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Kjetil

Weak vs. Strong Emergence

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

In the body, principally in the brain. It is distributed over the volume of the brain, and in general the entire nervous system.

An attribute may be non-material, but no attribute can be acausal. Nothing violates causality, including consciousness.

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In the body, principally in the brain. It is distributed over the volume of the brain, and in general the entire nervous system.

I suggest that "distributed over the volume of the brain, and in general the entire nervous system" is not a location. It's like saying that a person's size is spread over the volume of the body.

An attribute may be non-material, but no attribute can be acausal. Nothing violates causality, including consciousness.

I agree. I'm not suggesting anything about causality, only that consciousness is an attribute, and as such, it's not physical.

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There was once a man who looked at a tree through a window. His mind wandered into thought. He saw the tree outside but he knew that the experience of perceiving that tree was created in his mind. If the perception existed in the mind then were was what he was looking at... was it outside or in his head? Perhaps it was in the glass. So he was looking at a tree outside, but the experience of seeing was created in his mind... if the sight was a part of him, was the tree him? But what about the tree that existed outside... where there two trees now? This is gibberish, thought the man, snapping out of his semi trance.

The following day the man bumped into a mathematician entering a church and they began a conversation about evolution. The first life on this planet had been simple, following basic reactionary processes. Slowly, over many many generations the organisms had increased in complexity as they adapted or died. Eventually what we might call consciousness had emerged. But what, asked the mathematician, was the difference between reaction and consciousness? Well, the man replied, surely it is the capacity to experience. What is experience but a complex reaction? The man was not sure he fully understood the question... instead of replying he added more requirements: thought, he said, and self awareness... these are more than reaction. And what of atoms? asked the mathematician. What? At this point the man ended his conversation.

That night the man had a dream. He dreamed of the creation of the universe. Out of the initial chaos particles began to form, and soon the universe came to light as photons came into being. There were no atoms yet, indeed it was an age before hydrogen began to form... but the man's dream-time was accelerating and soon stars were bursting to life, clusters of stars, spirals with many billions of them... and in the heart of the stars different atoms were taking shape... slowly one of the galaxies began to expand to soak up all of his awareness... it began to shift and distort. And then it was no longer a galaxy but it had become a tree, and from the end of the branches of that tree grew a fruit, and the fruit was people. One of the fruit-people opened their mouth and out of it came a clockwork model of a solar system. But it did not last long as the dream consciousness was moving again, it flowed towards the fruit-person and into their eyes, through there eyes into a tunnel. The tunnel went on for what seemed like forever until finally and suddenly, as if passing a threshold, it shattered into the big bang of creation. And now there was a rhythm, a drumbeat... steady and grounding... but soon it was no longer a drumbeat, it took on a shrill edge and shifted towards the high pitched periodic buzz of a bedside alarm.

A few days later the man went to see a psychologist at the circus. He recounted his experiences. Perhaps you are picking up psychic signals, the psychologist jibed. The psychologists words had an effect on the man's mind. As a result of this effect, a certain pattern of neuron interaction ensued, resulting in an electrical signal being sent to certain of the man's muscles, which proceeded to contract in an intricate pattern, which caused waves of vibration in the air, in travelled into the psychologists ears, where they transferred the vibration into particularly tiny bones which in turn stimulated an electrical signal to be sent to the psychologist's brain, where there was a pattern of neural activity, and it was interpreted and experienced as a sound, but more than a sound for other area's of his brain and knowledge further decoded the sound to discover that there was a complex code in the vibrations that formed words, concepts, meaning. There's no such thing as telepathy, heard the psychologist.

Next day, the man met a neuroscientist at Stonehenge. They talked for some time about various things, and afterwards the man decided to remain to think some more. The brain is physical. Conciousness arises from the brain. It is somehow in the brain. Likely the mind, experience, is a field... some kind of standing wave... so I'm a standing wave? Or am I my body? Is there more than one me? Who is asking this question, and to who? Just then an alien spaceship descended from the heavens and he was abducted.

