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Help Me, Captain Philosophy! [Aug. 16th, 2006|04:51 pm]
I took a relatively interesting philosophy quiz (here) that characterizes me as a metaphysical Realist, an epistemological Subjectivist, and an ethical Utilitarian.

The corresponding viewpoints aren't a horrible match -- they're better than the subcategories listed under the polar opposite "Reductionist/Absolutist/Relativist" type, but still, there were a bunch of questions where none of the answers really fit what I believe. There are lots of these questions to which my answer is really mu -- either the question is ill-posed, or there's not enough context to give a proper answer.

So, not that I actually expect anybody on my flist can answer the question, but: Can you help me find a label for my philosophical outlook?

In a nutshell, here's what I think. There are two kinds of thing in the world: physical things, and informational things. A rock is physical; a 30-60-90 triangle is informational. Your mind is software (informational) that runs on the hardware of your body (physical). Part of your mind is a model of the objective physical universe; this model is imperfect, being fed by your imperfect perceptions of the universe, but there's an isomorphism between model and reality.

Here's the part that seems to be unconventional: I've come to believe that statements about physical things are qualitatively different than statements about informational things. In particular, boolean truth is applicable only to purely informational propositions. Statement about physical things evaluate to what I'll call "floating-point truth".

So what is that? Property dualism? Fuzzy-logic Aristotelianism? Any ideas?

[User Picture]From: bryree
2006-08-16 11:45 pm (UTC)
It is a dualism...Hmmm...I shall puzzle on it during Merchant.
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[User Picture]From: bryree
2006-08-18 02:54 am (UTC)
OK. Not a dualism as I read more. That would seem to require the teo types of things to be more opposed than relational, as they seem to be for you. Would informational things exist in ways at all analogous to the existance of spiritual things in other philosophies, as you understand them?
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2006-08-16 11:48 pm (UTC)
Well, hrm.

I can't quite tell if you're a dualist or just making a noise like one.

When you say that the mind is an informational thing that runs on the physical hardware of your body and that these are "two distinct types of things", do you really mean to say that there is something added to create a mind over and above a particular arrangement of states of the physical components of the body?

Or when you say "informational thing" here are you referring simply to a pattern of physical things?

Perhaps more simply, if I take three rocks and arrange them at the vertices of a 30-60-90 triangle, have I created a new thing? Or have I "merely" arranged existing things according to a new pattern?
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-08-17 01:31 am (UTC)
I think what I mean is that a particular arrangements of states of physical components can instantiate an informational entity. But an informational thing has properties independent of its instantiation, and could be instantiated in a different medium.

After you move the rocks, there's a triangle there that wasn't there before. I think 'create' is an appropriate verb for that, but we have to be careful. You didn't create the abstract 30-60-90 triangle pattern, you arranged existing things to make a physical version of the pattern.
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2006-08-17 12:00 am (UTC)
Incidentally, if you care, I am apparently: N-A-R
You scored 66% Non-Reductionism, 55% Epistemological Absolutism, and 22% Moral Objectivism!

That said, the test irritated me.
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[User Picture]From: 0nce_and_future
2006-08-17 12:40 am (UTC)
Funny - I think in conversation you and I share a lot of similar philosophical/metaphysical traits... but I somehow come up with (in the quiz) as:

You are an N-A-O: a metaphysical Non-Reductionist, an epistemological Absolutist, and a moral Objectivist.

So clearly there are not enough questions asked.

I like Dan Simmons definition of µ by the way... "unask the question"
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-08-17 01:37 am (UTC)
Sometimes I want to unask the question. More often I just want more details.
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From: toosuto
2006-08-17 01:40 am (UTC)
That's awesome!
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[User Picture]From: madbodger
2006-08-17 03:21 am (UTC)
No idea what to call it, but was thinking along those lines while considering changes to a
complicated computer program using a state machine to model memory transfers.
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[User Picture]From: da_lj
2006-08-17 04:20 am (UTC)
Is this Platonic Realism? The basic duality between ideas and forms?

Possibly also elements of General Semantics, in its "map-is-not-the-territory" notions. And "General Semantics stresses that reality is not adequately mapped by two-valued (Aristotelian) logics."

(And I'll add that I think it's unfortunate, the reputation that General Semantics has been left with. If only it had not inspired neuro-linguistic programming and Dianetics... there are some neat ideas there.)
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-08-17 05:36 am (UTC)
I don't think it's Platonic Realism, because while we've got a similar distinction, Plato's Allegory of the Cave is just wack.

The General Semantics thing is interesting, but it looks like the founder went overboard with his ideas...
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From: walrusjester
2006-08-17 01:35 pm (UTC)
You're being too scientific and not egotistical enough. Call it Beemerism, write a book of the same title, go on the lecture circuit and establish a personality cult.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-08-17 04:23 pm (UTC)
Smacks of effort. =)
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[User Picture]From: boat_of_car
2006-08-17 02:53 pm (UTC)


Congratulatins, you've been selected to be the new guru of a new branch of boatarianism ! We'll call it Tectonicism (tek-tahn-ih-sis-em), people who follow it will be tecolics (teh-caw-liks) (or prestecarians).

tectonicism is the third branch of the Boatarian tree- the first two being of course, orthodox Boatoxy and Avian Boatarianism.

