Beauty and Naturalism

by Luke Muehlhauser on June 8, 2010 in Reviews

I’m blogging my way through Sense and Goodness Without God, Richard Carrier’s handy worldview-in-a-box for atheists. (See the post index for all sections.)

Last time, we discussed Carrier’s answer to the question; “What is morality in a world made of nothing but particles?” Now we ask: “What is beauty in a world of nothing but particles?”

Carrier writes:

“Beauty” is something we feel, an emotional response that humans (and no doubt other animals) have when confronted with a particular experience, whether auditory, visual, tactile, intellectual, or whatever – even complex experiences involving several senses at once. This feeling tells us what we like, and it reminds us, in away, of what is good for us, or good about us.

So what types of things seem beautiful to us? Ramachandran and Hirstein have elaborated 8 criteria that trigger our brains to feel that something is beautiful. They focused on visual media, but many of these triggers are relevant to other domains, too. Their account may be the beginning of an account of what, precisely, we evolved to perceive as beautiful. It may also help artists to create works that people will find beautiful!

The eight criteria they document are:

  1. The peak shift effect: We abstract from particular cases to abstract patterns of experience, and feel beauty in response to “peak” manifestations of likable patterns. As Carrier writes, “We like idealizing patterns in our experience.” One example is that all men like the pattern of a woman’s curves, but the “peak” we seem to like best is a ratio of .6 or .7 between a woman’s waist and hips.
  2. The correlation effect: An important skill in basic vision is to delineate objects in the visual field, and to correlate related objects. This leads to an appreciation for correlations in perceived patterns. For example, a woman might wear a blue scarf with red flowers if she is also wearing a red skirt.
  3. The stand-out effect: Another skill in basic vision is to isolate important or unique objects in our visual field – to make them stand out. The brain likes to simplify what it can, so “a stand-out object that is interesting in twenty or more ways will be less attractive, les potent, than one that is interesting in one or two ways.” This might be why we see beauty in “smooth and unblemished skin marked by the stark contrast of eyes, lips, and eyebrows.” I, for one, really like pictures of a single tree against a background of field and sky.
  4. The contrast effect: In order to differentiate separate objects in our visual field, our brain pays more attention to edges and other transitions than to, say, homogenous surface textures. Thus strong contrast is interesting to us, and therefore “pleasing,” in a sense.
  5. The symmetry effect: As Carrier writes, “Symmetry is a good indicator of a living organism as opposed to a random natural landscape, or of a healthy rather than an unhealthy organism.” Thus a mirror-pattern, a symmetry, is interesting and pleasing to us.
  6. The counter-symmetry effect: Our visual system prefers a generic, more “objective” vantage point, rather than one of suspiciously ordered coincidences, because an objective vantage point gives us more useful information about our surroundings. Thus, if things look too perfectly symmetric or ordered, we might tilt our head a bit to make things look just a bit non-symmetric. A tree looks most beautiful when it is roughly symmetric and yet not quite so, because the limbs branch at random intervals.
  7. The analogy effect: We love analogies, because they are simpler than precise logical analysis, but still useful. Thus, we love it when we can see something as a symbol for something else.
  8. The anticipation effect: Because we are planning machines, we experience pleasure in anticipation. Thus, a model whose breasts are about to be revealed is often more seductive than a nude.

Of course, there are many other criteria of natural beauty to be explored, perhaps rhythm, balance, depth, weight, evocativeness, and originality. But this is a decent start. Though we lack a complete picture, the above account fits with the naturalist’s conception of the beauty-sense as an evolved set of perceptual tendencies.

Does this naturalistic account mean we have debunked beauty? Of course not. Knowing why we find certain things beautiful doesn’t change the fact that we find them beautiful. If anything, it will only enable us to fill our lives with more beauty. As Ramachandran and Hirstein say:

If a physiologist were to publish a paper explaining the neural basis of sex [in terms of] the activity of neurons in the hypothalmus… would [people] suddenly stop having orgasms or [enjoying] sex?

Despite these apparently objective features of beauty, it seems that beauty is subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? We turn to that question next time.

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Ajay June 8, 2010 at 6:29 am

Luke,

You wrote: “Knowing why we find certain things beautiful does change the fact that we find them beautiful.”

Did you mean ‘doesn’t change the fact’?

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lukeprog June 8, 2010 at 7:42 am

Yes I did! Thanks.

