Intersubjectivity and Direct Reference

Perception makes sense only as, and is a subjective view of the world from given point of view. Implicitly it posits the possibility of subjects which have different perspectives of the same world.

As such we have situation that in subjective perception there are posited things which transcend the subjective points of view, and transcend the points of view of all possible subjects, (including the possibility of such subjects). Of course that should maybe not be surprising, as anything transcendental, including math, geometry, logic, and so on, as presented by Kant, will be such only as going over the limits of the subjective.

This situation opens the possibility for communication of multiple subjects about the world and about their ideas, in the way we experience it every day… as talking about the same things. That is, it opens the possibility for direct reference through language.

But this doesn’t mean that we can abstract from everything that contributes to this possibility, and think that there is nothing but the language and the reference. Ignoring the base which makes this kind of referencing possible, will create problems when one will try to consider deeper problems of metaphysical or epistemological nature.

Note 1:Of course possibility of illusion is still there, so what looks like another subject to us might not be having perception, might not be “proper” subject, but just behave like one. For example, it might be unconscious AI, as in the Turing Test. But as noted in previous post, possibility of illusion is included in the semantics of perception.

Do cyborgs feel?

There were news today that researches from the University of Padua, have developed “neuro-chips”, a bundle of living brain cells, and silicon circuits.

To create the neuro-chip, researchers squeezed more than 16,000
electronic transistors and hundreds of capacitors onto a silicon chip
just 1 millimeter square in size… They used special proteins found in the brain to glue brain cells, called neurons, onto the chip. However, the proteins acted as more than just a simple adhesive…. “They also provided the link between ionic channels of the neurons and semiconductor material in a way that neural electrical signals could be passed to the silicon chip,”

How can we not be reminded to the scenario described in Searle’ book “The Rediscovery of the Mind”…

Imagine that your brain starts to deteriorate in such a way that you are slowly going blind. Imagine that the desperate doctors, anxious to alleviate your condition, try any method to restore your vision. As a last resort, they try plugging silicon chips into your visual cortex. Imagine that to your amazement and theirs , it turns out that the silicon chips restore your vision
to its normal state. Now, imagine further that your brain, depressingly, continues to deteriorate and the doctors continue to implant more silicon chips. You can see where the thought experiment is going already: in the end, we imagine that your brain is entirely replaced by silicon chips. . . . In such a situation there would be various possibilities. (p.65)

And the possibilities Searle names are:

  1. you continue to have all of the sorts of thoughts,experiences, memories, etc., that you had previously; the sequence of your
    mental life remains unaffected.

  2. You find, to your total amazement, that you are indeed losing control of your external behavior. You find, for example, that when the doctors test your vision,you hear them say, “We are holding up a red object in front of you; please tell us what you see.” You want to cry out, “I can’t see anything. I’m going totally blind.” But you hear your voice saying in a way that is completely out of your control, “I see a red object in front of me.

  3. the silicon chips did not duplicate the causal powers of the brain to produce conscious mental states, they only duplicated certain input-output functions of the brain. The underlying conscious mental life was left out. (p.68)

Maybe few years in future, we will have such person to ask…

While the researches admit that implanting chips in human brains to
cure disorders may be decades off, shorter term uses could be in the
pharmaceutical industry, where chips could be used to monitor drug
effects on the brain.

The question is though, even if we ask… who would be answering?

For further analysis of the situation, check Chalmers’ Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia, and my previous post on why artificial neural networks can’t be conscious.

Determining and “Nothing”

In a previous post I described an issue which appears when talking about determining and given. (if you have stumbled into this post, please instead of reading it directly, read the posts as recomended here)

In my thinking the given can meet abstraction only on one place – nothing. Ok, it suddenly might sound unnecessarily metaphysical, and vague, but let me explain how it falls within the whole explanation of the semantics of abstraction, attention and determining as explained.

