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LH Merlo

About life and consciousness.

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Posted (edited)

What is consciousness?

I'll start this with an example, let's suppose someone has Alzheimer, he can forget his name, he can forget where he lives or who he are, but he won't ever forget he's something, by the way he doesn't even have to remember it, he just is. It's like there is a sense of existence in each one of us that goes beyond our comprehension - which we can call life -. When and how something inanimated became an animated being? When it started to exists? What is it that we call existence?

IMO it makes more sense to believe there's "something more" we can't explain, it can't be just our brain and its impressions.

Life itself is transcedental.

Edited by LH Merlo
I'm adding an idea.

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10 minutes ago, LH Merlo said:

IMO it makes more sense to believe there's "something more" we can't explain, it can't be just our brain and its impressions.

Argument from incredulity? Never very compelling. 

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2 hours ago, LH Merlo said:

it can't be just our brain and its impressions

Why not?

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I think I expressed my opinion poorly. Yes it could be that we're all matter. I just don't believe it because we got no explanation for the very existence, we know in what conditions it could exist and we have some theories about how the first living being appeared but, still, we can't actually explain when and how did something inanimated became animated, we can't explain what is the sense of existence itself and how it emerged.

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I'm not sure I understand why our current lack of understanding about the exact method of abiogenesis that resulted in us implies there is "something more". There are lots of things we don't yet know. Do all of them infer there is 'something more', or only this particular mystery? If we do figure out exactly how abiogenesis happened on earth, does that prove there is NOT 'something more'?

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10 hours ago, LH Merlo said:

 I just don't believe it because we got no explanation for the very existence,

Once upon a time we dint have an explanation for magnetism. That doesn't mean that it had to be "something else".

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Posted (edited)

When I said something more I meant something that goes beyond our comprehension till now, but you're right, I gave it a little spiritual connotation, because the fact that we EXIST just blows my mind. Let me try again.

We can't prove that life emerged from abiogenesis or panspermia or whatever. I believe it has an explanation, but I just think it may go far beyond our current knowledge - and that's what I call something more -, there are much more possibilities than our main theories.

See, spirituality isn't a religious belief, it's just the refuse that life it's all about a matter state. What happened before the big bang? I can't assume there was nothing. It's just that we can't understand. Maybe there's a lot more when it comes to life as well, a lot more than matter, maybe science is just not there yet.

Edited by LH Merlo
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23 minutes ago, LH Merlo said:

We can't prove that life emerged from abiogenesis or panspermia or whatever.

Although the evidence is pretty good. And increasing all the time. (Your "something else" is getting smaller by the year.)

23 minutes ago, LH Merlo said:

I believe it has an explanation, but I just think it may go far beyond our current knowledge

well, obviously. But there is no reason to think science won't come up with an explanation.

24 minutes ago, LH Merlo said:

See, spirituality isn't a religious belief, it's just the refuse that life it's all about a matter state. What happened before the big bang? I can't assume there was nothing. It's just that we can't understand. Maybe there's a lot more when it comes to life as well, a lot more than matter, maybe science is just not there yet.

Maybe there are invisible pink unicorns around every corner.

But both science and philosophy rely on evidence. Not warm fuzzy feelings.

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42 minutes ago, LH Merlo said:

I gave it a little spiritual connotation, because the fact that we EXIST just blows my mind.

Take that mind-blowing feeling of wonder and awe and apply it where it will have the most meaning. You can call it spirituality or whatever you want, but you're right, life is quite simply amazing. Studying how it evolved on our planet is a a real journey. I'm happy you're taking advantage of the accumulated knowledge of humanity, and particularly science, where you'll get the most trustworthy explanations for various phenomena.

Personally, I think this feeling you have of "something more" is simply part of your brain recognizing that you don't have all the pieces of the puzzle yet. We're very focused on patterns as a species, and when a pattern is incomplete, it nags at us, bothers us until we find a solution. 

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34 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

Take that mind-blowing feeling of wonder and awe and apply it where it will have the most meaning. You can call it spirituality or whatever you want, but you're right, life is quite simply amazing. Studying how it evolved on our planet is a a real journey. I'm happy you're taking advantage of the accumulated knowledge of humanity, and particularly science, where you'll get the most trustworthy explanations for various phenomena.

Personally, I think this feeling you have of "something more" is simply part of your brain recognizing that you don't have all the pieces of the puzzle yet. We're very focused on patterns as a species, and when a pattern is incomplete, it nags at us, bothers us until we find a solution. 

