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Eise last won the day on April 9

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About Eise

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    the old world
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    Physics, Astronomy
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    University degree philosophy, subsidary subject physics
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    Database administrator, a bit of Linux too

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  1. I do not agree. In the first place it is not 'rhetorical shorthand', at least not for neuronal activity. Scientists and philosophers use the word 'consciousness' already an eternity, without having any idea about how the brain works. If it is shorthand, then only for what all experiences (seeing, hearing, thinking) have in common. In the second place even if we have no definition everybody agrees upon, we still all know more or less what we are talking about. E.g. if you say that consciousness has no causal impact on the brain, you seem really to be saying something meaningful. Maybe you did not understand what I was expressing with the hardware/software comparison. E.g. I work as a database administrator, and so I work with 'databases', 'tables', 'indices' and 'user accounts'. I could not do my work if I had to understand it in terms of the movements of electrons and electron-holes through semiconductor circuits. The higher, more abstract level is the essence of my work. An Intel-Engineer would not understand a single thing of what I am doing, if he had to understand it on the level he daily works with. But no question that without his semiconductor chips, my databases could not exist. So, yes, consciousness is rooted in in the hardware of the brain, but we will never be able to understand it, if we stick to the lowest neuronal level. We must be prepared to move to higher and higher levels, where small networks of neurons have functions, further networks of functions give rise to networks of networks that at the highest level even have meanings, intentions, and in the end consciousness. Except that 'love' is no conscious person. In your comparison there is no need to explain a phenomenon ('love changes the world') that needs explaining. But we want to understand consciousness. Maybe, maybe not. I am saying: - consciousness has causal impact (because it is implemented in the physical brain) - we have control over our environment - we have free will (because we often can act according to the wishes and beliefs I am myself conscious of) (None of the three is meant to read as absolutes: it does not mean that we are conscious of everything, that we have absolute control over everything, or that all we do is based on free actions. (Just in case dimreepr shows up here...)) But I do not think you see this just as a question of perspective. On the other hand, we share our naturalistic viewpoint. We don't need a soul or any kind of magic for understanding consciousness.
  2. Yes, of course. Explicitly you of course do not believe in a soul or something. You are a naturalist, just as I am. We do not allow for 'magical interventions'. The problem is that epiphenomenalism, the view that consciousness is caused by brain processes but has itself no causal impact in the world (your viewpoint), and your question to me ('by what specific alternative mechanism can consciousness itself have the type of causal impact on the actual world around us?') presuppose consciousness as separate entity. If you see the brain and consciousness as just different stances to the same processes, the problem is gone. But then we are justified to say that consciousness has causal impact, not on the brain (that would be saying that rain affects water falling from the clouds; that makes no sense of course, rain is water falling from the clouds), but on what we do. And then it becomes relevant for the topic of free will, (which in the end this thread is about).
  3. By being implemented in the hardware of the brain. If this does not satisfy you, let's rephrase your question to the terrain of computers: If you move away from the silicon physics perspective I've been treating as both central and foundational to this issue, then by what specific alternative mechanism can software itself have the type of causal impact on the actual world around us you're mentioning above? Nobody denies that computers are based on sound physical principles. Nobody denies that the pattern of pixels on the screen are caused by the program running on the computer. The problem you still have is that behind your question lies a presupposition: that consciousness is somehow separate from the brain. It isn't, just as the running software is not separate from the processes in the computer. There is just one system, seen from different stances.
  4. No, we can't be both right. I say that consciousness can have causal impact, and you say that it cannot.
  5. Italics by me. No. It is the conclusion one must draw from the mere existence of the article. Let's slow down: epiphenomenalism states that the brain causes consciousness, but that consciousness in itself causes nothing. If that is true, it means that if humans are not conscious at all, we would not notice. We would have what is called a philosophical zombie. A philosophical zombie is a human that behaves exactly as we do, but has no consciousness. But of course this cannot be: the authors try to explain consciousness, so they know they are. A philosophical zombie would never write an article about consciousness because he doesn't have it. (At most what he could do, if he is a scientifically inclined zombie, is trying to explain how humans use the concept of 'consciousness' in their discourses.) So what I state is that the mere existence of the article can only be explained by the fact that consciousness has causal impact in the world: otherwise nobody would write such articles. The article defends a self-refuting standpoint. So the only possible conclusion is that consciousness exists, and has causal powers. But that does not mean we must look for a soul in the brain, for some unexplained source of causality which has no causal foreplay on its turn. we must only state that certain classes of processes in the brain are consciousness; the processes do not cause it. A comparison would be a movie on TV. If I ask you, after the movie, if you liked the story of it, you would not answer with 'which movie, I only saw coloured pixels changing their intensity very fast'. Now that is not an argument that there is not a physical basis of the movie in the changing pixels. Of courae there is. Without the physical TV-device we would not be able to see the movie. But the movie is not added magic to the TV-pixels: it is seeing the pixels on another level. And except if you are a TV-engineer, it is the only level we are interested in. Same with the brain: of course its all just firing neurons, but in its complexity they are representations. E.g I have a kind of representation of what I am going to cook tonight for me and my family. This representation is somehow implemented in my brain processes. Of course, physically seen, the brain is not an exception to the rest of the physical world. But seen at another level it is consciousness, and it is only by being consciousness that it can work the way it does: that I am able to really make my meal according my ideas. So consciousness is not causally effective while it somehow 'hovers' over the brain, but because consciousness is the functioning brain. But it is impossible that an organism like us can exist without consciousness. It just comes with the complexity brain. My running outside because my sons held a picture in front of my rainbow detector cannot be explained by raindrops and sunlight. My detector reacts at 'looks like a rainbow', not on the physical cause of the rainbow. Therefore it can be tricked, but usually it works well.
  6. No dark matter and dark energy needed?

