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philosophical zombies (and extra-temporal subjunctive possibility)  (with definitions)
Posted: 16 September 2011 06:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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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.
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.

The “mirror neuron” effect may be even more than recognitive.  When we see a person get hurt, we can also feel PAIN. This is most remarkable as the actual physical pain is experienced in another body. Thus the pain we feel is a mirror function, but how it creates the illusion of pain (empathy) without physical trauma is a true mystery to me.

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Posted: 19 September 2011 01:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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Hi domokato,

I hope you do not expect that I react on all of this, it’s a bit much.

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?

I don’t think so. There is a clear distinction between observing a broken stream of vision, e.g. when you stand up too quickly and your blood pressure in your brain is too low for a few seconds, and an unnoticed broken stream of vision. Last can only be seen by others, or looking at a different way (as these is describes with Grimes’ experiments). See here. I specially like this ‘dialectic turn’:

Dennett makes an important distinction between the presence of representation, and the representation of presence.

Said otherwise: we feel as if there is a continuity in our vision (and consciousness!), which might not be there at all. As thought experiment: imagine you are just magically created, including your complete environment and your memories. There is no way you can really know that this is not true: your observations would be exactly the same as when you already existed for many years, and the events in your memory really happened. Only a ‘third party’ can decide this. With the kind of technological tricks we now have, the discontinuity of consciousness can be observed.

So if the brain represents presence, it represents a continuous time line which in fact is not there, but is reconstructed. And this reconstruction also suggests that events happen at certain times, and that there is a unity in it. But from all kinds of experiments it is clear that we confabulate this unity.

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.

Yes, but not necessarily in the same place (where ‘consciousness resides’), it can be anywhere in the brain. And sometimes we have even problems with that, and we help ourselves e.g. by making a drawing to help us to solve a problem. Instead of only using the nerves in our brain, we take a detour in the real world, so that my own ideas can enter other parts of my brain.

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Posted: 19 September 2011 02:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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Write4U - 16 September 2011 06:34 PM

The “mirror neuron” effect may be even more than recognitive.  When we see a person get hurt, we can also feel PAIN. This is most remarkable as the actual physical pain is experienced in another body. Thus the pain we feel is a mirror function, but how it creates the illusion of pain (empathy) without physical trauma is a true mystery to me.

When seeing a ‘cliff-hanger movie’ I very often get warm feet… Sometimes even a picture is enough. See e.g. here, from a comic I like very much.

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Posted: 19 September 2011 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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GdB - 19 September 2011 01:35 AM

Said otherwise: we feel as if there is a continuity in our vision (and consciousness!), which might not be there at all.

I think we are in agreement. That could be considered an illusion. I suppose the term “stream of vision” needs to be defined in order to clarify what we’re talking about. We could be talking about the subjective experience of vision or the actual stream of data coming in from the optic nerve. I think Blackmore means it in the former sense, in which case I agree with her and you. But I don’t think this has any bearing on my argument anyway.

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.

Yes, but not necessarily in the same place (where ‘consciousness resides’), it can be anywhere in the brain.

How can it be “anywhere” if you agree that it has to all come “together”?

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Posted: 19 September 2011 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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domokato - 19 September 2011 09:29 AM

How can it be “anywhere” if you agree that it has to all come “together”?

I think in Dennett’s ‘darwinian way’ of the multiple threads in the ‘Jocean machine’. Several threads in the brain develop and compete for the output devices. Some just die out, leaving no trace. Some make it to memory. And some make it to motoric centres. Depending on where the threads meet (legs: ‘run!’; ‘keep standing, do not show your fear!’ Voice: ‘OK’;‘No!’) the consciousness arises at different places in the brain. To give an example of Dennett:

Go on the offensive!
Say something nasty but not too dangerous to him!
Insult him!
Cast aspersions on some aspect of his body!
Tell him his feet are too big!
Say: “Your feet are too big”!
Utter: Yer FIT är tü big!

(...)
In this cascade of commands there appears to be a lot of decision-making — “moments” at which options are “selected” over their rivals, and this invites a model in which there is delegation of responsibility for finer details, and in which subordinate agents with their own intentions appreciate reasons for the various selections they make.

Page 234-235 of “Consciousness explained”

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Posted: 19 September 2011 02:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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I was considering buying that book, but I read some reviews by neuroscientists that were not very favorable (IIRC). I chose instead to buy “Your Brain at Work”, which seems to support Global Workspace Theory. In the end, I think there is no concrete proof of any of these theories being right (or I should say wrong), which is why they are still being discussed. The authors make arguments to support their pet theories, but until we have neurological evidence to support them, it’s still up in the air.

So I think my theory remains valid.

