• Pattern-chaser
    How can the hypothesis be falsified?HuggetZukker

    Not all hypotheses can. This is upsetting for scientists, but philosophers can continue applying their considered thought in such a case. Only scientists must grind to a halt. And surely no-one would be rash enough to attempt to investigate consciousness using science? :razz:
  • SteveKlinko
    How can the hypothesis be falsified? — HuggetZukker
    Not all hypotheses can. This is upsetting for scientists, but philosophers can continue applying their considered thought in such a case. Only scientists must grind to a halt. And surely no-one would be rash enough to attempt to investigate consciousness using science?
    Especially since Science won't let Scientists investigate Consciousness. Any and all thoughts are still on the table.
  • Dfpolis
    I think you knew in which way I meant the word, so let's move on.HuggetZukker

    Yes, I do. I was suggesting an alternate conceptual framework.

    If we can be aware of some intelligibility that does not require neural encoding to make itself present, then there is no reason why awareness cannot continue after the brain ceases to function. After reading W. T. Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy, I am convinced that we can be aware of such intelligibility. — Dfpolis

    Can you clarify what you believe about such knowledge, which does not require "neural encoding?"

    Yes. Stace found that there were two classes of mystical experience that were reported throughout history and across cultures. He calls these "introvertive" and "extrovertive." The characteristics Stace found to be cross-culturally shared are, in the case of extrovertive mysticism:
    1. The unifying vision, expressed abstractly by the formula “All is One.” The One is, in extrovertive mysticism, perceived through the physical senses, in or through the multiplicity of objects.
    2. The more concrete apprehension of the One as being an inner subjectivity in all things, described variously as life, consciousness, or a living Presence. The discovery that nothing is “really” dead.
    3. Sense of objectivity or reality.
    4. Feeling of blessedness, joy, happiness, satisfaction, etc.
    5. Feeling that what is apprehended is holy, or sacred, or divine. This is the quality which gives rise to the interpretation of the experience as being an experience of “God.” It is the specifically religious element in the experience. It is closely intertwined with, but not identical with, the previously listed characteristic of blessedness and joy.
    6. Paradoxicality.
    Another characteristic may be mentioned with reservations, namely,
    7. Alleged by mystics to be ineffable, incapable of being described in words, etc.
    — Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy, p. 79
    For introvertive experiences, points 1 and 2 become:
    1. The Unitary Consciousness; the One, the Void; pure consciousness.
    2. Nonspatial, nontemporal.
    — Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy, p. 131

    Now it happens to be the case that this total suppression of the whole empirical content of consciousness is precisely what the introvertive mystic claims to achieve. And he claims that what happens is not that all consciousness disappears but that only the ordinary sensory-intellectual consciousness disappears and is replaced by an entirely new kind of consciousness, the mystical consciousness. — Stace, The Teachings of the Mysitcs, p. 18

    Since the brain evolved to process sensory content, especially in the case of introvertive mysticism, which is devoid of sensory content, no neural processing is required.

    Do you believe that it might require "encoding" in a way, which cannot be described as "neural"?HuggetZukker

    I think awareness is awareness of intelligibility, but that not all intelligibility qualifies as information. I know that sounds confused, but let me explain. Claude Shannon, the founder of information theory, defined information as the reduction of possibility. The kind of possibility he had in mind was logical possibility. The reception of each new bit reduces the number of logically possible messages until we finally know the actual message. The intelligibility in Stace's introvertive mysticism does not reduce what is logically possible. If anything, it increases our sense of what is possible. Still, mystics insist it is the awareness of intelligibility. Without "proving" the existence of God, the experience comports with the philosophical conclusion that God's essence does not limit His existence -- so that awareness of God would necessarily be uninformative by Shannnon's definition. Such intelligibility cannot be encoded, because only information can be encoded.

    can you offer an example, even a hypothetical one, of a relation between such knowledge after the cessation of brain function, and something else?HuggetZukker

    If mystical experience is awareness of a transcendent reality, which virtually all mystics claim (even atheists such as Bucke in his Cosmic Consciousness), then there is no reason one couldn't continue to stand as a subject with respect to it in the absence of brain function. That is exactly the claim of many who have had near death experiences (NDEs).

