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At Mind Matters News: A reader asks: Is it true that there is no self?

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Michael Egnor replies, “The assertion that self is an illusion is not even wrong — it’s self-refuting, like saying “I don’t exist” or “Misery is green”:

One can say such things poetically, but taken literally they make no sense. To say “My self is an illusion” isn’t to offer a proposition. The words are a sentence only in a grammatical sense. Intellectually, it’s just making a noise with your mouth and vocal cords.

That said, there is a sense in which “self” and “illusion” can rightly be juxtaposed. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951, pictured) is, in my view, the best modern philosopher of mind. His understanding of philosophy was profound. He pointed out that we must be very careful about our language when we contemplate and discuss these subtle topics.

He distinguishes knowledge from mental states.

Michael Egnor, “Is it true that there is no self?” at Mind Matters News

You may also enjoy: A reader asks: Does neuroscience disprove free will? Materialists sometimes misrepresent the evidence for free will, especially Benjamin Libet’s work.

and

How much of neuroscience is an unwitting hoax? Michael Egnor: Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein saw that much materialist neuroscience was neither true, nor false, just nonsense. Physicist Alan Sokal hoaxed postmodern journals (the famous Sokal hoax) but materialists like Francis Crick (1916–2004) seem to hoax themselves.+

3 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: A reader asks: Is it true that there is no self?

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    bornagain77 says:

    Eugene Wigner, (November 17, 1902 – January 1, 1995), who’s insights into quantum mechanics continue to drive breakthroughs in quantum mechanics,

    Eugene Wigner – A Gedanken Pioneer of the Second Quantum Revolution – Anton Zeilinger – Sept. 2014
    Conclusion
    It would be fascinating to know Eugene Wigner’s reaction to the fact that the gedanken experiments he discussed (in 1963 and 1970) have not only become reality, but building on his gedanken experiments, new ideas have developed which on the one hand probe the foundations of quantum mechanics even deeper, and which on the other hand also provide the foundations to the new field of quantum information technology. All these experiments pay homage to the great insight Wigner expressed in developing these gedanken experiments and in his analyses of the foundations of quantum mechanics,
    http://epjwoc.epj.org/articles....._01010.pdf

    Eugene Wigner, who’s insights into quantum mechanics continue to drive breakthroughs in quantum mechanics, succinctly captured the irresolvable dilemma for materialists in the following quote,

    “The principal argument against materialism is not that illustrated in the last two sections: that it is incompatible with quantum theory. The principal argument is that thought processes and consciousness are the primary concepts, that our knowledge of the external world is the content of our consciousness and that the consciousness, therefore, cannot be denied. On the contrary, logically, the external world could be denied—though it is not very practical to do so. In the words of Niels Bohr, “The word consciousness, applied to ourselves as well as to others, is indispensable when dealing with the human situation.” In view of all this, one may well wonder how materialism, the doctrine that “life could be explained by sophisticated combinations of physical and chemical laws,” could so long be accepted by the majority of scientists.”
    – Eugene Wigner, Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, pp 167-177.

    Eugene Wigner is not alone in his observation “that thought processes and consciousness are the primary concepts”. Max Planck and Erwin Schroedinger are both also on record as regarding consciousness to be fundamental to any definition of reality that we may put forth.

    “No, I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
    Max Planck (1858–1947), one of the primary founders of quantum theory, The Observer, London, January 25, 1931

    “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
    – Schroedinger, Erwin. 1984. “General Scientific and Popular Papers,” in Collected Papers, Vol. 4. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences. Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig/Wiesbaden. p. 334.?

    Although it is obvious that consciousness must be primary in any definition of reality that we put forth, Darwinian materialists deny the primacy of consciousness and postulate that matter and energy are the primary definition of reality and that consciousness is merely a emergent property, and/or a epiphenomena, of material reality.

    It is in fact this materialistic presupposition that repeatedly drives Atheistic Materialists into making the epistemologically self defeating, and absurd, claim that “self is an illusion produced by modules of brain.”

    And indeed, if you are going to be consistent in your Atheistic Materialism, then you are inevitably forced, by the logic of holding material reality to be the primary reality, into the self refuting position of holding that our sense of self, i.e. consciousness, must be an illusion that is generated by the material brain,

    The Brain: The Mystery of Consciousness – STEVEN PINKER – Monday, Jan. 29, 2007
    Part II THE ILLUSION OF CONTROL
    Another startling conclusion from the science of consciousness is that the intuitive feeling we have that there’s an executive “I” that sits in a control room of our brain, scanning the screens of the senses and pushing the buttons of the muscles, is an illusion.
    http://www.academia.edu/279485.....sciousness

    The Consciousness Deniers – Galen Strawson – March 13, 2018
    Excerpt: What is the silliest claim ever made? The competition is fierce, but I think the answer is easy. Some people have denied the existence of consciousness: conscious experience, the subjective character of experience, the “what-it-is-like” of experience.,,,
    Who are the Deniers?,,, Few have been fully explicit in their denial, but among those who have been, we find Brian Farrell, Paul Feyerabend, Richard Rorty, and the generally admirable Daniel Dennett.,,,
    http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2.....s-deniers/

