1

From Psychophysical Harmony: A New Argument for Theism, by Brian Cutter & Dustin Crummett:

Abstract
This paper develops a new argument from consciousness to theism: the argument from psychophysical harmony. Roughly, psychophysical harmony consists in the fact that phenomenal states are correlated with physical states and with one another in strikingly fortunate ways. For example, phenomenal states are correlated with behavior and functioning that is justified or rationalized by those very phenomenal states, and phenomenal states are correlated with verbal reports and judgments that are made true by those very phenomenal states. We argue that psychophysical harmony is strong evidence for theism (or, at least, strong evidence against atheism in its standard naturalistic form).

And a few quotes from the paper:

2. The Argument from Psychophysical Harmony for Theism

2.1 Psychophysical harmony

Here we present the argument from psychophysical harmony in its basic form. We’ll initially make some substantive assumptions about the metaphysics of consciousness. In §3, we show that the assumptions can be relaxed without seriously affecting the argument. The assumptions are:

  • Dualism: Phenomenal truths and physical truths are distinct and co-fundamental, with neither class of truths grounded in the other. Physical and phenomenal states are linked by metaphysically contingent fundamental laws of nature that specify which physical configurations give rise to consciousness in its various forms.
  • Causal completeness: Every physical event involved in human behavior and brain functioning has a sufficient causal explanation in terms of prior physical occurrences.

Together, these assumptions imply the disjunction of epiphenomenalist and overdeterminationist dualism.

Given dualism, we think that the very existence of consciousness is at least some evidence for theism. If consciousness is ontologically distinct from any physical properties, a physical universe can host consciousness only by adding it to its supply of fundamental features. That it would do so is unsurprising if our universe was designed by a being which aims to realize value. A world with intricate arrangements of matter but no experience is clearly missing some important kinds of value, and perhaps missing value altogether. It’s far more surprising that consciousness should exist (and that there should be fundamental laws governing its occurrence) if the universe is not ordered in any way toward the realization of value. There would be no reason to expect it to exist, and the fundamental laws would be simpler if it didn’t. (By contrast, that mass or charge--properties without apparent normative significance--are included among the universe’s basic features doesn’t seem much more surprising on atheism than theism.)

However, the main focus of our argument will be a different set of facts about consciousness, which we’ll call the facts of “psychophysical harmony”:

Psychophysical Harmony: States of consciousness are related to each other, and to physical states, in strikingly harmonious ways—ways that seem extremely lucky, or involve many striking apparent coincidences.

Various instances of psychophysical harmony have been emphasized in recent work by Adam Pautz (2020), David Chalmers (2018), Philip Goff (2018), Hedda Hassel Mørch (2017, 2020), Harold Langsam (2011), Noa Latham (2000), and Bradford Saad (2019). We’ll discuss two main types of harmony: normative harmony and semantic harmony.

2.2. Normative harmony
Many examples of psychophysical harmony are cases of what Adam Pautz (2020: 5) calls normative harmony, which he defines as follows:

Normative harmony: In every case, the psychophysical laws correlate a physical functional state P with a distinct conscious experience C whose essential normative role in providing reasons is harmonious with the causal role of P in generating verbal and other responses.

This will be easiest to explain with some examples (which closely mirror some of Pautz’s own examples). Some are examples of hedonic harmony; others are examples of epistemic harmony. We’ll also discuss a third, somewhat overlapping type of normative harmony, cognitive harmony, but will rely on it less because it requires a controversial background assumption.