In their spaceship the aliens began dissecting his body and strange visions ran through his mind. first there was a brain and beside it a mirror, slowly the two began to get closer and closer together... he noticed that as this happened the brain seemed to be increasing inside and it became apparent to him by some intuition that it was developing and becoming more complex.... after what seemed like an eternity the brain and the mirror came into contact. Suddenly white turned to black and black to white and the brain and the mirror were no longer a brain and a mirror but was instead a camera pointing at a television set, and on that television was the chaotic formation of intricate patterns characterised by a video feedback loop. and the patterns said: Am I the screen or the camera?

There was once a man who looked at a tree through a window. He had forgotten that consciousness was in the light all along.

Edited by JiayoJames

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I suggest that "distributed over the volume of the brain, and in general the entire nervous system" is not a location. It's like saying that a person's size is spread over the volume of the body.

So? That is a true statement. Size is distributed over the volume of the body.

More generally, even atoms don't have precise locations. They take up space and have extension. It is naive physics to assume everything can be located in a dimensionless point source.

I agree. I'm not suggesting anything about causality, only that consciousness is an attribute, and as such, it's not physical.

I will repeat something from earlier in the thread: 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. It is misleading and wrong to insist on using the word 'physical' as if it were the same as 'material'.

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So? That is a true statement. Size is distributed over the volume of the body.

Does that mean you don't agree that there's a difference between the attributes or properties of an object and the object itself?

As another example, does the price of something have a location?

More generally, even atoms don't have precise locations. They take up space and have extension. It is naive physics to assume everything can be located in a dimensionless point source.

I'm talking about the difference between an attribute and the object itself, not quantum physics. It's being a part of something as opposed to being a property of something. For example, a price doesn't take up space.

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.

Does this mean that you don't think attributes like price exist?

Do you think the mental exists?

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Does that mean you don't agree that there's a difference between the attributes or properties of an object and the object itself?

As another example, does the price of something have a location?

An attribute is a selective focus on one aspect of an entity and that omits the other characteristics. Attributes are distinguished from parts by being not separable from the entity having the attribute.

A price is an attribute belonging to which entity? The owner or the object for sale? I say the owner.

Then there is the question of which is the true price, the initial offer price or the first price that finds a buyer? I say the price that finds a buyer.

So a price is a relational attribute of one person with respect to another person. A price cannot be said to exist in the absence of the second person, and exists in both when the buyer is found (although the buyer may refer to the same relationship from his perspective as a 'cost'.)

I'm talking about the difference between an attribute and the object itself, not quantum physics. It's being a part of something as opposed to being a property of something. For example, a price doesn't take up space.

Some attributes are relational, others are intrinsic. Some attributes are a combination of both, a relational attribute based on an intrinsic attribute. For example rest mass is an intrinsic attribute but the weight of an object is the result of the relation between two masses and the distance between them, the mass of an object and the mass of the Earth.

Consciousness is a combination attribute. It is consciousness of the external world, so it is clearly relational. Consciousness is also a specific human faculty with a specific identity based on intrinsic physiological features of the human anatomy. Consciousness can also be found in non-human animals and since they are relating to the same external world humans do the differences in their consciousness is attributed to the differences in their intrinsic physiological features.

One of Ayn Rand's innovations in philosophy was the acknowledgement and even insistence that consciousness has identity.

Does this mean that you don't think attributes like price exist?

Do you think the mental exists?

The mental most definitely exists and in a physical form in the organ dedicated to mental activity. The mental does not refer to some special null dimension.

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First, when I say "location," I mean a specific place in space.

An attribute is a selective focus on one aspect of an entity and that omits the other characteristics. Attributes are distinguished from parts by being not separable from the entity having the attribute.

I would describe it not in terms of separability, but location. Parts have a location; attributes do not.

A price cannot be said to exist in the absence of the second person, and exists in both when the buyer is found

Everything around us has properties, attributes. Where an object comes from, its name, its measurements, etc. From Objectivism's primacy of existence, we know those attributes exist independent of consciousness (an object has attributes even if they are not known or observed by anyone). But clearly those attributes can't be in the objects themselves.

One of Ayn Rand's innovations in philosophy was the acknowledgement and even insistence that consciousness has identity.

I'm not denying that consciousness has identity; I'm denying that it has a location. Many things that exist do not have a location.

