Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Hoth, Feb 16, 2002.

  1. Hoth Registered Senior Member

    That's a different type of consciousness. (Just as the consciousness of physical objects through the senses is another type… basically we’re just using the word to mean observation.) Yes, it's important that we're able to have mental states aimed at goals, but all that is useless and meaningless if we aren't aware of the mental state itself. Awareness of thought cannot be described in terms of thought, because the awareness doesn’t consist of thought. The awareness, to put it simply, consists of absolute simple observation without judgement. You can have any kind of complex physical system set up to “think”, but you can never know if there’s an awareness of that system other than your own awareness of thoughts of it.

    I would argue therefore, that any activity

    First of all, “activity” seems to imply more thinking. What do you mean by activity, and why should activity be involved in observation of thought? The observation seems rather static to me, it’s not as though I see a different person’s thoughts each day of the week. (Of course if I did I’d never know, since the mind I’d be observing at any time would have only its own thoughts.)

    disengaged from the current state of events could not be called conscious.

    It cannot be called self-conscious if it’s not part of the state of affairs being observed (a.k.a. “current state of affairs”)... but I'd argue nothing should be called self-conscious. Our idea of self-consciousness simply arises from the fact that what we're conscious of makes up the entirety of our experience... it's very difficult for us to think of the perspective of observation as being something distinct from the observed, because of the fact that nothing is aware of the perspective. You can never observe your own consciousness, you can only deduce it from your awareness of thought.

    There's no need to describe the conscious awareness, since it's simply awareness. (Or if there were anything more to it, theoretically, we could never know since by it's definition as the perspective from which we observe everything we necessarily can't observe it. The only thing that could know it would be something 2 levels up from the mind, something observing our perspective, which I find no reason to believe in.)

    The view of the consciousness as separate causes absolutely no extra problems not involved with a self-conscious mind, because the result of the lack of self-observation is a perfect illusion that the thing being observed is observing itself. Making the logical distinction between them simply has the advantage of doing away with the logical problem of a camera trying to take a picture of itself, so I find this point of view useful for logic despite the lack of practical difference.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2002
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  3. Bambi itinerant smartass Registered Senior Member

    Originally posted by Hoth

    On the other hand, consider the possibility that your awareness encompasses only a superficial and extremely limited subset of your mind's state. For example, even as you may be aware of your own thoughts you are not aware of how you manage to string words together in a proper fashion. You're using complex grammar and semantics without ever noticing. As psychoanalysts like to proclaim, your conscious mind is merely a thin veneer on top of miles and miles of subconscious or unconscious substrate.

    With that in hand, imagine a video camera in front of a mirror. The camera produces a stream of pictures, and within the pictures is an evolving representation of the camera itself. Granted, the representation is not nearly as functional or rich with internal detail as the camera itself; however it is sufficiently rich to convey certain characteristics of the camera -- even that its recorder light is blinking on and off, its lenz is rotating back and forth to fine-tune zoom, etc.

    So the camera is well on its way of being in fact aware, even if only of a very superficial caricature, of itself. The main difference between the camera and your internal brain states is that the former uses a light-based representation of itself provided by its own emissions bouncing from a reflective surface, while the latter uses an electrochemical representation of itself provided by a sampling of its own emissions traveling along feedback pathways. In other words the major difference is in the implementation rather than the process. So you can see there are no logical paradoxes at all.

    To help convince yourself at a somewhat more abstract and subjective level, consider that even while you are aware of your thoughts the awareness cannot precede the thought. On the other hand, once the thought is generated it can very well produce echoes within the mind that can then be perceived through your introspective faculties. IOW there is no fundamental schism between your conventional sensory awareness and your introspective awareness; the differences are in the sensory apparatus and the source of the impinging information.
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  5. Hoth Registered Senior Member

    If your theories have cameras being conscious, it's reminding me Spinoza... like him you'd end up with all of nature being conscious.

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    IOW there is no fundamental schism between your conventional sensory awareness and your introspective awareness

    I agree. Both work based on simple physical concepts, and involve no actual literal awareness but only transmission of "information."

    "Introspective awareness" is simply thought which has other thought as an object. This does not explain the conscious perspective, because you are aware of more than just the thoughts you think introspectively of. Think about it: When you have thoughts about your own thoughts, you are aware of the process of considering your thoughts -- not just of the thoughts under consideration. It'd be quite a strange universe if you were only conscious when you happened to be thinking of yourself.

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    It is of course our concept of information which we invent that allows us to think of introspective thoughts as being awareness... but information does not actually exist without our own awareness being applied to it. Our awareness of information is what makes it information rather than just an undistinguished part of the universe. That's why introspective "awareness" isn't what I speak of when I speak of consciousness... it simply describes how there can be thoughts about thoughts, which has nothing to do with an actual experience of thought itself. Introspective "awareness" lies in the mind (or the bozon fields of the macroscopic quantum state of the brain for physicalists).

    One way to put it simply is that perspective is why I don't know what it is to be you. No patterns of the brain demonstrate why I'm aware of the thoughts produced by this brain instead of the ones produced by that brain over there (say, yours). Perspective itself must be your basic presupposition before you can begin to speak of individuals. Thus, looking for the chemical of perspective is more than slightly useless.

    However, despite being useless, it's quite fun to draw up the situation, so I'll do so.

