View Poll Results: Are qualia real?
Yes, and they are not physical 16 48.48%
Yes, and they are physical 10 30.30%
No 7 21.21%
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Are qualia real?

by StatusX
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learningphysics
#109
Mar15-05, 12:00 PM
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Quote Quote by Steve Esser
I’m giving a different account than yours to try to make a point. Let me know if it gets any clearer.

I say the process itself gives rise to the raw qualitative what-it-is-like of experience which in turn constitutes the hard problem. This is a pre-reflective experience. But when we enter what I call the introspective or reflective mode (your “qualitative sense/awareness") and cogitate on our experiences, we end up creating new categories of things: sense-data, representations, qualia. These things are misleading: experience is an activity, not a collection of things – it is a direct engagement with the world.
Yes, but "what" is engaging with the world?
learningphysics
#110
Mar15-05, 12:13 PM
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Quote Quote by Les Sleeth
you might be interested, I developed this idea in an earlier thread here where I created an imaginary debate between Dennett and the Buddha.
That was fun to read!

But I think many Buddhists would strongly disagree with the position that you attribute to Buddha. They'd call it more Hindu than buddhist, particularly the reference to a "foundation".

Good stuff.
Les Sleeth
#111
Mar15-05, 01:20 PM
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Quote Quote by Steve Esser
I say the process itself gives rise to the raw qualitative what-it-is-like of experience which in turn constitutes the hard problem. This is a pre-reflective experience. But when we enter what I call the introspective or reflective mode (your “qualitative sense/awareness") and cogitate on our experiences, we end up creating new categories of things: sense-data, representations, qualia. These things are misleading: experience is an activity, not a collection of things – it is a direct engagement with the world.

Looking at your last post, Les, I guess I might have a very different view than yours, given that I think the activity of experience is what is primary, and introspection is derivative. I think process or event ontologies do a better job. On the other hand, we may be considered closer in views, if you allow that if we could dissolve our higher cognitive functions (including the construction of the higher-order self) we would still be left embedded in the network of activity in the world – an activity which necessarily gives rise to experience.
Yes we do have different views, but you should know that mine is being taken from the sort of experience I cherish. You say experience is "a direct engagement with the world," but I know for a fact that experience does not require engagement with the world.

Because I have practiced mediation daily for 30 years, I can speak of what it is like to still the mind. In my practice, one withdraws from the senses, turns one attention around 180 degrees, and learns to "merge" with something utterly still inside. In that there is no external world necessary to be absorbed into a deep experience . . . one needs nothing but one's self.

Now when after practicing I open my eyes and engage the world, just as I did this morning, for awhile at least I am able to keep my mind still. If "experience" is the result of activity, I cannot see what that activity is. Whether info from the "world" strikes my consciousness or not, I am still experiencing my self in that stillness; in fact, the stillness creates the most powerful experience of self I know.

You spoke of the ability to "dissolve our higher cognitive functions," but I am not so sure that cognitive functions are "higher" than the pure experience of consciousness (i.e., still, inactive, but fully present). I seem to perceive and understand more when my mind is still than when the damn thing refuses to shut up.

So like the link to one of my earlier threads I referenced in my last post, I don't believe as many functionalists do that consciousness arises from activity, but rather consciousness is diminished by it when one cannot control that activity enough to stop it and view reality, and oneself, without the filters incessant mentality creates.
Les Sleeth
#112
Mar15-05, 01:25 PM
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Quote Quote by learningphysics
That was fun to read!

But I think many Buddhists would strongly disagree with the position that you attribute to Buddha. They'd call it more Hindu than buddhist, particularly the reference to a "foundation".

Good stuff.
Thanks LP. I'm glad you appreciated it.

