• Samuel Lacrampe
    684

    Just to clarify, I was not accusing you of self-contradiction, but rather pointing out the limitations of such a topic as whether truth can be attained. Yes, scientific topics also start with hypotheses, but do not end there, because these hypotheses can be validated empirically. This topic on truth however can never be validated, by its very content. This is why we are reduced to rely on the principle of parsimony. There is simply no better approach here. But it's not as bad as what you make it sound. The principle states that it is more reasonable to retain the simplest hypothesis that explains all the data. Your "dark spot" example is not a correct one, because it gives no explanation, and so does not satisfy the principle. But a simple explanation would be adequate, and would still leave the inclination to investigate further for validation (if possible).

    In your example, we both have different descriptions, and you are assuming that we are describing the same thing. That assumption is not sufficient. [...]Metaphysician Undercover
    My point was that even when we are describing the same thing like a duck (and we know this by pointing to the same object), then it still happens that we can give different descriptions.

    In the case of the concept, I point to the idea in my mind, and you point to the idea in your mind, and we are pointing to different things.Metaphysician Undercover
    I am not sure what you mean by "pointing to the idea in my mind". Concepts or ideas are like signs that point to something else. If I have the idea of a specific chair in mind, I would not "point to the idea in my mind", but point to the specific chair in reality, which the idea is about.

    However, the whole point of my argument is that there is a distinction to be made, between "similar" and "same". If you agree that there is a distinction between similar and same, then in making this distinction there can be no such thing as a difference which does not make a difference, because this would allow that two similar things are the same. And that would negate the distinction between similar and same which we would have agreed to uphold.Metaphysician Undercover
    You are making an error. Yes, you are correct that it is impossible for similar things to be one and the same thing. However, it is possible for similar descriptions of a thing to be about one and the same thing. And as shown previously, it is very probable that our description of the same duck will have insignificant differences in words and order of words.

    I accept your clarification about "coming to an agreement" on things that were not previously agreed upon.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k
    My point was that even when we are describing the same thing like a duck (and we know this by pointing to the same object), then it still happens that we can give different descriptions.Samuel Lacrampe

    So your argument is that we each describe the same thing with different words. But this does not necessitate that the thing we are each describing with different words is the same thing. So your argument just creates a possibility, it doesn't produce anything conclusive.

    I am not sure what you mean by "pointing to the idea in my mind". Concepts or ideas are like signs that point to something else. If I have the idea of a specific chair in mind, I would not "point to the idea in my mind", but point to the specific chair in reality, which the idea is about.Samuel Lacrampe

    We are discussing whether "chair", or "triangle", or any other word, refers to the same concept when you interpret the word and when I interpret the word. Do you agree that we determine conclusively that we are talking about the very same thing, by pointing to the thing we are talking about, or in some other way determining it's spatial-temporal location? This is how we determine that the thing we are each talking about is actually the same thing.

    Now, in the case of a concept, how are we going to point to it to determine whether it's the same thing which we are each talking about? I could point to the idea in my mind and you could point to the idea in your mind, but then we are clearly pointing to different things. You could argue that because we call it by the same name, "triangle", then it is the same thing, but the reality is that "triangle" refers to a universal idea, and therefore many particular things go by that name. So if we use different words to describe the conditions by which something qualifies as a "triangle", then clearly we do not have the same concept of "triangle".

    You are making an error. Yes, you are correct that it is impossible for similar things to be one and the same thing. However, it is possible for similar descriptions of a thing to be about one and the same thing. And as shown previously, it is very probable that our description of the same duck will have insignificant differences in words and order of words.Samuel Lacrampe

    I agree that it is possible for similar descriptions to refer to one and the same thing. But the type of thing we are talking about here is a concept. And I do not believe that different description can refer to the same concept because I believe that the concept is the description itself. If the description is the concept, then it is impossible that a different description could be the same concept.

    Let's assume a description, "big and red". My claim is that the concept is inherently tied to these descriptive words, such that there cannot be any separation between the description and the concept. If you tried to remove the concept from "big", or the concept from "red", you would be left with nothing because those words determine the concept. Without the description, "red", there is no concept of red. You seem to believe that the concept is separable from the words, such that different words can be used to refer to the same concept. So for instance, "huge and magenta" might refer to the same concept as "big and red". But clearly these two are different descriptions. Being different descriptions, I think they must be different concepts.

    Consider two descriptions which are completely equivalent, 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and 0 degrees Celsius. They are derived from different measurement systems, so clearly they are different concepts. "2+2", and "4", despite being equivalent, are distinct concepts.

