Quark Central

The Road to Reality

Roger Penrose, in his The Road to Reality, provides us with the above image illustrating the deep connections he perceives. Each of the circles can be interpreted as "worlds": The Platonic Mathematical, Physical, and Mental. A small portion of the Platonic Mathematical World "instantiates" the Physical World (as shown by the cone segment emanating from the Platonic Mathematical). In turn, the Physical instantiates the Mental, and the Mental instantiates the Platonic Mathematical. He writes:

Thus the entire physical world is depicted as being governed according to mathematical laws. ... On this view, everything in the physical universe is indeed governed in completely precise detail by mathematical principles. ... If this is right, then even our own physical actions would be entirely subject to such ultimate mathematical control, where ‘control’ might still allow for some random behaviour governed by strict probabilistic principles. ... I have represented the entire Platonic world to be within the compass of mentality. This is intended to indicate that—at least in principle—there are no mathematical truths that are beyond the scope of reason. ... it remains a deep puzzle why mathematical laws should apply to the world with such phenomenal precision. Moreover, it is not just the precision but also the subtle sophistication and mathematical beauty of these successful theories that is profoundly mysterious. There is also an undoubted deep mystery in how it can come to pass that appropriately organized physical material—and here I refer specifically to living human (or animal) brains—can somehow conjure up the mental quality of conscious awareness.

This is an interpretation that speaks to me. In my own thinking about "what is going on", I recognize three deeps mysteries: (1) The Big Bang. How is it that from something infinitesimal, a whole universe, as we perceive it, can arise? (2) The emergence of life. How is it that from inanimate matter, evolution happens to instantiate life as we know it? (3) The emergence of consciousness. How is it that life, once it begins, evolves to instantiate what we know and feel as consciousness?

In my view, having accepted that The Big Bang is the best explanation for the emergence of what we perceive as the interactions of matter and energy, how then, through the process of evolution, did life begin? It is no simple thing for such a thing to arise, and we have no coherent explanation for it. Similarly, evolution can be accepted as the driver for future change in the forms of life, but then, how do we explain consciousness? Consciousness is not a mere form of life; it is something different, something much more mysterious than what the evolution of life forms can account for.

The Road to Reality is an attempt to synthesize what we already know, and there is much in the book I do not understand and do not know. But it seems clear that mathematics, as written in the Wikipedia article about The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences, plays an inordinate part in explaining the mystery of consciousness:

Wigner begins his paper with the belief, common among those familiar with mathematics, that mathematical concepts have applicability far beyond the context in which they were originally developed. Based on his experience, he says "it is important to point out that the mathematical formulation of the physicist's often crude experience leads in an uncanny number of cases to an amazingly accurate description of a large class of phenomena". He then invokes the fundamental law of gravitation as an example. Originally used to model freely falling bodies on the surface of the earth, this law was extended on the basis of what Wigner terms "very scanty observations" to describe the motion of the planets, where it "has proved accurate beyond all reasonable expectations".

There is something deeply mysterious about mathematics and its ability to describe the universe.

The Idea of the World

The Idea of the World is a book by Bernardo Kastrup, in which he describes his conception of the "mental nature of reality". He provides an "ontological solution to the mind-body problem".

In Chapter 5, Kastrup lays out the basic tenets of his ideas:

The Basic Facts of Reality

Fact 1: There are tight correlations between a person's reported private experiences and the observed brain activity of the person.

Fact 2: We all seem to inhabit the same universe.

Fact 3: Reality normally unfolds according to patterns and regularities - that is, the laws of nature - independent of personal volition.

Fact 4: Macroscopic physical entities can be broken down into microscopic constituent segments, such as subatomic particles.

Unpacking the Basic Facts

Fact 5: Irrespective of the ontological status of what we call 'a person', there is that which experiences (TWE).

Fact 6: A person has private experiences that can only be known by others if the person reports them, for other people do not have direct access to these private experiences.

Fact 7: The brain activity of a person is known only insofar as its observation is experienced in the form of perceptions.

Fact 8: From Facts 1 and 7, there are tight correlations between two types of experience: (a) conscious perceptions of a person's brain activity and (b) private experiences of the person.

Fact 9: A brain has the same essential nature - that is, it belongs to the same ontological class - as the rest of the universe.

