• ucarr
    1.2k


    ...I'm always looking up words, the definitions of which often lead me to other words I have to look up,Patterner

    ...we might say, snowflakes, in general, have a design, and each one has its own unique design.Patterner

    ...is that the kind of thing you’re talking about?Patterner

    A pattern, when it's catchy, presents itself a thing worth keeping. I delight in sweet melodies arising from ingenious tunes. Might your experience of music resemble this?

    A world without patterns is not something I wish to experience, too much like trudging Dresden after the Allied bombing.

    I suppose we can say ideas are a type of pattern; they're the type favored by the mind.

    I'm guessing now and then you marvel at the creativity of a clever idea. A familiar example is a good joke. When a good joke is current and passing word-of-mouth like wildfire, we catch glimpse of many minds joining together like kindling.

    How about a choice piece of hot 'n juicy gossip? That brings us together like a gaggle of squawking busybodies, right?

    Yes. We're all immersed in a world of patterns.
  • Gnomon
    3.6k
    That is, consciousness is surprising. If all we knew about were the facts of physics, and even the facts about dynamics and information processing in complex systems, there would be no compelling reason to postulate the existence of conscious experience. If it were not for our direct evidence in the first-person case, the hypothesis would seem unwarranted; almost mystical, perhaps. — Chalmers
    That's a good explanation of the problem.
    Patterner
    Does that explanation imply that the "Hard Problem" is scientifically inscrutable, because the scientific method studies physical sensations from environment (other), not metaphysical experiences from the interior milieu (self)? Feelings are communications from-Self-to-Self, in a secret language. Even so, Philosophers are not deterred by open-ended questions --- we can debate them interminably.

    Animals & Humans & Scientists can send & receive subjective feelings only by translating them into mnemonic gestures & conventional symbols. So, to learn what it feels like to be a sonar-experiencing bat, you would have to trade bodies with the bat, not just words & signs. Objective information is always second-person. But first-person feelings are what distinguish Self from Other.

    According to Shannon, Information communication is always surprising (foreign), but feeling is familar. The barren bits of information in a computer, stripped of meaning, can nevertheless convey normalized significance to a mind, by use of symbols, analogies, & metaphors. But they can't convey the experience of a feeling via such indirect means : you had to be-here-now. :smile:


    Mnemonic : an action that reminds us of something we already know from past experience.
    Note --- For example, mammals display emotions in actions similar to those of humans. So, we can understand, by analogy, what they are feeling, even though we can't directly feel what they are feeling.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    She was a neuroscientist involved in brain-mapping who suffered a major stroke, which resulted in her attaining an insight into what she descibed as 'Nirvāṇa' (her 'stroke of insight') due to the left hemisphere of the brain shutting down. But note that this was a first-person experience - there would have been no way for her to tell, as a neuroscientist, what that experience might be in another subject, without having undergone it.Wayfarer

    And I agree with this. We can objectively map physical processes to behavior, and even map physical processes to someone's claimed subjective experience, but we will never know what its like to be the subject experiencing. Its very similar to the thought experiment where someone reads all about an apple, but has never seen one. We can describe the apple in excruciating detail, but you won't know the experience of seeing, feeling, or tasting an apple until you actually see, feel, and taste it.

    That being said, she had a physical stroke and a physical reaction to it. The inability to know what it is like to be a physical entity having an experience does not negate the fact that certain physical entities can have experiences.

    Rationality is a capturing and understanding of the world that allows planning and use of that reality accurately.
    — Philosophim

    No, that is described in critical philosophy as the instrumentalisation of reason, although I'm guessing that won't of interest to those here.
    Wayfarer

    Yeah, sounds like we're getting off topic here. Maybe something to explore in another thread.

    I'm questioning what you regard as obvious. What imparts that order? If you zero out the HD it is physically the same matter, it weighs the same, has all the same physical constituents, but it contains no information. The information is conveyed by the arrangement of matter. What arranges it? I mean, computers don't emerge spontaneously from the sky, they're the product of human intelligence.Wayfarer

    True. And modern day computers were built up over over a century of work at this point. Basic computers start out as a switch board, which is just a bunch of electrical gates that you turn off and on to set up results based on the combination of those on and off gates. Who would have guessed from such a simple premise we would build the modern world of information, movies, and games?

