Qualia in reductionist view

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Main Question or Discussion Point

Let's accept the http://www.iep.utm.edu/red-ism/" [Broken] then:

Jaegwon Kim - Physicalism said:
Are mental properties physically reducible? Yes and no: intentional/cognitive properties are reducible, but qualitative properties of consciousness, or "qualia", are not.
http://books.google.bg/books?id=ANKBKrx1XP4C&pg=PA162&lpg=PA162&dq="qualitative"

from Companion to Metaphysics said:
Perhaps, Kim suggests, most mental properties are reducible. Those that are not, qualitative properties of conscious experiences, for instance, the qualia, must be epiphenomenal: real, but causally impotent.
http://books.google.bg/books?id=i7PG-Vk824UC&pg=PA42&lpg=PA42&dq="qualitative"


I think not. If you can reduce a single mental event to a physical one, then you can reduce all including qualia. If we accept reduction, the http://www.iep.utm.edu/know-arg/" [Broken] won't be valid, the super scientist Mary will be able to know everything as suggested by Patricia Churchland - "How can I assess what Mary will know and understand if she knows everything there is to know about the brain? Everything is a lot, and it means, in all likelihood, that Mary has a radically different and deeper understanding of the brain than anything barely conceivable in our wildest flights of fancy".

So what you think?
 
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That knowledge argument is quite strange to me. If Mary knows everything about physical world she would know how red light will interact with her retina. But if she have never done the experiment, she couldn't test her scientific hypotheses. So, if she knows scientifically how red light interacts with her retina, she has done the experiment, thus she has seen red.

Edit: It is similar to say that if we have never observed an object, we will never know its state, therefore there must be something supernatural to explain the state.
 
  • #3
Q_Goest
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Hi Ferris,
I hope you don’t mind if I help try and clarify your post just a bit. Let’s talk for a moment about Kim’s comment regarding reductionism. What Kim is saying is that what happens in the brain is reducible but the things the brain experiences (ie: qualia) are not. I think that needs to be broken down a bit.

When philosophers (or neuroscientists for that matter) say the brain is reducible, they are talking about what is happening in the brain. We could examine what areas of the brain are active during certain mental tasks for example. Thus, by reducing the brain to different areas, we are categorizing those areas and correlating the function of the area with a behavioral event. Further, we can break down how neurons signal each other (through synapses for example). Neurons can then be broken down further into compartments such as was done by Hodgkin and Huxley for example. But even these compartmental models of neurons can be further broken down into physical events at the molecular scale. So brains in general are understood to be reducible to the distinct parts that make it work, from generlized areas right down to the molecules interactions.

What Kim is saying about qualia however, is that these things are not reducible in the same way. They are not physically reducible. The properties of mental events (qualia) can not be found by studying the interactions at any level. Qualia are emergent from the brain as a whole. Note that this is a perfectly valid position per computationalism, albeit not the only one.

What Kim is suggesting then is that qualtitative experiences are not what cause changes in the physical states of the brain. Only other physical states cause these changes. Qualia then can not have an influence over physical events, though Kim would also say that the physical events and the qualitative experiences of those physical events are the same. Kim is saying there is a 1 to 1 correlation between the physical events and qualia.

I think it all boils down to whether or not you accept that there is an explanatory gap between the physical events in the brain and qualia. If you feel there is no gap, then reductionism would be a sufficient explanation of the brain for you and Mary would, in principal, be able to understand everything about the brain without experiencing it herself. If you feel there is a gap then you may feel that Mary can’t know, even in principal, everything there is to know about the brain. The 'something extra' is the qualitative experience we have which isn't reducible and can't be explained by explaining the brain in a reductionist way.

Note that Kim is a dualist and would say there is a deep, explanatory gap.
 
  • #4
Q_Goest
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That knowledge argument is quite strange to me. If Mary knows everything about physical world she would know how red light will interact with her retina. But if she have never done the experiment, she couldn't test her scientific hypotheses. So, if she knows scientifically how red light interacts with her retina, she has done the experiment, thus she has seen red.
This has nothing to do with the knowledge argument. What the knowledge argument is pointing out is that Mary can know exactly how the physics of how red light interacts with the eye and how the eye then creates signals to the brain, and how the brain reacts to that light. But how the red light would be experienced (ie: the properties of the qualitative experience) is what the thought experiment is supposed to point out - not that Mary might not understand the physics behind it.
 
