Consciousness regained? Philosophical arguments for and against reductive physicalism

#41
That's the way these conversations always end.

~~ Paul
Yes, I can't see the relevancy of your responses to my points. For example I have absolutely no idea why a comparison of weight, height, and location doesn't work for brain function and consciousness. Consciousness and brain function cannot be wholly unlike if they are one and the very same thing!

So there's nothing more I can add to what I've already said.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

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Member
#42
Yes, I can't see the relevancy of your responses to my points. For example I have absolutely no idea why a comparison of weight, height, and location doesn't work for brain function and consciousness. Consciousness and brain function cannot be wholly unlike if they are one and the very same thing!
It doesn't even work for a chair. It's entirely too simplistic. But in the case of subjective experience, why would we expect the experience to have the same weight, height, and location as the brain? Consciousness is not the same thing as the brain, it's the same thing as brain function.

But let's leave consciousness alone for a moment and ask why calculating the payroll doesn't have the same weight, height, and location as the computer.

~~ Paul
 
#43
Consciousness is not the same thing as the brain, it's the same thing as brain function.

~~ Paul
Hang on a sec ... can you explain that in a bit more detail? What part of brain function constitutes a thought? Is it a configuration of electrical charges? Electro-chemical messages flitting between brain cells? An equivalent of an array of logic gates in a computer - some turned on, some turned off? If so, then what is it that views this encoded configuration of charges or on/off states? Is that also the brain? What decides that a certain configuration is an image of the Statue of Liberty? What analyses the information contained in the raw data that is, for the briefest moment, that particular configuration of states in the physical structure of the brain tissue?

Genuine question, by the way. I really don't see how you get there.
 
#44
It doesn't even work for a chair. It's entirely too simplistic. But in the case of subjective experience, why would we expect the experience to have the same weight, height, and location as the brain? Consciousness is not the same thing as the brain, it's the same thing as brain function.
That certainly doesn't help at all. Function basically refers to the causal role a thing plays. An experience of greenness is just an experience of greenness which obviously doesn't equate to a causal role. Which isn't to say that an experience will not be causally potent, but that's a property of an experience, not the essence of an experience.

But let's leave consciousness alone for a moment and ask why calculating the payroll doesn't have the same weight, height, and location as the computer.

~~ Paul
You're talking about calculations? That's what a computer does.

You want to talk about functionalism rather than identity theory? Similar arguments can be given. An experience of greenness is not a process. A process is constituted by structure and dynamics . . and that's it. An experience is characterised by it's qualitative feel. They are wholly unlike.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#45
Hang on a sec ... can you explain that in a bit more detail? What part of brain function constitutes a thought? Is it a configuration of electrical charges? Electro-chemical messages flitting between brain cells? An equivalent of an array of logic gates in a computer - some turned on, some turned off?
Yes. Yes. I don't know.

If so, then what is it that views this encoded configuration of charges or on/off states? Is that also the brain?
There is no viewer. The brain processes are the experience. Of course, it's possible that some of those processes play roles that are like viewers of other processes, but there is no infinite regress because we don't experience the meta-level.

What decides that a certain configuration is an image of the Statue of Liberty?
The activation of that memory is the image.

What analyses the information contained in the raw data that is, for the briefest moment, that particular configuration of states in the physical structure of the brain tissue?
I don't understand this question.

Genuine question, by the way. I really don't see how you get there.
Perfectly reasonable questions. It all comes down to whether brain processes can "feel like something" to that brain.

~~ Paul
 
#46
I don't understand this question.

~~ Paul
I meant that thoughts are very transient things. It is actually very difficult to "hold that thought". Something is keeping track, organising thoughts into memories and building a comprehensive picture rather than a series of fleeting impressions. Then of course, we have to ask where all those memories are stored. Killing which brain cells will delete which parts of that picture?
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#47
That certainly doesn't help at all. Function basically refers to the causal role a thing plays. An experience of greenness is just an experience of greenness which obviously doesn't equate to a causal role.
Why can't the experience have downstream effects?

Which isn't to say that an experience will not be causally potent, but that's a property of an experience, not the essence of an experience.
Sorry, don't understand.

You're talking about calculations? That's what a computer does.
You're talking about consciousness? That's what a brain does. But I believe we agree that consciousness is not the same thing as the brain, but the same thing as brain processes. Likewise, computation is not the same thing as the computer, but the same thing as computer processes. So what things do we compare to each other using weight, height, and location?

