Comment by Don Salmon (don-salmon) on Can solipsism be disproven? · 2023-09-20T13:34:09.647Z · LW · GW

I arrived at your page because I was looking for a way to talk to people about the difficulty of knowing if you’re awake or dreaming. Almost everyone assumes it’s quite obvious - dreams are, well, dreamy, details aren’t filled in, etc.  It seems to me that none of the arguments I hear against solipsism would be helpful in the solipsistic state of false awakenings. 

It seems that most people are not familiar with the experience of repeated false awakenings (that is, you “wake up” and assume you’re awake, but something odd happens and you realize you were still dreaming; in a series of such false awakenings, it may happen 4, 5 or more times)

I’ve never heard an argument that would actually be helpful in a series of false awakenings. If I met you in one of those dreams, none of your arguments would help me. The whole idea “if I’m talking to you it means I “believe’ there’s someone else” wouldn’t help at all. Many times, I’ve had false awakenings where I’ve talked to someone and told them I wasn’t sure if I was awake or dreaming. They assured me I was awake, and then I’d actually wake up and realize it was a character in my dream I was talking to.

Another common statement is “Well, if you’re questioning whether you’re awake or not, you must be dreaming.” I can only assume that people who say this have never had a VERY realistic series of false awakenings. 

Quite often, on the 4th or 5th apparent awakening, you’re still questioning, looking around, not sure whether or not you’re dreaming. In one case I had not so long ago, it was at least 5 minutes before I was convinced I was actually awake - and I was quite intensely questioning everything I experienced during that period that turned out to be a wakeful one, not a dream.

Recently I came up with another approach which I found gave people more of a concrete sense of why it’s so difficult to discern the difference. I referred to Bertrand Russell’s experience of having what he claimed were nearly 100 sequential false awakenings. 

Russell is widely recognized as one of the great mathematicians of the 20th century, at least a well respected philosopher, and is also known for his refutation of solipsism. 

So obviously, no philosophic argument was able to help him when he was in the midst of his 20th or 60th false awakening. 

So I’d love to hear - is there anything you can think of that Russell hadn’t thought of, that you think could have helped him determine if he was awake or in the solipsistic state of dreaming?

Comment by Don Salmon (don-salmon) on Book Review: How Minds Change · 2023-06-01T02:47:03.931Z · LW · GW

Very interesting, many fascinating points, but also much misunderstanding of the nature of IQ tests and their relationship to the question of "intelligence."

As a clinical psychologist (full disclosure - with an IQ above the one mentioned in the post) who has administered over two thousand IQ tests, AND conducted research on various topics, I can tell you, the one thing for certain (apart from the near-universal replicability crisis in psychology) is that psychologists to date have no conception as well, obviously, no way of measuring any kind of 'general" intelligence (no, the "g" factor does NOT represent general intelligence)

IQ does, however, measure a certain kind of "intelligence," which one might refer to as quantitative rather than qualitative. It manifests most clearly in the "thinking" of "philosophers" like Daniel Dennett, who consciously deny the experience of consciousness.

Since virtually every scientific experiment ever conducted begins with experience (not measurable, empirical data, but the kind of radical empiricism, or experiential data, that William James spoke of), to deny consciousness is to deny science.

yet, that is what much of transhumanism is about, itself a form of quantitative, analytic, detached thought.

if you want to do some really hard thinking, here's two questions:

1. What does "physical" mean (and I'm not looking for the usual tautological answer of "it's what physics studies")


Be careful - it took a well respected and much published philosophy professor 6 months to come up with the acknowledgement that nobody knows what it means, only what it negates.... see if you can do better!)

2. (this is ONLY to be pondered after successfully answering #1). Describe in quite precise terms what kind of scientific experiment could be conducted to provide evidence (not proof, just evidence) of something purely physical, which exists entirely apart from, independent of, any form of sentience, intelligence, awareness, consciousness, etc)

Comment by Don Salmon (don-salmon) on The Hard Problem of Magic · 2022-03-01T16:52:57.451Z · LW · GW

One could write this entire essay and substitute the word "physical" and it would actually mean something.

On the other hand, as used by the writer, "Magic" has no meaning.   

In striking contrast to using "magic" in a meaningless way," and using "physical" as physicalists use it - which is more than meaningless but rather, a statement of pure, blind belief - without consciousness there would be no writer no net, no universe - at least, no knowledge of it. 

Comment by Don Salmon (don-salmon) on Book Review: Being You by Anil Seth · 2022-03-01T16:49:49.503Z · LW · GW

Do you have a definition of the word "physical" as used in physicalism?