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Eric Holloway: No materialist theory of consciousness is plausible

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He says all such theories either deny the very thing they are trying to explain, result in absurd scenarios, or end up requiring an immaterial intervention:

This brings us at last to a currently popular approach to consciousness: emergence. Some say consciousness is an emergent property of a complex structure of matter. This solution is a bit more plausible because it can at least account for the seeming correlation we see between complex organic beings and consciousness.

However, beyond that, problems develop. At what point is a structure complex enough to become conscious? If we take away one particle from that structure then it must cease to be conscious. Likewise, there must be unconscious structures where the addition of a single particle causes them to suddenly become conscious. This also seems weird. But if we say there is no such “one particle” transition point, then no matter how many particles we remove from the structure, it must remain conscious—even to the point where there is only a single particle left. At which point, we are back to a conscious particle model, where at least some particles must be inherently conscious. And these particles must be fundamental, they cannot be built from other material objects otherwise we are back at the emergent consciousness model.

Eric Holloway, “No Materialist Theory of Consciousness Is Plausible” at Mind Matters News

See also: Eric Holloway: ID As A Bridge Between Francis Bacon And Thomas Aquinas

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27 Replies to “Eric Holloway: No materialist theory of consciousness is plausible

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    News, actually, the idea of a conscious 5th dimensional “particle” that intersects with certain bodies in our 4-d spacetime world via quantum influences and acts as supervisory oracle in a cybernetic loop is worth discussion. Leibniz and his view on the monad might be a place to begin, put alongside the Smith 2-tier controller cybernetic loop model. KF

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Monadology, 1 – 6:

    1. The monad, of which we will speak here, is nothing else than a simple substance, which goes to make up compounds; by simple, we mean without parts.

    2. There must be simple substances because there are compound substances; for the compound is nothing else than a collection or aggregatum of simple substances.

    3. Now, where there are no constituent parts there is possible neither extension, nor form, nor divisibility. These monads are the true atoms of nature, and, in a word, the elements of things.

    4. Their dissolution, therefore, is not to be feared and there is no way conceivable by which a simple substance can perish through natural means.

    5. For the same reason there is no way conceivable by which a simple substance might, through natural means, come into existence, since it can not be formed by composition.

    6. We may say then, that the existence of monads can begin or end only all at once, that is to say, the monad can begin only through creation and end only through annihilation. Compounds, however, begin or end by parts.

    Now, where could we take it from there: ________ ???

  3. 3
    Brother Brian says:

    However, beyond that, problems develop. At what point is a structure complex enough to become conscious? If we take away one particle from that structure then it must cease to be conscious. Likewise, there must be unconscious structures where the addition of a single particle causes them to suddenly become conscious.

    This doesn’t make any sense. We know that there are different levels of consciousness. In a materialist, emergence explanation we would expect the level of consciousness to increase or decrease with an increase or decrease in specific types of brain cells. And, this is exactly what we see in alzheimer progression and in infant development.

  4. 4
    ET says:

    Brother Brian:

    In a materialist, emergence explanation we would expect the level of consciousness to increase or decrease with an increase or decrease in specific types of brain cells.

    There isn’t any materialist, emergence explanation for any living organism, let alone one with a brain.

  5. 5
    EricMH says:

    @BB
    > In a materialist, emergence explanation we would expect the level of consciousness to increase or decrease with an increase or decrease in specific types of brain cells.

    Not talking about degree but existence. Emergence implies there is a particle’s difference between existence and non existence of consciousness.

  6. 6
    Brother Brian says:

    EricMH

    Not talking about degree but existence. Emergence implies there is a particle’s difference between existence and non existence of consciousness.

    Why? When you put a bunch of H2O molecules together, is there a point where the addition of one molecule makes it wet? Emergence isn’t an all or nothing thing.