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noen June 8, 2010 at 8:49 am

The experience of beauty is subjective, i.e. it is the experience of a subject.

Materialism claims that there are no subjects.

Beauty cannot exist without an experiencer.

Therefore beauty cannot exist under a materialist explanation.

Current cognitive neuro-biological dogma states that “you”, that experience you have that you call yourself, does not exist. THere is no self, it is an illusion. There is no “beholder” in whose eye beauty can be seen.

“Ramachandran and Hirstein have elaborated 8 criteria that trigger our brains to feel that something is beautiful.”

Description is not explanation.

“Knowing why we find certain things beautiful doesn’t change the fact that we find them beautiful.”

But neither you nor those you cite have given an explanation why or how. THAT people experience beauty does nothing to tell us HOW it is possible within the eliminative materialist narrative.

The standard refutation of eliminative materialism is the argument from absent qualia. Cognitivism denies that qualia, the way things seem or appear to us, even exists. So it seems impossible to me for any eliminative materialist to sing of the wonder and beauty of the world when all these things cannot exist. There are no beautiful sunsets because sunsets do not exist, their colors do not exist and there is no subject to experience them.

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MKandefer June 8, 2010 at 9:04 am

Hm, a woman’s curves just don’t do it for this man. :)

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cl June 8, 2010 at 10:06 am

Well this was an interesting read, if nothing else. I have 3 qualms, each related to this paragraph:

Does this naturalistic account mean we have debunked beauty? Of course not. Knowing why we find certain things beautiful doesn’t change the fact that we find them beautiful.

1) Why add “naturalistic” to the mix? I don’t see anything in these criteria that would merit calling them either supernatural, or naturalistic. Why not just “this account?” That you add “naturalistic” in there makes it seem like you’re trying to score points for naturalism. Of course, you are, but it just feels contrived.

2) I agree that if we knew why we found certain things beautiful, this would not change the fact that we find them beautiful, but that seems so obvious as to be tautological. Why did you feel the need to make that point?

3) You haven’t discussed why we find certain things beautiful at all. You have discussed similarities in the way humans experience beauty.

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Bill Maher June 8, 2010 at 11:54 am

Nelson Goodman is the man when it comes to analytic aesthetic theory. Stephen Davies’ Definitions of Art is another classic.

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Bill Maher June 8, 2010 at 11:56 am

Neon,

You didn’t demonstrate any of your premises. You have to do that if you want anyone to take what you say seriously.

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svenjamin June 8, 2010 at 11:59 am

Cl,

1) I don’t think I can speak for Luke or Carrier, but I do think the really intersting question is finding naturalistic (i.e. evolutionary) accounts for our common aesthetic impulses.

2) Because many people react to reductionist explanations of psychological or emotional features of human nature by claiming that such explanations imply the non-reality or meaninglessness of the the experience of that psychological state. Really, a lot of people do this, I promise!

3) I agree completely. I find the topic interesting, but I see very few “explanations” in there, and among those, only (8) seems like a sufficient explanation at the level I expected to be discussed.

A point I think should have been made more explicitly, is that on, naturalist/evolutionary accounts, emotions are there because they promote and discourage adaptive and maladaptive behavior, respectively. Beauty is a positive response, so we are interested in the question “why might this particular common feature of beauty be adaptive?” Or, alternatively, what adaptive feature might it be a side-effect of?
Since the above examples focused on visual beauty, the approach is “why is it adaptive for people to look at such and such a set of objects?”

If you add all of this to something like 5: “Symmetry is a good indicator of a living organism as opposed to a random natural landscape, or of a healthy rather than an unhealthy organism.”
A more satisfactory bullet, in my opinion, would point out the (perhaps obvious) detail that being able to pick out mobile organisms (animals) in the environment is adaptive for identifying predators, prey, and other human beings. This gives us a potential account for why our vision tends to jump to such objects, but not for why we find some such objects really pleasing. Continuing to speculate, I would alter the conjecture about picking out healthy or unhealthy animals from the environment to picking out the best potential mates. And I suppose a general “symmetry” identifying tendency could then be exapted to picking out strong prey.

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Bill Maher June 8, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Cl,

On your number 2 point: a lot of people do not think that is obvious. They see reductiveness as something that destroys beauty. I have heard this claim used in protest in a vast range, such using logic to analyze Shakespeare or Darwinism to explain life.

