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 TheVat on July 6th, 2020, 9:46 am 

Neri

This post was in reply to your comments, esp as regards logical possibility.

TheVat » July 5th, 2020, 8:09 am wrote:
Neri » July 5th, 2020, 5:10 am wrote:
Of course, we are not privy to the subjective lives of higher animals, any more than we are privy to the subjective lives of each other. However, we can properly draw inferences from the things we do observe and experience. We are not required to leave common sense at the door.


As the HPoC (see Chalmers) clarifies, in the matter of what has qualia ("felt" subjective states), observation may not be sufficient to establish what is conscious and what isn't. If an android were built that passed your informal Turing test - i. e. seemed to your common sense inferences to be an intelligent and aware entity, based on your observations - could you be certain it had qualia? Conversely, could you, on the basis of your Searlian beliefs about silicon based neural architecture, be certain that it lacked qualia? (note to onlookers: a lot has happened in AI research since Searle published his Chinese Room paper)

Epistemically, it would seem to be impossible to distinguish between conscious volition and a powerful simulation of it. To be sure, one can employ a "reductio" argument as regards thermostats, as most of us would agree that the way our thermostats turn the AC off and on is not reflective of a conscious intent to keep the house comfortable. But it's less clear at the level of complexity of, say, a billion thermostats wired together into artificial cortical stacks, as to what sort of emergent properties of the system would appear. It's possible emergent consciousness won't happen, but it is not logically impossible-- a conscious artificial neural net is not a squared circle, or a married bachelor. We cannot rule out the causal efficacy of an androids state of mind on purely logical grounds.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby CanMan on July 7th, 2020, 7:14 am 

Neri wrote:Consciousness is necessary for making decisions and acting upon them [volition]. This means that consciousness is the thing that allows volition. Consciousness evolved to allow planning and premeditation before acting. This is why I refer consciousness as voluntary memory. It has obvious evolutionary value over mindless stimulus and response.

I understand and particularly agree with your previous points:

1) "one cannot be conscious unless he is conscious of something", and
2) "all content of consciousness are memories"

...but the phrase "voluntary memory" throws me for a loop and seems self-contradictory. In my understanding, "memory" normally implies something in the past; something that has already happened. Even a current memory is still the reflection of a "past" event.

Isn't one's memory already decided when one is conscious of it? If so, then how can one voluntarily choose that which one is conscious of?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 7th, 2020, 8:15 am 

Sharon,

Life can only be understood by its manifestations: such as, growth, reproduction, breathing, moving, growing, eating, drinking, eliminating waste and the generation of heat by the oxidation of food (metabolism). Life may be viewed as temporary self-organization against the tide of entropy. I might add that It is not well understood how life emerges from nonliving matter. Further, there is no scientific evidence to support the notion of an élan vital.

One should find enlightening the following words of Searle regarding the biological aspects of consciousness:

“Oddly enough I have encountered more passion from adherents of the computational theory of the mind than from adherents of traditional religious doctrines of the soul. Some computationalists invest an almost religious intensity into their faith that our deepest problems about the mind will have a computational solution. Many people apparently believe that somehow or other, unless we are proven to be computers, something terribly important will be lost."
* * * *
"I believe that the philosophical importance of computers, as is typical with any new technology, is grossly exaggerated. The computer is a useful tool, nothing more or less…the idea that computers would provide us with a model for solving our deepest scientific and physical worries about consciousness, mind, and self seems to me out of the question."
* * * *
"One of the limitations of the computational model of the mind that I have not sufficiently emphasized is how profoundly antibiological it is…I, on the other hand, want to insist that where consciousness is concerned, brains matter crucially. We know in fact that brain processes cause consciousness, and from this it follows that any other sort of system capable of causing consciousness would have to have causal powers at least equivalent to the threshold causal powers of the brain to do it…The computational theory of the mind denies all of this. It is committed to the view that the relation of the brain to consciousness is not a causal relation at all, but rather that consciousness simply consists of programs in the brain."
* * * *
“"The problem of consciousness' is the problem of explaining exactly how neurobiological processes in the brain cause our subjective states of awareness or sentience; how exactly these states are realized in the brain structures; and how exactly how consciousness functions in the overall economy of the brain and therefore how it functions in our lives generally."
* * * *
"…the essence of consciousness is that it consists in inner qualitative, subjective mental processes. You don’t guarantee the duplication of those processes by duplicating the observable external behavioral effects of those processes…To try to create consciousness by creating a machine which behaves as if it were conscious is similarly irrelevant, because the behavior by itself is irrelevant."
* * * *
"…computational operations by themselves, that is, formal symbol manipulations by themselves, are not sufficient to guarantee the presence of consciousness…symbol manipulations are defined in abstract syntactical terms and syntax by itself has no mental content, conscious or otherwise. Furthermore, the abstract symbols have no causal powers at all."

"The Mystery of Consciousness" by John Searle, New York Review Book, (1997).
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on July 7th, 2020, 8:24 am 

CanMan » July 7th, 2020, 12:14 pm wrote:
Neri wrote:Consciousness is necessary for making decisions and acting upon them [volition]. This means that consciousness is the thing that allows volition. Consciousness evolved to allow planning and premeditation before acting. This is why I refer consciousness as voluntary memory. It has obvious evolutionary value over mindless stimulus and response.

I understand and particularly agree with your previous points:

1) "one cannot be conscious unless he is conscious of something", and
2) "all content of consciousness are memories"

...but the phrase "voluntary memory" throws me for a loop and seems self-contradictory. In my understanding, "memory" normally implies something in the past; something that has already happened. Even a current memory is still the reflection of a "past" event.

Isn't one's memory already decided when one is conscious of it? If so, then how can one voluntarily choose that which one is conscious of?


There's no such thing as voluntary memory in the normal course of events. Unless there's something wrong with the brain we all have memory naturally. Not everything is recorded and we'd go potty if it was.

