Mod+ 250. DR. JEFFREY SCHWARTZ, SCIENCE’S INABILITY TO EXPLAIN PERSONHOOD

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Sciborg_S_Patel

Combination problem?
How do the individual conscious entities - in this case cells - combine to make our human consciousness?

Unless you were saying the consciousness of cells work together to sustain the form of the body, rather than accounting for our minds? Would explain when the body seems to having its own wants & needs outside the will's control...

 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

Panpsychism has yet to produce fruitful research programs as emergentist and reductionist approaches have. In short, panpsychism may be a solution in search of a problem as it commits a category mistake similar to dualism by presuming consciousness is to be found as part of or a property of matter itself rather than as an abstract notion referring to certain patterns of interaction among matter. Thus, panpsychism tends to live mostly in pure philosophy and woo-related fields.
Hahaha - Rational Wiki right?

Always interesting to see the word games materialists use to try and defend their position. The Combination Problem is nothing compared to the Strong Emergence problem.

I find Clifton makes the best case against materialism:

An Empirical Case Against Materialism

Empirical arguments for materialism are highly circumstantial —based, as they are, upon inductions from our knowledge of the physical and upon the fact that mental phenomena have physical correlates, causes and effects. However, the qualitative characteristics of first-person conscious experience are empirically distinct from uncontroversially physical phenomena in being—at least on our present knowledge—thoroughly resistant to the kind of abstract, formal description to which the latter are always, to some degree, readily amenable. The prima facie inference that phenomenal qualities are, most probably, non-physical may be resisted either by denying their existence altogether or by proposing that they are properties of some peculiar sort of mysterious physical complexity, located, for example, within the functioning of the brain. It is argued here, however, that the first, eliminative hypothesis is empirically absurd—while the second is extravagant, vague, ad hoc and (for various additional reasons) profoundly implausible.
Taken together, these considerations provide a compelling empirical case against materialism—yet its converse, mentalism, is usually regarded as subject to serious difficulties of its own. I conclude by suggesting empirical and theoretical desiderata, respectively, for the vindication of materialism and alternatively, for the development and defense of a potentially robust and viable mentalist theory of consciousness.
 
Why do I have to consider pansychism when I can just accept that God exists based on fine tuning, and then go fishing.
 
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The Cosmic Adventure: Science, Religion and the Quest for Purpose by John F. Haught

'[Materialists] apparently reject any dualism that would give to mind a separate ontological status. However, although they are monists metaphysically speaking, in that they reduce reality to only one kind of stuff, they remain dualists in their epistemology, that is, in their view of knowledge. They demand that we be objective in our understanding of nature, and this objectivity requires that we keep our subjectivity detached from the object, nature. The scientist’s own mind must remain at a distance from the object being investigated in order that an "objective" perspective become possible. This divorce of the scientific subject’s mind from the object being examined amounts to an epistemological dualism.
The importance of this insight cannot be overlooked, yet it fails to register with most materialists, many of whom I've debated are very intelligent, well-informed thinkers. Those who do acknowledge this epistemological gap exhibit a degree of faith in the belief that conscious experience is nonetheless material that rivals the most irrational of superstitions. Those who do not are like fish in the sea who don't realize they're immersed in water and therefore reject its existence.

I agree with materialists that brain=mind, but I differentiate between brain/mind and experience. Many people seem to confuse the hard and easy problems of consciousness. Easy things are like neural correlates and mechanisms behind mental activity; the hard part is explaining why there is experience in the first place. Materialists are stuck with explaining how there is experience, but idealists do not have that problem. For an idealist, the brain/mind exists in consciousness, not the other way around. But for most materialists this notion is impossible to wrap their heads around (pun intended). And granted, it can be pretty hard to explain!
 
I dont think either has much of an edge yet in terms of explanations. Simply declaring consciousness to be fundamental doesn't explain what consciousness is any more than simply declaring it to emerge out of matter.
No edge in terms of scientific explanations, no. But here are some common observations I find intriguing: 1. Reality is only known to us through conscious experience. Matter is an abstraction, experience is not. This is an epistemological problem for materialism, but is predicted by idealism. 2. We know what it's like to be a conscious dream character within our own dreams. If we imagine what it might be like if our waking selves were dream characters within a cosmic dream, we need look no further than our own existence for an example. 3. Asking an idealist what consciousness is, is as meaningless as asking a materialist what matter is. However, if asked what is matter, the idealist says "an idea", but if asked what is consciousness, the materialist says "no idea."

