On 12/7/2010 10:13 AM, Rex Allen wrote:
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>
On 11/27/2010 1:06 PM, Jason Resch wrote:
On Sat, Nov 27, 2010 at 12:49 PM, Rex Allen<rexallen31...@gmail.com>
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?

If you know that rocks are hard then that is a true belief, independent of your experience. Otherwise you don't know it.

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.

You've slip from existence of things to treating existence itself as a thing. It is easy to conceive of a rock as existing, even if you can't conceive of its existence as a ding an sich.

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.

Why suppose that they do?  Where's your proof?

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

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

What "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.

But what is the explanation for there being no reason?

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

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.

But that's what makes them useful for explaining other things.

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.

Which is very useful.


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