Why Are We Here? : George Ellis

Quote:GE: Yes, I take the completely unpopular position: I’m a dualist. There’s the mind and the brain, and the mind inhabits the brain… or thoughts, thoughts inhabit the brain and thoughts are not physical things. Thoughts are abstract things which get represented in a physical way.

And again we do not understand how this happened, but the brain has a hierarchical structure. Thoughts have a hierarchical structure, and in the computer you can see these different levels. You can understand them, and you have got these interpreters or compilers which do it. I think eventually when we understand the brain enough, we will see exactly the same kind of structure happening in the brain.

The logic is going top-down from the top level down to the bottom and it is the logic which is controlling what happens at the bottom level. Abstract entities are driving the physics at the bottom level. The physics is not controlling what happens.

David: So that is exactly the opposite of when people say the reductionistic picture is always once you’ve understood these things at the bottom, they are what cause things to happen?

GE: Yep.

Quote:GE: Do you want me to open this up to an even more mind-boggling place?

David: Go on then.

GE: Okay. Where does the logic of mathematics come from?

David: Oh dear.

GE: This is the old question: do we invent mathematics or do we find mathematics? And I’m an unashamed mathematical Platonist: we discover mathematics. Two plus two is four is too simple. Let’s take something more interesting like the fact that the square root of two is irrational. Now the square root of two is irrational no matter whether you’re an Ancient Greek or someone here or someone on Mars. The square root of two is irrational. It’s a timeless, eternal, unchanging mathematical truth. In other words it’s a Platonic kind of statement.

The ontology is the mathematics exists and is there and is unchanging. The fact that the square root of two is irrational is an eternal unchanging truth. What we understand about it is a historically contingent thing, and we didn’t know that 10,000 years ago and we do know it now.

'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

- Bertrand Russell