• simeonz
    56
    It’s kinda hard to imagine such slow responses would be influenced by mental states. Unless, the being experiences time really fast. But, how would experience time fast with such a slow brain. Having a slow brain doesn’t seem to make time go fast. So, I think it’s more plausible to think that the being is simply not conscious.TheHedoMinimalist
    It may or may not be relevant, depending on your angle here, but from a physics standpoint, processes do not recognize an absolute measure of time. Real time is not a concept for the current theories.

    Now, I could not contend whether, if the environment operates at a normal pace, but the peripheral or central nervous systems slow down, the subject might feel being in a haze or slowing. However, if the environment stimuli slowed down together with the entire nervous system, I do not see how the subject would notice any difference. And in my thought experiment, the stimuli are artificially slowed down in their arrival to the brain - as if reality slows down together with the cognitive and perceptual functions.

    And lastly, I do not think that the pace of thinking is the right criteria for consciousness. Reacting fast is common for insects and animals. I realize that their instincts are wired to transpire faster, but the information is still handled rapidly, and yet, it does not make them as sentient as we are.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    166
    If you ran into one, do you think you would owe it an apology?Wayfarer

    Did I say that I believe that self-driving cars can be upset about me running into them? I wouldn’t apologize if I ran into a fish in the water. This doesn’t mean that fish aren’t conscious.
  • simeonz
    56
    Do we hope that this society replaces its vague binary (automotive/non-automotive) with an unbounded spectrum, and stops worrying about whether automotivity is achieved in any particular vehicle that it builds, because everything is guaranteed automotive in some degree?bongo fury
    I believe that you are claiming some ontological basis for placing human beings (or at least human organisms) in a distinct category here. There are physical hypotheses for this, e.g. the quantum mind. Or it could be a transcendental assumption, which is generally fine, but speaking in the context of my original question, this would not be acceptable for an eliminative materialist.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    166
    Now, I could not contend whether, if the environment operates at a normal pace, but the peripheral or central nervous systems slow down, the subject might feel being in a haze or slowing. However, if the environment stimuli slowed down together with the entire nervous system, I do not see how the subject would notice any difference. And in my thought experiment, the stimuli are artificially slowed down in their arrival to the brain - as if reality slows down together with the cognitive and perceptual functions.simeonz

    I had just thought about a different concern about the thought experiment. While physics doesn’t recognize absolute time, time is relevant to their study since it could impact the laws of physics. For example, humans can only survive for about 80 human years. How long could the giant being survive in human years? Unless their larger size would imply a much larger life span in human years than the normal human lifespan, they might die before they experience anything. I suppose you could imagine a hypothetical immortal giant being, but I think the conditions of the thought experiment would have to be pretty outlandish for there to even be a possibility of consciousness. It’s hard for me to comment on consciousness in a scenario which is so alien to me. Either way, I’m skeptical that this thought experiment would imply that ecosystems or social systems might have mental activity.
  • simeonz
    56
    But he doesn't, really. He says we appear to be subjects, but the appearance of subjectivity is, in reality, the sum of millions of mindless processes.Wayfarer
    You know his propositions better, but isn't he implying that we are self-aware by construction, and not intrinsically?

    Some free will arguments have a similar logical issue. To me at least, the distinction between influencing your own decisions and being compelled by nature seems artificial. If you are an eliminative materialist or pantheist, you already manifest as part of nature, and therefore you would be acting as compelled by yourself. Similarly, in the case of self-awareness - how can you be tricked by yourself (your biological embodiment) into believing that you are yourself (a person), while you are in fact yourself (your biological embodiment). If your embodiment is completely coextent with you, and you are equivalent, how can you be not yourself. Or why would you be considered any more mechanical then your embodiment conscious?
  • simeonz
    56
    For example, humans can only survive for about 80 human years. How long could the giant being survive in human years?TheHedoMinimalist
    Actually, you can switch the participants as many times as you want, as long as they keep notes of their neuronal state and pass them to their replacement.

