Murkywaters discussion #5:A spring afternoon in the park....Murkywaters and his students

Murkywaters runs into the students on the weekend. The scene is a large city park. Professor Murkywaters is sitting on a bench reading in preparation for a coming molecular philosophy lecture. His favorite pair of students are out for a bike ride and spot him. They ride up.

On: Hey! Prof. Murkywaters! Can we interrupt?

De: Yeah, is it all right?

Murky: More than alright. I need to get out of my own thoughts for a bit. What's on your mind?

On: Well, actually, it is my mind that's on my mind.

De: Yeah, I think he is going bonkers!

Murky: Hmmm. Haven't seen him look better in a long time. Seems like he's made a discovery.

On: Well, I have been struggling with the modeling relation idea. At first it sounded kind of far-fetched. Especially as a picture of how we do thinking kinds of things like science. But as I think about it, more and more mental activities begin to fit. Let's see if this makes sense. You talked about the modeling relation in terms of the "Natural System" and things outside of us. But it seems equally true that we handle stuff we "imagine" the same way. And not everyone is prepared to use math as the "Formal System".

Murky: My, you HAVE been doing some thinking! Yes, you begin to struggle with the very nature of the self and consciousness. It is entirely possible that consciousness was born out of the need to model the external world!

De: Whoa! Now there is a big leap! How can that be?

Murky: What do you suppose the first formal system was?

On: I'd say it had to be language. Primitive, but language. It probably was associated with pictures first and then sounds.

De: This is all useless speculation!

Murky: Hmmm! A waste of good brain power? We could be solving equations?

De: Or at least doing science!

On: Now that sounds snobbish! Thoughts about consciousness are not scientific?

De: No! how can you be objective if you are involved?

Murky: Sounds like an dilemma. Can we be both subject and object?

De: Of course not! I just thought a thought which I will never reveal to you. How can you then study my thoughts? How can you even know they exist? Come on. That's why we stick to what we can posit and then subject to the scientific method.

Murky: It sure sounds safer. On: And a lot duller!

De: To each his own. NOW you know why soft science is so mushy!

Murky: Lets see if there is a way out of this? We can't measure your hidden thought. We, in fact, have only one way at it! Persuasion.

On: We have to convince her to give it to us? She could lie. Maybe science does have to stop here. We can't know if she is cooperating or if she is fooling us.

De: Finally you guys see the light.

Murky: Well, maybe. I won't give up yet. You can have your precious thought. I have other goals anyway. I simply want to understand what the process is. We already have learned quite a bit from your thought even though you won't give it to us. I begin to construct a formal system to deal with the problem as I see it.

De: Yeah, right! The Professor is always right.

On: No, wait, I am doing it too! I am constructing my own formal system. I have this picture of a system of "self-contained" stuff which is basically a unit. This unit can opt to interact with things outside itself. As it does so, it develops symbols and propositions which constitute a primitive formal system. Bang! There is consciousness, imagination, and the beginnings of intellect. If the unit runs into another being with similar characteristics, it eventually probes around to see if these symbols have any effect on the other. Sooner or later, that establishes a connection. The units now share a model. In this way, one unit can alter another irreversibly. This modeling relation IS at the core of what we do!

De: That sounds awfully simplistic. It is not testable. Pure fantasy. And I STILL have my secret thought.

Murky: Yes and WE KNOW that you have it because you, the impenetrable unit we call De, has TOLD us about it over and over again! That helps us construct a formal system which is forced to conform to the acknowledgment that units exist which function in such a way that we can ONLY learn about the unitary function through certain aspects of that function....through connections.

De is smiling broadly and begins to laugh: Hah! You really took the bait that time! THERE WAS NO SECRET THOUGHT! (more laughter).

On: Very funny! Ok Professor, have we been had?

Murky: De, are you sure you believe that? You mean there was no content in this so-called thought. But indeed you were talking about an entity and we understood what that entity was supposed to be like. We seem to share a formal system called language which worked very well. We now all can know what is meant by the "empty thought". How do we share this? We establish connections via language and then construct metaphors. Metaphors are special cases of the modeling relation. Analogs are also. Where we get stuck is with our old friend Kurt Goedel.

On: What does Goedel have to do with it?

De: Oh sure! I see! The formal system is either inconsistent or else incomplete. Something is left out. The formal system will not tell us about itself completely, we will always need to step outside. And, Ta-ra-ta! I win!

Murky: But it is a hollow victory as I see it. We have already conceded that the only things about the unit WE can learn are through connections. BUT THE UNIT is even worse off. It is "forced" to probe its own nature through others. Now we have a new step in our construction. There may be another formal system made up of units which are interconnected! It may allow us to learn more, but still not everything.

On: But it does mean that we can't ever come up with a way of knowing "everything" about the unit! Hmmmmmmm! (He looks at De) I am not so sure that it's all that bad! There is room for mystery in all this.

De: Well, I'm still not sure I see the point of all this.

Murky: Well, surely you didn't expect to solve it all here in the park on such a lovely day. Remember that Emily Dickinson said it like this:

The brain is wider than the sky

For, put them side by side,

The one the other will include

With ease, and you beside.

On is still looking at De: It IS a nice day ....lets peddle down to the river and sit on the bank.

De: (smiling back) Ok...that sounds nice! We have a lunch packed.

Murky: (more or less to himself) Something yells me we will have to go over this again! Good-byes are said and the students peddle off together.

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