Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

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Consul
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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Consul » January 14th, 2020, 7:22 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 6:51 pm
I just want to ask this clarification question prior to picking apart his argument: so, basically, he's saying that the properties of an automobile engine, properties that obtain with the engine as a whole (combusting fuel to produce motion that can rotate a crankshaft, say), but not with proper parts (just a piston on its own, for example), are only conceptual but not real? (And he's seriously asserting that?)
"I cannot see how a complex object, something made up of particular substances bearing particular relations to one another could be a bearer of properties."

(Heil, John. Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013. p. 2023)
If he is right, no micro- or macrophysical system as a whole has any (real) physical properties. Note that he in no way denies that there are many objective facts or truths about physical systems as wholes which aren't facts or truths about any of their parts or elements, because he merely denies that those holistic or systemic truths have holistic or systemic (or ontically emergent) properties as truthmakers.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Gertie » January 14th, 2020, 7:24 pm

Greta

You might be interested in the Cambridge Declaration on animal consciousness from 2012. It's obviously based in neuroscience and doesn't address the implications of panpsychism for example, but is at least a step in direction of acknowledging that other species have feelings too. And the implication is they should be treated accordingly.

http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeD ... usness.pdf

It's still anthropocentric in the sense that it extrapolates from similarities to humans. Getting round that is tricky, because only humans can report back their experiential states, and so give us the info we need in a fairly reliable way. As you've said, other species experiential states are unlikely to be identical to ours, because their CNS is different, so I don't think we should treat the Cambridge Declaration as anything like exhaustive.

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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Consul » January 14th, 2020, 7:52 pm

Gertie wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:00 pm
As regards ontological reductive materialism, the claim that experiential states don't exist or are an ''illusion'' - I personally disregard that as plain daft, or boiling down to wordplay. But some clever people take it seriously, so maybe I'm misunderstanding or missing something.
Do you think there is a credible argument for it? I just don't see how anybody can seriously be argued out of knowing they have experiential states! Calling such experiential states a C-fibre firing or somesuch is just using words inappropriately in my view.
There's a relevant difference between reductive materialism, which is realistic about subjective experience, and eliminative materialism, which is antirealistic about it. To equate experiences with neural processes is not to eliminate them!
Gertie wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:00 pm
So I'd say the current main contenders up against emergence are panpsychism or substance dualism, but they all have their problems.
…especially their own emergence problems!
Panpsychism: How can the (unitary) consciousness of macrophysical objects such as animals and humans emerge from the (distinct) consciousnesses of microphysical objects such as atoms and elementary particles?
Substance dualism: How can consciousness emerge from nonphysical souls?
Gertie wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:00 pm
I think quantum theory is worth exploring for precisely the reason your quote gives, it's currently our most fundamental level of understanding how the world works. And if classical physics has no place for consciousness, maybe quantum theory will have. The fact that there's no consensus and we're still getting our heads round it leaves that door open.
Tim Maudlin points out that quantum mechanics isn't really a physical theory of fundamental physical reality, because it's nothing more than a mathematical recipe for making predictions. So much the worse for quantum approaches to the hard problem of consciousness!
"A physical theory should contain a physical ontology: What the theory postulates to exist as physically real. And it should also contain dynamics: laws (either deterministic or probabilistic) describing how these physically real entities behave. In a precise physical theory, both the ontology and the dynamics are represented in sharp mathematical terms. But it is exactly in this sense that the quantum-mechanical prediction-making recipe is not a physical theory. It does not specify what physically exists and how it behaves, but rather gives a (slightly vague) procedure for making statistical predictions about the outcomes of experiments. And what are often called “alternative interpretations of quantum theory” are rather alternative precise physical theories with exactly defined physical ontologies and dynamics that (if true) would explain why the quantum recipe works as well as it does."

