Re: Objective Anticipation

From: Stathis Papaioannou (
Date: Wed Mar 19 2008 - 05:45:58 MDT

On 19/03/2008, Lee Corbin <> wrote:

> > Aliens might consider the whole galaxy as close to a homogeneous
> > whole, with variations in temperature and clumpiness only of interest
> > to a scientist or a pedant.
> Do they have scientists? Do their instruments reach all the way down
> to the tiny size of stars? (No sarcasm; they may be gigantic beings.)

They have scientists, they have instruments, but their brains are not
like yours and mine. They think of a planet orbiting a star as
time-dependent fluctuations in the local density of a solar system
which they see as basically homogeneous. Their model predicts
everything that our model does, but the aliens are unable to see it
intuitively in the way we do.

> > How would you explain to these aliens that they've got it wrong?
> > Where is their empirical or logical error.
> Their empirical error is an apparent inability to detect drastic changes
> in density over stellar scales. For all I know, we might be making the
> same "empirical error" about quarks.

Their scientists may be able to give you density readings over a large
volume of space, but still not be able to see why humans make sharp
distinctions between the star and the surrounding space. I am not
suggesting that it is likely such an alien species would evolve, but
it is possible. And they would not be making any empirical or logical
error: their model may predict the clumpiness of various parts of
space, describe what happens in stellar evolution etc. as well as we
can - but with an alien understanding.

> > I don't want to die, and because I don't want to die, I don't want to
> > do anything that will make me suicidal, such as modifying my own mind
> > or allowing someone else to do it. I know beyond any doubt that this
> > desire to live (which incorporates beliefs about personal identity and
> > what counts as survival) is just something that evolution has
> > programmed into me, and that there is no objective basis to it.
> I'm a bit surprised that you, as a nominalist, even find the concept of
> "objective basis" useful.

Objective is all that which isn't subjective. If we agree on how to
define a star we can measure its diameter. But there is no objective
basis for saying that a star must be defined a particular way, despite
what seems natural to us.

> But I believe selves to essentially be as real
> as stars, or as real as democracy. All of these can be deconstructed,
> of course, as you and some others here have shown. One can even
> take split-brain patients, and so on. Their case is especially interesting
> because they'll dissemble for the sake of the unity of their selves.
> But when it comes down to it, it is just sophomoric to deny that you
> are the same person from moment to moment.

I accept that it would be unlikely that an evolved species would
define "person" in that way, but there is no reason why they could not
do so and still consistently describe reality.

> > If a person claims that 2+2=5 he is wrong, and if a person claims that lead
> > is denser than gold he is wrong; but if a person declares that he no
> > longer wishes to live he is *not* wrong, but simply stating a
> > predilection which happens to be contrary to the usual evolutionary
> > programming.
> Yes, exactly.
> > But understanding all this as I do, I
> which "I" ?

The "I" that seems to persist from moment to moment. Unless stated
otherwise, I use the term in the way everyone else does.

> > *still* would resist anything that would make me suicidal. Moreover,
> > I don't in the slightest regret the fact that I am trapped in this way.
> > This is what I mean by "willing slave".
> But that particular "slave" you refer to is just as illusory to your way
> of thinking as your self is, isn't it?

Once a term is defined and understood, it isn't illusory. The illusion
is the feeling that the definition must be somehow on a par with
physical facts: that the demarcation between star and not-star is
right or wrong in the same way as the value of the density in a
particular volume of space is right or wrong.

Stathis Papaioannou

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