    It’s hard for me to comment on consciousness in a scenario which is so alien to me. Either way, I’m skeptical that this thought experiment would imply that ecosystems or social systems might have mental activity.TheHedoMinimalist
    I am not claiming soundness, only the following implication - that if machines can develop mental state, and since we can build machines out of people, it follows that mental states can be composited from other mental states with separate experiences. This would apply in the context of eliminative materialism, panpsychism, functionalism, etc. Although, I fail to distinguish those very well.

    In any case, I am not forcing a statement. Everyone has the right to reserve their judgement.
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    If your embodiment is completely coextent with you, and you are equivalent, how can you be not yourself. Or why would you be considered any more mechanical then your embodiment conscious?simeonz

    Ask yourself this question - what does eliminative materialism eliminate? Unless you want to beat around the bush, the answer is one word: mind. The word ‘mind’ doesn’t correspond to anything real: what we take to be ‘mind’ is simply the snap, crackle and pop of billions of neural connections programmed by Darwinian algorithms for the sole purpose of propagation of the genome. That’s all there is to it.
  • bongo fury
    103
    The twist in the Chinese room, I guess, is to reveal a human (Searle) who is then revealed to be, in relation to the outer behaviour of the creature, a mere machine himself.
    — bongo fury

    I’m not really understanding how this twist is relevant.
    TheHedoMinimalist

    It brings out how processing of meaningful symbols by a machine may be no more meaningful for the machine than processing of any other materials. Even a component of the machine obviously capable of attaching meaning to certain (e.g. English) symbols might be oblivious as to any meaning attaching (for others present) to other (e.g. Chinese) symbols in its possession. It brings out how symbolic processing may be merely syntactic and not semantic. Devoid of understanding. Unconscious.

    The Chinese AI would have to be programmed to know how to learn Chinese instead through interactions with Chinese speakers because it’s impossible to simply hard code the knowledge of Chinese into the AI.TheHedoMinimalist

    Yes, putting the thought experiment on a more realistic footing could suggest conditions under which we might expect genuine semantic processing to occur. Searle would insist on interactions with Chinese speakers and the environment spoken of... so that the alleged added semantics needn't turn out to be just more syntax.

    But I actually think that being able to follow very complicated instructions would also require consciousness.TheHedoMinimalist

    But my PC fits that requirement?! But I forget, you are happy to attribute consciousness in such a case. :gasp:

    Just as the human in the thought experiment cannot follow his instructions without mentally understanding them,TheHedoMinimalist

    But remember that a premise (not necessarily realistic) of the thought experiment is that his understanding is purely of the syntax, so any mental aspect to it is surplus to requirements.

    Well, I actually don’t consider cars to be autonomous or having consciousness as a whole.TheHedoMinimalist

    Nor did I, nor did the post-apocalypse society. We (I and they) consider them to be "automobiles"... whatever that means - which (what that means) was meant to be the problem analogous to that of "consciousness". But maybe that word is too dated to work, and too easily confused with the more up to date problem of the consciousness (or otherwise) of self-driving cars. Which is just the problem of the consciousness of any AI. So I may need a different analogy.

    If the post-apocalyptic world had self-driving cars, how would the reductionist sages of that world explain them in terms of simpler mechanical processes?TheHedoMinimalist

    If you're talking about AI and consciousness directly and not my analogy of "automotivity" then I guess my answer would be the same as previously: their explanation is too bland and uninformative.

    I believe that you are claiming some ontological basis for placing human beings (or at least human organisms) in a distinct category here.simeonz

    Again, apparently my analogy mis-fired. No metaphysics intended. Only trying to save "conscious/non-conscious" as a vague binary.

    The analogy was, "when does a vehicle become truly automotive i.e. a true automobile?".
  • whollyrolling
    427
    By saying Ontological Eliminative Materialism you're admitting that the notion of being philosophical is a vice for you. No one talks like that in real life. It's just as dysfunctional as being in love with the idea of being in love.
  • RogueAI
    78
    Materialism's inability to explain how consciousness can arise from matter is catastrophic, imo. Every materialist explanation for consciousness I've seen has either been absurd or eventually leads to an absurdity.
  • RogueAI
    78


    "Ask yourself this question - what does eliminative materialism eliminate? Unless you want to beat around the bush, the answer is one word: mind. The word ‘mind’ doesn’t correspond to anything real: what we take to be ‘mind’ is simply the snap, crackle and pop of billions of neural connections programmed by Darwinian algorithms for the sole purpose of propagation of the genome. That’s all there is to it."


