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Why isn’t their a scientific explanation for consciousness yet? What is consciousness in physical not descriptive terms?
Posted: 09 November 2008 11:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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danlhinz - 09 November 2008 11:54 AM

If both people sat at the same spot at the end of the table with a pain of glass between them and the table, they could both trace the shape of the table on to the glass. Furthermore the shapes would be identical unless one of the observers had a brain abnormality that affect their vision/vision processing.

Yes the shape seen would be identical if we placed two similar observers in the same place. But equally the shape they see would change if they moved. If the shape they saw was the shape in objective reality (I know you are not arguing that it is) then the shape they see would not change.

Stephen

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Posted: 10 November 2008 01:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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StephenLawrence - 09 November 2008 11:54 PM
danlhinz - 09 November 2008 11:54 AM

If both people sat at the same spot at the end of the table with a pain of glass between them and the table, they could both trace the shape of the table on to the glass. Furthermore the shapes would be identical unless one of the observers had a brain abnormality that affect their vision/vision processing.

Yes the shape seen would be identical if we placed two similar observers in the same place. But equally the shape they see would change if they moved. If the shape they saw was the shape in objective reality (I know you are not arguing that it is) then the shape they see would not change.

Stephen

It seems like you are saying there is some ideal way of transmitting/representing information and since our brains interpret information instead of giving of us some sort of exact or real representation that becomes a philosophical problem. I could show you mathematical equations using various different symbols but it is still the same information. (Sort of like people who have synasthaesia and they can taste colors or see sounds) I don’t think their is some sort of best or absolute way of representing information. What’s important is that information can be represented many different ways and we don’t know for sure how others information is represented or why.

My question is: What is it about our brains that makes it so information is represented the way it is? Is their a way of detecting my various quales and representing them to others? What is “me” what is it about our brain that gives us that sense of self/identity/self awareness? Why can’t I just be an an unconscious meat machine?

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Posted: 10 November 2008 02:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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StephenLawrence - 09 November 2008 11:25 PM

So where is the faithful representation and what is the relationship between the space it is in and the space the object is in?

Stephen

The “Virtual Object” is obviously represented in the zeros and ones of the molecular computer of our brain. The problem is we have a sense of self and it seems like we are different from those zeros and ones. IMHO we are the zeros and ones, the image doesn’t occupy some separate existence. The problem is how can we look at the zeros and ones and tell what our quales are? What is it about the zeros and ones that gives us self awareness?

Consider how our consciousness existing in some separate plain of existence would help, it really wouldn’t. Or emergence we don’t need emergence because it doesn’t help us explain or describe consciousness. The problem of consciousness is both describing and explaining it in a meaningful sense.

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Posted: 10 November 2008 02:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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StephenLawrence - 09 November 2008 11:45 PM

If we watch the fakery of a magician sawing a lady in half, we don’t really see a lady sawn in half we assume we do but are mistaken. But this is not true of the two squares, we do really see one lighter than the other, don’t we?

Stephen

We do, but that is not a philosophical problem because we know that our brain is adjusting the contrast, and that knowing it is an illusion will not rewire the brain to remove it. The brain sometimes fudges reality when it try’s to fill in the gaps, or adjust things so we can more easily understand what we are seeing.

An experiment was done where people wore glasses that inverted their vision. For three days they walked around seeing everything upside down. The fourth day they woke up and everything was right side up again. When they took off the glasses everything had become inverted again and it took another three days to see everything right side up. This isn’t a problem for consciousness because we know what it is like and why it happened (because our brain already flips our images because our eyes send them upside down, so it is easy for our brain to flip images).

Another interesting thing our brain does is fill in the gap in vision caused by the optic nerve, we have blind spot in our vision which the brain fills in by looking at what surround the hole in our vision and filling it in. Again we know why and how so it is not important.

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Posted: 10 November 2008 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Stephen,

The problem I have with your conclusion is with your concept of how a “faithful representation” is known to be such. If the only way to verify the accuracy of our mental representations is to see the actual object directly, not through our sensory and cognitive apparatus, then of course we can never know if we’re right. But this is exactly the kind of meaningless philosophizing I am always trying to avoid. The same kind of epistemelogical arguments can be used to build a strong case that we can never know anything, but I don’t find such a position pursuasive, useful or interesting. We know our representations have a salient accuracy because they work in temrs of doing what we as biological beings do. I know my ability to judge the size of an object in my path is sufficient if I can walk around the object without banging my shins on it. I know our system of representation is adequate because it has so far met the challenges of natural selection, a pretty good test of whether something works or not. So I don’t care if I can’t judge it against some platonic ideal or some “real” object not sensed but directly apprehended in some way.

