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2011-08-19
Zombies again
Let's say you want to conceive of a zombie world. How do you do this? You have to think of physical stuff like people, who are, of course, zombies. Whatever you are conceiving of, like all the colors on the zombie people, I bet it has phenomenal character. So someone (you) must not be a zombie. Only a partial zombie world is conceivable, where everyone except yourself are zombies.

David Chalmers (1996) briefly speaks about this (at least I think that's what he's talking about), concluding that even if only a partial zombie world is conceivable, the zombie argument still goes through.

One might also be worried by the fact that the concept of consciousness is arguably not present at the center of the zombie world, whereas the application of a primary intention might require the     presence of the relevant concept at the center of the world. (One might even start to worry about     the application of the zombie’s concept!) I think the situation is more subtle than this--primary         intentions need not require the presence of the original concept--but in any case, we can bypass  this worry altogether simply by considering a partial zombie world: one in which I am at the center, conscious, with all the relevant concepts, but in which some other people are             zombies [emphasis added] (133).1

I sure wish there was someone on this forum who could clarify the above passage. ;-)

1. Chalmers, D. J., 1996, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.


2011-08-22
Zombies again
Reply to Nathan Jarmie
In the end, the issue is simply this:Can you live without the concept of consciousness?

If you can imagine a situation in which you are conscious, 
and all others around you are not, 
then there is a difference, articulated merely in the observation...
And consciousness is something, then, isn't it?

Frankly, though I appreciate the clever approach,
I fail to see how this discussion gets past (the all-so analytically privileged) "intuition."

As you rightly point out, without a capacity to conceive of life without consciousness,
specifically "phenomenal consciousness,"
there is a corresponding incapacity to conceive of "zombies."
So, what Chalmers seems to be appealing to here is the possibility that you are instead surrounded by zombies, a possibility fleshed out ONLY in your granting that perhaps there are others around you who experience the world much differently than you do, that is, without the sense of what the world itself, and the objects within it, are "like."

It tends to be the "intuition" of (pure theorists, with little life experience of their own outside of the library, the laptop, and the coffeeshop) some philosophers (note the small "p") to grant this possibility, and thus the argument for "zombies" flies...

In my humble opinion, the error is in the incarnation.
The "zombie" argument tries to turn consciousness into a "thing,"
a process inherent in the very use of the English language, as a matter of fact,
and a side-effect whose problematic effects are so ubiquitous as to have remained largely unnoticed.
Consciousness, however, is not a "thing" at all.
And, as such, it is not proper to speak of beings as either "having" consciousness, or not.
Consciousness, rather, is a felt transition from one stable state to another,
a movement through which "conscious" entities retain awareness NOT of static things, but of the differences between the two states.
It is of the dimensions that change from one situation to the next that the "things" of which we are "conscious" are composed.
And, given this account, it is clear that any entity NOT capable of consciousness is indeed nothing more than a statue, nothing more than those stale, inanimate look-alikes so often the pointed example recalled by Socrates during discussions similar to this one.
What is the difference between a statue and a person, or between a statue and those fantastic moving statues, 'indistinguishable from the living', created by his own self-claimed forebear, Daedelus?
One has a capacity to move from one situation to the next, and to experience the change between these states, at either end of the travel, of course, returning to rest, sitting, perhaps in a chair, as would be the next logical step in the Platonic path.
It is in these resting states that one has the "leisure" to reflect on what he has experienced in his travel, and in this moment to refine his experience, to name the objects that he seems to have encountered along the way.
Of course, consciousness is not one of those things, at least not until we begin the meta-level analysis on the process by way of which things themselves appear, and make the mistake of turning it into a "thing" for us to consider.It is, to recall Wittgenstein on this general point, a "philosophical" problem created by "philosophers" because of the way that they choose to do "philosophy."


Thus, it is clear that the error is in the incarnation.
And so not a problem at all...