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    Particle A - a neuron, let's say? or something else if you like
    Particle B - another neuron (or whatever else you'd like to make it be)

    Your task is to design the interaction pattern of these particles. Show how what you're calling "self-awareness" comes to exist, using particle A and particle B to show how particle B becomes aware that particle B exists and/or particle A becomes aware that particle A exists.

    If you need more paticles then feel free to add them, although you should provide a justification for why enlarging the number of particles involved causes any change whatsoever to the essential nature of the situation.

    Create your own interaction scenario, and explain how it demonstrates the reason there is awareness of A and B. Make it work, become famous.

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    If you can't make it work, then there is no awareness of A and B... and you're forced to either accept something external being aware of both A and B, or A and B somehow causing certain things we'll call mental phenomenon to exist... which you will in turn have to explain the self-awareness of in terms of either an outside observing perspective or if you insist another level of causality.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2002
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  7. Bambi itinerant smartass Registered Senior Member

    Originally posted by Hoth

    That is not what I said.

    Introspection is not confined to thought. You can introspect your emotional state, for example. The so-called qualia are yet another form of introspection.

    Rubbish. When information is not perceived it simply remains not perceived -- it does not disappear. The velocity of a freefalling object in orbit remains what it is regardless of whether anyone is there to observe it or not. When this object collides with another, the energy released in the collision is a direct function of the prior relative momenta -- IOW of preexisting information.

    Only if you presuppose yourself to be separate from your brain. On the contrary, the patterns are you, which resolves your dilemma quite nicely. Note that the idealist position leaves the dilemma unresolved.

    We aren't speaking the same language. I've already pointed out to you that your idea of "perspective" is inconsistent with reality. What you call perspective is in fact merely a statement that you are a subset of the universe. The "chemical" of perspective is existence.

    You have either avoided or not understood the fact that your awareness is both extremely limited and confined only to a partial state of your brain prior to your sampling of that state (i.e. it lags.)

    Ok, I'll give it a shot. Let both of the particles be neurons. Hook up A to B, and B to A so that A inhibits B but B excites A, and further hook up B to itself. B is naturally active at a moderate level even without any input to it (it's positively biased.) Derive the system's output from B, with 0 being no activity and 1 being maximum activity.

    Both A and B are inertial systems, so they lag behind the input. For example, if B is active and A is not it takes a while for B's input to gradually drive A to the point of being active; similarly as A becomes active it takes it a while to silence B.

    Start the simulation with both A and B inactive. You see something like this:


    IOW you have an oscillator. Why is this significant? As Fourier had shown, you can build up any function whatsoever from sinusoids. If you have many oscillators being superimposed and affecting each other, the output can be arbitrarily complex.

    Another significant thing is that B is, through A, indirectly sensitive of its own recent state. Similar fact holds for A. And in general, a system composed of such feedbacks can be sensitive to its own recent state, no matter how complex. This makes B "self-aware" on a very primitive level. It is not the same quality of self-awareness as humans possess, since it is not nearly as informationally rich. However, by increasing the complexity of the system the information content of the self-awareness is increased.

    Now, perturb A with some random external input (analogous to sensory input.) This will affect the state of the oscillator, affecting B, which will eventually detect its own recent response to the input through the feedback from A. Similarly for more complex systems.

    Imagine a system complex enough that a portion of it can be hooked up to the muscles of speech apparatus. Now, if the system had learned how, it would be able to verbalize part of its own state or its own responses to sensory input.

    Learning, of course, is the real trick. Generally, the system's architecture has to be quite specific and well tuned before it could acquire some sort of state coherence and be able to store or retrieve meaningful knowledge. Unless the correct architecture and balance is achieved, the system will degenerate into some chaotic or catatonic state. Understanding how the brain self-assembles and learns (the rules it obeys that enable a complex yet coherent system to emerge) will give a theoretical toolkit for reproducing minds in artificial substrates.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2002
  8. Hoth Registered Senior Member

    First, when I say "thought" I don't mean it has to be something that represents a proposition, or is in any way rationally directed. Emotion is certainly a part of what I'd call thought. Emotion is all represented physically in the brain the same as the other things you'd call thought are. If your definition of thought is more narrow then that's fine, just realize how I'm using the term.

    Second, your whole scenario again described what I already agree with you on -- namely the ability of the mind to have states which can be said to be about itself. (This of course is not quite a literal truth, because it's always about what it was very slightly previous in time.) To make that scenario work as actually involving awareness, however, you must already have perspective in place as the underlying concept. Without the subjective frame of reference you can't begin to talk about the states of the mind (or brain) as containing information. Without perspective you can't talk about groups of things, you could only talk about each individual particle itself.

    What you show is important, of course. Without the ability our brains have to process things in that way, we would not have thought as we do, thus we couldn't claim to exist. You simply continue to use obvious underlying concept of perspective without noticing it. This seems to cause you to get ideas about patterns causing perspective, without realizing that you've already assumed perspective in order to be able to talk of pattern.

    By saying that, you're saying you presuppose perspective -- namely perspective on the brain -- which forces you nicely into agreement with me. In order for you to be a group of things rather than simply an individual distinguished particle, you must invoke the concept of perspective. If you could look closely enough at the brain, you'd see each and every particle as being just itself... it would be interacting with others, but through all the interactions it would be only itself.

