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PeterJ

Can science explain consciousness? (split from can science explain w/o God)

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I can think of two fairly weighty objections that could be raised here:

 

1. "there's nothing to consciousness than a complex arrangement of molecules doing what physics tells them to" is a claim that consciousness is reducible to physical states, and thereby incurs all the objections associated with reductive physicalism. For example, we'd have to ask next whether you mean each type of conscious state reduces to a physical state, or whether only each token does.

 

If it's the former then each type of conscious state, pain say, reduces to (i.e., is identical with) a physical/neuronal state of the human brain. What, then, do we say of other animals, or extraterrestrials, or even so-called artificial intelligence? Given that their brains -- if they even have one -- are constituted differently, it seems we must conclude they do not, indeed cannot experience pain.

 

If it's the latter, and pain is instantiated differently in your brain and mine (and perhaps even in your own brain at different times), and in animals and supercomputers, then what makes all these states pain? Given that they are not physically identical, in what sense are they the same state? At this point you're probably wanting to scream "They all hurt!!", but that won't do; that's what we're trying to reduce, remember?

 

 

2. With regards the physical duplicate of yourself, this brings us to the fascinating Twin Earth thought experiments of Hilary Putnam. Imagine a far off planet which is identical with our own Earth, molecule for molecule (as they like to say), with only one difference: their 'water' although superficially indistinguishable from our own water (H2O), actually has a quite different, and very complex, chemical composition, which we'll call XYZ for short. We both use the word water, of course, but our term refers to H2O, while theirs refers to XYZ.

 

On Twin Earth, there is, of course, a duplicate John Cuthber, who also calls himself John Cuthber, but we'd better call him Twohn Cuthber to avoid confusion. And to thicken the plot even more, let's place ourselves in the year 1600, say, before the chemical composition of water was known.

 

On a particularly hot summer's day here on Earth John thinks, "A drink of water would be nice right now."

 

Meanwhile, on Twin Earth, Twohn, who is equally thirsty, yearns, "A drink of water would be nice right now."

 

Now, by hypothesis, John and Twohn are physically identical. The question we ask next is : But are they also mentally identical?

 

It would appear that their respective thoughts are about different things: John's is about water (H2O); Twohn's is about twater (XYZ). We might say their thoughts have the same narrow content, but not the same wide content.

 

Now, if you buy this argument, we're forced to conclude that the mind isn't (entirely) in the head! Environmental factors are partially constitutive of mental states. Two people can be physically identical but not mentally so. Would John's duplicate be conscious? No doubt. Would he have the same conscious states as our John? Apparently not.

 

And so it would appear that the claim there's nothing to consciousness than a complex arrangement of molecules doing what physics tells them to is no longer sustainable, assuming that consciousness in this context includes intentional states (i.e., those mental states with a content), and not merely the raw feels of phenomenal consciousness.

But the memories in both Johns are stored as arrangements of chemicals and cells in their brains.

If those are identical then their knowledge will be identical.

Both will know what H2O is..

If they have different experiences than they will become different.

but that's not the point.

The question is, when they are created and identical, is the copy conscious?

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But the memories in both Johns are stored as arrangements of chemicals and cells in their brains.

If those are identical then their knowledge will be identical.

Both will know what H2O is..

If they have different experiences than they will become different.

but that's not the point.

The question is, when they are created and identical, is the copy conscious?

 

John's memories are of water (= H2O). John has never encountered XYZ. His memories have been caused by encounters with H20. John knows nothing of XYZ.

 

Twohn's memories are of twater (= XYZ). Twohn has never encountered H2O. His memories have been caused by encounters with XYZ. Twohn knows nothing of H20.

 

Agreed?

 

What's between their ears is physically identical - by hypothesis. That part's easy.

 

Now, if you wish to claim water (H20) and twater (XYZ) are the same thing, then you're right; their memories and knowledge are identical. Not only their physical states are identical, but their mental/conscious states are too. Their thoughts are the same. They're both thinking about (or remembering) water, albeit two varieties of water, if you like.

