• Flaw
    7
    I have been watching videos and reading a little bit about the hard problem of consciousness and also about qualia. It seems like philosophers are discussing how the physical can create our experiences, or our consciousness. This is what I assume is called the "explanatory gap".

    As someone with a computer science background with a little experience with AI & machine learning, I was wondering whether or not consciousness can be simulated and what that would "mean"?

    I was about to submit a discussion post called "Can consciousness be simulated" but I saw that a post with the same exact name and pretty much the same content was made 2 years ago.
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/6539/can-consciousness-be-simulated/p4

    So after a bit more reflection on questions like why does consciousness, this universe, or even existence "exists", I began to think that maybe it's our understanding of consciousness that makes the problem seem "hard".

    I now think that asking why consciousness exists is like asking why does the number 2 exists. And asking how the physical/material could create* our conscious experience is like asking how when we put 1 + 1 in the calculator, it creates* the number 2.
    * create meaning bringing to existence

    What is everyone's thought on this subject?
  • T Clark
    13.3k
    I was about to submit a discussion post called "Can consciousness be simulated" but I saw that a post with the same exact name and pretty much the same content was made 2 years ago.
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/6539/can-consciousness-be-simulated/p4
    Flaw

    Consciousness and what they call the hard problem gets discussed here a lot. No reason not to do it again. As for the earlier post with the same name, at two years, the statute of limitations has definitely run out.

    I have found the subject frustrating enough that I usually don't participate in consciousness discussions. One suggestion - define the terms you mean to use well. Good luck.

    Welcome to the forum.
  • GraveItty
    311
    There is no solution to be found in the materialistic approach. Though you can relate, for example, color, forms therein, the changing of them in space, to material aspects of the brain. That doesn't explain the quali though. Unless you address some non-material stuff to it, giving rise to the quality.
  • Manuel
    4k
    So after a bit more reflection on questions like why does consciousness, this universe, or even existence "exists", I began to think that maybe it's our understanding of consciousness that makes the problem seem "hard".Flaw

    It's a kind of distortion or forgetting of history that this is called the "hard problem". During the enlightenment when Descartes, Hume, Kant and the like were producing masterpieces, the hard problem was "motion", that is the movement of objects. Newton was astonished that he could not give a physicalistic account of gravity.

    For whatever reason, the "hard problem" of motion has been forgotten in terms of people even knowing it used to be a problem at all. Gravity's inconceivability has just been accepted. Now we have this specific articulation of the hard problem, which at the time of the 18th century had to be admitted, by some anyway: that matter thinks.

    Yes Chalmers pointed to a hard problem, but we should not forget that gravity, electromagnetism, free will, causality and indeed a great portion of philosophy are hard problems too. Perhaps by contextualizing this issue, it will seem less specifically puzzling.

    After all, we are acquainted with experience much better than the world out there.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    after a bit more reflection on questions like why does consciousness, this universe, or even existence "exists", I began to think that maybe it's our understanding of consciousness that makes the problem seem "hard".Flaw

    The point of David Chalmer's essay, Facing Up to the Hard Problem of Consciousness, is that first-person experience is not within the scope of objective, third-person descriptive analysis. So it deflates the expectation that the mind is something which can be explained by or reduced to scientific explanation, because scientific analysis is always conducted in the third person.

    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 ('What it is like to be a Bat') 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.David Chalmers

    And the issue is, experience is had by subjects. And subjects, in this sense, can't be made an object, in the sense that brain and cognitive functionality can be. It's too near to us for us to know it. This leads to the 'blind spot of science' argument.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Here's another snippet from Thomas Nagel on why the hard problem appears for modern philosophy, in particular:

    The modern mind-body problem arose out of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, as a direct result of the concept of objective physical reality that drove that revolution. Galileo and Descartes made the crucial conceptual division by proposing that physical science should provide a mathematically precise quantitative description of an external reality extended in space and time, a description limited to spatiotemporal primary qualities such as shape, size, and motion, and to laws governing the relations among them. Subjective appearances, on the other hand -- how this physical world appears to human perception -- were assigned to the mind, and the secondary qualities like color, sound, and smell were to be analyzed relationally, in terms of the power of physical things, acting on the senses, to produce those appearances in the minds of observers. It was essential to leave out or subtract subjective appearances and the human mind -- as well as human intentions and purposes -- from the physical world in order to permit this powerful but austere spatiotemporal conception of objective physical reality to develop. — Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, Pp 35-36

    Once you understand this, many issues are resolved, but it takes quite a bit of work to understand it.
  • frank
    14.9k
    Yes Chalmers pointed to a hard problem, but we should not forget that gravity, electromagnetism, free will, causality and indeed a great portion of philosophy are hard problems too. Perhaps by contextualizing this issue, it will seem less specifically puzzling.Manuel

    Yep. He just meant it's hard because science doesn't have the conceptual tools to answer it (but maybe that's changing).

    Explaining functions is the easy problem (because it doesn't require new concepts)

    But sometimes I wonder if we can ever step outside consciousness so as to explain it.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    But sometimes I wonder if we can ever step outside consciousness so as to explain itfrank

    :up: That's it, in a nutshell.
  • Marchesk
    4.6k
    But sometimes I wonder if we can ever step outside consciousness so as to explain it.frank

    Sometimes I also wonder if we can ever step outside of explanation so as to explain the world. Meaning, there is an inherent idealism to our making sense of the world, whatever the world is.
  • GraveItty
    311
    The point of David Chalmer's essay, Facing Up to the Hard Problem of Consciousness, is that first-person experience is not within the scope of objective, third-person descriptive analysis.Wayfarer

    But a connection between the two is obviously there. If I experience whatever conscious quality, then there is a material counterpart in the brain. The person looking at my brain, however he thinks that to do, can describe it materialistically. But there must be a non-materialisic ingredient of matter by means of which I have the conscious experience. I can hear music inside my head, or outside my head, in which case the materialistic outside has to be considered too. The materialistic view is a subjective image though, existing in the mind of who looks at me materialistically. So there must be more to matter than matter only.
  • Manuel
    4k
    But sometimes I wonder if we can ever step outside consciousness so as to explain it.frank

    I mean if you as yourself can step outside of your own experience to look at yourself. No. Me neither for myself.

    We can try to trick ourselves into thinking than when another person is analyzing our experience via fMRI or some personal behavioral reports (I see a brown dog, I see a blue fish, etc.) that these reports are outside experience, as in a "objective view", or a view from nowhere.

    But we don't do that, what the neuroscientist or psychologist is doing is analyzing how certain aspects of the other persons experience affects there own experience.

    Russell has a nice quote about this somewhere.

    EDIT:

    Here, it's worth a look:

    https://books.google.com.do/books?id=VEB9AgAAQBAJ&pg=PA152&lpg=PA152&dq=bertrand+russell+what+the+physiologist+sees+is+by+no+means+identical&source=bl&ots=ce7mXSFUS4&sig=ACfU3U3dvNp32LYUjSsMtsR_Jp3DVNvjfA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj5udGGlunzAhXxTDABHTKSC5wQ6AF6BAgfEAM#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Last paragraph of pp.152 to halfway through pp.153, quite brief, but to the point.

    I can't copy it and typing it would be too long.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    There is no solution to be found in the materialistic approach.GraveItty

    All solutions to problems are material solutions. What other kind(s) of solutions can you offer an example of? Sure, there are other fantasies and speculations, but they are of dubious coherency; although as exercises of the creative imagination they may not be without value; they cannot be counted as explanations, because a good explanation should be testable.

