Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Topics - sciborg2

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 16
Is there Ultimate Stuff and are there Ultimate Reasons?

In this essay, we reflect on two fundamental assumptions, the one philosophical and the other scientific. The first has been called the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR). This encapsulates the idea that there is (at least in principle) a complete explanation for everything that exists or happens. We argue that recent attempts in philosophy to undermine the PSR should be rejected on a combination of philosophical and scientific grounds, and PSR should be upheld. Secondly, we argue, from the assumption that PSR is true, that the quantum vacuum (QV) is not the most fundamental stuff that exists, and moreover that we can say something positive about the nature of the “more fundamental” stuff. We argue that these conclusions follow from the implications that PSR carries for the nature of scientific explanations applied within the framework of the model of Nature indicated by Systems Philosophy. We show that under PSR the indicated substance underlying the QV has promise for developing solutions to certain fundamental empirical puzzles in science such as the nature of dark energy and the foundations of consciousness.

Dr. Johannes Kleiner: Why the universe might be conscious

This is a pathbreaking conversation with Dr. Johannes Kleiner, a mathematician and physicist at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy. He works at the cutting edge of an ever urgent question — is the universe conscious? He explains to Grin why the answer could well be, yes.

The crucial ingredient in constructing and studying mathematical models of consciousness is to represent conscious experience in mathematical terms. This is what makes mathematical models of consciousness so powerful. One can use what is called a ‘mathematical space’ to represents the content of conscious experience. Once provided with some mathematical description of the physical domain (e.g. of the neural network in the brain), on can then apply a model of consciousness to calculate which conscious experience it would have.

    Now the crucial ingredient here is that any physical system that can be represented mathematically (in principle) can be ‘plugged into’ a model of consciousness to calculate the conscious experience of that system according to that model. Next to brains, this could be a mathematical description of a computer, a large network or even a approximate mathematical description of the universe.

This is where the headline you have quoted above comes from. Mathematical models of consciousness allow us to calculate the conscious experience of all sorts of systems. And while a final verdict is still pending of which model of consciousness describes reality correctly, it is a possibility that the universe as a whole has some conscious experience.

Philosophy & Science / The Three Holograms
« on: May 15, 2020, 05:36:15 am »
Physicalism proposes that the relational realm is mindless. There are many versions of this  proposal.  The  one  most  influential,  at  present,  proposes  that  the  basic  building blocks  of  the  relational  realm  are  the  particles,  fields,  and  other  entities  within  the province of microphysics. The behavior of these entities is mindless, governed entirely by probabilistic laws.

Idealism proposes that the relational realm is made of minds. It may be one mind, as in Berkeley’s  proposal  that  it’s  the  mind  of  God,  or  it  may  be  many  distinct  and  finite minds in interaction. In the latter case,  the behavior of these  minds has also been described by probabilistic laws.

Dualism proposes that the relational realm is made  both of minds and mindless entities. There are probabilistic laws governing the minds, the mindless entities, and the interactions between the two.
   --Peeking Behind the Icons

The Three Holograms

What the Idealist tells you stuns your mind. He reveals that the year is 2212, and that you’re part of a hi-tech experiment designed to solve the problem of consciousness once and for all. Then he says enigmatically, “The wires funneling through the wall are as much a part of your mentally-projected reality as the walls and the desk are. But these wires feed into your brain to generate that perception of reality!”

“What does that mean?” you ask.

The Idealist smiles, and says, “It means that those so-called physical components, the wires that project your mental reality into you, and so are entirely responsible for the creation of your experience, are as much a part of that mental reality as the thoughts in your head. All that exists here is entirely mental.”

“But, what does that mean?”

The Idealist chuckles merrily, “It means that there is no direct evidence in your experience of any connection to a physical realm, simply because what you would call your mind’s physical connection to the so-called physical world is just as much a part of your experience as the chair you’re sitting on. What you are experiencing now is a purely mental reality.”

