• Art48
    226
    In a nutshell: because correlation doesn’t explain consciousness.

    Consider a simple mouse trap. When the trap is set, the spring has more potential energy; after the trap is triggered, the spring has less potential energy.Suppose we knew the mouse trap was consciousness. Suppose we knew when set, the mouse trap experiences feelings of excitement and anticipation. And suppose after being triggered, the mouse trap experiences feelings of release and relaxation. The physical correlates are obvious: higher potential energy corresponds with feelings of excitement and anticipation; lower potential energy corresponds with feelings of release and relaxation. But correspondences utterly fail to explain how a mouse trap could be consciousness and experience feelings of any sort.
    zzz1_small.png

    The situation is much the same with us. Rather than the simple potential energy of a spring, we have about 1.4 kg of grey brain tissue in a body which has all sorts of biological, chemical, and electrical properties. We can add quantum properties if anyone insists. But just as the wood and spring of the mouse trap in no way explain how a mouse trap could be consciousness, the laws of biology, chemistry, electricity, and quantum mechanics in no way explain consciousness—or even hint that consciousness is possible.

    Imagine I’m walking on a garden path and see a branch lying across the path. I pick up the branch and place it to the side. Suppose we have complete knowledge of all the physical activities—all the biological, chemical, electrical, and quantum events—that occurred in my body. That knowledge does not explain my consciousness, no more than if a conscious robot moved the branch and we had complete knowledge of all the physical activities that occurred in the robot. Nothing in the four fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces) explain consciousness, or even hint that consciousness exists. If consciousness somehow emerges from the fundamental forces, we have yet to understand how.

    There’s a great Far Side comic where Elroy and wife are driving on the moon. Says the wife, “For heaven’s sake, Elroy! . . . NOW look where the earth is! . . . Move over and let me drive!” No amount of driving on the moon will take you to Earth. We seem to be in a similar situation: no understanding of physical processes, however complete, explains consciousness.
    zzz2_small.jpg
  • Isaac
    9.4k


    Another in a tiresome series of posts confusing the poster's personal inability to understand neuroscience with there being no facts of neuroscience to understand.
  • bongo fury
    1.6k
    In a nutshell: because correlation doesn’t explain consciousness.Art48

    But confusion might.

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/433444
  • Art48
    226
    Isaac,
    I'm always eager to correct my beliefs so if consciousness has been explained, please post some links to relevant papers and/or tell me who has succeeded in explaining it in terms of physical processes.
    That would be much appreciated.
  • Isaac
    9.4k


    Your claim was not merely that it has not been, but that it could not be, explained (likened to trying to reach the earth from the moon by car).

    We have not yet explained irritable bowel syndrome either. I don't hear much talk about the workings of the gut being ineffable.
  • khaled
    3.5k
    What more would you need to know though? If you can explain what every physical state means mentally, then you've answered all the important questions.

    Do you ever question why gravity exists? Or why pi is 3.14 and not some other number? Questions like "How can consciousness exist" seem to be in a similar vein to those.

    And even if we answer it, what practical difference does it make? Or is it just pure curiousity?

    Also, the Hard problem of consciousness presumes a dualist standpoint which comes loaded with plenty of problems (this being one). Perhaps then the issue is in dualism.
  • Art48
    226
    Your claim was not merely that it has not been, but that it could not be, explained (likened to trying to reach the earth from the moon by car).Isaac
    Yea, I see how that could mislead. My bad.

    I am NOT saying that consciousness positively cannot be explained in terms of physical processes. (I don't think anyone can say that with certainty.)

    In my defense, in addition to the moon comic, I do write “If consciousness somehow emerges from the fundamental forces, we have yet to understand how” and “We SEEM to be in a similar situation: no understanding of physical processes, however complete, explains consciousness.”
  • Art48
    226
    Art48
    What more would you need to know though? If you can explain what every physical state means mentally, then you've answered all the important questions.
    khaled
    This is exactly what I disagree with. Look at the mouse trap thought experiment. The spring has 2 physical states which perfectly correspond to 2 mental states (1. excitement/anticipation and 2. release/relaxation). But such correspondence in no way explains how a mouse trap could be conscious.I'd say there are important questions unanswered.
  • Isaac
    9.4k


    That's the target of my criticism. We are closer to understanding consciousness, it's just very complicated. Consciousness is no more special an issue in neuroscience than gut motility is in gastroentorology. It's just one of the investigations people are working on where we know some things but questions remain about others. Just like virtually every other field in science.
  • Art48
    226
    Isaac,
    OK, but doesn't neuroscience presume a physical explanation is possible? Before the Michelson-Morley experiment, it was presumed light traveled in the luminiferous aether. Physics texts of the time discussed the luminiferous aether as if it were a real thing and presumed the physics of the day could eventually explain its properties. The closest I've seen to a physical explanation is the quantum microtuble explanation but that explanation is still hypothesis and not universally accepted.
  • litewave
    793
    But just as the wood and spring of the mouse trap in no way explain how a mouse trap could be consciousness, the laws of biology, chemistry, electricity, and quantum mechanics in no way explain consciousness—or even hint that consciousness is possible.Art48

