If I ever see another idiot 15 year old complain about feeling suicidal on this fucking website because it’s been popularized as a super kool hipster thing to suffer, i will stuff their bullshit, self-indulgent “suffering” down their throats until they understand what it’s like to be shot at by a suicidal person and then try to break down a locked door while they shoot themselves in the head
Find what you love and let it kill you.
Let it drain you of your all.
Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness.
Let it kill you and let it devour your remains.
For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover."
— Charles Bukowski (via fatifer)
I love so much of this.
These women really don’t consider all of the girls who aren’t lucky enough to be Muslim in relatively tolerant countries. FEMEN isn’t trying to “liberate” Muslim girls in the E.U., U.S., etc., they’re trying to make it so you can free yourself from the people who literally want to stone you for showing your breasts (the same type of people who will lash you for being raped, OR for making signs like this and showing your face on the Internet). They aren’t attacking your peaceful brand of Westernized Islam, they’re trying to destroy the insane culture of violence and intolerance so much of the Middle East attempts to spread. If being intolerant of a culture/religious view that harms and marginalizes women is wrong, then I want to be wrong.
this is a terrible fucking poem
Comments on Zarr’s “Mysterianism, Emergentism, and Panpsychism”
Disclaimer: I stumbled upon Noah Zarr’s essay “Mysterianism, Emergentism, and Panpsychism” in the 2011 issue of SHPRS Currents. I found it to be thoughtful, well written, and generally exceptional. As a mental exercise I decided to analyze/critique the essay and present a set of arguments that opposed Zarr’s points. I mean no disrespect to Zarr, and I congratulate him for him for his 2011 victory in the SHPRS Philosophy Essay Contest.
In this essay I will attempt to address the claims made against what Zarr calls the “Humean move” in his essay “Mysterianism, Emergentism, and Panpsychism” and point out a perceived flaw in the argument regarding fundamental and emergent principles. I will also discuss why collections of spatiotemporal events are not always strong arguments for causation, and how the Humean move is a much weaker step to take than simply taking an educated guess. As a result, the Humean move may not be a very strong argument against the mysterians.
First, I will define mysterianism and emergentism, the two key philosophies addressed in this essay (panpsychism will not be discussed). Mysterianism dictates that the dilemma of consciousness cannot be solved or comprehended by humans. Emergentism is, predictably, the philosophy of emergence. It includes the key concept that properties arising from increasing complexity are more than the sum of a system’s parts. For instance, think of the bonding of hydrogen and oxygen to create water: an emergentist would say that the new property of liquidity that is created relies on more than just the hydrogen and oxygen molecules.
In his essay Zarr critiques a technique outlined in Flanagan’s “Science of the Mind” that he references as the “Humean move”. The Humean move is designed to refute two key positions of the mysterians:
1. The connection between consciousness and mental processes will never be understood.
2. Naturalism is legitimate.
If you were in a “Humean mood”, Flanagan posits, you would essentially “ask the mysterians exactly what they want”. According to Zarr;
“How is the fact that mass attracts mass intelligible? All we can say is that it “just does.” And it seems strange to hold that there is something yet to be explained about this phenomenon but that we are cognitively closed to the explanation. If we aren’t mysterians about gravity, goes the argument, then we shouldn’t be mysterians about mentality. Mental states just are associated with certain physical or functional states and that is all we can say on the matter – not because we have a cognitive deficit, but because that is all there is to say. This is a powerful and elegant response. It frees us from the awkward position of declaring that there is something to know that is unknowable - if we can’t know about something (in this case an explanation), what reason do we have for thinking it exists?” (Zarr 95)
Zarr says the Humean move is not available to everybody at every point. For instance, if I was to evaluate how a car was moving, I would describe several levels of the causal process (engine makes wheels move, pistons make the engine work, chemical reaction makes the pistons work, etc.) before my explanation reached an emergently fundamental level. It would only be at this point that the Humean move (saying “It just DOES”) would be utilized. If I had employed the Humean move before that point, my “explanation” would have been sub-par.
According to Zarr,
“The lesson here is that the Humean move can only be used successfully when the principles (i.e., laws, construed roughly) supposedly in need of explanation are fundamental. Principles are fundamental just in case they are not entailed by lower-level principles.” (Zarr 96)
I disagree with this assertion. The Humean move cannot be successfully used against the Mysterian argument that the connection between consciousness and mental processes will never be understood (while the Humeans and mysterians may seem similar because they are both trying to simplify and answer the same mind-body predicament, they actually contrast sharply. This is because mysterians think that there is something to the hypothesis that consciousness and mental processes are related, but we can never figure out what it is. Humeans simply deny any explanation), but it is not because of Zarr’s reason. Zarr incorrectly defines “fundamental” principles and assumes that a principle must be objectively known in order to qualify as emergent. Zarr states, “the root of the issue is that phenomena and entities must be either emergent or fundamental”. However, if you look at the structure of the type of causal processes Zarr presents, conventionally defined, entirely provable fundamental principles are optional.
