Consciousness and moral status

This talk by David Chalmers on the relationship between consciousness and moral status is pretty interesting. You don’t have to watch the video to follow this post, but it’s in response to arguments he makes in the talk.

The video is 75 minutes but the talk only lasts about 50 minutes with a Q&A afterward.

Philosophy Day 2020: David Chalmers

Chalmers discusses two views. The first says that anything with phenomenal consciousness should have a moral status, that is, be something whose welfare we should be morally concerned about. The second says that only sentient systems, those capable of feeling affects: pain, pleasure, happiness, sorrow, hunger, or suffering of some kind, should have moral status. He argues for the first view and opposes the second one.

Right off the bat this raises the question of what we mean by “phenomenal consciousness”. Chalmers falls back on the old standby, that’s it’s like something to be that system. Unfortunately, the phrase “like something” is really just a synonym for “phenomenal consciousness.” Using it doesn’t provide any insight into what we’re actually talking about.

After a discussion about philosophical zombies and their lack of moral status (if you buy p-zombies as a concept), Chalmers discusses philosophical Vulcans. P-Vulcans are like the Star Trek variety except more severe. In Star Trek, Vulcans have a culture where they have iron control of their emotions. But a p-Vulcan simply has no emotions, or affects of any kind. Chalmers argues that p-Vulcans should have moral status.

But what does it mean to say that something is conscious without affect consciousness, that is, without sentience? Such a system would have awareness of its environment, its body, and maybe even be able to introspect. It would have somatosensory feelings, but not emotional ones. In other words, in the parlance often used to describe the hard problem of consciousness, it wouldn’t feel like anything to be that system.

Chalmers contends that such a system could still have motivations, just not affective ones. Affects are normally thought of as having two or three dimensions: valence, arousal, and motivational intensity. (Valence refers to seeing something as good or bad, arousal to how jacked up the system is: heart rate, breathing, muscle tension, etc, and motivational intensity to how strongly the system is inclined to respond in a certain way.) Chalmers seems to be saying we can have just the motivation without the other aspects. That may be plausible.

But if we remove affects from the mix, then what we have left would be sensory awareness and reasoning. The question then becomes, what separates such a system from something like a self driving car, a Mars rover like Curiosity, or some other sophisticated autonomous robot? Certainly these systems remain far less sophisticated than a human, or even any mammal. But they arguably are approaching the ability to navigate their environment as well as many simple animals, animals that many people are tempted to consider conscious.

Yet no one really considers the robotic systems to be conscious. One reason is that they’re not biological, but part of that distinction is they don’t have the same motivational systems that animals have. In other words, they don’t have affects. They take in information from the environment and about themselves, and use that information for decision making, but all without affect.

Before concluding that the answer is simply to require affects for consciousness or moral status, consider humans with conditions that Chalmers mentions, such as anhedonia: the inability to feel pleasure, or asymbolia: feeling pain with no unpleasantness. These can come about due to brain injury or pathology. Another condition is akinetic mutism, where people appear to be largely affectless, with no motivation to do much of anything. Despite their low or absent affect, no one really questions whether people with these conditions are conscious.

All of which is to say that this is a more difficult question than it might appear.

What do you think? Is there something else to an affect-less phenomenal consciousness other than sensory awareness, reasoning, or introspection? If so, what? Or should we insist that only a system with affects can be considered conscious? If so, what does that say about people with the above brain pathologies? Are there even fact of the matter answers to these questions?

108 thoughts on “Consciousness and moral status

      1. I haven’t read anything by Chalmers. I only know secind hand his “hard problem”. I call it “the very difficult problem” though, because I formulate the actual hard problem more hard than his. His is actually just very difficult, from what I’ve seen of his formulation. If I remember correctly.

        I like that you deflate his argument with one blow at showing the circularity he ignores, I think.

        My Hard Problem of Consciousness is more particular than his: “why should I think that what we discover of someone else’s brain concerns mine?” The evidence is redundant, hence its “hardness”, Becuase there is no reason why I should except that I do.

        His hard problem is just very difficult Becuase any reasonable answer which meets the initial conditions will suffice to answer the very difficult problem. Lol.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I kinda feel that Chalmers discussions of consciousness have about the same weight as discussions about a soul or spirit, or the spaghetti monster that lives at the edge of the universe. 🤔. But. It can be a fun and entertaining discussion, of course. 🙂

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        2. Can’t say I’m a hard problem fan. I think it’s an inherently dualistic intuition, treating the whole separate from its components. I think the hard problem is actually just what Chalmers calls the “easy problems” combined. As we make progress on the easy problems, we’re making progress on the hard problem. But I’m not sure those troubled by the hard problem will ever accept that.

          I’m not quite sure if I follow your version of the hard problem. Everyone’s brain is different to some degree. But they all exist within particular variances. The same regions in a healthy brain handle vision, audition, motor control of particular body parts, language, etc. It’s wider between species, but even there vertebrate brains follow a structural template.

          I think a lot of consciousness talk overall is actually soul talk in disguise. When people ask if species X is conscious, they often really asking, does it have a soul?

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          1. There is No reason why I should believe that brain surgery or studies of other peoples brains, should have anything to do with consciousness. And yet I do . any reason that I would give to explain that problem ultimately fails to explain how I am able to explain why I believe it is a solution to the problem. It is actually hard, Like a brick wall. It is not “hard” like meaning “difficult”. It is hard in the actual sense of something being actually hard, like a brick wall or a rock.

            Chalmers Version of it is just “difficult“. It is not actually hard.

            The question I posed is hard in the sense that it can’t be gotten across. There is no amount of reasoning that will get beyond its hardness. It is a true contradiction. Not merely a conceptual one. It shows an actual fault in the conception of the difficult problem.

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  1. Kent Berridge has a bunch of research showing that the liking system and the wanting system in the brain are separable. (The Wiki mentions each domain separately but doesn’t discuss the relation.) In my opinion both are morally relevant. Are p-Vulcans supposed to be lacking in wanting, or in liking, or both?

    If both, and if their lack of both is irreversible, then while p-Vulcans are conscious, nothing can benefit or harm them. So it becomes a moot question whether they have “moral standing” in some sense.

    I’d never heard of akinetic mutism before. Apparently some people recover from it – their reflections on that experience would be helpful here. From the Wikipedia description, it sounds like a defect in the wanting system – and wouldn’t necessarily preclude liking or disliking events that happened during the akinetic mutism phase.

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    1. On lacking in wanting, liking, or both, I suspect Chalmers would say both. It doesn’t surprise me that she was able to separate them in the brain. In truth, from what I’ve read, trying to tie affect to particular brain regions or circuits is very controversial. Jaak Panksepp claimed to have found circuits for basic emotions, but his claims are based on animal research and affect displays, which makes them controversial.

      I think we have to be careful with accounts from people who recover from brain pathologies. Memories are reconstructions, not recordings of what happened. Often they may attribute something to the memory they didn’t actually feel at that time.


  2. Morality, moral status, or alike are subjective terms as they change over time, over locality, over society type, etc. As such they are not quantifiable. On the other hand, there is no much clarity of what the consciousness is, how it emerged (in animals and humans), how it correlates with brain regions or activities there. All that is not known for sure for people, sick or not, even in qualitative description. Never mind a quantitative description. It looks to me that any task of linking different aspects of consciousness to morality would be a hard one.

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    1. It is hard. But I actually think, if you probe most people’s intuitive feel of consciousness, it would match their intuitive feel what is necessary to have intrinsic moral status. The two seem inescapably entangled with each other. But you’re right that moral status is subjective. The logical implication then is that whether a particular system is conscious is also subjective.

      People seem to hate that conclusion. But then they hate the idea of morality being subjective, so we’re already in unpopular territory.

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  3. I think it is a mistake is to associate moral status with consciousness. I think there is a better argument that moral status should be derived from being a system with identifiable goals, “goals” here using the teleonomic/natural purpose sense.

    It’s easy to see that living things tend to have goals, the most obvious being the goal to remain alive. But there are other obvious goals, like staying out of a state of pain. And at any given time, a thing can have a number of goals, like staying alive, staying out of pain, staying out of hunger, etc. Sometimes these goals can conflict, like when staying out of hunger requires enduring pain in order to attack and kill another creature. And obviously, the goal of one thing (eating) can conflict with the goal of another thing (surviving by not being eaten).

    Consciousness enters the picture because consciousness evolved to serve goals. Anything that is conscious is certain to have one or more goals. Affect similarly evolved to serve goals and so is another indicator that something has goals. Whether affect is required for consciousness is a separate question from whether affect is needed for moral status.

    Dan Estrada has a pretty interesting video discussing this concept in the context of robots and robot rights (


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    1. I think you’ve shared that robot video before.

      I agree that consciousness is collection of capabilities to enhance goal fulfilment. It takes in information from the environment, expanding the scope of what the system can respond to in both time and space. In many ways it’s a prediction system, enabling a system to respond to a pattern of stimuli rather than an individual stimulus, or respond early to an anticipated stimulus, and to alter the environment to drive stimuli consistent with goals.

      So would you say that a tree or a Roomba has intrinsic moral status? We can recognize goals in both, although neither is usually thought of as conscious.


      1. Simple answer, yes. That’s not to say everything has an equal moral status. But I think most people would say it’s wrong to go and chop down a tree for no (greater?) purpose. Likewise with the roomba.



      2. I guess my point should be, when we are considering the morality of taking an action which may affect another entity, we end up comparing our goals and the entity’s goals. The question is then when do our goals supersede.



        1. The problem is when we talk about destroying something, as in a trolley scenario, it can allow a thing’s extrinsic value to get mixed in. If we imagine torturing something for several hours, but in a way that doesn’t leave it permanently damaged, it doesn’t seem coherent to talk about torturing a tree or Roomba, while it definitely does for a human, dog, or most other animals.


