RE: virus: existence / representation

carlw (
Wed, 10 Mar 1999 23:51:24 -0600

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf
> Of
> Sent: Wednesday, March 10, 1999 3:19 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: virus: existence / representation
> In a message dated 3/10/99 2:35:46 PM Central Standard Time,
> writes:
> << Maybe I do get what you are pointing at. The validity of
> any argument
> for the non-existence of something depends on the initial
> formalization (representation) of the object in question.
> This is why
> one can prove the non-existence of certain (defined) types
> of Gods, or
> Gods with certain sets of attributes, but not "God" in general
> (whatever said term may mean). Is that what you were talking about?
> ERiC >>
> Perhaps this is getting close to what I am saying. I think
> to really get down
> to the issue, we need to think even more generally than a
> question of the
> existence of a particular thing (like a "God" thingy) and
> talk about existence
> generally.
> For example as a pancritical rationalist, I think that if we
> pretend to
> propose that any representation is in principle subjectable
> to rational
> criticism, then even if we are not currently criticizing a
> representation, we
> ought to be able to articulate at least one form (if not more) that a
> criticism of a representation can take.
> For example a representation that "The universe exists". If
> we get too narrow
> minded about formal logic and falsifiability, then aside from being
> contradictory, it would seem a little absurd to consider "The
> universe does
> not exist" for obvious(?) reasons. When the actual form of
> criticism would be
> "The universe does not exist as represented". Which is not
> formal, in that it
> suggests another necessarily potential concept of "existence"
> that is not yet
> represented in the criticism. By shoving this potentiality
> off into the
> metaphysical realm of the currently ineffable, we can proceed with an
> appropriate epistemological criticism of the statement "The
> universe exists".
> -Jake
Let me try to make a few short points which I will attempt to support in a rigorous fashion.

1 The universe exists.
2 There are systems which exist within the universe to examine ideas about conciousness.
3 If you wish to have your ideas examined, you need to formulate them in a way which can be managed by the epistemological tools we have. 4 Fuzziness is not a prerequisite to discussions about conciousness. 5 Epistemological discussion might be interesting. Ontological discussion is not the correct tool for this class of research.

An insistence on attempting to use fuzzy words when perfectly good logical and epistemological tools to analyse and document philosophies already exist, is why I fear that the conversations proposed here will simply cycle to the now familiar masturbatory rythm so often seen in the virus mail list. While notions are good, notations are necessary. And if you want to make a meaningful contribution a knowledge of the tools is more than useful, it is a prerequisite. Of course, even a cursory study of ontology will quickly lead you to the realization that any successful scientific exploration requires an articulated frame of explanation. A useful nomenclature must be present to lead to the development and enrichment of the frame of explanation. As a criterion to rank nomenclatures, explanatory power is indispensable. Ontological discussion argues about the reality status of various 'things,' 'entities' or 'concepts,' such as mind, brain, computers, inert matter, etc. Consciousness is usually discussed using an ontological nomenclature where Descartes' ontological mind/matter split opens up an infinitely deep chasm between consciousness and physical phenomena. Thus, no ontological bridge of explanatory power can span the gap between consciousness and its physical basis. Ontological discussion (such as we have seen far to much of recently, IMO) degenerates into a hopeless mire over the question of what is more real. Such discussion rambles on without apparent progress toward any explanation. In contrast, an epistemological discussion, centered around 'processes' for gathering knowledge to build pictures of the world, is the sort of thing needed to smoothly connect consciousness and its underlying physical basis. Such discussion may lead to a rich frame of explanation. Why not try it. It might make a pleasant change.

So how do you make a start? Before you can begin with epistemology, you need to grasp a few points from metaphysics. Metaphysics studies the most fundamental nature of the universe (which we will show exists in a little while), what is true of everything by virtue of its existing. Metaphysics boils down to a collection of axioms that define the realm of knowledge; thus, it is the starting point in a study of epistemology.

Axiom of existence. Existence is the fundamental, unquestionable fact. It's the self-evident starting point beyond which it is not correct to venture. Questions such as "Why is existence here?" and "Why is it this way instead of that?" are self-contradictory; they lead to an explanation in terms of non-existence, which is nothing (thus we are lead to such absurdities as "nothing precedes beingness"). Existence is our starting point.

Axiom of consciousness. Consciousness is a self-evident fact, consciousness here being the faculty of perceiving existence as it really is. So questions like "How do you know the world is not very different from what we think it is?" are also self-refuting.

Axiom of the absoluteness of reality. This states the relationship between existence and consciousness. Facts aren't malleable; things are what they are; wishing won't make it so. Consciousness perceives reality, it doesn't create it.

The Axiom of identity states that a thing is something, it has a nature, an identity. A thing may also have attributes which are not fundamental to the identity of the thing. This is often a cause of confusion. For example, tennis balls are balls. Tennis balls are round. The roundness is a fundamental requirement for tennis balls. It is not a fundamental requirement for all balls - for example footballs have as a fundamental property their strange oval shape. So for generic balls, the shape is an attribute not a fundamental property. On the other hand a tennis ball may be white. It may also be yellow or green or even shocking neon pink! It would still be a tennis ball. So for tennis balls, color is an attribute, not a fundamental.

