Pharyngula

Cool! A new argument for dualism!

At least, that is, it’s new to me. Austin Cline summarizes a report in The Philosophers’ Magazine by Michael La Bossier:

[R]ecent studies of cloned animals reveal that current cloning techniques produce animals that are as distinct in their personalities as animals produced by “natural” means of reproduction. Texas A&M, which has been on the forefront of animal cloning, has found that cloned pigs differ from each other in, among other things, their food preferences and degree of friendliness towards human beings.…

Given that the clones are genetically the same and are typically raised in similar environments, it seems reasonable to consider the possibility of a non-physical factor that causes the difference in personality. After all, once the physical factors are accounted for, what would seem to remain would be e non-physical. In light of the history of philosophy, the most plausible candidate would be the mind.

Ooh! Ooh! I have to test this!

I have in my hand two identical dice. I throw them at the same time, to the same place, with the same amount of force…whoa. A 5 and a 2. How can that be?

I have two quarters. They are the same, right down to the year. I flip them both and…two heads. That’s a relief. I flip them again, and get a head and a tail.

This is amazing! I have just proven that dice and coins have minds! Is there some kind of big rich philosophical prize I can win for this accomplishment? Would the Templeton Foundation hand out a million bucks for proving that there are immaterial spirits haunting objects in the world?

Please—no one mention the concept of chance until I’ve got the money. And especially don’t mention that complex dynamic systems, such as, say, cloned pigs, are highly sensitive to variations in initial conditions, and offer many opportunities for accumulation of subtle, random changes, such as occur during development.

Comments

  1. #1 Keith Douglas
    September 3, 2006

    Ugh. That argument is even worse than David Chalmers’. I’m embarassed by my fellow philosophers.

  2. #2 coturnix
    September 3, 2006

    Gotta defend my school – the behavioral testing of cloned pigs was done at North Carolina State University (yeah, people who did it were recent acquisitions from A&T and some of the students still had their affiliations in Texas, but the PI was in Raleigh, and the work was done here).

  3. #3 coturnix
    September 3, 2006

    To be precise – the pigs were cloned in Texas and tested in North Carolina.

  4. #4 Ginger Yellow
    September 3, 2006

    Gosh, you mean two beings don’t experience exactly the same stimuli and process them in exactly the same way, even if they’re in the same environment? I’m stunned. This clearly overturns all of materialistic cognitive science.

  5. #5 Dan
    September 3, 2006

    Hm. You’d think that the Aggies would be cloning sheep, rather than pigs.

    Kazuo Ishiguro explores just this topic in his latest novel, Never Let Me Go. Very good book, although quite depressing at the end.

  6. #6 Caledonian
    September 3, 2006

    Most of reality obeys Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crud.

    In science and other modes of responsible inquiry, we have principles that we use to screen out dross and leave the gold. We call these principles ‘standards’. Systems of irresponsible inquiry like religion and academic philosophy lack these ‘standards’, and as a result they follow Sturgeon’s Law so enthusiastically that they actually exceed the prescribed percentage of crud.

  7. #7 kansas_lib
    September 3, 2006

    Caledonian,

    That was funny.

  8. #8 TAW
    September 3, 2006

    Anyone ever read Steven Pinker’s The blank slate: The modern denial of human nature ? I think it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read (about science). VERY interesting.

    Anyway I bring it up because he says that research has shown that when it comes to personality: identical twins separated at birth are extremely similar, even when raised in very different environments. Regular siblings (and fraternal twins) are also very similar even when rasied apart, yet not as similar as identical twins. And here’s the most interesting part- adopted children are no more similar in personality to their foster parents/siblings than complete strangers.

    …maybe pigs are the ones with souls, we’re the soulless ones lol

  9. #9 anon
    September 3, 2006

    There’s also the fact that identical twins are more similar than clones…there is at least SOME variation.

  10. #10 ashmoo
    September 3, 2006

    This is fun:

    Despite all water molecules being the same, every snowflake is different. Therefore: water molecule have ‘mind’.

  11. #11 wrymouth
    September 3, 2006

    Wow. Maybe some p-stat and quantum physics work should be required for philosophy candidates?

    Nature/Nurture is a terribly complicated system, and I don’t know if arguments of personality individuation of even identical twins in “similar” or even “identical” environments can be reasonably advanced to argue for or agin a “non-physical” (read: supernatural?) cause. Alexander Calder’s mobiles come to mind, as an illustration of a chaotic system.

    I have a more pressing question, concerning self: it is fairly easy to advance material explanations for the development of one’s body and even (given conversations with my wife, herself an excellent forensic psychologist) one’s personality and mental capabilities and short-comings.

    But the “self,” itself, remains the mystery for me; I know to a certain extent why I grind my teeth, have blue eyes, a prediliction towards alcoholism and a dry sense of humor. But I’ve still no idea, arguing from the material, scientific world, why I am “I.”

    It’s not like a fish trying to think about water; it’s deeper than that. I don’t know if there’s any analogue short of the silly: a fish wondering why it is that particular fish.

    Welp; I got another 40 years or so to figure it out, before the end of the world!

    < < immaterial spirits haunting objects in the world >> echoes of the Demon-Haunted World?

  12. #12 Cyan
    September 3, 2006

    Nitpick:

    I have in my hand two identical dice. I throw them at the same time, to the same place, with the same amount of force…whoa. A 5 and a 2. How can that be?

    It can’t. The physics underlying this situation are very well understood, and are deterministic. If you do everything perfectly the same, you will get the same result.

    The coin flip was the better example, because you didn’t say that everything is the same in the two repetitions.

  13. #13 Caledonian
    September 3, 2006

    Identical twins usually share the same uterine conditions and available resources. Clones are usually implanted in different uteri, and the cloning process seems to be rather traumatic – we can reasonably expect them to be far more different than genuine identicals.

    This simple and rather obvious fact seems to have somehow escaped the highly trained and educated brain of Mr. La Bossier. Perhaps before publishing his next paper, he should have it vetted by a five-year-old child?

  14. #14 Kristine
    September 3, 2006

    You’d think that the Aggies would be cloning sheep, rather than pigs.

    Good one!

    It would seem that the public is pretty misinformed about what cloning really is (well, duh), and what it does and does not deliver…

    However, isn’t this line of illogic ultimately problematic for the questioner? Animals having immaterial minds? Kind of like (gasp!) souls? It still dashes the human-as-center paradigm, doesn’t it?

    I mean, what’s the friggin’ point–pork chops are crucifixion?

  15. #15 dc
    September 3, 2006

    Double congratulations for that post. One for the succinct put-down and another for so expertly disproving the notion that some have (here in Europe) that Americans can’t do sarcasm.

    Nice one Prof!

  16. #16 Brock Tice
    September 3, 2006

    Now destroying your quarters is not only legally questionable, it could be the destruction of a living soul.

    Clearly, we will need to legislate respect for the lives of our newfound inanimate fellow beings.

  17. #17 RavenT
    September 3, 2006

    similar environments

    Cline mentions this, but it bears repeating–without defining what they mean by “similar”, it’s just total handwaving to say that all environmental variables were accounted for. “Identical” (structural isomorphism/one-to-one and onto correspondence of structural features determined to be significant) is one thing, but “similar” without definition of what that means in regard to environment, and how that significance was determined, permits a great deal of floppiness.

    Also, I haven’t seen the original study, but did all the clones have the same uterine environment? That would not be necessary for clones, and would certainly need to be accounted for in determining how similar (or not) their environments were.

  18. #18 John Wilkins
    September 3, 2006

    PZ, were the dice homozygous twins, though?

  19. #19 William Gulvin
    September 3, 2006

    I notice that no one has yet mentioned epigenetics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics All I have to do is say the word around my molecular biologist and geneticist friends and they start edging towards the door. One ran out of the room screaming. I don’t claim any great understanding of it, but epigenetics certainly makes the whole subject of inheritance very much more difficult and much less predictable. PZ, maybe you can help?

  20. #20 386sx
    September 3, 2006

    I think that’s spelled “Michael LaBossiere”.

  21. #21 pastor maker
    September 3, 2006

    What, did one cloned pig prefer Mark Steyn colums while the other was into Mike Moore movies?

    Just how do you measure personality difference in swine, anyway?

  22. #22 bargal20
    September 3, 2006

    “This pig likes me 20% more than its clone does! Look, you can see it in his eyes!”

  23. #23 j
    September 3, 2006

    Well, philosophy is a nice subject, even if it is useless for all practical purposes.

  24. #24 decrepitoldfool
    September 3, 2006

    What? My army of cloned super-soldiers won’t all be identically, single-mindedly devoted to carrying out my orders?!! Well then it’s hardly even worth creating them.

  25. #25 dorkafork
    September 3, 2006

    Just how do you measure personality difference in swine, anyway?

    Well, it would have to be one charmin’ muthaf@#&in’ pig to get a measurable difference. I mean he’d have to be ten times more charmin’ than that Arnold on Green Acres, what with the margin of error and whatnot.

    Personality goes a long way.

  26. #26 archgoon
    September 3, 2006

    PZ, you are my hero.

  27. #27 Ron
    September 3, 2006

    This is all very funny. But people like Wilson and Dawkins have been telling us for years that it’s all in the genes and that social science will soon wilt into a mere branch of biology. Whether you attribute it to ‘extreme sensitivity to initial conditions’ or something called ‘mind’ (which no one has yet bothered to define here) the fact is that cloned animals growing up in the same environment are as different as genetically different ones. So take your ‘genes’ and ‘genomics’ and stuff them in Francis Crick’s calcium channels. That’s the point.

  28. #28 Bo Dixen Pedersen
    September 3, 2006

    Nitpick Nitpick: Actually it isn’t deterministic IF you subscribe to the current models of the physical forces only the scale of the forces that make it undeterministic are so small in the experiment they have little impact but some.

    You probably have to repeat the experiment many times throwing the same dice at the same time to get a different result, but it will be a finite number and therefore it is not deterministic.

  29. #29 Bo Dixen Pedersen
    September 3, 2006

    Nitpick Nitpick Cyan: Actually it isn’t deterministic IF you subscribe to the current models of the physical forces only the scale of the forces that make it undeterministic are so small in the experiment they have very little impact on the outcome.

    You probably have to repeat the experiment many times throwing the same dice at the same time to get a different result, but it will be a finite number and therefore it is not deterministic.

    But then again it’s impossible to prove.

    On the subject of clones: I am a bit curious what is the measure of difference of personality in animals?

    How do you even go about that? And how much is a lot of difference or little difference and what are the differences :D

  30. #30 JackGoff
    September 3, 2006

    I’ll see your quantum foam and raise you an indeterminant cosmological constant. 8^)

  31. #31 Cyan
    September 3, 2006

    Bo Dixen Pedersen,

    Meh. That probabilistic variation of the mechanics of dice cause by quantum effect is, in precise scientific terms, one bajillion orders of magnitude smaller than the variability that affects different organisms with the same DNA.

  32. #32 Dustin
    September 4, 2006

    I’m glad these mental giants weren’t the ones who first conducted the Stern-Gerlach experiment. Instead of state equations and quantized spin, we’d have gotten some hoodoo about (pause for dramatic effect) THE MIND!

    This is almost, but not quite, as bad as that paper that came out of MIT’s economics department last year. You remember it. It was the “Going to church makes you rich” paper. Clowns.

  33. #33 TAW
    September 4, 2006

    Identical twins usually share the same uterine conditions and available resources.

    I think that’s always the case actually :P

    Sorry I can’t be more helpful, but I think Pinker also said there was research that eliminated that uterine environment hypothesis… Can’t remember how, frankly I can’t think of any way to do that right now…. I really gotta buy that book.

  34. #34 Foobarski
    September 4, 2006

    Dammit, I want to clone one of my cats and have the clone behave EXACTLY like the current cat does, even though many of the environmental factors will be different.
    Can’t I solve this problem just by throwing enough money at it?

  35. #35 Dustin
    September 4, 2006

    You know, I hate to get fringy, but David Bohm backs me up here. The brain is run on electrochemical impulses which, like anything else on that scale, resolve themselves according to the generalized statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics. It’s completely possible that the brain, simply as a consequence of its physical makeup, is so sensitive to quantum fluctuations that it’s actually likely that genetically identical subjects raised in identical conditions would come out different.

    Alternatively, there was a paper published earlier this year that examined the way monkeys made choices. Remember this?
    http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2006/04/whats_it_worth_to_ya.php?utm_source=SB-rightcol&utm_medium=linklist&utm_campaign=internal%2Blinkshare
    Personality and cognitive functions are all sitting on top of whatever random process possessed those monkeys to act like that. Yeah, things seem to make sense on the level of cognition and personality, but that’s on the emergent level. Somewhere, deep in our brains, is a random number generator seeding our maze of neurons with chaos. Considering how complex (in the mathematical sense) the brain is, it is sensitive in the extreme to those perturbations, small as they are.

    “The mind” indeed.

  36. #36 jdkbrown
    September 4, 2006

    I’d like to defend the honor of the philosophers here. Contra Caledonian’s charge, academic philosophy certainly does have standards; although, I agree that Sturgeon’s law applies to it, as to everything else. The Philosophers’ Magazine isn’t a scholarly journal–it’s more like popular mechanics. (Although I’m not sure it’s that good.)

  37. #37 Jim Harrison
    September 4, 2006

    Although some scientists share the blame, the notion that the contemporary understanding of biology reduces everything to DNA is mostly a journalistic simplification. I think some of the newspapers have been reusing the same boilerplate explanations since the late 60s and a heck of a lot of developmental and cell biology has been figured out in the interim.

    Commonsense would like to explain the individuality of particular organisms by reference to some unchanging and specific bearer of an essence. For purposes of oversimplifying things, the genome is functionally analogous to the old notion of soul, albeit the soul notion doesn’t do any real explaining at all while DNA is at least (and at most) a partial explantion.

    One other nicety: genes are known whose effect is to increase the variability of the phenotype. In paramecia, if I remember the reference correctly, the gene in question results in the production of offspring of different sizes. One can easily imagine a gene in pigs that tends to produce pigs whose friendliness varies from individual to individual.

  38. #38 Dan
    September 4, 2006

    Kristine:

    I mean, what’s the friggin’ point–pork chops are crucifixion?

    Mmmmm. Tasty and sacreligious. Just the way I like it.

  39. #39 Mnemosyne
    September 4, 2006

    This is all reminding me of the classic novel The Boys from Brazil (the novel, not the sucky-ass movie version thereof) where they try to clone Adolf Hitler. Ira Levin (the author) is very specific in saying that many clones (something like 100) are created and placed in family situations similar to Hitler’s in the hopes that one — just one — of them will be like him.

