Posts tagged ‘information’

March 28, 2014

Direct vs. representational perception — the discussion

by Neil Rickert

In prior posts (here and here), I have illustrated representational methods and direct methods.  The illustrations were from science, because that is more public so easier to demonstrate the contrast.  I believe that they illustrate well enough, the distinction between direct and indirect perception.  Both aim to provide the same sort of information about the world.  The method is different, though perhaps the differences are small enough to be confusing.

The primary distinction here is that direct perception is simpler and more direct, and does not rely on computation or inference.  This is why I see direct perception as more likely to be what has evolved, and thus a more likely candidate for explaining human perception.

Double categorization

One way of seeing the distinction is to look at it in terms of categorization.  Here, I use “categorization” to refer to the dividing up of the world into parts (or categories).  This comes from the old idea (from Plato?) of carving the world at its seams, though the seams might actually be man-made.

February 4, 2014

On vjtorley on ID, religion, metaphysics

by Neil Rickert

Vincent Torley, who posts under the handle “vjtorley” at Uncommon Descent, has a longish post on Intelligent Design and related topics:

I encourage you to read the full post by vjtorley.  Here, I want to give my reaction to only some of the issues that he raises.  I’ll note that his post grows out of an online discussion with theologian James McGrath, and is a followup to an earlier thread about that discussion.

Torley says, of McGrath:

As far as I can tell, Dr. McGrath doesn’t necessarily think God created the laws of Nature; nor does he believe in miracles. As might be expected, he doesn’t believe in the Divinity of Christ.

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October 28, 2013

Thoughts on computationalism

by Neil Rickert

Recently, Massimo Pigliucci hosted a discussion of the computational theory of mind on his Rational Speaking podcast, with an accompanying post on his blog:

That blog post has a link to the podcast.  I listened to that podcast this morning, and will comment on it in this post.

I have been clear that I am skeptical of computationalism.  And Pigliucci is equally clear that he, too, is a skeptic.  But I don’t plan to repeat those earlier posts here.

Analog computation

What surprised me about the discussion, was that O’Brien emphasized analog computation.  Perhaps O’Brien is conceding that there might be problems with computationalism in the form of digital computation.

I remember, perhaps around 15 years ago, somebody argued for analog computation rather than digital computation.  This was in a usenet post, and possibly the poster was Stefan Harnad.  I remember, at the time, that my response was something like:

June 2, 2013

Consciousness 4: Knowledge

by Neil Rickert

In an earlier post in this series, I wrote:

In short, it is the problem of knowledge that needs to be explained, rather than the problem of experience.

So today I will begin discussing the question of knowledge.

Empiricism

My starting point is a kind of empiricism.  That is to say, I take the view that we acquire knowledge through experience.  Or, said differently, knowledge is not inherited.  The empiricism of John Locke seems in about the right direction, though of course Locke left much unexplained.  Locke talked about ideas, and I take that to be about the same as what we mean when we talk of concepts.  The question of knowledge, for Locke appears to be one of how we acquire our ideas or concepts.

By the time we get to Hume, the discussion has changed.  Empiricism, to Hume, seems to be a question of how we decide which statements are true.  Now that’s a huge change.  You cannot even have a statement until you have the necessary concepts.  So an account of how we decide which statements are true will fall far short of explaining how we acquire concepts.  My version of empiricism is closer to that of Locke than to that of Hume.

May 26, 2013

Consciousness 3: Qualia

by Neil Rickert

I don’t much like the word “qualia”.  I don’t find it useful.  People who use that word (and its singular form “quale”) hope to be able to discuss questions about conscious experience.  In this post, I’ll try to address those topics without the assumptions that seem to be built into use of “qualia.”

I’ll start with a review of earlier posts in this series.

  • Experience: I have identified this with internal activity of homeostatic processes, such as are commonly found in biological systems.  In particular, I have identified “experience” (with the scare quotes) with internal event to which the system reacts, so can be said to be reactively aware.  How we become conscious, and not merely reactively aware, I take to be related to our ability to have thoughts.  I expect to discuss thought in a future post.
  • Information: I have suggested that an organism acquires information about the world, and represents this information as internal events of which the organism is reactively aware.  This reactive awareness of represented information mediates the organisms awareness or consciousness of the external world.  Perhaps one could think of information as being represented by biochemical events or by neural events.  I prefer to not be that specific, because I am discussing principles rather than implementation details.  AI proponents will want to consider whether computational events could be used instead of neural events.
    read more »

May 16, 2013

Consciousness 2: Phenomena

by Neil Rickert

Philosophers often use the word “phenomena” to refer to appearances.  Here is some text quoted from Wikipedia:

In modern philosophical use, the term ‘phenomena’ has come to mean what is experienced as given. In Immanuel Kant’s Inaugural Dissertation, On the Form and Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible World (1770), Kant theorizes that the human mind is restricted to the logical world and thus can only interpret and understand occurrences according to their physical appearances. He wrote that humans could infer only as much as their senses allowed, but not experience the actual object itself. Thus, the term phenomenon refers to any incident deserving of inquiry and investigation, especially events that are particularly unusual or of distinctive importance.  According to The Columbia Encyclopedia, “Modern philosophers have used ‘phenomenon’ to designate what is apprehended before judgment is applied.”

Kant’s point of view appears to have been that our investigation of the world begins with appearances, or phenomena.  What Kant saw as noumena, or the world in itself, was not accessible to us.  We would have to make do with phenomena.

March 11, 2013

Turning epistemology upside down

by Neil Rickert

Epistemology is a core area within philosophy.  It is concerned with questions of knowledge, information, description and truth.  And it is part of what I would like to see turned upside down.  That is to say, the way that I see questions of knowledge, information, description and truth is very different from what we find in the traditional literature.

Epistemology from a design stance

As mentioned in my earlier “upside down” post, I see traditional philosophy as based on a design stance, while I would prefer a more evolutionary stance.  So let’s start by looking at how the design stance seems to work.

December 2, 2012

HSW2 – How I see Newton’s mechanics

by Neil Rickert

This continues my discussion of how science works, a topic that I introduced in a recent post.  The “HSW” in the title of this post is intended to indicate that.  My plan, for this post, is to describe how I look at Newton’s laws.  I won’t be discussing his law of gravity here, mostly to keep this post reasonably short.  I might post on that at a future time.

A note on history

I am not an historian.  My primary concern is with how the science works, rather than with how it was discovered.  If you think that I have said something about history, then you have misunderstood.  Some of what I am discussing here might actually be due to Galileo or to other scientists.

July 29, 2012

My alternative to materialism – an outline

by Neil Rickert

Since posting “Why I am not a materialist” some comments have suggested that I really am a materialist since I am not proposing anything supernatural nor any immaterial spiritual soul.  Well, fair enough, if that is all that materialism implies.  However, the reason that I deny that I am a materialist, is that I disagree with a lot of what materialists say.  It seems to me that for those who declare themselves materialists, their materialism dictates their approach on how to explain things.  And I don’t want my methodology to be dictated by metaphysical assumptions.

June 4, 2012

On natural abiogenesis – give that man a PhD

by Neil Rickert

We all know what BS stands for.  MS means “more of the same”, and PhD means “piled higher and deeper.”  (A joke that used to circulate around college campuses).

A post at Uncommon Descent, titled “On the Impossibility of Abiogenesis” purports to prove that natural abiogenesis is impossible.  I shall detail why I see it as piled higher and deeper with nonsense.  The post is by niwrad, and I shall be quoting parts of that post and then commenting on them.

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