2009/8/24 Stathis Papaioannou <stath...@gmail.com>:
>> In the example of the alien brain, as has been pointed out, the
>> context of meaning is to be discovered only in the its own local
>> embodiment of its history and current experience. In Stathis' example
>> of *our* hypothesized observation of the alien's behaviour - whether
>> simulated or 'real' - any meaning to be found is again recoverable
>> exclusively in the context of either its, or our, historic and current
>> context of experience and action. It is obvious, under this analysis,
>> that information taken-out-of-context is - in that form - literally
>> meaningless. The function of observable information is to stabilise
>> relational causal configurations against their intelligible
>> reinstantiation in some context of meaning and action. Absent such
>> reembodiment, all that remains is noise.
> Wouldn't the meaning (to the alien) still be there if the brain did
> its thing without us understanding it, creating its own context? You
> can divide it into two interacting parts, one the brain proper, the
> other the virtual environment. The brain finds meaning in and
> interacts with the environment, but to an outside observer it all just
> looks like noise.
Yes, exactly - that's what I intend by: "any meaning to be found is
again recoverable exclusively in the context of either its, or our,
historic and current context of experience and action". "Either its
or our" here splits into:
1) Any meaning available to the alien would be situated in terms of
its locally embodied historic and current interpretative context.
2) Any meaning recoverable by an observer would be bounded by her own
historic and current interpretative context.
3) No meaning is recoverable outside the foregoing interpretative contexts.
I should perhaps emphasise that purely for the purposes of the
argument I'm assuming brain = mind to be a one-for-one correlation.
Having said all this, it is interesting to reconsider your formulation
"the brain did its thing without us understanding it, creating its own
context". What is it about *being* the brain that causes this context
to be self-referentially available, but hides it beyond possibility of
recovery from 'observation'? Again this is the crux of the question
that Peter poses. If one hold that *all* the information is in
principle available to external observation, how could the foregoing
be true? And indeed, if one consistently follows an eliminativist
path, one cannot consistently hold it to be true; rather one must hold
that colour-deprived Mary, because of the extraordinary scope of her
'objective knowledge' of colour, has in fact no surprises in store
when she finally 'sees redly'.
Can this be made plausible? Well, oddly, if I try this for size in
the form of a gedanken experiment, I can find one - and only one - way
to make it so. It is to conclude that - given Mary, for the
experiment to be viable, must possess the intrinsic capacity for
colour vision - her interpretation of the objective data is so
complete that it permits her to *imagine redly*. IOW the
meaning-in-context for Mary - the immediate local effect of
stimulation of her retinas by red-wavelength light - is in fact
recoverable in the context of her locally available interpretative
capacities, just as it will be again when she finally leaves the
> Stathis Papaioannou
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