• flannel jesus
    1.6k
    well presumably every time everyone has written anything about consciousness.

    Meant to type layer btw.
  • bert1
    1.8k
    Sorry I don't understand. Writing things involves moving physical objects around, pens, keyboards etc. What am I missing?
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    You tell me, I'm not sure what problem you think is there.
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    might be worth clarifying that things like humans, pens and keyboards ARE ALSO high level abstractions. Similar to consciousness. So a high level abstractions like consciousness having casual efficacy over high level abstractions like pens and keyboards and computer screens is within the "speak in the same layer" ethos of what he's getting at.
  • bert1
    1.8k
    We've crossed the language-level boundary when we say "My thoughts about consciousness caused my fingers to move the pen which wicks ink up from the ink-cartridge according to physical laws x,y,z", for example.
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    I would invite you to consider that the things you think of as pens are an abstraction just as abstract as consciousness, even if they don't obviously seem so. Pens are as non fundamental as minds.
  • bert1
    1.8k
    Oh, I see. Didn't understand that when I wrote my previous answer. So where is the boundary between the layers?
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    Fantastic question, and I don't have a super clear answer - and I can think of situations that really challenge this "no crossing layers" ethos myself in fact! Which is why I say I'm not completely on board with his formulation, even if I think it's in the right direction.

    My intuition tells me that there's one really important boundary - the boundary between the fundamental, and everything else. The fundamental is causally closed, but all other layers can be argued to interact to each other and also to still be sensitive to fundamental-level events. I think Sean Carroll, based on his language, would like to imagine every layer as quasi-independent (but always necessarily consistent with the fundamental) but... I think that misses some things.

    But maybe my intuition is shit, who knows?
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    The causal closure of the fundamental is probably why people feel like "if it's not fundamental, it's not real" makes sense - and I get it, I do, I share that intuition at moments too.

    But at other times it makes sense to me that -stuff is made of stuff-, and it being made of stuff doesn't mean it's not real. You know?

    Edit. It's really hard to type causal instead of casual using swipe text on my phone
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    I think one alternative way to think about it is sort of what Process Philosophy gets at. If the fundamental is causally closed, BUT processes are "real", then...

    Then I don't know, but I feel like it's relevant somehow.

    I think we need a way for non fundamental things to still be real. Basically. Because WE are non fundamental, and my mind is the most real thing I know.
  • Michael
    14.5k
    Well, in the way philosophy pictures them yes. I moved the discussion here because the article above provides some history of the parallel picture that neuroscience labors under. Philosophy has never liked being wrong so the fact that we can be (and that we are responsible for that) leads it to create the conclusion that we must not have direct access to the world (or we are ensured it), that we only see the “appearance” of something, or that our individual perspective is somehow partial or lacking or individual (my “sensation” or “perception”).Antony Nickles

    There are plenty of good reasons, supported by science, to believe indirect realism over direct realism, as I discussed at length here.

    But I don't understand how we got to this point. You were saying something about us wanting to help each other if we're in pain, and somehow conclude from this that indirect realism is false? Your reasoning is confusing.
  • Antony Nickles
    1.1k
    There are plenty of good reasons, supported by science, to believe indirect realism over direct realism, as I discussed at length here.Michael

    That’s pretty straightforward so maybe we discuss it in that thread.
  • ENOAH
    637
    my mind is the most real thing I know.flannel jesus

    From where I've been looking, that was the mistake Descartes made. Your mind does the knowing, your mind presents you with the "I" to attach the knowing to, and your mind is making that proclamation, not just that it is real, but apparently is most real in an apparent hierarchy of reality. Just like Descartes; mind choosing itself over matter (and, like everyone, since at least Plato, whose Minds privileged Mind, Idea, Spirit, over "flesh". And after all of that, not only has your mind made a pre-biased assessment of itself, but I don't even think your mind is real. Your body is. Mind is its projections which have evolved such that aware-ing our real natures has been completely overshadowed.

    As for the so-called hard problem, the problem itself is a projection; a mechanism which we have interpreted as preventing the flow of Mind's projections from body to body. Yet look at us, and how shared our experiences really are by Mind's methods of communication. Telepathy is not necessary. It's not that we are intersubjective; its that the Subject does not separate Mind. The bodies are "permeable". Mind is one process moving through humanity as History. Subjectivity is exactly tied to the Subject, which because it stands in for the Body, and because we perceive, because of History thus far bodies as separate, we assume the Subject too is an isolated mind. And the quality of experience, or qualia, may differ micro-locally from body to body; but these variations are how Mind moves, and do not isolate us. We share the same Narratives going forward in our becoming, because we construct that Narrative together.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    When philosophers like Chalmers ask questions like "Why doesn't all this information-processing go on "in the dark", free of any inner feel?" they don't really mean 'why' in the sense of "what evolutionary benefit has it?" They're looking for a 'how', as in "Explain how, exactly, that information processing (or whatever function) somehow produces/causes/is-identical-with consciousness?"bert1

    But it leaves no evolutionary role for consciousness to play, which was wonderer1's point.bert1

    I agree with you. How do we know that blind sight patients, or those that disassociate their awareness from their consciousness aren't merely misusing language in describing their experience? It seems to me that only someone that assumes that their consciousness is something like a soul that can exist apart from their body (which I would argue most people believe) would say such things.

