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The axiomatic nature of consciousness

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I'm not sure I fully grasp the above statement.

According to Ayn Rand, "An axiom is a statement that identifies the base of knowledge and of any further statement pertaining to that knowledge, a statement necessarily contained in all others, whether any particular speaker chooses to identify it or not. An axiom is a proposition that defeats its opponents by the fact that they have to accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it."

(Copied from the Ayn Rand Lexicon)

Now many contemporary neuroscientists and philosophers reject the axiomatic nature of consciousness and appeal to reductionism where they reduce consciousness to physical events occurring in the brain. Hence consciousness is often described as the "product" of neural mechanisms.

While I agree that consciousness is axiomatic in the sense that it doesn't require proof and all knowledge rests upon it, I find it hard to believe that it is irreducible. For, we can clearly explain the causes of our perceptions in terms of neurophysiological phenomena.

So how can consciousness be an irreducible primary distinct from the physical? Doesn't that imply dualism?

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I don't think many neuroscientists or philosophers deny that there is consciousness. Behaviorists probably would say consciousness isn't actually real, but few behaviorists are around anymore. Still, there are plenty of neuroscientists who focus on neurons and underlying structure so much that freewill is deemed impossible, or prefer to not discuss abstractions or concepts. In some sense, consciousness is reducible since it is made possible by individuals parts, which are made possible by biological structures, which are made possible by atomic particles, and so on. But Rand, as far as I've seen, was only saying that in terms of a knowledge hierarchy, consciousness is irreducible - all knowledge rests upon an axiom, as you said.

Edited by Eiuol

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Rand's view of consciousness says nothing about how or why it is composed, simply that consciousness is inarguable axiom. It commits her to no other physical or metaphysical claims.

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I agree with TheEgoist. Rand doesn't really say anything about consciousness other than that it's there. So any reductionist statement aimed at this axiom with the intent of defeating it is largely pointless because Rand (to my knowledge) never said anything in conflict with it.

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Your confusing proof of a concept (how we know what something is) with the description of the concept (what it is). I believe that is the fallacy of composition. Imagine if someone said existence exists isn’t a primary since it can be reduced by every existent that makes up existence. You basically create a circular argument since you are confusing what we know with how we know it. Consciousness is axiomatic precisely since all proof starts with it – You cannot know something without first admitting you know anything.

Epistemology is a tough subject, so I understand. It took me a long time to get my head around it to the point I started to feel comfortable. Still working on it I might add.

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Actually Rand is committed to the metaphysical claim that entities are primary and that consciousness is an attribute and "entity does imply a physical thing".

Edit: Even given the idea that consciousness reduces to matter, it still does not negate the fact of consciousness metaphysically nor as an epistemological axiom.(as opposed to a metaphysical axiom)

Edited by Plasmatic

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This follows to some extent on #7.

Reductionism's mistake is to confuse a necessary condition with an equivalence. An animal needs physical equipment and physical events in order to be conscious, but that does not suffice to show that they are the same object. The standard test for calling two objects the same is Leibniz's law: if they are the same, then whatever is true of one is true of the other and whatever is false of one is false of the other.

Consider a loaf of bread. Its ingredients are a necessary condition of its coming to be, but they do not amount to the loaf of bread. The latter has a degree of doneness, a shape, a degree of freshness and a baker who made it, but these do not apply to the ingredients individually or collectively. In this vein, the standard philosophical argument against reductionism consists of pointing out such a contrast between what we can say about consciousness and what we can say about its material requirements. Thoughts are insightful, funny, fallacious or mutually consistent. None of these makes sense, much less is true, of neural events, so they are not the same.

Dualism is the doctrine that consciousness and its bodily substrates are both entities, which Rand never claimed. Get rid of this requirement and you are no longer a dualist.

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Homo liber nulla de re minus quam de morte cogitat; et ejus sapientia non mortis sed vitae meditatio est. SPINOZA'S Ethics, Pt IV, Prop. 67

(There is nothing over which a free man ponders less than death; his wisdom is, to meditate not on death but on life.)