For instance, think about an early explanation and solution regarding the relations of the mind to the body: a “stone” in the brain and its release via trepanning. The removal of the “madness stone” via a man-made hole in the skull was a 15th century cure for mental illness. Obviously, this solution is completely illogical when evaluated in today’s terms. However, the fact that this theory takes a hack at the mind-body problem is significant. Even if their theory was false, medieval peasants managed to lift and explain one fundamental principle (the body impacts the mind::we don’t know how) and replace it with a deeper one (evil spirits cause madness::we don’t know how). Zarr does not acknowledge that fundamental principles can be “explained away” with the creation of new emergent principles. Because of this technicality, the Humean move cannot be used legitimately, as fundamental principles are flexible (at least as Zarr describes them).
This is significant because it relates to the subjective-objective divide (of the consciousness), referenced by Zarr as “the real problem for the mysterian”;
“This subjectivity is what can’t seem to be reduced to physics. So some level of subjectivity should be taken as fundamental… There is just stuff and that stuff happens to have some subjective properties. Why? It just does.” (Zarr 101)
What impact does subjectivity have in this viewpoint? One answer is that it makes our explanations much more fallible than we think. We can only obtain so much knowledge of our objective environment with our subjective brain. Thus, the explanations we make using emergent principles will always be somewhat off-target. While the trepanning example is inaccurate to a glaring degree, it is more on track than balancing the four humors or cutting off a foot to cure a problem rooted in the brain. It follows that, while it may seem entirely insane and is not provable, evil spirits in the skull that directly affect our thoughts is a concept that has the power to supersede an observable fundamental like “the brain is doing something weird”. This renders the Humean move irrelevant in the situation, as all the move attempts is the denial of an explanation. Simply put, there is always an explanation in cases like these, and some are just more accurate than others.
Essentially, while one could use the Humean move at a fundamental point in a chain of explanations, its use and suggestion that we “can’t know” is not very reasonable. Sure, evil spirits in the skull are not able to be demonstrated objectively in the same way that a car’s motor can be shown as an absolute contributor to the overall locomotion of the car. However, the leap made by the Humean move is similar to the one made by superstitious medical theories. The Humean move, once again, assumes that we can’t know, and that since we can’t know we basically have no reason to assume an entity or phenomenon exists. But, there is a chance that we DO know or CAN know, just as there is a possibility (more than just a chance of one, in fact) that something is causing whatever medieval mental illness is occurring in our hypothetical patient. Eliminating the ability to hypothesize is not just pointless, but also illogical. For instance, I discussed the nature of bonded molecules to gain new properties earlier in this essay. We can also keep in mind the property of mental perception and experience as it possibly relates to our chemical brain. The chance that there is a cause of an event is more likely than the possibility that there is not one, at least when a new property exists. As a result, a guess, no matter how strange, is always better than throwing up one’s hands in defeat.
Additionally, although the mind-body problem is not a concrete causal process, it remains a poor choice to make the Humean move this situation. Zarr states:
“The strength of the Humean move is that it completely bypasses the extraordinarily difficult task of providing an intelligible account of the physical-mental connection. Without this move available, the emergentists, roughly those who think mental properties emerge from physical properties, are in trouble. They are faced with the task of giving a full explanation of consciousness, which they take to be high-level, in lower level, presumably neurological, terms.” (Zarr 97)
I do not understand how the emergentists are making a textbook Humean move, at least as it is described by Zarr. They are, as he quotes McGinn, linking “the objective spatiotemporal order of the physical world and the subjective phenomenological order of experience”. They assert that physical laws and the collective materialist brain cannot entirely account for the nature of the phenomenological experience, even though they are the structure on which this brand of experience exists. Emergentists may appear to make a minor Humean move by saying “we cannot know” how experience results from brain processes. However, they assert that the brain does indeed play a role in these experiences. The emergentists neglect to make the Humean move where it would be most obvious, that is, by addressing the concept that we cannot possibly know if the brain affects the phenomenological process at all. The emergentists, while they may integrate an evasive maneuver into their idea regarding subjective/objective brain relations, remain somewhat non-Humean in that they seem prefer explanations to complete elusion. Where they appear to infer “we cannot know”, what they are really doing is opting for an understanding of the brain that may include concepts we cannot yet explain.
Denying the notion that there is a link between mental processes and biological functions is not necessarily an incarnation of the Humean move. As I described before, the Humean move denies the existence of any sort of explanation. It does not stop us; however, from saying “We don’t know.” This position would leave room for either an explanation or the future usage of the Humean move. It does not overwhelm the potential for new possibilities.
In his essay Zarr quotes McGinn:
“We then infer that the constellation of a certain set of autophenomenological reports of restricted range (“tastes sweet”) correlate with certain sorts of brain activity…, and we infer, because of an overall commitment to naturalism, that the latter explain the former”. (Zarr 99)
He accurately points out that there is no logical way to infer that A is linked B. However, he then contradicts himself by stating “We should therefore find it conceivable that, given some fundamental subjective properties, the wide variety of conscious states we experience emerge due to various arrangements of the stuff our universe is made of.” Here, Zarr mixes phenomenological concepts and mental/physical processes, linking A to B in the same way McGinn did. Within this statement, Zarr describes conscious states as entities that are part of the universe’s materialistic mass, a definition that is analogous to McGinn’s suggestion that brain activity is linked to phenomenological experiences.
