A Critique Of Dualism

Youtube user QualiaSoup makes a very cogent video on substance dualism.


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12 thoughts on “A Critique Of Dualism

  1. David says:

    This comment branches off a discussion under the post “Reasons For My Deconversion“.

    “When you acknowledge the domains of objectivity and subjectivity. you’ll have to use them consistently. So let me add the word you omitted in the following phrase. “Whatever experience of subjective free will we have is no more than an objective illusion.”

    Ok, let’s say I added objective to my statement. “Whatever experience of subjective free will we have is no more than an objective illusion.” What I am meaning by objective is how things actually are in reality. It is a feature of the world that is mind independent. So to say that we are subjectively experiencing free will whilst denying it’s objectivity is to be saying – ‘well yes it feels like I have free will and I am really excited by this, but deep down I know this can only be an illusion since I believe no free will exists objectivity (in reality)’ – In other words it a very enjoyable and compelling illusion.

    Thus it follows that not even our reason can’t escape the consequences. As we have no objective freedom to think in terms of right or wrong, we cannot trust the reason that has brought us to our own conclusions. Obviously this seems false because we believe we can distinguish true and false. But since determinacy leads to such contradictions, we may have to abandon it for an alternative that fits the facts better.

    Also it seems strange to use objective and subjective as if these were two independent domains we can switch between. As if they are equal arbiters of truth. If we hold to realism than there can be only one truth and that is what really is. If we undermine our subjective elements then we undermine our ability to come to any objective conclusions. I need to repeat this is not a problem with cognitive science; it is a metaphysical limit that requires explanation, I suppose of similar status to that of the big bang. It has become a more solidified view (if you want I can give you evidence) that competing theories of the big bang, whilst having no ability to be empirically tested and runs in the face of parsimony ,cannot escape the absurdity of the singular event.

    We won’t find positive evidence for dualism because the non-material is a-priori of limits to science. However we can find indirect and negative evidence from the lack of explanatory power science has to describe the phenomena. Furthermore the greatest evidence for dualism comes from our subjective experiences. The only problem with that is, we cannot always show what we know.

    • Hi David. Your comments are indented.

      “When you acknowledge the domains of objectivity and subjectivity. you’ll have to use them consistently. So let me add the word you omitted in the following phrase. “Whatever experience of subjective free will we have is no more than an objective illusion.”

      Ok, let’s say I added objective to my statement. “Whatever experience of subjective free will we have is no more than an objective illusion.” What I am meaning by objective is how things actually are in reality. It is a feature of the world that is mind independent. So to say that we are subjectively experiencing free will whilst denying it’s objectivity is to be saying – ‘well yes it feels like I have free will and I am really excited by this, but deep down I know this can only be an illusion since I believe no free will exists objectivity (in reality)’ – In other words it a very enjoyable and compelling illusion.

      In other words, it is a very enjoyable and compelling objective illusion, but is one of the greatest subjective realities. Let’s not lose sight of the objective/subjective distinction.

      Thus it follows that not even our reason can’t escape the consequences. As we have no objective freedom to think in terms of right or wrong, we cannot trust the reason that has brought us to our own conclusions. Obviously this seems false because we believe we can distinguish true and false. But since determinacy leads to such contradictions, we may have to abandon it for an alternative that fits the facts better.

      It’s a non sequitur to suggest that reason can not be trusted based on its deterministic substrate. We can trust our reason that has brought us to our conclusions to the degree that those reason-derived conclusions provide us with superior predictive power. We can test reason. And we do. And reason has been demonstrated to be superior to any other posited source of knowledge. Forsake what does not work, and follow what works.

      Also it seems strange to use objective and subjective as if these were two independent domains we can switch between. As if they are equal arbiters of truth. If we hold to realism than there can be only one truth and that is what really is. If we undermine our subjective elements then we undermine our ability to come to any objective conclusions. I need to repeat this is not a problem with cognitive science; it is a metaphysical limit that requires explanation, I suppose of similar status to that of the big bang. It has become a more solidified view (if you want I can give you evidence) that competing theories of the big bang, whilst having no ability to be empirically tested and runs in the face of parsimony ,cannot escape the absurdity of the singular event.

      The human mind can indeed switch between objective and subjective realities. We do it all the time. The objective fact that people die every day can inform and mitigate my subjective response to death, but my death will be experienced subjectively.

      And if there are 2 domains of experience (the objective and the subjective), then there are 2 domains of truth that are independent of each other. My “falling in love” can be assessed in both domains without contradiction. Once will describe the objectively determined chemical processes, and the other will describe the subjective wonder of the experience. Both accounts are independently true. But note that the subjective experience is fully embedded within the objective reality. There is nothing within the subjective experience of falling in love that cannot be shown to have a physical correlate in the brain. The fact that the subjective experience feels as if it transcends the brain does not mean it does.

      We won’t find positive evidence for dualism because the non-material is a-priori of limits to science. However we can find indirect and negative evidence from the lack of explanatory power science has to describe the phenomena. Furthermore the greatest evidence for dualism comes from our subjective experiences. The only problem with that is, we cannot always show what we know.

