Re: Dreaming On

From: David Nyman <>
Date: Mon, 24 Aug 2009 14:56:32 +0100

2009/8/24 Stathis Papaioannou <>:
> 2009/8/24 David Nyman <>:
>> Having said all this, it is interesting to reconsider your formulation
>> "the brain did its thing without us understanding it, creating its own
>> context".  What is it about *being* the brain that causes this context
>> to be self-referentially available, but hides it beyond possibility of
>> recovery from 'observation'?
> Whether it can be hidden beyond the *possibility* of recovery is an
> interesting question. Certainly it would be very difficult to figure
> out what an alien brain is thinking about from observation, like
> cracking a very difficult code, but could it be made so that it's
> impossible to figure out? We would be able to figure out something
> about an alien code, such as a written language, by observing various
> regularities, but we would be unable to figure out the actual meaning
> of words unless we had some extra-language information; that is, we
> could figure out the syntax, but not the semantics. Similarly with the
> brain, we might be able to figure out certain patterns and
> regularities, but without further information obtained by connecting
> I/O devices or perhaps by obtaining the instruction manuals, we would
> have no idea what the brain activity means, let alone what it feels
> like from the brain's point of view. But would it be possible for the
> brain's activity to be deliberately obscured such that not even the
> syntax can be guessed at, the equivalent of encryption using a
> one-time pad?

Yes, I quite follow you - and this is what I meant by "2) Any meaning
recoverable by an observer would be bounded by her own historic and
current interpretative context". IOW we might succeed in thus
recovering some such meaning for ourselves - but it would necessarily
be bounded by our own interpretative resources. And - in the limit -
we may suppose that there would be insufficient clues to permit any
intelligible, or at least more than conjectural, interpretation to be
made. After all, we still can't unambiguously read ancient Etruscan,
nor do more than conjecture about the meaning of distant cultural
symbols whose connection with us have been largely obscured. When you
think about it, this local reinterpretation is what we resort to in
our everyday interactions with the aliens by whom we are surrounded -
each other! What we're doing in this very discussion is taking purely
relational data, delivered by some process of transmission that is in
itself neutral vis-a-vis the source context, and reinterpreting it in
terms of our local resources of meaning. Only then can we attempt to
'match sense' with each other.

I'll essay a response to my own question - "what is it about *being*
the brain that causes this context to be self-referentially available,
but hides it beyond possibility of recovery from 'observation'?" -
because it is again central to my discussion with Peter. IMO it is
next-to-impossible to make sense of the distinction between
interpretation-in-context and information-taken-out-of-context unless
one recasts the fundamental senses of epistemic and ontic along the
lines I've proposed to Peter. As I also remarked to him, there's
nothing new about this proposal - it's essentially the 'eastern'
viewpoint, as opposed to that more typical of the west, in which
interpretation tends to be cast as the subjective 'observation' of the
objective - thus creating the epistemic-ontic divide.

In the eastern view, 'observe' and 'be' are merely
functionally-polarised aspects of a single *ontic* category. IOW, to
say that we 'observe' is just to identify a mutual relation between
aspects of what is foundationally embodied-in-context - essentially
what is meant by 'what exists'. To make this intelligible in terms of
the MBP, we can say, very loosely, that 'minds' - i.e. interpretative
contexts - consist in localised instantiations of 'observations'
which stand in some consistent co-varying relation to differentiable
'observables' (i.e. 'bodies') situated 'external' to this context
purely with respect to some functionally-defined horizon. It follows
quite naturally from this that a) the relation of the context of mind
to its horizonally-defined 'externalised' referents, and b) the
context of mind itself when seen from an 'externalised' viewpoint, are
both purely *relationally* defined. Such relation data is
intrinsically abstracted from context and is thereby stripped of
contextual correlation until reinstated in terms of an appropriate
interpretative environment - IOW another mind.


> --
> Stathis Papaioannou
> >

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Received on Mon Aug 24 2009 - 14:56:32 PDT

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