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lukeprog June 8, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Bill Maher,

Thanks, I haven’t read either one.

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Bill Maher June 8, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Luke,

No problem. Besides phil of tech, most of my other formal training is in phil of art. You will enjoy both of those books. Goodman is just as important (and controversial) to aesthetics as Plantinga is to phil of religion.

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Zak June 8, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Bill Maher,

I think Feynman makes a good argument against the “reductionism destroys beauty” complain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSZNsIFID28

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noen June 8, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Bill Maher
“You didn’t demonstrate any of your premises. You have to do that if you want anyone to take what you say seriously.”

Read my book. ;)

1. “Beauty is subjective.” Not under dispute, lukeprog also assumes this is true.

2. Eliminative materialism denies that beliefs, desires and qualia exist.

Eliminative materialism

“Eliminative materialism (also called eliminativism) is a materialist position in the philosophy of mind. Its primary claim is that people’s common-sense understanding of the mind (or folk psychology) is false and that certain classes of mental states that most people believe in do not exist.

[...]

“Eliminative materialism is the relatively new (1960s-70s) idea that certain classes of mental entities that commonsense takes for granted, such as beliefs, desires, and the subjective sensation of pain, do not exist. The most common versions are eliminativism about propositional attitudes, as expressed by Paul and Patricia Churchland, and eliminativism about qualia (subjective experience), as expressed by Daniel Dennett and Georges Rey.”

3. “Beauty cannot exist without an experiencer.”

Beauty is defined as a qualitative subjective experience “characteristic of a person, animal, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure, meaning, or satisfaction.”

4.”Cognitivism denies that qualia, the way things seem or appear to us, even exists.”

Cognitive science is a large field, and covers a wide array of topics on cognition. However, it should be recognized that cognitive science is not equally concerned with every topic that might bear on the nature and operation of the mind or intelligence. Social and cultural factors, emotion, consciousness, animal cognition, comparative and evolutionary approaches are frequently de-emphasized or excluded outright, often based on key philosophical conflicts. Another important mind-related subject that the cognitive sciences tend to avoid is the existence of qualia, with discussions over this issue being sometimes limited to only mentioning qualia as a philosophically-open matter.

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cl June 8, 2010 at 2:52 pm

svenjamin,

Thoughtful comment, yours was. Not much else to say.

Bill Maher,

My #2 was,

I agree that if we knew why we found certain things beautiful, this would not change the fact that we find them beautiful, but that seems so obvious as to be tautological.

…to which you replied,

…a lot of people do not think that is obvious. They see reductiveness as something that destroys beauty.

I suspect we may be talking about two different positions, or that Luke may not have articulated exactly what he meant to say the first time around. It’s hard to say, because he hasn’t answered my question yet.

As used in your comment, I have no idea who “a lot of people” or the generic “they” alludes to. I have certainly heard people argue that reductiveness destroys mystery, but I have never heard anyone argue that knowing why we find certain things beautiful changes the fact that we find them beautiful. IOW, that we find certain things beautiful seems undeniable regardless of one’s (a)theism. This is why I asked Luke why he made the point at all, and I’ll refer you back to your own,

You didn’t demonstrate any of your premises. You have to do that if you want anyone to take what you say seriously.

Now, in this case, your “tu quoque” complaint would have some validity, because this time, I actually am serving your own criticism right back to you, and I will not hesitate to argue that such is appropriate: you criticized noen for not supporting premises, then offered me… unsupported premises.

So, can you show me an actual person who argues that knowing why we find certain things beautiful changes the fact that we find them beautiful? If not, per your own criteria, I’m afraid I can’t take what you say seriously.

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Bill Maher June 8, 2010 at 5:46 pm

cl,
I agree with you that reductiveness does not destroy beauty. hence I am not really arguing something.

I was merely saying it is worthy of stating. I have many friends that are Christians that think Darwinism is caustic towards beauty .

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Bill Maher June 8, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Neon,

you originally did not mention eliminative materialism on 2. i am not saying you were being dishonest, but hidden premises is a no-no.

Also, somehow I think you really misunderstood things on (3). The Churchland’s philosophy is an attempt to explain the workings of what we feel. It does not make people magically disappear.

There are animals without our upper consciousness that find things to be visually appealing. Sexual selection is based on this concept :).

