• BlueBanana
    780
    I suppose most of us are familiar with the concept of philosophical zombies, or p-zombies for short: beings that appear and act like humans and are completely indistinguishable from humans but do not have consciousness.

    However, a p-zombie, despite having no consciousness, reacts to stimuli in exactly the same way a human being would. A human, however, is aware of its own consciousness and sentience, and this awareness in itself is a perception that human reacts to. Therefore, wouldn't a p-zombie notice its lack of consciousness and experiences and comment on these, thus not being completely similar in its actions to a human being?

    If this kind of being - one that reacted to all its perceptions in a way a human would, but did not have the perception of the conscious experiences or thoughts - what would its reaction to this then be like? Would the p-zombie appear to be panicking or show some other emotion, or, upon realizing that it had no emotions, would it also stop expressing them?

    I think this rises yet another quite interesting question: what do we even react to? Do we react to external stimuli, or our experiences of them? I think this is what defines the answer to the previous question as well; if the answer is the former one, the p-zombie would indeed mostly act like a human, but were it the latter one, the p-zombie would have no motivation to perform any action at all or react to any stimuli except by its reflexes, and die of starvation.
  • JupiterJess
    90
    Therefore, wouldn't a p-zombie notice its lack of consciousness and experiences and comment on these, thus not being completely similar in its actions to a human being?BlueBanana

    yeah you're right. The closest thing we have are people with Aphantasia who lack a "mind's eye" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphantasia however during interaction with other people they are able to comprehend they are lacking something the others have.

    The p-zombie argument is built on the idea that consciousness is epiphenomenal. So you can have a zombie that relates every detail but has no phenomenal version of events. In that sense it's stupid but works well as an argument against mechanism. If anyone thinks it can be true besides being a philosophical thought experiment (sort of like the Socractic dialogues) then they are nuts.
  • Inyenzi
    5
    If this kind of being - one that reacted to all its perceptions in a way a human would, but did not have the perception of the conscious experiences or thoughts - what would its reaction to this then be like?BlueBanana

    He'd start rambling on about consciousness like David Dennet :smile:
  • SteveKlinko
    101
    However, a p-zombie, despite having no consciousness, reacts to stimuli in exactly the same way a human being would.BlueBanana
    Take the Conscious Visual experience of the scene the p-Zombie is looking at. Without the Conscious Visual experience the p-Zombie would be Blind and would not be able to move around in the World without bumping into things. The Conscious Visual experience is the final stage of the Visual process. People who think the Conscious experience is not necessary for the p-Zombie to move around in the World are exhibiting Insane Denial of the purpose of the Conscious Visual experience.
  • BlueBanana
    780
    As a counter-example, robots lack conscious visual experience but manage to react accordingly to information transferred by photons.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.1k
    However, a p-zombie, despite having no consciousness, reacts to stimuli in exactly the same way a human being would. A human, however, is aware of its own consciousness and sentience, and this awareness in itself is a perception that human reacts to. Therefore, wouldn't a p-zombie notice its lack of consciousness and experiences and comment on these, thus not being completely similar in its actions to a human being?BlueBanana
    Sure, a p-zombie would notice something missing, just like a blind person notices something missing when they hear others talking about their visual experiences.

    P-zombies wouldn't have dreams or nightmares.
    P-zombies wouldn't have that internal voice telling them what would be right or wrong, or self-reflection. Being a p-zombie would be like having blind-sight. People with this condition are aware that there is something there, but are not clear on the details of what that thing is. They do not behave like normal humans as a result of this lack of visual consciousness.

    The behaviour of computers are driven by bottom-up processes (mechanical/hardware) and top-down processes (non-mechanical/software). P-zombies would be like "computers" without software. They would be more like a typewriter that simply reacts to external input and can't perform actions based on its own internal programming and stored information. That would be the kind of difference we would see between a human being and a p-zombie.
  • TheMadFool
    2.2k
    Very confusing post.

    How would a non-conscious being reflect on its own condition? Doesn't the term ''zombie'' specifically deny self-awareness of any kind?
  • BlueBanana
    780
    How would a non-conscious being reflect on its own condition?TheMadFool

    Good question, as a thought experiment I think one could think of a conscious being losing their consciousness, thus having knowledge of the nature of consciousness without having it.

    Doesn't the term ''zombie'' specifically deny self-awareness of any kind?TheMadFool

    Depends on how self-awareness is defined, I guess. By the definition of p-zombie, it should act like it had self-awareness.
  • TheMadFool
    2.2k
    Depends on how self-awareness is defined, I guess. By the definition of p-zombie, it should act like it had self-awareness.BlueBanana

    This is a puzzle to me. A p-zombie, the way you describe it, should be indistinguishable from a person who actually is conscious.

    Isn't this a ''dead'' end?

