• Convince Me of Moral Realism
    Is there any kind of fact that doesn't suffer the kinds of ambiguities that moral facts do? The notion of a 'fact' is a cognitive tool. Language is idealization. We can plausibly partition the world in any number of ways so that objective facts are underdetermined and how we do it is conntected to prior assumptions too. Even our notions of truth is underdetermined by various competing stances. Even the notion that one 'ought' to belueve in some objective fact is undermined by epistemic indeterminacy because if the evidence we use to asses facts is consistent with many different kinds of facts then how do we choose between them and what standard or cutting off point decides when we should turn that evidence into belief in a fact (e.g. how many white swans before we conclude all swans are white - there is determined point to make the decision) ? Such things are underdetermined. Even when realists try to amend things with notions of "approximately true" ... well that is arbitrary too and has to make use of constructed heuristics to decide. Its almost always possible to construe similar things as different or different things as similar depending on how much you want to ignore the noise, ignore the errors.

    You can say it is difficult to imagine what makes a moral fact true but arguably similar might be said for modal facts about possibility and necessity which do not seem to be about actual events in a way that is not totally disimilar to moral facts.

    Can we make sense of regular facts when ultimately these might be made meaningful by perceptions? Phenomenal experiences are completely ineffable, immediate, incommunicable. Neither is there any clear, determinate, linear relationship between experiences and facts about the world. Their status isn't any better than the difficulty in characterizing 'should-ness'. Ultimately, because these things don't have clear, articulable foundations it makes it difficult for these things to be much more than about agreement. Moral realists happen to agree with each othet about this intuitive notion of shouldness which is either objective or we have some perception of which is about something objective. Is this much different from perception where we just have this immediate uncharacterizable information put before us and everyone just happens to agree about it? When we establish a fact that some people like schizophrenics are wrong about their perceptions, we can only do this because there is some agreement amongst many other people that those schizophrenics are wrong. But then what happens when the whole tribe is deluded? Everyone then suggests that magic, god, reptilian aliens are facts and the perceptual events underlying them are valid. All is this to say that facts about the world which we look at through perception ultimately come to the same difficulties of substantiation as moral facts do.

    So what does this all come down to? Just scrap it all. If you want to scrap moral realism, scrap all realism. Objective "Truth" and "facts" in its entirety is a biological artifact that is constructed and enacted. These are essentially a product of a biological organism's metacognitive or perhaps metaperceptual abilities in the sense of being able to track its own predictions generated from its own biological architecture / functioning. The workings of these predictions are irreducibly complex as would be expected of a brain with trillions of degrees if freedom. That is not to say that there isn't a world that exists and has some structure, but its absolutely impossible to talk about this in a way that is objective. I have appealed to biology here but I am not pretending that what I say also isn't just articulating models which are idealized, depend on prior assumptions, depend on a mind, a brain. Nothing is to say that I cannot organize the world and predict things about it, just that it is not objective.

    Obviously, this clearly isn't an argument for moral realism but it is an argument against the case that moral realism is inherently different to any other kind of realism. If you drop moral realism you should drop all of it. And most people are unwilling to do that it seems.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    Throw out your prohibitions against kicking puppies, executing the innocent, treating people unjustly, etc. I think the reason it is so hard to take this step is because, among other things, it is highly irrational.Leontiskos

    In all fairness, I don't think the question of deciding 'what one should do' is necessarily the same as the question of whether 'what one should do' is a stance independent fact. Throwing out moral realism doesn't require throwing out prohibitions.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"
    I’m inclined to say that for Kuhn it’s not a question of a theoretical scheme, or an aspect of it, being beyond the limits of direct observation, but of direct observation being in itself an element of discursive practice. What we observe cannot be divorced from methods of measure and apparatus of observationJoshs

    I would say you could argue that they are somewhat equivalent, the ambiguity of the latter implying the former.

    While it is certainly true that for Kuhn scientific practices and theories organize their subject matter, the content they organize does not consist of such stuff supposedly external to discourse.Joshs

    “The "objects" to which our performances must be held accountable are not something outside discursive practice itself. Discursive practice cannot be understood as an intralinguistic structure or activity that then somehow "reaches out" to incorporate or accord to objects. The relevant “objects" are the ends at issue and at stake within the practice itself. The practice itself, however, already incorporates the material circumstances in and through which it is enacted

    Can you elaborate on what this means?
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?

    Yea, I think I agree with this; I just use terms like 'qualia' and 'phenomrna' etc interchamgeably.

    ah alright, fair enough
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"

    No, the theories are incommensurate because they don't have matching directly translatable terms but because they are incommensurate doesn't prevent someone from one background learning the other in a way that is intelligible, or perhaps reconstructing an interpretation of it that they find intelligible.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"

    Can a scientific theory talk about the notion of truth though in the way Davidson does? Can science tell you about translatability in the sense a philosopher like Davidson is interested in? I think this kind of theorizing still has role alongside the more scientific stuff, looking at stuff the science doesn't directly look at, even if its more about analyzing our prior intuitions.

