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Chapter 12: The Carrier Theory of Causation

  1. Jun 25, 2005 #1


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    Thus far in part II of the book, we have reconsidered the metaphysics of causation, rejecting notions of causal responsibility as the core explanatory target of a theory of causation and constructing a richer and more objective Theory of Causal Significance. With a new theory of causation in hand, are we now in position to tackle the subject of phenomenal consciousness?

    It seems we are not, because if we try to explain p-consciousness using the just the kinds of entities featured in the Theory of Causal Significance as an ontological basis, we will inevitably fall victim to the arguments from chapter 2. Recall that in chapter 2, we used the toy physics of a pure Life world to argue that physicalism (and in general, any purely schematic system) cannot account for the kind of qualitative content found in subjective experience. The Theory of Causal Significance expands on the minimal causal content proposed to govern the pure Life world, and even posits the existence of non-physical aspects of causation (see ch. 11). However, it remains the case that our understanding of causation-- both the physical (effective) and non-physical (receptive) aspects-- is merely schematic, and thus exhibits the same fundamental flaw as that of the pure Life world. It seems to be a hopeless task to try to show how our new schema could entail phenomenal/experiential content any more than other schematic systems like physics could, and so we have not made any progress on this front. (Put another way, a world completely described by the Theory of Causal Significance still admits of the logical possibility of zombies.) To address this problem in full, it will not be sufficient to add further layers of schematic elements to our theoretical system, because the same underlying flaw will remain; we need to somehow 'get under' the problem by adopting a fundamentally new and different kind of approach.

    The Specter of Circularity

    Another problem, one entirely independent from considerations of p-consciousness, also lurks in the vicinity. This problem stems from the circularilty incorporated (whether explicitly or implicitly) into the definitions of schematic systems.

    Rosenberg identifies two kinds of such circularities: contrastive and compositional. The elements of a schematic system S are defined in terms of contrastive circularity if each element X in S is identified by its distinctness from, and external relationships to, all other elements in S. For example, the "on" and "off" properties of a Life world are defined in such a way; "on" is defined by stipulating that it is distinct from "off" and by exhaustively describing the manner in which the presence of an "on" property at time t can make a difference to the state of the Life world at time t+1, and likewise for "off." In general, all determinable families of effective properties can be described in terms of contrastive circularity: To describe effective properties, we need only stipulate that all identified kinds of effective properties are distinct, define a range of possible values for each kind of effective property, and describe the causal relationships that obtain among them.

    The elements of a schematic system S are defined in terms of compositional circularity if the definition of each element X in S positively presupposes the existence of some other element Y in S. For example, in the Theory of Causal Significance, effective properties are defined as properties that contribute to constraints on the joint state of the causal nexus to which they are bound, and receptive properties are defined as properties that bind individuals into a causal nexus such that their effective properties can feel each other's causal constraint. Here, effective properties are explicitly defined in part by reference to receptive properties, and likewise, receptive properties are explicitly defined in part by reference to effective properties.

    The circular nature of schematic systems raises questions as to how such systems could come to exist in the first place. If the only facts that are true about two entities X and Y is that they are distinct and enter into certain relationships with eachother, we are left with a bootstrapping problem: What is the basis upon which X and Y exist? What grounds their distinctness and their characteristic relationships? It seems we cannot appeal to any part of the system itself to solve the dilemma, as that only leads to a question-begging restatement of the problem or plunges us into an endless loop (X ground facts about Y grounds facts about X grounds facts about Y...).

    Breaking the Circle with Carriers

    That said, there must be some way to sidestep this puzzle-- after all, circularly defined systems can and do exist everywhere in the world around us. For example, we have touched on how Life worlds are defined schematically in terms of circular contrasts, and yet we can observe a Life world being implemented anytime we'd like, right in front of our eyes, be it on a computer or a checkerboard or some other medium. In fact, that very notion of implementation seems to hold the answer to our riddle. A Life world can exist because there already exist other systems whose own characteristic properties can stand in for, and thus instantiate or carry, the stipulative contrasts of a Life world. For instance, on a checkerboard implementation, we have two distinct kinds of tokens (red and black checkers) whose pre-existing physical distinctness can carry the stipulated distinctness of the "on" and "off" properties; we have a checkerboard whose demarcated columns and rows can carry the Life world grid which contains the "on" and "off" properties; and we have the intentions of human operators to carry the rules that govern the changing patterns of "on" and "off" properties over time. Likewise, on a computer implementation we have computational elements whose range of possible distinct states and regular functional behavior can play the carrier role for all aspects of a Life world.

    These systems can function as carriers for a Life world because (1) their properties are not exhaustively defined by the Life schema, and (2) their properties are such that, when organized in the proper fashion, they can exactly mirror-- and thus embody-- the schema definitive of a Life world.

    Condition (1) needs to be met in order to solve the bootstrapping problem presented by circularly defined systems, as discussed above-- we need to appeal to properties outside such circular systems in order to ground their fundamental schematic facts. For instance, within a Life world, "on" and "off" are stipulated to be merely distinct, with no apparent basis for this distinctness; they are not distinct because of some deeper facts about the Life world, but rather, on the level of the Life world, their distinctness is simply taken to be fundamental. Red and black checkers can carry "on" and "off" properties because at the appropriate level of abstraction, these checkers are not merely distinct-- rather, they are distinct because they are different colors. That is to say, their distinctness is not to be taken as a fundamental fact, but rather is grounded upon further facts within the physical system of which they are a part. The specific manner in which the checkers are physically distinct gives us a means with which to ground the purely abstract manner in which "on" and "off" are stipulated to be distinct.

    Condition (2) needs to be met just to insure that a Life world can, in fact, be functionally instantiated by the system in question. That is, in order for a system S to instantiate the relevant system of contrasts and relationships featured in a Life world, it must be the case that S has its own internal set of contrasts and relationships that can be manipulated in such a way as to mirror those of a Life world. For instance, to implement a Life world using checkers as the carriers for the "on" and "off" properties, we must have two sets of checkers that are distinct in some way (whether it be in terms of color, or size, or whatever) in order to establish a relationship of distinctness between them that can reflect the stipulated distinctness between "on" and "off." If we were to use a single set of indistinguishable checkers, we could no longer implement a Life world, because the required distinction between "on" and "off" properties could not be carried. Saying that a Life world could not be carried in this case amounts to saying that a Life world simply could not exist, given these circumstances.

    At this point, it will be useful to introduce some definitions from the text.

    We can now summarize and generalize the above discussion, incorporating the new definitions, as follows. Properties that are intrinsic to a schematic system S present us with problems of intelligibility; it seems that such a system inevitably incorporates circular definitions on some level, which raises questions about how such circularly defined entities or properties could come to exist in the first place. In general, we can solve this problem by appealing to a wider system T that carries the conceptual schema of S by providing facts that can ground the pure contrasts found in S. In order for T to be an appropriate carrier for S, it must be the case that T has some set of properties that is extrinsic within S, such that these properties features internal contrasts capable of instantiating the more abstract internal contrasts of S. If there is no appropriate carrier for S, then S simply cannot be instantiated-- i.e., it simply cannot exist. Also, it may be the case that T itself is just another system of circular relations, in which case there could be yet another system U that carries T, and so on.

