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A naturalistic approach to consciousness

 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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26 June 2020 06:55
 

No offense, but I’ve been asking for what evidence convinced you of nonmaterial consciousness for four days.  You’ve never claimed that you weren’t convinced, nor have you presented that evidence.  Not even a single example.

If you read those books, either they didn’t convince you, or they failed to teach you anything on the evidence.

I have other books to read, and so far the evidence that these two should jump up my list is not compelling.

 
burt
 
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burt
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26 June 2020 09:59
 
weird buffalo - 26 June 2020 06:55 AM

No offense, but I’ve been asking for what evidence convinced you of nonmaterial consciousness for four days.  You’ve never claimed that you weren’t convinced, nor have you presented that evidence.  Not even a single example.

If you read those books, either they didn’t convince you, or they failed to teach you anything on the evidence.

I have other books to read, and so far the evidence that these two should jump up my list is not compelling.

To properly answer this I would have to go back and dig through reading notes from 20 - 25 years ago. I don’t have time for that. If you want to understand the pro and con arguments, read the books (also Dennett’s book Consciousness Explained which is the most materialistic one out there). It isn’t up to me to educate you: You’ve got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues.

 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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26 June 2020 11:09
 

I had time to listen to David Chalmer’s talk.  I think he’s make really bad errors in his thinking.  From his TED talk:

We know that these brain areas go along with certain kinds of conscious experience, but we don’t know why they do….. why is it that all that physical processing in a brain should be accompanied by consciousness at all? Why is there this inner subjective movie? Right now, we don’t really have a bead on that.

To me, this really does sound a lot like creationism.  If we label the universe “creation”, then we are immediatley required to start thinking about who the creator is and we have to ask “why” that creator made creation. Chalmers starts with the assumption that consciousness is a thing unto itself.  When you start there, you immediately must start looking for what this thing is, and why is it separate from our brain? 

Poking around at a lot of people’s explanation of the Mary example around the internet, including from some really prominent people.  The first thing that struck me was that it was highly unaware of actual studies of how people perceive color.  These philosophers had concocted this example to show the problem they were trying to tackle, but they were completely unaware of really important facts about the subject they were talking about.  I know very little about color perception.  I never studied it at university.  I’ve never even worked in the paint department at Home Depot, and yet I was aware of information (important information) that was being left out of the example.  In your attempts to explain the thought experiment, you never once demonstrated awareness that there were giant swathes of information about the topic that were being left out.

In all, it tells me that people are using bad arguments to support their assumptions, and the point where they went off was in making those assumptions in the first place.

I am not claiming to know what the cause of consciousness is.  I am not claiming that materialism is even the answer.  I am identifying the flaws and problems in these nonmaterial answers (or answers that assume consciousness is more than just the brain).

Consciousness is a product of either:
1) the brain
or
2) the brain AND something else

Chalmers and others start with an argument from ignorance.  Science has not sufficiently explained (1) yet, therefore science CANNOT explain how (1) is true, and hence (1) is not true.  Since (1) is not true, therefore (2) is true.  This seems to be the crucial starting point for Chalmers.  It is not a logically sound argument, and I fail to see why I should read two books based on logically unsound arguments.  And of course, he gave this talk 18 years after publishing the first book you recommended, so he’s had plenty of time to refine his argument.

Note, I am not claiming that (1) is true.  I am pointing out that logical flaw in how it has been “shown” to be untrue so far in this thread, and by David Chalmers (as far as I am aware at this time).

The initial evidence seems to indicate that Chalmers does not have good evidence of anything, other than that he is using definitions to make it seem like certain concepts exist.  I read a couple other things either by him, or included him in it (in his own words, not just attribution), and I really don’t see anything that should be taken as convincing.

Good luck with your books.  I’m currently trying to work my way through some of Amartya Sen’s collection of works, and I find those much more useful for understanding the world around me.  Chalmers doesn’t seem worth the time to divert to.

