The Hard Problem of Consciousness (3'd iteration)

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

  1. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    No need for more off topic subject. I almost did not open your link as I noted "Plato" in title.

    I am quite aware that Plato would have supported the idea that the math correctly describing some observations was more real than the observed things. That was the reason he constructed his famous story about people living in a cave with shaft of sunlight casting shadows of the reality of Earth above on a wall of the cave. Expert scholars in the cave had evolved predictive theory about how the shadows would move, etc. and the shadows were believed by all in the cave to be the true reality.

    I.e. before opening your link, I guessed from "Plato" in the title that is would be an argument that particles were like the shadows on the cave wall, and not the true mathematical reality creating those particle shadows.

    I did, however, open your file and read the first 1/5, then skipped some and skimmed the end. Thanks for it, but I don´t time, and in some parts background, for detailed consideration of it. Our argument about what is real and what is just descriptive calculations is ~2,500 years old and not likely to be resolved soon so I agree to drop it.
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  3. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I´d like to answer your question:
    I agree, there is no way consciousness could be constructed out of matter. What can, and is, constructed from the matter of the brain is the world´s most advanced computer.

    Most of this computer is a fantastic parallel processor far more powerful than any man has even imagined; However, as man can only do one of many possible things at any one time, the results of hundreds of options considered below the conscious level, all in parallel, must be filtered down to one set of instructions for controlling the muscles of his body, like the tongue when speaking or legs when are running. That is why part of the activity of the brain takes place in a serial computer / processor too. We only have knowledge of it, and certain aspects of the activity of that serial processor we call consciousness.

    I.e. consciousness, qualia, experiences, etc. are all we have access to of the activity of this fantastic computer. Some, I think more accurately than they realize, speak of the "stream of consciousness." It is a unique, not parallel, flow of information, but the serial part is only a very minor part of the brain´s processing. Most modern cognitive scientists follow the Churchlands´s suggestion that brain activity can be described as neural data/ information transformation / or calculations.

    SUMMARY: Consciousness is NOT made of matter, but generated by computational activity in the serial part of the world´s most advanced computer - the human brain. Another, obvious observation: If consciousness were made of matter, it would not cease to exist when your body is in deep sleep. Again: consciousness is made from part of the serial computational activity of the brain matter.
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  5. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    One can take into account almost any item of the everyday world that it is pointed to and declared "emergent", and it still falls under existing categories. A supposedly new or novel action or system of dynamics is still "action" (the capacity for entities to move and change in space is already fundamental / universal). A supposedly new or novel form / structure is still an organization of existing entities and properties (that the latter can constitute patterns in space is already fundamental / universal). In addition, these supposed astounding "novelties" are intersubjective; they can be observed or detected by some means, by more than one person, in that public space. One might contend that the arising of this or that dynamic pattern or spatial structure was unpredictable based on current knowledge and principles. But that at best would only be brute emergence in the sense of deriving possible "new rules" from them, of which no former rules gave inkling as nomological forerunners.

    The "easy problems" of consciousness that Chalmers lists have primitive precursors (including memory, as an addition). Particles have the capacity to "detect" -- even weakly interacting ones eventually respond to the presence of something (conforming to the effects of "gravity" if nothing else). Organizations like atoms are building-blocks that certainly lend themselves to the mechanistic, microphysical interactions of biological bodies that eventually build-up into information processing and bodily control. This just amounts to "consciousness" as behavior, another assemblage of complex actions. Hardly emergent in a radical sense of lacking anything primitively similar beforehand to develop from.

    Which then leaves "experience" hanging there as the only item of consciousness that is apparently truly brute -- from the standpoint of one group or another's desires, anyway. Sure, we can correlate these "showings" of image or sound or touch to patterns of activity in a brain; but such chains of electrochemical events cease qualifying as potential precursors beyond the skull and the cosmos abroad, returning to the dullness usually ascribed to them by physics or another discipline. Or "dull" in the sense of indulging in the absence and void that a rock stereotypically upholds. Not even possessing a cognition-less, latent capacity for elemental and arbitrary manifestations from feral and accidental linkages and disturbances out there in the less organized matter "wilderness". Even nuclear fission has been granted permission to have randomly happened in the past in the Oklo Mine of Gabon, minus both the quasi-deliberate guidance of biological evolution hovering overhead and the full version of deliberate intent from sapient organisms it spits out.
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  7. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    That's ok. We're not all perfect.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    It depends on what the word 'you' is supposed to refer to. I do tend to identify myself with my physical organism. Or at least with some of the strategic parts of it. (I don't feel lessened when I cut my toenails.)

