It’s All In The Game

I read Stephen Mumford’s “Football – The Philosophy Behind the Game” in just two sittings. A great, if short, read for anyone with genuine love for the game, like Mumford a “long-suffering” Blades fan since 1980.

Although I “followed” football as a schoolboy, Middlesbrough the local team and Leeds the big Yorkshire team at the time, it wasn’t until the 1978/79 season that I could call myself a fan. Staying down south after university in London, just as Wimbledon FC – the crazy gang – arrived to entertain all all manner of northern teams in the 4th Division. We barely missed a game home or away for 8 seasons, 7 of which ended in either promotion or relegation. One of those, the 83/84 season, we beat Blades away the penultimate game of the season to secure our promotion into the 2nd Division and in doing so knocked them out of their promotion place. Fortunately they regained it a week later, and we both went up together. However, we gave up after success took us to the financial (ie boring) heights of the 1st Division and the FA Cup win … and we started a family, in Reading.

Once the kids were a little older, we got back into football, coaching and refereeing, and started to follow Reading as the local team. And again after a decade of being both home and away season-ticket holders and founder members of the supporters trust, we consider ourselves fans to this day despite moving back north and getting to far fewer games. (This season, one of the few games we were at, Blades beat Royals 5:0 at Bramall Lane, but who’s counting. They’re pushing for promotion, we’re fighting relegation.)

As Mumford says, being a fan works on many levels. Partisan support for one team is only part of it. We have soft spots for several. The techniques, skills and abilities of individuals and teams, the tactical plays of teams and managers, the in-game possibilities, near-misses, decisions and results themselves. And, in our case, the characters of individuals players, managers and fans, even rival fans on our travels, as they moved teams through their careers too. It’s the game you love. (For a flavour of how football reflects the character of people and place in football I recommend Harry Pearson’s highly entertaining “The Far Corner“.)

As Mumford shows, all these aspects can be considered philosophically without intellectualising the human pursuit and its aesthetic attractions. And as he says the subjective, emotional and passionate aspects that drive specific individual attraction may vary with your own experience across these multiple levels. It’s a short book and it’s no criticism to suggest he may have missed a few in my opinion.

Without referring to Game Theory per se, Mumford recognises that it is in the nature of a game, not simply a sporting pursuit, that formations and tactics evolve, must evolve, as the psychology of opponents responds to each others moves and tactics, successes and failures. If you’re gonna do that, we’re gonna have to do this. That is evolution. Mumford makes several references to John Wilson’s “Inverting the Pyramid” – another read I can highly recommend, in terms of the evolution of the game. But the rules (the laws and their application by officials) evolve too, not just formations and tactics, as teams and players push against their limits and I’ve used examples of rule evolution as morality plays in my own writings. There’s a paradoxical spirit in how the possibilities are applied – the spirit rather than the letter – in the same way that pursuing pretty skillful ball-juggling tricks (a la Ronaldinho) out of a proper competitive game context is not what makes the game beautiful.

Mumford correctly identifies what really makes it the beautiful game. Partly it is the simplicity / paucity of rules vs the near infinite possibilities of play and partly it is the possible levels of engagement, even in a single game (*). But largely it is because it is a game as well as a sport and it’s game with some very special properties best summed up in the title of his penultimate chapter – “Chance”.

It is a game of low scores and fine margins between success and failure, tackle or foul; completed pass or lost posession, goal or miss, block or save; win, draw or lose. It means that football is almost unique in its fine-tuned sweet spot between the predictability of skilled resources and the luck of chance events. The best team may win, but never at all events. There’s always everything to play for, with any number of minutes before the final whistle. It’s the hope that kills you.

Mumford’s “Football – The Philosophy Behind the Game” is a recommended read. Fans of the game will be entertained and recognise what they like about it and need barely notice it’s an introduction to the ethical philosophy of what makes something good.

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(*) Reminds me, we had the pleasure of watching a game at Camp Nou, and I think we watched Messi move at walking pace from space to space, for 80 of the 90 minutes, despite the cohort of other Barca superstars on the ball. Fascinating.

Insulting the Other

Whether it’s racist fans in football, visiting fans at White Hart Lane, fans against officials in football generally or misogyny, LGBTI-bigotry, anti-semitism or plain disagreement there is a very basic problem at work:

The error is in the attack (full stop) and in neutral reporting of attacks without condemnation, independent of how the other party responds. Whatever the situation, a point of “obvious difference” is used to highlight some underlying disagreement (valid or otherwise) AND the presumption is that it is rhetorically acceptable to do so.

