Conscious Thought?

  • #26
Pythagorean
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From another point of view, Chalmers argument may be that we're no more conscious than a rock, which I find more palatable than saying a rock has consciousness. I think one general issue is that word consciousness has a lot of connotation in it and it makes us very selfish about it.
 
  • #27
apeiron
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From another point of view, Chalmers argument may be that we're no more conscious than a rock,
I don't recall this being his argument.

The panpsychic view is that every fragment of substance would have a proportionate amount of consciousness in the same way they might have other local material properties like force and mass. So brains just collect sufficient material to have richer states of experience.
 
  • #28
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From another point of view, Chalmers argument may be that we're no more conscious than a rock, which I find more palatable than saying a rock has consciousness. I think one general issue is that word consciousness has a lot of connotation in it and it makes us very selfish about it.
That is just a linquistic preference.

If we arent conscious, then apparently nonconscious things can have the vivid experiences that we do. A nonconscious rock too. Its still panpsychism or pansemiosis.
 
  • #29
Q_Goest
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There are some who want to argue that even rocks might have awareness of some kind if consciousness is an intrinsic property of matter - google panpsychism. Philosopher David Chalmers is one proponent.
From another point of view, Chalmers argument may be that we're no more conscious than a rock, which I find more palatable than saying a rock has consciousness. I think one general issue is that word consciousness has a lot of connotation in it and it makes us very selfish about it.
Chalmers is a computationalist and dualist, and certainly doesn't contend that rocks, by themselves, are capable of conscious experience. See for example, http://consc.net/papers/rock.html" [Broken] in which he suggests that physical states can not be arbitrarily selected as suggested by Putnam and others. Chalmers says:
The problem, I think, is that Putnam's system does not satisfy the right kind of state-transition conditionals. The conditionals involved in the definition of implementation are not ordinary material conditionals, saying that on all those occasions in which the system happens to be in state p in the given time period, state q follows. Rather, these conditionals have modal force, and in particular are required to support counterfactuals: if the system were to be in state p, then it would transit into state q. This expresses the requirement that the connection between connected states must be reliable or lawful, and not simply a matter of happenstance.
In other words, Chalmers argues that the physical states an FSA (or CSA) goes through are somehow isomorphic with the behavior, and of course, isomorphic with any experience that FSA posesses. I don't think Chalmers has made this point effectively however, and the argument remains open. The problem is still being argued today, and I'd tend to agree with Putnam. There is nothing intrinsic about the physical states an FSA passes through, which leads computationalism to predict the worst possible form of panpsychism - that every computational device posseses every possible experience. The conclusion then is that since this is obviously false, computationalism is false.
 
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  • #30
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Back to the Op question. I don't honestly believe that there is a reason to why consciousness exists instead I think it just does because that's the way it is. It's kinda like the question of how conciousness exists in the first place... In the fact that it's not really answerable because we humans lack the ability to figure it out entirely.
 
  • #31
apeiron
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Back to the Op question. I don't honestly believe that there is a reason to why consciousness exists instead I think it just does because that's the way it is. It's kinda like the question of how conciousness exists in the first place... In the fact that it's not really answerable because we humans lack the ability to figure it out entirely.
Pythagorean is right that to ask a good question, you need a good definition. This will then make it clear what kind of measurement is to be made in the name of that definition. That is the basis of reality modelling.

Consciousness is a much-used, much-abused, term. If for example your definition includes the idea of an immaterial property, how could you ever be happy with a materialistic answer (even if the question has been framed in a good materialistic ways, and good material measurements had followed)?

For example, it can be said that the essence of consciousness is "attention". That is the standard scientific operational definition. It seems to capture the meaning of what we are talking about in good material language - already we are thinking of a brain process. And it can be opposed to other brain states or processes such as subconscious, preconscious, habitual, automatic, reflexive, unconscious.

The usual response to this is that "attention" does not really deal well enough with the "what it is like" issue. We can imagine a computer that has been designed to have an attentional process but cannot see why that would be an experiential state.

This is where I argue that the more refined notion of "anticipation" is better. Anticipation implies a particular kind of "computational" process - one where output precedes input. Many good theorists do use anticipatory models (Neisser, Grossberg, Friston) but - perhaps because of the cultural dominance of the input-output computational model over the output-input one - the majority stick to the roving spotlight of selective attention as their operational definition of awareness as a process.
 
