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Thread: Philosophical musings of science, reality, blind men and elephants

  1. #361
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post

    As soon as you notice that, it makes a lot of those issues go away. You expressed frustration that all we could ever get are better and better models, that we were "doomed" to never know what reality actually is. But when you realize that what reality "actually is" is precisely this process of making models, and it was never supposed to be anything other than that, when you realize that this is just what the word "reality" actually means whenever we use it, you see that we are only "doomed" to understand reality just exactly as it is supposed to be understood. That's what understanding is.
    First of all, so there is no misunderstanding: I really appreciate the effort you and others have invested in this dialog. It is just that I don't buy into the arguments.

    To summarize my opinion (and my opinion only): Science creates mathematical models to make predictions of the outcome of observed phenomena. These are abstract/idealized models. They do not necessarily correspond to the mind independent reality out there. For example: perfect lines, circles, ellipses do not exist, but serve to model trajectories of objects. There is a mind independent reality out there, and our bodies (excluding thoughts generated by our brains) are part of it.

    Our bodies, including sensorial equipment are part of mind independent reality. Without technical enhancements, they detect the spectrum of visible light only. What we see out there (that it is really physically there) is corroborated by our sense of touch, for example. We have been able to extend our sensorial input of our eyes, by developing detection equipment sensitive to a much larger bandwidth. This technical equipment is part of mind independent reality.

    We want to understand. using our mind dependent thoughts, that subset of mind independent reality which is relevant to our mind independent bodies (including the brain but excluding its thoughts). Our thoughts create a mind dependent reality. Currently, we are concentrating mostly on models (QM, String theory, etc.) predicting how mind independent objects function, without giving priority to understanding the fundamental characteristics of the latter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    To summarize my opinion (and my opinion only): Science creates mathematical models to make predictions of the outcome of observed phenomena. These are abstract/idealized models.
    I would say that is something more than opinion, it is demonstrable fact. But in any event, I'm sure we all share that view.
    They do not necessarily correspond to the mind independent reality out there.
    That's for sure. But a deeper question is, what do you mean by "mind independent reality out there"? A lot of this thread has been to try to show you that you cannot have any kind of concrete idea of what that is, for any attributes you answer about what that is, are always going to be just more abstract/idealized models. Maybe not as abstract or as idealized as is used in physics, but abstract and idealized all the same. Is not "a rock" an abstract/idealized model of sorts? Less mathematical, yes, but if you dig into it (literally or figuratively), you will see the abstractions and idealizations that you are invoking, just as you do when you invoke the concept of "the surface of the Earth" as I mentioned.
    For example: perfect lines, circles, ellipses do not exist, but serve to model trajectories of objects.
    Yes, those are good examples of more mathematical versions of abstract idealizations, the kind used in physics.
    There is a mind independent reality out there, and our bodies (excluding thoughts generated by our brains) are part of it.
    So you say, but you have never been able to say what those words mean. I am saying this is a very vague concept that you are holding to, indeed it is so vague that it has no real meaning at all that is not just a kind of faith that you hold but you cannot bring any evidence of. The reason for this is that as soon as you try to bring evidence for it, you will see that what you are actually doing is justifying the use of a model, of an abstract idealization. That's exactly why we use abstract idealizations in physics-- they are the only things that are possible to test, to find evidence for.
    What we see out there (that it is really physically there) is corroborated by our sense of touch, for example. We have been able to extend our sensorial input of our eyes, by developing detection equipment sensitive to a much larger bandwidth.
    Yes, we perceive a range of consistencies across our senses, which is very important for how we generate the concepts used in mind dependent reality. These are all examples of mind dependent reality for one simple reason: it is our minds that notice and organize these consistencies, they are what our mind says they are and no more and no less. That is just demonstrably true, just look at what you are doing when you assert these things.
    This technical equipment is part of mind independent reality.
    A claim you make, but do not support. I see all the support you give for this claim as proof that it is actually mind dependent reality you are talking about. All you are saying is that you have such great faith in the mind dependent reality that your mind generates, you wish to hang the label mind independent reality on it. I can't say you are not allowed to do that, I'm just pointing out that you have no evidence for it, it is just an article of faith on your part-- like a religion. You have a right to it, as you would to a religion.
    We want to understand. using our mind dependent thoughts, that subset of mind independent reality which is relevant to our mind independent bodies (including the brain but excluding its thoughts).
    We want to understand, that's true. But what do we want to understand? I'm saying we want to understand the only thing we can understand: the way our mind makes sense of our thoughts and perceptions. Our minds want to understand the only thing they can understand: the consistencies that are our minds, our minds want to understand themselves. As part of that understanding, we note that we have the power of "imagination", but invoking that power does not exhibit the consistencies of sticking to the perceptions that we actually receive from our senses without imagining anything. So mind-dependent reality has various elements: real imaginings, and real perceptions. We have learned to navigate these differences and find the consistencies, to gain power over our situation, but none of that requires the existence of a mind independent reality, unless you choose to believe in one. All that is required is the existence of what we actually deal with, mind dependent reality, and the aspects of it that exhibit consistencies, and the aspects that don't. None of it is independent of the mind-- a rock has none of these things going for it, and indeed isn't even a rock until we say it is.
    Our thoughts create a mind dependent reality.
    On that we agree, but "thoughts" are not all our minds do-- our minds also feel. Is it not your mind that loves, feels pain, conceptualizes the difference between you and the person next to you? All these are functions of the mind, not just doing physics.
    Currently, we are concentrating mostly on models (QM, String theory, etc.) predicting how mind independent objects function, without giving priority to understanding the fundamental characteristics of the latter.
    It is not necessary for any of those things to be mind independent to work in physics. In fact, I argue they are clearly mind dependent, which is why they keep changing every few centuries. Just because they depend on our minds does not mean our minds can manipulate them, however-- we find that not to be true, so we have to build a mind dependent reality that is consistent with the facts at hand. We do not get to know why those facts are facts, and we can adopt articles of faith to give us a sense of that "why", but it is still our minds that are making that choice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    That's for sure. But a deeper question is, what do you mean by "mind independent reality out there"? A lot of this thread has been to try to show you that you cannot have any kind of concrete idea of what that is, for any attributes you answer about what that is, are always going to be just more abstract/idealized models. Maybe not as abstract or as idealized as is used in physics, but abstract and idealized all the same. Is not "a rock" an abstract/idealized model of sorts? Less mathematical, yes, but if you dig into it (literally or figuratively), you will see the abstractions and idealizations that you are invoking, just as you do when you invoke the concept of "the surface of the Earth" as I mentioned.
    By mind independent reality out there, I mean the physical universe, including our physical bodies. Certainly, every word is a semantical abstraction. But something physical is out there, even if I have to allude to the word "rock". A "rock" comes in various forms, but I know one when I sense one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Yes, those are good examples of more mathematical versions of abstract idealizations, the kind used in physics.So you say, but you have never been able to say what those words mean. I am saying this is a very vague concept that you are holding to, indeed it is so vague that it has no real meaning at all that is not just a kind of faith that you hold but you cannot bring any evidence of. The reason for this is that as soon as you try to bring evidence for it, you will see that what you are actually doing is justifying the use of a model, of an abstract idealization. That's exactly why we use abstract idealizations in physics-- they are the only things that are possible to test, to find evidence for.
    We do not have the time (or capability) to verbally define every object in the universe down to the smallest detail. Yet when we use "rock", we all know what is meant.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Yes, we perceive a range of consistencies across our senses, which is very important for how we generate the concepts used in mind dependent reality. These are all examples of mind dependent reality for one simple reason: it is our minds that notice and organize these consistencies, they are what our mind says they are and no more and no less. That is just demonstrably true, just look at what you are doing when you assert these things.
    I assume under mind, you meant the physical brain's "software". You can speak of a "sunset", but how can it begin to describe the beauty of the real thing? Can't without imagery of past sensorial experiences, which we then associate with the word "sunset".
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    A claim you make, but do not support. I see all the support you give for this claim as proof that it is actually mind dependent reality you are talking about. All you are saying is that you have such great faith in the mind dependent reality that your mind generates, you wish to hang the label mind independent reality on it. I can't say you are not allowed to do that, I'm just pointing out that you have no evidence for it, it is just an article of faith on your part-- like a religion. You have a right to it, as you would to a religion.
    You lost me here: are you saying that microscopes and telescopes are part of mind dependent reality? I say not. I maintain only thoughts are part of mind dependent reality.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    We want to understand, that's true. But what do we want to understand? I'm saying we want to understand the only thing we can understand: the way our mind makes sense of our thoughts and perceptions. Our minds want to understand the only thing they can understand: the consistencies that are our minds, our minds want to understand themselves. As part of that understanding, we note that we have the power of "imagination", but invoking that power does not exhibit the consistencies of sticking to the perceptions that we actually receive from our senses without imagining anything. So mind-dependent reality has various elements: real imaginings, and real perceptions. We have learned to navigate these differences and find the consistencies, to gain power over our situation, but none of that requires the existence of a mind independent reality, unless you choose to believe in one.
    I personally don't want to understand how our minds make sense of our thoughts and perceptions - I'll leave that to Jung, Freud, and company. How can you deny the existence of mind independent reality? Without it, there would be no mind dependent reality because there would be nothing to observe.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    All that is required is the existence of what we actually deal with, mind dependent reality, and the aspects of it that exhibit consistencies, and the aspects that don't. None of it is independent of the mind-- a rock has none of these things going for it, and indeed isn't even a rock until we say it is.On that we agree, but "thoughts" are not all our minds do-- our minds also feel. Is it not your mind that loves, feels pain, conceptualizes the difference between you and the person next to you? All these are functions of the mind, not just doing physics.It is not necessary for any of those things to be mind independent to work in physics. In fact, I argue they are clearly mind dependent, which is why they keep changing every few centuries. Just because they depend on our minds does not mean our minds can manipulate them, however-- we find that not to be true, so we have to build a mind dependent reality that is consistent with the facts at hand. We do not get to know why those facts are facts, and we can adopt articles of faith to give us a sense of that "why", but it is still our minds that are making that choice.
    Mind dependent reality is how we view/interprete mind independent reality. I would prefer to leave emotions out of this discussion. Love, etc. is a perception of interaction with another being (part of the mind independent reality) interacting with us. These interactions in the mind independent reality then create the mind dependent reality concept of love. Mind dependent reality is the product of attempting to interpret mind independent reality. If there is no mind independent reality, then there is no mind dependent reality either (because we need our mind independent brain in which to run our mind dependent "software").