  7. 7
    AaronS1978 says:

    I don’t know, the feeling of wet actually could be something that’s entirely perceived only by us, it’s not technically wet. So I don’t think that is emergent but subjective to us, now if you want to talk about emergent properties, H2O is a great molecule to use as an example because of the combination of two hydrogens and an oxygen take on many different properties that weren’t inherent in the other molecules

    But when it comes to the mystery of consciousness it’s hard to tell if it is an emergent property then there should be other things that show very similar properties to it as well but it seems to be oddly specific to a brain and not to the neurons anywhere else in your body

    Which at the same time the principle of emergence being true does not necessarily explain consciousness

    It’s specificness is both a boon to Materialistic arguments and at the exact same time since it doesn’t seem to be capable of being re-created it is also a deficit

    I think the receiver theory, that the brain is a receiver of the consciousness fits a little bit better to what we see but I also know a lot of people don’t agree with it oh well there’s a lot of different theories out there
    It also fits nicely with quantum theory’s of the mind

  8. 8
    Brother Brian says:

    Aaron1978

    H2O is a great molecule to use as an example because of the combination of two hydrogens and an oxygen take on many different properties that weren’t inherent in the other molecules.

    If you want to use that as an example of “emergent” properties, I can live with that. As a chemist, I can tell you that when you add anything to a molecule, it takes on different properties.

    But I am willing to stick with the “wet” property. How many molecules of H2O are required to form what we would refer to as water? Surely one molecule isn’t enough. Ten? 1000? 100000? I have no idea what the number would be, but at some point it would pool into what we would call water. But I doubt that this distinction is due to a single molecule, one way or the other.

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    BB, as a physicist, wetting is a property of adhesion vs cohesion so is not strictly a property of numbers of molecules. Yes, as we pile up molecules under certain structures we see spreading out as a film vs beading or forming a meniscus with upward slope or climbing up be capillary action etc. Contact angle actually operationally defines “wetting.” {I like this too.] The detergent action of soaps SLS etc is related, based on ionic heads and organic tails of molecules. The underlying physics is intermolecular forces. Coming back to the focal point, interactions and structures of particles can explain a computational, GIGO-limited substrate and would extend to a cybernetic loop. It does not explain rational insight, inference, intuition etc, indeed it simply cannot. KF

    PS: Reppert on some of that cannot, as a reminder:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A [–> notice, state of a wetware, electrochemically operated computational substrate], which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief [–> concious, perceptual state or disposition] that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

  10. 10
    doubter says:

    The basic underlying reason why “No Materialist Theory of Consciousness Is Plausible” is because mind cannot really be understood by any “scientific” methods, or for that matter by any methods requiring observation and experiment. A quote from Nobel laureate biologist George Wald’s last lecture puts this more eloquently than I could (at https://www.elijahwald.com/lifeandmind.html ):

    Consciousness is not part of that universe of space and time, of observable and measurable quantities, that is amenable to scientific investigation. For a scientist, it would be a relief to dismiss it as unreal or irrelevant. I have heard distinguished scientists do both. In a discussion with the physicist P. W. Bridgman some years ago, he spoke of consciousness as “just a way of talking.” His thesis was that only terms that can be defined operationally have meaning; and there are no operations that define consciousness. In the same discussion, the psychologist B. F. Skinner dismissed consciousness as irrelevant to science, since confined to a private world, not accessible to others.

    Unfortunately for such attitudes, consciousness is not just an epiphenomenon, a strange concomitant of our neural activity that we project onto physical reality. On the contrary, all that we know, including all our science, is in our consciousness. It is part, not of the superstructure, but of the foundations. No consciousness, no science. Perhaps, indeed, no consciousness, no reality — of which more later….

    Wald was evidently an adherent of panpsychism, which does have some problems as pointed out by Holloway. Unfortunately Holloway implicitly dismisses the alternative of interactive dualism, which is the position that mind and body are in some very substantial ways separate from each other yet still at the same time are able to interact with each other. The usual rough analogies are the filter and receiver/transmitter theories of the brain/consciousness interface. In other words mental phenomena are, in some respects, non-physical in nature, but mind manifests in the physical world through the specialized physical neurological structures of the brain. There is a large body of empirical evidence (of course denied by materialists) for this theory of mind.