    Not sure I interpret you correctly, but I think what you say may be correct in the case of Kuhn's incommensurability /"conceptual schemes". Scientists construct models of how the world may be beyond the limitations of direct observation. Its not just about fitting labels to observations; scientific models operate in the opposite way too in the sense that they stipulate what can and might happen in certain situations. We try to make sense of observations by constructing models of worlds which is not directly observable. Different scientists may happen to be drawn to different models that say completely different things about the world.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"

    It seems to be something like that words can be translated between incommensurate paradigms, but that interpretations cannot be...?Banno

    Precisely the opposite, aha!

    (Quoting myself quoting IEP)
    "Incommensurability, then, does not mean that a theoretical term cannot be interpreted, that is, cannot be made intelligible; rather, it means that the term cannot be translated, that is, there is no equivalent for the term in the competing theoretical language."Apustimelogist

    Theories can be interpreted and made intelligible, just there cannot be translation between the terms of incommemsurable theories.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"

    I am not really sure I understand this bit at all but my intuition is probably yes it would make more complicated but I don't know how much difference it would make to Kuhn's perspective. I'm finding it hard to imagine exactly what Davidson means here though.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"

    Maybe have a read of the section in that article on Incommensurability. It's far from unproblematic. There is something very odd about being forced into saying that we cannot claim Einstein is no better than Aristotle.Banno

    I am not really convinced by the referentialism talk there. I find it hard to believe that what we refer to wouldn't have a meaning that is itself theory laden to a some degree; otherwise, it seems difficult for me to see how you can always carry on maintaining these kinds of reference through very different theories or meanings without possibly trivialising what is being referred to and making reference very cheap. After all, plausibly very different things could produce the same empirical structure. You can't be totally sure what will be retained and what will change in the future so nothing is assured.

    That said, I don't think that concepts cannot be retained in theory change, I am just not a big fan of that kind of referential talk and don't find causal theories of reference convincing or complete, nor especially any particular kind of theory of reference.

    For some Kuhnian scenarios like mass, I think the retention is possibly indeterminate or underdetermined which makes it plausible or very reasonable to retain the same concept for mass; maybe you can also argue the other way but it doesn't seem to reflect how scientists have continued to talk about mass.

    At the end of the day though, no matter how you want to gerrymander concepts or what is being referred to, Newtonian and Special Relativity are very different and imply fundamentally different ways that the world behaves. I think things like time dilation, energy-mass equivalence and relativity of simultaneity are radical enough to come under the notion of different worlds when compared to Newtonian. Even if something like mass can be said to have been retained, something else in the theory must radically change or be different to produce these effects. In other words, if the incommensurability is not in the mass, it has to be from somewhere else otherwise it would just be Newtonian mechanics again. While something can be said to be the same, something has changed fundamentally so I don't think it stops incommensurability without coming to the conclusion that SR and NM are identical.

    Totally? Do you really want to use that word, particularly after saying "It does seem that [Aristotle] can be reconstructed as a mathematical approximation of Newtonian mechanics for particular domains"?Banno

    Well, I wasn't using it in the sense you think I meant - as in wholes in contrast to parts. I was instead using it as a way of emphasis about how different Aristotle's world view really is.

    "Kuhn doesn't think that incommensurable paradigms are necessarily not mutually intelligible..."

    "The heart of the incommensurability thesis after The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is the idea that certain kinds of translation are impossible."

    I didn't mean to say that Kuhn's ideas were not about translation, but that people have exaggerated what he means by translation into something about unintelligibility rather than simple one-to-one correspondences of words.

    Kuhn definitely did think that incommensurable paradigms don't necessitate unintelligibility. If that article looks like it suggests that, it is because it is being vague. I suggest that that quote about "certain kinds of translation are impossible" is talking about translation in the weaker sense I mentioned before: one-to-one correspondenxes between words. This doesn't preclude intelligibility, and I think the rest of that section that the quote is from seems to talk about translation in the one-to-one correspondence sense I mean. They seem to suggest that when they go into more detail about the loss of translation being due to re-alignments of lexical networks and things like that.

    A different online encyclopedia is more explicit about Kuhn's later incommensurability views:

    For instance:

    "Translation for Kuhn is the process by which words or phrases of one language substitute for another. Interpretation, however, involves attempts to make sense of a statement or to make it intelligible. Incommensurability, then, does not mean that a theoretical term cannot be interpreted, that is, cannot be made intelligible; rather, it means that the term cannot be translated, that is, there is no equivalent for the term in the competing theoretical language."

    "Kuhn noted that although lexicons can change dramatically, this does not deter members from reconstructing their past in the current lexicon’s vocabulary."

    "Although there may be no common language to compare terms that change their meaning during a scientific revolution, there is a partially common language composed of the invariant terms that do permit some semblance of comparison."

    So from these quotes, we might say that Kuhn is employing a stricter definition of translation in terms of word-for-word substitution. In the absence of such, this doesn't mean that intelligibility can't be had, either by learning the new "language" or perhaps even reconstructing it in terms of your own (though if you don't learn the new concepts maybe this isn't so true to what the new theory means). Kuhn suggests different taxonomies may have terms in common which could aide interpretation (and comparison). On top of this, incommensurability is in terms of taxonomies of scientific theories which completely ignores the rest of human language. There is therefore nothing stopping someone from the outside trying to construct an intelligible interpretation using language outside of the scientific taxonomies being talked about; I'm sure this occurs a lot in popular science.

