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 23rd, 2020, 1:30 am 

Dave -

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


Chalmers himself doesn’t say this:

http://www.consc.net/papers/emergence.pdf

Strong emergence has much more radical consequences than weak emergence. If there are phenomena that are strongly emergent with respect to the domain of physics, then our conception of nature needs to be expanded to accommodate them. That is, if there are phenomena whose existence is not deducible from the facts about the exact distribution of particles and fields throughout space and time (along with the laws of physics), then this suggests that new fundamental laws of nature are needed to explain these phenomena.


Followed by:

We have seen that strong emergence, if it exists, has radical consequences. The question that immediately arises, then, is: are there strongly emergent phenomena?
My own view is that the answer to this question is yes. I think there is exactly one clear case of a strongly emergent phenomenon, and that is the phenomenon of consciousness. We can say that a system is conscious when there is something it is like to be that system; that is, when there is something it feels like from the system’s own perspective. It is a key fact about nature that it contains conscious systems; I am one such. And there is reason to believe that the facts about consciousness are not deducible from any number of physical facts.


I think people forget the entire point of the p-zombie thought experiment was merely to outline that it is LOGICALLY possible to think of a being acting like we do without having to have consciousness. We can even imagine some kind of feline creature that can dive to the depths of the ocean. What we CANNOT imagine is a square circle because it contradicts LOGIC.

Not having experienced an aquatic cat or a philosophical zombie isn’t the same as them being possible. The issue is ‘logic’.

If you’re looking to define ‘phenomenal consciousness’ with greater precision then taking into account the logical application of thoughts is paramount to this.

Phenomenal consciousness operates specifically within the limits of what is logically thinkable. An obvious example where our logical knowledge seems unsatisfactory when relating experience to rationality is in the quantum perspective. This is indicative of our ignorance is nothing else.

The whole translation of this problem - as far as I can tell - is due to the conflict between experience and logical knowledge. What may be logically sound doesn’t often coincide with experience.

Note: I’m certainly NOT saying that quantum physics is anything but robust and logical!

Other argumentation against Chalmers’ view is often - and blithely - dismissed as equivalent to ‘I don’t know, so god did it!’ Ironically the people saying such things are the ignorant ones because they take his words as religious proclamations rather than as questions meant to probe into our ignorance rather than ignore it’s existence and behave in an arrogant manner. People forget no one can ‘imagine’ a ‘god’. What cannot be logically held in the mind cannot possibly exist within the mind (just like ‘square circles’ or talk of ‘purple weight silently screaming to trouser dreams‘). The fact that we can imagine a philosophical zombie begs the question as to what is it that makes us ‘conscious entity’ rather than a ‘zombie entity’?

Is that useful? Would a definition of ‘phenomenal consciousness’ benefit from an approach based mostly around what is logically possible in our head rather than what can merely be stated. It seems so to me, but this isn’t of much interest to me as it is to you I suspect.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on October 23rd, 2020, 5:06 am 

it is LOGICALLY possible to think of a being acting like we do without having to have consciousness


No, it's not, it's completely and utterly stupid!

A person 'acting like we do' without consciousness? How would they get around? No consciousness means there's no thought. They'd be in a vegetative state. They'd be like a mechanical doll. It means the lights are on but there's no one - literally no one - at home. It means there's no person. The body wouldn't operate and, if it did, it would just bump into things like a car without a driver.

'Acting like we do' means consciousness. Without consciousness there's no acting like we do. 'Acting like we do' is the very definition of consciousness. Without consciousness there'd be no 'we'.

It's one of the most stupid ideas I've ever heard. And it was around a long time before Chalmers got his hands on it.

The idea behind it is to disprove Physicalism. Physicalism just states there's nothing more than the brain. What is called mind is just thought produced by the brain. The brain is physical so the mind is equally physical.

What's wrong with that? I'd support that except for one thing. If it says there's nothing more to life than what the brain produces then it's wrong. There's intelligence. The body has its protective mechanisms but that's not intelligence. Intelligence is beyond thought.

But even that's not all there is. In fact, there no limit to what there is. We've invented multiple gods but that has nothing to do with reality.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on October 23rd, 2020, 8:45 am 

charon » October 23rd, 2020, 10:06 am wrote:A person 'acting like we do' without consciousness? How would they get around? No consciousness means there's no thought. They'd be in a vegetative state. They'd be like a mechanical doll.