    So I don't see any examples of instances where different descriptive words describe the same concept. You and the others just assert, without justification, that they do. You say that we each describe a "triangle" differently, but this difference is insignificant, a difference which doesn't make a difference, we are still talking about the same thing. So you make an unjustified assumption that we are talking about the same thing, despite these differences. I say the description is the concept, so any difference in description indicates that it is not the same concept. I am pointing to the concept, showing you the concept, it is the description, expressed in words, and in this way I show you that different descriptive words express different concepts. If you want to support your position, in which the concept is something other than the description, something referred to by the description, or described, you need to point to the concept, show it to me. How is the concept "triangle" something other than what is described as a triangle.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    684
    So your argument is that we each describe the same thing with different words. But this does not necessitate that the thing we are each describing with different words is the same thing. So your argument just creates a possibility, it doesn't produce anything conclusive.Metaphysician Undercover
    Indeed, it does not make it necessary but possible; and this possibility is sufficient to refute your argument that, since we give different descriptions of concepts, then the concepts must be different. We are therefore back to the starting point obtained from the principle of parsimony, namely that concepts coincide with real things, because it is the simplest hypothesis.

    Now, in the case of a concept, how are we going to point to it to determine whether it's the same thing which we are each talking about?Metaphysician Undercover
    I agree that for particular physical beings, we can validate that we are talking about the same thing by pointing to its spatial-temporal properties. Also, this cannot be done for universal concepts because I argue that they are not physical beings. However, we can get close to certainty by testing numerous particular physical beings that have the universal concept as its genus. For example, we can test if my judgement of the shapes here, here, and here match with your judgement that they have 'triangle' as their genus. Since our judgement is based on our respective concept, then the more objects we test, the closer we get to certainty that our concept is the same. Another way is to see if we agree with each other's description, despite their minor differences. I personally believe this way is also legit, but I know you don't because you demand complete sameness in descriptions. So on to the next section below.

    I do not believe that different description can refer to the same concept because I believe that the concept is the description itself. [...] If you want to support your position, in which the concept is something other than the description, something referred to by the description, or described, you need to point to the concept, show it to me.Metaphysician Undercover
    I find that position surprising. Recall that if the concept is not connected a being in reality, then the consequence is that no proposition ever spoken can be true, that is, reflect reality. Up to now, I thought your position was that our concepts are connected to real beings, and although they may fail to accurately match the real beings, they nevertheless come close to it. I was willing to take that position seriously. But now, it seems your new position is that a concept is nothing but the description itself, not referring to another thing, thereby completely severing its connection to any real being. Consequently, no truth can ever be spoken. I hope I am misunderstanding something, because as it stands, your new position leads to absurdity. It forces you to give up on metaphysics (which is ironic given your name), and by extension, truth, and by extension, philosophy, which is the search for truth.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k
    Indeed, it does not make it necessary but possible; and this possibility is sufficient to refute your argument that, since we give different descriptions of concepts, then the concepts must be different. We are therefore back to the starting point obtained from the principle of parsimony, namely that concepts coincide with real things, because it is the simplest hypothesis.Samuel Lacrampe

    You've lost me now. I don't see how "concepts coincide with real things" supports your argument. If I remember correctly, you were arguing that concepts, as universals, have real existence. If they coincide with real things, then they are particulars. That is what I was arguing, if we want to give concepts real existence, we must reduce them to particulars, either as the form of a particular thing, or as an ideal universal.

    Since our judgement is based on our respective concept, then the more objects we test, the closer we get to certainty that our concept is the same.Samuel Lacrampe

    All this demonstrates is that we judge these few things in a similar way. It doesn't demonstrate that we have the same concept. However, the fact that we each described our concept of "triangle" in a different way does demonstrate that we each have a different concept of "triangle".

    I find that position surprising. Recall that if the concept is not connected a being in reality, then the consequence is that no proposition ever spoken can be true, that is, reflect reality. Up to now, I thought your position was that our concepts are connected to real beings, and although they may fail to accurately match the real beings, they nevertheless come close to it. I was willing to take that position seriously. But now, it seems your new position is that a concept is nothing but the description itself, not referring to another thing, thereby completely severing its connection to any real being. Consequently, no truth can ever be spoken. I hope I am misunderstanding something, because as it stands, your new position leads to absurdity. It forces you to give up on metaphysics (which is ironic given your name), and by extension, truth, and by extension, philosophy, which is the search for truth.Samuel Lacrampe

    I think we've been away from this discussion for too long, and we've both lost track of what each other has been arguing. perhaps we ought to give it up. Why must a concept be connected to a "real being"? A concept may be completely artificial. An architect designs a building. The concept is completely in the architect's mind, then on the paper. it is not connected to a "real being". Or do I misunderstand you?
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    684
    [...] If they coincide with real things, then they are particulars. That is what I was arguing, if we want to give concepts real existence, we must reduce them to particulars, either as the form of a particular thing, or as an ideal universal.Metaphysician Undercover
    You presuppose that all beings are particulars. Why is that necessary? I would agree that all physical beings are particulars, due to having particular spacial-temporal properties. But this would not apply to non-physical beings.

