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Consciousness Studies: Misdirected and Conclusions Fated?

  1. Apr 11, 2004 #1

    Les Sleeth

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    Consciousness Studies: Priority Misdirected and Conclusions Fated?

    Consciousness seems to be at the heart of subjectivity. If so, then how can it be sufficiently externalized to observe in order to empirically "prove" what it is? The attempts to define consciousness in terms of how it functions exemplifies the problem of proving what is most fundamental to consciousness; that is, since the nature of consciousness cannot be observed, but the science mind wants to observe it anyway, the functionalist simply defines consciousness by what can be observed. Consequently, such externalized approaches only tell us certain ways conscious operates, not if something more basic than “functions” establishes consciousness in the first place.

    Since we ourselves possess consciousness, and since it is functioning, then theoretically we could have direct access to a “fundamental nature” if it exists. In that case, the sort of agreement we would reach wouldn't be through externalized experiments as we do in normal science research, but through first developing an internal focus capable of observing itself, and then sharing and comparing what we each learn.

    One must wonder if there’s misdirection built into an approach to “conscious studies” that is primarily externalized, and which fates it to produce a functionalist model. If we accept that we must experience to know, and if the core of consciousness is innately subjective, then when we study it, shouldn’t the first priority be an internalized approach, which is then followed up by what we can confirm through empirical observation?
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2004
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 12, 2004 #2
    There's no misdirection if the intent is to produce a functionalist model.

    You're right, except we've been doing that for thousands of years already. Do you really believe you are the first to realize introspection is the best way to achieve understanding?

    We may not know everything about ourselves, but we know quite a lot. Among myriad things, we know how to raise kids, we know how to treat each other, how to relate to Nature, how to take care of our bodies, how to create beauty, how to be happy...

    Isn't all that knowledge about ourselves nothing but a fantastic understanding of 'subjectivity'? There is of course still much to be learned, but we have come this far without scientific approaches, and no scientific approach will ever tell you how to raise kids or how to compose symphonies. Leave subjectivity to the subjects themselves, they already got an amazing handle of it. They even have their theories of consciousness, which explain it in terms science can't possibly understand or even account for.

    What's left for scientists to do then? Not much. Billions of people care very little what a few so-called experts have to tell them about what they already know from evolution, tradition, and personal experience. When it comes to our inner life, the real experts are our mothers and fathers, our relatives, our friends, our lovers... even our children can teach us more about ourselves than any academic could possibly hope to.

    However... you still want to be a scientist? Well, do it the right way then! And the first thing to be a good scientist is to get rid of subjectivity - not because it's not important, but simply because no one knows how to handle it other than in a non-scientific way.
  4. Apr 12, 2004 #3
    Chalmers has an intereresting proposal,namely to use a first person approach in conjunction with the usual third person approach.Still,as even him recognize,the existing technology is not enough evolved to permit to uncover some clear connections between first person data of subjective experiences and corresponding neural activity.Who knows,maybe sometimes in the future it will become common reality.Unfortunately for him the other proposal (not to attempt the reduction of subjective experiences at brain states even after using the first person approach) cannot be accepted if some new empirical data supporting is not provided.If we observe a clear pattern between some subjective experiences and the activation of certain neural connections (using the first person approach also) what good reasons would we have to assume that subjective experiences imply something extra?Of course no one until some further empirical support is provided.Now it is true that subjective evidence might in absolute really imply something more,we are not aware,unfortunately we would have no reason to believe so until new information is provided.But science remain always open to some new data,being openly fallible (since it uses induction to interpret the observed facts when establishing the sufficient causes which produce a certain phenomenon).

    The main problem with Chalmers philosophical ideas in general (very valuable otherwise) is that the actual theory of mind is theoretically and experimentally progressive for the moment and there are no good reasons to change the method of investigation.The reality is that science has a clear explanation within the currently accepted paradigm for the problem of subjective experiences and there is absolutely no reason to believe that there doesn't exist scientific explanations which could put clearly in evidence the common,objective,mechanisms producing it in spite of the possible slight differences in different humans.The lack of an exhaustive or detailed explanation as of know does not mean there is no explanation at all.The burden of proof is on those who claim that qualia involves something more,the usual cliche that 'you cannot measure subjective experiences' does not constitute a sufficient reason against the actual approach.

