RE: Objective versus subjective reality: which is primary?

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Wed Jul 20 2005 - 22:06:34 MDT

> Setting aside the fact that your definition of "patterns" is rather
> vague,

That is a conceptual essay, not a rigorous scientific paper. It was
supposed to be vague. It is quite possible to operationalize my
mathematical definition of "pattern" but that requires a lot of formal
computer science stuff (the introduction of some particular universal
mathematical model like combinatory logic, etc.) which was not the point of
that conceptual paper.

> that says nothing about "qualia."

Yes, you are right that the empirical prediction I pointed out said nothing
about "qualia." I never said it did. What I said was that that essay of
mine contained some (admittedly not precisely formulated) empirical

> A physiologist could measure
> all that and verify it from an eliminativist perspective (with some
> materialist definition of patterns).

Correct: that statement I pointed out is an empirical prediction (and
possibly a quite useful one), but is not directly relevant to the issue of
qualia. I never said it was.

It is however a prediction *motivated* by the concept of qualia.

> You have to demonstrate that
> qualia can be detected from outside the system. They can't be. They
> don't exist.

Interestingly, my reaction to this statement of yours is about the same as
your initial reaction to my paper.

In other words, in these sentences, you seem to me to be stringing together
words in a completely meaningless, empty and useless way ;-)

Basically, what you do here is to implicitly define "exist" in a way that
rules out qualia, and then say qualia don't exist. Big deal! The
interesting question is: what is the right definition of "exist" ...

More on this later...

> There is no way that we could infer "redness" from any
> empirical observations if we didn't experience it ourselves.

I am not certain this is true, you certainly haven't proved it.

> Ugh. This sounds just like Robert Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality
> nonsense (just substitute "patterns" or "qualia" for "quality"), which
> isn't surprising since he too drew heavily from Charles Pierce.

Peirce not Pierce, FYI

I like Pirsig's work OK, but I thought his philosophy in "Lila" (a much
worse novel) was a lot better than in "Zen in the Art of Motorcycle
Maintenance" ....

> **Assuming** the electron exists? If a bear walks into a cave, I
> don't have to substitute a "pattern" token in its place to do anything
> useful with the information. Inference is about finding out **what's
> really there** from indirect evidence.

No, inference is about inferring propositions from other propositions, in
fact. This is standard logic. The definition of inference has nothing to
do with any theory of "reality", unless your theory is that reality consists
of logical propositions (as in John Wheeler's "it from bit" approach to
quantum-gravity pregeometry...)

>Patterns, like quality, are
> just an obfuscation.
> Your faithful Dennett-oid,

In fact, Dennett is a bit fan of the notion that "mind is made of pattern",
I believe he has an essay in Brainstorms to this effect. So if you believe
"Patterns ... are just an obfuscation", you are not a faithful Dennett-oid,
just a Martin-oid ;-)

-- Ben G

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