    All this demonstrates is that we judge these few things in a similar way. It doesn't demonstrate that we have the same concept. However, the fact that we each described our concept of "triangle" in a different way does demonstrate that we each have a different concept of "triangle".Metaphysician Undercover
    It can also mean that we judge these things in the same way. I thought we previously agreed that different descriptions can still refer to the same thing.

    I think we've been away from this discussion for too long, and we've both lost track of what each other has been arguing. perhaps we ought to give it up. Why must a concept be connected to a "real being"? A concept may be completely artificial. An architect designs a building. The concept is completely in the architect's mind, then on the paper. it is not connected to a "real being". Or do I misunderstand you?Metaphysician Undercover
    I understand that it has been a while. It is unfortunate, but it's reality. Yes, we can leave it at that. This was fun. I think I will post a new discussion at some point, to start fresh with the things I have learned here. I have still answered below your questions for completeness, but I don't expect a response afterwards.

    Concepts must be connected to real beings, because if not, then no proposition ever spoken can be said to be true, because truth means reflective of reality. Thus if I say "the apple is red", there must exist a real being for the apple, and a real being for the property red, in order for the proposition to be true.

    Yes, concepts may also be artificial, as is the case for man-made things like a house or guitar. In this case, the concept precedes the being that is built from the concept. But for non man-made things like 'apple' and 'red', the being precedes our concept of them. E.g., we would not grasp the concept 'red' if red things did not exist.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k
    You presuppose that all beings are particulars. Why is that necessary? I would agree that all physical beings are particulars, due to having particular spacial-temporal properties. But this would not apply to non-physical beings.Samuel Lacrampe

    It's not a presupposition, it's a conclusion from inductive reasoning. All examples of beings, that I know of are particulars. If someone showed me examples of beings which are not particulars, I would have to reconsider. This does not deny the reality of non-physical being. As I argued earlier in the thread, each particular physical being has a unique form which necessarily precedes its material existence. This form must be non-physical, but it is particular.

    Also, I argued that if the type of form which we call a universal, has real existence, independent from human minds, these universal forms must be "Ideals", implying perfection in their conception. This perfection implies that they can be in no way other than what they are, so this indicates that they must also be particulars. Despite the fact that we call them universals, if they have real existence independent from human minds, they must actual exist as particulars. So I conclude that any real being, must be a particular.

    It can also mean that we judge these things in the same way. I thought we previously agreed that different descriptions can still refer to the same thing.Samuel Lacrampe

    Again, your just arguing from possibility. My conclusions are inductive, so I accept the possibility that I am wrong. But, as I explain above, I believe my inductive conclusions to be quite strong, so you'll have to bring something more to my attention, than the possibility that I could be wrong, in order to get me to reconsider.
  • Kym
    86
    Wow, this has a few replies already.

    So is information physical?
    I find it helpful sometimes to dumb things down. The simplest example of information that comes to mind is a wave. Do you think a wave is physical? Me ... yes.

    Do I think wave is matter? No so much. Rather, it seems best described as a pattern of matter (although I defer to the quantum mechanics amongst us).

    So there you have it: Information is physical but not matter.

    Moderators close this thread!
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k
    Do I think wave is matter? No so much. Rather, it seems best described as a pattern of matter (although I defer to the quantum mechanics amongst us).Kym

    What about light waves, what do you think they are a pattern of?

    Moderators close this thread!Kym

    I don't think the moderators just randomly close threads like that.
  • numberjohnny5
    139
    I am questioning whether information, generally speaking, is physical.Wayfarer

    As a physicalist, I'd say every thing that exists is physical. In your thought-experiment, it seems that, generally, "information" is being characterised as subjective experience of phenomena that is communicated via various means to other people. Every person who receives that "information" experiences it in its various forms in which it has been communicated, and also experiences "information" in different ways. "Information" in this sense, and ontologically then, is not a static thing or object, but a whole set of processes involving intention, interpretation, judgement, etc., and methods of communication regarding specific subjective experiences of phenomena.