    So, yeah, even in the 1970s, no one seemed to believe that genetics was everything.

  40. #40 JB
    September 4, 2006

    < <<
    Just how do you measure personality difference in swine, anyway?

    >>

    Easy, the web above the more charming one reads “Some pig”

  41. #41 BC
    September 4, 2006

    And the fact that cloned animals have strangely short lifespans – I bet that’s because they don’t have a soul!

  42. #42 386sx
    September 4, 2006

    Here’s a copy of LaBossiere’s article. I’m not sure if he’s getting a bum rap or not. His conclusion:

    “If all these factors could be controlled adequately in a cloning experiment and the clones still had distinct personalities, then it would be even more reasonable to suspect that a non-physical mind exists.”

    Hmmmmmm…

  43. #43 RavenT
    September 4, 2006

    I don’t know, 386sx. Here’s a case study of identical twin boys, living in the same environment, who developed the same cancer at different ages, with very different outcomes.

    We report identical twin boys who each had stage IV rhabdoid tumor of the left kidney at the age of 5 months and 2 years, respectively. The 5-month-old boy, despite receiving chemotherapy, died of progressive disease at the age of 12 months. Following resection of the tumor, his twin brother was treated with 6 cycles of combination chemotherapy consisting of cisplatinum, doxorubicin, vincristine, cyclophosphamide, and actinomycin-D alternating with ifosfamide and etoposide. After complete regression of lung and brain metastases, he received high-dose thiotepa, etoposide, and cyclophosphamide, followed by autologous peripheral stem cell rescue. The patient is presently alive and free of disease 6 years posttransplant.[1]

    [1] Sahdev I, James-Herry A, Scimeca P, Parker R. Concordant rhabdoid tumor of the kidney in a set of identical twins with discordant outcomes. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2003 Jun;25(6):491-4.

    It would seem that the question of “mind” would be orthogonal to this case, although it is a similar situation–different onset and outcomes of pathology to twins in the same environment. “Mind” plays no role here, but the physiological discrepancy exists, despite the genotypic and environmental similarities.

    So why mind would necessarily be “even more likely” in the cases he cites, I’m not sure. He still seems to me to be assuming his conclusion.

  44. #44 Dustin
    September 4, 2006

    Why is it so fashionable here at Pharyngula to use the word orthogonal as though it meant “entirely unrelated”?

    Anyway, I think I’m done picking at the possible causes of the difference in personality. The fact remains that the mind and personality are physical. It bothers me a lot that there are so many people out there who refuse to believe that, even in the face of centuries of lobotomies and well-documented personality changes following head trauma. What exactly is it that they’re looking for? We have more than enough neurology to know that memory is physical, personality is physical, cognitive abilities are physical. Is it consciousness? Is it so hard to digest the fact that it’s probably just a result of our high degree of metacognizance? It certainly isn’t unique, outside of the matter of degree to which we are conscious. Chimps, dolphins, and African Grey Parrots all show signs of being self-aware. It’s simply a matter of being intelligent enough to become aware of the fact that you’re thinking.

    So, this nonphysical mind isn’t memory, personality, intelligence, and it probably isn’t consciousness. Evidently, in the end, it would seem proponents of the soul believe exactly the same thing about it as I do: It’s nothing. It’s not there.

  45. #45 JackGoff
    September 4, 2006

    Dan, don’t you mean sacrelicious?

  46. #46 Che
    September 4, 2006

    Hey stop bashing philosophy. Just because there are sine “philosophers” out there that say it is this way or that, does not mean all philosophers do so. I myself am (inerestingly enough) an atheist philosopher on my way to a degree in my chosen field. i debate matters of existance in ways many have done before me, though I tend to look at things at an angle not as commonly covered, such as all that exists technically being a rather subjective thing considering that as far as what can be considered a universal “fact” of “reality” is that all we see, hear, etc. are merely electronic imputs to our brain, so ultimately, none of us “know” squat. As the buddha (or was it Lao Tzu, help me out here) said, “True knowledge comes from knowing you know nothing”.
    However, that’s enough on philosophy at the moment, as much as I like asking these questions, I still keep myself planted in reality, just got to check out the alternatives just in case, never know what could happen. I think that this is just more so a matter of probabilities and may actually do something in understanding ourselves, that development isn’t a matter of being “prefectly” similar (which, if done by humans, cannot happen seeing perfection from imperfection generally doesn’t fly) but more so a matter that regardless of our genetics and upbringing we can ultimately become different beings than what are gentics or upbringing say we shall be. Like all things in life certain outcomes are more likely, but just because there’s a 99% chance of rain, doesn’t mean it won’t be sunny.

  47. #47 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 4, 2006

    Oh, so we have an observation of difference, but no correlation, no class separability, no correlation between classes and minds, and identical twins are more identical than clones.

    I wish philosophers would stop cloning around.

    Caledonian:
    LOL!

    wrymouth:
    “But I’ve still no idea, arguing from the material, scientific world, why I am “I.””

    My own idea is that subjective experience is a representation in the mind, as much as programs and data are representations in a computer. We have evolved a capability to model others minds to make sense of their behaviour, and we can use it on our own mind to try to make sense of our own behaviour, feelings and verbalised thoughts. In my own case I’m not successful at all times. :-)

    Cyan:
    “The physics underlying this situation are very well understood, and are deterministic. If you do everything perfectly the same, you will get the same result.”

    Yes and no. In this case you need to show that dice or coins that falls from a possible edge situation have deterministic outcomes in your model from the necessary coarsegraining of the forces and geometry in your observations. I think it is impossible in practice. In other cases, there are worse deterministic chaotic systems that defy any finegraining, and even so ultimately you run into genuine quantum randomness.

    pastor:
    “Just how do you measure personality difference in swine, anyway?”

    Throw pearls at them. Some will fight, some will run, some will eat, and some will make a necklace.

    Dustin:
    “The brain is run on electrochemical impulses which, like anything else on that scale, resolve themselves according to the generalized statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics.”

    The scale of nerve impulses are IIRC several millivolts, well above the noise threshold. Same for the chemical (synapse function) and geometrical processes (dendrite growth and death). AFAIK the brain operates in the classical regime. Not that anything forbids evolution to use any occuring quantum processes it could stumble on, but nothing seems to support this occuring.

    “Why is it so fashionable here at Pharyngula to use the word orthogonal as though it meant “entirely unrelated”?”

    Probably because in mathematics two vectors are orthogonal if their inner product is zero. And that means they are independent of each other. Which means none of them can be written as a linear combination of (finitely many) other vectors in the collection of independent vectors. One can’t be described by the others, so it is expressing something new or unrelated. (And they are important, since orthogonal vectors, or rather their orthonormal basis, describes the inner product space.) The new dimension can be another dimension in a state description, for example another degree of freedom.

    jdkbrown:
    Caledonians point is that science checks against observation, so it performs better. It also choose best theories. In philosophy, ideas lives until they are debunked or unpopular.

    Sturgeon’s 90% law is interesting. 80/20 (or 90/10) observations are made on complex systems, which are described by power laws. 20 % of factors describe 80 % of outcomes. If it’s true for constrained ideas, it seems there is some connection between our guesses and the real world. :-) Not too bad.

  48. #48 kstrna
    September 4, 2006

    What about the mitochondrial DNA is it the same between the cloned and non-cloned pigs? Throw that on top of that everything else everyone is mentioning and you really can’t draw that many conclusions other than cloned pig is not identical to the pig it was cloned from, which we already knew to be a given. We know that from studies on identical twins, who developed in the same womb and are genetically closer than any human designed clone and its nuclear DNA “donor”. Those identical twins raised in the same homes are not identical in every way and develop their own personalities.

  49. #49 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 4, 2006

    Dustin:
    “The scale of nerve impulses are IIRC several millivolts, well above the noise threshold.”

    Eh, considering the room temperature degree of freedom kT/2 is about 13 mV, the nerve impulses needs to be at least more than that I suppose. But they are more robustly than mere electronic impulses electrochemical (ion) changes in membrane potential, and has a driving force of about 130 mV according to wikipedia.

  50. #50 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 4, 2006

    “But they are more robustly than mere electronic impulses electrochemical (ion) changes in membrane potential”

    Which BTW mean that they are nearly neutral considered from the outside (ions change places radially, and don’t travel longitudinally) so I guess they don’t contribute much to each others noise.

  51. #51 decrepitoldfool
    September 4, 2006

    I performed a human experiment on memory and the brain a couple years ago. Smacking a human cranium against the pavement resulted in the subject having no recall of the accident or the hour following. Or so I’m told.

  52. #52 The Science Pundit
    September 4, 2006

    Identical twins don’t have indentical fingerprints. So considering that the pattern of synapses in the cortex is at least a couple of orders of magnitude more complex than the pattern of whorls on the thumb, I don’t see why this result is so surprising.

    Ron, could you please point me to where exactly Dawkins has been saying for years that social science will wilt into biology.

  53. #53 rjb
    September 4, 2006

    Grrr, one of the most frustrating ideas that I yell at my students, friends, colleagues, and especially evolutionary psychologists, about… namely, the idea that “genetic cause” and “biological cause” are synonymous. Why do people think that? If that were the case, then why do people bother to put their kids into the best possible schools, the overly-scheduled after-school programs, music classes, karate classes, basketball camps, etc? If it’s all “in the genes”, then why bother with all the hassle? The next Michael Jordan or Pavarotti will just appear, fully formed, straight out of the womb, with no input from experience. Why do people turn off their most basic observations of the world when it comes to an idea like “cloning”?

  54. #54 Blake Stacey
    September 4, 2006

    What’s with the whole quantum mind thing? Quoting Max Tegmark:

    In summary, our decoherence calculations have indicated that there is nothing fundamentally quantum-mechanical about cognitive processes in the brain, supporting the Hepp’s conjecture [33]. Specifically, the computations in the brain appear to be of a classical rather than quantum nature, and the argument by Lisewski [78] that quantum corrections may be needed for accurate modeling of some details, e.g., non-Markovian noise in neurons, does of course not change this conclusion. This means that although the current state-of-the-art in neural network hardware is clearly still very far from being able to model and understand cognitive processes as complex as those in the brain, there are no quantum mechanical reasons to doubt that this research is on the right track.

    See also an interesting paper by Litt et al., entitled “Is the Brain a Quantum Computer”:

    We argue, however, that explaining brain function by appeal to quantum mechanics is akin to explaining bird flight by appeal to atomic bonding characteristics. The structures of all bird wings do involve atomic bonding properties that are correlated with the kinds of materials in bird wings: most wing feathers are made of keratin, which has specific bonding properties. Nevertheless, everything we might want to explain about wing function can be stated independently of this atomic structure. Geometry, stiffness, and strength are much more relevant to the explanatory target of flight, even though atomic bonding properties may give rise to specific geometric and tensile properties. Explaining how birds fly simply oes not require specifying how atoms bond in feathers.

  55. #55 drew hempel
    September 4, 2006

    OK PZ — Bournelli supposedly disproved the Law of Pythagoras and created statistics in one foul swoop yet his Golden Theorem basically renewed the whole mysticism of the logarithmic spiral. Still you have to read Professor Sudsharan’s “Doubt and Certainty” (1998).

    When ever I see someone reference Demons of a Haunted World I cringe! I remember reading that book in summer of 1997 while working on an organic farm. Carl Sagan was so wrong it was amazing!!
    http://www.scientificexploration.org/jse/bookreviews/11-4/sagan.html

    Now there’s a good debunking of Sagan’s sloppy book.

    EPIGENTICS is optimized by the equilateral triangle resonating into the 4th dimension of space that is nonlocal consciousness. Just as Nobel physicist Brian Josephson.

  56. #56 Nance Confer
    September 4, 2006

    As a Mom, barely following what you are all talking about, this is all very encouraging. Things are even more complicated than I ever imagined and, somehow, I find that very comforting when I think about my children’s future.

    Thanks! :)

    Nance

  57. #57 Kristine
    September 4, 2006

    But people like Wilson and Dawkins have been telling us for years that it’s all in the genes and that social science will soon wilt into a mere branch of biology.

    All Dawkins did was locate the replicator at the level of the gene (which, not unlike the subatomic particle, seems to have a fuzzy boundary). I think that the whole “genetic determinism” idea comes from a Judeo-Christian heritage, which still infects our thinking despite our best efforts. Genes “program,” i.e., dictate, and blah blah. This “evolved to” do that, etc. Language that is used as mere shorthand gets siezed upon by nonscientists who take it literally. I get tripped up by it all the time.

    Mmmmm. Tasty and sacreligious.

    Doesn’t the Old Testament forbid the eating of pork? Have we come up with a Templeton Foundation grant idea here? And a really sacrilicious research project?

  58. #58 Mooser
    September 4, 2006

    This means that although the current state-of-the-art in neural network hardware is clearly still very far from being able to model and understand cognitive processes as complex as those in the brain, there are no quantum mechanical reasons to doubt that this research is on the right track

    Does anyone besides me see a contradiction in that sentence?

  59. #59 Dan
    September 4, 2006

    Haven’t these people heard about complexity? Maybe more sexy terms like chaos theory might remind them. With their logic any brain is totally illogical, after all only some of the 5 billion base pairs in the genome “describes” it, but more than 10 billion neurons with more than ten trillion connections form. The permutations of the connections is more than all the ATOMS in the whole UNIVERSE. I mean do they believe that there is something mystical about two cloned plants looking different when one is kept in a box. (Hint the one in the box is dead.) With brains the slightest variation can produce, huge effects(Also known as the butterfly flaps it’s wing in brazil resulting in …) because it is so complex. When all you need is partial differential equations all the mystical clap-trap is just so qaint!

  60. #60 RavenT
    September 4, 2006

    Why is it so fashionable here at Pharyngula to use the word orthogonal as though it meant “entirely unrelated”?

    I’m not sure what you’re objecting to, Dustin. “Orthogonal” means a component that varies independently of other components, which is how I’m using it.

    From Merriam-Webster online:

    One entry found for orthogonal…5 : statistically independent

    In other words, there is no causal relationship, as my example demonstrated.

    You wrote:

    So, this nonphysical mind isn’t memory, personality, intelligence, and it probably isn’t consciousness. Evidently, in the end, it would seem proponents of the soul believe exactly the same thing about it as I do: It’s nothing. It’s not there.

    Exactly. There is no “mind” statistically connected to the factors we have been discussing (genotype, environment). Since we’re saying the same thing, I’m still puzzled why you object to the use of the term “orthogonal”.

  61. #61 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 4, 2006

    “Sturgeon’s 90% law is interesting. 80/20 (or 90/10) observations are made on complex systems, which are described by power laws. 20 % of factors describe 80 % of outcomes. If it’s true for constrained ideas, it seems there is some connection between our guesses and the real world.”