It may be, that's an interesting opinion. Your comment gave me some insight, thank you. Indeed, life is pretty amazing.

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16 hours ago, LH Merlo said:

When and how something inanimated became an animated being?

Remember that, at the most basic level, living, animated organisms are more efficient at using and dissipating heat from the sun than inorganic matter. Personally, I think if the right chemistry and temperature is present, life becomes inevitable simply because it creates systems that tends to help itself adapt and progress.

If you think consciousness is a special human property, do you think we have any obligations in its use? The combination of high intelligence, tool use, opposable thumbs, cooking our food, agriculture and animal husbandry, a high degree of cooperation and communication, and bipedalism have made us the only species we know of that can voluntarily leave the planet. We could ultimately spread life to other parts of our galaxy. How important to our identity as humans do you think this consciousness is, and do you think it's something we need to understand better before we start exploring offworld?

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5 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

and do you think it's something we need to understand better before we start exploring offworld?

I think it's immaterial, if we can't make this world work; what chance do we have to make offworld, work?  

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16 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

I think it's immaterial, if we can't make this world work; what chance do we have to make offworld, work?  

I think we'd have a much better chance if we didn't consider it unimportant in our efforts to make this world work. 

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2 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

I think we'd have a much better chance if we didn't consider it unimportant in our efforts to make this world work. 

Then I think we need to reconsider what we mean by insurance.

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11 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Then I think we need to reconsider what we mean by insurance.

OK, have a good evening.

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6 hours ago, Phi for All said:

If you think consciousness is a special human property, do you think we have any obligations in its use? The combination of high intelligence, tool use, opposable thumbs, cooking our food, agriculture and animal husbandry, a high degree of cooperation and communication, and bipedalism have made us the only species we know of that can voluntarily leave the planet. We could ultimately spread life to other parts of our galaxy. How important to our identity as humans do you think this consciousness is, and do you think it's something we need to understand better before we start exploring offworld?

I don't think consciousness is an exclusive human property, I think other living beings just have different levels of consciousness. Also, I think consciousness and sense of existence are different things.

I believe consciousness is one of the most powerful and important things in our world. Unfortunately our population lack self-awareness, critical thought, mental health and a bunch of other things that could make the world a lot better.

It's truly amazing that we as humans can explore the offworld, If you think about it, it looks like life itself is an extremely rare thing, we're like 'guardians of life' in such a huge and enigmatic universe, maybe we should look at it with more respect. But, as dimreepr said, we're destroying this one yet.

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33 minutes ago, LH Merlo said:

I don't think consciousness is an exclusive human property, I think other living beings just have different levels of consciousness.

I agree that "higher" animals have some sort of consciousness. The trouble is that this quickly opens up the rabbit holes of what one means by "consciousness" and how one can know if a particular thing has it or not. After all, there is no real way of knowing if another person is conscious or just does a perfect imitation of being conscious. There are some people who think that however close we get to "real" artificial intelligence, machines will never be conscious in the same way. Even if a robot writes poetry, claims to have fallen in love, gets drunk, cries at the movies, gets angry in an argument, etc it will not be "really" conscious.

37 minutes ago, LH Merlo said:

Also, I think consciousness and sense of existence are different things.

Yes. It is possible that only humans have a sense of self awareness. But, again, can we really know? There is the mirror test, that suggests that quite a few animals can recognise themselves. But does that mean they are aware of their existence? Of their mortality?

39 minutes ago, LH Merlo said:

I believe consciousness is one of the most powerful and important things in our world.

It may also be an illusion!

39 minutes ago, LH Merlo said:

It's truly amazing that we as humans can explore the offworld, If you think about it, it looks like life itself is an extremely rare thing, we're like 'guardians of life' in such a huge and enigmatic universe, maybe we should look at it with more respect.

Agreed.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Strange said:

The trouble is that this quickly opens up the rabbit holes of what one means by "consciousness" and how one can know if a particular thing has it or not.

That would make a nice definition of what philosophy is: joyfully entering intellectual rabbit holes. (at least much better than 'philosophy is what we don't know' or 'philosophy is asking why'...).

Let me show a great place in this rabbit hole (you opened it!):

9 hours ago, Strange said:

After all, there is no real way of knowing if another person is conscious or just does a perfect imitation of being conscious.

How does a perfect imitation differ from that what is imitated?