Significant things are recorded, consciously or unconsciously. You may not realise you're recording an event, or a film or book, but can recall it later.

What we can do, however, is repress memories, again consciously or unconsciously. The brain may do this by itself if the event is traumatic but even so the memories are still there.

Of course, things we definitely want to remember, as in studying a subject, can be reinforced by repetition, going over and over it till it's fixed in the brain. One might call that 'voluntary memory'. But ordinary memory still operates.

Isn't one's memory already decided when one is conscious of it? If so, then how can one voluntarily choose that which one is conscious of?


I wouldn't say 'decided'. Something has to be in memory in order to be conscious of it although not all memories are conscious, of course.

We can't choose what to be conscious of. We can bring back certain memories consciously but things arise in the mind by themselves. We can't choose that.

Our problem isn't really memory. Memory is natural. It works better depending on what sort of brain one has. One's general state of heath and age is a factor too. But our problems with memory really only arise when we either want to recall something and can't, or when we want to shut something out and can't.

You've repeated that all contents of consciousness is memory. I think that's the whole point. The person who remembers things isn't different from his memories; he is those memories. That's why trying to shut something out is so difficult. We should never do that really, it only sets up a terrible conflict.

I think what's so important to realise is that consciousness is a whole. The conscious, the unconscious, the thoughts and the thinker of those thoughts, are all one thing.

We don't normally include the thinker in with the content but the thinker is part of consciousness, not beyond or outside it. He is all his knowledge, experience, memories, and so on. If there were no memory, no thought, there wouldn't be a thinker because there'd be nothing to think about.

Again, none of this is a normally problem. Problems only arise when the thinker tries to act on his thought as though it were separate from him. The thinker, for example, can never stop thought because he is thought. All he can do is repress thought, which isn't the same thing; it's still smouldering underneath. Or he can indulge in it, of course.

But the main thing is to realise that it's all one thing; consciousness is a whole, not a lot of separate parts at odds with each other. Then there's just a flow, without friction. Which is quite nice if you've ever done that.

But the real issue with consciousness is to go beyond it... but that's another thing. Consciousness, being memory, is only the past and the real things of life aren't there, they're outside it.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 7th, 2020, 8:25 am 

To All,

We have been down this road before. Back in 2016, this subject was exhaustively covered in the topic, "Searles' Chinese Room Experiment." If you read it carefully, most of your questions will be answered. No further comments are necessary here.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on July 7th, 2020, 8:46 am 

Neri -

Life can only be understood by its manifestations: such as, growth, reproduction, breathing, moving, growing, eating, drinking, eliminating waste and the generation of heat by the oxidation of food (metabolism). Life may be viewed as temporary self-organization against the tide of entropy. I might add that It is not well understood how life emerges from nonliving matter. Further, there is no scientific evidence to support the notion of an élan vital.


I'm not sure, not that I'm positing an élan vital, but I'd agree that definitions and descriptions will never capture it.

I think it is possible to understand life, or rather the origin of life, but it needs a great deal of self-understanding. By the origin of life I don't mean the cell or the Big Bang, and all that, I mean that which gives life to living things.

After all, only living things have consciousness. This is why I brought life into the understanding of consciousness and why any computerised simulation, however advanced, cannot have consciousness in its true sense. Sorry, that belongs to a previous discussion.

Put it this way, consciousness didn't make itself. Neither did nature make itself, nor man. We didn't make ourselves. Matter/energy didn't make itself. The universe didn't make itself. But something did otherwise none of this would be here.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 7th, 2020, 9:41 am 

Sharon,

Before I leave, I should answer your last question. Please attend to this explanation. It is difficult for some people to grasp.

Let us take an example. The present is conceived of as a perfect instant of time, like high noon. It is said that high noon includes no part of the morning (past) or the afternoon (future). But this means that the present has no temporal extent. Yet without such extent, it is no time at all and as such can never happen.

For high noon (the present) to happen, it must be a perfect interval of a given duration, however brief. But this only postpones the problem, for if it is a perfect interval, it must be bounded by two perfect temporal points called the “beginning” and the “end.” Yet these temporal points themselves must have no duration and thus can never have happened. Thus, it may be seen that time consists of neither instants nor periods. They are ideas that have no counterpart in the real world.

But how are we able to perceive such a world. We perceive it, as it really is, a continuous flow of happening. But what are we calling the present?

When we are actively perceiving, and for, one reason or another, our attention is drawn to something in the process of happening, we call it the present, and we continue to give it that name so long as it continues to attract our attention. When it ceases to do so, we call it the past. When we have not yet perceived it, we call it the future.

The neuroscientists tell us that we need memory even during the period we call the present. They give this the name operational memory. Without it, I would forget the beginning of this sentence by the time I got to the end. Memories of events in the "distant past," they call long-term memories.

Consciousness is a thing of the real world. As such it is a continuous process. No experience can be real unless it has temporal extent, and memory is the thing that gives consciousness its temporal extent. Thus, consciousness can only exist as a memory.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on July 7th, 2020, 10:00 am 

Neri » July 7th, 2020, 5:25 am wrote:To All,

We have been down this road before. Back in 2016, this subject was exhaustively covered in the topic, "Searles' Chinese Room Experiment." If you read it carefully, most of your questions will be answered. No further comments are necessary here.


A specific point was raised by the mod, in this case yours truly, on the matter of logical inference you raised, in a post in THIS thread. SCF is a website where you are expected to respond to such posts. Since Hyksos raised a similar point, it would be good to address this.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on July 7th, 2020, 10:42 am 

Neri -

I should answer your last question


I'm not sure I asked one, unless you're referring to another post!

The present is conceived of as a perfect instant of time


Yes, all right. I think you mean that's how we think of it, or see it, as always 'now' despite change which is happening all the time. Things are in constant movement but, for us, despite this movement, it's always 'now'. Would that be right?

