Our perception of Euclidean space

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  • #1
madness
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Ok so I was just thinking and realised that instead of a Cartesian plot, you can represent points in an n-dimensional space by drawing n parallel lines and marking a point on each line. Of course this is less appealing than the traditional plot because we perceive 3d space in a way more similar to a 3d Cartesian graph.

But of course, what we perceive is a construction created in our brain in order to understand the world - we do not perceive things directly but rather we see a representation of the information received in our brains. So this got me thinking, is our perception of space as a Cartesian plot rather than a set of points on parallel lines simply our brain's interpretation of the information, or do we see it like that because that's the way it is physically and independently of our perception of it? I've always been interested in trying to understand to what extent the world exists independently of our perception of it and this serves as a good example to discuss the issue.
 

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  • #2
kote
867
4
Short answer? We don't know.

How would you even describe an independent world though? Would you talk about the true colors and sounds out there? Without eyes and ears there is no such things as color or sound. And of course there's more to it than that.
 
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  • #3
apeiron
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So this got me thinking, is our perception of space as a Cartesian plot rather than a set of points on parallel lines simply our brain's interpretation of the information, or do we see it like that because that's the way it is physically and independently of our perception of it? I've always been interested in trying to understand to what extent the world exists independently of our perception of it and this serves as a good example to discuss the issue.

Brains already model worlds and maths just takes modelling to a greater level of generalisation or abstraction.

So brains, yours or animals', would learn to see a world of depth. Something small on the retina has to be interpreted as either something actually small and close to (like an insect) or instead large and far away (like a buffalo at a distance).

I mention this particular example because there is the famous story told by Turnbull...

The anthropologist Colin Turnbull described what happened in the former Congo in the 1950s when a BaMbuti pygmy, used in living in the dense Ituri forest (which had only small clearings), went with him to the plains:

And then he saw the buffalo, still grazing lazily several miles away, far down below. He turned to me and said, 'What insects are those?'
At first I hardly understood, then I realized that in the forest vision is so limited that there is no great need to make an automatic allowance for distance when judging size. Out here in the plains, Kenge was looking for the first time over apparently unending miles of unfamiliar grasslands, with not a tree worth the name to give him any basis for comparison...

When I told Kenge that the insects were buffalo, he roared with laughter and told me not to tell such stupid lies. (Turnbull 1963, 217)

So already, a sense of space is based on modelling - it is constructed via generalisations. And the ancient greek philosophers realised this, using the example of a small ship seen crawling along the far horizon.

Cartesian co-ordinates are a more abstract way of representing space. And the idea of flat dimensionality is general enough to then concieve of n-dimensions and non-euclidean geometry. To allow a step up to even more generalised impressions.

So we are moving further away from a subjective sense of space (relating very directly to the world of forests and plains) to an objective one (a maths description of our actual flat 3D world). Then this turns out to again be too subjective and we move to an even more general level of description which "sees" n-dimensions and curved dimension. And does the modelling even end there?
 
  • #4
madness
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Yeah well it's actually quite hard to think of anything at all that does exist independently. If space is really a mental construction (as in the first post) you might think time is too.
 
  • #5
madness
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70
Brains already model worlds and maths just takes modelling to a greater level of generalisation or abstraction.

So brains, yours or animals', would learn to see a world of depth. Something small on the retina has to be interpreted as either something actually small and close to (like an insect) or instead large and far away (like a buffalo at a distance).

I mention this particular example because there is the famous story told by Turnbull...



So already, a sense of space is based on modelling - it is constructed via generalisations. And the ancient greek philosophers realised this, using the example of a small ship seen crawling along the far horizon.

Cartesian co-ordinates are a more abstract way of representing space. And the idea of flat dimensionality is general enough to then concieve of n-dimensions and non-euclidean geometry. To allow a step up to even more generalised impressions.

So we are moving further away from a subjective sense of space (relating very directly to the world of forests and plains) to an objective one (a maths description of our actual flat 3D world). Then this turns out to again be too subjective and we move to an even more general level of description which "sees" n-dimensions and curved dimension. And does the modelling even end there?

I agree with most of what you said. Although a mathematical description of space is objective, it need not correspond to objective reality. I'm trying to understand if space is objective in the sense that it exists independently of our perception of it, and if so whether it exists in the same sense as this perception.
 
  • #6
apeiron
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Yeah well it's actually quite hard to think of anything at all that does exist independently. If space is really a mental construction (as in the first post) you might think time is too.

Of course time too.

But my point is, if you really want to answer the question about what may exist independently of our mental experience, the place to start is an understanding of how minds construct mental experience (and how metaphysical modelling, as a socially constructed human enterprise, arises as an extension of that process).
 
  • #7
apeiron
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Although a mathematical description of space is objective, it need not correspond to objective reality. I'm trying to understand if space is objective in the sense that it exists independently of our perception of it, and if so whether it exists in the same sense as this perception.

But is the maths description "objective"? It is certainly more general and more abstract as a level of description. So it is more formal. But this is a separate kind of property. It just means that given these axioms, these outcomes "must" follow.

