In Zen here is a famous koan known as Mu. A koan is sort of a riddle that a teacher gives a student to work on. These riddles have no definite answers as regular questions have. The purpous of a koan is to break conventional though patterns and, in a way, short circuit mind in order to access knowledge behind reasoning. It is a way of studying reality as it is when not reasoned about or understood by a human observer.
A monk asked Master Chao-chou, “Has a dog the Buddha Nature or not?” Chao-chou said, “Mu!”
That’s it. One question, one answer. Case closed.
There are of course numerous interpretations of what Mu really means. I suggest the point made by the master is this – mind will never stop asking questions, and the sooner you realize this, the sooner you know the mind, and knowing mind opens the door to knowing Everything. So why say Mu? Mu is not an answer to the monks question. Mu is a negation of the questioning itself. It doesn’t answer that particular question. Instead it answers the natural function of mind to persistently put reality into question. Mu is just another way of saying “God did it”. It is the end of further questioning. Now, the Master, being a Master, didn’t Believe in God or any other diety. Knowing mind fully, he didn’t Believe in anything mind told him. Neither did he reject anything of minds content. To the Master of Reality, there is ultimately nothing being wrong or right. There is just what is. Instead of saying God or Buddhanature is Everything, including dogs, he says “There is no definite answer to any of your questions, so stop asking”. The message is this – if you stop asking questions that require an answer where reality is reduced to separate parts with inherent properties, you might just realize that there’s a whole reality that includes all seemingly subjective and unique phenomena. You may be enlightened by the fact that reality is conceptual and understandable only to mind itself, but unknowable when absent minded.
But there’s trap in this, waiting to catch mind red handed. The reflexive response of mind when “understanding” Mu is to, yet again, trying to understand it. Mind cannot help itself from repeating the act of questioning. Mind Thinks – Oh, so reality is something else than how it appears to my mind. My experience is not of reality but of illusion.
HEUREKA, NOW IT GET IT!!!
No you don’t. You will never “get it”. You missed the point of Mu. Mu said “Beware of questioning reality because that habit of mind will keep it from knowing the essence of it”. Instead of “getting it”, you immediately questioned the reality of minds experience. You stupid fool!
Mu is relentlessly wrecking everything you believe to be important aspects of knowledge. If you ask “What mind”, you miss the point.
If you ask “What is real”, you miss the point.
If you ask “What is the point”, you miss the point.
You see, mind has to keep asking questions, never accepting a definite answer. That’s the very function of human mind. It is not wrong or “illusory” at all. It is perfectly normal and fully functional. You need not do anything about this response/function of mind. But if you want to know reality in its most ultimate sense, you must realize this mind function first hand. You must learn the essence of mind in order to understand how it “knows” reality. Mind gains knowledge by not accepting input as experienced, but by questioning reality as it presents itself in the experience of mind.
This is why a Theory of Everything can never be accepted by anyone else than s/he who puts it on the table. Imagine gravity being the cause of vortices in condensed matter. Let’s say that is essentially the creative force behind Everything. Whatever it is, someone will inevitably respond – Ok, but what causes that to happen? If reality is such that the ultimate cause cannot be caused itself, mind will never settle for that kind of Everything. It will keep asking – Has a dog Buddhanature?
Recently I had a great conversation in the Facebook Group “Strong Artificial Intelligence“. The thread was about AI-safety and people worrying about machines taking over the world. There’s a lot to say on that, but that’s for another post. What happened was that Dan Luba responded to a comment of mine, and in a way that had me update how I think about objectivity vs. subjectivity. Such feed-back is particulary useful and valuable, so I made an effort in clarifying myself, to both Dan and my… “self”. Anyway, I will paste our exchange of ideas here for others to respond. The definitions of object/subject vary depending on context. In this case, we are talking about it from the perspective of a human being interacting with its Environment.
Niklas Grebäck If they only knew the only AI developed is totally stupid mega processors of speed and accuracy. Zero unpredictable creativity and subjective behavior make for useful servants, but a “threat”?
The useless machine is still state of the art in strong AI. https://youtu.be/Uox-t4OB6hE
Dan Luba That’s easily the best machine I’ve ever seen.
Niklas Grebäck What makes it human-like is the stubborn rejection of input value. It seems to have a mind of it’s own. That is essentially what humans look like. Assuming there is no ghost in the machine, that there is no “responder” that “does” the responding, we are the same. The difference is in the level of complexity, and that our responding is plastic and dependent on continous conditioning.
Niklas Grebäck Oh, and we have the response of deception. Read the paper and think about the deictic relations and how they are conditioned and integrated by means of language and “cognition”. Once learned and internalized, they become our whole truth. Unless you ask yourself “Who am I” and do a couple of years worth of meditation. Then you might realize reality pre-conditioning of deictic relations. Voila´, there is no separate “self” that is subjective. Never was, never will be. Now it will be easier to imagine how to build strong AI.
