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Fundamental things, emergent things

  1. Apr 25, 2007 #1
    Some things are clearly fundamental, and some emergent. As examples of fundamental concepts I could mention energy, momentum and location. An object has a location in space, because its' particles each have own locations. On the other hand some things are emergent, for example behaviour of a system, or its shape. A system can have some behaviour even if its' small particles don't have it.

    A big question is then, that is conciousness fundamental or emergent?

    I thought for some time that fundamental would be an obvious answer, but noted that some fellows instead considered emergent as an obvious one. I'm not really sure what are the typical beliefs conserning this.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 25, 2007 #2
    emergent complex is the right answer
  4. Apr 25, 2007 #3
    Do you mean consciousness wrt to "being self-aware" or "cognitive".

    if self-aware then fundamental
    if cognitive then emergent
  5. Apr 25, 2007 #4
    I think it is obvious, that the process of thinking, being so complicated, is emergent. But I'm not so sure about the consciousness. They are not really the same thing. I'm not going to try to define these concepts in full rigor, because nobody else has succeeded in that either :smile: (Although the forum guidelines do tell to do so...)

    But yeah,
    something like this is what I had in mind.
  6. Apr 25, 2007 #5
    You also should address emergent from what? Matter? Conception? Self-awareness? Humanness?
  7. Apr 26, 2007 #6
    Do all things that are metaphysically given have a consciousness ? Would seem the answer is no. If so, then consciousness as a thing cannot be fundamental--a newborn is not "self-aware" yet it has a consciousness. So I conclude that the answer to the OP is that consciousness is under all cases emergent--that is, it emerges from Existence itself as the faculty with the ability to perceive that which Exists (= Reality).
  8. Apr 27, 2007 #7
    Actually, energy was not always seen as fundamental. The concept of energy started off as a very abstract notion defined as "the ability to do work". Until the advent of modern physics, no one could conceive of energy existing in the absence of objects (matter) in which the energy would be "stored".

    The same goes for momentum. Location, too, is a relative term and implies the existence of objects. In fact, except for people who claim to understand modern physics, everyone's intuitive notion tells them that matter is more fundamental than anything else. And I seriously doubt anyone, physicist or otherwise, intuitively understands how energy, a completely abstract notion, can be more fundamental than solid "stuff".

    But I'm not saying this thing or that thing is fundamental or emergent, only making the point that the difference between fundamental and emergent is completely subjective.

    From the above, I would say that the answer depends on how you choose to view the world. If you believe everything is a creation of your own mind, or some universal mind, then consciousness must necessarily be more fundamental.

    I'd say most people believe consciousness is fundamental and everything else is emergent. But most people know little about philosophical jargon, and usually express that understanding in terms of a sentient God who created the world with the power of His mind, or something alone those lines.
  9. Nov 6, 2009 #8
    After sitting ZAZEN for many years, I have come to see that form is emptiness, emptiness is form. The sense of consciouness is the ever emerging firing of our synapse translated down to the level of illusion of "I am ". During long 'sits' I have had the experience of having it all suddenly momentarily STOP. No past, no future. The stream of consciousness halts. Consciousnessness I would gather is emergent based on the fundemental firing of that organ up there ever trying to create the illusion of a self separate from all else. At the Quark level we are the same as the universe. No separation. We are observers of various transmissions and vibrations.
    Want to test how much control you DON'T have of consciousness? Sit quietly, restful, half close your eyes, breath easily in silence and DON'T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT!

    Do my cats have MU?
  10. Nov 6, 2009 #9
    I've never understood how anyone can believe that consciousness (meaning qualia or "inner experience") is entirely emergent from matter. But that seems to be the standard materialist viewpoint.
  11. Nov 6, 2009 #10
    I think its pretty normal if your spiritual to think that the mind and aspects of the mind are fundamental while if your not spiritual you think the other way. So it might come down to religious views on this issue. For an atheist to admit that mind can be fundamental is basicaly like saying a god like being could be possible imo.
  12. Nov 6, 2009 #11
    Well I'm agnostic and I still can't understand the materialistic view. I see a fundamental difference between my experience of red, and the physical phenomena of electromagnetic light at a certain frequency. I gather from what other people say that they might not make a distinction.
  13. Nov 6, 2009 #12
    Would you say the typical belief is that of fundamental? I would think so with more then 90% of the worlds population being religious? I dont really know if its 90% I just heard that a few times... My own personal experience is that most people are religious but the more years you spend in college the more likely you wont be. Of course that could be expected as most schools are state run basicaly. So... am I right in thinking the difference is mostly between believers in god and non believers in god?
  14. Nov 6, 2009 #13
    "Would you say the typical belief is that of fundamental?"

    Not really sure what you mean there.

    "My own personal experience is that most people are religious but the more years you spend in college the more likely you wont be."

    The vast majority of people I meet are not religious. But I'm sure this isn't the case in other parts of the world.

    "So... am I right in thinking the difference is mostly between believers in god and non believers in god?"

    You mean the difference between people who believe consciousness is entirely emergent from matter? I wasn't aware of any such correlation. I suppose religions like Hinduism see the individual as a microcosm of the macrocosm (God), so there could be some correlation.
  15. Nov 7, 2009 #14
    Not at all.
    Mind is fundamental, to epistemology.
    It is not fundamental to ontology.