    The question I want to explore is: in such a case, what stays the same, and what changes?Wayfarer

    As a nominalist, I'd say nothing literally stays the same. The initial experience of the ship by the sentry will be communicated via particular instruments. But that experience cannot literally be communicated from a first-person perspective, only from a third-person perspective can others try to understand what the sentry is attempting to communicate. So it's not as if the "information" the sentry has of the ship in the first instance is a static or un-changing thing that gets tainted or reduced via methods of communication. Rather, "information" is just the sentry's experience of the ship in that system/context; and then the communication of the information that is received by another person occurs in another system/context. The shipping clerk, for example, is experiencing phenomena (the sea-horn) and interprets that as a communication from the sentry. This is because the clerk has already established what the sounding of a sea-horn within that context might mean. And the process continues from there.

    By the way, I believe that "ideas" are physical as mental states/brain states.
  • Wayfarer
    6.2k
    As a nominalist, I'd say nothing literally stays the samenumberjohnny5

    Well, you’d be mistaken. The information could be transmitted wrongly, or correctly. If it’s transmitted correctly, then it stays the same. The rest is not germane.
  • numberjohnny5
    139
    The information could be transmitted wrongly, or correctly. If it’s transmitted correctly, then it stays the same. The rest is not germane.Wayfarer

    Well if you disagree with nominalism then that might make sense. Again, I don't think "information" is some static, object-like thing to get "right" or "wrong". That's because, under nominalism, "information" ontologically is just conscious experience of phenomena that is interpreted/judged in particular ways, which could involve truth-statements. What the "information" is about regarding truth-statements can be true or false, of course.
  • Wayfarer
    6.2k
    Still not the point. The particular piece of information in question - about the ship - can be described exactly, by any one of a number of media and even systems of representation. The same can be said for all manner of information. If I write out a formula or a recipe or an equation, I can employ a wide range of systems or languages to encode it. Yet, one digit wrong, and the chemical won’t form, or the cake won’t bake, and so on. So the information in each case is the same, even if the representation is completely different.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k

    Numberjohnny claims to be both physicalist and nominalist. That ought to play out nicely. I would think that there is no room for meaning in such an ontology. Ideas are reduced to mental states and mental states are reduced physical brain states.

    Where's meaning?
  • numberjohnny5
    139
    Still not the point. The particular piece of information in question - about the ship - can be described exactly, by any one of a number of media and even systems of representation. The same can be said for all manner of information. If I write out a formula or a recipe or an equation, I can employ a wide range of systems or languages to encode it. Yet, one digit wrong, and the chemical won’t form, or the cake won’t bake, and so on. So the information in each case is the same, even if the representation is completely different.Wayfarer

    So you're describing information as a (meaningful) judgement about phenomena (I'd include any experience of events or objects, including recipes or equations, as phenomena, btw), is that right? A formula, recipe, or equation is (or can be) a meaningful (set of) statement/claim(s) presented in particular ways/forms. People can "understand" the meaning of such statements and attempt to relay them to others via various forms of communication, or as you say, representation. In that sense, trying to guarantee that "information" (statements/claims) remains consistent is what you mean about "information" staying the "same" (barring nominalism re same/identical). Is that right?
  • numberjohnny5
    139
    I would think that there is no room for meaning in such an ontology.Metaphysician Undercover

    That would depend on what you think meaning is ontologically.

    Ideas are reduced to mental states and mental states are reduced physical brain states.Metaphysician Undercover

    Correct. Although I don't often invite notions of reduction as part of my view; reductionism is rather imposed upon my view by others. (Not that it can't be helpful to use "reduction", especially as part of the received/standard views in philosophy or other intellectual milieu's.) That's mainly becuase I think there's often a stigma when employing "reduction" in these debates (probably from those who aren't identity theorists and dualists, which makes sense), at least in my experience, and I think that can sometimes be a red-herring about views like mine. I'd rather frame your statement I quoted as: particular ways of organising reality that are identical to particular properties and processes. So in other words, I'd merely say "ideas are identical to mind states/brain states."

    Where's meaning?Metaphysician Undercover

    Located in minds/brains
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k
    That's mainly becuase I think there's often a stigma when employing "reduction" in these debates (probably from those who aren't identity theorists and dualists, which makes sense), at least in my experience, and I think that can sometimes be a red-herring about views like mine.numberjohnny5

    I have no problem "reduction", I think it's a useful tool. I've been accused of being reductionist but generally speaking I don't see how that's bad. Anyway, I'll try to refrain form using it in conversation with you.