    Now of course a computer did not spontaneously create itself. But we've created computers to the point that when you hook electricity to them and turn them on, they run themselves. In fact, there are whole computers that take very little, if any human input and run whole systems. In general when you send a message to the computer, you're not sending it to the hardware, but the software. That software converts and organizes your input to interface with the hardware, manipulating the gates to open and close as needed. These signals are then converted back into instructions that are passed up to display a result that is understandable to people. Its really quite magical and awe inspiring when you realize what is produced from the machine.

    However, the question of who created the computer and its software does not deny that it is purely physical. AI has learning models now that garner new information and come up with new results based purely on its own failures. Here's a summary of AI and machine learning if you're interested. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RixMPF4xis

    And that is the key difference between a computer and a human. For a computer, there's nothing more the file could be. It isn't "like anything" to be a computer. But we have a different experience, which gives rise to all of the problems discussed on this thread.J

    Are you sure? That's a VERY important part of the hard problem. You can't claim to know what the subjective experience is of something. We can claim that something does not have consciousness only by its behavior. We cannot make any claims to its subjective experience. With AI we already have programs that have limited types of consciousness. We have autonomous drones that automate reactions based on information. Yes, it is not human consciousness, but it is at the very least beyond the consciousness of a bug like a roach.

    You have to understand, if you accept the hard problem as true, you can NEVER state, "Computers do not have a subjective experience." You don't know. Can you be a computer processing AI algorithms? Nope. So if we create a machine and program that exhibits all the basic behaviors of consciousness, you have no idea if it has a subjective experience or not.

    Incidentally, what would constitute evidence of this claim? What would you be looking for?Wayfarer

    Outstanding question. I did a summary of three points for someone else who asked the same question earlier in this thread. Of course, its not limited to that. Let me find and repaste them here.

    1. Consciousness is able to exist despite a lack of physical capability to do so.

    For example, move your consciousness apart from your head where it sits into the next room that you cannot currently see.

    2. Demonstrate a conscious entity that has no physical or energetic correlation.

    For example, prove that a completely brain dead body is conscious. Or Inebriate someone to a high blood alcohol level and demonstrate that their consciousness is completely unaffected.

    3. If consciousness is not matter and/or energy, please demonstrate evidence of its existence without using a God of the Gaps approach.

    An inability to pinpoint the exact physical workings of consciousness does not negate that it is physical. We understand that a car needs an engine to run like a body needs a brain to be conscious. I don't have to understand electromagnetism to understand that a car needs an engine to run, and I don't need to understand the full mechanics of how the brain works to understand you need a brain to be conscious (in humans at least).
  • ucarr
    1.2k






    Actually, I didn't comment on the visibility of Mass & C. But, for the record, all of the equation's elements are imaginary & invisible abstractions. And none of them is tangible Matter, although Mass is a numerical measurement (mentalization) of Matter, a concept, not an object. So, I don't know how you decided that the invisibility of of numerical concepts contradicts my description of Einstein's equation, in which I referred to Matter, not Mass, as "tangible". Does any of that "matter" to you? :joke:Gnomon

    I call EnFormAction a "shapeshifter", because like physical energy, it can transform into a variety of manifestations. The most famous example is Einstein's E=MC^2 equation of invisible Energy and tangible Matter and a non-dimensional number. They are different expressions of the same essential substance.Gnomon

    Here's why I read your examination of Einstein's equation as commentary on the invisibility of m and :

    Einstein's E=MC^2 equation of invisible Energy; this is your description of the left side of the equal sign: (one term) E = energy (characterized by you as invisible).

    and tangible Matter and a non-dimensional number.; this is your description of the right side of the equal sign: ( two terms) M = mass (characterized by you as tangible matter) and = the velocity-of-light (characterized by you as a non-dimensional number).

    Tangible = perceptible by touch, so tangible matter is stuff that can be picked up and handled. Your mistake: M = matter; no, M = mass.