This is a cosy place in the rabbit hole:

9 hours ago, Strange said:

Even if a robot writes poetry, claims to have fallen in love, gets drunk, cries at the movies, gets angry in an argument, etc it will not be "really" conscious.

As a 'functionalist', I would say, yes, such a robot is conscious. In the end, the question is if the substrate in which consciousness is implemented matters. To make a 'science fiction intuition pump': in the course of the research in preventing Alzheimer's, neurotechnologists found a way to replace neurons that are on the brink of degenerating with neurochips. These neurochips react exactly the same as the neurons they replace: depending on the inputs, they generate exactly the same outputs in the neural tissue of the brain. Now imagine that after a few years all neurons are replaced. The person reacts exactly the same as before, but his brain is now completely made up of artificial neurons.

We can then even go a step further: these neurotechnologists designed a much compacter way of implementing computers, even compacter than the brain itself, so it fits completely in the skull of a human body. In the artificial neurons as described before, the possibility is build in to make a 'brain dump'. This brain dump can be implemented in the 'compact skull sized computer'. The output of this superduper computer is exactly the same as the brain. Now, is the person with this computer in his skull conscious?

Welcome in the rabbit hole!

(And if you think this is off-topic, feel free to move it to a (new) thread).

Edited by Eise

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On 8/6/2019 at 2:11 PM, LH Merlo said:

What is consciousness?

I'll start this with an example, let's suppose someone has Alzheimer, he can forget his name, he can forget where he lives or who he are, but he won't ever forget he's something, by the way he doesn't even have to remember it, he just is. It's like there is a sense of existence in each one of us that goes beyond our comprehension - which we can call life -. When and how something inanimated became an animated being? When it started to exists? What is it that we call existence?

IMO it makes more sense to believe there's "something more" we can't explain, it can't be just our brain and its impressions.

Life itself is transcedental.

There is a lot more that science can't explain.  It does seem to lead to the transcendental, metaphysical.

 

20 hours ago, Strange said:

Maybe there are invisible pink unicorns around every corner.

But both science and philosophy rely on evidence. Not warm fuzzy feelings.

I am so glad that people have come back from their near death events and told us what they experienced. 

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1 minute ago, Eise said:

How does a perfect imitation differ from that what is imitated?

Exactly. But some people would say that it is just imitating the external phenomena, and that internally it is still just a machine. But the same can be said of "other people".

(I don't think this is off topic, but maybe the OP should decide.)

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Posted (edited)
41 minutes ago, Wulphstein said:

There is a lot more that science can't explain.

Cannot explain? Or cannot explain yet. How would you know? Or maybe consciousness is explained already, but most people do not accept it because it goes against their gut-feeling? (I know at least one philosopher who claims this. And I think he is grosso modo right. The main problem with his explanation is that it is not quite easy to understand, and goes so strong against our gut-feelings, that most people do not accept it.)

41 minutes ago, Wulphstein said:

It does seem to lead to the transcendental, metaphysical.

That is an escape-route, leading nowhere. If the transcendental or metaphysical exist objectively (I doubt it, but just for the sake of argument), then you are just moving the problem to another sphere. And very comforting, you state that science cannot say anything about this sphere. But can something be objectively true, and not open to investigation at the same time?

41 minutes ago, Wulphstein said:

I am so glad that people have come back from their near death events and told us what they experienced. 

There is a huge difference between what people experience, and what is objectively true (and a reason why science can be so difficult). Once, when I was stoned, I saw sound. Does that mean one can see sound? Or was my brain playing a game with me? How do you know NDEs are also not caused by brains playing games with people with their brain under severe stress?

I do not deny NDEs. I do not even deny that they, at least for the NDE'er herself can give some life-changing insights. But I deny that everything NDE'ers experience really is what it seems to be.

Edited by Eise

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13 minutes ago, Eise said:

Cannot explain? Or cannot explain yet. How would you know? Or maybe consciousness is explained already, but most people do not accept it because it goes against their gut-feeling? (I know at least one philosopher who claims this. And I think he is grosso modo right. The main problem with his explanation is that it is not quite easy to understand, and goes so strong against our gut-feelings, that most people do not accept it.)

I don't think consciousness is something that has to be explained, especially by philosophers and scientists; it is something to be developed.  And why would we feel obligated to accept something that goes against our gut feelings?  I don't understand that, at face value, unless some greater good "that could be clearly explained" was to be achieved. 

 

18 minutes ago, Eise said:

That is an escape-route, leading nowhere. If the transcendental or metaphysical exist objectively (I doubt it, but just for the sake of argument), then you are just moving the problem to another sphere. And very comforting, you state that science cannot say anything about this sphere. But can something be objectively true, and not open to investigation at the same time?

What do you mean "exist objectively"?  And what is wrong with "very comforting"?  Do you want to make everyone miserable for some virtuous reason?  Please explain.  I can't understand somebody with your point of view who doesn't grasp the immediate reality of death, and coming back from the edge.  There are literally people who are adrenaline junkies who will do dangerous sports just to get that close to death, to get the rush of adrenaline.  I totally understand that.  If I grasp the metaphysical implications.  It is a shame that you dismiss it so casually.

 

23 minutes ago, Eise said:

There is a huge difference between what people experience, and what is objectively true (and a reason why science can be so difficult). Once, when I was stoned, I saw sound. Does that mean one can see sound? Or was my brain playing a game with me? How do you know NDEs are also not caused by brains playing games with people with their brain under severe stress?

I do not deny NDEs. I do not even deny that they, at least for the NDE'er herself can give some life-changing insights. But I deny that everything NDE'ers experience really is what it seems to be.

Huge difference between experience and objectively true?  I can't identify with what sounds to me like some medieval belief system or flat earth theory that flies in the face of common sense.  I know all about physics, down to the standard model, fields, all that stuff that physicists claim is the total reality.  And I don't buy the belief that it is all of reality.  Because it has so many logical inconsistencies that it looks like brainwashing.  Materialism looks like brain washing.  And I couldn't live with myself if I tried to embrace such a limited, closed minded view of reality.  All this NDE, consciousness, transcendentalism is like the ocean.  One doesn't know how deep it goes until one jumps in and descends to the bottom where truth lies.

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12 minutes ago, Wulphstein said:

I don't think consciousness is something that has to be explained, especially by philosophers and scientists; it is something to be developed.

People always want to understand and explain things.

12 minutes ago, Wulphstein said:

And why would we feel obligated to accept something that goes against our gut feelings? 

You are not obligated to. But, for example, a lot of people find that many scientific conclusions go against their gut feeling or common sense. They don't have to accept that science (a lot of people deny evolution, relativity, quantum theory, etc) but there is little point insisting it is wrong, when it works (and in many cases produces useful results).

So you don't have to accept an explanation of consciousness. But it might turn out to be correct and lead to useful technology despite your reluctance.

One of the objectives of science and (even) philosophy is to get past the "gut feelings" and "common sense" that are so often misleading or just completely wrong.

16 minutes ago, Wulphstein said:

I can't understand somebody with your point of view who doesn't grasp the immediate reality of death, and coming back from the edge.

Not: coming back from the edge, not from death. Their subjective experiences reflect what happens to the brain in extremis. They do not necessarily represent anything real beyond that. 

(I will leave Eise to tackle the question of "exist objectively" as that could take several years to discuss in any level of detail.)

18 minutes ago, Wulphstein said:

Huge difference between experience and objectively true? 

Of course. What about the hallucination example cited by Eise. Or the voices heard by schizophrenics (and others)? They don't have any objective reality but seem completely real to the sufferer. What about optical illusions where we see two things as being different colour when they are the same, or see lines as curved when they are not, and on and on.

20 minutes ago, Wulphstein said:

I can't identify with what sounds to me like some medieval belief system or flat earth theory that flies in the face of common sense. 

Another example of the difference between experience and objective reality: people who think the world must be flat because it looks flat where they are.

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5 minutes ago, Strange said:

You are not obligated to. But, for example, a lot of people find that many scientific conclusions go against their gut feeling or common sense. They don't have to accept that science (a lot of people deny evolution, relativity, quantum theory, etc) but there is little point insisting it is wrong, when it works (and in many cases produces useful results).

So you don't have to accept an explanation of consciousness. But it might turn out to be correct and lead to useful technology despite your reluctance. 

One of the objectives of science and (even) philosophy is to get past the "gut feelings" and "common sense" that are so often misleading or just completely wrong. 

I am not going to get into the argument of having to prove mathematically what my instincts tell me, but when I went beyond "spacetime/speed of light is invariant" as scientific dogma, in pursuit of a mechanism, I got smacked down.  In fact, I got pummeled.  LOL 

Advancing technology will always make people uncertain and uncomfortable.  But in my personal belief, technology and spirit will always be in balance; if they're not in balance, a civilization will suffer.