      That’s a fairly new approach to dualism. Previously, dualists were attempting to weigh the soul, and were looking for the seat of the soul when dissecting cadavers.
      Let me suggest that the “lack of explanatory power” you mention is simply another term for a “lack of a satisfying subjective resolution” to questions about who we are. Subjective yearnings for purpose and meaning above what there is evidence for do not legitimate the introduction of an objective immaterial domain. Our subjective experience cannot be reduced to an objective explanation simply because it is subjective. But it does not follow that our subjectivity is not wholly dependent upon the objective substrate of our brains. If subjectivity is independent to some degree of our objective being, then show or predict this. The logical possibility of such means little, and is certainly not parsimonious.

  2. David says:

    (Sorry David. I messed up your original post, but it is all contained in my response below. -phil)

    • Hi again David. Your comments are indented.

      “Let me suggest that the “lack of explanatory power” you mention is simply another term for a “satisfying subjective resolution” to questions about who we are. Subjective yearnings for purpose and meaning above what there is evidence for are not legitimate.”

      First of all I would like to point out that how I came to my belief is a different question to whether my belief is actually true. I hope we can keep the question firmly on whether dualism is true or not, lest we both fall victim to the genetic fallacy.

      Objectivity in the philosophical sense means that a proposition is only considered objective if its truth function is mind independent. ‘Objective’ is in and of itself a neutral term; it has scientific applications – for example we talk about the objectivity of science – yet I think we need to be mindful that the term in its truest sense is not referring to science. For example I don’t need science to verify that this dog in front of me exists as I am quite able to see it myself, similarly I don’t need science to verify that I went to Auckland city the other week. Science can of course verify them in their own terms. Yet these can be objectively true matters without the aid of science.

      I think I agree all the way to this point.

      The biggest implication of this is that all truth we gather from the world is not mind independent. We can never be neutral bystanders to the world because we come to understand all things from the point of our own subjectivity. There is always an observer at the end of a microscope. All knowledge of the world flows through our senses and is grasped by our mind.

      The dualist claims that the world we experience is objectively true, so to the inner mental world of incorrigible images, thoughts and the sense of free will that we all have. They ask why we should only regard information we gather from the 5 senses as the only bearers of objective reality when we have a whole inner world of reality that is commonly called the mind. The dualist posits that both experiences of the external and internal world are objective facts and so both need an adequate explanation.

      That’s right. We cannot directly access the objective qualia. However, we are constrained by this objective qualia in our inductively derived maps of objective reality. It is not a free-for-all. There is no emotional element necessary when assessing through induction the objective world we live in.

      The internal subjective world can be traced to objective facts about the objective brain, and it is by examining the objective brain that produced the subjective experience that we can fully assess and explain the objective substrate of the subjective experience. This will not lead to a subjective understanding of the subjective experience as subjective experiences are being subjectively experienced rather than subjectively assessed. However the objective explanation can theoretically be complete, and cognitive science is making considerable progress in this area. If there is subjective malaise upon the objective explanation, that does not make the objective explanation wrong or incomplete.

      On physicalist terms there is only one viable explanation: the mind has to be thought of as fundamentally composed physical matter (atoms, electro-chemical operations etc). There is nothing else but the movement of neural machinery. This entails determinism as free will cannot be a product of physical causation which is a blind operation. If we conclude we are determined then we have already made a monumental philosophical blunder, as has aptly been pointed out the Philosopher of Science, Karl Popper. He says “According to determinism any theory such as say determinism is held because of a certain physical structure of the holder – perhaps his brain. Accordingly, we are deceiving ourselves and are so physically so determined as to deceive ourselves whenever we believe that there are such things as arguments or reasons which make us accept determinism.”

      You are erroneously employing the term “freewill” without one of the necessary qualifiers of “subjective” or “objective”. I’ve already clearly asked you not to do that. The subjective mind has jurisdiction over the subjective mind, but not necessarily over the objective causes that constrain the objective brain serving as the entire substrate of that subjective mind.

      It follows that without free will we loose the ability to talk meaningfully about any decisions. Our moral decisions become arbitrary as they are determined. We also loose the ability to talk meaningfully about our reason as a determined person would have no ability to distinguish between truth and falsity. The question is not about undermining our ability to trust our reason; it is about holding beliefs that lead to contradiction. If we are true followers of reason then we should seriously consider whether phsyicalism is a reasonable answer to the mind body problem.

      Stop wielding an unqualified “freewill”. It allows you to equivocate at your pleasure. There is a subjective freewill, but no objective freewill. And I do not believe in morality and have explained this in other posts.

      If we are to trace all the bodily causes to my decisions such as my leg movement or my solving of mathematics equations, we would find an incredibly complex set of antecedent events in the nervous system and brain. These will be distributed across vast areas of my brain and will have no single focus and there will be no distinct beginning. What we experience introspectively of these events is quite different. We feel we have initiated the event such as moving the leg. On the neurological front we couldn’t find any one part of the brain that instigated the whole process and even more stranger, we couldn’t separate it from being casually connected to the other events that have just taken place.

      Correct. In fact, cognitive scientists have shown that the mind makes the decision to do something prior to our consciousness being aware that its subjective freewill has made the decision. What feels like a homunculus is actually largely subconscious processes over different modules of the brain that are merely combined in the consciousness to give us the subjective feeling of personhood and coherent agency.

