If No Consciousness Exists, By What Right Does The Universe?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Cyperium, May 22, 2021.

  1. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Primitive manifestation doesn't entail awareness (identification, understanding, memory, confirmation). It would just be how _X_ exists independent of both the representations of humans and the bizarre alternative of an absent manner of being (not even nothingness).

    To get consciousness (non-zombie type), more complex manifestations would have to be systematically arranged/manipulated to verify and recognize/acknowledge each other. There's nothing like that occurring outside the evolutionary development of biology and (potential) technology.

    The whole problem [or confusion] here stems from philosophers and some scientists conflating a basic capacity for "phenomenal presentations" or "appearances" in matter with labels like consciousness, "subjective", mental, psychological, etc. The latter classifications aren't applicable at the level of atoms, particle interactions, 24 quantum fields, etc.

    It's simply an ontological attribute. Often referred to as "intrinsic states", in contrast to the extrinsic relationships and measurements (quantitative representations) that science deals with in its descriptions of matter and macroscopic physical "stuff".

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    Lee Smolin: The problem of consciousness is an aspect of the question of what the world really is. We don't know what a rock really is, or an atom, or an electron. We can only observe how they interact with other things and thereby describe their relational properties. Perhaps everything has external and internal aspects. The external properties are those that science can capture and describe through interactions, in terms of relationships. The internal aspect is the intrinsic essence; it is the reality that is not expressible in the language of interactions and relations. Consciousness, whatever it is, is an aspect of the intrinsic essence of brains.

    Michael Lockwood: Do we therefore have no genuine knowledge of the intrinsic character of the physical world? So it might seem. But, according to the line of thought I am now pursuing, we do, in a very limited way, have access to content in the material world as opposed merely to abstract casual structure, since there is a corner of the physical world that we know, not merely by inference from the deliverances of our five senses, but because we are that corner. It is the bit within our skulls, which we know by introspection. In being aware, for example, of the qualia that seemed so troublesome for the materialist, we glimpse the intrinsic nature of what, concretely, realizes the formal structure that a correct physics would attribute to the matter of our brains. In awareness, we are, so to speak, getting an insider's look at our own brain activity.

    Bertrand Russell: I maintain an opinion which all other philosophers find shocking: namely, that people's thoughts are in their heads. The light from a star travels over intervening space and causes a disturbance in the optic nerve ending in an occurrence in the brain. What I maintain is that the occurrence in the brain is a visual sensation. I maintain, in fact, that the brain consists of thoughts --using thought-- in its widest sense, as it is used by Descartes. What I maintain is that we can witness or observe what goes on in our heads, and that we cannot witness or observe anything else at all.

    David Chalmers: It is often noted that physics characterizes its basic entities only extrinsically, in terms of their relations to other entities, which are themselves characterized extrinsically, and so on. The intrinsic nature of physical entities is left aside. Some argue that no such intrinsic properties exist, but then one is left with a world that is pure causal flux (a pure flow of information) with no properties for the causation to relate. If one allows that intrinsic properties exist, a natural speculation given the above is that the intrinsic properties of the physical - the properties that causation ultimately relates - are themselves phenomenal properties. We might say that phenomenal properties are the internal aspect of information. This could answer a concern about the causal relevance of experience - a natural worry, given a picture on which the physical domain is causally closed, and on which experience is supplementary to the physical. The informational view allows us to understand how experience might have a subtle kind of causal relevance in virtue of its status as the intrinsic nature of the physical. This metaphysical speculation is probably best ignored for the purposes of developing a scientific theory, but in addressing some philosophical issues it is quite suggestive.

