On Mon, Jan 18, 2010 at 1:05 AM, Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com> wrote:
> Rex Allen wrote:
>> So I'm just trying to understand my situation here.  To me, my
>> existence seems quite perplexing.  An explanation is in order.
> But you never say what would count as an explanation - which makes me think
> you don't know.  Which is OK.  But not knowing what the explanation would
> look like is a very poor reason for asserting no explanation is possible and
> things are just the way they are.

How can I describe something that doesn't exist?

Again, I base my belief that no explanation exists on the following
line of reasoning:

We have our observations and we want to explain them. To do this, we
need some context to place our observations in. So we postulate the
existence of an external universe that “causes” our observations. But
then we want to explain what caused this external universe…and the
only option is to postulate the existence of a much larger multiverse.
But then what explains the multiverse?

So this leads to the need for an infinite series of ever larger
contexts against which to explain the previous context that we used to
explain the previous context that we used to explain the fact of our
initial observations.

So nothing can be explained in terms of only itself. To explain it,
you have to place it in the context of something larger. Otherwise, no
explanation is possible, and you just have to say, “this is the way it
is because that’s the way it is.”

Basically it seems to me that there’s only two way the process can
end. Two possible answers to the question of “Why do I observe the
things that I observe?”:

1) Because things just are the way they are, and there’s no further
explanation possible.

2) Because EVERYTHING happens, and so your observations were
inevitable in this larger context of “everything”.

Do you see some other option?  Some flaw in the reasoning?

> I refer to my example of vitalism.  Until
> molecular biology was developed nobody could conceive of how understanding
> lifeless atoms and an molecules could explain life.  And in a sense it
> didn't explain it in the terms people were thinking of, e.g. finding an elan
> vital.  It didn't "explain" it at all; but it described it so thoroughly
> that people saw that asking for an explanation was the wrong question.  And
> that's not the only example.  People wondered what caused the planets to
> move through the sky.  Newton propounded his theory of universal gravitation
> and it became possible to predict not only the course of the planets but of
> any other body in motion through the solar system.   When Newton was asked
> to explain how gravity did this he replied, "Hypothesi non fingo."

Ya, I don't find your vitalism argument convincing at all.  We've
discussed it before.

As for Newton, I quote from one of his letters:

"To your second query, I answer, that the motions of which the planets
now have could not spring from any natural cause alone, but were
impressed by an intelligent Agent."

In the Scholium Generale Newton stressed that God was the Lord, Ruler,
and Pantocrator of the universe.  God ruled the universe note as one
rules one's own body, but as a Sovereign Prince.

SO, Newton had his "ultimate explanation".

>> The chain of thought that led to my current proposal is not that
>> complicated.
>> All you have to do is to consider the block universe concept, which I
>> choose because it's easy to talk about - but the points hold for any
>> physicalist theory of reality I think.
>> So, why does this block of space-time and it's contents exist?
>> Presumably there would be no reason, it just would.
>> Why would things be the way they are inside the block?  Presumably
>> there would be no reason, they just would be that way.
>> If certain configurations of matter inside the block gave rise to
>> conscious experience, why would this be so?  Presumably there would be
>> no reason for this either, it just would be so.
>> With that in mind, why would we prefer the explanation involving the
>> inexplicable existence of a space-time block whose contents somehow
>> gives rise to conscious experience *OVER* the explanation that the
>> conscious experiences in question just exist uncaused?
> First, because the block universe assumes a lot more that just "things
> happen in spacetime".  There is a very large and extensively tested set of
> theories about how the events in spacetime are related and why we perceive
> different people and how their perceptions are transformations of one
> another's.
> Second, we don't always prefer a block universe explanation.  In fact we
> almost always use an evolving model in which the future is not determined as
> in a block, but depends on a mixture of choices, initial conditions and
> randomness.  When we use X in an explanation of Y we don't necessarily need
> an explanation of X, we need only know what X means in some operational
> sense.

So, how is this relevant to anything I've said?  I'm genuinely
curious.  To me it looks like your just making some statements about
relativity, which while true, have no bearing on my points at all.  It
seems like you're just throwing in some things that sound good...but
don't actually add anything relevant to the discussion.

On the other hand, it seems possible that you may tell me something
new here.  I am interested.

>> Well...I don't see why we should.  C
>> How do I explain the consistency and order of my uncaused experiences?
>>  Well, how do you explain the consistency and order of your space-time
>> block?
>> How can conscious experiences exist uncaused?  Well, how can
>> space-time blocks exist uncaused?
>> Any question you ask about my theory, I can just as easily ask about
>> yours...again, even if yours doesn't involve space-time blocks but
>> rather some other physicalist variation.
>> You can say that the space-time block explanation is more "useful" for
>> making predictions, but what does "useful" mean from inside the
>> context of a space-time block?
> It means when I design an airliner you needn't be afraid to fly on it.

In a deterministic universe, I have no choice in the whether I feel
fear or not...it follows from the initial state of the universe plus
the causal laws of physics as applied over 13.7 billion years.  In a
random universe, whether I feel fear or not is an outcome of random
processes and thus also not under my control.

>> And as I've mentioned before, assuming that conscious experience is
>> fundamental doesn't preclude making predictions either.  In fact, the
>> predictions for future observations should be the same as those made
>> starting from physicalist assumptions.
> But my point is that this is a cheat.  You use all the mechanism and
> theories of physics to make the predictions even though as you point out
> there is no worked out theory of the connection between consciousness and
> physics.  On the one hand you use this to reject the physical reality model
> and on the other hand you help yourself to all it's predictive power and
> pretend it's the same as a consciousness is fundamental theory.

Science is about observation.  Conscious experience IS observation.
There is no cheating.

I'm saying that the same scientific theories could have been developed
by using my proposed framework, just as Newton did his work in a very
religious theistic framework.

> Can you
> tell me how, on a consciousness is fundamental model, you would explain the
> connection, in terms of conscousness, your ideas cause your fingers to type
> things that show up on my monitor?

Consciousness is all that exists, and the appearance of causality is
just an aspect of that consciousness (I'll follow Kant on this point).
 So there's nothing to connect.  Just narratives to develop that are
consistent with what is observed.

>> But, whether consciousness is fundamental, or matter is fundamental,
>> or numbers are fundamental...the only reality that we'll ever *know*
>> is the reality of our conscious experience.  Life may not be a dream,
>> but it might as well be.
> Really!?  You really don't care whether you're awake or dreaming.  You
> really can't tell the difference?

No, I really don't care.  I care whether my experiences are pleasant
(good) or unpleasant (bad), BUT not whether they're real or dreams.
Why should I?

As to whether I can tell the difference:  When I dream during sleep I
almost never know it to be a dream.  During some Salvia trips I've
been convinced that the Salvia dream is what's real, while my life
before it started was all an illusion or a trick of some kind.  SO, if
my experiences while awake are just yet another kind of dream, I
wouldn't know that either, would I?

>> And, however things *really* are, there is no reason for it...they
>> just are that way.
> But you continue to act (and think - except when philosophizing) exactly as
> if there were a physical reality.  If you can't explain that - in terms of
> consciousness - then you give up helping yourself to theories based on
> physical reality.

I act as reality entails.  This is as true assuming physicalism as it
is with subjective idealism.
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