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Author Topic: On Trying Really Hard  (Read 1266 times)
Gareth Southwell
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« on: 04/02/11 @ 16:41 »

Nano Mecanno and the Hard Problem of Consciousness

Perhaps the hardest thing in the search for knowledge is to keep an open mind. Whether philosopher or physicist, Sherlock Holmes or Stephen Hawking, the important thing is not to prejudge where the answer to a problem might lie. And this is difficult. We are creatures of habit, and an approach which has proven successful at numerous times in the past will always be favoured over a less tried-and-tested method. Which is of course where the problem lies: it’s difficult to teach an old dog new tricks, especially when the old tricks still continue to pay off.

Science is not perhaps an old dog – not as old as philosophy or religion – but its method has certainly reaped benefits. As I suggested in my previous Phlog, this is perhaps one reason why it has developed certain blind spots - intractable problems which do not seem to respond so readily to scientific method. Chief among these – and of keen interest to philosophers - is the so-called problem of consciousness. In a nutshell, it is this: in a world which science tells us is made up of purely physical objects and interactions, how does it come about that certain beings are conscious?

On the face of it, this looks like a problem that science is well-equipped to solve. It has been long established that the organ of consciousness is the brain, and that mental states would seem to correspond to electrical activity between neurons in various parts of it. Furthermore, close study of the brain would seem to argue against the old assumption that there exists a mind or soul which may potentially exist separately from its physical host. Specific damage to areas of the brain will affect consciousness in various ways – not only whether someone is conscious or not, but also how they are aware, their ability to function in certain ways, perform certain tasks, and so on. In short, the case for the physical brain’s central role in thought and awareness seems beyond doubt.

So why is there still a problem? Firstly, whilst neuroscience and psychology seem to be doggedly on the trail of how this or that function is performed, what area of the brain is involved in certain mental states, and so on, it is – I am sure they will admit – still a pretty fuzzy picture. As to the precise correlation between the organisation and activity of neurons and specific mental contents, there is still a huge gap. And there are some perplexing findings: for instance, a recent study concluded that a single neuron may be responsible for holding your memory of a person or event (e.g. the actress Halle Berry – see here), which is not something scientists predicted. But such perplexities aside, it seems fairly undeniable that such an approach will at some stage provide us with a good working model of how the brain produces consciousness – a complex model, with some mind-bending findings and a splash of quantum weirdness, perhaps, but a model nonetheless. However, when this day comes, the real problem of consciousness – what philosophers and neuroscientists call the ‘hard problem’ - will remain largely untouched. But why?

It sounds belittling to imply that the sort of scientific endeavour described above is in some way ‘easy’, but this is not what’s meant. When philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists distinguish between the ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ problems of consciousness, they are merely pointing out that, as regards what consciousness really is, and how it comes to be there, we simply don’t have a clue.

Not all philosophers would agree with the above characterisation. Some, in fact, want to argue that there is no genuinely ‘hard’ problem, just a series of confusions and a large amount of wilful mystification. As should be by now obvious, I don’t agree with them, but rather side with other philosophers who consider that – for various reasons – the sort of approach which seems dominant in contemporary science will never fully account for consciousness (in the hardest sense). I’ll try to explain why.

Imagine that someone were to make an exact replica of you using Meccano, or some other handy material. For argument’s sake, let’s say this is nano Mecanno, which is so small that we can build lifelike organisms out of it so that people can’t tell the difference between organic and inorganic humans – this will be ringing bells for Battlestar Galactica fans! Now, the question is: Is the Mecanno ‘you’ conscious? It is a machine, driven by fiendishly advanced nano-Mecanno technology, but at the end of the day it is still an inorganic machine. So, you may be tempted to say “No, it’s not conscious, because machines aren’t alive, and only living things can be conscious”. Fair enough. Your toaster is quite complex and functional, but no one would dream of saying that your toaster is alive. But what if someone were to point out that living bodies are really no more than organic machines? At some level, we are all just cogs and levers, aren’t we? We can make this picture less Victorian if we spice it up with quantum thingies zinging all over the shop, appearing in two places at once, etc, and ask ourselves the question again: Aren’t we just biological machines? It seems more tempting now, doesn’t it? If life is just an arrangement of very small parts in a certain formation and interaction, then what is there to stop us one day building life from scratch using other basic materials – silicon-based life-forms as opposed to carbon-based, perhaps? (Obviously, I’m out of my depth here, and relying almost wholly on Star Trek: The Next Generation). Even if the dream of Mecanno or Silicon Man is ultimately unfeasible, it is nonetheless an interesting thought experiment, for it tests our notions of what life and consciousness ultimately are. For the sort of philosophers who reject the hard problem, Mecanno man is not only possible, it is more or less a true picture of the world. There is no special ‘stuff’ which makes us conscious, but only the specific arrangement of physical parts. But for myself, and other philosophers, a fully conscious Mecanno man is impossible. We would simply create a very lifelike robot, but which ultimately is not conscious in the way that humans are. It is a simulacrum or life-like copy of consciousness, not consciousness itself.