Just a note though. You are probably right that many "Buddhists" might disagree with the foundational concept, but I quoted the Buddha himself (the long discourses found in the Digha Nikaya) when I said, “There is, monks, that plane where there is neither extension nor motion. . . there is no coming or going or remaining or deceasing or uprising. . . . There is, monks, an unborn, not become, not made, uncompounded . . . [and] because [that exists] . . . an escape can be shown for what is born, has become, is made, is compounded.” If that's not a "foundation," I don't know what is!
Steve Esser
#113
Mar15-05, 01:54 PM
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Quote Quote by learningphysics
Yes, but "what" is engaging with the world?
I didn't mean to be unclear, and was referring to a human. The idea is that a human is a natural system whose interaction with its environment gives rise (necessarily) to experience.

Moving into my speculative panexperientialist mode, I would extend this to say what defines distinct systems throughout nature is a (heretofore unacknowledged) aspect of causality which provides a coordinating or binding function. In us, this aspect is felt as experience.
Steve Esser
#114
Mar15-05, 02:00 PM
P: 51
Quote Quote by Les Sleeth
Yes we do have different views, but you should know that mine is being taken from the sort of experience I cherish. You say experience is "a direct engagement with the world," but I know for a fact that experience does not require engagement with the world.

Because I have practiced mediation daily for 30 years, I can speak of what it is like to still the mind. In my practice, one withdraws from the senses, turns one attention around 180 degrees, and learns to "merge" with something utterly still inside. In that there is no external world necessary to be absorbed into a deep experience . . . one needs nothing but one's self.

Now when after practicing I open my eyes and engage the world, just as I did this morning, for awhile at least I am able to keep my mind still. If "experience" is the result of activity, I cannot see what that activity is. Whether info from the "world" strikes my consciousness or not, I am still experiencing my self in that stillness; in fact, the stillness creates the most powerful experience of self I know.

You spoke of the ability to "dissolve our higher cognitive functions," but I am not so sure that cognitive functions are "higher" than the pure experience of consciousness (i.e., still, inactive, but fully present). I seem to perceive and understand more when my mind is still than when the damn thing refuses to shut up.

So like the link to one of my earlier threads I referenced in my last post, I don't believe as many functionalists do that consciousness arises from activity, but rather consciousness is diminished by it when one cannot control that activity enough to stop it and view reality, and oneself, without the filters incessant mentality creates.
Thanks Les. I'll think about what this implies about the way I've been approaching things. Off the top of my head, I would think that a person's engagement with the rest of the world could be seen as continuing in meditation - but only at a micro-level.
learningphysics
#115
Mar17-05, 01:31 AM
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Quote Quote by Steve Esser
I didn't mean to be unclear, and was referring to a human. The idea is that a human is a natural system whose interaction with its environment gives rise (necessarily) to experience.

Moving into my speculative panexperientialist mode, I would extend this to say what defines distinct systems throughout nature is a (heretofore unacknowledged) aspect of causality which provides a coordinating or binding function. In us, this aspect is felt as experience.
And by human, are you referring to the matter that composes the human body? The physical atoms themselves? Just want to get as specific as possible, as to what exactly is having the experience.
Tournesol
#116
Mar17-05, 07:32 AM
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Quote Quote by Les Sleeth
Qualia are absolutely private, period.
But I can tell what qualia you are having by examing their neural correlates,
and I can tell what they are like on analogy with my own.

If you can make one an external thing, please do so and show it to us.
Your qualia are already external to me.

And who cares who’s hands it plays into. Is the consciousness question a game or are we after the truth. Let consciousnes be whatever it turns out to be, whether it’s Dennett’s version or Chalmers’ or something entirely different.
But you yourself are dead against Denett's version. Is that becuae you
think it is untrue, or what ?

There’s nothing homuncular in suggesting a subject is present.
There is nothing homuncular in suggesting you, Les are present
in a room. There is something very homuncular about suggesting there
is a mini-Les inside Les's head, watching the world on a kind of TV.

Why else have we labelled the experience “subjective”? It is because a subject is present.
A subject or a subject-in-a-subject ?

