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Comment author: torekp 30 August 2017 10:58:49PM 0 points [-]

The core problem remains that, if some event A plays no causal role in any verbal behavior, it is impossible to see how any word or phrase could refer to A. (You've called A "color perception A", but I aim to dispute that.)

Suppose we come across the Greenforest people, who live near newly discovered species including the greater geckos. Greenforesters use the word "gumie" always and only when they are very near greater geckos. Since greater geckos are extremely well camouflaged, they can only be seen at short range. Also, all greater geckos are infested with microscopic gyrating gnats. Gyrating gnats make intense ultrasound energy, so whenever anyone is close to a greater gecko, their environment and even their brain is filled with ultrasound. When one's brain is filled with this ultrasound, the oxygen consumption by brain cells rises. Greenforesters are hunter-gatherers lacking either microscopes or ultrasound detectors.

To what does "gumie" refer: geckos, ultrasound, or neural oxygen consumption? It's a no-brainer. Greenforesters can't talk about ultrasound or neural oxygen: those things play no causal role in their talk. Even though ultrasound and neural oxygen are both inside the speakers, and in that sense affect them, since neither one affects their talk, that's not what the talk is about.

Mapping this causal structure to the epiphenomenalist story above: geckos are like photon-wavelengths R, ultrasound in brain is like brain activity B, oxygen consumption is like "color perception" A, and utterances of "gumie" are like utterances S1 and S2. Only now I hope you can see why I put scare quotes around "color perception". Because color perception is something we can talk about.

Comment author: halcyon 31 August 2017 01:26:25PM *  0 points [-]

I'm not sure that analogy can be extended to our cognitive processes, since we know for a fact that: 1. We talk about many things, such as free will, whose existence is controversial at best, and 2. Most of the processes causally leading to verbal expression are preconscious. There is no physical cause preventing us from talking about perceptions that our verbal mechanisms don't have direct causal access to for reasons that are similar to the reasons that we talk about free will.

Why must A cause C for C to be able to accurately refer to A? Correlation through indirect causation could be good enough for everyday purposes. I mean, you may think the coincidence is too perfect that we usually happen to experience whatever it is we talk about, but is it true that we can always talk about whatever we experience? (This is an informal argument at best, but I'm hoping it will contradict one of your preconceptions.)

Comment author: Thomas 29 August 2017 09:39:32PM 0 points [-]

I am afraid, that multiplication of even countably many small numbers yields 0. Let alone the product of more than that, what your integration analogous operation would be,

You can get a nonzero product if the sum of differences between 1 and your factors converge. Then and only then. But if all the factors are smaller than say 0.9 ... you get 0.

Except if you can find some creative way to that anyway. Might be possible, I don't know.

Comment author: halcyon 31 August 2017 01:08:41PM 0 points [-]

Yeah, it might have helped to clarify that the infinitesimal factors I had in mind are not infinitely small as numbers from the standpoint of addition. Since the factor that makes no change to the product is 1 rather than 0, "infinitely small" factors must be infinitesimally greater than 1, not 0. In particular, I was talking about a Type II product integral with the formula pi(1 + f(x).dx). If f(x) = 1, then we get e^sigma(1.dx) = e^constant = constant, right?

Comment author: Thomas 31 August 2017 09:42:32AM *  0 points [-]

I think that was not his question. Hi didn't ask about product integral of f(x), but "product integral of x".

EDIT: And that for "small x". At least I understood his question so.

Comment author: halcyon 31 August 2017 12:58:35PM 0 points [-]

No, he's right. I didn't think to clarify that my infinitely small factors are infinitesimally larger than 1, not 0. See the Type II product integral formula on Wikipedia that uses 1 + f(x).dx.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 29 August 2017 10:57:17PM 2 points [-]

Good question!

The answer is called a Product integral. You basically just use the property

log(ab) = log(a) + log(b)

to turn your product integral into a normal integral

product integral of f(x) = e ^ [normal integral of log(f(x))]

Comment author: halcyon 31 August 2017 12:47:10PM *  0 points [-]

Thanks, product integral is what I was talking about. The exponentiated integral is what I meant when I said the integration will move into the power term.

Comment author: Manfred 29 August 2017 09:41:37PM 3 points [-]

What is the analogy of sum that you're thinking about? Ignoring how the little pieces are defined, what would be a cool way to combine them? For example, you can take the product of a series of numbers to get any number, that's pretty cool. And then you can convert a series to a continuous function by taking a limit, just like an integral, except rather than the limit going to really small pieces, the limit goes to pieces really close to 1.

