What philosophers believe, 2020 edition

Back in 2009, David Bourget and David Chalmers conducted a survey of professional philosophers, asking for their positions on 40 questions. Over the years, a number of people have pointed out the existence of that survey. While I don’t think anyone should change their position purely based on what large numbers of philosophers think, it’s still interesting to see which views are held and by what margins, and where our own conclusions fall.

It turns out that a new version was conducted last year, and the results have now been announced. This new survey has expanded both the population surveyed (apparently going further from the “elite” schools) and the number of questions asked, adding an additional 60 questions to the original. The original questions are kept segregated for purposes of longitudinal analyses. Bourget and Chalmers published a commentary discussing the motivations and results, but they have also made the detailed results available for perusal.

Looking through the multiple choice questions, I find the standard answers that seems to have consistently been available for respondents toward the end of each list interesting. They include that the question is too vague, an assertion that there is no fact of the matter, or agnosticism or undecided. I’m a particular fan of the “no fact of the matter” option. Too many of the things people argue about in philosophy actually deserve that answer. Not that it was chosen very often by the respondents, but I didn’t see any questions where it came in at completely zero.

One of the high marks for agreement appears to be that 80% agree that the external world exists (my view), with less than 7% going the idealism route. The highwater mark for idealism seems like it was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The view gets some attention today, but seems thoroughly in the minority.

60% are free will compatibilists (my view), with 19% going for libertarian free will and only 11% rejecting free will entirely.

Given a choice between theism or atheism, 67% go atheist, 19% theist, and 7% agnostic. As I indicated a few posts back, my take on this depends on which conception of “God” or “gods” we’re discussing. Along those lines, I wonder how many of the theists here are traditional theists versus pantheists or deists.

62% are moral realists, with only 26% in the anti-real camp (my view). Of course, this might hinge on what we mean by “real”. Moral rules do exist psychologically, culturally, and legally, but I take this question to be whether they exist in some more fundamental fashion similar to scientific laws.

On the mind, 52% are physicalists (my view) and 32% non-physicalists. This is one that I think would be very different if the population surveyed were scientists.

35% think we survive being teleported, 40% disagree, and 7% say there’s no fact of the matter (my view).

Getting into the new extended questions, 82% think abortion is permissible in the first trimester (my view), while 13% disagree.

67% don’t think Searle’s Chinese Room understands Chinese, while 18% think it does (my view). Given my very low opinion of this thought experiment, I have to say I’m disappointed with this breakdown.

On consciousness, 33% are functionalists (my view), 22% dualists, and 13% identity theorists. Less than 8% are panpsychists and less than 5% eliminativists, which is somewhat surprising given how much attention these views get.

For cosmological fine tuning, 17% think it indicates design (perhaps getting at that question of traditional theism I was wondering about above), 15% a multiverse, 32% take it as just a brute fact, and 22% reject that there is fine tuning (my view).

62% think the hard problem of consciousness exists, while 30% think it doesn’t (my view). Although it’s more accurate to say I think the hard problem does exist, but only as the culmination of all the easy problems. I just don’t think it exists distinct from those easy ones.

54% think destructive mind uploading kills the subject, while 27% think the subject survives. 4% think there’s no fact of the matter (my view).

On other minds, 95% think adult humans are conscious, 84% for newborn babies, 89% cats, 65% fish, 35% flies, 24% worms, 7% plants, 2% particles, 3% current AI, and 39% future AI. My own views here are complex (see my consciousness hierarchy posts) but it amounts to seeing the question as really about how much like adult humans the other systems are. I do wonder what the reasoning is for the 5% who didn’t say adult humans are conscious.

30% are capitalists and 53% socialists. I probably would have selected both here since I think a mixed economy has historically proven to be the best answer.

On quantum mechanics, 24% are agnostic, 22% go for hidden variable theories, 19% many-worlds, 17% collapse, and 13% epistemic. I probably would have selected agnostic. I find the collapse answer interesting, since with a separate epistemic option, that could indicate 17% think there is some form of ontological collapse.

