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 BadgerJelly on October 26th, 2020, 9:27 pm 

Dave_C -

Basically you’re saying consciousness isn’t ‘strong emergence’ because that is like magic (beyond our understanding)?

This is what I’m having trouble with. You appear to be saying there is a ‘hard problem’ and then saying it cannot be ‘strong emergence’ (or what specific kind of ‘strong emergence’ are you talking about?) ... is that correct? If so isn’t the problem primarily one for the neurosciences?
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5738
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on October 26th, 2020, 9:43 pm 

TheVat » October 26th, 2020, 12:01 am wrote:I like Sabine, but I sometimes wonder if the conceptual tools of strong and weak emergence really work with consciousness. I often hear people speak of emergentism of scale, which is what we have with emergent properties like "wetness. " Two h2o molecules aren't wet, a billion are. But we have no clearcut path with consciousness, even though most of us automatically assume that its also an emergentism of scale... two neurons aren't conscious, a billion are. But how is that even coherent?

Two stomach cells can digest a tiny bit of your breakfast, two liver cells can produce a few molecules of bile, two muscle fibers can produce a tiny bit of force. Why can't two neurons, with all their intricacy, produce a tiny bit of consciousness? After all, two transistors on a microchip can do a tiny bit of computation. They're like two tiny pictures of a cat, in Sabine's mosaic photograph. They can do logic, they can move electrons, etc. Perhaps what we call consciousness doesn't exactly emerge so much as it accumulates. (I sense a slippery slope here, inclined towards panpsychism....)


I’m pretty sure we can detect all but one of those phenomena ... that is actually why conventional scientific approaches current fail - attempts to objectify the subjective experience may eventually give a roughshod means of measuring or it may be a complete waste of time. The phenomenological pursuit is to investigate regardless of it being an endless task - physicists generally follow the same line too (meaning they are generally not inclined to believe there is one perfect formula to explain everything, because they just don’t know - hence my confusion with Dave_C’s statement about dismissing the unknown, or seemingly impossible, as magic and therefore nonsense).

As things stand it seems rather strange to refer to individual cells having a ‘subjective experience’ as where would such differ from say a few molecules of silicon ‘experience’ molecule forces in a subjective manner. Often language hoodwinks our rationality: just because something can be ‘subjected’ to forces/phenomena it doesn’t follow that they ‘subjectively experience’ anything in a way akin to human consciousness).

Not so long ago scientists said it is impossible to know what the Sun is made of without travelling to it and taking samples ... they were wrong. True enough, we could argue that they would be willing to accept the scientific working that led to us understanding the composition of the Sun, but prior to this they obviously found the idea of finding out without visiting it unfathomable (maybe magical make believe).

Ignorance from my perspective is probably the singular most important and progressive aspect of any human being.

Anyway, it the beginning of the universe ‘strong emergence’? I would assume so given that we cannot talk about the ‘before’ with much conviction. I believe not so long ago anyone talking of ‘before the universe’ would’ve been called a crackpot ... paradigms change though.
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5738
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on October 27th, 2020, 5:39 am 

Thank you, Dave, that's a good answer.

It's not a problem if you're not a scientist who wants to know how everything works. In fact, it's probably just taken for granted as the way things are; it's how we operate in life. So it's not a problem unless the body or mind goes wrong in some way.

But, if one is a scientist, then it's a different matter.

I'd say it was obviously not just a question of neurons because of the psychological factor. I think that we can safely say that the brain's function physically is one thing and the operation of our minds is another.

The brain controls the body's reactions, nerves, and all that. The mind, however, is slightly different insofar as it involves the brain but apparently operates somewhat independently.

The mind, chiefly, is a thought process arising from stored information in the brain. The brain records memory, which is knowledge gained from experience, and thought is the response of that.

So the question then is what is experience? It seems to me there are two kinds, the external and internal.

We have senses. We can tell when it's hot or cold, light or dark, and so on. The body will react to those things. If there was no psychological reaction we wouldn't know anything about it. The responses of the body must be recognised and named in order for experience to register.

When the temperature drops, and we recognise this and say 'It's cold', that is an experience. That experience is registered as knowledge/memory. Then we can tell someone later that it was cold.

The naming also comes from knowledge because from childhood we've been told what cold is. That, of course, applies to all the other senses in all fields of life.

There's no question that this recognition of cold is a subjective experience. Unless there's something wrong with the body and mind everybody feels the same thing.

Of course, if the scientist wants to know whether everybody feels exactly the same thing that's a different matter. At the moment I don't think that's possible although there's no reason to suppose that the process isn't the same.

Then we have subjective experiences that don't come directly from the outside. They can be physical, like feeling discomfort for some medical reason, or psychological, like feeling excited or lonely.

Inward feelings don't originate from the physical body although they affect it. Worry, for instance, produces physical effects, like a tight stomach and other symptoms. But the psychological feelings originate in the mind, which is thinking.

We have awareness of ourselves. We can tell others what we are thinking and feeling. The way we think can be confused and contradictory or fairly clear and simple. If we become upset or excited it's because of our reactions to life's events.

