Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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Zoom Talk: Jenann Ismael (Columbia) and Johannes Kleiner (MCMP)

Meeting-ID: 950 1039 5841

09.02.2022 16:00  – 18:00 

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Jenann Ismael (Columbia): Totality, self-reference and Time

Here’s a simple example of self-reference: you ask a computer that is programmed to truthfully answer any question about the room in which it is contained, whether the answer about to appear on its screen is ‘no’. Self-reference isn’t something that is often discussed in physics. Strictly speaking, however, any attempt to describe or represent the universe as a totality for an embedded creature inevitably involves self-reference. I’m going to argue that self-reference, against the background of a thermodynamic gradient, creates an instability in an embedded agent’s ability to know the future (more strongly, to stabilize the future as a possible object of knowledge). That instability captures the sense in which such an agent can’t think of the future as fixed. I’ll suggest that this gives us a deeper and more satisfying understanding of our experience of temporal progression. It also has implications for the phenomena associated with agency and what it means to fully absorb ourselves (including our own knowledge gathering activity) into the causal fabric of the world.

Johannes Kleiner (MCMP): The Closure of the Physical, Consciousness and Scientific Practice

We analyze the implications of the closure of the physical for experiments in the scientific study of consciousness when all the details are considered, especially how measurement results relate to physical events. It turns out that the closure of the physical implies that no experiment can distinguish between two theories of consciousness that obey this assumption. Therefore, the closure of the physical is incompatible with scientific practice. This conclusion points to a fundamental flaw in the paradigm underlying most of the experiments conducted to date and poses a challenge to any research programme that aims to ground a physical functionalist or identity-based understanding of consciousness on empirical observations.