ChatGPT on Materialism
What is materialism?
Answers to prompts by webmaster DP to ChatGPT4, June 2023
"Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all phenomena, including mental phenomena and consciousness, are the result of material interactions. It is a philosophical viewpoint that all of existence is tangible and physical in nature.
Materialism is closely related to physicalism, the view that all that exists is ultimately physical. Scientific materialism extends this concept to include the principle that everything in the universe can and should be examined through the lens of the physical sciences.
In its most stringent forms, materialism denies the existence of anything beyond the physical, often including concepts such as the soul or spiritual entities. It also often rejects the existence of abstract objects like numbers or universals (unless they can be understood in material terms).
Materialism underlies much of modern science and naturalistic approaches to philosophy. It plays a key role in debates about the nature of mind, consciousness, and the relationship between mind and body, which are central topics in the philosophy of mind. It is contrasted with dualism (which posits that mind and matter are fundamentally different) and idealism (which holds that ideas or consciousness are primary and matter secondary or even illusory)."
Name some outspoken scientific materialists
"There are many scientists who are outspoken materialists, many of whom have contributed significant work to their fields. Here are a few examples:
- Daniel Dennett: A philosopher of mind and cognitive scientist, Dennett is known for his advocacy of materialist views of mind and consciousness. He has proposed a theory of consciousness called "Multiple Drafts Model," which suggests that consciousness is not a single thing but rather a collection of mental abilities.
- Richard Dawkins: An evolutionary biologist and author, Dawkins is a well-known advocate of materialism, particularly in the context of the evolution versus creationism debate.
- Steven Pinker: A cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author, Pinker has written extensively about the human mind from a materialist perspective, emphasizing the role of evolution and genetics.
- Patricia Churchland: A philosopher and neuroscientist, Churchland is a proponent of eliminative materialism, a radical theory that proposes that our common-sense understanding of the mind is fundamentally flawed and should be replaced by a neuroscientific understanding.
- Francis Crick: Known for co-discovering the structure of the DNA molecule, Crick spent the latter part of his career researching consciousness from a materialistic perspective, focusing on the visual system in particular.
- Jerry Coyne: An evolutionary biologist, Coyne is known for his critique of creationism and intelligent design, and his advocacy of materialistic explanations for biological phenomena.
- Sam Harris: A neuroscientist and philosopher, Harris often discusses consciousness and morality from a materialistic perspective, emphasizing the role of the brain and the importance of objective science in understanding these concepts.
- Neil deGrasse Tyson: An astrophysicist and science communicator, Tyson is known for his emphasis on the importance of physical laws in explaining the universe. He argues that scientific understanding, rather than supernatural or metaphysical explanations, is key to understanding our world.
- Paul Churchland: A philosopher and husband of Patricia Churchland, Paul Churchland is another proponent of eliminative materialism, suggesting that our everyday understanding of mental phenomena should be replaced by a more scientifically rigorous understanding drawn from neuroscience.
- Peter Atkins: A chemist and science writer, Atkins is known for his materialistic views and has argued that science, and physical and chemical laws in particular, can provide a comprehensive explanation of the world.
- James Ladyman: A philosopher of science, Ladyman has defended a view known as "ontic structural realism," which holds that the world is made up not of things (objects or particles) but of structures (relationships or processes). While not strictly materialist in the traditional sense, this view is consistent with a non-supernatural, physicalist understanding of the universe.
- Susan Blackmore: A psychologist and writer, Blackmore is known for her research on consciousness, memes, and near-death experiences. She takes a strongly materialistic view on these issues, arguing for instance that consciousness can be explained as the product of physical processes in the brain.
- Massimo Pigliucci: A philosopher and evolutionary biologist, Pigliucci has argued for a materialistic understanding of evolution and has critiqued various forms of pseudoscience.
- Steven Weinberg: A theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate, Weinberg has written about the importance of physical laws and materialistic explanations in understanding the universe.
- Victor J. Stenger: A physicist and author, Stenger often wrote from a materialistic perspective and argued that science does not support the existence of supernatural phenomena.
- Lawrence M. Krauss: A theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Krauss is known for his views on the importance of physics in explaining the universe and his criticism of religious and supernatural beliefs.
- E.O. Wilson: A biologist known for his work on evolution and sociobiology, Wilson has argued that human behavior, including our moral and religious beliefs, can be best understood through the lens of evolutionary biology, a fundamentally materialistic perspective.
- Sean M. Carroll: A theoretical physicist, Carroll has written extensively about cosmology, quantum mechanics, and the arrow of time from a materialistic perspective. He argues that the laws of physics provide a complete description of the world.
- John Searle: A philosopher of mind, Searle is known for his criticism of strong AI and his work on intentionality and consciousness. Despite his criticism of certain forms of materialism (like eliminative materialism), he advocates a form of biological naturalism, which holds that consciousness is a biological phenomenon.
- Jaegwon Kim: A philosopher known for his work in philosophy of mind and metaphysics, Kim has defended a form of physicalism that attempts to solve problems associated with mental causation and the mind-body problem.
- J.J.C. Smart: A philosopher, Smart was a key figure in the development of the identity theory of mind, a form of reductive materialism, arguing that mental states are identical to brain states.
- Richard Feynman: A renowned theoretical physicist known for his work in quantum mechanics, Feynman was a firm believer in understanding the universe through observable phenomena and the laws of physics.
- Noam Chomsky: While primarily known as a linguist and political commentator, Chomsky has also made contributions to philosophy of mind. He is a proponent of methodological naturalism, believing that the study of mind and consciousness should fall within the natural sciences.
- Stephen Hawking: The late theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author was known for his scientific work in black holes and the Big Bang Theory. His approach to understanding the universe was entirely rooted in physicalism.
- Alex Rosenberg: A philosopher primarily concerned with philosophy of science, Rosenberg has written about his own version of physicalism, which he terms "disenchanted naturalism". He denies the existence of a personal narrative or meaning, reducing the human experience to physical and evolutionary processes.
- Steven Novella: A clinical neurologist and prominent skeptic, Novella frequently speaks and writes about neuroscience, critical thinking, and pseudoscience from a materialistic perspective.
- Thomas Metzinger: A philosopher and cognitive scientist, Metzinger is known for his work on consciousness and self-awareness from a materialistic perspective. He is a proponent of a version of physicalism that incorporates insights from empirical research on the mind.
- David Deutsch: A physicist known for his work on quantum computation, Deutsch is a proponent of the multiverse interpretation of quantum mechanics, a deeply physicalistic approach to understanding reality.
Describe sub-types of materialism
"Materialism has several sub-types, each with different perspectives on the nature of matter and reality. Here are some of the most notable:
Remember, these categories are not mutually exclusive and there's significant overlap between them. Also, they each have numerous variants, and philosophers often disagree about exactly how to define and distinguish these positions."
- Physicalism: This is the belief that everything that exists is no more extensive than its physical properties, and that the world is entirely made up of physical objects and properties. This includes not only everyday items like tables and chairs, but also atoms, fields, energy, and even forces like gravity. Even thoughts, according to physicalism, can be described in terms of physical processes in the brain.
- Eliminative Materialism: This philosophy holds that our common-sense understanding of mental phenomena is fundamentally flawed and will eventually be eliminated as neuroscience progresses. It argues that concepts like "beliefs" or "desires" are relics of a pre-scientific age, much like outdated concepts from alchemy or astrology.
