[ExI] Fw: Uploading and selfhood

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Wed Apr 2 15:33:42 UTC 2008

Michael writes

> The point is that true and false are abstract human categories
> (just like selfhood...and Napoleon). Reality has no truck with
> such things.

Yes, I agree.  True and False apply to assertions, or to maps.
Now you can have a true map, or literal model, of something
as opposed to false ones. For example, suppose we made a huge
scale model of the Mississippi valley, except that it contained
a single but very prominent glaring inaccuracy (say the Platte
river runs mainly south to north rather than west to east), and
then we all die.  An alien intelligence that makes its way to
Earth will, we may say, encounter this scale model, verify
its "truthfulness" except for that one tributary. So true and
false models do exist outside of human categories.

> We can only speak subjectively, and in doing that we have to
> admit that our own context in asserting true or false may be
> denied as valid by another.

I would not quite go so far. Let's say that there are agreed-upon
conventions of the following sort:  the symbols and word "big"
shall be taken to refer to bodies whose size exceeds the distance
from the sun to the Earth, and "small" is taken to refer or 
describe bodies smaller than the continent of Australia. Then
if one entity asserts "the galaxy is small" then this is simply 
incorrect. The mapping's in the creature's nervous system
have patent inaccuracies in them, and so are what I was 
earlier calling "false maps". 

> There is no Napoleon out there.

What about Jupiter?  Would you say that there is no Jupiter
out there? What would that mean? If you were struck by a
car as you walked across a street, you would not surely
correct a police officer who came by and asked, "were you
struck by a car", with something like "you mean, my-perception-
of-police-officer, that I experienced terrible force applied to
my-perception-of-my-body by a perception that I had of a

Now it may simply be that you are not a philosophical realist,
but subscribe to some other philosophical tradition. (If so, it
might help to know what.) But my main argument for realism
is the tremendous utility of the entire model itself of 3 dimensional
+ 1dimensional spacetime, and that there are 3D objects out 
there that I want my words to *refer* to. So whether you believe
that a proper concept of Jupiter is a large spinning ball of hydrogen
and ammonia and so on, or whatever (perhaps a local maximum
in a spatial distribution of quarks and gluons) you really can't beat
the idea of *referring* to that mass as if it really was a thing "out

> It's a mental construct which people define in different ways to
> suit different purposes.

The extent that they use the same word with different meanings
or different definitions is the extent that the word or concept
loses its utility in communication for us.  (Since you used "people"
without scare quotes, I guess I can use "us" without them either.)

>  It's entirely irrelevant how we answer the question, it changes
> nothing. A clear cut answer will serve only to obfuscate matters
> further by confusing people into thinking that there is such black
> and whiteness.

Do you also think that the aforesaid police officer finds it irrelevant
how questions are answered?  Do you really conduct your life in
such a way that how we answer questions such as "Who was the
first president of the United States?", or "what is the largest planet
of the solar system?", or "when exactly did JFK die?" is irrelevant?

> Hope this makes things less muddy ;)

Hmm, well I sense some progress, or at least better mutual understanding.
Thanks for taking the time.


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