    So Kuhn, needs a one-to-one correspondence and so is much stricter. On the other hand, Davidson seems more interested in intelligible interpretation than trying to find words which have one-to-one correspondences: from Davidson's essay -

    "We can produce a theory that reconciles charity and the formal conditions for a theory, we have done all that could be done to ensure communication. Nothing more is possible, and nothing more is needed."

    "It would be wrong to summarize by saying we have shown how communication is possible between people who have different schemes."

    "how then are we to interpret speech or intelligibly, to attribute beliefs and other attitudes?"

    He also claims:

    "yet the existence of a common system belies the claim of dramatic incomparability."

    Which seems only to be true when it comes to interpretation but not necessarily one-to-one correspondences.

    Both the Stanford and he IEP articles on Davidson's philosophy also suggest that his interpretation / intelligibility view is a general feature of his philosophy.

    "Thus, unlike a Quinean radical translator, who does mention sentences of his home language [i.e. 'she tentatively translates “Gavagai!” with her own sentence, “Lo, a rabbit!”'], a Davidsonian radical interpreter adopts a semantical stance: she relates speakers’ sentences to the world by assigning them objective truth conditions describing extra-linguistic situations and objects. It is in this sense that a Davidsonian linguist is an interpreter, and Davidson calls the project undertaken by his linguist the construction of a theory of interpretation."

    To me this description seems more similar to someone learning the new language rather than just translating it into their own. Lack of translatability/interpretability for Davidson (where the interpreter cannot find the truth conditions for sentences) here implies one cannot relate the words to the extra-linguistic context, perhaps leading to Davidson's contention that an untranslatable language just doesn't make sense.

    This part is relevant because in the partial translation part of his essay, Davidson is clearly viewing the situation partly in terms of radical interpretation as described in the quote.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"

    Well I think I agree with you generally. From my perspective, what people like Wittgenstein and Quine seemed to do is take away the foundation out from underneath meaning and justification in both language and knowledge. Under these perspectives, everything becomes about practise but there becomes no fact of the matter about the reasons for people's behavior. The way forward from there then seems to be learning empirically, scientifically exactly why and how people behave, use language, learn, perceive, how brains work, etc. I've actually always thought these philosophers (Kuhn too) feel like they resonate amicably with the brain and mind sciences.

    As an aside, I think Kuhn was actually doing that kind of flavor of research I mentioned just noe but for the science - rather than looking for prescriptions about what scientists should do or are justified in doing (like Popper tried to do), he tries to look at how they actually do it, regardless of whether they are doing it in a way that seems correct or not.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"

    I'm sorry, something must be lost in translation between us - both ways presumably - because I still don't understand exactly what you are contesting in this paragraph. What I have written there is more or less about what I believe Kuhn thinks his own theory of science implies, in contrast to Davidson.

    If you're saying Kuhn is non-empirical, I guess I would reply that he was more or less writing as a historian drawing on actual events and case studies in the history of science. I don't really know what other kind of language research would have a bearing on this.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"

    Just went through this, very interesting and nice apologetics for aristotle, if you will. It does seems that it can be reconstructed as a mathematical approximation of Newtonian mechanics for particular domains. However, its actually still quite trivial to see the incommensurability of Aristotle's word view in the ontological baggage that contextualizes his physics of motion and is a consequence of his limited observations of the world. Its very clear that Aristotle's world view is totally incompatible with the world views of later physicists. You can even say the same about Newton's in contrast to a post-Einsteinian relativity where things like relativity of simultaneity and time dilation paint a picture of the universe which is just utterly metaphysically different to a Newtonian one where these things just cannot happen.

    I also still think that the whole translation thing is completely exaggerated. Kuhn doesn't think that incommensurable paradigms are necessarily not mutually intelligible and he has explicitly mentioned the role of historians of science like himself in doing a form of translation of theories like Aristotle's. Seems unlikely to me that Kuhn's views of incommensurability imply the kind of incomparability that Davidson mentions.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism

    I will be thinking about this but first impression is I like this a lot. A kind of Carollian regress. My intuition is that it makes sense and probably does echo sentiments of some anti-realists who might ask why they should care about the moral facts.... or rather, express their skepticism that there is anything at all to compel them to abide by the moral facts.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"

    Well, yes but I don't know what you are addressing in my post.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"
    None of this matters unless there is an empirical element. Studying child development, neurology, physiology, cognitive psychology, evolution, genetics, biochemistry, anthropology, and the rest.schopenhauer1

    What do you mean?
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?
    Yet the latter is literally unrealisticGnomon

    What makes you say this, out of interest?

    I will assume that your philosophical "reality beyond" is something like Plato's Ideality, or Kant's mysterious realm of the ding-an-sichGnomon

    I am not too familiar with those, but the parts of reality we cannot directly access independently of our perception.

