The Instigator
Romanii
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
BlueDreams
Con (against)
Winning
7 Points

Physicalism is improbable

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
BlueDreams
Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 12/7/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 910 times Debate No: 83577
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)

 

Romanii

Pro

Thanks to Sargon for proposing this topic.

Standard DDO rules apply -- first round for acceptance, no new arguments or rebuttals in the final round, no semantics, no trolling, etc, etc etc. I have the burden of proof in this debate to show that Physicalism is improbable.

The definition of Physicalism can be found here -- http://plato.stanford.edu...

I look forward to an interesting debate!
BlueDreams

Con

Ave

I accept.

Vale

Debate Round No. 1
Romanii

Pro

My argument against physicalism is simple -- it is impossible for a purely physical description of reality to account for our conscious experience; the view that only matter & energy exist is incompatible with the fact that you are consciously reading and understanding this debate. Thus, I argue that there must exist some non-physical component of human beings (e.g. mind, soul), thereby negating physicalism.

This seems to be blatantly obvious. Matter is inanimate -- it has no first-person experience of its own. No matter how complex of a system you build out of matter, the end result is still going to be inanimate, just like the matter it consists of. At best, you can only make a machine which simulates the actions of a conscious being. Of course, the physicalist may ask -- so what? Why can't human beings just be biological machines pretending to be conscious? This sounds reasonable until you remember that there is at least one human being who isn't secretly an inanimate object -- YOU. And you know that because you are consciously reading & understanding this debate right now. Every instant of your life, you have been experiencing consciousness. Trying to claim that you're an inanimate object results in a performative contradiction because even the denial of consciousness requires conscious action. It simply is not debatable that you are actually a conscious being.

Many physicalists claim that consciousness can somehow arise out of the physical system that is the brain, but not a single one is able to explain how. Instead, they say non-physicalists are committing an argument from ignorance because "neuroscientists will eventually find a materialist account of consciousness!" But that is simply a mischaracterization of the argument being made here. What I'm saying is that there's an insurmountable barrier to physically explaining consciousness due to the fundamental differences between the "physical" and the "conscious" -- under physicalism, the very idea of consciousness is incoherent because it is inherently first-person, whereas the physical is inherently third-person.

The brain is, in essence, an insanely complicated network of neurons. Electrical impulses and chemical signals travel along the pathways in that network, and the physicalist expects us to believe that such mechanistic processes can somehow produce the rich stream of first-person experience we know to be consciousness. Even a complete knowledge of neurology cannot explain how that's possible -- this is evident from the neurological processes that we *do* fully understand: we can talk all day about how endorphins travel along neural pathways in the brain and interact with various receptors to induce responses associated with pleasure, but none of that has any connection whatsoever to the part where we actually *experience* the feeling of pleasure. The same applies to all sensory & cognitive experiences (e.g. seeing color, thinking).

It simply doesn't make any sense for inanimate electrochemical reactions to somehow produce conscious experiences on their own. There is a gap between the two which is made impossible to bridge by their fundamentally different natures. Obviously, there is another side to this equation which we are missing -- something necessarily non-physical.

The resolution is affirmed. Over to Sargon.
BlueDreams

Con

Ave


Physicalism is defined as the belief that all entities are physical or supervenient upon the physical. Supervenience refers to a metaphysical and nomological (i.e. physical laws) relationship where higher-level properties are determined by lower-level properties. In order to avoid issues over multiple realizability, where a mental state can be determined by different physical states, I prefer to use John Haugeland’s definition of supervenience as the principal that “any difference between two possible worlds with respect to their instantiated mental properties entails at least some difference in the physical properties instantiated in those two worlds” [1].


