Jacques Monod thinks that the probability of life appearing on Earth can be calculated to be zero. And Popper believes that the same is true of the properties of each new species that appeared on the planet; in particular of the one property that we humans are proud of, consciousness.
early panpsychism: philosophers such as Hermann Lotze, in "Microcosmos" (1864), and Charles Hartshorne, in "Beyond Humanism" (1937); physicists such as Ernst Mach, in "The Analysis of Sensations and the Relation of the Physical to the Psychical" (1886), and David Bohm, in "A New Theory of the Relationship of Mind and Matter" (1986); mathematicians such as William Clifford, in "Body and Mind" (1874), and Alfred North Whitehead, in "Process and Reality" (1929); biologists such as Ernst Haeckel, in "Our Monism" (1892), and John Haldane, in "The Inequality of Man" (1932); theologians such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, in "Phenomenon of Man" (1959), and David Ray Griffin, in "Unsnarling the World-Knot" (1998); psychiatrists such as William James, in "A Pluralistic Universe" (1909), and Theodore Ziehen, in "Epistemology of Psychophysiological and Physical Foundations" (1913), in which he named the fundamental constituents of consciousness "gignomena"; as well as a polymath such as Charles Peirce, in "Man's Glassy Essence" (1892).
Karl Popper criticizes panpsychism. First of all, Popper thinks that there is no need to panic: something does get created ("emerges") out of nothing all the time. Properties emerge at higher levels of organization that did not exist at the lower levels. Hence consciousness could just be an emerging property just like the properties of a liquid emerge from molecules that don't have does properties. Secondly, Popper thinks that there is a fallacy in the very notion that panpsychism would comply with the "nothing comes out of nothing" dogma: if the constituents of matter have a lower degree of consciousness than humans do, then their combination must somehow create higher and higher degrees of consciousness, and that "is" a case of something that comes out of nothing (that higher degree of consciousness is not present in the constituents).
in the biblio:
Max Born's probabilistic interpretation of the wave amplitudes in Schroedinger's equation.
Popper points out that the radioactive decay law, discovered in 1902 by Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy, does not permit the determination of the time and trajectories of the particles emitted by a radioactive atomic nucleus. The nucleus seem to break up "spontaneously", at an unpredictable time. The only thing we can know is the nucleus' "half-life": how long it will take for half the nuclei in a sample to decay. For example, if the half life of a nucleus were 1,000 years, half the nuclei of that kind will decay within 1,000 years, and then half of the remaining in the next 1,000 years, and so forth.
We become conscious when something unexpected happens: As Karl Popper put it, we don't "hear" (pay attention to) the clock ticking, but we "hear" that it stopped ticking.
Everybody agrees that there are conscious states of mind and unconscious states of mind. Most of what we do is done unconsciously. When you drive to work, you perform an extremely sophisticated task that requires driving skills, orientation skills, and avoiding all the obstacles and reckless drivers on the road; but usually you do it while listening to the radio a humming a song, hardly focusing on the action itself. On the other hand, there are moments when you pause and wonder, very consciously, about the meaning of life, or, if you are a poet, about your depressing financial conditions. However, these two extremes do not exhaust the kinds of mental life that we have. For example, what you are doing now, reading these sentences, is not quite conscious and not quite unconscious. When you read, you have to focus on the sentences. In fact, your attention increases, not decreases, compared with other moments. However, you are not quite conscious of your existence, precisely because you are so focused on what you are reading. The "reading" itself is effortless, just like many other routine tasks that you perform during the day without "thinking". But it would be unfair to all it "unconscious" since you have to push yourself to keep reading a difficult book like mine. In a sense, when you read, you are not conscious of yourself but you are as attentive as you can be. You can also feel strong emotions, like when you are reading a sentimental novel or a newspaper article about a brutal homicide.
Consciousness is usually about memorizing. When you are driving the familiar route to work, you hardly memorize anything that happens along the way, unless it is truly unusual (e.g. a car accident, a fire, a fallen tree). When you are unconscious of your actions, there is little or no memorizing going on. Their mostly reinforcement of knowledge you already had memorized. To memorize something, you have to focus on what you want to memorize, or at least you have to be devoting your full attention to that event. But when you are reading a book like this one, with the intent of memorizing as much information as possible, you are not quite conscious of what you are doing while actually at the peak of your learning activities. Studying, in fact, requires that you don't "think", that you direct your entire mental activity on the textbook; and that mental activity results in maximum memorizing. Is that activity conscious or unconscious?
