[extropy-chat] what is probability?

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Fri Jan 12 16:37:58 UTC 2007

John K Clark wrote:

> Jef Allbright  was asked "Concerning this universe you 
> assume...  Do you assume it exists objectively, separate from 
> your awareness and knowledge?"
> and he responded "No".
> I'm sorry Jef, but I just don't believe you. The reason I say 
> that is that although I may disagree with you from time to 
> time I have never seen any evidence that you are insane, and 
> I do not believe anyone this side of a loony bin really and 
> truly believes in Solipsism.

John -

I've given you plenty of evidence that I don't support solipsism.
I've said that I can see where we're talking past each other.

Nearly all the philosophical debate on this list is due to conflict
between concepts defined too narrowly, and their supporters arguing only
within a limited (and sometimes quite skewed) context.  My intent in all
these cases is to offer a model that is more coherent over a greater

These debates are analogous to Newton arguing with Einstein about the
"true" nature of gravity.  Of course you're correct--just as Newton was
absolutely correct--within his own context of understanding.

Qualia, Self, Personal Identity, Free Will, Morality, ... each of these
topics produces interminable debate because most people are still
thinking of subjectivity in the form of an apple falling to the ground
at 9.8m/s^2, (or, if they're more advanced: x m/s^2, to allow for
different planetary bodies) rather than thinking in the form of
curvature of space-time.

Of course , any "normal" person would agree that the flame is hot, so go
ahead and call it "objectively" hot. But it breaks down when extended,
as do these other concepts built on an incomplete understanding of
subjectivity, reinforced by our language, culture, and  the dictates of
our physical form.

I don't argue that you're wrong about what "subjective" and "objective"
means in common usage. I simply offer the gift of a more encompassing
model that resolves these several "paradoxes" and paves the way to
discovering new and interesting puzzles at a higher level. [I don't see
any concise way to state this without appearing arrogant, sorry.]

So, if you would like for me to acknowledge that I believe in an
objective universe, then yes, I most certainly do.  I believe that my
interaction with the universe is consistent and mappable onto your
similar interactions with the universe.  I believe that even if I were
absent from the universe, other people would continue to go on just as
before.  Yes, I believe in an objective universe.  Truly I do.

I say the preceding in all good faith, knowing that you and I should be
able to agree within this common context.  I use that same approach with
co-workers, when my intent is to achieve an effective understanding and
accomplish the stated goal.  I use that same approach with my children,
knowing that they don't yet have the life experience to grasp the bigger
picture, and that no amount of explaining or clarifying can compensate
for their more limited context of understanding. But as I re-read that
paragraph of assent, I almost shudder from the incompleteness and
implicit contradictions it represents.

On the extropy list, some of us come from the rationalist point of view
that abhors self-deceptions such as religion and feel-good mushy new-age
thinking and anything that reeks of the subjective.  These individuals
are highly motivated to clean-up these mistakes so that we can better
face hard reality and make progress.

Others of us come from the rationalist point of view that, like the
Scientific Method, acknowledges and embraces the realization that all
knowledge is approximate and contingent, and like the Principle of
Indifference, all likelihoods are part of a coherent (and expanding)
whole. These individuals are highly motivated to clean-up our conceptual
tools so that we can better understand the next layer of problems and
make progress. 

Others of us look at all the apparently unproductive philosophical
debate and wonder with mounting frustration why people would choose to
waste their valuable time when the key issues affecting us are both
obvious and urgent.  These individuals are highly motivated to clean up
our priorities and properly allocate our time and resources to make


- Jef

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