2011-08-22
Zombies again
Reply to Jeffrey White
I agree that consciousness is not a 'thing', but how does that imply that it is a 'felt transition from one stable state to another'? It is surely more than that:

If you present me with a very humanoid being which observably registers 'felt transitions', and ask me to check whether it is conscious, you are presenting me with a meaningful challenge. I can observe objectively how it responds to changes in its environment, but whether it is conscious whilst doing so is conceptually a further point to be determined. If, further, I am allowed to gain all possible knowledge of it as a physical organism, and yet still not know whether it is conscious, that indicates that the concept of consciousness is distinct from any and all physical concepts. 

I think the problem for Chalmers is that his argument begs this very question: I can imagine what I see before me (the humanoid creature) being either conscious or not, but that is at least partly because I am not imagining the creature in all its detail. So all I am imagining is this creature (loosely defined) as turning out to be conscious or not. Whether I could still do that after acquiring every minute physical detail of the creature is another question. But Chalmers needs to answer this question to make his argument. 






2011-08-22
Zombies again
Reply to Nathan Jarmie
Nathan

It seems to me that the issue that needs to be sorted out is the relationship between you as the conceiving subject and the intentional content of what you conceive. So, for example, imagine that I am asked to imagine/conceive my own funeral. I picture something like: there I am, up front in the casket, my mom is crying, my brother is talking softly with my sister...

Now given that I am consciously imagining this scenario, does that thereby place me, the conscious agent, into the scenario, into the content of what I am imagining? I don't see that it does.

Cf. Imagine a scenario in which there are no sentient beings whatsoever. Or imagine a scenario in which there are no living beings. Are these imaginings impossible for us, since when we imagine them, we are alive, we are sentient? From the fact that I am alive when I imagine a scenario, surely it doesn't follow that thereby, part of the content of what I imagine is that there is life, or that I am alive. LIkewise, from the fact that I am conscious when I imagine a zombie world, it doesn't follow that my consciousness somehow makes it into the content of the scenario.

It is not clear to me that you are making this inference, but some things you say suggest you might be thinking along these lines.



2011-08-23
Zombies again
Reply to Nathan Jarmie
Very simple. As Hegel explained:

So far as its spiritual content is produced by its own activity, it is only we [the thinkers] who know spirit to be for itself, to be objective to itself; but in so far as spirit knows itself to be for itself, then this self-production, the pure notion, is the sphere and element in which its objectification takes effect, and where it gets its existential form.

To clarify it further, here's what the Catholic Encyclopedia has to say on the subject:

It only remains, therefore, to say that whatever perfection is compatible with its essence is actually realized in a self-existing being; but as there is no conceivable perfection as such—that is, no expression of positive being as such —that is not compatible with the essence of the self-existent, it follows that the self-existent must be infinite in all perfection. For self-existence itself is absolute positive being and positive being cannot contradict, and cannot therefore limit, positive being.

If those paragraphs are not crystal clear, I can't help you.

Steve
:)


2011-08-23
Zombies again
Reply to Nathan Jarmie
Dear Nathan,

I have always thought of the zombie debate rather as an empty exercise arising from 'physics going on holiday', but it is not that easy to say why and I agree that the partial zombie world issue may be helpful.


As a practicing biophysical scientist I came to understand that physics does not deal with 'stuff'. 'Physical stuff' is a concept ordinary people accept, and which some philosophers seem to conflate with the subject of study in physics but right through from Descartes to Newton to Bohr you find the creators of physics at pains to warn us that this is not what their theories are intended to be about. So a critique of physicalism cannot draw on an idea of 'physical stuff'.


The subject of study in physics is whatever determines our observations, and since this can only be done in relational terms, that means change. As such, physical theories have three elements: 1. A mathematical structure. 2. A claim that this mathematical structure is instantiated as the dynamics of something really going on (rather than stuff). 3. A recognition that the evidence for 2 is ultimately only provided by the phenomenal experiences that the instantiated mathematics directly or indirectly determine. There is no such thing as observation without experience and the whole point of the exercise is to find out the way the world is disposed to determine our observations/experiences. There is a common dogma in philosophy that says that physics only deals with public states like weights measured on a balance or temperatures on a thermometer. However, psychophysics takes us way beyond this into areas of phenomenality and there is nothing new about this. Newton understood that rainbows are not things but rather patterns of personal observation determined by something called light. Newton makes no metaphysical claim about what light is. As he says, that is 'not so easie'. Nothing in physics has qualitative properties. All features described by physics are dispositional - like mass.


