• Wayfarer
    7.8k
    Does an immaterial mind make the hard problem of consciousness any easier?Walter Pound

    Whatever 'mind' may be, it's never an object of experience. It's never known as a 'that'. And, if you think about it, that is not true of anything that can be measured or apprehended by the senses (or by scientific instruments, which are simply augmented senses.)

    So the notion of an 'immaterial mind' is deeply misleading as it suggests a kind of ethereal stuff or thing which somehow embodies ideas and causes things to happen. It is precisely the stupidity of such an idea, which Cartesian dualism gave rise to and which in turn gave rise to the 'modern mind-body problem' in which Dennett's ideas are situated.

    I think the only useful way to think about mind (or strictly speaking the rational intellect) is in terms of 'that which interprets meaning'. That is after all what makes it possible for us to think and speak, being 'rational animals' (and also, handily, the very faculty which distinguishes us from goats and bats.)

    I think Chalmer's 'hard problem' certainly states the fundamental problem, but in a somewhat roundabout way. After all, it boils down to talking about 'what-it-is-like-ness' to describe the difficulties of describing mind in perfectly objective terms. Whereas the way I argue the case is to say that mind is clearly not amenable to empirical disclosure. Which is exactly what behaviourists argued 50 years ago, and what Dennett is arguing now.

    But just because it's not amenable to empirical disclosure can't mean that it isn't real. What Dennett argues, is that what we interpret as subjective experience, is really the result of the unconscious competence of billions of cellular automata that give rise to the illusion of the subject. So, as I quoted in that earlier thread:

    Dennett asks us to turn our backs on what is glaringly obvious—that in consciousness we are immediately aware of real subjective experiences of color, flavor, sound, touch, etc. that cannot be fully described in neural terms even though they have a neural cause (or perhaps have neural as well as experiential aspects). And he asks us to do this because the reality of such phenomena is incompatible with the scientific materialism that in his view sets the outer bounds of reality. He is, in Aristotle’s words, “maintaining a thesis at all costs.” — Thomas Nagel

    So the upshot is, Dennett's work is not simply mistaken, it is drop-dead preposterous. Because of the simple fact that the first-person nature of consciousness is not something amenable to scientific empiricism, then Dennett just has to be able to show that it's unreal, so as to 'maintain his thesis at all costs'. But that does do a service to the community, by throwing the inherent contradictions of Dennett's style of materialism into sharp relief for all to see.

    Except himself.
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    A useful essay to contemplate is Jacques Maritain's criticism of empiricism which lays bare many of the foundational errors in Dennett's worldview.
  • Marchesk
    2.8k
    But just because it's not amenable to empirical disclosure can't mean that it isn't real. What Dennett argues, is that what we interpret as subjective experience, is really the result of the unconscious competence of billions of cellular automata that give rise to the illusion of the subject.Wayfarer

    Dennett's response to Strawson was that of course he doesn't deny consciousness, he's merely denying what certain philosophers make of consciousness. Which sounds good until you take into account the implications, which is that we're conscious in the same way that a philosophical zombie is conscious.

    Paraphrasing:

    "Of course colors, sounds, tastes, dreams, hallucinations, inner dialog, etc. exist. They're just not what they seem to be. They're actually just this physical description of brain activity, or the result of this evolutionary process."

    That sounds rather like elimination to me. So when Dennett says that yes, we're conscious of seeing a red object, he means that the right sort of color discrimination is going on in the brain. But that misses the point.

    If I'm wondering whether a computer program is conscious, I'm not asking about how good it is at discriminating colors. I'm asking whether it has an experience of red, green, etc.

    Similarly, when Siri say it's "Brrrrr, 20 degrees out", I don't suppose that Siri feels cold. But if Siri were a robot that could detect temperature similar to us on it's synthetic skin, then I would wonder whether this was just a function, or actually accompanied by experience.
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    :up:

    That's why the book you refer to was widely derided as 'Consciousness Ignored' :smile:
  • Walter Pound
    199
    I think the only useful way to think about mind (or strictly speaking the rational intellect) is in terms of 'that which interprets meaning'.

    So what is the metaphysical nature of the mind? Is it physical or not?

    What Dennett argues, is that what we interpret as subjective experience, is really the result of the unconscious competence of billions of cellular automata that give rise to the illusion of the subject.Wayfarer

    So he sounds like a nominalist.


    Dennett asks us to turn our backs on what is glaringly obvious—that in consciousness we are immediately aware of real subjective experiences

    If dennett is a nominalist, then he will not deny that there are experiences, but he will instead argue that there is no self behind those experiences.
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    I think the only useful way to think about mind (or strictly speaking the rational intellect) is in terms of 'that which interprets meaning'.

