Cigar Review: Drew Estate Papa’s Fritas


I’ve been remiss not reviewing one of my go-to smokes the Papa’s Fritas from our friends at Drew Estate.

Made from the same tobaccos as the Liga 9 series, this stick has a mix of short and long fillers. That is, I suppose, part of how they keep the price down, using leftover leaf from the larger, higher priced, cigars. The cigar is 4.5″ long by 42 ring. Nice and firm all the way around. Dark slightly oily wrapper with some dark/light color variation that shows the seams. Cold smell gives off earth, a little barnyard, and tobacco.

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf maduro

Binder: Brazil Mata Fina

Filler: Nicaraguan and Honduran

The cap has a prominent tail. I’ve noticed when I cut these the cap tends to come off and the wrapper starts unrolling. It seems the best way to open these is to look at the direction of the twist in the tail, grip it, and twist in the same direction while holding onto the cap. You get a neat little hole giving a perfect draw. Sometimes the cap comes off as you smoke, but the wrapper doesn’t unroll. It helps to moisten the cap before you do this.

The smoking experience is nothing short of wonderful. Medium in strength, full in flavor. So many flavors come in and out. There is only a little pepper and lots of earth, wood, leather, some coffee, and roasted nut. As you smoke along the earth tones down and a sweetness like brown sugar comes up. Pepper stays mild throughout. The cigar produces lots of creamy smoke and the burn line stays even. I’ve rarely had to correct one of these. I think having some short filler actually helps here. Draw is perfect for me and stays consistent throughout the smoke which goes a consistent 55 minutes, sometimes more. The stick stays flavorful down as far as you can smoke it without burning your lips. While their appearance is a little rough I like that, and there is nothing rough about the way it smokes.

The Papa’s Fritas originally retailed around $6/stick, but these days, if you buy at the box level (50 cigars/box), you find them around $4.50 even without any discounts.  Using some of the standard discounts from places like Famous, you can get them for about $4.15/stick. Although this is not my absolute favorite cigar it’s up there in my top 10, maybe even my top 5.  As goes bang for the buck I can’t think of a single stick that beats this one. This is one heck of a great cigar for its price. Highly recommended!



Process, Substance, Time, and Space


If we examine the cosmos and its history we face what appears to be an amalgamation of process and substance. Substance refers to the objects and types of things that appear to comprise the physical universe, all the objects that occupy space from gas molecules to galaxies and everything in between including ourselves. Substance might also include such abstract objects as numbers and ideas. Process is what animates this collection, the transformation of substance into other substance or into new arrangements of substances. There has long been a dialectic in western metaphysics between philosophers who take substance and those who take process to be the foundation of reality.

“Radical monism”, a substance view, argues there is really only one substance, the universe taken as a whole. Apart from certain Eastern religions, radical monism has been out of philosophical vogue for many centuries. Substance ontologists today, the Western ones at least, are pluralists. They may argue as concerns the particulars that comprise the foundational “furniture of the universe” but most accept that the furniture is plural; the universe has more than one real thing in it.

Substance-first ontologists all accept that substance participates in processes. No philosopher today accepts the Parmenidian idea that the universe is fundamentally static and all the dynamics are illusion. Process philosophers, by contrast, argue that process is not only fundamental, but that all of what we commonly take to be substance is, under the surface, nothing but process nested in other process. Substance is, if not an illusion, nothing more than the way process external to observing minds manifest to the processes that comprise those minds. They defend this view on the grounds of parsimony. Process “all the way down” is said to be simpler than an ontology of both process and substance.

But simpler does not automatically better represent of the world. Nicholas Rescher is a contemporary process philosopher and pragmatist as concerns such things as the progress of science. He believes that scientific progress is measured in the control it gives us over the world. In Rescher’s view, to the extent that control has been purchased with implicit substance-grounded ontologies (from quarks to galaxies) there is nothing wrong with a substance viewpoint. It has obviously (that is pragmatically) been useful. But Rescher maintains that while useful heuristically, substance is not fundamental while process is. He notes that process cannot be derived from a purely substance view of things, while substance can be derived from a purely process view. Substances, at least what we ordinarily think of substances are, metaphysically speaking, only nested processes.

Although the concrete particulars of the world might perhaps be envisioned from a purely process-centric viewpoint, I do not think this view encompasses everything as Rescher intends that it should. In what is, in my opinion, one of the seminal examinations of cosmology in the 21st century, “The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time” Roberto Unger (philosopher) and Lee Smolin (cosmologist, quantum-gravity physicist) have offered up what they call a “proposal in natural philosophy”. Centuries ago “natural philosophy” was a phrase meant to encompass all the sciences as science was understood in those days. Today the phrase is not much used, but Unger and Smolin invoke it deliberately because in principle the work encompasses all of science although the book’s focus is cosmology. Their argument leans heavily on process.

