Philosophy

Is A Material Bearer of Consciousness Intelligible? Part 2 — Guest Post by The Cranky Professor

See Part I here.

In this essay, I will summarize and expound more on the “divisible parts problem” in materialism and why the concept of the soul (or ‘mental substance’) avoids this type of problem found in materialism. I will also briefly present the so-called “interaction problem” or objection to the soul and show that this is far from a conclusive argument and that the idea of the soul is, nonetheless, a rational account of human consciousness.

As I have said before, the idea that one has a soul dodges the messy “divisible parts problem” in materialism. To quickly recap the problem with emergentist materialism, if the bearer of awareness is a material object like the brain or the body then this problem immediately arises: how does consciousness relate to the parts and whole of that material object? Is every conceivable part or unit of the brain conscious? Or is consciousness only an overarching property of the whole brain or good portion of it while none of the smaller parts have consciousness? This is a difficult problem that puts the emergentist into a dilemma.

If the emergentist opts for the position that the “whole brain” is conscious but none of its smaller parts are conscious, say, the atoms of the brain, then how is it that all these permanently unconscious parts of the brain are going to contribute to a brain being conscious at all? It seems that, if at the bottom, there are no perceiving, thinking parts then the whole object is not going to be conscious whatsoever since the whole brain would be composed of nothing but unconscious parts. After all, no matter how one puts a set of unconscious Lego blocks together, no consciousness will arise from it. It would be like a case of adding up a tall column of zeros, and still getting only zero as an answer. In a similar manner, if all the atoms of the brain, regardless of configuration, are always unconscious then how would the brain ever produce consciousness?

On the other hand, the materialist can always opt for a panpsychist position. That proposition says no matter how one breaks down the parts of the brain (or body), there is always a conscious being. But if that is so, then how would all these conscious bits of material combine together to form unified states of consciousness? Either way, whether the position is that the whole brain is conscious but none of its minuscule parts are conscious, or that we have consciousness down to the quarks making up the human mind, we have a “combination problem” one way or another.

The panpsychist position is probably the best answer the materialist can offer to resolve the divisible parts problem. This is because it seems less difficult to reason that several parts which already have consciousness can combine together and form levels of greater thought, compared to the other alternative where we have to expect consciousness to arise from parts that are permanently unconscious. Nevertheless, panpsychism (the theory that everything is conscious at some basic level) does not seem to be very promising considering it’s quite mysterious how conscious bits of divisible matter are going to combine together and form greater levels of awareness and understanding (aka: a human personality).

Alternatively, by using Ockham’s Razor, it’s not even necessary to postulate countless bits of conscious matter that have to combine together to explain our mental states. We can just opt for a simpler explanation, like the mind being a unified substance in its own right, bearing the consciousness we are pondering. It is often said that the soul has no parts so a “divisible parts problem” does not even arise with a soul-bearing consciousness. Even in cases in which the soul is said to have “parts,” these descriptions don’t resemble anything like the parts of material objects.

Sometimes the soul is described as having different “parts” in terms of having different powers. For instance, in the Christian tradition, the soul is often said to have the powers of memory, understanding and free will. But then the term “parts” in reference to the soul in this context can only be metaphorical, not something that has a composite nature like a material object that gains or loses parts throughout time.

There are also a few philosophers that hold that the soul has “parts” in the sense that it has “temporal parts” and that the soul perdures throughout time. In such a case, one would be favoring the theory of perdurantism.

This is the idea that one’s complete person would consist in one’s full history of existence. That is to say that one has only a limited temporal part of one’s complete person at each moment in time. One can think of the perdurantist account of persistence like a song on the radio. One does not have the full-scale song at each moment in time; the complete song consists in all the moments it’s being played out. At each moment, one has only a temporal part or stage of the song, but not the complete musical piece. In a similar manner, the perdurantist sees the human person persisting in time like a song. One does not have the full-scale person at each moment in time; one has only a temporal ‘part’ of oneself at each moment in time. Nonetheless, all the moments of one’s existence constitutes the full person.

Perdurantism differs from the theory of endurantism which says, by contrast, that one has their complete person at each moment in time and that one remains the same person within time. Both endurantists and perdurantists agree that an individual is numerically a single person throughout time. But they differ in their interpretations of how an individual is “one person” throughout time. But even if we were to grant that the soul “perdures” through time and that the soul has “parts” in the sense of having temporal parts, there still would be no “divisible parts problem” that arises like it does for the materialist account of mind.

The soul, being conscious at any particular period of time, would simply be a temporal part or stage of that soul being conscious at that moment in time. It would still be unintelligible to ask whether a tiny “atom” or “particle” of the soul is conscious whenever one is conscious, even given a perdurantist account of the mind. The soul, being a spiritual substance of mind, would not have parts in the sense of being composed of different things or pieces that can be gained or lost throughout time. The spiritual mind would still be “uncuttable” so to speak. The soul would still maintain a very simplistic, indivisible nature even if we were to suppose that the soul persists in time as a kind of perduring entity.