Are you familiar with Binswanger or Peikoff's work in this area? It's consistent with Objectivism's rejection of Materialism. Consciousness is an irreducible primary; it can't be reduced to matter.

The mental most definitely exists and in a physical form in the organ dedicated to mental activity. The mental does not refer to some special null dimension.

My view is that the mind does not have a location. It's not in space at all (nor in a "null dimension" nor on some mystical plane), because it's an attribute.

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First, when I say "location," I mean a specific place in space.

How specific? To the nearest meter or centimeter? The nearest angstrom? How many decimal places are required to be specific? When two entities interact in a relationship such as gravitational attraction is this by definition an action with no location because two locations are not one specific location?

I would describe it not in terms of separability, but location. Parts have a location; attributes do not.

Separability is the criteria Ayn Rand settled on (see ITOE). Attributes most certainly do have a location: they are co-located with the entity possessing that attribute.

Everything around us has properties, attributes. Where an object comes from, its name, its measurements, etc.

From this list I would say that you do not have a clear understanding of what an attribute is. An object's origin and its name are not attributes at all, they are simple relationships. Size is an intrinsic attribute but its measurements are a relationship to a consciousness doing the measuring in comparison with a standard.

From Objectivism's primacy of existence, we know those attributes exist independent of consciousness (an object has attributes even if they are not known or observed by anyone). But clearly those attributes can't be in the objects themselves.
Certainly the names of things are not in the things themselves. Names are held within a consciousness, and if they are an attribute of anything they are an attribute of that consciousness assigning that name.

Attributes of consciousness itself are of two types: those that are independent of consciousness (physiological and psychological descriptions of the nature of consciousness) and those that are dependent (the content of consciousness, mainly the abstractions that are accepted as being true). Names of things are an example of the latter type of attribute that is dependent on consciousness. Since we know consciousness is in brains, then that must be where the names are.

I'm not denying that consciousness has identity; I'm denying that it has a location. Many things that exist do not have a location.
Nothing that exists is without location. Even the abstraction of justice exists as an abstraction as some kind of mental existent within a brain. The referents of justice (and injustice) are particular people and their various relations with each other as ethical actors. Individual people have locations. The abstraction of justice omits those locations as non-essential, but an abstraction as mental existent has its own location. Thus there is always a location involved, even when it is unimportant.

Are you familiar with Binswanger or Peikoff's work in this area? It's consistent with Objectivism's rejection of Materialism. Consciousness is an irreducible primary; it can't be reduced to matter.

Binswanger is wrong, and Peikoff has not made Binswanger's mistake.

Diana Hsieh of Noodlefood had summarized the various theories of mind evident in Objectivist writing. What I know of Binswanger's approach is from her reporting on the content of Binswanger's lecture course The Metaphysics of Consciousness. Diana Hsieh's writing is here.

Binswanger is wrong. Where he goes wrong is his analysis of what it means for something to be a philosophical primary. He keys off the word reducible such as in the definition "a primary is not reducible" and then commits himself to a view of consciousness that cannot be physical lest it be found to have parts and be reducible after all. His general description of what it means to reduce something is correct but not appropriate to a logical analysis. A philosophical primary is an epistemological designation meaning that it is at the bottom of the knowledge hierarchy, a first level concept known directly and defined ostensively.

We can analyze consciousness into its parts, but it requires a scientific context and a third-person perspective. We cannot reach the scientific level without first learning to be logical. We cannot learn to be logical without relying at least implicitly (and preferably explicitly) upon the axiomatic concepts existence, identity and consciousness and the axioms employing them. We don't need to look deeper because the referents of existence, identity and consciousness are givens.

Binswanger is in error to argue that an epistemological primary must also be an existential primary that cannot be analyzed scientifically. His statement that consciousness “can never be shown to exist—at any scale—of subactions that are themselves non-conscious” commits the fallacy of division. All sorts of things are composed of other things of a radically different type: chairs are composed of atoms, mammals are composed of cells. Consciousness is the action and relationship of awareness and is composed of both the body and the object it is aware of.