    The supporters of the non reductive approach have attempted to disprove logically the possibility of reductionism (at least at the neural network level) but I'm afraid no one of those arguments is sound (though some conclusions might indeed result from the premises).Indeed the logical possibility of zombies does not mean they are also physically possible (the claimant should prove that first) and the fact that subjective experiences are private does not mean that a possible holistic scientific theory of mind is not defining exactly the same things (again if such a theory will be found the claimants that there is still something extra will have to prove experimentally their case) in spite of the fact that scientists might lack an exhaustive proof (as some seem to require).I'm afraid in practice exhaustive explanations are very very rare,we can never be sure we have found the absolute truth.In the vast majority of causes we simply cannot put in evidence some additional,subtler,causes (apart from those observed) of a certain phenomenon and due to the lack of any further evidence scientists assume that other causes do not exist.Consequently our theories will state that R,P (observed causes) always provoke the effect E.Still this does not mean that there does not exist another subtler cause,undetected yet,Q in whose absence E does not appear.So that even the argument tried by some that usual scientific theories compel and convince rational people to believe that another,better,approach is not possible whilst in cognitive sciences we still can (and will always be able) imagine other approaches is not sound either.Even if they are absolutely correct (that consciousness involves more than physicalism) but we are not aware of that the burden of proof is on them not how they believe that science should convince them with exhaustive proofs.

    The only way in which,I think,scientists will be forced to think deeply that something extra might be implied is in the case when the actual materialist approach will run into troubles.Let suppose that sometime in the future we will be in the following situation (not now,I agree that for the moment the physicalist approach,in the form of the actual computationalist view-who postulates that processes in the neural network of the brain is enough-indeed it is still evolving) :

    A1.The computationalist emergentist theory will become stagnant for a long enough period of time with no real advance,before having a detailed view of how consciousness emerges.

    A2.More and more puzzles (at least) appear and cannot be accomodated in a sound manner within theory.

    A3.No real scientific alternative is found during this time,physicalist or not.

    A4.No obvious final limitation is known to exist at that time that could prevent a further investigation.

    Well if this will happen not only the computationalist approach becomes stagnant but also the assumption that nature can be understood in physical terms.This could be a hint that there could exist something more involved (dualism or idealism for example) though obviously we are not entitled to say that they should have epistemological privilege.

    Since it is not reasonable to renounce at the assumption that consciousness can be understood the best approach in such a situation would be to openly recognize that 'we do not know wether consciousness can be understood in physical terms,maybe yes,maybe not,it is possible that something immaterial is involved.It is even possible that we will never understand how conscious appears due to that'.Some will object here that true immaterial 'substances' cannot interact with usual matter.Still (no matter how,why and when) it is possible that those substances transform directly into matter (or energy) at a very subtle level.Also there is no good reason now to suppose that a better methodology to establish what is real,capable to put soundly in evidence even immaterial substances,cannot exist.

    If my above scenario will become reality the most rational approach will be to open the assumption that consciousness can be understood in physical terms (remaining open even to the possibility that it could involve something more,'immaterial') to criticism instead of postulating indefinitely that it can be understood in physical terms (and,in a more specific way,that the neural network of the brain is enough to understand it).But to prefer the hypothesis that something extra is involved we still need some extra evidence.
  5. Apr 12, 2004 #4

    Les Sleeth

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    Obviously, but why would the point be to produce a functionalist model? Supposedly we are all openly and honestly trying to figure out what consciousness is. If someone studies looking only for that which supports his pet theory, we are not going to get an objective model.

    If you mean because at the time, all we are trying to understand is consciousness functions, then that makes sense. But the debate we've been having, and which I outlined for this thread, is about if there is an underlying, most fundamental aspect consciousness, whose very nature is consciousness, and of which "functions" are a reflection of.

    I'm not talking about intellectual introspection.

    I am not talking about what we already know how to do (although I question your belief we know how to be happy).

    I disagree that we have a "fantastic understanding of 'subjectivity'," even the way you are referring to subjectivity. Most people don't understand even what has shaped their psychology, which is why the world can be quite insane. In any case, that isn't the "subjectivity" I am talking about.

    I don't know about you, but none of my relatives and few of my friends have the kind of inner expertise I am talking about.

