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How to define consciousness?
Posted: 26 July 2010 09:38 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Consciousness means many things to different people. The most important point, to ordinary folk, is that it is a personal experience, unique to each person. However, there are scientists and philosophers who argue that it is an illusion, an emergent creation of the brain or some other operational thing. Is that true or is it premature to conclude anything?

From this paper by Max Velmans on How to define consciousness and how not to define consciousness

Why it is difficult, but odd:

The term means many different things to many different people, and no universally agreed “core meaning” exists. This is odd, as we each have “psychological data” about what it is like to be conscious or to have consciousness to serve as the basis for an agreed definition.

Property dualist and reductionist arguments complicate the issue:

For example, “property dualists” such as Sperry (1969) took consciousness to be a special kind of property that is itself non-physical, but which emerges from physical systems such as the brain once they attain a certain level of complexity. Taking materialism to its logical conclusion, “reductionists” such as Crick (1994) and Dennett (1991) argued consciousness to be nothing more than a state or function of the brain. Within cognitive psychology, there were many similar reductive proposals which identified consciousness with some aspect of human information processing, for example with working memory, focal attention, a central executive, or a “global workspace”

OTOH, everyday understanding of consciousness is a good place to start:

This everyday understanding of consciousness based on the presence or absence of experienced phenomena provides a simple place to start. A person, or other entity, is conscious if they experience something; conversely, if a person or entity experiences nothing they are not conscious. Elaborating slightly, we can say that when consciousness is present, phenomenal content (consciousness of something) is present. Conversely, when phenomenal content is absent, consciousness is absent.

How not to define consciousness:

In short, no ontological view is automatically privileged by the likely advance of science, and, given the far-reaching consequences of reductionism and its alternatives it is important not to define phenomenal consciousness in a way that presupposes the outcome of this debate, or finesses it in favour of one outcome or another. Unfortunately, this practice is widespread both in common culture and in the scientific and philosophical literature.

Caveats in the conclusion:

Hopefully, the above makes it clear that consciousness understood as phenomenal consciousness provides a secure departure point for scientific and philosophical investigations of its nature. Conversely, theories of consciousness that do not in some way deal with its phenomenology are not theories of consciousness.

Maybe consciousness will ultimately be shown to be nothing more than a state or function of the brain—and maybe it won’t. That is, after all, what much of the current debate is about. But it is a mistake to define consciousness in a way that begs this question.

The danger of premature closure:

The mistake in these instances is one of premature closure. If one makes up one’s mind about the ontology of phenomenal consciousness before fully investigating how its phenomenology relates to processing in the brain and surrounding world, one precludes a deeper understanding of that ontology.

Do read the paper in full with an open mind to get the whole picture.

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Posted: 04 August 2010 03:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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kkwan - 26 July 2010 09:38 PM

.” A person, or other entity, is conscious if they experience something;”

My first reaction was yes that’s it. My second reaction is what is it to experience something?  I think it might just circle straight back to being conscious.

Stephen

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Posted: 05 August 2010 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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kkwan - 26 July 2010 09:38 PM

Do read the paper in full with an open mind to get the whole picture.

OK. I did. I even read 2 articles of him about his critique on Dennet’s heterophenomenology. (here and here) And now? Are you open-minded enough to see that his critique is incorrect? That Velman’s conclusion:

However critical phenomenology differs from heterophenomenology in that it does not assume that subjects are necessarily deluded and scientifically naïve about their experiences, or doubt that it really is like something for subjects to have experiences, or that these experiences have qualities that can, in principle, be described.

follows from Dennet’s:

Philosophers have adopted various names for the things in the beholder (or properties of the beholder) that have been supposed to provide a safe home for the colors and the rest of the properties that have been banished from the external world by the triumphs of physics: raw feels, phenomenal qualities, intrinsic properties of conscious experiences, the qualitative content of mental states, and, of course, qualia, the term I use. There are subtle differences in how these terms have been defined, but I am going to ride roughshod over them.  I deny that there are any such properties.  But I agree wholeheartedly that there seem to be.

Dennett does not in any way deny that one experiences red things: he only denies that there is some independent ‘red’ in our mind. We experience ‘red things’, not ‘redness’ in the mind. That is the delusion Dennett is talking about. Denying qualia is not denying experience. It is denying some ontological separate status of ‘redness’. If somebody says ‘But I really see red roses!’ Dennett would react ‘sure, I see them too’. So where is the ‘premature closure’? That we don’t take the ontological theory of the subject into account? Should we?

