Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

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anonymous66
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Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by anonymous66 » May 23rd, 2018, 8:03 am

I've been listening to and reading Daniel Dennett, Patricia Churchland, David Chalmers, John Searle and Thomas Nagel the last couple of years, and have been thinking a lot about consciousness.
There was a time when I was convinced that the physical is all there is, but after looking into consciousness for a while, I've had to give up that assumption.

My reasoning goes like this: If it is assumed that the physical is all there is, then consciousness must reduce to the physical and then mental states don't actually exist (they're just chemical reactions). If physicalism, then eliminative materialism but eliminative materialism is false (because if I know anything, I know I have mental states). (I've also looked into behaviorism, identity theory and functionalism).

I also reject substance dualism ( I don't believe in souls). I can't make any sense of idealism. I do have some affinity for property dualism- the concept that consciousness itself is a basic property of the universe, but I acknowledge that it has issues as well.

What about you? What do you make of consciousness? Do you have a favorite theory? Who has influenced your thinking?

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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by Consul » May 23rd, 2018, 10:56 am

+++This thread is misplaced in the Philosophy of Science forum!+++
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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by Consul » May 23rd, 2018, 11:19 am

anonymous66 wrote:
May 23rd, 2018, 8:03 am
My reasoning goes like this: If it is assumed that the physical is all there is, then consciousness must reduce to the physical and then mental states don't actually exist (they're just chemical reactions). If physicalism, then eliminative materialism but eliminative materialism is false (because if I know anything, I know I have mental states). (I've also looked into behaviorism, identity theory and functionalism).

Eliminative materialism
isn't the only sort of materialism, because there are also (conservatively) reductive (equative, compositive/constitutive) materialism (aka the mind-brain identity theory) and emergentive materialism (which is the same as causative materialism if emergence is interpreted as causal emergence).

However, emergentive or causative materalism is an "intra-materialistic", "non-hyperphysicalistic" form of attribute dualism, because the experiential/mental properties emerging from or caused (produced) by complexes of neural properties are (irreducibly) different from these. Nevertheless, emergent experiential/mental properties may be regarded as material/physical properties too, because the following principle is highly plausible: Whatever naturally emerges from or is naturally caused/produced by nothing but purely material/physical entities is material/physical itself. For how could anything purely material/physical naturally create something immaterial/nonphysical?
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by Consul » May 23rd, 2018, 11:43 am

anonymous66 wrote:
May 23rd, 2018, 8:03 am
I do have some affinity for property dualism- the concept that consciousness itself is a basic property of the universe, but I acknowledge that it has issues as well.
There are two forms of naturalistic property dualism:

1. fundamentalist property dualism (fundamental-/elemental-property dualism): mind or consciousness has always existed in the universe (since the big bang or even before), and mental/experiential properties are among the fundamental, basic natural properties.

2. emergentist property dualism: mind or consciousness has not always existed in the universe, and mental/experiential properties are not among the fundamental, basic natural properties.

1 is virtually identical to panpsychist property dualism:

"Panpsychism, taken literally, is the doctrine that everything has a mind. In practice, people who call themselves panpsychists are not committed to as strong a doctrine. They are not committed to the thesis that the number two has a mind, or that the Eiffel tower has a mind, or that the city of Canberra has a mind, even if they believe in the existence of numbers, towers, and cities.
Instead, we can understand panpsychism as the thesis that some fundamental physical entities have mental states. For example, if quarks or photons have mental states, that suffices for panpsychism to be true, even if rocks and cities do not have mental states. Perhaps it would not suffice for just one photon to have mental states. The line here is blurry, but we can read the definition as requiring that all members of some fundamental physical types (all photons, for example) have mental states."


(Chalmers, David J. "Panpsychism and Panprotopsychism." In Panpsychism: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Godehard Brüntrup and Ludwig Jaskolla, 19-47. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. p. 19)

I find fundamentalist/panpsychist property dualism extremely implausible and even absurd.

