[sent to discussion group, analytic]
... I shouldn't do this. I haven't read virtually anything of these endless discussions. But what my eyes have been forced to encounter even during the second it takes to delete all of these mails each day has me wondering about something seemingly basic. Surely the point has been made before. (And if so, my apologies).
Let's imagine one day someone sees a desk. He says, "it's still," as in "not moving." But the physicist next to him says something to the effect that the particles are in motion, we just can't see it. And the next day, they have a similar discussion about whether consciousness is "physical," and whether machines "think."
The fallacy in all of these discussions is that the deployment of "motion, physical and think" operate as a STATUS, not as something that is ostentatious (meaning pointing out). For the physicist, the unit of analysis for "motion" is a particle; for others the unit is what the eyes regularly sees (without scientific instruments). The former bestows "motion" to a brain calculus (motion is a rule); the latter bestows it to the brain's use of comparison and contrast. And so, the two are stung by the language game. They each toss around the same mark or noise -- "motion" -- without understanding that the term only NAMING its underlying thing. For neither would disagree that the desk is "still" in comparison to a race car (ostensibly still) or that it has particles that are in motion. There is absolutely nothing to disagree about.
So as to consciousness. If we find one day that consciousness has properties X that share a family resemblance to other deployments of "physical" in the language game, one might say, "it's physical in a sense" (albeit a technical one). But this does NOTHING to anyone else who chooses to deploy the status of "physical" to distinguish it from the ostensibly non-physical, as one does every day in the grocery store when separating apples from oranges. It matters not the LEAST whether or not what heretofore has been unexplained in the "mind's eye" turns out to have an atomistic reduction, because it will still have the same distinguishing features that it had prior to this explanation. I mean, it might lead to inventions and so forth -- but it doesn't prove anyone wrong. That's like saying of the discovery of dust mites that we should now say "there are bugs on me." If I say there are no bugs on me, and you say there are, and it turns out
that tiny dust mites exist -- who is actually right in this nonsense? It seems to me that neither is "wrong." (When I'm asked if I have bugs, I'm still going to say no, as I will describe the desk as "still," and self-awareness as "non-physical," because the deployment of these language sets have the same exact use as before).
Now there is one caveat. Some people when describing consciousness as "non-physical" and when saying that "computers can't think" might mean something explicitly metaphysical. They might be saying that spirits of a sort exist. Surely these claims do get refuted, as this is the affect science clearly has. But so long as I do not mean to say that my consciousness is of a spirit sort of thing -- as if to point to it with attribution -- it matters nothing what science discovers when I continue to say it is "non-physical," because I was never talking about that sort of "physical" in the first place.
What I mean is this: if consciousness is physical, than physicality becomes a lexicographic idea, which changes it. Same with motion. We still need semantic place-cards for the ostensibly non-physical because these language sets are useful to us. Just as it is useful to exclude dust mites when saying "no bugs on you." We still need, in short, a non-lexicographic idea.