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Panpsychism
Posted: 19 July 2008 11:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 511 ]  
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JustThis - 18 July 2008 11:32 PM

I disagree, people think that they know what it is, but, without investigating it on a personal basis they are clueless. Sure, it is easy to have thoughts and opinions about consciousness but thoughts and opinions are useless. Have you ever taken the time to sit and examine consciousness as it exists right now? I doubt it. It is much easier to speculate than put to effort into firsthand investigation.

OK, I’ll argue that consciousness is nothing but the summation of our thoughts and opinions about it.

Since you seem to imply that it is a “thing” and that you have examined and investigated it (where most all others have not), post your argument/results for debate.

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Posted: 21 July 2008 05:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 512 ]  
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Just writing out loud here:

Maybe consciousness isn’t anything, maybe we just made it up, A sum of common references. Could you describe blue skies or green green grass to someone who is blind, go ahead try and explain blue or green without using a set of common references (no, wavelength doesn’t count).

If I took a bar of iron and magnetized it, I have not added anything to it, it is still the exact iron atoms. Yet it now has a magnetic field, I can measure it and effect other things with. Have I created a new property of the iron atoms, have I uncovered a hidden property, no, the magnetic field arises out of the electron configuration of the atoms, break it up into atoms (or change the configuration) and it is no where to be found.

Why would consciousness, or it’s description be any different then the above.


Why not investigate for yourself rather than just speculate?

OK, I’ll argue that consciousness is nothing but the summation of our thoughts and opinions about it.

More speculation, useless.

Since you seem to imply that it is a “thing” and that you have examined and investigated it (where most all others have not), post your argument/results for debate.


I have not implied anything, I stated that most people would rather speculate about consciousness than than take the time and put some effort into investigating it for themselves, you seem to be one of those people. My insights are useless to you. Philosophizing about the nature of consciousness is very entertaining and to that end there is nothing wrong with it. However consciousness is right here, right now, if you seriously want some insight into it’s nature you have to put in some time exploring it. How strong is your desire to ‘know’?

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Posted: 22 July 2008 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 513 ]  
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GAD - 02 July 2008 01:40 PM

OK, I’m confused, given your view of determinism how do you incorporate this into your world view given that from the microscopic to the macroscopic a strict causality is required…........

The “Lollian” approach is to use a Feynman path integral to sum over all the ways the simplexes can build up their 4D triangulation of the causal (light cone) nexus into a geometry. It turns out that all the wacky geometries (tend to) disappear in the (Monte Carlo pretense at a) summation and—lo and behold—a de Sitter universe emerges. Caution: I have not repeated their calculations here so my present impression here is taken on faith.

I see no particular puzzle over determinacy here, any more than in any other quantum path integral calculation. The approach demands that causality (via light cones) be taken as primitive, but that’s fine with me. You gotta start somewhere. However, a causal nexus is arguably a shadow thrown by a primal cause or an agent—the Causal Ontic Driver—so there is scope for a panpsyche here. I sense the shadow of Boss (the background of spatiotemporal structures) in my Boss—Susie—Golf trichotomy (a.k.a. Trinity), where for the hard of acronymizing, Susie is the subject underlying the self of introspective experience and Golf is the god of living forms (which in turn is a Darwinianized successor to Goof, the Abrahamic god of our fathers).

During my vacation, I read Darwin’s Origin of Species. An excellent book—a convincing argument answering to the highest canons of scientific methodology. Would that my own incursions into psychology could achieve such heights!

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Posted: 22 July 2008 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 514 ]  
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workinprogress - 04 July 2008 08:23 AM

I hate to do this to you, because I’m new here and some of the questions I have about your interpretation of panpsychism may already be covered somewhere in the 31 pages of this thread; I’ve read posts up to the first three pages, and the last two, but I just don’t have the patience to wade through all the comments in between!

Help is at hand. I have assembled all my own posts onto a single page to allow neophytes to get quickly up to speed.

I can’t get past my impression that you are interpreting panpsychism as pantheism in this opening post.

On my single page, find (control + F) “pantheism” and read a few paragraphs tackling this point.

From what I gather so far, a property dualist interpretation of how the brain generates consciousness is not really falsifiable, since it would show no unique differences in the results of brain scanning from a purely physicalist approach.

Right, this is a philosophical position with no empirical falsifier, unless you count absence of a general sense of having a better grasp of the whole story as a falsifier. My aim is to dissolve the puzzlement often caused by the issue of self in the world, as a preparatory move to building a theory with empirical and perhaps even predictive content.

