A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

Archive for the ‘Metaphysics’ Category

Physical Laws, Ontological Underdetermination, God and Fine Tuning

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on December 29, 2008

There are probably lot of ways to look at the physical laws, here I will point to two and in relation to those discuss possibility of God.

a)Laws governing the Universe

In the first way the laws are seen as governing the universe. Given the state of the universe at the time t1, the physical laws determine how the universe will be at the t1+dt.

This view is incompatible with the idea of God, as according to this there can’t be any talk about God taking part in determining the events in the Universe. It is then said that God might have made the universe, created those physical laws, set everything in motion, but that from that moment everything happens according to those laws which were set. At this point, a person that believes in God can bring up the fine tuning argument also – that is… that physical laws and constants are set in just the right way for appearance of life (and thus intelligent life). If you change those constants and laws just a little bit, it becomes impossible for this to happen.

Of course it is also possible to take this position with further note that God can and does do things which go against the laws of physics – some kind of miracles. Also there is the possibility that God made the laws in such way that they leave him open hands for intervening without breaking those laws. In such way for example, given the quantum mechanical indeterminacy (we don’t know of a law that fully determines the collapse of a QM system), God has freedom of doing anything, without in fact breaking the laws of physics. We may say, that the laws are intentionally left not fully determining what will happen (I will call this ontological underdetermination, not sure if it is good term, but can’t think of a better one), so that either God is constantly guiding (to some amount) the events in the Universe, or alternatively he is throwing dices when he doesn’t really prefer how certain collapses would happen.  Now, that is I guess consistent position, it does provide a way to make sense of God (and further it makes fine tuning argument possible), but in my opinion it is quite inelegant all over. The explanation is full with choices which are made just to defend the possibility of God, and which explain nothing more but that possibility.

b)Laws as necesary relations between measurables

And that brings us to the second way to view the physical laws. In this view the laws are necessary relations which hold among different measurables (what kind of necessity this is – is it metaphysical necessity, or is it just a necessity in the actual world is separate issue which I will touch on later). In this kind of view the laws are not seen now as governing the universe. So, they are not things which are moving the state of the universe at time t to the state at time t+dt. In fact, the time is now seen as just another measurable, and what the laws tells us is the necessary relations in which the measurables will stand – measurables which are aspects of the Universe (where it is seen as becoming, so that it includes temporal facts). I think firstly that this kind of view of laws is much better than the previous one – it seems really much closer to the actual way the physical laws are specified in physics (through equations, and not through ‘if system is X at t, it will be Y at t+dt’ kind of formulations), and secondly by seeing time as another measurable it is much more inline with the modern theories of physics (relativity and quantum mechanics).

Other interesting stuff is though that ontological underdetermination can now be presented not as an incidental feature of the laws which we add to our explanations post hoc, but as something which can be made sense of metaphysically. Let me try to explain this…

When we speak about measurables, we imagine that those have independent existence in the world, and that they are self-subsistent. So that there is definite fact about how long something is, or that there is a definite fact about how much mass something has, and so on. Now, we should be clear that measuring does incude more than just the reality of the property being measured, as it includes comparing, and thus inevitabely all kinds of complications which are related to that. So, we might measure something in inches or meters, we can’t measure it in nothing. Further, as we know from relativity, when we do the measuring, it will come up differently depending how we (as “measurer”) move. But putting all this aside, I think we usually do allow for the reality and selfsubsistence of the property being measured. It has certain length by itself, certain mass by itself, and so on. But, I don’t think this is cearly true also. It would be true if things would exist as some kind of “bag of independent properties” – in that case we would have to allow reality to each of them, and we would have to allow that it has certain mass, certain volume which is independent from that mass, certain speed which is independent from the volume and the mass, and so on. It might also be, however, that what is ontologically primary is the thing itself, and that those measurables can be thought of only as aspects of it, which don’t have reality of their own, so that there is no *certain mass*, *certain volume* and so on to speak of. Given this, the necessary relations are among the ideal forms of those measurables, where we are just treating them as having self-subsistent reality – we are ignoring that they have no such nature. What we have then described as “governed” by those necessary and fully deterministic laws are the systems in their ideality. But those systems are actual, and there are more facts about them than this ideal description. And thus we should expect that sooner or later, we will see how we can’t figure out the behavior of the system deterministically treating it as mere bag of mutually-determining properties.

The picture we basically have now is this – if, and only as long a concrete system falls under the abstract description (in this case physical description), the relations between the aspects of that physical description will be necessary. But as long we move from that ideal cases to the real world, what is happening in the Universe is underdetermined in relation to those necessary relations. So, QM indeterminacy in this kind of view is not incidental, it is a metaphysical consequence of the physical description failing to fully determine the world. Now, we have, which I think is, more elegant way to make sense of non-physical reasons affecting the world – what is denied is that the world is merely physical in first place. In that way we not only make metaphysical sense of quantum indeterminacy, but also we make sense of the possibility for non-physical reasons being behind the changes of the physical measurables.

Metaphysical necessity, or just neccesity in actual world?

At the end, let me return to the issue of the kind of necessity of the physical laws. It might be that those are necessary just in the actual world, or it might be that they are metaphysically necessary. What I especially see as metaphysically elegant possibility is this second option. It seems to me that it makes lot of sense for them to be metaphysically necessary relations. So, not just that those happen to be such in the actual world, but that those relations have to  be such in any possible world. Or if we use logical in the wide sense of the world, that it is logical for those relations to be the way they are. Now this kind of result (if we ever get to it), is good because it answers why laws are same everywhere in the universe, it can give explanation of the relativity, symmetries, and so on… And basically it would be a way to make sense of there being such necessary relations in first place.

