• wonderer1
    1.8k
    I thought suggesting Galileo is to blame for the state of neuroscience was a bit bizarre.

    “Those sensory qualities have come back to bite us,” Goff writes. “Galileo’s error was to commit us to a theory of nature which entailed that consciousness was essentially and inevitably mysterious.”

    In other words, Galileo’s scientific method required walling off the study of consciousness itself, which is why it’s perhaps not surprising that even centuries later, his method’s inheritors still struggle to explain it.

    Human brains are enormously complex, the technological challenges of gathering sufficient data to learn much are huge, and the ethical restrictions on how science can make progress in the field mean we should expect progress to be relatively slow. (Not saying I disapprove of the ethical restrictions.)

    Galileo is hardly to blame for any of this.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    Nice little article!

    I don't see any alternative for science than the Galilean approach. Bracketing out the conscious observer is analogous to, and the reverse of, the Epoché in phenomenology. It is a methodological necessity.

    It is hard to see how a seamless causal model from something third person observable (neural activity) to something that is not (conscious experience) could be achieved.

    From the first-person perspective it is neural activity which is not observable. Science and phenomenology remain separate "magisteria" (Gould) , the first dealing with what can be observed in things via the senses and the second with how the experience of things seems, and what, on reflection can be said to be the common characteristics of all experience.
  • RogueAI
    2.7k
    I don't see any alternative for science than the Galilean approachJanus

    That approach doesn't seem to be working. How long do you think we should stick with it?
  • Janus
    15.9k
    Why would you say that approach doesn't seem to be working? Are you just referring to neuroscience, or the whole of science? Neuroscience may not have explained first person experience, but it has discovered plenty about the workings of the brain.
  • RogueAI
    2.7k
    Neuroscience may not have explained first person experience, but it has discovered plenty about the workings of the brain.Janus

    Sure, but it's come up empty on the hard problem. If there's still no solution in 1,000 years, what should we do?
  • Janus
    15.9k
    I don't think the so-called "hard problem" is the main, or even a significant, focus of neuroscience. It's mostly the philosophers who worry about it.
  • RogueAI
    2.7k
    I don't think the so-called "hard problem" is the main, or even a significant, focus of neuroscience. It's mostly the philosophers who worry about it.Janus

    I think there's more of a focus now than there was thirty years ago, don't you? Science seeks to explain phenomena, correct? So I ask again: what should we do if neuroscience still hasn't explained consciousness 1,000 years from now?
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    I don't think the so-called "hard problem" is the main, or even a significant, focus of neuroscience. It's mostly the philosophers who worry about it.Janus
    :100:
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    So I ask again: what should we do if neuroscience still hasn't explained consciousness 1,000 years from now?RogueAI

    Perhaps the problem will remain forever unsolved, like the one about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. :razz:
  • RogueAI
    2.7k
    You can only paper over problems for so long. Eventually the shut up-and-calculate approach fails, and the hard problems become more and more embarrassing.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    Maybe there is more of focus now than thirty years ago...I don't really know. Maybe it's a category mistake to expect neuroscience to explain consciousness as we intuitively understand it. Maybe that understanding itself is due to reifications of linguistically generated ideas. I don't think it's a problem which really matters much to how we live our lives—there are far more pressing problems facing us right now.

    :lol: :up:
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    What part of 'it's a "hard problem" only for philosophers of mind and not for neuroscientists' don't you understand?
  • RogueAI
    2.7k
    Maybe there is more of focus now than thirty years ago...I don't really know. Maybe it's a category mistake to expect neuroscience to explain consciousness as we intuitively understand it. Maybe that understanding itself is due to reifications of linguistically generated ideas. I don't think it's a problem which really matters much to how we live our lives—there are far more pressing problems facing us right now.Janus

    That's true for much of science. The JWST gives us pretty pictures, but doesn't have much impact on the problems facing us. Should we not have spent billions on it?
  • RogueAI
    2.7k
    People like Koch, Kastrup, and Tononi have PhD's in science. The idea that only philosophers worry about consciousness is decades out of date.
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    You can only paper over problems for so long. Eventually the shut up-and-calculate approach fails, and the hard problems become more and more embarrassing.RogueAI

    The article shows how little some folk have changed since the era of the first ASSC meet. Friston is the only one who has made actual proper progress since then.

