Non-reductive materialism *doesn't* say that a person's person state
> could be different even though his physical state is unchanged.  If it
> did, you are right, it wouldn't be materialism.  In all forms of
> materialism, the person's mental state has to be completely fixed by
> the physical state.
> What non-reductive materialism *does* say is that high-level
> properties of a complex system are not completely reducible to
> descriptions in terms of lower level properties.  That is, there exist
> real (objective) high-level properties of a system which cannot be
> replaced by low-level descriptions.

Then it seems to be a matter of semantics. You could say that a pair of peas
cannot be explained in terms of one pea and another pea because "pair" is a
higher level property of the system. It's just that in the case of this
trivial example, our minds easily and intuitively see that the pair really
is nothing more than the sum of its parts. We might imagine
super-intelligent beings who could immediately see all sorts of
fantastically intricate, complex systems for what they really are.

Unfortunately reductionism appears to *the* modern day dogma of
> science and it seems to be near impossible to get through to anyone in
> the grip of this dogma. 'Eliminative materialism' is all the rage
> these days aka Daniel Dennett and co who think that consciousness is
> 'just a fiction' (even though Dennett uses these same-said high level
> cognitive processes to reason his way to his absurd conclusion).

It's obviously crazy to say consciousness is just a fiction; just as it's
crazy to say a pair of peas is just a fiction. This is not the same as
saying that the idea of consciousness as a separate ontological entity is
just a fiction.

We know for sure (via the argument from indispensability) than there
> exist mathematical concepts (for instance uncomputable numbers and
> infinite sets) which *cannot* be identified with finite physical
> processes.  Yet we see great minds desperate to try to deny the
> existence of uncomputables (J.Schmidhuber on this very list just
> showed up recently and tried to argue that only discrete math is
> real!) - even though in fact Cantor put infinite sets on an infallible
> footing long ago (and Abraham Robinson did the same for
> infinitesimals).  See this link for an artilce I wrote giving a quick
> demolition of the arguments against infinite sets:
> http://archives.betterhumans.com/Members/mjgeddes/BlogPost/4710/Default.aspx
> The bottom line is that if infinite sets are real (and they are!)
> reductive materialism is false.

I don't see how that follows, even if by "real" you mean physically real as
opposed to mathematically real.

But it doesn't stop there:  Science itself (via the notion of 'laws of
> physics') uses concepts which are supposed to be *universal* in
> scope.  But universals by definition cannot be empirically identified
> with any finite physical concept.  Again the very use of universals
> ('laws of physics') actually falsifies the reductionist claims.

This reminds me of the consternation that the logical positivists
experienced with the verifiability principle for what was meaningful in
science - which is not itself subject to the verifiability principle! Still,
I don't think this has any bearing on reductionism. The scientific method is
about how we are to go about discovering scientific truths, just as the
adversarial method in a court of law is about how to decide guilt or
innocence "beyond reasonable doubt". But the world is as it is regardless of
our methods of investigation.

Stathis Papaioannou

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