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Is the empty space between particles or other matter something?
Posted: 22 December 2011 07:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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George - 22 December 2011 07:33 AM

The complexity of our brains is what gave a rise to us having consciousness, but consciousness plays no causation role in our decision making.

Here’s the paradox though: if consciousness plays no causal role in our decision making, then a fortiori it plays no causal role in your claiming to be conscious or in your (our) theorizing about consciousness. So consciousness itself is irrelevant to the theorizing. But then what is the theory really about, if we’re not really using our knowledge of consciousness to inform it?

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Posted: 22 December 2011 07:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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I think I understand, but I am not sure. Can you rephrase it or give me some kind of an example?

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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George - 22 December 2011 07:33 AM

Just because something may not be an adaptation, it doesn’t mean that it plays no role in our lives. Art, for example, can very well be a byproduct (a spandrel), but it doesn’t take away from the impact it has had on our species. I am not sure that you really understand what a byproduct means in evolutionary terms. Your mass/matter examples are irrelevant here, since physics is not biology.

No, that is upside down. Art is ‘caused’ by us, but consciousness is not caused by the brain. It is the reasoning and future anticipating brain.

George - 22 December 2011 07:33 AM

I believe that all of our actions are automatic and we are, in a way, robots. The complexity of our brains is what gave a rise to us having consciousness, but consciousness plays no causation role in our decision making.

A robot with a CPU as complex as our brain would necessarily be conscious. You can’t have the complexity without consciousness.

And Doug is right of course: how can I declare the fact that I am conscious, if I am not? Obviously at least my consciousness causes my uttering that I am conscious. It is a self-refuting idea: the fact that somebody consciously says that consciousness causes nothing.

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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George - 22 December 2011 07:57 AM

I think I understand, but I am not sure. Can you rephrase it or give me some kind of an example?

I’m not sure. One standard philosophical theory about consciousness is, as you say, that it is epiphenomenal, that is, that is plays no causal role in our decisions or actions. But theorizing about consciousness and talking about that theorizing are themselves decisions and actions. So if consciousness plays no role in decisions or actions, a fortiori it must play no role in our theorizing about consciousness, or in our talking about consciousness.

But this conflicts with our intuitive sense that when we talk about consciousness, we are in some way ‘inspecting’ conscious feelings (qualia, etc.), causally gaining information and knowledge about them, and using that knowledge to inform our theories.

If consciousness is epiphenomenal, then strictly speaking it is causally irrelevant to our theories about it. We would be doing the same theorizing and speaking the same words even if there were no such thing as consciousness.

And the consciousness we seem to have is actually not causing us to say what we say or feel what we feel. (Since our saying and feeling are themselves causal processes).

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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George, see here for examples.

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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dougsmith - 22 December 2011 08:06 AM
George - 22 December 2011 07:57 AM

I think I understand, but I am not sure. Can you rephrase it or give me some kind of an example?

I’m not sure. One standard philosophical theory about consciousness is, as you say, that it is epiphenomenal, that is, that is plays no causal role in our decisions or actions. But theorizing about consciousness and talking about that theorizing are themselves decisions and actions. So if consciousness plays no role in decisions or actions, a fortiori it must play no role in our theorizing about consciousness, or in our talking about consciousness.

But this conflicts with our intuitive sense that when we talk about consciousness, we are in some way ‘inspecting’ conscious feelings (qualia, etc.), causally gaining information and knowledge about them, and using that knowledge to inform our theories.

If consciousness is epiphenomenal, then strictly speaking it is causally irrelevant to our theories about it. We would be doing the same theorizing and speaking the same words even if there were no such thing as consciousness.

And the consciousness we seem to have is actually not causing us to say what we say or feel what we feel. (Since our saying and feeling are themselves causal processes).

I see. Yes, that does seem to be a valid point and, frankly, I don’t know how to respond to that, except for saying that I may be wrong. What would a philosopher (one that has thought this through) who believes that consciousness is epiphenomenal respond?

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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GdB - 22 December 2011 08:15 AM

George, see here for examples.