Here’s a hedonic example. A damaging stimulus causes physical state X, a certain biochemical or computational state of your brain. X causes you to avoid or eliminate the stimulus in the future. Conveniently, the psychophysical laws map X onto the experience of pain, an intrinsically bad experience which essentially provides one with reason to avoid or eliminate it. So the psychophysical laws correlate X with a phenomenal state whose essential normative role harmonizes with the functional role of X. And this isn’t a random fluke, but a pretty general truth about relevantly similar functional states and their associated hedonic states: we systematically avoid unpleasant experiences and pursue pleasant experiences. This is hedonic harmony. To be clear, the surprising fact here is not that there is a physical state that plays the pain role (tracking bodily damage, producing avoidance behavior, and so forth). Presumably this fact has a straightforward evolutionary explanation. What’s surprising is that the actual psychophysical laws map it onto an experience whose essential normative role harmonizes with this functional role. Since evolutionary forces cannot affect the psychophysical laws, it’s hard to see how an evolutionary explanation of this harmonious correspondence would even get off the ground. (Note that we are not rejecting the standard evolutionary explanation for why we feel pain in response to harmful stimuli. Given that pain is lawfully linked to avoidance behavior and the like, it makes perfect evolutionary sense that we would experience pain in response to harmful stimuli. But this evolutionary explanation presupposes normative harmony; it does not explain it. There is nothing inappropriate about this presupposition when we are doing evolutionary biology; it is not the evolutionary biologist’s job to explain the character of the psychophysical laws.)

Hedonic harmony seems very lucky. The psychophysical laws could conceivably have mapped X onto pleasure, while mapping the actual neural basis of pleasure onto pain. In this pleasure/pain inversion scenario, we would systematically avoid a state we have reason to pursue (pleasure), and systematically pursue a state we have reason to avoid (pain). Our lives would be a pathetic farce: we would cower from pleasurable experiences and happily inflict pain on our loved ones. Alternatively, the psychophysical laws could have correlated X with some evaluatively neutral state, resulting in a less extreme mismatch. Either way, our behavior and functioning would be wildly out of line with the behavior and functioning that is justified or rationalized by our phenomenal states.

(Read the paper for more examples. Alternatively, watch this video.)

Let’s formulate the argument more precisely in Bayesian terms. This involves comparing the likelihood of harmony on rival hypotheses. In what follows, assume for simplicity that the rejection of theism entails ordinary naturalistic atheism. This is obviously false, especially given our earlier remarks about theism-adjacent hypotheses. But if the argument shows that the real choice is between theism and theism-adjacent hypotheses, that itself is hugely significant.

Given that the vast majority of conceivable psychophysical mappings would be disharmonious, and especially if (as we suggested above) the individually most intrinsically probable mappings are disharmonious, the epistemic probability of harmony given (ordinary naturalistic) atheism seems extremely low. On the other hand, for reasons given above, it’s far more likely that there would be psychophysical harmony conditional on theism. That is:

Likelihood Comparison: P(harmony|theism) >> P(harmony|atheism)

Unless the prior probability of theism is fantastically low, the posterior probability of theism will be reasonably high when we conditionalize on psychophysical harmony.

5. Conclusion
We’ve argued that the existence of psychophysical harmony is strong evidence for theism. Psychophysical harmony is much more likely on theism (and on certain theism-adjacent views) than on standard naturalistic atheism, and the prior probability of theism (and, a fortiori, the disjunction of theism with these theism-adjacent views) is not so low as to render this uninteresting. Our initial presentation of the argument from psychophysical harmony assumed dualism and the causal completeness of the physical. But as we’ve seen, standard naturalistic atheism is not significantly helped by rejecting these assumptions and instead assigning a fairly high prior probability to interactionist dualism, physicalism, idealism, or Russellian monism. And while there is a certain analogy between the argument from psychophysical harmony and the more famous argument from cosmological fine-tuning, the most popular objection to the fine-tuning argument does not affect the argument from psychophysical harmony. We conclude that the argument from psychophysical harmony deserves an important place alongside the traditional theistic arguments.

Is this actually a strong argument for theism? Does it have any merits? How has the paper been received in academic and philosophical circles?


Note for "identity physicalists": The paper has about 11 pages devoted to rebutting the identity physicalism objection (read pages 28-39). But the gist of the rebuttal is understanding the concept of "epistemic probability" and that a harmonious "identity" is still epistemically unlikely (a priori, before experimentation). The first few minutes of this video explain the concept of "epistemic probability" as an intro, before delving into the argument from psychophysical harmony itself. The video is very pedagogical, so I highly recommend watching it.