Let me try then to give an analogy with a metaphysical relations that we know hold, and for which we understand why they hold – the arithmetical relations. We can say this – as far a group of individuals don’t disappear or multiply, said simply – as far they fall under the certain mathematical abstraction – say e.g. – ‘being 5 things’, there will be metaphysically (in this case mathematically) necessary relations. Such that for any particular thing in this group, there will be four more things. Or that, those can’t be divided to 3 groups, such that in each group will be identical number of things. So – we have certain necessary relations, which hold just as far the thing at hand falls under the abstract description. But it is clear that real things aren’t reducible to those descriptions – sooner or later, for no reason apparent within the abstract description, the thing will no more fall under that description. We may have 3 rabbits, and they might become 4 rabbits. But that won’t be something which is result merely of the mathematical description. The necessary relations among physical measurables should be then be taken analogously to think case.

It might not be common for a person who beliefs in God to take physical laws as metaphysically necessary relations, which even God can’t change (for simple reason that there is no sense in even thinking of the concept of changing of metaphysically necessary relations), however to me it seems as the most elegant metaphysical view, which even in its metaphysical necessity doesn’t restrict the possibility for non-physical reasons for the changes in the physical aspect.

What should be pointed to is though, that if a person buys this, the Fine Turning no more points to existence of some kind of plan – if the laws have to be the way they are, then there is no sense in asking how come that they are such as they are. I do believe in this metaphysical picture of things, so I can’t count fine tuning as a reason why I should believe in God. However buying this picture does present a reason why one should believe that there is something further than what can be put in the physical descriptions, and is one of the reasons why I believe in God.

Posted in Metaphysics, Philosophy | 23 Comments »

I know that I actually exist, hence physicalim is false

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on November 24, 2008

I actually exist. I know that I actually exist. I’m aware of my actual existence in such a way,that I know for sure that I actually exist. I claim here that I actually exist *because* I actually exist. My actual existence, and my awareness of my actual existence has direct consequence on my behavior here, namely writing this paragraph.

Imagine now that you know all the relevant physical facts about my body (and all relevant physical facts about relevant environment maybe). A nice physical description. According to the physicalists, there aren’t any further facts… that is the whole story.

Now imagine that I didn’t exist, but that you still have the physical description in question. In this case it would be a physical description of a potentially existing, but not actually existing person.

In that description you should still be able to see the reasons for me pronouncing – “I actually exist, I know that I actually exist, I’m sure that I actually exist… ” (the whole first paragraph of this post)

Whatever reasons those are, they aren’t related to actual existence, and even less they can be related to any direct awareness of actual existence, simply because there is NO actual existence – the thing described in the physical description doesn’t actually exist.

However, if it is not the actual existence and awareness of actual existence that are reasons for the behavior in that description, and if physicalists are right that there are no further facts about the actual me, my actual existence and my awareness of my actual existence also can’t be reasons for my actual behavior where I say “I actually exist, I know that I actually exist, I’m sure that I actually exist… etc…”.

Similar argument can be given to establish that according to physicalism, my actual existence and my awareness of my actual existence, can’t be reasons for me thinking or knowing that I actually exist.

This is silly, hence physicalism is false.

Posted in Consciousness, Metaphysics, Philosophy | 12 Comments »

On the Beggining of the Universe

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on November 17, 2008

For something to come into being, there has to be previous state of affairs where the thing didn’t exist.
There can’t be state of affairs if there isn’t anything, hence it is impossible that the universe came into being.

Posted in Metaphysics, Philosophy | 26 Comments »

How do you cut a space?

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on July 21, 2008

By cutting a line the only thing you can get is line segment. As much you cut, you never get to anything like a point. But, how do you cut a line if not at specific point? If there are no points, then there can be no line segments either.

By cutting a plane, the only thing you can get is plane segments. As much you cut, you never get to anything like a line (or curve). But how do you cut a plane, if there is no lines? If there are no lines, there are no plane segments.

Same goes for space.

Posted in Metaphysics | 21 Comments »

Another Vague Argument For Principle Of Sufficient Reason

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on June 23, 2008

P1. Only what can be fully understood can be partially understood
P2. If there is no sufficient reason for something about the world (any event, fact, and so on… in the world), then that something can’t be fully understood. (because understanding it requires understanding why it happened, why it is as it is, and the answers of those things are sufficient reasons)
P3. If something about the world is not fully understandable, then the world can’t be fully understood
P4. From P2 and P3 => If there is no sufficient reason for something about the world, then the world can’t be fully understood.
P5. From P4 and P1 => If there is no sufficient reason for something about the world, the world can’t be partially understood.
P6. We are bound to say that we partially understand the world.
P7. From P5 and P6 => There is a sufficient reason for everything about the world.

Posted in Metaphysics, Philosophy | 23 Comments »

The Meaning of Few Different Words Within the Illusionary World

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on May 19, 2008

For the few past posts I was thinking/writing on the issue of how I could be a brain in a vat, to which random electrical impulses are fed, but so it happens that by mere chance, I’m under illusion of living a normal life in society.

Keeping inline with my externalistic preferences, I said that while in the vat the subject can’t become aware of anything real, she can become aware of different possibilities. She will become aware of possibilities of objects, multitudes of objects, multitude of objects sharing some similarity (kinds), possibility of other subjects perceiving, possibility for open possibilities in the world, related to this acting and practices, related to this possibility of language as practice, and so on.

