Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Discussions on the nature of being, existence, reality and knowledge. What is? How do we know?

Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 21st, 2020, 7:28 pm 

140 years ago, a physiologist had listed scores of experiments demonstrating that what we see, hear, touch, feel or taste, can actually produce measurable changes to our physiological functioning


Any Tom, Dick or Harry could have told us that. Really, I...

Why don't we DO something???
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on August 22nd, 2020, 12:01 am 

doogles » August 21st, 2020, 3:57 pm wrote:I probably made a mistake in thinking that someone with a philosophical leaning might appreciate the knowledge that 140 years ago, a physiologist had listed scores of experiments demonstrating that what we see, hear, touch, feel or taste, can actually produce measurable changes to our physiological functioning, and that this could be a factor in the 'experience' we associate with such sensory stimuli.

Hi doogles. Note that whether or not our phenomenal experiences have a causal affect on the body, isn't an issue regarding the hard problem. The hard problem is only about why we should have those experiences at all. The problem regarding whether or not our phenomenal experiences have a causal influence on our behavior regards the problem of mental causation.

We often talk about our phenomenal experiences "emerging" from the interactions of neurons. Depending on how we envision this process of emergence works, this leaves us with some scientific explaining to do as to how those emergent phenomena might cause anything else as suggested by William James for example. Not too many people would argue that phenomenal experiences are causally efficacious, but how those emergent phenomena might be causally efficacious is a very difficult issue that tends to violate what we know about nature.

Philosophical discussions are not just word salad. They require an in depth understanding of how nature and science works. I provided some background on emergence here as a discussion around how emergence:
viewtopic.php?p=279554

This is intended as a reference to consider how various 'levels of nature' interact and how emergent phenomena at a higher level might causally influence phenomena at a lower level. The natural sciences from biology to engineering to meteorology utilize a form of 'weak emergence'. Neuroscience also uses a type of weak emergence to reduce neurons into "compartments" as they call them. Understanding how these levels work and interact is crucial to understanding how our emergent qualia might have some causal efficacy.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 22nd, 2020, 2:53 am 

The hard problem is only about why we should have those experiences at all.


That's because you don't understand the word experience.

PS. Don't forget to ignore me :-)
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on August 22nd, 2020, 9:21 am 

Dave_C » August 22nd, 2020, 5:01 am wrote:I provided some background on emergence here as a discussion around how emergence:
viewtopic.php?p=279554

This is intended as a reference to consider how various 'levels of nature' interact and how emergent phenomena at a higher level might causally influence phenomena at a lower level. The natural sciences from biology to engineering to meteorology utilize a form of 'weak emergence'. Neuroscience also uses a type of weak emergence to reduce neurons into "compartments" as they call them. Understanding how these levels work and interact is crucial to understanding how our emergent qualia might have some causal efficacy.

Thanks, I have just re-read the thread you linked. I note that you did not believe in strong emergence (nor do I). Is that still the case? Do you rule out the causal efficacy of qualia?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 22nd, 2020, 10:20 am 

Do you rule out the causal efficacy of qualia?


I think this means that if I eat a meal that tastes really, utterly foul and want to throw the left-overs at the wall, and actually do throw the left-overs at the wall, that the qualia involved have been particularly causally effective in the physical world. Especially when I have to clear up the mess.

But I could be wrong.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on August 22nd, 2020, 8:31 pm 

charon » August 22nd, 2020, 1:53 am wrote:That's because you don't understand the word experience.

Please read the OP for definitions. Tx...
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 22nd, 2020, 8:38 pm 

Dave -

I don't have to read something to find out what experience is. Neither do you really, do you? Experience is the stored memory of events, which is knowledge. According to that, we think. You can't think of anything you haven't already known before in some way.

It's a fact.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on August 22nd, 2020, 8:58 pm 

Positor » August 22nd, 2020, 8:21 am wrote:Thanks, I have just re-read the thread you linked. I note that you did not believe in strong emergence (nor do I). Is that still the case? Do you rule out the causal efficacy of qualia?

