Brent said:

As Bertrand Russell pointed out long ago, the existence of a "self" who "has" the experiences is an inference.


grrr! It doesnt matter how long ago anyone pointed anything out! Things do not get truer or falser as they get older. They come in and out of vogue.

Russell's (wasnt it Bernard Williams'?) criticism of the cogito is just to say that Descartes added non certainties to his certainty. The assumption of an 'I' to recieve the 'Thoughts'. Nevertheless, with regards to the hardcore 'realist', this isnt going to be much comfort. As much as possible he wants the world to be as it seems to be, so he side steps problems about perception and subjectivity and very much wants to avoid any introspection whatsoever. But, one would think that the existance of a self at every space/time crosshair of 'here' by 'now' was most likely one 'reality' he could swallow about introspection. But, sure enough, the 'I' is assumed. It isnt certain. The realist should start banging his drum again.

But subjectivity is certain. That right here and right now, bang in the center of my universe at least, thoughts are occuring, sensations are being felt. And the rest of the world - to whatever degree it exists at all - is blind to that. These happenings belong to this (pointing at me) linguisticly conventional 'I'. Any of the thoughts experienced whose content infers a public and objective space are after this fact.

English demands a subject/object sentence construction which makes it impossible to grammatically express the occurence of experiences without something "having" the experiences. But as the Navajo just say "raining" instead of "it is raining", they would say "experiencing!".


Language itself is inherently dualistic in a sense, just in so far as it categorises the world into here and there, us and them, dog and cat. Still, maybe that makes alot of sense? Isnt matter supposed to coagulate into chunks of qualitatively different things? What kind of analysis are the Navajo going to give 'experiencing' without recourse to some kind of notion of subjectivity? - if not personal identity. I'ld like to see it, though I imagine, in truth, their conceptual scheme and ours are utterly incommensurable - we only ever get a grip on what we think they think. Besides, as the reference to the Navajo makes clear denying a self is more commonly part of mysticism than "realism", surely. Which is not at all meant perjoritively. I mean they get there without atom smashers I understand.

How, you might ask, could the existence of a "self" who "has" the experiences be false.

maybe the self is like a snowflake, an order out of entropy that crystalises into existance and then evapourates from it into thin air. A pattern. Most Platonists would be happy about that. But what is important here is that *subjectivity* is certain. That it is experience, whether that entails an 'I' or not, that is immediate.

I'm a realist and I certainly don't dismiss them (nor do I know any realists who do).

Lee is someone who does. ( at least when harranging platonists).

But it is a problem of language - not of reality. I see it as just two ways of talking about the same thing. Just as to my computer the preceding sentence is just a string of one's and zero's, but to me it expresses a thought - which from another point of view is a complex of neurons firing.

The computer simply doesnt care. Its not even ones and zeros, its flip flop transistors. On or offs. Depending on where the data is sent, or how it is cast, it will be interpreted differently. Send the ons and offs to a sound card and you will get some sound or other. cast the string "He's gone chicken oriental!" as an integer, and you can happily multiply it by 10. It has no conception about the data. We do when we encounter it through some peripheral or other, or manipulate it in code.

With regards to neurons firing. Whats pain? Neurons firing. Whats pleasure? Neurons firing. Whats the idea that electrons are little balls? Neurons firing. These qualitively disparate experiences are in fact just the same thing? What then is the difference between a pain and a pleasure and theoretical physics - which is of course both these things and more? These qualitative differences derive from different patterns?, different syntax? That alone?

I dont believe that.

We could invent a word that meant both equally, but that hasn't been useful because we don't know much about the complex of neurons firing.

Yes. We have not succeeded in doing it. So why accept it? And if a realist can accept what he has no evidence for, or can not really do, what then is the problem with other theories that for the moment seem unfalsifiable? Mathematical Platonism for instance.

Suppose we built a conscious robot (see John McCarthy's website), then experience would be transistor gates switching.

what about if we just built a robot, and then ask ourselves whether it is conscious. We dont want to put the cart before the horse. Im not so sure about Turing tests myself. I dont buy it. I can accept I might be fooled by a dead machine, I wouldnt know whether I was playing Kasperov or CrayBox 13 for instance, but I'ld assume everytime I was playing a master. I dont think the chess computer has any concept of what it is doing.

But I can see this very clearly:

I think, therefore I am.

Now, if realists are prepared to accept inferences from perception about an uncertain - at least indirectly witnessed - external realm, why cant they accept an inference about mentality that is no less certain than that? What do I have to choose between platonism and realism here? It seems to me we are all picking and choosing theories we ought to be agnostic about.

Best Regards

Chris.

Date: Fri, 12 Aug 2005 12:56:29 -0700

chris peck wrote:
Because a) you have experiences but not experiences of yourself and


In what way dont I have experience of myself? Who am I experiencing now? Someone else?

b) experiences are not more certain that every scientific truth. Experiences are often misleading or outright illusions.


That I exist is more certain than any scientific truth. This is what I said. We can argue about experiences, illusions and being misled by perception if you like, the argument that will come back is that the very fact I am being misled by perception or undergoing an illusion proves beyond doubt to me that I exist.

As Bertrand Russell pointed out long ago, the existence of a "self" who "has" the experiences is an inference. English demands a subject/object sentence construction which makes it impossible to grammatically express the occurence of experiences without something "having" the experiences. But as the Navajo just say "raining" instead of "it is raining", they would say "experiencing!".

How, you might ask, could the existence of a "self" who "has" the experiences be false. The construct of a self depends on continuity and congruity of experiences over time. If "your" experiences were incongruous over time, as they can be when you're hallucinating, would "you" still exist? This isn't just hypothetical; it's what happens in multiple personality disorder.


Experiences are one source of knowledge, but their coherence with other knowledge is important too.


The point is that given the certainty of 'I exist' subjective experience can not just be dismissed by the realist.

I'm a realist and I certainly don't dismiss them (nor do I know any realists who do). Subjective experience is epistemologically basic - but it can still be ontologically derivative.

Given its certainty, it demands some kind of explanation, but the realist recoils from providing any because marrying objective language with subjective language has been an intractable problem.

But it is a problem of language - not of reality. I see it as just two ways of talking about the same thing. Just as to my computer the preceding sentence is just a string of one's and zero's, but to me it expresses a thought - which from another point of view is a complex of neurons firing. We could invent a word that meant both equally, but that hasn't been useful because we don't know much about the complex of neurons firing.

If they are going to do that, they should admit how certain and central subjective experiences are, how the enlightenment was forged by those who dealt with them, and the poverty of their own theories in being unable to explain them.

They may be basic, but they're not certain.


Its not that beliefs are true through being had. Thats not a position Im interested in. Thats relativism, that truth is subjective. I dont see many people defending that. The unfalsifiable but nevertheless absolutely certain fact that i exist is just derived from the fact there are experiences, it doesnt derive from the content of those experiences - however 'deluded' they may be. I want to ask what is a delusion? what is a dream? Nuerons firing?

All human experience is (I think) neurons firing - in a certain physical context. Suppose we built a conscious robot (see John McCarthy's website), then experience would be transistor gates switching.


I suppose it is hard to build from the cogito. Descartes didnt manage it. However, to ignore it altogether is just lazy and is hardly a argument against those who dont.

I don't know what you mean. Physics is just common sense pursued rigoursly and common sense in built on perceptions.

Brent Meeker


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