piątek, 22 lutego 2013

Dump of my recent "The Hard Problem" comments

  • Ascription of consciousness is a matter of degree, i.e. an entity can be slightly conscious or very conscious, with a lower bound of no consciousness but probably without upper bound. Consciousness is a complex process, a complex of processes of consciousness. For the most part, processes of consciousness are about representation and action (some like to call it intentionality). A necessary condition for a given degree of consciousness is a given degree of complexity of adequate representation including representation of actions (i.e. bidirectional causality between processes of consciousness and remaining processes of environment). Consciousness is relative to the environment of which it is conscious, i.e. you judge reality of consciousness by how you judge the reality of its environment (e.g. parallel universe, formally stated complete description of a universe, ...) Sufficient conditions for a given degree of consciousness are satisfaction to a given degree of constraints of the kind described in "Being No One" by Thomas Metzinger. Consciousness is not fundamental to all life, it does not necessitate biological life, and it is not epiphenomenal. Current computers don't have mental processes (AFAICT).
  • I mean by it that single cellular organisms do not have consciousness, and an "epsilon" of consciousness only appears in animals with a central nervous system. On the other hand, consciousness can for example be running on a set of integrated silicon-based chips created by humans, and be sent to a planet composed of only inorganic materials.
  • The notion of potentiality is important for this view. Mental processes are processes that are potentially conscious. Dreams and mental imagery are conscious in so far as they are potentially representative (or pertain to such). Also, I don't mind using the word "presentation" rather than "representation" in "transparent" cases -- where we don't have knowledge of our experiences, but rather have knowledge of the experienced things by having the experiences.
  • [Epiphenomenalism] is logically impossible (once you define consciousness somehow), but it is conceivable. Imagine that you stare on a webcam attached to someone else's head. Now imagine that a brick is falling on that person. You instinctively duck the brick. As it turns out, that person ducked the brick in the same manner. Suddenly you feel you are the person who sees the world through the webcam (due to the accidental correlation of your intention with the behavior). Epiphenomenalism would be very similar to this scenario, only with a systematic explanation of the "accidental correlation" via the claim that intention is just a manner of perceiving the onset of an action.
  • In this analogy there is the causally active consciousness of the person with the webcam, and the epiphenomenal consciousness of the person watching, insofar as the webcam transmission is concerned. [...] a prototype/analogy for a single experience where the causal link from the experience to its physical carrier is broken. To build a full-fledged epiphenomenalism you need to limit all experiences to such a kind.
  • Consciousness can the primary reality of the universe in diametrically different ways. (1a) It can be entirely different substance from material stuff -- the abandoned dualism. (1b) It can be an aggregation of an aspect of physical stuff that has "propensity for subjectivity", for example "quantum collapsability" or some other spookiness. (1c) It can just be some particular biological material processes but not others (the sense of "primary reality of consciousness" here is that we cannot "explain it away" structurally/functionally, but could at best duplicate these processes).
  • (2a) Epiphenomenalism is just a very narrow case of consciousness arising from material processes, one where it does not have causal effects (it only has causes). There are at least two other possibilities: (2b) consciousness is a particular coarse-graining of material processes, the effects of those processes are the effects of consciousness (with emphasis on the structure of the coarse-graining, not on the particular processes as in 1c); (2c) consciousness is a particular functional structure of material processes among other processes, the functional structure exhibiting so called downward causation on the processes that exhibit it.
  • "The neurological explanation of all measurable events related to 'orange' involves numbers and theories and chemistry, no need for the perception known as 'orange'." Well put. This is also known as "the problem of qualia", although I prefer calling it "the hard problem" because the notion of qualia is not really that clear-cut. For example "Normal listeners can discriminate about 1,400 steps of pitch difference across the audible frequency range, but they can recognize these steps as examples of only about 80 different pitches." I can discriminate two shades of orange when I see both nearby, without being able to give them names because when separated in time they just seem the same to me.
  • Perhaps a good way to start people thinking about this is to go back to B. Russell "Analysis of Mind" (1921). First, realize that when you note that you see an orange patch, you do not learn that you have an orange experience, you learn that you have experience of orange. "If there is a subject, it can have a relation to the patch of colour, namely, the sort of relation which we might call awareness. In that case the sensation, as a mental event, will consist of awareness of the colour, while the colour itself will remain wholly physical, and may be called the sense-datum, to distinguish it from the sensation. The subject, however, appears to be a logical fiction, like mathematical points and instants. It is introduced, not because observation reveals it, but because it is linguistically convenient and apparently demanded by grammar. [...] But when we [dispense with the subject, we cannot distinguish the sensation from the quality of the property.] Accordingly the sensation that we have when we see a patch of colour simply is that patch of colour, an actual constituent of the physical world, and part of what physics is concerned with [...]" In "My Philosophical Development" where I quote from, Russell continues, "It became possible to think that what the physiologist regards as matter in the brain is actually composed of thoughts and feelings, and that the difference between mind and matter is merely one of arrangement." This is close to the view that John Searle has. (My allegiance is more with Searle's opponents though, with representational functionalism of for example Daniel Dennett.)
  • Some philosophers are obsessed with the idea of “intrinsic existence”. We say that consciousness is (where “is” and “arises” have the same meaning) the structure of complex processes of representation and action. They say, structure is a relation among elements, and structure/relations do not have intrinsic existence because they are what is preserved between the existing stuff and arbitrary representations of the organization of the stuff, given an instruction of interpretation. Therefore they see our claim that consciousness is a particular structure of processes as equating something that has independent existence, with something that is a result of analysis/interpretation.
  • What we mean is functional structure, that consciousness is the structure of causal interaction within a system and across the system and the environment. They ridicule the idea that consciousness floats out of the brain sustained by causal links with pieces of environment. They say that besides, it doesn’t save function from being “in the eye of the functionalist”, that functions are ascribed rather than independently existing.