    So what is the metaphysical nature of the mind? Is it physical or not?
    Walter Pound

    Continuing along those lines - if mind is what grasps meaning, then what is it grasping? What is your theory of meaning? Obviously it’s a very broad question, but the sorts of disciplines that consider it include semiotics, linguistics, and philosophy - none of which are obviously connected to the study of the physical.

    Me, I don’t think that logic (or maths for that matter) can be explained or understood in physicalist terms. Why? Because in order to begin to even define what constitutes ‘the physical’, requires logical inference — ‘this means that’, ‘because of this then that must be the case’, and so on. And that solely comprises the relationship of ideas. We have to be able to grasp relationships like ‘more than’, ‘equal to’, ‘less than’, even to begin to define what is physical. That is all basic to rational thought. Physicalism wants to say that this can be accounted for in terms of neurobiology, but try putting logic aside and then doing neurobiology. I think you would find there are some thoughts you just can’t get outside of.
  • Marchesk
    2.8k
    Continuing along those lines - if mind is what grasps meaning, then what is it grasping?Wayfarer

    That language makes me squirm a bit. Grasping is a metaphor. It makes it sound like the mind is an animal reaching out to concepts.
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    That’s the best you got? Isn’t this a ‘philosophy forum’? I mean, what’s the point of talking philosophy with The Hulk?
  • Marchesk
    2.8k
    That’s the best you got? Isn’t this a ‘philosophy forum’? I mean, what’s the point of talking philosophy with The Hulk?Wayfarer

    Do you think it's possible for metaphors to be misleading?
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    I, personally, coined the lovely expression ‘rogue metaphor’ here on this very forum. But nobody noticed. :sad:
  • Marchesk
    2.8k
    I, personally, coined the lovely expression ‘rogue metaphor’ here on this very forum. But nobody noticedWayfarer

    Do you have an example of a rogue metaphor?
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    the selfish gene springs to mind, but when you think about it, examples multiply.
  • Marchesk
    2.8k
    the selfish gene springs to mind, but when you think about it, examples multiply.Wayfarer

    The selfish gene evolving the meme machine producing the intuition pump, including multiple drafts, but no theater.
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    And here’s the mother of all rogue metaphors:

    It may be metaphorically said that Natural Selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, and adding up all that are good; silently and insensibly working whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being.”

    Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1876 ed., 68-69, emphasis added

    So here you have something, admittedly posited as ‘a metaphor’, which then assumes an absolutely central role in the process which is central to the entire theory, and which is central to all Dennet’s work. But it begs the question of what the metaphor is for.
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    Because it is assumed in all naturalistic accounts that there is no agency at work, and yet in the above, the metaphor is precisely one of agency, something that acts. This is the subtle duplicity at the heart of evolutionary biology qua philosophy.
  • jamalrob
    2k
    what the metaphor is forWayfarer

    To help people understand natural selection: it is as if there were a breeder selecting suitable variations.

    Because it is assumed in all naturalistic accounts that there is no agency at work, and yet in the above, the metaphor is precisely one of agency, something that acts. This is the subtle duplicity at the heart of evolutionary biology qua philosophy.Wayfarer

    How is it duplicity if it's explicitly metaphorical?

    EDIT: sorry @Marchesk, this is off-topic
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    Maritain nails it:

    what empiricism speaks of and describes as sense-knowledge is not exactly sense-knowledge, but sense-knowledge plus unconsciously introduced intellective ingredients -- sense-knowledge in which the empiricist has made room for reason without recognizing it. A confusion which comes about all the more easily as, on the one hand, the senses are, in actual fact, more or less permeated with reason in man, and, on the other, the merely sensory psychology of animals, especially of the higher vertebrates, goes very far in its own realm and imitates intellectual knowledge to a considerable extent.
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    How is it duplicity, if it’s explicitly metaphorical?jamalrob

    But it becomes implicit, assumed. It’s a sleight of hand. It’s as if nature is a guiding intelligence, just like you-know-what. But it’s actually not the act of an agency, because all there actually is, is the ‘struggle for life’, growth, inheritance, variability and so on. But by introducing the metaphor of agency, Darwin treats selection as an agency, a veritable deity - which is exactly how it appears to us nowadays. People speak of the amazing things that evolution does, but evolution doesn’t *do* anything. It is a process, not an agency, but in the popular imagination, has assumed the attributes of venerable deity.

    And it’s not off-topic because Daniel Dennett’s writing is based on just this.
  • jamalrob
    2k
    Darwin explicitly uses it as a metaphor. I can't see in what way he treats it as a deity. On the contrary.