    Located in minds/brainsnumberjohnny5

    I don't think that this is consistent with nominalism. Generally a nominalist will claim that meaning is the property of a community of language users, as the result of conventions, agreements, or rules of language use. Without these communal rules, how could one brain interpret a piece of language in a similar way to another brain? And without that consistency between individual language users, how could there be meaning? Or, do you think that meaning is completely subjective, entirely within each brain? Do you think that any brain can interpret a piece of writing in any way that it wants, and each way would be an equally valid interpretation?
  • numberjohnny5
    139
    Or, do you think that meaning is completely subjective, entirely within each brain?Metaphysician Undercover

    Yes.

    Do you think that any brain can interpret a piece of writing in any way that it wants, and each way would be an equally valid interpretation?Metaphysician Undercover

    I'd say that "any brain can interpret a piece of writing in any way that it wants," (there's no objective rule saying everyone must interpret anything in any particular way whatsoever); and that those interpretations that the brain is trying to match (by speculation) with what they believe the intention of the writer was/is can be relatively similar or dissimilar to the writer's intentions. In other words, the brain's interpretation cannot be identical with the writer's intentions (since those are, necessarily, two numerically distinct brain states). On the other hand, if the brain wasn't trying to match the writer's intention(s) with their interpretation, then they can't be "right" or "wrong" with how they interpret the writing.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k
    I'd say that "any brain can interpret a piece of writing in any way that it wants," (there's no objective rule saying everyone must interpret anything in any particular way whatsoever); and that those interpretations that the brain is trying to match (by speculation) with what they believe the intention of the writer was/is can be relatively similar or dissimilar to the writer's intentions.numberjohnny5

    If any brain can interpret a piece of writing in any way that it wants, then on what basis would you say that there is any "information" in any writing? If there is nothing objective, and any mind can determine the meaning as whatever it wants, then we cannot say that the writing gives us any information because any meaning derived is completely fabricated by the interpreting mind.

    But to say that the interpreter must try to match the intention of the writer, is to contradict this (any way that the brain wants). So which is it, that you believe? Can the writing be interpreted in any way that one wants, or do we assume that there is a correct way, the way intended by the writer? If we assume that there is a correct way, then don't we have to turn to conventions and such to support an interpretation?
  • numberjohnny5
    139
    If any brain can interpret a piece of writing in any way that it wants, then on what basis would you say that there is any "information" in any writing? If there is nothing objective, and any mind can determine the meaning as whatever it wants, then we cannot say that the writing gives us any information because any meaning derived is completely fabricated by the interpreting mind.Metaphysician Undercover

    My definition of "information" is a combination of the phenomena perceived that is then cognitively organised, and communicated via various means if the individual so chooses. (I'd say "information" is similar to (nominalistic) conceptualism for me.) That means that there is no objective meaning, if that's what you mean.

    But to say that the interpreter must try to match the intention of the writer, is to contradict this (any way that the brain wants). So which is it, that you believe? Can the writing be interpreted in any way that one wants, or do we assume that there is a correct way, the way intended by the writer? If we assume that there is a correct way, then don't we have to turn to conventions and such to support an interpretation?Metaphysician Undercover

    I'm not saying the interpreter must try to do anything, btw. I'm saying the interpreter has a choice to match the writer's intention through the writing. They don't have to choose that though. They can choose to interpret the writing any way they want. That's what I meant by these earlier statements:

    "(there's no objective rule saying everyone must interpret anything in any particular way whatsoever)"

    "On the other hand, if the brain wasn't trying to match the writer's intention(s) with their interpretation, then they can't be "right" or "wrong" with how they interpret the writing."

    And to be clear, I'm not saying that the interpreter is trying to match their intention with the writer's intention. I'm saying the interpreter can try to match in the form of a guess/speculation what they believe the writer's intention was/is.
  • Wayfarer
    6.2k
    That means that there is no objective meaning, if that's what you mean.numberjohnny5

    This thread was opened over 6 months ago, and all of these issues have been canvassed in depth. However, and I'm not going to argue the point beyond this post, if there was 'no objective meaning', then nobody could ever be correct, or incorrect, about anything. You couldn't write down instructions for how to build a computer, or specify how TCP/IP works, or how information is routed across the internet. All of these things work, because there are successful ways of making them work, which can be communicated via specifications and instructions, which are accurate. And if they were not accurate, and the technological solutions they refer to did not actually exist, then there would be no computers nor an internet. So the fact that you're able to participate in a debate, on the internet, using a computer, contradicts the point you're making - which, incidentally, is not a point at all, but simply a very long-winded way of saying that 'meaning is whatever you want it to be'. Or, in short - whatever.
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