"A property dualist…could let go of the thesis of evolutionary emergence, and claim that mental properties are fundamental properties of reality, properties that have been here since the universe's inception, properties on a par with such properties as length, mass, charge, time, and other fundamental properties. There is even an historical precedent for a position of this kind. In the early 1900s, it was still believed that electromagnetic phenomena (such as electric charge, magnetic attraction, and electromagnetic waves) were just an unusually subtle manifestation of purely mechanical phenomena. Most scientists thought that an explanatory reduction of electromagnetics to mechanics was more or less in the bag. They thought that radio waves, for example, would turn out to be just traveling oscillation or waves in a very subtle jellylike aether that filled space everywhere. But the aether turned out not to exist! And so electromagnetic properties turned out to be fundamental properties in their own right, and we were forced to add electric charge to the existing list of fundamental properties (mass, length, and temporal duration.)

Perhaps mental properties enjoy a status like that of electromagnetic properties: irreducible, but not emergent. Such a view may be called elemental-property dualism, and it has the advantage of clarity over the immediately previous view [emergentist property dualism]. Unfortunately, the parallel with electromagnetic properties, which are displayed at all levels of reality from the subatomic level on up, and from the earliest stages of the cosmos to the present, mental properties are displayed only in large physical systems that have evolved a superlatively complex internal organization, a process that has taken over ten billion years. The factual and historical case for the evolutionary emergence of mental properties through the progressive organization of matter is extremely strong. They do not appear to be basic or elemental at all."


(Churchland, Paul M. Matter and Consciousness. 3rd ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013. pp. 20-1)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by anonymous66 » May 23rd, 2018, 11:57 am

I see these problems with panpsychism/property dualism in general.
1. If everything is conscious (that means every electron that makes up my body is conscious) then how is it that I feel a central consciousness? And why isn't there a "smear" (John Searle talks of this "smear") of consciousness when I touch other objects?
2. If everything is conscious, then how is it that a damaged brain affects consciousness?

There is obviously some relation between a physical brain and consciousness. But I have yet see an attempt to combine the concept of a physical brain that obviously is doing physical stuff with the concept of panpsychism/property dualism.

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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by anonymous66 » May 23rd, 2018, 12:41 pm

@Consul
Is there any physicalist/materialist theory of consciousness that doesn't end with the conclusion that consciousness is an illusion?

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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by Karpel Tunnel » May 23rd, 2018, 12:59 pm

What's 'the physical' or 'the material'?
I don't think that term has limits, now. It is an expanding category and will include anything scientists or materialists or physicalists consider real, regardless of the qualities of that anything.
Any dualism or other substance merely gets absorbed.
The category is not meaningfull.

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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by Consul » May 23rd, 2018, 1:00 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
May 23rd, 2018, 11:57 am
I see these problems with panpsychism/property dualism in general.
1. If everything is conscious (that means every electron that makes up my body is conscious) then how is it that I feel a central consciousness? And why isn't there a "smear" (John Searle talks of this "smear") of consciousness when I touch other objects?
2. If everything is conscious, then how is it that a damaged brain affects consciousness?

There is obviously some relation between a physical brain and consciousness. But I have yet see an attempt to combine the concept of a physical brain that obviously is doing physical stuff with the concept of panpsychism/property dualism.
If mental properties are different from, but emergent from and supervenient upon physical properties of the brain, then brain damage (through injuries or diseases) can cause mind damage.

Both emergentist and fundamentalist PD are faced with the problem of mental causation; and, indeed, it is very hard to see how they can avoid epiphenomenalism. Fundamentalist aka panpsychist PD is also faced with the problem of mental composition or construction (the combination problem), i.e. how unitary macrominds or macroconsciousnesses of macroobjects such as organisms (compared with single elementary particles, so-called microorganisms such as bacteria are macroobjects too) can be composed of or constructed from the respective microminds or microconsciousnesses of those fundamental microobjects (atoms and elementary particles) of which macroobjects are composed.

"Lastly we have the Combination Problem: If mind is supposed to exist in atoms or cells, then higher-order minds, such as humans have, must be some kind of combination or sum of these lesser minds. But it is inconceivable how such a summing would work and how it might account for the richness of experience that we all feel. Because panpsychism cannot account for higher mind, the objector says, it must be false."