    This is what it means for you to be the patterns of the brain: it means you're a perspective on a group of things (particles). That's what a pattern is -- a pattern is a bunch of individual things looked at (persepectivized, you might say) as a group. Thus, if you say the self being the patterns of the brain is the basic definition of self, you're saying that perspective is the basic definition of the self. You're forcing yourself to agree with me that perspective is what everything rests on.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2002
  9. Bambi itinerant smartass Registered Senior Member


    I see we still aren't speaking the same language. But it seems we are getting closer to understanding each other, so let me see if we can make even more headway.

    I cannot understand your implied distinction between state and information. States cannot contain anything since they are not containers. A state is merely the set of properties and relationships of some subset of the universe at some instant in time.

    Due to the fact that states drive interactions which in turn affect states, interaction can only be conceived in terms of propagating state change. How or whether an interaction occurs and what sort of interaction it's going to be (i.e. what path the state evolution will take) is entirely dependent on the state of origin. This dependence of interaction on state casts state as "information"; we might imagine that a system "chooses" to behave in a certain way based on some "input" -- whereas the system's initial state, the interaction we call "input", the ensuing activity of the system, and the outcome are all merely distinct steps in the state evolution of the system. State and information refer to the same exact phenomenon; they are synonyms.

    This idea of "perspective" you have still mystifies me. No matter how small or large a volume of spacetime you consider, this volume is still going to be distinct from the rest of spacetime -- by definition! Now, what this volume contains may or may not correspond to some entity that you or I choose to recognize as somehow autonomous. However, at this point we are merely crafting definitions of what we consider separate vs. part of something else. None of such name-calling on our part alters the essense of existence within spacetime.

    The definition you choose can be arbitrary. For example, you may choose to define a particular volume of spacetime as autonomous based on the fact that it is contained within a lightcone of specific origin. Or you may choose some other definition. In the case of the brain, we choose to treat it as a unitary entity distinct from its surroundings because it is relatively insulated from external interference by virtue of its and its container's physical structure. By virtue of the structure of that particular volume of spacetime we call the brain, the inputs and outputs of that structure translate into perception and action of a larger encompassing structure we choose to call the human body. This structure in turn is coherent and somewhat independent of its surroundings, and on that basis we choose to think of it as a distinct object. However, by some other definition we might include into the concept of the body the immediately adjacent volume of spacetime with which the so-called body interacts. That region in turn interacts with another thin shell around it, and so on to the edge of the universe. So you can choose to draw the boundary at any point, including not drawing the boundary at all. The impetus for the choice comes down not to some fundamental essense of being but to heuristics -- what is most convenient and expedient for a limited information processor such as yourself which cannot cope with the glut of incoming information without some efficient data compression.

    I find that most of our definitions rest on correlation. For example, if of 3 entities A, B and C, you always observe A and B moving together you tend to group A and B into a separate object. There are any number of these so-called Gestalt "laws" that the human brain uses to make sense of its environment.
  10. Hoth Registered Senior Member

    I cannot understand your implied distinction between state and information.

    I should have just addressed states of the brain rather than information... information in that situation is simply an interpreted state of the brain. I should've said you can't speak of states without perspective. (Although of course you also can't speak of information without perspective.)

    A state is merely the set of properties and relationships of some subset of the universe at some instant in time.

    Yes, as you say, a state is a set of smaller things and a subset of larger things. To be a set, it must be a perspective containing multiple things... and to be subset of the universe, it must be a limited perspective not containing all things.

    When you create for yourself an idea of a state of the brain, notice how you arbitrarily create boundaries for it. You describe states of the brain as having arbitrary boundaries based on the subset (among the infinite possible subsets you could choose to define) of the universe which you've defined to be "brain". This defined subset involves the set of all those smaller individual things (neurons and their components, etc.) which lie within the area you're trying to partition off. There's nothing in any of those quarks which you define as "brain" that makes them different than the quarks in what you define as "air"... except they've been perspectivized into different things.

    Without perspective you really wouldn't have a universe, but I'll try to describe what it would be: you'd have only individual particles. Nothing in any individual particle in the universe has a label on it saying "you must interpret me as being a part of x, y and z structures," and thus in the perspectivless universe no conception could ever be formed of "structures." There would simply be a particle and another particle, but they couldn't be considered a pair of particles without perspective. Every particle would be itself and only itself, instead of like in our universe where thanks to our perspective we can look on things and declare them to be a part of other things.

    Obviously, perspective is not physical, rather it's what allows interpretation of the physical. Perspective is what allows you to conceive of the idea of "groups" of particles.

    Your particles which scream "I must be considered to be a part of this list of structures:" don't exist in nature. As you said yourself, the reason the particles are a part of certain structures is that we define them to be... and thus from our perspective they can be said to be a part of that structure we've just defined. The human perspective is required to apply those little subjective name tags of intentionality to particles.

    Without perspective, you would have to either consider yourself to be an individual particle, or the totality of the universe. Or if you try to apply the ideas you outlined about physical divisions somehow being obvious, a sort of naive idea of auto-sorting, then you'd have much better justification for considering yourself to be a nucleus of an atom within your brain, or a perhaps a star or galaxy, than you would for considering yourself to be a brain with such a comparatively slight physical separation from the things around it. It's strange of you to identify with that area you call the brain when you can have a much more unified and separate self as being just the nucleus of an atom within it.