To summarize the outcome of their view (not the arguments for it), time is real. In fact time is the only brute and non-emergent reality in the universe and must therefore go back (prior to the big bang) and forward indefinitely. Everything else, space, the cosmological settings, even the laws of physics (descriptive and not antecedently controlling) evolved to their present values in time. To be sure some of these evolved in the earliest moments of the universe and have remained quasi-constant ever since, but it remains true (for Unger and Smolin) that the regularities and constants of the universe emerged as they did through a process of evolutionary change and might have fallen out having other values. This all means that process cannot occur in the absence of time even though, at universe extremes (the opening Planck times of the big bang for example), process might be entirely lawless and irregular.

Compare this to Rescher’s answer to the question “what is process?” from his book “Process Philosophy: A Survey of Basic Issues” (2000 U. of Pittsburgh digital books collection)

“A process is an actual or possible occurrence that consists of an integrated series of connected developments unfolding in programmatic coordination: an orchestrated series of occurrences that are systematically linked to one another either causally or functionally. … A natural process by its very nature passes on to the future a construction made from the materials of the past. All processes have a developmental, forward-looking aspect. … The inherent futurition of process is an exfoliation of the real by successively actualizing possibilities that are subsequently left behind as the process unfolds.”

This quote fits rather well into what Unger and Smolin believe concerning time. Rescher does claim (elsewhere in the same book) that process always takes place in time, but he also claims, somewhat contradictorily, that time, like space, is emergent. That would make time dependent (emergent from) causal process (in the manner of Michael Tooley’s “Time, Tense, and Causation” (1997) Clarendon Press). But something has to be real and non-emergent unless the universe is a case of emergence from nothing. Rescher points to quantum mechanics as an example of a physical realm that appears to be nothing but process. David Albert (“After Physics” (2015) Harvard Univ. Press) would seem to agree with him arguing that the Schrodinger wave (a process) is a sort of holographic fundamental source of substance and not the other way around.

In her book “Understanding our Unseen Reality: Solving Quantum Riddles” (2015 Imperial College Press) Ruth Kastner offers up another possibility. Her transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics suggests that the solution to quantum riddles lies in quantum phenomena occurring outside spacetime. This is not some supernatural realm, it is still physical, causal but not deterministic. Instead, it is fundamentally random. But the measurement problem and the mystery of action at a distance fall out easily from her idea that at the quantum level, process lies outside spacetime. No energy is exchanged in quantum “virtual transactions” until they become “real transactions” and emerge into spacetime subject to measurement. In exchange for an expanded ontology, timeless and spaceless physics, Kastner’s idea fully resolves quantum riddles without explaining them away. For example, action at a distance seems faster than light, in fact infinitely fast from a temporal perspective because the effect is atemporal.

If Kastner is right, then for Unger and Smolin time can’t cover everything. In particular it doesn’t cover the quantum realm of virtual transactions. But Kastner doesn’t claim that time (or space) are emergent from the quantum realm, only that virtual transactions emerge into spacetime becoming real transactions in which energy/information is exchanged. Unger and Smolin are safe because in their view the present universe did not begin with an infinite singularity. For their part, infinities belong in mathematics, but not in physics. “There are no infinities in the physical universe.” The big bang proceeded from some fantastically dense, hot, pressured, tiny region, but not literally a mathematical point of infinite density. Something proceeded the big bang in time, but not in space, or at least not in our space.

So long as we limit ourselves to the spacetime realm, time can “go all the way down” and remain non-emergent. It is conceivable that the same quantum realm (Kastner likens it to the underwater part of an iceberg, much larger than what sticks out above the surface) underlies all of indefinite time. That is, this universe along with its predecessors and successors rest on the same timeless and spaceless quantum realm. What about Rescher? As concerns spacetime he is unaffected by Kastner, but he must abandon his idea that quantum process is necessarily temporal. It seems reasonable to anoint it with the ‘process’ appellation, but it becomes atemporal process.

I think Rescher gets into trouble if he tries to apply his system to such notions as the cosmological constants. The proton/electron mass ratio (1836.15267389) is nothing but a dimensionless number, certainly not a process and perhaps does not belong in a catalog (ontology) of the physical. But it does represent a fixed physical relation. It is not just any arbitrary number. Its value is absolutely vital to the composition of all the substance (if any) and the way all causal process unfolds in the universe.

If we try to substitute process language for substance language as concerns mass we cannot make sense of the notion of ratio. Rescher has not to my knowledge shown us how to reduce something as substantively fundamental as mass to process. Functionally speaking we can measure mass by its effect on spacetime and this effecting is a process, but a thing’s effect is not the thing in itself only a proxy for it. Rescher has not given us an example of a process that is input, sequence, and result simultaneously; atemporally. By his own definition a process requires time.