    Hmm. By coincidence I happened on a paper that says much the same from another angle. It is BTW about physicists trying to apply statistical physics onto biology haphazardly. They answer by modelling the modellers. :-)

    “Finally, the astute reader of this note will also see that we have not ourselves taken a statistical mechanics approach to modeling the dissemination and diversification of physicists’ evolutionary models, but have rather left this as an exercise for subsequent modelers of models of models, though we suspect a multiplicative noise process would be both appropriate and apt. We are strengthened in this suspicion by a recent investigation Redner (1998) into the distribution of citations of papers, independent of their subject matter, found that they conform to Zipf’s law with an exponent of ?-0.5, and the classical explanation of such phenomena, first provided by Simon (1955), is, precisely, multiplicative noisy growth.” ( http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/adap-org/pdf/9910/9910002.pdf )

    Turns out that Zipf’s law is experimental statistical distributions, that are Pareto distributions after a variable exchange. Pareto distributions are of course power law probability distributions. Multiplicative noise is related to Markow processes and so diffusive Wiener processes. They are stuff like simple Brownian dust/drunken walk. But pure diffusion is exponential, of course.

    So Sturgeon’s law are indeed related to stumbling around…

    Blake:
    Nice references! I will as always enjoy reading Tegmark – here he seems to kill Penrose’s QM speculations by noting that Penrose uses QG decoherence. It is of course is much weaker than QED decoherence, which makes microtubules and other organelles classical many order of times faster than the brain works.

    And his analysis of myelin sheets reminded me of my error in “ions change places radially, and don’t travel longitudinally”. It is even more wrong than that the ions need to find an ion channel. They do travel longitudinally some distance, even for unmyelinated dendrites.

    Live a little, learn a little, sleep a little. Repeat until interrupted.

    Mooser:
    “Does anyone besides me see a contradiction in that sentence?”

    Err, no?! Tegmark gives a good explanation why QM implies classicality here, by estimating decoherence due to EM interactions such as dipole-dipole moments interacting in organelles. He says that classical models, such as neural networks, should suffice. What is the contradiction in that?

  62. #62 noema
    September 4, 2006

    Both Caledonian and Torbjorn Larsson talk about philosophy as if it is somehow in competition with natural science, as an alternative but inferior mode of inquiring after the same quarry. It isn’t. Philosophy usually isn’t in the business of determining facts about the world (no matter what impression TPM gives); its in the business of exploring and evaluating the strength of different arguments– cast in varying shades of formality– and understanding the rational links or tensions that exist between different currents of our understanding. This explains why ideas (apparently) have a tendency to stick around for a long time in philosophy: if there’s a chance an argumentative strategy can be redeemed in a new variant, it is– for all intents and purposes- still alive in the conversation. This conception of the discipline also explains why the conclusions of most academic journal articles in philosophy are cast in conditional form. Philosophers are by and large interested in pursuing conclusions of the form “If x is true, then y follows” and the like (at least, they are when they’re being level-headed). When they’re being level-headed, philosophers are typically motivated to determine what can be inferred from what, as opposed to what the facts actually are in any particular case.
    And in the instances where philosophers are out to determine facts about the world, the facts concerned are typically of the sort that would not be of much interest to scientists (as such).
    There is, of course, another broad category within the discipline, under which I would place Mr. LaBossiere’s recent article, marked by the heading, Really Bad Philosophy. Here you find philosophy that mistakes the boundaries between philosophy and empirical inquiry, or– what distinguishes Mr. LaBossiere’s argument– philosophy that features baldly offensive reasoning.
    I hope, for Mr. LaBossiere’s sake, that his choice of conclusion was motivated, e.g., by his desire to sell magazines, rather than by his commitment to honestly evaluating the strength of arguments in the philosophy of mind. I’m encouraged in this hope by the fact that a few paragraphs before he draws his ridiculous conclusion, Mr. LaBossiere cites the consideration that should have saved him– namely that the two clones, being different individuals, occupy different places in the spatiotemporal causal nexus and therefore– inevitably– are subject to slightly different experiential inputs, regardless of the underlying similarities of environment. There therefore seems to be at least equally good reason to suspect that these differences in input will ultimately result in corresponding differences in behavioral output (which, I presume, is the relevant measure of personality). LaBossiere countenances this possibility but gives it only very modest lip service. I sincerely hope this is less of an oversight or an instance of tendentiousness than a rhetorical decision aimed at providing the conclusion more agreeable to the lay public, and thereby boosting magazine sales. But I must say I’m not optimistic.

  63. #63 Caledonian
    September 4, 2006

    Philosophers are by and large interested in pursuing conclusions of the form “If x is true, then y follows” and the like (at least, they are when they’re being level-headed). When they’re being level-headed, philosophers are typically motivated to determine what can be inferred from what, as opposed to what the facts actually are in any particular case.

    No, those are mathematicians. Philosophy is distinguished from mathematics by the fact that spurious or invalid arguments are rapidly eliminated from the latter but conserved for generations in the former.

  64. #64 386sx
    September 4, 2006

    RavenT said: So why mind would necessarily be “even more likely” in the cases he cites, I’m not sure. He still seems to me to be assuming his conclusion.

    Good point. Even if we could account for all the natural causes there would be no reason to assume some invisible “mind” when we could just as well assume pretty much any other invisible “thingyness” thing. I suspect Mr. LaBossiere knows full well that it would be impossible to account for all natural causes, and thus is engaging himself in some idle speculation just for kicks. Naturally everybody here is jumping all over him for it. Man these guys can be testy when they haven’t had their coffee. Wow.

  65. #65 drew hempel
    September 4, 2006

    Rudy Rucker in his book “Infinity and the Mind” goes to visit Kurt Godel during Godel’s “solitary” years. Godel is found to be practicing inference of the I-thought to achieve nonlocal consciousness. Socratic self-enquiry or vichara in jnana yoga.

    No math is necessary — just repeat I-I-I over and over as a logical experiment to see where does it come from. Not a brainless mantra but an investigation of inference. As Chomsky states I-language is the basis for all logical axioms and even Chomsky admits that no one understands C.S. Pierce’s logic of abduction yet it’s valid and based on intuition.

    By the way faster-than-light superliminal SIGNALS are now a proven fact (not just after-the-fact coherence). Just do an I.S.I. web of science citation index search under quantum electronics and superliminal or faster than light.

    Decoherence as a macro quantum molecule is possible through WAVEFORM — the secret again is the equilateral structure of the tetrahedral binding in macro quantum water molecules. (See “What’s so special about water” by physics professor J.L. Finney, Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society, 2004).

    Protons are superconducting at room temperature!

    The secret to “exceptional human functions” as the Chinese call them is that the magnetic momentum is greatly increased by altering the potassium-sodium ratio in neurons — just read CIA mind control scientist Dr. Andrija Puharich’s great book “Beyond Telepathy.” (1975)

    So if we get rid of logarithmic-based mathematics we can understand that the magnitude as the hypotenuse in a 3:4:5 triangle resonates with 3:4 transmuting into 2:3 and the infinite spiral of musical fifths (2:3 as the Law of Pythagoras or the 80-20 Power Law of the Tetrad) causes the equilateral triangle to collapse through pressure as antigravity.

    Pressure is just longitudinal sound waves as phonons (except again you have to have statistical logarithmic measurements to accept the concept of phonon and photon). To get beyond the time-frequency uncertainty principle you need to through out amplitude and frequency concepts because of phase distortion — just use waveform to create asymmetrical time reversal.

    Read “The Symphony of Life” by chemistry professor Donald Hatch Andrews (author of numerous standard college textbooks). He gives the secret of macro quantum chaos transmutation — or read Louis Kervan’s book “Biological Transmutations” (it’s found at U of Minnesota Macgrath Library so you can drop by there next time you’re in town PZ).

  66. #66 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 4, 2006

    noema:

    “Both Caledonian and Torbjorn Larsson talk about philosophy as if it is somehow in competition with natural science, as an alternative but inferior mode of inquiring after the same quarry. It isn’t.”

    When I was younger and less integrated, I was both doing science and interested in philosophy. When I started to revisit these areas, it was natural to start with science. Philosophy seemed confused in comparison – especially without the education. :-)

    Now I have come a bit further, and has another picture. I compare with mathematics, since I think both philosophy and mathematics started out as modelling idealisations of nature, and are still informed that way. Areas of logics and mathematics in physics are strongly influenced by practical applications.

    Yes, pure philosophy like pure mathematics explores speculative ‘what-if’ models. But it is the practical applications and interrelations with such verified models that constrains and tells us what is the interesting areas. Obscure math with little connections to ‘hot’ areas is abandoned, and I can imagine that it is so in philosophy too.

    Unfortunately debunked ideas such as dualisms keep coming back. This is a difference, and it is due to lack of rigor. Mathematicians doesn’t accept theories with contradictions – why does philosophers accept such theories? (AFAIK universal dualisms trivially gives contradictions – it is the special pleaded ones that doesn’t.)

    I’m interested in applied philosophy, and that is mostly a rather thin skin or weak glue between areas of science. As such it is also best when guided by minimalism compatible with science method. I can but note that there has been little interest in modelling the logic of facts (intuitionistic logic, frames, linear logic, quantum logic) and knowledge (knowledge bases, knowledge consolidation) before computer science made this a necessity.

    A concrete example related to this discussion is Tegmark’s multiverses. His level 4 multiverse is the closed ensemble of physically possible worlds. Yet the modal ‘realistic’ multiverses discusses a seemingly different closed ensemble of logically possible worlds, as if they are real.

    The lowest level multiverse is the level 1 infinite ergodic universe of the type we seems to live in. (Infinite Lambda-CDM cosmology is observationally prefered, and it is supposedly ergodic.) Here we have an infinite number of identical copies. So when I remarked that philosophers should stop discussing clones it was in jest – physicists discuss principally identical clones and what they mean.

    They won’t save LaBossier, since in an infinite ergodic universe anything will eventually repeat for an indefinite time. And if that isn’t enough, the next level 2 multiverse makes an infinite number of copies of level 1 universes indefinitely in time, and it is currently the observationally prefered natural extension of Lambda-CDM.

    Why would identical human clones be a problem? They don’t meet each other, and if they do they would individualise since they are classical objects. Identical and indistinguishable clones already exists – they are called bosons.

  67. #67 Michael Geissler
    September 4, 2006

    A prize to anyone who can find any logical, factually based or coherent statement in any of the above.

  68. #68 Michael Geissler
    September 4, 2006

    Sorry, my remark was directed at Drew Hempel (I refuse to use your so-cool lower case), not Torbjörn.

  69. #69 David Marjanović
    September 4, 2006

    For the record, I am studying molecular biology, and I am running out of the room screaming at the mention of epigenetics. The histone code is horrible enough (I mean: to learn by heart), and that’s just the start!

    ———————-

    “Good debunking of Sagan’s sloppy book”? And then this “debunking” uncritically praises Benveniste? Benveniste is the only person to ever have received two IgNobel Prizes, and he richly deserves it. One of his “experiments” consisted of his assistant looking at the results, counting the surviving white blood cells, thinking “this cannot be”, and counting again and again till the desired result was reached. Benveniste is a pseudoscientist. A crank.

    However, I’m sure that the lower “potencies” of homeopathy do have an effect. Often they consist of very heavy poisons (really naughty platinum compounds and the like) in very small concentrations.

    Sagan’s book is absolutely great. Go read it.

  70. #70 Dr Pretorius
    September 4, 2006

    Anyone who takes something in The Philosopher’s Magazine as indicating problems for academic philosophy generally is making a bit of a fool of themselves, really. As far as I can tell it is, for the most part, a place for people who probably should know better to publish utterly ridiculous papers.

    Also despite what some above seem to think dualism is neither (1) automatically absurd, (2) a position (it is, more or less, about seven thousand different sorts of positions, some reasonable and others ones that only show up in as much as one can accuse others of holding them), (3) relevant to any religious positions (despite what some religious writers might claim) or (4) “debunked”, whatever that might come to when talking of large groups of theses. Was Descartes right? His position was more or less unsalveagable barring significant changes, but the notion that this is really relevant to any of the rather dramatic claims about it above is to make a significant error.

    And, seriously people, arguing that an since an unqualified theory contains (when phrased stupidly) contradictions (which dualism, note, does not even when phrased as Descartes does – “problem” is not “contradiction”) does not indict qualified versions of that same theory. That is, of course, the point of qualifications: they may not be hedge moves at all, and to pretend otherwise is like pretending that since Democritus was wrong about the makeup of physical objects then atoms couldn’t possibly exist.

  71. #71 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 4, 2006

    Michael:
    “Sorry, my remark was directed at Drew Hempel (I refuse to use your so-cool lower case), not Torbjörn.”

    Of course. :-) I would like to say that drew refutes any cloning process, but Tegmark argues against. OTOH there is no doubt that drew is good at clowning around. He is a Turing test for the gullible.

    I thought there was a glimmer of sense in “Pressure is just longitudinal sound waves”, but unfortunately taking the wavelength to infinity merely gives zero pressure since sound is a pressure differential. (The reversed statement had worked: “Sound is just longitudinal pressure waves”.) So no prize.

  72. #72 truth machine
    September 4, 2006

    Ugh. That argument is even worse than David Chalmers’.

    I wouldn’t say so. At least this bozo bases his argument on evidence, wheras Chalmers’s arguments are blatantly circular. Even the inventors of the Zombie and Knowledge arguments that Chalmers leans on have disowned them. I particularly like what Robert Kirk says on his home page:

    His publications include … Zombies and Consciousness (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005) which to some extent atones for his error in having defended the possibility of zombies in articles in 1974.

  73. #73 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 4, 2006

    Pretorius:

    That was interesting.

    3) Since religions metaphysics revolves around supernaturalism, animism, soulism, vitalism or other dualisms, I don’t see why they aren’t relevant to them.

    2) I don’t see why supernaturalisms differ, since it stands for a universal nonnaturalism. As such the other dualisms are part of it, but each has their own defineable characteristic, their constraints.

    4) Particular, constrained, dualisms are debunked in science, except general supernaturalism. Souls are debunked by minds, vitalism by naturalism, et cetera. Debunked doesn’t mean logical disproof, it means that they are exposed as observationally false or nontrustworthy claims. They can be exposed due to their characteristics.

    And as when theories are verified or falsified with a finite number of observations, so are general dualisms. One doesn’t go about and defeat each single instance of soul concept, the whole group is defeated.

    1) Dualisms are automatically absurd for two reasons.

