Monday, July 1, 2024

Asking What It's Like to be a Bat is Not Different from Asking What It's Like to be a Trumper

I do not wish to denigrate either bats or Trumpers. I don't know what it's like to be either. Or do I? Visiting a zoo, I have had a feeling of communion with penned or caged animals there. Looking into their eyes, I feel something very akin to what Faggin describes as his experience of cosmic love. Kastrop speaks of a "screen of perception," revealing his fundamental inability to escape fantasies of some sort of interiority to mind. He writes of physical tangible reality as an abstraction, which is a fundamental misuse of the term. 

I, naturally, find conceptual and perceptual reality to be equivalent ontological primitives. Mind and matter are not dualities; opposites separable, severable and distinct. Viz Manzotti, mind does not internalize perceptual reality by way of images stored or otherwise. Mind conceptualizes reality, both in the sense of inception, as well as in the sense of understanding. Mentation does not take place "in" the brain. Indeed there can be no mentation without the existence of percepts all around. The brain, rather, loops perceptions and aggregates them according to various affine qualities.

The brain, to the extent that it can be construed as related to mind, provides conceptual identity to repeated perceptual phenomena. Call them phenomenal fugues, but we know a tiger when we see one, coached by zoos and other tame imagery and imaginaries. Our willful acts are in response to conceptualizations of perceptual reality. The goad to act is emotional. A match is made between conceptual and perceptual reality. Often, we give that match a name.

Indeed, it is the naming which is the brink of consciousness. It is the sharing of concepts by way of language which makes each of us conscious as an identity, also with a name. Well, I should say that lots of animals - all of them, really, are conscious. Yet they don't have minds as such, that we can know of. 

Faggin would grant interiority even to such perceptual primitives as electrons, just because they can't be cloned. But they are not things, and they have no identity, existing not yet until they are perceived. It is their approximate position which can't be replicated. No other can be put there. There is certainly no interiority to any electron I know.

In the wild I can't tell a Trumper from anyone else. But try as I might, I can't see what they see in the man himself. It seems a wild fiction, no different from an AI approximation for a human. I understand that women, or maybe just a woman - let's not generalize - has been seen praying to him. Puhleeze!

I confess that I can't see God either. My mind, wherever it is, can't make God into a person-like creature who minds my business and grants my wishes or tells me what to do. I can't even conceive the nuttiness of creationism. But I know God in my bones, since serendipity is not the toss of a di, like the rock that hit my windshield dead center in my field of vision as I passed under the Peace Bridge yesterday. Wake up!

The so-called hard problem of consciousness doesn't really get any harder just by positing the impossibility to know what it's like to be a bat. We can describe consciousness in almost precisely the same way and with the same precision that we can describe material reality. The problem with consciousness is really not that much different from the problem of prediction at the quantum level. You never can predict what a mind will do until you provoke it. It isn't conscious without communication. A bat communicates as well as a dog does, though I won't be looking for a mind in either. Just because they can't tell me what it's like to be them doesn't mean that I don't know what it's like.

We think we know each other better than we know bats, but that's just batty. Computers destroy the serendipity of life, full stop. That's by definition. Monetization of purchase prediction is the very definition of grift. Non-fiat currency defines anarchy. These things are not that complicated. Trump is at the head of a gargantuan political Ponzi scheme where we all get bankrupted and then he dies. Leaving all the decent people holding the bag. Just like money has no currency without government, politics that doesn't partake of some extension of identity beyond the individual - call it a nation-state, sometimes - is by definition an imperial state.

Sure, all politicians are corrupt for the same reason that so many Ivy Leaguers seem out only for themselves anymore. But there are limits beyond which corruption becomes solipsism, and Trump has crossed them.

We can project love and value onto just about anything at all. But I'm not letting a psychopath drive my kids' school bus, meaning I'm not letting my kids get onto that bus. I wouldn't let Biden drive my kids to school either, but at least I know what it's like to be him. I know what it's like to be a bat a whole lot better than I know what it's like to be Trump. There may be no there there, but if there is I find the man morally repugnant. I can't say that about a bat, icky though it is to touch one. Just like a slimeball, actually, but a live one and not silly putty or its copyrighted replacement Slime(c). (Does that exist anymore?)

Mind gone along with half her body, I still knew that she meant it when Mom told me she loved me on the way out. She made the same connection to each of us, and to her grandchildren. She let us let her go. She told us to. Dad was in a different state when he passed. Still angry that I'd taken his car keys (out of love)? Repentant? Rage and contrition combined, it seemed.

Death is not the end of me any more than my skin is the limit of me. But I don't expect to be talking after I'm gone. And I don't expect you to know me without at least a perceptual connection to a known creature. This essay is not written by a LLM bot, I assure you. 

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