Hi Positor. I haven't changed any opinions on that thread. I do believe qualia are causally efficacious, but I disagree with a fundamental premise in mainstream neuroscience; that qualia emerge from the interactions between neurons (ie: from the sum total of all neuron interactions). There are single cell theories of consciousness, Steven Sevush and Jonathan Edwards are two good examples.
Sevush: https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... sciousness
(From Amazon) "Steven Sevush is Emeritus Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Miami, USA. He has been a teacher, researcher, and clinician in behavioural neurology and neuropsychiatry for over thirty years. His written works include The Single-Neuron Theory of Consciousness published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology."

Edwards: https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... dual_Cells
Also: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/rheumatology-bloo ... cpropcells

I've written my own paper on it and posted here:
viewtopic.php?f=39&t=34944
This paper examines the various logical dilemmas being argued about today and provides a resolution. It also provides a theory that is objectively testable.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 22nd, 2020, 9:04 pm 

Further, since we've also probably forgotten a lot of it anyway, our experience is partial, therefore our thought is also partial and extremely limited.

We may think we know a lot but it's a deception.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on August 26th, 2020, 6:04 am 

charon » August 20th, 2020, 9:42 am wrote:It's very obvious how we know we're having an experience - because we recognise it. The only we way we can recognise it is because we've had it before. Or, if not the same one, something very like it.

Bravo!
My impression is that this answers most of the questions about "qualia" and phenomenal consciousness.
Any activity that occurs in our brain produces specific responses in the serotonergic median raphe, in the dopaminergic ventral tegmental area and substantia nigra and in the amygdala, nucleus accumbens and hypothalamus: all this subcortical activity is integrated by the limbic cortex which generates an emotional state (the current experience/situation is/isn't vitally and/or affectively relevant, is good/bad, is right/wrong, is joyful/sad, is/isn't irritating, understandable, is known/novel...).
This multifaceted emotional painting of the current experience, combined with the many different relations (emotional as well as cognitive) it bears with any specific past experiences of ours, constitute the set of "qualia" that define this particular experience experience.
In a sense, the first time you see "red" there is no associated qualia, except maybe for some physiological higher level of arousal than you would feel in seeing a grey, opaque or pale object. The "qualia" come later on, the second, third and nth time you see "red" and it recalls in your brain everything that has been associated to red in your past experience
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on August 26th, 2020, 6:17 am 

TheVat » August 20th, 2020, 5:46 pm wrote:Qualia somehow add to our knowledge.

I'd say they actually CONSTITUTE our knowledge: things are and occur out there. DATA and SEQUENCES (information) are out there.

They are sensed and elaborated by our brain, and they are perceived as the COMBINATION of the sensation they have elicited plus any emotional/affective response they have generated plus all cognitive, emotional and operational aspects that are evoked by any image our memory tends to revive in association with them.

Such combination is no more mere information, it is now KNOWLEDGE (information with a meaning), and its meaning, before we even try to tell it in words, IS the set of "qualia" we experience.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 26th, 2020, 6:53 am 

neuro -

I think that's right, yes.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on September 24th, 2020, 5:54 am 

in case anybody is interested, here is a paper about the neurophysiological basis of subjectivity...
I think it might fit in this discussion
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on September 24th, 2020, 9:04 pm 

I have been prompted to respond to what I suppose is the latest post seeking an explanation of the meaning of the so-called hard problem of philosophy of mind. The problem is simply stated.

How can the brain, a physical thing that can be measured and weighed, possibly cause consciousness of anything, when consciousness is not a physical thing and can be neither measured nor weighed? How can the objective cause the subjective? If the two are entirely different orders of existence, as they seem to be, how can one have any effect on the other?

The existence of the hard problem does not mean that there must be a soul. On the contrary, the evidence clearly indicates that the brain causes consciousness. The problem is, we do not understand how it can possibly do such a thing.

This will be the extent of my participation in this forum.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby DragonFly on September 24th, 2020, 10:45 pm 

Positor » August 22nd, 2020, 8:21 am wrote:Do you rule out the causal efficacy of qualia?


It would be that the qualia in consciousness provide distinctions for intelligence to utilize.

The qualia contents of consciousness are compositional, that is, the parts come together into a unified whole. Consciousness's value to us is for our operation and survival, for it reveals the distinctions important to us. Consciousness is intrinsic; consciousness exists only for itself; physics only deals with extrinsic causes.