I’m a little squeamish about reading too much into the wonder and beauty of our mental states because from what we are learning about brain function, our sense of having a unity of consciousness and possessing an embodied self, is just as much a construct of neural mapping as the neural interpretations of sensory information about the world around us. Those inner states of consciousness may be beautiful, but that does not mean that we can trust our interpretations of them.

Me too. For me, the states are just raw input for a model. If the model makes sense of why we feel them, good. That would be part of an accumulation of claims for the model as a whole.

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Posted: 22 July 2008 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 515 ]  
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workinprogress - 05 July 2008 06:51 PM

I’m still not willing to rule out panpsychism! The Zombie arguments raise a good question about our sense of awareness: can we really explain our own sense of awareness by reducing it to inert physical processes, or as an epiphenomena of those unconscious forces?

It is a plain fact that the “I” accompanies all our awareness. However messy this “I” becomes on analysis (as in Dan Dennett’s explanation, for example), the fact of its framing all our experience is the first axiom of panpsychism. All worlds have an “I” and all sum up in the great externality to create the big public world (with all its inner contradictions) that we inhabit and treat as our playground, as we are doing here.

Naturally, an envelope “I” for the big public world trails not far behind, and soon we are deep in my notorious acronym salad of spooks that defy banishment.

I would expect that we can explain our sense of awareness as we can explain any other physiological process, but that explanation fails to exterminate the spooks precisely because it provides a recipe for making them physical agents like ourselves.

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Posted: 22 July 2008 10:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 516 ]  
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workinprogress - 08 July 2008 05:31 PM

... if conscious properties are part of the stuff that makes up the universe, a property dualist understanding of brain function would look the same as a physicalist interpretation.

This is where property dualism goes off the rails for me. A property of everything from this (always my own) perspective is ripe for reduction. Consciousness is just another name for the process of bringing the manifold of experience to (what Kant called) the synthetic unity of apperception. To make a world, the elements of experience must somehow come together. The simplest mathematical description I know for this is set theory, and on that basis one can build a fairly detailed theory of worlds.

A conscious entity inhabits a succession of worlds, like a string of pearls in William James’ image (in his Varieties of Religious Experience). Worlds come in all sizes and overlap in all ways, to create all we know and all we imagine, including gods and other spooks.

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Posted: 22 July 2008 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 517 ]  
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GAD - 10 July 2008 12:57 PM

Take the Sun for example, it has a hell of a lot of matter it should have a consciousness billions and billions of times greater then all things we call living combined.

Well perhaps, it does. We are solar-powered creatures. Perhaps we are marionettes pulled via photonic strings by angels who live on the Sun. These angels would be photonic creatures, sprites who dance on hot plasma and enjoy winding us up and watching our grindingly slow “Life on Earth” show some 500 seconds away from them on the cold surface of Rockball 3.

As a mathematical diversion, try calculating how many bits of vital information you could receive every day from the solar flux, then imagine how few it might take to give you your daily illusion of acting like a free agent and so on. The universe could contain a lot more “consciousness” than we think.

We can only judge conscious at approximately our level. Both above and below us, we can be sure there are surprises galore ... so invest in panpsychism now!

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Posted: 22 July 2008 10:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 518 ]  
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JustThis - 21 July 2008 09:22 PM

Why not investigate for yourself rather than just speculate?

Well, I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading books, articles etc on the subject, hundreds talking about it and hundreds more thinking about it. So I suppose the real question here is what is the definition of “investigate”, at what point can one declared it “investigated”.

More speculation, useless.

Well, unless you know something that no one else does “speculation” is all you (we) have.

I have not implied anything, I stated that most people would rather speculate about consciousness than than take the time and put some effort into investigating it for themselves

Which I took as implying you were not “most people”, therefore, had investigated it for your self, and ask you to post your results.

you seem to be one of those people.

Maybe so. As stated above I have spent a fair amount of time on the subject, but how much is enough. To make a computer analogy, how much time and effort must one spend investigating 0’s and 1’s before they can talk to other people about it without being accused of speculating? 

My insights are useless to you. Philosophizing about the nature of consciousness is very entertaining and to that end there is nothing wrong with it. However consciousness is right here, right now, if you seriously want some insight into it’s nature you have to put in some time exploring it. How strong is your desire to ‘know’?

Hum, sounds a lot like religion….......

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Posted: 22 July 2008 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 519 ]  
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workinprogress - 11 July 2008 04:53 AM

The self-conscious awareness that we enjoy, which is generated by what neuroscientists tell us is the most complex physical structure in the known universe, certainly depends on complexity.