    Think about it. Do we go about our lives with the conscious experience of focusing on each step that we take when walking from one room to another? No. One could say that our walking happens unconsciously, yet we don't disassociate our self from the act of our walking. Walking is something that we learned a long time ago and we have become so good at it that it happens almost instinctively in that we don't have to put much, if any conscious effort into doing it. But when we were toddlers and we were learning how to walk we had invoke a conscious effort into doing it. We had to focus on the intricacies of the placement of our feet, our balance, the surface we were walking on, etc.

    Now that we can walk on auto-pilot we don't disassociate our walking from our self because we say things like, "I walked over from my house..." It is only in these special (mystical) circumstances of blind sight and drug use that individuals use language in such a (mystical) way as to disassociate their selves from their awareness.

    The same can be said regarding riding a bike and driving a car. Can a blind sight person do such things? Could a blind-sight person tell the difference between a ripe and rotten apple by their sight alone?

    If the answer to these questions is "no", then p-zombies are false. There is a use to consciousness, and this is what defines us as humans and different than other animals.

    I think the primary role of consciousness is in our learning, as it takes conscious effort to learn anything. Blind-sight is in the domain of the instincts. Instincts are built-in learned behaviors based on limited stimuli. Consciousness provides a much more detailed model of our environment and as such has made us much more adaptable to sudden changes in the environment that instincts are not able to. Instincts are best for environments that change little and slowly.

    Of course, none of this actually addresses the hard problem of how "physical" neurons are produces/causes/is-identical-with "non-physical" consciousness. But, IMO, the hard problem is based another faulty assumption of dualism. I believe a type of informational-monism could be the solution where the world is not physical/non-physical. It's all information.
  • ENOAH
    637
    how "physical" neurons are produces/causes/is-identical-with "non-physical" consciousnessHarry Hindu

    I propose, the neurons generate "images" which trigger feelings, activity, more images.

    Human "consciousness" was once, like other animals, "attuned" to the feelings and activities, and not the images which evolved to trigger conditioned responses. Under this regime of Human Mind, however, attention is focused on the images; the latter which has evolved into a system governed by its own laws. mechanics, and dynamics. Far from the images strictly serving a "shortcut" to conditioned responses fit for survival, they now "inform" all experiences, and the triggered feelings or activities, are perceived as incidental, biproducts, in support of the images.

    But the images are not only non-physical. From a metaphysical/epistemological perspective, they are fleeting and empty processes, Signifiers. Variations among "Subjects" are not only di minimis, but are literally, immaterial.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    I'm not sure I understand what you're saying or how your explanation describes exactly how neurons "generate "images"".

    I just think that using terms like "physical" and "non-physical" isn't helpful because you have to define what those words mean and how something that is "physical" can generate something "non-physical". It seems to me that the solution would involve some sort of monism where the objects of thought are of the same type as any other object - information.

    Even "images" invokes some kind of Cartesian theatre. "Sensations", I think, would be better and attention is the amplification of certain sensations over others.

    How does a colorless neuron generate the sensation of color, or an odorless neuron generate the sensation of smell? Why is it that when you attempt to observe my mental processes you see neurons and a brain but when I observe my mental processes I am observing an experience of the world made of shapes, colors, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings, but not neurons?
  • Dfpolis
    1.3k
    I just came across this thread. Nicholas Humphrey's article is interesting, but he makes assumptions that, on the one hand, harken back to the bad old days of analogous introspection, and on the other hand, confuse the mind with one subsystem, the brain. (See my "The Hard Problem of Consciousness & the Fundamental Abstraction")

    Sensation, let’s be clear, has a different function from perception. Both are forms of mental representation: ideas generated by the brain. But they represent – they are about – very different kinds of things. Perception – which is still partly intact in blindsight – is about ‘what’s happening out there in the external world’: the apple is red; the rock is hard; the bird is singing. By contrast, sensation is more personal, it’s about ‘what’s happening to me and how I as a subject evaluate it’: the pain is in my toe and horrible; the sweet taste is on my tongue and sickly; the red light is before my eyes and stirs me up. — Nicholas Humphrey

    We have no reason to believe that non-human life does more than process data. So, the application of the sensation-perception distinction to non-human life is gratuitous. AI shows representations generating appropriate responses can be fully explained with no appeal to subjectivity, qualia, or concepts properly so-called (signs that do not need to have their physical structure recognized in order to signify).