Not that anyone here will take note so I’m just saying.
Dan Luba It doesn’t make any sense to me right now to deny that there is subjectivity. Dennett and the Churchlands sound like crazy people to me – despite the mess his religion made of his theory, I don’t see how anyone can refute Descartes’ starting position that “think therefore I am”. However, these days I’ve come aground to thinking that consciousness is not the fundamental element of subjectivity as we have assumed, and that information processing is all as far as the neuroscience and AI people need to go with their explanations or generation of consciousness. My guess is that subjectivity is for the physicists to figure out.
Niklas Grebäck In an objective, physical universe, I have a problem seeing exactly how a subject “emerges” from the object. Indeed, there is subjectivity, but there’s a lot of things out there that are if fact not “things” at all, only physical events of objects interacting.
There are waves on the water, but there are no waves on the water. There is just “waving” water, and the water need not do the waving. It just happens.
If you look at a hole, you will never see it. All you see is what surrounds that which is not there.
No one has ever seen subjectivity, or the subject having it. All you see are continous events as organic tissue changes as a response to what happens.
If Descartes´had known himself correctly, he might have said “Thinking Is”. That’s the objective truth i.e. what happens (thinking) is (is) ultimately the truth.
But from a subjective perspective, there is the addition of “I”, as if separate from the thinking, and there is “causality” which is the event of a mental concept. You see, the subjective mind is an object that is evolved to “understand” reality so it’s carrier/body can “manipulate” the environment as an “agent”. If objectively concluding “Thinking Is”, there’s not much more to do. Reality just is as it actually is, and there’s no “I” to know it or affect it. We wouldn’t have built all this grandeour based on that.
Subjectivity is an extremely useful event, but not some physical entity in and of itself. There’s no one “having” an experience. There is just experience.
Knowing reality this way is of good for one thing only. It will help you solving the problems with both singularity and AI. Knowledge without a knower is at the heart of both these questions.
Buddha said this knowledge means the end of suffering, and he was of course right, but it can be useful even for people with no aspiration for Enlightenment.
Dan Luba I agree with you that there is no experiencer as such but only the experience – up to a point, anyway. You have a subjectivity that I can’t experience, and vice versa, so subjectivity doesn’t seem to be one big cosmic experience, but rather it can exist in self-contained ‘pockets’.We don’t know for sure that this IS a physical universe. In fact, it seems to me that a purely materialist world-model presents more problems than a purely idealist one. It seems more difficult to explain consciousness from a materialist framework than it does to explain the appearance of a material world from a ‘consciousness first’ point of view. My point of view is that there is a subjective aspect to reality, just as there is a material aspect. It’s hard to theorise about consciousness in 2016 without sounding like a lunatic.
As for the wave and the hole, I would say that we DO see the hole and the wave, and it is our subjectivity that creates them both. There is no such thing as a hole – it’s a subjective concept, and we create it when we look at a certain arrangement of edges. ‘Thinking is’, as you say. And subjectivity is. And we don’t see subjectivity – subjectivity sees. The very notion of ‘seeing’ would have no meaning without subjectivity.
I think the self, the ‘I am’, emerges as a property of information pathways of the brain. The information itself has a subjective aspect and the information processing of the brain allows the generation of a sense of self from that simple law of (a new) physics. I think Searle’s ‘observer-dependency’ argument against materialism is a good one, except he takes it for granted that computers don’t already possess some form of consciousness. Christof Koch has questioned that assumption, and I think I’m behind him.
I think you and I are almost saying the same thing, but from different perspectives. There’s no ‘separate’ subjectivity that exists outside of the material world. I think we differ only in that you are coming from a materialist framework, whereas I believe we need to incorporate subjectivity into physics. I don’t think either of us believe that there is any need for AI people or neuroscience people to explain consciousness.
I’m not even sure that we disagree in our framework all that much, fundamentally. I think you see my viewpoint as more dualist than it is, and perhaps I see yours as more materialist than it is? I’m not sure.
Niklas Grebäck “As for the wave and the hole, I would say that we DO see the hole and the wave, and it is our subjectivity that creates them both. There is no such thing as a hole – it’s a subjective concept, and we create it when we look at a certain arrangement of edges. ‘Thinking is’, as you say. And subjectivity is. And we don’t see subjectivity – subjectivity sees. The very notion of ‘seeing’ would have no meaning without subjectivity.”
