Thursday, August 10, 2017

Defining the mental out of the physical

First, when people try to define the physical, they do it, in part, by conceiving the mental and then saying that what is basic to the universe is not that. The laws of physics are always followed by physical particles, the laws of logic are followed by human being some of the time, but the rest of the time not, and if brains are physical systems they follow the laws of logic when the physics of their brains dictates that they follow those laws.
Andrew Melynk writes: “Naturalism claims that nothing has a fundamentally purposeful explanation…Naturalism says that whenever an occurrence has a purposeful explanation, it has that explanation in virtue of certain nonpurposeful (e.g. merely causal) facts.” Are you prepared to agree that nature is not thinking logically at the most basic level of analysis?
If the physical can include the mental at the basic level, then we have a concept of the physical that is, to my mind, extremely nonstandard. I think that is what Thomas Nagel is moving toward. But if we say that, from the beginning, what really guides the physical is something mental, then the watchmaker is not as blind as we thought he was, and you've got something closer to the Absolute Idealism that C. S. Lewis converted to when he became persuaded by the argument from reason, than you have to present-day materialism.

10 comments:

Hal said...

"The laws of physics are always followed by physical particles, the laws of logic are followed by human being some of the time, but the rest of the time not, and if brains are physical systems they follow the laws of logic when the physics of their brains dictates that they follow those laws."

For a human to follow the laws of logic is for a human to act rationally, is it not? What are the criteria of acting rationally? Generally it would mean giving a good reason for the actions one took, being able to explain why one thought it a good idea to act as one did.

There are no criteria for determining whether or not a brain is acting rationally. It is simply nonsense to say that a brain followed (or didin't follow) the laws of logic.

Does the fact that people still have to act in accordance with the laws of physics somehow prevent them from acting rationally? You seem to be suggesting that one can only act rationally if one is free from acting in accordance with the laws of physics.

Jimmy S. M. said...

Dr Parsons wrote a gorgeous response to you on this, I really hope you reply

https://disqus.com/home/discussion/thesecularoutpost/does_atheism_undercut_the_case_for_equal_human_rights/?utm_source=reply&utm_medium=email&utm_content=comment_date#comment-3461809521

Hal said...

Thanks for that link, Jimmy. I hadn't realized that some of Victor's posts here originated in that thread. Interesting reading some of the responses over there.

Stardusty Psyche said...

OP Are you prepared to agree that nature is not thinking logically at the most basic level of analysis?
--"Nature" as a whole is not a thinking organism. Our brains do what we call thinking, so in that sense a part of the universe has become aware of itself.


"If the physical can include the mental at the basic level,"
--False dichotomy. What we call "the mental" is simply the dynamic activity of certain particular physical structures.


" C. S. Lewis converted to when he became persuaded by the argument from reason, "
--The argument from reason is unsound, whether it is put forth by Lewis or anybody else.

Zgob ermn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zgob ermn said...

Stardusty Psyche

"Nature" as a whole is not a thinking organism. Our brains do what we call thinking"

Hmm.
1) On materialist ground, the brain can be said to be a micro picture of "Nature as a whole"--just a bunch of material parts that happen to be configured in such a way as to make them what they are--just a bunch of materials configured in a certain way by the irresistible laws of physics, as you put it, "simply the dynamic activity of certain particular physical structures". So, how do you KNOW--you teeny tiny little brain (compared to "Nature as a whole")--that "Nature as a whole" has not "become aware of itself" How can you possibly KNOW that? Tell me please! Please educate us!

2) "Our brains do what we call thinking"; C'mon, say it, THINKING. That wasn't so hard, right? I mean, you do think, right? Why is it so hard for you to say it? Why do you resort to such phrases as, "Our brains do what we call thinking"? Have we so educated ourselves to imbecility?

3) But wait a minute, that's really weird--my brain do not think, IT IS I (ME/MYSELF) THAT THINK! Sure, the brain plays a huge part of my thinking, but it is ME who think, not my brain, goodness gracious! Talk about conceptual confusion here. It's like saying it's really the engine of a jet plane that flies the aircraft. No. Try flying by sitting on a naked engine, i don't care if it's the engine of Han Solo's Millennium Falcon you're sitting on. You can never get off the ground in a thousand years! It is the aircraft as a whole that flies, not the engine. In the same way, it is ME, the I, the MYSELF, the personal, rational, purposeful, intentional ME that is doing the thinking. Thinking as thinking is not understood by looking at neurons firing and synapses snapping; it is understand by reflecting, observing, engaging, studying--by thinking hard about--people as a whole engaged in the activity of thinking. Sure you can look at brain activity. But what really amuses me are these people who say, 'Hey, look at this water molecules being activated in this part of the brain; that explains this and that thinking!' CRAP.

