Mind, Reality, or Mere Language?
Polylogue on Reality and Language between Eytan Suchard, Shimon Vaknin, and Sam Vaknin
ES: Unless we are more than just biological machines, all physicists will be replaced. See: Sky News Australia interviews ‘free-thinking’ artificial intelligence — YouTube. However, our brain is not a deterministic machine due to quantum leeway in postsynaptic activations. That is why it is impossible to rule out the existence of an external entity that expresses itself through these degrees of freedom.
A healthy and well performing brain then serves as a vessel for such an expression. An external entity to the brain can reach insights beyond the usual neural computation that our theories predict. Physicists can only have hope through metaphysics, real one, not their crappy models.
SV: It is not an issue of ruling out the existence of such an entity — but of why assume its existence in the first place (parsimony, Occam’s razor).
ES: 1) Because from the probabilistic non-local description of Nature, we infer there is no probability without a reference in relation to which measurement is probabilistic and probabilities sum to 1. As such, this reference is not probabilistic and is therefore not part of the publicly observed Nature. Therefore, we are not only the brain.
2) It is merely impossible to mathematically explain what is consciousness or how consciousness is “generated” by neural activations. Neural activations are publicly owned by all observers in the physical world. Pain and pleasure are not pulses per second and saying they are emergent from pulses per second, does not have any mathematical meaning.
Then you can argue that consciousness is just a language term but it is not to us as observers. The commonly shared information about neural activations has no interpretation as pain and pleasure. What can be said is that there is a correlation between neural activations and pain or pleasure, however, correlation is not causation and pain is not pulses per second or a combination of pulses per second as a very complex flow graph.
3) Empirically, if we can get information about future events and show that the publicly observed Nature is causal, then this information cannot be known only through the publicly observed Nature. At least two events in my history show exactly this. Large scale experiments can be and should be done.
4) Mathematically, we should be able to show chronon probabilities are in relation to a deterministic object as an embedding object. Note that this approach is diametrically opposed to Rafael Sorkin’s Causal Sets. Causal Sets are inconsistent with non-local summation of probabilities to 1. You can argue that the existence of an embedding object is merely a mathematical construction like in Whitney’s embedding theorem, so in such a case, we need to show that there is no way to non-locally sum probabilities of events to 1 without such an embedding object. That would be a very deep theorem that would prove the existence of a Universal observer as an embedding object, possibly as a real object.
SV: Actually, I go a lot further than that. The psyche, perception, and consciousness are constructs that violate parsimony (Occam’s razor) and, exactly like god, are unnecessary assumptions.
Experience, perception, and consciousness are not the outcomes of the brain’s structure or functioning. They are merely self-referential language elements that have no place in proper science. In reality, there is only the brain, nothing else.
ES: Dismissing experiences as self-referential language does not mean they do not exist. “Only the brain” has quantum degrees of freedom in post synaptic activation and therefore local reference is wrong.
Experience of seeing color cannot be dismissed as self-referential language because it is a result of 3 receptors so to speak, and any symmetry in such a perception whether biological or artificial is a problem for a one-to-one determination of physical states and psych states as language or as not. If color was simply a result of a self-referential language, then why is there a degree of freedom between language labels and physical states (refer to my construction with robots R1, R2)? It does not make any sense.
The construction: Two A.I. robots R1, R2 with color receptors 1,2,3, are built instead of with the biological eye receptors Red, Green, and Blue. Unlike the asymmetry between Red and Blue that appears darker than red due to less receptors in our biological eye, we design 1, 3 to have the same response signal. Robot R1 accepts that color experience is undeniable, whether we call it illusion or figment of language or any other term and describes at least two possible but distinguishable experiences of robot R2. Either R2 experiences colors 1,2,3 just as R1 or R2 experiences them as R1 experiences 3,2,1. These two distinguishable descriptions, from R1’s point of view, do not contradict the ontological color response signal. They break the one-to-one map between the ontological brain states and experience and therefore render the claim that experience is generated by the brain an untrue statement.
SV: “Color” is the name we give to a physical state. We should not confuse the name with the physical state.
“Experience of color” is the name we give to the process of naming the aforementioned physical state. We should not confuse or conflate epistemology with ontology.