    That is one of the absurdities I was talking about. Denying the existence/reality of minds or conscious experience is a losing move from the start. There are very few things I can be completely sure about, but here are two: I'm not mindless, and I have conscious experience. I can't be mistaken about that.

    I've met materialists who have insisted they were p-zombies. That's how crazy it can get.
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    There are very few things I can be completely sure about, but here are two: I'm not mindless, and I have conscious experience. I can't be mistaken about that.RogueAI

    Of course, I agree. Here is a snippet from Thomas Nagel's review of Dennett's most recent book.

    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

    I think the interesting question is: why is this taken seriously? Why is it considered a philosophical argument?

    //ps// a non-paywalled review here. Likewise notes:

    Dennett’s first book, Content and Consciousness, was published in 1969. At the time it was ground-breaking. I can remember suggesting it to a graduate reading group in the early 1970s. “It’s jolly interesting”, said one of the group, “but is it philosophy?”

    To which my answer is, emphatically not. It turns the rhetorical techniques and lexicon of philosophy against philosophy, and tries to show that humans are instead machines, automatons, or robots. //
  • RogueAI
    78


    "I think the interesting question is: why is this taken seriously? Why is it considered a philosophical argument?"

    I think things like "consciousness is an illusion/consciousness doesn't exist" are taken seriously because people are emotionally invested in a materialistic model of reality and don't want to give it up.

    Also, if materialism isn't true, then some type of dualism or idealism is true, and that has very profound implications. Maybe people don't want to go there.
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    :up: My view also.
  • simeonz
    56
    The analogy was, "when does a vehicle become truly automotive i.e. a true automobile?".bongo fury
    I see now. First, let's agree that a vehicle and a vessel have some similarities, such as that they carry cargo and passengers. Of course, their method of transportation differs. Let's say that this aspect is fundamental for the purposes of the analogy. Then, for me at least, a human brain is to an insect brain, or to a plant's perception, more like a ship is to a boat, or a raft. A vehicle and a vessel would compare (in the sense that they are considered functionally different here), more like a person's brain compares to a person's leg. The gradual boundary between the two would be difficult to define indeed.

    That said, I must agree to some extent. The spectrum of sentient qualities may have a sharp slope at some point. Even with a lot of structural complexity. I do not consider this likely - sophisticated information processing structure suddenly being vastly less aware when compared to a somewhat more complex different one. But I cannot fully disregard the possibility.
  • simeonz
    56
    Ask yourself this question - what does eliminative materialism eliminate?Wayfarer
    I thought, the mind-body dualism. Which I believe they refer to (obviously disparagingly) as the "common-sense" mind. But not the entire experience of life as such.

    The word ‘mind’ doesn’t correspond to anything real: what we take to be ‘mind’ is simply the snap, crackle and pop of billions of neural connections programmed by Darwinian algorithms for the sole purpose of propagation of the genome. That’s all there is to it.Wayfarer
    If the mind is co-extent with its embodiment's behavior, how can it not be real. (Not that I personally claim that the mind coincides with its embodiment, necessarily.) If the person is metaphysical solipsisist, it wouldn't be real. But then he wouldn't be eliminative materialist at the same time.

    This quote from Quine (lamely borrowed by me from Wikipedia) actually describes my attitude towards the eliminination exactly:
    Is physicalism a repudiation of mental objects after all, or a theory of them? Does it repudiate the mental state of pain or anger in favor of its physical concomitant, or does it identify the mental state with a state of the physical organism (and so a state of the physical organism with the mental state)?