With this background I think the partial zombie world idea suggests some more specific arguments that may clarify why physics is on holiday here. First of all, I think it is important to note that conceiving a zombie world is not instantiating that world so we have no real idea what rules apply, if any. The most fertile ground of philosophy is probably that of showing that many things we conceive of cannot possibly be instantiated because such an instantiation involves a contradiction in terms. So in my view the conceivability or otherwise of zombies has no traction whatever. 


What is more interesting is the question of whether a zombie world is self contradictory.  Conceiving a zombie world does not require that the conceiver has to exist in it. 'World' in this sense really just means situation. We here and now can conceive that everyone in Roman times was in fact a zombie and that Cicero's poetry is zombie poetry, without having to require that there was a non-zombie reading it at the time. Chalmers seems to agree that there nothing about conceiving that has to be conceiving from within. (I think the original text is in terms of intensions rather than intentions. This relates to 'two dimensional' theories of meaning. As far as I can see from my contact with philosophers the general view is that this two dimensional argument is if anything weaker than the original exposition.) So that is not quite the problem. The problem seems to lie  in the relation between the three aspects of physical theory itself, as indicated above.


We could posit that a zombie world is one described by the same mathematics as ours. But that falls short of the instantiation and reification of 2.To be physically identical to ours the maths has to be reified as a real disposition to determine something. All that we know is determined by physics is our experience. That does not mean that it is not reasonable or meaningful to propose that the same dispositions determine things not available to experience. They certainly seem to have an existence that allows them to form causal chains billions of years long without needing a human experience on the way. However, if they do not determine human experiences where the local goings on the world are of the sort that we identify with human minds then I would argue that we cannot call them physical dispositions. Determination of human experience may be a minimum requirement for laws being physical but it does seem essential as a minimum because we have no way of knowing about anything else the dispositions might be to (other than forming chains). Mathematical equivalence is not enough.


So your original concern about the need for one entity not to be a zombie in a zombie world that is physically the same as ours holds up for a rather different reason. It is a minimum requirement of 'physical'. However, one is probably still not good enough because there is nothing in physics that says that observation (experience) depends on anything other than the dispositions held to be general. A world or situation conceived of as beings full of zombies plus one non-zombie would not be 'physically identical' to ours because it would have an extra rule. Physical laws, if they have any metaphysical presumption at all, only make sense as general laws in a non-solipsistic framework.


Trying to address the issue of solipsism further is, of course, pretty impossible. It hits verification issues that we have all around us. I have no evidence for anything except 'me' being a non-zombie in this present-to-me world/situation. In fact I am pretty sure that all human beings ARE zombies that carry millions of non-zombies around inside them. As PF Strawson, in practice, pointed out, nobody can argue against that if we frame our ideas in  physics rather than the decidedly non-physical concept of 'personhood'. Another way of putting it might be that a conception of a world in which persons are zombies is not compatible with any statement about physical equivalence to ours because physics has no place for a concept of person - not because physics has no place for experience, which it definitely does.


Best wishes
Jo E

2011-08-23
Zombies again
Reply to Brian Crabb
I agree that consciousness is not a 'thing', but how does that imply that it is a 'felt transition from one stable state to another'? It is surely more than that:
Why do you demand that this is the case?
Perhaps you do not understand what I have written in its full depth.


If you present me with a very humanoid being which observably registers 'felt transitions', and ask me to check whether it is conscious, you are presenting me with a meaningful challenge. I can observe objectively how it responds to changes in its environment, but whether it is conscious whilst doing so is conceptually a further point to be determined.

Of course, observing behavior and observing "consciousness" are different.  However, that is all that you will ever be able to do.  To ask more is not meaningful at all, let alone a "challenge."  It is idleness, for idle people, to fiddle over the impossible, hunting philosophical snype.  Good luck with that.  At least you have the verbosity thing down.


I think the problem for Chalmers is that his argument begs this very question: I can imagine what I see before me (the humanoid creature) being either conscious or not, but that is at least partly because I am not imagining the creature in all its detail.
Of course, we are in full agreement on this point.  I will only add that "detail" need not mean inventory of physical facts, but rather must include the processes that this physical inventory undergoes.... Returning us to my original assessment, and theory.  Basically, my view is a dynamic systems information processing view.  Nothing strange here!














