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Philosophy, Science, & The Unexplained - Main Thread



Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Materialism would have to include energy. Because stuff moves around, right?
Energy is just the capacity for something to perform work. So it's more of a concept than a thing. That is unless you're looking at energy from a more analogical perspective, say as electricity or waves or something along those lines. BTW we're recording another show today with a guy who is into UFO propulsion and we have the question bank open. I tried to catch @Thomas R Morrison to see if he'd be interested in participating, but he seems to have dropped off the map. I would liked to have seen if he could have switched places with me for this one because he's so into the same stuff.
 

marduk

quelling chaos since 2352BC
Energy is just the capacity for something to perform work. So it's more of a concept than a thing. That is unless you're looking at energy from a more analogical perspective, say as electricity or waves or something along those lines. BTW we're recording another show today with a guy who is into UFO propulsion and we have the question bank open. I tried to catch @Thomas R Morrison to see if he'd be interested in participating, but he seems to have dropped off the map. I would liked to have seen if he could have switched places with me for this one because he's so into the same stuff.
All I’m saying is that energy lies within materialism in its basic form - the ability to change matter, and its interchangeability with matter.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
All I’m saying is that energy lies within materialism in its basic form - the ability to change matter, and its interchangeability with matter.
Well, if matter and energy are essentially equal according to Einstein, then I'd say you have a perfectly valid point.
 

marduk

quelling chaos since 2352BC
Well, if matter and energy are essentially equal according to Einstein, then I'd say you have a perfectly valid point.
And I think that's the end of what is. Matter and energy and the forces that interact with both.

Dualism died for me one day in grade 9 when I realized the fundamental problem with it: if the mind is something separate than matter, then how would it interact with matter to make us do things?

Answer: it couldn't.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
And I think that's the end of what is. Matter and energy and the forces that interact with both. Dualism died for me one day in grade 9 when I realized the fundamental problem with it: if the mind is something separate than matter, then how would it interact with matter to make us do things? Answer: it couldn't.
True. But there's others ways to look at dualism within the larger framework. There's no question that we have mental phenomena ( in an experiential context ) and there's no question there is material phenomena ( in the classic context ), and even if we say that a conscious experience is composed of some sort of physical thing, be it waves, or particles, or what have you, none of that explains the nature of the experience. Hypothetically all the physical stuff could interact and cause us to behave the way we do without there being any consciousness associated with it.

Hypothetically even if we could see the "stuff" ( neurons, chemicals, electrical flashes ) or measure the waves or whatever the experience is physically composed of, we still wouldn't see the conscious experience. It is this experience that is separate from the rest and can be thought of as the mental component of dualism in a different sense than classical dualism that holds that mental "stuff" is different from material "stuff". I imagine you've already got that in perspective, but just thought I'd lay it down for the sake of clarity for any other readers who might happen along. So dualism isn't really dead. It's just evolved.
 

marduk

quelling chaos since 2352BC
True. But there's others ways to look at dualism within the larger framework. There's no question that we have mental phenomena ( in an experiential context ) and there's no question there is material phenomena ( in the classic context ), and even if we say that a conscious experience is composed of some sort of physical thing, be it waves, or particles, or what have you, none of that explains the nature of the experience. Hypothetically all the physical stuff could interact and cause us to behave the way we do without there being any consciousness associated with it.

Hypothetically even if we could see the "stuff" ( neurons, chemicals, electrical flashes ) or measure the waves or whatever the experience is physically composed of, we still wouldn't see the conscious experience. It is this experience that is separate from the rest and can be thought of as the mental component of dualism in a different sense than classical dualism that holds that mental "stuff" is different from material "stuff". I imagine you've already got that in perspective, but just thought I'd lay it down for the sake of clarity for any other readers who might happen along. So dualism isn't really dead. It's just evolved.

Sorry man, I’m not following. I think dualism is quite dead, or more accurately was never alive to begin with.

There is no mental “stuff” just like the program running on your computer isn’t “stuff.” It’s a very specific configuration of “stuff” that interacts with the outside world and itself in a very stateful way.

The state in execution is likely what consciousness is. It’s not separate from the physical universe any more than mail.app on your MacBook is separate from the physical universe - it’s that mail.app is a very different beast when it’s unloaded and exists as bits on a hard drive, vs mail.app when you’re running it and it exists in execution and you’re typing into it.