    Rosenberg argues that instances of such schematic systems that partially or completely incorporate circular dependencies are plentiful in the world around us, and cites computer programs, games of chess, economics, psychology, and biology as examples. In each such system, the circularity involved turns out to be harmless, because it is carried by the internal contrasts of properties extrinsic within the system. For example, in economics we have a kind of circularity existing between the definitions of goods and services on the one hand, and producers and consumers on the other; this circularity can be carried in part by things extrinsic within economy but intrinsic to psychology, such as needs, desires, and beliefs. These psychological entities, in their turn, can be at least partially defined in terms of the functional roles they play in a cognitive context, and so they, too, are at least partially circularly defined. The circular dependencies of entities on the level of psychology can be carried by the underlying system of computational dynamics implemented by neurons in the brain, which is a system of properties extrinsic within the system of high-level psychological concepts; and so on.

    The general pattern is that each conceptual schema featuring circular dependencies is carried by a wider system of more fundamental entities and properties, which in turn features its own circularities, which are in turn carried by yet another wider and more fundamental schematic system, etc. (Note that this process of appealing to wider and more fundamental systems to ground the pure contrasts of higher-level systems looks a lot like reductionism.) So long as we have carriers readily available, the circularities involved at each level pose no deep problem.

    Physics: A Unique Problem

    However, we are faced with a unique dilemma once our path through wider and more fundamental schematic systems finally reaches the basic level of physics. Physics, too, is a conceptual schema incorporating circular notions of its fundamental entities and properties. (Recall the chapter 2 discussion about bare differences.) For example, to be an electron is just to be distinct from the other physical properties, and to play the functional role designated to electrons in physical theory; to be gravity is just to play the functional role of gravity; and so on. Insofar as physics is yet another functionally defined schematic system heavily incorporating circularities into its definitions, physics is also in need of carriers. But this observation raises a hitherto unencountered problem: It seems there are no properties extrinsic within physics that could plausibly play the carrier role.

    In response to this problem, one might simply deny that physics requires carriers at all, but this denial would violate theoretical standards of uniformity and intelligibility. For every other conceptual schema, we have solved the problem of circularity by reference to carriers, and indeed, these carriers were necessary for the instantiation of such systems to occur in the first place. To suddenly abandon carriers at this point would be an unprecedented maneuver, and worse, it would leave us with just the sort of problematic, unintelligible metaphysic we sought to abolish at the outset. We would be left again to puzzle over the nature of pure contrasts and bare differences; we would have to suppose that the ground floor of reality is composed of ontologically fundamental 'differences' that do not rest on any further categorical facts, relationships without anything substantive to be doing the relating in the first place, contrasts that are in fact not contrasts between anything at all. As Rosenberg puts it, "The idea seems to melt away before the mind's eye, like an echo issuing from no originating voice" (p. 236). The unintelligibility of such a view seems overwhelming, and whatever victory we may have gained by dodging the problem of circularity is a hollow, shallow, and unjustified one. Surely we can find a more satisfactory and methodologically consistent approach than this.

    Another approach might be to suppose that there is, in fact, some set of properties extrinsic within physics and intrinsic to a deeper conceptual schema, and that this schema itself is carried by yet another, deeper set of properties extrinsic within it, and so on ad infinitum ("it's turtles all the way down"). Such a view is perhaps less problematic than the previous one in theory, but it runs up against an empirical barrier: It seems that Planck's constant places a fundamental limit on how fine-grained the physical structure of the world is. If this is the case, then we can only posit so many further systems of properties until we hit an underlying bedrock, a fundamental physical floor that halts any further differentiation.

    Given that physics requires carriers, then, what kind of carriers can do the job? The dilemma presented for the prospective carriers of physics, per the arguments above, is that they must avoid posing the problem of circularity-- the problem of 'pure' relationships-- while simultaneously not needing carriers of their own. But every carrier we've investigated thus far has not conformed to these conditions; they have all tentatively posed the circularity problem, and only resolved it by appealing to further carriers at deeper levels. So physics needs fundamentally different kinds of carriers than we've described thus far; physics needs ultimate carriers, uncarried carriers.
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  3. Jun 25, 2005 #2


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    summary, part 2

    Ultimate Carriers and the Central Thesis

    Reflection on exactly why the carriers we've discussed so far all require carriers of their own will clarify what kind of carrier would be suitable for physics. A carrier C1 needs to be carried by a more fundamental carrier C2 precisely when it is the case that C1 is intrinsic to (exhaustively defined by) some schematic system; after all, the circularities and 'pure' relationships inherent in schematic systems are what pose the need for carriers in the first place. So a carrier that would not need to be carried itself would be one that is not intrinsic to any schematic system, or in other words, one that is extrinsic within every system. This is equivalent to saying that such a carrier could not be exhaustively characterized by any purely functional or relational means; any purely systematic description of such a carrier would inevitably leave something out. Such a carrier would have a categorical nature that is "intrinsic at least partly to itself rather than to its contextual relationships" (p. 237). Rosenberg calls properties that are not intrinsic to any system "intrinsic tout court." (Properties that are intrinsic tout court correspond to what are often simply called "intrinsic properties.")

    So, the prospective carriers for physics must be intrinsic tout court, but that is not all that is required. The carriers of physics must also exhibit suitable kinds of internal contrasts that can mirror the kinds of internal contrasts we find in physics: patterns of distinctness within and between determinable families, scalar relations, and compatibility, incompatibility, and requirement relations.

    What kind of thing in the natural world meets the criteria for being a carrier of physics? Astonishingly, phenomenal properties appear to be perfectly suited to the task!

    * Phenomenal qualities are intrinsic tout court, because they are extrinsic within all schematic systems-- that is, one cannot characterize them in purely systematic terms without leaving something out. For instance, one cannot have exhaustive knowledge of phenomenal redness just from a complete account of the system of relationships in the cognitive economy into which it enters. This is arguably the key insight upon which all the anti-physicalist arguments rest, and also the basis for the strange and problematic properties exhibited by phenomenal qualities, such as their utter opaqueness to third person (systematic) investigation.

    * Phenomenal qualities are naturally arranged into determinable families, such as the sensory modalities of vision and audition, with patterns of distinctness within and between such families. (Phenomenal redness is different from phenomenal blueness, but not in the same way that phenomenal red is different from phenomenal saltiness.)

    * Phenomenal qualities have internal scalar relations, and also arguably relations of compatibility, incompatibility, and requirement.

    Recall the definition of internal contrasts: An internal contrast exists between A and B if, and only if, there is a comparative relation R such that necessarily, if A exists and B exists, then R(A, B). Phenomenal qualities feature such internal contrasts, and these contrasts are not merely stipulative (not merely 'bare differences' or 'pure contrasts'), but rather necessarily issue from the intrinsic natures of the phenomenal qualities themselves. For instance, it is necessarily the case that if phenomenal redness and phenomenal blueness exist, they are distinct colors. This contrast is not a pure contrast, but one that finds its basis in the intrinsic nature of the phenomenal colors themselves. Likewise for scalar relationships: For instance, if a loud and a quiet phenomenal sound exist, then due to the intrinsic nature of the phenomenal sounds, it is necessarily the case that the loud sound is greater than the quiet sound along a natural metric of phenomenal loudness.

    Rosenberg argues that more subtle and sophisticated kinds of compatibility, incompatibility, and requirement relations might hold among phenomenal properties as well. For instance, the phenomenal experience as of a Necker cube facing up, and as of a Necker cube facing down, might be fundamentally incompatible; it might be the case that a phenomenal hue of color requires the existence of an attendant phenomenal brightness; and so on.