A temporal part of the soul—if this model of persistence works—-would simply be just an indivisible unit or particular that bears consciousness at a particular moment in time. It is just that all these indivisible units or “temporal parts” or stages of the soul together would constitute the full-scale soul or person in time with a perdurantist model.

In other words, regardless whether the soul perdures through time, or endures through time, or doesn’t even remain numerically the same soul throughout time, there is no “divisible parts problem” in the question of consciousness of the human soul. Whenever one perceives a red apple, or thinks about Kansas City or dreams about mountains, it is simply the soul or mental substance that has those conscious states. It’s senseless to ask whether a tiny atom in my mind has a piece of my consciousness.

The idea of the ‘simplified’ soul also avoids another related problem in materialism known as the “binding problem.” If the conscious subject is material, then how does the brain or body unite all the features of our consciousness into one unified, coherent state of awareness? We notice that we are aware of many different things at once, like many colors, shapes, dimensions, odors, feelings etc. How would a divisible, composite material object be able to unite all these perceptions or qualia into a unified state of awareness? How could it do this without dividing all these features into separate spheres of perception? But with the understanding that the mind is a simplistic substance that bears our mental states, this problem can be easily avoided once again. The idea that the mind is a spiritual substance can explain why we experience all these perceptions or qualia in a unified conscious manner.

Besides, any philosophical position that considers the conscious-self to be material and something divisible is doomed to have other problems as well. The obvious one is this; how can there even be a conscious self in the first place? There’s even more problems concerning the existence of matter, such as the famous “paradox of infinite division” rooted in Zeno.

The paradox of infinite division is this: since a material object is divisible, it seems that there is no limit to how a material object can be divided. But if a material object is infinitely divisible then it must have an infinite number of parts. However, if an object has an infinite number of parts, then how could any material object occupy a finite amount of space? Or, another related version of that paradox states that if any given material objects is infinitely divisible, then how can it be a unified, particular being?

There are, of course, different answers to the paradox of division. Some philosophers like George Berkeley have argued that the paradox shows that matter does not really exist. Others think that there are solutions to this paradox while preserving the belief that matter exists. And some philosophers, like Leibniz, have simply defined all entities as unified, indivisible particulars or “monads” so as to avoid any kind of paradox relating to divisibility.

We will not go through all the possible answers to the paradox of infinite division here but I bring up the paradox briefly just to illustrate the fact that it’s not desirable to portray the mind as a divisible, material object. The view that the mind is an indivisible, immaterial and simplistic substance is the more reasonable alternative and it avoids all the paradoxes relating to divisibility and consciousness.

Of course, while there is a strong case for the existence of the soul, the idea is open to objections, like every position out there. Perhaps the most common objection to the existence of mental substance is the so-called “interaction problem.” If the mind is immaterial, then how can it causally interact with the body? How can a mind that has properties that are different from the body be able to causally interact with the body? This poses a good question for the substance dualist or a person that endorses the notion that mind and body are two substances that somehow interact or correlate with each other.

However, it’s important to note, that interactionist substance dualism like in Descartes and St. Augustine actually appeals to common sense in its interpretation that mind and body are two different particulars and that they seem to interact. Consciousness is clearly not the same thing as matter or physical beings by Leibniz’s Law of Indiscernibility.

And it seems to be a well-established truth that the body can affect consciousness and conversely, one’s consciousness can affect the body. For instance, a person can make the choice to drink beer and that conscious choice later affects the person’s body and the person feels tipsy. Likewise, plenty of alcohol in the body, in turn, can affect a person’s mood. So, the mind and body do appear to causally interact.

While the question of ‘how can two types of substances interact with each other’ may be a good puzzle for the dualist, it is however, a rather inconclusive objection to dualism and the existence of the soul. There are at least three problems with advancing the “interaction objection.”

First of all, the objection itself, even if valid, does not refute substance dualism per se. A person can be a substance dualist and still reject the notion that the mind and body “causally interact” with each other. A substance dualist, for instance, can be a parallelist and say that mind and body only appear to interact but they do not causally effect each other. All we really have, according to parallelism, are patterns on how the conscious soul and body will behave, so to speak. So, the “interaction objection” is powerless to non-interactionist forms of substance dualism. Parallelism might be (arguably) an ad hoc move for the substance dualist, but nonetheless, it’s a possible option that is not vulnerable to the “interaction objection.”

Secondly, there seems to be no clear evidence that shows that two types of being, one mental and the other physical, cannot causally interact. We live in a world with a variety of countless things with countless differences and they all seem to causally engage with each other just fine. A human being can interact with a cat though they are two different types of living creatures. The Sun pulls the Earth into orbit and yet they’re two different things. Cane sugar and alcohol can affect a person’s mood and help that person experience happy thoughts. But the happy thoughts are not the same thing as sugar and alcohol. What reason would there be to substantiate the claim that two substances of body and soul cannot causally interact?