We said that abstraction as act, is abstracting from some things and its result is something given. But, it is possible to abstract from everything, and in that case there is nothing left, the result is only impossibility to attend to anything (else), impossibility for further determining. And here we have that place where the result is abstract, we have given which is nothing but this impossibility.
Now, let’s say that we have some given (as result of previous abstraction), and that:

  1. We can do certain abstraction (let’s call it A1) on it
  2. By abstracting-from (whatever is given by) that abstraction (A1) we are given nothing

Here we have case where we can say that the given is determined as that certain abstraction.
This might be not clear, so here are some concrete examples:

Let’s see how this would function in case of quale being determined as red.
As result of focus, we are given a quale. If we can determine this quale as red (e.g. if we can focus on its redness), and if by abstracting from it being red, we get nothing (else), we end up abstractly with “red”. So, we say that quale is determined as red.

The opposite example would be quale, where we can determine it as blue(e.g. we can focus on its blueness), but where after abstracting from that blue, there is still something left. By trying to focus on the that which is left, we might determine it as green for example. But the moment our focus goes from blue to green, we are aware that we have not determined it (as by abstracting from it being green, we are not left with nothing). I hope that in talking about this, I suceeded to remind you about your first encounters with what we call cyan, and your fight to determine the quale.

I will try to show in next posts how the account of determining as explored here, has nice explanatory power. Stay tuned.

Note 1: I guess it is this significance of the undeterminable being (which is given) and its equality to nothing (as abstraction from everything), that is the reason Hegel takes those two concepts as a starting point of his Science of Logic. Seems to me that this is only point where given can meet the abstract.

Note 2:The notion of abstract impossibility goes nicely with those parts of the explanation of meaning of determine (from the dictionaries) which mention “to ascertain definately”, or “to determine with certainty”.

Do we need representations?

We are not erroneous in our belief that in principle it is possible to be looking at the real thing. (The opposite explanation would be that instead we are always looking at thing’s representation). We are not erroneous because the semantics of “looking at the thing” came from no other place, then the phenomena of looking at the things the way we experience looking at them. To say that we are in fact looking at a representation of the thing is just a confused usage of the terms.

One might, on this point, put to our attention that there is real possibility for illusion, point to a brain in vat scenario, or in modern version – Matrix movie scenario. And on that we can say thus: There is of course the real possibility for illusion, something else to appear to us, and to seem to us that we are looking at the real thing. And we don’t need to go so far for those examples as Matrix or brain in a vat – seeing a filmed lion on the TV, is not looking at the real lion, but is looking at some kind of illusion. The real lion which was filmed is not now at the place we see it on the screen, the lion is not doing those same things, and maybe is not among living lions after all.
So, where does this possibility for illusion comes from then, don’t we need to add such concept as representation to cover this possibility for illusion?

For sure not, the possibility of illusion can be found in the nature of looking itself, where looking as focusing in particular way on something, is just one way of our determining of things. A way to “probe” the thing, in order to actualize some potential, to “check” if it has it in it. In this case, it is where we shine light on it, and put our eyes in direct line with the thing, so we probe how it reacts with the light, and the information we can extract of it by probing it so.

And a thing is not just what is actualized by probing it.

Are humans animals ?

Consider the following statements:

  1. Hedgehogs don’t have spines.
  2. Hedgehogs are enormous animals.
  3. Hedgehogs are not animals, but like rabbits (in Putnam, Is Semantic Possible) they are robots controlled by Martians.
  4. Hedgehogs are not material things, but they are massive hallucination induced by Martians.

Intuitively to me, as a person who thinks that has mastered the usage of term “hedgehogs”, the first two sentences sound much more weird then the last two. While I have no problem with the last two and I know what they mean if someone claims they are true, I’m not sure what would one mean if he/she claims that one of the first two is true. It appears to me that in that case the person would probably be talking about something else and not hedgehogs.

Does this mean that theories about essence (surely ontological status falls into the essence) are secondary to the appearences when we talk about things?

