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Constructing the World Week 7. David Chalmers. Minimizing the Base. So far I’ve argued that all truths are a priori scrutable from PQTI- microphysics, phenomenology, that’s-all, indexicals How much further can we narrow the base? Is there a principled minimal basis?. Heuristics.

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Constructing the world week 7
Constructing the WorldWeek 7

  • David Chalmers

Minimizing the base
Minimizing the Base

  • So far I’ve argued that all truths are a priori scrutable from PQTI-

    • microphysics, phenomenology, that’s-all, indexicals

  • How much further can we narrow the base?

  • Is there a principled minimal basis?


  • Heuristics for suggesting that B is scrutable from A

    • Knowability: Knowing A enables knowing B

    • Conceivability: A without B is inconceivable

    • Analysis: B-expressions are approximately analyzable in terms of A-expressions.

Conceptual priority
Conceptual Priority

  • A heuristic for further narrowing the base

    • Aim for conceptual priority in a base

  • A is conceptually prior to B when...

    • Grasping B requires grasping A?

    • Articulating B requires articulating A?

    • B can be approximately defined in terms of A?

Twin earthability

  • A is twin-earthable when intrinsic duplicates can use A nondeferentially with different content

    • ‘water’, ‘Godel’

    • not ‘philosopher’, ‘circle’, ‘conscious’?

  • Arguably: Twin-earthable truths are scrutable from non-twin-earthable truths plus indexical truths

  • Aim for non-twinearthable expressions and indexicals in the base


  • Microphysical expressions are approximately analyzable, by the Carnap-Ramsey-Lewis method, in terms of observable and nomic expressions

    • Charge = what plays the charge role

    • Repeat for various theoretical terms

    • Grounded in laws, primary and secondary quality expressions?

Observational truths
Observational Truths

  • Observational truths involving secondary qualities

  • Functionalist view: Analyzable via and scrutable from phenomenal and causal truths

    • e.g. redness = normal cause of red experience, or disposition to cause red experience

  • Primitivist view: Not analyzable in this way

    • red is a primitive concept, such that red things normally cause red experiences is not a priori

Spatiotemporal truths
Spatiotemporal Truths

  • Are spatiotemporal truths scrutable from nonspatiotemporal truths?

    • Functionalist view: a priori scrutable from phenomenal and nomic truths

      • e.g. length/distance = what causes experiences as of length/distance

    • Primitivist view: Not analyzable/scrutable in this way. Primitive spatiotemporal concepts.

Spatiotemporal twin earthability
Spatiotemporal Twin-Earthability

  • Spatiotemporal Twin Earth cases (Brad Thompson):

  • Doubled Earth: Everything is twice as big. Big Oscar is a functional/phenomenal duplicate of Oscar.

    • Claim: When Big Oscar says ‘That is two meters long’ he speaks truly.

    • So Big Oscar refers to two meters with ‘one meter’. Suggests: ‘one meter’ = (roughly) what normally causes experiences as of one meter.

El greco world
El Greco World

  • What about shape and relative size?

  • El Greco World: Everything is stretched out by a factor of two on one dimension. Stretched Oscar is twice as tall as Oscar.

  • Claim: When Stretched Oscar says ‘That is square’ he speaks truly.

  • So his ‘square’ refers to what we call rectangles.

Intuition pump
Intuition Pump

  • Say that we turn out to be in Stretched Oscar’s situation: our galaxy is stretched relative to rest of the world, macrophysical length is nonuniform with respect to microphysical length.

  • Claim: even if so, our ordinary claims re squareness are true and experiences are veridical.

    • We’d distinguish macrosquareness from microsquareness (etc), and hold that ‘square’ refers to macrosquareness.

  • Even better: if fundamental physics doesn’t use spacetime (cf. the Matrix).

Choice point
Choice Point

  • Functionalist view: Spatiotemporal expressions are Twin-Earthable and analyzable, like color (on functionalist view):

    • spatiotemporal properties = those properties that normally cause relevant experiences

  • Primitivist view: Spatiotemporal concepts are primitive, non-Twin-Earthable, unanalyzable

    • spatiotemporal expressions in base

Causal and nomic truths
Causal and Nomic Truths

  • Humean scrutability: Nomic truths are scrutable from non-nomic truths (e.g. spatiotemporal truths)

    • Base involves spatiotemporal mosaic?

