Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Phil Harris and Alice Faye 1952-05-11 Harris Kids on TV

From Buck Benny.  In reality, Phil and Alice decided against TV because it would dominate their time, taking away from their kids. Priorities eh? 

A good send up of 50s television to boot.


An interesting 11 minutes at Philosophy Bites, with Galen Strawson, who advocates a position according to which all matter "experiences" in some sense of that term, and that, because this is the case, and because we are each composed of matter, somehow or other, those collections of atomic or basic 'psyche' bearing particles, adumbrated and combined in the way that they are in our bodies, gives rise to subjective consciousness such as we have. The traditional label for this position is 'pan-psychism' but Strawson prefers 'pan-experientialism.'  Atoms experience.

You'll see that Strawson balks at claiming that all collections of atomic constituents 'sprout' or give rise to subjective consciousness, taking for his example a couch. Couches do not experience our backsides pressing upon them (good thing for the couches, no doubt).  However, he does think that individual atomic constituents do have something like experience. For lack of a better term, they have a 'proto-consciousness.' Curiously he puts it this way. They "have to be" that way.

Now, why would he make this modal claim? For what reason does he feel it is necessary that atoms have proto-consciousness?  When asked this question, he answers, essentially, that it follows from 'physicalist' commitments.

Physicalism is the metaphysical position that the only types of things that exist are physical entities, energy (matter in different form), and the properties of these.  A trivial example. The apple I have on the desk here has a red color, a certain mass, and, if burned, will release a certain amount of energy. All of these things are properties of the atomic collection that makes up the apple. There is nothing else to the apple. The same goes for the micro-organisms on the surface of that apple. They have a further set of biological properties, but these too are properties of the collection.  Lastly, (and jumping up the food chain) the same applies to myself. I have further psychological properties, chief among them, a first person experiential 'view' of the world and myself. These too, according to the physicalist, are properties of a subset of the collection of atoms that make up my body (the brain and CNS). Humans and (perhaps) some other animals have this particular property of personal subjectivity, and share certain other subjective psychological features with other species (sensory states, emotions and the like).

The problem for physicalists (or rather, for a particular reading of the position, according to which the basic constituents of the universe have no psychological or proto-experiential properties) according to Strawson, is coming up with a coherent explanation of how experiential properties could possibly arise from collecting such dumb-as-a-stump atomic constituents together. He argues that it is much easier to tell such a tale if one starts from a physicalism that allows to the basic constituents, mental properties. Otherwise, you have to admit that merely collecting things together in just the right way will bring about completely novel properties.

As he puts it "how could experience arise just from putting wholly non-experiential things together?"

Is this an example of the "fallacy of division"?  Maybe. Consider this example:  During the hot summer, one can hear AC units humming away.  Consider these machines. Incredible ingenuity goes into them. By collecting together their parts, and putting them together in just the right way, you end up with a device, that when installed, will regulate and control the temperature of a house. Just as is the case with the constituents of the micro-organism. When they are put together in just the right way, you get metabolism, regulation and homeostatic control of the system, by  the parts working in connected unison.  This is all undeniably true, and it is also true that the atoms that make up the organism, and the atoms (and macro-level parts) of the AC unit have no such regulative abilities all on their own. A new property emerges from the appropriate construction and organization of these 'dumb-as-a-stump' parts. There is no need to posit a 'proto-regulatory' property for each constituent.

So, why can this not be the case for personal-psychological properties as well?

Listen to the interview HERE