Why would that be logically impossible? We can make robots – why should there be a limit to their degree of sophistication? (Such a person wouldn't be in a vegetative state. That implies an inability to respond and act, which robots and other machines can do,)

It means the lights are on but there's no one - literally no one - at home. It means there's no person.

Yes.

The body wouldn't operate and, if it did, it would just bump into things like a car without a driver.

As I said, there is no logical (or even physical) impediment to making an extremely complex and sophisticated machine.

'Acting like we do' means consciousness. Without consciousness there's no acting like we do. 'Acting like we do' is the very definition of consciousness. Without consciousness there'd be no 'we'.

No, 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.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on October 23rd, 2020, 10:07 am 

As BJ and Positor both touch on, it is vital to the chat to fully grasp the meaning of Chalmers pzed. I posted the same point about logical possibility (versus physical actuality) several weeks ago. A simulation of a person, which is essentially what Chalmers means by a pzed, is going to exhibit all the behaviors of a person. It just doesn't have any qualia, any subjective states. To dismiss the pzed as a philosophic tool, it's not enough to simply wave one's arms and insist that intelligent actions and responses may only come from conscious minds.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on October 23rd, 2020, 10:25 am 

Positor -

Why would that be logically impossible?


I don't care if it's logically possible or not. I'm talking about the silliness of it. Eating fish and marmalade out of a paper hat is logically possible but so what?

(Such a person wouldn't be in a vegetative state. That implies an inability to respond and act, which robots and other machines can do)


Uh? You're mixing people and robots. They're two different things. A person without consciousness would just be a biological blob. Ask a doctor.

'The body wouldn't operate and, if it did, it would just bump into things like a car without a driver.'

As I said, there is no logical (or even physical) impediment to making an extremely complex and sophisticated machine.


You're doing it again. I don't know what you're talking about. I say something about people, you talk about machines.

the definition of (phenomenal) consciousness is that there is something it is like to be a particular entity. It is about being a person – having their experiences.


I know.

You are right that without consciousness there would be no 'we'


Therefore any statement about people without consciousness is meaningless. They wouldn't exist as a being.

but 'acting like we do' does not mean being us – it means performing similar actions


Like a robot, you mean? What has that to do with consciousness? You're not going to understand human consciousness by examining machines! I don't get this at all.

What's your point? What exactly are you trying to say or understand?
Last edited by charon on October 23rd, 2020, 11:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on October 23rd, 2020, 10:39 am 

TheVat » October 23rd, 2020, 3:07 pm wrote: A simulation of a person, which is essentially what Chalmers means by a pzed, is going to exhibit all the behaviors of a person. It just doesn't have any qualia, any subjective states. To dismiss the pzed as a philosophic tool, it's not enough to simply wave one's arms and insist that intelligent actions and responses may only come from conscious minds.


Chalmers did not invent the philosophical zombie. The idea was first floated by Keith Campbell in 1970 and then by Robert Kirk in 1974.

A philosophical zombie is a person without consciousness, hence without qualia. I'm saying a person like that would not be a person. Therefore nothing can be said about them, real or not.

I still don't understand what all this is about. As I asked Positor, what exactly are we trying to understand? Could someone just put it very simply in baby language for me because, as you know, I'm very, very slow. Thank you.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on October 23rd, 2020, 11:27 am 

charon » October 23rd, 2020, 3:39 pm wrote:A philosophical zombie is a person without consciousness, hence without qualia. I'm saying a person like that would not be a person. Therefore nothing can be said about them, real or not.

You are saying that a philosophical zombie would be a person without consciousness, then you are saying that this would not be a person, so you are contradicting your own definition.

I agree it would not be a person, but I would not define it as a person in the first place. A PZ would in effect be a machine, but one whose physical appearance and behaviour is completely indistinguishable from that of a person.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on October 23rd, 2020, 12:31 pm 

You're playing with words. It was just a way of putting it. A body without a person, then. Whatever you like!

A PZ would in effect be a machine, but one whose physical appearance and behaviour is completely indistinguishable from that of a person.


I don't think a PZ is supposed to be a machine unless you mean it metaphorically or biologically. No article I've read describes PZs as machines, quite the contrary.

Did you read my post properly, especially about machines? You haven't commented and I'd say that invited comment. Especially as you're simply - and erroneously, in my view - pursuing the same line.