You want to talk about functionalism rather than identity theory? Similar arguments can be given. An experience of greenness is not a process. A process is constituted by structure and dynamics . . and that's it. An experience is characterised by it's qualitative feel. They are wholly unlike.
But what stops the structure and dynamics of a process from being/producing an experience that has a qualitative feel? Just because those things are "unlike" doesn't kill the deal.

~~ Paul
 
#48
This is from a review of one of Sheldrake's books, by Donald Hoffman:

Cognitive neuroscientists have indeed done a great deal of research into the neural correlates of specific conscious experiences. For instance, activity in area V4 of visual cortex is correlated with the conscious experience of color; damage to this area, such as by stroke, is correlated with loss of the conscious experience of color. There are dozens of such examples that have been uncovered in first-rate and painstaking scientific investigations. However, no scientific theory has yet been proposed that can explain how the activity of neurons, either in isolation or in groups, can cause or give rise to conscious experiences. Not only are there no scientific theories, there are no remotely plausible ideas. Steven Pinker, for instance, asks in How the Mind Works how conscious experience could arise from brain activity, and responds “Beats the heck out of me. I have some prejudices, but no idea of how to begin to look for a defensible answer. And neither does anyone else. The computational theory of mind offers no insight; neither does any finding in neuroscience, once you clear up the usual confusion of sentience with access and self-knowledge.”
 
#49
You're talking about consciousness? That's what a brain does. But I believe we agree that consciousness is not the same thing as the brain, but the same thing as brain processes. Likewise, computation is not the same thing as the computer, but the same thing as computer processes. So what things do we compare to each other using weight, height, and location?
Going back to my clock, keeping time by virtue of moving hands is what the clock does. Now the moving hands might elicit consciousness, but the moving hands are not itself consciousness.

Same goes for brain processes. Brain processes might elicit consciousness, but they are not themselves consciousness. And they are not for the reasons I have stated in my opening post where I explicitly included the notion that consciousness is a process or function.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#50
Same goes for brain processes. Brain processes might elicit consciousness, but they are not themselves consciousness. And they are not for the reasons I have stated in my opening post where I explicitly included the notion that consciousness is a process or function.
"Secondly the conscious experience has absolutely nothing in common with the object or physical state it is said to be identical with. Physical objects states or processes have properties such as mass, location, charge or are wholly characterised by structure and dynamics. And of course they are objective and discernible form the 3rd person perspective. Conscious experiences, on the other hand, are characterised by the qualitative and wholly lack any physical properties.

Therefore to say they are the same is vacuous -- it's not actually saying anything. If they neither share the same location not have any properties in common whatsoever, then by definition they are not identical."

You have not convinced me that consciousness does not have structure and dynamics. The phrase "not have any properties in common whatsoever" sounds forceful, but nowhere is there a list of the structure and dynamics of brain processes nor such a list for consciousness.

~~ Paul
 
#52
"Secondly the conscious experience has absolutely nothing in common with the object or physical state it is said to be identical with. Physical objects states or processes have properties such as mass, location, charge or are wholly characterised by structure and dynamics. And of course they are objective and discernible form the 3rd person perspective. Conscious experiences, on the other hand, are characterised by the qualitative and wholly lack any physical properties.

Therefore to say they are the same is vacuous -- it's not actually saying anything. If they neither share the same location not have any properties in common whatsoever, then by definition they are not identical."

You have not convinced me that consciousness does not have structure and dynamics. The phrase "not have any properties in common whatsoever" sounds forceful, but nowhere is there a list of the structure and dynamics of brain processes nor such a list for consciousness.

~~ Paul
In saying the physical world is wholly characterised by structure and dynamics I'm saying that physical reality is exhausted by the arrangements of fundamental physical existents, the forces acting between them and their motions. Consciousness on the other hand is characterised by the qualitative and wholly lacks any physical properties i.e consciousness does not possess mass, nor electrical force, does not have a location, or a speed, is not comprised of particles, is not measureable, is not discernible from a 3rd person perspective etc.

I'm not trying to convince you that consciousness doesn't have physical properties. I just take that as a given. If my consciousness has dynamics, then how fast is it going? In which direction etc.

And what has any of this got to do with my original query as to why reductive materialism isn't false by definition?
 
#54
You mean functional consciousness? Not phenomenal consciousness I assume? The latter is what we're talking about.
If consciousness as phenomenal is actually to do anything (such as connect to the brain, etc), then it must has function as well!
And our minds have considerable complexity -- think of all our loves, desires, memories, reasons, plans, intentions -- that I quite positive that it has structure.

What you have to push back against, is Paul claiming that "the physical world is wholly characterised by structure and dynamics"!
That is completely wrong.
What we have to look at are the kinds of substances that things are made out of!