ES: How do you know that color seeing is only a physical state? What is the proof? The problem is the dismissal of epistemology as a language artifact. In fact, all sciences are self-referential at the foundational level .
SV: Science is a language, I fully concur. Science is 100% epistemology.
ES: Also, consider the Gauge principle. If physical measurement can result from different underlying field states, then such states exist. The word result actually means correlation. Gauge fields are ghost fields. Consciousness is a gauge field so-to-speak.
SV: Again: fields are not “real”. They are organizing principles. They make sense of observations (they are hermeneutic). And they are language elements. They are one way of looking at the world.
No one has the slightest idea what consciousness is, so, no one can say that the metaphor of “field” fits it best.
We can perfectly account for reality without “consciousness”, so, exactly like “god”, it is unnecessary and violates Occam’s razor (parsimony).
We should not confuse observation with consciousness, of course. Nor is the act of observing dependent on a sentient or conscious observer. The interpretation of observations does depend on the existence of such an observer, though. But interpretation is again a mere exercise in language.
ES: All Gauge fields violate Occam’s razor and indeed they are objects of a language.
The gauge principle is that if such a field can “exist” due to Lagrangian symmetry then it does “exist” although by the principle of parsimony, the Gauge field should be minimal.
If symmetry in a mathematical model allows for a gauge field to “exist” without contradicting the results of known measurements, then it does exist. The gauge principle has very far repercussions regarding chronon models which are apparently contrary to the principle of parsimony. For example, non-local summation of probability of an event to 1 can only be done on a deterministic geometric reference object, however, such a reference object can be understood as a mathematical construction rather than a physical object because physical measurement can only access chronon events.
By the Gauge principle, if such a geometric reference object can exist, then it does exist. Notice that this principle immediately rules out Causal Sets even without considering the problem of non-local summation to 1.
Another example is Whitney’s theorem. Every manifold can be embedded in 2n dimensional Euclidean space and in a higher dimensional Euclidean space if the metric is needed to be preserved. The latter choice of embedding has an obvious advantage that it preserves the metric.
By the Gauge principle, such an embedding object is real and the balance with the principle of parsimony dictates that a minimal embedding, connected and continuous set must be chosen.
The gauge principle is indeed totally contrary to the principle of parsimony. The justification for the principle of parsimony is the avoidance of overfitting. A model too complex loses its prediction capability, however, symmetry within a model and the existence of Gauge fields need not reduce its predictive power and in some cases, such Gauge fields have a clear measurable outcome and are therefore dictated by empirical measurement results.
Scientific models are best when they balance between overfitting and over-generalization and thus underfitting and failing to predict the outcome of an experiment. Asking existential questions is not within the scope of such predictive models in general, unless the answer does have implications that can be measured.
By your worldview, there is no need for an entity beyond the brain that uses the probabilistic quantum degrees of freedom in the brain to influence decisions, to feel pain and pleasure and to experience colors, due to the principle of parsimony, however, by the Gauge principle, if such an entity can exist without contradicting physical measurements then it does exist and if it does exist then we are not just biochemical machines but we also have true free will at least in some decisions we make.
The Gauge principle requires symmetry to exist within a language description of a physical object.
With the current technology, e.g. Transformer Neural Networks and physical implementations, it is possible to build such an object and show a degree of freedom in its color perception.
SV: What I am saying is that “feeling”, “pain”, “pleasure”, “color” etc. have no ontological status.
These are all mere epistemic elements — or even mere figments of language. They are not real.
So, there is no need — or possibility — to account for them in any way: not within a theory of the brain as an exclusive entity (materialism) and not with the introduction of any other entity.
Like “god”, for example — pain, pleasure, colors, etc., are not legitimate objects of scientific discourse (though, of course, they do have a limited place in metaphysics).
Not everything that can exist does exist.
The existence of statements and theorems and theories (“gauge fields”) is not the same as the existence of apples and space shuttles. It is not the same kind of existence:
There is no way in principle to prove some statements, such as “god exists” “god does not exist”, “subjects perceive color”, and “subjects do not perceive color”. These statements can never acquire a truth value. They are empty null sets, so to speak.
ES: 1) You say: “These are all mere epistemic elements — or even mere figments of language. They are not real”.