Turn the computer off while you’re typing into mail.app and it goes away. Along with the state it was running in, and you have to reboot it. You’ve effectively killed the mail.app executing thing, and you spawn a new variant of it when you reload it. But the original state it was in was gone.

But here’s the thing - if you grab a state snapshot of mail.app running in memory, reload that, poof! It’s all back exactly the way it was before. Because you’ve grabbed a snap of the state machine in action.

And I’d wager the exact same thing could happen with our minds. No dualism needed, just systems thinking.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
All I’m saying is that energy lies within materialism in its basic form - the ability to change matter, and its interchangeability with matter.

How does the above account for mind? I mean, how does it account for either consciousness or mind, the latter being dependent on conscious experience in and of the world -- i.e., on a sensible and tangible physical environment in which things and other living beings are encountered and interacted with?

Btw, dualism and materialism/physicalism are not the only available philosophical/ontological alternatives.
 

marduk

quelling chaos since 2352BC
How does the above account for mind? I mean, how does it account for either consciousness or mind, the latter being dependent on conscious experience in and of the world -- i.e., on a sensible and tangible physical environment in which things and other living beings are encountered and interacted with?

Btw, dualism and materialism/physicalism are not the only available philosophical/ontological alternatives.

Read “I am a strange loop.”

Aside from that, I’m not interested in playing syntactic games with you, Constance.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Read “I am a strange loop.” Aside from that, I’m not interested in playing syntactic games with you, Constance.
I'll take a closer look at Hofstadter's book, but in the meantime, a cursory look at the core assumption on consciousness as it relates to alternative substrates for consciousness appears to be overconfident. That's because it doesn't take into account the points I've raised on the unique capabilities of certain materials to give rise to emergent phenomena, and that might include consciousness. There are a couple of other issues as well, but there's little question that he's a very interesting and intelligent guy. I mean Chalmers was one of his students! So thanks for bringing him into the discussion! BTW, I know how things can get with Constance, but there's no point in sparking things in a negative direction. Maybe try to look at it like I've mentioned in my response to her post.
 
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Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Btw, dualism and materialism/physicalism are not the only available philosophical/ontological alternatives.
The main problem is with the assumption that only one particular philosophical label has to be correct. Having looked into Ponty and the label he's usually identified with ( phenomenology ), it became apparent that Ponty himself realized the same thing. Ultimately he appeared to advocate that consciousness is an integral part of nature:

"Merleau-Ponty aims to integrate the truth of naturalism and transcendental thought by reinterpreting both through the concept of structure, which accounts for the unity of soul and body as well as their relative distinction." - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
This amounts to the same sort of thing that both @marduk and I advocate at the most fundamental level, but we're all using different terminology. For example, if we are to assume as Marduk suggests that anything that can affect the material must be part of materialism, then clearly consciousness falls under that category. If as I advocate, that anything that is a part of nature falls within physicalism, then consciousness falls in there as well. Phenomenology alone certainly can't be the whole answer because it's focused on the subject of consciousness.

"Phenomenology is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness. " - Wikipedia.​

Logically then, Phenomenology can be considered to be a subset of either Materialism or Physicalism as Marduk and I see them. Somewhat ironically this means that in a certain context we can all be in perfect agreement about certain things without really realizing it. You are certainly entitled to disagree with that assessment. However at the same time there appears to be no reasonable argument to say that any of us are actually wrong because:

"A unique and final definition of phenomenology is dangerous and perhaps even paradoxical as it lacks a thematic focus. In fact, it is not a doctrine, nor a philosophical school, but rather a style of thought, a method, an open and ever-renewed experience having different results, and this may disorient anyone wishing to define the meaning of phenomenology." - Wikipedia​

So essentially I'd say that your focus on phenomenology is very appropriate given that the focus of the discussion is on consciousness, and I'd also say that both Marduk and I have valid views of how consciousness fits into the larger picture. Plus I'd also say that mental phenomena ( in an experiential context ) is an entirely separate thing from mental phenomena ( in the classical materialist context of stuff - neurons, atoms, particles or what have you ), and therefore dualism in that sense is just as alive as it ever was. It also doesn't require that the universe be either one way or the other. It can accommodate both sorts of things in a unified whole. Again, this view is strikingly similar to Pony's point of view as outlined above.
 
