Wossname wrote: ↑
September 14th, 2020, 6:23 am
I think this is a damned difficult topic.
Indeed it is. Perhaps the first step is to develop a rigorous vocabulary and a cogent framework for discussing it.
I’m not sure you are wrong but I have some doubts all the same. I lean towards a particular version of identity theory, (embodied identity theory), so I think I broadly agree with TS, but I’ve not yet completely fallen over. I am not sure whether detailed description of the necessary and sufficient conditions for consciousness is needed to resolve matters as you suggest.
If "sufficient" is taken to imply a reductive explanation, then no explanation will ever be sufficient, since that type of explanation is impossible, for the reasons given earlier.
Firstly, the effects of some drugs, brain injuries, sleep, dreaming and brain scans etc. suggest that perceptual, cognitive and affective states are linked with brain processes, and experiment suggests a direct link. Change the brain and you can change the experience and vice versa. I think this gives identity theory some plausibility.
I fully agree with your first sentence there. There is abundant evidence demonstrating links between brain states and "mental" phenomena; the first is clearly the cause of the latter. But a cause-and-effect relationship is not an identity relationship, and offers no support at all for the latter relationship, that I can see.
A concern is that objective accounts of an experience may fail to capture the subjective nature of the experience. The subjective appears to be something extra that needs explaining. But as has been pointed out, if consciousness is identical to a brain state then brain processes do not generate or produce consciousness, they are consciousness (and vice versa). If X generates Y it is not identical to Y. In your example GEM, if bees or the things that they do generate honey, then bees or the things they do are not honey. But identity is symmetrical and if consciousness is a brain process, it is not an extra property. There is no new thing to look for. (Gertie, your point about a homunculus is well taken).
It is true, of course, that IF "consciousness is identical to a brain state then brain processes do not generate or produce consciousness, they are consciousness (and vice versa)." But whether they ARE identical is what needs to be resolved. So we need to decide what are the criteria for calling two numerically distinguishable things identical. I've given two common ones, Leibniz's "identity of indiscernibles," and the "is of composition" sense ("lightning is a stream of electrons"). Mental phenomena and brain states are not identical per either of those criteria. So some new criterion would be required to establish that identity (hopefully, one that does not do violence to the common understanding of the term).
The claim, then, is that some objective events are identical to some subjective events. The fact that there are different ways of encountering a thing does not necessarily mean we are encountering different things. A thing may be encountered subjectively as lived experience, or objectively as when observed by another.
That is perfectly true of external things. But there may be some confusion as to what "thing" we are discussing. Yes, the red rose I observe can be the same as the red rose you describe to me. But that rose is not the "thing" we are seeking to identify with a brain state. Instead, the thing in question is the particular, distinctive, phenomenal sensation I experience when perceving that rose, or anything else with that color. There is no "objective," or third-party perspective on that. Similarly, while you can give me a verbal description of the rose, you can't give me a verbal description of the distinctive phenomenal sensation YOU experience when beholding it --- but I will assume, from your behavior and your report, that you have one. We both have subjective, distinctive sensations when perceiving an object with that color. We can't describe those sensations in any informative, non-circular terms; they are ineffable. But because we use the same words to refer to them we can talk about the (external) things that elicit those sensations (Wittgenstein's "beetle in a box" discussion is worth reviewing here).
Note that, in viewing consciousness as a brain process, mentality is not somehow eliminated by the analysis as some have argued. We are not left with just the objective physical description of events. The physical process is also a mental event.
Well, that begs the question. What sense of "is" is that? The physical process surely gives rise to the mental event, but to say it "is" the mental event requires some criterion for identity, as mentioned above.
A difficulty is that some argument will not allow analysis involving anything other than the comparison of objective physical events even though (as I think you recognise) this may be inadequate to the task in hand. In other words I am concerned that, for some, identity is only permitted to be established by observed similar properties from an objective POV, and this will not allow, by definition almost, a different POV (e.g. one allowing that subjective experience could be identical to objective experience), simply on the grounds that the two perspectives are different.
