• wonderer1
    1.8k
    And I didn't know there were people without a stream of consciousness running on in their heads!J

    Not having a linguistic monolog going on in consciousness is not the same as not having a stream of consciousness. In fact, from my perspective it would seem rather impoverished, to be dependent on language for a stream of consciousness. I don't much experience a monolog these days. I used to in the past, and once (over a period of days) I experienced a knock down drag out dialog going on in my head. (Which is a long weird story.)

    I'd guess "visual" might be the best succinct way of trying to convey the nature of my typical stream of consciousness, but it seems far from sufficient as a description.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Happy New Year’s irrespective of ontological stance all the same!javra

    :party: :sparkle: :flower:
  • J
    225

    This would make a fascinating thread -- invite people to describe, as best they can, what their personal "stream" is actually like.
  • Patterner
    672
    In fact, from my perspective it would seem rather impoverished, to be dependent on language for a stream of consciousness.wonderer1
    Same goes for our thinking and communicating. I don't know how to think without it. If someone came up with a way to communicate without it, I suppose I could learn it. But can't imagine what it would be.
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    This would make a fascinating thread -- invite people to describe, as best they can, what their personal "stream" is actually like.J

    Yeah, forget bats. It's challenge enough to understand what it is like to be other people.

    The movie Temple Grandin makes an attempt to convey Temple Grandin's "thinking in pictures", which I guess Grandin herself found to be a worthwhile attempt at a depiction.
  • Gnomon
    3.6k
    The brain produces or is involved in producing neurochemicals, endocrines and so on, but it doesn’t produce numbers or words. Your ontology is simply that because matter is fundamental, the brain is material then it must be the case. — Wayfarer
    I've been asking for some time now, if the brain doesn't produce them, where are they? What material are they made out of? I've clearly pointed out that the brain, which is physical, can retain information, make judgements, etc. This includes numbers.
    Philosophim
    Numbers, and other mental concepts, do indeed seem to be a product of brain activities. Yet the relevant question is not what are they made of, but "How Mind Emerged From Matter", which is the subtitle of Terrence Deacon's masterwork : Incomplete Nature. Another way to express the Hard Problem is : "how does physical activity (neural & endocrinological) result in the meta-physical (mental) functions that we label "Ideas" and "Awareness"? Scientific investigations have explained how physical actions in an internal combustion engine can result in the function we call "Motion" or "Transportation". It's all push & shove of atoms on atoms. Yet, neurons are not spark plugs and hormones are not gasoline. So, what's-pushing-on-what to allow the brain to produce Mental Activity?

    There are other kinds of physical activity (processes) that defy the simple mechanical laws of Newton. Even that genius was baffled by the "function"*1 of Gravity to move atoms without touching them. Einstein later, in a quantum context, called such mysterious activity : "spooky action at a distance". What's spooky about Potential*2 is that it's not mechanical, but geometric ("warped space"). Ironically, saying that mathematical relations can change the shape of the immaterial "fabric" of emptiness (the container of matter) sounds like magic. Yet, modern physicists accept that bizarre notion, because they have no better explanation.

    I'm no Einstein, but I have learned from physicists, such as Paul Davies, and neuroscientist Terrence Deacon, that the Absence of matter can have real-world effects. What these nothings have in common is something similar to mathematical relationships (ratios) that we now know as various forms of In-form-ation. For my thesis, I call the progenitor of all emergent sub-forms in the world : EnFormAction --- the power to transform. When matter changes form, we attribute the cause to Energy. But, like Gravity, we only know what it does physically, not what it is essentially. For scientific purposes, we just label the observation with a noun name, like "Energy", and define it with a verb name, like "Causation". But the essence or quality of the Change Agent is left undefined ; perhaps because to explain it might seem to attribute magical powers to nothingness, contrary to the belief system of determinstic Materialism.

