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Thursday, May 14, 2015

On Invoking Non-Physical Mental States to “Solve the Problem” of Consciousness

Barry Arrington as Uncommon Descent: On Invoking Non-Physical Mental States to “Solve the Problem” of Consciousness

6 comments:

B. Prokop said...

Link does not work?

Ilíon said...

Thanks for letting me know. I've fixed it.

It's a very long post, but worth reading.

K T Cat said...

Fantastic find. Thank you so much for sharing this. Favorite bit:

As the Wiki article states, “intentionality” is “the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for things, properties and states of affairs.” Rocks do not exhibit intentionality. A rock does not, for example, have the capacity to assert a belief such as “Washington was the first president.” Similarly, the sentence “The group of oxygen atoms believed that Washington was the first president” is absurd. What is true for oxygen is also true for the atoms of the other elements of the body, i.e., carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, etc...

Suppose one gathers together all of the various elements that compose a human body (i.e., oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc.) and mixes those chemicals up in exactly the same quantities and proportions that are found in a human body and puts it all in a bag. That bag of chemicals does not have any more capacity to assert a belief than a rock. Intentionality obviously exists; any attempt to deny its existence would be incoherent. It would be like saying “I believe there are no beliefs.” It follows, therefore, that intentionality exists and that it is not a property of a physical thing. Hence, it is a property of an immaterial mind.

In order to rebut this assertion the materialist would have to explain what is special about a bag of chemicals configured as the human body that it should all of a sudden acquire the capacity for intentionality when the same a different bag of the exact same chemicals does not. The usual response of “it’s all emergent and stuff” is a non-starter. Unless you show how the physical gives rise to the mental, “it’s emergent” is the equivalent of saying “it’s magic!”

Ilíon said...

As Arrington states in his introduction, ".... I will also show that if Bill were ever able to climb out of that box and open his mind to a different, wider (and for that reason superior) ontological perspective, he would realize that consciousness is not a “problem” to be solved but a datum that must be accounted for in any robust ontology."

To put it another way, since we, each and every one of us, *know* that minds exist -- our own selves being our own primary data point -- then "any robust ontology" (and 'robust' theory of what-exists) must be able, in principle, to account for the existence of minds. As a corollary, any ontology which implicitly or explicitly denies the existence of minds, is, ipso facto, seen to be not only not 'robust', but positively false.

SRV said...

Fantastic link, Ilion. Thank you! I'm going to link to it myself on my blog. God bless you.

Ilíon said...

I'm glad you found it useful. And, God bless us, everyone ;)