On Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 12:12 PM, Bruno Marchal <marc...@ulb.ac.be> wrote:
> On 02 Dec 2010, at 19:29, Rex Allen wrote:
>> On Sat, Nov 27, 2010 at 5:02 PM, Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com>
>> wrote:
>>> On 11/27/2010 1:06 PM, Jason Resch wrote:
>>> On Sat, Nov 27, 2010 at 12:49 PM, Rex Allen <rexallen31...@gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>>> Even if you have used some physical system (like a computer) that can
>>>>> be interpreted as executing an algorithm that manipulates bits that
>>>>> can be interpreted as representing me reacting to seeing a pink
>>>>> elephant ("Boy does he look surprised!"), this interpretation all
>>>>> happens within your conscious experience and has nothing to do with my
>>>>> conscious experience.
>>>>
>>>> Isn't this just idealism?
>>>
>>> If it were consistent it would be solipism.
>>
>> By inconsistency I assume that you are referring to my use of "you"
>> and "your" while claiming that, ultimately, Jason's conscious
>> experience has nothing to do with my conscious experience?
>>
>> If there are no causal connections between our experiences then...why
>> am I addressing him in my emails as though there were?
>>
>> There are three answers to this question:
>>
>> 1)  To be consistent, I have to conclude that ultimately there is no
>> reason for this.  It's just the way things are.  That I do this is
>> just a fact, and not causally connected to any other facts.
>>
>> 2)  The related fact that, lacking free will, I have no real choice
>> but to do this.
>
> 1) and 2) are contradictory.

How so?

1)  There is no reason for what I do.  (My actions are random.)
2)  Therefore I have no free-will.

I see no contradiction...?


>> 3)  My "experienced" justification is that these emails are mostly an
>> opportunity to articulate, clarify, and develop my own thoughts on
>> these topics.  I take an instrumentalist view of the process...it
>> doesn't matter what Jason's metaphysical status is.
>>
>> As to solipsism, meh.  In what sense do you mean?
>>
>> Methodological solipsism, yes.  Metaphysical solipsism, no.
>>
>> 1.  My mental states are the only things I have access to.  Yes.
>
> This depends what you mean by access. I am accessing and modifying your
> thought processes right now.

This assumes the existence of a causal chain between you and I.

What is the nature of this causal link, do you think?

In your ontology how is it that you "cause" me to act differently?


>> 2.  From my mental states I cannot conclude the existence of anything
>> outside of my mental states.  Yes.
>
> No. You cannot prove the existence of anything outside.

Conclude.  Prove.  I don't see a significant difference?


> But you cannot prove the inexistence of anything outside too.

Right...that was my point in #3.


> You are confusing ~Bp with B~p. From your inability to prove p, you conclude
> that you have proved ~p.

No no no.  I think there are things that exist in addition to my
current mental state.  Namely, other mental states.  My past mental
states, my future mental states, other mental states that aren't
"mine".  These all exist, I would venture.

So I don't strenuously deny the possibility of something
non-experiential existing - but ultimately I'm not sure what it means
to say that something exists outside of experience.

So let's take the set of all things that I know about rocks. Now,
let's remove the properties from this set that are just aspects of my
experience. For instance, any property possessed by dream-rocks or
hallucinated-rocks, we will subtract from the set of properties that
belong to "real" rocks.

Now...after this subtraction, what is left that is unique to "real
rocks", as opposed to "experiential rocks"?

Nothing, right? So what are we talking about when we discuss "real" rocks?

It seems to me that there is nothing conceivable about the in-itself
except the idea that its existence doesn't depend on our experience of
it. This is a pretty slim reed.

Therefore, I don't really see why we should assume the existence of
something that we can't conceive of. Maybe there are things that exist
but are inconceivable to me...but where can you go with that? What is
the point of trying to proactively account for something you can't
conceive of and have no reason to believe actually exists?

The idea of a physical world is superfluous to the world of
experience, has no clear definition, and can't even be described
except in experiential terms.

It's a chimera - purely a creation of the mind.

Do you think?


