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A Dualist Phoenix

  1. Jun 5, 2006 #1
    I seem to be among a small number of people who still believe in dualism. At least to the extent that I understand what other people mean by 'dualism', my beliefs seem to qualify. In particular, I believe that consciousness does not reside or take place in the brain, or even in the physical world. I believe that consciousness takes place outside the 4D space-time continuum of our familiar physical world. As for whether or not this should be classified as "dualism" is not of much interest to me. More important to me is that anyone who might be interested in my ideas would try to understand them and refute them rather than simply categorize and dismiss them.

    In this thread I will try to present and defend some of my ideas that might be considered dualistic. I'll start with some conversations from other threads which have been left dangling.

    Although these ideas might seem to some to be a "religion", that is another classification which I find to be nearly useless. My mind is open to change, so if anyone presents a rebuttal to any of my beliefs which I think makes more sense, I will eagerly abandon my old idea and adopt the new one.

    My definition of a 'belief of mine', is a proposition that in my judgment has a specific probability of being true. To accurately express my beliefs, then, I should give you the probability numbers to distinguish, for example, between something that I believe might be true but I doubt it (say at 35%), and something I believe is highly likely to be true (say at 90%). On this scale, absolute truth would be 100% and a proposition that is utterly false with no possibility of being true would be at 0%. To make sure this scale from doubt to certainty is understood, I will try to remember to give you, in parentheses, my judgment of the probability number each time I mention a belief of mine. These numbers are not scientific but instead are based on nothing but my judgment.

    At this point in my thinking, tautologies aside, there is only one proposition which I believe (90%) is absolutely true, and that is that "thought happens". Even though I can't clearly define 'thought', nor 'happens', I nevertheless believe (100%) with certainty that something is going on. I call "something", "thought", and in my judgment, 'happens' is an adequate word to refer to the "goings on". "Thought happens", to me, is just another way of saying that "there is something and not nothing" except that I have labeled the something as "thought". I know that there is thought and that it goes on. Everything else falls somewhere exclusively within the 0 to 100% range in my beliefs.

    Now, let me proceed with some of those dangling threads.
    If there is such law, which I doubt (5%), I don't know where it is. I only know that thought happens. I experience thought and I use the term 'consciousness' to mean that experience that I have. In my opinion (88%), consciousness is not present unless something similar to the conscious experiences that I have is present also. My own conscious experiences are variable, in that sometimes I am more alert, attentive, receptive, or cognizant than I am at other times, so I believe (99%) that there is a range of degrees of consciousness possible. This raises a host of questions about whether or not certain entities are conscious, such as, atoms, bacteria, spiders, dogs, and other humans.
    I don't.
    Yes, I believe they can be (99%).
    'Rational' to you might be different from 'rational' to me, but my source for my belief is my own thoughts and my own reasoning ability.
    It seems illogical to me that I would be all that different from the other six billion humans, when in all other respects I am quite ordinary. I believe (84%) that that is a rational reason.
    Here we have a fundamental disagreement, MF. That may seem to be a very credible explanation to you, but I am incredulous. IMHO, consciousness cannot arise from the processing of information (99.8%). This opinion comes from my judgment of the difference between the subjective experience of consciousness that I have and my knowledge of information processing. I am well aware of the possibilities for manipulating information in myriad ways, but I am convinced (99.8) that consciousness cannot arise from the rearranging of bits. The fact that you think otherwise, makes me wonder about how different your conscious experience is from my own. It seems possible to me (32%) that people like yourself, Dennett, and Metzinger might not experience conscious as Lars Laborious, I, and others do. Could that be true?? ... Naaah.

    But let's take a closer look at your claim. You parenthetically remark that the information processing must be done by "an agent". Hmmm. Lars and I also claim that there must be an "agent" which has the experience of consciousness. I.e., consciousness can't exist without something being conscious. We each seem to need an agent in order for our respective worlds to make sense.

    You claim that the agent is simply the physical machine and its running program. I claim that the agent exists and experiences consciousness outside the physical world and that it interacts with information in the physical world. (Chalmers would classify me as an 'Interactionist dualist', which is OK with me.)

    This leaves us with four fundamental problems -- two for each of us: How did that agent come to be? and How does consciousness arise in association with brains?
    I agree that we don't need an answer to "how things originate". And it might be true that the question is ultimately unanswerable. If we take that position, then it lets us both off the hook for the problem of how our respective "agents" came to be. I don't have to explain how the primordial consciousness came to be and you don't have to explain how the physical world came to be.

    But that is not satisfying to many of us. We would like to know what was the nature of that first "thing" or "entity" which existed? And if there is some one ontologically fundamental essence underlying everything else, what is it? and what is its nature?

    After all, “how can some things be rationally, coherently and consistently explained in terms of other things” unless those "other things" are identified?

    So unless you want to skip this challenge and call it a draw, let me pursue it a little by reiterating a question I posed to you a while ago.
    I have said that my X' is a primordial consciousness. You have not told me what your X' is. When you tell me, we can judge whether or not it makes more sense than the primordial existence of consciousness. (To prepare you, I'll sketch out my argument: If you have consciousness you can get concepts. It makes no sense for concepts to exist in the absence of a mind (a conscious agent).) If your X' is not some sort of concept, what is it?

    Moving on to the next problem, of how consciousness arises in living brains, we may be at an impasse. You claim that there is no Hard Problem and that Metzinger has explained how consciousness can arise in certain systems of information processing. I claim that both Chalmers and Penrose have presented convincing arguments showing why that explanation does not work. Metzinger leaves me unconvinced, and apparently Chalmers and Penrose have left you unconvinced. I doubt that either of us, especially I, can go beyond those respective arguments and convince the other to change views. We can certainly talk about it if you want. I would be delighted to do so but I think we should keep our expectations low.
    Well, if the rivalry is to be decided by popularity, then I certainly won't fool myself. I am an unarmed peasant outside the physicalist castle walls with hordes of credentialed physicalists on the ramparts ready to shoot me down. But, if I may be so bold, I would suggest that the physicalists have no more "rigorous" explanations for either fundamental origins or for the appearance of consciousness in brains than I do.
    1.If there is only a single consciousness, then it can obviously not be seated in only a single brain (unless it is in mine and the rest of you are all zombies). (98% for the premise, 90% for the conclusion, .05% for the solipsism)
    2. The single consciousness must be in a fairly close real-time communication with all living brains. (90%)
    3. This proximity can be more easily achieved in multiple, large, extra spatial dimensions, than by being confined to the 4D physical universe. (95%)
    4. We know from GR that the 4D space-time continuum is bent, or curved. (90%)
    5. We know that at least one extra dimension is required in order to bend or curve a space in the way our space is curved. (You can't bend a string without at least a plane to do it in. You can't bend a sheet of paper without a 3D space in which to do it. (It gets a little more technical, but I won't go into it unless you want to.)) (99%)
    6. We know mathematically that a space can be embedded in a space of higher dimensions and still retain all of its properties. (E.g. figures on a sheet of paper may be distorted by bending the paper, but all the 2D relationships within the figures remain unchanged. (Flatlanders residing on the paper couldn't necessarily tell that you bent their paper unless you bent it in a certain way.)) (99%)
    7. The extra dimensions provide plenty of space-time, outside our physical 4D space-time for structures and processes that would account for the seat of consciousness. (99%)

    Having never observed it myself (at least that I can clearly remember) I can't tell you much of anything about these structures or processes, but I am convinced (98%) that we can mathematically deduce many things about them if we decided to work at it.
    Yes, I believe (80%) that I can do this. I'll paraphrase a summary which I have posted before:

    Starting with consciousness, one can get mathematics. And with mathematics, one can get Dick's theorem. And with Dick's theorem one can get the laws of physics. And with the laws of physics, some initial numbers, and some sort of processor (like a conscious mind) one can get phenomena that appear every bit as real as the rock Boswell kicked trying to refute Berkeley. It all seems to hang together and make sense to me.

    One of those occasions, of beginning processing of some initial numbers according to the laws of physics, was our Big Bang. I believe (90%) that the physicalists have good explanations for everything that has happened in our 4D world ever since with a few exceptions: They don't have an explanation for consciousness, sleep, the Cambrian explosion, or the origin of life. My views don't contradict the physicalist views but instead they extend and augment them.
    I am not surprised. I am interested to know what part of my explanation is not rational or coherent. I admit that I have only offered a sketch of an idea which hardly qualifies as a theory. If you would tell me where the explanation is inadequate, maybe I can fill in the missing pieces, or maybe you could show me why I should abandon some of the ideas and replace them with something better. That would be wonderful.

    Warm regards,

    Paul
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 6, 2006 #2
    Hi Paul

    Question : Why need all consciousness be “similar” to the conscious experience that you have?
    What rational reason could one have for saying that something does not qualify as consciousness simply on the basis that it is radically different to one’s own conscious experience?

    I understand that you say you are “convinced” that consciousness cannot arise from information processing, but I do not understand why you think this.

    The rational reason for rejecting an hypothesis would normally be either because it does not fit with empirical facts, or because it posits some mystical or metaphysical fundamental entity for which there is no empirical evidence (eg the hypothesis that angels push the planets around the sky). Could you perhaps explain what it is exactly about the “information processing explanation of consciousness” hypothesis which you think is inadequate?

    Correct. In my case the “agent doing the information processing” is a real physical entity; but it is not identical with “the sense of conscious self that arises as a consequence of the information processing”, which is a “virtual entity” created through the information processing.
    In your case, I guess that the “agent” and “the sense of conscious self” are somehow identical, and neither is a real physical entity? Would this be correct?

    The "agent" problem
    In my explanation, the agent is simply the physical entity which carries out the information processing. The agent is your physical body. No need to invoke any additional mystical or metaphysical concepts or ideas. No problem.
    In your explanation, the agent is supposed to be something non-physical which nevertheless somehow interacts with the physical world, a la cartesian dualism, but for which we have no empirical evidence that it exists? Problem.

