How is it possible to know that we feel emotion consciously?

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  • #1
Sikz
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Firstly, this belongs in General Philosophy because it deals with more than the nature of consciousness.

Now, we can all agree that we are aware of being conscious and that we FEEL emotions- they don't simply affect our behavior and psychology, but we FEEL them uniquely- this is consciousness. According to Science (and to my understanding this is essentially proven), thought occurs in the brain. Wheather or not it ALSO occurs in the "mind" (independent of the brain) and wheather or not this "mind" exists is irrelevant to our current topic- the only relevance of thought taking place in the brain is that it means that the brain performs all of our thought and controls the body.

Since we all can claim to FEEL emotion rather than simply have it influence our actions and thoughts, we must feel it in our consciousness. Consciousness is, by its very nature, not encodable in a computer program or a physical code (If anyone has a counterexample for this, feel welcome to share it). Therefore our consciousness is not in our brain- it is somewhere else, perhaps a "soul" (although where it IS is also irrelevant to our present conversation, the only relevance is that it is NOT in the brain). Since all thought takes place and all action originates in the brain (including speech), how can consciousness be separate from the brain? We can think about and communicate that we are conscious- so one of three things must be taking place:

1) The consciousness is somehow communicating with the brain.
2) The consciousness IS actually in the brain.
3) We are not really conscious.

Number three can be disregarded for the present- if anyone is interested in discussion on it there is a topic on the Metaphysics & Epistemology forum dealing with this.

Number two we have already set aside- although I am reasonably sure that we have not covered the issue well enough to be sure of its impossibility. Any ideas on this are VERY welcome.

Number one we shall look at in a bit more depth. First of all, the consciousness is either physical or aphysical. Aphysical is like the common notion of a soul- either truly aphysical or existing in another universe. Physical would be if consciousness is made up of an electromagnetic field or something we havn't yet discovered. If consciousness is physical, it must simply be affecting the brain according to the laws of physics. This seems rather unlikely.

If consciousness is aphysical it can exist in an alternate universe of some kind or be truly aphysical, not made of matter of any type anywhere. The only way another universe could communicate with the brain is through some odd sort of portal- EXCEEDINGLY unlikely, reaching nearly to the point of impossibility. Consciousness is most likely (if it exists and is outside the brain) truly aphysical then. This could either communicate with the brain by supernaturally MOVING the electrons, proteins, etc within the brain to fit its will, or through choosing the outcome of TRULY random things. The only truly random thing known (actually it is not KNOWN as the theory is only a theory, not a fact) is quantum uncertainty. Could consciousness be affecting the brain through "rigging" quantum physics?

All of these explanations seem very inplausable, unlikely, and simply absurd... Does anyone have any arguments for or against them, or have any other possibilities that have been overlooked?

Overall, what opinions do you have on the topics brought up in this post?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Mentat
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Sikz, there was quite a bit of discussion on this in the Archives (as can be seen from the thread with over 50 pages, which mainly dealt with Materialistic and Idealistic philosophies of the mind and consciousness), and I have presented something there which I will re-present here.

You mentioned that there would have to be a "portal" (I referred to it as an "intermediary", but "portal" works fine) between the non-physical and the physical, in order for consciousness to be non-physical and yet communicate with the brain. You are absolutely right, except there cannot logically be such a portal. It cannot exist, not even in principle. The reason this is is that for there to be an intermediary between the physical and the non-physical, this intermediary could neither be physical (since, if it were physical, it would be no more useful then the already physical brain in communicating with the non-physical) nor non-physical (since it would then be no more useful in communicating with the physical brain).

So, since we can logically rule out options 1 and 3 (btw, my congratulations on setting these out so clearly and intelligently), we must accept number 2.

Daniel Dennett is what is called a Materialist philosopher of the mind, and he has presented a model/theory for consciousness that I have yet to find fault with and that helps explain consciousness fully without ever leaving your option number 2. He does this in a book called Consciousness Explained, and I highly recommend this book for everyone; but particularly for you, Sikz, since you seem very interested in consciousness.
 
  • #3
gcn_zelda
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Smart people scare me...

I haven't quite reached my Formal Operation Thinking Stage Phasishness Thingimabobber.

I'm actually smart for my age; accelerated classes and junk, but I'm only 13; 9th grade.

Most people claim to "feel" emotion, but isn't feeling defined as having the ability to touch a specific object?

I think that people claim to "feel" emotion only because that is what they've heard before. It's another English language flaw. Yeah. Sure. Maybe that's it.

Whoa... There's a character limit... cool....
 
