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"How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

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I'm late to this discussion, but a good rule of thumb for handling spurious arguments like that is to ask the person, "and why would you care if we were?". Make them explain in detail why this would be bad. Then you get a nice context to work within, which tends to force the argument to come back down to Earth, and eliminates hypothetical escalations.

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"How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

This question boils down to - "how do I know I am not being deceived"

A more positive question is "what can I trust?"

The answer is: whatever is non-contradictory.

Start with the statement: "I am not in the matrix". Can you find anything to contradict it? I can't.

Edited by Jon Southall

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"How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

This question boils down to - "how do I know I am not being deceived"

A more positive question is "what can I trust?"

The answer is: whatever is non-contradictory.

Start with the statement: "I am not in the matrix". Can you find anything to contradict it? I can't.

You would have to go through an infinite number of 'I'm not's if you had to assume the negative of any arbitrary assertion. Just throw it out wholesale. Don't even go looking for evidence that you are 'not in the matrix'. There can be none. If there is any evidence that arises that suggests you are in a matrix, then you can look into it, but until then you should not even consider it.

 

But we can know that an objective reality does exist somewhere. Even if we were in the matrix, that means there are computers in the real world that simulate it. I think many people are implying that reality itself does not exist and that maybe reality is just a simulation, but that makes no sense.

Edited by Peter Morris

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Have you checked out Notes on "The Evidence of the Senses"? This link should direct you to Chapter 2 Sensation and Perception.

 

Well, with the last chapter of the Campus Philosophy Course (the one about Objectivism) and other courses now online, I think it has become clearer to me already. Viewing entities as a product of interaction between senses and the external world, i.e. an effect, makes the "how" irrelevant again. You just have the interaction on the one hand, and its continuous product on the other.

 

One more question, though:

 

"There is an object of such a kind that when it acts on my senses, I experience it in the form of a red apple."

 

How do we know that there is just one object, in other words, how do we know that we are experiencing just "it" alone? How do we know it couldn't be a multitude of objects, that when they interact with our senses we experience them in the form of just one red apple? Since our consciousness is never in direct contact with primary causes, how do we know that the primary cause we perceive through our senses is really just one single object interacting with our senses? Couldn't it be multiple objects, but the interaction with our senses still creates the effect of a single object? Wouldn't we have to correct our statement to:

 

"There is an amount of things (i.e. one or more objects) of such a kind that when they act on my senses, I experience them in the form of a red apple?"

 

If so, it couln't even be said that two people are really receiving the same object in different forms. It would be "what is an entity to you, isn't an entity to me". Two people might not be talking about the same objects.

 

Also, the senses themselves also need to be perceived by some means in some form. But since all we get is the product of interaction between objects and our senses, the senses themselves can never be the object of our perception to be perceived in any form. Or can they? All we perceive is then just some kind of  "proxy objects" to our senses, which - when they act on our actual senses - we perceive in the form of eyes, ears, noses etc. Or anything wrong with that?

Edited by DiscoveryJoy

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I'm seeing two related questions in this.

"There is an object of such a kind that when it acts on my senses, I experience it in the form of a red apple."

To be more exact here, the object acting on your senses such that you experience it in the form of a red apple, is a process of selective focus. You are able to regard the one thing as a unique specific entity from the rest of your field of view. You regard the red apple in the dish of fruit on the table in the dining room apart from everything else.

"There is an amount of things (i.e. one or more objects) of such a kind that when they act on my senses, I experience them in the form of a red apple?"

A budding chemist or physicist might like to tell you, and in one sense they would be right, that the red apple you are perceiving is a collection of molecules comprised of atoms, made of electrons and protons, etc., This knowledge is not solely derived from the red apple, This is a specialize study within concepts of materials, and needs to be considered on its own merit.

 

Making this distinction helps to distinguish between the different orders observed within the order, as I am observing it.

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Well, with the last chapter of the Campus Philosophy Course (the one about Objectivism) and other courses now online, I think it has become clearer to me already. Viewing entities as a product of interaction between senses and the external world, i.e. an effect, makes the "how" irrelevant again. You just have the interaction on the one hand, and its continuous product on the other.

 

One more question, though:

 

"There is an object of such a kind that when it acts on my senses, I experience it in the form of a red apple."