>> 3.  Therefore I conclude that only my mental states exist.  No.
>
> All right then. But this contradicts other posts you send.

My other posts said that only conscious experience exists.  I never
said only *my* conscious experience.


>> So, I only score two out three on the metaphysical solipsism checklist.
>>
>> Why do I reject #3?  This comes back to taking a deflationary view of
>> "personage".  It isn't "mental states belonging to Rex" so much as
>> "mental states whose contents include a Rex-like-point-of-view".
>>
>> I have recollections of mental states which did not include a Rex-like
>> point of view (Salvia!).  Based on those recollections I find it
>> entirely plausible (though not certain) that non-Rex-flavored mental
>> states exist.
>>
>> But beyond that I can't say anything further about what kinds of
>> mental states do or don't exist.  Maybe Jason's mental states exist,
>> maybe they don't.  It's not really important.
>
> You really look like a solipsist now. From 'cosmic consciousness' *you* can
> doubt about Rex's bodies, not about Jason or anyone consciousness. You mix
> categories. You are preventing all possibilities of theorizing at the start.

I'm trying to develop a theory that rules out all other possibilities, yes.


>>> It's when your conscious
>>> experience infers that you are communicating with another conscious
>>> experience that the need for an explanation of the similarity of the
>>> experiences is needed.  Objective = intersubjective agreement.
>>
>> And I would say that trying to explain intersubjective experience is
>> getting a little ahead of things until one has a plausible explanation
>> of subjective experience.
>
> That is non sense. It is like saying, before trying to build a pendulum we
> need a plausible explanation of gravity.

Your analogy doesn't hold since we don't have to infer the existence
of our consciousness from what we observe via our intersubjective
experience.

So we observe the pendulum and infer the existence of gravity to
account for it's behavior.

I don't infer the existence of my consciousness from observing my
interactions with other people.

I might infer other people's consciousness from my interactions with
them.  But, what of the people in dreams and hallucinations?  Should I
conclude that they are also conscious?

I can't make any judgement on the metaphysical significance of my
observations until I know the metaphysical status of the consciousness
via which the observations are made.

Just as you would assign different metaphysical significance to a
pendulum experiment that you perform in a dream than you would to a
pendulum experiment that you perform when awake.


> 1Z was right: you ask for an
> absolute explanation. Just that makes you a solipsist, given that only
> personal consciousness can be considered as absolute.

An absolute explanation is available.  Meillassoux discusses it in his
book, "After Finitude:  An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency".

The absolute explanation is that there is no reason for how things are.

The idea that only consciousness exists (fundamentally and uncaused)
follows, according the reasoning I outlined above.


>> What can you reliably infer from your conscious experience without
>> knowing what conscious experience "is"?  It's building a foundation on
>> top of something which has no foundation.
>
> This moves will kill all theories. That is not necessary.

It doesn't kill all theories.  Meillassoux's is compatible.  Though it
does kill your theory, as well as physicalist theories.


>> From conscious experience, I'd think that you can only reliably infer
>> things about conscious experience, not about what exists outside of or
>> behind conscious experience.
>
> Well, that is a theory depending statement. You want theories to be certain.
> That does not exist at all. (Well many argue that elementary arithmetic is
> certain. I am not sure, but I do take it as more sure than many other
> theories).
>
> Do you agree that 5 is a prime number?

I agree that if I start with certain assumptions, and make certain
inferences from those assumption, then I will conclude that 5 is
divisible only by itself and 1.

So if I assume what you assume, and I think like you think, then I
will conclude what you conclude.

Even better:  If I believe what you believe, then we will believe the
same things.

But this is a story about us and our beliefs, not a story about prime
numbers - which only exist for us, not independently of us.

If prime numbers exist independently of us, then how do we gain
experience of them?  Our experience is one thing, numbers are another
thing - how are the two things brought together to interact with one
another?  How do numbers "cause" us to be aware of them?  How do we
"know" these independently existing numbers?  Or do we merely infer
their existence?