I don’t want to get us too far off track, GdB, but that list is filled with absurdities. It appears to have been written by theologians. I don’t have the interest to get into editing wiki but that’s one that’s seriously in need of a red pen.

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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GdB - 22 December 2011 08:04 AM

A robot with a CPU as complex as our brain would necessarily be conscious. You can’t have the complexity without consciousness.

I certainly agree with that.

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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dougsmith - 22 December 2011 08:19 AM

I don’t want to get us too far off track, GdB, but that list is filled with absurdities. It appears to have been written by theologians. I don’t have the interest to get into editing wiki but that’s one that’s seriously in need of a red pen.

Yeah, I did not read them all, but you are right. A claim of a standpoint being self-refuting, is not the same it that it is self refuting. But maybe you do agree that the argumentative scheme you are using is one of self-refutation.

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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George - 22 December 2011 08:17 AM

I see. Yes, that does seem to be a valid point and, frankly, I don’t know how to respond to that, except for saying that I may be wrong. What would a philosopher (one that has thought this through) who believes that consciousness is epiphenomenal respond?

I honestly don’t know. The only thing I think they could say is that although it seems weird it could nevertheless be true. And they are strictly correct about that: it’s possible that our consciousness sort of floats along with us, with no causal interaction between it and the physical world. This would really amount to a species of substance dualism, though, and would be an obvious candidate for Occam’s Razor, since the purported conscious part really ends up explaining nothing ... or at least, nothing that’s causing us to act or think in the way we act or think.

There is a very famous paper in philosophy by Frank Jackson called “Epiphenomenal Qualia” where he adopts this sort of theory, though he doesn’t respond to the sort of objection I’ve provided. (At least IIRC). I believe, though, that Jackson is no longer an epiphenomenalist about qualia, though I don’t know more.

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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GdB - 22 December 2011 08:22 AM

A claim of a standpoint being self-refuting, is not the same it that it is self refuting. But maybe you do agree that the argumentative scheme you are using is one of self-refutation.

I wouldn’t want to claim anyhow that epiphenomenalism is self refuting. It’s just (as I say) a candidate for Occam’s Razor, which isn’t really the same thing.

A stance that is self refuting is the stance of someone (e.g.) who claims to have proven that he can know nothing, or that logic is self-refuting, or that language is meaningless, etc. Many post-modern claims along the lines of deconstructionism are self-refuting.

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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dougsmith - 22 December 2011 08:30 AM

I wouldn’t want to claim anyhow that epiphenomenalism is self refuting. It’s just (as I say) a candidate for Occam’s Razor, which isn’t really the same thing.

Hmmm… A epiphenomalist says that consciousness has no causal effects. At the same time his utterance is difficult to understand when his consciousness did not cause him to state what he does. Consistently, he should ask “Eh…? What is that, ‘consciousness’? No idea what you are talking about!”

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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GdB - 22 December 2011 08:35 AM

Hmmm… A epiphenomalist says that consciousness has no causal effects. At the same time his utterance is difficult to understand when his consciousness did not cause him to state what he does. Consistently, he should ask “Eh…? What is that, ‘consciousness’? No idea what you are talking about!”

Right, it’s difficult to understand why it would be true, or why one would think it true, given the apparent causal role that consciousness plays in our daily lives. But I don’t think that that paradoxicality (in the loose sense of the word) makes it self refuting. Only unconvincing.

To take another example, I believe in the existence of abstracta, which are objects that play no causal role. They only play a structural role in causal theories. I wouldn’t want to say that one is making a self-refuting claim simply by claiming that there are objects which are not causally efficacious.

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Okay, Doug. Thanks. I really don’t like to feel that I am right but know at the same time that I am wrong. I should have never met you.  grin

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Posted: 22 December 2011 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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George - 22 December 2011 08:40 AM

Okay, Doug. Thanks. I really don’t like to feel that I am right but know at the same time that I am wrong. I should have never met you.  grin

LOL

I must say that consciousness is a very confusing subject. I took an entire graduate level course in it taught by a very fine professor where we read many of the best papers on the subject, and I was more confused at the end of it than the beginning. I don’t think I’ve ever been more confused by a subject in philosophy than that.

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