2009/8/14 1Z <peterdjo...@yahoo.com>:

>> I think need to take a hard line on RITSIAR.  I feel that the key lies
>> in what Bruno terms the certainty of the ontological first person
>> (OFP): i.e. the sine qua non of reality as it is uniquely available to
>> us.  Since this is inescapably the foundation of any and all
>> judgements whatsoever, it is simultaneously both the both point of
>> departure and the 'what-is-to-be-explained' of RITSIAR.  In this light
>> it becomes self-evident that any and all explanatory entities -
>> physical, computational, or whatever - are severely restricted to the
>> domain of epistemology.  IOW - as Bruno says above - they are
>> theoretical constructions.
> That doesn't follow at all. A theoretical construct can have a real
> referent. eg, if the theory of quarks is true , quarks exist. What
> else
> would "theory X is true" mean?

Yes, of course, I agree with you that we take our references to have
real referents.  Part of our problem in discussion I think is that you
tend to attribute views to me that - if I held them - would indeed be
fatuous.  Now, you are within your rights to say that it's my fault
for giving you this impression.  But I can only reply that my
intention is to draw attention to something more subtle, and this is

I think if I had to sum up the point of departure for more or less
everything I've been saying, it would be that I question the
assumption that everything we can discover or know about the world can
be exhausted by describing its observable behaviour - whatever the
model.  This is I think what has been called the 'view from nowhere'
and - wonderfully useful though it undoubtedly is, and prone as I am
myself to rely on it much of the time - I'm not alone in criticising
it in the context of mind-body issues.  And this is because it seems
to me - though I think not to you - that in this domain alone we're
forced out of our view from nowhere and confronted with the fact that
what we're trying to explain by observation is the very phenomenon
we're using to make the observation.  And this is the problem.

>> So far so obvious.  But - as has again been recognised immemorially -
>> solipsism is a dead-end and hence we seek a theory to capture the
>> relation between the OFP and its environment.  But immediately we are
>> faced with the notorious 'explanatory gap',
>> and it seems to me that
>> its most precise expression is in the gap between ontology and
>> epistemology.
> I don;t know what explanatory gap you are talking about,
> but is doesn't sound like Levine's one.

Well, as I imply above, I'm using ontology in the sense of 'what it is
to be' - not 'what it is to describe' - so maybe we need another term
to avoid confusion.  So the gap is the one between these two things.

> What is "Ontological certainty"? Certainty belongs to epistemolgoy,
> so "onotlogical" can't bve qualifying "certainty". Do you mean
> something like "the one certain fact about ontology/existence"?

My rhetorical question was "how do we reach a state of certainty about
'what it is to be' on the basis of 'what it is to describe'.  To which
my response is that we can't, because in the area of the first person
we have indubitable acquaintance with at least some aspect of the
former.  And in my view, this acquaintance is so alien to 'what is
described' that the assumption of the gap being bridged on the basis
of *any* model of observability can only be a brute apriori
assumption.  Now I know that many people aren't troubled by this, and
some just are.  Frankly, by this stage I'm ready to put it down to
differences in imaginative style, what we're trying to achieve
personally with our thinking, or something equally idiosyncratic.  I
don't really believe it can be resolved entirely by persuasion.

> Realism doesn;t need the
> existence of a non-mental world to be a certainty, it just needs
> it to be more plausible than the alternatives.

Yes, in general I agree with you.  But I suppose on the mind-body
question, the various positions that I've successively tried to hold
on to (and I think I've traversed most of them over the last 30 years
or so) having become less and less plausible to me.  I don't want to
be a mysterian, but I think that the assumption that with a bit more
effort we've got the mind sorted on the basis of current theories will
turn out to be more like Lord Kelvin's notorious dicta on black-body
radiation and the ether wind.  Actually, if that were the case, it
would be a good omen, because that presaged relativity and QM.

>> Is there a coherent way
>> to conceive what it could mean to *be* a theoretical entity (as
>> opposed to postulating or observing one)?
> Probably not, but that is because the question posed is somethign of
> a category error. What the realist would say is that she can conceive
> of theoretical statements havign real referents.

Yes, but my view is that mind-body shows us that to consider the
referent of a theoretical statement to be something 'external' is in
fact the category error - i.e. the view from nowhere again.  Someone
(can't remember who) put it like this: "what is the external world
supposed to be external to?"  Look, it may well be that you're capable
of doing this sort of category-juggling in your head whilst still
using the standard theoretical language.  Part of the trouble is that
I'm never quite sure if others are doing this, which is why I try to
proceed in a painfully step-by-step way in enquiring into it - which
probably makes me sound like the village idiot to you.

