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Consciousness and Subjective Reductionism

 
Poldano
 
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Poldano
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26 March 2017 21:56
 

This is a continuation of a discussion that originated in the Hall of Psychology.

Here is the relevant thread fragment:

Jb8989 - 26 March 2017 03:11 PM
Poldano - 26 March 2017 12:03 AM
Jb8989 - 24 March 2017 04:44 PM
Poldano - 23 March 2017 11:37 PM
Jb8989 - 22 March 2017 12:48 PM

...

Consciousness is a fundamental force of nature that most people assume we understand because we understand things. But only 5% of matter we can perceive abides by the laws of physics as we understand them. You can render moot the idea of bright line sectioning off of degrees of consciousness by defining awareness as the ability to experience subjectivity. Which really isn’t that bad of definition. It makes correlates necessary for social agreement. Othwerwise, we’re stuck with the problem that our biology developed in such a way that the varying levels of cognition rely on one another for a type of integrated formation that creates consciousness. Memory to meta-cognition; Reasoning to situational awareness. Therefore, we can sort of measure extent, and toy around with categories, but not necessarily fundamental inner-specie distinctions. Not until we transform the laws of physics again.

I think I basically agree with you. I’m not sure if consciousness is a single separate fundamental force of nature or an attribute of already known physical forces that cannot be detected by our current physical methods. A physics that does not recognize consciousness, in the specific sense of subjective experience that is equivalent to tangible existence to a subject, cannot provide a complete model of reality.

Well because it technically wouldn’t be a model of reality. It would be a model for perception. The distinction is subtle, but also probably important. IMO, it would be something like the linear development of degrees of cognition that the mind requires to project how most people can reasonably agree reality is experienced. Objectively? Well, maybe. This type of model would require an environment with rules that we can agree on beyond science, is the problem. Science is soft on society.

 

If it is real, why would a physics that includes an explanation of consciousness be a model of perception rather than a model of reality?

For the same reason that you mentioned not being able to overcome subjective reductionism in order to use a higher order of thought explanation for consciousness: because we can’t subtract first person-operation from the externalization of mental events. It leaves us with consciousness, experience, reality and perception being psychologically interchangeable at more than a couple points. I like collective conscious perceptions as axioms.

Regardless, I’d probably say that somewhere in between thinking and meta cognition is a mental state where people can be Introspectively aware of thoughts and things without being attentive or reflective to them. Thinking about thoughts requires a little bit more story telling. I imagine this speaks more to cognitive capacity than consciousness, however, you’re right that at this point I don’t want to derail this thread anymore. I’m going to go watch hoops.

First, I don’t think that I am a subjective reductionist, since I don’t believe that all of reality can be reduced to subjective phenomena. If anything, I am much closer to being an objective reductionist, since I believe that a physical explanation for any real phenomenon is possible in principle, although not necessarily verifiable in principle. The possibility of a limit to the verifiability of an objective physical explanation of subjective phenomena is what I refer to as “irreducible subjectivity”.

Second, what would subjective reductionism entail? I was not able to find any use of the term in a quick internet search, nor am I familiar with the term from any reading I’ve done. My guess is that it would be some flavor of idealism, probably one that denied the necessity of an objective reality. That’s not what I’m saying, although I have often entertained the notion in thought experiments.

Third, in my view there is something of a category error in the sense that perception is not reality. The term “perception” refers to the process by which an agent gains knowledge of reality. Since it has to do with knowledge, it is automatically an epistemological term, in my opinion. Epistemology isn’t about reality per se, but about projections of reality that can be treated as information. Ontology deals with reality directly. My position is that we can say nothing about ontological facts without relying on a shared (consubjective) aspects of reality, which necessarily relies on information. Our subjective experiences are incommunicable to each other except via shared physical media, and require the use of metaphor or correspondence to be communicable. For example, I am unable to communicate any notion of “redness” to anyone else except by pointing to some red object and saying that it is red. That action effectively defines the term “red” as I experience it. If others agree with my definition, we have a basis for using the term “red” in our discussions. The actual experience of “red” is very likely irreducibly subjective, although we may be able to determine from similarity of neural responses that the human experience of “red” is very likely the same for all humans with normal color sensitivity.