Mind you, I'm not sure this applies to a great many people. There are those who only perceive the present as a stepping stone on the way to a conceived future. Their minds aren't fully in the present, rather they're occupied either with the past as yesterday or the future as tomorrow - what they have to do, what needs to be done, what they want to achieve, and so on.

So their view of the present, or their relationship to it, is utilitarian; they see it as something to be used. I think a lot of people do this, especially in business and politics.

So really it's only the mind which is not preoccupied with its problems or goals that actually lives in the moment. Not that they lose track of time but rather they're not preoccupied with other things.

Yet these temporal points themselves must have no duration and thus can never have happened


I wouldn't say that. I know what you mean, but whatever happens at any point in time is really happening. I'm typing this now. In a split second the moment has gone but it doesn't mean it never happened. After all, my post will sit on the forum long after I've finished with it!

we need memory even during the period we call the present


Of course. My mind and thought is operating as I type; it's all happening at once.

But you see, that's very interesting because, as we said before, thought means the past as memory. Without knowledge I wouldn't be able to speak, think, type, or anything else. So, although the past as knowledge is necessary, nevertheless it's taking place in the 'now'.

So the 'now' isn't an isolated moment, it's inclusive of everything even though it has no duration; it's always 'now' despite constant change and movement. That's one of the mysteries, isn't it?

Consciousness is a thing of the real world. As such it is a continuous process. No experience can be real unless it has temporal extent, and memory is the thing that gives consciousness its temporal extent. Thus, consciousness can only exist as a memory


Yes, our consciousness is memory, which means we are memory because we are that very consciousness; it's not separate from us.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 7th, 2020, 9:10 pm 

My last post should have been directed to CanMan and not Sharon. However, because Sharon nonetheless entered a response, I think he deserves some additional comments from me.

It is true that “now” is purely experiential and has no counterpart in the real world. “Now” is a highly variable and fully indeterminable period and not an instant. I think we are aware of this. By “now” we really mean an occurrence of some importance is in the process of being perceived. You are right; the idea of the present is basically utilitarian.

The mind detects whatever happens in the real world but not “at any point in time ”as you put it. We know that we are observing something occurring over time. Yet, we call it “an event” and thereby in our estimation separate it from the rest of happening and imagine it to have an identity it does not actually possess; for the world is in continuous flux without fixed temporal borders. Yet there are aspects of the flux that move seamlessly into other aspects in seamless expanses of time.

It is true that consciousness of self (as opposed to consciousness in general) is largely a collection of long-term memories that arise from operational memories growing out of sensory experience, principally sight. These sensations give us the body as the nexus of happening because of a remembered history of the body acting upon things outside of it (the “I”) and of things outside it acting upon the body (the “me”). The privacy of our thinking (subjectivity) exists primarily because our thoughts are limited to the spatial extent of the head. This contributes to the consciousness of self.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby hyksos on July 8th, 2020, 1:45 am 

Neri,

You are all over the place. You are making conflations I don't agree with. I am not asking you strange questions, trick questions, nor am I asking you to leave common sense at the door. I want you to give us a principled theory of consciousness :: this is a list of criteria we can use to determine that a garage door opener is not conscious. or a rock, computer, or internet. This is the third time I have asked you to list this criteria, since you have avoided giving such a list two times.


It is hardly dogmatic to believe that only humans and some other animals have a subjective life. (Are conscious). They demonstrate this by the fact that their actions are not causally closed. [They have a degree of volition] and give every indication that they have raw feelings such as anger, pleasure, hunger and satiety.

Look over every every single post I have made in this thread. Not once did I deny that angry, hungry, pleased mammals were not conscious.



We know that the brain is responsible for these things, for, if the brain is damaged, they lose consciousness and the power to choose and feel.

First: Why are you repeating this argument at me like a strawman? I never adopted dualism anywhere in this thread. I have never once implied or claimed to imply the existence of a dual substance (soul, ghost, geist, psyche, etc). Not anywhere in my posts.

Second: We do not know that there is something peculiar to brain function that only exclusively produces consciousness. Science only ever measures the outward behaviors of the brain. This is one of your metaphysical dogmas , (more on this below).



Of course, we are not privy to the subjective lives of higher animals, any more than we are privy to the subjective lives of each other. However, we can properly draw inferences from the things we do observe and experience. We are not required to leave common sense at the door.

The "inferences" you are drawing here are still couched in old fashioned dualism. You have simply replaced the traditional soul with neuron cells. Then you suppose that neurons are sufficiently mysterious to excuse yourself from further elaboration. It may also appear that you think neurons are magical cells that endow their holder with this stuff you call "volition". I doubt you intended that meaning but someone could easily pick that up from your post.

(It is possible to accept dualism as an axiom and then be perfectly logical with one's inferences after the axioms are established. As spooky-woo-woo as panpsychism reads on wikipedia, panpsychism has a hidden strength. It does not claim dualism. In fact, it is a monist theory. There are also dualist theories that are very scientific and highly materialistic. I will await your reply before digression.)



It is pitifully obvious that we have no reason to believe that rocks, light switches, garage door openers, viruses and bacteria are conscious.

It is the violently not obvious that garage door openers are not conscious. Christoph Koch even said he could not tell for sure whether they meet the criteria, or if the internet does or does not. In fact the phrase "principled theory" was one I borrowed from Koch. You are nancing around this forum pretending you have a Principled Theory of Consciousness (a list of coherent criteria to determine whether something is conscious or not). You don't have one. This is why you were unable or unwilling to answer the 10 questions I asked.

For the benefit of others reading this thread. Christoph Koch is one of the world's leading neuroscientists. He is easily in the top 5. There are a handful of world-renown neuroscientists who do not agree with the claims Neri makes on this forum. Does Neri expect us to believe that these renown scientists are confused about this topic?


If you claim that you have reasons to believe that that they are conscious, please state those reasons in detail. Because such a belief runs contrary to logical inference and to the common experience of mankind, it is your burden to give convincing proof of your position.

It does not run contrary to logical inference. It only runs contrary to prepacked metaphysical dogmas.