(Maudlin, Tim. Philosophy of Physics: Quantum Theory. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019. pp. 4-5)
"Quantum mechanics is, at least at first glance and at least in part, a mathematical machine for predicting the behaviors of microscopic particles — or, at least, of the measuring instruments we use to explore those behaviors — and in that capacity, it is spectacularly successful: in terms of power and precision, head and shoulders above any theory we have ever had. Mathematically, the theory is well understood; we know what its parts are, how they are put together, and why, in the mechanical sense (i.e., in a sense that can be answered by describing the internal grinding of gear against gear), the whole thing performs the way it does, how the information that gets fed in at one end is converted into what comes out the other. The question of what kind of a world it describes, however, is controversial; there is very little agreement, among physicists and among philosophers, about what the world is like according to quantum mechanics."

Quantum Mechanics: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qm/

"Despite its status as a core part of contemporary physics, there is no consensus among physicists or philosophers of physics on the question of what, if anything, the empirical success of quantum theory is telling us about the physical world. This gives rise to the collection of philosophical issues known as “the interpretation of quantum mechanics”. One should not be misled by this terminology into thinking that what we have is an uninterpreted mathematical formalism with no connection to the physical world. Rather, there is a common core of interpretation that consists of recipes for calculating probabilities of outcomes of experiments performed on systems subjected to certain state preparation procedures. What are often referred to as different “interpretations” of quantum mechanics differ on what, if anything, is added to the common core. Arguably, two of the major approaches, hidden-variables theories and collapse theories, involve formulation of physical theories distinct from standard quantum mechanics; this renders the terminology of “interpretation” even more inappropriate."

Philosophical Issues in Quantum Theory: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-issues/
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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Terrapin Station » January 14th, 2020, 7:53 pm

Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:22 pm
Terrapin Station wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 6:51 pm
I just want to ask this clarification question prior to picking apart his argument: so, basically, he's saying that the properties of an automobile engine, properties that obtain with the engine as a whole (combusting fuel to produce motion that can rotate a crankshaft, say), but not with proper parts (just a piston on its own, for example), are only conceptual but not real? (And he's seriously asserting that?)
"I cannot see how a complex object, something made up of particular substances bearing particular relations to one another could be a bearer of properties."

(Heil, John. Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013. p. 2023)
If he is right, no micro- or macrophysical system as a whole has any (real) physical properties. Note that he in no way denies that there are many objective facts or truths about physical systems as wholes which aren't facts or truths about any of their parts or elements, because he merely denies that those holistic or systemic truths have holistic or systemic (or ontically emergent) properties as truthmakers.
So I suppose the answer to my question is "Yes"? Is he a nonphysicalist on mind? Otherwise how does he figure that our concepts have the properties that they do? (His only other option would seem to be that he somehow thinks that concepts are the properties of discrete physical particulars). If he's a nonphysicalist on mind, how does he suppose that that's any less "mysterian" of a claim about phenomena?

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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Consul » January 14th, 2020, 8:17 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:53 pm
So I suppose the answer to my question is "Yes"? Is he a nonphysicalist on mind? Otherwise how does he figure that our concepts have the properties that they do? (His only other option would seem to be that he somehow thinks that concepts are the properties of discrete physical particulars). If he's a nonphysicalist on mind, how does he suppose that that's any less "mysterian" of a claim about phenomena?
Heil is a physicalist about mind/consciousness. If concepts qua nonlinguistic mental or neural representations or predicates qua linguistic representations are themselves complex objects, then he must deny for the sake of consistency that they have real properties, and that truths about them are made true by real properties of them.

An important principle of Heil's ontology is that it is not the case that for all predicates or concepts there is some corresponding property (or relation) in reality. If you want to learn more, I recommend Heil's brilliant book The Universe As We Find It.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Greta » January 14th, 2020, 10:04 pm

Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:03 pm
Greta wrote:
January 13th, 2020, 9:23 pm
1) Does non-mental equal non-conscious? That sounds anthropcentric to me. A simple creature can be awake and responsive, all with nary a thought.
All nonmental states are nonconscious states, but nonthinking doesn't equal nonsensing or nonfeeling.
Unsupported dogma based on an extrapolation of the fact that all mental states are conscious.
Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:03 pm
Greta wrote:
January 13th, 2020, 9:23 pm
3) Yes, I can name an anti-panpsychist - John Searle - who said that panpsychism was "absurd". He's hardly the first to make that claim, as anyone who has spent (too many) years on philosophy forums would know. I think Locke made the same claim.
What Searle and others find absurd is not only the ascription of thoughts to single molecules, atoms, or particles but also the ascription of sensations or feelings to them.
A blunt approach, to uncentred to even parse senses and feelings. Come on, enough weak arguments. Test me!
Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:03 pm
Greta wrote:
January 13th, 2020, 9:23 pm
Given that the idea of proto-consciousness is very far from absurd, Searle (and others) clearly assumed that panpsychists referred to a humanlike consciousness residing in each small, mechanistic entity. There is often a suspicion that panpsychism is a "gateway drug" to the opiate of religion, a back door allowing rational spaces to be infiltrated by the superstitious.
McGinn asks (rhetorically): "Isn’t there something vaguely hippyish, i.e. stoned, about the doctrine?"
...

I agree with him that panpsychism is "a complete myth, a comforting piece of utter balderdash".
Childish jibes of those so convinced of their rightness that they construct straw persons for derision. Basically they are saying to those who disagree with them "Yo mama sucks".
Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:03 pm
Note that he and Searle aren't arguing against a straw-man version of it defined as the doctrine that all material things or some basic kinds of material things at least have humanlike consciousness. What they're arguing against is panpsychism defined as the doctrine that all material things or some basic kinds of material things at least have (phenomenal) consciousness, being subjects of sentience/experience.

I don't like the ambiguous term "protoconsciousness" or "protoexperience". The prefix "proto-" can mean "first in time", "first formed", "original", "primitive", and "primary". If protoconsciousness is simply the first, most primitive form of primary consciousness or sentience, then protoconscious states are (determinately) conscious states. However, "proto-" can also mean "relating to a precursor or ancestor" (as in "protozoan"), in which case protoconscious states are (determinately) non-/preconscious states.
Too bad, I don't like the word or phenomenon of "hate" either, but there they are.

Abiogenesis researchers routinely refer to protoconsciousness, although they do not attribute internality to the small metabolisms they create in Petri dishes. It is possible, however, that humans are unable to interpret the most basic aspects of experience. An equivalence here would be that, for almost all of human existence, humans had no idea that they were comprised of tiny cellular and microbial communities.

Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:03 pm
Greta wrote:
January 13th, 2020, 9:23 pm
4) I agree. I can't see higher order thought being necessary to sense. As far as I can tell, the difference between a simple brained creature like a leech and a complex brainless one like a sea star, is that when any part of the leech is injured, the entire body will hurt. For sea stars, an injury will only register at the site. Its other arms will carry on regardless.
Can leeches feel pain?

"The central nervous system of the leech is composed of a chain of 21 ganglia, each of which has ∼400 neurons."

Source https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3841027/

Are ~8000 neurons in the CNS sufficient for subjective sentience? I don't know.
Will you address the question if I change "leech" (with its 10k neurons) to "sea slug", which has twice as many neurons?

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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Greta » January 14th, 2020, 10:43 pm

Consul wrote:
Greta wrote:…Putting aside superfluids, liquidity, like consciousness, is gradual. That is, a fluid becomes ever more viscous until its fluidity status becomes uncertain. Whether once calls a very viscous substance a "fluid" or not becomes a matter of definition. This may well also be the case with qualia. For example, at what point does an aggregation of gases qualify as being a "cloud" rather than disparate? How many grains of sand does it take to qualify as a mound? How much complexity is needed to bring about a sense of being?
A great deal!

The evolutionary transition from primary consciousness to higher-order consciousness (introspective/reflective self-consciousness) was gradual, but the evolutionary transition from nonconsciousness to primary consciousness must have been non-gradual, abrupt. There are degrees of higher-order consciousness or self-consciousness other than 0 and 1, but there are no degrees of primary consciousness other than 0 and 1.
Why - in your own words - must there be no degrees? Why can't basic sensation be fragmented and conditional in simple creatures rather than flowing and constant?

