Archive for July, 2018

July 18, 2018

On ontology and materialism

by Neil Rickert

Recently Dan Kaufman and Massimo Pigliucci had a discussion about ontology, materialism and related topics.

Here’s Massimo’s blog post, where he introduces the video.  And you can find the discussion video on that page:

Ontology is part of metaphysics.  And I have never seriously studied metaphysics.  So I watched the video all of the way through to see what I could make of it.

Generally speaking, I’m a skeptic of metaphysics and of ontology.  After watching the video, I am still a skeptic.  But I did enjoy the discussion.

Some comments

I’ll add some of my own comments on what was discussed in the video.  I’m calling them comments, because this is not an attempt to review the video or to make serious arguments about what is discussed there.  It is just comments or reactions to what I am seeing and hearing.

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July 16, 2018

Alternative math

by Neil Rickert

Jerry Coyne posted this video at his blog:

Presumably Coyne was making a point about alternative truths.  The video clip is quite exaggerated.  I don’t expect anything like that to actually happen.   But, of course, exaggeration is often a good way of making a point.

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July 11, 2018

Patterns and lumps

by Neil Rickert

Many people, both philosophers and AI proponents, talk about patterns.  They typically suggest that we start by finding patterns in the world.  We then build up perception and knowledge based on the patterns that we find.

Sometimes people talk of “regularities” rather than of “patterns”.  The term “regularity” implies some sort of rule following.  And that fits with our ordinary idea of pattern.

So let’s examine the idea of starting with patterns or regularities

Patterns

What’s a pattern?

I’m stumped already.

I know what’s a pattern in mathematics.  I know what’s a pattern in a drawing.  But I don’t know what’s a pattern in the world.

We often find patterns in representations, whether those representations be descriptions or pictures.

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July 4, 2018

Consciousness and experience

by Neil Rickert

One of the questions that people raise about consciousness, is that of how it is possible to have experience.  By experience, here, I mean things like pain, color, smell, etc.  These are often discussed as qualia.  I don’t find qualia talk to be useful, and perhaps I’ll say why in a future post.  But there is still the question of why we experience something, rather than nothing at all.  And that’s my topic for this post.

Can a material object have experience?

It would seem strange to say that a chair or a table can have experience.  If you think of people as material objects, then you have to wonder how they could have experience.

Personally, I do not think of people as material objects.  Rather, I think of them as processes.  I’m not made of atoms, because the atoms come and go, while I stay who I am.  To me, the question of experience is to be looked at in terms of processes rather than material objects.

Before we look at processes, I should mention panpsychism.  That’s the view that everything has a little bit of psychology and a little bit of consciousness.  So a panpsychist might believe that atoms have some sort of experience.

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