The Meta-Problem

Philosopher and cognitive scientist Dave Chalmers, who coined the term hard problem (of consciousness), also coined the term meta hard problem, which asks why we think the hard problem is so hard. Ever since I was introduced to the term, I’ve been trying figure out what to make of it.

While the hard problem addresses a real problem — how phenomenal experience arises from the physics of information processing — the latter is about our opinions regarding that problem. What it tries to get at, I think, is why we’re so inclined to believe there’s some sort of “magic sauce” required for consciousness.

It’s an easy step when consciousness, so far, is quite mysterious.

For me, what makes the “hard” problem “hard” involves the last clause of what I take as a full statement of the question:

How does the brain, which seems to be a very complex information processing system, give rise to something that experiences, when no physical principle we know suggests such a thing is possible?

That’s the difficultly. Why should there be something it is like to be an information processing system? What physics accounts for experience?

At least a brain says it experiences something. Some suggest this is an illusion that doesn’t count, but put me firmly in the camp that says the illusion is the experience. There is definitely something it is like to be a human.

Put me also firmly in the camp that, while fully agreeing our senses and perceptions are prone to deception and illusion, also sees those as things we experience.

For me, that I experience is, as Descartes suggested, the one true fact I can count on. It is irrefutable and irreducible.

§

The meta-problem seems vaguely like the multiverse idea to me. That is, it’s a conclusion based on an assumption about reality.

In the cases of the multiverse, a perception that our universe is “fine-tuned” plus the Copernican assumption that “we’re nothing special” leads, via the Anthropic Principle, to demanding lots of other universes.

It’s as if a lottery ticket company only made and sold one ticket — which happened to be a winner. That would seem… pretty astonishing.

But when that company makes and sells many millions of tickets, then it’s no surprise one of them is a winner.

So if we see this universe as seeming special (or unlikely) but also refuse to acknowledge that it could be special, then multiverses are a way out.

Simply put: Given a winning lottery ticket, one assumes there must be a whole bunch of other (losing) lottery tickets.

§

Somewhat likewise, if we assume physicalism — that there’s no “magic sauce” in reality — then the brain is necessarily just a physical object, albeit a very complex one.

As such, we’ll eventually figure it out just as we have so many other physical systems.

Except there’s a strong argument that we haven’t really figured out so many other physical systems, plus there are some critical unsolved questions about fundamental things (e.g. what is time).

Given the complexity of the brain, it’s not impossible it could forever remain, at least a little, intractable.

Weather systems are intractable and will likely remain so for a number of reasons. Even something as basic as multi-body orbital problems are intractable.

So consciousness might remain a hard problem due to intractability, even if we figure out the physical principles behind it.

[On the other hand, deep-learning neural nets have shown an ability to find solutions for certain forms of three-body problem. I suspect a similar mechanism as allows bees to apparently solve traveling salesman problems involving paths to flowers. Natural physical systems can easily solve problems that are intractable computationally, and neural nets overall behave a bit like a natural system.]

§

In any event, the physicalism argument is that, since the brain has to be physical, then mind has to be just what a brain does. Phenomenal experience will eventually be fully explained by physical principles (although it might require new principles or forces).

On that account, the meta hard problem asks why we think the hard problem is so hard (implying we shouldn’t think that).

An interesting aspect of this is that perceptions of there being a hard problem tend not to be pre-theoretic. That is, we only see the problem, let alone how hard it is, when we learn enough about brains and minds to have some theory about how they work. Only then do we find ourselves unable to give a full account of how they work.

Only then do we realize we have no physics to explain what we live with every day.

(Or course, we can’t explain time, either, or even how it is that we even exist. We’re actually pretty ignorant about some important basic facts.)

So I am not sympathetic to the idea that perceptions of a “hard” problem are some kind of intuitive error. (To be honest, I’m a little hostile to the idea. I think it’s actually a scientism bias at work.)