Intelligence is what does the doing; consciousness is for being, exclusive, causing nothing but in itself, as the brain results leading to their representations in consciousness are already done and finished.

How are the qualia formed and maintained?

'Feedback' is the key to the 'hard problem'. of qualia; the conscious state maintains itself seamlessly as a non reducible whole. It might be, too, or alternatively, that qualia are the brain's own privately developed/evolved language.

Summary:

'The Feeling of Life Itself'
(There is a book out)

Physics describes but extrinsic causes,
While consciousness exists just for itself,
As intrinsic, compositional,
Informational, whole, and exclusive,

Providing distinctions toward survival,
But causing nothing except in itself,
As in ne’er doing but only as being,
Leaving intelligence for the doing.

The posterior cortex holds the correlates,
For this is the only brain region that
Can’t be removed for one to still retain
Consciousness, it having feedback in it;

Thus, it forms an irreducible Whole,
And this Whole forms consciousness directly,
Which process is fundamental in nature,
Or's the brain’s private symbolic language.

The Whole can also be well spoken of
To communicate with others, as well as
Globally informing other brain states—
So the nonconscious knows what’s been made.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on September 25th, 2020, 4:23 am 

I don't know why there's so much confusion over consciousness, it's not difficult. Don't be distracted by words like brain and all the neurological stuff, it just confuses the issue. After all, they haven't solved it that way, the banter goes on and on interminably.

We're conscious. We're not unconscious. That's simple. Physically we're awake, not unconscious. Start there.

So consciousness is to be conscious of things, including oneself. The word means to know, and to be aware. I'm aware I'm doing this. You're aware that you're reading it and hopefully understanding the English words.

There's awareness and knowing, which is recognition, of the world around us but there's also the internal world. In other words, the world of our thought. Behind the world of our thought is all the stored memory and knowledge which has come from experience.

It's very simple. Take away all your memory, knowledge, experience, and where are you? What are you then? You wouldn't be there, so all this movement is what we are. So we ARE our consciousness.

We'd like to objectify it but the observer of what is called consciousness is himself consciousness, right? Consciousness is both the experiencer and what he experiences, the two are one.

As long as the thinker thinks he is different from his thoughts, or the content of his thoughts, there'll be a problem. He can analyse himself till doomsday and still he won't understand it.

Then the question is whether there's anything else other than this consciousness. One can speculate but that speculation is the limited trying to understand what is not of itself - if there's anything else. So we can't assert, guess, speculate, or play games with it.

The only way to find out is to not be. That is death, not physically, but inwardly. But that, of course, no one wants, we'd rather play with it and discuss endlessly but never do it.

When there's no thought and no thinker, when consciousness as we know it is not there, there may or may not be something else. One has to find out.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on September 25th, 2020, 12:48 pm 

Neri » September 24th, 2020, 8:04 pm wrote:I have been prompted to respond to what I suppose is the latest post seeking an explanation of the meaning of the so-called hard problem of philosophy of mind. The problem is simply stated.

How can the brain, a physical thing that can be measured and weighed, possibly cause consciousness of anything, when consciousness is not a physical thing and can be neither measured nor weighed? How can the objective cause the subjective? If the two are entirely different orders of existence, as they seem to be, how can one have any effect on the other?

The existence of the hard problem does not mean that there must be a soul. On the contrary, the evidence clearly indicates that the brain causes consciousness. The problem is, we do not understand how it can possibly do such a thing.

This will be the extent of my participation in this forum.

Thanks Neri, I completely agree. The problem with these kinds of explanations, of which there are probably millions, is the author never realizes the logical problems and violations of what we know about nature presented by their particular explanation of phenomenal consciousness. This particular attempt to explain away p-consciousness appeals to emergence which is very mainstream. Problem is the author doesn't grasp what emergence is and how their particular version of it will violate what we know about causality.

Strangely, modern neuroscience also recognizes (correctly) that neurons are governed by and obey the locality of classical physics (ie: neuron interactions make no use of those special features of quantum mechanics). Neuroscience uses compartment models for example, to examine individual neurons and neuron interactions. Yet the most common conception of emergence put forward violates those basic principals and requires some sort of 'strong emergence'.