    Note that this argument does not suppose that human phenomenal qualities are the carriers of fundamental physical entities. The kind of phenomenal qualities that carry the world's microphysical properties need only be analogous to human phenomenal qualities in certain abstract ways, in the sense that they are intrinsic tout court and exhibit the same general kinds of internal contrasts (naturally falling into determinable families, bearing scalar relationships to eachother along certain natural metrics, etc.). Appealing to human phenomenal qualities here essentially serves as an existence proof that phenomenal qualities can, in fact, have the general sort of properties needed for a carrier of physics. In all likelihood, the phenomenal carriers of physics would be extremely minimal and alien by comparison to human phenomenal qualities, would feature very different particular organizations of their internal contrasts, and would not form a suitable basis for representation or thought.

    If we are to accept the Theory of Causal Significance, our search for ultimate carriers is not yet complete. Following the arguments of chapter 11, physics is a theory of the world's effective properties. If we have found carriers for physics, then we have found carriers for the effective properties, but we cannot stop here. The definitions of effective and receptive properties incorporate a compositional circularity which itself presents a circularity problem above and beyond that posed by effective properties alone. Carriers for receptivity are needed to complete the causal picture.

    As with effective properties, there are constraints on what kind of thing would be a suitable carrier for receptive properties. A prospective carrier for receptivity needs to stand in the same relation to phenemonal qualities as receptive properties do to effective properties, as detailed by the Theory of Causal Significance. In particular, the carrier of receptivity must be a kind of neutral essence that binds phenomenal qualities together into coherent, naturally individuated wholes, and it must have an intimate, compositionally circular dependency upon phenomenal qualities, such that the existence of the one necessarily presupposes and incorporates the existence of the other, even though they are separate essences. Here again we have a natural candidate: Experience itself, the experiencing subject, is the carrier of receptivity. ("Experiencing subject" is to be understood roughly as that which experiences phenomenal qualities, and is not to be confused with e.g. the human cognitive construct of self. For instance, in unusual circumstances, the experiencing subject can persist even as one loses all sense of selfhood.)

    * Reports from practitioners of meditation, in conditions of sensory deprivation, consistently describe a state of "pure" awareness in which consciousness is perceived to be a kind of neutral, contentless openness.

    * The experiencing subject defines (or is defined by) the unity and boundary conditions of phenomenal properties (see chapter 4) in much the same way as receptivity provides the unity and boundary conditions for collections of effective properties.

    * Experiencing subjects and phenomenal qualities are not identical; the latter can be understood as the objects of the former. Nonetheless, it seems to be that the existence of the one necessarily presupposes and incorporates the existence of the other, somewhat as if they were two sides of the same coin. Arguably, a phenomenal pain cannot be said to exist if there is no subject to experience it, and a subject of experience cannot be said to exist if it cannot experience phenomenal qualities.

    Having found suitable carriers for effective and receptive properties, our work on causation is largely complete. It is worth pausing a moment to reflect on our intellectual journey thus far. We began by investigating problematic philosophical, theoretical, and empirical issues surrounding the topic of consciousness. Our investigations repeatedly turned up causation as consciousness's partner in crime; wherever we found conceptual difficulties regarding consciousness, we found attendant issues about causation as well, with the observation that perhaps thinking more deeply about causation could relieve some of the conceptual problems and paradoxes swirling around consciousness. In part II of the book, we set out to rethink causation from the ground up, giving it a thorough treatment that was entirely independent from any considerations about consciousness. This led us to formulate the Theory of Causal Significance, and then to supplement that with the Carrier Theory of Causation. Remarkably, we could only completely tie the two causal theories together and finish our work on causation by importing phenomenal experience as the final ingredient!

    The trajectory of this entire process is striking. It is as if consciousness were an obtuse jigsaw piece that just would not fit in with any part of the world puzzle which we had thus far assembled. All was not lost, however, as the color of the problematic piece suggested that it belonged in a certain region of the puzzle, in turn suggesting that that region needed to be reconfigured. We set about reconfiguring this region without trying to do so in such a way as to make its shape match our misfit piece in ad hoc fashion. When we were finished, we found that the newly configured region of the puzzle had a large gap, a gap whose outline just happened to exactly match that of our misfit jigsaw piece! The methodological purity of the process, in conjunction with the manner in which it made once vexing and irreconcilable concepts fall into place quite naturally, seems to suggest strongly that we have hit upon a genuine, fundamental insight into how nature works. (We will discuss applications to and resolutions of old problems of consciousness in more detail in coming chapters.)

    The marriage of the Theory of Causal Significance and the Carrier Theory of Causation by appeal to phenomenal experience is the linchpin of this book. Rosenberg names this the Central Thesis.

    Ontological implications

    The Central Thesis brings with it a number of ontological implications. It is a kind of neutral monism, as it asserts the existence of one fundamental kind of thing-- the natural individual-- that is fundamentally neither mental nor physical. Although all natural individuals are essentially experiencing subjects, not all natural individuals can be said to have minds. Presumably, only those individuals whose effective makeup instantiates a certain class of sophisticated cognitive functions can be said to have minds. Likewise, natural individuals are not completely physical-- their receptive aspects are not physical (see ch. 11), and the phenomenal/experiential carriers of their effective and receptive aspects are not physical either. The only aspect of a natural individual that can be called "physical" is the abstract structural relationships exhibited by its phenomenal individuals. In Rosenberg's words,

    The Central Thesis also provides the key insight we need to traverse a middle path between interactionism and epiphenomenalism. If phenomenal experience is not physical, the argument goes, then it must either interact with the physical or be entirely causally irrelevant. Both views have serious flaws, and sometimes the apparent forced choice between the two is even used as a reductio to argue that phenomenal experience must be physical after all. But following the Central Thesis, phenomenal experience does not interact with the physical; it is not some causally effective force that can exert influence upon the separate domain of the physical, but rather it is the intrinsic 'stuff' that forms the very basis for the existence of physical relationships in the first place. Likewise, phenomenal experience is not epiphenomenal, because it has clear causal relevance; it is the carrier which, again, forms the basis for the existence of causal relationships in the first place.

    Panexperientialism is also a consequence of the Central Thesis. Objections to panexperientialism have already been discussed in chapters 5 and 6. In essence, chapter 5 argued that panexperientialism cannot be ruled out on logical or empirical grounds as a possible way the world might be. Chapter 6 argued that non-physical theories of phenomenal consciousness could very likely tend to be panexperientialist in nature (as this one has turned out to be), and that trying to "fix" this by positing ad hoc rules to ensure that experience is only attributed to the "right" kinds of systems (e.g. cognitive systems, biological systems, etc.) is unjustified. Such rules would need to take on inordinately complex and interest relative characteristics, which are precisely the kinds of characteristics we don't expect a fundamental natural law to exhibit. Besides, it is not clear that there is any substantive objection to panexperientialism other than its counter-intuitiveness, and resisting counter-intuitiveness is certainly not sufficient grounds for muddling with an otherwise exceedingly elegant and simple theory.
  4. Jun 28, 2005 #3
    I really find astonishing Rosenberg's intellectual achievement as shown in this chapter.
    As ignorance is daring, I dare to make some comments about the problems I've had in the general understanding of this chapter.

    -My first doubt arises with the introduction of a new bunch of properties, the carriers (be it carriers either of effective properties or of receptive properties), as properties that outrun the categorical nature of a system (btw, a system as a part of an actual world?).
    I understand the necessity of this introduction. But up to this point, Rosenberg's ontology consisted just of effective properties, receptive properties, and natural individuals as actualizations of causal nexii. Why wasn't it more evident before that this ontology was incomplete, that a system (even an individual) was never completely defined by that previous ontology, since its categorical nature was outrun?

