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Subjectively real vs. objectively real

by StatusX
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StatusX
#1
Dec17-04, 05:20 AM
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There are two kinds of existence, subjective and objective. Since it's all we know directly, we tend to try to apply our reasoning about subjective things to objective things. For example, it seems that matter is real where as energy is only a mathematical abstraction. But theorerically, they are on equal footing. It's just that we interact directly with matter every day, and thus we have a more concrete mental representation of it. This mental representation is not matter, and while in our mental model, matter is certainly more real than energy, we don't know that to be the case in the objective world.

All we know about the objective world, our ideas of space, time, mass, etc, is just our mental model of it. I'm not saying the physical world isn't real, but maybe it's just a different kind of real than our mental world. Is this possible, for there to be two different kinds of real?

Taking the subjective as real, there is no way to show the objective, physical world exists. It could all be in our head. Taking the physical world as real, theres no way to demonstrate the existence of conscious subjectiveness at all. However, they do seem to affect each other. There is no doubt the physical affects the subjective, if the physical really exists, and since these words about subjectivity are in a computers memory right now, the subjective must be affecting the physical if it exists.

So there is definitely a distinction between the two, but also some kind of interaction. There is also a symmetry between them. The physical world may exist, and if so, it affects the mental world, but this cannot be proven from within the mental world. Exchange the words physical and mental in that sentence and it's still true. Is there any significance to this symmetry? Is there some base that contains both the mental and physical, or are they separate universes completely? Is real a quality that, if true in one world, must necessarily be true in the other?
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hypnagogue
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Dec17-04, 04:51 PM
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It should be noted that there are other symmetric relationships between our understanding of the physical and of the experiential. For instance, we characterize the physical entirely functionally, with no mention of the ontological base of those functional relationships. E.g., if there exist functional relationships in nature as described by physics, what is it that instantiates these relationships and makes them possible? If there are relationships, what is doing the relating?

Contrariwise, experience presents itself to us not in terms of how it relates to something else, but in terms of what it is, entirely in and of itself. For instance, the subjective experience of redness seems to be an intrinsic thing-in-itself that is characterized by what it is as opposed to what it does. Arguably, we can conceive of a universe where the only 'thing' that exists is a uniform visual field of experiential redness that never changes or 'does' anything at all, and thus is devoid of any functional description at all. Stripping a physical account of (say) an electron of all functional description would leave us with no account of anything at all, but in the case of experiential redness, it seems that stripping away all functional description still leaves us with the core of the phenomenon.

Thus, it seems that in this respect, our understanding of the physical and the experiential are entirely complementary. Where one places emphasis, the other has little or nothing to say. Where one is fractured, the other is whole.

Is this symmetry significant? It certainly seems suggestive, if nothing else. If you are interested in the implications this symmetry may have, then should be interested in Gregg Rosenberg's book A Place for Consciousness (see this thread if you haven't yet). Rosenberg's book is basically founded on noting this symmetry and constructing a new theoretical framework for consciousness based upon it.
StatusX
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Dec17-04, 05:53 PM
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I agree with that, and maybe the book mentions this, but what if it's more than just a present gap in our understanding? All we know about the physical world are the relational aspects, and maybe that's all there is. Who's to say that electrons exist in any way like how red exists or how our mental picture of an electron exists?

One thing that may unify the two worlds is information. Sensory information is the only way we can be affected by the external, and the information sent to our muscles allows the mental to affect the physical. Maybe information is the one real substance, and it manifests itself differently in the two worlds. In the extrernal world, the information of a system completely determines how that system will evolve, and so it serves a relational purpose. Information at one point lets us determine what the information will be at a later point. In the subjective world, information is experienced directly. This may also have something to do with the fact that information is related to entropy, and the entropy arrow of time is what determines the psychological arrow of time. I'll need to find a better, objective definition of information before I can form a more precise idea about this. I've heard you mention that book before, and I plan on going through it sometime soon. Does he mention any ideas like what I've proposed?

One more thing. I realized I was contradicting myself in other threads when I suggested consciousness exists but can't cause. There are only two options:

1. Experience is not real, but only an artifact of our brain.
2. Experience is real, and it affects the physical world in at least one way: we talk about it.

