Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Yazata, Jul 11, 2012.
Perhaps they are non-natural.
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Do people who don't know what "electromagnetic radiation of a particular wavelength" is, see red?
Do people who don't have a word for "red", see red?
Or it isn't. If we consider that perception is an active cognitive process guided by existing knowledge, intentions and desires (one popular expression for this is "People see whatever they want to see"), then perception isn't a simple matter at all anymore.
(We also need to consider the variety of color terms across languages/cultures.)
The perception of some things seems to be simple enough - and the simplicity seems to be a matter of a social consensus, ie. the things that are considered non-controversial (enough) are also considered easy to perceive. For most of us, these are color and shape.
Qualities like "good," "bad," "fast," "slow" seem much more relative and elusive.
I suggest we look into the whole idea of talking about "perceptions."
Why do we have this concept of "perception"? Is it justified? What premises is it built on?
This is probably the case with ordinary people, but I doubt it is the case for everyone. A trained meditator should be able to do fine even when experiencing sensory deprivation.
The notion of qualia seems to be based on the implicit premise that humans are somehow (artificially) imposed on the Universe, that we, persons, are strangers in it; ie. that qualia are "really real," while we humans aren't exactly real (but more like trivial, even). Because it seems that it is only under such a premise, that the notion of qualia seems to be useful. Once primacy is given to personhood, qualia lose their relevance.
Moreover, an implicit premise in the HPC seems to be that it takes for granted that asking "Why is any physical state conscious rather than nonconscious?" is a meaningful question and that all the premises implied in the question are true.
But are they?
"... 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.)..."
A few congenitally blind have had their visual cortex electrically stimulated with multi-electrode arrays exploring the possibility of giving them electronic vision in a program at NIH, lead by Terry Hambrick (or something like that - so long ago, I forget his exact name), which I had a tiny connections with. They experience "flashes of light" * which if memory serves were called "phosgenes."
Unfortunately if electrodes were not a few mm apart, their phosgenes were no longer perceptual small but merged, so potential resolution was extremely limited. Furthermore, then often the phosgene remained for more than a minute after the electrical stimulation stopped. For unrelated reasons, involving electrical stimulation of rhesus monkey brains in a study, I knew a considerable amount about epilepsy. I suggested to Terry, that he was inducing Jacksonian epilepsy in the visual cortex. There is no way to stop an epilepsy seizure once a set of neurons are self stimulating - it will end only in metabolic exhaustion of the discharging cells and that typically take more than a minute, perhaps 3 or even 4 minutes in extreme cases.
* Quite possibly an experience quite unlike your´s when seeing a point flash of light, but what else would they call their experience other than a "flash of light" ?
Just like the invisible force that attracted iron to a lodestone wasn't 'materialistic' back in 6th century Greece? I think it's prudent not to restrict the scope of physicality merely to what it is presently understood to be. History has something to say about how wise that tends to be.
To put it another way, I don't think anyone can demonstrate that they are qualified to state that consciousness is not a physical phenomenon, just as Thales of Miletus wasn't qualified to state that lodestones must have a soul. Realize this: we're all ignorant. Very much so. But that's no excuse to dive head first into a possible repeat of previous mistakes, especially when we have so much information and perspective at our fingertips.
Of course, one may appeal to the idea that consciousness is a unique phenomenon in some important respects, and I agree that it is. But so what? Perhaps the seeds of it are just a part of what matter is. I mean matter (in the more modern and sophisticated philosophical sense of the word) is likely more than just the properties that physicists assign to it anyway. You can talk about things like spin, and charge, and mass and whatnot, but all you're doing is describing particular properties. Are you really encompassing the fullness of it's substance?
Profound things happen, conceptually at least, when you begin with the hypothesis that everything is a property of physicality, as long as you also recognize that we likely understand very little about it's true scope. I can't say that this is definitely the way things are, but I can say that I no longer understand why the existence of mysterious phenomena would necessarily lead someone to believe otherwise.
The mathematics that describe qualia and its relationship to the physical world and their feedback from within the body seems to be based on Matrix notation.