Do we know all that is possible? Do we even fully understand how cause and effect works in the world? And why would the mind and body (being different entities) necessarily prevent them from interacting? Do differences among things necessarily prevent things from causally impacting each other? While it may be a bit of a mystery of how two different types of being may interact with each other, it is, however, a bigger mystery on how it would be impossible for different entities to interact.

It’s even more of a mystery whenever a physicalist asserts that the two substances of mind and body cannot interact when the physicalist denies the existence of the immaterial realm altogether. After all, he has nothing from experience on which to ground that assertion. As much as materialists like to believe that their views are based on science, their proposition that a spiritual self cannot interact with a body is not based on any empirical observation. That holds true even given the terms of materialism itself.

Finally, a person does not have to be a substance dualist to endorse the idea of the soul or ‘mental substance’. A person can be an idealist and embrace the idea of the soul and reject both dualism and materialism. In fact, with idealism, there is no interaction problem or puzzle – at least in the form that it apparently takes in substance dualism.

The idealist reduces material objects to ideas among minds and everything that exists is mental for the idealist. So, there’s no problem of how a mental substance interacts with a physical substance within idealism. The idealist simply melts away the interaction problem by favoring a monistic metaphysics that reduces everything to mental substances and their ideas and reduces all causality to mental causation. So, again, even if the interaction objection were a successful refutation of substance dualism, it would not be a proof that persons have no souls.

Besides, materialism has its own “interaction problems”, ones that are not just related to the ‘divisible parts’ problem. The main problem with just about any form of materialism is that it fails to account how the mind seems to affect the body. For example, the materialist might opt for physicalism and try to reduce all causality to physical causes in order to avoid any mental-to-physical or physical-to-mental causation. The general incentive behind a monistic metaphysics is to get rid of any dualistic causal interaction problem of mental (immaterial) beings interacting with physical beings. Idealists make this sort of move only when they seek to reduce everything to mental causality, unlike physicalists. However, by reducing all causality within the material realm, the physicalist creates a new interaction problem as some thinkers have pointed out.

Suppose a barefoot person steps on a tack and then feels some intense pain. He then takes the tack out and treats the foot. In this sort of experience, evidently electric-chemical currents travel from the foot into the brain and the person experiences pain and, as a result, he removes the tack and treats the injury. Now if one is a physicalist, only matter, physical energy, space and time exist. So, the physicalist can only account for the experience in terms of activity within the body and its surrounding environment.

However, a problem arises. The physicalist picture of the experience fails to explain how consciousness is involved in the event. Not only does the person have biological processes with the nerves giving a signal to the brain, but also the person has a subjective feeling of pain. And that pain seems to affect the behavior of the person. The physicalist position cannot explain, by its own terms, how the consciousness of pain is germane to a person expressing frustration and taking the tack off. After all, if the person had the same physical processes occur with his body, but had no pain from stepping onto the tack then the person would not have reacted in frustration.

Remember, the physicalist wants to say that only mind-independent, external matter-in-space-and-time exists. So, the behavior of the person saying “ouch” and removing the tack can only be explained in terms of matter-in-motion, according to physicalism. But the problem is that the behavior of the person reacting cannot be explained solely by material terms. In addition to biological processes, like the signal traveling to the brain, the person also has consciousness like the feeling of pain, which is, in part, responsible for the reaction of the individual. Because physicalism reduces all reality to matter and energy in motion, it fails to explain the pain, or how consciousness in certain instances is relevant in human behavior.

In other words, physicalism does not seem to explain why the pain is, at least in part, responsible for the person’s behavior. And yet commonsense and experience suggests that pain (or pleasure) in some instances does contribute to the behavior of a person.

So even a rigid materialist, physicalist account fails to free us from all “interaction problems” when it comes to the philosophy of mind. Physicalismhas its own “interaction problem” due to how it only accepts external, material entities and thus omits the role consciousness in human action.

Thus, there are over-weighing reasons to believe that human persons have souls. The concept of soul or mental substance has serious advantages over materialistic accounts of the mind, and the notion of the soul dodges the “divisible parts problem” and other related problems like the “binding problem.” On top of that, the “interaction objection” to the soul seems to be powerless. But even if the “interaction objection” were successful, still, there would be other options on how the soul might relate to the body other than what is described by interactionist substance-dualism.

Overall, I find the concept of soul or mental substance to be a competent and well supported account of human consciousness. And history.

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Categories: Philosophy

26 replies »

  1. umm… no?

    Let us assume, for fun, that the “I” typing this is the biological analog to a computer
    program using my biological brain and other physical components as hardware.

