2009/8/27 Flammarion <peterdjo...@yahoo.com>:
>> and hence that it can't
>> in and of itself tell us anything fundamental about ontology.
> I don't think it revelas it sown ontology. OTOH, it must somehow
> be taken accounto fi in any succesful ontology because everything
I've considered the various comments you've made recently and I've
been wondering how best to proceed in our discussion, to try to avoid
going round in circles. I'd like to focus on the question of
ontology. You say above that consciousness doesn't "reveal its own
ontology". If by this you mean that consciousness - in virtue of its
mere presence - doesn't provide its own analysis, then of course this
is obviously true. But this is not what I'm getting at here. I've
said pretty clearly that I'm trying to articulate some of the
implications of an 'eastern' metaphysics such as Vedanta. A typical
statement in this tradition is something like "everything is
consciousness", and this is indeed broadly the sense in which I'm
ascribing ontological primacy to this category.
The term consciousness carries so much freight that I'd prefer some
more neutral expression such as primitive self-availability, but as
you've said, non-standard vocabulary carries its own burden. Anyway,
it's the uneliminable intrinsic availability that Chalmers is getting
at in his zombie reductio. Any claim on this as the primitive ontic
substrate, naturally entails that all other accounts must in principle
be reducible or paraphraseable in terms of it, and I think that in
fact Chalmers' own information-based dual-aspect approach has
something useful to say on this score. Essentially, at the end of the
short exposition in "Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness", he
summarises the problems pretty well, and comes up with more or less
the same intuition, adjusting for vocabulary. Here's the quote:
"Once a fundamental link between information and experience is on the
table, the door is opened to some grander metaphysical speculation
concerning the nature of the world. For example, it is often noted
that physics characterizes its basic entities only extrinsically, in
terms of their relations to other entities, which are themselves
characterized extrinsically, and so on. The intrinsic nature of
physical entities is left aside. Some argue that no such intrinsic
properties exist, but then one is left with a world that is pure
causal flux (a pure flow of information) with no properties for the
causation to relate. If one allows that intrinsic properties exist, a
natural speculation given the above is that the intrinsic properties
of the physical - the properties that causation ultimately relates -
are themselves phenomenal properties. We might say that phenomenal
properties are the internal aspect of information. This could answer a
concern about the causal relevance of experience - a natural worry,
given a picture on which the physical domain is causally closed, and
on which experience is supplementary to the physical. The
informational view allows us to understand how experience might have a
subtle kind of causal relevance in virtue of its status as the
intrinsic nature of the physical. This metaphysical speculation is
probably best ignored for the purposes of developing a scientific
theory, but in addressing some philosophical issues it is quite
IOW, he proposes - with charming professional tentativeness - that
experience is the intrinsic nature of the physical - i.e. in Quinean
terms, everything is reducible to experience. This allows him to
paraphrase the extrinsic physical account as 'pure causal flux' - i.e.
the abstractable relational properties of what exists. It is of
course this abstractability or extrinsicality that makes it at the
same time shareable and incomplete. Completing the account - adding
back the interpretation of the causal flux - then depends on *being*
the 'instantiation' of the flux - i.e. the intrinsic properties in the
It would interest me to see how the foregoing squares with the
criticisms you've recently made, and whether we can at least see
exactly where the divergence is situated.
> On 21 Aug, 16:39, David Nyman <david.ny...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> 2009/8/21 Flammarion <peterdjo...@yahoo.com>:
>> > Do you concede that many aspects of mind -- cognition, memory and so
>> > on --
>> > are not part of any Hard Problem?
>> Yes, absolutely. But I think our basic divergence is that I say you
>> can't end up at these destinations unless you buy the ticket at the
>> point of departure - the ticket being what I've called self-access
>> (i.e. as a characteristic of the situation as a whole, not of parts
>> taken in isolation).
> I don't think self-access is part of the Hard Problem either. It isn't
> difficult to get a computer to report on its internal state.
>> Look, when I asked you "how far down in our
>> analysis of the material do we have to go before the entities are no
>> longer material?" your reply was in effect "all the way down".
> Note that in these discussions there is a distinction between Primary
> Matter and Emprirical
> Matter. Empirical Matter is known through its properties and
> behaviour. PM isn't,
> hence the suspicion that it is redundant. The link between PM an
> contingency itself is the
> response to that, and it ensures that no contingent discvoery can
> elimnate PM.
