• Vera Mont
    873
    No way out of this. Put simply, the physicalist model has to be discarded, or amended.Constance

    Then you'll just have to do that, I guess. How is not my problem; I sleep very well in my physicalist model. Except for the bladder in the middle night thing, but that, too, is insoluble short of death.
  • Cuthbert
    1.1k


    Perhaps for the same reason that when you read this post you are not merely inspecting marks on a screen. Your uncle means something to you. Hopefully more than this post.

    But is this 'meaning something' anything but a bunch of electrical impulses in your own neurons?

    Ach, you'll never be satisfied. It's not just you. Personally I do complicated mental arithmetic and eventually drop off.
  • Janus
    13.2k
    Yes, as I see it, this is poignantly true. So then, how do I establish a reasonable idea that can make Sidney a person, apart from me, over there, and so on, NOT reducible to any of the above, given that the above are all true? I am concerned that Sydney got lost in the rigorous analysis and no one noticed. So, I am noticing.
    This is, in my thoughts, the second most important philosophical question there is.
    Constance

    I'd say all of those ideas of Sidney: as neural activity, as electronic or chemical activity, as meat, bone and muscle, as a relative, a citizen, or experiences of Sidney as just a human presence, someone you love, or don't love, someone you feel comfortable with, or not, and so on cannot, do not and should not have equal weight in your relationship with him.

    The ideas of what Sidney is, based on objectifying analysis, are parasitic upon your, upon our, lived experience, and your experience might be explainable, to some degree and in some connections, by those observations and analyses, but is not reducible to them. It is lived experience which is primary, and which makes the secondary analyses possible.

    I wonder what is, for you, the most important philosophical question?
  • enqramot
    64
    But how do you escape the final description of all you say above being brain events only, even, and this is important, the reference to something being a brain event? Talk about my "real" uncle: is such a thing even possible to imagine in good analytically grounded conscience?Constance

    I feel that descriptions such as: internal, external, real, imaginary etc. are purely arbitrary and used to make sense of the surrounding ocean of information. Both "external" and "internal" events are processed in the brain in a similar way. In that sense everything is internal as truly external events would be inaccessible from your world. Is there an objective reality? Does the Earth disappear the moment the last conscious being cease to exist? In what sense does it exist if there's noone left to perceive it? Yet, should conscious beings reappear later on, they'd be able to "see" the Earth in the same place it used to be. Or not? Let's suppose the real uncle exists. How does he get into your world? I don't see how that could happen. Maybe there's some limited interaction between independently existing worlds whereby some information is shared between them and influence events across multiple subjective worlds. Maybe some part of your uncle leaks into your world and to see the rest of him you'd have to become him or be able to somehow "see through his eyes". Maybe such merging of minds, straddling the two worlds, is possible. Human history is short, I guess there's still a lot left to discover. Trial and error is the way to go in the absence of user's manual. In its essence, everything in our worlds is of virtual nature. What is "matter"? Is a hard wall essentially different to its representation in a computer game? It has arbitrarily defined properties, such as: hard, dense, opaque etc. Arbitrarily, because I can imagine a world in which a wall would have different properties. In a computer game a change like this would be a simple matter of changing a couple of lines of code. Let's imagine we live in a simulation. With sufficient level of detail, how would you distinguish it from reality? And if we accept the virtual nature of reality, we sort of bypass the question: "How does consciousness arise from matter?".

    The barn door: The complexity of your computer is not at issue, for first you have to explain the fundamentals: at best, at the level of basic questions (the most basic, which is what philosophy is about) the best you are ever going to get is a causal connection between your computer and and the wind howling through its receptors. It could be AI of the highest order, and you would still be routed to this question: how do causal explanations suffice for knowledge claims? Barn doors and howling winds have exactly this same causality "between" them.Constance

    The difference between "know" and know, know being reserved for conscious beings. No, my computer had to concede defeat and withdraw in shame. The question of consciousness is not an easy question. Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I'm aware, the contemporary science has no clue about the nature of consciousness. So how likely are we to solve it in this forum?

    It is not a matter of "what if he is reducible." You are facing here an ineluctable situation, for, as you and I will agree, there are brains and uncles and there is a world. I simply ask, how does the the latter get into the former?Constance

    I'm not so sure I agree with you here. I may agree with you that there are brains, uncles and worlds, but what if our definitions of these objects are not quite in sync? Wouldn't it unhinge our agreement a little bit? As to the question: "How does the world get into uncle's brain?", some clarification of what exactly you understand by that would be welcome.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    Take your pick. We could follow Quine, Davidson , Wittgenstein , Putnam, Rorty or Nietzsche out of the trap of physicalism. We could embrace a Gadamerian hermeneutics , a phenomenological approach, poststructuralism. We could follow the work of neuroscientists influenced by Peirce, or those adopting enactivism. Lots of options here.Joshs

    But none are suitable to the issue at hand. Very helpful, but they miss the mark. Sorry for the long response, but you asked a big question, and I'm no professional philosopher.

