Abstract Details

Stumped by the Hard Problem? First Things First: An Introduction To Deacon's Teleodynamic Explanation for Unconscious Effort - The Struggle for Existence.  Jeremy Sherman (Teleodynamics Research Associates, Berkeley, CA )   C11

The hard problem: explaining human consciousness from physiochemical mechanisms is actually the made-harder problem. The problem becomes easier if we start by explaining agents and agency, selves and effort, the strugglers and their struggle for existence which Darwin assumed but admitted he couldn't explain and neo-, and post-Darwinists explain away with variations on computationalism, functionalism, instrumentalism, self-organization, complexity, and teleonomy. Once we have a fully scientific explanation for how selves and effort (natural teleology) emerge from physiochemistry at the origin of life, it will be easier to explain how conscious selves evolve from them. The bridge from matter to mattering requires an answer to this simple, fundamental question: Selves and effort are something different yet from nothing but physiochemistry. What and how did they emerge? In this presentation, Jeremy Sherman, Terrence Deacon's 24-year collaborator and author of "Neither Ghost Nor Machine: The emergence and nature of selves" (Columbia University Press, 2017) motivates Deacon's core research question and presents his methodology - a reassertion of fundamental scientific standards that researchers have tended to relax in dealing with the mystery of natural teleology: Art may be multi-disciplinary but science is sequi-disciplinary. The sciences addressing prior phenomena must explain what the sciences addressing subsequent phenomena assume. Science is not reductionist but emergent-reductionist: Once emergent phenomena (e.g. agents and agency) have been explained from prior phenomena, scientists can reduce its explanations to the explained emergent phenomena. We must, therefore, distinguish between descriptive simulation models and explanatory emulations. Sherman then introduces Deacon's core hypothesis - Teleodynamics: The via negativa argument that the something different from nothing but physiochemistry is the reduced probability of degeneration. A self is an emergent constraint that channels energy into work (effort) that prevents the degeneration of that emergent constraint. By this standard, selves and effort can't be the result of self-organization alone since it is self-undermining. Rather, as Deacon shows in his autogen model, selves and effort can emerge as the synergistic coupling of two self-organizing dynamics that prevent each other from ending. Sheman presents this testable model for the emergence of selves and their unconscious effort from physiochemistry at the origins of life here or anywhere in the universe.