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    You don't consider yourself to be the nucleus though: you're very sure you're a brain. In other words, you're sure that you're a specific defined perspective containing a group of things.

    This idea of "perspective" you have still mystifies me.

    Most people have trouble with distinguishing the concept of perspective from that which the perspective is of. (Hindus are the only large group I know of that notices the distinction, and they still tie up the concept in a bunch of religious stuff so they don't have the clearest perspective.) That's probably due to the fact that for us to be conscious of anything there has to both -- you can't have just the perspective, nor can you have just that which it's of. Also you're not used to the idea of something you can't grab hold of, something which isn't physical -- perspective, of course, has no substance itself but is instead about substances.

    No matter how small or large a volume of spacetime you consider, this volume is still going to be distinct from the rest of spacetime -- by definition!

    Exactly. Of course it is -- by definition. The definition of these volumes is where you're applying the concept of perspective. You have the ability to define things like that based on your own perspective. Where your own perspective (the one that contains thought) gets its definition is unknown, it would seem to be a natural occurrence. (It makes much more sense and can be explained much more naturally when you see the brain as producing a mind and the perspective being of the mind, but I don't want to get off on that now so I'm limiting myself to explaining things as though it were perspective containing the physical.)

    If something ever does click for you and you're able to finally conceptually separate your perspective from the physical and see the relationship between them, you'll also see how perspective explains the seeming realness of space and time (despite the scientific opinion that they're illusion). Perspective is what causes the illusion of space and time... if you could look only at the individual particle, or at the full unperspectivized 4-D universe, there would be no space or time, which is exactly why science (which attempts to study the physical in as objective and perspectiveless a manner as possible) tells us there is no actual time or space.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2002
  11. Bambi itinerant smartass Registered Senior Member


    I hope we are in agreement now that information and state are the same thing, and that neither requires an observer in order to exist. If that's not so, then stop me right here and we'll chew on that issue some more, because I feel it's rather crucial to this whole discussion.

    No, the boundaries are not even close to arbitrary. They are simply deduced from experience. Granted, equating the entire brain to consciousness is overly generous; however the key is that it's safe to say consciousness is confined to the brain.

    Of course there is nothing in those particles that makes them into anything special. However, there is definitely something between those particles -- namely, their interactions with each other. And they don't interact because they've been "perspectivized", whatever that means. Rather, it's those very interactions that lead us to group the particles together into a single entity to begin with. Just as two nuclei can bind into a molecule and become tightly associated with each other to the exclusion of all other nuclei, so can even larger consistent structures emerge that can be justifiably viewed as differentiated from the surrounding environment.

    There's no "perspective" involved when determining the type or manner of interactions within some volume of spacetime; rather it's the starting state and the collective set of interaction 'laws' that lead us to abstract away the overall extent as well as behavior of structures.

    So, you are arguing that in a "perspectiveless" (whatever that means) universe, there is no such thing as a particle. Because in the universe where I'm from 'particles' exist only by the virtue of interacting with other 'particles'. It's the interactions, not "perspective", that bind an electron to a particular proton to the exclusion of all others.

    You might ask what it means for a particle to be bound to another, and my best non-expert definition is that the two particles proceed along correlated trajectories through spacetime, in addition to possibly experiencing various correlated state changes. In general, correlation is the basis of all grouping and identification. As an example, take mind vs. brain: they're correlated in every imaginable way.

    Un contraire, correlation is a funny thing: if you overgeneralize or undergeneralize you loose it. There are always those peaks in the correlation signal as a function of grouping extent, which are pretty unmistakable indications of where to draw the lines.

    I'm so sure because I have abundant observational evidence. For example, I know that atoms within me are no different from atoms without, and yet atoms without don't correlate with me (from which it follows that I can't be an atom) -- i.e. the atoms that make up me are continually cycled out of my system and replaced with other atoms, and yet I remain. On the other hand, I know that when I'm knocked on the head bad things happen to my mind. Also, my mind goes wherever my head goes, and never do the two part. I can observe certain obvious neural correlates of cognition on an MRI scanner; I can trace all of my voluntary movements and all of my sensations up the peripheral nervous system and into the brain, I can take drugs or intoxicants that affect only my brain and also happen to be mind-altering at the same time, I can observe the correlation between my behaviors and other animals' and then operate or otherwise mess with their brains and see how it affects their behaviors from which I can learn more about the correlation between my mind and my brain, etc, etc, etc.

    Correlation, correlation, correlation, correlation (see, I bet you noticed.) Also notice that correlation is independent of reference frame. And if I've seen you equate your idea of "perspective" (whatever it is) with reference frames (which I think you did, but I'm not sure), then you would have to concede that correlation is independent of perspective (whatever that means.)

    Ok, this illusion thing is getting a little tiresome. Just what "scientific" opinion are you talking about??

    Mind you, I do know general relativity and a little bit of quantum mechanics; I'm well aware of the prevalent modern cosmological theories and I'm pretty up on science in general. So no need to go into basics with me. Just explain, please, which scientific discipline says space and time are not real and in what way does it say that.
  12. Hoth Registered Senior Member

    I hope we are in agreement now that information and state are the same thing, and that neither requires an observer in order to exist.

