Re: First Person Frame of Reference

From: Bruno Marchal <>
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 2004 17:46:28 +0200

At 11:58 09/06/04 -0700, George Levy wrote:

>I don't understand. To give you an objective response you force me to look
>up the dictionary:

OK. Note that I agree with John that <<Vocabularies usually list the
historical common sense versions of obsolete world views>>. But I
understand the move and will make some comments, if only to point toward
the perhaps "obsolete views".
The main one is that the definitions implicitly assumes a little bit of
Aristotelian physicalism: this entails we should distinguish the relativity
with respect to our mind state, and relativity to our "position" with
respect to some universe (which I do not assume the existence).

>Objectivity: the ability to express or deal with facts or conditions as
>perceived without without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices or
>interpretationsthe ability to observe independetly of one's own mental state.


>Subjectivity: [the ability to perceive a reality as] related to or
>determined by the mind as the subject of experience; the ability to ...
>identify by means of one's perception of one's own states and
>processes...rather than as independent of mind.

Too vague.

>Relativity: the state of being dependent for existence on or determined in
>nature, value, or quality by relation to something else.

Mmmmh.... (By which I mean I can agree and I can disagree depending on the
sense of each word in the sentence).

>Absolut[ism]: [the quality of ] being self sufficient and independent for
>external references or relationships

With that definition, you can say that my starting point is "absolute"
giving that physics will be entirely determined by self-introspection (but
then at latter stage that introspection will be described by a machine
after a choice of third person description of the first person states). I
don't think it is important.

>Therefore, subjectivity and objectivity are opposite, relativity and
>absolutism are opposite.

I totally agree.

>A first person perception is a subjective or relative experience.
>A third person perception is an objective or absolute experience.

Of course I would say

A first person perception is a subjective experience, and then an absolute
one (in the sense that it is not relativizable, if you have a headache you
cannot relativize the feeling itself, although you could relativize the
importance of it, ...).
A third person perception is an objective experience, and then a relative
one (in the sense that you will need to choose either a theory or a set of
experimental devices, let us say a frame (?), without which the proof or
the observation are not defined.

>You have moved to a meta level: how do you deal with being a scientist.
>The paradox is that your research as a scientists should not be restricted
>by your need for communicating with other scientists. It's like Einstein
>worrying that his communication of the relativity theory would be
>corrupted by his relative motion with other scientists. We can assume for
>the time being that our frames of reference are sufficiently close that we
>can pretend to talk objectively about the first person or more precisely,
>that our relative talk about the first person will not be corrupted by our
>slightly different frames of reference.

I did move to a meta level indeed. About <<how do you deal with being a
scientist>>. I would say by publishing, or ... perishing, I guess ... ;)
When you say that my research as a scientist should not be restricted by
the need for communicating with other scientist, I agree concerning the
research itself, but the communication of it must take "the
un-communicable" into account due to the nature of the subject.
Then I am not sure of the link with your last sentence, but I am dispose to
assume our "frames of reference" are sufficiently close to pretend to talk
objectively ...(OK) ... about the first person .... still OK but only if we
agree on some definition or modelization (at some point) or even some
intuition about the very notion of first person. Here I think we agree with
the words "first/third person", and "subjective/objective", but apparently
we are using "absolute" and "relative" in the opposite sense.

>>Now all theories come from and are ultimately addressed to first person.
>>So, when I propose an axiom, like "x + 0 = x", I can only hope it makes
>>(absolute) sense.
>OK here we may have encountered the vocabulary problem. I would say it
>makes relative sense. As a proof, suppose my mental states are such that I
>interpret + as x. Then it would make sense to me that x+0 = 0.

But then you are using the term "relative" in my sense !?!?. That is
relative with respect to a theory (resp a model) in which the behavior of
"+" and "x" are defined. I was assuming here the intended meaning of "+".
We cannot axiomatize addition without having some basic intuition of it.

>>But I can only
>>communicate such relative objective statements. This is the price of
>>science imo.
>>Now, could you reassure me: do you agree with proposition like "x + 0 =
>>0", or prime(17)?
>>I guess and hope so.
>As I said, depending on the states of my mind, I may not agree with this
>propostion,. I could interpret "or" as "and", and then the proposition
>would be false.

That move leads us nowhere. You force me to ask you "is your mind in a
state such as willing to recognize the truth of the proposition which I
attempt to refer by "x + 0 = 0"? And in case you have forget the usual
meaning of "+" don't hesitate to open your "objective" dictionary this time

>>Obviously the "yes doctor" proposition is more demanding, and that is
>>why ultimately I eliminate it methodologically by interviewing a
>>sound universal Turing
>>machine instead of "grandmother", but such an elimination is only
>>"strategical". One of my
>>goal is to illustrate that although the first person discourse is
>psychologists would not agree with that
>>by its very nature,
>>we still can, by giving genuine definitions and hypotheses build a pure
>>third person discourse,
>>which can be scientific (that is: modest relative and uncertain) *on*
>>first person discourses and views.
>>Does that make sense?
>OK the discourse must be third person, we have no choice, but the content
>of the discourse must be first person.

Absolutely! But note that we can still have a PARTIAL third person
description or modelization of that content. I really believe that modal
logic will help us to clarify those subtle points.

>>Ah! About the gray hair problem, I think it is always the same problem,
>>some lack
>>of knowledge in the field of logic. You are not the only one (in the list
>>and elsewhere),
>>let us think what to do about that.
>hair dye?

"hair dye" ? That expression looks terrible! Please don't do that. I am
sure a tiny detour through logic will be wizer for the health of your hair,
unless you continue to split them right at the start (just a pun!).

Are you ready for some definition? (We can abandon for a while the
"absolute"/"relative" opposite view giving that we agree on the 1/3
distinction and on the subjective/objective opposition, and that's what
counts in the interview of the Universal Machine (and its Godelian
"Guardian Angel").

Received on Fri Jun 11 2004 - 11:43:45 PDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:09 PST