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post

    To summarize my opinion (and my opinion only)..........:
    What if the rock you consider to be a rock-in-it-itself changed depending on how you decided to set up the observational set up that allowed you to observe the rock? How would that affect your opinion that the rock is a thing in-itself and has that form independently of the observational set up (and thus of yourself)? I’m not talking about viewing the rock in red compared to white light or anything like that, I’m talking about the intrinsic form of the rock changing so dramatically as a result of the observational set up that it affects your notion of what the rock actually is in terms of this solid external reality you have an opinion on. So much so that you decided that you could no longer assign any notion of reality to the “rock” without first invoking the observational setup and even then the rock could only be expressed as a rock in terms of that particular observational setup.

    If that happened, would you change your opinion over the intrinsic sanctity of the rock and the intrinsic sanctity of the view outside of your window?

    I’m sure you know I’m heading towards QM and I’m sure you are aware of what happens to notions of objectivity at the quantum level – they become weak, the concept of the “real” becomes dependent on the observational set up of the experiment. I know the macroscopic “appears” to get sorted out and strong objectivity “apparently” is re established, so what I write above concerning the rock obviously doesn’t happen, but it happens at the quantum level. And decoherence theory doesn’t re establish your naive realism at all, we get to look at the improper mixtures as something “real” and solid, but there are other predicted “proper” mixtures that are beyond the capabilities of us to measure. So we never escape from the mind, decoherence relies on the capabilities (or not) of the observer which is another way of saying that the observer/mind/mind dependent reality is there all the time determining phenomena.

