Sunday, December 31, 2023

I Am No Philosopher

I'm not telling you, dear reader, anything you don't already know. I am not a philosopher.

People blame me for being one, sometimes, just like they think that I have ever tried to "find myself." I have no idea what that would even mean. 

I like Daniel Dennett qua philosopher, since he doesn't seem the least bit cranky. I know his blind spot, though I'll never be able to convince him of that. Put simply, he will go to absurd ends to ensure that not the slightest bit of non-materialism makes it into his philosophy.

Just now, I'm reading his book called Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, which I find quite useful. His thinking exercises tend toward the absurd though, and all are dedicated to erasing any possibility for what he calls the "wonder tissue" which roughly equates to some kind of ghost in the machine.

Dennett takes great pains to demonstrate that he is not a philosophical bully the way that so many of his colleagues are, according to him. Bullies hold tight to unexamined and unexaminable notions, and berate you if you undercut their arguments. And yet I catch Dennett out using the word "surely" which he doesn't like other philosophers to use (though I suspect he's joking with his readers).

I don't think that I introduce "wonder tissue" when I find emotion and concepts to be part of cosmos and not some sort of human invention or epiphenomenon. Indeed, I might suggest that I am the more materialistic, since I don't think concepts are limited to mind, as in the human mind, which Dennett equates to the brain. 

Conceptual arrangements of matter are simply static unmoving relations which aren't mediated by the exchange of meta-particles which are what force reduces to in standard accounts of physics. I'm not sure if I just coined the word meta-particle, but no scientist believes that subatomic particles are particulate in any way that would count as real. The term is metaphorical, though metaphor to me, a lover and sometime reader of Chinese classical poetry, is not the be-all end-all figure of speech.

The superposition connection in quantum physics also involves no forces, being a purely conceptual, though physically testable, relation. No “wonder tissue” required, it's just how the actual cosmos works. 

Now, in measurable tangible reality, we can't ever really capture concepts in the wild. We only comprehend them with and by our minds, which is a kind of apprehension, no? But our mind is surely (!!) not embodied by the brain alone. 

Sure, as Dennett often does, you might conduct reductio thought experiments to demonstrate that you can pare away all parts of the body, so long as you keep the perceptual connections active, and the mind will remain intact, though every other part of the body has been replaced by canonically "wonder-tissue" free material.

To me, this is as silly as his (is it his?) twin-earth thought experiment, or the robotic spore-like capsule in which some intuition-pump intention laden actual person seeks to preserve himself across some centuries. These thought experiments are far more outlandish than any I could ever cook up. Which becomes almost an exhibit A for why I am no philosopher. 

Materialism dissolves at its fringes, as we all know and as, perhaps, his friend Hofstadter who writes variously about Gödel has proven. There remain conceptual connections in the form of non-force-mediated structures which transpose across those fringes.

You can still call it materialism if you will, though the cosmos itself becomes far more like mind than matter. Mind pervades our cosmos and always has. I sometimes call that "god"  as a kind of placeholder, and certainly not to mean that "god" is some sort of grand intentional intuition pumper.

Consciousness just doesn't trouble me enough to need explaining. Ditto "free will." Both are distinctive and real things without which we wouldn't make sense at all. The philosophers just have the cart-horse arrangement backwards.

Leaping free of metaphorical usage, I might simply state that the human being has arrived at such complexity - by way of DNA and Darwinian evolution - that we qualify as microcosm to the cosmic whole. Not a mirror to it, and not, I suppose, some holographic chip off the old block, though that makes a nice metaphor. 

The funny thing is that our material science, continuing on as it has beyond the cosmos-raveling of both quantum and complexity theory, is now more likely to be destructive of the conscious human-being than it is constructive. Our wonder-tissue-free machines have already taken over our minds, and there is nary a thinking soul out there any more. Certainly not the ones who want most to make a name for themselves.

Well, I'm being a bully, I guess. I'll try not to do it again. I must attend to my spore-like automobile and continue to stare at some screen or windscreen or what-you-will. Go Bills!


Ryan Clark said...

Hey, I recently discovered your blog, have read and enjoyed a few of your posts, and I plan to read more of them!

Still haven't quite pinned down what your stance on consciousness is, but I haven't found a whole lot that I disagree with so far.

BTW, reading Dennett's "Consciousness Explained" over ten years ago was basically the last straw in my attempt to remain a physicalist, haha. As far as I could tell, it was hundreds of pages of interesting facts and arguments, not a one of which chipped away at--or even really had anything to do with--the Hard Problem of Consciousness! IMHO.

Lex said...

The more I read of Dennett, the more trapped he seems in the all of materialism. He can't seem even to conceptualize mind apart from brain apart from computational algorithms. That said, he's still the most reliable and brilliant thinker on consciousness. His main burden seems to be to brush away the sloppy thinking of others, while remaining open-minded about missing something, even something really important. He does away with the mind/body dichotomy, but then pretty much ignores the body. That becomes the crux of what he's missing, for me.