>> There is something
>> quintessential that stubbornly eludes capture, because epistemological
>> access never tells us what an entity *is* - only what can be
>> ascertained of its 'externalised' properties.
> How do you know? If you can't detect some mysterious inner essence,
> how do you know there is one?

I certainly wouldn't put it like that.  I don't think that the view
from nowhere can 'detect' anything of the sort precisely because it
doesn't - can't - say anything about the 'inner' at all - i.e. its
externalised: that's its point.  Theories represent the limit of what
the world can *tell* us, not the limit of what it *is*.   Do you
really suppose that you are limited in any such way?  That your
existence as it is known to you by acquaintance is entirely exhausted
by what I can glean by interacting with you or bouncing signals off

What we know by indubitable acquaintance is something absolutely
qualitatively different to what is described theoretically - it has to
be - and whereas of course I'm not implying that this acquaintance
gives us the ante on the whole nature of existence, I do believe that
it should be a salutory corrective to any notion of the 'completeness'
of our theories of observation.

>>And lest we be tempted
>> to accept the sum of these properties as exhausting 'existence', we
>> need only turn to the self-evident corrective of the OFP.
> THat passage is very far from self evident. Explain, please.

What I said above.

>> So the gap must remain, and I think that now I see why Bruno appeals
>> simply to the 'ordinary' mathematical sense of existence - because
>> COMP, under this analysis, is an epistemological schema, and its
>> entities are theoretical constructions.
> No, Bruno is a Platonist. He thinks numbers are RITSIAR

Well, I don't suppose you'll ever agree on that.  But I think, on the
basis of my latest discussion with him, that he sees all theory -
including number theory - as standing in relation (i.e. referring to)
to what is RITSIAR, not as actually *being* RITSIAR.  Elsewhere, he's
distinguished between a representation of a number, and a number.  It
seems to me that you are using Platonic to characterise what is in
principle unobservable, but surely that also applies to many of the
theoretical entities appealed to by physics with equal force?

>>  Hence the question of jumping
>> the ontological gap is in abeyance, perhaps permanently, but in any
>> case in the realm of faith.  And if this is true for COMP, then
>> mutatis mutandis it is true for physics.
> Of course not. Physics is about explaining the real world.

Yes, I agree that physics is about explaining a real world - i.e. it
stands in some theoretical relation to the describably real.  But I
reiterate that you can't jump the gap from description to 'what it is'
for free - and this is not to rubbish the unique achievement of
science in human understanding.  It is simply to warn against hubris,
I suppose.  What has been extraordinarily successful in one domain of
application may yet flounder when pushed too far beyond it.

You see, the thing that interests me about comp isn't that I know that
it's true.  Rather it's because I think that it confronts the
mind-body issue without sweeping the real problems under the rug.
That doesn't mean that it doesn't face the final explanatory abyss
too, but I think it positions the mysteries much more insightfully.

>> The unavoidable consequence of the foregoing is that atoms, quarks and
>> numbers cannot be RITSIAR.
> That has not been demonstrated at all. At best you have an argument
> that they are not necessarily RITSIAR. Which is straightforwardly
> given
> by the observation that theories are less than certain. All you have
> writen
> boils down to the fallacy that "no necessarily true" implies
> "necessarily untrue"

No, I think it boils down to the fact that no theoretical entity
should ever be seen as RITSIAR - only in some relation to it.  The
difference between physics and comp is that in terms of the former
there's virtually no way of expressing this thought coherently,
whereas in terms of the latter it's a key aspect of the theory.

>> The unique feature of consciousness is not - as you claim - its
>> 'epistemic' certainty, but its status as what is *ontologically
>> certain*.
> Whatever that means.

It means its status as evidence by acquaintance of at least some
indubitable aspects of 'what it is to be' something.

>>To regard consciousness itself (or in Bruno's terms the
>> ontological first person) as merely the object of 'knowledge' is to
>> commit the fallacy of taking 'observation' in a naively literal sense:
>> i.e. to require there to be an 'observer'.  But this, self-evidently,
>> can only lead to infinite regress.  Consequently, consciousness does
>> not consist in the 'observation' of epistemic entities, but in their
>> instantiation.
> Whatever that means. Surely if soemthign is insantiated, it exist and
> is therefore ontological.