    The “consciousness” problem
    In my explanation, consciousness is simply a particular form of information processing in an agent, which processing creates within itself “virtual objects” in relation to a “virtual subject”, such that the agent spins an internally consistent story that it is “experiencing” or “perceiving”. We call the virtual objects qualia, and we call the virtual subject “my conscious self”. In respect of consciousness - the brain provides the suitable physical substrate on which this information processing can take place (although in theory such consciousness could arise within any suitably configured artificial intelligence – organic brains are not essential). No need to invoke any additional mystical or metaphysical concepts or ideas. No problem.
    In your explanation, it would seem that consciousness is somehow closely associated with the non-physical agent, and like the agent it would still need to interact somehow with the physical world, a la cartesian dualism? Problem.

    All logic is based on assumed premises. All explanations are based on some fundamental assumptions. The premises underlying logic, and the fundamental assumptions underlying explanations, cannot be “proven” true (except in terms of other assumptions). If this is something that one finds that one cannot accept, if one needs to find some “absolute truth in absence of premises” then one is going to be very frustrated.

    Even in your own “theory”, you need a fundamental assumption that “consciousness is primordial”. You cannot “show” that this is the case, you need simply to assume this is the case in order to build the rest of your theory.

    Do you literally mean identified here, or do you mean explained?
    To explain X in terms of Y does not entail that I explain Y in terms of anything else.
    I can explain electromagnetic emission and absorption of energy in terms of entities I call photons, but such an explanation does not require me to explain “what a photon is”. Nobody has the faintest idea of what a photon “is” or how to explain it, but this does not prevent us from using the concept of photons to explain electromagnetic effects.

    All explanation is in terms of concepts and models. We “explain” one concept by invoking other “concepts”, but ultimately we have no fundamental explanation for any of these concepts except in terms of other concepts.

    I disagree. You are assuming there is necessarily something “ontologically fundamental”. This need not be the case.

    It is very easy to posit such a thing, it is quite another to construct a rational, consistent and coherent theory which explains how everything else arises from this X’.

    (Presumably your “primordial consciousness” has always and always will exist, and is all-pervasive, being everywhere at once and at all times?)

    I could (for the sake of argument) say that my X’ is a turtle. But in absence of a worked-out and consistent theory of how a primordial turtle generates everything we see about us, I would not expect anyone to take such an idea seriously.

    (a) there need not necessarily be an X’ and (b) even if there is an X’, I do not believe we can ever know what that X’ is.

    With respect, what needs to be “judged” is not the sense or nonsense of a particular notion of primordial existence, but whether this notion leads to a rational, consistent and coherent theory which explains how everything else arises.

    (a) there need not necessarily be an X’ and (b) even if there is an X’, I do not believe we can ever know what that X’ is.

    I would love for someone to tell me just what they think the Hard Problem is.
    I’m a great believer in the scientific method. One proposes an hypothesis to fit the facts, runs it up the flagpole, and others then try to shoot it down by showing how it does not fit the facts. This is a great tried-and-tested approach.

    Metzinger has proposed an hypothesis to explain how consciousness arises. You have suggested that there are “convincing arguments” showing why the hypothesis is incorrect. Perhaps we should start there. What are these “convincing arguments”?.

    I don’t think many physicalists would claim to have any explanations for “fundamental origins” (see above). As to explanations for the appearance of consciousness, that’s why we’re discussing the Metzinger account isn’t it?

    Thus, your assertion that “consciousness is outside the physical universe” rests purely on your premise that there is only a single consciousness, which premise is disputed. With respect, this hardly qualifies as “evidence” that “consciousness is outside the physical universe”.

    How? What are the necessary properties of your “primordial consciousness”, how does it manifest itself in absence of an organic brain (if it can manifest itself at all), and does it produce mathematics in the absence of a brain?

    Are you suggesting that under your theory the physical world is not “real”, that the physical world is all just an illusion within primordial consciousness? (your comment “one can get phenomena that appear every bit as real as the rock”)?

    I disagree. I think you will find that there are physicalist explanations for these things (it’s just that you don’t accept them).

    See, for example : http://arxiv.org/abs/q-bio.NC/0512026

    Best Regards
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2006
  4. Jun 6, 2006 #3
    Hi MF,
    I am interested in understanding the consciousness that I experience. To the extent that others experience something "similar" to my own experience, I am interested in their experiences as well -- their reports might contribute to my understanding. If they experience something completely different from my own, that might be interesting to me as well, but it wouldn't help me understand my own experience. Thus, for the purpose of understanding my own consciousness I only consider conscious experiences that are similar to my own.
    As is the custom in mathematics, I feel completely free to define any terms I use in any way I like. I realize that if I define them differently than other people typically do, it will tend to confuse my readers, so I try not do that. But in cases where vernacular usage is typically ambiguous or ill-defined, then I think it helps communication if I am careful about my definitions. Thus, I think it is completely rational for me to define 'consciousness', for the purposes of my exposition, to be an experience similar to the one that I have. If you want to discuss some other type of consciousness, please feel free to define what you mean and we can talk about that too.
    I'll try. (It's the "exactly" part of your request that will make it difficult.)
    1. I have been fascinated by my own conscious experience since my early childhood. I have done a lot of thinking since then about the nature of that experience. When I was a teen-ager, I read a book titled "Mechanical Man" by Dean Wooldridge (of Bunker-Ramo-Wooldridge, later TRW). The thesis of the book was that the trend of scientific discoveries concerning life was converging on a final explanation of life that would be completely physical. I remember feeling challenged by this thesis as I read the book and in my mind I was convinced that science would be able to explain everything except consciousness. Sure enough, he delayed any discussion of consciousness until the very end of the book, where he admitted that science couldn't yet explain consciousness, but the trend shows that it is only a matter of time before they will. I was unconvinced reading that prediction, and I remain unconvinced to this day. (I still remember the last sentence of that book: "A man who knows he is a machine should be able to bring more objectivity to bear on his problems than a machine that thinks it is a man." I disagree with both the premise and the conclusion of this statement. I would say, "A man who knows he is driven by some higher transcendent consciousness should be able to bring more meaningful solutions to bear on his problems than a man who acts as if he were a mere machine.")

    Later, as I completed a long career working with large-scale computers, and having a project in mind, and partially underway for most of that time, of building a robot (actually an android that looks like me) which would be able to pass the Turing test, I gave the question of machine intelligence considerable thought. With that background, in my judgment, I am convinced that it is not possible for a machine (computer or brain) to achieve conscious experience by itself.

    In my opinion, the only way to achieve it is vicariously. That is, if the machine is coupled to a truly conscious entity through some communication link which allows the conscious entity to perceive information originating in the machine, and which also allows intentional command information from the conscious entity to control the actions of the machine, then, and only then, the machine could appear to be conscious. Thus a backhoe might look conscious to a Martian, and human bodies seem to be conscious to each other, but in reality, they are both "driven" by a real conscious agent that is not part of the machine or body. That is, more or less, the explanation from my own personal experience and analysis related to the question.

    2. I think Roger Penrose presented a logical and compelling case against the possibility of machine consciousness in "The Emperor's New Mind". I have not heard a convincing argument against it. I am surprised that you seem to hold Penrose in disdain. He is one of my heroes. I devoured his "The Road to Reality". (You can read the notes I made while reading it at http://paulandellen.com/ideas/notes/bn036.htm )

    3. I think David Chalmers presented a different logical and compelling case in "The Conscious Mind". I know you were not convinced by his case, but I was. I remained convinced after buying ($$$!) and reading Jonathan Shear's "Explaining Consciousness -- The Hard Problem" which consisted of challenges by a couple dozen detractors of Chalmers. These included Dennett, Churchland, McGinn, and many others -- but unfortunately not Metzinger. (You can read the notes I made while reading "The Conscious Mind". at http://paulandellen.com/ideas/notes/bn026.htm )
    I believe (98%) that my hypothesis fits with all empirical facts. Can you tell me one which doesn't fit? I also believe that the transcendental entity it posits, the primordial consciousness, exhibits plenty of empirical evidence. It appears as the driver and "knower" of all animals.
    No, not quite. Yes, the "agent" is not a physical entity. But "the sense of conscious self" makes no sense to me as an entity. You will have to define it for me so that it makes sense before I could comment on what it is or how it relates to my "agent". In my view, the "agent" has, or is, the ability to know. Thus, the agent can know that it knows, for example, in which case you might say that it "has a sense of knowing". That might be what you mean, but I am not sure. You'll have to clarify for me.
    No problem if you take that body, or that physical universe as a given. Sounds very "Creationist" to me. I'm saying that if you trace the evolution of the body backward, you eventually arrive at a few femtoseconds after the Big Bang. That's where I want you to begin answering questions. How did that happen!? for heaven's sake. That is where I believe my hypothesis gives a reasonable answer and the physicalists are left with nothing but a mystery they would rather dodge.
    Problem? What problem? The agent is "the ability to know", which we (at least I) know very well to exist by the most direct of experiences. I have explained how being non-physical is perfectly understandable as long as we define 'physical' to mean of our 4D space-time continuum. Of course if you extend the definition of physicality (which I recommend that scientists do, but they won't) to include hyperdimensions of space and time, then, of course everything would be physical.

