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Monday, October 02, 2023

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Well the bad article grasps for "scientific evidence of the divine," which is yet again overplaying the role of science, as if science is the judge and arbiter of all creation.

It is all well and good to follow the commandments of the Creator, and we should, if we want things to go well, but you don't need science to tell you to do that. It would be an excuse to wait for "science." If anything, you should read history and apply its lessons with common sense, if you want things to go well.

Have I hit it squarely, or have I struck only a glancing blow ? I await a reply !

Thanks for summarizing Strawson’s argument, Bill. Here’s your summary:

1. We know the intrinsic nature of consciousness from our own case.
2. We know that consciousness is a form of matter.
Ergo
3. There is nothing mysterious about consciousness or about how matter gives rise to consciousness; nor is there any question whether consciousness is wholly physical; the only mystery concerns the intrinsic nature of matter.

I agree with you that (2) is false. We don’t know that consciousness is a form of matter.

It’s worth pointing out that, arguably, ‘know’ in (1) refers to knowledge-by-acquaintance whereas ‘know’ in (2) refers to propositional knowledge (i.e., knowledge that). I accept (1). We are directly acquainted with
consciousness in our own cases, respectively. I know immediately, by direct experience or acquaintance, what coffee tastes like and what Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata sounds like and what it is like to bang my knee against the hard dining room table.

But we don’t know that consciousness is a form of matter. And if propositional knowledge requires epistemic certainty, then a fortiori, we don’t know that consciousness is a form of matter.

Of course, one can merely believe that (2) is true and call that mere belief “knowledge,” but calling a mere belief “knowledge” doesn’t make it so. If someone (merely) believes that a divinity has spoken to him, and claims to know it (as propositional knowledge), his claim is likely an exaggeration. For example, in the History Channel TV show “Vikings” there is a character named Floki. He believes that Odin and some of the other Norse gods speak to him, and he claims to know it. He’s subjectively certain about it. But later he comes to doubt his claim, and wonders if he is insane.

Thanks, Elliot.

You are quite right to bring in the distinction between kn. by acquaintance and prop. knowledge. And so the 'hard problem' could be put like this: if we are acquainted with the nature of cs from our own case, and if cs just is a material state, then why are we not acquainted with this material state?

>> if we are acquainted with the nature of cs from our own case, and if cs just is a material state, then why are we not acquainted with this material state?<<

Good question. A similar line of thinking occurred to me.

It seems that these claims don’t fit well together.

1. We know that consciousness is a form of matter.
2. We don’t know the nature of matter.

If we don’t know what the nature of matter is, how can we know that cs. is a form of it? Suppose the nature of matter is such that cs. can’t be a material state. This is epistemically possible if (2) is true. Maybe the nature of matter is such that none of its essential properties are consistent with consciousness. In other words, given that we’re ignorant about the nature of matter, for all we know, cs. can’t be a form thereof, in which case we don’t know that cs. is material after all.

Similarly, these claims seem at odds.

2. We don’t know the nature of matter.
3. We know (by acquaintance) the nature of consciousness.

Assume arguendo that cs. is a form of matter. If we know by acquaintance the nature of cs., why don’t we know by acquaintance something about the nature of matter?

Back to your question: why are we not acquainted with this material state?

I suppose the materialist could say that we are acquainted with some aspect of this material state, but (for some unknown reason) we are not acquainted with the materiality of this material state. Rather, we are only acquainted with the what-it's-like aspects of the state.

Would this supposed response from the materialist make sense?

It seems to me that this response involves assuming that the material brain has occult powers, which is an assumption you've already noted. And this assumption raises a set of problems -- one of which (as you also noted) is that, at present, we have no good reason to believe that brain matter has occult powers.

>>I suppose the materialist could say that we are acquainted with some aspect of this material state, but (for some unknown reason) we are not acquainted with the materiality of this material state. Rather, we are only acquainted with the what-it's-like aspects of the state.<<

I don't think that makes sense. If I am acquainted with the what-it's-like aspect of the material state, but not the materiality of the material state, then the duality is up and kicking -- the very duality that Strawson & Co are trying to avoid.

Here's another by Strawson: https://www.academia.edu/38245741/What_does_physical_mean_Strawson

You’re right. It doesn’t make sense.

To say that is to admit the duality Strawson wants to avoid. And yet Strawson claims that “what-it’s-likeness” is somehow physical.

Thanks for posting Strawson's article. I agree with Strawson in rejecting (i) and (ii):

(i) Experience (consciousness) doesn’t exist.
(ii) Experience emerges from stuff that is wholly non-experiential.

I’m open to panpsychism. But I’m not sure what it means to be a pure panpsychist materialist (PPM). How can everything be consciousness (i.e., experiential what-it-is-likeness) and yet also be physical? I don’t find that Strawson is very clear about explaining how this can be. He says that concrete physical stuff is energy. This is a thesis of current physics. But then he says energy is experientiality. What does that mean?

He also says that [x is physical --> x is spatially extended]. Fine. But it seems clear that consciousness isn’t spatially extended. There is no spatial extension to the what-it’s-likeness of the taste of a lemon or the thrill of a roller coaster ride. The phenomenal experience I have when I taste a lemon isn’t measurable somewhere in space. So how can consciousness be physical?

He goes on to say that experiential stuff can “certainly” have non-experiential properties such as numerical and structural properties. What does that mean?

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