Defining the complexity of the brain in a satisfactory way here is harder than you might think. See, for example, the article by Giulio Tononi that follows the article he co-authored with Christof Koch in the IEEE Spectrum special issue on the Singularity (June 2008). One gets the distinct sense that the definition is tailored to reach the desired conclusion.

I would expect that the potential complexity of plasma configurations in stars, for example, could exceed the Tononi-tailored complexity of the human brain. We are only impressed by brains because we have them, hence we’ve studied them, and found—surprise!—that their complexity is a tad more than we can conveniently comprehend.

But who’s to say that consciousness does not exist until a given level of complexity is arrived at where a living creature attains some level of self-awareness?

Well, indeed. It would hardly be surprising to find a few decades hence, after a suitably massive research effort, that consciousness is instantiated in a simpler way in relatively humble life forms.

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Posted: 22 July 2008 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 520 ]  
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Well, I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading books, articles etc on the subject, hundreds talking about it and hundreds more thinking about it. So I suppose the real question here is what is the definition of “investigate”, at what point can one declared it “investigated”.

Why read books and talk and think about consciousness when it is right here, right now, why not familiarize yourself with it in a very intimate way? let’s say that you have an interest in swimming. You can read all about it in books, and you can talk to lots of ‘experts’ and you can think about it for hours. But if you really want to understand swimming you are going to have to get into the water. It’s not religion, religion is reading books (holy books), talking to experts (priests, ministers) and thinking (soul searching), this is basic, experimental science. You don’t have to take someone else’s word about it because you have your own firsthand experience.

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Posted: 23 July 2008 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 521 ]  
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Welcome back Andy. Vacation must have been good as you are in top form, which is to say I had a hell of a time trying to make sense out what you wrote smile

AtheEisegete - 22 July 2008 01:01 PM

I see no particular puzzle over determinacy here, any more than in any other quantum path integral calculation.

Apparently, which is why I was asking! I sure don’t see how you get from quantum path integral calculations to a non-determinate mind…....... 

However, a causal nexus is arguably a shadow thrown by a primal cause or an agent—the Causal Ontic Driver—so there is scope for a panpsyche here.

Not in the context you have have proposed. If you blew up a junk yard and all the parts randomly fell back to earth in the form of a complex pattern (or 747), you might be the Causal Ontic Driver (i.e. you pushed the button), but if you dictated where the parts fell that would make you god and take away the parts freedom to fall where they may i.e determinism.

During my vacation, I read Darwin’s Origin of Species. An excellent book—a convincing argument answering to the highest canons of scientific methodology. Would that my own incursions into psychology could achieve such heights!

I have it in my library, haven’t read it, I choose to drink more beer on my vacation instead.

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Posted: 23 July 2008 11:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 522 ]  
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JustThis - 22 July 2008 03:14 PM

Why read books and talk and think about consciousness when it is right here, right now ... this is basic, experimental science. You don’t have to take someone else’s word about it because you have your own firsthand experience.

The science of breathing is not breathing. The science of quarks is not quarks. The science of breathing is a laboratory investigation informed by a detailed model of anatomy and organismic function. The science of quarks is a huge undertaking involving giant accelerators with superconducting magnets and petaflops computer networks.

The science of consciousness is in part neurophysics, as in the IBM Blue Brain project, partly disciplined thinking based on such work, as in the efforts of Christof Koch and Giulio Tononi published recently in the IEEE Spectrum, and partly good old fashioned lab work, as reported recently by Israel Rosenfield and Edward Ziff in the New York Review.

There are no short cuts here. If there were, we’d have found them already. Or rather, if you have discovered one, tell us about it. My guess is that you will find that writing about consciousness is not as easy as having it.

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Posted: 24 July 2008 12:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 523 ]  
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GAD - 23 July 2008 01:59 PM

I sure don’t see how you get from quantum path integral calculations to a non-determinate mind.

What happens, happens. A path integral calculation is constrained by the need to reproduce the observed results. We tweak the boundary conditions and normalization factors and free parameters until we get the “right” answer. For example, in the de Sitter universe path integral we disallow loopy topologies. So any appearance of determinism in the calculated answer is misleading. As theorists, we are lucky if later results continue to conform to our answer. A believer in free will can say our freedom is best realized when we stay in harmony with the story so far (the calculated trajectory) but we reserve the right to junk it and start a new path. The sceptic will reply that the reserved right is illusory and the harmony is always preserved.

If you blew up a junk yard and all the parts randomly fell back to earth in the form of a complex pattern ... but if you dictated where the parts fell that would make you god and take away the parts freedom to fall where they may.

A dictator is not an interesting model for a concept of god. The harmony of creation, realized as the structured outcome of the relaxation of apparently independent pieces of junk into something more like thermodynamic equilibrium, is a better one.

