A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

Archive for October, 2007

Yet Another Quick and Dirty Proof – The World is Understandable

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 31, 2007

Only a thing which is in principle understandable, can be partially understood. (There is no sense in partially understanding something which in principle can’t be understood).

Hence, if we believe that we understand something partially, we should believe that that something in principle can be understood.

We believe that we understand the world partially. So we should believe that world is in principle understandable.

Posted in Metaphysics, Philosophy | 6 Comments »

Proof That There Is A Reason For Everything

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 29, 2007

UPDATE: As Jason Zarri pointed in the comments, there is possible ambiguity between sufficient reason and necessary reason when one talks about reasons. I had in my mind defense of the principle of sufficient reason when writing this post, so ‘reason’ should be read as ‘sufficient reason’ throughout the post…(Or maybe not, I just reread the post, and I don’t think, one can change ‘reason’ with ‘sufficient reason’. Grrrr…)

Something along these lines…

1) There can’t be a reason why some specific thing happens with a reason and other without a reason, as there can’t be a reason why something happens without reason.

2) But that there is no reason why a thing happened with a reason rather then no reason, is also a contradiction, as it says that both there was a reason, and no reason for it happening.

Hence, it can’t be that some things happen for a reason, and some without a reason.

So, either

a) There is a reason for everything that happens
b) There isn’t a reason for anything that happens

From there we choose an example of a thing that happened for a reason:
Sometimes, the reason I eat is that I’m hungry, hence (b) is false.
Sometimes, the reason why pool balls start to move is that they are hit by another pool ball, hence (b) is false.

Hence, there is a reason for everything that happens.

Note: One application would  be that there is a reason why the specific measurement of some variable in quantum system gave the specific result.

Related posts:
On Explanations, Reasons and Causality
Physics vs. Physicalism

Posted in Metaphysics, Philosophy | 15 Comments »

Google #1 Meme

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 28, 2007

10 Google searches for which A Brood Comb is currently #1 (ht: Siris):

brood comb
philosophy videos
philosophy lectures
simple explanation Hegel
can neural network  be conscious
time abstraction
physical laws a priori
philosophy aggregator
baptizing qua problem

The thing is, few times it happened that I search for some information on the web about things that interest me, and Google to give me my own blog as one of the first results. It is both disappointing (“I want to learn more about this than I already know!”), and pleasing knowing that if someone is interested in the same thing she/he will stumble onto my blog.

Posted in Links | Leave a Comment »

This is Mighty Cool

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 25, 2007

Online Papers of Consciousness enters 21st century with the launch of the new version called ‘MindPapers‘. Chalmers announced it on his blog today, and tells that it contains around 18,000 published and online papers in the philosophy of mind. David Bourget, the person who developed new capabilities, says that they are working on ‘PhilPapers’, which is, as Bourget says, “MindPapers’ supersized sibling, which we hope to release some time next year.” 

I hope they do that too! :)

Posted in Links | Leave a Comment »

Philosophers’ Carnival #55

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 23, 2007

Over at Brooks Blog.

Also we are having interesting discussion with Andrew and Brandon over at Show-Me the Argument. It is about the issue what would be Truthmakers (if any) for propositions like “Hobbits don’t exist” or “There are no rabbits with wings”.

Posted in Links, Philosophy | Leave a Comment »

Platonism about Software

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 22, 2007

Shawn over at Words and Other Things, discusses the issue if there are software platonists.

He points to what would it mean for someone to be software platonist thus:

A mathematical platonist would say that the natural numbers would exist
even if humans never did and a software platonist would say, e.g., that
LISP or Apple OS X would exist even if humans never did. Further, the
natural numbers were around long before there were humans, and,
similarly, LISP and Apple OS X were around long before there were
humans. We started exploring the natural numbers a long time ago but
only recently started exploring LISP and even more recently Apple OS X.