    In perception, the world is not just "doing its own thing." We only sense it because it is acting on us. So, in perception, "what is happening in the world" and "what is happening to me" are inseparably bound. What is happening is the world is acting on me. Of course, we can distinguish the cause (the world is acting) from the effect (modifing my neural state) mentally, but they are, in fact, inseparable. The world modifying my neural state is identically my neural state being modified by the world. Evaluating is a second movement, and one that occurs much less often.

    What the observations of the blindsighted monkey (Helen) show is that is that visual data processed by the optic tectum is not connected to the same response subsystems as data processed by the visual cortex. The observations of blindsighted humans show that the production of visual qualia is not essential to the production of visual knowledge.

    Since to know x is to be conscious of x, consciousness does not depend on qualia in an essential way. Qualia are merely the contingent forms of some kinds of perception. Of course, if you were normally sighted, being deprived of normal visual qualia will make you unsure that you are really seeing what you are in fact seeing using the optic tectum. Still, the information is in the mind and can be used, so with experience one can know that she knows -- to be conscious of the data lacking qualia.

    Let me emphasise: sensations are ideas. They are the way our brains represent what’s happening at our sense organs and how we feel about it. Their properties are to be explained, therefore, not literally as the properties of brain-states, but rather as the properties of mind-states dreamed up by the brain. — Nicholas Humphrey

    Clearly, sensations, what is happening to me, are not the same as ideas. My leg has been in one position to long. Without thinking, I move it. I have too much CO2 in my blood. Without thinking, I yawn. In both cases there is an evaluation, but it is automatic, and no idea is generated. Similarly, innumerable brain processes proceed without consciousness. So, consciousness and ideas are not an automatic side-effect of neural processing. Something more than neural processing is required and, as I showed in my paper, what that is cannot be deduced using physical science.

    Saying they are "dreamed up by the brain" is vacuous. What is the mechanism of this dreaming and how does it produce the requisite properties? How do physical or mathematical operations produce intentional effects, when physics and mathematics do not even describe intentionality?

    I believe the upshot – in the line of animals that led to humans and others that experience things as we do – has been the creation of a very special kind of attractor, which the subject reads as a sensation with the unaccountable feel of phenomenal qualia. — Humphrey
    Here is the transition from the description of an organism acting in a purely physical way, to a "subject" which can enter into subject-object relations -- in other words, a conscious being. Up to this point increasingly complex forms of data processing have been described, but without subjectivity. Now, as a deus ex machina, we have subjectivity. We are entitled to an account of how an organism evolves into a subject, but none is given. Yet, to be conscious is to be a subject able to enter into the subject-object relation of knowing.
  • Dfpolis
    1.3k
    Can you give an example of consciousness causing something in a way that doesn't tread on the toes of any physics?bert1
    Why would you expect this? Since unobserved physical processes are deterministic, any physical effect consciousness produces has to be something that is not determined by physics -- that treads on its toes. Why is that a bad thing? Physics is an abstraction. It is based on attending to physical phenomena while prescinding from the inseparable subjective phenomena. So, physics necessarily produces an incomplete picture of reality.
  • bert1
    1.8k
    Why would you expect this?Dfpolis

    I not sure if I would. I think I was replying to @flannel jesus who might expect it and did give an answer. See above.
  • Dfpolis
    1.3k
    My intuition tells me that there's one really important boundary - the boundary between the fundamental, and everything else. The fundamental is causally closed, but all other layers can be argued to interact to each other and also to still be sensitive to fundamental-level events.flannel jesus
    What do you mean by "the fundamental" and why would it not interact when it acts? The only candidate I can think of is God, but there are no events in God.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Physics is an abstraction. It is based on attending to physical phenomena while prescinding from the inseparable subjective phenomena. So, physics necessarily produces an incomplete picture of reality.Dfpolis

    :up: And how we got to 'physicalism' was by two steps: first, declare that 'the physical' and 'the mental' are two separate substances but exist basically side-by-side. Then, point out that there is no way to demonstrate the existence of a 'mental substance'. Voila.
  • ENOAH
    637
    I'm not sure I understand what you're saying or how your explanation describes exactly how neurons "generate "images"".Harry Hindu

    I don't blame you. Moreover, you are right, that I haven't exactly described anything.


    how something that is "physical" can generate something "non-physical"Harry Hindu

    At the clear-to-me risk, that in my insistence (as a courtesy) on brevity, I will repeat my failure, I may as well say something about this. It can happen because the physical, the only reality, is not really generating anything. That you think it is a new reality generated out of an existent utterly other reality, you are in the common human illusion. Or, you are, at least, mistaken.