    Philosophically, two orthogonal universal structures leads to a contradiction since they describe the same objects. Only by special pleading are some objects, randomly chosen, restricted to each dualism. For example, only souls are explained by soulism, not souls and chairs.

    Scientifically, our universe is one fundamental structure connected by universal concepts in theories. Naturalism is ‘common descent with modification’ of theories, dualisms doesn’t ‘spontaneously occur’. Call it materialism if you will, monism of matter or nature, but that is what is observed.

  74. #74 truth machine
    September 4, 2006

    Nitpick:

    “I have in my hand two identical dice. I throw them at the same time, to the same place, with the same amount of force…whoa. A 5 and a 2. How can that be?”

    It can’t. The physics underlying this situation are very well understood

    Not by you, obviously. Aside from QM and all that, PZ’s description does not fully specify the physical state. Wanna play pool?

  75. #75 truth machine
    September 4, 2006

    But people like Wilson and Dawkins have been telling us for years that it’s all in the genes and that social science will soon wilt into a mere branch of biology.

    No they haven’t, liar.

  76. #76 truth machine
    September 4, 2006

    Nitpick Nitpick: Actually it isn’t deterministic IF you subscribe to the current models of the physical forces only the scale of the forces that make it undeterministic are so small in the experiment they have little impact but some.

    C’mon, this is just stupid. Cyan wrote “The coin flip was the better example, because you didn’t say that everything is the same in the two repetitions”, but PZ didn’t say that of the dice either, as is clear to anyone capable of reading.

  77. #77 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 4, 2006

    “Philosophically, two orthogonal universal structures leads to a contradiction since they describe the same objects.”

    Hmpf! I can’t call them orthogonal, since that is exactly what remains to be shown. They are complementary.

    “Scientifically, our universe is one fundamental structure connected by universal concepts in theories.”

    Such as spacetime, matterenergy, entropy, states, gauging, renormalisation, effective theories, QM, locality, invariances, …

  78. #78 truth machine
    September 4, 2006

    You probably have to repeat the experiment many times throwing the same dice at the same time to get a different result

    Really? You think that you would have to throw two dice “at the same time, to the same place, with the same amount of force” “many times” before you’ll see two different numbers come up?

    Don’t kid yourself folks; you’re marginally more knowledgeable than the fundies and dualists, but you’re no brighter.

  79. #79 truth machine
    September 4, 2006

    “If all these factors could be controlled adequately in a cloning experiment and the clones still had distinct personalities, then it would be even more reasonable to suspect that a non-physical mind exists.”

    Hmmmmmm…

    It’s never “reasonable to suspect that a non-physical mind exists”, because “non-physical” and “exists” are contradictory — otherwise I can claim that, while no physical unicorns exist, non-physical unicorns do exist, and what basis would there be for denying it? These “non-physical” entities are supposed to have some causal consequence, but the logical impossibility of that is what shot down DesCartes’ substance dualism, never to rise again among “reasonable” people.

    One can say, e.g., that the roots of some equation exist, but in that case the universe is different; we’re referring to complex numbers, not to entities of the physical world. “There exist x’s” simply means that the set of x’s isn’t empty, but we have to know what the universal set is.

  80. #80 truth machine
    September 4, 2006

    Unfortunately debunked ideas such as dualisms keep coming back. This is a difference, and it is due to lack of rigor.

    That’s an understatement. In the end, philosophy is just talking; there is no methodology, there are no standards, and there is nothing to keep the same things from being said over and over. There are subsets of philosophy that are methodical and new results must be built on old results which must bear up under logical scrutiny, but there are other subsets of philosophy that deny that any particular methodology, or even the very concept of methodology, is valid; subsets that oppose scrutiny (especially of itself); subsets that oppose the “rule” of logic, or invent new “logics” in which contradiction is acceptable. If a philosopher were to say that what’s true is sometimes false and what’s false is sometimes true, he could bat away any counterargument by claiming that it’s circular because it assumes that what is true is always true and what is false is always false.

    All that talking can produce valuable nuggets which get incorporated into productive activities like science and mathematics, but a great deal of it is junk.

  81. #81 truth machine
    September 4, 2006

    Systems of irresponsible inquiry like religion and academic philosophy lack these ‘standards’, and as a result they follow Sturgeon’s Law so enthusiastically that they actually exceed the prescribed percentage of crud.

    An important implication of Sturgeon’s Law is that 90% of the residue is also crud, and thus everything is crud. (Of course Ted Sturgeon never said anything so silly; he referred only to SF, not “everything”.)

  82. #82 Dustin Locke
    September 4, 2006

    There’s a lot of talk here about just how horrible Chalmers’ “zombie argument” is. Yet it seems that everyone is failing to mention exactly what is so horrible about the argument. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t accept the argument, I just don’t see it as especially horrible. In other words, I think the argument has problems, just not extremely obvious ones. I suspect that anyone who understands the argument would agree. Perhaps someone would like to show me wrong? Perhaps someone could tell me exactly why the argument is so bad? (Remember, telling me that the conclusion is absurd isn’t telling me what’s wrong with the ARGUMENT). Truth Machine, perhaps you could tell me why the argument is “circular”.

    By the way, Chalmers’ Zombie Argument is NOT an argument for dualism. Rather, it’s an argument for a disjunctive claim: either dualism or “Type F Monism” is true. Chalmers’ is familiar with what Grover Maxwell had to say about Saul Kripke’s original version of the zombie argument (the conclusion of which is dualism) and, thus, is aware that the zombie argument (alone) cannot hope to establish dualism.

    My advice to those of you who think that philosophy lacks “standards” and “rigor”, is to actually take a look at some of the philosophy being done by serious academics. The best place to find such work, by the way, is not in the “Metaphysics” section of Barnes and Noble. You also might want to keep in mind something Pascal said: “To ridicule philosophy is really to philosophize” (Pensées, 1670).

    G. Maxwell (1978) ‘Rigid Designators and Mind-brain Identity’, in Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 9, ed. C. W. Savage

    S Kripke (1972) ‘Naming and Necessity’ in Davidson, Donald and Harman, Gilbert, eds. Semantics of Natural Language, Dordrecht: Reidel

    D Chalmers (1996) ‘The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory’, Oxford: Oxford University Press

    You can also find Chalmers’ papers on consciousness at his website: http://consc.net/consc-papers.html

  83. #83 Roger
    September 4, 2006

    So they have identical genetics and differing personalities. My identical twin brother and I have differences, even in the womb our environment was different. One particularly evident difference is that one of us is heterosexual and the other homosexual. My mother was also an identical twin – she and her sister were dressed alike more than my twin and myself, so their environment was more similar – but they had differing personalities. Yes there are ways in which we identical twins – whose genetic structure is the same as a clone – are similar and different. What does cloning show about personality? The same things known for years from any multiple birth with identical genetics.

  84. #84 truth machine
    September 5, 2006

    Truth Machine, perhaps you could tell me why the argument is “circular”.

    Zombies are conceivable (in the sense that Chalmers carefully lays out in “The Conscious Mind”) if and only if physicalism is false or we are zombies. This really should be obvious, since physicalists deny that they can conceive of any distinction between Chalmers and his zombie — else, they wouldn’t be physicalists. Chalmers’ argument rests on his claim that he can conceive of zombies, because “I can detect no internal incoherence”. But for a physicalist, Chalmers is asserting that two identical things are different, which is certainly incoherent.

    My advice to those of you who think that philosophy lacks “standards” and “rigor”, is to actually take a look at some of the philosophy being done by serious academics.

    What part of the word “subset” don’t you understand? Didn’t they teach you about the fallacy of affirmation of the consequent in your philosophy classes? As Aaron Sloman likes to say, “‘some’ is not ‘all’”.

  85. #85 truth machine
    September 5, 2006

    In other words, I think the argument has problems, just not extremely obvious ones.

    BTW, I wonder what non-obvious problems you think it has. Remember that the argument is that, if zombies are logically possible, then consciousness isn’t logically supervenient on the physical. But if two entities that are physically identical are not identical because one is conscious but the other isn’t, it follows directly that conciousness isn’t supervenient on the physical. And Chalmers’ argument that zombies are logically possible is that no logical contradiction is discernable. This is all straightforward, and Chalmers’ argument goes through if one agrees that no logical contradiction is discernable. But in order to do that, one must conceive of consciousness as something that doesn’t logically supervene on the physical — as something that isn’t logically determined by physical states. But physicalists conceive of consciousness as something that is logically determined by physical states, not as some ectoplasmic mix-in, or however it is that dualists conceive of it.

  86. #86 truth machine
    September 5, 2006

    By the way, Chalmers’ Zombie Argument is NOT an argument for dualism. Rather, it’s an argument for a disjunctive claim: either dualism or “Type F Monism” is true.

    BTW, this is laughable. Chalmers writes

    There is a sense in which this view can be seen as monism, but it is not a materialist monism. Unlike physicalism, this view takes certain phenomenal or protophenomenal properties as fundamental. What it finally delivers is a network of intrinsic properties, at least some of which are phenomenal or protophenomenal, and which are related according to certain causal/dynamic laws. These properties ‘realize’ the extrinsic physical properties, and the laws connecting them realize the physical laws. In the extreme case in which all the intrinsic properties are phenomenal, the view might be best seen as a version of idealism.

    This is like, rather than there being pins and angels dancing on them, there are only angels, who dream of pins, and there are “laws” that determine the physical relationships among the dreamed of pins. Of course, given any dualistic conception, one can suggest that there is some unlying monism (but those laws — what is their ontological status?) that gives rise to both branches of the dualism, but it’s ridiculous to call this “a disjunctive claim”, and Chalmers recognizes this when he refers to “view”, “sense”, and “might be best seen”.

    The lack of standards and discipline can be seen in the fact that these sorts of word games are offered up by as intelligent (and fun — he throws great parties) a philosopher as David Chalmers as ontological hypotheses for serious consideration and debate, much like the medieval debates about how many angels dance on the head of a pin. As Daniel Dennett notes, philosophers can’t even agree on the ontological status of laps and smiles.

  87. #87 wrymouth
    September 5, 2006

    Boy oh boy, these threads generate huge amounts of discussion!

    TL sez: “subjective experience is a representation in the mind, as much as programs and data are representations in a computer. We have evolved a capability to model others minds to make sense of their behaviour, and we can use it on our own mind to try to make sense of our own behaviour, feelings and verbalised thoughts.”

    I’m going to have to roll that around in my head for awhile, but it may provide a “crib” into the problem. Thanks for the input.

    Dustin sez:”Is it so hard to digest the fact that it’s probably just a result of our high degree of metacognizance? It certainly isn’t unique, outside of the matter of degree to which we are conscious.”

    Consciousness is most likely not unique*, but the problem I am having is that MY consciousness IS unique. I am not PZ, nor you, nor a dolphin. I’ve got this physique (which would make John Bastow cringe, I am sure) and this psychological make-up, and this intellect. And, like my sons, wife, parents and grandmother, I always seem to be the same “age” (absent any mirrors). What branch of science so I begin with to study the material basis of that? My wife the psychologist says, “don’t look at me,” and for my part, I know mathematics and statistics don’t help much.

    Thanks for the virtual pen and paper. This site is explosively stimulating and funny.

    *[here, again, another difficulty: I don't really "care" about anybody else's consciousness. Not in the same way.]

  88. #88 noema
    September 5, 2006

    I can’t comment on the Chalmers debate, since (alas) I’ve yet to read his work, and besides which, I’m perfectly content to commit to a physicalist monism. Dualism has always seemed like a non-starter to me.

    This recent truth machine comment caught my eye however:

    What part of the word “subset” don’t you understand? Didn’t they teach you about the fallacy of affirmation of the consequent in your philosophy classes? As Aaron Sloman likes to say, “‘some’ is not ‘all’”.

    Indeed it is not. But, if I read the debate correctly, Dustin wasn’t affirming his consequent but negating yours- and he could rightly be forgiven for attributing a universal claim to you, since you wrote:

    In the end, philosophy is just talking; there is no methodology, there are no standards, and there is nothing to keep the same things from being said over and over.

    Given the phrasing of the sentence above, it is difficult to discern how anyone could be expected to interpret the clause “philosophy is just talking” or any of the clauses that follow as quantifying over only subsets of the discipline. Your statement was quite clear: philosophy is just talking; [in philosophy] there is no methodology, … no standards, … nothing to keep the same things from being said over and over. Quite a strident statement on its face, and perfectly negated by the instances of rigorous philosophy that Dustin intended to indicate. Of course, the claim is apparently too strident even for you, as you go on to qualify it. To borrow a quip from the late John Austin, there is the part where you say it, and the part where you take it back:

    There are subsets of philosophy that are methodical and new results must be built on old results which must bear up under logical scrutiny…

    Of course it is telling that you aren’t willing to mention which are the laudable subsets and which are claptrap (although, presumably, Chalmers’ work just falls squarely in the latter category). Nevertheless, if this second set of claims is meant to be authoritative (as your rebuttal to Dustin indicates), it suggests at the least that you at least ought to be less clumsy with your quantifiers. Failing at that, I can’t see why anyone should take your provocations seriously.

  89. #89 truth machine
    September 5, 2006

    it is difficult to discern how anyone could be expected to interpret the clause “philosophy is just talking” or any of the clauses that follow as quantifying over only subsets of the discipline.

    Indeed, it quantifies over the whole. As a whole, philosophy is not methodical. That should be clear from my next sentence, which you quoted, in which I observed that some subsets are methodical. Consider anarcho-scientism, the practice of scientists and anarchists. Anarcho-scientism is not methodical. One can’t deny that by pointing out that scientists are methodical — that’s an affirmation of the consequent. The point is that there is no standard on which all anarcho-scientists agree.

    Of course it is telling that you aren’t willing to mention which are the laudable subsets

    How do you know what I’m willing to do? Since when does not doing something show that one isn’t willing to do it? Am I to conclude from the fact that you haven’t named all Nobel Prize winners here that you aren’t willing to do so? Or how about the names of all philosophers over 6 feet tall? Perhaps, rather than being unwilling, you simply aren’t able to; does that mean there are no such philosophers?

    the laudable subsets and which are claptrap (although, presumably, Chalmers’ work just falls squarely in the latter category)

    I think it’s claptrap, but it’s relatively methodical; I admire Chalmers for his attention to detail and his attempt to make logical arguments. But it has serious lapses with its dependence on uncomfirmable ontological intuitions. And other philosophers tend to agree with him or disagree based on their intuitions; philosophy provides no accepted method or standard for adjudicating such disagreements.

    Failing at that, I can’t see why anyone should take your provocations seriously.

    Oh dear, my well has been poisoned.

