This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Mark Jones's Profile

Mark Jones's Avatar Joined almost 6 years ago
Gender: Male

Latest Discussions Started by Mark Jones

More Discussions by Mark Jones

Latest Comments by Mark Jones

Go to: The raw deal of determinism and reductionism

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 140 by Mark Jones

Comment 137 by Steve Zara

Ah yes, but what I am saying is not to do with matter, it's to do with information. The mental properties you mention are simply impossible. This isn't 'matter prejudice', but based on a relatively simple argument relating to knowledge:

Yes, to re-iterate; I'm not accusing you of matter-ism in your arguments, just that it exists. As you know, I'm familiar with your arguments on this, and find them pretty persuasive. However, I read the panpsychism article at SEP and decided it's beyond my pay grade until I've studied some more!

Thu, 19 Jul 2012 15:37:54 UTC | #949578

Go to: 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

Go to: The raw deal of determinism and reductionism

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 124 by Mark Jones

Comment 121 by Zeuglodon

Steve Zara was the one who persuaded me that physicalism, to be more precise, was a credible base. Not in the logical positivism sense of being exclusive (if I can't detect it, it doesn't exist, or "absence of evidence is evidence of absence"), but more in the sense that, if you can't provide evidence for something, you default to the null hypothesis in practice.

I think this is an important point; that materialism is simply a description of what we have evidence for at the moment. There are presumably any number of 'othernesses' that could exist, but we need some evidence for them. If, for some reason, the only evidence we can get is of matter, then that's hardly the fault of materialists, is it? We're simply not in a position to acknowledge the existence of anything else - how is that dogmatic? But if we can get evidence for something other than matter, well, great; we can all take a look.

I think it's also worth pointing out that there is an inherent anti-materialist dogma implicit in many of these discussions. As Galen Strawson points out, we have no evidence that raw matter is incapable inherently of experience:

The puzzlement remains - the deep puzzlement one still feels, as a beginner in materialism, when one considers experiential properties and non-experiential properties and grants that they are equally part of physical reality. The puzzlement is legitimate in [a way]: it is legitimate insofar as we have no positive understanding of how the two sorts of properties connect up. But it is completely illegitimate if it contains any trace of the thought "How can consciousness be physical, given what we know about what matter is like?" If one thinks this then one is, in Russell's words, "guilty, unconsciously and in spite of explicit disavowals, of a confusion in one's imaginative picture of matter" (1927a: 382). One thinks one knows more about the nature of matter-of the non-experiential-than one does. This is the fundamental error.

In this discussion of panpsychism, he calls this 'seemingly strange view', that all particles have the capacity to experience, a simpler explanation than what we've come up with so far:

Why have we simply assumed that the physical is in its fundamental nature non experiential, what is the evidence for that idea? The answer (because it's mathematically precise) is zero evidence, for the existence of non-experiential reality anywhere in the universe, so why simply assume that the fundamental things are non-experiential and then cause this huge problem for yourself, which is the problem of, how do I get the experiential from the non-experiential. Much simpler, simply to suppose that there is experientiality already there right at the bottom of things.

To make the assumption, he goes on, that matter is non-experiential is 'pure prejudice'. Well, he has a point, even if I find it intuitively hard to take panpsychism seriously! To be clear, I find functionalism more plausible based on, for example, gaps in our own experience (so I'm not sure about Strawson's 'zero evidence' claim), but I think it's worth pointing out this prejudice against matter.

So maybe we should start calling those who suggest that matter cannot explain intention, awareness and so on, matter-ists.

Thu, 19 Jul 2012 10:07:06 UTC | #949556

Go to: Dawkins calls for 'Catholic' honesty

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 67 by Mark Jones

To be honest, the more I speak to theists, the more I think they are defined by their lack of doctrinal rigour. Oh yeah, I say to them, you don't believe in the tenets of your church; yeah, that's what sort of makes you a theist, I guess. You are a freethinker in another sense; because church dogma is, by definition, unjustified, you don't feel the need to justify your own beliefs.

Just like atheists, they see no reason to believe everything their leaders say is true, but instead of rejecting it all, they take what they want. No doubt some of their choices are evidence based, but sadly not all. One could say their zealotry is defined by how much they use evidence and reason.

Fri, 08 Jun 2012 23:26:12 UTC | #946463

Go to: Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 194 by Mark Jones

Comment 192 by Akaei


Thu, 07 Jun 2012 09:10:13 UTC | #946080

More Comments by Mark Jones