Time and relationships (or, "consciousness" per Martin Heidegger)


by ConradDJ
Tags: consciousness, heidegger, relationships, time
PhizzicsPhan
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Apr5-11, 12:45 PM
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Apeiron, in terms of why panpsychists assert that experience/consciousness is fundamental, there are many lines of argument. The bottomline, though, is that what we normally conceive of as matter (defined as being non-mental) is better conceived as being both objective and subjective, in oscillation.

Here's another essay of mine on the issue of emergence in materialism. There are really are only two very broad choices on this issue: either mind emerges at some point in our universe from what is not mind OR it is there from the very beginning in some manner (this second option encompasses both panpsychism and idealism).

______________________

At a recent talk I attended at UC Santa Barbara, Professor Marcus Raichle, one of the pioneers of brain imaging, jokingly referred to consciousness as the “C word.”

His little joke highlighted the fact that for many working neuroscientists and others who think about the brain, trying to explain what consciousness actually is – as opposed to explaining the various functions of brains – is still a bit frowned upon. It also seems that many neuroscientists who do think about the “hard problem” of consciousness – the mind/body problem by a different name – believe that once we explain the functions of brains there’s really not much, if anything, left to explain about consciousness itself.

I find in my discussions on consciousness that arguments about “emergence,” well, emerge as a response from critics time and time again. Consciousness is, in this view, simply an emergent property of complex biological structures like brains.

I’ve written a number of essays (and an unpublished book) defending the alternative panpsychist view of consciousness. The type of panpsychism I find compelling is that developed into a comprehensive system by Alfred North Whitehead, Henri Bergson, Charles Hartshorne, David Ray Griffin, and many others during the 20th Century. It is growing in popularity, but still a minority view.

The basic idea is that all components of the universe have at least some rudimentary type of consciousness or experience, which are just different words for subjectivity or awareness. The key question for panpsychist theories of consciousness is why some aggregations of matter contain unitary subjects and others don’t (saying “unitary subject” is actually redundant but I want to be entirely clear).

For example, no modern panpsychist that I know of argues that a chair or a rock is conscious - despite the bad jokes often lobbed at panpsychists. Rather, the molecules that comprise the chair or rock presumably have a very rudimentary type of consciousness but the larger objects themselves (again, presumably) lack the kind of interconnections required to become unitary subjects.

The subjects we know best are humans. Each of us, in fact, knows exactly one subject intimately: ourselves. Clearly, then, some aggregates of matter do in fact produce a complex unitary subject and we call this our “mind.”

The “hard problem” of consciousness is figuring out the relationship between mind and matter and why some matter gives rise to unitary subjects and why others don’t. Why am I conscious, and you, and my cat, but not the chair or the rock?

We have literally no certainty as to what objects in the universe, other than ourselves, are also subjects because we can only know our own self as a subject. We must, then, use reasonable inference to determine what other objects in the universe are also subjects.

And it is through reasonable inference that we can conclude that panpsychism is a better solution to the hard problem than its competitors. This is a strong statement, to be sure, but I have presented numerous lines of reasoning to support this assertion in previous essays and present some additional lines below.

The prevailing position with respect to the above-referenced hard problem, however, seems to be some type of “emergence” theory. The basic idea is that mind simply emerges from matter in certain complex forms, just like wetness or solidity or color emerge from matter in certain situations.

Jeffrey Goldstein provides a concise and clear definition in a 1999 paper: Emergence is “the arising of novel and coherent structures, patterns and properties during the process of self-organization in complex systems.” There are many other definitions, of course, but this one is good for present purposes.

So, is mind like wetness or other emergent physical properties? To my mind (pardon the pun), the answer is a resounding “No.”

There is a crucial difference. Let’s take liquidity. Liquidity is indeed a new feature of molecules that isn’t present until the right conditions are present. Hydrogen and oxygen molecules aren’t themselves liquid at room temperature. And yet the liquidity of water is entirely explicable by looking at how these molecules interact with each other. There is really no mystery now (well, surely some, but not much) in how these molecules combine to form dipolar molecules that attract each other more loosely than in a solid but less loosely than in the constituent gases. In other words, liquidity is pretty predictable, or at least explicable, when we consider the constituents of any given liquid. We’re dealing with “outsides” at every step in this process - first the outsides of the individual molecules and then the outsides of the combination of molecules in the liquid.

We can strengthen the point even further by considering the fact that both hydrogen and oxygen become liquids of their own if we cool them enough. Liquid hydrogen “emerges” from gaseous hydrogen at -423 degrees Fahrenheit. Liquid oxygen emerges from gaseous oxygen at the comparatively balmy temperature of -297 degrees. Liquidity thus emerges at different temperatures as a relatively straightforward shift in the types of bonds between the constituent molecules.

Consciousness is entirely different because we are not talking about relational properties of the outsides of various substances. We are talking about insides, experience, consciousness, phenomena, qualia, and all the other terms we can use for mind or subjectivity. And when we define our physical constituents as wholly lacking in mind then it is literally impossible for mind to “emerge” from this wholly mindless substrate. Emergence of mind from no-mind is what Strawson calls “radical emergence” and he makes basically the same argument that I’ve made here as to its impossibility, in “Realistic Monism” and Consciousness and Its Place in Nature.

