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The Consciousness Question (If such a question really exists)


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2 hours ago, geordief said:

 

Maybe so .That had  always been  my prefered stance but I thought I  had become less enthusiastic about it.

 

Are there any articles attempting to reject that viewpoint or is this a kind of "take it or leave it" idea that holds no real consequences whether it is valid or not?

It seems to me that the question shifts then to, "what constitutes a thing"?

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2 hours ago, Genady said:

It seems to me that the question shifts then to, "what constitutes a thing"?

 

Indeed!  The problem with panpsychism is not that it's necessarily wrong, it's more that it's a Mysterian position - how would we be able to isolate a consciousness particle and how would that really explain anything?  It seems to draw us back to Leibniz and his monads, or something like them.

Epistemically, the only way to confirm consciousness is to be conscious and thereby you know one entity in the universe is conscious.  All else is a leap of faith - well, it looks like me, and uses language like me, so I guess it's probably conscious, too.

At the end of the day, I think behavior is our best metric of consciousness.  

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On 4/19/2022 at 8:45 AM, geordief said:

Posting this in General Philosophy if that fits.

My question is this:

"Is there any kind of a test (perhaps along the lines of the Turing test) that we could administer to a sentient creature (or a machine) that would allow us to define or determine whether or not the said subject was actually  conscious?

I don't know,but it seems a central feature of my existence that I tell myself that I do  possess consciousness but I cannot see a way to verify this other than to take it as a matter of a priori belief.

 

Could there be any possible tests or is it just the Turing test that might be applicable?

 

Apologies if this question has been asked before(said sarcastically as there is apparently no emoji for that)

Pardon my late arrival to this question whose answer, IMO, depends on how we defind consciousness.  From a perspective in science, consciousness is merely the awareness suggested by an organism's responses to stimuli.  Using this perspectvie virtually any organism, whose behaviors are observed reactions to a stimulus, can be considered as possessing consciousness.  This view infers that consciousness isn't a quality unique to humans and that it may manifest in varying degrees depending on the orgasm being observed.  Whether an organism posesses a human-like degree of consciousness depends on observed behaviors suggesting humanlike reactions to comparably humanlike stimuli.  For example, an animal that appears to greive over the loss of an offspring may be viewed as having a human equivalent effective state we observe in humans as sorrow.

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24 minutes ago, DrmDoc said:

Pardon my late arrival to this question whose answer, IMO, depends on how we defind consciousness.  From a perspective in science, consciousness is merely the awareness suggested by an organism's responses to stimuli.  Using this perspectvie virtually any organism, whose behaviors are observed reactions to a stimulus, can be considered as possessing consciousness.  This view infers that consciousness isn't a quality unique to humans and that it may manifest in varying degrees depending on the orgasm being observed.  Whether an organism posesses a human-like degree of consciousness depends on observed behaviors suggesting humanlike reactions to comparably humanlike stimuli.  For example, an animal that appears to greive over the loss of an offspring may be viewed as having a human equivalent effective state we observe in humans as sorrow.

Yes perhaps we could coin the phrases "objective consciousness " and "subjective consciousness " (if they are not already in use)?

 

The latter is as slippery a concept as you could wish for whilst the former would be a worthwhile  and rigorous subject for scientific exploration.

12 minutes ago, Genady said:

This crawling neutrophil appears to be consciously chasing that bacterium:

 

Unless it's a trap 🤔

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55 minutes ago, geordief said:

"objective consciousness "

What would that mean? Subjective consciousness, we all have, or think we have, and if one is capable of thinking, one may be forgiven the presumption of claiming consciousness, and most of us are willing, in some varying degrees, to share this presumption with [some of] our fellow organisms.

I can't imagine a definition, or even a description for 'objective consciousness'.

I have no objection, BTW, to sharing the presumption with the two unicellular fellow organisms in the above example. I have a vague notion that the bacterium is more self-aware than the neutrophil, derived from the fact that the bacterium will make a concerted effort to survive and the neutrophil won't...

Only, that was the assumption, back when i was learning immunology. I now wonder how true that is.

Edited by Peterkin
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1 hour ago, Peterkin said:

What would that mean? Subjective consciousness, we all have, or think we have, and if one is capable of thinking, one may be forgiven the presumption of claiming consciousness, and most of us are willing, in some varying degrees, to share this presumption with [some of] our fellow organisms.

I can't imagine a definition, or even a description for 'objective consciousness'.

I have no objection, BTW, to sharing the presumption with the two unicellular fellow organisms in the above example. I have a vague notion that the bacterium is more self-aware than the neutrophil, derived from the fact that the bacterium will make a concerted effort to survive and the neutrophil won't...

Only, that was the assumption, back when i was learning immunology. I now wonder how true that is.