I want here to add few thoughts on the words used to describe the scenario, like ‘brain’, ‘vat’, ‘electrical’, ‘impulses’, ‘chance’, ‘life’, ‘society’, ‘illusion’, and so on. I want to comment on the issue if those words could have same meaning unrelated to the fact if I am a subject of perpetual illusion or not.

‘Vat’ seems pretty unproblematic. A large container used for storing or holding liquids. Vats are surely not natural kinds, nor is having idea of one dependent on there being one. I guess in general for artifacts we could say this… for one to create (engineer) something new, one needs to be able to think about the possibility of such thing, even before there are such things. The issue is though, how abstract those possibilities are. On one side we could have abstract things like for example Turing machine, with abstract algorithms (e.g. Quick Sort), but maybe the idea of vat (the awareness that there could be vats) is little more problematic, as it depends on the idea of liquids. I don’t know… I don’t see liquidity as problematic either, it seems to me that it describes a possible property of a substance, and that we could distinguish the liquidity as property from the reason for liquidity. And liquidity as a property there is related more with what how the substance behaves, and as such we can become aware of possibility of such behavior.

Brains… What do we mean by ‘brains’? Generally, we tend to find this organ in humans and other animals higher animals’ heads. So, I think we need to put attention to ‘humans’, ‘animals’, ‘organ’ and ‘head’. ‘Humans’ in one sense are a specific natural kind, and as I said, I’m inclined to think that our words within the vat that was supposed to mean natural kinds can’t refer to real natural kinds (as they weren’t based to real multitudes – so similarly to how proper names can’t mean real things, as they weren’t based on those real things). But, from another sense, ‘humans’ might be taken to mean – the species to which I belong. And the idea of ‘species’ along with the idea of ‘animals’ and ‘kinds of animals’ seems much more abstract that it would refer to the same thing, be I under perpetual illusion or not. Of course, it might be also that for the case we have here, we don’t need to go as far to other animals, and kinds of animals, but just to think of the kind to which I as a subject belong (defined thought the possibilities of becoming aware of all those different things, and possibilities for acting), and further the idea of having body, and having head, and having something in the head which is related to being a subject.

‘Electrical’ seems very problematic, as it refers to a specific natural phenomenon, which isn’t much a specific property of the things, but something that we figured out through science. I don’t know though… The physical laws take very abstract form, and the notions which are related to the physical theories (like atoms etc…) are also kind of abstract.

The possibility of other subjects is i think non-problematical, and the possibilities for those subjects to act in different ways when together, including possibility of communication, different social relations and so on – I think if one becomes aware of those as possibilities within the vat, and if thinks of those within the vat, those are the same things of which we may think of. I think it is similar to the case with engineering I described before. The communication, or different ways of acting towards other subjects are I think possibilities of which one might become aware even before those ways of acting towards others exist. For sure, we might be inclined biologically to take some of those ways, but we also think and invent new ways of how to relate to others, how to solve problems in our relations, how to better do different things, and so on. And if some person becomes aware of some of those possibilities within the vat, I think he can then, when outside of the vat share the same ideas with others (real others).

I guess it is much more important what the scenario meant to point to, and that is a certain possibility which is more abstract than the words that were used to describe the scenario. And the possibility is that I as a being which can think, perceive and so on, can be in fact subject of perpetual illusion. And ‘illusion’ is I think less problematic in this sense. As I described in some past post, it is about possibility that the subject can’t distinguish between two different experiences in which he takes part. And I think the brain in a vat which is under perpetual illusion, and us, when thinking of illusions are thinking of the same thing.

Anyway, after I noted in last post that there might be some problems in the details, I thought it would be interesting to do some analysis, so… that’s about it. Probably, if nobody objects, I will have another post (or two) about the perpetual illusion scenario.

Posted in Concepts, Illusions, Intentionality, Mathematics, Meaning&Reference, Metaphysics, Perception, Philosophy | Leave a Comment »

Doing Metaphysics In A Vat

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on May 18, 2008

Starting with the scenario from previous posts…

A baby’s brain is put in a vat, and connected with wires to a generator of random electrical impulses. By mere chance, though random, those electrical impulses happen to be such that the subject which is related to the brain is under an illusion of living what we would call normal life within a society. (If you think that other parts of the body are needed for such an illusion to be possible, just imagine the whole body in the vat, like in Matrix)…

I don’t see anything contradictory with the possibility that I, myself am subject related to such brain (or body) in a vat.

Accepting this means that I accept that whatever I said, has same meaning, unrelated to the fact if I am living real life or pure-chance-random-generators life. And that I can think of this issue, unrelated to the fact if I am subject of illusion or not. (Though of course, there are some problems with the details here. First there might not be any electrical force in the real world, or there might be no such things as brains, but I think that what is important that the general idea of being a subject of perpetual illusion is the same thing be I subject of perpetual illusion or not.)

As one, if I am subject of illusion the things I’ve seen are not real. So, the people, objects, animals, etc… were not real. But for me to be able to think and say this, I need to have a valid notion of ‘real thing’, to distinguish those from ‘illusions’, and so on. The problem is of course, if nothing I’ve seen is real, how can I have notions like those.

In the past post, I presented the idea, that while I never became aware of anything real while subject of perpetual hallucination, I’ve become aware of possibilities of different things. It is interesting, relating to the issue of what kind of notions I need to have in order to be able to say that I might have been subject of perpetual illusion, to think about what kinds of possibilities I might be aware… So, here is some list of important notions, I think I am having, unrelated to the issue if I was subject of perpetual illusion or not…

I must have had become aware of the possibility of objects, multitudes of things, kinds of things, perceiving things, others perceiving things (by ‘others’, I don’t mean necessarily people, at least not in biological sense, as there might not be such things as people), possibility of open possibilities in the world and acting in order to actualize a possibility, possibility of communication as a way of acting (in different ways – like to communicate what one knows, to ask, to order, and so on), possibility of all kind of different social relations.