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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26 June 2020 11:52
 
weird buffalo - 25 June 2020 12:50 PM

Is it normal behavior to require someone read two books before you discuss something with them on these forums?

You catch on fast. Yes, that is a trait we have all come to know about our double-reading uncle burt. Why two books? One for each face.

burt - 25 June 2020 06:50 PM

  …really have little time for internet interactions.

Okay. That would make a useful signature. Once posted, all these interactions do not reveal anyone’s extent of busy-ness. All that shows, perhaps inaccurately, is generosity or a lack of it.

Lots of patrons boast that their interaction time is smaller than average.

 
 
burt
 
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burt
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26 June 2020 15:07
 
weird buffalo - 26 June 2020 11:09 AM

I had time to listen to David Chalmer’s talk.  I think he’s make really bad errors in his thinking.  From his TED talk:

We know that these brain areas go along with certain kinds of conscious experience, but we don’t know why they do….. why is it that all that physical processing in a brain should be accompanied by consciousness at all? Why is there this inner subjective movie? Right now, we don’t really have a bead on that.

To me, this really does sound a lot like creationism.  If we label the universe “creation”, then we are immediatley required to start thinking about who the creator is and we have to ask “why” that creator made creation. Chalmers starts with the assumption that consciousness is a thing unto itself.  When you start there, you immediately must start looking for what this thing is, and why is it separate from our brain? 

Poking around at a lot of people’s explanation of the Mary example around the internet, including from some really prominent people.  The first thing that struck me was that it was highly unaware of actual studies of how people perceive color.  These philosophers had concocted this example to show the problem they were trying to tackle, but they were completely unaware of really important facts about the subject they were talking about.  I know very little about color perception.  I never studied it at university.  I’ve never even worked in the paint department at Home Depot, and yet I was aware of information (important information) that was being left out of the example.  In your attempts to explain the thought experiment, you never once demonstrated awareness that there were giant swathes of information about the topic that were being left out.

In all, it tells me that people are using bad arguments to support their assumptions, and the point where they went off was in making those assumptions in the first place.

I am not claiming to know what the cause of consciousness is.  I am not claiming that materialism is even the answer.  I am identifying the flaws and problems in these nonmaterial answers (or answers that assume consciousness is more than just the brain).

Consciousness is a product of either:
1) the brain
or
2) the brain AND something else

Chalmers and others start with an argument from ignorance.  Science has not sufficiently explained (1) yet, therefore science CANNOT explain how (1) is true, and hence (1) is not true.  Since (1) is not true, therefore (2) is true.  This seems to be the crucial starting point for Chalmers.  It is not a logically sound argument, and I fail to see why I should read two books based on logically unsound arguments.  And of course, he gave this talk 18 years after publishing the first book you recommended, so he’s had plenty of time to refine his argument.

Note, I am not claiming that (1) is true.  I am pointing out that logical flaw in how it has been “shown” to be untrue so far in this thread, and by David Chalmers (as far as I am aware at this time).

The initial evidence seems to indicate that Chalmers does not have good evidence of anything, other than that he is using definitions to make it seem like certain concepts exist.  I read a couple other things either by him, or included him in it (in his own words, not just attribution), and I really don’t see anything that should be taken as convincing.

Good luck with your books.  I’m currently trying to work my way through some of Amartya Sen’s collection of works, and I find those much more useful for understanding the world around me.  Chalmers doesn’t seem worth the time to divert to.

John Searle is a great source of quips. Once in a panel session with Chalmers he said: “It’s true that philosophers must bite the occasional bullet, but David Chalmers seems to have swallowed an entire arsenal.”

On the other hand, referring to the part of your post in bold, here is a quote from a medieval Islamic theologian: “In order to discover where the professors of any branch of knowledge have erred, one must make a profound study of that science; must equal, nay surpass, those who know most of it.”

