RE: Evil ? (was: Hypostases (was: Natural Order & Belief)

From: Jef Allbright <>
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 12:14:30 -0800

Bruno Marchal wrote:

>> Although we all share the illusion of a direct and
>> immediate sense of consciousness, on what basis can
>> you claim that it actually is real?
> Because we cannot doubt it. It is the real message,
> imo, of Descartes "diagonal argument": it is the
> fixed point of doubt. If we decide to doubt everything,
> we will find ourselves, at some stage, doubting we doubt
> of everything. The same for relativization: we cannot
> relativize everything without an absolute base on which
> that relativization is effective.

Here is a subtle, and non-traditional thought:

Classical philosophy always put the Reasoner at the center of the
structure of reasoning. But with our more developed awareness of
evolution, evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, it is becoming
clearer that this pure "Copernican" view of reasoning is invalid. We
now can see that every Reasoner is embedded within some a priori
framework such that there is an intrinsic bias or offset to any
subjective construct. When we are aware that there is fundamental bias,
it is clear that one can not validly reason to the point of doubting
everything. When all that is in doubt is removed, we don't arrive at
zero as is classically thought, but at some indistinct offset determined
by our very nature as a reasoner embedded in a real environment.
Understanding this eliminates the pressure to deal with conceptual
identities leading to meaningless absolutes.

This understanding also helps resolve other philosophical "paradoxes"
such as solipsism, meaning of life, free-will and others hinging on the
idea of a subjective center.

> If you want (like David
> and George) consciousness is our criteria of "absolute
> (but not 3-communicable) truth". I don't think we can
> genuinely doubt we are conscious, although we can doubt
> on any content of that consciousness, but that is different.
> We can doubt having been conscious in some past, but we
> cannot doubt being conscious here and now, whatever that means.
> The "truth" here bears on the existence of the experience, and has
> nothing to do with anything which could be reported by the
> experiencer.

On this basis I understand your point, and as long as we are very
careful about conveying which particular meaning of "knowing",
"certainty", and "truth" we are referring to, then there will be little
confusion. But such dual usage leaves us at risk of our thinking
repeatedly falling into the singularity of the self, from which there's
no objective (and thus workable) basis for any claim.

My personal experience is that there's no paradox at all if one is
willing to fully accept that within any framework of description there
is absolutely no difference at all between a person and a zombie, but
even the most philosophically cognizant, being evolved human organisms,
will snap back to defending the existence of a 1st person point of view
even though it isn't detectable or measurable and has absolutely no
effect on the physical world.

It is virtually impossible for many people to see that even IF the 1st
person experience actually exists, it can't be described, even by that
person, except from a third person perspective. That voice in your own
mind, those images in your imagination, none can be said to be
experienced without being interpreted. The idea of direct experience is
incoherent. It always carries the implication that there's some other
process there to have the experience. It's turtles all the way down.

The essence of Buddhist training is to accept this non-existence of Self
at a deep level. It is very rare, but not impossible to achieve such an
understanding, and while still experiencing the illusion, to see it as
an illusion, with no actual boundary to distinguish an imagined self
from the rest of nature. I think that a machine intelligence, while
requiring a model of self, would have no need of this illusion which is
a result of our evolutionary development.

- Jef

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Received on Thu Dec 28 2006 - 15:36:32 PST

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