    Mind is merely its operational Function, which is only a name for an abstract input-output process of Living & Thinking.Gnomon

    Does that include qualia?
  • An all encompassing mind neccesarily exists

    I don't think its a contradiction to say that there is an objective world and I just don't have access to it.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"

    The more I think about this the more complicated it seems to get in ways that ultimately might only be resolvable through neuroscience, cognitive perceptual science. But, and perhaps too simply put, I think there is something like pre-lingual, pre-theoretic experience which can be contrasted to knowledge which is enacted within that experience, including things like categorization, association, etc. I agree with Wang that conceptual schemes are fuzzy, non-fixed, and have various levels of abstraction at which we engage and between which, different concepts relate. The idea that commonalities and differences makes complete sense to me, like in the sense that different cultures may have different language concepts but presumably have very similar color perception capabilities. Even when we look at something like the duck / rabbit illusion, ultimately the differences we interpret coexist with the fact we are looking at the same picture and nothing has changed about those perceptual aspects of it. After all, the job of the cortex is to capture information at sensory receptors (e.g. in the retina ) which we all share in common to a significant extent, and process signals that have a basis in object outside of us in the world which are common to us. Equally, I agree with idea that people can have something like different conceptual schemes but with substantial commonalities, like Wang seems to say.

    Ultimately though, with regard to my interpretation of Kuhn, I believe that Davidson is attacking a strawman. The whole crux of Davidson's argument is that conceptual schemes are inherently untranslatable but referring to the same world of experiences. He seems to think that untranslatable implies incomparability and non-intelligibility but I think Kuhn means more like establishing a one-to-one correspondence between concepts, something which I think you can find in many languages - words that aren't necessarily beyond understanding to us but just don't quite match any kind of word we have or use, which can sometimes make them seem weird or even artificial. Because we are so unfamiliar, we may not even be good at using them in a way that comes across as natural when we try to speak that language.

    Kuhn has a descriptive approach to science so I think he just says that often people do come across difficulties in understanding concepts in different paradigms, which then might make evaluating theories difficult; but that doesn't mean they can't be translated or understood in some way, after all, in the history of science we are talking about many scientists who probably do have lots of concepts in common and speak the same language. How could Kuhn have come to understand Aristotelian motion if he thought it was genuinely incomparable and untranslatable? You can probably look Aristotelian motion up on Wikipedia.

    Another thing is that I think incommensurability is essentially just a generalization on scientific underdetermination which is roughly what is meant by his use of the phrase different worlds. This is more than translating words or rearranging meanings that refer to the same world but changing your theory about how you think the world actually is. Knowing how the world really is may be chronically underdetermined empirically, but I think it is also the case they will have completely different descriptions and counterfactuals about how the world would be if we had a perfect ability to observe it. Contrasts between something like Copernican and Ptolomaic views of astronomy is not about just changing meanings of the words but statements about how the world is which are completely different. The stars and planets exist on completely different trajectories in the two pictures which give different, contradictory facts about the world and how it would be if we were to observe it a certain way. It is just that from limited purviews, there may be practical difficulty in demonstrating those distinctions in empirical observation, or ruling out that the empirical demonstration might have been mistaken / faulty / misinterpreted, or that some other theory can account for that particular observation in the same way.

    I think basically then that Davidson's notion of conceptual scheme here is fundamentally not what Kuhn was talking about, not and so a strawman is being attacked.
  • An all encompassing mind neccesarily exists
    True statements are a mental evaluation, but what they represent isn't. A mindless world may have truths, but we cannot speak of them, which is no different from not having any truths.Sirius

    I don't see why stopping here wouldn't be the reasonable solution.
  • An all encompassing mind neccesarily exists

    As far I can see you are just begging the question that there is no such thing as a mind-independent reality. I'm sure lots of people would say that: just because truths can only be evaluated by a mind, doesn't mean there isn't some kind of objective reality beyond it.
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?

    So, it depends on who's asking. Is the Brain or the Soul the experiencer of incoming Information?Gnomon

    Well, the way I view it, all concepts are ultimately constructs. Information to me is a very general and flexible one that can be applied to almost anything. For instance, in that 'Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness' article by Chalmers, that was posted a little earlier in the thread, he has the double aspect idea of both physical information space and phenomenal information space.

    Now for me, double-aspect is a only in our models and not existing in reality beyond us. Also, when I try to break down what the notions of physical and phenomenal mean, they lead to dead ends. The phenomenal is fundamentally ineffable, indescribable and the physical is equally poorly defined, as many anti-physicalists attest to. Only concepts I have left to give tangibility are vague notions like 'structure' and 'information'. And as someone who is not necessarily a scientific realist, the fact that these notions are quite thin is not so bothersome since I believe we fundamentally cannot have access to lots of aspects of reality.

    So, to answer 'Is the Brain or the Soul the experiencer of incoming Information?': for me, such a distinction is an artifact of our models of the world and limitations in knowing what the world is like. For me, the double-aspect (brain and soul) is in some sense illusory. Brains are in some sense constructed models enacted within our subjective states to explain empirical findings. We see them as representing something out there we cannot directly access as a third-person observer. Our own minds actually reflect part of that inaccessible stuff, but not all of it, and our own minds don't even have access fundamentally to everything about reality, what reality is like or about as a whole.
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?
    I don't think I am trying to make an especially deep metaphysical characterization of information, and it's certainly vague. It's closest to what you said before - differences that make a difference - or maybe just distinctions. Very vague, yes, but I think its just more being used as a kind of generic classificatory tool.

    I think - in absence of any further possible way of explaining what phenomena exactly is or why - I am just saying that it is plausible to construe experiences as information. All I really know about my own experiences is that I am making or perceiving distinctions which are immediate to me.. which seems close to describing it in terms of information. Information seems to be one of the only property I can really ascribe to my experiences in a way that is articulable.

