The Codex Quaerendae

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Pfhorrest
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Aug 01, 2019 6:41 am UTC

The first proper essay in the morality and justice track is done:

On Teleology, Purpose, and the Objects of Morality.

This one feels like I spent a surprising amount of time talking about dense technical details and talking about what I'm going to talk about, and a very small amount of time actually making the substantial point on that topic. It also has the greatest number of callbacks to previous essays of any essay thus far, referencing a total of eight previous ones.

(And hey what do you know, we're on to the second page of this thread right as we get to the second main part of the Codex, how appropriate).
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Aug 16, 2019 6:20 am UTC

The next essay in the morality and justice track is done:

On the Will and the Subjects of Morality.

This one felt surprisingly easy to write, but I also feel like I said surprisingly little somehow.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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ucim
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Sat Aug 17, 2019 2:22 am UTC

from: On the Mind and the Subjects of Reality (referred there from On the Will and the Subjects of Morality)

I am also against emergentism, on the grounds that it is essentially invoking magic, and thus violates my previously established position against transcendentalism. Emergentism holds some wholes to be greater than the sums of their parts, and thus that when certain things are arranged in certain ways, new properties apply to the whole that are not mere aggregates or composites of the properties of the parts.


What do you mean by "against"? You don't like it? You think it is an unhelpful way to look at things? You think it's objectively false? You think it's subjectively bad?

Consider the idea of color. A certain arrangement of atoms can be red. That is, when I look at a thing made of those atoms objectively, red light is predominantly reflected, and this gives me the subjective experience of seeing the color red.

However, none of these atoms is itself red.

There are fun chemistry experiments where one mixes a test tube of one color liquid with a test tube of a different color liquid, and obtains a solution that is a third color (not composed of the the optical mix of the prior two colors).

Color seems to be an emergent phenomenon here, which depends not only on the atoms, but on their relationship to each other.

Emergent phenomena occur in other arenas too, including interpersonal interactions in society. Peer pressure and mob dynamics are trivial examples; this is behavior that individuals perform, but only in the presence of others. The group dynamics is reasonably thought of as emergent.

Now, there's nothing magic about this, but it is non-obvious from the components.

Why would something similar not be a reasonable way to look at philosophical issues? Emergence need not be transcendental (in the sense of being beyond the senses), and has nothing to do with faith. Thus, I find the links (against fideism -> against transcendentalism -> against emergentism) unconvincing.

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Heartfelt thanks from addams and from me - you really made a difference.

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:51 pm UTC

ucim wrote:What do you mean by "against"? You don't like it? You think it is an unhelpful way to look at things? You think it's objectively false? You think it's subjectively bad?

Throughout the whole Codex I've been saying I'm against (or I support) of this or that -ism, and that just straightforwardly means I disagree (or agree) with whatever the thesis put forward by that position is. "Objectively false" is probably the closest of the options you've presented, though in philosophy that's often about equivalent to "an unhelpful way to look at things".

Consider the idea of color.

Color is about the emission or reflection of electromagnetic radiation, which is something that the individual atoms themselves are capable of. Different combinations of atoms may change what frequencies of electromagnetic radiation are emitted or reflected, but there's nothing wholly new happening there; it's an aggregate or composite of a bunch of things that were already present in the parts. That's not emergence in the sense that I'm against, nor are any of the other examples you give. The end of the bit you quoted read:

Emergentism holds some wholes to be greater than the sums of their parts, and thus that when certain things are arranged in certain ways, new properties apply to the whole that are not mere aggregates or composites of the properties of the parts.


That's the important bit. Back on philosophy of mind, you'll note that I do agree that access consciousness is something that comes from arranging parts the right way, but that's because that's a functional, mechanical property that arises from the combination of the mechanical interactions of physical things. From later in the same paragraph you quoted:

I do agree with what I think is the intended thrust of the emergentist position, that consciousness as we ordinarily speak of it is something that just comes about when physical things are arranged in the right way. But I think that consciousness as we ordinarily speak of it is access consciousness, to be addressed later in this essay, and that access consciousness is a purely functional, mechanistic property that is built up out of the ordinary physical properties of the physical things that compose an access-conscious being, and nothing wholly new emerges out of nothing like magic when physical things are arranged in the right way.