Fourth, is consciousness a part of reality, or is it an epiphenomenon of information processing. This may be the crux of the difference between primary consciousness and secondary consciousness. Primary consciousness may be nothing but low-level physical phenomena that we have not yet identified, requiring nothing but selective response to environmental stimuli, and not even memory. Secondary consciousness may be that which requires memory. Memory requires an information-processing structure in the agent. Secondary consciousness therefore is likely to rely on epistemological investigations and explanations, and may be said to be “epistemological” in exactly the sense that it is about knowledge, perception, and cognition, and makes assertions about information processing. But it is still an ontological model, because the existence of information processing is undeniable unless there is no objective reality whatsoever. Higher-order consciousness is then the basis of epistemology, so any model of it necessarily models something on which epistemology depends. That more basic layer is the domain of ontology, which concerns itself with what exists.

 
 
NL.
 
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27 March 2017 06:05
 

One example of perception aligning that I find interesting is my electronics morning iCloud meet up. This one over here doesn’t know I already responded to a photo on Photo Stream, but a minute later it has been briefed. That one over there didn’t see a certain picture or text yet, but a moment later it has it. In this case it’s a very simple example of “information = observable ‘behavior’ of a system” that I find interesting as a potentially illustrative example.


It seems to me that in nature we also see this idea of information sharing first playing out at the level of behavior, possibly with no self consciousness (emphasis because there used to be and to some degree still are terrible theories like ‘animals don’t feel pain’, which make me shudder - self reflection and pain are very different). Some animals get almost all the information they’ll need for life via DNA, with little learning processes later on; animals capable of learning get some of it that way but learn other things from parents, litter mates, the pack, the environment, their owners, etc. (It also seems to me that the more you go up this ladder of learning, the more learned affect and emotional responses come online. Hopeful as I was with my non-allergenic pet lizard as a kid [I was only allowed to have reptiles or goldfish so that my other family members could continue breathing], it never looked particularly happy to see me or really seemed to differentiate between me and a rock.)


When you get to the level of human processing it all seems incredibly ethereal to me. Consider what happens when you read a book or news article. At a superficial level, you say “I read it, and understood it” - but if you really examine that under a microscope, what does it mean? Did you painstakingly interpret each word into a mental image, the entire sequence of which you recall now? Probably not, at least for me, recalling a book or news article may involve a few fleeting images but it’s not like a movie reel. What does it mean to say you ‘understood it’? At a strictly describable level, it seems to reduce to: 1) A feeling of “Ok, got it” 2) The ability to respond appropriately if asked about the content 3) The ability to make systemic changes in affect and behavior surrounding whatever you read. But it’s very hard to pinpoint the concrete ‘thing’ that information processing at that level really is, even though it feels very obvious. To that end I think part of what happens as we continually download and upload information throughout the day is still very mysterious even to us - it seems to me that when examined at a fine-grained level, our actual experience of it is more limited than we intuitively feel it is.

 
NL.
 
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27 March 2017 06:11
 

Sorry, forgot to include… my general point is that I don’t know if subjective and objective apply particularly neatly to ‘information’, whatever that is. Is information subjective? Is it objective? In a kind of Zen way, it seems appropriate to say “Aaaaah, but it is neither, and yet impacts both.” Probably while sitting on a rock. I feel there should be a rock involved, and wise chin scratching. Since you can’t see me, just, you know, picture that.

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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27 March 2017 10:53
 
Poldano - 26 March 2017 09:56 PM

This is a continuation of a discussion that originated in the Hall of Psychology.

Here is the relevant thread fragment:

Jb8989 - 26 March 2017 03:11 PM
Poldano - 26 March 2017 12:03 AM
Jb8989 - 24 March 2017 04:44 PM
Poldano - 23 March 2017 11:37 PM
Jb8989 - 22 March 2017 12:48 PM

...