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This has nothing to do with the knowledge argument. What the knowledge argument is pointing out is that Mary can know exactly how the physics of how red light interacts with the eye and how the eye then creates signals to the brain, and how the brain reacts to that light. But how the red light would be experienced (ie: the properties of the qualitative experience) is what the thought experiment is supposed to point out - not that Mary might not understand the physics behind it.
The knowledge argument assumes she has the knowledge "for granted" (or perhaps "from above"). If you assume supernatural way to put the knowledge in her head, then it's quite OK to conclude that supernatural exists.
 
  • #6
Q_Goest
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Please reread the knowledge argument. It has nothing to do with the supernatural.
 
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I read it. It supposes that Mary will have complete physical knowledge. How she will know that?

"Mary has complete physical knowledge" is itself knowledge about the physical being Mary.
She by herself cannot have that knowledge. Either she tested it or she got divine revelation.

You may argue that the guy outside will give her the complete knowledge and he will know she has complete knowledge, but it is not true because she will not know that fact and the guy outside will have more physical knowledge than she has. Therefore her knowledge cannot be complete.

The guy outside may also tell her that she has complete physical knowledge, however he can believe in this, while she has no ground to believe it.
 
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Here are some studies that associate qualia with transient dynamics in the brain (i.e. interactions between neurons on a global scale). This is the kind of research I participate in, and I consider myself a reductionist.

Neural networks are complicated dynamical entities, whose properties are understood only in the simplest cases. When the complex biophysical properties of neurons and their connections (synapses) are combined with realistic connectivity rules and scales, network dynamics are usually difficult to predict. Yet, experimental neuroscience is often based on the implicit premise that the neural mechanisms underlying sensation, perception, and cognition are well approximated by steady-state measurements (of neuron activity) or by models in which the behavior of the network is simple (steady state or periodic). Transient states--ones in which no stable equilibrium is reached--may sometimes better describe neural network behavior. An intuition for such properties arises from mathematical and computational modeling of some appropriately simple experimental systems.

Computing with "attractors" is a concept familiar to the neural networks community. Upon some input signal, a model neural network will gradually change its pattern of activated nodes (neurons) until it settles into one pattern--an attractor state. Thus, the input--a voice, an odor, or something more abstract--is associated with properties of the entire network in a particular attractor state. Such patterns of neural activity might be established, learned, and recalled during perception, memorization, and retrieval, respectively.

Two ideas define the range of possible dynamics expressed by neural networks. The simplest emphasizes stable attractors (1), with memories as possible cognitive equivalents. The other, less intuitive, idea emphasizes non-classical, transient dynamics as in "liquid-state machines" (2). Liquid-state machines are networks in which computation is carried out over time without any need for a classical attractor state. Because neural phenomena often occur on very short time scales, classical attractor states--fixed points or limit cycles--cannot be realistically reached. Indeed, behavioral and neurophysiological experiments reveal the existence and functional relevance of dynamics that, while deterministic, do not require waiting to reach classical attractor states (3-6). Also, the conditions required to achieve such attractors in artificial neural networks are often implausible for known biological circuits. Finally, fixed-point attractor dynamics, despite their name, express no useful dynamics; only the state the network settles into, given by its initial conditions (and characterized mathematically by, for example, a minimum in an energy function), matters, not the path taken to reach that state.
Rabinovich, M., Huerta, R., Laurent, G. (2008) Science, Vol. 321. no. 5885, pp. 48 - 50 DOI: 10.1126/science.1155564

The components of a coherently oscillating ensemble of neurons changed over the duration of a single exposure to an odor. It is thus proposed that odors are encoded by specific but dynamic assemblies of coherently oscillating neurons. Such distributed and temporal representation of complex sensory signals may facilitate combinatorial coding and associative learning in these, and possibly other, sensory networks.
G. Laurent, H. Davidowitz, Science 265, 1872 (1994).

Mitral cells (MCs) in the olfactory bulb (OB) respond to odors with slow
temporal Þring patterns. The representation of each odor by activity patterns
across the MC population thus changes continuously throughout a stimulus, in
an odor-speciÞc manner. In the zebraÞsh OB, we found that this distributed
temporal patterning progressively reduced the similarity between ensemble
representations of related odors, thereby making each odorÕs representation
more speciÞc over time. The tuning of individual MCs was not sharpened during
this process. Hence, the individual responses of MCs did not become more
speciÞc, but the odor-coding MC assemblies changed such that their overlap
decreased. This optimization of ensemble representations did not occur among
olfactory afferents but resulted from OB circuit dynamics. Time can therefore
gradually optimize stimulus representations in a sensory network.
R. Friedrich, G. Laurent, Science 291, 889 (2001).