The interdependence of all things finds its expression in physics in the theoretical framework, such as quantum field theory, with its path integrals and boundary conditions and so on. Within the picture, parts can achieve conditional freedom by incorporating internal mechanisms. For example, my car has the freedom to change gears by itself and hold a constant speed by itself, conditional upon my willed preparation of the appropriate prior state of free motion on a highway under engine power, with gas in the tank and so on. My freedom to do this is conditional on my good health, desire to go from A to B, possession of the relevant papers and so on. That overall state in turn is a free realization of the continuing smooth functioning of the global economic machine, proteosynthesis from my DNA, terrestrial plate tectonics, solar thermonuclear fusion, and doubtless much more besides.

The exercise of freedom is not contradicted by the fact that its outcome falls under a description according to which that outcome fits harmoniously together with other events in an overarching theoretical framework, even if that description happens sometimes to be one uttered in imperative mode by a dictator. A dictator can fail to dictate, yet utter words that sometimes match events, just as a stopped clock can be right twice a day.

Things happen, and fall into patterns. The free realization of form in the natural flux is like a firework display, which is no less freely chosen for exemplifying a precise dynamics. If all were primal chaos, my freedom to shoot fireworks would be nugatory. To exercise freedom, we need enough determinism to be able to predict the relevant outcomes of our acts.

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Posted: 25 July 2008 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 524 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 12 July 2008 06:35 PM

I would like to revisit Salt Creek’s avatar.  I interpret it as follows: there is a large glass of beer, and the Bible is arising out of the glass of beer into the man’s hand. This shows us how to “save the planet.” As we imbibe (prudently, of course) we receive revelation that comes into our possession (just as the Bible arises from the glass) and this leads to salvation.

The chalice of this realm of spirits
Foams forth to God
His Own Infinitude

J.C.F. von Schiller
(translated by J.B. Baillie,
original quoted by G.W.F. Hegel
as the closing words of his
Phänomenologie des Geistes, 1807)
grin

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Posted: 08 August 2008 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 525 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 12 July 2008 06:35 PM

As we imbibe (prudently, of course) we receive revelation ... and this leads to salvation.

Lo and behold:

Reality Bubbles: Can We Know Anything About the Physical World?

Christian de Quincey
Journal of Consciousness Studies, 15(8), 94-101 (2008)

Abstract: From Plato’s eidos, to Descartes’ cogito, to Kant’s numenon, our understanding of reality has faltered at a seemingly impossible, double-edged, impasse. First, an ontological ‘hard problem’: If mind and matter are so radically different and separate, how do they ever interact? Second, a related epistemological conundrum: How is it possible for mind to ever know anything about matter—including whether it even exists? Then came Whitehead. By shifting the mind-matter relation from substances interacting in space to complementary phases in process, he offered a way through, or at least around, the Kantian impasse. His panpsychist ontology came hand-in-glove with an epistemology of intersubjectivity: We can know the objective physical world because the actual world is not just physical, and because it necessarily and intimately informs and constitutes our subjective experience.

Whitehead revolutionized metaphysics by proposing that reality is composed of enduring moments in process. ... Every actuality is an occasion or moment of experience. Every moment endures briefly as ‘now’ before it completes itself and expires to become a past moment. It is then immediately succeeded by a new moment of ‘now’. Whitehead summed up this process in a memorable phrase: ‘Now subject, then object.’
(p. 97)

Think of reality as made up of countless gazillions of ‘bubble moments,’ where each bubble is both physical and mental—a bubble or quantum of sentient energy. ... Each bubble exists for a moment, then pops! and the resulting ‘spray’ is the objective ‘stuff’ that composes the physical pole of the next momentary bubble. Each bubble exists now, and it endures for a split moment until it, too, pops! The quantum of time between the formation of each new bubble and when it pops is the ‘lifetime’ of a moment of subjective experience. ... Each bubble, therefore, is both mental and physical—just as panpsychism tells us. These oscillating poles of mental-physical-mental, leap-frogging each other through time, are the fundamental ingredients of reality: bubbles or quanta of sentient energy or purposeful action.
(p. 99)

One of the attractions of Whitehead’s panpsychist ontology is that it embraces the core insights of dualism, materialism, and idealism. ... Combining these multiple intuitions in an integrated process is the fundamental insight of panpsychism.
(pp. 100-101)

Christian de Quincey is singing from my hymnal. I’ve been evangelizing for this view for years. I did it independently of Whitehead but I based it on set theory—as Whitehead did. We agree! My extra is to take the quantum metaphor literally, as the phenomenology of certain decahertz photons radiating from neural action.

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