Well, not necessarily, I would say. The opposite example can be shown about the concept of whales and humans. I asked my daughter(2y) if humans are animals, and she is sure that they aren’t. That is the level of appearences. And whales are fish…

But in those cases society has success in pushing the essence (or at least theories about it), in front of the appearences. Hence we know what one means when one says “humans are animals“, or “whales are not fish“. We know that the person is not talking about appearences, but about the essence (or theories of). The concepts of “animals” and “fish” in those cases has moved from the appearences, to the evolutionary/biological theories. Animal and fish don’t mean just what they did before, and that’s why it is possible to say “whales are not fish”, and “humans are animals”

So, the answer to the question “Are human animals?” depends on the underlying paradigm within which one answers it – the concept of “animal” is not the same one for the evolutionary biologist, and for my daughter. That’s why they will disagree.

And while on the first glance, one might say… “the essence of the concepts is what is important, the appearences are just appearences”, the issue is not so simple, as many of the concepts have the appearences as their root. So, if we want to continue using those “fuzzy” concepts, we will have to accept to live with multiple paradigms.

Gene Pool

Gene Pool is evolution simulation program for Windows. It models (and shows in nice graphical way) the life of the so called “swimbots” – virtual organisms who live in virtual pool.
Swimbots are made of rigid parts, which are connected by joints. Joints are rotated by motors.
The genes of the swimbots affect their morphology, and affect how their motors react to their senses. And senses are basic… When they are hungry they sense in which direction is the food, and when they are not, they sense in which direction is the most beautifull swimbot.
By moving their motors, swimbots loose energy, and after their energy falls under certain level they become hungry. When they touch the “food” particle, they eat it , and gain energy. When they touch other swimbot to which they are attracted they combine genes with that swimbot, and the new swimbot is born.
And, that is generally it. You download the program, you start it… you get a pool full of swimbots with random morphologies and movements. Something like this:

or this:

And after some time, some trait of evolution gets better, and you get pool full of simmilar creatures, something like this:

To get to the place where “the action” is, click on the “View” button in bottom-right part of the screen, and choose “Most prolific”.


After talking with several friends, i found out that there are few possible misunderstandings about what I said so far about abstraction, focus and given.

What was said so far on this weblog is about the perception. It shouldn’t be connected to any metaphysical claims. When I talk about attention, or determining, I abstract from two things

  • if what we attend to (or the result of our attention, the focus), tell us something about the reality.
  • through what kind of some “underlying mechanism” the acts of attention, determining happen, if there is underlying mechanism, and where the qualia comes from,

If one has the one hand in cold water, and the other in hot water for some time, and if after that he put both hands in the same water, the one will feel cold (the one which was in hot water), and the other will feel hot. So, to work on this example, when I mention given, Im not talking about temperature of the water to be given, but that the results of the focus on how the water feels to one or the other hand are concrete and given.

Playback argument (why a neural network can’t be conscious)

Here is simple refutation of neural-network producing consciousness idea. It can be used as attack to much more general set of systems, and hopefully I will be posting a short paper on this issue in next few weeks I hope.

Here is the simple argument:

Let’s say that the system is composed of “digital” neurons, where each of them would be determined by: input from other neurons, internal state, the calculation it is doing, and output it gives to other neurons. And because we assume it is not important how was the calculation made every neuron pk can be changed by any system which does set of output functions yi=f(x1..xj). Let’s suppose additionaly this system is conscious, so we will do reductio ad absurdum later.

Now, let’s say we are measuring each neuron activity and internal states for a 2 (10, 20) minutes, in which the system is conscious (maybe we ask it if it is conscious, it does some introspection, and answers that it is). We store their inputs and outputs as functions of time. After we got that all, we can replay what was happening by:

  • Resetting each neuron internal state to the starting state, and replaying the inputs which come from outside of the neural net, and first inputs which come from inside of neural net (starting state). As the function is deterministic, everything will come out again as it was the first time. Would this system be conscious?
  • Reset each neuron internal state to starting state, then disconnect!! all the neurons between each other, and replay the saved inputs to each of them. Each of the neurons would calculate the outputs it did, but as nobody would “read them”, they would serve no function in the functioning of the system, actually they wouldn’t matter! Would this system be conscious too?
  • Shut down the calculations in each neuron (as they are not important as seen is second scenario – because the outputs of each neuron are also not important for functioning of the system while the replay). We would give the inputs to each of the “dead” neurons (and probably we would wonder what we are doing). Would this system be conscious?
  • As the input we would be giving to each of the neurons actually doesn’t matter, we would just shut down the whole neural net, and read the numbers aloud. Would this system be conscious? Which system?

