RE: Books on rationality

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sat Jun 08 2002 - 22:53:17 MDT


> Foucault,
> whose historical researches--upon which he based his analysis of human
> institutions--have been refuted by people who know more about the periods
> and institutions about which he wrote.

Those debates are ongoing; I do not agree at all that Foucault's historical
conclusions have been convincingly refuted, except in some minor cases. But
to argue this stuff would be out of place on SL4 I suppose ;>

> I'll grant that Foucault did have
> considerable first hand-knowledge of human perversity, as evidenced by his
> moral obtuseness regarding HIV (i.e., he knew he was infected but
> continued
> to his promiscuous lifestyle nevertheless and without informing his
> partners).

Hey, I don't require a person to be morally admirable, in order to find
their ideas interesting!

> Bunge's "naive" realism/objectivism is, as I said, one-sided but, to me, a
> needed corrective to the radical subjectivism that has come to dominate in
> many academic departments. You wrote that we live in a
> "mind-created world"
> which we must acknowledge along with "some common reality that we all
> share." Do you consider this common reality to be a mind-consensus or an
> objective reality that exists apart from human observers? (Do we need to
> hear that tree fall in order for it to make a noise?)

I think that these words & phrases like "mind-consensus" and "objective
reality" are part of a cultural game we play, and that they're all very poor
at capturing the nature of things.

I also think that notions as abstract as this are incredibly hard to
communicate about, so it may often be the case that people who think they
disagree are saying the same thing in completely different languages...

I guess this means I sympathize with Wittgenstein's later period more than
with the Tractatus... though Novamente (my AI system) is somewhat
Tractatus-inspired with its Atoms ;>

> I would distinguish between changes to a virtual reality content
> (software)
> and changes to the underlying substrate (hardware/objective reality). Both
> can and will be changed by superintelligence. But I think that any
> superintelligence that loses controlling contact over the
> material substrate
> will be superceded by another superintelligence that does not.

And how do you know there IS any material substrate? How do you know you're
not in a simulation right now, which is running in another simulation, which
is running in another simulation? You can't. The best you can do is have

You can say "I know this stone is real because I kick it and it hurts," but
that could be the case in a simulation too, and the evil scientist running
the simulation could switch it off in 5 seconds.

This is elementary stuff, but realist philosophers don't seem to get it.
This kind of denial of the obvious reminds me of religious doctrines, which
is why realist philosophy often reminds me of a religion.

- Ben G

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