contain the original gene. Well, imagine that the original DNA-encoded gene was a unique gene. For example, imagine it was the gene which was recently evolved to allow E. Coli to eat citrate. Now, imagine that gene has been sequenced, and zipped up in a genome file stored as an attachment to some biologist's email. And further, imagine that all the E. Coli with that mutation have been utterly destroyed so that no DNA in existence encodes that gene. Also, no human remembers the gene sequence, and no other representation of that gene exists anywhere, except for that zipped email attachment. If that zipped attachment does not contain the gene, then we can say that the gene has been completely destroyed and no longer exists.

So, when the biologist reads his email, unzips the genome, and synthesizes a new DNA strand, and injects that strand into an E. Coli, and that E. Coli is able to eat citrate, where'd the gene come from? My answer: It was always there, as *information*, encoded in various forms, including in the zipped email attachment.

Evolution does not work on atoms or quarks or electrons. It works on information. It just so happens that the machinery of biological evolution is implemented with atoms and molecules and cells, but that's just one possible substrate for the identical process of evolution. This is why information and processes need to be considered fundamental, and not merely accidental or interpretational.

This is how I tackle similar 'problems' like emergence and whatnot. They are short-hands for basic, fundamental entities like information and processes.

Quote:
Then there is the purely practical - even if you could in principle describe the process of sexual reproduction in terms of fundamental particle or atoms, it would be totally impractical and would completely obscure the essentials of the process in ultimately irrelevant detail.

You don't have to describe it in terms of atoms. You can describe it in terms of information. The relevant entities of evolution are things like genes, which are information. Before we knew about DNA, we already had concepts of genes, from Darwin and Mendel. DNA is simply the mechanism for encoding genes, it is not the genes themselves.

Quote:
If you mean that one area of knowledge may be expressible in terms of another set of concepts, like information, that seems plausible, to some extent. Something like information theory seems like a truly fundamental approach, which can apply to all scientific disciplines. Not sure if can efficiently or usefully apply comprehensively to all theories in any area of science, although it may well provide useful insights into all of them.

I think information theory is just in its fledgling stages and will become a core, basic area of study for all sciences. Today, many scientists use the idea of information without explicitly acknowledging it. Psychology and sociology are good examples. I think neurology will end up being the tipping point and once we understand cognition in terms of information and processes, then things like psychology and sociology will really begin to click together. Evolution is another area where explicit use of information concepts will become very important, especially in relating evolution to thermodynamics.

Quote:
'Reduce' also implies a hierarchy, but I don't think that applies across all areas of study - as I said, most of Computer Science and related areas are not dependent on anything other than Logic and Math, ultimately. They are independent of the tree that Physics belongs in. It doesn't matter what are the specific physical properties of the components of any particular computer, as described by Physics.  Obviously they are closely dependent on Information Theory.

I think you answered your own objection there. Computer science deals with information. Information is physical.

Quote:
The relationship between all these areas is not a tree-like structure, there are too many cross-linkages.

Not all hierarchies are trees. All you need is a directed acyclic graph (DAG), and that all the fundamental concepts fit within the study of physics. The human division of the sciences may not perfectly prevent cycles, but as long as the basic concepts themselves contain no cycles, then this kind of reduction is still feasible.

Quote:
Many areas contain concepts which are not really expressible in the context of other areas.

I think this is a critique that other sciences have not been *reduced* to physics, not necessarily that they are not *reducible* to physics. I use 'reduction' in the latter sense.

Quote:
Some subjects can be identified as more fundamental, and I think all areas would be dependent on Logic and Math. Information theory is close to being a fundamental, although it obviously depends on Logic and Math. It can be employed in virtually all disciplines.

I imagine one day that we'll have a kind of 'meta-theory' of science which explains the scientific process itself (how science itself works to generate theories, etc.), from information to culture to sociology to psychology to neurology to biology to .... etc. In fact, I think this should probably be a major goal of science to develop such a theory. Ideas of information would be key to such a theory.