If any of the above is unreasonable, I do enjoy having my views challenged :)
 
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I agree with materialists that brain=mind, but I differentiate between brain/mind and experience. Many people seem to confuse the hard and easy problems of consciousness. Easy things are like neural correlates and mechanisms behind mental activity; the hard part is explaining why there is experience in the first place. Materialists are stuck with explaining how there is experience, but idealists do not have that problem. For an idealist, the brain/mind exists in consciousness, not the other way around. But for most materialists this notion is impossible to wrap their heads around (pun intended). And granted, it can be pretty hard to explain!
While I also tend to an idealist explanation of ultimate reality, I think the problem is that idealism seems to be an overly permissive theory. When we look at the physical sciences, we see that they developed in stages - Newton's laws of motion and gravity, then Special Relativity, then General Relativity. Even if Newton had conceived of GR, there is no way science could have jumped to that theory in one go! Likewise, physicists currently use two theories that are incompatible - GR and QM - on the basis that the effects of one seem negligible in circumstances where the other is useful.

Bearing the above in mind, I think Dualism may be a useful approximate theory of reality. We shouldn't fault Dualism by making the obvious observation that there must be some interaction between the mental and the physical - the important point is that to a good approximation it is useful to consider them uncoupled.

BTW, I have made this point several times before, but Tempel may not have seen them, and IMHO they always seem relevant when the subject of idealism comes up.

David
 
Good point about it being "too soon" for idealism. In fact, there has been a ton of backtracking since idealism and panpsychism were the dominant views near the onset of the Enlightenment.

I disagree that dualism is useful; it's still a hidden and therefore problematic assumption for many self-stated monists who somehow still think in terms of "the interaction between the mental and the physical". This is mostly a linguistic problem which causes us to confuse the map for the territory; in reality, mind and brain are two sides of the same monistic coin. A useful way to reconcile this dilemma is with double-aspect theory, which may view mind and matter as, for instance, qualitatively "inside" versus quantitatively "outside". From this perspective, it is possible to be either a dual-aspect materialist or a dual-aspect idealist.
 
Good point about it being "too soon" for idealism. In fact, there has been a ton of backtracking since idealism and panpsychism were the dominant views near the onset of the Enlightenment.
I disagree that dualism is useful; it's still a hidden and therefore problematic assumption for many self-stated monists who somehow still think in terms of "the interaction between the mental and the physical". This is mostly a linguistic problem which causes us to confuse the map for the territory; in reality, mind and brain are two sides of the same monistic coin. A useful way to reconcile this dilemma is with double-aspect theory, which may view mind and matter as, for instance, qualitatively "inside" versus quantitatively "outside". From this perspective, it is possible to be either a dual-aspect materialist or a dual-aspect idealist.
I'm not too sure how much sense it makes to even talk about a worldview as useful. It's not like we pick and choose our worldviews like we do a wrench and say, hey, this one is perfect for the job. Our worldviews are a sign of where our consciousness is at and is probably the perfect one for us in the moment, because it's the only one for us in the moment we're capable of having. I think the only thing that is "useful" is that we become aware of the fact we should always try and push past our current worldview for a better one, even if the worldview in question is Idealism!
 
Another good interview. Thanks Alex.

What I find most frustrating in many materialists is their refusal to acknowledge their own conscious awareness; the denial and dismissal of what philosophers call qualia - their own first person mental experience.

It's difficult to know how to proceed with such an absurd condition. They present a myriad of (to my mind) irrelevant arguments to explain away their own conscious awareness. What I usually find when I can engage a bit deeper with them is two things.

First of all they cannot distinguish awareness from its object. Their awareness is so completely embedded in and identified with the objective field of consciousness that they take the two to be one thing. Secondly, when you push a bit what you discover is what can only be called 'belief'. Materialism is a belief system; an ideology; and once the mind is given over to it, it operates like a theology.

What is the answer to this materialist darkness that shrouds the academic world? (it is not the general human condition, thankfully)

Max Planck, who was neither an atheist nor a materialist, said... "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

And that is it plain and simple. The materialist theory became dogma in the academy at the dawn of the 20th century; and still reigns today. It arises I believe from a reduced conception of science that was considered necessary as a bulwark against religion and mysticism and the illusive nature of purely subjective data (of course all data is subjective; but certain kinds can be rendered 'scientific'). As Dr Schwartz points out most materialists have never thought it through; they have just accepted it on faith; or because it's just part of the rules you have to follow to be accepted in the academy. That's why you eventually come up against belief when you push them a bit.

