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Onar Åm

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Everything posted by Onar Åm

  1. Well, I agree that Zeno's original *conclusion* is both rationalistic and platonic. It is platonic in the sense of confusing the abstraction of infinity with the concrete existents which are not infinite, and it is rationalistic in the sense of choosing a logical conclusion over what is observed by the senses ("motion is impossible"), which is a primacy of mind-error. But that is my point exactly: if you DON'T make the platonic and rationalistic errors you end up with a radically different conclusion from Zeno which completely eliminates the paradox. And the conclusion is that even though you in your _mind_ can hypothesize the infinite subdivision of time and space this leads to the obvious contradiction of the senses. Due to the primacy of existence your mental play with infinites must be thrown out. What remains then is the notion of a finite, discrete spacetime. Let me also add that Zeno's experiment can be applied to consciousness and here we can empirically observe the effect of discreteness. Yes, the stream of consciousness too has a discrete existence, and it is easy to prove. It is in fact an everyday phenomenon. Consider the following experiment: a subject is shown a short flash of an image, say for a tenth of a second. (then it shown the negative image for a similar amount of time in order to eliminate retinal after-images) The image is, say, two parallel lines, one longer than the other. The subject is then asked to identify which of the two lines are shortest. Each time the subject succeeds the flash is shortened slightly. At some point the subject is unable to tell the difference between the two lines. In fact, at some point the flash is too short for awareness to register it altogether. This phenomenon corresponds to the Nyquist sampling theorem, which states that a discrete sampling of an analog signal at a sampling rate of frequency f will successfully sample all information in the signal with frequencies lower than f/2. In short, there is a threshold where the sampler no longer detects any signal. This is what happens in the mind too. If a sound is too short, we can hear it, if a detail is too small we can't see it etc. In short: CONSCIOUSNESS IS DISCRETE. This is an observable fact, but by Zeno's reasoning we could know it even before we have evidence for it because that is the way that it *must* be.
  2. "Discrete object" is a statement of the same kind as "existence exists." It is not a redundency but an elaboration of the underlying axiomatic nature of the concept. Just like you cannot deny existence without undermining your denial you cannot speak of non-discrete existents. The very fact that existents have identity implies that they are objects and hence discrete. Although not made explicit in her axioms of metaphysics the very name of Ayn Rand's philosophy -- objectivism -- is derived from the concept of the "object." In fact, if her metaphysics should ever be elaborated/expanded it would in my opinion be to include the axiom that existents are objects and objects are discrete. And to answer your question: yes, time and space are built from objects. Time and space *exists*, hence it must be *something* that exists. This something must have an identity and hence be an object and hence be discrete. This follows from the axiomatic nature of existence.
  3. The notion that volition somehow transcends the physical and therefore cannot evolve is wrong. The same argument can be raised against consciousness. Clearly consciousness not only serves an evolutionary function but the mechanisms of awareness (e.g. the pain/pleasure mechanism) is so obviously well-tuned to survival that there is no question that it has been thoroughly subject to evolutionary adaptation. To deny the evolution of the eye, the ear, hunger or pain/pleasure only because they involve consciousness is completely senseless. Volition too is a property of consciousness which has been subject to evolution, and it is as real as the eye or the ear. Reductionists argue for a pure bottom-up causation model of consciousness. In this view consciousness is just a "side effect" of a bunch of atoms interacting. Consciousness is then just like watching TV: there is a viewer but the viewer has no effect on the program. It is just passively experienced as the show unfolds. In contrast to the reductionist argument is the emergentist view, with top-down causation. In this view consciousness is an active causal agent that has real influence on the state of the organism. The reductionist would say that a person is depressed *because* the energy level in the brain is low, but the emergentist would say that the energy level in the brain is low *because* the person is depressed. Clearly both consciousness as such and volition in particular is a prime example of top-down causation. The very fact that we ARE conscious is strong evidence that top-down causation is a real physical phenomenon and precisely the organ that evolution works with and tunes. Why? Because evolution is very efficient. Unnecessary and excess functions are quickly eroded by natural selection. Moles have nearly lost their sight due to living underground for so long where eyes are not needed. Many insects living in dark caves are not only blind but have lost the pigmentation in their skin. In short, evolution weeds out all excess baggage, leaving only essential survivaloriented functions intact. The very fact that we are not mere automata but experience hunger and pain as real sensations tells us that consciousness has a real and necessary biological function that cannot be reduced to automatic behavior. This is strong evidence in favor of top-down causation, or emergent agent causation if you like.
  4. I agree with the assessment that Zeno's paradox is a brilliant proof of discrete time and space. This is not what Zeno intended with the paradox, but its construction is still brilliant when interpreted correctly. The paradox can be presented as a set of premises and a conclusion: Premise: time and space is continuous Therefore (due to the Achilles/tortoise example): motion is impossible HOWEVER, we know from observation that motion indeed is possible. HENCE, the premise is false. Time and space must be discrete. There must exist an indivisible smallest spacetime unit. Where Zeno got it wrong is by taking a rationalistic turn when the conclusion conflicted with reality. Instead of concluding that the premise was wrong (which he should have) he concluded that sensed reality was wrong instead. But when interpreted rationally Zeno's paradox is not only consistent with objectivism, but *exactly* what you would expect. Objectivism holds at its core that the basic stuff of existence is *objects*. But what is an object if not a *discrete* existent?
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