 

(At this point you might want to reflect on fool's gold vs gold - same thing or not? If not, what makes them different? Their chemical structure?)

 

If, on the other hand, you hold that water and twater are different things, then their memories and knowledge are not identical. Their physical states are identical, but their mental/conscious states are not. Their thoughts are different. They're thinking/remembering different things.

 

 

You said : "but that's not the point. The question is, when they are created and identical, is the copy conscious?"

 

I answered the latter part already: Yes! The copy is conscious!

 

But I think my earlier reflections are very much to the point. Your claim, once again, is that :"there's nothing to consciousness than a complex arrangement of molecules doing what physics tells them to."

 

If the latter of my two options above is appropriate (i.e. XYZ is not water. The Twin Earthlings may call it "water", but it's not.) then there is more to consciousness than "a complex arrangement of...."

 

If the latter of my two options above is appropriate then "a complex arrangement of..." is insufficient to uniquely determine any given conscious intentional state. John and Twohn are physically identical, and they're both conscious, but the content of their conscious intentional states differs.

 

 

P.S. I should add, finally, that I can claim no expertise in these matters, and I hope I haven't don't too much violence to Prof Putnam's marvellous adventures of the imagination. If in doubt, go to the primary sources.

Edited by Reg Prescott

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wouldn't "twohn" pick up a glass of "xyz" as you put it and go "ah, water, just as i remember" and not "ah xyz...?" and he wouldn't be wrong in saying this because, and he could verify this; that it's water, as he remembers it (mouthfeel, wetness, etc) and as it is (by its physical and chemical properties). in the end it is water that is having an impact on him and not xyz; its introduction into discussion is unnecessary.

 

what difference does it make that the memories are exact copies (that can be measured)? with fools gold vs gold, they are two different materials, iron pyrite and, well, gold. they have different properties which can be used to help distinguish between them.

Edited by andrewcellini

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wouldn't "twohn" pick up a glass of "xyz" as you put it and go "ah, water, just as i remember" and not "ah xyz...?" and he wouldn't be wrong in saying this because, and he could verify this; that it's water, as he remembers it (mouthfeel, wetness, etc) and as it is (by its physical and chemical properties). in the end it is water that is having an impact on him and not xyz; its introduction into discussion is unnecessary.

 

what difference does it make that the memories are exact copies (that can be measured)? with fools gold vs gold, they are two different materials, iron pyrite and, well, gold. they have different properties which can be used to help distinguish between them.

 

Sorry, Andrew, I don't understand everything you said above, but I'll try to address the first sentence.

 

You said: "wouldn't "twohn" pick up a glass of "xyz" as you put it and go "ah, water, just as i remember" and not "ah xyz...?" and he wouldn't be wrong in saying this because..."

 

Yes, that's quite correct. But remember when Twohn says water he's -- without knowing it -- talking about XYZ, not H20; he's referring to his water, not ours.

 

Just to remind ourselves, both John and Twohn (who both call themselves John, of course) both use the word water, and neither of them knows the chemical composition of their respective waters -- no one on either planet does (this is the year 1600, remember). From our vantage point, we can see that the substance John calls water is chemically distinguished from that which Twohn calls water; the former is H20 and the latter XYZ.

 

Neither John is wrong when he thinks or talks about his respective water. That's not the question. The question is: Are they entertaining the same thought?

 

Presumably not all psychological states are the same -- a thought/belief/desire about dogs is distinguished from one about kangaroos -- and, presumably, would be instantiated differently too in the brain.

 

Now, with regards water (H20) and twater (XYZ) there are two routes you might take, which I outlined above. You might hold either:

 

(i) Water and twater are different kinds of things. Twohn may use the word water, and his water may be superficially indistinguishable from our water, but it ain't water. (and vice versa: our water isn't the real McCoy to him, even if he doesn't know it), or

 

(ii) H20 and XYZ are both water (anyone's water) -- they're not simply called water, but they are water.

 

 

If we follow the former path, as Hilary Putnam does, then we have a case where physical identity does not entail mental identity, i.e., what's inside the head is physically identical, but the two Johns (John and Twohn) are in a different psychological state.

