Friday, 14 November 2014

Thresholds

"...thresholds exist throughout reality...things on their far sides are altogether different from things on their hither sides."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 1.

I am beginning to think that every opening page among Poul Anderson's works contains a significant statement worth quoting like this.

Hegel wrote that quantity affects quality. The trivial example is that the quantitative increase to 100 degrees Centigrade causes a qualitative change in water at sea level from liquid to gas but where are the main thresholds in reality?

A heated inanimate object is hot whereas a sufficiently sensitive organism feels hot;

cerebral processing of sensory inputs qualitatively transforms mere sensations like hotness into the perception that an external object is hot and a source of heat;

increased intellectuality includes the ability to analyze the concept of "heat."

Here are at least three thresholds: analysis of heat is "...altogether different from..." mere perception of heat which is different from the mere sensation of hotness which is different from mere physical heat. Any reductionist philosopher who claims that conscious processes are "nothing but" large numbers of unconscious processes is wrong. There are irreducible qualitative differences. Human beings already stand on the far sides of several thresholds. In Poul Anderson's "The Saturn Game," they cross another. 

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