2011-08-23
Zombies again

In fact I am pretty sure that all human beings ARE zombies that carry millions of non-zombies around inside them. As PF Strawson, in practice, pointed out, nobody can argue against that if we frame our ideas in  physics rather than the decidedly non-physical concept of 'personhood'. Another way of putting it might be that a conception of a world in which persons are zombies is not compatible with any statement about physical equivalence to ours because physics has no place for a concept of person - not because physics has no place for experience, which it definitely does.

I am having a difficult time making complete sense of this, but, when I try, I think that it is right...
Experience being what is felt as our embodied dynamic systems move from stable state to stable state -"How did I get here?"  How do I get there?"  That sort of information that experience lends us... 
And, IF I understand Jon correctly, he implies that this process is part and parcel of our physical world...  With us being physical critters therein.
Though, as he begins the above quoted passage, persons choose to think otherwise.

Did I get this right, Jon?

2011-08-23
Zombies again

Imagine a scenario in which there are no sentient beings whatsoever. Or imagine a scenario in which there are no living beings. Are these imaginings impossible for us, since when we imagine them, we are alive, we are sentient? From the fact that I am alive when I imagine a scenario, surely it doesn't follow that thereby, part of the content of what I imagine is that there is life, or that I am alive. LIkewise, from the fact that I am conscious when I imagine a zombie world, it doesn't follow that my consciousness somehow makes it into the content of the scenario.

Just because it is imaginable (conceivable) does not mean that it is logically possible...
I think that you are maybe aiming to say this?

This is a fundamental problem with the "zombie" experiment, and all other thought experiments.
They are limited by how completely the "imagined" world/critter/thing is realized.
IF the world were completely realized, then of course a zombie is NOT logically possible...
It only SEEMS possible because the people who grant it so are ignorant of much of the world,
SPECIFICALLY of how the world works...

So, IF I can conceive of a "zombie" world so specified, then my "consciousness" DOES "make it into the scenario," as without the limits thereof, such a scenario should not be entertained, at all...

2011-08-27
Zombies again
Reply to Jeffrey White
Dear Jeffrey,
It is unimportant but I am known to all but government departments as Jo (for a precedent see http://allpoetry.com/poem/8518951-Jonathan_Jo-by-A.A._Milne).

The thoughts in the quoted paragraph are a bit tangential to Nathan's original question and he has rightly tried to stick to that in the face a barrage of non sequitur responses already! Nevertheless, I think Strawson's 1966 paper on Self Mind and Body does indicate how careful we have to be about what we attribute phenomenal experience to. Strawson himself of course rejects the possibility that we can be so uncertain and uses this as a justification for making it 'persons'. I guess my main point for Nathan is that thought experiments based on conceiving look pretty shaky when we realise that even our concepts of ourselves and our own world may be self contradictory - after all that tends to be what ancient philosophers spent most of there time arguing and I doubt things have changed that much.

You mention embodied dynamic systems and I would agree that whatever experiences ought to be a dynamic system in some sense. Physics is the relation between dynamic dispositions and experience and there seems no reason to think it does not go all the way down. I am not quite sure what it adds to say we are physical critters. The key point of Strawson's argument, originally levelled against Descartes but much more generally applicable, is that we have no way of knowing how many 'experiencing systems' we are dealing with within each human body. As Leibniz points out, unless your 'system' is intrinsically monadic or is the universe its domain of dynamics is only arbitrarily defined from outside. Some might argue for defining systems in some sort of functional or telic terms. But the idea that there is one functional dynamic system per person does not hold up either in terms of common experience or neuroscience for a minute. One functional system in me is scratching an itch, one is thinking what sentence to come next and one is working my typing fingers. None of this has anything to do with post Darwinian adaptation for survival issues since I no longer exist in the environment to which my genetic material adapted somewhere in Africa.