Reductionism and its corollary, Determinism are deeply enrooted in the fabric of the modern mainstream philosophy. There are leftovers of the Cartesian mind-body dichotomy. Instead to reject this notion altogether Reductionists simply choose the other, bodily side of this loaded coin. Now they reached a blind alley in their attempts to explain life in terms of lifelessness. As Hans Jonas observed:

“Vitalistic monism is replaced by mechanistic monism, in whose rules of evidence the standard of life is exchanged for that of death.” (The Phenomenon of Life, pg 11).

Since Mind and Free Will are biological phenomena which cannot be explained in terms of non-life, Reductionists are necessary Determinists. Hard Determinists reject the notion of Free Will (and therefore Mind) completely; soft Determinists and Compatibalists are still trying to find explanation of Free Will in the indeterminate realm of Quantum mechanics, in stochastic rules of Chaos theory or in the mystical realm of Tao. I maintain that Free Will is a manifestation on the conceptual level of the very essential property of life itself which is biological self causation.

“Freedom must denote an objectively discernible mode of being, i.e., a manner of executing existence, distinctive of the organic per se” (Ibid pg 3).

Law of Causality is law of Identity applied to action (Ayn Rand). Since biological action is self-generated goal orientated response (SIGOR) to environmental challenges, such an action cannot be predetermined by any antecedent cause. On the contrary, any antecedent or proximate action could be only detrimental to the healthy living process.

As Rosen put it:

“it is perfectly respectable to talk about a category of final causation and to a component as the effect of its final cause…In this sense, then, a component is entailed by its function… a material system is an organism if and only if , it is closed to efficient causation.” (Life Itself, pg 135).

In other words the process of biological causation is a process in which a final cause (a goal), becomes its efficient cause. Traditionally, the notion of the final cause associated with Aristotle’s primary mover, some divine, supernatural source. However, this is not a case of mysticism, far from it.

Life emerged as result of self-organization of abiotic elements. How that happened we don’t know yet. However some researchers think that this is thermodynamically inevitable event.

” Life is universally understood to require a source of free energy and mechanisms with which to harness it. Remarkably, the converse may also be true: the continuous generation of sources of free energy by abiotic processes may have forced life into existence as a means to alleviate the buildup of free energy stresses….” (Energy flow and the organization of life. Harold Morowitz and Eric Smith, 2006).

But does it mean that life is determined process? I don’t think so. Life is emergent phenomenon and as such it possesses new properties which its precursors don’t have. In their book “Biological Self-organization” Camazine et al. (2001: 8) define self-organization:

‘as a process in which pattern at the global level of a system emerges solely from numerous interactions among the lower level components of the system.

The system has properties that are emergent, if they are not intrinsically found within any of the parts, and exist only at a higher level of description....’’

From this definition follows that 1. A process of self-organization doesn't have an antecedent cause. 2. Emergent properties of such a system are different from the properties of its components and therefore cannot be explained by means of reductionism. In other words properties of such a system are not defined by antecedent cause. Life is self-organizing, self-regulated material structure which is able to produce self-generated goal orientated action when the goal is preservation and betterment of itself. This new emergent identity which applied to biotic action defines new type of causation-self causation.

Harry Binswanger observed “All levels of living action, from a cell’s protein-synthesis to a scientist’s investigations, are goal-directed. In vegetative action, past instances of the “final cause” act as “efficient cause.”(1992).

This is the mechanism of self-causation. Now is clear why any action imposed on the organism and driven by antecedent cause could be only detrimental-it inevitable would interfere with self-generated action of the organism. Each and every organism is its own primary mover. In the low organisms the degree of freedom of action is limited by their genetic set up. However even low organisms like fungi for example able to overcome this genetic determinism.

“During a critical period, variability is generated by the fact that, a system becomes conditioned by all the factors influencing the spontaneous emergence of symmetry-breaking event.

In such a context variability does not reflect an environmental perturbation in expression of a pre-existing (genetic) program of development…It is expression of a process of individuation.” (Trewavas, 1999)

SIGOR is limited by organism’s perceptual ability and capacity to process the sensory input. The process of evolution is a process of development of these qualities, since organism’s survival depends on them. More freedom of action means better chances of survival. The end product of such a process is Free Will and self-awareness, that is-human mind. Free Will therefore is an expression of self-causation on conceptual level.

