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philosophical zombies (and extra-temporal subjunctive possibility)  (with definitions)
Posted: 10 September 2011 04:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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SethJKurtenbach - 10 September 2011 03:52 PM
StephenLawrence - 10 September 2011 10:40 AM

The problem I have is not with physicalism, it’s with the idea that we experience the world around us.

So take these two quotes from GdB:

1) “We experience the world around us”

2) “The point is: qualia can completely be analysed in the terms of neural processes and their interaction with the environment”


If this is the case it seems to me that 1 and 2 are the same thing but that’s not right surely? It seems to me it’s a bit like saying the drum vibrating is the drumstick that hits it.

Stephen

When you say, “If this is the case…” I’m not sure to what you’re referring with “this”.  Neither physicalism nor Chalmers’ strange naturalistic dualism (or whatever he calls it now) claims that our sense perceptions are equivalent to the parts of the external world that cause them.  They acknowledge the distinction between an object in the world and its representation in our minds.

I was responding to the ideas that what we experience isn’t a representation in our minds but that we experience the world around us.

It’s mysterious to me either way as I don’t see how the representation idea works either.

So that’s the particular mystery I wonder about, seperate to the problem you are explaining.

The question they address is whether subjective experience of mental representations is a wholly physical thing, or whether it is irreducibly ‘non-physical’ in some sense.  Consider nonpulsatile tinnitus: the sensation that one’s ears are ringing caused by problems in the nerves.  There is no object in the external world vibrating that this sound represents, but there is still a subjective sensory experience of it.  A physicalist will say that the subjective experience is entirely reducible to physical facts about neurons firing in particular ways, and Chalmers says that the subjective experience is something above and beyond the mere physical, that consciousness and subjective experience are irreducible to the physical. 

Hmm I just dunno, I believe that without the physical stuff there is no consciousness and the consciousness depends upon what the physical stuff is doing but reducible to…....?

This is where Mary’s room comes in isn’t it?

Stephen

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Posted: 10 September 2011 04:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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That’s right.  Mary’s Room was advanced by Frank Jackson, Chalmers’ former partner.  It is related to the p-zombie argument in that it seeks to draw a conceptual distinction between physical facts and qualitative facts, thereby falsifying physicalism.  Now, however, Jackson disagrees with the conclusion to his Mary’s Room argument, and thinks the interesting puzzle is diagnosing where it goes awry.  He’s an a priori physicalist now.

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Posted: 11 September 2011 09:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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FreeInKy - 09 September 2011 08:45 AM

Wait a second… I admit that a lot of this philosophical stuff is over my head. But this part set off an alarm in my brain. If the “p-zombie is physically exactly the same as a human” then the p-zombie is by definition, a human. What other qualities do humans possess besides our physiology? Even if consciousness is some sort of emergent property of firing neurons, it should always emerge given the right physiology.

Exactly. The p-zombie argument is used by ‘soulists’. It wants to ‘show’ that there must be something more than physics in explaining consciousness, that we do not have captured everything when we make an exact copy of a human, including all running processes.

FreeInKy - 09 September 2011 08:45 AM

Surely you aren’t arguing for the existence of a soul?

My God, no! shock  Have mercy on me!  shut eye

I only want to show the absurdity of the p-zombie argument.

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Posted: 11 September 2011 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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domokato - 09 September 2011 11:17 AM

My point was that my definition of qualia makes it an inherent part of consciousness, yet this does not defeat the materialist worldview. According to wikipedia, one definition of qualia is: “The ‘what it is like’ character of mental states. The way it feels to have mental states such as pain, seeing red, smelling a rose, etc.”. This doesn’t seem to contradict materialism in any way.

Strictly speaking you are right. Only when ‘qualia’ are added as playing a separate causal role, independent of their physical implementation, they become problematic.

domokato - 09 September 2011 11:17 AM

I agree. I was considering writing “consciousness is an expression of my brain”, but figured that would be less clear. The way you put it sounds accurate, although (to nitpick) I wouldn’t say “as a whole”. Consciousness is clearly only part of the brain and not the whole, since we are not conscious of much of the processing the rest of the brain does (for example, sensorimotor processing and intuition).