10 minutes ago, Strange said:

Not: coming back from the edge, not from death. Their subjective experiences reflect what happens to the brain in extremis. They do not necessarily represent anything real beyond that.  

(I will leave Eise to tackle the question of "exist objectively" as that could take several years to discuss in any level of detail.)

I know about all the mechanisms and brain chemicals, but I personally think there is something more fundamental to coming close to death, then just some chemicals and some hallucinations.  I think the the spirit can start to break out of the biological limitations of the body, and see the ultimate reality for what it is.  At least that is what I believe and what experiencers corroborate with their experiences.

13 minutes ago, Strange said:

Another example of the difference between experience and objective reality: people who think the world must be flat because it looks flat where they are. 

There are so many ways that people can be flat earthers, that I do sympathize.  And I still remember my own limited point of view, the comfort I found in the Cold War dualism that made the world so simple. 

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50 minutes ago, Wulphstein said:

I don't think consciousness is something that has to be explained, especially by philosophers and scientists;

It doesn't have to. But as Strange already notices a lot of people like to understand their world and themselves. I belong to these kind of people.

52 minutes ago, Wulphstein said:

it is something to be developed

Fully agree. But I do not see why that contradicts the will to understand consciousness. For me it is just the opposite.

53 minutes ago, Wulphstein said:

And why would we feel obligated to accept something that goes against our gut feelings? 

Depends on the subject: but if people as a group want to decide on actions they should agree on the facts and the norms, and be able to distinguish them. And science is the most objective search for facts. Just think about climate change deniers. I definitely want to hear what science has to say here, and I am disgusted by the science denial of the so called 'climate skeptics'. That is what happens if you follow gut-feelings. 

58 minutes ago, Wulphstein said:

What do you mean "exist objectively"?  And what is wrong with "very comforting"? 

It is very comforting 'to know' there is a fire ladder when the building burns. Except that objectively there does not exist one, it was just your gut-feeling. When the fire breaks out, it would have been good for you to know you shouldn't have gone that way to escape the fire.

1 hour ago, Wulphstein said:

Do you want to make everyone miserable for some virtuous reason?  Please explain.

No. However, I would prefer that people act from the best knowledge we have available. See climate denial again.

1 hour ago, Wulphstein said:

I can't understand somebody with your point of view who doesn't grasp the immediate reality of death, and coming back from the edge.

Why would you think I do not grasp the immediate reality of death?

1 hour ago, Wulphstein said:

There are literally people who are adrenaline junkies who will do dangerous sports just to get that close to death, to get the rush of adrenaline.  I totally understand that.  If I grasp the metaphysical implications.  It is a shame that you dismiss it so casually.

I dismissed nothing, except the categorising as 'metaphysical'. I agree that such experiences can change your gut-feelings. Ideally you develop your gut-feelings in such a way that they correspond with what we know to be objectively the case. But that requires a lot of training, but staying in your comfort zone, you will never get there. Your life will be a lie.

1 hour ago, Wulphstein said:

And I don't buy the belief that it is all of reality. 

Me neither, but in a different way you do. Physical reality is able to produce such beautiful things like galaxies, paintings, music and humans. The problem is that some of these (except maybe galaxies), cannot be understood from their basic building blocks. Even the essence of certain things is independent from the exact way it is implemented in the physical world. A house is a house, but it can built it with concrete or wood. Being human, however I agree that our essence is not that we are built up of matter: it lies in the ways processes take place in this matter. And to know these, both from the inside (studying my own mind) as from the outside (science) might be the best way to live a balanced life: accept what just is so, change what can be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish between the two (paraphrasing I think an Irish prayer).

1 hour ago, Wulphstein said:

And I couldn't live with myself if I tried to embrace such a limited, closed minded view of reality.

Yes, you are afraid to leave your comfort zone. And the closed mind is yours, and is exactly what I named it here: your comfort zone. But be sure, nobody got enlightened by staying in their comfort zone. It is, to use another dangerous word, not very spiritual not to accept ideas because you do not like them.

1 hour ago, Wulphstein said:

All this NDE, consciousness, transcendentalism is like the ocean.  One doesn't know how deep it goes until one jumps in and descends to the bottom where truth lies.

Physical reality is the ocean. And the truth at the bottom of the mind might be emptiness. As practicing Zen Buddhist, I think that would be the last truth (not experienced myself, therefore 'I think' and not 'I know'). Which you of course you do not like, and therefore you refuse to accept reality.

 

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