Pleased by your joyous visitor, you laugh – but your laughter is interrupted when the Idealist suddenly becomes grave, danger looming in his voice. He intones, “I must warn you – I am not the only holographic being who will visit you today. Two more holograms are on their way. Their messages will be fallacious. However, the final hologram’s message is by far the most misguided. I warn you, no matter what he tells you, don’t listen. If you listen, it might cost you your life.”

The Conceivability Trap: Analytic Philosophy’s Achilles Heel

...Since our empirical experiences are always perspectival—after all, each of us operates through a unique point of view or window into the world—the achievement of objective knowledge is contingent upon a procedure meant to distill objectivity out of perspectival subjectivity. In science, Karl Popper offered the following: “the objectivity of scientific statements lies in the fact that they can be inter-subjectively tested” (emphasis added). In analytic philosophy, however, issues often cannot be settled by experimental testing, so a different form of procedural objectivity is required. In this context, Bertrand Russell held that there are a priori principles of logical reasoning—not contingent on the idiosyncratic perspectives inherent to empirical experience—which, if properly applied, render objective conclusions possible.

Even philosophers of mind, whose object of study is that most subjective of all things, aim for objectivity. Expressions now common in the community—such as ‘what it is like to be (something or someone)’ to define the presence of experience—as well as words such as ‘phenomenal’ and ‘access’ to qualify consciousness, reflect an effort to objectify what is essentially subjective.

But can the ideal of full objectivity ever be realized? For as long as analytic philosophers are fallible human beings, instead of computers, it surely can’t. Their conclusions, too, are inevitably a function of the variety and metacognitive depth of their personal experiences. It is more productive to acknowledge this fact and respond accordingly, than to pretend otherwise.

For instance, the notion of conceivability—which is often appealed to in modern ontology and philosophy of mind to establish or refute metaphysical possibility—relies on the particular set of subjective experiences a philosopher has had in his or her life. Therefore, it is naïve—perhaps even pretentious—to assume that one’s personal inability to conceive of something entailed or implied by an argument positively refutes the argument. For not only in continental, but also analytic philosophy, one’s conclusions reveal perhaps as much about oneself as they do about one’s object of inquiry.

Indeed, even language itself—an indispensable tool not only for communicating, but also formulating our thoughts—is based on shared experience. Words only have meaning to us insofar as their denotations and connotations are experiences we’ve had ourselves. For instance, because you and I have experienced a car, the word ‘car’ has meaning for both of us, and so we can use it in a conversation. Similarly, because the word ‘color’ denotes an experience I’ve had, I can use the concept of color in my own meditations about the nature of mind.

As a matter of fact, the concept of a color palette occupies center stage today in philosophy of mind. Analytic philosophers who adhere to constitutive panpsychism use the concept to conceive—by analogy—of how a limited set of fundamental phenomenal states could be combined—like pigments in a palette—to constitute our ordinary experiences. The conceivability of this very notion rests on our shared experience of colors and how they can be combined to form other colors.

Now imagine Helen Keller as an analytic philosopher. Born deaf and blind as she was, she didn’t share with sight-capable philosophers the experience of having mixed watercolors in kindergarten. As a matter of fact, she didn’t even know what a color is. The very notion of a palette of fundamental experiences that could be combined to form meta-experiences wouldn’t be conceivable to her. And yet, the rest of us knows it is perfectly conceivable. Conceivability is thus not an objective notion, but an inherently subjective one....

Philosophy & Science / Peeking Behind the Icons
« on: May 10, 2020, 10:24:26 pm »
Peeking Behind the Icons

There is a relationship then, in the normal case, between what you see in the phenom-enal and relational senses. What you see in the phenomenal sense is a useful and sim-plified interface to  what  you  see  in  the  relational  sense.  It  summarizes  a  myriad  of complexities in  a way  that  lets you  interact  with  that  complexity  without  tedium and distraction. What it provides you is indeed phenomenal — a phenomenal interface. So the answer to your first question — Are we seeing and playing with the same volleyball? — is both yes and no. No, you each have constructed  your own volleyball experiences. And yes, you each are interacting with the same hidden world of circuits and software. There are as many phenomenal volleyballs as there are players. There is only one rela-tional volleyball, and it doesn’t resemble a volleyball at all. That first question took you to unexpected places, so you try another. Is the volleyball still there when I don’t look? Again  the  answer  depends  on  the  volleyball.  Your  phenomenal  volleyball  is your  con-struction.  When  you  don’t  look  you  don’t  construct  it.  So  the  phenomenal  volleyball isn’t there when  you  don’t  look.  However,  the  relational  volleyball  doesn’t  depend  on your constructive powers for its existence. The relational volleyball is just the circuits and software. So the relational volleyball is there when you don’t look. It just doesn’t re-semble a volleyball.