I just had in mind the determination  an observer might make as to whether a second  organism (or machine) exhibited behaviour  that could be called "conscious "

 

Perhaps  a bit trivial,but it might serve as a contrast to the subjective consciousness  we are all so frustratingly familiar  with

 

But I think you are right because I cannot  actually come up with any criterion that would allow any such behaviour in another person  or system as "conscious "as any behaviour  might be just as easily interpreted in a purely reductionist way  without recourse to any notion of  consciousness at all.

 

"

 

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6 minutes ago, geordief said:

I just had in mind the determination  an observer might make as to whether a second  organism (or machine) exhibited behaviour  that could be called "conscious "

 

Perhaps  a bit trivial,but it might serve as a contrast to the subjective consciousness  we are all so frustratingly familiar  with

 

But I think you are right because I cannot  actually come up with any criterion that would allow any such behaviour in another person  or system as "conscious "as any behaviour  might be just as easily interpreted in a purely reductionist way  without recourse to any notion of  consciousness at all.

 

"

 

Remember our discussion about free will a couple of months ago? My resolution is the same: Just different reference frames.

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Simple policy: If it runs, squawks, bites, flaps or growls, it's conscious and self-aware. If it just sits there and lets you kick it, it's a car tyre and used to human stupidity. 

The less silly version of that: Yes, it's pretty much down to observable behaviour. What looks like purposeful action probably is, and whoever preforms purposeful acts is probably both conscious and self-aware.

When in doubt, assume it is.

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19 hours ago, Genady said:

Remember our discussion about free will a couple of months ago? My resolution is the same: Just different reference frames.

Yes,I remember but I had to go back and refresh my memory.

I am not sure  the analogy it is as clear as it was  with the free will scenario.

Consciousness is even more fundamental than free will.

 

But ,if you think the analogy still applies  then maybe that shows that the sensations of freewill and of being conscious (of one's existence) are  practically "joined at the hip"

 

Someone has said that we ,as human observers and explorers perform the role of the universe looking at itself.

Maybe to rephrase that dramatically we are the  Consciousness of the Universe("the Universe" being a term that no longer seems easily defined-as it once seemed to in the not too distant past)

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17 hours ago, Peterkin said:

Simple policy: If it runs, squawks, bites, flaps or growls, it's conscious and self-aware. If it just sits there and lets you kick it, it's a car tyre and used to human stupidity. 

The less silly version of that: Yes, it's pretty much down to observable behaviour. What looks like purposeful action probably is, and whoever preforms purposeful acts is probably both conscious and self-aware.

When in doubt, assume it is.

If I may add a final thought on this interest, certainly consciousness, by my definition, isn't a particularly rare quality to be found among the vast variety of organisms we may find on our planet.  What elevates and makes an expression of consciousness comparatively special is whether that consciousness produces or provides evidence of a mind.  Although an organism's behaviors may suggest some measure of awareness, those behaviors may not necessarily suggest that the organism has a mind.  Mind and consciousness are distinctly different qualities where one of those qualities arises from and cannot exist without the other--mind cannot exist without a consciousness as its progenitor.

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1 hour ago, DrmDoc said:

lthough an organism's behaviors may suggest some measure of awareness, those behaviors may not necessarily suggest that the organism has a mind. 

Which, of course, leaves open the next big question. What's "a mind"? At what point in the evolutionary time-line of a modern organism that clearly does 'have' a mind (possession is another problematic concept here) - let's say, rather: that clearly does exhibits some or all of the characteristic functions of minds: desire, intention, volition, memory, curiosity, pattern formation, problem solving, purposeful action... not sure there is any consensus on emotion, sociability and communication... At what stage or bifurcation or documented mutation did a mindless awareness become a mindful one? What is the adaptation or modification which shows that Organism X has/had a mind, while its recent forebears,  Organisms W(m) and W(f), had none?    

Edited by Peterkin
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11 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

Which, of course, leaves open the next big question. What's "a mind"? At what point in the evolutionary time-line of a modern organism that clearly does 'have' (another problematic word) that clearly does exhibits some or all of the characteristic functions of minds: desire, intention, volition, memory, curiosity, pattern formation, problem solving, purposeful action... not sure there is any consensus on emotion, sociability and communication... At what stage or bifurcation or documented mutation did a mindless awareness become a mindful one? What is the adaptation or modification which shows that Organism X has/had a mind, which Organism W had none?    

When it saw itself reflected back in the "mind" of  a companion creature?

Mind is a measure of sociability? (or rather , sociality?)

 

The mirror test is only a first step to  the test of inclusion in a social group?

 

(Which would make minds the norm amongst animals)

Edited by geordief
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54 minutes ago, geordief said:

When it saw itself reflected back in the "mind" of  a companion creature?

But only the creature itself knows that happened at all. Most living things don't even know their parents, let alone place themselves on an evolutionary tree.