How can you adopt any view but one of these?

loseyourname
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Dec17-04, 06:13 PM
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Subjectively real vs. objectively real

Quote Quote by hypnagogue
Is this symmetry significant? It certainly seems suggestive, if nothing else. If you are interested in the implications this symmetry may have, then should be interested in Gregg Rosenberg's book A Place for Consciousness (see this thread if you haven't yet). Rosenberg's book is basically founded on noting this symmetry and constructing a new theoretical framework for consciousness based upon it.
Are you on the payroll hypnagogue?
hypnagogue
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Dec18-04, 01:56 AM
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Quote Quote by StatusX
I agree with that, and maybe the book mentions this, but what if it's more than just a present gap in our understanding? All we know about the physical world are the relational aspects, and maybe that's all there is.
The problem with assuming a world entirely made up of relationships is that it such a world appears to be conceptually incoherent and ultimately impossible. For example, think of a game of chess. Chess is characterized in a purely abstract way as a structured set of relationships-- the structure of the board, the different pieces and their legal moves, etc. As a consequence, it doesn't matter what the medium is that instantiates those relationships, be it a traditional board, or a computer hard drive, or a collection of rocks.

But could it be possible that a chess game would exist in a purely abstract, relational sense without anything whatsoever to instantiate those relationships? If there were no chess board, no computer, no human brain-- if there were absolutely nothing to play the role of "things-being-related"--
could a chess game exist in any sense whatsoever? It certainly seems highly implausible.

Who's to say that electrons exist in any way like how red exists or how our mental picture of an electron exists?
Just a note here-- the above considerations are only about intrinsic and extrinsic properties, as opposed to physical/mental properties per se. The claim is that an extrinsic set of relationships cannot exist without some intrinsic properties that can instantiate them. In principle, such intrinsic properties need not be experiential (although the only intrinsic properties we know about are experiential).

I'll need to find a better, objective definition of information before I can form a more precise idea about this. I've heard you mention that book before, and I plan on going through it sometime soon. Does he mention any ideas like what I've proposed?
Actually, your proposal does sound similar to Rosenberg's, with some terminological differences. He doesn't argue that information is the most fundamental 'thing,' but he does have the same general idea that that which determines how a system evolves is also that which is directly experienced. I'm not sure from your proposal if you consider experience to be restricted to certain special cases (such as a human brain) or not, but in Rosenberg's framework, experience (in some form or another) is ubiquitous.

One more thing. I realized I was contradicting myself in other threads when I suggested consciousness exists but can't cause. There are only two options:

1. Experience is not real, but only an artifact of our brain.
2. Experience is real, and it affects the physical world in at least one way: we talk about it.

How can you adopt any view but one of these?
Well, if you believe in the logical possibility of zombies, then epiphenomenalism is at least plausible. Take a zombie and then alter its metaphysical makeup in such a way that conscious experience arises in a systematic way from those cognitive abilities that are normally roughly co-extensive with p-consciousness (such as verbal report, perceptual discrimination, etc.). Such a creature would have p-consciousness and have discussions about p-consciousness, although its subjective experience would not be the cause of such discussions.
hypnagogue
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Dec18-04, 02:06 AM
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Quote Quote by loseyourname
Are you on the payroll hypnagogue?
No, but I'm accepting donations.

The reason I keep bringing up Rosenberg's work is that it very well might be a truly significant contribution to our understanding of consciousness. It's a breakthrough on a topic where it often seems as if breakthroughs are literally impossible. Forgive me for my enthusiasm. Besides, the ideas in the book are directly relevant to StatusX's original post.
StatusX
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Dec18-04, 08:58 PM
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Quote Quote by hypnagogue
The problem with assuming a world entirely made up of relationships is that it such a world appears to be conceptually incoherent and ultimately impossible. For example, think of a game of chess. Chess is characterized in a purely abstract way as a structured set of relationships-- the structure of the board, the different pieces and their legal moves, etc. As a consequence, it doesn't matter what the medium is that instantiates those relationships, be it a traditional board, or a computer hard drive, or a collection of rocks.

But could it be possible that a chess game would exist in a purely abstract, relational sense without anything whatsoever to instantiate those relationships? If there were no chess board, no computer, no human brain-- if there were absolutely nothing to play the role of "things-being-related"--
could a chess game exist in any sense whatsoever? It certainly seems highly implausible.
Staying with the symmetry argument, you said it is possible to imagine a world where there is only intrinsic qualities, no relations, like a solid field of color. I say it's likewise possible to imagine a world with only relational qualities. It would just be a world with no conscious beings. Consciousness gives things their intrinsic qualities, and the physical gives the relational qualities. It would be hard to imagine a world like this because all we know are experiences. In fact, we don't really know what relations are, because all we know are the experiences of relations, and in our experience, these always relate other concrete, intrinsic objects.

