Re: Evil ? (was: Hypostases

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 14:32:57 -0800

Jef Allbright wrote:
> Brent Meeker wrote:
>> 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.
> I don't know what other examples to give at this point, other than the
> comparison with the Copernican model. Knowing the actual center of our
> highly multidimensional basis of thought, even if it were possible, is
> not necessary--just as we don't need to know our exact physical location
> in the universe to know that we should no longer build theories around
> the assumption that we're at the center, with the unique properties that
> would imply.
>>> 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.
> Yes, although we can say that a particular point of view is completely
> objective within a specified context. For example we can have
> completely objective proofs in mathematics as long as we agree on the
> underlying number theory. In our everyday affairs we can never achieve
> complete objectivity, but I agree with you that multiple points of view,
> in communication with each other, constitute an intersubjective point of
> view that increasingly approaches objectivity.
>>> 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.
> So can you really imagine the existence of an experience


>(not to be
> confused with the existence of mere sensory data) without an
> experiencer?

Why should I not regard hearing a sound as an experience?
>>> 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.
> Please notice that I specifically called out the necessity for a model
> of self within its environment, essential for intentional behavior by
> any agent. But there's no need for the illusion of direct experience.
> Introspection, updating goals, interacting with the environment can all
> be done very effectively without the illusion, even though that was a
> clearly a likely result of evolutionary processes when they got near the
> level of development of language.

I guess I'm uncertain as to what you mean by "experience". Is "the illusion of direct experience" intended to be in contrast to "the reality of indirect experience"? What is the modifier "direct" intended to convey. If you have a model of self, then it seems that one of its roles is as the nexus of experience. It defines a point of view within the environment.

Brent Meeker

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Received on Thu Dec 28 2006 - 17:33:17 PST

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