    John Gregg: It is worth noting that, properly speaking, physicalism itself can be seen as a kind of functionalism. This is because at the lowest level, every single thing that physics talks about (electrons, quarks, etc.) is defined in terms of its behavior with regard to other things in physics. If it swims like an electron and quacks like an electron, its an electron. It simply makes no sense in physics to say that something might behave exactly like an electron, but not actually be one. Because physics as a field of inquiry has no place for the idea of qualitative essences, the smallest elements of physics are characterized purely in functional terms, as black boxes in a block diagram. What a photon is, is defined exclusively in terms of what it does, and what it does is (circularly) defined exclusively in terms of the other things in physics (electrons, quarks, etc., various forces, a few constants). Physics is a closed, circularly defined system, whose most basic units are defined functionally. Physics as a science does not care about the intrinsic nature of matter, whatever it is that actually implements the functional characteristics exhibited (and described so perfectly in our laws of physics) by the lowest level elements of matter. Thus physics itself is multiply realizable.

    Last edited: Feb 15, 2023
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  3. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

    So what are your take? We talk about consciousness not as in just "being awake", the brain could achieve all behaviors associated with being awake without the subjective experience of being awake (think of a robot that is programmed to behave like a human), that's why scientists often speak of consciousness as an emergent property and not specifically made for a evolutionary purpose.

    That's bad faith argument though, you know that I'm referring to consciousness not as in "being awake" but as the awareness of our existence, which is a different aspect of being conscious.

    The argument is this: There is no evolutionary need for us to have subjective experience, though the brain creates internal states, there is no need for those to produce the subjective self-awareness, in other words; a human could theoretically have all the same behavior that is needed purely for survival of the species without having subjective self-awareness of their existence. They could have objective "self-awareness" if it is useful to create bonds, etc., but it doesn't need to have any subjective truth to it. Why is it then that the conscious states fits so well with the behaviors associated with it such as to give real and true meaning those behaviors. If you hurt someone it isn't just a reward-system that penalises you, it has a true subjective feeling of hurt associated with it, the reward system alone could very well achieve the same thing without the subjective experience associated with it. That's what I mean when I say that it fits so well into our behavior to have a subjective experience - it gives actual true meaning to our behaviors.

    To elaborate; we could for instance program a small robot to avoid getting hit by introducing it to such a reward system, it wouldn't need to be very complex, we do pretty much the same thing with AI, there is no consciousness there or any meaning for the robot to react in avoidance of getting hit, it is just programmed to do so. The only thing that actually would give it any meaning was if it actually felt fear when you approach to hit it, then it would have true meaning for it to avoid getting hit. We can't reasonably find any other phenomena that could give it that meaning, hence it is fundamental.
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  5. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

    Why? I think manifestation is very much entailed in awareness. I don't know what you mean by primitive, but does something *need* identification, understanding, memory and confirmation in order to be at least primitively aware of its existence? I saw a documentary about a guy that had no memory, he was living in a constant stream of 'now', I would still think that he is aware, he's just missing one thing to be aware of; his history. I don't see how an awareness of existence alone would have to require all other aspects that you could be aware of as well. In fact, all of those other aspects could be the reason we are aware as a person and not as our individual atoms/molecules. All parts of consciousness interact to form a whole consciousness of a person.

    I'm not talking necessarily about human consciousness, everything represents itself, not exactly sure what you mean with an absent manner of being, I think consciousness is a different aspect of being and without it there would be no being, if that makes sense.

    Why would there have to be? Sure we don't observe consciousness in rocks, but actually we don't observe consciousness in anything other than ourselves either. We could take the easy route and think that everything that is more or less as complex as myself is also conscious (which is the approach that most people take), but that has led us astray before, when we thought babies weren't conscious, or cats weren't conscious, today it is widely believed that babies and cats are conscious, because we recognise that they are more like us than we previously thought. But we shouldn't make a definite statement about consciousness based purely on the likeness of us. We should have it in mind, sure, especially when it comes to AI and the moral responsibilities that we might have to face when AI starts to resemble the connectivity of the brain and human behavior, but we shouldn't take for granted that consciousness could only exist in complex systems, cause there might be more simplistic consciousness, as what it is like to be a rock, it doesn't have to be human-like, such a consciousness would be "rock-like".

