The Impossibly Hard Problem of Consciousness

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The Impossibly Hard Problem of Consciousness

Prudence Louise

Quote:To explain a functional state requires specifying a mechanism that performs the function. Scientific reductionist explanations work on the principle that we can understand all phenomena by explaining their elementary parts. A description of the structure, the functions and the motion and interaction of those parts is all we need to completely explain any phenomena.

Quote:All these problems are only problems for the physicalist. Alternative metaphysics, like idealism, substance dualism or panpsychism all avoid the hard problem by denying causal closure. They accept the observation that consciousness is non-physical, and it’s causally effective, which means causal closure must be false.

Unlike the observations of consciousness and its causal powers, causal closure isn’t based on observations of the world. It’s a metaphysical commitment. Physicalism is confronting a problem created by its philosophical commitments being in conflict with our observations of the world.

=-=-=

Why Physicalism Is Failing as the Accepted Approach to Science

Quote:In response to criticism from physicists Sabine Hossenfelder and Sean Carroll, philosopher Philip Goff points out that panpsychism is not in conflict with physics. It offers a simpler view of physics than dualism, with fewer gaps than materialism (including physicalism).

Essentially, panpsychism offers a way for scientists to address human consciousness, as currently understood, without explaining it away as an illusion. It would allow them to say that if Zombie-Jane existed, she would be missing something critical that Jane has (and so does everything else, to at least some extent).

Whether that benefit makes panpsychism a better explanation of reality than idealism or dualism is a separate question. Each of these points of view has its own issues but the Zombie isn’t one of them.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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Quote:Imagine you meet your doppelganger. Someone physically identical to you, atom for atom. The only difference is the doppelganger has no inner consciousness. They look happy or sad, they even tell you of their hopes and dreams.

But there is nothing more than physical processes moving in response to physical causes. Their lips move and sounds which are meaningful to you come out, but they experience nothing at all.

From the outside you are identical. But from the inside the zombie is a hollow imitation. That is a philosophical zombie. The physical structure, functions and behavior are identical, but there is no consciousness.

I suppose technically this is possible. I was thinking of real-world examples, things which have actually happened, during an NDE.

In the most usual case, the person has something occur, say an illness or a fall or an accident. The person's consciousness emerges and separates from the body. In this situation, the body is still, motionless but the wide-awake consciousness of that person may then look upon their own body. But all they see is something of no importance, like a discarded pile of old clothes. This does not meet the requirements of the theorised zombie, since the body is unresponsive, it does not interact with anything or anyone.

But there is another scenario. Again, I'm not talking theory, this actually happens in real life. A person may be engaged in doing something, such as driving a car or trying to land an aircraft. Under the stress of an apparently impending crash, likely to be dangerous or fatal, the person may separate from the body, possibly to observe the scene from above, outside the car. In this case, the body inside the car is still seated at the controls and driving the car. But the person's consciousness is outside, separate. The most 'real' part, the thinking, experiencing person, is outside. The body seated at the controls is still alive and functioning.

Actually the car-driving example is something where we probably do exhibit this zombie-like aspect as a matter of routine. In travelling from A to B, especially along a familiar route, we may carry out lots of actions such as gear-changes, responding to stop signals and manoeuvring amongst the other vehicles. But where are our thoughts, our conscious attention focussed? Maybe on a forthcoming meeting, or on an argument we had earlier in the day, or thinking of a holiday we had last year. That probably is as close as we get to that zombie-status in normal life. If someone speaks to us under these circumstances, we may murmur some answer, maybe saying yes or no to something. But the person talking to us may interject, "you're not listening, are you? You were miles away". When we re-connect with our surroundings, quite likely if we said yes or no to something, it may have been the wrong answer, we may have just seemed to agree to something, but we don't even know what it was.

So where does this leave us? The hypothetical philosophical zombie does seem to exist. But we can readily distinguish it. Either the body is inanimate, motionless, or it is carrying out routine, habitual actions in a robotic fashion, with no real awareness or connection to its surroundings. In either case the conscious person still exists, but is not participating, instead it is 'elsewhere'.
(This post was last modified: 2021-11-10, 10:43 AM by Typoz.)
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(2021-11-10, 01:08 AM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: The Impossibly Hard Problem of Consciousness

Prudence Louise



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Why Physicalism Is Failing as the Accepted Approach to Science
D. Chalmers is quoted in the first link.
Quote: 
“The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information processing, but there is also a subjective aspect.” 

The science mode of attack is obvious.  If we are looking for the roots of experience - the whir of information processing seems the place to search.