Quote:
Logic is almost certainly the truly fundamental area, but I will wait for you to describe DNA replication in a series of logic statements...

We already have at least one algorithm (which is logic) which describes at least one kind of evolution. I don't think we're very far away from developing a thorough logical/algorithmic description of all known kinds of evolution.

Quote:
It is the 'reduce' aspect of 'reducible' which give the lie to the concept - if some area of study is truly and practically 'reducible to' another, that means that it really should be regarded as a sub-discipline of the other.

In principle, they are. But in practice, there are useful heuristics and abstractions that make multiple branches of science worthwhile. Even within physics you have all sorts of sub-divisions already, from astrophysics to fluid dynamics to quantum, etc.

Quote:
I just don't think 'A is reducible to B' can validly and rationally be applied to any developed and useful area of study in terms of another, without actually reducing the information content.

I don't see it that way. A car engine is reducible to pistons and valves and whatnot, but that doesn't mean that it ceases to be something functionally 'more' than its parts, when assembled as a car engine. Reducing in my view means reducing fundamental assumptions; reducing like Occam's Razor reduces. No information is lost. Like lossless compression reduces the length of a message without losing any information.

Quote:
I fundamentally object to 'reducible' in this context.

Your usage of it does not appear to match mine. At least that's how it appears to me. Any objections to my usage of it?

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I actually agree with much

I actually agree with much of what you say.

I don't agree that Physics is the fundamental area, it is not fundamental to information theory or computer science, and is virtually useless for social sciences.

I actually said somewhere in that post that if there is an area of study which everything else can be described in terms of, it IS information theory, NOT physics.

The problem which you touch on near the end of your post, is that when you acknowledge that a car engine is something more than its parts, I feel compelled to point out that you DO conceptually tend to lose that idea when you 'reduce' it to pistons and valves etc. There remains the need for an area of study which analyses it at that emergent level.

I fully understand your comments about evolution, and they are certainly valid with respect to the broad algorithm, but there are details of who it works in the sphere of biology which are only really relevant to Biology, although we can probably find analogies of those processes, (the mechanics of gene duplication, deletion, etc which provide the raw material of variation) in other fields.

I guess my point is we need both perspectives, seeing the commonalities and general principles which apply across disciplines, without losing sight of the fact that at the detail level, there are differences, which prevent total 'reducibility' of one area in terms of another.

I definitely prefer the perspective of multiple linkages between identifiable areas of study, rather than any insistence that all can be 'reduced' to one.

I fully acknowledge that the compartmentalization into different areas is a practical necessity for our finite brains, not a fundamental reflection of the structure of 'knowledge'. And is important we don't let the 'boundaries' between those compartments become too rigid. 

I am beginning to see the 'reducible to' idea as an evil meme that has infected the minds of many intelligent people here and needs to be exterminated...

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

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I am beginning to see the 'reducible to' idea as an evil meme that has infected the minds of many intelligent people here and needs to be exterminated...

 

I personally use it to represent my worldview of scientific monism.  In a sense, it is an easy way to label everything such that science can touch it.  In other words, instead of saying I am a naturalist, I use physicalist so that I am actually claiming something positive about what it means to be 'natural.'  Until this thread I didn't think it was a big deal to do so, as in 'everything is made of matter, which is energy, so my monistic substance is energy, which is best described by physics,' was my thought process behind labeling myself a physicalist.

 

Actually, while digging through some wiki articles, it seems that in philosophy 'physical' is more akin to 'scientifically described' than it is to 'described by physics alone.'  This is kind of my position, that physicalism is scientific naturalism.


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v4ultingbassist wrote:

Quote:

I am beginning to see the 'reducible to' idea as an evil meme that has infected the minds of many intelligent people here and needs to be exterminated...

 

I personally use it to represent my worldview of scientific monism.  In a sense, it is an easy way to label everything such that science can touch it.  In other words, instead of saying I am a naturalist, I use physicalist so that I am actually claiming something positive about what it means to be 'natural.'  Until this thread I didn't think it was a big deal to do so, as in 'everything is made of matter, which is energy, so my monistic substance is energy, which is best described by physics,' was my thought process behind labeling myself a physicalist.

