[Serious Phil] The Viability of the Substance/Property Distinction
justintruth at hotmail.com
Wed May 2 06:07:30 CDT 2012
SWM there are some logical problems in your text. Look at this statement of yours:
> When you use a referring term but it has no referent (it appears to pick out a referent but really doesn't) then you've got an empty usage, i.e., one that is either confused or deeply mistaken or both.
In an earlier post you wrote:
"If awareness is one feature of a certain kind of information processing system and the electrical patterns of cellular transmissions are another feature, then we have two different types of properties of the system in question, one of which is physically observable while the other is not, though both are experienceable (albeit in different senses of experiencing)."
You can see that you clearly are picking out two referents here "...that which is physically observable..." and that other "... which is not.." In fact you are also picking out two referents for the two senses of "experiencing" but forget that for now.
Based on the first quote what needs to be determined is whether this is a case of something "appearing to pick out a referent but really doesn't" or not. If it is then your words are either "confused or deeply mistaken or both". If it is not then their are two referents and you are again wrong.
However in fairness it must be stated how you avoid this duality:
Further down in the earlier post you state: "...if we think that the physical phenomena, consisting of the observable properties, are essential for the awareness to occur, but that the awareness is not essential for the the physically observable properties to occur (because the physical phenomena ontologically precede the mental) then we have an instance of ontologically reducible properties, i.e., the awareness is entirely explainable in terms of the physical system's occurrence (a system that is just so many physically observable properties doing certain things)."
You remove the duality by establishing it as a case of "ontologically reducible properties i.e. the awareness is entirely explainable in terms of the physical system's occurrence..."
And you are right if in fact you can "entirely explain" the properties that are not "physically observable" by the properties that are. But you cannot. The reason you cannot is that what you refer to as properties that are not "physically observable" are not predicted by, observable in, or observable as, the motion of those things that are physically observable. You always claim that they can be explained but you can never produce the explanation. You are exactly like Dennet in that respect.
But that is really not the issue. Because the root cause for your reduction of consciousness to the physical is not based in that explanation as you can see in your own words. I have been reading you as carefully as I can over many posts to find the source of your belief in the reducibility - to discover the epistemic basis of your ontological claim. I do not believe that you have ever seen a physical model of consciousness and I believe that you cannot have in principle because of the fact that what you are trying to do is explain that which is physically unobservable in terms of that which is physically observable and that can't be done on principle. As I pointed out all functions of all systems and all physical properties come down to statements about the motion of their components or what they operate on and the fact is that such motions do not predict the second type of properties that are not "physically observable" because, well to put it clearly as I can: You cannot see what is not physically observable as an instance of what is. You have only some vague statements about parallel information systems. If I am wrong you will be able to state how the physically observable properties explain those that are not. Else, I discount your claim that there is a model on the basis that you cannot actually demonstrate or explain your model which is in keeping with the epistemology of science.
So how is it that this notion of reducibility can occur in you? It is not enough to say you are wrong about there being a model for you are doing the reduction without having ever seen one. The fact that your claim is made without your having seen a model means to me that your claim is not based on it - not that you have no claim.
I think unfortunately for my argument that is not sufficient to say there is no model because your claim does not seem to be based on the existence of the model actually although you say it is sometimes because I think you believe Dennet has one that you have not understood but could. I don't think you have seen any such model and yet you still have a claim. So what is the real epistemology of your claim.