But materialism will yield in future time to a more enlightened science; of that I feel certain.

Meanwhile the work of people like Alex is a positive contribution and impulse towards that future.
 
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Max Planck, who was neither an atheist nor a materialist, said... "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."
That's one of my favorite quotes, but I got to thinking about it lately and wonder if it is as true today as it was in Planck's time. Of course, Planck was speaking in general terms, but still. We live in an age where progress is more rapid and information dissemination throughout the world is at levels unimaginable just a few decades ago. I can't help but think all this could help wake up the human spirit faster and give more hope that we don't really have to wait for a whole generation to die off, because the truth is getting harder to hide from ;-)
 
That's one of my favorite quotes, but I got to thinking about it lately and wonder if it is as true today as it was in Planck's time. Of course, Planck was speaking in general terms, but still. We live in an age where progress is more rapid and information dissemination throughout the world is at levels unimaginable just a few decades ago. I can't help but think all this could help wake up the human spirit faster and give more hope that we don't really have to wait for a whole generation to die off, because the truth is getting harder to hide from ;-)
I really hope you're right, Ethan; at any rate, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
 
That's one of my favorite quotes, but I got to thinking about it lately and wonder if it is as true today as it was in Planck's time. Of course, Planck was speaking in general terms, but still. We live in an age where progress is more rapid and information dissemination throughout the world is at levels unimaginable just a few decades ago. I can't help but think all this could help wake up the human spirit faster and give more hope that we don't really have to wait for a whole generation to die off, because the truth is getting harder to hide from ;-)
Hi Ethan. I think we must distinguish between the expansion of knowledge in an opened field; and the opening of a new field. It was the opening of a new field that Planck was referring to - I think. A lot of the progress being made today is within already opened fields within the standard paradigm; so it doesnt come under P's comment.
But maybe you are right, and maybe the information age will increase the speed at which new fields and new paradigms can be opened. I hope so. We definitely need it very badly.
 
Hi Ethan. I think we must distinguish between the expansion of knowledge in an opened field; and the opening of a new field. It was the opening of a new field that Planck was referring to - I think. A lot of the progress being made today is within already opened fields within the standard paradigm; so it doesnt come under P's comment.
But maybe you are right, and maybe the information age will increase the speed at which new fields and new paradigms can be opened. I hope so. We definitely need it very badly.
Forgot to mention, there is a bit of historical precedent we can put some stock into when it comes to our hope for change. The Guttenberg press was a major step up in information dissemination back in the day, which is now widely credited for many of the advances/changes that "rapidly" followed afterwards. Some say the full effect took about 100 years, though. When it comes to information dissemination, the Internet is the Guttenberg press on a massive dose of steroids and we're really only 10-20 years into it.
 
It was the opening of a new field that Planck was referring to - I think. A lot of the progress being made today is within already opened fields within the standard paradigm; so it doesnt come under P's comment.
If so, then that could mean that existing paradigms will reach their limits of explanatory power more quickly, thus hastening the point where it's realised they are insufficient to explain all phenomena. IOW, it could hasten the point where the only possible way forward is to change the paradigms.

The one saving grace of science is that in the end, empirical evidence has to be acknowledged. An existing paradigm has to be able to accommodate it. Take the example of NDEs. My take is that they are now more readily accepted as experiences that people actually have, and the argument has shifted from treating them as nonsense to trying to explain, within the accepted paradigm, what causes them. This leads to elaborations of the paradigm: for example, the conjecture that there's brain activity that could account for NDEs, but it occurs in areas where it's difficult to detect, or could be at a lower level than might be expected. All sceptics (although some probably still do) aren't just saying these days that the NDE experience must have occurred after recovery from apparent brain flat-lining, and that investigators must have been mistaken about when it occurred.

This hasn't yet changed the paradigm that mind=brain, but lots more people know about the issue and have ready access to information about it on the Internet: lots more of them are aware of the controversies and are more able to evaluate the evidence than formerly. It'll be difficult to change the minds of dyed-in-the-wool sceptics, but many people are more open to the possibility of the paradigm being incorrect, and are saying so on a thousand blogs. It's more apparent to paradigm supporters that that there's a substantial number of people who disagree with them--and not based solely on unsubstantiated belief, but to some extent on empirical evidence.

