• schopenhauer1
    7.4k
    So when presenting someone not familiar with the hard problem, or even has really grasped it (and is not of a mystical bent), they will quickly answer: "Because evolution has created it!" when asked, "Why is it we have sensations, thoughts, feelings associated with physical processes?".

    How does one actually get the point across why this is not an acceptable answer as far as the hard problem is concerned? Can this be seen as answering it, or is it just inadvertently answering an easier problem? If so, how to explain how it isn't quite getting at the hard problem?
  • noAxioms
    1k
    How does one actually get the point across why this is not an acceptable answer as far as the hard problem is concerned?schopenhauer1
    Why is it unacceptable? It doesn't beg the answer desired?

    I've actually never grasped the problem others have tried to convey since I cannot identify anything unexplainable by natural means. So explain the problem to me, since I apparently don't see one.
  • Paine
    542

    I read the problem Chalmers presents as a problem of building models.
    Can there be a completely 'objective' model that explains the experience of consciousness? The experience is presented as a phenomena, one of the things that needs to be explained.
    From that perspective, evolution is not an explanation.
  • schopenhauer1
    7.4k
    I've actually never grasped the problem others have tried to convey since I cannot identify anything unexplainable by natural means. So explain the problem to me, since I apparently don't see one.noAxioms

    This is exactly the thing I am asking for you all to help with! :razz:
  • Joshs
    3.7k

    How does one actually get the point across why this is not an acceptable answer as far as the hard problem is concerned? Can this be seen as answering it, or is it just inadvertently answering an easier problem? If so, how to explain how it isn't quite getting at the hard problem?
    schopenhauer1
    Evolutionary theory can be a step in the direction of dissolving the hard problem , but only if we go beyond classical darwinism and conceive of organic processes not in terms of causal concatenations and re-arrangements of elements under external pressure but in terms of a more radical notion of reciprocal differences of forces.
  • schopenhauer1
    7.4k
    Can there be a completely 'objective' model that explains the experience of consciousness? The experience is presented as a phenomena, one of the things that needs to be explained.
    From that perspective, evolution is not an explanation.
    Paine

    The thing of the inner sensations of "what it's like" is the thing to be explained. Evolution giving rise to "what it's like" doesn't explain why there is a "giving rise to what it's like", only the advantages to an organism for having it.
  • schopenhauer1
    7.4k
    but only if we go beyond classical darwinism and conceive of organic processes not in terms of causal concatenations and re-arrangements of elements under external pressure but in terms of a more radical notion of reciprocal differences of forces.Joshs

    You must explain these neologisms but without using other neologisms.
  • T Clark
    9.5k
    So when presenting someone not familiar with the hard problem, or even has really grasped it (and is not of a mystical bent), they will quickly answer: "Because evolution has created it!" when asked, "Why is it we have sensations, thoughts, feelings associated with physical processes?".

    How does one actually get the point across why this is not an acceptable answer as far as the hard problem is concerned?
    schopenhauer1

    Maybe tell them about how ancient reptiles' jaw bones evolved into the inner ear bones in modern mammals. The study of evolution tells us that it happened, but you need to study the anatomy and physiology of the ear to understand how it works.
  • DingoJones
    2.6k
    The thing of the inner sensations of "what it's like" is the thing to be explained. Evolution giving rise to "what it's like" doesn't explain why there is a "giving rise to what it's like", only the advantages to an organism for having it.schopenhauer1

    There are lots of things evolution created that we cannot answer in the same way as you describe above. I don’t see why consciousness is a special case.
    Just because we cannot identify that “why” doesnt mean evolution isnt the answer. The way we find out is through science. Thats our go to for answers, reliable as it is.
    Isnt the question why wouldnt evolution be the answer? It has been reliable and good enough for every other trait the human body has, why not that one?
  • Paine
    542

    There is the question of how having consciousness is an advantage but being able to say how it happens as a process we can recognize through scientific inquiry is another matter. Being able to see it as a result of development does not mean we understand it as such.
  • 180 Proof
    9.4k
    The "hard problem" in philosophy simply doesn't exist for cognitive neuroscience. From an old thread: https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/511358
  • Olento
    10
    I've actually never grasped the problem others have tried to convey since I cannot identify anything unexplainable by natural means. So explain the problem to me, since I apparently don't see one.noAxioms
    To me all knowledge seems to be part of the same "hard problem": how to explain things outside human congnitive faculties, using the very same faculties. That's nothing but magical to me. So explaining these faculties is not really any different. It's all magic.
  • Joshs
    3.7k
    You must explain these neologisms but without using other neologisms.schopenhauer1

    But then you’d understand it.
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    In the original paper on Facing Up to the Hard Problem of Consciousness, Chalmers first describes the 'easy problems', which he says include

    • the ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to environmental stimuli;
    • the integration of information by a cognitive system;
    • the reportability of mental states;
    • the ability of a system to access its own internal states;
    • the focus of attention;
    • the deliberate control of behavior;
    • the difference between wakefulness and sleep.
    He says
    All of these phenomena are associated with the notion of consciousness. For example, one sometimes says that a mental state is conscious when it is verbally reportable, or when it is internally accessible. Sometimes a system is said to be conscious of some information when it has the ability to react on the basis of that information, or, more strongly, when it attends to that information, or when it can integrate that information and exploit it in the sophisticated control of behavior. We sometimes say that an action is conscious precisely when it is deliberate. Often, we say that an organism is conscious as another way of saying that it is awake.

    There is no real issue about whether these phenomena can be explained scientifically. All of them are straightforwardly vulnerable to explanation in terms of computational or neural mechanisms.

    But, he says

    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 is it Like to be a Bat, 1974) has put it, there is something it is like to be a conscious organism. This subjective aspect is experience. When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations: the felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field. Other experiences go along with perception in different modalities: the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothballs. Then there are bodily sensations, from pains to orgasms; mental images that are conjured up internally; the felt quality of emotion, and the experience of a stream of conscious thought. What unites all of these states is that there is something it is like to be in them. All of them are states of experience.

    ----

    "Because evolution has created it!" when asked, "Why is it we have sensations, thoughts, feelings associated with physical processes?".

    How does one actually get the point across why this is not an acceptable answer as far as the hard problem is concerned? Can this be seen as answering it, or is it just inadvertently answering an easier problem? If so, how to explain how it isn't quite getting at the hard problem?
    schopenhauer1

    That passage from Chalmers mentions Nagel. And indeed, Nagel addresses the problem in more detail in his 2012 book Mind and Cosmos, where he says:

    We ourselves, as physical organisms, are part of that universe [i.e. the one so successfully described by science], composed of the same basic elements as everything else, and recent advances in molecular biology have greatly increased our understanding of the physical and chemical basis of life. Since our mental lives evidently depend on our existence as physical organisms, especially on the functioning of our central nervous systems, it seems natural to think that the physical sciences can in principle provide the basis for an explanation of the mental aspects of reality as well — that physics can aspire finally to be a theory of everything.

    However, I believe this possibility is ruled out by the conditions that have defined the physical sciences from the beginning. The physical sciences can describe organisms like ourselves as parts of the objective spatio-temporal order – our structure and behavior in space and time – but they cannot describe the subjective experiences of such organisms or how the world appears to their different particular points of view. There can be a purely physical description of the neurophysiological processes that give rise to an experience, and also of the physical behavior that is typically associated with it, but such a description, however complete, will leave out the subjective essence of the experience – how it is from the point of view of its subject — without which it would not be a conscious experience at all.

    So the physical sciences, in spite of their extraordinary success in their own domain, necessarily leave an important aspect of nature unexplained. Further, since the mental arises through the development of animal organisms, the nature of those organisms cannot be fully understood through the physical sciences alone. Finally, since the long process of biological evolution is responsible for the existence of conscious organisms, and since a purely physical process cannot explain their existence, it follows that biological evolution must be more than just a physical process, and the theory of evolution, if it is to explain the existence of conscious life, must become more than just a physical theory.
    — Thomas Nagel

    But, all that said, many will basically shrug it off. At which point, one smiles and walks away. :-)
  • hypericin
    583
    "Because evolution!" is simply a non-sequitur.
    Suppose we discover an animal which levitates.
    "How does it levitate?", we might ask.
    "Because evolution!"
    "Uh, yes, I agree, it evolved. But again, how does it levitate?"
  • Hillary
    1.9k
    But, all that said, many will basically shrug it off. At which point, one smiles and walks awayWayfarer

    And rightly so. Both Chalmers and Nagel show the obvious. Nothing new is said. Just an awe for science is expressed. Chlalmers even suggested a most horrific and scary mental experiment. To replace the neurons one by one with a tiny computer structure... Yeah...Alright. smile and walk away.
  • Hillary
    1.9k
    Uh, yes, I agree, it evolved. But again, how does it levitate?"hypericin

    During evolution it discovered repulsive gravity.
  • I like sushi
    3.7k
    Anyone answering in such a blase way is missing the point.

    Looks like a problem of ‘why’ and ‘how’. Meaning we can fairly confidently state that consciousness has arisen through evolutionary processes of some sort (the ‘why’ of consciousness) but we cannot address the intricacies of the process or get to grips with demarcating what exactly is meant by ‘consciousness’ (the ‘how’ of consciousness).

    Chalmers philosophical zombie is one of those hypotheticals that many misrepresent/misinterpret. He merely states that it is not hard to imagine creatures on another world living as we do today and doing what we do yet having no consciousness whatsoever (there are no known rules of physics that state this could not be possible). From there it is then a question of asking what is the difference between us and them.

    That is the simplest way I know of that outlines the so-called hard problem of consciousness so tell them that. If it doesn’t interest them it doesn’t interest them. The common entrenched reactions of many in my experience on forums like this is to shout ‘fantasy’ and walk away … let them walk away.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    Well, here's what I think, for what it's worth:

    Evolution, from the givens, lacks a goal - it would sooner produce a brainless critter than a lifeform with a gigantic brain.

    Brains/minds seem goal-oriented. They have this sense of direction in that they have a vague idea of where they want to be in the future.

    True that at the moment the overal objective of brains/minds seem aligned to that of evolution (endless mode/survival game mode), but if you look at some ideas that are doing the rounds in philosophical and other circles e.g. antinatalism, Buddhism, negative utilitarianism, sepukku/harakiri, we see that a split has occurred.

    Living doesn't mean not dying, dad. — Eep

    Whether this is just a case of an evolutionary Rube Goldberg machine is anyone's guess. I dunno!
  • bert1
    1.2k
    One way is perhaps to ask "Why can't the whole of evolution happen without anything feeling anything, without anything having an experience? Why doesn't it all go on in the dark?"

    Another way is perhaps to focus on the how. Evolution might explain why consciousness evolved, presumably because it confers some functional benefit. Evolutionists about consciousness (emergentists) must start with something they think isn't conscious, say simple organic chemistry sloshing about in a puddle to something they think is conscious, say human beings, and get them to talk about how that transition is accomplished, is it sudden, gradual, exactly what physical systems are relevant, what do those systems have to do to be conscious. When they've answered those questions, ask, "OK, but why can't all that happen anyway without any experiences?"
  • schopenhauer1
    7.4k
    But then you’d understand it.Joshs

    So can you explain?
  • Joshs
    3.7k
    But then you’d understand it.
    — Joshs

    So can you explain?
    schopenhauer1

    The hard problem is due to a seemingly irreparable split between dead matter and subjective consciousness, the ‘feeling of what it is like’ to experience dead matter. I think the root of this split , which can be blamed on Galileo , Descartes and other progenitors of modem science , is the difficulty philosophers have had with modeling movement and change. The way our language is structured inclines us toward giving preference to nouns over verbs, identity over difference. As a result , movement and change are explained by deriving them
    from stasis and identity. This worked ok when modeling physical processes, which lend themselves (imperfectly) to description as self-identical entities with properties and attributes. But it was apparent that subjective awareness involved some kind of energetic dynamism that resisted this kind of description. Having no other way to depict identity and change, consciousness was typically treated as a special kind of object or substance, something mysterious and ineffable. Others tried to pretend that it simply didnt exist, and was just a kind of illusion that could be reduced to good old fashioned physical processes.

    The first incarnations of evolutionary theory, while giving much greater importance to transformation than pre-Darwinian thought, also derived change from the rule-governed causal behavior of static objects, and so the hard problem remained.
    But with approaches in philosophy such as poststructuralism and phenomenology , it became possible to understand the relation between identity and difference in a fresh way. In short, they reversed the priority of identity over difference, arguing that all
    processes in nature generate identity as a derived product of differentiations. The static thinking of objects with assigned properties was now recognized to be the illusion.

    The upshot here is that the mysteriously inner , ineffable quality we associate with consciousness is nothing inner. It is the experience of differentiation upon differentiation upon differentiation. Neural changes coordinate with bodily processes , which are inextricably embedded within environmental interactions. There is nothing but incessant change and transformation here. More importantly, this holistic dynamism is not confined to living processes, but characterizes what had formerly been thought as as the dead world of physical entities. Objects with properties are only probabilistic extrapolations from continuously differentiating multiplicities. So in a sense , we must trace back the ‘feeling’ dynamism of consciousness to the dynamism of pre-living processes. Subjectivity and perspective are necessary grounds of the physical.
  • litewave
    679
    "Why is it we have sensations, thoughts, feelings associated with physical processes?"schopenhauer1

    Maybe we could rephrase the question this way: "Why are there non-structured stuffs associated with structures of (causal) relations?" And then the answer might be: "Because the relations are between those stuffs." So, stuffs and relations between them are inseparable. Evolution creates causal structures of high organized complexity and these structures contain stuffs such as the qualia of our consciousness, for example (the feeling of) redness or sweet chocolate taste.
  • Hillary
    1.9k


    There is an easy answer to your excellent question. The evolution approach to the hard problem in consciousness states the obvious. Consciousness evolved. Right. We know that. But did it evolve in order to propagate genes or memes, as Dawkinskians put it? Is it a sign of fitness?

    The view on evolution is based on dogma. All books Dawkins wrote, all approaches to features of life, be it a dream, ethics, sex, even death, are based on

    The CENTRAL DOGMA of molecular biology

    Dawkins is the modern preacherman of the New Dogma.
  • Joshs
    3.7k
    Dawkins is the modern preacherman of the New DogmaHillary

    Dawkins is the Old Dogma. Steven Rose is the New Dogma.
    https://youtu.be/QceGqKZMqIM
  • Joshs
    3.7k
    Maybe we could rephrase the question this way: "Why are there non-structured stuffs associated with structures of (causal) relations?" And then the answer might be: "Because the relations are between those stuffs." So, stuffs and relations between them are inseparable. Evolution creates causal structures of high organized complexity and these structures contain stuffs such as the qualia of our consciousness, for example (the feeling of) redness or sweet chocolate taste.litewave

    The distinction between stuffs and relations is the root of the problem , and is what is driving the Hard Problem.
    In order to get past this dualistic thinking it is necessary to deconstruct the notions of identity, substance, qualia, inner feeling, intrinsicality and inherence grounding the idea of ‘stuffs’.
  • Hillary
    1.9k
    The distinction between stuffs and relations is the root of the problemJoshs

    Dunno. Already in electron there is a distinction. The electron contains charge (mind) and couples ti the virtual photon field, to reach out for other electrons or other charged particles. The interaction with other particles is an expression of charge, mind. The nature of charge isn't explained though. Only the electron knows. We could imagine to be one, I guess. Just close your eyes. You're an electron with a face, arms, legs, and charged with a mind!
  • Joshs
    3.7k
    The electron contains charge (mind) and couples ti the virtual photon field, to reach out for other electrons or other charged particles. The interaction with other particles is an expression of charge, mind. The nature of charge isn't explained though.Hillary

    Is the charge pre-assigned to the electron as a property? Or is the charge created by the interaction?
  • litewave
    679
    The distinction between stuffs and relations is the root of the problem , and is what is driving the Hard Problem.Joshs

    Actually, I would say that the root of the hard problem of consciousness/qualia is an ontology that focuses on relations inspired by the success of mathematics in science. All mathematics can be reduced to structures built on the set membership relation, which is a composition relation between a part and a whole, where the whole is a set/collection/combination of parts. But when people look at the scientifically successful mathematical equations they may wonder: "Where do they include stuffs like redness or pain? How do such stuffs fit into the equations and why would such stuffs even exist?" But when we realize that the equations describe composition relations between stuffs then it becomes clear that the existence of stuffs is not only natural but also necessary for the existence of any relations.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    Temet nosce (know thyself). — Orcale of Delphi

    Not easy, not easy at all.

    The subject-object dichotomy is what the Oracle is referring to. We (our minds) seem more outward-directed (other-aware) than inward-directed (self-aware). We appear to have got the hang of the external world - we know how to make nature reveal her secrets to us that is - but of the internal world (our minds), we know very little, and we've only just begun to get a handle on the basics and that's being charitable.

    In a sense, if a psychiatrist took a look at the human race as a whole, we're kinda insane (we lack insight into our own condition). The Orcale of Delphi & Socrates were alerting us to the possibility that we could be cuckoo!

    The unexamined life is not worth living. — Socrates
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