This brings me to Edward Jonathan Lowe. Lowe is my favorite philosopher not because of what he says but because he writes so clearly and unfolds his arguments so well. Alas he passed away a couple of years ago at the young age of 54 with many books yet to write. Lowe is a substance ontologist but his aim is much narrower than that of Unger, Smolin, and Rescher. He is not trying to formulate an ontology that covers the historicity of the universe, but rather a simple way of dividing up what we find in the universe now so we can talk about it consistently.

Lowe’s best known book “The Four Category Ontology” (2006 Clarendon Press) is an effort to find a minimal description with which we can relate (to one another) the qualities of what we find in the present universe including both substances and processes. Lowe does not deny that there are processes. The point of the Four Category Ontology is not to find the fundamental substance of the universe but rather to develop a simple scheme by which we can characterize what seems to be the case about the substance and process of the universe as this is reflected in mind. All the categories of the scheme and the relations between them are not a part of the ontology itself. A crucial point with which Lowe avoids set-paradoxes. The categories as such are mental constructs. This is not to say that mental constructs, for example concepts, cannot be fit into the ontology. Lowe’s goal was to find a scheme that works under various views of what is real.

The four categories and some of the relations between them are sketched crudely below. [I could not get this drawing to come out right, so imagine there are vertical lines between the four corners so forming a square] Objects are the stuff of the physical world, but they can be abstract like sets, particular concepts, or processes. Note that objects can be particular instances of various kinds. A particular cat is an instantiation of felines, mammals, and animals. Similarly objects can have many tropes. A particular green apple has a specific shade of green, a certain mass, size, shape, etc.

Kind/Type ————- Attributes


Objects ————- Modes/Tropes

Kinds –> Characterized by Attributes, instantiated by objects
Objects –> Characterized by Modes, instantiate kinds
Attributes –> Exemplified by Objects

Material objects fit the scheme easily. A green apple is an object. It instantiates the kinds apple, fruit, and plant. It’s attributes include mass, size, color, while its modes are its particular mass, color, and size, etc. What about that proton/electron mass ratio? The number is not particularly a problem. It is, for Lowe an abstract object in this case a set of one member, that number (1836.15267389). It is an instantiation of the kind/type/class number which, in turn, is characterized by the attribute property magnitude. It’s specific mode (property) is the proton/electron mass ratio. But Lowe has a problem with non-intrinsic relations being in the ontology.

That Mo is three inches taller than Joe is a relation and there is even a dimensionless number that is the ratio of their two heights. But the relation’s properties all belong to Mo and Joe as such. Nothing is “added to the universe” by noting the Mo/Joe height ratio. The relation isn’t intrinsic to the pair. Lowe doesn’t think this kind of extrinsic relation belongs in the ontology at all. But imagine the continuation of life on Earth was dependent on the Mo/Joe height ratio. If Mo grows taller or shorter, the ratio would change and all life on Earth would cease. Suddenly this extrinsic relation is no longer arbitrary and its value, in the cosmological case, depending on the mass of the proton and electron is a lynch-pin in our physics without which the cosmos would unravel. Something is added to the universe by this ratio, namely the capacity of process to generate stars, galaxies, and everything else with which we are familiar. Surely such a lynch-pin belongs in our ontology and clearly it is not itself a process! As goes process, Lowe says:

“A process, then, might be thought of either as being a temporally extended trope, or as being composed by a temporal succession of different momentary tropes, depending on whether or not the process is a qualitatively unvarying one.”

One of Rescher’s examples (of a process) is evaporation. Evaporation occurring in a certain puddle would be the specific process, our particular object. It is an instance (type) of evaporation which might have the attribute property of phase change, and a mode of evaporating.

Alas, I cannot ask Dr. Lowe his opinion of my use of the categories. But Lowe is open to the categories being used in various ways depending on the nature of the particular being characterized. Again his goal is not to identify the fundamental stuff of the universe, but to find a way to classify it all as it manifests particulars and their properties to mind. That Lowe is open to the fact that his scheme may not be the “last word” on the subject is another reason I like him. He is unafraid to pursue lines of reasoning that might lead him to “change his mind” as concerns some of his core commitments. He notes this possibility in several places of the aforementioned book as concerns events, processes, concepts, and other particulars that are not physical.

By contrast, I think Rescher commits an inductive error that might be called “the fallacy of abstraction”, the tendency, having discovered some aspect of truth to say that it encompasses the whole truth. Clearly Rescher identifies process as something that belongs in our ontology. But just as clearly, not everything that exists-as-such is a process. The cosmological constants are not processes though they certainly could be the outcomes of processes as they emerge into substance. The mass of protons (all baryons) results from the energy of quark/gluon interactions. Mass is therefore the result of process.  Is the outcome of that process, mass itself, also a process? The values of the constants cannot be processes and yet they are not arbitrary either. If any of them varied by much there would be no cosmos, or at least not one within which we could evolve.