  • #4
"Since we all can claim to FEEL emotion rather than simply have it influence our actions and thoughts..."-Sikz

What is the difference between feeling emotions and emotions affecting thought?
 
  • #5
what about a lie detector?
 
  • #6
hypnagogue
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Originally posted by jammieg
What is the difference between feeling emotions and emotions affecting thought?

If you feel an emotion, you subjectively experience it-- it has a definite 'feeling' about it, like anger, or joy. But for something to affect a thought in general does not require that one have direct conscious experience of it. Such an affect may be inferred by observing changes in thought patterns, but logical inference is not the same thing at all as direct conscious perception.
 
  • #7
As Mentat pointed out, this discussion started with an illogical premise, so any conclusions will be almost certainly flawed.
 
  • #8
Fliption
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Originally posted by Zero
As Mentat pointed out, this discussion started with an illogical premise, so any conclusions will be almost certainly flawed.

Except that this is a philosophy forum. And the point here is to actually explain and discuss why this is so. Not just claim it so.

Besides, I though sikz was more presenting the options than starting with a premise.
 
  • #9
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by Mentat
You mentioned that there would have to be a "portal" (I referred to it as an "intermediary", but "portal" works fine) between the non-physical and the physical, in order for consciousness to be non-physical and yet communicate with the brain. You are absolutely right, except there cannot logically be such a portal. It cannot exist, not even in principle. The reason this is is that for there to be an intermediary between the physical and the non-physical, this intermediary could neither be physical (since, if it were physical, it would be no more useful then the already physical brain in communicating with the non-physical) nor non-physical (since it would then be no more useful in communicating with the physical brain).
We really should be careful about putting "labels" on things we don't understand, especially when it comes to consciousness and whether or not we have a soul. Whether it's physical or "non-physical" or, any other label we choose to ascribe, really has no bearing on the matter, if in fact the phenomenon exists. Perhaps we should approach it more from the standpoint of the phenomenon itself, and what it entails, rather than classify it in such a way that it doesn't bear any further consideration?
 
  • #10
hypnagogue
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As far as Mentat's thing about the logical impossibility of physical/non-physical interactions goes, I have posted a straightforward thought experiment showing how it is possible for something "physical" to interact with something "non-physical" here:

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=6793.
 
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  • #11
Sikz
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Also, couldn't there be some sort of "material" that interacts with BOTH, and thus that could act as the "portal"?
 
  • #12
hypnagogue
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Originally posted by Sikz
Also, couldn't there be some sort of "material" that interacts with BOTH, and thus that could act as the "portal"?

This is indeed the basic premise of the Matrix-esque thought experiment inspired by Chalmers; in this case, the thing that acts as an intermediary between "physical" and "non-physical" is the computers which generate the secondary "physical" reality in the minds of people hooked up to it. Please see the link above.
 
  • #13
Sikz
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Ah, yes I read the thought expirement before I made my previous post, I just didn't see that the expirement rendered the post repetitive...
 
  • #14
Mentat
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Originally posted by gcn_zelda
Smart people scare me...

I haven't quite reached my Formal Operation Thinking Stage Phasishness Thingimabobber.

I'm actually smart for my age; accelerated classes and junk, but I'm only 13; 9th grade.

Most people claim to "feel" emotion, but isn't feeling defined as having the ability to touch a specific object?

I think that people claim to "feel" emotion only because that is what they've heard before. It's another English language flaw. Yeah. Sure. Maybe that's it.

Whoa... There's a character limit... cool....

Welcome to the PFs, gcn_zelda! :smile:

I am just a couple of years older than you (15)...it's kind of nice (for me, at least) to find other young people here.

Anyway, as to your point about "feeling", there are more than one definition of that word, but even without this being the case, every "emotion" that one feels can be explained Materialistically...as a product of physical interactions in their bodies which would thus be literally "felt".
 
  • #15
Mentat
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Originally posted by Iacchus32
We really should be careful about putting "labels" on things we don't understand, especially when it comes to consciousness and whether or not we have a soul. Whether it's physical or "non-physical" or, any other label we choose to ascribe, really has no bearing on the matter, if in fact the phenomenon exists. Perhaps we should approach it more from the standpoint of the phenomenon itself, and what it entails, rather than classify it in such a way that it doesn't bear any further consideration?

Believe me, this was my initial, secondary, and subsequent approach for quite some time, but I have run into the logical impossibility of a non-physical "thing" interacting with a physical "thing" too many times, and no one (so far) has been able to explain it away.
 