 

And the point of all this is that there would then be more to psychological states (i.e. mental states, i.e. consciousness, if you'll allow that latter term to include intentional states which have a propositional content), contra John Cuthber who claims above that "there's nothing to consciousness than a complex arrangement of molecules doing what physics tells them to."

Edited by Reg Prescott

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Sorry, Andrew, I don't understand everything you said above, but I'll try to address the first sentence.

what specifically?

 

Yes, that's quite correct. But remember when Twohn says water he's -- without knowing it -- talking about XYZ, not H20; he's referring to his water, not ours.

 

Just to remind ourselves, both John and Twohn (who both call themselves John, of course) both use the word water, and neither of them knows the chemical composition of their respective waters -- no one on either planet does (this is the year 1600, remember). From our vantage point, we can see that the substance John calls water is chemically distinguished from that which Twohn calls water; the former is H20 and the latter XYZ.

if xyz is not water chemically, then there is the measurable difference, therefore twohn would be incorrect in calling it water. that could mean that the process involved in creating the copy is not perfect. just because he calls it water doesn't make it water. water is h20, if he's drinking h2s and calling it water he's wrong. placing this in the year 1600 doesn't seem to add anything (but does allow you to narrow your options to two, see below).

 

 

Now, with regards water (H20) and twater (XYZ) there are two routes you might take, which I outlined above. You might hold either:

 

(i) Water and twater are different kinds of things. Twohn may use the word water, and his water may be superficially indistinguishable from our water, but it ain't water. (and vice versa: our water isn't the real McCoy to him, even if he doesn't know it), or

 

(ii) H20 and XYZ are both water (anyone's water) -- they're not simply called water, but they are water.

what is meant by superficially indistinguishable? it either is water or it isn't. this isn't a question of perception; water is defined by its physical and chemical properties. as i said above, you're ignoring another possible option: that the process creating these copies is imperfect leading the twin to think that something that isn't water is water.

Edited by andrewcellini

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Andrew...

 

1. You said: "what specifically [don't I understand in your post]?"

 

Well, for example, your comment about memories being measurable. I can't understand that.

 

 

 

2. You said : "if xyz is not water chemically, then there is the measurable difference, therefore twohn would be incorrect in calling it water. that could mean that the process involved in creating the copy is not perfect. just because he calls it water doesn't make it water. water is h20, if he's drinking h2s [is this a typo? Do you mean XYZ? I think we could avoid much confusion by inserting XYZ here] and calling it water he's wrong."

 

Well, presumably your twin - Twandrew - on Twin Earth just posted the following:

 

if H20 is not water chemically, then there is the measurable difference, therefore John would be incorrect in calling it water. that could mean that the process involved in creating the copy is not perfect. just because he calls it water doesn't make it water. water is XYZ, if he's drinking h2s [??] and calling it water he's wrong

 

 

What makes you think you occupy a privileged position on these matters?

 

John thoughts are about his water, i.e., what he calls water (= H20); Twohn's thought are about his water, i.e., what he calls water (= XYZ)

 

Let's suppose that here on Earth, by some fluke the Swahili language also has the word "water" but it refers in Swahili to what we in English call a lion. And I hope we can all agree that water (H20) and lion (with big teeth) are not the same thing. Now, when a Swahili warrior, Kintuba, points to a big, hulking, menacing creature with sharp teeth and cries out "Water!", should we conclude:

 

(i) Kintuba is wrong. (on the grounds that a lion is not water), or

 

(ii) Kintuba is not wrong. His use of the term water is perfectly standard in his linguistic community. And, of course, he's not speaking English.

 

 

In light of this, review your previous comment once again : "water is h20, if he's drinking h2s and calling it water he's wrong"

 

Compare : Water is H20. If Kintuba is being mauled by a lion and calling it water, he's wrong"

 

 

 

3. You said : "what is meant by superficially indistinguishable? it either is water or it isn't. this isn't a question of perception; water is defined by its physical and chemical properties. as i said above, you're ignoring another possible option: that the process creating these copies is imperfect leading the twin to think that something that isn't water is water."