Nitpicking cont’d: No. You temporal lobe is a part of your brain, or your visual cortex. Consciousness arises from (more or less…) the whole. Consciousness means amongst others, that you yourself have no access to the layer in which nothing else happens than neurons firing. You cannot voluntarily decide to fire a certain neuron, as you are not even conscious of your own neurons. That is ‘part of the game’. wink

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Posted: 11 September 2011 11:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Not sure I fully understand what you’re saying, but…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness#Neural_correlates

Looks like they are still looking for the “neural correlates” of consciousness. It looks like some scientists are looking for a specific area of the brain, while others think gamma waves solve the binding problem. I guess no one really knows (although this article gives a counter-argument for the gamma wave idea: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binding_problem#The_combination_problem). From my perspective, I perceive my consciousness as having a set of inputs and outputs, which leads me to suspect there is a “nexus” where the inputs meet, are processed, and the outputs are sent. The line between unconscious processing and conscious processing is fairly clear. We know that we don’t have access to raw vision data - it is unconsciously processed before becoming conscious (see the many optical illusions on the web). Similarly, we do not output raw motor control. It also goes through some unconscious processing to translate our “intent to move” to the calculation of how much to flex which muscles.

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Posted: 12 September 2011 01:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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domokato, you are heavily suffering from the ‘Cartesian theatre’ illusion:

illust2.jpg
(From Susan Blackmore’s “Consciousness: An Introduction”. The drawing is by her son.)

I can make my statement a little bit less sharp by this ‘bonmot’ from cognitive research and brain research: “On global level the brain works locally; on local level it works globally”.

OK?

[ Edited: 12 September 2011 02:05 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 12 September 2011 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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The problem with the cartesian theater is it doesn’t explain anything. This isn’t the same thing. In my “theory”, the homunculus in there is still a part of the brain that does processing like any other. It isn’t a soul or something. How else do you solve the binding problem? The gamma wave theory doesn’t seem to hold water.

I can make my statement a little bit less sharp by this ‘bonmot’ from cognitive research and brain research: “On global level the brain works locally; on local level it works globally”.

I don’t know what this last statement means. Is it a koan? LOL

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Posted: 12 September 2011 10:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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domokato - 12 September 2011 11:30 AM

The problem with the cartesian theater is it doesn’t explain anything. This isn’t the same thing. In my “theory”, the homunculus in there is still a part of the brain that does processing like any other. It isn’t a soul or something. How else do you solve the binding problem? The gamma wave theory doesn’t seem to hold water.

It is not meant to explain anything: it only want to help to see how our dualistic pre-occupations still work on when we ask where and when do we become consious of an event? It suggests that it is a singular event somewhere in the brain. Something like:

    —->  —->    —->  time   —->  —->  —->  —->  —->  —->
sensory input -> visual cortex -> “consciousness center” -> motoric cortex -> “muscle output”

But if you want it or not, this is just the schematic version of above cartoon: the idea that at some point and time everything comes together, decisions are made, and then all commands are transferred to the motoric output devices. An example might be the mirror neurons: neurons that are active when we execute certain movements, but are active also when we observe such movements from others.

domokato - 12 September 2011 11:30 AM

I can make my statement a little bit less sharp by this ‘bonmot’ from cognitive research and brain research: “On global level the brain works locally; on local level it works globally”.

I don’t know what this last statement means. Is it a koan? LOL

You are mean!

But no, it is the idea that in neural networks the function of it is spread through the network as a whole. There are e.g. interesting experiments where neural networks have “learned a rule”, and then, when a part of it is destroyed, it still behaves according this rule. The rule is not implemented at a certain place, as it is in a von Neumann architecture. That is the global part. The local part is that many of the functions of the brain are localised. The visual cortex is at the back of your head. But maybe the only reason that it is there is that the neurons of the eyes are connected with it: the visual cortex might have no special neurons or structure, but it happens to be the first highly interconnected part of the brain with which the eyes are connected.