Should we also believe somebody who says he really spoke to god? Should we really believe in an afterlife when somebody reports his near death experiences? Or should we be open minded enough to really investigate it, which would mean that we ‘bracket’ the ‘ontological theory’ of these persons? This can perfectly done, without denying that these persons really had these experiences.

GdB

PS With all the critique I have on your standpoint (and on Velman’s), thanks for the reference to this article.

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Posted: 05 August 2010 10:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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GdB - 05 August 2010 06:10 AM

follows from Dennet’s:

Philosophers have adopted various names for the things in the beholder (or properties of the beholder) that have been supposed to provide a safe home for the colors and the rest of the properties that have been banished from the external world by the triumphs of physics: raw feels, phenomenal qualities, intrinsic properties of conscious experiences, the qualitative content of mental states, and, of course, qualia, the term I use. There are subtle differences in how these terms have been defined, but I am going to ride roughshod over them.  I deny that there are any such properties.  But I agree wholeheartedly that there seem to be.

Dennett does not in any way deny that one experiences red things: he only denies that there is some independent ‘red’ in our mind. We experience ‘red things’, not ‘redness’ in the mind. That is the delusion Dennett is talking about. Denying qualia is not denying experience. It is denying some ontological separate status of ‘redness’. If somebody says ‘But I really see red roses!’ Dennett would react ‘sure, I see them too’. So where is the ‘premature closure’? That we don’t take the ontological theory of the subject into account? Should we?

From Max Velmann’s paper:

Dennett arrives at this view by presupposing that information about brain and behaviour obtained from a third-person perspective is scientific and reliable, while first-person data about conscious experience tells us nothing about its ontology at all. European phenomenology and classical Indian philosophy assume the opposite to be true. Accordingly, their investigations of consciousness have been primarily phenomenological.

There can, for example, be no point of convergence and certainly no consensus between researchers who take the existence of conscious phenomenology to be both self-evident and ontologically primary, with those who give no credence to that phenomenology at all.

Dennett’s view is the physicalist approach, but there is also the phenomenological approach. There is a huge philosophical chasm between the world views of physicalism and phenomenology.

From this essay on phenomenology in the SEP

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view.

Traditionally, philosophy includes at least four core fields or disciplines: ontology, epistemology, ethics, logic. Suppose phenomenology joins that list. Consider then these elementary definitions of field:

  * Ontology is the study of beings or their being — what is.
  * Epistemology is the study of knowledge — how we know.
  * Logic is the study of valid reasoning — how to reason.
  * Ethics is the study of right and wrong — how we should act.
  * Phenomenology is the study of our experience — how we experience.

The domains of study in these five fields are clearly different, and they seem to call for different methods of study.

Since the mid-1990s a variety of writers working in philosophy of mind have focused on the fundamental character of consciousness, ultimately a phenomenological issue.

Conclusion:

Meanwhile, from an epistemological standpoint, all these ranges of theory about mind begin with how we observe and reason about and seek to explain phenomena we encounter in the world. And that is where phenomenology begins. Moreover, how we understand each piece of theory, including theory about mind, is central to the theory of intentionality, as it were, the semantics of thought and experience in general. And that is the heart of phenomenology.

Hence, to start from the first person view and then deny it’s reality for some third-party “objective view” is contradictory.

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Posted: 06 August 2010 12:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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kkwan - 05 August 2010 10:54 PM

Hence, to start from the first person view and then deny it’s reality for some third-party “objective view” is contradictory.

Yes, that is correct. But that is not what Dennetts says. He does not deny the first person view, but he denies that the first person is always correct in what he reports, or believes to see. That’s why Dennett gives so many examples of optical illusions. The interesting thing about optical illusions is that we all more or less make the same errors. Take this example:

colors.gif
From here.

You think you see blue and green spirals, don’t you? So what to do with this first person report?
(a) Accept this answer: there really are blue and green spirals.
(b) Deny it, there are no blue and green spirals, so the first person report is false
(c) Accept the answer, and acknowledge that there really seem to be blue and green spirals even that they are not there.