>> > I think physicalism has been generally succesful and as much
>> > of it should be retained as possible. hence the need to focus
>> > on the key issues in the MBP
>> Yes, I wouldn't disagree with the spirit of that. But I also say we
>> must continue to be alert to the possibility of gaps in some of our
>> basic assumptions. I think part of the trouble is that to be
>> successful at anything, one has to push like mad, and this inevitably
>> leads - most especially when a particular approach has been very
>> successful - to the tendency to push it beyond usefulness. It probably
>> can't be avoided. All I'm saying is that there is a long-standing
>> metaphysical corrective that has always stood to one side of
>> physicalism, and from time to time it's worth carefully reconsidering
> And what is this corrective? You think a small amount
> of anti-relaism can be mixed in with materialism? You think
> a small amount of idealism can be mixed in?
>> >> 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.
>> > Referents are external by definition. So you must be sayign that no
>> > theory ever has a referent. But you have not said why.
>> I'm drawing attention to the fact that 'external' and 'internal' are
>> epistemic polarisations
> Well, when the terms are taken literally they are spatial...
>>which, in terms of any consistent monism, must
>> be seen as aspects of a unique ontic continuum. When we carefully
>> examine what is entailed in conscious 'observation' we find that the
>> very act of qualitatively reifying or embodying local representations
> This is most unclear. Is a “local representation” meant to
> be a mental representation? Is reifying it supposed to be
> taking it to have referent?
>> entails the draining of proper ('internal') qualities from their
>> putative referents, thus 'externalising' them and abandoning them to
>> the realm of the 'non-conscious'. So the 'red apple' is embodied
>> 'redly' in my consciousness, but the qualitative embodiment of the
>> referent is not thereby locally realised. This is the fons et origo
>> of the MBP, IMO. More below.
> I couln't make any sense of that at all.
>> >> Someone
>> >> (can't remember who) put it like this: "what is the external world
>> >> supposed to be external to?"
>> > My head
>> Yes, but try to see that in the context of what I said above. What
>> I'm saying requires a shift in viewpoint. If you don't make it - even
>> experimentally - what I'm saying will inevitably sound like gibberish.
>> OTOH, trying it for size doesn't commit you to the purchase.
> Maybe it requires me to make a shift in viewpoint, maybe it
> requires you to use more normal vocabulary.
>> > YOu still haven't said about how you got into contact with the inner--
>> > or at least any "inner" other than your own.
>> Well, I'm not arguing for solipsism, so I reason on the basis that my
>> inner isn't that much different to yours.
> That just gives you more than one noumenal self. What about
> the noumena of chairs and tables?
>>As for getting into
>> contact, perhaps this is the crux. I think that your view of
>> consciousness is that it is mere epistemology,
> No. (I don't even use “epistemology” that way. Nothing “is”
> except discussions of truth and knowledgeamongst philosophers).
>> and hence that it can't
>> in and of itself tell us anything fundamental about ontology.
> I don't think it revelas it sown ontology. OTOH, it must somehow
> be taken accounto fi in any succesful ontology because everything
>> you know of course that this is disputed - Bishop Berkeley, Vedanta,
>> the perennial philosophy, etc - and on what I think are good logical
>> grounds. If I assume that my experience is a matter *merely* of
>> observation, I can't help getting into an infinite regress of
>> observation - i.e. of epistemology.
> I don't see why that would follo
> at all.
>> Consequently I'm forced to the
>> view that my fundamental relation to the qualitative is ontological,
> By ontological do you mean fundamental?
> Do you think the qualitative is the only fundamental thing?
>> and that the analysis of the qualitative into context and content is
>> what actually constitutes the apparent epistemological-ontological
> Between what and what? Note that there are no fundamental
> divides in any monism, including the materialist.
>> Further, since I'm a monist, I must believe that if this applies to
>> consciousness, it must also apply to whatever it is that the
>> epistemological content refers to, and consequently it is this that I
>> must make sense of in any comprehensible account of the 'mental' and
>> the 'material'. Now, it's at this point that, adopting a
>> 'materialist' stance, I might say to myself "well, all this is
>> obviously untrue because the universe would be a mass of qualities -
>> which it clearly isn't - and things wouldn't merely manifest and
>> behave objectively and materially - which they obviously do". But on
>> reflection, there's no contradiction here, because the very nature of
>> the epistemic-ontic split lies in the abstraction of quality from the
>> observable - it's represented qualitatively, but what-it-represents -
>> i.e. its referent - is what's left over relationally when the quality
>> is abstracted. And this is why any account constructed entirely from
>> relational properties must be incomplete.
