Re: An idea to resolve the 1st Person/3rd person division mystery - Coarse graining is the answer!?

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Date: Mon, 07 May 2007 01:30:43 -0000

On May 6, 10:51 pm, "Stathis Papaioannou" <> wrote:
> On 06/05/07, <> wrote:
> Non-reductive materialism *doesn't* say that a person's person state
> > could be different even though his physical state is unchanged. If it
> > did, you are right, it wouldn't be materialism. In all forms of
> > materialism, the person's mental state has to be completely fixed by
> > the physical state.
> > What non-reductive materialism *does* say is that high-level
> > properties of a complex system are not completely reducible to
> > descriptions in terms of lower level properties. That is, there exist
> > real (objective) high-level properties of a system which cannot be
> > replaced by low-level descriptions.
> Then it seems to be a matter of semantics. You could say that a pair of peas
> cannot be explained in terms of one pea and another pea because "pair" is a
> higher level property of the system. It's just that in the case of this
> trivial example, our minds easily and intuitively see that the pair really
> is nothing more than the sum of its parts. We might imagine
> super-intelligent beings who could immediately see all sorts of
> fantastically intricate, complex systems for what they really are.

In the particular exmaple you just gave, 'pair' is *not* an
*objectively real* high-level property of the system. In this case
'pair' is indeed just a human construct which makes it easier for us
to understand the system. The system in this example *can* be reduced
to merely the sum of the parts. But I don't think all systems can.
The deciding factor is whether the higher level description is
*indispensible* or not. (See philosophy literature for 'Argument From
Indispensibility'). In the example you gave the higher level
description ('pair') *can* be dispensed with (the system is actually
merely the sum of the parts). So this is indeed a completely
reductionistic example. but not all levels of description can be
dispensed with so easily.

> Unfortunately reductionism appears to *the* modern day dogma of
> > science and it seems to be near impossible to get through to anyone in
> > the grip of this dogma. 'Eliminative materialism' is all the rage
> > these days aka Daniel Dennett and co who think that consciousness is
> > 'just a fiction' (even though Dennett uses these same-said high level
> > cognitive processes to reason his way to his absurd conclusion).
> It's obviously crazy to say consciousness is just a fiction; just as it's
> crazy to say a pair of peas is just a fiction. This is not the same as
> saying that the idea of consciousness as a separate ontological entity is
> just a fiction.

True. But the two cases 'consciousness' and 'pair of peas' are quite
different. As I agreed 'pair of peas' is merely a human construct.
So let's clarfiy the terminology then: the question is whether
consciousness is merely a 'human mental construct' similair to the
term 'pair of peas' or whether consciousness does exist as an
objectively real ontological entity. I'm saying it does.

Below I gave example of things ('laws of physics' and 'infinite sets')
which cannot be reduced to seperate parts in the way the 'pair of
peas' system could.

> We know for sure (via the argument from indispensability) than there
> > exist mathematical concepts (for instance uncomputable numbers and
> > infinite sets) which *cannot* be identified with finite physical
> > processes. Yet we see great minds desperate to try to deny the
> > existence of uncomputables (J.Schmidhuber on this very list just
> > showed up recently and tried to argue that only discrete math is
> > real!) - even though in fact Cantor put infinite sets on an infallible
> > footing long ago (and Abraham Robinson did the same for
> > infinitesimals). See this link for an artilce I wrote giving a quick
> > demolition of the arguments against infinite sets:
> >
> > The bottom line is that if infinite sets are real (and they are!)
> > reductive materialism is false.
> I don't see how that follows, even if by "real" you mean physically real as
> opposed to mathematically real.

It follows because there are *no* finite physical parts you can point
to which identify an infinite set. Think of the 'pair of peas'
example you gave. In that example, you *could* reduce the concept
'pair of peas' to finite physical parts with which you could identify
the system. In the case of an 'inifinite set' you cannot. No finite
set of physical objects can be identified with an infinite set. We
know inifinite sets are real because they are *indispensible* to our
explanations of reality (See 'Cantor'). This shows that there exist
high level concepts which *cannot* be broken to finite parts.

Now there is a possible question mark here regarding the distinction
(as you pointed out) between mathematical reality and physical
reality. That's why I gave yet another example below of something
which *is* clearly physical, yet also cannot be broken down into
seperate parts (the ontological category 'laws of physics').

> But it doesn't stop there: Science itself (via the notion of 'laws of
> > physics') uses concepts which are supposed to be *universal* in
> > scope. But universals by definition cannot be empirically identified
> > with any finite physical concept. Again the very use of universals
> > ('laws of physics') actually falsifies the reductionist claims.
> This reminds me of the consternation that the logical positivists
> experienced with the verifiability principle for what was meaningful in
> science - which is not itself subject to the verifiability principle!

Correct! Considerations like these are why logical positivism went
out of fashion. the point is that even in the physical sciences there
exist high level concepts which cannot be reduced to the interactions
of finite physical things.

>Still, I don't think this has any bearing on reductionism. The scientific method is
> about how we are to go about discovering scientific truths, just as the
> adversarial method in a court of law is about how to decide guilt or
> innocence "beyond reasonable doubt". But the world is as it is regardless of
> our methods of investigation.

But it *does* have a bearing of reductionism because the very term
*laws of physics* IS itself an ontology category! The point is that
the physicals science use the concept *laws of physics* as an
ontological category, and this category requires explanation.

We can quite legitimately ask: what does the concept *laws of physics*
refer to? (Just as we asked , in the example you gave: what does the
concept *pair of peas* refer to). In your example, we found that the
concept *pair of peas* could be broken down (reduced) to a lower level
description (ie. the system was indeed merely the sum of the parts).
But in the case of the concept *laws opf physics* we find that we
*cannot* break down (reduce) this concept to any finite set of
physical objects or processes. It is also the case that the concept
*laws of physics* is *indispensible* to the scientific method, so it
cannot be argued away as some kind of semantic trick.

We have here a clear example of an indispensible *physical* concept
which *cannot* be broken down or reduced to any finite lower level
descriptions. This proves that reductive materialism is false.

> --
> Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Sun May 06 2007 - 21:31:01 PDT

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