August 04, 2006

Wilber, Chalmers, Stoljar, Seth Lloyd

Anand Rangarajan Says: August 3rd, 2006 at 5:04 am Hi Mark, Thanks. The above was really helpful. Let’s leave aside the dual-aspect issue for the moment. You say “If you hold on doggedly to one of those points of view (physicalism) and deny the validity of the others (psychism) .” But that’s not what we (analytic philosophers, consciousness researchers) want to do. We want to redefine the physical to include psychism. That is, we want an expanded physical that accommodates different perspectives of that same physical. And the different perspectives shape and themselves are shaped in the new physical. The approach very simply then is to accommodate any new “fact” into the expanded physical. Why is this problematic?
Andy Smith Says: August 3rd, 2006 at 12:42 pm Anand: I just read the Stoljar article in the link you kindly provided. While it’s an interesting approach, I don’t see how postulating another kind of physical (o-physical) really helps solve the mind-body problem. He admits we may never be able to perceive or have direct evidence for this kind of physical world. And if it really is such that qualia can supervene on it, I would think we never would see it. His analogy of triangles and pie pieces, like all analogies that try to explain why we can’t understand qualia as somehow arising from the physical world, falls very short. I felt he was trying to close the gap between qualia and the physical with something between them, but at our present understanding, this is like a gap between finite and infinite, and we know there is nothing between them that is not either finite or infinite, which is to say, there is nothing between them.
I am much closer to Mark here, in believing that there is something profoundly different about qualia. I tend to lean towards the panpsychist view, or property dualism, but I’m very understanding of the criticism that it’s big list metaphysics. I was very interested in your mention of Seth Lloyd. I recently read his book Programming the Universe. One thing struck me in particular, so much so that I composed a letter to him, though I haven’t emailed it yet (still mulling it over). Near the end of the book, when he discusses making a quantum computer, he says “a simulation of the universe on a quantum computer is indistinguishable from the universe itself” (p.154) .
It seems to me that if this is true, and if such a quantum computer could really be built, it would solve the zombie problem. As used by philosophers of mind, a zombie is someone just like an ordinary person, but with no qualia. There is tremendous debate among philosophers over whether zombies are logically possible, because if they are, that implies that physicalism is false. That is, if two beings atom for atom identical exist, but one has qualia and the oher does not, it seems that qualia are not supervenient on the physical world.
Anand Rangarajan Says: August 3rd, 2006 at 12:45 pm Response to Mark: Perhaps the problem (with my proposal) is with the word physicalism. If the word were changed to naturalism, would you feel the same way? The reason why I’m asking this is that the new “physicalism” (in scare quotes now since the word may not survive) would have to be a postmodern physicalism that takes first (and second) person facts into account. In your thought experiment, you’re trying to predict a first person phenomenon - banananess - from the knowledge of only third person facts - neuronal structures and functions and bridging laws. I don’t see how this is going to work.
The new physicalism or naturalism would predict - based on the first person report of banananess - that a certain first person sensory stimulation perspective of a certain kind existed for a few moments while the banana was being eaten and fill out certain facts (unknown at this time) regarding a base set of banana eating possibilities (yumminess or yuckiness I think what’s happening in our dialog here is that I am not doing a good job of conveying just how different the new “physicalism” has to be from the old physicalism in order to accommodate prehensions, sensations, perceptions, emotions, thoughts, visualizations and PCEs not to mention cultural (second person) facts as well.
Response to Jim: I’ll keep this short. First, please, please see Gregg Rosenberg’s book “A Place for Consciousness” . It is one of the very best (and latest) books on panexperientalism. Rosenberg followed Chalmers in the sense of getting his Ph.D. from Indiana. Second, there’s a huge problem with causation. For a philosopher, causation amounts to “A caused B” in a causal network. Unfortunately, in physics, all we have at present are glorified correlations which change with the way the wave function evolves. So there’s a gap there. Wilber’s comments on causal closure are very vague, so let’s ignore them for the time being. Here’s my argument that causal closure is not a problem.
i) We have independent reasons for beginning with a new physicalism which generates particles, spacetime, experience etc. since we need this new physicalism to accommodate experience. (Stoljar’s argument)
ii) The new physicalism will have to have something like perspectives (Wilber’s argument) which operate on a physicalist base - a set of possibilities perhaps (Seth Lloyd’s argument) - and shape them.
iii) The interaction of perspectives with a base set of possibilities generates experience (my hypothesis).
iv) As a by-product, when perspectives operate on possibilities, you get actual causation and not merely correlations (argument adapted from decoherence).
All this is obviously on the wild side, but please note that we need the new physicalism to accommodate experience and when we use perspectives as one aspect of the physical operating on possibilities, we get causation for free.

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