UPDATE: I finished the paper based on this argument, and it is listed on the papers page

The Given and Determining

I already said that as result of our attention, something is given to us.
The attention as act is act of abstracting, and the result of the abstraction is given.

It was also said, in the notes there that in one other sense, that which is given as result is not abstract – if we put our focus on the color of the object, when we ignore all other things, what is left, is given and concrete result (we can call it qualia or not, depending on your preferences), and is set against abstract (abstract in this sense would be absense of the given/concrete).

But here we stumble into a problem. If the result of the abstraction is always something which is given, how can then “determining” make sense ? When we want to determine color of a thing, we want to say it is red, or when we want to determine its size to say it is big, etc…
So, let’s rephrase this problem in this way: the result of abstraction is given and concrete, but one can’t determine something as a concrete/given. We need to determine something as abstraction.

The idea is this – we have an object on which we focused by our attention, and thus abstracted it from the whole experience of the world (or whatever, let’s not discuss this for now). To determine its color, we need to focus on the color, and we end up with the concrete/given (color). But something is still missing, we didn’t get to abstract color, so we can’t say that we determined the color of the object as red, green or some other.
Maybe we need one more abstraction, but wound’t one new abstraction just return another given, and still leave us with the same problem (just on different place)?

How to make peace between the concrete and the abstract ?

Philosophy and weblogs

The nature of the blogs is such that the newest posts are on top, and few older ones are underneath. Whatever is older then that goes to the jedi archives. The reader who happens to stumble on the blog, will probably check the few last items, and not very likely dig through the archives to see if there is something which he will be interested in.
This form of presentation is certainly good for things like fashion, politics, technology, and news in general, because in those areas, the old news is really less worthy then new one, and being such, it is ok to put them into archives. Because of this, such sites as memeorandum, blogniscient or megite work.

Tagging and putting the posts in categories, and providing search field are common practices, and those do help prolonging the life of the post, but it might be argued that if the post need to be searched for by the person who stumbles on the site, the metaphor of the post being on life-support is more suitable.

One possible solution is to provide some kind of maps, which would provide visual hints about the relations between different topics.
Because of this, I added semantic network (kind of), a graph which gives overview and links to the pages connected to inquiry into meanings of the terms, and put it directly accessible from the “Recommended entry pages” list of links in the sidebar.

Note 1:A bad thing is though that it doesn’t work as planned :( .  WordPress deletes tags from the posts, so the links directly from the graph don’t work.

The meaning of “determine”

The sense in which determining is used here is:

  • To establish or ascertain definitely, as after consideration, investigation, or calculation. See synonyms at discover.

Houghton Mifflin Thesaurus:

  • To obtain knowledge or awareness of something not known before, as through observation or study.


  • Find out, learn, or determine with certainty, usually by making an inquiry or other effort

In this case we are using it in the sense we use when saying to determine something as being somehow.
We can say, “I determined that the apple is green”, “I determined that there are two pears on the picture”, “I determined that the particle moves proportionally to the force I apply on it” etc…

The act of determining is abstracting, it is starting with a given something, and then abstracting from some properties of that thing, and becoming aware of what is left.

There are two significant developments that concept of determining brings into the picture.

  1. There is the new moment in the concept of determining is that the starting thing which is to be determined is already pointed to, focused on, etc… it is abstraction (as a result, though of different abstracting act) to start with.
  2. The determining points to possibility of more complex acts by the subject, in which the focus/attention is just part. We can see this in all of the explanations cited from the dictionaries.

Note 1: We now say that the concept of attention was abstract by itself, as it is isolated from the “more complex” acts in most of the cases. For example in cases where we attend to things size or color, the act of pointing the eyes to certain direction, moving the head, or whole body is often needed first.