(not quoted yet, may edit and quote some as time goes on)

O. Mazor, G. Laurent, Neuron 48, 661 (2005).
Stopfer, M., Jayaraman, V., Laurent, G. (2003) Neuron 39, 991.
Kleinschmidt, A., Biichel, C., Zeki, S., Frackowiak, R. (1998) Human brain activity during spontaneously reversing perception of ambiguous figures. Aw. R. Sa: Lmul. B (1998) 265, 2427-2433.

Also, see Hopfields:

What is a moment? Transient synchrony as a collective mechanism for spatiotemporal integration

and Francisco Valera's unified cognitive moment


In my reductionist view qualia are physical, but non-material (referring to the dynamics; the temporal brain states).
 
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  • #9
ConradDJ
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In my reductionist view qualia are physical, but non-material (referring to the dynamics; the temporal brain states).
It seems that when we talk about "qualia" we're talking about an aspect of some person's own subjective experience. So it seems there's a basic error in treating them as if they were objects out there in the world somewhere that everyone can see, that might be "reduced" to some more elementary objects out there.

I have no reason to think that the colors and feelings I experience don't correspond to certain dynamic states of my brain. But there's an obvious difference between an objective description of brain-states "from the outside" -- which would be some sort of map of neuronal potentials and firing-rates -- and what I experience "from inside".

I can't see that it makes any sense at all to talk about "qualia" without taking this difference in viewpoint into account. Even if we're talking about something like a rainbow, which can be captured by a camera, there's no similarity between an objective description of the positions and sizes of a bunch of raindrops and the picture of a rainbow, because the latter depends on the specific point of view of the camera in relation to the raindrops and to the sun. So if we say the rainbow is "reduced" to the objective configuration of camera, raindrops and sun, I have no problem with that -- but the "sightlines" need to be taken into account, or the basic characteristics of the rainbow won't appear in the description.

In the case of "qualia" we have something that exists only from the perspective of one person's own consciousness. So how will an objective description of brain-states, no matter how "complete", take account of the "sightline" here? If you want to say my experience has been "reduced" to a certain brain-state, I won't say you're wrong, I'll just point our that your brain-map looks nothing like my experience... and there's no reason to think that it would.
 
  • #10
Pythagorean
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It seems that when we talk about "qualia" we're talking about an aspect of some person's own subjective experience. So it seems there's a basic error in treating them as if they were objects out there in the world somewhere that everyone can see, that might be "reduced" to some more elementary objects out there.
Nobody is treating qualia as objects. They are physical phenomena. Fusion, weather, and velocity are similar concepts. They are not objects. Objects occupy space. Events occupy time. They are both still physical.

I have no reason to think that the colors and feelings I experience don't correspond to certain dynamic states of my brain. But there's an obvious difference between an objective description of brain-states "from the outside" -- which would be some sort of map of neuronal potentials and firing-rates -- and what I experience "from inside".
I agree... but the stipulation is that if you and I have a very similar brain map during a stimulus (say more similar than you and Frank do) then you and I likely share a similar experience. And furthermore that components of the brain map will correspond to components of the qualia.

So once a scientist gains intuition for how brain maps relate to qualia, he can begin to draw conclusions from brain maps that we can't draw from directly experiencing qualia (which is a normal theme in science... discovery of unintuitive concepts via objective measurement.)

The idea is extended, as well, to one person at two different times, with two different stimuli. For instance, disgust is very similar in the brain whether it's social disgust or the kind of disgust that comes from say, dog feces. And it's no wonder we have the same word for them, too.

I can't see that it makes any sense at all to talk about "qualia" without taking this difference in viewpoint into account.
But the difference is taken into account. The difference doesn't defeat the position, though... that seems to me what you're hoping for.

Even if we're talking about something like a rainbow, which can be captured by a camera, there's no similarity between an objective description of the positions and sizes of a bunch of raindrops and the picture of a rainbow, because the latter depends on the specific point of view of the camera in relation to the raindrops and to the sun. So if we say the rainbow is "reduced" to the objective configuration of camera, raindrops and sun, I have no problem with that -- but the "sightlines" need to be taken into account, or the basic characteristics of the rainbow won't appear in the description.
But that's unfair; you only included half the system in the objective description. The true objective description would have to include the camera and it's position relative to the rainbow. Observer's participate in their experiments.

