Galileo’s Error: Galileo’s Error

So, let me start my deeper look at Philip Goff’s “Galileo’s Error” by looking at what Goff thinks Galileo’s error actually was. It was to build a science that abandoned the qualitative properties in favour of ones that could be expressed mathematically, and thus the quantitative ones. This, of course, worked out really well for science as it allowed it to focus on the quantifiable and mathematical problems, but it becomes a bit of a problem in dealing with consciousness, since all of the properties that characterized consciousness were removed from science and now we need to find a way to put them back in. This also leads to a lot of the materialists deciding that those conscious properties don’t really exist or are unimportant, which is an idea that we refute every time we experience anything. If there is anything that is certain, it is that we have conscious experiences (or, at least, it is certain to me that _I_ have conscious experiences). The nature of them might be illusory, but not their existence.

I think that Goff is correct that science, from Galileo on, perhaps, focused on the more readily observable and on the problems that were easier to solve and left the harder problems to philosophy and other fields. Thus, by focusing on what their method could achieve they had smashing success, as one would hope. But what has happened in modern times and with the rise of scientism is that science has taken that success and let it go to its head, thinking that its method can solve every problem, even those that it was in no way designed to handle. So anything that does not fit into science does not or cannot exist. Unfortunately, this often seems to include consciousness. Less dogmatic scientists see this as being a problem, but many — as Goff lists in the first chapter — are intent on sticking to that view, but only come up with incredibly implausible ideas of consciousness that seem to miss all the important details of consciousness.

Goff’s view is that panpsychism can resolve the issue by putting the mental back into science, with a reworked science to make that work. It’s an interesting idea, even if I’m not convinced that it will work.

3 Responses to “Galileo’s Error: Galileo’s Error”

  1. Tom Says:

    Yes. Edward Feser has been making that point over and over, saying that this is like sweeping dirt in every room under a rug and then when trying to get rid of the dirt under the rug we try to do it by…sweeping the dirt under the rug.

    Materialists try to explain the mind in terms of the properties of matter (more specifically the neuroscience) and it’s that ‘in terms of’ that’s the whole problem. If you really try to do this, it threatens to collapse into eliminativism.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      That analogy, though, is vulnerable to a reply that they haven’t been sweeping anything under the rug, and so are just applying their proper cleaning methods to another area that they hadn’t before but no one else has been able to clean.

      Still, a better analogy — and one that fits with Goff — is saying that it’s more like they’ve been spending their time dusting the bottom shelves and leaving the top shelves to others (philosophy, for example) but now have noticed that the top shelves aren’t as clean as they’d like and so want to dust the top shelves, but are insisting that they can just dust them the exact same way and with the exact same tools as they dusted the bottom shelves, and ignoring those who had been trying to dust the top shelves who make comments like “You won’t be able to reach that high with your existing duster without some kind of ladder” by insisting that they’ve had great success dusting the lower shelves that way and the others haven’t done a great job of cleaning the top shelves, so they should just shut up and let the cleaners who got things clean go to work. Sure, it’s POSSIBLE that they’re method — or a variation on it — will work, but they don’t really have cause to be that confident about it.

      Many strict materialists are indeed eliminativists about mind/consciousness. The problem they always run into is that that I’m having experiences is the only thing I’m certain of, and so it’s hard to tell a story that they don’t exist or shouldn’t be referenced that still respects the obvious truth that we have them.

  2. Tom Says:

    Well, the context in which Feser makes the analogy has to do with the Cartesian mind-matter bifurcation. For the Aristotelian-Thomist, qualia are considered material, because they’ve got a broader definition of ‘matter’ than the modern view which thinks of qualia as mental and the actual material world to consist of colorless, odorless tasteless particles. The qualitative stuff gets swept ‘under the rug’ of the mind and when we finally get around to doing this method with the mind it just won’t work.

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