And by the way, just because functionalists have decided to “dismiss” the homuncular model doesn’t mean it doesn’t have relevance.
Just about everybody has dismissed it , and for good reasons.

I don’t know about you, but as for me I am quite certain there is a “me” in here using my intellect, imagination, emotions.
So in addition to Les's intellect, imagination, emotions, there is a little Les
using them all ? But how could little Les use them without thoughts and desires of his own. Wouldn't it be simpler to say that your intellect, imagination, emotions are interacting with each other, and the total
process constitutes "you".

So my objection to all these debates about the nature of consciousness is that no one is even looking at what it IS; they keep looking at what it does, and that is characterized by activity in the non-stop thinking mind. In case you might be interested, I developed this idea in an earlier thread here where I created an imaginary debate between Dennett and the Buddha.
You still haven't made it clear whether this knowledge of "what consciousness
IS" is supposed to be able to answer the Hard Problem.
Tournesol
#117
Mar17-05, 09:44 AM
P: 732
Quote Quote by Les Sleeth
If you cannot make your mind be still, then how do you know if it has a nature that only shows up when it isn’t moving? An analogy I’ve used before is to imagine consciousness is a barrel of water in the back of a pickup truck that is rolling along a rough country road. If all that conscious water had ever known was the sloshing, bouncing, vibrating, etc., that occurs on its surface, it might come to believe its nature is all that surface movement. But once the water becomes perfectly still, it sees it actually has depth, and that water, rather than movement, is its “essence.”
So you say. But one of the ways one would tell a real pond from a fake
pond made of glass, is that the real pond can slosh.

The people you call functionalists think consc. is all sloshing -- behavior. They cannot see the Hard Problem, because behaviour is readily explaiend physically.

I think the sloshing and stillness -- behaviour and experience are both
part of consc. so for me there is a Hard Problem.

You think consc. is all stillness and no sloshing. Does that mean you can solve the HP, or that for you there is no HP because consc. has nothing to do
with matter or the physical implementation ?
Steve Esser
#118
Mar17-05, 10:21 AM
P: 51
Quote Quote by learningphysics
And by human, are you referring to the matter that composes the human body? The physical atoms themselves? Just want to get as specific as possible, as to what exactly is having the experience.
Hello learningphysics (my name could be "neverlearnedenoughphysics").

I definitely wouldn't use the terms matter or material (what are they, anyway, given what we know of physics?). Atoms come and go from our bodies. An individual human is a system or a network of interactions. To make sense of such a system being distinguishable within the larger network of the world, we must supplement our usual notion of micro-level physical causality (one billiard ball effecting the next) with another aspect of causation -- a binding or coordinating aspect. With this new fuller concept of causality in place, I then speculate that to the human system in question, this coordinating aspect of causality is felt as experience.
(Am I far out enough on a limb now?).
learningphysics
#119
Mar17-05, 12:04 PM
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Quote Quote by Steve Esser
Hello learningphysics (my name could be "neverlearnedenoughphysics").

I definitely wouldn't use the terms matter or material (what are they, anyway, given what we know of physics?). Atoms come and go from our bodies. An individual human is a system or a network of interactions. To make sense of such a system being distinguishable within the larger network of the world, we must supplement our usual notion of micro-level physical causality (one billiard ball effecting the next) with another aspect of causation -- a binding or coordinating aspect. With this new fuller concept of causality in place, I then speculate that to the human system in question, this coordinating aspect of causality is felt as experience.
(Am I far out enough on a limb now?).
Hi Steve. Yes, I think my name should also be "neverlearnedenoughphysics".

I have a problem with saying that a "system of interactions" is having an experience. An "interaction" is not a substance of any kind. It is a relationship between a cause and an effect. There is no "thing" that is an interaction, it is purely informational. For example, if I push a table forward... there are two substances involved (we could get into the details of what happens on an atomic level... but I won't go there). The one substance is myself. The other is the table. The "push" is not a substance. Would it make sense to say that the "push" is having an experience?

