005b-what kind of universe
[Note: In this part I will use the term "universe". you could replace it with the term "reality" if you wish. I think universe is better though at conveying the basic idea of "everything that is". Where "reality" has a certain metaphysical or "state of the universe" quality to it.]
Perhaps air is a fiction that is standing in or represents something else. Is the notion of air something that is part of the universe or can it be excluded from the universe? That is, if representations such as "air" are fictions, can we do away with them and is the universe the same without them? Can we construct an experiment without representations? Can we make observations in a representation free space? Are there instances where we can observe no representations in the universe?
Must we have representations to have a universe or can there be a universe with no representations? Can we test if representations are fictional "side effects" in the universe brought about by our existence, or are they actually a part of the universe itself?
Consider this problem:
Is the universe essentially the same with or without representations?
Many people believe that our representations are "fictional side effects" of our existence and that the universe would be essentially unchanged if we didn't exist, and hence had no representations about the universe. (this can sometimes be called the materialist view of reality)
If you believe that representations are "fictional side effects", can you show that to be true? How?
How could you show that representations are "fictional side effects" in the universe and not something fundamental to it?
I don't know of a way to do it.
Any attempt to do so relies on the fact of representations themselves. You cannot demonstrate that representations are not part of the universe, without using them. Thus demonstrating that they are necessary for the proof, and hence appear to be fundamental.
The belief that representations are "fictional side effects" in the universe cannot be demonstrated; because, every demonstration requires representations as a pre-condition. Hence, there are no demonstrable cases of a universe without representations.
There is no demonstrable representation-free universe.
Admittedly, this is a bit of catch-22, or a chicken and egg problem, or perhaps it's a sort of language problem as suggested by authors such as Wittgenstein. Our use of language has a way of structuring this problem.
But even if we try and consider the question in visual terms, that is, can we get a representation-free visual of the universe? We encounter the same kinds of problems. What does the universe look like? There would seemingly be "light" in this universe, so if you could "see" in a universe free of representations, what could be seen?
Would a representation free universe look like either of these pictures? Would even parts of such a universe look like these images?
In a representation free universe, would these two images, be the same or different? (similarity and difference are representational). Are they equally valid images of part of a representation-free universe? In a representation-free universe what is the answer to that question? Could there be images as a part of representation free universe at all?
If the universe were free of representations there could be no answer to this question. because thre could be no questions. And there is no selection of an image of a part of the universe. There is no differentiation between these two images, nor are there any similarities. In a representation-free universe, none of the elements of representation exist at all. There cannot be "pictures" in a representation free universe. There cannot be "views" or "sights" in a representation free universe. A universe that did not have representations must necessarily be conceptless or aconceptual.
So, what is the same between a representation-free universe and one that has representations?
What points of similarity would they have? What qualities or features do they share in common?
All the points of commonality we may think of in our representational universe would have no reference in a representation-free universe; because, there are no representations in common. There are no references because references are representations.
What, explicitly, would be the same? Would the earth still go "around" the sun? Would light still travel at the "speed of light"? Where is that number (c) in a representation free universe? For that matter, where is the number 5? What is "light"? What is "around". A universe which does not have representations cannot make any sense. the very ideas of predictability, of causality, or any other of our physical ideas we take for granted simply do not exist in a universe where representations were absent.
there would be no air to breathe.
But perhaps we don't mean that our universe exists without representations, but rather that our experience of the universe is one of subjective and objective experiences. That is, the universe is something external and our experience of the universe is internal. The universe is somehow exterior or objective and our representations are subjective or information that is not necessary or fundamental to the universe.
A belief in an external universe requires a belief in objects that are split between the objective and subjective. That is, some experiences are deemed objective, and are hence external to a person and other experiences are subjective and private to the person. This idea that there are things "out there in the universe" and things "inside my head", is a representation. And representations are usually thought of as "things in my head".
One basic action of representation is differentiation. Ordinarily, we think of differentiation as subjective in the subjective/objective split. Differentiation is something I do "in my head". It is not something that happens "out there in the universe." The things in the universe "are different", but I "differentiate them in my head".