Returning to the liquidity analogy. As you stated, liquidity is emergent, not present in a liquid's components.

Now, staying with the consciousness analogy, imagine the viscosity of fluid increasing. Let's take the freezing of water as an example. At what point is the water no longer fluid?

Between the fluid and solid states, water's fluidity becomes fragmented and conditional, with ever larger chunks of ice forming in the coldest zones. Eventually it will become a near-solid, with only thin channels flowing. It would seem to me that the dividing line here is whether the ice is fragmented enough to flow. Thus, an "ice tsunami" could be said to have a small degree of liquidity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz5thjvRT30

When it stops altogether, then it is solid. Now imagine sensations diminishing as we travel in the past to ever simpler organisms. In time the flow becomes more fragmentary, with organisms spending ever more of their lives being completely insensate, and only responding extreme or very particular stimuli.

In time, we would reach a point where the organisms only responded with reflexes, local reactions. Harking back to the fluidity analogy, insensate organisms would be equivalent to superficial surface melting of a block of ice. That is, there will be reactions to external conditions, but the reactions don't change the fact that it is a solid block of ice, where any fluidity is superficial and unordered.

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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Terrapin Station » January 15th, 2020, 8:38 am

Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 8:17 pm
Terrapin Station wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:53 pm
So I suppose the answer to my question is "Yes"? Is he a nonphysicalist on mind? Otherwise how does he figure that our concepts have the properties that they do? (His only other option would seem to be that he somehow thinks that concepts are the properties of discrete physical particulars). If he's a nonphysicalist on mind, how does he suppose that that's any less "mysterian" of a claim about phenomena?
Heil is a physicalist about mind/consciousness. If concepts qua nonlinguistic mental or neural representations or predicates qua linguistic representations are themselves complex objects, then he must deny for the sake of consistency that they have real properties, and that truths about them are made true by real properties of them.

An important principle of Heil's ontology is that it is not the case that for all predicates or concepts there is some corresponding property (or relation) in reality. If you want to learn more, I recommend Heil's brilliant book The Universe As We Find It.
If physicalism is the case, then consciousness itself is a property that only obtains via proper parts working in conjunction with each other--synapses, neurons, etc. (and of course the molecules, atoms, etc. that comprise them). His only other option would be to say that consciousness is somehow the property of just one ontic simple, and it's not a unique property to many proper parts working in particular dynamic relations with other proper parts.

He could say that consciousness isn't a "real property" or something, but what the heck would that amount to in this case?

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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Terrapin Station » January 15th, 2020, 8:40 am

Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 8:17 pm
If you want to learn more, I recommend Heil's brilliant book The Universe As We Find It.
Nothing you're saying about his views is striking me as even remotely "brilliant."

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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Belindi » January 15th, 2020, 10:14 am

I think Consul is almost right about waking awareness being all or nothing.(I am supposing by "consciousness" Consul means that variety of consciousness that's more precisely called waking awareness).

I understand the neurotransmitter and hormone norepinephrine causes arousal in the CNS.
The general function of norepinephrine is to mobilize the brain and body for action. Norepinephrine release is lowest during sleep, rises during wakefulness, and reaches much higher levels during situations of stress or danger, in the so-called fight-or-flight response. In the brain, norepinephrine increases arousal and alertness, promotes vigilance, enhances formation and retrieval of memory, and focuses attention; it also increases restlessness and anxiety. In the rest of the body, norepinephrine increases heart rate and blood pressure, triggers the release of glucose from energy stores, increases blood flow to skeletal muscle, reduces blood flow to the gastrointestinal system, and inhibits voiding of the bladder and gastrointestinal motility.
The brain-mind is practically speaking either aroused or it's not aroused.The transitions between arousal and non-arousal are brief.Brief transition would make sense in evolutionary terms as the individual needs to react quickly and rapidly to situations that impinge on his life and safety.