The formalisms are used in modelling and then prove themselves "objective" - less subjective - in their measured correspondence with the world.

So n-dimensional space is just an idea (how much more subjective can you get?). However once employed in actual modelling, that is used in physical theory and judged in terms of its measurable predictions, then it gives us what we commonly call "a more objective view".

Maths is all about inventing ideas, with strong self-consistency, that may or may not be useful in the modelling of reality. Science then goes out and checks these ideas.

This is the modelling relation (cf: Robert Rosen). We have to go further in both directions (both deeper into the subjectivity of ideas, and deeper into the objective measurements of reality) to feel we are raising out point of view from the highly local and emboddied position (which is our naive conscious experience) towards a global and disemboddied state of "view" - the god's eye view.

And it is a process. With its pitfalls as well as its promise. And to be completely clear about what we are doing, we need a model of the epistemological process itself. Which is the reason for studying stuff like psychology, and then advanced theory in the form of Rosen's modelling relations.
 
  • #8
GeorgCantor
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Of course time too.

But my point is, if you really want to answer the question about what may exist independently of our mental experience, the place to start is an understanding of how minds construct mental experience (and how metaphysical modelling, as a socially constructed human enterprise, arises as an extension of that process).



The cutting edge in physics points to the landscape being emergent(though it's still not clear from what spacetime must emerge). I think there are similar problems with LQG as they also treat the background as an emergent feature, and not a fundamental feature of the world.

Of all the physicists that i know of, that have tried to tackle this question, David Bohm seems to have gone the furthest in answering the questrion in his "Wholeness and the Implicate Order".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implicate_and_explicate_order_according_to_David_Bohm


In the enfolded [or implicate] order, space and time are no longer the dominant factors determining the relationships of dependence or independence of different elements. Rather, an entirely different sort of basic connection of elements is possible, from which our ordinary notions of space and time, along with those of separately existent material particles, are abstracted as forms derived from the deeper order. These ordinary notions in fact appear in what is called the "explicate" or "unfolded" order, which is a special and distinguished form contained within the general totality of all the implicate orders (Bohm, 1980, p. xv)."



As is usual with the big questions, you should take everything with a grain of salt as the problem of induction is as great as ever. Because of the nature of the scientific method, there is always the possibility of observing a phenomenon that will challenge all previously established theories.


The problem calls into question all empirical claims made in everyday life or through the scientific method."


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_induction




While science is the best kind of knowledge that we might have, it's worth noting in certain domains(or maybe all):

“If you thought that science was certain - well, that is just an error on your part.” - R.Feynman




To sum up, our notions of what's out there are contradictory and hardly sensible(when viewed outside our 5 senses). And it's only possible to say how things are not, not how they really are(though the problem of induction renders even that statement more or less worthless). Something like a unified picture of reality(a master TOE) might shed some light on how things really are, though you'd have Godel's incompleteness theorem in your way and the ever as big Problem of induction. Conclusions and interpretations drawn on the basis of the hypothetical TOE will always be challenged by the Problem of Induction.

Because of the above arguments, IMO your question will never be answered in a satisfactory manner. But if there is a way to see how things really are, it seems we first have to understand how consciousness works and as Frame Dragger pointed out we may not like what we find(not that we ever had the say in whether to be here or not, or how things really ought to have been).
 
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  • #9
apeiron
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Because of the above arguments, IMO your question will never be answered in a satisfactory manner. But if there is a way to see how things really are, it seems we first have to understand how consciousness works and as Frame Dragger pointed out we may not like what we find(not that we ever had the say in whether to be here or not, or how things really ought to have been).

Not sure how this post followed as a response to mine, but anyway. The approach I was talking about, based on a logic of vagueness, prefers abduction to induction.

The philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce introduced abduction into modern logic. 'The processes by which we form hunches about the world are, in Peirce's conception, dependent on perceptual judgments, which contain general elements such that universal propositions may be deduced from them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abduction_(logic [Broken])
 
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  • #10
GeorgCantor
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Sorry apeiron, i meant to quote madness's first post :blushing:
 
  • #11
planck
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I've always been interested in trying to understand to what extent the world exists independently of our perception of it and this serves as a good example to discuss the issue.
I've always had a problem with this concept of perception (especially when it comes to space) because it suggests that there are pseudo-realities that exist outside the limit of our ability to experience them. Especially with space, which has been an obsession of mine, because it is something---even though it's nothing. And I refuse to believe that it behaves independently of our perception.
 
  • #12
brainstorm
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I've always had a problem with this concept of perception (especially when it comes to space) because it suggests that there are pseudo-realities that exist outside the limit of our ability to experience them. Especially with space, which has been an obsession of mine, because it is something---even though it's nothing. And I refuse to believe that it behaves independently of our perception.

Even within the image of reality you hold, you should be able to see that all your sensory perception is the result of something beyond your sensory apparatus that you CANNOT access directly WITHOUT the senses you are relying on.