We can contrast those things with a)I have simply been wrong in using name to refer to the illusionary thing, as there wasn’t anything there to which I was referring – I was simply wrong. It was similar to fictional things, and as such as much something in real life is alike that illusionary thing, I can’t say that I meant that real thing, by using the name. b)Also, to some amount when talking about multitudes of illusionary things sharing some similarity, as much the similarity can be seen as possibility, it is questionable how much to this notion it is critical that the multitude is seen as a real multitude, about which we can figure out more truths. So, I would be inclined that in lot of cases to say that if we referred to illusionary kinds, those words can’t mean real kinds, like lemons, water, and so on…

Given this contrast, I want to propose this principle (let us call it… metaphysics while in illusion principle, or maybe better just P1):

P1: We can think a priori about (and only about) things of which we can think of, even if we were subjects of the perpetual illusion scenario.

This will include notions like object, multitude of objects, kinds, possibilities and acting, society, practices, communication, numbers, change (also time and space), good and evil, and all those other notions, that a subject could think about even living life under perpetual illusion, and which are the same things that we (living real lives) are thinking of.

So, what would be the argument for P1. Let me attempt to give an argument…

Given that I can think of something while subject of perpetual illusion that other people which live real lives are thinking about, there is nothing which would determine the reference to that thing which is not already there, when I have the thing in my mind

Given, that we have this thing (this notion) clearly before our mind, we can then try to figure out possibilities and necessities within or related to that notion.

OK, that was I guess kind of a bad argument (in the sense that I don’t think it is very convincing), but besides the argument let me also point to one case of notions on which lot of people might agree with P1. That is the case of mathematics… While I would think it is pretty straightforward that science done under illusion can’t be real science or tell us anything about the world, the case with mathematics seems different. I can think about triangles, angles, sums, and so on while in ‘hallucination-world’, about the same triangles people think in the real world. But also if I become aware of the proof of Pythagorean theorem, because some illusionary guy on illusionary place seemed to teach it to me, it won’t make the knowledge I gain in such way wrong. What is important that I understood and comprehended the Pythagorean theorem (even as it happened – as a result of very peculiar events). So, while specific case, I think this can nicely pump your intuition into accepting P1.

Posted in Illusions, Mathematics, Meaning&Reference, Metaphysics, Philosophy | 2 Comments »

Cartesian Externalism

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on May 13, 2008

I never saw anything contradictory with the idea that we might be subjects trapped in Matrix type scenario – a brains in vats scenario. Really, given the developments of things like computer generated virtual realities, in which we immerse ourself through gaming, it is easy to imagine the possibility of the simulations being so good that they are indistinguishable from our experiences in real life. And I can’t see anything contradictory with the idea that my body when I was a baby was hooked up to some virtual reality.

Now, there are arguments like Putnam’s one against brain in vats, which are related to certain theory of meaning of the words, but the possibility of virtual reality is so clear, seems to me, that denying the possibility that we are brains in vats on base of that argument, seems to me on par with denying that there is movement based on Zeno’s argument. Certainly there is value in Zeno’s paradoxes, but the value is not in proving that motion is impossible.

Anyway, not just that I don’t see anything contradictory in me being brain in a vat, which is placed within a virtual reality controlled by machines, but I don’t see anything contradictory with the idea that my brain was put in a vat, and that what it was and is getting from the inputs are signals generated by a random process, and that only by mere chance those inputs ended up such that I’m under the illusion that I’m a subject with a life I have, with wife, with kids, with all those experiences.

I think that even this turns out to be true, and every individual thing to which I was acquainted in my life turns out to have been an illusion, I will still have idea of wives, bachelors, chairs, books, philosophy, vats, brains, language, and so on… And, if by mere chance, it also turns out that these illusions were fully inline with what is there really in the world, my intended meanings in the virtual reality, will be fully inline with the meanings in this real world. I will be able to express my previous thoughts (the same thoughts I already had) about bachelors, about books, about brains, language, and so on…

What is interesting to me is how to relate my thinking that those kinds of scenario are possible with some of my externalist inclinations.

As I said, I believe that there is no such thing as ‘phenomenal experience’, and that ‘experience’ properly (and traditionally) refers to the events in the world in which we participate, and by which we are affected or from which we learn, OR (in alternative sense) it refers to the knowledge gained in that way.

Further, related to this, I don’t think there are concepts, if by concepts we mean some constituents of our thinking which would be some things in our heads. As said, I think that words like ‘bachelors’, ‘chairs’, ‘books’ and so on, refer to multitudes of things which are part of certain (and real at that) phenomenon in the world – a phenomenon of which we are aware. (I don’t think that concepts are Platonic ideas neither.)

I would also take externalist position on words meanings also, as I think they only have meaning in the context of language as part of the practices in the society, so again, would take externalist stance on this also.

So, I guess there is some kind of tension between those views. A very interesting dialectic here.

Posted in Concepts, Illusions, Meaning&Reference, Metaphysics, Perception, Philosophy | 6 Comments »

On ‘What Something Is’

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on May 6, 2008

Just few thoughts related to the last post.