  • #32
Pythagorean
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For example, it can be said that the essence of consciousness is "attention". That is the standard scientific operational definition. It seems to capture the meaning of what we are talking about in good material language - already we are thinking of a brain process. And it can be opposed to other brain states or processes such as subconscious, preconscious, habitual, automatic, reflexive, unconscious.
The community has begun to differentiate a bit between attention and consciousness. I'm currently reading a textbook that my neuro teacher let me borrow Cognition, Brain, and Consciousness by Baars and Gage, that talks about this a little bit (for instance, attention has an unconscious aspect to it that can "force" stimuli onto your consciousness).

There's also an idea of directionality proposed in the book that basically states that attention is the inverse operation of consciousness, utilizing information flow maps. A gross simplification would be that attention is directed inward toward the self, consciousness is from the self directed outward. So attention and consciousness share some overlap, at least conceptually.

Personally, I feel that "awareness" would be the operational definition. I don't really think there's a difference between consciousness and awareness besides the connotation.
 
  • #33
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Interesting posts by apeiron and others, but I have a few thoughts.

I consider the term "consciousness" to involve TWO fundamental properties:

(1) The "process" aspect of it (for lack of a better word) - such as the dissipative structures, various computational/mathematical and other systems models that have been discussed in this thread.

AND

(2) The "identity" aspect of it or DIFFERENCE aspect.

What I mean by identity part is let's say we have an essentially complete model of the "process" aspect of consciousness such as dissipative structures or what have you.

There still needs to be a LAW, SYSTEM or MODEL to explain why YOU happen to be THAT particular dissipative structure or conscious system and why I happen to be a different dissipative structure in this PARTICULAR body. Why not vice versa? (This is NOT the same idea as "what it's like to be a bat" question this is instead "why is that unique specific conscious entity in the bat and why not in that dolphin over there").

From our point of views this would be a MAJOR change in the world as we percieve it if we switched bodies for example.

There is SOMETHING that specifies that my experience is tied to a specific conscious process DIFFERENT from yours. In principle any system has to have a way of DISTINGUISHING the subsets of the system from each other to have any logical consistency (like memory address in a computer's memory).

But that way distinguishing these subsets of the system either has to be (a) Random with no rules to follow (ie I'm just randomly "me" in this body) or (b) There is some ADDITIONAL complex set of rules that decide the identity of system subsets.

The problem with explanation (b) is that this leads to an endless recursion of additonal rules to explain why those rules must apply but not other rules, as well it's not consistent with oczam's razor. I'm not ruling out some version of (b) however.

Some may say aspect 2 of consciousness does not apply and we're all the same "thing" or "form" whatever it is. I beg to differ because even if our DIFFERENCES in conscious experience and our subjective space/time locations are ilusions, there must be some MECHANISM for that ilusion, that DIFFERENCE, ergo that arises from SOMEWHERE.

Any overarching SYSTEM whatever it is needs some way of clearly distinguishing it's subsets in a very fundamental fasion with some RULES or in a RANDOM manner.

I think a lot of focus has been on consciousness aspect 1 but not consciousness aspect 2 as described above.
 
  • #34
apeiron
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There is SOMETHING that specifies that my experience is tied to a specific conscious process DIFFERENT from yours. In principle any system has to have a way of DISTINGUISHING the subsets of the system from each other to have any logical consistency (like memory address in a computer's memory).
Isn't the simple answer that we are all different because we have undergone separate histories of development? I am my set of memories and experiences and habits, you are yours.

If you are making analogies, software like Windows XP is designed so that it will look and feel the same on any available hardware - it can even run on Macs. But that just confirms that machines are different from biology.
 
  • #35
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Isn't the simple answer that we are all different because we have undergone separate histories of development? I am my set of memories and experiences and habits, you are yours.

If you are making analogies, software like Windows XP is designed so that it will look and feel the same on any available hardware - it can even run on Macs. But that just confirms that machines are different from biology.
I respect that opinion, but the problem I see with this is that your explanation is not logically complete.

There was a starting point (let's say time 0) at which our "histories" or "development" were identical a priori. So at that point, how was this overarching system of laws (including the downward causal laws) distinguish us as different? Presumably although we were essentially identical at that point, the global system still distinguished us using some "internal" address system of it's own.