    And the text following right after that (Wikipedia's own narrative) also presents my objection to the possibility of complete elimination, such as not just the elimination of the dualism aspect:
    On the other hand, the same philosophers also claimed that common-sense mental states simply do not exist. But critics pointed out that eliminativists could not have it both ways: either mental states exist and will ultimately be explained in terms of lower-level neurophysiological processes or they do not.

    The Wikipedia article then confirms your observations:
    Modern eliminativists have much more clearly expressed the view that mental phenomena simply do not exist and will eventually be eliminated from people's thinking about the brain in the same way that demons have been eliminated from people's thinking about mental illness and psychopathology.
    , which then refers to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy here, where the following statement is made:
    Given these two different conceptions, early eliminativists would sometimes offer two different characterizations of their view: (a) There are no mental states, just brain states and, (b) There really are mental states, but they are just brain states (and we will come to view them that way).
    I still cannot fathom the nuance here. Isn't this just a re-phrasal with a different attitude. Unless the first group denies experience and existence. But I doubt it.

    Let me inquire this - if eliminative materialists demote human beings, then what about functionalists or pantheists? I don't see how any non-dualist position would be different. Alternatively, which position would assert that we experience, such as through our mind, except that our mind is the same as our brain (co-extent with it, and has material nature)?

    Again, I think that the mere existence of consciousness should not be considered at the same time as questions about the mind-body duality, the nature of the subjective, how free will manifests, the essential vs existential attitude to purpose in life, etc. I think that eliminative materialists recognize freedom and experience. They simply claim that freedom manifests (to a narrow extent) exactly due to our bodies, whereas other positions claim that it manifests despite of our bodies.

    Otherwise, if they deny their existence ("I think, therefore I am not"), despite me being liberal as I am, I agree that their position would be confusing.
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    Modern eliminativists have much more clearly expressed the view that mental phenomena simply do not exist and will eventually be eliminated from people's thinking about the brain in the same way that demons have been eliminated from people's thinking about mental illness and psychopathology.

    Demons haven’t been eliminated at all. They’ve just morphed into mass shooters and terrorists and crack dealers. Their medieval depiction simply reflected the popular imagination of the culture of the day.

    There are no mental states, just brain states

    Notice something here. 'Mental states = brain states'. Now, I ask you, what kind of physical object is '='? Where in the physical world, where in nature, do you find anything at all remotely resembling "="? You won't find it, because it relies on abstraction, on assigning values to things, and then saying that ‘this means that, therefore this equals that.’

    What kind of 'brain state' could equal 'equal'? And how would you go about finding that out? Even to ask the question, you have to make a lot of judgements about neural images and incredibly complex data - the brain being the most complex thing known to science. And so on. 'See, this area here, we think that this is the part that processes language' (or whatever). But all of this is highly reliant on abstraction and reasoned inference. And how can you explain those capacities in terms of 'brain states', without actually using the very capacities that you're trying to explain, and thereby begging the question?

    Really you should realise this is a massive dead end, this eliminativism. The very best thing they could eliminate is their project. :smile:
  • Mww
    994


    A sort of logical desperation on both sides: the materialist insists the brain is the source of the illusion of subjective experience because both reside between the ears but only the brain can be found there, and the non-solipsistic idealist insists any illusion that appears so real must be treated as real enough to warrant the preemptive significance no one is actually foolish enough to deny.

    Both are met with impossible circumstance: the one cannot prove with apodeictic certainty the mind is nothing but illusion, and the other cannot prove its apodeitically certain reality, so they both fall back on insisting they don’t have to.

    All of which raises the question......what good is it when science eliminates the free thinker?
  • Coben
    770
    Modern eliminativists have much more clearly expressed the view that mental phenomena simply do not exist and will eventually be eliminated from people's thinking about the brain in the same way that demons have been eliminated from people's thinking about mental illness and psychopathology.

