Re: Contradiction in Rucker?

Eric Watt Forste (
Sat, 12 Jul 1997 15:11:42 -0700

Roderick A. Carder-Russell writes (initially quoting Rucker):
> "I would respond that omega is a _given_, an object of our
> immediate pre-rational experience. And to use the tools of symbolic
> logic to investigate an _empirically_ existing phenomenon..."
> It seems to me that he is at first asserting that the concept of
> omega exists a priori. He then goes on to speak of it further as
> an empirical phenomenon, certainly in clear contradiction of the
> first statement. Any thoughts on this? Could I be correct, or am
> I missing something in the text?

This is the kind of thing that Kant invented the phrase
"synthetic a priori" to cover. It looks like Rucker is asserting
that omega belongs to the synthetic a priori, although he may
not *intend* to have done so...

I find Paul Churchland's discussion of these Kantian categories
(presented along with his theory of semantics in his monograph
illuminating, if anyone cares. The theory of semantics proposed
in that monograph is significantly fleshed out in Churchland's
later more neurocomputationally-focused books.

Rucker's metaphysical poetry you quote here reminds me of Pirsig's
"Quality". The closer philosophers try to get to what they think
really matters, the more abstract and colorless their vocabulary
gets. This has always disturbed me, and probably accounts for my
pluralistic hunches that the Good is not something capable of
detailed unitary representation within an ape brain. In Minskyan
terms, I see the Good as an accumulation. (ref. Society of

I don't know whether subscribing to Kantian metaphysics is
necessarily self-contradictory, although many people seem to
think so. Kant's popularity waxes and wanes, but most people of
libertarian political bent find it difficult to disagree with
Kant's moral maxim that a person is an end in emself.

(New problem: what is a person? The old definition--a person is a
mature, sane ape of species Homo sapiens--was already rife with
problematics probed by Foucault and Szasz and others, and now may,
for the first time in millenia, be threatened by obsolescence.
The best replacement we have available, it seems, is the Turing
test, which is neither more nor less than a straightforward
bootstrapping from the old definition. The Turing test says: if
a new system can fool one of the systems that we would have
called a "person" under the old definition into believing that
the new system is a person, then the new system is a person
under the new, Turing-test definition. Of course, the details
are much messier than that, but even simplified that much it
looks pretty kludgy.)

Oops. I started out addressing a technical point and wandered
off into a heavy philosophical problem on a digression. I do
that sometimes. Sorry.

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++ expectation foils perception -pcd