Exploring the Boundaries of Consciousness

In summary, the conversation delves into the concept of what lies beyond consciousness and what we can perceive beyond what we observe. It also touches on the idea of learning through imitation and the role of behaviorism in the learning process. There is also a discussion on the acquisition of language and a mention of Kant's belief in absolute notions. The conversation ends with a debate on the distinction between what is sensed, observed, known, and theorized.
  • #36
Paul Martin said:
Good questions. On the other hand, Why would you think a human has consciousness? How would you tell?
There is no “objective test” that I know of for consciousness.
One could ask the agent to provide a report on its experiential states (if it has any), and try to form a judgement from that – but this works only for agents which are able to provide intelligible reports, hence would not work for a dog (unless we can find some way of complex intelligent communication with a dog).
Judgements based on such reports may also be fallible (depends on whether one believes in the possibility of zombies or not).

Paul Martin said:
While I agree that consciousness seems to have that ability, I don't think this is a sufficient condition for consciousness.
I think your observation, though correct, misses the point. I did not suggest this as a “sufficient condition”, I suggested it as one way in which consciousness differs from intelligence, to show that intelligence is not (logically) necessarily a subset of consciousness.

Paul Martin said:
With respect, I think that all of the functions you describe here can be programmed into a computer and yet not imbue the computer or the program with consciousness.
Agreed, but as I say I did not claim that my post was intended to provide any “sufficient conditions” for consciousness, only that I was trying to point out that consciousness and intelligence can be very different things.

Paul Martin said:
About a year ago, you and I worked out a mutually-agreed-upon set of necessary and sufficient conditions for free will (in the Libet's half-second delay thread, I believe). Maybe we can do the same for consciousness.
You remember? I am flattered!
I’ve been unconscious for a while (as far as this forum is concerned) :smile:

Paul Martin said:
You have provided a starting point in this quote. I think that having these abilities is a necessary condition for consciousness, but I don't think it is sufficient. What is missing, IMHO, is the ability to know that the self-representation has been formed and to know not only that the self-representation is related to the worldly information, but also what the relationship is and at least something about how the two are related.
Hmmm. Ability to “know”. Or ability to “believe”?
Knowledge entails truth, whereas belief does not. I do not think it is necessary that a conscious agent have true beliefs in order to claim consciousness, only that it has beliefs (which may be false). I would thus rather favour :
“the ability to form a belief that the self-representation has been formed, and to form a belief not only that the self-representation is related to the worldly information, but also what the relationship is and at least something about how the two are related.”
This condition allows that a conscious agent forms beliefs about how its self-representation is related to worldly information, but (unlike your suggestion) does not require that those beliefs be true. (For example, a brain in a vat could be conscious, but at the same time not believe, hence not know, that it was a brain in a vat).

Paul Martin said:
Now, in light of what I have already learned from you, I don't insist that the knowledge be infallible, except for some single bit of primordial knowledge at the very top of an enormously broad and deep hierarchy of knowledge. Thus, at the very top, the agent could declare with absolute certainty that "I know that I think I know that I think I know that..." We have been through this once before, so I think you know what I am getting at.
Hehehehe ….. I answered the previous paragraph before I read the last paragraph! We think alike! In the intervening period of my unconsciousness, I have studied a little and learned a little about the differences between knowledge and belief.

I am not sure I agree with your claim that the agent could declare with absolute certainty that "I know that I think I know that I think I know that..."
I think the best any agent can ever claim (with absolute certainty) is that “I believe that I know……..” etc.

Nice to meet you again,

Best Regards

MF
 
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  • #37
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  • #38
moving finger said:
Nice to meet you again,
Likewise. Welcome back.
moving finger said:
Hmmm. Ability to “know”. Or ability to “believe”?
Yes. That is the question. ... er... I mean "I believe that is the question".
moving finger said:
I have studied a little and learned a little about the differences between knowledge and belief.
I am delighted to hear that. It means that I may be able to learn even more from you.
moving finger said:
I am not sure I agree with your claim that the agent could declare with absolute certainty that "I know that I think I know that I think I know that..."
That is certainly understandable. My claim was intentionally vague. It was intended to summarize an inference from my personal, unorthodox, poorly described (by me), and persistent, model of reality. As we have discussed before, a major tenet in my model is that consciousness does not reside in the brain, or even in our physical world. This is actually a derivative of a more fundamental tenet, that there is only a single conscious agent in all of reality. So when I discuss notions such as the ability to know, or the ability to believe, I think of them in terms of that single agent as the sole entity possessing those abilities. Of course, I use those terms in the vernacular to refer to "human abilities", but I believe that in reality, those abilities are only illusions and the real abilities inhere only in that one single consciousness.

