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Do you trust your perception and understanding?
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Freitag



Joined: 01 Sep 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reminds me of a haiku. A friend wrote this and it is my reference for "what is a haiku?"


The cat sunned itself
On the warm summers driveway
One too many times.
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Synthetic



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:20 am    Post subject: Re: Do you trust your perception and understanding? Reply with quote

Freitag wrote:


Well I don't know what a "scientific realist" is so I cannot answer that, but your description of what is real depended upon another model. I am saying that there is a reality to be observed. And that we are simply discussing the validity of sensory observation as an accurate method to know what that reality is.


I don't disagree that there is something to be observed (though it is not inconsistent that we might be mistaken about perceiving anything at all! take a look at blindness denial. I don't think that such doubt is warranted though, since our senses normally work just fine.) but I see problems with the idea of "accuracy" of the senses. By saying that the senses are accurate, you must compare the senses with something else, some kind of idealized model of reality (what you think reality really is). Now the accuracy would be how well our senses correspond to this view of reality. But what kind of model should we compare with? The solution would be to say that we should compare what we perceive with whatever is independently of our senses (what is objectively). The problem here is that I don't think that it is possible to have objective knowledge in the first place. So there can be no correspondence.
Another perhaps more tempting solution is to equate science with objective knowledge, but this brings a multitude of problems, not only epistemological ones, but also the problem that we aren't even able to make a single complete model of reality with science. QM for example makes demands on the world that are completely at odds with our experiences of it, though perhaps in the future this issue might be resolved.
If you are thinking of accuracy more in the lines of our experiences being consistent (for example red always looking the same, self correspondence within our phenomenological perspective), then I think that this view also has issues as for example tastes change over time. And for example a song, each experience of it is unique, not twice do we really hear the same thing.

Sidenote: scientific realism is the view that science describes what reality actually is

Freitag wrote:

I know of some people that deny the existence of a reality to be perceived - the claim that we are all some sort of virtual thought constructs. But I've never then understood what is supposed to be having those thoughts, so I don't pay much attention to them.

Your position seems to be different. I need to go re-read your bit about how thoughts work again and why that shows that we can't model reality.

But this part confuses me "even though there is no direct relation between reality (ontology) and what we experience". I don't see how there can be no direct relation between what is and what is perceived.

Object sits in sun light.
Photon bounces from object and hits retina.
Nerve impulse hits brain.
Image is interpreted.
I pet sleeping cat in sun.

There has to be at least a function relationship or parents would never be able to feed an infant and the species would die off.


What I mean by no direct relation is that if you look at the nervous system, any input could potential result in any "result". There is no 1:1 relationship between reality and our experience of it. The only reason it seems as if there was such a relation is that as human being, our brains are similar enough to not produce radically different experiences, but still has enough plasticity to enable individuality.

If you wonder about how functional relationships could work under such a view, you might want to consider how what it is like to drive a car. To use a car, you don't need to know how it does what it does, you just need to know what results the interaction has. To use the breaks, I don't need to know what the car does, just that pressing on them will slow it down. The same thing seems to apply to the ways that we interact with the world. And if we want to ask ourselves why it works at all, we just have to realize that we have evolved for millions of years to make a functional organism.
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Freitag



Joined: 01 Sep 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

failed laptop... offline...

Ok, I guess I was interpreting your meaning as a macroscopic 'we cannot know' but I suspect now that it is the microscopic instead.

Sort of like the different models of atoms. Since we are already talking about something we can't directly see, our first model of atoms was that things were made of 5 elements and only in theory could be cut down to small size.

And then there were those raisins in the bun.

So is this like the mathematician, the engineer, and the naked lady? The mathematician and the engineer were told they could enter a room with a naked woman, but could only cross half the distance to her each time they moved.

The mathematician said that because he could never reach her that it was a pointless exercise. The engineer said that he would get functionally close enough.

I guess I can agree totally that I do not see the whole spectrum of EM radiation and that essentially proves your point that I don't perceive the whole of reality. But I perceive enough to be sufficient.

I had another argument, but I think that our disagreement is only on a technicality so the following is pointless.

We've been talking about going from reality to model through perception, but how about going the other way. Everyone that makes objects first has a mental model of a thing that is not. Then they use their other models of things that are and manipulate objects in reality to make the thing they imagined. Like a carpenter starting with a tree and ending with a table.
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Freitag



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2009 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16769-concept-of-hypercosmic-god-wins-templeton-prize.html

Quote:
Today the John Templeton Foundation announced the winner of the annual Templeton Prize of a colossal £1 million ($1.4 million), the largest annual prize in the world.

This year it goes to French physicist and philosopher of science Bernard d'Espagnat for his "studies into the concept of reality". D'Espagnat, 87, is a professor emeritus of theoretical physics at the University of Paris-Sud, and is known for his work on quantum mechanics. The award will be presented to him by the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace on 5 May.