    Neuroscience realises it is dealing with a process rather than a substance. Thus whatever one might mean by “consciousness” has to be reduced mathematically to that kind of pragmatic description. We seek a theory not about some fundamental substance with its inherent qualities or properties. We seek some kind of general “cognitive” structure that can be generalised across many related systems.

    This is what Friston has achieved with his Bayesian Brain model - semiosis turned into differential equations.

    The same basic process explains cognition or the semiotic modelling relation at all levels of life and mind. It fits genetic as well as neural codes. It covers verbal and numerical encoding too.

    So folk can continue to witter on about the Hard Problem as if explaining the specificity of your feels is what the science needs to deliver. Science has more sense. Progress is about the generality of showing how consciousness is just the result of the evolutionary elaboration of biosemiosis - the stepping up of the Bayesian world modelling through the successive levels of genetic, neural, social and informational codes.

    Biology starts with how molecules can be messages. How information can regulate dissipation. Once that was made clear, folk stopped harking on about elan vitals and other mystic substances. Life was a general kind of process.

    The Bayesian Brain speaks to the same thing. It offers a mechanics which puts neurology and biology on the same mathematical footing. It is pretty easy to recognise this as big progress indeed.

    The ASSC was only ever a club for those on the crazy fringe. A fun event because of that. But unrepresentative of serious neuroscience.
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    Galileo is hardly to blame for any of this.wonderer1

    It's not like some personal shortcoming but a number of factors that were crystallised in his work, chief among them the division of the world into primary and secondary qualities. According to Galileo's philosophy, primary attributes are intrinsic properties of an object that exist independently of any observer. They are considered objective and measurable. Examples include mass, size, and shape. These attributes are inherent to an object and do not depend on the observer's perception or point of view.

    On the other hand, secondary attributes are considered subjective and dependent on the observer. They are not considered to be intrinsic properties of an object but are rather the result of an interaction between the object and the observer's senses. Examples of secondary attributes include color, taste, and temperature. These attributes are perceived by the senses and can vary from one observer to another.

    Galileo argued that primary attributes, being objective and measurable, could be studied and understood through mathematical and quantitative analysis. Secondary attributes, being subjective and variable, were not suitable for precise scientific investigation in the same way as primary attributes.

    This was to be combined with Descartes' dualism of matter (res extensia) and mind (res cogitans) to give rise to the modern synthesis. Thomas Nagel describes it like this:

    The modern mind-body problem arose out of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, as a direct result of the concept of objective physical reality that drove that revolution. Galileo and Descartes made the crucial conceptual division by proposing that physical science should provide a mathematically precise quantitative description of an external reality extended in space and time, a description limited to spatiotemporal primary qualities such as shape, size, and motion, and to laws governing the relations among them. Subjective appearances, on the other hand -- how this physical world appears to human perception -- were assigned to the mind, and the secondary qualities like color, sound, and smell were to be analyzed relationally, in terms of the power of physical things, acting on the senses, to produce those appearances in the minds of observers. It was essential to leave out or subtract subjective appearances and the human mind -- as well as human intentions and purposes -- from the physical world in order to permit this powerful but austere spatiotemporal conception of objective physical reality to develop. — Mind and Cosmos pp. 35-36

    That's the setting against which David Chalmer's poses the hard problem of consciousness, and when spelled out that way, it's not hard to grasp his rationale. The whole issue of the mind-independence of particular qualities has in any case been undermined by the observer problem.