Now, in our previous discussions, we have agreed to talk only about some non-specific 'agent' which/who might be conscious, have free will, can know, or believe, etc. I think this is a good move because that way you don't necessarily have to buy into my strange model and yet we can have a rational discussion. Likewise, I can discuss those ideas as if humans had those abilities, and yet in the back of my mind, believe (or strongly suspect) that humans are merely vehicles through which the single consciousness acts, knows, perceives, wonders, etc. etc.

So, when I "claim that the agent could declare with absolute certainty that "I know that I think I know that I think I know that..."", I am interested in your opinion wrt some arbitrary and non-specific agent -- could be human, dog, or anything else. But, again, in the back of my mind, I see the vast hierarchy I mentioned as starting with the single cosmic consciousness at the top, and cascading down the various levels making appearances in vehicles such as humans and dogs giving the illusion that the humans and dogs can actually know or believe.

But don't get hung up on thinking you have to accept my model just yet. Instead, let me try to learn from you what the differences are between the ability to know and the ability to believe.

Would you agree that we seem to be forced to take these terms as primitive and undefined in the mathematical sense? Or do you think we can come up with a reasonable definition for either term?

Do you think an agent can believe without knowing it? Or is the ability to know a fundamental prerequisite for being able to believe?

I'm a little short of time right now, but I have been sitting here at the keyboard in a quandary over whether to try to articulate what I really see going on here. I'll make a quick stab at it and see how it comes out:

If we introspect and try to ascertain exactly what we know about something or other, it seems to me that we reach a point where we can say something like, "I don't know exactly what is going on when I see blue, but I know that I see blue." "I know an explanation of what is going on having to do with certain frequencies of EM radiation and my central nervous system, but this explanation doesn't satisfactorily explain blueness, which I know about." "I believe that explanation has at least something to do with the perception I know I am having, but I know, at the times I am looking, that I do have the experience of perceiving blue."

In the process of introspection like this, it seems to me that we can't know much if anything about what we claim to know, i.e. what we believe. But it also seems inescapable that at some point or stage, we certainly know at least something. That "something" seems not to be describable. If it really is indescribable, then it seems to me that the entire structure of knowledge is a hierarchy of beliefs with only a single item of true knowledge at the very top of the hierarchy.

Now, if that helped you understand what I was trying to say, good. Otherwise we will have to talk more about it later. Right now I have to go.

Good talking with you again, MF.

Paul
 
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  • #39
selfAdjoint said:
Paul and moving finger; in these last couple of posts it sounds like you are closing in on Metzinger's construction, which I pointed to on another thread. What do you think?
Thank you for your interest in my thoughts. I expressed my thoughts on Metzinger's construction in post #3 of your Metzinger thread.

Paul
 
  • #40
I must say it makes a nice change (in these types of fora) to have a rational and unemotional debate with someone who is prepared to make lucid and coherent arguments!

Paul Martin said:
As we have discussed before, a major tenet in my model is that consciousness does not reside in the brain, or even in our physical world. This is actually a derivative of a more fundamental tenet, that there is only a single conscious agent in all of reality.
That is interesting. May I ask why you believe this?

Paul Martin said:
So when I discuss notions such as the ability to know, or the ability to believe, I think of them in terms of that single agent as the sole entity possessing those abilities.
Understood.

Paul Martin said:
Of course, I use those terms in the vernacular to refer to "human abilities", but I believe that in reality, those abilities are only illusions and the real abilities inhere only in that one single consciousness.
Understood. Regardless of whether one believes in a single consciousness, or multiple consciousnesses, the definitions of “to know” and “to believe” should not be affected.

I define knowledge as justified true belief. Would you agree?
(this is commonly referred to the JTB definition)
Thus for S to know that T there are three necessary and sufficient conditions :
1 T is true
2 S believes that T
3 S is justified in believing (has evidential justification for believing) that T

Paul Martin said:
Now, in our previous discussions, we have agreed to talk only about some non-specific 'agent' which/who might be conscious, have free will, can know, or believe, etc. I think this is a good move because that way you don't necessarily have to buy into my strange model and yet we can have a rational discussion.
Agreed

Paul Martin said:
So, when I "claim that the agent could declare with absolute certainty that "I know that I think I know that I think I know that..."", I am interested in your opinion wrt some arbitrary and non-specific agent -- could be human, dog, or anything else.
According to the above definition of knowledge, for any agent S to “know with absolute certainty that T” would require not only that S believing that it knows that T, but also that S cannot be wrong in S’s belief that it knows that T.

