A Demonstration of the Ontological Contradiction of Reflexive Perception

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Many arguments claiming the necessary non-materiality of some aspect of consciousness rest upon the assertion of the incorrigibility of experience. Conscious experiences are the first, final and ultimately only existential truths we have access to. We cannot know anything from whether we are hot or cold to reading the instrumentat readings from the Large Hadron Collider and calculating probabilities therefrom to identify the Higgs boson without such necessarily being mediated through our conscious perception.

But that all of our knowledge derives from our conscious perception does not imply that all of our conscious perception is necessarily valid at its most intimate.

The crypto-dualist philosophers will concede that the "content" of conscious experiences may be false or misleading but assert that there is a core nature of experience which must be considered incorrigible.

This essay refutes that by demonstrating that the presentation of knowledge at the most intimate core of phenomenal perceptions necessarily contain an irreconcilable contradiction. Two states of being presentations of all conscious percepts which are both, by definition, present and immanent in all such perceptions which are indisputabley, undeniably and mutually contradictory. One or (both) of them must be wrong. And catastrophically so so far as an ontological purity of incorrigible reality of conscious perception goes.

In other words it's easy to show that the "incorrigible" nature of conscious perception is itself not only false, but positively misleading.

To have a conscious perception X is to be fully aware of X. Whether X is the robin that just flew across the yard outside your window, the balance of your checkbook that you've just finished mentally calculating or the puddle on the road ahead. For any perception or any discernable part of an experience, there is something X that such perception is about other than the perception itself.

Now X is an objective thing in the world about which objective information can be had.. Leaving aside as pure semantics whether "knowledge" must be valid to be labeled "knowledge" the X is presented to us as information ABOUT something. Let's call that "representation" (little) x. There really was a bird out there. And there certainly is money in your checking account. But the knowledge x need not be true of the real world entity X! The bird could be a large wren that as it flew by was illuminated by something reddish reflecting upon it. You could have made an error in your mental arithmetic. The puddle could be merely, as is common in dry summertime, deep shadow and the glistening of myriads of tiny oil droplets on the road within that shadow. Or it could, and in fact most often is, exactly what we perceive as that knowledge. Right or wrong is not at issue. Merely that there is a presentation x of information about something X whether x properly reflects the world state of X and its relations or not.

But there is another element to every conscious awareness or percept. You are also aware that YOU ARE AWARE OF KNOWING X which is really x. That's really hard to dispute, I think. It does not deny that there are things you know, that your senses have been exposed to, that YOU don't become aware of until later. But for those X's you are aware of as x, your real state at some point in time of having x, is an objective reality Y. It is not "conscious" until YOU are aware of yourself knowing that X which is itself a representation of Y, aka y That is perhaps the clearest delineation of a conscious percept. That you are aware of yourself knowing about the percept of X. But in that state you don't know X, and you don't really know that you yourself know X. You know 'y'.. your representation of yourself as knowing, that is having a representation of X. So by now we've elaborated that ALL YOU CAN BE AWARE OF IN CONSCIOUSNESS IS A SECOND ORDER REPRESENTATION.

At the point you have consciousness of some perception you have had, you do NOT have consciousness of the object of your perception. You have consciousness of yourself having some consciousness of some objective object. It can't go farther as a recurrent representation of yourself as knowing something is still the same kind of thing even if has differing decompositable attributes. If you've understood this so far, you now have a picture in your mind of yourself as having representations of representations of representations and can take that as far as you have mental faculties to allow. But at each additional level all you are thinking about is still a second order representation no matter how deeply nested or even if a "weak" reference recurrent reference, it's still the same kind of thing!

All your consciousness are not representations of things, but representations of representations of things. And ergo all new ideas that enter consciousness are the same kinds of things even if they purport to be representations of other things they are still in and of being objects of consciousness, representations of representations.

I'll welcome discourse disputing that, but I don't see how, for anything resembling what we mean by the simple and overt terminology, that can be disputed. In point of fact it's fairly obvious that what the crypto-dualists are asserting is the incorrigibility of an object of consciousness is simply that it can be regeneratively referenced again. But it's still a second order representation, and as a representation NOT the object being represented. There always a shortfall of information in a representation; it cannot have as much information about its object as can be gained from the object, unless that information is spurious, i. e. not demonstrably true.

The problem begins with the fact that the reality of a thing, the representation of it, and the representation of yourself knowing it, are all radically DIFFERENT pieces of information. And everything in your consciousness has been abstracted at least twice. The integrity of the information is VERY dubious. The robin (or wren) would have flown had you not been looking. The puddle would (or not) be there had you not been on that road. The balance in your checkbook is what it is, and the bank will let you know unpleasantly should you have over-calculated it. But your actions are predicated on Y! Whether you take a shotgun out back to teach the robin that it's rude to start singing gustily at 4:30 in the morning, whether you have dinner at Morton's or McDonalds, or whether you hit the brake or not.

The fact that all perceptions in consciousness are of the same form, second order representations, and thus fully fungible, and always incomplete and often and easily fallacious accounts for virtually all the historically outstanding philosophical issues of consciousness.

The only questions remaining are the "really hard problem" of how is it implemented and how do human brains integrate it's facilities with the process of learning and adapting to the sensory world.

(TODO .... finish)


from http://www.the-brights.net/forums/forum/index.php?/topic/10735-the-philosophers-brain/&do=findComment&comment=269873


Except that you have not addressed my previously formulated demonstration of the ontological contradiction of reflexive perception.

You are *consciously* aware of X. To be conscously aware of X is to be consciously aware (even without protracted introspection) that you are aware of X.

These are TWO DISTINCT AND RADICALLY DIFFERENT pieces of information. Your perception of X is not "of its own kind" and separately distinguished from your perception of perceiving X.

And yet your perception of X is *perceived as* indepedent of you ... a wholly external reality (for "immanent" sense percept, and as self part but not intrinsic for memorial or imaginative percept),

Everybody's self describable and commonly described EXPERIENCE of conscious perception PRESENTS its own simultaneously contradictory view in each conscious instant. It's (partially) illusory nature is part of its very existence reaffirmed and confirmable in every conscious introspective instant.

You cannot deny the perception that you *perceive* your thoughts as separate and controlled by "you" ... and yet they are NOT external to you and cannot perceive the thought without the perception of perceiving it.

ALL and continuously all introspective representations ARE (in part) misrepresentations.

You tell me, Myron, have philosophers noticed this self contradiction in the nature of perception? (I'm sure they have ... while I can't think of a specific cite I'm quite certain I've read at least glancing mentions of it). Why is this obvious malrepresentation of introspective "knowledge" not front and center in philosophical discussions of consciousness?

It fits very well with materialist representations generally and EXTREMELY well with HOT models.

But of course it (in and of itself!) contradicts those upholding the incorrigibility of phenomenal experience.

-- TWZ