      Philosopher E.J Lowe amongst others has suggested that there are two types of causations we need in order to give a full account of our action. Science is interested in physical causation, which is a blind insofar as they are not directed towards their effects in the way that we direct parts of our bodies. Mental causation is different because it is intentional in nature and directed towards an outcome.

      Lowe writes “Intentional causation is fact causation, while bodily causation is event causation. That is to say, a choice or decision to move one’s body in a certain way is causally responsible for the fact that a bodily movement of a certain kind occurs, whereas a neural event, or set of neural events, is causally responsible for a particular bodily movement… The decision, unlike the neural event, doesn’t causally explain why that particular bodily movement occurs, not least because one cannot intend to cause a particular event, only to bring it about that an event of a certain kind occurs.”

      No problem here.

      Because of the nature of our mind and the inability of phsyicalism to account for it without leading to contradiction, …

      Problem. There is no contradiction unless you are equivocating on the unqualified term “freewill”.

      …the dualist offers arguments for a non-material entity that produces the properties of consciousness and free will, one which interacts causally with the physical.

      You used the word “freewill” as an unqualified term again. Don’t do that. Cognitive science has demonstrated that the subjective mind is fully dependent on the objective brain. If you disagree, propose what mental phenomenon is not dependent on the objective brain, and make predictions we can test. No mere affirmations of your beliefs.

      This position is not new and is found in the writings of Thomas Aquinas. According to leading philosopher of the mind, Jaegwon Kim, Substance dualism is the only real alternative to physicalist reductionism; other positions like property dualism or epiphenomenalism are simply restatements of the same problem. It’s certainly a position that has gained momentum over the last 40 years and I suspect will continue to do so.

      A large body of affirmations equates to zero evidence. Propose what mental phenomenon is not dependent on the objective brain, and make predictions we can test.

      As a summary, you keep failing to qualify your use of “freewill”. There is subjective freewill, but no objective freewill. Anytime you do not qualify “freewill” properly, you can easily construct a contradiction through equivocation. Anytime you properly qualify “freewill” you’ll find no contradiction. No cheating here.

      In addition, if you are suggesting that our subjective mental worlds are not wholly dependent on the substrate of an objective physical brain, then specify how, and how you intend to demonstrate this. Unsubstantiated affirmations are not welcome.

  3. David says:

    Hi Phill

    When I use the word free will I am always talking about it in the libertarian sense. I take it to mean that although we are influenced by certain antecedents; we none the less have a measure of objective free will. I use objective as the general definition of ‘objective’ states: that what is objective is a feature of the world that is mind independent and exists in reality.

    I wasn’t under the impression that free will could be qualified by subjective and objective. I suppose we can claim that free will does not exist objectively, or that we have a subjective experience of free will. However, the dualist would claim that they have a subjective experience of free will which is still an objective feature of the world.
    If free will is only a subjective experience that is not objective; by that very definition, we are committing to the notion that free will is truly an illusion of the mind. As I have pointed out in previous posts, if this is indeed the case and we are completely determined, as this is what is entailed; then we lose all reason for believing that we came to this belief for the reason that it was blind causality of physical matter has brought us to this belief.

    If you want to hold to two independent domains of reality, subjective and objective, then either you have misconstrued the actual meanings of subjective or objective, or you are postulating a certain kind of property dualism. To claim that the dualist needs to empirically prove his argument is to misunderstand what type of argument it is. Dualism is not a scientific hypothesis. It will be influenced by science; but the funny thing is, it is the lack of scientific explanatory power around the phenomena of consciousness that has lead to the resurgence of substance dualisim: not to mention a retreat by certain hardcore physcialits like Jaegwon Kim and John Searle into more subtle positions.

    Mental events, the dualist claims, may well be dependent on the brain, but only insomuch as they are causally related. B (brain) being casually connected to M (mental events) does not entail that B is the same as M. It only shows that they are related in a very fundamental way. Physicalists claim that although we experience M as being fundamentally different from B, it none the less is B. For a number of reasons the substance dualist can claim that the latter position is not the best explanation of mental phenomena.

    J.P Moreland has stated that there are certain features of the mind that cannot be explained in physical terms.
    (a) There is a qualitative feel of what it is like to experience that is characteristic of a mental state like pain
    (b) Mental states have ‘oftnes’ or aboutness directed towards an object.
    (c) Mental states have certain epistemic features; direct access private access etc. This couldn’t be the case if they were just physical. (c,2) They require a subjective ontology: They are owned by the person.
    (d) Mental states fail to have physical features like spatial extension and location. They cannot be characterized using physical langauge.
    (e) Libertarian free acts require a different type of causation to blind physical causation, which, by itself would lead a self contradictory affirmation of the belief in determinism.

    In light of the difficulty that physicalism has with understanding the mind, I think the more plausible explanation is substance dualism. The cause of phenomena like consciousness and free will is a non-physical something. Thus I think this would lead to the conclusion that supernaturalism is true.

    Cheers

    David

    • You’re comments are indented.

      When I use the word free will I am always talking about it in the libertarian sense. I take it to mean that although we are influenced by certain antecedents; we none the less have a measure of objective free will. I use objective as the general definition of ‘objective’ states: that what is objective is a feature of the world that is mind independent and exists in reality.

      We do not have objective free will. Cognitive research points to the conclusion that all the “antecedents” are objective material antecedents.