    You say:

    Mass is a numerical measurement (mentalization) of Matter, a concept, not an object.Gnomon

    The signs denoting measurements of mass are abstractions, and the meaning of these measurements are concepts, but the referent for this signification and conceptualization of its meaning is physical reality. The material reality of mass is experienced whenever a weightlifter attempts to lift a three-hundred pound barbell. The barbell's disinclination to move is not visible.

    Regarding C = velocity-of-light, light, being a physical phenomenon, has a constant velocity, another physical phenomenon. C = velocity-of-light, being a sign, arguably has no expanded spatial dimensions. However, the subject of importance here is the referent of the sign, the velocity of light squared. Being physical, it is spatially three-dimensional, not non-dimensional.

    You talk about the abstractions that populate . Yes, they're abstractions not simply tangible, but questions about the ontic status of signs and their relationship to their physcial_phenomenal antecedents lies within the domain of linguistics. The framing context for your description of is Enformaction, a proposition within your theoretical philosophy as based upon physics. Herein you're talking physics, not linguistics. Argumentation about the immateriality of signs is irrelevant within your context.

    I call EnFormAction a "shapeshifter", because like physical energy, it can transform into a variety of manifestations...They are different expressions of the same essential substance.Gnomon

    This is where you're heading with your examination of . You seem to be claiming Enformaction is a substance that is the material platform for energy, mass and the velocity of light.

    You bite off a big challenge. The ontic status of energy not being well understood, its conceptualization remains largely undefined.
  • NOS4A2
    8.5k


    It’s evident, to me at least, that a person is conscious for biological reasons. For instance a strike to the head can render someone unconscious. The reason why he is conscious one moment, unconscious the next, is purely physiological. The anatomy involved, the action of the brain, the damage, the loss of functions, etc. are all physiological. You can literally point to all of it. There is no thing nor process involved that isn’t physiological.

    So though an anatomical description of an organism may be unable to describe the activity of an organism (its full range of motions, for example), the anatomy is nonetheless the reason why it can and does engage in such activities. The anatomy of a rock is the reason a rock isn’t conscious.
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    Why include me in your reply to Gnomon?
  • Michael
    14.5k
    It’s evident, to me at least, that a person is conscious for biological reasons.NOS4A2

    That a person is conscious for biological reasons isn’t necessarily that consciousness is physiological. Consciousness may be a non-physical product of certain physical processes. Disrupting those physical processes will disrupt consciousness, but they can nonetheless be distinct things.
  • J
    225
    Are you sure? That's a VERY important part of the hard problem.Philosophim

    Quite right, and we’re miles (and decades) away from being sure about any of this. While I can’t know what the subjective experience of a given something is, it seems probable that most things don’t have any. I assume you agree with this. So we’re just trying to draw the most likely line as to consciousness. You say with some assurance that AI programs already have limited consciousness. Is there any evidence for this beyond their behaviors? A purely functionalist argument can’t resolve this, since it begs the question.

    Not quite sure why the hard problem rules out denying consciousness to computers at some future date, or why you describe the hard problem as “true.” It’s certainly true that it’s a problem, and that it’s hard, but I don’t think Chalmers or anyone else (except maybe McGinn and company) means to say that it’s by definition irresolvable.

    Do I think that any non-living thing can be conscious? No, I’m strongly inclined, on the evidence, to believe that consciousness is exclusively a biological property. How surprised would I be if this turned out to be wrong? Fairly surprised (and fascinated), but again, we have almost literally no idea what we’re talking about. Let’s check back in 2123!
  • NOS4A2
    8.5k


    That a person is conscious for biological reasons isn’t necessarily that consciousness is physiological. Consciousness may be a non-physical product of certain physical processes. Disrupting those physical processes will disrupt consciousness, but they can nonetheless be distinct things.

    The adjective “conscious” describes the organism, which is physiological. So why would we even approach anything non-physical with the word?

