Mind: flavors of monism/dualism | Page 5 | INFJ Forum

Mind: flavors of monism/dualism

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by charlatan, Jun 19, 2019.

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    charlatan

    charlatan I Like this Place

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    I was just saying that epiphenomenalism being coherent is just to say that there is some possible world where qualia are not causally effective. Epiphenomenalism could be coherent without being true of our world, in that in our world, qualia may have causal powers.

    Yep me too. Not too familar. I have more of a healthy pessimism than a sense there's a real argument positively for skepticism.
     
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  2. Ren

    Ren Pin's android / The Maker / ≅ INFP

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    @charlatan

    Whilst reading wolly's favorite book, Popper's Conjectures and Refutations, I came across the following passage about the Hegelian dialectic which I think offers a larger view against the idea reality is mathematical. What do you think of it? I'm curious.

    "Before I proceed to outline the fate of dialectic after Hegel, I should like to express my personal opinion about Hegel's philosophy, and especially about his philosophy of identity. I think it represents the worst of all those absurd and incredible philosophic theories to which Descartes refers in the sentence which I have chosen as the motto for this paper. It is not only that philosophy of identity is offered without any sort of serious argument; even the problem which it has been invented to answer--the question, 'How can our minds grasp the world?'--seems to me not to be at all clearly formulated. And the idealist answer, which has been varied by different idealist philosophers but remains fundamentally the same, namely, 'Because the world is mind-like', has only the appearance of an answer. We shall see clearly that it is not a real answer if we only consider some analogous argument, like: 'How can this mirror reflect my face?'-'Because it is face-like.'

    Although this sort of argument is obviously utterly unsound, it has been formulated again and again. We find it formulated by Jeans, for instance, in our own time, along lines like these: 'How can mathematics grasp the world?'--'Because the world is mathematics-like.' He argues thus that reality is of the very nature of mathematics--that the world is a mathematical thought (and therefore ideal). This argument is obviously no sounder than the following: 'How can language describe the world?'-'Because the world is language-like--it is linguistic', and no sounder than: 'How can the English language describe the world?'--'Because the world is intrinsically British.' That this latter argument really is analogous to the one advanced by Jeans is easily seen if we recognize that the mathematical description of the world is just a certain way of describing the world and nothing else, and that mathematics supplies us with the means of description--with a particularly rich language.

    Perhaps one can show this most easily with the help of a trivial example. There are primitive languages which do not employ numbers but try to express numerical ideas with the help of expressions for one, two, and many. It is clear that such a language is unable to describe some of the more complicated relationships between certain groups of objects, which can easily be described with the help of the numerical expressions 'three', 'four', 'five', and so on. It can say that A has many sheep, and more than B, but it cannot say that A has 9 sheep and 5 more than B. In other words, mathematical symbols are introduced into a language in order to describe certain more complicated relationships which could not be described otherwise; a language which contains the arithmetic of natural numbers is simply richer than a language which lacks the appropriate symbols. All that we can infer about the nature of the world from the fact that we have to use mathematical language if we want to describe it is that the world has a certain degree of complexity, so that there are certain relationships in it which cannot be described with the help of too primitive instruments of description."
     
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    charlatan

    charlatan I Like this Place

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    @Ren it's been a while :)

    There are a few things going on. (First, to reiterate since it's been a while, I obviously don't think mathematics suffices to describe our world --- I'd give the apparent particularity of the laws of physics weight, until I have really good reason to suppose all possible mathematically formulated laws also correspond to something real.)

    First main point:
    In ontology, there always has to be some kind of distinction drawn between the merely-linguistic properties and the properties that we really treat as existing out there. People have different takes on whether this distinction is just a practical one, or if it itself is genuinely 'out there'.... but at least practically, to get the discipline going, the distinction has to be made.
    How this is relevant to your passage is that people who say mathematical properties (like set-theoretic ones) really exist are clearly saying they're not merely linguistic artifacts (the kind of arbitrariness found in how British and French ways of referring to the same ontological property may be distinct).
    Rather, they're saying the property of being so and so number is expressing something truly real. I'd say the British vs French distinction corresponds more to different formalizations of mathematical truths than the truths themselves -- i.e. even with mathematics, one might write the symbol for '2' differently in different languages, but still be pointing to the same property.


