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Posted by Michael Levine on July 23, 2003 13:28:57 UTC

Dick,

That was a long note indeed. From other people's comments, there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding between you and some folks here. I have noticed that misunderstanding usually follows from one's attempt to say too much too quickly. It's a mistake to assume that people have some magical ability to immediately understand what a particular word means to you; give them a thousand words and the best you can possibly expect is oblivion. The worst, well, I guess we've all seen it from time to time.

I have a Ph.D. in theoretical physics but, because I found what I felt were significant logical problems in the underpinnings of physics, I dropped out of professional employment and rather spent my time considering those underpinnings.

That is a curious sentiment. I doubt there are many good physicists who don't realize the problems, logical or otherwise, in the underpinning of physics. In fact, I suspect that is exactly what keeps them going. If physics were perfect already we wouldn't need physicists, librarians would do the job just fine.

When I found what I thought was a rational attack on the issues, I could find no one who could follow the math who would even listen to my arguments. I had apparently so thoroughly alienated my thesis advisor (by failing to pursue the field he had prepared me for) that he actually refused to even look at my work.

That sounds like a sure sign of problems, don't you think?

I only asked about your background in order to discover if there was any chance you might be able to follow my thoughts. Your comments on the forum could be taken to imply a well rounded understanding of modern physics.

I understand very little physics, but anyone can easily remember what they read somewhere and repeat it. Please don't be fooled by appearances.

My discovery implies what I find to be some very interesting philosophical issues.

All philosophical issues are very interesting, at least to one person. Some issues are interesting to certain groups of people, some are universal. So far I was not able to understand where your particular issue stands.

With regard to my comments on Gothier's paper, I was curious about your reaction to my final comments that the only real issue is explaining the fact that the claims are made.

Keeping in mind that I may be missing your point, I think you reduced the issue of consciousness to the issue of explaining what would make a computer print the sentence "I am conscious". I know you deny that in your comments, but what you said later on did not appear to me to be a different problem.

The truth of the claims resides in understanding exactly what the claimant means which is clearly beyond our ability to verify.

Truth? Hmmm, I see us heading for trouble. Of course anyone has his own particular understanding of what consciousness is, so I don't want to force my view on you, I just want to share it so we can better communicate. The way I see it, "consciousness" can best be defined as "the ability to state falsehoods". As I implied in my previous post, I wouldn't be impressed by a machine that reports feeling pain when it's supposed to; what would really impress me would be a machine that reports not feeling pain when, to the best of our knowledge, it was supposed to report it.

I'm fully aware that what I said above makes little sense to most people. And that is because, in a way, I'm lying.

Even if you can indeed clearly state as a fact that people need to know they're supposed to be in pain to start feeling it (which I don't believe you can show)

I believe I can turn that statement into a tautology, which would leave you defenseless... (smile)

then the causal link simply must include what ever brings it to their attention and is not moot at all.

It is moot because tautologies are causeless. In essence, the reason people feel pain is because they do, period. The causal link is just a product of our imagination, in reality no causal link between the feeling of pain and its alleged source can be logically justified.

What is important to my perspective is the fact that in order to know anything, we must develop a reference mechanism. This is some way to catalog what we know, a mechanism to tag and identify things.

I wish I could understand your perspective, but I regret to say this is not a good start for me. You have just stated that you know how we know things. You may be correct; I can't discount the possibility that God whispered that (meta-) knowledge right into your ear, but short of getting confirmation straight from the Almighty, I have no way to evaluate whether your position starts from a solid base or not. The only thing I can do for the moment is to evaluate it for myself, and I'm quite skeptical of my ability to understand meta-knowledge, meta-logic, meta-physical, meta-linguistic issues.

All is not lost though. It's very easy to convince me of facts (as Harv recently did on computer languages). If you can offer me some facts, we may be able to build a good base of understanding on them. Other than that, I'm afraid the best we can do is get a temporarily illusion of communication, which from my experience turns into bitterness once the fraud is exposed.

I hope you can make sense of the above. I'm really interested in what you have to say as you seem a very intelligent person. Only my ability to understand is extremely limited, so I think you must keep that in mind.

Regards,

ML

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