To just try to state what I understood so far (and hopefully therefore inspire further interest) : In the comments section to the post on “a priori”, Eliezer Yudkowky claims to be a “material monist”. That would mean that he thinks that there is only matter, and that anything that could be described as “non-material” must therefore actually be material. Which fits the section of this “Zombies”-post that I commented on in the first place. The argumentation seems to be as follows: The world can be described using physical laws, and one does not need any “mind” or “consciousness” to formulate why – for example – the lips of a human move. There is causality, from the processes in the brain to the muscles in the lips, that explains why the lip has to move as it does. And since this causal chain starts with something we might call “thought” in our “normal” language, and that starting chain link needs to influence the next link, it must be material and within the laws of physics as well. That means that – although we do not yet know the exact form of that physical “thought”-property – we are allowed to take it as given. What we have to presuppose is that the only influence on a physical object is possible through a physical object. Of course, some sort of “dualist” would never let that pass. If “thought” had no influence on the physical world, then that would go against our experience that for example we think and our body follows those “orders”. So thought must have an influence on the material world. That's exactly the section of Eliezer Yudkowsky's “Zombies”-post that I commented on above: He presents “substance dualism” where we have a not-yet-understood “thought”affecting our world. And he presents “Not-quite-faith-based reductionism”, similar to “material monism”, where we have a not-yet-understood “material substance”. One relies on the intuition that no material substance can possibly add up to consciousness, the other one on the intuition that material substance can possibly add up to consciousness. So: Which intuition is more reliable? Both admit that there is some kind of difference between “thought” and “material substance” at first. Then, dualism says that this difference is unbridgeable, while monism states the opposite (material monism stating that bridge would be built from “material substance” to “thought”). What kind of difference do we encounter here? Why is “thought” not the same as “material substance” right away? Because we can not see, touch, generally sense “thought” with our sense perception, whereas we can sense “material substance”. We can say that “material substance” must follow laws, whereas “thought”has a degree of freedom. “Material substance” is three-dimensional, whereas “thought” is not. Of course, the answer of the material monists to that could state that all these properties of “thought” are not what they seem to be. But, as I have seen here, the material monists Eliezer Yudkowsky, habryka and Said Achmiz' argument is that they do not know how “thought” is actually “material substance”, but trust in physics to solve that question in the future because of a “track record”. And that besides that there did not arise another reason. In the comments section here, mitchell_porter2 pointed at Bertrand Russell's “the Problems of Philosophy”, chapter IX (10 years ago). There, Russell points at Plato's theory of forms, stating that not only “material substance” has being. So, when I adopt a neutral position, I still have both sides standing there in front of me. Even in this quite material monistic commentariat. This is about the very foundation of the mindset of material monism. If this repetitive questions by me really do cover well-trod ground, as I was told above, and there was so much said already – did all that solve the questions, or am I repeating them because they're still valid?
Thanks for answering again! And thanks for correcting my misspelling.
Okay. So, I read the whole thread. And I did not find the answers I asked from you. If these questions have been solved, they are not fresh (obviously), but they are fresh to me. Of course, you can say that explaining anything to me is not worth your – or anyone's – time (for whatever reason). But you did answer once again. So why did you tell me all that, instead of answering my questions that are – to you – already solved (or telling me where to find the solutions)?
Well, how should I interpret this? One week without an answer to my questions. Is there no answer? And - if that is so - is the theory proposed by Eliezer Yudkowski here not right?
Thanks again for the answer! I understand the analogy to my problem like this: in our case, we have the brain and consciousness as pieces of the puzzle, and the explanation of consciousness being based on the brain as solution. But we cannot just see the solution as easy as by flipping a card. For it has not yet been found
Now, I wonder at this: When I am solving this children's puzzle, and I am, just as in your example, sure that it does not have a solution: It is well possible that the puzzle card really does not. For example the game designer could have made one card unsolvable, or there is, as I could assume, a mistake. And there are actually ways to prove such problems solvable or not, with proofs being not just vaguely in the mind. But in our consciousness-problem, we have only the vague intuition of proof. For the real proof is yet to be revealed. So we obviously need to trust in the resolvability of our problem (through physics) from the very beginning.
It seems to me that one argument against that trust might be the analogy between 1.) the differences between the problems on the cards, and 2.) the differences between physical problems and our problem. The cards are all of the same kind, they present the same form of problem. Whereas Physics usually take care of the natural laws affecting the world around us. Not the structures of consciousness “in ourselves”. So one might say that the track record is set on a different track than the track currently in question. Also, even solving hundreds of cards does not lead to knowledge about the resolvability of the next one unless one finds mathematical ways of proving. And it is such proof that my trust relies on, not what was found in the past.