 

How do we know that there is just one object, in other words, how do we know that we are experiencing just "it" alone? How do we know it couldn't be a multitude of objects, that when they interact with our senses we experience them in the form of just one red apple? Since our consciousness is never in direct contact with primary causes, how do we know that the primary cause we perceive through our senses is really just one single object interacting with our senses? Couldn't it be multiple objects, but the interaction with our senses still creates the effect of a single object? Wouldn't we have to correct our statement to:

 

"There is an amount of things (i.e. one or more objects) of such a kind that when they act on my senses, I experience them in the form of a red apple?"

 

If so, it couln't even be said that two people are really receiving the same object in different forms. It would be "what is an entity to you, isn't an entity to me". Two people might not be talking about the same objects.

 

Also, the senses themselves also need to be perceived by some means in some form. But since all we get is the product of interaction between objects and our senses, the senses themselves can never be the object of our perception to be perceived in any form. Or can they? All we perceive is then just some kind of  "proxy objects" to our senses, which - when they act on our actual senses - we perceive in the form of eyes, ears, noses etc. Or anything wrong with that?

 

What in reality they are talking about, as that which gives rise to the perceptions they are experiencing, no matter how different their mental contents are, is a concrete (whether plural or singular) with a specific identity.

 

That is the MOST important thing to remember...

 

not whether we can for example think of water as a single entity or if we must think of it as a collection of molecules... as if only one way of thinking about water was proper in all contexts.

 

Q: "But what is water really? Is it a collection of molecules or a fluid entity?"

A:  "Water is what it is.... and the answer is it is a collection of molecules and that collection of molecules often behaves as a fluid entity."

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They also say there are "other" forms of obtaining knowledge (revalation, the bible), and that just because those 3 axioms are true, it doesn't mean there is knowledge out there that I am incapable of perceiving or reasoning (ie, the existance of God).

What if there were some extra sort of perception (like ESP) which we simply haven't noticed yet?

It's not an invalid question, by itself. Each of us has a very sophisticated mechanism for directly sensing our own motion, for example, which only really becomes apparent when it malfunctions (such as on the ocean or after ingesting certain poisons). So it does seem possible that we have others which we aren't aware of yet. However, regardless of the ultimate nature and extent of one's sensory capacities, their data must necessarily be interpreted by one's mind. Furthermore, this must be done according to certain basic rules, for the consequent picture of reality (which we infer) to have any chance of correspondence to whatever causes such sensations.

The fact that there is some *thing* which causes such sensations, at all, is the axiom of Existence. The fact that you must interpret them in some way (where many interpretations are possible but only one is correct) is the axiom of Consciousness.

To deny that you can interpret any sensation in multiple ways leads to intrinsicism; to deny that only one is correct leads to skepticism; neither can ultimately justify any sort of knowledge.

To accept these axioms should not be an act of "faith" (the wilful suspension of your own judgment), although that is possible; they should be accepted because there is no noncontradictory alternative. Since a rejection of the axioms leads directly to contradictions, they should be accepted for the sake of logical consistency (or adherence to Identity).

To concretize:

The concept of a god contradicts itself. Therefore, it is valid to assume that no such thing can ever exist; no matter what one may ever perceive, that interpretation will always be incorrect. Even if you woke up one night to see Jesus Christ himself standing in your bedroom, it would be an error to think that he (at least as the *thing* described in the bible) existed.

The Matrix, when considered in these terms, really boils down to the assertion that your sensations aren't caused by the *things* you actually sense, but by some other thing entirely. That's not invalid either, by itself, but we must ask (as others in this thread have asked) why?

Based on what evidence?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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To posit a different line of thinking, the matrix question really is about refuting what is given through the senses, or proposing a realty is not what it seams therefore we cannot gain any certainty of knowledge. I've always looked at the matrix question as two basic points which disqualify themselves: 

 

1.  We are in a matrix designed by others from the same universe we live in, which means the same scientific laws apply, and the only difference is they are superior technology wise and we are simply plugged into their virtual provided program.  

 

In this case we can gain certainty over realty since the same physical laws apply.  They are simply projecting those laws into the virtual world we interact.  Also note this is a courtesy response since we are using the same laws of nature and the argument is disqualified since it cannot prove itself.  It is a proposition no different than God at this point.  That only leaves us with option 2...

 

2. We are in the matrix designed from a completely different universe where different scientific laws apply and reality is vastly different as a result.  They are projecting what is in essence a fantasy world for us to view.  