    So you think you can get rid of subjectivity? Let's hear how you are going to do that. For one thing, when you "observe," who or what is experiencing that? You, the subject. When you analyze what you've experienced, who is doing that? You, the subject. When you breathe, who is doing that? Guess.

    What you call "objectivity" is really a type of subjectivity that attempts to look at things without personal bias, so you cannot escape subjectivity -- no way, no how.

    You don't know of any other way, but that doesn't mean there aren't those who do. In fact, that is exactly what I've been suggesting. Possibly you think about what I am saying for a minute, not what you want to think. This is, afterall, a thread about my idea. :rolleyes:

    The issue I raised is concerns the concept of some basic or "foundational" (as I called it in another thread) aspect to consciousness. It is the idea some people believe (including me) that consciousness, rather than being created by the brain, is really some pre-existent quality; in this model, the brain does not "create" consciousness, but instead brings out various foundational potentials.

    The question is, how can that be demonstrated if this hypothetical foundational potential cannot be made external to the brain so we can look at it in the traditional scientific way? (Here I am adopting the scientific standard that the purpose of a hypothesis is to anticipate searching for the experience of what has been hypothesized.) Also, if it is there, but if all we look at is "functions" and then build a model of functions alone, then that model is bound to be, or "fated" as I said, missing the foundational aspect.

    The possible solution, I suggest, is to develop the ability to turn one's attention "back" toward where that foundational aspect is claimed to be, and see what we find. This would be an internal skill most researchers would have to develop. However, I believe it is possible because I have practiced it myself for many years, and have studied a great many others who've done it.

    So my point for this thread is that "consciousness studies" may require a new investigation skill if it wants to get evidence of the whole story.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2004
  6. Apr 12, 2004 #5
    Neuroscience might be the answer? Possibly?

    In What Good Is Consciousness? by Fred Dretske, Dretske says that agreeing with the Rosenthal model that there are only two types of consciousness -- state consciousness and creature consciousness. Do you agree with this? If so, then by your experiment wouldn't their have to be two distinctly different types of experiments on each postulate of the consciousness theory? One on state and the other on creature consciousness? But, I'm a little perplexed on his terminology of consciousness; isn't creature consciousness just another property of state consciousness? Maybe a possible input output system they both travel, but travel in two different sensory paths -- that leading to two different experiences of consciousness?

    All that is mental is consciousness to put it in Freud's terms, so then why would their be two different, unique properties of consciousness? That terminology is too broad and arbitrary though; so why can't consciousness just be one function, but one function that travels throughout other output paths forming a more disperse awareness?
  7. Apr 12, 2004 #6
    I get it. You're one of those who have The Answers®

    I have thought about what you are saying. I have in fact said similar things myself in the past. It was only after realizing I could only get weirdos to understand what I was talking about, that I decided I could be talking rubbish. So I decided to keep my ideas to myself, as they certainly proved useless for other people.

    Wish you better luck in your endeavour to enlighten the world, but I must warn you that the world doesn't care to be enlightened the way you think they should.

    That's your possible solution. Others suggest accepting Christ as your personal saviour before your Eastern brand of mysticism gets you in trouble with the Western God. Rumour has it He's a jealous one :biggrin:

    Good thing we have enough reason and commonsense to find answers by ourselves, without having to join a cult.

    You know what I think it's funny about people like you? You claim to have discovered something very important, very "foundational", and yet you can't do anything with it, other than complain that scientists are neglecting this phenomenal, mind-blowing, paradigm-buster piece of knowledge you uncovered. Well, stop whining and do something with your knowledge. Write a post explaining how your understanding of consciousness can help us find a cure for schizophrenia. Now that would be some useful consciousness research. The rest is just mindless mumbo-jumbo disguised as great wisdom.

    Sorry if I'm too sincere. Can't help it sometimes.
  8. Apr 12, 2004 #7
    This is the attitude of a philosopher? Don't forget where you are. I think what Les is suggesting is a possible model for inquiry from which theories/knowledge can be developed. He isn't claiming in this thread to present to you "the truth according to Les". So the schizophrenia comments are a bit off base I think.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2004
  9. Apr 12, 2004 #8
  10. Apr 12, 2004 #9

    Les Sleeth

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    Imagine this situation. You hook up an electrode to an area in your temporal lobe, give yourself a jolt, and suddenly find yourself recollecting childhood memories. However, (in this situation) none of what you experienced registers on your equipment. You tell collegues what happened, and because you can’t produce a neuronal activity chart, they tell you they “have no reason to believe.”

    But what about you who has just experienced that? You do have a reason to believe. You sit and think about how you can convince them hooking an electrode to an area in the temporal lobe will cause one to recollect childhood memories. Finally you tell them to hook their own brains up the same way you did, and see what they observe. If 1000 scientists did that, and each reported similar results, then would you be justified in saying there is a relationship between the temporal lobe and childhood memories, even though no equipment was able to register neuronal activity in the temporal lobe?

    My point is, possibly there is a way, if not to empirically “prove” a purely subjective experience, to at least bring some support to it by developing a specialized subjective method which others could apply and observe for themselves.

    The problem is, the empiricist who thinks that way is assuming his investigative approach reveals all there is to be revealed. It is a logical fallacy.

    One cannot assume that because everytime one applies the empirical method only physical evidence shows up, that it means only physical stuff exists. It very well could mean that all that the empirical method reveals is physical stuff.

    So when you say “burden of proof is on those who claim that qualia involves something more,” you are assuming the empiricist is justified in limiting all discussion of what consciousness is to what empiricism can handle.

    The burden of proof is not any more on qualia advocates than those who say neuronal or functional activity alone is adequate to explain consciousness. Neither side has explained consciousness.

    Again, the use of the term “sound” assumes a priori that only empirical observation makes something sound.

    Excellent insight. I suspect you are right. My suggestion, I admit, isn’t that practical. Mostly I am trying to broaden the self-centered perspective that assumes the method one applies to know things is the only way to know things.

    I understand your conservative approach, and I like it. I am not sure you understood my suggestion for a new approach to investigating the very subjective world of consciousness. Consciousness is a unique problem for study because we cannot get it outside a person’s brain to look at it. Almost every other thing we want to examine, we can apply the empirical standard.

    There are those who have developed the ability to turn their attenion around, back toward the source of their consciousness. In the past, we’ve labelled this ability as “mystical” at best, and crackpot in the other extreme. But here, where want to understand how consciousness works, I'm suggesting possibly there might some practical investigative value in learning how to look inward.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2004
  11. Apr 12, 2004 #10

    Les Sleeth

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    Yes, and I don't really see how Dretske explains consciousness at all if he simply calls it "awareness" (as he does). Fliption in another thread pointed out how a non-conscious machine can be "aware" of (detect) color without actually knowing it is aware. This would be a zombie if it were human.

    If you read my thread "Mind to Mind," I've argued that mentality is also not sufficient to qualify something as conscious. A computer is mental, but doesn't know it is mental.

    The definition of consciousness is actually quite simple. It is that aspect which "knows" it is aware and can think, it isn't just the awareness and thinking ability. That part that knows is what develops, learns, understands, appreciates, loves, makes decisions, becomes wise . . .

    Those parts that are aware and think, in this model, are less fundamental and so less defining of what consciousness is. They are things consciousness can "do" (functions) but they are not consciousness itself.

    But the question is, how will we know if consciousness is a collection of brain functions, or if it is something more fundamental? See below.

    It might be. That is part of what we are trying to figure out. Is consciousness neuronal, or is it something more basic (I call it "foundational") which neuronal arrangements only develop the potential of?

    I know this idea isn't immediately obvious to everyone, so let me try an analogy (I apologize in advance for yet another water analogy). Say you had an electrical machine which produces water, and there were two camps of thinkers trying to decide how the machine did that. One camp says the machine "creates" water out of the electrical energy which powers the machine; the other camp says the machine condenses water that is present in the air, and so really "creates" nothing, but rather simply takes advantage of something that already exists.

    Similarly, this thread is addressing the issue of what produces consciousness. Does the brain, using energy derived from metabolism, actually create consciousness neuronally? Or is the foundation of consciousness already present sort of "in the air" which the brain "condenses" and develops the potential of?

    I am of the latter opinion (though open to being proven wrong), and have suggested that the utterly subjective nature of consciousness might not lend itself to the external discipline of empiricism. If so, are we thwarted from studying it? Empirically, yes. But possibly there is nonetheless another way, and that is to see if we can develop the ability to look at the consciousness which is present in each of we humans. How would we do that?

    In my crude little drawing below (attached) the arrows on the left represent the normal "outward" or divergent way we use our conscousness. But some have practiced, and become skilled at, also using their attention in an inward or convergent way. My suggestion, therefore, for how we might need to investigate if there is something foundational is for researchers to develop a new kind of observation skill, that of looking "inward" to see if a "foundation" of consciousness is there. If enough researchers were to do this, they could compare notes, which would not be a "proof" but it might be the only possible way to study the pure subjectivity of consciousness.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 12, 2004
  12. Apr 12, 2004 #11

    Les Sleeth

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    I don't see how you get that from anything I said to you.

    That's fine, but must I follow your example? I am here, not to enlighten, but to try out ideas I have and learn myself. I find the discussions and feedback interesting. If the world does or doesn't care isn't my main focus, though I admit I like it those occassional times I seem to hit on something.

    What difference does it make if a suggestion, which I've tried to show might be practical, is something first developed in the East? Looking inside our own consciousness is "mystical?" Give me a break!

    You are projecting your cult paranoia onto me. How exactly, precisely, accurately (i.e., please answer a question for a change) is that possibly cultish? You are not making a lick of sense you know.

    It is my consciousness and I should be able look inside it if I want without having you ridicule me for saying I've found it useful. And think about it, what could possibly be safer than finding answers from within oneself?

    In this thread, all I've suggested that we "do" with it is consider it an option for discovering what our own consciousness is made of. Why should that bring on your (rather nasty) ad hominem attack? I've yet to see you debate issues in a proper way. All we get from you is opinions which you don't seem to feel you need to justify or support with evidence. Talk about an exalted ego!

    Too sincere? You sound like the guy who explains that the reason why he beats his wife is because he "loves" her.

    You know, you don't have to be perfectly "right" to participate here. All you have to do is relax and get into the groove of "making your case." That is the whole fun of debating philosophy because you can't possibly lose. If someone, with evidence and reason, shows you how you've not quite seen things so clearly, then you get to learn. And if you can show another, with evidence and reason, how they've not been so clear, then you get to teach. Great fun! But it does require an open mind, a bit of courage, and the sincerity which you seem to respect.

    I can't figure out what you are doing yet, but you don't seem to be having much fun.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2004
  13. Apr 12, 2004 #12

    Les Sleeth

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    Exactly. To me it is similar to the psychological defense mechanism of projection, where one projects one’s shortcomings onto others. And then I wonder, what is the big deal if consciousness can’t be explained with physcial principles alone? Oh my God, it’s a freaking nightmare!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (To politely paraphrase Marissa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny”) Why should we care how the nature of reality turns out to be? I really, really don’t get that fear which stems from people so determined reality has to be the way they believe it is.

    Sometimes I think this debate is between people who have taken the time to look at their own basic nature, and people so obsessed with figuring out how everything works they’ve overlooked themselves.
  14. Apr 12, 2004 #13
    You said a mouthful there. I know because I used to do exactly that. And I sounded alot like these people we're talking about. I'm now in awe of things(especially myself! :biggrin: ). So much so that I don't see how I ever missed it.
  15. Apr 14, 2004 #14

    Sleeth, I think you hit the nail on the head when you ask these two questions. Does the brain, using energy derived from metabolism, actually create consciousness neuronally? Or is the foundation of consciousness already present sort of "in the air" which the brain "condenses"

    But the experience always proceeds the physical feel. This has been tested in patient with electrodes in the head. The patient is shown a question with a answer that is already known. He is told when you see the correct answer on the screen, push the button. But the button gets pushed before his hand does it. So is not that, an interpretation that the latter may be true?
    There is a third alternative. Both are necessary or there is no consciousness manifested. Think of it as a radio receiver and transmitter. The radio wave is there but without the parts there is no manifestation of anything.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2004
  16. Apr 20, 2004 #15


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    If that's the case, then consciousness could not have existed prior to the evolution of brains complex enough to manifest it. It would still be an emergent property.

    I still don't see the fuss here. Current research, as far as I know, is relegated to finding neural correlates, mostly of visual perception. There is no attempt being made just yet to explain anything more fundamental, the reason being that we aren't ready for that yet. Give the scientists a little bit of time and allow them to actually make a claim before you get so critical. Of course they must form hypotheses and then test them, and naturally their hypotheses will be materialist in nature, because science deals with material interactions. It isn't like the hypotheses are unfalsifiable or the scientists won't accept any negative evidence, the way it seems with you and the other dualists.

    I also don't know of any instance where that electrode thing you speak of has happened. So far as I know, any time a person has claimed to be experiencing something or thinking about something, it has shown up. No neuroscientist has ever tried to convince him otherwise. If that is not the case, please provide an actual example.
  17. Apr 21, 2004 #16
    In the matter of the question do we make consciousness or do we receive it? This was how I interpreted the aha, anyway. Recent microwave experiments, and things in use, show that we definitely can receive consciousness; or receive verbal commands without hearing them. That would indicate that the structure exists to receive consciousness from our metaphysical environment, for lack of a better ideation.

    Unfortunately we are coming up with messages like, do not shoplift, do not shoplift. Mind control studies that I have read about indicate that our minds are open so some extent. They have to be, for us to take on information from the environment, but consciously applied electromatic intrusion, has been the realm of Shamans; now is the realm of commercial enterprise. A lot of the experimentation was forbidden for our Government to pursue, so it just went into the private sector. However the great surrenders in the first Gulf War, were attributed to FM radio transmissions, just telling the Iraqis on the proper Rf wavelength, to surrender, they thought they felt their own fear, and heard their own voices.

    My worry is with the relaxed FCC conventions regarding, who may own, how much of the media, we will all be feeling and thinking exactly as we are told we think.

    Consciousness seems to me to be creative reception of the situation we are perceiving. It ends up being a very personal assesment. We have enough survival leeway, to enjoy what we see, hear, and feel and pursue that with resources that typically are directed to aquiring food, and shelter. Drug addicts, and philosophers really enjoy the sensation of consciousness, and the exchange of information, sensorial stockpiling, and celebration of synaptic synergy. There are happy drunks, and sad drunks and angry drunks, so what's it gonna be, boys and girls?
  18. Apr 21, 2004 #17

    Les Sleeth

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    I have never suggested the brain isn't shaping consciousness, my question is if it is creating it. You can apply the term "emergent property" to what I say might be going on, but that isn't how emergent is normally used.

    I am asking, which overall developed which? Another way to ask it is, is some pre-existent general consciousness the organizing force behind evolution? And is "emergence" in the human nervous system that universal evolutive force's effort to manifest itself through human biology?

    Better read up on the functionalists. Regarding being "so critical," I am critical because of what functionalists like to "dismiss" so they can make their case. It is the same thing physicalists ignore in their origin of life theory -- i.e., what can't be explained will "eventually" be explained by physical processes. Well, that's convenient isn't it. It is just another way of saying they already assume they are correct.

    What makes you assume empiricism (the source of your standard for falsifiability) is the "proper" way to study the nature of consciousness? You've assumed you are right from the start, and not allowed that there might be aspects of reality which really do exist, but which empiricism is unsuited to study. But that's the way you and other _________ (fill in the blank) are isn't it? By the way, the type of "emergence" I am describing isn't necessarily dualism; in fact, it is monistic.

    You missed my meaning. I used that as an example, as a possible alternative to the current means for verificiation. Right now, if I say I have observed something, you can verify that by observing it yourself. But how can you observe some foundational nature of MY consciousness? You cannot, but I might be able to experience my own, and you might be able to experience your own, and then we could compare notes on our experiences.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2004
  19. Apr 21, 2004 #18

    Les Sleeth

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    Of course, I am sure you realize microwave transmissions are physical, not metaphysical.
  20. Apr 21, 2004 #19


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    You seemed to be saying that consciousness does not function without a brain, in which case it could not have shaped it. It could not have done anything until the brain came into existence.

    This may be the case, but you must realize that to say consciousness simply came from pre-existing consciousness is question-begging. The evolutionary, emergent property, model has the advantage of explaining the existence of biological complexity and intelligence given nothing but very simple beginnings. Your hypothesis would explain nothing, as we must then ask where that pre-existing consciousness came from. Certainly consciousness requires some explanation far more than do a cosmic singularity or the translation of membrane collisions.

    Sleeth, what do you expect? They are approaching it from a physical standpoint. It is not up to them to study anything more. Whether or not they can completely explain consciousness remains to be seen. To be honest, I doubt that they can. If I am right, then someone else will have to fill in the blanks. It is the place of neuroscientists to study the brain. That is what they know.

    I'm not assuming that empiricism is the only way to study consciousness. It is one way, and it is the proper way for a scientist to study it. I haven't assumed anything other than that science studies physical interactions that are empirically verifiable. Surely you aren't going to argue with this.

    If you are postulating the existence of non-physical locus of consciousness, that is dualism. It implies that there is both a physical and a non-physical aspect to a human being.

    I'm not sure how I commented on this.
  21. Apr 28, 2004 #20
    It's very hard to see how could we establish that what we experience subjectively is 'the fundamental nature' and even accepting it is how can we make the difference from an illusion generated by the brain?For example mystical experiences or near death experiences are easily explanable within the actual accepted knowledge and though we still lack sufficient reasons to consider those explanations as being accepted knowledge they count as predictions of the actual theory with prospects of being confirmed later.All we can do,from all we know now at least,is to use the third person approach and the first person approach in the same time.Possible in the field neurology though I doubt we can settle the things...

    As a digression here let's assume (a very serious possibility,there is no reason against,now at least) that sometime scientists will propose a 'holistic' theory of consciousness (giving us a broad view of how consciousness work,not the case now) explaining also subjective experiences (derived from the premises of the proposed theory) counting as predictions.Well in this case no matter that we will be incapable to confirm those predictions (regarding subjective experiences) on long run there would still be no reason to think that something more is implied if the theory is not disproved (other predictions are disproved).The ball would be on the ground of those who claim (implying that all would be rational persons should believe the same) that consciousness imply something more,they should present sufficient reasons for their assertions.The only correct rationally position would be that of skepticism (since the predictions about subjective experiences are not confirmed).Or,at most,that of a purely subjective belief (especially if some personal experiences,not amenable to scientific inquiry now,convince the experiencer to prefer the hypothesis that consciousness implies more than the physical brain).The latter position does not imply a positive claim,the belief (or mere preference) stance has a logical ground behind and,the most important thing,it is not 'set in stone',the experiencer remaining open to find later,if sufficient reasons will exist,not necesarilly scientific,that the physical brain is enough.

    Anyway the idea of using the first person approach seems very interesting,in my opinion it would certainly represent a step ahead.I'm myself at least skeptical that the actual emergentist theory is sufficient,I claim nothing being skeptical,having good reasons for my stance,I'm prepared to make later the constatation that the brain is enough...[as a matter of fact I have my personal reasons,grounded in some personal strange experiences having a very low rate of repetability,unique in fact,that a synthesis of human personality survives death so I prefer,provisionally,the hypothesis that the physical brain is not sufficient;of course there is no good reason to claim that my preference is on the same level with that of science's,I'm prepared to find that my experiences can be explained within the actually accepted scientific knowledge,the standard of knowledge].

    Unfortunately I do not think the first person approach,proposed by Chalmers to be used in conjunction with the usual third person approach,will become current practice in the near future.First as even Chalmers recognize we do not have the devices and secondly if we will put in evidence clear correlations between subjective experiences and some patterns in the functioning of the neural network of the brain there would be basically no good reason to not try to reduce subjectice experiences to the functioning of the brain.Chalmers advice not to try this even in the above scenario but I'm afraid the principle of sufficient reason would be against him,scientists will assume that there is nothing more until sufficient reasons against will be provided.If those reasons will be provided,or found by scientists themselves,then the fact that consciousness imply somwething more than the physical brain (the neural network of the brain) will become part of science.Otherwise no.Thirdly,and this is a direct experience of mine from the exchange of ideas with some scientists,neurologists are very skeptical about the future of the first person approach (used in conjunction with the third person approach).They made the observation that now it is incapable to give us some extra information about consciousness above that gained using the traditional approach and even stronger from all we know now there is no good reason to think that it could be potentially helpful (no specific practical example given by the proponents of the first person approach)...
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2004
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