§

There is, I think, a pre-theoretic form of the hard problem — one that goes back to Descartes. It may be that the meta problem speaks more to these perceptions — that consciousness, just as an artifact of reality, seems mysterious.

But here, too, I think the perception of something going on that is unique, complex, and difficult to understand (perhaps even beyond us), is a reasonable view. I think it’s inappropriate to hand-wave away the challenges.

For one thing, consciousness has a unique subjective/objective divide we don’t have in any other thing science studies. That alone makes the study of the mind unique.

And hard.

§

Let’s review…

The brain is one of the most astonishing things nature has ever produced. Its complexity, both on the large network scale and on the small synapse scale, is orders of magnitude beyond anything else we have experience with.

That the brain produces a mind is amazing (because look at what brain-minds have done in such a short time), but that a physical information processing system gives rise to personal experience is (literally) incomprehensible. (So far.)

Phenomenal experience is a fact we all experience. It is irreducible, undeniable, and incorrigible. It is the one fact we can fully trust, the one thing we can truly know.

There are no physical principles, laws, or forces, we know of that account for this. (So far.)

There is a subject/object divide we don’t see anywhere else in science.

Therefore, we’re faced with a hard problem.

A very hard problem.

§

I think the answer to the meta problem is that, once we realize what the brain amounts to, we justifiably realize that figuring it out is legitimately hard, because we don’t know what the physics are.

Even in a pre-theoretic view, things like the subject/object divide, along with how the mind behaves, justify a view that brain/mind is special and challenging.

Simply put, Chalmers was right the first time. It’s a hard problem.

Stay irrefutable, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

33 responses to “The Meta-Problem

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I’ve been starting to go through the online interviews that Richard Brown has been posting on his site. Brown leans towards biological naturalism, but is open-minded. Some of his guests have really appealed to me in terms of seeing mind as something beyond mere brain function.

    The interview with Carolyn Dicey Jennings (a neuroscientist studying attention) was especially interesting…

    Carolyn Dicey Jennings website

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I was also very taken by Susan Schneider, who is quite interesting. She’s got a couple books out I’d like to get around to reading (Artificial You, about AI and AI ethics, and Science Fiction and Philosophy).

    Susan Schneider website

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “There is a subject/object divide we don’t see anywhere else in science.”

    We already discussed SOM. SOM is a completely arbitrary distinction created by the Greeks, an arbitrary distinction with absolutely no justification whatsoever. Once SOM is jettisoned, things get simple really, really fast.

    “In any event, the physicalism argument is that, since the brain has to be physical, then mind has to be just what a brain does. Phenomenal experience will eventually be fully explained by physical principles (although it might require new principles or forces).”

    I agree. One of those new principles and/or forces is power. The notion of power has to be addressed. Power is a force intrinsically linked to change. For, if there were no such thing as change, there would be no need to address the notion of power. Power is a force which can be empirically verified by the experience of consciousness itself. Power is also a vernacular common to our everyday vocabulary. In short, power is the “stuff” that makes shit happen.

    The analysis of power begins with a simple question: Is power an objective state of the universe or, is power a subjective state of mind?

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      We did discuss the SOM, but in the context of the physical sciences, where you seemed to agree the SOM worked just fine.

      We did not discuss it in the context of consciousness, and I do get the sense your view mainly applies to that. To me there is a pretty clear subject/object divide when it comes to consciousness. If you feel it should be jettisoned, you’ll have to provide an explicit reason why the RAM (which I assume you intend as the replacement) is better.

      I’m from Missouri; I need more than assertions. 😉

      “Is power an objective state of the universe or, is power a subjective state of mind?”

      I’d say power is a derived concept with different meanings in different domains. It’s generally constructed from observations of domain-relevant objective properties.

      For example, electrical power is simply the product of voltage and current (1 volt × 1 amp = 1 watt), which are objective properties of an electrical circuit (respectively, electrical “pressure” and “volume”).

      Or, social/political power, which is derived from observations of a person’s connections, efficacy, wealth, fame, or other perceived factors.

