Yesterday, I had an excellent conversation with Peli Grietzer on the subject of qualia and the hard problem of consciousness, and the reasons why some attempts to defuse these problems (e.g., Dennett’s ‘Quining Qualia‘ or his response to Chalmers) leave people who are drawn to the seriousness of these problems cold. I recommend Peli’s work to everyone I know, and even some people I don’t. It’s simultaneously incredibly unique and incredibly timely, trying to unpick issues at the intersection of aesthetics, epistemology, literary theory, and philosophy of mind using the theoretical insights implicit in deep learning systems, particularly auto-encoders.
Peli has come the closest of anyone I know to giving real, mathematical substance to the most ephemeral aspects of human experience: moods, vibes, styles; the implicit gestalts through which we filter the rest of our more explicit and compositional cognitions. Why does being in Berlin have a distinct cognitive texture that’s different from being in London? It’s not any one thing you can put your finger on, but a seamless tapestry of tiny differences that you drink in without needing to reflect on it. So when Peli says that he’s not sure that these most immediate, holistic, and yet nonetheless cognitive features of our experience are being taken seriously, I have no choice but to listen, and to see if there’s another way to articulate my own worries.
This result was probably the best thought experiment I’ve ever managed to articulate, and probably the most concise explanation of my problems with certain styles of thinking in the philosophy of mind. Given that my thoughts here are also in some sense an engagement with Wittgenstein and his legacy, I thought it might be nice to try articulating them in an aphoristic style. Here is the result.
Here’s another Facebook interaction that grew into something interesting, initiated in response to an observation by the incomparable Mark Lance:
I think that this is an interesting observation that I’m sure will feel familiar to anyone who pays attention to politics on FB, either because they use the medium for political communication, because they take a more anthropological approach to the ways this medium is changing the public sphere, or some combination of the two. It’s also something that will be of no surprise to anyone who has encountered the concept of intersectionality, no matter what they think about the evolution of the concept and the debates surrounding it and the cursed concept of ‘identity politics’. I was also not aware of Liam‘s post on the fallacy he calls ‘political omega-inconsistency‘, and I was absolutely delighted to learn about it. However, I was interested in articulating a slightly different sort of fallacious reasoning, and how it is involved in this phenomena of ‘one dimensionalism’ that Mark was putting his finger on:
So, I switched to the official twitter app, and then once more failed to understand how it handles threading: my mistake was assuming that ‘add tweet’ meant ‘add tweet to thread‘ in this context. Apparently not.
Regardless, I’ve realised that it’s actually quite good practice to transfer some of my better social media contributions here, if only so I don’t lose them to the endless Heraclitean river of online content. For a while now I’ve been posting fragments of older writing under the heading of One from the Archives (OftA), so I’m going to tag these more spontaneous outbursts Thoughts from Elsewhere (TfE). Here’s the first one, about conceptualising freedom in the age of information.
It seems that I never feel so old as when I try to use twitter. I’ll be turning thirty-four on Tuesday, but returning to twitter after the better part of a year makes me feel like a man out of time, as if I’d gone to sleep and woken up in another decade. It seems that the twitter client I have on my phone won’t handle either the new expanded character limit, or the new threading mechanism, and storify is apparently no more.
So much for micro-blogging then.
Here’s tonights stream of twitter thoughts, compiled into a reasonably coherent sequence. It provides a glimpse of the bigger picture work I’ve been doing in philosophy of logic and mathematics over the last few years, which finally seems to be coalescing to the point at which I can be a bit aphoristic about it. I’ve taken the liberty of inserting a few links to make explicit what I’m referring to.