How the light gets out (consciousness)

#1
Here's another perspective for how consciousness arose within the brain.

Consciousness is the ‘hard problem’, the one that confounds science and philosophy. Has a new theory cracked it?

by *Michael Graziano
Scientific talks can get a little dry, so I try to mix it up. I take out my giant hairy orangutan puppet, do some ventriloquism and quickly become entangled in an argument. I’ll be explaining my theory about how the brain — a biological machine — generates consciousness. Kevin, the orangutan, starts heckling me. ‘Yeah, well, I don’t have a brain. But I’m still conscious. What does that do to your theory?’

Kevin is the perfect introduction. Intellectually, nobody is fooled: we all know that there’s nothing inside. But everyone in the audience experiences an illusion of sentience emanating from his hairy head. The effect is automatic: being social animals, we project awareness onto the puppet. Indeed, part of the fun of ventriloquism is experiencing the illusion while knowing, on an intellectual level, that it isn’t real.

Many thinkers have approached consciousness from a first-person vantage point, the kind of philosophical perspective according to which other people’s minds seem essentially unknowable. And yet, as Kevin shows, we spend a lot of mental energy attributing...
http://aeon.co/magazine/being-human/how-consciousness-works/

*Michael Graziano is a neuroscientist, novelist and composer. He is a professor of neuroscience at Princeton University. His latest book is Consciousness and the Social Brain.
 
#3
A neat way of dealing with the problem of consciousness. Simply state that the hard problem is the easy problem and vice versa. Good lord, *I* had a squirrel in MY head (and a whole squadron of flying pigs) after reading that collection of assumptions, Steve .... but thanks for posting it any way. I need a drink now.
 
#6
Kevin is the perfect introduction. Intellectually, nobody is fooled: we all know that there’s nothing inside. But everyone in the audience experiences an illusion of sentience emanating from his hairy head. The effect is automatic: being social animals, we project awareness onto the puppet. Indeed, part of the fun of ventriloquism is experiencing the illusion while knowing, on an intellectual level, that it isn’t real.
The very fact that stuff like that is taken seriously should tell you a lot about how stuck materialist science is with regard to consciousness!

Kids personify stuffed animals - so do some adults, but so what? The animals don't become conscious, and a collection of stuffed animals wouldn't fool each other because none of them could be fooled by an illusion - you need a mind for that!

David
 
#7
Michael Graziano said:
I believe that the easy and the hard problems have gotten switched around.
It doesn't matter how many people want to play the cup game with hard and easy problems; they both have to get solved if we want to go anywhere.
Michael Graziano said:
In a period of rapid evolutionary expansion called the Cambrian Explosion, animal nervous systems acquired the ability to boost the most urgent incoming signals.
Appeal to the “evolution did it” gambit: a million-year black box doesn't actually help us understand anything.
Michael Graziano said:
Suppose that consciousness is a non-physical feeling, an aura, an inner essence that arises somehow from a brain or from a special circuit in the brain. The ‘emergent consciousness’ theory is the most common assumption in the literature. But how does a brain produce the emergent, non-physical essence?
He seems not to like the emergence argument, though he comes back and makes the exact same argument later in the article.
Michael Graziano said:
Some people might feel disturbed by the attention schema theory. It says that awareness is not something magical that emerges from the functioning of the brain. When you look at the colour blue, for example, your brain doesn’t generate a subjective experience of blue.
First, he says that awareness and consciousness isn't an emergent property.
Michael Graziano said:
Instead, it acts as a computational device. It computes a description, then attributes an experience of blue to itself. The process is all descriptions and conclusions and computations. Subjective experience, in the theory, is something like a myth that the brain tells itself. The brain insists that it has subjective experience because, when it accesses its inner data, it finds that information.
Next, he goes on a roundabout way of basically saying consciousness is an emergent property.
Michael Graziano said:
One of the long-standing questions about consciousness is whether it really does anything. Is it merely an epiphenomenon, floating uselessly in our heads like the heat that rises up from the circuitry of a computer? Most of us intuitively understand it to be an active thing: it helps us to decide what to do and when.
Now he's setting up the epiphenomenon argument.
Michael Graziano said:
And yet, at least some of the scientific work on consciousness has proposed the opposite, counter-intuitive view: that it doesn’t really do anything at all; that it is the brain’s after-the-fact story to explain itself. We act reflexively and then make up a rationalisation.
Yes, we know that it is possible to trick people. Especially average people who aren't masters of deception or very good at self-awareness. How come there are no references to relevant papers, and how come there are none of these done with people who do have a very high degree of self-awareness?
 
#8
The very existence of the out-of-body experience suggests that awareness is a computation and that the computation can be disrupted.
But this can not explain the OBEs veridical and extrasensorial, such experiments with Tanous, Blue Harary... That's just a selective collection of cases which may explain the pet theory.

Many of our superstitions — our beliefs in souls and spirits and mental magic — might emerge naturally from the simplifications and shortcuts the brain takes when representing itself and its world.
Yes, and many of those beliefs may have their basis in reality, as the psychic researchers have been studying the issue for years. The origin of a belief does not say anything about whether that belief is true or not.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#9

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#10
This was a weird article, in that I don't think the author understood what the Hard Problem really is or why Harris, a neuroscience PhD, would refer to emergence as a miracle.
I think he understands the hard problem.

"It seems, therefore, that at least some of our conscious choices are rationalisations after the fact. But if consciousness is a story we tell ourselves, why do we need it? Why are we aware of anything at all? Why not just be skilful automata, without the overlay of subjectivity? Some philosophers think we are automata and just don’t know it."