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    Aaron, I certainly don’t think that water (H20) is a ‘great molecule to use as an example’ for the materialistic belief that mind can possibly be ’emergent’ from a material basis for the simple fact that water (H20) itself gives every indication of being a product of the Mind of God. Simply put, water itself gives very strong evidence of being the product of an immaterial Mind and mind therefore, since it necessarily precedes material reality, cannot possibly be an ’emergent’ property of material reality.

    When we look at water, the most common substance on earth (covering 71% of the surface) and in our bodies, (averaging around 57-60% for adults), we find many odd characteristics which clearly appear to be designed. These oddities are absolutely essential for life on earth. Some simple life can exist without the direct energy of sunlight, some simple life can exist without oxygen; but no life can exist without water. Water is called a universal solvent because it has the unique ability to dissolve a far wider range of substances than any other solvent. This ‘universal solvent’ ability of water is essential to dissolve minerals and nutrients in the first place and also for the cells of living organisms to process the wide range of substances necessary for life. Another oddity is water expands as it becomes ice, by an increase of about 9% in volume. Thus, water floats when it becomes a solid instead of sinking. This is an exceedingly rare ability. Water is the only non-metallic substance on Earth with this property. Yet if it were not for this fact, lakes and oceans would freeze from the bottom up. The earth would be a frozen wasteland, and human life would not be possible. Water also has the unusual ability to pull itself into very fine tubes and small spaces, defying gravity. This is called capillary action. This action is essential for the breakup of mineral bearing rocks into soil. Water pulls itself into tiny spaces on the surface of a rock and freezes; it expands and breaks the rock into tinier pieces, thus producing soil. Capillary action is also essential for the movement of water through soil to the roots of plants. It is also essential for the movement of water from the roots to the tops of the plants, even to the tops of the mighty redwood trees. Capillary action is also essential for the circulation of the blood in our very own capillary blood vessels. Water’s melting and boiling point are not where common sense would indicate they should be when we look at its molecular weight. The three sister compounds of water all behave as would be predicted by their molecular weight. Oddly, water just happens to have melting and boiling points that are of optimal biological utility. The other properties of water we measure, like its specific slipperiness (viscosity) and its ability to absorb and release more heat than any other natural substance, have to be as they are in order for life to be possible on earth. Even the oceans have to be the size they are in order to stabilize the temperature of the earth so human life may be possible.

    Water, Ultimate Giver of Life, Points to Intelligent Design – (Michael Denton 2017) video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2i0g1sL-X4