It is “radical” because the emergence of insides from what previously consisted only of outsides would be the spontaneous creation of an entirely new category of reality. And it is philosophically profligate to suggest that this kind of thing can happen when there are other, more plausible, alternatives.

Now, maybe impossibility is too strong a word. Granted, at this level of abstraction we can’t prove anything (can anything be proved, period?). I can’t prove that it is impossible for mind to emerge from matter where it was wholly absent before. So perhaps a better word would be implausible. It is highly implausible, then, that the inside of matter (mind, consciousness) would suddenly emerge at some arbitrary midpoint in the history of the universe. Sewall Wright, a well-known American evolutionary biologist, stated it well in a 1977 article: “[E]mergence of mind from no mind is sheer magic.”

Colin McGinn, a British philosopher, states perhaps even more forcefully why emergentism fails:

“[W]e do not know how consciousness might have arisen by natural processes from antecedently existing material things. Somehow or other sentience sprang from pulpy matter, giving matter an inner aspect, but we have no idea how this leap was propelled… . One is tempted, however reluctantly, to turn to divine assistance: for only a kind of miracle could produce this from that. It would take a supernatural magician to extract consciousness from matter. Consciousness appears to introduce a sharp break in the natural order-a point at which scientific naturalism runs out of steam.”

In light of these arguments, isn’t it far more plausible that mind is simply present where matter is present instead of emerging for the first time at a seemingly arbitrary midpoint in the history of our universe?

This is the panpsychist position: Where there is matter there is also mind; they are two aspects of the same thing. As matter complexifies, so mind complexifies. (The details become far more complex than this, but this is the basic position).

Alan Watts said it best: “For every inside there is an outside, and for every outside there is an inside; though they are different, they go together.”

It seems, then, that today’s prevailing theory that advocates mind as a purely emergent phenomenon has major problems.
PhizzicsPhan
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Apr5-11, 01:12 PM
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PS. You're right that Koestler would not say all holons are mind-like - only physical holons, that is, actual holons. Holons can of course be purely conceptual, like "France," for example, which is obviously not a mental entity.
apeiron
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Apr5-11, 05:19 PM
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Apeiron, in terms of why panpsychists assert that experience/consciousness is fundamental, there are many lines of argument. The bottomline, though, is that what we normally conceive of as matter (defined as being non-mental) is better conceived as being both objective and subjective, in oscillation.
Oscillating? Whose theory is that?

The key question for panpsychist theories of consciousness is why some aggregations of matter contain unitary subjects and others don’t
Yes, so what is the answer? The only apparently unitary subjects are complex brains with a well understood organisation, evolutionary history and reason for having the functions they do. Their unique position with the material world is well accounted for. So what further rules of material organisation have been overlooked?

Jeffrey Goldstein provides a concise and clear definition in a 1999 paper: Emergence is “the arising of novel and coherent structures, patterns and properties during the process of self-organization in complex systems.” There are many other definitions, of course, but this one is good for present purposes.

So, is mind like wetness or other emergent physical properties? To my mind (pardon the pun), the answer is a resounding “No.”
This is talking about the simplest possible notion of emergence as seen in phase transitions. It is not the kind of self-organisation that a systems scientist would be thinking about. So the liquidity angle becomes a straw man very fast. The real argument to tackle is the complex systems one.

A key difference, for example, is that brains self-organise over multiple spatiotemporal scales. There is learning and adaptation of state that takes place over genetic scales (whole genomes, multiple generations), lifetimes (memories, habits, neural circuitry), minutes and seconds (working memories, goals, expectations), and split seconds (preconscious habitual responses, attentional shifts, recognitions). Water just condenses.

Associated with this is the ability to store information in unmysterious ways (genes, words, membranes, axons) and so create a level of control over material events that is actually unphysical. ie: Semiotic. Rate independent information in control of rate dependent dynamics. Water and other simple examples of emergence just do not have this further aspect to their material reality, making them illegitimate as analogies.

Consciousness is entirely different because we are not talking about relational properties of the outsides of various substances. We are talking about insides, experience, consciousness, phenomena, qualia, and all the other terms we can use for mind or subjectivity.
This is a big jump in the argument that needs more careful justification. There are a whole array of objections.

For a start, when I talk about having a view from the inside, I am actually taking a view from the outside "looking in". This is the distanced self-aware description of what is happening. "Oh look at me, I'm having 'experience', I'm busy 'being aware of qualia'."

So a lot of the apparent 'unitary subject' story is a result of this objectification. I am taking up an imaginary stance (one formed as a sociocultural idea) that packages me as a 'me'. Consciousness itself is a process, a state of brain response, an emboddied interaction with the world that is complexly structured across multiple timescales. ie: Described like that, the unification is between an organism needed to predict and control its world, and the world that is being controlled and predicted.

But introducing the self-aware view involves now cutting away all that living tissue of strong connectedness and treating my experiences as the experiences of a separate self. It objectifies and so in fact constructs the notion of a subjective state as a further objective fact about material reality.