Actually, your proposal does sound similar to Rosenberg's, with some terminological differences. He doesn't argue that information is the most fundamental 'thing,' but he does have the same general idea that that which determines how a system evolves is also that which is directly experienced. I'm not sure from your proposal if you consider experience to be restricted to certain special cases (such as a human brain) or not, but in Rosenberg's framework, experience (in some form or another) is ubiquitous.
No, I definitely think its ubiquitious. Now I'm getting really interested in this book.

Well, if you believe in the logical possibility of zombies, then epiphenomenalism is at least plausible. Take a zombie and then alter its metaphysical makeup in such a way that conscious experience arises in a systematic way from those cognitive abilities that are normally roughly co-extensive with p-consciousness (such as verbal report, perceptual discrimination, etc.). Such a creature would have p-consciousness and have discussions about p-consciousness, although its subjective experience would not be the cause of such discussions.
I know, and I had argued this point as much as anyone up until recently. But to claim that our subjective experience is not the cause of our talking about it is absurd. So why do we talk about it?

1. Our experiences cause us to talk about them.

2. Our discussions are completely determined by the physical action of our brain.

Now, if you believe 2, how could you ever say subjective experience is really there? On what evidence? A feeling? But I thought feelings were physically explainable. Are they saying that, by pure chance, we talk about consciousness, and actually happen to have it as well? Again, I don't see where you could get justification for this view, scientific or otherwise.

But just for the record, right now I'm about 50/50 between these two.
hypnagogue
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Dec19-04, 12:44 AM
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Quote Quote by StatusX
Staying with the symmetry argument, you said it is possible to imagine a world where there is only intrinsic qualities, no relations, like a solid field of color. I say it's likewise possible to imagine a world with only relational qualities. It would just be a world with no conscious beings. Consciousness gives things their intrinsic qualities, and the physical gives the relational qualities. It would be hard to imagine a world like this because all we know are experiences. In fact, we don't really know what relations are, because all we know are the experiences of relations, and in our experience, these always relate other concrete, intrinsic objects.
The lack of p-consciousness is not what makes a purely relational world incomprehensible; rather, it is the lack of intrinsic properties altogether. Remember, although it seems to be the case that all qualia are intrinsic properties, that does not imply that all intrinsic properties must be qualitative. Suppose there were a world with a mixture of intrinsic and relational properties, but none of those intrinsic properties were experiential in nature. This world would not support the existence of p-consciousness, but nonetheless, it would be logically coherent, albeit difficult to conceptualize. There are fundamental 'things' to be playing the role of 'things being related' in this toy universe, so it eludes the conundrum I presented earlier. Note that considerations about p-consciousness do not factor in here.

A world with no intrinsic properties whatsoever, on the other hand, does not seem to be logically coherent at all. The very notion of a 'relationship' seems to already imply the existence of intrinsic things to fill the 'slots' in the relational structure. If there were a world with two intrinsic entities x and y with a single relationship R obtaining between them, we could express the nature of this world formally by saying R(x,y) is true. If we take away the intrinsic properties and assume the relationship somehow remains, we are forced to say something like R( , ) is true. But if anything, R( , ) is rather meaningless. It doesn't seem to represent the sort of thing that could actually enjoy any kind of existence.

Now, if you believe 2, how could you ever say subjective experience is really there? On what evidence? A feeling? But I thought feelings were physically explainable. Are they saying that, by pure chance, we talk about consciousness, and actually happen to have it as well? Again, I don't see where you could get justification for this view, scientific or otherwise.
You are correct to point out the counterintuitive nature of epiphenomenalism. If epiphenomenalism were true, we indeed probably would not be justified in our beliefs about p-consciousness. To at least some extent, the correspondance between verbal report and subjective experience would be coincidental. But the issue here is what options we have for interpreting the causal role of p-consciousness, not how much sense a particular option might make. Even if we ultimately decide that it is not likely that epiphenomenalism is true, we still must concede that it might be true-- we can't rule it out as one of our options, simply because it is a logically coherent framework.
Philocrat
#9
Dec19-04, 01:03 AM
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Quote Quote by StatusX
There are two kinds of existence, subjective and objective. Since it's all we know directly, we tend to try to apply our reasoning about subjective things to objective things. For example, it seems that matter is real where as energy is only a mathematical abstraction. But theorerically, they are on equal footing. It's just that we interact directly with matter every day, and thus we have a more concrete mental representation of it. This mental representation is not matter, and while in our mental model, matter is certainly more real than energy, we don't know that to be the case in the objective world.