    As for interaction, I have sketched what I think is an adequate explanation in the absence of experimental evidence which would firm up the details. In principle, there should be no problem accepting the possibility of the same sort of mechanism as EM radiation except that instead of being confined to our 4D manifold, it would operate in higher dimensions with some of its effects manifesting in the 4D manifold. If this is too sketchy, let me know and I will elaborate. As for empirical evidence, I claim that the behavior of every animal on earth is evidence.
    Yes, Virginia, there is a problem. It is The Hard Problem. I think that in this discussion we can't go beyond the work of Metzinger, Chalmers, and Penrose, to name three. We disagree on the veracity of their respective conclusions and unless you can think of some other way out, I think we will have to leave it in that disagreeable state.
    Yes. That's a fair summary of my position. But except for the dreaded and scorned "dualism" label, what problem remains that I haven't addressed?
    Yes, I make that assumption. And, yes, I cannot "show" that this is the case, but I am in no different situation than you are. "Even in your own “theory”, you need a fundamental assumption that “[something] is primordial”. You cannot “show” that this is the case, [and you haven't yet even had the temerity to tell me what that "something" is,] you need simply to assume this is the case in order to build the rest of your theory. I have told you what I think is the primordial essence of reality and you attack my position. Please tell me what you think the primordial essence of reality is so that I might see if it needs attacking, or whether I could replace my idea with yours.
    Yes, I literally meant 'identified'. First things first. What is your X' (or your Y in your example)?
    Agreed. You merely need to identify, or at least name, Y.
    You are very close to making my point here. Nobody has much of an idea what consciousness is or how to explain it, but that should not prevent us from using the concept of consciousness to explain all other physical effects, which I have sketched out how to do. You might say the details are incomplete, but I don't see how you can argue that the approach is not sound in principle.
    AHA! Now you are really getting close to proving my case. I agree completely with what you said here. But step back one step and notice that everything you said here depends on concepts. And what are concepts?? The are artifacts (or artefacts, or products) of some mind or some kind of mental capability. Without having any fundamental explanation for this "mind" or "mental capability", except to relate it to familiar mental phenomena which we humans seem to experience, we should be at liberty to use some symbol, say 'primordial consciousness', or 'the ability to know', or 'Y', to refer to this mind or mental capability which is a necessary precursor to having any concepts at all. Without such an entity, you can't have any explanations, concepts, or models at all. And, in my opinion, you can't have any "things" either. The obvious logical conclusion is that some kind of mind or consciousness must be primordial and ontologically fundamental.
    OK. You got me there. You have successfully helped me argue and conclude that something like a mind must be primordial. But you are right that this does not entail that it must also be ontologically fundamental. I withdraw that assertion. That does not change the thrust of the argument so far because it was the "first cause" type of entity that we are talking about. What exactly the substrate is made of is a different -- and in my view a much more complex -- problem.

    (more to follow)
    Paul
     
  5. Jun 6, 2006 #4
    Hi MF,
    I am interested in understanding the consciousness that I experience. To the extent that others experience something "similar" to my own experience, I am interested in their experiences as well -- their reports might contribute to my understanding. If they experience something completely different from my own, that might be interesting to me as well, but it wouldn't help me understand my own experience. Thus, for the purpose of understanding my own consciousness I only consider conscious experiences that are similar to my own.
    As is the custom in mathematics, I feel completely free to define any terms I use in any way I like. I realize that if I define them differently than other people typically do, it will tend to confuse my readers, so I try not do that. But in cases where vernacular usage is typically ambiguous or ill-defined, then I think it helps communication if I am careful about my definitions. Thus, I think it is completely rational for me to define 'consciousness', for the purposes of my exposition, to be an experience similar to the one that I have. If you want to discuss some other type of consciousness, please feel free to define what you mean and we can talk about that too.
    I'll try. (It's the "exactly" part of your request that will make it difficult.)
    1. I have been fascinated by my own conscious experience since my early childhood. I have done a lot of thinking since then about the nature of that experience. When I was a teen-ager, I read a book titled "Mechanical Man" by Dean Wooldridge (of Bunker-Ramo-Wooldridge, later TRW). The thesis of the book was that the trend of scientific discoveries concerning life was converging on a final explanation of life that would be completely physical. I remember feeling challenged by this thesis as I read the book and in my mind I was convinced that science would be able to explain everything except consciousness. Sure enough, he delayed any discussion of consciousness until the very end of the book, where he admitted that science couldn't yet explain consciousness, but the trend shows that it is only a matter of time before they will. I was unconvinced reading that prediction, and I remain unconvinced to this day. (I still remember the last sentence of that book: "A man who knows he is a machine should be able to bring more objectivity to bear on his problems than a machine that thinks it is a man." I disagree with both the premise and the conclusion of this statement. I would say, "A man who knows he is driven by some higher transcendent consciousness should be able to bring more meaningful solutions to bear on his problems than a man who acts as if he were a mere machine.")

    Later, as I completed a long career working with large-scale computers, and having a project in mind, and partially underway for most of that time, of building a robot (actually an android that looks like me) which would be able to pass the Turing test, I gave the question of machine intelligence considerable thought. With that background, in my judgment, I am convinced that it is not possible for a machine (computer or brain) to achieve conscious experience by itself.

    In my opinion, the only way to achieve it is vicariously. That is, if the machine is coupled to a truly conscious entity through some communication link which allows the conscious entity to perceive information originating in the machine, and which also allows intentional command information from the conscious entity to control the actions of the machine, then, and only then, the machine could appear to be conscious. Thus a backhoe might look conscious to a Martian, and human bodies seem to be conscious to each other, but in reality, they are both "driven" by a real conscious agent that is not part of the machine or body. That is, more or less, the explanation from my own personal experience and analysis related to the question.

    2. I think Roger Penrose presented a logical and compelling case against the possibility of machine consciousness in "The Emperor's New Mind". I have not heard a convincing argument against it. I am surprised that you seem to hold Penrose in disdain. He is one of my heroes. I devoured his "The Road to Reality". (You can read the notes I made while reading it at http://paulandellen.com/ideas/notes/bn036.htm )

    3. I think David Chalmers presented a different logical and compelling case in "The Conscious Mind". I know you were not convinced by his case, but I was. I remained convinced after buying ($$$!) and reading Jonathan Shear's "Explaining Consciousness -- The Hard Problem" which consisted of challenges by a couple dozen detractors of Chalmers. These included Dennett, Churchland, McGinn, and many others -- but unfortunately not Metzinger. (You can read the notes I made while reading "The Conscious Mind". at http://paulandellen.com/ideas/notes/bn026.htm )
    I believe (98%) that my hypothesis fits with all empirical facts. Can you tell me one which doesn't fit? I also believe that the transcendental entity it posits, the primordial consciousness, exhibits plenty of empirical evidence. It appears as the driver and "knower" of all animals.
    No, not quite. Yes, the "agent" is not a physical entity. But "the sense of conscious self" makes no sense to me as an entity. You will have to define it for me so that it makes sense before I could comment on what it is or how it relates to my "agent". In my view, the "agent" has, or is, the ability to know. Thus, the agent can know that it knows, for example, in which case you might say that it "has a sense of knowing". That might be what you mean, but I am not sure. You'll have to clarify for me.
    No problem if you take that body, or that physical universe as a given. Sounds very "Creationist" to me. I'm saying that if you trace the evolution of the body backward, you eventually arrive at a few femtoseconds after the Big Bang. That's where I want you to begin answering questions. How did that happen!? for heaven's sake. That is where I believe my hypothesis gives a reasonable answer and the physicalists are left with nothing but a mystery they would rather dodge.
    Problem? What problem? The agent is "the ability to know", which we (at least I) know very well to exist by the most direct of experiences. I have explained how being non-physical is perfectly understandable as long as we define 'physical' to mean of our 4D space-time continuum. Of course if you extend the definition of physicality (which I recommend that scientists do, but they won't) to include hyperdimensions of space and time, then, of course everything would be physical.

    As for interaction, I have sketched what I think is an adequate explanation in the absence of experimental evidence which would firm up the details. In principle, there should be no problem accepting the possibility of the same sort of mechanism as EM radiation except that instead of being confined to our 4D manifold, it would operate in higher dimensions with some of its effects manifesting in the 4D manifold. If this is too sketchy, let me know and I will elaborate. As for empirical evidence, I claim that the behavior of every animal on earth is evidence.
    Yes, Virginia, there is a problem. It is The Hard Problem. I think that in this discussion we can't go beyond the work of Metzinger, Chalmers, and Penrose, to name three. We disagree on the veracity of their respective conclusions and unless you can think of some other way out, I think we will have to leave it in that disagreeable state.
    Yes. That's a fair summary of my position. But except for the dreaded and scorned "dualism" label, what problem remains that I haven't addressed?
    Yes, I make that assumption. And, yes, I cannot "show" that this is the case, but I am in no different situation than you are. "Even in your own “theory”, you need a fundamental assumption that “[something] is primordial”. You cannot “show” that this is the case, [and you haven't yet even had the temerity to tell me what that "something" is,] you need simply to assume this is the case in order to build the rest of your theory."

    I have told you what I think is the primordial essence of reality and you attack my position. Please tell me what you think the primordial essence of reality is so that I might see if it needs attacking, or whether I could replace my idea with yours.
    Yes, I literally meant 'identified'. First things first. What is your X' (or your Y in your example)?
    Agreed. You merely need to identify, or at least name, Y.
    You are very close to making my point here. Nobody has much of an idea what consciousness is or how to explain it, but that should not prevent us from using the concept of consciousness to explain all other physical effects, which I have sketched out how to do. You might say the details are incomplete, but I don't see how you can argue that the approach is not sound in principle.
    AHA! Now you are really getting close to proving my case. I agree completely with what you said here. But step back one step and notice that everything you said here depends on concepts. And what are concepts?? The are artifacts (or artefacts, or products) of some mind or some kind of mental capability. Without having any fundamental explanation for this "mind" or "mental capability", except to relate it to familiar mental phenomena which we humans seem to experience, we should be at liberty to use some symbol, say 'primordial consciousness', or 'the ability to know', or 'Y', to refer to this mind or mental capability which is a necessary precursor to having any concepts at all. Without such an entity, you can't have any explanations, concepts, or models at all. And, in my opinion, you can't have any "things" either. The obvious logical conclusion is that some kind of mind or consciousness must be primordial and ontologically fundamental.
    OK. You got me there. You have successfully helped me argue and conclude that something like a mind must be primordial. But you are right that this does not entail that it must also be ontologically fundamental. I withdraw that assertion. That does not change the thrust of the argument so far because it was the "first cause" type of entity that we are talking about. What exactly the substrate is made of is a different -- and in my view a much more complex -- problem.