But seriously- The thing I find most interesting is that you seem to have taken elements from parts of your own experience that probably most people wouldn't bother to translate (transliterate) into a belief structure. Yes, duality, aristoteliansim (?)...and of course, pure Beemer. right bloody on, i say.

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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-08-17 04:25 pm (UTC)

Re: Bee-tarianism

Well, y'know, I've been working on my belief structures for a long time now. It's an ongoing project. =)
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[User Picture]From: ng_nighthawk
2006-08-17 04:57 pm (UTC)
So I think I need more data to map your thoughts to existing lines of philosophy. Questions:

1. How do informational things map to physical things? Is this mapping objective (there is an a priori relationship between them), subjective (the relationship between them is constructed by the observer), or do those terms not apply?

To be clear, you don't have to be Platonic to make the relationship objective--you could clearly say that informational things exist only because of our experience with physical things, ergo physical things are the first cause of informational things, because even if some informational things are generated from other informational things, you can always trace them back to physical things. That's a reversal of Plato's concept of the informational things being the model from which physical things are made, but it remains an objective relationship.

2. Do informational things exist outside of an individual mind? Do they exist outside of minds in general? A few example positions (not even remotely comprehensive):

--Informational things exist within each human mind. While two people may have access to very, very similar informational things, they are not actually the same informational thing.
--Informational things can be transmitted intact, assuming good transmission, from person to person and thus the same object can exist in multiple minds. However, if all life were to end, informational things would cease to exist.
--Informational things, being derived from physical things, all have some existence outside of human minds. Even if all life were to end, assuming life were to exist again with a fresh start, these same information things could be rediscovered from the physical things that generated them in the first place. Ergo, informational things are not dependent on human minds to exist.

3. Can you derive a statement about informational things from a statement about physical things, or vice-versa?

Answer these three things, and I think I can place you in an existing framework, or identify that you match none I've heard of. :)
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-08-17 08:35 pm (UTC)

1) The relationship is objective, but the mapping can be imperfect. Evaluation of an imperfect mapping is subjective. Subjectivity also comes into play when the informational thing is a referent to a physical thing with fuzzy boundaries.

2) Informational things exist outside of minds. If there are three trees on a hill, it's an instance of three-ness, whether anyone counts them or not. In a sense, they don't even depend on a physical thing to instantiate them, but exist in a kind of potential form independent of the physical universe. But the number of potential informational entities is infinite, and so they need to be intantiated to be anything other than a drop in the vast undifferentiated sea of potential, so "exist" isn't really the right word.

3) Whether you can derive statements about informational things from statements about physical things, or vice-versa, depends on the quality of the mapping between them. If the mapping is good, you can derive new statements that are also good, although the imperfections multiply as you go along.

Strictly speaking, statements are informational things that relate other informational things to one another, so you can only make statements about physical things by relating the correponding informational referents. However, you can have two physical things with a relationship that maps to an informational thing, and by changing the physical relationship while preserving the mapping, discover/create a derived informational thing. That's what happens when you use a slide-rule.

Does that make sense? It coalesces as I go, and I may make errors, so speak up if I say something dumb.
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[User Picture]From: drdeleto
2006-08-17 07:54 pm (UTC)
Sometime in the last couple of years I've gone through a shift where I read questions like those in the quiz and my only honest response is, "How the hell would I know?" Constructing a personal philosophical worldview, much less defending it, just seems entirely impractical. Much of this comes from reading the stuff (far more seriously than I ever did in college) and realizing that I am pretty much incapable of doing that kind of heavy intellectual lifting. There's something freeing in coming to this conclusion and, for lack of any more accurate description, letting other, more qualified people do the thinking for you.

Taking my best stab at the questions, I think I was a Non-Reductionist/Absolutist/Objectivist, although some of the phenomenologist answers held some appeal.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-08-17 08:45 pm (UTC)
It perplexes me that you feel you can't do that kind of thinking.

I'd be interested to know about how you decide who's more qualified and worth delegating to.
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[User Picture]From: eto_theipi
2006-08-22 11:58 pm (UTC)
This reminds me of the Orb track OOBE, which contains a sample... "...created a world of the mind, of the intimate imagination, which is as real in its way as any actual country on the map. Sir Karl Popper, in one of his most important papers, calls it 'the third world,' or 'world three.' The first world is the objective world of things. The second world is my inner, subjective world. But, says Popper, there’s a third world, the world of objective contents of thoughts. Teilhard de Chardin calls this third world the noosphere, that is, the world of the mind."

Your lj-net icon is rad, by the way.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-08-23 08:46 pm (UTC)
Your lj-net icon is rad, by the way.

Thanks! It's a little Processing sketch. I'm trying to figure out how to make it display clusters in a clever way. Most people's friends networks are dominated by a single, large, well-connected cluster that doesn't display very well with that algorithm.
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