    FWIW, my answer to your question (about the substance of the mind machine), is that mental Functions (Mind/Consciousness/Awareness) are not made of massive Matter, but consists of causal Information (power to transform). Recent scientific investigations have found that Information is much more than the empty entropic vessels of Shannon's definition. Information also is found in material & energetic forms. So, we can infer that all Causation in the world is "made", not of Matter, but of Power/Potency. And the effects of that causal ability on matter is what we call Change. The bottom line of my own approach to Consciousness questions is to propose something more philosophical and less scientific as the fundamental "substance"*3 of the world : cosmic Potential, that Deacon called Teleodynamics*4, or what I call EnFormAction. :smile:


    *1. Function : an activity or purpose natural to or intended for a person or thing.
    Note --- Mind functions are not material objects, but mental subjective processes working toward a future state or purpose.

    *2. Potential :
    a> having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.
    b> latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.
    c> existing in possibility : capable of development into actuality.


    *3. Substance :
    Essence ; in the history of Western philosophy, an entity whose existence is independent of that of all other things, or a potentiality from which or out of which other things are made or in which other things inhere.

    *3. How does Aristotle define substance?
    Contrary to what was said in the Categories and the Physics, Aristotle seems to say that the term “substance” applies most properly not to a compound of matter and form such as an elephant or a vase, but to the Form {logical pattern] that makes that compound the kind of thing it is.

    *4. Teleodynamics :
    Teleodynamics emerges when multiple self-organizing phenomena generate forms (constraints) that serve as the boundary conditions that make the other self-organizing processes possible, resulting in a spontaneous tendency for the self-generation and self-maintenance of the whole.
    https://teleodynamics.org/

  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    :up: Deacon's is one of those books I should get around to reading, although I know enough about him to be open to his approach.

    *3. How does Aristotle define substance?Gnomon

    Again, the word 'substance' came from the Latin translation of the Greek 'ousia', which is a form of the verb 'to be'. It was translated as 'substantia', 'that which stands under' but its further translation of 'substance' in English carries the unfortunate equivocation with the English word 'substance', 'a material with uniform properties', which has a completely different meaning to Aristotle's intent. (Not that I'm a scholar of either ancient Greek or Aristotle, but this is a cardinal issue in understanding philosophy. See this entry.)
  • Patterner
    672
    But, like Gravity, we only know what it does physically, not what it is essentially.Gnomon
    Not arguing for proto-consciousness here. Just pointing out that Brian Greene says something similar. In Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe, he writes:
    If you’re wondering what proto-consciousness really is or how it’s infused into a particle, your curiosity is laudable, but your questions are beyond what Chalmers or anyone else can answer. Despite that, it is helpful to see these questions in context. If you asked me similar questions about mass or electric charge, you would likely go away just as unsatisfied. I don’t know what mass is. I don’t know what electric charge is. What I do know is that mass produces and responds to a gravitational force, and electric charge produces and responds to an electromagnetic force. So while I can’t tell you what these features of particles are, I can tell you what these features do. In the same vein, perhaps researchers will be unable to delineate what proto-consciousness is and yet be successful in developing a theory of what it does—how it produces and responds to consciousness. For gravitational and electromagnetic influences, any concern that substituting action and response for an intrinsic definition amounts to an intellectual sleight of hand is, for most researchers, alleviated by the spectacularly accurate predictions we can extract from our mathematical theories of these two forces. Perhaps we will one day have a mathematical theory of proto-consciousness that can make similarly successful predictions. For now, we don’t.


    Deacon is great. As far as I was able to understand it.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Nowadays, we have the marvellous resource of youtube lectures. I listen whilst working out. Great Brian Greene quote, by the way.
  • Patterner
    672

    I listen to Incomplete Nature, among others, during my commute.
  • Gnomon
    3.6k
    did a good job of answering these materialistic challenges to the Hard Problem, with philosophical argumentation. But scientific evidence carries more weight on this forum. So, I'd like to give it a shot, with a focus on the distinction between Physics and Meta-Physics, as postulated in my own amateur Enformationism thesis. Way may not agree with all of my arguments or evidence. :smile:

    You have to understand, if you accept the hard problem as true, you can NEVER state, "Computers do not have a subjective experience." You don't know. Can you be a computer processing AI algorithms? Nope. So if we create a machine and program that exhibits all the basic behaviors of consciousness, you have no idea if it has a subjective experience or not.Philosophim
    We determine that computers-do-not-experience-subjectively in the same way we "know" that other humans do experience the world in a manner similar to our own : by rational inference from behavior. So, the Hard Problem is not about the behavioral evidence of Consciousness, but about its lack of material properties. :smile:

    1. Consciousness is able to exist despite a lack of physical capability to do so.Philosophim
    For my thesis, Consciousness (C) is an immaterial state of awareness, that arises from a physical process, not an entity that exists as an independent thing. I compare it to the mysterious emergence of physical Phase Transitions, such as water to ice*1. Some ancient thinkers, lacking a notion of physical energy, imagined the living & thinking & purposeful Soul, as human-like agent, or as something like the invisible breath or wind that you can feel, and can see it move matter around. Modern Materialism seems to criticize attempts to explain C, based on the assumption that the explainer is referring to a Soul, that can walk around as a ghost.

    However, if you think of C as a noumenal form of Energy, or EnFormAction as I call it, then its existence is physical only in its causal consequences, not as a material object. We can't see or touch Energy, so we infer its immaterial existence from its effects on matter : changes of form or state. Those transformations are noumenal inferences instead of phenomenal sensations. Consequently, C doesn't function like a machine, but more like magic; hence the difficulty of explaining it in terms of mechanisms.

    The "physical capability" of Energy to exist is taken for granted, because we can detect its effects by sensory observation, even though we can't see or touch Energy with our physical senses*2. Mechanical causation works by direct contact between material objects. But Mental Causation works more like "spooky action at a distance". So, Consciousness doesn't work like a physical machine, but like spooky gravity, or metaphysical intention. :smile:

    *1. New research details water's mysterious phase transitions :
    https://phys.org/news/2018-03-mysterious-phase-transitions.html

    *2. Evidence of Energy :
    Therefore, although energy itself isn't visible, you can detect evidence of energy.
    https://www3.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/KEEP/Documents/Activities/EvidenceofEnergy.pdf

    2. Demonstrate a conscious entity that has no physical or energetic correlation.Philosophim
    Again, in my thesis, Consciousness is defined as a process or function of physical entities. We have no knowledge of consciousness apart from material substrates. But since its activities are so different from material Physics, philosophers place it in a separate category of Meta-Physics. And religious thinkers persist in thinking of Consciousness in terms of a Cartesian Soul (res cogitans), existing in a parallel realm.

    Despite Life After Death interpretations, there is no verifiable evidence of C manifesting apart from an animated physical body*3. But my thesis postulates that both Physical Energy and Malleable Matter are emergent from a more fundamental element of Nature : Causal EnFormAction*4 (EFA). The Big Bang origin state was completely different from the current state, in that there was no solid matter as we know it. Instead, physicists imagine that the primordial state was a sort of quark-gluon Plasma, neither matter nor energy, but with the potential (EFA) for both to emerge later. And ultimately for the emergence of Integrated Information as Consciousness. :smile:

    *3. Consciousness after death :
    From a strictly scientific viewpoint, we don't know. There is certainly no verifiable, repeatable evidence that the consciousness continues to exist. Nor is there any particular scientific reason to believe it does.
    https://www.quora.com/What-happens-to-our-consciousness-after-we-die-Does-it-simply-cease-to-exist-or-does-it-continue-on-in-some-form

    *4. Mass & Energy are forms of Information :
    the mass-energy-information equivalence principle, stating that information transcends into mass or energy depending on its physical state;.
    https://www.sci.news/physics/information-fifth-state-matter-10638.html

    3. If consciousness is not matter and/or energy, please demonstrate evidence of its existence without using a God of the Gaps approach.Philosophim
    The existence of Matter & Energy is taken for granted, due to evidence of the senses, but the origin of the material world remains a mystery : is it self-existent, or contingent? The Big Bang theory is based on physical evidence observed 14 billion years after the hypothetical event. We now grudgingly accept that our world is temporary, only because the math sputters-out at at T=0/∞. Is that more like 12am or 12pm on the clock? The evidential Gap, beyond the evidence, can be filled with speculation of Creation, or a Tower-of-Turtles hypothesis.

