Some Interesting Thoughts on [Varieties of] Materialism from Materialists....

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Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
Let's see what materialists/physicalists themselves have to say about the paradigm:

1) Puppets are Conscious Entities (and remember Patricia Churchland thinks this theory of consciousness is brilliant):

“It seems crazy to insist that the puppet’s consciousness is real. And yet, I argue that it is. The puppet’s consciousness is a real informational model that is constructed inside the neural machinery of the audience members and the performer. It is assigned a spatial location inside the puppet. The impulse to dismiss the puppet’s consciousness derives, I think, from the implicit belief that real consciousness is an utterly different quantity, perhaps a ghostly substance, or an emergent state, or an oscillation, or an experience, present inside of a person’s head. Given the contrast between a real if ethereal phenomenon inside of a person’s head and a mere computed model that somebody has attributed to a puppet, then obviously the puppet isn’t really conscious. But in the present theory, all consciousness is a “mere” computed model attributed to an object. That is what consciousness is made out of. One’s brain can attribute it to oneself or to something else. Consciousness is an attribution…
2) There are infinite multiverses coming to being at each moment, at an exponential rate - an extraordinary claim so lacking in extraordinary evidence Carroll has to cheat to give it plausibility:

‘It’s trivial to falsify [MWI],’ boasts the Caltech cosmologist Sean Carroll, another supporter: ‘just do an experiment that violates the Schrödinger equation or the principle of superposition, which are the only things the theory assumes.’ But most other interpretations of quantum theory assume them (at least) too – so such an experiment would rule them all out, and say nothing about the special status of the MWI. No, we’d quite like to see some evidence for those other universes that this particular interpretation uniquely predicts. That’s just what the hypothesis forbids, you say?

What a nuisance.
3) An admission about how Dualism stacks against Materialism by materialist Lycan:

Being a philosopher, of course I would like to think that my stance is rational, held not just instinctively and scientistically and in the mainstre5)am but because the arguments do indeed favor materialism over dualism.But I do not think that, though I used to.My position may be rational, broadly speaking, but not because the arguments favor it:Though the arguments for dualism do (indeed) fail, so do the arguments for materialism.And the standard objections to dualism are not very convincing; if one really manages to be a dualist in the first place, one should not be much impressed by them.My purpose in this paper is to hold my own feet to the fire and admit that I do not proportion my belief to the evidence
4) An admission by the physicist Richard Lewontin about the materialist faith influencing scientific research:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
5) The materialist Searle admitting materialist theories are chosen not necessarily because they are good but because they are seen as combating dualism associated with religion:

"I believe one of the unstated assumptions behind the current batch of views is that they represent the only scientifically acceptable alternatives to the antiscientism that went with traditional dualism, the belief in the immortality of the soul, spiritualism, and so on. Acceptance of the current views is motivated not so much by an independent conviction of their truth as by a terror of what are apparently the only alternatives."
-John Searle, "What's wrong with the philosophy of mind?"

6) There are no thoughts, as stated by materialist Alex Rosenberg in The Atheist's Guide to Reality:

Now, here is the question we’ll try to answer: What makes the Paris neurons a set of neurons that is about Paris; what make them refer to Paris, to denote, name, point to, pick out Paris?...

The first clump of matter, the bit of wet stuff in my brain, the Paris neurons, is about the second chunk of matter, the much greater quantity of diverse kinds of stuff that make up Paris. How can the first clump—the Paris neurons in my brain—be about, denote, refer to, name, represent, or otherwise point to the second clump—the agglomeration of Paris?...

A more general version of this question is this: How can one clump of stuff anywhere in the universe be about some other clump of stuff anywhere else in the universe—right next to it or 100 million light-years away?

...Let’s suppose that the Paris neurons are about Paris the same way red octagons are about stopping. This is the first step down a slippery slope, a regress into total confusion. If the Paris neurons are about Paris the same way a red octagon is about stopping, then there has to be something in the brain that interprets the Paris neurons as being about Paris. After all, that’s how the stop sign is about stopping. It gets interpreted by us in a certain way. The difference is that in the case of the Paris neurons, the interpreter can only be another part of the brain...

What we need to get off the regress is some set of neurons that is about some stuff outside the brain without being interpreted—by anyone or anything else (including any other part of the brain)—as being about that stuff outside the brain. What we need is a clump of matter, in this case the Paris neurons, that by the very arrangement of its synapses points at, indicates, singles out, picks out, identifies (and here we just start piling up more and more synonyms for “being about”) another clump of matter outside the brain. But there is no such physical stuff.