      So I’d call power subjective in that it’s derived and intellectually constructed, but it is based on objective observed properties.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “We did not discuss it in the context of consciousness,”

    We discussed SOM in in the context of mind.

    “To me there is a pretty clear subject/object divide when it comes to consciousness.”

    I’m a little confused here. Are you asserting that mind is not somehow synonymous with consciousness and that mind is separate and distinct from consciousness?

    “If you feel it should be jettisoned, you’ll have to provide an explicit reason why the RAM (which I assume you intend as the replacement) is better.”

    I already provided that information in our previous discussions.

    “So I’d call power subjective in that it’s derived and intellectually constructed, but it is based on objective observed properties.”

    So in laymen’s terms, you are asserting that power is a subjective state of mind. Fair enough…

    Peace

    • Lee Roetcisoender

      A quick question: Do you also consider gravity, electro magnetism, the nuclear force, both the strong and weak to be subjective states of mind as well?

      Peace

      • Wyrd Smythe

        No. (Nor do I quite agree power is a ‘subjective state of mind’ — in part because I’m not sure exactly what you mean by ‘state of mind’ — actual mental states or subjective analysis involving lots of mental states?)

        From a Kantian perspective, all we know is our mind model, so in that sense everything is subjective. But if one grants realism, one accepts the objective properties of real objects. The nuclear and EM forces, in our current model, are due to bosons, which we consider objects. (QFT sees them as vibrations in their respective fields.) Gravity is seen as the warping of space due to energy, both of which are seen objectively.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “We discussed SOM in in the context of mind.”

      We touched on it, but didn’t get far with it. My point here is just that, to be clear, as far as I can tell, your objection to the SOM involves only the study of consciousness, not the physical sciences. At one point I got the impression your objection to SOM applies strictly to philosophy:

      SOM works great for the discipline of science where the interest is focused only on matter. SOM is problematic for metaphysics and philosophy.

      “Are you asserting that mind is not somehow synonymous with consciousness”

      Certainly not. I’m asserting consciousness has a subjective component as well as an objective one.

      “I already provided that information in our previous discussions.”

      If this and this is what you mean, I’m just not persuaded.

      (BTW, you’re welcome for the acronym RAM. 😀 😉 )

      “So in laymen’s terms, you are asserting that power is a subjective state of mind.”

      I’m not sure I would agree with that. Depends on what you mean by a state of mind.

      I said power is a derived construct based on objective properties. It’s subjective in that we give certain specific combinations of those properties the label “power.”

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        “Certainly not. I’m asserting consciousness has a subjective component as well as an objective one.”

        You appear to be conflating subject with subjective when you stated that there is a pretty clear subject/object divide when it comes to consciousness.”

        A subject has qualitative properties that are indeterminate wherein the term subjective means subordinate.

        “I said power is a derived construct based on objective
        properties. It’s subjective in that we give certain specific combinations of those properties the label “power.””

        Right, I understand what you mean. Do you also consider gravity, electro magnetism, the nuclear force, both the strong and weak to be derived constructs based on objective properties as well, all four being subjective in that we give certain specific combinations of those properties the label gravity, electro magnetism, the nuclear force, both the strong and weak?

        Peace

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “A subject has qualitative properties that are indeterminate wherein the term subjective means subordinate.”

        Not according to Wikipedia or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

        “Do you also consider gravity, electro magnetism, the nuclear force, both the strong and weak to be derived constructs based on objective properties as well…”

        Not quite in the same sense as power. Bosons aren’t derived from anything else. One can argue gravity is derived from how energy affects spacetime, but that feels like a force-fit to me. I tend to see the bosonic forces and gravity as fundamental along with spacetime, matter particles, and energy. We derive other things from them.

        Power as a physics concept has various aspects, but they’re all based on objective properties. Power is just a mathematical combination of two or more, so I’d view power in this context as fairly objective.

        Certainly touching a 200 watt soldering iron gives one an appreciation for the objective reality of (electrical) power.