    I believe turning the adjective into a noun-phrase does the heavy lifting for the dualist. But appending the suffix “-ness” to the word “conscious” doesn’t make a description of the thing a thing itself. Though an abstract noun, which gives it the air of extension and substance, allowing us to treat it as if it was a thing, the word still just denotes a quality of the organism, namely, that it is conscious. Given that there is no indication of any non-physical products, nor even the possibility of them, one needn’t even need to consider anything of the sort.
  • Arne
    815
    I believe turning the adjective into a noun-phrase does the heavy lifting for the dualist. But appending the suffix “-ness” to the word “conscious” doesn’t make a description of the thing a thing itself.NOS4A2

    Well said. But I suspect both materialism and dualism require "thing-ness". The "I" is subsumed by the "thing-ness" of the former while the "I" is ever more isolated by the "thing-ness" of the latter.
  • Gnomon
    3.6k
    I call EnFormAction a "shapeshifter", because like physical energy, it can transform into a variety of manifestations. The most famous example is Einstein's E=MC^2 equation of invisible Energy and tangible Matter and a non-dimensional number. They are different expressions of the same essential substance. — Gnomon
    Here's why I read your examination of Einstein's equation as commentary on the invisibility of m and c2:
    ucarr
    FWIW, the "shapeshifter" analogy was not intended to be a technical analysis of Einstein's equation, but merely borrowing his three elements to represent some of the forms that my hypothetical Generic EFA can transform into. For convenience, I used "Matter" instead of "Mass" to, metaphorically, represent the second element. Please accept that as a figure of speech, not a technical description. Besides, I was not commenting on the "invisibility of m and c2", but characterizing their immateriality. Do you disagree with that portrayal of Energy, Mass & Constant as abstract mathematical concepts, not visible to the physical senses? :cool:

    This is where you're heading with your examination of e=mc2. You seem to be claiming Enformaction is a substance that is the material platform for energy, mass and the velocity of light.ucarr
    I think you missed the point of my attempt to convey the multi-potent nature of EFA metaphorically. It was an "example", not an "examination". But note that I use the term "substance" as Aristotle & Spinoza did : in reference to the immaterial essence (form ; logical structure) of the object in question. EnFormAction is imagined as a precursor of Energy, not literally the same thing. And it's not a "material platform", but an immaterial essence (potential ; qualia). "Essence" is an ontological idiom, not a scientific term. :nerd:


    Aristotle’s Metaphysics :
    Aristotle turns in Ζ.4 to a consideration of the next candidate for substance : essence. ('Essence' is the standard English translation of Aristotle’s curious phrase to ti ên einai, literally “the what it was to be” for a thing.
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-metaphysics/

    What's the meaning of Essence?
    essence. noun. es·​sence ˈes-ən(t)s. 1. : the basic nature of a thing : the quality or qualities that make a thing what it is.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    While I can’t know what the subjective experience of a given something is, it seems probable that most things don’t have any. I assume you agree with this. So we’re just trying to draw the most likely line as to consciousness. You say with some assurance that AI programs already have limited consciousness. Is there any evidence for this beyond their behaviors? A purely functionalist argument can’t resolve this, since it begs the question.J

    It all boils down to understanding how we know about consciousness today. Its not through the subjective experience of something. Its through its behavior. There is a thought experiment called a philosophical zombie that has the behavior of consciousness, yet lacks the subjective experience that we would associate with consciousness. The hard problem shows that its irrelevant. Since we cannot know the subjective experience of anything, we can only go by behavior. The subjective experience of something that behaves consciously is currently outside of our reach.

    Not quite sure why the hard problem rules out denying consciousness to computers at some future date, or why you describe the hard problem as “true.”J

    Mostly because I don't give weight to what 'may' happen. Ask someone 30 years ago what they thought 2024 would be like and they wouldn't even be close. So all we have to go on is today. Today, we do not have the scientific means to experience another consciously behaving entities' subjective experience. Meaning that if we have an AI that ticks all the behaviors of consciousness, we cannot claim that it does, or does not have a subjective experience. Its impossible for us to know. Since we cannot objectively evaluate a subjective experience, all we can do to measure consciousness is through another being's behavior.