All those feelings are subjective experiences which, again, can be recognised by the experiencer. We've heard, or been told, what anger or jealousy is so we can recognise it in ourselves. Where the effects display outwardly we can also recognise them in others.

All this is a unitary combination of the mind, brain and body. We can separate them verbally for clarity's sake but we operate, essentially, as a total unit. It certainly involves neurons since without the brain it wouldn't be possible at all. But it also involves the brain's capacity for memory, thought and recognition.

All this is our consciousness. The word implies, not only knowing, which is recognition from memory, but awareness.

One question is whether this awareness is sensory or not. Is the experiencing of, say, loneliness sensate? Is it on the same level as experiencing heat or cold? The experiencing of heat or cold is certainly sensate, from the physical senses. But is it the same with internal feelings?

I don't see why it shouldn't be, although I think there's more to awareness than that. Thought is allied to the body and brain. Thought and feeling is sensate too. A thought arises from sensation. Thought is sensation. A frightening thought is a sensation, surely? Just as pleasurable thoughts are a sensation.

But, to my mind, how is it that we're aware at all? Or conscious at all? All these processes could be going on - both physical and psychological - by themselves without the least awareness. The clouds, the rain, storms, all happen but no one supposes they tell themselves that they're happening.

So how do we know about all this? At the instant of something happening there's no recognition, no consciousness of it. It's a second later that the event is registered, which then becomes memory and experience. If an event is not registered there's no recollection of it.

So our consciousness is an accumulation of all past experiences, not only the superficial daily events of our lives, but the whole evolutionary history of humanity. All that is written into each one of us.

How are we aware of all this? What is the 'light' that makes it all possible? This isn't the light of the sun or a man-made light, this is an awareness that may have nothing to do with the physical process of memory and thought.

If that process, which is movement, is absent, which is possible, then there's an awareness which is independent of all sensate processes. It's a light which has no cause.

I think we should differentiate clearly between what is called consciousness and that awareness. We aren't generally aware of that awareness because we're immersed in our conscious thoughts and occupations. But, if all that is in abeyance, it's there.

I know at this point many people will say 'Oh, he's gone all woo-woo' and decry it but I can't help that; they don't know and aren't willing to consider it. But it is a fact nevertheless.

Exactly what that awareness is is another thing. I don't think the mind as thought can capture it, it's just there. But without it there'd be no awareness of anything.

I can predict with some certainty that this may be labelled 'Panpsychism'. I wish they wouldn't because we have a habit of labelling things and then dismissing them. If we've labelled it we must know all about it. But, of course, we don't.
charon
Resident Member
 
Posts: 2503
Joined: 02 Mar 2011


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on November 1st, 2020, 12:42 pm 

Hi BJ,
BadgerJelly » October 26th, 2020, 8:27 pm wrote:Dave_C -

Basically you’re saying consciousness isn’t ‘strong emergence’ because that is like magic (beyond our understanding)?

This is what I’m having trouble with. You appear to be saying there is a ‘hard problem’ and then saying it cannot be ‘strong emergence’ (or what specific kind of ‘strong emergence’ are you talking about?) ... is that correct? If so isn’t the problem primarily one for the neurosciences?

Sorry for the delay, I have a hard time getting to everything as you can see....

Problem with responding here too, is I don't know what you think "strong emergence" is. Is everything weakly emergent? How about higher level science laws like Gresham's law? How do those higher level laws have any causal efficacy, assuming they do? Is it reasonable to call quantum entanglement an example of strong emergence? Or perhaps is it better described by "fusion" as given by Humphrey for example?

I think trying to pin down one person's opinion on this isn't any better than the 'garbage in, garbage out' issue in computing. Unless we're sure we know exactly how each person is defining something like this, it makes no sense to try and understand their opinion.

Sorry for the circular response.
User avatar
Dave_C
Member
 
Posts: 383
Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Location: Allentown


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on November 2nd, 2020, 6:36 am 

Dave_C -

Can we agree that Chalmers stated that ‘phenomenal consciousness’ is a strong case for ‘strong emergence’. He did, so there shouldn’t be room for disagreement (note: he didn’t say it was though).

The point is, he is willing to accept ‘consciousness’ as a ‘strong emerging’ phenomenon ... which is kind of a daft thing to say as the ‘phenomenon’ of ‘consciousness’ isn’t actually a ‘phenomenon of consciousness’!

I wish wish to go around in circles over this either tbh. I simply refuted your apparent statement that said ‘strong emergence’ is something like saying ‘I don’t know, therefore god’. That is how it appears when you talk of ‘magic’ simply because neither you nor I have much idea about the origin of ‘consciousness’ yet can see it is related to the brain.

Maybe physics and the neurosciences will shed further light on the what and what not of ‘consciousness’ or maybe they won’t. Chalmers is inspiring because he is willing to suggest seemingly strange ideas, but he’s never fully committed to any of them from what I’ve seen - he’s been more than willing to change his mind from time to time once evidence/arguments are presented.

This thread was about a definition of ‘phenomenal consciousness’. You’re going to have to explain more carefully why I should care about this or that definition of this term when I don’t really think the term says much in the first place.

