We are all philosophical zombies, but think we're not? We're all X, but think we're Y? What's the difference between X and Y? What would our subjective experience look like if we were actually Y, instead of just thinking we're Y? Unless you can point to something, then we can safely conclude that you're talking without a meaning.

I'm trying to think of what kind of zombies there could be besides philosophical ones.

Epistemological zombie: My brain has exactly the same state, all the neurons in all the same places, and likewise the rest of the universe, but my map doesn't possess any 'truth' or 'accuracy'.

Ontological zombie: All the atoms are in all the same places but they don't exist.

Existential zombie: All the atoms are in all the same places but they don't mean anything.

Causal zombie: So far as anyone can tell, my brain is doing exactly the same things, but only by coincidenc... (read more)

4Rob Bensinger6yThe eliminativist responds: The world would look the same to me (a complex brain process) if dualism were true. But it would not look the same to the immaterial ghost possessing me, and we could write a computer program [http://lesswrong.com/lw/f1u/causal_reference/] that simulates an epiphenomenal universe, i.e., one where every brain causally produces a ghost that has no effects of its own. So dualism is meaningful and false, not meaningless. The dualist responds in turn: I agree that those two scenarios make sense. However, I disagree about which of those possible worlds the evidence suggests is our world. And I disagree about what sort of agent we are — experience reveals us to be phenomenal consciousnesses learning about whether there's also a physical world, not brains investigating whether there's also an invisible epiphenomenal spirit-world. The mental has epistemic priority over the physical. We do have good reason to think we are epiphenomenal ghosts: Our moment-to-moment experience of things like that (ostending a patch of redness in my visual field) indicates that there is something within experience that is not strictly entailed by the physical facts. This category of experiential 'thats' I assign the label 'phenomenal consciousness' as a useful shorthand, but the evidence for this category is a perception-like introspective acquaintance, not an inference from other items of knowledge. You and I agree, eliminativist, that we can ostend something about our moment-to-moment introspective data. For instance, we can gesture at optical illusions. I simply insist that one of those somethings is epistemically impossible given physicalism; we couldn't have such qualitatively specific experiences as mere arrangements of atoms, though I certainly agree we could have unconscious mental states that causally suffice for my judgments to that effect. Eliminativist: Aren't you giving up the game the moment you concede that your judgments are just as well predicte

What makes us think _any_ of our terminal values aren't based on a misunderstanding of reality?

by bokov 1 min read25th Sep 201389 comments


Let's say Bob's terminal value is to travel back in time and ride a dinosaur.

It is instrumentally rational for Bob to study physics so he can learn how to build a time machine. As he learns more physics, Bob realizes that his terminal value is not only utterly impossible but meaningless. By definition, someone in Bob's past riding a dinosaur is not a future evolution of the present Bob.

There are a number of ways to create the subjective experience of having gone into the past and ridden a dinosaur. But to Bob, it's not the same because he wanted both the subjective experience and the knowledge that it corresponded to objective fact. Without the latter, he might as well have just watched a movie or played a video game.

So if we took the original, innocent-of-physics Bob and somehow calculated his coherent extrapolated volition, we would end up with a Bob who has given up on time travel. The original Bob would not want to be this Bob.

But, how do we know that _anything_ we value won't similarly dissolve under sufficiently thorough deconstruction? Let's suppose for a minute that all "human values" are dangling units; that everything we want is as possible and makes as much sense as wanting to hear the sound of blue or taste the flavor of a prime number. What is the rational course of action in such a situation?

PS: If your response resembles "keep attempting to XXX anyway", please explain what privileges XXX over any number of other alternatives other than your current preference. Are you using some kind of pre-commitment strategy to a subset of your current goals? Do you now wish you had used the same strategy to precommit to goals you had when you were a toddler?