 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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26 June 2020 15:32
 

A lot of people prefer acquiescing to authority.  I guess they figure if they defer to an authority on a subject they can stop thinking coz that person’s got it.  They know what’s what so the thinking can stop.  The questioning can stop.  At least the authority has it covered so, close enough, more time to read something shorter.  Thankfully not everyone is meant to follow. 

When someone says they’re an expert and people demure they are accepting a claim to an expertise on that person’s say so.  Then when that person says they’re an expert in something else, and expects people to demure again, it requires acceptance to another claim without any evidence.

At a certain point it’s a bit much to ask of people.  To blindly accept every claim as readily as they did the first one.  And some will.  But not necessarily because they believe it to be true.  To save face for being taken for a ride for so long.  That’s when self awareness becomes self deception.

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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26 June 2020 18:16
 
burt - 26 June 2020 03:07 PM

[ I know very little about color perception.  I never studied it at university.  I’ve never even worked in the paint department at Home Depot, and yet I was aware of information (important information) that was being left out of the example.

John Searle is a great source of quips. Once in a panel session with Chalmers he said: “It’s true that philosophers must bite the occasional bullet, but David Chalmers seems to have swallowed an entire arsenal.”

On the other hand, referring to the part of your post in bold, here is a quote from a medieval Islamic theologian: “In order to discover where the professors of any branch of knowledge have erred, one must make a profound study of that science; must equal, nay surpass, those who know most of it.”

Ah, so if we want to surpass someone who is a Flat Earther, we have to devote more of our lives to flat eartherism than they have.

[ Edited: 26 June 2020 20:06 by weird buffalo]
 
burt
 
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burt
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27 June 2020 09:38
 
weird buffalo - 26 June 2020 06:16 PM
burt - 26 June 2020 03:07 PM

[ I know very little about color perception.  I never studied it at university.  I’ve never even worked in the paint department at Home Depot, and yet I was aware of information (important information) that was being left out of the example.

John Searle is a great source of quips. Once in a panel session with Chalmers he said: “It’s true that philosophers must bite the occasional bullet, but David Chalmers seems to have swallowed an entire arsenal.”

On the other hand, referring to the part of your post in bold, here is a quote from a medieval Islamic theologian: “In order to discover where the professors of any branch of knowledge have erred, one must make a profound study of that science; must equal, nay surpass, those who know most of it.”

Ah, so if we want to surpass someone who is a Flat Earther, we have to devote more of our lives to flat eartherism than they have.

No, you need to study enough astronomy to refute them. Willfully misunderstanding isn’t helpful.

 
burt
 
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burt
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27 June 2020 09:43
 
LadyJane - 26 June 2020 03:32 PM

A lot of people prefer acquiescing to authority.  I guess they figure if they defer to an authority on a subject they can stop thinking coz that person’s got it.  They know what’s what so the thinking can stop.  The questioning can stop.  At least the authority has it covered so, close enough, more time to read something shorter.  Thankfully not everyone is meant to follow. 

When someone says they’re an expert and people demure they are accepting a claim to an expertise on that person’s say so.  Then when that person says they’re an expert in something else, and expects people to demure again, it requires acceptance to another claim without any evidence.

At a certain point it’s a bit much to ask of people.  To blindly accept every claim as readily as they did the first one.  And some will.  But not necessarily because they believe it to be true.  To save face for being taken for a ride for so long.  That’s when self awareness becomes self deception.

To rely on the authority of master Harry Belafonte, “It was clear as mud, but it covered the ground.”

 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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27 June 2020 10:24
 
burt - 27 June 2020 09:38 AM
weird buffalo - 26 June 2020 06:16 PM
burt - 26 June 2020 03:07 PM

[ I know very little about color perception.  I never studied it at university.  I’ve never even worked in the paint department at Home Depot, and yet I was aware of information (important information) that was being left out of the example.