    There will be nothing to notice this, if they are right. IOW brains will be affected, but there wll be no subjective experience of 'oh, they were right, we no longer think about those mental states.'
  • bongo fury
    103
    The analogy was, "when does a vehicle become truly automotive i.e. a true automobile?".
    — bongo fury
    I see now. First, let's agree that a vehicle and a vessel have some similarities, such as that they carry cargo and passengers. Of course, their method of transportation differs. Let's say that this aspect is fundamental for the purposes of the analogy.
    simeonz

    Ah, thanks for trying to get on board with my rickety analogy. But no, that difference is a red herring, or misunderstanding. I did say (although mention of horse-drawn in that sentence may have muddied things) sail-powered vehicles, not vessels. I appreciate sail-powered vehicles never were a common sight on the road, but in my story they are the nearest that the society has come to building their own cars - which they have inherited, ready-built, in plenty. So my point is the same as yours when you suggest,

    Then, for me at least, a human brain is to an insect brain, or to a plant's perception, more like a ship is to a boat, or a raft.simeonz

    Yes!... if you mean motor-ship. Then that's parallel, because I was equating the human/insect comparison to the automobile/sail-powered go-cart comparison. But there was no vehicle/vessel comparison for me.

    One could re-tell it as being about both (or either) vehicles and vessels, except there isn't a ready-made extension of "automobile" for that purpose (that I can think of, although there could have been).

    That said, I must agree to some extent. The spectrum of sentient qualities may have a sharp slope at some point. Even with a lot of structural complexity. I do not consider this likely - sophisticated information processing structure suddenly being vastly less aware when compared to a somewhat more complex different one. But I cannot fully disregard the possibility.simeonz

    Yes, a tempting compromise! My sharp slope, parallel to the progression from top-notch sailing to motorisation, is the journey from chimp or dog to human: from ability to follow the pointing of sticks or balls at targets to the ability to follow the (usually not actual) pointing of words or pictures at targets.

    Any interest shown in this positive matter and I'll happily roll over and tolerate what strike me as more or less unacceptable consequences of an unbounded spectrum... e.g. conscious phones, insects etc. at one end, and literal talk of mental pictures, concepts, beliefs etc. at the other.
  • RogueAI
    78
    Suppose we developed a machine that zaps your qualia away. You'll still function the same but just without any conscious experience.

    Would eliminative materialists actually use such a machine? Even if you paid them a lot of money? Or would they view it, as I do, as the equivalent of death? I think, when push comes to shove, you'd have to drag them to it, kicking an screaming.
  • simeonz
    56
    Notice something here. 'Mental states = brain states'. Now, I ask you, what kind of physical object is '='? Where in the physical world, where in nature, do you find anything at all remotely resembling "="? You won't find it, because it relies on abstraction, on assigning values to things, and then saying that ‘this means that, therefore this equals that.’Wayfarer
    I fear that the scope of the discussion will broaden dangerously, if we include epistemology into the mix. My personal opinion, assuming a materialist point of view - equality can be considered a mostly evolutionary cerebral construct, supporting our ability to forecast and infer conditions in our environment, made possible by the local reproducibility of the natural patterns on a global scale of space and time.

    What kind of 'brain state' could equal 'equal'? And how would you go about finding that out? Even to ask the question, you have to make a lot of judgements about neural images and incredibly complex data - the brain being the most complex thing known to science.Wayfarer
    For me, this does yet falsify eliminative materialism, but makes it a theory that awaits further judgement. Isn't that true for most of philosophy?

    .
  • simeonz
    56
    Any interest shown in this positive matter and I'll happily roll over and tolerate what strike me as more or less unacceptable consequences of an unbounded spectrum... e.g. conscious phones, insects etc. at one end, and literal talk of mental pictures, concepts, beliefs etc. at the other.bongo fury
    To me - those are not logically unacceptable consequences. I feel obligated to stoically allow their consideration. The only thing I claim at the moment is that neither possibility appears fallacious. I make some speculations, but primarily in order to expand on their logical content.
  • simeonz
    56
    Suppose we developed a machine that zaps your qualia away. You'll still function the same but just without any conscious experience.RogueAI
    If you are eliminative materialist, you do not admit the possibility of zapping the qualia away. The closest thing you would have to that is harming your body. Since the eliminativist does not believe in a transcendent mind, you can only suppress their qualia by killing them.
    Would eliminative materialists actually use such a machine? Even if you paid them a lot of money? Or would they view it, as I do, as the equivalent of death? I think, when push comes to shove, you'd have to drag them to it, kicking an screaming.RogueAI
    The assumption that there is such a machine, already renders the eliminative materialism wrong, which voids the question. If you are asking, if they would take the chance, without knowing - this will be like like a "sell me your soul for a dollar" type of child prank. Some people would refuse on a principle.
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    I fear that the scope of the discussion will broaden dangerously, if we include epistemology into the mix.simeonz