Now, what you do have in addition to your senses is the ability to process and synthesize them into a reality image. So why should you assume that the reality-image you have synthesized is something different from whatever is outside your senses causing your perceptions, even if it is separate, distinct, and not directly accessible to you?

When you use the internet, do you wonder if what you see in the browser window is the same thing on the other side of the modem? If you don't, it's probably because it doesn't matter. As long as the browser window behaves according to your expectations and desires, you don't need to go further. Still, you probably know that what appears in your browser window is a user-interface that translates signals that are unrecognizable to you into ones that are.

The question is why you would be obsessed with proving the existence of space (and time) outside of perception. Why would it be insufficient for you to think that space and time are just cognitive tools for organizing sensory signals for processing?
 
  • #13
madness
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Even within the image of reality you hold, you should be able to see that all your sensory perception is the result of something beyond your sensory apparatus that you CANNOT access directly WITHOUT the senses you are relying on.

Now, what you do have in addition to your senses is the ability to process and synthesize them into a reality image. So why should you assume that the reality-image you have synthesized is something different from whatever is outside your senses causing your perceptions, even if it is separate, distinct, and not directly accessible to you?

When you use the internet, do you wonder if what you see in the browser window is the same thing on the other side of the modem? If you don't, it's probably because it doesn't matter. As long as the browser window behaves according to your expectations and desires, you don't need to go further. Still, you probably know that what appears in your browser window is a user-interface that translates signals that are unrecognizable to you into ones that are.

The question is why you would be obsessed with proving the existence of space (and time) outside of perception. Why would it be insufficient for you to think that space and time are just cognitive tools for organizing sensory signals for processing?

I disagree. I think that if things like time and space are just a mental construction and its hard to even think of something which does exist independently, then we should treat these mental construction as fundamental. Why suppose the existence of these objective entities if we can't even imagine what they could be? And after all, our physical theories are all based on concepts like time and space and so they describe these subjective phenomena rather than anything objective (independent of our perception).
 
  • #14
brainstorm
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I disagree. I think that if things like time and space are just a mental construction and its hard to even think of something which does exist independently, then we should treat these mental construction as fundamental. Why suppose the existence of these objective entities if we can't even imagine what they could be? And after all, our physical theories are all based on concepts like time and space and so they describe these subjective phenomena rather than anything objective (independent of our perception).

Because it's true. You can treat them as fundamental, but why deny the truth that you are treating them as such WITHOUT denying the knowledge that you CANNOT know if reality outside perception and cognition resembles that which is perceived?

I don't prelude every statement of observation with the phrase "I perceive that," but I am aware that I could.

Ultimately I think it is most rigorous to recognize all statements and claims and all observations as perceptions. You can move from this level to the level of truth-power by asserting claims as statements and being prepared to argue your position and reasoning, but the truth is that you only know the knowledge you have without having any direct access to the referents of your knowledge.
 
  • #15
planck
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Even within the image of reality you hold, you should be able to see that all your sensory perception is the result of something beyond your sensory apparatus that you CANNOT access directly WITHOUT the senses you are relying on.
Yes, I know. But I still have them. Then what good are the senses if they're deceiving me.

Now, what you do have in addition to your senses is the ability to process and synthesize them into a reality image. So why should you assume that the reality-image you have synthesized is something different from whatever is outside your senses causing your perceptions, even if it is separate, distinct, and not directly accessible to you?
Doesn't matter. Whether I can directly see infrared with my eyes or use special glasses to see it---I'm still experiencing something from EMR that exists.

When you use the internet, do you wonder if what you see in the browser window is the same thing on the other side of the modem? If you don't, it's probably because it doesn't matter. As long as the browser window behaves according to your expectations and desires, you don't need to go further. Still, you probably know that what appears in your browser window is a user-interface that translates signals that are unrecognizable to you into ones that are.
There's a difference. I don't know what the 1's and 0's mean, but I do know what the end result is because that's the way it was designed.

The question is why you would be obsessed with proving the existence of space (and time) outside of perception. Why would it be insufficient for you to think that space and time are just cognitive tools for organizing sensory signals for processing?
Because it exists and it is tangible and it must have properties---just like everything else. I truly don't understand why something that routinely exhibits a set pattern of behavior would automatically be seen as being a ruse from my perspective. I firmly believe that as long as it is contained within this universe---we can find out what it is and how it works.
 
  • #16
madness
815
70
Because it's true. You can treat them as fundamental, but why deny the truth that you are treating them as such WITHOUT denying the knowledge that you CANNOT know if reality outside perception and cognition resembles that which is perceived?

I don't prelude every statement of observation with the phrase "I perceive that," but I am aware that I could.

Ultimately I think it is most rigorous to recognize all statements and claims and all observations as perceptions. You can move from this level to the level of truth-power by asserting claims as statements and being prepared to argue your position and reasoning, but the truth is that you only know the knowledge you have without having any direct access to the referents of your knowledge.