Before we can explain p-consciousness, we have to realize what the problems are and how to address them. It really is a hard problem for many different reasons, the primary ones in my view are how to come up with a solution that doesn't violate natural laws.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on September 25th, 2020, 1:12 pm 

As far as I can tell, Neuro is the author of the paper he posted here on the topic. So you can address any thoughts on it directly to him. You may want to tag his forum name, since he doesn't look in here every day.


Neuro

Like that.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on September 25th, 2020, 5:27 pm 

Before I depart this forum, I should provide a further explanation of consciousness-of-self, in view of certain semantic problems that have arisen in this thread.

We have heard the claim that “we are our consciousness.” Such a claim serves only to muddy the waters.

It is true that consciousness of anything necessarily requires a subject who is conscious. When we experience anything, therefore, we are aware that we exist exist as the one having the experience. This is one meaning that can be attached to self-consciousness.

There is another meaning generally attached to the latter expression. Here we speak of who we are and not just that we are. For example, a person with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, who has neither long nor short-term memory but only operational memory, may have a fleeting idea that he exists without knowing who he is.

Consciousness of who we are consists of essentially a collection of long and short-term memories of our experiences with whatever exists outside of us (external sensations) as well as long and short-term memories of internal sensations and experiences. This constitutes the history of a particular subject.

Because we are aware of others with whom we may communicate through language, we become aware that we may have private thoughts and feelings that are not accessible to others unless we communicate them by language. This adds to the experience that we are the particular self that we are—who we are and not just that we are.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on September 25th, 2020, 7:57 pm 

We have heard the claim that “we are our consciousness.” Such a claim serves only to muddy the waters.


Like I wasn't here :-)

Of course you're your consciousness. Without consciousness you wouldn't be here. Neither would anything else.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby DragonFly on September 25th, 2020, 11:38 pm 

charon » September 25th, 2020, 6:57 pm wrote:
We have heard the claim that “we are our consciousness.” Such a claim serves only to muddy the waters.


Like I wasn't here :-)


Who you are is your repertoire—your self;
What you are is the mind’s ‘eye’ of it now,
Which ‘I’ ever obtains from who you are.
Aye, aye: the self generates what I witness.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on September 26th, 2020, 5:03 am 

Neri,
it would be so nice if sometimes you stepped down from your podium and instead of teaching us you tried to understand what the others say...
Neri » September 25th, 2020, 2:04 am wrote:I have been prompted to respond to what I suppose is the latest post seeking an explanation of the meaning of the so-called hard problem of philosophy of mind.

Actually what you might have been prompted to respond to is not what you suppose it to be. It is far from seeking and explanation to the hard problem of the brain/mind relation.
By the way,
The problem is simply stated.

How can the brain, a physical thing that can be measured and weighed, possibly cause consciousness of anything, when consciousness is not a physical thing and can be neither measured nor weighed?

This is no hard problem: between physical and spiritual there are a number of levels of non-physical things: there are a lot of virtual "things", such as mathematics, logics, language, virtual representations of reality, and all these are non-physical "things" that physical objects (computers, brains) can deal with without problems or any need of other non-physical and non-measurable entities.
Your next question is more to the point:
How can the objective cause the subjective? If the two are entirely different orders of existence, as they seem to be, how can one have any effect on the other?

Here you should be more careful: if anything which is sensed is elaborated in a relational and self-centered, emotionally colored, operatively oriented way, even before conceptual elaboration occurs, this makes the elaboration properly subjective.
What you probably are disturbed by is that stupid structures such as the amygdala, the VTA, the hypothalamus, can produce pain, and pleasure and joy and sorrow and well-being and discomfort, as they produce hunger, thirst, sleepiness and anxiety or rage.
These are non-physical things which we cannot justify. We can only feel them.

So the true problem, the hard question is what the hell means I am suffering, I am happy, what the hell is pain, and pleasure?
We give emotions for granted, and look for an explanation of feelings and qualia.
My point would be that feeling and qualia, and the diacrhronic image of the self that is built in memories and constitutes self-consciousness, can be easily accounted for by physical systems, once they are allowed to prove emotions.
The unsolved stuff is emotions much more than self-consciousness.

Finally, you graciously give us your farewell gift:
The existence of the hard problem does not mean that there must be a soul. On the contrary, the evidence clearly indicates that the brain causes consciousness. The problem is, we do not understand how it can possibly do such a thing.