- Reductive Materialism (or Identity Theory): This theory asserts that mental states and properties are identical to physical states and properties. For example, the feeling of pain (a mental state) might be reduced to C-fiber firing (a physical state in the brain).
- Non-reductive Materialism: In contrast to reductive materialism, non-reductive materialism holds that while mental states are indeed caused by physical states, they are not reducible to them. They are often seen as emergent properties of complex systems.
- Functionalism: While not exclusively a type of materialism, functionalism often aligns with materialist views. It suggests that mental states are defined more by what they do rather than by what they are made of. For instance, a mental state like pain is defined by its role - such as causing aversion to harm, signaling danger, and prompting protective actions.
- Dialectical Materialism: This is a philosophy of science and nature developed in Europe and is based on the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Dialectical materialism rests on certain fundamental assumptions, such as the primacy of matter over thought, and that matter is in a constant state of change and development through dialectical contradictions.
Give an overview of the history of materialism.
"Materialism has a long and storied history that spans many cultures and thousands of years, with roots in ancient civilizations and evolving over time with advances in science and philosophy. Here's a broad overview of its history:
Through all these developments, materialism has remained a dominant philosophy in the Western world, especially within scientific circles. However, it's also been continuously challenged by other perspectives, such as dualism, idealism, and in recent times, panpsychism.
- Ancient Materialism: Early forms of materialistic philosophy can be traced back to ancient civilizations. The Carvaka school in ancient India, for example, was an explicitly materialistic and atheistic school of thought. Similarly, in ancient Greece, the pre-Socratic philosophers Leucippus and Democritus proposed that the world was composed of "atoms" - indivisible and indestructible units of matter - moving in a void.
- Epicureanism: This is a school of thought established in the 4th century BCE by the Greek philosopher Epicurus. It embraced Atomism and suggested that pleasure and pain were the measures of what is good and evil.
- Roman Materialism: The Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius, in his philosophical poem "On the Nature of Things", provided a comprehensive exposition of the materialistic philosophy of Epicurus, including atomism and the nature and limitation of human knowledge.
- Materialism in the Enlightenment: The Enlightenment period in Europe saw a resurgence of materialistic thought. Several philosophers proposed materialistic explanations for natural phenomena, largely motivated by the rise of the new science and a desire to combat religious authority. Notably, Thomas Hobbes proposed a thoroughly materialistic philosophy of mind, according to which all mental phenomena are physical phenomena.
- 19th-Century Materialism: The 19th century saw the development of dialectical materialism by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who applied materialist philosophy to history and society. This view holds that the world is material and that change in the social world follows the same kinds of laws that govern natural phenomena.
- 20th and 21st Century Materialism: In recent years, materialism has been influential in the philosophy of mind, partly due to the rise of neuroscience. This has given rise to positions such as identity theory, eliminative materialism, and functionalism. However, there's ongoing debate about how to solve problems such as the "hard problem" of consciousness, and whether materialism can provide an adequate explanation of mental phenomena.
Give a historical overview of philosophical and scientific materialism in the modern era
"Materialism, in its most basic form, is the philosophical position that everything that exists, or at least everything that can be known, is either physical or depends on the physical. It has been a significant force in philosophy and science since the modern era began, roughly in the 17th century. Let's sketch a brief overview of its development during this period:
It should be noted that today's 'materialism' is often referred to as 'physicalism' in contemporary philosophical discourse. This shift in terminology reflects an attempt to be more general and inclusive, acknowledging that the nature of 'matter' as understood by modern physics goes beyond the traditional concept of solid, massy stuff.
- 17th Century: The scientific revolution in the 17th century set the stage for modern materialism. René Descartes famously posited a dualistic universe consisting of mind and matter, but his contemporaries like Thomas Hobbes took a more materialist approach, arguing that even the mind is material in nature.
- 18th Century: The Enlightenment brought a stronger emphasis on reason and empirical evidence. Philosophers such as Julien Offray de La Mettrie in his work "Man a Machine" (1748), proposed a form of materialism grounded in mechanistic physics.
- 19th Century: Materialism found a significant expression in the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who based their philosophy of dialectical materialism on the idea that social and political phenomena could be explained by material conditions and processes. During this time, Ludwig Büchner, Carl Vogt, and Jacob Moleschott, were important advocates of materialism in the German materialism debate.
- Late 19th & Early 20th Century: With the development of Darwin's theory of natural selection and Freud's psychoanalysis, materialism began to encompass the life sciences, reinforcing the idea that all phenomena, including mind and consciousness, can be explained by physical processes.
- Mid-20th Century: With the advent of quantum mechanics, materialism faced significant challenges, as the fundamental particles and forces in the universe appeared to behave in ways incompatible with traditional materialistic interpretations. Still, many scientists and philosophers held on to a materialistic perspective, attempting to reconcile it with the new science.
- Late 20th & Early 21st Century: Materialism remains a central position in philosophy of mind and metaphysics. While there have been many critiques and alternative models proposed, it is still the dominant perspective in scientific circles. Philosophers like Daniel Dennett, Paul Churchland, and Patricia Churchland, advocate a materialist view of mind, often referred to as eliminative materialism.
This is a simplified historical overview, and individual philosophers and scientists within the materialist tradition often have significantly different views about the details. Materialism is also not uncontested, facing opposition from various forms of dualism, idealism, panpsychism, and other alternative metaphysical views."
Give an overview of materialism in contemporary analytic philosophy
"Materialism, also referred to as physicalism, is a dominant position within contemporary analytic philosophy. It is the view that everything that exists is ultimately physical or material in nature. There are several variants of materialism in the current philosophical landscape:
Each of these forms of materialism attempts to address various philosophical problems and puzzles, such as the mind-body problem, the nature of consciousness, the problem of mental causation, and the relationship between psychology and neuroscience. These are active areas of debate and research within contemporary analytic philosophy."
- Reductive Materialism: This is the claim that every mental phenomenon can be reduced to, or fully explained by, physical phenomena. A common form of reductive materialism is identity theory, which states that every type of mental state is identical to some type of physical state, typically identified with brain states.
- Non-reductive Materialism: This view accepts that while everything that exists is physical, not all phenomena can be reduced to or explained entirely by physical phenomena. This is often associated with the idea of emergent properties, where certain complex systems (like the brain) can have properties that are not simply the sum of the properties of their parts.
- Eliminative Materialism: This is a radical form of materialism that suggests our common-sense understanding of mental states and processes is fundamentally flawed and will eventually be eliminated as neuroscience progresses. Proponents of this view, like Paul and Patricia Churchland, argue that folk psychological concepts like beliefs, desires, and thoughts don't correspond to real entities or states in the brain and will be replaced by more accurate concepts from neuroscience.
- Functionalism: While not always classified as a form of materialism, functionalism fits within a broadly materialist framework. It posits that mental states are defined by their causal roles, not by their underlying physical or biological substrate. This allows for the possibility of multiple realizability, where the same mental state could be realized by different types of physical systems (like brains, computers, or possibly alien life forms).
Distinguish between materialism and physicalism. What is the difference between materialist physicalism and non-materialist physicalism, i.e., the conjecture that experience discloses the intrinsic nature of the physical (physicalism.com)?
"Sure, let's delve into these concepts:
Now, let's differentiate between materialist physicalism and non-materialist physicalism, particularly as it is characterized by David Pearce, the founder of physicalism.com:
- Materialism is a philosophical stance that posits that all things can be explained by matter and the interactions thereof. It's an older term that arose in a time when tangible, solid substances were the primary known form of physical reality.
