On 08 Dec 2009, at 09:50, Rex Allen wrote:

> On Sun, Dec 6, 2009 at 11:34 PM, Brent Meeker  
> <meeke...@dslextreme.com> wrote:
>> Rex Allen wrote:
>>> So my point is that:  in a reductionist theory which implies a
>>> physicalist reality with no downwards causation,
>> What defines "upwards" and "downwards".  Why would "downwards"
>> causation make any difference?
> Upwards from fundamental entities and laws.  Downwards from things
> that are composed of fundamental entities and from "emergent" laws.
> So if everything reduces to fundamental entities and their causal
> relations, then there is no downwards causation.
> To quote*** (see below) Paul Davies, from his paper "The Physics of
> Downward Causation":
> "As physicists have probed ever deeper into the microscopic realm of
> matter so, to use Steven Weinberg’s evocative phrase (Weinberg, 1992),
> ‘the arrows of explanation point downward.’ That is, we frequently
> account for a phenomenon by appealing to the properties of the next
> level down. In this way the behaviour of gases are explained by
> molecules, the properties of molecules are explained by atoms, which
> in turn are explained by nuclei and electrons. This downward path
> extends, it is supposed, as far as the bottom-level entities, be they
> strings or some other exotica."
> If downwards causation IS possible, then behaviors can emerge which
> aren't reducible to the fundamental entities and their causal
> relations.  Consciousness might be an example of this.
> So quoting Davies again:
> "Whilst the foregoing is not contentious, differences arise concerning
> whether the reductionist account of nature is merely a fruitful
> methodology, or whether it is the whole story. Many physicists are
> self-confessed out-and-out reductionists. They believe that once the
> final buildings blocks of matter and the rules that govern them have
> been identified, then all of nature will, in effect, have been
> explained. Obviously such a final theory would not in practice provide
> a very useful account of much that we observe in the world. A final
> reductionist theory would not, for instance, explain the origin of
> life, or have much to say about the nature of consciousness. But the
> committed reductionist believes such inadequacies are mere
> technicalities, and that the fundamental core of explanation is
> captured – completely - by the reductionist theory."
> *** Note that I'm just quoting those passages to save time in
> articulating the points myself.  I'm not invoking him as an authority,
> or necessarily saying I agree with anything else he says in his paper.
>>> nothing means anything.
>> You mean things don't stand as symbols for something else?   That  
>> reminds
>> me of George Carlin's quip, "If we're here to care for other  
>> people, what
>> are those other people here for?"
> My point would be, how does meaning reduce to fundamental entities
> like quarks and electrons (or fields, or strings, or whatever).
>>> Things only have the "appearance" of meaning.
>> The above words have the appearance of meaning to me - and so they  
>> do have
>> meaning to me.  I don't know what else I could ask for?
> I would ask for an understanding of how it is that they have meaning
> to you.  You seem to take this for granted.  I'm thinking of something
> similar to the symbol grounding problem:
> "The Symbol Grounding Problem is related to the problem of how words
> (symbols) get their meanings, and hence to the problem of what meaning
> itself really is. The problem of meaning is in turn related to the
> problem of consciousness, or how it is that mental states are
> meaningful. According to a widely held theory of cognition,
> "computationalism," cognition (i.e., thinking) is just a form of
> computation. But computation in turn is just formal symbol
> manipulation: symbols are manipulated according to rules that are
> based on the symbols' shapes, not their meanings.

But is it not the same for the reductionist "physics" above?
What is the meaning of exchanging a gluon?

> How are those
> symbols (e.g., the words in our heads) connected to the things they
> refer to?"

Well, because it makes the relative (and statistical) difference  
between to eat and to be eaten.

>>> In such a reality, things just are what they are.  If you find some
>>> explanations "good" and others "bad", that's just the epiphenominal
>>> residue of more fundamental physical processes which are themselves
>>> unconcerned with such things.
>> Having predictive theories was no doubt selected by evolution - as  
>> well as a
>> psychological to see meaning in things.
> Evolution isn't a fundamental law, right?  There is no "evolution
> field" or particle.  Evolution doesn't "select" anything.  Evolution
> has no causal power.

Of course it has!
It is like with the numbers or the combinators, once the initial rule  
of the game is above the universal number/machine treshold, you get a  
creative bomb. This generates new and new things, none having their  
behavior ever completely unifiable in any theory.

> Again, assuming reductive physicalism, the initial state of the
> universe and the fundamental laws of physics (which may or may not
> have some sort of random aspect) completely determines what animals we
> observe in the present.  Evolution is just a useful fictional
> narrative that helps us think about what we observe.  A description of
> what we observe, not an explanation for it.

And why not add, in that case,  ... like time, space, universe, laws  
are also convenient fiction for describing what we observe?
Where could the explanation begin?

