Absolute certainty

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TickTockMan
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 02:38 pm
@Stormalv,
Stormalv;28331 wrote:
I see no way how I can not exist, so it's better to reverse the question to you. How can I possibly not exist? Or should I say, how can you possibly not exist. (For I of course could be a mere hallucination from your perspective)


Ha! Excellent play, Stormalv! You've turned over the coin that has me so haunted. I can no more prove that I don't exist than I can prove that I do exist.

And for what it's worth, I would never presume to question your existence. How could I? If I were in a position to question another's existence it would seem that by default I implicitly believe in my own existence, but no one else's . . . and that just seems needlessly selfish.

But the real question that I have still remains: In the phrase, "I think, therefore I am," who exactly is doing the thinking? For me it's a question of the Observer and the Observed.

For the sake of this particular discussion, if we take it as a given that experiential evidence is all we have to base our concept of Self upon, then we must believe that there is a Self that is doing the experiencing. However, would this indicate that there is also something that is observing the Self as it is in the process of experiencing? Something that observes the Self experiencing and which is capable of reporting back, in essence, that "I see you thinking, and I see you concluding that therefore you exist."

Perhaps this is just way too dualistic for my own good. I'm not saying that I necessarily believe any of the preceding gibberish here. I'm just asking.
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 02:39 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke;28343 wrote:
... exactly my point - once doubt outweighs the inner experience of "I am", you're done ... that's the "Big Bang" of experience -


And then what happens?
 
Stormalv
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 03:41 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;28372 wrote:
Ha! Excellent play, Stormalv! You've turned over the coin that has me so haunted. I can no more prove that I don't exist than I can prove that I do exist.

And for what it's worth, I would never presume to question your existence. How could I? If I were in a position to question another's existence it would seem that by default I implicitly believe in my own existence, but no one else's . . . and that just seems needlessly selfish.

But the real question that I have still remains: In the phrase, "I think, therefore I am," who exactly is doing the thinking? For me it's a question of the Observer and the Observed.

For the sake of this particular discussion, if we take it as a given that experiential evidence is all we have to base our concept of Self upon, then we must believe that there is a Self that is doing the experiencing. However, would this indicate that there is also something that is observing the Self as it is in the process of experiencing? Something that observes the Self experiencing and which is capable of reporting back, in essence, that "I see you thinking, and I see you concluding that therefore you exist."

Perhaps this is just way too dualistic for my own good. I'm not saying that I necessarily believe any of the preceding gibberish here. I'm just asking.

Oh my God!! You TOTALLY opened my eyes with this one, I totally get it now!! Thank you so much man, seriously, I can't explain how ecstatic I am now. There was this guy who was talking about this, that everything is just a matter of focus, I didn't really understand it then, but I understand now! The One consciousness can simply choose to focus on whatever mind it wants to experience. Damn, that's a really interesting thought! This could also mean that some people in a way will never be conscious? They just appear to be. If we choose not to focus on those creatures. Sorry if I'm not making much sense to everyone, our language is very limited you know! But damn! :eek:
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 04:08 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan wrote:
And then what happens?


... same thing you would do with any axiom - it's a starting point from which other logical statements can be derived:

- "I experience, therefore I am"
- "I am, but I also experience other, therefore there is a reality distinct from I"
- "I am, and there is a reality distinct from I, but I have also experienced a method for successfully predicting future events in that reality, therefore the scientific method is a valid path toward knowledge"
- "I am, and there is a reality distinct from I, and the scientific method is a valid path toward knowledge, therefore ... ... ..."

... obviously, the logical statements above are completely notional (to get from "I am" to "science is a valid path toward knowledge" in just three logical steps is ludicrous), but I hope you get the gist.

Also note that I am not saying that every possible logical statement you can derive from "I am" can be related to the real world - any more than E=MC^3 can be related to real physics or 1 + 1 = 2 can be related to real water droplets ... logic and mathematics are human constructions for mechanizing a selection of hard-won human intuitions about the world we live in ... but as the water droplet case clearly demonstrates, any isomorphism between these mechanized intuitions and the real world must be experientially/experimentally demonstrated before being accepted.
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 04:31 pm
@Stormalv,
Stormalv;28380 wrote:
Sorry if I'm not making much sense to everyone, our language is very limited you know! But damn! :eek:


That's because, I think, what we're talking here about transcends language and logic. It simply cannot be described, and any attempt to do so is, as the Zen philosophers note, "mistaking the finger pointing for the thing being pointed at."

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but it's just basic Eastern philosophy.
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 04:34 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke;28382 wrote:
logic and mathematics are human constructions for mechanizing a selection of hard-won human intuitions about the world we live in ... but as the water droplet case clearly demonstrates, any isomorphism between these mechanized intuitions and the real world must be experientially/experimentally demonstrated before being accepted.


