Re: Against Physics

From: David Nyman <>
Date: Mon, 17 Aug 2009 01:12:47 +0100

2009/8/16 Rex Allen <>:
> On Sun, Aug 16, 2009 at 5:42 PM, David Nyman<> wrote:
>> 2009/8/16 Rex Allen <>:
>>> On Sat, Aug 15, 2009 at 9:11 PM, David Nyman<> wrote:
>>>> Here's what I think is the problem with all this:
>>> Hmmmm.  I didn't see anything in your post that seemed like an actual
>>> problem for my view.
>> But weren't you were arguing that your view of explanation and meaning
>> as 'uncaused', in some ultimate sense, rendered them pointless?  My
>> rejoinder was that the point of departure for any existential
>> encounter is always contextual - or situated - and our task is to
>> explore ways of relating meaningfully to this situation
> To find subjective meaning in the situation, sure.  It's pointless,
> but we have to do something to pass the time.  And I mean "have to" in
> the sense that we are compelled to...either by causes beyond ourselves
> (e.g., as a side effect of electrons and quarks going about their
> business), or just because that's what our conscious experience is of
> and so we are tautologically dragged along behind it.

When you qualify meaning as 'subjective' - which I would prefer to
render as inter-subjective or contextual - this again implies the
expectation that meaning must be legitimated from some notionally
'objective' pole - i.e. external to the context in which it is
situated. My point is not merely that this *isn't* so, but that it
*can't* be. Also, recall the insight that explanatory entities such
as those you cite are not transcendent, but intrinsic, to our own
natures. These aren't "causes beyond ourselves": 'their' business is
intrinsically *our* business.

By the way, the idea of 'non-interactive' parallelism is one of the
more toxic dualistic by-products of the confusion over the
participatory nature of our presence in the scheme of things. It
falls victim to Occam at every turn. In particular, consider why
evolution would select highly complex self-reflecting discriminators
to exploit a sentient relation that was merely an illusory
coincidence. If you re-read Chalmers in this light I think you will
see that it is precisely the notion that physics (or any explanatory
schema) can be 'causally closed' independent of sentience that leads
to such a pusillanimous and (literally) disempowering conclusion.

>> ; hence to
>> deplore the lack of an appeal to 'external' justification amounts to
>> 'false consciousness'.  Do you agree?
> Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  I don't think so, but you lost me after the semi-colon.

The burden of my argument is that when we see that meaning is
*inescapably* contextual we can also see that it is not life that is
'pointless', but rather the whole idea that the 'point' is something
that must be derived from something absolutely transcendent, or
'outside' the system. This is not merely of tangential interest,
either: it's the confusion that is central to the on-going dispute
between fundamentalism and the spirit of liberal enquiry.

>>> As I think my "virtual-gas" example illustrated, meaning is
>>> subjective, like conscious experience.  That shared property of
>>> subjectivity is significant I think.
>>> What I think I can safely say is:  meaning is a facet of conscious
>>> experience, not something that exists separately from (or independent
>>> of) conscious experience.
>> Well, meaning is a facet of our mutual situation, which is revealed in
>> consciousness.
> Mutual???  I'm looking around in my conscious experience and I don't
> see YOUR conscious experience anywhere!  What's this mutual stuff?
> You presume too much David!
> When it comes to conscious experience, you're on your own, buddy.
> So I know my conscious experience exists.  So clearly conscious
> experience is possible.  I don't know of any reason why other
> conscious experiences can't exist, so I'm willing to believe that
> another conscious experience exists which is qualitatively similar to
> mine, though apparently different in content (since we aren't writing
> the same emails and agreeing on every point).

> But, I don't draw any further conclusions than that.

;-) Permit me to smile (in friendly good humour!) I think that the
level of engagement you display demonstrates a stronger intuition of
mutuality than your analysis implies.



> >

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Received on Mon Aug 17 2009 - 01:12:47 PDT

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