    If you define y as x and then it becomes impossible to inquire into how x and y may be compared.

    Anyway I started a thread on self-awareness and whether that is a good thing or not.
  • gurugeorge
    276
    I think you're missing the point re. the p-zombie thing, it's a stipulation, a thought experiment, an "intuition pump" (a tool to draw out and clarify our intuitions about something) not an empirical hypothesis (that there could be such a creature).

    I love the way some philosophers (e.g. Dennett) handle it though: they cut the Gordian knot by saying simply (in complicated ways) that we are p-zombies! :)
  • BlueBanana
    780
    I'm aware, but to be used as a thought experiment, the concept should make sense. Furthermore, although the term isn't used in that context, when a sceptic question whether other people have consciousness, isn't the idea practically the same?
  • BlueBanana
    780
    If you define y as x and then it becomes impossible to inquire into how x and y may be compared.TheMadFool

    More of "y should (appear to) be x". Sure the zombie would not have self-awareness in the sense that it wouldn't exactly have any knowledge at all, although its communication would reflect the information stored in its brain,
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1k


    The notion of a philosophical zombie is a manifestation of the Spiritualist confusion of academic philosophers.

    Any device that can do what a person or other animal can do has "Consciousness". That's how it does those things, you know.

    We're purposefully-responsive devices, designed by natural-selection, to achieve certain material goals and purposes. Consciousness is the property of being a purposefully-responsive device.

    But the word "Consciousness" is, of course, used very chauvinistically. We only apply that word to those purposefully-responsive devices that are sufficiently similar to us. Other humans, or maybe other mammals. ...maybe the vertebrates, or maybe include the insects...and so on.

    Yeah, but when it comes down to it, you're not different in kind from a mousetrap or a refrigerator lightswitch.

    Michael Ossipoff
  • BlueBanana
    780
    Any device that can do what a person or other animal can do has "Consciousness". That's how it does those things, you know.Michael Ossipoff

    No, it does those things through causality causing it to do those things. Doing those things does not imply consciousness being involved.

    Consciousness is the property of being a purposefully-responsive device.Michael Ossipoff

    Where is the consciousness in a mousetrap? How does it rise from its physical nature?
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1k


    I’d said:

    Any device that can do what a person or other animal can do has "Consciousness". That's how it does those things, you know.

    You replied:

    No, it does those things through causality causing it to do those things.

    You could say that about any event, explain it by saying that it’s caused by causality. For example, that could be said about the operation of a Roomba. What the Roomba does is caused by its built-in purposeful-responsiveness. …as can also be said of any animal, or humans too. The behavior that makes you say that a person has Consciousness is the result of designed-in purposeful responsiveness. If there’s any Consciousness there, it’s the purposeful-responsiveness itself.

    The (hypothetical) philosophical-zombie has that purposeful-responsiveness too. How else do you think it does what a human does?

    Doing those things does not imply consciousness being involved.

    Correct. It doesn’t imply the kind of Consciousness that you’re talking about. …some Spiritualist notion of a separate entity, separate and different from the body.

    But animals have what you could call “Consciousness” because animals are designed to do various things, to accomplish particular goals and purposes. What you regard as a separate entity called “Consciousness” consists of the design-purpose built into animals (including humans). …their designed-in purposeful-responsiveness, to accomplish their design goals.

    I’d said:

    Consciousness is the property of being a purposefully-responsive device.

    You replied:

    Where is the consciousness in a mousetrap?

    For the purpose of our animal-chauvinist usage in speech, I define “Consciousness” as purposeful-responsiveness of a device with which the speaker feels kinship.
    You don’t feel kinship with a mousetrap.

    Yes, it’s a vague definition, because our use of the word “Consciousness” is imprecise. Really, “purposeful-responsiveness” is a better, more uniformly-used term.

    How does it rise from its physical nature?

    It isn’t some separate thing that “arises”, “supervenes” or “emerges”, or whatever. It’s just the property of purposeful-responsiveness. …but you don’t call it “Consciousness” when possessed by something you don’t feel kinship with.

    But would you say that insects aren’t conscious? They go about their business, as do mammals, and they experience fear. In those regards, they’re recognizably similar to us.

    Michael Ossipoff
  • gurugeorge
    276
    Ah, I said that because you were questioning whether a p-zombie would behave as we do, but the stipulation is that it does - it behaves indistinguishably from us (so it wouldn't die of starvation because of its lack of consciousness for example).

    I think the problem is that questioning whether other people have consciousness isn't really a well-formed question (or, it's not a question that actually makes any sense), it just seems to be.