A PZ would in effect be a machine, but one whose physical appearance and behaviour is completely indistinguishable from that of a person.


The PZ idea is a philosophical tool. It doesn't actually matter what they're supposed to be made of.

Also you haven't answered my question at the end:

What's your point? What exactly are you trying to say or understand?


This means the overall point under discussion, not machines vs humans.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on October 23rd, 2020, 12:49 pm 

Will he read that one properly, I ask myself? It's something people really aren't good at here.

Sorry, but it's true. One does become frustrated.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby davidm on October 23rd, 2020, 3:49 pm 

Charon, I think the frustration is more with us than with you. I’ve been following this thread only sporadically, but let me take a whack at the main points.

As explained, a P zombie is a logical possibility if not a physical possibility. The way to tell is to ask yourself if it is possible to conceive an alternative reality without bringing about a logical contradiction. This is a useful exercise even if the alternative reality is not physically possible. Example: It is possible to conceive, without a logical contradiction, a world in which everything falls up instead of down, even though such a world is physically impossible. In modal logic, a world at which everything falls up is a possible but non-actual world.

Conversely, it is not possible to conceive of a world that contains four-sided triangles, because such a state of affairs brings about a logical contradiction. In modal logic, there is no possible world at which four-sided triangles exist. The possible worlds heuristic deals entirely with logical possibility.

It is logically possible that P zombies exist. So follow this. The issue is: Why do we have felt experiences? Why do we have subjectivity? Why do we have qualia (sensation of red, pain at pin prick, on and on)?

We can imagine a possible world at which there are P zombies. They behave exactly as we do but have no felt experiences at all. This is important because we have no scientific account whatsoever of how neurons firing and all the other things the brain does translate to subjective felt experiences. THAT is the issue.

Now return for a moment to P zombies. We see they are logically possible because we can conceive of a world in which they exist without bringing about a logical contradiction. Are they physically possible? I argue they already exist to a limited degree. Consider Siri. A year or so ago, I decided to test Siri by asking it (her?) to explain Hume’s Problem of Induction. It (her?) explained it perfectly. Now I know how Siri works. That isn’t the point. The point is, while we have no reason to assume that Siri is conscious, and we know how it works, it interacted with me in a way totally indistinguishable from a human being, and perfectly explained a complex problem in philosophy that probably 99 percent of humanity knows nothing about.

Provisional conclusion: Siri is a P zombie. It takes input and returns appropriate output with, presumably, no interior life at all.

Chess computers routinely beat the greatest grandmasters. A Go computer whipped the world’s Go champ, while coming up with a novel attack that no human had ever conceived. These are P zombies. They do things better than humans can do. But they are not conscious — presumably. If they don’t need consciousness to act in complex ways interacting with the environment and transforming inputs into outputs, then why do we?

But there is more to it than that. 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. We have a functionalist account, as Chalmers points out, but that only solves the soft problem of consciousness.

Someone here, maybe in this thread, posted a video of a scientist or philosopher — I forget who — claiming that neurons firing explains qualia, consciousness, subjectivity, etc. When pressed how, he offered an analogy: consciousness is what the brain does, in the same way that digestion is what the gut does. The interviewer challenged him, and, astonishingly, the interviewee capitulated and admitted it was a bad analogy.

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.

I mean, sure, you can say that consciousness is what the brain does. But HOW?

Another claim: consciousness is an emergent property of brain activity, in the same way the water is an emergent property of the appropriate interaction of hydrogen and oxygen, mediated by temperature, air pressure, etc. Again, the analogy is a total flop. We know exactly how water, in whatever state, emerges from, or supervenes on, hydrogen and oxygen. We have no comparable account whatever of how the subjective experience of red (as one of innumerable examples) somehow emerges from functionalist brain activity. This is the hard problem of consciousness.

Daniel Dennett takes the eliminativist stance (as you do too apparently) that once you have explained neurons firing, there is nothing more to explain. Needless to say, Chalmers (and I and many others) disagree with Dennett, for the reasons I have mooted above (and others besides).

Two possible alternatives to physicalism: metaphysical idealism, which holds that the brain supervenes on (depends on) the mind, rather than the metaphysical naturalist assumption: that mind supervenes on the brain. On this account, the brain, and everything else in the world, are mental constructs — that mind is a fundamental property of nature, like time and space, or whatever underpins time and space. This is related to the second alternative, panpsychism, that everything is conscious to some degree — Siri, Go computers, chess computers, electrons, etc. etc.