Nicely stated, and appropriate if you had been prompted to answer to a latest post seeking an explanation to this, and not a post that YOU simply did suppose it was....

The paper cited in that post does not seek an explanation on how the body causes consciousness. If you just read the first paragraph of the paper you would have realized that the paper simply shows that and how subjectivity arises from brain activity and PRECEDES consciousness: consciousness is not needed for subjective processing of experience, self-consciousness rather follows from that.
Still, in order for experience to be not only self-centered and subjective, but actually "personal", emotional colouring is needed, and that is the hard problem, as pain and pleasure do not have a physical nature, and there is no way - as of now - to explain what they physically mean (they physically consist in specific neurons firing action potentials, but that is not what we feel). This is the problem and it is not faced in the paper.
That pain, joy, pleasure, sorrow and well-being exist and are felt is given for granted, and the hard problem remains.

Sometimes, it might be interesting to listen to somebody else's voice as well...
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on September 26th, 2020, 5:05 am 

DragonFly » September 26th, 2020, 4:38 am wrote:the self generates what I witness.

or possibly the self is generated by what I witness and the way I witness it...
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on September 26th, 2020, 5:15 am 

Dave_C » September 25th, 2020, 5:48 pm wrote:Strangely, modern neuroscience also recognizes (correctly) that neurons are governed by and obey the locality of classical physics (ie: neuron interactions make no use of those special features of quantum mechanics).

Quantum mechanics only add a shade of mystery to the story, which makes people who are looking for "something more than what is easily explained" feel more comfortable. The contribution of quantum mechanics to the problem of p-consciousness is just confabulatory mumble jumble.
Neuroscience uses compartment models for example, to examine individual neurons and neuron interactions. Yet the most common conception of emergence put forward violates those basic principals and requires some sort of 'strong emergence'.

Before criticizing one should possibly try and listen (read).
In the particular paper, no strong emergence is advocated.
The presence of emotions is given for granted there (the emergence of emotions from nerve activity actually is an unexplained case of strong emergence, if emergence it is), and the emergence processes that are examined are actually quite straightforward.
Before we can explain p-consciousness, we have to realize what the problems are and how to address them.

Exactly what I am saying.
It really is a hard problem for many different reasons, the primary ones in my view are how to come up with a solution that doesn't violate natural laws.

Exactly: what does it mean that something hurts?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on September 26th, 2020, 6:35 pm 

Prof. Fesce,

Last night, I read your paper that attempts to set forth the neurological basis for the emergence of “the subjective and the personal.” I was particularly fascinated by your description of the “singing of the neurons.” However, I found it somewhat disappointing to find hardly any mention of how memories are stored and called up by the neurons.

I have been attempting to extricate myself from the tyranny of this forum particularly where anthropogenic climate change is concerned. However, your paper deserves to be read and commented upon, even though one may disagree with it.

You point out that the actions of neurons are not binary. That is, that they do not have two states—0 and 1 or on and off, like a switch. Instead, they have continuously variable amplitude as well as a continuously variable character analogous to the pitch of a musical instrument. They act upon each other producing a kind symphony with all the complexity that that entails.

This is uniquely analog and decidedly organic and gives little comfort to those who claim that the brain functions like a computer. A neuron detects the melody (patterns) of its fellow neurons and adds its harmony to the song. This is quite remarkable, to say the least.

You describe in great detail what you call “autopilot behavioral control.” You describe this as a kind of immediate control caused by certain parts of the brain that act far faster than the parts of the brain involved in deliberate action. You point out that a person may be conscious during “autopilot control” but the resulting bodily action is not dictated consciously.

Thus—even though you do not specifically admit it—there is a difference between willed action, which requires consciousness, and autopilot action which does not. I would argue that autopilot action is causally closed (as your description would imply), whereas deliberate or willed action is not. The obvious conclusion is that without consciousness, there would be no such thing as willed or deliberate action.

In this regard, you describe in great detail how the parts of the brain that give us autopilot action determine spatial and temporal location when causing a particular bodily action. You use the example of a baseball player striking a ball with a bat. The point at which the ball is contacted by the bat (if indeed there is a contact) is the unconscious “now.”

