Re: Against Physics

From: David Nyman <>
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2009 17:35:36 -0700 (PDT)

On 09 Aug, 07:41, Rex Allen <> wrote:

Rex, just a few general points on your posts. The various 'existence'
arguments I've been putting forward recently are intended precisely to
show how our first-person world of meaning and intention is embedded
in a more general environment that is congruent with, rather than
alien to, these self-evident features. What of course is striking
about your proposals is that in reality nobody behaves as though they
believe this sort of thing: which is not of course to say that this
makes it uninteresting. In fact exactly the opposite: the very fact
that the world according to physics presents itself in this chilling
way makes challenging its assumptions all the more urgent.

Hence my attempts to pump intuitions about the source of the presence,
self-access and self-motivation inherent in the ontologically real, as
contrasted with the provisional and fundamentally epistemological
status of the theoretical constructions of physics. By ontologically
real I mean of course what is self-evident in the form of the
ontological first person. And in fact it really doesn't take that
much intuitive tweaking to achieve this, whether applied to the
putative primitive entities of physics, comp, or any other schema.
Essentially the intuition is that these primitives reduce in the final
analysis to the self-encounter of a primary, self-evident continuum:
i.e. a primitive self-relativisation that collapses both perception
(primitive self-access) and intention (primitive self-action) Such a
self-relativising duality of continuousness and discreteness is
indispensable to any personal account of 'owned' experience and
action, via the inheritance of such ownership from the primitive
context. From this it can naturally follow that whatever is perceived
is MY perception, whatever is done is MY action, and whatever is
determined is MY determination.

The key to seeing this is a simple appeal to the reductio ad
absurdum. Just assume the opposite (as the dogma asserts) and - pouf!
- the very appearance and sensation of anything whatsoever is
irretrievably lost. And it turns out that this assuming of the
opposite is quite unjustified by the facts. It is merely the dogmatic
adoption of the externalised 'view from nowhere' - a useful heuristic
in context - as a universal alethiometer. Of course, these basic
concepts find historic kinship with Vedantic and Buddhist insights,
and in the Western tradition via Plotinus, Kant, et al - and even in
the world-views of practising physicists such as Schroedinger and

I wonder if I can encourage you to take a break from contemplating the
block universe 'out there' and meditate on the intrinsic inwardness
that lies all around us?


> On Sat, Aug 8, 2009 at 6:12 PM, Bruno Marchal<> wrote:
> > On 08 Aug 2009, at 22:44, wrote:
> >> So physicalism in fact offers no advantage over just asserting that
> >> our conscious experience just exists.  Why are my perceptions orderly
> >> and why are my predictions about what will happen next usually
> >> correct?  Because that's just the way it is...and this is true whether
> >> you posit an external universe or just conclude that conscious
> >> experience exists uncaused.
> > This is not against physicalism, it is again rationalism.
> Ha!  Well, maybe.  What is the flaw that you see in my reasoning?
> I think that both the argument and conclusion are rational, just not intuitive.
> So earlier you asked this:
> > By the way, what is the status of your theory with respect to comp?
> Which in part prompted this new thread.
> So I think that one of the things that we can be conscious of is a
> descriptive theory referred to as "comp" that attempts to map the
> contents of our "conscious experience over time" to
> mathematically/logically defined "machines".
> And, I will not be surprised if you or someone else is ultimately
> successful in doing so.  But while this would be interesting, I don't
> think that it means anything deeper.  All that it will mean is "look,
> here's an interesting way of representing the contents of your
> conscious experience over time".
> It would just be a way of representing what "is".  By which I mean:
> It would just be a way of representing conscious experience.
> > I would say that consciousness has a reason, a purpose, and a power.
> > A reason: the many universal numbers and the way they reflect each
> > other.
> This doesn't sound like a "reason" to me.  It sounds like an
> observation, along the lines of "adjacent gray and white veins exist
> within this block of granite" (from my original post).
> > A purpose: truth quest, satisfaction quest.
> This purpose would only exist as part of someone's conscious
> experience.  The desire for truth and/or satisfaction are things that
> only exist in the context of conscious experience.
> > A  power: relative self-acceleration (can lead to catastrophes, (like
> > all power)).
> I'm not sure what you mean by this.
> > Physicists explain by finding elegant laws relating the quanta we can
> > measure, but fail indeed linking those quanta to the qualia we live,
> > and fail saying where those quanta comes from. But computer science
> > suggest a solution, we are universal machine mirroring doing science
> > "automatically" betting on "big picture" all the time, relatively to
> > other possible universal machines.
> So our machineness precedes our conscious experience?  Machines are
> more fundamental than consciousness?  Or machines are just a way of
> representing conscious experience?
> > Then theoretical computer science
> > can explain why we feel consciousness unexplainable and explain its
> > reason, purpose and power.
> I don't see that it explains anything.  Though it may be a
> useful/enjoyable way of thinking about the contents of our conscious
> experience.
> > This explains the mind, but we get the
> > problem of justifying the computability and the existence of the
> > physical laws from a vast set of computations. The white rabbits and
> > white noises.
> So it seems to me that you aren't explaining the fact that we have
> experiences.  It seems to me that you are focused entirely on finding
> a way of generating mathematical/logical representations of what you
> and I experience that doesn't also generate representations of strange
> white-rabbit experiences.
> > Those universal machine are self-multiplying and self-
> > differencing infinitely often in arithmetic. This is a big price: if
> > we are machine (a theory which explains consciousness as an
> > unconscious bet on a reality), we have to explain the physical laws
> > from computer science and logic alone.
> The physical laws can't be explained except in terms of other
> unexplained laws, as mentioned in my previous post.
> Though, I'd say that physical laws can't be explained because they
> only exist in our perceptions, which are themselves uncaused and
> therefore unexplainable.
> > But now that explanation can be
> > tested in nature, making that theory refutable. And this illustrates
> > we don't have to abandon rationalism.
> I think the rational conclusion from what we perceive is that
> conscious experience is fundamental and uncaused.
> You are saying that consciousness is NOT fundamental, and thus it IS
> caused.  By...numbers?
> I think that you are mistaking representation for causation.  Even if
> numbers exist in some platonic sense, and can be related in a way that
> can be seen as mirroring, representing, or even predicting my
> conscious experience...I think that all this shows is that math/logic
> is a really flexible tool for representing processes, relationships,
> patterns, etc.
> As far as the significance of accurate predictions, I refer you back
> to the last paragraph of my original post.  You read the part about
> the granite block, right?  Though, I do need to find some more
> succinct way of stating that point that doesn't require the setup of
> all the preceding paragraphs.
> Hmmmm.
> ALSO, this discussion between Sean Carroll and Mark Trodden was great,
> and I think goes with my original post pretty well, especially the
> last third of their discussion.
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Received on Mon Aug 10 2009 - 17:35:36 PDT

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