So, what makes consciousness special? It is easy here to fall into a trap. It’s like the old schoolboy trick question: “Which hand do you wipe your arse with?” Either you’re a materialist, or you’re a dualist; either consciousness is just an arrangement of physical parts, or else you’re a woolly headed loon – there is no third option. In arguing that consciousness is not just an arrangement of physical parts, it seems that we must be admitting that it is non-physical or immaterial. This trap is a direct consequence of what philosopher Gilbert Ryle famously called, “the dogma of the ghost in the machine”, a view springing from the dualism of French philosopher René Descartes, which saw mind and body as two separate substances; the body is just a machine, whilst the true mind or essential self is an immaterial ‘ghost’. The problems of dualism are well known: If mind and body are different types of substance, how do they interact? If mind is ‘immaterial’, where is it? How can it exist ‘inside’ a body? But rejecting dualism need not lead us to accept materialism. Rejecting the possibility of Mecanno man is not the same as supposing that we are, in truth, ghostly soul-like entities that can all crowd onto a pinhead. Ideally, we would like a third option – one which involves toilet paper, as it were; which rejects the idea that we are ‘only matter’ without also creating ghosts and other ‘immaterial entities’. And we can do this – it’s just tricky. To do it, we must first say that the standard scientific method does not capture all that consciousness is. It is a method, and not a court of appeal as regards the right to existence. Scientific method might explain how brain states produce or are equivalent to certain mental states, or explain the role of neurons in certain types of brain activity, but such a picture is always from the outside not the inside; the objective, not the subjective (and ‘subjective’ here needn’t mean ‘unsubstantiated’ or ‘deluded’). In short, a certain type of scientific understanding does not explain ‘what it is like’ to be you.

This last phrase goes back to Thomas Nagel, who first introduced it in his famous paper, ‘What is it like to be a bat?’ Nagel argued that a successful theory of consciousness must explain not only the physical role of the brain, but how this gives rise to subjective experience, or what has come to be termed qualia. Examples of qualia include the specific taste of something, the way something looks or feels, the quality that specific sensations of pain or pleasure have. Mecanno man might taste some soup and say, “That’s too salty”, but whilst he might be right – his nano-Mecanno taste sensor technology could identify the presence of too much salt in the soup – there would be no taste of ‘saltiness’ that he was experiencing. When we talk of the inability of words to capture an experience, it is often this qualitative aspect that we are referring to. The only way we can really know what another’s experience is like is to try to replicate their experience – to taste the soup ourselves – and even then we can’t completely be sure (it might taste different to you). But it is not so much that these experiences are private or ineffable that makes them special, but rather the very fact that we have them – that we are conscious at all. If there were a world of Mecanno men, without consciousness – for whom there would be nothing it is like to have any experience – then that world would be lacking something. The very qualities that it would be lacking – the self-conscious, subjective experience of being aware and sentient – are the very things that even a successful solution to the ‘easy’ problem would leave unexplained. How does matter give rise to mind? Somehow – we assume - it switches the light on, but we don’t know how, or how such a thing fits into our understanding of the physical universe. It’s a real stumper!