You seem, however, to conflate this with the conscious “now.” You seem to suggest that this “now” is not only a condition of the brain but also a condition of the world. This would imply that the world is divided into fully determined intervals bounded by absolutely determined unique locations (points) and that the brain takes account of this condition of the world. I have argued that location can only be estimated and is not fully determinable and have argued that this conclusion is compelled by logic.

You argue that autopilot action is “self-centered.” In evolutionary terms this means preserving the self from injury or death. However, such action is not always so. Take, for example, the soldier who acts reflexively to throw himself upon a grenade to save the lives of his comrades.

You do not pretend to answer the hard problem of consciousness. Instead you describe how what you call “the subjective and the personal” emerge in the brain.

Because you do not specify exactly what you mean by these expressions. I will take it that by “subjective” you mean experiences that belong to a particular person and do not necessarily apply to perception [which supposedly refers to objective conditions of a world whose existence does not depend on being perceive.]

Yet, this would seem to include conscious feelings in your account of subjectivity, and therefore you seem to presume consciousness at the outset. This implies the you present a solution to the hard problem of neuroscience—ever though you claim otherwise.

It is hard to see what “personal” adds to the inquiry-- unless by that expression you mean “private” in the sense of inaccessible to others. In which case, “personal” is easily explained.

You state:

“…each sensory experience, each motor and cognitive program and/or behavior are in this way framed in an emotional and affective setting oriented to personal well-being and/or pleasurable outcomes. It should be apparent how this transformation can turn every pattern of neuronal activity into a personally meaningful event, and orient spontaneous as well as well as rationally programed behavior toward the interest of the self.”

What is apparent is that your account presumes consciousness and then equates it with the self-serving [which, of course is only an instance of consciousness and not consciousness itself].

You, of course, claim to give an objective account of the subjective. However, such an account cannot beg the question if it claims truth.

In your last post to this thread as, Neuro, you asked, “Exactly what does it mean that something hurts?”

If one has never experienced pain, it means nothing, for the meaning of pain can only be known by experiencing it. It is not possible to give an objective account of pain. Fortunately, almost everyone has experienced pain. Therefore, they are able to signify that experience by using the expression “pain”, which is meaningful to all who have shared that experience. Further, “pain” presumes consciousness, for the unconscious experience nothing.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on September 26th, 2020, 9:51 pm 

Hi Riccardo (Neuro),
It’s nice to see you posting again. Please don’t take offense to my comments of your paper personally. As I’m sure you’re aware, there are times when one can skim through a paper and know the underlying assumptions being made without seeking them out in the paper itself. I’m pretty sure I’m aware of your basic assumptions which is why I pointed a few out.
1. Neurons interact classically (I agree)
2. Phenomenal consciousness “emerges” from neuron interactions (impossible for weak emergence if you understand the issue)
3. The kind of emergence required for #2 above was described by Donald Campbell in a paper entitled “Downward Causation in Hierarchically Organized Biological Systems”.

The alternative to strong emergence is “weak emergence”, best described by Mark Bedau who’s written many papers on it. Weak emergence is nothing more than what engineers, scientists, meteorologists, neuroscientists, etc… do in the normal course of their work to model various phenomena through calculations using computers. Briefly:
The fundamental micro-level causal dynamics of the system- its “physics”_is captured in a set of explicit rules for how the state of a micro entity changes as a function of its current state and the current states of its local neighboring entities. Macro entities and their states are wholly constituted by the states and locations of their constituent micro entities, so the causal dynamics involving macro objects is wholly determined by the underlying micro dynamics. Thus, causal fundamentalism reigns in such a system; macro causal powers are wholly constituted and determined by micro causal powers.


In the case of modeling neurons and brains, the physical interactions between neurons and portions of them are modeled as compartments, as first described by Hodgkins and Huxley. Today, computer programs applying numerical analysis such as Neuron, Genesis and others follow the philosophy of weak emergence. Take for example, “The Book of Genesis” (a guide to the compartment modeling program, “Genesis”) by Bower and Beeman:
When constructing detailed neuronal models that explicitly consider all of the potential complexities of a cell, the increasingly standard approach is to divide the neuron into a finite number of interconnected anatomical compartments. … Each compartment is then modeled with equations describing an equivalent electrical circuit (Rall 1959). With the appropriate differential equations for each compartment, we can model the behavior of each compartment as well as its interactions with neighboring compartments.