  • #16
Mentat
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Originally posted by hypnagogue
As far as Mentat's thing about the logical impossibility of physical/non-physical interactions goes, I have posted a straightforward thought experiment showing how it is possible for something "physical" to interact with something "non-physical" here:

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=6793.

My good buddy, hypnagogue, with a new counter! I will be going to that thread immediately...

[edit]to change a word
 
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  • #17
hypnagogue
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Originally posted by Mentat
Anyway, as to your point about "feeling", there are more than one definition of that word, but even without this being the case, every "emotion" that one feels can be explained Materialistically...as a product of physical interactions in their bodies which would thus be literally "felt".

I would like to qualify this by saying that we can drum up any number of correlations between physical changes in the body and emotion, but we don't necessarily understand how we consciously feel these things. That is, we can identify 'causes' but as of yet we cannot explain the underlying agency of these causes to produce conscious perceptions.
 
  • #18
Mentat
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Originally posted by hypnagogue
I would like to qualify this by saying that we can drum up any number of correlations between physical changes in the body and emotion, but we don't necessarily understand how we consciously feel these things. That is, we can identify 'causes' but as of yet we cannot explain the underlying agency of these causes to produce conscious perceptions.

You forget the intentional stance, good buddy. I made sure to mention in my post that the Materialistic viewpoint is that "feeling" is not a product of physical interactions, but the physical interactions themselves. Looking for "something more" is merely a human tendency, it is not a logical or scientific necessity.
 
  • #19
Mentat
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Originally posted by Fliption
Except that this is a philosophy forum. And the point here is to actually explain and discuss why this is so. Not just claim it so.

Besides, I though sikz was more presenting the options than starting with a premise.

Fliption, I believe Zero was referring to Sikz having separated "mind" from "brain" off-hand, when he (Zero) referred to the "flawed premise". Anyway, I don't just "claim" that this is wrong, I have presented logical barriers to it's being right (on other threads which you participated in), and no one has been able to combat them yet. That doesn't mean that I'm "right" either, but "right" doesn't exist in logic or philosophy and thus is not a concern of mine. If my argument holds as "valid", against all other arguments, that's enough for me.
 
  • #20
hypnagogue
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Originally posted by Mentat
You forget the intentional stance, good buddy. I made sure to mention in my post that the Materialistic viewpoint is that "feeling" is not a product of physical interactions, but the physical interactions themselves. Looking for "something more" is merely a human tendency, it is not a logical or scientific necessity.

Hm, we always seem to run up against the same walls. :smile: Saying that the physical interactions themselves are the feeling does still not explain why this is so. There is not even really a theory of what physical interactions feel like what sorts of feelings, beyond any correlations we have mapped out in the specific instance of the human body/brain-- and even these are tenuous since it's not clear what parts of these physical interactions are necessary for feeling, what parts are sufficient for feeling, and what parts are superfluous.
 
  • #21
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by Mentat
Believe me, this was my initial, secondary, and subsequent approach for quite some time, but I have run into the logical impossibility of a non-physical "thing" interacting with a physical "thing" too many times, and no one (so far) has been able to explain it away.
And yet what we're really talking about here is the difference between what is concrete and what is abstract or, that which we can experience through our five "physical senses," and that which we cannot. So in this sense the non-physical does exist, in terms of "the abstract."

Similarly, as I have mentioned before, you can make the comparison between the physical and non-physical in terms of radio receiver. Where the radio itself represents the physical, and the radio waves it picks up -- which, permeate everything, as perhaps consciousness does? -- reperesents the non-physical. Doesn't that at the very least suggest the possibility that information and/or communication can be sent and received from "remote" sources?
 
  • #22
Royce
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Mentat, et al, as long as you insist that only the material exists and only the material can and does effect the material then you are limited to never finding a logical reasonable solution to the above and related philosophic problems.
Thought and intent is not physical or material but abstract and subjective. Whether thought is a product of the physical brain or of the immaterial mind it exists and effects the physical brain and body and through the body anything and everything it touches. This is shown to be true with every thought and intent that we have and act on. How it does this I don't know; but, it is obvious that it does.
To deny this is true is to deny the reality of life. To artificially cling relentlessly to an artificial philosopy proven to be absurd with its own words is absurdity in itself. You can not prove or disprove anything with a faulty logic or reasoning system. Its like trying to do math with only half of the numbers and wondering why it never works out right.
Without going into the spiritual realm of the soul and only sticking to the subjective and material realms we can only say that the subjective not only effects the objective but in the case of our bodies controls the objective. The only why that I can think that it can do this is to allow thought to have or be a force and or have energy as in an electromagnetic field or gravitational force. This energy or force would then be able to effect and control the physical
realm within our bodies.
I know that love is more than just an emotion. I know that love has both energy and force and can and does effect not only our bodies within but other bodies external to ourselves. Love can be felt, detected and responded to by another outside of ourself. There are numerous thing such as love that can do this. Laughter is one such that is infectous and has positive influence on others. It is all but irresistable as is love. These are just two of the most obvious examples that exist.
We have gone over all of this a number of time and you deny all of it
every time. Denying the intuitive and physically obvious in order to elude having to deny your absurd premise of materialism is simply illogical in suport of the illogic. There is no way an intelligent discussion can be had nor any way to come to an intelligent logical reasonable conclusion.
 