    Pro-Intelligent Design Peer Reviewed Scientific Paper Argues for an “Engineered World”
    Casey Luskin – December 26, 2010
    Excerpt: Another aspect of the universe they claim shows evidence of engineering is its “biofriendliness.” They focus on the life-sustaining properties of water:
    “The remarkable properties of water are numerous. Its very high specific heat maintains relatively stable temperatures both in oceans and organisms. As a liquid, its thermal conductivity is four times any other common liquid, which makes it possible for cells to efficiently distribute heat. On the other hand, ice has a low thermal conductivity, making it a good thermal shield in high latitudes. A latent heat of fusion only surpassed by that of ammonia tends to keep water in liquid form and creates a natural thermostat at 0°C. Likewise, the highest latent heat of vaporization of any substance – more than five times the energy required to heat the same amount of water from 0°C-100°C – allows water vapor to store large amounts of heat in the atmosphere. This very high latent heat of vaporization is also vital biologically because at body temperature or above, the only way for a person to dissipate heat is to sweat it off.
    Water’s remarkable capabilities are definitely not only thermal. A high vapor tension allows air to hold more moisture, which enables precipitation. Water’s great surface tension is necessary for good capillary effect for tall plants, and it allows soil to hold more water. Water’s low viscosity makes it possible for blood to flow through small capillaries. A very well documented anomaly is that water expands into the solid state, which keeps ice on the surface of the oceans instead of accumulating on the ocean floor. Possibly the most important trait of water is its unrivaled solvency abilities, which allow it to transport great amounts of minerals to immobile organisms and also hold all of the contents of blood. It is also only mildly reactive, which keeps it from harmfully reacting as it dissolves substances. Recent research has revealed how water acts as an efficient lubricator in many biological systems from snails to human digestion. By itself, water is not very effective in this role, but it works well with certain additives, such as some glycoproteins. The sum of these traits makes water an ideal medium for life. Literally, every property of water is suited for supporting life. It is no wonder why liquid water is the first requirement in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
    All these traits are contained in a simple molecule of only three atoms. One of the most difficult tasks for an engineer is to design for multiple criteria at once. … Satisfying all these criteria in one simple design is an engineering marvel. Also, the design process goes very deep since many characteristics would necessarily be changed if one were to alter fundamental physical properties such as the strong nuclear force or the size of the electron.”
    They then explore why the very elements that are most common in life — hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen — are so prevalent in the universe:
    “Hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon rank one, three, and four, respectively, in prevalence in the universe (helium is the other). The explanation has to do with fusion within stars. Early reactions start with hydrogen atoms and then produce deuterium (mass 2), tritium (mass 3), and alpha particles (mass 4), but no stable mass 5 exists. This limits the creation of heavy elements and was considered one of “God’s mistakes” until further investigation. In actuality, the lack of a stable mass 5 necessitates bigger jumps of four which lead to carbon (mass 12) and oxygen (mass 16). Otherwise, the reactions would have climbed right up the periodic table in mass steps of one (until iron, which is the cutoff above which fusion requires energy rather than creating it). The process would have left oxygen and carbon no more abundant than any other element.”
    The authors then quote Fred Hoyle on the subject, who stated, “I do not believe that any scientist who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside the stars.”
    https://evolutionnews.org/2010/12/pro-intelligent_design_peer_re/

    Multiple ‘anomalous’ life enabling properties of water
    Excerpt: liquid water is so common-place in our everyday lives, it is often regarded as a ‘typical’ liquid. In reality, water is most atypical as a liquid, behaving as a quite different material at low temperatures to that when it is hot, with a division temperature of about 50 °C. It has often been stated (for example, [127]) that life depends on these anomalous properties of water. The anomalous macroscopic properties of water are derived from its microscopic structuring.
    http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/anmlies.html

    Water’s quantum weirdness makes life possible – October 2011
    Excerpt: WATER’S life-giving properties exist on a knife-edge. It turns out that life as we know it relies on a fortuitous, but incredibly delicate, balance of quantum forces.,,, They found that the hydrogen-oxygen bonds were slightly longer than the deuterium-oxygen ones, which is what you would expect if quantum uncertainty was affecting water’s structure. “No one has ever really measured that before,” says Benmore.
    We are used to the idea that the cosmos’s physical constants are fine-tuned for life. Now it seems water’s quantum forces can be added to this “just right” list.
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....sible.html

    Water Is ‘Designer Fluid’ That Helps Proteins Change Shape – 2008
    Excerpt: “When bound to proteins, water molecules participate in a carefully choreographed ballet that permits the proteins to fold into their functional, native states. This delicate dance is essential to life.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....113314.htm

    Scientists glimpse why life can’t happen without water – June 20, 2016
    Water molecules control protein motion, study finds
    Excerpt: Water molecules typically flow around each other at picosecond speeds, while proteins fold at nanosecond speeds–1,000 times slower. Previously, Zhong’s group demonstrated that water molecules slow down when they encounter a protein. Water molecules are still moving 100 times faster than a protein when they connect with it, however.
    In the new study, the researchers were able to determine that the water molecules directly touched the protein’s “side chains,” the portions of the protein molecule that bind and unbind with each other to enable folding and function. The researchers were also able to note the timing of movement in the molecules.
    Computer simulations at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) helped the researchers visualize what was going on: where the water moved a certain way, the protein folded nanoseconds later, as if the water molecules were nudging the protein into shape.
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160620160214.htm