We can think of the brain as being a collection of parts interacting without any ‘knowledge’ of each other. Larger structures in the brain can be seen to depend on the local interactions of each individual neuron or part thereof.

This is all consistent with weak emergence.

Regardless of whether or not compartment models fully address all the complexities of neurons and their interactions, if we assume that those interactions between neurons are ‘classical’ in nature (and again, I would assume they are) then there are no ‘additional’ emergent phenomena that can have any causal efficacy above and beyond those local interactions – just as Bedau mentions.

In fact (and I won’t make the case right now as it takes too long) the trail of logic ‘bread crumbs’ leads us to the conclusion that even the phenomenon of feelings/experience can’t emerge from those interactions. We need strong emergence as Campbell and many others who have been grappling with this issue realize. I also disagree with strong emergence, as it violates locality as required by physics and described by weak emergence.

Strong emergence is wrong because it violates natural laws.
Weak emergence is correct but can’t explain higher level phenomena such as p-consciousness.

If this sounds like I’ve painted myself into a corner in which there are no possible remaining theories for phenomenal consciousness available (it should sound like that) then I’ll only say that there are options which are left open that we need to explore and which produce viable, testable theories of p-consciousness. Note there are other theories that have recognized this dilemma and have made attempts to resolve them but there are probably no more than a dozen. It takes considerable effort to just recognize the issue, let alone produce a theory which might solve the dilemma.

Note there are other, similar logical dilemmas that also require resolution.

If you’d like to discuss further, perhaps we could open a separate thread to discuss your paper and other work surrounding it?

Best regards,
Dave.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on September 27th, 2020, 5:26 am 

Dave_C » September 27th, 2020, 2:51 am wrote:In fact (and I won’t make the case right now as it takes too long) the trail of logic ‘bread crumbs’ leads us to the conclusion that even the phenomenon of feelings/experience can’t emerge from those interactions. We need strong emergence as Campbell and many others who have been grappling with this issue realize.

This is exactly what I try and say in my previous posts.
If you consider the brain capable of generating feeling (I insisted above about feeling pain which is the most primordial feeling) then subjectivity follows through weak emergence.

The strong emergence step is needed if you wish to scientifically explain why activating a neuron of the VTA that releases dopamine in the n. accumbens produces a feeling of pleasure.
Scientifically, you can say it does. How the feeling arises, however, cannot be explained.
The crucial step occurs well before self-consciousness and sophisticated qualia.

Any animal reacts to nociceptive stimuli. Actually, this does not imply it hurts or it feels anything at all: it is sufficient, even in the absence of a brain, that neural responses be wired in - or trained through experience thanks to synaptic plasticity - such that an appropriate avoidance response occurs when a noxious stimulus is presented and sensed by an appropriate cellular receptor.

As you climb the evolutionary staircase (I apologize with animalists for this perspective of mine, but by "climbing" I simply refer to increasing complexity, not necessarily value) brains come about and nociception presumably starts to become a feeling: "pain". It does not only produce an avoidance reaction, it hurts (p-consciousness arises, whatever the proficiency of the particular brain may be).

To be clear, pain is not the sensation that something is damaging some part of the body: if a person with a strong pain (e.g. terminal cancer, bone fracture) is given morphine, they will experience the fading of the pain, both the disappearance of the sensation and - obviously - the vanishing of the discomfort. As the effect of the drug wanes, they will start to feel back the sensation (they can grade it on a subjective pain scale as a moderate-to-severe pain), but it will not be discomforting. Only later it will become again particularly discomforting, it will restart to actually hurt.

My point simply is that here is the conceptual gap, not about feeling pain or being self-conscious, but in transforming a signal of biological damage into a discomfort. On the other hand, this is exactly what a computer will never do, and this is the reason why even if a robot behaved perfectly as a human being we would think hat it only simulates a human being, because it cannot prove discomfort and pain, pleasure and joy. It cannot hurt.