    (More to follow)

    Paul
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2006
  6. Jun 6, 2006 #5
    Indeed it is, and indeed it is. I don't claim to have constructed a theory at all. I have only sketched out a plan which I think is a rational, consistent, and coherent explanation for how all physicality can be constructed from a primordial consciousness. I hope that some bright young graduate students will work out the details of exactly how it works. In the meantime, what part of my sketch do you consider irrational? inconsistent? or incoherent?
    Here I think we need to be careful. The question of whether it always existed or simply sprang into existence from nothing is the same mystery facing each and every and all and any other theories, explanations, or stories about how reality got started. It gives me and my hypothesis no more trouble than it does to all other competing hypotheses.

    As for "all-pervasive", "being everywhere", and "at all times", I insist that we don't jump to the conclusion that the primordial consciousness is complete, perfect, infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, immutable, or omnibenevolent. I believe (99%) that none of those apply. This means that except as the first cause of everything and its transcendence, the primordial conscioiusness, and what it has evolved to so far, is nothing whatsoever like the God of any religion on earth and it should not be construed, interpreted, or represented as such. (Depending on the definition, I will grant omnipresence, however.)

    Going down a notch in the details, I see the relationship between the primordial (by now evolved to "cosmic") consciousness and the physical world to be something like this: The relationship to inanimate material structures (galaxies, cars, marbles) to be as Newton described the mechanical universe: no direct interaction, the behavior of the physical entities to be determined by the pure unitary evolution of QM. The relationship to animals, however is interactionist, as I have described previously, but in a bigger picture, which includes the higher dimensions, which I also described previously, the relationship is along the lines of the hierarchy of Natural Individuals as described by Gregg Rosenberg in his "A Place for Consciousness". Each typical (i.e. except for the very top and the very bottom) individual in the hierarchy is driven as a remote controlled device by a Natural Individual at the next higher level in the hierarchy, and it in turn can drive remote controlled devices at the next lower level of the hierarchy. In this way, it is only the One Natural Individual at the very top of the hierarchy that actually is conscious. The rest are only vicariously conscious as I tried to explain with my JPL rover analogy.

    So in this complex picture, you can make what you will of the question of whether the primordial consciousness "is all-pervasive, being everywhere at once and at all times". That's probably more than you wanted to hear, but let me know if it is not and you want more.
    Neither would I. There are myriad examples of dependencies on physical structures for the existence of a turtle. The existence of a turtle in the absence of physicality seems unimaginable, unless it resided in some reality apart from our physical 4D continuum, in which case it probably wouldn't resemble any turtle you or I know. Even at that, it doesn't seem that a hyperdimensional turtle would be a believable candidate for the designer of our 4D physicality, although I suppose it could happen.

    By contrast, no one can show any proof that consciousness can't exist outside of the brain. Moreover, some NDE and OBE reports indicate that indeed it can. As for how a consciousness can generate everything we see about us, I have been through that enough times already. I am awaiting your response telling me where it doesn't make sense.
    Then give me at least a sketch of the bootstrap process generating something from nothing.
    I understand your belief. But would you allow us to guess at what it might be and from that guess, try to deduce a possible explanation for everything else? That's all I'm trying to do.
    I hope the three I listed near the beginning of this post will answer your question. Number 1 is convincing to me. Numbers 2 and 3 supported my prior conviction and they may be what you are looking for. I am sure that my personal experience will not convince you, but I think a careful reading of Penrose or Chalmers might. If they don't, I'm afraid we will have to remain in disagreement.
    No. You have changed the context. My list of 7 pieces of evidence was in response to your question, "What evidence do you have for your assertion that “consciousness is outside the physical universe”?" It is true that the first two depend on the premise of a single consciousness, but the other five are independent of that premise. Once before, in another thread, you asked me for my reasons for accepting the premise of a single consciousness. I told you my reasons then, and I think I referred you to a lengthy thread I started titled "Implications of a Single Consciousness" in which I solicited counter arguments for my premise and received none which I considered substantial.

    We can revisit that premise again, but in answering your question here, I thought you already understood my position. Here I was only addressing the question of consciousness residing outside the 4D physical universe.
    Indeed, how else?? Think of Stephen Hawking. What does he use besides his consciousness? Consciousness produces mathematics by thinking about primitives, axioms, and logical consequences. More is required to record and communicate mathematical results, but this is apart from, and after, the mathematics has been produced. As for whether or not consciousness requires a body and brain to support it is a contentious issue on which you and I disagree. That too, is separate from the fact that consciousness can and does produce mathematics.
    Good question. I don't know the answer, but I think it is within our reach to figure it out. My initial guess, as you know, is that the ability to know might be both necessary and sufficient.
    Here you are dragging me into pure speculation -- but you asked. I think it can, and does, manifest itself in many different Natural Individuals at all levels of the hierarchy I outlined above. Human brains are at a bottom level of that hierarchy except for things like Mars rovers, backhoes, and virtual reality games which could be considered to make up a new level below than humans. That is if you want to imbue consciousness in those lower-level entities, which they seem to exhibit.
    Yes, that's exactly what I am suggesting. Of course, it is practical to define the word 'real' to include structures in the physical world so it becomes a semantic question. Incidentally, I think this same thing comes into play when we try to label ideas as "dualistic". We can, using Robert Persig's image of Phaedrus' Knife, categorize ideas in many different ways. In examining my ideas to determine if they are "dualistic" or not, I could say that, no, I am a monadist and the only thing that exists is that consciousness. But then, you might say, what about the thoughts of that consciousness? Aren't they different from the consciousness itself? OK, I would say, I guess I am a dualist after all. Then Penrose would interrupt and say, wait a minute, what about the Ideal World containing the complete Mandelbrot Set and Platos other ideals? Do you deny that they at least have some sort of existence? Well, OK Roger, I guess I am a treblist after all. Unless...maybe those Ideals only exist in one or both of those other worlds. Maybe Ideals only exist in minds and in coded physical symbols. If these coded symbols included algorithms, then the complete M'set could exist only in the mental and physical worlds. But then, to continue this line of reasoning, if the physical world is nothing but ideas in the mental world, as Berkeley said, then I am back to being a monist after all. 'Real' is whatever you define it to be for your purposes. Just let me know what you mean when you talk to me about it.

    I just don't know what the value of such categorization is except to form membership criteria for exclusive clubs. I am content to express my ideas as best as I can and let others decide how to categorize me -- unless, of course, those others have the power to burn me at the stake.
    I don't accept them because I don't find them convincing.
    I'm already late getting ready to leave town so I won't have time to check this out until I get back. Thanks in advance. I'll take a look.

    As always, it has been great talking with you, MF. I'm looking forward to more.

    Warm regards to all, especially those who have read this far.

    Paul
     
  7. Jun 6, 2006 #6
    good grief, Paul, you must have been burning the midnight oil!

    It will take me some time to read and digest all of the above, I'll try to fit it in with all the other demands on my time but please accept my apology in advance if it takes me a while to get back to you on this!

    Best Regards
     
  8. Jun 7, 2006 #7
    Paul if I may, I have a couple of questions about this primordial consciousness..

    First off, what IS this fundamental consciousness?
    Is it made of anything?
    Can we empirically measure and predict it in any way?
    Is it the direct opposite of the physical world? (Or at least, something that contrasts it sort of)

    It seems to me that both of your theories end in the same fundamental problem; "what is existence made of."
    For lack of a better word at this time, please excuse me.
    Like I said earlier, and I hope people don't hate me for it, but it seems to me that all discussion on anything ends up in one problem; the problem of what is the original, most fundamental and non infinite regressive piece of building block.

    Pauls arguments make sense, but they don't really explain much because we haven't really defined consciousness, nor have we any kind of idea on how to grasp what this primordial consciousness is.

    Same with moving-finger, he has his x', which we are unable to explain at this time.

    I just don't know, but it seems like no matter how you attack this problem, we end up realizing that what is missing is that piece of knowledge, that knowledge progresses philosophy, not vice versa.
     
  9. Jun 8, 2006 #8
    Hello Paul

    Hope you are well. Let me just say that I enjoy exchanging ideas with you. You make me think, which is always good, and your arguments tend to be rational and unemotional (for the most part). I appreciate that. Thank you.

    Since your previous posts were rather long, I need to split my reply into two posts.

    Here is part 1.

    This seems a rather “blinkered” way to try and understand fundamental truth?

    Isn’t it rather like the old joke of the policeman who sees a drunk stumbling about under a lamp-post at night? The policeman approaches the drunk and asks him what he is doing. The drunk says that he dropped his keys, and he is looking for them. “Did you drop your keys around here?” asks the policeman, pointing towards the lamp-post. “No” answers the drunk, “but the light is better here”.

    Defining consciousness simply as “an experience similar to what I have” I suggest is inadequate as either a good philosophical or a good scientific operational definition (but it would fit well with Penrose-type notions of consciousness – see below). If we use such a definition there is no way that you and I, for example, can enter into a meaningful objective dialogue on the issue because I have no idea what your experience is actually like.

    I would define consciousness as the ability of an agent to form a consistent and coherent internal representational model based on information from the external world, which model is temporally connected with the external world, and through which model the agent creates a centre of narrative gravity (an idea of “self”), to which it relates information from the external world. Would you agree?
    If not, why not?
    Would you care to present an alternative (objective) operational definition?

    As I think many of us do. But with respect this is not an explanation of why you think the hypothesis inadequate.
    OK, but still you don’t say why you are unconvinced. This is not an explanation of why you think the hypothesis inadequate.

    I understand that you are convinced that this is not possible, but still you do not say why you are convinced. This is not an explanation of why you think the hypothesis inadequate.

