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Ian_C. comments on Reductionism - Less Wrong

40 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 March 2008 06:26AM

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Comment author: Ian_C. 16 March 2008 02:30:37PM 0 points [-]

Ben Jones: "if minds don't create their own distinct internal maps, but simply 'latch on' to what's actually there, then how do explain the fact that maps can be wrong? In fact, how do you explain any two people holding two opposed beliefs?"

Different people have different eyes, nervous systems and brains, so the causal path from the primary object to the part of reality in their brain to which they are latching on can be different.

I agree sensory perception is not like a photograph, but I don't think it's like an idiot trying to explain to us. I don't believe there's the outside world, and then an idiot distortion layer, and then our unfortunate internal model. There's one reality, and one part of it outside our body acts by a chain of cause and effect on another part inside our body, of which we happen to be able to be conscious.

So if the internal object is just as real as the external object, then we're done. We have our contact point with reality, and can begin to study it and figure out the universe, including deducing (maybe one day) the existence of the primary object. But whether it actually resembles the primary object in some way, surely that is not the main issue? From an evolutionary point of view, it doesn't have to be similar, just useful, and from an epistemological point of view it's not important whether it is (at all) similar or not.

Comment author: Perplexed 30 July 2010 05:29:15AM 0 points [-]

Different people have different eyes, nervous systems and brains, so the causal path from the primary object to the part of reality in their brain to which they are latching on can be different.

When you first mentioned "latching" my initial reaction was as negative and incredulous as Ben Jones's was. Now I recognize that this idea is Kripke's - he explains intensionality as a chain of causal links between territory and map. I see why Kripke went that way, but the whole enterprise turns my stomach. Where is Descartes when we need him? Intensionality carries no mystery in a model where map is distinct from territory, with no attempt being made to embed map in territory. It only becomes problematic when naive reductionism demands that our models must capture the act of modeling. And then we proceed to tie ourselves completely in knots when we imagine that this bit of self-reference contains the secret of consciousness.

Can't we just pretend that our minds reside outside the physical universe when discussing epistemology? It makes things much simpler. Then we can discuss the reductionist science of cognition by allowing some minds back into the universe to serve as objects of study. :)