      I wasn’t under the impression that free will could be qualified by subjective and objective. I suppose we can claim that free will does not exist objectively, or that we have a subjective experience of free will. However, the dualist would claim that they have a subjective experience of free will which is still an objective feature of the world.
      If free will is only a subjective experience that is not objective; by that very definition, we are committing to the notion that free will is truly an illusion of the mind. As I have pointed out in previous posts, if this is indeed the case and we are completely determined, as this is what is entailed; then we lose all reason for believing that we came to this belief for the reason that it was blind causality of physical matter has brought us to this belief.

      Yes, free will is an objective illusion, but a subjective reality. It does not follow from this that the product of the mind cannot reliably correspond to objective truths, and our minds are continuously testing this inductively. What works and provides continued predictive power is what we deterministically learn to rely on. Objective free will is neither necessary nor evident in this process.

      If you want to hold to two independent domains of reality, subjective and objective, then either you have misconstrued the actual meanings of subjective or objective, or you are postulating a certain kind of property dualism. To claim that the dualist needs to empirically prove his argument is to misunderstand what type of argument it is. Dualism is not a scientific hypothesis. It will be influenced by science; but the funny thing is, it is the lack of scientific explanatory power around the phenomena of consciousness that has lead to the resurgence of substance dualisim: not to mention a retreat by certain hardcore physcialits like Jaegwon Kim and John Searle into more subtle positions.

      Not at all. I believe that the subjective realm is wholly dependent on the physical realm. There is no evidence for the dualism you are referring to, and, yes, the burden of proof is indeed on you to provide evidence for this enormous ontological leap.

      Mental events, the dualist claims, may well be dependent on the brain, but only insomuch as they are causally related. B (brain) being casually connected to M (mental events) does not entail that B is the same as M. It only shows that they are related in a very fundamental way. Physicalists claim that although we experience M as being fundamentally different from B, it none the less is B. For a number of reasons the substance dualist can claim that the latter position is not the best explanation of mental phenomena.

      Showing something is logically possible does not also provide positive evidence for its existence.

      J.P Moreland has stated that there are certain features of the mind that cannot be explained in physical terms.
      (a) There is a qualitative feel of what it is like to experience that is characteristic of a mental state like pain
      (b) Mental states have ‘oftnes’ or aboutness directed towards an object.
      (c) Mental states have certain epistemic features; direct access private access etc. This couldn’t be the case if they were just physical. (c,2) They require a subjective ontology: They are owned by the person.
      (d) Mental states fail to have physical features like spatial extension and location. They cannot be characterized using physical langauge.
      (e) Libertarian free acts require a different type of causation to blind physical causation, which, by itself would lead a self contradictory affirmation of the belief in determinism.

      You’re kidding, right? “Personhood” is not a subjectively constructed concept? Is it more than trivial to say that a subjective domain that is wholly dependent on a material substrate will have emergent features that cannot be explained in material terms? Of course the emergent features cannot be explained in material terms, and that is why it is subjective. It does not follow that it must be traced back to something outside its objective material substrate.
      And the emergent properties of a recession do not have spatial extension and location, yet these economic concepts are entirely dependent on a physical substrate.
      If you think I’ve overlooked an emergent property in the mental realm that cannot be traced back to a material substrate, could you elaborate? It may be that I don’t understand what Moreland is stating, but if so, I’d like you to expound (in precise and rigorous terms) how any of his other points actually require abandoning the material substrate.

      In light of the difficulty that physicalism has with understanding the mind, I think the more plausible explanation is substance dualism. The cause of phenomena like consciousness and free will is a non-physical something. Thus I think this would lead to the conclusion that supernaturalism is true.

      Sounds like a new god-of-the-gaps to me. Tactics such as shifting the burden of proof does not lead to a warrant of the introduction of an an entirely new spiritual or soulish domain, especially given the history of science in which this perennially posited domain has dissipated time after time in the face of the advancing web of material explanations. Induction is not your strong point. I understand your yearning for the magic of such a domain, but it may be time to face the preponderance of the evidence.

  4. David says:

    Hi Phil

    “Yes, free will is an objective illusion, but a subjective reality. It does not follow from this that the product of the mind cannot reliably correspond to objective truths, and our minds are continuously testing this inductively. What works and provides continued predictive power is what we deterministically learn to rely on. Objective free will is neither necessary nor evident in this process.”

    What are your reasons for showing how a determined mind could perceive and know objective truths? If our thinking is really just a causal chain of processes that stretch back to the beginning of the universe, it can be nothing more than the workings of blind causation. So believing we are determined is not a belief we can hold without falling into contradiction; that is, to believe in determination would force use to conclude that this belief is another determined belief which essentially undermines the whole belief itself.

    You keep saying subjective reality as if it is an independent reality .This suggests you’re either using the word subjective to mean a subjective illusion that has the appearance of being real, or you’re suggesting another reality, say a property dualist position or an ephiphenomenalist position. Show how these can accomplish more than just restating the question in another way. If the epiphenomenon is physical then it is still part of the ontology of the physical realm and thus susceptible to all the same problems hard physicalism has. If it is something different then we move closer to dualism. I also think arguments are needed for why these positions should be favored over physcialist reductionism or substance dualism.
    “Of course the emergent features cannot be explained in material terms, and that is why it is subjective. It does not follow that it must be traced back to something outside its objective material substrate.”

