Friday, January 25, 2019

The presuppositions of the science of evolution

Continuing this post, Bruce and I had a discussion on the presuppositions of evolution at the FB post on the topic. I noted that one of the methods used in the article was rational reconstruction, and how Habermas elaborated on it. Our discussion follows, which is instructive of the nuance involved.

Bruce: Speaking just to the opening article -- I haven't had time to check out the others yet -- I find it compatible with the kind of pan-interiorism, the minimal-registration-of-difference performed by simple holons, several of us have (lightly but persistently) defended on some previous threads. The 'starting point' of consciousness posited in this essay, for instance, doesn't explain interiority; it presupposes it among the confluence of factors that contribute to that level of interiority being labeled 'consciousness.'

Me: So you're saying interiority is a presupposed axiom then? The article's main thrust is defining consciousness as animal subjective experience. So are you translating behavior by "mediated values of desires and aversions" as interiority (subjective experience) that goes all the way down?

Bruce:  For instance, discussion of stimuli, the formation of representations of relations, directedness, etc, all seem to entail and presuppose interiority.

Me: I'll grant the qualities you list, but is that not different from subjectively conscious learning? Those qualities are not self 'conscious' in the way he's defining it. Btw, a lot of neuroscience shows humans are not 'conscious' of most of their own behavior. But what consciousness they do have it quite different than their autonomous behavior.

Right - that's what I said, too. Consciousness, as he defines it, is clearly an emergent. But it presupposes rather than explains the emergence of the qualitative or interiority.

Me: And what do you think explains the emergence of interiority? Isn't that presupposed too by pan-interiority.  By the way, such presupposition is a hallmark of reverse engineering, transcendental deduction and rational reconstruction, since we cannot know exactly where or how all this began.

Bruce:  Pan-interiority is the claim, essentially, that interiority has to be presupposed as intrinsic to matter-energy occasions at all levels.

Me: So it too is a presupposition that can't be 'proven.' I'm not criticizing that presupposition, or even disagreeing with it, given what I've said above. But the criticism that science can't 'prove' its presuppositions and therefore isn't valid is silly when pan-interiorism can't either. I'm not saying you claim this, but some others here have.

Bruce: Yes, I agree. The criticism really isn't that science can't prove the presupposition, but that it tends to gloss over this presupposition in its claim to explain consciousness through emergence.

Me: That's 'your' nuanced criticism, not the ones I've heard from others in the forum.

Bruce:  Fair enough.

Me:  Oh, btw, the article does note that it uses reverse engineering to come to its conclusions. Granted they aren't going all the way down with it, but they do examine that presupposition.

"Because if we reverse-engineer from this learning ability to the underlying system enabling it, this enabling system has all the properties and capacities that characterize consciousness."

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