In the case of "qualia" we have something that exists only from the perspective of one person's own consciousness. So how will an objective description of brain-states, no matter how "complete", take account of the "sightline" here?
I'm not sure exactly what you mean. Your qualia exist in my world. I just can't see (experience) them. If I collect a sufficient number of brain states from people in the presence of stimuli, I can start to make rules about the relationships between the two.

I'm still not sure what you mean by "sightline" though.

However, note, one of the practical difficulties is that your brain-state isn't just me freezing your brain at one moment in time and looking at it. There are several time-ranges involved. You still have information from a very long time ago stored in your brain, influencing neural processing in shorter time scales, and of course, the many time-scales in between. The dynamics are transient, so a static picture doesn't tell the whole story.

In other words, you have to collect the spatiotemporal information, not just the spatial information. This becomes more difficult if significant time-courses are on the order of days or even weeks (or months... or years:?). At some point, of course, some of the longer-term aspects of memory become structural (long-term potentiation and depression, for instance).


If you want to say my experience has been "reduced" to a certain brain-state, I won't say you're wrong, I'll just point our that your brain-map looks nothing like my experience... and there's no reason to think that it would.
Agreed; it takes scientific analysis to bridge the gap, and a developmental framework. Just like if I showed a laymen a spatiotemporal plot of chemical species reactions they wouldn't understand what it means for the chemical species. That doesn't in any way invalidate the correlation between the spatiotemporal plot and the actual events of the chemical reaction.
 
  • #11
ConradDJ
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Nobody is treating qualia as objects. They are physical phenomena. Fusion, weather, and velocity are similar concepts. They are not objects.

This is what I don’t understand. I meant “object” in the sense of something “objective” – or we could say, something “physical”. That would include weather and velocity and physical events.

And I thought “qualia” referred to something a person experiences subjectively, like what the color blue looks like to me.

I don’t think I want to defeat your position – I have no problem with the idea that we might someday be able to map neuronal activity so as to correlate brain-maps with subjectively experienced qualia, though I agree that the map will have to be very complex and sophisticated, somehow charting dynamics over different time-periods as well as tracking multiple network-contexts. And surely we would then discover things about the structure of our experiences that aren’t obvious “from inside”.

My point is that there’s a difference in viewpoint that you’re glossing over when you say “Your qualia exist in my world.” I think you mean the neuronal patterns that correlate with my experience exist out there in objective-reality, in principle accessible to everyone. But since the brain-maps won’t look or feel anything like my experience, that’s not at all the same as saying you have access to my subjective qualia.

The point of the rainbow analogy is that there’s a difference between an objective description of the state of raindrops and sun – which contains nothing like a rainbow – and a picture from a certain spatial point of view, which does contain the rainbow. In this analogy everything is objective and physical, of course. We’re talking about a point of view in space, and anyone (or a camera) can equally well take that position.

In the case of subjective experience, only I myself can take this point of view and see what my experience is like. Even if you could “project” my brain-state onto your own brain – which is probably impossible even in principle, given that each brain evolves its own neuronal patterns – there could be no way to tell whether the way this brain-state looks and feels to me is the same as the way it looks and feels to you.
Your qualia exist in my world. I just can't see (experience) them. If I collect a sufficient number of brain states from people in the presence of stimuli, I can start to make rules about the relationships between the two.

Again, if what you mean by “qualia” is the objective state of a brain in the presence of a stimulus, this makes sense. But your brain-states don’t look or feel like anyone’s own experience, so I’m not sure they give you any information about the latter. You might be able to say – “I see from your brain-scan that you are now seeing something that looks blue” – but you still have no idea what “blue” looks like to me.
 
  • #12
Q_Goest
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I read it. It supposes that Mary will have complete physical knowledge. How she will know that?

"Mary has complete physical knowledge" is itself knowledge about the physical being Mary.
She by herself cannot have that knowledge. Either she tested it or she got divine revelation.

You may argue that the guy outside will give her the complete knowledge and he will know she has complete knowledge, but it is not true because she will not know that fact and the guy outside will have more physical knowledge than she has. Therefore her knowledge cannot be complete.

