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Cognitive Instability, Physicalism, and Free Will

For what it's worth I think there needs to be some clarification. 

I didn't say our model is deterministic nor should it be or not. And my argument is not about whether the correct definition of knowledge should be "justified true belief". And unless I have had the wrong impression, I don't think Sean Carrol's focus is on the definition of knowledge either. Instead, it's about what should be considered "true".

The usual idea of a theory being true if it faithfully describes an underlying objective physical reality (deterministic or not)  is problematic. It suffers the same pitfall of believing I am a Boltzmann brain. It is due to the dilemma that theories are produced and evaluated by worldly objects while their truth ought to be judged with "a view from nowhere", a fundamentally objective perspective. 

Start reasoning by recognizing I am a particular agent, then you will not have this problem. I don't deny that. In fact, I think that is the solution to many paradoxes. But the majority of people would start reasoning from the "view from nowhere" and regard that as the only way. I think that is what has led people astray in many problems. Like decision paradoxes such as Newcomb, anthropics and to a degree, quantum interpretations. 

Cognitive Instability, Physicalism, and Free Will

Not intentional, but didn't expect it to be a novel argument either. I suspect everyone has thought about it sometime during their life, likely while learning physics in secondary school. I just think "cognitive instability" is a nice handle for the discussion.

Cognitive Instability, Physicalism, and Free Will

I really like "starting with being an agent". In fact, I strongly argued for it. But the reality is people often would forgo this and regard "view from nowhere" as the foundation and attempt to draw the map with that perspective. (Anthropics being the prime example, IMO) Allowing this switch of viewpoints, there is no way to say if "the internal model for decision-making" really "reflects the universe". E.g. the debate if quantum states are just epistemological or ontological. 

Even the idea of "decision" is challenged when the decision-maker is physically analyzed. We won't say water decides to flow toward lower places. Looking at a decision-maker physically, where is the sense of decision in his actions? I think that's why "decision-making" problems like Newcomb and Twin Prison Dilemma are paradoxical. It asks what would the decision-maker do using the introspecting sense while also made sure physically analyzing the decision-maker is part of the problem.

Consciousness, Free Will and Scientific Objectivity in Perspective-Based Reasoning

That's quite alright, none taken. All I was getting at was a uniquely "physically real" analysis is actually an additional assumption. 

Consciousness, Free Will and Scientific Objectivity in Perspective-Based Reasoning

Do you think there is a causal reason why you are MSRayne? Meaning why you are experiencing the world from that particular physical person's perspective? Instead of you being Bill Gates, or an astroid, or a quark? 

Consciousness, Free Will and Scientific Objectivity in Perspective-Based Reasoning

"There can be only one true explanation for any given event" is actually what I am challenging. PBR supposes reasoning and physical descriptions have to be based on a prespecified perspective. And there is no one "true explanation" that transcends all perspectives. 

By PBR's logic, the perspective center being not physically describable is to be expected. That's what I meant by "why quantum physics does not cover the observer" because physics actually shouldn't. I am not claiming I know more than physicists. If you are interested in quantum interpretations proposed by actual physicists, that work well with the idea of PBR, I suggest RQM by Carlo Rovelli

Btw, the steelmaning portion is not my argument. "whenever two conscious minds interact" is ontologically impossible per PBR. The "conscious mind" is inherent to the first-person, or more generally inherent to the thing at the perspective center. There cannot be two conscious minds in any given analysis. For example, reasoning from my first-person perspective and conducting physical analysis would not conclude or infer that you are conscious. You are just a complicated machine in this analysis. Whatever your actions are, they can be physically deduced. Alternatively, we can conduct the analysis from your perspective instead of mine. But then you will be the conscious self, and I will just be the complex, yet physically-reducible machine. 

We can also conduct the analysis from the perspective of some other thing, then neither you nor I would be conscious. However, we shouldn't conduct the analysis with "a view from nowhere" or "god's eye view" that transcends all perspectives that think in terms of the "true nature" or "absolute reality" of things. 

Consciousness, Free Will and Scientific Objectivity in Perspective-Based Reasoning

PBR suggests physics reasoning has to be conducted from something's perspective, instead of a "god's eye view" or "view from nowhere". 

Call this thing at the perspective center "self". From this perspective, the world around can be physically described/analyzed based on the interactions with the self. This means to physically analyze something we have to reason from the perspective of something else that interacts with it. It cannot be done from its own perspective. This is the reason why "observers" are not covered by quantum physic btw. 

The self is not within the scope of physics. Instead, the reason behind its actions can be interpreted as conscious choices. This is what I meant by "free will". 

E.g. if we take an outsider's perspective and physically analyze Bill Gate's body, brain included, we can in theory analyze it as a machine to deduce its output. The concept of "free will" or "conscious choice" never applies. If we reason from our natural first-person perspective, then the reason behind our decisions is our choices. 