"Whenever a new science achieves its first big successes, its enthusiastic acolytes always fancy that all questions are now soluble" (Gilbert Ryle, "The Concept of Mind", 1949, six years before Artificial Intelligence was coined)
The book is divided in three parts: a book by Austrian philosopher Karl Popper, a book by Australian neuroscientist John Eccles, and a dialogue between the pair.
Lengthy sections of Popper's part are devoted to attacking the materialism that has grown out of the atomistic and deterministic schools of thought. Popper forcefully claims that human beings are not machines. Physics, the outcome of the very research of the atomistic project, itself has proven materialism wrong. Matter is a form of energy, or, better, a process that has to do with transformations of energy. There is no eternal substance. The Universe is not a collection of things but an interacting set of events. Physics has become a theory of matter whose foundations are entities that are not materia. As Wheeler put it, one should start the study of matter not with particle physics but with vacuum physics.
Another argument against determinism from Physics is that subatomic behavior is largely probabilistic in nature. Popper points out that the radioactive decay law, discovered in 1902 by Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy, does not permit the determination of the time and trajectories of the particles emitted by a radioactive atomic nucleus. The nucleus seem to break up "spontaneously", at an unpredictable time. The only thing we can know is the nucleus' "half-life": how long it will take for half the nuclei in a sample to decay. For example, if the half life of a nucleus were 1,000 years, half the nuclei of that kind will decay within 1,000 years, and then half of the remaining in the next 1,000 years, and so forth. In general, Popper believes that unpredictable events do happen.
Popper objects to determinism that evolution is one case in which the future was not foreseeable: knowledge of the initial conditions and of the laws of nature was not enough for a sentient being to infer how evolution would proceed, to deduce which species would arise and that one in particular, Homo Sapiens, will become conscious. Popper thinks that the universe is creating something new The story of the universe has gone through stages that produced unpredictable properties: from matter came life, from life consciousness.
Traits are not inherited but, in a sense, they can still be transmitted from one generation to the next one. That is the "Baldwin effect": individual preferences and skills act on the environment, thus contributing to determine the selection pressure on future generations. By changing its environment, an individual can influence which of its descendants will survive and multiply, i.e. the future of its race. Popper thinks that, in choosing to speak, humans determined the evolution of their brain and their mind.
The belief that higher levels are always explained by lower levels (the reductionist program) is based on "upward causation". Popper points out that "downward causation" is at work too: every control mechanism based on feedback determines the behavior of its components, and every tool is a higher-level object that forces each and every constituent molecule to act. The movement of a group of atoms determines the movement of a neighboring group of atoms, i.e. the movement of individual atoms within that group Ecosystems and societies determine the behavior of individuals. The death of an individual leads to the death of all its cells. The reductionist view that lower levels determine higher levels but not viceversa is incorrect: levels interact with each other.
A reductionist program is incomplete if not contradictory. Rather than according to hierarchical levels, Popper prefers to see the world organized according to richer and richer domains. Thus Chemistry (that studies molecules) is an enrichment of Physics (that studies the atoms that constitute those molecules). Each "higher" layer may display properties that were not logically implied by the "lower" layer; or, better, new properties "emerge" when a domain is expanded.
Atomists/determinists believe that all events are fully predictable, that they are "clocks". Popper contrasts the precisely predictable behavior of clocks with the unpredictable behavior of clouds, concluding that all physical systems, including clocks, are, instead, clouds.
