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The Mystery of Consciousness - Not so mysterious?
Posted: 21 October 2011 09:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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I don’t agree that subjective experience is emergent. Either something is fundamental to a theory or it is explained by those things that are. Because we have no rough and ready idea of what subjective consciousness is it can not be explained by any theory. We know what subjective experience is because we have it not because of what it does. Explanations in physical terms can only explain structure and dynamics. Therefore an explanation in only in terms of things devoid of experience fails. I suspect that the stuff of physics is intrinsically experiential and that that truth is the color that runs in the wash of abstraction when we examine behavior from the outside as we do in empirical sciences.

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Posted: 21 October 2011 11:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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Kenneth Benjamin - WisdomWebsite.com - 21 October 2011 03:27 AM
iani - 20 October 2011 06:45 PM

Interestingly, consciousness itself (so I don’t mean here the topic ‘consciousness) is the ultimate bottleneck for all knowledge and knowing, including scientific.
Although our brains are able to represent (or replicate, or simulate) external energetic and material processes (including those of the body) and bind these into some sort of Gestalt, from which emerges consciousness, we should not forget that our knowledge of these supposed energetic and material processes and their relationships (laws of the universe) itself is derived from consciousness. Even the severest scientific discipline is ultimately clothed in qualia.

Consciousness is the only thing we have and it might ultimately put limits to our knowledge of reality (what I call ‘extraversum’). Its many contents, though, are knowable because they can be referred to other contents (including the ‘knower’ itself).

However, for consciousness itself we have no (conceptual) reference so I wonder if it can ever be understood in the usual way we understand (scientifically) natural phenomena. But what we probably will discover is its generating mechanism in the brain, in itself an area of research as fascinating as cosmology.

I think we’re starting to touch on chicken and the egg or trees falling in the woods territory here.

It seems to me that even if we weren’t here to be conscious of nature, that nature would still exist. We have strong evidence to support this idea, particularly in light of our recent evolutionary arising.

To relegate the natural world to our observation of it is to diminish it and to elevate us above it. That, I think, is the fallacy. In essence what you are saying is that you are the god of your own existence.

I’m well acquainted with the perspective of subjective reality but there is an objective reality. We can discover it through methods other than our direct sensing and we do. The existence of photons is an objective reality that our eyes cannot directly perceive, to take one simple example. Everything in the objective reality world exists. What is more strange, and I think the point Sam was trying to make, is the arising of a subjective perspective.

Consciousness is a natural arising of the complexity of our minds just as a hurricane is a natural arising of Earth’s atmosphere. At first glance, both seem surprising but once you understand the system, it all makes sense.

Our problem is that we don’t understand our minds and bodies the way we do hurricanes. Even then, we cannot predict for certain when a mere thunderstorm will become a hurricane.

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I’m afraid you didn’t get my point so I’ll try to explain it more clearly. 
The issue is not if nature exist beyond consciousness. We assume it does and it works fine. The results of science just underscore this, but we even do not need science to conclude that. An idealistic Berkeleyan view would bring us nowhere and probably is less parsimonious than the assumption that consciousness is a product of nature.
My point is that consciousness is our ONLY means to access reality. Only by consciousness we are able to conceive nature, yes, including the photons you spoke of. Photons are mental models as much as our daily perceived surroundings are, like our family, friends, house etc. Photons and all other scientific and mathematical labeled natural phenomena are symbols in consciousness that REFER to something out there. Within consciousness we can interrelate those phenomena, infer laws, test them, etc. We take for granted that we usually identify our mental representations of reality with reality itself. A scientist who speaks about a photon, imagines a real photon out there; but in fact he deals with a mental representation in his consciousness of a phenomenon out there in reality. 
We only infer that conscious content corresponds with processes in reality because we discover laws that seem to rule the perceived phenomena.
And so far, this representational function of consciousness seems obvious and makes sense. It helps us understand reality from a certain viewpoint and within a (limited) framework. But the real thing out there we cannot ultimately know, and why should we? We donot need that knowledge it in order to survive in our niche, in evolutionary terms: our brains have not been selected for that.

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Posted: 21 October 2011 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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iani - 21 October 2011 03:07 PM

[
I’m afraid you didn’t get my point so I’ll try to explain it more clearly.

Sorry I misunderstood what you were getting at.

I’m not sure I agree with you but that’s okay.