Dennetts answer would be (c), but Velmans takes Dennet’s standpoint as (b). Explaining optical illusions is exactly that: explaining why something seems to be the case, where in reality it is not. So Dennett does not pretend to have found some new revolutionary method, he just reflects what in fact in modern consciousness research is happening. If you want to explain consciousness, you must start with phenomena of consciousness, and then see how these can be explained from a third person view. But that is not to explain them away! Is gold worth less now we understand its chemical and optical properties based on atomic theory. ‘Oh, that gold is just a lot of atoms, nothing more’. Who says so? But why do we feel threatened if our consciousness is explained from a third person view? What is the difference?

Dennett:

Finally, before leaving this topic, I let me make explicit how these points abrogate Max Velmans’ claims, since it may not be obvious to everyone how he has misinterpreted me. His main mistake is confusing my base camp with my destination. Heterophenomenology is the neutral standpoint from which I then develop and deploy my occasionally “eliminativist” views, drawing on further considerations and discoveries.

From here.

And kkwan, it is not much use that when I say Velmans makes argumentation errors (misinterpreting Dennett in this case) to repeat these arguments. It gives the impression that you cannot think for your self when you just quote a passage from Velmans again.

To make my point even clearer, take near death experiences (NDE). It cannot be denied that some people have had NDEs, and experienced it as a trip to an afterlife. Now, what do we do this as an objective researcher?

(a) Accept the first person report, so conclude there really is an afterlife
(b) Deny the experience, an afterlife cannot exist as we are essentially a process of the brain, an NDE is just an illusion
(c) Accept the first person report, but try to explain why these people have these experiences

Dennett would surely opt for (c), and does not even exclude the possibility that an afterlife could exist. But it must be proven in independent ways, because we know people might err about their experiences: not that they had these experiences (there really seemed to be an afterlife), but that they interpret them falsely (in fact there is not an afterlife). Here it is clear why people that had an NDE are very disappointed when there is an neurological explanation for it: the comfort they feel that there is an afterlife is completely dependent on their seeing it as such.

As last, small example: the auras that migraine patients see. Years ago I read an article in a newspaper with a heading somewhat as ‘Migraine auras are real’. In fact it was about a neurological explanation why migraine patients see auras. Do you see the confusion in the heading?

GdB
Edit: Changed not allowed direct link to aura

[ Edited: 09 August 2010 04:46 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 06 August 2010 01:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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GdB - 06 August 2010 12:33 AM

colors.gif
From here.

Oooohhhh my poor brain!!

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Posted: 06 August 2010 04:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 06 August 2010 01:10 AM

Oooohhhh my poor brain!!

Sorry…

GdB

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Posted: 06 August 2010 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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GdB - 06 August 2010 12:33 AM

But that is not what Dennetts says. He does not deny the first person view, but he denies that the first person is always correct in what he reports, or believes to see. That’s why Dennett gives so many examples of optical illusions. The interesting thing about optical illusions is that we all more or less make the same errors.

Optical and audio illusions are known phenomena of errors of perception. I do not dispute that and neither would Velmans. To extend this to consciousness as an illusion is not justified at all. In that sense, Dennett has misled you by examples of perception errors and induction (which is highly problematic) to accept that consciousness can also be studied by the same method. Can he demonstrate unequivocally that consciousness is also an illusion? By proposing that, it is a fundamental flaw in his philosophy of mind.

For instance, is our experience of time an illusion because time is treated differently in GR?

By extension, since humans are fallible, are humans an illusion?

To make my point even clearer, take near death experiences (NDE). It cannot be denied that some people have had NDEs, and experienced it as a trip to an afterlife. Now, what do we do this as an objective researcher?

The issue of NDE and the neurological explanation is controversial. Take mental illness. There is no neurological explanation for depression and bipolar disorder. The brains of people with MI are normal.

Dennett and the physicalist approach has simplified the issues by focusing only on physical causes, third party observation and dismissing first party phenomenological experience as faulty and therefore, not reliable. The third party is another human, so she is also suspect. So, where is the objective observer? A computer or Dr. Spock?

All human knowledge, including science, starts from human phenomenological experience of reality. To suspect that is an illusion is a serious fundamental flaw in any philosophy of reality.