          1. 1. Not sure how you define “extrinsic value”, but I expect it can be cashed out in terms of goals.

            2. Torture can be cashed out in terms of goals, but it’s also a matter of degree as well as time scales. Animals tend to react quickly, as opposed to trees. And animals react in certain ways, as opposed to roombas. I think removing a roomba’s wheels might constitute torture, depending on whether and how it reacts.



          2. 1. Extrinsic value just means its value to some other sentient agent, as opposed to intrinsic value: the value of it has in and of itself. (Or the value it has to itself in the case of conscious agents.)

            2. I’m not sure that torture can be cashed out only in terms of goals. In the case of a non-sentient subject, it seems like it would only be in terms of what we project onto the system. So pulling the wheels off of a functioning Roomba might seem like torture to us, but without affects, I can’t see it means anything to it itself. Unless maybe I’m missing something?


          3. So here’s how I cash out torture in terms of goals. Torture is the intentional causing of suffering (presumably in order to achieve some goal, but we’ll put that aside for now). Suffering is the recognition that some goal is being frustrated. Take pain for example. We have a goal of not being in pain. When we experience (recognize) pain, we recognize that the situation is not in the goal state and we do things in order to get back to the non-pain state. Some of the things we do are automatic and systemic, like raise blood pressure, release certain hormones, alter attention. (These are affects, by the way.). Some things we do are intentional, like trying to find the cause of the pain and remove it, take drugs to lessen the pain, etc. But if these things do not have the desired effect, the goal of non-pain is frustrated, and we call that suffering.

            Note that our responses to the pain are counter to other goals that we have. Stealing attention makes it harder to achieve other goals that require attention. Raising blood pressure causes problems with the homeostasis of other systems.

            So the question for the roomba is “does it suffer?”. Does it respond when a goal is being frustrated, and does this response act to the detriment of other goals? I have no idea whether removing the wheels of the roomba would have such an effect, but I can see that it could. For example, I could see that it might determine it is not getting somewhere fast enough, in which case it spends more energy turning the wheels faster, thus draining its battery faster.

            So to answer whether something can suffer, you have to understand its goals.



          4. Thanks for working it. I’m still not seeing it for the Roomba. It doesn’t seem like it has affects, and those seem necessary for torture, as the word is commonly used, to apply. Maybe I’m using a conception of affect that is just too narrow. But this is always the issue in discussions about consciousness, is how much like us another system has to be for us to consider it a fellow being.


          5. As you say, this, like consciousness, is a heap problem. If the roomba only has two or three grains, it doesn’t look much like a heap. But if you keep adding grains, eventually it will look like a heap. My goal in this, and consciousness, is recognizing a grain.



  4. In the beginning of his lecture Chalmers states that as a beginning philosopher he swore he would stay away from ethics. He admits that even now he knows “very little” about the concept of moral status. In my opinion that should have used that self-knowledge as a warning.

    Literally only in the last few seconds does Chalmers get to the issue he should have started with—Why is consciousness valuable? However he assigns that to the listener as “homework” and ends his lecture. Very disappointing! He should have started there and jettisoned the complex and strained thought experiments involving philosophical Zombies, philosophical Vulcans and the absurd insertion of Zombies and Vulcans into various versions of the so-called Trolley problem, a very problematic and mostly useless tool for the discussion of ethics. Well, that’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back!

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    1. I share your irritation with Chalmers leaving it as homework why consciousness should be valued. But in my case, I think it goes to the problem with the conclusions he reaches throughout the talk, that consciousness shorn of sentience actually has value.

      But I didn’t find the hour as useless as you did. Sorry it didn’t work for you.


      1. Thanks Mike. In fairness to Chalmers, he did warn us that he avoided the study of ethics for most of his career. It showed. But I hate to fault him. He has made such productive contributions in the philosophy of mind. He should have stayed in his wheelhouse. It reminded me of Dennett’s amateurish wanderings in theology.

        I think the value of consciousness shorn of sentience is confusing. It depends on what is meant by Chalmers undefined use of value, a multifaceted concept. Again, a good reason to start there.


        1. Chalmers did mostly stay away from the moral side of the issue, focusing mostly on consciousness. But that might have limited his insights. And as I just noted to Victor, consciousness, if you think about it, seems inescapably entangled with morality, whether we want to recognize it or not.

          I agree that consciousness without sentience violates most people’s intuitive sense of what they mean by the word “consciousness”. Honestly, I think it violates Chalmers’ as well, but he didn’t seem to realize it in the talk. Where the contradiction might have been apparent, was exactly in the part he left for a homework assignment.


  5. I wonder why people listen to Chalmers idle speculations. He does not study consciousness in a scientific manner but just speculates. I suppose people are stills suspicious of mysticism.

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    1. I disagree with a lot of Chalmers’ positions, but I think he does a pretty good job at describing the range of positions associated with any given subject. I find value in reading or listening to him for that.


  6. I’m going to assume that the gist of this video (don’t have 50 minutes to burn right now), is to determine when our digital constructs gain conscious autonomy and the associated “rights to life.”

    Perhaps it’s a simplistic approach but to say that when we don’t understand, or can’t explain their behavior, that they have attained a moral status. Right now, computer systems are fully explainable — even the recent ones that appear to pass the Turing test. If, in the future, a system begins to behave inexplicably, whether goal oriented or not, and the behavior is not attributable to “bugs,” then we might have to assume that the being has attained consciousness.

    Cool discussion.

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    1. Thanks Anonymole. Chalmers doesn’t get too much into specifics. He mostly keeps the discussion pretty abstract.

      That’s an interesting take, that consciousness is something whose workings we don’t understand. It’s similar to something Lex Fridman said on his podcst in one of his interviews of Scott Aaronson. It raises the interesting question of what happens as our knowledge of the brain and how it works continues to increase. If we ever get to a point where, at least in principle, we understand all the parts, does consciousness as a concept disappear, or have to be revised? This also seems closely related to the question of free will.

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      1. I considered that follow-on conclusion as well. Yes, free will, from whence it comes? If/when we can upload our consciousness into the Galactic AllMind, will we have lost agency knowing exactly how the mind is assembled?
        Perhaps all of this is just evidence of our hubris. We find ourselves in control of our destinies and therefore exact our will on all around us. But, the reality is we’re merely delusional. Our arguments are tautological tempests.

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        1. It could be that we’re just as lost as the ancient foragers laying under the stars wondering where it all came from. Maybe the progress we’ve made since then is simply an illusion. I personally don’t think so, but I can understand the view. In the end, all we can do is reason as best we can and do our best to understand reality.

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          1. Progress? Has there been any? I’d say you;re right about it being an illusion. The academic study of consciousness has yet to do any more than reveal how little academic philosophy is able to say about it. Note that Chalmers’ review of the various theories in a recent article omits to mention the one endorsed by the mystics. An oversight? Or a deeply entrenched prejudice? Or perhaps it’s a case of the ‘not invented here’ syndrome. At any rate it’s very odd. You say “In the end, all we can do is reason as best we can and do our best to understand reality.” But the mystics in their countless thousands tell us consciousness IS reality. They say that we’ll never know this while all we do is reason. . .


          2. Just to clarify, I actually don’t think it’s an illusion. I was just acknowledging the view.

            I’m not familiar with the recent Chalmers article you mention. Do you recall where you saw it?


          3. I think Mike will say that he has no problem with cynicism in general Peter, so no worries there. The paper you provided is definitely not my cup of tea either. I think one lesson from it however is that academic philosophy is not about figuring anything out, but rather about considering things effectively in themselves. It’s about the journey rather than the destination. Thus people like us who seek a destination can get frustrated with it. But I’d have us hold off on our criticism that nothing ever gets settled in it and permit academic philosophy to exist as an art to potentially appreciate. I guess that would be its destination. Then we can advocate for a different community to be developed whose only purpose would be to develop generally accepted principles of metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology for scientists to effectively use in their work. I’m liking the “meta science” heading for this proposed community that I recently mentioned to Matti. Thus we wouldn’t be confusing people with the “philosophy” label at all.

            Over the weekend my friend Sergio did a post on Chalmers as well. He wonders how the man can advocate “strong emergence”, which Sergio has termed “incoherent”. I suggested that a better assessment would be “supernatural”. I don’t consider strong emergence self contradictory but rather metaphysically dubious.

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  7. ” Chalmers falls back on the old standby, that’s it’s like something to be that system. Unfortunately, the phrase “like something” is really just a synonym for “phenomenal consciousness.”

    Sometimes, Chalmers use metaphor “move in the head”, for example here.

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    1. I’ve seen that talk, but don’t recall that particular line in it. Do you happen to recall where in the talk he mentioned it? Or the overall context? (Unfortunately the Youtube transcript is not searchable.)


        1. Thanks Konrad. I think the movie is another way of talking about how consciousness seems to be. It’s what illusionists say is the illusion. I think the right way to look at is the impression of the movie is real. The question is what produces that impression. I think your label “metaphor” is the right one.


          1. I don’t understand why philosophers usually does not define consciousness as movie playing in head. Usually they use useless phrase “what is it like”.


          2. I agree that it’s more descriptive of what most people think. I think they’re leery of it because it’s a notion that easier to attack. The “like something” phrase is vague enough that it’s somewhat immune to that, except to point out its vagueness.


