We provide a taxonomy of the two most important debates in the philosophy of the cognitive and neural sciences. The first debate is over methodological individualism: is the object of the cognitive and neural sciences the brain, the whole animal, or the animal--environment system? The second is over explanatory style: should explanation in cognitive and neural science be reductionist-mechanistic, inter-level mechanistic, or dynamical? After setting out the debates, we discuss the ways in which they are interconnected. Finally, we make some (...) recommendations that we hope will help philosophers interested in the cognitive and neural sciences to avoid dead ends. (shrink)
Several articles have recently appeared arguing that there really are no viable alternatives to mechanistic explanation in the biological sciences (Kaplan and Bechtel; Kaplan and Craver). We argue that mechanistic explanation is defined by localization and decomposition. We argue further that systems neuroscience contains explanations that violate both localization and decomposition. We conclude that the mechanistic model of explanation needs to either stretch to now include explanations wherein localization or decomposition fail or acknowledge that there are counterexamples to mechanistic explanation (...) in the biological sciences. (shrink)
We survey and clarify some recent appearances of the term ‘emergence’. We distinguish epistemological emergence, which is merely a limitation of descriptive apparatus, from ontological emergence, which should involve causal features of a whole system not reducible to the properties of its parts, thus implying the failure of part/whole reductionism and of mereological supervenience for that system. Are there actually any plausible cases of the latter among the numerous and various mentions of ‘emergence’ in the recent literature? Quantum mechanics seems (...) to offer one, in the Bell properties of entangled particles, but other apparently promising candidates, such as non‐linear dynamical systems investigated by complexity studies and chaos theory, seem on careful analysis to display only epistemological emergence. We examine the consequences for physicalism of admitting ontological emergence in the micro‐physical. (shrink)
The complex systems approach to cognitive science invites a new understanding of extended cognitive systems. According to this understanding, extended cognitive systems are heterogenous, composed of brain, body, and niche, non-linearly coupled to one another. This view of cognitive systems, as non-linearly coupled brain–body–niche systems, promises conceptual and methodological advances. In this article we focus on two of these. First, the fundamental interdependence among brain, body, and niche makes it possible to explain extended cognition without invoking representations or computation. Second, (...) cognition and conscious experience can be understood as a single phenomenon, eliminating fruitless philosophical discussion of qualia and the so-called hard problem of consciousness. What we call “extended phenomenological-cognitive systems” are relational and dynamical entities, with interactions among heterogeneous parts at multiple spatial and temporal scales. (shrink)
Emergence and reduction in context: Philosophy of science and/or analytic metaphysics Content Type Journal Article Category Survey Review Pages 1-16 DOI 10.1007/s11016-012-9671-4 Authors Michael Silberstein, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA 17022, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
Several articles have recently appeared arguing that there really are no viable alternatives to mechanistic explanation in the biological sciences. This claim is meant to hold both in principle and in practice. The basic claim is that any explanation of a particular feature of a biological system, including dynamical explanations, must ultimately be grounded in mechanistic explanation. There are several variations on this theme, some stronger and some weaker. In order to avoid equivocation and miscommunication, in section 1 we will (...) argue that mechanistic explanation is defined by localization and decomposition. In section 2 we will argue that systems neuroscience contains explanations that violate both localization and decomposition on any non-trivial construal of these concepts. Therefore, in section 3 we conclude the mechanistic model of explanation either needs to stretch to now include explanations wherein localization or decomposition fail, or acknowledge that there are counter-examples to mechanistic explanation in the biological sciences. We will also consider consequences and possible replies on the part of the mechanist in section 3. (shrink)
We articulate the problems posed by the quantum liar experiment (QLE) for backwards causation interpretations of quantum mechanics, time-symmetric accounts and other dynamically oriented local hidden variable theories. We show that such accounts cannot save locality in the case of QLE merely by giving up “lambda-independence.” In contrast, we show that QLE poses no problems for our acausal Relational Blockworld interpretation of quantum mechanics, which invokes instead adynamical global constraints to explain Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen (EPR) correlations and QLE. We make the case (...) that the acausal and adynamical perspective is more fundamental and that dynamical entities obeying dynamical laws are emergent features grounded therein. (shrink)
It is argued that when it comes to the hard problem of consciousness neutral monism beats out the competition. It is further argued that neutral monism provides a unique route to a novel type of panentheism via Advaita Vedanta Hinduism.
