From: Rob Harris (
Date: Fri Jan 07 2000 - 09:53:01 MST

>That person would not accept your view that the universe is changing -
>the underlying essence for example might be eternal and unchanging and
>the apparent change an illusion. A philosophical view a great deal of
>people have taken, however much we might disagree with them. It cannot
>even be refuted, which makes it silly from a popperian empiricist
>view, but these people do not even feel they have to subscribe to that
>view. People with a different ontology and epistemology can be awfully
>hard to convince that you are right...

I've noticed it's become a bit of a trend these days to start throwing the
word "illusion" at perceived effects. Unfortunately, doing this merely
amounts to insubstantial wordplay and misdirection (perhaps in order to
allow the offender to ignore such entities - keeping the thought required in
building a rational framework of reality to a minimum - usually by valuing
only the empirical - "condemn it to the flame!"). Remember, words like
"consciousness", "qualia", and as mentioned above, "change" are mere labels
that have been applied to various perceived effects. Let's take "change",
for instance. Imagine that you are some entity able to view our universe
outside of the influence of time. A good analogy for what they might "see"
is of the electric wire game. (the one where you have to guide the metal
hoop through a piece of charged convoluted wire - if your hands shake and
the hoop touches the wire, the circuit is made and a buzzer signifies your
failure). Imagine that we can only perceive the bit of wire within the hoop
at any point in time. As the hoop is moved along the wire, "time"
progresses. Of course, from this perpective, "change" is certainly a
reality. It merely describes the difference between two perceptions of the
same entity -the wire- given the passing of time - as the hoop is guided
upward along the wire, we could notice the change in the relative densities
of the wire from top to bottom, perhaps. Now, from the perspective of
eternity, the viewer of the whole wire at once, time, and so change, is
irrelevant - and might be called an "illusion" by one of these external
observers. Pretty soon, another more wise observer would point out that in
fact, an illusion is a misdirection. By witholding certain information, a
magician will dupe the audience into thinking they are doing one thing, when
in actual fact, something quite different is going on. In the case of
change, no extra claims were ever made. Change is and always has been the
label given to our perception of the passage of time in relation to entities
that are fluid in time. The same goes for consciousness. It is merely the
label given to the perceived effect of being, no mechanism for how this
might be so is entangled in the label "consciousness", and nor is anything
about the objective nature of the effect. In the context of the magician's
illusion, imagine urging everyone not to call the show "magic", but instead
something else, something that incorporates the reality of the situation,
maybe "magic trick" or "illusion". Of course, to be able to do this, you
have to know what that something else is, and the original word has to imply
something extra than merely pointing to the particular style of a magic
show. "Consciousness", "Qualia" and "Change" don't imply anything, they're
merely pointers. So by calling such concepts "illusions" you are saying that
words such as "consciousness" and "change" communicate more than just a
pointer to the perceived effect, in fact, that they communicate something
about the very nature of and the mechanisms behind the perceived effect.
They do not. Consciousness, particularly, is a complete unknown. Nobody
knows what it IS (from the perspective of eternity), what it's function is,
or how exactly it is brought about, yet the "illusion" squad seem to think
that the very word "consciousness" itself carries with it baggage that
implies the contents of the black box, and that they know better. Wrong on
both counts.
To reiterate: When people talk of "qualia", or "consciousness" or "change"
they are merely "pointing" to the perceived effect. No claims are being made
in the use of the word as to the specific nature or function of such
entities. Calling these things an illusion from this perspective is clearly
utterly meaningless. They DO exist, I and everybody else Do perceive them,
and that perception is all that the label points to.


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