Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Key to Understanding Objectivism

'Exclusion is inextricable from formal logic, and is obviously thoroughly embedded in human language. But we should be extremely cautious about making any leaps towards concluding that the human mind must somehow work by exclusion. There's a whole lot of research to show that the human mind is, for want of a better term, very strongly "associative" rather than being based on exclusionary, or formally logical principles, as will be discussed a bit later. It would also be a mistake to assume that the brain somehow "works by language" or "thinks in words", with collections of neurons performing ratiocination in english or some cruder or more fundamental, but similar "language" that english can be mapped onto.

Language is indeed one thing human brains can produce and understand, but there's a lot going on inside there, and the amount of the brain involved in producing and understanding language may be relatively small. Language is closely associated with brain processes and interactions with others that we are conscious of, but that's rather understandable - those parts of our brains dedicated to interactions between individuals, to how we present and explain ourselves, are obviously going to find language useful in those tasks. But the brain evolved before human language did, and there's no reason to leap to conclusions that some form language must somehow be the way in which all regions of the brain communicate with each other, or that language is just the electrical signals between neurons writ large in some way or other. There's every reason to suppose that this isn't the case.

In a way, such hypotheses are reminiscent of crudely "homuncular" views about how we see: as if we see the real world through our eyes, as if those eyes were windows that our brains could somehow peer through, and see the real world just as it is. instead, our brains construct the world we see from sense data. According to the physics of "string theory", should that pan out, our brains may even be leaving out most of the dimensions and complexity of the eleven-dimensional world since those aren't relevant to daily life, and model merely four of its dimensions (including time) for the sake of simplicity, and efficiency. Our brains' neurons don't "talk" to each other with words, and there's no reason to suppose that language is the richest possible way to communicate, either - it's only a slim pipeline over which considerable information can pass between individuals, quite slowly. Not the sort of process or mechanism you'd want to build a quick-witted brain from. Language developed from crude alarm and food calls that are common to anthropoids, and we can easily over-estimate it's power and complexity - in any case, neurons aren't really small humans, or anything like that, that talk in predicate-subject form.'

I don't see anything wrong with SUPPOSING, as a thought experiment,
that there are more than 3 spatial dimensions. The author does say "if
String Theory should pan out." That may be a big IF to some, but it is
still being used by the author hypothetically.

This thought-experiment has nothing to do with physics per se. He is
saying that the world we perceive is constructed in our brains, and
that which we perceive is constructed in 4-dimensions (including
time). The reason the brain does this is for simplicity and efficiency.

This, by the way, is not the Kantian view of space, since the author
of seems to think that space is objective and that
somehow the brain is eliminating (filtering out) these other
dimensions it doesn't need.

In fact, those other dimensions, if they do indeed exist objectively,
are much too small to perceive. So there is nothing for the brain to
filter out of sensation before it becomes constructed into perception.
For example, electromagnetic activity is not visible to the naked eye
(only the results of its force on objects) because it requires a
fourth dimension that is smaller than the eye or any of our
instruments can perceive. It is not invisible to us because our brains
have deemed it irrelevant to perception, it is simply too small.

The other spatial dimensions of ST are wrapped into such tiny
"packages" (for lack of a better word) that there is never, ever any
chance of viewing them. That, however, doesn't mean they exist, only
that they are, in theory, very useful.

What's important for the article is that it points out our inevitable
bias regarding 3 dimensions. What we see is what we get, but not
necessarily what is.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to selectively,
via the mind's associative mechanism, filter out information that does
not conform to our pre-established beliefs about the world.
Common-sense requires a form of logic that causes our perceptions to
conform to our biases. It does not require "formal logic" and in fact
any attempt to formalize this process is commonly met with by
revulsion. Nevertheless, the logic of common-sense is typically of the
AND/OR types of statements. It does not WANT to use XOR logic, that
is, exclusion logic, because that may tend to exclude our preciously
held beliefs. It tends to disrupt the cognitive harmony that we feel
is required to keep us intellectually happy or at least satisfied.

So, by this theory, what to me is A is A? It is not only a statement
of identity, it implies confirmation bias just as it also implicitly
rebels against exclusion logic. {A is A} is a statement that logically
says {A or not-A}. Surprised? Nor is it a contradictory statement.
All it says is that a thing is either A, or it is not-A. It doesn't
say that a thing isn't itself, that would be given as {A and not-A}

It just so happens that {A or not-A} (A is A) is a tautologous
statement. It has its uses in logic theory - it formalizes the error
of restating one's premises at the conclusion, thus the argument has
gone nowhere - but that is all. The tautologous argument is neither
wrong nor right, it is simply vacuous.

But thanks to A is A, Randroids of all sorts now have an excuse merely
to reconfirm what they already believe to be true, and to set in stone
the all-too-human tendency to avoid using exclusion logic.


Caloni said...

Sure thing. The question now becomes "how do we avoid confirmation bias in reality", since what can be seen as a matter of "point of view" becomes how do we see beyond physical laws?

This argument seems non sequitor because Objectivism is about human beings. If we all have suck limitations in perceived reality, we evolve to rip them off or we create a philosophy based in what we see, even though could be so different of what is.

Anonymous said...

There are a couple funny things about language and logic. Here they are.

We begin learning about the exterior world from day 1 but it is only one year later that we develop language. So that learning is done without words, and embedded in our brains. So we begin thinking before we have the words for it.

As for logic, it may be that our brains are not wire for formal logic. Notice how easily you can drive a car, coordinating, eyes, ears, hands, and feet? But to do logic, you need pen and paper so as not to lose your train of thourugh