For instance, if we consider the color white any any color, we can speak externally of how light impinges upon my retina and is out in the universe. But the colors we see, what are those? those are internal. When I experience what, what white am I experiencing? Is it ivory white or bright white? That I associate two kinds of white to white, or I differentiate white into two different kinds (bight and ivory white) I am making similarities and distinctions that are subjective, but the "source" of the experience, wavelengths of light, existence of my retina and visual cortext, these are objective and external.
Here are two pictures of the universe.
we see that [the hubble picture] is not the same as the [gradiant picture]. Two observers can converse about these pictures and make comparisons of their experience. These comparisons are often how we tell if an experience is external and objective or if it is subjective. Two observers should be able to determine if the two pictures are different from each other. And if they are different in a similar way to two observers, we assume they are external.
This distinction between subjective and objective, to show that something is part of an external universe, does not show something objective from observers. It shows that an experience is "shared" or "sharable" between observers. Shared experience is not a sufficient example to demonstrate externality. Externality being an experience that exists separately from an observer. Two observers who agree on the qualities of the above two pictures do not demonstrate external "objects". It shows that two observers share a similar experience.
Shared experiences are not necessarily "objective" experiences.
It is assumed that because the experiences are similar and are shared that they are therefore external and objective. This is one model of shared experience. It is an assumption.
note: it also leads to dualism. Splitting experience into two categories creates a dualism. A materialist external world is dualist because it does not contain private or subjective representations. this is explored in the section on messaging.
Two people can have long and well shared experiences that are subjective. A shared experience, by itself, is not a basis for externality. Couples share a relationship, but surely a relationship is not something objective from the couple. Is the love they share somehow objective from them? Are their shared nuances of feeling and behavior an objective quality or a subjective quality that is shared? Are the similar behaviors and responses and observations of twins an indication that their "internal life" is somehow external to them, or that their experience is very similar because they are very similar?
To show that a shared experience is objective, and not merely shared (the same experience among two people), requires that the differentiation or representation activity itself be objective.
If a difference between two objects cannot be determined between two observers, there is no way to ascertain if the two observers are communicating about the same objects. Nor can we ascertain if the shared experiences are subjective to each observer. And hence, no way to know if the objects are objective and external or subjective and shared.
Consider these two pictures:
Are these pictures different? if two participants cannot agree that the pictures are different, then it brings into question whether the pictures are external. Or it brings into question whether the observers are capable of differentiating between the two pictures.
If observers cannot distinguish between these two pictures does this mean their is a difference in the pictures or there is a difference in the observers? A person who distinguishes these two pictures sees the distinction as being external. A person who sees no distinction thinks they are externally the same. Both are assumptions about what can be objectively known, because the difference between the pictures is subjective to each observer. Here I am making a case for some subjective and objective split between what is observed and external or objective, and what is observed and subjective.
If we exist in an objective universe, are their subjective facts? If experiences can be split into objective/subjective, what is constitutes the difference between these pictures? The distinction requires differences that themselves must be objective. Otherwise how would we distinguish between a magic trick, an illusion, self deception, or a willful belief of objective experience? If a first observer sees a distinction between these pictures, It could be that a second observer may simply be mimicking the behavior of a first observer who sees differences.
This possibility shows that when attempting to demonstrate that something is objective, almost immediately the details of differentiation appear to be subjective. How can we discern that differentiation itself is subjective? Because some people could not distinguish between these two pictures.
A blind person or nearly blind person for instance could not distinguish the two above pictures. The reason a blind person probably could not differentiate between them because the blind person does not share the same experience as the sighted person. And because they do not share the same experience one of them cannot differentiate between the two pictures. Hence the differentiation is subjective. And thus the pictures are not objectively different.
Most people will see similar differences between these pictures. But not everyone will. Therefore the differentiation of the pictures is shared (by most) but is not objective because the pictures cannot be universally differentiated.
We could modify the experiment by asking a person to close their eyes in one instance, and then open their eyes in another. By doing an open and closed eye test, the person may only differentiate in the open instance. or may erroneously differentiate in the closed instance. Further demonstrating the subjective qualities of differentiating objects which are "assumed to be" external and objective. That is, differentiation is dependent on the state of the observer.