I think there is a lack of deep understand of what "identity" is in ontology and current philosophy. The global constraints may be there, but these global constraints still need a consistent "ID" or "address" system to distinguish the local subsets within the global whole.

However any possible "mapping" between the subsets of the whole and their corresponding identities (or "addresses") as recognised by the global constraints seems arbitrary/incomplete.
 
  • #36
apeiron
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There was a starting point (let's say time 0) at which our "histories" or "development" were identical a priori. So at that point, how was this overarching system of laws (including the downward causal laws) distinguish us as different? Presumably although we were essentially identical at that point, the global system still distinguished us using some "internal" address system of it's own.
So taking a concrete example, what do you take as the starting point for a human? The fertilisation of an egg? When are we ever identical in any exact fashion?
 
  • #37
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So taking a concrete example, what do you take as the starting point for a human? The fertilisation of an egg? When are we ever identical in any exact fashion?
I think this goes back to your previous posts about vagueness.

I think the greater the vagueness of any two systems, the more similar and indistinguishable they are.

At some point in "time" in the past, either we presumably did exist but had no "history" to speak of because this was at *exactly* time 0. In principle at this exact time, there is no difference between these identities (a sort of vague existence). However, the global constraints/laws still were able to distinguish us in order to create different histories. The difference had to be something akin to an unchanging index of "selves" that the global constraints maintained regarless of the sameness of our local selves at that point.

I think this vague existence began earlier than an egg fertilization, perhaps somewhere in the causal fabric of events before the fertilization event occured.
 
  • #38
apeiron
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I think this goes back to your previous posts about vagueness.

I think the greater the vagueness of any two systems, the more similar and indistinguishable they are.

At some point in "time" in the past, either we presumably did exist but had no "history" to speak of because this was at *exactly* time 0. In principle at this exact time, there is no difference between these identities (a sort of vague existence). However, the global constraints/laws still were able to distinguish us in order to create different histories. The difference had to be something akin to an unchanging index of "selves" that the global constraints maintained regarless of the sameness of our local selves at that point.

I think this vague existence began earlier than an egg fertilization, perhaps somewhere in the causal fabric of events before the fertilization event occured.
An egg or seed is a good example of the notion of vagueness and a developmental (as opposed to constructive) notion of logic. But what you suggest here is really trying to see one through the lens of the other still.

So a logic of vagueness would say there cannot be an exact t=0, because that would of course be a crisply definied instant. The "first instant" must itself be vague (though perhaps approximately located in some useful sense).

The other thing a logic of vagueness (in my view of it perhaps) asserts is that both the local and the global are all mixed in together in this particular view of "initial conditions". So global constraints are not themselves in existence at this first stage. The laws, or forms, or other terms used to denote global constraints, are also "yet to be born".

If you take the simple example of the development of a tree from a seed, while it is still a seed, all kinds of future are possible. The future is vague because the seed encodes an undeveloped potential.

Now if we take a packet of seeds, or collect up a handful of acorns, we can get a sense of this. Each one seems indistinguishable in that we could chose to plant any one of them. But once one is planted and begins to express its potential, then it begins to individuate and become some crisply actual example of some more general idea.

No two oak trees are identical. The soil, the wind, the water, the ravages of insects, lightning strikes, shape each individually. Even the same tree planted twice may end up with different branching patterns because of tiny accidents or fluctuations of genetic control, hormone systems, the evironment again.

A reductionist would say we could in principle track every tiny accident back to t=0. But in a non-linear world, where butterfly wing flaps show that measurement errors compound exponentially, is this really so? Can we look backwards in time to recover exact initial conditions (as opposed to vaguely approximate ones) from a process of development?

Now the seed of course is a package of global constraints in representing a genome - an evolutionary history of learning that specifies what generally makes good sense when you want to be something like an oak tree. The genome predicts a generalised environment and even a range of genetic responses (adaptations to the variety of habitats and challenges that may be encountered). But each seed is also a slight variation on the general mixture. So also already individuated from its fellow seeds by the fertilisation process. A pre-fertilised germ cell in a flower is in an even vaguer state.

Anyway, if we accept that consciousness develops along with the nervous system that is its physical expression, then there can be both moments of obvious transition, yet no actual crisp transition moments. Local and global interactions are so entangled - as between the genes of a seed and the multiple choices force upon it by fate and the environment - that they are never clearly separated. Especially right at the beginning.

When does a foetus become conscious? Does it matter that a baby is born with its cortex still largely unwired and non-functional? When does a child first learn to introspect through social learning and the scaffolding tool of self-addressed language?

A logic of vagueness, of development, is about letting go of the need for crisp certainty in terms of either micro-causes, and even the global macro-causes, during first moments. Once things are developed, through the synergistic interaction of local and global potential, then they do become irreversibly crisp particular things, like this oak tree, or that person.
 
  • #39
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By what device do I determine something does or doesn't have consious thought?
Glasgow Coma Scale is the test we give for consciousness, a tree will score a three, a rock will not score because it is not alive. This common test is a quick easy way to test a persons awareness of their present, which I see as the only part of a living being that exists solely in the present.
 
  • #40
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An egg or seed is a good example of the notion of vagueness and a developmental (as opposed to constructive) notion of logic. But what you suggest here is really trying to see one through the lens of the other still.

So a logic of vagueness would say there cannot be an exact t=0, because that would of course be a crisply definied instant. The "first instant" must itself be vague (though perhaps approximately located in some useful sense).

A logic of vagueness, of development, is about letting go of the need for crisp certainty in terms of either micro-causes, and even the global macro-causes, during first moments. Once things are developed, through the synergistic interaction of local and global potential, then they do become irreversibly crisp particular things, like this oak tree, or that person.
I have a great deal of regard for the general concept of vagueness, however I think it lacks a "completeness" to it. It's hard to describe clearly but it in seems to completely abandon any unchanging universal "absolutes".

Yes, a lot of modern physics seems to chip away at any "absolutes" in terms of for example time/space etc, but I think carrying this relativism too far results in a sense of "areality" - there is no real, there is just the relative, in sense therefore nothing really matters at all. Also relativism seems forever trapped within the limitations of "time".

However, I think "relatives" and "absolutes" are a sort of symmetry that must coexist equally for reality to both "have an absolute truth" and simultaneously allow "change" and allow time to exist. Forgive the cliche but a sort of "yin/yang" duality.

By "absolutes" I mean unchanging perfectly conserved "things" that have always been and will always be - timeless. By "relatives" I mean the set of all changing, unconserved and emergent "things" such as included in the concept of vagueness.

These "absolutes" in my mind are an unchanging index that ultimately distinguish all subsets of the universal "multiverse" or "whole" whatever this may be. These "absolutes" would be in my mind the part of the multiverse that is INDEPENDENT of time and steps outside the relevance of time.
 
  • #41
apeiron
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I have a great deal of regard for the general concept of vagueness, however I think it lacks a "completeness" to it. It's hard to describe clearly but it in seems to completely abandon any unchanging universal "absolutes".
Good point, but in fact a logic of vagueness does give you universals. Vagueness is your raw initial potential (the unbroken symmetry that stands the beginning of "time" or change) and then absolutes arise as your crisp limits of the resulting breaking of this symmetry, of the process of change or development. So absolutes are reached "at the end of time". Or when the phase transition that is breaking the symmetry has run its course to some new equilbrium in other words.

So, as Peirce argued, absolutes develop into crisp actuality. They are where you eventually arrive.

So in vagueness, there is neither flux nor stasis (but by definition, the potential for both). Then in a crisply developed realm like our universe, there is a definite separation into spatial and temporal dimensionality - the static locations and the global changes.

And modern physics even treats space and time, stasis and flux, as complementary limits of a developed state of things. That is where relativity comes in.

It is all yin~yang as the ancient taoist and buddhist traditions came to the same early conclusions as ancient greek philosophy. When metaphysical symmetries break, the most complete possible breaking is always dichotomistic or complementary. To crisply have something, you must then just as crisply have everything that it is not.

So to have well defined stasis, you must have exactly what stasis is not - which is flux.

Or to have well defined continuity (to use another standard greek example) you have to have also the opposing limit state of everything continuity is not - the discrete.

To attempt to imagine vagueness then is to attempt to imagine a realm which has restored an original symmetry, a realm in which you can't tell the difference between stasis and flux, the discrete and the continuous, etc.
 

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