Ep. 29 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Getting to the Depths of Relevance Realization

topic

discussion

my notes

  • Centrality of Relevance Realization
  • Want to come up with a naturalistic explanation of it
  • Use it to explain many of the features essential to human spirituality/meaning making/wisdom
  • Series of arguments point to centrality of RR:
    • Problem solving: search space, combinatorial explosion -> problem framing -> zero in on relevant information
    • Problem solving key to intelligence
    • Ill-definedness problem -> relevance -> insight, often solve a problem by altering problem formulation, re-determining what is relevant
    • Categorization: depends on judgment of similarity -> logical similarity vs. psychological similarity (comparison in terms of relevant features) -> aspect: set of relevant features cohere together, relevant to us
    • Convergence argument, divergence argument - balance between them
    • Communication: have to convey more than you can say
    • Robotics: interaction with environment, being an agent, proliferation of side effects - have to zoom in on relevant side effects
    • Convergence argument: function of consciousness, doing relevance realization
    • Working memory: relevance filter, screen off irrelevant information
    • Powerful convergence argument, centrality of relevance realization as:
      • Constituative of intelligence/cognitive agency
      • Contributory to existence as conscious being
    • RR: may explain fundamental aspect of meaning lost in the meaning crisis, sense of connectedness
    • Relevance is that sense of connectedness
    • Deep connection between relevance and agency and meaning/agent arena relationship

Theories of Relevance

  • Mistakes for theory of relevance is when we argue in a circle: whatever process or entity using to explain relevance should not require relevance.
  • X -> relevance, X cannot presuppose relevance for its function
  • Want to explain intelligence in terms of processes that are not intelligent.
  • Candidates:
    • Representations: Things in the mind, ideas, pictures, that stand for, represent the world in some way.
    • Computations
    • Modularity: specific area of the brain dedicated to processing relevance
  • Each of those inadequate
  • If RR is so central to meaning making, cognition, etc. we should garner lessons about how we should think about human spirituality

Representational Level

  • Mental entity that stands for, directs us towards an object in the world
  • Representations are aspectual:
    • Hold up a pen, form a representation of it
    • When form a representation don’t grasp all the true properties of the object (combinatorially explosive)
    • Pick a subset of relevant properties: structural functional organization
    • Aspect: Set of features relevant to each other and set of features structurally functionally organized so they are relevant to me.
    • Pen could be a weapon. Change aspect
    • Can think of how many different ways to use the same object
    • Language: zeroing in on relevance, and how SFO relevant to us
  • Aspectuality deeply presupposes relevance realization
  • Means that representations can’t ultimately be the causal origin of relevance
  • So if meaning and spirituality is what is bound to RR then don’t look at level of representational cognition
  • Not to say they don’t contribute or affect what we consider relevant, they just aren’t the source.
  • Pylyshyn: multiple object tracking
    • Give people bunch of objects on a computer screen, have them move around.
    • Ex: ask where’s the red X, blue circle, green square.
    • We can track about 8 objects reliably
    • More objects we track, less and less objects can attribute to each object
    • If tracking red X, may not notice the red X becomes a blue square
    • Content properties get lost: just tracking the hereness and nowneess of it.
    • Finsting: fingers of instantiation. Here and now are indexical
    • Mind can keep in touch with something, but that’s all it’s doing.
    • When touch it makes the here now salient to me
    • THIS doesn’t refer to a specific thing, pics out some here and nowness salient to me
    • THIS; demonstrative reference. They do salience tagging
    • Enactive demonstrative reference: need before can categorize
    • If want to categorize, need to group them together. This, this and this. Salience tag and bind them together.
    • Concepts are categorical, but categories depend on pre-concepts
    • Fundamental connection to reality, like the mind being in contact with the world
  • So need to look at something that is sub-represeentational, sub-semantic, sub-categorical, sub-conceptual
  • When people have the most profound sense of meaning, it is reported as ineffable, use the language of hereness and nowness, fully present
  • So not a bizarre claim to consider. We habitually identify with the way in which we are running represntations in our mind.