> Errrmmm, yes. You seem to have sidestepped the set of solutions where
> the qualitative –qualia—are irreducible featrues of ontology
> AND located in the head. Ie property dualism a la Chalmers.
> Locating qualia in external objects is very problematic because
> the objects then have to seem one way ot a humna, another way
> to a bat and so on. Locating them in the head, OTOH, allows uus t
> a plank of physicalism, the supervenience principle.
>> Now clearly, if we can't agree on something reasonably close to the
>> foregoing as our point of departure on the way to what would be
>> acceptable as RITSIAR, it's hardly surprising that we find ourselves
>> in conflict further down the line. Nonetheless, I'm interested to
>> know, even though you clearly disagree with the analysis, if you
>> reject this out-of-hand as a coherent point of view. Do you think it
>> is demonstrably wrong, or simply an unnecessary assumption? If the
>> former, what specifically is wrong with it?
> Well, I've mentioned one problem above, and another elsewhere:
> since redness is a scienticially detectable quality. The information
> an object is red is already there in it's relational structure, and if
> has red qualia too, the information is duplicated, and if it has red-
> and red-bat-qualia and red-cat-qualia and red-bee-qualia, the same
> information is
> being duplicated over and over...
> That doesn't mean materialism has or is a better answer.
>> >> Theories represent the limit of what
>> >> the world can *tell* us, not the limit of what it *is*.
>> > Theories don't necessarily tell us the whole story. However
>> > you seem to have decided they necessarily don't.
>> > If you can't peak over the horizon. how do you know there
>> > is anything there?
>> No, really, this isn't it. The horizon is still there, and one seeks
>> to peek beyond it. I'm just saying that there's a gap that can't be
>> bridged by any quantitative-relational theory.
> And I'm saying that where you are saying it, you should be showing
>> It takes a shift in
>> viewpoint - or rather, a proper appreciation of what our 'viewpoint'
>> really implies - to acknowledge the gap. Without the shift, one ends
>> up either explaining it away, or vaguely hoping that it will be
>> bridged by more or different relationships.
>> >> 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
>> >> you?
>> > Do you think that if you scanned my brain right down to the atomic
>> > level,
>> > you still wouldn't have captured all the information?
>> Yes, that's exactly what I think. I realise, as I've said, that it's
>> arguing against the 'causal closure of the physical', but I think that
>> it's quite reasonable so to argue, as this assumption itself is
>> central to the MBP - see Chalmers for a review. There's often a weird
>> sort of self-abnegation that creeps into attitudes at this point, as
>> though to say "why should we suppose that mere human experience itself
>> sheds any light on the workings of the mighty and terrible universe
>> that glides on serenely without us?" But on reflection this is to
>> carry modesty beyond sense, because we're just a part of all this and
>> consequently what is true for us must be true - mutatis mutandis - for
>> the rest of it. In fact the whole of science - nay the whole of life
>> - rests on a version of this statement of faith.
> Well, we already can scan brains and extract information, so this is
> a hiding to nothing.
>> And all that's required conceptually, I think, is to realise that
>> causality can't be 'closed' in the absence of mutual accessibility
>> between the interacting entities. The metaphysical intuition here is
>> of a self-accessible continuum nonetheless differentiated by
>> self-encounter ('self' because the differentiation doesn't really
>> create 'separate entities'). The fundamental justification here is
>> that any other assumption just makes the whole universe disappear -
>> i.e. without it, any conjectured universe, and everything in it, would
>> be zombified - i.e. beside the point, Occamistically speaking.
>> Furthermore, we have absolutely no reason to suppose that this is
>> contradicted by physical theory - there's nothing whatsoever in the
>> observable or theorised behaviour of fundamental explanatory entities
>> that implies that mutual accessibility isn't a prerequisite (i.e. not
>> merely an accompaniment) for the mutual 'activity' that is the limit
>> of what is entailed by 'observation'.
>> Consequently the qualitative basis of ontology is simply never
>> observed, because it is the unobservable *context* of observation.
>> It's not just the fish not seeing the water, it's the fish not seeing
>> the fish.
>> >> 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 the corrective to that corrective is that it must all be the same
>> > information -- just somehow presented differntly.
>> Yes, I agree,
> You disagree above!