    Ken rarely brings in QM to support his position because he uses philosophical arguments applicable to the macroscopic, in fact I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t like drawing a distinction between the "weak" objectivity at the quantum level and the "strong" objectivity of the macroscopic. But some do use QM to derive mind dependency at the macroscopic level and one physicist/philosopher that does (if you are interested) is Bernard d’Espagnat via his books “Veiled Reality” and “On Physics and Philosophy”. The latter book requires no specialist knowledge but is not a conventional “popular science” book by any stretch of the imagination, it is a book that I think you would enjoy and gain much from regarding all of these issues. He derives pretty much Ken’s position but from the “bottom up” so to speak in that he starts from the conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics (in fact his first book was called just that). You may find this approach more to your liking perhaps, but the end result is just the same. You can’t escape mind dependency I’m afraid – the view from your window is a view of your mind.
    Last edited by Len Moran; 2013-Dec-26 at 06:28 PM.

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    Ken, are you suggesting that the mind creates our reality. Reality is mind dependent, we need a mind to have a reality. So without a mind we can not experience our reality. So, what is reality anyway, if it is not part of our mind ?
    Far away is close at hand in images of elsewhere...

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    Quote Originally Posted by kevin1981 View Post
    Ken, are you suggesting that the mind creates our reality.
    Yes, but not in the sense that we can make it whatever we want, any more than we can make ourselves the greatest athlete that ever lived. We are constrained to obey what works, or else we gain no benefit from the exercise beyond the benefits of a fantasy. So it's not so much that we create the reality like an omnipotent being, it is that we provide the meaning to the word "reality" based on the goals that we set out for that term. For most of us, those goals involve gaining power over our situation that obeys the same consistencies that we experience. We don't know why these consistencies are there, but we create models to try and account for them, and use them to our advantage, and that's all part of mind dependent reality because these are all things our minds are doing with the thoughts and perceptions that we experience.
    Reality is mind dependent, we need a mind to have a reality. So without a mind we can not experience our reality. So, what is reality anyway, if it is not part of our mind ?
    Exactly, that is what we mean by the word. That's always how we use that word-- it is pure pretense that we ever mean anything else by it, just look at its usage where-ever it appears.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Len Moran View Post
    Ken rarely brings in QM to support his position because he uses philosophical arguments applicable to the macroscopic, in fact I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t like drawing a distinction between the "weak" objectivity at the quantum level and the "strong" objectivity of the macroscopic.
    Right, I think that can cause us to lose track of the fact that everything I'm saying has been true for millennia, it's just that QM gave us a recent reminder that we should have been expecting all along. It is evidence of how easily we fall into pretense that QM came as a such a shock in the first place.

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    Following this trail a little farther, let us look at the common pretenses we find surrounding the word "reality." Here is how its Wiki defines that word:
    "Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. In a wider definition, reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible. "
    Digging into this definition, we encounter logical impossibilities almost immediately. It holds that reality is the "state" of "things" as they actually "exist", independently of how we might perceive them (for how can we perceive anything if not by appearance or conceptualization?). So we are to believe that we can talk about "things" but we are not perceiving them, that things can have a "state" but we are not conceptualizing that state, and that all of this adds up to some kind of "existence" that is outside of our perception? How is that a definition of reality-- it sounds a whole lot more to me like the definition of a fantasy or a fairy tale! That is the whole point I'm making, the common thinking about "reality" is about as unrealistic as you can possibly get. And it gets worse-- in the "wider" meaning of this fantasy term, we are to hold to the existence of things that are neither observable nor comprehensible even in principle! So, the ultimate "reality" is hypothetical things that we have no way of knowing ever occured or can occur, including things we are not capable of observing, or indeed even conceive of, yet somehow we can talk about these things as being the "actual reality." That's just ridiculous! We have a ridiculously unrealistic definition of "reality", and nobody even bats an eye, even in scientific circles. This is the problem I'm pointing to. (Granted, logical positivists might balk at aspects of that definition, though they have their own issues with "reality is only what science says it is and could not possibly be anything else," but in any event, the Wiki "meaning" does seem to be a fairly common meaning used broadly, only it contains no meaning at all.)

    All meaning comes from thought and experience, that should be clear enough, so imbuing a word with "meaning" that expressly dismisses both thought and experience is simply a misunderstanding of the purpose of a definition.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2013-Dec-26 at 07:34 PM.

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    Did the universe/reality look as it does now before minds and humans ? Would it be right in thinking that this is the only way it could look. Any other way would not be reality as we know it.. It would not be reality at all. Reality would not even mean anything..
    Far away is close at hand in images of elsewhere...

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    Quote Originally Posted by kevin1981 View Post
    Did the universe/reality look as it does now before minds and humans ? Would it be right in thinking that this is the only way it could look.
    It certainly seems reasonable that if we were to drop a mind like ours into the universe at various ages in its past, we could predict what they would see. Indeed, we have reason to believe we already do see some part of what they would see, since our concept of the finite speed of light says that we are just now seeing the very same light they might see a long way away and a long time ago. However, we are seeing it from our current perspective, so we have to use relativity to translate that very same light to what they would see. These applications of the laws of physics are all part of the creation of a working version of a mind dependent reality.
    Any other way would not be reality as we know it.. It would not be reality at all. Reality would not even mean anything..
    That would be my inclination as well. Note that we already got some surprises in this regard, with relativity. It has long been known that light had a finite speed, so if you put someone down a billion light years away and a billion years ago, they could see the same light that we are now instead seeing (since they didn't). So 100 years ago, physicists might well have thought that light would look just like we see it today, but today, with general relativity, we think that we will see that light significantly redshifted. We really don't know why the light would look redshifted today, but our theory of gravity, that is well tested, says that is the case. So in our mind dependent reality, we must build in some fairly magical ability to redshift light over time, or if you prefer, to redshift the way we perceive light over time. So does this mean that minds have changed in the last billion years to perceive time as slowing down, or does this mean the minds are the same but something happened to the light that redshifted it, even though nothing really happened to the light at all, it just propagated through vacuum? We don't know the answer to that, either one works, so our mind-dependent reality has to accomodate either answer without knowing which is the "real reality", if either. So not only is mind dependent reality subject to our perceptual capabilities, it is also subject to keep-seeded ambiguities when reality is conceived as something that exists globally, and not just in the experiences of a set of individually localized minds. That is one of the most important lessons of relativity, you can cobble together sets of local experiences into global "stories of reality" in multiple ways, none of which are distinguishable by any test.