    If all solutions are material, then either there will (or at least could) be a material solution, or else the question is ill-formed in the first place.
  • frank
    14.9k
    But we don't do that, what the neuroscientist or psychologist is doing is analyzing how certain aspects of the other persons experience affects there own experience.Manuel

    Exactly!
  • frank
    14.9k
    Sometimes I also wonder if we can ever step outside of explanation so as to explain the world. Meaning, there is an inherent idealism to our making sense of the world, whatever the world is.Marchesk

    Schopenhauer said the Law of Explanation (our perception that everything has to have a cause) is part of a process of pulling a united world apart. Is that what you mean?
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    But a connection between the two is obviously there. If I experience whatever conscious quality, then there is a material counterpart in the brain.GraveItty

    A lot of philosophical analysis comprises questioning what seems obvious to you. You're phrasing the question in terms of an assumed framework of understanding, that 'the brain' is the source of the explanation you're seeking. But, for one thing, I would question the sense in which the brain *is* 'a material thing' at all. The brain is the most complex phenomenon known to science, there are more neural connections than there are stars in the observable universe. Teams of thousands have spent tens of years on single aspects of understanding that. And the brain is embodied in a organism, in the nervous system, the biosphere, and within a cultural and linguistic matrix, also. Considering it as an object in its own right occludes all of those fundamental aspects of its operation.

    Materialist theory of mind all begins with some version of the idea that the mind is a product of interactions in the physical brain. And it does seem obvious that this must be the case to a lot of people. But I'm questioning that.

    I think the way to frame the problem is this: that science generally proceeds in terms of what can be known objectively, or put another way, by analysis of objects and the relationships between them. That is why physics is the paradigm for so much else in science and even philosophy, which is what 'physicalism' means.

    So it is natural to ask, what kind of object or substance can consciousness be? What kind of thing, or stuff, is it? But I'm saying that it's not an object of any kind, it simply can't be accomodated within that overall epistemological framework. It's not an object, it doesn't objectively exist. But because modern culture is so reliant on that implicit subject-object framework, it can't come to terms with this fact. That's why modern thinking is generally convinced that only what exists 'out there somewhere', in time and space, can be real. That is what leads to 'eliminative materialism', the idea that there really is no such thing as consciousness per se.

    Consider the nature of meaning. Human consciousness, which is linguistic, abstract and rational (to some degree anyway) is constantly navigating by a process of judgement. In what sense are judgements physical? When you grasp something, some idea, the light bulb goes on, you see what it means - is that a physical process, in any sense? Sure, it might have physical consequences - if you grasp something awful, you might get an adrenal reaction, something wonderful can produce endorphins. But what is that 'act of insight'? I think assuming that understanding the nature of judgement, the human faculty of discerning meaning, is something that science is closing in on, is a category mistake. There's a profound misunderstanding at the basis of it. That is 'the hard problem' of consciousness.

    And this even has, in some sense, scientific acknowledgement. Have a read of this section of a scientific paper on the neural binding problem. It specifically acknowledges the hard problem of consciousness.
  • Marchesk
    4.6k
    Schopenhauer said the Law of Explanation (our perception that everything has to have a cause) is part of a process of pulling a united world apart. Is that what you mean?frank

    I mean that we come up with mental models of the world, and then tend to treat those models as the world itself, forgetting that they're our explanations, not the world. But yes, causality can be considered part of that, as Hume noted.
  • GraveItty
    311
    A lot of philosophical analysis comprises questioning what seems obvious to youWayfarer

    Here I totally agree. Philosophy should be a means to set us free from the tyranny of Truth as practiced by science. I don't need philosophy though to set me free from my own truth. It seems pretty obvious to me in a non-scientific way.

    I don't assume the brain to be the explanation of consciousness. If you read well, I said that scientific materials I'm does. And science is materialialistic.

    I proposed there is some extra, non-materialistic ingredient of matter, though I can't explain what (and in that sense consciousness just can't be explained, however your urge to explain it, and for the better so; it would take away it's beauty and mysteriousness).

    I wrote there is a correspondence between the two. If you look at my brain you look at it materialistically. Which you can question, but I assume this. I pull you in my truth, so to speak. Outside of the brain, you can see the difference, although a working brain, by it's very nature can't ever be grasped materialisically, scientifically, in its whole, although science makes different, until now very disassociate, cut-up, reduced (or holistic), abstract, invasive, attempts to explain it. It will never ever succeed.

