David Nyman wrote:
> 1Z wrote:
> > (PS could you write *less* next time ? I find tha the more you write,
> > the less
> > I understand!)
> I sympathise!
> However, I'm not sure how much further we're destined to get with this
> particular dialogue. Each time we have another go I think I see where
> we're going past each other, and I attempt to re-cast what I'm saying
> to address this - hence the prolixity, which frustrates me probably as
> much as it does you!
> On this occasion, I'll say simply this: whilst of course not
> unconscious of other treatments of these issues, particularly those
> addressing the physical or computational issues, there's always seemed
> to me to be something philosophically fishy about how the 'first
> person' is supposed to just 'turn up' in a situation which is
> fundamentally something else - a world fundamentally composed of
> impersonal 'things'.
How fishy that is depends on what is meant by "first person".
If a person is just:
a) a structure which is b) part of
wider structure, and which c) has an internal representation
of the wider structure;
there is no great problem. The situation is entirely structure
and relational, and can therefore easily be dealt with by physicalism
by matter forming various differnt kinds of structure. The problem
is, that while a)-c) is not all that can be said
about first personhood, it is pretty much all that *is* said
in your various definitions [*]. Not only is it not necessary to
treat such a 1st person as ontologically primative, it is
hardly even coherent , since such a 1st person is clearly complex.
> I'm convinced this puzzles and confuses others
> too, leading to IMO pseudo-problems like 'intelligent zombies', and
> pseudo-solutions like dualism.
OK: now we seem to be getting to the nub of the problem. Consciousness
and qualia. IOW, 1st-personhood divides into two problems: an
Easy Problem of a)-c); and a Hard problem of d) qualia and e)
Now: if qualia are the only aspect of 1st-personhood whose emergence
form structured matter is "fishy", why not make qualia ontologically
fundamental, and keep the Easy aspects of 1p-hood as high-level
emergent features ? (It's not just that we don't *need* to
treat the a)-c) as primitive, it is also that we can't! A structure
that contains representations of other structures is inherently
( I am taking it that qualia are basically non-structural [**] )
> So it occurred to me: supposing one
> were to think of the world not as a collection of 'things' (or as I
> think physics teaches us a 'field' differentiated into apparently
> individual 'things') but as a 'big person' (or a big personal field,
> differentiated into apparently individual persons).
Is that idea even coherent ? How can a universal Person contain
of what is outside itself ?
> I'm sorry if this sounds like Teletubbies, but I'm not going to deploy
> my jargon this time! We're here because the 'big person' is here and
> we're a part of him (her/ us?). Now this 'big person' would have to be
> conscious in parts, and unconscious in other parts, but it then ocurred
> to me that this is *exactly* analogous to our own situation: we are
> indeed conscious in parts and at times, and unconscious in other parts
> and at other times. The distinction seems to arise from local strucure
> and function.
And therefore doesn't require any personhood apart from
those structures and funtions.
> Everything else really follows from this, and personally I've found
> that thinking in this way dissolves the sort of conceptual confusions
> that I've mentioned - same structure, same function, same first
> personhood (no zombies, no dualism).
But always *some* first-personhood, or how else
could it be universal ?
> The rest of course, is the
> infamous 'easy problem', on which I have no particular purchase.
> Now that I've put it in this I hope disarmingly naive way, you may wish
> to request clarification on any point, or you may feel that you simply
> disagree, or aren't interested. As ever, I'd be pleased to hear from
1) FP1g - primitive 'global' first person entity or context
2) FP1i - individual person delimited by primitive differentiation
(which is agnostic to comp, physics, or anything else at this logical
3) FP2 - narrative references to first persons, as in 'David is a first
person', an attribution, as opposed to 'David-as-first-person', a
4) TP - third person, or structure-read-as-information, as opposed to
1) First person 1 (FP1) - the point-of-view that is directly claimed by
an individual (FP1i) such as David or Peter, or what is generally meant
when the word 'I' is directly uttered by such a person.
2) First person 2 (FP2) - representations of an FP1 point-of-view as
modelled within members of the FP1 community. The usage of 'David' or
'Peter' in point 1) exemplifies one type of such representation, whose
presumed referent is an FP1i person.