In philosophy, there are generally two types of claim that one can make. An ontological claim makes a statement about the way the world really is. An epistemological claim makes a statement about what and how we can know the way the world really is. From the above definition, physicalism is an ontological claim. Pro’s argument muddles the important distinction between epistemology and ontology. When he states that it’s “impossible for a purely physical description of reality to account for our conscious experience”, he is describing an ontological impossibility. However, he switches to an epistemological claim by asserting that “not a single physicist is able to explain how”. He subsequently changes his argument back to the fundamental, ontological difference between physical entities and consciousness. Pro’s muddled contention makes two separates arguments while ostensibly giving one. Interestingly, the physicalist response in Pro’s third paragraph is spot-on. Pro, not the strawman physicalist, is the one operating under the misconception, as Pro is mischaracterizes the debate as ontological rather than epistemological, which it clearly is given that we’re talking about how much science can know or explain the connection between the mind and physical.


Pro fallaciously reasons by composition. When one reasons by composition, they assert that because something is true of all of the parts, it must be true of the whole as well. [2] The fact that humans are made up of parts of inanimate matter does not mean humans as a whole cannot be animate (i.e. conscious). In any case, Pro’s reasons for believing that physical entities cannot explain conscious experience depends on a simplification of the so-called “physicalist project”. In relating to the brain to conscious experience, physicalists do not merely invoke a series of electrochemical signals traveling across the nervous system. It may be true that electrochemical signals cannot explain conscious experience, but the physicalist is in luck, because he would never assert such a simplistic answer to the hard problem of consciousness in the first place. Cognitive science, a novel but quickly developing interdisciplinary field that has already discovered major insights into cognition, relates the conscious experience of thought to the representation, processing, and transformation of information in the nervous system, not simple electrochemistry. Whatever one may think about the validity of this project, it’s clear that whatever the results, Pro is gratuitously simplifying the concepts involved. Additionally, Pro’s contention that endorphins, electrochemical signals, and whatever else cannot explain conscious experience is not relevant to a physicalist. A physicalist must only assert that 1) consciousness is physical or 2) consciousness is supervenient on the physical. He is not obligated to affirm that endorphins are sufficient to explain the conscious experience of pain. Indeed, it is entirely possible (and actual) for a physicalist to use purely metaphysical arguments to derive those two contentions, making no reference to our current scientific understanding of the brain.


Pro bases a major part of his case on introspection. I frankly confess that I don’t give a damn about what introspection tells us, and neither should anybody else. Introspection has been challenged by experiments conducted in cognitive science. In Libet’s famous experiment on free will, unconscious processes precede what introspection would consider to be consciously motivated. While I certainly don’t agree with the idea that this experiment refutes free will, it definitely demonstrates that introspection can be incredibly deceiving, and we should look beyond introspection alone as a justification for our philosophical arguments.


Pro’s argument muddles important philosophical distinctions. It argues against claims that a physicalist does not even have to make in order to affirm physicalism. It simplifies physicalist concepts in an attempt at argumentative soundness, and basis its assertions on sketchy epistemological foundations. For these reasons, the resolution is not affirmed.


Vale









[1] http://philpapers.org...

[2] http://www.nizkor.org...

[3] The Fabric of the Cosmos, pg 114-115
Debate Round No. 2
Romanii

Pro

Romanii forfeited this round.
BlueDreams

Con

Next round.
Debate Round No. 3
Romanii

Pro

Romanii forfeited this round.
BlueDreams

Con

Extend all arguments or whatever.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by whiteflame 1 year ago
whiteflame
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>Reported vote: famousdebater// Mod action: Removed<

7 points to Con. Reasons for voting decision: ff

[*Reason for removal*] When the debate is on the select winner system, the voter cannot merely use a forfeit as an RFD. The RFD must include some examination of the arguments. If, after the arguments are examined, the debate is a virtual tie, then conduct can be used as the deciding factor, but this is not sufficient.
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Posted by Romanii 1 year ago
Romanii
Actually, I might have to go back on that promise.

We'll see. Depends on what happens tomorrow.
Posted by Romanii 1 year ago
Romanii
so... lazy...

I promise I won't forfeit
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by johnlubba 1 year ago
johnlubba
RomaniiBlueDreams
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: I actually understood most of this debate and would have liked to see it finished, but unfortunately Romani has been forced to forfeit, But by judging the first two rounds, Con rebuttal's Pro's arguments adequately, Which is all he has to do, instead of proving that consciousness is actually derivative from the brain or matter. Would have been a good debate if Romani was allowed to finish.