  • #23
selfAdjoint
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Bald assertion of ones personal feelings does not a logical argument make.
 
  • #24
Mentat
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Originally posted by hypnagogue
Hm, we always seem to run up against the same walls. :smile: Saying that the physical interactions themselves are the feeling does still not explain why this is so.


Science cannot answer "why" questions. Philosophy can, but science is the branch of philosophy that I am using in my materialist postulations, and it is limited to "how", "what", "which", "when", and "where" questions.

There is not even really a theory of what physical interactions feel like what sorts of feelings, beyond any correlations we have mapped out in the specific instance of the human body/brain-- and even these are tenuous since it's not clear what parts of these physical interactions are necessary for feeling, what parts are sufficient for feeling, and what parts are superfluous.

The point is that the same parts that are active when experiencing something from external stimulus are necessary for experiencing them from internal stimulus (by the memory and pattern-recognition parts of the brain), which makes the job not discovering what causes subjective experience when there is no external stimulus, but discovering what causes subjective experience when there is. This point is dealt with by an explanation of the evolution of consciousness (which Dennett takes a stab at in his book - which I still highly recommend).
 
  • #25
Mentat
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Originally posted by Iacchus32
And yet what we're really talking about here is the difference between what is concrete and what is abstract or, that which we can experience through our five "physical senses," and that which we cannot. So in this sense the non-physical does exist, in terms of "the abstract."

But there is nothing we are not conscious of through one of our five physical sense (or reproduced from previous stimulations, recorded in memory). To assume that there are other other things is up to you, but it is not logical to assume that these other things interact with the brain at any time.

Similarly, as I have mentioned before, you can make the comparison between the physical and non-physical in terms of radio receiver. Where the radio itself represents the physical, and the radio waves it picks up -- which, permeate everything, as perhaps consciousness does? -- reperesents the non-physical.

Why should this be the case, when radio waves really are physical?

Doesn't that at the very least suggest the possibility that information and/or communication can be sent and received from "remote" sources?

"From 'remote' sources"?
 
  • #26
Mentat
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Originally posted by selfAdjoint
Bald assertion of ones personal feelings does not a logical argument make.

Did you intend the yoda approach?

Oh, btw, was that in response to Royce, or was that directed at "Mentat et al"?
 
  • #27
hypnagogue
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Originally posted by Mentat
Science cannot answer "why" questions. Philosophy can, but science is the branch of philosophy that I am using in my materialist postulations, and it is limited to "how", "what", "which", "when", and "where" questions.

How is a physical process conscious? If not all physical processes are conscious, then how is it that some are conscious and some are not? What physical processes are conscious, besides (at least some of) the physical processes taking place in a human body/brain? Which parts of physical processes in the human body/brain are necessary for conscious, which are sufficient, and which are superfluous?

Science may have some roughly sketched hypotheses to answer all these questions, but there is a critical problem. Scientific hypotheses are verified or falsified by objective measurements, but there is no currently known way to make direct, objective observations of subjective experiences. It may even turn out to be impossible. The only objective observations that can be made are second-hand, indirect ones such as behavioral analysis. Thus we must assume that consciousness is indicated by such and such behaviors, and not by others. This approach may work well enough in studying human consciousness, and indeed I think science can give better answers than we currently have for many of the above questions as applied to the special case of humans. We may even derive results that we can apply with some confidence to non-human animals, and indeed we already have undertaken such extrapolative procedures with apparent success.

But such an understanding of consciousness is necessarily to be derived ultimately by way of comparison of our own human subjective experiences to our own human physiology. Thus our understanding via this approach would seem to still be fated to be incomplete. If we encounter alien life some day, whose physiology is not readily comparable to our own human physiology and whose functional principles are not intimately related to our own as is the case with all our evolutionary cousins on earth, how then can we approach the question of the quality of this life form's conscious, or even indeed the question of whether it is conscious or not?