    My tentative answer to this is that up to now we were only concerned with the humean mosaic, losing perspective of that broader framework that is the nomic mosaic.
    (In the same way, more or less, that science is deeply involved in the 3th-person description of the world, probably disregarding 1st-person considerations)

    -My second main doubt comes from the concept of phenomenal individual and the experiencer/experience conglomerate.
    Can we consider the constitution of a phenomenal individual, as the instantiation of a bundle of phenomenal properties by a tie of experiential property in the nomic mosaic, as analogous to the constitution of a natural individual in the humean mosaic?
    But, phenomenal properties have already been introduced by analogy to phenomenal qualities of human mind. So, here we have to make a sort of stripping off mental categories to give some content to the concept of phenomenal properties as carriers of effective properties.
    The key concept here I think would be that of raw experiencing, which involves an object for a subject of experience. At the most basic levels of individuation, I see problematic the distinction between object of experience and subject of experience. I think this difficulty could arise from the human subjective experience itself, which I think is somehow indisociable from a spatiotemporal framework. I think there is experiencing of an object for a subject as soon as there is also a contrastive spatiotemporal reference between them. But I don't see this spatiotemporal discrimination is instantiated simply by the instantiation of phenomenal properties.
    As W. James puts it:
    "The instant field of the present is what I call the 'pure' experience. It is only potentially either object or subject as yet. For the time being, it is plain, unqualified actuality, or existence, a simple that"

    I hope you help me to get a better understanding of these points.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2005
  5. Jun 28, 2005 #4


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    The most obvious answer to this question, even if it seems a bit trivial, is that it wasn't immediately evident that the Theory of Causal Significance was incomplete just because we hadn't yet considered those grounds on which we could argue that it is, in fact, incomplete. Not all flaws in conceptual systems are immediately transparent; often they are buried in details that we can only uncover after substantial further considerations, and often we don't even think to investigate some considerations because of our implicit assumptions.

    Going a bit deeper, we can note that the Theory of Causal Significance stands in the same relation to questions about carriers as does physics. Thus, to investigate your question, it will be fruitful to ask an analogous question of physics: Why is it not immediately transparent that physics is in need of carriers? Rosenberg touches on this question a couple of times in chapter 12. On pages 236-237, he writes,

    Another relevant point here is found in footnote 2, on page 236. It may be the case that the problem of circularity in physics is not widely apparent because we tend to suppose that physical categories refer not just to functional roles, but to categorical natures underpinning those functional roles. For instance, we might think that the word "electron" refers not just to a bundle of functional dispositions, but also to some underlying 'thing' whose nature is responsible for creating those functional dispositions. Of course, such an underlying thing would just be a carrier for the functional role of electrons in physics. If terms like "electron" really did refer to intrinsic carriers of functional dispositions rather than functional dispositions themselves, then the carrier problem for physics would essentially already have been solved. However, Rosenberg's argument in footnote 2 is that within physics, it is functional roles that play the key part in identifying physical entities like electrons, and so any sort of underlying intrinsic thing forming a basis for those fundamental functional roles is not intrinsic to physical theory.

    This argument is analogous to the argument in section 9.3, that physics is not a theory of causation. In that section, it is argued that the minimal theoretical commitment placed on us by physics in regards to causation is that there are regular property instantiations across spacetime. Connections of real causal constraint are not strictly implied by the mathematical and conceptual machinery of physics, and so to suppose that physics is a theory of causation is to project something extra into the theory, something that the theory does not require us to believe. In other words, it is logically consistent for one to believe that physics accurately describes the world while still holding a deflationary attitude towards realism about causation.

    Similarly, we could say that physics is not a theory of intrinsic tout court carriers. The minimal theoretical requirement placed on us by physics in this regard is that there exist certain bundles of functional dispositions, such as quarks and electrons. Intrinsic carriers for these functional dispositions are not strictly implied by the mathematical and conceptual machinery of physics, and so to suppose that physics is a theory of intrinsic carriers is to project something extra into the theory, something that the theory does not require us to believe. In other words, it is logically consistent for one to believe that physics accurately describes the world while still denying the existence of intrinsic carriers. (Whether such a view stands up to the scrutiny presented in chapter 12 is a further, separate question.)

    So, to sum up, it might be that some do not acutely feel the carrier problem for physics because their concepts of physical categories already include the concept of intrinsic carriers. However, physics itself does not seem to endorse such a conceptual inclusion, and so it should be vulnerable to scrutiny with regards to carriers after all. In general, to assess potential metaphysical problems presented by a physicalist worldview, we must be careful not to import reasonable assumptions about and projections into physical theory, like causal realism or intrinsic carriers-- rather, we must consider only those propositions that we are strictly, logically bound to believe in given that we accept physical theory as a sort of axiomatic base.

    I don't think we can get any real traction on the carrier problem by appeal to the mosaics. In fact, the Theory of Causal Significance has not been concerned with either the Humean or nomic mosaics, but rather the metaphysically richer causal mesh. Nonetheless, the need for intrinsic carriers in the Theory of Causal Significance is no stronger or weaker than it is in physical theory. The Theory of Causal Significance is basically just a widening of the circular system posited by physics, and as Rosenberg notes on page 237, a widening of the system will not do anything to change the fundamental problem-- we will still have 'pure' relationships at the most fundamental level of analysis that are in need of intrinsic carriers.

    I'm not sure I follow your use of the terms Humean and nomic mosaics. As mentioned above, everything concerning the Theory of Causal Significance-- anything concerning receptivity, natural individuals, real connections of causal constraint and the like-- occurs on the deeper level of the causal mesh. On the level of the nomic mosaic, there is no conceptual basis for natural individuals, as they have been defined in the text, because descriptions on the level of the nomic mosaic do not include facts about receptivity (or rather, they only implicitly include such facts).

    But otherwise, in answer to your question, yes-- in fact, this is just what is proposed by the Central Thesis. Phenomenal properties carry effective properties, and experiential properties carry receptive properties. So on this proposal, it is not just the case that the relationship between phenomenal and experiential properties is analogous to the relationship between effective and receptive properties. In fact, the intrinsic relationship between phenomenal and experiential properties instantiates the more abstract, functional relationship between effective and receptive properties. Phenomenal and experiential properties are those things that actually exist in the world, whereas effective and receptive properties are the features exhibited by their purely functional relationships, abstracted away from the grounding intrinsic content. (Please let me know if that doesn't quite make sense, because it is probably the most important thing in the book to understand.)

    This is an imporant issue-- what aspects of our own experience can we plausibly extend to non-cognitive systems? That is, what aspects of phenomenal experience can we suppose to be universal to all experiencing systems, rather than idiosynchratic to certain cognitive systems? The distinction between subject and object, experiencer and experienced, does seem like it could be something unique to cognitive systems.

    Before I proceed, I must mention an important reminder: The "subject" Rosenberg talks about here is something of a special term, and does not reflect colloquial usage of the word. In particular, the relevant subject in question is not co-extensive with a human's cognitive construct of self. For instance, if we were to talk about a human as a subject in this context, we would not talk about a fellow who has such-and-such personality, memories, interests, skills, worldviews, and so on. Rather, we would talk about a thing that experiences a bounded unit of phenomenal qualities-- an experiential manifold, or a "qualitative field" as the term was introduced in chapter 5. This sense of the word "subject" is quite remote from the sense of the word where "subject" means "a cognitive self-construct."