Consciousness is a fundamental force of nature that most people assume we understand because we understand things. But only 5% of matter we can perceive abides by the laws of physics as we understand them. You can render moot the idea of bright line sectioning off of degrees of consciousness by defining awareness as the ability to experience subjectivity. Which really isn’t that bad of definition. It makes correlates necessary for social agreement. Othwerwise, we’re stuck with the problem that our biology developed in such a way that the varying levels of cognition rely on one another for a type of integrated formation that creates consciousness. Memory to meta-cognition; Reasoning to situational awareness. Therefore, we can sort of measure extent, and toy around with categories, but not necessarily fundamental inner-specie distinctions. Not until we transform the laws of physics again.

I think I basically agree with you. I’m not sure if consciousness is a single separate fundamental force of nature or an attribute of already known physical forces that cannot be detected by our current physical methods. A physics that does not recognize consciousness, in the specific sense of subjective experience that is equivalent to tangible existence to a subject, cannot provide a complete model of reality.

Well because it technically wouldn’t be a model of reality. It would be a model for perception. The distinction is subtle, but also probably important. IMO, it would be something like the linear development of degrees of cognition that the mind requires to project how most people can reasonably agree reality is experienced. Objectively? Well, maybe. This type of model would require an environment with rules that we can agree on beyond science, is the problem. Science is soft on society.

 

If it is real, why would a physics that includes an explanation of consciousness be a model of perception rather than a model of reality?

For the same reason that you mentioned not being able to overcome subjective reductionism in order to use a higher order of thought explanation for consciousness: because we can’t subtract first person-operation from the externalization of mental events. It leaves us with consciousness, experience, reality and perception being psychologically interchangeable at more than a couple points. I like collective conscious perceptions as axioms.

Regardless, I’d probably say that somewhere in between thinking and meta cognition is a mental state where people can be Introspectively aware of thoughts and things without being attentive or reflective to them. Thinking about thoughts requires a little bit more story telling. I imagine this speaks more to cognitive capacity than consciousness, however, you’re right that at this point I don’t want to derail this thread anymore. I’m going to go watch hoops.

First, I don’t think that I am a subjective reductionist, since I don’t believe that all of reality can be reduced to subjective phenomena. If anything, I am much closer to being an objective reductionist, since I believe that a physical explanation for any real phenomenon is possible in principle, although not necessarily verifiable in principle. The possibility of a limit to the verifiability of an objective physical explanation of subjective phenomena is what I refer to as “irreducible subjectivity”.

Second, what would subjective reductionism entail? I was not able to find any use of the term in a quick internet search, nor am I familiar with the term from any reading I’ve done. My guess is that it would be some flavor of idealism, probably one that denied the necessity of an objective reality. That’s not what I’m saying, although I have often entertained the notion in thought experiments.

Third, in my view there is something of a category error in the sense that perception is not reality. The term “perception” refers to the process by which an agent gains knowledge of reality. Since it has to do with knowledge, it is automatically an epistemological term, in my opinion. Epistemology isn’t about reality per se, but about projections of reality that can be treated as information. Ontology deals with reality directly. My position is that we can say nothing about ontological facts without relying on a shared (consubjective) aspects of reality, which necessarily relies on information. Our subjective experiences are incommunicable to each other except via shared physical media, and require the use of metaphor or correspondence to be communicable. For example, I am unable to communicate any notion of “redness” to anyone else except by pointing to some red object and saying that it is red. That action effectively defines the term “red” as I experience it. If others agree with my definition, we have a basis for using the term “red” in our discussions. The actual experience of “red” is very likely irreducibly subjective, although we may be able to determine from similarity of neural responses that the human experience of “red” is very likely the same for all humans with normal color sensitivity.