Continuing with the football analogies. When southern-eastern supporters chant “sheepshaggers” at west country and northern supporters, they are reducing all differences to one “handy” (geographical, cartoon, grotesque but irrelevant) would-be fact. Originally, it was witty and “in the spirit of the game” fans took it and had their own witty ripostes. Same with “yids” at Tottenham, no opposing fan has the slightest clue whether any individual Spurs fan is Jewish (and it would be irrelevant anyway). But the spirit of the game, the game of rhetorical tit-for-tat that is, depends on both parties understanding the one actually respects the other. We’re all fans of the beautiful game, in this together.

Without common cause it’s difference as identity politics, as in a policy of using any available identity difference as a rhetorical weapon irrelevant to any substantive point. It’s become acceptable for the blues to say they “hate” the reds. The problem with social-media and un-moderated remote interactions is that without the human contact many people have completely forgotten the respect for the other on which all dialogue depends. They have assumed that critical thinking and freedom of speech means such human concerns are no longer relevant or are secondary and that some “right to offend” in casual expressions of hatred is now built into all interactions.

There are rhetorical rules of self-moderation being ignored and replaced by mere identity politics, identifying with your tribe against the other.

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[Post Note: Easter 2019 – when all dialogue is reduced to warlike win-lose games, then targetting your opponents weakest, most painful, identity spot is simply natural:

Ultimately this is what I’ve characterised as reducing every topic to identity politics – tribal stands, with us or against us. More identities spawn ever more others. Bring on the good fences.]

Taking Idealism for a Spin

Quite a few of my recent posts have been focussed on the idealism <> realism relationship – from the original reality and appearances saga, where we discover truth vs seeming goes back as far as pre-Socratic Parmenides – to Hegel/Bradley vs Russell/Moore in the late 19th C / early 20th C. One reason for it being topical is that I was goaded into posting a megalomaniac whole world in an information metaphysics, and I had to organise my thinking on what I meant by my kind of information realism.

The second was that Bernardo Kastrup’s “The Idea of the World” had been making a buzz and social media traffic seemed split on whether he was really talking about an information realism or a literal pan-psychic idealism.

Bernardo seems insistent he really does mean the latter.

I happen to agree with most of the publicity blurbs – that “intellectual history – is approaching – a major inflection point” where a scientistic flavour of physical/material realism is knocked off its perch. I’ve been doing my bit to  point this out and help make it happen for two decades. And I’ve not been shy in claiming that the whole future of human rationality is at stake here, at a critical time when our collective decision-making is exposed as failing at the speed of electronic media. Did I mention my over-reaching megalomania?

And I’m hoping that the claim that we have a “rigorous case for the primacy of mind in nature” holds up in terms of rigour, because I am sceptical that the inflection requires us to flip-flop entirely from material realism to idealism. I naturally prefer relational balance to binary choice arguments, but I also happen to believe that the relational model tells a better story of life, the universe and everything. Sure, a large part of reality seems mental, because it is. But that doesn’t mean we need to throw the rest of reality out with the bathwater.

So, in starting with Bernardo’s book, I’m both hopeful and sceptical.

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Review Notes: Front Material, Part I and Chap 5 specifically.

[If you are reading this version, it’s a work in progress as I read and add to my thoughts. Eventually – if there is demand – I will produce a consolidated review or a coherent essay or two.]

There are several introductory sections, and each main Part has its own new preamble / summary to the existing papers collected there. All point to Part II, especially Ch5, as the core thesis.

His arguments against material realism are well established and non-contentious to me (it’s why I’m here these 20 years).

He commits the sin of dismissing Dennett on the strength of his 1991 “Consciousness (not) Explained” thus ignoring 30 years of work – but I’ll forgive that if we end up at a credible thesis. He also doesn’t so far spend any time on the processes of evolution of higher structures and organisms from his metaphysics, but he is clear that he is building an ontology from it. The “hard problem” of received wisdom is indeed a problem with the current ways of thinking. In that Dennett would heartily agree.

Kastrup’s abiding focus is the epistemic deficit of alternative metaphysics and Occam’s drive for parsimony in insisting on his pan-psychic monism or literal idealism and on minimising any unnecessary levels of abstraction.