    A good exercise here might be to think of oneself in terms of one's own cognitive self-construct-- something we do naturally and reflexively all the time-- and then to think of oneself as that which experiences a qualitative field. There is a pretty stark contrast, I think, between the two. In particular, thinking of oneself purely as an experiencing thing-- a system for which it is like something to be-- immediately robs one of the familiar cognitive self-construct, or at least places the cognitive self in remote territory, now viewed externally and from afar rather than comfortably and transparently lived in. Consideration of these differences should begin to point to the ways in which the two senses of the word "subject" described above are substantially different.

    My own feeling is that Rosenberg's sense of the subject/object distinction is indeed not a cognitive artifact, but just a property that any experiencing system should have. For one thing, he does not posit that they are rigidly separate-- that is, he holds that in some sense they actually are the same thing, insofar as the existence of one logically requires the existence of the other. They are distinct in the sense that they are two aspects of the same thing, rather than being two different things altogether. This way of framing things seems to accomodate valid worries like the one antfm expresses above pretty well.

    Insofar as phenomenal and experiential properties carry effective and receptive properties, they must share the same logical relationship. We have already argued that effective properties conceptually require receptive properties as a logical complement-- there cannot be any action of causal constraint unless there is some means by which that causal constraint can be 'felt' by another system. An analogous argument seems to hold for phenomenal and experiential properties. There cannot be one without the other-- there cannot be any phenomenal qualities unless there is some means by which those qualities can be 'felt.'

    Also, it is very important to note that the aspectual distinction between the phenomenal qualities and experience need not be one that is in any sense recognized by the experiencing system in question. We probably only recognize phenomenal and experiential properties as in some sense distinct because of our cognitive apparatus, which gives us a means to reflect on and interpret our experience. For a very simple natural individual, there could be no such cognitive function, and thus no means by which to think about and conceptually 'carve up' phenomenal experience into different aspects.

    The phenomenal experience of such a simple natural individual would probably consist very much in something like James's "simple that." Nonetheless, it could make sense for us to hypothesize about its experience in terms of the phenomenal/experiential properties in a very minimal way. The phenomenal aspect is what it is like to be the individual in question; the experiential aspect is roughly the means by which it is like something to be the individual, or the thing for which it is like something to be. Notice again the parallels to previous arguments about the logically necessary relationship between effective and receptive properties.
  6. Jun 29, 2005 #5
    Thanks, Hypnagogue. I didn't expect such an in depth explanation. Of course it clarifies my doubts (and also makes them be rather naive :blushing: ). I have to go through your post more carefully. It's packed with thoughtful considerations. But you don't just only explain Rosenberg's ideas with absolute mastery, you also give new perspectives and enlarge the view. Thank you very much, Hypnagogue.
    How well encapsulated.

    Yes. It makes perfect sense. I just apologise for losing the track so easily.

    As I say, I'd like to go through your post and the ideas it conveys more carefully.

    Still, there is a point about the instantiation of experiential/phenomenal properties that I wonder if we can consider possible as having place outside a physical framework (spacetime for instance). Perhaps, somehow, both instantiations should happen concurrently, so to say. Or perhaps that instantiation is perfectly conceivable in a prior metaphysical background. I'm not clear about this. I haven't found for the moment if Rosenberg makes some point about it (I haven't read the book in its totality, though).
  7. Jul 3, 2005 #6
    In pg. 241, Rosenberg says:

    "The ontology implicit in the Central Thesis is a panexperientialist neutral monism. The fundamental kind is the causal nexus itself, and the nexus has multiple aspects: a phenomenal side, consisting of intrinsic properties that carry the componentes of the world's effective constraints, and an experiential side, to which the phenomenal natures are bound and through which they place their contribution to constraints"

    Already in the discussion of ch. 9 in this thread, about the Theory of Causal Significance, and considering Rosenberg's ontology as an event ontology, Tychic asked:

    "what is more primitive, properties or events?"

    And, from Rosenberg's words, in pg. 170:

    "The resulting ontology is an event ontology in which the actualization of an individual is the fundamental natural event and in which individuals may be internally linked into processes. Individuals themselves are pure property complexes (i.e., there are no enduring substances)"

    Hypnagogue concluded that:

    "properties are more primitive/fundamental than events, since events are just operations of causal constraint upon properties"

    So perhaps after all it's better (or more intuitive) to stick to the idea of experiential/phenomenal properties as they have been finally pictured in the Carrier Theory of Causation, when trying to figure out an intuitive view of how the causal mesh operates in its fundamental level.

    I'll leave aside, for the moment, the issue about time and temporal organization. I've seen that Rosenberg addresses more extensively this point in next chapter. And also, quoting again from an earlier post in ch. 9, when answering another Tychic's question:

    "What does it mean to speak about events without (or independent of) temporal structure?"

    Hypnagogue answered:

    "This is a difficult issue to wrap one's head around. But I don't think this is so much an issue of events being independent of temporal structure, as is temporal structure actually constructed from the relationships of events themselves? Rosenberg opts for the latter"

    I think this idea has been clearly growing in strengh as Rosenberg developped his proposal up to this actual chapter. Anyway, as I said, it would probably be worth examining it again in next chapter.

    Back to ch. 9, in pg. 180, Rosenberg said:

    "The key question is: by what rules are the configurations of each event chosen? From a purely combinatorial point of view, for any given level of nature one could construct an enormous number of possible configurations for the next level. If the causal significance view of causation is correct, there must be some way nature choses one configuration over another. These are laws of emergence for higher level individuals"

    "In considering how or why some configurations might be preferred over others, reflection suggests two principles of interest in nature that could be relevant:
    1.The principle of maximal completeness.
    2.The principle of thermodynamics."
    (In 2, he suggests the role of entropy in particular)

    Hypnagogue also commented this point in ch. 9 discussion:

    "At this point we are faced with the significant question of what are the laws that govern the emergence of higher-level individuals, specifically their configurations"

    "The positive rules governing the formation of higher-level individuals seem to be a more difficult matter, and Rosenberg hesitates to offer a concrete proposal. However he does nominate two principles: the principle of maximal completion, which states that individuals tend towards completeness; and the principle of thermodynamics, under which nature might favor the creation of those individuals whose states have the highest entropy"

    The principle of maximal completion seems a powerful mechanism to guide the displaying of events to configure natural individuals. I have more problems with the idea of the highest entropy, because I'm not sure if it, somehow, does not charge tacitly the idea of a temporal evolution, that is to say, if it embeds an idea of time that has not been specified beforehand.

    Anyway, what I see is that the experiential/phenomenal properties, the fundamental kind of the neutral monism proposed by Rosenberg, include within themselves those laws that rule out the operation of events. The experiential/phenomenal properties might mean then, at a very 'primitive' level of causation for instance, the potentiality to coalesce in an actual world (a universe as ours maybe).

    Does it mean that the experiential/phenomenal properties, besides their very abstract sense of experiencing, would at the same time involve a pattern (intuitively: law, rule) of self-displaying?

    Can we think a bit more intuitively of how those laws of emergence might be enclosed in the Carriers Theory of Causation?
  8. Jul 9, 2005 #7
    What are phenomenal determinables?

    Self test whether I understood this most important thesis of the book: It is misleading to say that there e.g. effective and phenomenal properties are two kinds of properties. When we say that effective and receptive properties exist, this means that there are phenomenal properties with an effective aspect and experiential properties with a receptive aspect. And when we e.g. say that there exists a phenomenal property this means that there is a property with a phenomenal and causal effective aspect.