Panpsychism in the IEP: http://www.iep.utm.edu/panpsych

"[T]he postulate of primitive consciousness still leaves open a line of objection, call it the “combination problem,” which was first raised by William James, who in the following passage argues that panpsychism will still face its own problem of emergence:

Take a sentence of a dozen words, and take twelve men and tell to each one word. Then stand the men in a row or jam them in a bunch, and let each think of his word as intently as he will; nowhere will there be a consciousness of the whole sentence … Where the elemental units are supposed to be feelings, the case is in no wise altered. Take a hundred of them, shuffle them and pack them as close together as you can (whatever that might mean); still each remains the same feeling it always was, shut in its own skin, windowless, ignorant of what the other feelings are and mean. There would be a hundred-and-first feeling there, if, when a group or series of such feeling were set up, a consciousness belonging to the group as such should emerge. And this 101st feeling would be a totally new fact; the 100 original feelings might, by a curious physical law, be a signal for its creation, when they came together; but they would have no substantial identity with it, nor it with them, and one could never deduce the one from the others, or (in any intelligible sense) say that they evolved it (1890/1950, p. 160, original emphasis).

This is a powerful objection since if panpsychism must allow for the emergence of states of consciousness then what prevents an emergence doctrine which avoids the implausible and indiscriminate broadcasting of mental characteristics throughout the world?"


Pampsychism in the SEP: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/panpsychism
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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by Karpel Tunnel » May 23rd, 2018, 1:02 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
May 23rd, 2018, 11:57 am
I see these problems with panpsychism/property dualism in general.
1. If everything is conscious (that means every electron that makes up my body is conscious) then how is it that I feel a central consciousness? And why isn't there a "smear" (John Searle talks of this "smear") of consciousness when I touch other objects?
2. If everything is conscious, then how is it that a damaged brain affects consciousness?

There is obviously some relation between a physical brain and consciousness. But I have yet see an attempt to combine the concept of a physical brain that obviously is doing physical stuff with the concept of panpsychism/property dualism.
There is awareness, then there are all sorts of functions, cognitive for example. All those electrons may well experience, but that doesn't mean they remember, intend, focus on this or that, decide, etc.

We have no proof or even evidence that consciousness, that is awareness, only arises at a certain level of complexity. We have a lot of evidence that various functions arise at different levels of complexity.

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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by Consul » May 23rd, 2018, 1:36 pm

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
May 23rd, 2018, 12:59 pm
What's 'the physical' or 'the material'?
I don't think that term has limits, now. It is an expanding category and will include anything scientists or materialists or physicalists consider real, regardless of the qualities of that anything.
Any dualism or other substance merely gets absorbed.
The category is not meaningfull.
It's true that precise definitions of "material"/"physical" and "mental" are very hard to come by, but vagueness doesn't exclude meaningfulness; and if these categories weren't meaningful at all, philosophers wouldn't have been quarrelling over the mind-body problem since antiquity. There seems to be a substantive metaphysical/ontological disagreement. However, the concept of materiality or physicality does become useless in this debate if it is equated with the concept of naturality or reality. For when physicalists say that everything natural or real is physical, they certainly don't want to say tautologously that everything natural/real is natural/real.

Galen Strawson is a self-declared materialist/physicalist who thinks that "physical" is a natural-kind term:

"[T]here is a strong tension between a descriptively committed use of the term 'physical' and a less descriptively committed, natural-kind-term-like (or, at the limit, proper-name-like) use. The tension is a source of potentially bewildering indeterminacy: it is right that we should be ready to admit the incompleteness of our understanding of the nature of the physical and still feel able to go on talking of the physical—of the physical-whatever-exactly-its-nature. And yet we would presumably go too far if we began to treat 'the physical' as a mere proper name, so that we were indefeasibly correct in asserting the existence of the physical, since the word would now mean 'whatever it is that gives rise to the experiences that we think of as experiences of physical phenomena'."

(Strawson, Galen. Mental Reality. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009. p. 55)

The problem is that the more open or poor "physical" is as a natural-kind term, the less semantically contentful (meaningful) it is. It could then even turn out that the "real essence" of the physical is purely mental, but physicalists certainly don't want their position to be compatible with (reductive) spiritualism or idealism. However, they have to admit that there is a semantic problem:

"Is there any good way to delimit the realm of the material that does not preclude further discoveries in physics, but also does not trivialize the category by allowing it to include anything that people in departments labeled 'Physics' might eventually come to study? This is anything but a trivial problem[.]"