It is this condition that S cannot be wrong which I find problematic.

Paul Martin said:
Would you agree that we seem to be forced to take these terms as primitive and undefined in the mathematical sense? Or do you think we can come up with a reasonable definition for either term?
I think I have answered that (at least in terms of knowledge).

Paul Martin said:
Do you think an agent can believe without knowing it? Or is the ability to know a fundamental prerequisite for being able to believe?
“S believes that T” can be a true statement even if T is false (ie S may be mistaken in its belief).

Similarly, “S believes that S knows that T” can be a true statement even if T is false (ie S may be mistaken in its belief).

However, according to the JTB definition of knowledge, the statement “S knows that T” can be true if and only if T is true (knowledge entails truth). If T is not true, then the statement “S knows that T” is false (even if S believes that S knows that T).

Now let us look at your question :“Do you think an agent can believe without knowing it?”

Let proposition P = “S believes that T”.
Your question is (if I understand it literally), given P, is it necessary that S know that P?

Condition (1) of JTB is satisfied. P is true (by definition, it is a premise that S believes that T).
Condition (2) of JTB is (usually) also satisfied. S believes that P (in most cases).
But could there be some “contrived cases” where we could argue “S believes that T” is true, but at the same time “S believes that (S believes that T)” is not true? I’m not sure. Your thoughts?
And condition (3) of JTB is also satisfied. If “S believes that T” is true, then S is justified in believing that “S believes that T”.

Conclusion : In most cases, where P = “S believes that P”, and if P is true, then it follows “S knows that P” is also true. Is this true in all cases?

If it is, then it seems one thing we can know with certainty is that we hold beliefs (but it does not follow that those beliefs are true beliefs). (T may be false, and yet P could still be true, and S would know that P is true).

Paul Martin said:
If we introspect and try to ascertain exactly what we know about something or other, it seems to me that we reach a point where we can say something like, "I don't know exactly what is going on when I see blue, but I know that I see blue." "I know an explanation of what is going on having to do with certain frequencies of EM radiation and my central nervous system, but this explanation doesn't satisfactorily explain blueness, which I know about." "I believe that explanation has at least something to do with the perception I know I am having, but I know, at the times I am looking, that I do have the experience of perceiving blue.".
I follow this, but in the above you have NOT referred to “certain knowledge” here, only to “knowledge”. I agree that an agent can know “anything”. (If it justifiably believes X, and X turns out to be true, then by definition it knows X). What it cannot possesses (with the possible exception of knowledge of its own beliefs) is certain knowledge (Why? Answer - How do we prove that X is true with certainty?).

Paul Martin said:
In the process of introspection like this, it seems to me that we can't know much if anything about what we claim to know, i.e. what we believe. But it also seems inescapable that at some point or stage, we certainly know at least something. That "something" seems not to be describable..
If we cannot say exactly what it is that we know, how can we claim to know it? That seems incoherent to me.

Paul Martin said:
If it really is indescribable, then it seems to me that the entire structure of knowledge is a hierarchy of beliefs with only a single item of true knowledge at the very top of the hierarchy.
But “true knowledge” of what exactly?
If “S knows that T” is this true knowledge at the top of the hierarchy, what is T?.

Best Regards

MF

If one pays attention to the concepts being employed, rather than the words being used, the resolution of this problem is simple. (Stuart Burns)
 
  • #41
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  • #42
selfAdjoint said:
Paul and moving finger; in these last couple of posts it sounds like you are closing in on http://psyche.cs.monash.edu.au/symposia/metzinger/precis.pdf", which I pointed to on another thread. What do you think?
Metzinger's paper is wonderful! He mirrors my thoughts almost completely, especially the claim that the existence of "self" is an illusion created by conscious awareness!

Thank you, selfAdjoint, for pointing me in this direction!

Are his ideas discussed in another thread on here?

Best Regards

MF
 
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  • #43
I see you found it! I am going to look into the paper again with regard to your concerns about his "minimal consciousness". My unformed idea is that this concept IS programmable, with a sufficiently simplified toy experential world. But I'll see.
 
  • #44
I am short of time again so I can't do justice to your entire post right now. But I can answer your easy question from the top of my head:
moving finger said:
That is interesting. May I ask why you believe this[, that there is only a single conscious agent in all of reality]?
Yes, of course you may ask. I'll even assume that you are asking and I'll list the reasons that come to mind. They will be sort of chronological wrt when they came to my attention throughout my life.