The analysis shows interesting correlations between these answers, although most are what we might expect, like surviving teleportation lining up with surviving mind uploading.

There are some interesting correlations between those who selected many-worlds, survival for teleportation, mind uploading, consciousness for future AI systems, and understanding for the Chinese Room. It gets a little at one of my pet theories about why so many people are viscerally repelled by many-worlds, that it threatens our conception of the self. But the correlations were only weak ones, so caution is warranted.

There are a ton of questions and answer selections in this survey I don’t understand. This was also true for the older survey. I always promised myself I’d look up the concepts. That happened to a limited extent, but seeing the questions again is a reminder of just how limited. Oh well, maybe this time will be different and I’ll know more before the 2030 edition.

What do you think? Anything here, or in the overall results, you find surprising? Disappointing? Encouraging? How do your own conclusions line up?

69 thoughts on “What philosophers believe, 2020 edition

  1. Lots of meat to unpack here. Regarding “Given a choice between theism or atheism, 67% go atheist, 19% theist, and 7% agnostic.” Agnostic isn’t a belief, it is a statement about the evidence available for argument. Anyone claiming to be “an agnostic” is saying that they are an atheist (the null position) but do not have enough information and if it were to be supplied could be come a theist.

    Re “For cosmological fine tuning, 17% think it indicates design (perhaps getting at that question of traditional theism I was wondering about above), 15% a multiverse, 32% take it as just a brute fact, and 22% reject that there is fine tuning (my view).” I find this passing strange, in that if this universe did not support the existence of life, we wouldn’t be here to address the question. The question can only exist in a universe that supports sentience. So, the idea of “fine tuning” (which has been debunked) is flawed as it assumes there is a tuning mechanism or a tuner. As brute facts go, it is suspicious only to creationists. It would also be the case that one could claim that the universe was fine tuned to produce black holes or vacuum.

    Great post, I am following your links, now!

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    1. Thanks Steve!

      On agnosticism, I probably should have made it clear that the question really did ask for a binary choice between theism and atheism, but it also included those standard bottom options, including agnosticism or undecided, which is where the 7% landed. I do think “atheist” and “agnostic” have acquired sociological associations that affect which label people want to belong to, which “team” they want to be associated with.

      My big issue with fine tuning is it involves making statements about what the universe would be like if the various factors were different. I’m pretty skeptical that we know enough to make those types of claims.

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    2. “So, the idea of “fine tuning” (which has been debunked) is flawed as it assumes there is a tuning mechanism or a tuner”.

      Some undoubtedly think that way. For me, it is more a matter of expecting some more rules or more science to explain why we live in this universe rather than another one. Right now, we have dozens of particles, various forms of energy, mixtures of chaos and order, forces, and apparent laws with nothing other than the random chance of multiverse to explain.

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  2. Comments on your comments:

    On moral realism, I think I’m a moral realist, which puts me in the majority, but I think my view that there is an objective morality (we just can’t know how specific decisions relate to it, so we need rules of thumb) is probably not in the same majority.

    On abortion, I’d be interested to know if your position includes an idea of when “life begins”.

    On Chinese Room, also dissapointed.

    On consciousness, I should look up the possible answers. I’m a functionalist, representationalist, and dualist (information processing has a non-physical description), at least.

    On the hard problem, I think the hard problem is distinct from the easy problems, but agree that it will be logically explainable as an answer to the meta-problem (why do we think there is a hard problem).

    On other minds, interesting that 8% are panspsychist but only 2% give consciousness to particles. [I am, of course, in the “current AI” group.]

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    [checking out the link now]

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    1. On when life begins, it doesn’t seem like a meaningful concept to me. Both the sperm and egg are alive prior to fusion. What we do have after the fusion is the single celled zygote, which has its own unique genetics. But it’s not true that every cell it subsequently divides into has exactly the same genetics, although they’re far more similar than cells from another individual.

