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Kjetil

Weak vs. Strong Emergence

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Weak emergence is a type of emergence in which the emergent property is reducible to its individual constituents. This is opposed to strong emergence, in which the emergent property is irreducible to its individual constituents.

Since Objectivism is not deterministic but holds that consciousness has free will, does this mean that Objectivism supports strong emergence? It does not reduce consciousness to its individual constituents (like electrochemical signals in the brain).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence#Strong_and_weak_emergence

Edited by Kjetil

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Weak emergence is a type of emergence in which the emergent property is reducible to its individual constituents. This is opposed to strong emergence, in which the emergent property is irreducible to its individual constituents.

Since Objectivism is not deterministic but holds that consciousness has free will, does this mean that Objectivism supports strong emergence? It does not reduce consciousness to its individual constituents (like electrochemical signals in the brain).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence#Strong_and_weak_emergence

What makes you think that free will implies a strong emergent property? Why must that be the case, as opposed to atomic explanation?

I think a better explanation of strong emergence is that it is a new causal level, with its own independent laws away from the traditional physicalist account of everything. Biology has its own laws, chemistry has its own laws etc. These things can be explained atomically to a certain extent, but atomic explanation only goes so far to explain certain phenomena.

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What do you mean by "reducible"?

That the nature of something complex can be understood by reducing it to the interactions of its fundamental parts.

Edited by Kjetil

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That the nature of something complex can be understood by reducing it to the interactions of its fundamental parts.

What are fundamental parts?

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<snip>Since Objectivism is not deterministic but holds that consciousness has free will, does this mean that Objectivism supports strong emergence? It does not reduce consciousness to its individual constituents (like electrochemical signals in the brain).</snip><snip>

Where are you acquiring what Objectivism holds?

The Journals of Ayn Rand 13 - Notes While Writing: 1947-1952:

"Man's soul or spirit is his consciousness—here, now, on earth. The ruling element, the control, the free-will element of his consciousness is his reason."

For The New Intellectual:

"That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call 'free will' is your mind's freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character."

In Diana Hsieh's outline, if you scroll down to Dr. Harry Binswangers section in http://www.dianahsieh.com/docs/mio.pdf you will find some highlights from his lecture on "The Metaphysics of Consciousness" where he explains that consciousness is irreducible.

Edited by dream_weaver

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What are fundamental parts?

Given that the brain is the origin of consciousness, some people argue that every mental state has a physical representation in the brain. Then the question is whether the mental state is a consequence of the physical state or vice versa?

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I think a better explanation of strong emergence is that it is a new causal level, with its own independent laws away from the traditional physicalist account of everything. Biology has its own laws, chemistry has its own laws etc. These things can be explained atomically to a certain extent, but atomic explanation only goes so far to explain certain phenomena.

I'm discussing this with a friend. He says that "quantum mechanics explains chemistry; chemistry explains biology; biology explains neurology, etc. Everything can in principle be reduced to quantum mechanics (even explaininig complex phenomena like the financial crisis) -- it is just too cumbersome, and therefore we use macroscopic models instead."

Edited by Kjetil

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Well, if he's not offering arguments, it is a hard position to counter.

Just because there are distinct ontological categories does not mean there is some extra, spooky Cartesian piece of the world above the physical. It is certainly true that without the physical base, there would be no consciousness. It does not follow that the consciousness is just the collection of its parts. There are phenomena on the macro-scopic level that can have causal efficacy on the microscopic as well. Upward causation ain't the only game in town. That's not the position of a mystic but an empiricist.

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Just because there are distinct ontological categories does not mean there is some extra, spooky Cartesian piece of the world above the physical.

Totally agree. All knowledge is contextual. Why should conscious beings be subject to the laws of quantum mechanics just because non-living material is?

He also claims that it is possible to possess abstract knowledge even if he is determined. "Just because my thinking is determined does not mean it's invalid."

Surely, this must be wrong? How can you be able to distinguish between valid and invalid without free will to choose between alternatives? Yes, you may end up with correct opinions, but correct opinions is not the same as knowledge.

IMO, his assertion is like claiming that a parrot that has learned to repeat "7x9=63" has good math skills.

Edited by Kjetil

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In Diana Hsieh's outline, if you scroll down to Dr. Harry Binswangers section in http://www.dianahsieh.com/docs/mio.pdf you will find some highlights from his lecture on "The Metaphysics of Consciousness" where he explains that consciousness is irreducible.

Binswanger went way off the rails there in trying to explain why consciousness is irreducible. He actually did invoke a Cartesian "mind force" acting above and beyond the properties of the matter of the brain and predicted physics would discover it someday. That is absurd.

Strong and Weak Emergence

The usage of the notion "emergence" may generally be subdivided into two perspectives, that of "weak emergence" and "strong emergence". Weak emergence describes new properties arising in systems as a result of the interactions at an elemental level. Emergence, in this case, is merely part of the language, or model that is needed to describe a system's behaviour.

But if, on the other hand, systems can have qualities not directly traceable to the system's components, but rather to how those components interact, and one is willing to accept that a system supervenes on its components, then it is difficult to account for an emergent property's cause. These new qualities are irreducible to the system's constituent parts (Laughlin 2005). The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This view of emergence is called strong emergence. Some fields in which strong emergence is more widely used include etiology, epistemology and ontology.

Stepping away from the mysteries of consciousness for a second, it is clear that there is a strong emergence in the phenomenon of life. Atomic theory is uncontroversial, the fact that there is life is uncontroversial, and plainly no atom can be alive on its own. Therefore strong emergence is true. This does not require magic. Reciprocal causation is involved in the atoms causing life, and the form of the life being constituted of an atomic nature can itself then be a further cause of moving around more atoms. No ghosts in the machine are necessary.

edit:

I think it is helpful to get around the conundrums of upward vs. downward causation by instead thinking in terms of horizontal causation. Taking the principle of relativity seriously, there are no privileged frames of reference even in ordinary chemistry and all causation has the same significance. So-called supervenience is not a special form of causation, it is just more of the same.