    That might be a problem for some people, but that's not at all where I'm getting this from. I think I get what you mean though, we shouldn't describe electrons as wanting or striving for anything in a physical system, I'm absolutely not referring to consciousness in such a regard, though I'm open to the possibility that the electron would experience some kind of attraction force through the relation of the consciousness of the electron and the consciousness of the force, it is a possibility, in my view, that they would mutually experience eachother.

    I see no reason why that attribute couldn't be a different facet of existence, and by that I mean any existence.

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  7. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

    It would seem to me that consciousness is not fundamental. I would say at this point consciousness seems to be extremely rare, unusual and isolated . The overwhelming majority of the universe is hostile to life and therefore to hostile to consciousness. The only consciousness that we know of can only exist in a thin spherical shell around 1 planet. We have discovered over 5000 exoplanets and they all appear to be uninhabitable.
    I did not realize you were talking about self awareness, that is even more unlikely! It seems to me that human consciousness is a fluke, a wonderful bizarre fluke.
  8. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Intrinsic states (manifestations) are not typically attributed to robots and computer systems that behaviorally and response-wise demonstrate awareness of objects, events, and patterns in an environment. Again, the latter is zombie consciousness (for lack of a more formal term). Awareness is more than brute, internal presentation.

    Well, do you really think non-living, non-brain structured or aggregate matter would have intrinsic states as complex as yours -- ones that were organized in any fashion at all? (Thus, primitive.)

    And how would such a disordered _X_ (rock, comet debris, etc) recognize and understand a phenomenal event without memory, or even have the capacity to acknowledge that the event was there? (I.e., something other than the nothingness typically attributed to a circumstance of non-consciousness, like death or not being born yet?)

    Concepts slash categorization, language, cognitive discrimination, intentionality, etc -- the whole shebang is fundamentally dependent upon systematic information retention (memory).

    Since he still retained some memory of his past life, Clive Wearing still recognized things that he experienced during his looping 30-seconds or less. He simply couldn't add new memories. He wasn't the equivalent of a wall, rock, or door mat.

    "He spends every day 'waking up' every 20 seconds or so, 'restarting' his consciousness once the timespan of his short-term memory has elapsed. During this time, he repeatedly questions why he has not seen a doctor, as he constantly believes that he has only recently awoken from a comatose state. If he is engaged in conversation, he is able to provide answers to questions, but he cannot stay in the flow of conversation for longer than a few sentences and is angered if he is asked about his current situation."​

    Awareness is more than brute presentation (and again, the putative zombie type of consciousness doesn't even include it). For instance, if it was [magically] possible for a paper photograph of a woodland to internally manifest to itself as that very external appearance it displays for a human observer, it would still lack the mechanistic apparatus for identifying any of the objects and features constituting that woodland appearance. As well as missing the ability to even validate / acknowledge the presentation "being there" privately for it (as a living, normally functioning brain can do).
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2023
  9. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

    You are assuming that consciousness depends on life. That could just be an anthropic argument, you only know of one consciousness, your own, because consciousness cannot manifest itself in any other way to you. It doesn't mean that it doesn't exist elsewhere.

    I find that extremely hard to believe.

    Do you have any arguments as to why it would be a fluke? I noticed that you didn't address any of my arguments in support of it not being a fluke, why is that? I don't care about simple opinions, I care about arguments for those opinions and counter-arguments to my own.
  10. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

    Robots and computer systems may have information stored, we typically do not think that the robot or computer system is aware of the information stored, but this is not what I am saying either. I'm saying that everything is a representation of itself, not saying that the information is somehow represented to the computer or robot (which indeed would require a higher mechanism).

    If you read what I do think you would know that I don't think that. In fact, I specifically exclude states as complex as ours, such as thoughts, feelings, desires, etc., I'm only referring to the awareness of existence, not attributing any persona to it or any complex feelings or thoughts or anything like that.

    Again, I'm not saying that it recognises or understands.

    It would be in state of eternal 'now'. There would be no need for memory as it is perpetually self-aware of itself.