    At the same time, the fact there seems to be a mapping or isomorphism to brain behavior suggests that if we can describe those brain interactions in terms of information or distinctions that brains can make about inputs, then phenomena seem to be what it is like to be those distinctions internally as it were. I do think though that the brains as we talk about them are still scientific constructs in our minds so I am not necessarily saying that there is an actual duality here between brains and phenomena. The duality is only in our models. This (lack of duality) can be naturally interpreted as panpsychism if one wants but personally this doesn't help me understand the world any further.

    One thing I am dropping from my view is that reality - in whatever way you want to metaphysically theorize about it - is not like a set of objects that just permanently exist at one scale and can be arranged in different ways like marbles in a box.

    Theoretical physics, from what I have read, seems to characterize particles and forces at the most fundamental level in terms of symmetries and invariances that possibly emerge and dissolve depending on the situation (maybe a good example in physics is that it is thought that during the development of the universe you had symmetry breaking where new forces, particles and even mass emerged where they did not exist before).

    So maybe symmetries / invariances are fundamental.

    However, symmetries are actually very generic concepts which can be applied to anything at all.
    Symmetries can therefore be applied to any scale from small things in physics to brains and beyond; they would essentially emerge out of each other.

    Interesting example here of someone applying it to perception:

    (Some examples of use in biology:

    Another interesting example suggesting invariances as a way of unifying many different types of theories. (Note, he has chosen to express this in terms of the price equation from evolution, but the choice is more or less preference afaik)

    And what is said in these articles applies to information in terms of relative entropy and fisher information, interestingly. A quote from second article:

    "All of the ‘information’ results in the prior section arose directly from the canonical Price equation’s description of conserved total probability. No notion or interpretation of ‘information’ is necessary. In many disciplines, information expressions arise in the analysis of the specific disciplinary problems. This sometimes leads to the idea that information must be a primary general concept that gives form to and explains the particular results. Here, the Price equation explains why those information expressions arise so often. Those expressions are simply the fundamental descriptions of force and change within the context of a conserved total quantity. In this case, the conserved total quantity is total probability."

    So maybe what I am getting at here is that, if theoretical physics symmetries are fundamental, maybe all types of symmetries that exist within the universe are fundamental entities of the universe, at whatever scale. Those kinds of symmetries or invariances might also be a good way of characterizing what we mean when we say brains can distinguish things (or have information), because these distinctions are clearly on scales above elementary particles and instead at the level of organization of these systems as wholes in terms of neuronal activity. Brain perception therefore involves higher order symmetries (perhaps like in the article on perception above) which are themselves superimposed on lower symmetries such as those at the microscopic physics scale. But clearly, the emergence of these symmetries on top of each other is something that can naturally pulled out of the mathematical descriptions of these things (in principle) and isn't somehow unexpected or strange.

    Our perceptions, our phenomena are then just what its like to be these various higher order symmetries which are coalescing together I guess.

    Now, I am not trying to solve the hard problem. I think experiences are irreducible. I don't think we can know anything about the world beyond our experiences (even if we were to say that everything in the universe is experiential - that doesn't give me any extra useful knowledge). When I am talking about symmetries, invariances, information, these are just tools for organizing my knowledge and conceptual schemes, knowledge which is enacted within my own experiences. So I am not trying to say that experiences are the math that is being used to describe symmetries and invariances or anything like that. Those are observer-dependent constructs we use to predict things. I don't think I can in principle even imagine whats going on in the actual outside world, but talk of symmetries and fundamental entities is just helping me create a coherent model of reality. Experience is irreducible and metaphysical ontology is deeply inaccessible imo.

    But by saying experiences are what it's like internally to be some kind of symmetries, invariances, structure, information, distinction... whatever... I am just giving it a coherent connection to the rest of our physical models. I think this particular way makes the combination problem easier by making it easier for macro-experiences to just emerge. But again, I am not trying to give an explanation for particular phenomenal experiences. But if they are the internal what it's like of symmetries or information in reality as I just described, then I kind of lean toward the view that there is just a brute fact that experiences have this kind of vivid discernibility to them as a reflection of the distinguishable degrees of freedom of systems as a whole - I would actually just call that vivid discernibility information - even if some immediate, subjective kind.

    Now part of the whole rollercoaster of all this is I am trying to give an account of the objective world which I believe is absolutely fundamentally inaccessible, but also explicitly acknowledging that I am using descriptions that are fundamentally observer dependent.

    So I think paradoxes and natural limits to what I am trying to describe are a given.
    I cannot explain experiences but I think I can still coherently map it to information. Experiences are all I have access to but also, scientific models in physics, biology, computer science, etc. give me by far the best way of giving a good explanation of my reality in so far that I am capable of doing so under my own limits as an organism.

    Again, what I have said is completely compatible with panpsychism imo or even idealism in the sense of saying everything is just experiences but seems there are still many open questions if you do that under this perspective.

