In episode 7 of Quantum Consciousness, Justin Riddle introduces the fundamental mysteries surrounding metaphysics. What is reality? Do you exist? Are concepts real independently of humans or are they creatively constructed? After this introduction, Owen Flanagan’s reasons for consciousness shyness are presented. People find the piecemeal approach satisfactory: everything can be understood through a reduction to a its parts and their interactions. We may not have freewill and just be along for this “life” ride, i.e. epiphenomenalist suspicion. It’s hard to talk about our thoughts and feelings, and yet we gain knowledge about the world through the vantage point of our own mind, i.e. positivistic reserve. Finally, wouldn’t the universe go on existing even if there was no consciousness? Consciousness might be inessential to the fundamentals of the universe.
In the second half of the episode, Justin Riddle introduces the basics of behaviorism: a movement to make psychology a hard science by focusing on stimulus-to-response mappings. These behaviorist approaches resemble many modern neural networks, which successfully solved complex problems such as image recognition. Perhaps we should be “eliminative materialists” and insist that there are too many whacky problems that arise from insisting that a consciousness must be in biology. A theatrical show must be put on, and there could even be an infinite regression of smaller and smaller people inside of each other! Is there any counterargument to a fundamentally physical framing of the universe? The Chinese room argument makes the case that “strong artificial intelligence” is not possible, because symbol manipulation will never lead to true understanding, and all of these reductionist models often rely heavily on “complexity” as the secret sauce to make consciousness emerge.
Finally, the physical world disappears under a powerful enough microscope and is emergent from the measurement principle of quantum mechanics. The physical world only exists at the macroscopic level, and biology might be harnessing more subtle quantum properties to accomplish certain tasks. How do we best make sense of a physical theory within a quantum universe? The mathematician seeks fundamental laws, while the biologists seeks fundamental patterns and evolved structures. Are these approaches at odds with each other?
Stick around to explore the nature of our existence! I look forward to hearing what you have to say
1:18 What is metaphysics?
4:00 Do you exist?
5:00 Do concepts exist?
6:20 Consciousness shyness
7:47 Piecemeal approach
10:35 Epiphenomenalist suspicion
12:14 Positivistic reserve
14:15 Consciousness inessentialism
18:12 Behaviorism & neural networks
24:35 Eliminative materialism: consciousness as illusion
28:23 Functionalism: consciousness as software
33:00 Reliance on complexity
35:11 Chinese room argument
38:54 “Physicality” is measurement
44:12 Math versus Biology
47:24 Wrap up & outro
Music licensed from and created by Baylor Odabashian. BandCamp: @UnscrewablePooch
Painting behind me by Paul Seli. IG: @Paul.Seli.art