    That is an important difference. You don't have to believe in the supernatural to understand that you can't know anything, if you don't have a mind.
    Descartes said, I think therefore I am. He wasn't saying, I think myself into existence. He was saying, I know that I exist, because I see that I am a thing that thinks.

    Mind is not fundamental to existence, because there are 'things' that do not have minds. But it is fundamental to knowledge. You can't know anything about existence without a mind.

    When someone says mind is an emergent phenomena, they are talking about the existence or source of consciousness. Where consciousness comes from, or what it is caused by.

    More simply, consciousness is fundamental to experience, but not fundamental, to the source of experience. Kant called the source, the thing-in-itself, and said it was unknowable, since it is outside experience.
  16. Nov 7, 2009 #15
    "Mind is fundamental, to epistemology.
    It is not fundamental to ontology."

    That is just an assertion. It is not at all obvious to me, in fact the opposite seems obvious to me.

    "You don't have to believe in the supernatural to understand that you can't know anything, if you don't have a mind."

    Yes I agree.

    "He was saying, I know that I exist, because I see that I am a thing that thinks."

    Do you make a distinction between the thing that thinks and the thoughts? I can see that thoughts and perceptions exist, I can see that my perception of the colour red exists. I would not necessarily say that I think myself into existence, but I would say that the only things I am aware of are thoughts and perceptions (qualia).

    "When someone says mind is an emergent phenomena, they are talking about the existence or source of consciousness. Where consciousness comes from, or what it is caused by."

    I could only imagine my consciousness emerging from simpler units of awareness or perception (qualia), I cannot conceive of these things emerging as some kind of emergent quality of material processes. This does not mean that the consciousness is not in direct correspondence with the material processes, just that from the material processes alone there is nothing which could allow us to deduce any consciousness would emerge.
  17. Nov 7, 2009 #16
    I think Russell argued that it should more correctly be 'thinking exists'. But it seems more of a semantic point to me. 'Thing', in this context, does not imply a physical entity, its merely a convenient conceptualization, or container.
    That is the epistemological part. This really says nothing about what red is, or where perceptions, or thoughts come from, how they exist.
    That's not really emergence. Emergence occurs when a synthesis produces new properties, which were not properties of the individual parts.

    Consider water. If there is a combustible fire, you can pour water on it to put it out.
    I would not suggest pouring oxygen and hydrogen on the same flame. The property of wetness only exists in the combined state... and of course at a certain temperature.
    So the fact you can't concieve of it, actually indicates it is a trully emergent property.
    Why does there need to be? It really wouldn't be an emergent property if it did.
  18. Nov 7, 2009 #17
    "in fact the opposite seems obvious to me.


    Because the only things I know to exist are my perceptions. It is possible that:
    1) my experience of the colour red exists AND electromagnetic light of that wavelength exists
    2) my experience of the colour red exists but electromagnetic waves do not exist

    but it is not possible that

    3) electromagnetic waves exist and my experience of red does not exist

    I have to allow for the possibility of case 2), whereby either there is nothing ontological or my perceptions are ontological. Case 3) is not possible, so it cannot be that electromagnetic waves are ontological but my experience of red is not ontological. Therefore, in order that anything at all is ontological, it must be the case that either:

    i) both electromagnetic waves and my perception of red is ontological
    ii) my perception of red is ontological but electromagnetic waves are not (because they don't exist)

    That is my reasoning for why perceptions must be ontological. The rest of your points I think rest on the idea that mind is not ontological, so I will leave it here.
  19. Nov 7, 2009 #18
    I disagree. For example, "location" is not at all fundamental (or is it).
    Location is merely a relation between objects: no objects, no location. so which one is fundamental here?

    Perhaps fundamental and emergent (in this sense) are not mutually exclusive, nor exhaustive of all possibilities.
    Perhaps they are a little like open, and closed sets/spaces (a very important notion in topology): a set is closed if it's complementary in a given space is open. also, a set is open if it's complementary is closed. however, saying "a set is open if it's not closed" and variations of it is a trivial mistake, as there are sets neither closed nor open, and sets that are both closed and open.

    So while "fundamental" and "emergent" are complementary, maybe they are not mutually exclusive and they do not dually describe phenomena... something to ponder about....

  20. Nov 7, 2009 #19
    You misunderstood me. ZEN is an A- religious practice of the mind. It recognizes consciousness as what fills the mind most of our waking life. ZEN strives to shut off the noise. To peel away the layers of all that mental chaff. To wake up to the moment in which we live. Recognize like I said at that quark level we are connected to the universe. We are receptors of transmissions that surround us. Consiouness, reality as the mind sees it is an illusion yet because of the compression of electrons, we can't walk through walls. Neurons are constantly firing. We put all our organs together into an 'organism' and this translates to consciousness. It is emergent constinuously. In ZEN we strive in ZAZEN meditation to shut up that constant noise to wake up from the illusion of a conscious ego. To know the self is to forget the self.
  21. Nov 7, 2009 #20
    It seems to me that everything is fundamental and emergent at the same time.
    The things we intuitively call fundamental would at the same time since birth have been capable of creating the emergent properties.
    But aren't then they actually fundamental properties all along?

    Consciousness would have been possible ever since the birth of the universe, at least if the universe is a closed deterministic system that doesn't get anything "added" to it later. Or it gets modified by external sources.
    It's like a programming language.. The fundamental code already contained all the code necessary to create everything emergent and fundamental, ever since it came into existence.
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