We will formulate two Bell arguments. Together they show that if the probabilities given by quantum mechanics are approximately correct, then the properties exhibited by certain physical systems must be nontrivially dependent on thetypes of measurements performedand eithernonlocally connected orholistically related to distant events. Although a number of related arguments have appeared since John Bell's original paper (1964), they tend to be either highly technical or to lack full generality. The following arguments depend on the weakest of premises, and the (...) structure of the arguments is simpler than most (without any loss of rigor or generality). The technical simplicity is due in part to a novel version of the generalized Bell inequality. The arguments are self contained and presuppose no knowledge of quantum mechanics. We will also offer a Dutch Book argument for measurement type dependence. (shrink)
In this talk, we defend extended cognition against several criticisms. We argue that extended cognition does not derive from armchair theorizing and that it neither ignores the results of the neural sciences, nor minimizes the importance of the brain in the production of intelligent behavior. We also argue that explanatory success in the cognitive sciences does not depend on localist or reductionist methodologies; part of our argument for this is a defense of what might be called ‘holistic science’.
I will argue that emergence is an empirically plausible and unique philosophical/ scientific framework for bridging the ontological gap and the explanatory gap with respect to phenomenal consciousness. On my view the ontological gap is the gap between fundamental ingredients/parts of reality that are not conscious and beings/wholes that are conscious. The explanatory gap is the current lack of a philosophical/scientific theory that explains how non-conscious parts can become conscious wholes. Both gaps are of course conceptual as well as empirical (...) in nature. Section I will be devoted to these issues as well as providing other general criteria for an account of consciousness. In section II, different types of emergence will be defined in the context of a more general taxonomy of reduction and emergence. Emergentism about consciousness becomes much more plausible when we see that the ancient ‘atomism’ that drives physicalism on one end, and fundamental property dualism on the other, is probably false. Backing up this claim will be the primary burden of section III. In section IV I will conjecture that phenomenal consciousness is mereologically and perhaps nomologically emergent from neurochemical/ quantum processes, just as many other properties are so emergent. In section V I defend my view of emergence against the objections that: it cannot bridge the explanatory/ontological gap between matter and consciousness and it cannot account for the causal efficacy of consciousness in itself. Finally, in section VI, there is speculation about where all of this might take us in the future. (shrink)
Ever since the now infamous comments made by Hermann Minkowski in 1908 concerning the proper way to view space-time, the debate has raged as to whether or not the universe should be viewed as a four-dimensional, unified whole wherein the past, present, and future are equally real or whether the views espoused by the possibilists, historicists, and presentists regarding the unreality of the future (and, for presentists, the past) are best. Now, a century after Minkowski’s proposed blockworld first sparked debate, (...) we seek a more conclusive argument in favor of the eternalist picture of space-time. Utilizing an argument based on the relativity of simultaneity in the tradition of Putnam and Rietdijk and novel but reasonable assumptions as to the nature of “reality”, we will show that the past, present, and future are equally real, thus ruling out presentism and other theories of time that bestow special ontological status to the past, present, or future as untenable. Finally, we will respond to our critics who would suggest that: 1) there is no metaphysical difference between the positions of eternalism and presentism, 2) the present must be defined as the “here” as well as the “now”, or 3) presentism is correct and our understanding of relativity is incomplete because it does not incorporate a preferred frame. We call eternalist response 1 deflationary since it purports to dissolve or deconstruct the age-old debate between the two views and response 2 compatibilist because it does nothing to alter special relativity (SR) arguing instead that SR unadorned has the resources to save presentism. Response 3 we will call incompatibilism because it adorns SR in some way in order to save presentism a la some sort of preferred frame. We will show that neither move 1 nor 2 can save presentism and move 3 is not well motivated at this juncture except as an ad hoc device to refute eternalism. (shrink)
