The Hard Problem of Consciousness (3'd iteration)

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Yazata, Jul 11, 2012.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    The phrase 'Hard Problem of Consciousness' isn't meaningless. It's contemporary academic jargon in the philosophy of mind, introduced by the Australian philosopher David Chalmers in 1995. (He's currently teaching at the ANU in Canberra.) See the IEP article on the 'Hard Problem' at this link:

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/hard-con/

    Chalmers' website is here:

    http://consc.net/chalmers/

    The IEP article summarizes the problem this way:

    In other words, the claim that a 'hard problem" exists in the first place, seems to basically be a non-physicalist challenge to functionalist philosophies of mind. It isn't difficult to see why it's of great interest to philosophical idealists and to individuals of a "spiritualist" persuasion, we might say. A great deal of current discussion in the philosophy of mind currently revolves around this problem.
     
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  3. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    In the previous prematurely-closed thread on this subject, Metric wrote:

    I think that the fact that "we have qualia" is kind of a given. Problems start to multiply when we try to give a philosophical account of those three words. What does "we" refer to? How should we construe the word "have"? (Possession apparently, but what kind?) What kind of things are "qualia" supposed to be?

    My point is that while the proposition "we have qualia" might present us with more questions than answers, it doesn't seem to be dependent on our answer to the "hard problem".

    As to whether the 'hard problem' is 'trivial', I wouldn't use that word. It's a real conundrum, that calls for a much better account of subjective experience than we currently have.

    But I think that I'd disagree with many of the proponents of the 'hard problem' in thinking that it's probably not as hard as they think it is. It seems to me that the answers will probably fall out as consequences from an account of how nervous systems not only enter into perceptual states, but also react internally to those perceptual states.

    In other words, there probably isn't any mysterious non-physical 'essence of red', that philosophers refer to with the word 'quale'. Subjectively speaing, red is very likely just a neurophysiological state in the visual system that the larger cognitive system can recognize from one occasion to another. What makes red 'look like something' is simply the fact that it's a visual state. (Aural states 'sound like' something, tactual states 'feel like' something.)

    What eludes a color-blind scientist (Mary) who understands everything that there is to know about the science of perception is simply being in the appropriate visual state. (Verbal understanding is a very different thing than seeing, neurophysiologically speaking.)

    It's why we can't explain what red looks like to a blind man. I suspect that there's really nothing to explain, there's no content there for us to put into words. It's just a matter of assuming the appropriate states in the visual parts of the brain. (Perhaps somebody could electrically simulate a blind man's brain and convey what red is about by activating his visual sysem that way. But they can never explain it in words.)
     
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  5. Gustav Banned Banned

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    red is the perception of electromagnetic radiation of a particular wavelength.
    the perception appears to be a simple matter. having an opinion about that perception is anything but
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2012
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  7. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

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    'It' (representation) comes from 'bit' (neurological), since there is correlation; so, information has two forms.

    It may be similar to the ‘it’ from ‘bit’ of the quantum or perhaps it just comes about by some as yet unknown biochemical mapping method.

    For sure, though, it must be that neurological information gives rise to the conscious knowledge of it.

    There is, then, a link between the neurological correlates (bits) that we can now even see in action as the resulting thought witnessed in consciousness (as the ‘it’). Since the brain's analysis takes time, although not much (200-300 ms.), the 'bits' must precede the 'it'.
     
  8. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

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    So far, we are sticking to the known, and deriving from there, as that is the best method. That consciousness can be stopped via anesthesia to the brain cells, faints, and blows to the head also shows that consciousness is a brain process.

    While we haven’t found out how the link works, we know it is there, and so the problem has been greatly localized, ruling out such new-age notions as as consciousness being first and doing all, and, beside, the fact that we have senses shows that there is something ‘out there; to sense.

    The ‘choices’ of the three primary colors may even have been arbitrary, but the system works, the three eye cone types (of proteins) rotating according to the degree of primary color present.

    So, either the reason for ‘it’ from ‘bit’ is fundamental, like that of mass, as Chalmers suggests, or it is higher and more local to the precise situation of the brain's doings.
     
  9. Merlijn curious cat Registered Senior Member

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    I agree there is a link between brain states and conscious experiences. However, the link is not obvious. You just can't disqualify qualia (in the words of Dennett). Qualia are not materialistic themselves. A group of cells in the visual cortex becoming excited is a third person description, whereas the sensation of the colour red is of the first person. That is the real tricky part.

    Sure, maybe complex interlinked and communicating networks may have the property of consciousness analogous to (collections of) massive particles have the property of gravity. Still, a gravitationalfield is not the same as massive particles.

    If that would be true, maybe we will have to embrace some sort of Gaia theory.

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  10. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    Consciousness and senses develop together, but I wonder if consciousness could even exist without senses. There have been experiments in sensory deprivation which show that prolonged periods of deprived senses causes the mind to lose it cognitive ability and essentially it goes insane.

    So I have trouble imagining any consciousness ever developing without senses being present.
     
  11. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

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    The brain's perception of itself could be the sixth sense, but a sense still turns into a representation, and that is the trick we seek. There is a change of form in the neurological information, but this is still inherent in the neurological state, after it has become ready, so it retains its status as the source.
     
  12. Gustav Banned Banned

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    adaptation is the key
    deaf/mute/blind evolve coping strategies

    a blind person using echolocation?
    know to happen
     
  13. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

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    One neuron can't do much, if anything, but add more and then you have connecting and connections. This is probably what 'emergence' is, for more is truly different than one.
     
  14. Merlijn curious cat Registered Senior Member

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    Yes, my point ... but how does this emerging property work?
    Emergence is just a word, not an explanation.
     
  15. Gustav Banned Banned

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    consciousness, whether rudimentary or complex is still exactly that
    an infant and an adult both compute
    the difference is simply a matter of degree

    two words actually.......promissory materialism
     
  16. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    A sufficiently large difference in degree often works out to a difference in kind. Infant consciousness is observably, markedly different from adult consciousness.
     
  17. Gustav Banned Banned

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    truly different?

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  18. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

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    The connections are the 'emergence'—its explanation, and, of course, this ability was there all along, so 'emergence' is not anything magical or out of thin air.
     
  19. Merlijn curious cat Registered Senior Member

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    NO, not the connections are the emergece. Again: wrong level (i.e. third person).
    We are looking for first person experiences emerging from a network of communicating units.

    Nobody said anything about magic, even though my mane would suggest otherwise.
     
  20. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

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    So, there is no 'emergence', since the thing does what it has to do.
     
  21. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

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    My 1st person view shows the ‘I’ of awareness, this ‘I’ being that same as that of normal English usage, as who I am of the continuing instant, which go on, as thoughts and feelings appear. From science, I understand that they become of the brain, which I take to be my real and enduring self, it, too, ever changing from learning, and it seems that I can rummage around there but not to all of it.
     
  22. river

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    the thing about consciousness is that ALL living things have this to a certain degree , and is restricted by the form the life form has

    the more the body evolves the more conscious the living form becomes
     
  23. Metric Banned Banned

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    Qualia exist.
     

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