Fourth, is consciousness a part of reality, or is it an epiphenomenon of information processing. This may be the crux of the difference between primary consciousness and secondary consciousness. Primary consciousness may be nothing but low-level physical phenomena that we have not yet identified, requiring nothing but selective response to environmental stimuli, and not even memory. Secondary consciousness may be that which requires memory. Memory requires an information-processing structure in the agent. Secondary consciousness therefore is likely to rely on epistemological investigations and explanations, and may be said to be “epistemological” in exactly the sense that it is about knowledge, perception, and cognition, and makes assertions about information processing. But it is still an ontological model, because the existence of information processing is undeniable unless there is no objective reality whatsoever. Higher-order consciousness is then the basis of epistemology, so any model of it necessarily models something on which epistemology depends. That more basic layer is the domain of ontology, which concerns itself with what exists.

My take: JB is basically throwing his hands up in defeat because “we can’t subtract first person-operation from the externalization of mental events.” Instead, he falls back on absurdities like “subjectively objective” events and accusations of “subjective reductionism.” What he fails to recognize, or admit, is that we can’t, by ourselves, subtract first-person operation from our understanding of any events.

We can, however, use tools to help us understand reality. “Redness” need not be defined by pointing to a rose or an apple, it can be defined by a specific area on the electromagnetic spectrum. Nor does consciousness necessarily have to be defined by the “externalization of mental events.”  Sooner or later we’ll have the tools to help us understand consciousness in the same way we understand redness. Until then, we should admit we don’t know rather than falling back on “subjectively objective” events, which is hardly different than falling back on God because we don’t understand where the universe came from.

 
 
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27 March 2017 11:55
 

Pol,

The disconnect you’re talking about between what’s “real” and what’s only potentially verifiable is what I was referring to when I mentioned subjective reductionism. You probably can’t find it anywhere because I just made it up, although it’s just dualism. What I meant by it is that any attempt at conceptualizing what’s real, either through physics or otherwise, is an externalization of conscious perception. “Secondary consciousness” reminds me of the question: when do perceptual states become conscious?. SR was just me making note that explaining reality often collapses into the problem of explaining consciousness, which in turn collapses into the problem of explaining mental states. I’d rather avoid that. I think of it as an inconvenient limitation that allows for people to conflate faith, belief, and “knowledge.” Which brings me to my next point – that you’re right, reality and perception are two conceptually separate things. The reason is because the relationship among sensation, attention, perception, consciousness and reality is broken when there is enough information to conclude that something exists independent of mentality. We got some tools. But if we just agreed on the limited amount of stuff that passed this standard there’d be a lot less actually happening in reality. The fact is that you can explain your understanding of the color red using a bunch of different descriptors to a blind person and even she’d have a perception of some substantially similar color red (assuming she was not blind at some point in the past). I imagine we agree so far.

Perception isn’t just one agent gaining knowledge of reality. There’s too many signals that the brain processes outside of awareness and/or pre-attentively for perception to be more about knowledge than interpretation. That’s why the verification for those shared aspects of reality that you were talking about are so important.  The reason why these aren’t more realistically agreed-on is because that form of secondary consciousness that you’re talking about arises only when some intermediate-level cognitive recognitions are regulated by attention. Memory requires an information-processing structure in the agent, yes, but I think to answer the question when do perceptual states become conscious is best answered when the perceiver is attending.

 

[ Edited: 28 March 2017 12:16 by Jb8989]
 
 
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27 March 2017 11:58
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 27 March 2017 10:53 AM

  Sooner or later we’ll have the tools to help us understand consciousness in the same way we understand redness.

later homey, probably much later.

 
 
Poldano
 
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31 March 2017 23:19
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 27 March 2017 10:53 AM

...

My take: JB is basically throwing his hands up in defeat because “we can’t subtract first person-operation from the externalization of mental events.” Instead, he falls back on absurdities like “subjectively objective” events and accusations of “subjective reductionism.” What he fails to recognize, or admit, is that we can’t, by ourselves, subtract first-person operation from our understanding of any events.

That may be so. I’m trying to do exactly that, but I’m by no means throwing up my hands in defeat.