The emergentism that I'm against is about phenomenal consciousness, the first-person experience of what-it's-like-to-be-a-thing. I'm denying the view that there is no semblance of that at all atoms etc, yet a fully-realized such experience in humans, that just appears all at once somewhere along the way there; in contrast, I'm saying whatever is going on in humans is built up out of something that's going on in the stuff we're made of. With access consciousness, the buildup of mechanical functionality is relatively clear (though science still has lots and lots of details to work out, of course). My functionalist panpsychism just says that phenomenal consciousness tracks alongside that exactly, instead of either being completely absent even in humans, or being completely absent in the stuff we're made of but suddenly, magically present out of nothing when that stuff is put together right.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
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The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Tue Aug 20, 2019 11:32 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:[I'm against (or I support)...] this or that -ism, [...] just straightforwardly means I disagree (or agree) with whatever the thesis put forward by that position is.
Fair enough. Dunno if "I'm against" is what is commonly used in philosophy for this, but for the layman, I think "I [dis]agree with" would be a clearer or more accessible construct.

Pfhorrest wrote:Color is about the emission or reflection of electromagnetic radiation, which is something that the individual atoms themselves are capable of.
It's a lot more than that. Iridescence isn't really about reflection, neither are the colors in a rainbow or the colors in an oil slick. Color is very much an emergent property. It depends on the relationships between atoms and molecules, even if those atoms and molecules do not themselves individually generate that color. The color of a feather is not a mere aggregate or composite of the colors of the parts. I think it qualifies as emergent.

Emergent does not mean magic. An emergent property is a fundamental property of an organization of things, that is not possessed by any individual thing. Individual things certainly contribute to the creation of this emergent property, but they don't contribute as a simple sum.

Emergence is not a "bulk" property; such properties are "sum of the parts". Emergence is more like a complex product of the parts.

Pfhorrest wrote:The emergentism that I'm against is about phenomenal consciousness, the first-person experience of what-it's-like-to-be-a-thing.
Well, it's quite clear that I have the first person experience of what-it's-like-to-be-me, and nobody else has it. I can't convince you it exists, but similarly, I'm pretty sure you know, from a first-person perspective what-it's-like-to-be-you. It's kind of the definition of first-person.

But it's not a thing -- it's a perspective.

Treating it as a thing essentially defines it as a soul -- the difference between a zombie and a person. To my eyes, there is no such thing. (At least, there's no evidence that there's a such thing.) Splitting consciousness that way (phenominal vs access) seems to me to be an error of treating a perspective as if it were a thng.

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Heartfelt thanks from addams and from me - you really made a difference.

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:09 am UTC

ucim wrote:It's a lot more than that. Iridescence isn't really about reflection, neither are the colors in a rainbow or the colors in an oil slick. Color is very much an emergent property. It depends on the relationships between atoms and molecules, even if those atoms and molecules do not themselves individually generate that color. The color of a feather is not a mere aggregate or composite of the colors of the parts. I think it qualifies as emergent.

I'm not denying any of that; "emission or reflection" was maybe an oversimplified way to put it, but all of that that you're talking about is still about doing things to electromagnetic waves, which is something that all the constituent particles can do, and some of those phenomena might require a whole bunch of particles to do a whole bunch of different things to achieve the effect, but it's still relying on properties or functions of the constituent parts, built up in complex ways, to achieve the overall effect. It's not like you combine a bunch of things with electromagnetic properties together the right way and suddenly something that is not reducible to electromagnetic properties occurs; I wanted to come up with a more concrete example here, but all of the other senses besides vision are reducible to electromagnetic interactions.

Emergent does not mean magic.

The way some philosophers of mind use it, it sure does. I'm aware that there is this other use that you're talking about, which is why I tried to be clear that that is not what I'm against; I'm against the tantamount-to-magic sense.

Pfhorrest wrote:But it's not a thing -- it's a perspective.

Treating it as a thing essentially defines it as a soul -- the difference between a zombie and a person. To my eyes, there is no such thing.

I made pretty much that exact argument in the essay.

Splitting consciousness that way (phenominal vs access) seems to me to be an error of treating a perspective as if it were a thng.

