Re: Dreaming On

From: Bruno Marchal <>
Date: Fri, 31 Jul 2009 21:21:39 +0200

I comment on Rex's post, as quoted by David, and then I comment
David's post.
On 30 Jul 2009, at 22:34, David Nyman wrote:

> 2009/7/30 Rex Allen <>:
>> It seems to me that the primary meaning of "to exist" is "to be
>> conscious".

Hmm.. I do not completely disagree, because I can prove (with the AUDA
definition of belief and knowledge, that what Rex says is indeed true,
from the first person point of view. But taking this 100% seriously
leads to solipism. If only to pursue this discussion I bet on the
existence of some others, which consciousness I am currently
disconnected from (thankfully, the net provides a way to share third
person little pieces of things between us to supply that non first
person apparent sharing).
>> But what causes conscious experience? Well, I'm beginning to think
>> that nothing causes it.

OK. I rather clearly disagree. Arithmetical relations "cause" it. They
are clearly responsible for numbers introspection and numbers
chatting, and their discovery of the gap between.

>> Our conscious experience is fundamental,
>> uncaused, and irreducible.

Uncaused, OK, like any property of number can be said to be uncaused.

>> Why do we think that our conscious experience must be caused? Maybe
>> this isn't a valid assumption. Maybe we are being led astray by the
>> apparent nature of the macroscopic material world that we perceive?

Well, we search not necessarily a cause, but still an explanation. And
that explanation has to fit with what we can prove, can know, can
feel, can observe, and can infer.

To say consciousness is fundamental does not explain many thing. It is
a bit like saying matter is fundamental, except that in this case it
is helped in some methodological way for some time.

>> So on the surface this view of consciousness as fundamental may sound
>> a bit off-putting,

And as, you seem to be aware, it leads to solipsism.

>> but I think it's not so radical compared to
>> competing theories.

Hmm... It is a bit like David, you put to much emphasis, to say the
least, on the first person, which is the subject of consciousness.
Comp saves the first person from its materialistic elimination, but
comp does not eliminate mathematics, nor physics. It provides a very
precise theory which supplies the absence of matter and explain its
appearance, and which I like to call "machine or number theology", if
only because it provides a clean purely arithmetical interpretation
(AUDA) of Plotinus neoplatonist theory.

The ONE is "just" arithmetical truth. But I am not sanguine about
this, analytical truth works the same.
The INTELLECT is "arithmetical provability"
The KNOWER (alias the first person, alias the universal soul) is
provability in case of truth.
INTELLIGIBLE MATTER is "arithmetical provability in case of
arithmetical consistency".
SENSIBLE MATTER is "arithmetical provability in case of arithmetical
consistency and truth".

This makes 08 (meta)theories, which capture the same part of
arithmetic, but have quite different modal logics, which correspond to
different types of point of view. 8 because three of them are split
into provable and unprovable parts by the incompleteness phenomena.

To put it roughly: consciousness is a Goddess, sure, but it has seven
If we follow Plotinus, those correspond to the degree of "falling" of
the soul.

>> David answered:
> Of course I'm in sympathy with what you say here.

I am not astonished :)

> I've recently been
> picking the bones out of 'Panpsychism in the West' by David Skrbina
> which is a pretty comprehensive review of the surprisingly large
> number of thinkers who've actually held - or hold - some version of
> this view; and that's just in the West.
> However, I actually think we can do better than this. The extraneous
> baggage attaching to 'mental' vocabulary really gets in the way of
> clarity if we attempt to phrase it as you have. It's open to anyone
> reading what you say above to accept or reject based on the contents
> of *their* 'consciousness portmanteau'. But perhaps we don't have to
> go this far: maybe we can say something more restricted which
> surprisingly turns out to be more radical. Without repeating the
> whole analysis here, my view is that the heart of the matter lies in a
> rigorous redefinition of the semantics of 'exist' and its cognates.
> These different senses get chucked about in such a variety of
> ontological and epistemological guises that one is often at a loss to
> know what any particular use is attempting to pick out in the world.
> So my point is simply: let's start from the understanding that to
> exist is just and only what it is to exist-for-oneself: the defining
> characteristic of existence is 'taking everything personally'. The
> standard put-down at this point is something like 'well how personally
> do you suppose an electron takes itself?' to which the riposte is
> simply 'precisely as personally as it needs to exist'.
> Of course one might also ask 'how materially do you suppose an
> electron take itself?' and answer 'precisely as materially as it needs
> to exist'. But in granting a 'material' ontology to ourselves and the
> electron, we are immediately at a loss for somewhere to locate the
> personal unless we add a second ontological category for it to
> inhabit: and then any hope we might have a workable notion of
> interaction is irretrievably dashed.
> So now you may legitimately enquire: fair enough, but how do we get
> consciousness out of 'taking everything personally?' Well, it depends
> what you mean by..... But no, it does - really. This is already the
> 'easy problem' (tee hee) in that once you see that you're at large in
> a context that takes everything personally - but no more than it takes
> to exist-for-itself - you can work on your theories of 'consciousness'
> with some expectation that somebody will be there to take it
> personally when those great thoughts and feelings emerge. It's a bit
> like (in fact exactly like) the way we construct 'material' models in
> the confident expectation that NOBODY will be there to take it
> personally when all those great 'processes' and 'structures' emerge.
> But now we can see - as you point out below - that these 'material'
> entities can really only be elements of our personal
> existence-for-ourselves. Sure, we believe they refer to something
> beyond their representational role, but that something else is taking
> things personally in another part of the forest. And if they do not
> thus refer? Well, then they're just zombies.