    This is very interesting. Do you mean they are yet to be explained in material terms and one day they will be or that they are an irreducible feature of our existence? If they can’t be explained in material terms then we have reason to believe they aren’t material. As far as the ‘emergent properties of a recession’ goes, you will have to define what exactly you think the properties are. If they are the felt and understood effects of the recession on a person then that could well be encapsulated in terms of mental phenomena which does no damage to my argument. However I would say outside of that, the properties of a recession are an entirely explainable in physical terms.

    “If you think I’ve overlooked an emergent property in the mental realm that cannot be traced back to a material substrate, could you elaborate?”
    Consciousness cannot be traced back to a material substrate. The brain being able to reflect upon its own thoughts cannot be traced to the material substrate. Free will cannot be traced to a material substrate other than to deny it outright; this goes along with ‘intentional causation’ as an inexplicable fact. We apprehend things about or towards something; this is not what a physical system does.

    The actual images we experienc do not bear resemblance to what is physical. Qualia soup says “thoughts don’t have to exhibit the same properties as the things they represent.” If thoughts do not exhibit physical properties then they are not physical. The physicalist must posit that they do have physical properties, albeit quite different to what they represent, but none the less composed of the same fundamental constituents. As a thought is not located in space and does not have weight then it is reasonable to think that it isn’t a physical property. All Qualia has done is to restate the dualist position.

    We could feasibly describe all processes in physical terms; we could reduce them down to the bare causal relations. Take migration; it is a process of animals moving. We could give accounts of the way all the systems work in the animal to produce such a process. Given enough time the process could be exhaustively analyzed in physical terms. Mental images cannot be susceptible to such scrutiny. It cannot be broken down or analyzed physically other than to say such and such an image correspond to this particular brain state. Yet this only gets us as far as causal relations and not any further to suggesting that the mental is also a physical property. Remember, M causing B does not entail that M is the same as B.

    It might be that I crave this ‘magic domain’. So all the better for me if my desire is edified through valid philosophical arguments.

    Regard

    David.

    • Once again, your comments are indented.

      “Yes, free will is an objective illusion, but a subjective reality. It does not follow from this that the product of the mind cannot reliably correspond to objective truths, and our minds are continuously testing this inductively. What works and provides continued predictive power is what we deterministically learn to rely on. Objective free will is neither necessary nor evident in this process.”
      What are your reasons for showing how a determined mind could perceive and know objective truths? If our thinking is really just a causal chain of processes that stretch back to the beginning of the universe, it can be nothing more than the workings of blind causation. So believing we are determined is not a belief we can hold without falling into contradiction; that is, to believe in determination would force use to conclude that this belief is another determined belief which essentially undermines the whole belief itself.

      If our mind received input from a chaotic and illogical world, then our mental processes would probably be chaotic and illogical.
      However, our minds are constrained by material input that constrains it, and our minds inductively follow what works to aid survival and happiness. Meta-cognition (thinking about thinking) does seem to have significant advantages in respect to survival and happiness. There is certainly no logical problem with an objectively determined subjective mind processing itself, and the fact that we find our subjectivity constrained by the logic of the physical world should make us unsurprised that our subjective minds have the capability to process things logically.

      You keep saying subjective reality as if it is an independent reality .This suggests you’re either using the word subjective to mean a subjective illusion that has the appearance of being real, or you’re suggesting another reality, say a property dualist position or an ephiphenomenalist position. Show how these can accomplish more than just restating the question in another way. If the epiphenomenon is physical then it is still part of the ontology of the physical realm and thus susceptible to all the same problems hard physicalism has. If it is something different then we move closer to dualism. I also think arguments are needed for why these positions should be favored over physcialist reductionism or substance dualism.

      Our subjectivity is as real as money, and is an emergent property of the physical world in the same way that money is. Is money real? Are recessions real? Is free will real? All 3 of these questions depend on the domain you are speaking from. In all 3 cases the answer is objectively “no” and subjectively “yes”. Do the emergent subjective economic concepts ever transcend their material substrate? No. Nor do emergent mental concepts. Immaterialists have had centuries after centuries and inquiry after inquiry to demonstrate that there are immaterial phenomena that cannot be explained by a material cause. At what point are you willing to concede that it is a failed proposition? And presumably, many of these immaterialists could have simply had their immaterial gods whisper a scientific test that would demonstrate a spiritual domain, or could have performed a simple global miracle that science could not explain away. How many more areas of inquiry do we have to debate with materialists before they concede defeat and stop simply backing up to a new focus of science for which material explanations have not yet fully reached. They blame the failed claims of the former generations of immaterialists on failed hermeneutics or lack of faith, and then claim that they’ve got it right now. And they do this without shame. I feel rather embarrassed for them.

      “Of course the emergent features cannot be explained in material terms, and that is why it is subjective. It does not follow that it must be traced back to something outside its objective material substrate.”
      This is very interesting. Do you mean they are yet to be explained in material terms and one day they will be or that they are an irreducible feature of our existence? If they can’t be explained in material terms then we have reason to believe they aren’t material. As far as the ‘emergent properties of a recession’ goes, you will have to define what exactly you think the properties are. If they are the felt and understood effects of the recession on a person then that could well be encapsulated in terms of mental phenomena which does no damage to my argument. However I would say outside of that, the properties of a recession are an entirely explainable in physical terms.