    I have my limitations. I know Quine is a naturalist, and he declared himself just this, "Philosophically i am bound to Dewey by naturalism....With Dewey I hold that knowledge, mind, and meaning are part of the same world...that they are bound to be studied to the same empirical spirit that animates natural science." And I read his Indeterminacy of Translation paper, his Two Dogmas. Rorty seems to follow in suit: He is unyielding in his insistence that the truth is made not discovered,

    I have always been suspicious of this pragmatist's naturalism, for on the one hand, there is a commitment a pragmatic theory of knowledge at work, and this to me is right and it leads into a pragmatic phenomenology. Rorty asked, famously, how does anything out there get in here? And by this, I take him to mean he wants his cake and eat it, too: He rejects "scientism" whereby the philosophical foundation of being is something scientists and naive physicalism have a theory about in their empirical grounding; yet, because science is not philosophy, it takes the latter to get to this grounding, which is pragmatism. But if the grounding lies in a pragmatic analysis of out relations with the world, then the answer to the question in OP cannot be anything close to naturalism; naturalism is just a default term for "what works", and my uncle whose existence is being questioned and examined here is NOT a "what works" manifestation. I read somewhere that Putnam argued against Rorty on this, Rorty, he claimed, defending a kind of pragmatic solipsism, could not allow Putnam's wife to be simply Putnam's wife. This goes to the point I raised here. Jumping to the chase, as I see it, is impossible to argue that a brain thing can "know" anything, and it is not because pragmatic avenues of discussing knowledge don't allow. It is really a simple matter of discovering any path at all. By Rorty's standard, it is not even brain events Putnam is really witnessing; obviously, this kind of talk itself is brain events, so one event to another cannot generate what a brain event is, for that would be the worst kind of circular thinking. Rorty liked Wittgenstein and Heidegger because the latter accepted an "open hermeneuticist" position and the early former held that, like Quine, the best we can do with Metaphysics was say mass, take up the rituals, and so on, and all rejected traditional metaphysics, or, any metaphysics.

    I have no use for Nietzsche, for his rejection of metaphysics ended up with a kind of eulogy of the Hemmingway hero, living a life of stylish aficionado (like those opponents of Socrates who were men of bearing and substance who lived with spirit, who the miscreant Socrates would antagonize). Nietzsche adored the gladiatorial! And poststructuralists, like Derrida? His deconstruction is helpful in finding the bottom of things, like a zen master's fan flying across the room at the reader, the world is under erasure at the level of basic questions, and when no center is even thinkable, one can no longer conceive at this level of inquiry. We are foundationally adrift. But the question is, what is there to be discovered AS being adrift? Rorty would say nothing at all, and he takes his cue from Heidegger, who thought poetry broke beyond the bonds of mundanity into new territory, and dropped philosophy to teach literature. But they were, both of them, too wedded to language to give it up.

    The matter to me turns on value, and I always come back to early Wittgenstein for support on this. Russell called him a mystic for thinking that the Tractatus' whole point didn't rest with the stand it took against nonsense statements, but rather with that which could not be said, and I think he is just being Kantian about this, not so much with value (and Kant, though I haven't read much into the Critique of Practical Reason, but I have read the CPR and the Metaphysics of Moral, and others, seems to have no grasp of the true metaethical foundation of ethics) but the denial that metaphysics can be talked about, yet insisting that that which had to be passed over in silence was not literally nothing. The good, Witt said in Culture and Value, is divinity, and by the good, he meant the value of value, and this goes to the true mystery of our existence: the Good of good; the bad of bad. So Dewey, Rorty and Quine were naturalists in their own way, and believed that any notion of noumena or talk about non propositional knowledge was simply off the table, leaving them in disingenuous position, as I see it.

    But then there is Buber, Husserl and Fink, Levinas, Jean luc Marion, Michel Henry and Meister Eckhart, pseudo Dionysius, many others across history have had intimations of a different sort entirely. When Meister Eckhart prays to God to be rid of God, he trrying to shake off the presumptions that rule his mind implicitly, tacitly always, already. Of course, he had, I presume, never heard of Buddhism.

    At any rate, the trouble with these philosophers you call upon to answer the odd question of this OP, is that they are ensconced in a world of thought. It is said (by Rorty and others) that Derrida takes Heidegger to the conclusions he began; hermeneutics (and I haven't read Gadamer) leads to only one place, and that is to bedrock indeterminacy for knowing the world, and he didn't pursue (though, reading Khora and then Caputo's defense of an apophatic approach through Derrida) the possibilities of radical departure of the East.

    And the riddle of the missing uncle? As I see it, one has to reconceive the relation between brain and the world. It is meant to take a very obvious epistemic disconnect in the very popular scientifically based concept of physicalist reductionism, and bring out a glaring fault. So much talk in these posts that simply assume conscious thought and feeling is produced by the brain. Well, what is a brain if not, and this is to use science's own paradigm and not even touching upon philosophy at all, if not the product of the brain events that produce experience, and the brain is not supposed to be the product of anything. It is supposed to be a brain.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    Then you'll just have to do that, I guess. How is not my problem; I sleep very well in my physicalist model. Except for the bladder in the middle night thing, but that, too, is insoluble short of death.Vera Mont

    ?? Well, it is a rather flippant pov to say this. It is your problem because it is a philosophical problem, and this is a philosophy club.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    Perhaps for the same reason that when you read this post you are not merely inspecting marks on a screen. Your uncle means something to you. Hopefully more than this post.

    But is this 'meaning something' anything but a bunch of electrical impulses in your own neurons?

    Ach, you'll never be satisfied. It's not just you. Personally I do complicated mental arithmetic and eventually drop off.
    Cuthbert

    I don't have an Uncle Sidney, so put your concerns to rest.

