Bruno Marchal writes:

Le 31-déc.-06, à 04:59, Stathis Papaioannou a écrit (to Tom Caylor):

> Of course: questions of personal meaning are not scientific questions. > Physics may show you how to build a nuclear bomb, but it won't tell > you whether you should use it.

But Physics, per se,  is not supposed to answer this.
Socio-economics could give light, as could "computer simulation of nuclear explosion in cities ...".

And some (still putative) theory of ethics could perhaps put light on that question too. Well, the ultimate decision is a problem for the "president" .... But the president and its advisers could consult some decision theory ... perhaps.

No, those theories won't answer the question of whether you should use the bomb either. Suppose your theory says something like, "if you wish to save a lives by taking b lives, where a>b, then you should use the bomb". The scientific part of this theory involves demonstrating that, in fact, use of the bomb would save a lives by taking b lives. But this does not tell you whether you should actually use the bomb. Neither would an ethical theory like utilitarianism tell you what to do: it might confirm that according to the theory it is the right thing to do, but utilitarianism cannot tell you that utilitarianism is "right". In the end, what is "right" is an irreducible personal belief, which you can try to change by appeal to emotions or by example, but not by appeal to logic or empirical facts. And in fact I feel much safer that way: if someone honestly believed that he knew what was "right" as surely as he knew 2+2=4, he would be a very dangerous person. Religious fanatics are not dangerous because they want to do evil, but because they want to do good. The number of people killed in the name of God vastly outnumbers the number killed in the name of Satan.

> Where I think I disagree with you [Tom] is that you seem to want to > reduce the irreducible and make values and personal meaning real world > objects, albeit not of the kind that can be detected by scientific > instruments, perhaps issued by God. But in proposing this you are > swapping one irreducible entity extremely well-grounded in empirical > evidence (I know I'm conscious, and I know that when my brain stops so > does my consciousness) for another irreducible entity with no > grounding in empirical evidence whatsoever.


I agree that you know you are conscious. Well, I don't know that but I have good evidences and hope. But I don't see any evidence that when your brain stops so does your consciousness. I can understand the belief (not even knowledge) that when your brain stops relatively to mine (in case we share an history), then so does the possibility of your consciousness to manifest itself relatively to me; but no more. Actually what does mean the expression "my brain stops". In all universe? all multiverses, all computational histories ... You have to be precise which theory you are using when relating some 3-me (like "my brain") and some 1-me (like the knower, the conscious "I").

I agree with some critics you make with respect to Tom Caylor notion of personal God, but sometimes, it seems to me, you have a conception of reality which could as criticable as Caylor's one. Err... i see your particular point is valid though, but you are using misleading images with respect to the consequence of mechanism (I guess you are aware but that you want to remain short perhaps).

It gets cumbersome to qualify everything with "given the appearance of a physical world". As I have said before, I am not entirely convinced that comp is true, precisely because because such ideas as a conscious computation supervening on any physical process or on no physical process may be considered absurd. It is quite possible, for example, that there is something special about the structure of the brain which leads to consciousness, and a digital computer will not be able to copy this, even if it copies 3rd person observable behaviour. Against that idea is the question of why we didn't evolve to be zombies, but maybe we would have if nature had electronic circuits to play with. If I had to guess between comp and not-comp I don't think I could do better than flipping a coin.

Stathis Papaioannou
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