They are very real to each one of us. Don’t you feel pain? Don’t you enjoy good music?
Denying your own experiences as figments of language does not make them go away.
If mathematical language cannot account for these experiences and therefore dismisses “experience” altogether, it only tells us that mathematics and scientism are limited to describe the common knowledge we call “the physical world” and on which we all agree. The “internal” world of yours which is your experiences is inaccessible to me even if your brain would be wired to mine. I would be able to get the same input but would not know what experience they correlate with, for you.
You write: “Like “god”, for example — pain, pleasure, colors, etc., are not legitimate objects of scientific discourse (though, of course, they do have a limited place in metaphysics)”
Metaphysics does not equal leprosy.
The idea of probability is metaphysical and for Quantum probability to be a valid description of Nature, reference objects, which are not probabilistic, must exist at least locally and at least in relation to themselves, whatever that means.
In addition to that, if the best probabilistic description of Nature is also not local, e.g. requires summation of probability to 1 on a geometric reference object with non-zero volume of any degree or on an unbound graph, then this geometric reference object is deterministic and then the argument is if that object has a real existence or not. By the Gauge principle it does.
2) “Not everything that can exist does exist.” — True.
The Gauge principle demands that a “Gauge Field” will be a symmetry that allows an unknown state to be correlated with physical measurements without contradictions. Our decisions, for example, can be attributed to an entity which decides on probabilities of postsynaptic activations as long as such intervention does not violate what we know about the physical world. Then the existence of such an entity is not dictated by Occam’s Razor but by the Gauge principle.
From a physicist point of view, a universal entity can decide about results of experiments as long as its intervention does not violate what we know about the outcome of experiments. If such a universal entity can exist, then it does exist.
Spinor components are a bad example of physical gauge fields because spin 3/2 does have consistency problems with observation and the generalized Dirac equation does not limit in any way the representations of SU(2). Dirac’s theory is therefore invalid.
Spin 2 has coupling problems even in Supergravity, although some are resolved: https://inspirehep.net/literature/8626
“Supergravity models generically result in an unrealistically large cosmological constant in four dimensions and that constant is difficult to remove, and so requires fine-tuning. This is still a problem today.
Quantization of the theory led to quantum field theory gauge anomalies rendering the theory inconsistent”.
These are bad examples of physical Gauge fields that mainstream physics happily publishes tens of thousands of papers about, although there are charlatans that say that “there is no mainstream physics but charlatans”, which in this case is indeed self-referential. Such a response was unfortunately posted in the comments to a YouTube video.
SV: Before I respond, I must understand why you keep insisting that “If such a universal entity can exist then it does exist.” Contingency is never ontology even in metaphysics.
Lovejoy’s 1936 principle of plenitude is Platonic and, later, Kantian. Leibnitz was its greatest proponent. It is known today as the principle of explanatory sufficiency.
It was Dirac who reintroduced the principle of plenitude into physics with his “magnetic monopoles”.
But even the principle of plenitude applies only to probable entities WITHIN the universe (or Everett’s multiverse). It has never been applied to an OBSERVER because nothing is OUTSIDE the universe. It usually applies to redundant or possible entities which are not actually used in the final output (example: degrees of freedom in gauge theories).
Observations (measurements) are the only way we know how to collapse the wave function.
Maybe I am missing something in your argument?
ES: Lovejoy’s 1936 principle of plenitude resembles the Gauge principle.
The difference is the relation to measurement.
You ask: “I must understand why you keep insisting that “If such a universal entity can exist then it does exist.”
The reason is the correctness of probability and non-locality as a predictive description of Nature.
The reference to such probability must be deterministic and must exist at the same time.
The Gauss Bell lives in deterministic coordinates.
Since there is no deterministic measurement within the measurable universe, the conclusion is that such a reference object is not part of the observable universe.
We are not universal observers, but we cannot be local either due to QM. If we can be reference objects to measurement results, then we cannot only be brains because the brain is not deterministic and the argument that a reference to measurements in this commonly shared measurable world must be deterministic can only mean we are not only the brain.
There is still a problem of implication. One can argue that such a deterministic reference is nothing more than an average of probabilistic observables, although, averaging requires a reference object too and therefore such a claim has a consistency problem, unless the reference object can only be viewed as a mathematical construction.