    I am not arguing that NDEs "prove" anything. I'm merely saying they're part of the pool of experience we need to reflect upon. While descriptions of NDEs often fix on the tunnel of light and meeting loved ones, most NDEs also involve the kind of transcendent awareness described by mystics. And, while people with NDEs haven't "really" died, in many cases we have empirical observations of a cessation of brain function -- which is the point at issue here.

    I'm not asking anyone to give credence to the thought experiment.HuggetZukker

    Thought experiments are designed to make us reflect on what we think we know. Sometimes they present a paradox. Still, whatever problem or insight they present has to be resolved in terms of what we can discover from our experience of the actual world. With specific reference to the duplication Gedankenexperiment, a theory that is perfectly adequate to reality may be quite inadequate with respect to an imagined world. A theory adequate to occurent human activity would probably fail miserably in explaining Professor Minerva McGonagall's transmogrification powers. So, I do not see why we would need to modify our understanding of personal identity to account for a case that never actually occurs and is most likely impossible.

    But you have not convinced me that the physicalist approach is inadequate. You may say that awareness transforms information from being latent in the physical world into being active in logical order, but "logical order" needs not be founded in a non-physical realm. "Logical order" may well be abstract, but so is the internet, yet has no operational existence independantly of running servers.HuggetZukker

    I have not tried to convince you that physicalism is inadequate, but even if I could not, it is a leap of faith to assume that it is adequate.

    Here are a few reasons why it is inadequate.

    While every act of knowing has both a knowing subject and a known object, we begin natural science with a fundamental abstraction in which we fix our attention on known physical objects to the exclusion of the knowing subject. We care about what Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton and Hubble saw, to the exclusion of their intentional experience (their experience as knowing subjects) in seeing it. This is a perfectly rational methodological move if our interest is physical objects, but it separates in thought what is inseparable in reality (the known object and the knowing subject). It also leaves the natural sciences bereft of the data and concepts required to address the knowing subject and correlative issues. Lacking these data and concepts, natural science can make no connections between what it knows of the physical world and concepts revolving around the subject (such as subjective awareness, intentionality and meaning).

    Forgetting that natural science does not deal with all intelligible reality, but only with an abstracted subset, as physicalists do, is an example of Whitehead's Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness. It is treating and abstraction as though it is the contextualized whole.

    The other inadequacies of physicalism, such as its supposing that consciousness can be reduced to a physical basis (Chalmer's "Hard Problem"), its failure to account for the contingent forms of awareness (qualia), its lack of a theory of intentionality (Brentano's "aboutness) and meaning, its inability to explain our experience of free choice and the confusion of neural representations with ideas -- all of these follow from forgetting that natural science addresses only a subset of human experience.

    "logical order" needs not be founded in a non-physical realmHuggetZukker

    Yes, but not completely. The logical order is founded on the actualization of the intelligibility of physical reality. It is mentally distinct from the physical order, but dynamically linked to it. Thus, it brings together subject and object. What the logical order adds is the knowing subject -- exactly what is excluded from natural science by its fundamental abstraction.
  • bert1
    I am not averse to some forms of panpsychism. Integrated Information Theory (IIT) shows how consciousness higher than protoconsciousness might emerge. IIT is a panpsychist (or maybe panprotopsychist?) theory, and I'm not averse to it. It could well have the answer, but I'm not decided on the matter.HuggetZukker

    I'm a full-on panpsychist as I can't really make sense of the notion of proto-consciousness. Even if there's a smidge of subjective awareness, there's subjective awareness, and that's just full consciousness in the relevant sense it seems to me. I can't make sense of the idea that there is something somewhat similar to, or a more basic form of, subjective awareness, but isn't quite subjective awareness.