    Consider the nature of meaning.Wayfarer

    Why the hell should I consider the nature of meaning in relation to consciousness. If you can explain well, then I know what you mean, whatever it's "nature' (your suggestion is a typical bow to science, which is looking for "nature" too).

    Human consciousness, which is linguistic, abstract and rationWayfarer
    . That's what you think. It can be pretty the contrary to all of these three! Let me tell you.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    :100:

    :up:

    What "consciousness"? If it is "immaterial" "nonphysical" or "super-natural", then, not only is it inexplicable, it's also non-evident in a scientific sense too. Assuming that, what are you (idealists, mysterians & pan-whatchamacallits) even talking about when you talk about "consciousness" ("experience" "qualia" etc)? The explanatory gap is a scientific problem, not a philosophical aporia, because it concerns explaining facts of the matter which philosophy does / can not; therefore philosophers can only propose woo-of-the-explanatory-gap nonsense (e.g. panpsychism, substance dualism, subjective idealism) that only begs the question of one unknown with a further (metaphysical? magical?) unknowable. As suggested already by , this latest "hard problem" is a DOA anachronism that confuses, even occludes, far more than it clarifies or informs research.
  • Varde
    326
    Consciousness - the spirit.

    A facet of the spirit (a more proper term) is that it's conscious/unconscious (the reason why 'spirit' is a more proper term; consciousness is an aspect; numbness, power, head-level mental experience, body-level physical experience, etc. Other aspects).

    I'm going to use the term spirit to represent what you factorised as consciousness.

    In theory the spirit is inconceivable but interactable. Facets of the spirit can be pointed out and lines can be drawn between them, we can paint pictures and scenes can be created. However, we cannot conduct any science on the whole of the spirit, as we can't on the whole of nature.

    Science; a process of study and exploitation of objects/subjects for intellect.

    We cannot study or exploit the spirit for intellect - chaos involved makes selecting / naming what exactly it is impossible - scientific harmony is impossible. We can make concise the experience, of spirit, but never the product.
  • jorndoe
    3.4k
    Consciousness attempting to self-comprehend has troublesome self-reference...
    Analogous to a map being part of its own territory.
    Does that mean there's an information horizon somewhere?
  • GraveItty
    311
    Consciousness attempting to self-comprehend has troublesome self-reference...
    Analogous to a map being part of its own territory.
    Does that mean there's an information horizon somewhere?
    jorndoe

    Consciousness simply can't be explained. Only experienced.

    There is an information horizon in the sense you can't envision you whole brain, as the image is part of the brain.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    If it is "immaterial" "nonphysical" or "super-natural", then, not only is it inexplicable, it's also non-evident in a scientific sense too.180 Proof

    To whom? It's obvious to everyone, but it's an object for no-one. Very simple. This doesn't beg any question, it just sets an in-principle limit for what can be ascertained by objective means. Hence it is a philosophical reflection, rather than a 'falsifiable hypothesis' of any kind. You have to learn to live with knowing you don't know in respect of this issue.

    All solutions to problems are material solutions.Janus

    What about solutions to mathematical conjectures? Are they included?
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    This "in-principle limit for what can be ascertained by objective means" is unwarranted. Just ask Lord Kelvin or Kant, Wayf.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Some selections from Kant’s View of the Mind and Consciousness of the Self
    The subject of the categories cannot by thinking the categories [i.e. applying them to objects] acquire a concept of itself as an object of the categories. For in order to think them, its pure self-consciousness, which is what was to be explained, must itself be presupposed. [B422] ….

    In attaching ‘I’ to our thoughts, we designate the subject only transcendentally … without noting in it any quality whatsoever—in fact, without knowing anything of it either directly or by inference….

    …When one is conscious of oneself as subject, one’s bare consciousness of self yields no knowledge of self.