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Posted: 06 August 2010 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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StephenLawrence - 04 August 2010 03:31 PM
kkwan - 26 July 2010 09:38 PM

.” A person, or other entity, is conscious if they experience something;”

My first reaction was yes that’s it. My second reaction is what is it to experience something?  I think it might just circle straight back to being conscious.

That is the quote from Velman’s paper, not what I wrote. It is a very general statement.

To elaborate what it means, from this essay in the SEP

An animal, person or other cognitive system may be regarded as conscious in a number of different senses.

Sentience. It may be conscious in the generic sense of simply being a sentient creature, one capable of sensing and responding to its world (Armstrong 1981).

Wakefulness. One might further require that the organism actually be exercising such a capacity rather than merely having the ability or disposition to do so. Thus one might count it as conscious only if it were awake and normally alert.

Self-consciousness. A third and yet more demanding sense might define conscious creatures as those that are not only aware but also aware that they are aware, thus treating creature consciousness as a form of self-consciousness (Carruthers 2000).

What it is like. Thomas Nagel’s (1974) famous“what it is like” criterion aims to capture another and perhaps more subjective notion of being a conscious organism. According to Nagel, a being is conscious just if there is “something that it is like” to be that creature, i.e., some subjective way the world seems or appears from the creature’s mental or experiential point of view.

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Posted: 06 August 2010 08:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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kkwan - 06 August 2010 08:08 AM

Optical and audio illusions are known phenomena of errors of perception. I do not dispute that and neither would Velmans. To extend this to consciousness as an illusion is not justified at all. In that sense, Dennett has misled you by examples of perception errors and induction (which is highly problematic) to accept that consciousness can also be studied by the same method. Can he demonstrate unequivocally that consciousness is also an illusion? By proposing that, it is a fundamental flaw in his philosophy of mind.

You make the same error as Velmans. Dennett does not say consciousness is an illusion. Give me a quote of Dennett himself from which this follows, not from some critic who makes misinterpretations of Dennett.

kkwan - 06 August 2010 08:08 AM

For instance, is our experience of time an illusion because time is treated differently in GR?

No.

kkwan - 06 August 2010 08:08 AM

By extension, since humans are fallible, are humans an illusion?

Sorry, this is ridiculous.

kkwan - 06 August 2010 08:08 AM

Dennett and the physicalist approach has simplified the issues by focusing only on physical causes, third party observation and dismissing first party phenomenological experience as faulty and therefore, not reliable.

It is not completely reliable! See the optical illusions. But ‘not reliable’ does not mean the first person view does not exist. But we want to explain it scientifically, i.e. in third person categories. Remember what I said:

Dennett would surely opt for (c), and does not even exclude the possibility that an afterlife could exist.

But it needs to be proven. As long as this proof is outstanding, we must bracket the first person experience that he really saw the afterlife. But bracketing is not denying from the beginning.

kkwan - 06 August 2010 08:08 AM

All human knowledge, including science, starts from human phenomenological experience of reality.

That’s right, it starts there. But it must not stay there. From a phenomenological point of view, the sun rotates around the earth. But now we do know that the earth is orbiting the sun. Taking all ‘phenomenological knowledge’ together, we can’t make a consistent picture of the world around us if we take all our impressions as bare truth. We must admit that we can be wrong with our impressions.

GdB

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Posted: 06 August 2010 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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GdB - 06 August 2010 08:25 AM

You make the same error as Velmans. Dennett does not say consciousness is an illusion. Give me a quote of Dennett himself from which this follows, not from some critic who makes misinterpretations of Dennett.

With those examples of optical illusions, he implies that consciousness could also be an illusion.

That’s right, it starts there. But it must not stay there. From a phenomenological point of view, the sun rotates around the earth. But now we do know that the earth is orbiting the sun. Taking all ‘phenomenological knowledge’ together, we can’t make a consistent picture of the world around us if we take all our impressions as bare truth. We must admit that we can be wrong with our impressions.

Of course, it will not stay there. That is not the issue. The issue is to suspect that our starting point could be an illusion.

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Posted: 06 August 2010 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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kkwan - 06 August 2010 08:41 AM

With those examples of optical illusions, he implies that consciousness could also be an illusion.