    I do agree that saying 'reality is just mathematical-like' is missing the point, in the sense that I think the real mystery is that there are these two possible sorts of things in reality --- a world of abstract sets and a world of physical things, and the question is what's the connection between them (even if one doesn't think one or both exist, they're still apparently different sorts of beasts). Why do mathematical properties appear so intricately in both? It's a question similar to the mind-body problem, i.e. how do we reconcile qualia with the physical.


    In any case, my own personal beef with orthodox physicalism is just the incredible lack of any sort of a priori grasp (or anywhere close) of any non-mathematical truth.
    The view of perception we both discussed holds that when we see things, what happens is some external entity causes an experience in us -- so we couldn't possibly have an apriori grasp of the thing that caused the experience, at most of the experience itself. We then have various such experiences repeatedly and discover laws of nature.
    The main issue is that in either neutral monism/panpsychism/etc i.e. not orthodox physicalism, there's room to say that we learn something about the metaphysical nature of the world through those experiences -- they would always have to be dismissed as relatively arbitrary ways we conceptualize the world that tell us more or less nothing about its ontological nature (this appeals to the merely-linguistic vs ontological distinction from above that's pretty ubiquitous in metaphysics -- I think orthodox physicalists are happy to say we learn some kinda linguistic truth i.e. we learn to use the concept 'red apple' in a sentence competently). That there's some direct grasp the mind has of at least some of the concrete features of the world seems to be pretty hugely at stake.
    Whereas, if we had some a priori grasp of the nature of experience, even if we can't directly grasp the apples, we can grasp the experiences of apples.


    Basically, when I say "I perceive an apple/the apple caused the experience of an apple in me," I think the reason I think the relation b/w me and the apple is causal is that the experience itself seems concrete --- I note a concrete state in me that I didn't before. If there's nothing concrete I really learn by the experience/at most I'm learning the use of a linguistic device, it's kind of weird to me that I feel justified in inferring causal relations from it.


    I think what orthodox physicalists might say to this is to accept that in some sense the mind is blind to the concreteness of the world. Maybe we can grasp the idea of laws of nature a priori, so we do grasp what it IS to BE a law of nature a priori at most, but we certainly can't discover laws of nature a priori, which means we in some sense just have to assume that the things we're describing are concrete.
     
    #83 charlatan, Jun 7, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
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    charlatan

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    Another fine point --- even if one does not think for some in principle reason that a world could be entirely abstract, whether a specific property one is grasping is concrete is another story. Eg it is possible to wonder why rocks are concrete if the experiences they cause are things we also don't grasp in any a priori way at all. For, then, how do we even suspect it was a causal relation? (I realize there cannot be a causal relation to a non-concrete thing, but if the experience might not itself be concrete, why suspect the relation between the experience and rock is causal?
     
    #84 charlatan, Jun 11, 2020
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    charlatan

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    Anyway, I think my more general formulation of the mind-body problem is that it's the problem of integrating properties that are thought of without reference to causal relations with those which are causal in nature. Physics is exactly about cause-effect/law of nature type properties. Qualia seem to be the more passive 'what it's like to just BE in a state' and don't obviously tell us the causal powers the thing has.

    Ideally 'neutral' properties or whatever is underneath both these should tell us answers to both questions by letting us deduce both the causal relations and the qualitative aspect from them.

    The fact that qualia don't seem to reveal the causal powers of the thing in question leads me to suspect that not only is physics not up to understanding the world by itself, neither is a dualistic traditional view of qualia. I think the idea that we just grasp these two aspects separately/can't integrate them is what leads to dualistic intuitions.
     
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  6. Roses In The Vineyard

    Roses In The Vineyard Community Member

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    The modern mind particularly the western mindset is only really suitable for the machines of business and consumption knowing only the material being divorced of the spiritual. This same mindset oozed its way in the churches watering them down to nothing.
     
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    charlatan

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    I think the more I think about it, I probably do favor a 'neutral' monism over panpsychism. The reason is basically this: nothing about our conception of qualia in the slightest suggests we see how it's part of its essence to be part of the causal chain predicted by physics. That is, epiphenomenalism at least seems coherent.

    That's why I think positing qualia as lying at the bottom of every physics particle does little to dispel the mystery. A panpsychism where epiphenomenalism seems coherent seems very little of a victory against property dualism.

    To the extent we have anything I really feel is an advancement over property dualism in panpsychism, I'd say one is already sharply leaving the kinds of conceptualizations of qualia that I think drive most of the anti-physicalist arguments.
     
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