Everything is made of mind-stuff (full stop).

His rejection of computationalism and so-called bottom-up pan-psychisms is based on these epistemic and parsimonious considerations, and the combinatorial problem of how (at least partially) proto-psychic primitives assemble into higher mental structures we’d recognise. So far for me however, whilst his ontology is indeed parsimonious it has its own epistemic gap in the processes of how the world we know evolves from his metaphysical ontology. Similarly the parsimony is a rule of thumb, a rule for guidance of the wise, like all rules, and never in itself a clinching argument.

That said, Kastrup says a great deal I agree with and he says it well. Even in his own terms I’m 95% with him. (In fact I have many excellent passages highlighted for posting in a more thorough review later.) HOWEVER, positing his specific “TWE” idea for the monist continuum is only a way of speaking away from what I already consider to be true and valid as a metaphysics. And that’s true even if I would call it an informational monism or an information realism, and Kastrup explicitly rejects such a notion. For the sake of one word, I’m 99% with him. Let’s cut straight to the chase and map his core metaphysics to my existing view.

All things experience relationships with other things. Uncontroversial.

Some unitary-associated-arrangements of such primitive experiences become individuals self-aware of their experiencing. He calls these “alters” (in the psychological sense) which is excellent for the self-other awareness connotation (in Germanic languages), and for the certainty (after Descartes) that experiencing is the one thing we alters can be sure of. This is the key level shift from mind-stuff in general to “a mind”. (He relies a great deal on Nagel’s something it’s like to be in deriving this entity aware of their experiencing, but I’ve never found Nagel’s expression of this any more convincing than this already convincing experiential expression.) The key historical problem here is Descartes’ Latin was translated to “think” – and as we shall see the distinction between experience and thought matters a great deal (or does it?)

This experience of things is true at all levels from fundamental metaphysics upwards. (Though Kastrup shuns bottom-up thinking, and I just use it in an evolutionary history sense. In the beginning, everywhere and forever … etc.) The fundamental stuff is That Which Experiences – “TWE”. That is the experience, the experienc-er and the experienc-ed. [This is pretty much Northrop (the aesthetic continuum), James (the radical empirical nature of experience) and Pirsig (the dynamic quality of such experience) in other words.]

All things experience. Alters perceive.

What is particularly interesting to me is his talk of arrangements as dynamic patterns in the TWE (he uses a water & ripples analogy several times). He also is at pains to point out that the dynamic arrangements are distinct from the medium. What is strange is using the word “thought” for these sub-alter patterns as well as the patterns within an alter. It seems a much more natural way of talking to refer to these sub-alter TWE patterns as information patterns; their dynamics as information processing; their perception and experiencing as communication and the TWE background as supporting all possibilities of these experiential relationship arrangements.

Thought stuff distinct from thoughts. TWE distinct from alters.

More natural, and fitting well with information and entropy theories on processes of evolution, and with information theories that recognise disembodied as well as embodied information. It isn’t that conceptions of information are vague or ill-defined, just that there are different things being talked about – as with the ripples and the water.

It seems almost a wilful insistence on a parsimonious monism called idealism that insists the same word “thought” is used for both cases. Apart from the way of talking (use of that word) I can’t yet see any real distinction between this TWE / Alter model and an information-based monism with that experiential triple relationship.

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Adding. Tested Bernardo on his use of “thought” in a twitter exchange. Turns out it’s really a definitional question. I could define “information” using the same definition.

I would tend to use “mental” when there was actually “a mind” involved (in an alter) – but OK with “non-perceptual (potential) experiential states” …. to use his words …., anyway.

This is another point where I’d invoke Dennett. My problem / alternative word issue is neither precious about the word nor the definition, just about the naturalness in the context of the dialogue. Whichever word we use, and however rigorously we define it at the outset, the real definition is the one that arises when the dialogue emerges from any confusing baggage. (Basically I’m sceptical that we will lose the baggage that a thought has a thinker. It’s the past participle of a verb). Thought-stuff / TWE / Experiential potential – whatever ontological element, can precede thinking per se. (This is related to the lack of any process model so far …)

You can’t “define” your way out of a problem.

Also (more Dennett) the intentional stance is useful in accepting the use of “experience” – the iron-filings “experience” the presence of a magnet, without needing to suggest they (literally) perceive or hold any thought to that effect, however we used the words. [I’m with Wittgenstein (and Dennett) that words and meanings evolve in the communication game we call dialogue.]