      Ultimately though, the real question is when “personhood” begins. I don’t think there’s any real fact of the matter, any sharp line. But a fetus with a functional cortex and synchronized brain waves strikes me as minimal. Sleep wake cycles increase my intuition of personhood. Those are third trimester events. But from what I’ve read, it’s not clear that the fetus is ever truly awake prior to birth, when a massive surge of norepinephrine jolts them into awareness.

      On the discrepancy between panpsychism and seeing particles as conscious, I think there may be two issues. One is that only 1.47% were definite panpsychists; the rest of that group only leans toward it. The second is that many who take the label “panpsychists” are actually what Chalmers calls panprotopsychists, who don’t see everything as conscious, but everything having the building blocks of it.

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        1. The interesting question with panprotopsychism is in thinking what distinguishes it from reductive physicalism. Chalmers makes the point that there’s always an extra something there all along the way. Goff seems at times more inclined to claim something already within the physics view, like quantum spin, is the foundation. (Although at other times he starts talking about intrinsic and currently unknown properties of matter.)

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          1. From my perspective, it has to do with information, specifically, mutual information, or correlation. A given physical “thing” will share mutual information with certain other physical things, but you can’t get any of those details just by looking at (taking physical measurements of) the thing itself. So the mutual information is a non-physical attribute, albeit resulting from physical interactions. And it’s the attribute that leads to consciousness.

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          2. What about the correlations makes them non-physical? If we removed the entities under consideration, would there still be a correlation? If they didn’t have a shared causal lineage, would the correlations remain?

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          3. Hmm. We’re getting into the definition of “physical”. I’m gonna try … a physical property is one you can discern by interacting with (measuring) a thing. Does that work?

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          4. Not sure. Does indirect measurement count? For example, gravitational waves are measured indirectly using minute changes in the interference pattern of kilometer scale laser interferometers.

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          5. Not sure what indirect measurement is. The diffraction pattern is in a direct causal chain of interactions starting with the wave. Don’t think there is a similar way to measure correlation.

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          6. James,
            My questions would be, how do we know about the correlations other than by a causal chain of interactions? How do we verify their existence other than by that chain?

            And what would you say the philosopher belief survey did to get the r values it reports on correlations between answers?

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          7. James,

            I think you are on to something so, I’m going to do a little editing of your comments in reference to your use of the term physical verses non-physical. Namely, I’m going to replace your use of the term physical with “classical” and your use of the term non-physical with “quantum”. Tell me what you think.

            “A given (classical) “thing” will share mutual information with certain other (classical) things, but you can’t get any of those details just by looking at (taking (classical) measurements of) the thing itself. So the mutual information is a (quantum) attribute, albeit resulting from (classical) interactions. And it’s the (quantum) attribute that leads to consciousness.

            Therefore, mind, i.e. consciousness itself must be a quantum system that has an intrinsically unique quality. And that attribute is the ability to measure itself. The mind is a linear system which has the capacity to hold all possibilities in a “superposition” until an intellectual measurement is made, an intellectual measurement which collapses all those possibilities into a single, discrete outcome.

            THAT is how a correlation is measured; intellectually. It takes a quantum system to measure another quantum system. This is the only way to eliminate the measurement problem in quantum physics……… Cool, Huh, or as Wyrd would say Duh!!!!!!

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  3. “35% think we survive being teleported, 40% disagree, and 7% say there’s no fact of the matter (my view).”

    😀 😀 😀

    I didn’t understand your meaning with: “I find the collapse answer interesting, since with a separate epistemic option, that could indicate 17% think there is some form of ontological collapse.”

    Are you just referencing the 17% category, or did you mean to add 17% collapse and 13% epistemic for a 30% total?

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    1. I was only referencing the 17% category. It seems with the separate epistemic option, the 17% selecting the explicit collapse answer probably aren’t thinking of the epistemic version of the collapse, but an actual physical collapse. I do think the results indicate an overall 30% support for a collapse of some kind.