1. It seems to answer a puzzle that has bothered me since childhood: Why, out of the 12 billion or so human eyeballs on earth, can I see only out of these two?
2. I think I remember seeing it for myself during a couple of altered-state experiences.
3. It seems to be nearly unanimously reported by the mystics of the past, especially in the Buddhist tradition.
4. It makes it easy, if not trivial, to explain how absolute justice prevails in this seemingly unjust world.
5. It provides a framework for a reasonable answer to the Hard Problem of Consciousness.
6. Gregory Bateson made a compelling (to me) case for the cosmos to be something like a Mind.
7. All reasonable explanations for a fundamental ontology (excluding ravens or endless stacks of turtles) seem to be converging on some sort of concept. Concepts are artifacts of Mind. This implies the primacy of Mind. Parsimony then suggests that there is only one such.
8. It fits into Gregg Rosenberg's "...Place for Consciousness" like a hand in a glove.
9. It was logically deduced, and believed, by Erwin Schroedinger, whose thoughts I very much respect.

More will undoubtedly come to mind the instant I post this, but they will have to wait.

Sorry to be in such a rush.

Paul
 
  • #45
Mind cannot go beyond itself...

The question (What is beyond consciousness) is incorrect.

It appears to be based on an assumption.
 
  • #46
Exsistance preceeds Essence I read somewhere...

The rest seems to be just mind games...
 
  • #47
eggman
The question (What is beyond consciousness) is incorrect.

It appears to be based on an assumption.

The assumption that consciousness may be limited?
 
  • #48
moving finger said:
Metzinger's paper is wonderful! He mirrors my thoughts almost completely, especially the claim that the existence of "self" is an illusion created by conscious awareness!
I do not agree with this logic. It requires that within any human a real consciousness is priori to a real self, which is impossible, for while it is possible for a human self to exist without a consciousness, it is not possible for a human consciousness to exist priori to or outside a self. Both the self and consciousness of Metzinger are real, and one can only hope that Metzinger knows it, for I cannot think of a more depressing mental state than not knowing that one exists as a self.
 
  • #49
Moving Finger said:
Metzinger's paper is wonderful! He mirrors my thoughts almost completely, especially the claim that the existence of "self" is an illusion created by conscious awareness!

Rade said:
I do not agree with this logic. It requires that within any human a real consciousness is priori to a real self, which is impossible, for while it is possible for a human self to exist without a consciousness, it is not possible for a human consciousness to exist priori to or outside a self. Both the self and consciousness of Metzinger are real…..
According to Metzinger, there is no “real” self, the intuition of a “self” is an illusion brought about by the phenomenon of consciousness. All perfectly logical and self-consistent, there is nothing “illogical” about it.

Whether you agree with the premise that the “self” is an illusion is another matter, but your disagreement on this premise does not make Metzinger’s ideas “illogical”.

I find it an intuitively beautiful and totally coherent concept which explains everything that we need to explain, from the illusion of qualia, the illusion of free will and moral reponsibility, to the illusion of the “Hard Problem”.

Best Regards

MF
 
  • #50
Paul Martin said:
1. It seems to answer a puzzle that has bothered me since childhood: Why, out of the 12 billion or so human eyeballs on earth, can I see only out of these two?
Because “you” is a concept created by the processing of the brain in that particular head. It makes no sense to think that “your” brain can create the concept of a “you” which is looking out of someone else’s eyeballs when your brain is not connected to those eyeballs.

Paul Martin said:
2. I think I remember seeing it for myself during a couple of altered-state experiences.
No comment.

Paul Martin said:
3. It seems to be nearly unanimously reported by the mystics of the past, especially in the Buddhist tradition.
No comment.

Paul Martin said:
4. It makes it easy, if not trivial, to explain how absolute justice prevails in this seemingly unjust world.
Does absolute justice prevail? I don’t think it does. I’m not even sure what the concept is supposed to mean.

Paul Martin said:
5. It provides a framework for a reasonable answer to the Hard Problem of Consciousness.
To my mind a more rational and coherent answer, without the need to invoke metaphysical universal consciousness, is Metzinger’s solution.

Paul Martin said:
6. Gregory Bateson made a compelling (to me) case for the cosmos to be something like a Mind.
Not aware of this one.

Paul Martin said:
7. All reasonable explanations for a fundamental ontology (excluding ravens or endless stacks of turtles) seem to be converging on some sort of concept. Concepts are artifacts of Mind. This implies the primacy of Mind. Parsimony then suggests that there is only one such.
Interesting. Parsimony suggests there is only one electron/positron also (originally Feynman’s idea), but it never got off the ground. Parsimony doesn’t always rule.

