• Harry Hindu
    4.1k
    Are you conscious? Is your significant(s) other conscious? To not draw this out, I'll answer for you: yes, and yes.

    Now, did we need a precise definition of consciousness to answer those questions? No. Did those questions and answers make sense to you and me? Yes. I know what you mean when you say you're conscious and vice-versa.
    RogueAI

    Are you fibberfab? Is your significant other fibberfab? How can you answer those questions without knowing what fibberfab is or is not?

    You can say that you are conscious, but what makes you conscious? How can you tell if others are conscious when you can't observe their consciousness, only their actions? Are actions conscious? If not then what is conscious and how can you tell?

    Also, establishing the need for a scientific definition of consciousness is not the same as defining it.Kenosha Kid
    Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, the scientific definition can't contradict other definitions, or else scientists and laymen would be talking about different things.

    We can talk about water as it appears from consciousness as a clear liquid, or as a combination of hydrogen and oxygen molecules as it appears from a view from nowhere. We're talking about the same thing but from different perspectives, but not contradicting ones.

    Can we do the same thing with consciousness? Can you talk about how consciousness appears from consciousness and as it appears from a view from nowhere? Your consciousness appears as a physical brain that drives various actions from my conscious perspective, which is not how my consciousness appears to me so how do I know if you or I are actually conscious or not? What is concsciousness like from a view from nowhere?
  • bert1
    792
    Are you fibberfab?Harry Hindu

    No, he's RogueAI. I'm bert1 and you are Harry Hindu.
  • bert1
    792
    Either way, the scientific definition can't contradict other definitions, or else scientists and laymen would be talking about different things.Harry Hindu

    Indeed. Assuming we actually want to discuss the same thing, of course.

    We can talk about water as it appears from consciousness as a clear liquid, or as a combination of hydrogen and oxygen molecules as it appears from a view from nowhere. We're talking about the same thing but from different perspectives, but not contradicting ones.

    Can we do the same thing with consciousness? Can you talk about how consciousness appears from consciousness and as it appears from a view from nowhere? Your consciousness appears as a physical brain that drives various actions from my conscious perspective, which is not how my consciousness appears to me so how do I know if you or I are actually conscious or not? What is concsciousness like from a view from nowhere?

    These are all excellent questions to begin an enquiry into consciousness. :up:
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.4k
    Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, the scientific definition can't contradict other definitions, or else scientists and laymen would be talking about different things.Harry Hindu

    Heaven forbid!

    We can talk about water as it appears from consciousness as a clear liquid, or as a combination of hydrogen and oxygen molecules as it appears from a view from nowhere. We're talking about the same thing but from different perspectives, but not contradicting ones.

    These are all excellent questions to begin an enquiry into consciousness. :up:bert1

    I agree with the sentiment (talking about the same thing from different perspectives), but my point was about the precision necessary to discern a conscious thing from a non-conscious thing. As I said above, "a clear liquid" does not discern water from vodka, and might leave me in the pitiful situation of having accidentally drunk water.
  • bert1
    792
    I agree with the sentiment (talking about the same thing from different perspectives)Kenosha Kid

    But there is a logical difficulty here in talking about a first person perspective from a third person perspective. Describing subjectivity in objective terms seems like a nonsense to me.

    Just as describing objective reality from my point of view is also a nonsense.

    As @Wayfarer has correctly said (imho), or quoted someone as saying, science typically proceeds by eliminating the subjective as much as possible in order to arrive at an unbiased, objective, point-of-view invariant view of the world. And that's great until the 'object' of enquiry is subjectivity itself. How are scientists supposed to proceed here? By eliminating subjectivity from the enquiry into subjectivity? Or do we have to do something other than science?
  • Harry Hindu
    4.1k
    As I said above, "a clear liquid" does not discern water from vodka, and might leave me in the pitiful situation of having accidentally drunk water.Kenosha Kid
    Vision isn't your only sense. You have the power to smell and taste. Using all if your senses it is simple to differentiate water from vodka.

