Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Does the material add up to the mental?


Further, when people define matter, they do it by defining the mental out of it. If we start attributing mental properties to matter at the basic level of analysis, we don't call that materialism, we call it panpsychism. Yet, we couldn't do science without minds, so somehow these material states some how add up, put together, to a mental state. OK, but now, it looks to me as if, if you add up material states until doomsday, you never close the question of whether the mental state is there. The computer beats me in chess, but does it have the inner states of mind that go along with winning a chess game. Most of us would say no. So something can function as mental, it seems to me, without actually being mental.

  • 27 comments:

    Martin said...

    To preempt the usual accusations of "composition fallacy! composition fallacy!" ...

    If one wants to say that matter so arranged gives rise to new properties that are not present in matter, then one is conceding the argument, because "matter giving rise to non-material properties" just is the very definition of property dualism. Granted, it isn't substance dualism, but it still concedes the force of the argument and accepts dualism as the solution.

    Hal said...

    If you look at the history of this planet, you'll see a huge diversity of powers that can be attributed to different substances. Living substances have powers that are not present in non-living substances. And sentient-substances display powers that are not present in non-sentient substances.

    I find all of this to be quite wonderful but not mysterious. When contemplating the myriad powers display by the substances on this planet no one should find it mysterious that some of these substances also have mental powers.



    Martin said...

    The problem is that the mental is so very different from the physical. Other phenomena, like flying, are not different from the physical. Flying involves one substance (wings) pushing against another (air). But "pushing" is a physical notion, so there isn't any problem there.

    But the mental is entirely the opposite of the physical.

    Zach said...

    Martin that doesn't work, as then you would be a dualist about digestion, a property not inherent at the basic level. Just because mental intuitively seems different from the material is not really a good argument (the Earth intuitively seems to be not moving to me). We need strong arguments, not just impressions of difference. The fallacy of composition is inherent in these types of posts of Victor, though in this one he has at least in the last sentence connected with an argument against functionalism specifically (but not a particularly strong one, but at least he tried).

    The best arguments will be derived from considerations of the subjective qualitative properties of conscious experiences. For instance, even at higher levels, science only tells you about relational properties, not intrinsic properties. I will spell this out at my blog sometime, but Bertrand Russell did so about 100 years ago :)

    Martin said...

    >then you would be a dualist about digestion, a property not inherent at the basic level.

    That's just like flying. Digestion involves the breaking down of food particles. They break apart in the intestines. But "breaking apart" is a physical notion. Two atoms can be stuck together, and the come apart. So digestion does not involve any new or non-physical properties.

    >We need strong arguments, not just impressions of difference.

    I think the arguments for at least property dualism can be seen to be pretty strong.

    In fact, most mental properties are opposite those of physical properties. Mental events do not involve extension, where as physical properties do. Mental events are about or of things, whereas physical properties are not. Etc. The list is long, and almost everything essential to mental events are the opposite of what is essential to physical events.

    >The fallacy of composition is inherent in these types of posts of Victor

    And here I thought my first comment above would preempt such accusations. If one says that matter so arranged can in fact give rise to novel properties, then one is a property dualist and has conceded the argument.

    Hal said...

    Martin,

    I think you are failing to realize the vast differences between the organic and inorganic. We couldn't understand the organic relying only on the concepts we use for understanding the inorganic.

    Martin said...

    Well, that's debatable. Physicalists would say that there is no physical difference between the organic and the inorganic. That biology can be reduced to chemistry and that chemistry can be reduced to physics.

    Hal said...

    Martin,
    Not every physicalist. And I don't see how that matters.

    I surely don't see any particles at the subatomic level exhibiting the powers of living things.

    Do you?

    By the way, have you taken organic and inorganic chemistry? I had to take a year course which combined the two as a prerequisite. I sailed through inorganic chemist portion. I had no problem grasping the concepts employed and using them to perform the lab experiments. Fortunately so, because the concepts in organic chemistry were very difficult for me to understand. It was like taking a completely different subject.

    Guess that is why I am not all that mystified that some living things have mental powers. If there is anything really mysterious in evolution it is the transition from nonliving matter to living matter.


    ingx24 said...

