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Qualia as bare difference

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
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JamesOfSeattle
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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by JamesOfSeattle » January 12th, 2019, 2:55 am

Gertie wrote:
January 10th, 2019, 5:03 pm
James, as I jumped the gun before, if you want to lay out what you think your thought experiment implies about qualia, maybe we can re-boot.
[...]
I don't/can't know if a virus is conscious, because we don't know the necessary and sufficient conditions for experiential states, but I doubt it because it's so dissimilar to what we agree are conscious critters. In lieu of a Theory of Consciousness, similarity of structure, processes, behaviour (and in the case of humans, reports) is what have to go on.

And I agree that teleonomy is a framing which allows us conscious critters to recognise a functional difference.
[rebooting, as per instruction]
I have a theory of consciousness. This theory posits:
1. The fundamental unit of consciousness is a process.
2. Any (not necessarily conscious-type) process can be described as an input to a mechanism (broadly defined) which produces an output in response.
3. A necessary part of a consciousness-type process is a requirement that the input be a symbolic sign.
4. A further necessary part is a requirement that the mechanism has a teleonomic purpose with respect to that sign such that
5. the response to that sign serves the purpose relative to the meaning of the sign.

Now it is possible to have a mechanism which can respond to many inputs. It is also possible that all of those inputs could be physically the same, but that they are “wired” to the mechanism so that they are distinguishable. This would be the case with a bundle of wires. Each wire would look the same, but the mechanism is “wired” to respond to each one separately. All of the wires would thus have identical properties except for the meaning of the wire. This meaning is established by the mechanism.

Let’s suppose the mechanism could attach a unique word to each wire. From the perspective of the mechanism, the only differences between the wires are their meanings, so the word would be a symbolic sign with the same meaning as the associated wire. Suppose you could converse with the mechanism regarding the state of the wires. You turn a wire on and ask, which wire is on? The mechanism would respond “X”, where X is the meaning of the wire that is on.

The point is that the meaning of the wires functions exactly like qualia. It’s ineffable, it’s subjective, it’s meaningful. It looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck. Maybe it’s a duck.

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Tamminen
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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Tamminen » January 12th, 2019, 9:50 am

Interesting.

Let us say I have only one wire that transmits light waves to my brain. I have a model (a,b) that gets filled when I see colored objects. I see 'a' when the wave lengths are < x and 'b' when the wave lengths are > x. Now 'a' an 'b' are qualia. x can vary depending on circumstances, and the whole model can change in the course of time, so that it may become a model (a,b,c) for instance.

Now if the models of two persons are similar enough, they begin to understand each other and communicate with language, giving the name 'red' for 'a' and the corresponding component of the other's model for instance. So the sameness of my 'red' and your 'red' gets established in language. The possibility of language is based on similarity of behavior, which is based on similarity between the internal models of consciousness.

Here the model (a,b) consists of information. We have one “bit” of information, “a or b”. All I meet in the world gets interpreted as 'a' or 'b'.

The models and their components are purely phenomenal, subjective, impossible to describe with physical language. Correlations exist, but there is no “hard problem”.

What is a model then? It is the subject's relationship with the world as it meets the world, from its own first person point of view. Nothing more. This is the mind. The same relationship can also be described from an objective point of view using physical language. Now we are describing physiological processes. This is the body. So my mind and my body are the two sides of my relationship with the world.

This is my version of the situation, oversimplified of course.

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JamesOfSeattle
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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by JamesOfSeattle » January 12th, 2019, 12:30 pm

Tam, your analysis is correct (as far as I can tell) but your model is not quite kosher.
Tamminen wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 9:50 am
Let us say I have only one wire that transmits light waves to my brain. I have a model (a,b) that gets filled when I see colored objects. I see 'a' when the wave lengths are < x and 'b' when the wave lengths are > x. Now 'a' an 'b' are qualia. x can vary depending on circumstances, and the whole model can change in the course of time, so that it may become a model (a,b,c) for instance.
In my model, one wire is one bit, which means on or off. Experience or no experience. You could say on means “a” and off means “b”, but I don’t think it is correct to say that they would allow two qualia. It would be one or none. If you want two colors, you need two wires. It may be that both wires are never “on” at the same time, but that’s okay.

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Gertie
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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Gertie » January 12th, 2019, 4:00 pm

Tam

We can't ultimately know if your experiential states are similar to mine, because they're not directly accessible to each other. But if we can jointly create a shared working model which works as if they are, that in itself suggests they could well be.
This is the only point you obviously did not get, or then you have a different view from mine. I think there is no sense whatsoever to compare our pains. We can speak of them to each other, and therefore they are similar. That is what similarity of qualia is.