It seems to me that we experience photons whether or not we have the consciousness to convert them into symbols. To some degree we need to define what consciousness is to be accurate about describing its limitations, I think, but I don’t want to take the conversation into that quagmire.

I guess, at some fundamental level, I have to agree with you. We don’t know anything other than what we perceive. Still, just as we can’t be sure that anything exists, it seems strange that such complexity as the universe provides for magically manifests in our minds and that we can even conceive of something other than ourselves. This whole argument may not be able to be settled conclusively but I’m sticking with the idea that my conscious representation of the universe correspond to a subset of something actual that exists independent of my conception of it. Maybe reality is my god. I’m cool with that.

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Posted: 21 October 2011 03:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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Maybe there is another way to understand the nature of consciousness and its trap from which we can’t seem to escape.  Consciousness seems to take only 2 approaches to the data it is presented with – it either extrospects or it introspects.  Similarly, our instincts seem to rely on only 2 major approaches to the data presented to them – competition or cooperation (scavenging perhaps being a third but more derivative approach).
Human nature can perhaps be seen as a marvellous mix of these four – extrospection, introspection, competition and cooperation. Our problem of understanding is with introspection.  Why might this be so?  We have externally-imposed laws or self-restraints that clearly apply to the approaches of competition, cooperation and extrospection, which we could describe as risk-based (in an environment of imperfect information), normative (social heuristics) and positive (today governed by the Scientific Method), respectively.  But what externally-imposed law or self-restraint clearly applies to our introspections?  There is none. 
Again, to get a handle on our problem, why might this be the case?  I suspect the answer relates to time.  Our extrospections relate to what has happened; they relate to the closed and fixed past.  Our instincts largely relate to the near-present moment, which is fast becoming closed and fixed.  But our introspections are not tied to the humanly-perceived past or present, they are free to personally contemplate an open future.
In our evolution as a species, learning lessons from our past using extrospective consciousness was only half the story: We also had to intelligently apply those lessons to an expected and emerging future if they were going to improve our prospects for survival.  Making plans for the future was very different to studying truths about the past; with careful planning we could make choices about which future, of all the possibilities, might occur.  So to some degree we could select our future – something we couldn’t do with respect to the past.  The future was pregnant with possibility (whereas the present was scarce and the past, closed).  We could participate with the universe’s local environment in setting a future direction.  We thus, unlike any animal before us, became somewhat independent ‘players’ or conscious agents in setting the local environment’s future.
‘Our’ world of future possibilities put us in charge to some extent and thus made us think reflectively, as it were for the first time, about our own subjective feelings.  Awareness of the future and our ability to impact it made us ask, ‘What do I need and want with respect to my future? What do I feel about it? What is important to me going forward?’  If we could frame and answer such introspective questions, we could also set about planning their fulfilment in the future.  As Nietzsche perhaps intimated, introspection gave us a sense of personal purpose that instinctive drives could never quite do.  Our successes in all our chosen and well-reasoned human endeavours confirmed the value of our introspective thinking (and the value of ourselves as agents).  Our introspections also gave us a huge advantage over our largely unconscious competitors in the local environment and greatly enhanced the efficacy of our extrospections as well as competition and cooperation within the local environment.  (They also gave us what Pinker calls the side effects of a love for music, the arts, religion, etc.)
So the problem with introspection is perhaps also the problem with time.  How can science pin down the future?  It’s an escapee that emergence and natural selection nevertheless seem to somehow capture, at least over the long term…

[ Edited: 24 October 2011 09:24 PM by Michael Kean]
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Posted: 22 October 2011 02:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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eucaryote - 19 October 2011 02:37 PM

Everything natural is explicable. If you are proposing something that is inexplicable in terms of what we know of the natural world, then you are proposing something super or extra natural. Something that strong evidence would show to be “miraculous”. The principle of parsimony suggests that this position is not likely to be true. It is highly unlikely that what you call “consciousness” represents a phenomenon that cannot be elucidated by conventional reasoning regarding the physical world, the only world we know. The burden of proof is on you, just as it is for those who make similar claims regarding gods, ghosts, and poltergeists.

The natural world that we know includes consciousness, so it is incorrect that all we know is physical. “Physical” is defined by what physics has discovered about the world. If we look at the lack of similarities between the physical and consciousness/experiences, then id say the burden is on the person who says one is actually the other. If someone told you that a cat is actually a supernova, then you would want evidence for that also.