Reductionism, when it results in denying that the thing reduced still exists, is an error. Binswanger seems particularly interested in refuting reductionism that would deny the mind exists. His method of going about it is wrong. Binswanger really should have checked himself when he was led to the conclusion that “a new force of nature”, i.e. “the physical force exerted by consciousness on its own brain” will eventually be discovered by scientists. That's just plain embarrassing. This is the kind of New Age mysticism appropriate to the Coast to Coast AM radio show.

Mind is an attribute of a brain, attributes are existents, so mind and brain are distinguishable but not separable existents. That much is right. Binswanger's claim to being a dualist could be chalked up to rhetorical "cuteness" if he had not also gone so far as to posit novel physics. Objectivism rejects metaphysical dualism. Ayn Rand repeatedly hammered at the mind-body dichotomy as invalid dualism, you can find it in OPAR, and Peikoff again stressed the Objectivist approach in the first lecture of his series "The Unity in Ethics and Epistemology"

Edited by Grames

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From the Objectivist point of view mind and free will are irreducible and therefore represent a case of strong emergence.

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From the Objectivist point of view mind and free will are irreducible and therefore represent a case of strong emergence.

Yes, well, a great deal of care has been taken in this thread to distinguish between epistemologically irreducible and scientifically or metaphysically irreducible, determine which of these applies to consciousness, and what that means for the emergence properties of consciousness. Is there something that was missed in that discussion that you're drawing from to make this claim?

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A price is an attribute belonging to which entity? The owner or the object for sale? I say the owner.

Then there is the question of which is the true price, the initial offer price or the first price that finds a buyer? I say the price that finds a buyer.

So a price is a relational attribute of one person with respect to another person. A price cannot be said to exist in the absence of the second person, and exists in both when the buyer is found (although the buyer may refer to the same relationship from his perspective as a 'cost'.)

Very well put. :thumbsup:

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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

I think that implicit in Objectivist ideas is that complex functions of consciousness are reducible to simpler operations of consciousness. So, it does support strong emergency in that sense. I am not sure what is the basic view of O-ism on the basic faculties of the human mind.

The question of whether the simpler operations of consciousness can be reduced in themsleves to physical operations of the brain (and then reduced again to interactions between atoms) is a different question. I do not think it is aa question of reducing a complex structure to its simpler components.

I do not think science can "explain" consciousness, since consciousness is ontologically different than matter (I am a substance dualist), and science measures only matter. So, by definition it cannot "explain" what it cannot even measure. This is not to say consciousness is something mystical - we can all perceive it directly (in ourselves) and indirectly (in others, mediated via the physical faculty of sight), we know how it works, in O-ist terms, it has cause and effect.

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I want to add an important citation to this thread. PHYSICALISM, EMERGENCE AND DOWNWARD CAUSATION pdf, 33 pages. The article is mainly in response to Jaegwon Kim and specifically his book Mind in a Physical World, and advances an insightful argument against the physics and metaphysics of determinism while defending emergence. Here is the juicy part:

On the dichotomy between physicalist reductionism and mind-body dualism, both being failed options:

Reflecting on the complex debates that have swirled around this issue, one feature stands out. On all sides, the presumption has been that the fundamental level of the natural world consists of micro-physical entities of some sort, with their primary properties. These physical entities are clearly some sort of particular. But what sort? Some physicalists believe that it does not matter, that the notion of a physical particular might be defined as an object, a concrete event, or whatever. Howbeit, the key commitment of physicalism is to some kind of
basic particulars
, which are the fundamental constituents out of which everything in the world is composed. Even those who argue for a wide sense of the ‘physical’ erect their definitions of that term upon basic physical constituents. That is, however generous the definition, physicalists take as fundamental
elementary particles
, in the loose sense of the word “particle” commonly encountered in descriptions of quantum mechanical phenomena.

But recent developments in physics tell against that presupposition. What our best contemporary physics reveals is that
there are no elementary ‘particles’
, fundamental events, or some such particulars. There are only
processes
of various scales and complexity. That this is so has not been easy to see, since the behaviour of phenomena at the sub-atomic level has seemed to defy description in coherent and intelligible terms. For more than a century, physicists have struggled to reconcile the facts that these phenomena exhibit, in different experimental circumstances, both particle-like and wave-like behaviour. With so much being discovered that physicists themselves confess to finding weird, the habitual ways of talking about particles persist even though its use is confused and confusing. Even reputable physicists often give explanatory descriptions in terms of ‘particles’ in a way which, if taken seriously, would be incompatible with the physics they are trying to explain. Further, physics throughout the 20
th
Century has been dogged by a series of deep theoretical inconsistencies that are not yet fully resolved. But enough has now become clear for it to be evident that an ontology of elementary ‘particles’ – basic particulars – can no longer be sustained.

