Re: Against Physics

From: Rex Allen <>
Date: Thu, 13 Aug 2009 04:38:51 -0400

I owe Bruno and Brent a response's in the works!


On Tue, Aug 11, 2009 at 11:38 AM, David Nyman<> wrote:
> 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.

Exactly. This is a good way of putting it. In this case our choices
would be 'owned' by the physical universe as whole. Not just the bits
of matter that had some causal influence on the choice, but also the
physical laws by which that causal influence was transmitted.

> 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.

I agree with this also. I think. The feeling of free will is a type
of qualia. There's something that it's like to be in pain. There's
something that it's like to make a decision.

BUT I don't think this "free will" issue is a particularly crucial
point. I could say more about it, but it seems like a tangent. Not
entirely unrelated, but not central either. So I'll move on.

> 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.

Causality. Causality. Causalty. Hmmm.

So really I am arguing against causal explanations. I think this the
core of my current argument. The feeling that something is happening
*NOW* is just another example of qualia I think. The certainty of
feeling that *that* caused *this*...more qualia.

Causality doesn't get you anywhere, because it doesn't start cleanly.
This is why I keep bringing up "uncaused" beginnings. If *this*
happened because of *that*, then why did *that* happen? You can't get
to the start of it in a way that makes sense.

If you have the starting conditions (which are uncaused) and the laws
that govern the evolution of the system (also uncaused), then the rest
is basically a given, right? A mere formality. Anything that follows
was implicit within the starting conditions and the governing laws.

Every step in the evolution of the system can be seen as existing
simultaneously with it's beginning. And as such the entire system
JUST EXISTS. Uncaused. Acausal. Fundamental.

If you exist within such a system, your entire experience exists as a
result of the starting conditions and governing laws, and exists
simultaneously with the system's beginning and all it's subsequent
states. Again, there is no answer to any question of "why" in
reference to the system. The system just is the way it is. It's
starting conditions are axiomatic, it's governing rules are
inferential, it's results are tautological.

> 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.

I agree. A lot of inconvenient questions seem to have gotten swept
under the rug.

So as I've mentioned, it seems to me that science's role is to
construct theoretical models that accurately match what we have
observed. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. But obviously
they've had great success with this, thus their authority. But, as I
mentioned above, it is what it is. Things will play out the way they
play out. Tautology.

> BTW Rex, your recent presence on the list has been welcome and
> thought-provoking.

Ah! Thanks, glad to hear it!

> It would be interesting to know a little about the
> background you bring to your thinking.

Well, I have a BS in computer systems engineering, and 02 years of
graduate school in the same, though I never quite got around to
finishing my thesis, so no MSCSEG degree to show for my efforts. And
I've been a computer programmer for 15 years, in various
areas...mainly cartography, communications, business accounting
software, web development, and gaming.

So not to go into too much detail, but probably the key moments in the
development of my philosophical world view were:

1) Realizing that deterministic classical physics meant no
libertarian free will when I was 21 years old or so, about 2 minutes
before a professor wrote on the chalk board in big letters "NO FREE
WILL". For those 2 minutes though, I was really thunderstruck. I
thought "Holy crap, this is incredible! Am I the first person to
realize this???" So I spent the next 09 years or so trying to come to
grips with the implications of that, which was hard, because I really
wanted to take full credit for all the great things I'd done. But,
then as my 30th birthday came and went, I decided maybe I didn't have
that many great things to take credit for after all, so screw free
will. Who needs it anyway.

2) My introduction to functionalism and computationalism and some of
the related issues like the strange implications of multiple
realizeability via Hans Moravec's book "Robot: Mere Machine to
Transcendent Mind" in the late 1990s. This gave me something to think
about in my spare time for several years.

3) AND, most recently, about 18 months ago, when I finally got around
to reading David Chalmers' paper "Facing Up to the Problem of
Consciousness". I'd heard a little about the "hard problem" of
consciousness prior to that, and I was familiar with the basic issues,
but I didn't fully understand until that moment. It wasn't quite the
shock that my free will "discovery" had been, but it was still a
moment of revelation, where one second I didn't see the problem at
all, and the next second I couldn't believe that I had failed to see
it for so long.

Since then I've put a lot more time into trying to understand what it
all means. And I'm leaning towards concluding that it doesn't "mean"
anything. It just is. Which is a strange conclusion to come to after
18 months of pretty intense thought...

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Received on Thu Aug 13 2009 - 04:38:51 PDT

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