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How to define consciousness?
Posted: 07 August 2010 03:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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StephenLawrence - 06 August 2010 01:50 PM

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.

Nice example of the same error again: we are conscious of red roses out there, not of a mental image in my mind (that would be the quale).

Try to see how long it takes you before you see which part of the picture changes (for me it took more than a minute!):

Change blindness picture

(To avoid hurting brains I did not take this picture in the posting itself…).

Now answer Dennet’s question (which was for another picture, but you understand what he is asking).

Now before you noticed the panel changing color, were your color qualia for that region
changing? We know that the cones in your retinas in the regions where the light from the
panel fell were responding differently every quarter of a second, and we can be sure that
these differences in transducer output were creating differences farther up the pathway of
color vision in your cortex. But were your qualia changing back and forth –
white/brown/white/brown – in time with the color changes on the screen? Since one of
the defining properties of qualia is their subjectivity, their “first-person accessibility,”
presumably nobody knows – or could know – the answer to this question better than you.
So what is your answer? Were your qualia changing or not?

And to add: if you can’t answer the question, what are qualia then?

GdB

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Posted: 07 August 2010 03:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Gnostikosis - 06 August 2010 03:58 PM

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?

Right. An illusion is something that is different then it looks like. But that something exists.

Gnostikosis - 06 August 2010 03:58 PM

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.

‘Being presented to consciousness’ is still the Cartesian theatre…

Gnostikosis - 06 August 2010 03:58 PM

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

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.

Yep, I agree.

Stephen, first you must prove that qualia exist, secondly that without qualia consciousness does not exist.

GdB

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Posted: 07 August 2010 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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GdB - 07 August 2010 03:28 AM

Stephen, first you must prove that qualia exist, secondly that without qualia consciousness does not exist.

 

This subject is way too difficult for me, free will is much more straight forward.

Stephen

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Posted: 08 August 2010 03:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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GdB - 06 August 2010 08:48 AM

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

Of course, he did not say that consciousness is an illusion. Neither Velman or I said that, but with those examples of optical illusion, he suggests that by extension, human phenomenological experience could be wrong about reality and in that sense, it could be an illusion, similar to an optical illusion.

We experience and enjoy stereo sound reproduction (an audio illusion) and movies (a visual illusion of motion) and we are not concerned about these illusions. So, what is the big deal wrt to optical illusions? We know they are all illusions and we accept it (because it can be demonstrated to be so), but it does not follow that the whole of our phenomenological experience of consciousness is similar (there is no clear-cut demonstration of this at all), which is inductive reasoning. That is Dennett’s fallacy.

From Velman’s paper, footnote 5.:

Even eliminative/reductive theories such as Dennett’s agree that that conscious phenomenology seems to exist, and this provides the point of departure for their attempts at phenomenal elimination/reduction.[

And also, in the section on how not to define consciousness:

As noted above, Dennett simply declares first-person access to phenomenal qualities to have no place in third-person science, and, therefore, no ultimate place in an understanding of consciousness at all!

With such a presupposition, Dennett has also ruled himself out as a reliable source of data, including his theory of consciousness (which is a product of his conscious mind) in “third-person science”, whatever it means. LOL

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Posted: 08 August 2010 04:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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StephenLawrence - 06 August 2010 01:50 PM

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.

Qualia is intimately related to human phenomenological consciousness.

From the wiki on qualia

The importance of qualia in the philosophy of mind:

The importance of qualia in philosophy of mind comes largely from the fact that they are often seen as posing a fundamental problem for materialist explanations of the mind-body problem.


Simple definition of qualia:

One of the simpler, broader definitions 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.”

Arguments for the existence of qualia:

1. The “what’s it like to be” argument

2. The Inverted spectrum argument

3. The zombie argument

4. The explanatory gap argument

5. The knowledge argument

6. The non-epistemic argument

The details of all the arguments are in the wiki.

Daniel Dennett’s denial of the existence of qualia:

Daniel Dennett offers an argument against qualia that attempts to show that the above definition breaks down when one tries to make a practical application of it. In a series of thought experiments, which he calls “intuition pumps,” he brings qualia into the world of neurosurgery, clinical psychology, and psychological experimentation.

This is the physicalist/materialist atomistic approach which attempts to bring qualia (as a something) for scientific investigation by third-party “objective experiments”.

Invalid Cartesian theater argument against the notion of qualia:

One objection thought to be powerful against the notion of qualia was that it forced us to see the visual field as an inner screen being looked at by a homunculus who himself would have a screen in his head, and so on ad infinitum in a vicious regress. This objection, characterized as the “Cartesian theater,” is often employed by Daniel Dennett.