      No I mean the success of explaining subjective concepts requires a subject to be on both ends of the explanation. They will never be satisfactorily objectively explained from emotive subject to emotive subject. It will always feel empty and flat for subjects expecting an emotionally satisfying answer. And it obviously should since this objective material reality is not subjective and feels not for the subjects who are attempting the objective explanation of subjective phenomena.

      “If you think I’ve overlooked an emergent property in the mental realm that cannot be traced back to a material substrate, could you elaborate?”
      Consciousness cannot be traced back to a material substrate. The brain being able to reflect upon its own thoughts cannot be traced to the material substrate. Free will cannot be traced to a material substrate other than to deny it outright; this goes along with ‘intentional causation’ as an inexplicable fact. We apprehend things about or towards something; this is not what a physical system does.

      Consciousness is an emergent property of its material substrate. It emerges. The material substrate will not have the shape, size or color of what emerges from it. If looking at neurons you expect to see something that has the appearance of consciousness, you are confusing what emergent means. It would be similar to your disappointment from not finding the cause of a recession after placing coins under a microscope.

      The actual images we experienc do not bear resemblance to what is physical. Qualia soup says “thoughts don’t have to exhibit the same properties as the things they represent.” If thoughts do not exhibit physical properties then they are not physical. The physicalist must posit that they do have physical properties, albeit quite different to what they represent, but none the less composed of the same fundamental constituents. As a thought is not located in space and does not have weight then it is reasonable to think that it isn’t a physical property. All Qualia has done is to restate the dualist position.

      Correct. Thoughts are not physical. But the are wholly emergent of what is physical in the same way an economy is emergent of what is physical. So call economics and subjectivity what you will. They do not rise to the level of a transcendent immaterialism. For me, “subjectivity” is a fine word. It does not wrongly imply supernaturalism, and yet distinguishes itself nicely from its material substrate. But the emergent domain of subjectivity is wholly dependent on this material substrate.

      We could feasibly describe all processes in physical terms; we could reduce them down to the bare causal relations. Take migration; it is a process of animals moving. We could give accounts of the way all the systems work in the animal to produce such a process. Given enough time the process could be exhaustively analyzed in physical terms. Mental images cannot be susceptible to such scrutiny. It cannot be broken down or analyzed physically other than to say such and such an image correspond to this particular brain state. Yet this only gets us as far as causal relations and not any further to suggesting that the mental is also a physical property. Remember, M causing B does not entail that M is the same as B.

      The subjective domain is not the objective domain. But subjectivity is causally dependent on objectivity. If it disappoints you that the objective substrate does not give you an emotionally satisfying explanation of the subjective experience, its because objectivity cannot experience anything. But its cold harsh reality (as some evidently view it) is the causal substrate of our emotional subjectivity.

      It might be that I crave this ‘magic domain’. So all the better for me if my desire is edified through valid philosophical arguments.

      I’ll grant you that. It does seem you are a great thinker. As long as you are processing our arguments honestly, I am very happy to continue to engage you in this discussion.

      Cheers, Phil

  5. David says:

    Phil

    “Correct. Thoughts are not physical. But they are wholly emergent of what is physical in the same way an economy is emergent of what is physical.”

    Well this is not a particularly good analogy. An economy can only come about if there are conscious entities that can formulate such a thing. We would expect only another physical thing to emerge from a physical process. Moreover if thoughts aren’t physical then what else could they be? For the scientist, the term ‘emergent’ in the sense you use is just as mystifying as the term non-physical. I think the most basic question to ask is around how a physical system has come to produce the emergent property of self awareness. It’s all well to say that the brain evolved to see itself, yet it can only remain a very shallow conjecture. Even if we got as far as to give a hypothesis concerning this, there are still huge problems with tying up such issues as intentional causation.

    “There is certainly no logical problem with an objectively determined subjective mind processing itself, and the fact that we find our subjectivity constrained by the logic of the physical world should make us unsurprised that our subjective minds have the capability to process things logically.”

    I beg to differ; there is manifestly a logical problem with postulating a determined mind in the objective sense. Physical determinism entails that there is no possible way to formulate reasons for accepting such an idea in the first place. But we have formulated reasons! We have studied the brain and found that there is no place for freedom in a physical object. And yet we have somehow come to this conclusion by aid of the very peace of grey matter we are studying. So I guess we are back at the emergent properties again.

    I really don’t think epiphenomenalism or its emergent variants are any better than the physicalist reductionist position. Emergent properties are a vague concept and only help to shift the question around rather than giving any significant answers to the problems at hand. Modern substance dualism as well as property dualism ( even pansychism) are at the forefront of discussion in philosophy of the mind for the reason that the positions that have been held in the last 60 years have by in large failed to give adequate answers for consciousness and free will. I have a lot more work to do on understanding these positions and I am open to revising them in light of new philosophical developments. For the time being I think that to substance dualism is the best explanation.

    David

    • Hi again, David. Your words are again indented.

