Colin, Stathis, Brent,
1. I think we need to distinguish a cybernetic, self-adjusting system like a
sidewinder missile, from an inference-processing, self-_redesigning_ system
like an intelligent being (well, not redesigning itself biologically, at least
as of now).
Somehow we're code-unbound to some sufficient extent that, as a result, we can
test our representations, interpretations, our systems, habits, and "codes" of
representation and interpretation, rather than leaving that task entirely to
biological evolution which tends to punish bad "interpretations" by removal of
the interpreter from the gene pool.
There's something more than represented objects (sources), the representations
(encodings), and the interpretations (decodings). This "something more" is the
recipient, to whom falls any task of finding redundancies and inconsistencies
between the message (or message set) and the rest of the world, such that the
recipient -- I'm unsure how to put this -- is the one, or stands as the one,
who deals with the existential consequences and for whom tests by subjection to
existential consequences are meaningful; the recipient is in a sense a
figuration of existential consequences as bearing upon the system's design.
It's from a design-testing viewpoint that one re-designs the communication
system itself; the recipient role in that sense is the role which includes the
role of the "evolutionator" (as CA's governor might call it). In other words,
the recipient is, in logical terms, the recognizer, the (dis-)verifier, the
(dis-)corroborator, etc., and verification (using "verification" as the forest
term for the various trees) is that "something more" than object,
representation, interpretation. Okay, so far I'm just trying to distinguish an
intelligence from a possibly quite vegetable-level information processs with a
pre-programmed menu of feedback-based responses and behavior adjustments.
2. Verificatory bases are nearest us, while the entities & laws by appeal to
which we explain things, tend to be farther & farther from us. I mean, that
Colin has a point.
There's an explanatory order (or sequence) of being and a verificatory order
(sequence) of knowledge. Among the empirical, "special" sciences (physical,
material, biological, human/social), physics comes first in the order of being,
the order in which we explain things by appeal to entities, laws, etc., "out
there." But the order whereby we know things is the opposite; there
human/social studies come first, and physics comes last. That is not the usual
way in which we order those sciences, but it is the usual way in which we order
a lot of maths when we put logic (deductive theory of logic) and structures of
order (and conditions for applicability of mathematical induction) before other
fields -- that's the ordering according to the bases on which we know things.
The point is, that the "ultimate" explanatory object tends to be what's
furthest from us; the "ultimate" verificatory basis tends to be what's nearest
to us (at least within a given family of research fields -- logic and order
structures are studies of reason and reason's crackups; extremization problems
in analysis seem to be at an opposite pole). Well, in the end, "nearest to us"
means _us_, in our personal experiences. Now, I'm not talking in general about
deductively certain knowledge or verification, but just about those bases on
which we gain sufficient assurance to act (not to mention believe reports
coming from one area in research while not putting too much stock in reports
coming from another). We are our own ultimate points of reference. Quine talks
somewhere about dispensing with proper names and using a coordinate system
spread out over the known universe. Which universe? The one we're in. As a
practical matter, the best answer to the question "which planet is Earth" is
"the one we're on." What's more, we do have experiences bearing upon our
experiences. We get into that sort of multi-layered reflexivity -- and I don't
mean just in an abstract intellectual way. Experiences vary in directness,
firmness, reliability, etc., among other things. In these senses and more,
Colin is right. One unmoors oneself from personal experience only at grave
3. The problem is that it seems possible to distinguish verification,
verificatory experience, etc., from consciousness. We learn sometimes
unconsciously, we infer conclusively yet sometimes unconsciously, etc., we test
and verify sometimes unconsciously, non-deliberately, etc. "Reasoning" is what
we can call conscious inference. Testing doesn't have to be fully conscious and
deliberate any more than interpretation does. The point is, is the system of a
nature to learn from that which tests the system's character, its design,
structure, habits, etc.? Learn, revise itself, etc., consciously or
unconsciously. Any time one enters a situation with conjectures, expectations,
understandings, memories, one is testing them and even testing one's ways of
"generating" them, testing oneself, aside from one's having some overriding
purpose of verification -- one may have some very different purpose in the
given situation. And it's really quite as if we have experience unconscious as
well as conscious. Maybe there's a question of the definition of the word
"experience" as including the idea of consciousness, but the point is that,
when we look at the things that make for a genuinely intelligent process, we
find in our own experience that consciousness is associated with its working
very intelligently in some respects, but not associated in every case with its
working. Indeed there are persistent cases of intelligent, inferential
processing going on unconsciously. Even leaving aside the phenomenon of
somewhat autistic musical prodigies, and leaving aside the complex and not
entirely conscious dynamics of interpersonal relationships, I think most of us
have heard of Poincare's discussion of unconsciously working on a problem till,
in a moment of unexpected illumination, the solution came to him, as he stepped
onto a bus. Well, I don't really know what to make of this distinguishability
between consciousness and verificatory experience which may be conscious or
unconscious, as regards what Colin is saying, but it does seem a real question.
Best, Ben Udell
(P.S. Also, there is perhaps more than one "flavor" of less-than-consciousness
-- there's a difference between slowly, unconsciously working on a problem, and
lightning-quick though sometimes iffy insights which one has, one "knows not
how." -- and while one can suppose that the latter are simply the outcomes of
the former, I think that the latter can interact with each other in a darting
and hard-to-follow way that's like the extreme opposite of the former. End of
----- Original Message -----
From: "Colin Hales" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Sent: Saturday, August 26, 2006 9:09 PM
Subject: RE: evidence blindness
> -----Original Message-----
> From: email@example.com [mailto:everything-
> [EMAIL PROTECTED] On Behalf Of Brent Meeker
> Sent: Sunday, August 27, 2006 9:49 AM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Re: evidence blindness
> Colin Geoffrey Hales wrote:
> >>the fact that intelligent behaviour is third person observable but
> >>consciousness is not.
> >>Stathis Papaioannou
> > OK. Let me get this straight. Scientist A stares at something, say X, with
> > consciousness. A sees X. Scientist A posits evidence of X from a third
> > person viewpoint. Scientist A confers with Scientist B. Scientist B then
> > goes and stares at X and agrees. Both of these people use consciousness to
> > come to this conclusion.
> > Explicit Conclusion : "Yep, theres an X!"
> > Yet there's no evidence of consciousness?.... that which literally enabled
> > the entire process? There is an assumption at work....
> > "SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE"
> > and
> > "CONTENTS OF CONSCIOUSNESS"
> > Are NOT identities.
> > When you 'stare' at anything at all you have evidence of consciousness.
> A SIDWINDER missile 'stares' at the exhaust of a jet aircraft. Does that make
> it conscious?
This is a mind-blowingly irrelevant diversion into the usual weeds that fails
to comprehend the most basic proposition about ourselves by an assumption which
is plain wrong. You presume that the missile stares and then attribute it to
humans as equivalent. Forget the bloody missile. I am talking about YOU. The
evidence you have about YOU within YOU.
Take a look at your hand. That presentation of your hand is one piece of
content in a visual field (scene). Mind is literally and only a collection of
(rather spectacular) phenomenal scenes.
Something (within your brain material) generates the visual field in which
there is a hand. You could cognise the existence of a hand _without_ that scene
(this is what blindsight patients can do - very very badly, but they can do
it). But you don't. No, nature goes to a hell of a lot of trouble to create
that fantastic image.
You have the scene. Take note of it. It gives you ALL your scientific evidence.
This is an intrinsically private scene and you can't be objective without it!
You would have nothing to be objective about.
Close your eyes and tell me you can be more scientific about your hand than you
could with them open. This is so obvious.
To say consciousness is not observable is completely absolutely wrong. We
observe consciousness permanently. It's all we ever do! It's just not within
the phenomenal fields, it IS the phenomenal fields.
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