    Note: My perspective on symmetries as fundamental is not dissimilar from structural realists like James Ladyman ( but I am not explicitly realist. Without realism, I think the need to explain phenomena with mathematical models becomes less acute; but at the same time, by not having a preferred scale for symmetries or invariances, then there is less combination problem issues. Symmetries and invariance may not be the only structural concepts but probably there is importance there. Structuralism seems to be just the latest generation of naturalist ideas and I'd say its probably not unfair to say it arose from the need to have looser conceptualizations of the natural world than physics, just as physicalism arose from the need for a looser conceptualization of the world than materials (thus superseding materialism). I'd say structural things in is about as poorly defined as physicalist ontology is. The vagueness of structure also makes me think that that notion has significant overlap with my notion of information which is just about distinctions. I also think the idea of invariances maybe overlaps with that too since invariance seems to entail the notion of regularity, patterns and perhaps how they are separable from other things and noise.
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?

    Yes, those 3 numbered sections outlining the theory pretty much outline the kind of central relationships I have about information, the brain and experience. The definition of information in 3. is also more or less the same kind of notion.

    This part:

    "An obvious question is whether all information has a phenomenal aspect. One possibility is that we need a further constraint on the fundamental theory, indicating just what sort of information has a phenomenal aspect. The other possibility is that there is no such constraint. If not, then
    experience is much more widespread than we might have believed, as information is

    was also a fundamental concern of mine where basically I was leaning toward the latter part on the basis of lack of reason to rule out other functional systems having experiences of some kind.

    The biggest qualifier I would say is that the double-aspect part (whereby there is two different information ontologies - physical and phenomenal) is only a characteristic of our models and concepts (concepts and models which are embedded in, enacted in, function within our phenomena), and cannot be characteristic of reality itself inherently.

    Ultimately though, I still have a skepticism that we can have some complete, exhaustive description or understanding of what reality is like... or that reality can describe itself effectively. There is inherent limitation in doing this and fundamentally you cannot explain experiential phenomena.
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?
    Sorry, but that is what reductionism is.Wayfarer

    You misread me there because that statement about boiling down was referring to what brains do.

    But anyway, I don't think it is reductionism or eliminativist because I am not trying to explain experiences or suggest any kind of breaking down or explaining away of experiences into components of something else like that. In principle I don't think that kind of thing is possible.

    But, saying that "Information is what it's like to be information" comes dangerously close to a tautology.Gnomon

    Well my notion of information here is even more basic than what you are talking about. Its just about distinctions. Experience and information are both primitive concepts in the sense that they cannot be further defined. So this tautology doesn't really add any danger that wasn't already there.
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?

    Argument that there is more to perception than information? All thrme factors you mentioned I would say come under the banner of information in the same way as perception, at least under my philosophy of mind.

    Whether you believe in it is beside the point. It has been documented extensively in books on meditative awareness and trance states.Wayfarer

    Yes, sure it has been documented; I just wouldn't interpret it in the way that those people would i.e. that there is some kind of thing called oure awareness independent of our percepts.

    The problem with your argument is that it is essentially reductionist. While it aligns well with information theory and cognitive neuroscience, which view experiences in terms of the brain processing and distinguishing environmental stimuli, explaining how physical processes (like neuronal activity and the making of distinctions) amount to subjective experiences is a different matter.Wayfarer

    It isn't reductionist.
    I haven't said experiences are the same as brains or information in information theory, and if anything you could argue that all of those concepts are constructs we have created rather than the things in themselves.

    Information is about distinguishing things.

    I have said that experience is what it is like to be information.

    That corresponds to saying experience is what it is like to distinguish something.

    In a panpsychist universe, that is very obviously trivially tautological.

    In a dualist universe where there were experiences AND something else where you could define distinctions or perhaps correlations then I think a mapping between experiences and those distinctions is sufficient. And I think neuroscience tells us that mapping exists. In the panpsychist case, you could argue that you were simply mapping something to itself vicariously through a constructed representation of scientific objects or information.
    I don't need to make a reductive explanation to assert a mapping. I haven't tried to explain anything about experiences. Just seems trivial to me that when I experience something, I am making a distinction, which is what my notion of information is all about. Almost trivially, anything is in some sense a distinction, so to say the relationship between experience and distinctions doesn't really make sense.
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?

    Space, time, and matter no longer make any mathematical sense within a black hole's singularity, are often enough said to "break down" at such juncture, and with some affirming that information itself becomes erased therein.

    Again, why would information be assumed to survive at such juncture?

    Well, possibly. I don't know. I don't know enough to make a judgement about this or what I think it even means in order to disagree.
    Most likely, yes. How do you define information? For me, quintessentially, information is to be defined by that which informs, or else "gives form to" ("form" in the Aristotelian sense). In so holding, I then take awareness to be informed by its percepts but to not of itself be informationjavra

    I will be lazy and quote myself from my most recent post:

    "but it all boils down to making distinctions. Nothing technical about that concept... just the primitive concept of a distinction... a difference... any symonym you like that is sufficiently general."

    I think here we have different fundamental understandings of mind because I don't really take awareness to be like a thing independent of percepts. For instance, some have said they believe in something like pure awareness. I don't believe in something like that.
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?
    I can provide information which describes it, but remember the point at issue was your claim thatWayfarer

    So you don't think the act or event of distinction itself is information? That just hearing something and knowing it is not information? As far as I am concerned, what I am reading, what I am experiencing right in front of me is information. Because I am distinguishing, recognizing, having immediate awareness of something. Sure, I can describe it in terms of something like pixels and that is information.