OK. With some reserves.

> Rex:
>> Take the brain. I haven't verified it myself, but I'm willing to
>> believe that the structure and function of the brain is closely
>> correlated with the mind. My brain represents the contents of my
>> conscious experience. The activity of the brain over time maps to the
>> the contents of my conscious experience over time. Fine.


>> But the brain
>> is not the cause of my conscious experience.

OK. But is an evidence of having a deep and long computational
history. And in a sense, the brain is the "cause" of my consciousness
"filtration" in a vast subset of future computational histories.

>> A brain is something that
>> one is conscious OF, and thus has a secondary, derivative type of
>> existence.


>> David:
> Very well put. I've mentioned David Bohm's model of a video game,
> which actually got him thinking about the relationships inherent in
> the above scenario, thus: there's a game taking place on a screen
> (explicate order) being acted on by (but not itself acting on) a
> program (implicate order), which in turn is being acted on by (but not
> acting on) the feedback from a player (super-implicate order). In
> this analogy, the brain-body-world is akin to the on-screen
> representation, which in fact emerges from, and is under the control
> of, an underlying set of orderings that seamlessly incorporate both
> player and game. Subject and object then emerge as a heuristic
> distinction in the guise of complementary poles abstracted from
> feedback relationships.

I will have to reread that.

> Rex:
>> I can think about my brain, so it is something that I am conscious
>> of,
>> and so it exists in that sense. To the extent that I can examine and
>> experiment on someone else's brain, that is also a perceived
>> experience. But again, all of these things could happen in a dream,
>> or
>> hallucination, or to a brain-in-a-vat, or to someone in a computer
>> simulation.
> Yes, it could, but this may not be the version most conducive to
> sanity!
>> But the brain
>> is not the cause of my conscious experience. A brain is something
>> that
>> one is conscious OF, and thus has a secondary, derivative type of
>> existence.
> Yes, and this 'secondary' existence is just a category of
> existence-for-oneself.

Here you talk about the 'brain' which is in your 'brain'. the physical
brain is most plausibility a completely definable "object". Its
physics, as we can observe it, relies eventually on infinite histories.

> The contents of consciousness are precisely
> what we are taking personally, else they couldn't exist for us. We
> co-habit with them. But they don't just sit there: they connect
> seamlessly beyond our personal horizons, which is how we get to
> justify the belief that they refer to something - as we tend to say -
> outside our selves. But that 'outside' of course isn't outside at
> all; it's just as 'inside' as we are, taking things just as personally
> as it needs to exist, just like us. The external world we see so
> clearly is a reflection of the inside-out surfaces of our mindworlds.

OUR, the Löbian machines. OK.
OUR, the Humans. Not OK.

>> Similarly, science. I'm willing to believe that quantum mechanics and
>> relativity both describe my observations very well. But this is just
>> the fitting of various mathematical formulas and narratives to what
>> we
>> are conscious of. There's no deeper meaning to science than that. It
>> doesn't tell us about what fundamentally exists.

I recall that theology has been keep out of science and academies
since 1500 years, and has still not really come back.
Due to this unfortunate situation, "science" is confused as being a
sort of theology by itself, which it cannot be.
The least I have try to do is to illustrate that we can reason and
proceed "scientifically" (= proposing modest refutable theories on
consciousness, souls, person, identity and various "god-
like"mathematical and non mathematical entities).
Science is half-blind since a long time, but it is not the fault of
the science spirit, it is the fault of the human spirit which abuse of
the ten thousand authority arguments around those fundamental
questions, and, as consequence, that the spirit of science is
forbidden there.

>> It provides us with
>> stories that fit what our experiences: "IF you were made from
>> subatomic particles in a physical universe, THIS system of particles
>> and forces is consistent with your current observations."