The guy outside may also tell her that she has complete physical knowledge, however he can believe in this, while she has no ground to believe it.
Thanks for providing your understanding of the knowledge argument. It helps show where you're getting confused. I don't mean that in a bad way at all, I only mean that you've missed the intent of the thought experiment. From the link:
Her story takes place in the future, when all physical facts have been discovered. These include “everything in completed physics, chemistry, and neurophysiology, and all there is to know about the causal and relational facts consequent upon all this, including of course functional roles” (Jackson 1982, p. 51). She learns all this by watching lectures on a monochromatic television monitor.
The point of all this discussion is just to propose a way in which Mary might learn the physical facts. It could be rewritten such that she always wore glasses that allowed her to only see black and white, it could be rewritten such that ALL scientists who ever lived wore these black and white glasses, it doesn't matter. For the sake of the thought experiment, a single female person is considered to have learned all physical facts without experiencing color. That's it, there's no need to conjecture how this person learned these things.

The entire point of the thought experiment is only to ask,"Does Mary learn a new physical fact upon experiencing color?"
If physicalism were true, then Mary would know everything about human color vision before leaving the room. But intuitively, it would seem that she learns something new when she leaves. She learns what it’s like to see colors, that is, she learns about qualia, the properties that characterize what it’s like. Her new phenomenal knowledge includes knowledge of truths. Therefore, physicalism is false.
 
  • #13
Q_Goest
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Pythagorean, your views match those of people who feel there is no significant explanatory gap. If there is no gap, then the physical explanation of the objectively measurable facts about the brain should provide sufficient information to understand 'what it is like to see color' as indicated by the "Knowledge Argument" referenced in the OP. Would you say that understanding what the brain is doing is sufficient to understand qualia? Do we learn anything new by experiencing things we haven't experienced before as suggested by the TE? Or is the experience of qualia something that can't be described by describing the interactions of neurons and other objectively measurable physical interactions? Consider how you would describe red to someone using only an objectively measurable physical explanation.
 
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It could be rewritten such that she always wore glasses that allowed her to only see black and white, it could be rewritten such that ALL scientists who ever lived wore these black and white glasses, it doesn't matter.
That doesn't matter. If all scientists wore b&w glasses, they could never have knowledge how red light will interact with them. They cannot have that knowledge by observing something different than them. You argue that they will learn everything for themselves by studying everything that is not themselves. Quite bad argument.
 
  • #15
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If there is no gap, then the physical explanation of the objectively measurable facts about the brain should provide sufficient information to understand 'what it is like to see color' as indicated by the "Knowledge Argument" referenced in the OP.

No. Information pertains only to functional, self-conscious minds. Most people don't believe that computers DO NOT actually deal with information. EVER.

Computers, chips, microprocessors, etc... only deal with electricity. Information is something emergent that arises in your mind out of the interactions of electrical impulses between neurons(if one believes in objective reality). The photons emitted by my screen are not the sentences and messages that I reply to.


Would you say that understanding what the brain is doing is sufficient to understand qualia?

Qualia are information about the outside world. In the current materialistic paradigm, information does not exist, consciousness does not exist as well and we are a type of pre-determined zombies with no autonomous free-will. In this view, matter is all that exists and qualia like red are an illusion.

It's up to the person to decide what route they are going to follow -

1. That conscious experience and free will are illusions

2. That objective reality is an illusion, but qualia and conscious experience are not.

3. That everything is real but there exist a number of unexplicable emergent properties



I could make an argument on any of the 3, but number 3 seems the most consistent and most evidenced.
 