I mean that consciousness isn't what we observe in others - or in the
functioning of our brains - it's what they experience.  We probably
need a different term - like consciousness-related behaviour - for the
former to avoid this confusion.  I also mean that 'epistemic entities'
- the things that we use to refer with - are instantiated in
consciousness.  Mine are anyway.

>> Consciousness is, as it were, the 'ontology of
>> epistemology'.  When you say that the physical is basic, you are
>> yourself mistaking the epistemological for the ontological.
> No, I am takign certain highly succesful theories to be true.

Yes, given that the physical is what is deemed to be described by
physics, then it is indeed what is assumed to be true by highly
successful theories.  But this success is not what is necessary to
bridge the mind-body gap, because the theories aren't designed for
that particular job.  In fact, they are designed precisely for the
opposite of that job - i.e. to describe a state of affairs in a way
that deliberately obscures the reversal of the relationship between
theory and reality.  IOW, in this view, consciousness is theory and
the physical is the touchstone of reality.  But this view relies on
the denial (in an unavoidably Freudian sense) that the physical is
known exclusively in terms of conscious representations on which all
extrapolation to an 'observable' reality rests.

Since such representations are not in themselves observable (though of
course not unknowable) it is unreasonable to suppose that any
putatively 'final' ontology known entirely on the basis of observation
could ever be considered a complete account of the situation.  This is
a real issue.  I'm by no means the only one who thinks that standard
physics lacks a natural way to address this, and I feel there must be
ways to re-position the issues more fruitfully - comp being one such
approach.  I don't know what I can say to make this more compelling
so, if you still see this as nothing but the old category error stuff
again, I give up.  No hard feelings.

>> As to
>> your evidence consisting in 'the whole of science', since the nature
>> and significance of this evidence is precisely what is in question, it
>> is inadequate merely to make such appeals to authority.
> Au cotnraire, it is inadequate to assume that theories are necessarily
> false bcause they are not necessarily true.

How could I disagree?  Do you really think this is the substance of
our divergence?  I merely reiterate that if some aspect of the
scientific method and its interpretation is under dispute it is
insufficient merely to lean too heavily on the fact that lots of
scientists don't question it.  Whilst it would of course be foolish to
disregard this, one may surely still have the temerity to question any
authority if we think it may be mistaken.

>> The problem is this: in the face of one indubitable ontology - that
>> exemplified in consciousness - you try get physically-basic ontology
>> for free.
> Free? The development of physics involves a huge effort. And note
> that I am not claiming cvertainty for it.

Look, for most of my life, most of my heroes have been the champions
of science.  I'm the last person to rubbish this effort.  All I'm
saying is that in the mind-body domain the carefully designed
methodology of 'vexing nature' is seeking to get a 'theory of
everything' for free - because if you really believed that physics
could account for 'everything' on the basis of' any possible set of
observations, then IMO you don't take the 'gap'  - between the
observable and the ontologically real  - that seriously.  Actually,
thinking about everything you've said, I conclude that you don't take
it seriously in that way. And that means that I'm worrying about
something unnecessarily in your view because you say it's just a
category error.  OK, we can agree to disagree.

> And I don't think I get any ontology from consciousness. I'll grant
> that it is indubitable that it exists, but that tells me nothing
> about *what* it is. A brute fact is not an ontology.
>>In other words, you simply assume that if we take ourselves
>> to 'be' - what? - say, neural activity in 'computational' - or some
>> yet-to-be-established  - guise, then - pouf! - the ontological first
>> person is conjured from mere description.
> No, the first person is conjured from the brain -- from the territory,
> not
> the map.

Yes, but the territory is entirely known (to the extent that it is
known) in its conscious aspect, not in in terms of the observably
'physical' referents of physics-as-theory.  And saying that these two
categories are 'identical' is just pretending to monism whilst
continuing to think dualistically IMO, as I've said - and as you've
denied - repeatedly.

>> But there is no sense in
>> which one can simply 'be' an epistemic 'object' - a theoretical
>> construction.
> As noted before, that is an artificial problem. Since theories
> *can* be correct, one *can* be the referent of a  theoretical
> description, and the referent of  a theoretical construction, if it
> has one, is
> a real thing.
>>*This* is the explanatory gap,
> No, it is nto the standard one in the literature. You are just
> commiting a basica fallacy -- saying that because the map is not
> itself real, it cannot *represetn* a real territory.