I think epiphenomalism poses a good question by presenting consciousness as a kind of hard-cast spandrel ... but there are no truly ‘pure’ spandrels in nature, so I find that one hard to swallow personally. As for panpsychism ... it appears to be a trick of moving the goal posts. Interesting to think about, yet it doesn’t really lead anywhere interesting.

Generally speaking I see further insight into this to lie in reducing language down and rethinking what is meant by ‘language’ to encompass our interaction with, apart from, and as a part of, the experienced world.

Note: You’ve preferred not to get into the problem of language before so I won’t push that line. I’m not using ‘emergence’ in any specific way. I was - to repeat - stating that Chalmers presented thoughts on the matter that didn’t view ‘strong emergence’ as a kind of ‘magic’ (and therefore worthy of dismissal).

I don’t know how to talk about ‘consciousness’ with much empiricism. That’s okay by me :)

Without limitations we’d be null and void. ‘Omnipresence’ is the opposite of ‘phenomenal consciousness’ - is that good enough? I like whoever said we’re just ‘time machines’ (that’s an issue we struggle with and I believe to be the real problem behind defining consciousness: the issue of ‘time’).
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5738
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on November 2nd, 2020, 9:33 am 

Dave_C,

Any thoughts on my earlier post?

Positor » October 24th, 2020, 3:48 am wrote:Dave,

In the paper which BadgerJelly linked, Chalmers distinguishes between strong and weak downward causation. I found that very confusing. Isn't weak downward causation a contradiction in terms? In weak emergence, the causation is upwards as normal.
Positor
Active Member
 
Posts: 1179
Joined: 05 Feb 2010


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on November 2nd, 2020, 11:09 am 

Positor » November 2nd, 2020, 9:33 pm wrote:Dave_C,

Any thoughts on my earlier post?

Positor » October 24th, 2020, 3:48 am wrote:Dave,

In the paper which BadgerJelly linked, Chalmers distinguishes between strong and weak downward causation. I found that very confusing. Isn't weak downward causation a contradiction in terms? In weak emergence, the causation is upwards as normal.


This is probably confusing because it isn’t all that complicated. The ‘downward’ causation for weak emergence is just based off principles of measurement. The point is to say that every event can be deduced if we know the starting point - like clockwork (even quantum follows this principle as it isn’t ‘random’ merely unknown/immeasurable). The ‘measurement’ is the important factor here, so keep that in mind.

Strong emergence is tied into some ‘other’ thing. It would be wrong to call it ‘force’ so a ‘law’ that is somehow separate from ‘physical laws’ would be something like what he is talking about - that is not to say he is in any way dismissing the physical sciences!

A lot of this os speculation, but it is careful consideration without oneself to any particular position - even the blatantly obvious (the blind acceptance of physical measurement as all that is or can be). This is where the term ‘qualia’ comes in ... personally I’m not a fan of that as it seems to have taken on a meaning that doesn’t really mean anything (looks more like chasing ghosts to me rather than articulating anything useful: most times I’ve seen it used it does nothing to help the discussion).

A number of theoretical physicists don’t seem to see a need to tie all the universes ‘laws’ into one system. This would fall into some kind of agreement with ‘strong emergence’. Maybe there isn’t ONE formula to explain everything. Maybe mathematical formulas are not the only underlying means of ‘explaining’/‘understanding’ our world life. In this respect I view Chalmers as doing some good in bring tricky problems into focus others refuse to accept as ‘problems’ or stubbornly ignore on ‘physicalism principles’ like some weird priest of science ... and there are plenty of those out there.

Note: Just to be clear, I’m NOT ‘religious’ - not that that is necessarily a detriment to the discussion - just restating this to avoid any possibly pointless attacks or talk of woo-woo!
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5738
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on November 2nd, 2020, 11:54 am 

Badger,

Thanks for your post. I understand your points about strong emergence. However:

BadgerJelly » November 2nd, 2020, 3:09 pm wrote:This is probably confusing because it isn’t all that complicated. The ‘downward’ causation for weak emergence is just based off principles of measurement. The point is to say that every event can be deduced if we know the starting point - like clockwork (even quantum follows this principle as it isn’t ‘random’ merely unknown/immeasurable). The ‘measurement’ is the important factor here, so keep that in mind.

But that is upward causation! If we had perfect knowledge/measurement of the starting point at a microscopic level, we could in principle work upwards to deduce any event at a macroscopic level.
Positor
Active Member
 
Posts: 1179
Joined: 05 Feb 2010


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on November 2nd, 2020, 12:34 pm 

Positor » November 2nd, 2020, 11:54 pm wrote:Badger,

Thanks for your post. I understand your points about strong emergence. However:

BadgerJelly » November 2nd, 2020, 3:09 pm wrote:This is probably confusing because it isn’t all that complicated. The ‘downward’ causation for weak emergence is just based off principles of measurement. The point is to say that every event can be deduced if we know the starting point - like clockwork (even quantum follows this principle as it isn’t ‘random’ merely unknown/immeasurable). The ‘measurement’ is the important factor here, so keep that in mind.

But that is upward causation! If we had perfect knowledge/measurement of the starting point at a microscopic level, we could in principle work upwards to deduce any event at a macroscopic level.