Here is your real claim in my opinion. It is from the earlier post:
"...if we think that the physical phenomena, consisting of the observable properties, are essential for the awareness to occur, but that the awareness is not essential for the the physically observable properties to occur (because the physical phenomena ontologically precede the mental) then we have an instance of ontologically reducible properties"
This is the actual basis of your claim and it rests on a notion of causality not on a physical model. (BTW If you want to open up what I am calling a "physical model" to notions of causality that is fine. Some interpretations of physics do that. For example some would say that physics does not just claim that an electrical force is the motion of the particles but is a kind of causal capacity. I do not want to quibble as to what "physical" means. Suffice to say that by looking at the motion of any physical system we will not be able to derive the fact that consciousness its "not physically observable property" as you call it exists) But this claim that causality is the real basis is very serious for me as it goes to the heart of what I am trying to understand which has to do with the epistemology of ontological claims. I note first that your statement:
"> When you use a referring term but it has no referent (it appears to pick out a referent but really doesn't) then you've got an empty usage, i.e., one that is either confused or deeply mistaken or both"
is an epistemic claim. When I apply it to your claim that reducibility can be claimed when "observable properties, are essential for the awareness to occur, but that the awareness is not essential for the the physically observable properties to occur" I have trouble finding the referent.
The notion that certain physically observable conditions are necessary for consciousness is obvious. The notion that "physically observable" properties do not "essentially require" observation is more difficult but I think that what you mean is that a physically observed property is thought of as being even when not observed. So observability does not imply an actual observation. It could be observable but unobserved. For example the rocks on the back side of the moon are not currently being observed but we believe that they are undergoing physical changes due to radiation etc. and are in principle observable. Indeed that is what allows us to predict what we will observe should we fly over the back side of the moon.
But there seems to be a non sequitor: How is it that the fact that a physical brain is required for consciousness and the fact that consciousness (an observation) is not required for, for example the rocks on the moon (or a brain - no one claims the brain exists because it is conscious - only sometimes that consciousness exists because it is conscious), but how do these facts imply that properties that are not "physically observable" can be "ontologically reduced" to those that are "physically observable" unless your notion of ontological reduction in fact reduces just to the causal facts.
The notion of this reduction - the "space" in which one is "ontologically prior" to the other if you will - does not seem to have a referent and hence if I take your epistemology seriously seems to be confused or mistaken. I think it is mistaken with the causal facts.
To put it as simply as possible: How does fact that brains cause consciousness imply that consciousness is reducible to the brain? Or to state it in terms of properties: How does the fact that a set of physically observed properties is required for the production of a property that is not physically observable and that physical properties do not require a physical observation for them to be, result logically in a claim that a non physically observable property is now reduced to the physically observable? Or to put it in terms of referents: To what do you refer when you make the claim that what is "not physically" observable is "ontologically" what is "physically observable". And what referent does "ontologically basic" have?
If there is no referent other than the fact that consciousness is caused by assembling a brain then any statement of the brain being somehow "ontologically more basic" lacks reference and as you say "you've got an empty usage, i.e., one that is either confused or deeply mistaken or both."
Better to say that the brain causes consciousness and that consciousness is not physically observable like all other properties of the brain (its greyness, its morphology, its chemistry etc).
If I am wrong you can do one of two things: 1) Produce a model showing how the brain produces consciousness through its motion or 2) State what you are referring to when you use the term "ontological basicness." By the way the same problem exists with the grey of the brain. It is not just its consciousness. It can have no referent other than that witch is physical.
If I am right you need to abandon one of your claims. Perhaps the epistemic one? Are not all notions of physical "reality" infected with the same lack of referent when distinguishing them from mere appearance? Do ontological claims require a reference? If so what type is it?
I think that in fact your notion that there must be one or two things under consciousness and the brain is at the heart of the problem. There are other possibilities. There may be none. There may be something wrong with the notion of "a thing" inherently. Something that prevents any knowledge from being based on solid epistemology or else, if you prefer, and admission that ontology of the physical kind is inherently a statement that epistemology cannot be the deciding word.
As for me I think that Witt had it right. "Ontological basicness" is a "form of life" and refers to all - any - thing. Unlike him I think its expression is not wrong. Based on your experience of Satori you are already aware that there are other forms of life in which ontology is not experienced as the existence of things but is an experience of the reality of experience as experience. I understand the hesitation to speak of these experiences but I suspect they are the very relevant to this discussion.
Either way the main thrust of this post is to expose the epistemic basis of your claim. Why do you believe that causality leads to reduction? To what does your claim refer?
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