On 27 August 2010 19:21, Bruno Marchal <marc...@ulb.ac.be> wrote:

> But most reductionist would say that they believe in atom and in their
> properties, and this makes it possible to enter in a great variety of
> different combinations having themselves even more non trivial properties.
> Why would a reductionist be committed in saying that such higher level
> features do not exist?

Well, such reductionists could not of course be eliminativist about
these higher level features and properties.  But this then commits
them to the metaphysical reality - in some sense - of the higher level
features, as distinct from their components.  And this "some sense" is
- at minimum - Kant's sense of "appearance" as distinct from whatever
may be the "thing in itself".  I guess my overall thesis is that
everyone, whatever kind of "-ist" they avow themselves to be, can't
help but be committed to the metaphysical reality of the objects of
perception (even when they implicitly locate them "out there" in some
un-Kantian, "directly real" way).  That's just our situation.
"Eliminating" this sense can only lead to frank incoherence, and my
argument, by pushing the notion to breaking point in the form of a
reductio ad absurdum, was simply meant to make this particularly
obvious.

>> But the reductionist-god's eye view (if we've done it
>> right) should convince us - weirdly, but unavoidably - that they just
>> aren't automatically "out there", metaphysically, at our disposal.
>
> I don't see why.

I mean "out there", where some level-zero domain of maximal
fragmentation (what Levine calls "basic physical properties") is
posited - according to the extreme view I'm criticising - as the sole
metaphysically reality.  Remember, my argument is presented in the
form of a reductio of just this position, by limiting it *strictly* to
what it is entitled to under its own explicit metaphysical
constraints.

>> I suppose the nub of this for me is that - whether we consider
>> ourselves monist or dualist, or amongst the ontological uncommitted -
>> we have need of both analytic and integrative principles to account
>> for the states of affairs that confront us.
>
> But the reductionist will explain the integrative part through the
> properties of its elementary objects.

Yes, and no such "explaining" can possibly be legitimate within the
constraint of a *strict eliminativist* metaphysics.  One cannot
consistently claim a) that only basic "physical" entities and events
are real, and b) go on appealing to "explanations" involving all
manner of composite entities and concepts.  A further metaphysical
something is thereby being invoked, whether one likes it or not.  The
fully "eliminated" mechanism isn't supposed to need "explanations" to
get its job done.  That is the point of the posit of metaphysical
exclusivity.  But of course eliminativists actually do still need
explanations, and that's their tragedy (or perhaps their salvation).
But they can't eat their metaphysical cake, and have it too.

Of course the "extra metaphysical something" is inextricably bound up
with consciousness and the first-person. My point is that
eliminativists have little option but to go on appealing to all the
paraphernalia of the composite objects of perception, even whilst
simultaneously denying that their referents have any metaphysical
reality.  They're still just as apparent - whether "in here" or "out
there" - as if they'd never been "eliminated"!  Such blatant
metaphysical theft is concealed only because of the almost insuperable
tendency to go on deploying this language and these concepts, even
after insisting that whatever they refer to is to be "eliminated" from
one's metaphysics.

>
> But in elementary arithmetic, you can prove the existence of numbers with
> very long and complex high level properties. You don't need to postulate
> them.

This is a horse of a different colour, and perhaps a different
conversation.  I have been pondering quite a bit since our last
interchange, and now it strikes me (perhaps rather late in the
proceedings) that it is central to your thesis that the bare
properties of "substance physics" are just *insufficiently rich* to
explain the first person phenomena (including the "metaphysical
distinctness" of the composite entities of perception from the
fragmented events of physics).  My eliminativist reductio just makes
this more obvious, at least to me, because it demonstrates that one
cannot avoid further metaphysical posits even to be able to speak
intelligibly about reality.  But as you say above, arithmetic
potentially offers much more in terms of the needful combinatorial
richness of properties - perhaps enough to do the job, or at least
most of it.