    So what is consciousness like when not be observed by any sensory apparatus ie. when it's not being measured?
  • Apollodorus
    1.3k
    Or do we have to do something other than science?bert1

    Every field of inquiry has its limitations. Philosophy and logic can take over from science where science no longer has an answer. But we need to remember that some questions may remain unanswered.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.4k
    But there is a logical difficulty here in talking about a first person perspective from a third person perspective.bert1

    If you believe there is a difference between a neuron firing and the owner having an experience, yes, there will be a logical difficulty. Personally I think that the logical difficulty lies in justifying that belief.

    As Wayfarer has correctly said (imho), or quoted someone as saying, science typically proceeds by eliminating the subjective as much as possible in order to arrive at an unbiased, objective, point-of-view invariant view of the world.bert1

    I think that's a very outdated picture of science.

    It is if the scientist has the same definition/concept as the non-scientist. This definition:

    "Consciousness is subjective experience — ‘what it is like’, for example, to perceive a scene, to endure pain, to entertain a thought or to reflect on the experience itself"

    ...is given at the very start of the neuroscientist Guilio Tononi's paper on the IIT. Some scientists do start with this concept.
    bert1

    I don't think a person would work through that when answering the question "Are you conscious?" It is sufficient to know, on a linguistic level, that I am necessarily conscious, in much the same way that I am a homo sapiens.

    But there's an implicit point you're making that I should address. The above quote is clearly not a scientific definition of consciousness, i.e. one could not devise a set of experiments from it. As I said earlier, consciousness is multi-faceted, and individual singular definitions may capture qualities of some of those facets, but that's not sufficient to discern anything about having a conscious experience. You cannot get from "what it is like" to an experiment; one could potentially get from a precise definition of consciousness to vaguer qualities like 'what it is like'.

    A paper on QM btw wouldn't typically start with the Schroedinger equation, even though that is exactly the starting point for a physicist. Introductions are hooks in science papers, not definitions of terms and it is clear Tononi is being quite informal. My issue with 'what it is like' is not that it doesn't capture any of the facets of consciousness, but that is an impression left by the uncountable processes that enumerate what consciousness does. Tononi's project is to apply his approach to things like clinical assessment. This is scientific: he talks about consciousness in terms of discernable difference.
  • bert1
    792
    If you believe there is a difference between a neuron firing and the owner having an experience, yes, there will be a logical difficulty. Personally I think that the logical difficulty lies in justifying that belief.Kenosha Kid

    This seems backwards to me. Prima facie, a neuron firing is a neuron firing, and a conscious experience is a conscious experience. The first step is to give a reason why we would think these two things are, in fact, the same.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.4k
    Vision isn't your only sense. You have the power to smell and taste. Using all if your senses it is simple to differentiate water from vodka.Harry Hindu

    That would be my way to discern water from vodka. It's a terrible way to discern water from ethylene glycol.

    Worth thinking about what smelling and tasting the unknown clear liquid entails. These are extremely sensitive chemical analysers that can usually uniquely identify most naturally occurring things.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.4k
    This seems backwards to me. Prima facie, a neuron firing is a neuron firing, and a conscious experience is a conscious experience. The first step is to give a reason why we would think these two things are, in fact, the same.bert1

    But science doesn't proceed prima facile, it proceeds on the basis of evidence. If the model that has electricity and magnetism as two sides of the same coin is better at predicting results of experiments than the one that holds them as two distinct phenomena, proceed with the former.
  • bert1
    792
    You cannot get from "what it is like" to an experimentKenosha Kid

    In a broad sense of 'experiment' you can, I think. I can ask myself the question, "Is there something it is like to be me?" and I can consult myself and answer in the affirmative.
  • bert1
    792
    But science doesn't proceed prima facile, it proceeds on the basis of evidence.Kenosha Kid

    Sure, then there must be evidence to support this claim. Please give some examples of the evidence.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.4k
    Sure, then there must be evidence to support this claim. Please give some examples of the evidence.bert1

    I don't think this conversation is going anywhere constructive, which is a shame as it started out interesting.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.5k
    In panpsychism an electron is a little mind as seen from the inside and matter as seen from the outside.lorenzo sleakes

    :up:
  • bert1
    792
    I don't think this conversation is going anywhere constructive, which is a shame as it started out interesting.Kenosha Kid

    I'm interested in your views. In particular I'm interested in the relationship between neural events and particular experiences and what we can conclude from that about consciousness, if anything. That's central to this issue, no? The logic of this is interesting - arguments from analogy, tacit assumptions, alternative conclusions etc.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.4k
    I might have misread you, sorry. I thought you were asking for the evidence that science proceeds on the basis of evidence, which read like a destruct button. I think the "that claim" is the claim that a neuron firing identically is the "having an experience"? Diectic references...

