Re: Levels of explanation (was Re: Determinism)

Date: Mon Apr 23 2001 - 05:23:48 BST

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    Subject: Re: Levels of explanation (was Re: Determinism)
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    On 21 Apr 2001, at 10:07, Robin Faichney wrote:

    > On Thu, Apr 19, 2001 at 05:11:19PM -0500, wrote:
    > > On 19 Apr 2001, at 10:02, Robin Faichney wrote: > > > On Wed, Apr
    > 18, 2001 at 02:44:59PM -0500, wrote: > > > >
    > Translating between levels of explanation is much more difficult > >
    > that > observing causal efficacy between them. > > > > If you don't
    > translate the concepts, you can't be clear on which > > entities are
    > interacting. > > > Some complex concepts simply cannot be translated
    > into simpler > systems; if you think that they can, then supply me
    > with a > molecular conception of self-consciousness.
    > I already said that subjectivity is irreducible. Otherwise, all
    > higher level entities are groups of lower level ones, we use different
    > explanatory frameworks to deal with different levels, and we can
    > generally translate between different frameworks -- though we
    > obviously don't yet know everything.
    And never will; possible knowledge concerning any empirical object
    or entity in the world is phenomenologically endless and open-
    > > > > > But my concept of diagonal causation perfectly explains the
    > > > > > PET scan findings, with no need to charge recklessly across
    > > > > > all the lanes of the explanatory highway, as you do. "My
    > > > > > decision causes my neural activity, never mind exactly how,
    > > > > > I'll just insist it's top-down causation, and if you don't
    > > > > > accept that you're an irrational anti-scientist." Until you
    > > > > > examine and find good grounds to reject diagonal causation,
    > > > > > you *cannot* rationally claim that top-down causation is the
    > > > > > only possible explanation for the PET scan findings.
    > > > > >
    > > > > Actually, here you misrepresent your frankenstein reverse
    > > > > bastard creation ('diagonal' causation) which denies one of it's
    > > > > parents (vertical); it is not able to deal with the
    > > > > spatiotemporal succession of a cause already decided (and
    > > > > announced) before it is implemented and its effect manifested.
    > > >
    > > > Why not? (Actually, that's exactly what it was developed to do.)
    > > >
    > > What you do is to say that at the same time that neural pathways are
    > > being activated, that a person is choosing to engage in a particular
    > > cognitive task, and that there is neither temporality nor causality
    > > between them, as they are two explanatory levels of the same
    > > phenomenon; however, when the decision to engage in a particular
    > > cognitive task is made and announced prior to the beginning of the
    > > neural pattern activation (as happens when someone says that "in x
    > > minutes I will do Y"), so there is indeed spatiotemporal
    > > differentiation between them, your 'diagonal causation' is useless
    > > as an explanatory device.
    > YOU told me ME that diagonals have two components: vertical and
    > horizontal. I said yes, and the two components of diagonal causation
    > are conceptual framework translation (vertical) and ordinary causation
    > (horizontal). Diagonal causation is ordinary horizontal causation
    > with cause and effect viewed at different levels. Now, it seems,
    > you've forgotten all that. Could it be you don't want to understand
    > my view because you're scared it's right?
    The only ratinal rwason to view cause and effect at different levels
    is if they manifest at different levels from each other; in other
    words, if vertical causation is indeed occurring. This is EXACTLY
    what is happening when a future cause can be heard announced by
    a person and its subsequent effect can be viewed later as it
    happens on a PET-scan screen of that person's activated neural
    > > You are attempting to use "conceptual framework translation" as a
    > > substitute for causation, which you cannot do when a decision on an
    > > emergent level precedes neuronal activation on the level from which
    > > it emerges. In such a case, it cannot be claimed that there are
    > > simply two levels of explanation for a single event, as there are
    > > plural and distinguishable events.
    > Now it's obvious that's wrong, can you find any real flaw in diagonal
    > causation as the explanation of the PET scan studies?
    But there ARE two distinguishable events; the verbal
    announcement (on the intersubjective level) and the
    spatiotemporally separated PET-scan record (on the
    neurophysiological level). The flaw in so-called 'diagonal causation'
    was enumerated in my explication preceding your 'it's obvious
    that's wrong' with no support for such an assertion; I think that
    you're afreraid to be wrong about this, as you have much emotional
    investment in it being, or at least being considered here, to be
    > > > Explanations of causation and of emergence are very different
    > > > things. That you should confuse them, however, is perfectly
    > > > consistent with your general confusion in this whole area.
    > > >
    > > No, the material substrate, in interrelation with its environment,
    > > does indeed incubate the emergent self, which then may modify its
    > > ground, both short-term (as seen in PET-Scans) and long-term (as
    > > happens with extended learning). They, to a degree, cause each
    > > other; there is BOTH top-down and bottom-up causation going on
    > > within the substrate + emergence system.
    > Every time I've asked you to explain in detail exactly how top-down
    > causation works, you've fallen back into talking about emergence, or
    > insisting that it MUST work, or accusing me of reductionism. Can you
    > do any better this time?
    Emergence is, on the case of human consciousness, a function of
    the recursion which becomes possible when the
    quantity/complexity quotuent of the neurons and synapses in a