Again - a simple idea: 
objective stance = information at the source being transferred into the environment
mutual information is created when objective information in the environment is detected and is mirrored in the mental environment of an agent
subjective stance = when the mutual information of an agent is likewise - mirrored - in conjunction with the database of the agent and with the actions of mind
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(2021-11-10, 01:52 PM)stephenw Wrote: D. Chalmers is quoted in the first link.

The science mode of attack is obvious.  If we are looking for the roots of experience - the whir of information processing seems the place to search.

The problem with this idea is that 'information' isn't really defined - we are clearly not using the Shannon definition. Once you are not using 'information' in the context of electronic communication theory, 'the concept of information seems to require an intelligent human (or maybe an animal) to relate to it.

Imagine a book written by an alien in its own language - is it information?

David
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(2021-11-16, 12:28 PM)David001 Wrote: The problem with this idea is that 'information' isn't really defined - we are clearly not using the Shannon definition. Once you are not using 'information' in the context of electronic communication theory, 'the concept of information seems to require an intelligent human (or maybe an animal) to relate to it.

Imagine a book written by an alien in its own language - is it information?

David
Given books contain language, humanity might not be able to decode the symbols and not understand any contained meanings.  Then, humanity gains no mutual information.

Are you implying that the alien scientists can not count there symbols in the book or logically map the semantic meanings to events, real or imagined?  Because we can not get the data, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

The point you make about the usefulness of the tools of communication, they can work with mind in a pragmatic way.  The MTC (Shannon's math theory of communication) is logical masterpiece that throws out meaning (semantics) and focuses completely on the structure and activity of the symbols.

But symbolic communication, is only part of the story.  Communication is activity with purpose.  When I speak of an information object, associate it with a bundle of properties, just as a physical object is a bundle of properties.  A digital picture has two measurable properties not addressed by SI units of measure.  They are the symbols encoded in  language format and the meanings that an agent, as the receiver of the message, might experience.

Physical objects are a bundles of energy and materials.  They exist in specific local environment in a moment in time.

Information objects are bundles of possible meanings and a probability matrix. They exist actually in the real-world probabilistic environment.  This environment includes structures and meanings in the past and future that are accessible to mind.
(2021-11-16, 06:25 PM)stephenw Wrote: Given books contain language, humanity might not be able to decode the symbols and not understand any contained meanings.  Then, humanity gains no mutual information.

Are you implying that the alien scientists can not count there symbols in the book or logically map the semantic meanings to events, real or imagined?  Because we can not get the data, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
What I am implying is that information in the non-Shannon sense only exists in the context of one or more intelligent beings. It really isn't a primary like mass, or energy.
Quote:Physical objects are a bundles of energy and materials.  They exist in specific local environment in a moment in time.

Information objects are bundles of possible meanings and a probability matrix. They exist actually in the real-world probabilistic environment.  This environment includes structures and meanings in the past and future that are accessible to mind.

'Information objects', to use your tortured phrase,e only exist in the context of intelligent being(s). I'll give you a great example. There is information stored in DNA, and that implies life was created by an intelligent being of some sort - just as there is intelligence stored in the software on a computer, and that implies an intelligent being sat down and wrote the stuff!

David
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(2021-11-17, 11:09 AM)David001 Wrote: What I am implying is that information in the non-Shannon sense only exists in the context of one or more intelligent beings. It really isn't a primary like mass, or energy.

'Information objects', to use your tortured phrase,e only exist in the context of intelligent being(s). I'll give you a great example. There is information stored in DNA, and that implies life was created by an intelligent being of some sort - just as there is intelligence stored in the software on a computer, and that implies an intelligent being sat down and wrote the stuff!

David
Thanks for the response.  The term information objects (or informational objects) is not mine, other than in my overuse of it, in this forum.  I see it in - the same framework as physical objects - and use it to delineate a defined class.  There are the terms: thought, idea, concept and relationship as examples of the group.  Just like a class of objects such as: machine, furniture, body, galaxy and bond.   The idea of mental substance is my enemy and clouds all of this.

Information objects and their interactions are measurable and transform according to sure and repeatable science models.  I am obviously too ready to tell you all about them.  But, the point here is to sort the terms and talk common sense.

Intelligence being stored (physically) in memory devices in an electronic environment is not fact - just analogy.

We correctly infer prior intelligence in the selection, arrangement and available processing tools of the symbols.  We may agree that this intelligence took place in the past and actually created the order and organization.