We cannot, because we would still have an incomplete theory of the physical underpinnings of consciousness that we could not depend on with any great degree of confidence for cases of physical systems drastically different from human beings. We would still be using the human subjective experience of consciousness as the pivot of our supposedly objective understanding of the entire phenomenon.

In science, complete understanding is derived by abstracting oneself away from a specific subjective situation or viewpoint, and performing an exclusively objective analysis on exclusively objective measurements. In the case of consciousness, this does not appear to be possible; rather, instead of abstracting ourselves away from the situation/viewpoint of a personal, subjective experience of consciousness, we are bound to rely on the specific situational viewpoint of our own exclusively human consciousness in order to attain any meaningful understanding in the first place. As such, we are necessarily prevented from attaining a truly universal and complete understanding of consciousness using the scientific method.
 
  • #28
THANOS
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I was gone for a week and a discussion grew too big for me to read now, I'm tired after a long drive. So i will put my input later when i catch up with you guys and gals.
 
  • #29
Mentat
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Originally posted by hypnagogue
How is a physical process conscious? If not all physical processes are conscious, then how is it that some are conscious and some are not? What physical processes are conscious, besides (at least some of) the physical processes taking place in a human body/brain? Which parts of physical processes in the human body/brain are necessary for conscious, which are sufficient, and which are superfluous?

My dear friend, we've covered some of this before (remember this thread?), and some of it is as yet mystery (meaning, there is no theory to directly address it).

Anyway, only physical things that can multi-task in the question/answer + production of multiple drafts (very interrelated concepts, btw) fashion are "conscious". Nothing else has the right qualifications, AFAIC, and the only example I can give you of something that actually does that is the brain.

Science may have some roughly sketched hypotheses to answer all these questions, but there is a critical problem. Scientific hypotheses are verified or falsified by objective measurements, but there is no currently known way to make direct, objective observations of subjective experiences.

That's the all-important/constantly brought up/somehow never understood point: Subjective experience is nothing but the question/answer processes of the brain. There is no further investigation necessary, once one has observed that these processes occur in the CPU of the subject, to prove that they are "conscious".

I really don't want to sound insulting in any way, so please don't take this wrong, but do you get what I'm saying now?

It may even turn out to be impossible. The only objective observations that can be made are second-hand, indirect ones such as behavioral analysis.

As per previously stated (in red) postulate (intentional stance, btw, but you already knew that), behavioral analysis is all that is necessary (provided, of course, that "behavior" encompasses activity of the brain).

Thus we must assume that consciousness is indicated by such and such behaviors, and not by others.

Consciousness is not indicated by any behaviors, it is a behavior. There's a huge difference in these two postulates.
 
  • #30
THANOS
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Truthfully i believe that the universe works in terms of 50/50 so my beliefs would have me saying that there is no wrong answer. And since it's 50/50 it would also mean that there is no right answer. Just thought I'd point that out since everything is possible, even impossibility is possible.

Now as for consciousness. I am aware of my existence but not fully aware. I know that i am physical and everything around me is physical including the air we breath. I know that i think faster then i can even comprehend because i am aware that every action i do from breathing to making a leap of faith requires a lot of thinking. If what we subconsciously think affects what we do to our conscious thinking then i assume that there must be something deeper then subconsciousthinking because why else would our nerves, movements, heart pumping blood and the other things our body does to keep it's survival just do what it does.

I also believe there is room for those with the soul idea but i don't really believe that it's that simple. I think of soul as the easy answer so we don't have to look into non-existence any further. After all souls moving on to non-physical realms is more comprehendible then a non-existent void isn't it? I would assume that it would.

I believe that the only way perfect can exist is that nothing else exist with it. After all if i were the only human left i would be perfect because there would be no other humans to compete with. That is why i strongly believe that nothing is very important even in the beginning when people say that our universe came from nothing. If nothing is something then that something is perfect.

Why change the subject eh? Well consciousness only exist within thought and thought alone. Without thought consciousness will not exist. Without thought there is no time or reality, no existence. There is only nothing. Now to me that is the perfect answer.
 
  • #31
hypnagogue
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Originally posted by Mentat
My dear friend, we've covered some of this before (remember this thread?), and some of it is as yet mystery (meaning, there is no theory to directly address it).

Believe me, I'm well aware that we've gone over this before. :wink: I just still have fundamental objections with some things you say on the subject.

Anyway, only physical things that can multi-task in the question/answer + production of multiple drafts (very interrelated concepts, btw) fashion are "conscious". Nothing else has the right qualifications, AFAIC, and the only example I can give you of something that actually does that is the brain.