    Yes, I understand. But the world is not mathematics, is it? The dropping off place for you, in philosophy has JUST BEGUN with this little scenario. You mean, you have no interest at all in the epistemic conditions that make knowledge of the world possible....here, in a philosophy forum???
  • Agent Smith
    9.2k
    Just a question, and I am sure there is a ready answer; and then, I will be on my way, satisfied that the world is the world. Would someone please tell my why, when I greet my uncle Sidney, I am not "greeting" exclusively (!) systems of neuronal activity?
    Troubled sleep over this.
    Constance

    Most perceptive! How shall we resolve your little predicament, monsieur/mademoiselle? Do we havta do what you feel we can't/shouldn't do?
  • Vera Mont
    873
    Do we havta do what you feel we can't/shouldn't do?Agent Smith

    Just so you're not flippant about it!
  • Agent Smith
    9.2k
    Just so you're not flippant about it!Vera Mont

    Ok!
  • Constance
    1.1k
    I wonder what is, for you, the most important philosophical question?Janus

    Consider that there is impossible to talk about the relationship between an agency of perception and that which is perceived, not simply because it is really difficult to talk about how knowledge relationships work, as if this awaits some future quantum discovery about the behavior of things in particle physics; but because on the physical model, the world itself, the totality of all that can possibly exist, is reduced to the behavior of a hundred billion neurons or so; and these neurons are reducible to an impossibility, because the only way to affirm that they exist is through neuronal events themselves. Pure question begging.

    This doesn't seem to make an impression on people, which was to be expected (such are the priorities of clarity over content); but consider Wittgenstein's example (Lecture on Ethics): Let's borrow Wittgenstein's example from his Lecture on Ethics. My Uncle's head, suddenly right before my eyes, turns into a lion's head, just like that, and there you are, or anyone, and it would be miraculous and disturbing and wondrous; but how long would this stay a miracle? The search would begin to understand it, and in this process, the miracle vanishes, and becomes a research project with all of the usual assumptions and paradigms attending, and if nothing conclusive is produced, we would have one of Thomas Kuhn's anomalies, and regular science would have amend a paradigm or two, and regularities would be sought after to establish principles at work, and so forth.

    Here, it is far worse. The world is not the world, and there are no scientific resources that can bend the situation to the insistence of a paradigm, or even an anomaly against a paradigm's principle, for paradigms are just more grey matter at work. We want to say the connections are easy to identify, for example, the portions of the electromagnetic spectrum are reflected while others are absorbed by the surface of my uncle's presence, and these pass across space to the eye, which receives them, and rods and cones around the retina condition the light and the retina delivers signals to the brain and so on, and hence, the scientific grasp of sight that in part affirms my uncle has its explanatory basis.

    But then, one has to ask the astoundingly easy question: how is a light wave in space anything like a chemical event in the brain? Or for that matter, how are words and meanings that are brain events, anything at all like the world "out there"? And this kind of explanatory breakdown applies across the board to every possible faculty of access. And it is so obvious one has to wonder how the assumption that science is about some world out there has any regard at all.

    This has, of course, in philosophy, a long history, which is idealism, which goes back to Kant, Berkeley, but really Kant was the one to put this complex thesis out there with amazing clarity and comprehensiveness. But since scientists don't read Kant, and so many in this forum have a scientific background, one way to show that the idea is plausible and important is to approach it from a physicalist model pov. As I see it, this really is a far more efficient and effective way to talk about this.

    Not the most important philosophical issue. The second most. the most important is, by far, ethics and metaethics.
  • Janus
    13.2k
    but because on the physical model, the world itself, the totality of all that can possibly exist, is reduced to the behavior of a hundred billion neurons or so; and these neurons are reducible to an impossibility, because the only way to affirm that they exist is through neuronal events themselves. Pure question begging.Constance

    The world itself, if we are speaking in the Kantian mode, is far more than merely the behavior of neurons. Our knowing of the world, our model of the world, maybe be generated by the behavior of neurons but in its conventionality it becomes a publicly available abstraction insofar as it is recorded, let's say, in many publicly accessible places and media.

    Also, my thinking about, my experience of, the model is not itself the behavior of neurons, even if it supervenes on the behavior of neurons,

    But then, one has to ask the astoundingly easy question: how is a light wave in space anything like a chemical event in the brain? Or for that matter, how are words and meanings that are brain events, anything at all like the world "out there"? And this kind of explanatory breakdown applies across the board to every possible faculty of access. And it is so obvious one has to wonder how the assumption that science is about some world out there has any regard at all.Constance

    A light wave in space, as idea or model, would be commonly thought to be underpinned by a chemical event in the brain. An actual light wave in space, it would commonly be thought, might trigger a chemical event in the brain if it were to enter the eye. In one sense the world "out there" is known and thought about only "in here", but it is assumed that it must be "out there" in order to provide the content to be thought about.

    Of course we don't know that, and the fact that we cannot explain our situation in absolute terms, leads to the possibility of skepticism, idealism and anti-realism. I'd say we just don't know/ That said, I'd also say that the plausibility of the idea that science is about "some world out there" is bolstered by the observed technological success of science. But there's no denying that it is possible that it is all going on in consciousness, and that without consciousness nothing at all would exist.

    I'm not sure what you mean by approaching the question "from a physicalist model pov".

    Not the most important philosophical issue. The second most. the most important is, by far, ethics and metaethics.Constance

    I agree that the ethical question "how to live the best life" is the most important, but I'm not sure it is susceptible of philosophical treatment; at least not under the rigorous analytic model of what constitutes "doing philosophy". Wittgenstein thought ethics and aesthetics are beyond the purview of philosophy if I am not mistaken.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    I feel that descriptions such as: internal, external, real, imaginary etc. are purely arbitrary and used to make sense of the surrounding ocean of information. Both "external" and "internal" events are processed in the brain in a similar way.enqramot

    But I want to point out that it is not that internal, external, real and the rest are obviated by the subsuming internal events of the brain that process all things equally; I mean fine, but it goes further: for even brain processes are not "really" brain processes, because it took a brain process to produce this very notion of brain processes. Nothing at all survives the physicalist model, even the physicalist model.

