1: Not Materially Reducible

Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2020 07:44 pm
This is my stance on the mind. I'm certainly willing to discuss and debate it. That's why I'm making this thread. What I mean is, I'm hoping to discuss and debate my stance here, rather than in the other thread I'm making now (2: Brainstorming). Few topics are more divisive, and can be more easily sidetracked, than this one. I would very much like to be able to focus on the specific idea of the other thread.

So then, the mind is not physically reducible. Let me attempt to make myself clear.

The laws of physics - properties of particles; how particles interact; the four fundamental forces; etc. - are what they are. The old analogy is billiards. When you hit them, they go where they must, because of the laws of motion, etc. We know they will, and people who have a good eye and skills play better than others because they can be more precise when using those rules.

Same with particles and forces.

Our bodies and brains are made up of particles that follow various rules. (Assuming normally functioning parts.) When a photon hits a retina, certain things happen. They will happen. They can't not happen. When a nerve impulse reaches the presynaptic end of the neuron, it will cause the release of neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters will cross the gap, and hit the postsynaptic end of the next neuron. These things will happen, and cannot not happen.

No new ground here, of course. I'm just stating it so everybody knows what I mean when I say the mind is not physically reducible. Four general ideas convince me of this.

1) Teleology. We do things because we are trying to bring about something in the future. No groupings of particles could, through nothing more than the laws of physics by which they interact, form the Empire State Building. No groupings of particles could, through nothing more than the laws of physics by which they interact, *intend* to form the Empire State Building. The laws of physics do not intend. They do not plan. They simply are. A plan for the future cannot come about by the laws that make billiards balls bounce off of each other, or make a nerve impulse release molecules which are taken up on the other side of a synapse. Here's a quote of someone at another site, who is far more educated and eloquent about all this stuff than I am:
We have goals, plans, blueprints, intentions. We are bits of matter that move other bits of matter according to a "view" of the future. We ARE teleological. And if we ourselves reduce completely to matter, then matter and the laws which govern it must also be teleological.

So, obviously, we're missing a huge part of reality in our metaphysics (e.g. materialism, reductionism, etc.). I don't understand how this isn't obvious to all scientists. Even if you want to say that free will and consciousness are illusions, that we're actually 100% deterministic and material in every sense (with no emergent "remainders"), then how is it that this determinism/materialism includes what I plan to do next month? How do the laws of physics know that I want to see a Tenacious D concert? I know I will be going. I've purchased my ticket. My body will move to the arena and my sensory organs will capture sound waves of a very specific nature. These are facts that I can predict with stunning accuracy--from the date and time all the way down to the notes that will be played--even though none of those predictions can be derived from the laws of physics. In fact, most events in our global society are like this, emerging out of plans/anticipation for the future, rather than some bottom-up, blind particle explanation. Given enough time and computing power, you might be able to track all the matter that ends up where it does, and show that it all happens in accordance to the laws of physics (i.e. it doesn't violate them), but we don't need any of that information to plan a trip. Billions of people coordinate their movements into the future without any knowledge of the physics involved--because that knowledge is utterly unnecessary. The laws of physics aren't determining that 1000s of people will congregate at a specific arena on a particular date.

Our goals/plans/designs "ride on top of" the laws of physics. We are an emergent phenomenon that has its explanation at an order much higher than that of the particles. Just because we don't violate the laws that govern the motions of those particles doesn't mean that those laws in any way capture or explain the behaviors of these emergent phenomena. Imagine a particle explanation for 1000s of people gathering to see a show! Think of how unwieldy such an explanation would be, going down to the neural level of each person's brain! And now think of everything it would leave out! It would capture nothing about the emotive power of music, the comedic value of Jack Black, the anticipation of mutual appreciation in a live event, or even the bare fact that we have all marked a date on our calendars with the intention of not forgetting (something that would be utterly unnecessary if the laws of physics were actually determining the place/time that all these bodies would congregate).

We wear this world like clothing. When I move myself, my clothing moves with me. But the conjunction of the two movements is trivial, secondary. My clothes will end up at the concert due to the laws of physics, but *I* will end up there for an entirely different set of reasons.

2) Mathematics. 2+3. Did your mind solve the equation? Was it because photons hit your retinas in the shapes 2, +, and 3, which caused certain brain states - the arrangement of all the particles in your brain, or at least a particular part of your brain - in you, which are the reason for the thoughts "2", "plus", and "3"? And this specific string of brain states, in this order, causes the particles to interact in a certain way, which brings about another brain state, which is "5"? Is that how mathematics works? Just a matter of a progression of brain states, brought about by the laws of how the particles in our brains interact? Mathematics is coded into the laws of physics in this way?

If so, then 376+4,328. The laws of particle interactions will have caused you to correctly come up with 4,794.

Which, of course, they didn't. And not only because that's not the correct answer. The correct answer is 4,704. But I didn't come up with the answer because of the laws of physics. Mathematics isn't in those laws, even if it can describe them. If it was, you couldn't have failed to come up with the answer. You couldn't have failed to come up with the correct answer. Automatically. Without thought. I'll bet some of you didn't even attempt to solve it. But attempting and correctly solving it would have been as unavoidable as sound hitting your eardrums after a horn is blown if mathematics was a progression of brain states due to the laws of physics.

The laws of physics determine where every rock and piece of dirt in an avalanche will end up. Many factors go into it. Initial arrangement, height of everything, temperature, humidity, wind, etc. Then it all flows, according to the laws, to the inevitable endpoint.

That's not the case with mathematics. Those are thoughts. Mental States. One leading to the other. The meaning is not in the particles.

3) Uniqueness. Think of a sentence that has never been thought before. It's easy enough. An infinite number of different sentences are possible. My cat drove President Trump to the dark side of the Moon for escargot. There. I'd bet that's never been thought before. Did some progression of brain states lead to one of an infinite number of brain states that had never before existed in any mind? Was it a progression of brain states that formed the thought of using uniqueness to try to make my point?

4) Qualia. A machine can detect the frequency of light that I call "blue", and say the word "blue". But does it *see* blue the way I do? Surely, it doesn't feel blue the way I do. It's silly to say, but, to me, blue is an example of perfection. It is so clearly superior to all other colors that I don't even categorize it as a color with them. It's blue, then a bunch of colors. Is that what the machine thinks? About anything at all?

Well, I guess that's good enough to get the general idea. Now to the other thread. Lol
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