    Sometime in 1969 or so the originators of the Unix operating system suffered an epiphany
    of sorts to the effect that they could get something from nothing merely by setting the
    conditions under which the something exists. No Unix system since then has ever created or
    started a process (and yet my workstation has 348 running processes right now 😉 ). Instead the system loads the appropriate registers as if the process were running and (magic happens!) it is.

    (That’s an analogy to a deterministic origin of consciousness: the biology exists, so consciousness must)

    Notice that you have useless iron that does nothing unless the conditions exist for it to do
    something – so loading registers %g0 through %g9 (SPARC) doesn’t mean these registers run code (cause the
    system to show life) but nothing works unless these guys are involved either.

    (That’s an analogous counter to your part one: you cannot do some tasks without keys bits of the hardware, but the ability to do stuff does not reside in the hardware.)

    Notice in this that a running program can do things but has no differentiable physical presence: the hardware
    and the changes triggered by clock ticks all exist/occur whether a program runs or not: the
    distinguishing characteristic is that programs organize the activity and are operationally distinguishable
    from nothing happening only by the quality and continuity of that organization.

    (The analogous claim is that you can measure consciousness in terms of the organization of flows within
    the physical brain.)

  2. Isn’t the problem with the computer comparison that the computer is not conscious? The assembly of transistors and wires has no more soul than a mechanical typewriter.

  3. I like Dr Peterson. 12 Rules didn’t exactly change my life, but Maps of Meaning made me happy that someone was out there delving into the problem. I will be listening to “Beyond Order” just as I listened to “12 Rules” and “Maps”. I really don’t expect that my abilities will change much with it. The lion’s share of the benefit happened in Dr Peterson’s brain as he worked out how to write these three books. Except there is really only 1 book written three ways. He never gives the same lecture, but they are always sort of the same lecture. I’m embarrassed to admit that when I read “Dancing Wu Li Masters”, it took me 12 chapters to realize that they were all Chapter 1. Worse… About the only thing I think I learned from DWLM was that it is all Chapter 1.

    But that is why I like JBP. It is also why I like WMB (there might be a chance that I feel kinship to him because he was slapped with Bill and ran to Matt).

    Trying to find the model is the reason. Whether that model is divisible or not matters not. What matters is whether or not the model helps you predict with more precision what happens next.

    My version right now. Why do bond yields go up? How does Time Value of Money let me analyze that? But most importantly, how in the world does a Fiduciary decide to trade Bond Funds in order to do anything? After I figure that out, how do I explain it to someone who has no interest in the difference between Bonds, Stocks and Money Market. Because they have no interest in that, they truly have no interest in TVM. To be fair, few people get too excited about TVM. The actual equations around TVM are almost trivial. Hidden in the Time Value of Money equations (My HP-28s used the following (1 – sppv) * pmt * 100/I + pv = fv * sppv AND sppv = exp( -n * ln (1+ i / 100) ) are wonders and mysteries. If you can magically get an interest rate all the time, it doesn’t take much in savings to make a lot. But each of the terms can be used against you to drain your pocket book.

    Which is the path to follow?

    The model that works the best for you. Just figure out how to keep your metrics sane. Be on the lookout for folks changing the metrics underneath you. The reserve requirements for banks is now 0%. The uptick rule has been removed. Bitcoin can be infinitely divided (which isn’t inconsistent with banks having a 0% reserve). Your house occupies a fixed space (which may or may not be divisible, but know when someone is about to divide it). What makes Amazon worth $3200 / share? (I ordered a part Saturday and it arrived Sunday and I didn’t pay extra for it). Why is it not possible to just take the value of Amazon and distribute it to the masses (there is that divisible thing again)?

    No one needs to answer those questions. They are the questions running around in my head as I try and figure out how to explain them to people who do not want to think about those questions. I take comfort in trying.

  4. A bit like asking how a collection of automobile parts can result in transportation when individually they cannot then saying there’s overwhelming indication that automobiles have “transportation”. Or asking how a general purpose CPU can result in program execution when its individual circuits can’t.

    The answer is it’s the interaction of the parts under certain conditions that do the providing. I don’t understand why this is so hard to grasp.

    You seem to be calling the interaction combined with those conditions a “soul” (or maybe just the conditions).

    At the website linked by “interaction objection”, it is asked “How is the mind connected to the brain?”. The answer is that the mind is the brain in operation. It’s a result. It’s like asking how is transportation connected to the automobile.

    Pain is simply an alert that something has gone wrong or is in need of attention much like the engine warning light in a car. The alert can be ignored and those with physical causes (as opposed to mentally generated pains) can be blocked by blocking the message path.

    All of this talk of physicalism, substance dualism, etc. and how erdurantism differs from the theory of endurantism reminds of the joke in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy where the Fire Committee gets hung up on what color it should be. Philosobabble none of which actually gives insight into anything.