    Concerning the question of neutral monistic ontology.
    Properties are the most primitive entities. But they are not the basic entities, because no property exists in isolation in the actual concrete world. In reality there are only “actualisations” (ingressions) of properties and these actualisations are the (not necessary time involving) event-individuals that justify the name “event ontology” for this ontology. I think that you, antfm introduced a new word for these events: “self-displayings”. They can also be called experiencing subjects. Subjects in the sense of

    In an actualization two things happen: (a) the receptive slots of a receptive binding are filled (b) some effective determinables become more determinate.
    I try to translate this in the language of experiencing: (a) some phenomenal qualities become unified to an experiencing unity and so (b) the phenomenal qualities become more determinate. Can we read this last becoming a kind of specification, e.g. a specification of perception? Perhaps even a kind of waking up to reality?

    But I don’t know how to think of undetermined phenomenal qualities. Do you have any proposals? When I was right to think of undetermined effective and receptive properties in chapter 10 discussion as universals and sortals, could there be universal phenomenal qualities and universal experiencing subjects?
  9. Jul 9, 2005 #8
    answer to antfm: are physical framework and temporal evolution presupposed?

    Hi antfm, I do not think that there is a special problem about the instantiation of phenomenal properties in space and time. Replace "instantiation" by actualization or ingression. Actualization of experiential/phenomenal properties is a special determination of determinables or filling of receptive slots. And if this is done, physical space-time comes automatically into play. Time, e.g., if the determinations or slot-fillings, are sometimes asymmetric and so there are cascades of asymmetric bindings.

    Concerning the functioning of the causal mesh you have a look at Rosenberg's entropy proposal:
    I think it is possible to compare several independent possible states of an individual on a measure of entropy (cf. Rosenberg 181-2).
    The mentioned configuration could, as I would think, comprise the whole history of the world. But these definitions do not include any reference to physical time. If the physical definition of entropy does not need any reference to time, Rosenberg's proposal would be attractive. More probable, I would think that entropy is only a principle of emergence of higher level individuals when these individuals are asymmetric and member of asymmetric cascades. And so you would be right that the idea of a temporal evolution is implicitly included.

    A question: I'm interested in what you mean by the following:
    How can experiential/phenomenal properties be a potentiality?
  10. Jul 10, 2005 #9
    Hi Tychic! How good to know from you again! There are so many interesting points that you make in your post that it is difficult to address them all.

    I'd like to start with the idea of the panexperientialist neutral monism, composed of experiential/phenomenal properties according to Rosenberg.
    The fact that he considers his proposal a neutral monism should warn us that those properties are two aspects (as they are contemplated from the standpoint of human cognition), but not really two different 'things'. As Hypnagogue suggests referring to the dicotomy subject/object, that I understand also embracing the general dicotomy experiential/phenomenal:

    The question is that we refer to this ontology as an events ontology. And, as you very properly remark, not necessarily time involving.
    (Yes, time seems to play an important role. But this probably derives, again, not from an underlying time (or spacetime) structure, that is not in principle necessary to implement the events ontology, but from our own cognitive functioning. Perhaps as Kant put it, space and time are a-prioris of our cognitive equipment.)

    As you point out, when an actualization of experiential/phenomenal properties happens, space-time would come automatically into play. Though not necessarily. A cascade of asymmetric binding, for instance, would be needed, according to Rosenberg's proposal for a temporal evolution.
    As I see it, then, the events ontology might be functioning prior to the construction of a physical background (space-time). I guess this functioning belongs to a metaphysical domain (the space of possibility?)
    But we use the intuitive idea of experiencing to qualify the intrinsic tout court properties. My objection here is that the sense of experiencing has besides to include the laws or rules that guide the operation of events (and of which Rosenberg suggests those two of 'completion' and 'entropy').
    It is in this context that I used the term of potentiality, that you asked me about, Tychic.
    But I also followed Rosenberg explanation, in pg.214:

    "Observe that one pole of an ingression corresponds to the hit, which is the point of maximal determinateness, and one pole corresponds to its origin in the space of possibility, which is the point of maximal potential."

    "The entity's ingression maps the process of becoming, but it is not a temporal becoming: it is a becoming from potentiality to actuality"

    Insofar as it is complexes of phenomenal/experiential properties what we have basically operating, it is that sense of potentiality
    which I guessed applied to them.
  11. Jul 11, 2005 #10


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    That's a good way to put it. I would go further and say that effective properties are only truly an aspect of phenomenal properties from an epistemological standpoint. That is, there is a sort of epistemological aspect dualism between phenomenal and effective properties, in the sense that one can know a phenomenal property's intrinsic, qualitative nature from first person subjective experience (the epistemic relation Rosenberg calls 'acquaintance'), but when considering the phenomenal properties of a natural individual other than oneself (i.e., when conducting third person observation), one can only directly observe the functional (effective) behavior of those properties (through the process described in section 9.7).

    But ontologically speaking, effective properties literally are just the necessary causal relationships that obtain among phenomenal properties. So instead of saying that a phenomenal property is a property with a phenomenal and causal effective aspect, we could more explicitly say that a phenomenal property is one with a certain qualitative character, and the nature of this qualitative character is such that it necessarily enters into certain effective (causal) relationships with other phenomenal properties. (e.g., the nature of phenomenal redness and blueness is such that they are necessarily distinct colors; the nature of a phenomenal Necker cube that appears to be facing up is perhaps such that it is necessarily incompatible with the simultaneous presence of the same phenomenal Necker cube facing down; etc.)

    In essence, the effective, causal aspect of phenomenal properties is something that is already built into and included in the nature of the phenomenal qualities; it is something that directly and necessarily ensues from the intrinsic, qualitative nature of the phenomenal properties, rather than being something that exists side by side with/in addition to/over and above those intrinsic qualities. In other words, once we have specified the phenomenal qualities, we have already specified their internal, effective contrasts. So from an ontological standpoint-- from a "God's-eye view"-- effective and phenomenal properties are essentially the same thing. The aspect dualism between phenomenal and effective properties is only a reflection of the epistemic asymmetry between our access to phenomenal (first person) and effective (third person) facts, and this asymmetry is a consequence of the world's causal structure (as described above, and on pg. 239 of the text). Effective properties are not different from phenomenal properties, even aspectually; 'effective property' is just a name we give to an incompletely understood phenomenal property, a phenomenal property viewed from the "outside" in the third person rather than from the "inside" in the first person. An analogous analysis holds for the relationship between receptive and experiential properties.

    We can use the discussions from chapters 9 and 10 as a guide here, I think. So an undetermined phenomenal quality would be a kind of determinable (e.g., phenomenal color) that is not yet determinate (e.g., potentially red and potentially orange). It would not settle on a determinate value until sufficiently constrained by other effective/phenomenal properties in the causal/experiential nexus.

    The question of what it would be like to experience an indeterminate color is a bit bewildering. I imagine one could argue that we do experience such things, e.g. perhaps in fringe or otherwise confusing or apparently indefinite experiences, but I think it's more likely that we are not acquainted with such things at all. If the latter is true, then indefinite experience would be the sort of thing we could dimly grasp by analogy and various other intellectual exercises, but never really get a firm handle on-- in roughly the same way that we could only understand a primitive, non-cognitive individual's experience only dimly, by analogy.
  12. Jul 15, 2005 #11
    I agree insofar as properties are no things. This is trivial. But receptive and effective properties are different entities. Look at the different contribution that these concepts make to the concept of an individual. An individual has many phenomenal properties but only one experiental property. I also think that you can identify the individual with the receptive/experinental property in some sense, but you cannot identify it with one single phenomenal property (only perhaps with the aggregation of all effective properties.)