    So continuing the analogy, you cannot have a change in an electric field without a corresponding and completely determined change in a magnetic field: this is evidence that they are "two sides of the same coin".

    Same goes for the neurological correlates of consciousness: you cannot (refering back to prior discussions on this thread) have the "I see Halle Berry's face" experience without the Halle-Berry's-face-detector neuron firing and, conversely, you can't have the neuron fire without seeing Halle Berry's face. (There's citations on the older thread, can dig them out with some patience.)

    This as far as I'm concerned makes the claim that they are distinct things, not the same thing from two perspectives, in need of justification, in the same way that if you turned an apple 180 degrees and expected me to believe it was a distinct apple, I'd expect a good justification. The model that fits the evidence is the one in which they're the same thing.
  • bert1
    792
    I might have misread you, sorry. I thought you were asking for the evidence that science proceeds on the basis of evidence, which read like a destruct button. I think the "that claim" is the claim that a neuron firing identically is the "having an experience"?Kenosha Kid

    Yes! Sorry I was unclear. My bad. I'll get to the rest of your reply later, thanks.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.1k
    Vision isn't your only sense. You have the power to smell and taste. Using all if your senses it is simple to differentiate water from vodka.
    — Harry Hindu

    That would be my way to discern water from vodka. It's a terrible way to discern water from ethylene glycol.

    Worth thinking about what smelling and tasting the unknown clear liquid entails. These are extremely sensitive chemical analysers that can usually uniquely identify most naturally occurring things.
    Kenosha Kid
    :roll:
    You completely missed the point.

    If you can't discern the difference between water and vodka visually, but can only do so by smell or taste, then is the world is as it appears visually, or as it smells or tastes? If we could ask a bat or a dog, what would they say? Does a brain exist how we see it, smell it, or taste it? I think we are confusing the way it appears to a particular sense with the way it actually is. This reminds me of how we have a difficult time discerning the difference of light being particles or waves. Maybe it depends on the sense (measuring device) being used.

    But science doesn't proceed prima facile, it proceeds on the basis of evidence. If the model that has electricity and magnetism as two sides of the same coin is better at predicting results of experiments than the one that holds them as two distinct phenomena, proceed with the former.Kenosha Kid
    But the evidence only appears a certain way depending on what sensory device you are using to observe the evidence. I think that we are forgetting that any time we mention evidence, we are mentioning some conscious experience of some evidence, not evidence as it exists apart from our experience of it, or the way it appears to some sensory apparatus.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.4k
    You completely missed the point.Harry Hindu
    ...
    Does a brain exist how we see it, smell it, or taste it?Harry Hindu

    Apparently you completely failed to include the point.

    If you can't discern the difference between water and vodka visually, but can only do so by smell or taste, then is the world is as it appears visually, or as it smells or tastes?Harry Hindu

    Okay, so _you_ completely missed the point. Also these are spurious dichotomies. I can only hope you're speaking metaphorically.

    But the evidence only appears a certain way depending on what sensory device you are using to observe the evidence.Harry Hindu

    Fortunately you can use many devices, simultaneously if you like: again, it's not either/or.

    I think that we are forgetting that any time we mention evidence, we are mentioning some conscious experience of some evidence, not evidence as it exists apart from our experience of it, or the way it appears to some sensory apparatus.Harry Hindu

    As I said to Judaka, this is a very outdated way of looking at science. Phenomenology is an important matter in modern physics. When someone says "a photon is a click in a photo detector," they are not talking about photons as they appear to the photon detector but how we experience the photon detector's behaviour. All scientific measurement is really a human measurement of a measuring instrument. This isn't problematic: it's been a couple of hundred years since scientists thought they had direct access to objective reality.
  • Manuel
    983
    Mind and matter aren't opposites. It's hard sometimes for people to get that point...
  • RogueAI
    620
    Are you fibberfab? Is your significant other fibberfab? How can you answer those questions without knowing what fibberfab is or is not?Harry Hindu

    Do you really have no idea what someone is talking about when they ask "are you conscious"? You're not able to grok that sentence?