  • #16
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When I read these posts about the extent of conscious experience being "illusions" I always get fairly confused as to the reductionist program, to what extent do we wish to "in principle" reduce mental phenomena to physical? Can we look at brain states and determine a specific? "Mary is thinking about November 8, 1963 when she first met her husband?" or "Mary is thinking about something emotional, perhaps her first lover". How much do we wish to recover from the analyzation of brain states? What about art? Live group improvisation as in Jazz? How do we wish to reduce such seemingly strong qualitative behavior? And what justification have we for disregarding the source of knowlege, phenomenal experience, for the existence of a more easily tractable "objective" framework? If all knowledge is presented to us through conscious experience, and through time we learn that phenomenal experience is an "illusion" to what extent can we trust the knowledge derived therefrom? If developmental psychology has taught us about how the human mind creates abstractions in order to understand the environment, how can we take more advanced abstractions as being fundamental?....Are reductionist simly saying that mental properties or qualia are contingent upon physical properties? How is mental causality treated? Simply the efficient causation paradigm? How would we be able to describe such things as a unified perceptual experience? Not qualia, the abstracted "Sense impressions", but the whole gestalt, including its associations and vague ineffabilities?
Also are complex semantical properties reducible to syntactical properties or pstrictly efficient cause physical properties?...When drawing a picture of Reality as a whole, what is the point of disregarding an aspect of Reality, the most concrete aspect we have access to, in order to arrive at "objectivity"?
How do we explain the underdetermination of theory by evidence? If the theories we posit in neuroscience regarding the "subjective" are subject to the scientific procedure, and are the result of abstractions, how do we account for the choice of a specific abstract representation of the data as opposed to another equally likely theory? If we admit it is chosen with certain social factors involved and on certain principles, how can we trust the "more fundamental" ontology being posited by the Sciences? Especially if "subjective" factors such as "principles" and culture come in to play in the choosing of theory?.......I do not mean to seem like a nudge with all of these questions, but I simply feel as though they are important questions to consider and must be answered in any theory of reality, not "explained away" or regarded as silly, but answered authentically
 
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  • #17
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No. Information pertains only to functional, self-conscious minds. Most people don't believe that computers DO NOT actually deal with information. EVER.
Of course people will not believe. Especially if they have worked with data compression algorithms. Or if they have turned off their computers, but their data was magically preserved by an optical storage. People that have used genetic algorithms to design something will also have trouble to believe you.
 
  • #18
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Of course people will not believe. Especially if they have worked with data compression algorithms. Or if they have turned off their computers, but their data was magically preserved by an optical storage. People that have used genetic algorithms to design something will also have trouble to believe you.

You need to put more thought in your arguments. It does not matter if you have turned off your computer or not. It still doesn't contain information, as information is immaterial and belongs to conscious minds. People are not compressing data, but manipulating electrical currents. Some of these currents will be deciphered and become meaningful information by your mind(it's the mind that turns electrical currents and electromagnetic radiation into information).
 
  • #19
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You need to put more thought in your arguments. It does not matter if you have turned off your computer or not. It still doesn't contain information, as information is immaterial and belongs to conscious minds. People are not compressing data, but manipulating electrical currents. Some of these currents will be deciphered and become meaningful information by your mind(it's the mind that turns electrical currents and electromagnetic radiation into information).
Define what you mean by "deciphering currents". You may use any physics book that defines EM force to start with.
 
  • #20
Pythagorean
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This is what I don’t understand. I meant “object” in the sense of something “objective” – or we could say, something “physical”. That would include weather and velocity and physical events.

And I thought “qualia” referred to something a person experiences subjectively, like what the color blue looks like to me.
Yes, the point is that qualia are physical phenomena, regardless of being "subjective". Subjective and Objective have lots of neat emotional connotations attached to them, but functionally they just mean "many solutions" vs. "a unique solution"

Consider for instance, a panel reviewing research proposals for funding. It is ultimately subjective, in that each person has a different set of rules that they use to decide (and some of those rules are emotionally based, whether we accept that or not). It doesn't mean that they're off in imaginary dualist land. It means that it's highly case-dependent.

So there is still causality involved. The rule sets the people operate on are a combination of their biological and environmental state. They may have encountered cases in the past that set them up for a bias, or they may just not like the way a particular word is used.

I don’t think I want to defeat your position – I have no problem with the idea that we might someday be able to map neuronal activity so as to correlate brain-maps with subjectively experienced qualia, though I agree that the map will have to be very complex and sophisticated, somehow charting dynamics over different time-periods as well as tracking multiple network-contexts. And surely we would then discover things about the structure of our experiences that aren’t obvious “from inside”.
Good, I'm glad we agree and this point. It's an important one.

My point is that there’s a difference in viewpoint that you’re glossing over when you say “Your qualia exist in my world.” I think you mean the neuronal patterns that correlate with my experience exist out there in objective-reality, in principle accessible to everyone. But since the brain-maps won’t look or feel anything like my experience, that’s not at all the same as saying you have access to my subjective qualia.
Ok... yes, you're right, I skipped a couple steps. What I mean to say is your qualia are, in principle, accessible to me. The stipulation is that if I can measure your brain dynamics and then plug myself into a machine that controls my brain, and simulate the same brain dynamics, I 'will' experience qualia exactly as you do.