10
  • 6
    Thanks for the extensive quotes, but after reading all of it, I still have no idea what he means by psychophysical harmony. Maybe you could add another paragraph where he gives an example or two. Feb 17 at 11:49
  • @DavidGudeman I will try. In the meantime, you can read the paper, or watch these videos: link1, link2, link3.
    – Mark
    Feb 17 at 13:55
  • @DavidGudeman Done.
    – Mark
    Feb 17 at 14:22
  • 2
    Well, the dualism assumption is an easy weak point.
    – rus9384
    Feb 17 at 17:06
  • 1
    There's no substitute for having a vast universe and all time available to get things to work out by accident. Do you have any idea of the staggering number of beings that have already lived? It wouldn't seem as unlikely that some did eventually become successful.
    – Scott Rowe
    Feb 17 at 21:39

6 Answers 6

7

The paper correctly points out that physicalist naturalism requires a large number of mind-body relationships. However, it falsely claims that these are difficult to explain in principle within physicalist naturalism. Physicalists propose identity theories. Mind is proposed to be identical to some physical or functional state, or emergence from such a state, and this relation is assumed to be a feature of physics.

Identity theory ascribed equal causation to mind, and the physical feature or function it is asserted to be identical to. Once one has causation for mind, then evolutionary tuning leads to mind (and brain, for identity theories they are equivalent) getting tuned by evolutionary processes, such that mind ends up identical to all sorts of physically or functionally useful survival features. Two-way interactive dualism likewise leads to evolutionary tuning of both mind structures and physical structures -- because evolutionary selection LEADS to tuning.

The problem for physicalists is not the complexity of these correlation principles, but that every proposed A==Consciousness fails one or another test case, where A exists but not consciousness, or vice versa. I have had physicalist comments deny this, so I offer a brief summary:

  • Neural identity theory: consciousness == brain function. Refuted by 99+% unconsciousness in brain activity.
  • Functionalism: consciousness == functional processing. Refuted by unconscious computers, and 99+% unconscious humans.
  • Functionalism plus a thruput threshold for emergence. Refuted when computers did not attain consciousness when thruput increased 10^10.
  • Recursive Neural Net processing: Consciousness is identical to functions run on a recursive neural net. This was an attempt to explain why our computers are not conscious. Refuted by al the unconscious recursive functions run on our brains.
  • Global Workspace Theory: Consciousness is functions which are shared globally. Refuted by unconscious driving (thinking about something else while driving, which is a VERY global function).
  • Higher Order Processing: Consciousness is identical to functions that self-reference, I. E. show a higher order logic structure. Refuted by pain upon a pinprick, which is immediate and not higher order. Also refuted by our many unconscious processes that reference selfhood/me-ness.
  • Integrated Information Theory: consciousness is identical to funchons run on a high Phi (a measure of structural uniqueness of the substrate) processing network. IIT was to explain why computers are not conscious, while humans are (computer architecture has a low Phi). Refuted by the way all our unconscious processing is run on that same high Phi network.

All of the above are type-type identity theories -- asserting that some "type" of feature is identical with the "type" of consciousness. Type-type identity ties conscious causation to the causation of the physical or functional type. In the face of all these refuting test cases, some physicalists have asserted only token-token identity. SOME examples of a physical or functional feature are identical to SOME aspects of consciousness. As equivalent physical structures or functional events could happen and be evolutionary beneficial without consciousness, or with an irrelevant consciousness associated with them, token-token identity breaks the evolutionary explanation for the tuning of consciousness that each of the above Identity Theories offered. Structurally and logically, token-token identity is indistinguishable from epiphenomenal dualism, and the paper's critiques of epiphenomenalism, discussed next, apply.