Human bodies are nothing special. If we reason from the perspective of a Galton board, how it arranged the balls shall be interpreted as conscious choices too.  Even though physically analyzing it, from another perspective, would reveal nothing of that nature. 

To summarize, PBR suggests consciousness and free will are inherent properties to the thing at the perspective center. Or the first-person perspective presupposes them. (first-"person" is a misnomer here, doesn't has to be a human being.)

An Alternative Interpretation of Physics

You can say even when neither of them can compare the descriptions it still means their descriptions are the same. But from what perspective is this statement made? It is from a god's eye view that directly thinks in terms of reality.  

A self-consistent theory only means from any perspective, analyzing the interactions affected by an object cannot give conflicting descriptions of said object. If the only interaction upon you from the camera is an infra-red photo of the bottle, and from your direct interaction with the bottle you concluded it's red, and from the infra-red photo you concluded it is green, then there's something wrong with your theory that needs rectifying. 

Besides, applying the same theories from the cameras' perspective does not necessarily mean an infrared camera and a normal camera would give different (macro-scale) descriptions of the bottle. Sure the cameras give different photos. But the interactions they receive from the bottle are not that different. The infrared camera still gets bombarded by photons of all energy levels. They don't just pass through the camera unaffected without interacting with it. And physical descriptions are based on them. If instead there is an infrared camera that let photons of higher energy levels pass through without interacting, as if they don't exist to the camera, then it would give different descriptions. 


Look, what I am arguing is that a foundational "absolute reality" is an additional assumption based on our intuition formed in the daily environment. Thinking directly in terms of this absolute reality is problematic outside of our intuitive environment, e.g. high speed or microscopic so we should get rid of this assumption however convenient it proved to be in the past. 

I remembered Thomas Nagel said we get the idea of scientific objectivity through 3 steps. 

  1. Realize (or postulate) that my experiences are caused by actions upon me from the environment. 
  2. Realize (or postulate) that what causes actions upon me can also act on other things. They can exist on their own.
  3. Realize (or postulate) an "true nature" that is independent of any perspective. 

People in general regard science as the study of this "true nature" using "a view from nowhere". I am simply arguing Postulate 3 is taking it too far. 

Postulate 1 expands the scope from subjective experiences to actions, i.e. subjective experiences are not special. Postulate 2 expands the scope from my first-person perspective to anything's perspective, i.e. my perspective is not special. Using only these two is not only more parsimonious, it also fits very well with the increasingly observer/perspective-dependent trend of physical discoveries. 

An Alternative Interpretation of Physics

Perspectives here do not just mean spatiotemporal locations. More importantly, it means which thing you are. e.g. you are experiencing the universe from the perspective of a particular human being named mikbp. 

Treating perspectives to be axiomatic means any physical description has to be based on the perspective of something. We cannot think from a god's eye view, and directly describe the world as it is. As in think directly in terms of the "absolute reality". 

If there are no interactions between two observers, then how can either of them say they are giving the same descriptions for an object? To each of them, the existence of the other observer is physically moot. There is ontologically no comparison at all, let alone saying their description are the same or different.

An Alternative Interpretation of Physics

"Absolute objectivity" is treating physical objects as the foundation. I.e. Observers 1 and 2 should give the same depiction of the bottle, on pain of being wrong, because they are describing the same physical object.  It attempts to get rid of perspectives and reason directly in terms of this physical objective reality by taking a "view from nowhere". It fits our usual intuition of scientific objectivity: "think about how things really are instead of how they appear to be from various viewpoints". 

If we treat perspectives to be axiomatic then the underlying reason for the same depiction by distinct observers is different. For example, some of my interactions with the environment are affected by some cause. By analyzing these interactions using some theories, I conceptualize this cause as an object: "the bottle". Note, that not all of the affected interactions are directly between me and the bottle. I could also have interactions from the camera that are affected by the bottle. (reflections from the lens, etc) As long as the theories I used are self-consistent, analyzing the direct interactions and indirect interactions should give non-conflicting depictions of the cause (i.e. the object). For objects that affect lots of interactions, i.e. macroscopic, rough depictions from direct and indirect interactions would effectively be the same. Therefore if we imagine using the same theories from the camera's perspective, it would, effectively, give the same description of the bottle. 

So the bottom reason for why Observers 1 and 2 must give the same physical depiction is: 

1.  Correct physical theories ought to be self-consistent and could work from different perspectives. (uncontroversial)

2.  Observers 1 and 2 are interacting with each other, and these interactions are affected by the object they are describing.

No2. holds up pretty well in our daily life. That's what gives us the intuition of an invariant absolute reality. But if there are no interactions between the observers; if the cause(object) has no effect on these interactions; or even if the effect is too insignificant to carry enough information, then the physical descriptions from different observers have no reason to be the same. There is simply no way to say. 

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