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Cosmology, Quantum Mechanics & Consciousness Message Board › The methodology of physics and the (other) natural sciences

The methodology of physics and the (other) natural sciences

A former member
Post #: 127
Same good wishes to you, Ian. I have posted two separate replies on the two parts of my challenge. They are on Paul's thread 'Back to some real quantum mechanics' where this topic belongs.
Andrew
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 186


OK 'Twill take a couple of days, because for one thing, none other than Frank Jackson -- world-famous Aussie philosopher-of-mind ..

.. it's amazing just how many philosophers of mind per capita Australia has produced during the 1960s; must be the fierce, scorching Outback Sun, or something ..

.. will be delivering a talk to the Aristotelian Society at 16:15 this PM in the Woburn Suite, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1. (Get there early!)

Jackson's fame rides on the back of his 1982 paper What Mary Didn't Know, whose thrust was directed at persuading idot fellow-philosophers of the fact that colours (e.g.) cannot be communicated, but only the fact that one is (e.g.) seeing red, but not the redness itself. Jackson's paper consists of a thought experiment about future, Utopianistically informed neuroscientist Mary. She knows everything there is to know about the brain and the physics of sensory stimulation, as the result of humanity having succeeded in "topping out" neuroscience, such that there is nothing left to know!. Since birth she has been isolated within "a black and white room". Yes, we appreciate that this is a physical absurdity but he was after all addressing fellow-philosophers, who famously disdain dirtying their hands with what latterly have become known as "the mucky empirical details".

Mary attains to adulthood having only seen objects -- including her own body surfaces -- in greyscale monochrome. One day she is let out of the room and shown a ripe tomato. (Gripping literature this, isn't it? Mise-en-scène and all that.) She exclaims: "Oh, so that's what red looks like". (She of course already knew about the shape of tomatoes, because she knows all about geometry and physics and so on, and from the shape alone was able accurately to infer that this must be a tomato. She of course had long ago read that "ripe tomatoes are red", and so was able to deduce the presence of redhood in front of her gaze for the very first time.)

The fact that Mary had never been able to experience red at all throughout her entire life until that moment establishes the fact of the incommunicability of sensory qualities. Otherwise, she would have been able to imagine red "accurately" on the basis merely of having read the relevant -- monochromatic only! -- texts.

The punchline of Jackson's argument is that physicalism with respect to the sensory aspect of the mind-body problem cannot be true.
This follows from the foregoing because physicalism naturally requires all conceivable facts of experience to be communicable -- ultimately in principle within the language of physics -- because there cannot be any such item of "information" as any physical truth which cannot be written down (or spoken, or whatever).

Although far from a novel realisation -- l realised it from very early childhood -- Jackson's illustration of this inescapable incommunicability of the character of sensations dropped like a bombshell on the undeniably naive-as-a-whole philosophy-of-mind community. Nicholas Maxwell -- then lecturer in Logic & Methodology of Science at the LSE -- often laments the fact that his own paper to virtually identical effect was published in 1967 and no-one took any notice of it! (I well know the feeling, Nicholas!)

The philosopher Democritus (460 - c 370 BCE) of course realised it also. In philosophy, clearly, plus ça change, plus c'est le même chose!












A former member
Post #: 128
How about a final deadline of next Monday, Ian?

PS I wish you hadn't told me your excuse that you were going to a meeting about the colour of ripe tomatoes. Unwittingly you served me a banquet on which I could feast, gorging myself on the many jokes and sarcastic comments and detailed commentary about philosophy that I could write up - pages of which are now waiting to be typed. I must restrain myself. Please don't do that again!

PPS Frank Jackson is world famous? never heard of him. By contrast tomorrow evening I will be seeing Peter Higgs, the bloke with a boson named after him. No need to describe his claim to fame!
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 187


A nice Einstein quote, to be appreciated by Andrew l hope:

"Epistemology without contact with science becomes an empty scheme. Science without epistemology is—insofar as it is thinkable at all—primitive and muddled."

lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 188


.. And how about this little gem?:

"I have little patience with scientists who take a board of wood, look for its thinnest part and drill a great number of holes where drilling is easy."

..

..

..

..

("CAN YOU GIVE ME A CIRCUIT DIAGRAM, PERHAPS?")




lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 189

eINSTEIN AGAIN:

"I have second thoughts. Maybe God is malicious.
Told to Valentine Bargmann."

lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 190


I can see that -- according to Einstein -- l am doomed to unhappiness!


"If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut."

lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 191


( .. And in connection with the previous truism):

"If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher. I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in the hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances."

lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 192


Einstein could easily have been discussing the notion of particles within QM. (Don't worry l'll get back to the issue Andrew!):

" .. concepts and distinctions are only admissible to the extent that observable facts can be assigned to them without ambiguity (stipulation that concepts and distinctions should have meaning). This postulate, pertaining to epistemology, proves to be of fundamental importance."

(Sorry to have introduced the discordant note, Andrew. crying )

lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 193


"If you want to find out anything from the theoretical physicists about the methods they use, I advise you to stick closely to one principle: don't listen to their words, fix your attention on their deeds. To him who is a discoverer in this field the products of his imagination appear so necessary and natural that he regards them, and would like to have them regarded by others, not as creations of thought but as given realities."


.. and :


"If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor."
On being reproached that his formula of gravitation was longer and more cumbersome than Newton's.

(l appreciate that on occasion my own contributions have been perceived as excessively verbose!)

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