    Does the Earth disappear the moment the last conscious being cease to exist? In what sense does it exist if there's noone left to perceive it? Yet, should conscious beings reappear later on, they'd be able to "see" the Earth in the same place it used to be. Or not? Let's suppose the real uncle exists. How does he get into your world? I don't see how that could happenenqramot

    He doesn't, which is the point I am making. The only thing that gets "in" a world is what is "in" the world, and even this doesn't really happen. Events in this world never get out, nor does anything get in. Certainly, things occur, but to say even this itself is a neuronal event, and so neuronal events in an exchange between neuronal events working in vastly complex arrays of chemical exchanges in which understanding occurs, syntax and semantical phenomena: there is no way out, and to say there is, one would have simply say what it is. Is it the causal relations between the inner and the outer? But how can one affirm such a thing independently of just these causal relations confined to the brain? And how does a causal relation establish an epistemic one? Does a dented car fender "know" the offending guard rail? Dented fenders are not brains, of course, but how is it that a brain's complexity qua complexity make for an epistemic connection; I mean, "something out" there still has to make it 'in here".

    Let's imagine we live in a simulation. With sufficient level of detail, how would you distinguish it from reality? And if we accept the virtual nature of reality, we sort of bypass the question: "How does consciousness arise from matter?".enqramot

    I am reminded of Zizek, who defends Hegel and borrowing from someone else, likens our inability to grasp where Geist is going in future rational possibilities to a program in which there are trees and clouds, but there is nothing in the program that allows for any detail beyond the beyond the distant visage. There simply does not exist, in this world, any interior to the trees or sun that illuminates the clouds and the like. Such things are therefore "impossible" in this world. It is like this here: What stands before me, this visage of my uncle, is just a brain event, and every thought in my head that asks questions like, what brought him here, how did he get here? and so on, are not anything but a program. there are no events. Events are just the way we interpret affairs before us; but there is no "before us" or near or far, or anything at all. Even the thought experiment questioning my uncle's existence is just patterns of complexity in the brain. Nothing at all, and this means everything conceivable, survives this model.

    This may sound odd, but keep in mind, I am only following the course put before me. If consciousness truly is a exclusively a manifestation of brain events, then all of the above is true.

    quote="enqramot;754072"]The difference between "know" and know, know being reserved for conscious beings. No, my computer had to concede defeat and withdraw in shame. The question of consciousness is not an easy question. Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I'm aware, the contemporary science has no clue about the nature of consciousness. So how likely are we to solve it in this forum?[/quote]

    Contemporary science? But what do they have to do with philosophy? You call Neil De Grasse Tyson, and talk like this, and he will simply give you a condescending sneer.

    But then, there certainly is a way to go. First, do you accept that when you observe something, you actually are observing it, and this is not reducible in the way the model indicates?
  • Cuthbert
    1.1k
    You mean, you have no interest at all in the epistemic conditions that make knowledge of the world possible....here, in a philosophy forumConstance

    No. I probably think about Kant more than I ought. I mean that, like you, similar questions keep me awake at night. You can't do philosophy without a good night's sleep. So arithmetic it is. Nighty night!
  • enqramot
    64
    But I want to point out that it is not that internal, external, real and the rest are obviated by the subsuming internal events of the brain that process all things equally; I mean fine, but it goes further: for even brain processes are not "really" brain processes, because it took a brain process to produce this very notion of brain processes. Nothing at all survives the physicalist model, even the physicalist model.Constance

    What is a brain? A physical object we are told is responsible for our awareness of the underlying reality. I cannot verify any of this, of course. But what is fundamentally wrong with physicalist theory? What is in it that you don't accept? What if your uncle's world is separate to yours and most objects are private to each pertinent world but some are shared across worlds. I'm repeating myself here but you haven't addressed it so far. Shared objects make limited interaction between worlds possible. What am I missing? Do you or do you not subscribe to the view that unperceived objects exist? Guess not if you don't accept physicalism. What (if anything) defies logic in such a view? We have remote transmission of data between worlds, conscious agents in both worlds. Your objections?

    Does a dented car fender "know" the offending guard rail? Dented fenders are not brains, of course, but how is it that a brain's complexity qua complexity make for an epistemic connection; I mean, "something out" there still has to make it 'in here".Constance

    It's yet to be established beyond doubt that "the brain" is essentially different to "car fender" in this context. So far the supposed link between consciousness and "brain events", neurons etc. is just an operational hypothesis. Why transport of information, which in itself doesn't require consciousness, is controversial for you? You don't experience the whole uncle, but only information that he voluntarily shares with you (or is coerced to do so). What prevents external information from entering?

    I am reminded of Zizek, who defends Hegel and borrowing from someone else, likens our inability to grasp where Geist is going in future rational possibilities to a program in which there are trees and clouds, but there is nothing in the program that allows for any detail beyond the beyond the distant visage. There simply does not exist, in this world, any interior to the trees or sun that illuminates the clouds and the like. Such things are therefore "impossible" in this world.Constance

    Why should things that are temporarily hidden from view be regarded as non-existent? Even if the aforementioned program doesn't have a function like "unhide()" and doesn't go beyond most rudimentary level of detail, our own reality might be different in this regard.
    What stands before me, this visage of my uncle, is just a brain event, and every thought in my head that asks questions like, what brought him here, how did he get here? and so on, are not anything but a program. there are no events. Events are just the way we interpret affairs before us; but there is no "before us" or near or far, or anything at all. Even the thought experiment questioning my uncle's existence is just patterns of complexity in the brain. Nothing at all, and this means everything conceivable, survives this model.Constance

    But why do you rule out external input?