Human consciousness is based on self awareness. Self awareness implies two points of view. I am conscious of how a stimulus impacts me at an unconscious level, before reaching the consciousness mind. Animal consciousness is similar to just the unconsciousness step, and differs from human consciousness in that it is singular, not binary.
For example, if you were walking and someone jumped out behind a door you would jump and then maybe get angry. Unconsciously you would react quickly and then this would reach the conscious mind.
If an animal feels hungry it acts, instinctively; cause and effect. Human consciousness is aware their inner animal is hungry and can stand apart from this, allowing us a place where we can choice to act ot not act. There are two layers.
If one had an unconscious compulsion and acted on it without thinking, this would not be considered consciousness but unconsciousness. The action might be called conscious but that is due to unconsciousness.
Let me give another example. Say we were to subliminally program a group of people to react a certain way to a stimulus, like a bell. We ring the bell the crowd cheers, like in political campaigns. This appears like consciousness, to the outsider, but it is done at the unconscious level. This is not consciousness but unconsciousness. Consciousness would be aware of this unconscious layer, or the way the stimulus impacts the unconscious mind and has a choice to cheer.
We or science tends to define unconsciousness (as above) as consciousness, due to our own unconsciousness of what consciousness is. There is no agreed definition of what consciousness is, therefore the truth is unconscious.
Really just another version of the question: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" In this case, "Why is there experience -- a presentation of things, phenomena, thoughts, etc -- rather the usual nothingness of matter?" (which follows death or precedes brain development in the womb). It's not just a case of "what it's like to be a conscious organism" since the latter is also perceiving an environment and giving it a "what it's like" to be present, or have evidence, as opposed to being absent / invisible.
It's more like why does information have two states, the second, the 'it', coming from the first, the 'bits'.
Qualia are non-natural little tiny bits of information.
What would non-natural be? Physical but not material or of the material? Supernatural? Things that still walk the walk and talk of the physical/natural but aren't? An event that shouldn't happen from the neurological bits?
The two vantage points of human consciousness, which can be called the conscious and unconscious mind are analogous to our two eyes, in that working together, they give a depth perception to human consciousness. Most definitions of consciousness tend to use the assumption of mono, instead of stereo. This assumption is analogous to wearing a patch over one eye. We will still see the same things, but we lose that 3-d dimension of depth. We all sense that depth an intuitive level. The result is no mono definition of consciousness can be considered consensus.
Animal conscious has one eye, but human consciousness has 2 eyes. Although modern consciousness uses a patch. If you wish to understand consciousness you need to take off the patch and look.
For example, if you hide and scare someone you can often get them to scream or yelp so they are embarrassed. This occurs because the unconscious will react faster than the consciois mind can sensor. The separation becomes apparent and is not the mono one is conditioned to exhibit. If you have a sense of humour, this silly over reaction by the other eye; yelp!, is very interesting because it shows that there is another eye that sees a slightly different angle.
We can make a device that senses different wavelengths of light and responds differentially to different ones. There's nothing that violates physicalism there.
Things start to get more complicated when we make our device able to sense and respond not only to external light stimulus, but also able to process information about its own behavior and internal states when it's sensing and responding to light. Now the device is going to have to be capable of remembering being in a state of being stimulated by long-wavelength visible-range light, even when that's not actually happening. And that's only going to get more complicated when its able to remember not only reacting to red light, but able to remember or imagine entire events and scenes, with all their shapes and varied colors, with the ability to recognize and extract information (like identifying colors) from those scenes.
And things get profoundly more complicated (and more self-referential) when our device is able to picture itself as part of the scene, aware of it and acting within it.
I expect that my dog can do all of that. Now add the further complication of language to the bubbling mix. Not only will our device be able to visualize scenes from memory or entirely from imagination, not only will it be able to recognize and extract relevant information from those scenes, and not only will it be able to picture itself as present and aware of everything else, it will be able to represent much of that information conceptually to itself and to others of its kind in words as well.
I still don't see anything that violates physicalism in any of that.
I can't nail it down and prove it at this point, but my philosophical intuition tells me that as we elucidate the kind of model that I just outlined, credible replies to the current difficulties about the so-called "hard problem" will fall out as consequences.
the logical conclusion might then be a machine getting despondent and killing itself
consciousness as a fundamental force along with strong, weak, emf and gravity?