I don't understand what you mean here. I'm not denying that I'm treating them as fundamental, I'm just saying that any objective "thing in and of itself" is superfluous and necessarily something that we can't even imagine. It can't even exist in space or time in the way that we understand them, so why should we assume its existence? Supposing the existence of something which we can't even imagine and exists outside of space, time and cause and effect seems a lot like assuming the existence of God to me.
 
  • #17
brainstorm
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Yes, I know. But I still have them. Then what good are the senses if they're deceiving me.
The very idea that they are "deceiving you" if they're not transparently giving you direct access to what's outside you is problematic. Senses are receptors for unsynthesized information. The information becomes meaningful when it arrives at the processor. Coordinating motor-responses to sensory data is facilitated regardless of whether the image you're working with is a transparent representation or not. The point is that it is more accurate to say we can't know what exactly the form of things outside the senses is, rather than getting into debates about what that form is.

There's a difference. I don't know what the 1's and 0's mean, but I do know what the end result is because that's the way it was designed.
But you know that the imagery of the browser window doesn't travel through the wires in the same form you see it on the screen. That is a level of truth beyond believing that when you click a link it is projected through a fiber optic cable to your screen without disassemby, encoding, and reassembly.

Because it exists and it is tangible and it must have properties---just like everything else. I truly don't understand why something that routinely exhibits a set pattern of behavior would automatically be seen as being a ruse from my perspective. I firmly believe that as long as it is contained within this universe---we can find out what it is and how it works.
It's not a ruse. It's a data field that is only accessible to you to the extent that your senses can perceive it, at it only appears and makes sense to you in terms you cognitive/neural network can process. You can investigate the patterns you discern in sensory data and theorize and test how things you perceive work. That is science. There is no need for transparent, direct access to reality to practice science.

I don't understand what you mean here. I'm not denying that I'm treating them as fundamental, I'm just saying that any objective "thing in and of itself" is superfluous and necessarily something that we can't even imagine. It can't even exist in space or time in the way that we understand them, so why should we assume its existence? Supposing the existence of something which we can't even imagine and exists outside of space, time and cause and effect seems a lot like assuming the existence of God to me.

For whatever reason, cogntive-consciousness is capable of the range of thoughts, ideas, perceptions, etc. that it is capable of. It is capable of generating thoughts and then later interpolating those thoughts as wrong. It can imagine object things "in and of themselves" and then recognize that such things cannot be established objectively. It can imagine the idea of God and reason that if such an all powerful being or force/power exists, then it would also be capable of camoflaging his/her/its own existence as natural phenomena.

The way I see it, you have the cognitive tools and your senses at your disposal to use them. You have a capacity to feel and the ability to empathize to develop and practice ethical judgment. Imo, you are a soul stuck in a body with whatever capabilities yours has and the only thing you can do is use what you have to try to accomplish your will. If you choose to observe ethical judgment, part of your will will include the will to avoid harm and possibly even increase positive experiences for yourself and others. If you are skillful and lucky, your choices and actions will have a positive result for yourself and others - but more than likely some negativity will also result; after all you are only human!
 
  • #18
GeorgCantor
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1
I thought there was a general agreement here that the Physics Forum banner on top of this page does not exist in the same way we usually take for granted. I mean, the electrical current wired to the RGB diodes is what is really "out there" for the banner, though had it been possible for you to be trapped on the screen, you'd hardly be able to understand.

Just because it intuitively seems like everything is interpreted 1:1 by our brains, doesn't make it so. If it's just some abstract, mathematical, probability fields out there, and everything else is a mental construct, I don't think many people would want to know.
 
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  • #19
madness
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But why assume the existence of some "abstract, mathematical, probability fields" that are really "out there", rather than just saying your experience is what exists and these mathematical probability fields are a construct which models our experience?
 
  • #20
brainstorm
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But why assume the existence of some "abstract, mathematical, probability fields" that are really "out there", rather than just saying your experience is what exists and these mathematical probability fields are a construct which models our experience?

They are both. The experience you perceive is constructed by synthesizing perception via cognition. The "probability fields," or whatever you want to call what exists prior to sensory interpolation, are also a cognitive construction insofar as you are conceptualizing them as something or other. What it comes down to is that you can't get around the radical situatedness of perception and cognition within the living tissue of the body; EXCEPT to the extent that you construct reality as transcendent of its material basis.

BTW, it's confounding to assume that whatever is going on outside sensory-perception is somehow mathematical, governed by probability or otherwise. Both mathematics and probability are synthetic abstractions constructed by cognition. Really, you have no choice but to make knowledge claims based on observations, synthesis, and reasoning. There is no transparent or direct access to a reality outside of that.

The good news is that no one has ever done anything more that that - except perhaps to the extent that they were unaware of the impossibility of having direct access to the realities they thought they were describing transparently.
 
  • #21
GeorgCantor
495
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But why assume the existence of some "abstract, mathematical, probability fields" that are really "out there", rather than just saying your experience is what exists and these mathematical probability fields are a construct which models our experience?