Edited by Grames

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"Whether attributes of either kind, or their causal powers, can be reductively explained is a question for what Ayn Rand called "the special sciences" rather than philosophy."

http://wiki.objectivismonline.net/Mind-Body_Dichotomy

Does this mean that consciousness is not necessarily non-reducible according to Objectivism?

That is the straight forward reading I give it, that Objectivism has no position on the matter. Consciousness and the brain was what she (edit: Ayn Rand) was interested in during her last years, and that is hardly consistent with the premise that it is irreducible. Consciousness is a philosophical primary, an irreducible axiom, but that doesn't imply that it cannot be understood or scientifically explained as to how it comes about. What is important logically is that no scientific explanation of consciousness can "explain away" consciousness or deny it because that would be the fallacy of the stolen concept. Reductionism that results in denying the undeniable is obviously wrong, but the fundamental reductionist premise that consciousness is constituted of non-conscious atoms cannot be wrong.

Edited by Grames

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What would you answer to someone who claimed that that which can interact with the physical aspects of the world must itself be physical?

And how about neural /genetic programming, which supposedly allows a program to find its own solutions to a problem by trial and error -- solutions that the programmer never envisioned?

Edited by Kjetil

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What would you answer to someone who claimed that that which can interact with the physical aspects of the world must itself be physical?

I would agree. To elaborate a little, physical means causal here and not the merely material. Physical encompasses all of the forces that exist. Everything that exists is ultimately at the subatomic scale just some force field that exists in some quantum amount, so the distinction between the tangible and intangible at the human scale dissolves.

And how about neural /genetic programming, which supposedly allows a program to find its own solutions to a problem by trial and error -- solutions that the programmer never envisioned?

Genetic programming is an entirely natural, this-worldly and physical algorithm. It is the mathematical abstraction of the process of biological evolution. How large scale neural nets work is still a mystery, but we know that they are not simply 'programmed'.

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It can say that but that doesn't make it true.

It's quite a huge step to go from the act of observing something causing it to change(because the observer and his equipment interact with the system) to it necessarily being _consciousnesses_ as such that causes the change. (The conscious entity has to physically interact with the system in question, and plenty of non-conscious interaction happens too.) Consciousness as such cannot change the physical world. That's a leap that a lot of people who abuse quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle routinely make without justifying it in any way whatsoever.

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http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/35391/title/Do_subatomic_particles_have_free_will%3F

This article says that spin is determined by observation. Doesn't that suggest that the Objectivist view (the function of consciousness is not to create reality, but to apprehend it) is wrong?

This problem has been addressed before in a few places on this forum, though not in the form of this free will theorem. The reason their principle does not apply to Bohmian mechanics (which is the realist, deterministic version of quantum mechanics) is that Bohmian mechanics is nonlocal. Their proof depends on the assumption of locality--that there is some, however high, maximum rate at which information can travel, i.e. that an event at point A can only effect events happening at point B after some finite but nonzero amount of time. Bohmian mechanics rejects this, instead positing fundamental nonlocality--conditions at some point in the universe can effect happenings at any other point in the universe instantaneously.

Locality is a tough thing for physicists to give up, as it has been fairly foundational for the discipline pretty much since its inception in modern form with Newton. But its that or give up the notion of an objective reality. I, for one (and I plan to be a physics, entering last year of undergrad now), choose to give up locality.

It is that fundamental nonlocality which makes a nondeterministic and deterministic world observably indistinguishable (Bohmian quantum mechanics yields all the same results as standard non-deterministic QM), and why, then one can escape this so-called proof.

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It's quite a huge step to go from the act of observing something causing it to change(because the observer and his equipment interact with the system) to it necessarily being _consciousnesses_ as such that causes the change. (The conscious entity has to physically interact with the system in question, and plenty of non-conscious interaction happens too.) Consciousness as such cannot change the physical world.

Makes sense! :thumbsup:

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If it is physical, then doesn't consciousness violate the laws of physics?

Precisely because it is physical (causal), consciousness does not and cannot violate the "laws of physics".

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/35391/title/Do_subatomic_particles_have_free_will%3F

This article says that spin is determined by observation. Doesn't that suggest that the Objectivist view (the function of consciousness is not to create reality, but to apprehend it) is wrong?

No.

The article uses the term measurement. Measurement in subatomic physics requires an interaction with another particle. There is no difference between the particles that make up a human and the particles that make up the rest of the universe. The cloud of particles that constitute a consciousness is macroscopic in size, and cannot perceive a single particle without intervening scientific instruments. Those instruments are themselves made of still more particles. The article's description of a finding in quantum physics has no bearing whatsoever on consciousness, which does in fact apprehend reality not create it including the fact (assuming the proof can be experimentally validated) that a subatomic particle's spin is partly or entirely determined by its last interaction rather than being an entirely intrinsic attribute.

There is no special physics causing or caused by consciousness.

I found article pretty poorly written. The cosmic swerve theory of free will is just another way to be determined after all, so the introductory quote and other remarks don't lend themselves to any conclusion. It is just hype to try to sell the article's relevance to laymen with little knowledge of quantum physics.

edit: Dr. Quantum is a "quantum mystic", a type of witch-doctor personality that relies on bad physics to justify his superstitions instead of the supernatural.

Edited by Grames

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Precisely because it is physical (causal), consciousness does not and cannot violate the "laws of physics".

If consciousness is physical, then where, precisely, is it located?

I would say that consciousness and the mind are attributes of the body. They are not physical; they are mental.

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