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Completion of Part II – Chapters 4, 5 & 6 – the whole thesis.

After positing the TWE “Mind at Large” model in Ch5, Ch6 focusses on recent scientific support and justification for such a model.

Starting from the ubiquitous quantum weirdness, that experience of observation depends on the observer and the act of observation, Kastrup goes through a few famous interpretations that reinforce the context-dependence of apparently (even) scientific fact. As I’ve said, none of this is remotely controversial (to me).

On the positive side, he makes good use of Bohm, Rovelli and indeed Barfield for example in taking true account of “the appearances” of would-be observations of the real world beyond our alter (mind). All highly recommended here already – indeed two of them already referenced by me in earlier comments above.

I can agree with Kastrup that there is a primacy of mind – a subjectivity – in both “our” perceptions and “our” objective models of the world. That’s practically a tautology and a statement of the obvious. But this is no justification for saying therefore there is a primacy of mind – an idealism – in the whole of the real world. Sure enough, as my own …

perceptions <> model <> reality

… triad-model shows, we can never know the real world in any literal sense, but that’s different from saying it doesn’t exist, throwing baby out with the bathwater.

An idea too far.

I agree strongly on two things from Kastrup:

(a) The material-realist model needs knocking of its perch – it makes no sense to presume absolute primacy of the physical model, beyond our conceptions of that model.

(b) There is ample evidence that dynamic patterns of information (aka “thought”) in Kastrup’s “TWE” conception pervade the whole world, the presumed objective one and the known subjective one.

There is a strong case for the primacy of this information, communication & computation underlying the whole world. It’s step too far to posit a way of talking about information processing as “mind and thought”. Those words are reserved of inter-alter-minds, but not a mind at large. An idea too far to call it idealism.

I can see the main argument against the information primacy model remains the so-called hard question – how algorithmic information processing suddenly becomes the subjective mind experience of our alters? The answer to that – in a word – is evolution. Evolution of mind and evolution of thought-in-dialogue about the mind. We’re getting there. The remaining difference may simply be a way of talking, a way of drawing a picture. As I noted earlier Dennett’s intentional stance is a (good) way of thinking and talking about things involved in evolutionary processes, but ultimately we have to be honest about the world model we hold.

It’s a great read. Well written thoughts about all the right source ideas. If these ideas are new to you, read Kastrup’s “Idea of the World”. It may pump book sales to seriously posit the mind-at-large idealism hypothesis – it certainly makes for a great dialogue.

Ramsey and Wittgenstein in Prospect

I’ve posted links to the two papers below, more than once before in various contexts, but I wanted to capture a couple of meta-thoughts when I ran across them again today.

[Given the general state of link-rot on the web beyond a decade, or less in many cases, it is fascinating that an article from 1999 in Prospect Magazine remains accessible (un-archived) in 2019 – (touch wood – wouldn’t want to tempt fate – I’ve just taken offline copies). Pre-dates even this blog.]

“Wittgenstein’s Master – The genius who died at 26”
by AC Grayling in Prospect Magazine, January 23, 2013.
A review of “Frank Ramsey: A Sister’s Memoir” by Margaret Paul (his younger sister). [Me – Ramsey was one of the few people that “got” Wittgenstein and significantly influenced him and his work.]

“Wittgenstein’s Forgotten Lesson”
by Ray Monk in Prospect Magazine, July 20, 1999.
Wittgenstein’s philosophy is at odds with the scientism which dominates our times. Ray Monk explains why his thought is still relevant. [Me – This is probably where I originally got the word “scientism” for the ills of modern rationalism.]

Additionally, as well as the meta-point about Prospect Magazine, there is the intriguing suggestion that Ramsey was the inspiration for Ramsay in Virginia Woolf’s “To The Lighthouse” – which I read on a recommendation but was initially underwhelmed. May need to revisit?

And – afterthoughts – whilst I’m here:

“Richard Rorty by Simon Blackburn” in Prospect Magazine, April 20, 2003
“He is arguably the most influential philosopher of our time: a radical American who is against war in Iraq – and against truth, reason and science. Yet his radicalism turns out to be oddly disarming.” [Me – just reminded myself recently how important Contingency, Irony & Solidarity was and how I had already been influenced with many annotations in my copy.]