  8. I’ve always felt that the phrase “like something” doesn’t really add anything to the argument as you say. It is probably beyond the realms of science for us to know what a bat “feels like”. However we can speculate in a though experiment what it would feel like if we were suddenly transferred into the mind of a bat and back again. What would we, as humans, report back? I can offer two options:

    Option 1 – it would feel like nothing to be a bat. That is we would be transferred into the mind of the bat and back again and it would be as if nothing happened. Why this might have even happened to you during the short time that you have been reading these sentences. There is absolutely no awareness of being a bat. Nothing that is useful to us as humans.

    Option 2 – it would feel exactly like it does for us as humans. In other words, we would be transferred into the mind of the bat and we would feel no different. Our mind would feel exactly as it does now. This is not to say that we would not sense new features to our lives – the ability of flight, echo location and hanging upside down. But our awareness of this life would be exactly as it is now. Our consciousness of life would be no different.

    The way to think of this is to think of taking off in an airplane for the first time which is a new sensory experience but we wouldn’t say that we are consciously different. Or hanging upside down in your living room – something that you might not have done many times but not something that would not make you suddenly jump up and tell everyone that you have a reached a new conscious awareness.

    The link between the human and the bat in option 2, I suggest, is linguistic consciousness: the ability to report back in a propositional sense on our senses. If the bat does not have linguistic consciousness, then option 1 holds, and there is nothing it feels like to be a bat.

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    1. I’m with you on the “like something” phrase. I can understand what Nagel was getting at, but the fact that he worded it so vaguely gives it an unwarranted mystique.

      I think for us to access a bat’s experiences, there would have to be some kind of translation, and such a translation, like any translation, would have to make decisions, many of which would inescapably be arbitrary. For instance, how would echolocation be translated into a human’s perceptual system?

      But to your point, that experience would be us humans accessing another creature’s sensory, motor, and affective information processing. It would still be us with the capabilities of a human gaining access to a system which doesn’t have those capabilities. In other words, we still wouldn’t have the bat’s experience. We can’t.

      But it’s really no different than the fact that my laptop can never be in the same informational state as my iPhone. My laptop can run the phone’s software in a virtual sandbox, and the laptop software could access aspects of that virtual machine, but it would never be in the same state as the phone.


  9. Self Aware Patterns writes, ‘I’m not really all that interested in idealism, but maybe something I’ll have to read at some point.’.

    Philosopher Eric writes, ‘…academic philosophy is not about figuring anything out, but rather about considering things effectively in themselves. It’s about the journey rather than the destination.’

    Now you know why I have such a low opinion of academic philosophy. It encourages this kind of nonsense and legitimizes it.

    I do not believe it is possible to be interested in truth and philosophy and be uninterested in Idealism. The idea that philosophy is an interminable journey to nowhere is clearly correct in respect of academic philosophy. To assume, as academics usually do, that philosophy has to be like this is lazy and unscholarly. These two words sum it if for me.

    This is not a personal criticism of anybody here, or not unless they’re a professional philosopher. Everybody else has an excuse. They’re not wastying tax-payers money.

    To return to the topic – ethics is metaphysics. Chamers knows little about metaphysics and generally tries to avoid it. Nor does he claim to understand the subject.

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    1. You’re not alone with that perspective Peter. There is a faction in academia which berates philosophy in exactly that way, often in the form of physicists. I use to support that perspective as well, but changed my tune for a couple of reasons.

      Firstly, what true harm for society is there in permitting various pompous intellectuals to go on about ridiculous things? And this needn’t just be in the field of philosophy itself. There are all sorts of artsy academic pursuits that seem senseless to me personally, but who am I to say that others shouldn’t have their own fun demonstrating how incredibly learned they happen to have become in those regards? And notice that when we perceive some or many discussions in philosophy to be crap, no one forces us to continue trying to make sense of them.

      More importantly however, how does it help our cause in general to bitch out academic philosophers? This seems to simply make them defensive enough to return the favor. Massimo Pigliucci from Mike’s video is always ready to challenge the great perceived evil of “scientism”, or an existential threat to his kind. I use to blog at his site quite often, and though I’m sure he loved when others would challenge me, he’d instead feast upon the standard “philosophy is bullshit” crowd.

      The existential threat which I presented that he could never reason his way around, is that science clearly does need effective principles of metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology to function better than it does today, though philosophers in general do not provide such consensus answers. Thus I believe that a new “non art” community must be developed whose only mission would be to provide respectable agreed upon principles of “meta science”. I doubt that any idealists would be permitted to join this proposed club, just as flat Earthers never end up becoming respected geologists.

      (I propose one principle of metaphysics, two principles of epistemology, and one principle of axiology, each of which Massimo also found difficult to effectively challenge.)


      1. I find Massimo Pigluichi to be an arrogant idiot. He doesn’t even have a good grasp of Stoicism. He has no grasp whatsoever of metaphysics.and is very happy to admit it.

        If you’re uninterested in Idealism and equate it with flat-earth theories then I have to assume you’re uninterested in philosophy. This approach renders it a complete waste of time.

        It’s best that I leave the discussion now because you won’t be interested in anything I have to say and it’ll only rock the boat. I prefer to take philosophy more seriously and this sort of approach just makes steam come out of my ears. Best I retire before we have a big argument, as I’m sure you’d agree. . . .

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        1. Peter,
          I definitely am interested in your perspective and don’t consider it at all certain that we’d get into an uncomfortable dispute. If you recall we had a nice email discussion several years ago after I read your book. Our difference there is that I demand physics based mechanisms for the production of valences, while my perception is that you deem them possible to be created purely by means of information processing. Mike takes your side on that as well, and yet he and I are still able have productive discussions.

          On idealism, in truth my own mind is all that I know of which exists with perfect certainty. To me that’s a foundation from which to build. But I don’t see how the perspective that mind is all that ultimately exists could get me (or science) anywhere. So I presume that my mind is instead produced by means of a causal world of material and energy rather than the converse — not because I know this to be true, but rather because I’d like to understand and don’t consider the converse potentially understandable.

          That’s just a shot in the dark. I’m not at all sure what you consider contentious between us.


          1. Just to clarify my actual position since Peter probably hasn’t seen our previous discussions. I do see valences as information processing. But for me that’s equivalent to saying it’s causal processing, and it’s completely physical.

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          2. Mike,
            Of course I don’t dispute that when paper with information on it is processed into other paper with information on it, that this will be entirely physical. What I dispute is that qualia can ever be produced by means of physical information processing alone in a generic capacity. That’s what I consider beyond the causal world. I believe that all information processing, whether through the medium of DNA, paper, or anything else, will require associated output mechanisms in order to effectively exist as “information”. At least in the case of qualia however you disagree, and we won’t settle this here. But I don’t believe we’ve ever gotten into what it would take for you to begin thinking “Hey, maybe Eric actually got this one right?”

            Let’s say that scientists begin to get extremely high resolution descriptions of the ridiculously complex EM waves associated with synchronous neuron firing. Then let’s say that they start monitoring people in this manner while providing various basic conscious inputs, whether oratory, tactile, visual, or whatever. If various signature wave patterns were found to be highly correlated with certain forms of lab provided input, would that get you started down my path? Or perhaps if we were to alter a given wave highly correlated with some variety of qualia input into another variety through exogenous em field influences, might that open the door? And what might it take for you to eventually decide that even qualia information will not exist as such without a specific kind of physics associated with qualia instantiation, whether EM fields or something else?

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          3. Eric,
            It sounds like your main beef is with multiple realizability. If so, that’s a more coherent position. I disagree with it, but at least it’s something we could agree on what we disagree about.

            I’ll accept anything given sufficient and reproducible or otherwise verifiable evidence. But the proposition has to be the simplest explanation for that evidence. All of the evidence I’ve seen cited for electromagnetic ghosts has more straightforward explanations. So the correlations you discuss can be explained as the side effects of the neural processing that has the actual causal role.

            To establish that consciousness is in the field itself, I think you’d have to interfere with the field without interfering with the neural processing. If the subject’s consciousness were still effected, we might have something. On the other hand, if it isn’t, then that would be a blow to EM theories. Of course, given that EM fields are exactly what is currently used to measure neural activity, that represents a challenge. Functional fMRI might work (it uses its own fields and in a different manner), but dealing with the time delay opens up interpretational issues.

            It’s worth noting the data incompatible with EM theories, such as functional circuits that go against the ambient electrical field, Myelin on axons to minimize electrical interference, and the effects of severing neural connections, even when the now isolated circuits are right by each other. So turning the table, what evidence would you have to see to discount EM theories?

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          4. I may have given you a bum steer with my italics Mike. No it’s not multi realizability that I consider the problem. It’s any realizability whatsoever without associated instantiation mechanisms. We all know that the brain processes information which can ultimately result in the production of qualia. The question is, does the processing itself get that job done (as you believe), or must the processing animate qualia producing mechanisms of some sort (as I believe)? It seems to me that all information can only exist as such in relation to actuating mechanisms in a causal world, whether genetic material, the information which a computer provides to animate a screen, or anything else. So I consider your perspective (which many highly intelligent modern naturalists hold) to effectively depend upon supernatural dynamics.

            Here’s a simple way to think about this. You believe that qualia exist as the right information processing in itself. Thus if the right information on paper were properly converted into other information on paper, then you believe that something here would experience what you do when your thumb gets whacked. I believe that you’ve got the beginning right though naturalism mandates the need for something else as well. Essentially that second set of information laden paper would need to be fed into a machine armed with qualia producing mechanisms in order for something to feel what you do when your thumb gets whacked.

            Do you agree that this is the essential difference between us here, or the point that in the past we’ve “agreed to disagree” about? And if not then how would you improve this assessment of your beliefs here versus mine?

            I’m pleased that you’ve stated what kind of experimental evidence it would take for you to admit that I might be right. I agree that interfering with a conscious field that the subject perceives as such, without otherwise altering brain function would be great evidence of consciousness as EM radiation. Furthermore if we couldn’t affect qualia this way but seemed to otherwise have sufficient testing technology, this would be evidence to the contrary.

