[ExI] Bad Epistemology?

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Mon Jul 16 15:42:29 UTC 2007

On 7/16/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> Jef writes
> > Lee wrote:
> >
> >> 4. Objects as such---strictly speaking---do not reside in the
> >>     mind. Nor do they reside in 3-space, any more than the
> >>     number 6 resides in our minds or in space. Theories and
> >>     ideas and other patterns exist really and Platonically
> >>     whether or not people, or cameras, or quarks, or space,
> >>     or time, or any other things happen to exist
> >
> > [Please consider the following:]
> >
> > Any observer system, while embedded in "reality", is fundamentally,
> > ineluctably subjective. One can assume otherwise, but at the cost of
> > reduced information entropy. [1]
> 1.  Do cameras or photographic plates count as observers?
> 2.  How complex does a robot have to become before it is an observer?
> 3.  Does it make sense to speak of the universe before there were observers?

Lee, you began this thread by asking "Is my epistemology really
screwed up at a fundamental level?", but you then proceeded to pose
problems that appear to be entirely ontological[1], rather than
epistemological[2]. It's as if you and I are speaking different
languages; might you be conflating or juxtaposing the two?

Your response (Q1-3) highlights my point.  Yours are ontological
questions, about incidentally epistemological observers.  You're
asking what exists, without consideration of the more fundamental
question of what can be known.  Indeed you deny the more fundamental
question in your many posts, repeatedly falling back on "it's
obvious", or "it's commonsense", and referring to identity without
consideration of context, essential to any instance of meaning. Even
the most precise of identities, within mathematics, are sensible only
within context -- "oh...you meant Euclidean
geometry?"<fnord>importance of context<fnord>

To your specific questions:
"1.  Do cameras or photographic plates count as observers?"
Only to the extent that they are seen to express an internal model of
their perceptions of the world, which is to say "no", or "hardly."

"2.  How complex does a robot have to become before it is an observer?"
To be seen as an observer is not a matter of degree of complexity.
Insects and even lower life forms are legitimate observers of their
umwelt, their perceived environment, despite their relatively limited
expression and nearly negligible self-awareness.  We are all "robots."

"3.  Does it make sense to speak of the universe before there were observers?"
Of course.  Speech about any object is speech about a remote object,
regardless of whether the object is remote in space or time. All
observation is indirect.

> Thanks for the criticism,
> Sincerely,
> Lee

Thanks for the sarcasm. ;-)

Lee, I offered no criticism, which would have necessarily entailed
points about something you produced.  I offered only pointers to areas
which might nurture certain gaps in your thinking.  For you to take
that as criticism must mean that you think I'm criticizing you as a
person, which is entirely absent from my intentions.

- Jef

1. Ontology, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontology>
2. Epistemology, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology>

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