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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 4:26 pm 
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TFBW wrote:
There's an ongoing debate over whether the concept of "I" is necessary. You'll find terms like "qualia" at the centre of the debate, and thought experiments such as "Mary's room" (by Frank Jackson). Some conclude that physical facts alone are insufficient to explain the phenomena, but others (notably Dennet) disagree.


I think that is laughable. "I" is not merely a concept. With the possible exception of D. Niall Dennett and Prof. Dork I think we all experience "I".

This goes along with the "dangerous idea" of Dork which is truly dangerous. There has been a long line of such people in the last 120 years or so who are hell bent on making us believe ourselves to be nothing more than animals or machines. I know the origins of the idea are much older but they have received a lot of impetus in the last 120 years. I think they have already led to very bad consequences for human beings much like you said in your article on Dork.

TFBW wrote:
Well, we have accepted techniques in science with regards to measurement. Some consider measurable experiment to be the very heart of science. When it comes to a non-physical fact, such as "consciousness" (if non-physical it be), then we're outside charted territory. Even if we get agreement that there must be non-physical facts, we don't have any accepted paradigms for investigating them. There may not even be any way of investigating them.



It appears to me that science has crippled itself in that fashion. Of course there is nothing wrong with measurement but to not permit those things that can only be subjectively experienced is just silly. Subjective experience in no way rules out reproducing experiments by third parties.


TFBW wrote:
Some people launch into denial mode the moment something like this is suggested because they are epistemic optimists. They think that we can know everything if we try hard and keep at it long enough. The idea that something might be outside the realm of knowability is anathema to them. I'm not such an optimist: Goedel cured me of that. I'm a firm believer that certain facts can't be known, and the true nature of "I" may well be among those facts.

I'm open to suggestions, though.



I think it is certainly believable that some sectors of knowledge cannot be known. An example would be what Napoleon's mother had for breakfast on the day she conceived him. And of course it may be that many things about the mind, life and the universe might not be knowable. But to state that as an authoritative truth would be going too far and would only serve to discourage curiosity.

What kind of things do you think would come into the category of unknowable?


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 1:56 am 
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thsman wrote:
I think it is certainly believable that some sectors of knowledge cannot be known. An example would be what Napoleon's mother had for breakfast on the day she conceived him.

That sort of thing could be known in principle. The kind of "cannot be known" to which I'm referring is that which can not be known in principle.

thsman wrote:
And of course it may be that many things about the mind, life and the universe might not be knowable. But to state that as an authoritative truth would be going too far and would only serve to discourage curiosity.

Well, if you can demonstrate with proof that something can not be known, it saves a lot of wasted effort and argument. Goedel's incompleteness theorem was the final nail in the coffin of the Formalist school of mathematics, for example. And the flip-side of "discourage curiosity" is "discourage credulity and bad assumptions". The party who doubts that knowledge is accessible is the foil who keeps the optimists in check, making sure that their efforts are rigorous.

thsman wrote:
What kind of things do you think would come into the category of unknowable?

Metaphysical questions such as whether we experience a real universe or a simulated one, or whether the past is real or a collection of artificial memories. The latter question could be answerable if time travel were possible.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 12:19 pm 
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TFBW wrote:
Well, if you can demonstrate with proof that something can not be known, it saves a lot of wasted effort and argument. Goedel's incompleteness theorem was the final nail in the coffin of the Formalist school of mathematics, for example. And the flip-side of "discourage curiosity" is "discourage credulity and bad assumptions". The party who doubts that knowledge is accessible is the foil who keeps the optimists in check, making sure that their efforts are rigorous.


It seems an odd idea to me that one could demonstrate with proof that something can not be known. I shall read up on Goedel.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 1:20 pm 
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Strictly, what you have in "Gödel's incompleteness theorems" is a demonstration that any non-trivial mathematical system will contain theories which are true, but can not be proved true. If you grant that "knowledge" in the realm of mathematics consists of "proofs", then this constitutes a limit on knowledge: there will always exist truths which we can not prove.

Heisenberg's uncertainty principle has a similar limiting effect on knowledge: knowledge about one physical property is gained at the expense of not being able to know other properties.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 1:30 pm 
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I am weak in many aspects of mathematics. From the stuff on this guy I have found through Google it seems I would have to study an awful lot just to understand what he is saying, let alone be able to think with it well enough to discuss intelligently. So I'll bow out of that one.

What do you think of the concept of "workable truths"? As in the idea that the acceptance of A, as a theory, leads to a technique T that gives worthwhile results in some field that would not have been developed without the concept of A. I hope that can be followed. A might not be susceptible to proofs in any other way that we can think of but we do get results from looking at things that way.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 3:46 pm 
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thsman wrote:
What do you think of the concept of "workable truths"? As in the idea that the acceptance of A, as a theory, leads to a technique T that gives worthwhile results in some field that would not have been developed without the concept of A. I hope that can be followed. A might not be susceptible to proofs in any other way that we can think of but we do get results from looking at things that way.

I'm all for working hypotheses of this sort, but I'd shy away from using the term "truth" in association with it, mostly because people have higher expectations of "truth". The contradiction of a "workable truth" can also be a "workable truth" in a different theoretical framework.

I'm actually quite a fan of Carnap's "linguistic frameworks" model (from "Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology"). Decisions about which linguistic framework to use are pragmatic in nature, and there's no reason to insist that a single such framework be used all the time. As an example, one might adopt a mathematical framework in which division by zero is not insoluble, just to see if it has a useful application in some field or other.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:00 pm 
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I can see that for a philosopher "workable truth" would tend to irritate:-)

Do you know the work of David Chalmers? I've just found a pdf of his called "The Conscious Mind". I'm finding it irritating. He begins well but then when he pins down what he means by consciousness I find I'm not reading the book I'd hoped to read.

Do you know anyone who has anything sensible to say about "I" as a being. As in "I decide" "I love" "I create" "I intend" "I understand". These "I"s being distinguished from "I am in pain" when referring to one's stubbed toe.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:53 pm 
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thsman wrote:
I can see that for a philosopher "workable truth" would tend to irritate

It's just a question of using words that convey meaning clearly. I think that science should embrace conflicting ideas, just to see which ideas are more workable in different circumstances. The notion that science homes in on "truth" creates resistance to this approach, since one theory is rejected in favour of the one that seems closer to "the truth".

thsman wrote:
Do you know the work of David Chalmers?

I know of Chalmers. I don't remember his exact take on the Philosophy of Cognitive Science off the top of my head.

thsman wrote:
Do you know anyone who has anything sensible to say about "I" as a being. As in "I decide" "I love" "I create" "I intend" "I understand". These "I"s being distinguished from "I am in pain" when referring to one's stubbed toe.

I'm not sure what sort of distinction that is, but it looks like you're more interested in the self as a volitional agent than an experiential one. A number of philosophers have opined on the subject of free will. The following link may give you some leads in that regard.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/f/freewill.htm

Another related subject is that of Personal Identity.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/p/person-i.htm

See if there's anything in that lot that resembles what you're looking for.


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