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Thomas R Morrison

Paranormal Adept
I often use the analogy of magnetism. There's no fundamental reason or explanation for why a magnetic field should suddenly appear when an energized wire is wrapped around a core made of the right materials.
No, this is demonstrably incorrect. We understand electromagnetic induction perfectly well - it's simply special relativity applied to electrodynamics. There isn't really a "magnetic field," there's just "the electric field undergoing relativistic motion." We've understood that for over a century now.

The nonlinear magnetic permeability of ferromagnetic materials took slightly longer to figure out, but we now know exactly how it works: magnetic domains within a ferromagnetic crystalline lattice align with the applied field to amplify the magnetic field of an inductive coil. The commonplace application of this physical understanding is responsible for the incredible performance of our computer hard disk drives.

All of the mysteries of magnetism were solved many decades ago, and we're now exploiting that understanding with genuine virtuosity in every computer and cell phone of the modern era. The mysteries of the modern age are much more exotic: dark energy and dark matter are the primary mysteries today.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
No, this is demonstrably incorrect. We understand electromagnetic induction perfectly well - it's simply special relativity applied to electrodynamics. There isn't really a "magnetic field," there's just "the electric field undergoing relativistic motion." We've understood that for over a century now.

The nonlinear magnetic permeability of ferromagnetic materials took slightly longer to figure out, but we now know exactly how it works: magnetic domains within a ferromagnetic crystalline lattice align with the applied field to amplify the magnetic field of an inductive coil. The commonplace application of this physical understanding is responsible for the incredible performance of our computer hard disk drives.

All of the mysteries of magnetism were solved many decades ago, and we're now exploiting that understanding with genuine virtuosity in every computer and cell phone of the modern era. The mysteries of the modern age are much more exotic: dark energy and dark matter are the primary mysteries today.

You're missing the point, which means I'm not doing a good job of explaining. Let me try again:

Having mathematical descriptions that conform to observed behavior and creating descriptive analogies ( like the Bohr model or string theory ) only provide descriptions of behavior and abstract ways to think about what's going on, but they don't provide an explanation for what's going on at the most fundamental level. We can say much the same thing about consciousness by invoking all the stuff we know about biology, neuroscience and the brain. For example we can say we know how brains form from all the various materials and biochemical interactions involved with DNA replication and genetic expression during pregnancy so that at birth we end-up a conscious being. But that still doesn't explain consciousness on a fundamental level.

For other types of things there are plenty of reasons we might conclude that other things should occur. For example Archimedes was able to logically deduce displacement theory from simple observation. But we could look at a brain or a coiled wire until the end of time and have no reason to expect magnetism or consciousness is associated with either of them. It is only through our direct experience as conscious beings that reveal to us that consciousness exists, and it's only by the behavior of magnetism on things other than itself that tells us magnetism exists. I'm not sure if you've listened to Chalmers talk about the hard problem of consciousness, so for your convenience, I'll post it here again. Maybe he can get the point across better than I'm doing.


 
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Thomas R Morrison

Paranormal Adept
You're missing the point. Having mathematical descriptions that conform to observed behavior and creating descriptive analogies ( like the Bohr model or string theory ) only provide descriptions of behavior and ways to think about what's going on, but they don't provide an explanation for what's going on at the most fundamental level.
No, I'm not missing the point: you are. We absolutely understand what's going on at the most fundamental level with magnetism, and I already gave you the search terms required to verify it for yourself. Electrical charges in relative motion induce length contraction according to the Lorentz transform, and this relativistic spatial contraction creates a special relativistic charge distribution interaction that we call "magnetism." In other words, there is no "magnetic field" - there's only electrical charges in relative motion which produces the illusion of a secondary field. It's very simple and it makes perfect sense and it can be calculated to enormous accuracy based on simple and intuitive geometrical laws.

The nature of consciousness is still a valid ontological mystery. The nature of magnetism isn't. Don't conflate them: their status today has nothing in common.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
No, I'm not missing the point: you are. We absolutely understand what's going on at the most fundamental level with magnetism ...
That's not the point. I totally get what you're saying and that's not the context of why I used it as an example. It's that magnetism cannot be explained by something simpler. It simply exists as something that is fundamental in and of itself. Please review the Chalmers video. There's no conflating going on. There's simply the use of it as an analogy that helps to explain a point.
 