“Kurt Gödel and the Romance of Logic”
Also by Ray Monk in Prospect Magazine, December 13, 2018
The great theory of this emaciated genius of philosophy defeated the finest minds of the 20th century—and rescued the idea that there are truths that humans can never prove. [Me – I’d forgotten this one crossed my path on Twitter last year and not sure I captured it. “Romance” so important here – must link with Rebecca Goldstein on Gödel, and Ray is one of few links between Wittgenstein and Gödel.]

Digital Physics, Life, The Universe & Everything

“Digital Physics” is a “retro-nerd” film whose central character Khatchig is a penniless and frustrated maths & computing student set in the 1980’s (I think). The film itself was released in 2016.

It crossed my path on Twitter in March 2019 when a dialogue with Chris Papavasilou ( ) led me through some questions about my own take on fundamental information. I thank Chris for giving me an opportunity to recap how my own thinking had evolved. (Ironically I didn’t watch the film until after the conversation because for some reason the links led me to a trailer which I took to be for a film project in progress, as opposed to one already released – Doh!)

A kinda review of the film is appended below, but – TaDa!! – what follows immediately is my own speculative information metaphysics, pulled into organised form subsequent to the dialogue:

Click for full copy of latest version.

The theoretical basis of the metaphysics (and the film Digital Physics) is as old as the hills, older than physics in fact. It’s all footnotes to Plato after all. The film includes the work of this pantheon in the list of acknowledgements at the start of the credits:

Who could argue? Many of my influences and sources are in the document linked above (and throughout this Psybertron blog of course). Many of course are shared.

Schmidhuber I first came across in 2009, but didn’t notice the importance of Zuse in his sources until 2017. In fact this 2017 post on Zuse gives a good summary of links to my take on computation as efficient compression fundamental to both the physical and mental world from Schmidhuber in 2009 and Gerry Wolff in 2002.

Einstein is ever present, the real one and the apochryphal one. His influence by Mach (and Boscovich) are equally important when it comes to any actual fundamental information model, but his whole thought processes through relativity and  when untangling what was obviously wrong in wave & particle, quanta & gravity, space & time physics pulls in so many threads. Einstein’s dialogues with Gödel late in life and their passing like ships in the night whilst Wittgenstein was pulling his hair out with Russell and the logical positivists are both major influences on my story and one of the biggest missed opportunities of the 20th century IMHO.

The whole Conway / Hofstadter / Dennett – algorithms – thread is fundamental to both stories, though mine is more inclusive of philosophy than simply physics. Which raises one important question – which was actually asked in the Twitter thread.

Q: Is this just a metaphysical tweak
to the foundations of fundamental physics
that should concern only physicists?

A: Hell no. Absolutely not.
It could hardly be more far-reaching
for the whole of human rationality.

At the risk of reinforcing the impression of the crank hanging around the library who’s sure he’s found the secret to life, the universe and everything:

The REASON I came to this field is that I’m an engineer in facilities and information systems, whose interest in “information” – more generally in epistemology – arose out of real-world engineering business experiences. I’m not a fundamental physicist or meta-physical philosopher. I’m not even a scientist or a philosopher in any formal sense. The reason my epistemological concerns became a two-decades-and-counting piece of deep research is because I could see that human decision-making was being “assisted” by ever more automated information processing that was based on deep misunderstandings of what information and knowledge really are.  This is not just some remote tweak to the obscure foundations of theoretical physics. All individual, social, cultural and political human activity depends on acting on our combined interpretation of knowledge. And the problem is compounded the more we automatically embed the flawed physical model into our democratic human processes. Social-media, populism, climate-change, anti-vaxxers; fake news isn’t the half of it. As I’ve said elsewhere, our very rationality is at stake.

But none of this is new or secret. There are no conspiracy theories required.

So, finally, What about the film itself?

[I’ve reviewed and made detailed notes on the content & trajectory of the plot-line as well as on the underlying message(s). This post isn’t really meant to be the review, but …

With apologies for any plot-spoilers – TL/DR:

Its main thesis is that information and computation underlie a new physics (right up my street) that is being denied by a mainstream against which our nerdy hero is struggling to communicate and convince. For any other nerds like myself, the “simulations” of all the cellular-automata / game-of-life computations using the simplest of early personal computing resources will resonate.