    Unlike the material world, we require no math or theories to provide evidence of Self-Consciousness. It's self-evident ; mental ideas are all we know about anything. But Consciousness in other beings is not so obvious. Neurologists look for sensory signs of Awareness, such as verbal behavior, arousal, brain activity and purposeful movement. So, it's obvious that Consciousness does not exist in isolation, but is dependent on a> material body, b> neural complexity, and c> animation of body. But what is Life, and how do we know it exists? Schrodinger postulated that Life could be defined as 'negative entropy' — something not falling into chaos and approaching 'the dangerous state of maximum entropy, which is death'. Negentropy is positive Energy (or EFA), animating the material world.

    Similarly, Tononi's Integrated Information Theory quantifies Consciousness in terms of Complexity and Wholeness of living systems. Thereby, he hopes to provide quantitative evidence of its existence, and perhaps of its relative quality. My own thesis, defines Consciousness in terms of Energy (EnFormAction), and of Holistic Integration of sub-systems. Yet, our sensory evidence still requires physical inputs, just as any other form of Information reception. That's why, for behavioral observations, we require rational inferences.

    Therefore, Philosophical questions about Mind & Consciousness depend on personal reasoning; logical deduction from the meta-physical evidence of intentional activities. If you can't make that computation from available evidence, then you live in a matterful but mindless & meaningless world. And the mystery of Consciousness is dispelled, as a ghost, with a wave of dismissal. :smile:
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    Another way to express the Hard Problem is : "how does physical activity (neural & endocrinological) result in the meta-physical (mental) functions that we label "Ideas" and "Awareness"?Gnomon

    I still see that as the easy problem, as its a very clear approach. Eventually after research, we find that X leads to Y. Its a problem, and I'm not saying its 'easy', its easy in contrast to the hard problem. Its called a hard problem because there's no discernable path or approach towards finding the answer. If you shape a question about consciousness that has a clear path forward to attempt to solve the problem, that is an easy problem.

    The word 'how' can easily allow the implicit 'why' to slip in where it shouldn't. "Why do we have subjective experience?" is a hard problem. We know how to influence and access consciousness in the brain though subjects such as in brain surgery. You can poke certain areas of the brain and ask the patient what they experience, and it will cause changes in their subjective experience. That's the how.

    'Why' is an entirely different question. Why does matter if organized a particular way create consciousness? My point is that this is no harder a problem then asking why matter behaves in any way at all. Why does hydrogen and oxygen make water? Not how. We know that. But why does it do that at all? Its simply a narrower question to the big question of "Why does anything exists at all?". People seem to mix up the "how" and "why" portion of consciousness completely into the "how" point, which causes confusion. That's why philosophers and scientists are very pointed in showing what the easy problem entails. The easy is the 'how', the hard is the 'why'.

    But, like Gravity, we only know what it does physically, not what it is essentially.Gnomon

    True. Part of human reasoning is limiting the types of questions to chase with the resources and understand we have. There are plenty of times when we reach a limit in how to proceed with further understanding of a particular nature. So we take what we understand as it is, and use it going forward. What we do understand is that gravity comes from mass. What we don't do is assume because we cannot answer the details, that there is some unidentified third property that must be responsible for it. That's a "God of the gaps" argument.

    It is not that I have an issue with people speculating that consciousness is caused by something besides the brain. By all means, speculate away! It is when people assert that because we can speculate, that speculation has validity in overriding the only reasonable conclusions we can make at this time. If someone said, "Well it just doesn't make sense to me why mass creates gravity, therefore it must be the case that 'massicalism' is inadequate to express what's really going on, and that gravity is somehow separate from mass and energy. That's ridiculous.

    The scientific fact as of today, is that consciousness is caused by the brain. There is zero evidence otherwise. The idea that consciousness is not caused by the brain is pure speculation, and speculation has no weight to assert anything besides the fact that it is merely speculation.

    Recent scientific investigations have found that Information is much more than the empty entropic vessels of Shannon's definition. Information also is found in material & energetic forms.Gnomon

    Of course. If the brain is physical, this is the only reasonable conclusion. Further, computers have clearly shown that information can be stored and manipulated with matter and energy.

