Category Archives: subjective experience

Subjective vs. objective belief

I shared a funny Onion article I found on Facebook some months ago. The article describes a fictional boy returning home after receiving his undergraduate philosophy degree. The boy remarks to his father that: “There is no rational justification for belief!” Today, this has gotten me thinking about a more subjective view of belief versus the one I engaged with as an undergrad in philosophy. In the latter, knowledge is equated with justified true belief (in mathematical form–K=JTB).

Certainly, K=JTB is the preferred formula for scientific belief. Empirical science relies on the shared sensory perception of data, and established analytic procedures to run it through. K=JTB seems a useful philosophical companion to this hypothetico-deductive approach to reaching knowledge*.

K=JTB clearly shows that–in order to attain knowledge–belief should be (rationally) justified. But it occurred to me that there are certain kinds of belief of the more subjective kind that cannot be plugged into K=JTB, yet are nonetheless indispensable. I am thinking particularly of religious knowledge, or more appropriately conviction. Intuitive knowing of this kind might seem risky at the outset, yet we are always operating under a certain degree of uncertainty. Conviction is what pushes us through such moments to make a decision and be open to its consequences.

And while experience might not be empirically falsifiable (though it can be dismissed), it may still be shared meaningfully between participants. Such individuals can trust their experience and share interpretations of it with the involved other; these interpretations can meld into a common understanding of what has taken place. Experience seems to demand subjective belief if we are to view the former as inherently meaningful.

*Of course, data science has its own hierarchy of knowledge, where data becomes information which becomes knowledge. Belief’s role is unclear here.

Existentialism by Suraj (Pt. I)

Existentialism’s prime question is of what “it” means.

What is it? It could simply denote existentialism. This much might be somewhat circular. For if existentialism is concerned dearly with “meaning”, then it is foremost concerned with it’s own being. 

Existential circularity need not be equated with the fallacious logical kind. Its status for all existent beings shall become the foregoing analysis’ next focus.

Can we disprove that the brain causes the mind?

Part of the problem involves explaining how we can know of other consciousnesses than our own. Say I were to remove another person’s brain. They would then be dead; does this mean that they’d suddenly lack a mind? What if they still retained their unconscious sub-mind and simply lost the ability to be conscious at all?

The only person who could absolutely verify that their own consciousness exists is him- or herself. But, in the above example, we could no longer ask our brain-less person if they were conscious and receive a response.

If we can’t perform this falsification meaningfully on another person, then how about on ourselves? Suppose now that, instead, I were to remove my own brain. No one else could be certain that my consciousness exists; could I still be, without a brain? Would “I” exist in any way that would allow me to check the status of my own consciousness? Only if I were conscious. There seems to be a circularity embedded in this approach that might render the whole matter unresolvable.

Descartes and Musk – On Dreams and Simulation

I’ve just begun reading through a paper of Tom Campbell’s which appeared in this video [link redacted]. In this post, though, I only aim to liken the popular simulation theory with Rene Descartes’ older “dream argument”. The former states that at least some of us are living in a virtual simulation. The latter runs as follows:

Premise 1 – If I know that I am awake, then I can eliminate as false the competing hypothesis that I am dreaming.

Premise 2 – I cannot eliminate the dreaming hypothesis.

Conclusion – I do not know if I am awake.

Elon Musk seems sympathetic toward the type of conclusion above. However, Musk’s interest has been not in dreams, but in whether a given person’s reality is provably virtual or actual. Descartes’ dream argument could be adapted in light of Musk’s challenge that we don’t know whether we’re living in virtual reality (VR):

P1′ – If I know that I exist in actual (non-virtual) reality, then I can eliminate as false the competing hypothesis that I exist in VR.

P2′ – I cannot eliminate the VR/simulation hypothesis.

C’ – I do not know if I exist in actual reality (as opposed to VR).

Testing the simulation hypothesis would minimally involve two steps. The first would be running participants through VR simulations. Following, the essential question for these subjects would become: “Did you know when your reality shifted between actual and virtual?” Naturally, experimenters could not give anything away until the end of such a study for it to be meaningful. If participants were consistently aware of when their reality changed kinds, then Musk’s simulation hypothesis would not apply: for their case, it would have to be ruled out as false. On the other hand, if subjects were generally unaware of their reality becoming actual or virtual, then Musk’s simulation hypothesis would hold true.

Campbell notwithstanding, this question presently remains unresolved.