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Posted: 22 October 2011 03:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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srrr - 22 October 2011 06:30 PM

The natural world that we know includes consciousness, .....

This is a statement that you cannot make with out evidence and without defining what you mean by the term. Everything that follows can be dismissed just as easily.

I do think that it’s true that the natural world includes organisms who identify with this word in special supernatural ways, so as to create “hard problems”  or intractable problems or to postulate even more mysterious phenomena by means of explanation.
We’re a lot less “conscious” than we think and it’s involved in our behavior or our free will a lot less then we like to admit.

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Posted: 22 October 2011 05:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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eucaryote - 22 October 2011 07:46 PM
srrr - 22 October 2011 06:30 PM

The natural world that we know includes consciousness, .....

This is a statement that you cannot make with out evidence and without defining what you mean by the term. Everything that follows can be dismissed just as easily.

We’re a lot less “conscious” than we think and it’s involved in our behavior or our free will a lot less then we like to admit.

I agree with both of you and I am not sure it creates a conundrum.  Science and knowledge is necessarily backward-looking.  It can only tell us about what has been.  It is a limited, temporal and contingent knowledge, a moving feast - it is not all-encompassing of our experience as humans living in the present (not the past) and moving towards the unfolding future.  If the natural world includes our human experience of present and our future stance, and consciousness is fundamental to these things, then evidence from the past regarding these matters is important but doesn’t quite touch us in our here-and-now.  On the other hand, what does touch us as we choose an action is 1. our instincts and 2. our subjective values, morals, morality, embodied truths about this world and so on.  So we come back to the problem of consciousness and the issue of emergence (as being something that organises our otherwise entropic world in the “local” here-and-now).  As I see it, emergence is not supernatural at all - its just that science’s study of the closed past doesn’t quite get to the nub of the issue.  Pinker, in ‘How the Mind Works’ (p55) said “Science and morality are separate spheres of reasoning.  Only by recognising them as separate can we have them both.”  I am now inclined to agree.

[ Edited: 22 October 2011 05:57 PM by Michael Kean]
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Posted: 23 October 2011 12:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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This is my definition of consciousness: to have experiences. Examples of experiences are: seeing (like seeing the computer screen), feeling pain, hearing, doing math, being sad, feeling sick, etc. If one has any type of experience, then one is conscious.

eucaryote - 22 October 2011 07:46 PM

This is a statement that you cannot make with out evidence and without defining what you mean by the term. Everything that follows can be dismissed just as easily.

Surely you agree that consciousness, whether it turns out to be physical or not, exists? Otherwise i dont understand what your position is. That all human beings are supernatural, or that we are as nonconscious as rocks?

[ Edited: 23 October 2011 12:52 AM by srrr]
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Posted: 23 October 2011 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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Fair enough.

First I argued for a definition of what we are talking about.

srrr - 23 October 2011 04:48 AM

This is my definition of consciousness: to have experiences.

I suggested that the word consciousness is now so trite and over used and dripping with woo that we ditch it altogether in favor of cognition.  I’ll accept experience as corollary to cognition.

But understand that by that definition, a single cell amoeba or paramecium that successfully navigates a maze, re-cognizes friend from foe, and distinguishes food from detritus, gives us solid evidence that the organism “experiences” it’s environment. Not only that, it processes the information and responds in adaptive ways.

I once wrote this in an earlier thread about slime molds

Individual cells are studded with chemical receptors and emitters through which they see and respond to their environment.
Often studied is dictyostelium, a slime mold, the spores of which geminate into individual, microscopic, amoebae. These amoebae feed, grow and multiply in the environment (an area of several square centimenters) until at one moment, they contact one another by means of a chemical messenger, cyclic amp. This chemical messenger is diffused into the environment from an original emitter amoeba causing other amoebae to emit cyclic amp and simultaneously move up the gradient to the original emitter.
What is remarkable that the individual amoebae move together to form a “pseudo plasmodium”, which is a macroscopic, aggregate creature in it’s own right. This creature includes and eyespot which it uses to move away from light where it finds a place to create the fruiting body, (a space needle looking creation about 1 or 2 mm tall. The amoeboe in the upper part (non stalk) of the fruiting body specialize to become spores. At maturity the spores fall into the environment….where they germinate….and out crawls a microscopic amoeba.
The point is that these cells demonstrate specialized awareness of each other and the environment, they communicate and cooperate even as they exist as separate individuals.
[quote author=“wikipedia”] Dictyostelids are used as examples of cellular communication and differentiation, and may provide insights into how multicellular organisms develop. Plasmodia are useful for studying cytoplasmic streaming. It has been observed that they can find their way through mazes by spreading out and choosing the shortest path, an interesting example of information processing without a nervous system.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slime_mold

