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What are the fantasy pictures?

  1. Jul 3, 2005 #1
    Say you dream of a red car. Then, allegedly, what happens is that your brain cells uses information from everyday life to produce a picture of a red car.
    My problem is the final product. A computer can produce a picture of a red car on the screen, which we then can see. But a brain doesn't have a screen, only more cells, and we have yet to find both a picture of a red car in our heads and a second observer interpreting the cell's information about a car. I have a problem with dualism since it just moves the "observer"-problem, but what if the "second observer" and the car is the same thing. A sort of naked awarness that IS the screen as well as the observer. I know it dosn't make much sence, but has anybody done some thinking concerning this? What is the final pictures that is seen by something?

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  3. Jul 3, 2005 #2


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    Now, from what I know, what you're asking about is related to what is called
    "the hard problem" of consciousness.
    I'm not an expert on this at all, but I'm sure someone more knowledgeable will join in on this.
  4. Jul 3, 2005 #3
    You're mistake is thinking that the brain is just a 'controller' and that the eye's provide a screen and actualy "sees" things.

    This is wrong, the brain is the screen. The eyes collect data about light from the world and then relay that data back to the conscious brain and the brain assembles a picture out of that data. The eye's themselves don't 'see' anything. They're just sensors. Similar to how a webcam doesn't see anything at all, it just picks up light information, the picture is created by the computer software after the camera sends it the information needed.

    In the case of dreaming the brain just get's data from the hippocampus (memory) instead of the eyes.

    I hope that helps, I don't really understand what you're asking here:
    So I'm not sure.
  5. Jul 3, 2005 #4
    It think(i could be wrong) the question he is asking is "is consciousness what it experiences?".

    Personally i believe that whatever consciousness experiences, is part of it. What would be left of consciousness when u strip away all possible experiences? I think ud end up with non-consciousness.
  6. Jul 3, 2005 #5
    Yes, the eyes collect data about light, just as the ears translate vibrating air particles into electrical signals, which is then transported back to the brain. But the brain is no more a screen than a hard disk. It interprets and stores the information about the car, just like a PC would if you scanned a picture. But yet (just as with a computer), the cells only holds the data, they don't see the car themselves. I'm not talking about consiousness, but the bare awarness of, or simple fact that there exist a picture of a red car. I know that neuroscientists prefer to explain all brain phenomenas with neurons gathering and transmitting electrochemical signals. But it simply does not explain the final picture.
  7. Jul 3, 2005 #6
    Yea, I guess that's more or less the question, except you wouldn't necessarily have to be very conscious, just an experiencer.
  8. Jul 3, 2005 #7
    If you're asking for an explanation of how the mind assembles pictures and stores memory... well, I'll direct you towards your nearest university, this isn't my forte but there are lots of theories and I don't believe there's any general concensus about exactly what happens yet.
  9. Jul 5, 2005 #8
    I've now done some reading on the internet and yes, "the hard problem" of consciousness is pretty much the same basic problem I'm asking about. I truly think there is some psychophysical laws yet to be found.
    Is experience truly fundamental?
    If so, does experience arise where there is information processing, or does it follow (or is it wraped inside) the information?
  10. Jul 6, 2005 #9


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    Consciousness does pose deep philosophical problems, and you are correct to point out that a simple "computer screen" analogy will not work, because it leads to an infinite regress. There are a wide variety of strategies for handling the problems posed by consciousness. Some deny that what we think of as consciousness really exists; some think that consciousness is entailed by certain physical structures and functions; some espouse a dualist ontology where mind and matter are fundamentally different but interacting kinds of stuff; some suppose that consciousness is in fact a kind of inner aspect for physical things, roughly 'matter seen from the inside'; etc. Each view has its distinct strengths and weaknesses, and there is currently no real concensus on the issue.

    David Chalmers' paper Consciousness and its Place in Nature has a nice overview of the hard problem and various philosophical positions that have been formed in response to it. (This paper is not a completely dispassionate overview insofar as it presents the author's own views on these positions.) For a more neutral overview, see The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on consciousness.
  11. Jul 6, 2005 #10
    Thank you. It helped a lot. I've done quite a bit reading on the physical approach (as in classical physics, and neurology) to understanding consiousness, but it has annoyed me that the theories never include the fact that it's like something to experience. I'm happy to read that there is a name for the phenomenal aspects of our mental lives. It is taken more seriously then I thought.

    But unfortunatly it seems that much of the discussions around qualia are just as unfocused as other consiousness debates. For instance that people talk about consiousness and self without defining them (is it the thinking prosess, the feeling of being a person or just plain awarness?), and get hung up on how attention is directed. And that they eagerly try to solve whether or not we have free will.

    To me these are all interesting questions but they are secondary. We know that our brainpatterns change when we experience something, that the brain probably interprets and stores data, and that it just as likely is very much directed by evercompeting memes. But so far, all we know for sure about the conciousness is that there exist an enigmatic sensory phenomenen and that there is some activity in the brain every time this happens.

    Things we call physical are measured and reveald to us through our sences. We experience these things, and can't prove or disprove them more then the experiences itself. We say that the chair is physical because we can see and feel it, i.e. experiencing it. Just as we can experience seeing and feeling. So these are the two things we know for sure exist.