  90. #90 truth machine
    September 5, 2006

    BTW, when I wrote “In the end, philosophy is just talking; there is no methodology, there are no standards, and there is nothing to keep the same things from being said over and over”, I was responding to Torbjörn’s “Unfortunately debunked ideas such as dualisms keep coming back”, offering an explanation of why that happens; specifically, why it happens that a report in The Philosophers’ Magazine says “once the physical factors are accounted for, what would seem to remain would be non-physical. In light of the history of philosophy, the most plausible candidate would be the mind.”, despite repeated refutations of the notion of non-physical causes, and specifically of a non-physical mind that has physical causal powers above and beyond any physical correlate (note that David Chalmers does not assert that). One might have hoped that this was a settled matter in philosophy, given the interaction problem of Cartesian Dualism, but the lack of discipline means that anyone can get a PhD in philosophy and deny or assert anything in a philosophical journal or in a classroom with little or no consequence.

  91. #91 truth machine
    September 5, 2006

    One can’t deny that by pointing out that scientists are methodical — that’s an affirmation of the consequent.

    And in case that isn’t clear:
    affirmation of the consequent:
    q : premise
    p->q : premise, usually unstated
    p : unwarranted conclusion

    scientists are methodical
    (if anarcho-scientism is methodical, then scientists are methodical)
    therefore (fallaciously) anarcho-scientism is methodical

    In Dustin’s case, it’s

    some of the philosophy done by serious academics is based on standards and rigor
    (if philosophy has standards and rigor, then the philosophy being done by serious academics is based on standards and rigor)
    philosophy has standards and rigor

  92. #92 A
    September 5, 2006

    If someone had cloned me and my clone had exactly the same experiences as I had, with the sole exception of having eaten stuffed peppers while coming down with a bad stomach virus, my clone would probably still like them.

    Gasp! Shock! Alert the presses!

  93. #93 brightmoon
    September 5, 2006

    that was the dumbest thing ive ever seen on here …almost as bad as behe’s we-dont-know-how-this-happened,-so-goddunnit, stuff

    i guess people really are forgetting how to think

  94. #94 Chris
    September 5, 2006

    As a whole, philosophy is not methodical.

    The problem appears to have come from the ambiguity of this statement (and others like it).

    You probably meant
    Not all of philosophy is methodical
    or
    There is no methodology that applies to all of philosophy
    and some of your respondents appeared to think you meant
    No part of philosophy is methodical
    or
    There is no methodology that applies to any of philosophy
    which is quite different, as I hope you can see when both forms are stated more explicitly.

    You really have to watch the interaction between negation and quantifiers, it makes a big difference. One of the more methodical sub-fields of philosophy (i.e. propositional logic) could have told you that.

    And other philosophers tend to agree with him or disagree based on their intuitions; philosophy provides no accepted method or standard for adjudicating such disagreements.

    I doubt that any such method or standard *can* be standardized. What would it be based on? Why should anyone accept it if they haven’t already accepted it?

    There’s often no way to resolve a disagreement between two systems of epistemology that provide different means for resolving disagreements.

  95. #95 Dr Pretorius
    September 5, 2006

    Truth machine – as tempting as it is to argue that some argument begs the question since it assumes something which, once the argument goes through, turns out to be something one would not accept, that’s generally not considered a reasonable sort of criticism. What you want to say is that the problem is that Chalmers cannot justify his intuition that zombies are possible, and thus that the argument is incomplete and cannot proceed through until he has done so, not that it begs the question.

    Also, don’t you think that, given the clear lack of any sort of editorial standards in the Philosophers Magazine, it’s a little ridiculous to refer to a ‘report’ in that magazine? It is not as if, after all, someone is summarizing some recent articles that have been published in an actual journal, or exciting news from a recent APA conference, after all, it’s just some nitwit flailing about making stupid claims. There are plenty of good, or interesting, articles in that magazine – Ophelia Benson and Scott McLemee both write for it regularly. But it’s not really reflective of the current state of philosophy at all, nor does it try to be. (If you wish to ascertain this to your satisfaction I suggest getting a PhD and publishing a few articles, which given the lack of standards in the field should not be too dificult.)

  96. #96 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 5, 2006

    Dustin:
    “Yet it seems that everyone is failing to mention exactly what is so horrible about the argument.”

    This is new to me. Wikipedia says that Chalmer’s zombie world “is a possible world in which the physical facts are the same as those of our world but that there are additional facts that are different.” It is populated with p-zombies “physically indiscernible from our world, but that lacks conscious experiences”.

    We are discussing science and not philosophy here, it is an argument against science. There are at least six scientific problems off the cuff.

    First, if the p-zombies are physically the same, they will have working minds according to naturalism. That would stop the argument there, assuming science works. Which seems reasonable.

    But Chalmers presupposes two additional things. First that there are mental states that aren’t physically representable, second that these states are representable with a dualism.

    The fourth problem is that the lacking states aren’t well defined. Who are these mental states?

    The fifth problem is that the dualism isn’t well defined. How are the lacking states represented? Are they the only thing the dualism represent?

    The sixth problem is that the universe, and especially its dualism, is unparsimonious.

    I think Chalmers believe the argument is about philosophy. But I can’t see that.

  97. #97 Keith Douglas
    September 5, 2006

    TAW: Yes, I’ve read Pinker’s book. (Actually, several of them.) One doesn’t need the research he mentions to see the hole in the silly argument presented. And yes, he mentions that the “common uterus” hypothesis was ruled out, at least in the human case. According to TBS, the two main sources of variance are peer group and genetic.

    Ron: Dunno about Dawkins recently, but EO Wilson, if read carefully at least in Consilience makes not that point, but rather that the social sciences will merge at the edges with biology via psychology, which is what people like Bunge and Hebb and so on have said for years. Similarly for the humanities to the extent that they are at the scientific end (like most of philosophy ought to be).

    Dustin: The calculation and such have been done. The brain is, as far as we can tell, essentially a classical system. See Vic Stenger’s web page, or the article “Gaps in Penrose’s Toilings” by Pat Churchland and Rick Grush (available in On the Contrary by the two Churchlands).

    Blake Stacey: I suspect in many cases it is a residual dualism (well, in one case I found years ago it was an out and out dualism, but never mind that one) or a “look, the brain is complicated and spooky; QM is complicated and spooky, therefore …” Of course put that way it looks crazy, but …

    noema: Why do you say that philosophy is not a factual matter? Take my MA thesis, on the nature of events. Would you deny that this was an attempt to understand a general feature of the world? If it isn’t, what in heck is going on in those 100+ pages? Conditional claims are still factual if their components are. Andrew Irvine (philosophy, UBC) said once that a philosophy paper is something like one big argument by conditional proof; I would say the same is true of scientific papers.

    Torbjörn Larsson: Even electrons are not identical – we can count them – they are merely exchangable or equivalent in most respects. (This is the problem, BTW, with the Black-inspired arguments disputing Leibniz’ law – the two spheres have different relational properties.)

    truth machine: Point taken. Yes, Chalmers essentially begs the question. As for the disowning of zombies: phew! I’m glad. (Now if we [as a profession] can disown the possible worlds framework in metaphysics … of course that statement is going to get me many enemies :))

    Dustin Locke: I happen to be fairly familiar with several branches of philosophy (see my web page – it should be obvious why). I agree that “metaphysics” in philosophy is not usually new-age trash – I wrote a graduate thesis in metaphysics, after all. If you wish, we can debate Chalmers’ argument, but I fear I’d just be rehashing what is already in the literature. My position isn’t very novel. IMO, nor is Chalmers’. When I finally read his book, after all the hype I’d read and heard people around talking about, it struck me as just a 20th century Leibnizian position. (There is some interesting stuff about computation in Chalmers’ other work, which is interesting, though. Don’t get the impression that I find the guy altogether a crank.)

  98. #98 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 5, 2006

    “There’s often no way to resolve a disagreement between two systems of epistemology that provide different means for resolving disagreements.”

    I wouldn’t look for any general descriptive model of how this works, I would look for a practical method. That could be in the same way mathematics does it, by letting science and its basis in observations influence the framework. Which gets me back to dualisms… For example, why not institute an axiom M of monism for philosophy related to naturalism and practical use, and let the dualism fanatics play in their alternate fantasy worlds of non-M?

  99. #99 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 5, 2006

    Keith:

    “Andrew Irvine (philosophy, UBC) said once that a philosophy paper is something like one big argument by conditional proof; I would say the same is true of scientific papers.”

    Yes. But the predictions from theory in a science paper is tested, while not all of philosophy is. It is in the nature of these things. But it does makes the tentative factuality in science even more so in philosophy.

    “Even electrons are not identical – we can count them – they are merely exchangable or equivalent in most respects.”

    Hmm. I’m not sure what to make of this. First I will substitute fermionic electrons with bosonic photons. The reason is because fermions are individuals in bound systems due to obeying Fermi-Dirac statistics. We could discuss fermions when prepared isolated, but it complicates stuff. Which is why I was discussing bosons in the first place.

    Fundamental particles have identical properties, but the uncertainty principle complicates stuff. Actually there is a no-cloning theorem that expressly forbids the creation of identical and separable copies of an arbitrary unknown quantum state. This protects the uncertainty principle locally and prevents superluminal communication universally. Possibly identical clones are only possible as entangled bosons – but when they are a new quantum superstate that obeys the same no-cloning rule. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-cloning_theorem )

    So yes, bosons are still individual. The no-cloning theorem must protect Tegmark’s clones from being exactly identical as well. In that case clones can’t be used to argue about naturalism at all.

    “This is the problem, BTW, with the Black-inspired arguments disputing Leibniz’ law – the two spheres have different relational properties.”

    Leibniz’ law is the product rule for differentials. In philosophy it seems he instituted principles where “The converse of the second principle, known as the Indiscernibility of identicals, together with the Identity of Indiscernibles is often referred to as Leibniz’s Law.” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leibniz )

    Yes, I believe I remember this now. I think Blacks argument, which satisfies physicists IIRC, is that since the objects have different positions (are different points in a phase space) they are different. So The Indiscernibility of Identicals is okay, but there exists no identicals in naturalism, and The Identity of Indiscernibles is false in any case.

  100. #100 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 5, 2006

    “In that case clones can’t be used to argue about naturalism at all.”

    Umm, perhaps in philosophical disconnected universes, but not in a naturalistic level 1,2,3 and possibly 4, multiverse, assuming QM survives QG which seems reasonable. Which makes me question the eventual difference between modal ‘realism’ and Tegmark’s level 4 even more.

  101. #101 Steevl
    September 5, 2006

    If conciousness is logically determined by physical states, why do scientists bother doing experiments to determine which brain states accompany which mental states? Why not just do the brain scans and then logically deduce what the person is thinking?

    Could it be because brain state only *physically* determines mental state, not logically?

    Devil’s advocacy aside, the above problem really does bother me. I started out as a staunch physicalist, then was brought round to a very weak dualism by arguments about the subjective character of experience. I’m now basically agnostic on the matter. I want to go back to being a physicalist so I can stop being such a stereotypical philosophy graduate. My science friends all mock me. So please, somebody set me straight; if minds *logically* supervene on brains, why can’t we logically deduce what someone’s thinking from sufficiently detailed knowledge about their brain *without* studying correlation between minds and brains first? I understand brain scans don’t provide sufficient information, but it appears impossible in principle.

  102. #102 Timothy Chase
    September 5, 2006

    Two points:

    1. Stochastic processes.
    2. Methylization.

    I would consider the last of these to be most important in cloning. The epigenetic effects of methylization tend to have fairly dramatic effects upon clones – as they aren’t subject to the demethylization and remethylization of normal development – which makes the good majority inviable.

  103. #103 drew hempel
    September 5, 2006

    OK so professor Nicholas Humphries in one of his neuroscience books claims that it’s impossible to flex the cerebral cortex. I emailed him — look I’m doing it right now! I can also flex my pineal gland!!

    Scientists are stupid. Just go search out a real qigong master, get energy transmissions, do the training (the ends in full-lotus stints for at least 2 hours straight and an energy feast called “bigu.”)

    The full-lotus has been really powerful — it always is — on the 3rd day before the full moon.

    And also all these stupid zombie debates. First of all read Sri Ramana Maharshi, teacher of jnana vichara, what Kurt Godel practiced. Maharashi isolated himself for nine years, like an orangutan, and then focused his mind through inference of the I-thought. He achieved eternal liberation by stopping his heart for over 10 minutes — after that the knot was cut and he came back to life. With each breath his mind bottoms out past his heart neurons.

    Sri Ramana Maharshi was a real zombie. Also read Wade Davis — real zombies are created in West Africa and in the New World through certain herbs. Davis is a Harvard trained ethnobotanist (despite the fact that his research was made into a really bad b-grade movie).

    Also on the whole pressure as anti-gravity thing — please keep in mind that logic precedes math and math IS physics (because again the hypotenuse as infinity creates pressure).

    Long Live Professor Jeffrey Schwartz! Everyone go read the new Red Ape reissue!!

  104. #104 truth machine
    September 6, 2006

    The problem appears to have come from the ambiguity of this statement (and others like it).

    I’m aware of the ambiguity, but I was quite clear about how I meant it, by explicitly stating that there are methodical subsets of philosophy, so if some of my respondents thought that I meant “No part of philosophy is methodical”, they weren’t paying attention. However, I don’t think that’s the correct diagnosis.

    I doubt that any such method or standard *can* be standardized. What would it be based on? Why should anyone accept it if they haven’t already accepted it?

    Philosophy needs to remain open and tentative, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be more rigorous as a discipline, being more internally critical of those who promote already refuted arguments without showing anything wrong with the refutation. But consider the popularity of John Searle, who claims to have proven that computers can’t have mental states just by virtue of executing a program — despite this proof having numerous basic errors that have been demonstrated by numerous very accomplished logicians (including David Chalmers); compare the standard of proof to that applied to Andrew Wiles. And it’s not just Searle’s proclaiming to have proved something he hasn’t, but his demonstrated bad faith in refusing to address his correspondent’s arguments. He’s notorious for this among professional philosophers, but they won’t say anything in public.

  105. #105 truth machine
    September 6, 2006

    Truth machine – as tempting as it is to argue that some argument begs the question since it assumes something which, once the argument goes through, turns out to be something one would not accept, that’s generally not considered a reasonable sort of criticism.

    That wasn’t my argument. You seem to have missed the fact that the zombie argument is an argument against physicalism. Thus, if it is based on premises that are contrary to physicalism, it begs the question.

    Also, don’t you think that, given the clear lack of any sort of editorial standards in the Philosophers Magazine, it’s a little ridiculous to refer to a ‘report’ in that magazine?

    I used the word in the first sentence of PZ’s post; talk to him about it.