A system of interactions, is just a system of relationships. There is no substance anywhere here either. There is no "thing".

It would be like saying the "arrangement" of books on a shelf is having an experience, whereas none of the books themselves are experiencing anything.

Am I a substance? Am I a thing of some kind? Yes, I'm certain of that. Every experience shows that I'm some "thing".
learningphysics
#120
Mar17-05, 12:07 PM
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Quote Quote by Tournesol

So in addition to Les's intellect, imagination, emotions, there is a little Les
using them all ? But how could little Les use them without thoughts and desires of his own. Wouldn't it be simpler to say that your intellect, imagination, emotions are interacting with each other, and the total
process constitutes "you".
No. This is simply ignoring the nature of experience itself. There is something that is having an experience. That something is the person. It doesn't make sense to talk about emotions, desires or intellect, if there isn't something that is "experiencing" emotions, desires or intellect.
Les Sleeth
#121
Mar17-05, 12:51 PM
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Quote Quote by Tournesol
But I can tell what qualia you are having by examing their neural correlates, and I can tell what they are like on analogy with my own. . . . Your qualia are already external to me.
You can see my neurons do something, you cannot directly witness what my experience is (and direct observation is the issue). If I am painting a work of art, are you sharing my artistic experience first hand because you can see the brush move? No one is denying there are physical counterparts to consciousness, but that doesn't allow us to directly observe the fullness that is known in the quality of an experience.


Quote Quote by Tournesol
But you yourself are dead against Denett's version. Is that becuae you think it is untrue, or what?
I am skeptical of it because his model doesn't explain how someone can still the mind and be conscious. According to his model, that should make someone un- or less conscious and it doesn't.


Quote Quote by Tournesol
There is nothing homuncular in suggesting you, Les are present in a room. There is something very homuncular about suggesting there is a mini-Les inside Les's head, watching the world on a kind of TV. . . .
Just about everybody has dismissed it , and for good reasons. . . . So in addition to Les's intellect, imagination, emotions, there is a little Les
using them all ? But how could little Les use them without thoughts and desires of his own. Wouldn't it be simpler to say that your intellect, imagination, emotions are interacting with each other, and the total
process constitutes "you".
There is no little Les. There is Les, and the rest are not-Les. The intellect, imagination, emotions are "things" in the sense of having structure and parts. Les is something unstructured, integrated, whole, unified . . . he is the knowing feeling part at the heart of the mix, not the functions he can set in motion with the help of his brain. How do I know that?


Quote Quote by Tournesol
Quote Quote by Les Sleeth
If you cannot make your mind be still, then how do you know if it has a nature that only shows up when it isn’t moving? An analogy I’ve used before is to imagine consciousness is a barrel of water in the back of a pickup truck that is rolling along a rough country road. If all that conscious water had ever known was the sloshing, bouncing, vibrating, etc., that occurs on its surface, it might come to believe its nature is all that surface movement. But once the water becomes perfectly still, it sees it actually has depth, and that water, rather than movement, is its “essence.”
So you say. But one of the ways one would tell a real pond from a fake pond made of glass, is that the real pond can slosh. The people you call functionalists think consc. is all sloshing -- behavior. They cannot see the Hard Problem, because behaviour is readily explained physically. I think the sloshing and stillness -- behaviour and experience are both part of consc. so for me there is a Hard Problem.

You think consc. is all stillness and no sloshing. Does that mean you can solve the HP, or that for you there is no HP because consc. has nothing to do
with matter or the physical implementation ? . . . You still haven't made it clear whether this knowledge of "what consciousness IS" is supposed to be able to answer the Hard Problem.
Neither you nor functionalists can possibly know if consciousness shows itself in stillness unless you personally can achieve that (I don't think you are going to take my word for it ). I say you do not need to think or imagine or indulge in emotions to be conscious; all those "functions" can be made to be still and something yet remains, which one readily recognizes as "me." When one achieves that stillness, it becomes crystal clear that the "me" is what is initiating all the functions, even if most people can't control how/when they set them in motion.