 

Actually, while digging through some wiki articles, it seems that in philosophy 'physical' is more akin to 'scientifically described' than it is to 'described by physics alone.'  This is kind of my position, that physicalism is scientific naturalism.

If you want a simple alternative consistent with my view, it is not that Science is 'reducible to' or explainable in terms of some fundamental ideas, it that all of Science can be generated by expanding upon the basic ideas. This includes adding new ideas and principles which are suggested by the results of applying the original ideas to observation and testing of reality.

Our reality may indeed be shown to be consistent with a few basic ideas, but I think there are an infinite set of possibilities which could emerge from any limited set of first principles, and only an expanding study of reality can reveal its actual state. So to concentrate on the fundamental principles to the exclusion of emergent phenomena in the other direction is a mistake, perpetuating the error in reasoning of the early philosophers that everything ultimately follows from some grand principles that could be accessed by thought alone.

Quantum theory tells us that the initial state of the universe and the laws of physics in no way uniquely determine the path it will follow.

And sure, the idea of some regime beyond what we can access scientifically is an illusion. What we have is a more-or-less continuum from the basic elements of matter/energy through many levels of emergent phenomena and higher-level principles to things like consciousness. They are all linked, but not in a simple 'reducible' way, at least not the way I read the term. You should be able to show that the process of consciousness is fully explainable in a broad sense in terms of a hierarchy of processes involving entities from quarks to neurons in ever more complex patterns of organisation. But that doesn't mean our particular form of consciousness inevitably follows from the properties of those fundamental bits of reality.

We need to keep looking both ways, extracting broad principles, and studying how the specifics of our own reality emerged.

Dunno if all that was entirely relevant to your comment...

FWIW, I started out as an Engineer too (Electronics and Communications).

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


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Paisley

Paisley wrote:

v4ultingbassist wrote:

Well, technically sciences like biology, chemistry, sociology, psychology etc build on each other, and fundamentally on physics (i.e. what is chemical HAS to be physical, since chemistry is an application of physics).  That is the point, that physics is the application of mathematics to the universe.  It wouldn't make sense for a chemist to focus on quarks when looking at molecule chains, but those chains themselves are still describable by physics.  I don't see how any scientific study could not be reducable to physics.  There is an xkcd comic that shows what I am talking about.  Since physicalism is monist in nature, it follows that the scientific field it is named after is the one that seeks to explain the fundamental 'thing' of all reality.  Since physics deals with the smallest (or most fundamental), it gets the name for a monist philosophy of science.  At least that's the way I see it.

Okay. Let's take your scientific reductionism to its logical conclusion:

- Sociology is the application of psychology

- Psychology is the application of biology

- Biology is the application of chemistry

- Chemistry is the application of physics

- Physics is the application of mathematics

- Question: What is mathematics the application of?

                       

                         

Actually, that's a joke comic, it's only superficially true. It emphasises that Maths and Physics are at the base of all sciences and this is essentially an accurate portrayal but I wouldn't take every detail of the depiction to heart.

However, it is possible to answer your question fairly directly as Mathematics, like Logic and Linguistics, is a formalism of applied consistency.

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BobSpence1 wrote:What you

BobSpence1 wrote:

What you describe is not reducing Chemistry to Physics, it is merely agreeing with what I said, that elements of Chemistry are described in terms of physics, but that is not the whole of Chemistry as a field of study - it is only the 'elements' that it works with that can be so derived.

Right. And that's what "reducible" means. Every subject has it's jargon and this is a term from philosohy. You can rebel against it if you like, but this is how the rest of the academic world uses the term.

BobSpence1 wrote:

I have a grudge against philosophy in general for a damn good reason. I started out enjoying it. I have read just so much crap from philosophers, I just snapped.

I have deep respect for a few Philosophers, such as Hume and Russell, and of course Dennett.