Yet it can be argued that the field in the brain bears no direct resemblance to what the eyes register, in that in the brain there are no eyes and no light-rays, though what occurs certainly varies with the light-rays’ frequency and distribution, not perfectly, because all kinds of neural adjustments are made on the way to the final states. No homunculus is required, the reason being that the experience, not being itself a matter of light-rays, is a direct one.

Conclusion:

The definition of qualia thus is governed by one’s point of view, and that inevitably brings with it philosophical and neurophysiological presuppositions. The question, therefore, of what qualia can be raises profound issues in the philosophy of mind, since some materialists want to deny their existence altogether: on the other hand, if they are accepted, they cannot be easily accounted for as they raise the difficult problem of consciousness.

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Posted: 08 August 2010 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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GdB - 07 August 2010 03:21 AM

Now answer Dennet’s question (which was for another picture, but you understand what he is asking).

Now before you noticed the panel changing color, were your color qualia for that region
changing? We know that the cones in your retinas in the regions where the light from the
panel fell were responding differently every quarter of a second, and we can be sure that
these differences in transducer output were creating differences farther up the pathway of
color vision in your cortex. But were your qualia changing back and forth –
white/brown/white/brown – in time with the color changes on the screen? Since one of
the defining properties of qualia is their subjectivity, their “first-person accessibility,”
presumably nobody knows – or could know – the answer to this question better than you.
So what is your answer? Were your qualia changing or not?

And to add: if you can’t answer the question, what are qualia then?

It is a fact that people could not differentiate between butter and margarine under duress. In fact, this was used to show that there was no difference between butter and margarine. 

If we listen to a loudspeaker whose audio response is not balanced (it has a sharp peak in the presence region), after some time our mind/brain compensates and the loudspeaker sounds balanced. Subsequently, if we listen to a balanced loudspeaker, it sounds dim and it takes some time for our mind/brain to adjust. When we listen to the unbalanced loudspeaker again, it sounds forward now.

Obviously the mind/brain needs time to adjust to rapidly changing, stressful or unnatural environments or it can compensate and be fooled by them. So, the strobe effect experiment by Dennett is biased and does not show anything (except for the psychological effect of diorienting the mind/brain), least of all the non-existence of qualia.

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Posted: 08 August 2010 06:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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kkwan - 08 August 2010 03:24 AM

Of course, he did not say that consciousness is an illusion. Neither Velman or I said that, but with those examples of optical illusion, he suggests that by extension, human phenomenological experience could be wrong about reality and in that sense, it could be an illusion, similar to an optical illusion.

No of course, Velmans doesn’t say that, you don’t say that, and if you believe it or not, Dennett does not say that either. The only thing Dennett says is that we can err about our own experiences. But we cannot err in that we have experience. You interpret Dennett wrongly again and again.

kkwan - 08 August 2010 03:24 AM

We experience and enjoy stereo sound reproduction (an audio illusion) and movies (a visual illusion of motion) and we are not concerned about these illusions.

But the movement of a movie is an illusion! That shows exactly the point that we can be wrong about our experiences. The task of science is to explain why we have this illusion. But not to deny that we have the illusion of movement! Explain something is not to deny that it exists, quite on the contrary!

kkwan - 08 August 2010 03:24 AM

So, what is the big deal wrt to optical illusions? We know they are all illusions and we accept it (because it can be demonstrated to be so), but it does not follow that the whole of our phenomenological experience of consciousness is similar (there is no clear-cut demonstration of this at all), which is inductive reasoning. That is Dennett’s fallacy.

No, it is your fallacy. Dennet does not argument from the statement that ‘We know they are all illusions and we accept it’ we can deduce that ‘the whole of our phenomenological experience of consciousness is similar’. He deduces from that that we can err about the status of some of our experiences. And not of all our experiences, and surely not of experience as such.

Even eliminative/reductive theories such as Dennett’s agree that that conscious phenomenology seems to exist, and this provides the point of departure for their attempts at phenomenal elimination/reduction.[

That is correct (even if I would say phenomena instead phenomenology, and it is only partially eliminative)

As noted above, Dennett simply declares first-person access to phenomenal qualities to have no place in third-person science, and, therefore, no ultimate place in an understanding of consciousness at all!

This is partly true, and partially wrong. It is true per definition. If we leave first person qualities in the explanation of first person qualities we still have explained nothing! And it is wrong in that in heterophenomenology first person reports are the beginning, are that which must be explained. But again, not denied! When do you get this out of your head!

kkwan - 08 August 2010 04:38 AM

Qualia is intimately related to human phenomenological consciousness.

Yes it is. But once again: denying qualia does not mean denying consciousness.

You arguments 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 in favour of qualia are all refuted by Dennet. 4 Is plain nonsense.

You are attacking a standpoint Dennett does not have.

It is time that you confess you do not understand Dennet at all.

Edit:
It is time that you confess that you don’t want to explain consciousness, but are only interested in making connections with other ‘magical properties’ you do not understand either, that you want to keep the ‘warm feeling’ of the universe by some unscientific metaphysics.

GdB

[ Edited: 08 August 2010 09:34 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 08 August 2010 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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kkwan - 08 August 2010 05:36 AM
GdB - 07 August 2010 03:21 AM

Now answer Dennet’s question (which was for another picture, but you understand what he is asking).
But were your qualia changing back and forth –
white/brown/white/brown – in time with the color changes on the screen? Since one of
the defining properties of qualia is their subjectivity, their “first-person accessibility,”
presumably nobody knows – or could know – the answer to this question better than you.
So what is your answer? Were your qualia changing or not?

And to add: if you can’t answer the question, what are qualia then?

It is a fact ....

Do you realise that you did not answer the questions (in bold)?
Can’t you, or do you simply refuse? The change blindness effect is not meant directly to prove qualia don’t exist. But if they exist, you should be able to answer Dennet’s question.

GdB

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Posted: 09 August 2010 10:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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GdB - 07 August 2010 03:28 AM

Stephen, first you must prove that qualia exist, secondly that without qualia consciousness does not exist.

 

I think Qualia exists because there is no objectively correct way to see red.  I might be wired up to see red as I actually see blue.

I think consciousness must be directly linked to brain activity, even if it simply is brain activity and that the world out there must be one step removed. No brain activity, no consciousness, different brain activity, different conscious experience.

Stephen

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Posted: 09 August 2010 11:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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StephenLawrence - 09 August 2010 10:28 PM

I think Qualia exists because there is no objectively correct way to see red.  I might be wired up to see red as I actually see blue.

You can only say if ‘there is no objectively correct way to see red’ really means something. Can you give it a meaning without the idea of qualia?

StephenLawrence - 09 August 2010 10:28 PM

No brain activity, no consciousness, different brain activity, different conscious experience.

That is not necessary the case. OpenOffice running on Ubuntu Linux and on Windows 7 have definitely different PC activity, but functional they are exactly the same. How do you know that your seeing of red is not the same as my hearing of a sinus tone of 440 Hz? I know this sounds absurd, but if I really have no idea how red looks like for you, then I should take this into account. So how do you know? Isn’t it that a sound is functionally something completely different than sight? But in the same way, don’t we share functionally seeing red and seeing blue? (Red is a warning signal, is romantic when seeing it at the horizon…, blue means beautiful weather, clear sea, ....). And a colour blind person I recognise by him functioning differently: he finds my red painted fern has exactly the right colour.

Maybe you can try to answer Dennet’s question too. Try it!

GdB

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Posted: 10 August 2010 09:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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GdB - 08 August 2010 06:14 AM

No of course, Velmans doesn’t say that, you don’t say that, and if you believe it or not, Dennett does not say that either. The only thing Dennett says is that we can err about our own experiences. But we cannot err in that we have experience. You interpret Dennett wrongly again and again.

No, I do not misinterpret him at all. The objection is, he implies that short term errors of perception can, by extension, leads to whole scale errors in our experience of reality.

But the movement of a movie is an illusion! That shows exactly the point that we can be wrong about our experiences. The task of science is to explain why we have this illusion. But not to deny that we have the illusion of movement! Explain something is not to deny that it exists, quite on the contrary!

The existence of experience is not the issue. The reduction of experience is.

This is partly true, and partially wrong. It is true per definition. If we leave first person qualities in the explanation of first person qualities we still have explained nothing! And it is wrong in that in heterophenomenology first person reports are the beginning, are that which must be explained. But again, not denied! When do you get this out of your head!

Is Dennett the one and only one philosopher qualified to judge on these matters based on his theory of heterophenomenoligy (whatever it means,.......like supercalifragilistic)  smile

It is time that you confess you do not understand Dennet at all

I understand him well enough to realize that he is a radical anti-realist who “explains consciousness away” and begs the question on the nature of consciousness.

From this recent article in the SEP on
temporal consciousness

Dennett’s position is open to criticism on two main fronts. He asserts that there is no possibility that future research will uncover evidence that will allow us to distinguish between Orwellian and Stalinesque interpretations. How can he be so confident about what the future will bring? Second-guessing scientific progress is a dangerous game.

