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Trust, Consciousness, Dennett, Lem: was: another new language to check out

From:Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Date:Friday, July 2, 2004, 13:45
Hi, Chris.  I agree with anything you say here, and welcome your added
remarks!  :)  I've heard of Go:del's Incompleteness Theory, I've heard of
String Theory, the point is I've HEARD of all these theories, but I haven't
formally studied them, only taken out a few books for the layman.  So for me
they are things I must take on faith, as you say.  And yes, too, I've
contemplated the notion off and on in my salad days that I'm the only one to
exist, since I cannot fathom other people's subjectivities, but I've
discarded that solipsistic notion as you seem to have, too.  Along with the
notion that for me the other side of the moon doesn't exist because I've
never seen it, or even that "Debbie's" house in South Dakota doesn't exist
because I've never heard of her!  Dennett's _Consciousness Explained_ seems
like an almost laughably arrogant title.  (I can't remember what it argues;
I read it on the run years ago, and agreed with much of it, but:)
_Consciousness Interrogated_?  _Consciousness Investigated_?  Consciousness
is a mysterious thing to me.  Something almost impossible to "explain."   It
is personal and isolating, but because I have it, and I have language (we're
slipping back towards Wittgenstein's notions of privacy!!) that keeps me in
touch with the matrix of human activity.  I can imagine your consciousness,
dimly (only through what you tell me of yourself) and I look upon the human
world as myriad points of view to which mine contributes just ever so
slightly in the vast tapestry of the universe, but which is EVERYTHING to
me.  And so it is for each person. We're as isolated as we are bonded. so I
suppose reading as much as we can, learning, learning languages, talking,
considering, experimenting, empathizing, believing (not blindly),
interrogating and helping are some of the most important things we can do as


My favorite book for the summer:  Stanislaw Lem's _Solaris_.  It far
outshines either movie in its exploration (there are no explanations) of an
alien "consciousness" that we have no way of understanding or communicating
with.  I finally read it and was overcome with admiration for this book
about an unreachable "subjectivity."  We see only the synapses firing, the
epiphenomena of a complicated organism able to detect our presence and
physically replicate our obsessions, but we can't penetrate the "reality" of
that system as it exists subjectively for the entity.  Or even communicate
with it.  I wish either movie had focussed on the truly bizarre aspects of
the planet, so brilliantly described by Lem.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Chris Bates" <chris.maths_student@...>
To: <CONLANG@...>
Sent: Friday, July 02, 2004 3:28 AM
Subject: Re: another new language to check out

> Sally, everything takes blind trust at some point, even mathmatics for > mathematicians (which I am... kindof) and science for scientists. Any > "proof" is not absolute even within mathematics; rather to prove > anything in mathematics you have to establish a set of axioms which you > believe in without proof, because if you have nothing to start with then > you can't prove anything. Thus the truth of a proof depends not only on > its correctness in itself, but also in the truth of the axioms you built > it on. A lot of the axioms mathematics is build on are things most > people would consider simple or obvious if they were explained to them, > but they are nevertheless "taken on faith". The same is true of the > sciences, but more so, because there is no such thing as true proof of > most scientific theories. Rather in science proof takes the form of > probability, ie this theory agrees with all the experimental evidence we > have and we don't have a better one so its probably true. But that was > true of Newtonian Mechanics, and now we have the Theory of Relativity > and Quantum Mechanics which say Newtonian Physics is an approximation > that works a lot of the time, but isn't really "true" in a sense. The > problem is Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are somewhat incompatible so > a lot of physicists have been working on finding a model that fits both > (mainly string theory). If they find one, then Relativity and Quantum > Mechanics will both be approximations too, and thus not really 100%
> You might also be interested to now the Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, > which is true according to Mathematics (given the axioms we've taken) > shows that no system can be both consistent and complete; ie there will > always be statements in any system we choose to build no matter what the > axioms, which cannot be proven (I'm excluding the axioms here since by > definition they are taken on faith). So there exist some non-axiomic > true statements in mathematics which cannot be proven, although its > difficult to provide an example because the fact I have no proof doesn't > mean that one doesn't exist. > Anyway, my point was just that everything including science requires > faith, because to "know" anything, you have to take some basic knowledge > for granted to build the rest. :) If you decide to take nothing on faith > you end up like Descartes, who decided that the only thing he could > believe in was his own existence (the famous "Cognito ergo Sum" or > rather "Cognito, Sum" as Christophe corrected us last time). > > >I don't know if religious trust ("faith") is necessarily "blind," (she
> >cautiously.) I think aspects of the "rational" universe take just as
> >unquestioning trust on a daily basis. For instance, I know that my
> >is operated by electricity, but I couldn't begin to make a battery, much > >less a generator. Or a computer. They work almost like magic for me.
> >to the point, I know that mathematicians and scientists can prove things > >about the universe that I could never corroborate. Quantum physics is
> >a Book of Secrets for me. I must trust it. I will never understand it > >completely. Is that "blind"? Remember, now, I'm talking about all
> >structures, here. You can say that there are charts and documents that > >"prove" quantum physics or mathematics, or show one how a battery works. > >But look at the O.J. Simpson jury. They decided not to put their "blind > >trust" into what the forensics scientists told them about DNA testing.
> >O.J. walked. I'm not saying that's a good thing. I'm examining the
> >of trust and skepticism. It goes both ways. > > > > >


Joe <joe@...>
Peter Bleackley <peter.bleackley@...>
John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>Trust, Consciousness, Dennett...