Science will never provide more than IF this then THAT. Even theology.
To defend theology as a science consists in admitting to propose
theory (IF this), and then derive consequences in that theory (then
THAT). And test it, directly, indirectly up to the refutation, and
amelioration, correction, publication, etc.

> Yes, and of course WERE you thus made you wouldn't find anybody there
> to take things personally. The great value of COMP, I think, is that
> it pumps the intuition that we can't take persons for granted: they
> don't just map directly onto our representations, which I guess we
> should have expected, because god knows they don't look like anything
> that could be us. Of course a computational narrative may turn out
> not to be the way to go, but I strongly suspect that we still await a
> revolution in - well not physics, but..what? being-science? (gawd) -
> that will be in a primary sense generative of persons prior to the
> generation of appearances.

The theology of numbers. What they can feel and dream, about
themselves and each others, relatively to each one.

> IOW, there probably has to be some sort of
> fundamentally implicate-explicate-superexplicate thingamijig going on
> out there - er, I mean in here.


>> Science is basically us trying to make sense of a dream.
>> So in this view, consciousness is very simple. What's complicated is
>> fitting "explanatory" scientific theories to what is observed, and
>> identifying and understanding causal structures (e.g., a brain, a
>> machine, whatever) whose evolving state can be interpreted as
>> representing a series of "connected" or "related" instances of
>> consciousness.

Numbers do that.

>> But the observed physical system is NOT conscious, it
>> just represents the contents of someone's conscious experience.
> Very well put.
>> So initially this view seems somewhat...solipsistic (?),

Not necessarily, yet. You could have talk about "universal
consciousness", which does make sense with comp, although I am not
entirely sure. Universal consciousness is the consciousness of the
virgin universal machine, which is rare to find those days (when you
buy a computer it is already full of non universal programs). A
particular consciousness is when the universal consciousness forget
its origin. But this, to be sure, has not yet been asked to the
universal machine (it is beyond AUDA, I mean).

>> but
>> ultimately I think it really isn't much more radical than any other
>> theory on the table. For instance, any deterministic scientific
>> theory
>> entails that we have the experience of making choices without making
>> actual choices (in the free will sense). And so does any
>> indeterminstic theory that is based on bottom-up causation.
> Well, of course it's solipsistic, but that's its strength.


> You can
> only know yourself: but that 'self', properly understood, extends
> beyond merely perspectival horizons, to everything that is.

You are a billion times too much quick here.

> This is
> the perennial philosophy, and in this case, perennial because
> unavoidable.


> And as for 'deterministic', if we want to deploy
> causation in our narratives - and I don't see why we shouldn't - then
> existence-for-self gives you a conveniently monistically-collapsed
> version of the causal nexus that indivisibly unites perception,
> intention and action. Since they're indivisible, they only work in
> concert, and hence you can't get causal closure until the sense
> necessary in context gains expression. As to 'first' causes, I think
> we've reached the end of the semantic road.

I disagree. For any rational people betting their brain is a machine,
addition and multiplication are very good first cause. Equivalent one
are abstraction and application. There are many other equivalent one,
for the theology. They are not equivalent with respect to engineering,

> If you want, you can can
> elect to be a mathematical Prospero and conjure us from the deep by
> tautological force majeure, or you can accept the mystery of our
> contingent 'necessity'. Take your pick.
>> Beyond that, all theories eventually boil down to having to having to
>> take some set of fundamental entities and laws as unexplained,
>> unsupported brute facts. So whether it's one level down or twelve
>> levels down, at some point they end up saying "and these things just
>> exist, created from nothing, supported by nothing".

Yes, that's right. But some theories are elegant, does not eliminate
person, are more fun, than others.

>> So, no matter which way we go, reality doesn't match our common-sense
>> expectations.

Right, but common-sense change all the time. Somehow, it is a provable
promise that it never really stabilize, unless it remember its origin.
In that case it can perhaps contemplate the big thing, but can no more
play in it. (Again I am beyond AUDA).

>> I think this view makes the fewest assumptions, and
>> ultimately seems no more fantastical than any other theory on offer
> This is what my mother used to call 'having the courage of your lack
> of convictions'. I like it.

I am not sure I understand that remark. To sum up you have the

current paradigm:


comp forces the reversal:


Rex proposes something like:


It is radical, and it is difficult to say if it explains anything. I
suspect the goal could be personal enlightnment instead of a search in
a communicable theory which should or could explain the observable and
non observable (but "feelable", like pain) phenomena.


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Received on Fri Jul 31 2009 - 21:21:39 PDT

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