    There is no such claim made by me, even forming a sentence or knowing what happened previously, all those things are of course dependent on memory.

    I've read about Clive Wearing but I was referring Henry Molaison, he was a man with no capability of creating new memories as his hippocampus was removed (before they knew that the hippocampus was responsible for memory creation in the brain), the point is that it doesn't seem to matter if you have memory or not, there are people who have no memory at all about their life, doesn't know their name or anything, there are people like Clive Wearing that only have 30 seconds of memory, and there are people like Henry Molaison that can't create new memories at all. Still we would classify them as self-aware and conscious. To say "restarting his consciousness" is putting their own idea of what that would be like as a substitute for his own experience, we shouldn't make such an error when analyzing this.

    A photograph wouldn't be self-aware of what constitutes the photograph, only of itself in the most crude form. I don't even necessarily think that the photograph as a whole is self-aware, rather that the individual parts are. It is difficult to set how big of an influence each conscious part has on other conscious parts around it so that it forms a whole. The brain achieves this through a lot of signal processing, but maybe a weak consciousness of the whole of the photograph can be achieved simply by the atomic influences that it consists of.
  11. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    The choice is not between conscious data processing or no data processing. The universe is quite capable of data processing via mathematical processing of generic relational values. The universe uses quasi-intelligent processing of relational values, with the potential for emergent evolving consciousness in certain specialized cellular patterns (neural networks)

    That inherent potential is expressed in the levels of "responses to environmental pressures.", from fractal root growth to fractal vertical growth in plants and trees, to cellular networks to dedicated brain growth in animals .

    A biologist came up with a nice expression in relation to survival behaviors.
    She posited that many plants can "solve problems" via cellular memories that allow the plant to "sense" if an irritant is dangerous or benign and triggers a greater or lesser action potential as it recognizes the irritant action.

    This can be demonstrated with the Hibiscus that can be made to "tolerate" touching without automatically closing its leaves, thereby conserving energy.

    IMO, the mathematical relational nature of physical reality offers the potential for emergent self-awareness of information processing. without resorting to mystical solutions.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2023
  12. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Tegmark proposes that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon of certain data processing patterns and begins to become expressed at a very fundamental level in the chirality of fundamental chemistry, an unconscious, yet deterministic function of data processing.
    Note that bacteria already employ a chemical "language" that allows for "quorum sensing" triggering "action potentials" for concerted viral expression. Does that count as a form of rudimentary hive-pattern consciousness?

    As relational patterns become more complex, the resulting processes also evolve into greater complexity, sensitivity, and specialization. The most sophisticated form of data processing is a form of consciousness that allows for choice, as in the "fight or flight response" that can already be found in motile single-celled organisms like the Paramecium.

    Last edited: Mar 5, 2023
  13. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    The difference is that before the big bang nothing existed, after it everything known to man and more exists.

    The question doesn't make sense, even if you use an eternal universe model.

    It sounds a bit like God. I think consciousness exists in all things, humans, animals, plants, rocks, ocean etc... But I just see it as part of the God's creation ingredients.

    Answer without God...

    Hard to say really, other than I know consciousness exists because I've been knocked out before, and I certainly lost something, consciousness being the word.
  14. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Have you ever been catatonic?
    Leading to : a state where consciousness exists but cognizance doesn't.
    Aside question: Can free will exist with out cognizance?
    The rock may very well be conscious but in-cognizant or unaware of such consciousness.
    >>knowing what you know vs just knowing.
    >>is that a reflection of me in the mirror etc etc..
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2023
  15. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    The mere statement that there was a before or before time began makes no sense. Ex-Nihilo is rooted in paradox.
  16. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    No, but I have experienced being trapped in my body while my body just did not function. Scary.

    I don't think free will exists, I've wrote about this in a thread in the Religion sub forum.

    I'm unsure that a rock is unaware. I don't think anything conscious is unaware.

    Are you referring to instinct as far as "just knowing" is concerned?
  17. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    Why does it make no sense? Do you not believe in the big bang?

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