The key word in that statement was 'abstract', as i don't think it's possible to imagine a set of quantum fields out there, acting(with the aid of consciousness?) to create an emergent property that we could label as spacetime. Yet, qft is tested and verified, it may not be much of a fundamental knowledge, but as brainstorm pointed out, nobody made it further than that. It is not yet known how we should go from 'everything is excited states of the respective field' to 'objects' out there, but it is a move forward to answering the OP(or we hope so). If the "construct which models our experience" can be verified and tested(the dream of a TOE and if such a thing is even possible), we may in principle be able to understand the universe and the 'out there'. But this seems to me to lie so far in time, and i truly have no idea what relationship can be established between qft and emergent properties, so the whole notion of us building models to comprehend all of reality and the 'out there' may be a simple case of building castles in the sky.
 
  • #22
brainstorm
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If the "construct which models our experience" can be verified and tested(the dream of a TOE and if such a thing is even possible), we may in principle be able to understand the universe and the 'out there'.

Ironically, the whole idea that the "out there" is separate and distinct from what is perceived subjectively may itself be part of the untranscendable subjectivity. In that case, the best that may be possible (or rather the only thing) would be to develop and refine further insights and modeling of what is perceived, regardless of whether it represents anything external or not.

Empiricism and positivism are two methods for interacting with perception and cognition. Both yield models that give the impression of an external reality, but that impression need not be elevated to a status greater than appearance in order to develop models, make observations and analyses, perform testing/experimentation, etc.
 
  • #23
planck
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The point is that it is more accurate to say we can't know what exactly the form of things outside the senses is, rather than getting into debates about what that form is.
Agreed, but what difference would that make. Take space for example. If theoretically, I was able to deconstruct empty space and find out exactly what it is and how it works (using my senses of course), didn't I solve that problem? How can a cognitive....any being, come up with different a construct.

But you know that the imagery of the browser window doesn't travel through the wires in the same form you see it on the screen. That is a level of truth beyond believing that when you click a link it is projected through a fiber optic cable to your screen without disassemby, encoding, and reassembly.
But the function and purpose remain the same. I know you're approaching it from a relativistic pov. Whereas, I'm an ultimate truther. Whether something or someone else perceives it to be different doesn't matter because the purpose is served.

There is no need for transparent, direct access to reality to practice science.
Then everything is 99.9%. Never 100.
 
  • #24
brainstorm
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Objectivism provides such a comforting anchor of stability, I rarely talk to people who can grasp the truth that objective reality is a product of cognitive-perception. I believe the reason is that people assume that when cognitive-perceptual synthesis is responsible for their experience of reality, that it would somehow be more maleable than when they view it as a fixed things external to their consciousness.

Think about it, though. If consciousness is directly responsible for the externalized view of reality that makes it seem fixed and beyond consciousness, then it would be this very mechanism of consciousness that was responsible for fixing the image of reality as unmaleable in its externality. In other words, externality in perception/cognition = fixity. Once a given aspect of reality is re-visioned as internal/subjective instead of external/objective, it becomes materially less fixed.

Take for example the idea of Santa Clause. As long as a kid perceived Santa as an external reality, logics for how Santa makes it to every house in one night, gets through the chimney without getting burned or dirty, how he carries so many gifts, etc. are all issues. Once kids understand that Santa Clause is just an idea, "the spirit of giving" as one friend of mine says, the mechanics come to seem less fixed.

Agreed, but what difference would that make. Take space for example. If theoretically, I was able to deconstruct empty space and find out exactly what it is and how it works (using my senses of course), didn't I solve that problem? How can a cognitive....any being, come up with different a construct.
Well, there are actually at least two spatial models I can think of. One would be the spherical planet model where a traveller circumnavigating a planet is viewed as being perpendicular or 180degrees opposed to someone 1/4 or 1/2 around the planet. The other model would relativize space to gravity and regard the ground as flat but recursive in terms of location. It is harder to conceptualize space without some fixed transcendent model, though, which is why I think the sphere model is popular.

Another model I'm working on is being able to conceptualize matter-energy interactions without any projection of space as a container. Logically, I think it makes more sense to model matter-energy as creating interdynamics between artifacts in and of themselves. The notion of space always creates a third observation point from which the frame that contains the observed artifacts are observed.

Without the concepts of space and time, artifacts simply interact with each other directly without container concepts or conditionality. Spacetime dilation would be viewed as a variable of inertia-level or some other characteristic of artifacts themselves.

But the function and purpose remain the same. I know you're approaching it from a relativistic pov. Whereas, I'm an ultimate truther. Whether something or someone else perceives it to be different doesn't matter because the purpose is served.
The ultimate truth is that space cannot be measured or empirically observed except as a function of matter-energy dynamics. Space and time are generalizations about relationships between multiple points. It may be an inconvenient truth to deal with cognitively, but how can you assert the objective existence of something that cannot be directly observed or measured?
 
  • #25
GeorgCantor
495
1
The ultimate truth is that space cannot be measured or empirically observed except as a function of matter-energy dynamics. Space and time are generalizations about relationships between multiple points. It may be an inconvenient truth to deal with cognitively, but how can you assert the objective existence of something that cannot be directly observed or measured?