    Paul - If we are to make any progress in this discussion, it is not enough for you to say simply “I do not believe it” or “I am not convinced” in response to an hypothesis (such as Metzinger’s explanation of consciousness). You need to say why you don’t believe it, why you are not convinced. There need to be rational and coherent reasons provided for rejecting an hypothesis if we are to have a meaningful discussion.

    Opinion is fine, but it doesn’t count for much in a rational debate unless it is supported by logical argument or empirical evidence.
    Thus, you believe that even human brains alone cannot “generate” consciousness? There is this primordial consciousness already in existence, which for some reason seems to like to infest otherwise unconscious objects such as human brains? Is this correct?
    Do we have any empirical evidence for the existence of such primordial consciousness except in the form of human brain infestations?
    If not, why not?

    Don’t start me on Penrose!

    I have most of Penrose’s popular science books, including the ones you refer to. He is a great mathematician, but imho a very poor philosopher. He seems to be subjectively but irrationally biased against the notion that machines can be conscious. His “Turing machine” or “Godel” arguments (if these are the arguments you are referring to) are not arguments which show that machines cannot be conscious (though he seems to think they are). Just to give you one example of his naive philosophical thinking : In one of his books he confuses a simple 2-dimensional image with a self-referential model, and asks (in all sincerity it seems) ‘why is a camera not conscious?’.

    In the Emperor’s New Mind (ENM), Penrose is unwilling to define consciousness. He is vague, he uses phrases such as ‘it is hard to be precise’, ‘I do not think it wise…..to propose a precise definition of consciousness’, ‘I more or less know when I am conscious….’. He relates consciousness to non-algorithmic judgments, and gets tangled up in ascribing consciousness to a non-algorithmic process, which is nevertheless (he contends) not just a lucky guess. In ENM, Penrose seems to get stuck in the naïve “cartesian theatre” illusion, claiming things such as “perhaps consciousness is merely a spectator who experiences an action replay”.

    Penrose relies on ambiguity and confusion in meanings. He uses terms like “understanding”, “intelligence”, “awareness” throughout his book “Shadows of the Mind”, but point-blank refuses to define these concepts, on the basis that ‘to attempt to define the term…..would put us in danger of allowing to slip away the very concept that we wish to ensnare’. IMHO the only ‘danger’ for Penrose is that the proper definition of these terms will show that there is nothing mystical about them after all. He says ‘we must rely upon our intuitive comprehension of its meaning’ – and this from a mathematician. This kind of philosophy sounds more mystical than rational. If you wish to read a good, rational and unemotional counter-argument (one which demolishes Penrose’s ideas) then I recommend Moravec’s “Robot : Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind”.

    If you believe that Penrose does present a single rational and coherent argument which shows that machines cannot possess consciousness then I would be happy to discuss it. Could you present such an argument?

    (please don’t just refer me to other websites etc; I would like to actually discuss the issue in this thread).

    I would love someone to tell me just what they think the so-called “Hard Problem” really is, and why it is that Metzinger’s account does not do away with the problem altogether. (ie rational and coherent reasons, not simple subjective emotions like “it doesn’t feel right” or “it’s not convincing”).

    I have yet to see all the details of your hypothesis, which is the subject of this thread. Until then, I cannot say whether it fits the facts. However, I do know already that it posits some metaphysical fundamental entities for which there is no empirical evidence.

    The reason I made the above comment “The rational reason for rejecting an hypothesis would normally be……” was in reaction to your own rejection of Metzinger’s hypothesis. This hypothesis, unlike yours, contains plenty of detail which makes it both comprehensive and coherent, and it does not posit any new metaphysical concepts. I have so far not seen any rational reason for rejecting Metzinger’s account of consciousness.

    When I am conscious, I have a “conscious sense” that there is something similar to a “logical centre of my experience”, and this centre seems to be located within my head, but it does not necessarily have a well-defined location in space. It is the logical centre at which all of my perception and thinking seems to take place, it seems to be the logical centre where my knowledge resides. But this logical centre of course disappears when I lose consciousness. This is what I refer to as “the sense of conscious self”. Do you not also have a similar sense of “self”?

    Hopefully I have clarified what I mean by “the sense of conscious self” above. I suspect that this is synonymous with “the agent” in your case, but only you can confirm that.

    I have not said that I take the physical universe (if by this you mean the existing laws of physics) as a “given”. There may be something more fundamental than the physical universe, which generates the physical universe, but if we have no way of knowing what this might be then it seems pointless (to me) to simply speculate on what it might be. Given this, the epistemic buck must stop somewhere.

    In your philosophy, it seems to be primordial consciousness that is “given” (this is where your epistemic buck stops). What makes you think the notion of a “given physics” is necessarily “Creationist”, whereas the notion of a “given primordial consciousness” is not?

    There are a number of different hypotheses, including the notion that the Big Bang is the result of a quantum fluctuation. Your hypothesis posits a metaphysical “primordial consciousness”, but I have yet to see how this leads to the Big Bang, what mechanism you propose which shows how the Big Bang is a result of primordial consciousness.

    As regards mystery – I believe the fundamental origin of the universe will always remain a mystery. The only way we can verify hypotheses is by testing them with experiment or observation. How is anyone going to test an hypothesis about the origin of the Big Bang?

    The problems associated with the notion of dualism. For example, the problem of explaining the mechanism whereby something both interacts with the physical world, and yet remains undetectable from the physical world. The problem of explaining just where this interaction takes place (is there a special place in the brain, as Descartes suggested, where the brain interfaces with the Res Cogitans?). The problem of explaining why and how this interface seems to be restricted, constrained, to the human brain. And many more besides. In short, what is missing is a comprehensive, rational and coherent explanatory model which shows how this all works and hangs together, which allows us to predict the properties and behaviour of such Res Cogitans, so that we might be able to do some empirical tests to verify the model.

    Thus we have more multiplying metaphysical entities. Not only does your explanation need to posit some mysterious primordial consciousness (for which we have no empirical evidence), but also you need to posit some mysterious interaction via higher dimensions (for which interaction we also have no empirical evidence) whereby this mystical entity interfaces to the human brain?
    Once again, Metzinger’s hypothesis requires no such metaphysical assumptions.

    The whole point is that we have a rational and coherent explanation for such behaviour without the need to posit such weird and wonderful metaphysics. If you can come up with rational reasons as to why we should reject the rational explanation then I will agree that we might need to posit some new entities, but right now I see no need to multiply entities needlessly.

    I have asked before and I ask again. Please tell me just what you think the “Hard Problem” is, and I will then show you why it is not a problem after all.

    The problems associated with the notion of dualism, see above.

    I have suggested already :

    (a) there need not necessarily be an X’ and (b) even if there is an X’, I do not believe we can ever know what that X’ is.

    In other words, there may be something more fundamental than the physical universe, which generates the physical universe, but if we have no way of knowing what this might be then it seems pointless (to me) to simply speculate on what it might be.

    Does this perhaps explain why I do not have the “temerity” to tell you what that X’ is?

    What I am attacking is the notion that one can “know” what the fundamental source of everything is. The most any of us can do is to adopt a premise that “the source of everything may be XYZ, and everything follows from that”. Where you and I differ is that you are saying categorically that XYZ is something called “primordial consciousness”, whereas I am saying that since I can explain consciousness as an emergent phenomenon of the physical world I see no reason to posit consciousness as being primordial.

    Paul, I have already told you, but you seem to ignore it :

    (a) there need not necessarily be an X’ and (b) even if there is an X’, I do not believe we can ever know what that X’ is.

    In other words, there may be something more fundamental than the physical universe, which generates the physical universe, but if we have no way of knowing what this might be then it seems pointless (to me) to simply speculate on what it might be.

    Undoubtedly this will not satisfy you, because you seem to think that you can know what this “primordial essence” really is.

    See above. I do not agree that there is necessarily a “primordial essence”, and even if there was I do not agree that we can know what it is. The best we can do is to “speculate” that it is something in particular, without evidence or rational justification. I recognise that we cannot know the unknowable, hence I do not resort to speculation to posit that there is necessarily anything in particular which is fundamental.
     
  10. Jun 8, 2006 #9
    Part 2 :

    But I am not saying that Y is fundamental. Just because I cannot explain Y in terms of anything else, it does not follow that Y is fundamental. It only follows that we do not know.

    This is simply incorrect. Metzinger’s hypothesis is a very good explanation, without positing mystical or metaphysical entities. You choose to ignore this however.

    Your suggested approach to understanding consciousness rests on unnecessary metaphysical premises, and it’s not clear to me how your complete mechanism is supposed to work. Why adopt such strange premises when we have a perfectly good rational explanation which does not need such metaphysics?

    For some reason you seem to believe that a concept necessarily requires a mind. It is easy to understand why – all of the concepts you are familiar with are the product of minds (an example of what I call anthropomorphic thinking). But it does not follow from this that a concept necessarily requires a mind.

    Are you suggesting that explanations exist only within conscious minds?

    What happened to the Platonic realm? Every concept that every mind has ever conceived already exists somewhere in the Platonic realm, just as every mathematical equation that any mind has conceived already exists in the same realm. The Platonic realm (to me) is simply the realm of “whatever is logically possible”. We do not invent mathematics, we discover it. Similarly, we do not invent concepts, we discover them. Concepts exist, in a logical sense, independently of any conscious experience of those concepts.

    Sorry, but how do you define “thing”?

    Absolutely not. This again is an example of anthropomorphic thinking. The concept of a circle exists within the Platonic/mathematical realm, it does not need any kind of primordial consciousness to make it possible, to bring it into existence from “nothingness”.

    Really? I disagree. Minds are emergent, not primordial.

    I believe it best serves the interests of other participants in this forum if we present all of the arguments on this thread.