Which brain creates all my conscious experiences? The phenomenal brain or the relational brain?

The brain you just experienced in The Virtual Brain was of course a phenomenal brain. Indeed, The Virtual Brain headphones told you that this phenomenal brain was indis-tinguishable from the phenomenal brain you would find if you opened up your skull. So is it this phenomenal brain that creates all your conscious experiences? No. The phenomenal brain, with all its phenomenal neurons and synapses and neural net-works, is your constructed experience, just like the phenomenal volleyball. If you don’t look, it’s not there. And if it’s not there, it can’t do anything. But you have conscious experiences even when you don’t see your phenomenal brain. In fact, until just a few minutes ago, you had probably never seen your phenomenal brain. So the phenomenal brain can’t be what constructs your conscious experience.

That leaves your relational brain. If it’s true that your brain creates all your conscious experiences, then it must be your relational brain, not your phenomenal brain, which is the creator. But what is your relational brain? Does it resemble your phenomenal brain? There’s no reason to suppose it does. In fact, as we saw with the volleyball, there’s no reason to suppose that the nature of the phenomenal brain in any way constrains the nature of the relational brain. Your phenomenal brain is simply a graphical interface that allows you to interact with your relational brain, whatever that relational brain might be. And all that’s required of a graphical interface is that it be systematically related to what it represents. The relation can be as arbitrary as you wish, as long as it’s systematic. The trash can icon on your computer screen is a graphical interface to software which can erase files on your computer disk. The trash can icon is systematically related to that erasing software, but the relation is arbitrary: the trash can icon doesn’t resemble the erasing software in any way. It could be any color or shape you wish and still success-fully do the job of letting you interact with the erasing software. It could be a pig icon or a toilette icon instead of a trash can icon. All that matters is the systematic connection.

You can’t help yourself. You have to ask the question. Which circuits and software make it all possible? The phenomenal or the relational? By  now  this  question  is  easy.  It’s  not  phenomenal  circuits  and  software  that  make  it possible, say, to spike a virtual volleyball. It couldn’t be. There need be no phenomenal circuits and  software,  for  you  or  anyone  else,  when  you  spike  the  volleyball,  so  there-fore phenomenal circuits and software can’t be what makes that spiking possible. The answer must be that it’s the  relational circuits and software that make it possible to play virtual volleyball. But of course this raises another question. What are relational circuits and software? We know that they needn’t in any way resemble the phenomenal circuits and software that we experience. But what more can we say about them? This raises a general and important question. If the relational realm needn’t resemble the phenomenal, then what can we safely say about the nature of the relational realm? Not much. However,we can propose theories and see how they stack up against our ex-periences. This is an intriguing enterprise, and one that has attracted lots of attention. There  are  now  many  theories  of  the  relational  realm  that  are  compatible  with  all  the evidence we have from the phenomenal realm. These theories come in three basic kinds: physicalism, idealism, and dualism.

Physicalism proposes that the relational realm is mindless. There are many versions of this  proposal.  The  one  most  influential,  at  present,  proposes  that  the  basic  building blocks  of  the  relational  realm  are  the  particles,  fields,  and  other  entities  within  the province of microphysics. The behavior of these entities is mindless, governed entirely by probabilistic laws.

Idealism proposes that the relational realm is made of minds. It may be one mind, as in Berkeley’s  proposal  that  it’s  the  mind  of  God,  or  it  may  be  many  distinct  and  finite minds in interaction. In the latter case,  the behavior of these  minds has also been described by probabilistic laws.