    (Philip Goff seeks to solve the problem by saying that matter is actually conscious in some way, thereby dissolving the duality, but I don't think it works, for reasons I explained in an earlier thread, which Philip Goff himself actually joined the Forum to respond to. Oh, and I don't regard his rebuttal of my criticism successful.)

    how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.Tom Storm

    I read a clarification of this trope somewhere. The original dispute was whether two incorporeal intellects (i.e. angels) can occupy the same location in space and time. I don't recall the details but when the background is understood it sounds a little less daft.
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    Yes, it has transcended its origins. I like it as an undifferentiated cheap shot about pointless questions.
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    for some reason, reminds me of the arguments about superposition in physics.
  • RogueAI
    2.7k
    Progress is about the generality of showing how consciousness is just the result of the evolutionary elaboration of biosemiosisapokrisis

    When did consciousness first show up? Are insects conscious? Can machines become conscious?
  • RogueAI
    2.7k
    :100:

    Panpsychism is a gateway philosophy. It eventually leads to idealism.
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    When did consciousness first show up? Are insects conscious? Can machines become conscious?RogueAI

    Shouldn’t the question be when did semiosis first show up? What first counts as a living organism? And then what counts as the first version of neural coordination with the wider environment? Is a bacterium where it starts as a sensor is connected like a directional switch to its flagella?

    A theory of “consciousness” is just the pursuit of a ghostly spirit stuff. Or can you frame the task in a way that is scientific rather than a search for immaterial being?
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    A theory of “consciousness” is just the pursuit of a ghostly spirit stuff. Or can you frame the task in a way that is scientific rather than a search for immaterial being?apokrisis
    :smirk:
  • RogueAI
    2.7k
    A theory of “consciousness” is just the pursuit of a ghostly spirit stuff. Or can you frame the task in a way that is scientific rather than a search for immaterial being?apokrisis

    Science should be able to explain something as fundamental as consciousness, shouldn't it? And why is "consciousness" in quotes?
  • Janus
    15.9k
    It is inevitable that money will be spent on such investigations. Sometimes there are beneficial spinoffs from scientific investigations. Personally, I think we should spend on health, the environment, subsidizing sustainable energy sources, and so on before lashing out on such things as the JWST or the LHC, but it ain't going to happen.
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    Science should be able to explain something as fundamental as consciousness, shouldn't it? And why is "consciousness" in quotes?RogueAI

    You sound like the kid in the back seat. “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

    You have failed to engage with the points I made and I don’t feel I need to run you through it again.
  • Darkneos
    689
    Considering how complex the brain is, no not really. And like was mentioned before ethics slows down progress (though as stated I'm glad for it).

    Some problems in science are slower to progress than others, and it might involve some diverging paths. But so far all the evidence have points to it being a function of the brain and not some kinda "soul" or "ghost" like people think it is.

    How though...well we're not quite there yet. I swear people really need to learn patience when it comes to science, these problems are hard. Just because humanity doesn't tolerate ambiguity well is no excuse, though I guess psychologically we do like filling in gaps just to feel better.
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    What first counts as a living organism?apokrisis

    That’s pretty clear from extrapolating the fossil record isn’t it? Stromatolites or something like it? In any case whatever it was had to maintain itself, grow, heal, mutate and evolve. Minerals don't do that, but organisms do. That much is clear, isn't it?
  • javra
    2.5k
    A theory of “consciousness” is just the pursuit of a ghostly spirit stuff. Or can you frame the task in a way that is scientific rather than a search for immaterial being? — apokrisis

    Science should be able to explain something as fundamental as consciousness, shouldn't it?
    RogueAI

    Why should it?

    It’s not like this ultimate beetle in the box called “consciousness”, aka lived experience, in any way matters - all the more so were it be immaterial - not ethically and certainty not substantially (neither of the latter - ethics or substance - being in any way scientifically testable anyways).

    For instance, pragmatically speaking, we can contemplate mathematical systems and work with empirical knowledge just fine without it.

    Plus, socio-politically speaking, all those people the world over that have learned to detest science exactly due to attitudes such as the two just expressed are morons – this for having the nerve to maintain that their lived experience (which, needless to add, is first-person), and those of others they care about, should be in any way valued, this either by other individuals or by cultural institutions. Telling them that they're idiots on this count should get them to finally take science seriously - rather than thumb their noses at global warming and the like.

    And why is "consciousness" in quotes?RogueAI

    Because it is one of them illusions? After all, it is neither tangible nor explainable mathematically and, thus, cannot possibly be real.

    ------

    Hey, devil’s advocate at work here. :naughty: Because while I know I am, I can’t conclusively prove that individual others are.

    (BTW, the advocacy provided is directed primarily at @apokrisis's comments.)
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