La pointe de la sauce's Reviews > A Beginner's Guide to Reality. Jim Baggott

A Beginner's Guide to Reality. Jim Baggott by Jim Baggott
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
2898486
's review
May 28, 10

Read from May 26 to 28, 2010

Does colour exist in the dark?

A couple of weeks ago I started discussion with Greg about our perception of reality. At the end of the discussion I had the distinct impression that I wasn't putting my point across effectively due to, I don't know, let's say pure ignorance on the subject, whereas Greg effectively used a number of arguments to show that my view of the intrinsic nature of colour is problematic. 

Hmmm, after reading this book I still disagree. Below I have made up a jumbled up summary of why:

'There is simply nothing we can point to, hang our hats on and say this is real. '

In the Republic, what Plato is saying is that we can never hope to truly understand the nature of reality, because we are locked in the prison of our mortal senses. We are prisoners in the cave. 

Without your mind, or conciousness what do you have? Photons of different energies and wavelengths, chemicals containing distinctive groups of atoms, physical objects with certain surface properties and compressions and rarefactions in the air. In none of this physics and chemistry can we find colour, taste, scent, softness or melody. They are all qualities produced in our minds all producing different patterns of electrical stimulation in the brain.

This does not mean that our perception is the only form of representations of reality. We have to accept that other realities exist which are as legetimate as our perception of the representation of reality.

 What becomes obvious is that our entire world is based on perception.  It is our perceptions that is the reality. It is impossible for us to ever have knowledge of a reality that we can't perceive and so it is therefore seems meaningless to speculate about the existence of such an independent reality.   

If we were to believe in a reality independent of perception then We can only hold on to the idea of an independently existing primary material substance, but at the cost of having to accept that we can ascribe no independently real properties to it, and can never hope to explain how this substance might give rise to the perceptions we have of it. 


The argument that Berkeley makes is that the primary qualities of a material object cannot exist without it's secondary qualities of shape/colour etc. We cannot conceive of objects possessing shape but not colour, for example. 'Perception is reality'.  

So, we can have no knowledge of what objects are 'really like', NEITHER can we have knowledge of the connections between them - cause and effect exists only in our mind, and so does time for that matter. - Kant's view.  

 
Now, that sums up where philosophers stand at the moment from Plato to Aristotle to Descartes to Berkerly to Kant to Hume and on and on...

Is there a defense against Descartes' demon or Kant's intuition?

What do the Physicists think, surely they will give some credence to the reality which they deal with everyday in measurements and calculations. Just a few questions should clear this up, we don't need the answer to 'life the universe and everything', Just what is matter? 

Copenhagen Interpretation categorically denies that there is anything to be gained from thinking that we can ever discover the true nature of physical objects 'as they really are'. 
It insists that properties of fundemental objects like photons or electrons do not exist until they are exposed to something with which they can interact, such as a measuring device.
The first area of conflict is quickly summarized. If. quantum states are not determined until the quantum objects have undergone some kind of interaction, such as a measurement, then how is the quantum state of the universe determined? Quantum theory demands something 'outside' with which it can interact, but if everything there is is in the universe then there is nothing outside the universe with which it can interact. There is nothing outside the universe to collapse the wave function. Unless we want to get theological, there is no 'observer' outside the universe to make it real. Is there?  

Fuck fuck fuck fuck...


Blindsight-
"You're blind," he said without turning. "Did you know that?"
"I didn't."
"You. Me. Everyone." He interlocked his fingers and clenched as if in prayer, hard enough to whiten the knuckles. Only then did I notice: no cigarette.
"Vision's mostly a lie anyway," he continued. "We don't really see anything except a few hi-res degrees where the eye focuses. Everything else is just peripheral blur, just— light and motion. Motion draws the focus. And your eyes jiggle all the time, did you know that, Keeton? Saccades, they're called. Blurs the image, the movement's way too fast for the brain to integrate so your eye just—shuts down between pauses. It only grabs these isolated freeze-frames, but your brain edits out the blanks and stitches an — an illusion of continuity into your head."
He turned to face me. "And you know what's really amazing? If something only moves during the gaps, your brain just—ignores it. It's invisible."

Brains are survival engines, not truth detectors. If self-deception promotes fitness, the brain lies. Stops noticing— irrelevant things. Truth never matters. Only fitness. By now you don't experience the world as it exists at all. You experience a simulation built from assumptions. Shortcuts. Lies. Whole species is agnosiac by default

Perhaps we are really living in Descartes' dream world.
4 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read A Beginner's Guide to Reality. Jim Baggott.
sign in »

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

dateDown_arrow    newest »

message 1: by Greg (new)

Greg
Brains are survival engines, not truth detectors. If self-deception promotes fitness, the brain lies. Stops noticing— irrelevant things. Truth never matters. Only fitness. By now you don't experience the world as it exists at all. You experience a simulation built from assumptions. Shortcuts. Lies. Whole species is agnosiac by default


Was this from Blindsight or from you? Either way, fantastic fucking paragraph.