    But we don't know anything about an experiencing entity that may or may not have a free will and simply be our "inner self". Of course not. To answer that we'll have to understand how subatomic particles/waves that interact with other subatomic particles/waves is connected to an unknown phenomenon, and also try to figure out what this phenomenon actually is. There might be that the experience and the experiencer are the same (they are at least connected), and then all we know of is connected, and Alberts dream of one united theory might become reality.
    Ok, I'm actually just really exited that many people ponder on the same problem that have kept me sleepless for 9 years. Off to bed now.
  12. Jul 8, 2005 #11


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    Consciousness is a quite ambiguous term, yes, but I believe discussions about the hard problem do a reasonably good job pinning down different senses of the word, especially the really interesting and problematic sense-- phenomenal consciousness. One cannot really make an effective case for the hard problem without isolating this sense of the word 'consciousness' from the others. But in general, definitions still are a problem. Oftentimes when one proposes to explain consciousness, it turns out that what is targeted for explanation is in fact not phenomenal consciousness after all, but something like attention or the cognitive self-construct. You might be interested to read Ned Block's paper "On a confusion about a function of consciousness," wherein Block argues that consciousness is a mongrel concept (referring to many different things at once) and distinguishes phenomenal consciousness from access consciousness, which is a somewhat broad but very important distinction.

    Also, very much agreed that the topics of self, free will and so on, while interesting, are tangential to the really interesting and central problem of phenomenal consciousness. Phenomenal consciousness seems to be mysterious and hard to get at, insofar as it poses deep epistemological problems and does not fit readily into the prevailing Western worldview, in a way that free will, self, etc. are not. Basically, there is no hard problem for free will and the like-- I think straightforward scientific accounts alone will be sufficient to settle these matters in due time. They are the 'easy' problems.

    In your first post, you briefly touched on an idea that made it sound as if you were mulling over what I called the 'inner aspect' view in my last post-- IOW, the view Chalmers calls Type-F Monism in "Consciousness and its Place in Nature." I find this view to be the most appealing myself. You might be interested to look into the group discussion of Gregg Rosenberg's book A Place for Consciousness that is going on in the Metaphysics & Epistemology forum. Rosenberg's book proposes a view on consciousness that is essentially a detailed and extended version of what Chalmers calls Type-F Monism.
  13. Jul 9, 2005 #12
    "I have a problem with dualism since it just moves the "observer"-problem, but what if the "second observer" and the car is the same thing."

    I see no contradiction here. If a person looks at a scientist and the scientist knows everything about the brain of this person, I fail to see how the laws of physics would mysteriously become warped causing a giant black hole to appear out of nowhere, or whatever might occur if this actually were some sort of paradox.

    Here is my theory on the hard problem.

    Everyone has sat around and thought, wow, I exist, the universe isn't simply a giant equation playing itself out, with no souls or consciousness whatsoever!

    Sentience is also the ability to choose your own thoughts and have free will.

    You can choose to do something painful if you want to, which apparently goes against the laws of nature. You are a brain/computer nonetheless and in theory your every thought and decision can be predicted, however you would need to be omnipotent to do this seeing as to predict reality you need all the measurements and this would require an infinite level of precision.

    A computer works on stability, everything occurs correctly, 0 must be 0 and 1 must be 1 and when 0 is 1, then it means there is a mistake. Maybe a sentient computer can be built, but it will have to work on the same principles as our brain, otherwise it would not be a part of this infinite precision. Our brains probably work on the same principle as needing some form of precision (even if no 2 synapses are exactly the same, they send the same message green red yellow etc, just like the current in no 2 pulses through a microchip are exactly the same, but they can convey the same message and perform the same calculation) so calculations can be performed without any flaws. Also a computer which observes and reacts to the outside world probably works on the similiar principles to our own, in which information is processed and analysed and some sort of program notices patterns etc..

    However consciousness comes from the ability to choose your own thoughts, a computer cannot create the program which notices patterns, to the computer it is simply an extremely more complex version of someone tapping away at a keyboard. The infinitely random information is turned into regulated calculatable pulses of information and it processes it and churns it out. When people talk about the neo-cortex they talk about a small part of the brain which is not involved in processing information like a computer.

    We have free will, because we choose the programs. Sentience stems from the ability to notice patterns and this allows us to "mingle" with a universe which is infinitely precise. So we are no longer calculable programs, but masters of the universe (what we can control, in this case our brains).

    Free will.
  14. Jul 12, 2005 #13
    Yes, you are right. In most serious discussions, consciousness is well defined. At the same time opponents of the qualia idea tend to treat consciousness as just the electrical signals within the brain or, as you said, something like attention or the cognitive self-construct, as if they really can’t grasp the notion of sensory phenomena. (I allmost suspect them of being zombies or robots who lack the ability to experience. :wink: ) But then again it is a hard problem.

    Thanks. Yes, the distinction is crucial in order to discuss consciousness properly.

    I would indeed concider myself a sort of Type-F Monist, but maybe with some uncommon views. I try to break down the problem by first dissecting "physical". The word can sometimes be misleading. The physcial world contains of matter that occupy space, and with matter we mean the “basic” properties of things we can measure. Now, in measuring we experience the matter in a phenomenal way – it is by experiencing it we can call it physical, so matter is not more (or less) physical than the phenomenal experience. Even though experience itself hasn't been singled out or identified as something like a bunch of atoms, it is still just as physical as objects. If we by physical mean only the subatomic particles we know about today (and we truly believe they are the fundamental ones), then phenomenal experience could be called something else than physical. If we see physical as structure and dynamics, it is still structure and dynamics within the experience. The point is that even though experience does seem to be something different than photons, the photons – and everything we know of – might still be built of this strange phenomenon. As you said, it could be the 'inner aspect' of things; the real building blocks; the stuff that interact with eachother so that we get atoms. And of course it may not.

    But again, since the phenomenal world is all we really know of (knowing is phenomenal), it seams that the structures within it is also phenomenal, whatever that means. If we want to know what experience is, it seams like a good idea to continue studying brain patterns, only deeper, and try to figure out what energy really is.

    Again thanks. I’ve ordered the book.
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