    Contemporary science? But what do they have to do with philosophy? You call Neil De Grasse Tyson, and talk like this, and he will simply give you a condescending sneer.Constance

    Since researching the nature of consciousness has potential to generate enough commercial interest to justify directing more resources/capital/brain power/time to it than I, as a single person, or collectively we, the users of this forum, would ever be able to devote to it, and despite that effort no noteworthy progress has been achieved, that just shows the scale of the problem and helps estimate likelihood that our efforts will culminate in actually solving the problem the OP (in this case you) has.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    A light wave in space, as idea or model, would be commonly thought to be underpinned by a chemical event in the brain. An actual light wave in space, it would commonly be thought, might trigger a chemical event in the brain if it were to enter the eye. In one sense the world "out there" is known and thought about only "in here", but it is assumed that it must be "out there" in order to provide the content to be thought about.

    Of course we don't know that, and the fact that we cannot explain our situation in absolute terms, leads to the possibility of skepticism, idealism and anti-realism. I'd say we just don't know/ That said, I'd also say that the plausibility of the idea that science is about "some world out there" is bolstered by the observed technological success of science. But there's no denying that it is possible that it is all going on in consciousness, and that without consciousness nothing at all would exist.

    I'm not sure what you mean by approaching the question "from a physicalist model pov".
    Janus

    I claim that the whole system of understanding is based on a lie, to put it dramatically. I am not arguing from the perspective of a categorical context of understanding, whether that would be knitting or genetics or economics, and so on; but from a "context" where one meets the impossibility of all things. This is an extraordinary event in a person's philosophical evolution and the primacy of science has all but cancelled it in a wave of assumptions grounded in, as you say, technology. Yes, it sounds like Heidegger's complaint, but the idea is here not the way he put it. I feel a bit like in Wittgenstein's corner in his argument with Russel, the latter (and subsequent analytic philosophy) taking the call for clarity, and away from nonsense, to be the essential idea of the Tractatus, while Witt insisting that he had it all wrong: it was that-which-one-passed-over-in silence that was essential. The physicalist model is the "clarity" of science's most basic assumptions, which is physicalism (not to argue distinctions here in what this could mean), and its broad acceptance has entirely eclipsed the true epistemic and ontological foundation of the world, which is indeterminacy. We don't know what it is to stand in the openness of our existence "free" of vast body of knowledge claims that are always already there "making the world" as Rorty put it, which is one way say why Kierkegaard thought the medieval mind was closer to God.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    No. I probably think about Kant more than I ought. I mean that, like you, similar questions keep me awake at night. You can't do philosophy without a good night's sleep. So arithmetic it is. Nighty night!Cuthbert

    The tonnage of human suffering keeps me awake. I make a lousy Ubermensch.
  • RogueAI
    1.2k
    Just a question, and I am sure there is a ready answer; and then, I will be on my way, satisfied that the world is the world. Would someone please tell my why, when I greet my uncle Sidney, I am not "greeting" exclusively (!) systems of neuronal activity?
    Troubled sleep over this.
    Constance

    Consciousness cannot be reduced to systems of neuronal activity. Physicalism claims that if you take a certain amount of non-conscious stuff, assemble it in a certain way, run some current through it, voila! consciousness. This is a fairy tale.
  • Janus
    13.2k
    The physicalist model is the "clarity" of science's most basic assumptions, which is physicalism (not to argue distinctions here in what this could mean), and its broad acceptance has entirely eclipsed the true epistemic and ontological foundation of the world, which is indeterminacy. We don't know what it is to stand in the openness of our existence "free" of vast body of knowledge claims that are always already there "making the world" as Rorty put it, which is one way say why Kierkegaard thought the medieval mind was closer to God.Constance

    Right, in Buddhist terms the modern scientific physicalist worldview is clinging to "nihilism" (the idea that all is meaningless substance) and the medieval (European) mind was clinging to eternalism (the idea that there is an eternal realm of God or gods) that, if we are virtuous, we can escape to after the death of the body.

    The essence of Buddhism seems to be that the kind of knowledge which can be acquired via study and reading can never constitute liberation because all it is doing is reinforcing the discursive, dualistic mind and egoic delusions.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    What is a brain? A physical object we are told is responsible for our awareness of the underlying reality. I cannot verify any of this, of course. But what is fundamentally wrong with physicalist theory? What is in it that you don't accept? What if your uncle's world is separate to yours and most objects are private to each pertinent world but some are shared across worlds. I'm repeating myself here but you haven't addressed it so far. Shared objects make limited interaction between worlds possible. What am I missing? Do you or do you not subscribe to the view that unperceived objects exist? Guess not if you don't accept physicalism. What (if anything) defies logic in such a view? We have remote transmission of data between worlds, conscious agents in both worlds. Your objections?enqramot

    The objection is not to say this is wrong, but that there is a deeper level of analysis that takes up the assumptions of what you say, the presuppositions that are in place that make it possible for you or me to talk about this kind of thing, or talk about anything. The supposition that my uncle is there in a world at all is in question, as well as even the supposition that the posited physical brain can be there ar all given the reduction of all affairs to brain events. This is a way to present a reductio ad absurdum on the premise that the physical brain is the sole foundation for experience. After all, if there is a strict correspondence between brain and mental events such that only brain can produce these, then the physicality itself of the brain is no longer tenable, since it, too, now, the knowledge of it, is just a brain event.