No, I'm not saying that.  I'm casting doubt on whether the mapping to
the territory can be complete.  In other words, the territory mapped
on the basis of observation is still only a partial account of the
complete state of affairs.  However, I do realise that this amounts to
heresy according to the standard doctrine of physics.

>> > You still haven't said what the objection is to saying that
>> > the mental emerges from the physical.
>> I'm saying that all that can 'emerge' from one class of description is
>> another class of description.
> The physical is not a description/map. Physics is the description/map.

True.  But we have no direct access to the physical-in-itself through
description, theory or mapping - only (in certain of its aspects)
through consciousness.  So if you want the mental to 'emerge' from -
or stand in true relation to - 'something', we must look beyond what
is needed to account merely for what is observed.  This is the facer
for physics, because of course it is precisely committed to
restricting itself to accounting for what is observed, and I
understand the power and intent of this approach.  But to extrapolate
from this to the causal closure of a physical ontology of everything,
independent of consciousness, is fatal to a coherent resolution of the
mind-body issues IMO.

>> If that exhausts your idea of the
>> 'mental' I say you are an eliminativist.  But you say you're not.
>> What then?
> I do think there is an explanatory gap, and I also think it is very
> specific
> the the nature of the mental and the nature of phsycial
> *descriptions*. However
> that does not mean that it is impossible for the mental territory to
> emrge
> from the physical territory. There are two things here, the brute fact
> -- *that* the mental
> emerges -- and the  explanation -- *how* it emerges.

We may agree here.  It depends what you mean by 'how'.

> You have in fact *not* criticised
> the emergence of mental territory from physial territory, you have
> criticised the emergence
> of the mental territory from the physcical map. Well, you can't grow
> potatos in a map of Norfolk,
> but you can still grow potatos in Norfolk.

Well, it's not because I don't recognise the distinction, at any
event.  I just want to be convinced we're getting real potatoes, and
not just a load of stories about potatoes, that leaves us as hungry as

>>This, I
>> take it, can be construed only as a particularly odd form of dualism,
>> or eliminativism.
> Don't take it, expalin how you came to that.

The explanation, which I've referred to above, is this: there is a
claim that two categories -  conscious experience itself, and a
physical ontology characterised exhaustively in observable terms - are
equivalent.  I say that any such claim is implicitly dualistic: IOW it
must appeal to 'something else' to fill what is not accounted for.
Alternatively, to deny that anything remains unaccounted for is to
*eliminate* the 'something else'.

At this point, I feel that the issues have had a good outing and
further detailed commenting would be otiose.  I don't expect either of
us have shifted our position, though speaking personally I would
really welcome the opportunity to do so, if I could see a compelling
reason.  If you can think of a new angle of attack, that could be
really helpful.  But for now, I'm signing off.