            At the moment I don’t know of any evidence against McFadden’s cemi. What you’ve mentioned seems to fit nicely under his conception of brain function. Please clarify if you see this differently.

            What would it take for me to doubt that consciousness exists as EM fields? If we were to find that neurons don’t fire in synchronous ways to thus set up enhanced rather than random EM patters, that would be pretty damning. As things stand however they sometimes do fire synchronously. But how about this. If the same or more synchronous firings were detected in people who are not conscious (and here I mean anesthetized rather than sleeping), then I suppose this would be reasonable evidence against cemi. And indeed such evidence should already exist. Note that not all synchronous firing would need to exist as qualia, though theoretically there is some subset of it that does exist this way. McFadden has listed various ways to test his theory that have seemed reasonable to me that we might discuss, though I don’t recall him ever mentioning anything as simple as quantifying the magnitude of synchronous neuron firing in conscious versus non-conscious people.

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          5. Eric,
            My view is that qualia are information processing, but that doesn’t mean that processing doesn’t involve interfacing with the body and the environment. The issue, it seems to me, is that you see qualia as something produced and output by the system, rather than what the system does.

            I’m sorry, I know you don’t like this any more than I like having my views referred to as “supernatural”, but I think it goes to the heart of our disagreement. I think your view is dualism, a generative form of dualism, despite your stipulations that it’s not. Which I think is why you’re attracted to McFadden’s theory, which he himself calls dualistic. He calls it an energy / matter dualism, but he sets up energy in the same role traditionally held by spirit.

            There’s nothing about synchronous firing of neurons that can’t be accounted for with normal neural signaling. Again, that’s the problem with the evidence McFadden cites. He takes it as evidence for exotic phenomena when it can be more simply explained with regular neuroscience. It’s like taking lights in the sky as evidence for aliens, when it’s probably just lightning or an airplane.

            I think the best that could be said of EM fields is that they could conceivably provide another mechanism for information processing. If so, I see no reason to suppose it wouldn’t get used in both conscious and nonconscious processing. We’d still be left to understand what about that processing makes it conscious. Which brings us back to information theories.

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          6. Mike,
            If I see qualia as something “produced and output by the system” (which sounds right to me), how do I not also see it as “something that the system does”? Can you provide some practical examples of an effective difference here? If turning the wheels is something that a car does, how is this not also “produced and output by the system”? I don’t see how you can legitimize qualia as information processing alone without coming up with even one other example of something that also exists as such, simply by making a “produced” versus “does” distinction.

            I have noticed McFadden using the “natural dualism” title as a kind of marketing ploy, and exemplified by the two sides of Einstein’s E=MC^2 equation. I’m not sure he realizes the supernatural stigma of the “dualism” title itself, though perhaps he knows what he’s doing. Where would people like Dennett be without their silly marketing catch phrases? Nowhere I think. Regardless McFadden developed his dual computers model of brain function by means of brain science, while I’ve developed mine by means of psychology. Though the pieces may not be obvious today, once they’re put together people should then look back and wonder why it took so long. As always, hindsight is 20/20.

            On analogizing McFadden’s position with “lights in the sky can only be aliens”, that’s a gross mischaracterization. Then you’ve concluded with a circular paragraph. Essentially if McFadden’s predictions keep being validated then you’d be given another way to assert that qualia ultimately exist as information processing alone, whether by means of neuron function or EM wave. And I’d add “paper with information on it converted into other paper with information on it”. And Eric Schwitzgebel would add that the USA as a whole should also have some level of qualia given its informational interactions. And Ray Kurzweil would add that soon we’ll be uploading our minds to computers and effectively exist eternally in silicon or whatever.

            Happy Thanksgiving buddy! Hope you’re able to have friends and family with you today. My wife had me get tested because I was with a brother for 20 minutes whose wife then tested positive. I’m good. The family will miss their absence this year of course.

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          7. Eric,
            It’s pretty trivial to come up with endless examples of systems with intermediate states.

            The browser software you use to view this site has to process numerous pieces of information that never make it your screen, such as obtaining the site’s IP address, loading and processing each of the page’s resources, etc. It also depends on the OS for several things, such as maintaining the network link to your local area network, managing internal memory, etc. The browser also tracks your viewing history, which on desktop versions can usually be viewed via CTRL-H, but whether or not you ever do it, the browser tracks that information. And both the browser and OS have internal monitoring systems to ensure optimal operations, most of which you never see.

            Focusing on the car example, the car’s engine fires spark plugs causing pistons to move and the crankshaft to turn, the gearbox modifies the kinetic flow, when then make it to the wheels turning. The car also has systems monitoring the engine’s temperature and other crucial indicators, most of which you never think of, unless something goes wrong.

            Any moderately complex system is going to have intermediate states. And any information processing system, such as a typical video game, is going to have much more than it ever shows you.

            Yeah, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on McFadden’s theory.

            Happy Thanksgiving! I’ve talked with family by phone today but that’s about it.

            Be careful. A single negative test isn’t a guarantee. You can have the virus and not test positive for several days. Hope it doesn’t hit you, or if it does, it isn’t a bad case.

            Liked by 2 people

          8. Mike,
            In no sense do I dispute the existence of intermediate states in the course of normal causal dynamics, such as the function of a car or a computer. It’s merely when information is proposed to exist as causality itself in any format whatsoever (and so an effect will necessarily lack specific instantiation mechanisms) that alarm bells ring for me. There is but one thing which is proposed to exist as such by otherwise sensible naturalists that I know of, or qualia.

            Regardless I guess we do agree to disagree, though this came before I knew anything about the ideas of McFadden. I essentially developed my thought experiment when I realized your opposition with Searle’s Chinese room. If you recall I did so to address your objections as well to as get beyond the Turing test based “understanding” paradigm that Searle’s work dealt with. McFadden merely presents a plausible solution for the difficulty that each of our thought experiments display regarding certain modern consciousness theories. But if you don’t acknowledge any such problems then McFadden’s solution should interest you much less. In that case we’ll have to wait for empirical evidence to decide these matters, which I do expect within our lifetimes. In the mean time people with strong convictions on either side remain free to make their cases.

            On Covid, yes it’s a tricky beast. My brother ended up testing negative just as I did. In hindsight he suspects that he did have it because for a while he had very minor cold symptoms and even an unusual small rash on his chest. His wife doesn’t seem to show any signs at all and only got tested in order to see a doctor for something else. So given his occasional office work he probably got it and gave it to her, since she merely teaches students online. They presume that their two children have it or have had it, though she has been quarantined from the rest of them since her test results came. Only by chance would any of this come to light given the Trojan horse nature of this virus, or at least for them. In general this should make it more dangerous.

            Fortunately vaccines should eventually save the day. In this new world some of us should benefit from Covid (perhaps given interest rates or job opportunities), while others should suffer, and mainly the less privileged it would seem. When all is said and done I wonder what the world economic toll will end up being assessed as in relation to say, the scale of World War II?

            Liked by 2 people

          9. Eric,
            “It’s merely when information is proposed to exist as causality itself in any format whatsoever (and so an effect will necessarily lack specific instantiation mechanisms) that alarm bells ring for me. ”

            The issue is I honestly don’t know what this means. Certainly I do see information as causation, but it’s always 100% physical 100% of the time, so it never lacks “specific instantiation mechanisms”. I don’t see my view in whatever it is you’re criticizing, unless it’s multiple realizability.

            On McFadden and other EM theories, the problem with simply saying “electromagnetic fields” as a solution to consciousness is that, in and of itself, it explains nothing. It simply proposes an ingredient and promises that consciousness results. It doesn’t provide a causal explanation for it. Even if the brain used EM fields in the way McFadden or others propose, there would remain the question of why that utilization is conscious. You would still need theories like GWT, HOTT, etc.

            On Covid, yeah it’s hard to know. I went to a retirement lunch in early October, which was in an enclosed “outside” section of a restaurant. Before it was over, everyone had taken off their masks and some were hugging. I regretted going. A week or two afterward, I developed a persistent dry cough that lasted a month before fading. I’ve thought about getting an antibody test to see if I had it. But given that mild cases don’t necessarily confer immunity, I’ll probably just wait for the vaccine.

            I don’t think the economic cost is anywhere near WWII, but I’m sure it exceeds many other wars. I know the death toll in the US is higher than most wars we’ve been in. Hopefully the vaccines will stop us from reaching the same US death toll as WWII.

            Liked by 2 people

          10. Mike,
            If you honestly don’t grasp what I mean when I say “It’s merely when information is proposed to exist as causality itself in any format whatsoever (and so an effect will necessarily lack specific instantiation mechanisms) that alarm bells ring for me”, then there is the potential for me to provide a more effective description than I have in the past to thus help you understand (and yes I mean “understand” here rather than “believe”). You do seem quite sincere. If any of my own long held positions were ultimately supernatural, would anyone be able to illustrate that to me? I do like to hope so. Perhaps not however given my past investments. Thus as a staunch naturalist I might go on believing something supernatural, as well as be less than pleased with any supposed educators. But it might even be that I’ve gotten your position wrong and it’s actually just as natural as mine! That would be refreshing. Anyway, let’s see.

            Though we can define the “information” term however we like, it does seem extremely effective to do so in relation to actuating mechanisms. Thus genetic material would be “informative” when properly functioning in a cell, though in open air it would lack the instantiation mechanisms which render its evolved chemical properties the way we generally think of them. Here there should still be information in the sense of interaction with neighboring air molecules and such, and so instantiation mechanisms in those regards, though that shouldn’t be nearly as dynamic as the sort of thing that genetic material evolved to do.