All we know about the objective world, our ideas of space, time, mass, etc, is just our mental model of it. I'm not saying the physical world isn't real, but maybe it's just a different kind of real than our mental world. Is this possible, for there to be two different kinds of real?

Taking the subjective as real, there is no way to show the objective, physical world exists. It could all be in our head. Taking the physical world as real, theres no way to demonstrate the existence of conscious subjectiveness at all. However, they do seem to affect each other. There is no doubt the physical affects the subjective, if the physical really exists, and since these words about subjectivity are in a computers memory right now, the subjective must be affecting the physical if it exists.

So there is definitely a distinction between the two, but also some kind of interaction. There is also a symmetry between them. The physical world may exist, and if so, it affects the mental world, but this cannot be proven from within the mental world. Exchange the words physical and mental in that sentence and it's still true. Is there any significance to this symmetry? Is there some base that contains both the mental and physical, or are they separate universes completely? Is real a quality that, if true in one world, must necessarily be true in the other?

This question that you are asking now and expect the whole world to respond to you belongs to your subjective planet. This very response that I am now typing into my computer belongs to my own planet. If my planet is completely disconnected from yours, or yours is real and mine fictional, how come I still manage to respond at all from my purportedly illusive planet? By the way, do you reckon you will ever see and read this my response to you? If you did, what would that entail or signal to you?

Well, the final argument is obvious:

IF YOUR SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE IS ALL THAT IS REAL AND ECXLUSIVE TO YOU, AND YOU ALONE, THEN EVERY QUESTION YOU POSE MUST EXPECT AN ANSWER FROM NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU........FOR EVERY SUBJECTIVE QUESTION MUST EXPECT A SUBJECTIVE ANSWER OR RESPONSE.


In my school of thought, subjective and objective experiences have consistent unversal connection. If they appear disconnected in any way, it is the Causal and Relational device of 'MASKING' that makes them appear so. If this constitutes any problem at all, you will have to trace it back in time to the original design of the human form.
StatusX
#10
Dec19-04, 01:48 AM
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Quote Quote by hypnagogue
The lack of p-consciousness is not what makes a purely relational world incomprehensible; rather, it is the lack of intrinsic properties altogether. Remember, although it seems to be the case that all qualia are intrinsic properties, that does not imply that all intrinsic properties must be qualitative. Suppose there were a world with a mixture of intrinsic and relational properties, but none of those intrinsic properties were experiential in nature. This world would not support the existence of p-consciousness, but nonetheless, it would be logically coherent, albeit difficult to conceptualize. There are fundamental 'things' to be playing the role of 'things being related' in this toy universe, so it eludes the conundrum I presented earlier. Note that considerations about p-consciousness do not factor in here.
Maybe, but does this world exist in any meanigful sense if there are no conscious beings in it? Even when we just imagine it, we are taking a sort of god's eye view and giving the universe a conscious eye.

A world with no intrinsic properties whatsoever, on the other hand, does not seem to be logically coherent at all. The very notion of a 'relationship' seems to already imply the existence of intrinsic things to fill the 'slots' in the relational structure. If there were a world with two intrinsic entities x and y with a single relationship R obtaining between them, we could express the nature of this world formally by saying R(x,y) is true. If we take away the intrinsic properties and assume the relationship somehow remains, we are forced to say something like R( , ) is true. But if anything, R( , ) is rather meaningless. It doesn't seem to represent the sort of thing that could actually enjoy any kind of existence.
Well that's true, and of course a relation itself has intrinsic qualities when we talk about it as a mathematical object. But none of this talk can take place without consciousness. I think calling what I'm talking about a relation may be confusing, so let me rephrase. Like you said, we can imagine a subjective world with no physical world. But we can't truly imagine a physical world without imbuing it with an internal conscious point of view. Maybe this is just a limit of our physical brains, or maybe there's a possibility that the physical universe does not exist in the same sense as our experiences exist. We assume electrons are something, but does this have to be so? Maybe it does, and I'm talking nonsense, but I think we need to look more closely at what we mean by "real".