That's not my invention, that's just the way philosophers of mind have divided up the problem: is the kind of "consciousness" we're asking about a functional thing about having reflexive access to (awareness or control of) your own internal states, or is it some kind of ephemeral metaphysical thing? And my take on the question about the latter kind of "consciousness" is that it's nothing more than there being a first-person perspective of what it's like to be something, and that that's nothing special, that's something that everything has; what's special about human consciousness is the functionality of our brains, and the experience of what it's like to be that kind of thing, as opposed to, say, a rock, the first-person perspective of which there's not much to write home about.

It's analogous, in the newer essay on will, to the kind of free will that some people worry about, that just means freedom from determinism. I say okay, sure, we have that -- and so do electrons, and who cares, that's not anything special. What's interesting about human will isn't it's freedom from determinism, it's something about the functionality that human brains instantiate.

ETA: Maybe this is a clearer way to put it? There's a first-person experience of what it's like to be me, and what it's like to be you, and those experiences are on the whole pretty similar because we're functionally pretty similar. There's also a first-person experience of what it's like to be a bonobo, or a gorilla, or a howler monkey, which get more and more different from the experience of what it's like to be you or me. And there's a first-person experience of what it's like to be a bat, or a snake, or a fish, or an anemone, or a sea cumber, or amoeba, or an algae, or an actual cucumber, or a mushroom, or a bacterium, or a virus, or a prion, or any other protein, or simpler molecule, or atom, or any more fundamental thing. Those first-person experiences get less and less like yours or mine as the functionality of those things gets less and less like yours or mine, and it gets simpler and simpler and less interesting and worth talking about as their functionality gets simpler and less interesting and worth talking about. Somewhere along the way self-awareness, memory, goal-seeking, all the kinds of things that are important about our experience, all get lost, but those are functional differences -- and functional differences are the important ones, but not the thing we're talking about right now, we're talking about first-person experiences. And there's nowhere along the line where suddenly there is no first-person experience at all, and then one step closer to you or me and suddenly a first-person experience occurs out of nothing.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Wed Aug 21, 2019 4:04 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:And there's nowhere along the line where suddenly there is no first-person experience at all, and then one step closer to you or me and suddenly a first-person experience occurs out of nothing.
Agreed. This implies that there is a first-person experience of what it's like to be an answering machine. This implies [the kind of thinking that leads to the idea] that an answering machine can think. Not very interesting thoughts, to be sure, but it does do stuff, it does "choose" what to do based on inputs and such; it thinks..

It also implies [ditto] that there could be creatures, perhaps creatures we create, that will think thoughts we can't even begin to understand, and whose first-person experiences are beyond our comprehension.

I'm on board with that.

Pfhorrest wrote:...I'm against the tantamount-to-magic sense.
Magic is just tech we don't understand. :)

Pfhorrest wrote:...but all of that that you're talking about is still about doing things to electromagnetic waves, which is something that all the constituent particles can do...
If you're just saying there's no magic, I agree. But the idea of non-magical emergence is too useful an idea to toss out so easily. "... biology is just applied chemistry..." but the change in perspective; the encapsulation of largely irrelevant detail, the effectiveness of the shortcuts in description, make {biology} a qualitatively different thing than {chemistry}. Certainly (human) mob dynamics, while originating from elementary particle interactions, is much better understood using psychology than quantum mechanics.

In fact, this is really what "understanding" is. (This is something I've been thinking about recently.)

Consider (for example) solving a sudoko puzzle, and having an AI do the same. Even if the AI just uses brute force, it will out-solve humans if only because computer circuitry is faster than nerve endings. But is it smarter? Is that what "smart" is? I say no (even though in practice, it will still win). "Smart" has to do with abstractons. It's clever to realize that if there are two squares (in a big square) with the same two possible values, that those two squares can then be isolated out, and the remaning numbers must fit in the other squares. This shrinks the set of possibilities, and perhaps lets you determine the value of a different box you couldn't see before.

An AI that can do this, even if it takes longer to do so, is "smarter". It understands.

"Smart" has to do with constricting the solution space, not with raw speed of solution. This is what makes a clever algorithm "clever". And it's what separates {biology} from {chemistry}. It's a meaningful distinction.

To me, that's the essence of "emergence". Labeling it "magic" and then being against disagreeing with the implication is essentially making a straw man.

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Heartfelt thanks from addams and from me - you really made a difference.


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