In it I said that we give a name to the notion that we “have in mind”. (as I mentioned in last post, this phrase – “have something in mind”, should be taken for what it is – a metaphor, which means – to think of something in context of some act, be it talking, analyzing, etc…)

Those notions come from experience, but not as a bunch of facts, nor as definitions. Those are new things from the world of which we become aware. Be it movement, money, books, colors, coffee, and so on…

While the notions don’t come in form of facts/propositions/definitions, the awareness of those notions is not just an “empty” causal relation. When we have a specific notion in mind, it is in specific way that notion, and not some other that we are thinking of. And there are possible determinations of those notions – from the notion one can abstract/focus on/isolate different aspects. Those determinations are what the thing IS.

‘A is B’, is a relation between the subject A and the predicate B. The predicate doesn’t tell us everything about the subject. Cows are animals, red is a color, that apple is red, the weather is hot (today), and so on… We are left with the predicate when we abstract from some things about the subject, and focus on others.

However, what we had in mind when baptizing is the notion itself, and not some determination of the notion. And in that sense, we can safely say, that what we had in mind is more (as the full-blooded notion which stands as a subject in the mentioned subject/predicate judgments) than what that something is (in terms of different predicates that can be given to it).

This first ‘is’ is not an ‘is’ of predication, but of identity, where the notion is self-identical, and different from other notions (“Something is what it is”). The second ‘is’ is the ‘is’ of predication, of determining the notion in different ways.

Posted in Concepts, Consciousness, Metaphysics, Philosophy | Leave a Comment »

Resolving The Mind-Body Issue, Few Additional Notes and Links

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on May 2, 2008

After a short series in which I explain my views on the mind-body issue, let me as a kind of overview provide links to few other posts which are related to separate steps in the view:

LINKS FOR PART ONE: Returning the content which was pushed under the “rug of mental” back into the world.

Some of the related posts:

Other things which I usually relate to those issues are Ryle’s discussions in The Concept of Mind, and Austin’s discussions of “seems”/”appears” etc… in Sense and Sensibilia, other works like Merleau Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, in more recent times disjunctivist theory of perception, and so on (you get the picture).

LINKS FOR PART TWO: Moving away from atomism/constructivism towards seeing the world in terms of what is actually going on, and aspects of what is actually going on. Seeing physical and what is returned into the world as aspects.

Some of the related posts:

In the discussion of seeing things of which we are aware as aspects, I’m usually relating to Hegel’s Logic. For some overview of this, you can check: Hegel and Concepts – The Diamond-Net, The Differences of the Diamond-Net, Little more on Hegel vs. Kant – The Antinomies, etc..

LINKS FOR PART THREE: Physical laws as metaphysically necessary relations between physical aspects, as explanation of the neat mathematical relations we find in the physical aspect

Some of the related posts

In this, I think there are connections again to the work of Hegel, especially in relation to his work on numbers (I have a short note here), his views on change being inline with Relativity, and his views on properties as not self-subsistent possibly being inline with Quantum Mechanics. Also I think this possibly can be nicely related to such things as instrumentalism and positivism.

Posted in Consciousness, Metaphysics, Perception, Philosophy, Physics | Leave a Comment »

Resolving The Mind-Body Issue, Part 4

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on April 29, 2008

This is the last part of the series of posts about how I think we can make sense of the mind-body issue. The idea is to provide alternative to different kinds of physicalism and dualism.

The story so far:
So far, we took those steps:
1.Returning the content which was previously pushed under the “rug of the mental” back into the world. What is left to the mind are the abilities to perceive, imagine, plan, etc…
2.Moving away from atomism/constructivism towards seeing the world in terms of what is actually going on, and aspects of what is actually going on, and taking both which appears in the physical picture and what we returned into the world as aspects of the world.

And in the third part, I didn’t advance the idea further, but pointed to a problem in the idea… For something to be an aspect of X, it means that the facts about X are based on
a)what is actually going on, and
b)the nature of the aspect.
For example, the facts about the contour of the face seen from certain side (as an aspect), will depend on a)the three-dimensional shape of the face and b)the angle from which we are seeing the face.

But what we are seeing in physical nature are that there are physical laws, which can be nicely put in determinate mathematical equations. If we take those to be facts about the physical, it surely doesn’t seem that they are aspect of anything else – they seem self-contained and independent. Sure, there is the quantum indeterminacy, but that one is nicely isolated. When we have aspects, we expect that the facts about the aspect to be in more “organic” dependency on the whole.

What we do next:
So, we get here to what I think is third part of the solution of the mind-body issue. In short it is this… The physical laws are metaphysically necessary relations between different aspects which we see as being physical. The form of those laws is the conditional: whenever p is true about something, also q will be true about the same thing.

Let me explain this through an analogy with a case that can be understood more easily. Imagine that we ignore lot of things of whatever is going on, and put attention just on the geometrical and arithmetical aspects of whatever is going on. It so happens, that even everything is changing, in certain cases we can safely ignore the changes and analyze the non-changing aspect of the situations as if there is no changes occurring.

We can say about those cases that we are safe to apply a geometrical or arithmetical notion to the situation. With that, we get to the antecedent (p is true about X) of the conditional. For example it might be ‘the base of the house is square, with sides 5meters and 4meters’. From there it is possible to apply the mathematical truth ‘whenever something is square with sides a and b, it will have area a*b‘ , so we also have the consequent (q is true about X) – The area of the house is 20 square meters.