As Rodrigues observed: “Cerebral representations result from self-emergence of networks of interactions between modules of neurons stimulated by sensorial perception.” (Rodriguez at al., 1999)

The human abilities to choose goals consciously and to act rationally in order to achieve them turn biology to ethics .But the origin of these abilities lie in the very fundamental property of any living being. This property is self-generated goal orientated action driven by self causation. Any attempt to reduce this property to the set of biochemical reactions or to undetermined behavior of subatomic particles is doomed to fail. Ayn Rand profoundly summarized the meaning of life in “We, The Living”. “I know what I want, and to know HOW TO WANT-isn’t it life itself?”

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I'm not sure I fully grasp the above statement.

According to Ayn Rand, "An axiom is a statement that identifies the base of knowledge and of any further statement pertaining to that knowledge, a statement necessarily contained in all others, whether any particular speaker chooses to identify it or not. An axiom is a proposition that defeats its opponents by the fact that they have to accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it."

(Copied from the Ayn Rand Lexicon)

Now many contemporary neuroscientists and philosophers reject the axiomatic nature of consciousness and appeal to reductionism where they reduce consciousness to physical events occurring in the brain. Hence consciousness is often described as the "product" of neural mechanisms.

While I agree that consciousness is axiomatic in the sense that it doesn't require proof and all knowledge rests upon it, I find it hard to believe that it is irreducible. For, we can clearly explain the causes of our perceptions in terms of neurophysiological phenomena.

So how can consciousness be an irreducible primary distinct from the physical? Doesn't that imply dualism?

An axiomatic concept is not reducible within epistemology. That means it does not have any other propositions or concepts which are necessary to understanding the axiomatic concept. An axiomatic concept is therefore also one of the first level concepts, whose meaning is established by its reference to an existent (as opposed to another abstraction).

For everything that exists, including consciousness, it is always valid to inquire into how it works and what it is composed of. That kind of physical , scientific reduction does not and cannot logically result in denying the reality of the thing reduced. For example accepting the atomic theory of matter does not logically imply that one must accept that life does not exist or is in some way illusory because no atom is alive.

The logical fallacies of division and composition are relevant to this topic. From the fallacy of division entry at Wikipedia:

Another example:

  • Functioning brains think.
  • Functioning brains are nothing but the neurons that they are composed of.
  • If functioning brains think, then the individual neurons in them think.
  • Individual neurons do not think.
  • Functioning brains do not think. (From 3 & 4)
  • Functioning brains think and functioning brains do not think. (From 1 & 5)

Since the premises entail a contradiction (6), at least one of the premises must be false. We may diagnose the problem as located in premise 3, which quite plausibly commits the fallacy of division.

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This follows to some extent on #7.

Reductionism's mistake is to confuse a necessary condition with an equivalence. An animal needs physical equipment and physical events in order to be conscious, but that does not suffice to show that they are the same object. The standard test for calling two objects the same is Leibniz's law: if they are the same, then whatever is true of one is true of the other and whatever is false of one is false of the other.

Consider a loaf of bread. Its ingredients are a necessary condition of its coming to be, but they do not amount to the loaf of bread. The latter has a degree of doneness, a shape, a degree of freshness and a baker who made it, but these do not apply to the ingredients individually or collectively. In this vein, the standard philosophical argument against reductionism consists of pointing out such a contrast between what we can say about consciousness and what we can say about its material requirements. Thoughts are insightful, funny, fallacious or mutually consistent. None of these makes sense, much less is true, of neural events, so they are not the same.

Dualism is the doctrine that consciousness and its bodily substrates are both entities, which Rand never claimed. Get rid of this requirement and you are no longer a dualist.

I never thought of it this way before.

An axiomatic concept is not reducible within epistemology. That means it does not have any other propositions or concepts which are necessary to understanding the axiomatic concept. An axiomatic concept is therefore also one of the first level concepts, whose meaning is established by its reference to an existent (as opposed to another abstraction).