As part of the definition of consciousness, are we going to deny it to these creatures?

eucaryote - 22 October 2011 07:46 PM

This is a statement that you cannot make with out evidence and without defining what you mean by the term. Everything that follows can be dismissed just as easily.

srrr - 23 October 2011 04:48 AM

Surely you agree that consciousness, whether it turns out to be physical or not, exists? Otherwise i dont understand what your position is. That all human beings are supernatural, or that we are as nonconscious as rocks?

Hee, Hee. That was well put!  I hope the above satisfies your question somewhat.

I think that cognition and re-cognition exist in the world as a process. I think that appropriate Instruction sets, written by natural selection, are embedded within entire organisms,  as well as the cells that make up those organisms. I think that these algorithms are recursive and adaptive. I think that what people refer to as “consciousness” is the selected feedback of the results these processes to the brain, well after they have occurred. The results appear as a brief representation, often accompanied or augmented with emotional “content”. Usually the process is one of “re-cognition” The algorithms sense change in the environment and selects corresponding memories to “re-present” for re-selection.

I think it’s important to note that these ideas are compatible with the idea of parsimony, and not just in the sense of being simpler, but also in the sense of selection by economics.  The environment selects for the more economical path. Evolution seeks the more economical path.
I think that the way to understand conscious processes is to understand un-conscious processes.
I think that I think way too much about this shit, or maybe I don’t think enough about it.

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Posted: 24 October 2011 06:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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Hi guys.  I would like to perhaps sum up my prior posts here and in “Consciousness II” and how my thinking has developed as I have considered everyone’s contributions.  I’m not overly concerned with the terms used - my issue is Sam’s issue - just trying to get a handle on the phenomenon of consciousness.


An approach Pinker takes is to say that sentience is difficult to pin down, not because it is an illusion, but because our scientific modelling can’t get to the nub of the issue .  In effect, Pinker is saying that all our models to date suffer Gödel’s limitations, which render them largely uninformative in this sublime area of knowledge.  If he is right, then (without intending to invoke transcendentalism) this would suggest that we need to understand sentience as a flowering of the emergent, holistic, self-containing and self-referencing mind-body system rather than as an engineered and constructed sub-system of the mind-body that we can simply reverse-engineer.  This idea would also be in agreement with Dennett’s model of emergent consciousness. Perhaps the work done in the area of Process Physics to model and explain the emergence of our universe could also be applied to model and explain the emergence of consciousness.


Closely related to the difficulty with sentience is the issue of determinism and free will (discussed here in another forum topic).  And as I suggest, closely related to both issues is the concept of emergence.  Determinism says all things are determined by antecedent events and the “laws of the universe”.  To “hard determinists”, it would not matter much whether these antecedent events were linearly deterministic or every-now-and-then quantum-mechanically deterministic (i.e. probabilistic); there can be no room for free will if all effects are caused by prior events.  Hard determinists would also add that while humans can make choices, they can’t bear a moral responsibility for those choices because they were locked in by cause and effect.


So on the one hand, self-aware consciousness seems illusory and on the other, everything we do is driven by cause and effect.  On top of this, neuro-physiologists tell us that the instinctive brain kicks in before the subconscious neo-cortical functions that have been decoded to date.  What room can there possibly be for free will, human agency and introspective consciousness from a neurophysiological perspective?


Dennett (Freedom Evolves) describes a neurophysiology in which a kind of soft determinism, or an evolutionary compatibilism, is possible.  He suggests we can have determinism and free will as well, although at the cost of an “illusory” conscious self-awareness.  Perhaps Dennett’s approach can support a view of conscious self-awareness that is not illusory, but subjective instead.  This would be a view in which our actions are largely dependent on our environment, but as we build a mental map of that environment in our brains and attenuate certain features of it and amplify others (perhaps in anticipation of likely futures), that modified environment within becomes our own reality.  As we act on the partly self-generated and self-referencing subjective mental model rather than the actual, we find some level of independence or freedom which Dennett would call an illusion.  This limited and subjective freedom comes about from the use of information and the construction & organisation of symbols within our own brain, our own world.  What is happening in consciousness is a lot like what Dennett describes as happening in Conway’s Life World game:  A new and more complex reality (with more complex self-restraints) is emerging from an old and simpler reality (with simpler self-restraints) – much like we saw the world of molecules emerge from and coexist with the simpler world of sub-atomic particles.