Hope that helps, but somehow I bet it won’t. ;)
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on October 23rd, 2020, 6:30 pm 

You're right, I'm not really frustrated in that sense but it does drift on. Page 9 now...

Can I ask you a question? If you understood consciousness directly for yourself, what it is, how it works, would you bother with zombies? Doesn't it sound a bit childish to you? It should!

Why do we have felt experiences? Why do we have subjectivity? Why do we have qualia (sensation of red, pain at pin prick, on and on)?


I've already answered that several times. It's been ignored. That's not a moan, I'm just stating a fact.

If they don’t need consciousness to act in complex ways interacting with the environment and transforming inputs into outputs, then why do we?


That's a different question. Because we were born that way, that's the way it is. Are you asking why we're conscious at all? I don't know, ask nature! Why is the sky blue?

somehow I bet it won’t


It won't, not because I'm stubborn, but because a hundred different theories invented by the clever mind all saying different things aren't an answer, simple as that. Find me just one plain indisputable fact, that would be much better.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby davidm on October 23rd, 2020, 7:34 pm 

My bet paid off!

It amazes me how certain people come here full of certainty and refuse to even make a minimal effort to understand what is being said to them or engage with the content in any meaningful way. You have basically ignored my entire post, which was an attempt, forlorn alas, to educate you. So much the worse for you.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby davidm on October 23rd, 2020, 7:52 pm 

Why is the sky blue?


See, this is the point. The sky isn’t blue! Blue is in the mind. But how is it in the mind? Whence arises this subjective experience of blue? Other minds do not see a blue sky. But whatever our minds or other minds experience, how does that experience happen?

Are you asking why we are conscious at all? I don’t know, ask nature!


Are you asking why things fall? I don’t know, ask nature!

Don’t you see how ridiculous your responses are? If someone asks you to explain gravity, do you say, I don’t know, ask nature! If one were to claim that things fall just because that’s how it is, do you really regard such a response as explanatory?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on October 23rd, 2020, 9:47 pm 

charon » October 23rd, 2020, 5:31 pm wrote:I don't think a PZ is supposed to be a machine unless you mean it metaphorically or biologically. No article I've read describes PZs as machines, quite the contrary.

For the purposes of the argument, it doesn't matter whether the 'machine' is manufactured or biological – whether it is artificial or natural. If you think the word 'machine' necessarily implies something manufactured/artificial, we can instead use the expression 'automaton' or 'mindless body' or something like that.

Did you read my post properly, especially about machines? You haven't commented and I'd say that invited comment. Especially as you're simply - and erroneously, in my view - pursuing the same line.

Yes, I read it carefully. You did not think machines were relevant to the discussion. Please see my comment above – I am using 'machine' in a broad sense.

A PZ would in effect be a machine, but one whose physical appearance and behaviour is completely indistinguishable from that of a person.

The PZ idea is a philosophical tool. It doesn't actually matter what they're supposed to be made of.

I totally agree.

Also you haven't answered my question at the end:
What's your point? What exactly are you trying to say or understand?

This means the overall point under discussion, not machines vs humans.

I am trying to understand phenomenal consciousness, which is the subject of the thread.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on October 23rd, 2020, 10:29 pm 

Hi BJ. I'm afraid you don't seem to grasp what's being said about strong emergence. This much of what you say seems straightforward and you seem to be challenging whether strong emergence and downward causation might not somehow violate physics:
BadgerJelly » October 23rd, 2020, 12:30 am wrote:Dave -

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


Chalmers himself doesn’t say this:

http://www.consc.net/papers/emergence.pdf

Strong emergence has much more radical consequences than weak emergence. If there are phenomena that are strongly emergent with respect to the domain of physics, then our conception of nature needs to be expanded to accommodate them. That is, if there are phenomena whose existence is not deducible from the facts about the exact distribution of particles and fields throughout space and time (along with the laws of physics), then this suggests that new fundamental laws of nature are needed to explain these phenomena.


Followed by:

We have seen that strong emergence, if it exists, has radical consequences. The question that immediately arises, then, is: are there strongly emergent phenomena?
My own view is that the answer to this question is yes. I think there is exactly one clear case of a strongly emergent phenomenon, and that is the phenomenon of consciousness. We can say that a system is conscious when there is something it is like to be that system; that is, when there is something it feels like from the system’s own perspective. It is a key fact about nature that it contains conscious systems; I am one such. And there is reason to believe that the facts about consciousness are not deducible from any number of physical facts.


