Rex Allen wrote:
On Sun, Feb 21, 2010 at 8:50 PM, David Nyman <> wrote:
On 21 February 2010 23:25, Rex Allen <> wrote:

So we know 1-p directly, while we only infer the existence of 3-p.
However, you seem to start from the assumption that 1-p is in the
weaker subordinate position of needing to be explained "in terms of"
3-p, while 3-p is implicitly taken to be unproblematic, fundamental,
and needing no explanation.
You're right that I'm starting from this assumption, but only because
it is indeed the default assumption in the sciences, and indeed in the
general consciousness, and my intention was to illustrate some of the
consequences of this assumption that are often waved away or simply
not acknowledged.

So let's assume that an independently existing material world exists
and fully explains what we observe and also THAT we observe.

If this reality is deterministic, then what we experience is strictly
a result of the world's initial conditions and the laws that govern
it's change over time.  Which means that what we can know about
reality is also strictly a result of the initial conditions and causal
laws, since we only learn about the world through our experiences.

What would explain the all-important initial conditions and causal
laws?  Nothing, right?  They just would be whatever they were, for no
reason.  If they had a reason, that reason would be part of the
material world, not something separate from and preceding it.

In this case there would be no reason to believe that what we
experienced revealed anything about the *true* underlying causal
structure.  It could be like a dream or The Matrix, where what is
experienced is completely different than the cause of the experience.

Even if what we experienced did reflect the true underlying nature of
what caused the experience...what would the significance of this be,
really?  The future is set, all we do is wait for it to be revealed to
our experience.

An indeterministic physical world is no more helpful.  Here, we would
seem to have a range of scenarios.

At one end is pure indeterminism...where there is absolutely no
connection between one instant and the next.  Things just happen,
randomly, for no reason.  No events are causally connected in any way.
 If transitions between particular arrangements of matter is what
gives rise to conscious experience, then given enough random events
every possible experience would eventually seem to be generated.
However, if any of these experiences revealed anything about the true
nature of reality, this would be purely coincidental.

At the other end of the range is a nearly deterministic system where
only on very rare occasions or in specific circumstances would the
orderly sequence of cause and effect give way to some sort of tightly
constrained but completely unpredictable indeterministic state
change...which would then alter in an orderly way the subsequent
deterministic behavior of the physical world as the consequences of
this random event spread out in a ripple of cause-and-effect.

So our experiences would be completely "determined" by the initial
state of the world, plus the causal laws with their tolerance for
occasional randomness, PLUS the history of actual random state

This doesn't seem to provide any improvement over the purely
deterministic option.  Each "random" occurrence is just another brute
fact, like the initial state or the particular causal laws that govern
the evolution of the system (allowing for occasional random events).
The random occurrences don't add anything, and actually could be just
taken as "special cases" of the causal laws.

This, ISTM, is a paradoxical, or at the very least an extremely
puzzling, state of affairs, and it was to promote discussion of these
specific problems that I started the thread.

Is it a paradox, or a reductio ad absurdum against the idea that our
perceptions are caused by an independently existing external reality?

What does introducing an independently existing physical world buy us?

So we have our orderly conscious experiences and we want to explain
them. To do this, we need some context to place these experiences in.
So we postulate the existence of an orderly external universe that
“causes” our experiences. But then we have to explain what caused this
orderly external universe, and also the particular initial conditions
and causal laws that result in what we observe.

So this is basically Kant's first antinomy of pure reason. Either
there is a first cause, which itself is uncaused, OR there is an
infinite chain of prior causes stretching infinitely far into the
past. But why this particular infinite chain as opposed to some other?
In fact, why our particular "infinite chain of prior causes" or "first
cause" instead of Nothing existing at all?

It seems that either way (infinite chain or first cause), at the end
you are left with only one reasonable conclusion: There is no reason
that things are this way. They just are.

BUT...we could have just said that about our conscious experiences to
start with and saved ourselves the trouble of postulating a whole

Whether one starts from
the assumption of primacy of 1-p or 3-p (or neither) the principal
difficulty is making any sense of their relation - i.e. the Hard
Problem - and ISTM not only that it is Hard to solve, but even to
state in a way that doesn't mask its truly paradoxical nature.

It seems to me that there are two easy ways to get rid of the hard problem.

1)  Get rid of 1-p.  (A la Dennettian eliminative materialism)


2)  Get rid of 3-p.  (subjective idealism)

For the reasons I've touched on above I don't see that introducing the
idea of a material world explains anything at all.  Therefore, I vote
for getting rid of 3-p, except as a calculational device.

The idea of a material world that exists fundamentally and uncaused
while giving rise to conscious experience is no more coherent than the
idea that conscious experience exists fundamentally and uncaused and
gives rise to the mere perception of a material world (as everyone
accepts happens in dreams).

What is the problem with this solution?

The material world didn't lead to solipism. And it proved to have a lot of predictive power.

However, let me put in a modest word for a third possibility - instead of a first cause, and instead of an infinite regress, let me recommend the circular explanation; in this case: 1-p => 3-p => 1-p =>... I realize these are in disfavor and are given the name "vicious circle", but I'd like to suggest that when the circle is so large as to encompass all the explandums it integrates them into a kind of cyclic monism and is no longer vicious, but virtuous.


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