On Tue, Dec 8, 2009 at 2:28 PM, Bruno Marchal <marc...@ulb.ac.be> wrote:
> On 08 Dec 2009, at 09:50, Rex Allen wrote:
>>>> 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.
In the physicalist view, evolution is an "emergent" law, right? It
emerges out of the local interactions of fundamental entities, and
none of these local interactions have anything to do with "evolution".
But evolution doesn't ADD anything to those local interactions...it
can be completely reduced to them. We "see" evolution...but it only
exists in our minds, as a tool for our understanding. It's not
something that exists "in the world". Again, taking the physicalist
So, to rely on Davies for articulation purposes again:
"Darwinism provides a novel form of causation inasmuch as the causal
chain runs counter to the normal descriptive sequence.
Chronologically, what happens is that first a mutation is caused by a
local physical interaction, e.g. the impact of a cosmic ray at a
specific location with an atom in a DNA molecule. Later, possibly many
years later, the environment ‘selects’ the mutant by permitting the
organism to reproduce more efficiently. In terms of physics, selection
involves vast numbers of local forces acting over long periods of
time, the net result of which is to bring about a long-term change in
the genome of the organism’s lineage. It is the original atomic event
in combination with the subsequent complicated events that together
give a full causative account of the evolutionary story. Yet
biologists would be hard-pressed to tell this story in those local
physical terms. Instead, natural selection is described as having
causal powers, even though it is causatively neutral – a sieve."
>> 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?
So I'm certainly fine with taking a Kantian view of time and space,
and even the appearance of causality, as being aspects of our
experience of the world...and not things that exist outside of our
experience of them.
And since we use our perceptions to build our mental image of the
universe, then this mental image also has nothing to do with what
> Where could the explanation begin?
I'd say there is no explanation. It just is what it is. As Brent
said...it's descriptions all the way down.
>> 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.
I wasn't saying that the physicalist version is preferable to your
version. I do not hold the physicalist position myself. But since it
seems to be the predominant view, I tend to use it as my reference
point, as a base-line.
But, while physicalist computationalism seems to have some strange
implications (movie graph argument/Maudlin/Dust Theory/etc.), it COULD
be the case, right? Matter could be required as a substrate for
consciousness generating computations. Maybe reality just is that
But I think you and Kant are right...there's no way to know. Even in theory.
> have you some doubt about the validity of the UDA? Let me know, to see
> what needs to be still clarified.
My only doubt about UDA is that it seems to make the same assumption
as physicalism...that consciousness can't be fundamental. That
something else must underlie it, and "cause" it.
But if numbers can "just exist", and matter can "just exist", then why
can't conscious experiences "just exist"?
We can see matter as able to represent the contents of our conscious
experience...e.g., "these electrons represent my neural structure".
We can see numbers as representing the same types of things...in fact
we use them an abstraction layer from the electrons.
But since practically anything can represent nearly anything else,
it's ultimately all in the mind of the beholder. So to me
consciousness has as much of a claim to being "fundamental" as numbers
The only catch being, "how can something as complex as a conscious
experience be irreducibly fundamental?"
But I think this is confusing two things: conscious experience vs. the
contents of conscious experience.
The fact of my conscious experience itself seems quite simple and
irreducible. However, what I am conscious of (the content of my
experiences) can seem quite complex.
As an analogy, it seems reasonable to me to say: Content is to
consciousness as an electron is to the universe.
In a physicalist ontology, an electron is something that exists within
the universe. An electron can't be "liberated" or taken outside of the
universe, or considered independently of the universe of which it is a
Similarly the things that I am conscious of exist only within the
context of my conscious experience.
Which is not to say that only my conscious experience exists, but
rather that only conscious experiences exist. If physicalists can have
multiple universes, why not multiple consciousnesses?
Why do our conscious experiences exist? Well, why would a physicalist
say that the universe exists? It just does. There's no explanation
for that (at least none that doesn't depend on some other unexplained
Why do my conscious experiences have the particular contents that they
do? Again, I'd ask the same question for any other ontological
theory. Why did the universe have the particular initial conditions
and governing laws that it did, which lead to our present experiences?
It just did. There's no explanation for that (again, at least none
that doesn't depend on some other unexplained event).
But, again, there seems to be no way to know for certain what *really*
exists, a la Kant.
>> "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?
Yeah, I went straight to the commentaries on Kant, as opposed to
trying to parse out the notoriously difficult original material.
Kant may not have gotten everything right, but I think he is correct
on the core issue of perception vs. reality and what can be known.
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