    But yeah, I agree pretty emphatically when the words 'I' and 'you' are being used to refer to some sort of transcendental subject. (The hypothetical inner experiencer that's supposedly missing in philosophy's "zombies".) I don't believe that such a thing exists. That's why I've argued against the 'inner-eye' model in earlier threads, against the idea that there is some little copy of ourselves... what is it, our supernatural soul?... that rides around inside our heads, looking out through our physical eyes. (Or conversely, looking at some inner mind-generated TV-monitor image that's thought to be a representation of the world.) I take a rather Buddhist-style deconstructive approach towards the idea of this inner 'self', I guess.

    Words and text do communicate something. They aren't just random strings of noises or squiggles. (That only happens in Sciforums posts.) I don't know what meaning is exactly, or how strings of noises or shapes capture enough of it to be able to communicate it from one individual to another. (Another of philosophy's mysteries.) They are stimuli obviously, but they do seem intended to transmit something (often a brand new idea) to the organisms stimulated.

    I was just suggesting that if we take a computer drive apart and inventory all of the sort of constituents that physics recognizes, we aren't going to find that any of physics' fundamental entities correspond one-to-one with any of the verbal or textual symbols in the string, or with whatever message those symbols might encode. That doesn't mean that the text and message aren't stored on the drive. It just means that the text and message aren't the sort of entities that physics studies. And that in turn doesn't imply that text and message are supernatural entities either. It just means that they are stored on the disk in terms of the form, structure or configurations of the physical entities.
  8. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Now I find myself arguing with a quote from David Chalmers.

    I agree with all of that.

    That's where I think that Chalmers might be chasing an illusion.

    He's already addressed such things as: the ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to environmental stimuli; the integration of information by a cognitive system; the reportability of mental states; the ability of a system to access its own internal states; the focus of attention; the deliberate control of behavior; and the difference between wakefulness and sleep.

    So what does the word 'experience' refer to that his inventory of "easy problems" has supposedly left out?

    He's already classified an organism's ability to access and report its own internal states as an "easy problem". So how does this "subjective aspect" of his differ from and transcend that ability? Apparently there's 'access'... and there's 'access'.

    Can Chalmers specify and describe any experiential characteristic of redness that hasn't already been included in the "easy problem" stuff?

    The functionalists that he opposes can already address why red occurs as a visual state (not audio, tactual or verbal). They can address why this visual state seems to have its own unique quality that can be visually recognized from instance to instance. They can explain why it occupies geometrical areas of the visual field. And on and on. So... what's being left out?

    My suspicion is that nothing is. It's like explaining 'red' to a blind man or Frank Jackson's 'Mary black-and-white' problem. I suspect that perhaps everything that there is to 'red' can be explained in words. There nothing left out. What that verbal description seems to leave out, the thing that can't be communicated verbally to a blind man, is actually doing it, actually assuming precisely those visual states that Chalmers has already dismissed as "easy" (and accessing the information that one is doing so, which is what people with "blind-sight" seem to lack).

    "Something that it's like"? That's awfully cryptic. (It suggests a comparison, but to what?) Chalmers needs to be a lot more explicit about what he means there, and about how whatever he's talking about differs from and transcends the ability to access and report one's internal states, which he's already said is "easy".

    I don't think that Chalmers can do it. He seems to be talking about something that's pretty much ineffable there. Something that's seemingly obvious to him in his own experience, but something that can't possibly be expressed or communicated in words. (Because everything expressed in words devolves into an instance of an "easy problem".) So this "experience" of his isn't something that can be communicated to another person. It's a matter of personal intuition, at best.

    It's starting to look a lot like accounts of religious experience.
  9. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Yes to a person fluent in that language but are just "squiggles" to one who is not. My point is that 100% of meaning is added by the person, not contained in the represention. Do you get the meaning in this text? الشقيقان تسارناييف خططا لتفجير ساحة تايمز بنيويور More than 100 million people do. Yes common education can make many people GIVE the same meaning to a text file, but there is no meaning in the file itself.