    Do I think that any non-living thing can be conscious? No, I’m strongly inclined, on the evidence, to believe that consciousness is exclusively a biological property.J

    How about we reword this a bit? Can a non-biological entity have the subjective experience of a biological entity? No. They are two different physical mediums. I can play a song on a harp or a keyboard, and the fundamental experience will have an inseparable difference in physical expression. So if an AI is conscious, its subjective experience is that of a non-biological being, not a biological being.
  • NOS4A2
    8.5k


    I like that.

    Personally I think the hard problem occurs only when we speak about the abstract. For instance, the hard problem asks how physiology (the concrete) gives rise to "conscious experience" (the abstract). Here the description "conscious" is lifted from the concrete and placed upon some abstract entity or substance, which we are then forced to think about. But how can "experience" be conscious? How can any abstraction be conscious? Further thinking proves this adjective is inapplicable and inexplicable to that noun, yet I'm supposed to wonder how such a phenomenon can be explained.

    Chalmers often says that "conscious experience" "arises", as if it was the morning sun. He asks why these concrete things and concrete functions are "accompanied by experience", as if one walked in the door holding hands with the other. But concrete entities are never accompanied by, nor give rise to, abstract entites. So once the dualist switch occurs thinking is naturally muddled.
  • Michael
    14.5k
    The adjective “conscious” describes the organism, which is physiological. So why would we even approach anything non-physical with the word?NOS4A2

    I don't quite understand this. When I describe myself as English the word "English" is an adjective, being used to describe me, but "Englishness" isn't some physiological thing.

    The fact that we use the word "conscious" to describe a physiological organism doesn't mean that consciousness is physiological. That a physiological organism is conscious is that (according to the dualist) the physiological organism has/produces non-physical consciousness.
  • Patterner
    672
    You may have misunderstood that point within the full context of what I was communicating, or I was unclear. It is not that we cannot communicate our subjective experience. Its that we cannot experience another's subjective experience. Meaning that there is no objective way to measure another's subjective experience.Philosophim
    I understand. But that is not what the Hard Problem is. The Hard Problem is explaining how subjective experience exists at all.

    What you are talking about helps demonstrate why the Problem is Hard. Why can't we experience another's subjective experience? Using our senses, and all the scientific methods and devices we've discovered and invented, we can perceive, detect, and study matter and energy. We can measure things with incredible precision, and all get exactly the same measurements. And not only physical objects, we can do this with physical processes. We can measure aspects of flight, like altitude, speed, and direction. We can also see how things necessary for flight, like lift and aerodynamics, ultimately come from the micro-properties of particles.

    None of that can be said about consciousness. We can't even detect it to the slightest degree in any way, much less measure any aspect of it. We can now detect brain activity, but that's physical processes. Understanding all of that to any degree doesn't touch on any subjective experiences taking place. We know certain conscious experiences are associated with certain brain activity. But having total knowledge of every aspect of that brain activity, if such was possible - which neurons are involved; which fire in which order; where all the signals each receives comes from, and where each signal each sends goes; etc. - tells us nothing about the subjective experience taking place. Total knowledge of all that doesn't even tell us subjective experience is taking place. How the physical activity produces consciousness is a mystery. As I said a post or two ago, a couple of the world's leading experts in relevant fields, Koch in brains and consciousness, and Greene in the properties of matter and laws of physics, do not know how it happens. It's a Hard Problem.
  • NotAristotle
    252
    I wouldn't go so far as to say that anatomy is the reason why someone engages in activities. A full account of why I, let's say, go for a jog, seems to require consideration of the subjective conscious experience, not just my physiology. If asked why I did this, I wouldn't say "because I have functioning limbs" or "because of my brain states prior to and during the jog." Rather, the reason I went for a jog is because I wanted to get some exercise.
  • NOS4A2
    8.5k


    That’s exactly what it means. The adjective describes the thing, which in the case of an organism is wholly physiological. It does not nor cannot describe anything else.