But if consciousness is not a special ‘something’, and we are not ghosts in the machine, but we also do not want to be simply machines, where does that leave us? Personally, I think the problem lies with scientism, or the idea that the scientific method, and its accompanying materialist assumptions, is the only one necessary for a full understanding of the world. The problem is, however, that consciousness is not a ‘thing’ – not in the sense that we can put our finger on it or isolate it for study in the same way that we can with most physical phenomena. As such, it is slippery. We can, of course, gain a partial understanding of it through traditional scientific methods, but, unless scientism can be dethroned or adapted, or we can in some way revise our fundamental concepts so as to accommodate qualia, we will always be left with an aspect of consciousness that is mysterious and beyond reach - even though it is the most obvious thing in the world, and the closest thing to you at this very moment. Infuriating, isn’t it?
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andyk
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« Reply #1 on: 11/02/11 @ 14:55 »

Thanks for an interesting and well written piece.

I wonder if the apparent slipperyness of consciousness is to do with limitations with the mechanisms of human understanding and how we obtain knowledge, rather than being an indicator that materialism is lacking in someway as a description of the universe.

It is, it would appear, impossible for me to know exactly what it feels like to be a bat. I would need to alter my brain chemistry to mimic a bats and then I wouldn't really be 'me' anymore!

But if subjective mental states are some kind of emergent property of matter then all the information is available to an external observer. This is no use to us humans because we are incapable of interpreting the data. We have no appropriate language to convey 'what it is like' to be some arrangement of matter - but if we did, perhaps we could know what it is like to be a bat?

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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #2 on: 11/02/11 @ 15:36 »

Hi Andy - many thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the piece.

It is tempting to think that we don't possess a sufficient degree of intelligence/appropriate concepts/etc. to understand the nature of consciousness. Our basic assumptions about the world seem to be challenged by (for instance) quantum physics, so we might argue that consciousness represents a similar challenge. However, it seems to me that the problem of consciousness seems to be caused by materialism, which excludes a basic and fundamental truth: we are conscious and we exist, but our existence is not that of objects, but subjects. John Searle makes the same point, I think: it's not that we need to admit that there is a special stuff in addition to matter, but merely that consciousness is a real 'thing'. It just so happens that subjective experience is something which exists in the world. If we simply add this to a materialist view, whilst it does not solve the problem of consciousness (how it comes about), it at least has the merit of not denying something which is apparent to everyone (which such as Daniel Dennett seem to).

As for emergence, I have some issues with that. Most emergent properties assume a similarity of type between 'low' level and 'high' level phenomena. So, I can view a photograph at a greater magnification than normal (the 'low level'), and, as I zoom out, a picture literally emerges (the 'high' level). However, in this case, both low and high level are just different levels of magnification of the same thing. The same cannot be said of consciousness: I do not 'zoom out' from a consideration of how neurons interact to an understanding of what consciousness is - at least, not without misrepresenting it. There is a difference between saying that consciousness is caused or enabled by the activity of neurons, and that consciousness IS JUST the activity of neurons. I agree with the former, not the latter. A successful theory of consciousness must therefore treat subject experience as in some way primitive - i.e. not reducible to something to which it is completely different. This is the real mystery - the hard problem. For instance, we might reduce subject, conscious experience to a more general notion of being - human consciousness to certain forms of animal consciousness. These are points along the same curve - the same type of thing. But to jump from a materialist view to a subjective view just doesn't work: either it leaves consciousness as a mystery, or it explains it out of existence (i.e. falsifies it).

So, I'm not disagreeing with you - the idea that we're not capable of explaining consciousness -  just with the materialist picture, which is confused and incomplete - in my view!.
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andyk
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« Reply #3 on: 11/02/11 @ 16:34 »

Hi Gareth, thanks for the reply!

Yes, agreed that even if what I said turns out to be true - it does not explain how consciousness comes about. But as you say, it does at least have the merit of accepting that it exists.

Just for the avoidance of doubt, my suggestion is not so much that we lack enough intelligence to understand the nature of consciousness. I think we do understand it in a sense - i.e. I understand what it is like to be conscious even if I can't explain it. (I don't need to be able to explain gravity to feel it's effects!). My suggestion is more that I can't know what someone else's particular mental state is exactly like not because I can't understand it but more because I have no way of getting that data 'inside my head'.
An analogy is that of riding a bike - we can't be told how to ride a bike or read how to in a book - we have to learn by trial and error. My brain is capable of knowing what micro-adjustments are required to my posture in order to maintain balance but it has to gain that knowledge through direct experience. The other 'ways in' for knowledge (reading and listening) just aren't 'fine grained' enough for the job.

