Re: Abstract/Concrete (was "Re: Infinity")

From: Marchal <>
Date: Mon Dec 3 07:52:53 2001

Brett Hall wrote:

>Because I do not believe that what you think of 'abstract' objects
>actually exist. Here we get into what it means to 'exist'. Everything we
>have 'access' to comes to us through our sense organs or our imaginations.
>This is how we know something exists. What are the exceptions? Apparently
>only these 'abstract' objects.

I don't think so. Abstract object comes to us through our sense organs
or our imaginations, too. Note that I take our sense organ also as
something we imagine (see below).

>Consider the alternative "It is possible 'abstract' objects exist -
>abstract objects we know about -but which are not expressed in any
>physical way". This seems to me to be absurd (because to know about an
>abstract object one must already have rendered it in the brain somewhere).
>I stick with my 'necessary' criterion for now!

This is because you believe that a belief or a knowledge is something
which must be rendered by a brain. Locally you are right, I guess.
But to extrapolate this globally would eliminate possible explanation
of where the "physical" comes from (without mentionning the Mind/body p.).
The more concrete and simple things I can imagine are the natural numbers,
let us say, and all the true relations between them.
Those true relations define all computational histories. I belong
myself to an infinity of those abstract histories, but I feel myself
in a unique concrete history. What you call a brain is a set of sharable
(its mass, shape) and unsharable (all what you feel when you look at
a brain) knowledge about an apparently stable patterns we can talk about.
The fact that mind supervene on number relations is not more magic than
to make it relying on dynamical processes. Actually with comp it is even
less magic.

>How do you have access to this abstract world if not through the physical?

Because I am abstract myself. (If you have read "Reason and Persons" by
Parfit, it will help you to know I disagree with him when he says that
we are token. Many types no token! (that follows from comp too imo).

>you say that the 'concrete' world doesn't exist, well then I think what we
>are saying to each other is probably actually the same thing - the only
>difference is a linguistic one. You just call your world an 'abstract' one
>- I call mine the 'physical' one.

I'm afraid the difference is not only linguistic. I am willing to believe
that the "ultimate" reality are just the arithmetical truth, all the rest,
brains, galaxies, real numbers, etc. belongs to the imagination of
immaterial machines. The physicalness is an inside view on some border
of that imagination.
Reality is a form of dream sharing by relative numbers.
Could you be sure that that is not the case? Are you ready to accept that
you are fallible on the hypothesis that there is a physical universe?
If it were only linguistic, I would not say that not only matter
emerges ontologically from the number's dream, but that epistemologically
the science of matter is derivable from the science of machine dreams.
Those dreams obeys very strict (computationalist) laws, so that this move
is not so easily shown unreasonnable.

>The following comment is interesting "We are in all universe at
>once, but differentiations into stable magical Harry Potter like
>computations have measure zero in computerland"
>Really? Identically zero? Do you mean that they are not represented in the
>multiverse, or am I confused?

They are represented in the multiverse/many-dreams, but they are rare
terribly rare compared to our "normal" continuations. To expect finding
oneself in a Harry Potter like universe would be like to put water
in the fridge for making coffee each morning: that is not statistically
impossible, but statisticians say it is stochastically impossible. It is
like throwing a coin repetitively and getting always head. I would not
bet on it in normal situation. Near death the comp hyp make that
question less obvious.

>Finally on this comment "Is that not the reason why science or conscience
>abstracts (for making simpler)."
>Science has never 'abstracted' - not has 'mathematics'. They 'generalise'
>and there is a very important difference there. My triangle with sides
>x,y,z which I draw on paper is a particular triangle (NOT an abstract one
>-abstract triangles supposedly exist 'out there' in the Platonic realm
>somewhere). Sure my particular triangle 'stands-for' all other triangles -
>but it is not an 'abstract triangle'. An abstract triangle is supposedly
>'equailateral, isosceles and scalene' all at once. So I object to your
>saying 'Science abstracts' - not 'Science generalises' and I distinguish
>between the two.

I understand the nuance, but this is only coherent with your
physicalist postulate. I don't believe in any concrete triangle, nor
in any concrete superstring (at least under comp hyp). Note that
an abstract triangle could also be just equilateral!

>I'm about to head off to work, so I won't go into what I believe "we" are
>- as you ask below. For now, I'll just note that I side with David Hume on
>this. There is no 'soul' - no eternally existing 'mind'. All we are is
>nothing but a bunch of perceptions. We perceive the world and our own
>thoughts. There is no underlying unifying structure to ourselves - other
>than what we imagine there to be. When we fall unconscious we cease to
>exist as a person. This is what I believe, in brief. What do you think you
>are? What is the human being, essentially?

The mindscape is the arithmetical truth, it exists out of space,
time. So I would say it is not even eternal, it is much more stable
than that!

The soul of a machine is anything the machine can believe truly
or wrongly about herself. I would add that the soul is the person
as being incarnate in some machine history.

We are a bunch of perception? I hope we are what remains
invariant for varying perceptions. So you understand I bet there
is some underlying unifying structure to ourselves. (Well,
computer science prove the existence of such invariant patterns).
It could be also what we imagine there to be.

When we fall unconscious we cease to exist as a person. Right, if
that can ever happen. We can only (consciously) talk of "feeling
having been unconscious" (in sleep, after an accident, that is only
when we recover. Is that not necessarily a sort of speculation?
How could one remember having really been unconscious????

Received on Mon Dec 03 2001 - 07:52:53 PST

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