>> As Hans Moravec says:
>>
>> "A simulated world hosting a simulated person can be a closed
>> self-contained entity. It might exist as a program on a computer
>> processing data quietly in some dark corner, giving no external hint
>> of the joys and pains, successes and frustrations of the person
>> inside. Inside the simulation events unfold according to the strict
>> logic of the program, which defines the 'laws of physics' of the
>> simulation. The inhabitant might, by patient experimentation and
>> inference, deduce some representation of the simulation laws, but not
>> the nature or even existence of the simulating computer. The
>> simulation's internal relationships would be the same if the program
>> were running correctly on any of an endless variety of possible
>> computers, slowly, quickly, intermittently, or even backwards and
>> forwards in time, with the data stored as charges on chips, marks on a
>> tape, or pulses in a delay line, with the simulation's numbers
>> represented in binary, decimal, or Roman numerals, compactly or spread
>> widely across the machine. There is no limit, in principle, on how
>> indirect the relationship between simulation and simulated can be."
>>
>> Without a limit on how indirect the relationship can be, then there's
>> no conclusions that can be drawn.
>
> But then how could *you* infer anything from this, given that you don't have
> an account of consciousness when your own "theory" asks for it.

Conscious experience is fundamental, therefore no account can be given
of it.  Fundamental things can't be explained in terms of anything
else.  That's what makes them fundamental.

What I infer from the Moravec quote is that if computationalism is
true, then you can never know what underlies experience and any
further metaphysical speculation is pointless.  In that case we are
trapped within the world of experience that is generated by the
underlying computational substrate, and the experiences we have and
the beliefs we hold are those necessitated by whatever programs happen
to run on that substrate.

The end result isn't that different from conscious experience being
fundamental.  We've just added an extra metaphysical layer or two that
don't really serve any "useful" purpose.

Again, metaphysical answers are never "useful" in any practical sense.
 They never add anything over instrumentalism, except perhaps to spark
the imagination via metaphor and analogy.

If you're only interested in usefulness, then you may as well pass
metaphysics by.


>> And, as always, if the simulation of conscious experience can "just
>> exist", then why can't conscious experience itself just exist?
>
>
> I'm afraid you are both solipsist and inconsistent.

Methodological solipsism, not metaphysical solipsism.

Inconsistent in what way?


> You evacuate all
> beliefs/ideas/theories in favor of one certainty: consciousness. That is
> throwing the reality-baby with the bath water in the extreme.
>
> All theories are based on assumptions and things we accept without
> understanding. We can never be sure of the truth of those assumptions. We
> can only hope that we can share them with others, and that they can explain
> what we are interested in. This is always relative to what we accept as
> starting *assumptions*. Always.

Starting with the assumption that there is some reason for the way
things are leads to infinite regress, regardless of the particular
details of the reason.

Starting with the assumption that there is no reason for the way
things are is the only way, even in principle, to get an answer.  That
you don't find the answer aesthetically appealing or personally
fulfilling is beside the point.  It's the only possible answer.


> The study of consciousness, when done honestly can lead us very close to
> inconsistency. You seem to bridge a gap which is not bridgeable (on earth).
> You talk like a Löbian machine (like G) which repeats what G* says, but
> doing this you are losing Löbianity and this makes G* wrong about you. You
> might have a good insight on something deep, but you make it false by
> presenting it as a "theory".
>
> Mystical and personal insight can help to find a theory, but they cannot and
> should not replace any theory. That is why the buddhists insist that
> enlightenment is a private matter, and can be judged only by what you can
> offer to the others when you come back in the village.
>
> You can also just enjoy the bliss, but you can't, I insist, communicate it
> as a theory without making yourself inconsistent.
>
> That's why the mystical truth is a 'secret'. That's probably why Lao Tseu
> said that those who does not know will talk, and those who does know will
> keep silent. For machines and numbers, that is akin to why G and G* are
> different, and why 'terrestrial or effective machines' have to remain
> (publicly) modest.

You're dreaming of being awake, and I think you know this.  But you
try to reason your way out of the dream.  But reasoning inside a dream
is dream-reasoning, and only applies (if at all) within the dream.

Nothing can be known, not even this.

-- Rex

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