  5. Whenever I read something like ‘the mind is the brain in operation’, I can’t help wondering if the writer is conscious in the way I know myself to be. It sounds like a statement that a complex but unconscious computer might come up with in trying to make sense of a concept that can’t be defined but only experienced.

  6. All 1 Thessalonians 5: 23…..

    Douay-Rheims Bible
    And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things; that your whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    King James Bible
    And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    New American Standard Bible
    Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    God bless, C-Marie

  7. It sounds like a statement that a complex but unconscious computer might come up with in trying to make sense of a concept that can’t be defined but only experienced.

    Sounds more like you don’t know what consciousness is either since you can only experience it. Same with a range of other experiences such as happiness, loneliness, hunger, sorrow, etc. If you can’t define it then how do you know computers don’t have it?

  8. ((If)) consciousness transcends materialism it must begin at some point with a primitive construct (schema) of self-awareness. Although perhaps self-awareness awakens (can only awaken) upon a ‘recognition’ of ‘the other’. If we accept that all matter is fundamentally a composite component (of a singularity / creation if you prefer), then Dualism (or consciousness divided/separated from matter) as – a proposition – is that matter (alone or in complex composite forms) cannot itself spontaneously give rise to self-knowledge. But, what of – the proposition – that certain complex composite matter (viz. lifeforms) of necessity exist (exist as opposed to function – as like computers / automobiles) only in a state of inescapable dependency upon exogenous matter (oxygen for instance) ~ and therefore draw upon material ‘faculties’ capable of recognizing such exogenous matter as an initial form of some constructive consciousness. Taken to the nth degree, and infinite complexity, such a constructive consciousness may resolve itself into a conceptual state of living (needs procurement) self-awareness. So, what begins as isolated matter, may potentially generate a transcendent capacity for perceiving a state of connectedness ~ or the dawn of consciousness. So then, is consciousness extra-material or merely a state of materiality as a singularity. Unless the singularity (‘creation’) is incomplete, consciousness must be a latent state of some matter (an exceedingly rare, illusive, or conditional state). Higher consciousness however, remains as ever mysterious. || We are left to wonder (or ponder): Were the brooms in Paul Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice automatons or where they conscious (poor solipsists perhaps) and just unconcerned with any tiresome inquiry into their origins or ultimate purpose? || {with appreciation to – The Cranky Professor}

  9. Humans have always interpreted ‘mind’ in terms of their latest high tech.
    a.] When high tech meant aqueduct and clepsydra, the mind was obviously explained by humours. (There were four of them, like the four physical forces.)
    b.] When later, high tech meant machines, the mind was obviously a machine, with many interacting parts. (To get it to work right, you sometimes had to give it a whack upside the head.)
    c.] Now, our high tech is computers, so the mind is obviously a computer.
    Can’t wait to see what metaphor comes next.

    Of course, the automobile metaphor holds only so far, because the componenets do not come together of their own nature. An engine block is a separate entity in a way that a spleen is not. The parts of a living thing, such as a petunia, are not assembled at all, save in a metaphorical sense. Rather, they grow and differentiate from an initial seed. An automobile is an artifact, not a natural thing, and as such absolutely requires an intelligent designer. (Although, most lovers of the artifact metaphor are unwilling to extend the analogy that far.)

    Consider that the shrugging of the Earth may cause a rock face to fracture and form a chape like H. But that does not mean that the fracture represents the sound “en” (as it does in Cyrillix) or the sound “mi” (as it does in Cherokee) or even that it means a hospital is nearby (as it does in street signs). It means nothing unless humans assign it a meaning.

    I can even interpret my tea cup as a computer. It is executing the instruction: “sit here and do nothing but hold liquid.” (But only if I first put liquid rather than, say, paper clips, in it.)

    The Thomist holds that consciousness is a consequence of sensation, specifically of touch. Since an “input” becomes “sensation” when it is experienced by the thing, touch necessarily entails the distinction of Self vs Other; hence, some level of awareness of self. (It is not clear whether the tropisms exhibited by plants rise to the level of sensations experienced by insects and animals.)

    People who refuse to have anything to do with philosophy have become enslaved to outdated forms of it.
    — Mary Midgley

  10. DAV said:
    ||”A bit like asking how a collection of automobile parts can result in transportation when individually they cannot then saying there’s overwhelming indication that automobiles have “transportation”. Or asking how a general purpose CPU can result in program execution when its individual circuits can’t.

    The answer is it’s the interaction of the parts under certain conditions that do the providing. I don’t understand why this is so hard to grasp. “||

    You’ve just simply ignored this blogger’s arguments.

    Your example is just the idea that the whole can be reduced to its parts. Individual bricks can be put together in such a way as to create a house. But it would be remarkable if that house were conscious. Unless consciousness is identical to a material thing or process or function, then it is irreducible (unlike houses).