    Otherwise, you seem to be railing against the popular conception of evolution. I agree that people get it wrong, but in my experience they don't seem to misunderstand it in the way you describe, and in any case I don't see how such misunderstandings are caused by a metaphor.

    EDIT: By far the worst popular misunderstandings of evolution are: evolution as a ladder leading to humans (which predates Darwin), and the related idea that e.g., humans evolved from chimpanzees
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    As an agency. And the issue of agency is central to the philosophical issue. I’m railing against the author of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, who is the subject of the thread. Pick at one thread and the whole tapestry unravels.
  • StreetlightX
    3.8k
    This is a dumb criticism. When I say "wow he looks like a leather handbag from all that sun", the metaphor - or simile, in this case - only extends to the look of skin, and not to the fact that handbags carry things. It's as if one were to reply "I don't think you can put things in him" - well, no, but then, the idiot here isn't the one making the metaphor.
  • frank
    2.8k
    And it’s not off-topic because Daniel Dennett’s writing is based on just this.Wayfarer

    Maybe a little. If color didn't exist prior to evolution, did smoothess? What about spacial dimensions? Time? Is there some part of our experience that didn't come into existence with evolution? If so, which part?

    If experience in general came into existence as a survival mechanism (which is a dubious concept), then it would appear that evolution made the world that evolution took place in. I'm sure this has to be a strawman.
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    Dennett's whole life-work is based on the idea that consciousness is the illusory by-product of unconscious cellular automata, orchestrated by the 'algorithm' of 'Darwin's dangerous idea' to form themselves into apparent beings including ourselves.

    Dennett, in one of his characteristic remarks, assures us that “through the microscope of molecular biology, we get to witness the birth of agency, in the first macromolecules that have enough complexity to ‘do things.’ ... There is something alien and vaguely repellent about the quasi-agency we discover at this level — all that purposive hustle and bustle, and yet there’s nobody home.” Then, after describing a marvelous bit of highly organized and seemingly meaningful biological activity, he concludes:

    Love it or hate it, phenomena like this exhibit the heart of the power of the Darwinian idea. An impersonal, unreflective, robotic, mindless little scrap of molecular machinery is the ultimate basis of all the agency, and hence meaning, and hence consciousness, in the universe.

    Daniel Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), 202-3. Quoted by Steve Talbott, Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness, New Atlantis.

    The reason I single Dennett out, is exactly because this is not a 'straw man argument', i.e. he really believes it.
  • frank
    2.8k
    Surely he's not suggesting that. His story has to account for the epistemic engine implied by the title of the book.
  • SteveKlinko
    383
    I was at the bookstore and saw Daniel Dennett's 1991 book, Consciousness Explained. Having a few minutes, I turned to the chapter and read his account of colors.

    Dennett states that prior to evolution, it's a mistake to think of the world as being colored in any way that we experience color. Rather, color evolved as a coevolutionary coding scheme between plants and animals. Flowers guide insects to nectar using a color scheme, just as fruits guide mammals to spreading their seeds. Of course the actual evolutionary account is going to be a lot more complex, but those two examples suffice.

    As such, color is the result of animals who evolved the means to detect the visual coding scheme of other organism, depending on the species needs. Dennett says that nature doesn't produce epistemic engines, rather it produces creatures who perceive the world according to their "narcissistic" needs. This goes for the other sensor modalities as well.

    Therefore, the scientific account of color is going to be a complex explanation of the coding scheme in question, such as the trichromatic colors humans see that we call visible light.

    This raises several questions/issues for me.

    1. Does it dissolve the hard problem of consciousness by providing a scientific explanation for colors, sounds, smells, etc?

    2. Does this entail that direct perception is false, being that secondary qualities (color, taste, etc.) are not properties of things themselves, but rather coding schemes that relate to the chemical makeup of sugar or reflective surfaces of leaves (using the two examples above)?

    3. We know that color experience is produced after the visual cortex is stimulated. This can the result of perception, memory, imagination, dream, magnetic cranial stimulation, etc. If a person's visual cortex is damaged enough, they lose all ability to have color experiences, including being able to remember colors. It's hard to avoid concluding that color experiences are generated by the brain. But that sounds like the makings of a cartesian theater, which Dennett has spent his career tearing down.
    Marchesk

    The Hard Problem would be solved if there really was a Scientific explanation for Color. Science has known for a hundred years that when we experience Color that certain Neurons Fire. But Science has no Explanation for the Experience that we have when those Neurons Fire. That is the Hard Problem. Saying things like Secondary Qualities and Coding Schemes explain nothing. The Hard Problem lives on.
  • Mattiesse
    20
    It is thought that the reason we humans see a much larger range of colours is so we can tell the difference between edible and poisonous plants, fruit and vegetables.
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