Paul Martin said:
8. It fits into Gregg Rosenberg's "...Place for Consciousness" like a hand in a glove.
OK.

Paul Martin said:
9. It was logically deduced, and believed, by Erwin Schroedinger, whose thoughts I very much respect.
OK (but believing in X simply because Y believes in X and one respects Y is not, to my mind, a good philosophy)

Best Regards

MF
 
  • #51
Loren Booda said:
eggman

The assumption that consciousness may be limited?


What i meant to say was that you being conscious is an assumption..

Science suggest we don't even exsist...:bugeye:
 
  • #52
Science suggests that we don't actually exist.

This is different than not existing.
 
  • #53
moving finger said:
According to Metzinger, there is no “real” self, the intuition of a “self” is an illusion brought about by the phenomenon of consciousness.

Best Regards

MF

So then consciousness can exist without a self?
Experience without an experiencer?
 
  • #54
PIT2 said:
So then consciousness can exist without a self?
Experience without an experiencer?
No, consciousness cannot exist without a "self"
But the "self" (according to Metzinger) is not a real self, it is a virtual self, created by the (information processing) act of consciousness.

Best Regards
 
  • #55
moving finger said:
...According to Metzinger, there is no “real” self, the intuition of a “self” is an illusion brought about by the phenomenon of consciousness
OK, just so I understand, is then Metzinger saying that the consciousness is also an illusion ? It would seem so since "self" contains consciousness, just as self contains heart, liver, lungs. And, if both self and consciousness are illusion, then what does Metzinger classify as being "real", and how would Metzinger know it ?
 
  • #56
Rade said:
OK, just so I understand, is then Metzinger saying that the consciousness is also an illusion ? It would seem so since "self" contains consciousness, just as self contains heart, liver, lungs. And, if both self and consciousness are illusion, then what does Metzinger classify as being "real", and how would Metzinger know it ?
It depends on how one defines self. One could define self as the entire physical body, or one could define self as the feeling of conscious self which seems to exist somewhere within the brain (the agent which seems to be making conscious decisions and having conscious phenomenal experiences). For the purposes of discussion on consciousness, I am taking the latter definition of self. If you like we could call it "conscious self" to distinguish if from "physical self" (which latter woud be the entire body).

Consciousness is an information process which takes place within the brain. Consciousness is thus not an illusion, it is a very real information process. The outputs of consciousness, the feeling of "conscious self" and the phenomenal experiences we call "qualia", are virtual objects contructed within that information processing.

Where the "illusion" comes in is that this infornation processing system we call consciousness effectively "spins a story" centred on the virtual conscious self, to the effect that this virtual conscious self is having phenomenal experiences (what we call qualia). The illusion is that we think the conscious self and the qualia are somehow real entities that exist "somewhere in the brain", whereas all that is happening is a system of information processing.

Best Regards
 
  • #57
Loren Booda said:
What is beyond consciousness?

If we say X is beyond consciousness, are we not, by the very act of doing so, subjugating X to the realm of conscioussness ?
 
  • #58
I like enigmas like this, it's like theorizing additional dimensions
Let's first consider a few laws to base our decision on

- Anything not observable must be ascertained indirectly
- We can only discern what our mental capacity allows

Maybe hallucinations/dreams can give an indirect peak at what's beyond. Hallucinations are basically realities that are pieced together by subconscious mentality.

More like refexes. I would think this constitutes as beyond consciousness
In other words, uncontrolled awareness.
 
  • #59
From the website: http://www.isc.cnrs.fr/wp/wpjea9805.htm

3. Consciousness of action.
The first question to be discussed relates to conscious awareness of a self-generated action. It is known from the literature that normal subjects are poorly aware of the determinants of their own actions. For example, if a target briskly changes its location during the ocular saccade that precedes a pointing movement toward that target, subjects may remain unaware of the displacement (they see only one, stationary, target); yet, they correctly point at the final target location (e.g., Bridgeman, Kirch & Sperling, 1981).

This might have some pertinence to this thread.
 
  • #60
Loren Booda said:
What is beyond consciousness?

Being.
For something to be conscious, something must be.
For something to be and be aware it must be conscious.
That which is and is aware that it is, is conscious and is a being.
A being may not always be conscious but a being must always be.
Consciousness cannot be without a being to be conscious.
 