    Which accords with what I’m saying.
  • SophistiCat
    2.2k
    Here you are:

    To return to the physiologist observing another man’s brain: what the physiologist sees is by no means identical with what happens in the brain he is observing, but is a somewhat remote effect. From what he sees, therefore, he cannot judge whether what is happening in the brain he is observing is, or is not, the sort of event that he would call "mental". When he says that certain physical events in the brain are accompanied by mental events, he is thinking of physical events as if they were what he sees. He does not see a mental event in the brain he is observing, and therefore supposes there is in that brain a physical process which he can observe and a mental process which he cannot. This is a complete mistake. In the strict sense, he cannot observe anything in the other brain, but only the percepts which he himself has when he is suitably related to that brain (eye to microscope, etc.). We first identify physical processes with our percepts, and then, since our percepts are not other people’s thoughts, we argue that the physical processes in their brains are something quite different from their thoughts. In fact, everything that we can directly observe of the physical world happens inside our heads, and consists of "mental" events in at least one sense of the word "mental". It also consists of events which form part of the physical world. The development of this point of view will lead us to the conclusion that the distinction between mind and matter is illusory. The study of the world may be called physical or mental or both or neither, as we please; in fact, the words serve no purpose. There is only one definition of the words that is unobjectionable: "physical" is what is dealt with by physics, and "mental" is what is dealt with by psychology. When, accordingly, I speak of "physical" space, I mean the space that occurs in physics. — Bertrand Russell, An Outline of Philosophy (1937)
  • Manuel
    4k


    Awesome. What a fantastic quote.

    Many thanks! :)
  • frank
    14.9k
    mean that we come up with mental models of the world, and then tend to treat those models as the world itself,Marchesk

    Which would mean science in general suffers from a kind of locked-in syndrome.

    It's not just that a theory of consciousness would be affected by that.

    But what about philosophy? Isn't it also projecting models?
  • bongo fury
    1.6k
    In fact, everything that we can directly observe of the physical world happens inside our heads,
    -- Russell 1937
    SophistiCat

    The "we" an inner homunculus? If not, why the restriction?
  • Mww
    4.7k


    Curious......how much of this Russell do you support? Re: is the conclusion that the distinction between mind and matter is illusory, true?
  • jorndoe
    3.4k
    Consciousness simply can't be explained.GraveItty

    It's obvious to everyone, but it's an object for no-one.Wayfarer

    Spatiotemporal analysis (with evidence):

    Say, my supper is locatable, left-to-right, movable, breakable (i.e. object-like), my experiences thereof occur, come and go, are interruptible (i.e. process-like).

    Suppose x is defined as non-spatial, "outside of space". Well, then obviously x is nowhere to be found, no place. Cannot have any extent, volume/area/length, not even zero-dimensional (like a mathematical singularity).
    · A demarcation: objects are spatial, left to right, front to back, top to bottom, locatable, movable, breakable (under conservation).

    Suppose x is defined as atemporal, "outside of time". Well, then x was/is nowhen, no simultaneity. No duration involved, cannot change, can't be subject to causation, can't interact, inert and lifeless (at most).
    · A demarcation: processes are temporal, come and go, occur, interruptible (interaction/event-causation).

    The closest to non-spatiotemporal in the literature seems to be abstracts, like sterile inhabitants of Platonia.

    Minds partake in the world, interact, both ways, are active, are in fact parts of the world. It's a hallmark that minds are temporal, process-like; experiences come and go, occur, are interruptible.

    Some entertain the notion that consciousness is a container (e.g. of experiences) that can be empty, yet the only evident container is the body.

    Note, though, there is a sort of space-time duality here (distinct from substance dualism). Mind isn't object-like, that'd be a category mistake, rather mind is more clearly process-like.

    We do know some things, but we don't know exactly what it all is, and, perhaps more pertinently, we don't know what it can all do together. Mystifying isn't a particularly good response as such.
  • Manuel
    4k


    The general orientation.

    That what the physiologist sees is not the brain of the subject "neutrally", but instead that what he's actually seeing are the effects of his own experience (the physiologist, that is) reacting when looking at the behavior of another persons brain. But even here the physiologist is not "seeing" the experience of the patient.

    I think that using "physical" and "mental" so frequently can be a bit confusing. I prefer to use Strawson's terms "non-experiential" for matter and "experiential" for mental.
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