Thesis Rewrite Project
MSR’s Case Against Emergence
Within the MSR website, there are several entries talking about the inadequacy of the concept of emergence when applied to consciousness emerging from unconsciousness. Briefly, emergence only has any explanatory power when applied to two phenomena which have a logical similarity. We can understand that water molecules which are tightly packed would seem to us to have the emergent property of being ice, where molecules which are contacting each other but sliding around would have the emergent property of seeming to us like a liquid. What is meant when emergence is applied to consciousness however, is not like that at all. There is no arrangement of particles in a void that is isomorphic to a flavor, color, or feeling like dizziness. Emergence which cannot be anticipated by the behavior of the fundamental phenomenon is known as Strong or Brute Emergence, and under the best of circumstances can be dismissed as an argument from ignorance. In the circumstance of consciousness emerging from objects or information processes, we are smuggling in our own evidence of experience as the entire explanation of that experience. To claim emergence of consciousness is to answer the question of why molecules seem like flavors or emotions by shrugging it off as the way that molecules seem…as if seeming could exist in physics in the absence of consciousness.
Here’s a thought experiment to consider:
Let’s say that you have a two dimensional collection of six squares in a cross formation, like this:
Now we know that this could be folded into a cube, however, couldn’t we also have a program which treats the edges as if it were a cube, but use it as a graphic character in a 2d video game? In other words, can’t we show that just because the edges and corners of this figure behave in a way which is isomorphic to a 3d figure, no cube ’emerges’ necessarily? We could run this program in Flatland without folding it up as cube and all of the computational outcomes would be the same.
The emergentist position overlooks the difference between the squares and the cube, claiming the latter not to be anything additional added on top of the flat avatar. The idealist position is that there is a difference between a cube and the avatar, and that this difference is the most important and interesting thing…the whole point is that there doesn’t need to be a cube logically, but yet there is.
Intellectual fads come and go. Even long held scientific frameworks change over time to accommodate new knowledge. For centuries Ptolemaic astronomy was presumed accurate, so much so that when anomalies were found in the predictions of its deferent and epicycle model, the response was famously to ‘add epicycles’ to make finer tuned predictions rather than to suspect what Galileo and Copernicus later found. The heliocentric revolution changed our understanding of our position in the universe from one of divine center or paradise lost to a statistical fluke in a dying cosmos. For the 1200 years between 200 and 1400 AD, why did we stick to the geocentric model? Why was it more natural to think that the universe revolved around us?
Like the fish which has no name for water, or the Flatland square who has no way to conceive of flatness as a dimension which lacks volume, it was difficult for people to doubt those assumptions that they didn’t even know they were making. The Earth feels motionless – as stable and static as anything we can imagine. Who would guess that the very property of motion is a relative condition? Once we have that piece of information, we can find, as Einstein did, examples of it everywhere – on trains, when we can’t tell whether our seat is moving forward at a constant speed or whether the train out the window is moving past us and we are standing still. One favorite thought experiment of mine is to think of a universe in which only one object exists; a smooth, ideal sphere like a ping pong ball. In this universe, nothing can be seen to move. Without making ourselves an invisible voyeur who can look around into the void, there is no true sense of space or change. There is no difference between moving and standing still because there is no frame of reference from which to compare and see that a position has changed. Video games can help us conceptualize this also. The player who pilots a spaceship avatar has only the attitude of their ship to cue their sense of acceleration when traveling through empty space.
The shift that is proposed by MSR would twist our view of the universe, so that the universe itself becomes a kind of twisting or gyrating between different ways of experiencing.
Yeats, like Locke and Galileo before him, conceived of the worldly half of the universe as “Primary”, which is perfectly natural considering that when we are awake we find ourselves surrounded by a physical world which is so much larger and more durable than ourselves. MSR proposes not that we invert this relation into solipsism, where internal phenomena are primary and the external world is secondary, but to see our own subjectivity as just one tier in a continuum which is much more vast and durable than even physics. Under MSR, both the dualistic Western and non-dualistic Eastern views both exist within the total continuum of sense.
The Yeats system is multiplied so that it is realism which is emergent rather than subjectivity. The aesthetic objectives of Yeats are no longer the antithesis, but the thesis and meta-thesis.
Multisense realism = The elaboration of sense into layers and modes which objectify and subjectivity.
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Blogs I Follow
- Table 41: A Novel by Joseph Suglia
- Rationalising The Universe
- Consciousness creates reality
- Conscience and Consciousness
- DNA OF GOD
- Musings and Thoughts on the Universe, Personal Development and Current Topics
- Paul's Bench
- This is not Yet-Another-Paradox, This is just How-Things-Really-Are...
- Catharine Toso
- The Traditionalist
- dhamma footsteps
- Gray Matters
- Writings By Ender