    Really, I try to be careful in what I write, but it does little good when my respondents are careless.

  106. #106 truth machine
    September 6, 2006

    First, if the p-zombies are physically the same, they will have working minds according to naturalism. That would stop the argument there, assuming science works. Which seems reasonable.

    The problem here is that Chalmers isn’t talking about the working of the mind, he’s talking of the “feel”. Our zombies, by definition, do everything that we do, just as well; they even debate about the nature of their consciousness (despite purportedly not having any).

    We are discussing science and not philosophy here, it is an argument against science.

    No, really, it’s not. There is no claim of science that Chalmers disputes. You say this is new to you; perhaps, then, you don’t fully understand what people are saying (Dennett suggests that this is because it’s so bizarre that scientists can’t imagine that some philosophers are saying what they are saying.)

    But Chalmers presupposes two additional things. First that there are mental states that aren’t physically representable, second that these states are representable with a dualism.

    No, that’s not a part of his argument. Chalmers claims that there’s some possible world — not this one — with the same physical laws and physical state, in which his counterpart isn’t conscious — he claims this on the basis that he can’t see any logical inconsistency in this claim, and possible worlds are those that aren’t logically inconsistent. That would mean his own consciousness — which he conceives of as his “experiential feels”, or some such — is not a logical consequence of his physical state (in a world with our physical laws); but he accepts that it’s a nomological (lawful) consequence of his physical state in this world — so he posits “psycho-physical” laws, not just physical laws. But physicalism is the position that there are only physical laws, and that all phenomena, including our “experiental feels”, are explicable in terms of such laws. From that viewpoint, the world he imagines isn’t logically possible, because consciousness, whatever it is, is a consequence of physical laws and physical state, and nothing else. Whether or not Chalmers is right or physicalists are right, his zombie argument doesn’t succeed as an argument against physicalism; it doesn’t show that physicalism is wrong, it assumes it.

    The sixth problem is that the universe, and especially its dualism, is unparsimonious.

    Chalmers would disagree, because he doesn’t believe that his “experiential feels” can be explained solely in terms of physical laws and states. And he’s entitled to believe that until someone has demonstrated the contrary to his satisfaction.

  107. #107 truth machine
    September 6, 2006

    If conciousness is logically determined by physical states, why do scientists bother doing experiments to determine which brain states accompany which mental states?

    To produce a causal explanation of mental states in terms of brain states.

    Why not just do the brain scans and then logically deduce what the person is thinking?

    Because we don’t have a complete causal model of mental states.

    why can’t we logically deduce what someone’s thinking from sufficiently detailed knowledge about their brain *without* studying correlation between minds and brains first?

    Because we don’t HAVE sufficiently detailed knowledge about their brain — including what does what how and when, and the only way to get any such knowledge is to study what does what how and when.

    I understand brain scans don’t provide sufficient information, but it appears impossible in principle.

    I seem to have missed the deductive proof of that.

  108. #108 Caledonian
    September 6, 2006

    Yet it seems that everyone is failing to mention exactly what is so horrible about the argument. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t accept the argument, I just don’t see it as especially horrible.

    Then you’re not very good at philosophy. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it means you’re no more competent to speak on the matter than you are about high-energy physics or the use of rhyming in 12th-century Icelandic poetry.

  109. #109 drew hempel
    September 6, 2006

    Here — this should help you all: the following quote from molecular genetics professor Johnjoe McFadden (p. 313, Quantum Evolution: How Physics’ Weirdest Theory Explains Life’s Biggest Mystery, W.W. Norton, 2002):

    “If, instead, the voltage gate absorbing the photon is in a neurone committed to firing (thousands of gates already open), the absorption event will similarly make no macroscopic difference to the cell or to the brain (since the neurone will fire anyway) and the interaction may once again remain quantum. However, now imagine that the channel is critical in a neurone poised on the brink of an action potential. The superposition ({photon absorbed and channel open (+/-) photon not absorbed and channel closed}) will now become a larger entanglement: {photon absorbed and channel open and neurone fired (+/-) photon not absorbed and channel closed and neurone not fired}. The channel’s alternative states (open or closed) will be associated with very different fates for the neurone: firing or not firing. This quantum event will now make a difference to the neurone, the brain, and potentially, the life of the brain’s owner. Under these circumstances (of maximum environmental entanglement), decoherence will be instantaneous. At this point the photon, as a quantum component of the Cem-field [Consciousness em field], must make a choice — to be absorbed or not — and a quantum measurement will be made.”

  110. #110 Keith Douglas
    September 6, 2006

    Steevl: I dislike loose talk of supervenience, and I’ve never quite got what logical supervenience is supposed to be – it always sounds like the mistake people make about “logically possible” – propositions are logically possible, not events. That aside, the reason we can’t is two fold (a) computational infeasability and (b) ignorance about the precise way the brain is put together. Consider a much simpler case from organic chemistry. I tell you that you have a compound of hydrogen, chlorine, fluorine, iodine and carbon. It has one atom of each element. Deduce the properties of the compound.

    You can’t, not even in principle, because there are two distinct ways in which the atoms can be arranged. Until I tell you which enantiomer we’re talking about, you can’t determine a vital property of whichever molecule it is, viz. the direction of its optical rotation.

    This silly lesson illustrates what I have been saying about emergence: when things get put together, they have new properties, and in orde to understand them, we need quite substantial knowledge not only of their components, but also of the way they are put together, and also the environment, for that matter.

    truth machine: I am not exactly a professional philosopher (but I am closer than most people), but let me go on record as saying Searle’s attitude is professionally obnoxious in the highest degree.

  111. #111 Keith Douglas
    September 6, 2006

    Incidentally, the same chemical set up also allows a discussion of Kant’s argument for absolute space (refuted, as far as I am concerned) and about realism about transphenomenal properties (vindicated in the case of molecular shapes). I mention this as a great example of how science (chemistry in this case) informs metaphysics and epistemology in a startlingly subtle way.

  112. #112 truth machine
    September 6, 2006

    You can’t, not even in principle, because there are two distinct ways in which the atoms can be arranged.

    Aye, there be the argument in principle against reading thoughts — insufficiently determined description. Brain processes are highly dynamic and may well be chaotic; even with super duper advanced technology, it might not be pragmatically possible to establish the brain’s state closely enough to determine what someone’s thoughts are, beyond characterization of their emotional state or where their attention is directed. It would, of course, be absurd to conclude from such inability that consciousness is not determined by physical states — which leaves one wondering on why Steevl brought it up.

  113. #113 truth machine
    September 6, 2006

    it always sounds like the mistake people make about “logically possible” – propositions are logically possible, not events

    I don’t see the mistake; e.g., “it’s not logically possible for a snake to swallow itself whole” can be interpreted as “there is an x such that x is a snake and x swallows itself whole” entails a contradiction.

  114. #114 Dustin Locke
    September 7, 2006

    Caledonian: So, you decided to comment on my ability as a philosopher rather than to answer my simple request that someone explain to me why the argument is obviously horrible? Thank you for your assesment of my abilities. It seems to be a highly informed assesment and I will be sure to keep it in mind while I’m writing my dissertation. (“Remember, Caledonian said you weren’t any good. You had better listen to him. Well, OK, he didn’t take the time to explain to you WHY Chalmers’ argument is so horrible and thus why you’re such a bad philosopher for not noticing it yourself. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Of COURSE he knows what he’s talking about! Why else would he say such a thing? Look, he just can’t be troubled to explain these things to stupid people like you.”) Thanks, Cal!

  115. #115 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 7, 2006

    Looking at my last two comments, I think I overstated them on two points.

    I don’t know enough about QM and especially the no-cloning theorem to know if “quantum superstates” (entangled larger systems) obey no-cloning. But it seems feasible.

    I have the same lack of experience with modal realism, so I don’t really know if it is necessary to think of realisable universes. Though it seems reasonable, at least in the cases one want to discuss logic as applied to the observable world. OTOH it is practically impossible to know in most cases what corresponds to Tegmark’s closed ensemble.

    If it is based on M theory landscape there is a computational problem that complicates both practice and theory. The landscape as we know it today, the string landscape, is typically NP hard and even NP complete for some vacua. ( http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0602072 ) The later means that until we have quantum computers that can speed up NP problems to the P domain, they will probably be practically unsolved.

    It also means that since the physical universe will have the same problem to find the solutions. Why classical physics are as bad as classical computers on solving NP problems fast and correctly, and why it must be so, is described in http://www.scottaaronson.com/papers/npcomplete.pdf . I think the QM equivalent will be discussed in the companion paper to the one above.

    So unless we are discussing testing general principles such as time or energy behaviour in modal realism, we must as always make the best of the situation. It reminds me of the difference between bayesian beliefs and frequentist probability. Sometimes you have to settle for the bayesian info instead.

    truth:
    “The problem here is that Chalmers isn’t talking about the working of the mind, he’s talking of the “feel”.”

    But as noted essentially Chalmers begs the question. I think he starts here. Why are we discussing feel, and not the workings of the mind?

    “There is no claim of science that Chalmers disputes. … You say this is new to you; perhaps, then, you don’t fully understand what people are saying”

    Yes, I’m fully aware of that problem. As I have said, perhaps here, I try to muddle through, and I appreciate your efforts to clear things up. Here you seem to be saying that Chalmers are arguing against the metaphysical position of physicalism. Maybe so, and you have a citation that supports that. And if already a philosophical argument can refute his question begging, it may be said to be a stronger refutation.

    But as I understand it what he criticises is part of a scientific theory, the neuroscientific concept of mind. He also specifically claims “it is possible that there is a world exactly like ours in every physical respect, but in it everyone lacks certain mental states”. This isn’t possible if the mind obeys physical laws. So I’m claiming that one can analyse it from a scientific view on two accounts.

    The rest of your discussion seems to presuppose a physicalist analysis instead, and I haven’t anything to say here. Except to claim that when he assumes lack of states (consciousness) he is saying that this state is nonphysical in our world, since the physics in both world are assumed to be the same. Hence I, as probably the confused physicists you cites, see a dualism.

  116. #116 Dustin Locke
    September 7, 2006

    Truth Machine writes:

    “It’s ridiculous to call [the conclusion of Chalmers' zombie argument] ‘a disjunctive claim’.”

    On page 19 of “Consciousness and its Place in Nature” (which can be found at http://consc.net/papers/nature.pdf or in “Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Mind”) Chalmers explicitly writes the conclusion of his zombie argument as

    “Materialism is false or type-F monism is true.”

    In the appendix of “Does Conceivability Entail Possibility” (which can be found at http://consc.net/papers/conceivability.html) Chalmers explicitly states the conclusion of his zombie argument as

    “Materialism is false or panprotopsychism is true.”

    “Panprotopsychism” is a term Chalmers uses synonymously with “type F-monism”, as he says on page 20 of “Consciousness and it’s Place in Nature”.

    Truthiness Machine, please be careful when you see the word “this” (as in “this view”): it may not refer to what you think it refers to. In particular, it may refer to just ONE of the views in a disjunction of two views. Also, please feel free to cite your sources.

    By the way, TM, do you have a non-circular argument (in your sense of the term “circular”) for the claim that there are rocks? Remember, if you use any premise or conjunction of premises that is inconsistent with the view that there ARE rocks, you’re giving a circular argument (again, according to your definition of “circular”).

    OK, joking aside, the problem with your definition of “circular argument” is that it makes ALL deductive arguments (i.e., arguments with premises that entail their conclusions) “circular”. If a “circular” argument is supposed to be illegitimate, and at least some deductive arguments are not illegitimate, then you had better redefine “circular”.

    On a side note, the name “Truth Machine” might just be the cockiest misnomer I’ve ever heard.

  117. #117 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 7, 2006

    Dustin:
    “By the way, TM, do you have a non-circular argument (in your sense of the term “circular”) for the claim that there are rocks?”

    I’m interested in the analysis of “circular argument” as regards science.

    In this case I think observations of rocks break the circularity. It seems to be similar to the description of models. For example, linear-elastic materials are those who are seen to follow Hooke’s law, and Hooke’s law is that some materials are seen to be linear-elastic. What breaks the seeming circularity in the description of this model is simply the observation that materials exists that have a linear response, ie the application of the model.

    Not that this observation on theories fixes the problem you note for deductive arguments. But circularity seems to be an non-obvious concept in the world of theories. Creationists love to say that fitness is a circular definition. (But here there are other explanations. For example, they confuse fitness as a potential vs its realisation.)

  118. #118 Dustin Locke
    September 7, 2006

    First, a correction. That should have said:

    “Remember, if you use any premise or conjunction of premises that is inconsistent with the view that there ARE *NOT* rocks, you’re giving a circular argument (again, according to your definition of ‘circular’).”

    Forgetting a “not” must be the worst kind of typo.

    Torbjörn, thanks for the comment. You write:

    “linear-elastic materials are those who are seen to follow Hooke’s law, and Hooke’s law is that some materials are seen to be linear-elastic. What breaks the seeming circularity…”

    I don’t want to get into the specific content of your example or your solution, but I do want to make sure we distinguish two kinds of circularity.

    First, there is the circularity of some ARGUMENTS, as in when I say “Fido is a dog. All dogs are mammals. Therefore, Fido is a dog.” This argument is blatantly circular.

    On the other hand, there is the circularity of sets of DEFINITIONS, as when I say “What I mean by ‘bachelor’ is an unmarried male and what I mean be ‘unmarried male’ is a bachelor.” This pair of definitions is blatantly circular.

    I take it that the (apparent) “circularity” in your example is the sort that applies to definitions (please correct me if I’m wrong). The sort of circularity we were discussing, however, is the kind that applies to arguments.

    I’m not exactly sure how to understand the example you brought up or, or your solution to it, but, in any case, questions concerning circular definitions will need to be treated separately from questions concerning circular arguments.

  119. #119 truth machine
    September 8, 2006

    But as noted essentially Chalmers begs the question. I think he starts here. Why are we discussing feel, and not the workings of the mind?

    Huh? You’re begging the question. Chalmers thinks that “consciousness” refers to “experiential feel”; thus, that’s what he’s discussing when he uses the word. If you think of it otherwise, you’ll have to convince him of it; you can’t just expect him to take on your view.

    Here you seem to be saying that Chalmers are arguing against the metaphysical position of physicalism

    Yes, that’s exactly what he’s doing, it’s well known that that’s what he’s doing, and that’s what he announced that he was doing. Why would you have thought otherwise?

    This isn’t possible if the mind obeys physical laws.

    Well, yes, but he’s a dualist, and thinks that the mind is not solely governed by physical laws; this is a conclusion he reached because he can’t see how consciousness, as he conceives it, could be a consequence of physical laws. But he distinguishes consciousness, as “experiential feels”, from all the analytical processing that the brain does. Remember, zombies act identically to the way we do, and they act that way because they have the same brains, which are governed by the same physical laws.