What this paper end up arguing against is non standard alternatives that some non-theists have resorted to due to the failures of all identity theories to date. These alternatives include Chalmers epiphenomenal dualism, and Goff’s parallelist pan psychism, other variants of Russellian monism, and also token-token physicalist identity theory (this last is part of "standard naturalism", but is basically a desperate effort to paper over its failings with the Hard Problem by effectively adopting epiphenomenalist dualism, without admitting to the term). It is these alternatives, which assume causal closure of the physical, but no identity principle to tie mental to physical states, that are so absurdly unable to explain mental and physical correlation. But these are (mostly) not standard naturalism. So the target of this paper is incorrectly identified.

Meanwhile, the plausibility of mental and physical correlation based on theism is not supported by this paper. The quoted passages from the paper do not derive its assumption: causal closure of physics; epiphenomenalism; nor a continuing effort by God to hide epiphenomenalism from us by masking it thru miracles to create the illusion of causation. These are not derived from any first principles of theism.

In contrast to the paper’s claims, if one postulates a designed world, then it is instead a gross oversight to not creating two-way interactive dualism, and instead creating one way interactive dualism. A God Regretting this oversight and covering up the ineffectiveness of our minds by constant miracles, is radically implausible.

Additionally, postulating a role of Great Deciever for God is a character flaw that violates the assumptions of classical theism.

What is implausible, are ALL mind-body theories that hold minds to be non causal. Epiphenomenalists, parallelists, and Godly interventionists, all are far less plausible than that mind is causal. Mental causation fully and completely explains psycho-physical harmony, and is far superior to a blundering and deceiving God as an explanation.

The options for causal mind include physicalist identity theories, interactive dualism of various types, and emergent idealism. It is these thee categories of mind- body that the paper’s observations support. And none of them are necessarily theist. Dualism and idealism are compatible with theism, and neither are refuted by the failures of every physicalist identity claim, but this is not a slam dunk evidence for theism.

Aside on idealism. Idealist models of consciousness require matter to be emergent from mind, so the base causation comes from mind, unlike physicalist identity theories. However, idealist theories, to show matter-mind psycho-physical harmony, also need a very similar identity relationship between mind and brain that physicalist identity theories need, and idealist identity is similarly refuted by so much of what a brain does being unconscious.

1
7

The paper seems to be largely framed as an argument against some sort of dualist naturalist.

But I would argue that reductive materialism has no problem explaining what they're trying to explain. The "correlation" of phenomenal states with physical states is not at all "fortunate", if those physical states are just what phenomenal states are.

The correlation of phenomenal/physical states with one another would be explained by evolution. If a creature has a bunch of neurons just firing randomly with no rhyme or reason, that's probably not going to help them survive. But if some sensory perception causes neurons to fire, and this causes a chain of neurons to fire in a way that ends with sending signals to other body parts to respond appropriately given the perception, that's certainly going to give a survival advantage, and mutations that correspond to this will be selected for. This is evolution 101.

So it would be more strange if we don't see this correlation under physicalism.

The paper does mention evolution, but says that an evolutionary explanation would "presuppose normative harmony", which it doesn't, and arguably reductive materialism is much more consistent with evolution than any other view is (whether that's within atheism or theism).

They address functionalist views

It does spend some time addressing the "functionalist" forms of identity theory (reductive materialism). Actually functionalism is closely related but distinct from reductive materialism, but let's just call it "close enough".

To the credit of the authors, they seem to say that functionalism generally does a good job of explaining this harmony and they don't really offer any direct rebuttal. Instead, they say:

In that case, P(harmony|atheism & functionalism) = 1. But then we can’t infer that P(harmony|atheism) is fairly high, because there’s no reason to think that this highly specific functionalist view should cover a large fraction of the atheist region of our probability space.

What they seem to be missing is that evolution would favour that particular reductivist (what they call functionalist) view, and that makes reductivism the most likely atheist view.

But their fundamental logic here seems to be something like this:

  • My car has been stolen.
  • Any one of 8 billion people could've stolen my car, or it could've been magic (and we consider P(stolen|person) versus P(stolen|magic)).
  • It's unlikely that any of some 7.9 billion people would've stolen the car, on account of not being anywhere near the vicinity at the time.
  • Let's consider people living in my city. For one such person, we have video evidence of them breaking into my car and driving away with it. If we suppose they stole it, this does a good job of explaining where my car went...
  • But, I have "no reason to think that this highly specific city person should cover a large fraction of the person region of our probability space" (i.e. it's just 1 of billions of people, which is a small probability).
  • So "we can't infer that P(stolen|person) is high".
  • Therefore it was probably magic.