    The only type of existence they have independent of observation is linguistic existence. The words exist. Even that's really only true if there's someone around capable of speaking or writing them though.

    Information or any kind of states which consist of multiple things require an observer in order to exist. Anything which is a group of other things requires an observer to define it as a group. The definition of what's the group is very natural, yes -- from your perspective, and only from your perspective. To sentient bacteria, your definition of the boundries of your computer would seem ludicrous. To an atom, the idea would be even more so. It is simply because you are the particular perspective you are that you define groups of atoms into the types of macroscopic objects you do define them as, rather than into other types of things.

    Take one atom. From the perspective of the local gigantic space creature, the atom is a part of the milky way galaxy. From your perspective you define it as being a part of a cat. A flea, from it's perspective, defines the atom as a part of a hair... it doesn't see the whole cat. To a molecule, the atom is a part of another molecule. To another atom, the atom is simply a fellow atom. To a proton, the atom is a hard thing to imagine, but if it sees other protons plus neutrons and electrons it may be able to come up with the idea. To a quark, the atom is just a really strange concept it'll never grasp. To a string... well, keep getting smaller and the idea of the atom loses meaning.

    So, you are arguing that in a "perspectiveless" (whatever that means) universe, there is no such thing as a particle. Because in the universe where I'm from 'particles' exist only by the virtue of interacting with other 'particles'.

    Funny coincidence, that's the case in my universe also.

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    In fact, that was my entire point: particles only exist because of interaction. Interactions exist only when you're considering multiple things at once, and that automatically involves a perspective. That is exactly why there cannot be said to be particles in a perspectiveless universe: because perspective is required for the concept of interactions to make sense.

    Talking philosophy with you seems to have been about as productive as talking to a brick wall I'm afraid... you continually parrot my own points back to me except refusing to break things down further to see what makes them as they are. So, that's my limit at least on the subject of subjectivity. I'll stop there and not waste any more time on the philosophy of it. I'll cover the science for you though, or direct you to where you can learn...

    Just explain, please, which scientific discipline says space and time are not real and in what way does it say that.

    Basically, physics since Einstein has said that. If you know relativity, you really should be aware already. It flows right out of the theory of relativity. Quantum theories also all rest on space-time being illusion of course.

    Just do a Google search to learn... but here are some links anyway:

    Simplistic overview:

    Very detailed explanation:

    Special relativity is a theory of perspective. That's what the word "relative" means. The theory of relativity shows that you cannot talk about space or time without doing so from a particular perspective. You must have a point from which you observe, because without that observing perspective there'd be nothing to observe. As Einstein observed, there is no objective space or time... only subjective.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2002
  13. Bambi itinerant smartass Registered Senior Member

    Well excuse me, o high and esoteric genius far beyond comprehension of mere mortals. I suppose I do deserve a slap for insisting that you explain what the hell you’re talking about.

    On a gentler note, let’s examine a few of your positions, yet again.

    Originally posted by Hoth

    I would like for you to clarify what you mean by “observation”. Do you insist on an intelligent, intentional observer as the basis of all existence? Am I understanding correctly that you’re claiming no existence of any sort is possible in absence of minds? Or would you prefer to claim that quantum particles are intelligent or intentional?

    But who cares what you choose to define as a group, and whether you deem a mind necessary for that. The obvious question is, would the fundamental dynamics of the universe be any different in your absence? I cannot see any justification for answering in the affirmative; not only that but in fact such an answer is demonstrably incorrect. The universe does not require observers in order to exist or to evolve; anything short of that is solipsism pure and simple. Say hi to Berkeley for me.

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    Did you manage to completely miss the one hundred and one references to correlation in my post?

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    You define groups based on a certain input-output behavior. Once you define the behavior you’re after sufficiently exactly, there is only one correct corresponding grouping.

    You’re correct that my particular scale within the universe makes certain input-output behaviors more relevant to me than others. However, even you can consider systems outside of your scale, depending on which dynamic you are investigating.

    That’s a relief. At least we agree on something.

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    Ok, here’s where your language starts tripping all over itself. Interactions do not care whether or not anyone is considering them. They just happen. Now it’s true that they usually happen among a multiple of identifiable objects or systems. However, I thought it was your firm position that any grouping or identification of unitary “particles” (which is really the same thing as grouping) ultimately is arbitrary and up to the observer.

    So you are stuck in some sort of a paradoxical loop: you are arguing that multiplicity of reality is due to some loosely-termed perspective, whereas at the same time there is no such thing as multiplicity of reality (i.e. that multiplicity is itself an artifact of perspective), which would then imply that there is no “perspective”. So, what you end up saying is that perspective is a function of perspective while at the same time being spurious as an explanatory concept, which hardly says anything at all, not to mention on the topics of interaction or existence.

    If you were to abstain from any grouping you can simply view the interactions as wave-like disturbances propagating through the medium of spacetime. No units, no boundaries, just continuous traveling and standing waves. There’s a “perspectiveless” view for you, and it does not preclude spacetime complexity or disturbances within spacetime. The so-called perspective is then merely a secondary property that arises from the interactions of those waves (e.g. in how certain standing waves get buffeted by other standing waves.) Oh, you’re going to say that separating out waves from spacetime is based on perspective; however, I do it only in order to communicate to you what I’m talking about. Now that you have the picture, let go of the individual waves and behold a seething ocean of the universe. Raw, simple, and uncompressed.