    Come to think of it, we also don't know what mass or electrical charge is. We just know that it is something that behaves in a certain way, for example it is attracted to other things with mass or attracted to or repelled from other things with electrical charge. So there is a correlation (or association) between mass or electrical charge and a certain kind of attracting/repelling behavior. The problem with consciousness seems similar but more complicated: a conscious brain behaves in a certain way that is different than how an unconscious brain behaves but the behavior is more complex and sometimes so subtle that there seems to be no difference between the behavior of a conscious brain and the behavior of an unconscious brain. Also, consciousness doesn't seem localized on the level of elementary particles but on the level of very complex wholes. But in all these cases we can see that if there is a behavior then there must also be something that behaves. I think this is a special case of a more general truth: if there are relations then there must also be something (a non-relation) that stands in those relations.
  • khaled
    3.5k
    Did you read the rest of my comment?

    I said that all the important questions are answered.

    I'd say there are important questions unanswered.Art48

    Such as?

    Also do you consider "Why is pi 3.14 and not another number" an important question?
  • 180 Proof
    10.9k
    To my mind "the hard problem of consciousness" is only "hard" for (Cartesian) philosophers because their aporia is actually still only an underdetermined scientific problem.
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k
    You know the so-called hard problem of consciousness, as I understand it, boils down to the inability of scientific methods/instruments to access, a necessary step towards an explanation of consciousness, the first-person/subjective (what it is like ... to be a bat?) aspect of consciousness.

    However, take a look at a fact that's analogous but doesn't elicit a similar woo-woo like response. According to Hubble the universe is expanding in such a way that the farthest objects (galaxies) from us are receding away the fastest. Scientists say that at some particular distance/time, the light from far, far away galaxies won't be able to reach us because space is expanding at a tremendous rate. These galaxies too, like the first-person, subjective facet of consciousness, are forever beyond science. This, however, doesn't imply these galaxies are nonphysical.

    What justification is there then to conclude nonphysicalism from the hard problem of consciousness? I see none at all.
  • Andrew4Handel
    2.3k
    The problem of consciousness is hard because we have no explanation of how we can be consciousness.

    There is no causal explanation. (There is also no agreed upon definition of consciousness)

    Also physical explanations are ruled out because mind or the mental are defined against the physical.

    Pointing out which brain regions activate when I am seeing red does tell us anything about the colour nor do the light/EM wavelengths. Knut Nordby an achromatic colour scientist who learnt a lot about the physiology and psychology of colour vision but never experienced the colour red or anything beyond achromaticism.

    All this is heavily discussed in the philosophy of mind and to some extent in neuro science.
  • Andrew4Handel
    2.3k
    Knut NordbyAndrew4Handel

    "Knut was called the most famous rod monochromat in the world, but he was also a scientist. Having this condition gave him great understanding of both sides of achromatopsia, the scientific and the personal experience. When Francis Futterman connected Knut Nordby with Oliver Sacks, neuroscientist and writer, the result was the amazing trip to the Island of the Color Blind and the book that not only chronicled their trip but brought an understanding of achromatopsia to the world.


    “My first clear memories seem all to be connected with nights and evenings, or they occur indoors in subdued lighting. As far back as I can remember, I have always avoided bright light and direct sunlight as much as possible. Photographs taken of me, and my siblings, during our childhood normally show us with nearly shut eyes, usually looking away from the sun, except when photographers demanded that we look towards the sun for the pictures. As a child I preferred playing indoors with the curtains drawn, in cellars, attics and barns or outdoors when it was overcast, in the evenings, or at night.”


    Knut Nordby Vision of a Complete Achromat, A personal Account, Night Vision R.F. Hess, L.T. & K. Nordby


    Knut Nordby passed away April 19, 2005 from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS. Knut continued to work to the very end when he lost his courageous battle with ALS. He faced his situation with great courage."

    http://www.achromatopsia.info/knut-nordby-achromatopsia-p/
  • Mark Nyquist
    366
    Who thinks the professors at your state universities using fMRI machines to study psychology are on a fools errand? I'll raise my hand.

    Without some basic philosophy of consciousness they are just wasting everyone's time and putting others in life or death situations.

    Here in Minnesota the prime example is the Dan Markingson case, who they assumed was suffering from a biological condition and enrolled him in a drug study. A few months later Mr Markingson was dead.
  • Andrew4Handel
    2.3k
    "Dan Markingson (November 25, 1976–May 8, 2004) was a young man from St. Paul, Minnesota who committed suicide in an ethically controversial psychiatric research study at the University of Minnesota while under an involuntary commitment order. For nearly eleven years, University of Minnesota officials defended the conduct of its researchers, despite significant public criticism,[1][2] numerous news reports,[3][4][5][6][7] and pressure for an external investigation.[8][9][10][11] In March 2015, however, an investigation by a state watchdog agency found a number of alarming ethical violations in the case, including serious conflicts of interest and financial incentives, poor oversight of the study, pressure on Markingson to join the study while he was in a highly vulnerable state, and a series of misleading public statements by university officials.[12] Shortly afterward, the university suspended recruitment into psychiatric research studies. On April 9, 2015, Charles Schulz, MD, announced his resignation as Chair of the Department of Psychiatry.[13]

    Because of the many ethical issues involved in Markingson's story, it is now used as a case study in many university bioethics courses.[14]"

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Dan_Markingson
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    We seem to be in a similar situation: no understanding of physical processes, however complete, explains consciousness.Art48

    You have provided no justification for this statement, because there isn't any beyond "Seems to me."