    There are many questions that spring to mind, some examples are :
     What exactly is this primordial consciousness (PC), how does it work?
     Why would, and how does, the PC create the Big Bang and the rest of the universe?
     Why and how does the PC bring everything else into existence?
     What relationship is there between this PC and the rest of reality?
     Was there any consciousness in the universe before conscious organic organisms evolved, if so how was it manifest?
     Does PC infect otherwise unconscious organic beings and cause them to be conscious?
     What is the mechanism by which PC interacts with the physical world?
     What would happen if a human being was not infected with this PC, would it be a zombie?
    (there are many more questions, but let’s start with these)

    It seems you are equivocating here. Something “primordial” would seem to be something which exists in absence of everything else, no?

    What does this mean? Are you saying the PC is everywhere, or not? Is the PC at all times, or not? Your “primordial” theory is not much of a theory if it cannot address these very basic questions.

    Whoah! Where did the concept of “God” get dragged into this?

    Thus there is only one consciousness driving everything, and all the rest of us are….what? Having illusions of consciousness?
    Sorry, but I can’t see that this is either rational or coherent.
    Why is the “One Natural Individual” (ONI) doing all this, what is the purpose?
    Can the ONI choose which other beings are conscious, and which not?
    How does the ONI choose which other beings shall have feelings of consciousness, and why?
    Is there any empirical evidence for any of this, if so, what?

    Just answers to the above questions would be a good start.

    Why not? Why couldn’t a turtle generate consciousness in just the same way that your ONI generates consciousness? So far, you have not presented any mechanism by which the ONI could generate consciousness within other agents.

    Do you really want to move this discussion on to so-called near death and out of body experiences? Such experiences can be explained as simple illusions and hallucinations. Please provide any credible scientific accounts of such phenomena which shows they provide evidence that consciousness can exist outside of the brain.

    I’m sorry but you have not (at least not in this thread).

    I have never suggested that something can be generated from nothing. It could be turtles all the way down, or it could be a cyclic relationship. There is simply no way that we can know, and idle speculation is not philosophy.

    To me, idle speculation is not philosophy. A belief has absolutely no philosophical merit if there is simply no way to validate that belief. The universe exists, this much we know, but I know not why it exists, neither do I believe that we can know why it exists. However, given the premise that “the universe exists” is true, I can then try to explain everything I observe based on the minimum of additional premises.

    Your arguments above (if they are the ones that you refer to) do indeed seem to be based on subjective feelings rather than rational argument. I am afraid I cannot accept an argument based purely on subjective feelings. If however you believe there is anything in here which is based on rational objective argument then please let me know.

    As for Penrose & Chalmers, I have responded in some detail on this above.

    Incorrect. Each “piece of evidence” builds upon the preceding.
    Number 3 : Refers to “proximity” which is a reference to number (2)
    Number 4 : What relevance does 4D spacetime have, unless it is based on (3)?
    Number 5 : Refers to extra dimensions, why is this needed except as an extension of (4)?
    Number 6 : Refers to higher dimensional space, what relevance does this have except as an extension of (5)?
    Number 7 : Is another variation on (6)

    Do you believe that consciousness actually creates mathematics, or that mathematics exists independently of consciousness? Recall the Platonic realm.

    It seems to me that this “primordial consciousness” is fundamentally a complex entity without a simple or rational explanation. A better answer imho would be a fundamentally simple entity which generates complexity via a simple, rational and explainable mechanism.

    I’m glad that you acknowledge all of this is based on pure speculation.
    And if there are no humans around? What does this primordial consciousness actually “do” for the first 13 billion years of the existence of the universe when there are no humans?

    Does this primordial consciousness invade and infect a human brain like a virus?

    Whoahhhhh!!!!!
    This changes everything. You’re saying that there is no reality except for the primordial consciousness (PC), that everything we “think” we experience is actually an artificial construct of the PC?

    This begs the question – if the PC is the source of everything., why does the PC construct reality in “this” way, and not “another” way?

    That was a great book, wasn’t it!

    Sure you can say this, and indeed that seems to be what you are saying.

    You seem to be saying that PC exists, physical reality is an illusion, and everything we observe is a construct of the PC.

    My philosophy is just the opposite, that physical reality exists, the self is an illusion, and consciousness is a construct of physical reality.

    To me, the basic question is : Each of these explanations rests upon certain fundamental assumptions. Which one is more fundamental than the other? In other words, which one makes the minimum of assumptions of primordial complexity?

    It’s very simple. The objective world is real. The conscious world is an emergent but virtual construct of the real world. The Platonic world is an idealistic world, independent of the real world. That’s it, Simple, isn’t it? Why make it more complex than it needs to be?

    Understood. What I keep asking is why don’t you find them convincing? As I said near the beginning of this post :

    If we are to make any progress in this discussion, it is not enough for you to say “I do not believe it” in response to an hypothesis. You need to say why you don’t believe it. There need to be rational and coherent reasons provided for rejecting an hypothesis if we are to have a meaningful discussion.

    Best Regards

    (PS : The phoenix is a myth – perhaps not a good symbol to associate with the notion of primordial consciousness?)
     
  11. Jun 8, 2006 #10
    I think the difference between dualists and monists derives from contradictory ideas on what the physical or rather not-qualia are like.

    All though I’ve never experienced nothing but qualia, since experience is qualia, I find it rational to compare not-qualia with something not visible, since it’s not experienced. And qualia with something visble. Note: This is just an analogy. Now, if you take something not visible and combine it with something else not visible, it’s harder to explain how you can make something visible out of it than if you instead applied something already visible. (One could also compare not-qualia with “black" and qualia with for example “blue”.)

    The law of conservation of energy says that nothing can come of nothing, but then again QM suggests that this law is somehow violated on microscopic scales. But then, if something can in fact come of nothing, that doesn’t make them any more equal.

    But if they are in fact equal, then qualia are inherent properties of the fundamental, physical substance. Which brings up new questions regarding physics, since raw consciousness then can be said to be fundamental. For instance “do quarks or strings have consciousness?”, and “what would that consciousness be like, compared to ours?”.

    And, MF, what concept does not necessarily require a mind? It’s hard to see how Plato's forms fit into the physical. To me, a concept existing as an original model outside a mind sounds pretty metaphysical, whether it happens through sense-perception or not. Platonic realism is more mysterious than enlightening. Wouldn’t you categorize the belief that concepts exists in a special realm of the universe as dualism? If not, how come?
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2006
  12. Jun 8, 2006 #11
    It is pointless (imho) to attempt any answer to such a question until one has a definition of consciousness. And I mean an objective operational definition, I don't just mean the Searle-Penrose-type wishy-washy definition of "consciousness is what I experience when I am awake".

    I suggested above :

    I would define consciousness as the ability of an agent to form a consistent and coherent internal representational model based on information from the external world, which model is temporally connected with the external world, and through which model the agent creates a centre of narrative gravity (an idea of “self”), to which it relates information from the external world.

    Any comments?

    According to such a definition of consciousness, I do not see how quarks or strings can possess consciousness (unless one is prepared to believe that they form consistent and coherent internal representational models based on information from the external world etc......

    A circle is an example of a concept.
    Why is it necessary to posit a mind in order for a circle to exist as a logical concept?
    Why is it in fact necessary to posit any material world in order for the concept of a circle to exist as a logical concept?

    The whole idea is that Plato's forms do not literally fit into, or interact with, the physical. To me, Plato's world of forms is simply a logical world which contains everything that is logically possible. All geometric figures, all mathematical equations, and all concepts, already "exist" in a logical sense in this world. All a mathematician does when he comes up with a new equation is that he "discovers" this equation (I think Paul and Penrose would concur with this idea). All I'm saying is that the same is true of concepts.

    Does the notion of a circle existing as a logical entity independent of any mind also seem metaphysical to you?

    Do you believe that mathematicians literally "create" new mathematics, or do they simply discover pre-existing mathematical relationships?

    I am not postulating that Plato's world of forms actually exists except in a logical sense, and it certainly does not interact with or have any causal relation with the physical world. If you wish to call this dualism then that's your prerogative, but don't confuse it with the interaction-type dualism which is at the root of most dualistic explanations of consciousness. The two are quite different.

    Best Regards
     
  13. Jun 8, 2006 #12
    I find it difficult to understand what you actually mean by "agent". Earlier you've refered to virtual agents, which Paul and I have argued that belong to imagining. You've suggested that "virtual entails only that an entity is interpreted by an agent as directly representing some form of physical reality when it does not", but that doesn't explain what your agent is. You've also said that a robot could develope a "sense of 'conscious self' within it’s processing routines, so that it thinks it is an agent which is actually 'looking' at images via it’s visual colour receptors", but you haven't explained how the robot could think and believe - which are usually considered to be properties of a mind.

    Without minds there wouldn't be any logical thinking of circles. Physical entities could form a circle, but there would not be a concept of it. If a computer, in a world without minds, were doing calculations on a circle's diameter, it would still not exist a concept of a circle. - It would only exist the casual doing of calculations.

    If you do believe that concepts are not a part of a material world, isn't it logical to assume that they exist only in minds? Or do you believe in several worlds outside the material world?

    A "logical world" are an imagined world. Logic is thought or reason.

    A notion of a circle could not exist without the notion which is a feeling, and feelings belong to minds.

    Mathematics is a study of concepts, and concepts are imagined to be. For example, whitout a mind, two physical entites wouldn't be two, they would only be. Numbers are concepts imagined to be; to help us understand our surroundings better.

    Why would you not believe that two worlds could interact with each other? Or at least by one-way interactions?
     
  14. Jun 9, 2006 #13
    Hi MF,

    It's great talking to you. No apologies are necessary for a tardy response. I am short of time myself and must apologize to you for getting this started and then not being available to do justice to the follow ups. Please be patient with me. I sincerely appreciate the thought and energy you are devoting to this thread.
    I agree it's bad science. I suppose it's also bad philosophy, although I don't really know what the official rules of philosophy are. But, to me, the nature of my own existence is of extreme interest. After thinking about it most of my life, it seems to me that the way for me to approach learning about my existence is to start with my own innermost experiences. And, I would expect that the best way for you to start would be with your own innermost experiences.

