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← The raw deal of determinism and reductionism

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 135 by Mark Jones

Comment 126 by Steve Zara

As Galen Strawson points out, we have no evidence that raw matter is incapable inherently of experience:

But we do have that evidence!

Yes, sorry, as I said later in my comment, I think there is evidence that raw matter is not inherently capable of experience, so I should have made it clearer this was a statement by Strawson, not me. Nevertheless, his 'anti-materialism' point stands: that many people let their prejudice against raw matter dictate the problem.

However, if experience is some attribute of raw matter, it's the wrong kind of thing to have an effect on physical brains.

Yes, that problem does suggest that such an explanation for experience would render it epiphenomenal. But I've never seen the real issue with mental features not having an effect, if the corresponding physics does the affecting. As Bernard Hurley points out, the big difficulty with epiphenomenalism is: how the hell did it evolve?!

(To consider just one situation, if experience was such an attribute, it would not be possible to explain how we managed to achieve unconscious states, because the amount of experiencing could not change if it was such an attribute) Such an attribute would be a sort of universal field, like an electrical charge. For us to have information about it in our brains something would have to happen like the field fluctuating. But that doesn't work because if there was some extra field on that scale that would in fluence brain cell activity we would have seen it, easily.

I don't think it need be an extra field, but an existing well documented feature of matter that just happens to deliver experience in certain environments or circumstances. That could explain loss of consciousness, for example. He's not arguing that rocks have experience, for example. Just that the matter in them is capable of experience. SEP touches on this issue in its article on panpsychism:

This reply, so far as it goes, can also serve to deflect another objection, which is that the mental attributes assigned to the fundamental physical entities by the panpsychist must lack all causal efficacy, that is be entirely epiphenomenal, since the physical world, as described by physics, is causally closed...The dispositional aspect of the properties of remote connectedness via informational states that we have been discussing are a part of basic physics but the panpsychist may urge that they also represent the primitive consciousness of the basic entities involved in these interactions. Physics has described them in the physical terms appropriate for physical theory, that is, purely in terms of their dispositions to interact with other physical entities in certain ways; this does not preclude their being mental properties.

So I think the suggestion is we are already well aware of the physics (there's nothing undiscovered physically) but something about it also makes it what we think of as 'mental'. If you think that not being able to preclude mental properties of the known physics is not very persuasive, I tend to agree, but it's important not to counter it with 'matter-ism'!

Although the arguments are quite subtle, I think it's clear that this kind of panpsychism just cannot work. It's simply the wrong kind of thing needed to explain awareness.

Yes, I think Strawson is almost certainly wrong in what he's saying, but undoubtedly right on the prejudice.

Thu, 19 Jul 2012 14:34:18 UTC | #949573