Dualism proposes that the relational realm is made  both of minds and mindless entities. There are probabilistic laws governing the minds, the mindless entities, and the interactions between the two.

It’s time to take UFOs seriously. Seriously.

Alexander Wendt is one of the most influential political scientists alive. Here’s his case for taking UFOs seriously.

So in an attempt to force a UFO conversation into the public discourse, I contacted Alexander Wendt, a professor of international relations at Ohio State University. Wendt is a giant in his field of IR theory, but in the past 15 years or so, he’s become an amateur ufologist. He wrote an academic article about the political implications of UFOs in 2008, and, more recently, he gave a TEDx talk calling out the “taboo” against studying UFOs.

Wendt is about the closest thing you’ll find to a UFO expert in a world in which ufology isn’t a real science. Like other enthusiasts, he’s spent a lot of time looking at the evidence, thinking about the stakes, and theorizing about why extraterrestrials would visit Earth in the first place.

In this conversation, which has been lightly edited for clarity, we discuss why scientists refuse to take UFOs seriously, why he thinks there’s a good chance ETs are behind the aircraft in those videos, and why he believes the discovery of extraterrestrial life would be the most significant event in human history.

New findings suggest laws of nature 'downright weird,' not as constant as previously thought

Lachlan Gilbert

Not only does a universal constant seem annoyingly inconstant at the outer fringes of the cosmos, it occurs in only one direction, which is downright weird.

Those looking forward to a day when science's Grand Unifying Theory of Everything could be worn on a t-shirt may have to wait a little longer as astrophysicists continue to find hints that one of the cosmological constants is not so constant after all.

In a paper published in Science Advances, scientists from UNSW Sydney reported that four new measurements of light emitted from a quasar 13 billion light years away reaffirm past studies that found tiny variations in the fine structure constant.

Does Time Really Flow? New Clues Come From a Century-Old Approach to Math

Natalie Wolchover

However, she said, “if somebody is called on to reflect a bit more deeply about what the block universe means, they start to question and waver on the implications.”

Physicists who think carefully about time point to troubles posed by quantum mechanics, the laws describing the probabilistic behavior of particles. At the quantum scale, irreversible changes occur that distinguish the past from the future: A particle maintains simultaneous quantum states until you measure it, at which point the particle adopts one of the states. Mysteriously, individual measurement outcomes are random and unpredictable, even as particle behavior collectively follows statistical patterns. This apparent inconsistency between the nature of time in quantum mechanics and the way it functions in
relativity has created uncertainty and confusion.

Over the past year, the Swiss physicist Nicolas Gisin has published four papers that attempt to dispel the fog surrounding time in physics. As Gisin sees it, the problem all along has been mathematical. Gisin argues that time in general and the time we call the present are easily expressed in a century-old mathematical language called intuitionist mathematics, which rejects the existence of numbers with infinitely many digits. When intuitionist math is used to describe the evolution of physical systems, it makes clear, according to Gisin, that “time really passes and new information is created.” Moreover, with this formalism, the strict determinism implied by Einstein’s equations gives way to a quantum-like unpredictability. If numbers are finite and limited in their precision, then nature itself is inherently imprecise, and thus unpredictable.

Philosophy & Science / The secret life of plants
« on: April 08, 2020, 09:20:16 pm »
The secret life of plants: how they memorise, communicate, problem solve and socialise

Amy Fleming

Mancuso and his colleagues have become experts in training plants, just like neuroscientists train lab rats. If you let a drop of water fall on a Mimosa pudica, its kneejerk response is to recoil its leaves, but, if you continue doing so, the plant will quickly cotton on that the water is harmless and stop reacting. The plants can hold on to this knowledge for weeks, even when their living conditions, such as lighting, are changed. “That was unexpected because we were thinking about very short memories, in the range of one or two days – the average memory of insects,” says Mancuso. “To find that plants were able to memorise for two months was a surprise.” Not least because they don’t have brains.

