Physicalism and the Problem of Base

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sciborg2

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« on: November 14, 2018, 11:42:54 pm »
Two papers of interest:


One by Susan Scheidner ->

The Problem of the Physical Base

Quote
The most heated debates over physicalism tend to concern the fundamental nature of consciousness. I will concentrate on physicalist positions in philosophjy of mind, but I'll raise a new problem for physicalism from different quarters, one stemming from the mathematical nature of fundamental physical theories. I shall argue that for physicalists to provide an account of the nature of the fundamental physical entities in their physical base...that doesn't face direction-of-explanation worries, they must embrace Platonism as an account of the nature of mathematical entities.

One by Phillip Goff ->

Is it a Problem that Physics is Mathematical?

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Physicalism – the view that fundamental reality is entirely physical – is a very popular view. Whilst there is significant opposition to it, this opposition tends to focus on challenging the potential of physicalism to account for consciousness. Susan Schneider, in her timely paper ‘The problem of the physical base’ hones in on another source of metaphysical difficulty for physicalism: its reliance on mathematics to tell the basic story of the universe.
Galileo’s declaration that mathematics is the language in which the great book of the universe is written has been of great practical benefit, allowing us to build mathematical models that predict the behaviour of matter with great accuracy, and leading ultimately to marvellous technology. But this pragmatic leap forward arguably brings with it profound difficulties for those interested in metaphysics: in finding out what reality is really like. Can we make sense of a purely mathematical universe, and even if we can does the resulting view live up to the expectations many philosophers invest in physicalism?

This is a much neglected problem, and Schneider’s paper is to be admired not only for drawing our attention to it, but also for providing insightful analysis of various dimensions of it. I have, however, some disagreement in detail with how we are to understand the problem, which I will try to outline in what follows.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2018, 11:44:44 pm by sciborg2 »
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Francis Buck

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« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2018, 08:54:25 pm »
Very interesting, good posts Sci -- just wish I knew more about physics/math/stuff in general to understand it better, though I think I get the jist of them. Will definitely give these good read overs though again, as I am one who leans toward a possible waning of the view of physicalism as we see it today.

sciborg2

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« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2018, 07:26:05 pm »
Very interesting, good posts Sci -- just wish I knew more about physics/math/stuff in general to understand it better, though I think I get the jist of them. Will definitely give these good read overs though again, as I am one who leans toward a possible waning of the view of physicalism as we see it today.

Yeah I liked both the original and Goff's soft rebuttal. I think the challenge for us mere mortals is understanding just how mathematical the underlying substrate of the Universe will turn out to be.

If we're still talking particles/waves/energy then it seems physics is, well, physical. If we're talking Informational Quantum Bits or what not then I think the critique that physicalism is Platonism in a mask and overcoat has teeth.
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