On 7/20/2012 12:11 PM, Stephen P. King wrote:
On 7/20/2012 2:02 PM, meekerdb wrote:
On 7/20/2012 8:40 AM, Stephen P. King wrote:

Hi Jason,

The problem that I see with this definition is that it makes existence contingent and not necessary. The contingency (or dependence in the weaker case) on the capacity of "having objective properties that could be studied by independent entities, and the independent entities would come to the same conclusions about that thing" would make observers prior to existence and that works if we are considering non-well founded system, but not for the canonical case. Existence must be prior to everything, literally, and thus cannot be contingent on anything, including observers and/or their capacities.

You're trying to define 'exists' as (logically?) prior to knowledge.

Hi Brent,

As I explained, Existence must be primary and primitive. Even in the explanatory mode (pedagogy), we have to assume our own existence (albeit tacitly).

No we don't. Descarte fell short in his attempt find the indubitable. Instead of "I think therefore I am." he should have gone further and said, "There is thinking." "I" is an inference.

Existence simply cannot be contingent, else magic and other Harrypotterisms are allowed via consistency.

What does 'contingent' mean? Not logically necessary? Not nomologically necessary? Classically philosophers just meant that somethings existed necessarily (usually they meant 'logically') and others existed contingently. I had nothing to do with being nomologically impossible.

I think this is backwards.

    We do reason backwards, I see your point. Do you see mine?

First we perceive things, then we form theories about them.

Here you are taking the explanatory stance and thus your point is well made, but that priority (Percept => Existence) only occurs in that stance.

  This includes the theory that other people exist.

    I agree.

We find we agree with other people about perceptions. This leads to a theory of an external, objective world to explain the agreement.

Do you see that this theory (of an external world to explain the agreement...) is semantic externalization (aka *teleosemantics) *by definition. Such is either a pernicious fallacy or absolute law.

?? No I don't see that.

In the former case we have the case where we would have to find ways to filter out all possible contradiction (such as magic ala Harry Potter)

Magic is nomologically impossible, but not logically. There are Harry Potter computer games which being implemented must be logically possible.

or embrace the latter case where externalization is real but locally relative. The paper by Louis H. Kaufmann that I attached discusses this latter case at length and builds a strong case for it (and related non-well founded modes). H. Putnam <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_externalism> and D.C. Dennet discussed this idea in great depth.

In http://www.science.uva.nl/~seop/archives/fall2008/entries/information-semantic/ <http://www.science.uva.nl/%7Eseop/archives/fall2008/entries/information-semantic/> we read:

"The/systemic approach/, developed especially in situation logic (Barwise and Perry 1983, Israel and Perry 1990, Devlin 1991; Barwise and Seligman 1997 provide a foundation for a general theory of information flow) also defines information in terms of states space and consistency. However, it is less ontologically demanding than the modal approach, since it assumes a clearly limited domain of application. It is also compatible with Dretske's probabilistic approach, although it does not require a probability measure on sets of states. The informational content of/p/is not determined a priori, through a calculus of possible states allowed by a representational language, but in terms of factual content that/p/carries with respect to a given situation. Information tracks possible transitions in a system's states space under normal conditions. Both Dretske and situation theorists require some presence of information already immanent in the environment (/environmental information/), as nomic regularities or constraints. This "semantic externalism" can be controversial."

    It was the Barwise et al that I got this idea from that I am developing 

We have developed different theories about this objective world over the centuries with successively greater scope, accuracy, and predictive power. But each new theory has had a very different ontology: from demons and demiurges, rigid bodies, corpuscles, atoms, fields, strings, computations,...

I agree. As I have studied many of these, I found that they fall into two categories: Categories of Things and Categories of Actions. In other philosophical terminology, they fall into Being or Becoming ontological theories. More on that thread some other time...

  What is preserved are the perceptions, i.e. the observations, on which we 

Umm, no. That is not an invariant. The set of observers that are inter-communications (upon which the agreement emerges) is not fixed.

I didn't say the observers were invariant. It's the observations on which there is intersubjective agreement. Although the Moon was once a glowing goddess and is now a rocky sphere, those theories, and all those between them, explained the same appearance of a glowing object in the sky that transistioned between a crescent and a disk.

Consider human observers being born and dying all around you... The physical world that we observe is relatively stable only because the HUGE (but finite) quantity of observers that are involved in the global web of communication, but it is not a fixed set.

That's one theory of the physical world, that is created by observers. But what does it predict about the time before humans? Did the world not exist? Did dinosaurs not see a Moon?

So each theory tells us what, according to that theory 'exists' as most basic, but it is really the observations that are basic.

This idea was advanced by Kant and works well on the surface, but scratch it a little and it falls apart like spoiled fruit. One of Ayn Rand's excellent contributions was to point this error out and offer a sketch of an alternative.

I don't find any of Ayn Rand's contributions 'excellent'.

  They don't precede observers chronologically,

Time (as the dimension represented by t in physics and the common notion) is an observer emergent phenomenon, it is not objective (observer independent) nor absolute (as a unique ordering). It is the measure of change that the (relatively stable) set of observer have in common of the order of successive events. Once we take GR into account we can easily see that is is purely a local perception. Time is not global (and neither is space)!

Those are both characteristics of the theory (physics) we have developed to describe the world. The fact that there is no global time parameter is just a characteristic of the theory. It explains the local perceptions; just as the spherical Earth theory explained the local perception of a flat Earth.

but the theory tells us what happens beyond the range of observation and so what the world was like before there were observers.

This line follows Kant's reasoning rather faithfully and thus it fails for the same reason.

How is that?

It is also the idea of induction that Popper properly demolished.

No, it is just noting that a theory always has more range than the data it is based on - otherwise it wouldn't be a theory, it'd be an encyclopedia of data.
We cannot take both definitions of sematic externalism simultaneously. They contradict each other.

What definitions are those?

Epistemology precedes ontology.

    Only in the sense of pedagogy.

So how do you propose to arrive at the correct ontology - by scholastic 


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups 
"Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to everything-list@googlegroups.com.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to 
For more options, visit this group at 

Reply via email to