You can't reach a conclusion on this topic without a set of assumptions, which are the foundataions of science. Even your proposition that consciousness is something unknown and separate to the body and creates the mental image we call 'objective reality' is based on a few assumptions(even if you don't realise that). Unfortunately for our state of understanding of reality, most of the assumptions are challenged by modern physics. The ones i can list off the top of my head:

Free will
Realism
Locality
The assumption that the human mind is the right tool to comprehend reality
The assumption that solipsism is wrong
The assumption of there being true randomness

We can't hope science to answer the big questions without these assumptions. As there is no way to verify any of them, although unlikely, there is some percent chance that they could all be wrong and this would cause a collapse to the castle in the sky and science would be forced to leave the big qestions to religion.
 
  • #26
brainstorm
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You can't reach a conclusion on this topic without a set of assumptions, which are the foundataions of science. Even your proposition that consciousness is something unknown and separate to the body and creates the mental image we call 'objective reality' is based on a few assumptions(even if you don't realise that).
I realize that I am assuming that what my consciousness perceives is connected to sensory receivers such as eyes and other nerves. You are right that this assumption is based on information derived from sensory data and cognitive synthesis. I guess I should really start with "I think therefore I am."

Unfortunately for our state of understanding of reality, most of the assumptions are challenged by modern physics. The ones i can list off the top of my head:
What makes the assumptions of modern physics about the ontology of existence any more valid than any other approach? Just because physics can explain and predict observations well in terms of dimensions doesn't mean that the dimensions are more than cognitive constructs, does it?

Free will
Realism
Locality
The assumption that the human mind is the right tool to comprehend reality
The assumption that solipsism is wrong
The assumption of there being true randomness
You need to explain your reasoning for each of these instead of just stating them.

We can't hope science to answer the big questions without these assumptions. As there is no way to verify any of them, although unlikely, there is some percent chance that they could all be wrong and this would cause a collapse to the castle in the sky.

If you choose to make philosophical axioms the basis for your ontological assumptions, more power to you - I don't believe more is possible.

Still, I build my science-philosophy on the axiomatic principle of empiricism, which leads me to accept first as foremost that what is perceived or observed is the basis for doing science, not synthetic assumptions about whatever reality I may suppose is generating those sensory data.

Will I assert that there are objective artifacts that correspond to my empirical observations? Yes. Do I believe that I can make such an assertion on the basis of empiricism alone? No. Every assertion or claim to knowledge is necessarily an active assertion that can only be critiqued at the discursive level. Empirical testing, deductive reasoning, etc. are all reasonable methods of engaging in discourse, but it is fundamentally wrong to claim that reality is directly accessible. Reality is the resource-pool from which discursive negations are empowered. It is not simply "there" for observation and testing. It is constructed (in discourse) through observation and testing. If it exists outside of that, no one can truthfully claim to have better access than what they perceive and believe through sensory perception and cognition.
 
  • #27
GeorgCantor
495
1
I realize that I am assuming that what my consciousness perceives is connected to sensory receivers such as eyes and other nerves. You are right that this assumption is based on information derived from sensory data and cognitive synthesis. I guess I should really start with "I think therefore I am."


I got the impression you were saying that the 'out there' didn't exist and dimensions, time and space were mental constructs. Did i get what you were saying wrong?


What makes the assumptions of modern physics about the ontology of existence any more valid than any other approach? Just because physics can explain and predict observations well in terms of dimensions doesn't mean that the dimensions are more than cognitive constructs, does it?


I only said that the main assumptions that are at the base of all of our theories, and which are the foundations of science, are being challenged. I don't know how what you said is related to my comment. I never said dimensions weren't or couldn't be mental constructs.



You need to explain your reasoning for each of these instead of just stating them.


I think you have misunderstood what i said. All of the assumptions i listed were for the sole purpose of illustrating that you can't have scientific models without these assumptions. You can't do science if you don't think you are justified to make these assumptions. So without these assumptions, we cannot assert anything, not just "the objective existence of something that cannot be directly observed or measured".




If you choose to make philosophical axioms the basis for your ontological assumptions, more power to you - I don't believe more is possible.

Still, I build my science-philosophy on the axiomatic principle of empiricism, which leads me to accept first as foremost that what is perceived or observed is the basis for doing science, not synthetic assumptions about whatever reality I may suppose is generating those sensory data.

Will I assert that there are objective artifacts that correspond to my empirical observations? Yes. Do I believe that I can make such an assertion on the basis of empiricism alone? No. Every assertion or claim to knowledge is necessarily an active assertion that can only be critiqued at the discursive level. Empirical testing, deductive reasoning, etc. are all reasonable methods of engaging in discourse, but it is fundamentally wrong to claim that reality is directly accessible. Reality is the resource-pool from which discursive negations are empowered. It is not simply "there" for observation and testing. It is constructed (in discourse) through observation and testing. If it exists outside of that, no one can truthfully claim to have better access than what they perceive and believe through sensory perception and cognition.