>>but with the caveat that you mustn't leave anything out,
>> as I've said above. We're not that far apart, actually, once you
>> adjust for language and the status of the notorious 'gap'.
>> >> > 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.
>> > That is the very fallacy I was complaining about. You are taking
>> > "not necessarily real" to imply
>> > "necessarily unreal". (NB: RITSIAR is not intended as a claim of
>> > certainty. If you are just saying nothing is certain, you are nto
>> > saying much).
>> Well, I should sympathise with your complaint if in fact I was
>> claiming that, but I'm not. I'm just saying that *any* theoretical
>> entity - which is the limit of can what we possess epistemologically -
>> is necessarily an incomplete representation of what we take it to
>> refer to, for the reasons I've given.
> I haven't seen any reasons, you just seem to keep re-asserting 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.
>> > Since the thought is unfounded, I don't see why that is an issue.
>> No, if that is your view, I can see why you would think that.
>> >> >> 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.
>> > All that is delivered induibably is how things seem. Consciousness
>> > does not offer any gold-plated insight into what things are. including
>> > itself.
>> This is perhaps an example of the 'self abnegation' I refer to above.
>> Whilst there clearly is nothing 'gold plated' about any particular
>> insight available *through* consciousness, we must nonetheless keep
>> tight hold of the fact that it is consciousness that is the unique
>> *vehicle* for such insights - and indeed for any hold on reality that
>> we possess.
> Now you are taking my claim that cosnciousness
> doesn't deliver a reliable and unproblematic ontology to mean
> osnciosuness doesn't tell us
> anything about anything.
>> And one cannot coherently claim that this vehicle is
>> essentially radically other than it *appears*, because in this case to
>> appear is to *be* - and of course vice versa. So the extrapolation
>> from this is that the fundamental intuition of 'existence' on which
>> all - and I do mean *all* - the others parasitise, is that 'to be is
>> to appear'.
> Appearances can have underpinnings, and in this case
> they are not revealed.
>> Of course this is hardly a new idea, but I feel that it is usually
>> (though by no means always) somewhat thoughtllessly dismissed, and
>> hence its consequences don't get fully worked out. There appears to
>> be a sort of 'embarrassment issue' connected with it in
>> 'professionally respectable' circles! It is assumed - on no evidence
>> - that it must somehow contradict the known facts without adding
>> anything to understanding, because nothing was missing before. But
>> neither of these assumptions is the case IMO. Consequently I regard
>> this approach as a needful metaphysical illumination of - not a
>> replacement for - relational theories be they comp, PM, or whatsoever.
>> >> >>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.
>> Yes, that's what I'm saying of course. Epistemic entities are
>> instantiated in consciousness - it is their ontic context.
> If it is “ontic” at all. We should not conclude that Middle
> Earth is “ontic” because Hobbits are instantiated there...
>> as I've said above, it is the *unique* ontic context. Of course this
>> is what is claimed by Plotinus, the Vedantic literature etc, and I'm
>> saying it bears careful scrutiny.
>> >> I mean that consciousness isn't what we observe in others - or in the
>> >> functioning of our brains - it's what they experience.
>> > Consciousness doesn't seem to be the funcitoning of brains. But then
>> > diamond doesn;t seem to be the same as graphite.
>> Now we're back with the first-person / third-person distinction.
>> Surely you see the difference? Sometimes you seem to argue for
>> elimination, sometimes for dual-aspect. Which is it to be?
> I have never been arguing for elimination. There is a problem in
> ignoring the appearance aspect of consciousness, and there is a
> in treating it as a free-floating appearance
>> >> 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.
>> > No it doesn't. Why shouldn;t consciousness know the non-conscious?
>> > You are blurring epistemology and ontoloy again. I can paint
>> > the Taj Mahal in oils, that doesn't mean
>> > here is anything oil-painting-ish abotu the Taj Mahal.
>> Well I hope you can see now that I'm not in the least claiming that
>> the conscious can't know the non-conscious. Rather, I'm trying to
>> clarify their relation. If I'm claiming that 'consciousness' (for
>> want of a less contentious term) is the unique ontic context, then it
>> would appear that to ascribe non-consciousness to anything is no
>> longer tenable. But this is not so - rather, we need to think in
>> terms of what is relevant in context. So it is relevant in context
>> that, for example, I possess a conscious representation of the Taj
>> Mahal, but what isn't relevant in context is what that representation
>> is conscious-of - i.e. it has become in effect non-conscious.