So while it sounds naively appealing to just take the outside/inside difference as read, it is in fact a pretty tangled story. The very terminology betrays you as "inside" is another objective description of the world. And when you actually consider what consciousness is about, it does not feel anything like being separate from the world. I may know objectively it is all just happening inside my head, but that is not the nature of my experiencing.

It is “radical” because the emergence of insides from what previously consisted only of outsides would be the spontaneous creation of an entirely new category of reality. And it is philosophically profligate to suggest that this kind of thing can happen when there are other, more plausible, alternatives.
Again, it just sounds like a rhetorical device this outside/inside dichotomy. More work needs to be done to pin down what is being argued.

Think of a computer with its hardware and software. This is actually the nearest I can imagine to an outside/inside situation. The hardware is all outside. The program is all inside. But this creation of a new category of reality (ie: Turing's world) does not seem philosophically troubling to most people.

I can’t prove that it is impossible for mind to emerge from matter where it was wholly absent before.
But that is not the claim of neuroscientists and others arguing on the basis of complexity. Their claim is that mind emerges from the wholly simple (as it becomes wholly complex in a particular fashion).

Clearly, material and immaterial are set up to be disconnected realms. Like outside/inside, the conclusions is wired into the premise.

But when you start talking instead about simple and complex, then the mystery evaporates. Matter in simple arrangements has simple emergent properties (like liquidity). Matter in exceptionally intricate arrangements, ones organised to achieve ends, has "internal states" to match. If brains are organised to represent their worlds in anticipatory fashion, there is going to be "something it is like" to be that brain at a particular moment in a particular place.

Complexity is not something that has to be either wholly present or wholly absent in a material world, so the anti-emergence argument just collapses at this point.

In light of these arguments, isn’t it far more plausible that mind is simply present where matter is present instead of emerging for the first time at a seemingly arbitrary midpoint in the history of our universe?
But if your panpsychic theory still ends up arguing that the "unitary subject" is a result of complex organisation - as why else is a brain conscious, but not a chair? - then why not just apply occam's razor and accept complexity as the answer?

A lack of complexity easily explains a lack of subjective "what it is like to be" mental activity, like anticipatory representations of a world, in a chair. Positing a further mysterious category of reality for simple arrangements of matter is the superflous step here.

Once you accept complexity as necessary to your panpsychic stance, you have to be able to demonstrate why complexity cannot now carry all the load to preserve that stance.

Alan Watts said it best: “For every inside there is an outside, and for every outside there is an inside; though they are different, they go together.”
Yes, thesis always justifies antithesis. Every concept has to be a complementary pair. This is a truth that applies to absolutely any stance we could end up taking here.

So to have the simple, we need also to have the complex (to define what simplicity is not). And likewise the complex is defined in terms of how un-simple it is.

The difference is that inside~outside is not actually a scientifically useful distinction here. What is an "inside" in science? It can mean many things. It can mean smaller in scale. It can mean the more highly specified interior (such as the inside millieu of a cell). It could mean the gauge symmetries that are the "inside" aspects of a particle. It could mean the way the software is "inside" the hardware of a computer.

There are just multiple meanings, and so which one is the panpsychic argument claiming to be the one on which science is falling down? Some psychic distinction which is not even posited?

But on the other hand, science does have theories about complexity. There are concrete models that distinguish between the simple and complex on measurable grounds.

To say science is on the wrong path, it cannot hope to reach its destination, panpsychism has to deal with the actual models employed by scientists, not a straw man definition of emergence, or hand-wavey talk about insides and outsides.
PhizzicsPhan
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Apr5-11, 05:56 PM
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Apeiron, before I respond in detail, let me ask you: when does mind emerge in the universe? In other words, at what point is sufficient complexity reached such that we can validly ascribe something a mental nature in addition to its physical nature? (I am assuming, based on your above response, that you are in fact an emergentist).
apeiron
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Apr5-11, 06:55 PM
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Apeiron, before I respond in detail, let me ask you: when does mind emerge in the universe? In other words, at what point is sufficient complexity reached such that we can validly ascribe something a mental nature in addition to its physical nature? (I am assuming, based on your above response, that you are in fact an emergentist).
There is no short answer. But the short answer would be that I take a dissipative structure approach to complexity - most systems scientists would today found their views in a thermodynamic approach to "materiality". So if you wanted to be really general about "mind", you can stretch definitions to say that all dissipative structure has "mind" in some sense.

This would be the pansemiotic stance. But it is really nothing like a "drops of experience" concept. It would be just looking at a dust devil, or a river, and saying that these are dissipative structures that seem to "know" their worlds in the sense that they are localised forms of order pursuing entropy gradients.

And then, by establishing a foundation for what semiosis even is - so we do have a continuum from the simple to the complex - then there is the further step of introducing the proper distinction between the living and the non-living, the mindful and the mindless.

So start with some view of material reality that is systems-based and says everything is really "the same". Then come in with a sharp definition of the nature of the difference to mark the transistion to where something pretty new-looking emerges - which is bios, or life and mind.