While I agree that in this formulation it would be weird for someone to be a software platonist,  I think we can make a point for the very close thing to programs, and those are algorithms. We can take for example a specific algorithm for sorting data – Quick Sort.

We can say that this algorithm is a way to perform a specific task in sequence of steps – sorting of data, and that as a way it would exist even before C. A. R. Hoare discovered it. That the ways to the task exist before we think of them, is also included in the way we talk. We wonder for example if there is a way to do specific task. 

We can, in a similar vein, talk about a Turing machine as a way to perform a set of different tasks. For each of these tasks there is one or more algorithms which can be performed by the Turing Machine.

So, if in this way algorithms as ways to perform specific tasks on a Turing machine, are independent from there being humans, what is that makes the talk about things like LISP or Apple OS X different?

Here is a reason I can think of…

LISP and particularly Apple OS X are not abstract enough, they are not abstract ways to solve a particular task, but are concrete phenomena which have their start at time, they are related to specific programmers and designers, their incidental decisions, and so on.

Posted in Philosophy | Leave a Comment »

One More Witty Remark

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 22, 2007

It is good that we have religion, because it gives meaning to the life of atheists.

Posted in Personal, Philosophy, Silly/Funny | 4 Comments »

Few Movies I Watched In Past Month Or So

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 21, 2007

Very Good:

Amelie Polain – I giggled through this one. The photography is stunning. The dialogs hilarious. And very witty playing with the story.

Live Free – Die Hard – I think this might be the fastest movie ever. Bruce Willis is even stronger and cooler in this one than in the previous Die Hard movies.

Next – When I was a kid, sometimes after the movie ended I felt as if I had some abilities that the main character of the movie had. No wonder few times me and my friends were fighting after watching Bruce Lee movie. Anyway, after seeing this movie, that was what happened again! (No, not the fighting part.) Of course I liked this movie. Besides, I thought it was charming.  What’s it about? IMDB says: “A Las Vegas magician who can see into the future is pursued by FBI
agents seeking to use his abilities to prevent a nuclear terrorist

Death Proof – I found this one very funny. It is like one big B-movie joke. I didn’t like Kill Bill much, but I liked this one.

Pride and Prejudice – I haven’t read the book, so maybe that’s why it was very interesting to me.

Children of Men – I had lot of fun with this, but then the scenes of the fight in the city came. Fantastic!

A little princess – Watched this with my little daughter. Very nice kids’ tale.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (no, not the newest one)- It’s OK, but not as good as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Pan’s Labyrinth – I don’t know why they have those gory scenes in there. It would made great family movie.

Bourne Ultimatum – The third in the Bourne series. It is pretty fast and interesting, but maybe the whole Bourne/Bond/Mission Impossible style is getting too crowded? I thought The Bourne Identity was great

The Constant Gardener – The difference between the two main characters is charming, and I think it gives great background to the whole story.

Unknown – The idea behind this one is original, and it develops it quite nicely. Let me not spoil it to you with any information.

Shooter – The story is not much, but lot of nice shooting scenes.

12 Angry Men – 1957 classic. About a jury of 12 men who discusses the case of murder. It has some weird unnatural scenes, but I didn’t mind them much.


Premonition – boring. “Depressed housewife learns her husband was killed in a car accident the day previously, awakens the next morning to find him alive and well at home, and then awakens the next day after to a world in which he is still dead.” Movie that tries to play with time, and nothing interesting happens.

Evan Almighty – boring. I’ve watched Bruce Almighty 5 times, and I would have more fun if I watched that one instead once more.

Wild Hogs – boring and not funny.

Dream Girls – boring.

Simpsons Movie – I didn’t expect for this one to be boring to me. But it was after some time.

The Queen – I don’t remember if I watched this one till the end. I guess I did, but it was boring.

Anchorman – It was little funny. The accent being on ‘little’.

Posted in Personal | Leave a Comment »

Mistaken Steps?