    I am making the point, there is something other than 'information transmission' at work when you hear music,Wayfarer

    Well I think its just question begging here either side because I am just making the claim that information could be simply what its like to be information. And you just disagree.

    It makes sense for me that experiences are what its like to make distinctions because effectively thats what brains are doing... making distinctions. We can talk about it in a formal sense of information theoretic descriptions of neuronal activity, or just in simple sense of organisms perceiving distinctions in their environment, but it all boils down to making distinctions. Nothing technical about that concept... just the primitive concept of a distinction... a difference... any symonym you like that is sufficiently general. That seems to be what our perceptions do and so if our perceptions are experiences, then it seems to me that they are experiences of those distinctions brains make... what it is like to be those distinctions being made. Its almost tautological to me because experiences themselves are obviously distinctions so ofcourse, experiences are what its like to make those experiential distinctions. The question is then: are experiences just what it is like to make any distinction at all? And given that my intuition wants me to think there is no limit on the possible experiences that could exist, then couldn't they encompass all possible distinctions that could possibly be made, and so would be what it was like to make those distinctions?

    Note: I have not been stating an identity between experiences = distinctions or experiences = information per se (though as I have said, I do think experiences trivially are information [e.g. like saying Mary has learned or even sees some new information when she experiences green for yhe first time]).

    Rather I have been making an identity between experience and what it is like to be information. There should be no hard problem issue here because I am not making an equivalence between experiences and some technical definition, but experiences and what it is like to be a kind of thing. If experiences can be defined as what it is like then I am clearly equating experiences with experiences. Just like saying that my experiences are what it is like to be a brain is slightly different to saying experiences are brains, or experiences are atoms.
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?
    Information that goes past a black hole's threshold toward the singularity within the black hole cannot be experienced - at least not when at the singularity itselfjavra

    Why is that?

    instead, is a mere direct awarenessjavra

    To me, this is having information. Though I think we are getting into the territory where we will have disagreements about the contents of experience or philosophy of mind generally, which would hinder agreement.
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?

    Another example: what you're reading right now may be described in terms of 'pixels on a screen' but what it means is something else again.Wayfarer

    But is there ever a way to describe it in which it is not information?
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?
    because there are factors such as judgement, context, interpretation, and so on.Wayfarer

    Yes, sure: what is more information in the mind.

    so any kind of mapping is hardly a simple 1:1 operation[/q]

    Maybe not a mapping to physically unique neurons, but surely a mapping to ongoing activity.
    Speaking of mapping, that doesn't map! The expressions 'what it is like to be a bat' or 'to experience music' or 'see the deep blue of the sea' draw attention to the fact that states of experience are qualities of being.Wayfarer

    Well so is the phrase 'what its like to be information' and in fact. When we hear music, that is information transmitted into our heads. Distinctions we make about sound regarding things like pitch or timbre etc etc. The question is what information cannot be experienced and what experiences are not information? I think its quite hard to give examples for any of those things.
  • Austin: Sense and Sensibilia

    I was alluding to something along the lines of the extended mind idea.
  • Austin: Sense and Sensibilia

    I see. I think I understand what you mean. It seems rather arbitrary though: where does the extension end? At the actual physical objects we perceive?
  • The Insignificance of Moral Realism

    Ah, fair enough! I think I would agree.
  • Austin: Sense and Sensibilia
    Humans and other animals perceive, and are therefor perceivers. This is what I mean when I use the term “perceiver”: a thing that perceives. It can be said these things perceive. The same cannot be said of nervous systems.NOS4A2

    What do you mean here that it can be said for animals but not nervous systems?
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?

    I wasn't trying to imply anything to do with capacity in the definition I said. I am just making the point that experiences are clearly information for us in a very trivial way. I see something, I am distinguishing something: that is information.

    And I am not trying to make an account of experience because information is about as difficult to describe and account for as experience, so saying that experience is information doesn't really explain anything.

    So this is not an attempt to explain away, but making a plausible equivalence between two concepts which are equally difficult, or at least primitive, in their characterization.

    Again, I think the experiences we have seem to map to information in the brain. You don't need to say that brains explain information in any deep metaphysical way to say this is the case I think. I would be interested to hear why you would think this mapping does not hold up, if you did believe that it did not.

    The remaining question is then: where do you draw the line on what information can and cannot be mapped to experiences.

    If I cannot draw the line, who's to say that experience is not just what it is like to be information?

    Is an abacus falling through the air, the beads moving this way and that, processing information? Does it have experiences?RogueAI

    Arguably, it could be. I mean, obviously it is a complicated system that we cannot predict easily, but presumably it is actually behaving according to the kinds of regularities that underlie the laws of physics where particular inputs have outputs which are computable. Doesn't seem an inherent difference from what neurons do. Could a system of chaotically behaving abacuses not self-organize into a brain under the right circumstances? Where is the dividing line?
  • Why is the Hard Problem of Consciousness so hard?
    (from here.)

    Well I say this for several reasons:

    1. You say information is about sending and receiving, about behaviour of systems. I agree with this. Moreso, neuronal transmission and brains satisfy this: so we can call them information processing systems. We know brains support experience.