An ontology that includes both processes and substances is more complex than an ontology having only one or the other. But as Einstein famously noted “A theory should be as simple as possible but no simpler”. I am quite willing to accept (along I believe with Unger and Smolin) that every substance in the universe emerged from process at some point in history beginning with the big bang. But having emerged it becomes past-fact and thereby perduring, if yet mutable (by process), substance. To assert that every such substance can be (theoretically) traced backwards in history to its emergence from process might be true. But having emerged it is substance now.

Cigar Review: Island Jim #2


This cigar, the “Island Jim #2” by Oscar is a 6.5″x50 Torpedo. Or it would be a torpedo if not for the black-wrapped open “pencil tip” of a head that, along with the artwork on the band (a portrait of Jim himself) makes this cigar distinct. There is no information on the composition of the tobacco in the blend or the binder/wrapper. This review from Stogiepress says that’s deliberate. The cold smell is sweet, light manure, hay, and barnyard. The head is open, the cigar can be smoked without cutting, but the draw is very very tight. If you cut the head as you would a normal torpedo the draw gets lighter.

On the other end, the cigar has a shaggy cut foot. I like shag cuts, they light really easily. No need to toast the foot, the shag is self toasting. A soft light is best. The shag lights easily and then lights the cigar itself at just the right temperature. Construction is great. The cigar looks rough, some prominant veins, a few lumps, but the pack is firm all the way around and the cold draw is right in the middle between too easy and too difficult for me. Given the rough look I expected some problems smoking, but the burn stayed even all the way down with one minor correction needed in the second half. Draw stayed even all the way along too. Good smoke output, nice, thick, creamy. This is a rough looking cigar on the outside, but very well constructed on the inside!


On lighting and letting it get into itself, you notice just a little pepper, a sweet woodiness, some leather, and maybe some grass. About one inch in flowers flit in and out along with some hay, brown sugar, and cedar. Later in the first half I sense some minty-chocolate which hangs around for a while. Roasted nut comes in in the second half and all these flavor layers are really good as I get to the last third of the cigar. They are not very deep flavors, but they do present themselves. For a 50 ring-gage stick it’s burning really well. Slow and even. I am an hour in as I cross the two inch line and at this point the flavors begin to fade back slowly leaving only the pepper as I get to the last inch. I let it go here.

Overall very nice, a solid medium-strength cigar with complex flavors although none really punch their way out. Smoked about an hour and twenty minutes to the last inch. Not bad. I got these on a deal at Rodrigo Cigars so they were under $5, and they are very good for that! They compare well with other good sticks in the $5-$6 range, but the vitola is larger than I like. I’m glad I tried them though. Those of you who favor bigger vitolas should certainly give them a go. I do recommend you get on Rodrigo’s mailing list (see link above). He carries only a few lines including his own shop-brand. He doesn’t send out many emails but there are often generous discounts and free samplers in his deals. Definitely worth checking out.

I’m pairing this stick with a Mocambo 20 year rum I’ve reviewed before.

Smoke hardy BOTLs & SOTLs

Cigar Review: Carnage by Nestor Plasencia


The Carnage is a new cigar from Nestor Plasencia. It is also an exclusive at famous smoke! The price is certainly good, about $3.75 and that’s without any of Famous Smoke’s common discounts. I have a mixed relationship with Plasencia cigars — counting those made at his factories like Rocky Patel. None make my top 10 list, but a few are decent, the Obsidian (Padilla), Casa Magna (might be in my top 10 at a lower price), and the 5 Vegas “Cask Strength” are examples. So Nestor set out to make a really good yet really inexpensive cigar in a deal likely opened by Famous Smoke. Not only inexpensive, Famous must have asked for something strong because this cigar will give you a buzz!

The cigar I’m reviewing was the first of a fresh batch so pretty much right off the truck. All the reviews rave about it especially for the price. A few are linked below. I have the Robusto, a classic 5″x54. There are 3 other vitolas. 7×50, 6×60, and 6×52.

Filler: Nicaraguan Seco, Viso, Ligero
Binder: Honduran Connecticut
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano

My construction grade is “A” (at least for my sample of 1). The cigar is smoothly wrapped with small lump or two here and there. It’s decently capped, evenly packed, but not dense. It isn’t a heavy cigar, but it isn’t a lightweight either. There are seams that you can see because the wrapper is a light brown and they show up, but they all look good and there are but tiny veins. Wrapper has a nice sheen to it, looks healthy and a color I’ve come to know as a “Colorado”. Straight cut was fine, draw perfect for me just a little resistance. Cold aroma had manure, hay, barnyard, and leather. Cold draw salt and cedar. A very good start.