Don't make
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 04:58 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan wrote:
However, would this indicate that there is also something that is observing the Self as it is in the process of experiencing? Something that observes the Self experiencing and which is capable of reporting back, in essence, that "I see you thinking, and I see you concluding that therefore you exist."


... or is it that I experience self and conclude that I exist, and after having done that I recall my experience of self and resulting conclusion that I exist and proceed to critique it - a process which is itself experienced and remembered ... this does not lead to an infinite recursion of observers (of observers (of observers (of observers ...))) - but it can lead to a life spent analyzing everything one experiences (and analyzing that analysis (and analyzing ...)) ...
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 04:59 pm
@Stormalv,
Stormalv;28380 wrote:
This could also mean that some people in a way will never be conscious?


In a way, yes, but all beings have the potential to be conscious, or, if we're going to be dragged kicking and screaming into Zen World, then we would say all beings have within them the ability to attain enlightenment.





_____________
"You are closer than you think. The path to enlightenment is narrow, and as difficult to tread as the razor's edge." -- From the movie The Razor's Edge (1984 version).
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 05:02 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke;28389 wrote:
... or is it that I experience self and conclude that I exist, and after having done that I recall my experience of self and resulting conclusion that I exist and proceed to critique it - a process which is itself experienced and remembered ... this does not lead to an infinite recursion of observers (of observers (of observers (of observers ...))) - but it can lead to a life spent analyzing everything one experiences (and analyzing that analysis (and analyzing ...)) ...


All of which keeps us residing in the world of what was and what might be and ignoring the very moment, this exact and ever-lasting now, which defines our existence.

Maybe.
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 05:33 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan wrote:
Don't make
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 05:54 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke;28393 wrote:


Okay, now I got nothin. Once the real math and physics talk start I'm pulling the blanket of mysticism over my head . . . I feel like a Nobel Laureate if I balance my bank account with a + or - margin of error of 10 bucks or so.

Hey, by the way, I couldn't get your website to open. Wanted to check out your work. Are you digital or a film purist? Back in the old days I used to run a B&W processing lab out of my house. I miss those days . . .
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 06:21 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan wrote:
Hey, by the way, I couldn't get your website to open. Wanted to check out your work. Are you digital or a film purist? Back in the old days I used to run a B&W processing lab out of my house. I miss those days . . .


... that stinks! - what browser/version are you using? (just for my own information - I wrote the software for that website awhile back based upon bleeding-edge features in the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox ... things may have changed in those browsers since I wrote it, so it would help to know what browser/version is breaking it) ... anyhoo, call me a "digital purist" - I do use digital cameras so I don't blow up the house with chemicals, but I only use image editing software to do what you could do in a real darkroom (burn, dodge, etc.) ...
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 08:57 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke;28401 wrote:
... that stinks! - what browser/version are you using? (just for my own information - I wrote the software for that website awhile back based upon bleeding-edge features in the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox ....


I'm on a Mac OS 10.4.9 and using Safari 3. something. The site opened, but all I got was a black screen. I waited awhile, wondering if maybe some sort of Flash-based app was loading, but nothing ever showed up. I'm not sure what sort of connection we have at work, but it's faster by far than our old T1. I dumped Explorer, but I've got Firefox so maybe I'll give that a try tomorrow at work.

I'm pretty much all digital these days myself. I do fine art reproduction to earn my daily bread and use a Linhof 4x5 with a BetterLight digital scanback to shoot the original artwork. I'd like to take it out and do some landscapes with it, but it's not exactly a portable setup. Also, I think my boss would freak out if I ran away with it for the weekend.

How's the life in Colorado? I grew up in Englewood and my folks still have a ramshackle little place in Breckenridge that they bought in the early 70's. Man, has that place ever changed since I was a kid.

Anyway, I've led us way off topic here. Aren't we supposed to be discussing the Self or the lack thereof?
Don't make me alert a moderator.
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2008 02:00 pm
@TickTockMan,
I just want to say something about cogito ergo sum; I skimmed the last four pages and didn't see this comment, hope its not redundent.

I thought I would invoke an authority greater than my own. Here are Nietzsche's thoughts on Descartes' cure for his own doubt.

