To what extent do you think:
1.) Culture itself evolves and follows the same principles of evolution as humans and honeybees?
2.) Culture defines worldview and horizon of knowledge/decision/ideation?
3.) Culture's means of communicating information to infants (e.g. "My First Big Book of A B C's") are evolving/changing to encode "more correct" ideas of the human organism (i.e. teach better)?
You seem to be avoiding theorizing on how society/culture -does- affect our maturation?. Can we bound this? Can we say anything effective about it?
"If I do not disregard it then I must consider it on equal grounds with all "accounts" of creation and concede the utter impossibility of making a decision."
"stupid postmodernists" would suggest a separate solution. Namely - the bible presents an account of creation which is "true" w/r/t certain cultural contexts.
Now, all "truth" in this sense is "equivalent" in that it is merely statements within a cultural or philosophical context. However, this is not the standard by which you, I, or anyone (since we are all necessarily IN a cultural/philosophical context) judge truth.
So you are free to say "I disregard the bible as an accurate account of creation because I belong to a cultural context in which it is incoherent, but I accept that it presents 'truth' in various contexts in which it (or its interpretation) does not contain inconsistencies."
See, the issue is that "truth" to you can never be "truth" to me. You can merely send signals. Like your blog post, for instance. Since we probably largely share contexts you have high probability of transmitting truth. Good job! Of course, your usual mode of communication won't work to convince people with different standards.
Now it comes down to whether you want to call your "truth" the REAL Truth. You can do it if you want. It might even make you feel better. Just know that everyone else (even people who disagree with you) is doing it too.
Oh well, another bit of nothing sent into the void.
Can we make statements of the form "X is Y" without the statement "X exists" being true? Because Eliezer does about reality - therefore I assume there is some sense in which he believes it to "exist." Note that my questions were directed towards his definition, not the claim itself (since I still obviously don't understand the way that Eliezer uses words).
To answer your questions:
"Where is the universe?"
"What color is half-past three?"
For certain definitions of color in certain logical frameworks involving the entities "color" and "half-past three," half-past three is colorless.
"How many zeros does it take to make a baker's dozen?"
Do you think it's possible that the word "exist" is overloaded?
In what sense does snow "existA" but love does not "existA?"
In what sense does "reality exist?" Is this tautology? If so, state it.
"This is the point missed by the postmodernist folks screaming, "But how do you know your beliefs are true?""
Does setting up straw men serve some sort of emotional purpose? Why do you keep doing it? You haven't performed an analysis of the "postmodernist position" - you just keep pointing fingers and saying "they're dumb."
The (non-moron) post-modernist folks are screaming "How do we even know that 'reality exists?' Obviously we do not -know- so it must be definition embedded in cultural/computational context. Therefore when we make statements like "snow is white" what we really -mean- is the set of cultural/computational primitives that that statement can be reduced to. There is no other sense in which the word "mean" makes sense."
What about self-referent phenomena? Are you actually claiming that no beliefs are disjoint from so-called "logical definitions?"
I agree with Robin that there needs to be meta-analysis of what's been going on in Eliezer's recent posts and replies to those posts.
As a concrete example, Eliezer continually sets up the "silly post-modernist professor" archtype, but I haven't seen anything even vaguely resembling a critique of more serious post-modern thought (like Foucault, for instance). In any case, post-modernism makes sense under some interpretations - e.g. if it is taken to mean that "truth" is dependent on context (since statements cannot have meaning without relation to a set of semantic primitives).
As a direct reformulation - Eliezer has not addressed how I personally think about consciousness/why I personally think it is a hard question (not that I have necessarily expressed it explicitly). I agree with Scott's frustration that he seems to continually hark on morons. Maybe I'm a moron, too, but I'd sure like to know in what way!
This isn't meant to be harsh - really I do enjoy Eliezer's posts a lot and think that they are really insightful. I just haven't been satisfied with the level of sensitivity towards other people's opinions which has been displayed here. Eliezer says that we can turn questions understandable by asking why we think them. Well then why do I think I am conscious and that this is "special?!?" I have no clue! I can't even imagine what an answer to that question would look like!
Now here's something to sink the teeth into - a sort of challenge - can we do better?
I guess my reaction to this post is a sort of microcosm of my reaction to most of the content of this blog - I think that our biases are -necessary-, in fact, I think they are the way that we think. They are easily exposed and routed out in our interactions with very basic things, but can you tell me how to get rid of my biases in thinking about Category Theory? How do I get rid of my biases when reading the works of Foucault?
Our biases are a consequence of our computational contexts.
We cannot get outside of our computational contexts.
Thus, I am beginning to think that the "right work" of the intellectual is to -expose- and -inspire- rather than to -criticize- and -condemn-.
This post speaks to that.
We cannot get out of our computational contexts, but let's evolve them together so that we have the foundation required to inspire, yo!
Thanks for this post - it's certainly inspired a lot of thought in me.
Let me suggest a mechanism which explains Keat's (and my own - and every adult's [?]) "loss of wonder."
Part of what we do in using language is pointing to things and making noises so that other people who are experiencing the same thing (presumably) associate the noise to the thing. Now we have a nice way to refer to the "same thing."
The word "rainbow" then corresponds to more than just the visual input - it is all things associated with the rainbow. It is many things not explicitly associated with. It is a -loose- association. It feels free. It allows room for imagination. It is not serious. The point is that the word "rainbow" is like an arrow pointing straight into our emotional centers at THAT THING which is important (whatever it is) and that we love.
"Reducing" the rainbow to knowledge of light interacting with water droplets has a lot of effects:
1.) Some part of you always thinks of the science, the actuality, the existent when you think "rainbow" from now on. You can't help it. You can't just shut it off.
2.) Everything that you -didn't- know (the wonder, etc.) dissipates since you have reduced the phenomenon to an explanation with a bumper sticker (the qualia associated with the explanation).
3.) Your focus shifts from the experience of the colors, the relation of the colors, etc. to the words associated with the colors.
Words are boring.
Experience is great.
Get these words
Off my plate!
I actually don't understand your point at all.
Before Keats found out about what rainbows "really are" he experienced wonder while looking at them.
After, he didn't.
What else is the man supposed to do? He's got to try to investigate his experience, right? Where did he go wrong?
You are reducing his cognitive processes to those of a bumbling fool. They're complex, you just don't understand them. It doesn't seem like you're making enough of an effort.