    It's yet to be established beyond doubt that "the brain" is essentially different to "car fender" in this context. So far the supposed link between consciousness and "brain events", neurons etc. is just an operational hypothesis. Why transport of information, which in itself doesn't require consciousness, is controversial for you? You don't experience the whole uncle, but only information that he voluntarily shares with you (or is coerced to do so). What prevents external information from entering?enqramot

    But this is the assumption in place. It is there to test the soundness of the idea that consciousness and its knowledge experiences is produced by the brain according to the physical model.

    You have to step back from objections like the above; way back. It is assuming all things are physical, and there is your brain and there is my uncle, and the rest; but on this assumption, things instantly fall apart. It says this: If the physicalist model of the world is true, then the brain is physical; and if the brain is physical, then all brain events are subject to this physicalist analysis, that is, the brain event in which I perform mathematics, or see a house or read computer data, and everything that is "known" are all physical brain events; but physical brain events cannot be shown to carry epistemic connectivity, that is, there is nothing in a physical description of relations between objects that can account for epistemic relations (hence the barn door example); hence, according to the physical model, brain events remain localized within the brain; but this means nothing can be confirmed outside of the brain, and therefore exterior events cannot be outside at all, and indeed, the axiom that affirms physicality itself is made untenable.

    Something like that is the argument.

    Why should things that are temporarily hidden from view be regarded as non-existent? Even if the aforementioned program doesn't have a function like "unhide()" and doesn't go beyond most rudimentary level of detail, our own reality might be different in this regard.enqramot

    "Things" did you say? What things? How does a physical brain affirm things, for the logic itself is reduced brain events, meaning is a brain event, I mean, intuitions, dogs, cats, religion, and the entire human dramatic unfolding are brain events only, according to thsi model. why? Because physicality is not epistemic, meaning looking closely at physical relations, there is nothing that place what is out there, in here. Does the circuitry in my computer through its camera "know" the world it "sees'? Look at the opacity test: is a brain opaque or transparent to the world? And even if it were some sort of mirrored organ, it would remain a 100 billion neurons of dense matrical events, and dense matrical events are not my uncle.

    Since researching the nature of consciousness has potential to generate enough commercial interest to justify directing more resources/capital/brain power/time to it than I, as a single person, or collectively we, the users of this forum, would ever be able to devote to it, and despite that effort no noteworthy progress has been achieved, that just shows the scale of the problem and helps estimate likelihood that our efforts will culminate in actually solving the problem the OP (in this case you) has.enqramot

    See the above.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    The essence of Buddhism seems to be that the kind of knowledge which can be acquired via study and reading can never constitute liberation because all it is doing is reinforcing the discursive, dualistic mind and egoic delusions.Janus

    I agree; although I would argue about the egoic delusions. I mean, that gets complicated as to the self being so disposable.
  • Agent Smith
    9.2k
    I agree; although I would argue about the egoic delusions. I mean, that gets complicated as to the self being so disposable.Constance

    Most perceptive! Buddhism is simply a way.
  • enqramot
    64
    The supposition that my uncle is there in a world at all is in question, as well as even the supposition that the posited physical brain can be there ar all given the reduction of all affairs to brain events.Constance

    The fact that everything in YOUR world is reduced to brain events doesn’t preclude independent existence of a parallel world that exists in another realm. All that it takes is flow of information between the two realms/worlds and there is no need to reduce everything to brain events. That assumes independent existence of unperceived objects, of course. The brain in this context would be a physical object from another realm, producing mental events, then sending them across realms to you. What are the flaws in this reasoning?

    This is a way to present a reductio ad absurdum on the premise that the physical brain is the sole foundation for experience.Constance

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I’m aware the word “experience” is not a part of the definition of the word “to exist”. So, to reach a conclusion that something doesn’t exist, you must do more than just demonstrate that it’s not a part of the “experience realm”.

    After all, if there is a strict correspondence between brain and mental events such that only brain can produce these, then the physicality itself of the brain is no longer tenable, since it, too, now, the knowledge of it, is just a brain event.Constance

    See above.

    but physical brain events cannot be shown to carry epistemic connectivityConstance

    Cannot be shown as of now but this might change in the future. In my view, to make assertions which go beyond speculation about a system you have to have total knowledge of the system. Say, chess is a system. So far the game of chess hasn’t been solved, but endgames including up to 7 (possibly 8) pieces have. So, within such a subsystem some definite assertions whether a given endgame is won, lost or a draw are possible, otherwise not. Your assertion belongs to the “not” category.

    that is, there is nothing in a physical description of relations between objects that can account for epistemic relationsConstance

    Are you an expert in epistemic relations to make such bold statements? Maybe the current description needs updating? Maybe it’s flawed or incomplete. Btw, why would we want to restrict ourselves to purely physical model? What about coexistence of physical and non-physical elements including some kind of interface between them?

    this means nothing can be confirmed outside of the brain, and therefore exterior events cannot be outside at allConstance

    Once again, does the fact that they cannot be confirmed preclude their existence? If so, how? In what scope?

    the axiom that affirms physicality itself is made untenable.Constance

    Is it really?