The point I’m interested in is what are the limitations of our systems of sensation and internal representations, and how can we compensate? This, it seems, is a productive avenue for science and philosophy to explore. We can’t see below a certain size resolution, so we build microscopes. We “know” they work in the same way we know our own senses work, by practical tetsing in real environments. This knowledge is imperfect, but all knowledge is and I’ve learned to live with it.

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Posted: 10 November 2008 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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StephenLawrence - 09 November 2008 11:54 PM

Yes the shape seen would be identical if we placed two similar observers in the same place. But equally the shape they see would change if they moved. If the shape they saw was the shape in objective reality (I know you are not arguing that it is) then the shape they see would not change.

All shapes that are seen are seen from some angle or other. You are randomly privileging one particular angle as “the” correct viewpoint, and claiming that all other viewpoints somehow get the shape wrong.

The shape that any visual device sees just is the shape it has “in objective reality”, as seen from a particular angle and distance. You can’t see anything without having a point-of-view, an angle of incidence of the light to the viewing device, and without expecting the (geometric) laws of perspective to be in force.

Any sort of “seeing” in which the object doesn’t change depending on a point-of-view is not seeing at all. It is simply a confusion.

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Posted: 15 November 2008 03:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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I was thinking about why I made the argument that a group of a 100 billion people or a computer or the internet or the economy having consciousness seemed wrong. It’s because I think consciousness is a physical property of our brains and that you could make things that act like a human but lack the property. Conversely it does not exclude computers from having consciousness but it may be that computers can not be arranged in such a way to make consciousness.

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Posted: 15 November 2008 03:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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danlhinz - 15 November 2008 03:04 PM

I was thinking about why I made the argument that a group of a 100 billion people or a computer or the internet or the economy having consciousness seemed wrong. It’s because I think consciousness is a physical property of our brains and that you could make things that act like a human but lack the property. Conversely it does not exclude computers from having consciousness but it may be that computers can not be arranged in such a way to make consciousness.

I think this is an argument John Searle makes—that somehow consciousness is a property of grey matter, and so things that behave as we do but are not made of grey matter are not conscious. I confess to not finding his reasoning at all persuasive. Again, Lt. Commander Data on Star Trek is certainly a physical possibility, his brain is not made of grey matter, and yet he certainly appears to be conscious. I would not assert otherwise.

It seems to me that if Searle’s argument were any good it would establish solipsism. Since I’m the only conscious being that I can be certain of, perhaps consciousness is only instantiated in my grey matter.

Well, that’s a possibility, but other people certainly appear to be conscious even though they are not made of my grey matter ...

Consciousness is, I think, a property of a certain sort of functional arrangement of physical parts, not a property of one sort of physical stuff.

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Posted: 15 November 2008 04:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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I think that makes more sense but It is good to flesh out preconceived notions.

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Posted: 15 November 2008 04:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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I have both of dennetts books on reserve at the library. After I read them maybe this thread will go somewhere more interesting.(probably not done with them till Christmas).

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Posted: 15 November 2008 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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danlhinz - 15 November 2008 04:05 PM

I have both of dennetts books on reserve at the library. After I read them maybe this thread will go somewhere more interesting.(probably not done with them till Christmas).

IIRC Dennett basically treats consciousness as a fiction. He’s something of a behaviorist. I don’t think that’s right, either ...

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Posted: 15 November 2008 04:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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Who would you recommend?

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Posted: 15 November 2008 08:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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danlhinz - 15 November 2008 04:50 PM

Who would you recommend?

Not sure ... I’ll bet there are some good people who’ve written about it recently, although the more famous ones (Dennett, Searle, McGinn) I think got it wrong for one reason or another. But hey, read them and decide for yourself.

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Posted: 16 November 2008 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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mckenzievmd - 10 November 2008 10:38 AM

Stephen,

The problem I have with your conclusion is with your concept of how a “faithful representation” is known to be such. If the only way to verify the accuracy of our mental representations is to see the actual object directly, not through our sensory and cognitive apparatus, then of course we can never know if we’re right.

It’s not a question of knowing if we’re right. It’s a question of knowing what faithful representation means in this case.

I believe it is totally meaningless to me and to you.

Stephen

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Posted: 16 November 2008 02:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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danlhinz - 09 November 2008 11:54 AM

If both people sat at the same spot at the end of the table with a pain of glass between them and the table, they could both trace the shape of the table on to the glass. Furthermore the shapes would be identical unless one of the observers had a brain abnormality that affect their vision/vision processing.

Oh, you meant pane, now the rest makes sense! :)

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