Understanding physical properties of the world

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Understanding physical properties of the world

Postby Graeme M on August 10th, 2019, 7:14 pm 

I am having an extended discussion with a researcher and we have hit an impasse. I am worried that it is my understanding of the way we describe the world that is at fault. My question is simple enough - am I on the right track with my general interpretation.

Consider sound or color. These are analogs of actual physical properties of the world. Vibrational patterns in a medium such as the air trigger resonant vibrations in our eardrum which in turn cause electrochemical responses in the neurons in our brains. These responses are analogs of the external patterns. Something the same happens for light - EMR at particular wavelengths causes proportional responses from retinal cells which in turn generate electrochemical patterns in the brain. These patterns are analogs for the external patterns of EMR. The fundamental point though is that both sound and color are internal analogs - the external features themselves do not have sound or color.

Put another way, red and middle C are things we experience, sound waves at 261 hertz and electromagnetic radiation at 700nm are physical features that trigger those experiences. The former is simply an analog of the latter and seems to be purely a feature of the brain's processing. No-one would suggest that red and middle C really exist out in the world.

Have I got this more or less right?
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Re: Understanding physical properties of the world

Postby zetreque on August 10th, 2019, 7:47 pm 

That's like asking the question, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, did it actually make a sound? I believe it does because I am not so arrogant to think that the world only exists if I am there to experience it.
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Re: Understanding physical properties of the world

Postby Graeme M on August 10th, 2019, 7:51 pm 

Well, I would say if no organism that can "hear" is around, then no, it didn't make a sound...
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Re: Understanding physical properties of the world

Postby zetreque on August 10th, 2019, 7:57 pm 

Graeme M » Sat Aug 10, 2019 4:51 pm wrote:Well, I would say if no organism that can "hear" is around, then no, it didn't make a sound...


What about other trees or rocks? They feel the same vibrations from a tree falling? That is sound.
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Re: Understanding physical properties of the world

Postby zetreque on August 10th, 2019, 8:01 pm 

Perhaps you need to differentiate a waveform from an experience. They are two different things but could be confused. 700nm aka red and middle C exist if you are there to experience it or not.
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Re: Understanding physical properties of the world

Postby Graeme M on August 10th, 2019, 8:07 pm 

That's the distinction I am getting at. Vibrations are caused by some event but must travel through a medium. Other objects in that medium can resonate in sympathy. Our eardrums do that. They do not in the absence of a medium. But the waves themselves are physical events and their explanation is, I believe, exhausted by a description of their physical properties (which science can do to some extent). But a wave pattern in the atmosphere at a frequency of 261 hertz is not middle C without a human brain to interpret it. There is, as far as I know, nothing about the properties of a 261 hertz sound wave that makes it sound like middle C. Middle C is a result of something in our brains, not something in the sound waves.

What I am trying to tease out is that when we describe the universe, descriptions of subective events like sound and color are descriptions of something in our brain, whereas descriptions of the objective physical features are descriptions of the actual events themselves (up to a point of course - I said I was ignoring the measurement problem).

That is, we know that while middle C is a subjective analog for sound waves at 261 hertz that requires me to "hear" them, sound waves at 261 hertz are physical events that exist independent of our presence.
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Re: Understanding physical properties of the world

Postby zetreque on August 10th, 2019, 8:15 pm 

Humans define certain wavelenths as terms or words like Red or middle C. They are one in the same and exist as far as I would say.
Different organism might experience wavelengths differently depending on how their biology is setup.

Things exist, and then there are experiences we have from things which are basically recordings over time. Humans can recall those recordings and learn from them. Each individual organism will record something slightly different because no two situations or points in space with the same exact factors are the same.

On a side note: this topic is what bothers me when people say they like to use their money for experiences and not things. I find this statement to be ridiculous because you can't have experiences without things. You often buy, rent or barrow things to have experiences.
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Re: Understanding physical properties of the world

Postby Graeme M on August 10th, 2019, 8:27 pm 

Yes, but you are agreeing with me I think? Red and middle C depend for their content upon the organism's nervous system. The organism is triggered by the external event to generate some internal analog. So what we call middle C is a description of something in our brains. The objective features of the external world exist regardless, and do not contain anything called middle C or red. I know this is getting philosophical, what I am getting at is whether or not I am right to say that external phenomena do not contain any subjective properties in and of themselves.
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Re: Understanding physical properties of the world

Postby zetreque on August 10th, 2019, 8:38 pm 

Graeme M » Sat Aug 10, 2019 5:27 pm wrote:I know this is getting philosophical, what I am getting at is whether or not I am right to say that external phenomena do not contain any subjective properties in and of themselves.


If if you define "red" as s subjective factor, and the average human (not a color blind one) sees "red" then one could say that 690nm contains a subjective property of red for humans. Most humans will experience the subjective property of red.

Just define a part of the spectrum as red and you don't have to worry about any of this. It makes the whole question mute. Do some animals see red. If red is defined as Xnm to Xnm then yes they do and it exists.

Like with money buying experiences, experiences and physical things are so linked that for organisms (or even non living objects in relation to one another) one can't exist without the other.
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Re: Understanding physical properties of the world

Postby TheVat on August 10th, 2019, 8:53 pm 

Graeme:

I think you are adequately distinguishing between qualia and external reality. Red is a quale, which a brain produces. It is the "felt" aspect of conscious perception. 680 nm EMF is the external reality. Or our best attempt at an objective description of it. Middle C is an arbitrary assignment of significance, based on a human artifact, to a sound wave of around 256 Hz (I've heard Europeans tend to go a little sharper, so yes, it could be 261 Hz where you are). The way it sounds to us is the quale. Sound, defined as something heard, is a quale. Sound, defined as compressions of air, is not.

Wetness is a quale, "loose intermolecular bonds that permit molecules to rapidly migrate within a substrate" is the more objective account.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qualia/
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Re: Understanding physical properties of the world

Postby Dave_C on August 11th, 2019, 11:23 am 

Hi Graeme, Good to see you again... I do of course, agree entirely with what you're saying. It may help to point out to this person you're referring to that:
1) Light (ie: the EM spectrum) for example, produces a chemical reaction in a neuron called a cone which can then produce an action potential in that neuron (neuron fires). That neuron interacts with others, each of them firing in response. Neuroscience models these firings using what they call "compartment models" and can model many millions of neurons (compartments) as they interact with one another just like a circuit in a computer. So the experience involved is only an analog as you say of the actual light wavelength just as measurements of light wavelength can be produced by a camera. The same holds true of course for sound waves and the neurons that generate those signals.
2) Birds have 4 cones to our 3 and can distinguish between wavelengths that we can't. They assumedly have an experience of color that we don't have even though the color they see is produced by a spectrum of light that we can see. Hence, the same spectrum produces different experiences depending on the biology.
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