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Posted: 13 September 2011 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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GdB - 12 September 2011 10:48 PM
domokato - 12 September 2011 11:30 AM

The problem with the cartesian theater is it doesn’t explain anything. This isn’t the same thing. In my “theory”, the homunculus in there is still a part of the brain that does processing like any other. It isn’t a soul or something. How else do you solve the binding problem? The gamma wave theory doesn’t seem to hold water.

It is not meant to explain anything: it only want to help to see how our dualistic pre-occupations still work on when we ask where and when do we become consious of an event? It suggests that it is a singular event somewhere in the brain. Something like:

    —->  —->    —->  time   —->  —->  —->  —->  —->  —->
sensory input -> visual cortex -> “consciousness center” -> motoric cortex -> “muscle output”

But if you want it or not, this is just the schematic version of above cartoon: the idea that at some point and time everything comes together, decisions are made, and then all commands are transferred to the motoric output devices.

And what’s wrong with that? Again, I know my theory may not be right. It requires validation. But I don’t see anything inherently wrong with it yet.

An example might be the mirror neurons: neurons that are active when we execute certain movements, but are active also when we observe such movements from others.

I know what mirror neurons are, but what is this supposed to be an example of?

domokato - 12 September 2011 11:30 AM

I can make my statement a little bit less sharp by this ‘bonmot’ from cognitive research and brain research: “On global level the brain works locally; on local level it works globally”.

I don’t know what this last statement means. Is it a koan? LOL

You are mean!

Nothing wrong with koans! smile

But no, it is the idea that in neural networks the function of it is spread through the network as a whole. There are e.g. interesting experiments where neural networks have “learned a rule”, and then, when a part of it is destroyed, it still behaves according this rule. The rule is not implemented at a certain place, as it is in a von Neumann architecture. That is the global part.

Interesting.

The local part is that many of the functions of the brain are localised. The visual cortex is at the back of your head. But maybe the only reason that it is there is that the neurons of the eyes are connected with it: the visual cortex might have no special neurons or structure, but it happens to be the first highly interconnected part of the brain with which the eyes are connected.

So…are you saying consciousness is not a function of the brain?

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Posted: 14 September 2011 12:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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domokato - 13 September 2011 12:08 PM

And what’s wrong with that? Again, I know my theory may not be right. It requires validation. But I don’t see anything inherently wrong with it yet.

It is inherently wrong while you could ask the question again and again. Say e.g. we find a certain area in the brain where all (processed) sensory data come together, and all motoric commands are initiated. But then you can ask again about what happens inside this area. You get the infinite regress of homunculi on physical level, that could only end with a conscious neuron. But that is quite absurd.
And then there are too many hints that it is empirically wrong. The mirror neurons are just one example of it: obviously neurons located in the motoric cortex are also involved in observing of the same movements in other people as the motoric reaction it causes by itself. So one cannot strictly separate between sensory and motoric parts of the brain.

domokato - 13 September 2011 12:08 PM

So…are you saying consciousness is not a function of the brain?

No, why? Consciousness is a function of the brain, but not necessary a of a certain part of the brain.

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Posted: 14 September 2011 03:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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GdB - 14 September 2011 12:34 AM
domokato - 13 September 2011 12:08 PM

And what’s wrong with that? Again, I know my theory may not be right. It requires validation. But I don’t see anything inherently wrong with it yet.

It is inherently wrong while you could ask the question again and again. Say e.g. we find a certain area in the brain where all (processed) sensory data come together, and all motoric commands are initiated. But then you can ask again about what happens inside this area. You get the infinite regress of homunculi on physical level, that could only end with a conscious neuron. But that is quite absurd.

Oh, there’s where we’re not understanding each other. My theory doesn’t cover exactly how consciousness works, and it doesn’t intend to. It only posits that consciousness is located in some part of the brain, rather than being an emergent phenomenon of the brain as a whole (which also doesn’t explain anything, by the way).