Physics has ruled out the existence of clumps of matter of the required sort...
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#2
7) Some more thoughts from Alex Rosenberg:

If the physical facts fix all the facts, however, then in doing so, it rules out purposes altogether, in biology, in human affairs, and in human thought-processes. Showing how it could do so was a tall order. Until Darwin came along things looked pretty good for Kant’s pithy observation that there never would be a Newton for the blade of grass—that physics could not explain living things, human or otherwise, because it couldn’t invoke purpose. But the process that Darwin discovered–random, or rather blind variation, and natural selection, or rather passive environmental filtration–does all the work of explaining the means/ends economy of biological nature that shouts out ‘purpose’ or ‘design’ at us. What Darwin showed was that all of the beautiful suitability of living things to their environment, every case of fit between organism and niche, and all of the intricate meshing of parts into wholes, is just the result of blind causal processes. It’s all just the foresightless play of fermions and bosons producing, in us conspiracy-theorists, the illusion of purpose. Of course, that is no surprise to scientism; if physics fixes all the facts, it could not have turned out any other way.
If there is no purpose to life in general, biological or human for that matter, the question arises whether there is meaning in our individual lives, and if it is not there already, whether we can put it there. One source of meaning on which many have relied is the intrinsic value, in particular the moral value, of human life. People have also sought moral rules, codes, principles which are supposed to distinguish us from merely biological critters whose lives lack (as much) meaning or value (as ours). Besides morality as a source of meaning, value, or purpose, people have looked to consciousness, introspection, self-knowledge as a source of insight into what makes us more than the merely physical facts about us. Scientism must reject all of these straws that people have grasped, and it’s not hard to show why. Science has to be nihilistic about ethics and morality.
Perhaps the most profound illusion introspection foists on us is the notion that our thoughts are actually recorded anywhere in the brain at all in the form introspection reports. This has to be the profoundest illusion of all, because neuroscience has been able to show that networks of human brain cells are no more capable of representing facts about the world the way conscious introspection reports than are the neural ganglia of sea slugs! The real challenge for neuroscience is to explain how the brain stores information when it can’t do so in anything like the way introspection tells us it does—in sentences made up in a language of thought.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#4
Excellent stuff. Yep, this metaphysics is hard.

Regarding Rosenberg: Why can't some clumps of neuron represent things outside the brain? The argument appears to be that one of those clumps would have to refer to the meaning of, say, the Eiffel tower. Why? All it has to do is conjure up the image.

~~ Paul
But there are nouns/verbs we talk about that don't have direct isomorphisms to particular images if to images at all. Truths of geometry that apply to objects with billions of sides, mathematical theorems referring to functions and algorithms, discussions about Truth & Beauty & Love...even the concept of "tower" arguably fits into this.

Even when we have definite images we have meaning through language - it's what distinguishes a set of letters like C-A-T from arbitrary scratch marks as well as other words in the same alphabet.

Matter, additionally, has no determinate meaning. What a piece of matter represents is what meaning a consensus of minds (or even one mind) project on to that piece.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#5
But there are nouns/verbs we talk about that don't have direct isomorphisms to particular images if to images at all. Truths of geometry that apply to objects with billions of sides, mathematical theorems referring to functions and algorithms, discussions about Truth & Beauty & Love...even the concept of "tower" arguably fits into this.
But they can simply have references to a clump of neurons that represents an indivisible concept. And I'd bet some of those might actually be images, such as "1" or "a single blob." Those clumps might be related to others in a metaphorical fashion.

Even when we have definite images we have meaning through language - it's what distinguishes a set of letters like C-A-T from arbitrary scratch marks as well as other words in the same alphabet.
But "cat" can refer, perhaps indirectly, to an image of a cat. And that image can refer back to "cat."

Matter, additionally, has no determinate meaning. What a piece of matter represents is what meaning a consensus of minds (or even one mind) project on to that piece.
I don't see why this is a problem.

Here is the question: What can we do with our brains that specifically requires absolute referents and not just a network of references?

Second question: Once we obtain the meaning of an absolute referent (however that might happen), how does that help the brain think about that thing?