      “Correct. Thoughts are not physical. But they are wholly emergent of what is physical in the same way an economy is emergent of what is physical.”
      Well this is not a particularly good analogy. An economy can only come about if there are conscious entities that can formulate such a thing.

      And so with freewill. Freewill can only come about if there are conscious entities that can formulate such a thing. I’m not sure what you are saying. It sounds like you are arguing my point.

      We would expect only another physical thing to emerge from a physical process.

      Precisely. What we subjectively tag “freewill” is, at its objective base, physical.

      Moreover if thoughts aren’t physical then what else could they be?

      If economies aren’t physical then what else could they be? Are they supernatural? Do they demand the existence of a soul?
      Economies emerge from the objective substrate of physical entities, and in a subjective realm that is wholly dependent on that material objective realm, exist as constructs of minds which are themselves constructs of their physical substrate. You continue to equivocate between objective and subjective.

      For the scientist, the term ‘emergent’ in the sense you use is just as mystifying as the term non-physical.

      Mystifying? Only when demanding an emotionally satisfying objective explanation for something experienced subjectively. The subjective experience is not the objective substrate. It emerges from that objective physical substrate. Just as with a “recession”, it is wholly dependent upon that objective physical substrate. Subjective yearning for an emotionally satisfying objective explanation to subjective experience is subjectively natural, but objectively invalid.

      I think the most basic question to ask is around how a physical system has come to produce the emergent property of self awareness.

      Self-awareness is a subjective experience. Your question is illegitimate as the answer you yearn for is not an explanation of the physical causation of self-awareness. If you want a legitimate objective material causal explanation for self-awareness, there have been recently published dozens of books on this topic you’ll find on Amazon. But it appears you are not looking for a legitimate objective material causal explanation. You want an objective explanation that feels subjective. You’ll not find one, and it is illegitimate to seek one.

      It’s all well to say that the brain evolved to see itself, yet it can only remain a very shallow conjecture.

      You have obviously not read much on evo-devo, or you are still looking for an objective explanation that feel approximate to the subjective experience. I encourage you to listen to “Brain Science Podcast”. And note that you, like millions before you, are once again suggesting that for “this” phenomenon, there must most certainly be divine agency. How many failures will convince the supernaturalists that we are not likely to find divine agency interfering anywhere in the physical causal chain?

      Even if we got as far as to give a hypothesis concerning this, there are still huge problems with tying up such issues as intentional causation.

      There will be problems only if you are illegitimately trying to uncover an objective explanation for intentional causation that feels subjectively proximate to that experience. A recession has no resemblance to the paper, metal and neurons upon which it is based.

      “There is certainly no logical problem with an objectively determined subjective mind processing itself, and the fact that we find our subjectivity constrained by the logic of the physical world should make us unsurprised that our subjective minds have the capability to process things logically.”
      I beg to differ; there is manifestly a logical problem with postulating a determined mind in the objective sense. Physical determinism entails that there is no possible way to formulate reasons for accepting such an idea in the first place. But we have formulated reasons!

      Create a syllogism for your argument that physical determinism entails that there is no possible way to formulate reasons. I’d like to see how you came to this conclusion. I’ve never hear a physical determinist claim this.

      We have studied the brain and found that there is no place for freedom in a physical object. And yet we have somehow come to this conclusion by aid of the very peace of grey matter we are studying. So I guess we are back at the emergent properties again.

      If the determined circuitry of a computer was advanced enough to self-assess, this would not, in the slightest way, undermine the fact that its circuitry was determined.

      I really don’t think epiphenomenalism or its emergent variants are any better than the physicalist reductionist position. Emergent properties are a vague concept and only help to shift the question around rather than giving any significant answers to the problems at hand.

      No, emergent properties are a very integral part of science now in everything from the vortices created by collections of gas molecules, to the hive dynamics of bees, to the dynamics of an economy. You are suggesting that the emergent properties of the brain are somehow attributed to god. Why would the brain have emergent properties any less physically caused than the emergent properties of molecules or bees?

      Modern substance dualism as well as property dualism ( even pansychism) are at the forefront of discussion in philosophy of the mind for the reason that the positions that have been held in the last 60 years have by in large failed to give adequate answers for consciousness and free will.

      No. This is like the Muslim saying that there have been no adequate rebuttals of Islam over the centuries. They dismiss the rebuttals because they don’t match what they want to hear. And as long as you think you need an objective explanation of freewill that will allow you to maintain what you are emotionally committed to, you’ll continue to claim that any and all objective explanations are inadequate.

      I have a lot more work to do on understanding these positions and I am open to revising them in light of new philosophical developments. For the time being I think that to substance dualism is the best explanation.

      You started your exploration with the wrong default. The success of methodological naturalism warrants the default to a material causal chain that will fit neatly into the ever-growing corpus of scientific knowledge in which no sign of supernatural causation is found. I’ve just written a new post on this.

  6. David says:

    Jaegwon Kim states that “a physicalist must, it seems, accept some form of the principle that the physical domain is causally closed”. This is no great revelation, but it is important to bear in mind in this discussion.

    I do not think that emergent properties in the way you use them, are sufficient paradigms for understanding mental causation. Firstly, all emergent properties which scientists study are causally explainable and thus fit into the causally closed domain. These examples of emergence do not in any way bolster the case for consciousness, rather they make it more obvious that consciousness is nothing like the emergent properties just mentioned. There is no empirical evidence for consciousness as an emergent property and thus I see no reason for claiming that we can make sense of this so called emergent property.