    2. I think information in the way we normally use it boils down to distinctions - the ability to learn or make distinctions. I think that is a very primitive concept and you cannot really boil it down to anything more basic than that.

    3. What are experiences? At its most primitive, isnt this concept just about immediate distinctions we can make as observers - experiences are or have information in the sense that we distinguish or recognize or can differentiate them. When I see something, experience something, it is a subjective distinction I have made.

    4. So what is the relationship between distinctions brains make and distinctions of my subjective experiences? Well they are inextricable. I experience red because of the distinctions my brain can make with regard to its sensory inputs. Its hard to say that I am not in some sense my brain.

    Aren't experiences just the what its like to be the information in my brain? If thats the case, isn't it plausible that other information processing structures have experiences of that information which are completely different to our experiences? Where exactly is the limit on this? What exactly doesn't count as an experience?

    Seems hard for me to rule out that there could be a mapping between experiences and all possible forms of information.
  • The Insignificance of Moral Realism

    I was under the impression you were saying this would be a benefit even if moral realism were not true.
  • Proposed new "law" of evolution

    Don't you think, in a way, that qualia is just what it is like to be information?
  • Proposed new "law" of evolution

    Yes, the link between the semantics of words like "information" and the shannon formalism is vague at best. I think entropy is best characterized as uncertainty, not information. Maybe you can think of it as quantifying the capacity of an information source to send different messages. But to me, the concept of information makes sense best as the reduction of uncertainty i.e. reduction of entropy based on an observation, not dissimilar to the formal concept of mutual information. The concept of surprisal/self-information seems even more messy imo.
  • Austin: Sense and Sensibilia

    I think a more general way of seeing use is in terms of state transitions. The way you use a cup is a special case since how I use a cup is a sequence of percptual states (and transitions between them): e.g. how I fill a cup with water, bring it to my mouth and drink. My knowledge of this use might be seen, broadly, in terms of predicting what the next states are (or what they plausibly could be) from any part of the sequence and knowing what came before (or what could have come before, plausibly).

    But then state transitions also include things that seem a bit more basic and probably totally unconscious; for instance, predicting what I will see next if I twist the cup a certain way, or how the percept changes when I myself moves. Perhaps, predicting the type of sound when I tap it or the way it feels if I touch. That is quite implicit knowledge since no one is really explicitly predicting or paying attention to what they will see next as they twist a cup, or the sound it will make when they set it down on the table - yet we would all know very well if something unexpected happened in these contexts.

    If you think about it, even though your using a cup to trap a spider (or some other trick) might be a totally novel use of the cup, it relies entirely on knowledge of such state transitions like I just mentioned - known regularities in cup-related percepts. I would not be able to use the cup to trap the spider if I could not predict / have knowledge of the next sensory percepts that would occur in trapping the spider. I probably must, at least implicitly, know the cup has certain predictable properties to even come up with the idea.

    I disagree with that post though that this has anything to do with seeing in the conventional sense. I think what we see when we see the cup is just the specific, immediate, individually unique image / percept of whatever is infront of us, which in fact is probably rarely ever exactly the same between two moments and is almost inevitably in constant flux as we move in the world, and the world itself moves.

    There are therefore just transitions to the next perceptual state and the next state after that, in real time. Much of these transitions might just be what we passively observe, but there is always some control we have in some sense, which requires knowledge of state transitions.

    - for instance, the way I move my head changes the way the cup looks. I can move my hand to manipulate it directly. I can move my jaws and speak the word "cup" or perhaps utter a selection of words that evoke a response in someone else. Maybe the sounds of those words will just appear before me, disembodied (like internal monologue); disembodied images likewise. I can shift my eyes to an area of the visual field where the next cup-related event miraculously occurs (e.g. water pouring from a spout; such a coincidence I happen to look there: why did I do that?). Perhaps I have other changes in attention and even internal states (like maybe heartbeat) if that miraculous event were not to occur. Notice these controllable acts are all coupled to my knowledge of state transitions in the sense they are all re-actions or pre-actions to what could come next (or perhaps what could have happened in the past even - any type of cup-related association).

    Totally passive observation of changes of perception in real time is meaningless because without any of these controllable actions / reactions, I cannot even express or enact my knowledge of those passive observation sequences (e.g. our eyes following around these passive observations, words uttering the next passive observation, the shock and heartbeat change when some unexpected passive observation happens, an imagine picture popping into my head). Without those controllable actions I am probably no different to a wall which a film is being projected onto - the wall is receiving the image without any reaction, no meaning for the wall, even though it has these images projected on to it!

    Knowledge is nothing more than these controllable actions which themselves are still just special cases of state transitions in our perception in real time, but nonetheless characterize my expertise about things like cupness through raw, individually unique percepts that change over time with some regularity / pattern to those transitions. So there is no sense in seeing the use of a cup. The use or knowledge of a cup unfolds in real time as it is being used, as we are reacting to it, as some sequence of unique percepts over which we have varying amounts of control.

    There is no explicitly stored catalogue of knowledge unless you perhaps think it is appropriate to use that term to refer to latent biochemical states in our neurons (I don't). What we know is generated and enacted on the fly in our controllable perceptual states in contextually sensitive ways, embodied in neuronal action potentials.


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