On 7/6/2012 5:18 PM, David Nyman wrote:
On 6 July 2012 18:01, Bruno Marchal <marc...@ulb.ac.be
/I am sure your analysis might help to better apprehend
consciousness, and can perhaps better handle the amnesia
situation. But you have not (yet) convinced me that it has to
be termed into a new form of *assumed at the outset*
indeterminacy. The probability of "being me" is a sort of
Dirac distribution: it is one, for "me", and zero for the
others. The probability of becoming "me", is perhaps close to
one on the transitive closure of the computations, and is
complex to compute for particular brain instantiation./
Thanks for your detailed critique up to this point, Bruno. I
understand of course that you are particularly concerned to assess its
consistency with comp. By contrast, as I have said, my own motivation
has been more generally to find a heuristic for navigating some of the
thornier conceptual puzzles presented by consciousness. I understand
that the kind of global probability distribution entailed by this
notion is poorly defined in a strict mathematical sense. The global
distribution is simply assumed ex hypothesi by the stipulation of a
class of all sentient moments, and the "relative probability" of any
sub-class of moments is then assumed to derive from a kind of global
frequency-interpretation as a consequence of the unique "stochastic
succession" of moments. This is essentially what Hoyle had in mind
with his pigeon hole metaphor, and it stands or falls in terms of its
utility as a mode of thought for certain purposes; no more, no less.
Consequently the "/*assumed at the outset* indeterminacy" /just
follows automatically from//the specification of the heuristic; as
moments succeed each other without extrinsic ordering, the
personalised spatio-temporal characteristics associated with each
successive moment have in this sense no prior determination. The
notion of "succession" here simply grounds the bare notion of
experiential transition, and the consequence of each such transition
is to localise the knower in terms of an underlying "real system".
This system, in turn, can readily be assumed to be as complex as
necessary to account for the unfolding relative scenarios thus recovered.
A feature of this view is that all subsequent notions of indeterminacy
are inherited from a single primitive notion, which is assumed to
mediate _all_ questions of who, where, when and relative to what. For
example, it grounds the relative probabilities of the "future
outcomes" of individual persons as well as more general "anthropic" or
observer self-selection issues. One could see this as a useful
conceptual simplification or a step too far, I guess. "The
probability of being me", seems to be, as you say, all or nothing; but
in terms of the heuristic it is weird but inevitable that this must
always seem to be the case in the context of a given occasion of
experience. The "probability of becoming me" (or that there will be a
"me" to be) depends, as I think you imply, on the entire web of
relations encoded in the real system.
Thank you again for the critique. I hadn't really thought to
"convince" you, but you have helped me to test the usefulness of the
view under stress, as it were. I continue to find it helpful, but I
will of course always be on the look-out for cases where it might
seriously mislead. We cannot hope for full illumination in such
matters, but a small guiding light can often help us negotiate a
conceptual obstacle in the path.
Dear David and Bruno,
I am very informed by your discussion so far. I really appreciate
the patience and depth of the discussion! I would only add that the idea
of a "single primitive notion, which is assumed to mediate all questions
of who, where, when and relative to what" is a form of Pre-Established
Harmony ala what Leibniz had in mind to explain the synchronization of
the Monads. I see this idea as problematic because it assumes something
that is completely unphysical and even impossible! It is my claim that
any such PEH is equivalent to a solution to an optimization or
satisfaction problem and such require computations to be actually
performed to be said to have solutions.
One can claim that a solution exists and even privite a proof of
this existence, but this is no substitute for actually having the
solution in hand so as to use it. The real world requires that we
physically instantiate our computations; we have to do work to gain
knowledge of solutions to problems. The idea that there exists a
Mediator of all questions is not sufficient if we do not have the means
to acquire the exact nature of the "who, where, when and relative to what".
We have to be very careful about this "assumed from the onset"
stuff! Yes, it is necessary to assume things even for the sake of
discussion of ideas, but to assume that they are de facto primitive
and/or a priori is often a fatal mistake.
"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed."
~ Francis Bacon
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups
"Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to
For more options, visit this group at