  • #61
Is it possible that consciousness,is that which perceives its existence regadless of the operating environment? Further is it also possible that beyond conciousness is that which exists but needs no declaration ie: I AM
 
  • #62
meteor said:
The way i see it, Consciousness is a subset of a more general whole called "Mind". Similarly, Intelligence is a subset of the set Consciousness.

Thus, a human being would have Mind, Consciousness and Intelligence. A dog would have Mind and Consciousness, but not Intelligence. An ant would have Mind but would lack the other two qualities.

I just wanted to comment on this..

Could it be possible that there is in actuality only one component?

If we say that we can divide the human mind into two things, memories and conscious experience, then we can also say that these are actually the same.

If you look at babies development cycle, you see that they can't differentiate color, or depth of field, from a very young age.
As their brain perceives and absorbs more and more stimuli, they start seeing the world as they are supposed to.

Consciousness doesn't really work properly if there are no memories or proper experienced neuralnet.
So this division of entities seem to be OUR creation, not the universes.
 
  • #63
octelcogopod said:
I just wanted to comment on this..

Could it be possible that there is in actuality only one component?

If we say that we can divide the human mind into two things, memories and conscious experience, then we can also say that these are actually the same.

If you look at babies development cycle, you see that they can't differentiate color, or depth of field, from a very young age.
As their brain perceives and absorbs more and more stimuli, they start seeing the world as they are supposed to.

Consciousness doesn't really work properly if there are no memories or proper experienced neuralnet.
So this division of entities seem to be OUR creation, not the universes.

I think there is a lot to this idea. A lot of what we call consciousness is what we might call "current memories", interactions between the short term memory store and the long term "deep memory" one.
 
  • #64
Yeah definetly.

If we for instance the brain receives a signal from the eye, then the signal is processed in the brain, then cross referenced for earlier memories, then the brain somehow "sees" it.

This whole process is quite diffuse to me, if anyone has any links to any science papers that has a primer on consciousness I'd love to read it.

I looked over wikipedia but there doesn't seem to be an article specfically on this.
 
  • #65
Consciousness is simply a point of view. An awareness. With or without a charge.

Awareness must necessarily be encompassed, by a more fundamental principle.

I AM aware. What "I AM" is... well, that's a longer story.
 
  • #66
That's ok. Presumably you're the same I am as I am so there's no need to to tell it. :)

Browsing through this caught my eye.

Consciousness is an information process which takes place within the brain.
Why do so many people believe this? And not just believe it, but think it is a fact. It is not a fact. If a person believes it is a fact then they will be unable to consider the question of consciousness dispassionately. It is an assumption, one that will provide only an extremely rickety foundation for any theory derived from it. It has so far proved impossible to demonstrate that the statement is true and many professional researchers argue that it is not true, as of course do all the mystics, sages and prophets who ever lived. Any theory derived from it will be ad hoc. Surely nobody wants an ad hoc theory.

When we talk about consciousness we are talking about the most important topic there is. We're talking ourselves, for goodness sake, about who and what we really are, whether we are just discrete instances of consciousnesses epiphenomenal on a very temporary body and brain whose lives are short, brutish and pointless, or whether we are part of something much larger, and do not entirely evaporate on our death, and maybe have the potential to evolve over many lifetimes, even to reach some state of eternal happiness. We cannot start our search for the truth by assuming the latter possibility is nonsense, we must demonstrate that it is. Otherwise we may be ruining our life, and for all we know many of our future lives as well.

Of course, many people reject the idea that there is more to consciousness than information processing in the brain. Nevertheless, Erwin Schrodinger argued for the last forty years of life that there is. It cannot be be good practice to simply assume that he made a mistake in his reasoning. Nobel prize-winners do not usually get caught out by the likes of us lot. Moreover, the statement above is equivalent to the statement that mysticism is nonsense. It is all very well to believe this, but we cannot claim to know it before we have demonstrated it.

If these discussions were refereed then any statement to this effect that consciousness is information processing would need to be properly justified prior to publication. But nobody has yet succeeded in justifying to the satisfaction of the consciousness studies community. Until we can justify it then we must consider all the possibilities dispassionately, proceeding with all the caution of a good physicist. One of the possibilities is that the statement is false. A believable theory of consciousness must be axiomatised on something we know, and know we know etc., not by tossing a coin to answer one of our most fundamental questions about it.

Sorry if this sounds tetchy, but we're not talking about our tastes in music here, we're trying to work out the truth about our very own individual consciousness, what happens when it dies, God etc.

Regards
Canute
 
  • #67
Consciousness is an information process which takes place within the brain.
Canute said:
Why do so many people believe this? And not just believe it, but think it is a fact. It is not a fact.
It is a premise.