As a drama, I think it falls between stools. For nerds like me (from the 80’s thru the millennium) lots of the content has moved on, evolved and is increasingly accepted.

For those being introduced for the first time to the idea that information and computation might unlerlie physics (and everything else), and that there is a some establishment conspiracy to cover this up, it is probably too slow and thin to maintain interest.

I wonder how many of the latter group would get the plot twist for example, that the professor eventually accepting Khatchig’s work and offering him a position, wanted him to work in particle physics, which left him frustrated to the end.

The narrative relies heavily on simple (ie retro) graphic simulations with trancey synth soundtrack overlay (by Manual Göttshing) – with only Khatchig voicing the actual thesis in disjointed conversation with fellow hostel inmates. Love the allusions to Devo (and Mark Mothersbaugh?) visual and aural in the college-band for which our hero seems to be audio-visual techie in the early sequences. More could have been made of this musical connection, other than as Khatchig’s only unreliable source of any income.

For me as someone who already bought the central thesis a long time ago, the thinness of the content is ultimately frustrating and some of the actual and implied questions already evoke strong answers. Sure the information and computation element has a strong consciousness angle where psychedelic experiences undoubtedly shine a light, but there is no literal pan-psychism, and no there is no super-natural god or super-programmer running the code in which we exist as some kind of simulation. That’s been done already – do you take the red or blue pill, or maybe the ‘shrooms.

Nice to see an effort to put the fundamental information and computation thesis in a general audience film format. The retro aspect certainly conveys that this is far from new material but I wonder how a new audience would pick-up the lasting and current significance of the line of research. I also appreciate that “nerdy” is a genre with a certain audience, though I say that as a nerd who could never see the attraction in “Big Bang Theory”.

When it comes to a blockbuster movie in this space, Dan Brown’s “Origin” already has screenplay written all over it I fear.]

[END]

Hold that Computational Thought

[This is just a holding post prompted by a long series of Twitter exchanges with on his film plot, using Kolmogorov-Chaitin (as opposed to Shannon) ideas on “Digital Physics” – metaphysics as “information realism” or “res informatica” in my recent writings. Will summarise and link more but just wanted to capture this fleeting thought.]

In the same way “Intelligent Design” can be reclaimed by evolutionary philosophers from the supernatural idea of “An Intelligent Design-er”

It is possible to accept we live in a world of information and computation without the need to posit a “programmer” outside the Matrix-like system. The computation (and intelligence) evolves algorithmically, within the system, just like everything else.

Algorithmic doesn’t mean the program is fixed and dumb. Obviously repeating the process on the same starting material always produces the same result, but the point (eg Hofstadter or universal Turing) is that the algorithm can be repeatedly applied to the results, and to the algorithm (program) itself. Complexity and intelligence both evolve from simple code and simple beginnings. That’s what evolution is.

[Also feel a synergy with Dan Brown’s “Origin”
which I always said read like a screen-play anyway
;-)]

Defending the PoMo Position – Again

Often find myself in situations where “scientists” are quick to mock or otherwise reject and/or denigrate a seemingly “post-modern” opinion. A main thread of mine is urging sceptical scientist types to be more open to respecting & understanding alternative thinking – alternative to realist logical positivism and anything but objective facts – so that constructive dialogue can actually occur. [Most recent here.]

[I should say I find myself in this position as an experienced science & engineering type who has had to resort to epistemology latterly, simply to keep STEM (and atheist / humanist & “social justice”) discourse honest.]

This morning I noticed a social / gender studies type (someone I don’t know anything about) dropped this into a thread:

Oh, how we laughed.

I know no more about the context or content of the dialogue beyond a couple of prior twitter responses, but the follow-up tweets started to include sarcastic mockery of the post-modernist statement – obviously false on the face of it.

I merely chuckled inwardly, until Sophie Scott, someone I have a lot of time for shared one particular “witty” riposte from someone I also know nothing about, or even whether he was involved significantly in the original dialogue – that’s social media.

When I was moved to post this:

Hence this blog-post rather than more Twitter exchange:

So, in the specific statement …

“Before the Enlightenment
the female skeleton didn’t exist”

… it clearly isn’t literally true, to anyone talking objective facts represented literally by the words. (As I said already.) But, doh(!) that’s not the point of a post-modernist statement like that – to convey literal objective facts about the  world, that’s what science is for.