This is clearly absurd. They're arguing that other atheist views are unlikely, and then they're using that to infer that this other atheist view must also be unlikely, even though they literally just argued that it's the one that makes the most sense.

There are also some very questionable logic in (at least) that part of the paper.

  • They start of saying "The functionalist says that being in pain = F" (with F presumably being the physical mental state)
  • And then to argue why you can't say that functionalism is the most likely:
    • They consider a parody argument in dualism (Why? Why not just argue about functionalism directly? What's the purpose of this parody argument? It certainly is helpful for obscuring things to make it sound like what they're makes more sense than it actually does, whether that was intentional or not)
    • They say "Dualism (about pain) does not imply that pain is nomologically linked to F in particular"
    • Then they say that dualism isn't likely (which I kind of agree with - not having a reason to link mental states with physical states is a huge problem with dualism, and part of why functionalism makes so much more sense)
    • But then they say "For the same reason" functionalism isn't likely (huh?).

According to how they themselves describe functionalism, pain is literally identical to F. It's the very thesis of functionalism that pain reduces to the physical state, and they're trying to argue that you have to consider all the things pain could reduce to, and there's no reason to think it reduces to the physical state that you happen to have at the exact same time that you're experiencing pain. Maybe I'm misunderstanding something, but as I read it, that makes no sense whatsoever.

This is where the distinction between functionalism and reductive materialism may be relevant again. If we're talking about reductive materialism, everything I said above applies, and this "functionalism" seems to be the only form of reductive materialism / identity theory that it considers. If we're talking about functionalism in itself, and not reductive materialism (identity theory), then they'd be considering a "forms of identity physicalism" that ... isn't actually identity physicalism, even though that's what they said they're addressing and much of what they're arguing could apply to identity physicalism. What they're saying also doesn't make sense for functionalism.

They're not making a positive case

But even if we put that glaring issue aside, another more fundamental problem with the paper is that it doesn't actually make a positive case for what it's trying to argue for.

At best, it seems to be saying "this thing seems unlikely, therefore God". That's not strong evidence. To call it weak evidence would be generous. That's little more than "we don't know why this happens", and then inserting God in the gap in our understanding. It's equally valid as evidence for invisible fairies that give babies consciousness using magic. Now maybe you have reasons to favour the God hypothesis above invisible fairies, but this argument certainly isn't it.

The paper mentions the similarity to fine tuning, and that has been criticised for similar reasons (but fine tuning is a popular apologetic, so this might meet that very low bar).

They do acknowledge this, though:

"For simplicity’s sake, we frame this as an argument for theism, which we can understand as the claim that the universe was created by an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being. But the data to which we appeal may be equally good evidence for other hypotheses.

Some may call it "simpler", others may call it "misleading".

They also say they're arguing against a universe that is "not teleologically ordered toward the realization of any kind of value, whether extrinsically (...) or intrinsically", but one might wonder whether this could be said to exclude evolution (and therefore would be about 160-something years behind the science). Certainly a species derives a sort of "value" from not dying out, even if this isn't value in any sort of objective sense. But maybe I'm just nitpicking a bit.

Their argument from improbability

They (mis)use Bayesian probability in support of their argument from improbability. But unlikely many people who do this, they do at least admit that they may be starting from what I consider a very questionable premise:

Likelihood Comparison is only interesting if the prior probability of theism is not so fantastically low that its posterior probability is negligible even after the evidential boost it receives from psychophysical harmony.

This is always going to be the problem with trying to use Bayesian probability in this way. You can't use Bayesian probability and just handwave the probabilities of dependent states (theism and atheism). Those probabilities are absolutely crucial to the comparison they're trying to make.

