• StreetlightX
    4.3k
    This discussion was created with comments split from How important is (a)theism to your philosophy?
  • frank
    3.7k
    I just don't understand. Felt what is it like-ness? First person? Guess I just don't experience it like that.fdrake

    I was referencing the 'what it's like to be a bat.'

    Yes, first person.
  • fdrake
    2.8k
    I was referencing the 'what its like to be a bat.'frank

    I've read the essay, I just don't experience things like that. I've never felt like there's something which it is like to be me. How the hell am I supposed to tell? It's all so damn fleeting.
  • frank
    3.7k
    I've read the essay, I just don't experience things like that. I've never felt like there's something which it is like to be me. How the hell am I supposed to tell? It's all so damn fleeting.fdrake

    Put your feet on the floor and just sit and feel your feet.
  • fdrake
    2.8k
    Too reductionist...?Isaac

    Not when the amygdala and prefrontal cortex are influenced by socialisation, childhood environment... I think, anyway.
  • fdrake
    2.8k
    Put your feet on the floor and just sit and feel your feet.frank

    That's my feet. That's not me.
  • frank
    3.7k
    That's my feet. That's not me.fdrake

    Did you do it?
  • Isaac
    1.6k
    That there is a "what it's like" aspect to consciousness is plain.frank

    Right, this really bugs me (sorry to pick on you Frank, it could have been anyone). Is it just a failure of my imagination, but I can't think what an answer to this could possibly be.

    If I ask "what is that lemon cake like?", I might get one of a number of possible interpretations of 'like'.

    1. Similar to - "it's 'like' an ordinary sponge but more lemony"
    2. Metaphorical - "it's like jumping into a bath of lemons"
    3. Emotional/judgemental - "it's lovely"
    4. Sensate - "it's lemon-flavoured"

    I can't think which of these could possibly answer questions like "what is it like to be... ". Yet the phrase is pretty much standard in discussions about consciousness.

    If you think either science or philosophy could investigate such a question, what could the answer possibly consist of?
  • fdrake
    2.8k
    Did you do it?frank

    Yes. Well, no. What I actually did was I figured that if there was a what it's like to be me, it would be the same if I focussed on my ass where I'm sitting, and the sensations in my feet wouldn't matter for demonstrating the specificity of the phenomenon to me, but no, there wasn't a what it's like to be me.
  • frank
    3.7k
    "You" is a concept. I was asking you to drop out of concepts and feel. You can do it.
  • fdrake
    2.8k


    I can't, impossible.
  • frank
    3.7k
    If you think either science or philosophy could investigate such a question, what could the answer possibly consist in.Isaac

    Chalmers suggested that a way to start would be to add the concept of first person experience to the scientific tool box (in the same way gravity was added, as something we know about but haven't explained yet.)
  • frank
    3.7k
    I can't, impossiblefdrake

    Ok.
  • fdrake
    2.8k


    I really don't understand you. To my reckoning, there are these weird people who picked up a way of describing bizarre altered states of activity from a book, and I never understand what they're talking about. They always say "but what's it like to be you" or "what's it like to be a bat?" and things like that. As if they can literally feel it. I don't think very highly of their self awareness, they seem to be replacing their experiences with a description of their experiences. If they payed more attention, they'd see a flux with some continuity in it, and a persistent history that is accessed through memory, and some aspirations and anticipations, but a feeling of themselves as distinct from their sensory capabilities and self attending bodily processes? Madness! Madness I say. It's a cult, a cult!
  • Isaac
    1.6k
    Chalmers suggested that a way to start would be to add the concept of first person experience to the scientific tool box (in the same way gravity was added, as something we know about but haven't explained yet.)frank

    Have a look back at @fdrake's earlier posts here. Science already does include the concept of first person experience, the whole of cognitive science is based on it.
  • frank
    3.7k
    You aren't listening.

    Have a look back at fdrake's earlier posts here. Science already does include the concept of first person experience, the whole of cognitive science is based on it.Isaac

    Neuroscientists confirm that their research doesn't go beyond functions of consciousness.
  • fdrake
    2.8k
    You aren't listening.frank

    No u! How dare you doubt the arbitrary conceptual structure imposed upon my first person experiences which is then retroactively equated with them!
  • frank
    3.7k
    I thought you said it was impossible to be aware without a concept of self.

    Do it and then tell me what's retroactive.
  • fdrake
    2.8k
    I thought you said it was impossible to be aware without a conceptfrank

    Oh I had no idea "what is it like to be X?" was a concept! :yum:

    I'm done trolling now.
  • frank
    3.7k
    Oh.

    Anyway, the notion that we're all p-zombies isn't scientific. It's an odd philosophical view. It's not a cult. It's doesnt have enough adherents for that.
  • Isaac
    1.6k
    Neuroscientists confirm that their research doesn't go beyond functions of consciousness.frank

    What would be "beyond" the function of consciousness?
  • frank
    3.7k
    Experience.
  • Isaac
    1.6k
    Experiencefrank

    But that just goes back to the first person accounts neuroscience uses to correlate its mechanically detected data with. How is that not 'experience'? Science is obviously not going to merely describe experience, it's not journalism. But it definitely takes experience into account, otherwise it would have nothing to correlate brain states with would it?
  • frank
    3.7k
    But that just goes back to the first person accounts neuroscience uses to correlate its mechanically detected data with. How is that not 'experience'?Isaac

    It's awesome that we can correlate conscious states to neuronal activity. That's a first step is developing a theory of consciousness.