            Given such simple to complex cases of “information” regarding the same bit of material, I consider it prudent for the naturalist to presume that the whole of reality depends upon actuating mechanisms in order for any information to exist. This was your perspective from a post in July 2017 (, and you recently told me that you haven’t changed your mind. In that post you presented a concise reduction of this when you said, “To be information, something must make use of it.” Exactly!

            I’ve been hung up on an apparent inconsistency between this position and the one you call “computationalism” (though I’ve been calling it “informationism”). From here as I understand it the essential element of what a brain does to create qualia for something to experience, is “process information”. But as we’ve already established, “information” will not exist except in relation to associated causal mechanisms. We don’t need to say what they are, though I do think we need to leave room in our theory for their possible discovery some day. Furthermore if we go claiming that anything can be conscious whether or not they happen to possess such mechanisms, that would violate naturalism.

            In now occurs to me that my thought experiment has technically been in error given a terminological issue. The claim I make is that if whacked thumb information were somehow printed on paper and processed into another set of paper associated with the brain’s output signals, then the informationist believes that something here would feel what I do when my thumb gets whacked. So since I’ve implied that this printed paper does exist as “information in terms of qualia production”, then a presumption could also be made that some unknown qualia producing mechanism is mandated to exist in this situation. In practice I consider that effectively ridiculous, though I suppose I should stop using the “information” term to reference this ink and paper combination. But then what shall I call it? “Markings”?

            We know that when a thumb gets whacked that information gets sent to the brain in the form of nerve signals. Furthermore the “information” term is useful here in respect to the sorts of things that the brain does with it. One of those things is to create qualia, and as earlier established, necessarily by means of certain unknown mechanisms if natural.

            So back to my thought experiment, if certain ink markings on paper were amazingly correlated with the nerve signal information associated with a whacked thumb, and this stuff were processed by an amazingly fast scanning and printing computer which thus produced another set of ink marked paper that was amazingly correlated with the brain’s output information (and let’s say that the brain does ultimately cause something to feel thumb pain), would something also feel thumb pain in the paper situation?

            I say “No” because whatever qualia producing mechanisms that the brain uses to create qualia, I consider it ridiculous to think that they would also exist in the situation of a machine which converts certain marked paper into other marked paper. If anyone presumes that the “markings to markings” conversion would itself create thumb pain, I’d call that a supernatural belief. In the causal world “information” only exists mechanistically. (And I do realize that converting marked paper into other marked paper would be a mechanistic process, but have no reason at all to think that those specific mechanisms can create qualia and thus render the marking “information” in that regard.)

            So do we agree, agree to disagree, or something else?

            On McFadden’s theory, you needn’t portray me to think that his would be an end all answer. Originally he even suggested that his theory would merely augment theories such as global workspace. My though experiment ups the stakes by suggesting that when theories like GWT presume that no further instantiation mechanisms exist, they also rely upon the supernatural. I’d like to adjust McFadden’s perspective in certain ways as well — he’s no savant! But don’t underestimate the magnitude of progress which should occur if the EM field, or anything else, becomes experimentally validated to mechanistically produce qualia. Surely you acknowledge that such an achievement would be monumental in the still sad field of consciousness exploration?

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          11. Thanks Eric. Okay, some of this is coming back to me now. I’m recalling a conversation we had a while back, perhaps by email. I think the main difference between us is in how we regard qualia.

            This is where I need to remind you that I agree with the illusionists ontologically, even if I dislike their terminology. In other words, I don’t think qualia exist, at least not in the sense you’re looking for them. To be clear, I think they exist subjectively, just not objectively. We won’t find qualia in the brain, or any mechanism there to “produce” them.

            Another way to put this is that the objective mechanisms that lead us to conclude we have qualia, that in fact give us their subjective existence, are radically different from their subjective character. What does it take for a system like the brain, which works through electrochemical signalling, to subjectively have qualia, in essence instances of subjective experience? Electrochemical signalling, signalling that is information processing, which produces models of the self, the environment, and associated valences, models which include the qualities we collectively label “qualia.”

            It’s also worth noting that this arrangement has specific instantiation mechanisms. The system’s models achieve meaning by being reified through its interface with the body and world, by sensory mechanisms which take environmental and bodily dynamics and translate them into the electrochemical signalling the brain works with, and motor output mechanisms, that translate the electrochemical signalling into motor force, altering the body and environment. These models are further reinforced by the physiological interoceptive loop I’ve discussed before, which provide a somatosensory aspect to many valenced reactions.

            If this arrangement strikes you as “ridiculous”, I’d ask you to consider why it strikes you that way. What are the logical reasons for it? If it just violates your sense of what should be, I’d suggest you need to think about that. Science often obliges us to accept things that, on first impression, seem unlikely. If we’re not open to those kinds of personal paradigm shifts, then we run the risk of simply being dogmatic.

            In any case, if I’m accurately ascribing to you a view of objective qualia, then yes, we need to agree to disagree, because I don’t think qualia exist in that manner.

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          12. Eric and Mike

            I’ve been checking out your discussion about information.and would make a couple of observations.

            The psycho-physical world is described by mysticism as information. But not in the way that Chamers does it with his ‘double-aspect theory of information’. .

            An information theory requires an information-space. Thus not everything can be information. This is what Schrodinger means when he points out that as well as psycho-physical phenomena there is the ‘canvas on which they are painted. This is what Chalmers forgets. The mystics do not forget because they study what lies beyond information. .

            For Chalmers the two aspects of his theory are the mental and the physical. This is not a fundamental theory, as he admits. For the mystics the two aspects would be the information and the information-space. They study the information-space as well as the information and this is why mysticism is able to give us a fundamental theory of information.

            A thought on causation. if information is defined as ‘a difference that makes a difference’ then information is always causal. A cause may be defined as an event that ‘makes a difference’ and the difference must be made to the receiver of the information as an effect by a process of causation. So information is always causal and where it is not then it does not qualify as information. This seems a relevant issue.

            From a philosophcial perspective it would be vital that an information theory includes an information-space,. Thus it is an inherently dualistic theory for which the world of information is reducible in just the way the mystics describe. If we see Reality as described by the mystics as an information theory then we are not going far wrong. But the principle of non-duality would reduce these aspects and in this way transcend dualism. Information would not really exist since it exists only dependently. . .

            This is why I find Chalmers frustrating and dishonest. His information theory could be adjusted to fall into line with the Buddha’s world-description with just five minutes of work and almost seems to be a case of plagiarism, yet he makes no effort to examine what those who study consciousness have to say about it. This is not professional conduct. It leaves his ideas looking naive and it prevents him from finding a fundamental theory.

            An information-theory approach allows sentient beings to be ‘self-aware patterns’. But the pattern of information could not form without the information-space that is pristine awareness. This connects up your discussion of information with mysticism and the idea of ’emptiness’ and the voidness of all phenomena constructed out of information. Kant recognised this issue and it is not especially ‘mystical’. . . . .

            Just some thoughts.



            . .

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          13. Peter,
            Thanks for your thoughts. I like much of what you say here about information. I agree that all information is causal. But there are different types of information. Not all are causal for particular systems. But just as not all energy is available in particular contexts for work, not all information will be causal in a particular context. In my mind, all types of information are special cases of physical information, which appears to always be present in some form and always causal in some fashion. (At least under physicalism.)

            My biggest issue with Chalmers’ double aspect theory is the double aspect. I think he’s on the right track by focusing on information, but thinking that information itself isn’t sufficient, that it needs to be supplemented with some extra experiential aspect, I think, is a mistake.

            What would be an example of an information space where information is absent? I think about an image on a computer screen, but even the unlit pixels seem informative. Or an empty spot in space, but even such a spot will have some spacetime curvature, as well as a bubbling quantum foam.

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          14. Mike

            I’m not sure information has to be experiential but clearly some of it is. Most of the information contained in this post is available only to conscious individuals, and even then only if they can read.

            Would you not agree that our information society depends utterly on awareness, and that awareness is not information?

            Imagining an information space without any information is not possible, as you say, but the mystics do not rely on imagination. This possibility-space would be the Void of ex nihilo physical theories, which we also cannot imagine. The true nature of Reality is said to be unimaginable since our imagination relies on information and is unable to function in its absence. This would be why mysticism is mystical. Reality would be unknowable as an idea but only by becoming what we are trying to know. Hence Yoga – the art of union. As a descriptive theory it is accessible to everyone, but as such it is heresay.

            If mysticism was explained in our universities nobody would mind talking about science, philosophy and mysticism at the same time and would find it impossible to separate them, but I reckon it’ll be another twenty years. . . .

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          15. Peter,
            I would say that the set of mechanisms that make up awareness is normally not information to itself. It definitely can’t be directly aware of itself as information. But its structure and dynamics are information, and through technology that information can be reflected back to itself.

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          16. Mike

            That all makes sense from your perspective. However, I would argue that awareness is primitive and prior to information. The idea that information gives rise to awareness is what creates Chalmers’ ‘hard’ problem, which is the problem of making sense of this idea.

            You may not like the idea that information is created and not original, thus that the psycho-physical world is created, contingent and not fundamental, but it’s demonstrably the only idea that makes sense in metaphysics. The rejection of this idea is the precise reason why Western metaphysics cannot find a fundamental theory that survives analysis and is doomed to wander around in circles.

            As a consequence most people think metaphysics is a waste of time. It is a sad and unnecessary situation.


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          17. Peter,
            One solution to the hard problem is to consider consciousness the primary reality. That’s my understanding of the idealist approach. Panpsychists rather take matter and mind to be one, so consciousness is primary and one with matter. Both of these solutions seem radical to me. I’m on board with radical solutions if they’re the only option.