      I actually find it mildly surprising that the epistemic answer is that low, particularly since you can accept an epistemic view and still see hidden variables or many-worlds as true.

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      1. Okay, thanks for the clarification; I agree it seems as you say. (There is perhaps a small definitional issue regarding what exactly “collapses” — one could view the wavefunction math as epistemic but think the QFT fields involved abruptly transform due to an interaction — e.g. a photon being absorbed and raising the energy level of an electron.)

        Can I ask about your teleportation numbers? In their paper I see Survival: 35(.2)%; Death: 40(.1)%; Other: 24.8%. Where did you get the 7% no fact of the matter from?

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        1. I would think anyone who sees the QFT fields as abruptly transforming is effectively in the physical collapse column. But definitely the epistemic view is compatible with various physical collapse views as well, but it also seems a bit redundant in those cases since the physical collapse idea is that the phenomenology is what it appears to be.

          Unfortunately the paper actually doesn’t cover those “footer” answers. To see them, you have to look at the detailed results (hopefully this link goes to the right spot): https://survey2020.philpeople.org/survey/results/4914

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          1. Thanks. Wow, yeah, that’s really drilling down! I think I’ll just stick with the rough thirds. 🙂

            Sabine Hossenfelder posted a video about whether Kirk dies when he transports. She mentions the survey results and was clearly triggering off that teleportation question. Now I know what survey she meant.

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  4. Mike, my answers would be:
    You’re asking about epistemology, but I should point out there can be correlations without any causal history. A cloud formation can look like Abraham Lincoln, and there is a real correlation there. It’s just not very useful (except in special circumstances). But some correlations due to causation can be useful. We know about the causal correlations because they are repeatable, and the useful ones tend to be correlated with future measurements. The (dynamic real-time, non-static) image of a charging bear tends to be correlated with a future measurement (image, among less pleasant others) of a very close bear, which first image can possibly be used to avoid the second.

    (Statistics is just advanced epistemology.)

    Lee,
    Cool stuff, but I think you’re over-complicating things. I don’t see any need to differentiate the classical and the quantum. The classical derives from the quantum, including the correlations. I think we can get from the quantum correlations to “mind” and “consciousness” through application of standard information theory, albeit with some advancement of current theory.

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    1. James, I’m actually asking about the ontology of the epistemology. Anyway, I can see where you’re coming from in saying that correlations are non-physical, but it ends up being a question similar to whether donut holes exist. Remove the bits we all agree are physical, and the pattern is gone. That, to me, means it’s physical.

      But that’s arguably a semantic distraction. The real question is whether correlations are made of some other kind of non-physical ghostly substance. Hopefully we agree that isn’t the case.

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  5. It’s becoming clear that with all the brain and consciousness theories out there, the proof will be in the pudding. By this I mean, can any particular theory be used to create a human adult level conscious machine. My bet is on the late Gerald Edelman’s Extended Theory of Neuronal Group Selection. The lead group in robotics based on this theory is the Neurorobotics Lab at UC at Irvine. Dr. Edelman distinguished between primary consciousness, which came first in evolution, and that humans share with other conscious animals, and higher order consciousness, which came to only humans with the acquisition of language. A machine with primary consciousness will probably have to come first.

    The thing I find special about the TNGS is the Darwin series of automata created at the Neurosciences Institute by Dr. Edelman and his colleagues in the 1990’s and 2000’s. These machines perform in the real world, not in a restricted simulated world, and display convincing physical behavior indicative of higher psychological functions necessary for consciousness, such as perceptual categorization, memory, and learning. They are based on realistic models of the parts of the biological brain that the theory claims subserve these functions. The extended TNGS allows for the emergence of consciousness based only on further evolutionary development of the brain areas responsible for these functions, in a parsimonious way. No other research I’ve encountered is anywhere near as convincing.

    I post because on almost every video and article about the brain and consciousness that I encounter, the attitude seems to be that we still know next to nothing about how the brain and consciousness work; that there’s lots of data but no unifying theory. I believe the extended TNGS is that theory. My motivation is to keep that theory in front of the public. And obviously, I consider it the route to a truly conscious machine, primary and higher-order.

    My advice to people who want to create a conscious machine is to seriously ground themselves in the extended TNGS and the Darwin automata first, and proceed from there, by applying to Jeff Krichmar’s lab at UC Irvine, possibly. Dr. Edelman’s roadmap to a conscious machine is at https://arxiv.org/abs/2105.10461

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    1. Thanks. Looks like an interesting paper. Edelman’s dynamic core theory doesn’t get a lot of direct mention these days, but many contemporary theorists received training from him, and his ideas have been a heavy influence on current theories, often explicitly acknowledged.

      My take, after reading about dozens of books on this stuff, is that it’s pretty unlikely there will ever be one theory that solves the whole thing. As Anil Seth points out in his latest book, consciousness is more like life than temperature. Temperature can be described with a single equation. Consciousness, like life, is likely to involve a vast galaxy of interacting theories. Along those lines, I don’t think any current neuroscientific theory of consciousness is completely right, but many of them are capturing aspects of the solution.

      So I agree completely that it’s a myth that we know nothing about this. That myth is one people keep repeating to each other, almost like social signaling. It seems to ignore the mountains of cognitive neuroscience data sitting in front of us. Unfortunately, people will just keep on repeating it, a fact that often makes me wonder how productive consciousness really is as a scientific topic.

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    2. “The extended TNGS allows for the emergence of consciousness based only on further evolutionary development of the brain areas responsible for these functions, in a parsimonious way.”.

      And which brains areas would they be?

      I think we know virtually 100% that consciousness is dependent on brain activity, probably synchronous and rhythmic firings of groups of neurons. Where is the mystery is in how some “twitchings” of neurons translate to subjective experience.

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          1. I think progress requires clarifying what we mean by “subjective experience” (beyond citing equally vague terms like “qualia” or “like something”). Clarity makes the problem concrete and addressable. Ambiguity hides hidden assumptions and preserves the appearance of mystery.

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          2. You need to clarify what is meant by subjective experience?

            Your subjective experience is what you know, think, and remember when your neurons fire. I guess if that is nothing, then you must be a p-zombie. 🙂

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          3. Knowing, thinking, and remembering is an improvement. I think those are definitely within the scope of cognitive neuroscience.

            Sean Carroll recently made an observation about p-zombies that deserves to be shared.

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          4. Zombies or p-zombies? How strict the definition? His actual term is “zombie”, no “p” in what you quote.

            That argument is a stretch with a broad definition of zombie. Two types of automobiles can work very differently inside but manifest the same outward behavior. The same would be true with clocks and watches, calculators, and other devices that might have different mechanisms and operating principles yet be identical in outward appearance and functional capability. In this definition, he would be reverting to a pure behaviorist approach that the insides don’t matter in explaining anything. The question of consciousness is a question about what is inside.

            If we go with a more strict definition, that we can conceive of p-zombie (identical atom for atom with a human being) hardly means anything. We can conceive of worlds with 11 dimensions, imaginary numbers, unicorns, and a past where the Civil War never happened. The question isn’t whether a p-zombie can be conceived, the question is whether one could exist.

            At any rate, you can’t use the argument because you don’t believe in p-zombies.

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          5. I haven’t watched the video. (It’s frickkin 3 hours long, and it takes them forever to post the podcast version.) But it seems clear from the context that he means classic p-zombies.

            Definitely I don’t believe in p-zombies. Neither does he, obviously. But he’s basically making the same criticism I did when I posted about p-zombies years ago.

            The problems with philosophical zombies

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          6. I’m not sure there is really any value in the zombie discussion.

            If we are having a discussion, I certainly feel like I am having an experience. It may be illusory but it exists at some level even if it is like a mirage exists as a refracted light rays. I imagine you would self-report something similar. So consciousness exists and the zombie discussion is really all about how does it work and particularly whether it does anything useful.

            If you want to say it is physical, then tell me what substances, forces, or fields comprise it and if/ how it affects matter that it is not.

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          7. This is basic, but sometimes it’s productive to review those basics.

            Above you clarified knowledge, thinking, and remembering. Knowledge is belief, conclusions kept in memory. The current neuroscience explanation for memories is that they lie in the varying strength of synaptic connections. “Remembering” is the relevant parts of the neural network signaling through these connections, with the selective and recurrent propagation of the signals molded by those connections. If we take thinking to be simulations of past and possible sensory action sequences throughout these networks, then we have an accounting at the neural level.

            In terms of forces and fields, we’re talking about electrochemical reactions. Electromagnetic fields are involved in moving the ions across the ion channels when they open during an action potential. The strength of synapses gets us into organic chemistry, which is at the limits of my knowledge (although not of the knowledge of molecular biologists).

            That’s the (oversimplified and very incomplete) current canonical view. We’re far from a complete accounting, and I don’t doubt there are many surprises waiting in the data, but the common belief that we’re completely ignorant on this isn’t justified.

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          8. The electrochemical signaling eventually cascades into motor systems, which in turn eventually cascade to neuromuscular junctions, resulting in muscle fiber contractions, which we collectively refer to as behavior. Behavior, of course, has all kinds of effects on the organism’s survivability and reproductive success.

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          9. “If you want to say it is physical, then tell me what substances, forces, or fields comprise it…”

            For this metaphysician the answer to that question is pretty straight forward Jim; mind is a “localized” quantum field. Like I stated elsewhere; only a quantum system can measure another quantum system. And that is exactly what we do every time we make an intellectual decision.

            Here’s the biggest obstacle moving forward: There is no means in which to have a science of mind anymore than there is a means of having a science of matter because science requires empirical evidence, evidence that is limited to classical measuring instruments.

            The most brilliant measuring instrument in the known universe is mind, but everyone is so absorbed with their own solipsistic subjective experience that we are incapable of thinking outside the experience itself. No need to get overly excited about our dilemma because given enough time the, evolutionary process will do its thing leaving all of us behind. I just hope that as a species we do not become overly zealous in maintaining our own confirmational biases and burn those individuals at the stake 😚

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          10. Jim,

            The short answer to your question is yes. But, I think the correct apparatus to be used in testing this theory is imperative. The correct measuring instrument to be used is the intellect, relying heavily upon what we already know about the distinction between a priori and a posteriori judgments. These two types of knowledge form the antithesis between necessary truth and contingent and/or provisional truth. “A truth is necessary if it cannot be denied without a contradiction: period, end of discussion.” And this fundamental distinction cannot be overstated. Mathematics is the quintessential example of a “necessary truth” that is derived through a priori judgements.

            A necessary truth applies “only” to a priori judgements which are arrived at independently of experience and hold universally, whereas a contingent truth applies to a posteriori judgements. A posteriori are dependent upon empirical evidence and must therefore acknowledge that possible exceptions will always exist. Furthermore, if there is no way to test a theory empirically then further progress is stalled indefinitely.

            Given enough time and serious consideration of such a hypothesis, a theory that is based upon already previously established empirical evidence that a quantum world does in fact exist, a necessary truth about the mind being a quantum field will eventually emerge. To quote Schopenhauer:

            “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

            *****
            For those contributors who are only interested in a posteriori knowledge, please disregard this post.

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          11. These “a priori” arguments derive from reasoning but reasonable people come to different conclusions, especially in the matters of philosophy. How do your arguments lead to quantum systems?

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          12. “How do your arguments lead to quantum systems?”

            The short answer to your question is that none of the current models will not hold up under the scrutiny of analysis and are incoherent. They are all systemically flawed because their underling premise is grounded in the original assumption that mind is a classical system.

            As a practicing Zen Buddhist would say: our own experience of consciousness is our greatest resource.

            The most compelling evidence that mind is quantum system is that mind is the only physical system in the known universe that can hold all possibilities in a “superposition” until an intellectual measure is made. That dynamic holds true for real objects such as a stone or a charging elephant to imaginary objects such as ghosts, demons or two headed unicorns. There is no ontological distinction between real or imaginary objects, the only difference is a matter of context.

            Our own experience of consciousness demonstrates that the ability to hold all possibilities in a superposition until an intellectual measurement is made is a “necessary truth” because it cannot be denied without contradiction, a necessary truth derived from a priori judgements.

            How’s that for starters???????

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          13. I don’t see how “superposition” is anything more than a rough analogy. It also seems to overstate the role of decision making, problem solving, and reasoning. All of those things are a part of consciousness but only a part. There are other things: imagination, memory, pleasure, dreaming.. Even more importantly is the frequently unmentioned characteristic of action. Most conscious activity is in one way or another done for the purpose of movement or acting in the world.

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          14. A “rough analogy” to what Jim; quantum physics? Is what we “make up” about the quantum realm the “standard” by which one should adjudicate whether mind has the capacity to hold all possible outcomes in a superposition until an intellectual measurement is made or that it’s relevant or even important? This notion of mental superposition is not an analogy, it’s a dynamic which resides at the very core of our mental experience. It covers the breadth of imagination, memory, pleasure, dreaming or anything else you choose to list.

            Wave function and wave function collapse is sheer conjecture on the part of the scientific community. We have no idea what goes on in the quantum realm. Personally, I think the entire notion of “superposition”, “wave function” and “wave function collapse” is a projection of our own experience onto a fundamental reality just like idealism is a projection. Intellectual superposition and the subsequent collapse of possible outcomes can be empirically demonstrated by our own experience. It therefore becomes a “necessary truth” which is self-evident.

            Moving and taking action in the world is a discrete outcome of many possibilities once an intellectual measurement is made followed by a discrete action. All possible outcomes of action have a collapse dynamic resulting in a single discrete action. Like you stated, the entire dynamic of our experience is motion resulting in form and taking action; whether that action be mentally, psychologically, emotionally or physically. And all of those actions reduce back to possibilities…..

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          15. “The problem is that brains don’t really seem to work by holding all possible outcomes in superposition.”

            Thanks for the link, interesting article. That is correct Jim, brains do not hold all possible outcomes in a superposition because brains are an unconscious classical system. Their dynamics as a system operate within the domain of classical physics, discrete functions that can be measured. There is no way to measure a thought, only the classical dynamics that give rise to that thought can be measured not the thought itself. And that conundrum has to be explained……

            “Brains seem to latch on to one possibility…”

            Exactly, brains latch on to the one possibility that has collapsed in the mind, a discrete outcome that leads to action, action executed by the classical brain. As an emergent, separate and distinct system, either the mind has causal power or it doesn’t. The answer is self-evident.
            .
            “…then test and revise based on evidence…”

            The mind does the testing and revision not the brain, the brain executes the discrete outcome that is derived from the mind after considering the possibilities. The brain has never considered whether to keep the heart pumping or not because it is an”objective” system. Mind is the only system that is subjective and it is for that reason all of the involuntary functions of our body are not within the decision making process of the mind, for obvious reasons.

            I appreciate that challenges you keep throwing my way, they help me understand the objections that other might have of mind being a quantum field.

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          16. Jim,

            If you are interested, I have three more bullet points that argue for mind being a quantum field. You need to do a post on your blog for us to continue the discussion because selfawarepatterns.com has turned into a comic strip chat room. Not that a comic strip chat room is offensive or anything, it’s just not a good venue for serious respectable inquiry.