Right, I disagree with you here, or at least your phrasing..



I say - Because the pain in my toe exists, it is something for me to talk to you about - you appear to understand, so I can assume you have similar direct pain-in-the-toe experiential states. (Obviously the word ''qualia'' is created as part of our language conversation, but the thing in itself pain in my toe experiential state exists independently of language).


However, for any subject to claim anything but ''the pain-in-my-toe experience exists'', rests on assumptions, inference. That my experiential states relate to/roughly describe a real, existing 'external' world I can roughly know things about. Including that I have a body, including that you exist, that you have experiential states too - that the whole shared model of the world we share of toes and red apples and evolution and big bang - and other subjects etc, exist, with both bodies and mental states.


The trouble is, that in our shared world model we can both point at a red apple and agree to call it 'red apple', or my toe, and agree to call it ''Gertie's toe'' - but we can't be sure each other have the same 'internal' private experience. We can't point at the object of a 'what it's like' experience, over there, in our 'external' shared public world, because experiential states are 'internal', private things.

So for you to accept that I have internal, private experiential states requires a different type of assumption. Based on our similar behaviour, similar structure, looking at brain scans and noting similar neural correlation matching similar reports, and the very fact that we can communicate coherently about internal private experiential states. Hence you can imagine my 'what it's like experience' when I say I have a pain in my toe when I describe it, but I can't show it to you, point at it. So it's an additional assumption which can't be tested in our usual third person/objective/public ways.


Try this. I can build up from the directly known certainty of my own experiential states:

to assume the content of those experiential states refers to a real world 'out there' independant of me,

to that world containing people like me,

to those people having similar experiential states.


This makes sense, but it's based on assumptions. Within one set of assumptions (our everyday shared model level), it's perfectly sensible to say I roughly know what you're referring to when you say you have the experience of a pain in your toe. But if we switch back and forth between our 'levels' of assumption, it gets confusing.



Therefore also this quote from Consul
...their qualitative nature is determined intrinsically, in and through themselves
is sort of empty and ambiguous, although there is nothing clearly wrong in it.

It's not ambiguous to me, it simply means that the nature of experience is its content. It's just the 'what it's like' nature of experience. If the experience is feeling a pain in my toe, the 'what it's like' content is all there is to it. So you can't have a content free experience, because the content is the experience.

Tamminen
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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Tamminen » January 12th, 2019, 4:39 pm

Gertie wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 4:00 pm
Because the pain in my toe exists, it is something for me to talk to you about - you appear to understand, so I can assume you have similar direct pain-in-the-toe experiential states.
I just question the meaning of the concept of similarity here in the pre-linguistic sense. Similarity of 'structures' or 'models' is more appropriate, and what we call 'pain' is one component of those structures. It is not so that there is similarity or there is not, but we just cannot know if there is or is not. This is not a problem of knowing but a problem of being, a kind of an "uncertainty principle" in comparing pre-linguistic qualia between subjects.
Try this. I can build up from the directly known certainty of my own experiential states:
I try.
to assume the content of those experiential states refers to a real world 'out there' independant of me,
I can assume this.
to that world containing people like me,
Not so hard to assume.
to those people having similar experiential states.
Yes, but as I tried to show above, similarity means similar structures and corresponding components of these structures, which are expressed in language as similar qualia. Not a big difference, but philosophically important, I think.

Gertie
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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Gertie » January 12th, 2019, 4:56 pm

James

That's helpful, ta.
1. The fundamental unit of consciousness is a process.
Makes sense to me, experience is like a stream, and dead/not working brains don't show signs of experience.
2. Any (not necessarily conscious-type) process can be described as an input to a mechanism (broadly defined) which produces an output in response.
OK.
3. A necessary part of a consciousness-type process is a requirement that the input be a symbolic sign.
How so?
4. A further necessary part is a requirement that the mechanism has a teleonomic purpose with respect to that sign such that
5. the response to that sign serves the purpose relative to the meaning of the sign.
OK, I think. As a description of the behavioural/functional aspect of a conscious event.