As was mentioned in the AI robots R1, R2 experiment, the possibility of creating a robot with input symmetries, shows that observation is consistent with a none-one-to-one map between physical inputs and experiences if they do exist. So, if experience exists, it is beyond the observable Nature, but experience must exist as an observation of a reference object which is not the brain due to the previous arguments and by breaking a one-to-one map, it cannot be a result of the accessible observables, including the physical brain.
Not always Gauge fields are a blessing. There was a big expectation from Einstein that the Palatini action, which is identical to Einstein-Hilbert action, would be a great insight especially since spinor equations require tetrads because they are limited to an orthogonal reference frame.
However, it took a different approach, to leave the metric tensor as is and instead of using tetrads or Ashtekar variables, to consider the metric as of a reference manifold, like coordinates but as an entire geometric reference object, not as a physically accessible object. After adopting such a new approach, tetrads can indeed make a comeback.
Then in this framework, the idea was that time must be the engine of the model and that acceleration of that time in the sense of a generalized Reeb field (not limited to contact manifolds) will describe the possibility of non-geodesic curves and will predict the electric force. In (64) it became the electro-weak-strong action using indeed 5 fields, but unlike tetrads, time is a meaningful Geroch function while the other fields are Gauge fields. There is a redundancy in the system because this time can be accounted for by 3 vectors just as Ashtekar variables.
This redundancy is cancelled out in action (64) without using any ADM formalism or Ashtekar variables, and orthogonality is no longer needed, which renders the spin connections redundant. 4 out of the 5 scalar fields describe additional geometric information to the metric as foliations.
The same theory can be written with tetrads and generalized Reeb vectors of these tetrad fields but the Einstein-Hilbert action will be the same. On the other hand, action (64) in this case, does add geometric information as non-geodesic alignment of curves and thus of forces.
It is a far simpler approach than that of Abhay Ashtekar and it yields new results. Adding a summation constraint to the action of (64), e.g. that each chronon probability sums to 1, keeps the same action but then PP* is replaced by an event function and the integration of PP* becomes 1. That requires the only constant in the theory except for the speed of light to be with the units of 1/Length².
SV: I think the core difference between us is that I consider the claim that there is or could be anything outside the Universe or outside reality to be nonsensical.
Consequently, I would also argue with the way that you perceive the relationship between probability and determinism, for example.
We first must resolve this difference between our worldviews:
ES: More precisely speaking, deterministic reference objects are not beyond the universe but beyond the directly measurable universe.
Sharon Shimon Vaknin and I concur that it does not make a difference for the subject if this experience is termed “illusion” or “unreal”.
The creation of a symmetry in the commonly shared experience we call hardware, allows for more than one distinguishable experience from the observer side. Robot R1 describes at least one different experience from one’s own while using oneself as a reference to doubt the possible distinguishable experiences of robot R2 and without any contradiction with the publicly shared/owned experience, which is neural activations as part of the physical world.
Sharon’s view is that we do live in one universe but that the foundation of “ontology” is epistemological. In other words, consciousness is all there is. This idea settles the duality of matter and psych as both two manifestations of consciousness, one publicly owned and one privately owned — as was well described by Yeshayahu Leibowitz.
It also means that a “soul” is part of this one system although it does not have to be a derivative of the brain, which itself is a commonly shared experience, once we show an experience symmetry that does not violate distinguishable states within the commonly owned experience which is the “ontologic” hardware.
Such a symmetry means there is no one-to-one map between ontological states and psychic states and therefore the psych inevitably has its own existence within Sharon’s view that there is nothing else but consciousness. With all the difficulty of defining consciousness, it has the characteristic of experience, including intentionality to experience pleasure and avoid pain.
Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz:
SV: My alarm at the conflation of physics and mysticism: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/physics-metaphysics-mysticism-sam-vaknin-sjbn/
You may find this of interest, too:
ES: “There are physicists and mathematicians (like Penrose) who consider consciousness to be the “missing piece” — but not as dimension, more like another force that renders probabilistic nature deterministic.”
Why not see non-local probabilistic models as a duality of a deterministic reference object and as events which are measurable on this deterministic object?