    The "physical capability" of Energy to exist is taken for granted, because we can detect its effects by sensory observation, even though we can't see or touch Energy with our physical senses*2. Mechanical causation works by direct contact between material objects. But Mental Causation works more like "spooky action at a distance". So, Consciousness doesn't act like a physical machine, but like a metaphysical person.Gnomon

    The only disagreement I have with you is that I believe we act exactly like physical machines, only more advanced. I do not see anything about humanity that is separate from the universe, but is one of the many expressions of the universe.

    Again, in my thesis, Consciousness is defined as a process or function of physical entities. We have no knowledge of consciousness apart from material substrates. But since its activities are so different from material Physics, philosophers place it in a separate category of Meta-Physics. And religious thinkers persist in thinking of Consciousness in terms of a Cartesian Soul (res cogitans), existing in a parallel realm.Gnomon

    Fantastic breakdown! The only addendum I would make is "But since its activities are not fully understood in terms of material physics".

    But my thesis postulates that both Physical Energy and Malleable Matter are emergent from a more fundamental element of Nature : Causal EnFormAction*4(EFA). The Big Bang origin state was completely different from the current state, in that there was no solid matter as we know it. Instead, physicists imagine that the primordial state was a sort of quark-gluon Plasma, neither matter nor energy, but with the potential (EFA) for both to emerge later. And ultimately for the emergence of Integrated Information as Consciousness. :smile:Gnomon

    I also have no problem with constructing other language terms to describe consciousness. The only problem is when someone believes that a change in language undermines the fact of its underlying physical reality. Also, my understanding is that this primordial state is also matter and energy. It is a 'thing', and until we can find the state of a thing that exhibits itself differently from matter and/or energy, it fits in one of those two categories.

    The evidential Gap, beyond the evidence, can be filled with speculation of Creation, or a Tower-of-Turtles hypothesis.Gnomon

    This is true. As long that speculation does not forget it is speculation and asserts that it must be so.

    However, Philosophical questions about Mind & Consciousness depend on personal reasoning (Inference) from that physical evidence. If you can't make that deduction from available evidence, then you live in a matterful but mindless & meaningless world. And the mystery of Consciousness is dispelled, as a ghost, with a wave of dismissal.Gnomon

    Again, fantastic contribution. Agreed.
  • Gnomon
    3.6k
    ↪Gnomon
    :up: Deacon's is one of those books I should get around to reading, although I know enough about him to be open to his approach.
    Wayfarer
    Deacon's Incomplete Nature has become my "bible" for getting a scientist's understanding of certain mysteries of science, that we debate on this forum. My second volume is full of yellow marks and marginal annotations. His scientific credentials are in Anthropology (study of humanity), Evolutionary Biology, and Neuroscience. His associate, Jeremy Sherman, wrote a book expanding on the evolution of self-conscious animals : Neither Ghost Nor Machine, the Emergence and Nature of Selves.

    A key innovation of Deacon's book is the concept of Absential Aboutness (Potential), a novel feature of human awareness. Other topics are Holism, Emergence, Teleonomy/Teleology, Autogenesis, and Constraint (natural laws). It's a naturalistic account for Life, Mind, Soul/Self, Sentience, and Consciousness. :smile:
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    the idea of the absential resonates strongly with the experience of no-thing-ness that was foundational to my Zen practice. It's linked to the Hindu aphorism, neti neti, 'not this, not that' - which is about how the mind attaches to objects and soon learns to orient itself solely to the sensory domain, forgetting its true nature, which is not any thing.

    An anecdote - one of the textbooks on Buddhism I read around that time there was an account of the Prajñāpāramitā literature of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Many of those texts a very long, one of them is 108,000 verses (that being a symbolically significant number in Buddhism.) But there's also a very short Prajñāpāramitā Sutra, which is the 'sutra of one letter' - that letter being the sanskrit letter a, अ, which is the negative particle (equivalent to English 'un-', as in 'unmanifest, unmade, uncreated). Whereas our empirical age is totally focussed on what is manifest, made, created, hence there is no escape from suffering (in Buddhist dialectic.) All of those discoveries had a major impact on me around that time (about 40 years ago now).