A corollary to identity is the law of non-contradiction: "A thing can't be both A and non-A." I am a person, not a dog; this is a finger, not a fire-hose. A ball which is not round is not a tennis ball. Although, as explained above, and expanded further below, a thing may have apparently contradictory attributes, attributes are not essential to the identity of the thing.

Another corollary of identity is the Law of causality. Causality is the law of identity applied to action; the identity of an object determines how it will act. The world is a lawful, orderly place ruled by causal law. This view of causality is different than the usual one. We are taught to think in terms of actions and re-actions, actions leading to actions, I "drop the ball" (cause), "it bounces back up" (effect). While this is true, it is not a primary: the primary is "the ball is bouncy" (cause), so it "bounces back up" (effect). When I drop an egg, the effect is much different even though the dropping-action is the same.

In Objective metaphysics, the three words existence, consciousness, and identity-are the starting points of knowledge. They sum up the essence of cognition: something exists of which I am conscious, I must discover its identity. Identity and causality define the realm of knowledge, what we are out to discover. The law of non-contradiction gives us our basic rule in logic: contradictions do not exist.

So let's take another look at the universe. I have found that the universe can best be described as the set of all things, real and imaginary which have existence or potential existence(Note 1). Is this definition falsifiable. Of course it can be. An example might be, "There is no set of things, real and imaginary which have existence or potential existence which can be defined to be a valid set under set theory." Of course this is easily demonstrated to be non-axiomatic(Note 2). So it makes no sense if falsified. Thus the universe as I have defined it does exist and (from note 1) my definition is an "acceptible and shared" definition and thus useful. Set theory is a wonderful epistemological tool (Note 3). Less nonesensical philosophy would be expounded if more "philosophers" had to learn set theory before holding their theories up to ridicule.

Then, for all things in the universe that have existence - e.g. have been imagined, there exists a transform which can move them into an appropriate set. All things and concepts can live quite comfortably in this universe - including "The Concrete Universe" and other universii.

Consider the following high level subsets of the universe set:

1 {Unreal and not yet imagined things}
2 {Unreal and qualified (imagined and described) things}
3 {Real (identified through the senses) but not yet qualified (described)
4 {Real (identified through the senses) and qualified (described) things}

Assume that all "things" start out in the 1st category (unreal and not yet imagined) and migrate to the other sets depending on the function assigned to move it. Note that while "things" possess attributes which assist in defining the function, attributes are allowed to contradict each other (e.g. light wave particle duality, the blind men describing an elephant, The infinite love of a god who will torture for an infinite period anyone who does not worship him) and this does not cause a problem for the system. Meta-things are also permitted, and need to be carefully identified and seperated from instances of the thing. So there may be a meta-set {Balls}, and the "Bouncy Ball" refered to above is then an instance of a meta set of balls with the attribute "Bouncy". On the other hand, a set {Bouncy Balls} could not contain an instance of a "Ball" which is "bounceless". However, getting back to the godz in the thread above, the process which leads to the migration requires a valid Misesian epistemological basis (Note 4). This means that Alice (of "Through the Looking Glass"), the IPU and all other less rational "godz" never manage to get past 2 as no function exists or can be fashioned to transform them to 3 or 4, while Alice Liddle (the prototype Alice) is definitely a type 4 thing (an interesting painting at Examples of type 3 items are more difficult, as the act of identifying things well enough to decide that they are valid things tends to qualify them, an example might be extrasolar planets ( try ), We know there is something there, we think they are planets... Hopefully it is obvious that objects belonging to subset 1 cannot be listed, as the act of describing them automatically shifts them to type 2 objects :-)

TheHermit (Scratching his nutz)

Note 1: This is not stretching much, the WWWebster defines "universe as follows:
Main Entry: uni∑verse
Pronunciation: 'yŁ-n&-"v&rs
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin universum, from neuter of universus entire, whole, from uni- + versus turned toward, from past participle of vertere to turn -- more at WORTH
Date: 1589
1 : the whole body of things and phenomena observed or postulated : COSMOS: as a : a systematic whole held to arise by and persist through the direct intervention of divine power b : the world of human experience c (1) : the entire celestial cosmos (2) : MILKY WAY GALAXY (3) : an aggregate of stars comparable to the Milky Way galaxy
2 : a distinct field or province of thought or reality that forms a closed system or self-inclusive and independent organization 3 : POPULATION 4
4 : a set that contains all elements relevant to a particular discussion or problem
5 : a great number or quantity <a large enough universe of stocks... to choose from -- G. B. Clairmont>

You will see that my definition matches the primary definition under 1, 2 and 4 and includes the additional definitions under 1 and subsumes 3 and 5.

Note 2: From the axioms of union and pairing we are able to prove that the universal membership predicate is infinite and that all other sets are subsets of the universal membership predicate through the axiom of subset (comprehension). And no, I won't attempt to show this using ascii, it needs mathematical notation. Damn text only email.

Note 3: epistemology, defined as "the science devoted to the proper methods of acquiring and validating knowledge."

Note 4: Misesian Epistemology - as far as man is able to attain any knowledge, however limited, he can use only one avenue of approach, that opened by reason.