Sounds to me like you were expecting philosophy to be too much like science. Much of philosophy isn't studied as a "set of facts", it's more like a practical game of spot the fallacy. It serves the purpose of both training the reader in reasoning and exposing them to certain problems that have puzzled mankind.

There is also serious attempts to solve such problems too. There's a lot in contemporary philosophy that you wouldn't find so silly.
Btw, Dennet uses philosophical terms like reducible just like everyone else.


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Strafio wrote:BobSpence1

Strafio wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

What you describe is not reducing Chemistry to Physics, it is merely agreeing with what I said, that elements of Chemistry are described in terms of physics, but that is not the whole of Chemistry as a field of study - it is only the 'elements' that it works with that can be so derived.

Right. And that's what "reducible" means. Every subject has it's jargon and this is a term from philosohy. You can rebel against it if you like, but this is how the rest of the academic world uses the term.

Well it is still a stupid term to use, as I have come to expect from philosophy, because it hangs on to so many outdated  concepts.

I am not rebelling against it, since I don't regard it as something with much of any use to contribute to knowledge and understanding, with any authority that I have any respect for. I am happy to simply ignore it, except where people who still take to any extent seriously bring it up.

Quote:

Quote:

I have a grudge against philosophy in general for a damn good reason. I started out enjoying it. I have read just so much crap from philosophers, I just snapped.

I have deep respect for a few Philosophers, such as Hume and Russell, and of course Dennett.

Sounds to me like you were expecting philosophy to be too much like science. Much of philosophy isn't studied as a "set of facts", it's more like a practical game of spot the fallacy. It serves the purpose of both training the reader in reasoning and exposing them to certain problems that have puzzled mankind. There is also serious attempts to solve such problems too. There's a lot in contemporary philosophy that you wouldn't find so silly. Btw, Dennet uses philosophical terms like reducible just like everyone else.

The most serious downside of philosophy is that it perpetuates way too many outdated modes of thinking. And insofar as it is not like science, it is of little value to me. I find most value where discussions on the fringes of science, or just beyond, use what is arguably a more philosophical style discourse to probe ideas beyond what we have so far established. Otherwise it is to me mostly more-or-less pointless word games, as your description seems to suggest, although you will disagree no doubt about "pointless".

I think reality as revealed by science is shown to be way too complex and subtle, and in many cases counter-intuitive, to be addressed by non-empirical speculation - we have largely exhausted the finite set of possibilities we can generate just within our minds - we need the constant input of data and observations from our ever more subtle and sensitive instruments, to allow reality to continually throw completely unexpected new information at us, which in turn provides the raw material of thought to generate and incorporate ideas that we would be unlikely to come up with in millennia of philosophical rehashing of the same old concepts. May I suggest Quantum Mechanics and Relativity as obvious examples. 

There is a sense in which I can imagine 'reducible' being a reasonable term, but not if it assumes no loss of information. It is OK to use it when 'reducing' one subject to another if you acknowledge that you are throwing away something in the process, which makes the process of questionable value in most cases. I am sure there are other contexts where it makes perfect sense. But in this context of relating different areas of study, it is irrelevant or way too simplistic too be useful - the relationships are much more complex, and it is not just a matter of terminology.

I have read much of Dennett, and I cannot honestly recalling finding any 'philosopher speak' which particularly offended me.

Richard Carrier commented years back on an RRS show that Philosophy gave far to much reverence to old ideas and their originators, and I certainly agree. It would be like Science still incorporating phlogiston theory into Thermodynamics. 

There, I needed an excuse for that rant...

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

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There, I needed an excuse for that rant...

 

Here, I'll give you a reason for another one.  Because of Kant, idealism is obviously the most logically consistent metaphysical position.  LOL


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Strafio wrote:Paisley

Strafio wrote:

Paisley wrote:

Okay. Let's take your scientific reductionism to its logical conclusion:

- Sociology is the application of psychology

- Psychology is the application of biology

- Biology is the application of chemistry

- Chemistry is the application of physics

- Physics is the application of mathematics

- Question: What is mathematics the application of?

Logic?

Applied logic requires conscious intelligence to apply the logic. 

