Consciousness and Epistemology

  • Thread starter Canute
  • Start date
  • #26
1,515
0
loseyourname said:
Neuroscientists don't concern themselves with this because they don't come to conclusions about reality based on an argument.
I don't think any neuoroscientist would agree with that.

They produce testable and repeatable results that can actually be seen. They may not prove anything beyond your idealistic doubt, but it's hard to see what can be proven beyond that doubt other than the reality that consciousness exists.
The existence of consciousness cannot be proved, it can only be known.

If this is all you will accept, then you must reject all science, not just consciousness science.
I don't see why. One just has to make a distinction between absolute and relative truths (between what is true and what is provable).
 
  • #27
selfAdjoint
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
6,786
7
The existence of consciousness cannot be proved, it can only be known.

This is a statement of faith. So is the statement that idealism can't be falsified. In so far as it makes testable predictions it can be. And if it makes no testable predictions then the development of an empirically supported account of consciousness would of course not falsify it.
 
  • #28
Les Sleeth
Gold Member
2,166
2
loseyourname said:
The only difference between you and I, that I can see, is that I don't feel a need to "prove" anything about myself to myself. I'm also not too concerned with the way someone else feels. If a person behaves in a loving manner toward another human being, then I will conclude satisfactorily that that person loves that other human being. Given that nothing beyond that can be proven, what's the point in fretting over it? It might make for an interesting mind game, but it's superfluous.
Well, we're fretting over it because this a philosophy forum. Your reason for calling it "superfluous" does show a difference between us since knowing myself is more important to me than knowing anything else. By "self" I don't mean personality stuff or tastes or desires, but rather what it is that makes me conscious, and anything that might make me more conscious.

You say it's nothing but a mind game, but if you find that self knowledge teaches you how to be more happy, content, conscious, wise and yes, loving, then there is practical value to it. If one were to add that to one's empirical skills, then instead of walking around like a computer only able to evaluate appearances, one might acquire a deeper understanding and appreciation of life.
 
  • #29
1,515
0
selfAdjoint said:
The existence of consciousness cannot be proved, it can only be known.

This is a statement of faith.
Surprisingly it's a statement of fact.

So is the statement that idealism can't be falsified.
It has to do with logical deduction, not faith. (Except inasmuch as we need some faith in our system of logic).

In so far as it makes testable predictions it can be. And if it makes no testable predictions then the development of an empirically supported account of consciousness would of course not falsify it.
If idealism it is unfalsifiable then a materialist (third-person) account of consciousness is not possible. This is unavoidable, since a proof that consciousness arises from matter would falsify idealism, in which case it wouldn't be unfalsifiable. I'm not quite sure how you can disagree with this.
 
  • #30
selfAdjoint
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
6,786
7
Does your version of idealism make the falsifiable assertion that no materialist(third person) account of consciousness is possible? If it doesn't, then the discovery of such an account doesn't falsify it and your logic fails. If it does, then your statement amounts to nothing more than a faith assertion of what is possible.

1. Logical deduction can only be made from premises, and the best logic in the world will be false if the premises are.
2. Falsifiability is not a logical thing but an empirical one. It is the test of a theory against nature. If nature says no, the theory is false.
 
  • #31
loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
1,749
5
I agree. A wholly physical explanation is not a logical impossibility. It might prove to be inadequate, but it is premature to come to that conclusion now. That would be a lot like saying, ten years after Aristotle had written Physics, that atomic theory would never explain chemical reactions.
 
  • #32
loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
1,749
5
Canute said:
I don't think any neuoroscientist would agree with that.
I will quote Dr. Christof Koch, from The Quest for Consciousness:

Other philosophers assert that they don’t see how the physical brain can give rise to consciousness. Therefore, any scientific program to explore the physical basis of consciousness is doomed to failure. This is an argument from ignorance: The current absence of a compelling argument for a link between the brain and the conscious mind cannot be taken as evidence that such a link does not exist.
I could be wrong, but he doesn't seem too concerned about idealism being unfalsifiable.


The existence of consciousness cannot be proved, it can only be known.
Nothing in science can be "proven" beyond any doubt. We'll just have to accept that a test subject claiming to see "red" is telling the truth and indeed is having the same experience we do when we see "red." It isn't such a huge leap.


I don't see why. One just has to make a distinction between absolute and relative truths (between what is true and what is provable).
Then the only qualm you should have is that any physical theory of consciousness can never be truly "proven." Given that no scientific theory is, I don't see the issue.
 
  • #33
1,515
0
selfAdjoint said:
Does your version of idealism make the falsifiable assertion that no materialist(third person) account of consciousness is possible?
My point is this. If idealism is unfalsifiable then it is logically inevitable that no provable material account of consciousness is possible. This is not a falsifiable assertion. I'm surprised to have to defend it.

1. Logical deduction can only be made from premises, and the best logic in the world will be false if the premises are.
2. Falsifiability is not a logical thing but an empirical one. It is the test of a theory against nature. If nature says no, the theory is false.
I agree with both except that I'd say 2. is an oversimplification. You can't separate empiricism from deductive reasoning.
 
  • #34
1,515
0
loseyourname said:
I agree. A wholly physical explanation is not a logical impossibility.
It is provably a logical impossibility if idealism is provably unfalsifiable.

It might prove to be inadequate, but it is premature to come to that conclusion now. That would be a lot like saying, ten years after Aristotle had written Physics, that atomic theory would never explain chemical reactions.
Yeah, that's the old argument. I suppose I'd make it as well if I was a well paid neuroscientist. I can imagine it still being made in a thousand years time. However logical analysis suggests it does not hold water. This is partly for the reasons that Chalmers and others give, but also because a physical account would falsify idealism. If you can show that idealism is falsifiable then that changes everything, but it appears to be impossible to do that.
 
  • #35
selfAdjoint
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
6,786
7
Canute you continue to assert

It is provably a logical impossibility if idealism is provably unfalsifiable.

And I continue to say that if it is unfalsifiable then it makes no testable predictions, and so the development of a materialist (third-person) account of consciousness can not be ruled out by it - or any other empirically supported theory. Unfalsifiable means precisely that it doesn't couple to empirical investigation. I really think you are misunderstanding the term.

Suppose a complete materialistic account of consciousness is achieved. Idealism is not thereby falsified so long as it doesn't make a prediction that such an account is impossible. Supposing it doesn't, then idealist philosophers can continue to assert that all of empirical science is missing the point, just as they have been doing for centuries.

It's only the falsifiable subtheory of idealism that asserts consciousness is beyond materialistic explanation that is falsified by the existence of what it denies.
 
  • #36
loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
1,749
5
Canute said:
It is provably a logical impossibility if idealism is provably unfalsifiable.
I have a hypothesis. I believe that clock hands go around the clock because they are being pushed by invisible, immaterial gremlins that can only be known through my faith. They cannot be detected empirically. This is an unfalsifiable hypothesis. Does it make any material explanation of the clock (you know, gears, electricity, gravity and such) a logical impossibility?


Yeah, that's the old argument. I suppose I'd make it as well if I was a well paid neuroscientist. I can imagine it still being made in a thousand years time. However logical analysis suggests it does not hold water. This is partly for the reasons that Chalmers and others give, but also because a physical account would falsify idealism. If you can show that idealism is falsifiable then that changes everything, but it appears to be impossible to do that.
The reason it is ignored by neuroscience is because an unfalsifiable hypothesis is considered an invalid hypothesis by scientific standards. A true hypothesis must be testable somehow and must accept negative evidence. This is why theists and dualists will never go away, because even if a completely physical explanation of all phenomena observed in our universe is achieved, they can simply continue to assert that there is more to it. However, for the sake of parsimony (commonly known as Occam's razor) we discard hypotheses like the one about gremlins in clocks because they are superfluous. A clock can be understood on purely physical terms. So might human consciousness. Idealism has no bearing on this; it is a factually meaningless hypothesis and I'm surprised that you continue to cling to it.
 
  • #37
1,515
0
loseyourname said:
I have a hypothesis. I believe that clock hands go around the clock because they are being pushed by invisible, immaterial gremlins that can only be known through my faith. They cannot be detected empirically. This is an unfalsifiable hypothesis. Does it make any material explanation of the clock (you know, gears, electricity, gravity and such) a logical impossibility?
What's this got to do with anything?

The reason it is ignored by neuroscience is because an unfalsifiable hypothesis is considered an invalid hypothesis by scientific standards.
So what? Idealism is unfalsifiable whether neuroscientists like it or not. They can choose to turn a blind eye if they want but it doesn' change anything.

hypothesis must be testable somehow and must accept negative evidence.
Idealism is unfalsifiable. It is not a hypothesis it is a fact derived from the empirical evidence.

This is why theists and dualists will never go away, because even if a completely physical explanation of all phenomena observed in our universe is achieved, they can simply continue to assert that there is more to it.
There is more to it, we know that for certain. However it is not necessary to be a dualist or a theist because of it. There are more sophisticated explanations.

However, for the sake of parsimony (commonly known as Occam's razor) we discard hypotheses like the one about gremlins in clocks because they are superfluous. A clock can be understood on purely physical terms. So might human consciousness. Idealism has no bearing on this; it is a factually meaningless hypothesis and I'm surprised that you continue to cling to it.
We have no choice but to cling to it, it's unfalsifiable. This entails that it might be true. It is only science that defines it as unfalsifiable. It's not unverifiable.

These undecidable metaphysical questions derive from the assumptions of science so of course science can't solve them. However such paradoxes and problems don't exist in more sophisticated view of the world.

You seem to be arguing that idealism is false because it's not scientifically testable. This is not a rational point of view. Science is defined in such a way that the question of idealism is undecidable and untestable. That doesn't mean it isn't true or that we can't know whether it's true. It just means that a priori we can't do this by using only the scientific method, and certainly not by adopting the same assumptions as science.

If you stick to facts and forget about defending science or refuting religion then the issues are actually fairly straightforward. This is the situation.

It is possible to know that idealism is true (if it is)
It is not possible to prove that idealism is true.
It is not possible to prove that idealism is false.
It is not possible to know that idealism is false.
It is possible to know that materialism is false (if it is)
It is not possible to prove that materialism is false.
It is not possible to prove that materialism is true.
It is not possible to know that materialism is true.

Which ones don't you agree with?
 
Last edited:

Related Threads on Consciousness and Epistemology

Replies
36
Views
4K
Replies
13
Views
5K
  • Last Post
3
Replies
72
Views
8K
Replies
1
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
6K
Replies
3
Views
5K
Replies
2
Views
6K
  • Last Post
Replies
13
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
10
Views
72K
Top