Re: Against Physics

From: David Nyman <>
Date: Tue, 11 Aug 2009 16:38:00 +0100

2009/8/11 Rex Allen <>:

> You speak as if though we have a choice as to how we behave!  This I
> can't see at all.
> Whether our behavior is caused subatomic particles or arithmetic, or
> is completely uncaused, there is no room for libertarian free will.

Whether will is free, and whether it is mine, are different issues.
Complete freedom of will involves a contradiction - randomness is not
choice, and choice always entails constraints. Indeed it is ironical
that when we are most self-willed we often say how 'determined' we
feel. Freedom of will consists in my not being prevented from doing
whatsoever I am capable of, and this is something that evolves. For
example, today I am both capable of, and not prevented from, being in
New York tomorrow; 100 years ago I would not have had such capability,
and hence no freedom in this matter.

However, 'free' or not, the willing can still be *ours*. The standard
view of physics is that things are causally closed 'out there', and
this seems to rule out that such causation can in any sense be 'owned'
by us. This is the view that I think is mistaken, precisely because
it is contradicted by our very experience. And far from being
'illusory', this is the most cogent reason possible to doubt such a
view. Illusions, it should be recalled, are not incorrect
perceptions; the perceptions are correct, even if the object of
perception is other than we imagine. And here it is precisely the
ownership self-evidently present to us that requires explanation.

Such an explanation entails that ownership be intrinsic to the whole
of existence, and thus that every "I" is a point-of-view of that
whole, not an isolated soul.

> Well, I'm just using the block universe as a way of trying to make my
> point more clear.
> My point being that consciousness is fundamental and uncaused.
> My secondary point being that even if consciousness is NOT
> fundamental, then it is STILL ultimately uncaused if it results from
> any system that is itself uncaused...
> My tertiary point being that if we have no evidence which points one
> way or the other between consciousness being fundamental or not, the
> default position would seem to be that it is fundamental.

Well of course any regress must stop somewhere, and in this sense
everything is fundamentally uncaused (unless one subscribes to the
magic power of arithmetical truth to pluck up reality by its
hair-roots). But beyond this, causation still retains a vital sense
in the inter-relation of the essential features of existence. To be
willing to say nothing on this strikes us more or less dumb, and I
don't think this aspect is what Wittgenstein had in mind in his famous

As to whether consciousness is fundamental, there I am in sympathy,
although as you know by now I put a slightly different slant on it by
seeking to show that existence itself is in effect equivalent to what
we call consciousness. The reason I do this is to eliminate any need
to invoke something like panpsychism as an adjunct to physicalism - in
my view this is tantamount to dualism, with all the incoherencies that
entails. I don't believe that this is arbitrary in the least: the
notion of a species of 'existence' conceived as totally devoid of
self-access, such as that usually assumed to be implied by physics, is
self-annihilating. IOW it is an 'existence' that nobody would ever
know about, thus falling victim to Occam's razor in the most egregious
degree. So on this basis, we may assert two axioms:

1) Existence simply IS a self-causing self-accessing continuity
2) All phenomena appear as self-relativisations of 1)

From these axioms, we can build a subsidiary notion of causation which
achieves 'closure' step-by-step through the indivisibility of
self-cause and self-access. My contention is that any causal schema
must have these features even to begin to account for our presence in
the context of what we observe. Having questioned Bruno pretty
closely I now feel reasonably convinced that he takes COMP to fulfil
these criteria via the self-reflecting, self-relating characteristics
of the number realm. This is not at all to say that COMP is thereby
true; only that it isn't obviously false on this basis.

Standard physicalism, on the other hand, by banishing self-access from
its fundamental notions of causal adequacy (though arrogating the
right to whisk a mysteriously powerless ghost of it back later by
sleight of intuition) is clearly false (incomplete is the more politic
term). The reason this isn't more widely understood rests of course
on the prestige of science, the authority of which has reached the
point where we're apparently willing to take seriously the absurdity
that the universe is a sterile pointless farago that could as well
play out in the absence of all experience.

BTW Rex, your recent presence on the list has been welcome and
thought-provoking. It would be interesting to know a little about the
background you bring to your thinking.


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Received on Tue Aug 11 2009 - 16:38:00 PDT

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