On 31 July, 22:39, David Nyman <david.ny...@gmail.com> wrote:
> I note that the recent posts by Peter Jones - aka the mysterious 1Z,
> and the originator of the curiously useful 'real in the sense I am
> real' or RITSIAR - occurred shortly after my taking his name in vain.
> Anyway, this signalled the resumption of a long-running debate about
> the validity of causal accounts of the first person based on a
> functional or computational rationale. I'm going to make an attempt
> to annihilate this intuition in this thread, and hope to encourage
> feedback specifically on this issue. You will recall that this is at
> the heart of Bruno's requirement to base COMP - i.e. the explicitly
> computational account of mind - on the the number realm, with physics
> derived as an emergent from this. Step 8 of the UDA addresses these
> issues in a very particular way.
> However, I've always felt that there's a more intuitively obvious and
> just as devastating blow that can be dealt to functional or
> computational notions based on physical entities and relations
> conceived as ontologically foundational and singular (i.e. no dualism
> please). So as not to be misunderstood (too quickly!) let me make it
> clear at the outset that I'm addressing this to first person conscious
> experience, not to third person descriptions of 'mentality' - so
> eliminativists can stop reading at this point as there is nothing
> further that requires explanation in their view (as odd as I trust
> this sounds to you non-eliminativists out there).
> The argument runs as follows. To take what physics describes with
> maximal seriousness - as standing for ontological reality - is just to
> take its entities and causal relationships seriously to the same
> extent. God knows, physicists have gone to enough trouble to define
> these entities and relationships with the most precisely articulated
> set of nomological-causal principles we possess. Consequently, taking
> these with maximal seriousness entails abjuring other causal
> principles as independently efficacious: i.e. showing how - or at
> least being committed to the belief that - all higher order causal
> principles somehow supervene on these fundamentals. Any other
> position would be either obscurantist or incoherent for a physical
> Now I should say at this point that I'm not criticising this position,
> I'm merely articulating it. It follows from the foregoing that
> although we may speak in chemical, biological, physiological or
> historical narratives, we believe that in principle at least these are
> reducible to their physical bases. We also know that although we may
> speak of cabbages and kings, weather, oceans, processes, computations
> and untold myriads of equally 'emergent' phenomena, we still must
> retain our commitment to their reducibility to their physical bases.
> So of course, we can - and do - legitimately speak, in this way, of
> physical computers as 'performing computations', but following the
> foregoing principle we can see that actually this is just a convenient
> shorthand for what is occurring in the physical substrates upon which
> the notion of computation must - and of course does - rely for its
> realisation in the world.
> To be more explicit: The notion of a 'program' or 'computation' - when
> we place it under analysis - is a convenient shorthand for an ordered
> set of first person concepts
In what sense "first person"? Surely not in the sense that qualia are
supposed to be mysteriously and incommunicably first-person.
Presumably in the sense that something is only a computer
when regarded as such, (like certain pieces of paper being money).
But that is quite contentious. It is not enough to say "under
one must actually analyse
> which finds its way into the physical
> account in the form of various matter-energy dispositions. The
> macroscopic media for these are variously paper and ink, actions of
> computer keyboards, patterns of voltages in computer circuitry,
> illumination of pixels on screens, etc. All of these, of course, can
> - and must - reduce to fundamental relations amongst physical
> 'ultimates'. At some point after entering the physical causal nexus,
> this chain of dispositions may re-enter the first person account
> (don't ask me how - it's inessential to the argument) at which point
> they may again be construed *by someone* in computational terms in a
> first person context. But at no point is the 'computation' - qua
> concept - in any way material (pun intended) to the physical account;
> a fortiori, in no way can it - or need it - be ascribed causal
> significance in terms of the physical account. After all, what could
> this possibly mean? Are these spooky 'computational' relationships
> 'reaching across' the energy-transfers of the computer circuitry and
> changing their outcomes? Of course not. How could they? And why
> would they need to? Everything's going along just fine by itself by
> purely physical means.
> I hope the foregoing makes it clear that computer programs and their
> computations - at the point of physical instantiation - literally
> don't exist in the world.
It doens't remotely. Just because something (eg a horse)
isn't a *fundamental* constituent of the world doesn't make it
non-existent in the sense that unicorn is.
> They're semantic formulations - ways of
> speaking - that have applicability only in the first-person context,
> and we can see that this is true any time we like by performing the
> kind of 'eliminativist' demonstration performed above: i.e. we can
> eliminate the concept without affecting the action on the ground one
> whit. Of course, this is the insight that makes the strictly physical
> account of mind - as presently understood - problematic if one wishes
> to take the first person seriously, because it shows the notion of
> 'emergence' to be redundant at the level of causation. It's just
> another way of speaking, however much insight it carries - for us.
> However, it isn't my wish to make that point again here. Rather my
> intention has been to show that whatever options are left in strict
> physicalism to address the first person issues seriously - without
> eliminating them - emergence is emphatically not one of them.
> I hope this makes the argument clear, and also illustrates the point
> of Bruno's reversal of numbers and physics to save the computational
> account of mind (and body, as it happens). To be absolutely explicit:
> if functional-computational relations are to be taken to be
> fundamentally causally efficacious, they must be held to be real and
> foundational in exactly the sense (RITSIAR) ascribed to those in the
> physical account. But for that to be the case, all other causal
> relations must supervene on them - again just as in the physical
> account. But now, of course, this must include physics itself.
What must include physics itself?
> Now, you don't of course have to accept COMP. But if you want to be a
> physical realist, it means you can only hang on to the computational
> explanation of mind by eliminating the mind itself from reality.
I don't see how that follows at all.
> Personally, not being committed to such an explanation, this doesn't
> in itself constitute my problem with current physical accounts. The
> alternative is rather that physics as an account of mind must be
> incomplete, or else it is wrong. But that's another story.
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