 

Superficially indistinguishable means indistinguishable without resort to the kind of chemical analysis which only became available after 1600. As for "copying", I can't understand this either. I never mentioned copying. Copying is no part of the thought experiment, at least as far as I can see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edit P.S. I'm reminded of humorous encounters between speakers of British English and American English....

 

 

Nigel: "I'm hungry. Would you be so good as to pick up some chips for me on your way home, old chap?"

 

Chuck : "Sure thing, man"

 

(30 minutes later Chuck arrives home armed with a tube of Pringles)

 

Nigel: "Good God in boots, you barbarian! These aren't chips!!!"

 

 

Well, who's right and who's wrong? :confused:

Edited by Reg Prescott

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Andrew...

 

1. You said: "what specifically [don't I understand in your post]?"

 

Well, for example, your comment about memories being measurable. I can't understand that.

no, i asked what measurable difference in this hypothetical scenario would there be from the memories of the copies? you asked a question about fools gold (how can you tell the difference) which you've now edited out. don't know why.

 

2. You said : "if xyz is not water chemically, then there is the measurable difference, therefore twohn would be incorrect in calling it water. that could mean that the process involved in creating the copy is not perfect. just because he calls it water doesn't make it water. water is h20, if he's drinking h2s [is this a typo? Do you mean XYZ? I think we could avoid much confusion by inserting XYZ here] and calling it water he's wrong."

no typo, perhaps you should give it a reread. if he's not drinking water (if he's drinking something else, or more likely inhaling something other than h20 like h2s) then he's not drinking water, and if he says otherwise he's wrong.

 

Well, presumably your twin - Twandrew - on Twin Earth just posted the following:

 

(...)

 

What makes you think you occupy a privileged position on these matters?

 

John thoughts are about his water, i.e., what he calls water (= H20); Twohn's thought are about his water, i.e., what he calls water (= XYZ)

why would the copy not associate h20 to "his water" if his memories are copies of john's, who does hold such an association?

 

you can use the word "water" however you see fit, but that's not gonna change the outcome of drinking diethylether, i mean "water."

 

Superficially indistinguishable means indistinguishable without resort to the kind of chemical analysis which only became available after 1600. As for "copying", I can't understand this either. I never mentioned copying. Copying is no part of the thought experiment, at least as far as I can see.

the copying came from reading john's reply before yours.

Edited by andrewcellini

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no, i asked what measurable difference in this hypothetical scenario would there be from the memories of the copies? you asked a question about fools gold (how can you tell the difference) which you've now edited out. don't know why.

 

No, I haven't edited it out. See post # 27

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no typo, perhaps you should give it a reread. if he's not drinking water (if he's drinking something else, or more likely inhaling something other than h20 like h2s) then he's not drinking water, and if he says otherwise he's wrong.

 

Ok

why would the copy not associate h20 to "his water" if his memories are copies of john's, who does hold such an association?

 

you can use the word "water" however you see fit, but that's not gonna change the outcome of drinking diethylether, i mean "water."

 

His memories are not copies. I have never mentioned copying. What I have said is:

 

What's inside John and Twohn's heads is physically identical. John and Twohn, however, do not share a common history. Their respective memories, thoughts, beliefs, desires, etc. about what they both call water have been caused in a different manner. John's community has had no contact with XYZ; Twohn's community has had no contact with H20.

 

When John desires (what he calls) water, it appears that what he desires -- even though he doesn't know it -- is H20 and not XYZ.

 

Conversely, when Twohn desires (what he calls) water, it appears that what he desires -- even though he doesn't know it -- is XYZ and not H20

 

By hypothesis, the two of them are physically identical. But the question is: are they psychologically identical? Are their respective desires the same psychological state or different psychological states?

Edited by Reg Prescott

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What's inside John and Twohn's heads is physically identical. John and Twohn, however, do not share a common history.

if they don't share a common history then i'm not sure if it's likely for them to have exactly the same brains unless they're made to.

Edited by andrewcellini

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if they don't share a common history then i'm not sure if it's likely for them to have exactly the same brains.