This creates pressure on paradigm supporters to turn up the volume, but since their evidence isn't conclusive, they also dial up the invective. The louder they shout, the more they demonstrate that uncertainty exists. People may not be scientists, but it's common experience to find that someone who is truly confident doesn't shout or call one names; still less do they tell untruths of commission or omission.

It's happening all over the place: not just just in relation to psi/spirituality, but also to medicine, global warming, economics, cosmology, Darwinian evolution, etc. Paradigms are being challenged everywhere, and not just by those who in the past would have been interested, but by people who don't have any particular axe to grind. Increasingly, science is coming into disrepute, and many people are having less faith in it. It's not that science's methods are intrinsically unreliable, but that people are increasingly realising scientists are human beings and not immune to things like confirmation bias, the pressure to keep quiet about doubts, the need to have some kind of faith maintained in the absence of evidence, and so on. People want science, but they also want scientists who are truly open to evidence, and it's increasingly apparent that certain especially influential and vocal cadres of spokesmen aren't relying purely on evidence, but personal bias.

It's never been a worse time to be a supporter of paradigms, and it's getting worse all the time. I'm not saying all paradigms will get busted, but some surely will, and very probably more quickly than in the past.
 
Forgot to mention, there is a bit of historical precedent we can put some stock into when it comes to our hope for change. The Guttenberg press was a major step up in information dissemination back in the day, which is now widely credited for many of the advances/changes that "rapidly" followed afterwards. Some say the full effect took about 100 years, though. When it comes to information dissemination, the Internet is the Guttenberg press on a massive dose of steroids and we're really only 10-20 years into it.
Yes, and like boiling frogs, we might not notice how much has already changed... I am hopeful that you are right.

At the moment I see our greatest challenges in the political, economic and environmental spheres...and reductive materialism has a deeply negative effect in those areas. Combined with the sociopathic efficiency of the corporate structure that is taking over at every level of social organisation we are in deep trouble. We have developed a global system that may not be able to avert disaster. Things may have to get worse before they can get better.
 
At the moment I see our greatest challenges in the political, economic and environmental spheres...and reductive materialism has a deeply negative effect in those areas. Combined with the sociopathic efficiency of the corporate structure that is taking over at every level of social organisation we are in deep trouble. We have developed a global system that may not be able to avert disaster. Things may have to get worse before they can get better.
I totally agree! We get too focused on just science around here, like it's the source of the problem. But, it really is a problem inherent to all levels in our culture at this point, at least in the West.
 
I totally agree! We get too focused on just science around here, like it's the source of the problem. But, it really is a problem inherent to all levels in our culture at this point, at least in the West.
Yes; I agree. Science itself is not the problem. The problem lies in the mindset of those who control the development and application of science; and those people are not themselves scientists; they are merchants; mostly bankers and industrialists.

In a nut shell – science is the handmaiden of the merchants. The merchants are the ruling elites today and they literally own science – in the sense that they either directly employ, or indirectly control or direct, most scientific work in our world. And with the liberalisation or corporatisation of education and the academy, their control of science will soon be total. There will soon be almost no independent scientists or science in our world if we continue on the present course.

Science and the merchants support each other’s power base; in a similar way that the aristocracies and the Church supported each other in the feudal system and the Ancien Regime etc and the ancient world.

What we need obviously is an independent science which is not restricted to commercial ends; nor by dogmatic ideology.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

Neuroscientist Raymond Tallis seems to endorse a version of the neuroplasticity argument by connecting it with the aforementioned mystery of intentionality:

...If you really must be neuroscientific about it and talk about “neuroplasticity” (the research showing that there are changes in the brain when one acquires a skill), then you should be reminded that neuroplasticity is often self-driven, and that the self that does the driving cannot be understood without invoking the collective and individual transcendence that is the intentional world greatly expanded through language and culture. And we could extend the application of the term “plasticity” far beyond neuroplasticity: there is also bodily plasticity, plasticity of consciousness (including increased confidence in my abilities, which can be self-fulfilling), plasticity of the self, and plasticity of the world of selves (as when I decide to cooperate with others to ensure that one of us makes that so-important catch). It is a mistake to try to stuff all of that back into the brain and see it solely in terms of changes in synaptic connections at the microscopic level, or alterations in cortical maps at the comparatively macroscopic level. Stuffing it back in the brain, of course, is the first step to handing it all over to the no-person material world, and then tiptoeing back to determinism...
 
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