This is the “problem”. As long as there is a “doer” of “seeing”, that is, more than just plain “sight”, we have ourselves a subject and a hole. As you point out, the 2 come together. What I’m getting at is the ontological level of existence, the one without concepts and creation out of nothing. From my viewpoint no one is ever wrong in the absolute sense. Nothing in reality can be wrong. But subjectively, we are all wrong and right in relation to something (an idea, a theory, an opinion, an experience etc). Only when we relate a and b can we go wrong. So subjectivity is innovative as we create a hole out of nothing. We relate the edges with adjacent emptiness, and we call that “hole”. If we don’t do this, there’s just the objects edges.
Again, the objective perspective is fundamentally useless, and that is why it is always overlooked. Nothing can be done with it. It just is. A subjective perspective can be used to build knowledge and civilizations for example.
Dan Luba Can there be such a thing as an ‘objective perspective’? Surely, perspective implies subjectivity. I think we agree on a lot, but I’m not sure I agree that nothing can be wrong. Right and wrong are subjectivities, and subjectivities are constructed from definite relations between objective elements. In stating a proposition, we are declaring a specific and fixed set of relationships. Otherwise all propositions would be meaningless.
Niklas Grebäck Valid points. Then perhaps this is true- objects are what subjects.
Objects are doing subj:activities.
What is is objective
What happens is subjective
You will never find one without the other. Everything exists and changes.
Existentially, all propositions are true, because they exist.
The fixed set of relationships, the proposed laws, are possible the only exception from change.
But then again, if you write the law in a book, paper will decay.
Niklas Grebäck Dan, Hey Man, I realize you made my thinking much sharper. I pride myself of being able to kill my pets on spot in case they bite me.
I see now that subjectivity is real as action /verb per se, not just in ref. to minds creating of concepts.
I hereby revise my position to –
What IS objective HAPPENS subjectively. Any object/form has a particular way of responding to input. Objects have unique physical configurations, albeit momentary and open to change, and based on that particular “onto logic”, it will exhibit a subjective resoinse. So waves are subjective of water as fluid, but less so when frozen. So subjective responding is = change dependent on objective properties.
This is a much more workable statement than “all is objective “. The latter over looks the fact that no thing is ever totally still or inactive. I knew that, but failed to apply it properly in the domain of object/subject.
Object = Noun
Subject = Verb
I guess it has been partially hidden to me because “noun ” in swedish is “subjektive”
Thanks a bunch.
Dan Luba Sorry I took a while to write back.
I think on some level, the noun/verb distinction is a good one, but I would say that ‘yellow’, as a noun or adjective, is also subjective, as is the noun ‘disaster’.
I like your notion that ‘What is happens subjectively’. Very profound! I think that is very in line with my thinking, too – our task now is to figure out what the hell it means! If objectivity and subjectivity are aspects of one reality, what is that reality, and what does it mean for subjectivity to exist on that kind of level?
Niklas Grebäck Yellow and Disaster are subjective responses the what is happening. If the subject/reciever is a human with average visual perception, the information in a certain type of em-waves is responded to as the being of “yellow”. If the subject/reciever is for example a bicycle, there will be a different subjective response to the very same information. What causes the response of “being yellow” is always out there. But the yellow-response is dependent on the presence of a certain type of reciever i.e. human visual perception. Another event can be responded to as the being of “disaster”. This is a more complex event, but the same principle holds true. But this time, two responders of same perceptual ability i.e. humans, can differ in their responding. For subject a, the event input is responded to as being “a disaster”. But the response of subject b might be “a temporary set-back” or even “an opportunity”. In this case, more than just bare perception an the attached naming “yellow” comes into play. Here the subjective responses are also influenced by the subjects subjective memory, including qualities of emotion. it is a complex response which is much harder to predict or describe fully. Never the less, it is still essentially a subjective response to an event, simple or more complex.
The subjective response of a cat would probably be very different from the responding of a and b.
My current take on the meaning of objective/subjective is like this: Objective is the ontological essence of what “is”. On a fundamental level, this objectivity is common to all subjects. It is molecules, atoms, energy, quanta and what have you not. It is the fabrice of reality. Objectivity is what gives reality a certain form and function. It is the bases unit of nouns. Now, all these objective forms are in constant change, and the can differ significantly in their form. That is the subjectivity of objects. If objectivity was not also subjective, we would have the same “thing” happening over and over again. We could perhaps have change per se, but not what we commonly refer to as “evolution” or “irreversability”. The arrow of time would be on circular repeat. It would be a universal Groundhog Day.
But the subjectivity/particularity of the objective “essence” will make sure that there is always local variations of events. In my view, the only objective aspect of reality is objectivity itself. The essence is essentially essential, not accidental. So objectivity is the inherent “being” of all subjective forms. It is perhaps a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. The objective aspect of the puzzle is the puzzeling quality of all the pieces. There is no piece in the form of an elephant or smoke. To be defined as the Being of Puzzle, they are rquired to have this puzzle quality, agree?