    I asked ChatGPT for an example of an absential and it responded:

    The idea of an absential is somewhat counterintuitive in traditional scientific thinking, which typically focuses on the presence of things—such as particles, forces, and fields—to explain phenomena. Deacon's absential, on the other hand, refers to the importance of absence, non-existence, or what is not there in understanding certain aspects of reality. For example, he discusses how the function of a key is defined by the absence of material in its cuts, which matches the absence of material in the lock it fits.

    I then asked:

    Q: There's an intriguing parallel in the invention of the symbol for zero, '0', which was originally taken from the hole in the centre seat of a sailing dhow for the mast, that absence providing the means by which the boat was able to sail!

    A: That's a fascinating parallel indeed! The invention of the symbol for zero, '0', as inspired by the absence represented by the hole in the center seat of a sailing dhow for the mast, beautifully illustrates the concept of "absential" as described by Terrence Deacon. This example shows how an absence or a void can have a profound and functional significance, much like Deacon's absentials.

    In the case of the zero symbol, the concept of 'nothing' or 'absence' became a cornerstone in the development of mathematics. The introduction of zero as a numeral was revolutionary because it allowed for a new way of counting and understanding quantities. It made the place-value number system possible, enabling the expression of large numbers efficiently and the performance of complex calculations. Before its invention, there was no efficient way to represent "nothing" in a numerical system, which limited the scope and scale of mathematical operations.

    Similarly, Deacon's concept of absentials in philosophy highlights how the absence of something can be as critical as the presence of something in understanding complex systems and phenomena. Just as the zero revolutionized mathematics, the concept of absentials offers a new way to think about mind, matter, and the emergence of complex phenomena in the universe.

    This parallel beautifully demonstrates how ideas from different fields, like philosophy and mathematics, can intersect and provide profound insights into understanding the world around us.

    Amen (or aum) to that! This also came up in a dialogue I was listening to yesterday between the marvellous John Vervaeke, Greg Henriques, and Matt Segal, in relation to the idea that what is real overflows the bounds of what simply exists, because it also contains the domain of unactualised possibility.
  • Gnomon
    3.6k
    Not arguing for proto-consciousness here.
    Greene quote : ". . . . Perhaps we will one day have a mathematical theory of proto-consciousness that can make similarly successful predictions. For now, we don’t."
    Patterner
    My amateur philosophical thesis Enformationism, is not expressed in mathematical equations, or in logical syllogisms, but I hope it's more accessible to those without special training in those areas. I provide links & references & glossaries for those looking for more technical information. The website was a proto-essay, that is now sadly out of date, and full of evidence of ignorance. Lacking formal training in Philosophy, this forum has been my teacher for how to, and not to, argue for/against philosophical topics.

    I also coined a neologism, EnFormAction --- to represent proto-Energy, "proto-Consciousness", and proto-Life --- as the predecessor of all emergent features of the expanding, complexifying, and maturing universe. EFA is basically multipurpose Causation (Energy) for a multi-form world. :smile:
  • Patterner
    672

    Where is said thesis?

    I am entirely lacking in formal education in all things philosophical. Reading what I can on consciousness. Plenty of available, of course. Less is readily comprehensible.
  • Gnomon
    3.6k
    I still see that as the easy problem, as its a very clear approach. Eventually after research, we find that X leads to Y. Its a problem, and I'm not saying its 'easy', its easy in contrast to the hard problem. Its called a hard problem because there's no discernable path or approach towards finding the answer. If you shape a question about consciousness that has a clear path forward to attempt to solve the problem, that is an easy problem.Philosophim
    I'll get back to you about your "easy" solution to the Consciousness problem. In my blog, I compare the emergence of Sentience to the emergence of Phase Transitions in physics. Due to complexity, the before & after are easy ("X leads to Y"), but tracking the steps in between is hard, in both cases. So, although we are making progress, both emergences remain somewhat mysterious, and emergence itself is scientifically controversial.