Antisocialdarwinist - 27 March 2017 10:53 AM

...
We can, however, use tools to help us understand reality. “Redness” need not be defined by pointing to a rose or an apple, it can be defined by a specific area on the electromagnetic spectrum. Nor does consciousness necessarily have to be defined by the “externalization of mental events.”  Sooner or later we’ll have the tools to help us understand consciousness in the same way we understand redness. Until then, we should admit we don’t know rather than falling back on “subjectively objective” events, which is hardly different than falling back on God because we don’t understand where the universe came from.

I’m not sure I entirely agree. Redness corresponds to a region of the electromagnetic spectrum, but the experience of identical red colors can occur without those colors having identical electromagnetic spectra. That’s an artifact of our visual system, which relies upon three kinds of cone cells with three different pigments to process color. There is substantial sensitivity overlap, such that more than spectral signature can produce the same neural response. There’s really no effective argument against this. Assigning a wavelength of light to designate the color is really using wavelength to designate the centroid of the set of power spectrums that each produce identical color experiences, in people with normal color vision.

Regardless of how color is specified, there must still be some intersubjective definition. That is to say, more than one subject must agree that a particular wavelength is representative of the color designated by the same color word. The only way intersubjective definition can come about is by two or more subjects pointing to the same object and agreeing on a word (or action, or behavior, etc.) that corresponds to it. To use a common example, there is no universal or absolute dictionary; all dictionaries are just lists of definitions that some consensus of people (i.e., editors) decided were appropriate.

This is not to say that there are no universal facts. Dictionaries are necessarily epistemological, but I’m willing to grant the possibility that some facts are both universal and absolute, i.e., absolutely true of objective reality, and therefore ontological. We probably don’t know any of them, because all the facts that we know are filtered through species-specific perceptual and cognitive wetwear. All information available to us must be both relative and epistemological.

I’ve previously said that qualia are the stuff of subjective experience, but that in themselves they are independent of any facts except their own existence, which cannot be directly communicated. They must be replaced by words or some other representation to be communicated to other subjects, and that replacement is a representation or conversion that makes them intersubjective rather than purely subjective. If the intersubjective definitions correspond well enough to each communicating subject’s conceptions and perceptions, then they are sufficient for a shared world model (AKA model of objective reality) where issues of subjectivity can be minimized to a large extent.

That is one way (in a very abstract sense) to correlate some aspects of subjective experience from externally observable mental events. The subjectivity remains, but we don’t have to talk about it. When there is sufficient disagreement about the representation (e.g., some particular kind of mental event does not really correspond to the particular kind of physical event that we thought it did, because instances of the two do not correlate sufficiently), then there is a need to change the correspondences (i.e., definitions). That’s no big deal in principle, because that’s pretty much what investigative science is about. It becomes a big deal in practice because we tend to invest a lot of psychological and social capital into our definitions.

 

 
 
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31 March 2017 23:37
 
Jb8989 - 27 March 2017 11:55 AM

Pol,

The disconnect you’re talking about between what’s “real” and what’s only potentially verifiable is what I was referring to when I mentioned subjective reductionism. You probably can’t find it anywhere because I just made it up, although it’s just dualism. What I meant by it is that any attempt at conceptualizing what’s real, either through physics or otherwise, is an externalization of conscious perception. “Secondary consciousness” reminds me of the question: when do perceptual states become conscious?. SR was just me making note that explaining reality often collapses into the problem of explaining consciousness, which in turn collapses into the problem of explaining mental states. I’d rather avoid that. I think of it as an inconvenient limitation that allows for people to conflate faith, belief, and “knowledge.” Which brings me to my next point – that you’re right, reality and perception are two conceptually separate things. The reason is because the relationship among sensation, attention, perception, consciousness and reality is broken when there is enough information to conclude that something exists independent of mentality. We got some tools. But if we just agreed on the limited amount of stuff that passed this standard there’d be a lot less actually happening in reality. The fact is that you can explain your understanding of the color red using a bunch of different descriptors to a blind person and even she’d have a perception of some substantially similar color red (assuming she was not blind at some point in the past). I imagine we agree so far.