 

I don't think -- and I'm fairly sure Hilary Putnam doesn't either -- that it's remotely likely two people could have physically identical brains. It's a thought experiment purporting to illustrate a conceptual point, viz., the mind (i.e., psychological states or intentional states or mental states or conscious states or whatever you want to call them) is not entirely determined by what's inside the skull.

 

Supposing we grant you neurophysiological omniscience, Andrew, and present you with the severed heads of our hapless heroes, John and Twohn, for examination,you would not be able to tell which one was having thoughts/memories of water (H20) and which was having thoughts/memories of twater (XYZ) immediately prior to decapitation.

 

Would you?

Edited by Reg Prescott

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we're reaching the end of what little i know (or think i know lol), billy.

 

if, in your thought experiment, the two john's (for simplicity let's just call them both john) not only have distinct personal histories but are also on different planets, which implies different evolutionary histories, then it seems reasonable to conclude that they have different psychological states (and corresponding behaviours). this isn't to say that their psychological states aren't reducible to the structure of their brains, but the structures of brains on each planet will probably be different (not sure how much); because the structures are different, the psychological states will be different (allowing for one john to long for water and the other to long for something different).

 

this discussion seems to be off topic from the question "can science explain consciousness," and you seem to agree that both john's would be conscious.

Edited by andrewcellini

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we're reaching the end of what little i know (or think i know lol), billy.

 

if, in your thought experiment, the two john's (for simplicity let's just call them both john) not only have distinct personal histories but are also on different planets, which implies different evolutionary histories, then it seems reasonable to conclude that they have different psychological states (and corresponding behaviours). this isn't to say that their psychological states aren't reducible to the structure of their brains, but the structures of brains on each planet will probably be different (not sure how much); because the structures are different, the psychological states will be different (allowing for one john to long for water and the other to long for something different).

 

I suppose the terrible twins have taken quite a flogging. Any unsatiated masochists out there might enjoy "The Twin Earth Chronicles" where you'll find Putnam's original article ("The Meaning of Meaning") as well as reactions -- positive and negative -- to the implications of the thought experiment from a panoply of philosophical bigwigs,

 

 

this discussion seems to be off topic from the question "can science explain consciousness," and you seem to agree that both john's would be conscious.

 

Yes, I don't think anyone doubts both Johns are conscious; just that the content of their respective conscious states may not be the same. I should add for clarity that it may well be the case, given the strictures of the Twin Earth scenario, that both Johns' mental states are determined entirely by the physical plumbing; just not by the physical plumbing inside their heads. The environment plays a role too.

 

If we've staggered off topic a little, there are several celebrated philosophical arguments which challenge the putative reducibility of consciousness to physics. The worry is that all attempts at reducing consciousness to physics seem to leave something out. Thomas Nagel's "What's it like to be a Bat" and Frank Jackson's "What Mary Didn't Know" (often known as the Knowledge Argument) are two seminal essays that spring to mind.

 

What follows below is copied from Wiki:

 

 

 

The thought experiment was originally proposed by Frank Jackson as follows:

Mary is a brilliant scientist who is, for whatever reason, forced to investigate the world from a black and white room via a black and white television monitor. She specializes in theneurophysiology of vision and acquires, let us suppose, all the physical information there is to obtain about what goes on when we see ripe tomatoes, or the sky, and use terms like ‘red’, ‘blue’, and so on. She discovers, for example, just which wavelength combinations from the sky stimulate the retina, and exactly how this produces via the central nervous systemthe contraction of the vocal cords and expulsion of air from the lungs that results in the uttering of the sentence ‘The sky is blue’. [...] What will happen when Mary is released from her black and white room or is given a color television monitor? Will she learn anything or not? [4]
In other words, Jackson's Mary is a scientist who knows everything there is to know about the science of color, but has never experienced color. The question that Jackson raises is: once she experiences color, does she learn anything new?

