Re: MGA 3

From: Russell Standish <>
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 2008 08:24:51 +1100

On Mon, Dec 08, 2008 at 09:43:47AM +0100, Bruno Marchal wrote:
> >
> > Michael Lockwood distinguishes between materialism (consciousness
> > supervenes on the physical world) and physicalism (the physical world
> > suffices to explain everything). The difference between the two is
> > that in physicalism, consciousness (indeed any emergent phenomenon) is
> > mere epiphenomena, a computational convenience, but not necessary for
> > explanation, whereas in non-physicalist materialism, there are
> > emergent
> > phenomena that are not explainable in terms of the underlying physics,
> > even though supervenience holds.
> In what sense are they emergent? They emerge from what?

They emerge from the underlying physics (or chemistry, or whatever the
syntactic layer is). Supervenience is AFAICT nothing other than the
concept of emergence applied to consciousness. In many respects it
could be considered to be synonymous.

> > This has been argued in the famous
> > paper by Philip Anderson. One very obvious distinction between
> > the two positions is that strong emergence is possible in materialism,
> > but strictly forbidden by physicalism. An example I give of strong
> > emergence in my book is the strong anthropic principle.
> >
> > So - I'm convinced your argument works to show the contradiction
> > between COMP and physicalism, but not so the more general
> > materialism.
> I don't see why. When I state the supervenience thesis, I explain that
> the type of supervenience does not play any role, be it a causal
> relation or an epiphenomenon.

In your Lille thesis (sorry I still haven't read your Brussels thesis)
you say at the end of section 4.4.1 that SUP-PHYS supposes at minimum
a concrete physical world. I don't see how this follows at all from
the concept of supervenience, but I accept that it is necessary for
(naive) physicalism.

> > I think you have confirmed this in some of your previous
> > responses to me in this thread.
> >
> > Which is just as well. AFAICT, supervenience is the only thing
> > preventing the Occam catastrophe. We don't live in a magical world,
> > because such a world (assuming COMP) would have so many contradictory
> > statements that we'd disappear in a puff of destructive logic!
> > (reference to my previous posting about destructive phenomena).
> I don' really understand. If such argument is correct, how could
> classical logic not be quantum like. The problem of the white rabbits
> is that they are consistent.

Sorry, to be clear - the white rabbits themselves are consistent, and
also also quite rare (ie improbable). However they also tend to come
in "equal and opposite" (ie contradictory) forms so when combined
contribute to the measure of a non-magical world. That is
information destructve phenomena.

As for logic, each individual observer sees a world according to
classical logic. Only by quantifying over multiple observers does
quantum logic come into play. This is a key point I make on page 219
of my book. I'm sorry I haven't found the best way to express the
argument yet - it really is quite subtle. I know Youness had
difficulties with this aspect as well.

I apologise - I have been speaking in coded sentences which require a
deal of unpacking if you are unfamiliar with the concepts. But I'm in
good company here...

A/Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
UNSW SYDNEY 2052         
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Received on Thu Dec 11 2008 - 16:25:13 PST

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