Re: Can mind be a computation if physics is fundamental?

From: David Nyman <>
Date: Sun, 2 Aug 2009 16:31:51 +0100

2009/8/1 Brent Meeker <>:

> Is the physics account of life incomplete or wrong?

I'm not claiming this.

> Do you consider "life" to have been
> eliminated?

No I dont. In my piece I defined computation as an arbitrary - though
humanly useful - interpretative model imposed on, but not tied to,
specific physical events, since it can be instantiated in arbitrarily
many, and competely different, physical forms. Life, by contrast, is
a higher-order description tied directly to, and supervening
one-for-one on, highly specific lower-order physical events, and
relying on this precise reducibility for its justification.

However, in a different sense, 'life' is indeed eliminable in a way
that the first-person is not. Any higher order concept supervening on
physics (and which does not, in the physical narrative?) is eliminable
in this way. IOW, the physical world goes its own sweet way without
our conceptual analyses. Hence this is not a problem for life or any
merely humanly-imposed concept. But the first-person narrative
UNIQUELY escapes this categorisation.

It's absolutely fundamental: no higher-order account of physical
events - such as life - requires or makes use of any explanatory
entity or principle other than those derived from third-person
observation. Whereas the first-person narrative, by contrast - and
it's the greatest contrast imaginable - IS the observation. IOW, it
does not present itself merely as a convenient humanly-concocted
conception devoid of ontological distinctiveness (although - and this
is at the heart of the confusion - it can be analogised about in this
way). Rather, it IS the ontological situation in which we discover
our existence and in terms of which all other narratives are

The only way to dodge this blow without shilly-shallying or
obfuscation is to deny the exception. To be satisfied that mind - the
first-person - is exhausted by what we can discern by means of
third-person observation - IOW physical events - re-formulated as a
higher-order account; and hence that it is, in the final analysis,
eliminable. This conceptual inability of the current physical account
to make sense of the unique status of the first-person is why it has
to be either incomplete or wrong as a 'theory of everything'.


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Received on Sun Aug 02 2009 - 16:31:51 PDT

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