  11. Of course, the automobile metaphor holds only so far, because the components do not come together of their own nature. An engine block is a separate entity in a way that a spleen is not. The parts of a living thing, such as a petunia, are not assembled at all, save in a metaphorical sense. Rather, they grow and differentiate from an initial seed.

    Meaning what? Actually, livings things are self-assembled from instructions passed on by their ancestors. Closer to a computer than your tea cup. What does this have to do with their operating characteristics, say in particular consciousness? Does this self-assembly result in consciousness even in non-humans?

    You also seem to be confused about the relationship between software and the underlying computer. is. Yes, software is a set of instructions for given machine. It completes the wiring to change the general purpose machine into a specific one. After that the machine operates according to the way it was built as determined by its wiring. So does the brain. It’s irrelevant that the connections within the brain are organic.

    Humans have always interpreted ‘mind’ in terms of their latest high tech. … When high tech meant aqueduct and clepsydra, the mind was obviously explained by humours. (There were four of them, like the four physical forces.), [etc.]

    Of course, this never applies to philosophy.

  12. Your example is just the idea that the whole can be reduced to its parts.

    No. I’m saying you can’t find what a thing does in its parts ever and gave an example.

  13. Meaning what?

    Meaning that artifacts are different from natural things, even though one may sometimes find interestibg analogies. Living things do not self-assemble, wxcept in a metaphorical sesne. because the parts do not exist prior to the thing itself. In assembling an artifact, one takes a collection of pre-existing parts and puts them together by violence (volens, or will). The telos must be imposed externally because the components have no natural tendency to come together. A natural thing has an intrinsic telos which channels its unfolding and the parts emerge from that unfolding through the power of growth and differentiation. That is, one may take a water pump and insert it into the assembly of an automobile to achieve its imposed telos of transportation. But a petunia is not assembled by a factorem petuniarum and its telos to convert sunlight into sugar and he does not find a pistil or stamen in a parts bin and plug it into the conventus petuniae.

    Does this self-assembly result in consciousness even in non-humans?
    Not self-essembly, but tactile sensation. This entails an awareness of stuff that is part/not part ofthe sensational thing. Many non-human things, like puppies and parrots, are conscious. Others, like petunias, appear not to be.

    You also seem to be confused about the relationship between software and the underlying computer. is.
    Given that I never mentioned ‘software,’ this is an easy confusion to infer.

    https://philosophy.as.uky.edu/sites/default/files/Is%20the%20Brain%20a%20Digital%20Computer%20-%20John%20R.%20Searle.pdf

    Of course, this [historical contingency] never applies to philosophy.
    Why not>

  14. Living things do not self-assemble, [e]xcept in a metaphorical sense because the parts do not exist prior to the thing itself.

    Of course they self-assemble. All of the resulting body parts are built on-the-fly from surrounding matter (in later stages of development sometimes referred to as food). The blueprint is in the genetic material. Change that and you get something different (not always though, there’s redundancy and error correction). Interestingly, the blueprint is constructed of matter. It’s how it is itself assembled which determines the result. If the result is sentience/consciousness/intelligence it is somehow specified in that blueprint. We are just now learning how that blueprint works.

    Not self-[a]ssembly, but tactile sensation [causes/results in consciousness].

    So the growth from a seed was a diversion? Or are you moving the goal-posts? The ability to have touch (assuming you don’t have some special meaning for tactile — can never tell with you) also has to be specified by the genetic blueprint as it requires the building of message paths and requires some thing to interpret those messages then react appropriately.

    The link to Searle is confused about what a digital computer is and how it operates. Again the digital computer that most people refer to is an incomplete machine that becomes a specific one through software (there are completed ones that can’t be modified but are relatively rare and many of those just have unchangeable software because they are easier to build).

    The questions: (1) Is the brain a digital computer? and (2) Is the mind a computer program? can be answered NO. The brain is prewired though it can rewire itself (which is how we train for repetitive tasks). The answer to question: (3) Can the operations of the brain be simulated on a digital computer? is also NO because we don’t have digital computers powerful enough and currently do not operate the same way the brain does.

    In the 70’s, I worked on a project to simulate the brain of a lobster. It failed because the simulation was too slow. Even lobster brains — as primitive as they may be — are quite complex.

    When we get computers similar in nature to the brain, the likely answer is YES although I suspect you will forever regard the result as “only a simulation” regardless of how well it performs.

  15. Of course, this [historical contingency] never applies to philosophy.
    Why not?

    Maybe it has something to do with being enamored with the musings and conjectures of ancients and treating what they said as forever written in stone (assuming you are a good example).