D'Espagnat boasts an impressive scientific pedigree, having worked with Nobel laureates Louis de Broglie, Enrico Fermi and Niels Bohr. De Broglie was his thesis advisor; he served as a research assistant to Fermi; and he worked at CERN when it was still in Copenhagen under the direction of Bohr. He also served as a visiting professor at the University of Texas, Austin, at the invitation of the legendary physicist John Wheeler. But what has he done that's worth £1 million?

The thrust of d'Espagnat's work was on experimental tests of Bell's theorem. The theorem states that either quantum mechanics is a complete description of the world or that if there is some reality beneath quantum mechanics, it must be nonlocal – that is, things can influence one another instantaneously regardless of how much space stretches between them, violating Einstein's insistence that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

But what d'Espagnat was really interested in was what all of this meant for discerning the true nature of ultimate reality. Unlike most of his contemporaries, d'Espagnat was one of the brave ones unafraid to tackle the thorny and profound philosophical questions posed by quantum physics.

Third view

Unlike classical physics, d'Espagnat explained, quantum mechanics cannot describe the world as it really is, it can merely make predictions for the outcomes of our observations. If we want to believe, as Einstein did, that there is a reality independent of our observations, then this reality can either be knowable, unknowable or veiled. D'Espagnat subscribes to the third view. Through science, he says, we can glimpse some basic structures of the reality beneath the veil, but much of it remains an infinite, eternal mystery.

Looking back at d'Espagnat's work, I couldn't help but wonder what the Templeton Foundation – an organisation dedicated to reconciling science and religion – saw in it that they thought was worth a £1 million. Then, scanning the press release, I found it:

"There must exist, beyond mere appearances … a 'veiled reality' that science does not describe but only glimpses uncertainly. In turn, contrary to those who claim that matter is the only reality, the possibility that other means, including spirituality, may also provide a window on ultimate reality cannot be ruled out, even by cogent scientific arguments."

But even if there is a partially unknowable reality beneath reality, I'm not sure how that implies that spirituality is a viable means to access it. I have a suspicion that this still comes down to good old-fashioned faith.
Unconventional 'God'

So what is it, really, that is veiled? At times d'Espagnat calls it a Being or Independent Reality or even "a great, hypercosmic God". It is a holistic, non-material realm that lies outside of space and time, but upon which we impose the categories of space and time and localisation via the mysterious Kantian categories of our minds.

"Independent Reality plays, in a way, the role of God – or 'Substance' – of Spinoza," d'Espagnat writes. Einstein believed in Spinoza's God, which he equated with nature itself, but he always held this "God" to be entirely knowable. D'Espagnat's veiled God, on the other hand, is partially – but still fundamentally – unknowable. And for precisely this reason, it would be nonsensical to paint it with the figure of a personal God or attribute to it specific concerns or commandments.

The "veiled reality", then, can in no way help Christians or Muslims or Jews or anyone else rationalise their specific beliefs. The Templeton Foundation – despite being headed up by John Templeton Jr, an evangelical Christian – claims to afford no bias to any particular religion, and by awarding their prize to d'Espagnat, I think they've proven that to be true.

I happen to believe that drawing any spiritual conclusions from quantum mechanics is an unfounded leap in logic – but if someone out there in the world is willing to pay someone £1 million for pondering the nature of reality, that's a world I'm happy to live in.


This article may cover the differences between our positions?

New Scientist usually injects a secular slant to every story - but knowing the bias allows you to filter the real information from it. I included the meaningless editorial comments at the end of the article for the sake of completeness.
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Ghost Without A Shell



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PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I trust my understanding, but not my perception.
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Freitag



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PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I trust both.
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Synthetic



Joined: 20 Feb 2009
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PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2009 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry about taking my time, been absurdly busy lately. Hopefully I'll have a bit more time these following weeks.

Freitag wrote:

Ok, I guess I was interpreting your meaning as a macroscopic 'we cannot know' but I suspect now that it is the microscopic instead.

Sort of like the different models of atoms. Since we are already talking about something we can't directly see, our first model of atoms was that things were made of 5 elements and only in theory could be cut down to small size.


Not sure I completely understand your distinction here, but perhaps I can clarify a bit on what I think are the limits of our knowledge.

It is important to see that the limit of knowledge from my point of view is not a perceptual limitation, like a limitation to certain wavelength or sizes; it is rather a more fundamental boundary. This boundary can be seen by understanding the logic of perception (what it really means to perceive something). Instead of starting with the idea that whatever correspond in our minds with reality is real or true (and hence avoiding that reality/experience relation) I look at what a nervous system is, and (it is implicit here that I believe that it is the nervous system (brain) that knows so I'm sure you can see how this relates with my views on the mind/body problem) what a nervous system is actually doing from a logical approach.

Now if my explanation is unclear, just ask about the parts that you do not understand. It is already a great strain for me to even try to put this down in words and this is probably not the best medium to explain over, so please be patient and if anything is unclear, feel free to ask.