    You can say that you are conscious, but what makes you conscious?

    Nothing. Consciousness, mind, and ideas are all there is. Idealism makes everything so much easier.

    How can you tell if others are conscious when you can't observe their consciousness, only their actions? Are actions conscious? If not then what is conscious and how can you tell?

    You can't tell, you can only assume. Since we're all built the same way, there's been no problem assuming we're all conscious, but when computers get more sophisticated, and people start claiming things other than brains are conscious, the impossibility of verifying external consciousnesses is going to become a big problem.
    Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, the scientific definition can't contradict other definitions, or else scientists and laymen would be talking about different things.Harry Hindu

    Well said.

    Can we do the same thing with consciousness? Can you talk about how consciousness appears from consciousness and as it appears from a view from nowhere?Harry Hindu


    Can you unpack "view from nowhere"? Do you mean a god's eye view of your internal mental states?

    Your consciousness appears as a physical brain that drives various actions from my conscious perspective, which is not how my consciousness appears to me so how do I know if you or I are actually conscious or not? What is concsciousness like from a view from nowhere?

    Suppose we have an unconscious machine that knows all the physical facts about our universe. From that information, could it figure out that this thing called "consciousness" exists?
  • Harry Hindu
    4.1k
    As I said to Judaka, this is a very outdated way of looking at science. Phenomenology is an important matter in modern physics. When someone says "a photon is a click in a photo detector," they are not talking about photons as they appear to the photon detector but how we experience the photon detector's behaviour. All scientific measurement is really a human measurement of a measuring instrument. This isn't problematic: it's been a couple of hundred years since scientists thought they had direct access to objective reality.Kenosha Kid

    Strange. If you don't have "direct access" to "objective" reality then are you saying that you have indirect access to your own experiences? Are your experiences part of "objective" reality? It seems to me that you have "direct" access to some part of reality - namely your own mind - or else how can you ever claim that you have experiences with any certainty, much less that they are even about something else that isn't an experience. How does that even happen?

    And if we can't adequately explain the part of reality that we have direct access to, or how it relates with the rest of reality, then how can you assert that we know so much about what we access indirectly?
  • Harry Hindu
    4.1k
    Do you really have no idea what someone is talking about when they ask "are you conscious"? You're not able to grok that sentence?RogueAI
    I have an idea what someone might mean, but then that idea falls apart when subjected to logic and reason. The same goes for the word, "god". People use the word without a clear understanding of what it is that they are talking about. We need a definition in order to understand what each other are talking about so that we are not talking past each other.

    You can't tell, you can only assume. Since we're all built the same way, there's been no problem assuming we're all conscious, but when computers get more sophisticated, and people start claiming things other than brains are conscious, the impossibility of verifying external consciousnesses is going to become a big problem.RogueAI
    Only because we've learned to associate consciousness with behaviors and haven't come up with an explanation of consciousness that allows us to detect consciousness more directly.

    Can you unpack "view from nowhere"? Do you mean a god's eye view of your internal mental states?RogueAI
    Yes, something like that.

    Suppose we have an unconscious machine that knows all the physical facts about our universe. From that information, could it figure out that this thing called "consciousness" exists?RogueAI
    I don't know what "physical" means, much less a physical fact. How about just facts, or information? I think it would be easier to figure out what consciousness is without the false dichotomy of "physical" and "mental".

    Nothing. Consciousness, mind, and ideas are all there is. Idealism makes everything so much easier.RogueAI
    I'm not so sure. Are you saying that my feet are conscious like my brain? Are you saying that molecules, as well as the atoms they are composed of, and then the quarks that the atoms are composed of, have points of view? What is a point of view, if not a structure of information?
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.4k
    If you don't have "direct access" to "objective" reality then are you saying that you have indirect access to your own experiences?Harry Hindu

    I am privy to experiencing Halle Berry's face. Nothing in that experience suggests a particular neuron firing in my brain. So, no, I do not have access to the objective reality underlying my experiences.