Perception isn’t just one agent gaining knowledge of reality. There’s too many signals that the brain processes outside of awareness and/or pre-attentively for perception to be more about knowledge than interpretation. That’s why the verification for those shared aspects of reality that you were talking about are so important.  The reason why these aren’t more realistically agreed-on is because that form of secondary consciousness that you’re talking about arises only when some intermediate-level cognitive recognitions are regulated by attention. Memory requires an information-processing structure in the agent, yes, but I think to answer the question when do perceptual states become conscious is best answered when the perceiver is attending.

Okay. I really only objected to the term “subjective reductionism”, because without either an independent definition or your own explicit definition, it provided no clue to your point. See my response to ASD for further explanation of my point of view.

We are definitely in agreement that even knowledge, interpreted as true belief, is not guaranteed by either perception or cognition. I go so far as to assert that knowledge identical to reality is unattainable, and that what we colloquially mean by “knowledge” is “a set of statements true of reality to the extent that we can observe and measure reality.” In other words, knowledge is always probabilistic, and its reliability never quite reaches a value of one, which would be absolute certainty, with perhaps a single exception. That exception is knowledge of one’s own subjective existence (essentially one’s qualia), which in itself contains no information about the external world (AKA objective reality), if indeed we can consider the existence of subjective qualia knowledge at all. That’s my recasting of Descartes’ first premise, by the way, just in case it wasn’t blatantly obvious.

 
 
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01 April 2017 12:04
 
Poldano - 31 March 2017 11:37 PM
Jb8989 - 27 March 2017 11:55 AM

Pol,

The disconnect you’re talking about between what’s “real” and what’s only potentially verifiable is what I was referring to when I mentioned subjective reductionism. You probably can’t find it anywhere because I just made it up, although it’s just dualism. What I meant by it is that any attempt at conceptualizing what’s real, either through physics or otherwise, is an externalization of conscious perception. “Secondary consciousness” reminds me of the question: when do perceptual states become conscious?. SR was just me making note that explaining reality often collapses into the problem of explaining consciousness, which in turn collapses into the problem of explaining mental states. I’d rather avoid that. I think of it as an inconvenient limitation that allows for people to conflate faith, belief, and “knowledge.” Which brings me to my next point – that you’re right, reality and perception are two conceptually separate things. The reason is because the relationship among sensation, attention, perception, consciousness and reality is broken when there is enough information to conclude that something exists independent of mentality. We got some tools. But if we just agreed on the limited amount of stuff that passed this standard there’d be a lot less actually happening in reality. The fact is that you can explain your understanding of the color red using a bunch of different descriptors to a blind person and even she’d have a perception of some substantially similar color red (assuming she was not blind at some point in the past). I imagine we agree so far.

Perception isn’t just one agent gaining knowledge of reality. There’s too many signals that the brain processes outside of awareness and/or pre-attentively for perception to be more about knowledge than interpretation. That’s why the verification for those shared aspects of reality that you were talking about are so important.  The reason why these aren’t more realistically agreed-on is because that form of secondary consciousness that you’re talking about arises only when some intermediate-level cognitive recognitions are regulated by attention. Memory requires an information-processing structure in the agent, yes, but I think to answer the question when do perceptual states become conscious is best answered when the perceiver is attending.

Okay. I really only objected to the term “subjective reductionism”, because without either an independent definition or your own explicit definition, it provided no clue to your point. See my response to ASD for further explanation of my point of view.

We are definitely in agreement that even knowledge, interpreted as true belief, is not guaranteed by either perception or cognition. I go so far as to assert that knowledge identical to reality is unattainable, and that what we colloquially mean by “knowledge” is “a set of statements true of reality to the extent that we can observe and measure reality.” In other words, knowledge is always probabilistic, and its reliability never quite reaches a value of one, which would be absolute certainty, with perhaps a single exception. That exception is knowledge of one’s own subjective existence (essentially one’s qualia), which in itself contains no information about the external world (AKA objective reality), if indeed we can consider the existence of subjective qualia knowledge at all. That’s my recasting of Descartes’ first premise, by the way, just in case it wasn’t blatantly obvious.

