Re: Objective Anticipation

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Wed Mar 19 2008 - 00:59:50 MDT

Stathis writes

> It's not a fallacy to speak of a star's centre, as long as the term
> has some definition that we can all agree on.

In the swirling dance of gluons and quarks, you're not going
to be able to give any pristine definition of "centre" (or "center"
as we write on this side of the oceans).

That's just one problem with these rotten Aristotelian "definitions"
and why I cannot recall ever seeing any progress made in a
discussion by someone trying to define something. If your
interlocutor doesn't understand a certain term, re-phrase or
look for synonyms.

> What is wrong is to ascribe special significance to the centre,

It is sometimes useful in some models of the solar system; don't
completely give it short shrift.

> as if this had some basis in physics rather than being a cultural
> peculiarity. An alien civilisation might reference everything to
> the points where the star's axis of rotation cuts a surface where
> the density is...

Well, we're all free---and in physics even encouraged---to use
different and various coordinate systems. Even using different
coordinate systems (or, God forbid, different "definitions") we
are still referring to the same reality out there.

> exactly one seventh that of water at 56.356 degrees Celsius.
> They understand what you mean by "centre" but are mystified
> as to why you find it special. Are you going to tell them that
> they're idiots?

Has it ever occurred to them that they can approximate the
entire trajectory of a moving body by assuming its mass is
concentrated at one point? Answer me that, and I'll tell
you whether or not they're idiots.

>> Of course [continues my parody of Stathis], we understand
>> how people and astronomers came to this faulty conclusion;
>> [of thinking that there are such things as stars]
>> it's just that having that sort of mindset was conducive to
>> the survival of the "star-meme", a reification that enables
>> it to spread easily from "mind" to "mind", and helps
>> astronomers gain more information about what's out there.

> Not exactly. We know that humans have come to "naturally" delineate a
> star from the surrounding space and matter because of the way their
> minds and sense organs have evolved to detect electromagnetic
> radiation, for example.


> 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.)

> 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.

>> Stathis---the real one, again---agrees:
>> > Strictly speaking, yes; why should I care about some guy that wakes up
>> > in my bed tomorrow morning and thinks he's me? Why should I care about
>> > him even if he *does* have a lot in common with me and will tend to
>> > further my projects? Since I know I won't be around anyway, making
>> > plans beyond the next second is just evolution's ploy to help propagate
>> > a certain set of genes.
>> Well, as soon as you are uploaded, you can take care of that, Stathis!
>> You can reprogram yourself so that you won't make plans for the
>> future, so long, say, as you can contribute money or something to
>> see to it that your projects continue to be worked on. Oh, you don't
>> "want" to? (Actually, I wonder "who" this "you" is who's saying this
>> right now.) But please see below.
>> > In fact, so is having any sort of goal or feeling. But the point is,
>> > understanding all this does not make me want to reprogram my
>> > brain so that I am free of it... since that too would be contrary
>> > to my programming. I'm a kind of willing slave.
>> Don't give up so easily! You can free yourself from your slavery!
>> Just give the AI who awakens you from cryonic suspension,
>> or who oversees your uploading, explicit instructions to make
>> those changes that you won't have the will power to do yourself.
>> Do you want to be a "willing slave" forever? Besides, there must
>> be other words for slaves who want to remain slaves.
> 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. 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.

> 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" ?

> *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?


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