This a nice hypothesis. But it's far from well-established that "a physical system is conscious if and only if it follows 'multiple drafts' processing." Has it been shown empirically that all things that follow multiple draft processing are conscious? Does there exist a system that does not precisely follow multiple draft processing but is nonetheless conscious in some sense?

We can begin to answer these questions with reference to the special case of human brains and human consciousness. But we cannot so flippantly generalize observations in the special case of humans to all physical systems. We can say something like "it is our educated guess that this system is conscious, based on certain known principles of consciousness in the context of a human brain/body." But as human brains do not encompass an exhaustive representation by any means of the types of material configurations and processes that may take place in physical systems in general, we will only have principles grounded in any reasonable degree of certainty for human brains, and perhaps certain animal brains. We will not have a complete theory that we can apply in a general manner to any given physical system, since all of our understanding will be derived by reference to the particular special case of human consciousness.

That's the all-important/constantly brought up/somehow never understood point: Subjective experience is nothing but the question/answer processes of the brain. There is no further investigation necessary, once one has observed that these processes occur in the CPU of the subject, to prove that they are "conscious".

I really don't want to sound insulting in any way, so please don't take this wrong, but do you get what I'm saying now?

I'm sorry, but I just cannot accept this, given the state of our current understanding. This stance assumes that we already have a complete, well-tested and emperically verified theory of consciousness, which obviously we do not.

Suppose we had a complete, empirically verified theory of conscious along the lines of the following: for all physical systems A, if A has physical properties X, then A is conscious; otherwise, A is not conscious. Then we could indeed examine any physical system to see if it held properties X and thus deduce whether or not it is conscious.

But to have such a complete and valid theory, we would need to have an empirically verified mapping of objective physical states to subjective conscious states. But we can only empirically verify such mappings for the human brain, and can only apply the principles of consciousness thus derived to physical systems similar to the human brain. Thus, unless we find some objective way of directly measuring the presence of consciousness in any physical system, our theory will necessarily be incomplete and fraught with uncertainties and questionable guesswork.

As per previously stated (in red) postulate (intentional stance, btw, but you already knew that), behavioral analysis is all that is necessary (provided, of course, that "behavior" encompasses activity of the brain).

Nonsense. This is true to some extent for humans, but only because we already know as human beings that we ourselves are conscious. We directly experience our own consciousnesses, thus we start from a position of empirical verification of consciousness in the case of the human brain. From this starting point, we can observe correlations between behaviors of our own with certain directly perceived conscious experiences of our own (including, most importantly, linguistic behaviors/verbal reports). We can then roughly deduce that a similar behavior exhibited by another person indicates a similar conscious experience on the part of that person. But this entire approach depends on the fact that we start from a position of direct perception (empirical verification) of consciousness.

This approach falls apart if we try to apply it to physical systems in general, and not just humans and life forms similar to humans in particular.

Consciousness is not indicated by any behaviors, it is a behavior. There's a huge difference in these two postulates.

But there is no way to known in general if any given behavior of any given physical system is conscious or not, but to be a physical system of that type in the first place. Thus, even if we accept a purely materialistic framework of consciousness, we must still speak in general of behaviors indicating consciousness, since we have doubt as to whether such and such material process is truly sufficient for consciousness in any given context. In this case, "indicates" is a concession of our epistemic uncertainty, not an assertion of a dualist ontology.
 
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  • #32
Fliption
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Originally posted by Mentat
Fliption, I believe Zero was referring to Sikz having separated "mind" from "brain" off-hand, when he (Zero) referred to the "flawed premise".


And this is an old philosophical issue. A philosophical opinion from both parties is expected.

Anyway, I don't just "claim" that this is wrong, I have presented logical barriers to it's being right (on other threads which you participated in), and no one has been able to combat them yet. That doesn't mean that I'm "right" either, but "right" doesn't exist in logic or philosophy and thus is not a concern of mine. If my argument holds as "valid", against all other arguments, that's enough for me.

I wasn't referring to you with my comments above. And I must politely disagree that people have been able to combat your points. Whether you view them as sufficient to counter them is a different matter. I'm not convinced any of your points are as strong as you view them and feel that they have been adequately countered.

I will always concede it is possible that I may not completely understand someones point. Especially over a medium like a forum. For example, you have said to me and to Hynagogue things like "X is not an effect of Y. X is Y". This statement to me says nothing about reality. It's just a labeling word game. This statement has no explanatory power at all and communicates nothing different to me about reality. I can't visualize any difference. Again, it's just word games. But the wiser side of me says there must be something here I'm not seeing if you keep repeating it. Perhaps this is one of those things where an analogy to get a point across is better than just repeating the same thing?