John Searle is a great source of quips. Once in a panel session with Chalmers he said: “It’s true that philosophers must bite the occasional bullet, but David Chalmers seems to have swallowed an entire arsenal.”

On the other hand, referring to the part of your post in bold, here is a quote from a medieval Islamic theologian: “In order to discover where the professors of any branch of knowledge have erred, one must make a profound study of that science; must equal, nay surpass, those who know most of it.”

Ah, so if we want to surpass someone who is a Flat Earther, we have to devote more of our lives to flat eartherism than they have.

No, you need to study enough astronomy to refute them. Willfully misunderstanding isn’t helpful.

I’m not willfully misunderstanding.  I am attempting to make it clear to you what is going on from my perspective.  So far, you and Chalmers appear to have more in common with flat earthers than you do with astronomers.

Except of course, if I asked these questions of a flat earther, they’d be able to come up with real world examples of what they think is true (of course, their understanding of these phenomenon would be flawed, but at least they could name them quickly).

[ Edited: 27 June 2020 10:31 by weird buffalo]
 
burt
 
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burt
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27 June 2020 13:19
 
weird buffalo - 27 June 2020 10:24 AM
burt - 27 June 2020 09:38 AM
weird buffalo - 26 June 2020 06:16 PM
burt - 26 June 2020 03:07 PM

[ I know very little about color perception.  I never studied it at university.  I’ve never even worked in the paint department at Home Depot, and yet I was aware of information (important information) that was being left out of the example.

John Searle is a great source of quips. Once in a panel session with Chalmers he said: “It’s true that philosophers must bite the occasional bullet, but David Chalmers seems to have swallowed an entire arsenal.”

On the other hand, referring to the part of your post in bold, here is a quote from a medieval Islamic theologian: “In order to discover where the professors of any branch of knowledge have erred, one must make a profound study of that science; must equal, nay surpass, those who know most of it.”

Ah, so if we want to surpass someone who is a Flat Earther, we have to devote more of our lives to flat eartherism than they have.

No, you need to study enough astronomy to refute them. Willfully misunderstanding isn’t helpful.

I’m not willfully misunderstanding.  I am attempting to make it clear to you what is going on from my perspective.  So far, you and Chalmers appear to have more in common with flat earthers than you do with astronomers.

Except of course, if I asked these questions of a flat earther, they’d be able to come up with real world examples of what they think is true (of course, their understanding of these phenomenon would be flawed, but at least they could name them quickly).

Until you can demonstrate that you understand what I’ve posted before, we’ve nothing more to say. If you can give a one or two succinct description of what I have been saying, perhaps we can continue.

 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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27 June 2020 15:19
 
burt - 27 June 2020 01:19 PM

Until you can demonstrate that you understand what I’ve posted before, we’ve nothing more to say. If you can give a one or two succinct description of what I have been saying, perhaps we can continue.

I’ve been asking a pretty simple question for close to a week now.  It took you 3-4 days to even figure out the question… and then once you identified it, you avoided answering it.  I’m not sure you’re in a position to make demands on me in this conversation.

My question has two parts:
Are you convinced that there is a nonmaterial explanation for consciousness?
If so, what is the evidence that convinced you?

I am not asking for a thought experiment that describes the question (does a material or nonmaterial answer exist), I am asking for evidence of a nonmaterial answer.  It doesn’t even need to be the whole answer.

Edit: also, I am uninterested in the “possibility it could exist,” I am interested in things that actually exist.  If the argument for an answer is as equally valid as an argument fairies, unicorns, or god, then it can just as easily be discarded.

[ Edited: 27 June 2020 16:50 by weird buffalo]
 
bbearren
 
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bbearren
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27 June 2020 17:12
 

Pardon the interjection, but a philosopher’s didactic explanation of consciousness does not explain consciousness, it only displays his linguistic abilities.  No one knows what consciousness is, how it is, or where it is.