    "Things" did you say? What things? How does a physical brain affirm things, for the logic itself is reduced brain events, meaning is a brain event, I mean, intuitions, dogs, cats, religion, and the entire human dramatic unfolding are brain events only, according to thsi model. why? Because physicality is not epistemic, meaning looking closely at physical relations, there is nothing that place what is out there, in here. Does the circuitry in my computer through its camera "know" the world it "sees'?Constance

    Physicality doesn’t make it through to your world but may be necessary so that your world can be what it is. Camera doesn't know anything because the object "camera" doesn't support "knowing". But how can you be sure that a future version of "camera" won't acquire this function? Let's say you go to great lengths to convince yourself and others that a thing such as a conscious camera is impossible, only to see one walk past you one day. There is no contradiction between being "certain" that statement A is true and this same statement being false. One must always bear this in mind or one risks making a colossal error.

    Look at the opacity test: is a brain opaque or transparent to the world? And even if it were some sort of mirrored organ, it would remain a 100 billion neurons of dense matrical events, and dense matrical events are not my uncle.Constance

    What is and what is not your uncle is yet to be established so any too specific assertions are uncalled for at this early stage. You don’t see your uncle as he is but a heavily filtered version of him instead. If I hide my face behind a mask does it mean that my face no longer exists in your world?
  • Constance
    1.1k
    The fact that everything in YOUR world is reduced to brain events doesn’t preclude independent existence of a parallel world that exists in another realm. All that it takes is flow of information between the two realms/worlds and there is no need to reduce everything to brain events. That assumes independent existence of unperceived objects, of course. The brain in this context would be a physical object from another realm, producing mental events, then sending them across realms to you. What are the flaws in this reasoning?enqramot

    But are you reading what I wrote? the assumption of a physicalist conception of the world as foundational provides NO epistemic extension so that other worlds is anything more than the one localized body of events. Knowledge connections, this is what is needs to be shown. How does the physicalist model of a brain manage to "get to anything out there"? And, as I said, even the concept of physicalism itself now to be understood with exactly this delimitation. How is it that when I am gazing at my uncle. the entire affair is not reducible to brain events?

    What you want to do is play out the assumption that all things are physical under the assumption that all things are physical. Seems reasonable enough until you make the attempt to explain knowledge relationships. This is the foil! If you can't explain knowledge events in your foundational view of what the world really is at the basic level, then you have a foundational explanatory deficit that undermines all things, for before we can talk about all things, other worlds, or anything at all, we have to have a theory of justified belief that can such talk at all. It is quite simple.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I’m aware the word “experience” is not a part of the definition of the word “to exist”. So, to reach a conclusion that something doesn’t exist, you must do more than just demonstrate that it’s not a part of the “experience realm”.enqramot

    How is it that existence itself is not just a unique brain event; that when you ponder existence and other sweeping terms that are all inclusive. you are not just making a statement that entirely conceived within a brain matrix, and everything you can imagine is just this and nothing else.
    You would have to have an independent theory of experience, then, apart from what science can observe and think about. Is this what you have, some experiential, acausal theory about how cognitive events "discover" the world? How would it be that this three and a half pound greyish "thing" produces ideas that are "about" something else? This is what is required, and of course, you can say that science is an experimental/theoretical work in progress that will one day unlock the secrets of epistemic relationships, but this will have to include a dramatic reconception of what it means for a thing to be physical; some new "law of epistemic connectivity" will have to be introduced, but note that physicalism does not have this at all! Scientists all believe the moon is out there, as are genetic sequences and fossils embedded in rock, and so on, and have no idea at all as to even WHAT an "epistemic principle" would even look like. And they don't care because this is simply not what they think about. Scientists are not philosophers.

    Cannot be shown as of now but this might change in the future. In my view, to make assertions which go beyond speculation about a system you have to have total knowledge of the system. Say, chess is a system. So far the game of chess hasn’t been solved, but endgames including up to 7 (possibly 8) pieces have. So, within such a subsystem some definite assertions whether a given endgame is won, lost or a draw are possible, otherwise not. Your assertion belongs to the “not” category.enqramot

    But this misses the point. See the above.

    Are you an expert in epistemic relations to make such bold statements? Maybe the current description needs updating? Maybe it’s flawed or incomplete. Btw, why would we want to restrict ourselves to purely physical model? What about coexistence of physical and non-physical elements including some kind of interface between them?enqramot


    You may not want to restrict yourself to this model, and I say very good. Because such a model doesn't work. I took a course in epistemology once, and I have read Kant through Derrida and a bit beyond. The current analytic philosophy community simply put the matter to rest by ignoring it. In S knows P, the traditional analysis of knowledge simply assumes P is the case, and long as you are justified in believing P, then you are good to go. But the devil is in the details: how can you extract P from the knowledge conditions that make knowing P possible? This is the issue here.

    Once again, does the fact that they cannot be confirmed preclude their existence? If so, how? In what scope?enqramot

    The complaint of this rests solely with the epistemic deficits of physicalism. I do prefer the simple way of putting this: there is my uncle there, and here am I: how is it that HE gets IN HERE? If causality worked to explain knowledge, then, of course, science steps in explaining how light waves reflect, pass through air and space to meet the eye, and so on, but it should be striking, very striking, that brain chemistry is utterly alien to what ever is out there that is not brain chemistry.

    Physicality doesn’t make it through to your world but may be necessary so that your world can be what it is. Camera doesn't know anything because the object "camera" doesn't support "knowing". But how can you be sure that a future version of "camera" won't acquire this function? Let's say you go to great lengths to convince yourself and others that a thing such as a conscious camera is impossible, only to see one walk past you one day. There is no contradiction between being "certain" that statement A is true and this same statement being false. One must always bear this in mind or one risks making a colossal error.enqramot

    The argument doesn't care about what the future holds. Either you can tell me what the essential epistemic connectivity is about or you cannot. Again, if you want to include something that physicalism COULD have then you have to make sense of this "could". Otherwise it is merely empty speculation.