(BonJour, Laurence. "Against Materialism." In The Waning of Materialism, edited by Robert C. Koons and George Bealer, 3-23. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. p. 7n4)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by Consul » May 23rd, 2018, 1:49 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
May 23rd, 2018, 12:41 pm
@Consul
Is there any physicalist/materialist theory of consciousness that doesn't end with the conclusion that consciousness is an illusion?
It depends on what exactly is meant by "illusion". If an illusion is a false belief, then both reductive and nonreductive (emergentive) materialists are realists about consciousness in the sense that they don't regard the belief in the existence/reality of consciousness as false. In fact, they regard it as true. According to reductive materialism, what we falsely believe (on the basis of introspection) concerns the nature and structure of consciousness, with the false belief or illusion being that the consciousness-constituting qualia (as the subjective contents of conscious states) are nonphysical and noncomplex qualities. For reductive materialists believe that qualia exist/are real, but they are actually complex or structural physical (neurological) qualities.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by Consul » May 23rd, 2018, 3:26 pm

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
May 23rd, 2018, 1:02 pm
There is awareness, then there are all sorts of functions, cognitive for example. All those electrons may well experience, but that doesn't mean they remember, intend, focus on this or that, decide, etc.

We have no proof or even evidence that consciousness, that is awareness, only arises at a certain level of complexity. We have a lot of evidence that various functions arise at different levels of complexity.
Consciousness (I mean phenomenal consciousness = subjective experience) is not just a functional/behavioral capacity like responsiveness to stimuli. For example, plants have some form of awareness defined in purely functional-informational terms; but this doesn't mean that they also have (phenomenal) consciousness. Plant awareness is nonconscious "zombie awareness", which is objective awareness rather than subjective awareness. Plant "minds" are nonconscious "zombie minds".

There is not a shred of empirical evidence for (brain-independent) consciousness outside the animal kingdom, and there are neither empirical nor rational reasons to believe that a single simple elementary particle could be a subject of consciousness/experience. How could an electron sense (see, hear, smell, taste, touch) anything when it doesn't have any sense organs (which are all themselves composed of millions of elementary particles)? Or does it have undetectably tiny eyes, ears, noses, tongues, or skins? How could an electron feel anything? Isn't it sheer nonsense to speak of a happy, sad, angry, or fearful electron? How could an electron be in a good or bad mood? How could an electron have the blues or be under the weather?
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by anonymous66 » May 23rd, 2018, 7:41 pm

Consul wrote:
May 23rd, 2018, 3:26 pm
There is not a shred of empirical evidence for (brain-independent) consciousness outside the animal kingdom, and there are neither empirical nor rational reasons to believe that a single simple elementary particle could be a subject of consciousness/experience. How could an electron sense (see, hear, smell, taste, touch) anything when it doesn't have any sense organs (which are all themselves composed of millions of elementary particles)? Or does it have undetectably tiny eyes, ears, noses, tongues, or skins? How could an electron feel anything? Isn't it sheer nonsense to speak of a happy, sad, angry, or fearful electron? How could an electron be in a good or bad mood? How could an electron have the blues or be under the weather?
I'm not aware that anyone has claimed that electrons experience emotions. Certainly not in this thread.

If panpsychism/property dualism and there are conscious stormclouds, or universes, or computers for that matter, and they have subjective experiences, then perhaps there will one day be a way to detect it. As it is, I can't even detect my fellow humans' subjective experiences. But I'm pretty sure the people I meet are conscious, even without that proof.

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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by Erribert » May 23rd, 2018, 8:06 pm

By creating a definition of consciousness, we bring it into the physical. Any definition would, in turn, contain words that of themselves would need definitions, and definitions of definitions. Therefore, a useful logical manner of equating the definitions of physical and consciousness, is to look for overlapping definitions. If the brain is considered physical, then any definition of consciousness has a source in the physical. The physical is something we can touch with our senses. This leaves a lot out such as gravity and love. So, gravity is non-physical, by this reasoning.