    I think traditional phenomenology, which addresses, as you raised, the problem of understanding objects as they "must be" vs as they "appear" to us; that is moving into new directions. One, is that the traditional did not throw its net out far enough. If it had, it would have left to Science how we sense red, or the aroma of coffee. The real question phenomenology is after is why we "experience" it as red. And this is the result of images, once constructed and saved in memory to trigger a feeling which in turn triggered a drive and action (like many sentient animal), now have developed into its own sophisticated system of constructing images (using neurons) to trigger ultimately feeling and action.

    It is only because that once strictly organic system of conditioning responses for survival has evolved in humans into Mind, that "red" and "aroma" have meaning, a mechanism in the system wherein those once strictly organic feelings, are attached to Narratives--experiences.

    And how does something physical generate these experiences? You rightly asked. It doesn't generate anything real at all. These are "codes" hijacking feelings to create this illusion of meaning and that meaning matters. It doesn't. Matter matters.
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    what I mean has nothing to do with god. "The fundamental" means the rules at the lowest layer of the universe - so a candidate for the fundamental would be Quantum Mechanics, the Schroedinger equation and quantum fields - or perhaps that's not fundamental and that emerges from something lower than it.
  • Dfpolis
    1.3k
    As a theoretical physicist, I learned that whatever happens, happens for a reason, In physics, it is because there are laws of nature that make our observations turn out as they do. Over time physics has improved our descriptions of these laws -- call our descriptions "laws of physics". We do not try to explain the laws of nature, because that is not our remit, but that does not exempt them from also needing a reason for happening. Philosophy has the remit to provide that reason. So, what exempts your fundamental from the need for further explanation?
  • Dfpolis
    1.3k
    And how does something physical generate these experiences? You rightly asked. It doesn't generate anything real at all. These are "codes" hijacking feelings to create this illusion of meaning and that meaning matters. It doesn't. Matter matters.ENOAH

    It seems to me that you do not mean by "reality" what most of us mean by it. Most of us mean by "reality" the kind of thing that we encounter in experience. When you say that reality does not generate real experience, you cannot possibly be using reality in this sense.

    One test of whether something is real, is whether it can do something. Our experiences do many things. They inform us, modify our responses, etc. So, they pass the test.
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    Who said anything about exempting them from explanation?

    I think they DO have an explanation (though I think that explanation is probably unprovable to us). I think there is some layer of truth that doesn't have an explanation, but I don't think fundamental physics is it. I also don't think this has much to do with what I've been saying.

    The Munchausen trilemma is proof enough that there is some truth which has no explanation. Some truth(s) which form the basis for all other truths.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    At the clear-to-me risk, that in my insistence (as a courtesy) on brevity, I will repeat my failure, I may as well say something about this. It can happen because the physical, the only reality, is not really generating anything. That you think it is a new reality generated out of an existent utterly other reality, you are in the common human illusion. Or, you are, at least, mistaken.ENOAH
    I don't think a new reality is generated out of an existent other reality. I was referring to your use of the word, "generate". I didn't use the term. I initially responded to bert1's mention of the relations, "produces/causes/is-identical-with". I'm not a dualist. The dualist is the one with the hard problem, not a monist.

    I don't see it as two realities. There is one reality and reality is a causally connected relationship. If there are multi-verses and those multi-verses have a causal impact with events in our universe, then the multi-verse is one reality. If they don't then there are multiple realities but we'd have no way of showing that and would be pointless to try.

    I think traditional phenomenology, which addresses, as you raised, the problem of understanding objects as they "must be" vs as they "appear" to us; that is moving into new directions. One, is that the traditional did not throw its net out far enough. If it had, it would have left to Science how we sense red, or the aroma of coffee. The real question phenomenology is after is why we "experience" it as red. And this is the result of images, once constructed and saved in memory to trigger a feeling which in turn triggered a drive and action (like many sentient animal), now have developed into its own sophisticated system of constructing images (using neurons) to trigger ultimately feeling and action.

    It is only because that once strictly organic system of conditioning responses for survival has evolved in humans into Mind, that "red" and "aroma" have meaning, a mechanism in the system wherein those once strictly organic feelings, are attached to Narratives--experiences.