Dcleve's answer

It's probably worth pointing out that Dcleve's "brief summary" of identity theory and functionalism is little more than their opinion of misrepresentations of those positions, and they just keep repeating their dubious unsupported claims, while seeming to ignore any clear evidence against their claims and requests for them to back up what they say.

Later they mention the idea that "SOME examples of a physical or functional feature are identical to SOME aspects of consciousness" (which is actually what both identity theory and functionalism are, rather than the misrepresentation they address initially of every physical or functional feature being identical to some aspect of consciousness). On this, they say:

As equivalent physical structures or functional events could happen and be evolutionary beneficial without consciousness, or with an irrelevant consciousness associated with them, token-token identity breaks the evolutionary explanation for the tuning of consciousness that each of the above Identity Theories offered.

But to say that equivalent physical structures could happen without consciousness is to fundamentally misunderstand or misrepresent identity theory, because identity theory says literally the exact opposite of that - identity theory says that mental states are identical to certain physical states, so you can't have those physical states without having mental states. What they're saying is essentially "since identity theory is false, evolution can't explain identity theory", which is meaningless and nonsensical circularity.

As noted above, the paper has a similar issue of trying to separate mental states from physical states in an argument against a worldview where those are one and the same.

1
3

It's basically an argument from incredulity, one of the poorest form of theist apologetics, to the point of being a cliché.

The author just lists a bunch of ocurences they hold to be improbable, expresses incredulity that it could be the case without a god, therefore god must exist. Yet the whole thing is a non sequitur as long as the author can't make the demonstration that what they observe is possible only if a god exists.

This particular instance offers examples that hardly challenge comprehension, let alone require a supernatural intervention to be understood.

For example, the author wonders at the fact that doing things that are good for us gives us pleasure and bad things give us pain.

First, there is no conundrum if one understands evolution: a species whose individuals would feel pleasure at harming themselves and be driven to reproduce this harmful behavior would quickly disapear, while the opposite pattern would make it strive. There is therefore no mystery in the fact that we feel pleasure and are drawn to reproduce benefic behaviors from a strictly naturalist viewpoint.

Second, anybody who has ever followed a diet, exercised, studied or work hard for long term goals knows that what is best for us is not always what gives us pleasure. Smokers and addicts to different kinds of harmful substances or behaviors painfully know that "hedonistic harmony" is a joke. If a deity wired our pleasure centers the way they are, it's indeed a "pathetice farce"...

Overall it looks like the author did not even try.

6
  • Plus one for a clear and forceful answer! Feb 19 at 8:42
  • The authors addressed evolution 17 times in the paper. Did you read those sections?
    – Mark
    Feb 19 at 10:20
  • @Mark yep, the authors just brush it aside on the ground that it can't explain psychology, which is quite wrong considering the impact of genetics on psychology. Also the real problem of "hedonistic harmony" is not so much evolution than the fact that it is blatantly not a thing, like any addict will tell you.
    – armand
    Feb 19 at 11:19
  • @armand I think you misunderstood the argument. Watch a few minutes from here. I also asked a follow-up question based on the point you probably misunderstood: philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/108677/66156
    – Mark
    Feb 19 at 13:02
  • An explanation of why evolution doesn't help can be found here: youtu.be/uk-2FdSVy10?t=736
    – Mark
    Feb 19 at 13:08
2

The paper buries the argument under some very heavy jargon. I will attempt to bring the issue down to plain English.

The paper addresses evolution, and says "pain is lawfully linked to avoidance behavior". It acknowledges is clear and simple for evolution to link specific types of stimulus with avoidant behavior. Even a single cell organism can have a chain of physical chemical processes that result in it moving away from certain chemicals.

If I step on a spike, the nerve impulse doesn't even need to reach my brain. It reaches my spine and a simple physical connection triggers a response nerve impulse to pull my leg back. When that happens to a French person they feel the mental state "douleur". When it happens to a German they feel the mental state "schmerz". When it happens to a Samali they feel the mental state "xanuun".

