Rickert's Ideas on Consciousness

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

Continuing the discussion from The Relationship Between Math and Physics:

I’m all ears @nwrickert. Tell me how you think consciousness evolved.

(Neil Rickert) #2

Are you ready to abandon your Christianity as a made up human idea?

If not, then you are not all ears.

I have been posting about this, admittedly indirectly, on my own blog. Most of my 2018 posts are related to consciousness, though you might not recognize that.

I took a break for a few months in the latter part of this year. But I will probably resume in January.

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

I don’t have to agree with you to hear you out. I’d love to learn about how you are understanding this.

Also, i’m not sure what possibly this could have to do with rejecting Christianity. If God used evolution to create consciousness, so be it. Why would this be any sort of threat to me? I’m not sure you understand why I am a Christian. :smile:

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(Neil Rickert) #4

Granted. However, you have to be willing to question everything. If you are not willing question everything, then you will see most of what I have to say as being obviously wrong, although you won’t be able to be specific about why you see it as wrong.

I am not suggesting that it is a threat.

Perhaps nobody can really understand why someone else is a Christian. However, I’ll point out that I was a deeply committed Christian for part of my life. But I came to doubt that, long before I started to study human cognition. And I don’t think I could have come to my current understanding of consciousness had I remained Christian.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #5

Maybe. I’d love to hear it still.

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(Dan Eastwood) #6

Quit teasing us! Out with it already. :smile:

Kidding. You make it sound like a personal journey, and that sort of story can’t be forced. I am prepared for respectful reading.

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(Neil Rickert) #7

Yes, that’s pretty much it.

I’ll try to say what I can, but it is hard to do. And I’ll be taking my time.

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(Dan Eastwood) #8

No worries. I feel much the same way.

(Herculean Skeptic) #9

I’m very much looking forward to hearing what you have to say… In your preamble, though, I see a parallel to how a Christian might introduce the gospel message to a skeptic. Possibly this experience (hearing you out) will make many of us more empathetic toward the other??

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(Neil Rickert) #10

After a long hiatus, let’s see if I can add a comment here.

In a recent comment in another thread, I wrote:

This view of truth comes from my study of consciousness, where I have to look at how people make conscious assessments of what is true.

It is a view which many people – perhaps most people – will see as wrong. That’s why it is difficult to explain consciousness.

I expanded a little on this in a recent post at my blog.

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#11

Another fan of Rorty-style pragmatism… Seems to be a cult among TSZ moderators.

There are other alternatives to metaphysical truth than truth by convention according to your social group, eg whatever you can get your the local Kiwanis club to agree to.

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #12

Maybe @BruceS. This thread we are attempting to get @nwrickert explain his theory of consciousness.

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(Neil Rickert) #13

That’s a very limited view of social convention.

#14

The key point is that it is one. If you exclude it as a group which can provide truth, then what is your reason for excluding certain social groups.

As another example, is ID true for the social group who support it? If that is not a social group, what is? And if it is a social group, then is science just some other social group’s truth?

#15

But why being interested in any theories if they are just the agreed opinion of some social group? Or is Neil not claiming truth for his theory? Of course, if his is only putting forward his opinion, then I will leave him to it.

ETA: If you prefer that I stop pursuing this, let me know and I will. I will be happy to delete the comments if you think they are distracting.

(Neil Rickert) #16

Okay, that’s an ambiguity in what I wrote.

If the Kiwanis club adopts a convention, we might normally see that as providing a contextual truth (within the Kiwanis context). In the case of the YEC conventions, they want to extend it beyond their narrow convention.

The more important conventions are those share by the entire linguistic community. So when we say that the sky is blue, we are using the naming convention for “blue” (and the naming convention for “sky”). When we say that something is a shrub rather than a tree, we are using our categorization conventions to distinguish between shrub and tree, and then our naming conventions.

Maybe the naming conventions are trivial, in the sense that changing those is like translating to a different language. But the categorization conventions are not trivial. They are at to core of how we interact with the world.

I think you have missed the point. Or perhaps I have failed to adequately make the point.

Within that group, ID is seen as true. That is to say, members of that group will acknowledge it as true, because they accept the conventions of that group. People who are not members of that group will not see it as true, and will probably not even see it as true for that group, because they do not accept those conventions.

I am not particularly concerned with the question “What is truth?” Rather, I am concerned with the question “How do we ascertain truth?” Or perhaps it would be better to express that as “How (on what basis) do we ascribe truth?” That is what an account of cognition needs to answer.

I’ll note that, in a way, you are supporting my main point – that it is hard to explain ideas about consciousness because those ideas conflict with what people normally take for granted. Your own reaction demonstrates this point.

(Neil Rickert) #17

No, I’m not.

You’ve participated at TSZ for long enough that you have probably seen me say that I take theories to be neither true nor false. I see a theory as a pragmatic instrument, not as a veridical instrument.

#18

I am fine with that. I take it to mean that truth is more than social convention, it is something that depends on our practices of inquiry, and these practices must be appropriate to the domain of inquiry.
For me, that means that to inquire after the nature of consciousness, we should conform to the practices of the cognitive sciences.

The issue I am unclear on is where error enters your account of truth. For example, if a theocracy/linguistic community enforces YEC in education and public discourse and its members adhere to that view in their thinking and discourse, that would make YEC true for them by my understanding of your account. But does that make YEC true without qualification? If not, what is the reason?

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(Neil Rickert) #19

Error is a failure to follow the rules. I’ll ignore the difficulty of explaining what “follow the rules” could mean. Much of our behavior is rule based, although the rules might never be explicitly stated anywhere.

When I say that truth is a matter of social convention, it is those rules we follow (including the unstated ones) that I am taking to be social convention.

You could perhaps say that I am making a case for the importance of investigating our rule making behavior. We take many rules for granted. We explain them away by saying that they were discovered. But we make rules ourselves, and we use “truth” to discuss our rule following and rule breaking behaviors.

I don’t think “true” is ever without qualification. But the qualification is usually implicit in contextual consideration, so we don’t explicitly qualify.

Someone might strongly assert that heliocentrism is true and that geocentrism is false. Yet he will talk about sunrise and sunset and may be offended if someone points out that those are implicitly geocentric.

#20

OK, thanks for the clarification.

Yes, I can see where postmodernism would speak to your position (FWIW Rorty was a postmodernist according to the views of many informed commentators).

For me, your view amounts to relativism, and relativism about truth as an outcome of scientific practice does not pass my smell test. Of course, your taste in odour may differ.

I’ll bow out now and let you get back to consciousness.

Here’s a 10 minute video on Putnam (Yay!) versus Rorty (boo!) FY.

Trigger warning: in it, many philosophers state their philosophical views.