The axiomatic system of probability in mathematics is not equivalent to the meaning of probability in physics. In mathematics it is a measure theory, and it involves Lebesgue integration, sigma-algebras and events. In physics, it is a metaphysical model in which measurement events are described by the theory of probability.
The Laws of Nature are then a statistical recommendation which allows Roger Penrose’s missing piece, however, why not to say that the missing piece is all that exists? Nature is not accessible not through the subject’s experiences as Sharon Shimon correctly observed. That is why Shimon Sharon is correct.
Your description of the psychic linguistic energy conversions in the brain misses the probabilistic degrees of freedom in the brain. Such degrees of freedom do allow an entity external to the brain to be at work and by Shimon Sharon’s method, this entity is the subject and is the only true existence.
The brain itself with all of its activities is a coherent commonly shared experience with privately shared minds. Again, you can see that my construction with colors 1,2,3 and deliberate hardware response symmetry between 1 and 3, poses a challenge to the causality between “the brain” as an object and the subject’s internal world providing that you do accept that experience is the building block of consciousness.
I do not think experience can be ignored by dismissing it as an unreal figment of language.
The subjective experience is very real to every single person in the world.
The best way that the psychophysical problem has been presented IMHO is an early paper by Yeshayahu Leibowitz.
SV: I am a physicist. I have no need for “god” or “consciousness” or “experience”.
“God” and “consciousness” are superfluous, ill-defined, and consequently non-sensical. In the best case, they are undecidable theorems. But they do not deserve to even be dignified this way.
I don’t do mysticism. I regard it as a primitive stage that humanity has long transcended.
Metaphysics is another thing. It has its place and it should guide good science.
But “god” or “consciousness” have nothing to do with metaphysics. These are mystical propositions: language masquerading as reality.
Even by the standard of language, “god” and “consciousness” are deficient because they defy definition, lexical or other.
Discussing “god” and “consciousness” is a total waste of time.
Even if “consciousness” were a real thing, I cannot see why it would have a privileged position among other natural epiphenomena (emergent phenomena).
“God” I cannot discuss at all. It is out of the realm of any form of meaningful discourse that I am aware of or can conceive of. No language can apply to it. So, outside the realm of communication, “god” is unmitigated non-sense.
Finally, I know of no better way than the scientific method to approximate the “truth” however asymptotically.
Both “consciousness” and “god” are not amenable to the scientific method. More generally, language lends itself to scientific investigation but should not be conflated or confused with it. You cannot falsify language, for example.
Anything that is outside the remit of science is mere language. Of course, science itself is language — but it is never MERE language. It is checked by reality.
I am not interested in the study of mere language because it is self-referential. Real communication involves EXITING language to the real world (Wittgenstein).
ES: 1) Can you show that there is no quantum leeway in the brain that allows decisions to be made not by the brain?
2) Can you show that there is no quantum leeway in the universe that allows decisions to be made by a universal observer?
3) Your claims that such objects are not amenable can be empirically proven wrong by experiments, for example 50/50 events become 90/10 under questioning.
Here is a constructed AI robotic color symmetry that breaks the one-to-one map between physical and psychic states when experience is not labeled as “illusion” or “unreal” figment of language.
Psychophysical color experience theorem
The spectrum of colors as we experience it is correlated with RGB Red Green Blue with less cone receptors for blue and more for red cones and therefore blue appears to us as darker. This ontological property also introduces an asymmetry between the perception of red and blue in the epistemological sense.
Let us now study a claim of a colleague, Dr. Sam Vaknin that the psych, including the experience of seeing colors, is a physical process and that experience is nothing more than an artefact of a self- referential language.
His claim is that there is no need for any other terminology and by the principle of parsimony i.e. Occam’s Razor, there is no reason to assume the existence of the psych other than the result of self-referential language. Let us also consider that in the most basic level, scientism is self- referential  and therefore dismissing experience as an artefact of a self-referential incoherence is not a valid argument.
Also, let us consider that dismissing experience as wrong mixture between ontology — which is the physical states accessible to measurement — and experience — which is epistemological although correlated with physical states — is at the very least questionable.
It will be shown that such an assumption that experience as language label of a hidden state is correlated with the physical states leads to a problem by construction. The conclusion is that experience as a language label of a hidden state, does not have to be correlated with physical states.