    But all there is to living matter is a different chemical composition. It's more complicated, yes, and you have to deal with it differently. But that doesn't mean it's ontologically different in kind from inorganic matter, or that it has an irreducible "form" as Aristotelians would claim.

    ingx24 said...

    Also: The "powers" of living things are, in a sense, ontologically reducible to matter in motion. Given the material state of a living thing, things like metabolism, reproduction, growth, etc. follow logically. We find it useful to classify certain material activities as "growth", "metabolism", "reproduction", and so on, but these are more or less concepts rather than ontologically irreducible "powers".

    Sentience and mentality, on the other hand, seem to be a completely novel ontological category. There is nothing about the physical state of an organism's brain that will logically necessitate that it is feeling pain or thinking about food - the state of the physical leaves the mental undetermined.

    Of course, you have a very different conception of the mind and consciousness than most people do, so what I'm saying right now probably seems completely wrongheaded to you from the start.

    Hal said...

    ingx24,
    "There is nothing about the physical state of an organism's brain that will logically necessitate that it is feeling pain or thinking about food - the state of the physical leaves the mental undetermined."

    You are looking at the wrong level. There is a logical connection between behavior and the mental. That is not a claim that the mental is mere behavior. It is a claim that our concepts of the mental are partly constituted by our behavior.

    What would our concept of joy be like if people did not laugh and wave their arms and dance with joy
    when they felt that exhilarating emotion?

    Zach said...

    These are semantic arguments, not metaphysical arguments. Just because conscious experience is not analyzable completely in functional/neural terms, this doesn't imply that consciousness is not in fact a complex neural event (or whatever). Bear in mind I am a dualist, but these leaps from semantic gaps to ontological gaps are just fraught with problems. We can make more direct metaphysical arguments that don't rely on any intuitions of distinctness that drive so much of the discussion these days.

    ingx24 said...

    These are semantic arguments, not metaphysical arguments. Just because conscious experience is not analyzable completely in functional/neural terms, this doesn't imply that consciousness is not in fact a complex neural event (or whatever). Bear in mind I am a dualist, but these leaps from semantic gaps to ontological gaps are just fraught with problems.

    How is it a semantic argument? If you're implying that conceptual irreducibility does not imply ontological distinctness, then we are on the exact same ground here. I've argued against substantial forms on these grounds: just because analyzing a plant in terms of the particles making it up leaves out the concept "plant" does not mean that a plant is something over and above the particles making it up (i.e. a substantial form).

    But the difference between the case of the plant and the case of the mind is that, given the structure of the particles making up a plant, the fact that it is a plant follows logically: the plant is ontologically reducible to the particles making it up, even though it is not conceptually reducible. But in the case of the brain, all the information in the world about the physical and functional state of someone's brain tells you absolutely nothing about that person's mental state: the state of the physical leaves the mental completely undetermined.

    We can make more direct metaphysical arguments that don't rely on any intuitions of distinctness that drive so much of the discussion these days.

    Like what?

    Hal said...

    Ingx24,
    " given the structure of the particles making up a plant, the fact that it is a plant follows logically".


    You do realize that "particles" and "structure" are just as much concepts as "plant" is, don't you?


    By the way, I doubt your claim that you could logically deduce what kind of thing a plant is merely from a description of the subatomic particles in a plant
    and their interactions.

    Hal said...

    Zach,
    "These are semantic arguments, not metaphysical arguments."

    I would think we would have to rely on our concepts to put forth any metaphysical argument.

    That still leaves open the question of the relation of those concepts to reality.

    I think Hans-Johann Glock makes the point nicely:
    "an elucidation of our concepts will illuminate the categories of reality only if there is an isomorphism between our conceptual scheme and the fundamental categories of reality, either because the former reflects the latter, as Russell and the early Wittgenstein contend, or because the alleged essences in reality are nothing but metaphysical projections of the distinctions we draw in thought and language, as Kant and the later Wittgenstein would have it."

    This is quoted from Glock's review of Dummett's book The Nature and Future of Philosophy.

    I share the view of Kant and the later Wittgenstein.

    Ilíon said...