My point was it’s arbitrary. The ‘natural laws’ are themselves underpinned by nothing other than measurements based on observation - which is limited. We may as well call ‘matter’ something that has ‘strong emergence’ because there is no indication (other than dogmatic assumptions by many) that cosmological scales can be combined with subatomic scales in any meaningful way. It may just be there is ‘something other’ that explains this.

What may seem like magic today will be tomorrow’s equivalent of a Calculus (which is by far the most extraordinarily influential principle of ALL modern scientific thinking and thought - or even short-sightedness!).

Note: I don’t even ‘believe in’ causation as anything like an underlying principle ... but that is neither here nor there as far as you’re concerned, but it doesn’t matter :) causation is the basis of measuring things after all. I don’t think we’re completely ‘hooked up’ to the fundamentals of the universes ‘constituent parts’.

Maybe Dave_C can offer something more. I only commented here because I felt Dave_C was slightly misrepresenting what Chalmers had said about ‘strong emergence’ being ‘magic’.
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5738
Joined: 14 Mar 2012
Positor liked this post


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on November 3rd, 2020, 9:56 pm 

Hi BJ.
BadgerJelly » November 2nd, 2020, 5:36 am wrote:Dave_C -

Can we agree that Chalmers stated that ‘phenomenal consciousness’ is a strong case for ‘strong emergence’. He did, so there shouldn’t be room for disagreement (note: he didn’t say it was though).
...
... Chalmers is inspiring because he is willing to suggest seemingly strange ideas, but he’s never fully committed to any of them from what I’ve seen - he’s been more than willing to change his mind from time to time once evidence/arguments are presented.

Yes, agreed. He says strong emergence. I believe he means it. Further to your point about supporting strange ideas, he supports the extended mind thesis. I asked him directly about that. He said he does in fact believe our phenomenal consciousness supervenes on external information such as your cell phone. And he's correct in pointing out that our present theory of consciousness would have to include that. But our present theory of consciousness also violates classical physics so there you go, he fully supports violations of classical physics. Though I don't think he grasps that, he also has pointed out the requirement for counterfactual sensitivity which is another item that violates nature as we know it IMHO.

Strong emergence violates classical physics or more specifically, it violates our understanding of nature when it comes to phenomena that are exhibited by classical physics (ie: phenomena that do not exhibit any of the special features of quantum mechanics). So if you believe phenomenal consciousness emerges from neuron interactions, then you would also have to believe as Chalmers does, in the extended mind thesis and you might as well buy into counterfactual sensitivity while you're at it.

The point is, he is willing to accept ‘consciousness’ as a ‘strong emerging’ phenomenon ... which is kind of a daft thing to say as the ‘phenomenon’ of ‘consciousness’ isn’t actually a ‘phenomenon of consciousness’!

Don't know what you mean here. Consciousness is something that happens. We observe it so in that sense, we can experience this phenomenon. It is something that happens inside our brains which deserves a scientific explanation.
User avatar
Dave_C
Member
 
Posts: 383
Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Location: Allentown


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on November 3rd, 2020, 10:08 pm 

Hi Positor,
Positor » November 2nd, 2020, 8:33 am wrote:Dave_C,

Any thoughts on my earlier post?

Positor » October 24th, 2020, 3:48 am wrote:Dave,

In the paper which BadgerJelly linked, Chalmers distinguishes between strong and weak downward causation. I found that very confusing. Isn't weak downward causation a contradiction in terms? In weak emergence, the causation is upwards as normal.

... If we had perfect knowledge/measurement of the starting point at a microscopic level, we could in principle work upwards to deduce any event at a macroscopic level.

Agreed, downward causation is only used in describing strong emergence. In my opinion though, weak emergence does not work well in describing how properties emerge from the interactions of particles. Water is not just 2 hydrogens and 1 oxygen. When combined, the properties of water are unlike those of hydrogen or oxygen individually. In comparison, neurons keep all their properties intact and without any change regardless of what state the brain is in, and neurons are only influenced by local, causal actions, AND you can separate neurons and still retain all the properties they had when they were together in the brain. That doesn't happen with hydrogen atoms, oxygen atoms and water molecules. So I would not use weak emergence as a description for the emergence of the macro scale from the micro scale (in the sense of molecular properties emerging from atoms and subatomic particles). That seems to me at least, to be a very different concept of emergence.
User avatar
Dave_C
Member
 
Posts: 383
Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Location: Allentown


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on November 5th, 2020, 10:55 am 

Dave_C -

I meant nothing much other than the obvious. We can’t be ‘conscious’ of ‘consciousness’ - we’re just ‘conscious of’. It is an important distinction to make I feel as it shows the use of terms like ‘quale’ and such to be empty tasks (in that they’re ‘removed’/second-hand from/to consciousness).

Generally a great many people tend to spend time talking about something called ‘consciousness’ when they’re - often enough - talking about ken.
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5738
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on November 5th, 2020, 11:42 am 

BadgerJelly » November 5th, 2020, 2:55 pm wrote:I meant nothing much other than the obvious. We can’t be ‘conscious’ of ‘consciousness’ - we’re just ‘conscious of’.

What about the difference between perception and apperception?