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 20, 2007

Descartes, no doubt, had put matter too far from us when he made it one with geometrical extensity. But, in order to bring it nearer to us, there was no need to go to the point of making it one with our own mind. Because he did go as far as this, Berkeley was unable to account for the success of physics, and, whereas Descartes had set up the mathematical relations between phenomena as their very essence, he was obliged to regard the mathematical order of the universe as a mere accident. So the Kantian criticism became necessary, to show the reason of this mathematical order and to give back to our physics a solid foundation-a task in which, however, it succeeded only by limiting the range and value of our senses and of our understanding. The criticism of Kant, on this point at least, would have been unnecessary; the human mind, in this direction at least, would not have been led to limit its own range; metaphysics would not have been sacrificed to physics, if philosophy had been content to leave matter half way between the place to which Descartes had driven it and that to which Berkeley drew it back-to leave it, in fact, where it is seen by common sense.

Henry Bergson, Matter and Memory

Posted in Metaphysics, Philosophy, Physics | 1 Comment »

Consciousness and Special Relativity

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 20, 2007

In the post Can We Digitalize The Brain and Retain Consciousness? , I gave the Record/Replay argument, which was based on the assumptions that:

1) Consciousness is an occurrent property of the brain (distinguished from dispositional properties).
2) All occurrent properties of a system of two information processing units A and B connected to each other, won’t be affected by changes which don’t change neither A, nor B, and keep the principle: Whatever information comes outside of A is in same timely manner sent to B as in the original network.
3) Brain can be transformed into network of digitalized neurons while retaining consciousness.

The argument then shows that the consequence of those assumptions is that a neural network of physically disconnected neurons will also have consciousness.

I said that this is impossible and hence that by reductio, given that one accepts assumptions (1) and (2), assumption (3) is wrong. I was expecting mostly that people will see assumption (2) (and maybe (1) as problematic), but Richard in the comments noted that it isn’t obvious that a network of physically disconnected digital neurons can’t have consciousness. So, in this post I will try to address that worry.


In the mentioned post I ended up with neurons attached to “replay boxes”, one “replay box” for each neuron that was connected to them on input previously. And those Replay Boxes replay the information in same timely manner.

Now one thing about this system, is that we can get those neurons with the attached replay boxes, and put them apart from the other neurons. The distance between the digital neurons doesn’t play any role, because the inputs are provided by the replay boxes.  We can take those digital neurons with attached replay boxes and scatter them all around the universe for example. Given the three premises it follows that consciousness will still be occurrent property of this bunch of neurons.

But now, there is one question about what will happen with the idea that whatever information gets out of the digital neuron A, will appear at the input of digital neuron B. When we have distances, from relativity we know that there is no absolute meaning to ‘before’ and ‘after’. If digital neurons A and B are on diametrically opposite sides of the observer, depending on the movement of the observer specific event of A might be before, or after a specific event in B.

However the consciousness either occurs or not, and this can’t be relative depending on some external observer. Because of this we need to make the requirement from assumption 2 weaker. The requirement was, to remind you that “Information from A appears at the input of B in timely manner”, and this is something that doesn’t make much sense now. We can say that not just that the digital neurons can be scattered through space, but also can be scattered through time.

But an occurrent property is something that happens or not in specific time (or specific period of time). So, consciousness can’t occur in bunch of digital neurons with attached replay boxes scattered through time. And by reductio, following the whole argument at least one of the assumptions (1) to (3) is wrong.

Given that one accepts assumptions (1) and (2), it can’t be that we can change the neurons of the brain with digital neurons and retain consciousness.

Posted in Consciousness, Philosophy | 2 Comments »

Can There Be An Illusion of Pain?

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 18, 2007

Over at Philosophy Hurts Your Head, Sam has a post about how one can’t be mistaken about being in pain.

Though I’m not a physicalist, and don’t equate the pain with c-fibers firing, or something like that, I’m believe that one can have illusion of pain (in the finger, head, or wherever).