> If eveything is conscious, the Taj Mahal is conscious. Saying it
> isn't “relevant” puts that fact under the carpet, it doesn't make it
>> >> 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.
>> > Who says they are unobsrvable? We can introspect them qua
>> > consciousness, and observe their neurological basis to boot.
>> Ah. It's the regress.
> What regress?
>>They're not fundamentally 'observed', because
>> of the regress. They're fundamentally be'ed (you see - we don't have a
>> word for it). IOW, to observe is to *be* the representation. That's
>> what makes it an ontic category, and that's what makes epistemology a
>> *functional* (what-it's-for) aspect of the ontic . What-it's-for is
>> to function as a reference to a more inclusive generalised context
>> 'external' to the representation, but within the same ontic category.
>> > You are assuming that consciousness is unobserved. But as I pointed
>> > out in the brain-scannign argument, there is good reason to think
>> > that all the *information* in phenomenal cosnciousness is in fact
>> > physically available. What is missing in physical descriptions is
>> > the mode of presentation of that informaiton to the first person.
>> > A red quale doesn't convey information over and above "that is red".
>> We're getting into the third-person / first person confusion here. I
>> assume you mean by consciousness in "consciousness is unobserved" its
>> putative observable correlates - which of course are ex hypothesi
>> observable. Your brain scanning point is similarly circular - IOW if
>> you take consciousness to be exhausted by its physical correlates then
>> obviously a complete account of these is equivalent to "all the
>> *information* in phenomenal consciousness is in fact physically
> I am not making a circular argument. We can take the brain-scan
> to be all the information because the quale red does not convey any
> information beyond “this is red”
>> The bit you choose to gloss over is "the mode of
>> presentation of that information to the first person", as though it
>> were self-evident that this could be exhausted by third-person
>> description, and all that is missing is some processual account of its
>> 'mode of presentation'.
> Not at all. The mode of presentation *does* differ between seeming
> and “this is red”. But they are different presentations of the same
> It is only the mode of presentaiton that is different.
>> I agree of course that "a red quale doesn't convey information over
>> and above "that is red", but this is because information - i.e. what
>> can be taken out-of-context - can only ever be ostensive in this way.
>> That's how it operates - it relies on *pointing* towards (i.e.
>> referring to) something that is instantiated qualitatively. The
>> redness consists in *being redly* - the abstractable content consists
>> in pointing and saying "like that". It's like a set of instructions
>> for *reproducing the experience in context*. And that - for perfectly
>> sound logical reasons - is why it can never be captured as
>> information. It's at this point that some people panic and become
>> eliminativists. I know you're not one of those, but then the problem
>> is that if you don't claim ontic primacy for qualitative existence,
>> you've backed yourself into unacknowledged dualism.
> Tha depends what else I am taking to be primary.
>> BTW, essentially similar issues are at the heart of my "little
>> theological divergence" with Bruno. I'm biding my time to see how the
>> seven-step math plays out before re-engaging on this.
>> >> 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.
>> > It's a pity you didn't comment on that.
>> Well I wasn't sure what you meant. Does 2) refer to the 'rock'
>> argument? Well, if a rock consistently output the results of
>> calculations I tapped into its surface, I might be convinced it
>> instantiated the relevant functions. Actually, a calculator is a sort
>> of rock that does precisely that, so maybe that says something about
>> the difference between 1) and 2).
>> But my complaint doesn't consist in the denial of 1), but rather in
>> its consequences for CTM+PM. IOW, if CTM+PM consists in the
>> conjunction of the two claims that a) specific physical processes
>> instantiate an (invariant) conscious state and b) any one of the
>> (variable) collection of physical processes functionally equivalent to
>> a specific computation instantiates the same (invariant) conscious
>> state, then c) I find this claim to be incoherent in virtue of its
>> sweeping the incompatibility of 'invariant' and 'variable' under the
>> It highlights the invariance of computational outcome of a class
> of processes whilst ignoring the physical variability of each
>> since it is the latter that is postulated as responsible for
>> consciousness, the former is irrelevant to the case. Gedanken
>> experiments like MGA and Olympia seek to make this more explicit by
>> reductio, but personally I find the contention prima facie
> I can't make much sense of that,. Are you using “variant” to mean
> “varying over time”?
> The actual claim is that there are N physical process that map onto
> any 1 computaional
> process, and M computaional process that map onto consciousness, so
> that consciousness
> has N*M possible physical realisations. I don't see the inconsistency
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