Perception = consciousness of something
Apperception = consciousness of consciousness (of something)
Positor
Active Member
 
Posts: 1179
Joined: 05 Feb 2010


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on November 5th, 2020, 8:04 pm 

Positor » November 5th, 2020, 11:42 pm wrote:
BadgerJelly » November 5th, 2020, 2:55 pm wrote:I meant nothing much other than the obvious. We can’t be ‘conscious’ of ‘consciousness’ - we’re just ‘conscious of’.

What about the difference between perception and apperception?

Perception = consciousness of something
Apperception = consciousness of consciousness (of something)


Ken. Consciousness of consciousness is no different than saying the redness of redness ... it’s a pointless exercise that merely looks/sounds like something more than it is due to the emphasis we place on spoken/written words.

We are conscious. We don’t experience consciousness - that’s a daft statement. To contemplate that we’re different from other entities due to an item we reflect upon as ‘consciousness’ is to ‘ken’ (the issue arises because the term conscious can be used in different ways, eg. ‘I wasn’t conscious of the difference between x and y).
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5738
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on November 11th, 2020, 7:31 am 

I must admit that charon never stops to surprise me
charon » October 9th, 2020, 5:01 pm wrote:But what's interesting is that we know what we are, we're aware of it. There's this self-reflective element to consciousness which is somewhat of a mystery.

and then
charon » October 10th, 2020, 4:52 pm wrote:What's the problem here?

If you mean how does the whole sense of self arise, that again is simple. We have senses which function internally and outwardly. Outwardly for what's outside us and internally for pain, hunger, sadness, joy, or anything else.

That's what it means to be conscious.

So: is it a mistery or no problem?

Finally:
charon » October 18th, 2020, 5:54 pm wrote:How consciousness works isn't such a mystery. The only thing which is a mystery, if one likes to use that word, is what makes it all possible.


So, the conclusion is: it is not a mistery, it is just a mistery.
User avatar
neuro
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 2641
Joined: 25 Jun 2010
Location: italy


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on November 11th, 2020, 7:32 am 

Positor » October 23rd, 2020, 1:45 pm wrote: the definition of (phenomenal) consciousness is that there is something it is like to be a particular entity (see the Chalmers quote in BadgerJelly's post above). It is about being a person – having their experiences. You are right that without consciousness there would be no 'we', but 'acting like we do' does not mean being us – it means performing similar actions.


This is the crucial point, in my opinion, because it is not clear. At all.
Does "being me" mean feeling what I feel (something as basic as feeling pain when I hurt, kind of an animal raw awareness) or does it mean being self conscious, i.e. capable of thinking of myself, seeing myself, being aware that I am the one who feels pain, and thinks, and desires, and acts?

In the first case, I do not even know whether it makes any sense to investigate (philosophically or scientifically) what "feeling pain" actually means. If the question of qualia were simply that, I imagine that there would not be much interest in the debate.

If on the other hand p-consciousness involves high-order consciousness and what is it like to be me, in terms of what is it like for me, rather than for another person, to see something red, or being hurt, or seeing the mountains covered by the snow or diving deep into the ocean, then I believe that philosophers have analysed this quite thoroughly and scientists will be totally able to explain it, provided that the capability of feeling pain or joy is given for granted.

In simple words, my point is that zombies may act as we do even without consciousness, but a sufficiently sophisticated computer which could feel pain would be bound to develop a consciousness (Hal of 2001 a space Odyssey can testify!) and we are already close to be capable of explaining why and how.
User avatar
neuro
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 2641
Joined: 25 Jun 2010
Location: italy


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on November 11th, 2020, 7:45 am 

...

I'm not surprised you're amazed. I'd quite happily explain it but you might just be even more amazed than before :-)

Read it with a little more patience and get yourself a spell-checker. The word is mystery.
charon
Resident Member
 
Posts: 2503
Joined: 02 Mar 2011


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on November 11th, 2020, 7:49 am 

davidm » October 23rd, 2020, 8:49 pm wrote:The crux of the matter, again, is we have no scientific account whatever of how neurons firing yields the subjective experience of red, or anything else.
...
Why? Because we know exactly how a gut digests food. We have no idea how neurons firing produces the subjective experience of the color red, or of anything else.
...
We have no comparable account whatever of how the subjective experience of red (as one of innumerable examples) somehow emerges from functionalist brain activity.

Once more, this is not clear.

The experience of red, i.e. the capability of distinguish red from another colour, is a merely cognitive one. A computer connected to a camera can "experience" red because it can distinguish it from any other colour.

The subjective experience of red is a personal (cognitive + emotional + affective + evocative + reflexive) experience; the cohort of associations, evocations and emotions that accompany the experience, and thus the qualia and meaning of the experience for the person who lives it, are perfectly accounted by the functioning of their brain.

A problem does remain - the truly "hard" but actually nonsensical problem of consciousness: why is an experience different for a living organism than it is for a machine? in what does it exactly differ? what makes my hurting finger be for me something different from what a burned circuit is for a computer/robot?