- Physicalism, which arose later, is a broader term. It maintains that everything in existence is 'physical', but it does not restrict 'physical' to just tangible, solid matter. Physicalism takes into account the full suite of entities and forces recognized by modern physics, which includes not only matter but also energy, forces, fields, and spacetime itself.
So, in summary, the primary distinction between materialist physicalism and the kind of non-materialist physicalism Pearce advocates is the role and nature of consciousness. While materialist physicalism sees consciousness as something that can be reduced to or explained fully by physical processes (like those occurring in the brain), Pearce's non-materialist physicalism sees consciousness as a fundamental aspect of the physical world that discloses its intrinsic nature."
- Materialist Physicalism, or reductive physicalism, asserts that everything, including mental and social phenomena, can be reduced to, or explained in terms of, physical processes and events. In the context of consciousness, materialist physicalists often argue that mental states are identical to brain states and that consciousness can be fully explained in terms of neurobiological processes.
- Non-Materialist Physicalism, as interpreted by David Pearce and other proponents, acknowledges that everything is physical but it departs from materialist physicalism by suggesting that the physical includes more than what is currently describable by our physical theories. Non-materialist physicalists propose that conscious experience is an intrinsic aspect of the physical world and that subjective experience discloses the nature of physical reality.
According to Pearce, what we perceive as consciousness, or qualia, is the "fire" in the equations of quantum field theory, a fundamental part of reality that is not captured by our current theories. He suggests that we need to take subjective first-person experience seriously in our physical theories in order to have a complete understanding of the nature of reality.
This kind of non-materialist physicalism is often related to the philosophical view known as 'Russellian monism' (named after the philosopher Bertrand Russell). This perspective maintains that physics only tells us about the relational structure of the physical world, and not its intrinsic nature. By this view, our conscious experiences reveal something about the intrinsic nature of the physical world, something that is not captured in our current scientific theories.
Why are materialism and physicalism so often conflated?
"Materialism and physicalism are often conflated because they share a core thesis: everything that exists is fundamentally constituted by physical or material entities. However, the two terms have different historical origins and have been used to signify different nuances of this core thesis.
Materialism is an older term that originates in ancient philosophy, where it was associated with the belief that everything in the universe, including mental phenomena, is made up of matter or material substances. This is opposed to dualistic views that posit the existence of non-material substances, such as minds or souls, in addition to material substances.
Physicalism is a more modern term that emerged in the 20th century, in part as a reaction to the advances in physics that revealed the world to be far more complex and strange than the simple, billiard-ball-like atoms of classic materialism. Physicalism posits that everything is constituted by the kinds of entities described by physics, including not just matter, but also energy, fields, space-time, and whatever else future physics might reveal.
So, while materialism and physicalism are often used interchangeably, some philosophers use "physicalism" to convey a more modern and scientifically informed view, while "materialism" is sometimes reserved for older or simpler views. However, these usage conventions are not universal, and the meanings of these terms can vary depending on the context and the specific philosophical debates they are used in.
Notably, there's also the emergence of 'non-materialist physicalism,' as proposed by David Pearce and others. This philosophical position agrees with physicalism that everything that exists is physical, but denies the claim of materialism that everything is made of matter. Non-materialist physicalists suggest that physical properties are fundamentally experiential; hence consciousness isn't something that emerges from certain configurations of matter, but rather, matter emerges from consciousness.
So while physicalism and materialism are often used interchangeably, depending on the context, they can have different implications, especially when discussing the nature of consciousness."
Explain the signifiance of Levine's "explanatory gap"
"The term "explanatory gap" was coined by philosopher Joseph Levine to describe the lack of an explanatory connection between physical processes and subjective experiences, or qualia. Levine’s explanatory gap refers to the perceived difficulty in explaining why certain physical processes give rise to certain experiences, and not others, or none at all.
For instance, we know from neuroscience that certain patterns of neuronal firing in the brain correspond to specific conscious experiences, such as seeing the color red or feeling pain. However, even with this knowledge, it remains unclear why these specific physical processes should give rise to these specific experiences rather than different experiences or no experience at all.
This difficulty is the essence of Levine's explanatory gap: it points to the challenge in explaining the connection between objective, physical phenomena and subjective, conscious experiences purely in physical terms. It's a problem of "why" and "how"—why do physical processes produce subjective experiences, and how do they do so?
Levine's argument doesn't necessarily deny that there might be some unknown physical explanation for consciousness. Instead, it emphasizes that there seems to be a fundamental difference in kind between physical descriptions of the world (in terms of neurons, brain states, and so forth) and our subjective, phenomenological experiences. This difference, according to Levine, creates a gap in our understanding that can't be bridged by more or better data about brain processes alone.
It should be noted that the explanatory gap is not equivalent to a claim that mind and body are separate substances (as in Cartesian dualism), or that consciousness will never be explained. Rather, it emphasizes the current lack of a satisfactory explanation of consciousness within a physicalist framework."
So what exactly is the Hard Problem of consciousness for materialism? How do materialists propose to solve it?
"The Hard Problem of Consciousness is a term coined by the philosopher David Chalmers. It refers to the question of how and why physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experiences. This contrasts with the so-called "easy problems" of consciousness, which include questions about how the brain integrates information, focuses attention, and enables verbal report of mental states. Despite their complexity, Chalmers argues that these easy problems are at least tractable via standard scientific methods.
The Hard Problem, however, is fundamentally different. This is because subjective experiences - or qualia - don't seem to be something that can be directly observed or measured like other physical processes. We know that certain brain processes are associated with certain experiences, but it is less clear why those processes should give rise to experience at all, and why they should give rise to the specific experiences that they do.
There are various ways in which materialists attempt to address the Hard Problem:
Each of these approaches has its own strengths and challenges, and none have been definitively proven or accepted by the majority of researchers in the field. As such, the Hard Problem of consciousness remains one of the most intriguing and controversial issues in philosophy and cognitive science."
- Eliminativism: Some materialists argue that consciousness, as commonly understood, does not exist. This radical view suggests that our common-sense understanding of consciousness is fundamentally flawed and that once we truly understand the brain, the traditional conception of consciousness will be "eliminated."
- Reductive physicalism: This view holds that conscious states are identical to physical states in the brain. Therefore, once we have a complete understanding of the brain, we'll be able to fully explain consciousness.
- Functionalism: According to this perspective, consciousness is defined by what it does, not what it is made of. Conscious states are seen as functional states that enable us to perceive, think, and make decisions.
- Emergentism: Some materialists propose that consciousness is an emergent property of complex computational systems, just as phenomena like temperature and pressure emerge from the collective behavior of particles.
- Panpsychism: Though not a traditional form of materialism, panpsychism posits that consciousness or at least some form of experientiality is a fundamental feature of the universe, not just complex systems like human brains. This view sees consciousness as being as basic to reality as space, time, and energy.
How does consciousness exert the causal-functional power to discuss its own existence? Discuss possible materialist solutions to the problem of causal efficacy.
"The issue of how consciousness could have the causal-functional power to discuss its own existence and influence behavior is a critical one within the philosophy of mind. This question relates to the problem of mental causation, which is how can mental states (thoughts, feelings, perceptions, intentions) have any influence on physical states, specifically our bodily behavior and verbal reports.