To make this clear, it will be helpful to review briefly the major shifts in physical theory in the 20
th
Century. The new era in physics was ushered in when Einstein proposed his special theory of relativity to overcome the contradiction between Newton’s laws of motion and Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism. But that solution immediately generated another contradiction. According to special relativity, no object, and no force, can travel faster than the speed of light; yet in Newton’s theory, universal gravity is a force that is transmitted instantaneously. Again, it was Einstein who proposed the solution to this second conflict, with his general theory of relativity. Special relativity had held that the motion of one entity relative to another influences space and time. Now, according to general relativity, space and time can warp and curve in response to the presence of matter or energy. Such distortions spread out from one place to another, not instantaneously but at the speed of light, becoming more attenuated with distance.

The general theory of relativity provided for the first time an explanation of what gravity actually is, but until general relativity is integrated with quantum mechanics (as superstring theory now aims to do) ‘particle’-based physics has to treat gravity as an ubiquitous mystery. Indeed, far from overcoming the embarrassment that the apparent action at a distance of gravitational force causes for Newtonian corpuscular physics, recent experimental work has actually produced even worse anomalies for an elementary ‘particle’ metaphysics. For it has discovered a number of non-local phenomena that do not involve the transmission of force. For just one example, the Pauli exclusion principle forbids two leptons (of which electrons are one sort) from being in the same quantum state. Two electrons in the same carbon atom cannot be in the same quantum state. This fact underlies all of chemistry, yet it is an inherently non-local,
relational
constraint. Why should that be? Why should this ‘state’ constraint hold for electrons within a single carbon atom, but not for electrons in two different carbon atoms? And why should these problems go away when we go beyond the quantum level? There are good mathematical explanations for the Pauli exclusion principle, but such non-local phenomena must seem utterly mysterious from the perspective of particle metaphysics – just as Newton admitted that the non-locality of gravity was a deep conceptual anomaly in his physics.

Many aspects of quantum mechanics are well confirmed, but quantum mechanics and relativity theory – both special and general – cannot both be correct. Not only is quantum mechanics incompatible with
general
relativity unless it is transformed in a way that can account for gravity,
special
relativity plus conservation of energy forces a
field
physics, and, therefore, a
field metaphysics
. This is because any transmission of energy from one ‘particle’ to another has to be across some space and will, according to special relativity, take some time. For example, if an electron oscillates in one place and thereby elicits a force on an electron in another place, that force can be felt only after a delay that honours the limitations of the speed of light. But given the law of conservation of energy, it makes no sense to suppose that that energy simply disappears as it leaves the first electron, only to re-appear sometime later, when it arrives at the second. So, there must be a field encompassing both places,
through
which the energy travels. Furthermore, quantum
field
theory involves its own well supported empirical consequences, such as the Casimir effect. It is not just a mathematical but physically irrelevant fix.

In fact, the incompatibility between quantum mechanics and special relativity is overcome by quantum field theory, and superstring theory now aims to overcome the incompatibility between quantum mechanics and general relativity. But despite these achievements, a satisfactorily unified physics is still wanting. A field version of superstring theory has still to be developed, yet quantum fields are still needed to preserve special relativity together with conservation of energy, and to provide for the possibility of explaining non-local phenomena.

Although there is much for physics yet to resolve, the general direction is becoming clear enough for some conclusions of metaphysical significance to be drawn. According to our best science, there are no elementary ‘particles’, or basic particulars, at all; everything is composed of quantum fields. Quantum field theory shifts the basic ontology of the universe from micro-particles to quantum fields. What have seemed to be ‘particles’ are now conceptualized as particle-like processes and interactions resulting from the quantization of field processes and interactions. Those are no more particles than are the integer number of oscillatory waves in a guitar string. Each of the apparent particulars assumed by a physicalist ontology is a quantized field process.