That's the problem of psycho-physical reductionism, the argument defeats itself as it degenerates into a reductio ad absurdum.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Zgob ermn said...August 13, 2017 7:17 AM

Stardusty Psyche
"Nature" as a whole is not a thinking organism. Our brains do what we call thinking"

" So, how do you KNOW--you teeny tiny little brain (compared to "Nature as a whole")--that "Nature as a whole" has not "become aware of itself" How can you possibly KNOW that? Tell me please! Please educate us!"
--No such structure is in evidence. Rocks don't think. The Earth does not think. Air does not think. The solar system, galaxy or anything else does not think.

Self awareness requires a computational structure, such as a brain or potentially an AI machine.


" 2) "Our brains do what we call thinking"; C'mon, say it, THINKING. That wasn't so hard, right? I mean, you do think, right? Why is it so hard for you to say it? Why do you resort to such phrases as, "Our brains do what we call thinking"? Have we so educated ourselves to imbecility?"
--I don't know, have you?


" But what really amuses me are these people who say, 'Hey, look at this water molecules being activated in this part of the brain; that explains this and that thinking!' CRAP."
--Nobody said that. You are just making up stupid sounding things so you can call them stupid. Pointless.

Zgob ermn said...

Stardusty Psyche

"So, how do you KNOW… that "Nature as a whole" has not "become aware of itself"
Stardusty—“No such structure is in evidence. Rocks don't think. The Earth does not think. Air does not think. The solar system, galaxy or anything else does not think.”

Puleease!
--“No such structure is in evidence.” Have you observed the universe as a whole, or from the outside (the way you can observe a whole brain, no, a whole human person!)? I don’t think so. So how sure are you that "Nature AS A WHOLE" has not "become aware of itself"? Can you prove your position scientifically? Perhaps, as a science guy, you need to adjust your position and say, ‘We can only study parts of the universe, but we can’t really study the universe as a whole, or stand and observe it from the outside. We can speculate and guess. But that’s how far we can go’? This I can respect.

--“Rocks… earth… air… solar system… do not think” So tell me, does the pons think? How about the medulla? Perhaps the fornix? Perhaps the cingulate gyrus or Wernicke’s area? Do these particular thingies, you know, THINK AS IN ACTUALLY THINK as I—the ME—am engaged in cogitative activity right now, formulating my response to you? Does each of these actually engage in thinking? Bad argument.

--“Self awareness requires a computational structure” So how do you actually know that the universe AS A WHOLE does not have this capacity of a computational structure? Can you prove this scientifically? You look at particulars (rocks, air, ets) and say no evidence. But that’s not really a god argument. It’s like looking at particular wiring and some nuts and bolts and concluding, ‘No such structure—as a Lamborghini—is in evidence. This thing called a Lamborghini does not exist.’

“’Have we so educated ourselves to imbecility?’ --I don't know, have you?”

Well, there is recent club nowadays, they call themselves the “It’s All An Illusion” club— consciousness, the mental or thinking as we commonly understand thinking, freewill, moral values and duties etc are really fictions the brain concocts, or they’re really nothing more than brainfarts with as much causal powers as the fart to a stomach. They even say we’re nothing but psycho-physical puppets who love our strings! And they love it that way. Though of course, they confess, they live AS IF these things were true. But then because of ‘science’ they know it ain’t so.

So Starduysty, are you a member of that club?

Stardusty Psyche said...

Zgob ermn said...
Stardusty—“No such structure is in evidence. Rocks don't think. The Earth does not think. Air does not think. The solar system, galaxy or anything else does not think.”

Puleease!
--“No such structure is in evidence.”

"Have you observed the universe as a whole"
--A very great deal of it has been observed and there is no detectable pattern of intelligent signals traveling through space.

It would take billions of years for a signal to travel from one supposed computing element to another, and given the estimated age of our observable universe that means there has been time for only a small number of signals to travel back and forth. The universe is expanding so this big thinking thing is some sort of expanding, far flung system, without enough time to do much of any supposed thinking.

And no, the Earth is not an electron going around the proton sun, or anything else you thought of while smoking pot behind closed curtains on the set of Animal House.

Zgob ermn said...

Stardusty, you may want to watch this https://youtu.be/-M-vnmejwXo