And while not commenting on Divine beings as ultimate causes, science can advise the patterns.  Behind those patterns are causal activities driving evolution.  Adaptations are from mental workings, right from the beginning.  Mind is action like forces and energetic states.  Mind uses meaning to motivate life. 
(This post was last modified: 2021-11-17, 03:43 PM by stephenw.)
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(2021-11-10, 10:34 AM)Typoz Wrote: So where does this leave us? The hypothetical philosophical zombie does seem to exist. But we can readily distinguish it. Either the body is inanimate, motionless, or it is carrying out routine, habitual actions in a robotic fashion, with no real awareness or connection to its surroundings. In either case the conscious person still exists, but is not participating, instead it is 'elsewhere'.

I really like the idea of consciousness and its habits being akin to the training of animals. You have to learn to drive before you can semi/un-consciously drive home without really thinking about it at the level of attention you originally found necessary.

Eric Weiss has suggested that even in daydream we are crossing the boundaries between the interlocking/intersecting Subtle Worlds that make up this "mundane" reality. He also thinks we as a transphysical person establishes a harmony with cell-consciousness that in term establishes harmony with atomic-consciousness...a sort of non-reductive Panpsychism.

So you can have your consciousness disengage from your driving while trusting in your body's consciousness to see its way home.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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(2021-11-17, 03:00 PM)stephenw Wrote: Thanks for the response.  The term information objects (or informational objects) is not mine, other than in my overuse of it, in this forum.  I see it in - the same framework as physical objects - and use it to delineate a defined class.  There are the terms: thought, idea, concept and relationship as examples of the group.  Just like a class of objects such as: machine, furniture, body, galaxy and bond.   The idea of mental substance is my enemy and clouds all of this.

Information objects and their interactions are measurable and transform according to sure and repeatable science models.  I am obviously too ready to tell you all about them.  But, the point here is to sort the terms and talk common sense.
I know it is not, and I think you are being led astray in thinking that the term has real meaning.
Quote:Intelligence being stored (physically) in memory devices in an electronic environment is not fact - just analogy.

We correctly infer prior intelligence in the selection, arrangement and available processing tools of the symbols.  We may agree that this intelligence took place in the past and actually created the order and organization.

And while not commenting on Divine beings as ultimate causes, science can advise the patterns.  Behind those patterns are causal activities driving evolution.  Adaptations are from mental workings, right from the beginning.  Mind is action like forces and energetic states.  Mind uses meaning to motivate life. 

I rarely even mention divine beings - I like to approach this from the bottom up. Yes electronic memories are just an analogy, but an analogy of.....what?

IMHO, science has unfortunately ruled out any real explanation of evolution - which is why it has clung to Darwin's theory so tenaciously. It is not that conventional scientists like Darwin's theory, it is that they have realised there is no alternative within the constraints they have imposed on themselves. The Third Way crowd seem to like to dance on the edge between materialism and non-materialistic explanations of life and consciousness.

I have tried to point out that obsessing about information doesn't work, because all information needs an intelligent mind to interpret it. That means that information as such can't explain consciousness or intelligence!

An explanation of a radio that starts by assuming a radio simply isn't an explanation!

David
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(2021-11-17, 09:45 PM)David001 Wrote: IMHO, science has unfortunately ruled out any real explanation of evolution.... The Third Way crowd seem to like to dance on the edge between materialism and non-materialistic explanations of life and consciousness.

I have tried to point out that obsessing about information doesn't work, because all information needs an intelligent mind to interpret it. That means that information as such can't explain consciousness or intelligence!

An explanation of a radio that starts by assuming a radio simply isn't an explanation!

David
The process maps needed to explain a radio are the electronic signal pathway schema and the affinity and knowledge of people for broadcast communication.

You can speak to the physical with an understanding of modulated signals, circuits and transducers.

You can speak about radio, if you know the most popular artists, emotional cultural memes and about those packaging content.  Maybe a side dish of advertising.  Knowing the meaningful structures coming from radio and how it changes the cultural environment - is linguistics, sociology, economics, psychology and more.  All these studies model the transformations of ideas - into organized actions.  Active behavior delivering affording information driving life and perception.


I strongly identify with the themes and ideas presented by Third Way members, but exhibit little dancing in recent years.  One founding member openly states the theory that "organisms designed themselves".  Do you think this fellow is going to delineate how this happens by using classical physics?

Let me ask a simple and straight-forward questions - who here thinks that information sciences are researching a non-material aspect of realty?   Has modern metaphysics - defined information/meaning as epiphenomenal, when compared to matter/energy?  
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