He thinks he has a solution. Neuroscientists aren't going to throw up their hands and just say "It's hard, and I don't know what to do." Let's see where he goes with it.

"I admit that the theory does not feel satisfying; but a theory does not need to be satisfying to be true."

~~ Paul
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#11
It's good that he admits his theory isn't satisfying, because it seems to pick an arbitrary stage of information processing and attach consciousness to it.

Though as I've said before I'm an advocate of religious tolerance, and am happy to let him explore some validation of his faith.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#12
It's good that he admits his theory isn't satisfying, because it seems to pick an arbitrary stage of information processing and attach consciousness to it.
If consciousness is brain function, that's the way it's going to be.

Though as I've said before I'm an advocate of religious tolerance, and am happy to let him explore some validation of his faith.
You mean as opposed to the faith that consciousness is something special?

Immaterialists toss around terms like "promissory materialism" and this faith comment without seeming to understand that every hypothesis is promissory until we have a final explanation. It makes them look like they aren't paying attention to their own beliefs on the matter, although I find this hard to believe.

~~ Paul
 
#15
I think the only reason Chalmers is so loved is he, inadvertently, through his thesis allows the means to those choosing to believe in non local consciousness in contrast to Graziano, but what I've read of Chalmers thesis he does not subscribe to consciousness being anyplace except the brain.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#16
Immaterialists toss around terms like "promissory materialism" and this faith comment without seeming to understand that every hypothesis is promissory until we have a final explanation. It makes them look like they aren't paying attention to their own beliefs on the matter, although I find this hard to believe.
Depends on what people mean by the critique "promissory materialism". If someone thinks they've found a mystery that proves all their pet beliefs as valid then they aren't thinking things through. You see this with a few religious apologists, who act as if the only choices are atheism or their particular faith.

But immaterialists seem more willing to recognize their faith as faith, whereas faith in things like the miracle of emergence among materialists are held to be infallible truths simply awaiting confirmation in the way a religious fundamentalist awaits the Day of Judgement.

I find the criticism of "promissory materialism" more apt when noting the refusal among pseudo-skeptics to discuss alternatives to their materialist faith. A subset of the skeptical community seems to not only place their faith in everything being ultimately be inline with materialism in the end, but are willing to partake in shaming tactics and dishonesty to spread their religion.

Of course, Creative Agnosticism seems superior to both materialist and immaterialist religious orthodoxy....though I've yet to meet anyone who actually lives the truth of materialist reductionism so I see the immaterialists as more honest about finding a metaphysics they incorporate into their lives.

I think the only reason Chalmers is so loved is he, inadvertently, through his thesis allows the means to those choosing to believe in non local consciousness in contrast to Graziano,
I don't know if Chalmers is beloved, it's more he presents a solid introduction to why people are - often intuitively - skeptical of the reductionist materialist paradigm. A year and a half ago I'd barely heard of him but in my investigation of consciousness I found him best able to show the flaws in materialist explanations.

but what I've read of Chalmers thesis he does not subscribe to consciousness being anyplace except the brain.
Odd, since I think even a cursory examination of Chalmers reveals his interest in panpsychism. But in Consciousness and Its Place in Nature he does offer alternatives such as Neutral Monism - which is also favored by Nagel.
 
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#17
Chalmers is appreciated because he thinks clearly about the issues. Regardless of what his personal belief might be, he is still open to possibilities. He is actually able to conceptualise various views and critically evaluate the pros and cons of each view. He is not driven by dogma.
 
#18
Depends on what people mean by the critique "promissory materialism". If someone thinks they've found a mystery that proves all their pet beliefs as valid then they aren't thinking things through. You see this with a few religious apologists, who act as if the only choices are atheism or their particular faith.

But immaterialists seem more willing to recognize their faith as faith, whereas faith in things like the miracle of emergence among materialists are held to be infallible truths simply awaiting confirmation in the way a religious fundamentalist awaits the Day of Judgement.

I find the criticism of "promissory materialism" more apt when noting the refusal among pseudo-skeptics to discuss alternatives to their materialist faith. A subset of the skeptical community seems to not only place their faith in everything being ultimately be inline with materialism in the end, but are willing to partake in shaming tactics and dishonesty to spread their religion.

Of course, Creative Agnosticism seems superior to both materialist and immaterialist religious orthodoxy....though I've yet to meet anyone who actually lives the truth of materialist reductionism so I see the immaterialists as more honest about finding a metaphysics they incorporate into their lives.
C'mon Sciborg: aren't these rhetoric-filled posts a little "shaming tacticky? You're better than this.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#19
C'mon Sciborg: aren't these rhetoric-filled posts a little "shaming tacticky? You're better than this.
Note what I said:

A subset of the skeptical community seems to not only place their faith in everything being ultimately be inline with materialism in the end, but are willing to partake in shaming tactics and dishonesty to spread their religion.
If I'd used universal qualifiers I could see your point. Regardless, my assessment based on reading the critiques of skeptics themselves.
 
#20
I think the only reason Chalmers is so loved is he, inadvertently, through his thesis allows the means to those choosing to believe in non local consciousness in contrast to Graziano, but what I've read of Chalmers thesis he does not subscribe to consciousness being anyplace except the brain.
I dunno, I've never read Chalmers, I hear his name mentioned a lot, but apart from watching a short interview with him which someone posted on here some months ago, that's about all I know of him.

My reasons for suggesting that some sort of processing is taking place across both space and time, are simply because of things I've discovered during my own search for answers.
 
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