    Adding the suffix “-ness” only serves to abstract the description away from the thing it describes, for whatever reason. At any rate, it cannot be shown that any such thing called “consciousness”, physical or non-physical, is produced or possessed by the organism.
  • ucarr
    1.2k


    Why include me in your reply to Gnomon?180 Proof

    In my post to Gnomon, I'm continuing our debate about his interpretation of and, additionally, his application of his interpretation to his arguments supporting his EnFormAction proposition. I think it's fundamentally wrong because he has m = matter instead of m = mass, the correct equivalence.

    I was interested in your post because it lays down some foundational definitions of physicalism as you see it. (In another minute, I'm going to ask you some questions in reaction to your postulations. This is for clarification of my understanding.)

    I'm thinking what you have to say is germane to our debate. He has EnFormAction covering a wide terrain including: material, spiritual and undefined. Much of what he's claiming as metaphysical_spiritual I'm claiming as physical.

    Also, I've been criticizing him from the standpoint of execution of his argumentation. I've characterized it as being slapdash and error-laden. Your execution of argumentation, meticulous, precise and funded by in-depth research, stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from his and, for that matter, from mine as well until very recently.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    ...the abstraction, or concept, of "consciousness" ...a self-reflexive activity180 Proof

    If firstly we picture Einstein sitting at his desk writing out the equations for special relativity, and then secondly we read his paper published in 1905, can we next conjoin these two events via memory to the effect that we can claim them public and therefore physical?

    ...because by definition consciousness is excluded from this paradigm.Unknown

    This is a claim made by Wayfarer?

    Physicalism only excludes non-physical concepts from modeling (i.e. explaining) how observable states-of-affairs transform into one another. In this way "the paradigm" is epistemologically modest, or deflationary, limiting its inquiries to only that which can be publicly observed – accounted for – in order to minimize as much as possible the distorting biases (e.g. wishful / magical thinking, superstitions, prejudices, authority, etc) of folk psychology/semantics.180 Proof

    You're saying physicalism is rooted in the scientific method's demand that scientifically measurable things be public?

    We physicalists do not "exclude consciousness" (i.e. first-person experience) but rather conceive of it as a metacognitive function – e.g. phenomenal self-modeling – of organisms continuously interacting with and adapting to each other and their common environment.180 Proof

    Is metacognitive, within your context, higher-order cognition, i.e., cognition of cognition?

    Might selfhood entail a three-tiered hierarchy of cognition: empirical cognition (seeing the world directly); analytical cognition (elaborating the grammar and syntax of the seen world); hyper-cognition (seeing your seeing of your seeing of the world).
  • NOS4A2
    8.5k


    I wouldn't go so far as to say that anatomy is the reason why someone engages in activities. A full account of why I, let's say, go for a jog, seems to require consideration of the subjective conscious experience, not just my physiology. If asked why I did this, I wouldn't say "because I have functioning limbs" or "because of my brain states prior to and during the jog." Rather, the reason I went for a jog is because I wanted to get some exercise.

    It’s the reason why such an organism can jog, and the reason why other organisms, like invertebrates, cannot. The anatomy determines the full range of motions and activities any given organism can do in any given environment.
  • Michael
    14.5k
    The adjective describes the thing, which in the case of an organism is wholly physiological. It does not nor cannot describe anything else.NOS4A2

    When I describe John as being the winner of the race I'm describing John, but being a winner is not the same thing as being John. In fact, nothing about John's base biology has anything to do with him being the winner of the race. Of course, his base biology obviously plays an explanatory role in how he won, but having his biology and being the winner of the race are independent things.

    When I describe John as being conscious I'm describing John, but being conscious is not the same thing as being John. And, like above, it may be that nothing about John's base biology has anything to do with him being conscious. Of course, his base biology seems to play an explanatory role in how he's conscious, but having his biology and being conscious may be independent things.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    I understand. But that is not what the Hard Problem is. The Hard Problem is explaining how subjective experience exists at all.Patterner

    Lets break it down carefully. When you say, "How subjective experience exists at all", its important to clarify what this means. The "at all" seems to imply its more of a "Why?" then "How?" Because how subjective experience exists in a broad sense is through our physical brains. This is without question. All we're worried about is the details in how the brain generates it.

    If you mean, "Why?", no one knows. Just like no one knows why anything exists. Its an unanswerable question.