Trying to dismiss this assumption as a valid option due to a one-to-one correlation between the physical states of the brain and seeing color as an epistemological experience and therefore rendering the epistemological experience redundant is therefore wrong because the redundancy does not exist without a one-to-one correspondence between ontology and epistemology.
Claim, If the physical ontological process involved in color perception can be symmetrical, as a result of 3 artificial receptors response, and a cognitive machine which perceives the colors ontologically through physical processes can be said to be conscious as a hidden state, then the experience of seeing color, also as a hidden state, is not a result of any physical mechanism.
Notice that we identify experience with a property of consciousness both as hidden epistemological states and that we assumed that a cognitive machine which perceives colors can be conscious as epistemological hidden states, i.e. not accessible to measurement.
If the experience of seeing color is indeed a result of the structure of the brain, then an artificial robotic brain which is equipped with ontological vision and epistemological color experience can be constructed.
Unlike human vision, which is dictated by biochemical reactions, let us construct a color vision which is based on 3 color receptors as in the case of RGB but with 3 other different wavelengths Color1=Perception(R1, a1), Color2=Perception(R1, a2) , Color3=Perception(R1, a3) with wavelengths a1>a2>a3 and a1-a2=a2-a3 or a1*a3 = a2*a2 and such that the number of receptors of each color is the same, unlike in the biological brain.
This robot will therefore not perceive colors as we do and does not have to see the same number of different colors as we do. Now given that two such robots R1, R2 are conscious and have functionally identical color perception system, robot R1 wants to know if the epistemological color perception of robot R2 is as it perceives colors is like it does, Perception A: Color1=Perception(R1, a1), Color2=Perception(R1, a2), Color3=Perception(R1, a3) or Perception B: Color1=Perception(R1, a3), Color2=Perception(R1, a2), Color3=Perception(R1, a1) and thus R1 raises two possibilities of epistemological color experience in relation to its own epistemological perception despite the same ontological functionality of the artificial neural wiring.
Robot R1 will inevitably reach the conclusion that due to ontological color wavelength proximities and due to the ontological receptors response symmetry, which is artificially imposed, each one of the two epistemological perceptions is possible without contradictions to the correlation with the ontological signal.
But we have assumed by Sam’s parsimony conjecture that color experience is a result language so how can language alone lead to two cognitively meaningful different epistemological states? If that was the case, R1 would not be able to assume at least two possibilities about the epistemological perception of R2 and there would be a one-to-one correspondence between the ontological physical machine and the epistemological experience. We reached a contradiction!
Where could problems arise? The assumptions of the theorem are
1) that an artificial ontological symmetric color response can be built. This question is purely technological but is not limited by asymmetries that exist in biological systems.
2) The second assumption was that robots can be epistemologically conscious.
3) The third assumption was that consciousness is a direct result of language alone. If this assumption is correct then since language is itself a result of the ontological neural wiring, there should not be two possible epistemological states correlated with the same ontological state.
As for now, any one of these 3 assumptions may not hold. Either no artificial symmetric color response system can be built, or robots cannot be epistemologically conscious, or epistemological consciousness does exist but is not a result of the machine alone.
The refutation of the first assumption is the hardest to achieve because the concentration of receptors can be controlled in the production process. In fact, as a good example, current cameras have twice the concentration of green receptors than red ones. These commercial cameras are adjusted to produce pictures that will look real to the human eyes.
1. Dissertation: Dr. Rik Peels, VU University Amsterdam (the Netherlands) “SCIENTISM AND THE ARGUMENT FROM SELF-REFERENTIAL INCOHERENCE”
Shimon: In principle, despite the evident difficulties related to language, I reject the negation of the concepts of “experience” and “consciousness”.
I find the denial of subjectivity and the arguments for reality or the universe which substantially transcend the limitations of knowledge unacceptable. These limitations are subjective and self-contained, a kind of bubble or solipsistic monad, enclosed and opaque to the subject (witness, observer, etc.)
Only the individual in his world, exercising rigorous and honest critical thinking, could gauge the limits of the derived and ultimate horizon of his awareness of reality. In fact, this awareness is reflexive, preoccupied with rendering a thorough account of its own boundaries and limitations.