Everything else after that doesn't, as far as I can tell, have anything to do with whether or not strong emergence violates natural laws as we understand them. Perhaps you can explain how it relates????

Regardless, in PoM, strong emergence must be taken in context. Neuron interactions are classical and those interactions are local or "separable" per PoM. Some have a problem calling physical laws separable because they don't come from a philosophical background so they think it has to do with nonseparable terms in mathematics, but it has nothing to do with that so let's just call it locality to avoid confusion. Classical interactions such as displayed by neurons exhibit locality. They are only affected by local physical interactions, not distant ones.

Chalmers correctly points out:
The best way of thinking of [strong emergence] is as involving a sort of downward causation. Downward causation means that higher-level phenomena are not only irreducible but also exert a causal efficacy of some sort.

Chalmers, 2006, "Strong and Weak Emergence"

What he's pointing out (and everyone else talking about strong emergence since it's a well defined concept) is that these higher level laws such as what might govern the brain, have a causal affect on the individual parts. We can talk about individual parts in classical phenomena as they are built of parts that interact locally. But this is insufficient for downward causation which suggests that the brain as a whole can causally influence individual parts (ie: neurons) such that the local interactions between neurons is insufficient to determine a neuron's causal reaction to those local interactions.

This is simply wrong. It violates our understanding of nature. Where large groups of molecules such as ions acting on a synapse cause a reaction in a neuron, downward causation suggests that isn't enough to determine what will happen. Downward causation suggests there are nonlocal causal influences over and above those local ions affecting the synapse. The entire brain is thought to be the substrate on which our phenomenal experiences emerge. If this is true, then we need to find a way to have those higher level phenomena (ie: subjective experiences) produce a causal affect on our neurons- otherwise we're stuck with epiphenomenalism which is obviously false.

That's really difficult to grasp for most people, especially if you aren't someone who models (classical scale) physical phenomena for a living (such as neuron interactions, finite elements, meteorology models, etc...). But no, there are no higher level physical laws that cause or influence things at lower levels.
For Example: What causes a bit in a computer (ie: switch or transistor) to change state are the local causal influences of charge applied to the base.
https://www.explainthatstuff.com/howtra ... 0and%20off.
Nothing else causes that bit to change state, just as there are no higher level influences on a neuron. Neurons are analogous to bits or microchips in a computer with no ability to be influenced except by those local, causal forces. Yes, that is one of the many violations of physical laws that seem to be at play when we insist that our phenomenal experiences supervene on our brain as a whole. There is no ability for those emergent states to cause anything and therefore we are left with epiphenomenalism.

Strong emergence and downward causation violate the locality of classical physics.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on October 23rd, 2020, 11:48 pm 

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.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on October 24th, 2020, 12:40 am 

Positor -

I am trying to understand phenomenal consciousness


How? If the method's right the answer might be right. If it's not, it won't be.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on October 24th, 2020, 12:53 am 

Dave -

This is simply wrong. It violates our understanding of nature.


How is it rational to say something is ‘wrong’ because it ‘violates our understanding’? That was my point. Whether something does or doesn’t violate our understanding is irrelevant to what nature does.

You seem to be saying the above. That is quite clearly NOT what Chalmers says as far as I can see (and the evidence is in the quotes). Maybe you just chose the wrong word or maybe I did? I hope so. The principle point here being that a violation of our current understanding is not a violation against nature, it is nature exhibiting something we don’t fully grasp - as this is our very means of understanding.

Perhaps we’re just not smart enough yet - much like small children struggle to appreciate categorisations we can manage at the drop of a hat.

The rest was an alternative approach towards a definition of ‘phenomenal consciousness’ - through logic. I mention it because many people (including myself in the past) completely miss this point of the p-zombie thought experiment.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby davidm on October 24th, 2020, 11:48 am 

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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on October 24th, 2020, 12:29 pm 

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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby davidm on October 24th, 2020, 1:02 pm 



Don’t understand your question mark. The links pertains to the discussion on strong and weak emergence.,
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on October 24th, 2020, 9:05 pm 

Hi BJ,
BadgerJelly » October 23rd, 2020, 11:53 pm wrote:Dave -

This is simply wrong. It violates our understanding of nature.