I still do not see how consciousness can arise in different places in the brain yet still give one a sense of continuity. If these “conscious” areas were truly separate, they would represent separate consciousnesses. Different areas of the brain competing for access to output resources does not seem to be a problem for my theory either. If they are competing, there must be a process that chooses among them and decides the winner, so they still come together at some point.

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Posted: 19 September 2011 05:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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domokato - 19 September 2011 02:53 PM

I was considering buying that book, but I read some reviews by neuroscientists that were not very favorable (IIRC). I chose instead to buy “Your Brain at Work”, which seems to support Global Workspace Theory. In the end, I think there is no concrete proof of any of these theories being right (or I should say wrong), which is why they are still being discussed. The authors make arguments to support their pet theories, but until we have neurological evidence to support them, it’s still up in the air.

So I think my theory remains valid.

I still do not see how consciousness can arise in different places in the brain yet still give one a sense of continuity. If these “conscious” areas were truly separate, they would represent separate consciousnesses. Different areas of the brain competing for access to output resources does not seem to be a problem for my theory either. If they are competing, there must be a process that chooses among them and decides the winner, so they still come together at some point.

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Posted: 19 September 2011 11:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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domokato - 19 September 2011 02:53 PM

I was considering buying that book, but I read some reviews by neuroscientists that were not very favorable (IIRC).

One of the reasons that some neuroscientists don’t like Dennett because they are still dualists, even if they say they are not. See e.g. this posting, and my reaction on it.

domokato - 19 September 2011 02:53 PM

I still do not see how consciousness can arise in different places in the brain yet still give one a sense of continuity.

Representation of continuity does not mean continuity of representation…

domokato - 19 September 2011 02:53 PM

Different areas of the brain competing for access to output resources does not seem to be a problem for my theory either. If they are competing, there must be a process that chooses among them and decides the winner, so they still come together at some point.

You are still under the spell of dualism. Let’s give a simple example: at a quick streaming river a few pieces of wood are floating in the direction of a waterfall. I look at it, and wonder which one will be there first, and will ‘win the race’. Does this mean there must be a decider, because otherwise none of pieces will get to the waterfall?
What you do, in trying to explain consciousness, is moving the consciousness to a certain place in the brain, the place where it all comes together. There is no place like that. It is just the good old homunculus. You are explaining consciousness with a conscious subsystem. That is just shifting the problem.

domokato - 19 September 2011 02:53 PM

If these “conscious” areas were truly separate, they would represent separate consciousnesses.

Why? Even when people have split brains (i.e. their corpus callosum is cut, which means the left and right hemisphere cannot communicate anymore) they still function quite normally in daily life. Only in certain (experimental) situations they do or say things differently than we do.

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Posted: 20 September 2011 07:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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GdB - 19 September 2011 11:18 PM
domokato - 19 September 2011 02:53 PM

I was considering buying that book, but I read some reviews by neuroscientists that were not very favorable (IIRC).

One of the reasons that some neuroscientists don’t like Dennett because they are still dualists, even if they say they are not. See e.g. this posting, and my reaction on it.

The biggest problem with Dennett’s book is obviously that he never actually explained consciousness. It is Dennett’s arrogance which many dislike. I know I do.

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Posted: 20 September 2011 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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George - 20 September 2011 07:48 AM

The biggest problem with Dennett’s book is obviously that he never actually explained consciousness.

This is often said. The point is that nobody makes clear what the requirements for an explanation of consciousness must look like. If one bases an explanation on processes that are not conscious in itself people complain that you still have not explained anything; if one bases an explanation on something that is conscious already then you did not even start explaining anything.

Don’t you think that consciousness is implemented in the brain? And if this is the case, why do you think he has not a very viable hypothesis on how the brain ‘produces’ a consciousness mind?

George - 20 September 2011 07:48 AM

It is Dennett’s arrogance which many dislike. I know I do.

That is a pity. In his writings he is not arrogant (unless you do not like your arguments seeing debunked), in the few videos where I have seen him, he seems very sympathetic to me.

I keep my point standing: nearly all neurologists are still dualists, and therefore they think Dennett is wrong. The naive position most neurologists have about free will is symptomatic for their dualism.

I assume you find me arrogant too.  cool mad

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Posted: 20 September 2011 10:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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GdB - 20 September 2011 09:38 AM

The point is that nobody makes clear what the requirements for an explanation of consciousness must look like.

I guess we’ll know we got one when we see it. But Dennett’s explanation is not it.