I paired this cigar with black tea because I’d heard about its strength. I didn’t want rum to add alcohol to a first crack at a strong cigar. Strong cigars rarely make me ill, but it has happened, and I still get to a “too much of a good thing” point now and then.

When you light the cigar you can feel its strength almost immediately. A quarter inch in and I could feel a buzz. Nestor succeeded in giving this one strength. Smoke output is excellent, thick and creamy.  This is a very peppery cigar and that starts right away but strangely it waits to a sort of finishing flavor. You take a puff, retrohale, pretty smooth, but 5 seconds later the pepper comes up on you mouth and nose with a little hint of brown sugar behind it. The pepper stays with the cigar all the way to the end and gets stronger and more “up front” as you smoke. By the last inch it’s pretty much all pepper. Coincidence that I recently reviewed another peppery cigar the Asylum Lobotomy, but in that one, the pepper mingled with lots of other flavors. In the Carnage, the pepper starts out underneath flavors of leather, burning oak and some earthy barnyard but moves forward as the cigar smokes. I didn’t sense any fruit in it as this reviewer did, and the flavors were pretty subtle.

Basically the flavors were ok, but light and they didn’t change much throughout the cigar. A little mint came in and out from time to time and perhaps fresh hay or flowers made an appearance. At their strongest near the end of the first third, flavors faded more into the background as the pepper came forward in the second half. I can usually smoke a flavorful cigar down to a half inch at least, but this one I had to let go at one inch. There was still a little sweetness in the retrohale, but mostly there was pepper. The burn line stayed even all the way down and the cigar smoked slowly and evenly for an hour and ten. It would have gone another ten easily if the pepper hadn’t already trashed my palate. The strength stayed with it as well. I felt pleasantly buzzed all along this cigar but it never got overwhelming. I smoked it slowly and I didn’t take it past the last inch. When a cigar does get me, it’s usually in that last inch!

It is possible that more flavor will emerge with a little rest, and it might be great in a few months, who knows? I’ll keep trying them though. Meanwhile this is by far the strongest cigar I’ve ever smoked for $3.75 and construction was great so I’m not complaining. A great cigar? Probably no, but a very good cigar for the price! I look forward to seeing how these do with a little time.

Here are two other reviews, one from Tiny Tim and one from the Stogie Guys. Smoke hardy my BOTL & SOTL!

Cigar Review: Room 101 Namakubi Ecuador

EcuadorPapiChulo EcuadorParejo

Namakubi Ecuador in the small petit corona is at this time my single favorite cigar. I’ve smoked three vitolas of the same blend. The one smoked here is the largest “toro sized” perfecto at 6.5″x52 in the middle. The one I’m smoking today is the last of a box of 10 now about 18 months old. It’s taken me that long to go through 10 as these things smoke slowly for 2.5 hours! I like the little petit corona (4″x42) much better. The flavors in the corona are sweeter and smoking for 45-55 minutes I can get all the way to the nub without washing out my palate. The little one is called the “Papi Chulo” which, I am told, in Spanish is a kind of slang for a “daddy’s girl” if you know what I mean! The picture has images of both.

Wrapper: Ecuador Habano
Binder: Honduran Corojo (the binder on the papi chulo is said to be a proprietary “Generoso”)
Filler: Honduran and Dominican Vuelta Abajo

The wrapper and binder in particular come from the OSOK. There is supposed to be a “regular” Namakubi blend, same filler but with a different binder perhaps. A quick google search doesn’t turn up anything definitively different about it.

The wrapper on the perfecto (there are 3 perfecto sizes. I’m smoking the largest one today, but I’ve had both of the smaller as well) is a dark brown color. The corona is a little less dark but this is probably only box variation.

Construction of the parejo is superb. The cigar is heavy and well packed, but the draw, is good. A little tigher than I like, but only a little. The draw on the little corona is always perfect but the wrapper and cap can be a little rough as you can see in the second picture. Both cigars produce lots of smoke, very creamy, earth, hay, barnyard, leather. Occasionally roasted cashew and other sweet burning wood flavors come in and out. As I mentioned earlier, the parejo was a 2.5 hour cigar and by the time hour two rolled around my palate was somewhat dulled to it. But it never completely lost its nuttiness on the retrohale. I didn’t find a lot of pepper here. A little, but subdued all the way along the stick. These do keep flavors down to the end they just weren’t as strong to my palate at that point. That’s one of the reasons I like the papi chulo better. Maybe the bigger wrapper/filler ratio makes it even sweeter and the flavors stick around to the last 1/4 inch while you can still taste it.

But I have to say the perfecto smoked evenly all the way down. These are a pleasure to smoke. The perfectos go for $7 to about $9 depending on the size while the papi chulo go for $6 each. That is a stretch for me in a petit corona, but how can I be without my favorite cigar?