    In this sense we have the following equations:
    subject = receptive/experiental property
    object = effective/phenomenal property

    These equations get wrong if you think the subject as the causal effective entity in concrete circumstances. Rosenberg would not deny this perspective. So I would identify the subject with an conglomerate of one receptive and many effective properties.

    About your Kantian perspective of time you write:

    I do not like this view. It may be that there is a God's point view that considers space and time in a radical other way as A- and B-series, but I refuse to say that time and space are only "from our own cognitive functioning".
  13. Jul 15, 2005 #12
    Concerning the undetermined phenomenal qualities

    Thank you, hypnagogue for your good differentiation between ontological and epistemological sphere, it helps and is a very clear thesis.

    A second point:
    I would opt for the first option and I do not think that it is a marginal case: A toy example for a determinable phenomenal property would be "colored" insofar as there could be the determinate properties red, green, yellow...
    And a property like this has a "what it is like to be colored" in a special way. And there are many different reasons because you can be wet in your face. But you can at least imagine to be wet in your face independent of the context and this imagining is also a phenomenal feeling of wetness. If your face is wet in reality, this also is a kind of undetermined meaning. To be wet is a place in the iceberg below the sphere of concreteness.
    I think these undetermined phenomenal properties can bear causal responsibility (and you proposed in a previous post that quantum mechanics works in this way).
    It would also be possible to think of the perdurance of the self through time via an indeterminate experiential property.
  14. Jul 17, 2005 #13
    I'm afraid that Rosenberg's proposal is more radical than that. I'm not sure if we can properly say that they are different entities. Of course, it depends on the content we give to the term entity.
    But recalling the metaphor of the two faces of a wall, could we say that each face is a different entity? Or perhaps we have just an entity (the wall) with two aspects? What are, then, these two aspects?
    I wonder if we could rather appeal to the analogy with the wave/particle entity of quantum physics. We have there those two aspects, clearly distinguishable, but in no way separable. And, as we all know, it is very difficult from human cognition to interpret, even less understand, that double aspect of reality. I think this same difficulty applies to the dual aspect (effective/receptive, or experiential/phenomenal) of Rosemberg's proposal.

    I think that Rosenberg very brilliantly and clearly detects and exposes that double aspectual manifestation of reality. But I don't think the theory may explain why it arises, or that he even tried to explain it.

    At that respect, his metaphysical proposal brings about the question: "Why is there something rather than everything?" (p.152) (and I feel personally very close to this concern), much more than the classical one of: "Why is there something rather than nothing?"
    As he says:
    "Why doesn't every arbitrary combination of properties occur? This theory of causal significance will be a theory of symmetric and asymmetric state constraints between individuals. It is a theory designed to understand how constraints propagate, so it explains how the actual world comes to be just a sliver of what could have been." (p.152)

    In my (very limited) view, Rosenberg succeds in explaining how those constraints propagate. But I feel I don't see so clearly hoy they 'start' propagate from just the agregate of experiential/phenomenal properties if they do not openly, besides their basic sense of 'experiencing', also include a sense of 'operating'.

    Referring the question of time:
    I do not think Rosenberg is concerned with which particular view of the concept of time we handle, since he clearly states, as we have mentioned already in this discussion, that:
    "Instead of assuming that the causal mesh exists in space and time, I propose that space and time are a construction out of the structure of the causal mesh." (p.213)
    And when he addresses the question of time, he is just "trying to illuminate" (p.214) that construction of space and time.

    If I cited a maybe kantian view of time it was as an example. I probably do not share that view myself. But what I basically meant is that there are many different interpretations (physical and metaphysical) of the concept of time, and Rosenberg doesn't actually need one of them in particular. But the conception of time as strongly involved with our cognitive capacities is not exclusive of metaphysics. I recall, for instance, a famous quote from A. Einstein from a letter to the family of his friend M. Besso who died shortly before his own death. Einstein wrote that although Besso had precceded him in death, it was of no consequence, "for us physicists believe the separation between past, present and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one."
    Or also significant the words of H. Weyl:
    "The objective world simply is, it does not happen. Only to the gaze of my consciousness, crawling upward along the life line of my body, does a certain section of this world come to life as a fleeting image in space which continuously changes in time."

    Relating to all these questions, I had been wondering too about the idea of the origin of our universe (an actual world), tracked back by modern physics towards a singularity, prior to the construction of space-time. The expansion/inflation an so on of this universe would create the space-time itself. It has also been proposed the existence of a symmetry at that singularity, whose breaking would mean the beginning of our universe such as we know it.
    Of course, Rosenberg's agregate of experiential/phenomenal properties could also be very well applied to that rather unknown singularity, since they do not need the space-time background. However, how could those properties conform an state of symmetry which could be broken somehow?
    Would the 'symmetry' constitute an individual in Rosenberg's sense? What would then a 'breaking' of that singularity (individual) mean?

    Please, disregard these questions if you think they are unnecessarily speculative at this point of the discussion.
  15. Jul 19, 2005 #14
    Hi antfm,
    I write concerning our dispute whether effective and receptive properties are different entities.
    I agree that the concept "entity" can be misunderstood. My point was that the connection between effective and phenomenal properties is much tighter as the connection between effective and receptive properties. The carrier relation implies a unilateral dependence of the effective property from the phenomenal property (the effective is one epistemic aspect of a phenomenal property). Between phenomenal and experiential properties there is a reciprocal dependency, but also a clear difference and a hierarchy. I wanted to say that the characterization of this ontology as a monism would be wrong if the basic category would be “property”. But with the basic category actualization or event, that was specified by effective and receptive properties in chapter 9-11 and in a deeper way by phenomenal and experiential properties in chapter 12, this ontology really is a monism.
    I think Rosenberg makes a proposal in his development of his Theory of Causal Significance in chapter 9. That there is causation is a fact. But if there is causation there have to be not only effective but also receptive properties. There are two models of the cooperation of effective and receptive properties. The simplest is conceptually fruitless because there could not be made a real difference between effective and receptive properties. Hence it is promising to think of an less simple but still not very complicated coherence between effective and receptive properties which corresponds to the phenomenology of the human consciousness and is also expandable for less complicated individuals.

    Experiential and phenomenal properties do include a sense of operating. They are carriers of causation in a realistic non-Humean sense and at least in the case of asymmetric binding some properties are responsible for others.

    The starting to propagate question sounds like the question whether there is a transcendent creator. I think this question is open in Rosenberg’s theory. If there are other things to start the process beside or instead of a creator, it seems to me that Rosenberg shifted the balance point from ever existing natural laws to experiencing individuals.

    The possibility of timeless individuals could make it possible to speak of the start of the physical universe in Rosenberg’s terms. But as far as I see there is no parallel between the broken symmetry as a central point of the becoming of the physical universe and symmetric and asymmetric binding in Rosenberg’s theory. Perhaps it is possible for you to make a (simplified) proposal how to think together these concepts.
    Starting questions would be: Do you think the whole world through all times is an individual? Do the physicians think that the breaking of the symmetry at the start of the universe was low-breaking?
  16. Jul 20, 2005 #15
    Hi Tychic,
    Regretedly, I do not have much time lately for PF. I'd like to discuss more carefully your points, but I probably can't.
    Anyway, I think that I agree with most of what you say. Here, I think, you very well express some point we have arrived at:
    -A first consideration or personal doubt that I was trying to expose, but I think I'm failing to express properly, has to do with the sense of the term 'experiencing'. What I basically meant is that the neutral monism proposed by Rosenberg appeals to an 'experiencing' characterization (corresponding, as you very well say, to the phenomenology of human consciousness). The idea I'm trying to convey is that experiencing according to Rosenberg, E(R), is an stronger essence than experiencing understood in a intuitive way, E(I), because E(R) also includes a sense of acting or functioning, condensed in what are called laws of emergence for natural individuals (more graphically: E(R) = E(I) + Laws of Emergence). And among these laws, Rosenberg makes the proposal of these two:
    -completion, and
    -entropy (highest entropy),
    but leaving open a deeper or further consideration of these laws.