Materialists usually propose the following solutions to this problem:
Each of these theories of mind has its strengths and weaknesses, and none has garnered universal acceptance. Moreover, each of these positions faces the challenge of explaining how conscious states, whether identified with, realized by, or emergent from physical states, can play a causal role without violating the principle of the closure of the physical world (the idea that every physical event has a sufficient physical cause)."
- Reductive Physicalism (Identity Theory): This view holds that mental states are simply physical states, more specifically states of the brain. If mental states are identical to brain states, then there's no real problem of mental causation because it's just physical causation. The thought "I want to raise my hand" is identical to a specific brain state which causes the physical action of hand-raising.
- Non-Reductive Physicalism (Functionalism): Non-reductive physicalists, such as functionalists, argue that mental states are not reducible to physical states but they are realized by them. Mental states are defined by their causal roles (their relations to inputs, outputs, and other mental states), and any physical state that plays the appropriate causal role can realize a given mental state. So, mental states can cause physical behavior because they are systematically related to physical states.
- Eliminative Materialism: Eliminative materialists argue that our common-sense understanding of mental states is deeply flawed and will eventually be replaced by neuroscientific categories. So, instead of mental states causing physical behavior, we will have neuroscientific states causing physical behavior.
- Emergentism: Emergentists suggest that consciousness is an emergent property of physical systems, much like liquidity emerges from the interaction of water molecules. Consciousness, on this view, has its own causal powers separate from but not conflicting with those of the physical components that constitute it.
What is the "palette problem" for materialism?
"The "palette problem" is a philosophical challenge associated with theories of consciousness, particularly materialist physicalism. It's named the "palette problem" in analogy to an artist's palette, which consists of a finite set of colors that can be mixed in various combinations to produce different hues.
The problem refers to the seemingly vast array of qualia, or subjective experiences, that we can have. For instance, consider all the possible color shades you can experience, or the wide variety of tastes, smells, textures, sounds, and so on. It seems like the number and variation of qualia far exceed what could be explained by the neurobiological processes in our brains if we were to consider them merely as classical information processing systems.
In a physicalist or materialist view, all mental states, including qualia, are ultimately reducible to physical states in the brain. The palette problem raises the question of how a finite, presumably limited, set of physical processes and states in the brain can give rise to the seemingly unlimited, or at least vastly diverse, palette of subjective experiences.
This is not a refutation of physicalism but a challenge that any physicalist theory of consciousness needs to address. Physicalists might propose that the palette of experiences is not as vast as it seems or that the physical processes in the brain are capable of generating a larger range of states than currently appreciated.'
What is the phenomenal binding or combination problem? Why is the apparent "structural mismatch" (David Chalmers) between our phenomenally-bound minds and a pack of ostensibly decohered classical neurons in the CNS a problem for physicalism (physicalism.com)?
"The phenomenal binding or combination problem is a central issue in philosophy of mind, which arises in panpsychism and physicalism. The problem essentially asks: how can discrete, possibly isolated, entities or events (e.g., individual neuron firings or micro-experiences) combine to form unified, holistic phenomena like a single conscious experience?
The problem becomes especially noticeable when considering our phenomenally-bound perceptual experiences, like seeing a unified visual scene, despite the fact that different parts of that scene (colors, shapes, motions) are processed in different areas of the brain. How do these distinct parts come together, or bind, to form a coherent, unified conscious experience?
The "structural mismatch", as pointed out by David Chalmers, refers to the seeming contradiction between the unified nature of conscious experience and the highly distributed, non-unified nature of brain processing, based on our current understanding from neuroscience.
As per non-materialist physicalism (such as proposed by David Pearce at physicalism.com), the problem is twofold. First, it's unclear how simple, seemingly non-conscious entities like neurons or their components can give rise to complex conscious experience (the so-called 'hard problem' of consciousness). Second, it's not clear how this resulting experience appears to be so unified, given the distributed nature of neural processing. Pearce suggests that the solution to the binding problem and the hard problem lies in quantum coherence – a controversial position that has yet to be widely accepted in scientific circles, partly due to the lack of experimental evidence.
In essence, the combination problem and the related issue of structural mismatch pose challenges to our understanding of consciousness and its place in the physical world. These problems invite further investigation from both philosophical and empirical perspectives, to probe the nature of conscious experience and its connection to physical processes."
What is Eliminative Materialism or Illusionism?
"Eliminative materialism, also known as eliminativism, is a radical position in the philosophy of mind. It argues that our common-sense understanding of the mind (often referred to as "folk psychology") is not just incomplete but fundamentally mistaken and irredeemable. According to eliminativists, concepts such as beliefs, desires, intentions, thoughts, and even consciousness do not correspond to real entities or processes in the physical world, and so should be eliminated from our scientific and philosophical explanations.
The motivation behind eliminativism often comes from the belief that neuroscience will eventually reveal the true nature of mental phenomena, and this reality will look nothing like our ordinary conception of the mind. Just as modern chemistry eliminated the concept of phlogiston, eliminativists argue that a mature neuroscience will eliminate our folk psychological concepts.
Illusionism, on the other hand, is a specific version of eliminativism that is focused on consciousness. Illusionists argue that consciousness, as it is typically understood, does not exist. They claim that what we think of as subjective experiences or qualia are actually illusions. This doesn't mean they deny that we have experiences or that we report on them—it's the nature of these experiences that is said to be illusory.
Daniel Dennett is a well-known proponent of a form of illusionism. He suggests that the problem of explaining conscious experiences is rooted in misconceptions about the nature of consciousness itself.
Both eliminative materialism and illusionism are highly controversial, as they seem to conflict with our most basic experiences and understanding of ourselves. Critics argue that they go against what is most immediately present to us—our own conscious experiences—and thus they throw out too much in the pursuit of a parsimonious scientific theory."
Are eliminative materialists and illusionists p-zombies? Or do they misconstrue the nature of their own consciousness?
"Eliminative materialists and illusionists are not philosophical zombies or p-zombies. A p-zombie, in philosophical thought experiments, is an entity that is physically identical to a human being but does not have conscious experience, qualia, or sentience.
Eliminative materialists and illusionists are not claiming that they lack consciousness in the sense of having no subjective experience at all. Rather, they are making a claim about the nature and structure of that experience.
Eliminative materialists argue that certain mental states we take for granted as existing, such as beliefs and desires, do not really exist and should be replaced by more scientifically tractable concepts. Illusionists, on the other hand, argue that phenomenal consciousness (subjective experience or qualia) is an illusion, but they do not deny that we have experiences. They are not saying they lack inner life, but rather that our folk-psychological understanding of this inner life is mistaken.
The controversy and debate around these positions largely revolve around whether these materialist and illusionist positions accurately capture the nature and quality of our subjective experience, and whether these experiences can be fully accounted for by the physical processes of the brain. The arguments and counterarguments are complex, involving both empirical considerations from neuroscience and conceptual philosophical analysis.
To answer your second question, it's not accurate to say that eliminative materialists or illusionists "misconstrue the nature of their own consciousness". Rather, they offer an unconventional theory about the nature of consciousness. Whether this theory is correct or not is a matter of ongoing debate in philosophy of mind and cognitive science."
So do any eliminativists or illusionists literally deny the existence of consciousness / subjective experience? Or is this merely a popular misunderstanding? Do eliminativists / illusionists all just make the more modest claim that traditional consciousness realists misunderstand the nature of subjective experience?