    Hal: "Guess that is why I am not all that mystified that some living things have mental powers. If there is anything really mysterious in evolution it is the transition from nonliving matter to living matter."

    ingx24 "But all there is to living matter is a different chemical composition. It's more complicated, yes, and you have to deal with it differently. But that doesn't mean it's ontologically different in kind from inorganic matter, or that it has an irreducible "form" as Aristotelians would claim."

    There is no such thing as "living matter" ... there are living organisms: and they are different in kind from mere (dead) matter.

    ingx24 "But all there is to living matter is a different chemical composition. ..."

    If it were actually true that "life" were merely chemical reactions, then living organisms wouldn't routinely die of old age. What? Do the chemicals wear out? DO the chemical reactions get tired of or bored with reacting?

    ingx24 said...

    If it were actually true that "life" were merely chemical reactions, then living organisms wouldn't routinely die of old age. What? Do the chemicals wear out? DO the chemical reactions get tired of or bored with reacting?

    I'm not 100% sure of the exact mechanism, but a quick Google search seems to indicate that organisms die of old age because their body eventually runs out of energy to maintain itself, to put it pretty simply.

    Ilíon said...

    "I'm not 100% sure of the exact mechanism, but a quick Google search seems to indicate that organisms die of old age because their body eventually runs out of energy to maintain itself, to put it pretty simply."

    I'll say you're not sure – what you *said* is that the organisms which die of old age do so because they *starve* (in the narrow sense of the word) to death.

    You also didn't *think* about what you wrote before you posted it, did you? (Not to worry, by now I'm acclimated to people who wish to dispute something I’ve said not only *not* thinking about what it is they wish to dispute, but also not even thinking about what it is they choose to say in disputing it – but, no doubt, my expectation that people actually think is just another aspect of my “arrogance”).

    In truth, the organisms which do die of old age – and not all do, not even amongst the eukaryotes -- do so because they are designed to do so. And, unpleasant and unwelcome as this truth is, in the case of humans, this is actually a blessing – for, just off the top of my head, given what else is true about the nature of the world in which we find ourselves, if we were effectively immortal, we would all eventually go blind. What would it be like to live blind for 100,000 years, knowing what sight is, and with no end in sight? What would a society be like in which 99% of the people were blind? Hint, it would have collapsed long before that point, and most of the blind people would have died of starvation, either of food or of water, or of exposure.

    ingx24 said...

    Ilion,

    And how does that have anything to do with whether "life" is a property over and above the functional properties of living organisms? The actual reason why organisms die of old age is irrelevant - it sounds to me like you're trying to resurrect vitalism by claiming that there can be no explanation for why organisms die of old age unless they have a "life force" or whatever.

    Ilíon said...

    ingx24: "But all there is to living matter is a different chemical composition. It's more complicated, yes, and you have to deal with it differently. But that doesn't mean it's ontologically different in kind from inorganic matter, or that it has an irreducible "form" as Aristotelians would claim"

    Ilíon: "There is no such thing as "living matter" ... there are living organisms: and they are different in kind from mere (dead) matter. ... If it were actually true that "life" were merely chemical reactions, then living organisms wouldn't routinely die of old age. What? Do the chemicals wear out? Do the chemical reactions get tired of or bored with reacting?"

    ingx24: "I'm not 100% sure of the exact mechanism, but a quick Google search seems to indicate that organisms die of old age because their body eventually runs out of energy to maintain itself, to put it pretty simply."

    Ilíon: "I'll say you're not sure – what you *said* is that the organisms which die of old age do so because they *starve* (in the narrow sense of the word) to death."

    ingx24: "And how does that have anything to do with whether "life" is a property over and above the functional properties of living organisms?"

    You are *really* actively resisting replacing a false materialist idea -- that "life" is just chemical reactions -- with the true idea: that "life" is *not* just chemical reactions.

    Organisms routinely die of old age. If the materialistic idea you'd floated (and are still trying to hold on to) were true, then they would not do so. They might die of violence; they might die of starvation (in either the narrow or broad sense); they might die of exposure -- they might die of any number of events of states which severely disrupt those chemical reactions. But, they wouldn't simply die because the chemical reactions had gone on for "too long".

    ingx24: "The actual reason why organisms die of old age is irrelevant ..."