Re emergence. What about non-conscious life - plants say. Would you say the behaviour of plants (to reproduce, grow, convert energy etc etc) is an emergent property of the fundamental particles when exposed to the required conditions? And if so, and if the tendancy of matter is to give rise to the subjective under the right conditions, could we not see consciousness as the 'zoom out' picture of matter?

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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #4 on: 12/02/11 @ 00:11 »

The problem is that zooming out from material particles can only ever give us the external picture, and the part of consciousness that we are having trouble explaining is internal - the subjective aspect. This is the problem of other minds you refer to: I cannot know directly but have to assume or guess what another's subjective experience is like. The zooming out does not change the nature of the thing we see (in a sense), but only our relation to it (whether as small or large parts or a whole).

To see a plant from outside, at whatever degree of magnification, is still to view it objectively. Say we observe the plant making certain movements and actions, and we conclude that it possesses a sort of consciousness. Such a conclusion is an interpretation, similar to the one we make when we view human action. However, such a view presumes what it claims to discover: that the being in question has conscious experience! Hence, the zomming out does not "result" in consciousness, but only gets us to a point where we can regonise certain behaviour as the external form of what we presume is going on inside!

I think the bridge that needs to be made is between ghe sort of subjective knowledge you talk about - what goes on "inside your head" - and the external pictures that we use to explain the world. Somehow we need to relate the two models to one another - combine subject and object, or situate one within the other - i don't know! Though I have my inklings... Smiley
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« Reply #5 on: 22/03/11 @ 22:16 »

First of all I want to thank you for the good read I just had of your article here.

These are difficult problems indeed, if not impossible. I hope I may add something to the discussion.

Allow me to draw a picture: Imagine that we are all standing on a ladder each. We cannot see where the ladder ends and not where it starts. Each ladder that we stand on is divided into sections, where there is a solid "roof" above us and a solid "floor" below us. Each "roof" and "floor" has a trap door on it, with a lock. Sometimes we are able to see the lock but do not have the key and other times we cannot even see the lock or even that there is a trap door. However, if we do have the key and can see the lock we can go through the "roof" where we will find ourselves in another section of the ladder and we will face a new solid "roof" and we will be able to see how our previous "roof" now looks as a "floor".

If the sections of the ladders represents our scopes of understanding and the number of sections that we can climb through represents the levels of our understanding, we can see that it is Impossible to *know* what the next level is or what it is about. The same dilemma is found when we examine consciousness. For in the different methods, of which we use to examine phenomenons, you mentioned, we merely choose which level we stand on when we examine the phenomenon. This limits how we know and the scope of how much we know.

Furthermore, we are trying to examine and explain something that we do not *know*. We are not able to open, perhaps even we do not see, the trapdoor in the next "roof". The same problem happens in solipsism and we eventually end up in a paradox when we try to explain that which we do not *know*, for we are not able to *know* it. The thing with paradoxes is that they inherently are unsolvable and we are forced to accept a dualistic view. If, now, the problem of consciousness is inherently paradoxical, we will have to accept that we will not be able to understand it in a "monistic" view. "Monistic", as opposed to dualistic, in the sense that we only accept one view of the truth/knowledge.

Lastly, I find the Monistic ideal (monistic in the already known sense) that consciousness gives rise to matter rather than matter gives rise to consciousness makes most sense. This should, logically, make more sense to a conscious being. For an a-conscious being, the opposite should make sense.
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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #6 on: 23/03/11 @ 08:29 »

Well, the choice does seem to be between (a) not currently possessing the necessary conceptual tools to understand consciousness, and (b) consciousness being beyond understanding. Your ladder analogy would seem to suggest (a), and that we will one day climb through onto a different level. We'll see... Smiley

As for it being more plausible for matter to spring from consciousness, I think I understand were you're coming from. If we think of 'matter' as merely consisting of a set of concepts and experiences, then - in a sense - matter does spring from consciousness; it is not just 'there', but is constructed. Many scientists would disagree with this picture, and it is a form of idealism (which isn't very popular, these days). However, if we interpret what you are saying more literally - that consciousness came first - then this is an even less popular viewpoint, and seems to have religious overtones. Not that I'm against this, as such, but I'd be interested to hear you expand on it a little...?