    It’s pure metaphysics, it’s very confused, but it’s not in conflict with any empirical fact.

  120. #120 truth machine
    September 8, 2006

    By the way, TM, do you have a non-circular argument (in your sense of the term “circular”) for the claim that there are rocks?

    My sense is the standard sense; Chalmers assumes that physicalism isn’t true in his argument that physicalism isn’t true. I can present an argument that there are rocks, based upon uncontroversial assumptions. For instance, I can point to something, assume that it is what it appears to be, namely a rock, and conclude, from the existence of a rock, that there are rocks. Of course, someone can deny that that it is a rock, and my argument doesn’t go through until we can settle that. But my argument was not that the thing is a rock, it was that there are rocks, so my argument isn’t circular. If I were tasked with arguing that the thing I was pointing to was a rock, I could give some other argument that doesn’t assume that it’s a rock but assumes something else uncontroversial from which I can argue that it is a rock, and again my argument would not be circular. But Chalmers is arguing against a view by making assumptions that are inconsistent with that very view, and thus his argument is circular (and he has admitted that to me, in discussions on Psyche-D and at his home in Tucson before he returned to Australia).

    OK, joking aside, the problem with your definition of “circular argument” is that it makes ALL deductive arguments (i.e., arguments with premises that entail their conclusions) “circular”.

    No, I gave the standard definition, and it doesn’t make all deductive arguments circular.

    On a side note, the name “Truth Machine” might just be the cockiest misnomer I’ve ever heard.

    Yeah, and “Locke” is an embarrassment to your namesake, asshole.

  121. #121 truth machine
    September 8, 2006

    In this case I think observations of rocks break the circularity.

    See my argument above. There never was any circularity. Observations of rocks provide one basis for presenting a non-circular argument that there are rocks, but there are other non-circular arguments based on, say, the composition of the earth’s crust and geological processes, just as Einstein produced a non-circular argument that there are black holes before any were observed, and the folks who found that “transitional” fossil in Antartica argued that such fossils exist before ever observing one. But Dustin is apparently one of those dumb-fuck mentally deficient philosophers who has no grasp of empirical matters.

  122. #122 truth machine
    September 8, 2006

    No, I gave the standard definition, and it doesn’t make all deductive arguments circular.

    BTW, it’s useful to remember that circular arguments are valid (or, rather, the circularity doesn’t make them invalid; they could be invalid for other reasons). But not all valid arguments are convincing, and you have to go outside of logic to determine which are and which are not; you have to go to the real world in which these arguments are employed by human beings to persuade other human beings, and without doing that you won’t understand that the premises of an argument must be accepted by those whom you wish to convince.

  123. #123 truth machine
    September 8, 2006

    Hmm … I think the point about observable rocks may miss Dumbfuncan’s “point”, because I didn’t consider just how deeply dumbfuck it could be:

    “Remember, if you use any premise or conjunction of premises that is inconsistent with the view that there ARE *NOT* rocks, you’re giving a circular argument (again, according to your definition of ‘circular’).”

    The dumb-fuckedness of this is that nothing is said as to what sort of “view” this is. If this view is no more than the simple belief that there no rocks, there’s no reason why one shouldn’t be able to convince someone that their belief is erroneous, just as we convince people that their beliefs are erroneous all the time without asking them to simply assume otherwise. But if this “view” is the metaphysical position that there are no rocks, a position that entails that nothing could be a rock and no geological process could produce rocks, then indeed there can be no possible convincing argument that there are rocks, as people shown rocks would deny that they are rocks, and would deny that the results of processes that generate rocks really are rocks. And as that view, “norockism”, entails that nothing that appears to be a rock is a rock, an argument based on such an assumption would be a circular argument against norockism.

    But most deductive arguments are not arguments against anything like norockism, and only a true dumbfuck would make such a generalization.

    Physicalism is clearly not so absurd as norockism; its entailments do not contradict plain and obvious understandings, such as that the things we call rocks are rocks. But it definitely entails that there are no possible worlds that are physically identical to this world but in which our counterparts aren’t conscious. Yet Chalmers’s Zombie argument, an argument against physicalism, assumes the very opposite of that, and thus is circular.

  124. #124 truth machine
    September 8, 2006

    But it definitely entails that there are no possible worlds that are physically identical to this world but in which our counterparts aren’t conscious. Yet Chalmers’s Zombie argument, an argument against physicalism, assumes the very opposite of that, and thus is circular.

    Hmmm, this isn’t quite right. Chalmers argues that consciousness doesn’t supervene on the physical because, if it did, there would be no possible world that is physically identical to this world but in which our counterparts aren’t conscious, but there is such a world. He argues that there is such a world because such a world does not entail a contradiction. It does not because … Chalmers assumes it does not; he certainly gives no argument that it does not, he only states that he cannot discern any such contradiction. But this assumption begs the question. If consciousness does logically supervene on the physical, then it immediately follows that, if we are conscious, our counterparts in all physically identical worlds are also conscious, which logically contradicts their not being conscious. The failure of discernment is tantamount to denying that consciousness logically supervenes on the physical in the first place. It’s a bit like arguing that a sunset isn’t pretty because you can’t discern any prettiness in it — it’s not likely to convince anyone who thinks that sunsets are pretty.

  125. #125 Dustin Locke
    September 8, 2006

    Truthiness’ explanation of why Chalmers’ argument is circular:

    “Zombies are conceivable (in the sense that Chalmers carefully lays out in “The Conscious Mind”) if and only if physicalism is false or we are zombies. This really should be obvious, since physicalists deny that they can conceive of any distinction between Chalmers and his zombie — else, they wouldn’t be physicalists. Chalmers’ argument rests on his claim that he can conceive of zombies, because “I can detect no internal incoherence”. But for a physicalist, Chalmers is asserting that two identical things are different, which is certainly incoherent.”

    Truthiness’ “non-circular” argument for the existence of rocks:

    “I can present an argument that there are rocks, based upon uncontroversial assumptions. For instance, I can point to something, assume that it is what it appears to be, namely a rock, and conclude, from the existence of a rock, that there are rocks. Of course, someone can deny that that it is a rock, and my argument doesn’t go through until we can settle that. But my argument was not that the thing is a rock, it was that there are rocks, so my argument isn’t circular.”

    Now let’s apply Truthy’s explanation of why Chalmers’ argument is circular to Truthy’s argument for the existence of rocks:

    [That is a rock] only if [there are no rocks] is false. This really should be obvious, since [people who believe that there are no rocks] deny that [that is a rock] — else, they wouldn’t be [people who believe there are no rocks]. [Truthy's] argument rests on his claim that [that is a rock]. But for a [person who believes there are no rocks], [Truthy] is asserting that [there is an instance of a type R such that no things of type R exist], which is certainly incoherent.

  126. #126 truth machine
    September 8, 2006

    I already said that an argument against the metaphysical view that there are no rocks, a view that entails the negation of all possible premises that might entail that there are rocks, is necessarily circular. There is no way to disprove metaphysical positions through deductive argument unless the metaphysical position is logically incoherent. “There are no rocks” isn’t not, you pathetic moron. But not all propositions are metaphysical, you silly goose.

    You write “[people who believe that there are no rocks] deny that [that is a rock] — else, they wouldn’t be [people who believe there are no rocks]” — that simply isn’t so in the normal, nonmetaphysical sense. People who deny that there are white crows would not deny that a white crow is a white crow upon being shown one, despite being people who believe there are no rocks up until then. Ordinary denial of empirical propositions is not metaphysical denial. Physicalists deny that there are zombies do so, not just because they’ve never encountered one, but because their conception of “consciousness”, as a manifestation of physical processes, is such that zombies aren’t logically coherent; an argument based on a different conception doesn’t touch their view. Chalmers could give the same argument about a physically identical world where the counterparts of healthy people aren’t healthy, but that would necessarily be a different conception of “healthy” than what most people have; we don’t view “health” as some sort of ethereal mix-in, any more than physicalists view consciousness as some sort of ethereal mix-in.

    But since you entirely missed the points that I explicitly made earlier, I doubt that any of this will have any effect on your ossified brain.

  127. #127 truth machine
    September 8, 2006

    Make that “There are no rocks” is not [logically incoherent]. That you’re a pathetic moron stands.

    And make that

    People who deny that there are white crows would not deny that a white crow is a white crow upon being shown one, despite being people who believe there are no white crows up until then.

    We can also take this out of the empirical realm, and talk about people who deny that, say, x^2 + 5x – 14 = 0 has a negative root — perhaps because they had plugged it into the quadratic equation but did the math wrong. Upon pointing out that -7 is a root, there is not reason for such people to deny it; a belief of P does not entail a belief of all propositions entailed by P; making that mistake is rather stupid. But believing physicalism does entail believing that there are no zombies (or we are zombies); it follows directly from the conception of “consciousness”, whereas “-7 is not a root of x^2 + 5x – 14 = 0″ does not follow from the conception of roots or the conception of any of those symbols.

    Again, circularity is an informal logical fallacy, not a formal logical fallacy. There’s nothing logically wrong with it, it’s just bad rhetoric, it’s unconvincing.

  128. #128 Dustin Locke
    September 8, 2006

    Ah, now I see the problem, truthless! You’re under the impression that physicalism is the position that zombies are CONCEPTUALLY impossible. You’re free to use the term “physicalism” however you like, but according to standard (and Chalmers’) usage, “physicalism” is the view that zombies are METAPHYSICALLY impossible (actually, it’s that plus the view that disembodied minds, roughly speaking, are also metaphysically impossible).

    To get a grasp on the difference, here’s something that is conceptually possible but metaphysically impossible:

    The planet Hesperus is not the planet Phosphorus.

    It is conceptually possible that Hesperus is not Phosphorus because it is conceivable (in a certain sense) that Hesperus is not Phosphorus,* but, since Hesperus and Phosphorus are in fact THE VERY SAME PLANET, it is not metaphysically possible that Hesperus is not Phosphorus (that is to say, it counterfactually could not have been the case that Hesperus was not Phosphorus).

    Most physicalists think that zombies ARE conceptually possible, but deny that zombies are metaphysically possible (the latter being what makes them, by standard usage of the term, physicalists).

    So what Chalmers is doing is trying to convince THESE physicalists (the ones who believe that zombies are conceptually possible) that they ought, if they also accept certain other premises, to believe that zombies are metaphysically possible, and, thus, by standard usage of the term, not be physicalists.

    *Prior to Pythagoras, the Greeks thought that Hesperus was not Phosphorus (i.e., they though that there were two distinct planets). But we don’t want to say that this was a CONCEPTUAL error on the part of the Greeks do we? That is, we don’t want to say that the Greeks believe something that was CONCEPTUALLY impossible do we? Like as if they believed that some bachelors are not men?

    **By the way, you should see my nicknames for you as a sign of affection. Your insults, on the other hand, (calling me a “pathetic moron”, for example) are downright mean. Let’s try to keep things civil and maybe we can get these (i.e., your) confusions cleared up a little sooner. OK, there, Truth Muffin?

  129. #129 truth machine
    September 9, 2006

    If you actually bothered to read and respond to what I have written instead of attacking strawmen, you might get somewhere. The discussion is about logically possible worlds, which in most cases refers to metaphysical possibility; whether, say, it’s logically impossible for a bottle of water to contain no H2O or only metaphysically impossible isn’t at issue here.

    First, you need to understand that Chalmers carefully relates conceivability to logical possibility: “there is a sense according to which a statement is conceivable if for all we know it is true, or if we do not know that it is impossible. In this sense, both Goldbach’s conjecture and its negation are conceivable. But the false member of the pair will not qualify in the sense I am using, as there is no conceivable world in which it is true (it is false in every world).”

    So, in Chalmers’ sense it is inconceivable, e.g., that Fermat’s Last Theorem is false, even though, in the common sense of that word, it is quite conceivable. You should keep that in mind when you consider what Chalmers means when he says that the zombie argument is an argument “from conceivability”, and not substitute your notion of conceptualizable. It applies when Chalmers writes “the question is whether the notion of a zombie is conceptually coherent. The mere intelligibility of the notion is not enough to establish the conclusion.” The notion that Hesperus and Phosphorus are distinct planets is intelligible, but “Hesperus (which in fact refers to Venus) is a distinct planet from Phosphorus (which in fact refers to Venus)” is not conceptually coherent in Chalmers’s sense. There is no possible world in which the planet Venus, whether called by one name or a million, is two different planets, any more than there is a possible world in which Fermat’s Last Theorem, regardless of how many misconceptions people have of it, is false.

    Chalmers claims that zombies are logically possible, yet it is not logically possible that Fermat’s Last Theorem is false — not in Chalmers’s sense — no matter how clearly we can picture in our minds it being false, and that is the sense in which his claim must be considered. Physicalists can conceptualize zombies, but that says nothing of whether they find them logically, or metaphysically, possible.

    Now, taking a trip to Wikipedia, Neurath wrote “According to physicalism, the language of physics is the universal language of science and, consequently, any knowledge can be brought back to the statements on the physical objects.”

    Also from WP: “In physicalism, superveniences establishes a relationship between the mental and the physical, so that any change in the mental is caused by a change in the physical. Just as a shadow is dependent upon the position of the object causing it, so is the mental dependent upon the physical. Physicalism thusly implies (through modal realism) that No two worlds could be identical in every physical respect yet differ in some other respect.

    Now, Chalmers writes “We need to show … that all the microphysical facts in the world do not entail the facts about consciousness”.

    Yet, in the Zombie argument, he presents no facts about consciousness and does nothing to show what he says he needs to show; all he does is claim that there are two possible worlds with the same physical facts but different facts about consciousness. This amounts to a claim that physicalism is false — nothing more. He seems to think that this will go through because he conceptualizes consciousness as something that can be removed without changing any physical facts, and so it ought to be obvious to people that two possible worlds can differ in this way. But if it that were so obvious, there would be no physicalists — at least, none who had ever thought about these things for more than ten minutes. It’s like two possible worlds, where the same inference rules and axioms of arithmetic are employed, but in one world the FLT is derivable and in the other it isn’t. Per physicalism, the presence or absence of consciousness is derivable from the physical facts; you can’t counter physicalism simply by saying “suppose the presence or absence of consciousness isn’t derivable from the physical facts; I can’t see anything logically incoherent in that”.

    So what Chalmers is doing is trying to convince THESE physicalists (the ones who believe that zombies are conceptually possible) that they ought, if they also accept certain other premises, to believe that zombies are metaphysically possible, and, thus, by standard usage of the term, not be physicalists.

