[ExI] Fw: Uploading and selfhood

Michael Miller ain_ani at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 2 22:16:05 UTC 2008

Lee said 

>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.

Not sure I'm entirely comfortable with the assertion-map analogy but I'll go with it. I have to point out that a map is only one kind of representation of the territory, and one that is produced for a specific purpose: an alien may well not recognise it as being representative, as she is focussing on completely different properties of the territory. A cat for example does not understand the relationship between map symbolism and territory. A Norwegian does not necessarily understand the relationship between English and the reality it supposedly depicts. The relationship between a symbolic system and the referent depend on understanding the syntax. In this example you are depending on the alien sharing the symbolic representation system that the human manufacturers use. A model, any model, necessarily exists within the category system (syntax) which it depends for its meaning.

> 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

Well Jupiter is a human concept. Separable objects are human concepts. Our concepts are what we experience. We don't experience reality "as it is" because whatever objective reality there is gets articulated in finite, differentiated objects before it hits our brains. I don't claim I'm an anti-realist (I consistently fail to align myself with any philosophical school, ever since my brief infatuation with Hegel ended). The realist-antirealist dichotomy is just as naive as either taken on their own. All I say is this: Jupiter exists in the human mind, it's a semantic articulation of a particular experience which we then use to filter other experiences into. We can't step outside the human mind and know what reality is like outside of subjectivity, or outside of the human conceptual structure, but we can at least recognise that our thoughts are only one possible articulation of that which exists beyond thought. This is not to say we should relegate all our
 ideas and perceptions to the ontological scrapheap...but, their utility needs to be recognised as not being more than utility.

>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.)

Absolutely...and this is at least half the problem that we run into when discussing abstract (and even some not so abstract) ideas. People don't define the words they're using and then people misunderstand the actual intent of what is stated. 

>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?

To be frank, not one of these has even a minor impact on my life. They're all supremely irrelevant to me. I wonder sometimes whether we'd all be happier (and conducting our lives in better ways) if we didn't focus so much on things like this which have no bearing on us.

BUT my statement was referring to the question of Napolean (this is the problem when you break up a paragraph into its constituent lines...the context and therefore meaning is lost). And yes, I still think that whether Napolean "is" the nutter before us now just because he believes he is, or forever ceased to exist hundreds of years ago, is ultimately unimportant...because whatever we give as an answer makes no difference to anything. We might as well debate whether yellow is lighter than pink for all the importance the answer we reach will have.

You rock. That's why Blockbuster's offering you one month of Blockbuster Total Access, No Cost.  
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