    For example assume two brothers, A & B, share a computer, each able to access only their own files. A has a file with numbers like 28, 30, 27, ... etc. which for him, a weatherman, are the peak centigrade temperatures in his set of 30 cities. By chance B also has a file with exactly the same 28, 30, 27 ... set of numbers but to him, a doctor, they are the years of life his 30 AIDs patients lived after being diagnosed before dying.

    SUMMARY: There is no meaning in either file with numbers 28, 30, 27 ... only humans add the meanings and that includes text files too.
  10. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    If there's no meaning in any of the words that you write, and if any false assumptions that I might have about your words actually communicating something comes entirely from me, then why shouldn't I believe that your words mean anything that I want them to mean?

    If there's anything in your words that restricts the range of my possible interpretations to a smaller set of correct ones, then we seem to be back at the idea of the words possessing some kind of meaning again.

    It's kind of ironic that you criticized the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy because the word "Plato" is found in its url, when you turn right around and propose ideas that seem very reminiscent of Plato's theory of anamnesis from the Meno. (Anamnesis is the theory that all learning is actually recollection. Occasions in which we seem to be learning new material, are actually our recollection of things that we were unaware that we already knew.)
  11. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Really? Then let's assume I've been blind from birth. Now explain to me the color "red" such that I can
    grasp it as clearly as you do. Remember now, I don't even have the experience of color. How are you possibly going to define red for me without me having any subjective experience of it whatsoever? Red is an accessible internal state we can report on? Fine. But that doesn't tell me about red's redness. Blue is an internal state too. How is your description going to explain to me red such that I will understand how it is different from blue? That is what is left out of your verbal description. The one thing about red that is necessary to understanding it but which cannot be relayed in any objective description.
  12. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    If the viewer himself is a simulation, then there is noone to whom the simulation can occur to. We might as well be stuck inside of an endless dream where nothing is real and there is no possible correspondence to any outside reality. You doom yourself to a self-contained hallucination with no access to any reality. Is this a satisfactory solution for you? Seems to me you have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
  13. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Because the letters are grouped in a way that because of our education, and only because of that, are stimulus that we have been condition to respond to in quite similar fashion. I.e. we share a relatively common culture and so both of us GIVE quite similar meaning (or responses to words like “Raise your right hand.”) to the same stimuli.
    I was not being "critical" - I was only noting that from the title alone (again because I share a common culture with the person who put "Plato" in the title) I could guess what would be the thrust of the paper. -I only skimmed it but was impressed with its quality and thoroughness.
    I am quite familiar with the story of how the slave boy is lead to understand how to double the area of a square, but think that "leading" is more responsible for his achieved understanding instead of drawing out knowledge he always had. I don´t, however, understand what I have posted that makes you think I am suggesting knowledge is usually drawn out, instead of learned.

    But to be honest and clear, I do subscribe to the idea that we do have some quite specific innate knowledge. - For example, I think Chomsky is correct that we have some flexible innate knowledge about possible language structures, that with exposure to our native tongue, does get set to one of the possible innate options. Also it is well established that as soon as baby´s eyes work, he knows innately the proper arrangement of the parts of a face (eyes, nose mouth), and several, but not all, of the Gestalt laws (I forget which must be learned) and a few other things, like the "virtual or visual cliff" experiment show as soon as he can crawl*, but most knowledge, I think is learned. Perhaps you can tell what I posted that make you think I believe otherwise - that large amounts of knowledge are only drawn out for our innate store instead of learned.

    * it also shows that vision dominates tactile experience when they conflict.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2013
  14. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    No you still don´t get what I am saying. Perhaps because you have too fixed in mind the concept of a display that must be watched? No the viewer is NOT a simulation but a creation. The viewer is part of a multi facetted computation. The words "real time simulation" in my RTS theory refers only to the fact that the external reality is not experienced with small fraction of second delay (due to neural transit and response times) but an internal representation of the external world as it is now (not delayed) that is normally a quite accurate model of the external world, but is in real time synchronization with it (for all things that evolve continuously predictably in time).* It is this model or simulation of the external world that "you" can perceive and only it. "You" interact directly with that model /simulation. I.e. you are not anything physical, like a body, but are information in the information processor (or computer), called the human brain and are created as part of its computational, representational, processes.