One of the most controversial aspects of Mancuso’s work is the idea of plant consciousness. As we learn more about animal and plant intelligence, not to mention human intelligence, the always-contentious term consciousness has become the subject of ever more heated scientific and philosophical debate. “Let’s use another term,” Mancuso suggests. “Consciousness is a little bit tricky in both our languages. Let’s talk about awareness. Plants are perfectly aware of themselves.” A simple example is when one plant overshadows another – the shaded plant will grow faster to reach the light. But when you look into the crown of a tree, all the shoots are heavily shaded. They do not grow fast because they know that they are shaded by part of themselves. “So they have a perfect image of themselves and of the outside,” says Mancuso.

Another misconception is that plants are the definition of a vegetative state – incommunicative and insensitive to what is around them. But Mancuso says plants are far more sensitive than animals. “And this is not an opinion. This is based on thousands of pieces of evidence. We know that a single root apex is able to detect at least 20 different chemical and physical parameters, many of which we are blind to.” There could be a tonne of cobalt or nickel under our feet, and we would have no idea, whereas “plants can sense a few milligrams in a huge amount of soil”, he says.

Philosophy & Science / Gravity: The Popper Problem
« on: March 30, 2020, 11:24:48 pm »
Gravity: The Popper Problem

David Merritt, Astrophysicist and professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology

The universe is expanding, and Einstein’s theory of gravity makes a definite prediction about how the expansion rate should change over time: it should decrease, since the gravitational attraction between all the matter in the universe continually opposes the expansion.

The first time this prediction was observationally tested, around 1998, it was found to be spectacularly in error. The expansion of the universe is accelerating, not decelerating, and the acceleration has been going on for about six billion years.

How did cosmologists respond to this anomaly? If they adhered to the ideas of philosopher Karl Popper, they would have said: “Our theory of gravity has been conclusively disproved by the observations; therefore we will throw our theory out and start afresh.” In fact, they did something very different: they postulated the existence of a new, universe-filling substance which they called “dark energy”, and endowed dark energy with whatever properties were needed to reconcile the conflicting data with Einstein’s theory.

Philosophers of science are very familiar with this sort of thing (as was Popper himself). Dark energy is an example of what philosophers call an “auxiliary hypothesis”: something that is added to a theory in order to reconcile it with falsifying data. “Dark matter” is also an auxiliary hypothesis, invoked in order to explain the puzzling behavior of galaxy rotation curves.

Philosophy & Science / Therapy that sticks
« on: March 29, 2020, 05:57:37 am »
Therapy that sticks

Linda Michaels

Juxtaposed with this mental health crisis, news media and headlines tout the benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), explicitly recommended as ‘evidence-based’ and said to work rapidly, especially when combined with drugs such as antidepressants or mood stabilisers. Varieties of CBT apply to a host of different diagnoses: dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) for personality disorder; cognitive processing therapy (CPT) for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); interpersonal therapy (IPT) for mood disorder. The list goes on: 50 per cent of therapists now define themselves as fitting in the cognitive-behavioural lane, compared with none 50 years ago. People seem to be absorbing these messages with more of us on medication than ever; antidepressant use alone went up 64 per cent from 1999 to 2014. The increase is so steep that an estimated 13 per cent of the US population now take the drugs.

What is wrong with this picture? Why do modern ‘evidence-based’ treatments fail to produce better outcomes? Indeed, why do things seem to be getting worse, with many forms of suffering, even suicide, on the rise?

My conclusion: the biomedical model (favoured by psychiatry) and the short-term, structured therapy model (favoured by psychology) don’t work as well as they should. These treatments seem easy to administer, but is a ‘quick fix’ really what’s called for when addressing complex problems in life? Is it possible that one type of therapy – CBT and its family of treatments – can work for nearly every person and every problem so successfully?

Why materialists are wrong and the Jedi right, and how panpsychism might revolutionize science.