    I didn't say why they do -- I mocked your attempted explanation-cum-side-step of the point that death by old age demonstrates that "life" is *not* just chemical reactions. And I noted that not all organisms die of old age, and that not even all "higher" organisms do.

    ingx24: "... it sounds to me like you're trying to resurrect vitalism by claiming that there can be no explanation for why organisms die of old age unless they have a "life force" or whatever."

    That would be your problem, wouldn't it?

    I'm doing nothing of the kind -- and even if I were, what of it? Come on, we both know that objection you can raise to vitalism is that it contradicts materialism and that materialists hate it (never mind that it was an early naturalistic/materialistic attempt to "explain" why living organisms are different from dead matter -- present-day materialists "solve" that problem by denying there is a difference).

    What I am doing is:
    1) telling you (and anyone willing to think about the matter) that the materialistic assertion you'd made is false;
    2) providing you one really good reason to know that it is false.

    ingx24 said...

    ingx24: "... it sounds to me like you're trying to resurrect vitalism by claiming that there can be no explanation for why organisms die of old age unless they have a "life force" or whatever."

    That would be your problem, wouldn't it?

    I'm doing nothing of the kind -- and even if I were, what of it? Come on, we both know that objection you can raise to vitalism is that it contradicts materialism and that materialists hate it (never mind that it was an early naturalistic/materialistic attempt to "explain" why living organisms are different from dead matter -- present-day materialists "solve" that problem by denying there is a difference).


    I don't understand what your position is, then.

    Ilíon said...

    "I don't understand what your position is, then."

    Good night! Do I need to hit you upside the head with a clue-by-four?

    How many times, in how many ways do I need to explicitly say what my "position" is? "Life" is *not* just chemical reactions. The assertion that it is is just one more false statement coming out of materialism.

    ingx24 said...

    How many times, in how many ways do I need to explicitly say what my "position" is? "Life" is *not* just chemical reactions. The assertion that it is is just one more false statement coming out of materialism.

    Then what is "life" according to you?

    Ilíon said...

    "Then what is "life" according to you?"

    You're not really paying attention, are you?

    ingx24 said...

    Ilion,

    The scientific definition of "life" is the ability to do things like reproduce, metabolize, grow, and so on. These abilities have been shown to be performable by physical/chemical mechanisms.

    Vitalism was an attempt to explain how the functions associated with life are performed, as scientists back then did not think that purely physical/chemical mechanisms could perform the functions associated with life. But we now know that they can, and so vitalism is dead. The fact that organisms die of old age does not "prove" vitalism any more than the fact that machines break down over time "proves" that they have a "life force". Would "clocks don't just get tired of working" be a good argument for clock-vitalism?

    But, apparently, you're not a vitalist either. Apparently vitalism to you is just another "materialist hypothesis". So if you're not a vitalist, and you don't think that "life" can be explained in physical terms, what are you? I don't see any alternative.

    Ilíon said...

    Now you're using the term 'life' in a different sense than previously.

    ingx24 said...

    Right, let's back up a bit then. I think this discussion got a bit confused.

    There is no such thing as "living matter" ... there are living organisms: and they are different in kind from mere (dead) matter... If it were actually true that "life" were merely chemical reactions, then living organisms wouldn't routinely die of old age. What? Do the chemicals wear out? DO the chemical reactions get tired of or bored with reacting?

    It seems like you made the jump from talking about living organisms to talking about "life" as a property. You said that I thought that "life" was just chemical reactions, and I responded later on that the functions that characterize "life" are ontologically constituted by chemical reactions. What I'm confused about is this: On the one hand, you say that life cannot be explained by chemical reactions, as otherwise organisms would not die of old age. This seems to me like vitalism, the idea that purely physical/chemical processes cannot perform the functions associated with life and that there must be something extra (a "vital spirit" or "life force") that causes an organism to be alive. But then you say that you are not a vitalist and that vitalism is a "materialist hypothesis" that tries to account for the difference between life and non-life in naturalistic terms. So what gives? If you don't think life can be explained by chemical reactions and you're not a vitalist, then what is your stance?