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Thomas R Morrison

Paranormal Adept
\ It's that magnetism cannot be explained by something simpler.
Yes, it can. It's simply electrical charges in motion. That's the simpler and more fundamental reality. There is no magnetic field - there's only electrical charge in relative motion.

I'm familiar with Chalmer's ideas but I don't recall any magnetic analogies - maybe I haven't seen the video you're talking about. But if he's invoking magnetism as some kind of mystery, then he's wrong. There is no mystery, because there is no magnetic field; just charges in motion. I'm pointing this out for two reasons: 1.) so you can read up about the underlying relativistic nature of "the magnetic field" and 2.) so you can find a more applicable analogy. Because there's nothing mysterious about the nature or origin of magnetism.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Yes, it can. It's simply electrical charges in motion ...
That's not exactly the case. The most fundamental that the explanation for magnetism ( EM ) gets is that it's produced by the spin of electrons or a certain vibration of a string. We can also talk about photon exhange and virtual photons. But those explanations don't actually describe reality at that level. They're just analogies that help us to map out behavior as pictures we can relate to. And in any case there's no reason to think that spinning a particle or vibrating a string or associating EM with photons should make something like EM suddenly manifest. This is why it's called a "fundamental force" of nature. Every interaction between things in the Universe can be boiled down to them and nothing simpler. Which means we simply have to accept that it exists. There is no further answer for where they come from.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
No, I'm not missing the point: you are ...
It's not possible for me to miss my own point, which is what the context of the discussion is. However it is possible that your point, although accurate within your context, doesn't apply to the context of the point I'm attempting to get across. Frequently that seems to be the case in our discussions. So perhaps I shouldn't say "you're missing the point" as it seems to put you into a defensive stance. Or maybe you do get my point but are trying to improve on my explanation by offering something better. I don't know for sure which situation is the case. How might we improve our communicating in order to avoid these sorts of problems?
 

marduk

quelling chaos since 2352BC
I'll take a closer look at Hofstadter's book, but in the meantime, a cursory look at the core assumption on consciousness as it relates to alternative substrates for consciousness appears to be overconfident. That's because it doesn't take into account the points I've raised on the unique capabilities of certain materials to give rise to emergent phenomena, and that might include consciousness. There are a couple of other issues as well, but there's little question that he's a very interesting and intelligent guy. I mean Chalmers was one of his students! So thanks for bringing him into the discussion! BTW, I know how things can get with Constance, but there's no point in sparking things in a negative direction. Maybe try to look at it like I've mentioned in my response to her post.

I'm not pointing at that book as a firm solution, I'm pointing at it as a possibility. And any possibility within the material universe that we currently understand has an infinitely (literally) higher probability of being true than a whole other universe that we have no evidence of existing.

Added to that, the problem of non-interaction with a material universe that cannot be detected, and yet must happen on a massive scale for it to work.
 

marduk

quelling chaos since 2352BC
No, I'm not missing the point: you are. We absolutely understand what's going on at the most fundamental level with magnetism, and I already gave you the search terms required to verify it for yourself. Electrical charges in relative motion induce length contraction according to the Lorentz transform, and this relativistic spatial contraction creates a special relativistic charge distribution interaction that we call "magnetism." In other words, there is no "magnetic field" - there's only electrical charges in relative motion which produces the illusion of a secondary field. It's very simple and it makes perfect sense and it can be calculated to enormous accuracy based on simple and intuitive geometrical laws.

The nature of consciousness is still a valid ontological mystery. The nature of magnetism isn't. Don't conflate them: their status today has nothing in common.

I think what Randall is getting at is what buddhists term dependant/arising.

Pratītyasamutpāda (Sanskrit: प्रतीत्यसमुत्पाद pratītyasamutpāda; Pali: पटिच्चसमुप्पाद paṭiccasamuppāda), commonly translated as dependent origination, or dependent arising, is the principle that all dharmas ("phenomena") arise in dependence upon other dharmas: "if this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist".
Pratītyasamutpāda - Wikipedia

One can take an infinitely reductive view of materialism and still ask "... but where did that come from?" There may literally be no end to this reductionism.

And I think that's what Randall is getting at in terms of magnetism. Not how it works but what is it that is working? One could ask that of anything in the universe and come to the same conclusion: we don't actually know, but have increasingly measurably correct guesses.
 
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