            But I perceive a much simpler solution. The difficulty we have in reconciling consciousness comes from the discrepancy between what we introspect and what we learn about the brain. Psychological research seems to show that introspection is unreliable. If the source of information on one side of a seeming paradox is unreliable, it seems reasonable to go with the more reliable side.

            That’s pretty much the reasoning that lands me in the Type-A materialism and reductionist camp. Which I suspect you’ll see as utterly misguided. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          18. Mike

            I see your reasoning but do not find it convincing. Idealism come in many varieties all but one of which doesn’t work and I suspect you’re not seeing it.(Just as Chalmers does not see it). Panpsychism likewise can take more than one form, but wherever it says matter has consciousness, as if usually does, it does not work. While Introspection may often be unreliable mysticism is not all about introspection. So we can largely agree about the failure of Idealism and panpsychism and the dangers of introspection. .

            I feel the issue quite simple. To date scholastic philosophers have been unable to find a metaphjysical theory that works, despite having two millennia to do so. The only theory they do not examine is non-dualism. It would be eminently reasonable to wonder whether their rejection of mysticism is the reason why most metaphysicians can make no sense of their subject. We may not know this is the case but a genuine scholar would be bound to investigate. But genuine scholars are rare beasts.

            The problem for materialism is that is untestable, unverifiable, explains nothing and does not survive analysis. I see why despair at the intransigence of the problems of metaphysics sometimes leads people to endorse it, but I see no reason for despair.

            We’ll probably have to agree to differ. I have no problem with this. I would just suggest that there’s a reason why the perennial philosophy is perennial. It would be impossible to prove that some other world-theory is true and thus falsify it. This places me in a very relaxed position.

            It seems most odd that matarialism is widely considered a scientific idea despite being untestable and logically indefensible. I don’t understand the thinking. It may be relevant that I’ve never come across a materialist who takes much interest in metaphysics. .

            All good. I’ll try to back off a bit and stop pushing my view. The difficulty is that I can’t contribute to the discussion without doing this so I may have to retire. Enjoyed the chat though.
            . ,

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          19. Peter,
            No worries on pushing your view. It’s what most folks who come by here do. I think the thing to realize is there will be people who disagree and be okay with it, as you are. Persuasion has to be viewed as a long term project, where you plant the seeds and see if anything sprouts. That can take months or years, and you’ll likely only find out about it if you and the persuaded person remain on good terms. At least that’s my experience from decades of online discussions. All of which is to say, I’ll understand if you retire, but hope you don’t.

            Only if you feel like discussing it: I wonder how you would define “materialism”. I accept the label “materialist” mainly to quickly convey my views. But in truth I’m not wedded to it as a metaphysical ideology. For me, it’s more about what we can find reliable empirical (conscious experiential) evidence for, and a logical understanding (theory) to make sense of that evidence. If that led to immaterialism, I’d go there, but it seems to lead to conclusions typically labeled as materialistic. Though I often wonder if people opposed to materialism are seeing something else there.

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          20. Thanks Peter. I know zero about Buddha however, and for intellectual discussions the term “mystic” frightens me. I was hopeful that you and Lee would hit it off, though he obviously decided that he’d rather be a jerk. Regardless, we can talk. (Alright Lee, you can get in too if you like, though maybe try to do a better Gandhi impersonation?)

            Apparently though I first read your “On the Mechanisms of Consciousness” back in 2017, we had some actual email discussions about it from June to August of last year. At the time you were extremely interested in writing software that would effectively create qualia (which we were referring to as “valences” per your book). I remain skeptical of that possibility in a natural world, unlike Mike.

            By December I came across the theory of a UK professor by the name of Johnjoe McFadden. Back in 2001 he proposed that qualia might exist as the electromagnetic radiation set up when neurons fire in the proper synchronous ways. He mainly proposes this because just as qualia can exist in terms of all sorts of diverse elements at once, like sight, pain, hope, and so on, a single extremely complex EM field could potentially facilitate such a unified state of being in a single package. It’s a proposal which thus addresses what’s known as “the binding problem”. Beyond that I’m pleased that an output mechanism exists through his proposal, and thus a potentially natural solution. What other mechanism in the head might harbor sufficient neuron firing fidelity? Note that this radiation should harbor perfect fidelity.

            I think we’re in agreement on information, though otherwise let me know. As mentioned earlier, genetic material may be considered informative when it’s functioning in a living cell. But it may also be considered that way when outside and exposed to air molecules and the sun given associated causal dynamics. So if we’re really just talking about causal dynamics here, note that we should be able to delete the “information” term whenever we like and just go with that. Let’s not let the “information” term be used as a proxy to subvert causality itself, or at least not unless so stated. David Chalmers seems to have opened the door to magical function, which doesn’t upset me at all. To each his own.

            In any case from my own brand of metaphysics I consider the whole of reality to function by means of causal mechanisms, explained or not, and thus no magic exists. So if I’m told that if sheets of paper with the right markings on them were converted into other properly marked sheets of paper, that this would cause something to experience what I know of as “thumb pain”, I must object. Here the information term seems to be a proxy for adding a non causal kind of stuff to reality. Thus I no longer use the term when I refer to “marked paper” in my scenario. But if that second set of marked paper were fed into a machine armed with qualia producing mechanisms (and perhaps the brain uses EM fields in this capacity?), then to me any qualia here could potentially exist naturally.


          21. Eric

            You say you read my “On the Mechanisms of Consciousness” back in 2017. This is not by me. I know little nothing about these and am not even sure consciousness (as apposed to mind) has any mechanisms.

            I note that you don’t take an interest in the Buddha or mysticism. Given your interest in consciousnes and philosophy I find this surreal, but then I find the way these topics are studied in academia as a whole surreal so you’re in good company.

            You hold the view to which I’m directly opposed so I’ll happily argue against it, but only if you’re interested. My suspicion is that mysticism will be the next big thing in science and philosophy, but perhaps I’m overly optimistic. .

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          22. Well darn Peter, I was thinking you were another Peter. Sometimes people write their names differently. That explains some serious inconsistencies because you guys do seem very different. And you’ve been around for a long time as well so I’ve got no excuse. I guess I had something wrong enough to not even consider the evidence. Anyway, sorry about that. Perhaps we’ll find something to discuss.

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          23. Eric – Yes, I remember now that we spoke before – although can’t remember what was said. I’m actually an opponent of Idealism, or at least against the use of this word to describe my position, since this word may suggest that Mind is all that truly exists. But for the Perennial view even Mind must be reduced. This is sometimes called Transcendental or Absolute Idealism but these names cause confusion so I prefer to avoid them and stick to ‘non-dualism’.

            What I cannot grasp, even after twenty years of wondering, is why the academic community is happy to know nothing about the mystical philosophy and spends its time trying to invent a better idea. This means that students and the general public are equally badly-informed about philosophy since they naturally assume professional philosophers are serious scholars and that they themselves cannot do better. I believe almost everybody could do better and that it is my my job is go around pointing out that professional philosophy studies only a small part of the field and suffers the consequences. Amateurs should beware.

            I’d close the philosophy department tomorrow. I see no use for it other than to confuse everyone else. I have never met anyone opposed to the Perennial explanation of consciousness except those who have not examined it. This is why I despaired and nearly stomped off in disgust when Mike said he has no knowledge of and little interest in Idealism. One may as well say one has no interest in philosophy.or consciousness.

            Mike- In case that sounded very rude, please note that my criticism is reserved for people like Chalmers and Dennett for the parlous state of philosophical thinking in our society, since it is natural for the rest of us to imagine they know what they’re doping and that they are doing it honestly and dispassionately. This is not the case. I’ve known teenagers who can do better.

            So excuse me if I sometimes get a bit hot under the collar. The situation is a academic scandal. My beef is not with Mike but with the failure of the professionals to fulfill their responsibilities. I see no point in reading anything that emerges from ‘scientific’ consciousness studies. There is much more sense to be found in the writings of people who actually study consciousness scientifically and have been doing so for thousands of years. But it seems that in academia it’s okay to entirely ignore most of philosophy. It is a betrayal of their students and the general public and it makes me mad. . .

            . . . . .

            Liked by 1 person

          24. Peter,
            Just to clarify, I didn’t say I don’t know anything about idealism. I do know the basics. Those basics just don’t seem particularly promising to me. The more plausible variants strike me as verging on physicalism or neutral monism by a different name.

            Liked by 1 person

          25. Mike – I understand that you’re not ignorant of the basics of Idealism and have no problem with your rejection of it. But the basics are not grounds for this rejection. There is only one form of Idealism that survives metaphysical analysis and even grasping the basics of this is beyond the wit of most professors. That article by Chalmers i I cited s an excellent argument for rejecting Idealism. He fails to mention the only form of it that makes sense. n this way he deprives you and all his readers of seeing any plausibility in it.

            It is not surprising, therefore, that Chalmers has proposed we should ignore metaphysics and forget all about a fundamental theory. This is already what most of his peers do and it dooms their efforts to understand consciousness to eternal pointlessness. Meanwhile, the Perennial explanation has yet to be falsified. Nobody bothers to explain what is wrong with it because this would require finding out what it is.

            Liked by 1 person

          26. Peter,
            I have to admit I’m not familiar with the Perennial version of Idealism. The Perennialism I’ve heard about is a sort of religious universalism. (And my knowledge of that comes only from disparate online discussions. Some perhaps with you?) Don’t know if that’s the same thing.