 

In this case we are at a dead end since our laws of science and reason are a fantasy and not capable of any identification of reality, proof, or even cohesive arguments, including the proposition that we are in a matrix.  Further, they did not produce a matrix for us since it is our fantasy, not their reality where science is different, meaning they had no way of programming in our knowledge of  what a matrix is since it is scientifically unknowable to them.  They have no reason to project something they have never identified onto us.  

 

If the have any kind of scientific laws to follow they would have to project those into their matrix which takes us back to point 1. 

 

 

At least, that is how I see such arguments.  

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I'm seeing two related questions in this.

To be more exact here, the object acting on your senses such that you experience it in the form of a red apple, is a process of selective focus. You are able to regard the one thing as a unique specific entity from the rest of your field of view. You regard the red apple in the dish of fruit on the table in the dining room apart from everything else.

A budding chemist or physicist might like to tell you, and in one sense they would be right, that the red apple you are perceiving is a collection of molecules comprised of atoms, made of electrons and protons, etc., This knowledge is not solely derived from the red apple, This is a specialize study within concepts of materials, and needs to be considered on its own merit.

 

Making this distinction helps to distinguish between the different orders observed within the order, as I am observing it.

 

Act of selective focus? Percepts are automatic forms of awareness. There's nothing we can select about them. The term "to focus or not" belongs to the conceptual level of awareness. Nothing to do with perception.

 

And as for the atoms, its just the equivalent story to what I described earlier:

"There is an amount of things (i.e. one or more objects) of such a kind that, if I were small enough and had those microsopically little senses equivalent to the large ones I have right now, and when that amount of things was to act on those micro-senses, I would perceive those things in the form of an atom."

 

Observe that whether we are talking about perceiving apples or just single atoms - it seems we can never actually know for certain whether what we perceive as an "entity" through our senses is actually a coherent object independent of our senses. The "entity-effect" produced by the interaction of external objects with our senses might theoretically be caused by multiple and completely separate objects. In other words, from a multitude of sources all bombarding our senses at once, so the result just happens to be "a tree" while in reality, there are five, six, or a hundred external objects involved that produce that "tree" in interaction with our senses.

Maybe the latter isn't a realistic thing to happen, because the separate objects should stimulate our senses in separately identifiable concentrations/intensities so we can still keep them apart. But then again, our sensual aparatus might as well be able to neutralize that through its own structure. Or the mere fact that the external objects interact with our senses all at once might mix the whole thing up into one thing already.

 

Observe also what the whole object-means-form chain of perception means: It means that everything we are currently not perceiving live can be identified only on a would-be basis. For example, if your mum tells you on the phone that dad is just jumping to the ceiling out of joy for the birthday gift you send him, what does that mean? It means that whatever you are doing in your mind to imagine that scene doesn't actually exist in that form. It is only if you were there right now to see it, only then, would there actually be dad jumping to the ceiling. So long as you are just listening to mum on the phone, there are just certain objects doing certain stuff that would be dad jumping to the ceiling, if only you were there. It is only like a potentiality, not an actuality. Not really happening like I'm imagining it. Just happening right now in some form unknowable to me.

 

Given this background, out there in New York, there is no such thing as the "Empire State Building" as I know it - only certain objects that would be the Empire State Building for me if I saw it. No such thing as a meteorite approaching earth about to hit me - only certain objects that will soon become a meteorite doing that to me once I get to stare at it in fear. One could say the same about the Vikings beating the Patriots seen on TV or about listening to Roosevelt's infamy speech on radio living during WW2.

The object-means-form chain allows us to protect us from foreseable harm - but it doesn't allow us to enjoy the existence of pleasant events outside of our field of view. As I said, everything outside of our current field of view can be identified on a would-be basis only. And this - by the way - makes it all the more important to have other people around in remote places, so at least they can create some actuality to those things by perceiving them.

Edited by DiscoveryJoy

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Tell that to a photorealistic painter.

 

I am not talking about the perception of derived entities here, just of the primary ones. But in any case, I don't see how this changes my points about the object-means-form chain of perception here. Whatever entities we are talking about - primary or derived.

 

But even if you purposefully guide your senses to certain details, aren't you just affecting the kind of automatic interaction on the part of your senses, so the just objects interact with your senses differently, i.e. producing a different entity-effect about which you then have no choice but to see?

Edited by DiscoveryJoy

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Act of selective focus? Percepts are automatic forms of awareness. There's nothing we can select about them. The term "to focus or not" belongs to the conceptual level of awareness. Nothing to do with perception.

Ah, yes.We need to begin with an act of selective focus, not only in discerning an apple within the automatically provided perceptual field of percepts, but within delineating on what one desires to isolate to understand, select to better comprehend, and focus on in order to expand ones awareness of it.