Try this kind of experiment with your eyes closed. Try to trick yourself. Mix up the pictures and "guess" which picture is blurry and which is clear. Do your correct guesses, or identifications mean the pictures actually are different? Turn off the lights. How different are the pictures now?
This may sound very silly, but how we make similarities and differentiation between things is one of the basic problems of learning. Are differences learned or are the differences a result of sharing the same kinds of structures or methods for making representations? Is learning about creating associations and differentiations or is it about apprehending associations and differentiations that are external?
What about if you looked at the above pictures from a distance. Would the look the same or different then?
Are the pictures different now?
The problem of trying to distinguish between a subjective experience and an objective experience becomes more and more difficult when we impose more and more demanding tests such as turning off the lights.
What we find when we make objective statements is that we must have a shared vocabulary with our peers, and we must have restrictions on where the objectivity stops. These sorts of restrictions or agreements are not objective or external, they are subjective and shared.
Moreover, when we look at differentiation and the process of determining if some subjective activity affects the objective experience, (such as using an open/closed eye test) we are confronted by our own restrictions.
What do we mean by objective when we place qualifiers on our own subjective states or activities to make "objective" statements. The qualifiers are subjective. We subjectively select certain kinds of experiences or states to be able to refer to objective experiences. If the selections are subjective, how is it that the contents of the selection could not be subjective?
More directly, we begin to categorize some kinds of awareness as subjective and some as objective and external. But the categorization itself is subjective. The facts of categorization are facts subjectively determined, not objectively apprehended. We create categories or descriptions of what is external and objective, and if we find a counter example we modify or expand our rules for determining if something is objective. These rules are representations we employ to structure experience, or to communicate our experience. These representations don't force an objective/external or subjective universe into existence. (the universe that are the objects of experience is already there.)
These rules are developed through trial and error, and they have exceptions, conditions, and limitations. Even when the same rules are shared among observers, the different observers must accept or develop the conditions used to determine if something is external. In this way, the definitions and processes of determining external and objective experiences are seen to be mutually subjective.
Our own feelings we generally consider subjective, but our feelings certainly modify the so-called objective experiences we may have. We see this sort of modification in both subtle studies on priming people for behaviors and in studies that show implicit cases of racial bias. But we also see this in how we view sunsets, or roller coasters, or prayer, or speeches by presidents. We interpret, or mis-interpret many events based on our feelings or mood in the moment.
We don't usually consider these more subtle or nuanced variations as being objective. We categorize part of an experience as subjective and part of an experience as objective. This bifurcation of whole experiences into different categories or classes of experience is done after the fact. Experiences are taken as wholes and then representations are made from those starting points. And in some conscious states, this categorizing of experience simply does not take place. And hence distinguishing objective and subjective loses it's meaning. (eg. experiences of one-ness in meditation. Escaping this fabrication of externality is a primary goal of many kinds of spiritual practice or meditation.)
In another example, we do not consider the reports of synesthetes as referring to objective qualities of sights or sounds combined to objects, but our basis for doing so is only that synesthesia experience is, apparently, abnormal. This is a bias against the rarity of one persons experience, it does not show that their experience is not objective. All such biases only show that variations in experiences are simply not shared among some quantity of other observers or participants. Which is another example of subjective selection.
Arguments about subjective/objective differences and externality can go back and forth. The fact that there are arguments about what is objective or subjective implies that how people make objective and subjective distinctions is not something necessarily shared between them. And if it is not at least shared, then how could it be external?
Counter examples to an objective fact, especially egregious ones like the blind looking at pictures, require the "addition" of subjective conditions to other observers/participants. Observers must be themselves differentiated. And this observer differentiation is certainly subjective because it is based on shared or in-common experiences first and not on external or objective facts universal to observers.
We select other observers and ourselves to these tests because of our "in common" experiences. And we select our experiences as objective based on our own internal rules or bias.
This selectivity of external identification or qualities can be duped. For instance, one halloween evening many people heard about invading aliens in NJ during HG Wells War of the Worlds. That they shared that experience does not make it objectively real.