        The social forms of power are very subjective, both in terms of what factors are perceived to indicate power, and in the evaluation of those factors. Power in physics is a standard quantity; social power is much more amorphous.

        At this point I have to ask: What does any of this have to do with the “hard problem” or the “meta hard problem”?

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    I like Richard Brown’s interviews. I usually listen to them via the podcast. I’m not wild about the biological naturalism, but nobody’s perfect. 🙂

    I recently tried to read Peter Carruther’s new book, and was reminded why I’m reading less and less philosophy of mind these days, even when I mostly agree with it. But one point he made that I found interesting is how much work philosophy professors have to do to make their students see the hard problem. Admittedly, it’s not unusual to have to convince students of philosophical problems, such as the problem of induction.

    Anyway, a great deal seems to hinge on whether we regard introspection as infallible. On the one hand, it tells us what it tells us, and we can’t doubt the contents of what it’s telling us. Even an experience of a hallucination is undoubtedly the experience it is. That’s largely tautological, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s easy to conflate that basic truth with the other proposition, whether those contents accurately reflect reality.

    As I noted in my post, our attitude toward introspection’s infallibility or fallibility represents a fork. On the infallibility side, there are aspects of our experience that defy physical explanation and consciousness is scientifically hopeless. On the fallibility side, we can ask why we feel experience has those qualities, and progress is possible.

    With Chalmers, it’s worth noting that he still holds out that the solution to the meta-problem is that there really is a hard problem. But I respect how even handed he is in discussing the possibilities.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      LOL, I try not to hold Brown’s biological naturalism against him, either. (He replied to a comment I made on his blog to the effect that he didn’t think a Positronic Brain was likely to work.) Obviously we see eye-to-eye when it comes to computationalism… 😉

      “Admittedly, it’s not unusual to have to convince students of philosophical problems, such as the problem of induction.”

      Yeah, it just shows that students are stupid. 😀 😀

      But seriously, folks,…

      “Anyway, a great deal seems to hinge on whether we regard introspection as infallible.”

      I’m not yet on board with the idea that matters so much.

      After all, everything in our mental model (which is all we got) is fallible and inaccurate. Yet we are able to navigate successfully through the world. We also make instruments that seriously improve the accuracy of our perceptions.

      I think, for me, the argument breaks down on:

      “On the infallibility side, there are aspects of our experience that defy physical explanation and consciousness is scientifically hopeless.”

      I think, firstly, there is no infallible side when it comes to the content of our thoughts. That content is subject to error, ignorance, and deception. What is infallible is that we are having those thoughts. (As with the hallucination example.)

      Secondly, I don’t connect the infallibility of having experience with, for example, the inability to perceive low-level brain activity. That I can’t see my blind spot doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and can’t be analyzed with objective tools.

      So my pre-theoretic conception of consciousness as mysterious, or my post-theoretic conception of a hard problem, to me, doesn’t mean science can’t still progress. I just don’t see what the infallibility of experience really has to do with it.

      The way I see it, on the presumption the brain, and therefore the mind, obeys physical law, it can be explored by science. But it is possible, for a number of reasons, science may find the problem intractable or opaque. (I noticed Gödel being mentioned on your blog. Exactly.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Okay, your statements make me think we’re closer on this than I thought. Perhaps the difference is that for me, understanding them answers the following question:

        “How does the brain, which seems to be a very complex information processing system, give rise to something that experiences, when no physical principle we know suggests such a thing is possible?”

        Once we know that the contents of our mind can be inaccurate in terms of what it purports to represent, then we know not to trust propositions that only come from those contents, particularly ones that imply something beyond physics. To me, that gives science traction, and we already know a good amount about how experience is constructed, although there remains an enormous amount to learn.

        I don’t really see Gödel as an issue. And if we gain something like meteorology’s fundamental understanding of weather, I think we’ll know a lot, even if we won’t be able to make precise predictions. But only time will tell.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “…particularly [mental contents] that imply something beyond physics.”

        Firstly, yeah, I agree there isn’t much daylight between us on this. We totally agree, on the presumption of physicalism, that science can study the brain effectively.