 

Focus certainly plays a role in the conceptual level, and should not be ignored in understanding the perceptual role as well. Your perceptual field is not only comprised of what is out there, it is a joint interaction of you directing your attention to the east or west, upward or downward; taking the visual field in akin to a camera trying to capture everything in the moment, or as a human being, that notices something in the visual field that catches your attention, as if shifting the f-stop to set the focal length sharpening its features in the photograph, while allowing the rest of the field of view soften and blur in contrast.

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Ah, yes.We need to begin with an act of selective focus, not only in discerning an apple within the automatically provided perceptual field of percepts, but within delineating on what one desires to isolate to understand, select to better comprehend, and focus on in order to expand ones awareness of it.

 

Focus certainly plays a role in the conceptual level, and should not be ignored in understanding the perceptual role as well. Your perceptual field is not only comprised of what is out there, it is a joint interaction of you directing your attention to the east or west, upward or downward; taking the visual field in akin to a camera trying to capture everything in the moment, or as a human being, that notices something in the visual field that catches your attention, as if shifting the f-stop to set the focal length sharpening its features in the photograph, while allowing the rest of the field of view soften and blur in contrast.

 

 

The effect of conceptual intents on motoric and sensual mechanisms you describe granted, but that doesn't mean that the perceptual level requires the conceptual level (That would be exactly Hume's, Locke's and Kant's position as I understand them). You only have a choice were to look but not what to find where you're looking, i.e. given a particular sensual direction and state of attention. The entities you perceive given such a sensual "camera setup" are still automatic and unchosen thereafter. You cannot "focus" on isolated sensations like an infant.

 

In case this is just a problem of terminology, I would say this: You do not choose the objects of perception by first adjusting your means of perception prior to engaging in the actual act of perception. I'd say the sensual adjustment is one thing. The actual perceptual process following it is another.

 

E.g. you focus on the world map on your screen and certain green and certain blue patches just spring to you. You zoom into one of those green patches and certain light green, certain dark green and certain maybe more red or brown patches spring to you. You zoom into one of the brown patches and certain buildings and roads just spring to you. And on and on. All the while, you may also use your own eyes instead of the zoom button to direct your attention to e.g. a particular building on the map. Same story, its rooftop, its front yard etc. just spring to you. You cannot choose what entities spring to you in a given area, but only the area in which things should spring up.

Edited by DiscoveryJoy

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In case this is just a problem of terminology, I would say this: You do not choose the objects of perception by first adjusting your means of perception prior to engaging in the actual act of perception. I'd say the sensual adjustment is one thing. The actual perceptual process following it is another.

If this is just a wordsmiths exercise, then the shift from the percepts of apples to the more general perception of an undifferentiated visual field of objects is making it difficult for me to track where you are going with this.

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If this is just a wordsmiths exercise, then the shift from the percepts of apples to the more general perception of an undifferentiated visual field of objects is making it difficult for me to track where you are going with this.

 

It was supposed to be an example, not a shift. The example shows a sequence in which adjusting your means of perception and undergoing the act of perception take turns as two separate processes over and over again.

 

 

But all this doesn't really solve the dilemmas I described in posts http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=8011&p=333818 and http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=8011&p=333943.

Edited by DiscoveryJoy

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But even if you purposefully guide your senses to certain details, aren't you just affecting the kind of automatic interaction on the part of your senses, so the just objects interact with your senses differently, i.e. producing a different entity-effect about which you then have no choice but to see?

Yes, which means that perception isn't always automatic or involuntary because it can be guided.

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"There is an object of such a kind that when it acts on my senses, I experience it in the form of a red apple."

How do we know that there is just one object, in other words, how do we know that we are experiencing just "it" alone? How do we know it couldn't be a multitude of objects, that when they interact with our senses we experience them in the form of just one red apple? Since our consciousness is never in direct contact with primary causes, how do we know that the primary cause we perceive through our senses is really just one single object interacting with our senses?

We don't. We know from the axioms of Existence and Consciousness that SOMETHING has to cause them, but that something doesn't necessarily have to be what it looks like (or even a single thing) except that it does have to LOOK LIKE what it looks like.

This means that, regardless of whether your view is ultimately caused by some thing we call an "apple" or by many things we call "atoms" or by waves of energy or by the Matrix, whatever *it* is must look like what you see simply because it must be whatever it is.