Computational level

  • Syntactic level
  • Syntax about how terms coordinated together in a system
  • Ex; grammatical rules in English = syntax
  • Fodor: Cognition is computation (goes back to Hobbes)
  • To think is to do computation
  • Have to make a distinction between implication and inference
    • Implication: logical relationship based on syntactic structures and rules, a logical relationship between propositions
    • Inference: when using an implication relation to change beliefs
  • Beliefs have content
  • Changing beliefs brings up what beliefs should I be changing?
  • proposition: defined in terms of logical syntactic structure by all its implication relations
  • Number of implications is combinatorially explosive
  • Cannot ever make use of all the implications of any proposition, can’t be completely logical ever.
  • Cognitive commitment: What we do is decide, select, which are going to be used in an inference. Which of the implications are you going to commit to?
  • Cannot afford to spend commitment on all possible implications/inferences, or irrelevant ones.
  • Which beliefs do I need to change in this context.
  • Cherniak: what makes one intelligent is that select relevant implications
  • Inference massively pre-supposes RR
  • Brown: Rationality:
    • Rules are propositions that tell where to commit your resources
    • Every rule requires interpretation, a specification in application
    • Ex: rule: be kind: in a situation use inferences to derive actions and changes of belief that results in being kind to others
    • Rule tells which implications to pay attention to
    • Issue: way I’m kind to my son, should I use that in how trying to be kind to my partner? No. Context matters
  • Can’t specify all the applications of the rule in the rule: combinatorially explosive
  • Could have a higher order rule? Same problem
  • Ability to follow rules based on something else: the skill of judgment
  • Skill of RR -> so computational level not going to do it

Situational Awareness

  • Wittgenstein: propositional depends on the procedural.
  • Even if lions spoke we wouldn’t understand them
  • Situational awareness: don’t just have skills
    • When exercising a skill it depends on SA
    • Perspectival knowing. Salience landscaping
    • How is my salience landscaping foregrounding what is most relevant to the task? Is it backgrounding what is irrelevant
    • Procedural knowing depends on perspectival
  • Perspectival knowing depends on how well the agent/arena fit together and generate affordances of action/intelligibility
  • agent/arena need to be in conformity relationship, be well-fitted together for salience landscaping to function appropriately
  • Arrow of dependence: Propositional -> procedural -> perspectival -> participatory, each depends on the next

  • Giving us a way to connect and think about the 4 kinds of knowing

Modularity

  • mind/brain -> central executive, maybe it is responsible for RR?
  • Not an answer: if it’s right its homuncular: haven’t explained it, just pointed to a place
  • RR can’t be in any one place, has to be simultaneous - always going from feature to gestalt
  • RR has to be happening both at feature and gestalt level in interactive fashion
  • RR happens at multiple levels of cognition

Drawing it all Together

  • Account of RR has to be completely internal
  • Has to work in terms of goals that at least initially are internal to the brain.
  • Goals have to be constitutive: goals that a system or process have that help to constitute it for being what it is
  • Autopoietic systems: living things are self-organizing - have the constitutive goal of preserving their own self-organization
  • To be alive = to be the goal of preserving the self-organization that gives rise to us
  • Protect and promote their own self-organization
  • RR has to work in terms of autopoietic systems, goals completely internal.
  • Deep connection between RR and being a living thing

(being a living thing or a conscious agent?)

  • RR theory has to be scale invariant.
  • Has to be capable of insight, self-correction
  • RR has to be self-organizing in nature.
  • Problem: can’t identify relevance and relevance realization
    • Argue that can’t have a scientific theory of relevance
    • Argue that this tells us something deep about nature of relevance/meaning
    • But that’s no reason for despair, b/c doesn’t preclude us from having theory of RR, gives us a good idea of what a theory of RR is
    • All we ever needed is a theory of RR