Since the emergence of language, the human mind has created a whole new world, a world of mental products, whether art or scientific theories, which he calls "World 3". Abstract objects of mathematics, scientific theories, art products and musical compositions are examples of "objects" that belong to neither the mental world (World 2) nor the physical world (World 1). Mind (World 2) plays the role of intermediary between the imaginary world (World 3) and the real world (World 1). Mind (World 2) is basically an operator that related abstract objects and physical ones. The big difference with Plato's world of ideas is that Popper's World 3 does not preexist humans: it is created by humans, and it evolved according to Darwinian evolution; it has a history. Plato's world of ideas contain concepts, whereas Popper's World 3 contains theories, including tentative theories and theories that might be later proven false. At the same time (in the dialogues) Popper explicitly includes in World 3 not only the products of human minds but also the unintended consequences of such products (something that i would hardly call "theories" but maybe he did). To him there is little distinction between the two because the production of a theory occurs according to a process that is identical with the process of discovering a theory. In the summary of his section, Popper mentions that World 3 also contains "conjectures" that affect neural processes of World 1 (a case of "downward causation"). In the dialogues Popper mentions that World 3 also contains objects "whose existence is somehow the potentiality of its being reinterpreted by human minds". It has been produced by a human mind and can be rediscovered by human minds. Popper is confusing here: World 3 is "man-made" but it has a "partial autonomy". It is also confusing what is in World 3: later in the book he seems to imply that it only contains "objective knowledge". Something becomes a World 3 object only after being formulated in language (and in the dialogues he mentions that World 3 emerged only after the emergence of language). "World 3" objects need not be embodied in World 1 objects: the content of a book is embodied (in a physical book) but the fact that numbers divide into odd and even numbers did not exist until the theory of natural numbers was formulated. A mathematical problem without a solution does not mean that a solution does not exist: it may well exist but not be found yet. Russell did not invent the inconsistency he found in Frege's work, but he found it.
World 3 objects via World 2 objects influence World 1 objects. World 3 includes logical possibilities that have not occurred yet. World 1 equips humans with the genetic potentiality to learn language. World 1 and World 3 interact indirectly via World 2. In the dialogues Popper adds that World 2 can perceive World 3 without any mediation by World 1. Learning a particular language is a cultural process, a World 3 regulated process. Once learned, a language (World 3 object) has an impact on the personalities of the speakers (World 2 objects). Predating Dawkins' "memes", Popper argues that cultural evolution is a continuation of genetic evolution by means of World 3 objects.
Plato thought that the mind can intuitively access the world of ideas. Popper thinks that the human mind grasps World 3 objects by a process of reconstruction, a method that is independent of their embodiment. Popper points at the fact that vision (the perception of World 1 objects) is not a passive process but an active one during which the mind "guesses" what object it is seeing, i.e. by formulating hypotheses and then selecting them based on plausibility. That is also how most problem solving is done by mathematicians. Popper imagines that an identical process of "trial and error" is used by World 2 to grasp objects of World 1 (physical objects) and of World 3 (ideas). World 3 objects affect World 1 objects through human intervention (World 2 objects). There is coherence between World 2 and World 3 because they have been subjected to the same selection pressures. Natural selection is not only about the evolution of World 1, but also about the emergence of World 2 (and therefore of World 3, a product of World 2). World 2 and 3 then influenced the evolution of World 1 (or, at least, of those living objects of World 1 that are sentient). World 2 has the biological function of relating World 3 to World 1.
What is also confusing is that Popper specifically states "the very idea of substance is based on a mistake", hence these are not three different substances: what are they then?
After lambasting materialism and epiphenomenalism for being inconsistent and/or implausible, Popper takes on panpsychism. Firstly, Popper thinks that there is no need to panic: something does get created ("emerges") out of nothing all the time. Properties emerge at higher levels of organization that did not exist at the lower levels. Hence consciousness could just be an emerging property just like the properties of a liquid emerge from molecules that don't have does properties. Secondly, Popper thinks that there is a fallacy in the very notion that panpsychism would comply with the "nothing comes out of nothing" dogma: if the constituents of matter have a lower degree of consciousness than humans do, then their combination must somehow create higher and higher degrees of consciousness, and that "is" a case of something that comes out of nothing (that higher degree of consciousness is not present in the constituents).