"Eliminative materialists and illusionists are generally not outright deniers of the existence of consciousness or subjective experience. They don't claim that we don't have experiences or that there's nothing it's like to be us. Rather, they often argue that our common-sense understanding of these experiences is deeply mistaken.
However, it's crucial to note that "consciousness" and "subjective experience" are multi-faceted terms, and different philosophers can mean very different things by them. Here's how eliminative materialism and illusionism might relate to two important aspects of consciousness:
So while it might sound like eliminative materialists and illusionists are denying the existence of consciousness, they are typically disputing specific, traditional conceptualizations of consciousness and mental states. Their arguments are usually more nuanced than a flat denial of subjective experience. However, these positions are controversial and often counterintuitive, leading to much debate within philosophy and cognitive science."
- Phenomenal consciousness: This is the subjective aspect of consciousness, the fact that there's something it "feels like" to have an experience. Illusionists argue that phenomenal consciousness as commonly understood doesn't exist. They suggest that our experiences don't have the kind of intrinsic, private, ineffable qualities that we often attribute to them. However, they don't deny that we have experiences that it feels like something to have. They claim that these feelings are not what we usually think they are; they are "illusions" created by cognitive processes.
- Intentional states: These are mental states like beliefs and desires that are about something (they have intentionality). Eliminative materialists argue that these states, as usually conceived, do not exist. For example, they claim that our brains don't contain entities that correspond to "beliefs" or "desires", and that these concepts will be replaced as we develop better understandings of how the brain works.
OK. But compare “The Consciousness Deniers” (2018) by Galen Strawson in The New York Review of Books on the silliest claim ever made. Does Strawson simply misunderstand eliminativism?
"In his article "The Consciousness Deniers," philosopher Galen Strawson critiques what he calls "the silliest claim ever made": the assertion that consciousness does not exist. This assertion is associated with certain forms of eliminative materialism or illusionism, although not all eliminative materialists or illusionists would agree with it.
Strawson's critique is centered on the claim that subjective experience, or phenomenal consciousness -- the 'what it is like' aspect of consciousness -- is undeniable. It is, he suggests, the thing we know about most directly and certainly. Any theory that denies its existence, or tries to explain it away as an illusion, is therefore making a "silly" claim.
Some critics have indeed suggested that Strawson might be misunderstanding or mischaracterizing the positions of the philosophers he critiques. For example, illusionists like Daniel Dennett or Keith Frankish might argue that they are not denying the existence of consciousness or experience outright, but are instead challenging the way we ordinarily understand or conceptualize those experiences.
In particular, they might argue that while we undeniably have experiences, those experiences do not have the kind of private, intrinsic qualities ('qualia') that we often ascribe to them. In this view, our experiences are not illusions, but our 'introspective' sense that we know what those experiences are like in and of themselves is.
That being said, these positions are highly controversial and much debated in the field. Some philosophers agree with Strawson's critique and maintain that any form of eliminativism about phenomenal consciousness is untenable. Others believe that illusionism offers a promising way to reconcile the existence of consciousness with a scientific worldview."
Name some outspoken scientific anti-materialists, i.e., idealists, panpsychists, non-materialist physicalists (etc)
"Sure, here are some scientists and philosophers who have advocated for perspectives that challenge or go beyond traditional materialism:
These individuals all propose perspectives that challenge or extend beyond traditional materialism, suggesting a variety of alternatives that include panpsychism, idealism, and other forms of monism."
- Bertrand Russell: The British philosopher and logician proposed a form of neutral monism that can be seen as a precursor to panpsychism and is often used to support panpsychist views.
- Alfred North Whitehead: A mathematician and philosopher, Whitehead developed a form of panpsychism known as process philosophy, which describes the universe as a series of processes rather than objects.
- David Chalmers: A philosopher of mind, Chalmers is best known for his work on consciousness and his formulation of the "hard problem" of consciousness. He has suggested panpsychism as a potential solution to this problem.
- Philip Goff: A philosopher who supports panpsychism, Goff argues that consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe, on par with the fundamental forces of physics.
- Christof Koch: A neuroscientist and prominent proponent of panpsychism, Koch argues that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of the universe, and has suggested that it could be a fundamental property of information processing systems.
- David Pearce: A philosopher known for his work on consciousness and ethics, Pearce defends a form of non-materialist physicalism that involves a quantum mind theory.
- Galen Strawson: A philosopher of mind, Strawson has defended panpsychism as a serious alternative to both dualism and materialism in the philosophy of mind.
- Bernardo Kastrup: A philosopher and computer scientist, Kastrup defends metaphysical idealism, the view that reality is fundamentally mental.
- Thomas Nagel: A philosopher, Nagel is known for his critique of reductionist explanations of the mind, most notably in his essay "What is it Like to be a Bat?". He argues that consciousness has a subjective character that cannot be fully explained by physicalist accounts.
- Henry Stapp: A theoretical physicist, Stapp is known for his work on quantum mechanics and its implications for consciousness. He suggests that quantum wave functions, which collapse upon measurement, provide a non-materialistic explanation for the nature and capabilities of the mind.
- John Eccles: A neurophysiologist who won the Nobel Prize for his work on neurons, Eccles proposed that the mind interacts with the body at the synaptic level, a theory that involves a form of dualism.
- Rupert Sheldrake: A biologist known for his controversial theory of morphic resonance, which postulates an inherent memory in nature, going beyond a strictly materialist view of the natural world.
- Roger Penrose: A mathematical physicist, Penrose has proposed that consciousness arises from quantum mechanical phenomena within neurons. His perspective, developed with anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, offers a non-traditional approach to the problem of consciousness.
- Max Velmans: A psychologist and Emeritus Professor at Goldsmiths, University of London, Velmans proposed a form of reflexive monism, which suggests that consciousness exists both inside and outside the mind.
- Freeman Dyson: Although not an anti-materialist per se, this theoretical physicist and mathematician questioned the completeness of purely materialist explanations of reality. He suggested that mind, as well as matter, could influence the universe's structure.
- Remember, the views of these thinkers are varied and often nuanced, representing a broad spectrum of perspectives on the relationship between consciousness, physical reality, and the ultimate nature of the universe:
- Teilhard de Chardin: A French philosopher and Jesuit priest, Chardin proposed the concept of the "noosphere", a collective consciousness that evolves towards an ultimate, divine unity.
- Stanislav Grof: A psychiatrist and one of the founders of transpersonal psychology, Grof's work explores non-ordinary states of consciousness and incorporates spiritual and mystical experiences.
- Deepak Chopra: An Indian-American author and alternative medicine advocate, Chopra has written extensively about consciousness from a perspective that mixes quantum mechanics with Eastern philosophy.
- Ervin Laszlo: A systems philosopher, Laszlo has proposed a form of panpsychism that he refers to as "quantum consciousness". He argues that consciousness is a fundamental quality of the cosmos.
- Evan Thompson: A philosopher who has worked extensively on cognitive science and consciousness studies, Thompson's work, particularly in "Mind in Life", is sympathetic to panpsychism and proposes a form of "enactive cognition" that goes beyond materialism.
- Julian Jaynes: A psychologist best known for his book "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind", Jaynes proposed that consciousness is a cultural construction rather than simply a biological phenomenon.
- Paavo Pylkkänen: A philosopher known for exploring connections between consciousness and quantum mechanics, influenced by physicist David Bohm's concept of the implicate order.