David

>
> On 26 Aug 2010, at 18:37, David Nyman wrote:
>
>> I've been waking up with a persistent thought again, prompted this
>> time by the way many mainstream philosophers of mind seem to
>> unconsciously adopt a particularly insidious form of direct realism,
>> whilst being quite blind to it.  It centres on the idea of extreme
>> physical reductionism, which I take to be the hypothesis that all
>> composite phenomena can be completely recast, in principle, in the
>> form of a causally complete and closed "ground level" account of non-
>> composite micro-physical events.  I'm not concerned at this point
>> whether such a restrictive view is "true", or whether it is at odds
>> with digital mechanism etc., but only that I take it to be a core
>> assumption from which numerous people, including many philosophers,
>> derive theories of the mental.  I want to argue that the consequences
>> of such a view are perhaps more radically restrictive than commonly
>> assumed.
>>
>> If we could remove ourselves from the universe and take a strict
>> reductionist-god's eye view (which means having to drop all our usual
>> mental categories - a very hard thing to achieve imaginatively) then,
>> strictly adhering to the above hypothesis, all that would remain would
>> be some ground-level physical machine grinding along, without the need
>> for additional composite or macroscopic posits.  Take your pick from
>> current theory what is supposed to represent this "machine", but that
>> needn't necessarily be at issue for the purpose of the argument.  The
>> point is that removing everything composite from the picture
>> supposedly results in zero difference at the base level - same events,
>> same "causality".
>
>
> I am not necessarily opposed to such view. It may depend on some
> ambiguities.
>
>
>
>>
>> I should stress, again, I'm not personally committed to this view - it
>> seems indeed highly problematic - but it is what the recipe says.
>> Now, just to emphasise the point, when I say it's a hard thing to do
>> this imaginatively, I mean that it isn't permissible to "look back"
>> from this reductionist-god's eye view and continue to conjure familiar
>> composite entities from the conjectural base components, because
>> reductionism is a commitment to the proposition that these don't
>> exist.
>
> Are you sure? Not all reductionists will agree. Perhaps James D. Watson
> (co-discoverer of the helical structure of DNA) would agree. I have heard
> that Watson believes only in atoms, and when someone asked him if he
> believed also in molecules, he would have said: No! Only atoms!
> But most reductionist would say that they believe in atom and in their
> properties, and this makes it possible to enter in a great variety of
> different combinations having themselves even more non trivial properties.
> Why would a reductionist be committed in saying that such higher level
> features do not exist?
> In my opinion such reductionist will have a difficulty to explain
> consciousness and private subjective experience, but not other third person
> describable properties. In my opinion physics and chemistry can explain why
> an avogadro number of H20 leads to wetness (but not to the wetness qualia
> unless they can explain electron and quarks from only numbers).
>
>
>
>
>
>> Whatever composite categories we might be tempted to have
>> recourse to - you know: molecules, cells, bodies, planets, ideas,
>> explanations, theories, the whole ball of wax - none of these are
>> available from this perspective.
>
> I understand this. Actually this is like the neoplatonist Gods, who are
> usually rather dumb. They are lost in the infinities of details somehow.
> But again, nobody should be interested in the rather unavailable God
> perspective: if molecules and cells notions are available from the
> perspective of some group of molecules or cells, that is all what counts
> from *their* perspective.
>
>
>
>> Don't need them.  More rigorously,
>> they *must not be invoked* because they *do not exist*.
>
> Like in quantum field theory. There is nothing but a vast unique field. But
> again, it is in the nature of that field to have many singularities capable
> of playing the role of particles etc. And particles will need to exist ...
> only from the perspective of particles or organized group of particles.
>
>
>> They don't
>> need to exist, because the machine doesn't need them to carry all the
>> load and do all the work.
>
> I am not sure. It would be like saying that prime numbers don't exist
> because they can be defined entirely in term of addition and multiplication.
> But usually we say that prime numbers exist *because* some number have this
> and that relation with some numbers.
>
>
>
>>
>> Now, many people might be prompted to object at this point "that's not
>> reducing, that's eliminating" as though these terms could be kept