    Conceptually, if not for millions of years of evolutionary selection, yes you could just be a self-contained hallucination, but if that were the case you might, as some do under influence of drugs do, try to fly out of tall building´s window. Evolution has forced the simulation of the external world to normally be quite accurate as those individuals without this constraint were strongly selected against.

    * If something total unexpected and significant happens the simulation is / must be/ revised, ASAP. For large revisions, like a bomb exploding near your body, the simulation is paused and then re-started after the major revision is done (in about 300ms or slightly less). The re-start of the simulation produces the EEG signal called P300, (P as it is a postive going electrical spike) but often is referred to as the "startle spike."

    P300 is strongest over the parietal lobes where the RTS is executing as shown, mainly by the sad consequences of a major parietal stroke. - Half the world, contra lateral to the stroke, for such a person ceases to exist.** This disease is called "unilateral neglect" as if not a major stroke, “ceases to exist” is a description too strong. For example a hungry person does not realizing that there is still food on half his plate, etc. so is considered to suffer form “neglect.” Briefly during that small fraction of a second needed for a major revision "you" don´t exist just like “you” don´t for much longer periods when in deep, dreamless sleep.

    ** I spent several days testing a nice old lady victim of sever case of unilateral neglect. I was able to prove that her color discrimination between red and green functioned well, even up to and thru correct activation of her lexicon. I.e. she performed way above chance when forced to guess which was the color of the dot displayed briefly with a tone, even though she could not consciously see it in her totally neglected half world.
  15. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Or perhaps because I know a simulation in every case that we know of requires an outside conscious viewer who can see a video presentation which IS the event of simulation. No simulation is going on somehow magically inside a computer. Your model of a brain, which I suppose would have to be part of your simulation as well, that magically creates a non-viewing viewer (a dreamer?) as well as a simulation of being a body in a physical world is the stuff of science fiction not science. You've invoked a miracle to explain a miracle. And that doesn't explain anything.
  16. Rav Valued Senior Member

    I'm not entirely sure what you're actually saying here.

    The link was to an entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that discusses, among other things, both particle and field interpretations of quantum field theory, and it references the work and opinions of several theoretical physicists on the matter.

    Now, what do we mean when we say "interpretation"? Well, we mean pretty much the same thing we mean when we are talking about interpretations of quantum mechanics, such as Copenhagen or Many-worlds or de Broglie–Bohm or whatever. Each camp has a number of good reasons for favouring their particular interpretation, but they are, nonetheless, to some degree at least, speculating. They're interpreting mathematical models and saying "hey, I reckon we can infer from this, and that, the way reality might really actually work". And sometimes, they have really really strong convictions about it. Similarly, within the realm of QFT, some people are convinced that particles are fundamental, and others that fields are fundamental. And all I have said in this discussion is:

    "most physicists, who obviously embrace a reductionist methodology themselves, are quite happy to take very seriously the idea that it is the field and not the particle that is most fundamental."

    How do I know this? Because I keep encountering the view everywhere I look. Yes, it is somewhat speculative. And maybe you can take issue with my use of the word "most". But aside from that, my assertion was accurate. In fact I'd be happy to go back and replace "most" with "some" if you like, even though I think I have good reasons for stating it the way I did, since even some of those who favour the particle interpretation seem to take the field interpretation reasonably seriously as well. It doesn't really matter to me, since the point I wanted to make would stand regardless.

    Now seriously, do you think my stance is reasonable, or not? If so, we can move on. If not, demonstrate it. This has gone on for too long already.
  17. Rav Valued Senior Member

    Actually my contention here is that consciousness can be constructed out of matter so long as matter is phenomenal enough to constitute the required raw ingredient(s).

    Maybe I'm thinking in the right sort of direction, maybe I'm way off target, but at the very least there certainly seems to be room for such a possibility.

    Not so obvious, actually, since consciousness appears when matter is doing the right sort of dance, and there's nothing to suggest that the music can't stop for a while and then start up again. Brain activity continues, sure, but it's a somewhat different dance (less elaborate perhaps, or at least missing a fundamental component or two) .

    Remember, the suggestion here isn't that consciousness is in every piece of matter, merely that what it's made out of is. Also remember that I'm not presenting a theory of how consciousness emerges here. At most, it's a vague theory about one aspect of why it can emerge. As such, it's not even necessarily incompatible with your view, except to the extent that it recognizes a need for additional phenomenality as a base ingredient for any theory of consciousness to get off the ground.
  18. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I have no serious quibble with any of this or your post 173. We agree 100% on 99% so sort of strange to be focused on the 1%.