For everything that exists, including consciousness, it is always valid to inquire into how it works and what it is composed of. That kind of physical , scientific reduction does not and cannot logically result in denying the reality of the thing reduced. For example accepting the atomic theory of matter does not logically imply that one must accept that life does not exist or is in some way illusory because no atom is alive.

The logical fallacies of division and composition are relevant to this topic. From the fallacy of division entry at Wikipedia:

Thank you! Someone pointed that out in a message earlier. I only considered this issue ontologically and disregarded the epistemological fundemantality of consciousness.

I recently watched an interview with John Searle where he discussed this subject. I loved the way he put it.

" To clarify the relationship between the consciousness of minds and the neurological architecture of brains, it must be understood that they are both one system, not two distinct entities such as the vocabulary of 'mental' and 'physical' would suggest. The word 'Mental', meaning mind that occurs independent of the 'physical' body and vise versa. The state of the brain, such as consciousness, is a mode, a state, of existence much like liquidity is a state of water. Simply stated, it is that brains cause minds and minds are features of brains."

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So how can consciousness be an irreducible primary distinct from the physical? Doesn't that imply dualism?

I think Grames tackled the "irreducible" part (by pointing out that "irreducible" is a concept defined in the context of epistemology, and when you apply it to something, that's where you're saying it is irreducible, not in the natural sciences for instance), so I'll go for the distinct from the physical part: how can any abstract concept be distinct from the physical, or rather, in what sense could they be called distinct from the physical? The straight answer is "measurement omission". Concept formation involves the omission of some (and, in the case of highly abstract concepts like consciousness, the vast majority) of information about the units it refers to. In that sense, concepts are clearly different from the physical units subsumed under them (which tend to have all their characteristics intact and in perfect condition, at all times, irrespective of whether we deem them "essential" or not).

What follows now may at first seem a long winded diatribe with no new wisdom beyond what I just said, but, I promise, it expands the scope of my post, and ties into the main subject of the thread.

I'm gonna start by clarifying what the concept "consciousness" refers to. What is(are) the distinguishing characteristic(s) of the units it refers to, and a superficial comment about the omitted information.

Consciousness subsumes all awareness of existence. Every act of awareness of that which exists that has occurred, is occurring or will ever occur. And this next part is crucial to my overall point: Much like "existence" isn't an attribute of existents but instead refers to all which exists itself, consciousness doesn't refer to the mind's ability to be aware of things, it refers to all instances of awareness themselves.

In other words, consciousness refers to the phenomena of awareness, irrespective of who/what is being aware of who/what/when. The "details", if you will, are omitted. The concept "consciousness" is much too abstract to say anything about how the human body results in a mind which senses, perceives and ultimately thinks about and is conscious of its surroundings. It instead identifies only that there is awareness: the only information not omitted is that all awareness occurs in time (as opposed to existence, which doesn't occur in time - time is part of existence, not the other way around).

So this is the content of the concept. Nothing else. Why did I take the time to type all this seemingly unrelated stuff out? Because I'm hoping it explains why Ayn Rand calls these three concepts of existence, identity and consciousness (and not any other ones) irreducible and fundamental.

Imagine for a moment, trying to study anything, without implicitly acknowledging the existence of the phenomena of awareness. Imagine trying to explain the causes of sensation (which is merely the awareness of a stimuli), or perception (the awareness of not just individual stimuli, but of other existents based on the integration of multiple stimuli), and finally concepts (let's just call this awareness of complex patterns among many existents), without first (and before ever getting around to knowing what "neuro-physiological phenomena" even means) integrating and using the concept "consciousness" (which identifies the fact that awareness exists, has as its object an existent or more, and is dependent on time - but that's it, it identifies nothing more). How do you come to integrate that concept? By studying neuro-physiology, or by your first acts of introspection, and then your first exchange of basic info about objects around you, with outhers, as a young child? Which comes first? Which must come first, no matter what?

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I had this thrown at me the other day: "Perhaps the biggest failing of Objectivism, shoehorning consciousness as axiomatic prevents any interesting questions being asked or answered about this uniquely human phenomenon."

