Jef Allbright wrote:


Brent Meeker wrote:

Jef Allbright wrote:

Bruno Marchal wrote:

Although we all share the illusion of a direct and immediate sense of consciousness, on what
basis can you claim that it actually is real?
Because we cannot doubt it. It is the real message,
imo, of Descartes "diagonal argument": it is the
fixed point of doubt. If we decide to doubt
everything, we will find ourselves, at some stage, doubting we doubt of everything. The same for
relativization: we cannot relativize everything
without an absolute base on which that relativization is effective.

Here is a subtle, and non-traditional thought:

Classical philosophy always put the Reasoner at
the center of the structure of reasoning. But with
our more developed awareness of evolution,
evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, it is becoming clearer that this pure "Copernican"
view of reasoning is invalid.  We now can see that
every Reasoner is embedded within some a priori framework such that there is an intrinsic bias or
offset to any subjective construct.  When we are
aware that there is fundamental bias, it is clear
that one can not validly reason to the point of doubting everything. When all that is in doubt
is removed, we don't arrive at zero as is
classically thought, but at some indistinct offset determined by our very nature as a reasoner
embedded in a real environment. Understanding this
eliminates the pressure to deal with conceptual identities leading to meaningless absolutes.

That sounds good, but could you give some concrete
examples. Talk of "bias" and "offset" seems to
imply that there really is an absolute center -
which I think is a very dubious proposition.
I don't know what other examples to give at this point, other than the
comparison with the Copernican model.  Knowing the actual center of our
highly multidimensional basis of thought, even if it were possible, is
not necessary--just as we don't need to know our exact physical location
in the universe to know that we should no longer build theories around
the assumption that we're at the center, with the unique properties that
would imply.


This understanding also helps resolve other
philosophical "paradoxes" such as solipsism,
meaning of life, free-will and others hinging
on the idea of a subjective center.

If you want (like David and George) consciousness
is our criteria of "absolute (but not 3-communicable) truth". I don't think we can
genuinely doubt we are conscious, although we can
doubt on any content of that consciousness, but that
is different. We can doubt having been conscious in
some past, but we cannot doubt being conscious here
and now, whatever that means.
<...>
The "truth" here bears on the existence of the
experience, and has nothing to do with anything which
could be reported by the experiencer.

On this basis I understand your point, and as long as
we are very careful about conveying which particular
meaning of "knowing", "certainty", and "truth" we are
referring to, then there will be little confusion.  But
such dual usage leaves us at risk of our thinking
repeatedly falling into the singularity of the self,
from which there's no objective (and thus workable)
basis for any claim.

I think "objective" should just be understood as denoting subjective agreement from different viewpoints.

Yes, although we can say that a particular point of view is completely
objective within a specified context.  For example we can have
completely objective proofs in mathematics as long as we agree on the
underlying number theory.  In our everyday affairs we can never achieve
complete objectivity, but I agree with you that multiple points of view,
in communication with each other, constitute an intersubjective point of
view that increasingly approaches objectivity.


My personal experience is that there's no paradox at all
if one is willing to fully accept that within any framework
of description there is absolutely no difference at all
between a person and a zombie, but even the most
philosophically cognizant, being evolved human organisms,
will snap back to defending the existence of a 1st person point of view even though it isn't detectable or measurable
and has absolutely no effect on the physical world.
It is virtually impossible for many people to see that even IF the 1st person experience actually exists, it can't be
described, even by that person, except from a third person
perspective. That voice in your own mind, those images in
your imagination, none can be said to be experienced without
being interpreted.  The idea of direct experience is incoherent.
It always carries the implication that there's some other
process there to have the experience.  It's turtles all
the way down.

That sounds like a simple contradiction to me!?? I'd say experience is always "direct", an adjective which really adds nothing. An experience just is. If it has to be interpreted *then* you've fallen into an infinite regress: who experiences the interpretation.

So can you really imagine the existence of an experience

Yes.

(not to be
confused with the existence of mere sensory data) without an
experiencer?

Why should I not regard hearing a sound as an experience?

The essence of Buddhist training is to accept this
non-existence of Self at a deep level.  It is very rare,
but not impossible to achieve such an understanding,
and while still experiencing the illusion, to see it as
an illusion, with no actual boundary to distinguish an imagined self from the rest of nature. I think that a machine intelligence, while requiring a model of self, would have no need of this illusion which is a result of our
evolutionary development.


To call it an illusion goes too far. I'd say the self is a model or an abstract construct - but it models something, it has predictive power. If you start to call things like that "illusions" then everything is an illusion and the word has lost its meaning.

Please notice that I specifically called out the necessity for a model
of self within its environment, essential for intentional behavior by
any agent.  But there's no need for the illusion of direct experience.
Introspection, updating goals, interacting with the environment can all
be done very effectively without the illusion, even though that was a
clearly a likely result of evolutionary processes when they got near the
level of development of language.

I guess I'm uncertain as to what you mean by "experience". Is "the illusion of direct experience" intended to be in contrast to "the reality of indirect experience"? What is the modifier "direct" intended to convey. If you have a model of self, then it seems that one of its roles is as the nexus of experience. It defines a point of view within the environment.
Brent Meeker

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