If one believes it is true, then it follows that one thinks it a fact. You may not believe it is true, in which case you do not think it a fact.

Canute said:
If a person believes it is a fact then they will be unable to consider the question of consciousness dispassionately.
What “question of consciousness” is it that you refer to, and why should it follow that one will be unable to consider this question dispassionately if one believes that consciousness is an information process?

Canute said:
It is an assumption, one that will provide only an extremely rickety foundation for any theory derived from it.
All theories and explanations are based on assumptions (or premises).

What is it that you assume about consciousness, could you tell us?

Why would a theory based on the assumption that consciousness is an information process be “rickety” (or are you just assuming that it would be?)

Canute said:
It has so far proved impossible to demonstrate that the statement is true and many professional researchers argue that it is not true, as of course do all the mystics, sages and prophets who ever lived.
Science does not progress by “proving statements true”, it progresses by showing hypotheses false. Nobody can “prove” that quantum mechanics, or general relativity, is true – all we can do is show that these explanations have not so far been shown to be false.

Canute said:
Any theory derived from it will be ad hoc. Surely nobody wants an ad hoc theory.
How do you define an “ad hoc” theory – one which makes assumptions?

Could you come up with a theory which is not “ad hoc”?

Canute said:
When we talk about consciousness we are talking about the most important topic there is. We're talking ourselves, for goodness sake, about who and what we really are, whether we are just discrete instances of consciousnesses epiphenomenal on a very temporary body and brain whose lives are short, brutish and pointless, or whether we are part of something much larger, and do not entirely evaporate on our death, and maybe have the potential to evolve over many lifetimes, even to reach some state of eternal happiness. We cannot start our search for the truth by assuming the latter possibility is nonsense, we must demonstrate that it is. Otherwise we may be ruining our life, and for all we know many of our future lives as well.
The premise that consciousness is a particular form of information processing does not entail that consciousness is an epiphenomenon.

What does any of this have to do with the premise that consciousness is a particular form of information processing?

Canute said:
Of course, many people reject the idea that there is more to consciousness than information processing in the brain. Nevertheless, Erwin Schrodinger argued for the last forty years of life that there is. It cannot be be good practice to simply assume that he made a mistake in his reasoning. Nobel prize-winners do not usually get caught out by the likes of us lot.
Oh come, come, Canute. Schroedinger was not awarded the Nobel prize for his beliefs about consciousness. Being awarded the Nobel prize is not a sign of infallibility, and claiming that Erwin Schrodinger believed there is something more to consciousness than information processing is neither a good philosophical nor a good scientific argument.

Canute said:
Moreover, the statement above is equivalent to the statement that mysticism is nonsense. It is all very well to believe this, but we cannot claim to know it before we have demonstrated it.
Perhaps you believe I also cannot claim to know that the Tooth Fairy does not exist before I have demonstrated it. Hmmmmm, now, how would one go about demonstrating that the Tooth Fairy does not exist? Any ideas?

Why does the premise that consciousness is a particular form of information processing entail that mysticism is nonsense?

Canute said:
If these discussions were refereed then any statement to this effect that consciousness is information processing would need to be properly justified prior to publication. But nobody has yet succeeded in justifying to the satisfaction of the consciousness studies community. Until we can justify it then we must consider all the possibilities dispassionately, proceeding with all the caution of a good physicist. One of the possibilities is that the statement is false. A believable theory of consciousness must be axiomatised on something we know, and know we know etc., not by tossing a coin to answer one of our most fundamental questions about it.
That consciousness is a particular form of information processing is an assumption or a premise, and it may indeed be false.

Perhaps you would care to advance your alternative view of consciousness (which would also be an asumption or a premise).

Best Regards
 
  • #68
moving finger said:
It is a premise.
Exactly.

If one believes it is true, then it follows that one thinks it a fact. You may not believe it is true, in which case you do not think it a fact.
Alternatively, we can admit we do not know whether or not it is a fact and proceed accordingly.

What “question of consciousness” is it that you refer to, and why should it follow that one will be unable to consider this question dispassionately if one believes that consciousness is an information process?
What does it matter what we believe? Either we know that there is no more to consciousness than information processing or we do not. If we do not then we must explore all the possibilities without preconceptions or prior judgements. Otherwise, our research is not dispassionate. This doesn't mean we are not entitled to believe this or that, but we cannot let those beliefs place a limit on our reasoning.

All theories and explanations are based on assumptions (or premises).
This is almost true, but the proviso would be that an explanation may not be based on an assumption as far as the giver of it is concerned.