> So I think this was a good example of how you muddy the water with
> misleading language.
>>> In such a reality if you predict an event that comes to pass, both
>>> your prediction AND the event were inevitable from the first instant
>>> of the universe, implicit in it's initial state plus the laws of
>>> physics.
>> That's one theory, formerly more popular than now.
> Hmmm?  Are you referring to quantum indeterminism undermining the
> "inevitable" adjective?
>>> Looked at in a block-universe format:  the first instant,
>>> you making the prediction, and the predicted event all coexist
>>> simultaneously.  In this view, while your prediction was accurate,
>>> there's no reason for that...it's just the way things are in that
>>> block of reality.  Scientific theories only describe this fact, they
>>> don't explain it.
>>> So what science deals in is descriptions.  Not explanations.  The
>>> feeling that something has been explained is an aspect of
>>> consciousness, not an aspect of reality (at least not reality as
>>> posited by physicalism).
>> But then you need to ask yourself what does constitute an  
>> explanation?  If
>> you dismiss scientific models that show you how to make choices and
>> manipulate the world and allow you to predict events, what is it  
>> you're
>> looking for?  What's your definition of "explanation"?  Can you  
>> give an
>> example of a good explanation?  Does it have to be teleological?   
>> ultimate?
>> holistic?
> So do we make choices?  Or do we just have the epiphenomenal
> experience of making choices?  Given either determinism or quantum
> randomness, what does "choice" mean?
> Do we manipulate the world?  Or do we just have the epiphenomenal
> experience of manipulating the world, when in fact everything we do is
> determined by the initial state of the universe plus the laws of
> physics?
> As for definition of explanation, I'd go with:
> 1.  A statement identifying the reason for, or cause of, an event or  
> state.
> 2.  A statement which is intended to produce a feeling of  
> comprehension.
> 3.  A statement which produces a feeling of comprehension.
> As for "an example of a good explanation"...hmmm.  Well I'm leaning
> towards the idea that an explanation in the sense of definition 1 is
> like "libertarian free will".  It sounds plausible initially, but when
> you really parse it out you find that it's not a consistent concept.
> For the reasons that I gave earlier with the two choices of "things
> just are what they are" and "everything exists and so this exists".
> Which leaves definitions 2 and 3.  In which case a "good explanation"
> is one which does a good job of producing a feeling of comprehension.
> And I'm not dismissing scientific models per se.  I agree that it is
> possible to construct models whose "ontologies" are consistent with
> what we observe.  I just doubt that this tells us anything about what
> is ontologically real.
> Which is not that radical a claim, I think.  Computationalism even in
> it's physical (non-Bruno) version implies the same thing.  We could be
> in a simulation or some sort of virtual reality, and it would be
> impossible to detect.


If computationalism is true its physicalist version entails 0 = 1. I  
guess by "non-Bruno" you mean false.
have you some doubt about the validity of the UDA? Let me know, to see  
what needs to be still clarified.

And if computationalism is true, then we just cannot be in a  
simulation, because we belong to *all* simulations. And this is  
testable, and QM confirms some predictable aspects of digital mechanism.

With computationalism there are no bodies. What we take for bodies are  
the shape of our ignorance concerning our probable histories. Like an  
electronic orbital which is the map of the worlds where you can find  
the electron.

>>> I don't think that this is usually made clear.  And it seems like a
>>> subtle but important distinction, philosophically.
>>> So I take your point about the schoolmen.  There aren't many  
>>> practical
>>> applications for the idea that "things just are the way they are".
>>> But still it's an interesting piece of information, if true.
>>> But if physicalism is correct, then how useful are your  
>>> "explanations"
>>> really?  You *feel* as though it's useful to know about inflation  
>>> and
>>> the CMB, but underneath your feelings, your constituent quarks and
>>> electrons are playing out the parts that were set for them by the
>>> initial state of the universe plus the laws that govern it's
>>> evolution.
>> Well I haven't used quark theory, but my "explanations" have helped  
>> me
>> design a very fast ramjet.  I'd feel a little uncertain about  
>> flying in an
>> airliner designed by people who thought aerodynamics didn't explain
>> anything.
> Did "you" design a ramjet?  OR did the fundamental causal laws of the
> universe act though a set of quarks and electrons (whose current is a
> direct consequence of the initial state of the universe) in such a way
> that something which could be interpreted as a ramjet design was
> produced.  And as a side effect, you had the conscious experience of
> designing a ramjet.
>>> "Science is about observations.  Philosophy is about clarity."
>> I'd say science is about making models that predict what is  
>> observed and not
>> the contrary.
> That's basically what I said, right?  Models that predict what?
> Observations.  Though, I take your point.
>> Since you rambled about consciousness I'll share my speculation  
>> about it.  I
>> think people resort to "philosophical" explanations when they don't  
>> have
>> scientific ones and when scientific ones are found they stop  
>> worrying about
>> the philosophical questions.  At one time people worried about  
>> vitality, the
>> life-force, elan vitale, that animated things.  But as more and  
>> more was
>> learned about molecular biology, DNA, metabolism, evolution, etc,  
>> people
>> stopped worrying about "life".  They didn't explain it.  They only  
>> described
>> it and how it worked (in great detail).  The DNA isn't alive, none  
>> of the
>> molecules are alive and yet there is no elan vitale either.  The old
>> questions about life just seem ill posed.  Not answered, yet  
>> irrelevant.  I
>> think the same thing will happen to "consciousness" that happened to
>> "life".
> I think I've seen this conversation before.  Someone quoted David
> Chalmers' response to Dennett making the same point.  You said that
> Chalmers was a historical revisionist, but offered no evidence, and
> that's where it was left.  AND, I imagine that's where we'll leave it
> also.
> But, for good measure, here part of the Chalmers quote:
> ====
> http://consc.net/papers/moving.html
> When it comes to the problem of life, for example, it is just obvious
> that what needs explaining is structure and function: How does a
> living system self-organize? How does it adapt to its environment? How
> does it reproduce? Even the vitalists recognized this central point:
> their driving question was always "How could a mere physical system
> perform these complex functions?", not "Why are these functions
> accompanied by life?" It is no accident that Dennett's version of a
> vitalist is "imaginary". There is no distinct "hard problem" of life,
> and there never was one, even for vitalists.

