This is getting very exciting for me. I would like to thank you, Dick, and Alan for putting the work you have into this discussion. All of your efforts are helping me get some glimpses of not only the concepts you are each trying to describe, but also it seems to me that there are some important glimpses of the basic constitution of reality being presented.
***Here I think your analogy breaks down from what I am saying. The analogy with ET might better illustrate what I'm saying.***
I'm not sure what you mean by "breaks down", but it occurs to me that both of our analogies have a flaw, or a feature, that makes them not applicable to what Dick is trying to say.
In my analogy, there are two sentiences: you and the kid. In yours, there are also two: me and the alien. We both described a particular communication situation between two sentiences. In Dick's model, there is only one sentience: you. The communication problem Dick describes is you taking information from some unspecified source and logically deducing what you can without knowing anything about the information.
The real world application of his model would be a scientist (the one sentience) using Dick's method to display, or organize the information coming from nature and making its way to the consciousness of the scientist via telescopes, meters, spectrometers, etc.
In your analogy and in mine, where the information is coming from a sentience, it would be reasonable to expect the information to be coded. But in Dick's case, that would be an unwarranted, although not disallowed, assumption.
My 5 numbered scenarios were not meant as analogies to describe Dick's model, or his method of producing a model. They were meant instead to be analogies of the conversation (this present conversation) between you and Dick. In this conversation, there are two sentiences: you and Dick. Which of you is the "you" and which is the "kid" in the analogy varies depending on how you view each others positions. I tried to spell out a few different variations.
So, the crux, as I see it, and the glimpse of something important that seems to be involved, is the question of the role of sentience in addressing the question of what is going on in reality.
The fact that in order for two people to even discuss the question, there are at least those two sentiences involved. But they confound and confuse the issue. They need to be clearly separated out and their roles need to be understood.
***Hence, I am willing to consider abstract concepts if you and Dick are willing to concede that all abstract concepts require some epistemological basis for those concepts.***
Here is where we are stuck, at the moment. Dick and I are not willing to concede what you ask. And, from your statement, "I think anyone who tries to totally divorce themselves from the tangible world is deluding themselves", I take it that even though you might be willing to consider abstract concepts, you are not willing to let go of the "herbs and spices".
We may be able to get around this impasse, however, if we realize that there are the two separate contexts of communication. One between a pair of us sentient posters (you and me), and the other between a hypothetical "scientist" and the "universe".
***Abstract concepts only have meaning because there is a whole history of transition between the tangible to the abstract.***
I agree 100% with this in the context of a couple of us attempting to communicate via these posts. In fact one of the attendent difficulties comes from the fact that each of us has a slightly different such "history of transition".
But in the context of a hypothetical "scientist" trying to model the "universe", it is entirely possible to do so by considering concepts completely devoid of meaning. Alan has given us some insight as to how this may be done. His "games" of "musical chairs" etc. are meant to be meaningless concepts, even though he uses familiar analogies, which of course have meaning to us, to describe the concepts.
***However, what you cannot do is divorce the original meaning that imputes those numbers with human meaning. It might look that way to someone who knows for a fact that they are thinking abstractly, but this is only fooling oneself.***
Yes, I know you disagree with my previous paragraph, but I think you are wrong. I think the great mathematicians have succeeded in divorcing meaning from their concepts. Are they fooling themselves? I don't think so. They freely acknowledge that even though you may impute some "meaning" to their formal statements, there is in fact none.
***Your knowledge is only knowledge because it can be reduced to tangible objects and the original assumptions you made of those tangible things.***
This is where I think it gets exciting. What you are talking about here, Harv, is the traditional way of accumulating knowledge by humans. It is the long, slow struggle of humans to form concepts, communicate them, make sense of them, test them, and gradually build up what we know, or think we know, about the universe.
What Dick is offering, is a new method to augment this traditional method. His method starts with nothing from the traditional source, except for mathematics. And as I have tried unsuccessfully to convince you of, mathematics today is based on a foundation that has been swept clean of any taint of herbs and spices from our tradtional "knowledge" of reality. It is based on a strictly abstract and meaningless set of concepts. Dick starts with that basis, and derives constraints on what is possible for a physical universe that are surprisingly like the "traditional" laws of physics.
What Dick is trying to get you to do is to hop out of that traditional methodology for the moment, and consider his method of seeing what can be deduced from really basic first principles.
We certainly don't want to abandon the traditional method, but if we use Dick's method to tell us what can and cannot be at the outset, then searching for mathematical models of reality should be much more efficient.