Ontologically, the following argument is contained in the thought experiment:

  • Premise: Any and every piece of physical knowledge in regard to human color vision has been obtained (by the test subject, Mary) prior to her release from the black-and-white room. She has all the physical knowledge on the subject.
  • Premise: Upon leaving the room and witnessing color first-hand, she obtains new knowledge.
  • Conclusion: There was some knowledge about human color vision she did not have prior to her release. Therefore, not all knowledge is physical knowledge.

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Great answer, Peter! - and a humbling reminder too.

 

I've adverted to consciousness before in conversations similar to this one as a remedial to (what I see as) excessive scientistic exuberance in certain individuals. Often the point is missed and I receive a response along the lines of "Ah, yes, but we're working on that now."

 

By "working on that" evidently what my interlocutor has in mind is establishing correlations between neurobiological activity and mental states or events (thoughts, beliefs, desires, pains, tickles, itches, etc); important work no doubt, but misses entirely the explanation-defying nature of consciousness itself, and does nothing to address the hard problem of consciousness, to wit: how is it that a slab of senseless meat is able to produce the qualitative, subjective inner states that we're all so familiar with?

 

Thomas Huxley (yes, Darwin's bulldog) clearly understood the problem when he wrote:

 

"[H]ow it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as a result of irritating nervous tissue, is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the Djinn when Aladdin rubbed his lamp."

 

(Erm, I think a Djinn is a genie :confused: )

 

My aforementioned interlocutors labor under the misapprehension that by establishing correlations (Under what circumstances will that Djinn appear? - Do we need to rub the lamp a certain way? Does it work every day or only on weekdays? etc) they thereby solve the riddle of consciousness. Their laudable efforts, however, leave entirely untouched the real explanation-begging question:

 

How did that darn thing get in there in the first place?

 

You're quite right, Peter. Science has no explanation for this. Science has not even a candidate or potential explanation for this. We haven't even the foggiest idea what form an explanation might take!

 

We live in exciting times. ;)

I think you're confused about the problem. Scientifically, to say electrical currents cause consciousness is no less satisfying than saying electrical currents cause light bulbs to shine. Both can be dependent variables in an experiment. What you want to know is how a physical event can cause a phenomenological one. Not "Does A cause B", but "How can A cause B?" In truth, how anything can cause anything is a tough question that AFAIK isn't amenable to experiment. The hard problem of consciousness is arguably just another variation on this problem.

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I think you're confused about the problem. Scientifically, to say electrical currents cause consciousness is no less satisfying than saying electrical currents cause light bulbs to shine. Both can be dependent variables in an experiment. What you want to know is how a physical event can cause a phenomenological one. Not "Does A cause B", but "How can A cause B?" In truth, how anything can cause anything is a tough question that AFAIK isn't amenable to experiment. The hard problem of consciousness is arguably just another variation on this problem.

 

Well, confusion is always a possibility. But who says brain events (electrical currents) cause consciousness? Not everybody to be sure. Proponents of the psychophysical identity theory, for example, hold that mental states/events are not caused by brain states; they are brain states.

 

If you're claiming yourself that brain states cause conscious, then more difficult questions arise. Start with this one: Can mental states also cause brain states?

 

Supposing, for example,my thought (a mental event) that I'd like a cup of tea results in my getting up off my butt and heading for the kitchen (a physical event), what exactly caused my movement?:

 

(i) my thought that I'd like a cup of tea

(ii) the brain state associated with that thought

(iii) both

 

(iii) spells causal overdetermination and that's bad news.

 

Or (i) caused (ii), and (ii) caused the movement? But then (i) would appear to be non-physical, right? And that spells bad news for physicalism and its central tenet that we live in a causally-closed universe (i.e. no outside interference from non-physical spooks).

Edited by Reg Prescott

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If you're claiming yourself that brain states cause conscious, then more difficult questions arise. Start with this one: Can mental states also cause brain states?

Whether or not consciouness is something physical, it clearly has a two-way interaction with physical surroundings.

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Whether or not consciouness is something physical, it clearly has a two-way interaction with physical surroundings.

 

Agreed.

 

I added some more to my previous post before I saw your latest, MonDie.