I think it is unproblematic that there is difference between seeing a rabbit, and illusion of seeing a rabbit. While the two cases might be indistinguishable for the person in certain moment (and really, that is what makes it illusion), the claim that we are not actually seeing a rabbit when there is an illusion, has a clear sense.

Now, we might be inclined to say, that in cases of colors, the situation is different. But really when talking about colors we distinguish a thing being red, and thing appearing red. So it can’t be that we use “red” for the qualia itself (let’s put aside the issue if we need to assume qualia as entities or not). We don’t say that white ball under red light is red. We say that it is a white ball, and that we just have illusion of it being red. We speak of the “red qualia” only when we assume that the appearing same of those two (a red thing and white thing under red light) is due to there being some “qualia” entities which are same in both cases.

In this way, we make distinction between ‘is’ and ‘appears’ for rabbits, colors, voices, and so on. We use the words simpliciter to refer to the things, and we may use them combined with ‘qualia’ (e.g. ‘red qualia’, ‘rabbit qualia’ etc…) for theoretical entities which we assume in order to explain sameness of experience.

So, now the question is, why would ‘pain’ be special case? Why would we wouldn’t use the word for the thing itself (e.g. pain the finger), accept that there is possibilities of illusions of pain, and if we are inclined to certain theory, speak of ‘pain qualia’ as entities which explain our inability to distinguish the pain from illusion of pain.

One reason we might treat ‘pain’ as a special case is because in those other cases, we have witnessed situations where we are under such illusion, but it is pretty easy to change the context somehow and “break the illusion”. But in case of a pain, we seem not to encounter such “appearance” situations.

I think though that there are examples of such situations. Several times I have mistaken cold water for very hot one, and in that split second, I felt the pain in my finger. (I’m guessing here that me being mistaken that my finger is being hurt by very hot water is a mistake of there being pain in my finger). The other example is with the cases of phantom limbs, where patients with amputated limbs say that they still feel like they have the limb, and that they feel pains in them. Here we have a case of illusion of the limb along with the pain being “broken” by using mirror boxes. Now, I agree that those are not best examples, as in the first case one might argue that I didn’t really feel pain, but that somehow I expected there to be a pain. Of course, I’m not even saying that I felt the pain, I’m just saying that one can be mistaken that there is a pain in the finger, even for a split second. In the second example, it is not very clear what (if anything) is being mistaken for a pain. But, I think those examples at least help make sense of the claim that one can mistake something else for a pain. Probably there are other more clear examples, in which one can mistake some other sensation for a pain for a longer time.

The other argument one can give against distinguishing ‘pain’ from ‘illusion of a pain’, is that in both cases the person is affected the same way. There are two responses for this.

First, we are affected by other kind of illusions, same as we are affected by the real things. We might be afraid of an illusionary lion the same way we are afraid of lion.

Second, one can blame the common-sense that it doesn’t have a precise enough awareness of phenomena which we relate to pain. Namely,  in most cases the pain goes along with certain affecting of us, and because those other cases in which those two are ‘divorced’ are very rare, people don’t distinguish between those two, and is aware of them as one single phenomenon. So, the word ‘pain’ is used for this tightly related duo. However there are cases (e.g. pain asymbolia syndrome) where person feels the pain, but it doesn’t suffer from it. So, now, having better awareness of the phenomenon than common person, we can ask for more precise usage of the word ‘pain’. In relation to such distinction, and possibility to use ‘pain’ for the very sense as distinguished from our suffering, we can now say that argument that ‘it affects us same’, can’t have the same force.

One can point also that ‘being in pain’ is often used for this second part of the phenomenon (i.e. how it affects us). So, as long as we are clear what we mean by the term, one can I guess agree that one can be mistaken that there is a pain in the finger, while still being in pain. Said like this, it does even seem as not very problematical sentence.

Related posts:
Cyborgs Sharing Pain, Again
Does Pain Have To Hurt?
Couple More Thoughts on Pain

Posted in Pain, Philosophy | 3 Comments »

Can We Digitalize The Brain and Retain Consciousness?