    By analogy, when I see an apple, I don't see the full apple. I cannot see the reverse side, or the inside. It's not that the objective reality of the apple is missing my experience of it, rather than my experiencing it is an incomplete and particular perspective.
  • RogueAI
    620
    I have an idea what someone might mean, but then that idea falls apart when subjected to logic and reason. The same goes for the word, "god". People use the word without a clear understanding of what it is that they are talking about. We need a definition in order to understand what each other are talking about so that we are not talking past each other.Harry Hindu

    I don't think we even need to use the word consciousness to poke some serious holes in materialism. For example, if scientists come up with a theory of consciousness and claim that some machine is conscious, instead of worrying about what consciousness means, we can just ask the scientists, "Is it capable of feeling anything, like pain or pleasure?" If the scientists say "yes", then they are still on the hook for proving that that machine can feel pain, and then we're back to the verification problem. People can throw up language barriers to questions like "Are you conscious?", but if they try to do so for something like "are you in pain?" it's not going to work. We all know what is meant by "are you in pain?"

    For example, Kenosha Kid thinks it's possible for consciousness to arise from different substrates, like rocks or ice cream cones (I think he used that example). So, instead of getting bogged down in questions like, "How could a collection of x produce consciousness?", we can ask "how could a collection of x feel pain?" The same absurdity arises (e.g., a collection of rocks feeling pain), there's the same explanatory gap and hard problem (e.g., how could a bunch of rocks feel pain? How does that work?) and we don't even have to mention consciousness.


    Only because we've learned to associate consciousness with behaviors and haven't come up with an explanation of consciousness that allows us to detect consciousness more directly.

    How would you detect consciousness in a machine, even in principle? How would you go about determining that a substrate other than neurons can generate the sensation of pain? I think this is, in principle, impossible to verify.

    I don't know what "physical" means, much less a physical fact. How about just facts, or information? I think it would be easier to figure out what consciousness is without the false dichotomy of "physical" and "mental".

    I'm sympathetic, and I think things are easier if we ditch physicalism altogether, but physicalism's central claim is that there is this non-conscious stuff that exists external to us and that it either causes consciousness or is consciousness. I don't think there's a problem understanding what physicalists mean when they say that. It's a pretty straightforward theory: mindless stuff exists and everything is made of it and it causes all phenomena. That's easy to understand. I happen to to think it's wrong, but I don't think there's a meaning problem there.

    I'm not so sure. Are you saying that my feet are conscious like my brain? Are you saying that molecules, as well as the atoms they are composed of, and then the quarks that the atoms are composed of, have points of view? What is a point of view, if not a structure of information?

    In monistic idealism, there is only one cosmic mind, and we are dissociated aspects of it (think dissosciative identity disorder, which used to be multiple personality disorder). So, would my feet be conscious? There's an assumption there that there are these things separate from us called "feet", and that they might be conscious. I don't think anything is separate. I think that separation is an illusion. There's only one thing that is conscious: the one mind. Our own focuses of awareness are, as I said, dissociated aspects of this one cosmic mind.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.1k
    I am privy to experiencing Halle Berry's face. Nothing in that experience suggests a particular neuron firing in my brain. So, no, I do not have access to the objective reality underlying my experiences.

    By analogy, when I see an apple, I don't see the full apple. I cannot see the reverse side, or the inside. It's not that the objective reality of the apple is missing my experience of it, rather than my experiencing it is an incomplete and particular perspective.
    Kenosha Kid

    In other words, you have "direct" access to your experience of Halle Berry's face and your perspective of apples. In other words, your experiences and perspectives are part of "objective" reality. If not, then how can you talk about your experiences and perspectives like you can talk about faces and apples?

    So I'm confused as to your use of "direct" and "objective". You have direct access to your experiences and perspectives and your experiences and perspectives are part of the objective world.

    Like I said, if you can't explain the relationship between your experiences and perspectives and what they are about, then how do you even hope to explain the things your perspective and experiences are about, or of?
  • Harry Hindu
    4.1k
    I don't think we even need to use the word consciousness to poke some serious holes in materialism. For example, if scientists come up with a theory of consciousness and claim that some machine is conscious, instead of worrying about what consciousness means, we can just ask the scientists, "Is it capable of feeling anything, like pain or pleasure?" If the scientists say "yes", then they are still on the hook for proving that that machine can feel pain, and then we're back to the verification problem. People can throw up language barriers to questions like "Are you conscious?", but if they try to do so for something like "are you in pain?" it's not going to work. We all know what is meant by "are you in pain?"