Is this what we are discussing about?
User avatar
neuro
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 2641
Joined: 25 Jun 2010
Location: italy


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on November 11th, 2020, 8:34 am 

neuro -

I'll tell you why you're amazed. It's because your head is filled with all those big words and technical stuff you think is important. It's not, it's mostly a lot of intellectual garbage. Mind you, you're not alone in this. Ten pages of this thread and you and others are absolutely nowhere. In fact, at least one of them is still trying to define emergence, one of the principle tenets of the whole subject. If you believe in emergence, of course.

What may be a mystery to some may not be a mystery to others. Consciousness isn't something we possess, it's what we are. You understand that? What we ARE. Therefore consciousness is yourself, what you think, what you know, what you feel, your memory, your knowledge, your beliefs, prejudices, problems, confusions, and all the rest of it. That is your consciousness.

And, if you look at it closely, that is everybody's consciousness too, isn't it? That same content is the same as everybody else's whoever and wherever they are. So there's nothing special about it, it's a universal phenomenon.

Consciousness is not a container, what makes up consciousness is precisely what it is. The activities of the mind, of thought and feeling and the background of memory, is consciousness. If that disappears, consciousness disappears - at least as we know it. There may then be a different kind of consciousness, but that's a bit advanced for most people.

Now they're trying to work out if consciousness is produced by the brain. Actually, they've already concluded it is so they've got this problem of how the brain could produce it. That's why they're talking about neurons so much.

But it might not be produced by the brain. It needs the brain to operate in the body but it may originate from somewhere else entirely. After all, if consciousness is universal, belonging to everybody, then it may not originate in the brain at all. Rather it materialises in the brain.

There's a word for this kind of misunderstanding. I think they liken it to seeing a paper bag blowing down the street but, because they don't see the wind, they assume the bag must be making itself move. Similarly with consciousness which, I repeat, is what we are. Because we don't see the force that animates us we believe we must be self-energised. Which is nonsense, of course.

I wonder if the people here, who are now into ten pages of nothing, are really interested in consciousness as it is? Or are they actually interested in some sort of intellectual puzzle about the brain and its physical workings? Or are they interested, again intellectually, in what people like Chalmers say about it? Chalmers may be an idiot. Are they ready for that? I doubt it.

What they don't do, and neither do you, I suspect, is look at themselves. There you have every example of consciousness you could want. It's what you are. Explore that if you want to find things out, don't read a lot of intellectual guff about what other ignorant people think!

What matters isn't consciousness as we experience it, what matters is to go out and beyond that limited field. There are much more exciting things to discover than the limitations of thought and memory.

One problem, very obviously, is that they're using thought and memory to try to understand thought and memory. You see the absurdity? Whereas if they just observed themselves and were learning in that observation they'd discover virtually everything they think they want to know because it's right there.

After all, isn't that the basis of all real scientific enquiry? Of course it is, but they're not doing it. It's easier to waffle about neurons than it is to work hard at observation and discovery. But, what the hell, it's their lookout. But such a waste of life, really.
charon
Resident Member
 
Posts: 2503
Joined: 02 Mar 2011


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on November 11th, 2020, 11:16 am 

Neuro -

Yes, that is the general issue of the ‘hard problem’. The ‘how’ is for science, the why is - from my experience - often what proceeds the question of ‘how’. Once we unravel certain ‘why’ questions we inevitably find ‘how’ questions.

I don’t really like the term qualia for consciousness at all. ‘Red’ is certainly not a singular ‘experience’ it is just a term we use to refer to a known physical phenomenon (‘known’ meaning ‘measurable’) upon which we lay our relationship with the term - and each is different.

In the above sense ‘p-consciousness’ is not about ‘measuring’ the ‘how’ of the relationship, it’s just THERE and, I believe, it is much more about ‘not knowing’.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I just don’t think we have the concepts available to us yet to deal fully with the issue of subjectivity/intersubjectivity. I don’t believe empirical science has much to offer us either in this area (revealing concepts that able us to better get to grips with other questions).

Dave, so I believe, isn’t keen on this as a semantic/epistemic issue though (if I recall?).
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5738
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on November 11th, 2020, 11:40 am 

Badger, I believe that what neuroscience is gradually managing to do is to explain - once you accept that a living organism reacts to stimuli in a different way from a machine and we define that different way "feeling" - both why and how consciousness in all its aspects arises in a brain.
This is my simple point here.

And charon, please, give us a break with your preaching!
Your only contribution is to keep teaching us what consciousness is... Nobody here thinks this is a mystery or needs your explanations.
The question is how this function arises in the brain and whether it is a product of neural activity or comes from somewhere else; since it seems that you consider this last question totally irrelevant, it is not clear to me why you participate in this discussion at all.
Is it just to show us that you know what the consciousness is? or is it because you think that the phenomenology of consciousness encompasses all that can be said on the topic, and this deprives us of the right of discussing any further?
User avatar
neuro
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 2641
Joined: 25 Jun 2010
Location: italy


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on November 11th, 2020, 12:09 pm 

neuro -

give us a break with your preaching!


What am I preaching? Jesus? I'm not preaching anything, I'm just pointing out some facts. I didn't make them up, they're what's going on.

Your only contribution is to keep teaching us what consciousness is... Nobody here thinks this is a mystery or needs your explanations.


