Sunday, September 20, 2020


There once was a bugger from Greece
Who believed that the world rests in peace
Until given a shove
By the One up above
Followed by a 2-part press release

Of course, now we understand that there's really not an absolute state of rest at all. Aristotle's unmoved stone was actually hurtling around the sun at the time, which itself was making its way around the Milky Way, etc, etc. One can only wonder what our universe is circling. Another proof for God's existence down the tubes.

So is there any place left for a Primary Mover, do you think? A lot of people believe the answer to that question might lie in 'free will', the supposed ability of human minds to make decisions and take action independent of the causal forces that move both universal history, as well as the myriad of substances that make up our being. And really, are any of us immune to this feeling that we are in some sense masters of our own fates, or at least in our ability to pick what margarine to buy?

Understandable. It's because we aren't privy to the mountain of influences that press down upon us in any given second. Each of us are sometimes able to step back a bit and recognize the deterministic aspects of the thoughts we think as well as the decisions we make, at least to some degree. But not always, and almost certainly never completely. And so a feeling of agency, a sense that on some fine level there's a bit of wiggle room within the grip of absolute necessity (what is, is), haunts us, but at the same time fills us with pride because we are not, after all, temporary dunes of shifting sands dotted along the beaches of eternity.

Balloon Belly!


Chip said...

One thought I can never shake is that the subjective haunting is itself something other than nothing -- that even if it's all cogwork and chaos, under every hood all and the way down to the quickening of every quark in Hilbert space, the illusory residue of conscious experience that remains ... remains. It's the story we're stuck with, and, being captive to the illusion of time and cause, it ends up being indistinguishable from the "true" freedom we know must not be possible.

metamorphhh said...

Is that the basic Chalmers view, pan-psychism or something? Seems like there's quite a divide between that and standard materialism. If we see consciousness as some sort of innate principle like other physical laws, does this call into question the various brain science disciplines about how concious objects are generated? On the other hand, I'm about half-way convinced that something about what we call 'consciousness' might be able to jump around in time a bit, although if true I'd still probably put it down to some kind of explainable, physical process. So much of this stuff is on the fringe, even the good stuff, and I try to dampen my wooish enthusiasm with a rather dogmatic physicalist approach. At least until those speed bumps get big enough to start jarring my teeth. :)

Chip said...

It's not a view wedded to or contrary to panpsychism, though it's interesting to note from my armchair that that idea is enjoying a bit of a revival (see Hoffman's "The Case Against Reality," for example). The place where I get mired has more in common with old-fashioned existentialist subjectivity, but it is also suggested by Brian Earp's critique of Chalmers and Dennett where he focuses on the problem of "epistemic satisfaction." See:

Another way to put it might be that while we can imagine the hard problem of consciousness yielding to some kind of physicalist reduction that checks off every box, the salience of our experience that persists *as such* -- call it a spell or an illusion of phenomenal subjectivity or whatever -- persists, by its nature, beyond this; it will not be meaningfully captured in the hard explanation that obtains. The show to which we're captive has it's own extra-scientific property as felt experience. I think that part is probably truly irreducible.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you're still alive and kicking. I thought maybe the fires finally caught up to you. It's getting pretty surreal these days.