Of course, there's lots of technical issues. Obviously, there's a giant engineering feat ahead of us. Also, if I take on your brain dynamics, will it wipe out information about my brain dynamics? Will I have to restore those if I want to continue living on as myself?

It's not the whole brain that is responsible for qualia (for instance, we don't expect the networks that manage our enteric system or our breathing and heartbeat to contribute directly to our qualia) so we would only have to target networks associated with cognitive perception.


In the case of subjective experience, only I myself can take this point of view and see what my experience is like. Even if you could “project” my brain-state onto your own brain – which is probably impossible even in principle, given that each brain evolves its own neuronal patterns...
That doesn't make it impossible in principle, it makes it impossible in practice. The act of rearranging neural connections and potentiation is theoretically straight-forward isn't it? And furthermore, it doesn't make it factually impossible (though as a matter of opinion, I agree that it will be impossible).

there could be no way to tell whether the way this brain-state looks and feels to me is the same as the way it looks and feels to you.
I can't think of any test currently that argues against your statement here, but to me, behavior is a good indicator of this. I can imagine that when you and I touch a piping hot stove, we will both withdraw our hand quickly, we will feel pain. I don't think there's a big difference in the pain... and where there is, there's obvious difference in the underlying physical features. For instance, somebody with a higher pain threshold will inhibit more (a neural action) the network pertaining to the pain perception by down-regulating the response. They're response won't be as intense. We can infer from this that they experience a similar qualia, but at a reduced quanta.

(There's actually a lot of controversy on how we perceive pain based on how we were raised, but that's another topic.)


Again, if what you mean by “qualia” is the objective state of a brain in the presence of a stimulus, this makes sense. But your brain-states don’t look or feel like anyone’s own experience, so I’m not sure they give you any information about the latter. You might be able to say – “I see from your brain-scan that you are now seeing something that looks blue” – but you still have no idea what “blue” looks like to me.
What I mean is that the objective brain state is directly responsible for qualia.

It doesn't matter that brain states don't feel like anyone's experience. They can still give you information about it. That's a faulty argument. For instance, if I show you a complicated system of equations outline the dynamics of a turbulent fluid, I don't expect you to understand it without learning about how it relates to what we observe.

Once, however, you understand the equation (and the numerous visual plots associated with the equation) I would expect you to gain intuition about what the equation is saying in different paramter regions, and how it affects the qualitative outcome.

In fact, the qualitative shape of a dynamical problem is a significant aspect of dynamical theory. It is quantified by bifurcation (the numerical points at which the qualitative aspects of an event are changed).

I can't prove that I know what blue is like to you, but I imagine you and I share a qualia for blue and the differences in that qualia are not significant. Why? Because you and I can talk about pain, too, which we can both agree is significantly different than perceiving blue.

In other words, the difference in a single human being, between two qualia of different origins (blue and pain) are orders of magnitude different than the difference in qualia between you and me experiencing blue.

And I feel the same way about blue vs. red. Red is bright, it's associated often with anger and other intense emotions. Blue is a cooler color, it's associated with calmer, less intense emotions.


Q_Goest
Q_Goest said:
Pythagorean, your views match those of people who feel there is no significant explanatory gap.
I do feel there's an explanatory gap, but to me it is an ontological one. The gap seems to be closing for me as time goes on and my understanding of neural correlates increases. Though, it's still difficult to express and there's a giant tide of dualism (based in religion) that has dominated the question for centuries now. It is just now pulling away from that philosophical baggage.

If there is no gap, then the physical explanation of the objectively measurable facts about the brain should provide sufficient information to understand 'what it is like to see color' as indicated by the "Knowledge Argument" referenced in the OP.
Yes... agreed. As long as you're not using "understand" as a loaded term. For instance, we don't know why/how mass or charge come from matter. We keep finding further details about the mechanisms behind it, but ultimately, it's just "the way it is".

Anyway, yes, I'm saying that a blind person can experience the qualia of color with the appropriate neural stimulation. And furthermore, that we can take the qualia from your experience of blue (by recording your brain) and expect it to work on a blind person.

Would you say that understanding what the brain is doing is sufficient to understand qualia?
No... we also have to (which we do) experience the qualia personally. If I measure my brain states while I'm experiencing pain, and then measure yours while you're experiencing pain, I expect them to be very similar. Further more, if we isolate the part of the brain that you are directly experiencing, then I can make you feel experience pain without your external body actually having the experience, just by neural stimulation.