- Peter Russell: A physicist and philosopher who has written on consciousness and its place in nature, proposing that the universe is fundamentally composed of consciousness.
Critiquing materialism makes for uncomfortable bedfellows. Which members of the above list of critics of materialism are also physicalists?
"Many critics of traditional materialism may still identify as physicalists, although they might conceive of 'physical' in a different way than traditional materialists. They tend to endorse some form of non-materialist or panpsychist physicalism. Here are a few examples:
While these thinkers are all critics of materialism, they don't reject the claim that everything is 'physical'. Rather, they challenge what it means for something to be 'physical'. For them, 'physical' encompasses more than what is described by our current physical sciences, including consciousness or proto-consciousness."
- David Chalmers: While known for articulating the "hard problem" of consciousness, which many see as a critique of materialism, Chalmers also considers himself a physicalist. He has proposed 'panprotopsychism', which is a version of physicalism where consciousness (or at least proto-consciousness) is a fundamental property of the universe.
- Galen Strawson: Strawson has proposed a version of physicalism in which consciousness or experience is fundamental and irreducible. In his view, physicalism doesn't entail that everything is physical in the way that current physics conceives it.
- David Pearce: Pearce advocates a form of non-materialist physicalism. He suggests that consciousness, more specifically experience, is the intrinsic nature of the physical.
- Philip Goff: Goff has defended a version of panpsychism (which he also calls 'micropsychism') where consciousness is a fundamental property of matter. This view can be seen as a form of physicalism that differs from traditional materialism.
- Thomas Nagel: Nagel has suggested that some form of panpsychism could be true, which can be seen as a form of non-materialist physicalism. However, he doesn't identify as a panpsychist himself.
- Max Velmans: Velmans' reflexive monism can be seen as a type of non-materialist physicalism. It incorporates subjective experience into our understanding of the physical world.
- Christof Koch: Koch is a proponent of the integrated information theory (IIT) of consciousness, which can be viewed as a form of panpsychist or non-materialist physicalism.
But physicalism involves more than the claim everything is physical. Rather, physicalists propose no "element of reality" is missing from the mathematical formalism of physics - or at least tomorrow's physics beyond the Standard Model - upon which the "special sciences" (molecular biology, chemistry, etc) supervene. So who in the above list of anti-materialists is a physicalist in the stricter sense of the term?
"In the stricter sense of physicalism, where no "element of reality" is missing from the mathematical formalism of physics (or the physics of tomorrow), the following philosophers and scientists could be seen as adherents:
It should be noted, however, that these perspectives involve a revision of what is traditionally understood as 'physical' within the current framework of physical sciences. They suggest that the current physics is incomplete, not necessarily incorrect, and needs to be broadened to include consciousness or subjective experience."
- David Pearce: Pearce's non-materialist physicalism holds that the "fire" in the equations of quantum field theory is experiential. His position, while not common, is entirely compatible with the stricter sense of physicalism. He holds that our understanding of physics will evolve to encompass subjective experience, rather than needing to introduce non-physical properties.
- Galen Strawson: Despite his criticisms of traditional materialism, Strawson also holds to a form of physicalism. His view is that experience, or consciousness, is physical and that what we currently understand as the "physical" will need to be updated to include this.
- Christof Koch: As a proponent of the Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness, Koch believes that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality and can be described mathematically. His perspective fits with the stricter definition of physicalism, as it assumes that consciousness can eventually be incorporated into our physical understanding of the universe.
- Philip Goff: Goff's "micropsychism" suggests that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of physical reality, implying that a more complete physics would include an understanding of consciousness.
Suggest quotations with sources about materialism.
Sure, here are some quotes about materialism from various sources:
- Marxist Materialism:
"It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness." - Karl Marx, "A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy" (1859).
"The physical world is, in some respects, fundamentally and irreducibly consciousness-involving." - David J. Chalmers, "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness," Journal of Consciousness Studies (1995).
Materialism and Consciousness:
"The mind is the brain." - Patricia Churchland, "Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain" (1986).
Materialism and Science:
"The universe does not exist 'out there,' independent of us. We are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are not only observers. We are participators." - John Wheeler, "Frontiers of Time" (1978).
"We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl." - Madonna, "Material Girl" (1984).
Critique of Materialism:
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." - Jesus Christ, The Bible, Matthew 4:4.
Materialism and the Mind:
"By a kind of fantastic extension... modern materialists have suggested that the mind itself is only a by-product of certain material forces." - F.C.S. Schiller, "Must Philosophers Disagree?" (1934).
Quantum Physics and Materialism:
"Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real." - Niels Bohr, quoted in "The New Quantum Universe" (2003).
Suggest quotations about philosophical and scientific materialism.
"Sure, here are some quotes specifically addressing philosophical and scientific materialism:
These quotes offer a variety of perspectives on the nature of reality, the mind, and our understanding of the universe from prominent figures in philosophy and the sciences. As always, they should be interpreted within the context of the author's overall body of work."
- Daniel Dennett, philosopher and cognitive scientist: "We're all zombies. Nobody is conscious — not in the systematically mysterious way that supports such doctrines as epiphenomenalism." — From "Consciousness Explained" (1991)
- Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA: "You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules." — From "The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul" (1994)
- Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and writer: "We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA. ... This is exactly what we are for. We are machines for propagating DNA, and the propagation of DNA is a self-sustaining process. It is every living object's sole reason for living." — From "River Out of Eden" (1995)
- Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist: "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." — Interview with The Guardian (2011)
- Patricia Churchland, philosopher and neuroscientist: "There is only one sort of stuff, namely matter - the physical stuff of physics, chemistry, and physiology - and the mind is somehow nothing but a physical phenomenon. In short, the mind is the brain." — From "Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain" (1986)
- Thomas Metzinger, philosopher and cognitive scientist: "No such things as selves exist in the world: Nobody ever was or had a self." — From "Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity" (2003)
- Steven Weinberg, theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate: "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless." — From "The First Three Minutes" (1993)
- Susan Blackmore, psychologist and writer: "We have to give up the notion of a soul, and the notion that mind and consciousness are anything other than physical processes going on in our brains." — From "Conversations on Consciousness" (2006)
- Jerry Coyne, biologist: "We are biological creatures, collections of molecules that must obey the laws of physics. All the success of science rests on the regularity of those laws." — From "Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible" (2015)
- Thomas Huxley, biologist: "We are as much the product of blind forces as is the falling of a stone to Earth, or the ebb and flow of the tides. We have just happened, and man was made flesh by a long series of singularly beneficial accidents." — From "Evolution and Ethics" (1896)
- Bertrand Russell, philosopher: "Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know." — From "Religion and Science" (1935)
- Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist: "The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you." — From "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry" (2017)
- Paul Churchland, philosopher: "Our common-sense conception of psychological phenomena constitutes a radically false theory, a theory so fundamentally misguided and so fundamentally at odds with the facts of nature as we now understand them that elimination, not revision, is the only reasonable path open before it." — From "Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes" (1981)
- Richard Rorty, philosopher: "There is nothing deep down inside us except what we have put there ourselves." — From "Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity" (1989)
- Karl Marx, philosopher and economist: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it." — From "Theses on Feuerbach" (1845)
- Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist: "I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics." — From "The Character of Physical Law" (1965)
- Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer: "We are a way for the cosmos to know itself." — From "Cosmos" (1980)
- Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist: "The world is not magic - and that's the most amazing thing about it." — From "The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself" (2016)
- Stephen Pinker, cognitive psychologist: "The mind is what the brain does." — From "How the Mind Works" (1997)
- John Searle, philosopher: "Where consciousness is concerned, the appearance is the reality." — From "Minds, Brains, and Science" (1984)
Suggest quotations with sources from scientists and philosophers critical of materialism.