I'll promise you this. If you're points are as strong as you say they are then you'll really want to show it to me because I will become your biggest defender. That is a promise. But at the moment, I honestly just don't believe your views solve any philosophical issues on this topic. Keep in mind that IMO Dennett never solved any problem. He only defines it away. So my perspective is very different from yours and some work may be required from you to communicate the point.
 
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  • #33
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Originally posted by hypnagogue
This a nice hypothesis. But it's far from well-established that "a physical system is conscious if and only if it follows 'multiple drafts' processing." Has it been shown empirically that all things that follow multiple draft processing are conscious? Does there exist a system that does not precisely follow multiple draft processing but is nonetheless conscious in some sense?

Consciousness altogether - i.e. "awareness" - is possible in some of the more rudimentary of life-forms. It's consciousness of consciousness (also referred to as self-consciousness) and the ability for analysis that requires a CPU something like ours.

Anyway, you need to remember that, in the intentional stance, there is no distinction between the processing and the consciousness. So, such questions as "can something follow MD processing and not be conscious" or "can something be conscious inspite of not following MD" are really non-sequitors - and would be much like asking "can something be conscious without being conscious" :wink:.

We can begin to answer these questions with reference to the special case of human brains and human consciousness. But we cannot so flippantly generalize observations in the special case of humans to all physical systems. We can say something like "it is our educated guess that this system is conscious, based on certain known principles of consciousness in the context of a human brain/body." But as human brains do not encompass an exhaustive representation by any means of the types of material configurations and processes that may take place in physical systems in general, we will only have principles grounded in any reasonable degree of certainty for human brains, and perhaps certain animal brains. We will not have a complete theory that we can apply in a general manner to any given physical system, since all of our understanding will be derived by reference to the particular special case of human consciousness.

Yeah, that's mostly true. However, I think it's a big step toward understanding all of consciousness, if one understands animal consciousness. After all, nothing else on Earth is likely to be conscious at any discernable level anyway ("conscious", in this context, is under Negel's concept: If it's "like something" be that thing, then it's conscious).

I'm sorry, but I just cannot accept this, given the state of our current understanding. This stance assumes that we already have a complete, well-tested and emperically verified theory of consciousness, which obviously we do not.

Suppose we had a complete, empirically verified theory of conscious along the lines of the following: for all physical systems A, if A has physical properties X, then A is conscious; otherwise, A is not conscious. Then we could indeed examine any physical system to see if it held properties X and thus deduce whether or not it is conscious.

But to have such a complete and valid theory, we would need to have an empirically verified mapping of objective physical states to subjective conscious states.

No we wouldn't. I think there is a concept that is rather ingrained in your mind (and in most human minds) that doesn't allow for the heterophenomenological approach, but there is really nothing illogical about it. IOW, there is nothing wrong with assuming, not that "if A has physical properties X, then A is conscious", but rather "if A has physical properties X, then A has consciousness, because consciousness = X.

But we can only empirically verify such mappings for the human brain, and can only apply the principles of consciousness thus derived to physical systems similar to the human brain. Thus, unless we find some objective way of directly measuring the presence of consciousness in any physical system, our theory will necessarily be incomplete and fraught with uncertainties and questionable guesswork.

But the consciousness itself is the physical process. It doesn't "indicate" the presence of consciousness, it is the presence of consciousness.

Nonsense. This is true to some extent for humans, but only because we already know as human beings that we ourselves are conscious. We directly experience our own consciousnesses, thus we start from a position of empirical verification of consciousness in the case of the human brain. From this starting point, we can observe correlations between behaviors of our own with certain directly perceived conscious experiences of our own (including, most importantly, linguistic behaviors/verbal reports). We can then roughly deduce that a similar behavior exhibited by another person indicates a similar conscious experience on the part of that person. But this entire approach depends on the fact that we start from a position of direct perception (empirical verification) of consciousness.

But that's the whole point, we are starting from the intentional stance. Besides, and I want to be clear on this: We are not seeking empirical verification of subjective consciousness - this would imply an "apparatus" of consciousness - we are searching merely for the "apparatus" since that is consciousness.

But there is no way to known in general if any given behavior of any given physical system is conscious or not, but to be a physical system of that type in the first place.

Not true...at least, not according to the heterophenomenological approach that Dennett takes (I can't state absolute truths), since we can determine the consciousness of any physical system using knowledge of MD and question/answer processes (if Dennett is right, that is).