I agree. But there has been a difficult problem for the rationalist/ 
mechanist: how to build a self-reproducing machine.
That problem has been solved by molecular biology, but also, more  
conceptually, by Kleene second recursion theorem (I may illustrate  
And this has solved the problem of representation and self- 
representation, etc. And this has lead to a theory of self-references  
(Gödel, Löb, Solovay).

> ===
>> We will learn to describe consciousness by causal models, we'll  
>> predict the
>> effect of salvia and mushrooms on different people's  
>> consciousness.  We'll
>> build robots which appear to be conscious.  We'll add electronics  
>> to brains
>> based on our predictive models and cure Alzheimer's the same way we  
>> build
>> airplanes based on aerodynamics.  And if someone asks, "What is
>> consciousnees?"  he'll be looked at as if he'd asked "Where is the  
>> edge of
>> the Earth?"
> Actually I would think that if virtual reality becomes common, for
> example in super realistic fully immersive computer games, that will
> incline people to take a more Kantian view.

We already do that during the nights. Herbs can help. (Calea  
Zacatechichi can help for the dream, it is legal everywhere except in  
Australia and Belgium!).
Salvia can help too.

> A view in which what is
> observed isn't taken to indicate anything at all about what actually
> exists or what actually is.

Like Plato, and many mystics. What we see (and measure, etc.) is just  
the border/shadow/projection/part...  of, well, assuming comp it is  
the border of the sharable ignorance of the universal machines (it is  

> I would especially expect this to be the case if, in this future you
> describe, it turns out that the "multiple realizability" aspect of
> functionalism actually allows many of the strange scenarios that it
> implies are possible in thought experiments.
>> Brent
>> Journalist:  What variable is complementary to "truth".
>> Neils Bohr: Clarity.
> "Kant's teaching produces a fundamental change in every mind that has
> grasped it. This change is so great that it may be regarded as an
> intellectual rebirth. It is capable of really removing the inborn
> realism which arises from the original disposition of the intellect. …
> the man who has not mastered the Kantian philosophy, whatever else he
> may have studied, is, so to speak, in a state of innocence; in other
> words, he has remained in the grasp of that natural and childlike
> realism in which we are all born, and which qualifies one for every
> possible thing except philosophy."  -- Arthur Schopenhauer

I agree. I am not personally sure, and I cannot really decide the  
degree of Kant's objective idealism given that Kant is hard to read,  
and contradict himself apparently, or it is just the the bad  
translations I found?
In my opinion that departure from "innocence" starts with the greeks  
and stopped with the greeks, in Occident, except for notable  
resistance like Descartes, and Kant, and many others (of course).

Once we assume mechanism, the incompleteness and insolubility results  
prevents the universal machine against ANY complete theory about her.
Despite its finiteness, the little god is already a complete unknown,  
even for itself. It shares with some god(s) of some religion than when  
you try to give it a name, it acquires quickly many other names (like c 
++, modular functor, quantum topologies, programming languages, amoeba  
swarm, etc.)

Elementary arithmetical truth is  full of life and incredible events  
(incredible for most machines in there). No need to introduce "magical  
matter", by MGA it just can't work, nor to introduce "magic spirits",   
because they are all already there if you can listen).

I know that Derek Parfit call the "yes doctor" view, the reductionist  
view. But computer science shows it is antireductionist, and  
eventually "antimaterialist".

Universal "machines" have a "theology", and they can discover a  
genuine part of it by introspecting themselves, and, if lucky, they  
can accelerate even more the process by dialoguing with other  
universal machine(s), but the price is that this is risky, and she can  
get lost in her creations.
The skeleton of that proper "theology" is roughly given by Tarski-1944  
minus Gödel-1931, it is the difference between what it is the case  
about the machine minus what the machine can prove or believe it is  
the case; it is the difference between truth and belief.

Bruno Marchal



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