In the first part of the paper I argue that neither physicalism nor standard forms of dualism can provide an explanatory framework for consciousness or cognition - neither account can existence of conscious experience nor its relationship to cognition and the brain. Physicalism and fundamentalism fail to provide an explanatory framework for consciousness because they both share, at least with respect to the physical universe, the same misguided commitment to part/whole reductionism and microreductive accounts of explanation. In addition to their (...) lack of explanatory power, both physicalism and fundamentalism have well known absurd and troubling metaphysical consequences such as eliminativism and epiphenomenalism. In the second section of the paper I advocate a position I call radical emergence, arguing that microphysics provides strong empirical evidence for emergence. I show that emergence provides a viable alternative for explaining consciousness and cognition - an alternative that has none of the awkward metaphysical consequences of either physicalism or fundamentalism. (shrink)
Similar problems keep reappearing in both the discussion about the “hard” problem of consciousness and in fundamental issues in quantum theory. We argue that the similarities are due to common problems within the conceptual foundations of both ﬁelds. In quantum physics, the state reduction marks the “coming into being” of a new aspect of reality for which no causal explanation is available. Likewise, the self-referential nature of consciousness constitutes a “coming into being” of a new quality which goes beyond a (...) fully causal account of reality. Both subjects require a categorical scheme which is signiﬁcantly richer then the one used in addressing factual aspects of reality alone. While parts of this categorical scheme are realized in the formalism of quantum theory, they are seldom applied in the context of consciousness. We show what the structural limitations of a classical categorical framework are, how a richer framework can be developed, and how it can be applied to both quantum physics and consciousness. (shrink)
We use a new, distinctly “geometrical” interpretation of non-relativistic quantum mechanics (NRQM) to argue for the fundamentality of the 4D blockworld ontology. We argue for a geometrical interpretation whose fundamental ontology is one of spacetime relations as opposed to constructive entities whose time-dependent behavior is governed by dynamical laws. Our view rests on two formal results: Kaiser (1981 & 1990), Bohr & Ulfbeck (1995) and Anandan, (2003) showed independently that the Heisenberg commutation relations of NRQM follow from the relativity of (...) simultaneity (RoS) per the Poincaré Lie algebra. And, Bohr, Ulfbeck & Mottelson (2004a & 2004b) showed that the density matrix for a particular NRQM experimental outcome may be obtained from the spacetime symmetry group of the experimental configuration. This shows how the blockworld view is not only consistent with NRQM, not only an implication of our geometrical interpretation of NRQM, but it is necessary in a non-trivial way for explaining quantum interference and “non-locality” from the spacetime perspective. Together the formal results imply that contrary to accepted wisdom, NRQM, the measurement problem and so-called quantum non-locality do not provide reasons to abandon the 4D blockworld implication of RoS. But rather, the deep non-commutative structure of the quantum and the deep structure of spacetime as given by the Minkowski interpretation of special relativity (STR) are deeply unified in a 4D spacetime regime that lies between Galilean spacetime (G4) and Minkowski spacetime (M4). Taken together the aforementioned formal results allow us to model NRQM phenomena such as interference without the need for realism about 3N Hilbert space, establishing that the world is really 4D and that configuration space is nothing more than a calculational device. Our new geometrical interpretation of NRQM provides a geometric account of quantum entanglement and so-called non-locality free of conflict with STR and free of interpretative mystery. In section 2 we discuss the various tensions between STR and NRQM with respect to the dimensionality of the world. Section 3 is devoted to an explication of the Kaiser et al. results and their philosophical implications. Likewise, the Bohr et al. results and their implications are the subject of section 4. In section 5, we present our geometric interpretation of quantum entanglement and “non-locality.”. (shrink)
In this paper two different approaches to unification will be compared, Relational Blockworld (RBW) and Hiley’s implicate order. Both approaches are monistic in that they attempt to derive matter and spacetime geometry ‘at once’ in an interdependent and background independent fashion from something underneath both quantum theory and relativity. Hiley’s monism resides in the implicate order via Clifford algebras and is based on process as fundamental while RBW’s monism resides in spacetimematter via path integrals over graphs whereby space, time and (...) matter are co-constructed per a global constraint equation. RBW’s monism therefore resides in being (relational blockworld) while that of Hiley’s resides in becoming (elementary processes). Regarding the derivation of quantum theory and relativity, the promises and pitfalls of both approaches will be elaborated. Finally, special attention will be paid as to how Hiley’s process account might avoid the blockworld implications of relativity and the frozen time problem of canonical quantum gravity. (shrink)