Note 2:It is hard to imagine determining which in itself, won’t include attention. For example if we need to determine if a surface is smooth or not, we have to put our hand on it, but without putting attention to the surface (through the touch of the hand), we won’t be able to determine it. Even more complex determining, e.g. which include hitting the thing with certain kind of particles, or any using of aparatus, will still in some point require from us to put our attention to the result.

Here is one other interesting sense of determining:


  • set limits of something: to establish and set the limits or form of something

The given and our attention

This is further development of the concept of attention, and explains further how attention connects to abstraction.

I want you to notice now the distinction of what we attend to, and what is the result of the attention.
Or to give examples – attention is attention to size, color, position, movement in
general, or focus is focus on size, color, position, movement, etc. in
general. We don’t focus on the things bigness, redness, nearness and so on. We ask people to focus on the size of the thing, by saying “notice its size”, or “look at its size”.

This is important, as it makes it clear (I hope) that there are two separate things in the whole of attention. One thing is the part of attention as act, which can be controlled by us, so we can focus on things size, color, position, and so on…

The other is the thing which is left in our attention, to our focus. It can be the redness when we focus on the color, or some form of circular movement when we focus on the movement, and so on.

We can now more closely relate attention with the abstraction. As I noticed when talking about abstraction, the same word is used both for the act of abstracting, and the result of the abstraction. Now we see both of those things in the process of attention. The act of focusing is the abstraction as act of abstracting, and what is given to he focus, is abstraction as result of abstracting.


Or put it in other way, you can try, and it is up to you to focus on the apple size, color, number, or anything else on this picture. But if you do you will find yourself attending to something which doesn’t come from you. The result will be given to you, to your attention.
We can thus say that the act of focusing is subjective act of abstraction, but that it doesn’t determine what will be abstracted. What is abstracted (if anything) is given to our attention.

Note 1:I mentioned in previous post about attention, that the attention can be drawn to something. But that doesn’t mean this makes the act of attending not-subjective. What is rather more possible explanation, is that this points that attention like some other acts can be done by reflex.

Note 2:The result as given, is not given AS abstract, it is given and concrete. So as a result of our attention to color, number or shape, we don’t end up with focused on abstract red-ness, two-ness or circular-ness. This issue will be discussed later.

Note 3:Though it might be possible, for one to require from us to focus to redness, for example when talking of qualia, that wouldn’t be attention which would be abstraction of the object, it would be asking for one to become aware of the fact that it is somehow to observe red object, when one abstracts from the abstraction. So to say… asking to become aware that there is more to the perceptual situation then the mere abstractions by which we may describe it. It is talking about the distinction that was already brought forward in the previous note.

Note 4:The terminology of “given” abstraction (result), is not best way to describe how we experience the whole thing. Phenomenologically, what is rather given is the whole world situation in which we are, or to which we got through our lives. And through our focusing, we are attending on the specific parts of that given. But phenomenological description, and analysis of its meaning, will have to wait some other post.

Social analysis of online philosophical papers

Led by such sites as, social bookmarking is common practice now. Users add their bookmarks to, attach comment to them, and add few tags – key words to describe the content of the bookmarked web page.
Then other people can then search by tag, or view “clouds” which show the list of tags in fonts of different sizes, bigger fonts used for the tag-words used for lot of bookmarks, smaller for tags used for smaller number of bookmarks.

The service called Diigo, goes a step further, it makes it possible for users to highlight parts of the texts, add notes and comments to the highlights (or the whole page) and then share those highlights/comments with other people.
This opens very interesting possibility of group analysis of books and papers on the web which are in html form.

Marking text and adding comment

The service is still in Beta, and accepts new users just through invitations. From what I’ve seen it is still buggy, though it is intensively developed.

Checking comment

Not born yet

Day before yesterday, I told my daughter, 2 year old, about some happenings when her brother (9 year old) was young. And she asked, “was I very small then?”. I told her that she was not, that she wasn’t born.

Yesterday together with my wife and my kids we were in other city, done some shopping, few coffee stops, got some pizza, and before return, we went to see some friends. My daughter slept through our visit.

Today I was asking her where were we, and at the end told her that we were at my friends place, and that she was sleeping.

She said “I wasn’t born then”, looking at me, waiting for confirmation.

my daughter