2009/7/19 Rex Allen <rexallen...@gmail.com>:

> In your view, Bruno (or David, or anyone else who has an opinion),
> what kinds of things actually "exist"?  What does it mean to say that
> something "exists"?

This is naturally the $64k question for this list - or any other, for
that matter (pun intended).  I don't know the 'answer' - of course -
but it doesn't stop me banging on about it interminably, here and
elsewhere.  Anyway, I'll have another go, but naturally only on the
basis that anything that follows is just a 'way of speaking' that
might - or mightn't - be helpful in resolving apparent puzzles
stemming from linguistic or logical confusions.

Personally, I find it useful to start from a more primitive position
prior to speculating about the status of say, mathematical formalisms.
 Like Schopenhauer, Spinoza, Schrodinger and very many others, I find
dualism to founder hopelessly on the rock of interaction and
explanatory redundancy.  Hence I'm a monist (or a non-dualist) who -
given the singular incorrigibility of first-person 'experiential
reality' - concludes that though whatever underlies remains forever
*unknowable* it must nonetheless perforce be 'real in the sense that I
am real' (RITSIAR - a gnomic acronym that has surfaced before on this
list).  Other primitive intuitions are founded on this:

1) The unknowable is singular (i.e symmetrical, holistic, indivisible:
e.g. Plotinus' One)
2) The unknowable is pluralistic (asymmetrical, differentiated: i.e.
pattern and order manifested within the One)
3) 1 and 2 taken together are of course 'paradoxical' in the light of
the logic of the 'excluded middle'.  This, I believe, is not vicious,
but rather points virtuously towards the limit of such logics.  It
situates an unresolvable mystery appropriately, rather than attempting
speciously to dispel it or ignore it.
4) 1 and 2 taken together must be RITSIAR.  For me, this comprises the
intuition that 'existence' is fundamentally - and only - a 'personal
and present way of being'.  To put it another way, epistemology and
ontology are enfolded into the unmediated intuition of  'the way one
is' as follows:
5) 1 (uniqueness, symmetry) - relating to an intuition of bare
'reflexive presence' (i.e. the whole is 'present-to-self', as "I am").
6) 2 (asymmetry, differentiation) - relating to orderings of
'motivated self-access' (i.e. an intuition that 'presence' manifests
in recursive orders of reflexively-intimate self-relativisation.  Note
that this vitiates and replaces the notions of 'observation' and
'action' and thereby collapses otherwise infinite regresses.  It also
welds 'causal closure' to an indivisible primitive intuition that
enfolds - of necessity - both 'perception' and 'intention'.
7) All subsets of being, as it were - including the first-personal -
emerge as a consequence of the 'superset of being' (the '0-personal')
'getting a grip on itself' (or better: *oneself*).
8) Taken together, 5, 6 and 7 collapse into a basic intuition of
existence as - always and everywhere - constituted by a 'personal
self-actualisation' which is posited to be characteristic of reality
'from the ground up'.

The foregoing treatment attempts to summarise a (well-known: e.g.
Plotinus, Vedanta, etc.) set of intuitions intended to underpin other
notions of 'existence' in all its forms - i.e. any other postulation
of 'existence' whatsoever is parasitic on the 'master' intuition that
whatever 'exists' must be 'personally present as an actualised
way-of-being'.  So, in this light, what of the 'existence' of
mathematics, 'possible' worlds, and other such 'abstractions'?  Well,
they indeed qualify in this sense (trivially) in the form of our
shared 'mental constructions'.  But are they additionally present - in
some other form - *in-their-own-right*?  One's view on this will
clearly depend on the way one's theories (implicit or explicit) posit
how the particular zoo of worlds, universes etc. one favours emerges
from the ground outlined above.  I would dichotomise such views into
two camps: necessitist and contingentist.

COMP, I think (but I may be off-beam here: see below) falls into the
first camp.  As far as 'reality' goes in COMP, I'm reasonably sure
that what Bruno (conceding that he is almost always way ahead of me on
any of this) implies in the metaphysics (or theology) of COMP, is that
'arithmetical reality' should be regarded as 'real' and 'present' in
more or less the sense of 'RITSIAR'.  Hence, the 'Platonic existence'
that underpins COMP is RITSIAR.  By this I don't mean the 'numbers'
and 'operators' that we denote verbally or in writing - these of
course are just a 'way of speaking' - a language.  Rather these
symbols gesture towards an unknowable domain that nonetheless
possesses these characteristics in some (rigorously definable?) sense.
 And this domain is inescapably 'personal' - it is 'us', and it is
everything else, too.

One astonishing consequence of this schema is that any 'possible
world' derivable from such a RITSIAR intuition of mathematical
infinities must also be 'real' in this sense (though this is not the
same as experiential coherence: hence the need to invoke filters such
as COMP).  This directly implies something like MWI, or at least 'many
minds', and the radical indeterminacy of the first-person (although
this can also be a consequence, in a 'non-computational' and more
restricted sense, of 'weak' materialism).  Whether one considers this
is a defect or an advantage depends on temperament, I believe.  One
thing I notice about it, however, is that it seems to ground the idea
of 'what is' firmly on *necessity*.  Bruno has frequently remarked on
the independence of mathematical truths of anyone's believing them,
but I'm not quite sure if he means that one should thereby take this
to transcend all notions of 'contingency'.

In other words, does this view hold that the ineluctable, independent
'necessity' of mathematical 'truth' is capable of, as it were, of
*invoking* 'what is' - thereby resolving the Wittgensteinian mystery:
"that the world is"?  Or does 'what is' merely comprise that which is
'contingently necessary'?  That is, our discovery of its actual
presence, prior to time and space, necessarily - radically - excludes
its non-presence, but nonetheless we retain the intuition (perhaps
incoherently) that - counter factually - it 'might not have been thus

Easy, eh?  I don't imagine for a moment that the foregoing is
compelling enough, or sufficiently coherently conceived or expressed,
to persuade anyone who isn't already lurching in that direction.
However, having recently been extending my reading and thinking in
this area (yet again!) I feel a renewed interest in continuing the
debate, should anyone feel motivated, which might advance mutual
understanding just a little (the impetus, I take it, behind this


> On Sat, Jul 18, 2009 at 11:55 AM, Bruno Marchal<marc...@ulb.ac.be> wrote:
>> I am OK with all this. It has to be like this if we take the comp hyp
> So what are your thoughts on my question as to whether abstract
> concepts other than numbers also exist in a platonic sense?  For
> example, the idea of "red"?
> So obviously we can cast everything as numbers and say, "In this
> program, 0xff000000 represents red".  But RED is what we're really
> talking about here, and 0xff000000 is just a place holder...a symbol
> for what actually exists.
> In your view, Bruno (or David, or anyone else who has an opinion),
> what kinds of things actually "exist"?  What does it mean to say that
> something "exists"?
> It seems to me that maybe consciousness is actually very simple.  It
> is just a group of platonic ideals, like red, that are related to each
> other by a point of view:  "I like red", or "I see a red sphere."
> Maybe what is complicated is constructing or identifying a causal
> structure (e.g., a machine, a brain, a program, etc) whose evolving
> state can be interpreted as representing a series of "connected" or
> "related" instances of consciousness.  But the machine (physical or
> otherwise) is NOT that consciousness, the machine just represents that
> consciousness.
> In this view, consciousness itself consists directly of the abstract
> platonic ideals that form the contents of a given moment of
> consciousness.
>> It remains to explain the relative stability of that illusion. How and
>> why some dreams glue, in a way sufficiently precise for making
>> predictions about them.
> Maybe unstable illusions exist, but, being unstable, don't ponder such
> questions?
> Obviously we have such conscious beings here in this world, with
> schizophrenics and the like.
> So your questions about "why are my perceptions so orderly", would NOT
> be universally valid questions, because there are conscious entities
> whose perceptions are NOT orderly.
> And I would say that even my perceptions are not consistently orderly,
> as when I dream I often experience strange scenarios.
> To say that dreaming and hallucinating are special cases I think is to
> make an unfounded assumption.  It would seem to me that orderly
> perceptions are the special case, and dream-logic realities would be
> the norm.
> If consciousness is in some way a result of computation, then a
> program that generates all possible mind-simulations will surely
> result in the vast majority of resulting minds experiencing
> dream-logic realities, not "law-and-order" realities like ours.
> I think Sean Carroll (who I'm reasonably sure would disagree with
> everything I've proposed above, but still) had a pretty good point on
> such "counter-intuitive" predictions:
> "The same logic applies, for example, to the highly contentious case
> of the multiverse. The multiverse isn’t, by itself, a theory; it’s a
> prediction of a certain class of theories. If the idea were simply
> “Hey, we don’t know what happens outside our observable universe, so
> maybe all sorts of crazy things happen,” it would be laughably
> uninteresting. By scientific standards, it would fall woefully short.
> But the point is that various theoretical attempts to explain
> phenomena that we directly observe right in front of us — like
> gravity, and quantum field theory — lead us to predict that our
> universe should be one of many, and subsequently suggest that we take
> that situation seriously when we talk about the “naturalness” of
> various features of our local environment. The point, at the moment,
> is not whether there really is or is not a multiverse; it’s that the
> way we think about it and reach conclusions about its plausibility is
> through exactly the same kind of scientific reasoning we’ve been using
> for a long time now. Science doesn’t pass judgment on phenomena; it
> passes judgment on theories."
> So, I could continue further and go into a lengthy defense of why I
> think this supports what I'm saying, BUT maybe you'll come to the same
> conclusion I have and I can save myself a lot of typing!  So, I'll
> just try that approach first.
> >

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