Edited by Mikee

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Mikee:

 

I think your acquaintance has confused "undeniability of the presence of something" in philosophy with the "impossibility of explanation" of a thing according to the sciences. 

 

Undeniability of a thing does not in any way necessitate "prevention" of any questions regarding the nature, functioning, origins, etc. of the thing, it merely establishes that the thing's existence cannot be denied. 

 

From the perspective of a conscious human being it is inescapable that consciousness IS, but we clearly observe there are things which are not conscious.  This leaves open a whole field of opportunity to investigate how consciousness occurs and functions in the natural world (this is a redundant clarification ,,, reality/the universe the totality of all existents is natural as opposed to supernatural).

 

Do you think your acquaintance may be tinged with rationalism or mysticism?

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I'm not sure I fully grasp the above statement.

According to Ayn Rand, "An axiom is a statement that identifies the base of knowledge and of any further statement pertaining to that knowledge, a statement necessarily contained in all others, whether any particular speaker chooses to identify it or not. An axiom is a proposition that defeats its opponents by the fact that they have to accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it."

(Copied from the Ayn Rand Lexicon)

Now many contemporary neuroscientists and philosophers reject the axiomatic nature of consciousness and appeal to reductionism where they reduce consciousness to physical events occurring in the brain. Hence consciousness is often described as the "product" of neural mechanisms.

While I agree that consciousness is axiomatic in the sense that it doesn't require proof and all knowledge rests upon it, I find it hard to believe that it is irreducible. For, we can clearly explain the causes of our perceptions in terms of neurophysiological phenomena.

So how can consciousness be an irreducible primary distinct from the physical? Doesn't that imply dualism?

 Consciousness is a emergent phenomenon and cannot be reduced to neurophysiological processes as phenomenon of life cannot be reduced to molecular biology. . In his book “Biological Self-organization” Camazine et al. (2001: 8) defines self-organization:

‘‘as a process in which pattern at the global level of a system emerges solely from numerous interactions among the lower level components of the system.

The system has properties that are emergent, if they are not intrinsically found within any of the parts, and exist only at a higher level of description....’’

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"Irreducibility" seems to be either an appeal to ignorance or mysticism.  Either its proponents try to say we do not know why something emerges or imply its magical that something emerges, that somehow it is "nonphysical".

 

To say that properties are emergent i.e. not found in the parts in isolation is not to say that the natures of the parts somehow avoid being such that when they arranged in a particular way, they must, according to reality and identity, cause the emergent property.  I think way too much significance is being given to this "property not found in the parts in isolation" fact of almost everything.  What I find so far, is only an under-defined mysterious concept of irreducibility.

 

Reality and identity and the "parts" define and necessitate by causation the "emergent" property... this is no different from countless other "reducible" physical systems.  So what makes it irreducible?  The implication by many proponents seems that is that emergence is "unknowable" or that it somehow it violates the law of identity, or that it is non-physical (read supernatural).  All of these are false and impossible.

 

Emergence is not magic and does not differ from any other composite, complex, physical system which cries out for rational explanation.

 

 

 

Color and texture and solidity are properties which are emergent if we consider the behavior of solitary electrons, protons, and neutrons, none of which possess these properties.  We cannot ignore, however, that the nature of these particles is such that when they combine to form atoms, and they combine to form molecules or crystals, and when these are shaped so in a collection we identify as a specific entity, such as a red bouncy rubber ball, the properties of color, texture, and solidity exist.  IF we plead ignorance we can say it is "surprising" that red bouncy balls made of e, p, an n, are red, rubbery, and semi-flexible, but only if we ignore our knowledge. 

 

Emergent properties obviously exist and obviously they exist necessarily by virtue of reality and the identities of the parts making up the whole. But what is all this hay about "irreducibility"?  In the context of any composite or complex system what does one mean by emergent properties which are irreducible as opposed to reducible?  Almost NO directly perceivable property on the perceptual level, sound, temperature, taste, scent, color, etc. are properties of the fundamental particles themselves.  So what? 