This is not easy because it is not that clear-cut. But I would reference the epistemic cut of Howard Pattee as the best single definition I have come across. And then there are a whole bunch of other theoretical biologists who are playing variations on that theme.

So formally, mind is being identified with life - they are two terms for the same basic process. Where you have one, you have the other. But still not in a naive "drops of experience" way obviously. Rather, it is all about a general difference between biotic and abiotic dissipative structures - what distinguishes a dust devil from a bacterium, even when both are doing the Second Law's work.

So it is not about "sufficient" complexity (a growing quantity of dissipative structure, or a particular achieved rate of entropification) but indeed about a change in the qualitative nature of complexity. There is something sharply new going on in living systems - the thing Pattee describes as the epistemic cut.

And so it is also broadly an emergence approach, but not at all like a simple emergence approach such as liquidity or chaotic attractors or whatever. It is a strong emergence approach in which "something hidden lay in wait". With DNA for example, it may be all just reducible to the chemistry of molecules. Yet there is also something qualitatively new in the symbol processing capabilities of DNA.

Liquidity is a change in collective behaviour - a simple phase transition from one global equilibrium state to a new global equilibrium state. Gassy, liquidity, solidity, plasma-ity. These are labels for "dead" macrostates - holonomic boundary conditions. Nothing is happening when H2O is in a gaseous phase, or a liquid phase. There is just static existence. The happening is only during the transition.

We can get closer to a living state when we are "far from equilbrium" to use Prigogine's old term. For example, H20 perhaps seems a bit more interesting when it is in its opalescence phase - the "edge of chaos" balance when it is poised scalefree between vapour and water. At the critical point, we see actual dissipative structure. And that is already more impressive than tired old "liquidity" as an illustration of (still very simple) emergence.

But life/mind crosses a border. We still just have dissipative structure. The material universe will not permit anything else. The second law rules all possible actual phenomena. However we now have autonomous systems - ones that objectify themselves using time-defeating memory devices like genes, axons, membranes, words. Something alive and mindful carries around its own packaged idea of what it wants to be, what it should do. And there is no essential mystery about how that trick is achieved.

However what is lacking - in the wider scientific and philosophic community - is a clear understanding of the trick and its implications for models of causality.

Simple-minded reductionism cannot work. Reality is irreducibly complex. We have the evidence, we have the general theories (even if they are not widely broadcast). But people still continue to debate as if simple causality applies and complexity is epiphenomenal to existence.

So the clear answer would be that mind appears as soon as life appears. The best definition of where that happens is probably Howard Pattee's epistemic cut. And then the best theory of the material reality that grounds both life and non-life in the language of complex systems would be dissipative structure theory.
PhizzicsPhan
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Apr5-11, 07:15 PM
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Apeiron, you're making some progress compared to the prevailing materialist/emergentist view, but you're not there yet.

You've punted the mind/body problem to the life/not-life problem by equating the two and then stating your lack of insight (and science more generally) into when life begins. This isn't really that helpful if we stop there.

I agree with you entirely that life and consciousness are in fact two words for the same phenomenon - which can be quantified as the complexity of any particular thing. We are in agreement on these broad points.

But life is, like consciousness/mind, a quality that inheres in all things just a little bit and in more complex things a lot. Pansemiotism = panpsychism = panzoism.

Here's a recent essay of mine on panzoism:

http://www.independent.com/news/2011/mar/27/what-life/

And here's another on why emergentism (and eliminativism) equates to crypto-panpsychism:

http://www.independent.com/news/2010...not-conscious/

You've assumed in your discussion that I'm arguing (and Whitehead) that the most basic experience requires complex structures. That's not my position. My position is that as the fundamental entities of the universe complexify so mind complexifies. Not all aggregates are themselves mind-like but all constituents are indeed mind-like. And some collections of constituents combine in such a way to create new higher-level minds/holons/actual entities.

As for your earlier question about the oscillatory theory of minds, this is part of Whitehead's theory of actual entities, prehensions and concrescence. Each actual entity oscillates in each moment of the "creative advance" (the laying down of the universe and the creation of temporality) between subjective and objective. The subjective component receives/prehends the universe and chooses which information to heed or ignore, becoming concrete/objective. This process is the universe. That is, every locus of the universe goes through this process with each tick of the clock (time is fundamentally quantized, as is matter) and collectively produces the universe in each tick.
apeiron
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Apr5-11, 11:05 PM
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You've punted the mind/body problem to the life/not-life problem by equating the two and then stating your lack of insight (and science more generally) into when life begins. This isn't really that helpful if we stop there.
I thought I was stating the abundance of insight that actually exists within the systems science perspective, especially in the semiotic and dissipative structure area.

And it was you who asked me to state the cut off between systems without mind and systems with. The life boundary is where I would draw it for the reasons stated. So I was answering a question, not "punting" a problem that I felt uncomfortable with.

But life is, like consciousness/mind, a quality that inheres in all things just a little bit and in more complex things a lot. Pansemiotism = panpsychism = panzoism.