Review: Alec Bradley “The Burner” Table Top Lighter


A quick applause to Alec Bradley for this delightful table top lighter. This is the coolest lighter I have ever owned. It looks cool and works great!

Look at the picture! The gas tank is the base of the lighter and it is a whopper holding several ounces of propane. I use it every day and fill it once a month. The burner head looks like a mushroom sprouting from the base, with slanted sides and a small flat top. From one side comes the handle with an easily accessed button you push in to light. Coming off the handle is the spark wire, nice and thick, very rugged it hangs over the burner head sparking between its point and the head to light the gas. Opposite the handle is the gas valve. One full turn is usually good to light. As the lighter burns the head warms up and the flame grows in size. You merely adjust the valve a bit to get the flame you want. All in all it has a great techie look 3.5 inches tall and 6 inches from end to end it doesn’t take up much room on the table. It’s pretty rugged too. I dropped it on a wood floor once. Landed on the burner but no damage occurred.

Notice the large soft flame, one of the best things about this lighter. A soft blue gas flame (like an old fashioned gas stove) is hotter than the yellow flame of most soft-flame style propane lighters and the flame’s area toasts and lights any cigar very quickly. Its advantages are many, but it does have a few disadvantages..

If you are like me and like to make small corrections to a cigar’s burn line it’s a bit difficult to do with this lighter. All the other disadvantages have to do with using the lighter outdoors. I smoke on a porch so I use it outside. First it is very sensitive to wind. It resists being blown out pretty well, but even a small breeze will cause the flame to dance all over the place making it difficult to find the heat. Second, the flame is pretty much invisible in daylight. Not just direct sun, but any normal daylight. Dim light before dawn or just after sunset is ok, but the lighter is at its best in the dark.

Price around $50 retail “the Burner” is available from most of the online shops that sell Alec Bradley cigars. I’ve had mine for a couple of years now. I enjoy using it very much!

Smoke hardy BOTL & SOTL

Physics and the Evidence for Non-Material Consciousness


There is an old story of the net and the fishermen. A net having a weave that lets any object smaller than 10 inches long slip through it. Fishermen cast the net in the lake and harvest fish always ten inches long or longer. The fishermen mistakenly conclude that there are no fish in the lake smaller than 10 inches. Philosophy 101 students easily recognize the fishermen’s mistake. If there were fish in the lake smaller than 10 inches they would slip through the net.

Now imagine that there is some constraint on these fishermen that prevents them from weaving nets any more finely than they have. Is there any other means by which they might acquire evidence of fish smaller than ten inches long? As it happens there is. They can take some of the larger fish, keep them alive in captivity, and mate them. If successful, they would see that fish lay eggs, eggs hatch into little fishlings, and little fishlings, properly fed, grow into fish ten or more inches long! Having done this sort of thing many times, our fishermen can correctly induct, from many particular observations, that there are indeed fish in the lake smaller than ten inches because those smaller fish are the descendents of the bigger fish and one day will become bigger fish themselves.

Although the analogy is imperfect, physics, that is the present state of our body of science, has something in common with that net. Our senses and all the instruments and physics we can derive from them are physical. No matter how refined we make our instruments they are physical things and cannot measure or detect anything that isn’t also a physical thing. Quantum mechanics doesn’t help here. Ruth Kastner (“The Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics”) goes so far as to conclude that the solution to various quantum puzzles is to locate quantum phenomena outside of spacetime. But they remain very much physical nevertheless. As genuinely random quantum phenomena emerge into spacetime they become deterministic, fully participating in the time-bound causal web, subject to causal closure.

No one, even died-in-the-wool physicalists, deny that there is any logical proof of the absence of anything real that isn’t physical, but nevertheless most commit themselves to the proposition that no non-physical entity can be real based on the capacity of physics to explain itself. There are also those who simply define ‘reality’ in such a way as to preclude anything that isn’t physical from being real, and therefore chalk up anything historically aduced for such reality to utter illusion, a mirage.

As with the problem of the net, we ask if there is any possible evidence for there being something real in the universe that isn’t physical? Unlike with the fish, we cannot merely encompass some part of the physical and watch it to see if it produces something non-physical. We can try of course. Experiments and observations have been going on since Newton, some would say since Galileo, without such a transformation ever being wittnessed. Scientists and philosophers have long conceded that the non-physical, should it exist, cannot in principle be detected and measured with physical instruments, the only kind we can build. They further concede that it is, technically, an inductive error to conclude there is nothing other than the physical in the universe based on this incapacity alone. What warrants that further conclusion is the observation that physics is causally closed on itself. It is one thing to concede that we could not in principle measure anything non-physical. But when we measure that which is physical, we discover that these measurements alone fulfill all explanatory requirements for the present state-of-the-universe. Physical causes and nothing but physical causes result in all the effects we can measure throughout the cosmos. Physical causes result only in physical effects and physical effects spring from nothing more than physical causes.