    At the 23:33 minute mark of the following video, Richard Dawkins agrees with materialistic philosophers who say that:
    “consciousness is an illusion”
    A few minutes later Rowan Williams asks Dawkins ”If consciousness is an illusion…what isn’t?”.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWN4cfh1Fac&t=22m57s

    The claim that our sense of self, i.e. consciousness, is an illusion is blatantly “self”-refuting in the most fundamental way possible in that it denies the very existence of the ‘self’ who is making the “self”-refuting claim in the first place. 🙂

    As David Bentley Hart explained, “you cannot suffer the illusion that you are conscious because illusions are possible only for conscious minds. This is so incandescently obvious that it is almost embarrassing to have to state it.”

    The Illusionist – Daniel Dennett’s latest book marks five decades of majestic failure to explain consciousness. – 2017
    Excerpt: “Simply enough, you cannot suffer the illusion that you are conscious because illusions are possible only for conscious minds. This is so incandescently obvious that it is almost embarrassing to have to state it.”
    – David Bentley Hart
    https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-illusionist

    And although atheistic materialists like to repeatedly claim that they are being ‘scientific’ in their claim that material , not consciousness, must be primary in any definition of reality that we put forth, nothing could be further from the truth.

    As Eugene Wigner pointed out in the quote I cited, “materialism,,, is incompatible with quantum theory.”

    Although Eugene Wigner made that comment all the way back in 1961, the incompatibility of materialism with quantum theory has only gotten exponentially worse for materialists since 1961.

    The most clear example of the incompatibility of materialism with quantum theory is with the, fairly recent, violation of the Leggett’s Inequality which falsified ‘realism’. “Realism” is the belief that a material reality exists ‘out there somewhere’ independent of our conscious observation, and/or ‘measurement’, of it.

    As wikipedia puts it, “Leggett’s inequalities is considered to have falsified realism in quantum mechanics.”,,, “In quantum mechanics “realism” means “notion that physical systems possess complete sets of definite values for various parameters prior to, and independent of, measurement”.

    Leggett inequality
    Excerpt: The Leggett inequalities are violated by quantum mechanical theory. The results of experimental tests in 2007 and 2010 have shown agreement with quantum mechanics rather than the Leggett inequalities.[2][3] Given that experimental tests of Bell’s inequalities have ruled out local realism in quantum mechanics, the violation of Leggett’s inequalities is considered to have falsified realism in quantum mechanics.[4] In quantum mechanics “realism” means “notion that physical systems possess complete sets of definite values for various parameters prior to, and independent of, measurement”.[5]
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leggett_inequality

    And as the following article stated, “Leggett’s inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we’re not observing it.”

    Quantum physics says goodbye to reality – Apr 20, 2007
    Excerpt: Many realizations of the thought experiment have indeed verified the violation of Bell’s inequality. These have ruled out all hidden-variables theories based on joint assumptions of realism, meaning that reality exists when we are not observing it; and locality, meaning that separated events cannot influence one another instantaneously. But a violation of Bell’s inequality does not tell specifically which assumption – realism, locality or both – is discordant with quantum mechanics.
    Markus Aspelmeyer, Anton Zeilinger and colleagues from the University of Vienna, however, have now shown that realism is more of a problem than locality in the quantum world.
    They devised an experiment that violates a different inequality proposed by physicist Anthony Leggett in 2003 that relies only on realism, and relaxes the reliance on locality. To do this, rather than taking measurements along just one plane of polarization, the Austrian team took measurements in additional, perpendicular planes to check for elliptical polarization.
    They found that, just as in the realizations of Bell’s thought experiment, Leggett’s inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we’re not observing it. “Our study shows that ‘just’ giving up the concept of locality would not be enough to obtain a more complete description of quantum mechanics,” Aspelmeyer told Physics Web. “You would also have to give up certain intuitive features of realism.”
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/27640

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    bornagain77 says:

    And to further solidify the case that consciousness must be primary in any definition of reality that we put forth,, the violation of Leggett’s inequalities has been extended to an astonishing level of precision. This following experiment violated Leggett’s inequality to a stunning 120 standard deviations:

    Experimental non-classicality of an indivisible quantum system – Zeilinger 2011
    Excerpt: Page 491: “This represents a violation of (Leggett’s) inequality (3) by more than 120 standard deviations, demonstrating that no joint probability distribution is capable of describing our results.” The violation also excludes any non-contextual hidden-variable model. The result does, however, agree well with quantum mechanical predictions, as we will show now.,,,
    https://vcq.quantum.at/fileadmin/Publications/Experimental%20non-classicality%20of%20an%20indivisible.pdf

    In experimental science, confirming something to an astounding 120 standard deviations is to put the validity of the experimental results beyond all doubt.

