The case against reality


This post and this by Hariod are all worth a read.

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

24 thoughts on “The case against reality

  1. Mordanicus says:

    Though this discussion is quite interestingly, I am afraid this hypothesis will be abused by post-modernists and woo meisters to peddle all kind of bizarre ideas.

    Even if reality as we experience it, does not exist, it will be still prudent to act as if it were. Our actions are shaped by our perceptions of the external world. We have no better way to discover the objective reality than through our senses, even though they might be unreliable.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hariod Brawn says:

    Thankyou very much Mak, for both links. I read The Atlantic article with great interest. The Penrose/Hameroff OrchOR Theory has interested me, having read Penrose’ The Emperor’s New Mind some 25 or so years ago. Cranialists go nuts at the mention of non-local factors potentially influencing and being constituent factors of consciousness, and consciousness not being computational, but there you have it – they’ve read Dennett and closed the book. Consciousness Explained Away! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      having read Penrose’ The Emperor’s New Mind some 25 or so years ago makes me feel so young 😦
      I started reading Dennett’s consciousness explained and gave it up. I don’t recall why. But honestly, the two posts require several rereads to just get the gist of the subject matter.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mordanicus says:

        If you gave up reading Dennet’s book and you can’t recall why, then I suppose it’s a terrible book.

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        • Hariod Brawn says:

          Mordanicus, Dennett’s Consciousness Explained is far from being a bad book, but it has many detractors these days, and has come to be known by them as Consciousness Explained Away, which I alluded to in my opening comment. It’s a computational theory of mind, and that was the assumed paradigm in the nineties, but things have moved along a bit with, say, Enactivism, Externalism, and also in light of Penrose argument against a computational model.

          Liked by 1 person

          • makagutu says:

            Maybe I should someday finish it or rather I will have to start from the beginning.

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          • Hariod Brawn says:

            If you’re interested in Consciousness Theory and how the brain models the self, then there’s a book called The Crucible of Consciousness, by the late Zoltan Torey, which is dazzlingly good. [2nd. ed. MIT Press, 1st. ed. Oxford University Press] I have Zoltan’s personal copy along with a letter he received from Dan Dennett about it.

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  3. shelldigger says:

    Perspectives then are like rainbows. No one sees the same of either.

    This is why right wing conservatives live in an alternate reality?

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  4. Great. None of this is happening.

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    • Hariod Brawn says:

      Awareness devoid of sense representation is a long established fact, Sirius – it’s a contemplative/meditative state, and has been academically researched in respect to its correlative brain states.

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      • keithnoback says:

        What all counts as sense representation? Would that include self-awareness and sense of time?
        Isn’t reference to correlative brain states flirting with the computational model?
        If the mind has a ‘dial tone’ at base, then it is, like a dial tone, representative of a receptive state, which is to say it derives from a perspective.
        Like the ‘mineness’ within qualia, such a thing would be epiphenomenal.
        But, I am highly skeptical of such a thing in the first place. After all, who goes to that place where nothing happens, and does not return? It would be a very real (yuck:) danger if one had entirely escaped recursion as well as reflection. Yet we all have come back…

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        • Hariod Brawn says:

          Hi Keith, here is a link on the brain correlations: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00099 You can read there about adepts in TE awareness. As I already said, it’s a contemplative/meditative state, and so a temporary (non)experience.

          For me, and I suspect for you, consciousness – i.e. being with knowledge, con scientia – counts as a sense representation. More accurately: a meta-level endogram of sense representations. Some, like Graziano, write of attention being the precursor to representation. But attention without (something we might call) awareness as a guiding factor of it seems illogical. The attention is alerted by sense stimuli, but the alerting connotes an awareness (for want of a better term) to be alerted. ‘Awareness’ is a tricky term because it’s conceived as synonymous with ‘consciousness’, so in the sense I’m using it, it isn’t a conscious state; it isn’t a state being ‘aware of consciousness’ or a representation. It isn’t dichotomous as consciousness is – a knowing and an object known. It’s both prior to and a constituent element of conscious sense representation.

          As for time, then we don’t experience time itself, only phenomena from which we infer time. Similarly, if you jump off a building you don’t experience gravity, only the effects of the senses such as wind rushing etc. Same with wetness – no one experiences wetness; it’s an inference made from pressure sensing and temperature sensing.

          What do you mean by ‘self-awareness’?

