Monday, October 27, 2008

Metaphysics, Simulated or Designed Worlds

Also, what is 'explain'?

Normally here I'd offer some of my general opinions and conclusions about this, but in light of some of my previous comments there's a conflict of interest here; I sincerely doubt I can bypass my biases. Instead, I'm using this as proof that the computer simulation idea is current and relevant, and thus worth dismissing.
"As for intelligent design, I'm on the record as saying that I can't rule out the hypothesis that we're living in a computer simulation, so I suppose that it follows that I can't rule out the hypothesis that our world is designed."
You can't in general* rule out metaphysical claims. However, metaphysical claims have a particular set of properties; for instance, because you can't rule them out, all mutually exclusive metaphysical claims are equivalent. Said again, the difference between the world being real and the world being a simulation is no difference, or you would be able to rule one of them out. The claim that the world is designed, to my limited knowledge, is exactly the same.

*(I'm using the term mathematically.)

I want to say there's no 'practical' difference, but it isn't strictly true. While there is no metaphysical claim that directly affects engineering concerns, they do affect how people - subjects - feel about the world, which could conceivably cause different behaviour.

I think this is why philosophy is often seen as dealing primarily with metaphysical claims. The only way they can affect the world is because they have meaning to subjects.

However I personally think that, because they only affect your life through your personal interpretation of them, you should seize this power, this freedom, and pick the one you like best. (With reference to our culture's overriding concerns, it's not like anyone can prove you wrong.)

I want to clarify my position that creationism's intelligent design is a metaphysical claim. Like the dualism claim, scientists could adopt this idea, but they'll immediately find that the creator designed Earth organisms to evolve, which seems to me to have the exact same engineering consequences as our current ideas.

Also, it is this view of metaphysical claims that makes me a strict agnostic. God* cannot be proved or disproved, and thus you can pick the one you like best.

*(Note that either Christianity has appropriated the general word for deity, or this word refers specifically to the Christian deity. Either way it distorts discussion if you forget this.)

While I'm on the subject...
"The easy problems of consciousness are those that seem directly susceptible to the standard methods of cognitive science, whereby a phenomenon is explained in terms of computational or neural mechanisms."
By 'explain' he means 'describe.' Has anyone explicitly stated why we are explaining these things? If so, can I read it? From the point of view of 'explanation' all these do is replace one mystery with another, though eventually they'll all boil down into one mystery: the mystery of existence.

To start, though, it's faster to work it out on my own explanation of explanation; scientific explanations are technology. You construct them, and then they're tools to help you construct or do things you couldn't do before. But ultimately this doesn't explain what an explanation is. It doesn't describe the actual transformation that happens when something becomes explained.

I raise this because I think a thorough explanation of explanation could help us pin down what, exactly, we're supposed to be doing with regards to consciousness.

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