And then there are too many hints that it is empirically wrong. The mirror neurons are just one example of it: obviously neurons located in the motoric cortex are also involved in observing of the same movements in other people as the motoric reaction it causes by itself. So one cannot strictly separate between sensory and motoric parts of the brain.

Now I do have a separate armchair theory of how consciousness works, i.e. what separates “conscious neurons” from “unconscious neurons”? Essentially, nothing. But I will have to flesh it out before posting it. Plus I’m swamped at work

domokato - 13 September 2011 12:08 PM

So…are you saying consciousness is not a function of the brain?

No, why? Consciousness is a function of the brain, but not necessary a of a certain part of the brain.

Indeed, not necessarily. It is only a theory.

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Posted: 14 September 2011 11:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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domokato - 14 September 2011 03:53 PM

It only posits that consciousness is located in some part of the brain, rather than being an emergent phenomenon of the brain as a whole (which also doesn’t explain anything, by the way).

No, I did not explain anything too. I just warned against the idea that we should look for consciousness inside some part of the brain.

domokato - 14 September 2011 03:53 PM

No, why? Consciousness is a function of the brain, but not necessary a of a certain part of the brain.

Indeed, not necessarily. It is only a theory.

Yes, but as far as I can see it has already been rejected.

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Posted: 15 September 2011 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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You mean because of Susan Blackmore’s article? I read it before, but I’ll read it again. She seems to be of the minority opinion…

Edit: oh, you mentioned a book. This is the article I was talking about: http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Articles/jcs02.htm

[ Edited: 15 September 2011 11:10 AM by domokato ]
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Posted: 15 September 2011 10:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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domokato - 15 September 2011 11:06 AM

You mean because of Susan Blackmore’s article? I read it before, but I’ll read it again. She seems to be of the minority opinion…

Edit: oh, you mentioned a book. This is the article I was talking about: http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Articles/jcs02.htm

That is a great article. What do you think?

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Posted: 16 September 2011 03:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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Okay, she made a point that the stream of vision appears to be rich but in fact is not. I am aware of this, but this has no bearing on my theory. Processed sensory information still must come together at some point for it to be consciously considered together when making decisions.

She says,

I suggest that there is no stream of vivid pictures that appear in consciousness. There is no movie-in-the-brain. There is no stream of vision. And if we think there is we are victims of the grand illusion.

But she isn’t arguing against the “stream” part. She’s arguing against the “vivid” part. She says,

Change blindness is the most obvious evidence against the stream of vision.

...and gives examples. But don’t these examples just show that when there is a jarring event, our vision processing system has to start over, and therefore can make continuity errors? Isn’t this what one would expect if there was a stream of vision, and it was broken and restarted? She concludes,

What do these results mean? They certainly suggest that from one saccade to the next we do not store nearly as much information as was previously thought. If the information were stored we would surely notice the change. So the ‘stream of vision’ theory I described at the start has to be false.

To me, these examples seem to indicate that the processing of the stream of vision is not as continuous and rich and stable as you would think, but the stream of vision itself seems to be intact. She continues,

Finally, O’Regan (1992) goes even further in demolishing the ordinary view of seeing. He suggests that there is no need for internal representations at all because the world can be used as an external memory, or as its own best model - we can always look again.

This doesn’t seem to make sense. When you are looking at something and then turn to look at something else, you are still aware of that previous thing that you were looking at (it’s location, color, size, etc.), even though you are not currently looking at it. Therefore, it seems there is some internal representation that persists even when you are not directly looking at something.

It is not yet clear which of these interpretations, if any, is correct but there is no doubt about the basic phenomenon and its main implication. Theories that try to explain the contents of the stream of vision are misguided. There is no stable, rich visual representation in our minds that could be the contents of the stream of consciousness.

I’m not a neurologist, but from what she’s told me in this article, this doesn’t seem to follow. Just because the stream of vision isn’t stable or rich, doesn’t mean attempts to explain its contents are misguided. There is still content, it’s just not as stable or rich as you’d think.