Now if we look at a nervous system, no matter how complex or simple we can see that the way it functions is a property of how it is wired (I think we can all agree on this). From this, we can see that the reaction that any input will elicit is purely a matter of how the nervous system is wired. From this I think that the following conclusion can be drawn, first of all that the nervous system is not an information handling device, as input is purely internally defined and secondly that representationalism is false, as it seems to me that any representation is impossible—there is no "solid point" in reality (as all input is internally defined) that the nervous system could possibly represent.

So you might ask what prevent this from becoming full blown solipsism, well there are two things which maintain a certain degree of intersubjectivity between human beings, the way our brains are coded in our genes and that we interact. Genetics make sure that our brains are similar enough and social interaction works somewhat like the interaction of the cells of our bodies—while they have a life of their they take part of a greater unit. Reality could be seen as this "greater unit" among people (in the "reality as it is to us" way, and not in the ontological sense).

Freitag wrote:


This article may cover the differences between our positions?

New Scientist usually injects a secular slant to every story - but knowing the bias allows you to filter the real information from it. I included the meaningless editorial comments at the end of the article for the sake of completeness.


Well d'Espagnat says that classical physics can describe the world "as it really is" and maybe I'm misinterpreting what he means, but it sound to me as if he means that classical physics deal with reality in itself. This is of course quite different from my view, as I treat all physical theories as dealing with experienced reality, in distinction to reality in itself.

Quote:

Unlike classical physics, d'Espagnat explained, quantum mechanics cannot describe the world as it really is, it can merely make predictions for the outcomes of our observations. If we want to believe, as Einstein did, that there is a reality independent of our observations, then this reality can either be knowable, unknowable or veiled. D'Espagnat subscribes to the third view. Through science, he says, we can glimpse some basic structures of the reality beneath the veil, but much of it remains an infinite, eternal mystery.


I think that d'Espagnat is making a huge epistemological mistake here (which quite conveniently opens up the way for all sorts of supernatural speculation). If reality is veiled, does it mean that it is unknowable or not? Thus, we can see that the "veiled" position is after all just a red herring; knowable does not just mean that we know it today or even with today's tools. Classic mechanics was knowable back in Aristotle's time, just as any future physical theory is part of our possible knowledge. This may seem to be just an issue of semantics, but it is easy to see what kind of confusion the idea of a "veiled reality" opens the door to. No scientist in his right mind would say that there is nothing we do not know, that there are no creeks left to explore in reality.
Lets see what happens to god once we apply in my opinion the appropriate analysis to the question:
Now God is either knowable (possible knowledge) or unknowable. If god is knowable, I do not see why the scientific method should be ruled out as a tool to find him, sure He may prove to be elusive but the same thing seems to be true for many other scientific problems. If God is knowable, there is also no reason to have any faith. But what if god is unknowable? Then we have another problem, as there is nothing we can ever know about god, all speculation is then strictly nonsense.
So what do religious people want, God as a scientific hypothesis or God as nonsense?

But let's not turn this into a debate about god.
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Chroma



Joined: 17 Nov 2009
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think this is a problem of systemology.

The fact (suggested by my experience in mathematics and logics) is that we cannot prove a system inside itself (Incompleteness problem of Gödel)

"The consistency of the axioms cannot be proved within the system."

Take a coin. Our axioms tells us that everything that is circle-shaped (sight/touch) that look like metal (taste/sight/touch/hearing/smell) that produce a specific "bling" sound when falling (sight/hearing) ... is a coin.

But within the system called "reality" (or world), it is impossible to prove that there is a circle-shaped, looking like metal, producing such a sound etc... that is not a coin. But there is a possibility that such a think exists, beacause we are able to think that there is inputs we cannot process.

Imagine two coins : one could emit infra-reds and an other ultra-violets but we cannot prove it unless the system is extended by a tool (rules + axioms) that will say : if you can see blue rays through this lense, it is emitting UV, or IR if you see red rays.
Even then, you cannot prove the completeness of the system, since our brain always considers the possibility of something out of the actual system.

You talk about God Synthetic? Tachikoma's talked about 0? I'll talk about empty : could you prove that there is not something into a shell?
You can rely on the system of your choice, but neither of them can tell that no other system could prove the existence of something inside the shell, instead of what you just called "empty".


Therefore what is left? Faith I think. Concepts maybe?

You can trust your feelings because of science, spirituality, experiments. In fact, you have to choose something to believe if you want to interact with it. If you believe in your glass, the table and your body, you can see that moving your body can enable you to move the glass on the table.
The most philosophers of you will think at the cave myth of Platon, and what it takes to be confronted to a new system englobing our. (Denial, etc...)


But the system cannot prove your beliefs.

To bring up the second theme of the post (understanding), let me say this :

Is this capacity to imagine something ever higher than what we thought to be the highest makes us human, or maybe being human make us being able to imagine the higher of highest. Ask the Major Very Happy
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