Re: Against Fundamentalism!

From: <>
Date: Mon, 06 Jun 2005 12:40:03 -0400

 ...but of course explanation is more fundamental than prediction.
Tom Caylor
-----Original Message-----
From: Lee Corbin <>
Sent: Sun, 5 Jun 2005 10:24:42 -0700
Subject: Against Fundamentalism!

Hal Finney writes

> Lee Corbin writes:
> > But in general, what do observer-moments explain? Or what does the
> > hypothesis concerning them explain? I just don't get a good feel
> > that there are any "higher level" phenomena which might be reduced
> > to observer-moments (I am still very skeptical that all of physics
> > or math or something could be reduced to them...
> [Yes] I would say that observer-moments are what need explaining, rather than
> things that do the explaining. Or you could say that in a sense they
> "explain" our experiences, although I think of them more as *being*
> our experiences, moment by moment. As we agreed:
> > > An observer-moment is really all we have as our primary experience of
> > > the world. The world around us may be fake; we may be in the Matrix or
> > > a brain in a vat. Even our memories may be fake. But the fact that we
> > > are having particular experiences at a particular moment cannot be faked.
> >
> > Nothing could be truer.

But, alas, I now contend, almost totally irrelevant! True yet irrelevant!

> That is the sense in which I say that observer-moments are primary;
> they are the most fundamental experience we have of the world.
> Everything else is only a theory which is built upon the raw existence
> of observer-moments.

I cannot help but vent here.


Pan-critical rationalism is very critical of the whole idea of
taking *anything* as "fundamental", as is well-known.

The whole quest for trying to find that which is "fundamental"
is deeply misguided, I submit. PCR takes absolutely nothing as
fundamental; it even, as is also well-known, invites you to
start anywhere with your conjectures.

What science (or all sensible thinking) strives to do is to
*reduce* one phenomenon to another as a means of providing for
(i) explanations (ii) predictions. Each is more important
than the other.

Giving into the urge to found things on some basis, the ancient
Cartesian rationalistic program, is nothing more than Euclid-envy.
A horrific quest for *certainty*, which is known to be impossible
and---perhaps if all our epistemologies were better---would be
an obvious wild-goose chase.

>From Descartes ("all that is certain is that I think therefore
I am") to Ayn Rand ("ethics and everything else can be derived
starting from A is A), I contend that this misguided quest has
caused no end of trouble and nonsense.

Does it really matter *what* is primary? I think not. When
you write "everything else is a theory built on OMs" I want
to scream. Nothing is built! Fie on rationalism! Fie on

> Everything else is only a theory which is built
> upon the raw existence of observer-moments.

No, no, no!

Anytime we have an urge to "start somewhere", or to regard X as
more basic than Y, danger flags should go up. Now again, we
should cheerfully reduce Y to X, and Z to Y, when we can, because
this helps us with (1) and (2), but we shouldn't even be troubled
in the slightest if we also end up reducing X to Z! No big deal!
Circular explanations are probably in the end even better than
ones that aren't circular! (Example: a dictionary defines all
the words in it.)

   The only purposes when trying to achieve understanding
   are, again, (1) explanation and (2) prediction.


Received on Mon Jun 06 2005 - 12:45:09 PDT

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