    I would disagree if by "dance" you are referring to physical motion, but not if you are referring to conscious patterns of Chemo-electrical discharges. After all every thing else I do, such as I just did move my fingers to hit keys on my laptop´s keyboard is the direct result of a quite specific chemical-electrical dance in my brain. Why not consciousness too? (And I think even the creation of "me.") It is rare, but a few people create "me1" and "me2" not at the same time but do have very different personalities, memory sets. Etc. This is a good piece of evidence that "I´m" not just a physical body but a creation of mental activity - a pattern of chemical-electrical information processing.

    My RTS get a little more detailed about this "dance" - tell why it evolved: Great survival advantage over those that processed as modern cognitive scientist think we do - perception "emerges" after many sequential stages of neural computational transforms of the sensory input data. Those with a real time, rather than 0.2 or even 0.3 second delay in their understanding of a thrown rock´s location, even if bigger, stronger and bigger brain had little change of ducking it in a battle. Why one small group, the first to have developed the RTS, "exploded" out of Africa about 50K years ago and killed off all other humanoids.

    Unilateral neglect, (caused by a parietal stroke) and phantom limbs being psychologically just as real as that actual remain limbs are the flip sides of the same coin. In first case the stroke has destroyed the ability to construct in one´s internal representation part of the external world. In the second case that missing limb is still being constructed in that internal representation, even though it no longer physically exists.

    In the first days after stroke that caused serious unilateral neglect, the victim has not yet consciously learned that he for example has a right leg as it is no longer in his internal representation of himself. When he notices that right leg in his hospital bed, he may call the nurse and complain that someone´s leg has been left in his bed.* Even if weeks later he is given a circle drawn on sheet of paper and pencil and asked to put the numbers 1 thru 12 on it to represent a clock, they will almost always be place only on one side of the circle - the other side does not exist for him - that parietal brain tissue no longer constructs the internal representation of half the world.

    People with a phantom arm, for example have learned that it does not exist even through it to them is just as real as the other remaining arm. In some case the phantom arm stick straight out from their torso. If for some reason the must quickly run thru a doorway, as they do so, they automatically twist their torso to keep the phantom arm from banging into the door frame. If just calmly waking thru the doorway, they use their learned knowledge and don´t twist their torso. They generally have little control over the phantom and it often has a fist clenched so hard that the non-existing nail are digging into their non-existing palm and causing pain, which is unfortunately very real. Pain is a creation of the brain, in response to perceived conditions that would be damaging - like perceived finger nails digging into a perceived palm. About 15 years ago, exploiting the fact that vision dominates in humans an often successful "mirror cure" for this pain was developed. Patient sticks his real arm and looks into a vertical box at the mirror side. He sees his non-existing arm as the left/right reversal of the real arm in the mirror. He then unclenches his real fist and sees the phantom fist unclench also. In many cases the pain stops!

    * Complaints that a leg has been left in the bed are sufficiently common, that one can probably find them in the literature, but there are anedotical reports too, showing how unilateral neglect can distort one´s beliefs etc. My favorite is the following exchange between a doctor and recent victim about to leave the hospital:

    MD, after taking the forearm of patient not believed by patient to be his and moving it so patient´s hand was in front of his face:
    "Whose hand is this?
    Patient: "Yours"
    MD, after sliding his grip down forearm to wrist and patient´s hand:
    "Then whose hand is this one?
    Patient: "Yours"
    MD, after placing his other hand on top of the two hands already said by patient to belong to the MD:
    "Then whose hand is on top of the other two?"
    Patient: "Yours"
    MD: "Don´t you think it strange that I have three hands?"
    Patient: "No - You should as you have three arms."

    A common saying is: "Seeing is believing," but more powerful than "seeing" is what is, or is not, internally represented - that is your only perceived world. In one case, the non-existing phantom is perceived. In the other case the existing arm, not in your represntation of self, but which can be seen, must belong to some one else. (Not only does the extreme unilateral neglect victim not have part of his body in his self representation, but he has no control over it, no tactile sense, even pain, experienced from it!) In contrast, it is quite common that person with a phantom limb can have pain from parts of it.
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