An illusion to whom? Again, show me some passage of Dennett himself, where he says that consciousness as such is an illusion.

kkwan - 06 August 2010 08:41 AM

Of course, it will not stay there. That is not the issue. The issue is to suspect that our starting point could be an illusion.

As a researcher one should be prepared to discuss presuppositions, they might turn out wrong. Our consciousness might be wrong about things, but again, this does not mean that consciousness as such is an illusion.

GdB

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Posted: 06 August 2010 10:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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GdB - 06 August 2010 08:25 AM
kkwan - 06 August 2010 08:08 AM

All human knowledge, including science, starts from human phenomenological experience of reality.

That’s right, it starts there. But it must not stay there. From a phenomenological point of view, the sun rotates around the earth. But now we do know that the earth is orbiting the sun. Taking all ‘phenomenological knowledge’ together, we can’t make a consistent picture of the world around us if we take all our impressions as bare truth. We must admit that we can be wrong with our impressions.

GdB


Isn’t who is orbiting who a relative point of view? It is easier to understand the solar system by seeing the sun as the center of the solar system but that is just a matter of preference. You could just as well see the earth as the center of the universe. Makes figuring out the paths of heavenly bodies as complex as hell however as long as you remain consistent it’s mathematically doable to create and accurate model of the solar system with earth as the center. It seems to me reality starts from perception.

As you say we can be wrong in our perception and as you shown with optical illusions we can share in this wrongness. If we cannot ultimately rely on perception to determine reality then what’s the point. There will always be that potential of accepting a reality that is the result of a shared faulty perception.

Individually we decide what reality is. We share a lot of that reality through communication. I don’t know that you can fairly say that by leaving out our perceptions and impressions what is left can be called reality.

All those primitive people who worshiped the sun as a God, that was their reality. It was the truth for their entire life. They would not be who they were without that reality. We now communicate and share/accept a common reality. Not fully perhaps but enough that we can agree on a few common truths.

A limitation of most scientific theories is the need to create a mental understanding of a closed system. Bracketing off the parts of reality which throws a monkey wrench into the otherwise succinct theoretical equation. A closed system may be necessary to make all the numbers zero out. Then one can happily go around with their theorem as proved since the numbers always balance out. However the universe is not a closed system. It’s dynamic and always changing. So how can it be said the resultant theory reflect the reality of the universe?

You create a closed system for the sake of a succinct theory. You based your model of reality on that theory, develop other closed systems theories which all balance out. Even allow accurate prediction as long as bracket out which throws in monkey wrenches. You have a mental model of reality but it’s not reality.

I think QM ends up with some strange theories because people forget the universe is not a closed system. If you go down this same road while trying to scientifically understand consciousness you will likely end up with a few strange theories trying to fit reality to a system which needs to bracket off parts of reality to make the theories succinct.

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Posted: 06 August 2010 01:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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GdB - 06 August 2010 08:25 AM

You make the same error as Velmans. Dennett does not say consciousness is an illusion. Give me a quote of Dennett himself from which this follows, not from some critic who makes misinterpretations of Dennett.

Oh, I just thought that was Dennett’s position, have I got that wrong? Perhaps Doug knows?

Dennett says qualia is illusory, I think it follows that he thinks consciousness is an illusion because qualia is what we experience, and experiencing is being conscious of.

Stephen

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Posted: 06 August 2010 03:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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StephenLawrence - 06 August 2010 01:50 PM
GdB - 06 August 2010 08:25 AM

You make the same error as Velmans. Dennett does not say consciousness is an illusion. Give me a quote of Dennett himself from which this follows, not from some critic who makes misinterpretations of Dennett.

Oh, I just thought that was Dennett’s position, have I got that wrong? Perhaps Doug knows?

Dennett says qualia is illusory, I think it follows that he thinks consciousness is an illusion because qualia is what we experience, and experiencing is being conscious of.

Stephen

To say something is an illusion is not to say it doesn’t exist. It really just means what it is, isn’t what we think it to be doesn’t it?

IOW the optical illusion images are real images. However we have a subjective experience of that image which can’t be explained by the physical image.

The brain fits perception to a pre-programmed interpretation that get presented to the “consciousness” (whatever that is). It fills in automatically parts that are missing from the learned pattern without conscious thought.

The “illusion” is the brains unconscious interpretation of reality that is presented to the consciousness. The qualia seems to be what the brains fills in/adds to the actual perceived information prior to being presented to the conscious level of the individual.