Deriving an Idealist Ontology from the Basic Facts

Inference 1: The most parsimonious and least problematic ontological underpinning for Fact 5 is that TWE and experience are of the same essential nature. More specifically, experience is a pattern of excitation of TWE.

Inference 2: TWE is an ontological primitive, uncaused and irreducible.

Inference 3: TWE is associated with the entire universe.

Inference 4: There is a sense in which living organisms are alters of unitary TWE.

Inference 5: Metabolizing organisms are the extrinsic appereance of alters of TWE.

Inference 6: The perceptions of an alter are reducible to the experiences of TWE that impinge on the alter from the outside.

Explaining the Basic Facts of Reality

Explanation 1: Let us start by noticing that, from an empirical perspective, there is nothing to Fact 1 that is not captured in Fact 8. Therefore, by explaining Fact 8 we also explain Fact 1. From Inference 6, for any given alter A1 of TWE, it is the experiences surrounding A1 that cause its perceptions of the world around it. Naturally, dissociated experiences corresponding to another alter A2 can be part of the experiential environment surrounding A1. As such, the inner experiences of A2 can also indirectly stimulate A1's boundary - by impinging on their shared experiential environment - and thereby cause A1's perceptions of A2. This is what gives A1 an extrinsic view of the inner experiences of A2 in the form of A2's metabolizing body (Inference 5). And since A2's brain is an integral part of its body, it follows that A2's inner experiences cause the perception by A1 of the activity in A2's brain. This causal link explains Fact 8 and, therefore, Fact 1.

Six Months of Postal Mail

Start Date: Friday, 27 November 2020

Asking For Money [267]

African Wildlife Foundation (2)

Alley Cat Allies (12)

Alley Cat Rescue (6)

American Anti-Vivisection Society (5)

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (11)

Animal Equality (1)

Animal League of America (1)

Animal Legal Defense Fund (9)

Animal Welfare League of Arlington (2)

Arbor Day Foundation (1)

Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue (2)

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (2)

Best Friends Animal Society (8)

Blue Ridge Area Food Bank (1)

Central Union Mission (1)

Curtis Yarlott (1)

Defenders of Animal Rights (3)

Defenders of Wildlife (16)

Doris Day Animal League (1)

Environmental Defense Fund (1)

Farm Sanctuary (7)

Food and Friends (2)

Food for the Poor (1)

Friends of Homeless Animals (1)

Fund for Animals (9)

Greenpeace (3)

Guide Dogs for the Blind (9)

Guiding Eyes for the Blind (12)

Guide Dog Foundation (4)

Humane Farming Association (2)

Humane League (1)

Humane Rescue Alliance (2)

Humane Society of Fairfax County (7)

Humane Society of the United States (7)

Humane Society International (4)

Humane Society Legislative Fund (2)

In Defense of Animals (2)

International Animal Rescue (1)

International Fund for Animal Welfare (9)

Ironwoood Pig Sanctuary (1)

Last Chance for Animals (1)

March of Dimes (1)

Mercy for Animals (1)

NAMI Northern Virginia (1)

National Audubon Society (1)

National Wildlife Federation (8)

Nature Conservancy (3)

North Shore Animal League (3)

Ocean Conservancy (1)

Old Dominion University (1)

Orphan Acres (1)

Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue (1)

People for the American Way (3)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (9)

Pet Partners (2)

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (7)

Planned Parenthood (6)

Red Rover (6)

Reservation Animal Rescue (5)

Rise for Animals (3)

Salvation Army (1)

Salesian Missions (1)

Sierra Club (3)

Southern Poverty Law Center (2)

St. Jude's Children's Hospital (2)

University of Colorado (4)

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (1)

UUCF (1)

Virginia State Police Association (1)

WAMU (1)

WETA (1)

White Coat Waste Project (2)

Wilderness Society (2)

World Animal Protection (1)

World Wildlife Fund (7)

Wounded Soldier Project (1)

Sales Pitch / Solicitation [104]

AARP (1)

American Automobile Association (4)

American Express National Bank (1)

American Home Shield (1)

Anthem Healthkeepers (2)

Apartments.com (2)

Ashley Leigh (2)

Bed Bath & Beyond (3)

Beltone (1)

Best Pick Reports (1)

C3 Inc (1)

Cardinal Park (1)

Catster (1)

CK Residential (2)

Cheryl's Cookies (1)

Citibank (1)

Clipper (2)