So we have three different mental states in three different people - "douleur" and "schmerz" and "xanuun" - and the rocket scientists making this argument assert that it somehow surprising or impossibly-improbable that we learned to use the same word "pain" for all three mental states across three different people.

Similarly, I have grouped the sensations coming from my eyes under the word "colors" and I grouped the senses from my tongue under the word "tastes", and I grouped sensations from my ears under the word "sounds". When I my eyes are looking at leaves I have ASSIGNED the word "green" to the "color" I am experiencing. When a Czech person looks at fresh leaves they experience "zelena". The authors are claiming it is somehow surprising or impossibly-improbable that language treats "green" and "zelena" as equivilent.

They acknowledge that evolution can link specific sensations with specific physical responses, and the entire evolutionary purpose of our brain is to learn to organize our experienced senses and behaviors to reach rewards and avoid unpleasant stimulus. The authors are arguing that when a Chinese person looks at the same fresh leaves, that instead of the mental state of "color" "green", it is equally likely they could have the mental state of "feeling" "warm bath". That is STUPID. Humans have chosen to define words for those mental states based on the external physical world. We have chosen to use the word "green" as the term for any mental state in any person looking at leaves.

Fundamentally, this is an elaborate and quite extreme version of the Argument From Ignorance. The argument is founded on "epistemic probability" - which literally means it is based on assuming an absolute lack of knowledge and utter ignorance of cause and effect. They claim that when someone is looking at leaves there is an equal probability someone would have the "the mental state of feeling a warm bath" rather than "the mental state of green". They are ignoring that senses from the eyes are physically and neurologically separated from other sense signals, that "colors" are literally defined as the sense experiences coming from the eyes, and they they are ignoring that "green" is just a linguistic term LITERALLY DEFINED as whatever mental state is experienced by any person seeing a specific kind of light. My mental state may not equal your mental state, but by PHYSICAL CAUSE AND EFFECT we have decided to use the same word "green" for both mental states. There is absolutely nothing random about it, and their argument is complete garbage in assuming it's random.

The argument is stupid. It is Argument From Ignorance taken to extreme and buried under complicated jargon.

2
  • I think you completely misunderstood the argument. The argument is not about "labels" assigned to experiences using natural language. It's about the correspondence between the physical and "qualia" or "conscious experiences". Labels and language are not relevant at all here. I recommend you watch this video: youtu.be/uk-2FdSVy10
    – Mark
    Feb 17 at 23:14
  • @Mark I watched the video, it clarified the paper's painful jargon. You can't randomly mismatch things because everything is cause-and effect, everything is either hardwired or learned. At birth pain and pleasure are genetically hardwired to neurochemical learning/avoidance. My mental state and qualia for green may or may not resemble your mental state and qualia for green, but you call your qualia a "color" because it comes from your eyes and you call it "green" because that's the word you hear from others when you experience it. Your responses are in "harmony" because cause-effect learning.
    – Alsee
    Feb 18 at 1:06
2

Let’s assume that it is a lucky coincidence (I’m not sure there is, but let’s assume so). Then, presumably, psychophysical harmony would exist for no sufficient reason.

But how does God explain this away? God, presumably, would also exist for no reason and be preloaded with desires that cause this harmony to exist. This in itself would be its own “lucky coincidence.”

But if we have to accept a happy coincidence either way, why not accept the one that postulates fewer entities (I.e. naturalism) and get rid of god altogether?

1

If you assume the outputs of televisions are not causally related to their inner workings, you will be so struck by the harmony that exists between the two that you will feel compelled to assume that only theism could explain it. After all, what is the likelihood of the picture on the screen being correlated purely by chance with the states of the electronics behind it? As close to zero as one might possibly imagine. And consider a Universe in which TV's produced no pictures- what an empty, soulless existence we would live, with families spending their evenings together confronted by blank screens. No God would wish such a fate on his creations, so assuming a prior probability of theism at a conservative 80%, and a probability of 100% for God not wanting to deprive us of the joys of TV programmes, we can see that ... and so on and so on. I have never read so much drivel in my life.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .