On Fri, Jul 31, 2009 at 3:21 PM, Bruno Marchal<marc...@ulb.ac.be> wrote:
> Rex proposes something like:
> It is radical, and it is difficult to say if it explains anything. I
> suspect the goal could be personal enlightnment instead of a search in
> a communicable theory which should or could explain the observable and
> non observable (but "feelable", like pain) phenomena.


On Sat, Aug 1, 2009 at 2:19 AM, Brent Meeker<meeke...@dslextreme.com> wrote:
>> The only thing we have direct access to is our conscious experience.
>> Trying to explain the existence of this conscious experience in terms
>> of what is experienced inevitably leads to vicious circularity.
> If you explain the existence of a pain in your tooth by a cavity the 
> experience may lead
> to a dentist - and less pain in your experience.

I am proposing, I suppose:


So obviously it seems useful to postulate the existence of things like
quarks and electrons, which we then use to make predictions about what
will happen if we do this, that, or the other.  However, I think there
is good reason to believe that this only holds true in our own
relatively well-behaved part of what is actually a vast experiential

Any proposal that has our consciousness as being "caused", whatever
the causal mechanism, is open to the possibility that we are caused to
experience something that is not reflective of the reality that
produced the experience.  Dreams, delusions, hallucinations,
brains-in-vats, and computer simulations of brains all offer real or
conceivable examples of scenarios where what is experienced might lead
one astray in trying to determine the underlying nature of things.

If our conscious experience is caused, then for all we know we're
giant amorphous blobs floating in 12 dimensional space, but with just
the right internal causal structure to produce the conscious
experience of being humans in 3-dimensional space.  Or we could be
"Boltzmann Brains", produced by the random fluctuations of particles
in just the right way to produce the illusion of our current
experiences.  Given enough time, exactly our experience would be
produced, regardless of the underlying physics of the Boltzmann
Universe that we actually inhabit, just through a brute random search
of the space of possibilities, combination and recombination of all
possible configurations.  OR (per Bruno) we could be mathematical
algorithms existing only in some immaterial platonic sense.

Or identical experiences, plus all variations, of being Brent or Bruno
might be caused by each of the above mechanisms at different times and
in different places.  An infinite number of universes, or a universe
of infinite size, or with an infinite amount of time, or a quantum
mechanical multiverse with infinite branches, or a platonic Plenitude
containing all possible mathematical/algorithmic structures, would all
seem to be possibilities, and not even mutually exclusive ones.

BUT, I don't think so.

All causal explanations for consciousness (even Bruno's) ultimately
rely on fiat assertions that "this causes conscious experience",
without providing any convincing explanation for why this should be.
It's not so much causation as correlation, as far as I can see.

As I mentioned, I'm sure that the brain can be viewed as representing
the contents of my experience.  And I'm sure that a computer program
could also be written that would represent the contents of my
conscious experience and whose representational state would evolve as
the program ran so that it continued to match what I experience over
time.  But this would not mean that the program was conscious, or that
my brain is conscious.

The living brain and the executing computer program both just
represent the contents of my conscious experience, in the same way
that a map represents the actual terrain.

However, I question the need to push the explanation down to a
separate layer.  So we are at the top of your ontological stack, I
assume.  And we look below us to see what supports us.  But then we
have to look below that level to see what supports it, and below that
level to see what supports it, and so on.  Infinite regress.  Turtles
all the way down.

But instead why not look at our own experience, which is the only
thing we know directly, as the foundation of the ontological stack.
Everything that exists rests on the foundation of our conscious
experience?  In this view, the stack goes up for as far as our
intellect can reach.  And as our intellectual capacity expands, the
our view of the existential landscape above us also expands.

This, I think, makes more sense.

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