You adhere to Occam’s razor or parsimony as a minimal logical and epistemological threshold when it comes to the controlled deployment of language in its relation to reality. If I understood correctly, you are warning against an incautious and uncontrolled use of language as a practice with diminishing returns. In principle, I agree with this concern of yours.
But precisely because of this and due to your argument that these words when considered as stand-ins for actual ontological entities constitute “language masquerading as reality” (a naïve metaphysical concept akin to naïve realism), I reject concepts such as “energy”, “spacetime”, and “dimensions”, except when we make use of them as mere theoretical constructs in the context of scientific thought and research. I call this “applied or critical metaphysics”, as distinct from the classical or naïve variety.
But my argument is that Occam’s razor is the default in logical thinking and should not constrain the derivation of every ontological or metaphysical necessity. It is a mere functional principle that serves the aesthetic and utilitarian conveniences of cognition.
You keep insisting that “reality” is sufficient, but then you add “physical” to it. Why is that? Uncompromising and consistent adherence to Occam’s razor requires that we omit this descriptive of reality as well! How, therefore, should I understand “physicality”: in the context of science? What is the meaning of “physicality” outside of physics?
I am well aware of your view that physical inquiry is not objective and does not deal either with reality or with the knowledge of reality. Physics therefore is not the equivalent of metaphysics and not the same as ontology. Physical inquiry is not the same as metaphysical inquiry.
Allow me to humbly propose this definition of “consciousness”: the manifestation of reality’s capacity to introspect, with itself as its own subject and to be aware of its existence.
The conceptual perception of the Universe as absolute in the sense that it constitutes the totality of the space of existence, an ontological axiom, is a metaphysical stance similar to Spinoza’s philosophy which regarded reality as a totality (an infinite object) or an absolutely whole immanent unity.
My point of view is that the only universe in existence is the one given within the entirety of my subjective, self-explanatory, unambiguous consciousness. This universe is the space of all existence, though not absolutely, more as a default of the preference for a trivial certainty over the doubtful in principle. This implies the possible existence of a reality which is inaccessible to my knowledge. I call this approach “critical-reflexive solipsism”.
We cannot deny the fact that we are imprisoned in a “solipsistic bubble” of sorts and that as far as each and every one of us, every “I”, there is no other reality (except as a metaphysical speculation). Although our very capacity to conceive of a transcendental reality accessible to our minds is telling.
“The psychic reality of Man is the only thing that he recognizes with any certainty” (Y. Leibowitz). There is only the individual sphere of consciousness and only private languages. In my view, this is not a metaphysical statement, but an admission of the only reality we know of.
SV: Thank you both for your insights. I would like to respond further to some of the points made by my brother, Shimon.
I have always claimed that we have access only to one mind — our own. This is the intersubjectivity problem in the philosophy of mind. This is why we are forced to speculate about the states of mind of others (theory of mind, mentalization). There is no way to be sure that others — man or machine or animal or rock from outer space — have a mind at all.
I also insist that science is a self-referential language. Physics is not about “reality” or “truth”. Theories in physics are about other theories in physics. Hence the pivotal role of mathematics — the most efficacious language ever.
Any reality that is inaccessible to our minds should be ignored. We cannot generate falsifiable hypotheses or meaningful statements and theorems with regards to such a “reality” beyond our ken. It is a nonsensical and wasteful pursuit. This is why I react dismissively and contemptuously to any attempt to discuss “god”.
This is where parsimony comes in: it limits us to what we can accomplish by using the scientific method (aka the method of generating language). It is clear from your response that I failed to communicate my views clearly. Occam’s razor or parsimony is a principle of language — not an ontological constraint. It is a rule on how to construct scientific theories which are the products of pure language!
This is why I kept disagreeing with Eytan whenever he attempted to make claims about reality by using his mind, thought experiments, or language.
But, after all, what is reality to my mind?
Reality is everything that exists whether accessible to our minds or not and whether amenable to being captured by language or not. This is not a metaphysical principle. It is a lexical definition and as such cannot be argued with.
I fully agree with both you: our minds and language itself limit our access to reality. We never have direct contact with the ontos — only with the epistemos.