What I found interesting is that you start out by saying you still disagree with me, and yet I couldn't find anything in your review that pointed to our disagreement. In fact, I agreed with almost every part of the post! I have some quibbles with the ideas about the existence of objective reality outside of the observer, but I'll have to post tomorrow.

Anyway, great write up, was this what the book was about, or just your stream of consciousness prompted by the book?


La pointe de la sauce Thanks. The quote is from Blindsight! 
I think your argument was that colour is only a result of our processing of wavelengths and is therefore not intrinsic to the primary quality of an object. That argument infers that there is a primary object independent of our perception, which I disagree with.

 I have some quibbles with the ideas about the existence of objective reality outside of the observer

 In my view, and I think we agree on this (finally), there is no objective reality outside our perception. We can therefore not disassociate the colour of an object from it's shape, from it's texture and so on.
Our perception of colour is also therefore real, intrinsic and a primary quality of an object in space. I think I remember you disagreeing with that view.

The 'Beginners Guide' goes into a lot more detail. It predominantly discusses the views of philosophers in the first half and then moves on to what Physicists believe is the true nature of reality at the quantum level backed by science (of course). It goes into detail on the wave particle nature of light, the double slit experiment, superpositions etc and The Copenhagen Interpretation,  and pretty much sums up the fact that an observer is an indespensible component of collapsing the wave function. Pretty comprehensive for a beginners guide eh. 


message 3: by Greg (new)

Greg Sorry I never got back this!

So first off, I should say, that while I have a rudimentary understanding of quantum theory, it's jut that...rudimentary. I think there are a lot of really important questions in Philosophy of Mind that can be answered by, or at least informed by, the field of physics. Simply because so much of what we've learned from physics over the last hundred years, and continue to learn, is so drastically different from our common understanding of the universe. And with consciousness or "qualia" as the last frontier in Philosophy of Mind, I think we're really going to be surprised by what eventually is necessary to answer that question, or as you put it in your Blindsight review, even understand the question itself.

But with that aside...

In my view, and I think we agree on this (finally), there is no objective reality outside our perception.


hah...we were so close! No, what I think is that there IS an objective reality outside of our perception. But that the nature of our perception is such that there is no objective (or constant or consistent) experience of that reality. Because perceptual systems evolved only able to interpret small aspects of that reality, and beyond that, each create a representation of this outside reality based on particular specifics of the biology and physical manifestation of the organism. So I think it's possible for organisms to exist where the internal representation of the outside world is extremely unlike ours. Though obviously this is something that I cannot prove, and something that you would disagree with correct?

To make sure I understand you correctly, are you saying that because there is no objective reality, that the correlation between a wavelength of light and the color that we perceive is a fundamental property of the wavelength? because the two are inseparable in a sense? Again, I would argue that it's possible for an organism to perceive the wavelength of light that corresponds to what we see as blue, but see a completely different color, or not even see at all, feel it, interpret it as warm as opposed to cold, or experience it in some way that we can't even grasp. Because in one sense it's just happenstance that we experience wavelengths of light in the way we do. Though, the question of how and why we do experience light in that way is certainly mind boggling and fascinating!


La pointe de la sauce Greg wrote: No, what I think is that there IS an objective reality outside of our perception. But that the nature of our perception is such that there is no objective (or constant or consistent) experience of that reality.

I'm in a very reasonable mood, so I'll replace my beliefs with yours. It will take a few seconds....a bit of fairy cake...hey presto! Done. It's funny how different ways of expressing concepts can actually mean the same thing.
I can't imagine what made me think there isn't an Objective/Primary reality out there because you are right, it IS out there, I'll just never know. :) Im not being flippant or sarcastic, it is very slightly different from saying there isn't an objective/primary reality. At least we still agree that 'peception is reality' and that other as 'legitamate representations of reality' exist... right? I'll be happy with that.
Regarding the 'fundemental property of a wavelength' there is no fundemental property and what we see as yellow may as well be a sound to another conscious being.
Hey! I think we've reached a total unified conscious agreement here despite our subjective perception of the metaphysical subject matter. :)


message 5: by Greg (new)

Greg hah, I don't know how it happened, but you're right!

I have a close friend who I argue with (talk, really) regularly about all sorts of scientific/philosophical issues, and we'll sometimes be arguing for hours by the time we realize we've been using the same words to mean different things.


La pointe de la sauce :) How many Platonists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
They don't change bulbs, they have nice fires in their caves and if they need light they go out and look at the sun.


back to top