CU Alumni Association (4)

Delta Dental (3)

Dominion Energy Solutions (1)

Economist (2)

Ford Motor Co. (1)


George Mason University (1)

Harry and David (1)

Hickory Farms (1)

House Buyers of America (6)

Hyundai (2)

Kaiser Permanente (1)

Liberty Mutual Insurance (2)

Low VA Rates LLC (2)

M&T Bank (1)

MarketPro Homebuyers (3)

National Processing Center (1)

Navy Federal Credit Union (3)

Neibauer Dental Care (1)

Nissan (1)

Progressive (1)

Pure Insurance (2)

Renewal by Anderson (1)

Sirius XM (1)

Spear Realty Group (1)

Terry McAuliffe (1)

T-Mobile (1)

United Airlines (3)

United Healthcare via AARP (1)

USAA (2)

Valpak (5)

Vanguard (2)

Viking Cruises (13)

WashMyDeck.com (1)

Washington Gas (1)

Webquotes (1)

Weichert Realtors (1)

Whirlpool Corporation (1)

Providing Information [84]

American Management of Virginia (1)

Associa Community Management (2)

County of Fairfax Tax (2)

County of Loudoun Tax (7)

Defenders of Wildlife (1)

Fairfax County Public Schools (1)

Franklin Templeton (7)

GE Pension (2)

Guide Dog Foundation (1)

Hyundai Piston Engine Settlement (1)

Kaiser Permanente (4)

Loudoun County Public Schools (1)

ME Flow (1)

National Realty Partners (4)

Navy Federal Credit Union (3)

POA Management Associates (1)

Social Security Administration (3)

Sporty's Pilot Shop (1)

Summit Mgmt Services (1)

TD Ameritrade (14)

Terry McAuliffe (2)

USAA (19)

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (1)

Vanguard (1)

Virginia Retirement System (3)

Product Delivery [58]

All Filters (1)

C&B Property Management (6)

Department of Motor Vehicles (1)

East Angel Friends (1)

Fairfax County Public Schools (1)

George Mason University (1)

Lowe's (2)

Lithium Ion Antitrust (1)

M. B. Supplier (1)

Navy Federal Credit Union (2)

Netflix (34)

Oak Marr HOA (2)

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (1)

Riverview at Lansdowne (1)

Treebrooke Condo Association (1)

University of Colorado (1)

US Department of Transportation (1)

Personal [16]

Business Associate (1)

Carol (2)

Dan (1)

Debbie (2)

Elena (1)

Jeff (1)

Jeni (1)

Joy (1)

Karen (1)

MC (1)

POA Management Associates (1)

UUCF (1)

Vera (2)

Favorite Quotes

I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations — one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both.

--- Søren Kierkegaard

In addition to my other numerous acquaintances, I have one more intimate confidant… My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known — no wonder, then, that I return the love.

--- Søren Kierkegaard

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.

--- Friedrich Nietzsche

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

--- Johann Goethe

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

--- J. Krishnamurti

The victor will always be the judge, and the vanquished the accused.

--- Hermann Goering

... but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.

--- Hannah Arendt

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum reveals that faith does not prove anything.

--- Friedrich Nietzsche

Ninety percent of the time things will turn out worse than you expect. The other 10 percent of the time you had no right to expect so much.

--- Norman Augustine

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

--- Neil Postman

I have my opinions and beliefs, and I’ve engaged in more than my share of futile arguments. As far as I know, I’ve never changed anybody’s mind about anything. People believe what they want to believe and then find things that support and justify their beliefs.

--- Steven Papier

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.

--- Carl Sagan

Wer etwas will, findet Wege, wer etwas nicht will, findet Gründe.

--- Jim Rohn

The really dangerous American fascist... is the man who wants do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power... They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective, toward which all their deceit is directed, is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

--- Henry Wallace, New York Times, April 9, 1944

You're looking for three things, generally, in a person: intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don't have the last one, don't even bother with the first two.

--- Warren Buffet

The avocation of assessing the failures of better men can be turned into a comfortable livelihood, providing you back it up with a Ph.D.

-- Nelson Algren, "Writers at Work"

Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.

― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.

― Isaac Asimov

We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

― H.L. Mencken, Minority Report

If you do not respect your own wishes, no one else will. You will simply attract people who disrespect you as much as you do.

― Vironika Tugaleva