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Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Philosophical Shorts (2)


The Function of Experience

It's always odd when philosophers ask about “the function of experience” (or consciousness). After all, isn't it blatantly obvious what the many functions of experience/consciousness are? Don't we experience experience functioning ever day of our lives? Indeed every (waking) minute of our lives?

Though, the argument goes, we could be wrong about all this.

(The functions the philosopher David Chalmers always refers to are “perceptual discrimination, categorization, internal access, verbal report”.)

Questions about the function of experience/consciousness occur, primarily because many cognitive and behavioural functions do - and could - occur “in the dark” - that is, without experience/consciousness.

However, the following argument seems invalid:

i) Many cognitive and behavioural functions occur without experience/consciousness and they could occur without experience/consciousness.
ii) Therefore experience/consciousness has no function

But why not the following (not an argument)? -

i) Many cognitive and behavioural functions occur without experience/consciousness and they could occur without experience/consciousness.
ii) However, experience/consciousness still has a function.

Experience could (or does) add extra functions into the pot. So the argument above is not that unlike the following:

i) It is a fact that people drink water without using cups and they could drink water without using cups. (They drink water straight from the tap, from old boots, out of streams, etc.)
ii) Therefore cups have no function.

There are two other important reasons to question the function of experience/consciousness:

1) Experience/consciousness is epiphenomenal.
2) Although we believe that our experiences have a function; they don't. (A position advanced, I believe, by Daniel Dennett - though perhaps not as explicitly as this.)

The Why of the Big Bang

If one explains the Big Bang in terms of processes, forces, fields, particles, events, etc, then this is explaining how it came about. Yet someone may ask why it came about. What does portentous ‘why?’ mean in this context? 

If there is such a why to the Big Bang, then that may mean that it came about for some reason (or purpose). This may also mean that if the questioner doesn't allow the reason (or purpose) to be contained within such processes and interactions, then the reason (or purpose) for the Big Bang must be outside the event itself. In order for something to exist outside the Big Bang, it must exist outside of time and space. It must also be non-material.

Must it be God? But who created God? And if God can be a self-creator, then why not the universe too?

(The possibility of a multiverse, an infinite universe, etc., of course, complicates this issue.)

An Infinite Universe?

There's a paradox inherent in the idea of an infinite universe. An infinite future is possible; though perhaps not an infinite past. The argument against an infinite past has nothing to do with the belief that the universe must have been created at some time. It has to do with the implication which is inherent in the possibility of an infinite past itself. That is, if the past were infinite, then everything that could or might have happened would have happened. This conclusion quite clearly doesn't make sense as far as our own universe is concerned; though it is made possible if there are other universes. (Or, I should say, other universes within a greater universe – i.e., the multiverse.)

There is another possible scenario. That everything has happened within our universe, but all was destroyed by a previous contraction of the universe and we're now living in the very early stages of just one more expansion of a universe (ours) which that has expanded and contracted many times before!

There is an obvious problem here too. Literally everything couldn't have happened. There are two things left out here. One, technological developments in previous expansions of our universe – ones which might have stopped the universe from contracting. Two, and less feasibly, the destruction of the entire universe and multiverse.

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