In spite of all this, one of the great scientists of the twentieth century - Arthur Eddington - argued that a position remarkably similar to Jedi theology was not only perfectly consistent with modern science, but actually something we might have to reason to believe. Eddington is best known for being the first to offer observational confirmation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. In May 1919 he conducted a series of observations of a solar eclipse from the island of Principe off the West Coast of Africa. As the moon covered the sun, Eddington photographed stars visible around its covered edge. On the basis of this he was able to demonstrate that, precisely as Einstein’s theory had predicted, the light from these stars had been bent by the spacetime curvature caused by the mass of the sun.

A decade later, Eddington wrote a book in which, as well as explaining relativity and other developments in recent physics, he defended panpsychism: the view that all matter is infused with consciousness. Like the Jedi knights, Eddington was convinced that there was a spiritual force underlying the workings of the physical universe. In words we can imagine Luke – or Obi Wan before him – using in his Jedi training classes, Eddington put it as follows:

"…our minds are not apart from the world; and the feelings that we have of gladness and melancholy and our yet deeper feelings are not of ourselves alone, but are glimpses of a reality transcending the narrow limits of our particular consciousness…the harmony and beauty of the face of Nature is at root one with the gladness that transfigures the face of man…"

If physics does not tell us what the nature of physical properties is, then what else gives us this information? Eddington believed that physics is a tool for prediction. Even if we don’t know what “mass” and “force” really are, we are able to recognise them in the world. They show up as readings on our instruments, or otherwise impact on our senses. And by using the equations of physics, such as Newton’s law of gravity, we can predict what’s going to happen with great precision. It is this predictive capacity that has enabled us to manipulate the natural world in extraordinary ways, leading to the technological revolution that has transformed our planet. But it is simply not the job of physics to tell us what the stuff of the universe essentially is. As Stephen Hawking put it, physics doesn’t tell us what “breathes fire into the equations”.

Given that physics tell us nothing of the nature of physical reality, is there anything we do know about it? Are there any clues as to what is going on “under the bonnet” of the engine of the universe? Eddington argued that the only thing we really know about the nature of matter is that some of it has consciousness; we know this because we are directly aware of the consciousness of our own brains:

"We are acquainted with an external world because its fibres run into our own consciousness; it is only our own fibres that we actually know; from these ends we more or less successfully reconstruct the rest, as a palaeontologist reconstructs an extinct monster from its footprint."

We have no direct access to the nature of matter outside of brains. But the most reasonable speculation, according to Eddington, is that the nature of matter outside of brains is continuous with the nature of matter inside of brains. Given that we have no direct insight into the intrinsic nature of field and particles, it is rather “silly”, argued Eddington, to declare that they have a nature entirely removed from mentality and then to wonder where mentality comes from. On this basis, Eddington concluded that the most simple and parsimonious view consistent with our direct and observational knowledge is some form of panpsychism, according to which the underlying nature the stuff of the physical world is, as Eddington put it, mind stuff.

These ideas of Russell and Eddington from the 1920s have recently been rediscovered in academic philosophy and are causing a great deal of excitement. For decades philosophers and scientists have struggled to understand how physical matter produces consciousness: the subjective inner world of feelings, sensations and experiences. Many are now persuaded that, in broad brushstrokes, Russell and Eddington had the answer. In Eddington’s version, physical science describes matter “from the outside”, providing mathematical models that allow us to predict its behaviour, but in its underlying nature matter is constituted of consciousness. It is consciousness that breathes fire into the equations. The attraction of this view is its capacity to reconcile the reality of consciousness with our scientific understanding of the universe.

Philosophy & Science / The Illusion of Now: Is time static or fluid?
« on: March 27, 2020, 06:55:23 pm »
The Illusion of Now: Is time static or fluid?

Past and future are worlds we can never inhabit. We live of necessity in the present. But physicists and philosophers with very different outlooks, from Einstein to Derrida, claim that the present is an illusion. Is time not a river at all, but instead a static dimension? Are we deluded by experience into imagining the present is real? Or are Einstein's spacetime universe, and Derrida's attack on the metaphysics of presence, fundamental errors?

The Panel

Philosopher of science Tim Maudlin joins author of The End of Time Julian Barbour and philosopher and historian of science Emily Thomas to go in search of lost time. Joanna Kavenna hosts.