You could also raise a base to a series of powers to get any number, then take that to a continuous limit to get an integral-analogue. Or do other operations in series, but I can't think of any really motivating ones right now.

Can you invert these to get derivative-analogues (wiki page)? For the product integral, the value of the corresponding derivative turns out to be the limit of more and more extreme inverse roots, as you bring the ratio of two points close to 1.

Are there any other interesting derivative-analogues? What if you took the inverse of the difference between points, but then took a larger and larger root? Hmm... You'd get something that was 1 almost everywhere for nice functions, except where the function's slope got super-polynomially flat or super-polynomially steep.

Comment author: halcyon 31 August 2017 12:33:21PM *  0 points [-]

Someone has probably thought of this already, but if we defined an integration analogue where larger and larger logarithmic sums cause their exponentiated, etc. value to approach 1 rather than infinity, then we could use it to define a really cool account of logical metaphysics: Each possible state of affairs has an infinitesimal probability, there are infinitely many of them, and their probabilities sum to 1. This probably won't be exhaustive in some absolute sense, since no formal system is both consistent and complete, but if we define states of affairs as formulas in some consistent language, then why not? We can then assign various differential formulas to different classes of states of affairs.

(That is the context in which this came up. The specific situation is more technically convoluted.)

Comment author: halcyon 29 August 2017 08:23:17PM 1 point [-]

Integrals sum over infinitely small values. Is it possible to multiply infinitely small factors? For example, Integration of some random dx is a constant, since infinitely many infinitely small values can sum up to any constant. But can you do something along the lines of taking an infinitely large root of a constant, and get an infinitesimal differential in that way? Multiplying those differentials will yield some constant again.

My off the cuff impression is that this probably won't lead to genuinely new math. In the most basic case, all it does is move the integrations into the powers that other stuff is raised by. But if we somehow end up with complicated patterns of logarithms and exponentiations, like if that other stuff itself involves calculus and so on, then who knows? Is there a standard name for this operation?

Comment author: torekp 27 August 2017 04:58:54PM 0 points [-]

We not only stop at red lights, we make statements like S1: "subjectively, red is closer to violet than it is to green." We have cognitive access both to "objective" phenomena like the family of wavelengths coming from the traffic light, and also to "subjective" phenomena of certain low-level sensory processing outputs. The epiphenomenalist has a theory on the latter. Your steelman is well taken, given this clarification.

By the way, the fact that there is a large equivalence class of wavelength combinations that will be perceived the same way, does not make redness inherently subjective. There is an objective difference between a beam of light containing a photon mix that belongs to that class, and one that doesn't. The "primary-secondary quality" distinction, as usually conceived, is misleading at best. See the Ugly Duckling theorem.

Back to "subjective" qualities: when I say subjective-red is more similar to violet than to green, to what does "subjective-red" refer? On the usual theories of how words in general refer -- see above on "horses" and cows -- it must refer to the things that cause people to say S2: "subjectively this looks red when I wear these glasses" and the like.

Suppose the epiphenomenalist is a physicalist. He believes that subjective-red is brain activity A. But, by definition of epiphenomenalism, it's not A that causes people to say the above sentences S1 and S2, but rather some other brain activity, call it B. But now by our theory of reference, subjective-red is B, rather than A. If the epiphenomenalist is a dualist, a similar problem applies.

Comment author: halcyon 29 August 2017 08:13:11PM 0 points [-]

I don't see how you can achieve a reductionist ontology without positing a hierarchy of qualities. In order to propose a scientific reduction, we need at least two classes, one of which is reducible to the other. Perhaps "physical" and "perceived" qualities would be more specific than "primary" and "secondary" qualities.

Regarding your question, if the "1->2 and 1->3" theory is accurate, then I suppose when we say that "red is more like violet than green", certain wavelength ranges R are causing the human cognitive architecture to undertake some brain activity B that drives both the perception of color similarity A a well as behavior which accords with perception C.

So it follows that "But, by definition of epiphenomenalism, it's not A that causes people to say the above sentences S1 and S2, but rather some other brain activity, call it B." is true, but "But now by our theory of reference, subjective-red is B, rather than A." is false. The problem comes from an inaccurate theory of reference which conflates the subset of brain activities that are a color perception A with the entirety of brain activities, which includes preconscious processes B that cause A as well as the behavior C of expressing sentences S1 and S2.