All the rest, in my opinion, comes through weak emergence, and we can track the mechanisms.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on September 27th, 2020, 5:58 am 

Neri, thank for taking the time to read the paper...
Neri » September 26th, 2020, 11:35 pm wrote:The point at which the ball is contacted by the bat (if indeed there is a contact) is the unconscious “now.”

You seem, however, to conflate this with the conscious “now.” You seem to suggest that this “now” is not only a condition of the brain but also a condition of the world. This would imply that the world is divided into fully determined intervals bounded by absolutely determined unique locations (points) and that the brain takes account of this condition of the world. I have argued that location can only be estimated and is not fully determinable and have argued that this conclusion is compelled by logic.

This is an interesting ontologic argument, which I am not equipped to argue about.
My simple point is that the internal (conscious) depiction of what "is happening" (the perceptual "now") appears to be quite consistent with what is actually happening outside there (whatever that may mean) so that we are able to interact with quite rapid processes notwithstanding the several hundreds of milliseconds of delay introduced by most cortical neuronal processing (and our delayed awareness).
You argue that autopilot action is “self-centered.” In evolutionary terms this means preserving the self from injury or death. However, such action is not always so. Take, for example, the soldier who acts reflexively to throw himself upon a grenade to save the lives of his comrades.

Curious objection... Don't you think the self has something to do with such behaviour as well?
Preservation of the self-image, and the image of oneself one presents to the others, and the will to preserve loved people, are quite important aspects for psychological well-being isn't it?

Yet, this would seem to include conscious feelings in your account of subjectivity, and therefore you seem to presume consciousness at the outset. This implies the you present a solution to the hard problem of neuroscience—ever though you claim otherwise.

I'm not sure I do: I kind of give for granted that we are capable of emotions (and I think this is the hard problem of mind/body relation), and try to show that this is sufficient (together with the operating mode of the brain circuits) to generate subjectivity and a personal perspective.
It is hard to see what “personal” adds to the inquiry-- unless by that expression you mean “private” in the sense of inaccessible to others. In which case, “personal” is easily explained.

You are probably right, personal may not add much; however, even in the total absence of emotions a perspective can be subjective; if you add to this the specific emotional resonance of the subjective experience, then in my opinion you should talk about "personal" rather than simply subjective.

What is apparent is that your account presumes consciousness and then equates it with the self-serving [which, of course is only an instance of consciousness and not consciousness itself].
You, of course, claim to give an objective account of the subjective. However, such an account cannot beg the question if it claims truth.

I think I get your point: the moment itself I use the word "self" I have presumed consciousness, therefore from that moment on I am begging the question.

My defence against this accusation is that I use the term self only as a relational and "locational" term. Objects are mapped in the brain with respect of the location of the body parts (forget "self"), are associated with emotions (either directly evoked or recalled from similar experiences) and have been associated to success or failure in past experiences and may therefore have an operational value for any purposeful action.
(this occurs in cockroaches as well, so I would not think it involves a problem of self-consciousness)
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on September 27th, 2020, 1:05 pm 

Just one more point, Fesce. I cannot seem to get away. It must be the result of “self-serving,” as you would put it.

I gave an example of a soldier acting reflexively and not reflectively. This means “autopilot behavior” as you define it.

Facing a grenade ready to explode is an exigent circumstance that leaves no time for reflecting on how others may admire your courage. It requires a rapid automatic reaction. Because the conscious faculty may be aware of the reaction when it occurs, does not erase the fact that it was not the cause of the behavior. It is your autopilot that did it.

If there is insufficient time for the conscious mind to veto the behavior, it occurs completely independently of the will. An unconscious automaton cannot have a motive. This requires a conscious mind, for there is no will absent consciousness.

For many social animals, the interests of the group are put above the interests of the self. Apparently, our brain contains a primal vestige of this evolutionary condition. And what could be more primal than war?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on September 28th, 2020, 5:58 am 

Neri,
I'm not sure I get your point.
Are you saying that such kind of behavior is not objectively serving the subject's own interest, but rather some other value?
In other words, are you arguing that I cannot use the term "self-serving" to refer to an innate mechanism that is oriented to a purpose that is not personal survival but a social interest?
I might well agree with on both claims.

So scratch "self-serving".
Shall we use "serving an instinctual purpose" (or innately inscribed in brain circuitry)?
Honestly, I do not see what difference it makes, conceptually...
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