A technician explains measurements whilst a scientist explains observations.

What is New Empiricism?

New Empiricism addresses the simple observations and questions of everyday life such as: 'when I say "now!" how do I hear a word that is in the past?' or 'when I look in a mirror I cannot see my eyes move so what am I seeing while they move?' and integrates these into a scientific description of our human and physical world. It delivers descriptions of our experience in simple terms and then asks what sort of theory can explain these descriptions.

New Empiricism holds that our experience, our mind, is a real phenomenon that will, one day, have a physical explanation and that we should not declare that it is supernatural and inexplicable or use school physics to deny that it exists.

The various articles on New Empiricism are listed in the Table of Contents on the left.

A good starting point is the "Introduction to New Empiricism" and "Time and conscious experience" treats the subject in more depth. If you find yourself bridling at the novelty of this approach and feel it should be dismissed try "Perceiving perception" and "Materialists should read this first" which provide arguments about why you might believe your own experience.

The purpose of this site is to try to alert research workers to the possibility that our conscious experience may be localised in our brains. Bizarre as it may seem to lay visitors, many philosophers and neuroscientists are materialists or dualists and absolutely refuse to countenance the possibility that conscious experience is localised and would actively discourage research on the matter as pointless (See "Where is conscious experience?").

New Empiricism is not just academic or agitating for research, it has consequences such as the insight that digital computers with defined states for each clock pulse cannot have conscious experience and that if God exists He would exist as part of, or the whole of, what we call the physical world. It also has consequences for what is called free will", suggesting that our will is the result of training (See "Conscious free will and empiricism").

New Empiricism is an updated form of William James' Radical Empiricism. Like James it takes the view that our experience can be inspected and analysed and should not be dismissed on the basis of theory. Although there is considerable overlap with James' empirical observations the analysis of New Empiricism is inclined towards indirect and representational realism. (It should not be confused with the 'New Empiricism' movement in architecture).

New Empiricism is a scientific approach which recognises that we can compare our conscious experience and treat our observations scientifically. The most probable physical explanation of our conscious experience is that dimensional time exists and spacetime has a geometry that permits point observation (See An Introduction to New Empiricism). However, the objective of New Empiricism is not to provide certainties, it is to demonstrate that materialism and dualism are in error and that other hypotheses are needed if we are to explain "mind".

If a scientist were to find a phenomenon where the current theory (physical description) of that phenomenon did not correspond to the reality of observations then he would rub his hands with glee. He would have found that most elusive of situations: a chance to expand scientific theory. Philosophers on the other hand have a tendency to dismiss observations that do not correspond to theory, I hope the articles on this web site might convince them otherwise.

Our conscious experience is a projective geometrical space and projective geometry was developed to describe it so that artists could produce a convincing appearance for their pictures. Physics in three dimensions will not be adequate for a description of a projective space such as our experience. Many people have spotted that there is a difference between physical theory and the reality of experience but it would be nice to see more people adapting physical theory to remove the difference.

3 comments:

  1. New Empiricism holds that “our experience, our mind, is a real phenomenon that will, one day, have a physical explanation.” I show that a physical explanation will never be possible, where by “physical explanation” means that it will be shown to be a property of matter.
    We must distinguish between objective science and subjective science. Objective science involves itself exclusively with the rules governing the behavior of matter. Subjective science deals with the personal, individual experiences of each human being. All objective phenomena must be detectable and measurable entirely by material means. This implies that experiments to detect any property of matter must be possible to perform using material means only and not having to rely on the truth of reporting a human experience. This means that consciousness cannot be a material property because if it were, it would be objectively detectable by physical means.
    In physics a magnetic field can be objectively detected by its properties of inducing a current in a wire. The magnetic field is therefore detectable physically. Its definition is expressed only in terms of its properties. Therefore physical instruments can objectively detect a magnetic field through its properties and any person can repeat such detection to confirm its validity.
    Consciousness, being a human experience, is by definition a subjective. The only possible verification of any subjective experience is by the experiencer - the subject itself. Therefore we cannot provide an objective detection of consciousness.
    Subjective experiences are by definition the experience of an individual and no individual can testify objectively to any experience of another. Objectively I cannot even prove that any of you reading this are subjective beings, experiencing all that I experience, rather than zombies, acting in every way like a subjective being, but not experiencing anything.
    And that is the core of the matter of consciousness. Any observations of brain activity signify only the correlation between an experience, which is subjective, and the objective detection of brain activation, and not a detection of the experience itself.
    The only explanation of the mind-body problem, which can explain all the numerous experiences which are being reported, is that the mind is the seat of our consciousness, it is the real us, and is quite different from the material bod. It is a separate non-material entity which can only experience the physical world using a physical brain and body as its instrument. Such an explanation uses only subjective evidence because objective evidence is impossible.
    No future discoveries can possibly objectively prove that consciousness is a property of matter. Suppose a physicist in future, claims to have found a "Consciousness Field" (CF) which can be detected objectively with a special CF Meter. How could any other physicist test this objectively?
    As an example, consider the magnetic field, a property of matter, which is invisible, but objectively proved to exist. It is defined in terms of its objective physical properties. Anything that has those must be a magnetic field. Someone's statement how they felt, or what they saw, or what they felt in a magnetic field are subjective, so they cannot be used as objective tests. The magnetic field is nothing more than the set of its physical properties.
    The only “thing” that can detect consciousness is a conscious being. Nothing outside this being can detect consciousness of that being.
    Take for example a future intelligent robot which can respond to questions by humans just like a human would. How can we prove or disprove the existence of consciousness in such a being? The only possible way is through psychological testing, which only gives subjective results. Therefore my claim stands and cannot be disproved by any future scientific progress.
    This topic forms one of my arguments for our spirituality in my Kindle book “A Scientist’s God” which only uses logic and our experience, avoiding any religious dogma.

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  2. These are interesting points that touch on the difference between measurement and observation and the nature of "science".

    When a photon strikes an atom it makes a measurement, there is an energy exchange. A measurement by itself is not science - photons strike atoms continually - the measurement only has a significance if it is part of a structure such as a photon-atom-detector apparatus. Each part of such an apparatus will be subject to perpetual energy exchanges but it is only particular sequences in particular directions that create an observation.

    The scientist uses structured measurements to create an observation. Each part of an observation, each energy exchange, is meaningless in itself. What imbues the assembly of observations with meaning is the simultaneity and time extension of the view within the scientist. It is this that creates a scientific observation, not the act of measurement.

    The scientific method is the method by which scientists describe how to replicate observations. Other scientists can then perform experiments to obtain similar observations. Science is the application of the minds of scientists to the analysis of events in the physical world. It is not the sum of random point energy exchanges in measuring instruments.

    Science is empirical and involves scientists as observers. Hence New Empiricism.

    Even if you do not read the other articles on this site that reinforce the argument given above, your statement:

    "This implies that experiments to detect any property of matter must be possible to perform using material means only and not having to rely on the truth of reporting a human experience."

    is still rather extreme. You can discount psychology as a science by fiat but it is still regarded as science by many scientists.

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  3. PS: On the subject of measurement and whether there can be a science of our experience you might read: The limits of Empiricism

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