How is it rational to say something is ‘wrong’ because it ‘violates our understanding’? That was my point. Whether something does or doesn’t violate our understanding is irrelevant to what nature does.


Chalmers says:
Strong emergence has much more radical consequences than weak emergence. If there are phenomena that are strongly emergent with respect to the domain of physics, then our conception of nature needs to be expanded to accommodate them. That is, if there are phenomena whose existence is not deducible from the facts about the exact distribution of particles and fields throughout space and time (along with the laws of physics), then this suggests that new fundamental laws of nature are needed to explain these phenomena.

So you're correct. Strong emergence requires rewriting physics. In other words, we have to ditch certain things we hold dear....

Strong emergence and downward causation are WIDELY condemned by anyone who really grasps the concept. Why? It's essentially magic. It violates locality. It violates either conservation of energy or conservation of mass or both. I'm not even going to argue about it. It's simply wrong.

And the flip side is that it's not required. We don't need it, and we don't need to accept epiphenomenalism either. We need to do away with the concept that our qualia emerge from the interactions between neurons. That's it... This has been recognized by others as well. Do away with that assumption, and there are ways to get around the problems of strong emergence vs. epiphenomenalism. Suddenly, we can create theories of consciousness that don't depend on violating physical laws!

Note also, there are other problems with the assumption that our qualia emerge from neuron interactions. It requires "counterfactual sensitivity". "What the hell is that?" you may ask. It's not taught in any physics class, it's only a concept in PoM. And it's another one that's wrong. It requires yet more violations of natural laws. It requires nonphysical information (ie: information that isn't based on physical causation).

If you're interested in emergence and want to learn a bit more, I posted another fundamentals of PoM about that topic here:
viewtopic.php?p=279554
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on October 25th, 2020, 12:44 am 

Dave -

Oh right. You’re just interested in the mechanisms? That is a matter for the cognitive neurosciences.

I take it you don’t believe there is a ‘hard problem’ then. If you do I honestly don’t see how or why you’d think there is a ‘hard problem’. What definition of ‘emergence’ are you using? One of philosophy or one of physics? There isn’t ONE concept of ‘emergence’ so it doesn’t help to announce that ‘people don’t understand it’ if you’re sticking to one particular definition (which I assumed to be in line with what Chalmers speaks of by the tone of the thread.

Is this primarily about finding a reasonable limit to skepticism? Are you fighting your corner as an epiphenomenologist?

If there is something specific about what people often misunderstand about emergentism then make it explicit - even the link you provided takes into account the differences of terminology. Last time I looked Chalmers was a philosopher and this was a philosophical thread ... I don’t get what you’re looking for here.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on October 25th, 2020, 12:01 pm 

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....)
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on October 25th, 2020, 12:16 pm 

two neurons aren't conscious, a billion are.


I was just about to explode... then:

Why can't two neurons, with all their intricacy, produce a tiny bit of consciousness?


Precisely.

Well done, that Vat!

Lordy, it's like watching porridge set.

(That is, of course, if neurons by themselves produce consciousness at all)
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on October 25th, 2020, 9:07 pm 

Hi BJ,
BadgerJelly » October 24th, 2020, 11:44 pm wrote:Dave -

Oh right. You’re just interested in the mechanisms? That is a matter for the cognitive neurosciences.

I don't think p-cons is a matter for neuroscience nor is it a matter for philosophers.

I think PoM is taking their lead from both neuroscience and physics but I don't see any them going down the right path because too few of those in the sciences are aware of the logical difficulties certain models for cognition have. Some do, most don't.

I take it you don’t believe there is a ‘hard problem’ then. If you do I honestly don’t see how or why you’d think there is a ‘hard problem’.

Of course I think there's a hard problem. I did start this thread right?

What definition of ‘emergence’ are you using? One of philosophy or one of physics? There isn’t ONE concept of ‘emergence’ ...

Correct, there are 2 good ones (strong and weak) and numerous others that aren't as good. Weak emergence is all we need and all we can use for separable systems. However, those 'special features' of quantum mechanics do not fit neatly into a definition of weak emergence. Paul Humphreys, "How Properties Emerge" talks about the "fusion" of properties:
By a fusion operation, I mean a real physical operation, and not a mathematical or logical operation on predicative representations of properties. ..