A lot of people are pointing out that the amount of information needed for the content of a typical experience looks like being less than a millionth of the signals going round the brain. That seems to suggest that the 'system' that has access to this millionth of signals is a tiny blob somewhere, but neuroscience tells us that there is no special tiny blob like this. And why on earth does all the rest of the cerebral cortex getting the other most of the millions have no experience? The simple solution is that a million or more places in the brain are getting signals denoting the same (externally defined) content and experiencing them in parallel. As Strawson says, we have no arguments to counter this idea. We feel there must be one 'me' but feeling, like conceiving, is not always to be relied on.

Best regards

Jo


2011-08-27
Zombies again
Reply to Nathan Jarmie
Hi Jon and Brendan, I do think the conceiver must to exist in a world she conceives. I'm glad you both have opinions on this because it's what I'm most interested in at present. Certainly we can imagine scenarios - like one's own funeral or the Roman Empire full of zombies - where there is nothing physical at the center of the world. The conceived people attending our funeral surely don't need to notice us conceiving of them, for if they did we would not have properly imagine our own funeral, (it's not proper to be attending it).

However a zombie world requires us to conceive of nothing mental that exists in it. However the conceiver's mind necessarily exists in this possible world or any other possible worlds she imagines. By perceiving the actual world we find out (supposedly) that we have mental representations of physical things and that the two both exist in the actual world. Why should these exist in the same world? It must be because they are a pair: a representation and what it represents. So, how about counterfactual worlds? I don't see how it can go any differently. There are mental representations and what they represent, so both exist in the same world - the counterfactual world. To conceive of a world with zombies, you have to have a mental representation of them, so there is consciousness in this world.

Thanks to all who gave me replies. I don't have informed responses to all of them, because, well, I'm an uninformed sophomore. But I hope you didn't find this too sophomoric (har har). Please link me to any papers that you think I might like reading. Jon, have you written anything on that stuff on physical theory?


2011-08-27
Zombies again
 But the idea that there is one functional dynamic system per person does not hold up either in terms of common experience or neuroscience for a minute. One functional system in me is scratching an itch, one is thinking what sentence to come next and one is working my typing fingers. None of this has anything to do with post Darwinian adaptation for survival issues since I no longer exist in the environment to which my genetic material adapted somewhere in Africa.

There is something useful in thinking about different parts of the body as subsystems, each seeking specific equilibria... 
That said, to say that these do not exist within a single envelope fails everyday experience.
The best example here is when subsystem optima conflict, and one is chosen over another.  On what basis do you think this is most effectively carried out?  In terms most beneficial to the organism as a whole, certainly...  Otherwise, we may specify some dysfunction, but all of this is perfectly normal.
In regards to your take on evolutionary psychology, you are not so far from Africa as you might think, Jo Poet.


The simple solution is that a million or more places in the brain are getting signals denoting the same (externally defined) content and experiencing them in parallel.



Sure, different parts do different things with the same information, but here it is more appropriate to think in terms of processing threads than that all parts deal with the same original dimensions in different ways.
Moreover, it is not the processing of signals that is so computationally intensive, but figuring what to do with them that keeps the brain busy...  Anticipation in the knife's edge of survival.  Fail to anticipate the right thing at the right time, and opportunities to live well pass by, and to die tragically come home for dinner.
That is Africa for you, Jo Poet.



2011-08-27
Zombies again
Reply to Nathan Jarmie
I am working on a book for Springer on consciousness within the context of a dynamic system...I will link you to a draft when I have one sufficiently worked up...
As it is, I am buried - a book chapter (in 3 days) and a journal article (in 4 weeks) and a children's book series (NOW, NOW, NOW!!!), as well as an old manuscript that need updating after the editor send it back...
But, all in good time.
I will keep you in mind, young jedi.

2011-08-31
Zombies again
Reply to Nathan Jarmie
Dear Nathan,I think there is a subtle internal contradiction in your argument. As I indicated before, I think zombies and conceivings are red herrings for philosophy of mind and maybe we should let the undead lie, but your question does raise some issues about muddled philosophical notions like 'worlds' and 'physicalism' that may need to be exorcised before the subject can move on. Let me take one or two lines from your last post.

Nathan: However the conceiver's mind necessarily exists in ... any other possible worlds she imagines.