    I can see the why part being part of the hard problem, but not the how part. Its just like answering how water and hydrogen combine to create water. The how isn't hard. Why does water exist at all? That's hard.
  • NOS4A2
    8.5k


    When I describe John as being the winner of the race I'm describing John, but being a winner is not the same thing as being John. In fact, nothing about John's base biology has anything to do with him being the winner of the race. Of course, his base biology obviously plays an explanatory role in how he won, but they are still independent things.

    When I describe John as being conscious I'm describing John, but being conscious is not the same thing as being John. And, like above, it may be that nothing about John's base biology has anything to do with him being conscious. Of course, his base biology obviously plays an explanatory role in why he's conscious, but they are still independent things

    “Winner” is a noun. I was talking about the switch from adjectives to nouns, for instance “happy” becomes “happiness”. Try describing “happy” without referencing an object. It’s difficult. Luckily language permits us to make of the adjective a noun, treating it as if it was concrete and its own thing, where we can start to apply more adjectives to it. It becomes a “quality”, “state”, or “condition”. This raises the question: a quality, state, or condition of what thing? In the case of human consciousness, the answer is the human, which is physiological. If we cannot answer that question, we just start compounding adjectives, describing really nothing.
  • Michael
    14.5k
    Winner” is a noun. I was talking about the switch from adjectives to nouns, for instance “happy” becomes “happiness”. Try describing “happy” without referencing an object. It’s difficult. Luckily language permits us to make of the adjective a noun, treating it as if it was concrete and its own thing, where we can start to apply more adjectives to it. It becomes a “quality”, “state”, or “condition”. This raises the question: a quality, state, or condition of what thing? In the case of human consciousness, the answer is the human, which is physiological. If we cannot answer that question, we just start compounding adjectives, describing really nothing.NOS4A2

    Then "wet" or "well-dressed".

    Of course, the other issue is that in saying "the answer is the human, which is physiological" you're begging the questioning. If there is something like a non-physical consciousness that humans have then humans aren't just physiological; we're physiological and conscious, and when we describe ourselves as being conscious we're describing that non-physiological aspect of ourselves.
  • NOS4A2
    8.5k


    What non-physiological aspects are you speaking of?
  • Michael
    14.5k
    What non-physiological aspects are you speaking of?NOS4A2

    Consciousness.
  • NOS4A2
    8.5k


    What non-physical aspect of ourselves does the word "conscious" describe?
  • Michael
    14.5k
    What non-physical aspect of ourselves does the word "conscious" describe?NOS4A2

    Consciousness.

    I honestly don't know what other kind of answer you're expecting.
  • NotAristotle
    252


    How the physical activity produces consciousness is a mysteryPatterner
    All we're worried about is the details in how the brain generates it.Philosophim

    I don't think those details are forthcoming Philosophim, and the reason why is that a physical account fails to include consciousness. I think you are right that the brain is necessary for consciousness. But I still have trouble seeing what it is, in physical terms, that is special about the brain and I think that we will never answer that question.

    As Patterner pointed out, consciousness is not empirically observable. Water is empirically observable; so is hydrogen and oxygen. We can directly see and measure water as the product of hydrogen and oxygen. We cannot see consciousness as the product of neuronal activity in the same way.

    You might say, "well we can observe consciousness viz. the reports of people." That's certainly true but I think it misses the mark.

    The question, to my eyes, is really this: why is the brain conscious at all? Or perhaps to put the question more precisely: How is the brain different from non-conscious physical stuff? My answer is that it's not different and that's the mystery.

    Do you see where I'm coming from?
  • NOS4A2
    8.5k


    I was hoping the term could be used to describe an aspect of ourselves. The term "conscious" cannot describe "consciousness", I'm afraid.
  • Michael
    14.5k
    That we are conscious is that consciousness is an aspect of our being, and consciousness is some non-physical supervenient phenomenon (according to the dualist).

    You cannot argue that such a thing doesn't exist by arguing that we describe ourselves as being conscious and that our being is exhausted by our physiology, because in arguing that our being is exhausted by our physiology you are begging the question.
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