  16. Of course they self-assemble.
    I’ve been in assembly plants. The fascias and fenders do not grow in situ. They are made elsewhere, brought to the assembly line, and placed in the chassis. That is not how a living body grows and differentiates. We do not see a body shell given spleens, gall bladders, and what-have-you that were plucked from parts bins and assembled into the body-chassis. Literary metaphors and analogies must be used with care. To say that A is ‘like’ X in certain aspects/relationships does not mean that A ‘is’ X in any way. And if a model M produces results much like real-world system S does not mean – as Hawking and others have cautioned – that S is put together and functions like M. After all, the Tychonic model produced results that matched real world performance, but that did not mean the real world was built as a geo-helio-centric system.

    So the growth from a seed was a diversion? Or are you moving the goal-posts? genetic blueprints, blah blah blah]
    Because a worker on an assembly line uses blue prints to know which component to place where and you have employed a metaphor comparing genes to blueprints does not entail that an organism grows and differentiates in an assembly process. Or, for that matter that ‘genes are like blueprints’ entails that ‘genes are blueprints.’ That’s like saying atoms are like miniature solar systems, with electrons orbiting a central nucleus.
    Besides, genes are too small to encode all the instructions for the whole organism.

    >i>The link to Searle is confused
    You probably meant that Searle was confused. Links cannot be confused any more than they can be morose. You also seem to think that Searle meant only hardware.

    When we get computers similar in nature to the brain, the likely answer is YES
    Similar in nature? By definition, computers [as discussed here] are artifacts, not natural things. But it is always easy to say that the Men of the Future(tm) will be able to do all sorts of wonderful things. Someday.
    And, yes, a simulation remains a simulation, no matter how complex. Newton said in essence that the motion of falling bodies was like the solution of his equation, but he was not able to correctly calculate the motion of the Moon. It’s a 3-body problem, and those have no analytical solution. He could approximate it, fer sure, but you can also approximate it using Ptolemaic models.

    the musings and conjectures of ancients and treating what they said as forever written in stone
    Like the Pythagorean Theorem?
    But you have missed my point. It is not that metaphor/models of the mind are ephemeral, but that we form them from current enthusiasms and technologies of which we have become enamored. This would be true even if they were never superceded.

  17. I’ve been in assembly plants. The fascias and fenders do not grow in situ. They are made elsewhere, brought to the assembly line, and placed in the chassis.

    So we don’t have seeds for cars. You have yet to explain why that matters in this context.

    that ‘genes are like blueprints’ entails that ‘genes are blueprints.’ That’s like saying atoms are like miniature solar systems, with electrons orbiting a central nucleus.
    Besides, genes are too small to encode all the instructions for the whole organism.

    That’s just downright silly. I called a set of encoded instructions a “blueprint” for lack of a better word and you go off on a tangent. Are you truly that rigid in your thinking?

    Besides, genes are too small to encode all the instructions for the whole organism.

    Apparently not.

    The link to Searle is confused You probably meant that Searle was confused. Links cannot be confused

    I of course meant that. I thought it was obvious but then … Please accept my sincerest apologies for confusing you.

    When we get computers similar in nature to the brain, the likely answer is YES
    Similar in nature? By definition, computers [as discussed here] are artifacts,

    I was talking about the way they operate. Brains have massive parallel processing capabilities while our current devices do not even come close. Even a lobster brain has more computing power.

    the musings and conjectures of ancients and treating what they said as forever written in stone
    But you have missed my point.

    I prefer to think of it as refining the models to conform to increasing models.

    Like the Pythagorean Theorem?

    You constantly seem to confuse mathematics with the real world. If anything, mathematics provides a way to describe reality but reality is not mathematics.

  18. Addendum: I prefer to think of it as refining the models to conform to increasing models

    I meant: refining the models to conform to increasing knowledge.
    Haste makes waste.

  19. You constantly seem to confuse mathematics with the real world.
    No, I was commenting on the riff os treating “the musings and conjectures of ancients … as forever written in stone” by supplying an example of such a conjecture that even you might accept as written in stone.

    Besides, genes are too small to encode all the instructions for the whole organism.

    Apparently not.

    The thinking in complexity theory is that genes enable a rather smaller set of ‘instructions’ [for building proteins] from which more complex structures can emerge, not the ‘blueprints’ themselves. A commonplace example is the flocking behavior of birds, which emerges from a set of three ‘instructions’ or Barnsley’s fern which can be drawn from four recursive formulae.

    Brains have massive parallel processing capabilities while our current devices do not even come close. Even a lobster brain has more computing power.
    You realize that this assumes what you wish to demonstrate?

    I called a set of encoded instructions a “blueprint” for lack of a better word
    And I cautioned that you ought to be careful with your literary metaphors, else you may fall into thinking that there really are ‘instructions’ that really are ‘encoded,’ just as Early Moderns began to suppose epicycles [a convenient way of calculating planetary positions] to be physically real. Next, you may feel it necessary to suppose a Coder who gives the Instructions.

  20. The thinking in complexity theory is that genes enable a rather smaller set of ‘instructions’ [for building proteins] from which more complex structures can emerge, not the ‘blueprints’ themselves.