    As Isaac wrote:

    Another in a tiresome series of posts confusing the poster's personal inability to understand neuroscience with there being no facts of neuroscience to understand.Isaac
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    Your claim was not merely that it has not been, but that it could not be, explained (likened to trying to reach the earth from the moon by car).Isaac

    YGID%20small.png
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    To my mind "the hard problem of consciousness" is only "hard" for (Cartesian) philosophers because their aporia is actually still an underdetermined scientific problem.180 Proof

    YGID%20small.png
  • Joshs
    4.2k


    the laws of biology, chemistry, electricity, and quantum mechanics in no way explain consciousness—or even hint that consciousness is possible… no understanding of physical processes, however complete, explains consciousness.Art48

    As others have pointed out, it may be the particular organizational terms ( reductive causality) in which the sciences of physics and chemistry are rendered that has limited an empirical description of consciousness. Neuroscience believes it is beginning to make headway, and this is due in large part to an enrichment of the language of empirical causality. As dynamical, reciprocal forms of causation are adopted consciousness becomes amenable to modelling. So it seems that it is not an unbridgeable divide between subjective experience and the physical world that has been responsible for science’s difficulties in explaining consciousness. Rather, it is the restrictive ways we have chosen to render physical processes that is the culprit.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    Neuroscience believes it is beginning to make headway,Joshs

    I would be fascinated to read about this.
  • neonspectraltoast
    258
    Consciousness can't be understood from a conscious perspective without the assumption we are privy to reality.
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    I would be fascinated to read about this.Constance

    Antonio Damasio is a neuroscientist who studies the biological foundations of mental processes, including consciousness. The book I have is "The Feeling of What Happens."
  • Philosophim
    1.3k
    Perhaps a little clarification. The hard problem has nothing to do with the biology of consciousness. Lets say in 20 years we discover all of the biological processes of consciousness. 100 years later we learn exactly what feelings and thoughts are, and can translate and affect them in the brain with 100% accuracy.

    There is one question that this will not answer. What does is the experience of being conscious as that person? Its not really even necessarily consciousness depending on your definition. Its being. An apple is a group of living cells. What is it like to be an apple? To exist and realize you are an apple? Or a dog? Another human being?

    To my understanding it is answering what it is like to experience being something that is the hard problem of consciousness. It is an impossible question to answer with our current understanding of the world. Does that mean that consciousness isn't biological or cannot be measured accurately by science? Not at all.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    Antonio Damasio is a neuroscientist who studies the biological foundations of mental processes, including consciousness. The book I have is "The Feeling of What Happens."T Clark

    Thanks! Got it just now on Kindle. I'll give it a good read, but the prospects are dim for this kind of thing. As i see it, if one goes by a physicalist model, there can be nothing but brain awareness of brain awareness, and, of course, all of this is NOT brain awareness at all, because the very idea of brain awareness is itself lost in the reductive process to the "impossible". Rorty thought like this. To break with this requires an entirely different paradigm of knowledge relations; radically different. Can't imagine a neurological approach finding this. Talk about brain cells, axonal fibers and so on, begs a question that, not only has not been addressed, but cannot be addressed in any concept I can imagine in the closed systems neurological functions.
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    Thanks! Got it just now on Kindle. I'll give it a good readConstance

    It still amazes me that almost anyone, almost anywhere can get almost any book, movie, or music just by pushing a couple of buttons.

    To break with this requires an entirely different paradigm of knowledge relations; radically different. Can't imagine a neurological approach finding this.Constance

    I disagree with this. Scientists don't generally say that biology is nothing but chemistry. In the same way, mental processes, including consciousness, are not nothing but biology. But they are bound by biology in the same way that recorded music is bound by a CD or MP3 reader or radio. Music is not nothing but electronic equipment and electrical processes.
  • Isaac
    9.4k
    What is it like to be an apple?Philosophim

    What does green sound like? How much does love weigh?

    Just being able to string words together in question format doesn't imply an answer is wanting.
  • Mark Nyquist
    366
    Any study of consciousness using neuroscience alone will surely fail and here's why. .Our brains contain networks and catalogs and hierarchies of biologically contained non-physicals that will never be detected by any physical means, ever, regardless of the science. Failure to understand this absolute limit of science is not only ignorant but a danger to our collective well-being.

    Anyone, here of all places, that cannot grasp this reality will miss the core feature of consciousness and our mental existence.
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    Our brains contain networks and catalogs and hierarchies of biologically contained non-physicals that will never be detected by any physical means, ever, regardless of the science.Mark Nyquist

    If it can't be known by science, how can it be known. How do you know it?... You don't.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.