          Liked by 1 person

          • keithnoback says:

            Yeah, it’s all in how you break down the phenomenology – gravity, pressure, proprioceptive changes.
            By self-awareness, I mean the viewpoint of experience. I think your non-experience also contains a viewpoint. I also think we do experience time – it is inherent in all our experience, because it is inherent in the sub-conscious state. When it comes to time, we are not dealing with inference so much as imposition.
            Searle speaks of the relationship between sub-conscious (a rose by any other name) and conscious in a similar way to what you seem to be proposing.
            But to borrow from him, I think the subconscious state, awareness, receptivity, whatever you want to call it, has an aspectual shape.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Hariod Brawn says:

            Thanks Keith. When you say “I think your non-experience also contains a viewpoint”, or that it’s “aspectual”, then that would make it dichotomous, or a state of consciousness – an apparent subject doing some apprehending. The thing is, there is no apparent subject, no self-awareness obtaining, curious though that may seem. It’s a highly esoteric state, of course, and can’t be conceived of as a conscious representation as it is devoid of features. One could always argue that this TE awareness or non-experience is itself an object of consciousness, and I think perhaps you are. That’s perfectly fair enough, although it’s an unique state of consciousness in that it’s devoid of features and isn’t susceptible to memory; whereas a hallmark of all other conscious states is that they have some discernible feature and they are susceptible to recall. It isn’t actually ‘being with knowledge’.

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          • keithnoback says:

            Thanks Hariod,
            This is extremely hard to discuss, since the object of discussion is claimed to be a subjectless, not to mention an objectless, condition.
            Yet it is a condition.
            I would go back to the dial tone analogy. The state in question would not be the listener’s experience of the dial tone, but the dial tone for the phone itself. The tone does not participate in the actual functions of the phone, nor is it even a phoney quality, entailed by phone-defining events.
            But even though it is not oriented to language, or electrical transmission or anything else the phone ‘knows’, it is oriented to its own receptivity. To the phone, it looks like a flat, featureless sea of sound, but that is how the phone can represent the dial tone upon reflection, which we have already declared an inadequate method.
            I have a bit of professional interest in this subject. I have done this kind of meditation intentionally – in the undertaking that is – while being trained to fight (it is extremely useful to flip off one’s self-regard and all its baggage in conflict). And I have done this kind of meditation reflexively while climbing (hard to believe, I know, but all the symptoms are there).
            One always ‘snaps back’ to a state of knowledge, and then a state of reflection. Why?
            Without orientation, it is not possible, even if the orientation is not what we typically think of when we think of maps and compasses.
            Maybe all this amounts to distinctions without differences, but it is helpful to consider anyway. Thanks.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Hariod Brawn says:

            Thanks Keith. Yes, the dial-tone analogy sort of works, in the way that analogies ‘sort of work’, and I used one myself that sort of works: light, which is invisible, making things visible. The light (awareness) is emitted by a lamp (the brain and nervous system), so is perspectival in the sense you mean it, and in that it comes from (it’s of course non-local) a physicalised source; so that has parallels to what we’re talking about here. For me, it only ‘sort of works’, because I differ in that I’m not convinced it’s a representation – even an extremely subtle one. If it were, then all things being equal it would exhibit two qualities: some subtle sense of what it is, and its susceptibility to memory.

            We could possibly meet on some ground we might call ‘pure perception’, although again there, it would suggest this state is a percept, or perceptually based, and that really means a ‘conscious of’ conceit – i.e. dichotomous. That said, then percepts embed initially as extremely vague image-forms, only establishing themselves due to repetition and only then being recallable as conscious objects – in fact, memories.

            Obviously enough, adepts of this TE awareness (I practised meditation 4-8 hrs. a day for around 25 years), are physical individuals and in that sense the experience is being had from a perspective in time and space. That’s looking at it from the outside in, though, and the (non)experience itself is non-perspectival – there simply isn’t the remotest sense of ‘me having a (non)experience’. You appear to be accepting this once-removed conceptualisation of the state.

            But you’re right, it is a condition, or a ‘state’ as I’ve been calling it, and we can see that it’s dependent upon certain things going on in the brain, as per my link to the studies. It’s an aspect or substrate of consciousness but one which can obtain on its own, without the normal dichotomous relationship of consciousness itself. But it isn’t ontologically distinct from consciousness as conceived like this, just that we are conceiving consciousness incorrectly if we insist it is always object dependent – the usual dictum of cognitive science being ‘no content, no consciousness’. Well, I sort of agree with that, which is why ‘TE awareness’ is a better name for it, or ‘objectless awareness’. It hardly seems correct to call it ‘consciousness’, which means ‘being with a knowledge-object’, when there is no knowledge-object or apparent subject ‘being with’ it.

            Anyway, I find it an interesting discussion, and I’m appreciative to you and to Mak for the chance to blather on here about it. Nothing’s set in stone, as none of us know what consciousness is, of course. No one can say with certainty they’re right in their conceptions, but I do think first-person perspectives have a role to play, should be studied scientifically, and not discounted as extraneous to understanding the subject. Cheers Keith!

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I will have to say I don’t get it. how do we know that reality isn’t like it is? And if the perception of reality is individual, then how do humans interact? there is no reason we should have similar illusions that I can think of.

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  6. basenjibrian says:

    How do we know that quantum physics describes “reality” and is not itself nothing but a delusion? If everything is a delusion, a creation of our senses, isn’t maths likewise?

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