I agree with most of that. I like the way you framed absolute certainty. I think that the existence of subjective qualia that you were talking about might be less about knowledge and more about what we could consider baseline awareness. Not self-awareness, but rather a hardly conceptualizable bright line between unconscious perception and conscious perception before conscious perception gets modulated by some form of mid-level cognitive activity in order to become situational awareness, capable of recognizing a self through executive level thought. I think this is a spin on what some theorists refer to as the intermediate level of conscious theory.

Once upon a time, it was believed that all conscious-induced perception was aware. The terms “conscious” and “aware” are often used synonymously, but I try to take care to distinguish them for the purpose of making it definitionally possible to ask (1) where in perceptual processing does awareness arise?, and then asking (2) when representations in what types of privileged neurological subsystems become conscious? I think this is how we’ll figure out the link between attention, working memory and consciousness with regard to the creation of a posteriori identity, AKA the objective one doing all that subjective “knowing.”

[ Edited: 01 April 2017 19:55 by Jb8989]
 
 
sortof-jeffm
 
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01 April 2017 18:54
 

Great discussion.

Pol: Your response to ASD was impressive smile

https://www.samharris.org/forum/viewreply/858706/

 
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22 April 2017 20:32
 
Poldano - 31 March 2017 11:19 PM

We probably don’t know any of them, because all the facts that we know are filtered through species-specific perceptual and cognitive wetwear. All information available to us must be both relative and epistemological.

 

You talk of facts. What about concepts? Are all of them necessarily filtered through our wetware?

For example, prime number, entropy, self-replicating agents. Despite the fact(!) there may be many ways to represent these concepts, can concepts like these be understood independent of species? If so, there are associated facts that would be independent of wetware (dentisty of primes, 2nd law, evolution via natural selection).

PS I agree most information of value is relative. I suspect though that this is itself representative of some objective fact about the universe, rather than it representing a limitation. Perhaps manifestations of complementarity principles. We may only be able to see projections, but if we can see enough projections and can understand their precise relationships, then maybe we can model reality in a way that allows us to forecast or imply things independent of our species specific projections.

 
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23 April 2017 09:43
 
Giulio - 22 April 2017 08:32 PM
Poldano - 31 March 2017 11:19 PM

We probably don’t know any of them, because all the facts that we know are filtered through species-specific perceptual and cognitive wetwear. All information available to us must be both relative and epistemological.

 

You talk of facts. What about concepts? Are all of them necessarily filtered through our wetware?

For example, prime number, entropy, self-replicating agents. Despite the fact(!) there may be many ways to represent these concepts, can concepts like these be understood independent of species? If so, there are associated facts that would be independent of wetware (dentisty of primes, 2nd law, evolution via natural selection).

PS I agree most information of value is relative. I suspect though that this is itself representative of some objective fact about the universe, rather than it representing a limitation. Perhaps manifestations of complementarity principles. We may only be able to see projections, but if we can see enough projections and can understand their precise relationships, then maybe we can model reality in a way that allows us to forecast or imply things independent of our species specific projections.

Math is a useful human story since it has been shown to be compatible, in many ways, with how nature already works.  It is an easy logical trap, I think, to conflate our math with the thing it is trying to describe.  Take topographical points.  When we take the land mass and call it point, we are not changing any physical property of the land mass.  What we are doing is taking a mental construct called a point and assigning that virtual property to the mass through thinking.  That mental process of assigning a point to a thing requires a conscious host.

 
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23 April 2017 10:44
 
Giulio - 22 April 2017 08:32 PM
Poldano - 31 March 2017 11:19 PM

We probably don’t know any of them, because all the facts that we know are filtered through species-specific perceptual and cognitive wetwear. All information available to us must be both relative and epistemological.

 

You talk of facts. What about concepts? Are all of them necessarily filtered through our wetware?

For example, prime number, entropy, self-replicating agents. Despite the fact(!) there may be many ways to represent these concepts, can concepts like these be understood independent of species? If so, there are associated facts that would be independent of wetware (dentisty of primes, 2nd law, evolution via natural selection).

