On 28 Aug 2010, at 02:26, David Nyman wrote:

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.

I agree with you. We are going in the same drection.




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.

OK.



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.

You are right. In a sense that is what happened with the abndon of the Hilbert program in math, after Gödel's paper. Hilbert wanted to secure the foundation of math by eliminating intuition (your "metaphysical" import) and making math relying only on finite things and finite rules. It just don't work: intuition is just not eliminable. Scientist have to admit that they rely always on metaphysical assumption at some level.




Of course the "extra metaphysical something" is inextricably bound up
with consciousness and the first-person.

Her *I¨agree with you, sure.



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.

OK.





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.

Most of it, because we still have to "politely" infer some consciousness on oneself and others. The beauty of mechanism is that it gives the more possible without evacuating the person, it makes the person central in the whole "metaphysics", even if he person is emerging from (infinities) of number relations.


Bruno


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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