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

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 12:54:49 -0800

Jef Allbright wrote:
> 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.

That sounds good, but could you give some concrete examples. Talk of "bias" and "offset" seems to imply that there really is an absolute center - which I think is a very dubious proposition.
> 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.

I think "objective" should just be understood as denoting subjective agreement from different viewpoints.

> 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.

That sounds like a simple contradiction to me!?? I'd say experience is always "direct", an adjective which really adds nothing. An experience just is. If it has to be interpreted *then* you've fallen into an infinite regress: who experiences the interpretation.

> 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.

To call it an illusion goes too far. I'd say the self is a model or an abstract construct - but it models something, it has predictive power. If you start to call things like that "illusions" then everything is an illusion and the word has lost its meaning.

Brent Meeker

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Received on Thu Dec 28 2006 - 15:58:05 PST

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