Is X a Y?

John K Clark (
Mon, 28 Jul 1997 13:34:17 -0700 (PDT)


"Nicholas Bostrom" <> On Mon, 28 Jul 1997 Wrote:

>>that's the question, if something is logically consistent does
>>that make it part of the world?

>No, that is not the question.

I strongly disagree, I think that's exactly the question.

>Not many would say that consistency guarantees existence

I strongly agree, not many would say that.

>I do think that the question "Does the Mandelbrot set exist?" needs
>to be specified and refined. [...] and until you have explained what
>that notion is, your question appears rather meaningless to me.

You want a precise definition of "exist", I think that would be nice too but
obviously I don't have one. Not being a follower of Logical Positivism I most
certainly don't think the lack of such a definition means the question is
meaningless. Little of our knowledge is in the form of definitions and none
of the really important stuff is, it's in the form of "like this" and "not
like this". I maintain that it is an undeniable fact that in everyday life we
mean *something* by the word "exist", even if we can't say exactly what it
is. My question, is the Mandelbrot set "like that"? Can I safely place the
Mandelbrot set in the mental category that happens to have the name "things
that exist", or will doing that lead to a contradiction at some point?

>I mean, if somebody told me "Yes, the Mandelbrot set does exist.",
>how much wiser would I be

I think you'd be a lot wiser. If you grant that I am "real" then it would
mean anything that is consistent would be as real as I am, whatever the
definition of the word. It would mean there is no difference between an
actual mind and a potential one.

I don't think there is any question that neurons cause consciousness, I can
demonstrate on myself that if my neurons are changed, then my state of
consciousness changes. But what else besides me is conscious in my brain,
or in a rock for that matter. Some think it's all a mater of interpretation.

To communicate with another person the interpretation is straightforward,
if the person smiles he is happy, if they make sounds with their mouth we
find meaning in them from another interpretation, the rules of grammar,
but some, such as Moravec go as far as to say that a interpretation must
exist that can find a mind even in a rock. The reason we can't detect them
is that we're too stupid. The interpretation is so hideously complex that as
a practical matter their workings are indistinguishable to us from random
thermal vibrations.

As near as I can tell, Moravec thinks that a mind is the one thing that has
it's own self consistent interpretation inherent within it; in fact that
seems to be the definition of a mind, although you would still need an
interpretation to make contact with it.

>Now, I don't know whether I basically disagree with you or I am
>just playing the devils advocate.

You know, I could have written exactly the same sentence. I could be wrong
but I seem to mean something by all this but I'm not sure exactly what it is.
If anybody does know what the hell I'm babbling about I'd appreciate it if
they'd drop me a line and tell me.

John K Clark

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