>> distinct.  But I'm arguing that reductionism, consistently applied, is
>> inescapably eliminative.
>
> Only in God's eye. But who cares? Well, probably God, and that is probably
> why he will try to forget for awhile who he is and why he will lost himself
> in his creation .... ;-)
>
>
>
>> The hypothesis was that base-level events
>> are self-sufficient and consequently must be granted metaphysical (and
>> hence "physical") reality.
>
> Or "arithmetical" reality. It depends of the chosen theory.
>
>
>
>> Nothing else is required to explain why
>> the machine exists and works,
>
> That is because, like the non eliminativist reductionist, you endow the
> basic components with basic (but rich) properties. If not, you can not even
> talk about machines. Any machine is already an abstract organization of some
> primitive elements (emerging or not from deeper realities).
>
>
>
>> so nothing else need - or indeed can non-
>> question-beggingly - be postulated.
>
> But in elementary arithmetic, you can prove the existence of numbers with
> very long and complex high level properties. You don't need to postulate
> them.
>
>
>
>
>>  If we really feel we must insist
>> that there is something metaphysically indispensable above and beyond
>> this (and it would seem that we have good reason to) we must look for
>> an additional metaphysical somewhere to locate these somethings.
>
> We have to postulate or agree on consciousness, and on a minimal amount of
> consciousness content, like the numbers (for example).
>
>
>>
>> Essentially we now have two options.  We can follow Kant in locating
>> them in a metaphysically real synthetic first-person category that
>> transcends the ground-level (which stands here, approximately, for the
>> "thing-in-itself").
>
> Yes.
>
>
>>  The alternative - and this is the option that
>> many philosophers seem to adopt by some "directly real" sleight-of-
>> intuition - is that we somehow locate them "out there" right on top of
>> the micro-physical account.  It's easy to do: just look damn you,
>> there they are, can't you see them?  And in any case, one wants to
>> protest, how can one predict, explain or comprehend anything above the
>> ground floor *without* such categories?  Yes, that is indeed the very
>> question.  But the reductionist-god's eye view (if we've done it
>> right) should convince us - weirdly, but unavoidably - that they just
>> aren't automatically "out there", metaphysically, at our disposal.
>
> I don't see why.
>
>
>
>> If
>> this eludes us, it can only be because we've fallen into the error of
>> retaining these indispensable organising categories intact, naturally
>> but illicitly, whilst attempting this imaginative feat.  Unfortunately
>> this is to beg the very questions we seek to answer.
>>
>> I suppose the nub of this for me is that - whether we consider
>> ourselves monist or dualist, or amongst the ontological uncommitted -
>> we have need of both analytic and integrative principles to account
>> for the states of affairs that confront us.
>
> But the reductionist will explain the integrative part through the
> properties of its elementary objects. Like we can explain why a number
> develops point of view relatively to some universal numbers, etc. Or like we
> can explain why observer "see" the quantum wave collapse, despite they don't
> exist in the Quantum-God's eye.
>
>
>> There is, as it were, a
>> spectrum that extends from maximal fragmentation to maximal
>> integration, and neither extreme by itself suffices.
>
> Yes. That will explain the variety of necessary internal views. Internal
> modalities gives the necessary contingencies (BD<something>, or [
> ]<>(something)).
>
>
>
>
>> The only mystery
>> is why anyone would ever think it would.
>
> The fundamental ontology may be simple. A quantum topology for a
> physicalist, elementary arithmetic for the mechanist. The rest is internal
> relative perspectives. This is clear in physics from Galileo to Everett, and
> it should be clear now in mathematics or arithmetics with mechanism, which
> has the advantage to explain not just the high level relations between the
> quanta (the sharable chunks of reality) but also the high level relation
> between the quanta and the qualia, the sensible and non directly sharable
> chunks of reality. (But this capital nuance is not of concern here).
>
>
>
>
>> Or am I just missing
>> something obvious as usual?
>
> We don't have to explain how God believes in "us, them, this and that". We
> have to explain why *we* believe in those things, and may be in God. By God
> I mean the fundamental reality by-definition (be it arithmetical truth of
> quantum topological truth, or the bearded male outside the universe,
> whatever...).
>
> Bruno
>
> http://iridia.ulb.ac.be/~marchal/
>
>
>
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