    It’s remarkable, then, that he has been so ineffective with the Zombie argument. The Knowledge Argument, OTOH, is not blatantly circular and has been much much more effective in producing doubt about physicalism. That’s because, even for those who believe that “any knowledge can be brought back to the statements on the physical objects”, it isn’t at all obvious how to do so in the case of the KA. But the Zombie argument poses no challenge to that belief.

    By the way, you should see my nicknames for you as a sign of affection.

    Ah, so I should “see” transparent falsehoods? You’re quite the patronizing twit, as well as being a fool.

  130. #130 truth machine
    September 9, 2006

    Here’s a good way to look at the zombie argument:

    “Physicalism implies that no two worlds could be identical in every physical respect yet differ in some other respect. How, then, do you explain that it seems conceivable that there could be a world identical to ours in every physical respect, except that our counterparts lack consciousness?”

    This is basically a shifting of the burden to physicalists to explain the consequences of physicalism. It certainly isn’t a “deductive argument” against physicalism, and it would be silly for any physicalist to throw up his hands, say “I can’t explain it”, and abandon physicalism, as that would take him from the frying pan into the fire; it would be far harder to explain in a satisfactory way just what sort of difference this is or how to explain the presence of consciousness in one world but not the other, ending up with a host of alternative mystical ontologies and no way to pick among them. But it does serve as a challenge to philosophers to address the issue of why this does seem conceivable to many (perhaps even most) and what “consciousness” might be, such that it can logically supervene on the physical — and indeed, many philosophers have risen to that challenge in a variety of ways. But the notion that the zombie argument actually demonstrates the falsity of physicalism is, as Dan Dennett puts it, “preposterous”.

  131. #131 Dustin Locke
    September 9, 2006

    “The discussion is about logically possible worlds, which in most cases refers to metaphysical possibility”

    Look, I know you want to simplify things by ignoring (perhaps subtle) distinctions. But, I’m sorry, we just can’t do that in this case. The distinction between logical and metaphysical possibility plays a crucial role in Chalmers’ argument.

    Why think that there is a distinction between the two? Quite simply, because there are propositions that are logically possible but not metaphysically possible. For example, it is logically possible that Hesperus is not Phosphorus but not metaphysically possible that Hesperus is not Phosphorus.

    Now you’re right, physicalism does imply that

    “No two worlds could be identical in every physical respect yet differ in some other respect.”

    But we need to remember that it is METAPHYSICALLY possible worlds we’re talking about here.

    Bringing things back to the argument at hand, most physicalists agree that zombies are LOGICALLY possible but deny that they are METAPHYSICALLY possible (the latter, again, being what makes them physicalists, by standard usage of the term “physicalism”). According to most physicalists, the proposition that there are zombies is like the proposition that Hesperus is not Phosphorus. Neither of these is LOGICALLY impossible, but both (according the physicalist) are METAPHYSICALLY impossible. Again, the zombie argument is directed at this sort of physicalists, as Chalmers explicitly states in the section titled “The Two-Dimensional Argument against Type-B Materialism” of “Consciousness and its Place in Nature” (available here: http://consc.net/papers/nature.html)

    Stick with it there truthy, I think you’re about to get it. The key to getting it is to start making the distinction between logical/conceptual possibility, on the one hand, and metaphysical possibility, on the other.

    By the way, if you’re claim is that Chalmers’ argument is circular as an argument against what he calls “Type-A materialism”, then you’re right, it is, as Chalmers explicitly acknowledges. But physicalism is not equivallent to Type-A materialism. Type-A materialism is physicalism PLUS the claim that zombies are logically/conceptually impossible. In any case, Chalmers’ argument is (again, EXPLICITLY) not aimed at Type-A materialists.

  132. #132 Dustin Locke
    September 9, 2006

    Oh, this one takes the cake! Truthy writes:

    “The notion that Hesperus and Phosphorus are distinct planets is intelligible, but “Hesperus (which in fact refers to Venus) is a distinct planet from Phosphorus (which in fact refers to Venus)” is not conceptually coherent in Chalmers’s sense.”

    C’mon now old truthless! In “Does Conceivability Entail Possibility” (available here: http://consc.net/papers/conceivability.html ) Chalmers makes several distinctions between types of conceivability (AKA “conceptual possibility”, “conceputal coherence”). The key one for our purposes is the distinction between “primary” and “secondary” conceivability. At the beginning of the section titled “Primary vs Secondary Conceivability”, Chalmers writes (and, yes, this is an exact quote):

    “…it has become a familiar observation that there is a sense in which ‘Hesperus is not Phosphorus’ is conceivable, and a sense in which it is not. The first of these senses corresponds to primary conceivability; the second to secondary conceivability.”

    Then, in the appendix to that paper, Chalmers makes it VERY explicit that the zombie argument is an argument from the PRIMARY conceivability of zombies. When he explicitly formulates the argument, the first premise is:

    “P&~Q [roughly, 'there are zombies'] is ideally primarily positively (negatively) conceivable.”

    C’mon now, truthy, you have READ some Chalmers haven’t you?

  133. #133 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 9, 2006

    Dustin:
    “I take it that the (apparent) “circularity” in your example is the sort that applies to definitions”

    Yes. Both arguments and definitions are based on observations though. But it is seems to be an unintended but nonfatal feature of models when one expresses a definitional circularity. The information that explains the definitions is lifted up from underlying models or reality. Something like this:

    ………………………………….Model
    Model of material……………..(—) Model of phenomena
    Definition of L.E. material………….Definition of L.E…………..(— Seems circular ….
    …………..^………………………………… ^
    …………..|………………………………….|…………………….(— … but is not!
    Observed material…………….(—) Observed phenomena
    ……………………………………..Nature

    (Sorry about the dots and lack of sharp arrows scaffolding my attempt of ASCII art. Now I know there is a problem, so next time…)

    And it must be a fault in models when one expresses an argumentational circularity. That would reside within the model, for example exclusively within “Model of phenomens” and be truly circular. Thank you!

    truth:
    “Chalmers thinks that “consciousness” refers to “experiential feel”; thus, that’s what he’s discussing when he uses the word. If you think of it otherwise, you’ll have to convince him of it; you can’t just expect him to take on your view.”

    That goes both ways. :-) He started it, here. And on the other question, comparing models, I’m not sure why I need to state more than that consciousness is a physical observation.

    “Why would you have thought otherwise?”
    Because I’m expecting him to argue against the naturalism of science, not the physicalism of philosophy. I assume that the mainstream neuroscientific model of mind is naturalistic, with observations of behaviour, neuron activity, et cetera.

    “”This isn’t possible if the mind obeys physical laws.”
    Well, yes, … But he distinguishes consciousness, as “experiential feels”, from all the analytical processing that the brain does. … but it’s not in conflict with any empirical fact.”

    And here I think he begs the question again, if we are discussing science and not physicalism. I’m interested in the former, not the later, and I don’t care more for Chalmers ideas, so we can stop here.

  134. #134 truth machine
    September 9, 2006

    Regardless of what you or Chalmers claim, Chalmers’s “argument” is directed at the physicalist implication that I stated: “No two worlds could be identical in every physical respect yet differ in some other respect”; specifically, Chalmers’s position is that it isn’t true because that other respect could be consciousness. But the zombie “argument” itself is no argument for that claim, it’s merely a statement of that claim. Of course, those physicalists who say “absolutely, I agree” will be (will have been) persuaded, so then they aren’t really physicalists after all. But the thing they are agreeing to wasn’t entailed by anything other than their own acceptance of the possibility of zombies. As I said, that’s a rather silly thing to do, because it takes them from the frying pan to the fire.

    But in fact there are all sorts of arguments that have been given by physicalists as to why zombies aren’t conceivable or, if conceivable, that doesn’t make them logically possible. Perhaps you should be reading more of them and less of Chalmers.

    “Type-A materialism is physicalism PLUS the claim that zombies are logically/conceptually impossible.”

    Uh, no, it isn’t; that’s a very dumb statement. Physicalism implies that “No two worlds could be identical in every physical respect yet differ in some other respect”; only a complete ignoramus could deny that as an entailment of physicalism. And from that, it follows directly that zombies aren’t (metaphysically) possible (or we’re zombies). Type-A materialists justify their rejection of zombies by saying that zombies aren’t conceivable, and Type-B materialists justify their rejection of zombies by saying that their conceivability doesn’t imply their (metaphysical) possibility. Type-C materialists deny that zombies are ideally conceivable, accept that they are prima facie conceivable, but deny that the prima facie conceivability of zombies implies their prima facie metaphysical possibility.

    Textbook stuff, bozo. And the notion that Chalmers isn’t arguing against type-A materialism is beyond ludicrous. As I said, and you have now agreed, the argument is circular, but Chalmers’s position is hardly “oh, well, if you deny that zombies are conceivable, then I have no argument with you”. Chalmers has said that his arguments aren’t directed at those who deny that consciousness is an explanandum, but he also goes around pointing his zombie-detecting hairdryer at them and saying he’s detected one.

  135. #135 truth machine
    September 9, 2006

    “That goes both ways. :-) He started it, here.”

    Chalmers hasn’t been here, so I don’t know what you mean by that.

    And on the other question, comparing models, I’m not sure why I need to state more than that consciousness is a physical observation.

    Because most people, and certainly most philosophers of mind, disagree.

    Because I’m expecting him to argue against the naturalism of science, not the physicalism of philosophy.

    Uh, why? a) He’s a philosopher and b) he doesn’t have any argument with the naturalism of science.

    I assume that the mainstream neuroscientific model of mind is naturalistic, with observations of behaviour, neuron activity, et cetera.

    The models of science are based on methodological naturalism; science doesn’t make metaphysical claims. And Chalmers doesn’t disagree with any of the observations of neuroscience. But he thinks there could be creatures with brains just like ours, with all the same physical facts as for our brains, doing all the same things as ours, but these creatures wouldn’t be conscious; there wouldn’t be “anyone home inside”; it would be “dark inside”; they wouldn’t have “experiential feel”; and so on. Obviously his conception of consciousness is of something above and beyond the “mechanics” of the brain. And his conception is very common, it has been the traditional view of consciousness for centuries. It has only been very recently, with the advent of the computational model of cognition, that it has been possible to provide any sort of contrary explanation for the “subjective sense of self”, and that explanation is still in its infancy.

    And here I think he begs the question again, if we are discussing science and not physicalism.

    Huh? Chalmers isn’t discussing science, he’s discussing physicalism, so how can he be begging the question? Chalmers would say that it is you who is begging the question by asserting that his existence as a first-person subjective being and his “raw feels” such as “the redness of red” or why a musical note sounds “just so” are purely consequences of physical events without explaining how that could be; how the first-person data, the introspected world, can be explained in terms of the third-person facts, the neuroscientific data about the brain. This is what he calls “the explanatory gap”, and he calls the problem of closing it “the hard problem” — a philosophical problem — as opposed to all the “easy” problems of explaining all the mechanical features of our behavior, our cognitive faculties, and so on. Many people, even died-in-the-wool materialists, agree that his “hard problem” really is very hard indeed, and even some of those died-in-the-wool materialists think that the gap can’t be closed even in principle. I happen to think that they are wrong, and that the conscious self can be modeled as a self-referential computational process of the brain — that that’s what “we”, as selves, egos, experiencing subjects, are. But we, in that sense, certainly are not simply our bodies or our brains, any more than the browser instance that is displaying this is your computer or the CPU in it or any other physical object; it is a process, a time-wise sequence of physical states, and I think that’s what we are, and that it is science that is making it and will make it possible to understand that, just as it made it possible to understand life as a process and not as some sort of substance, some elan vitale.

  136. #136 Dustin Locke
    September 10, 2006

    Good job, Truthiness, you seem to have done some homework! This is exactly right:

    “Type-A materialists justify their rejection of zombies by saying that zombies aren’t conceivable.”

    (assuming that by “rejection of zombies” you mean “denial of the metaphysical possibility of zombies”, i.e., acceptance of PHYSICALISM.)

    But here’s what you failed to see: if someone claims P and then justifies that claim by claiming Q, then that person is, obviously, claiming both P and Q. Thus, since the type-A materialist claims that zombies are metaphysically impossible (i.e., physicalism) and justifies that claim by claiming that zombies are not conceivable (i.e., conceptually impossible), the type-A materialist claims BOTH that zombies are metaphysically impossible (i.e., physicalism) and that zombies are not conceivable (i.e., conceptually impossible). In other words,

    “Type-A materialism is physicalism PLUS the claim that zombies are logically/conceptually impossible.”

    But, truthy, if you did your homework, why did you say this:

    “And the notion that Chalmers isn’t arguing against type-A materialism is beyond ludicrous.”

    Sure, Chalmers argues against the type-A materialist, but the question is whether his ZOMBIE argument is directed at the type-A materialist. He makes it explicit in many places (that I’ve already cited) that it isn’t.

    In any case, good work, truthy. I think you’re coming to know a lot more about the zombie argument then what you did at the beginning of this conversation.

  137. #137 truth machine
    September 10, 2006

    Fuck off, asshole. What I know, as I said in the first place, is that it’s circular.

  138. #138 truth machine
    September 10, 2006

    And here’s a clue for you: Type-B materialists, those who believe that zombies are metaphysically impossible and believe that they are ideally conceivable, only exist in the far recesses of word-playing philosophy departments. You won’t find them hanging out at this blog (unless you’re one of those bizarre creatures), where my arguments were directed. More likely you’ll find people like Mr. Larsson, who can’t even conceive of a non-physical conciousness, let alone conceive of creatures who lack it.

  139. #139 truth machine
    September 10, 2006

    If non-physical sobriety is logically possible, then it’s metaphysically possible.
    Non-physical sobriety is logically possible.
    Therefore it’s metaphysically possible.
    Therefore sobriety doesn’t logically supervene on the physical.

    But one can only ideally conceive of non-physical sobriety if one doesn’t believe that sobriety logically supervenes on the physical. Anyone who believes that they have ideally conceived of non-physical sobriety is either fooling themselves or doesn’t understand what sobriety is.

  140. #140 truth machine
    September 11, 2006

    I’m killing my bookmark on this thread, so if you respond, Dustin, you’ll be talking to yourself. See you in some other thread.

  141. #141 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 11, 2006

    truth:
    “Because most people, and certainly most philosophers of mind, disagree.”

    Curious. We can distinguish consciousness by EEG and CAT scans.

    “Uh, why?”

    You disconnected two of my sentences. Perhaps I should have written “Since I assume … ”

    “science doesn’t make metaphysical claims.”

    But physicalism does. Anyway, Chalmers argument is obviously breaking against physical laws as I described before, and as I said that makes me loose all interest in this argument.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.