What is it that you assume about consciousness, could you tell us?
I'm suggesting that anybody looking into this issue should not start by making major assumptions like the one being discussed. How can we hope to work out the truth if we start by assuming what the truth is? (What my particular view is doesn't matter here).

Why would a theory based on the assumption that consciousness is an information process be “rickety” (or are you just assuming that it would be?)
Because the assumption may not be true. Worse, there is no evidence that it is true. If we are talking about what Chalmers calls 'psychological consciousness' then there would be no problem. But if we are talking about what he calls 'phenomenal consciousness' ('what it is like'), then there would be nothing but problems, as we see from the lack of progress on the 'hard' problem.

Science does not progress by “proving statements true”, it progresses by showing hypotheses false. Nobody can “prove” that quantum mechanics, or general relativity, is true – all we can do is show that these explanations have not so far been shown to be false.
That's my understanding of science also.

How do you define an “ad hoc” theory – one which makes assumptions?
I'd define an ad hoc theory as one that rests on an ad hoc assumption.

Could you come up with a theory which is not “ad hoc”?
Yes. But it doesn't matter what I can and cannot do.

The premise that consciousness is a particular form of information processing does not entail that consciousness is an epiphenomenon.
I think this depends on your point of view. If consciousness is information processing then it's existence would be contingent on spacetime, and I tend to regard everything that is not fundamental as an epiphenomenon of what is. I agree though that even if it is no more than information processing it does not necessarily follow that it is epiphenomenal on brains.

What does any of this have to do with the premise that consciousness is a particular form of information processing?
If we make this assumption then we have elimated a possibility from our enquiries on a whim. Do you really think this is a good way to approach the problem? We wouldn't get far as a detective, and it is hardly a scientific approach. Of course, we need to make assumptions to explore and test the theories that derive from them, but it would be a strange decision not to bother to test the opposite assumption equally carefully.

Oh come, come, Canute. Schroedinger was not awarded the Nobel prize for his beliefs about consciousness. Being awarded the Nobel prize is not a sign of infallibility, and claiming that Erwin Schrodinger believed there is something more to consciousness than information processing is neither a good philosophical nor a good scientific argument.
Right, so Schrodinger was a perfectly sane and competent person at work, not to say a genius, but a fool at home who didn't bother to test his beliefs against his reason. Have you read his writings? It doesn't sound like it. I'm not saying that his view is correct, although I happen to think it is. I'm simply saying that it is foolish to dismiss the thoughts of a great physicist and thinker as nonsense without a reason. And of course, I mention him only as a well known example. There are countless others, many of them working professionally in consciousness studies.

Perhaps you believe I also cannot claim to know that the Tooth Fairy does not exist before I have demonstrated it. Hmmmmm, now, how would one go about demonstrating that the Tooth Fairy does not exist? Any ideas?
I think you are missing the point. It is impossible to prove this sort of thing. Ditto unicorns, ghosts and alligators in the sewers of New York.

Why does the premise that consciousness is a particular form of information processing entail that mysticism is nonsense?
Because in the esoteric view consciousness is more than this. However, some care is needed on the definition of 'consciousness'. In esotericism it has two definitions, the convential (information based) definition, which would cover our notion of individual selves, our thoughts etc., and a definition by which it is something more like Paul Martin's 'primordial consciousness' or the Buddhist 'pristine awareness'.

That consciousness is a particular form of information processing is an assumption or a premise, and it may indeed be false.
In this case we agree. This is all I'm saying.

Perhaps you would care to advance your alternative view of consciousness (which would also be an asumption or a premise).
This isn't the place, but I will somewhere else if you want. But you're wrong to assume it will be an assumption (it might be, it might not be). Our own consciousness is the only phenomenon we can know directly, without making assumptions. In my opinion we should not even assume that solipsism is true or false.

Btw, I'm being careful not to argue for any particular view here. If a person wants to believe that consciousness has an entirely functional explanation that's fine. If they want to believe our souls go to Heaven that's also fine. But when we set out to justify or falsify this belief using our reason we cannot start by assuming what it is we're trying to find out.

All I'm suggesting is that we should be as honest in researching consciousness as we are when researching anything else. We cannot dismiss a possibility just because it seems implausible to us. I thought this was an uncontentious idea but apparently not.

Regards
Canute
 
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  • #69
Canute said:
We cannot dismiss a possibility just because it seems implausible to us. I thought this was an uncontentious idea but apparently not.

I'll give you a big no "solid animal waste" for that one!
 

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