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"(i) my thought that I'd like a cup of tea

 

(ii) the brain state associated with that thought

(iii) both"

 

or...

 

you have unconscious events in the brain preceding the brain states associated with consciousness which not only essentially "decide" what you want and what you'll do but also have an accompanying conscious state.

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"(i) my thought that I'd like a cup of tea

 

(ii) the brain state associated with that thought

(iii) both"

 

or...

 

you have unconscious events in the brain preceding the brain states associated with consciousness which not only essentially "decide" what you want and what you'll do but also have an accompanying conscious state.

 

Ok, but this seems to imply epiphenomenalism (i.e. the position that consciousness is causally inert). Physical events in the brain are causally responsible for our actions, and also for our phenomenal consciousness, but consciousness itself causes nothing.

 

Of course, there are people who advocate this seemingly implausible and hugely counter-intuitive view (my conscious deliberations have no effect on my actions - it's an illusion). I'm just wondering if you recognize the implications of what you've just proposed.

Edited by Reg Prescott

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I think that for science to explain this one, it will have to reject the paradigm of physicality first. Otherwise, it will have to explain how can mind arise from non-minded dead particles, what is the light I SEE made of (and photons isn't a valid answer, since I don't see the photons, photons impact my retina but I don't see them, neural electrical currents aren't valid either since there IS a difference between electric currents and what I see, they can be related but they're not the same), and where that information is saved, how its accessed and retreived and a lot of other questions that are impossible to answer under the paradigm of scientific materialism.

I just don't know why science always applies this equation non-physical = spooky = imaginary = abstract = nonreal = whatnot. Maybe if we just assumed that the universe has some non-physical aspect (just like information, which can be represented as dimensional/spatiotemporal or dimensionless/frequency) we could do actual science regarding these topics. That something isn't physical doesn't mean that it's unintelligible, it can be coherent with mathematics and logic still, but oh well, I guess that Science itself is its own Inquisition sometimes, and burns some currents of thought from time to time because it finds them spooky.

Edited by BlackSunGod

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Ok, but this seems to imply epiphenomenalism (i.e. the position that consciousness is causally inert). Physical events in the brain are causally responsible for our actions, and also for our phenomenal consciousness, but consciousness itself causes nothing.

what's wrong with that? do you have evidence of the contrary?

 

you describe it as "seemingly implausible" and yet there is evidence that this is the case.

 

http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/106/3/623- libet experiment

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06525.x/abstract;jsessionid=3E02092D4DA44FC46A854D194C50F1F6.f03t01- similar experiment

I just don't know why science always applies this equation non-physical...

how do you measure the "non-physical?" if you measured it, it would be physical

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You said it, by definition you can measure it. That doesn't mean you can't study it with math and computational models.

what is hindering the use of such data for the creation and further testing of models? this is not a clear point that you're making.

 

also what you refer to as information in your previous post (dimensionless/frequency, whatever that should be taken to mean) is not, at least as far as i know, how information is described and used by computer scientists or information theorists or scientists/engineers of different fields.

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what's wrong with that? do you have evidence of the contrary?

 

you describe it as "seemingly implausible" and yet there is evidence that this is the case.

 

http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/106/3/623- libet experiment

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06525.x/abstract;jsessionid=3E02092D4DA44FC46A854D194C50F1F6.f03t01- similar experiment

 

What's wrong with it -- many would say -- is that we would be hapless victims of the mother of all illusions: My arm goes up when it does not because of my conscious decision to raise it, but because of physically determined neurophysiological events; I married Tracy not because of rational deliberation, but because of PDNE; those terrorists planted the bomb not because of willful intent to harm, but PDNE, etc., etc.

 

What's wrong with it is that we'd have to radically rethink our views of moral responsibility. All alleged wrongdoers can claim "My brain made me do it!". The evolutionists, meanwhile, might want to know, given that consciousness is causally impotent, why is it there in the first place.

 

Speaking personally, I find the idea quite appealing. But not in the slightest plausible. Needless to say, I could be quite wrong.

 

I'm familiar with the evidence you cited, Andrew. It is, of course, open to various divergent interpretations.

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