            On it not being falsified, that’s good. But I’d wonder if any aspects of it are falsifiable, at least in principle. I think that’s what makes a lot of contemporary thinkers leery of pure metaphysics.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. PeterJ

          You’ve got my ear. It appears that your metaphysical position may be similar to my own and yes, I am equally dumbfounded that everyone is unwilling to even investigate Transcendental Idealism let alone work the system and put it to the test. Work the system, put it through the paces of rigorous mind experiments, see where it leads. Nobody, and I nobody I’ve encountered is willing to even investigate it. And your right, TI is not idealism, the utilization of the word idealism in TI is meant to convey that it’s the “ideal” model.

          At a university in Europe summer of 2019, Chalmers was giving his usual spiel on the meta-problem. Someone asked a question about TI: Chalmers responded by stating that he does know enough about TI to even respond to the question. I’ve participated on this blog, as well as blogs that are idealist platforms and the biases and outright bigotry of the participants is unbearable, so I opted out. Nobody is really interested in learning anything new, individuals are on these blog to reinforce their own biases.

          Myself: my metaphysical position constantly evolves over time as I have been actively involved in building a comprehensive, viable model for the last forty (40) years. The model is rigorous and the vocabulary I use constantly changes. I’ve actually developed a model I refer to as Transcendental Idealism Revision 1.0. I officially call it Reality/Appearance Metaphysics or RAM.

          Academic philosophy is a joke and those professionals I’ve interacted with, the likes of Goff, Segel and Schwitzgegel are only interested in having fun, spinning things and making coy comments with no intention of making progress. Original ideas are a rare and scarce commodity these days, and when an ordinary smuck like myself introduces a novel idea that is actually original, everyone mocks the effort, let alone show any interest whatsoever in the new idea. Hang in there and if you have any interest in my model, we can work out a means to communicate directly.


          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hi Lee

            Nice to meet another critic of the academic circus. It’s a disgraceful exhibition of pig-headedness and ignorance. The fact that Chalmers does not know TI and is prepared to admit it is astonishing and indicates the depth of the problem. I wouldn’t mind if he argued it’s wrong but he cannot do this. He has no idea whether it is right or wrong and just doesn’t care, How can this be called a professional approach?

            I’m certainly interested in your ideas and would be happy to chat about them. But I must admit that I cannot see the need for any new ideas, just a better understandiong of the old ones. I once mentioned the Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna to Pigliucci, who professes to be a Stoic, and discovered he had not heard of him. I was utterly gobsmacked. There is something horribly wrong with the academic world. It’s as if professors are incapable of using the internet.

            I wonder if they feel that solving a philosophical problem would mean killing the golden goose that pays their mortgage. It seems this way. The rise of scientism is entirely explicable when one looks at the work of most philosophy professors. It could be summed up by the phrase ‘twiddling their thumbs’. I hold out more hope of physicists grasping the basics of philosophy than anyone in the philosophy department, and would cite the quantum pioneers as evidence.

            Sorry to rant so much. I’m just so sad that our entire culture is infused with the philosophy department’s nonsense. It is betrayal of young people and the effect is tragic. I expect you agree. . .


            . .

            . . .


          2. Absolutely!!!!!

            “But I must admit that I cannot see the need for any new ideas, just a better understanding of the old ones.”

            I don’t disagree with that assessment and will add that a better understanding of the existing models leads to insights on how to improve them. I hope you agree that Kant literally brought the Two Truths Doctrine of Nargajuna with its two contexts of reality to the West. Of course Kant canonized the words noumena and phenomena to reflect those two contexts of reality, i.e., the ultimate reality and our conventional reality. It should be noted that the first historical figure to introduce that notion was Parmenides with his reality/appearance distinction. My model is based upon those three incredible geniuses.

            It is unfortunate that Plato and Aristotle rejected Parmenides’ metaphysics and substituted it with subjective/object metaphysics (SOM). In my latest book I dedicate a full chapter to SOM and express what I consider to be a “Historical Blunder”.


            Liked by 1 person

  10. Mike – Excuse me if my posts sometimes arrive in odd places. It seems I can’t always reply to individual messages.

    Your comment seems eminently sensible and takes us to the heart of the issues.

    The reason you’re not familiar with the Perennial version of that the philosophy department, henceforth the ‘Academy’, is incompetent. They are no more familiar with it. The difference is only that they have no excuse. .

    Like most people you’ve heard about the Perennial philosophy as a sort of religious universalism, probably thanks to Huxley’s famous book, but like most people you haven’t spotted that it is a clearly identifiable and testable metaphysical. theory, a theory that can be tested in metaphysics in the usual way using reason and logic. .

    You note that not having being falsified is interesting if in principle it is falsififiable. But mysticism is a slippery customer. When expressed as a metaphysical theory it is formally irrefutable and empirically unfalsifiable, This is what we would expect if it is true.

    You’re right to say that it is because they think metaphysical theories are unfalsifiable that a lot of contemporary thinkers are leery of pure metaphysics, but this is a catastrophic misunderstanding an almost a school boy error. Approximately all metaphysical theores may be reduced to absurdity in ordinary logic with little difficulty. This is all too easy to verify. The metaphysical theory that underpins the Perennial philosophy and its religious universalism is the only one that survives. This is what Nagarjuna proves in the second century.

    So there it is. Either we study the Perennial philosophy or we confine ourselves to the study of theories that fail in logic and develop a very pessimistic view of metaphysics. .

    Oddly enough, ‘self-aware patterns’ would be something very like what the mystics say we are as individuals. Bernardo Kastrup, a prominent Idealist, likens conscious individuals to whirlpools in a stream. I wonder what led you to choose this name.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peter,
      No worries on reply location. WordPress has an annoying limitation where the Reply link goes away after a certain amount of nesting. If you’re subscribed to the thread by email, you can use the Reply link in the email message to continue replying in place. If you’re using a WordPress account, you can continue replying at . Or you can just do what you did here and continue the conversation further down.

      “When expressed as a metaphysical theory it is formally irrefutable and empirically unfalsifiable, This is what we would expect if it is true.”

      In science, the trick is to be falsifiable without being falsified, in other words, to be testable and to pass the tests. The issue is we have numerous metaphysical theories that seem to contradict each other. All of them can’t be right. (And the assertion that they’re all the same seems like itself another theory.) But if they’re all unfalsifiable, we have no way to settle which one is reality.

      Interesting point on the “self aware patterns” name. I chose it because I do think that’s fundamentally what we are. Although in my case, I was thinking patterns of organs, cells, molecules, atoms, elementary particles, wave excitations, and perhaps even more fundamental things. It’s not these things, in and of themselves, that make us, but the organization, the structure, the shape and evolution of the patterns. In principle, the underlying constituents could change, but as long as the patterns persist, we persist. And I see such patterns as a nexus of information flow, a system of concentrated causality in time and space.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand the point about testability. In metaphysics a theory fails if it reduces to absurdity and succeeds if it does not. A theory may be decidable and irrefutable,

        There are, as you say, a lot of theories that directly oppose each other in metaphysics and all of them are undecidable. They all reduce to absurdity so it is impossible to decide between them. Kant made thjs clear and it is old news.

        Briefly stated, all positive or extreme metaphysical theories are logically indefensible. This leaves just one theory standing and this is a neutral theory as endorsed by the mystics. .This is how simple metaphysics is when we don’t fight against its results and are not carrying a lot of baggage.

        Your idea about patterns chimes nicely with a neutral metaphysical position, except that it embodies realism. This is a member of one of those opposed-pairs of theories you have noted metaphysics rejects. You’re reifying time and space and metaphysics does not endorse this idea. The prevailing ‘scientific’ naively-realistic view entirely ignores logic and reason.

        We needn’t delve onto all this or have any disagreements. I’m only trying to make the point that it is not a good idea to take much notice of Chalmers and his academic peers when they speaks about philosophy and consciousness, and more sensible to listen to those who study it. Academics do not study consciousness. They study ideas about consciousness. If you listen trustingly to them you cannot expect to make any more progress than them, which so far is none at all.

        I would have thought the abject failure of modern ‘scientific’ consciousnes studies and the stagnation of Western philosophy would be enough to make anyone suspicious of its approach.Does this two millennia-long failure not lead you think there may be something they are missing?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The question I’d have, is what makes something absurd? By what standard do we conclude that something has collapsed into absurdity? I ask because a lot of successful scientific theories, when first proposed, seem absurd to people at the time.

          I’m open to time and space not existing, but I’d need a plausible accounting of why so much science works with them as variables, not to mention our everyday experience.

          I know this controversial in philosophical circles, but I actually think the neuroscientific study of consciousness is making steady progress. The problem is much of what it’s revealing doesn’t align with our intuitions, so many don’t see it as progress.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Mike

            In metaphysics absurdity is judged according to the rules of ordinary logic. The test is not that an idea or thesis seems absurd but that it is demonstrably so. It is a formal property, not a matter of opinion.

            Neuroscience is unable to identify consciousness or prove that there is such a thing. As one neuroscientist has noted, searching for consciousness by delving into the brain is like searching for gravity by digging into the Earth. Most people in ‘scientific’ cosnciousness studies have yet to even see that consciousness is a metaphysical problem. I have no idea why it’s called ‘scientific’.

            I must apologise for barging in and expressing such strong views.on your forum. I didn’t mean to say so much but got drawn in. I hope you’re okay with it. .

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Peter,
      Can you point me to an example of a formal determination of absurdity? I know logic can be shown to be inconsistent, invalid, or incomplete. And its soundness can be called into question if its premises appear false, but I’m not aware of absurdity itself as a precise logical determination. Granted, my exposure is mostly to the western tradition of logic.

      I certainly think neuroscience has failed to find certain conceptions of consciousness. But I take these failures as data. I do agree that there’s an inescapable philosophical aspect to consciousness. Every scientific theory of consciousness involves an assumed definition of it, a philosophical assumption. I often wonder if neuroscience shouldn’t just ignore consciousness, and let philosophers figure out what their results mean for it. But they won’t, because the subject is too irresistible. Everyone weighs in on it.