So I don’t think is necessarily follows that the consciousness is illusion. Perhaps it is the “victim” of illusion.

Most of the time this seems to work well. The brain filling in sub-consciously what is perceive so it fits identifiable patterns that we can consciously recognize. Helps us to navigate through life without having to focus on exactly every perception being received.

However if we do happen to focus on exactly what we are perceiving at the moment. We realize some of what we thought we perceived was something which didn’t actually exist but was sub-consciously filled in to fit a learned pattern.

I guess the question is, do we include the qualia creating sub-conscious process as part of the definition of what consciousness is? It is something that is part of the conscious experience.

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Posted: 07 August 2010 02:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Gnostikosis - 06 August 2010 10:13 AM

Isn’t who is orbiting who a relative point of view? It is easier to understand the solar system by seeing the sun as the center of the solar system but that is just a matter of preference. You could just as well see the earth as the center of the universe. Makes figuring out the paths of heavenly bodies as complex as hell however as long as you remain consistent it’s mathematically doable to create and accurate model of the solar system with earth as the center. It seems to me reality starts from perception.

It is only relative in a very, very relative way. wink

If we apply Ockham’s razor, then supposing the earth is orbiting the sun in an elliptical orbit is definitely the better theory. But you are right that Ockham’s razor is, and cannot be, an empirical ‘law of knowledge’ itself. I think the real trouble starts if we want to reconcile gravity in a local context (measuring the gravity constant, send space missiles to other planets) with gravity as force that explains the orbits of the planets. So as you say, (our idea of?) reality starts from perception. But it does not stay there…

Gnostikosis - 06 August 2010 10:13 AM

Individually we decide what reality is. We share a lot of that reality through communication. I don’t know that you can fairly say that by leaving out our perceptions and impressions what is left can be called reality.

All those primitive people who worshiped the sun as a God, that was their reality. It was the truth for their entire life. They would not be who they were without that reality. We now communicate and share/accept a common reality. Not fully perhaps but enough that we can agree on a few common truths.

I have something against this kind of use of the concept ‘reality’. (Same with everybody has ‘his truth’). What we really mean is ‘they take it for real’, or ‘it seems a real to them, as real a trains look real to us’. That’s OK. But ‘seeming real’ has the promise that we can somehow find out if it is real. Assume the sun worshippers do a ritual at sunset, to be sure that the sun will rise again the next day. Now we can stop them doing this ritual, and they will see that the sun still rises the next morning.

Gnostikosis - 06 August 2010 10:13 AM

A limitation of most scientific theories is the need to create a mental understanding of a closed system. 
...
However the universe is not a closed system. It’s dynamic and always changing. So how can it be said the resultant theory reflect the reality of the universe?

It is true that science mostly is about closed systems. But, in the first place, these systems can be dynamic and changing. A closed system is not necessary a static system, or a system in equilibrium. And in the second place, the universe is a closed system, otherwise it is not the universe, but only a part of it. But in the universe, we can only approximate closed systems, that is true.

As an aside: while the ‘truths of science’ are found in closed systems, and we want to apply scientific results in our life (called technology) we must rebuild our environment to be a closed system too, as much as we can. So one could say, the more we apply technology, the more we live in a gigantic laboratory, proving again and again that the scientific truths are correct. The disadvantage of that is that we alienate from the natural environment we came from (through evolution). And another disadvantage is that these closed systems are in fact not really closed systems: that is the basis of our environmental problems. But that is more for a separate thread…

Gnostikosis - 06 August 2010 10:13 AM

You have a mental model of reality but it’s not reality.

That is true, but what is reality then? If I may try a suggestion: it is the guarantee that when we are talking about something, that we talk about the same, and this does not change because our talking. In this sense our models of reality can change, but reality is that which does not change. It is the guarantee that knowledge is knowledge about something. 

And as another aside: morality changes when we talk about it, i.e. morality is not reality in the same sense. This also means that moral truths do not exist, and that those who think this is become some kind of absolutists (god said it…) or say that morality is nonsense because science cannot say which moral standards are ‘true’. But when we see morality as the way of rationally justifying our actions, this problem drops away.

GdB

[ Edited: 07 August 2010 03:31 AM by GdB ]
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GdB

“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

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