 

 

Someone tell me how this example of a red rubber ball whose properties are caused by the arrangement and functioning of its parts is different from complex systems giving rise to consciousness?  

 

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Almost NO directly perceivable property on the perceptual level, sound, temperature, taste, scent, color, etc. are properties of the fundamental particles themselves.  So what?   

 

The "so what" factor is those determinists or reductionists who insist that any property which does not exist as a property of a fundamental particle is not a real, it is an illusion.  The determinist/reductionist viewpoint is that there is only one way to "really truly exist" and that is to be a fundamental particle, all else is a lie.   Therefore consciousness does not exist, much less free will.

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"Irreducibility" seems to be either an appeal to ignorance or mysticism.  Either its proponents try to say we do not know why something emerges or imply its magical that something emerges, that somehow it is "nonphysical".

 

To say that properties are emergent i.e. not found in the parts in isolation is not to say that the natures of the parts somehow avoid being such that when they arranged in a particular way, they must, according to reality and identity, cause the emergent property.  I think way too much significance is being given to this "property not found in the parts in isolation" fact of almost everything.  What I find so far, is only an under-defined mysterious concept of irreducibility.

 

Reality and identity and the "parts" define and necessitate by causation the "emergent" property... this is no different from countless other "reducible" physical systems.  So what makes it irreducible?  The implication by many proponents seems that is that emergence is "unknowable" or that it somehow it violates the law of identity, or that it is non-physical (read supernatural).  All of these are false and impossible.

 

Emergence is not magic and does not differ from any other composite, complex, physical system which cries out for rational explanation.

 

 

 

Color and texture and solidity are properties which are emergent if we consider the behavior of solitary electrons, protons, and neutrons, none of which possess these properties.  We cannot ignore, however, that the nature of these particles is such that when they combine to form atoms, and they combine to form molecules or crystals, and when these are shaped so in a collection we identify as a specific entity, such as a red bouncy rubber ball, the properties of color, texture, and solidity exist.  IF we plead ignorance we can say it is "surprising" that red bouncy balls made of e, p, an n, are red, rubbery, and semi-flexible, but only if we ignore our knowledge. 

 

Emergent properties obviously exist and obviously they exist necessarily by virtue of reality and the identities of the parts making up the whole. But what is all this hay about "irreducibility"?  In the context of any composite or complex system what does one mean by emergent properties which are irreducible as opposed to reducible?  Almost NO directly perceivable property on the perceptual level, sound, temperature, taste, scent, color, etc. are properties of the fundamental particles themselves.  So what? 

 

 

Someone tell me how this example of a red rubber ball whose properties are caused by the arrangement and functioning of its parts is different from complex systems giving rise to consciousness?  

 

"Irreducibility" seems to be either an appeal to ignorance or mysticism.  Either its proponents try to say we do not know why something emerges or imply its magical that something emerges, that somehow it is "nonphysical".

 

To say that properties are emergent i.e. not found in the parts in isolation is not to say that the natures of the parts somehow avoid being such that when they arranged in a particular way, they must, according to reality and identity, cause the emergent property.  I think way too much significance is being given to this "property not found in the parts in isolation" fact of almost everything.  What I find so far, is only an under-defined mysterious concept of irreducibility.

 

Reality and identity and the "parts" define and necessitate by causation the "emergent" property... this is no different from countless other "reducible" physical systems.  So what makes it irreducible?  The implication by many proponents seems that is that emergence is "unknowable" or that it somehow it violates the law of identity, or that it is non-physical (read supernatural).  All of these are false and impossible.

 

Emergence is not magic and does not differ from any other composite, complex, physical system which cries out for rational explanation.

 

 

 

Color and texture and solidity are properties which are emergent if we consider the behavior of solitary electrons, protons, and neutrons, none of which possess these properties.  We cannot ignore, however, that the nature of these particles is such that when they combine to form atoms, and they combine to form molecules or crystals, and when these are shaped so in a collection we identify as a specific entity, such as a red bouncy rubber ball, the properties of color, texture, and solidity exist.  IF we plead ignorance we can say it is "surprising" that red bouncy balls made of e, p, an n, are red, rubbery, and semi-flexible, but only if we ignore our knowledge. 