We introduce a new interpretation of non-relativistic quantum mechanics (QM) called Relational Blockworld (RBW). We motivate the interpretation by outlining two results due to Kaiser, Bohr, Ulfeck, Mottelson, and Anandan, independently. First, the canonical commutation relations for position and momentum can be obtained from boost and translation operators,respectively, in a spacetime where the relativity of simultaneity holds. Second, the QM density operator can be obtained from the spacetime symmetry group of the experimental configuration exclusively. We show how QM, obtained from (...) relativistic quantum field theory per RBW, explains the twin-slit experiment and conclude by resolving the standard conceptual problems of QM, i.e., the measurement problem, entanglement and non-locality. (shrink)
This will be an admittedly opinionated review that gives with one hand and takes with the other. Let me be clear though from the outset that there is much to admire and agree with here. Perhaps, the biggest complaint is the failure of the author to engage with other highly relevant literature in philosophy of science and metaphysics that would yield her natural allies or would provide natural foils that ought to be named and engaged. On the allies side, there (...) are many people now writing in the vein of emergence that have made many of the same claims and used many of the same case studies to bolster their claims as Thalos. Surely, this requires a response on her part given that “emergence” is one of her primary foils. Rather than discussing those people’s work, she chooses to focus on a particular brand of emergence as a foil and thereby throws out the baby with the bathwater. Thalos also fails to engage the huge and highly relevant literature on the causal (or d .. (shrink)
We propose an adynamical, background independent approach to quantum gravity and unification whereby the fundamental elements of Nature are graphical units of space, time and sources. The transition amplitude for these elements of “spacetimesource” is computed using a path integral with discrete Gaussian graphical action. The unit of action for a spacetimesource element is constructed from a difference matrix K and source vector J on the graph, as in lattice gauge theory. K is constructed from graphical relations so that it (...) contains a non-trivial null space, and J is then restricted to the column space of K which ensures it is distributed in a divergence-free fashion over the spacetime defined by the element. This rule for the relational construct of K and J is our proposed fundamental axiom of physics and results in a self-consistency relationship between sources, the spacetime metric, and the stress-energy-momentum content of the element, rather than a dynamical law for time-evolved entities. In its most general form, the set of fundamental elements employed by lattice gauge theory contains scalar fields on nodes and links, and vector fields on nodes. To complete the fundamental set, we propose the addition of scalar fields on plaquettes and vector fields on links. We use this approach via modified Regge calculus to correct proper distance in the Einstein-deSitter cosmology model yielding a fit of the Union2 Compilation supernova data that matches ɅCDM without having to invoke accelerating expansion or dark energy. (shrink)
We introduce the Relational Blockworld (RBW) as a paradigm for deflating the mysteries associated with quantum non-separability/non-locality and the measurement problem. We begin by describing how the relativity of simultaneity implies the blockworld, which has an explanatory potential subsuming both dynamical and relational explanations. It is then shown how the canonical commutation relations fundamental to non-relativistic quantum mechanics follow from the relativity of simultaneity. Therefore, quantum mechanics has at its disposal the full explanatory power of the blockworld. Quantum mechanics exploits (...) this expanded explanatory capability since event distributions among detectors per the density matrix follow from spacetime relations (symmetry group) alone. Thus, the event distributions of non-relativistic quantum mechanics follow from a blockworld wherein spacetime relations are fundamental. Per RBW "quantum mysteries" are deflated and the implications for consciousness and the perception of temporal flow and absolute becoming are explored. We conclude that given RBW, consciousness is no less fundamental than any "physical" feature of the world such as brain states. Further, active consciousness is needed to explain the illusion that it is a dynamical world and consciousness in its most fundamental state is relational and non-local. (shrink)
We propose a path integral over graphs approach to quantum gravity and unification that requires a modification and reinterpretation of both general relativity and quantum field theory via their graphical instantiations, Regge calculus and lattice gauge theory, respectively. As we outline below, the spacetime metric and the matter and gauge field gradients on the graph are co-determining, so there is no “background spacetime” connoting existence independent of matter-energy-momentum, and the graphical action can be characterized geometrically via graphical boundary operators.