You are right that the functions are very much tied to brain physiology, and that is exactly why studying them exclusively leads one to the conclusion that the brain is causing consciousness. Similarly, if one is caught up in the relentless functioning of the brain (which a being quite unconsciously is causing), then one comes to believe that self arises from that because functions are dominating for that person.

There is a "hard problem" only in terms of trying to explain consciousness without experiencing it apart from activity. I mean, I don't see Chalmers as much better in this respect except he allows for a non-physical explanation. But he still doesn't know a thing about what's behind the functions, and I say he never will until he can get his mind to stop trying to "think" the answer. The answer is not found in a thought or a concept (since thinking is a function), the answer is found in the experience of pure consciousness free from enslavement to the brain.

Of course, that doesn't tell us how consciousness is linked to the brain, or what its origin is, which seems to be what you are mostly interested in. I agree that is an interesting subject, I just don't agree that you are going to understand consciousness by studying the brain or the functions of consciousness.
Steve Esser
#122
Mar17-05, 02:33 PM
P: 51
Quote Quote by learningphysics
Hi Steve. Yes, I think my name should also be "neverlearnedenoughphysics".

I have a problem with saying that a "system of interactions" is having an experience. An "interaction" is not a substance of any kind. It is a relationship between a cause and an effect. There is no "thing" that is an interaction, it is purely informational. For example, if I push a table forward... there are two substances involved (we could get into the details of what happens on an atomic level... but I won't go there). The one substance is myself. The other is the table. The "push" is not a substance. Would it make sense to say that the "push" is having an experience?

A system of interactions, is just a system of relationships. There is no substance anywhere here either. There is no "thing".

It would be like saying the "arrangement" of books on a shelf is having an experience, whereas none of the books themselves are experiencing anything.

Am I a substance? Am I a thing of some kind? Yes, I'm certain of that. Every experience shows that I'm some "thing".
I'm trying out this way of thinking because:

1. I think "substance thinking" has completely failed on the mind/body question in the past. Descartes proposed substance dualism. Monistic responses to this were to say everything was matter (materialism) or everything was mind (idealism). All 3 of these approaches are fatally flawed, IMO.

2. Quantum physics gives us some motivation to question our common sense notion of inert matter and move toward an ontology based on events (or information transfer). (Maybe "event" is better than interaction - "interaction" does seem to imply that things are doing the interacting!). There are no static fundamental particles. The micro-level is one of quantum measurements =events.

In the case of pushing the table, the pushing is one (macro-level) event in a causal chain. The table and I are temporally extended systems which are distinguishable at the macro-level by virtue of some special stability or coordination in the causal chain of the micro-events involved.
Tournesol
#123
Mar18-05, 07:12 AM
P: 732
Quote Quote by Les Sleeth
You can see my neurons do something, you cannot directly witness what my experience is (and direct observation is the issue).
No, the issue is whether qualia are "absolutely private" -- that was your original claim. If they can be observed or inferred at all, they are not
absolutely private.

If I am painting a work of art, are you sharing my artistic experience first hand because you can see the brush move? No one is denying there are physical counterparts to consciousness, but that doesn't allow us to directly observe the fullness that is known in the quality of an experience.
Which means qualia are not entirely public -- not that they are entriely private.


I am skeptical of it because his model doesn't explain how someone can still the mind and be conscious. According to his model, that should make someone un- or less conscious and it doesn't.
Hypnagogue had a good reply to that in the Dennett/Buddha thread. Basically stilling the (conscious) mind is not stilling the brain. What we are conscious of is only a
small percentage of what is going on, and there is still plenty of brain activity when someone is meditating.


There is no little Les.
So there is no homunculus.