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    Len, using QM as a model does not allow describing a clear definition of what "reality" really is.

    Einstein objected to QM. He said once" I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it."

    Bernard d’Espagnat said ""The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with quantum mechanics and with facts established by experiment." which seems to be your position as well.


    But he conceded that while scientific will never truly describe mind independent reality, the notion of such an ultimate reality--one we can never access directly or rationally and which he calls "veiled reality"--remains conceptually necessary nonetheless. I don't see the difference between his "veiled reality" and mind independent reality. (might just order the book, thanks...)

    Besides which, QM does not seem to be a complete theory. It does not include gravity, is at odds with Einstein's GR.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    But he conceded that while scientific will never truly describe mind independent reality, the notion of such an ultimate reality--one we can never access directly or rationally and which he calls "veiled reality"--remains conceptually necessary nonetheless. I don't see the difference between his "veiled reality" and mind independent reality.
    I don't know exactly what he means by "veiled reality," perhaps he is conjuring the idea that since we don't understand the layers of the mind that well, we also cannot understand the layers of the reality concept all that well either. But he can't be arguing that something "mind independent" is "conceptually necessary", because I'd say the contradiction implied in the juxtaposition of those terms is pretty blatant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    Len, using QM as a model does not allow describing a clear definition of what "reality" really is.
    All I'm suggesting is that you look at someone who has a recognized authority in the field of QM and see how his arguments end up with a mind dependent reality based upon the foundations of QM. You may (because you don't seem to be persuaded on purely philosophic grounds) perhaps be more inclined to be persuaded by this direction involving a heavy emphasis on QM and its ramifications rather than Ken's philosophical direction, though both end up in essentially the same place.

    Einstein objected to QM. He said once" I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it."
    Einstein wanted a reality he could trust as being absolute. Doesn't mean to say that what someone wants is what nature gives.

    Bernard d’Espagnat said ""The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with quantum mechanics and with facts established by experiment." which seems to be your position as well.

    But he conceded that while scientific will never truly describe mind independent reality, the notion of such an ultimate reality--one we can never access directly or rationally and which he calls "veiled reality"--remains conceptually necessary nonetheless. I don't see the difference between his "veiled reality" and mind independent reality. (might just order the book, thanks...)
    "Conceptually necessary" is the point I was trying to make throughout the thread, but he goes no further in being able to describe independent reality in terms of formal enquiry - the only label he uses is open realism - a realism that is not directly accessible. His veiled reality is independent reality, but it has absolutely no connection to the independent reality that you maintain is outside of your window. The conception is inferred from within mind dependent reality in the sense that "something" other than mind is needed to account for some aspects of our reality, but that "something" cannot be accessed (at least not directly through any kind of formal enquiry). There is I think some minor conflict with Ken's arguments, but essentially they both end up in the same place in terms of mind dependent reality. That conflict is indicative of some of the issues I have been discussing with Ken, but I am more inclined to think they are not really differences, I think it more the way that I have interpreted d'Espgnat in terms of inside and "outside" of mind. But interpretational issues on my part aside, d'Espagnat's veiled reality is hugely closer to Ken's position than it could ever remotely be to your naive realism I am afraid.

    Besides which, QM does not seem to be a complete theory. It does not include gravity, is at odds with Einstein's GR.
    Well since I recommended d'Espagnat I will give a quote concerning the theory and the ramifications if it were ever replaced. Incidentally, d'Espagnat discusses at length the realist interpretations of QM and where they fall down, if you had that aspect in mind. Anyway the quote:

    d'Espagnat, "on Physics and Philosophy" p 64
    It follows from all the foregoing material that the Bell theorem is basically negative. By itself, it shows neither that the notion of "human-independent-Reality" is meaningful, nor that such a Reality possesses such and such features. It merely shows that factual data prevents us from picturing this Reality to ourselves in such and such naive ways.

    But in compensation, so to speak, Bell's theorem does not depend on some theory or other. This asset we already noted. Even if one day, quantum theory gets replaced by some "better" one, the conclusions stemming from the theorem will remain valid, since they are independent from this theory.
    Last edited by Len Moran; 2013-Dec-27 at 01:46 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    I don't know exactly what he means by "veiled reality," perhaps he is conjuring the idea that since we don't understand the layers of the mind that well, we also cannot understand the layers of the reality concept all that well either. But he can't be arguing that something "mind independent" is "conceptually necessary", because I'd say the contradiction implied in the juxtaposition of those terms is pretty blatant.
    The issue of being conceptually necessary follows the line of reasoning I was using in the sense that "something" other than mind is needed to account for (for example) the notion that models can't be made to work as we want them to, they need "something" else. That "something" else you describe as residing within the deepest and most inaccessible part of mind dependent reality and I think that would tie in with d'Espagnat's thesis. "Veiled" simply refers to the notion that though the "something" cannot be accessed through formal enquiry, we may have access to this "something" by other means (such as that which I mentioned in the thread involving indirect access through art, poetry or music).
    Last edited by Len Moran; 2013-Dec-27 at 01:37 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Len Moran View Post
    "Veiled" simply refers to the notion that we may have access to this "something" by means other than formal enquiry (such as that which I mentioned involving indirect access through art or music).
    Yes, I think all roads lead to the fact that if we wish to access the question "why do these models work," we will always end up digging into the deepest and most unknown depths of what a mind even is. (The irony is, of course, this is the place where we make closest contact with naive realism, because having no idea, and having an impossibly naive notion that is not delved into, are in practice not all that different, sort of like having no idea what causes the phases of the Moon, versus thinking it is the shadow of the Earth.) I'm happy to leave on the label "veiled" as an acknowledgment that we are probably not very close to being able to make progress on that front at the moment, so we are better off addressing the more superficial functions of "mind", and seeing if we can understand how those functions parallel the more superficial and accessible aspects of reality. It's job enough to get the physicist into the physics, and physics is always looking for the simplest pieces of the puzzle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    By mind independent reality out there, I mean the physical universe, including our physical bodies. Certainly, every word is a semantical abstraction. But something physical is out there, even if I have to allude to the word "rock". A "rock" comes in various forms, but I know one when I sense one.
    Your sense of a rock, can be altered to make you think it is something completely not even remotely, rock-like.