Thanks for the post!
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« Reply #7 on: 23/03/11 @ 19:27 »

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

The ladder example does indeed point to that we hypothetically have the chance to understand consciousness. However, I suspect that the ladder has the shape of a circle. So, when we reach the end of the ladder, we have just come to the beginning of it leaving us unable to understand it because we expected to find an end and a beginning, which doesn't exist in a circle. And who knows, consciousness might be that which is inside the circle, not between the sections on the ladder.

I wrote a logical deduction on solipsism, which really is the same problem as knowing the truth about consciousness, on my blog and you are welcome to leave critique on it. You can read it here http://allthingson.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/on-solipsism-how-to-end-it/  (please remove the link if you think it is inappropriate)

I think this is the root to why it is not possible to logically know the truth about consciousness, which is why we have to satisfy with having two truths. Circular arguments are doomed to fail.

That matter comes from consciousness is indeed a disliked ideology. I believe this is because we live in an age where reason and science is noble and religion and spirituality is for the weak (in our regions). If we went back in time, we would find the opposite. The idea that consciousness is the only thing that is "real" is, just like you say, a religious view. This does not mean anything in itself, though, and is only judged through our contemporary understanding and mindset. On the other hand, a real scientist would never assume that consciousness is physical until it is empirically proven what consciousness really is physical. No matter, then, we are forced to acknowledge that we can not make any assertive statements about consciousness. Doing so is merely a matter of bias.

I am just as spiritual as I am a scientist. This is not a choice but the conclusion I make based on the information available in my mind. I am fine with accepting both consciousness and matter as being the real truth and find consolation in it. But I will try to leave a more objective statement to show what I mean with the Monistic Ideology.

If we can accept that logic has a limit, as was proven by Kurt Gödel, then we have to acknowledge our other mental faculties. We have emotions, instincts and intuitions, however loosely defined they may be. So when we say that we want to Know what consciousness is, we then cannot satisfy with only knowing it logically. Spiritual knowledge is seldom logical but rather poetic and we have to ask ourselves if we, as individuals, can accept this. If we cannot accept this, well, then we have to continue our pursuit of defining consciousness logically and empirically.

There is admittedly a dualism in my arguments but I think that is really where I stand, personally.

What do you say about it?
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MoQingbird
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« Reply #8 on: 27/03/11 @ 00:42 »

I suspect that the ladder has the shape of a circle.

On what grounds?

Quote
That matter comes from consciousness is indeed a disliked ideology. I believe this is because we live in an age where reason and science is noble and religion and spirituality is for the weak (in our regions). If we went back in time, we would find the opposite. The idea that consciousness is the only thing that is "real" is, just like you say, a religious view. This does not mean anything in itself, though, and is only judged through our contemporary understanding and mindset. On the other hand, a real scientist would never assume that consciousness is physical until it is empirically proven what consciousness really is physical. No matter, then, we are forced to acknowledge that we can not make any assertive statements about consciousness.

Scientists make assumptions all the time.  Then they make predictions based on their assumptions and conduct experiments to test them.  If the experiment fails then they know the assumption is invalid.  If the experiment succeeds then they have a new theory for making predictions.  For scientists, this theory has the status of being 'less wrong' than their previous understanding of the world.  A good scientist would never assume that she has the final answer upon proving a theory.  Indeed, a good scientist looks to make their name by finding a new 'less wrong' theory that has better predictive powers that an older 'more wrong' theory.

Religious people make assumptions all the time, e.g. there is a god.  They then build their lives around the assumption that their assumption is true, and explicitly avoid questioning that second assumption.  That's called faith and faith is what allows religious people to be 'right', and never 'more' or 'less' wrong.  "There is a God because I believe in God."  Now that's circular reasoning.  Smiley

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I am just as spiritual as I am a scientist. This is not a choice but the conclusion I make based on the information available in my mind. I am fine with accepting both consciousness and matter as being the real truth and find consolation in it. But I will try to leave a more objective statement to show what I mean with the Monistic Ideology.

Here's a contemporary hypothesis on the nature of the universe:

  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holographic_principle

If t'Hooft is right (and I'd love to know what experiment would verify his theory) then you, me, the chair I'm sitting on, and Betelgeuse are all just information written on the inside of a bubble.  We are all one at that level.  Nevertheless, I feel distinctly 3D, and distinctly separate from you, the chair I'm sitting on and Betelgeuse.  And I have no problem with that.  If my consciousness represents information on the bubble as 3D objects and spacial relationships then I'll go with that because it works for me. Smiley

In short, everything is one and everything is separate.