        Secondly, I think the above illustrates where there is a bit daylight.

        Along the lines of teachers having to lead students to seeing the hard problem, I’ve never based my view of the hard problem on the ineffableness or infallibility of my mental content. That view is based on analysis and an understanding of physics.

        (I might be an outlier on this — I seem to be on many things.)

        Two things factor in: [1] I agree my mind is not a fully reliable tool, so I know not to trust neither gut instinct nor even first analysis. As an old saying goes, “Trust, but verify.” Due to my track record in life, I do trust my gut and my analysis to some degree, but I use multiple sources and double-checks because that track record is nowhere near perfect. [2] There are other mysteries, such as time or quantum gravity, that seem equally challenging, so I don’t see consciousness as uniquely challenging. We might figure out consciousness while time remains a mystery.

        So, I think I’m trying to say that: My mental content, and my perceptions of that mental content, aren’t a factor in my view of the hard problem and science approaching it. That make sense? Maybe we’re just climbing the mountain along different paths. We certainly agree none of this cock-blocks science.

        “I don’t really see Gödel as an issue.”

        Agreed. Unless Tegmark’s MUH is right, applying Gödel to real life is almost certainly just metaphorical. (There is the Johari Window thing, which is sort of Gödel-ish, but it’s more about psychology than physics.)

        Weather is a good example. We do have an understanding of the dynamics that gets better and better as we study. (Recently I watched some leading edge visual simulations of tornadoes which show the state of weather simulation today.)

        The thing is, our (imperfect, but good) understanding of weather allows us to run an approximation (10 meter spacing) of (part of) a real system. That simulation is accurate enough to tell us important things — the visualization shows (probably accurate) things never seen before.

        As an aside: A lot of the science announcements I’m seeing lately involve things learned from simulations of some model, and, for me, that creates some skepticism points on the discovery. Models depend on how well the problem is understood, how well the model actually works, and whether computations provide accurate enough results. So many possible slips twixt cup and lip there. (Trust, but verify!)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Oops. I’ve got NPR Tiny Desk Concert with Sheryl Crow running full screen on my other monitor, so I (understandably) got distracted and hit [Send] before I finished…

        We can run rough simulations, but we’re hitting current computational limits, so (my point being) our understanding can outstrip our ability to leverage it.

        As we’ve discussed before, even if computationalism works out and we fully understand the brain-mind and it can be computed, the ability to do so might remain elusive.

        [Sheeze, no wonder I got distracted. 15 minutes into a 35 minute video, and YouTube just handed me the third commercial break. (Ironically while watching an NPR video.) But I have to shift attention to click [SKIP!!!] so I think that’s what happened before. Anyway.]

        Anyway, as we’ve talked about, we may need new forms of hardware — stuff more brain-like in nature.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Your version of the hard problem sounds sort of like what we could call the “practical hard problem”, the problem of understanding how the brain works, a difficult problem, but one amenable to scientific investigation. It reminds me of something Dehaene said in his book. He thought Chalmers’ category of the “easy problems” were the actual hard problems.

        Your terminology of the hard problem seems more practical than most people who talk about it. (Admittedly, this is a broad group and language is often ambiguous, so it can be hard to tell.) I think about people like Philip Goff, who thinks the more metaphysical hard problem he’s troubled by is utterly beyond scientific investigation, at least in the way science has been conducted in the last 400 years. (He just published a book called “Galileo’s Error”, arguing that quantifiable science is fundamentally incapable of addressing qualitative issues, like consciousness.) Goff’s conception of the problem seems similar to Chalmers’, and it’s what I have in mind when I think about that issue.

        I totally agree on scientific simulations. In my mind, they’re really just theoretical predictions, which might be novel and unforeseen, and therefore interesting. How much credence we give them seems like it should depend on the status of the theory they’re built on. But it doesn’t seem like that credence should ever be as high as real data, the results of actually testing predictions. What separates science from philosophy is the reality check.