You are correct to point out the counterintuitive nature of epiphenomenalism. If epiphenomenalism were true, we indeed probably would not be justified in our beliefs about p-consciousness. To at least some extent, the correspondance between verbal report and subjective experience would be coincidental. But the issue here is what options we have for interpreting the causal role of p-consciousness, not how much sense a particular option might make. Even if we ultimately decide that it is not likely that epiphenomenalism is true, we still must concede that it might be true-- we can't rule it out as one of our options, simply because it is a logically coherent framework.
But where do they say they got the idea for consciousness from? I agree that it's possible consciousness does not cause, but only if it isn't real. I mean, its really no different from claiming that there are invisible monsters walking around that we can never detect and can never affect us. It is superfluous and unscientific.

Quote Quote by Philocrat
This question that you are asking now and expect the whole world to respond to you belongs to your subjective planet. This very response that I am now typing into my computer belongs to my own planet. If my planet is completely disconnected from yours, or yours is real and mine fictional, how come I still manage to respond at all from my purportedly illusive planet? By the way, do you reckon you will ever see and read this my response to you? If you did, what would that entail or signal to you?
I'm sorry you misinterpretted me, but I had no intention of claiming my mind was the only one. I hadn't gotten into this, but I think there are two possibilities if the subjective world is real (damn, two is a big theme in this thread):

1. There is one consciousness, seperated in some way we don't fully understand.
2. The seeming symmetry is actually a hint at an assymmetrical relationship: The universe is a mind, and it contatins simpler minds. I mean, if you investigate the symmetries a little more, they aren't really equal. We can affect the physical world slightly, but it is in almost complete control of our experiences. It's life is much, much longer than ours. It contatins much more information than ours.

Well, the final argument is obvious:

IF YOUR SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE IS ALL THAT IS REAL AND ECXLUSIVE TO YOU, AND YOU ALONE, THEN EVERY QUESTION YOU POSE MUST EXPECT AN ANSWER FROM NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU........FOR EVERY SUBJECTIVE QUESTION MUST EXPECT A SUBJECTIVE ANSWER OR RESPONSE.
Well it's really just semantics. I can say the whole universe is just my mind, but obviously I'm not conscious of much of what happens. So in a way, all this is doing is calling the physical and other mental universes "my unconscious mind". It is an egocentric but not meaningful distinction.
Philocrat
#11
Dec19-04, 02:15 AM
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So, frankly, I could be part of your mind then? If I am part of your mind in a universe that is potentially wholly your mind, then you are subjectively asking yourself the question and subjectively responding to it? My response is your response to your question? I-You is you....and all there is to existence? What about matter? Is it excluded from your mind?

Anyway, thank you for suddenly trying to be me. My universe tells me that I stand in a logically consistent relation to others, including you, because by talking to me you render yourself externally connected to me, and not inside your head. I am already beginning to wonder what I would do if I were truely inside your head. I wish you luck anyway in your subject universe!
StatusX
#12
Dec21-04, 11:22 AM
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Quote Quote by Philocrat
So, frankly, I could be part of your mind then? If I am part of your mind in a universe that is potentially wholly your mind, then you are subjectively asking yourself the question and subjectively responding to it? My response is your response to your question? I-You is you....and all there is to existence? What about matter? Is it excluded from your mind?

Anyway, thank you for suddenly trying to be me. My universe tells me that I stand in a logically consistent relation to others, including you, because by talking to me you render yourself externally connected to me, and not inside your head. I am already beginning to wonder what I would do if I were truely inside your head. I wish you luck anyway in your subject universe!
Again, I thought I explained this, but I'm not claiming my mind is all that's real. Experiences have intrinsic qualities, and they're all we directly know. Because of this, we assume physical objects must also have intrinsic qualities. The point of this thread was to question that assumption.
StatusX
#13
Dec22-04, 05:58 PM
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Here's a better example of what I mean:

For those of you familiar with mathematical groups, you know that a group is unique up to an isomorphism. This means that if two groups are identical in every way they operate, there is no important distinction between them, other than notation. For example, addition mod 4 and the rotation of a square are isomorphic. If you start with the rotation of a square, and then if you call no rotation "0", a 90 degree rotation "1", a 180 degree rotation "2", and a 270 degree rotation "3", and you call the composition of rotations (ie, "followed by") "+", you are just talking about addition mod 4. So in abstract group theory, you find a representation that is convenient (in this case, probably addition mod 4), and use this to study the properties of this class of groups.

We need a particular representation to think about these groups because we need something concrete (or "intrinsic") to apply the rules to. That's just because of the way we think. But all that is really important is the structure, and the particular representation we use is irrelevant. Could a similar situation hold for the laws of physics? We may find rules and ask what exactly these rules are operating on, but this is the same as the asking what the rules for the class of groups described above operate on, and the answer is: nothing in particular.


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