What that sentence says (to me), is that,

“At that time, the prevailing culture did not recognise that female skeletons were any different to male skeletons, (even if some physiology experts already knew it to be so).”

I suspect that might be true, though I can’t be sure, and if it’s not it’s more an argument about dates I suspect, and “Adam’s rib” and the fact females were generally smaller maybe, and …. Anyway, whether it was relevant to the ongoing dialogue, I have literally no idea, that’s why I didn’t comment on the original thread.

What I did respond to was the shared mockery. Mockery is no substitute for dialogue unless the protagonists already respect each other. (See Rules of Engagement and The Court Jester.) It is especially bad-faith if the would-be jester really did understand the PoMo point, but is just making their own rhetorical zinger to the gallery. And clearly it’s the wrong response if the would-be jester really didn’t understand the point.

The right response would surely be more like:

“I understand what you mean (culturally), but I think it’s irrelevant to this thread. What am I missing?”

Which is much closer to his response to my own tweet, when I pointed out the PoMo position might need defending from mockery. Might need defending was my point, I’m only actually defending it because I was asked.

My tweet simply highlighted the thought …
… that a PoMo position might be defensible,
(and worthy of respectful dialogue.)

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Post Notes

A Twitter thread continued from this response. I had contemplated summarising it, but it mostly repeated what I’d already said above, with a side-order of ad-hominem and whataboutery. Basically the point was being willfully ignored – continuing to claim the right to mock as entirely appropriate.

And as I say, 20 odd tweets before and after that one.

Anyway, as I had feared, the target of the mockery (and much worse abuse) has posted a follow-up thread of her own, citing the dreadful experience of the pile-on that ensued.

(And the detailed thread that follows).

[Post-Post-Note: And sadly, after the disgraceful pile-on yesterday, @sally_hines has subsequently locked her account and only approved followers can see it now. Proper interdisciplinary dialogue disrupted by the thoughtless mob, yet again.]

[Incidentally – the “rules of engagement” topic came-up several times yesterday. Someone re-shared Maria Popova’s Dan Dennett / Rappaport Rules post into my timeline, and more:

…]

Res Informatica may be “Information Realism?.

In my humble opinion,

The universe is made of mental stuff,
therefore real physical stuff “must be” an illusion.

… is just as lazy as …

The universe is made of real physical stuff,
therefore mental stuff “must be” an illusion.

They’re just an example of a fake binary choice. The long-running choice between idealism and realism in fact. (My position on this is the “dual-aspect-monism” or “trialism” I last elaborated in a graphic towards the end of this recent post, pasted here again for reference.)

There are clearly illusory aspects in our perceptions of the world we interpret as the real and the mental. Obviously it’s all real (or it’s wrong), some of it is just not physical, and some of our (imperfect) models haven’t quite established and accepted the true relationships between them. But for me that difficulty is mostly a wilful cop-out – wilful in the insistence of casting it as a choice between physical and mental – and dismissing the loser – rather than accepting the relational reality. (The fact that reality is directly unknowable – in the above figure – doesn’t mean it’s not real, just that our picture of it is indirect and imperfect. Discussed more in the linked post.)

That first “quoted” statement above is my caricature / paraphrase of Bernardo Kastrup’s position as I see it circulating. As a computer scientist he is causing waves with his apparent pan-psychic position, and there are a number of click-bait headlines and quotes about his forthcoming book. One thing’s for sure, his “information realism” may in fact be quite close to my picture. This quote & exchange caused me to read more closely what I’d so far only bookmarked:

The reason physical reality (res-extensa) and mental experience (res cogitans) must be related is because they both comprise the same (even more) fundamental stuff – information (res informatica). Information is both conceptual AND physically embodied, but its content is independent of its embodiment or otherwise. Its meaning lives in both worlds.

(h/t Philip Goff for the Dual-Aspect-Monism suggestion.)

Ever since pan-psychism re-surfaced in popular psyche, people have been pointing out Kastrup’s work to me, although I have in fact been aware of him for quite some time already. I still need to digest through closer reading exactly what Katsrup’s position really is, as opposed to the “extremist” pan-psychist position that gets reported and winds-up the more scientistic physicists. Maybe it’s all part of pumping book sales, but I am sincerely hoping his position is much closer to mine.

[Post Note: Previous discussions re Kastrup:
Pigliucci vs Kastrup on Pan-Psychism and
Hossenfelder vs Kastrup on Pan-Psychism.]