        On the hardware, again I don’t know that we’re that far apart. My take is that modern computer hardware may be able to emulate a mind in principle, but it would likely be hopelessly bloated, inefficient in terms of power, and horrendously slow. It isn’t really that far from your position of it not being possible in principle. I think we agree that a different kind of hardware will likely be necessary.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “He thought Chalmers’ category of the ‘easy problems’ were the actual hard problems.”

        Heh, there’s clearly a spectrum. For me the key distinction involves whether we have some idea of the physics involved. All Chalmers’ “easy problems” (IIRC) involved foreseeable physics. That phenomenal experience arises from information processing does not.

        It’s why I also classify understanding time as a hard problem — we’re clueless about the physics. We might (and this is certainly my view) have to accept time as axiomatic, fundamental.

        It’s possible some combination of high-level panpsychism and IIT speaks to an emergent physical phenomenon that turns out to be fundamental in some sense. A provision in the laws of physics (this is kind of Chalmers’ natural dualism view) that allows something fundamental in the right context.

        Perhaps something related to what I discussed in my post about patterns — a fundamental aspect of the universe that opposes entropy and generates complex structures.

        (Don’t forget that I have dualist and spiritual leanings — I just confine myself to physicalism to discuss it with you atheists. 🙂 But I am open to dualist views that would make the hard problem especially hard. Even so, assuming the existence of a god, I’m not sure science can’t study certain aspects of it. Metaphysics still must have some physics to be relevant. It might turn out like Gödel or Turing, that we understand the system, but never fully.)

        The fact that all of these balls are potentially in play makes consciousness a pretty hard problem. 😀

        “I think about people like Philip Goff, who thinks the more metaphysical hard problem he’s troubled by is utterly beyond scientific investigation,”

        I just watched the Goff interview with Richard Brown — it’s the second one I’ve seen on his channel. I have to be honest, I’m not whelmed by Goff. If I were being snide, I’d say his hand-waving is the sort of thing that turns people off to philosophy. That said, a comment on the blog mentions that Goff represents better in other venues (I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t grabbed), so I should probably check those out. Or at least read one of his papers.

        “What separates science from philosophy is the reality check.”

        Ha! Yeah,… reality checks are a Good Thing. 😀

        “It isn’t really that far from your position of it not being possible in principle.”

        Agreed, and even closer given I’d insert a “maybe” in front of “not being possible in principle.” My only argument is that the evidence warrants skepticism.

        For me there is a potential category error in the view that “the brain computes (but not like a conventional computer), therefore a conventional computer can emulate a brain.” (And it’s exactly why I don’t like saying the brain “computes” — I feel it confuses the issue.)

        But never mind computationalism. We know each other’s views and can save it for when I write another post about it. We do agree on the hardware aspects.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’m pretty agnostic on time. Even if we do eventually discover that it’s emergent from something else, we’ll have to deal with whatever that is.

        “Don’t forget that I have dualist and spiritual leanings — I just confine myself to physicalism to discuss it with you atheists.”

        I often get that impression from you. Obviously that’s not me, although I’m not militant when it comes to religion or spirituality. In fact, these days I prefer not to get into debates about them. I haven’t found it to be productive. I’ve more or less coming to the same conclusion for substance dualism.

        “I have to be honest, I’m not whelmed by Goff.”

        Goff often gives me facepalm moments, both in audio and written format. I recognize he’s an extreme case. But yeah, he does make me wonder whether philosophy of mind is worth bothering with.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Totally agree debating religion or spirituality isn’t productive (discussing it with like minds can be). Thomas Aquinas referred to faith as a deliberately irrational act, and since debate is rational, there’s a disconnect there.

        That’s why I tend to stick to physicalism in debates!

      • James Cross

        “Once we know that the contents of our mind can be inaccurate in terms of what it purports to represent, then we know not to trust propositions that only come from those contents, particularly ones that imply something beyond physics.”