    brain surpasses the Godelian threshhold. In other words, infants
    are little machines preprogrammed to surpass their instinctual
    programming to a significant degree by means of reflection.
    Through interaction with the environment (both physical and social),
    pattern configurations (memories, and the knowledge abstracted
    from them) are internalized which may be selectively and
    voluntarily accessed in response to a perception by one who has
    achieved conscious self-awareness, and this information is
    compared/contrasted with the perception, along with one's
    experiences regarding past responses to perceptions more or less
    like the present one, with the differences and the similarities given
    weight during their consideration. A course of action is freely
    chosen which is informed by, but not dictated by, these previous
    considerations, since every new perception is as unique as every
    receiver is different from the person who received the perception
    before; this decision is volitionally willed into effortful action, which
    itself will change one's perceptual array in what one hopes and
    calculates are the desired directions; desire being based upon
    what one liked and disliked about previous experiences.
    > > > > > > You are
    > > > > > > welcome to try to understand the forest by deconstructing a
    > > > > > > cell in a leaf if that's what you wanna do, but I doubt if
    > > > > > > you'll find out much about its ecosystem that way.
    > > > > >
    > > > > > Can you quote one sentence of mine that would lead any
    > > > > > reasonable person to think I have such a reductionist agenda?
    > > > > >
    > > > > physics, > > chemistry and biology deal with successively higher
    > > > > > levels (actually, > > sets of levels) of explanation. If
    > > > > > biological phenomena are analysed > > in sufficient detail --
    > > > > > which is not
    > > > > always
    > > > > > desirable because it means > > losing sight of the bigger
    > > > > > picture -
    > > >
    > > > I think you need to work on your cut'n'paste skills, Joe! :-)
    > > >
    > > > But what matters is that you missed "which is not always desirable
    > > > because it means losing sight of the bigger picture". Maybe if
    > > > you'd spent 20 seconds making that quote easier to read, you'd
    > > > have actually read it yourself instead of just glancing at it.
    > > >
    > > In the case of the dynamically recursive pattern configuration of
    > > the emergent self as it relates to its material substrate brain,
    > > such a reduction is not only not desireable; it is not possible.
    > As I said, subjectivity is irreducible. But the point here was that
    > you accused me of reductionism, and I refuted that accusation (again).
    > The fact that, as I said, we lose something by going to lower levels,
    > is all that's required to defeat reductionism, because according to it
    > the whole truth is "down there".
    That's why you cannot appeal to the neurophysiological level to
    completely inform you of personal intention and decision, much
    less equate them and claim that the difference is in the view, not in
    what is being viewed. The neurons and synapses of the material
    substrate brain ARE NOT the dynamically recursive pattern
    configurations, but the possible pathways open to them.
    > > > > And does this reductionistic agenda work with atoms and
    > > > > thoughts?
    > > >
    > > > How often do I need to say it before it will penetrate your skull?
    > > >
    > > Telling a falsehood, even if you personally believe in it, a
    > > thousand times will not render it true. You extoll the supposed
    > > virtues of attempting to explain complex emergent phenomena by means
    > > of an inventory of their disconnected constituents. Reduction is
    > > reduction. Motor oil is motor oil.
    > I have a real problem here, Joe. How do we distinguish between
    > genuine confusion and intellectual dishonesty? Do you really believe
    > that what I've repeated so often, to try to get through your skull, is
    > that the reductionist agenda works with atoms and thoughts? I find it
    > really, really difficult to believe you believe that, given what I've
    > actually said, and how often I've said it. What I was referring to
    > there, what I've said so often I'm getting sick of saying it, is that
    > the reductionist agenda does NOT work with atoms and thoughts!
    You seem to believe that it works for neurons/synapses and human
    consciousness; atoms and thoughts are a difference of degree, not
    of kind, from such an assertion.
    > The reason thoughts cannot be reduced to atoms (or what I consider to
    > be the main one, anyway) is that subjectivity is irreducible. But
    > that's not the only reason I'm not a reductionist. I consider
    > emergent patterns to be as real as the lower level phenomena out of
    > which they emerge. But putting aside subjectivity and ontology, to
    > insist that there is something specially mysterious whereby complex
    > systems in general cannot be explained in terms of lower levels is
    > exactly what some people would call mysticism (though I personally
    > have better uses for that word). You're a mystic with regard to
    > complex systems, Joe, and there is absolutely no need stick your head
    > in the sand that way, because to view subjectivity as irreducible is
    > to perfectly preserve all that essential mind stuff, with no need for
    > any confusion whatsoever.
    But if human subjectivity is irreduceble, and you just asserted that
    you believe that it is, then OF COURSE it is not explainable by
    means of the material substrate from which it emerges, nor by
    appeal to neurophysiological categories. It would seem that, since
    you affirm and deny the selfsame assertion in a single paragraph,
    that the confusion here is not mine.
    > --
    > Robin Faichney
    > Get your Meta-Information from
    > (CAUTION: contains philosophy, may cause heads to spin)
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