Are the emergent properties of the more complex state (or ‘world’) an illusion in each case?  Does our own “subjectivity” present us with a problem or something to celebrate - our means of taking the cosmos to a new level of matter-space-time coagulation - or as Robert Wright might have put it, new opportunities for nonzero sum outcomes?

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Posted: 25 October 2011 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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eucaryote - 23 October 2011 06:09 PM

Fair enough.

First I argued for a definition of what we are talking about.

I suggested that the word consciousness is now so trite and over used and dripping with woo that we ditch it altogether in favor of cognition.  I’ll accept experience as corollary to cognition.

But understand that by that definition, a single cell amoeba or paramecium that successfully navigates a maze, re-cognizes friend from foe, and distinguishes food from detritus, gives us solid evidence that the organism “experiences” it’s environment. Not only that, it processes the information and responds in adaptive ways.

I once wrote this in an earlier thread about slime molds

As part of the definition of consciousness, are we going to deny it to these creatures?

Yes i agree. There are also scientists who think single cells or bacteria are intelligent/conscious. I have no problem with those things being conscious. For one because their behaviour is quite similar to humans (they look for food, eat, kill, procreate, etc), but also because i do not believe in emergence.


Are we going to deny consciousness to rocks? To me it seems that the problem is with emergence in general. The idea that consciousness emerged during abiogenesis is as problematic as the idea that it emerged in brains.

eucaryote - 22 October 2011 07:46 PM

Hee, Hee. That was well put!  I hope the above satisfies your question somewhat.

I think that cognition and re-cognition exist in the world as a process. I think that appropriate Instruction sets, written by natural selection, are embedded within entire organisms,  as well as the cells that make up those organisms. I think that these algorithms are recursive and adaptive. I think that what people refer to as “consciousness” is the selected feedback of the results these processes to the brain, well after they have occurred. The results appear as a brief representation, often accompanied or augmented with emotional “content”. Usually the process is one of “re-cognition” The algorithms sense change in the environment and selects corresponding memories to “re-present” for re-selection.

I see a lot of different terms here, like “feedback”, “instructions”, “selected”. If those are all just physical, consisting of elementary particles and fundamental interactions, then those terms are actually redundant. You as a human may call it feedback, just like some other human may say that a rock does feedback. Physically the single celled organism doesnt do anything special compared to what rocks do. Both of them just do what elementary particles do: they behave according to the fundamental forces. If one thinks that rocks dont do feedback/instructions, then one also shouldnt think slime molds or bacteria do it.


So anyway if you say that consciousness is the result of selected feedback, then we need to look at what selected feedback entails physically and where it occurs. I think it occurs in rocks too.

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Posted: 25 October 2011 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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srrr - 25 October 2011 03:23 PM

I see a lot of different terms here, like “feedback”, “instructions”, “selected”. If those are all just physical, consisting of elementary particles and fundamental interactions, then those terms are actually redundant. You as a human may call it feedback, just like some other human may say that a rock does feedback. Physically the single celled organism doesnt do anything special compared to what rocks do. Both of them just do what elementary particles do: they behave according to the fundamental forces. If one thinks that rocks dont do feedback/instructions, then one also shouldnt think slime molds or bacteria do it.


So anyway if you say that consciousness is the result of selected feedback, then we need to look at what selected feedback entails physically and where it occurs. I think it occurs in rocks too.

I think you’re overlooking the power that an organized system has above and beyond a simple system.

For example, my PC does nothing more that what a binary 1/0 does. But it does it in an organized, structured way. That difference is important. Likewise, single cells and elementary particles are equivalent to binary bits in response choices. A set of ‘bits’ can be arranged to make more complex choices. A large set becomes a PC, for example. An extremely large set organized in a complex way becomes you or me.

The rock, despite being composed of the same elementary particles, isn’t organized into an effective structure and is thus incapable of making any choices (no logic mechanisms).

I also think we’re diminishing the word consciousness to the point of uselessness. Cognition, the ability to make choices, exists in simple animals and in logic systems like computers. That, I think we can ascribe to unconscious behavior.