Jo: But if the conceiver is human her mind only exists in this world does it not? If we take 'world' to mean 'situation' (either in this universe or another), which is the original philosophical tradition as I understand it, the conceiver clearly does not need to be doing her conceiving in that situation. If 'world' means 'entire universe' in the sense of a complete spacetime framework and all the dynamics that have and will occur in it, then if the conceiver is conceiving in it, it must be this one, not an other possible one. Zombie thought experiments are about other universes, in which, by definition, we are not present, let alone conceiving anything.


But I sympathise with your intuition, and as I tried to indicate a couple of posts back, if you think in terms of real rather than holiday physics the implication probably stands up, but for a rather different reason. Your key point, I think, is that all imagining is mental and thus all the aspects of an imagined world are mental and so a world with no mental features simply would not be a world. Or to put it another way, we imagine another world as having the same physical stuff in it as here, with the same qualitative properties, like the hardness of Dr Johnson's stone, and since these depend on the mental we are fooling ourselves in thinking that we can imagine a world with no mental features.


However, this is not the way a physical scientist would imagine a world. For some years scientists have imagined that the particles in our world might be 'supersymmetric', meaning that there should be a set of particles, evidence for whose existence we have never observed yet that complement the ones we have evidence for. No qualitative properties whatever are attributed to these particles, just as none are to protons or electrons, or indeed the entire world goings on. The properties the physicist ascribes to matter or imagines that supersymmetric matter might have are entirely dispositional properties, like the tendency to resist force (~mass) or to repel similars (~charge). The basic components of the physical universe do not have a size or a shape or a colour or make any noise and for the physicist everything at a larger scale is just a combination of these components. What physics does require is that these dispositional properties be cashable out as observations/experiences if someone does happen to be in the right place at the right time, and that I see as crucial in the end. But I do not think the argument based purely on imaginings goes through. Nevertheless, the reasons are complex.


So, how does a physicist imagine a world with no qualitative properties? How did physicists imagine that our own world might contain muons, pions and W particles clearly enough to predict what experiments would confirm that this is indeed the case without any mental image of what muons or pions are like? The answer, I think, lies in the misconception couched in your "we find out (supposedly) that we have mental representations of physical things and that the two both exist in the actual world". Physics does not have things of the sort implied here - which as you rightly indicate are no more than more mental ideas. Our experiences/observations are not representations of something physical outside. The physical is the 'goings on' that is the instantiation of operation of laws that determine experiences (and maybe more). 


When a physicist imagines a muon there are two aspects to consider. Firstly, he experiences a sense of imagining 'what it would be like if'. Secondly, his trained brain, like the legs of a cyclist, instantiates some goings on, that because he is trained usefully mimic the mathematical patterns of his muon theory. Crucially, however, the scientist is not trying to imagine what muons are like, but what he would expect to observe if muons had certain dispositional properties - maybe a reading on a dial or a track on a screen. During the process of training, a scientist has to make use of naive ideas of 'things' to get the mathematical routines going, just as when learning to cycle we have to use naive ideas of how a bicycle works. When we find we can ride a bike we tend to realise that those ideas were quite wrong, but since we can ride it doesn't matter. Science is pretty much like that. We come to realise that ideas of things are quite wrong, but once a scientists brain starts churning out predictions of observations that work it does not matter that this was started off this way. It is a bit like the choke on a motor. It will get the motor started but once things are started you turn it off or the engine will flood.


You may then complain that our scientist must still have some experiences during his imagining, not necessarily with the 'thick' qualia of direct observation but at least some 'thin' qualia of 'I imagine the dial would go to five or there would be a curvy line'. However, what is happening here is that experiences from this world are being used by the scientist as read outs for a routine set off in his brain that he is confident will model dispositions in some possible world in a way similar to that in which we successfully model the dispositions of our world. He does not need to attribute any appearances to the hypothetical world. One might argue that our brains can only model the way our world works but this is not so. We know our brains are flexible enough to run routines that model situations that will never occur - like Socrates playing the euphonium.