As I argued with TP, above, the difference between two percepts can be explained as different points of view only if we've already established that both percepts are of the same thing. So we need to resolve the identity issue BEFORE we can speak of different POVs. Until then we're entitled to assume the difference is due to perceiving different things.
The brain may be modelling the external world, but identity theory proposes that this modelling just is the processing being done by the brain, not some extra epiphenomenal thing.
It is epiphenomenal in the sense that an induced magnetic field is epiphenomenal, but not in the sense of a physically superfluous "substance" as implied by some philosophical conceptions.
An external observer using a scanner to watch your brain working cannot experience what your brain is experiencing, since they can only experience what their own brain is experiencing. But this just is what it means to have different perspectives.
Caution --- that is not what it means to have different perspectives. It makes sense to speak of different perspectives only when there is no question that the different perceptions are of the same thing. If we assume in advance they are in this case we're question-begging.
The inside of your house does not look like the outside of your house, but it is your house all the same (assuming you have one).
Do you see what you're doing there? Of course the inside of the house looks different from the outside. It will look different from any different reference point. But, by your hypothesis, those viewpoints are all of one thing. That hypothesis is not justified with respect to mental phenomena and brain states; it is precisely what is in question. Until that question is answered we can't speak (sensibly) of different perspectives.
If this works then there seems nothing missing here. Some say you can’t see a thought. But by this view you can, though you can only directly experience your own. This does allow that a clever external observer may be able to decode brain activity, and tell what the thought or subjective experience is likely to be, and researchers are making progress here. I have read that currently, decoding of information gained by brain scans enables researchers to determine what playing card someone is holding with better than 90% accuracy, and it is thought that in the future brain decoding will be capable of extracting information an investigator might want, such as the encryption code to a file or the combination to a safe.
I think you're right on that point. There is every reason to think that we will be able, at some point, to correlate measurable brain states with particular qualia, thoughts, knowledge, etc. I.e., we will be able, by inducing or observing a particular pattern in a particular set of neurons, to predict that the subject is now experiencing a sensation of red, or the smell of cinnamon, or is thinking about his kid, etc. But such correlations don't establish an identity
between the brain events and the subjective "feel" or quality of those sensations, though it could confirm a causal relationship between them --- one likely to be individual and idiosyncratic: what neural pattern elicits a "red" experience in Alfie likely would not do so in Bruno. Those correlations don't even address the identity question.
How do we decide on identity? Well, are we justified in saying (in time honoured tradition) that the morning star is the same as the evening star? Even without powerful telescopes, when we examine where and when we encounter these two things it seems we are (something recognised it seems even in ancient Sumeria). And again, we may ask whether these two things, the physical and mental, are the same thing. Again, we answer by looking at how we encounter these things, and the evidence and reasoning outlined above seems to me to justify the view that they probably are.
We are justified in identifying the morning star with the evening star because all of the properties we can observe and measure of those (nominally two) objects are the same. They satisfy Leibniz's criterion for identity. That is not the case with qualia and their correlated brain states; those could not be more different. Suppose we discover (improbably) that a certain neural activity pattern consistently produces a "red" experience for everyone for whom that pattern is active. Suppose Frank Jackson's Mary's vast knoweldge of optics and neurology includes that information. She has never seen colors, and so her brain has never manifested that pattern. She agrees to allow a researcher to induce that pattern electronically in her brain. Will she be able to predict what that experience will "be like" for her? What distinctive sensation will appear to her counsciousness? Or will she say, "Ah! So THAT is what red looks like!" That is what knowledge of brain states can't predict.
To play with your thought experiment, it seems possible that if we are looking at a screen showing our brain activity while looking at the screen, it may be an example whereby both the objective and subjective can be objectively seen to coincide. Flash up a red square, a blue triangle, a green circle or whatever and see the changes in brain activity that result. This would seem to support mind-brain identity.
No, it doesn't. It only establishes mind-brain correlation, and perhaps causality, as pointed out above.
I think this disagreement boils down to what is the relevant criterion for declaring two (nominal) things to be identical. I know of no others than the two I mentioned, and minds and brains are not identical per either of those.
Thanks for a thoughtful post!