Qualia are spiritual.
Qualia are also sick.
Chalmers, from his original paper on the hard problem - "Sometimes terms such as 'phenomenal consciousness' and 'qualia' are also used here, but I find it more natural to speak of 'conscious experience' or simply 'experience'."
Daniel Dennet - "Everything real has properties, and since I don't deny the reality of conscious experience, I grant that conscious experience has properties. I grant moreover that each person's states of consciousness have properties in virtue of which those states have the experiential content that they do. That is to say, whenever someone experiences something as being one way rather than another, this is true in virtue of some property of something happening in them at the time, but these properties are so unlike the properties traditionally imputed to consciousness that it would be grossly misleading to call any of them the long-sought qualia. Qualia are supposed to be special properties, in some hard-to-define way. My claim--which can only come into focus as we proceed--is that conscious experience has no properties that are special in any of the ways qualia have been supposed to be special." (Quining Qualia)
But does experience, or the assumed ex nihilo emergence of experience by materialists who oppose panexperientialism [see definition at bottom of post], have any return influence on what produced it? (I'm referring here to "physical" as metaphysical -- the version of the brain or the whole human body that exists without dependence on the phenomenal / empirical properties of consciousness; the physical brain of any abstract doctrine of physicalism unassociated with radical empiricist ideas of the past). If it is causally impotent, then experience would be as irrelevant to the workings of a physical body as a supernatural world lacking power over a natural world. Example:
Barbara Montero - "Most accept that if it is possible for there to be a world that duplicates the fundamental properties of physics without duplicating consciousness, then [phenomenal] consciousness is not physical. And many accept that we can in some sense conceive of such worlds. The controversial part of the argument is the move from conceivability to possibility. Yet, according to Chalmers, when we are very careful about what is to count as conceivability, this move also is valid." Russellian Physicalism
IOW, in the case of such causal impotency, humans could just as much alternatively be p-zombies that lacked experiences (or were minus association with them) and they would still behave exactly the same way. Or would they? In such a "what-if" scenario, it's difficult for me to imagine how the controversy of the hard problem or this discussion would arise in the first place. It would at least require an evolutionary explanation for why people universally lie to themselves and others that they have content to their perceptions and thoughts, a kind of innate programming that compels them to do so. Nicholas Humphrey seems to advocate something along this line, that evolution engendered a myth of experience in people because it makes them feel special. But as seen in an earlier quote, even Daniel Dennett, at times in the past accused of eliminativism, doesn't deny that he lacks experience, and such with distinguishable properties.
Ergo, if the belief that perceptions and thoughts have manifested content is not a mass prevarication, then that content (generalized as experience) does affect the brain/body to the extent of causing the latter to report such presentations to itself and others; and accordingly, experience is physical to the extent that it can affect or has power (or at least has some manner of consequential be-ing).
Plato - "My notion would be, that anything which possesses any sort of power to affect another, or to be affected by another, if only for a single moment, however trifling the cause and however slight the effect, has real existence; and I hold that the definition of being is simply power." (from SOPHIST)
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Panexperientialism is the view that experience outruns cognition-- that experience does not belong only to cognitive systems like human brains. Panexperientialism is not to be confused with panpsychism; the latter holds that minds are more ubiquitous in nature than we might think, while the former only holds that some form of subjective experience is more ubiquitous than we think. The 'ubiquitous' subjective experience posited by panexperientialism need not be nestled in thinking, cognizing minds. http://canonizer.com/topic.asp/88/34
Consciousness seems to have a global overviewing aspect that our parts acting on their own would not have.
One case is that it allows an actionizing simulation without committing to the action, which consciousness is not just of the brain proper but of the extended brain that goes all the way to the nerve spindles.
Another case is that when there is action, either internally or externally, consciousness tells what is going on. For a zombie to operate the same, it seems that it would need this, too.
While consciousness still seems to just make us tourists along for the ride, it is still that the global view of actionizing or of what is going on as action is available to the brain to analyze for producing more (fixed) thoughts based on it to surface into consciousness.
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