    In regards to economies and recessions, I would say they are physical insamuch as industry, property and coins are physical, but what gives them their dynamics is the minds and intentions of people; thus we are dealing with the mind again. In other words a recession is not physically necessary and cannot be analogous to the emegent properties in chemistry and physics.

    “If the determined circuitry of a computer was advanced enough to self-assess, this would not, in the slightest way, undermine the fact that its circuitry was determined.”

    I will go with John Seale on this one and argue that a computer would only give the apperance of concsiousness rather then true self-assesment. Furthermore there wouldn’t be any way to emprically prove that the machine was self assesing.

    If we take the physicalist position then we believe all events in the brain including the mental are physical and causally closed. Physical causality is by necessity a blind operation. So if we hold the belief we are detirminied physically then we are saying something to the liking, ‘that because of such and such brain state I am in, I have reached this decision about myself being detirmined.’ This undermines our ability to trust our decision making because, following the definition of physical detirminism, we have come to a decision not because we have thought and deliberated on the truth, but because such and such a brain state has occured via “blind” operation. Thus our whole belief in detirminism is void of any credibility. I am certainly not void in support from philosophers (across a range of tastes), for this conclusion; In fact I think this is one of the central problems that has caused so many philosophers of the mind to abandon hard physicalism in favour of property dualism and it’s bed fellows.

    Since detirminism is not a view we can hold without contradicting ouselves, I think the best response is to say that cognative science has not shown us the way to naturalistic fulfilment. As Gandalf says “There are questions that need answering”. Does emergentism or property dualism do this? Well only insofar as they reframing the question. Less begging the question and more argument please.

    David

    • Your comments are indented.

      Jaegwon Kim states that “a physicalist must, it seems, accept some form of the principle that the physical domain is causally closed”. This is no great revelation, but it is important to bear in mind in this discussion.
      I do not think that emergent properties in the way you use them, are sufficient paradigms for understanding mental causation. Firstly, all emergent properties which scientists study are causally explainable and thus fit into the causally closed domain. These examples of emergence do not in any way bolster the case for consciousness, rather they make it more obvious that consciousness is nothing like the emergent properties just mentioned. There is no empirical evidence for consciousness as an emergent property and thus I see no reason for claiming that we can make sense of this so called emergent property.

      Feel free to provide an argument that shows it is supernatural. We’ve been waiting for such for 2,000+ years.

      In regards to economies and recessions, I would say they are physical insamuch as industry, property and coins are physical, but what gives them their dynamics is the minds and intentions of people; thus we are dealing with the mind again. In other words a recession is not physically necessary and cannot be analogous to the emegent properties in chemistry and physics.

      Demonstrate that they come from a supernatural realm. We’ve been waiting for this for 2,000+ years.

      “If the determined circuitry of a computer was advanced enough to self-assess, this would not, in the slightest way, undermine the fact that its circuitry was determined.”

      I will go with John Seale on this one and argue that a computer would only give the apperance of concsiousness rather then true self-assesment. Furthermore there wouldn’t be any way to emprically prove that the machine was self assesing.

      If you are attempting to make an argument here, make the argument.

      If we take the physicalist position then we believe all events in the brain including the mental are physical and causally closed. Physical causality is by necessity a blind operation.

      Explain clearly why the logical space does not allow anything other than blind possibility.

      So if we hold the belief we are detirminied physically then we are saying something to the liking, ‘that because of such and such brain state I am in, I have reached this decision about myself being detirmined.’ This undermines our ability to trust our decision making…

      Not even close. If our decision making works, it can be deemed superior to what does not work.

      …because, following the definition of physical detirminism, we have come to a decision not because we have thought and deliberated on the truth, but because such and such a brain state has occured via “blind” operation. Thus our whole belief in detirminism is void of any credibility.

      Laughable. If it works, it has credibility regardless of the mechanism for it working. Simply assess the mind against logic. To the degree that it maps to logic, it is reliable.

      I am certainly not void in support from philosophers (across a range of tastes), for this conclusion; In fact I think this is one of the central problems that has caused so many philosophers of the mind to abandon hard physicalism in favour of property dualism and it’s bed fellows.

      This smells like the fear of those possessing a weak argument. If you have a strong argument, present it rather than invoking people you think agree with you. What a waste of time. Don’t try this again.

      Since detirminism is not a view we can hold without contradicting ouselves,…

      Laughable. When did you decide you’ll not need to substantiate your arguments. Do you think simple affirmation of your arguments will suffice?

      I think the best response is to say that cognative science has not shown us the way to naturalistic fulfilment.

      And quantum physics has not shown us how to treat our neighbors.

      As Gandalf says “There are questions that need answering”. Does emergentism or property dualism do this? Well only insofar as they reframing the question. Less begging the question and more argument please.

      As Phil says “there are questions that need no answering.”

      And do NOT accuse me of begging the question without providing evidence of such.

      Actually, I’ve grown quite weary of you, and I’m intolerant of those who accuse others of “begging the question” without showing how. Mere affirmations have no place on this site, and that’s what you have been reduced to. Sorry David. You’re no longer welcome to post.

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