    The notion that experience does somehow reduce to functions of consciousness is an interesting speculation, but that's all it is presently.

    Are you familiar with Chalmers' Hard Problem?
  • Isaac
    1.6k
    The notion that experience does somehow reduce to functions of consciousness is an interesting speculation, but that's all it is presently.frank

    No, it's a fairly robust theory. Virtually no one reports experience when in an unconscious state. Levels of reported experience even correlate with levels of consciousness. For example dream reports during lite wave cycle sleep (which is quite deep) are always less vivid that dream reports from REM sleep, which is more conscious.

    People put into various states of coma with anaesthetics report levels of experience which correlate well with the dose of anaesthetic.

    As far as theories go, the idea that experience is related to consciousness is pretty sound.

    Are you familiar with Chalmers' Hard Problem?frank

    Yes. I don't agree it's remotely hard.
  • Pfhorrest
    441
    Do you have some reason for wanting to add some additional constituent (other than brains), that wouldn't also apply to every physical system too complex to describe reductively?Isaac

    Or every physical system at all, as in my physicalist panpsychism described earlier. There is a first person what-its-like experience for everything, and because of that it’s trivial; the “hard problem” is only hard because there is no real problem, so there’s no real answer. The differences between the first-person phenomenal consciousness of different things is the real problem, and that’s philosophically “easy”, it’s just functionalism as an explanation of access consciousness, but the details are a much harder scientific problem.

    Oh and for fdrake and all wondering what this “what it’s like” thing is all about: no amount of studying human sexuality in the third person can tell you what it’s like to have sex. You have to experience it in the first person to know that. Maybe that book learning can help you recreate an accurate first person experience of it, but you still have to then undergo that experience to know what it’s like. That’s all there is to “what it’s like”; nothing deeply ontological about it, but it’s something.
  • Isaac
    1.6k
    no amount of studying human sexuality in the third person can tell you what it’s like to have sex. You have to experience it in the first person to know that. Maybe that book learning can help you recreate an accurate first person experience of it, but you still have to then undergo that experience to know what it’s like. That’s all there is to “what it’s like”; nothing deeply ontological about it, but it’s something.Pfhorrest

    You see, this is the bit I just don't get the support for. It's just like the Colourblind Scientist. If she really did learn all there was to know about Red/sex/whatever, then what grounds have we got for denying that she would then know "what it's like" that aren't themselves question begging.

    We can't simply say "she wouldn't" and expect that to demonstrate anything inductive.
  • Pfhorrest
    441
    My sex example is meant to make more clear what the Colorblind Scientist example is trying to get across. And it’s not so much question-begging as it is defining the thing we’re talking about: “what it’s like to see colors” just means whatever it is that a normally-sighted scientist understands that a colorblind one who can speak all the same third-person facts doesn’t. That doesn’t have to have any ontological implications, I’m a hardcore physicalist myself; it just means that observing someone else undergoing something is different from undergoing it yourself. That should be a trivial truism, neither denied nor held to be of some deep philosophical importance.
  • Isaac
    1.6k
    That doesn’t have to have any ontological implications, I’m a hardcore physicalist myself; it just means that observing someone else undergoing something is different from undergoing it yourself. That should be a trivial truism, neither denied nor held to be of some deep philosophical importance.Pfhorrest

    Yeah, I'm quite happy to agree with that. The Colourblind Scientist experiment though is supposed to demonstrate Mary could not, even in theory, know what seeing Red is like, no matter how much information she had about it. I think that just confuses something we can't conceive with something which isn't the case. You can't really conceive a billion people (this has been demonstrated) it just doesn't seem to be something the human brain can do. Doesn't mean a billion is an impossible number of people.
  • Pfhorrest
    441
    Well I agree that Mary could not know what it’s like to see color no matter how much other information she had. You have to undergo an experience to know what it’s like to have that experience. If that’s not the part you’re agreeing with then I don’t know what you’re agreeing with. I just don’t think that noting the difference between first and third person experiences means anything ontological, it’s the same kind of physical brain undergoing the same physical process whether or not that brain is yours or someone else’s; but it definitely makes a difference in how you experience that process for it to be your brain undergoing it instead of someone else’s.
  • Isaac
    1.6k
    But then you seemed to back away from that, and you argue that though we lack a robust theory, we need not expect a scientific revolution to cover phenomenal experience.frank

    Robustness of a theory is subjective. It's robust enough for me.

    We don't do science by eliminating any path that might turn the world upside down for us. We follow crazy ideas because we're courageous and flexible and amazingly good looking.frank

    No (apart from the good-looking bit, which is true). We don't do science that way. And we don't for a bunch of very good reasons. We start with principles of parsimony and falsifiability. I'm more a Kuhnian than a Popperian, but as general guides when choosing theories to investigate, those are as good as any. Consciousness does not yet need any mystical forces, there's no reason to believe it isn't just something brains do.
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