    The alternative is to start with some other concept which I (we) have acquired somehow. The acquisition of that concept would have had a very complex history involving learning English and a substantial vocabulary, receiving information couched in language about the concept, and forming the concept in our respective minds. All of this can possibly introduce error and misunderstanding. Even choosing mathematics as the starting concept, like Dick did, we would have to assume that the concepts are understood by other people the same way as we understand them. And, in my case, I don't agree with the standard, or traditional, set of mathematical concepts. (I think it was a mistake to accept the Axiom of Choice, which has been done for the past hundred years.) Any concept other than mathematics would be even more fuzzy and more prone to introduce error.

    So here we have another disagreement. I say start by investigating my own conscious experience. You say that's like looking where the light is best. Instead, you suggest starting with the concepts of models, information, an external world, a "centre of narrative gravity", etc.:
    I don't agree. I don't agree because there are too many words in that definition in which I have no confidence that I understand the meaning of them in the same way as you do. If the two of us were to sit through a course of study in which these concepts were all developed from first principles so that we could gain some confidence that we each knew what the other was talking about, then it might work.
    Way.

    Using my starting point, I think we can skip the "course of study" I mentioned and proceed in just this dialog, developing the concepts as we go. Here's a sketch of how it could work:

    I start by introspecting and examining my own conscious experience.
    I try to describe it in language and tell you.
    You introspect and examine your conscious experience.
    You try to describe it to me.
    We compare descriptions.
    We try to confirm similarities by elaborating on the descriptions to see if they still are the same.
    We try to resolve dissimilarities by asking each other to describe them in other words.
    If we reach the conclusion that our experiences are nowhere near the same, we will have learned something which I think would be important.
    If we reach the conclusion that our experiences are about the same, then we include a third person and go through the same sort of exercise.
    If we discover that three or more of us have conscious experiences similar to mine, then each of us has two or more objective sources and one subjective source of information regarding the conscious experience. You and I, for example, would have a common objective source.
    If you are intent on studying the question strictly objectively, then you may study the others' reports once you have convinced yourself that they indeed experience the same sort of conscious experience.

    If we don't take that sort of approach, then I can never be quite sure you even know what I am talking about wrt consciousness. (The fact that you think that an information processing machine can experience pain makes me wonder if you feel pain the same as I do.) And for your part, you must consider any opinion or belief of mine as being of no value in contributing to understanding, which you seem to do.

    Now, as for your definition:
    As I explained in the Metzinger thread, I am confident that I could write a computer program which would do exactly and all the things you mention in your definition, and while it was running, I would know that it was not conscious. I would know in the same way you would know that a tape recorder was not conscious even if it were playing a recording of me saying "Hey! I just realized that I am a tape recorder and I am experiencing consciousness! Really. I am really conscious! This is amazing!".

    How I know the computer is not conscious, or how you know the tape recorder is not conscious, I really don't know. But if either of those machines is conscious, then consciousness is a lot more mysterious than it appears.
    Yes, I'll present the same one I have suggested several times. I would say that consciousness is the ability to know. 'Ability' is used here in the same sense in which it is used in the definition of energy: the ability to do work. That definition of 'energy' served quite well to allow the concept to be quantified, measured, and identified with many physical phenomena. I think the same could be true for the ability to know. Of course it will take a new, young Boltzmann to work out the quantitative relationships among the related concepts to put it on a firm theoretical footing.
    I agree. On the other hand, I did not simply say "I do not believe it". What I gave you was a rambling account of some of my background, which you seemed to read with impatience, so that you could understand my reason. I stated that reason as, "With that background, in my judgment, I am convinced that it is not possible for a machine (computer or brain) to achieve conscious experience by itself."

    Yes, that reason is terse and by itself doesn't sound like much more than a statement of belief. But the reason is the result of my judgment after a long background in learning about information systems and in thinking about the problem of consciousness.

    For example, I know what blue looks like to me. I also know that the phenomenon of perceiving blue can be accounted for by certain wavelengths of light hitting my retinas, but that explanation does not explain the experience of blueness. I also know that machines can detect and discriminate certain wavelengths of light even better than my eyes can and that they can easily be programmed to report "seeing blue" and they can use character strings like 'blueness' in their reports. Yet, with my experience of machines, I know that they do not experience blueness like I do.

    Now, from what I read in Metzinger, he claims that if the program has accumulated and organized certain information about its current and past states, and has a function which operates in near-real time which could be taken to be an "awareness" function, and (and this is what he claims is the key component to conscious experience) that some of the accumulated experience is hidden from, or made unavailable to, the "awareness" function, then consciousness will arise in the running machine/program.

    In my judgment, based on my experience with programmable machines, and my experience of seeing blue and feeling pain, the emergence of consciousness in the machine will not happen under those circumstances.

    Furthermore, in my judgment, the only way the machine could experience consciousness is if it were constructed in such a way as to operate as a functioning communication system allowing a remote (i.e. outside and separate from the machine) conscious agent to achieve two-way communication with the machine, the two ways being perception in one direction and willful action in the other direction. In this case, the experience would not occur in the machine but in the conscious agent. However, if the communication link were sufficiently robust, the conscious agent could have a vicarious experience which would make it seem to the agent as if it were actually the machine itself and that the machine was having the experience. I think we humans are getting close to building such machines with our remote controlled devices, virtual reality systems, and system simulators. It shouldn't be hard to imagine how such a conscious agent-machine setup would work.

    But, after all that, it boils down to the fact that my opinion is based on my judgment. I can't give you any airtight logical or physical proof. Of course, if you can give me airtight logical or physical proof that my opinion is wrong, I will gladly change my opinion. And Metzinger's argument is not an airtight logical or physical proof.
    I am well aware of the value of my opinions: not much. But to answer your question, Yes, I believe that even human brains alone cannot "generate" or experience consciousness.
    Yes, except that I would choose a different word than 'infest'. I usually use the word 'drive' or 'operate' to describe the "infestation". I drive my car, but I suppose from my car's viewpoint, I might be infesting it.
    Yes. I'd say that all other animals are also such evidence. There may be more subtle evidence yet to be discovered such as the mechanisms behind the choice of the Big Bang's initial conditions and some of the trickier developments in biological evolution.
    Sorry, but no. If Penrose couldn't convince you, I'm sure I could not either.
    If Chalmers couldn't adequately explain it to you, I'm sure I could not either.
    No. I do have a "sense of conscious self", but only when I willfully attend to that aspect of my conscious experience. I don't do that very often. I also don't experience the sense of centrality which you seem to consider pretty important. At certain times, particularly when I am attending to visual perceptions, it seems that my consciousness is centered between and behind my eyes. But if the perceptions are of the night sky, or of a beautiful vista or sunset, my consciousness can sometimes seem to be located way out in the scene I am contemplating. If I am listening to music, my consciousness seems to fill the hall along with the music. If I am feeling pain, it seems as if I can push the actual location of the pain around simply by strongly attending to it. (I learned about this technique from accounts of POWs who reported that it is an effective way to tolerate torture). At first, it seems as if the pain is in the affected body part, e.g. a finger. But when concentrating attention on the pain itself, it seems to move, leave the body, and disappear altogether.

    If by a "logical centre" you mean a central process, then yes, I do experience that. It is as if there is some process identified with attention which I can willfully move around, not only in space to body parts and scenes of my environment, but also in time as I ponder the past and future, and also in the space of competing sources of information from various senses, imagination, and deliberate logical processing.

    I have gone into this detail in the hopes that you will agree to begin (or continue) our conversation along the lines I suggested earlier of each of us trying to understand the conscious experience of the other. That way, if one of us is nothing but a machine, we might be able to figure that out.
    No, it is not synonymous. Maybe this can be a key to unlock a barrier between us. The sense of conscious self is an experience, which is like a process. The agent, by contrast, is the thing having the experience, which is like a processor. The sense of self is a thought; the agent is the thinker.
    I think my well-worn radio analogy explains and answers all these questions. Yes, it's not rigorous, but it is easily understandable.

    To give the analogical answers to what you wrote, the mechanism explaining the interaction of the radio station and the radio is via encoded EM radiation signals. The radio station remains undetectable from the radio. There is no special place within the radio in which the interaction between the radio station and the radio (unless you identify the antenna circuits with the Res Cogitans). The capability of reproducing transmitted radio programs is restricted and constrained to radios simply because you need such a device to discriminate, detect, amplify, and convert to sound, the transmitted signals. There are many more details about radio operation, but they are mere details. In short, in order to really understand radio operation and how it all hangs together, there are many details of electrical and electronic engineering that must be comprehended. Once they are understood, there are many empirical tests to verify that the radio really operates according to theory.

    I'll have to stop here because I am already late for my next commitment. But you can think about this much before I get to the rest. Take your time responding because I probably won't be back here until Monday.

    Warm regards,

    Paul
     
  15. Jun 11, 2006 #14
    In very broad and general terms, an agent is something which is capable of acting within an environment.
    An agent may also possess consciousness, or intelligence, but need not.
    Humans are agents, animals are agents, machines are agents.

    How would you define a “mind”, and what makes you think that a robot (suitably equipped) necessarily could not possess a “mind”?

    Why is it necessary to posit “thinking of circles” in order for a circle to exist as a logical possibility?

    I think you are assuming “all logical possibilities must be manifest as mental concepts embodied in minds”, whereas I am not. Everything that is logically possible, including all logically possible concepts, already “exists” in a logical (but not physical) sense, as a logical possibility.

    I have already clearly stated in previous posts that I believe in the notion of Plato’s world of forms as a world of logical possibilities, need I repeat that again?

    Something that is logically possible does not require a mind to “imagine it” in order to make it logically possible.
    Do not confuse ontology with epistemology.
    If it is “logically possible that it rain in Boston tomorrow”, then this logical possibility exists (ontically) as a logical possibility, quite independently of any “mind imagining the possibility”.