The key chapter is the one on the self. Popper thinks that there can be no consciousness without memory, without a process that provides some continuity of memory, linking one conscious act with other conscious acts. Popper argues that you don't learn about your self by self-observation but by the process of constructing your self. Initially, as a child, you do so by interacting with others in a preverbal way; and later through language. However, Popper emphasizes that you are not just a passive receiver of knowledge, but an active searcher and builder of knowledge, including about yourself. You construct a theory of who you are. The self, in fact, consists of all the theories that you create about the universe. You actively explore the world and build theories about its various aspects. Popper rejects the idea that the self preexists experience and is the thing that experiences: it is experience that creates the self, not viceversa. The self is, first and foremost, a sense of being an individual distinct from other individuals. Popper views this as an extension of the fact that life tends to create individuals, not clones. Popper speculates that this fact is the very cause of the emergence of mind and consciousness. The biological fact that all individuals are different explains why a need emerged for a conscious mind. The unity of the self is a consequence of "biological individuation". Somehow Popper thinks that, without individuation, living beings would not have had a need for a mind to drive their behavior. Bodies change over the course of a lifetime. So do minds, that learn and forget. Metabolism of the body proceeds in parallel with "metabolism" of the self, but the sense of identity is retained through all the physical and mental changes. However, there is an asymmetry between the two: the body comes first, the self develops later. You are first a body, eating, screaming, gesturing; and only later do you become a conscious self. Popper believes in an intermedia stage, a stage in which the child discovers that she is a person, not a thing; and then this "person" evolves into a full-fledged conscious "self". Once created, the self is permanently active, exploring the world, and creating theories about the world. Those theories get "selected" by the experience of the world, refuted or refined, in an endless process of trial and error. Once created, the self drives the acquisition of new knowledge, which can happen consciously or unconsciously, but always by interaction with the environment and by the related autonomous process of theory formation and refinement; a process that Popper describes as an interaction between World 2 and World 3. All our non-innate knowledge comes from such a process: a theory of how things work endows us with a set of expectations; experience selects whether an expectation has to be retained or erased; experience produces new theories, with new sets of expectations; experience modifies those theories so that the expectations due to them will match reality. The main biological function of World 2 (mind, self) is to produce theories and expectations; and the main biological function of World 3 is to make these theories vulnerable to the judgment of experience. World 3 is basically the place where we simulate the outcome of planned behavior without risking our lives. World 3 emerged during evolution to provide a safer way to evolve. (Quote: "With the emergence of World 3, selection need no longer be violent: we can eliminate false theories by non-violent criticism. Non-violent cultural evolution is not just a utopian dream: it is, rather, a possible result of the emergence of mind through natural selection"). Popper can thus recast Pavlov's "conditioning" in terms of theory formation: a dog that starts salivating in expectation of food is a self that has constructed a theory of the world which yields the expectation of food.
This is how the objective knowledge of World 3 is created, and, of course, it is very similar to how natural selection creates species. Natural selection acts on biological traits, a similar selection process acts on behaviors (which are initially programmed by genes), and a similar selection process acts on knowledge (which is initially transmitted by culture). At all three levels (World 1, 2 and 3, i.e. physical bodies, behaviors and theories) two forces fight each other: instruction is the conservative force (that creates and tries to preserve biological traits, behaviors and theories) while selection is the revolutionary force (that introduces new traits, behaviors and theories).
At the same time Popper notes that our learning process is driven by our expectations, because the expectations drive our behavior, and therefore shape our exploration of the world, and therefore determine our experiences, which in turn refine our theories and our expectations.
One particular theory that we develop over the course of our life is the theory of who we are: the self itself is a theory that gets refined via a process of trial and error, via a process of "natural selection". The self is the very active process of creating theories and expectations, and of integrating all our theories and expectations, The developing plan of our life "is" the self that gives unity to our mental life. Popper's metaphor is that the self is the active programmer and the brain is the passive computer.
Therefore Popper does not believe that the self can exist independently of the body, and that it can exist forever.
In this discussion about consciousness and the self, Popper's trialism gets annoyingly in the way. Whenever he tries to explain his ideas recurring to Worlds 1, 2 and 3, he makes his argument less (not more) clear.
Popper then feels that he has to devote the longest chapter to a historical survey of the mind-body problem but does a terrible job, starting with a very subjective interpretation of Homer and of Greek philosophy, bypassing the medieval philosophers and landing on Descartes and Leibniz.
Eccles gets the second part of the book and indulges in technical details about the brain. He provides as comprehensive a view of the neural processes underlying various cognitive functions as was available in his days. His conclusion is compatible with Popper's theory: the mind is an independent entity that exercises a controlling role upon the neural events of the brain by virtue of its interaction across the interface between World 1 and World 2; and the mind is always searching for brain events that are interesting for its goals.
Eccles mostly provides ammunitions for Popper's theory that the neocortex, the human brain and the human mind evolved from language; or, better, that the lack of linguistic "inputs" results in a diminished persona. He agrees with Popper that consciousness cannot located in the brain because it is not in the brain: it belongs to a different world (not World 1 but World 2).
The third part of the book is a dialogue between the two that hardly clarifies the various issues.
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