It's 'and', not 'or'.   Smiley

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MoQingbird
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« Reply #9 on: 27/03/11 @ 01:25 »


It is tempting to think that we don't possess a sufficient degree of intelligence/appropriate concepts/etc. to understand the nature of consciousness. Our basic assumptions about the world seem to be challenged by (for instance) quantum physics, so we might argue that consciousness represents a similar challenge. However, it seems to me that the problem of consciousness seems to be caused by materialism, which excludes a basic and fundamental truth: we are conscious and we exist, but our existence is not that of objects, but subjects. John Searle makes the same point, I think: it's not that we need to admit that there is a special stuff in addition to matter, but merely that consciousness is a real 'thing'. It just so happens that subjective experience is something which exists in the world. If we simply add this to a materialist view, whilst it does not solve the problem of consciousness (how it comes about), it at least has the merit of not denying something which is apparent to everyone (which such as Daniel Dennett seem to).

It seems to me that both Searle and Dennet have fallen into the 'or' trap, i.e. that consciousness has to be either distinct from the material world or merely material, but can't be both.

Quote
As for emergence, I have some issues with that. Most emergent properties assume a similarity of type between 'low' level and 'high' level phenomena. So, I can view a photograph at a greater magnification than normal (the 'low level'), and, as I zoom out, a picture literally emerges (the 'high' level). However, in this case, both low and high level are just different levels of magnification of the same thing.

The key thing about emergence as a meaningful phenomena is not the appearance of more of the same as you zoom in and out, but the appearance of something new and distinct with its own ontology.  In the macroscopic scale at which we live, you might be looking at an old photograph of your Aunt Gladys.  The photograph is full of concepts like woman, smile, chair and other 2D visual representations of a scene.  However, at the microscopic scale the photograph consists of 3D silver halide crystals sitting like dirty, frumpy snowflakes in a matrix of gelatin.  That's two completely separate ontologies in one object.

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The same cannot be said of consciousness: I do not 'zoom out' from a consideration of how neurons interact to an understanding of what consciousness is - at least, not without misrepresenting it. There is a difference between saying that consciousness is caused or enabled by the activity of neurons, and that consciousness IS JUST the activity of neurons. I agree with the former, not the latter.

I agree with both.  Smiley

Consciousness is just the activity of neurons and can also be validly thought of in terms of one or more 'higher' level ontologies, e.g. qualia, phenomenology, or whatever.

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A successful theory of consciousness must therefore treat subject experience as in some way primitive - i.e. not reducible to something to which it is completely different.

Why the insistence on it being one to the exclusion of the other?

Why not have a domain of Subjective Experience containing primitives such as 'qualia' sand a domain of Neurology containing primitives like 'synapse'?  The rest of our world functions like this (Waves & H2O Molecules), so why introduce a special-case for consciousness?

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This is the real mystery - the hard problem. For instance, we might reduce subject, conscious experience to a more general notion of being - human consciousness to certain forms of animal consciousness. These are points along the same curve - the same type of thing. But to jump from a materialist view to a subjective view just doesn't work: either it leaves consciousness as a mystery, or it explains it out of existence (i.e. falsifies it).

We have an idea of what consciousness is (because we are conscious) and we have an idea of what neurons do, too.  It seems to me that the hard problem is bridging from one to the other.  Who knows how many levels of intermediary ontologies will be required to do so?!

V. S. Ramachandran is making progress w.r.t. the mind's representation of the body and using it to help people with phantom limb problems, and the workings of the hman visual cortex are well enough understood for cognitive scientists to make predictions about how people's perceptions will be effected by non-standard inputs and verifying their predictions by experiment.  They can literally change your experience of, say, the color yellow.  It's a beginning, and it points to exciting times ahead IMO   Grin
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livelee
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« Reply #10 on: 21/04/11 @ 15:22 »

Interesting read G.

I'm currently reading 'The Book....' Alan Watts. I believe (and I am only one chapter in) that he is taking Vedantic view upon our consciousness - specifically ego - in this case. His take is that our ego seperates us from all that we truly are; the more we think we are different and individual (fueled by our consciousness) the further we are from that which we truly are. Maybe I'll have a clearer understanding when I finish the book!

livelee
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