    Actually digging into the philosophy a bit: there are broadly two senses in which we use the concept of consciousness:-

    A. A publicly verifiable thing. We observe the world, we see things avoiding some things, cleaving to other things, and that kind of behaviour is what we call "conscious." Animals have it, although there's a fuzzy line where animals don't seem to have it any more and their behaviour can be explained as purely mechanical and "robotic" (e.g. bacteria, ants, things like that). And this sense of consciousness has reasonable, publicly verifiable tests, like "How many fingers am I holding up?"

    B. Something each of us has or is that is completely private (no one else can see your consciousness, or can tell whether you "have" it or not).

    I think the problem is that, generally speaking, the latter sense, which probably derives from religion (ideas about soul, spirit, etc.), is often confused with the former sense, in that having B is supposed to be what makes A possible. B is supposed to be an un-publicly-verifiable inner thing that makes the publicly-verifiable A behaviour happen.

    Most of the philosophical battles in philosophy of mind seem to be around some people thinking that B is a real thing, and that if you don't have it, you can't be conscious, even under conditions when most would say you're conscious in sense A (the p-zombie).

    Detractors of B point out that we seem to get along perfectly well in the A sense regardless of whether we have B or not.

    I don't know what the answer is, it depends on how you squint at it. Sometimes one thinks having this inner "registering" of outside events and of inner thoughts is the most weird and important thing in the world, and that denying it would lead to hideous atrocity; sometimes the detractors seem right and it's all a fuss about nothing.

    One point: it looks like we're getting pretty close to being able to scan peoples' brains and know what they're thinking. If that's the case, then in the end, the complaints just come down to an ontological truism elevated to something grand and mysterious: I am not you, and you are not me.
  • BlueBanana
    780
    Yes, it’s a vague definition, because our use of the word “Consciousness” is imprecise. Really, “purposeful-responsiveness” is a better, more uniformly-used term.Michael Ossipoff

    It's also incorrect as it does not describe what the term "consciousness" refers to. As I stated, purposeful-responsiveness doesn't imply consciousness, but strictly speaking consciousness doesn't imply purposeful-responsiveness either. In contrast,

    some Spiritualist notion of a separate entity, separate and different from the body.Michael Ossipoff

    is what the word means and refers to.

    All conscious beings that exist are purposefully-responsive because they are a part of our universe, a property of which causality is, making actually everything purposefully-responsive from some points of view. Being a part of the universe isn't a good definition for conscious beings either.
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1k


    What it amounts to is that you're using "Consciousness" to refer to something that I don't believe in.

    You're in good company. A lot of academic philosophers do too.

    But you're implying that the meaning that you give to that word is its only correct meaning.

    I don't think that there's a consensus about what the word "Consciousness" means.

    If someone built a perfectly human-impersonating robot, and said that it's a philosophical zombie, and if its behavior and reactions were indistinguishable from those of a human, then how would you prove that there's some un-bodily, Dualistic, "Consciousness" that it lacks? Don't you see the weakness of that position?

    There'd be no reason to believe that that robot lacks anything of a human.

    In actuality, robots will probably be made without the natural-selecton-built-in self-interest that humans and other animals have. No need to worry about a selfish robot take-over. They'd have more resemblence to ants than to self-interested mammals. Of course ants and bees will protect themselves, but they value, first, their service to the colony.

    Michael Ossipoff
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1k

    I suppose the Consciousness that you're referring to needn't be unbodily. Some people are claiming that there's some mysterious way that the brain causes it. Yeah: Purposefulness. That's it. Nothing mysterious there.
  • SteveKlinko
    101
    As a counter-example, robots lack conscious visual experience but manage to react accordingly to information transferred by photons.BlueBanana
    But Humans don't work like Robots. Humans and probably all Conscious beings have a further processing stage that presents the Visual experience to them. The Visual experience is what we use to move around in the World. When I reach out to pick up my coffee cup I see my Hand in the Conscious Visual experience. If my hand is off track I adjust my hand movement until I can touch the handle and pick up the coffee cup. It would be much more difficult to do this without the Conscious Visual experience. The Conscious Visual experience contains an enormous amount of information that is all packed up into a single thing. The Neural Activity is not enough. We would need far more Neural Activity to equal the efficiency that the Conscious Visual experience provides us.
  • SteveKlinko
    101
    Any device that can do what a person or other animal can do has "Consciousness". That's how it does those things, you know.Michael Ossipoff
    If a Computer could experience for example the Color Red then I would agree. But a Computer does not Experience anything. A Computer can be programmed to scan pixels in an image to find the Red parts. A Computer will look for pixels with values that are within a certain range of numbers. A Computer never has a Red experience but it can find the Red parts of an image. So just because it can find the Red parts of an image, like a Human can, it does not mean it has a Conscious Red experience while doing this. A Computer works in a different way than a Conscious being does. Science doesn't understand enough about Consciousness yet to design Machines that have Consciousness.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment