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Dan Dennett and qualia

  1. Oct 30, 2003 #1
    "A possible weak point in Dennett’s account is the claim that the phenomenal aspect of our experience is a complex of judgements and dispositions. Many philosophers see the central question of consciousness as explaining the seemingly ineffable subjective quality of our experience, or qualia. Dennett claims that there are no such thing as qualia; the quality of conscious experience is a result of micro-judgements made by various parts of our brain. For Dennett there is no reality to the subjective quality of our experience over an above the fact that there seems to be that subjective quality." - Guy Douglas

    "The category of meta-representation, like the category of representation on which it rides, is sure to be of importance in any good answer to the question of whence cometh the power of (human) minds, but there is still too much play in our mutually agreed-upon anchoring of these categories. I suspect that the major reason for this slippage and cross-communication among researchers is that nature still harbors too many intermediate cases of interest. Darwin noted that it was the extinction of the bulk of the intermediate forms that permitted us to frame species concepts; had nature not eroded a gully separating one from the next, we would be unable to draw a line ("in a principled way" as philosophers like to say) to that purpose. What counts--what ought to count--as marking off true [meta-]representation from its nearest kin? The pigeonholes are easy enough to name, but we must be alert to the prospect that we have named some procrustean beds."
    ---- Dan Dennett

    But as Dennett wants to argue that there is no central control, then how is it that it seems to others as though there is, and it seems subjectively as though I am a singular conscious agent? Dennett has at least two metaphors designed to be of assistance here. Firstly, he has the theory that the idea of self is a product of a ‘center of narrative gravity’. What he means by this is this is that the brain works in parallel to process narratives of content. In many ways it is a natural language that serves to present the appearance of a unified stream of consciousness, and a unified ‘intender’. Secondly he has the idea that consciousness is a species of ‘mental fame’: "Those contents are conscious that persevere, that monopolize resources long enough to achieve certain typical and symptomatic effects - on memory, on the control of behaviour and so forth."
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 30, 2003 #2
    Very nice research, Jeebus.

    As to that point about how Dennett answers the "why do I feel like there is a central 'meaner'?" question, you are right that he uses these metaphors, but they are to get at the important point, they are not the important point in themselves (and the second one you mentioned wasn't even Dennett's invention, it was the "memes" concept of Richard Dawkings, from The Selfish Gene).
  4. Oct 30, 2003 #3
    Re: Re: Dan Dennett and qualia

    Thank you.

    And you are right I forgot that Dawkins coined the framework for meme and the analogy for gene.

    But wouldn't Dennett's theory of Multiple Drafts be a contagious information pattern that replicates by symbiotically infecting human minds and altering their behavior, causing them to propagate the pattern? That would be intertwined in with Dawkin's memes, would it not?
  5. Oct 30, 2003 #4


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    I don't think the drafts are like an infecting virus in Dennet's account. They are the product of spontaneous and competing agents, which are native to the mind. More analogous to hormones than viruses.

    I also want to address one of the philosophical claims you quoted in your first post, that because Dennet rejects qualia and the homonculus he leaves no consciousness at all but just a variety of non-conscious processes. The philosopher who said that apparently couldn't see the structured (by competition) array of editorial process as a single thing.

    Without the addition of any new material object, this structure constitutes a higher level than the process that go into it, and its behavior is what we call consciousness (selon Dennet). That seems plain to me, and the philosophers who balk at it seem to me to be willfully denying it, rather than reasonably rejecting it.
  6. Nov 3, 2003 #5
    Re: Re: Re: Dan Dennett and qualia

    But the Multiple Drafts are not the memes, but are rather a process of a plastic (meaning, moldable) brain, which has been molded by memes (and, of course, by genes).

    Yes, his theory is indeed intertwined with Dawkin's memes, and that's why he mentioned them. As it is, however, his theory usually only requires mention of memes when one asks how sentient consciousness evolved.
  7. Nov 4, 2003 #6
    Well if everything were set up on "auto-pilot" or, as just part of "the process," there would be no need to think about it, and we wouldn't be here discussing it. :wink:

    You see this is the problem you encounter when you begin discussing the three dimensional "material world," without discussing any possible motives (or reasons) behind it.

    This is what I suggest to you, that without a will (motive) there is NO WAY that any of THIS could exist ...

    Think about it -- i.e., give your conscious attention to -- if, you will ...
  8. Nov 5, 2003 #7

    First off i am very new to all of this , but very interested. I feel that Dan Dennett`s perspective of us being "machines" seems all to real! Think about it , we are all composed of cells as is everything else. We cannot figure out where we came from -assuming societies understanding of evoulution is false- only cause we dont understand where these cells we are made of came from. In my OPINION i feel that cells are just another material (resource) like metal that we dont have access to.

    As far as apes looking similar and peoples general thought that we evolved from them seems to unexplained and false. More like we are the modified version of these other "machines" (apes , ducks , even grass) except we`re able to shelter and care for ourselves enough populate as rapidly as we have , basically i feel we are the successful creation.

    As far as your opinion that we cant be machines because we have the capibility to discuss that we are/arent machines also seems false , not to say you`re wrong but just to express myself as well ,i feel as though we were made to have our own opinions and to create our own thoughts as in away for who or whatever created everything to be , almost , entertained that everything isnt going as planned , almost like who/what got bored with watching the whole dog eat cat and cat eat mouse for survival. And dont get me wrong i dont think we are robots , i just agree with Dan Dennett`s veiw that we are made of an uncountable number of little robots -cells- that are programmed to perform a certain task (atleast thats what i got out of it) i believe he said something along the lines of the cells are only there to performthe task , nothing else , inputs and outputs. As in the cells in a tree are programmed for photocynthesis and a duck is programmed to take care of its offspring.

    Im not seeking critizism and im not affriad to admit when im wrong , these are just theories i have been pondering and would like some feedback.
  9. Nov 5, 2003 #8
    Certainly there's a mechanical aspect to everything, even "our bodies," which are mechanical in nature. And yet without an underlying motive or intent, operating from within -- or, a "hidden energy source" if you will -- "nothing" would spring forth and the world as we know it would cease to exist.
  10. Nov 5, 2003 #9
    What wa hav here is falure to communicate. :smile:

    When did I say that there was no consciousness or free will? When, for that matter, did Daniel Dennett?
  11. Nov 5, 2003 #10
    Welcome to the PhysicsForums, _-Dex-_! :smile:

    I don't really understand what you're getting at. Could you clarify please?

    You mean we are modified versions of the other machines that we call animals? That's exactly what evolution says. It just took time to get from "them" to "us".

    I just want to clarify here that Dennett's view is purely evolutionary (why wouldn't it be? :wink:). I only mention this because you seem to imply a "creator" in a lot of this post, and then speak of it as the "programmer" of our genetic structure (our mechanics components), which is not Dennett's view.

    Then you are seeking criticism, just the good kind, right? :smile:

    You've come to the right place (physicsforums, that is).
  12. Nov 5, 2003 #11

    Thank you =o)

    Assuming you`re referring to the "resourse" proportion , i just believe , in my head , that a male and female we formed from cells as in they were made. Also comparing them to 'metal' was my was of explaining how i felt it was used. Just to bulid something. I might seem twisted and insane but i just have a twisted and insane perspective.

    I agree but i feel that an ape was an original at one point just two were made in order to reproduce. I dont feel we evolved from them i feel that we were all made at one point , not as in each of us individually just our species.

    I only imlied (meant to imply if i mislead) that Dennett drew my attention the the fact that cells work like machines and i feel in my opinon that these machines were created. I also feel they were programmed to only performa certain task.

    Very good point. I dropped out of high school when i was 16 and got my GED. I apologize if im not up to par. I would still like to be involved though.

    I have noticed. I appreciate your feedback and look forward to more!

    I would also like to add i have only read a few parts of Dannett`s work and what i say might be inaccurate but not intentionally. I plan to hit the library very soon. I like his veiw a lot.
  13. Nov 6, 2003 #12
    What "formed" them, then?

    No, you don't seem twisted or insane, I just want to make sure I understand what you are saying. Yes, the organic material that makes us up is like metal that makes up other (man-made) machines. The difference is that we (conscious beings) use that metal material to form these other machines with our hands. What "hands" could possibly have been used to form the organic machines we call "animals"?

    Interesting. What about Old World and New World Monkeys? They are very much like apes, though not quite as advanced. How do explain their similarities?

    Basically, creationism, right? Is it biblically based, or do you have other reasons for believing this way?

    One of these tasks is to mutate, though, isn't it? If not, how do you explain my ability to move my fingers in ways that the majority of humans can't (I'm what is called "double-jointed", though I don't think that term is really appropriate, as all humans are jointed doubly, I'm jointed triply)?

    There is no "par". Everybody's welcome to discuss at the PFs.

    And we look forward to even more of your posts (there are just too many people that start out at PF, and then leave after posting only a few times).

    As do I (as you've probably already noticed). I've only read a couple of his books (Consciousness Explained, Brainchildren, and part of Darwin's Dangerous Idea, as well as The Mind's I which he co-authored), but I have a pretty good grasp of his theory, and am very glad to discuss it :smile:.
  14. Nov 8, 2003 #13
  15. Nov 8, 2003 #14
    Well, if you have postulated that it must exist, then you should have some idea of what "it" is.

    So, why make so many similar forms? Do you not believe that anyevolution occurs, ever? If so, I feel it only right to remind you of the obvious: No animal is an exact replica of it's parents, and new mutations have occured even within humans (for example, I am "double-jointed", this was passed to me genetically, but is not typical of human genetic traits).

    "In another world"?

    Also, did you mean a "conscience", or that the difference is that we are "conscious"?

    Ok...then where did you learn creationist teachings, if not through religion?

    Hmm. How do you decide what is a "flaw", and what is a "gift"?


    I can't believe my ears !!

    Just kidding...you should read them, though, whenever you get a chance.
  16. Nov 8, 2003 #15
    Would it be possible to give a short detailed review of his view on consciousness as i have not read him and might wish to.
  17. Nov 11, 2003 #16
    Basically, he takes the fully Materialistic approach to consciousness. There is nothing to it, says he, than the information-processing of the brain, occuring in a way that has evolved over time, but can still be traced back to more primitive consciousnesses. He suggests that we take the "inentional stance", assuming that anything exhibiting all of the physical necessities for consciousness, is indeed conscious (obviously, since the physical processes are consciousness, in his theory).

    I highly recommend Consciousness Explained. It's not very big, and he makes it enjoyable to read, never boring (IMO).
  18. Nov 11, 2003 #17
    It will be interesting to read him. When did the first brain come to be? I would like to know that. Thanks
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