But the fact that we are limited beings does not prove that there is no reality except the reality of our “consciousness”. It doesn’t even prove that our “consciousness” is real. It has nothing to do with reality or ontology. These are two parallel lines of thought that can never meet in principle.
Science is a faith-based activity. Axioms are its dogma. I am a believer and a practitioner. Occam’s razor regulates my allowed and my prohibited communication (language). It is possible to communicate in science using other principles (plenitude or redundancy of degrees of freedom in gauge theories, for example or Newtonian vs. Hamiltonian vs. Lagrangian physics) — but these plenitude theories are always reducible to parsimonious theories without any loss of predictive or descriptive power. This is why I prefer to deploy parsimony to start with, even though I fully admit that it is an arbitrary and personal preference!!!
To summarize: my position is a hybrid of Heidegger’s “thingness” and Lacan’s “Real”. I am not a Kantian by any means. I do not deny the role of our mind, nor do I deny the existence of language. But I reject the claim that the failures of language (the mind) and its limitations are somehow proof of some ontology or that there is no ontology except that of language (the mind).
ES: Quoting Shimon, “This universe is the space of all existence, though not absolutely, more as a default of the preference for a trivial certainty over the doubtful in principle. This implies the possible existence of a reality which is inaccessible to my knowledge. I call this approach “critical-reflexive solipsism” — it is indeed a parsimonious description of existence. It should be argued with SV that this claim renders color perception primordial, not an artifact of language to get rid of. The conclusion is that any symmetry in the commonly shared color processing, although a robotic-construction, cannot be ignored and that the rebuttal of a one-to-one map between psychic and physical states, does refute that the psych is a result of the brain. Due to Shimon’s claim, the Psych’s existence is inevitable. My view is that the ability to consider more than one option for psychic experience, which is correlated but not identical to hardware states, is in itself an indication that “experience” and “mind” cannot be a result of language limits and language failure and therefore cannot be cut out by the Occam’s razor.
A second subject, in a more mathematical language bound description, is the probabilistic view of the shared experience we call ontology, as requiring a dual deterministic reference space to exist. As such, this dual space is not the observable Nature, although its existence is inferred from the probabilistic interpretation of the commonly shared experience, we call the physical world. It is a different route to show us that there is more than the shared experience we call the physical world, and such a space is still a parsimonious description of existence, as a whole, because the description of reality is inconsistent without the existence of a reference deterministic space, on which probabilities of observables non-locally sum to 1. In that aspect I totally agree with Sir Roger Penrose.
The principle of parsimony cannot be used to remove components of a descriptive language of reality if such a removal renders any possible description inconsistent. It is argued that by Shimon’s claim, removal of the psych from the description is invalid and therefore the removal of any hardware symmetry as allowing more than one psychic state without contradiction, is also invalid.
Shimon: The theories within science thought up, created, developed, and crystallized by Man I regard as epistemological models, mere applied metaphysical systems in as far as they are embedded in this or that conceptual framework.
Any discussion of reality should be the domain of philosophy, not of science.
I do not claim that there is no reality outside of consciousness. I adopt a critical-solipsistic point of view as a default position since I can only judge by the extant evidence. There is only one reality that is knowable in principle and it is wholly subjective. I do not possess the capacity nor am I permitted to refute its postulated possible existence.
But, pay heed: it is impossible to refute the existence of a transcendental reality (non-subjective, independently existent). As a primary reflexive — in other words: a conscious — witness, any metaphysical claim or argument regarding the “objective” substantiality of this kind of reality is not falsifiable and, therefore, not scientific. It is a mere nonsensical speculation, intuition, or belief.
ES: This is not claimed, what is claimed is that probabilistic non-local models of Nature are dual. They are observables with probabilities that sum to 1 on either a sub-set of a reference object or on an entire reference object. Such a reference object is not directly accessible to measurement. This description of the world, we commonly experience, is the only consistent description of non-local Quantum Theories. It is a functional description that already shows that there is a problem with our current understanding of the observable universe as all that there is.
Regardless of any functional physical model, the very existence of ourselves is mystical. Questions of why, may never have an answer within the scope of physics, which is functional to achieve new technologies.
Eytan Suchard https://www.linkedin.com/in/eytan-suchard-4b447633/
Shimon Vaknin https://www.youtube.com/@MetaSphere1116