    How can it NOT include epistemology? It concerns something fundamental to the nature of knowledge.

    equality can be considered a mostly evolutionary cerebral construct, supporting our ability to forecast and infer conditions in our environment,simeonz

    As most people would instinctively say, our cognition is shaped by evolution so as to maximize our reproductive ability. But this is simply one of the dogmas of evolutionary materialism which seeks to understand every human ability in terms of evolutionary fitness. The problem with that - this might come as a shock, so brace yourself - is that evolutionary biology is not actually a philosophical doctrine at all, but a biological theory which purports to explain the phenomenon of speciation. The fact that it is so widely and casually wielded as a 'theory of everything' doesn't legitimize it. (This is the thrust of Thomas Nagel's 2012 book, Mind and Cosmos and also his earlier essay, Evolutionary Naturalism and the Fear of Religion, published in the book The Last Word.)

    Besides, for there even to be a 'theory of evolution', science already has to rely on the capacity to make rational inferences, to say that 'because of this, then that must be the case'. That is fundamental to the faculty of reason and speech. And to explain that as a matter of adaptation, to say that such capacities are only trustworthy as the by-product of biology, is already to reduce reason to mere utilitarianism. Of course, modern culture does that so readily that it's almost impossible to notice.


    For me, this does yet falsify eliminative materialism, but makes it a theory that awaits further judgement. Isn't that true for most of philosophy?simeonz

    Most philosophy will never and can never be validated in terms that will satisfy modern science, as in their criteria for success are incommensurable.
  • simeonz
    56
    Eliminative materialism cannot prove some forms of dualism or idealism wrong even in principle. But the same applies vice versa. At this point it becomes a question of faith and not of logic, and as such, it is not a subject of consensus.
  • simeonz
    56
    Both are met with impossible circumstance: the one cannot prove with apodeictic certainty the mind is nothing but illusion, and the other cannot prove its apodeitically certain reality, so they both fall back on insisting they don’t have to.Mww
    I generally agree with the attitude of the statement, but wanted to remark, that some positions have assumptions that could actually be falsified experimentally. At least to the extent to which experimental information can be trusted. Some could even be considered logically inconsistent. Some of them, indeed, cannot be distinguished through consensus observations. And I personally cannot distinguish some even conceptually. It is a separate issue, that a position can be adapted to a new variant in order to survive a striking blow.

    In summary - the differences are not always completely immaterial. For example, a dualistic free will theory would confront a materialistic one on the basis of what is physically possible. Idealism and materialism might be compatible as a practical matter, but mostly to the extent to which the former is skeptical.
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    At this point it becomes a question of faith and not of logicsimeonz

    If you think that 'knowing you're alive' is a matter of faith then there's something the matter with your logic. :wink:
  • simeonz
    56
    If you think that 'knowing you're alive' is a matter of faith then there's something the matter with your logic. :wink:Wayfarer
    This assumes that life can only be realized with a mind-body distinction. That is, that the material world is not capable of being the realization of consciousness.

    With the risk of sounding annoying, I will ask once more. Assuming one is coming from a solipsist attitude, what position states that the mind is capable of completely witnessing its own operation and construction (and ultimate demise), in a manner which appears more extrinsic (through physical sensation, and not emotion), but is ultimately just another perception of the mind by itself, as it also relates to other minds and substances from which those minds emerge, as they exist together in a comprehensive orderly fashion (order, that we conceptualize as nature)?

    PS: And how is this different from what eliminative materialists essentially claim?
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