    Well, maybe now you might see that while I agree with you to a degree it does not follow that perspective is necessary for existence rather than the other way around.

    I’ve already explained to you that it doesn’t follow from relativity. Of course, it’s conceivable you missed that explanation, as you only seem to read my posts piecemeal and superficially at that. So let me reiterate a few key points in hopes that this time I’ll catch your attention.

    Einstein’s theory deals with relativity of measurement, not with relativity of existence. There are no two such reference frames in general relativity that an event can be judged to have occurred from one but never from the other. Regardless of reference frame, observers always agree on what exists vs. what does not.

    Even when observers from two distinct reference frames obtain distinct measurements of some event, the discrepancy in their measurements is not random. It is mathematically deterministic to the point that one observer can derive the other’s measurements from his own and vice versa. This is an indication of the absolute nature and substrate of existence and interaction, contrary to the illusionist misconceptions.

    In addition, Einstein’s theory does not eliminate the absolute nature of acceleration. Inertial observers are always distinct from accelerated observers, regardless of who is making the judgment. Even in large-scale gravitational fields there is a spatial gradient, however slight, that can be detected from any reference frame at least in theory if not in practice.

    Einstein’s relativity rests precisely on a fundamental assumption that laws of physics are the same regardless of reference frame (the so-called equivalence principle.) Thus the laws of physics are not relative and do not depend on any sort of perspective. The laws, of course, operate on what we call matter-energy (and yes, those are merely heuristic groupings on our part), and as such matter-energy also exists and interacts independently of perspective. At least according to general relativity.

    Finally, the apparent entanglement and equivalence of space and time that has so many people so monumentally confused stems from the simple fact that relativity is mathematically derived based on lidar as its fundamental and only measurement technique. This drenches the theory with speed of light, which is of course expressed in terms of meters per second thereby involving both space and time in the equations. The spacetime interval is nothing more or less than the expression of the speed of light (and also of its constancy, if you look closer.) The interval s=sqrt(dx^2 + dy^2 + dz^2 – dt^2) is simply the measure of distance in terms of lightspeed. The unspoken fact is that in general relativity equations the lightspeed constant c is set to 1. Which, if you define space distance as d, makes s=sqrt( d^2 – c^2t^2). Take s=0, and you simply have the elementary statement that d=ct. Just because we choose to say c=1 and choose appropriate distance and time units, does not mean that d=t (or that space is the same thing as time.) So when s is positive, you are talking about a distance that is greater than the distance a photon can travel in vacuum over the given time interval (timelike separation), and similarly if s is imaginary the distance is less than what can be covered by a photon in vacuum over the given time t (spacelike separation.)

    The idea that relativity implies illusory nature of reality is, quite simply, a myth.

    Incidentally, I’ve already told you the web materials you referenced were not necessary. I suppose you don’t hold me in a very high esteem, for whatever narcissistic reasons that you have. However, the fact remains that I’ve already been there and done all of it. I took relativity and astrophysics graduate courses when I was in college, so I’m quite aware of both the mathematics and the problems of interpretation. I’ve had actual hands-on experience of solving problems and analyzing apparent paradoxes within both special and general relativity. I’ve had several semesters worth of mental agony attempting to wrap my mind around these theories and their implications, before it all finally started to make intuitive sense. I’ve also read Einstein’s original papers as well as two of his popular books on the subject of relativity. I doubt very much that you, being the philosophy buff that you are, come even close to understanding relativity even while endeavoring to smugly draw conclusions from it, or to borrow such conclusions from similarly smug ignoramuses. So if you think the problem lies with the depth of my knowledge on this subject then I suggest you look for problems elsewhere.

    Now, if I’m indeed wrong about you and you do know the subject matter, then let’s discuss it on its own terms. I’ve given you my arguments, and I’m awaiting your consideration of them.

    Oddly enough, all I see is the claim (not addressed by the references you put up.) Where’s the qualified support I asked for?

    It may be true that to some extent quantum entities do obey special relativity (though any attempts to tie them into general relativity have failed so far.) And let’s just allow for the future theory of quantum gravity that finally reconciles general relativity with quantum mechanics. Even if that happens, how would such a union ever support the notion that reality is illusory??

    Or are you relying on another frequently misunderstood fact that in quantum mechanics objects are discussed in terms of probability and often said to only come into existence or acquire a state when they are measured? That’s merely an artifact of measurement itself; only the wackiest of the wacky interpret quantum mechanics to mean that reality is not there until you decide to measure it on a whim.
  14. Hoth Registered Senior Member

    I would like for you to clarify what you mean by "observation?E Do you insist on an intelligent, intentional observer as the basis of all existence? Am I understanding correctly that you're claiming no existence of any sort is possible in absence of minds? Or would you prefer to claim that quantum particles are intelligent or intentional?

    First of all, "information" is not a physical thing in any sense even with an observer. Information is a conceptual property people attach to things in order to more easily describe them. Simplistically, information is a property applied to a state. Properties are not physical, properties are descriptive.

    The universe you see is basically illusion caused by your point from which you observe. It's simply an illusion, not a change in the universe... the universe is constant and four dimensionally static (although perhaps in an imprecise way at quantum levels).