    For example, Kenosha Kid thinks it's possible for consciousness to arise from different substrates, like rocks or ice cream cones (I think he used that example). So, instead of getting bogged down in questions like, "How could a collection of x produce consciousness?", we can ask "how could a collection of x feel pain?" The same absurdity arises (e.g., a collection of rocks feeling pain), there's the same explanatory gap and hard problem (e.g., how could a bunch of rocks feel pain? How does that work?) and we don't even have to mention consciousness.
    RogueAI
    All you are doing is moving the goal posts. Now we need to define pain. What if I defined pain as being informed that you are damaged. Can a machine be informed that it is damaged to then take action repair the damage? What form does the information take? What form does the information "damage to the body" take in you, if not pain? Feelings, visuals, smells, tastes, sounds, etc. all take forms which are all different due to the different sensory organs that are used to acquire the information. You can be informed that you are injured visually as well. Both vision and pain inform you of the same state-of-affairs, but in different forms.

    How would you detect consciousness in a machine, even in principle? How would you go about determining that a substrate other than neurons can generate the sensation of pain? I think this is, in principle, impossible to verify.RogueAI
    LIke I said. We first need to define what it is that we are looking for. If I define consciousness as a sensory information structure in memory, does this include machines with memory and sensory devices as having consciousness?

    I'm sympathetic, and I think things are easier if we ditch physicalism altogether, but physicalism's central claim is that there is this non-conscious stuff that exists external to us and that it either causes consciousness or is consciousness. I don't think there's a problem understanding what physicalists mean when they say that. It's a pretty straightforward theory: mindless stuff exists and everything is made of it and it causes all phenomena. That's easy to understand. I happen to to think it's wrong, but I don't think there's a meaning problem there.RogueAI
    Again, they are using the terms consciousness and non-conscious as if they know the relationship between consciousness and non-conscious stuff (ie the relationship between brains and minds). How does a non-conscious thing cause consciousness? How does something cause it's opposite? That is a serious problem. It's like asserting that something comes from nothing, or that good can come from evil acts.

    In monistic idealism, there is only one cosmic mind, and we are dissociated aspects of it (think dissosciative identity disorder, which used to be multiple personality disorder). So, would my feet be conscious? There's an assumption there that there are these things separate from us called "feet", and that they might be conscious. I don't think anything is separate. I think that separation is an illusion. There's only one thing that is conscious: the one mind. Our own focuses of awareness are, as I said, dissociated aspects of this one cosmic mind.RogueAI
    Why would there be dissociated aspects of one mind? Are you saying solipsism is the case and we don't know that our minds really aren't conscious in and of themselves, rather there is only one consciousness - this cosmic mind?

    It seems simpler to just say everything is information, or processes.
  • lorenzo sleakes
    15
    What is concsciousness like from a view from nowhere?Harry Hindu

    Nagel pointed out that the view from within is always from somewhere, from the here and now. Somehow this is a fact, a piece of direct observation, but it is not an objective fact. I am here in this location and you are there. Biden is in England and I am in New York. If our minds just switched locations there would be no objective difference and yet there would be a difference to me. I would see things from Biden's location and be surrounded by world leaders. So even in a metaphysics that contains "points of view" as fundamental entities there would still be something missing. The subjective fact that I am one of those point of view.

    is there a view from nowhere? I dont see how there can be. The idea of objectivity may be closer to a view from everywhere.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.1k
    I still don't understand how the fact that we all have points of view is subjective rather than objective, when you are making the case for how it is for all humans. What makes some fact objective? What makes some fact subjective? If the changes you talk about cause changes in other places (ie if you switched minds with Biden, Biden and your bodies' would not behave the same). There is a difference in the effect the mind would have on the body because a different mind is in the body.

    If what you are saying is the case whether anyone from any point of view agrees or is aware of it or not, then does that not make it an objective fact?
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