    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu
    I assume under mind, you meant the physical brain's "software". You can speak of a "sunset", but how can it begin to describe the beauty of the real thing? Can't without imagery of past sensorial experiences, which we then associate with the word "sunset".
    ...
    You lost me here: are you saying that microscopes and telescopes are part of mind dependent reality? I say not. I maintain only thoughts are part of mind dependent reality.
    ...
    I personally don't want to understand how our minds make sense of our thoughts and perceptions - I'll leave that to Jung, Freud, and company. How can you deny the existence of mind independent reality? Without it, there would be no mind dependent reality because there would be nothing to observe.
    ...
    Mind dependent reality is how we view/interprete mind independent reality. I would prefer to leave emotions out of this discussion. Love, etc. is a perception of interaction with another being (part of the mind independent reality) interacting with us. These interactions in the mind independent reality then create the mind dependent reality concept of love. Mind dependent reality is the product of attempting to interpret mind independent reality. If there is no mind independent reality, then there is no mind dependent reality either (because we need our mind independent brain in which to run our mind dependent "software").
    There is value which comes from delving into the various 'layers' which comprise 'mind'.

    For instance, it is known that a condition called 'dissociative anesthesia' can be caused by drugs which inhibit the transmission of nerve impulses between 'higher' centers of the brain (eg: the cerebral cortex) and the 'lower' centers, (such as those found within the limbic system). The explanation of how these anesthetics function, invokes a model of the mind, (and is therefore a mind-dependent model). Nonetheless this model is certainly useful, so in this sense, I do agree about distinguishing sub-functions of the mind, (such as 'sensory', all the way upwards to 'self').

    However, I have difficulty in distinguishing a mind independent reality, which relies on using these 'higher' and lower functions (of a mind-model), as a way of allocating certain functions either side of some 'dividing line'. Under the 'normal' operating conditions of our brains, all of these distinguishable sub-functions operate simultaneously and homogeneously, so such 'distinctions are not evident. The latter is the state assumed, when we're speaking about any type of mind-relative reality, no?
    Last edited by Selfsim; 2013-Dec-27 at 03:32 AM.

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    I missed this earlier...
    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    By mind independent reality out there, I mean the physical universe, including our physical bodies.
    You are just telling me the models your mind creates, and associates with properties like "physical." If your mind says something is physical, it's still your mind that is saying that. What is physical if your mind isn't there to say so?
    A "rock" comes in various forms, but I know one when I sense one.
    And where is that sensation formed and interpreted?
    We do not have the time (or capability) to verbally define every object in the universe down to the smallest detail. Yet when we use "rock", we all know what is meant.
    Certainly, that's the whole point of the mind-dependent reality that we create, for the purposes that we do it. Without that purpose, there is also no "rock", there is just "ooh, aah, experience X, experience Y." Like a baby. No "rock" though, that comes later, as the mind develops-- and so does the mind-dependent reality.
    I assume under mind, you meant the physical brain's "software".
    I mean everything the mind does. We haven't talked much about the various different elements of "mind", as we actually know so little about it. But no doubt there is a close connection between the attributes of what we call "reality", and the attributes that we understand about our minds. Because, as has been said, reality is all about the mind's effort to make sense of itself, in the context of an array of models that include concepts like "me", "you", and "physical reality."
    You can speak of a "sunset", but how can it begin to describe the beauty of the real thing? Can't without imagery of past sensorial experiences, which we then associate with the word "sunset".
    It's a lot more than just the beauty of a sunset I can't talk about without that, I can't talk about any smallest aspect of a sunset without that. Nada, it's 100% pure sensorial experiences, and organizational conceptualizing about those experiences, noticing consistencies and connections among various other sensorial experiences. What else is a "sunset" anyway?
    You lost me here: are you saying that microscopes and telescopes are part of mind dependent reality?
    Certainly. Can we talk about what those things are? Then they are demonstrably part of mind dependent reality. Our minds create the concepts of microscopes and telescopes, and in some cases, even go out and construct them. What is a microscope without my mind to say what it is? Is it made of atoms? You said yourself atoms are models created by physicists. So what is a microscope then, is it what it looks like to your eyes? It's your mind that says what a microscope looks like to your eyes, your eyes don't do anything but collect stuff that your mind says is light.
    I maintain only thoughts are part of mind dependent reality.
    Then the problem is you are talking about something else. I'm not talking about thought-dependent reality, I'm talking about mind-dependent reality. I agree that whatever the mind is, it might behoove us to further break it down into thought-related parts, and sense-related parts, and perceptions that have a thinking component like laying a ruler down next to something to get a perception of length. But for now, we are just talking about everything that minds do-- that's all "mind dependent"-- is it not?
    I personally don't want to understand how our minds make sense of our thoughts and perceptions - I'll leave that to Jung, Freud, and company.
    But you are talking about psychology. Our minds do much more than have emotional problems! We see, hear, taste, touch. These are all functions of our minds. Do you think you do those things without a mind? Does a rock touch the rock next to it, or is that just a turn of phrase we use when we anthropomorphize the rock?
    How can you deny the existence of mind independent reality? Without it, there would be no mind dependent reality because there would be nothing to observe.
    Let's look at that claim: where does it come from? What part of you is telling you that this must be true, your left toe?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    You are just telling me the models your mind creates, and associates with properties like "physical." If your mind says something is physical, it's still your mind that is saying that. What is physical if your mind isn't there to say so?
    And where is that sensation formed and interpreted?
    Is this whole discussion going in the direction of "The Matrix"? I really don't like this whole "I kind trust my mind" line of thought...
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Certainly, that's the whole point of the mind-dependent reality that we create, for the purposes that we do it. Without that purpose, there is also no "rock", there is just "ooh, aah, experience X, experience Y." Like a baby. No "rock" though, that comes later, as the mind develops-- and so does the mind-dependent reality.
    I mean everything the mind does. We haven't talked much about the various different elements of "mind", as we actually know so little about it. But no doubt there is a close connection between the attributes of what we call "reality", and the attributes that we understand about our minds. Because, as has been said, reality is all about the mind's effort to make sense of itself, in the context of an array of models that include concepts like "me", "you", and "physical reality."
    Even if the baby is incapable of verbalizing "rock", it still is capable of detecting its presence as external to its existence. As the mind develops, it just attaches concepts and tags to what is detected "out there".

