“What is physicalism?” Is a question that requires the question “What is physics?” to be answered to save physicalism from being just the bald statement. “Physicalism is the assertion that whatever physics says is is all that is”. In other words if you don’t know any physics and you are a physicalist you don’t know anything about what is.Philosophy Now wrote: ↑Thu May 24, 2018 1:17 pm Grant Bartley argues that to say the mind is physical is an abuse of language.
https://philosophynow.org/issues/126/Wh ... m_is_Wrong
Most physicalists do not understand physics. So let us then answer this question first “What does physics say is?”. Then we can better assess whether physicalism is an abuse of language.
So here is what physics says:
Physics starts with certain mathematical definitions some undefined mathematical notions. Two key notions are the ideas of an “element” of “set”. Basically a set is a collection of elements. These are undefined terms in mathematics.
Philosophically the best description of an element that I have found is in Sartre. Basically his notions of how nothing is introduced into the “plenum of being” and how the “the for itself”, think of it as us or someone if you are unfamiliar with his work, performs “a nihilating withdrawal” are very powerful an lay a foundation for the notion that members of a set are not just experiencings but rather are thought of as having existence independent of consciousness.
Thus the notions of points, lines, planes, solids, that we talk about and think are thought of as being independent of observers. Nor does this reduce to our imaginative powers. Mathematics, in the form of topology and the notion of a manifold - which is a set having certain properties - has been able to define precisely objects which are understandabl but not imaginable.
This same process works in our visual experiencing to introduce objectivity to the world itself and we perform the nihilation yielding a “space” which originally was conceived of as nothing, within which there are things which are, well, something. Those primitive physical notions underly our normal day to day life and allow me to find my socks in my sock drawer.
Physics, by using the mathematics underlying it, has surpassed somewhat these notions. However it retains much of it. While quantum indeterminacy may not allow us to say particle or wave, and may violate locality, and while the relativity of time may deny the existence of some absolute present, or now, at which time all that is actually is and what is past is no longer and what is future is not yet, still it retains the notions of a set and the time space continuum of relativity is indeed a set of elements and so are the Hilbert spaces of quantum mechanics, and the standard model just describes what types of particles can be posited in a physical space at some time relative to a coordinate system again defined mathematically in terms of a set and physically in terms of certain devices and objects that underly physical measurement. All of the physics is validated through sense experience by experiments which are repeatable and allow the physical laws to be established as a subset of what could be.
So what physics ultimately says is that there Is this state which can be defined in set theoretical terms as a vector in a Hilbert space and then says that this state evolves into another state according to certain functions and then that this state can be processed or operated upon to give the probability of the versions measurement outcomes of the physical experiments performed. It also says that those experiments, or measurements, affect the future evolution of the state. All of this is in a time space manifold defined in relativity.
To know that state one must posit all of the real particles that exist in the standard model as possibilities but here physicists say more than that the are possible - they say that these particles are the ones that actually exist - the sun, earth, humans, brains, are all aspects of the physical state of the universe which is the timespace manifold in which these standard model type objects exist.
Now there are operators and devices that these physicists use to predict the sense experience of their experiments but virtually all physicists would agree that the state and operators allow calculations of what would with extreme high probability where there are no such experiments being conducted.
Now these physical operators operating on any possible physical state do not predict, nor do the require that physically caused conscious will exist. But that does not mean that such notions as observation are not inherent in the science. Galeleo’s telescope has two ends and everyone knows why they need to turn their heads to point at the supercollider screens in order to be able to discover the Higgs particle.
What is missing is precisely a set of operators, and a definition of their range in phenomenal terms, that process the state vector and output probabilities that some experiencing of some type will occur. The physics currently explains what will be experienced if a human does some experiment only by assuming that for example only by looking at your screen or in that telescope will there be an experience but does that without the required operators to give the probability of an experience of some type occurring. He doesn’t know that from physics. He knows only that light for example will enter his brain but he is unable to say what experiencing will occur or even that experiencing will occur with what probability by calculating an operator on the standard state vector.
Current physics does not, in the operation of physical law, predict that any experiencing at all will exist. Only that if it exists in its current form and if things like entering the observatory and looking at the instruments are done then such and such will probably be observed. Zombies are physically possible and physically indistinguishable from non zombies in current physical law. There is no mention of which state vectors will be a universe with observation and which will not.
The higher level sciences, say biology for example, if they posit that during such or such a place in evolution consciousness arose, become because of that assertion no longer purely physical theories. Such theories would cease to be physical because they would be ascribing to the physical state a property which is undefined in the standard models of current physics which lacks the required operators.
So physicalism is wrong if we mean by “physical” the current laws. But physicalism as a principle does not require that these current laws are the final ones. If, as Husserl outlines, the nature of types of experiencings can be labeled, sight, color, hearing, etc as well as the experiencing of meaning and logic, then those possible experiencings form a set, a set that can be posited as those possible experiences that are actually occurring within some subset of space at some time relative to some coordinate system. And while these experiencings cannot be independent of the experiencing that they are, one can be independent of another, and it is possible to either know or not know whether there is some experiencing on the back side off the moon.
Given plausible hypotheses like “no zombies” and “no ghosts” operators could be introduced to physics that allowed a prediction based on processing the physical state vector that an arbitrary physical device had or does not have some consciousness of a particular kind defined phenomenally by the devices that have evolved to experience and their possibly engineered offspring.
Such a theory would be physical because it ingests the currently physical state vector and asserts that whether and what kind of consciousness occurs within some probability is dependent on that state vector only. Whether the experiencings themselves could be posited as influencing the standard model states (will) is a detail determinable in principle.
In fact experiments have already been done but are not widely reported. I know first hand that a physicist at Holy Croos college was trying to see if an act of will could change ... think it was a decay rate. He fully expected a null result because the material decaying was not in a brain but the principle remains.
So both will and all experiencing can be introduced into the physics as David Chalmers suggested.
That does not mean that you can reduce any experiencing to the current physics but it also does not mean that physicalism is wrong for the possibilities of experiencing form a set and posits can be adopted that specify as a function of the standard model state vector what experiencings are in fact occurring with some probability and which will occur.
What is to be decided is only whether something other than the current standard model will be necessar to be posited and whether the quantum state itself is affected by experiencing of the type that is willful action.
Note that this is now a scientific question and to say it has been answered is just not credible...show me a journal. The only thing we have are the neurology journals and their observations are not reducible to the predictions of current physics.
When they get farther advanced they will still not be able to reduce their explanations to the current theory but almost certainly will be able to replace it with a theory augmented by experiencing operators and states.
Physicalism as I have outlined it is not only not dead, it is the most likely candidate for the future of science.