Regarding S2, I think there is an equivocation between different definitions of the word "subjective". This becomes clear when you consider that the light rays entering your eyes are objectively red. We should expect any correctly functioning human biological apparatus to report the object as appearing red in that situation. If subjective experiences are perceptions resulting from your internal mechanisms alone, then the item in question is objectively red. If the meaning of "subjective experience" is extended to include all misreportings of external states of affairs, then the item in question is subjectively red. This dilemma can be resolved by introducing more terms to disambiguate among the various possible meanings of the words we are using.

So in the end, it still comes down to a mereological fallacy, but not the ones that non-physicalists would prefer we end up with. Does that make sense?

This is an interesting example, actually. Do we have data on how universal perceptions of color similarities, etc. are? We find entire civilizations using some strange analogies in the historical record. For example, in the last century, the Chinese felt they were more akin to Russia than the West because the Russians were a land empire, whereas Westerners came via the sea like the barbaric Japanese who had started the Imjin war. Westerners had employed similar strong arm tactics to the Japanese, forcing China to buy opium and so on. Personally, I find it strange to base an entire theory of cultural kinship on the question of whether one comes by land or sea, but maybe that's just me.

Comment author: torekp 26 August 2017 10:21:54AM 0 points [-]

The point is literally semantic. "Experience" refers to (to put it crudely) the things that generally cause us to say "experience", because almost all words derive their reference from the things that cause their utterances (inscriptions, etc.). "Horse" means horse because horses typically occasion the use of "horse". If there were a language in which cows typically occasioned the word "horse", in that language "horse" would mean cow.

Comment author: halcyon 26 August 2017 11:59:01PM *  0 points [-]

I don't think epiphenomenalists are using words like "experience" in accordance with your definition. I'm no expert on epiphenomenalism, but they seem to be using subjective experience to refer to perception. Perception is distinct from external causes because we directly perceive only secondary qualities like colors and flavors rather than primary qualities like wavelengths and chemical compositions.

EY's point is that we behave as if we have seen the color red. So we have: 1. physical qualities, 2. perceived qualities, and 3. actions that accord with perception. To steelman epiphenomenalism, instead of 1 -> 2 -> 3, are other causal diagrams not possible, such as 1 -> 2 and 1 -> 3, mediated by the human cognitive architecture? (Or maybe even 1 -> 3 -> 2 in some cases, where we perceive something on the basis of having acted in certain ways.)

However, the main problem with your explanation is that even if we account for the representation of secondary qualities in the brain, that still doesn't explain how any kind of direct perception of anything at all is possible. This seems kind of important to the transhumanist project, since it would decide whether uploaded humans perceive anything or whether they are nothing but the output of numerical calculations. Perhaps this question is meaningless, but that's not demonstrated simply by pointing out that, one way or another, our actions sometimes accord with perception, right?

Comment author: halcyon 25 August 2017 02:29:13PM 0 points [-]

In the Less Wrong Sequences, Eliezer Yudkowsky argues against epiphenomenalism on the following basis: He says that in epiphenomenalism, the experience of seeing the color red fails to be a causal factor in our behavior that is consistent with us having seen the color red. However, it occurs to me that there could be an alternative explanation for that outcome. It could be that the human cognitive architecture is set up in such a way that light in the wavelength range we are culturally trained to recognize as red causes both the experience of seeing the color as well as actions consistent with seeing it. After the research which shows that we decide to act before becoming conscious of our decision, such a setup would not be a surprise to me if true.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 24 August 2017 05:09:46PM 2 points [-]

Yeah, I think it's better. It highlights the flow of knowledge: where the prize is -> host's knowledge -> which door he opens -> player's knowledge.

I'd maybe change the phrase "predictable algorithm", since the host's actions aren't predictable to the player. Maybe

but the door that the host DIDN'T choose is selected on the basis of a predictable algorithm. Namely, having the prize behind it.

could be replaced by

but the door that the host DIDN'T choose is selected on the basis of the host's knowledge of where the prize is. His choice can therefore give you information about where the prize might be: namely, it's more likely to be the door he avoided.

or something similar?

Comment author: halcyon 24 August 2017 05:46:54PM *  1 point [-]

Thanks. You're right, that part should be expanded. How about:

At this point, you have two choices: Either 1. one randomly selected door, or 2. one door among two doors, chosen by the host on the basis of the other not having the prize.

You would have better luck with option 2 because choosing that door is as good as opening two randomly selected doors. That is twice as good as opening one randomly selected door as in option 1.

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