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    It's a lot more than just the beauty of a sunset I can't talk about without that, I can't talk about any smallest aspect of a sunset without that. Nada, it's 100% pure sensorial experiences, and organizational conceptualizing about those experiences, noticing consistencies and connections among various other sensorial experiences. What else is a "sunset" anyway?
    The beauty of the sunset, the mood, etc. are all part of mind dependent reality, created by the mind interpreting sensorial input and attaching non-existant terms to it. The actual sunset itself, the sun disappearing below the horizon, is part of an mind independent reality. The sun is there whether or not we observe it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Certainly. Can we talk about what those things are? Then they are demonstrably part of mind dependent reality. Our minds create the concepts of microscopes and telescopes, and in some cases, even go out and construct them. What is a microscope without my mind to say what it is? Is it made of atoms? You said yourself atoms are models created by physicists. So what is a microscope then, is it what it looks like to your eyes? It's your mind that says what a microscope looks like to your eyes, your eyes don't do anything but collect stuff that your mind says is light.
    The objects exist in mind independent reality. They are mapped as images in mind dependent reality. What it is made of is what we are trying to find out.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Then the problem is you are talking about something else. I'm not talking about thought-dependent reality, I'm talking about mind-dependent reality. I agree that whatever the mind is, it might behoove us to further break it down into thought-related parts, and sense-related parts, and perceptions that have a thinking component like laying a ruler down next to something to get a perception of length. But for now, we are just talking about everything that minds do-- that's all "mind dependent"-- is it not?
    But what do minds do more than think and respond to stimulii?
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    But you are talking about psychology. Our minds do much more than have emotional problems! We see, hear, taste, touch. These are all functions of our minds. Do you think you do those things without a mind? Does a rock touch the rock next to it, or is that just a turn of phrase we use when we anthropomorphize the rock?
    Let's look at that claim: where does it come from? What part of you is telling you that this must be true, your left toe?
    Our senses deliver impulses to our brain which uses the mind to convert them into imagery and concepts. The mind interprets what is there (mind independent reality) and converts it to phrases and images.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Yes, I think all roads lead to the fact that if we wish to access the question "why do these models work," we will always end up digging into the deepest and most unknown depths of what a mind even is. (The irony is, of course, this is the place where we make closest contact with naive realism, because having no idea, and having an impossibly naive notion that is not delved into, are in practice not all that different, sort of like having no idea what causes the phases of the Moon, versus thinking it is the shadow of the Earth.) I'm happy to leave on the label "veiled" as an acknowledgment that we are probably not very close to being able to make progress on that front at the moment, so we are better off addressing the more superficial functions of "mind", and seeing if we can understand how those functions parallel the more superficial and accessible aspects of reality. It's job enough to get the physicist into the physics, and physics is always looking for the simplest pieces of the puzzle.
    Yes I agree, though I think discussion within this thread has resulted in a clearer understanding of why I agree. I suspect I was guilty in part of attaching rather distinct interpretations to mind, mind independent reality, independent reality, (or whatever one wants) concerning “inside” and “outside” of the mind. There are huge issues just talking about mind, so I can see how presenting arguments invoking mind independent reality can attain a perspective by others that instinctively was never really intended. It’s a question of how to frame “something other than mind” without inferring a black and white distinction. It’s such a difficult region that unless a context of what someone is trying to say when they invoke “something other than mind” is appreciated, misunderstandings can occur. I think the notion of comparison between mind as we think it operates in our reality and “something” that operates “outside” of how we think mind operates in our reality is the best that I can hope for in trying to give the context that I intended.

    The “dangers” of using the term “mind independent reality” as a "statement" has been brought home to me by gzhpcu’s recent comments concerning d’Espagnat. Gzhpcu came across the term “mind independent reality” mentioned in the context of d’Espagnat and immediately connected that statement to his own notion of mind independent reality involving its “existence” as being what he sees of his body, his room, his window and the view outside of the window. The context of gzhpcu’s notion is utterly and completely different to d’Espagnat’s Independent (or Veiled) Reality notion, yet without the context, with just the language, he equates them as being the the same thing.

    Words like “mind”, “independent” and “reality” have been discussed at great length in this thread in terms of their logical ramifications within the context of our minds. You have gone to great pains to properly define the use of these words which has made me realize the importance of trying to get the context clear when those words do creep into discussions. I know if everyone starts off with the same understanding concerning the meaning and ramifications of language then presumably the context will just fall into place, but that doesn't seem to be an easy thing to achieve on a forum (perhaps its not easy to achieve between those at the heart of science and philosophy).