    IIT is very interesting. I do think it is a panpsychist theory, but I also think it is false for the same reason I think many theories of consciousness are false, namely it is reductive. It says that consciousness just is integrated information. That's just wrong. Integrated information is integrated information. Consciousness is consciousness. The hard problem us untouched. To avoid reductionism, it would have to say something like 'consciouness arises from, or is caused by integrated information', but then we have a mystery again as to how exactly that happens. (Reductions are theoretically good when we can get away with them, because they don't involve mysteries.) I do, however, think that the IIT is a valuable theory. It may well be a decent theory of identity - that is to say, a conscious individual is defined as the system that integrates information, perhaps. Any system that integrates information has a roughly unitary consciouness that persists as long as the system persists and keeps functioning. Searle's tough objection to panpsychism: "What are the units supposed to be?" might find its answer: "The units are systems that integrate information." It's an interesting and plausible possibility it seems to me.

    I'll reply to the stuff about indexicals when I can find a bit more time.
  • bert1

    Thanks for mentioning Stace. I had not heard of Stace before. My only brush with analyses of mystical reports is William James' Varieties of Religious Experience.

    It's an unfortunate feature of pathologically argumentative philosophers (like me) that that we tend only to talk to people with whom we disagree over a point we find interesting. I have to make an extra effort to even acknowledge helpful and interesting posts that I do not find disagreeable in some important way, hence this reply.
  • Ötzi
    how consciousness can arise in a purely physical environment.Hanover

    So, what then, is a purely physical environment? Is it the part of physical nature than can be perceived by our 5 senses?
  • bert1
    Your thoughts? Let me hear about arguments to be had over the metaphysical significance.HuggetZukker

    There was a great thread on the old forum involving an attempt to disprove physicalism by attempting to show that there is some information that is non-physical, namely indexical information. The idea is that even if you know every single bit of objective public information about the world (which is an intuitive, if crude and perhaps wrong) characterisation of 'physical' information, and you are situated in this world, you still can't tell which person in the world you are until you open you eyes and make a local observation. Only then will you know which bit of the world you are in. No amount of studying the point-of-view-invariant stuff about the world will give you that bit of information. Therefore this is non-physical information. Therefore physicalism is false. There were lots of objections, mostly about the details of the thought experiment that the peoster concocted to illustrate this. There were better objections. some objected that this was an impoverished concept of physicalism. Some said that even if this does show that indexical information is not analysable in terms of non-indexical information, this proves nothing about consciousness - why can't a non-conscious robot make a local 'observation' and figure out which one of the many different robots it is? Another guy went further and said that all information is actually indexical information. I'm not sure where I stand on all this. I don't think I agree with the robot objection - I think if we want to imagine the robot has a point of view we are tacitly importing our own point of view into the robot. But then I have always had idealist sympathies.

    Another thread about indexicals was an attempt to reduce indexical propositions to non-indexical ones. So relative, context-dependent propositions involving indexicals were replaced by ones with 'objective' reference points. So "I am here now" could be rendered "Bert1 is in the train station at 10:15". And then the inevitable objection and responses:
    "Yes, but which Bert1, which year and which train station? You still need an indexical to disambiguate."
    "No, still no need for an indexical: Bert1 with a mole on his arse, Portaloo train station in 3466".
    "OK, but there are two Bert1s with moles on their arses, two Portaloo train stations and I don't know which civilisation's calendar you are using. You still need an indexical."
    "No, it is the Bert1 who is speaking, not any other."
    "But there are two Bert1s speaking in all the relevant train stations in each calendar time. I still don't know which one you are."
    ...and so on and so on. The idea is that by duplicating all 'objective' frames of reference you render them ambiguous, thus making indexicals necessary to disabiguate. Of course, for any practical purpose, it is possible (albeit inconvenient) to do without indexicals. But if you take it to its extreme logical conclusion, it seems to me that propositions involving indexicals can still be shown to be non-reducible to non-indexical propositions.
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