    What is and what is not your uncle is yet to be established so any too specific assertions are uncalled for at this early stage. You don’t see your uncle as he is but a heavily filtered version of him instead. If I hide my face behind a mask does it mean that my face no longer exists in your world?enqramot

    In order for it to be a heavily filtered version of him, it has to be first shown that it is possible to affirm anything at all of him. How would physicalism make this affirmation, GIVEN all that has been said above? (Pls don't just ignore all of this, and continue to say how outrageous it al sounds, The argument itself has to be dealt with.)
  • Constance
    1.1k
    Consciousness cannot be reduced to systems of neuronal activity. Physicalism claims that if you take a certain amount of non-conscious stuff, assemble it in a certain way, run some current through it, voila! consciousness. This is a fairy tale.RogueAI

    Yes, it is. The matter calls for a very different conception of what a brain is, what anything is, and what conscious events are, and this is not going to come from the scientific world. It will have to be affirmed in subjectivity. Perhaps here, the explanation will be discovered that consciousness is NOT a localized brain event. The logic of the argument I have been defending leads to only one conclusion: Either there is some magical acausal connection that intimates that out there to this Me in here; or the epistemic connectivity lies with a metaphysical unity of all things.
    My thinking is that metaphysics is nonsense if conceived apart from finitude. Note how analytic philosophy takes Kant's insistence that only empirical truths can make sense about the world, and ends up with just this impossibility of knowing. But can finitude really be separated from infinity, that is, noumena? No. So brain events actually belong to metaphysics, and metaphysics is not some impossible beyond; rather, it is IN immanence!
  • Janus
    13.2k
    I agree; although I would argue about the egoic delusions. I mean, that gets complicated as to the self being so disposable.Constance

    I'm not clear where you are going with this: can you elaborate.

    The complaint of this rests solely with the epistemic deficits of physicalism. I do prefer the simple way of putting this: there is my uncle there, and here am I: how is it that HE gets IN HERE?Constance

    You could ask the same question about a camera. Of course there is no "homunculus' inside the camera to view the image.
  • javra
    1.9k
    Of course there is no "homunculus' inside the camera to view the image.Janus

    Couldn’t the camera have a blind homunculus? :joke:

    Couldn’t resist - and the question is not to be taken seriously, other than to illustrate the absurdity of the homunculus argument.

    Or does the quoted statement mean to affirm that the occurrence of a consciousness is in and of itself equivalent to the occurrence of a homunculus? Just in case: if so, I'd like to understand on what grounds.
  • Janus
    13.2k


    It seems that via the eyes and brain an ever-moving image of the "external" is formed. Who is it that sees this image? Is the image already there "in the dark of the body" so to speak, just prior to seeing, as the image is encoded in the camera, on sensor or film, waiting to be seen? It is the seeing which seems mysterious; can we ever get our heads around it?

    If we cannot get our heads around the act of seeing, then how could we feel justified in purporting to use the fact of the act to support some preferred worldview or other?
  • Constance
    1.1k
    I'm not clear where you are going with this: can you elaborate.Janus

    When I take a hard, close look at the world, the first thing I encounter is myself. And when I reduce this encounter to its pure apprehension, dismissing the language and the familiar things that are usually there to take hold of things, and I try to witness the pure intuited event of being there, the singularity of things yields to an intriguing sense of "being"; and as weird as this sounds, it really does go like this, as if existence is affirmed, not in the trees, roads, furniture and so forth, but is within, as if the sense of reality is conferred upon things by my end of the perceptual encounter, not the thing encountered. It is quasi-Cartesian: the reduction takes me to the strongest proximity of what is most directly presented, and this is not the out thereness of things, but in the depths subjectivity.
    In meditation, when perception is its purist, an "intuition" steps forward that is not negatable, as a thought or an "attached" feeling. It is the intuition of being itself, and as I try to understand what this is, I find there an affirmation of the self, not a negation, as if the whole point is to uncover just this.
  • javra
    1.9k
    It seems that via the eyes and brain an ever-moving image of the "external" is formed.Janus

    This in itself is a conceptual inference given a) the occurrence of our awareness in general and b) our empirically gained awareness regarding the mechanisms via which our visual awareness is formed, and I disagree with its wording. Hence, with what the inference is saying.

    Better: "It seems that via the eyes and brain an ever-moving sight (else seeing) of the "external" is formed."

    What we consciously hold is not a movie ("an ever-moving image") we are looking at but, instead, an innate activity of seeing, this activity being termed by us sight. And this activity of physiological sight that pertains to us as conscious beings is as unified with our body as is the activity of physiological tactile feel.

    To my mind, imaginations - e.g., the sight we hold via the mind's eye (or the hearing of ourselves inwardly think/question via the mind's ear; etc.) - get weirder, but we are here addressing our awareness of the external world.

    Who is it that sees this image?Janus

    This then becomes, "Who is it to which the sight/seeing pertains?" ... doing away with a question already set up so as to be responded to only in terms of homunculi looking at images.

    If we cannot get our heads around the act of seeing, then how could we feel justified in purporting to use the fact of the act to support some preferred worldview or other?Janus

    For my part, I'm not getting into preferred ontological worldviews here, although physicalism isn't it. I'm only disagreeing with the inference that a seeing agent/consciousness entails the occurrence of a homunculus. Here concluding that the first in no way entails the second ... and that the notion of homunculi is a fallacy.

    But maybe that's part of the issue: homunculi are conceptually palpable ideas that one can with some ease mentally manipulate; whereas consciousness is not.
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