    BTW, I had to post the opinions you are responding to without editing --- ran out of time. I have now added to and revised the post, in hopes of making more sense, and conveying clearer ideas. :smile:
  • Gnomon
    3.6k
    ↪Gnomon
    Where is said thesis?
    Patterner
    The website was the beginning of a long journey, and there are still mountains & swamps ahead. :
    Enformationism
    https://enformationism.info/enformationism.info/

    The blog entries are ongoing, but the latest post, on Enformationism vs Panpsychism, is at http://bothandblog8.enformationism.info/page7.html
  • Gnomon
    3.6k
    ↪Gnomon
    the idea of the absential resonates strongly with the experience of no-thing-ness that was foundational to my Zen practice. It's linked to the Hindu aphorism, neti neti, 'not this, not that' - which is about how the mind attaches to objects and soon learns to orient itself solely to the sensory domain, forgetting its true nature, which is not any thing.
    Wayfarer
    Deacon's Causal Absence is also similar to the notion of Emptiness in Taoism :

    Thirty spokes share a central hub;
    It is the hole that makes the wheel useful.

    Mix water and clay into a vessel;
    Its emptiness is what makes it useful.

    Cut doors and windows for a room;
    Their emptiness is what makes them useful.

    Therefore consider: advantage comes from having things
    And usefulness from having nothing.


    PS___Perhaps empty minds are also useful in some way. Meditation? :joke:
    PPS___ Modernism seems to focus on advantage over others in the race to acquire things. Maybe having less can be useful? My penurious financial status seems to indicate an experiment to find the economic usefulness of nothingness.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    My penurious financial status seems to indicate an experiment to find the economic usefulness of nothingness.Gnomon

    In my case, I fell into an accidental career in information technology when I went back to University to finish my Honours in Comparative Religion, a completely impractical degree for making a living. There was a casual job advertised for a sales assistant at the campus computer store which turned into a full-time job which I managed to convert into a career as a technical writer over about 25 years. 'Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans' became one of my favourite sayings (the other being 'my life has been a whole series of crises, most of which never occured'.)
  • Patterner
    672

    Deacon talks about the importance of zero, and how it twisted to to his thinking.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Tied him up in nots :rofl:
  • Patterner
    672

    Ba DUM bum

    I guess autocorrect visited me again. I'm leaving it. :lol:
  • Thales
    18
    I realize this discussion has taken many twists and turns over the past year, but I keep finding myself wondering about (and coming back to) the same thing:

    Is it possible that the intention of subjecting consciousness to the rigors of scientific explanation – though noble and understandable – is misplaced? Are we trying to do something that, in fact, cannot be done?

    Consider measurement – a most heralded and essential aspect of science:

    How much mass does that planetary body have? What is the wavelength of this color? Does the subatomic particle under investigation have a positive, negative or neutral electric charge? How many milliliters of reagent is in that Griffin beaker?

    All these questions make (scientific) sense and can be answered by objective, reproduceable measurement. But I’m wondering if we can meaningfully ascribe measurement to “consciousness.” It seems odd to say, “There are 2.5 milliliters of consciousness here,” or “This consciousness weighs 71 grams,” or “That consciousness is negatively charged.”

    Isn’t consciousness different (in kind) from what science investigates? Planets, colors, particles, reagents – these are discrete, objective areas of scientific investigation, whereas consciousness is the underlying, subjective medium through which we access all of these areas.

    More to the point: consciousness is, by its nature, entirely subjective and therefore can not be observed and measured like brains can be. Each person uniquely experiences the world (subjectively) through his or her own consciousness.

    For example, I am unable to project my (conscious) feeling of pain onto a screen for you to experience – even though I am able to project an MRI scan of my brain onto a screen, showing you certain neurological biomarkers that correspond to my feeling of pain. Although I can (scientifically) describe and explain my pain, I am unable to provide you with the experience of my pain.

    It is this subjectivity that differentiates consciousness from scientific investigation. In short, neurophysiology is not consciousness because explanation is not experience.
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    All these questions make (scientific) sense and can be answered by objective, reproduceable measurement. But I’m wondering if we can meaningfully ascribe measurement to “consciousness.” It seems odd to say, “There are 2.5 milliliters of consciousness here,” or “This consciousness weighs 71 grams,” or “That consciousness is negatively charged.”