 

Emergent properties obviously exist and obviously they exist necessarily by virtue of reality and the identities of the parts making up the whole. But what is all this hay about "irreducibility"?  In the context of any composite or complex system what does one mean by emergent properties which are irreducible as opposed to reducible?  Almost NO directly perceivable property on the perceptual level, sound, temperature, taste, scent, color, etc. are properties of the fundamental particles themselves.  So what? 

 

 

Someone tell me how this example of a red rubber ball whose properties are caused by the arrangement and functioning of its parts is different from complex systems giving rise to consciousness?  

Nothing is mystical in emergent properties and yet they cannot be reduced to the properties of parts by definition. Take for example two halves of the ball. None of them can roll. But if you put them together you will get an emergent property of rolling. None of inanimate objects have a property of self-initiated goal orientated action, (SIGA)let alone consciousness and free Will. That applies as well to the very complex macromolecules which are the building blocks of the living organisms. However,  the process of their self-organization created a living organisms with such an emergent properties. It would be an useless exercise to try and explain SIGA on molecular level.  Life starts on the level of cell and that why the term " Molecular Biology" is oxymoron. The living organisms act and not acted upon. In the words of Robert Rosen, they are systems which closed to antecedent cause. Unlike inanimate objects they are driven by self-causation. Such a property cannot be reduced to the physical processes driven by antecedent causality. During the process of evolution SIGA developed to the level of self-awareness. The property of self-causation expresses itself on this level as Free Will. The whole process is very complex and best explained here.

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"Irreducibility" seems to be either an appeal to ignorance or mysticism.  Either its proponents try to say we do not know why something emerges or imply its magical that something emerges, that somehow it is "nonphysical".

 

To say that properties are emergent i.e. not found in the parts in isolation is not to say that the natures of the parts somehow avoid being such that when they arranged in a particular way, they must, according to reality and identity, cause the emergent property.  I think way too much significance is being given to this "property not found in the parts in isolation" fact of almost everything.  What I find so far, is only an under-defined mysterious concept of irreducibility.

 

Reality and identity and the "parts" define and necessitate by causation the "emergent" property... this is no different from countless other "reducible" physical systems.  So what makes it irreducible?  The implication by many proponents seems that is that emergence is "unknowable" or that it somehow it violates the law of identity, or that it is non-physical (read supernatural).  All of these are false and impossible.

 

Emergence is not magic and does not differ from any other composite, complex, physical system which cries out for rational explanation.

 

 

 

Color and texture and solidity are properties which are emergent if we consider the behavior of solitary electrons, protons, and neutrons, none of which possess these properties.  We cannot ignore, however, that the nature of these particles is such that when they combine to form atoms, and they combine to form molecules or crystals, and when these are shaped so in a collection we identify as a specific entity, such as a red bouncy rubber ball, the properties of color, texture, and solidity exist.  IF we plead ignorance we can say it is "surprising" that red bouncy balls made of e, p, an n, are red, rubbery, and semi-flexible, but only if we ignore our knowledge. 

 

Emergent properties obviously exist and obviously they exist necessarily by virtue of reality and the identities of the parts making up the whole. But what is all this hay about "irreducibility"?  In the context of any composite or complex system what does one mean by emergent properties which are irreducible as opposed to reducible?  Almost NO directly perceivable property on the perceptual level, sound, temperature, taste, scent, color, etc. are properties of the fundamental particles themselves.  So what? 

 

 

Someone tell me how this example of a red rubber ball whose properties are caused by the arrangement and functioning of its parts is different from complex systems giving rise to consciousness?  

 

"Irreducibility" seems to be either an appeal to ignorance or mysticism.  Either its proponents try to say we do not know why something emerges or imply its magical that something emerges, that somehow it is "nonphysical".

 

To say that properties are emergent i.e. not found in the parts in isolation is not to say that the natures of the parts somehow avoid being such that when they arranged in a particular way, they must, according to reality and identity, cause the emergent property.  I think way too much significance is being given to this "property not found in the parts in isolation" fact of almost everything.  What I find so far, is only an under-defined mysterious concept of irreducibility.