"Sure, here are some quotations by scientists and philosophers who have expressed skepticism or criticism towards materialism:
Again, these are the views of the individuals quoted and represent one side of a complex philosophical debate."
- "It is the business of the future to be dangerous; and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties." — Alfred North Whitehead, "Science and the Modern World" (1925)
Critique: This is more of a critique of the attitude of absolute certainty in some scientific (and thus materialistic) thinking, than a direct critique of materialism.
- "The science of today is the myth of tomorrow." — Sir Arthur Eddington, "The Philosophy of Physical Science" (1939)
Critique: This quote suggests that what is considered as established scientific (materialistic) fact today might be considered outdated or incorrect in the future, and thus critiques the certainty with which some materialistic claims are made.
- "My consciousness is certainly not a side-effect of matter. If anything, matter is a concept derived from my consciousness." — Max Planck, as quoted in "As a Man Thinketh: New Thought" by James Allen and Skyler Collins (2015)
Critique: Planck, one of the founders of quantum physics, suggested that consciousness may be more fundamental than matter, thus opposing materialistic views.
- "Not only is the universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think." — Werner Heisenberg, as quoted in "Across the Frontiers" (1974)
Critique: This quote from a key figure in the development of quantum mechanics implies that the universe may not be fully explainable by materialistic science.
- "The materialist worldview could be defined as the denial of the existence of any spiritual realities or non-material realities." — Rupert Sheldrake, "The Science Delusion" (2012)
Critique: Sheldrake critiques materialism for denying the existence of non-material realities, which he believes are important.
- "I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness." — Max Planck, as quoted in "The Observer" (1931)
Critique: Again, Planck implies that consciousness is more fundamental than matter, thus opposing the materialistic view that consciousness arises from matter.
- "Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else." — Erwin Schrödinger, "What Is Life? With Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches" (1992)
Critique: Schrödinger, one of the fathers of quantum mechanics, makes a strong claim against materialism by asserting that consciousness cannot be explained purely in terms of physical processes.
- "Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve." — Max Planck, "Where is Science Going?" (1932)
Critique: Planck argues that there's an inherent limitation to our scientific (including materialistic) understanding, as we ourselves are part of the very nature we try to comprehend.
- "The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you." — Werner Heisenberg, as quoted in "Der Teil und das Ganze" (1969)
Critique: Heisenberg suggests that while science (and materialism) might initially seem to eliminate the need for non-material concepts such as God, a deeper exploration might lead one back to such concepts.
- "Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge." — Carl Sagan, "Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science" (1979)
Critique: Sagan emphasizes that science is a methodology rather than just a collection of facts, implicitly criticizing a rigid materialist view that might see science solely as an accumulation of material knowledge.
- "I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness." — Max Planck, The Observer (25 January 1931) Critique: In a shift from the traditional materialistic perspective, Planck, the father of quantum theory, postulates consciousness as the fundamental reality from which matter arises.
- "Not only does consciousness (experience) not logically supervene on the physical, it’s not even causally determined by the physical." — Galen Strawson, Consciousness and Its Place in Nature (2006)
Critique: Strawson challenges the materialistic perspective by asserting that consciousness doesn't arise from physical causation.
- "Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false." — Bertrand Russell, Sceptical Essays (1928)
Critique: Russell encourages skepticism and questions the absoluteness of any belief, including materialism.
- "The philosophy of materialism postulates that development, exactly as inanimate nature, is mechanical, devoid of spontaneity and directed by blind laws. Its most extreme expression is to be found in the view that conscious experience itself is just a 'reflex'." — Ivan Pavlov, Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes (1928)
Critique: Pavlov critiques materialism for its inability to account for spontaneity and consciousness, thereby reducing life to mere reflexes guided by blind laws.
- "The materialist worldview could not contain [consciousness], but even more significantly, the interior experiential currents of life itself could not be seen or felt or intuited within that strictly exterior universe." — Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything (1996)
Critique: Wilber asserts that materialism, with its focus on the external and measurable, fails to account for the internal and subjective elements of consciousness.
Suggest some good books about materialism. (regenerated)
"Certainly, here are some influential books that articulate and defend materialist perspectives:
Remember, while some of these books argue against materialism, understanding the criticisms of a position is crucial to fully grasping the position itself."
- "Consciousness Explained" by Daniel Dennett: Dennett is a well-known defender of a materialist perspective on the mind. This book outlines his multiple drafts model of consciousness.
- "How the Mind Works" by Steven Pinker: Pinker adopts a broadly materialist view, arguing that the mind can be understood in terms of computational processes implemented in the brain.
- "The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul" by Francis Crick: The co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, Crick provides a materialist perspective on consciousness in this work.
- "Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain" by Patricia Churchland: This seminal work helped to establish the field of neurophilosophy and represents a strong articulation of materialism.
- "The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul" by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett: This compilation of essays and stories presents materialist views on the nature of the mind and self.
- "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins: Dawkins' gene-centered view of evolution can be seen as a kind of materialism applied to biology.
- "The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself" by Sean Carroll: Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll gives a comprehensive overview of his poetic naturalist (materialist) worldview in this accessible book.
- "Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes" by Paul Churchland: This is a classic paper that outlines the radical perspective of eliminative materialism, suggesting our common-sense understanding of the mind is fundamentally flawed and should be replaced by a strictly physicalist neuroscience.
- "Physicalism, or Something Near Enough" by Jaegwon Kim: This book provides a detailed defense of a physicalist view of the mind.
- "Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False" by Thomas Nagel: Although the title suggests otherwise, this book critiques materialism and thereby provides insight into the materialist view.
- "Matter and Consciousness" by Paul Churchland: Churchland explores various materialist theories of consciousness, including reductionist and eliminative materialism.
- "Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought" by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson: This book looks at how our bodily experience shapes our philosophy and argues for a more embodied understanding of cognition, a materialist perspective that challenges traditional dualism.
- "Freedom Evolves" by Daniel Dennett: This book explores the concept of free will from a materialist perspective, arguing that freedom can be reconciled with determinism.
- "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas Hofstadter: Hofstadter explores consciousness and self-reference from a materialistic perspective in this Pulitzer Prize-winning book.
- "Reason, Truth and History" by Hilary Putnam: Although not exclusively about materialism, this book by Putnam contains criticisms of materialism and discussions about the nature of mind and matter.
- "Matter and Memory" by Henri Bergson: This classic book by Bergson provides an alternative to materialism in understanding consciousness and memory.
- "Mind in a Physical World: An Essay on the Mind-Body Problem and Mental Causation" by Jaegwon Kim: Kim defends a version of physicalism while tackling major issues in philosophy of mind and metaphysics.
- "The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory" by David Chalmers: While not a defense of materialism, this book provides a critique of materialist views of mind and has been very influential in discussions of consciousness.
- "The Rediscovery of the Mind" by John Searle: Searle argues against materialism and for a new conception of the mind that retains the virtues of the physicalist view while acknowledging the existence of consciousness.
- "Quantum Mechanics and Experience" by David Albert: Albert discusses the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics, which challenge traditional materialist perspectives.