    The Cold Trap: How It Works – Michael Denton – May 10, 2014
    Excerpt: As water vapor ascends in the atmosphere, it cools and condenses out, forming clouds and rain and snow and falling back to the Earth. This process becomes very intense at the so-called tropopause (17-10 km above sea level) where air temperatures reach -80°C and all remaining water in the atmosphere is frozen out. The air in the layer of the atmosphere above the troposphere in the stratosphere (extending up to 50 km above mean sea level) is absolutely dry, containing oxygen, nitrogen, some CO and the other atmospheric gases, but virtually no H2O molecules.,,,
    ,,,above 80-100 km, atoms and molecules are subject to intense ionizing radiation. If water ascended to this level it would be photo-dissociated into hydrogen and oxygen and, the hydrogen being very light, lost into space. Over a relatively short geological period all the water and oceans would be evaporated and the world uninhabitable.,,,
    Oxygen, having a boiling point of -183°C, has no such problems ascending through the tropopause cold trap into the stratosphere. As it does, it becomes subject to more and more intense ionizing radiation. However this leads,, to the formation of ozone (O3). This forms a protective layer in the atmosphere above the tropopause, perfectly placed just above the cold trap and preventing any ionizing radiation in the far UV region from reaching the H2O molecules at the tropopause and in the troposphere below.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....85441.html

    In summation, if any molecule should be considered miraculous, water is certainly that molecule. So again, I certainly don’t think that water (H20) is a ‘great molecule to use as an example’ for the materialistic belief that mind can possibly be ’emergent’ from a material basis for the simple fact that water (H20) itself gives every indication of being a product of the Mind of God. Simply put, water itself gives very strong evidence of being the product of an immaterial Mind and mind therefore, since it necessarily precedes material reality, cannot possibly be an ’emergent’ property of material reality.

    John 4:13-15
    …Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I will not get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

  12. 12
    ET says:

    bornagain77- Aaron was just using H2O as an example of emergent properties. NaCl also fits that bill. Aaron was saying that- those emergent properties- are not enough to explain consciousness from a materialistic scenario.

  13. 13
    john_a_designer says:

    The basic reason that no “No Materialist Theory of Consciousness is Plausible,” is that materialism as a world view is not plausible.

    Let’s begin with a proposition that is self-evidently true.

    If the universe is all that exists there is no ultimate purpose and meaning to human existence.

    However, while that premise is self-evidently true it doesn’t logically follow that the universe is all that exists.

    Let’s plug it into a simple argument.

    Premise #1: If the universe is all that exists there is no ultimate purpose and meaning to human existence.

    Premise #2: The universe is all that exists.

    Conclusion: There is no ultimate purpose and meaning to human existence.

    However, there are at least a couple of other implications that we can derive from this argument.

    First, there is no way to prove that Premise #2, “The universe is all that exists,” is true. It’s possibly true, the same way that the claim that “pink unicorns exists” could be true but it’s not self-evidently true. So those who claim that it is true have the burden of proof to prove it’s true. In other words, it cannot be claimed as some kind of “default position.”

    Second, if there is no way to prove Premise #2 then the materialist has no basis for knowledge or Truth. The materialist is left with only his opinions and beliefs. This leaves him with an untenable and self-refuting truth claim that “there is no Truth.” That’s self-refuting because it is claiming to know truth about something that it claims cannot be known.

    Furthermore, it doesn’t explain why humans appear to be hardwired to seek higher purpose and meaning that goes beyond the immediate survival needs of an accidently evolved species of hunter-gatherer apes. There is no explanation (other than empty hand waving) for why this should be true from a purely naturalistic evolutionary perspective.