Humans know about evolution. Humans have some concept - however vague - of 'mind'. But can a human tell whether another biological entity has or does not have a mind? If humans determine that a dog does have a mind, and a sea-slug does not, can they then locate the stage of evolution where mindlessness ended?

58 minutes ago, geordief said:

Mind is a measure of sociability? (or rather , sociality?)

I don't think so. I posited social interaction as - possibly - one of the behaviours reserved for entities with minds.

 

1 hour ago, geordief said:

The mirror test is only a first step to  the test of inclusion in a social group?

I very much doubt it. Aside from the fact that I think it's invalid for species less vision- and image- dependent than we are. Most animal social groups identify by scent and/or sound.

1 hour ago, geordief said:

(Which would make minds the norm amongst animals)

I believe that is the case. I don't know about insects, am extremely skeptical of protozoa, fervently hope plants are not conscious at all, and reject the idea of spirit-infused asteroids and stalagmites.

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5 hours ago, geordief said:

Yes,I remember but I had to go back and refresh my memory.

I am not sure  the analogy it is as clear as it was  with the free will scenario.

Consciousness is even more fundamental than free will.

 

But ,if you think the analogy still applies  then maybe that shows that the sensations of freewill and of being conscious (of one's existence) are  practically "joined at the hip"

 

Someone has said that we ,as human observers and explorers perform the role of the universe looking at itself.

Maybe to rephrase that dramatically we are the  Consciousness of the Universe("the Universe" being a term that no longer seems easily defined-as it once seemed to in the not too distant past)

You're right, perhaps consciousness is different. More fundamental and, perhaps, more objective. For example, it may be an ability of brain to take some of its own processes as input, while brains without consciousness process only inputs that arrive from elsewhere.

In such case, we might eventually find out what brain structures provide this ability and then could look for similar structures in other creatures.

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34 minutes ago, Genady said:

Gained from what?

the attempt to discover whether

1 hour ago, Genady said:

it may be an ability of brain to take some of its own processes as input, while brains without consciousness process only inputs that arrive from elsewhere.

In such case, we might eventually find out what brain structures provide this ability

1 hour ago, Genady said:

look for similar structures in other creatures

do that

Sometimes I feel like I'm talking to Dory.

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15 minutes ago, Genady said:

'm sorry, but I still don't know what your question is. Can you just ask it in a straight form, please?

You were talking about the possibility of hunting down some 'structure' - by which I understand a nexus of specialized cells in the brain of an organism - that enables it [that brain which has grown such a structure] to "to take some of its own processes as input"; that is a reflexive, or feedback function, which would perhaps constitute a "mind". Then, having isolated such a structure, you would look for a similar structure in the brains of different organisms, to see whether they are capable of having a mind.

The only way I can imagine looking for structures in brains is by dissecting brains. This means killing (I assume that level of compassion, anyway, that you'd kill them before cutting their brains open) a great many organisms suspected of having the potential for minds.

I can further imagine that many, if not all of the specimens would either lack the structure you're looking for or use a different brain configuration to achieve a similar result. Therefore, a great many organisms will have been sacrificed in order to discover some, a few or no new animal species with the potential for minds. I wondered what all this carnage yields, and in what way that gain - if any - is to be used.      

Edited by Peterkin
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13 hours ago, DrmDoc said:

If I may add a final thought on this interest, certainly consciousness, by my definition, isn't a particularly rare quality to be found among the vast variety of organisms we may find on our planet.  What elevates and makes an expression of consciousness comparatively special is whether that consciousness produces or provides evidence of a mind.  Although an organism's behaviors may suggest some measure of awareness, those behaviors may not necessarily suggest that the organism has a mind.  Mind and consciousness are distinctly different qualities where one of those qualities arises from and cannot exist without the other--mind cannot exist without a consciousness as its progenitor.

Indeed, nothing can be self aware without a mind and what's the point of consciousness, if one is not aware of it?; it's like the question of whether, or not, a virus is alive.

The line on the spectrum depends on how we define the question.

Edited by dimreepr
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8 hours ago, Genady said:

Where did I say that I would do any of this?

You didn't say that you personally would do it. But I honestly can't imagine finding structures in brains without somebody looking inside the brains.

1 hour ago, dimreepr said:

what's the point of consciousness, if one is not aware of it

You don't have to be aware of your endocrine glands in order to need them.

2 hours ago, dimreepr said:

it's like the question of whether, or not, a virus is alive.

Only in that the answer for most people is: I don't know, but we mostly have an opinion anyway.

 

2 hours ago, dimreepr said:

The line on the spectrum depends on how we define the question.

That's why I keep asking for precision in vocabulary.

Otherwise, the only accurate answer to every possible question is: 'depends what you mean by --- '

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6 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

You didn't say that you personally would do it. But I honestly can't imagine finding structures in brains without somebody looking inside the brains.

There are MRI and other similar methods; many brains are already well known and reexamining of the existing images might be sufficient. I don't know why would they look for more.

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