The question of the so-called consciousness of computers was treated in great detail elsewhere in this forum. You are free to read this material if you wish.

I don't care about these treatments in far-away anonymous threads. List your criteria for consciousness in an artifact, and show me how a computer does not meet them. Do that in this thread.



A sentence or two cannot do justice to Searle’s thinking. If you have any hope of understanding him, you will need to take the time to study his work.

I know Searle very well. His Chinese Room argument also shows that complex outward behavior could still emerge from a machine that only maps inputs to outputs. That is, you can have a robot that says everything you say and does everything you do, but has no consciousness. So the other side of the Searle Sword (lets call it) shows that the outward expression of anger, hunger, pleasure, and language need not be accompanied by inner subjective experience of any of those things. (think of actors on stage) Chalmers called such entities p-zombies. In short, Searle's Chinese Room gedankenexperiment strengthens the plausibility of p-zombies.

(Whether that was John Searle's original intention with the C-R matters not.)


If you read the Chinese Room Experiment of the American philosopher, John Searle, you will find a powerful argument against the notion that a computer can have the understanding that comes with a subjective life. Searle puts the matter in linguistic terms: Computers are concerned only with the rules affecting the use of words (syntax) but can have no understanding of the meaning of the words themselves (semantics).

Here you are conflating "understanding" with "subjective life" and pretending that one co-occurs with the other or requires the other. I don't agree with this conflation, and you tried to smuggle it under my radar.

I do think this smuggling is slowly teasing out a list of criteria you actually hold about this topic, but never thought to list them in an objective manner. Your criteria appears to be that natural language understanding can only be achieved with an artifact that would be already conscious. You can assert this axiomatically, but it is not necessarily true. We can easily imagine a non-conscious machine that understands human language just fine. I can also imagine (vis-a-vis Searle) a very fancy future artifact that only appears to understand language, but actually does not "inside".
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on July 8th, 2020, 4:48 am 

Neri -

Thanks for the reply.

It is true that “now” is purely experiential and has no counterpart in the real world.


I'm afraid the word experiential means the real world, not something conceptual.

https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/experiential

“Now” is a highly variable and fully indeterminable period and not an instant.


'Now' means at the present moment. It's not yesterday or tomorrow, it's now! I'm writing this now. You're reading it now. But they're not the same moments in time.

The mind detects whatever happens in the real world but not “at any point in time ”as you put it.


When the mind detects something it's always in the present. Your mind is detecting this post now, as you're reading it.

We know that we are observing something occurring over time. Yet, we call it “an event” and thereby in our estimation separate it from the rest of happening


Yes, you can watch the clouds moving and changing across the sky. But why separate that from anything else? It's not separated, it's part of everything.

for the world is in continuous flux without fixed temporal borders. Yet there are aspects of the flux that move seamlessly into other aspects in seamless expanses of time


That's it, precisely. It's not reality that's divided, it's what our crazy thought does. It likes to separate everything - people, beliefs, countries, ideologies, most everything it touches. And because this is such a false state it breeds all the problems of separation, like war.

It is true that consciousness of self (as opposed to consciousness in general)


Is there a great difference between those two or have we separated them? Isn't consciousness what we are? Are you different from your consciousness? It's you who are conscious!

The privacy of our thinking (subjectivity) exists primarily because our thoughts are limited to the spatial extent of the head. This contributes to the consciousness of self.


Is there an actual line between the internal and external? Or is it all one movement?

It's our thought that says 'I am here, the rest is out there'. Is that a fact psychologically or a deception?

The man who considers himself separate will have no end of problems. But the man who sees everything as a whole will never have those problems.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 8th, 2020, 12:32 pm 

Hykson,

I am afraid that you “haven’t got a clue.” Perhaps, this will help:

John Searle - Can Brain Explain Mind? - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehdZAY0Zr6A
What is it about the brain that enables many scientists to claim brain can fully explain mind? And what is it about such neuroscientific explanations of ment..
Last edited by Neri on July 8th, 2020, 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby hyksos on July 8th, 2020, 12:55 pm 

TheVat » July 5th, 2020, 7:09 pm wrote:
But it's less clear at the level of complexity of, say, a billion thermostats wired together into artificial cortical stacks, as to what sort of emergent properties of the system would appear. It's possible emergent consciousness won't happen, but it is not logically impossible-- a conscious artificial neural net is not a squared circle, or a married bachelor. We cannot rule out the causal efficacy of an androids state of mind on purely logical grounds.



This observation gets at the issue of substrate independence. Is consciousness a phenomenon in this universe that is independent of the substrate on which it is instantiated?

I detect in Neri's posts a strong inclination that consciousness is substrate-Dependent. I can't argue with him, nor can I see myself adopting a position on it per se. Neri might be right.

Although I can also see the rationality of a substrate-Independent theory of consciousness. This would be a network of garage door openers, or as you say, stacks of a billion interconnected thermostats.

I think my own feelings on this matter is that consciousness is substrate independent, with some limits/stipulations. I have a suspicion that something is lost in a pure simulation of molecules versus an actual petri dish of real molecules. (But my friend from Kansas City would deride me for this distinction.)
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 8th, 2020, 1:34 pm 

Cheron,

I use the expression, “experiential” to mean “derived from experience” and not in the sense of a condition of the world outside of us.

Nothing can exist in a temporal expanse of naught. An extent of no time at all. (an instant) cannot support anything that happens. There is no such thing as a “present moment,” as you put it.

The present is just an idea representing nothing real outside of us.

An idea does not necessarily represent something real outside of us.

Self consciousness is our idea of what we are, based upon the factors I have already set forth. There are numerous other things about which one may be conscious. For example, I am conscious of the fact that my wife and children exist and that we live at a certain address with our two dogs.