    In fact, a standard deviation of just 5 is considered enough of a deviation to provide a “declaration of a discovery”

    Standard deviation
    Excerpt: In statistics, the standard deviation (SD) (represented by the Greek letter sigma,),,,
    Particle physics uses a standard of “5 sigma” for the declaration of a discovery.[3] At five-sigma there is only one chance in nearly two million that a random fluctuation would yield the result.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....le_physics

    SSDD: a 22 sigma event is consistent with the physics of fair coins – June 23, 2013
    Excerpt: So 500 coins heads is (500-250)/11 = 22 standard deviations (22 sigma) from expectation! These numbers are so extreme, it’s probably inappropriate to even use the normal distribution’s approximation of the binomial distribution, and hence “22 sigma” just becomes a figure of speech in this extreme case…
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....air-coins/

    ,,, So finding ‘realism’ to be falsified by 120 standard deviations with Leggett’s Inequality is something that you can bet your bottom dollar on.

    Thus you can rest assured, via our best science from quantum mechanics, that “reality does not exist when we’re not observing it”, and that, therefore, materialism must be false, and that Consciousness must indeed be primary in any definition of reality that we put forth. (Just as logic dictates that consciousness must be primary in any definition of reality that we put forth.)

    Moreover, this following confirmation of the ‘Wigner’s friend’ thought experiment has only driven this point further home. As the following article states, “this result implies that quantum theory should be interpreted in an observer-dependent way.”

    Experimental test of local observer-independence – 2019
    Excerpt: The scientific method relies on facts, established through repeated measurements and agreed upon universally, independently of who observed them. In quantum mechanics, the objectivity of observations is not so clear, most dramatically exposed in Eugene Wigner’s eponymous thought experiment where two observers can experience seemingly different realities. The question whether these realities can be reconciled in an observer-independent way has long remained inaccessible to empirical investigation, until recent no-go-theorems constructed an extended Wigner’s friend scenario with four observers that allows us to put it to the test. In a state-of-the-art 6-photon experiment, we realise this extended Wigner’s friend scenario, experimentally violating the associated Bell-type inequality by 5 standard deviations. If one holds fast to the assumptions of locality and free-choice, this result implies that quantum theory should be interpreted in an observer-dependent way.
    https://arxiv.org/pdf/1902.05080.pdf

    of note: also see the closing of the setting independence, and/or free will, loophole by Anton Zeilinger and company.

    Having quantum mechanics reveal that “quantum theory should be interpreted in an observer-dependent way” is simply completely antithetical to the materialism that undergirds Darwinian thought.

    As Steven Weinberg, who is an atheist himself, states in the following article, “In the instrumentalist approach (in quantum mechanics) humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level.,,, the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else.,,, In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure,,, Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,”

    The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics – Steven Weinberg – January 19, 2017
    Excerpt: The instrumentalist approach,, (the) wave function,, is merely an instrument that provides predictions of the probabilities of various outcomes when measurements are made.,,
    In the instrumentalist approach,,, humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level. According to Eugene Wigner, a pioneer of quantum mechanics, “it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”11
    Thus the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else. It is not that we object to thinking about humans. Rather, we want to understand the relation of humans to nature, not just assuming the character of this relation by incorporating it in what we suppose are nature’s fundamental laws, but rather by deduction from laws that make no explicit reference to humans. We may in the end have to give up this goal,,,
    Some physicists who adopt an instrumentalist approach argue that the probabilities we infer from the wave function are objective probabilities, independent of whether humans are making a measurement. I don’t find this tenable. In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure, such as the spin in one or another direction. Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,
    https://www.coursehero.com/file/78050243/The-Trouble-with-Quantum-Mechanics-by-Steven-Weinberg-The-New-York-Review-of-Bookspdf/

    In fact Weinberg, again an atheist, rejected the instrumentalist approach precisely because “humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level” and because it undermined the Darwinian worldview from within. Yet, regardless of how he and other atheists may prefer the world to behave, quantum mechanics itself could care less how atheistic materialists prefer the world to behave.

    Advances in quantum mechanics, regardless of how atheistic materialists feel about it, have now confirmed, in an over the top fashion, that humans are indeed brought in to the laws of physics at their most fundamental level and therefore undermine, as Weinberg himself honestly admitted, the Darwinian worldview from within.

    Moreover allowing free will and/or Agent causality into the laws of physics at their most fundamental level has some fairly profound implications for us personally.

    First and foremost, allowing the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics, as the Christian founders of modern science originally envisioned,,,, (Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, and Max Planck, to name a few of the Christian founders),,, and as quantum mechanics itself now empirically demands (with the closing of the free will loophole by Anton Zeilinger and company), rightly allowing the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics provides us with a very plausible resolution for the much sought after ‘theory of everything’ in that Christ’s resurrection from the dead provides an empirically backed reconciliation, via the Shroud of Turin, between quantum mechanics and general relativity into the much sought after ‘Theory of Everything”.

    Jesus Christ as the correct “Theory of Everything” – video
    https://youtu.be/Vpn2Vu8–eE

    Verse:

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

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