Okay, but I'd dispute that. If you/they don't need the explanations why are they up a gumtree after ten pages?

The question is how this function arises in the brain and whether it is a product of neural activity or comes from somewhere else


I don't think it's completely irrelevant at all, that's precisely what I'm talking about. I'm saying it does come from somewhere else and tried to point it out. It's in that post and several others.

Consciousness is what we are, it is ourselves. If we assert that we are only a product of the brain's activity does that explain anything? Seriously, does that explain a human being?

There have been innumerable experiments about consciousness living and moving outside the physical brain. They may not be able to prove it by experiment but the accounts of it are beyond dispute and accepted by scientists.

Of course it's anecdotal but so what? If someone - and there have been a multitude of such accounts - can describe exactly what was happening out of their direct sight when they were deeply anaesthetised or unconscious, or even in normal consciousness, then it must be accounted for.

I'm not really interested in things like that, by the way, I'm just saying it exists. Dismissing these things, and others, as anecdotal and therefore not worthy of consideration is stupidity. Only immature minds that want to win points think like that. Not everyone is a liar, fraud or fantasist. Besides, when the descriptions are exact they couldn't be; a fraud couldn't do it.

It's not as simple as it looks. My point is that focussing on the brain alone will not help us understand consciousness. It will go some way, obviously, because the brain is involved in it, but that's all. But focussing on the particular will not reveal the larger picture, whereas in the larger picture the particular has its place.
charon
Resident Member
 
Posts: 2503
Joined: 02 Mar 2011


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on November 11th, 2020, 12:34 pm 

He could have made it all up, but did he? This is just one of millions and millions.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyl ... experience

I suppose you could still claim that consciousness is produced by the brain but can project itself beyond the body in real time. That would be reasonable.
charon
Resident Member
 
Posts: 2503
Joined: 02 Mar 2011


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on November 11th, 2020, 9:55 pm 

Neuro -

I certainly believe it is ridiculous to ignore the neurological evidence. That said, I’d say it’s a step too far to assume neuroscience either can or will answer everything there is to answer regarding ‘consciousness’.

As with the ‘natural laws’ it may just be that there is one formula to explain everything or it may be that there isn’t. We’ve floundered down physicalist paths before, and snagged ourselves on various other -isms, so I side with scepticism ... wait! That’s an ism! Damn it! Haha!
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5738
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on November 12th, 2020, 9:17 am 

the neurological evidence


What neurological evidence?
charon
Resident Member
 
Posts: 2503
Joined: 02 Mar 2011


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on November 12th, 2020, 11:37 am 

neuro » November 11th, 2020, 11:32 am wrote:
Positor » October 23rd, 2020, 1:45 pm wrote: the definition of (phenomenal) consciousness is that there is something it is like to be a particular entity (see the Chalmers quote in BadgerJelly's post above). It is about being a person – having their experiences. You are right that without consciousness there would be no 'we', but 'acting like we do' does not mean being us – it means performing similar actions.

This is the crucial point, in my opinion, because it is not clear. At all.
Does "being me" mean feeling what I feel (something as basic as feeling pain when I hurt, kind of an animal raw awareness) or does it mean being self conscious, i.e. capable of thinking of myself, seeing myself, being aware that I am the one who feels pain, and thinks, and desires, and acts?

By "being me" I mean the former. Morally, raw awareness is the relevant criterion. It is (normally) wrong to inflict pain on a person or animal, because they will feel it and suffer. To feel pain, one does not need to be able to form the concept "I am the one who feels the pain". One does not need self-awareness in order to suffer; mere awareness is sufficient.

neuro wrote:In the first case, I do not even know whether it makes any sense to investigate (philosophically or scientifically) what "feeling pain" actually means. If the question of qualia were simply that, I imagine that there would not be much interest in the debate.

Well, it is important from an ethical point of view. If someone were reliably told that they were going to suffer great pain but be deprived of higher-order consciousness, they would be anxious, and rightly so.

neuro wrote:If on the other hand p-consciousness involves high-order consciousness and what is it like to be me, in terms of what is it like for me, rather than for another person, to see something red, or being hurt, or seeing the mountains covered by the snow or diving deep into the ocean, then I believe that philosophers have analysed this quite thoroughly and scientists will be totally able to explain it, provided that the capability of feeling pain or joy is given for granted.

Maybe so. The step from raw consciousness (awareness) to self-consciousness can probably be explained functionally, in neurological terms. But that is not the 'hard problem' as I see it. The hard problem is how we have feelings in the first place, not how we conceptualize those feelings. It is how we have a first-person view at all.

neuro wrote:In simple words, my point is that zombies may act as we do even without consciousness, but a sufficiently sophisticated computer which could feel pain would be bound to develop a consciousness (Hal of 2001 a space Odyssey can testify!) and we are already close to be capable of explaining why and how.

Well, let us be clear here. We can distinguish three possible types of zombie/machine:
(a) one that can act as we do but feels/experiences nothing (has no first-person point of view);
(b) one that can feel pain but lacks self-consciousness;
(c) one that can feel pain and is self-conscious (i.e. it can think "I am feeling pain"").