    And how does something physical generate these experiences? You rightly asked. It doesn't generate anything real at all. These are "codes" hijacking feelings to create this illusion of meaning and that meaning matters. It doesn't. Matter matters.
    ENOAH
    None of this explains how an illusion is created by something that is not illusory. An illusion is a misinterpretation of sensory data, not that the data itself isn't real.

    A mirage is exactly what you'd expect to experience given the nature of light and how it interacts with your eye-brain system. In explaining the causes you don't dispel the illusion. Instead, you make it a real consequence of real causes.

    The one thing that I am sure of is the existence of my mind. From there, everything else is unprovable. Yes, even solipsism could be true. I am not a solipsist because I wonder if there isn't an "external" world, then why does it seem like there is? The same could be asked about consciousness. If the mind is an illusion then why is it so brute?

    We may not have direct access to the world but don't we have direct access to our "illusion"? My mind, illusion or not, is part of reality. There are causal forces at play where my mind is the effect of prior causes and my mind is the cause of subsequent effects. Culture is one of the effects of human minds on the world.

    If the mind is an illusion then what does that say about all the scientific knowledge based on observations? If our observations of the world are not real, then does that mean our understanding of brains and neurons is not real? Asserting that the mind is an illusion, or not real, pulls the rug out from under all the scientific knowledge we've accumulated.

    It seems to me that you do not mean by "reality" what most of us mean by it. Most of us mean by "reality" the kind of thing that we encounter in experience. When you say that reality does not generate real experience, you cannot possibly be using reality in this sense.

    One test of whether something is real, is whether it can do something. Our experiences do many things. They inform us, modify our responses, etc. So, they pass the test.
    Dfpolis
    I agree. I define reality as a causally linked system.

    As a theoretical physicist, I learned that whatever happens, happens for a reason, In physics, it is because there are laws of nature that make our observations turn out as they do. Over time physics has improved our descriptions of these laws -- call our descriptions "laws of physics". We do not try to explain the laws of nature, because that is not our remit, but that does not exempt them from also needing a reason for happening. Philosophy has the remit to provide that reason. So, what exempts your fundamental from the need for further explanation?Dfpolis
    If there is some fundamental aspect to reality then wouldn't it follow that there is an aspect of reality that does not need a reason for happening. I mean, what does fundamental mean if not that there is some aspect that "just is". If not, then there would be an infinite regress of reasons, or reality is an infinite causal chain with no beginning and no end, or another possibility could be a loop of causality.
  • Dfpolis
    1.3k
    he Munchausen trilemma is proof enough that there is some truth which has no explanation. Some truth(s) which form the basis for all other truths.flannel jesus

    Of course, not everything can be proven, Aristotle showed that 2500 years ago. Some truths are fundamental. That does not mean that they cannot be justified. The Münchhausen trilemma, as presented in the Wikipedia, makes a faulty assumption, viz. that the third alternative is "The dogmatic argument, which rests on accepted precepts which are merely asserted rather than defended." Not all defenses are deductive. We may come to truth in non-deductive ways. We may, for example, abstract from one case principles that do not depend on the details of the case, but necessarily apply to all similar cases.

    Consider Aristotle's example of a builder building a house being identically a house being built by a builder. It allows one to see that every happening is a doing, and vice versa. (The identity of action and passion). Here, experience is used, not as an unproved premise, but as a basis for reflection.
  • Dfpolis
    1.3k
    If there is some fundamental aspect to reality then wouldn't it follow that there is an aspect of reality that does not need a reason for happening. I mean, what does fundamental mean if not that there is some aspect that "just is". If not, then there would be an infinite regress of reasons, or reality is an infinite causal chain with no beginning and no end, or another possibility could be a loop of causality.Harry Hindu

    Of course there are no infinite regresses of causes. Believing that there are is like believing that your Xbox will work when you plug it into an infinite series of substations with no power station at the end -- because there does not need to be an end!

    It does not follow that the end of the line of explanation can be unexplained. If we allow that exception, then "Whatever is needs an explanation" has an exception and is false. If it is false in one case, why should it not be false in others? A basic principle of science will fail if things can "just happen."

    Instead, we should hold to our logic and examine what is going on more closely. What we see in the series before its end term is that every element is explained by another; however, our principle does not demand that. It demands that there be an explanation, not that the explanation be something else. So, it is possible that a term can be self-explaining and if it is, then, it would be the end of the line, because no other is required to explain it. Indeed, that is the only way we can have an end of the line.

    Not just anything can be self-explaining. Things have explanatory or causal power in light of what they are. So, whatever ends the line must have a nature that requires no outside explanation. It cannot be contingent, but must, by its very nature, be necessary.
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