Here's a recent essay of mine on panzoism:

http://www.independent.com/news/2011/mar/27/what-life/
Yes, so what unites complex systems is the dissipative structure perspective. Good. In some useful sense, there is a unified perspective of global organisation to be found in standard thermodynamics. Biology can make proper connection with a non-reductive kind of physics as we would want.

But then you also need the further theory that allows you to chalk in the line between live and non-live, mind and non-mind.

You are wanting to argue that every dissipative structure is a "little bit alive". And you can sort of say that as a way to first get people out of the mental rut of thinking all material systems must start out "dead and unorganised". But then you have to proceed to the next step of having a theory of how life and mind are distinctive.

Or I guess you can presume they are not. But given most people presume an actual difference just on naive realism, and that people who are theoretical biologists widely believe they have good theories about this matter, then you at least have to be seen to have some strong argument that allows you to dismiss these things quite so quickly.

As an aside, you cite Schrodinger. But he explicitly touches on the Pattee-style point that there is indeed something causally novel about life. See p85 where he talks about clockwork vs organism. He is talking directly about the fact that simple complexity (abiotic dissipative structure) it ruled by the hurly burly of thermodynamics. It is rate dependent dynamics. A dissipative process has no control over the speed at which it unwinds. The boundary constraints are fixed and whatever is within just goes to equilbrium in a straight line.

But Schrodinger, with considerable genius, already could see the reasons why a genetic code was a game changer. "The aperiodic crystal forming the hereditary substance [stands] largely withdrawn from the disorder of heat motion." He said physics had to realise this was indeed a new principle, a new source of causality. Schrodinger himself drew the line just where I am saying it should be drawn.

A good historical review of the issue is Pattee's The Physics of Symbols: Bridging the Epistemic Cut".
http://informatics.indiana.edu/rocha/pattee/pattee.html

And here's another on why emergentism (and eliminativism) equates to crypto-panpsychism:

http://www.independent.com/news/2010...not-conscious/
I don't buy the argument you're making there for the same reasons already stated.

You've assumed in your discussion that I'm arguing (and Whitehead) that the most basic experience requires complex structures. That's not my position. My position is that as the fundamental entities of the universe complexify so mind complexifies. Not all aggregates are themselves mind-like but all constituents are indeed mind-like. And some collections of constituents combine in such a way to create new higher-level minds/holons/actual entities.
You talked explicitly about drops of experience, so I get that you see experience as basic.

My complaint is still I see no theory of complexity in what you say (I may have to wait for the JCS paper, perhaps, but you could surely be more specific here if you had a mind to).

What do you mean by complexity?

I've already said I mean the irreducible triadic complexity of Peirce and modern hierarchy theorists. Which in turn looks like dissipative structure theory these days. And then there is the further level of complexity that comes with life/mind. So there is nothing simple about my model of complexity. But I can point you at as many papers and books on the subject as you like.

As for your earlier question about the oscillatory theory of minds, this is part of Whitehead's theory of actual entities, prehensions and concrescence.
Sorry, I misunderstood as I don't see that as an oscillation as such, just a process of development. An oscillation in my mind is a returning to a prior state, but this is instead a taking of destinies which then generates a fresh set of possibilities.

So I would use different words. Did Whitehead actually call it "oscillatory"?
apeiron
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Apr6-11, 03:34 AM
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PS. You're right that Koestler would not say all holons are mind-like - only physical holons, that is, actual holons. Holons can of course be purely conceptual, like "France," for example, which is obviously not a mental entity.
No, I still don't believe that is a correct characterisation of Koestler. I've never seen him make panpsychic claims himself. So I would be interested if I had missed that.

I've found commentaries that try to interpret him as a believer, but even they are clearly straining the point, and probably don't really understand what he was saying (even though he was a straight down the middle hierarchy theorist in my view).

For instance...p244
http://www.bath.ac.uk/carpp/publicat...s_chapter6.pdf

Whereas by contrast in his own words it always seems clear he is talking about consciousness as a biological phenomenon....

8.7 Consciousness appears as an emergent quality in phylogeny and ontogeny, which, from primitive beginnings, evolves towards more complex and precise states. It is the highest manifestation of the Integrative Tendency (4.3) to extract order out of disorder, and information out of noise.

http://www.panarchy.org/koestler/holon.1969.html
Ferris_bg
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Apr6-11, 06:07 AM
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Hi PhizzicsPhan,

Great post by you on the panpsychism and emergence topic. We had a similar discussion while ago. You said you've written some articles, can you present a little more yourself.
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For example, no modern panpsychist that I know of argues that a chair or a rock is conscious - despite the bad jokes often lobbed at panpsychists. Rather, the molecules that comprise the chair or rock presumably have a very rudimentary type of consciousness but the larger objects themselves (again, presumably) lack the kind of interconnections required to become unitary subjects.

The subjects we know best are humans. Each of us, in fact, knows exactly one subject intimately: ourselves. Clearly, then, some aggregates of matter do in fact produce a complex unitary subject and we call this our “mind.”

The “hard problem” of consciousness is figuring out the relationship between mind and matter and why some matter gives rise to unitary subjects and why others don’t. Why am I conscious, and you, and my cat, but not the chair or the rock?