"'people think, therefore there is something that thinks:' this is what Desartes argument amounts to...that there there must be something 'that thinks' when we think is merely the formulation of a grammatial custom which sets an agent to every action...a metaphysico-logical postulate is already put forth..." The Will to Power

As to the question implied by the title of this thread; can there be absolute certainty? Yes. Many people are absolutely certain about various things. That says nothing about the actual state of the world, only about the state of those people. Being certain is an activity which is possible. What is lacking is truth, as a thing in itself; there is no such thing.
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2008 02:54 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
"'people think, therefore there is something that thinks:' this is what Desartes argument amounts to...that there there must be something 'that thinks' when we think is merely the formulation of a grammatial custom which sets an agent to every action...a metaphysico-logical postulate is already put forth..." The Will to Power


... actually, this could be a level-of-description thing ... at a sub-atomic level of description, there are no atoms, no chemistry, no solids, no life, no humans - nothing ... just a sea of quarks (or whatever the "smallest" particle is today) ... but does looking at things from the sub-atomic level of description necessarily imply that atoms are a fiction? chemistry is a fiction? solids are a fiction? life is a fiction? humans are a fiction? ... btw, good point about mistaking "certainty" as a synonym for "truth" ...
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2008 10:21 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke wrote:
... actually, this could be a level-of-description thing ... at a sub-atomic level of description, there are no atoms, no chemistry, no solids, no life, no humans - nothing ... just a sea of quarks (or whatever the "smallest" particle is today) ... but does looking at things from the sub-atomic level of description necessarily imply that atoms are a fiction? chemistry is a fiction? solids are a fiction? life is a fiction? humans are a fiction? ... btw, good point about mistaking "certainty" as a synonym for "truth" ...


I see your point about perspective and 'level of description', but I'm afraid the relevance to 'cogito ergo sum' is lost on me. Could you explain?
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2008 10:54 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon;28826 wrote:

As to the question implied by the title of this thread; can there be absolute certainty? Yes. Many people are absolutely certain about various things. That says nothing about the actual state of the world, only about the state of those people. Being certain is an activity which is possible. What is lacking is truth, as a thing in itself; there is no such thing.


Bravo. Well said.

Before she died, my grandma was certain there were "mean little faces" looking at her from the wallpaper of her bedroom.

Also, thinking about it now, isn't "absolute certainty" redundant? I've never heard the phrase "tentative certainty."
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2008 11:23 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke;28844 wrote:
... actually, this could be a level-of-description thing ... at a sub-atomic level of description, there are no atoms, no chemistry, no solids, no life, no humans - nothing ... just a sea of quarks (or whatever the "smallest" particle is today) ...


For some reason this makes me think of a passage from Mark Twain's, The Mysterious Stranger . . .

"You perceive, now, that these things are all impossible except in a dream. You perceive that they are pure and puerile insanities, the silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks--in a word, that they are a dream, and you the maker of it. The dream-marks are all present; you should have recognized them earlier.

"It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream--a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought--a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!"


Of course, it is Satan saying these things in the story, so take that for what it's worth.


Here's a link to the whole book if anyone's interested: The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain @ Classic Reader
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2008 07:11 am
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
I see your point about perspective and 'level of description', but I'm afraid the relevance to 'cogito ergo sum' is lost on me. Could you explain?


... at an atomic level of description, there are stable patterns/processes ... we give these stable patterns/processes names: nucleus, electron shell, atom ... if we wish to deny these stable patterns/processes, that's easy - simply revert to a lower level of description (a sea of quarks) and they're gone ... but in so denying, have we eliminated their existence, or do they persist in spite of us? ... at a higher level of description, there are other stable patterns/processes ... we give these stable patterns/processes names: chemical bond, compound, buckminsterfullerene ... if we wish to deny these stable patterns/processes, that's easy - simply revert to a lower level of description (a sea of atoms) and they're gone ... but in so denying, have we eliminated their existence, or do they persist in spite of us? ... at yet another level of description, there are other stable patterns/processes ... we give these stable patterns/processes names: agent, action ... ... ... do you see where I'm going?
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2008 07:30 am
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan wrote:
"Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought--a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!"


... that sounds like a place you could get to in trying to explain consciousness at the level of description of a sea of quarks ... for example, if there is nothing but a sea of quarks - not even stable patterns or processes within that sea - then there is nothing outside of consciousness for consciousness to experience as atoms, chemistry, solids, life, humans, etc. ... and if this is the case, then there is no experience that consciousnesses can share ... and so if consciousness experiences shared experience with another consciousness, the "shared" is but a hallucination of consciousness (as is the "other" consciousness) ... atoms, chemistry, solids, life, humans - these are all mad hallucinations of a totally isolated consciousness, as well ... and just how does this consciousness arise out of nothing but a sea of quarks? ... since there are no stable patterns or processes in the sea, it physically can't - so it must be a metaphysical omniscience ... we can give this metaphysical omniscience a name: the Insane God of the Sea of Quarks.
 
 

 
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