  • Non-Humean view: Nomic truths are not scrutable from non-nomic truths

    • Base involves laws of nature?

Conceivability heuristic
Conceivability Heuristic

  • Test case: Can we conceive that all the non-nomic truths obtain and the nomic truths are different?

    • E.g. conceivability of Giant Cosmic Coincidence world

    • Pair of Tooley worlds with different laws of nature for uninstantiated interactions

Which nomic expressions
Which Nomic Expressions?

  • If we need nomic expressions in the base, then which?

  • Arguably, law (or it is naturally necessary that) is more fundamental than cause?

  • If the world is nondeterministic, we may also need chance.

Phenomenal truths
Phenomenal Truths

  • Type-A materialist: Phenomenal truths are a priori scrutable from physical truths (and from nomic/spatiotemporal truths?)

    • analytic functionalist, eliminativist, ...

  • Phenomenal realist: Phenomenal truths are not a priori scrutable from physical truths (or...)

    • Type-B materialist, dualist, panpsychist, ...

Analyzing phenomenal truths
Analyzing Phenomenal Truths

  • Are phenomenal concepts analyzable in some other (non-functionalist) way?

  • Intentionalist: phenomenal redness = phenomenally representing (external, primitive?) redness

  • Naive realist: phenomenal redness = veridical perception of red object, or hallucination thereof?

  • Panprotopsychist: phenomenal truths scrutable from protophenomenal truths?


  • Quiddities: The “hidden” categorical bases of fundamental microphysical dispositions

    • E.g. property X plays the charge role

  • View 1: No quiddities distinct from roles

  • View 2: Numerically distinct quiddities

  • View 3: Substantial graspable quiddities

  • View 4: Substantial ungraspable quiddities

Quiddistic scrutability
Quiddistic Scrutability

  • Are all quiddistic truths scrutable from role truths?

  • Arguably yes on views 1, 2, 4 (though...)

  • Plausibly no on view 3 (thick quidditism)

    • View 3 involves conceptual quidditism and plausibly leads to epistemological quidditism

    • It’s conceivable that X plays the charge role and that Y plays that charge role

Quiddistic expressions
Quiddistic Expressions

  • If epistemological quidditism is correct, we’ll need quiddistic expressions in the base

    • Phenomenal? (panpsychism)

    • Protophenomenal? (panprotopsychism)

    • Secondary qualities? (pancolorism)

    • Other? (humility re intrinsics)

Compression using laws
Compression Using Laws

  • Given determinism: boundary conditions plus laws?

  • Given probabilistic laws: boundary conditions plus laws plus ...

  • Specifiable using description of countable length?

Other minimization issues
Other Minimization Issues

  • Which indexicals?

  • Which logical expressions?

  • Which mathematical expressions?

  • Categorical expressions?

  • That’s-all expressions?


  • Four major choice points:

    • Spatiotemporal expressions: yes or no

    • Nomic expressions: yes or no

    • Phenomenal expressions: yes or no

    • Quiddities: yes or no

  • Sixteen resulting potential bases?

  • N.B. Pluralism remains possible, depending on issues about conceptual priority.

Sixteen packages
Sixteen Packages

  • SNPQ, SNP, ..., S, N, P, -

  • -: yields Newman’s problem?

  • P: yields phenomenalism or Humean panpsychism?

  • S: Lewis’s Humean scrutability?

  • N: nomic structuralism

  • My view: NP, or NQ (with protophenomena), or perhaps NPQ

Principled scrutability bases
Principled Scrutability Bases

  • Narrow Scrutability: Base is non-Twinearthable

  • Primitive Scrutability: Base involves primitive concepts

  • Acquaintance Scrutability: Base involves objects of acquaintance (epistemically rigid concepts?)

  • Fundamental Scrutability: Base involves metaphysical fundamentals (plus...)

  • Structural Scrutability: Base involves relations