To take this a few steps further down the rabbit hole, brain sciences contends that the activity of the brain functions as a compiler and discriminator of experience we create with our senses. Many philosophies (including science) describe the brain as a sense organ itself; being no different from the eye, for example. This is because such brain is an extension of such senses. In more mystical circles, the brain “is a mirror”.

Just to be able to share my current (ever-changing) philosophies: As I see it there are three categories of consciousness that need to be differentiated to have a meaningful conversation.

1. The first is “Consciousness-Of”. This is the most widely considered and discussed form of consciousness.
2. “Self-consciousness”. This is not to be confused with “self-awareness”, but it often is.
3. Finally, there is “Consciousness” itself which is different from the other two.

There are probably many more ways in which consciousness as a phenomenon are addressed. I am hoping we don’t get too far into semantics with this discussion, and I simply create my categories above to facilitate my rhetoric.

“Conscienceness-Of” could be considered as having “physical” origins. That is, to be in touch with that outside requires a physical basis. This includes everything from a consciousness of a hamburger to consciousness of God. “Conscience-ness-of” requires a separation between subject and object. In other words some kind of neurological recognition (touch, sight, brain... With regard to God, the object is a pattern of sorts. Direct consciousness of God, such as with the Gnostics or some Catholic orthodoxies requires the consciousness of a “feeling, or an “awakening”.

“Self-Consciousness”, as I am using it here, refers to individuality. That is, it is a consciousness particular to the individual that only such individual has access to. While the individual experiences self, all the rest of us only experience the “object of the individual”. This means we can only know the presentation of such individual and could never know what it is that is looking through such individual’s eyes. That we see as an individual could have any self consciousness. We could never know. The term “Namaste” is used to point that out. “The god within me recognizes the god within you”. Such god could be labeled as Atman if one follows Hindu philosophy, which is where much of these yogic practices come from.

Finally there is “Consciousness”. It is not “Consciousness-Of”, nor is it “Self-Consciousness”. So, how can we describe it? This has been done in many ways. In Hindu for example, Consciousness could be described through the verses describing Brahman. In Taoism, Consciousness could be likened to the Tao. “The Tao that can be named is not the Tao”. And there are other assortments of descriptive methods that are available. For example, Conscienceness is what remains when everything that is not conscienceness is removed. This is “negational” descriptive power.

To touch on a comment you made, not only does a photon have consciousness, it has free will. Only this makes sense to me since I do not believe there is some kind of magical process that creates consciousness from non-consciousness. I also don’t believe there is a free will converter or creator. For me it is all or nothing. I choose All. But I digress.

In my humble opinion, I believe that when one asks about conscienceness, one must also provide their understanding of consciousness so that replies may be relevant. Of course given the structure of this forum, one may only receive arguments why her/his description must be wrong! There is no shortage of rrogance around here... Obviously I have set myself up for that with this reply... however, I enjoy listening to the opinions of others so long as they contain a well thought out philosophy.

If we use the example of consciousness-of, our such consciousness connects us to that object of conscienceness; beginning with our physically enabled consciousness-of. In fact, one cannot separate oneself from our consciousness-of and thus the object. (I am not saying anything new here). This is because our “consciousness-of” is internal, and therefore the object is also internal. This is not necessarily solipsism (for another day and another topic). If our conscience-of is a projection, we could perhaps reason that the object in question is also some part of our-consciousness. However, I am begining to diverge from your topic.

In Zen (or Ch’an), looking for consciousness of one’s mind is like “riding on your horse in search of your horse”. I believe the ox was used originally for this saying. That analogy makes perfect sense to me. How can one define a consciousness which is the source for definitions? It is completely backwards. The sun cannot shine on itself, just like scissors cannot cut themselves.

My opinions only, of course.

Erribert.

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Re: Whatever Consciousness is, it's Not Physical (or reducible to physical).

Post by anonymous66 » May 23rd, 2018, 8:08 pm

@Consul
The identity theory of mind has issues. For instance, it claims that brains without a certain type of hardware can't experience consciousness. And this.

I'm also starting with the assumption that I can trust my brain.. that it has reliable cognitive abilities. I don't get that confidence from any version of materialist/physicalist explanation of consciousness that I've come across.

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