The point is that if for pragmatic reasons we can safely ignore everything but geometrical and arithmetical aspect of whatever is going on, it is normal that whatever mathematically necessary relations hold, will hold for this aspect. We can see how also, because what we took is merely an aspect, it might happen at any time that the antecedent of the mathematical necessity becomes invalid for reasons which are not captured by that aspect. So, we get to a situation where the mathematical aspect has 1)mathematically necessary relations which hold, but 2)the mathematical notions in some situations will not be applicable, for the reason that the situation goes beyond this aspect.

I think it is now clear, what is the proposed explanation of the seemingly self-subsistent regularities of the physical aspect. I said before that the facts about aspect will be dependent on two things: a)what is actually going on and b)the nature of the aspect. The solution is then, to connect those regularities known as physical laws to the later – to the nature of the aspect itself, and NOT to whatever is going on.

There is lot more to be said on this, and I’ve discussed this issue several times, but let me just add few brief note to this… The nature of the physical aspect is defined by the nature of the measurement of movement through measurements of space and time, and further to the way other physical properties like force, inertial mass, energy and so on, are related to those. Further, I think that it is in the nature of those measurements (or in their concept) to have different symmetries, and it is that which I think is a base for the metaphysical necessity of those laws. However, that this is just an aspect is shown in the cases of quantum mechanical collapses, to which the physical laws can’t apply for the basic reason that whatever is going on goes beyond one of its aspects – in this case physical aspect. In those cases, we can’t apply the notion in the question to the situation, similarly to how we sometimes can’t apply mathematical notions to the situation and can’t analyze the situation in terms of mathematical necessities.

So, this would be the last part of the solution for the mind-body issue. As I said at the start of the post, it does go far from the prevalent paradigm of the times, but given that the mind-body issue surely seems as an impossible problem to solve in the paradigm of our times, it should be clear that there is something wrong with that paradigm.

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Resolving The Mind-Body Issue, Part 3

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on April 25, 2008

The first two steps took were:
1.Returning the content which was previously pushed under the “rug of the mental” back into the world. What is left to the mind are the abilities to perceive, imagine, plan, etc…
2.Moving away from atomism/constructivism towards seeing the world in terms of what is actually going on, and aspects of what is actually going on, and taking both which appears in the physical picture and what we returned into the world as aspects of the world.

While in the last post I wrote about how seeing those things as aspects helps us make sense of the mind-body issue, in this post I will analyze if the proposal of seeing the physical as an aspect has merits on its own (so independently of how it makes sense as part of solving the issue).

When we talk about some X being an aspect, that means that X doesn’t exist on itself, but that it ‘lends’ its existence from the actual thing whose aspect it is. So, we say that X isn’t self-subsistent. Also, it means that if we are seeing some facts about X, these facts are ‘backed up’ by a)what is actually going on and b)the kind of aspect X is. An analogy of seeing same person from different sides might be helpful here. There are facts about the person seen from a certain side, but those facts are not facts about something self-subsistent. They are fully reducible to facts about the person, and the facts about how the person is rotated in relation to us for example.

Does it make sense to talk about physical events to be this kind of not-self-subsistent aspect of what is actually going on?

I think it does.
Firstly, we don’t see today the ‘elementary particles’ as something indestructible. They appear and disappear (from and to photons), get into interactions in which other types of particles appear and so on. And on lower level it is hard to make sense of quarks as self-subsistent when they are not even supposed to be able to exist isolated by themselves.
Secondly, within quantum statistics in some systems of which we are thinking as ‘constructed’ from multiple elementary particles of same type, permutations of these particles are not counted, pointing that our ‘classical’ atomistic/constructionist thinking can not be applied.
Thridly, it is i think recognized that in the context of Special Relativity, space and time are not seen as self-subsistent, but only as aspects of one space-time thing. Also given this theory, seems to me it makes lot of sense to think of mass and energy as two highly correlated aspects, and finally in General Relativity, similar relation appears between space/time and mass/energy.
Fourthly, in quantum mechanics we have pairs of conjugate variables, which can’t be seen as self-subsistent, but appear to only behave as aspects of one and the same thing. Also, phenomena like quantum entanglement, where what we think of as two particles, seem to be ‘entangled’ also seem to point to the failure of the atomistic metaphysics, and that in those cases what we can talk about are just aspects of whatever is going on.

In order to be clear in what I say next, let me first define here (vaguely) what I mean by ‘physical entities and properties’. Those would be the entities belonging to the types and properties of those entities that also belonging to certain types, that appear in the physical laws through which physics explains the phenomena in this world.

So given those few things I pointed to, it seems to me that there are pretty good reasons to prefer seeing physical entities and properties as aspects of what is actually going on, instead of taking them as self-subsistent entities (and properties) from which everything else is built.

So, so much about plausibility of the proposal that physical is an aspect of whatever is going on. This really doesn’t seem very problematic. But the proposal is not out of the woods yet. The laws of physics seem to hold in absolute way. That is surely not what we would expect about an aspect! In the nature of the aspect is to lack something, so when we analyze an aspect we should have clear sense that we are missing something. But, it doesn’t seem that we are missing something. So, yes, you may agree, those four reasons might be a hints to consider that specific entities and properties within the physical world as aspects, but those are no reason to think that what is actually going on is not of physical nature. We can just talk about what is going on in the context of space/time/matter/energy complex, and in the context of complex quantum mechanical equations, without taking particles or their properties as self-subsistent. And it is reasonable to say those still belong to what we call “physical”, and hence we could say that what is actually going on is just what physics says, and nothing more (so physical is not an aspect)!