        But why particularly ones that imply something beyond physics? If you’re into not trusting your mind contents, why single out physics as something to trust? I would think you would want to mistrust the things you think you are the most sure about. You seem to be into trusting the things you already believe and calling what you don’t believe as untrustworthy contents of (somebody else’s?) mind. My experience in difficult problem solving is that often the solution is revealed in some unquestioned assumption that was wrong.

        Even physics provides only a provisional truth and whether it provides any insight on mind is still an open question. So far it hasn’t solved anything in regard to it that I know of.

        I don’t see your introspection argument as a particularly good one. Even if we know the contents of our mind can be inaccurate, that doesn’t by itself help us to detect which parts are accurate and which are not.

        The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

        Richard P. Feynman

      • Wyrd Smythe

        FWIW, I tend to agree regarding our intuition, but I think Mike’s fork doesn’t depend on that. The two paths involve whether or not you think something metaphysical is going on (in which case science may not be able to investigate, at least not fully).

        It’s almost like faster-than-light versus faster-than-sound: one depends on new physics, the other is just an engineering problem (because we knew natural things went faster than sound). The fork here involves the same object, but it’s the same basic hard (or impossible) vs foreseeable distinction.

      • James Cross

        Ultimately physics is representations in our collective minds. We would like to think due to the scientific method that it consists of higher quality, more veridical representations than other random ideas that might occur to us, especially ideas that do not derive from the scientific method. However, it is still just representations and, if you are going to argue for a radical questioning of introspection approach, you probably shouldn’t omit from skeptical consideration even the things you are most sure about. I don’t think physics is done yet so why would some new physics be immediately ruled out unless you are prepared to offer a good explanation with existing physics?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’m not sure who you’re responding to here, but I think it’s me?

        “Ultimately physics is representations in our collective minds.”

        Sure, but as Mike points out, those (shared!) representations present a consistent picture of a concrete reality. Science is nothing more than the study of how reality presents to us, and our “justified true beliefs” depend on persistence and predictability.

        Am I justified in believing the sun will rise tomorrow? Based on the persistence and predictability of my experience, yes. Based on the reports of others, even more so yes. Based on a factual analysis of how the Solar System works (which is based on observation and instruments), totally way yes!

        But, of course, it might not. 😀

        Simply: We trust physics because it’s proven trustable.

        “…if you are going to argue for a radical questioning of introspection approach, you probably shouldn’t omit from skeptical consideration even the things you are most sure about.”

        Totally! Nothing is immune from analysis.

        “I don’t think physics is done yet so why would some new physics be immediately ruled out unless you are prepared to offer a good explanation with existing physics?”

        I’m not ruling anything out. (Including the possibility of new physics.)

      • James Cross

        It was to you and I mostly agree but maybe a little less confident about the sun. 🙂

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        “why single out physics as something to trust?”

        For me, it’s because physics models have consistently been shown to be predictive. My experience with non-physical models hasn’t given me much reason to put credence in them.

        “You seem to be into trusting the things you already believe and calling what you don’t believe as untrustworthy contents of (somebody else’s?) mind.”

        Well sure. Isn’t that what we all do? We all assess things within our worldview. My worldview is based on models I perceive to have a record of success. Occasionally I have to revise my views of a model. As a scientific skeptic, I try to be ready to do that, but only when the evidence or reasoning is there.

        “Even physics provides only a provisional truth and whether it provides any insight on mind is still an open question. So far it hasn’t solved anything in regard to it that I know of.”

        I think provisional truth is all we ever get.

        In my view, psychology and neuroscience have given us substantial insights. But I know you’re aware of a lot of that information and don’t agree. All I can ask is, what would it have to look like for you to agree that it’s an insight?

        “Even if we know the contents of our mind can be inaccurate, that doesn’t by itself help us to detect which parts are accurate and which are not.”

        If we get corroboration from other sources of information, I think it increases the probability of accuracy. But in the absence of corroboration, we should be cautious. When it outright contradicts reliable models, I think it’s rational to be skeptical.