      No worries on expressing strong views. If you look through the archives, you’ll see lots of strong disagreements. My only requirement is that we keep it friendly, which you’re doing an excellent job of.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Mike

        Establishing absurdity is the whole point of dialectical logic. Technically it means establishing that a proposition gives rise to a self-contradiction or other absurd consequences. It’s how we think. An easy example would be a theory for which squares are circles. We would assume the theory is true and examine the consequences, and if the result is requires that we break Aristotle’s rules for A/not-A then this is absurdity.

        In his metaphysical essay ‘Appearance and Reality’ F.H. Bradley gives two examples of theories that metaphysics reveals as absurd. These are Materialism and ‘commonplace’ Monotheism. Both ideas fail when subjected to analysis. Both give rise to endless regresses or demand that something comes from nothing etc. Thus he describes metaphysics as an ‘effective antidote for dogmatic superstition’. This is because its principle method is the reduction of theories to absurdity.

        I mentioned Nagarjuna. His solution for metaphysics begins by reducing to absurdity all positive metaphysical positions. Simply put, metaphysics relies on Aristotle’s dialectical method, which itself relies on the refutation of theories by reducing then to absurdity, or, in other words, revealing that they give rise to contradictions.

        You say every scientific theory of consciousness is built on assumptions I would say that these theories are not scientific. I know of only one scientific theory of consciousness, this being the only one that emerges from a first-hand ’empirical’ study of the phenomenon and not from a bunch of untested assumptions. This is the theory I endorse, In my view none of the rest would qualify as scientific – pretty much for the reasons you give.



        Liked by 1 person

  11. Lee

    I think you;re the first person I’ve ever met who speaks my language. I must read your book. Mine is at the publisher and I await their decision, In it there is much discussion of how Kant almost invented the Two Truths doctrine. I even try to explain why it cannot be invented. It seems we are on the same page.

    Heidegger blames the loss of the idea of Unity from Greek philosophy on the immediate post-Socratics and this seems correct to me. It dooms the Western tradition of thought to futility.

    Can you point me at some of your writing on these issues? .


    1. PeterJ,

      My writings are archived in the blog sites I’ve participated in over the years with no easy access, sorry. I have a book on Amazon I published in 2015, but it was a self-portrait not a work of metaphysics. Do you have any previous publications of your own that I can check out. I would definitely like to read your upcoming work also. Do you have an email address through which we could correspond directly?

      For the record: I am in full agreement with you’re assessment of metaphysics. The late Richard Rorty articulated the challenge best when he said: “without a vocabulary that captures the way the world really is or a core human nature there isn’t even a possibility of locating a metaphysical foundation for truth.”

      The PBS “Closer to Truth” series with Robert Lawrence Kuhn had a segment on metaphysics. An older gentleman who has spent his entire life trying commented that; “It cannot be done. And do you want to know why?” he asked Kuhn. “Because if I can’t do it, nobody can” was his staunch reply.

      My question for you Peter is this: do you think that either one of those challenges that Rorty expressed can be accomplished, or are you skeptical?



      1. Lee

        I’ve accomplished the challenge you mention and am able to fully explain metaphysics. (The strapline of my book is ‘An explanation of philosophy’). I have a blog with a lot of essays on it which you’ll find if you click on my name. If you get in touch there I’ll mention my email address so we can chat.

        I believe metaphysics is actually very easy to solve. To do so requires a paradigm-shift that is clearly too much of a challenge for most Western thinkers, but you’ve already overcome this step so should have no trouble. Any difficulties are conceptual and not to do with complexity or intellectual difficulty.

        I’m aware this is bold talk but I can only say it as I see it. I’d be fascinated to chat since we seem already to be in close agreement.on the basics.




        1. PeterJ,
          I click on your name and your blog site comes up with this message”

          “ is no longer available.”


  12. PeterJ,
    I spent some time over @ your blog site reviewing your metaphysics and yes, your metaphysics is not new nor is it original. I am very familiar with this metaphysics nevertheless, my own metaphysics is revolutionary and new therefore, my metaphysics supersedes this old outdated model.

    Reality/Appearance Metaphysics (RAM) asserts that there are no false statements, there are only true ones therefore, there is never a contradiction that has to be resolved. Since Reality is a context, the only thing that has to be worked out is the context in which a statement becomes true. Bottom line Peter, human being do not believe lies, they believe the truth and that truth is a context.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh come on Lee, how often is it that you find someone who even speaks your language? And then you talk about Dr Martin’s “old outdated model” and how you’re some kind of savant god? Unless you have no interest in discussing things with people who might actually be interested in your ideas, I think you should try that again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I really do like you Eric, how can I not? Your impeccable choice of words and your candor are unmatched!!!!!! I hope you and your loved ones continue to evade the COVID scourge my dear friend,


        Liked by 1 person

        1. Same to you Lee. Yes as long as we can manage to get our parents vaccinated then we’ll be fine over here. Actually more than fine, though it would be stupid to mention anything about benefits given the price that countless millions pay…


        2. Eric,
          I have an additional anecdote to my last post. Remember Kelly Brock back in the 80s in that Pantene commercial where she finished with her plea to the viewing audience: “Please don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”. My Gandhi response to your own Gandhi is: “please don’t hate me because I’m a savant god.”

          Cheers my friend

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes that does ring a bell Lee. But here’s the thing. Given her beauty and prominence people had true reason to be jealous of her. Thus her line was clever. Conversely no one hates you or me for the influence that either of us have over the masses, and this is simply given that we don’t have any. (Any other such examples of hatred will be incidental.) You might aspire to be widely hated and/or loved for your ideas some day. I certainly do. Gandhi himself was far too clever a politician to actually admit his own such desires, though hatred and love is exactly what permitted him to do what he did every step of the way. That didn’t escape him of course.

            Anyway I don’t know why you’re still talking with me when you might otherwise be taking with someone who does seem to speak your language. That “savant god” bullshit will obviously do you no good with Peter. But then I’ve still got some delicate business with Mike to get back to. So I guess it’s the same for us. I should be talking with him right now rather than you, though this is simple stuff while that’s anything but.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Eric

            Yes, ‘savant gods’ will get nowhere with me. The idea that someone could invent a new and correct theory where every other philosopher of the past has failed is incredible. There is nothing new in anything I’m saying.

            My comment about ‘speaking my language’ was prompted by the reference to Kant and Nagarjuna;s doctrine of Two Truths. tt was clearly a bit hasty – but few people spot this connection. . . .

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Lee

      You say you’re familiar with the metaphysics I describe, and that your own metaphysics is revolutionary and new and therefore supersedes this old outdated model.

      I don’t buy it. I doubt you are familiar with this metaphysics and am very sure it will never be outdated. It is, after all, supposed to be true. If you’re suggesting that you’ve come up with an explanation of Reality that works better then the Buddha’s and Lao Tsu’s, or even one that works at all, then I cannot take this suggestion seriously.

      But perhaps you’re saying that have a new way of explaining or extending it. Is that it?



      1. Nothing personal Peter, but I have exhausted myself with individuals who’s fundamental metaphysical position is one of skepticism. Suggesting, let alone asserting that there are no further a priori advancements in the explanation of Reality other than ancient religious traditions is absurd. In fact, it is the intellectual construction of such hypotheses that prevents one from receiving new revelation through a priori intuitions. And here is why:

        Whenever one is convinced of a rational argument one does not know more but one knows less. This is because the door to any other possibility is slammed shut. It is this mentality that acts as a bulwark like any other walled city. The paradox of a walled city is twofold: first, not only does the wall keep intruders out,(new ideas) but second, it also holds the citizens behind that wall captive, (intellectual prisoners).

        I find it ironic that we are conditioned by our culture to accept the word of “some dude” whom we’ve never met, over the a priori intuitions of a real person, one who is living and breathing like yourself. That metaphysical position is equally absurd.



        1. Lee

          I cannot make sense of your comment or understand what motivates it.

          I like being convinced by rational argument because it allows me to slam shut the door to irrational ideas. This is what rationality is for. And I have no idea at all what you mean by suggesting that we should not accept the word of ‘some dude’. If this is what you think I’m doing then you need to read more carefully. I also do not see what religious tradition has to do with whether a theory is true, plausible, workable or useful.

          I would say we are conditioned by our culture NOT to accept the word of some dude.we’ve never met or to simply accept the ‘a priori’ intuitions’ of anybody else. Quite right too. As you say, it would be ridiculous to do this. Neither would be a rational approach to philosophy.

          Never mind. I’d at least agree that’s it a good idea to keep an open mind until you feel well enough informed to make it up. . .


      2. PeterJ,
        I posted a comment over @ your blog site flagged: “waiting approval”. If you are interested in a dialogue we can continue over there.


  13. Mike

    You say that for you materialism is ‘about what we can find reliable empirical (conscious experiential) evidence for, and a logical understanding (theory) to make sense of that evidence’. I see what you mean, but this is not usually called materialism. In philosophy materialism is the theory that everything is made of matter and originates with matter. It is the view that extended matter and space-time are fundamental or arise ex nihilo. .

    Your view seems considerably more sensible since it’s a methodology rather than a theory. From your description I’d guess I share your view or approach. Exeprience and logic are the way forward, not speculation and ideological entrenchment. But I wouldn’t call it materialism since this requires that we ignore logic and experience. the very opposite of your approach.

    You seem to be saying no more than you expect to proceed on the basis of experiential/empirical data and reason and logic, in which case you won’t get any argument from me. I’m very much on your side in this matter. .

    . .


    Liked by 1 person

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