    What implications does this have for consciousness? It implies that the materialist starting point that matter and energy is all that exists is unwarranted. An open-minded person would at least consider other possibilities. It’s obvious that most of our regular interlocutors are not open minded. If they were they would not be dogmatically locked into atheistic materialism.

    If our atheistic materialistic interlocutors have an argument they need to either state their “self-evidently true” premises (if they have any) or refute ours. Mindless pretension and posturing are not arguments. They are a big waste of time.

  14. 14
    EricMH says:

    > Why? When you put a bunch of H2O molecules together, is there a point where the addition of one molecule makes it wet? Emergence isn’t an all or nothing thing.
    @BB it’s a reductio ad absurdum argument.
    Let’s grant your premise, that there is no point where the addition of a single molecule makes a collection conscious.
    This also means there is no point where the removal of a single molecule makes a collection unconscious.
    So, we continue removing molecules one by one until we have a single molecule left.
    Based on your premise, this single molecule must still be conscious.
    Furthermore, whichever order we remove molecules in, we will always be left with a single conscious molecule.
    Hence, all molecules in a conscious collection are themselves conscious.

  15. 15
    ET says:

    Let’s grant your premise, that there is no point where the addition of a single molecule makes a collection conscious.

    Switch out “molecule” for “neuron” and you will be getting to the root of the emergence of consciousness. In other words “they” think that there was a point in which x neurons (in configuration Y) produced consciousness. And as x grew and Y changed, so did the level of consciousness.

  16. 16
    EricMH says:

    > Switch out “molecule” for “neuron” and you will be getting to the root of the emergence of consciousness. In other words “they” think that there was a point in which x neurons (in configuration Y) produced consciousness. And as x grew and Y changed, so did the level of consciousness.

    @ET then the same argument shows every individual neuron is conscious.

    Along with every molecule the neuron is made of, along with every atom, along with every electron, positron, muon, etc. If there is no discrete on/off particle point for consciousness, then we essentially end up with panpsychism.

  17. 17
    ET says:

    EricMH:

    @ET then the same argument shows every individual neuron is conscious.

    Can you explain why that is, please? To me that is like saying every snowflake is a snowman and we know that isn’t so.

  18. 18
    hnorman42 says:

    Regarding water and it’s emergent properties, I recall a conversation that bears on this.

    I was in high school and asked a teacher why water is a liquid (I should have said at room temperature) while it’s components are gases. She said it was because a compound can have different properties from the elements that make it up.

    Many years later I read some of the threads at this site and realized that she hadn’t answered my question. She had only restated it.

    Interestingly, my question does have a legitimate nswer and it can be classified as an emergent explanation. It has something to do with the fact that it has parts that adhere to each other more tightly when combined than they do alone. This is a legitimate explanation because it explains HOW the combined substance obtains its additional properties rather than just asserting that it does.

    Consciousness is a different story.

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks, as a reminder, Leibniz in Monadology:

    It must be confessed, however, that perception, and that which depends upon it, are inexplicable by mechanical causes, that is to say, by figures and motions. Supposing that there were a machine whose structure produced thought, sensation, and perception, we could conceive of it as increased in size with the same proportions until one was able to enter into its interior, as he would into a mill. Now, on going into it he would find only pieces working upon one another, but never would he find anything to explain perception [i.e. abstract conception]. It is accordingly in the simple substance [–> the inherently unified monad], and not in the compound [–> composite made up from independently existing parts] nor in a machine [–> composite entity with function based on mechanical and/or stochastic interactions not insight, understanding, conceptualising, inferring based on meaning etc] that the perception is to be sought .

    In this context it is in fact arguable that intelligence can in principle attach to a single cell or neuron or molecule by way of quantum influence interface. A computational substrate is constitutive of a GIGO-limited physical operator that transforms input signals into outputs, but that is categorically distinct from what rational, freely insightful intelligence does. I again remind, from Reppert:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A [–> notice, state of a wetware, electrochemically operated computational substrate], which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief [–> concious, perceptual state or disposition] that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    KF

    PS: On H2O note 9 above in reply to BB’s comments: https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/eric-holloway-no-materialist-theory-of-consciousness-is-plausible/#comment-681692

  20. 20
    EricMH says:

    @Doubter
    > Unfortunately Holloway implicitly dismisses the alternative of interactive dualism, which is the position that mind and body are in some very substantial ways separate from each other yet still at the same time are able to interact with each other.