Strafio wrote:
 

I think Wittgenstein and I have been unfair to Heraclitus and that you're being unfair to Wittgenstein. 

Heraclitus was making a metaphysical point using a metaphysical concept of "sameness".

No, Heraclitus was making a metaphysical argument based on an empirical observation - namely, that the river is in a constant state of flux. Our concept of a "river" is an abstraction and does not really represent the true nature of reality.

Strafio wrote:

Wittgenstein was pointing out that this metaphysical concept of "sameness" is different to the common usage, meaning that we can step in the same river twice as common sense suggests, so long as we stick to the common usage.

But Heraclitus was making a metaphysical argument. 

Strafio wrote:

The reason I bring semantics up is because I think that the mind/body problem is rooted in semantic confusions, and should we settle them then there ceases to be a problem. The whole point of that "investigation" was to compare the semantics of physical concepts to the semantics of mental ones. I believe that the "dualism" is in the context.

Okay. Provide an explanation that resolves the problem.

Strafio wrote:

That's okay...

 

I wasn't really looking to make metaphysical claims here.
My point was that physical concepts are used in the context of describing what our senses see.
Physical objects are the object we sense, physical laws are a description of how these physical objects behave and causation is a relation between physical events. So it seems we're more or less on the same level here.

Okay. This is basically saying that physical events are objective phenomena while mental events are subjective phenomena. 

Strafio wrote:

Okay... I don't disagree with any of these.

 

I was kind of looking for the everyday context within which we use these concepts, especially in contrast to how we use physical concepts.

e.g. To learn what a brain is we could show a picture of a brain, or show a brain itself and say "that's a brain".
We would then know what the physical concept "brain" is.
Would we do the same for "want" or "desire"?
We wouldn't point to an object of our senses like we do for physical concepts, so what would we do instead?

This depends on what you want or desire. If you desire a physical object, then you would point to a physical object.

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead


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Eloise wrote:Paisley

Eloise wrote:

Paisley wrote:

Okay. Let's take your scientific reductionism to its logical conclusion:

- Sociology is the application of psychology

- Psychology is the application of biology

- Biology is the application of chemistry

- Chemistry is the application of physics

- Physics is the application of mathematics

- Question: What is mathematics the application of?         

Actually, that's a joke comic, it's only superficially true. It emphasises that Maths and Physics are at the base of all sciences and this is essentially an accurate portrayal but I wouldn't take every detail of the depiction to heart.

However, it is possible to answer your question fairly directly as Mathematics, like Logic and Linguistics, is a formalism of applied consistency.

Actually I like you to respond to post #48 which I have listed below:

Post #48 wrote:

Paisley wrote:

Eloise wrote:

**Further validation by Quantum Electrodynamics and Information theory (to name the important ones) consequently establishes the view of a neutral monist (perhaps a physicalist, also, in that respect) that matter and it's forms are characteristics states of a fundamental dynamic exemplified by the fundamental physical forces.

Please explain to me what you mean by "neutral monism." I understand  the term to mean that the fundamental constituents of reality are neither physical nor mental. Therefore, to argue that quantum physics and information theory establish the view of neutral monism is to argue that quantum physics and information theory establish the view that the fundamental constituents of reality are neither physical nor mental. This is not compatible with physicalism.

Quote:

Neutral monism claims the universe consists of only one kind of stuff, in the form of neutral elements that are in themselves neither mental nor physical.

(source: Wikipedia: Neutral monism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutral_monism

 

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead


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BobSpence1

BobSpence1 wrote:

'Consciousness' does not 'reduce' to a physical entity (the brain), although it is totally dependent on physical processes, it is a high level manifestation of certain processes occurring in the brain. None of this requires 'dualism', rather a hierarchy of levels of description, from the lowest level of the fundamental physical components of 'reality' (Physics), studying sub-atomic particles, forces, energy, up  to the behaviour of highly complex structures, whether galaxies or sentient organisms.

Nonreductive physicalism constitutes a form of dualism - more specifically, "property dualism."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Property_dualism

"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead