Anton Zeilinger's comment about free will being required for science

  • #201
PeterDonis
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Here is one example: a definition for "physical".
By that definition, this whole discussion has been a waste of time because you are declaring by fiat that the mind is not "physical".

But once again, declaring that by fiat is a matter of words, not substance. You can say the mind is not "physical" in this sense, but that doesn't change the fact that the mind is a functional behavior of the brain and nervous system--i.e., it is not a functional behavior of some mysterious non-physical thing, it is a functional behavior of physical things. And functional behaviors of physical things are governed by physical laws.

While metaphysics seems to be OK to discuss for this thread, would discussing epistemology also be OK?
We have not been discussing metaphysics in this thread. We have been discussing physics, and I have been repeatedly pointing out that various claims about metaphysics that you have been trying to make have nothing whatever to do with physics, including the physics of how minds work.

If you disagree, go back and read the first sentence I wrote above. If you are going to rely on metaphysical definitions of terms instead of the substance of what is actually going on--that the mind is a functional behavior of the brain and nervous system--then this whole discussion is a waste of time. There is no point in trying to pick which definition out of some dictionary or encyclopedia we want to use for terms like "physical". What we should be discussing is the fact that the mind is a functional behavior of the brain and nervous system, and what that fact means for "free will"--or, to put it in a way that better reflects the discussion in this thread, what kind of "free will" is consistent with that fact.

Discussions of epistemology in the sense of how we know that the mind is a functional behavior of the brain and nervous system, would be ok. But I suspect that is not what you have in mind.
 
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  • #202
Buzz Bloom
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We have not been discussing metaphysics in this thread. We have been discussing physics ...
...
Discussions of epistemology in the sense of how we know that the mind is a functional behavior of the brain and nervous system, would be ok. But I suspect that is not what you have in mind.
Hi Peter:

You are correct about what aspect of epistemology I thought might be applicable to our dialog. I have been trying to understand what in our discussion your words mean with respect to the relationship between what is "known" about physics and what is speculation about physics. You have clarified quite a bit of that, and I appreciate it. My sense of what I underlined above includes metaphysics.

One aspect of what the mind does is free will, if free will is real. Metaphysics has been exploring free will for four thousand years, and there is still no agreement among all those who still explore it. Another aspect of what the mind does is think, including forming beliefs and knowledge. Discussing what it means to have beliefs and knowledge might help the discussion related to the corresponding behavior/functioning of the neurons.

BTW, one of my favorite all time books is Quiddities by W. V. Quine (1987). Quine was a professor of philosophy at Harvard for most of his career. Quiddities is a collection of 83 philosophical essays organized alphabetically by title. I like all of the essays, but my favorite is "Belief". Here is a quote which appears to be a paradoxical conclusion near the end of that essay.
A reasonable person believes, in short, that each of his beliefs is true, and that some of them are false.​

Regards,
Buzz
 
  • #203
PeterDonis
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My sense of what I underlined above includes metaphysics.
Metaphysics is not really on topic here. We do, of course, recognize a distinction between what is known about physics and what is speculation about physics; that's why we have a separate forum, the Beyond the Standard Model forum, where the rules for discussing speculative hypotheses are more relaxed. But speculative hypotheses in physics--such as, for example, superstring theory--are still physics, not metaphysics.

One aspect of what the mind does is free will, if free will is real.
Ok, but let's now rephrase this using what we know about "mind" from previous discussion:

"One aspect of the functional behaviors of the brain and nervous system is free will, if free will is real".

Now it's clear that we're not talking about metaphysics, we're talking about physics (and about chemistry, biology, neuroscience, etc.--the problem of figuring out what kinds of functional behaviors brains and nervous systems can produce involves a lot of disciplines). We have a physical thing--the brain and nervous system--and we want to figure out what functional behaviors it can produce. That's a straightforward physical problem.

Metaphysics has been exploring free will for four thousand years, and there is still no agreement among all those who still explore it.
Yes, and as Daniel Dennett pointed out in one of his essays on the subject, that is why scientists, in all those disciplines I mentioned above, are not trying to use metaphysics to investigate free will: because metaphysics has utterly failed to solve the problem for four thousand years. So scientists are trying to solve the problem using the physical sciences and their methods instead. A lot of progress has already been made: we know a lot more now about how the brain and nervous system work and how brain and nervous system processes underlie various kinds of actions that we normally think of as products of our free will.

My advice, if you want to understand more about free will from a scientific point of view, beyond what I've said in various posts earlier in this thread, would be to spend some time with the literature on the topic--the two books by Dennett that I referred to earlier in the thread, Elbow Room and Freedom Evolves, would be a good start (both books have good lists of more technical references). Also his book Consciousness Explained, since free will and consciousness, from a scientific point of view, are closely related, and the scientific study of the two has a lot of overlap.

Discussing what it means to have beliefs and knowledge might help the discussion related to the corresponding behavior/functioning of the neurons.
Certainly, but again, discussing it from a scientific point of view--what are the brain and nervous system actually doing when we form beliefs and knowledge--seems to be making progress, whereas discussing it from a metaphysical point of view, as already noted, made no progress in four thousand years.
 
  • #204
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the the mind is a functional behavior of the brain and nervous system
While correct, the above statement is not all encompassing and cannot account for everything observed in 'mind's' activities. Hence your disagreement, imo. You both will continue to bump into the hard problem without resolution.
 
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  • #205
PeterDonis
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the above statement is not all encompassing and cannot account for everything observed in 'mind's' activities
Really? What observed activities of the mind does it not account for?
 
  • #206
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Really? What observed activities of the mind does it not account for?

Qualia. E.g. that you observe red, but science names it 450Thz. And many others.
 
  • #207
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Qualia.
Producing qualia is one of the functional properties of the brain and nervous system. At least, that is the physicalist view, and there is no known evidence that contradicts it. A lot of people don't like this view, but that's not the same as disproving it.

you observe red, but science names it 450Thz
Scienc, when talking about the light coming into your eye in isolation, denotes it by its frequency. But science can also talk about how the information carried by the light is represented in your brain. "Red" is part of that representation (for light of appropriate frequencies under appropriate conditions).
 
  • #208
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Avshalom Elitzur wrote a nice paper on the "hard problem" of consciousness, here is a link. This statement sums it up nicely:
Suppose that, with sufficiently advanced technology, you obtain the fullest real-time description of what goes on in my brain – every neuron, axon, dendrite and synapse, every neurotransmitter molecule – when I perceive a red rose. You know better than I do what goes on in my brain when I perceive red, and still, that does not bring you any closer to my quale!
This is the way I introduce it to my students (equivalent to Avshalom's):

Suppose someday we have the complete theory and corresponding technology to understand fully what is going on inside a brain when a person sees the color red. Alice suffers colorblindness, i.e., she has never seen red, but she fully understands the theory and technology of consciousness, so she performs corrective measures to cure her of her colorblindness. After completing the procedure, someone brings her a red apple and Alice gets to see red for the first time. Does Alice possess knowledge she didn't possess before the procedure? Most people would agree that she does possess new knowledge, i.e., she now knows what the experience of seeing red means. Thus, the quale of red is distinct from knowledge about all underlying physical processes and therefore it is impossible to account for it exhaustively via science.

It's simple, science can only be concerned with the objective elements of reality, but reality also contains subject elements. Thus, science cannot ever account for the entirety of reality. The "hard problem" of consciousness exists for those who believe that all explanation must be based in science. If one rather starts their worldview with what they know for certain, i.e., their own experience, then like Einstein (and many others) they realize the proper role of science. Here is a quote from our paper just published in a special issue of Entropy, "Models of Consciousness":

To provide the necessary historical background for our second axiom, let us paraphrase from Einstein’s bedrock conception of the enterprise of physics [33], quoting phrases and terms from his text. Physics is the study of “bodily objects” moving in 3-dimensional space as a function of time under the influence of their mutual forces (“the statement of a set of rules”). As Einstein pointed out, there are already some assumptions there, so it is best to start with “all sense experiences”. I am the spatiotemporal origin of “all sense experiences”. I assume a subset of “all sense experiences” represents other perceivers. For example, my perception of you is a subset of all “sense experiences”, so I will assume you also have “sense experiences”. In Einstein’s words, “partly in conjunction with sense impressions which are interpreted as signs for sense experiences for others”. Therefore I am the spatiotemporal origin of “my sense experiences”, i.e., I am just one perceptual origin (PO). I communicate with other (human) perceivers to construct a model of objective/physical reality (the
“real external world”) that reconciles the disparate, but self-consistent (see below) elements of our “sense experiences”. In Einstein’s words, “the totality of our sense experiences . . . can be put in order ”.

We then use this model to explore regularities and patterns in the events we perceive. We mathematically describe these regularities and patterns and explore the consequences (experiments). In Einstein’s words, “operations with concepts, and the creation and use of definite functional relations between them, and the coordination of sense experiences to these concepts”. We then refine our model of physical reality as necessary to conform to our results. This allows us to explain the past, manipulate physical reality in the present (to create new technology, for example), and to predict the future. While defining physics all the way down to individual “sense experiences” may seem unnecessarily detailed, it is crucial to understanding the relationship between consciousness and physics being proposed here. ...

When POs exchange information about their perceptions, they realize that some of their disparate perceptions fit self-consistently into a single spacetime model with different reference frames for each PO. Thus, physicists’ spacetime model of [objective reality] represents the self-consistent collection of shared perceptual information between POs, e.g., perceptions upon which Galilean or Lorentz transformations can be performed.
Thus, the purvey of physics is "to model and explore regularities and patterns in the self-consistent collection of shared perceptual information between POs". Accordingly, the laws of physics don't produce experience, but they are only articulations of apparent constraints on experience -- and only a particular subset at that.
 
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  • #209
PeterDonis
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This statement sums it up nicely:
The statement as it stands is simply a bare assertion without proof: "You know better than I do what goes on in my brain when I perceive red, and still, that does not bring you any closer to my quale!" How does he know? He hasn't actually met anyone who has a full real-time description of everything that goes on in his brain. And it is meaningless to extrapolate from the paltry level of knowledge we have now about what goes on in the brain to a hypothetical person who knows everything about what goes on in the brain.

Alice suffers colorblindness, i.e., she has never seen red, but she fully understands the theory and technology of consciousness, so she performs corrective measures to cure her of her colorblindness. After completing the procedure, someone brings her a red apple and Alice gets to see red for the first time. Does Alice possess knowledge she didn't possess before the procedure? Most people would agree that she does possess new knowledge, i.e., she now knows what the experience of seeing red means. Thus, the quale of red is distinct from knowledge about all underlying physical processes and therefore it is impossible to account for it exhaustively via science.
This is just a slightly altered version of the "Mary's Room" thought experiment of Frank Jackson. Daniel Dennett's reply to that thought experiment works just as well for this one; a good quick summary by Dennett is here:

https://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/dennett/papers/RoboMaryfinal.htm

Dennett's key point is this: "It just feels so good to conclude that Mary has a revelation of some sort when first she sees color that nobody wants to bother showing that this is how the story must go. In fact it needn’t go that way at all."

Applying Dennett's argument to the Alice scenario, "most people would agree that she does possess new knowledge" is, again, simply a bare assertion without argument or justification, and in fact no such assertion is justified by the thought experiment. It could just as easily be the case that Alice doesn't gain any new knowledge from actually seeing the apple, because her complete knowledge of the theory and technology of consciousness had allowed her to already know what that experience would be like before having it. So the thought experiment proves nothing.

science can only be concerned with the objective elements of reality, but reality also contains subject elements. Thus, science cannot ever account for the entirety of reality.
This, again, is a bare assertion without argument or justification. It can't be proven false from what we currently know, but it can't be proven true either. It's simply a statement of opinion.
 
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  • #210
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The statement as it stands is simply a bare assertion without proof: "You know better than I do what goes on in my brain when I perceive red, and still, that does not bring you any closer to my quale!" How does he know? He hasn't actually met anyone who has a full real-time description of everything that goes on in his brain. And it is meaningless to extrapolate from the paltry level of knowledge we have now about what goes on in the brain to a hypothetical person who knows everything about what goes on in the brain.



This is just a slightly altered version of the "Mary's Room" thought experiment of Frank Jackson. Daniel Dennett's reply to that thought experiment works just as well for this one; a good quick summary by Dennett is here:

https://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/dennett/papers/RoboMaryfinal.htm

Dennett's key point is this: "It just feels so good to conclude that Mary has a revelation of some sort when first she sees color that nobody wants to bother showing that this is how the story must go. In fact it needn’t go that way at all."

Applying Dennett's argument to the Alice scenario, "most people would agree that she does possess new knowledge" is, again, simply a bare assertion without argument or justification, and in fact no such assertion is justified by the thought experiment. It could just as easily be the case that Alice doesn't gain any new knowledge from actually seeing the apple, because her complete knowledge of the theory and technology of consciousness had allowed her to already know what that experience would be like before having it. So the thought experiment proves nothing.



This, again, is a bare assertion without argument or justification. It can't be proven false from what we currently know, but it can't be proven true either. It's simply a statement of opinion.
Again, imagine you have never seen red, suppose it is replaced by grey. Someone performs some procedure, you bump your head ... whatever ... then suddenly you see red for the first time. You now know what it means to "see red" -- not in an objective way, that is impossible to "know," but you definitely have knowledge you didn't have before. Do you disagree?
 
  • #211
PeterDonis
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imagine you have never seen red
The thought experiment in question is not about me. It is about a hypothetical person who knows everything there is to know about what is going on physically when a person has an experience. No human now or in the foreseeable future is going to come anywhere even remotely close to satisfying such a premise. It is arguable that humans in general simply don't have powerful enough brains to come anywhere even remotely close to satisfying such a premise. Which means that any appeal to our human intuitions or imaginings about what would or would not happen in the scenario under discussion is simply irrelevant. We are simply not capable of having intuitions or imaginings about beings who satisfy the premise of the thought experiment that have any bearing on the matter at all.
 
  • #212
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We are simply not capable of having intuitions or imaginings about beings who satisfy the premise of the thought experiment that have any bearing on the matter at all.
You can only speak for yourself there, I have no issue assuming the premise. Given your personal restriction, it makes sense that you don’t understand the validity of the argument.
 
  • #213
PeterDonis
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I have no issue assuming the premise.
We're not talking about assuming the premise. We're talking about whether what humans claim they can or cannot imagine has any bearing at all on an argument that purports to prove a general claim that includes beings which are nothing like humans are now or will be in the foreseeable future.

Given your personal restriction, it makes sense that you don’t understand the validity of the argument.
I don't "understand" that appealing to intuition or imaginings is valid argument, yes. I don't see such a failure to "understand" as a problem.
 
  • #214
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We're not talking about assuming the premise. We're talking about whether what humans claim they can or cannot imagine has any bearing at all on an argument that purports to prove a general claim that includes beings which are nothing like humans are now or will be in the foreseeable future.

I don't "understand" that appealing to intuition or imaginings is valid argument, yes. I don't see such a failure to "understand" as a problem.
The argument stands whether you personally can or cannot comprehend the premises. Again, I and many others have no problem comprehending the premises and therefore the conclusion. All you can say legitimately is that you do not.
 
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  • #215
PeterDonis
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The argument stands whether you personally can or cannot comprehend the premises.
The problem is not that I don't comprehend the premises. The problem is that I disagree with you about the validity of the argument as a matter of logic. The argument is not logically valid; it is simply an expression of a widely held intuition that does not logically entail the argument's conclusion.

As my reference to Dennett should show you, I am not the only person that holds that view, so you cannot say it is just me personally. Nor is Dennett the only philosopher who disagrees with your position; there is quite a lot of literature on this, on both sides of the question. So I don't think you can simply help yourself to the claim that your position is right and any disagreement with it must be due to failure to comprehend the premises.
 
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  • #216
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The argument stands whether you personally can or cannot comprehend the premises.
Please avoid personal offenses.

If the premise of an argument only holds per logical assumption, but is void in the physical world due to the lack of possible experiments, then this thread is no longer about physics, but philosophy.

Red and grey are measurable. Even if my imagination of red differs from other people's imagination, we can still agree on the frequency. An ideal person knowing everything physical contradicts in my opinion the achievements in the last century and throws us back to a, which I emphasize to say philosophical discussion about determinism and the philosophy of Descartes.

As this thread became obviously a philosophical one, or at best a thread about meta logic, it will be closed.
 
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