We have literally no certainty as to what objects in the universe, other than ourselves, are also subjects because we can only know our own self as a subject.

Don't you think that once one finds the required dependence/interconnection/relationship for unitary subjects, subjectivity goes away? In other words do you think that you can have subjectivity without emergence? I personally don't, but I want to hear your thoughts on this.
ConradDJ
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Apr6-11, 07:53 AM
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What software are you talking about? Do you have a reference that the brain FIRST operates like a machine (essentially a computer) and SECOND that it's digital? Where do you get the idea that the software is the "personal experience" and "the sense of self"?

Maui – I apologize for slipping into private metaphor without explanation. I mistakenly assumed it would be evident that the “software” I referred to is human language, which gets “installed” in our brains as we learn to talk. Of course it’s clear that the brain works very differently from our current digital computers.

But the point is that a human brain does not automatically “grow” a human mind, through its biological programming. Our biological “hardware” only gives us the capacity to develop the kind of consciousness that distinguishes human beings, by hooking into the web of language that surrounds us as we grow up.

It seems to me that the kind of reflective self-awareness specific to human consciousness, our awareness of being ourselves and of "having awareness", our ability to think beyond the moment, all arise out of the ability to talk with others and also with ourselves.

I realize the difference between human awareness and animal awareness doesn't seem important to you. But what you and PhizzicsPhan seem to be doing is taking this specifically human, language-based awareness of "being inside" our own heads and treating it as a mysterious objective property called “consciousness” that may or may not pertain to all kinds of entities.

For example:
Quote Quote by PhizzicsPhan View Post
Colin McGinn, a British philosopher, states perhaps even more forcefully why emergentism fails:

“[W]e do not know how consciousness might have arisen by natural processes from antecedently existing material things. Somehow or other sentience sprang from pulpy matter, giving matter an inner aspect, but we have no idea how this leap was propelled… . One is tempted, however reluctantly, to turn to divine assistance: for only a kind of miracle could produce this from that. It would take a supernatural magician to extract consciousness from matter....”

This is the panpsychist position: Where there is matter there is also mind; they are two aspects of the same thing. As matter complexifies, so mind complexifies...

Alan Watts said it best: “For every inside there is an outside, and for every outside there is an inside; though they are different, they go together.”

It seems, then, that today’s prevailing theory that advocates mind as a purely emergent phenomenon has major problems.

If all that was meant here is that everything has its own point of view on the world, I would have no problem with it. I think in physics it will eventually turn out to be very useful to describe an atom’s physical “relationships” with other atoms, from its own “point of view” in space and time. But it makes no sense to me to insist that there must therefore be some sort of mysterious “rudimentary consciousness” in an atom.

So I don’t agree at all with the conclusions drawn here – i.e. that it takes a “miracle” to create “sentience” from mere matter, or that there is any problem with thinking about mind as “emergent”. There is just a confusion here between the “point of view” that could be ascribed to anything located in space and time, a “sentience” that in varying degrees all living organisms have, and an “inner awareness” that is very specifically human.
ConradDJ
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Apr6-11, 08:45 AM
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To try to sum up what I learned from Heidegger –

There is a very deep tendency in us to imagine the world “from no point of view” – that is, “inauthentically”. The sketches drawn by Apeiron and PhizzicsPhan above are examples of this... but so is most of science and philosophy.

This “inauthentic” viewpoint is not at all wrong. In the first place, it’s a key human ability, and perhaps the thing that most distinguishes us from other animals, that we can “see” the world in our minds in a way that goes far beyond the “here and now” of our actual real-time experience. And secondly, of course, this ability to envision reality “objectively” is basic to the success of philosophy and science.

But, according to Heidegger, any objective description of the world necessarily leaves out something fundamental. Our “subjective” viewpoint on the world does give us not merely a partial, limited, biased version of objective reality. Subjectivity is not just something that we need to “get beyond” in order to get to the truth.

Because what’s most fundamental in the world has to do with participating in relationships, from one’s own “authentic” viewpoint. The world is not only a collection of more or less complex systems sitting out there in a vast objective space and time. At a more basic level it’s made of the “here and now” communicative interaction between different points of view, which is the world each of us actually experiences.

So what I get from this is that we need both the objective viewpoint and the very different viewpoint each of us actually has on the world. A purely objective picture of more and less complex systems interacting in various ways according to various principles can give us a vast amount of useful information. But if what’s ultimately going on in the world has to do with the evolution of the kinds of relationships each of us actually has, from our own point of view, then no objective picture can get to what’s fundamental.

And I think that’s exactly the dilemma physics is facing now. It wants to abstract from the “viewpoint of the observer” in order to get to an objective picture of reality. It has done that very well, and harvested a vast amount of precisely detailed information about the world... but with essentially no understanding at all of what the fundamental theories are telling us about the kind of world we live in.

The "observer" in physics is not necessarily "conscious". What's at issue here is the "here and now" viewpoint that physical systems have of each other as they interact. I think this "being there" in real-time relationships is what we're being challenged to conceptualize... not some sort of "inner awareness" conceived as an objective property of things.