Thus, even if we accept a purely materialistic framework of consciousness, we must still speak in general of behaviors indicating consciousness

No, no, no! The behaviors are consciousness.

since we have doubt as to whether such and such material process is truly sufficient for consciousness in any given context. In this case, "indicates" is a concession of our epistemic uncertainty, not an assertion of a dualist ontology.

But the dualism will always be implied when you separate "subjective experience" from the nitty-gritty of neurological science (the electrochemical processes themselves).
 
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  • #34
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Originally posted by Fliption
And this is an old philosophical issue. A philosophical opinion from both parties is expected.

You and I both know that there is a standing logical (not scientific, not opinionated, not philosophical, but logical) problem with the mind being anything but the brain.

I wasn't referring to you with my comments above. And I must politely disagree that people have been able to combat your points. Whether you view them as sufficient to counter them is a different matter. I'm not convinced any of your points are as strong as you view them and feel that they have been adequately countered.

That's because, for some reason, I can't seem to make the homunculun problem intelligible to you. I even simplified (or, it was simpler in my opinion) the concept to asking "what good is a monitor inside your PC?", but that didn't seem to work. What is it exactly that you don't understand about the homunculun problem (or is it just the whole concept that seems obsolete to you)?

As to my number 1 point, there have been significant responses (mostly dealing with the question of "what is physical"), but they are overcome by a scientific defining of "physical", provided we don't play the reduction game.

I will always concede it is possible that I may not completely understand someones point. Especially over a medium like a forum. For example, you have said to me and to Hynagogue things like "X is not an effect of Y. X is Y". This statement to me says nothing about reality. It's just a labeling word game. This statement has no explanatory power at all and communicates nothing different to me about reality. I can't visualize any difference.

Look, the difference is this. If I say that brain A is performing process X (the question/answer + Multiple Drafts processes of Dennett's theory, for example), and is thus determinably conscious, I am not saying "process X indicates consciousness on the part of brain A", but rather "process X is all that there is to consciousness, and thus the statement 'brain A is performing process X' is precisely equal to (I can't seem to make the math symbol work here) the statement 'brain A is conscious'".

I'll promise you this. If you're points are as strong as you say they are then you'll really want to show it to me because I will become your biggest defender. That is a promise. But at the moment, I honestly just don't believe your views solve any philosophical issues on this topic. Keep in mind that IMO Dennett never solved any problem. He only defines it away. So my perspective is very different from yours and some work may be required from you to communicate the point.

I appreciate your open-mindedness. I think the real barrier to your understanding my position is it's counter-intuitiveness. Intuitively, we "know" that consciousness is something special, produced by processes of the brain, and so it is counter-intuitive to say that that is wrong and that consciousness is an electrochemical process of the brain. IOW, we want to believe that phenomenological events "occur", even if not "really" occurring, but this cannot be so due to the homunculun problem and the problem of physical/non-physical cooperation (if the phenomenological events were physical then they would, by definition, take up space, and this cannot be so as we would have noticed by now (what, with all the thousands of thoughts I must be thinking right now)).
 
  • #35
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Fliption, I think I found my analogy! (Please excuse any slight incoherence on my part, as I'm acting off inspiration, and I don't want to lose sight of the under-lying principle.)

Ok, there is a thread in the Biology Forum about animal testing, and it seems that there are many people who feel sympathy for the animals. Well, I don't feel such sympathy, and a couple of my aquaintances share my opinion, except they have added the reason that they don't believe animals feel pain! Oh, they believe that the animal has a constant bombardment of neuronal activity when put under "painful" circumstances, but they just don't believe that that neuronal activity in the animal translates to actual "pain".

Since my position is currently a completely Materialistic one, I am obliged to ask them what they feel the difference is, between excited neuronal activity and "actual pain". They confess they that don't know, but that that's just an example of our (humanity's) limited knowledge. However, if one applies the intentional stance to the circumstance, it all becomes clear.

The intentional stance dictates: If pain can be said to be equal to process Y of certain nerves, then all bodies whose nerves are undergoing process Y are in pain (no scare-quotes this time) - and, in fact, the two statements are equivalent ("certain nerves are undergoing process Y" and "the animal is in pain").

So, you see, this is how we differentiate between the propositions "process X produces C" (where "C" can refer to consciousness or pain or whatever other process we are discussing) and "process X is C" (such as when we establish that a certain excited nerve activity is pain).

I know that might be a little sloppy, and I'm going to re-read it once I post it, and edit as necessary...but I hope I got the point across.
 
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