Re: Against Physics

From: Rex Allen <>
Date: Sun, 16 Aug 2009 18:24:52 -0400

On Sat, Aug 15, 2009 at 5:08 PM, Brent Meeker<> wrote:
> There seems to be a lot switching back and forth between cause and meaning and explanation
> as though were interchangable. And even those have different modes, e.g. first cause,
> effective cause, proximate cause,... Meaning=standing for something else. Meaning=having
> inherent value (to someone).

Are you saying that you find my argument to be incoherent? Or that
you get the gist of what I'm saying, but that my presentation left a
lot to be desired?

In the latter case: Point taken. I will try to be more careful in my
use of those terms.

In the former case: Well. Hmm.

> I agree that one can always ask "Why?" as children sometimes do; and the ultimate answer
> is, "Because I say so." So you may well say, "Things are just what they are."

So, a nice rhetorical flourish in comparing me to a child, but at a
substantive level there's a significant difference between "Because I
say so" and "things just are what they are", right?

"Things just are what they are" means that no further explanation is
possible, even in principle. And at some point that actually becomes
the case. Wouldn't you say? It can be said and meant literally.

"Because I say so." Well, I'm not sure what this means. Obviously
it's not meant to be taken literally. Right? Or do you suffer from a
god-complex of some sort? If so, my condolences for your affliction.
(see? I can be condescending too!)

> that doesn't mean that we cannot have and explanation of QM and gravity and
> consciousness, and after than an explanation of the explanation ad infinitum.

Well, with respect to QM and gravity, I think this is in keeping with
my previous point about putting conscious experience at the base of
the ontological/epistemological stack, rather than at the top.

So yes, I agree with you are saying here. It seems reasonable that
the explanatory process could go on ad infinitum, where by
"explanatory process" I mean the process of generating narratives that
are consistent with what we observe. And this process doesn't depend
on what really exists. It only depends on what we observe. If we are
in a physical world, a computer simulation, or Platonia, the process
is the same.

The process is one of generating narratives that are meaningful in the
context of your subjective consciously experienced observations. The
process is a subjective process. The meaning that you get from the
process is subjective means something TO YOU. It means
nothing in an absolute sense. If it meant something in an objective,
absolute sense then the process wouldn't produce the same results in a
physical world, a computer simulation, and in Platonia.

As for consciousness, the above applies, but let me also take this
opportunity to deploy this great argument that I heard somewhere: An
explanation must be of something less known in terms of something
better known. Since nothing can be better known than our own
subjective experience, it cannot be explained.

> So I guess I'm unclear on your point. Are you advising that
> we give up all explanation and just chant "It is what it is."

So originally I came to this list to clarify my thinking on what
causes conscious experience. BUT, as a result of the discussions here
and elsewhere, I have concluded that if consciousness is caused, then
it just is what it is. Which, incidentally is also true of
consciousness if it is uncaused.

This point is most clear if you think of the physical universe in
static "block time" terms (regardless of whether it is actually static
in this way). The block in it's entirety just exists, with whatever
properties it came into being with. If it is all that exists, then
you can't go outside of it for further explanation. Nothing more can
be said. Maybe it has a regular, predictable structure that extends
all the way through. Maybe it is riddled with random uncaused
transitions (QM anyone?). But either way, there's no explanation for
these things. Only description.

And if this physical universe is the cause of our conscious
experiences, then they also just exist.

So as for the chanting, well no. The scientific narrative process
that we engage in (described above), caused or uncaused, will continue
or it won't...we have no choice in that, or in anything else. But
under all imaginable circumstances I think it is clear that it is a
subjective process with subjective meaning. It provides no access to
the absolute view of what actually exists...the pursuit of such access
is futile. The veil of conscious experience (if it is a veil covering
something more basic, and isn't itself fundamental as I believe),
can't be pierced, even theoretically.

> Yes, I know it's circular. Thats the point. But I think it can be a virtuous rather than
> a vicious circle, and the wider the circle the more virtuous.

I don't think my views as outlined above are necessarily in direct
conflict with this. It just depends on how things are interpreted.

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Received on Sun Aug 16 2009 - 18:24:52 PDT

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