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Saturday, September 19, 2015

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Bill,

I found out that in 2009 we interacted a bit about definitions of physical entities: maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2009/04/is-god-in-bad-taste-some-anti-searlean-remarks.html

Anyway, you say, "'Physical' contrasts with 'mental' and has a specific meaning in virtue of this contrast."

This is similar to Joseph Levine's Purple Haze (2001), p. 20: "What is it about tables and chairs that make them paradigmatic examples of the physical? ... I would say ... it's their non-mentality."

Unlike you and Levine, I don't think we must define non-mentality into the very notion of a physical item.

(a) We may say, instead, that a physical item is a physical particle, a field of force, an n-dimensional manifold, a string as conceived in string theories, or a combination of these (and nothing else).

(b) If that is too specific and can't accommodate as yet unknown posits of physics, we may make it broader and vague: a physical item is a physical particle, a field of force, an n-dimensional manifold, a string as conceived in string theories, or a combination of these (and nothing else), or something like that.

This is similar to Stoljar's SEP entry on "Physicalism", § 11.2, although Stoljar talks there about physical theories rather than about physical items:

"... we have a number of paradigms of what a physical theory is: common sense physical theory, medieval impetus physics, Cartesian contact mechanics, Newtonian physics, and modern quantum physics. While it seems unlikely that there is any one factor that unifies this class of theories, perhaps there is a cluster of factors — a common or overlapping set of theoretical constructs, for example, or a shared methodology. If so, one might maintain that the notion of a physical theory is a Wittgensteinian family resemblance concept."

Either way, we need not build non-mentality into the very notion of the physical.

Now you will say we are given no principled reason why God, angels and disembodied souls would not be physical on the latter, vague construal of the physical. And that if we are merely said that they intuitively wouldn't be physical, then we should say that intuitively qualia aren't physical either. All this may well be true (though I don't know no such principled reason is available). But anyway, there's still the former, less vague construal of the physical, for which principled reasons exist why God, angels and souls do not qualify as physical in the less vague sense. These reasons should be available in metaphysics.

So we should focus on the claim that "consciousness is a form of matter" interpreted according to the former construal: consciousness is a physical particle, a field of force, an n-dimensional manifold, a string as conceived in string theories, or a combination of these (and nothing else).

How could we refute this?

In my opinion it is very interesting question (discussed in literature on philosophy of mind) does views like Strawson and other similar positions entail some kind of panpsychism? For me it is very questionable can we make sense from views like this (or from earlier Russel's attempts) and does such views can be lebeled properly as physicalism or even naturalism?

Vlastimil,

Thanks for reminding me of our earlier exchange, and for the Levine reference. I'm happy to have him on my side.

>>(a) We may say, instead, that a physical item is a physical particle, a field of force, an n-dimensional manifold, a string as conceived in string theories, or a combination of these (and nothing else).

(b) If that is too specific and can't accommodate as yet unknown posits of physics, we may make it broader and vague: a physical item is a physical particle, a field of force, an n-dimensional manifold, a string as conceived in string theories, or a combination of these (and nothing else), or something like that.<<

First of all, I note circularity in (a): A physical item is a physical particle . . . If you want to explain to me what 'physical' means, you can't use 'physical' in your explanation.

And when you speak of an n-dimensional manifold, do you mean a physical manifold or a purely mathematical object? If the former, then there is circularity again. If the latter, then purely mathematical objects are physical, which sounds absurd. Surely not all manifolds are physically realized. Here is something on manifolds:

http://web.stanford.edu/~jchw/WOMPtalk-Manifolds.pdf

The problem with (a) is that it takes in too much. (b) is worse.

Do you think everything is physical? Are mathematical sets physical?

V,

What is your motive? Are you trying to find a way to maintain that things that are wholly physical, and thus exhaustively understandable in terms of physics (either present or future), are also subjects of mental states, both intentional and non-intentional?

Bill,

-- I don't think (a) is circular for I guess one can define physical particles by inserting some rigorous definition from physics which does not use 'physical'.

-- As for manifolds, one can add that one means manifolds with causal capacities.

-- No, I don't think everything is physical. I'm only trying to convey why I regard anti-physicalist arguments about consciousness as unpersuasive.

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