I have already explained all of this in previous posts and do not intend to explain it again.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on July 8th, 2020, 2:09 pm 

Neri,


Hyksos has been a member of SCF for almost six years, and a valued contributor on a range of topics in which he is well-read and, at times, quite scholarly. His name is not all that difficult to spell. Please stop misspelling his name. The letters S and N are not close to each other on the keyboard, so it's hard to see "Hykson" as a typo. The same goes for another misspelling on a previous page. Also Charon is not "Sharon" or "Cheron." I could be persuaded these are all typing difficulties, but you seem to nail all the other words in your posts, including some rather longish and esoteric ones.

Getting back to topic, have you read anyone other than Searle on the issue of substrate independence? Have you read Ned Block's or John Haugeland's replies to Searle? What about Margaret Boden's "levels" critique?

This is a big, messy, and complex field of study, and it requires a fair amount of research, if one is to get a sense of all the arguments and counterarguments that are relevant to this thread.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on July 8th, 2020, 3:16 pm 

Neri -

Nothing can exist in a temporal expanse of nought


Absolutely. Things exist in time and space.

There is no such thing as a “present moment,” as you put it.


I'm speaking colloquially, it's an expression. I'm typing this at the moment. When I've finished I'll do something else.

But you can't say that such activities don't occupy time. It took you time to write your post. Time has elapsed between now and then. Do let's be realistic!

Self consciousness is our idea of what we are, based upon the factors I have already set forth. There are numerous other things about which one may be conscious. For example, I am conscious of the fact that my wife and children exist and that we live at a certain address with our two dogs


Quite so, and your consciousness of these things are not the things themselves, right? You aren't the idea you may have of yourself - although, if you have one, it's also part of your consciousness - nor are your wife, children, dogs, and house the consciousness you have of them.

I'm not sure what the point is here. Forgive my saying so, but, apart from the meaning of experiential, you haven't really addressed any of the points I was making. Or I may have misunderstood, of course.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 9th, 2020, 9:24 am 

Having e-read the jumble of comments, I see that there are a few points I should clarify.

Charon,

It is true that any experience extends over time, and I have said as much. In fact, I have employed this fact as part of my analysis leading to the conclusion that the present is not an instant of time.

The experience of self is a content of consciousness, not consciousness itself. We are all conscious as a matter of genetics. However, our consciousness of self is developed over time from sensory experience.

A child thinks of his body as the object of the actions of other people and things--the passive one acted upon (“me”). When he grows older he begins to think of his body as the thing that acts upon other things—the thing that makes things happen. (“I”).

The body is realized over time as the focus of actions, active and passive. I have already set forth in previous posts the additional factors that form the consciousness of self. There is no need to repeat them here.

Hyksos,

The expression “substrate dependent” is not a part of the Searlean analysis, which I accept.

Consciousness is caused by neuronal activity in the brain. Although the brain has a material ontology, it causes consciousness, a thing with an irreducibly subjective ontology. This does not mean that we have a soul or anything of the sort, for the process that causes consciousness is a perfectly natural one. Consciousness itself is a natural biological feature of the brains of humans and other higher animals,

Consciousness is part and parcel of the natural world and not a thing in any way apart from it. The problem is, we do not yet know exactly how the brain causes consciousness. Yet we know it does it.

Consciousness is necessary for understanding. Because a computer is not conscious, it understands nothing. The same is true of so-called “zombies.” Such things can only give a simulation of consciousness, and a simulation is not a duplication. That is, a computer and a zombie have no inner subjective life.

I have answered with particularly all of the questions you propounded. The fact that you disagree with the answers does not mean that none were given. You are free to believe that a rock and a light switch are conscious. However, you have provided no evidence to support such a silly notion. Instead, you, in effect, ask that I prove that such things are not conscious. Thus, you attempt improperly to shift the burden of proof from yourself, where it belongs, to those who do not share your bizarre notions. For example, I cannot prove that the Tooth Fairy does not exist. Instead, I properly rely on the absence of proof of her existence to believe that she does not exist. I have no burden to disprove her existence. It is for those who believe that she does exist to produce evidence supporting their position. Of course, they never do.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on July 9th, 2020, 10:09 am 

Neri -

Charon


You're saved. I can now resist the temptation to address myself to Nora :-)

the present is not an instant of time.


Are you then saying the present is timeless?

The experience of self is a content of consciousness, not consciousness itself. We are all conscious as a matter of genetics. However, our consciousness of self is developed over time from sensory experience.


Very well.

The body is realized over time as the focus of actions, active and passive.


Which, of course, is nonsense since thought precedes action.

**************************

Incidentally, if you don't mind my pointing it out, you see how I answer your posts? I take each point you make, verbatim, and answer it directly. You cannot ever say your points or questions have been avoided or overlooked.

However, I can, not that you're the only one responsible. There are several relevant points and questions in my last two posts to you which have not, even indirectly, been addressed. I wish you would. One-way traffic is not a good basis for discussion.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby hyksos on July 15th, 2020, 11:57 am 

The expression “substrate dependent” is not a part of the Searlean analysis, which I accept.

You have dodged this issue by excusing yourself from addressing it. Everyone on this forum can see you dodging and dismissing it. "I won't address this since it's not part of the narrow bunch of Searle papers I have read." It's a dodge. People are going to google "substrate independence consciousness" and get 10s of thousands of hits on the topic, and realize how comprehensive the subject it.

This does not mean that we have a soul or anything of the sort, for the process that causes consciousness is a perfectly natural one.

Of course consciousnes is perfectly natural. Where did I ever claim there is a soul anywhere in this thread? Who the hell are you arguing with?

Consciousness itself is a natural biological feature of the brains of humans and other higher animals

Yes. Who is denying this? Even panpsychists don't deny this.

Consciousness is necessary for understanding. Because a computer is not conscious, it understands nothing.

This is baseless, unreasonable dogma. I already called it out as such. And now we are going in circles.


I have answered with particularly all of the questions you propounded.

This is a factual lie.



The fact that you disagree with the answers does not mean that none were given.