Maui complained that these are “just assertions”... I would say, they’re just attempts to imagine the world in a way that hasn’t been done before. I’m not trying to “prove” I’m right and that the objective picture is demonstrably inadequate. We don’t yet have any well-developed picture of the world from an “authentic” viewpoint, to argue in favor of.
PhizzicsPhan
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Apr6-11, 12:17 PM
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Apeiron, I'll respond in more detail later (I have a day job unfortunately), but for now here is my response to your question about my theory of complexity.

I have fleshed out in my forthcoming JCS paper a three-part theory of complexity that provides an answer to the question: "is A conscious?" and "how conscious is A?"

1) Perceptual unity - this quantifies the information bandwidth of A at a snapshot in time with the "Perception Index" (PI or the letter pi). "Perception" refers to information in a general sense, not biological perception only.

2) Internal connectivity - this quantifies the processing power of A with the Connectivity Index (CI or the letter psi).

3) Field coherence - time is quantized at a fundamental level and the boundaries of A are defined by the ability for information to flow through A within each chronon (time quantum) or chronon multiple. That is, the speed of information flow creates the boundaries of A. What we normally describe as living organisms have evolved to bootstrap various physical properties to enhance the speed of information flows, as Mae-Wan Ho describes beautifully in her book, The Rainbow and the Worm. This is achieved through resonance/coherence/synchrony of various kinds in organisms and also objects that we wouldn't normally consider organisms, like electrons. It's all a matter of degree. Biological life seems discontinuous from other forms because of the degree to which cell-based life and multi-cellular life in particular has been able to bootstrap information flows. But it's not really a difference in kind, just of degree.

I am currently adapting this same framework to "life" and equating life with consciousness, as discussed above. Both go all the way down.
PhizzicsPhan
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Apr6-11, 12:19 PM
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I forgot to add that the consciousness of A is the product of PI and CI = Omega. This is normalized score of 0 to 100. This answers the question: "How conscious is A?"

I also forgot to add that the third step (field coherence) answers the question: "Is A conscious?"
apeiron
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Apr6-11, 03:31 PM
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Quote Quote by ConradDJ View Post
So what I get from this is that we need both the objective viewpoint and the very different viewpoint each of us actually has on the world. A purely objective picture of more and less complex systems interacting in various ways according to various principles can give us a vast amount of useful information. But if what’s ultimately going on in the world has to do with the evolution of the kinds of relationships each of us actually has, from our own point of view, then no objective picture can get to what’s fundamental.
I still don't see how this works without also being the construction of an inauthentic objective description of reality. Because as soon as you speak about a relationship between a me and a you, you are already standing outside that dyadic interaction in a third place.

The fundamental authentic description would seem to limit you to just a monistic me, as even imagining a something at the other end which is a you, with its own viewpoint, is taking yourself outside of your viewpoint to a generalised realm where viewpoints may or may not be the case.
apeiron
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Apr6-11, 06:23 PM
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I also forgot to add that the third step (field coherence) answers the question: "Is A conscious?"
Of course this is just a sketch of your paper, but I see some questionmarks.

If the key idea is some form of global field coherence, then this no longer seems strictly panpsychic, and also seems not to answer the hard problem.

It is not panpsychic because coherence must be a relationship (a state of correlation) between things, not a local property of some thing.

It would still be a pan-something argument (pansemiotic I would say perhaps). But panpsychism is usually taken as a "property of a substance" ontology. Whereas a coherent field is an "emergent feature of relationships" ontology.

Second, the hard problem would appear to remain untouched. You are asserting that a coherent field IS conscious. But we could equally imagine that a coherent field does everything it does as a zombie.

An electron could be the result of some Whiteheadian process in which an actual occasion swims into concrete being through an act of engagement with a wider world. We could grant all the "becoming coherent" part of the argument. But the electron could be conscious or it could be a zombie. Nothing in the argument necessitates one or the other (so far from what you have said).
PhizzicsPhan
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Apr7-11, 12:46 AM
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Apeiron, it seems clear to me that because we are not zombies that zombies can't exist in actuality. That is, they are logically possible but not metaphysically or physically possible in our actual universe. I never bought Chalmers' arguments about zombies for the same reason.

As for my solution to the hard problem, there is a level at which you are right: there is a substrate of pure potentiality in my ontology that is not conscious. So my ontology is, strictly speaking, a panpsychist neutral monism. The substrate is ether/apeiron/Brahman, whatever you want to call it. But the actual entities that comprise our universe are all drops of experience that comprise the only actual things. All matter/energy/stuff is ultimately an actual entity. And experiential.

The universe arises in each moment because of the bubbling of actuality from potentiality in each moment/chronon. Complex actual entities, as opposed to maximally simple constituents such as quarks or electrons, arise through resonance/synchrony. The "field" of synchrony is the collection of actual entities themselves. This field can consist of constituents that resonate entirely at different frequencies, as in the primordial chaos that preceded our ordered universe. Or they can resonate in some areas in synchrony, as in humans and other complex life.
apeiron
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Apr7-11, 03:51 AM
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Apeiron, it seems clear to me that because we are not zombies that zombies can't exist in actuality. That is, they are logically possible but not metaphysically or physically possible in our actual universe. I never bought Chalmers' arguments about zombies for the same reason.
That's a little surprising as the zombie argument is what is necessary to drive a wedge of doubt into standard emergentist account of consciousness, so justifying the search for something as radically unsupported as panpsychism.