    So I think this thread has been very useful for me in highlighting the need for taking care with words and trying to get the context of what one thinks properly matched to the language used. It may not always end up like that, but at least one can be aware of the “dangers” of it not ending up in that manner.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    Is this whole discussion going in the direction of "The Matrix"?
    Actually, it's going in the opposite direction of "the Matrix." The Matrix is actually much closer to what you are saying-- that there has to be "something else" out there (like the Matrix) that makes sure we experience the consistencies of perception that we experience. I say there is no need for anything like that, there is just the consistencies we experience, and that is enough. That's it, that's all we're trying to notice, categorize, and understand. Everything else, including the Matrix, is just a kind of fantasy we create to give it all a reason, but we don't know if it is the right reason, or even if there needs to be any reason, because none of that part is testable, just like the Matrix isn't testable (unless you are Neo).
    Even if the baby is incapable of verbalizing "rock", it still is capable of detecting its presence as external to its existence.
    It detects something, but what? It doesn't have the internal/external concept until later on.
    As the mind develops, it just attaches concepts and tags to what is detected "out there".
    "Out there" is one of those tags.
    But what do minds do more than think and respond to stimulii?
    Nothing, that's what they do. Of course, "stimuli" is another concept you have created to understand your experience (as is "experience"). That's just what language is.
    Our senses deliver impulses to our brain which uses the mind to convert them into imagery and concepts. The mind interprets what is there (mind independent reality) and converts it to phrases and images.
    Yes, that's a very working model. Your mind is working fine, creating a very workable mind-dependent reality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Len Moran View Post
    So I think this thread has been very useful for me in highlighting the need for taking care with words and trying to get the context of what one thinks properly matched to the language used. It may not always end up like that, but at least one can be aware of the “dangers” of it not ending up in that manner.
    Yes, I think that careful word usage is most of the battle anyway-- we first have to understand the concepts before we can even choose constructive definitions of the words. Meaning doesn't come from words, words come from meaning, but we have to start with words and kind of iterate until both emerge together in a workable combination.

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    The penny has finally dropped with me, as to why the notion of mind dependent reality seems so natural (I guess I'm speaking personally here) ... I think the idea is actually a logical progression in the fairly natural pursuit of wisdom ...
    Wiki says:
    Quote Originally Posted by (A Harvard neuropsychiatrist)
    ... "wisdom represents a demonstrated superior ability to understand the nature and behavior of things, people, or events." He states "this results in an increased ability to predict behavior or events which then may be used to benefit self or others." He furthermore adds "there is more often a desire to share the accrued benefits with a larger group for the purpose of promoting survival, cohesion, or well-being of that group.
    .. Well that also explains the commitment we've all had in this thread when it comes to hammering out the challenges of mind dependent reality ... but the more significant aspect I think, comes from noticing that the pursuit of wisdom also calls for an ever growing focus and awareness of the influences of the mind. In particular, striving for wisdom is also striving for self-knowledge:
    Quote Originally Posted by Wiki
    ... Self-knowledge is a term used in psychology to describe the information that an individual draws upon when finding an answer to the question "What am I like?". While seeking to develop the answer to this question, self-knowledge requires ongoing self-awareness and self-consciousness (which is not to be confused with consciousness).
    .... and what better way is there for science to achieve this, than by redefining 'reality' as being entirely mind dependent?

    Very cool ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    .... and what better way is there for science to achieve this, than by redefining 'reality' as being entirely mind dependent?
    As long as I can keep my little bit of "something" that resides in the most inaccessible and deepest part of mind, a "something" so deep in fact that the notion almost becomes divorced from mind as we presently understand the label. A "something" that is the ultimate "Real" in that "it" allows us to experience a shared mind dependent reality. Without that "Real" there would be no sharing of physical laws, each of us would just be a stray mind.

    There, that should keep the thread going a bit longer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    The penny has finally dropped with me, as to why the notion of mind dependent reality seems so natural (I guess I'm speaking personally here) ... I think the idea is actually a logical progression in the fairly natural pursuit of wisdom ...
    I think "wisdom" is an interesting word to add to the mix, especially as it pertains to self-knowledge (and that interesting word, self-conciousness, I haven't heard that word used but it makes sense).

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    Or maybe mind/consciousness is fundamental. Maybe thinking there is something "out there" is completely wrong. Because actually, everything we call reality is coming from the mind/consciousness, outwards. Maybe, mind/consciousness is something more than just an emergent property of neurons and complex brain interactions..
    Far away is close at hand in images of elsewhere...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Len Moran View Post

    There, that should keep the thread going a bit longer.
    Perhaps so, because do you want to know what I think is that "something" that allows us all to exist in the same "Real"? I hold that "process" is more fundamental than "substance", so rather than saying that substance leads to process, we should say that process leads to substance. This is more or less consistent with the views of modern physics (you'll like this part, because here is where I do invoke quantum mechanics). In quantum mechanics, we don't say that an electron is a substance, that leads to the process of it going from A to B (as Newton might have said), we say that there are a host of processes (called "amplitudes") that are going on at once, and interfere with each other, and the ones that interfere constructively cause something to happen that we interpret as an electron going from A to B. You get enough of that going on in a certain way and we say a "neuron fired", and enough of that going on and we say "a mind had a perception." But of course the processes that led to the interference that led to the classical motions that led to our model of perception were there first, before the electrons, before the perceptions. So when we say the action of the mind "emerged" from the material behaviors, are we saying anything different from that the electron "emerged" from the behaviors of the wavefunction? In other words, from where comes this weird idea that the electron was already there, and was told what to do by the wavefunction, whereas the thought about the electron was not already there, but was in some sense "created" by the motions of those same electrons? That picture is not actually consistent with modern physics, because modern physics says several key things that tend to get ignored:
    1) all electrons are indistinguishable, so do not have separate identities, they just show up based on the "electron process" going on in the universe, and they do not maintain separate existences in the process but we can usually get away with imagining they do-- even though it is demonstrably wrong in every situation where that imagining breaks down, and
    2) the mass conservation law is only an approximate conservation law, because it's really energy that is conserved; mass can appear and disappear, so electrons can physically "emerge" from the processes that rule them.

    So given these two attributes of our modern understanding of electrons, we see that it is just not true that the electrons involved in some brain action were "already there", even though we get away with that picture. It seems more correct to say that the electrons themselves "emerged" from the same general processes responsible for the "emergence" of brain function, and the emergence of a mind. So much for the strict dichotomy between what is "material" and what is "thought"!