In fact, via, "brain in the vat" thought experiment (which is accepted in neurosciences) I can make you experience a whole world without your body actually doing it... purely by neural stimulation.

Do we learn anything new by experiencing things we haven't experienced before as suggested by the TE? Or is the experience of qualia something that can't be described by describing the interactions of neurons and other objectively measurable physical interactions?
Just curious, why are these two mutually exclusive? Of course, I agree with the first sentence, we DO learn new things by experiencing new things. It's one more sample to weighs our Bayesian learning with.

Obviously I disagree with the second sentence.

Consider how you would describe red to someone using only an objectively measurable physical explanation.
Why would I want to do that? Unless of course, they were already trained in interpreting the consequences of the physical description.

Anyway, the point is not that say the neural processes and suddenly you feel the qualia. That's, of course, ridiculous. The point is that if I can make your neurons perform the exact same processes in the exact same way, you will experience the exact same qualia.

I, of course, make no claim that this is technologically possible. However, if we remove 'exact', I think it is. Have you ever seen Strange Days? To me, the technology there is a future reality.
 
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  • #21
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5
[..decide...]
1. That conscious experience and free will are illusions

2. That objective reality is an illusion, but qualia and conscious experience are not.

3. That everything is real but there exist a number of unexplicable emergent properties
How are 1 and 3 different?
 
  • #22
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I think it all boils down to whether or not you accept that there is an explanatory gap between the physical events in the brain and qualia. If you feel there is no gap, then reductionism would be a sufficient explanation of the brain for you and Mary would, in principal, be able to understand everything about the brain without experiencing it herself. If you feel there is a gap then you may feel that Mary can't know, even in principal, everything there is to know about the brain.
I think the only gap comes from identity (reduction) versus multiple realizability (non-reduction). What I mean by multiple realizability is the following:

http://www.iep.utm.edu/identity/#H4 said:
According to the Mind-Brain Type Identity theorist (at least post-Armstrong), for every mental state there is a unique physical-chemical state of the brain such that a life-form can be in that mental state if and only if it is in that physical state. It seems quite plausible to hold, as an empirical hypothesis, that physically possible life-forms can be in the same mental state without having brains in the same unique physical-chemical state. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the Mind-Brain Type Identity theorist is correct.
If you accept reduction there is no place for epiphenomenal qualia, if you accept non-reduction qualia is still there. Clearly no gap. The gap appears because Kim (OP quotes) suggests that reduction is possible and at the same time he believes that qualia is something which emerges. From this follows that:

1) qualia is multiple realizable and epiphenomenal
2) the rest (intentional/cognitive states) are reducible and genuine properties

Now let's suppose that a qualia state Q (defined in 1) emerges from physical state P1, which causes physical/mental state P2 = M2.

P1 [~ Q] => P2 = M2

If P1 has causal powers then there must exist mental state M1 (subset of Q) identical/reducible to P1 (from 2).

P1 = M1 [~ Q] => P2 = M2

So what we have now:
M1 is part of the qualia state Q and share the property domain of Q.
P1 and Q are different properties (from 1 and 2).
P1 is identical with M1 and both share the same domain.

From this follows that M1 must not be a subset of Q thus at time t we have multiple mental states. This sound to me like some omni-thing, don't you think?
 
  • #23
Pythagorean
Gold Member
4,191
253
why does P -> Q imply that Q -> P?

Just because every mental state has a physical state associated with it, doesn't mean every physical state has a mental state associated with it. Really, you're still assuming dualism by stating it this way, since the assumption (for physicalism) is that "mental states" are just a class of physical states.

It would be like saying: since every climate is associated with a physical state, every physical state is associated with a climate, which is clearly incorrect.
 
  • #24
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Just because every mental state has a physical state associated with it, doesn't mean every physical state has a mental state associated with it.

I suppose you relate to the part below and you are right, it doesn't. It does only if we want to claim that the physical state isn't causally impotent.
Ferris_bg said:
If P1 has causal powers then there must exist mental state M1 (subset of Q) identical/reducible to P1 (from 2).
 
  • #25
Pythagorean
Gold Member
4,191
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Why must causal potency mean every p has a corresponding m?

You can't just take any reduced parts and throw them in a box and shake them and expect a particular emergent phenomena.

Different reduced parts make different integrated wholes.
 

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