I agree zombies can't exist, but that would be for logical reasons.

Quote Quote by PhizzicsPhan View Post
As for my solution to the hard problem, there is a level at which you are right: there is a substrate of pure potentiality in my ontology that is not conscious. So my ontology is, strictly speaking, a panpsychist neutral monism. The substrate is ether/apeiron/Brahman, whatever you want to call it. But the actual entities that comprise our universe are all drops of experience that comprise the only actual things. All matter/energy/stuff is ultimately an actual entity. And experiential.

The universe arises in each moment because of the bubbling of actuality from potentiality in each moment/chronon. Complex actual entities, as opposed to maximally simple constituents such as quarks or electrons, arise through resonance/synchrony.
Put that way, our positions are then much closer. As I say, it sounds more like what I know as pansemiosis - which is a fairly new position based on Peircean metaphysics (and no one says Peirce was saying something completely new, just that he had a fairly complete story).

Yet still I don't see consciousness as a process that exists all the way down to the fundamental scale of being. To be a mind requires that selfhood and autonomy that comes only with life. There has to be an extra ingredient as spelt out by Pattee.

So I do see a qualitative difference arising in semiosis with the transition from abios to bios, then again another big qualitative change in the transition from animals to humans. It is not merely a quantity thing.

Quote Quote by PhizzicsPhan View Post
The "field" of synchrony is the collection of actual entities themselves. This field can consist of constituents that resonate entirely at different frequencies, as in the primordial chaos that preceded our ordered universe. Or they can resonate in some areas in synchrony, as in humans and other complex life.
I suppose this is where Water Freeman comes in?
ConradDJ
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Apr7-11, 08:31 AM
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Quote Quote by apeiron View Post
I still don't see how this works without also being the construction of an inauthentic objective description of reality. Because as soon as you speak about a relationship between a me and a you, you are already standing outside that dyadic interaction in a third place.

The fundamental authentic description would seem to limit you to just a monistic me, as even imagining a something at the other end which is a you, with its own viewpoint, is taking yourself outside of your viewpoint to a generalised realm where viewpoints may or may not be the case.

Yes, in both cases we are imagining something beyond our immediate experience.

The way we’re all used to doing this, when we think about “the world”, is to “stand outside” our relationships and describe the world to ourselves from no point of view. For example, we picture a vast space in which things are located, we describe the characteristics of each system, and how this picture changes over time.

Something else we’re not nearly so good at is to try to describe our conscious experience itself – for example, in phenomenology. Maybe this is what you mean by a “monistic me”. There are all kinds of difficulties here – starting with the fact that it’s hard to generalize about “consciousness” when you will never have more than one version of it available to you... a version with its own unique developmental history.

The value of the “objective” view can hardly be doubted, and to you and me, at least, the “internal view” is also of great interest. But they are both “inauthentic” in the sense that in both cases we are “stepping out” of our own existence in order to be good observers.

So the question is, what would it mean to imagine the world “authentically”, without standing outside of our own experience? And what would be the value of describing the world from that viewpoint, i.e. the viewpoint we always actually have? Where we are not observing, primarily, but participating in our relationships?

I think essentially it means seeing the world as made of communications rather than things. If we think of the world we live in as made of our relationships – including the relationship with ourselves that we call “consciousness” – then the key point is that all our information about the world and about ourselves comes to us through this web of real-time interaction. Everything we can know, everything we can do, everything we care about, is made possible only because this interaction-environment supports meaningful communication.

Now we can hardly doubt that whatever else is it or does, the physical world communicates information. But from the usual “inauthentic” viewpoint, this gets taken for granted. When we “stand outside” the relationships in which it’s actually happening, communication gets conceived as an objective “transfer of information” – as if the information were inherently meaningful.

But from any point of view in the world, an interaction can communicate information only to the extent there is a context of other kinds of interaction to which it makes a difference, in terms of which it “means something”. In physics, there is determinate information only to the extent there is an appropriate “measurement context”.

So there’s a basic aspect of the world’s structure that gets lost in the “inauthentic” view – which is how many different kinds of relationships make an “informational environment” that supports communication between points of view, moment to moment.

Now Heidegger did not focus on the communicative nature of relationships, or on what kind of support relationships need from other relationships to make meaningful connection possible. This is still uncharted territory, I think.

And again, it’s not a matter of replacing the objective view of the world with a better one. But the objective view only gives us the “content” of the information carried on the web of real-time interaction – the facts about things. It completely misses the contextual structure of the world as a system that lets the facts “appear” – that makes information meaningful or measurable from a particular point of view in a particular moment. And it can therefore easily mislead us into thinking of “objective reality” as all there is to the world, and all that needs to be understood about it.


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