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 15, 2007

I say – no. Here is my Record/Replay argument against it…

Premise 1: Consciousness is an occurrent property of the brain.

We can divide the properties of the system in two groups, the occurrent properties and dispositional properties. The dispositional properties of a system would be properties that characterize the behavior of the system in different potential circumstances. On other side, the system doesn’t exist in a potential circumstances, but in concrete ones, and at specific time has specific properties. Those would be occurrent ones. To give an example, an electron would have dispositional property to repel and be repelled by other negatively charged particles, but also at specific time will have occurrent property of position, momentum and so on.

Consciousness is something that system has or not in specific time. It is not a disposition.

Say that we have a simple system of two units connected with a information channel, so that the information from the first unit is transfered to the second unit like this. Let’s call this system ‘DC’ (for direct connection)

Let’s do changes to this system, so that we add another unit ‘X’ between A and B thusly…

Let’s call this system ‘IC‘ (indirect connection).
Let’s define occurrent connection (OCC) as: For the given span of time t1<t<t2, whatever data is on the output of A, the same data is at the input of B.

Premise 2: If A and B start from the same state in IC and DC case, if A gets same data from “outside”, and if ‘X’ doesn’t affect in any way OCC in the time span t1<t<t2, IC and DC will have same occurrent properties.

Step 1:
We take each neuron of a conscious person, and change it with a digital neuron. The brain (as it is now) is still conscious. The digital neurons are such that we can save their inputs and outputs (and the time of occurrence) and also can be reset to a specific state they had at time t.

Step 2:
For some time t1<t<t2, we save inputs and outputs of each digital neuron, including the data from the senses which go into neurons. Consciousness occurs between t1 and t2.

Step 3:
We reset the neurons to the state they had in t1, and start reproducing data from the senses. The system functions same as it did between t1 and t2. It has same occurrent properties, so also has consciousness.

Step 4:
In each connection between digital neurons we put a small Replay Box. It outputs in same timely manner the inputs that were saved in the t1<t<t2 period for the neuron. The neuron receives the information from the given input as it received it in the t1<t<t2 period. So we have something like this:

We reset each neuron to the state it had at t1, and reproduce the data that was coming to the neurons from the senses. Also in precise time we start Replay Boxes, so that we have a case of IC between neurons with same OCC as the DC in the time span t1<t<t2.

From Premise 2, it follows that the system in the Step 4 will have same occurrent properties through time as the system in the Step 1.
From this and Premise 1 , it follows that in the system in the Step 4 consciousness will occur.

Consciousness can’t occur in the system from Step 4, as what we have is just bunch of disconnected neurons.

Hence by reductio, it can’t be that system was conscious in  Step 1. Hence we can’t change the neurons by digital neurons, and in the process the system retaining consciousness.


(I had this argument in a post I wrote some time ago, but I tried to systematize it a little as a response to a post at Philosophy, Et Cetera)

Posted in Consciousness, Philosophy | 15 Comments »

Racism in Kant and Hegel

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 14, 2007

Philosophical Misadventures is the latest blog I added to the philosophy blogs aggregator (seems not to be updated in a while, which I hope doesn’t mean it won’t be in future).

As the author Chris Mathews says:

This site exists to collect, document, and comment upon the various missteps, mistakes, and plain absurdities of prominent philosophers, from it’s earliest beginnings to the present day.

One of the interesting bits there are on the racism in Kant (more here) and Hegel.

Of course it is hard to blame the philosophers for misconceptions of the times, but it is important I think to see how prejudice can cloud the judgment of the thinkers, and that we should be very careful not to fall in such a trap.

Posted in Links, Philosophy | 2 Comments »

Witty Dr Wisdom

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 14, 2007

Ernest Gellner, Spectacles & Predicaments (1979):

Dr J. O. Wisdom once observed to me that he knew people who thought there was no philosophy after Hegel, and others who thought there was none before Wittgenstein; and he saw no reason for excluding the possibility that both were right.