What bothers me about Dennett is his need—and the way in which he does it— to explain science through philosophy. Philosophers had their turn and I must agree with Peter Atkins when he said that it’s not even clear any more what philosophers actually do. Take Dawkins’s memes, for example, which he used as some kind of a metaphor to help him explain natural selection. And what do people like Dennett and Blackmore do? Well, whatever it is that philosophers do: Muddle stuff up.

And no, FWIW, I don’t find you arrogant at all. I know you actually have a real job and are interested in this stuff only out of curiosity just like the rest of us here. In other words, there is no danger that the rest of us will have to financially support your “research” (or, once again, whatever it is that philosophers do).

[ Edited: 20 September 2011 10:22 AM by George ]
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Posted: 20 September 2011 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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George - 20 September 2011 10:13 AM

What bothers me about Dennett is his need—and the way in which he does it— to explain science through philosophy. Philosophers had their turn and I must agree with Peter Atkins when he said that it’s not even clear any more what philosophers actually do. Take Dawkin’s memes, for example, which he used as some kind of a metaphor to help him explain natural selection. And what do people like Dennett and Blackmore do? Well, whatever it is that philosophers do: Muddle stuff up.

And no, FWIW, I don’t find you arrogant at all. I know you actually have a real job and are interested in this stuff only out of curiosity just like the rest of us here. In other words, there is no danger that the rest of us will have to financially support your “research” (or, once again, whatever it is that philosophers do).

Oy. I don’t even know where to start with this. It certainly reads as a blend of arrogance and ignorance ...

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Posted: 20 September 2011 10:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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dougsmith - 20 September 2011 10:22 AM

Oy. I don’t even know where to start with this. It certainly reads as a blend of arrogance and ignorance ...

Sounds like a good start to me.  grin

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Posted: 20 September 2011 10:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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domokato - 19 September 2011 02:53 PM

Different areas of the brain competing for access to output resources does not seem to be a problem for my theory either. If they are competing, there must be a process that chooses among them and decides the winner, so they still come together at some point.

You are still under the spell of dualism. Let’s give a simple example: at a quick streaming river a few pieces of wood are floating in the direction of a waterfall. I look at it, and wonder which one will be there first, and will ‘win the race’. Does this mean there must be a decider, because otherwise none of pieces will get to the waterfall?

Are you saying the pieces of wood are competing? They are not. The competition is only in your head. Are you saying that brain regions that are competing simply yield to each other if they feel they have “lost”, and that there is no third-party referee? An interesting idea. Unsure how this affects my theory, though. I’ll think on it.

What you do, in trying to explain consciousness, is moving the consciousness to a certain place in the brain, the place where it all comes together. There is no place like that. It is just the good old homunculus. You are explaining consciousness with a conscious subsystem. That is just shifting the problem.

Again, I am not trying to explain consciousness. That is not the “problem” I am addressing. I’m only trying to decide whether it is in one place or not. I am looking at it from a computational perspective, so obviously I am not a dualist. I do, however, think that observing one’s consciousness has at least some value, which is where my theory stems from. I observe that I am aware of many “things” at the same time, and the only way for that awareness to exist is if the information about those “things” all comes together in one place. Is there any other way? I can’t think of any. It would be like having separate computers for processing each of the senses. If the computers never communicate or feed information to a server, that information would never come together and there would be no conscious experience of them.

domokato - 19 September 2011 02:53 PM

If these “conscious” areas were truly separate, they would represent separate consciousnesses.

Why? Even when people have split brains (i.e. their corpus callosum is cut, which means the left and right hemisphere cannot communicate anymore) they still function quite normally in daily life. Only in certain (experimental) situations they do or say things differently than we do.

How does that work? How can they consciously decide to move the left side or the right side of their body if there is no communication between the two sides of the brain. Wouldn’t both sides of their body be moving independently?

[ Edited: 20 September 2011 10:51 AM by domokato ]
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Posted: 20 September 2011 11:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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George - 20 September 2011 10:13 AM

I guess we’ll know we got one when we see it. But Dennett’s explanation is not it.

No, we wouldn’t. Nobody would accept an explanation, exactly due to the fork I presented: explaining consciousness with unconscious processes, or with conscious processes. Most people seem to prefer it to stay ‘the hard problem’; otherwise they just run over it with vulgar materialism.

George - 20 September 2011 10:13 AM

What bothers me about Dennett is his need—and the way in which he does it— to explain science through philosophy.

Dennett does exactly the opposite. He explains one of the oldest philosophical problems, the mind/body problem, with help of science, something neurologists obviously can’t themselves because they miss the philosophical background for it.

George - 20 September 2011 10:13 AM

In other words, there is no danger that the rest of us will have to financially support your “research” (or, once again, whatever it is that philosophers do).

I would also like to decide what happens with my tax money. But I think you are demonstrating a lack of understanding here…

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