But you state that there has not been a single problem that “science” in the mentioned meaning did not solve (except our problem obviously). Even more fascinating: Every other approach to solutions ever made has failed. I am really impressed by your knowledge capacity. But I must admit that I'm not entirely persuaded here. I mean: anyone can state that; but can you prove it, too?
Thanks for the answer! So my judgement should go along these questions you propose. Now I ask myself the question: “There seems to be much effort invested in the explanation of the hard problem of consciousness through physics. Does that make sense?”. But I need to find out (1.) HOW much effort was ACTUALLY invested already, (2.) HOW important it is to find a solution there, and (3.) WHICH alternate approaches are available. Right?
But how do you measure effort? And why is it important to know how much was already invested? I don't understand that yet...
Thanks for the comment. I guessed that when someone argues that physics will reveal something after a period of time, of course physicists must put effort into their work for that to happen. But it is better to actually formulate it.
Do you think that, when we exchange "time passed" by "effort invested", there is any way to tell "now enough effort was invested without any outcome, so we have to look for another solution!"?
Thanks for the replies!
So Eliezer basically says to me (as the reader) that Physics has solved so many problems in the past ("track record") that I should really give it some time until I start to doubt and search for other explanations. Do I have this right?
So: How much time would you recommend as an appropriate waiting time; and why? How much is "quite a few seconds"?
I see that people have rated my comment above negatively. I hope it isn't offensive or so, for that was not my intention; if there is a mistake in it I would like to know about it and learn from it!
Hello. You state that "it is still quite plausible that consciousness emerges from "mere atoms" ", but you do not explain why you make that statement. In fact you say that one day it will all be totally clear, even if it isn't yet right now.
I might be wrong, but that's why I'm asking: Is it not possible to say that about anything?
The said Chalmersian theory postulates multiple unexplained complex miracles. This drives down its prior probability, by the conjunction rule of probability and Occam's Razor. It is therefore dominated by at least two theories which postulate fewer miracles, namely:
Substance dualism: There is a stuff of consciousness which is not yet understood, an extraordinary super-physical stuff that visibly affects our world; and this stuff is what makes us talk about consciousness.
Not-quite-faith-based reductionism: That-which-we-name "consciousness" happens within physics, in a way not yet understood, just like what happened the last three thousand times humanity ran into something mysterious. Your intuition that no material substance can possibly add up to consciousness is incorrect. If you actually knew exactly why you talk about consciousness, this would give you new insights, of a form you can't now anticipate; and afterward you would realize that your arguments about normal physics having no room for consciousness were flawed.
The second theory seems odd to me. Since it seems to postulate a solution that will happen in the future, of which we have no possible knowledge right now. And therefore any counter argument (like the mentioned intuition) fails, because as soon as the solution is revealed, of course all that opposes it is proven flawed.
Which means that this position is quite bullet proof. Anything opposing it is automatically wrong, we just need to wait until we can see that for ourselves. I have a slight unwillingness to follow that instruction.
But okay: What gives the permission to put such an amount of trust into the field of physics? Mentioned is that this situation happened "three thousand times" before: That people would see no solution (or rather wrong solutions) until physics cleared the case. That is true enough to me. But does it give the possibility to anticipate it happening in the future? On a topic that has not been cleared three thousand times before by physics?
But as we can see in the quote, the arguments against "normal physics" being incapable of the solution are invalid - will be proven invalid - too! For the then "new" physics must be of a completely new structure. Which cannot be anticipated now as well.
I can see how this argument is perfectly bullet proof. But I still don't trust it, and that's because it's so bulletproof. With this structure of "It will be proven in the future!" I can make anything bullet proof.
So: Does our case have any special properties so that it is more fit than "anything" to be made bullet proof? The only possibility I see would be: "It is more probable to be true". This "three thousand times"-sentence is a way to make it look probable. So we are now looking at the question if we rate the solution of the problem of consciousness through physics in the future more probable than - for example - the also mentioned substance dualism. Now how could we get any useful measurement on the probability of something we have not the slightest amount of knowledge about? If it was, as proposed, the fact that physics cleared not understood cases before, that would also count for any other well working and developed system such as psychology, philosophy, biology, mathematics, etc. We could claim the soon-to-be-there-solution for any theory claiming to be close to it.
Therefore it doesn't seem to be a useful theory to me. When it's applicable to more or less anything, how can we know where it is applied correctly? All I can see in this case is the intuition that material substance CAN possibly add up to consciousness. And why would this intuition be more reliable than the one opposing it?