    A notion, like a concept, is fundamentally a logical possibility (I’m not interested in comparing simple textbook definitions from general-purpose dictionaries, because the everyday definitions of words is predicated on the everyday usage of words – and once one starts exploring the world outside of everyday use one cannot assume simplistic definitions. Common usage of words such as “feeling”, “notion”, “consciousness”, “understanding” make the naïve assumption that all of these things are uniquely associated with human minds).

    But if it makes you feel happier, simply replace the word “notion” with the phrase “logical possibility”.

    With respect, Lars, this doesn’t answer the question.

    One could assume such mystical one-way interaction, but why invoke additional metaphysical assumptions if they are unnecessary?

    Such an assumption would be not only an additional metaphysical premise, it would also require an explanatory theoretical framework. In my philosophy, such a premise of interactionist dualism is simply redundant. As Laplace said, I have no need of that hypothesis.

    Best Regards
     
  16. Jun 12, 2006 #15
    My philosophy is quite different. As a scientist originally, my approach is to objectify everything wherever possible. If it is impossible to arrive at an agreed objective definition of a term like “consciousness” then (imho) it’s a waste of time for two people to attempt to have any meaningful or rational discussion about what consciousness actually is (apart from “consciousness is a subjective feeling”, which is not very enlightening); all we can do is to swap stories.

    I agree that trying to relate concepts between two individuals can lead to misunderstanding. That’s a fundamental problem of communication. This is precisely why it is important to agree objective definitions of terms before we start.

    How can I participate in your investigation of your own conscious experience? That’s not a question of discussion or a debate, it’s a question of you going away and doing some personal introspection. I suggest that when you have finished introspecting, come back and let me know how you have decided to objectively define this thing you call “consciousness”.

    Understood.
    Do you perhaps have a suggested alternative definition of “consciousness” that you would be happy with?
    If we cannot agree on the definition of this “consciousness” thing, it seems to me that we cannot usefully proceed much further in the debate on what this thing is and how it arises.

    I can do that right now.
    My conscious experience is this : When I am “conscious” I seem to form a consistent and coherent internal representational model based on information from the external world, which model is temporally connected with the external world, and through which model I create a centre of narrative gravity (an idea of “self”), to which I can relate information from the external world.

    Now you tell me yours. (Objectively if you can, rather than subjectively)

    I have no idea whether I experience pain the same way you do. How could we find out?

    How would you know it was not conscious?
    (If you answer “I do not know how I would know”, then you have not satisfied the conditions for knowledge – to claim knowledge requires a justified belief, and admitting that you “do not know how you would know” clearly shows your belief is not justified).

    This is the same error that Penrose commits when he asks “why is a camera not conscious?”.
    Are you seriously suggesting that the tape recorder in your example is forming a consistent and coherent internal representational model which is temporally connected to the external world and through which model the tape recorder creates a centre of narrative gravity (an idea of “self”), to which it relates information from the external world? I think it is not.

    Knowledge = justified true belief. For any agent to possess knowledge (= able to know) it simply needs to be able to form beliefs about the world which it can justify, some of which beliefs may happen to be true. Is this really all that you think consciousness is? Why would this require some metaphysical “primordial consciousness” to bring it about?

    With respect Paul, as far as I can tell, you have provided neither rational, objective argument, nor emprical evidence, which would allow us to reject Metzinger’s account. All you have provided (it seems to me) is a detailed account of the history of your subjective feeling that it “cannot be right”. I’m sorry, but I cannot accept your feelings as a valid reason for rejecting Metzinger’s account.

    What relevance does the notion “they do not experience blueness like I do” have to the question of whether they are conscious or not? That another agent “does not experience blueness like you do” is NOT evidence that the agent is not conscious. Perhaps you can reasonably assume that I experience blue like you do. But what about other creatures? Would you agree that a dog is conscious? If yes, when a dog looks at a blue object, do you think the dog is then necessarily “experiencing” the same thing that you claim to experience when you look at a blue object? (you might want to check up on the details of canine vision before you answer).

    Have you ever worked with a machine which you would claim satisfies Metzinger’s conditions for consciousness, as detailed in his paper?

    No hypothesis constitutes a “proof”. That’s not how science works. An hypothesis is an attempt to provide a rational and coherent explanation of a phenomenon.

    That planetary motion is “explained” by Newton’s “laws” is simply an hypothesis.
    An alternative hypothesis is that the planets are pushed around the sky by angels (this was indeed accepted as a credible hypothesis at one time).
    I cannot “prove” that the Newton’s “law” hypothesis is correct and the angel hypothesis is incorrect, since both fit the experimental data. I can only point to the fact that the Newton “law” hypothesis is based on a rational and coherent argument with minimal metaphysical premises, whereas the angel hypothesis is basically just one very big metaphysical premise and not much else.
    If someone were to say “in my opinion, based on my judgment, the Newton’s laws hypothesis is wrong”, what could I say? Just the same as I am saying to you now : Where is your rational argument for claiming this hypothesis wrong, where is the evidence?

    All? You believe that all animal species are conscious?
    Does this include insects? Fish? How about plants? Amoeba? Viruses?
    Do you have any evidence that any of these other species are conscious? How would one tell? Since you define consciousness as “something similar to what I experience”, how do you know that other species experience the world similarly to the way you do?

    Penrose could not convince me simply because his arguments were either based on false premises or invalid inferences. I can find no argument of his, purporting to show that machines cannot possess consciousness, which is sound. I am very happy to be corrected on that score if anyone can present a sound argument.

    With respect, Paul, it’s hardly valid to claim that Metzinger’s explanation does not solve the “Hard Problem”, if you are then unable or unwilling to backup such a claim?

    This, to me, seems perfectly compatible with my own explanation.
    I can explain your feeling that you only sometimes have a sense of conscious self on the basis of variations in your level of introspective awareness. Just because you do not continuously introspectively examine the existence of your conscious self does not mean that it does not continuously exist.

    I deliberately referred to “logical centre” to distinguish it from “physical centre”. A logical centre of experience can be located anywhere, and can also be physically distributed in space.

    At least from the above it would seem that we both have a “sense of conscious self”, even though we may differ in some of the detailed descriptions of the properties of this self.

    Why do you think this would be the case?

    What you present here is pure speculation based on analogy. In the case of radio, there is a way that we (as observers) can identify the fact that there is a radio station involved, but in the case of consciousness you are presumably saying that it is impossible to detect either the presence of primordial consciousness (PC), or the transmissions between PC and the brain. You are not suggesting that the radio analogy is the actual mechanism, only that this is a mechanism which has some kinds of similarities. You are not presenting a rational and coherent explanatory hypothesis based on anything known about the human mind. You are not suggesting that any of this can be confirmed experimentally or empirically. In short, all you have is one big metaphysical speculation, with no basis in rational theory or emprical data. (The notion that angels push the planets around the sky falls into exactly the same category).

    How does this PC speculation then lead to a rational account and explanation for the rest of reality?

    Best Regards
     
  17. Jun 12, 2006 #16
    The problem, Moving Finger, is that since you don’t believe that concepts or virtual objects exist exept in a logical sense, and you also compare qualia with virtual objects, you’re saying that the experience of blueness are not real except in a logical sense. Yet, there is a big difference between a logical possibility and a quale: Possibility is just a word to describe that something real can change; a property of something already existing, (the happening of a singel possibility can be observed, but the possibility is still nothing). While a quale is so real that it’s observable.
     
  18. Jun 12, 2006 #17
    But Lars, doesn't it seem odd to you then, that it seems so far that a quale, or consciousness, cannot control the physical world.
    If you dig up layer after layer, all you get are physical ones, why? Because there is no such thing as a quale.
    We are trying to explain this consciousness, this.. Qualia, but nobody has ever been able to observe it anywhere.
    Why? I think it is because qualia IS the physical world.
    There is no difference between them.

    See if we look at emergence, take, a human being.
    Now if we seperate everwy individual particle that makes up a human, we will see that all we get is a big mass of nothing.
    A particle porridge so to speak.
    But if we put it together in a meaningful sense, we get a human.
    That's basically what emergence is.

    So, the problem is that we do not have a complete blueprint of a human being on all emergent layers.
    If we define an emergent layer as any meaningful composition of any number of particles, then we see that any bounding particles become an emergent layer.

    So, a human being can be literally composed of thousands of layers.
    And the only way to comprehend how consciousness is built, is to understand all these layers.

    Bear in mind, all these layers are completely physical and empirically provable in nature.

    A virtual qualia, to me, is simply, as software is to hardware, an emergent layer in existence.
    Researching the function of a car engine on the quantum level may work, with a lot of research and resources, but that doesn't mean it's efficient.
    Likewise, researching how consciousness works with the physical world is futile, at least now, there's plenty of evidence for it.
     
  19. Jun 12, 2006 #18
    Actually, qualia are all we observe. But you might be right, the physical and qualia might very well be the same. But that doesn't make qualia real only in a logical sense. If qualia and the physical are the same then raw consciousness are fundamental properties in the physical world.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2006
  20. Jun 12, 2006 #19
    Absolutely not. Where have I said this? I said that concepts and virtual objects can exist in a logical sense quite independently of any "mind" thinking about them, just as a circle can exist in a logical sense independently of any mind thinking about it. But it certainly does not follow from this (as you seem to think) that concepts, virtual objects and circles exist ONLY in a logical sense.

    Not at all. To say "X can exist in a logical sense" is not saying "X exists only in a logical sense".

    A quale is not observable in the scientific sense. Nobody else can "observe" your qualia, only you can, and then only internally within your conscious experience. This fits precisely with a quale being a virtual object that exists only in relation to your consciousness, and not as a physically objective entity.

    Best Regards
     
  21. Jun 13, 2006 #20
    Well, nobody can observe anything but their qualia, so nothing is observable in an objectively way. Science relies on qualia. Spite the irreliability and irreproducebility of human senses and qualia, we have to use them. All though we prefer using various devices and tools to increase objectively accuracy, quality and value of the information obtained, we have to rely on logic through thinking which is qualia.
     
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