    Isn’t consciousness different (in kind) from what science investigates? Planets, colors, particles, reagents – these are discrete, objective areas of scientific investigation, whereas consciousness is the underlying, subjective medium through which we access all of these areas.
    Thales

    Note that what you describe as science doesn't seem to include the study of processes, including processes underlying human consciousness. Study of processes might be worth considering.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Is it possible that the intention of subjecting consciousness to the rigors of scientific explanation – though noble and understandable – is misplaced? Are we trying to do something that, in fact, cannot be done?Thales

    Of course. That's the point. Your post sums up the whole issue in a nutshell. Most of the debate that has occurred in this thread consists of people not seeing that.
  • Patterner
    672
    Note that what you describe as science doesn't seem to include the study of processes, including processes underlying human consciousness. Study of processes might be worth considering.wonderer1
    Indeed, it is processes that lead to consciousness. Although I’ve heard someone say otherwise, I think consciousness, itself, is also a process. However, the Hard Problem is figuring out how the former lead to the latter. So far, we don’t have any clue.

    Let’s take vision as an example. Here’s the very beginning of the process, as described by Michael Behe in Darwin‘s Black Box. (Anybody can say what they want about Behe’s conclusions, but he knows the science.)
    When light first strikes the retina a photon interacts with a molecule called 11-cis-retinal, which rearranges within picoseconds to trans-retinal. (A picosecond is about the time it takes light to travel the breadth of a single human hair.) The change in the shape of the retinal molecule forces a change in the shape of the protein, rhodopsin, to which the retinal is tightly bound. The protein’s metamorphosis alters its behavior. Now called metarhodopsin II, the protein sticks to another protein, called transducin. Before bumping into metarhodopsin II, transducin had tightly bound a small molecule called GDP. But when transducin interacts with metarhodopsin II, the GDP falls off, and a molecule called GTP binds to transducin. (GTP is closely related to, but critically different from, GDP.) — Behe
    That, combined with a ridiculous number of other steps, each made up of an equally ridiculous number of events, describes how we perceive a certain range of frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum. We can add other events and steps, and get a description of how we differentiate different frequencies within that range.

    Add more, and we will see physical reactions to all of that - the description of events that leads to the process of our responding to what we perceive. Still more describes how patterns of what we perceive are stored in our brains. THEN, we can see how those patterns that are stored become part of the chain of events that lead to future reactions to new perceptions.

    All of that is physical events and processes, and, overall, that describes our behavior.

    The Hard Problem exists because none of that suggests that there is subjective experience present. We don't see physical events and processes in our brains in addition to the physical events and processes that explain our perceptions/responses/behavior that might explain consciousness. So what explains it? Something extra is going on, so it seems reasonable to expect something extra is causing it. We have made machines that can do quite a bit that we can do, including distinguishing colors. But we don't suspect they have the subjective experience of red and blue on top of the ability to distinguish the frequencies we call red from those we call blue. Why don't they? Their physical events and processes are not the same as ours, but they are still just physical. Why does purely physical and nothing extra cause subjective experience in one case, but not the other?

    -Is the medium the key? What is it about biological that explains it that doesn't work with electronic?
    -Is it the number of feedback loops, or types of feedback loops? How many, and how does the specific number cause the jump to subjectivity?
    -Something else? What?
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    However, the Hard Problem is figuring out how the former lead to the latter. So far, we don’t have any clue.Patterner

    I'd modestly suggest that some of us have more of a clue than others, and given that it is a hard problem, it makes sense to look at it in terms shades of gray or degrees of cluelessness. :wink:
  • Patterner
    672

    Please clue me in! :grin: What do we see taking place that is on top of what I'm talking about, and how does it cause consciousness? The crux of the Hard Problem is that the physical events all add up to describe our behavior, which is a physical process. There doesn't seem to be anything extra going on. If there were physical events going on among all that that do not contribute to the behavior, we might hypothesize that they cause subjective experience. It might be difficult to explain how the physical events cause a non-physical process, but at least we might have a starting point.
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    Please clue me in!Patterner

    I pointed you towards Peter Tse's book awhile back. Tse is definitely one of the less clueless writers on the subject that I have encountered. Did you read the book?
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