    Thanks, Strange. Maeder does not give up.... I also saw (negative) comments of John Baez. Now I'll wait till we have found what DM really exists of. WIMPS, brown dwarfs, planets without stars, (primordial) black holes ....
  7. Sorry, but I had to express my disappointment about just a sarcastic reaction from you after, I put some energy in formulating my posting. You don't have to defend everything. For a dialogue between us it is enough to give your well-supported own stance about the points that I brought in. Having not so much time is of course a problem. But you could have just said so. It is a pity, but it is OK. Now that is a too fast conclusion of you (from one post?). I am all in for a friendly argumentative discussion, in the hope of sharping my views (which can imply changing them, of course). In this sense, I hope that you eventually react on my posting above.
  8. Books and papers on the experimental support of Special Relativity

    I think the faq is a good start.
  9. Minkowski spacetime

    Does this answer your questions? If not, just ask further.
  10. No dark matter and dark energy needed?

    That is a pretty devastating critique. I looked up Maeder's background before I posted this, he seemed a kind of authority. So I didn't have to wait very long... Thanks for the link.
  11. Yes, funny. And now, iNow? You linked an article, and I assume you brought it in to support your position, or at least that it makes an interesting read. And I read it, and commented on it. And then your only reaction is sarcasm? I am disappointed. I thought you want to be rational. But if you want to discuss rationally, but are not prepared to enter a rational discussion i.e. try to find out what the better arguments are, then better let it be. It seems to me that you are quite content with your gut feeling that we have no free will, and therefore do not want to investigate if you are really correct.
  12. OK, I read the article. And I am not impressed. In fact I find it a pretty naive article. Only one sentence in the introduction made it already clear where the authors stand: In philosophy, this position is known as epiphenomenalism. But alas, this position has debunked already a few times: it is self-refuting. Epiphenomenalism is the theory that something is effected by some (causal) conditions, but that itself plays no causal role. But this means that the authors could have written this article without any consciousness at all! But then how do they know about consciousness then? So consciousness has impact (so much that there are libraries written about it, including this article), or it has not. If it hasn't we are left clueless why the authors wrote this article. Later in the article they (consciously!) declare themselves as epiphenomenalists: Another point is that epiphenomenalism is a dualistic stance: There obviously is something caused by material phenomena, but has no causal impact on anything else. But in the material world this is never true: the law of causality says that every event has a cause, and that every event causes something (otherwise it would be impossible to detect). This also means that any attack on free will based on the ideas that (a) consciousness exists; and (b) that it has no causal impact whatsoever, is based on dualism. In a monistic view consciousness is part of the material world and therefore can play a causal role. The authors obvious struggle with this problem, even if you have to read more or less between the lines. Here is a subtle example: 'Antecedent' fits in a normal causal framework. So what they say is that consciousness is caused by brain processes. This fits perfectly to their epiphenomenalist position. However when they say that processes are accompanied by subjective experience, they take a more careful stance. I deny the first formulation, because it implies dualism, but agree with the latter. However we must define accompanied more precisely: and here I would say that certain types of brain processes are consciousness. The authors take the rainbow as a perfect parallel to their view on consciousness. The rainbow is an optical phenomenon that is caused by the refraction (not scattering! ) of sunlight in raindrops. But the optical phenomenon has no causal impact back on the light or the raindrops. But it is not true that a rainbow has no impact at all! When there is a rainbow I walk to the window (or outside when it is not raining anymore where I am) to see it better: it is a beautiful phenomenon! Imagine we build a rainbow detector: it is based on the analysis of forms (must be a part of a circle, has a certain broadness) and colour distribution. When the device detects one it signifies me. So it is not based on measurements of raindrop sizes and locations and calculations about the position of the sun etc, but on image analysis. Now my sons play a trick on me: they hold a picture of a rainbow in front of the detector, and yes, I run outside, for nothing. The point is that we can create devices that react on the optical phenomenon, not on the physics on which the phenomenon is based. And this, is my position: that the brain is such a system that 'creates rainbows', and also reacts on its own rainbows. Of course there is plain physics under all the neuron firing in my brain, just as there is for the signaling of my rainbow detector: but the brain works successfully, because neural configurations mean something for the brain itself. This is the basis of consciousness: we, our brains, are heavily loaded with meanings. And this is also why the authors are wrong that consciousness is no top-down process. If certain neurological configurations would not represent 'mental rainbows', they would not have the effect if they weren't. Take the following computer program: counter = 1 loop counter = counter + 1 if counter > 1000000 then shutdown computer end loop; How would you explain that the computer soon turns itself off? By analysing its physical structure? Or by the program it runs? I am convinced that there is a completely naturalistic explanation for consciousness. However, we will need soft concepts as representations and meanings (rainbows, so to speak) to understand it. Douglas Hofstadter has written a beautiful and playful book about it: Gödel, Escher Bach. (It is never too late to read it): One final note: the authors see no problem with free will, even that they defend that consciousness has no influence on the brain. But I think they are just flying over the problem. Or does it convince you? This all they have to say about it in the main article.
  13. Well, yes, nearly. It was Gilbert Ryle's expression for an absurd idea: that the soul somehow inhabits the brain, that it is the place where all sense data arrive, and where all our conscious actions are initiated. Consciousness is the 'spirit in the material world' (another phrase of Ryle). It is a view of what we are, Cartesian dualism. The only point I am making that I do not have the machine experience. But it is true, I also feel I am somewhere behind my eyes, between the ears. What question? If we normally have free will? Well, it might be an empirical question, but not in the way that many suppose here. If somebody acts free or not is by looking if he was forced to his actions, or if he has a heavy psychological dependence on somebody else, or misses some of the preconditions needed for free will (to be able to evaluate reasons for actions and have a realistic picture of the environment). But definitely not by looking into the brain and discover that there is no soul in it. But yes, then I am using my definition of free will, and not the absurd notion that we can decide what to do uncaused by lower level level brain processes.
  14. At least not according André Maeder, University of Geneva: Interesting. Let's wait and see.
  15. It seems to me you do not realise that the mathematics, in other sciences than mathematics itself, are abstract descriptions of something empirical. Physics is not plain mathematics: it is mathematical models of matter, fields, energy etc. I agree with you that mathematics taken for itself cannot be conscious. But that doesn't mean that what is described by mathematics cannot be conscious. Yes, of course. But that was not what I meant. I drew a parallel between consciousness and life. I can use the same argumentation for life, as you do with consciousness: Mathematics is not alive, and because everything can be described by mathematical laws of nature, it cannot be the sole reason for life. Or an even worse example: Mathematics cannot fall. Laws of falling bodies are mathematical. So it cannot be the sole reason for falling bodies. That is just BS. It is blind dogmatism.