My recommended view:
Physical substances are made out of material propensities,
but mental substances are made out of mental propensities (namely love and desires).
Mental substances (therefore) have intentionality, reasons, awareness, representations -- but no physical substance has these.

Both mental and physical substances have structure and dynamics.
I am a substance dualist about mind and body.
 
#55
If consciousness as phenomenal is actually to do anything (such as connect to the brain, etc), then it must has function as well!
There seems to be an awful lot of confusion about what consciousness does and what it is.

I hate to paste in part of my opening post again, but it seems that no one has actually read it! Relevant part in red:

Looking at reply 2 in response to the explanatory gap argument his argument appears to be that our raw conscious experiences or qualia seem to have causal effects, therefore qualia can be wholly reduced to a functional analysis.

This certainly appears to be true of the physical world. At least from a scientific perspective there's nothing more to an entity or process over and above it's causal powers to affect its environment and hence will be susceptible to a functional analysis.

However this is not the case with our phenomenal consciousness or qualia. Certainly my conscious experiences, for example my emotions, have a causal impact on the world. However it is asinine in the extreme to suppose that my emotions are nothing but such causal powers. An emotion such as fear is not constituted by my behavior, but rather by the raw emotion experienced.


You need to read what I actually say, not what Paul claims I say!

Consciousness is not constituted by its causal powers or functional role (that is an attribute of consciousness), but by it's qualitative nature.

And our minds have considerable complexity -- think of all our loves, desires, memories, reasons, plans, intentions -- that I quite positive that it has structure.
The words complexity and structure here are not being used in the original sense but rather in some vague sense that a psychologist might employ. For something to be complex it has to be made of smaller parts in a particular arrangement (structure). This does not apply to consciousness.

What you have to push back against, is Paul claiming that "the physical world is wholly characterised by structure and dynamics"!
That is completely wrong.
What we have to look at are the kinds of substances that things are made out of!
No Paul never said that. I did!

"At least from a scientific perspective there's nothing more to an entity or process over and above it's causal powers to affect its environment and hence will be susceptible to a functional analysis".

There might be material substance, but that's a philosophical issue, not a scientific one. From a scientific perspective there's nothing more we can say about the physical world apart from its functional role.

My recommended view:
Physical substances are made out of material propensities,
Eh? A substance wouldn't be made of anything I don't think!

but mental substances are made out of mental propensities (namely love and desires).
I regard mental substance as constituting the self. Love and desire are properties of mental substance, they do not constitute mental substance.

But looks like we have a very different understanding of substance so I don't think further debate will be fruitful on that particular topic.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#56
In saying the physical world is wholly characterised by structure and dynamics I'm saying that physical reality is exhausted by the arrangements of fundamental physical existents, the forces acting between them and their motions. Consciousness on the other hand is characterised by the qualitative and wholly lacks any physical properties i.e consciousness does not possess mass, nor electrical force, does not have a location, or a speed, is not comprised of particles, is not measureable, is not discernible from a 3rd person perspective etc.
No physical process has any of those attributes, either. Consciousness is measurable in various indirect ways, which is the case with other physical processes, too. Whether my consciousness can be experienced by you is an open question.

I'm not trying to convince you that consciousness doesn't have physical properties. I just take that as a given. If my consciousness has dynamics, then how fast is it going?
This is an excellent question. When I was young, I would have periods of time when my entire experience seemed to be going much faster than usual. I felt as if I was walking and talking faster, other people's actions seemed faster, and so forth. I tested this by asking people whether I was talking faster, but, of course, I was not. The episodes lasted anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. Apparently the dynamics of my stream of consciousness changed.

And what has any of this got to do with my original query as to why reductive materialism isn't false by definition?
Aren't we talking about this?

"Therefore to say they are the same is vacuous -- it's not actually saying anything. If they neither share the same location not have any properties in common whatsoever, then by definition they are not identical."

~~ Paul
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#57
Chalmers' Thoughts on Emergence

eta: Got this from Karamaling's post on the old forum - Thanks!
http://consc.net/notes/emergence.html
Here are some thoughts on "emergence". Nothing definitive, but an attempt to get at the psychological core (or cores) of the notion. Thanks are due to others for providing a stimulating discussion.