It is just as well that the physicalist’s metaphysical model, which would reduce everything to interactions amongst elementary ‘particles’, is not supported by recent physics, since it is arguably incoherent. Either the basic particulars (particles) have extension, or they do not. If they have no extension, then a field view is forced in order to account for particle interactions, since the probability of such particles ever actually hitting each other is zero. If, on the other hand, these elementary particles do have finite extension, they pose intractable problems for physical theory. They could not be compressible; the velocity of transmission of force through their diameter would therefore be instantaneous; there would be extreme difficulty in explaining different kinds of interactions (gravity, electricity, etc.); and so on. If a move is made to a combination of particles and fields (the typical contemporary semi-sophisticated view), then all the significant issues are already granted anyway in the granting of fields. There are no ‘particles’, but, even if there were, so long as fields are granted at all, the micro-reduction motivation fails – and a strict particle view is not only factually false, but conceptually incoherent as well.

<snip> . . .

The adjustment in one’s physics, however, is not so simple; the particle view is deeply related to the micro-reductivist position. Particles do not
have
a configuration. They are points. But they do
participate
in configurations relative to each other. Particles are the purported locus of causal power, and the configurations in which they participate are ‘merely’ the stage setting for the working out of the particle causal interactions. That is, causal power is resident in entities that are not configurational, and configuration or organization is merely a stage setting, with no causal power of its own. In this view, organization is factored out as a legitimate locus for causal power – it’s just stage setting – and such delegitimation succeeds because there is a non-configurational candidate available to be such a causal locus: particles. The particle view supports the reductionist view by motivating the elimination of configurations as legitimate loci of causal power. So, abandoning a particle physics in favour of a quantum field physics, a process metaphysics, is not an innocent choice with respect to the issues at hand.

The critical point is that quantum field processes have no existence that is independent of their configurations: quantum fields are processes, and can only exist in various patterns. Those patterns come in many sizes, of many different physical and temporal scales, some as large as a human person, or a social institution – but they are all equally patterns of processes. There is no ‘bottoming out’ level in quantum field theory – it is patterns of process all the way down, and all the way up.

That is the rub. To be a reductive physicalist (or an ‘eliminative materialist’) at all, is to believe that ‘higher-level’ entities are nothing other than complex configurations of lower-level entities, in such a way that the higher-level properties and powers are explicable in principle in terms of the properties and powers of the lower-level entities (or at least, determined by them). Consequently, some entity is reducible just in case it is a configuration of lower-level entities. But now the supposed base-level entities are nothing but configurations of process as well! If there is no ‘bottoming out’, there are no bases to which all other phenomena can, even in principle, be reduced. Our reductive physicalist has lost the ground on which he wants to stand.
If being configurational
makes a property or power epiphenomenal, then everything is an epiphenomenon.
That is the
reductio ad absurdum
of this position.

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"But recent developments in physics tell against that presupposition. What our best contemporary physics reveals is that there are no elementary ‘particles’, fundamental events, or some such particulars. There are only processes of various scales and complexity."

Process - a series of actions or steps

There are only processes? Processes of what? Actions of what? Steps taken by what?

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Fields. Fields and nonlocality join to destroy the possibility of a particle metaphysics and the fantasy of computability.

It doesn't matter for the purpose of philosophy what the field is, call it the "little stuff" field. It is not a particle, that is the point. (Catch the pun?)

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What is the nature of the "little stuff"?

Edit: (From a dictionary): Field - Physics:

the region in which a particular condition prevails, esp. one in which a force or influence is effective regardless of the presence or absence of a material medium.

the force exerted or potentially exerted in such an area : the variation in the strength of the field.

Edited by Trebor

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Is it your view that "all the phenomena of life can be accounted for, described by, and deduced from the laws of physics and chemistry."

(That's from Robert Efron's "Biology Without Consciousness", part two, "The Principle of Reduction," The Objectivist 1968: "The most important premise of the philosophy of materialism which affects the field of biology is the "principle of reduction," that is, the premise that all the phenomena of life can be accounted for, described by, and deduced from the laws of physics and chemistry.")