Everyone can see that my problems with what you post is NOT based on disagreement. In fact, I have said several times in this thread that "Neri might be right" and such posts are available for anyone's eyes.

My problems with what you post are entirely couched in the fact that you assert things dogmatically with no reasoning behind them. Attempts to tease out your rational criteria or coherent principles goes nowhere. Attempts to isolate your thinking just causes you repeat your dogmas.


You are free to believe that a rock and a light switch are conscious. However, you have provided no evidence to support such a silly notion.

You are profoundly confused and profoundly disingenuous. I did not assert light switches are conscious anywhere on this entire forum -- ever.

I asked you whether they are conscious or not, posed as a question. Those questions act as a means of teasing out your PRINCIPLED THEORY Of Consciousness. Stop saying "this is silly", and start providing rational coherent criteria for how you know that a garage door opener is not conscious.

Every single person who visits and reads this forum can see that this is what I'm doing. This is not a matter of whether there is scientific interest in whether microwave ovens are conscious. These "silly" questions are thought experiments whose purpose is to tease out a list of criteria for deciding whether or not a physical system has consciousness. The physical system could be a light switch, garage door opener, computer CPU, internet, bacterium, et cetera.

You have dodged and dismissed this thought experiment in all of my attempts in presenting it, and everyone can see you doing this including the few moderators who still come here.

Instead, you, in effect, ask that I prove that such things are not conscious. Thus, you attempt improperly to shift the burden of proof from yourself, where it belongs, to those who do not share your bizarre notions.

I have no burden at all, because I never asserted such a thing.


This conversation is a disaster. An utter trainwreck. This conversation was supposed to eventually work its way towards Gerald Edelman. We were supposed to talk about Cristoph Koch and his recent interviews. We were supposed to be talking about Giulio Tononi. All of those men are neuroscientists, who wholeheartedly agree that the consciousness is a product of neurons in living animals. All of them are naturalists. And yet none of them agree with things Neri asserts. But that promising conversation has been soured. I cannot even establish a baseline with him regarding the basic problems. We never got around to Mary-in-the-colorless room. Attempts to talk about p-zombies fall flat. There is no discussion of epiphenomenalism. (Ephiphenomenalism is all the farther that Edelman could get).

I do not want to get to a point with my social interactions with people here where I just say "You are unread in this topic, don't attempt to talk to me about it." That would make me look like a terrible person. But when I'm painted into a corner with disingenuous interactions the likes of Neri, I don't know if I have much of a choice. At all turns I give participants of this forum the benefit of the doubt, and extend dignity and respect to them... but such extension has its limits.

Consciousness is a deep and wide topic, with labyrinths full of profound conceptual issues touching into questions about the nature of the world and the reach of the scientific method. I suppose that "be careful with this topic" should have been established far earlier. As a warning to passersby, allow me to quote Ed Witten, who is chaired at Princeton's IAS, and who is the discoverer of M-theory.

Ed Witten wrote:I imagine that it would be easier to explain the Big Bang in scientific terms than it would be to explain consciousness in scientific terms.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby hyksos on July 15th, 2020, 12:16 pm 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RMXujk5AhM

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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby davidm on July 15th, 2020, 2:13 pm 

hyksos » July 15th, 2020, 9:57 am wrote:I do not want to get to a point with my social interactions with people here where I just say "You are unread in this topic, don't attempt to talk to me about it." That would make me look like a terrible person. But when I'm painted into a corner with disingenuous interactions the likes of Neri, I don't know if I have much of a choice. At all turns I give participants of this forum the benefit of the doubt, and extend dignity and respect to them... but such extension has its limits.


Ha, welcome to the club. You've done a great job in this thread, btw. I would have helped out but ... nah.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on July 15th, 2020, 2:45 pm 

Every single person who visits and reads this forum can see that this is what I'm doing. This is not a matter of whether there is scientific interest in whether microwave ovens are conscious. These "silly" questions are thought experiments whose purpose is to tease out a list of criteria for deciding whether or not a physical system has consciousness. The physical system could be a light switch, garage door opener, computer CPU, internet, bacterium, et cetera.

You have dodged and dismissed this thought experiment in all of my attempts in presenting it, and everyone can see you doing this including the few moderators who still come here...


Probably just me, at this point. Thumbs up, BTW. Gedankexperment is an important tool in this field.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby doogles on August 17th, 2020, 3:30 am 

I'm having problems rationalising that there is a 'hard problem of consciousness'. The reason that I'm having the problem is that over 40 years ago, I took in the thoughts of people like William James whose thoughts convinced me that ours brains and bodies work as a single unit. David_C posted the following reference in the OP in an attempt to define 'phenomenal consciousness' -- Chalmers, David J. "Facing up to the problem of consciousness." Journal of consciousness studies 2.3 (1995): 200-219 on this site -- http://consc.net/papers/facing.html .

I will quote a few paragraphs from David Chalmers so that readers can compare and contrast his attempt at definition with the observations and citations made by William James 140 years ago. I'm seeking consensus or otherwise as to whether the latter actually address Chalmer's "'conscious experience' or simply 'experience'".

"The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect. As Nagel (1974) has put it, there is something it is like to be a conscious organism. This subjective aspect is experience. When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations: the felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field. Other experiences go along with perception in different modalities: the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothballs. Then there are bodily sensations, from pains to orgasms; mental images that are conjured up internally; the felt quality of emotion, and the experience of a stream of conscious thought. What unites all of these states is that there is something it is like to be in them. All of them are states of experience."

"It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects of experience. But the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience is perplexing. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C? How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does."

"If any problem qualifies as the problem of consciousness, it is this one. In this central sense of "consciousness", an organism is conscious if there is something it is like to be that organism, and a mental state is conscious if there is something it is like to be in that state. Sometimes terms such as "phenomenal consciousness" and "qualia" are also used here, but I find it more natural to speak of "conscious experience" or simply "experience". Another useful way to avoid confusion (used by e.g. Newell 1990, Chalmers 1996) is to reserve the term "consciousness" for the phenomena of experience, using the less loaded term "awareness" for the more straightforward phenomena described earlier. If such a convention were widely adopted, communication would be much easier; as things stand, those who talk about "consciousness" are frequently talking past each other."