    Next... as I've already stated countless times, the perspective is not self-aware (nothing is) and it has no physical substance. It's about physical things, it isn't one itself. It does no interpretation or thinking, it simply observes the thinking. Pespective is what makes awareness of thought possible. It can't be any sort of mind, because mind is what it observes. And anyhow the mind, if there is one, is certainly generated by the brain. (So whether or not it's directly physical it's still a physical process.) Intelligence then is also a physical process, which despite self-referential data is still unaware of itself, except in the loose manner like saying a rock is aware of another rock when they hit each other (which isn't the sort of awareness I care about). Perspective added to intelligence gives me awareness -- neither is awareness by itself.

    You'll obviously never understand perspective, so to leave that I'll simply give you the simplistic version of the self, which has similar consequences even though the theory is not the same:

    The consciousness is an emergent property of the brain that occurs once a brain reaches a certain (unknown) level of complexity.

    The above statement is analytically false and confused and doesn't fit logically into the universe... which is why my own theory is modified to flow more logically from known details of both objective and subjective existence. Even if the concepts I use seem to confuse you, I'm far more comfortable with them because they make for better analysis and have clearer application once a person understands. (Compared to the simplified version, which fails to explain what this "emergent property" is really all about, and which also fails to make the observed/observer distinction which although not physically relevant is still logically relevant. Thus the observable consequences of the simplified version are just about the same as the real theory, but the logic behind it is different.)

    If I have time later I'll respond to the other stuff.

    [later edit]

    But who cares what you choose to define as a group, and whether you deem a mind necessary for that. The obvious question is, would the fundamental dynamics of the universe be any different in your absence? I cannot see any justification for answering in the affirmative; not only that but in fact such an answer is demonstrably incorrect. The universe does not require observers in order to exist or to evolve; anything short of that is solipsism pure and simple. Say hi to Berkeley for me.

    The universe is exactly the same with or without observation. Your perceptions of what it is to exist, and your idea of change, is simply an objective falsehood. These incorrect perceptions of yours are based on your existence as a particular group of atoms called your brain. You being this perspective causes the illusion of what you call space and time -- which are true enough for you subjectively, but aren't objective truth. Objectively, the universe does not evolve because it already is... you simply can't see it all because of your perspective being within it. (It's only natural that a part can't see the whole.)

    That's not solopsism, and although I know virtually nothing about Berkeley and have never read anything by him -- so feel free to correct me -- I believe he was supposed to be an idealist and phenomenalist, not a solopsist. Phenomenalism simply says the world we experience is a logical construction out of sense data -- which is quite likely true according to both science and philosophy. Idealism draws some wrong conclusions and has the wrong origins but has truth involved in it in some basic ways.

    Ok, here's where your language starts tripping all over itself. Interactions do not care whether or not anyone is considering them. They just happen.

    The problem isn't my language, it's your incorrect conception of the situation. Interactions don't objectively exist, they're simply a way of describing things across time. When something is slightly displaced in space from something else a fractional distance away in time, that difference in location is described the word "interaction"... in four dimensional reality, the laws of interactions are laws of the relationship of static states to the static states next to them. If you don't understand it, give it time -- higher dimensional perspectives can take months or years of practice to really understand. (And yes, I have thought about the universe in a 4-D sense for a long time... it's nothing new to me.) Anyhow, the point about interactions is that to get the illusion of interactions you need time, which requires a perspective within the universe.

    let go of the individual waves and behold a seething ocean of the universe. Raw, simple, and uncompressed.

    Considering becoming a poet?

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    I'll take logical arguments over metaphorical oceans. Anyhow, if you let go of time [or rather, recognize the totality of it as a dimension] things are much more raw and simple. It's far simpler when you have a static formation compared to mystical seething ocean. As Hawking has observed, it eliminates all questions of beginnings and ends -- things in 4-D reality are static, they have no cause and no effect, no origin, they simply are. Now that's something to behold. (But of course you can only behold it if you're a perspective within it.

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    Last edited: Mar 7, 2002
  15. Hoth Registered Senior Member

    Thus the laws of physics are not relative and do not depend on any sort of perspective.

    The laws of physics are preconditions for the universe. They do not exist, they're predictive derivations from what does exist. The laws of physics are by definition a predictive desciption of interactions. You cannot treat these laws as though they have a physical existence, there is no particle of law. They have only a physical application. (Check the "slaves" thread on the free thoughts forum for an explanation of the circular nature of treating physical forces or laws as though they exist in themselves. It's much like perspective, perspective also can't exist by itself... like laws, it must be paired with matter.)

    There is no objective time or space, and because of that there is no objective physical world in the sense we normally speak of. There is only an objective static 4-D universe which might be best described as a potential for our sort of existence... it doesn't have time or space, but a perspective inside of it can.

    Since you wanted something about quantum theory, I found an e-book for you on the nature of time in relation to quantum physics: . Even if you just glance at the first chapter, it has a solid explanation of the nature of the static 4-D universe -- where there's no time, no motion.

    Now, back to relativity... There's a Mr. Einstein who'd like a word with you, Bambi. Something about "no objective meaning" and "illusion":

    "You have to accept the idea that subjective time with its emphasis on the now has no objective meaning .... the distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, however persistent." - Albert Einstein

    More from the same noted physicist:

    "Since there exist in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent 'now' objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated. It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence." - Albert Einstein

    (You might want to check some of the time threads on this forum from a few weeks ago for more about what Einstein was saying there.)