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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Consul » January 15th, 2020, 3:38 pm

Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 10:04 pm
Unsupported dogma based on an extrapolation of the fact that all mental states are conscious.
My statement isn't dogmatic. If all nonmental states are nonconscious states, then all conscious states are mental states—which is certainly true. Whether all mental states are conscious states is another question, which is answered in the negative by most philosophers of mind and most psychologists.
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 10:04 pm
Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:03 pm
McGinn asks (rhetorically): "Isn’t there something vaguely hippyish, i.e. stoned, about the doctrine?"
...
I agree with him that panpsychism is "a complete myth, a comforting piece of utter balderdash".
Childish jibes of those so convinced of their rightness that they construct straw persons for derision. Basically they are saying to those who disagree with them "Yo mama sucks".
[RE McGinn quote: You've again omitted the reference! Don't do that!]

Well, panpsychism is "breathtakingly implausible" (Searle) and deserves to be derided. Note that Searle, McGinn and other antipanpsychists have said more than "It sucks!". They've also said why. For example, the speculative ascription of phenomenal properties to all or some kinds of elementary particles has no explanatory value whatsoever. The physical Standard Model or Core Theory works very well without any phenomenal properties; so if elementary particles should have ones, they are epiphenomenal, making no difference whatsoever to what happens.
"The world of our everyday experience is based on the Core Theory: a quantum field theory describing the dynamics and interactions of a certain set of matter particles (fermions) and force particles (bosons), including both the standard model of particle physics and Einstein’s general theory of relativity (in the weak-gravity regime)."

(Carroll, Sean. The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. New York: Dutton, 2016. p. 435)
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 10:04 pm
Abiogenesis researchers routinely refer to protoconsciousness, although they do not attribute internality to the small metabolisms they create in Petri dishes. It is possible, however, that humans are unable to interpret the most basic aspects of experience. An equivalence here would be that, for almost all of human existence, humans had no idea that they were comprised of tiny cellular and microbial communities.
What do you mean by "protoconsciousness"?

Anyway, abiogenesis is about the transition from nonlife to life, and not about the one from nonconscious life to conscious life (= apsychogenesis).

Chalmers defines protoconscious/protoexperiential/protophenomenal properties as nonconscious/nonexperiential/nonphenomenal properties which are precursors to conscious/experiential/phenomenal properties. However, thus defined, "any non-panpsychist materialism will be a form of panprotopsychism" (Chalmers) unless protophenomenal properties "are special properties with an especially close connection to phenomenal properties" (Chalmers). The problem is that "we do not have much idea of what protophenomenal properties are like" (Chalmers). They are mysterious, occult properties unknown to physics.
"[P]anprotopsychism: roughly, the view that fundamental entities are proto-conscious, that is, that they have certain special properties that are precursors to consciousness and that can collectively constitute consciousness in larger systems." (p. 20)

"[P]anprotopsychism is the view that fundamental physical entities are protoconscious.
In more detail, let us say that protophenomenal properties are special properties that are not phenomenal (there is nothing it is like to have a single protophenomenal property), but that can collectively constitute phenomenal properties, perhaps when arranged in the right structure. Panprotopsychism is then the view that some fundamental physical entities have protophenomenal properties.

One might worry that any non-panpsychist materialism will be a form of panprotopsychism.
After all, non-panpsychist materialism entails that microphysical properties are not phenomenal properties and that they collectively constitute phenomenal properties. This is an undesirable result. The thought behind panprotopsychism is that protophenomenal properties are special properties with an especially close connection to phenomenal properties. To handle this, one can unpack the appeal to specialness in the definition by requiring that (i) protophenomenal properties are distinct from structural properties and (ii) that there is an a priori entailment from protophenomenal properties to the phenomenal properties that they constitute. This excludes ordinary type-A materialism (which grounds phenomenal properties in structural properties) and type-B materialism (which invokes an a posteriori necessary connection). From now on I will understand protophenomenal properties this way, and will understand panprotopsychism accordingly.

It is true that we do not have much idea of what protophenomenal properties are like. For now they are characterized schematically, in terms of their relation to phenomenal properties. A fuller account will have to wait for a full panprotopsychist theory, though I will speculate about one sort of protophenomenal property toward the end of this chapter. But our ignorance about protophenomenal properties should not be mistaken for an objection to the truth of panprotopsychism." (pp. 31-2)

(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.)
"But what about in the weak sense [of "panpsychism"]? Granted that atoms do not have full-blown mental states, might they not have mental states in a degraded or attenuated sense? The trouble is that it is hard to know what this sense is supposed to be. It cannot mean just faint and fleeting conscious states, the kind you might have when going off to sleep, because that approach is really just the strong version of the theory again, and has all the same problems as before. We can hardly suppose that rocks are (sometimes? always?) in mild pain and thinking hazily about dinner, while we feel intense pain and have sharply focused thoughts. No, the idea must be that rocks have what are sometimes called protomental states, states that can yield conscious states while not themselves being conscious states. This convenient label contrives to suggest that the states in question are both mental and also premental. They are not quite fully mental, but they are such that they produce mentality when combined appropriately. A protomental property is defined as one that is capable of giving rise to mental properties without being actually mental—fully, properly, literally. These properties have the potential for mentality in them, the germ. The rock does not then feel pain, literally, but it has the right properties to give rise to pain if and when its materials take up residence in a real brain. If an atom from a potato finds its way into your brain after being digested, then it will trigger consciousness in you in virtue of properties it had before it became part of cerebral tissue. The picture thus created is this: matter from the inanimate world finds its way into the brain of an organism, and it produces consciousness in that organism in virtue of the protomental properties it had before ending up there, where protomental properties are defined as whatever properties of matter make consciousness possible.

The problem with this theory should now be obvious. It is empty. We knew where we were when presented with the strong version of panpsychism: the pervasive mental properties are just ordinary mental properties. It is not credible that all matter is thus mentally endowed. But the weak version merely says that matter has some properties or other, to be labeled 'protomental,' that account for the emergence of consciousness from brains. But of course that is true! It is just a way of saying that consciousness cannot arise by magic; it must have some basis in matter. But we are not told anything about the nature of these properties. Nor are we told how they produce consciousness. Of course matter must have the potential to produce consciousness, since it does it all the time. But to state that truism is not to provide a theory of consciousness; it simply restates the problem. In fact, weak panpsychism of this kind is virtually indistinguishable from the mysterianism I have been defending. I hold that there are unknown properties of matter that explain consciousness; weak panpsychism says much the same thing, except that it erroneously uses the word 'protomental' to pack some explanatory punch. Whether these properties are knowable is a further question, which panpsychism can answer either way. What both theories agree on is that consciousness depends upon heretofore unidentified properties of matter. That's fine, but let's not dress up this admission of ignorance into a pseudo-theory."

(McGinn, Colin. The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World. New York: Basic Books, 1999. pp. 98-9)
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 10:04 pm
Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:03 pm
Are ~8000 neurons in the CNS sufficient for subjective sentience? I don't know.
Will you address the question if I change "leech" (with its 10k neurons) to "sea slug", which has twice as many neurons?
The question of how many cerebral neurons are necessary for consciousness cannot be answered a priori (non-empirically); and, anyway, it's not just the number of neurons that matters, because what matters at least as much is their organization: the number of (sorts of) neuronal connections and interactions.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Consul » January 15th, 2020, 4:01 pm

Belindi wrote:
January 15th, 2020, 10:14 am
I think Consul is almost right about waking awareness being all or nothing.(I am supposing by "consciousness" Consul means that variety of consciousness that's more precisely called waking awareness).
Unless stated otherwise, by "consciousness" I mean "phenomenal consciousness" (= "subjective experience"). Waking consciousness (qua intransitive creature consciousness) comes in degrees other than 0 and 1, because there are nonbinary degrees of wakefulness, ranging from somnolence to vigilance. Degrees of wakefulness are degrees of brightness of (intransitive) consciousness.
"Turning, now, to intransitive creature consciousness, this is what Bayne, Hohwy, and Owen (2016) call “global-state consciousness”. It is a matter of being awake rather than asleep, or conscious as opposed to comatose. When the creature in question is a human person, then creature consciousness would normally implicate some or other form of mental-state consciousness. Whenever one is awake one is normally undergoing some conscious mental state or other. But the reverse need not be true. It seems that dreams are conscious mental states, even though the dreaming subject is asleep, and hence creature unconscious. Note that intransitive creature consciousness admits of levels, or degrees (albeit not linearly ordered ones, perhaps; Bayne et al., 2016). Someone in a state of deep sleep is more unconscious than someone who is dreaming. And someone under deep anesthesia will be more unconscious than someone who is lightly sedated. Likewise, someone in a state of caffeine-induced high alertness will be more conscious than someone who is drowsy."

(Carruthers, Peter. "Comparative Psychology without Consciousness." Consciousness and Cognition 63 (2018): 47–60. p. 49)
As far as I'm concerned, I don't equate intransitive creature consciousness with waking consciousness, because dreaming subjects are still creature-conscious. In the narrow sense, intransitive creature consciousness is waking consciousness, which is "a matter of being awake rather than asleep"; and in the broad sense, it is waking consciousness plus dream consciousness, which is "a matter of being…conscious as opposed to comatose."
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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Consul » January 15th, 2020, 5:26 pm

Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 10:43 pm
Consul wrote:
January 13th, 2020, 7:02 pm
There are degrees of higher-order consciousness or self-consciousness other than 0 and 1, but there are no degrees of primary consciousness other than 0 and 1.
Why - in your own words - must there be no degrees?
I've already explained that in previous posts.
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 10:43 pm
Why can't basic sensation be fragmented and conditional in simple creatures rather than flowing and constant?
Again, my point is that there can be no objective indeterminacy about whether or not a mental/neural state is a (phenomenally) conscious state, i.e. one with a subjective experiential content such as a (felt) sensation (sensory quale/sense-quality). All mental/neural states are either experientially contentless, empty or experientially contentful, nonempty; so they are all either (phenomenally) conscious states or (phenomenally) nonconscious ones. Correspondingly, all creatures are either (phenomenally) conscious or (phenomenally) nonconscious by either being subjects of (phenomenally) conscious states or not being ones. There is no third possibility!

Whether consciousness always consists in a continuous stream of experience is another question.
"[T]he situation is complicated by the diversity of opinions concerning both the degree to which consciousness really is continuous, and manner or nature of its continuity.

Pulling these points together, we can distinguish three main positions on the continuity issue:
The Discontinuity Thesis: although consciousness is commonly described as continuous, this is wrong: in fact our consciousness is highly disjointed, far more so than most people suppose.
The Modest Continuity Thesis: our typical streams of consciousness are indeed continuous, and this involves (i) freedom from gaps, in either or both of the senses mentioned above, and/or (ii) a significant degree of moment-to-moment qualitative similarity.
The Strong Continuity Thesis: in addition to the relationships encapsulated in the Modest Thesis, the successive brief phases of our typical streams of consciousness are experientially connected."

Temporal Consciousness: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cons ... -temporal/
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 10:43 pm
Returning to the liquidity analogy. As you stated, liquidity is emergent, not present in a liquid's components.
To express it more neutrally, it's a higher-level property or system(ic) property that isn't had by a system's elements. No single water molecule is liquid. A higher-level property of a material complex or physical system needn't be (irreducibly) emergent in the ontological sense, because it can be a (reducible) structural property, i.e. one composed of relations between and properties of the system's elements.
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 10:43 pm
Now, staying with the consciousness analogy, imagine the viscosity of fluid increasing. Let's take the freezing of water as an example. At what point is the water no longer fluid?

Between the fluid and solid states, water's fluidity becomes fragmented and conditional, with ever larger chunks of ice forming in the coldest zones. Eventually it will become a near-solid, with only thin channels flowing. It would seem to me that the dividing line here is whether the ice is fragmented enough to flow. Thus, an "ice tsunami" could be said to have a small degree of liquidity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz5thjvRT30

When it stops altogether, then it is solid. Now imagine sensations diminishing as we travel in the past to ever simpler organisms. In time the flow becomes more fragmentary, with organisms spending ever more of their lives being completely insensate, and only responding extreme or very particular stimuli.