The key feature of [Pmi*Pni][(xri)+(xsi)](t1') is that it is a unified whole in the sense that its causal effects cannot be correctly represented in terms of the separate causal effects of Pmi(xir)(t1) and of Pni(xir)(t1). Moreover, within the fusion [Pmi*Pni][(xri)+(xsi)](t1') the original property instances Pmi(xri)(t1), Pni(xsi)(t1) no longer exist as separate entities and they do not have all of their i-level causal powers available for use at the (i+1)st level16. Some of them, so to speak, have been 'used up' in forming the fused property instance. Hence, these i-level property instances no longer have an independent existence within the fusion ...

That's good stuff... Let's consider those physical properties that a system has (unified whole) that cannot be correctly represented in terms of the separate causal effects of its constituents. If we find such a system, that system no longer exists as separate entities. Lots to talk about there but I'll leave it for now...

What he's pointing out applies to nonseparable systems (ie: QM) but not to separable ones. For those 'fused' systems, talking about weakly emergent properties is not only confusing, it's wrong I think. These are 2 very different ways to look at emergence that have a very solid/real basis in physics. Not all phenomena are weakly emergent. In fact, if you look at Bedau's original paper on emergence, "Weak Emergence", his definition and overall treatment of the concept would not capture some of the concepts that it seems to be used for today. If you watch Sabine Hossenfelder for example (link above by davidm) her description of weak emergence deviates slightly from Bedau's.
She says for example:
1. Pressure waves in air are weakly emergent (local and separable). (Agrees with Bedau)
2. Collective behavior is weakly emergent. (Agrees with Bedau)
3. Electrons and quarks don't have conductivity alone, example of weak emergence. (Disagrees with Bedau)

I personally agree with Bedau's original take on this if it matters.

I'd suggest that last one (conductivity being weakly emergent on electrons and quarks) might require the conception of fusion proposed by Humphries. I'd suggest gene expression may also require the conception of fusion along with many other phenomena at the level of atoms and molecules. Water is not just a weakly emergent phenomenon produced by hydrogen and oxygen. The properties of water at this molecular level are produced by a fusion of those atoms regardless of whether one might be able to predict the macroscopic properties of water from the constituents. So if we're looking for a substrate from which new properties such as p-consc can emerge from, I think we should be looking for those where the conception of fusion applies. Weak emergence doesn't get you there because the properties of any weakly emergent phenomenon CAN be represented by the separate causal effects of its constituents.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on October 26th, 2020, 1:39 am 

Dave C -

Only just realised two different people were posting. The difference between davidm and Dave_c isn’t huge ... that’s probably why I thought you were contradicting yourself in places! Haha!

Note: No idea what the acronym PoM means?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on October 26th, 2020, 7:31 am 

Philosophy of Mind.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on October 26th, 2020, 1:23 pm 

Personally, I think the whole problem here is that no one really understands what the problem is. I know you say 'understand subjective consciousness' but no one has really detailed what that means with any exactitude.

To understand any problem the problem itself must be completely, absolutely, clear. And, when it is, the answer is generally implicit.

Can anyone here say what the problem is in that way?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on October 26th, 2020, 7:36 pm 

charon » October 26th, 2020, 12:23 pm wrote:Personally, I think the whole problem here is that no one really understands what the problem is. I know you say 'understand subjective consciousness' but no one has really detailed what that means with any exactitude.

To understand any problem the problem itself must be completely, absolutely, clear. And, when it is, the answer is generally implicit.

Can anyone here say what the problem is in that way?

I've seen many people unable to understand why there should be a problem at all. The problem is explained by Chalmers as quoted in the OP.

Science relies on objectively observable measurements, comparisons, etc... When we stumble across a phenomenon that isn't objectively observable, it's generally dismissed as a conspiracy theory, a hoax, a ghost or some such. The fact we have experiences which appear to be completely subjective in nature would seem to contradict what any good scientist should believe in.

I think the question for you is, do you believe subjective experiences are a phenomenon that science should understand how they come about? And if you feel the answer is simple, that it's just a matter of neuron interactions in the brain, then how is it those particular interactions produce some particular experience such as colors or sounds or pains or anything?

When science looks to explain something, we look to find regularities and measurable properties. We could ask how your experience of blue can be measured or characterized and then compared to someone else's experience to see if they're the same or different. How can we do that?
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