My concern is more with the step from (a) to (b), rather than the one from (b) to (c). The latter is probably of more interest to a scientist. However, as this is the Metaphysics forum, I think it appropriate to consider the philosophical aspect of the 'hard problem of consciousness'.
Positor
Active Member
 
Posts: 1179
Joined: 05 Feb 2010
TheVat liked this post


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on November 12th, 2020, 12:02 pm 

To feel pain, one does not need to be able to form the concept "I am the one who feels the pain". One does not need self-awareness in order to suffer; mere awareness is sufficient.


But Positor, what if there were no recognition of that suffering? I mean by that the mental machinery that consciously recognises the fact of pain. Without thought is there conscious experiencing at all?

And, forgive me, how do we know what it is to be without the concept 'I feel pain'?

We're not just bodies. The body will instinctively draw away from pain, the brain will do that, but when we suffer pain isn't that a conscious mental experience in which thinking is involved? And thinking is memory; we know pain because it's recognised.

You know, when cats have pain somewhere on their bodies they try to run away from it. They can't escape it but try to run anyway, as though it were separate from them. Poor things.

We're not like that. Apart from the physical sensation, would pain have any subjective meaning without it being mentally noted?

I think it appropriate to consider the philosophical aspect of the 'hard problem of consciousness'.


I am, I have, but apparently it's all taboo, I'm only supposed to talk about neurons.
charon
Resident Member
 
Posts: 2503
Joined: 02 Mar 2011


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on November 13th, 2020, 10:25 am 

Positor:
great!

I agree all along:

- the step a->b is a metaphysical conundrum - science cannot tell us anything about it

- the step b->c is something that you consider of interest for scientists, and I agree, but not everybody seems to share this view, because I keep seeing the problem of p-consciousness (raw awareness, being able to feel something) mixed up with the question of self-consciousness.

In particular, I believe that the problem of how (b) generates (c) [self-consciousness] is not a metaphysical question, can be faced scientifically; it is an example of strong emergence and probably that is the reason why many confuse it with the "hard" problem; actually, we know quite a lot about it.

However I believe it is not bad to mention it, because in the metaphysical forum even more than everywhere else it is important to clarify what one is talking about
User avatar
neuro
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 2641
Joined: 25 Jun 2010
Location: italy
Positor liked this post


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on November 13th, 2020, 11:51 am 

charon » November 12th, 2020, 4:02 pm wrote:We're not just bodies. The body will instinctively draw away from pain, the brain will do that, but when we suffer pain isn't that a conscious mental experience in which thinking is involved?

No, not necessarily.

charon wrote:And thinking is memory; we know pain because it's recognised.

We need to recognise pain in order to know it and think about it, but we do not need to recognise it in order to feel it. The first time in our life that we are subjected to pain, we have the pain but do not 'recognise' it; the recognition and conceptualisation of it come later. If we needed to recognise it in order to suffer it, the process could never get started.

charon wrote:You know, when cats have pain somewhere on their bodies they try to run away from it. They can't escape it but try to run anyway, as though it were separate from them. Poor things.

But the pain still hurts; that is the crucial point. That is why it is morally wrong to inflict pain on animals.
Positor
Active Member
 
Posts: 1179
Joined: 05 Feb 2010


Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on November 13th, 2020, 2:49 pm 

Positor -

Thanks for replying.

But the pain still hurts; that is the crucial point


How do you know it hurts? Does it hurt if you don't know it does? You see my point?

I also said this:

how do we know what it is to be without the concept 'I feel pain'?


I think you're positing (no puns intended!) a state where we feel pain without knowing what it is. Perhaps a very small baby might come into that category. It just cries but doesn't know what's going on. But that's because it's faculties aren't yet developed. It has no idea about anything, not just pain.

But in our case, as conscious humans, I doubt if there is such a scenario. As you say, and as I too have said many times, the first time something happens there's no recognition and therefore no reaction as from memory. Only when the event is registered is there knowledge and future recognition.

If the body experiences pain there are inevitable physical reactions but they wouldn't include being able to respond intelligently - or even unintelligently - to them. But you and I can examine that pain, trace its source, and do something about it.

What I'm objecting to is putting forward a scenario that doesn't actually exist in us. I don't see how we're to understand consciousness by positing unreal scenarios. We are both body and mind, not just mindless body. In any case, without the faculty of conscious thought there'd be no consciousness to examine and no means of examining it.

Neuro has said that he thinks all I'm doing is just describing what everyone already knows (which I rather doubt) and not answering the question of how the brain/neurons produce consciousness. But, of course, that may only be his conclusion (that it is responsible for consciousness) and he himself may only be following the conclusion of others.

I keep describing it for a very good reason. The scientists have not understood neurons and consciousness. How we're supposed to do better than them on a talk board is beyond me but they keep trying.

The brain is obviously involved in the thought process, that's beyond dispute, but that's not all there is to consciousness, is it? I think they're disregarding that fact because it doesn't fit their model. They've got themselves bogged down by pursuing a faulty and incomplete conclusion.
charon
Resident Member
 
Posts: 2503
Joined: 02 Mar 2011


PreviousNext

Return to Metaphysics & Epistemology

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 10 guests