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noen June 8, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Bill Maher
“Neon”

It’s noen. It’s not that big of a deal but… well, try to get it right. Still, almost everyone misreads it and transposes the letters.

“you originally did not mention eliminative materialism on”

Yes I did, please re-read my first post and you’ll see it is mentioned.

Materialism is often associated with reductionism, according to which the objects or phenomena individuated at one level of description, if they are genuine, must be explicable in terms of the objects or phenomena at some other level of description — typically, at a more reduced level. Non-reductive materialism explicitly rejects this notion

Non-reductive materialism is fairly rare, in my experience when people say they are materialists they mean they are reductive materialists. This goes double for atheists.

“The Churchland’s philosophy is an attempt to explain the workings of what we feel. It does not make people magically disappear.”

I think it makes the subject disappear, though sure, the physical bodies remain. Zombies are an ongoing problem in current philosophy. Functionalism cannot distinguish between Zombies, humans who have no inner subjective experience, from those do.

You could be a zombie.

“There are animals without our upper consciousness that find things to be visually appealing. Sexual selection is based on this concept”

I don’t know what “upper consciousness” is. I think that consciousness is just consciousness. It would seem to me to be pretty hard to know if a preference for certain visual stimuli is merely a hardwired response or if some animals actually experience beauty. Chimps have been known to linger and it is assumed enjoy waterfalls. I think we can make that inference because they are so much like us. But if it is true that chimps find waterfalls beautiful then I count that in my favor. A pure behaviorist or functionalist could not say that chimps have a sense of beauty. I think that minds are created by brains but are not reducible to their components. Although I am not a non-reductive materialist.

Both Materialism and Idealism are a kind of monism. They both make the same mistake of accepting the dualistic categories taken from Descartes.

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Bill Maher June 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm

My bad about the name :X.

“The experience of beauty is subjective, i.e. it is the experience of a subject.
Materialism claims that there are no subjects.
Beauty cannot exist without an experiencer.
Therefore beauty cannot exist under a materialist explanation.”

I am not trying to be a dick, but that doesn’t use the word eliminative.

Also, i disagree on your interpretation of the Churchlands’ phil. explaining that something works differently than our notions doesn’t eviscerate personality. It just shows that the way it works is different than the way we perceive it. also, I think the zombie “problem” is just nonsense. why wouldn’t you consider an animal interest in something’s appearance for non-survival reasons (that is often a large detriment) to be beauty admiring?

and who is a pure behaviorist? that stuff fell apart last century.

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Hermes June 8, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Wash, rise, repeat.

Folks, Noen doesn’t know anything. Stop taking him seriously.

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svenjamin June 8, 2010 at 10:13 pm

noen,

“It’s noen. It’s not that big of a deal but… well, try to get it right. Still, almost everyone misreads it and transposes the letters.”

I was wondering when you were going to call someone on that, I’ve been laughing about it for a while.

Now, on your argument..You are right to concentrate most of your defense on your second premise, as that is the really objectionable claim you are making. You are assuming all reductionism is necessarily eliminative. It simply isn’t. Eliminative reductionism as a position is really only held by strawmen.

There was a fascinating debate on the subject of reductionism in the study of religion in the American Academy of Religion journal back in 2008 between Edward Slingerland and Cho and Squier. It’s about 80 pages with three essays from both parties. I highly recommend reading at least Slingerland’s opening article “Who’s Afraid of Reductionism?”

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adela June 9, 2010 at 3:44 am

Really nice natural things……..
Beauty and naturally is something we feel, an emotional response that humans (and also other animals) have when confronted with a particular experiences.

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ildi June 9, 2010 at 4:25 am

Zombies are an ongoing problem in current philosophy.

Too funny!

BRAAAAIINS…

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cl June 9, 2010 at 10:37 am

As for those with personal issues concerning others, am I the only one that believes we should use the social tool of condemnation to discourage ad hominem arguments in ostensibly intellectual discourse?

Bill,

I have many friends that are Christians that think Darwinism is caustic towards beauty.

Fair enough. That’s how I understood you the first time, it just strikes me as odd. These friends of yours, they’re not actually arguing that reductiveness (or Darwinism) somehow changes the fact that we find things beautiful, right? IOW, perhaps their argument might be better articulated as something like, “reductiveness (or Darwinism) takes the mystery out of beauty? I’ve heard variants of the latter, but even that’s not a position I can say I share. OTOH, if these friends of yours are actually arguing that an explanation of beauty changes the fact that we find things beautiful, on what logic do they uphold that line of argumentation?