    I do not dismiss the dualist position. I am only showing that if one is committed to a materialistic explanation of consciousness, they must accept a non-materialistic cause.

  21. 21
    EricMH says:

    @ET
    > Can you explain why that is, please? To me that is like saying every snowflake is a snowman and we know that isn’t so.

    For example, let’s take a computer churning away at some computation. This argument implies there is a transition point where removing a single atom from the computer passes a threshold where it is no longer computing. While we are removing atoms the computational process is constantly degrading, but it is still occurring. Then there is a sudden point where all computation completely ceases.

    If we deny this transition point for consciousness, then that means we can constantly remove whatever the smallest component of matter is (I’ll just call it a minimal particle) and never reach a point where consciousness completely ceases, until we are left with a single minimal particle. This particle must still be conscious, and additionally we can remove particles in any order and still get the same result, which implies that all minimal particles are conscious.

  22. 22
    ET says:

    EricMH:

    For example, let’s take a computer churning away at some computation. This argument implies there is a transition point where removing a single atom from the computer passes a threshold where it is no longer computing.

    Or removing a single step from the program. The argument is that at a certain point with the program it will afford the computation you are seeking. And at some other point it will not.

    This is akin to irreducible complexity. At a certain point removing components will make the structure fail and it will no longer be IC.

    So perhaps one neuron doesn’t afford consciousness but it does offer a response to external stimuli. But then more neurons somehow evolve and when, say, 100 are grouped just right, badda-bing-> consciousness starts to arise/ emerge.

    I am NOT arguing for such a scenario. I am just saying what “they” say about emergence and consciousness.

    I agree with you.

  23. 23
    ET says:

    brother brian:

    How many molecules of H2O are required to form what we would refer to as water? Surely one molecule isn’t enough.

    There are plenty of evos over on AtBC that disagree with you. They think one water molecule is enough to be water cuz “water” is in its name.

  24. 24
    EricMH says:

    @ET you write,
    > So perhaps one neuron doesn’t afford consciousness but it does offer a response to external stimuli.

    I see what you are saying. You mean consciousness is not really a thing in itself, but a composite. In that case, I would say we are talking about different things.

  25. 25
    ET says:

    Hi EricMH- Even with emergence consciousness is a thing in itself. It just emerged as opposed to being something that was planned. And it didn’t emerge until the right circumstances were present.

    It’s like watching Bob Ross paint. When he is finished there is a lovely painted scene. But along the way it isn’t.

  26. 26
    EricMH says:

    @ET, you say:
    > Even with emergence consciousness is a thing in itself. It just emerged as opposed to being something that was planned. And it didn’t emerge until the right circumstances were present.

    It seems you agree with the single particle removal argument, then? I’m not quite clear what the flaw in the argument is that you are pointing out.

    If consciousness is a single thing, then it either exists or doesn’t exist. And if single particles are not conscious, and a collection of particles is conscious, then there must be a discrete transition point where a single particle moves the collection from ‘not conscious’ to ‘conscious’.

    Actually, the above point applies if ‘consciousness’ is the name for a composite. Some composites are ‘conscious’ and others are not, so there is still a discrete transition point. It is a logical impossibility for it to be otherwise.

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    ET says:

    EricMH:

    If consciousness is a single thing, then it either exists or doesn’t exist.

    Exactly. With emergence it doesn’t exist right up until it does thanks to some just-so configuration of neurons that nature happened upon. I was just trying to explain emergence with respect to consciousness.

    But my argument pertains to neurons and not particles. But it is the same concept. We are in total agreement.

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