There is one thing that the laws of physics doesn’t seem to determine in absolute way though – the collapse which is related to quantum mechanical measurements. Namely, though quantum mechanics includes a deterministic equation which tell us about the behavior of the quantum system, it only tell us that we can discuss only a probability of a different values our measurements of this or that property might give us (and physicists mostly agree, from what I know, that this is not epistemic, but ontological limit). Now, we can accept that there is no reason for collapse happening and this and not in that way, but it also makes sense to say that this is that part where the aspect is showing itself as an aspect, what we are seeing is that it is lacking something.

This doesn’t seem very promising though. If physical is merely an aspect, we would expected for it to be correlated to the rest of the what is going on in more “organic” way. What we have instead are bunch of deterministic laws, and just one place where whatever is actually going on might go beyond the physical aspect. A biggest part of truths in the physical seem independent from anything else. So, even if we allow that there might be some “otherness”, the whole thing seems more as a construction of physical + that otherness, than an aspect. So, how can we get out of this weirdness?

To be continued…

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Resolving The Mind-Body Issue, Part 2

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on April 23, 2008

The first step into resolving the issue was returning to the world the things which we, in our wish for clean picture of the world, removed from the world and pushed under the rug of mental. And also reconsidering the “mind” as referring to different abilities of the subjects in that world, part of which are abilities to perceive all those things which we know return to the world (so colors, sounds, smells, movements, and so on…)

This, along with some motivations and considerations related to this step was discussed in the previous post.

I think one almost instinctive negative response to this move will be related to a metaphysical assumption of atomism/constructivism. According to this outlook, what we actually have in the world are large amount of entities of few basic kinds, and every other phenomenon we encounter is constructed from those entities. When this phenomenon is constructed, what makes the phenomenon what it is, is the specific configuration and dynamics of those parts.

Related to this kind of outlook (be it that we are aware of it explicitly, or we just took it for granted as part of how people talk about things), it is hard to make sense of the “returning of things from mind to world” of which I was talked . We need an alternative to atomism/constructivism, for the proposal to make sense.

The alternative is this. Instead of thinking of the world in terms of atoms (the basic “constituents”) and construction, we think of it in terms of actual things, and their aspects. What is central in this, is moving of the “source of actuality” away from the atoms. They are not now the basic stuff which is actual, and every phenomenon lends its actuality from atoms. Instead we move what is actual towards the whole – towards the whole world. It is the world that is actual, and anything within the world is actual AS a part of this whole world which includes the other things, their relations, and so on. So, in this change of the metaphysics, we can come to see atoms, also configurations of atoms, but also other things as aspects of what is actually happening in the world.

So, let’s see how this would work on some examples.

1. We can say that some things have color as their aspect. But also that they have a chemical composition as their aspect. In turn one of the aspects of the chemical composition is its reflectance characteristic. That is, which frequencies it reflects, and which it doesn’t.

2. We have events where we are seeing colors of things. One of the aspects of this seeing, is where we ‘pick-out’ the color of the thing, this aspect that we “returned” into the world. But also we can analyze the other aspect of the same phenomenon. That is the aspect where photons fall on the surface of the object, those with certain frequencies get reflected, are focused by the lens of the eye onto the retina, where eye cells react to those photons, and send signals through the optic nerve, etc…

So, we changed the atomistic/constructionalist picture to this… there is something actually happening in the world. And we can approach certain aspects of what is actually happening. But we don’t take those aspects to be self-subsistent (that is, we don’t take them as existing by itself, so that it would be logical for there to be just things from the aspect such as they are, but nothing else), instead we see their existence only as dependent on what is actually going on.

With this changed picture, we have two things…

1.We can now handle how in the same world there could be a) those “nasty” things that we returned – we can see them as more complex aspects which we can perceive, and b) the entities and properties from physics, which are now related to this aspect which is determined with the specific approach towards the world (measurements in form of comparing of one magnitude with other taken as a unit).

and 2. We get for free the explanation for the correlation between the aspects. Namely, as the “returned properties” and the physical properties are both aspects of the same actual thing, it is logical that we will see correlation. That is because the aspects are not self-subsistent, so that each aspect has separate existence (as with the constituents in the case of atomism/constructivism), instead they “get” their existence and their nature from the actuality whose aspects they are. So, multiple aspects of the same thing will necessarily be more or less correlated. In the example with color, the color of the thing and the reflectance characteristic of the object (and in turn its chemical composition) are correlated to a large extent.

This change of view is very important for making sense of the body-mind issue. We are having only one thing that is actually going on, and further we have multiplicity of aspects of whatever is actually going on. And we don’t have problem of why there is correspondence between the physical aspect of what is going on, and the mental aspect of it, without assuming that any of those is reducible to the other.

This concludes the second part of these posts. The two main steps made so far were:
1.Returning the content which was pushed under the “rug of the mental” back into the world.
2.Moving away from atomism/constructivism towards seeing the world in terms of what is actually going on, and aspects of what is actually going on, and taking both what appears in physical laws, and what we returned into the world as aspects of the world.

I noted that the correlation between aspects is something normal in this view, but this requires that those aspects are not self-subsistent. How to deal with this then, when the physical entities and their properties are apparently self-subsistent? I will discuss this in the next post

Posted in Consciousness, Metaphysics, Perception, Philosophy | 3 Comments »

Resolving The Mind-Body Issue, Part 1

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on April 22, 2008

In past posts I said that both epiphenomenalism and physicalism are weird. I also consider substance dualism equally weird. We are seeing too much correspondence between what goes in our conscious lives and what goes on in the brain for there to be place for assuming that there is two different substances. But one doesn’t even need to go too deep into science, I think. One should just check how alcohol affects our consciousness. It doesn’t affect just what I perceive, it changes ME in the most intimate way. Of course, this objection doesn’t render substance dualism impossible, but just weird. (In same way I wasn’t arguing against logical impossibility of the epiphenomenalism and physicalism in previous posts. I was just saying that given their commitments, they are weird). Now, there is also categorical phenomenalism, which says that what we are seeing in the world are the dispositions of the matter to act this or that way, but that “behind” those dispositions there is some ground, something which explains them. And categorical phenomenalism would say that consciousness is connected to this ground. However, as i posted in previous comments, this view doesn’t go far into solving the issues epiphenomenalism has. So, it is as weird to me for same reason as epiphenomenalism is.