FWIW, my #2 wasn’t really about reductiveness (or Darwinism) somehow “destroying” beauty, though I acknowledge that that’s what you were talking about. I simply didn’t (and don’t) understand why Luke felt the need to say,

Knowing why we find certain things beautiful doesn’t change the fact that we find them beautiful.

…because to me, the fact that humans find things beautiful seems undeniable. I don’t know anyone that denies that humans find things beautiful. As such, I was wondering if Luke actually meant something like what you and I are now discussing, or if maybe I read him in a way he didn’t intend.

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noen June 9, 2010 at 12:32 pm

svenjamin
“You are assuming all reductionism is necessarily eliminative. It simply isn’t. Eliminative reductionism as a position is really only held by strawmen.”

Let’s try this again from a different angle. Current cognitive science states that cognition is just manipulating rules on the part of the brain. That all that is involved in being conscious is just following rules. We get some input, we shuffle the data according to certain rules, we give an output.

So we have some input (a sunset)
We apply the rule (sunsets are beautiful)
We output the result (My! What a beautiful sunset.)

There are a number of problems with the cognitive model not the least of which is that it commits the homunculus fallacy. But if we take cognitivism on it’s own terms, that cognition is nothing more than the manipulation of symbols, then it’s hard to see how there is any internal self or subject that has experiences.

And if there is no experiencer then there can be no beauty.

Beauty is like pains and tickles and itches. The fact that I have a pain or experience beauty is all I need to know that I am feeling pain or am having a beautiful experience. So it would be a mistake to say, as some do, that pain is nothing more than C-fiber firing. But materialism and it’s variants says that is all there is. How could there be anything else? What else is there besides C-fiber firings?

We have an input (the hammer strikes my thumb)
C-fibers fire
We apply the rule (C-fibers = pain)
We give an output (Yeaoooouuuuch!)

What else could it be? But if that is the correct model, that all we are is stimulus and response, then —–

You are a zombie!

You don’t really feel pain or enjoy sunsets. All you are is a bundle of sensations along with the rules for responding to those sensations. You don’t really exist. Your idea of yourself as a self is just an illusion, just an epiphenomenon of your underlying causal structure.

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svenjamin June 9, 2010 at 3:32 pm

noen,
I’m going to have to ignore the first half of that, as I think addressing the last paragraph is more fruitful.

Yes, I am an epiphenomenon. Yes, this does mean that a self in the traditionally conceived sense of the word does not exist. But this does not mean that the bundle of sensations does not exist! This is where I think you mistakenly insert the eliminative component. To borrow the ancient Buddhist formulation, what “I” really am is precisely a bundle of form, feeling, perceptions, volitions, that give rise to consciousness; temporarily formed and dissolved, creating the preconditions for the next state! But this is a real process, it just isn’t what the process can’t help but perceive itself to be! The “I” emergent out of this process really does experience these states, and the experiencing of those states is what I am.

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JS Allen June 9, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I think that Roger Scruton (an atheist) does a vastly better job explaining the meaning of beauty, in his book appropriately titled “Beauty”

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Heuristics June 9, 2010 at 9:01 pm

noen:
Eliminative materialism does not regard consciousness as an epiphenomena. It regards it (in as so far that it has non-rule following stuff from physics in it) as non-existent. It is thought that we have misinterpreted it, that we are wrong in what it means.

If eliminative materialism thought that consciousness was something more then physical rule following but that it was an epiphenomena then it would be a form of dualism (property dualism most likely).

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svenjamin:
And then you get the problem of how an epiphenomena can be selected for by evolution since it by definition causes no changes in behavior that can be selected for.

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svenjamin June 10, 2010 at 1:21 pm

svenjamin:
And then you get the problem of how an epiphenomena can be selected for by evolution since it by definition causes no changes in behavior that can be selected for.

False. An epiphenomenon does not by definition cause no changes. It is by definition an emergent property that is a result of lower level causes. Organic chemistry is an epiphenomenon that can’t be predicted from lower level physical chemistry.

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svenjamin June 10, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Actually, I’d like to temporarily retract that last comment until I have time to clarify and qualify.