I agree to that, i didn't imply reality was directly accessible. I did imply though that even our very best empirical-based reasoning rests on a set of unprovable assumptions. This is hardly surprising, what would be surprising would be if all the assumptions turn out to be true.
 
  • #28
brainstorm
563
0
I got the impression you were saying that the 'out there' didn't exist and dimensions, time and space were mental constructs. Did i get what you were saying wrong?
The existence of "out there," or externality, is as much of an assertion or claim, and therefore subject to social-cognitive construction discourse, as dimensionality, time, and space. Even if you assert that matter-energy exists beyond subjectivity, which I believe it does, I think it is confounding to mix up the existence of matter-energy with that of dimensionality, space, and time. Dimensionality, space, and time are conceptual tools for making sense of matter-energy dynamics.

I only said that the main assumptions that are at the base of all of our theories, and which are the foundations of science, are being challenged. I don't know how what you said is related to my comment. I never said dimensions weren't or couldn't be mental constructs.
Empirical rigor begins, imo, with the acceptance that what is perceived is perceptual data. The claims made about the nature of "what's behind" the perceptual data are still claims. They are mental constructs first and their reality is only conceivable as a result of constructing them as such cognitively.

I think you have misunderstood what i said. All of the assumptions i listed were for the sole purpose of illustrating that you can't have scientific models without these assumptions. You can't do science if you don't think you are justified to make these assumptions. So without these assumptions, we cannot assert anything, not just "the objective existence of something that cannot be directly observed or measured".

The point is that justification is an assertion that requires authority. The authority cannot be projected onto the thing you are claiming as a source of its own authority. To believe you are justified in making certain assumptions requires claiming a justifying-authority. Without claiming such authority, nothing can be justified.

Can authority exist outside of claims-making? If you answer yes, then how? Authority is required to reason and generate an answer. If that authority is not internal to the thinker, how does s/he gain access to it and recognize it as authority? Recognizing external authority requires internal authority, so you can't really get beyond internal authority as a starting point for all reasoning, justification, perception, observation, synthesis, and so on.

I agree to that, i didn't imply reality was directly accessible. I did imply though that even our very best empirical-based reasoning rests on a set of unprovable assumptions. This is hardly surprising, what would be surprising would be if all the assumptions turn out to be true.
This sounds like Kuhnian paradigm logic. Kuhn's logic, in my understanding, is that science is built on relatively arbitrary socially-established shared bases agreed upon by scientists that make other claims and conclusions sensible. I dislike this logic because it implies that critical challenges to scientific authority are impossible without ultimately undermining the paradigm on which the science is dependent. I believe that critical discourse yields progressive levels of truth.

It is true that no certainly is possible regarding the ontology of sensory perceptions outside of cogntion - but it is also true that sensory perceptions yield relatively stable data. Since the data is stable enough to perform synthetic analyses, these data and analyses provide a basis for truth-discourse. Establishing veracity for empirical perception/observation does not require the existence of external reality, only the power of truth-discourse to establish it synthetically.

E.g. a stick isn't a meter long because it exists externally to observation and measurement. It is a meter long because it is measured as such and subject to critical discourse to verify or falsify its true length. Disputing truth-claims requires truth-power, to use Foucaultian language, not transparent access to presumed realities.
 
  • #29
planck
39
0
Take for example the idea of Santa Clause. As long as a kid perceived Santa as an external reality, logics for how Santa makes it to every house in one night, gets through the chimney without getting burned or dirty, how he carries so many gifts, etc. are all issues. Once kids understand that Santa Clause is just an idea, "the spirit of giving" as one friend of mine says, the mechanics come to seem less fixed.
The difference is that santa doesn't exhibit properties than can be measured. An immeasurable idea is fine, as long as it's an idea. But santa doesn't interact physically with other matter.

Another model I'm working on is being able to conceptualize matter-energy interactions without any projection of space as a container.
There is a spatial dimension that exists between your face and your computer screen right now. What existed in that particular "space" at T=0 and before?

Something must be there. I compare it to a piece of paper and a pencil. If I draw a line with my pencil on the paper, the line will exist as long as I keep it on the paper. But once I extend the pencil beyond the paper, the line is invisible. But the paper needs to be there in order for the line to exist. Space is that paper.

Explain why that same spatial dimension in front of you can contain the mass of the earth and/or just an electron. How is space able to host such disparate amounts of energy?


The ultimate truth is that space cannot be measured or empirically observed except as a function of matter-energy dynamics. Space and time are generalizations about relationships between multiple points. It may be an inconvenient truth to deal with cognitively, but how can you assert the objective existence of something that cannot be directly observed or measured?
I'm not sure how nothing can be observed or measured. But there's so many other concepts in the material world that fit into that group---other dimensions, super-symmetrical particles, cosmological constant, list goes on. Space is no different. And I don't think it's a perceived construct.
 