So, throwing all those things as insensible proposals, I guess it is only fair that I express an alternative… You will probably see the alternative as weird, but I think this one is weird in different way, not because of its implausibility, but because it requires that we change significantly our suppositions about the things in the world. But, I think, lot of people do recognize the need for a significant change of the paradigm, in order for any plausible explanation of consciousness, so, in the light of that, I think that people are open to new approaches to the problem.

Let me start with little history of the problem, as I see it…

What has been done from the time of Descartes, and what continues to be done those days, and for sure will continue to be done in future is this… People through science are approaching measurable aspects of reality – those which can be quantified independently by other people, and then give different explanations of those aspects in terms of assumed entities. In doing this however, while painting the clean picture of the world, it became custom to push different things we are aware of as in the world, and which don’t easily fit into that picture, under the rug of “mental”. This is very clearly seen in terms of the Lockean distinction of primary and secondary qualities. The primary qualities, or those aspects of the world that which are also susceptible to the measurement are “allowed” in the picture of the world. Those would be some of the things we see like size, solidity, volume, shape, speed, and so on. But, what to do with the secondary qualities like color, taste, texture, sound and so on? We took the easy solution, we assumed this magical place called mind and pushed those into the mind – “We will deal with those later.”. So we got to a clear picture of the world, but on what price? The price is that we have robbed the world from all those “interesting properties”, and put them into the “ourselves”, into the mental.

But, now when we come to the time when we want to include the mind in the world, we are astonished by this metaphysical gap between the clear picture of world, and all this “leftovers” in our mind. A gap which was of our own making! And not just that, but removing those things from the world, and putting them in the mind, necessarily produces some distinction of how we see things and how they really are, and further introduces such entities as “phenomenal experience”. The result is both metaphysical and epistemic gap.

I guess the contours of the proposed change of paradigm that I’m talking about are becoming clear given what I said so far. The proposal is of returning the interesting properties into the world. Returning the colors, sounds and tastes, the acts of seeing, hearing and tasting, the beauty and the ugliness, the good and evil, the language and meaning, and all this other things back to the world.

Given that we removed all those things from the “magical place” called mind, what we get there, again in the world, are subjects which have abilities, abilities to see, hear, smell or in general become aware of all those things, but also which have abilities to consider, wish, plan, and act within that same world. And it is nice to be able to point that the words like “consciousness”, “mind” and “experience” are in non-philosophical speech used in non-Cartesian manner (so which shows that what people usually mean by those words is not inline with those other views on the mind/body issue). I discussed at larger length those issues in previous posts.

In the next post, I will discuss the issues related with returning all these things in the world, and how can they coexist with the clean picture given to us by physics. It is where this paradigm change goes further away from commonly accepted assumptions.

Stay tuned!

Posted in Consciousness, Metaphysics, Perception, Philosophy, Physics | 5 Comments »

Ditching The Experience

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on April 18, 2008

I’ve been ranting against the “phenomenal experience” idea on several occasions, and I wanted to write something about it again. But, instead, let me put out a question, and see if someone comes with any answer…

A Short Introduction…

So, the basic idea is that while it might seem that term ‘phenomenal experience’ doesn’t have any metaphysical commitments, and just refers to something that we are all aware to have, I beg to differ. To me it seems that the whole idea of “phenomenal experience” is deeply connected to a Cartesian picture of the world, which continues to live mainly disguised as different forms of representationalism, but also in my humble opinion, even people who don’t accept representationalism usually don’t go far enough, and instead ditching the concept of “phenomenal experience” they struggle to somehow relate “phenomenal experience” with their anti-representationalist view of the world.

As I said in the past, we do have a perfectly good sense of ‘experience’ in which it refers to event or events in the world, in which the subject participates, and by which it is affected somehow (got us thinking, or got us scared, excited, etc…), or from which he learns some things. In the related sense, it is used for the knowledge itself gained from those events (one can have experience with computers, with illegally getting people across borders, and so on).

However notice that this traditional meaning of ‘experience’ is not what is usually meant by “phenomenal experience” or “conscious experience”. When philosophers speak about ‘phenomenal experience’ it means that it is separated from the events taken as experiences. It is spoken thus of what it is like to have a certain experience, that there are some facts about the experience (separated from the facts about the experience taken as an event), about our ability to get knowledge of those facts through introspection, and so on.

The Question:
So, the question would be this: Can you point to one fact which would be fact about the so-called phenomenal experience, but not fact about the events in which we are participating?

——-

Here is one example so you get the idea:
Ph-Ex talk:
When we watch some picture, we have certain phenomenal experience, and there are certain facts about that phenomenal experience (like presence or absence of some object). But, while there is this fact about phenomenal experience, we might not actually notice this fact about the phenomenal experience. Hence, in this “ph-ex talk”, this shows that our introspection is not infallible – we make mistakes about our own conscious or phenomenal experience.
Normal talk:
Sometimes, even we watch in the direction of some object, we don’t see it.

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