 

Reality and identity and the "parts" define and necessitate by causation the "emergent" property... this is no different from countless other "reducible" physical systems.  So what makes it irreducible?  The implication by many proponents seems that is that emergence is "unknowable" or that it somehow it violates the law of identity, or that it is non-physical (read supernatural).  All of these are false and impossible.

 

Emergence is not magic and does not differ from any other composite, complex, physical system which cries out for rational explanation.

 

 

 

Color and texture and solidity are properties which are emergent if we consider the behavior of solitary electrons, protons, and neutrons, none of which possess these properties.  We cannot ignore, however, that the nature of these particles is such that when they combine to form atoms, and they combine to form molecules or crystals, and when these are shaped so in a collection we identify as a specific entity, such as a red bouncy rubber ball, the properties of color, texture, and solidity exist.  IF we plead ignorance we can say it is "surprising" that red bouncy balls made of e, p, an n, are red, rubbery, and semi-flexible, but only if we ignore our knowledge. 

 

Emergent properties obviously exist and obviously they exist necessarily by virtue of reality and the identities of the parts making up the whole. But what is all this hay about "irreducibility"?  In the context of any composite or complex system what does one mean by emergent properties which are irreducible as opposed to reducible?  Almost NO directly perceivable property on the perceptual level, sound, temperature, taste, scent, color, etc. are properties of the fundamental particles themselves.  So what? 

 

 

Someone tell me how this example of a red rubber ball whose properties are caused by the arrangement and functioning of its parts is different from complex systems giving rise to consciousness?  

Nothing is mystical in emergent properties and yet they cannot be reduced to the properties of parts by definition. Take for example two halves of the ball. None of them can roll. But if you put them together you will get an emergent property of rolling. None of inanimate objects have a property of self-initiated goal orientated action, (SIGA) let alone consciousness and free Will. That applies as well to the very complex macromolecules which are the building blocks of the living organisms. However,  the process of their self-organization created a living organisms with such an emergent properties. It would be an useless exercise to try and explain SIGA on molecular level.  Life starts on the level of cell and that why the term " Molecular Biology" is oxymoron. The living organisms act and not acted upon. In the words of Robert Rosen, they are systems which closed to antecedent cause. Unlike inanimate objects they are driven by self-causation.  

This is the rational explanation of emergent properties of life and consciousness, Such a property cannot be reduced to the physical processes driven by antecedent causality. During the process of evolution SIGA developed to the level of self-awareness. The property of self-causation expresses itself on this level as Free Will. The whole process is very complex and best explained here http://homepage.univ...lityCorrect.pdf . Reductionism is a literally dead end in the inquiry of life and consciousness. Free Will cannot be found in autopsy, on the level of macromolecules or subatomic particles. As Hans Jonas observed:

"Vitalistic monism is replaced by mechanistic monism, in whose rules of evidence the standard of life is exchanged for that of death.” (The Phenomenon of Life, pg 11). 

Edited by Leonid

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Someone tell me how this example of a red rubber ball whose properties are caused by the arrangement and functioning of its parts is different from complex systems giving rise to consciousness?  

 

But it is not different at all.  It is the reductionists and determinists who claim it is of a different and less significant order of nature.  Go ask one of them somewhere.

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Emergence is not new to logic, for without emergent properties there would not be the distributive logical fallacies of composition and division.  

 

Science requires logic, logic requires emergence, therefore science requires emergence.  

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In a system, exhibiting emergent properties:

 

1. Is the system behaving in a way inconsistent with its nature and reality?

2. Are the parts of the system behaving in ways inconsistent with their natures and reality?

3. Is the emergent property a completely natural and necessary expression of the nature of the system?

4. In the emergent property a completely natural and necessary expression of the natures of the parts of the system and the particular combination/configuration they are in?

 

If there is no appeal to unknowable natural processes, then what is the distinction between irreducibility and reducibility? 

 

Is this more properly a statement of epistemology than one of metaphysics?

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