Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on January 23, 2008
To shed some light on the previous posts about (against) concepts, I think I need to explain maybe little the context of my beliefs.
I don’t believe in reductionism. And not just about the mind, but in general.
What I mean by reductionism?
We become aware of things. Reductionism would be when we want to reduce some of those things of which we are aware to some others of which we are aware (I use aware to refer not just to things that we perceive, but for anything that appears as object of our intentional acts) – to say that the former are nothing but some specific configuration or combination of later. In this sense there can be lot of kinds of reductionism, depending on what is taken to be reducible, and what are the things to which the things are reduced.
So, we are aware for example of information, and we can be reductionist in the sense that everything can be reduced to information. Pythagoreans were aware of numbers, and thought that phenomena in the world can be in some way reduced to number (I guess this is oversimplification, I can’t believe that they really thought that?). Or one can believe that all the different kind of phenomena that we are aware can be reduced to configurations and movement of physical components. Or maybe combination of physical and some assumed mental thingies…
So, when i say that I don’t believe in reductionism in general, I think that there are lot of phenomena in the world of which we are aware, that can’t be reduced to some other things that we assume or are aware of.
Lot of times, people are happy with reductionism about non-mental phenomena, and give special status just to those mental phenomena. In this move whatever we are aware in the world but doesn’t seem compatible with physics, is ‘taken back’ into the mind – aspects of the things that we perceive are called qualia and as they seem incompatible with this “clear” physical picture are assumed to be something that is produced by the mind. Social phenomena like language, books, governments, etc… are also not cleanly reducible to the physical aspect, so in the similar move they are “moved to our heads” as concepts.
When we “return” those phenomena that we become aware of into the world, what special “power” is left to the mental-phenomena are the abilities we have – abilities to perceive, to imagine, to assume, to remember, etc… Of course those aren’t also seen as something outside of the world, but as abilities which belong to us as subjects in this same (and rich) world. And, also those aren’t seen reducible to the other things that we become aware of.
Let me just in short also say what would be the relation between this rich world and the physical. It isn’t relation of two things, because it is one and the same world. Just that the physical is one aspect of the world that we are aware of. And here is where my story goes radical – I think that the physical aspect is determined in big part by the way that aspect is isolated – that is, by the measurements that we perform. I think because the measurements have specific nature, as a consequence there are metaphysically necessary relations between those things we measure. In such way, that aspects seems to us as closed (and self-subsistent), but that is just because what we measure is in that aspect.