Emergence is a tricky concept. It's easy to slide it down a slippery slope, and turn it into something implausible and easily dismissable. But it's not easy to delineate the interesting middle ground in between. Two unsatisfactory definitions of emergence, at either end of the spectrum:

(1) Emergence as "inexplicable" and "magical". This would cover high-level properties of a system that are simply not deducible from its low-level properties, no matter how sophisticated the deduction. This view leads easily into mysticism, and there is not the slightest evidence for it (except, perhaps, in the difficult case of consciousness, but let's leave that aside for now). All material properties seem to follow from low-level physical properties. Very few sophisticated people since the 19th century have actually believed in this kind of "emergence", and it's rarely what is referred to by those who invoke the term favourably. But if you mention "emergence", someone inevitably interprets you as meaning this, causing no end of confusion.

(2) Emergence as the existence of properties of a system that are not possessed by any of its parts. This, of course, is so ubiquitous a phenomenon that it's not deeply interesting. Under this definition, file cabinets and decks of cards (not to mention XOR gates) have plenty of emergent properties - so this is surely not what we mean.

The challenge, then, is to delineate a concept of emergence that falls between the deeply implausible (1) and the overly general (2). After all, serious people do like do use the term, and they think they mean something interesting by it. It probably will help to focus on a few core examples of "emergence":

  • (A) The game of Life: High-level patterns and structure emerge from simple low-level rules.
  • (B) Connectionist networks: High-level "cognitive" behaviour emerges from simple interactions between dumb threshold logic units.
  • (C) The operating system (Hofstadter's example): The fact that overloading occurs just around when there are 35 users on the system seems to be an emergent property of the system.
  • (D) Evolution: Intelligence and many other interesting properties emerge over the course of evolution by genetic recombination, mutation and natural selection.
 
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S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#58
What about proto-proto-consciousness? We don't understand consciousness well enough to know what sort of spectrum there is.

~~ Paul
I think the challenge is if you claim it's proto^15, I can ask why not proto^12, proto^4, or even proto^1?

Proto^1 seems to be Goff's position, where AFAICTell our conscious selves are actually superpositioned particles of mental causation directing our bodies.

eta: Regarding the OP & Thread Title, biologist Kauffman provides some arguments against reductionism.
 
#59
Chalmers' Thoughts on Emergence

eta: Got this from Karamaling's post on the old forum - Thanks!
For what it's worth, my completely un-scientific intuition is that a kind of emergence is possible - that it is possible that consciousness is something that does not exist pre-birth, that it develops over one's lifetime based on sensation and experience as interpreted through the workings of the brain, but that it could survive the physical destruction of the brain, in whatever its final state was, due to being made of non-physical quantum vibrations or a pattern of activity in a field of some undiscovered fifth force (or maybe one of the four known ones) or dark energy whatever, and continues to develop afterwards in response to new forms of non-physical input.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#60
Here's some arguments that taken together make a case for nonphysical mind:

1) Agrippa's Trilemma

2) Hoffman's Interface Theory of Perception: Natural Selection Drives True Perception to Extinction and Dismissing God

3) The materialist Lycan's Giving Dualism Its Due:

My materialism has never wavered. Nor is it about to waver now; I cannot take dualism very seriously.

Being a philosopher, of course I would like to think that my stance is rational, held not just instinctively and scientistically and in the mainstream but because the arguments do indeed favor materialism over dualism. But I do not think that, though I used to. My position may be rational, broadly speaking, but not because the arguments favor it: Though the arguments for dualism do (indeed) fail, so do the arguments for materialism. And the standard objections to dualism are not very convincing; if one really manages to be a dualist in the first place, one should not be much impressed by them. My purpose in this paper is to hold my own feet to the fire and admit that I do not proportion my belief to the evidence.<3>
Note that Lycan's consideration of an immaterial substance is questionable, as Feser contends this idea of an immaterial soul-stuff was not what the dualist philosophers of old had in mind. I'd recommend reading Feser's five-part refutation of the usual objections to dualism:

Part 1 + Part 2 + Part 3 + Part 4 + Part 5

4) The problem of Subjective Experience - Start with Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness, Moving Forward on the Problem of Consciousness, There are No Easy Problems of Consciousness.

5) The problem of Intentionality - Start with this post from Feser, and Vallicella's Original and Derived Intentionality, Circles, and Regresses.

6) The problem of Rationality & consideration of Universals - Start with Ross's Immaterial Aspects of Thought. Also skeptic Massimo's consideration of Mathematical Platonism and mathematician James Franklin's consideration of Mathematical "Aristotleanism".

[Also Plato's Affinity Argument.]

7) The aforementioned problem of Emergence: How does nonconscious matter achieve consciousness without a nonsensical "something from nothing" type miracle? I suspect any good introduction to Panpsychism will touch on this, or just go back to my first post in this thread to get Harris's quote.

8) The usual collection of anecdotes and personal feelings/experiences. One could start with T.A.S.T.E. for this sort of thing.
 
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