Posted in Philosophy, Silly/Funny | Leave a Comment »

What Would It Mean for Math To Be Empirical?

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on October 13, 2007

Over at Obscure and Confused Ideas, Greg discusses possibilities for arithmetic to be empirical.

But what would it mean for arithmetic (or geometry) to be empirical?

I proposed this distinction:

a)Mathematical description can be applied to a given system. But we empirically find out that the mathematical truths which follow from the description are not true in that system. The example would be that we can describe something as ‘two’ (i.e. the system IS system of two things), but through empirical research we find out that there are no “one and one more thing” (of course while still there are two things).

b)Mathematical description can’t be applied to a given system. For example we can’t use simple arithmetics to track truths about number of rabbits in some room, if we just add one to a sum for a rabbit that enters the room, and subtract one if a rabbit goes out of it. That because rabbits can be born and die within the room too. However this doesn’t mean that arithmetic is wrong, or that it is not true that 1+1=2.

I think only in cases like (a) we can speak of arithmetic or geometry to be empirical.

But as a commenter Drake there pointed (btw, check out his cool MySpace page. But wait, first finish reading this post!):

The criterion for a state of affairs S’ falling under a mathematical description D is that D “holds” in all respects relevant to S. If it doesn’t, some other description D* is required. Conversely, to see that
D is not the right description for S, we have to see that D in some relevant respect doesn’t hold.

So, it is not clear that cases like (a) are intelligible at all. And I agree. To relate to the example – what would it mean that there are two things, if there are no one and one more thing?

BTW, I don’t use 1+1=2, as I think the formalism might hide the basic analytic truth that whenever we have two, we have one and one more thing, or the other way around. This is not saying that “two” means nothing but “one and one more thing”; but that when we have two things we can both think of them as a pair (“two”), or think of them as separate (“one and one more”). But as this is true just in virtue of the meanings of the terms, it is analytical truth.

Also, further interesting note would be, if we e.g. find something like (a) (yes, I’m saying it is unintelligible, but just for sake of argument let’s say it is) , e.g. a system where we have two things, but we have one and one more and still one more thing, would that mean that we should now change our math books, and put in there that 2=1+1+1?  What we will do with systems where we have two things we have one and one more thing? Will this show that arithmetic is inconsistent or something? I think, again, what we would have is a case of (b).

Two further cases that might be interesting:

A. Theory of Relativity

Can we say that the theory of relativity is case of (a)? I think not. What it shows, I think, is just that Euclidean geometry is not applicable to things in movement/which apply forces (gravity) to each other. However, what is put in place of Euclidean geometry is not a geometry that we have “constructed” from empirical research. It is as a priori (and non empirical) as Euclidean geometry is. What was empirical was the figuring out which of those mathematical descriptions fit the universe.

B. Unavailable permutations of particles in QM

Both ‘classical’ and ‘quantal’ objects of the same kind (e.g. electrons) can be regarded as indistinguishable in the sense of possessing the same intrinsic properties, such as rest mass, charge,
spin etc…That a permutation of the particles is counted as giving a different arrangement in classical statistical mechanics implies that, although they are indistinguishable, such particles can be regarded as
individuals…If such permutations are not counted in quantum statistics, it follows that quantal particles cannot be regarded as individuals … In other words, quantal objects are very different from most everyday objects in that they are ‘non-individuals’ in some sense. (SEP)

Is this the case of (a), do we have here a case where we have two particles, but not one and one more? This might be closest something can come to (a), but one can ask having in mind Drake’s comment, why do we think that there are two things after all? If we don’t think that there is one and one more thing, shouldn’t the conclusion be that there are not two particles either? I’m inclined to this second conclusion.

Anyway, any further idea of what would it mean for mathematic to be empirical?

Posted in Mathematics, Philosophy, Physics | 9 Comments »