        “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
        Richard P. Feynman”

        Yep. Of course, everyone always thinks the other guy is the one fooling themselves. Seeing it in ourselves is extremely difficult.

      • James Cross

        “For me, it’s because physics models have consistently been shown to be predictive. ”

        It’s not so simple. The Ptolemaic system was predictive too. Science can be predictive and still wrong.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Of course! Science is always conditional on new information or understanding.

        Science never proves anything, but it can disprove something. It trims invalid branches off of theory space, but it can only ever have some level of confidence in the remaining theory space.

        (Heh,… kind of like the Mandelbrot. You can calculate points outside the Mset, but you can never really calculate the ones inside — all you ever have is a level of confidence.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        The Ptolemaic system accurately predicted naked eye observations pretty much as well as the Copernican system. The differences in their predictions weren’t testable until the telescope. Once they were, the Ptolemaic system quickly fell from favor (at least quickly in historical time scales).

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    (“Do you also consider gravity, electro magnetism, the nuclear force, both the strong and weak to be derived constructs based on objective properties as well…”)

    “Not quite in the same sense as power.”

    That comment is clearly an arbitrary distinction with no real justification other than….. “It’s what I choose to believe.”

    “What does any of this have to do with the “hard problem” or the “meta hard problem”?”

    I was attempting to establish a fundamental working knowledge and/or common ground upon which we could agree. It does not appear that is going to take place.

    Every body likes to throw around the sheik and popular verbiage when discussing consciousness, vocabulary like subjective experience, subjects, objects, subjectivity and objectivity, but nobody really understands those terms and what they mean in the context of the SOM paradigm.

    After reviewing the texts your referenced, even those contributors do not understand the underlying form of SOM, they are only concerned with the surface appeal of the SOM paradigm in an isolated context. It is becoming quite apparent to me that no one in the field of consciousness research has a fundamental working knowledge of SOM, let alone an academic level of understanding. And I’m not even addressing novices like yourself. So any attempt on my part to discuss the topic is a waste of my time.

    With that, I am quite finished.

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “That comment is clearly an arbitrary distinction with no real justification other than….. ‘It’s what I choose to believe.'”

      If you mean I choose to (provisionally) believe in the Standard Model and General Relativity, then I guess so.

      You bounced the “power” ball into my court and I’ve returned it to you. If you want to think my view is based on arbitrary distinctions, you’re free to do so, I stand by what I said. If you think something I said is wrong, show me why, and show me what’s more correct. Be expected to prove it.

      You raised a question about power, I responded, and so the ball is back in your court?

      “I was attempting to establish a fundamental working knowledge and/or common ground upon which we could agree. It does not appear that is going to take place.”

      If you mean your hand-waving about “power” I haven’t seen anything that amounts to a theory I could take seriously enough to either disagree or agree with.

      I’ve said a few times now I’m all about specifics, details, and examples. Even metaphors or analogies. Or at least something that resembles an argument.

      “And I’m not even addressing novices like yourself. So any attempt on my part to discuss the topic is a waste of my time.”

      I’m so sorry to have wasted your time.

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        “I’m so sorry to have wasted your time.”

        It’s nobody’s fault Wyrd, effective communication is difficult even on a good day, let alone a bad one. These blogs are not the best venue for effective communication, they are more of a stage where one can display the prowess of one’s own dialectic skills. It’s an alpha male sort of thing I guess.

        Even though your approach is aggressive in both nature and tone, you do drop subtle hints along that path of aggression which suggest you may not necessarily be as bigoted as you first appear. Hints like: “If you mean I choose to (provisionally) believe…” Provisional is a good word, for in this place, all truth is provisional, meaning; it’s merely “useful” until something better comes along. And we need something “better” if the conversation of consciousness has any chance of moving forward. And that is all my work represents, something better, which opens up a window of opportunity for progress.

        Peace

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “…which suggest you may not necessarily be as bigoted as you first appear.”

        Go to hell, Lee. Please take your hand-waving bullshit somewhere else. I’m not interested.

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