The excerpt of a collection of sounds from a thing which is called Brian Greene, but which isn’t, is here:
"The feeling of intentionality is real, but you're not the ultimate author of that process." Watch or listen to our interview with physicist Brian Greene…
on YouTube: https://t.co/b43jU9ozA6
— New Scientist (@newscientist) April 8, 2020
The full “interview”, which isn’t really an interview, because Brian Greene doesn’t exist, and since he doesn’t exist, and neither do you, the interview cannot exist, and so there is no you to absorb it.
Why we bother, then, is not clear. But let’s push on and see what we can discover.
The thing which is called Brian Greene, but which isn’t, says the thing that isn’t Brian Greene is just a “collection of particles”.
The collection of particles which isn’t Brian Greene goes on to emit sounds waves of this shape, “And those particles are are fully governed by the ironclad laws of physics.”
Before pausing to consider how astonishing it is that a collection of particles could speculate on the so-called ironclad laws of physics, the collection of particles which is not Brian Greene goes on to emit, “Every action you take, every decision you make, every thought that you have is nothing but your particles moving from this configuration to that configuration. And that move is full governed by mathematics.”
Somehow, and the thing which isn’t Brian Greene does not say how, 2 + 2 = 4 gets up off its feet and compelled the thing which isn’t Brian Greene to continue in this way: “The feeling of making a choice, the feeling of freedom, the feeling of intentionality, that’s real. The causal influence of what you do is certainly real. You are part of the causal chain of how things evolve from here to there if you are involved in that process, but you are not the ultimate author of that process. That process has been set in motion a long time ago.”
And then, at last, the thing which is not Brian Greene called out from the darkness of nonexistence to the thing which this nonexistence wants to be, which is Brian Greene, but which it cannot, because collections of particles have no boundary and no will. The collection of particles emitted “and your particles are merely carrying out their quantum mechanical marching orders, and you are the vehicle that allows that to happen”.
It is true. In this philosophy, there is no boundary to any collection of particles, all such boundaries being arbitrary and meaningless. Individuals do not exist; only collections of particles exist, wherever and whatever those particles might be. Strings, or whatever. The universe is like a bowl of undifferentiated particle soup, all chugging along with no intentionality. but completely determined. It is only certain collections of particles that define separations in the broth, separations which cannot have any significance.
Funny thing, though. Collections of particles cannot feel like they are making choices. They cannot feel anything. They are only collections of particles. There is no feeling in physics, nor in math. Collections of particles cannot grasp meaning, being slaves to unbreakable quantum mechanical marching orders. Being less than slaves, actually. Slaves have understanding; collections of particles cannot.
How, then, does this collection of particles, which cannot believe or have feelings or even illusions, a collection of particles which believes it is Brian Greene, but isn’t, because it is only a collection of particles, believe it is Brian Greene?
The collection of particles which calls itself Brian Greene doesn’t say. It can’t say. There would be no way for it to say anything. Certainly it can emit noises, because collections of particles the physics allows noises. But those noises cannot mean anything.
There can’t be any person there to grasp a meaning which doesn’t exist. Not if we are just, as the collection of particles which isn’t Brian Greene, a collection of particles.
Since we can grasp his meaning—which is that he’s nuts—we must be more than collections of particles. Greene can’t see that, though, because he does not allow himself to move beyond his theory, which he cherishes. The theory doesn’t say how a man can grasp concepts. Therefore, says Greene, the man cannot grasp concepts. That is the concept he wishes you to grasp. So besotted is he with his theory he cannot even see the contradiction.
I did not stick with the interview, but there must have come a point where Greene, like all who love the colleciton-of-particles theory, must have said we can all become better people and make better choices when we realize we cannot make choices. I’ll let readers confirm this.
It was by divine coincidence, though, that as I was writing this, I was reminded of a quotation by de Finetti (who was adamant the theory that claimed probability existed was wrong). He said “The mathematician abstracts from reality, falls in love with the abstraction, and blames reality for not conforming to it.”
That is how a man can believe he is not a man but a collection of particles. Greene has made the classic theory-lover blunder: because he cannot say how a thing happens, he says the thing that happens does not happen. This subtle form of madness, a kind of hubris, is assuaged by absorbing the praise of other theory lovers.
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