Suppose there is a box that cannot be opened, or probed by X-rays, ultrasound or any similar method. Does the fact that we will never be in a position to discover what is inside the box mean there is no fact of the matter about its contents, about whether it contains something or nothing at all?

Those who are inclined to a robust realism about the phenomenal realm will certainly find this downgrading of the ontological credentials of conscious experiences objectionable. For this reason they are likely to find Dennett’s attempt to further downgrade these credentials by appealing to features of short-term experience guilty of begging the question.

[ Edited: 10 August 2010 09:25 PM by kkwan ]
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Posted: 10 August 2010 09:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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GdB - 08 August 2010 08:15 AM

Do you realise that you did not answer the questions (in bold)?
Can’t you, or do you simply refuse? The change blindness effect is not meant directly to prove qualia don’t exist. But if they exist, you should be able to answer Dennet’s question.

Of course, I can refuse to answer this question because I think it has nothing to do with the existence of qualia at all.

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Posted: 11 August 2010 12:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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kkwan - 10 August 2010 09:31 PM

Of course, I can refuse to answer this question because I think it has nothing to do with the existence of qualia at all.

I know you can refuse, it is your free will. I am not forcing you. But to say it has nothing to do with qualia is plainly stupid. It is a question about qualia, about your qualia! I am sure you get into problems when you want to answer the question, and that is the reason why you refuse.

Just to cite a few authors who do not agree with Dennett is not enough for me. I could cite authors who agree. So what? If you want to understand this, or want to convince me he is not correct, you must give arguments.

The existence of experience is not the issue. The reduction of experience is.

This ‘reduction’ is an explanation, not a denying. You still have not made your point.

Is Dennett the one and only one philosopher qualified to judge on these matters based on his theory of heterophenomenoligy (whatever it means,.......like supercalifragilistic)

You see, you do not even understand. No, he is not the only one qualified, but one must give valid arguments. I find his arguments quite convincing, and see the misunderstandings of Velmans, SEP and you.

Suppose there is a box that cannot be opened, or probed by X-rays, ultrasound or any similar method. Does the fact that we will never be in a position to discover what is inside the box mean there is no fact of the matter about its contents, about whether it contains something or nothing at all?

Suppose I say there is something in the box which cannot be detected by a third person view. Will it ever be detected?

For this reason they are likely to find Dennett’s attempt to further downgrade these credentials by appealing to features of short-term experience guilty of begging the question.

‘Find’ yes, but that is not some prove. That is exactly your problem. You ‘feel’ that D is not correct, but that is all you have to offer.

The opposition against Dennett has a clear reason: it seems to disturb the magic of consciousness. But if you want to explain consciousness, it is no use to explain it in terms of consciousness again, then you have still explained nothing. So if you understand consciousness in the frame of process philosophy, and that should be an explanation, you should be able to reduce it to simpler processes, that in themselves are not conscious. Otherwise it is no science at all. If you can’t, you are just saying we cannot understand consciousness, or worse, and I suspect you of that, don’t even want it to be explained.

And I want to repeat it again: Dennet (and I) see consciousness as a process too. But not some process I cannot dive into with a third person view.

GdB

[ Edited: 11 August 2010 08:06 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 11 August 2010 01:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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GdB - 07 August 2010 03:21 AM

“Now before you noticed the panel changing color, were your color qualia for that region
changing? We know that the cones in your retinas in the regions where the light from the
panel fell were responding differently every quarter of a second, and we can be sure that
these differences in transducer output were creating differences farther up the pathway of
color vision in your cortex. But were your qualia changing back and forth –
white/brown/white/brown – in time with the color changes on the screen? Since one of
the defining properties of qualia is their subjectivity, their “first-person accessibility,”
presumably nobody knows – or could know – the answer to this question better than you.
So what is your answer? Were your qualia changing or not?”

The answer is my qualia was not changing.

Stephen

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Posted: 11 August 2010 01:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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GdB - 09 August 2010 11:24 PM

You can only say if ‘there is no objectively correct way to see red’ really means something. Can you give it a meaning without the idea of qualia?

I spoke about this once with someone who had the idea of a perfect brain and perfect eyes and the idea that what that being would be conscious of is the real red and beings who had a different experience of red would not be seeing the real red. This is the idea of an objectively correct seeing red that I doubt can be true.

How do you know that your seeing of red is not the same as my hearing of a sinus tone of 440 Hz? I know this sounds absurd, but if I really have no idea how red looks like for you, then I should take this into account. So how do you know?

You know red looks about the same to me as you because we are very similar creatures. But if I was an alien who evolved in a very different environment, perhaps microwaves would appear red and perhaps I would need to use instruments to detect “visual light” and those detectors would emit microwaves so I could see them.

Stephen

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