RE: Re: Bruno's argument

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2006 13:22:56 +1000

Bruno Marchal writes:
> > The cited article a rather emotional criticism of Chalmer's ideas.> > > Ah? OK, surely you know a better resume?
Perhaps this one:
>>>Then Chalmers proceeds to present his own theory of consciousness, that he calls "naturalistic dualism" (but might as well have called "naturalistic monism"). It is a variant of what is known as "property dualism": there are no two substances (mental and physical), there is only one substance, but that substance has two separate sets of properties, one physical and one mental. Conscious experience is due to the mental properties. The physical sciences have studied only the physical properties. The physical sciences study macroscopic properties like "temperature" that are due to microscopic properties such as the physical properties of particles. Chalmers advocates a science that studies the "protophenomenal properties" of microscopic matter that can yield the macroscopic phenomenon of consciousness. His parallel with electromagnetism is powerful. Electromagnetism could not be explained by "reducing" electromagnetic phenomena to the known properties of matter: it was explained when scientists introduced a whole new set of properties (and related laws), the properties of microscopic matter that yield the macroscopic phenomenon of electromagnetism. Similarly, consciousness cannot be explained by the physical laws of the known properties but requires a new set of "psychophysical" laws that deal with "protophenomenal properties". Consciousness supervenes naturally on the physical: the "psychophysical" laws will explain this supervenience, they will explain how conscious experiences depend on physical processes. Chalmers emphasizes that this applies only to consciousness. Cognition is governed by the known laws of the physical sciences.<<<
A lot of the stuff criticising Chalmer's thesis is quite strident, at least by the usual academic standards. It's not quite as severe as the reaction to Roger Penrose's theories on the mind, but almost. Many cognitive scientists seem to take anything not clearly straightforward materialism as automatically false or even nonsense. I sympathise with them to a degree: I think we should push materialism and reductionism as far as we can. But the inescapable fact remains, I could know every empirical fact about a conscious system, but still have no idea what it is actually like to *be* that system, as it were from the inside. Denying that this is of any interest does not make it go away.
Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Thu Jul 20 2006 - 23:23:58 PDT

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