>> The 'arbitrariness' is inherent in the burden of
>> the term 'functionalism', which is intrinsically neutral as to the
>> details of physical implementation.
> No, there are two quite differnt claim here:
> 1. A function can have multiple instantions
> 2. Anything can instantiate any function.
>> This is its great strength in its
>> legitimate sphere of application, and its fatal weakness in the
>> present context.
>> >>But then one must
>> >> abjure functional-computational justifications for the 'mental':
>> >> again, fair enough (it's probably closer to my own prejudice).  But
>> >> unless you're an eliminativist about the mental, you can't have it
>> >> both ways.
>> > Of course you can! There are plenty accounts of the mental that
>> > are neither functionalist nor elimintativist. Sheesh.
>> Yes of course there are other accounts, but my argument at this point
>> is specifically against functionalist accounts based on an assumed
>> physical ontology.  So I repeat: the burden of my claim is that if you
>> want to be ontological about the physical, you must give up
>> functionalist arguments for mind; otherwise you are an implicit
>> dualist, or else an eliminativist, even though you may be unaware of
>> it (as indeed an eliminativist would have to be!)
> You haven't supported any of that.
>>You may of course
>> disagree, but saying 'of course you can' is not an argument.
> It is noting that most people disagree with you conclusion. What is
> asserted
> with little argument can be rejected with little argument. The burden
> is on you.
>> Beyond
>> that, I'm not arguing here against other accounts of the mental,
>> though you don't indicate what you have in mind (as it were)
>> >> But I think we can save them quite handily.  First, calling something
>> >> 'idealism' just pumps the intuition that there have to be sort of
>> >> bright images everywhere independent of 'minds'.  The problem here is
>> >> that we're stuck with folk vocabulary that drags in extraneous notions
>> >> left, right and centre causing an implosion of the imagination.  We
>> >> need to fix this, and I have a couple of suggestions.  The first was
>> >> in my reply to Rex, where I suggest, in answer to your implicit
>> >> question above, that the universe has to take things just as
>> >> personally as it needs to exist.
>> > Why, for heaven's sake? That seems completely arbitrary.
>> Perhaps you could try a little harder to go beyond the vocabulary (I'm
>> sorry if this seems impolite, I don't intend it to be).
>> As I've said,
>> virtually every term we use has been used by someone else to mean
>> something different.  The use of the term 'personal' in this context,
>> as I've tried to explain, is to carry the sense that what 'exists' is
>> always, as it were, incipiently personal or 'owned'.  This is, I
>> believe, not crude idealism, but in fact the crucial prerequisite for
>> any intuition as to how the 'ownership' of consciousness could be
>> conceived to emerge from something in some sense more fundamental, but
>> nonetheless categorically congruent.
> That is still arbitrary. Why would the personal have to be
> fundamental,
> rather than the cognitive, the experiential, etc etc.
> If you have a *specific* explanatory gap in mind, that guides you into
> what is specifically missing from physical accounts. For, instance
> the
> Levine-Nagel gap indicated that phenomenal expereince is lacking, and
> that
> is what people like Chalmers and Rosenberg try to plug back in.
> However, you don't have a specific explanatory gap in mind. Your
> argument that the "epsistemtologcial" (theoretical?? descriptive??)
> can never
> be the "ontolgical" (real?) is general-purpose.
>> >> This leads to the second suggestion: what we call 'mind' is the
>> >> evolved capacity for representation, memory and intention directed
>> >> towards an environment, resulting from selected-for elaborations of
>> >> primitive but critically-similar potentials.  Of course, this is the
>> >> standard direction of any explanatory thrust, but with the critical
>> >> stipulation that we must be able to preserve the appearances from soup
>> >> to nuts: this is, as you point out, the nub.  Again, I don't insist on
>> >> any particular vocabulary, only the necessary sense.  As Popper
>> >> remarks, debate about words is futile - just clarify your terms until
>> >> the problem emerges precisely, or goes away.
>> > Repeating that we need to save the appearances does nothing to save
>> > them
>> Patience.
>> >> Of the above factors, the one that bears, I think, most on the
>> >> 'appearance of mindlessness', is memory (a point made by Russell in
>> >> his neutral monist guise).  Essentially, we're 'conscious' of what we
>> >> can remember - this is inherent in the sense of re-presentation.  So
>> >> it may not in fact meet the case to hold that we're 'unaware' of what
>> >> we don't remember so well, but rather that 'primitive' awareness is
>> >> swamped in our memory by repeated re-presentation of dominant
>> >> higher-order themes.
>> > You cannot derive an "is true" from a "might be true".
>> No, of course not.  But your mind seemed to be boggled by the idea
>> that the fundamental 'personalisation' of the universe must
>> necessarily manifest with a very different appearance to that which is
>> in evidence.
> No, I am just noting that having arbitrarily put forward
> a hypotheises, you are arbitrarily adding qualifications to
> it to save appearances.
>>I'm merely trying to apply a little massage to the
>> intuition that this doesn't have to be so.
>> > You have no need to struggle to come up with a panpsychist
>> > theory,
>> I don't have a 'panpsychist' theory.  Rather, I've made some general
>> arguments relating to the various senses of the term 'to exist' with
>> which I hope to give a shove to intuitions that have perhaps become
>> too stuck in one groove
>> > since you have no valid objection to physicalism.
>> > Your argument so far has been based on two dubious premises --
>> > that eliminativism and functonalism are the only physicalist options,
>> > and that functionalism is arbitrary and in-the-eye-of-beholder.
>> Again, calling them 'dubious' is not an argument (as you correctly
>> pointed out when I lazily resorted to 'specious').
> The first is just plumb wrong, and the second is based on a confusion,
> as
> I have shown.
>> AFAICS you have
>> not independently argued for their dubiousness, but instead have
>> gestured towards 'well-established' positions.
> If you argue that X and Y are the only theories, how
> else can I refute that but to point to the existence of theory Z in
> the literature?
>>Furthermore, I haven't
>> at all claimed that they are the *only* physicalist options, I've
>> simply attacked these specific positions where they are resorted to.
>> If you are prepared to confront what has actually been said,
>> specifically and point for point, we may make progress, but otherwise
>> I fear we shan''t get much further.
>> David
> >

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