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Heuristics June 10, 2010 at 3:35 pm

svenjamin:
Sure, take your time.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiphenomena
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epiphenomenalism/

To help you along I would like to offer the following thought piece on anti-reductionism:

What do you think would happen if you were to simulate the positions of atoms in some chemical soup (of the kind we would call organic) using the standard model of physics in a powerful computer. Would the simulation after it has calculated 10 minutes of movement for the atoms show that the positions of the atoms deviate in a totally unknown/unphysical way from how we would expect such a liquid from behaving in the real world? If the atoms after 10 minutes are where they should be according to physics why could we not extract the laws of organic chemistry from the laws of physics simply by simulating them in a computer?

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noen June 11, 2010 at 7:56 am

svenjamin
The “I” emergent out of this process really does experience these states, and the experiencing of those states is what I am.

Sure, under epiphenomenalism there is an experiencer who can have the experience of beauty. There are other problems with epiphenomenalism that is for sure. It is pretty bleak to know that you are just along for the ride. That every hope, plan and dream you’ve ever had was just an illusion. That even if other minds actually do exist, you can never communicate with them. You are just froth. You do not, and never could, matter at all.

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Atheist.pig June 11, 2010 at 9:08 am

It is pretty bleak to know that you are just along for the ride. That every hope, plan and dream you’ve ever had was just an illusion. That even if other minds actually do exist, you can never communicate with them. You are just froth. You do not, and never could, matter at all.

I sympathize with you noen, I remember when I was about 12 and came to a terrifying realization that the universe didn’t revolve around me.

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noen June 11, 2010 at 10:19 am

I don’t actually believe that atheist pig. But… realizing that one is not the center of the universe is not epiphenomenalism. It goes far beyond that. If epiphenomenalism is true then you must conclude that you did not reply to me. You just think you did post hoc. Your belief that you typed in your response and hit “submit comment” is the lie that you tell yourself to keep your ego structure intact. The truth, if epiphenomenalism is correct, is that other forces of which you are unaware and utterly unable to effect really run the show.

You are just the whistle on the train. You make a lot of noise but it isn’t like you matter. Your conscious experience could be extinguished, snuffed out completely, and the train that is you would continue on and fulfill it’s needs just fine without you. In fact, it would likely be better off with you gone.

You are completely without use or purpose not just in the universe, but to the biological organism you claim to represent. Consciousness, if epiphenomenalism is true, is nothing more than an evolutionary freak accident that will likely be corrected shortly.

The future belongs to sociopaths like Dick Cheney and the marginally sentient like Sarah Palin. Not to the likes of you or me.

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Jeff H June 11, 2010 at 4:09 pm

You are just the whistle on the train. You make a lot of noise but it isn’t like you matter. Your conscious experience could be extinguished, snuffed out completely, and the train that is you would continue on and fulfill it’s needs just fine without you. In fact, it would likely be better off with you gone.

I don’t know about yours, but my body tends to get more things done when I’m conscious than when I’m not. I don’t think my body would be better off with my consciousness gone. In fact, it might be a little difficult to get food and water since it would be at about the activity level of a comatose patient.

Regardless of whether consciousness is an actual non-natural entity or whether it is merely an epiphenomenon of natural processes, the end result is the same. “I” still feel and think and love and hate and everything else. Regardless of whether “I” am here objectively speaking, “I” experience myself to be here, so “I” am real to myself. An analogy would be like saying that an actor cannot enjoy the role he plays, because it is a fictional character. It’s not a perfect analogy of course, but I think it at least makes a point.

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Heuristics June 12, 2010 at 12:16 am

Jeff H:

If your consciousness is an epiphenomena your body gets exactly as much done weather consciousness is there or not (and “you” writing the post was not caused in any way by any consciousness).

If there is a difference in how much stuff your body gets done depending on if there is a consciousness or not then it is not an epiphenomena. However then you get the rather interesting problem of figuring out what the experience of red or pain has to do with particles moving about in the void according to mechanical/mathematical laws that make no mention of pain or redness.

The eliminativists take this lack of mention as a clue to them infact not existing. The interactionistic property dualists want to have their cake and eat it too so they say that our current physics is missing some stuff but will in time explain this relationship with psychophysical laws (in effect this means that the particles in our brains do not move according to the standard model of particle physics, but the particles in particle accelerators do).

Basically, it is ridiculously hopeless whichever way you look at it.

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