For my purposes, as with physics, ‘reality’ is associated with causal efficacy in the physical. Anything that is or can become a cause in the physical is real. Cause is to be taken to mean “contributing cause”. It need not be the sole cause, nor the physically proximate cause. To be a cause it is only required that some physical effect is the ultimate result. The causal closure hypothesis is related to the observation that physical effects have, at least, physical proximate causes. All meassurable physical effects seem to have, immediate antecedents that are also physical. But this does not preclude the existence of non-physical causes. For a non-physical cause to be real, it is only necessary that a subjective observer be able to connect up a purported cause and an effect measureable in the world. I will have more to say about this “connecting up”.

Among modern philosophers there are some (Chalmer’s, Nagel, Lowe, Haskers, Foster, O’Connor, and others) who push back on the physicalist claim. They argue that there is reason to believe that there is something both real and non-physical in the universe, specifically consciousness, that is a subjective through which we experience anything at all including our observation of the physical. Physicalists rejoin that this phenomenon, consciousness, is not a “non-material reality”. It is merely a way of viewing the material itself. A rain cloud looks very different from above and below, but both views are merely different perspectives of the same single thing. We confirm this assertion by tracing, physically, from the top to the bottom of the cloud and determine that it is the same entity viewed two different ways.

This does not appear to be possible as concerns consciousness. No physics has ever traced, physically, all the way from subjective experience to the physics (technically biology — brain states) that purportedly underlies it. Many (mostly scientists) argue that we just haven’t got there yet and we will someday make that tracing. Others, many more of them philosophers, argue that the physicalist rejoinder is more hubris than reality. That it might turn out impossible, in principle, to ever make that mapping. Of course this doesn’t mean brain states have nothing to do with consciousness for obviously they do. What it means is that consciousness is not (or may not be) merely “another view” of brain states.

I am not going to address those arguments here but I am going to explore the question whether or not this phenomenon we call consciousness is in fact evidence and in what way it is evidence for the existence of something real that is beyond the reach of physics because it is non-physical?

For any evidence to be evidence, the phenomenon for which it is adduced has to be real. There cannot be evidence for anything that is by definition unreal. At the same time any evidence, if it is evidence of anything at all, has to emerge from, or become available to, our subjective experience as observers. The evidence must appear in consciousness. From our own subjective points of view there is no evidence of anything in the universe, physical or otherwise, that doesn’t emerge in or through our experience — aided or unaided by instruments or quintessentially mental formalisms like logic.

How do we fare here as concerns consciousness? Its reality is one of the matters in question here. The independent reality of consciousness is controversial. We cannot demonstrate, physically, that it is real. On the otherhand, as all evidence of any kind emerges through experience it seems strange to insist that our experience is nothing but illusion. What happens to the evidential status of physics itself if the consciousness that interprets physical evidence as such is only an illusion? Can evidence be real if the status of the “evidence interpreter” is not? What happens to the truth status of the proposition “physics is causally closed” if the subjective arena asserting that proposition is an illusion? This threat to the veracity of physics is a real problem for physicalists who insist that consciousness cannot be real. It at least suggests that it might be real, that its reality cannot be ruled out by fiat and might have to be accepted for the sake of our seeming capacity to comprehend the world.

The evidence for the non-material character of consciousness also emerges in consciousness! An idea cannot be weighed but it nevertheless appears that ideas are instrumental in the process of moving our bodies and thus our capacity to control aspects of the world confirming the correspondence between experience and physics. All of human society, our technological infrastructure, political institutions, and history are a function of this relation between quintessentially non-material ideas and the physical world. Somewhere in the distant past lies an ancestor, a hunter-gatherer who carried a club and a piece of chipped flint. Having both of these objects and a knowledge of making rope or twine from plant stems, this ancestor thought to attempt tying the flint and the club together producing something novel and more utilitarian than either the flint or club alone. An idea became a physical thing, an axe, through the controlled (purposeful) movement of a body that tied the flint and club together.

Many of the actions we take appear, to experience, related to the ideas we have. Using our bodies, we can pattern the physical by mapping ideas onto it. This is what I spoke of above as a “connecting up”. That I use an idea, a mental picture perhaps of some intended physical end-product, along with appropriate motions of my body, to produce that end product. The connection between the idea and the end product is obvious and immediate to us. It is not a connection between the physical and something non-physical outside of ourselves (magic unicorns perhaps), but between ourselves (subjective experience), our bodies, and the final physical output. We understand that our physical hands fashioned the physical end-product and that our hands moved in response to physical nerve impulses. The connection backs up to what it was that set those nerve impulses in action; a non-physical idea coupled with a non-physical intent to attempt its mapping into the physical.