Next, Zarr describes correlation between the phenomenological and the physical. He describes what happens when someone hears the word “chair”:
“…a chain of physical events might occur, starting with the sound waves that are interpreted as “chair” which includes activation of a number of brain regions. The physical events that take place have mental correlates, so that when physical event P1 is followed by P2, which is followed by P3, a mirror image mental chain of events takes place - M1 is followed by M2, which is followed by M3.” (Zarr 103)
Zarr relies on a rather imprecise mechanism in order to legitimize causation. He says that because multiple events can be viewed as one event (for instance, the battles that make up a war), co-occurring events like P1 and M1 can be viewed as PM1. I believe that this reference frame is flawed. Later, Zarr discusses an electromagnetic event as an example- while one could view the event through a strictly electrical lens, but this would not mean that magnetism was irrelevant within the causal process. However, this example is not analogous to the P/M chain of events. Within the P/M chain, we are not guaranteed the presence of a conscious state or, in fact, any of the “M” events. The only causation validated by his reference frame are the relationships between P and M, not necessarily the state or entity represented by the character “M”-that is to say, while we can technically say “P caused M”, one cannot guarantee that M is a mental state. One cannot simply add “phenomenological sensation” (represented by M) to the P/M chain, as grouping authenticates nothing.
Zarr further discusses P/M connections in the next section of the essay:
“The strength of the Humean move is that it completely bypasses the extraordinarily difficult task of providing an intelligible account of the physical- mental connection. Without this move available, the emergentists, roughly those who think mental properties emerge from physical properties, are in trouble. They are faced with the task of giving a full explanation of consciousness, which they take to be high-level, in lower level, presumably neurological, terms.” (Zarr 97)
The Humean move, however, is not necessarily utilized by the emergentists. As I previously stated, the Humean move negates the chances of an explanation. This is significantly different from saying “We don’t know” or “We are not sure what accounts for the physical-mental connection”. While some emergentists do utilize the Humean move in order to explain emergent states (i.e. the liquidity of water after hydrogen-oxygen bondage), this does not mean the complete elimination of the concept of explanations is key to emergentism. Stating that something is the sum of its parts does not mean you are assuming that the entity’s emergent qualities are the result of magic. Emergentism emphasizes gained properties of an entity while accounting for the nature of its parts. It does not completely eliminate the need to explain a novel property, even within “strong” emergentism.
Those who practice “strong” emergentism say that we cannot explain things based entirely on their parts, and thus we make a certain leap when assuming that gained properties are governed entirely by physical laws. However, this does not mean that there is no way we can explain what is going on. Just because an explanation is partially phenomenological does not mean we cannot explain it, it means we cannot explain it YET. The emergentists do nothing to neglect this factual possibility.
In this paper I attempted to address some of the points made by Noah Zarr in his essay “Mysterianism, Emergentism, and Panpsychism”. Specifically, I discussed what Zarr called the “Humean move”. Supposedly, this move is a strong argument against the position of the mysterians on mind-body matters. I argued that, because the concept of fundamental principles is fuzzy, the Humean move cannot be used solidly. Instead, it is better and possibly more logical to hypothesize or take an educated guess. This is because, in the instances Zarr presents as possible outlets for the Humean move (i.e. the causal process of a car moving), we know something (like the extremely mysterious quantum processes behind chemical reactions in the engine) has resulted from something else. So, throwing up your hands and saying that there cannot possibly be an explanation for what is going on- “It just DOES”- does not make sense. Clearly, something is going on, and there must be an explanation.
 Zarr, Noah. “Mysterianism, Emergentism, and Panpsychism.” SHPRS Currents 2 (2011): 92-108. Web.
 Flanagan, Owen. The Science of the Mind. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1991. 313. Print.
 McGinn, Colin. “Can We Solve the Mind-Body Problem?.” Mind 98.391 (1989): 349-66. Web. 8 Nov 2010. <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0026-442328 198907%292%3A98%3A39 1%3C349%3ACWSTMP%3E2.O.C0%3B2-3>.
“He asked, ‘What makes a writer?’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘it’s simple. You either get it down on paper, or jump off a bridge.’” — Charles Bukowski
He paints things pink and has tattoos and I want him (Antonio ballatore)
Me watching the Olympics at age 8: Oh that's niceMe watching the Olympics at age 12: Wow I hope we winMe watching the Olympics at age 16: I'm going to fuck the entire swim team and no one can stop me
I have the most perfect dress for banquet, and I hope I win a thing, so I can show everyone how hot I look.
SO LIKE BEST NEWS I’VE HEARD.
MY MOM WAS ALL “YEAH IT’S FUCKED UP YOUR SISTER WANTS TO TAKE YOUR ROOM SHE NEEDS TO GTFO”
SO SHE’S GONNA LIKE...
Yeah, I’m a 36 C, and I don’t wear bras in public most of the time. Wanna fucking sue me? You think I give a fuck? Swing free, my pretties!