Consciousness is a problem for all forms of materialism and physicalism
to some extent, but it is possible to discern where
the problem is particularly acute. There is no great problem with the
idea that matter considered as a bare substrate can have mental
properities. Any inability to have mental proeprties would itslef be a
property and therefore be inconsistent with the bareness of a
bare substrate. The "subjectity" of consciouss states, often treated as
"inherent" boils down to a problem of communicating one's
qualia -- how one feesl, how things seem. Thus it is not truly inherent
but depends on the means of communication being used.
Feelings and seemings can be more readily communicated in artistic,
poetice language, and least readily in scientifi technical
language. Since the harder, more technical a science is, the more
mathematical it is, the communication problem is at its most
acute in a purely mathematical langauge. Thus the problem with
physicalism is not its posit of matter (as a bare substrate)
but its other posit, that all properties are phycial. Since physics is
mathematical, that amounts to the claim that all properties
are mathematical (or at least mathematically describable). In making
the transition from a physicalist world-view to a mathematical
one, the concept of a material substrate is abandoned (although it was
never a problem for consciousness) and the posit of mathematical
properties becomes, which is a problem for consciousness becomes
What Is Physicalism Anyway ? Quantities, Qualities and Russell's
Our unwillingness to identify the physical and the mental is at heart a
descriptive problem. (There is a class of objections, based on
causality, and another on intentionality which I will get onto in due
course). Detailed physical descriptions just don't capture the "feel"
of conscious states. This is brought out in Frank Jackson's parable
about Mary, the neuroscientist who, imprisoned in a monochrome
environment, knows all there is to know about colour perception in
principle, but is still surprised by the actual experience of colour on
Yet there is a wealth of evidence that the mental is strongly
correlated with the physical. One way out of this impasse is that
physical descriptions do not "capture" the mental, but the mental is
nonetheless "there". This is a kind of two Language view. It is a
departure from the strongest varieties of Physicalism without
entertaining any supernaturalism about the mind. (Of course, if in some
underlying way the mental is the physical, albeit under a different
description, there is no causal problem.The mental story , in terms of
intentions and actions, and the physical story in terms of neural
firings and muscular twitches are two different descriptions of the
same event, so neither the physical nor the mental is squeezed out of
the causal picture).
But why don't physical descriptions capture the mental? Consider the
way physical theories are verified. An experiment is set up; a
theoretical calculation is made of the expected outcome; the experiment
is performed and a comparison is made between expectation the actual
outcome. The outcome matches the expectation , or it doesn't. But the
outcome and the expectation relate to instrument-readings. There is no
further requirement to capture the essence of the thing being
investigated. The height of a column of mercury in a thermometer is not
very much like heat (subjectively or objectively!), but that doesn't
matter; it only matter whether it is the expected value of not. The
instrument reading only has to track -- vary in line with -- the
underlying phenomenon. The other ingredient is the theoretical
apparatus, the graphs and formulae used to generate the expectation.
These are abstract mathematical structures. If the theory is correct,
the abstract structures it uses will stand in a certain relationship to
the real phenomenon, one of "modeling" or "mapping" it , so the
interrelationships of the elements of the abstract theory will mimic
the structure and behaviour of the real phenomenon. nothing further is
required, and this relationship of modeling between theory and reality
is itself an abstract structure.
So these are the ingredients of physical: modeling, mapping,
isomorphism, abstraction, relation, quantities.
But it is almost tautologous that the real world cannot be made of
those ingredients alone (particularly that is can't be a mere
abstraction). Thus we have candidates for real properties of the world
not captured by physics: concreta, intrinsic properties and qualities.
The last is of the most interest, of course. The resemblance between
"qualia" and "quality" might not be coincidental. Qualities might be
intrinsic to matter yet incapable of being "seen" through the
"spectacles" of physics. Our own qualia might be a direct insight into
these qualities, not something else in disguise. We need not suppose
that all qualities are like human qualia; qualia might be only a tiny
subset of the possible range of qualities.
Not all qualities need to be had consciously by a being with a mind
(human qualia are necessary constituents of full human consciousness,
but might not be sufficient constituents). If they are, and they are
intrinsic to matter, that suggests panexperientialism. If not, there is
an extra factor to conscious experience beyond the nature of experience
An objection that could be raised at this point is that if qualia are
intrinsic to the matter of the brain, and we have a direct insight into
them, they should give a fine-grained physical picture of the brain.
Another is that we are not not conscious of all our mental contents --
most of what is going on in our heads it unconscious. So there is a
"grain" problem -- relating to the amount of detail in the contents of
consciousness -- and, relatedly a "level" problem.
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