There is Les, and the rest are not-Les. The intellect, imagination, emotions are "things" in the sense of having structure and parts. Les is something unstructured, integrated, whole, unified . . . he is the knowing feeling part at the heart of the mix, not the functions he can set in motion with the help of his brain. How do I know that?
If he is "at the heart of the mix", he is a homunculus.


There is a "hard problem" only in terms of trying to explain consciousness without experiencing it apart from activity. I mean, I don't see Chalmers as much better in this respect except he allows for a non-physical explanation. But he still doesn't know a thing about what's behind the functions, and I say he never will until he can get his mind to stop trying to "think" the answer. The answer is not found in a thought or a concept (since thinking is a function), the answer is found in the experience of pure consciousness free from enslavement to the brain.
So there is no Hard Problem.

Of course, that doesn't tell us how consciousness is linked to the brain, or what its origin is, which seems to be what you are mostly interested in.
so there is a hard problem.

I agree that is an interesting subject, I just don't agree that you are going to understand consciousness by studying the brain or the functions of consciousness.
I don't think you are going to solve the HP by choosing to look at only
one side of the issue, whether it is the expereintial side or the functional side.
Tournesol
#124
Mar18-05, 07:16 AM
P: 732
Quote Quote by learningphysics
No. This is simply ignoring the nature of experience itself. There is something that is having an experience.
Objectively yes. But the "something" need not have a fully-devleoped sense of self, if you acept that infants nad animals have experiences.
Tournesol
#125
Mar18-05, 07:20 AM
P: 732
And then there is dreaming...
hypnagogue
#126
Mar18-05, 08:35 AM
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Quote Quote by Tournesol
No, the issue is whether qualia are "absolutely private" -- that was your original claim. If they can be observed or inferred at all, they are not
absolutely private.
This is an interesting issue that deserves some further attention. In a sense, I agree with Les, in that the really interesting aspects of qualia-- the ineffible 'what it is like'-ness-- is an absolutely private phenomenon. If we suppose for a moment that there exists a non-conscious computer C that busily goes about studying the universe in the spirit of the scientific method, we might suppose that C could essentially duplicate existing human scientific knowledge, if it were ingenious enough. But I believe C would never have reason to suspect anything like subjective experience existing, as I believe the nature of subjective experience cannot be deduced from studying nature's effective causal patterns alone. In this sense, the essential aspect of what we mean by 'subjective experience' is necessarily blocked off from C, and so subjective experience has the flavor of absolute privacy for C.

However, there is another face to this issue that Tournesol brings up. As we are conscious, experiencing humans, we do have reason to suspect the existence of subjective experience. When we complement this private knowledge with third person methods, we find that in some strong sense, subjective experience systematically covaries with brain activity. (Of course, we have to take it on faith that in those human case studies that have revealed this relationship, the human participants themselves are (were) p-conscious, as we know ourselves to be in the first person case; but in the limit, we could remove this skepticism in theory by conducting fMRI studies, selective cortical stimulation, etc. on our own brains and making note of the systematic covariation that we would find.)

It is natural, then, to suppose that there is some mapping from the functional aspects of brain activity onto both the functional and qualitative aspects of experience. The general form of this mapping would be something like, 'functional pattern X in the brain correlates with functional and qualitative aspects Y of experience.' If this holds, then in a very real sense, studying the structure and function of the brain is studying the structure and function of p-consciousness. If we could know the mapping function for a particular brain, then we could deduce the organization of experience from the organization of the brain. Simply put, studying the brain would amount to studying experience 'from the outside'; we could not know the inner, subjective aspects of experience just from studying the brain, but it turns out that studying the brain amounts to studying experience nonetheless, albeit in a rather obtuse and impoverished manner. It would be somewhat analogous to studying a building from its blueprint, as opposed to actually entering the building and observing it first-hand. Going back to our non-conscious computer C, if C were to study my brain as I write this post, C would, in fact, be studying my subjective experience, although C could not know that this is the case-- that is, C would have no reason to suspect that there would be any qualitative goings-on that correspond to the purely functional / physical phenomena.


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