~~ Paul
 
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S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#6
But they can simply have references to a clump of neurons that represents an indivisible concept. And I'd bet some of those might actually be images, such as "1" or "a single blob." Those clumps might be related to others in a metaphorical fashion.
My point was how does a neuron refer to any concept? An image of a tower assumes understanding of a tower.

I would go lower than humans first - a cockroach runs when the light bulb is turned on. An amobea entraps its prey. Is either creature having a thought about concepts like "light" or "prey", or are they - under materialism - just running through evolved reactions?
 
#7
Interesting stuff, Sci, thanks for posting. I have to say though that I sympathise with Paul here:

Regarding Rosenberg: Why can't some clumps of neuron represent things outside the brain?
Whilst I don't see how the physicalist account of consciousness (such as it even amounts to an account, as opposed to an inability to account for) could be true, I don't think that this problem is fatal to it. Then again, I haven't studied it carefully, so take my rushed opinion for what it's worth...
 
#9
My point was how does a neuron refer to any concept? An image of a tower assumes understanding of a tower.

I would go lower than humans first - a cockroach runs when the light bulb is turned on. An amobea entraps its prey. Is either creature having a thought about concepts like "light" or "prey", or are they - under materialism - just running through evolved reactions?
why can't a thought be an 'evolved reaction'?
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#10
My point was how does a neuron refer to any concept? An image of a tower assumes understanding of a tower.
Not if I simply need a final referent for a concept. But nothing stops the image neurons from having connections to more conceptual aspects of the tower, such as a cylinder or the ground.

I would go lower than humans first - a cockroach runs when the light bulb is turned on. An amobea entraps its prey. Is either creature having a thought about concepts like "light" or "prey", or are they - under materialism - just running through evolved reactions?
I'd say they are running through a combination of evolved and learned reactions. But, for example, the cockroach may have a generalized reaction to any source of bright light, be it the sun or a light bulb. Some pattern matching or categorization might be going on.

Why do you think that a human is doing anything more than this, except on a much more sophisticated level? (Not that I'm trying to resurrect behaviorism.)

~~ Paul
 
#11
Excellent stuff. Yep, this metaphysics is hard.

Regarding Rosenberg: Why can't some clumps of neuron represent things outside the brain? The argument appears to be that one of those clumps would have to refer to the meaning of, say, the Eiffel tower. Why? All it has to do is conjure up the image.

~~ Paul
Please tell me about the physics of the critical process of "conjuring"? In rebuttal to the concept of conjuring; I say it is a process called understanding. Understanding (as a process) can be parsed by information theory.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#12
Please tell me about the physics of the critical process of "conjuring"? In rebuttal to the concept of conjuring; I say it is a process called understanding. Understanding (as a process) can be parsed by information theory.
In this case I mean "cause to be experienced internally." No need to ask me how that works, because I don't know.

I don't know what it means for "information theory to parse understanding."

~~ Paul
 
#13
In this case I mean "cause to be experienced internally." No need to ask me how that works, because I don't know.

I don't know what it means for "information theory to parse understanding."

~~ Paul
Modern science models signals from the environment - traveling to our 5 senses - with great precision. Information arrays in the channels to the senses of organisms (light, sound waves, thermal change, etc...). are open to observation and measurement. The channels to the brain and its processing areas are well mapped. also. Further and deeper, we can follow the information of these signals to the receptors in the brain. But; analysis need not end here, where physicality terminates and coding begins

Functional understanding involves comparing and contrasting those ambient signals with databases of both previous experience and with databases that are anticipatory of the future. They are conceptual in natural. Most of this interaction is subconscious. I would point to the immune systems as serving that function as a database, as an example. There is much to explore in the infospace of an organism.

The immune system processes peptide patterns using mechanisms that in some cases correspond closely to existing algorithms for processing information (e.g., the genetic algorithm), and it is capable of exquisitely selective and well-coordinated responses, in some cases responding to fewer than ten molecules. Some of the techniques used by the immune system include learning (anity maturation of B cells, negative selection of B and T cells, and evolved biases in the germline), memory (crossreactivity and the secondary response), massively parallel and distributed computations with highly dynamic components (on the order of 108 dierent varieties of receptors [52] and 107 new lymphocytes produced each day [37]), and the use of combinatorics to address the problem of scarce genetic resources (V-region libraries).
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/dafd/dd113bd68f3db714d32d80df3460f9b8ceb9.pdf
 
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