But imagine all pieces, objectively defined as “the same Being of Puzzle”, also as “the same Being of Pieces”. That implies there are no pieces at all, doesn’t it? If “they” are “the Same”, there is only one single piece, and if so, there is no Being of Puzzle. The existence of a Being of Puzzle requires pieces that are NOT to be defined as “same”, while also as a group/set of pieces being defined as the same Being of Puzzle. It is a paradox and a riddle.
For the objective Being of Puzzle to “become”, to be “realized” or to exhibit the functional aspect of Being Puzzeling, it is required that the parts of the whole, the many relatives of the one objective Being (that’s the Children of God to all Christians, bless you) are to be defined as relatively different, and thus Being Subjects of the object. Only if they are subjective to form can they together enable the objective essence to accidentally be-come what we define as “A Puzzle”. That is, to exist as A Puzzle, there must be:
a) Sameness, so that pieces can interact according to the function of A Puzzle. That is, elphants or smoke screens does not meet the criteria of Being of Puzzle.
b) Difference, so these possible interactions can be-come the Puzzeling event that defines A Puzzle.
Without a, there IS no puzzle, and without b, there can be no event of puzzeling.
Both “being” as objective and “becoming” as subjective are essential to the existence of A Puzzle.
To me, the above is the key to understanding the sameness and difference between a Theory of Everything vs. Theories of Relativity. One is objective as the “Being a matter of fact”, the others are subjective as the “Becoming facts of the matter”. Our mistake is to believe they are incomparable or related when in fact, they are two sides of the same coin.
If you observe/interact with the external world, there has to be a relative subjectivity there. Otherwise we will have a self recursive loop of x experiencing the x of x. But if you were not essentially of the same objective being as the external, interaction as exchanging in-formation would not be possible. A cloude of smoke cannot interact with a jigsaw piece in a way that corresponds to “puzzeling”. A physical form of energy cannot interact with a non physical form of the essence not-energy in a way that corresponds to “experience”.
If we get this down correctly, the Singularity is around the corner. We will realize that the initial state of the universe is essentially the present state, only subjectively becoming and evolving to new form and function.
The original Singularity cannot be broken, so the universe is still a Singularity, believe it or not. That is why science tends to describe it as quantized, or discrete. The quality of the quanta is the objective aspect of it. Quantities are subjective relatives. So now you know why theory of relativity fails to explain the nature of singularity. It is simply because its nature is non-relative, haha. You also know why religion cannot prove the existence of a universal, single God or Deity. Whatever is observed and related to is by definition relative to the subject, or they are the same. If you hear someone proclaiming to have witnessed God or the Oneness, you s/he is lying. What happened was a subjective response to a particular event, and as I have tried to show here, no event will ever take place without the existence of subjectivity.
Either s/he experienced a relative event, or there was the Enlightening event of pure existence as it objectively is. In such an event, there is no relation between a Me and a God. In ultimate reality, there IS objectively what HAPPENS subjectively. In this scenario, there is just What Happens. It is the event/response of “experience”, without the following event/response of “Me” which is “having” a particular experience. But the subjectivity of this human Enlightenment is there anyway, because it requires the function of human sensory/perception. Of course, everything is enligtenment/enlightened, because light is everywhere, but the response to this EM-radiation will differ among the responding subjects. A rock is enlightened for sure, but as far as we know, the subjective rock-form has not the subjective function of responding to light as “enlightenment”. A rock does exactly what is IS.
And at the most fundamental level, that goes for us human too. That is why “free will” is such a slippery issue. We have this subjective responding “as if” we were separate from the environment. Our responding always comes from a particular place which is approximately to our body. That gives the impression of a localized “me” as the particular responder. This is true as “me” equal to the Being of Responding. My response is, as a matter of fact, always here with my self/body. But the objective response-ability, as an objective function, is not something “I” can control or choose to “have” or “not have”. All subjective Beings of physical essence are as such inevitable forced to respond to whatever input is recieved. Ergo, there is no way to escape this subjective willingness to respond in exactly the way “you” are. Because of this, I usually claim that free will exists as a forced response, and then we might question the concept of freedom to be relevant or just a misconception. I lean towards the latter. But I do not longer argue about free will because no one I know of can accept that reality is neither This, nor That. To the subjective mind, opposites cannot be essentially the same.
But if you are willing to try out such an idea, I will be delighted to help you further. I’m convinced that s/he who does “get it” will readily understand both Strong AI and a physical singularity. As a by product, you might just be Enlightenment knowing itself.