    "These laws or principles will either govern the behavior of experience directly or govern the behavior of something nonphysical than underlies experience" (p.91)

    "The key question is: By what rules are trhe configurations of each level chosen? From a purely combinatorial point of view, for any given level of nature one could construct an enormous number of possible configurations for the next level. If the causal significance view of causation is correct, there must be some way nature chooses one configuration over another. These are laws of emergence for higher level individuals" (p.180)

    -A second point, that I brought about probably because I think it is related to the former, is the one of trying to understand modern physics views, concretely about the origin of an universe, from within Rosenberg's ideas.
    The idea of a singularity in that origin, and the idea of the breaking of a basic configuration (understood as a high level math/physical description of the unification of fundamental interactions of nature (excluding gravitation), as a symmetry) as the starting point of a universe.
    What I was trying to interpret according to Rosenberg's scheme, if possible, is what the status of that singularity might be. (sorry for the coincidence, but I didn't mean to imply that symmetry/asymmetry mentioned by Rosenberg had anything to do what the math/physical symmetry of that singularity). Because, in principle, it seems difficult not to view that singularity as an special cathegory event, somehow different to the events taking place (and time) inside an universe already in evolution.

    I have to leave now, Tychic. I hope to finish the post later.
  17. Jul 21, 2005 #16
    Continuing earlier post.

    I'm sorry, Tychic, if I've muddled up a little bit the discussion mentioning the 'starting to propagate' question. I think that within Rosenberg's theory of causal significance we can not talk or rather identify anything as a 'starting point'. This starting point would belong in an epistemical description, for example the origin of a universe. It might seem, as I said, an special type of event from an epistemical point of view. But probably it is not so from the perspective of the events ontology.

    It would be interesting anyway, I think, to try to describe that event within Rosenberg's theory. We should think of it, if we are coherent with the theory, as if the singularity prior to the beginning of a universe (if we accept such hypothesis) were a case of undeterminateness, being the evolution of a universe part of the process of becoming more determinate.
    At this respect, when you ask: "Do you think the whole world through all times is an individual?", I think we might be touching the problem of the boundaries of an individual (in Rosenberg's sense) against physical individuals. I think it is difficult to concile the idea of the universe as a whole as a natural individual with the existence of middle-level experiencing subjects, as Rosenberg pointed in ch. 4:

    "Perhaps, by flowing along the lines of interaction, the experiencing subjects could outrun the boundaries of the primitive individuals of physics. Here the trap concerns stopping the flow of interaction. It can seem that the flow of interaction in the universe is inherently unbounded, and no merely abstract pattern presents a natural condition for containing it.( )This makes for the possibility of a universal subject of experience, perhaps some kind of universal consciousness. Unfortunately, no room exits for the more mundane, middle-level boundaries necessary for human consciousness to exist."(p.88)

    But I'm not sure that I understand this properly.

    Another related question that you, Tychic, mention, is that the 'starting to propagate' sounds like the question wether there is a trascendent creator. I wasn't very aware of that relation when I mentioned it. However I think that if we equate existing with experiencing, we wouldn't encounter either an act of creation as such. There perhaps also arises Rosenberg's question of "why is there something rather than everything?". Existing = Experiencing would be all there is 'forever', that is prior to any temporal association.
    In this sense, I must say that I only partially understand the following Rosenberg's asertion:

    "The humble truth is that, for all we know, existence might be something toward which all things tend. If so, what requires metaphysical explanation might be why some things aren't rather than why some things are. Perhaps the fact that new things can come into being is part of the noncontingent nature of the world, and perplexity should start at observation of how restrained these facts are in reality. Most possibilities do not occur."(p.152)

    And you, Tychic, make a final question about the breaking of the math/physical symmetry. I don't think it means a law-breaking. Natural laws seem to describe accurately the states of broken symmetry such as our world. I guess the question would rather be how or why that breaking happens. But perhaps this is more a problem for natural causation than for metaphysical causation. What do you think?
  18. Jul 23, 2005 #17
    Hi Antfm,
    thank you always for your posts and answers. If I do not mention some points of you, I agree with you, have no good idea or I think all arguments are touched on enough.
    Are you talking about a kind of downward causation or causal relevance of the experience that is not part of the intuitive understanding of experience? If you do I dissent from your thesis: I do not think that it is part of the intuitive understanding of experience that it is causally inefficient. Even a perception has consequences and in Rosenberg’s theory these consequences are consequences of the phenomenal and effective side on the first place.
    The discussion whether higher level emergent phenomenal properties exist is a philosophical question and not so much a question of intuitive understanding of experience. My intuition would say that there are probably emergent properties (see chapter 14 for discussion).

    I’m not so sure about that. Your quotation from ch. 4 suggests that there is no room for a middle level consciousness if you do not suggest a plausible hierarchical theory of individuals as Rosenberg does. If a human consciousness makes experiences it is necessary that there is a higher level individual. If human consciousness would be the highest level of individualization, it would have no effective/phenomenal properties that result of interaction with other individuals.
    But the question whether the universe as a whole is a natural individual remains open.

    At least in human experiencing there is a difference between an actual experiencing and a remembering which is also a experiencing. I’m not sure that Rosenberg has to accept a wholly timeless event in this phenomenological sense. Before we have seen the experiential and phenomenal aspect of the effective/receptive properties this possibility was plausible and I cannot exclude it for non-animal experience. But even if “events” like quantum entanglement are simultaneous they perhaps endure one moment at least in the phenomenal sense. When I think of actualization I think of at least one point of a moment of this event. I’m not sure whether this differentiation between phenomenal and physical time is correct. It would be only physical time that supervenes on cascades of events. The structure of phenomenal time would be self displaying in the experience itself. But I’m very uncertain about these things.
  19. Jul 24, 2005 #18


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    Hey guys-- I'm sorry for the awfully long delay for the chapter 13 summary. I plan to have a thread up for chapter 13 up within the next couple of days.
  20. Jul 26, 2005 #19
    Yes, I understand (and I share the view) that in Rosenberg's theory experiencing is causally efficient. What I doubt is that this idea is generally implied in the common understanding of experiencing. For instance, do you think that the concept of qualia (or having qualia), when accepted, is generally associated with causation? Though I, particularly, agree with the sense of experiencing as causally efficient of Rosenberg's theory, I do not think it constitutes a general assumption for the term experiencing in consciousness studies.

    You are right, Tychic. I don't know why I interpreted the original question as the universe being an experiencing natural individual. And, of course, you didn't mean that. It is in the sense of the universe as an 'experiencer', I think, that we would have problems, according to Rosenberg, not in the basic one of being just a natural individual, which as you say would remain open.

    As for the question of 'existing=experiencing', I meant it as applying also at a very basic, fundamental level, even if a temporal aspect would not have entered an actual world. Experiencing may be however highly elaborated, as it seems to be in the case of human (or animal) consciousness, or cognitive systems in general. But I wasn't considering, in principle, the broad display of cognitive capacities that nature seems to contain. In some of these modes, of course, a phenomenal time appears, and probably gives feedback to new modes of experiencing.
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