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Wouldn't we have to correct our statement to:

"There is an amount of things (i.e. one or more objects) of such a kind that when they act on my senses, I experience them in the form of a red apple?"

Even worse than that. However, regardless of what our senses are caused by, they must be caused. And that which causes them must also be whatever it is; it cannot be of a contradictory nature.

Also, the senses themselves also need to be perceived by some means in some form.

Why? Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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And this - by the way - makes it all the more important to have other people around in remote places, so at least they can create some actuality to those things by perceiving them.

I'm not trying to be snarky, here.

If we can't know anything (as an actuality, instead of a potential) beyond our own senses then what makes you think anyone else perceives anything at all? What if the thing YOU perceive as your mum talking on the phone with you is actually caused by something (or a bunch of things) completely different; things that don't give a damn what you think or feel because they aren't alive at all?

By your standard of evidence, what leads you to believe that you're not all alone in a cold and empty universe?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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It was supposed to be an example, not a shift. The example shows a sequence in which adjusting your means of perception and undergoing the act of perception take turns as two separate processes over and over again.

 

 

But all this doesn't really solve the dilemmas I described in posts http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=8011&p=333818 and http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=8011&p=333943.

From the earlier reference I find:

"If so, it couldn't even be said that two people are really receiving the same object in different forms. It would be "what is an entity to you, isn't an entity to me". Two people might not be talking about the same objects."

 

While the latter reference, in a similar vein has:

Observe that whether we are talking about perceiving apples or just single atoms - it seems we can never actually know for certain whether what we perceive as an "entity" through our senses is actually a coherent object independent of our senses. The "entity-effect" produced by the interaction of external objects with our senses might theoretically be caused by multiple and completely separate objects. In other words, from a multitude of sources all bombarding our senses at once, so the result just happens to be "a tree" while in reality, there are five, six, or a hundred external objects involved that produce that "tree" in interaction with our senses.

 

There's a short scene where Rama-Kanda almost answers this addressing Neo about love.

. . . it is a word. What matters is the connection the word implies. I see that you are in love. Can you tell me what you would give to hold on to that connection?

 

"Entity" is not a first-level concept. As an abstraction, it relies on processes performed by individual minds, which may, or may not elicit the same connotation(s). Perceiving an apple is a task most sighted folk are capable of. Perceiving a single atom by unaided sensory apparatus would be an extraordinary accomplishment indeed.

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Why?

 

Because that is what it means to perceive: To perceive by some means and in some form:

Your eyes are the means, colors and shapes are the form. Your nose is the means, smells are the form. Your ears are the means, sounds are the form.

 

But if we perceive that which we call our senses, like our eyes, nose and ears, it means then that we must be able to do so - again - by some means and in some form. So we perceive our eyes in the form of certain balls with a retina and all the other properties. But what then is the means through which we have perceived our eyes? Our eyes themselves? Sounds very strange to me. How can something be a form and a means at the same time? It would mean that lightwaves interact with our eyes and the result is....those very same eyes! As if to say the eyes somehow magically duplicate themselves. But of course, they can't be the same eyes, since one pair of them had to interact with lightwaves, and the other pair of eyes had to be produced by that interaction so we could get aware of it.

 

Instead of relying on such a bizarre theory, I would rather say that we don't know what our actual senses are and that what we call our senses is just proxy objects to our actual senses that correlate with our awareness of objects. We can never know what our actual senses are, because we can never perceive them directly.

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I'm not trying to be snarky, here.

If we can't know anything (as an actuality, instead of a potential) beyond our own senses then what makes you think anyone else perceives anything at all? What if the thing YOU perceive as your mum talking on the phone with you is actually caused by something (or a bunch of things) completely different; things that don't give a damn what you think or feel because they aren't alive at all?

By your standard of evidence, what leads you to believe that you're not all alone in a cold and empty universe?

 

Because otherwise, there would have to be a conspiracy of the most unbelievable kind. Of course we have to - to some extend - just assume that there are other people out there that also have consciousness. That there are not just robots created by some hyperintelligent designer. And from the sum of all facts we know, we just have to logically deduce that the person we hear on the phone is the person we could meet in person.

Edited by DiscoveryJoy

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Of course we have to - to some extent - just assume that there are other people out there that also have consciousness.

Why must we make such assumptions? What happens if we do not?

More importantly, if there is some purpose for knowledge (and one with inescapable requirements), wouldn't it make more sense to evaluate it by how well it furthers or hinders that purpose?

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