Consciousness, for the word to retain value, I think needs to be something more. Cognition, the unconscious process I’m suggesting, combined with self-awareness, perhaps?

That would allow for a range of levels of consciousness, from simple self-aware computers, probably most animals, and even, though I admit this is a stretch, people in the opposite political party from mine wink

Now that I think about it, perhaps a rock is smarter than some politicians…

I think this description of consciousness, or something like it, helps retain the value of the word as a symbol for something. We can diminish most subjective words to nothingness but why? We lose the communicative value when we do so. Consciousness is imprecise and our debating the exact degree to which it exists, short of non-existence, won’t make it accurate.

Plenty of concepts are relative and soft, as I wrote about here not too long ago. What is fast? How small is small? What is tasty? Still, these words have meaning when used in context. Why shouldn’t consciousness be the same?

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Posted: 25 October 2011 03:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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Perhaps part of our problem is that we are trying to get a handle on the nature of sentience by talking the language of organic molecules.  It’s a bit like trying to understand the essence of behaviour of a glider in the Life World game using the underlying blinking pixels.  Even if we achieve an explanation, it leaves us a bit reduced rather than inspired.  However if we use the language of gliders, eaters, puffer trains & space rakes to explain gliders then all of a sudden we feel like we really know that (illusory?) world; we feel as though we have uncovered its sublime truths.  I suspect the same issue applies to each level of hard emergence.  For instance, it’s not easy to explain the essence of life in terms of inorganic molecules (let alone organic ones).

So maybe we have to do what Sam suggests - accept Gödel limitations, forget about emergence and just get on with understanding a little bit about the brain’s computations and consciousness for what it is, in its own ‘world’?

Part of this approach might be to go back to basics.  Unconscious life is a space and time exploiter; it exploits time-relevant information.  Consciousness does the same and more.  It exploits future time so much more expertly that unconscious life through its introspections.  So an understanding of the relationship between time, life and consciousness is a key.  But I suspect we don’t even understand time at this point…

[ Edited: 25 October 2011 05:58 PM by Michael Kean]
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Posted: 26 October 2011 07:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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I don’t claim to have studied philosophy, but I do claim to lead an evidence-based life. I am very impressed with Ken Benjamin’s interpretations. I have to say I’m quite disappointed with Sam Harris’s apparent capitulation to the “mystery” of consciousness.


Our failure to fully understand and describe something as elusive as consciousness certainly makes it mysterious. Similarly, the ancient Egyptians were mystified by the motions of the sun and planets. But, ascribing anything beyond a basic scientific explanation to it, merely because we don’t fully understand it, is just irresponsible.


We can scientifically measure the effects of consciousness using electroencephalograms and other devices. A “dead” brain can logically be presumed to not be experiencing consciousness, even if many of it’s cells remain alive. Today, we certainly don’t know what level of activity represents consciousness. And quite likely, it’s a sliding scale. It seems pretty clear that your cat and dog have some level of consciousness. They have emotions, can even exhibit depression, and suffer pain. A starfish might have some level of consciousness, but at a clearly lower level. An amoeba, or any other one-celled animal, though it may respond to light or other physical phenomenon, almost certainly does not enjoy any level of consciousness.


It is hardly mystical that more complicated brains, with more sophisticated sensory perception, are likely to enjoy a higher level of consciousness. Further, when the ability to record one’s perceptions is added, the process of thought explodes. This could be as simple as the learned songs of whales which are passed between generations, and is not limited to written language. But the ability to comprehend the thoughts of others clearly changes the game.


But it does NOT necessarily change it from a higher level of processing into something that “exists beyond the body.” There is nothing that I can identify that should lead any reasoning person to conclude that consciousness extends beyond the brain.


Our inability to understand something has always led to mystical interpretations. It’s quite possible that we will never develop enough science or lexicon to describe consciousness. But that is no reason to presume that it’s something “greater” than billions of neurons firing in succession. And I would expect a neuroscientist to be the strongest supporter of that position.


I admire Sam Harris, but not his position on this topic. Keep it real.

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Posted: 26 October 2011 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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Cause and effect closes the past and limits the present, but is it right to assume that cause and effect also eliminates all possible distant futures except one?

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“That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”  (The first article of the Virginia Declaration of Rights adopted unanimously by the Virginia Convention of Delegates on June 12, 1776)

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