But you would be right to say that a model that has a read out in experiential terms looks as if it has to be tied to the existence of experience in some way. My argument here is that we may have to concede a little bit to the zombie conceivers here, although not enough to get away with it. Let us say that the laws of physics in our world are about the instantiation of dispositions to determine experiences, which for all we know are dispositions to lots more, including zexperiences in zombies. We know that they seem to be dispositions to entrain other dispositions, so why not let them do more? Experiences are our read out for these dispositions but one could model a world with zexperiences and no experiences if one used the simple rule that the determining of zexperiences in both worlds matches that of experiences in our world in all respects. We can check the maths of the dispositions. However, where I agree with you is in that this leaves us postulating some zexperiences or other zsorts of zthings or zreal zgoings on that are quite ineffable and at this point I think the logical positivist is allowed to say !enough is enough! - this is not physical equivalence, just mathematical equivalence.


So we end up with the 'arguments against physicalism' being a bit like a set of people who have never ridden a bike advising someone how to learn. Forget representations and stuff; science is dynamics and observations. You may not hear that many scientists talk this way but then how many people who can ride a bike are good at advising people how to do it either? If you want to read up on the basis of scientific thought I would go to the original texts - Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Leibniz (Modern Philosophy by Ariew and Watkins is a brilliant source book) - all of them were trying to describe it right, even if it is not always transparent if you have not ridden the bicycle (and that is a real problem). I have only begun to feel I might try to do some advising myself in the last few years after much searching for a form of words. The only publication I have on this is 'Are our spaces made of words' in JCS which you can pull up on Google.


Best wishes


Jo





2011-08-31
Zombies again
Reply to Nathan Jarmie
Hi Nathan,

The answers to your questions require that you become sufficiently well versed in Chalmers' two-dimensional semantics, which William Lycan has described as "more pernicious [than] evil".1  With that said, I have given a sketch of the answers below:

1. Chalmers doesn't believe that any old conception of p entails that p is possible.  Thus he defends two conceivability-to-possibility principles, CP+ and CP-.  Both only concern primary intensions (for short, 1-intensions), and both require that the conception be ideal, not mere prima facie.  The question, then, is when you are conceiving of zombies as being colored (e.g., brown eyes), are you thereby engaged in ideal reasoning about the 1-intensions of statements that characterize the physics of those zombiesIf not, then the CP+ and CP- rules don't apply, in which case it's out of place to conclude, as you do, that "someone [in that world] must not be a zombie".2

2. As for the worry that "the concept of consciousness [might not be] present at the center of the zombie world", or that "the application of the primary intension might require the presence of the relevant concept at the center of the world", etc., those worries are based on the assumption that primary intensions are to be cashed out partly by appeal to centered worlds, and that centered worlds must be centered on individual language users uttering tokens of the statements in question while having the relevant concepts to make sure that the right intensions are associated with those tokenings.  However, Chalmers explicitly rejects this assumption in every paper where he gives a serious treatment of his two-dimensional semantics.  At some point he always brings up the possibility of worlds where there are no language users.  Such worlds are 2-possible, and it is always at least as easy to be 1-possible; so such worlds are 1-possible as well.  Thus a 1-intension of the statement "There are no language users" should map to the truth value "T" in such worlds, even though such worlds don't have any language users and therefore don't have any utterances.  Thus, instead of thinking in terms of centered worlds, Chalmers prefers thinking in terms of what he calls "deep epistemic possibilities".  Since deep epistemic possibilities don't involve any centering, objections tied to centering can be swept under the rug.3

3. Even without moving from centered worlds to deep epistemic possibilities, Chalmers said the last set of objections could be side-stepped by considering a partial zombie world.  The thought here is that the existence of even a single zombie would be sufficient to render physicalism false of our world, since it would imply that our world's physical truths don't entail all of our world's truths.  Our world would have a phenomenal truth that isn't necessitated by our physics.

Cheers,

James Grindeland

Notes

1. From Lycan 2006.

2. For more on CP+ and CP-, see Chalmers 2002, 2009.

3. For more on the reasons to favor deep epistemic possibilities over centered worlds, see Chalmers 2006, 2011, 2002, 2006.