PS I agree most information of value is relative. I suspect though that this is itself representative of some objective fact about the universe, rather than it representing a limitation. Perhaps manifestations of complementarity principles. We may only be able to see projections, but if we can see enough projections and can understand their precise relationships, then maybe we can model reality in a way that allows us to forecast or imply things independent of our species specific projections.

Things don’t have to be objective to be forseeable. Empiricism and objectivism don’t have to align 100% to be socially applicable and useful. Facts are to concepts what morality is to ethics i.e. something gets lost in the greater cultural translations, but they inform scientific well-being nontheless

[ Edited: 23 April 2017 11:16 by Jb8989]
 
 
Giulio
 
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Giulio
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23 April 2017 13:52
 
sortof-jeffm - 23 April 2017 09:43 AM
Giulio - 22 April 2017 08:32 PM
Poldano - 31 March 2017 11:19 PM

We probably don’t know any of them, because all the facts that we know are filtered through species-specific perceptual and cognitive wetwear. All information available to us must be both relative and epistemological.

 

You talk of facts. What about concepts? Are all of them necessarily filtered through our wetware?

For example, prime number, entropy, self-replicating agents. Despite the fact(!) there may be many ways to represent these concepts, can concepts like these be understood independent of species? If so, there are associated facts that would be independent of wetware (dentisty of primes, 2nd law, evolution via natural selection).

PS I agree most information of value is relative. I suspect though that this is itself representative of some objective fact about the universe, rather than it representing a limitation. Perhaps manifestations of complementarity principles. We may only be able to see projections, but if we can see enough projections and can understand their precise relationships, then maybe we can model reality in a way that allows us to forecast or imply things independent of our species specific projections.

Math is a useful human story since it has been shown to be compatible, in many ways, with how nature already works.  It is an easy logical trap, I think, to conflate our math with the thing it is trying to describe.  Take topographical points.  When we take the land mass and call it point, we are not changing any physical property of the land mass.  What we are doing is taking a mental construct called a point and assigning that virtual property to the mass through thinking.  That mental process of assigning a point to a thing requires a conscious host.

When you write about conflating concepts with things, are you talking about abstract general concepts?

Eg in your example that suggests someone might conflate a point on a map with the thing it represents (aside: I am not sure many people really do this, they just temporarily step into the abstraction of the map in order to talk more simply), you are not dealing with an abstract mathematical concept on its own, but rather a specific instance of mathematical construction + the application of it to represent something in the world. I agree in general we have a tendency to conflate abstractions with concrete things in the world. Eg the concept of the entire universe is an abstraction of some type (a limiting process of all the things that could possibly account for or cause something we might one day observe). But maybe moving from the abstract to the concrete (and back again) is a useful cognitive skill humans have developed - maybe all concrete things for us are really specific types of abstractions, but by making them concrete we are able to play with them, transform them into other things (in our minds), enabling us to understand the relationship between things.

But back to my question. Consider the example of ‘prime numbers’ (not a specific number) as a mathematical concept, and the prime number theorem as a fact. What wetware would a species have to have that would mean it could in principle never evolve intelligence capable of coming to know the prime number theorem?

 

[ Edited: 23 April 2017 14:08 by Giulio]
 
sortof-jeffm
 
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23 April 2017 15:06
 
Giulio - 23 April 2017 01:52 PM

Consider the example of ‘prime numbers’ (not a specific number) as a mathematical concept, and the prime number theorem as a fact. What wetware would a species have to have that would mean it could in principle never evolve intelligence capable of coming to know the prime number theorem?

In an ontological sense, I think both prime numbers and points exist as products of conscious thought, sort of like sunlight is a product of a sun.

We may not be the only conscious creatures to have thought up the concept of a prime number, but that does not mean that concepts exist without any conscious hosts.

 
Jb8989
 
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24 April 2017 08:06
 

This sounds also like the singularity issue with AI. It’s hard to program a machine to question whether itself is a concept.

 
 
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