    Next, from :
    "Even at the atomic level, do electrons "move" around the nucleus? Atoms and molecules vibrate and move, yes- when observed from OUR frame! Planets, stars and galaxies are only viewed from our frame of reference too, and we observe those parts of those bodies which share our location in scale- regardless how "far away" they are! When we measure the "speed" of light we are really measuring the energy debt necessary to move us out of our "hole" to a universal "remote" condition... the place from which we actually view the cosmos...180 degrees and 100 billion years away on the hypersphere."

    This is a perfect description of why a perspective is needed to talk about groups of anything. A single particle without perspective is simply a single particle -- no movement, no interaction. To talk of groups, you have to have relationships between particles -- this requires perspective, as Einstein and others since him have observed.

    Giving a more general summary... from :
    If the past and future both exist together forever, how then do we resolve the uncertainty of quantum mechanics into that world view? In quantum theory, what is physically real is said to be undefined until it is observed, or as I prefer to say, before it is interacted with. This ability for reality to be undefined is not only true of what is real in regards to the future, but is true of the past events as well. According to quantum theory, the observer literally determines the course time has chosen by observing an event.

    In Einstein's Relativity Theory, there is no uncertainty since there is no break between past and future. On the large scale the motion and position of a planet, for example, is highly predictable years into the future. In Einstein's view the past and future are entwined and form a fabric called space-time.

    The two theories, each having been proven by their usefulness, do of course tell the same story about this one universe, but we just haven't learned yet to hear the story right. The best modern theory going is probably the No Boundary Proposal, put fourth by Stephen Hawking and Jim Hartle. This theory introduces a second reference of time which has been inappropriately named Imaginary time. Hawking, writes of the no boundary proposal, "The universe would be completely self contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE." So we can surely say, in this other time, the universe exists without beginning or end, or we might say that each moment exists forever.

    Then it's about time you realized the obvious implication that the objective universe is a 4-D static solid -- essentially a potential to exist, which without movement to create time or space can't be said to exist yet according to our ideas of existing until there's a perspective. Our conceptions of time and space are illusions created by our perspective. Sorry Bambi, despite your great qualifications and your assurances that you know more than anyone else on the subject, I trust Einstein, Hawking, etc. over your naive realist theories. I don't claim to have fully explored the physics side of the implications of their theories, since I'm more interested in the (somewhat related) philosophical side, but I trust what they say clearly and simply in direct quotes over what you say they say... and it doesn't bother me at all that I can't do the math. (Beyond Calc II, math just got out of my range.)

    I also make no claim to know the theories of all historical philosophers. In fact I've spent more time formally studying computer science than anything else. I am, however, very familiar with logic -- and logic applies just as well to science and to philosophy as it does to coding a program.

    You can believe whatever you want to believe, that much is obvious... but pretending science agrees with direct realist theories doesn't get you anywhere.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2002
  16. glaucon tending tangentially Moderator

    You poor, poor people. Shame on you.

    The whole point of philosophy is NOT to 'beat the other guy's argument', but to communicate.

    Just goes to show you.. the difference between intelligence, and wisdom.
  17. Hoth Registered Senior Member

    Communicate? Oops, I guess I forgot how to do that, I was too busy trying to beat my opponent over the head... primal human nature you know.

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    Of course, you won't find many philosophers who didn't spend most of their time trying to beat the other guy's argument. Which, bringing this back to the long forgotten original topic, is a little strange when it happens between people who agree that there isn't any actual knowledge. The best example IMHO is A.J. Ayer, beating up on metaphysics and trying to eliminate it from philosophy with the verifiability criterion of meaning, while at the same time saying there is no absolute truth and everything is probability (and thus not really verifiable).
  18. glaucon tending tangentially Moderator


    I could not agree with you more.
    Yes, all to often, supposed 'discussion' turns into bashing fests. It's actually a wonder anyone ever published anything philosophical eh?? hehe

    Interesting point you make concerning Ayer. I've always had a similar concern. Naturally, once the reductionist camp gets through with everything.. all of a sudden, they begin to sound like those 'damned metaphysical continentalists' that they abhor so much.

    Interestingly, you can see this whole dilemma play out in watching how the writings of Wittgenstein changed over time..

    PS: What do you think of the verifiability criterion?
    Kind of makes too much of linguistic/semantics in the end, IMHO.
    Personally, I'll stick with a Nominalist point of view...
  19. Hoth Registered Senior Member

    I've only been studying (formal) philosophy for a couple of months, so unfortunately I haven't read much of Wittgenstein yet... all I know is his public language attempt at eliminating the other minds problem.

    I think the verifiability criterion has a use, just a limited one that shouldn't be taken as any kind of law. It can be used to show us which issues we're less likely to be able to change the beliefs of others on. People will more readily accept something that's empirically demonstrated, as long as there's a lot of evidence. So it's fair to say that even though nothing is verifiable it's easier to make progress towards changing beliefs when you deal with areas that fall into what Ayer would have considered theoretically verifiable.

    I agree... language is how we explain things, but language is only an attempt at representation. The actual world doesn't lie in the language itself, so attempts at deriving truths about the world from the nature of language tend to be misguided.

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