We take this relation so “for granted” that mostly we do not even notice it. The productive conjunction between ideas and objects, mediated by bodies, means that ideas are real. Through the mediating influence of the controlled body ideas are causally efficatious. This could not be so if ideas were nothing more than illusions. True ideas have correlative brain states that are physical, but we do not subjectively manipulate brain states. We juggle ideational contents of subjective consciousness directly and these have a quintessentially non-material character.

The non-material quality of ideas is not of course proven by their association with physical actions whose consequences are also manifest in consciousness. Deterministic brain states not manipulated in consciousness might result in both ideas (and all of consciousness) and movement thus explaining their apparent connection. If this were true however it would have to be true about every product of humanity from the first struck flint to the space station and for that matter all the institutions and historical contingencies resulting in the present state-of-the-world. A staggering set of deterministic coincidences for which we, that is subjective experience, can take no credit whatsoever.

One cannot have this both ways. Either the subjective arena has no causal efficacy whatsoever or there is here a genuine connection between non-material cause and physical effect. If we wish to suspend judgement on this dilema we yet must acknowledge that subjective experience does at least rule out physicalist declarations of its impossibility. Our experience counts as enough evidence for the reality of the non-material to question the physicalist assertion that there cannot possibly be anything other than the physical in the universe. Subjective experience seems to be telling us that the non-material is real and the entire history of human civilization at least warrents our concession to the possibility.

The evidence suggests, if it does not formally demonstrate, that something real and non-material is possible and obtains inside the otherwise physical universe. Consciousness (broadly speaking) is that reality. All of the philosophers cited above are materialists but not physicalists. They share with the physicalists a conviction that everything inside the material universe, including consciousness, takes origin in nothing more than the physical. They break with the physicalists in asserting the non-physical can, in fact, emerge from the purely physical and that in this universe, consciousness is that non-physical emergent entity.

Once emerged, they assert, the non-material cannot be fully traced-back to the physical. Subjective experience is not merely another viewpoint, another way of “looking at” something physical, but a novel thing in itself. Once it comes to be, from out of the physical, it can no longer be fully reduced to the physical. This view is called “property dualism”. Two phenomenon, mind and physics, but ultimately a single source, physics. But this view has its own problem with the contents and qualities of experience. Even if the non-material cannot be reduced in any logical way to the physical (more or less the position of all the philosophers cited above) it must, nevertheless originate from nothing more than the physical and this means that some evidence of the transformation from physical to non-physical should lie in the physical past, in the history of the universe. That no such evidence has ever been observed is not proof that non-material origins are not purely physical. But it is significant that to date no mechanism has been discovered in physics that would plausibly result in such a transformation. If it is true that no such mechanism exists, physics is really causally closed, then the emergence of the non-physical from the physical alone is not possible and no historical marks are there to be found!

Every one of these property dualist theories of the non-material amounts to presupposing either an opening in causal closure or an invisible (to physics) set of causal laws or properties in the physical that add the qualities (to physics) required to produce the non-material. The first approach implies some evidence of itself within physics as noted in the previous paragraph. None has been found, and none of our present theories of the world require any provision for it. Metaphysically speaking, the second approach is no less supernatural than the hypothesis of a divine being. It may lack the being’s anthropomorphic qualities but its presence and interaction with the physical are no less inexplicable. The “coming to be” of these psycho-physical laws (Chalmers’ term) wants explaining, and their interaction with the physical is no less a mystery than the interaction problem posed by a substance-dualism of mind or for that matter God.

To wrap up I summarize what I hope I have accomplished.

1. Physics can measure only the physical.
2. Physics leaves in abeyance the question of some non-material reality inside the physical universe. It remains logically possible. Physics has no evidence for it, but all physics can assert with authority is that explanations of indisputably physical phenomena require no reference to it.
3. There are subjective observers inside the physical universe. These observers all have bodies made of matter and subject to measurement by physics. But they also have “subjective experience” whose qualities are not subject to physical measurement.
4. Either the qualities of subjective experience are not real or they are real and can make some contribution to physical cause; they can configure physical cause (movement of a body) to produce physical effects patterned by a non-material idea. The non-material idea can be mapped to physical reality or put conversely physical reality can be patterned, configured, by non-material ideas.
5. Either the whole of human history and achievement is a blind accident or non-material ideas are causally efficatious and therefore must be real.

In “An Epistemological Argument for Free Will” I argue that free will is real and our experience warrants that belief. None of what is discussed above impinges directly on free will. Our ideas might be both real and non-material without our having free will. The connection between ideas and the physical might, after all, be fully determined even if ideas are in fact the initial patterns of the physical result. But the subsequent free will argument does rest, metaphysically, on the reality and non-materiality of consciousness.