    So if everything is process, and that which is "material" or "physical" is no less emergent from the process than is a thought or a sense of self awareness, then we see both mind, and process, as the fundamental "thing" that is happening in our universe. The "mind process" can then reflect on the other processes going on, even processes that occurred "back in time", even processes that generate the "process" concept in the first place. The process is trying to understand itself, and this process is going on in a lot of ways that are effectively interpreted, by the process trying to understand itself, as going on "in different places" and "at different times." But these are not real distinctions in that process, they are just sub-processes that self-interact and internally cohere in different ways, giving rise to an impression of "separate minds" all working on different aspects of the same problem, like subroutines in a computer code. Thus the "sameness" of these experiences, which is really the sameness of the subprocesses, all stems from the fact that it is really all the same process in the first place, but the process fragments into coherent eddies of sorts, creating the illusion that it is not all one process.

    It is like eddies in a river, except that the eddies are so complex and sophisticated that they have become self-aware, to the point that they perceive themselves as separate eddies rather than just fleeting processes within the same river, and what's more, those eddies have become so mentally adept that they are things that say there is a river there in the first place, the river is the current understanding of that process of itself. Then the final point: if the eddies had not become self-aware, there would not be a river there in the first place. The river can be conceptualized, by the eddies in the same "river process", as having existed prior to those more sophisticated eddies, and a future for it after the eddies are gone can be conceptualized as well, but the bottom line is that there is no river without those eddies, because it is the eddies that say there is a river. The river process simply does not exist unless it can know itself well enough to say that it exists.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2013-Dec-27 at 02:29 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Perhaps so, because do you want to know what I think is that "something" that allows us all to exist in the same "Real"?
    Well that was certainly worth keeping the thread going for!

    Just to clarify, do you think of this whole cyclic process as constituting consciousness as a “generic whole” with each eddy utilising that generic consciousness to create a sense of self? Or do you see consciousness as only belonging to an individual eddy, with each conscious eddy then “feeding back” a “sustaining” thought process to the “river”, the “river” being solely a core “process” in which to constrain all of the conscious eddies such that they (we) all drink from the same river, so to speak?

    Do you make a distinction between “process” and self awareness (which I take to imply consciousness)?

    To think of consciousness as such a “generic whole” accords very much with what I think consciousness as being. But I may be reading too much into your model to suit my own inclinations.

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    I think the confusion here is from assigning the wrong values to the phrase "mind-dependent reality", which is an inherently misleading term. Just because a reality can be modeled by the mind, does not make it dependent on the mind. The only thing dependent on the mind is the perceptual model, not the physicality that influences the formation of that perceptual model. To say that the physical reality itself is "mind-dependent" makes it sound solipsistic even if it's not. Needs A Better Name.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I think the confusion here is from assigning the wrong values to the phrase "mind-dependent reality", which is an inherently misleading term. Just because a reality can be modeled by the mind, does not make it dependent on the mind. The only thing dependent on the mind is the perceptual model, not the physicality that influences the formation of that perceptual model. To say that the physical reality itself is "mind-dependent" makes it sound solipsistic even if it's not. Needs A Better Name.
    Then it would have to be said that you are also assuming a mind dependent model when you speak of 'physical reality'.

    This is the point we've been discussing in this thread .. and I don't believe there is any confusion (yet) … just an unwillingness and a sense of hesitation to acknowledge the inescapability of a 'mind dependent reality'.
    (Which means precisely what it looks as though it means, by the way).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Len Moran View Post
    Just to clarify, do you think of this whole cyclic process as constituting consciousness as a “generic whole” with each eddy utilising that generic consciousness to create a sense of self? Or do you see consciousness as only belonging to an individual eddy, with each conscious eddy then “feeding back” a “sustaining” thought process to the “river”, the “river” being solely a core “process” in which to constrain all of the conscious eddies such that they (we) all drink from the same river, so to speak?
    Those both sounded good to me. I don't know if the word "consciousness" conveys enough meaning to be able to distinguish those scenarios! Probably we would need a whole new language to navigate those differences, and we just don't know enough about it to guide such a language. So instead, we just go with our own experience, our own "eddy", and whatever else is going on is more like an article of faith on our part, we haven't developed any tools to model it or test it or learn about it, we just don't seem to be at that stage. We're like a person who has just been handed a musical instrument for the first time in their life, and we are supposed to understand what a band is?
    Do you make a distinction between “process” and self awareness (which I take to imply consciousness)?
    I would say that "process" is general enough to include self-awareness, and "self-awareness" is general enough to include process. Which one includes the other, or do they just overlap? I've no idea-- they are both such vague notions to begin with. Self-awareness seems closer to something we actually experience, and process seems like more of a conceptualization, but then, maybe self-awareness is just a conceptualization too. Can we really say that we are aware of ourselves, or is "ourself" just a kind of model, such that we first have to model ourself before we can say that we are aware of same? I'm not sure self-awareness is a primal perception, we do seem to be modeling ourselves when we use that term. That's why I don't feel the "eddies" are in themselves fundamental things, they create a concept of "themself" but that doesn't mean they really are the way they model themselves.
    To think of consciousness as such a “generic whole” accords very much with what I think consciousness as being. But I may be reading too much into your model to suit my own inclinations.
    I think a "generic whole" is part of the picture, indeed. Individual identity seems to require more than consciousness, it requires memory and modeling. Raw experience of consciousness seems like a fragment of a larger whole that does not give identity to the individual "eddies", it is more like the whole river. But raw experience of consciousness, by itself, cannot construct a model of itself, it needs to string together memories and consistencies of experience to get that "me" and "other" dichotomy, which seems to be where identity comes from. In other words, I don't think identity is an elementary function of consciousness, I think it is a different type of "mind" function. But we just know so little about all this, our tools are so rudimentary-- all we really have to go on is introspection, and that comes through a lot of pre-filters and we may be missing the bigger picture.

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