2011-09-10
Zombies again
Hi Jo,

Thanks for the reply, but a lot of this is still over my head. Let me just stick to replying to this part for now:

But if the conceiver is human her mind only exists in this world does it not? If we take 'world' to mean 'situation' (either in this universe or another), which is the original philosophical tradition as I understand it, the conceiver clearly does not need to be doing her conceiving in that situation. If 'world' means 'entire universe' in the sense of a complete spacetime framework and all the dynamics that have and will occur in it, then if the conceiver is conceiving in it, it must be this one, not an other possible one. Zombie thought experiments are about other universes, in which, by definition, we are not present, let alone conceiving anything.

I did not mean to say that when one conceives of a possible world her mind somehow leaps from the actual world into it. No, it remains in the actual world, for, as you say, it is in the actual world that the conceiver does the conceiving. But why should this prevent us from conceiving of our mind being in a counterfactual world?

I'm curious, do you think you could describe how conceiving of a possible world that include one's own mind might go? Do you think this cannot be done at all?

As you say, by definition there are no minds in a zombie world. But what we want to do of course is see if this definition has a contradiction, which there is if the conceiver's mind is present in every possible world.

2011-09-10
Zombies again
Hi James,

1. I am a little familiar with 2-dimensional semantics and ideal reasoning. What is it that you think is the problem with conceiving of zombie worlds as having color? Isn't this a very basic way to conceive of something?

2. I see, so that's something else.

3. To do this leaves the problem of other minds so dreadfully unanswered that it is enough for me to with deny dualism. The problem presents itself in its strongest form: we do not just lack certainty of other minds, nor do we just lack good enough reason of their existence, we lack any reason at all. There is nothing that even suggests others have minds, for they appear to be just like zombies.

2011-09-22
Zombies again
Reply to Nathan Jarmie
Dear Nathan,You seem to be digging yourself a hole that looks very much like the sort of hole philosophers tend to dig in the sand when building sand castles on their (regular) language holidays. As I indicated before, I think there is an interesting grain of truth in your proposal but it does not have much to do with the rules of conceiving, because we do not know what they are, if there indeed are any.

You start the thread with: 
'Let's say you want to conceive of a zombie world. How do you do this? You have to think of physical stuff like people, who are, of course, zombies. Whatever you are conceiving of, like all the colors on the zombie people, I bet it has phenomenal character.'


So my assumption was that we are talking about us conceiving in this world. So that is the world we are conceiving in. My key point was that what we conceive of does not 'have phenomenal character'; phenomenality is an aspect of our experience in this world that may be determined by the dynamics of the outside world together with our preconscious processing or maybe just the preconscious processing of 'imagining' but at least in a physical approach there is no 'phenomenal character' to the determining dynamic (i.e. physical) world itself.


But then you go on with


'So someone (you) must not be a zombie. Only a partial zombie world is conceivable, where everyone except yourself are zombies.'


If this is still 'you' in this world, fine, but then it seems suddenly to be 'you' in the zombie world. But this is not literally 'you', merely a conception of some sort of pattern of dynamics that corresponds in some unspecified way to those you think underlie your own thinking. One way in which it is clearly not actual you is that it is not the same instance of the dynamics - so in a strong sense I think I would say that no I cannot conceive of myself in a world that is not this one, even if it really does not matter to the argument. You say that you are not getting a mind to leap into another world but it does seem a bit like that. Moreover, is there not an infinite regress here? If I am conceiving of an, other, partial(?) zombie world with me in it similarly conceiving of an, other, partial? zombie world with me... We don't seem to get the conceived me conceiving of the world it is in, at all. The conceiving of the conceived me clearly has to be a quite different conceiving from that of the real me. 


I think there is a more interesting approach than this sand castle stuff. Get to understand how physics works and then start wondering where it may be incomplete, as most physicists will acknowledge it is. (Note that it may be causally complete in an important sense without it being complete in other senses.) As I see it the whole zombie story is designed to refute a 'physicalism' that bears no relation to a 'metaphysics of physics'. Chalmers, if I remember rightly, suggests that the alternatives are dualism or a form of Russellian monism. My understanding of physics is it works best in a metaphysic that is structurally very similar to Russellian monism but in a sense has things the other way around - in terms of the relational and phenomenal. It is pretty much the idea of complementarity and has changed rather little since the seventeenth century and hardly at all from late Leibniz.


Jo