Anesthesiologists know that their tools turn it off, but they do not know how or why their tools work.  It can be turned off, and released to turn back on.  That is evidence of something, and it is the sum of scientific knowledge of consciousness.

Schedule some surgery, and you won’t care what the philosophers say, but you will definitely appreciate that little bit of observational experience the anesthesiologist has.

 
 
Poldano
 
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29 June 2020 00:21
 
weird buffalo - 24 June 2020 11:24 AM
Poldano - 23 June 2020 11:42 PM

...

As for the Mary example, I believe that Mary does indeed learn something new when she acquires the ability to see. Previously Mary had learned abstractions about the nervous system that you claim were complete. I can question that it could be complete, but I will grant you the point because it is not relevant to mine. When Mary gained color vision, she learned what the experience of color is. If materialism can claim to be complete, then there must be physically detectable differences in Mary’s neural state between what it was before she could see in color and what it is after that.

I am of the opinion that materialism is a workable position, but that it does not preclude other workable positions, such as classical idealism when interpreted appropriately. The disadvantage of idealism is that it does not benefit as much from our current means of verifiably measuring things, or correspond as well to the naive realism that forms the basis of human interaction with reality.

I never claimed that.  The example that you and Burt are using claims that.  Please don’t put words in my mouth.

I apologize for my carelessness. I hope you have no problem understanding my view on the Mary problem that Burt used.

 
 
Poldano
 
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29 June 2020 01:02
 
weird buffalo - 27 June 2020 03:19 PM

...

My question has two parts:
Are you convinced that there is a nonmaterial explanation for consciousness?
If so, what is the evidence that convinced you?

Edit: also, I am uninterested in the “possibility it could exist,” I am interested in things that actually exist.  If the argument for an answer is as equally valid as an argument fairies, unicorns, or god, then it can just as easily be discarded.

I think there are many explanations for consciousness. A material explanation could do, as long as the materialism is large enough to handle subjective experience without explaining it away. I also think classical idealism is an explanation for consciousness, insofar as it assumes that experience exists and the notion of a material world is derived from that experience. Whatever ontology you start with, that ontology is not a direct view of reality but a derived view established by some cognitive process. We cannot know what reality actually is; first, because our primary perceptions of necessity transform, reduce, and abstract that reality, and second, because the process of putting our derived subjective ideas into language further transform and reduce those ideas into words that must be commonly accepted by multiple language users.

What convinced me that classical idealism, a la Bishop George Berkeley, is a viable explanation, is that materialism can be described as an empirical induction from evidence provided by entirely subjective phenomena. One example uses the “brain in the jar” thought problem, which is closely related to the currently popular notion that what we perceive as reality is actually a simulation. If you are really a brain in a jar, then some agent (i.e., entity or autonomous process) that you don’t know anything about is controlling all your perceptions and thoughts, so you really cannot be entirely sure that anything that you perceive is really what it seems to be. It may appear that your actions in what appears to be the material world have consistent responses that might simply be the result of the manipulations of the controlling agent to establish such consistency. This position cannot be disproved deductively, if one does not already assume that an objective, external reality exists. It must be arrived at by induction, by which some rational process must decide that the notion of a controlling agent is unnecessary, and that what you perceive is for the most part accurately representative of reality near you. The inductive conclusion that the controlling agent is an unnecessary complication for most interactions with reality is what makes materialism a useful position when starting from the assumption that ideas are real and basic.

I think materialism has its own inductive hurdles when it comes to dealing with consciousness. Chalmers’ “hard problem” is one of them. My own position on the Mary problem, that I previously posted, shows that I’m not that concerned about it. That’s because I don’t believe that philosophical axioms about reality are sacrosanct, but rather theories to be either supported or disproved by evidence. The inconvenient fact that some of those axioms are “self-evident truths” seemingly hard-wired into human cognition is to me simply evidence that evolution favors that which is good enough over that which is perfect.

 
 
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