I've gone back to the writings of William James as published in Britannica Great Books No 53 (1952) and edited by Robert Maynard Hutchins. In Chapter XXIII, The Production of Movement, he deals with whole body involvement in sensory perception. I shall copy and type a few excerpts to elicit discussion.

On page 694, he states "Every impression which impinges on the incoming nerves (I assume he is referring to sight, sound, touch, smell and taste sensory inputs) produces some discharge down the outgoing ones, whether we are aware of it or not. Using sweeping terms and ignoring exceptions, we might say that every possible feeling produces a movement, and that the movement is a movement of the entire organism and of each and all of its parts. ... According as an impression is accompanied with Feeling, the aroused currents diffuse themselves over the brain, leading to a general agitation of the moving organs, as well as affecting the viscera."

James goes on to cite other thinkers of the time -- In cases where the the feeling is strong the law is too familiar to require proof. As Professor Bain says: " ... Every pleasure and every pain , and every mode of emotion, has a definite wave of effects, which our observation makes known to us; and we apply the knowledge to infer other men's feelings from their outward display. ... and of these, by preference, the features of the face (with the ears in animals), whose movements constitute the expression of the countenance. But the influence extends to all parts of the moving system, voluntary and involuntary; while an important series of effects are produced on the glands and viscera -- the stomach, lungs, heart, kidneys, skin, together with the sexual and mammary organs. ... The circumstance is seemingly universal, the proof of it does not require a citation of instances in detail; on the objectors is thrown the burden of adducing unequivocal exception to the law."

"Haller, long ago, recorded that the blood flow from an open vein flowed out faster at the beat of a drum." " ... we learned how instantaneously, according to Mosso, the circulation in the brain is altered by changes of sensation and the course of thought. The objects of fear, shame, and anger upon the blood supply of the skin, especially the skin of the face, are too well known to need remark." "Sensations of the higher sense produce, according to Couty and Carpentier, the most varied effects upon the pulse-rate and blood pressure in dogs. Fig 181, a pulse-tracing from these authors, shows the tumultuous effect on a dog's heart of hearing the screams of another dog." "When Mosso invented the plethysmograph, for recording the fluctuations in volume of members of the body, what astonished him, he says, 'in the first experiment made in Italy, was the extreme unrest of the blood vessels of the hand, which at every smallest emotion, whether during waking or during sleep, changed their volume in surprising fashion'. Figure 82 shows the way in which the pulse of one subject was modified (my comment -- increased in rate and amplitude) by the exhibition of a red light lasting from the moment marked a to b."

I notice that topics involving the experiences associated with phenomenal consciousness generally mention the colour red. That last citation of James' may help. It seems as if the information of 140 years ago has been forgotten. In a later anecdote, James also cites the work of M Fere using a hand-held dynamometer. Fere apparently determined firstly that the hand strength measurements of subjects was usually reasonably stable from day to day, but if the subject was subjected to musical notes, the strength of grip decreased with sad music and increased with loudness and height. Also, "In a subject whose normal strength was expressed by 23, it became 24 when a blue light was thrown on the eyes, 28 for green, 30 for yellow, 34 for orange, and 42 for red. Red is thus the most exciting colour."

The above quotations are just a sample. He also discusses the effects of sensory input upon respiration, sweat glands, the pupil, the abdominal viscera and upon voluntary muscles.

The above ideas were being propounded 140 years ago, so I do not understand why the matter is being raised in this day and age as if no one has a credible answer to the 'hard problem'.

Of course, several landmark discoveries since 140 years ago have helped to clarify this effect that incoming sensory inputs have on the rest of our bodies. The above dissertation by James implies monism of course, that is that the brain and body act as a single unit. There is no such thing as the brain and body working and functioning independently. It all implies that they work together as a unit. I made a submission that briefly mentioned the way these 'effects' become 'affects' in a post on Thought vs Matter/Energy (by Doogles on June 29th, 2020, 6:15 am). Curiously, that input did not attract a single comment.

I can amplify those points if required, including the anatomical and endocrine connections between brain and body.

I think I can safely add that even as babies we all get a sense of "I hurt, therefore I am" (forget the adult 'cogito, ergo sum'), and that this feedback from each of our bodies increases and amplifies as part of our whole beings in the form of proprioceptive sixth sense feedback constantly from all of our soft tissues to our brains, both subconsciously and consciously.

In fact, you could almost say that we each build up our own libraries of sensory feedback from every soft tissue in our bodies, and which may have as many aspects in common or as variations of those experienced by others.

Have I totally misunderstood the 'hard problem of experience'?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 17th, 2020, 9:26 am 

doogles -

over 40 years ago, I took in the thoughts of people like William James whose thoughts convinced me that ours brains and bodies work as a single unit


Quite right, obviously they do! It's like saying the wings of a bird are separate from the rest of it.

Have I totally misunderstood the 'hard problem of experience'?


Ah, I don't know :-)
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby davidm on August 17th, 2020, 10:52 am 

Yes, I think you have misunderstood the hard problem. The stuff James talks about is the easy problem, as Chalmers makes clear at the very outset of the paper you linked. We have a functionalist account of how the brain works. We do not have an account of experience as such. That’s the point.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 17th, 2020, 12:51 pm 

But doesn't the fact that we're a total unit not apply to both kinds of problem? In any case, before going on to the issue of experience, have they resolved the so-called easy problem first?

See, I don't see that there's any sort of problem with consciousness, I think they invented it. Of course, if we're talking about AI and wanting to simulate consciousness they might have a point, but doesn't the same still apply?

