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Analysis

Applying the principles of empiricism, simplicity and making all assumptions explicit to philosophical questions challenges Platonic idealism that dominates many philosophical approaches.3 It is particularly difficult to make all philosophical assumptions explicit. One needs to avoid fundamental intuitive concepts like extension in physical space. Purging these from metaphysics removes questions from philosophy. They either migrate to mathematics and physics or are no longer considered meaningful. The result is that the only undefined primitive concepts are conscious experience plus the two primitives of mathematics. Analyzing down to the level of the empty set underscores the ultimate emptiness of analysis.

There is no metaphysical significance to the empty set and set membership by design. They are one of many possible alternative bases for all analysis. Their advantage is their obvious lack of inherent properties or structure. Something similar happens whenever analysis can be fully applied. For example any computer can be analyzed down to the simplest of logical operations such as AND OR and NOT.4 A common mistake in analysis is to see this is possible and draw conclusions about the ultimate nature of the thing being analyzed. A good example is Richard Dawkins' analysis where he pits gene selection against group selection in the The Selfish Gene as if they were diametrically opposed[6, 8]. A high level abstraction like group selection can only work if it is compatible with the lower level abstraction, gene selection. However, the high level abstraction is often the best way to understand what happens. For example group selection explains why the cells in our body cooperate to create who each of us is[29, 135]. There is little point in analyzing a Pentium computer into individual logic circuits because it contains hundreds of millions of them. Contemporary high end computers are designed and understood in terms of high level abstractions. The analysis needed to complete the design of a new computer into individual logic circuits is almost entirely automated.

Analysis can be done at many levels of abstraction. None are more correct or reveal the true nature of reality, although some are more detailed and complete perhaps at the expense of overwhelming complexity. Levels of abstraction are chosen for their convenience and practicality.

Intrinsic nature does not exist when analysis can be carried out in complete detail. Ultimately it exists only in conscious experience. Assuming there are fundamental entities with an intrinsic nature masks the implicit structure that underlies intuition about them. This can lead to endless pointless arguments between people with different and/or internally inconsistent intuition.

This apparent disconnect between physical structure and the intrinsic nature in conscious experience is an ancient issue in both Western and Eastern philosophy.

Though heavily contingent upon a physical base - including neural networks, brain cells and sensory faculties - the mental realm enjoys a status separate from the material world. From the Buddhist perspective, the mental realm cannot be reduced to the world of matter, though it may depend upon that world to function. With the exception of one materialist school in India, most ancient Indian and Tibetan philosophical schools agree on the impossibility of reducing the mental to a subset of the physical.[5, 126]

Historically `reducing' meant explaining the structure and essence of a complex entity in terms of its constituent elements. In contemporary science, one phenomena is reducible to another if the second can completely explain all measurable aspects of the first. Many scientists believe that chemistry is in theory reducible to physics and biology is in theory reducible to chemistry and physics even though they are far from being able to carry out these reductions in many practical cases[30].

The fundamental entities of contemporary physics are the equations and constants of the Standard Model of quantum mechanics. This essence free abstract mathematics is connected to physical reality through experimental technique and not through the intrinsic nature of fundamental entities. Reductionism, in the scientific sense, has no functional need for the intrinsic nature in conscious experience sometimes labeled as qualia.


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