We exclude blind people from test of images because they don't share the same experiences. The blind person does not share the same experience, their experience may not be treated as equally objective and external. The blind person would not distinguish between two pictures because at best they are simply "ideas" of things in the universe that are "supposed to be" different. Because the blind persons experience of pictures is so different, their experience is subjectively discounted by a person who wants to show differentiation is objective.
The nearly blind person may not be able to distinguish between the two pictures. But could say they see them. Would this person be excluded as a participant in this sort of test because they cannot differentiate SUFFICIENTLY between the pictures? Again, the nearly blind person's experience is different. That is, it is not shared in common with the ordinary sighted person. And thus, the different experience is excluded from such a test.
To a blind person, the difference between two pictures and the pictures themselves is entirely subjective. It is completely made up and fictional. Just like unicorns.
A partially sighted person will also have different experiences when comparing the pictures. Even two equally sighted people will have different experiences, however minute. The pictures may evoke associations of their own in two equally well sighted people. But this small variation of experience of pictures is not ordinarily treated as a basis for invalidating one observer's experience.
Differentiation is used to test if two observers share or have in-common experiences.Where two observers claim to see the same picture, careful questioning often reveals differences in their experiences. When these differences are ignored, what is the basis for ignoring the variations? The basis is a bias to one 'degree' of similarity. Perhaps the bias is to the similarity of reports. Regardless, it is a subjective bias. Even if the bias is shared between observers, the biases themselves are, by definition, subjective.
Using artificial constraints on objectivity tests are subjective devices. Using such constraints does not show objectivity. Rather it demonstrates the problems of subjectivity that arise in the conception of an external universe that is supposedly objective but that within which we have subjective experiences. Accepting constraints in testing experiences only shows where we have shared and unshared experience, and where we select for observers based on the suposed similarity of their experience to ours. But it does not jump the hurdle of merely shared to factual externality.
This idea of subjective and objective is an idea only. Objectivity is a representation that we are overlay on what we think of as shared or unshared experiences. Externality is a representation too. We may intend that objective facts and that certain kinds of objects are somehow external to us, but they are at best shared between people. Using this external way of speaking about experiences, what we determine is that objective objects of experience are shared between people. that is, for two observers the experiences are "subjectively identical". Or sufficiently subjectively similar.
To have a shared experience necessitates that the experience be consistent to some degree... to some shared degree. otherwise it is not shared, but only believed to be shared.
Thinking of the universe as partly subjective and partly objective is a representational way of ordering our experiences. It is not that the universe is that way, it is a model of the universe to make sense of our experience. It is clearly a model that is useful for us. But as a model it does not show there is some external universe.
We can think of the universe as the sum of awareness and representation. One of those representations is of a universe with subjective and objective categories. thinking of the universe in this way, that model is a part of the universe. Is the model external and objective or is it subjective?
We cannot show if experiences and objects of experience are external and objective, because this way of thinking about experience always takes us back to experience directly. There is no distinction in AWARENESS between subjective and objective between internal and external. these distinctions are made after the fact of experience. These distinctions are representational, not existential.
Awareness precedes how the contents of awareness are organized, because awareness is the contents of awareness. The objects of awareness precede how the objects are represented or organized. At best what we find is that we have experiences and some of those experiences appear to be shared with others.
This sharing and consistency in our experiences and representations is how we distinguish what we think of as objective and subjective experiences. But this is just a way of modelling or representing our experiences.
In philosophy, there are two big arguments about reality, one of idealism, where the universe is nothing but thoughts or ideas, and the other of materialism, where the physical universe gives rise to consciousness. The big problem of idealism is how to account for the experience of an external world. When obviously, the idea of an external or objective world is itself subjective. But instead of trying to resolve these ideas, these representations, we can instead look at the underlying experiences. And what we see is a simpler notion of shared and consisten experiences. We see that people share the same contents, that the contents are consistent over time, or space, or through experiences. This notion of shared seems perfectly adequate to describe the essence of an external or objective universe without having to disclaim earlier principles.