Then she continues on to sound. Here she says,

Even simpler than this is the problem with all speech. You need to accumulate a lot of serial information before the meaning of a sentence becomes unambiguous. What was in the stream of consciousness while all this was happening?

Then,

Perhaps the idea of a stream of consciousness is itself the problem.

Okay, I see what she is saying. Previously she was using “stream of consciousness” and “stream of vision” seemingly interchangeably, which is confusing. But here she is saying that because our consciousness can “reach back” and make sense of information that we weren’t even paying attention to at the time, it isn’t really a stream. Yes, I agree, but this is not a problem for my theory. The brain is a parallel machine; some part of the brain keeps track of words being said and interprets what it means (or what it could potentially mean) as we hear it, then we are made conscious of it and it appears that we had been conscious of it the whole time. Not so, but also not a problem. The information is still coming together at some point. It just isn’t as passive as I may have made it sound. Instead, it is actively being probed.

Second, the backwards streams may overlap with impunity. Information from one ongoing process may end up in one stream, while information from another parallel process ends up in a different stream precipitated a bit later but referring to things that were going on simultaneously. There is no requirement for there really to be only one conscious stream at a time - even though it ends up seeming that way.

Really? How can two parallel processes seem to be one singular process unless those processes are connected in some way and are thus in a sense one? If two parallel processes are completely independent, they will not be aware of each other and thus cannot create the illusion of oneness. If there is a third process that is aware of the other two, that is the only way to create an illusion of oneness, but at that point, it really is oneness since they are connected.

This is particularly helpful for thinking about the stream of sounds because sounds only make sense when information is integrated over appreciable lengths of time. As an example, imagine you are sitting in the garden and can hear a passing car, a bird singing, and some children shouting in the distance, and that you switch attention rapidly between them. If there were one stream of consciousness then each time attention switched you would have to wait while enough information came into the stream to identify the sound - to hear it as a passing car. In fact attention can switch much faster than this. A new backwards stream can be created very quickly and the information it uses may overlap with that used in another stream a moment later, and another, and so on. So at time t was the bird song really in your stream of consciousness or was it the children’s shouting? There is no answer.

Why not? Isn’t it whichever one you were paying attention to at the time? Your brain can still process the other sounds unconsciously until your consciousness starts paying attention to those sounds, at which point those processes are probed for their information.

Thinking about the chiming clocks, and listening as sounds come and go, the once-obvious linear stream begins to disappear.

It still seems like a stream to me. Just a broken, unreliable, and tricky one smile. And I have been paying attention to these things in my own consciousness for some time, so I am aware of change blindness and stuff like that. I don’t disagree that consciousness is illusory in many senses. But still, I don’t see it as a problem for my theory. In fact, consciousness must be illusory - it feels like it is special, something non-physical, independent; but we know it is just a concoction of our physical brains. So it must be emergent. But since there are parts of our brain that do things that we are not consciously aware of, I cannot agree that consciousness is comprised of our entire brain. I think it is an emergent phenomenon of just a part of it.

It is helpful to imagine what it must be like to be a “lesser” animal like a lizard or an insect. They have no language and therefore no thoughts (although they may still have imagination). They have emotions. They have some senses, maybe more than us. I would argue that they are, on some level, conscious. But not as conscious as us. And you can do this thought experiment back to simpler organisms that don’t even have brains, and imagine what it would be like to be them.

Or imagine being a computer. You are mindless. But the more advanced artificial intelligence you have in you, the more you become conscious. It’s a spectrum. What would it be like to be a computer who is conscious like us? Presumably they would have a similar experience to us. But here you could see exactly how their program works, and see that it is just signals like our brains. Where does consciousness come in? Well, it’s whatever part of the computer has the ability to synthesize information and think that it is conscious. Since computers are serial processors, this won’t be “any one place” in it, although it may definitely be a single thread of execution.

Anyway, basically what I’m saying is, if there is information that comes together in your consciousness (vision, hearing, memories, etc.), it must mean it is physically coming together in your brain. That’s the gist of my argument.

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