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Is it your view that "all the phenomena of life can be accounted for, described by, and deduced from the laws of physics and chemistry."

(That's from Robert Efron's "Biology Without Consciousness", part two, "The Principle of Reduction," The Objectivist 1968: "The most important premise of the philosophy of materialism which affects the field of biology is the "principle of reduction," that is, the premise that all the phenomena of life can be accounted for, described by, and deduced from the laws of physics and chemistry.")

No. Read the paper, Trebor. It is an extended refutation of reductive materialism. It helpfully identifies "particle metaphysics" as the enabling premise behind "particle determinism". I have debated many people who have come to OO.net with questions about determinism and free will, and they all have had what seemed to them a powerful and irrefutable explanantion for the way things work or in other words a metaphysics. Getting them to admit that volition is self evident or to be aware of the logical inconsistencies of their argument only gets them halfway to ridding themselves of determinism. The reason is that pointing out logical inconsistencies and appealing to their own power to perceive are epistemological arguments, when what they need is a refutation of their metaphysical premise.

"Little stuff" was a concept invented by Ayn Rand. It is the posited ultimate constituents of matter, smaller than even subatomic particles - its function was to free thought from the content of physics. "The little stuff" has nothing prior to or fundamental to explain it. Peikoff mentions this in lecture 4 of "The Art of Thinking". "Little stuff" is what it is, and it is not up to philosophy to say what are its properties. Philosophy cannot even specify an entity ontology.

edit: added:

The same pattern of thought has occurred since ancient Greece:

Democritus atomic theory was deterministic, and Epicurus introduced the swerve to preserve free will.

Cartesian/Newtonian billiard ball mechanics are deterministic, and Kant made the world safe for religion and souls again by claiming the world was unknowable.

Quantum mechanics are given a probabilistic interpretation, and various 'quantum mystics' claim free will hides in the low probability wave function solutions.

It is all the same pattern. Epicurus accepted Democritus atomic theory, Kant was an enthusiastic Newtonian, and quantum mystics just love love love quantum wierdnesses. All the crazy attempts to defend free will begin by accepting the determinist metaphysics, that only the basic particulars (of whatever theory) have a genuine existence because they are at the bottom of a metaphysical hierarchy.

Thus, particle metaphysics is an endless source of mischief on both sides of the determinism versus free-will debate.

Objectivism rejects metaphysical hierarchies, it endorses epistemological hierarchies.

Edited by Grames

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There are only processes? Processes of what? Actions of what? Steps taken by what?

Membranes vibrating in multi-dimensional spacetime.

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Getting them to admit that volition is self evident or to be aware of the logical inconsistencies of their argument only gets them halfway to ridding themselves of determinism. The reason is that pointing out logical inconsistencies and appealing to their own power to perceive are epistemological arguments, when what they need is a refutation of their metaphysical premise.

This is an astute observation. I run into it with every determinist - ultimately, their (and truly, my) understanding is that everything can be split into smaller and smaller billiard balls. At the very base, you should be able to predict the actions of all things based on billiard-ball type interactions.

I have trouble refuting that. I've tried to used emergent properties to describe it, to match my observations of free will. Are fields an emergent property of matter? Or are fields just 'fields'? Any further description would be appreciated.

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This is an astute observation. I run into it with every determinist - ultimately, their (and truly, my) understanding is that everything can be split into smaller and smaller billiard balls. At the very base, you should be able to predict the actions of all things based on billiard-ball type interactions.

I have trouble refuting that. I've tried to used emergent properties to describe it, to match my observations of free will. Are fields an emergent property of matter? Or are fields just 'fields'? Any further description would be appreciated.

The physical picture that is emerging, and which is described in the paper linked above, is that matter is the emergent phenomena of the elementary fields.

PHYSICALISM, EMERGENCE AND DOWNWARD CAUSATION

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The physical picture that is emerging, and which is described in the paper linked above, is that matter is the emergent phenomena of the elementary fields.

PHYSICALISM, EMERGENCE AND DOWNWARD CAUSATION

MIND = BLOWN. I started to read the article but really need to chew it over a few days/weeks/months to come to terms with it. That really would be an incredible way to think about matter.

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