  • #30
brainstorm
563
0
The difference is that santa doesn't exhibit properties than can be measured. An immeasurable idea is fine, as long as it's an idea. But santa doesn't interact physically with other matter.
You missed my point. I used Santa as a concrete example of how the perceiver orients toward "him" when they externalize their perception verses when they treat it as a subjective/internal thing. When the child externalizes Santa the questions asked are things like "how can he carry so many presents to so many houses in one night?" "how do reindeer fly?" etc. When its treated as a subjective topic the questions are "what causes children and adults to orient toward Santa and the corresponding spirit of giving as such?"

You're relapsing into the assumption that there is an inherent difference between objective and subjective artifacts prior to cognitive externalization of them. This is a cognitive reflex many if not most people have, I think, but it is nonetheless a reflex with epistemological consequences. The consequence is that it prevents you from being aware of your perception of external-objects from the subjective interface of consciousness.

I.e. you think that you have transcended consciousness and have come to operate outside of it in the objective universe of your perception. The matrix has become completely transparent, in other words. There's nothing inherently wrong with operating within "the matrix" but I'm just pointing out that within the image of your embodied position within objective reality, it is possible to empirically recognize that your body does not have direct access to the universe it perceives as external to itself. Its access is mediated by sensory reception and cognition. Consciousness is unbridgeably separated from the external reality it imagines to exist by its own embodied, neural existence.

There is a spatial dimension that exists between your face and your computer screen right now. What existed in that particular "space" at T=0 and before?
I can project such spatial dimensionality between my perception of my face and the computer screen by applying a generalized notion of length and width, but that doesn't mean that those dimensions and spatiality aren't projections that are overlaid on the perceptions of the things within my consciousness.

In other words, why is the image you are conscious off through your eyes any different from the image on a computer desktop? The only reason you differentiate them is out of a desire to claim transparent access to some ultimate im-mediate reality - but how can you claim transparency or immediacy without denying the mediality of sensory receptors and cognition/consciousness?

Something must be there. I compare it to a piece of paper and a pencil. If I draw a line with my pencil on the paper, the line will exist as long as I keep it on the paper. But once I extend the pencil beyond the paper, the line is invisible. But the paper needs to be there in order for the line to exist. Space is that paper.
Light (supposedly) exists without a medium. You can conceptualize space as a medium for light, matter, and other energy - but that logically contradicts the notion that no medium is necessary. If space was like paper on which the existence of matter-energy was "drawn," wouldn't it have to be empirically observable or measurable in some way beyond interrelations among observable/measurable things?

Can't matter-energy happen vis-a-vis itself without having a container-concept projected around it?

Explain why that same spatial dimension in front of you can contain the mass of the earth and/or just an electron. How is space able to host such disparate amounts of energy?
With these questions you're axiomatically constructing the existence of space as an a priori given. That's cognitive-synthetic, not empirical. The more relevant question, imo, is how matter-energy can operate at the level of electrons but also at the level of solar-planetary gravitation.

My understanding of relativity, GR and SR, is that it explains scale relations according to the frame-relative speed of light/energy verses the absolute speed of matter relative to other matter.

So, imo. scaling differences are the product of energy being translated into spacetime dilation instead of velocity at a given level of dilation. When objects approach the speed of light in the same frame with other objects, the spatial relations among the objects "dilate" as they contract relative to each other.

So I think that electrons only appear as the size and mass that they do because their energy/momentum has propelled them to the scale at which they operate. I think other objects appear at the scale we perceives ourselves at because their energy levels are within the spectrum of gravity-velocity dilation at the intersection of Earth's gravity and the sun's at Earth's distance/velocity relative to it.

Your perception of relatively stable spatial and scaling relations between the various objects surrounding you is the result of relative simultaneity of their grativational/motion. We're all basically in rotational free fall around the center of the Earth except for tensile friction has causes us to pile up in a sort of "traffic jam."

The matter-energy dynamics of the traffic jam at sea-level are what you perceive as dimensional stability. In another gravitational/motion context, you would have to come up with radically different projections of spatiality/temporality or other dimensionality to appropriately orient toward other matter-energy.

I realize I may be mixing up theoretical aspects of relativity with my own synthesis of it, but I'm just sharing what I think.

I'm not sure how nothing can be observed or measured. But there's so many other concepts in the material world that fit into that group---other dimensions, super-symmetrical particles, cosmological constant, list goes on. Space is no different. And I don't think it's a perceived construct.
I think I've said it before, but I'll go ahead and say it again. Just because a concept is useful for analyzing a multitude of situations doesn't make it part of the reality it helps to organize conceptually. Space doesn't have to be a bad perceived construct to be a perceived construct. The only criteria for being a construct is that humans construct it through interpolation or otherwise. If matter-energy exists outside of consciousness, which I assert it does without proof, it is qualitatively distinct from the constructs of space, time, and other dimensionalities which are cognitive-overlays projected at the level of conscious-perception and modeling.

You can model gravity as a rope connecting a planet with the sun, but that doesn't mean it exists as an actual rope.
 
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