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  6. This kind of reminds me of the usage committee from the American Heritage Dictionary. As I understand it, the committee gets a list of questions about English grammar. What’s really interesting is seeing how the percentages change over time. Even if they go from being 95% against something in one decade to 75% against it a few decades later, that tells you a lot about how English is evolving. I bet after a few decades of this survey, some interesting trends will emerge.

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    1. That would be interesting to see. It’s a shame we haven’t had surveys like this historically. What were the impact of various books and papers over time? A decennial survey would reveal a lot. Although I guess before the internet, the logistics would have been much tougher.

      It’d also be interesting to see something like this for various scientific fields. For example, physicists occasionally take surveys on attitudes toward quantum mechanics, but they’re usually only focused on participants at a particular conference, and aren’t conducted with any regularity.

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      1. Oh gosh, yes! It would be great to see something like that. Same for dark matter and dark energy, extraterrestrial intelligence, the Gaia hypothesis… Even something kind of silly like opinions about Pluto would be interesting to track.

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        1. I would find the Pluto one interesting. I’ve had a sense lately that more and more are thinking the IAU might have been hasty (only eight planets in the entire universe?). A survey over time, from the initial decision, might show an interesting curve…

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Weird how 33% are functionalists but only 18% agree the Chinese room knows Chinese, when at least functionally it clearly does.
    I’m also a bit disappointed by your “no fact of the matter”, i.e. “agnosticism” cop-out on teleportation and upload. I’d think a functionalist would not hesitate here. What’s so different in reasoning about “the Chinese room” and “the SelfAwarePatterns room”?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought that discrepancy between functionalism and the Chinese room question was odd too. I suspect there’s a definitional issue here about “understand”. Definitions are the bane of philosophical discussions. They often lead to people arguing past each other because their definitions are different.

      Speaking of definitions, the no-fact-of-the-matter answer is different from agnosticism. (They’re actually different selections on the survey.) Agnosticism is saying no conclusion is justifiable yet (or in its stronger form, that it will never be justifiable). The no-fact-of-the-matter is a conclusion that the question has no objectively true answer.

      The definition of a self is not a universal truth. It’s a perception, a predictive model the brain makes, one with many layers that become increasingly volitional as we go up. Particularly at those highest layers, we can have different models of self. Once we accept that, it follows that there can’t be a fact of the matter on survival or death for teleportation or mind uploading. (My personal view of self is that we do survive both teleportation and uploading, but that’s just the way I choose to look at it.)

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      1. Excuse me for butting in here but Isn’t saying: “no conclusion… will ever be justifiable” the same thing as saying: “… no objectively true answer.” If they don’t mean the same thing then you are going to have to explain it to me cause I’m lost.

        “The definition of a self is not a universal truth.”

        Now that one I agree with Mr. Smith. The “definition” of a self is not a universal truth it’s a subjective truth, one that has its origin in solipsism where everything else except the self is an inference. But absent a definition, the self is as real as the brain unless there is no definition of a brain either.

        If I may take the liberty to say sir, your lack of a “definition compass” is a puzzling paradigm.

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        1. First Cause, is this the identity you plan to comment on moving forward? No worries if it is, as long as you’re consistent with it. I’m not wild about people using multiple identities in these threads.

          I don’t subscribe to strong agnosticism, but it is distinct from there being no fact of the matter. Just because someone says it can’t be known, doesn’t mean they’re saying there isn’t a reality to whether it’s true or false.

          I’m not sure what you’re saying about the self, or what you mean by “definition compass”.

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      2. Ok, I will not get into arguing about definitions.
        But don’t you agree that your uploaded or teleported instance will perceive itself as you (i.e. the same person as your common past self), and thus as surviving?

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        1. I do. And if the original were destroyed in the operation, there’d be no one around to contradict that perception. But what if the teleporter malfunctioned and failed to destroy the original? Or accidentally popped two copies out at the destination? Or if the upload turned out not to be destructive? In any of these scenarios, there’d be trouble.

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