Rex Allen wrote:
On Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 2:57 AM, Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com> wrote:
There is some reality independent of us but which we invent
theories about which refer to some aspects of this reality.

Is this reality deterministic or random?
Random.

What caused it to exist?

Who said it needs a cause?

Why does it have the aspects that it has?  How is it that it gives
rise to conscious experience?

My theory is that physical processes of great complexity corresponding to what we call information processing and which include the construction of narrative histories in memory instantiate consciousness of a human type. I think when we understand these processes and the brain better we will come to understand there are different degrees and kinds of consciousness and the term isn't technically useful.
So it seems to me that we have two options:

1) We can take the equations of physics as being in some way true of
an inexplicably existing independent reality.

We only take them a provisionally true and/or approximate.
OR

2) We can take the equations as being true of the contents of our
conscious experience. Experience which itself is fundamental and
uncaused…and thus also inexplicable.

Ultimately, I don't see any way to choose between these two options.
Then maybe they are the same. Sometimes there are two ways of mathematically expressing a theory that are provably identical (e.g. Heisenberg's matrix mechanics and Schroedingers equation), yet one is much more fruitful.

BUT, option #2 has the benefit of greater simplicity.
But the ontology of physics refers to lots of things that are only very indirectly related to our conscious experience (like the Big Bang, and quarks). I don't think (2) is simple or useful at all. It is the extreme positivist philosophy which attempted to recast physics in terms only of relations between sense perceptions. Mach was one its proponents and he refused to believe in atoms and considered them mere fictions because they couldn't be seen. Now they can be "seen" by scanning tunneling microscopes.

Option #1 has the problem of explaining the existence and structure of
an independently existing universe/multiverse,


I think you have a strange view of explanation. We invent theories that described things and how they work. If we find they have predictive power and are not contrary to experience we provisionally accept them and use them to make decisions and test newer theories. An explanation doesn't have to explain everything in order to count as explanation.

PLUS also the problem
of explaining how this unconscious material world gives rise to
conscious experience…by which I mean qualia.

But #1 can do something to explain the events that make use believe other people exist and have experiences. We can study them and their brains and how they function and make successful predictions about this or that will affect their qualia. #2 can't predict anything except insofar as it can justify and take advantage of the success of #1.

Option #2 has the problem of explaining the existence and structure of
experience. But that’s it.

Note, however, that both options yield the same “ultimate
explanation”: Things just are the way they are.

The ultimate explanation for both is that there is no explanation for
the way things are.

So I’m not saying that the equations found in physics are wrong. I’m
just suggesting that they don’t mean what you think they mean.

What do you think I think they mean?

They do if they want a finite answer.

So you believe that the nature of reality is in some way infinite?


I would say that all that we can know are our perceptions, what we
consciously experience. From this we can derive all sorts of beliefs
about the way things *really* are. But these beliefs inevitably
involve unproved assumptions.

Therefore it seems to me that the fewer unproved assumptions, the
better. And it seems to me that the theory with the fewest of these is
that conscious experience is fundamental. Conscious experience is what
*really* exists and everything else is just an aspect of it.

Unfortunately that doesn't explain anything.

It's as good an explanation as anything you've provided.


It has no predictive power.

Ah, your fetish.

Given determinism, what is the significance of a prediction generated
from within the deterministic system?

That your method of prediction has some truth to it.

Given randomness, what is the significance of prediction generated
from within the random system?


That your method of prediction will yield the right relative frequencies.
 On the other hand evolution predicts that there will be a new flu virus
next year and it will be similar at the molecular level to the one this
year.

Same as happened last year.  And the year before.  Project that
forward, same as will happen next year.  Just come up with some
narrative that fits our past observations, then extrapolate forward.
All it means is that your observations have a certain consistency.  It
doesn't mean that your observations reveal anything about the
underlying nature of reality.

Except that it has this particular kind of consistency.
Why do the laws that govern molecular interactions hold constant over
time?  Why these laws and not some other set of laws?

Unfortunately you haven't explained anything.
No. I've explained a very great deal. I've explained why you and I can communicate by typing. Why you will go to the doctor, instead of priest if you're ill. Just not everything.

Brent
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