In time, we would reach a point where the organisms only responded with reflexes, local reactions. Harking back to the fluidity analogy, insensate organisms would be equivalent to superficial surface melting of a block of ice. That is, there will be reactions to external conditions, but the reactions don't change the fact that it is a solid block of ice, where any fluidity is superficial and unordered.
As for the question of the temporal continuity and unity of experience, see above!

A sensation can "diminish" only in the sense that its intensity becomes less and less; but, as far as I know, it's neurophysiologically impossible for a sensation to diminish infinitely or asymptotically, i.e. without ever vanishing. For example, this can easily be demonstrated by a hearing test! At some point the intensity of a phenomenal sound becomes zero, and the phenomenal sound thereby ceases to be. (Zero sense-intensity means zero sense-quality!)

As far as I know, concerning masses of matter, there are both continuous and discontinuous phase or state transitions such as the one from the state of liquidity to the state of solidity. But as far as the phase/state transition from the absence of (phenomenal) consciousness to its presence—or vice versa—is concerned, it can only be discontinuous and abrupt.
"The switch from conscious/responsive to unconscious/unresponsive occurs in a fraction of a second. We have all experienced the rapidity of this state transition. When one falls asleep in an upright position, such as on an aeroplane or in a car, one's head often falls forward with a sudden collapse. When the head hits the chest, the sudden jolt often arouses the person from their slumber and they often think something like, 'Oh, I just fell asleep'. In that brief instant, both a transition to sleep and a transition back to wakefulness occur."

(Alkire, Michael T. "General Anaesthesia and Consciousness." In The Neurology of Consciousness: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropathology, edited by Steven Laureys and Giulio Tononi, 118-134. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2009. p. 130)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Greta » January 15th, 2020, 7:25 pm

Consul wrote:
January 15th, 2020, 3:38 pm
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 10:04 pm
Unsupported dogma based on an extrapolation of the fact that all mental states are conscious.
My statement isn't dogmatic. If all nonmental states are nonconscious states, then all conscious states are mental states—which is certainly true. Whether all mental states are conscious states is another question, which is answered in the negative by most philosophers of mind and most psychologists.
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 10:04 pm
Childish jibes of those so convinced of their rightness that they construct straw persons for derision. Basically they are saying to those who disagree with them "Yo mama sucks".
[RE McGinn quote: You've again omitted the reference! Don't do that!]
I will treat your request with the same respect as that which you have treated me with that post.

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Re: Evolutionary reason for consciousness?

Post by Greta » January 15th, 2020, 7:43 pm

Gertie wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:24 pm
Greta

You might be interested in the Cambridge Declaration on animal consciousness from 2012. It's obviously based in neuroscience and doesn't address the implications of panpsychism for example, but is at least a step in direction of acknowledging that other species have feelings too. And the implication is they should be treated accordingly.

http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeD ... usness.pdf

It's still anthropocentric in the sense that it extrapolates from similarities to humans. Getting round that is tricky, because only humans can report back their experiential states, and so give us the info we need in a fairly reliable way. As you've said, other species experiential states are unlikely to be identical to ours, because their CNS is different, so I don't think we should treat the Cambridge Declaration as anything like exhaustive.
Thanks Gertie. Agreed, it's very narrow.

I am also interested in structures that perform an equivalent function to nervous systems in microbes. After all, they detect food, obstacles and threats. Some like stentors even reproduce sexually https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hqft01lwdZs

This is not to propose that it feels like something to be a stentor (we'd have a far better chance of knowing how it feels to be a bat) but to explore reflexes, which could arguably be said to be proto-consciousness. It's clear that our consciousness contains suites of reflexes, from muscular to chemical. What's not clear is what breathes "fire" into a reflex, so it is felt as well as performed, and how that can be.

If an organism can move, then that represents "decisions" to be others than where the currents take them. However, that decision may be simply a chemical or magnetic response. What if an organisms can not only sense and respond, but adjust? This could be the case with stentors: https://phys.org/news/2019-12-single-celled-mind.html

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