Our being conscious isn't a problem, is it? It's interesting but it's a side-issue. The problem is what we're doing with it. We're not barbaric because we're conscious. We're barbaric because we are.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on August 17th, 2020, 7:27 pm 

This thread is located in metaphysic & epistemology forum. Participants are expected to read materials provided to understand the topic, its context, and particular terminologies and concepts used by philosophers of mind and neuroscientists. Issues in ethics should be posted in the appropriate forum. Posts off-topic or nonresponsive to the area of inquiry outlined in the OP will be removed. Cited materials in the OP should be read before joining the chat.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 18th, 2020, 6:01 am 

Vat -

Understood, but there's no one definite answer to the hard problem, just a lot of theories from Eliminativism through to Panpsychism. If we can answer it here then we're heading for a Nobel prize and worldwide fame.

As I said, I'm fairly sure they haven't even resolved the easy problem let alone the hard one.

So, in view of that, I'd ask exactly what the issue is. As far as I know, it's about understanding exactly what consciousness is and how it works.

I don't see how we can separate the easy from the hard either. The fact is: we are conscious, which means knowing and awareness.

Our input via the senses is sensory. Sensory input is recognised from exerience, named, termed and recorded. When I smell cheese I know it's cheese because that process has been gone through before... etc.

One issue is that this very inquiry, in terms of thought, is being conducted by consciousness itself, which is rather weird. In other words, can consciousness become aware of itself or must there be some other awareness independent of it... and so on.

I don't know what awareness is in physical terms. What is light? Is it electrical? Or is there some kind of mystical element to all this beyond our ken?

I'd say consciouness was universal and extends way, way beyond the brain. But don't listen to me :-)
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby doogles on August 18th, 2020, 6:39 am 

davidm commented -- "Yes, I think you have misunderstood the hard problem. The stuff James talks about is the easy problem, as Chalmers makes clear at the very outset of the paper you linked. We have a functionalist account of how the brain works. We do not have an account of experience as such. That’s the point."

Are you sure about that davidm? You've virtually dismissed the subject off-handedly without an explanation except to say that "The stuff James talks about is the easy problem, as Chalmers makes clear at the very outset of the paper you linked." It would have pleased me if you had been more specific about what you meant by that statement. I may have understood Chalmers better.

On re-reading the paper, I don't see any mention of James at the start of the paper. Chalmers does provide a list of topics representing the easy problem, and they are so vague and embracing that one could incorporate almost anything under the headings provided, including the 'hard problem', the latter under the heading of " the ability of a system to access its own internal states".

The part I believe to be meaningful and relevant is his example.

When Chalmers says "When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations: the felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field. Other experiences go along with perception in different modalities: the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothballs. ... " Then there are bodily sensations, from pains to orgasms; mental images that are conjured up internally; the felt quality of emotion, and the experience of a stream of conscious thought. What unites all of these states is that there is something it is like to be in them. All of them are states of experience."

Note that this includes the FELT quality of redness.

Let's just focus on 'red' for the moment. I take it that Chalmers is saying that many of us don't just see the colour red and have it represented somehow in our brain (that's the easy problem); we also have a bodily 'experience' associated with the colour 'red' as well, and that the hard problem is that we don't understand what this bodily 'experience' is.

If Chalmers was not talking about 'red' in the manner I've described above, then I would appreciate it if someone could paraphrase him in a manner that I can understand.
If I have understood the statement about 'red' correctly, then James addressed the 'hard problem' 140 years ago.

James cites two references on 'red' (and the sources are supplied in his dissertation) -- "When Mosso invented the plethysmograph, for recording the fluctuations in volume of members of the body, what astonished him, he says, 'in the first experiment made in Italy, was the extreme unrest of the blood vessels of the hand, which at every smallest emotion, whether during waking or during sleep, changed their volume in surprising fashion'. Figure 82 shows the way in which the pulse of one subject was modified (my comment -- increased rate and amplitude) by the exhibition of a red light lasting from the moment marked a to b." So there is evidence that the colour 'red' is not only recognised as such by our brains, but it changes our pulse characters somehow.

" ... M Fere using a hand-held dynamometer. Fere apparently determined firstly that the hand strength measurements of subjects was usually reasonably stable from day to day, but if the subject was subjected to musical notes, the strength of grip decreased with sad music and increased with loudness and height. Also, "In a subject whose normal strength was expressed by 23, it became 24 when a blue light was thrown on the eyes, 28 for green, 30 for yellow, 34 for orange, and 42 for red. Red is thus the most exciting colour." So the colour red also changes our skeletal muscle tone somehow.

So, there is evidence that the sight of red not only registers as that colour in our minds but that it also triggers bodily changes in the form of increased rate and amplitude of our pulses, as well as increasing our skeletal muscle strength. Maybe if we made measurements of dozens of different systems in our bodies associated with the colour 'red', we would detect subtle, but measurable, changes there as well. The researchers cited by James just dealt with two different aspects of it.

If bodily changes occur, then the question to be asked is "Can we 'experience' changes in pulse rate or amplitude,or in muscle tone?" We can certainly experience our hearts pounding in our chests, and it becomes a matter of concern rather than calm and comfort. We can sense tension in our skeletal muscles when we become irritable. We can feel heavy with grief or light with joy. We can feel physically tense at times. There is no doubt that we can experience many and complex changes within our bodies.

And according to William James, there is enough evidence of an association of bodily changes with virtually all incoming sensory stimuli, to suggest that these 'experiences' are every bit as much a part of consciousness of phenomena as the objective awareness and recognition of them.

I'm sure that the incoming messages from my body to my brain, at any given time, relating to the position of all of my muscles and joints, the status of my bladder and intestinal tract, my cardiovascular system, my lungs, as well as my thoughts and the stored 'feelings' associated with those thoughts, all add together to let me know 'what it feels like to be me'.

I don't see a 'hard problem' and I agree with Charon that our body and brains work together as a unit.

But I would still appreciate if anyone could explain where I have misunderstood Chalmer's definition of the 'hard problem'.
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