Philosophy & Science / Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance
« on: March 23, 2020, 06:54:41 am »
Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance

Tomas Pueyo

Put in another way: the mitigation strategy not only assumes millions of deaths for a country like the US or the UK. It also gambles on the fact that the virus won’t mutate too much — which we know it does. And it will give it the opportunity to mutate. So once we’re done with a few million deaths, we could be ready for a few million more — every year. This corona virus could become a recurring fact of life, like the flu, but many times deadlier.

  • With a few more weeks, we could get our testing situation in order, and start testing everybody. With that information, we would finally know the true extent of the problem, where we need to be more aggressive, and what communities are safe to be released from a lockdown.
  • New testing methods could speed up testing and drive costs down substantially.

  • We could also set up a tracing operation like the ones they have in China or other East Asia countries, where they can identify all the people that every sick person met, and can put them in quarantine. This would give us a ton of intelligence to release later on our social distancing measures: if we know where the virus is, we can target these places only. This is not rocket science: it’s the basics of how East Asia Countries have been able to control this outbreak without the kind of draconian social distancing that is increasingly essential in other countries.

If you’re a politician and you see that one option is to let hundreds of thousands or millions of people die with a mitigation strategy and the other is to stop the economy for five months before going through the same peak of cases and deaths, these don’t sound like compelling options.

But this doesn’t need to be so. This paper, driving policy today, has been brutally criticized for core flaws:

They ignore contact tracing (at the core of policies in South Korea, China or Singapore among others) or travel restrictions (critical in China), ignore the impact of big crowds…

The time needed for the Hammer is weeks, not months.

The three implausible presuppositions of the hard problem

I deny that the question of the hard problem is sensible, as the presuppositions on which the question rests are not plausible by themselves. I here identify three such implausible presuppositions: first, that consciousness is determined by contents, second that it is cognitive, and third that it can be located in the mind, cognition, brain, body, or world.

If these presuppositions can be replaced by more plausible ones, as I will demonstrate, the question and thus the hard problem itself can be dissolved. In other words, the hard problem is no longer relevant.

Consciousness, especially as defined by philosophers, is often conceived as the pinnacle of our cognitive abilities. This conception has continued in neuroscience, where consciousness is determined by specific cognitive functions ranging from prediction, access and meta-cognition.

However, we experience ourselves and the world even when we shut down all our cognitive functions. For example, consider meditation, where we detach ourselves from our cognitions, perceptions, and ultimately even our body.

Throughout all of the various layers of detachment, one feature remains consistent: the experience of one’s inner time and space relative to the outer time and space in the world. Consciousness can still persist even if devoid of the contents associated with perception and cognition.

In contrast, if one’s inner time and space can no longer relate to the world’s outer time and space, consciousness will cease to exist. This is the case in anaesthesia, deep sleep (except during dreams), and coma. I therefore conclude that consciousness is temporo-spatial, rather than cognitive.

Isn't this panpsychism or idealism?

Now to the final presupposition of the hard problem of consciousness. There is a long tradition persisting until now of locating consciousness in the mind, brain, body, or even the whole world. Something can be located in something else, only if it can be isolated as an entity that is distinct from others and thus special.

Taken in this sense, consciousness is supposed to be a special entity that can be isolated and located. Various suggestions have been made in this regard in both philosophy and neuroscience. Consciousness is supposed to be a special mental or physical property, a special neuronal process like integration, access, or globalisation. In the most extreme view, consciousness is supposed to be a special property that permeates the whole world as assumed in panpsychism.

However, any such isolation and location stands counter to the nature of consciousness. We experience the whole world and its various external events in our consciousness which by itself is part of that very same world. Moreover, we experience our own internal thoughts and their contents as part of that wider world. Given such an ecological nature, consciousness cannot be located and isolated at a specific point in time and space in either the brain, body, or world. Instead, it constitutes a relation between all three. Hence, consciousness is relational, rather than isolated and it is ecological, rather than locational: It is based on a world-brain relation, rather than on properties in the mind, brain, body, or world (Northoff 2016, 2018).


Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 16