    Again, so what? Some computers were built to perform relatively complex tasks — say, compute the sin(x) — with a single instruction. Specifying the “how” wasn’t needed. That doesn’t mean computing sin(x) wasn’t part of the program. It just meant you could reduce the size of the program by taking advantage of its environment. Even the instructions in a RISC are often done with more complex implicit steps than those in the included in the program. That doesn’t mean performing them isn’t part of the program. It just means you don’t state them explicitly. In another environment you may actually have to.

    I called a set of encoded instructions a “blueprint” for lack of a better word
    And I cautioned that you ought to be careful with your literary metaphors, else you may fall into thinking that there really are ‘instructions’ that really are ‘encoded,’

    It seems very clear that the genetic part does indeed specify the resulting organism and changing it results in a different organism regardless of the word used. To me, “blueprint” or perhaps “plan” aptly describes it and condenses the idea to a single word.

    Next, you may feel it necessary to suppose a Coder who gives the Instructions.

    No, but that’s another topic.

    You still haven’t explained why this matters in this blog post context..

    Brains have massive parallel processing capabilities while our current devices do not even come close. Even a lobster brain has more computing power.
    You realize that this assumes what you wish to demonstrate?

    You really should ask what I mean when you aren’t sure.

    Brains are built from many interconnected neurons and processing within the brain is accomplished through message transfers via their connections. These are done in parallel and not serially as most current computers do. Even the largest parallel computers we have to date are far from the same level of capability.

    I’m talking about what can be achieved with such computing power and not at all interested in demonstrating that power per se. Not sure how you missed that.

    No, I was commenting on the riff os treating “the musings and conjectures of ancients … as forever written in stone”

    I was referring to your tendency to quote the ancients as if, whatever the topic, they are the final word and all thinking since has to conform to what they said. Notice how you introduced the word “telos” above as if it were some magical incantation and is the only appropriate way of thinking about the topic. To you, I suspect it is. But then, you know that.

  21. you introduced the word “telos” above as if it were some magical incantation
    But it was you who actually introduced and relied on telos when you used teleological language like “plan” or “blueprint” or you note how transportation is connected to the automobile. It’s not ‘magic’ to see that one thing may point to another.

    quote the ancients as if, whatever the topic, they are the final word and all thinking since has to conform to what they said.
    They were wrong about many things. Aristotle and Plato, after all were disagreeing with Parmenides. Even Aristotle was wrong about some things, though not about the basics of logic and reason. “Nothing is in the mind that was not first in the senses” strikes me as a reliable aphorism. His minima seem closer to the mark than Demokritos’ atomoi.
    Most particularly, it seems to me, that it behooves one, when departing from Aristotle’s conclusions, to understand what he meant by his terms. There is no more a mind-body problem in Aristotle than there is a sphere-basketball “problem.”

    Brains are built from many interconnected neurons…
    Of course. But you are still assuming when you apply teleological terms like ‘computing power’ to this nexus of connections.

  22. A natural thing has an intrinsic telos which channels its unfolding and the parts emerge from that unfolding through the power of growth and differentiation

    “Telos” means “what it’s for” or “what it does”. A petunia seed’s purpose therefore is to make a petunia plant. Such a profound and insightful observation. Whoda thunk? To you the word seems to mean much more. And it this I am referring to in re you.

    Here I thought we were talking about “how” the seed might turn into a specific plant or at least more depth than “it comes from a seed” but you’re stuck on the simpler more obvious observation when answering “why does it matter how the construction was accomplished?”

  23. Rick C.,
    The linked infinity mirror article has many problems. Let’s examine one of them.

    The “Did cause-effect physics …” questions are presented as a binary choice but they are not mutually exclusive. For example, the jump

    (-) from “observe the infinity mirror experience” (option 1) Did cause-effect physics create the lady [so] she could observe the infinity mirror experience

    (-) to “not physically perceiving anything” (option 2)Did cause-effect physics lead to the lady’s brain believing she was seeing her multiple diminishing reflections in the infinity mirror experiment, when she was not actually physically perceiving anything at all?

    Where did the part “not actually physically perceiving anything at all” come from? She only thinks she’s participating in an infinite mirror experience? If not, how could viewing multiple reflections be a non-perception? She only thinks the reflections are there? Why? Did the author really mean “seeing things not physically present?”. The reflections are actually there if one is to believe the physics of optics and something, the lady, is physically there. How the reflections are interpreted is another thing. And that leads to questions like: what is interpretation; could it be achieved via deterministic thought; among others.

    The article goes on to say: Thought determinism cannot decide between these two explanations for the lady’s perceptions.

    Nor can anything else. The explanations don’t make sense in terms of deterministic thought. Might as well have asked (1) did she have eggs for breakfast or (2) steak for dinner? Again, they are not mutually exclusive. The answer could be the same for both.

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