Suggest good scholarly articles on materialism. (regenerated)
"Sure, here are a few scholarly articles that deal with materialism:
Please note that some of these articles might require academic library access or a purchase."
- "Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes" by Paul Churchland: This is a seminal article in which Churchland lays out the philosophical position of eliminative materialism, arguing that common-sense psychology is deeply flawed and should be replaced by neuroscience.
- "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" by David J. Chalmers: In this article, Chalmers articulates the "hard problem" of consciousness and discusses the difficulty that this poses for materialist theories of mind.
- "Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap" by Joseph Levine: Levine's article explores the issue of how to explain the subjective aspects of conscious experience in terms of the physical processes in the brain.
- "The Rise of Physicalism" by David Papineau: This article traces the historical development of physicalism as a philosophical position.
- "Materialism and the Mind-Body Problem" by David Rosenthal: Rosenthal explores different variants of materialism and their implications for understanding the nature of mental states.
- "Can Materialism Explain the Mind?" by Colin McGinn: McGinn explores the challenges posed by consciousness to materialist accounts of the mind.
- "Why I Am Not a Property Dualist" by John Searle: While not strictly about materialism, this article outlines Searle's views on the mind-body problem, which can be seen as a version of biological naturalism, a form of materialism.
- "The Inadequacy of Materialism" by Karl Popper: In this article, Popper criticizes materialism from a scientific and philosophical standpoint.
- "From Supervenience to Superdupervenience: Meeting the Demands of a Material World" by Jaegwon Kim: Kim discusses the metaphysical concept of supervenience, which plays a crucial role in defining physicalism and materialism.
- "Materialism without Reductionism: What Physicalism Does Not Entail" by Ned Block: Block criticizes certain conceptions of materialism that entail a reductionist view of consciousness.
- "The Rediscovery of Light" by John Leslie Mackie: Mackie offers a critique of materialist metaphysics, discussing the limitations of materialism in dealing with concepts like consciousness and light.
- "Materialism and the Metaphysics of Modality" by David Lewis: This paper discusses materialism in the context of modal metaphysics, or the study of possibility and necessity.
- "Materialism and the Moral Status of Animals" by Peter Singer: Singer, a leading ethicist, discusses how materialist views of consciousness impact our moral considerations for animals.
- "Against Materialism" by Foster John: Foster provides a philosophical argument against materialism, discussing issues around consciousness and physical phenomena.
- "Scientific Materialism and the Identity Theory" by D.M. Armstrong: Armstrong defends a version of materialism known as the identity theory, which asserts that mental states are identical to physical states in the brain.
- "Materialism and Dualism in Compatibilism" by Nancey Murphy: This paper discusses materialism in relation to the concept of free will, critiquing dualist views and defending a compatibilist position.
What does philosopher David Pearce mean when he says that a materialist ontology is inconsistent with the entirety of the empirical (“relating to experience”) evidence?
"David Pearce is a British philosopher known for his work in consciousness studies, transhumanism, and animal ethics. His non-materialist physicalism is a unique position that aims to unite the sciences under a single physicalist ontology, while taking seriously the empirical evidence for consciousness.
When Pearce says that a materialist ontology is inconsistent with the entirety of the empirical evidence, he is suggesting that our first-person experiences, i.e., consciousness, do not fit comfortably into a purely materialistic worldview that posits the universe as entirely composed of insentient matter and energy.
Materialists tend to regard consciousness as an emergent property of certain complex physical processes, such as those found in human brains. However, this leaves unresolved what is often referred to as the "Hard Problem" of consciousness: how and why do physical processes give rise to subjective experience? To date, there is no agreed-upon explanation for how matter gives rise to mind within a materialist framework.
Pearce's non-materialist physicalism posits that consciousness is a fundamental feature of the universe, akin to space, time, and energy. For Pearce, physicalism is not synonymous with insentient matter and energy but also includes conscious experience. He proposes that the physical has an inherently experiential aspect, a view he believes is more consistent with the empirical evidence of our direct, first-person experiences.
Thus, when Pearce criticizes materialist ontology, he's highlighting the inability of traditional materialism to satisfactorily account for our direct experiences of consciousness. He argues for an updated physicalism that respects both the objective, third-person perspective of the natural sciences and the subjective, first-person evidence of consciousness."
"Both materialist physicalists and non-materialist physicalists believe that only the physical is real. Materialist physicalists believe that the "fire" in the equations of quantum field theory (QFT) is non-experiential. Non-materialist physicalists (physicalism.com) propose that the "fire" in the equations of QFT is experiential.
Outline arguments for and against the materialist conjecture that the intrinsic nature of the physical is non-experiential.
"Materialist physicalism and non-materialist physicalism (or panpsychism, in one of its forms) both agree that only the physical is real, but they disagree on the nature of that physical reality, specifically regarding the existence and nature of consciousness. Let's outline some of the main arguments for and against the idea that the intrinsic nature of the physical is non-experiential, as materialists propose.
In sum, while there are compelling arguments on both sides, the nature of consciousness in relation to physical reality remains an open and hotly debated question in philosophy and science. It's a question that touches on deep and unresolved issues in our understanding of the universe and our place within it."
- Arguments for Materialist Physicalism (Non-Experiential Physical Reality)
- Simplicity and Economy: The principle of parsimony, or Occam's razor, suggests that we should favor simpler explanations when possible. Materialist physicalism, by denying the existence of consciousness as a fundamental aspect of reality, offers a simpler picture of the universe in terms of its basic constituents.
- Scientific Success: The physical sciences, which have been incredibly successful in explaining and predicting a wide range of phenomena, typically do not appeal to consciousness in their theories and explanations. This can be seen as evidence in favor of a non-experiential physical reality.
- The Hard Problem of Consciousness: Materialists argue that consciousness arises from complex computations among brain neurons and is not a fundamental aspect of reality. According to this view, it's a hard but not an impossible problem, and future scientific advancements will eventually explain it.
- Arguments against Materialist Physicalism (In Favor of Experiential Physical Reality)
- The Hard Problem of Consciousness: Despite the remarkable success of the physical sciences, they have yet to provide a satisfactory explanation for the subjective aspect of consciousness — our inner experiences or "qualia." This has led some to propose that consciousness must be a fundamental aspect of reality.
- The Explanatory Gap: There's a significant gap between physical processes and conscious experiences. It's unclear how physical processes can give rise to subjective experiences. This gap suggests that our current conception of the physical might be incomplete.
- Introspective Evidence: Our own conscious experiences provide direct evidence for the existence of consciousness. If we take this evidence seriously, it suggests that our scientific picture of the universe should include consciousness in some form.
- The Intrinsic Nature Argument: Some philosophers argue that physics is confined to describing the relational structure of the universe and is silent about the intrinsic nature of the physical entities involved in these relations. Some non-materialist physicalists propose that this intrinsic nature is experiential.
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ChatGPT on Physicalism
ChatGPT on Panpsychism
ChatGPT on Abolitionism
ChatGPT on Utilitarianism
ChatGPT on Transhumanism
ChatGPT on Utopian Surgery
ChatGPT on Brave New World
The Wit and Wisdom of ChatGPT
ChatGPT on the Binding Problem
ChatGPT on Paradise Engineering
ChatGPT on The Hedonistic Imperative
ChatGPT on The Reproductive Revolution
ChatGPT on The Biointelligence Explosion