But I'd say the mystery of consciousness lies in how the experiential states arise, without which purpose and meaning don't exist. In other words, meaning and purpose are concepts which only enter the universe, when conscious critters create them. Teleonomy itself being a human framing of natural non-conscious processes.
Now it is possible to have a mechanism which can respond to many inputs. It is also possible that all of those inputs could be physically the same, but that they are “wired” to the mechanism so that they are distinguishable. This would be the case with a bundle of wires. Each wire would look the same, but the mechanism is “wired” to respond to each one separately. All of the wires would thus have identical properties except for the meaning of the wire. This meaning is established by the mechanism.
I'd say, to talk of 'meaning' is already requiring consciousness. Otherwise you're just talking about physical cause and effect. I switch my toaster on, the necessary wiring does its thing, and it toasts bread by means of physics only. There is presumably no inherent meaning or function for my toaster, I bring that, because I'm conscious, and I want toast.
Let’s suppose the mechanism could attach a unique word to each wire. From the perspective of the mechanism, the only differences between the wires are their meanings, so the word would be a symbolic sign with the same meaning as the associated wire. Suppose you could converse with the mechanism regarding the state of the wires. You turn a wire on and ask, which wire is on? The mechanism would respond “X”, where X is the meaning of the wire that is on.
I'd say that unless the mechanism is already conscious it has no perspective, it's just matter in motion, physics. Physics doesn't have meaning or symbols, without experiential states being present.

If all physical processes have experiential states, it works. But to say only conscious physical processes have meaning and purpose then becomes a tortology, because meaning and purpose are features of conscious processes.
The point is that the meaning of the wires functions exactly like qualia. It’s ineffable, it’s subjective, it’s meaningful. It looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck. Maybe it’s a duck.
Same objection. Meaning and function are conceptual subjective framings, they don't exist except as experiential states (requiring an experiencing subject). Wires following the laws of physics don't require meaning and function.

Teleonomy is a conceptualised framing which only exists if there's there's someone there to think of it, otherwise there's just physics. Unless there's some additional underlying explanation about the nature of the universe for something like evolution's teleonomy.

Gertie
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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Gertie » January 12th, 2019, 5:04 pm

Tamminen wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 4:39 pm
Gertie wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 4:00 pm
Because the pain in my toe exists, it is something for me to talk to you about - you appear to understand, so I can assume you have similar direct pain-in-the-toe experiential states.
I just question the meaning of the concept of similarity here in the pre-linguistic sense. Similarity of 'structures' or 'models' is more appropriate, and what we call 'pain' is one component of those structures. It is not so that there is similarity or there is not, but we just cannot know if there is or is not. This is not a problem of knowing but a problem of being, a kind of an "uncertainty principle" in comparing pre-linguistic qualia between subjects.
Try this. I can build up from the directly known certainty of my own experiential states:
I try.
to assume the content of those experiential states refers to a real world 'out there' independant of me,
I can assume this.
to that world containing people like me,
Not so hard to assume.
to those people having similar experiential states.
Yes, but as I tried to show above, similarity means similar structures and corresponding components of these structures, which are expressed in language as similar qualia. Not a big difference, but philosophically important, I think.
Can you give me your definition of ''structure'' here Tam, apologies if I missed it earlier

Tamminen
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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Tamminen » January 12th, 2019, 5:23 pm

Gertie wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 5:04 pm
Can you give me your definition of ''structure'' here Tam, apologies if I missed it earlier
In my post
viewtopic.php?p=327240#p327240
(a,b) and (a,b,c) are structures of consciousness.

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Gertie » January 13th, 2019, 6:31 am

Tam
Because the pain in my toe exists, it is something for me to talk to you about - you appear to understand, so I can assume you have similar direct pain-in-the-toe experiential states.


I just question the meaning of the concept of similarity here in the pre-linguistic sense. Similarity of 'structures' or 'models' is more appropriate, and what we call 'pain' is one component of those structures. It is not so that there is similarity or there is not, but we just cannot know if there is or is not. This is not a problem of knowing but a problem of being, a kind of an "uncertainty principle" in comparing pre-linguistic qualia between subjects.
Once you establish what level of assumptions are implicit to how you're thinking about the problem, and stay consistent to those assumptions, it becomes clearer.

Looks to me like here you're sliding between assumptions about what you are implicitly taking to be real and known, via the use of fuzzy language.

So lets take the assumption there is a real physical world, containing rocks, people, brain scans, evolution, physical causation, and physical body Gertie and physical body Tam existing within that world, who talk to each other about eg a pain in Gertie's toe. Gertie and Tam's physical 'being'/existence within this real world is already assumed.

Based on this assumed world, our everyday world, our physical existence is an assumed fact of the matter, but there is still a fact of the matter question as to whether you can know if anyone but you has experiential states, and if so, whether they're similar to yours. There is a fact of the matter answer, but there is a different issue of how to know what that answer is. You can know for sure if you have experiential states, but you can't know if I do. You can know for sure what your experiential states are like, but you can't know what mine are like if I do have them.


But you can reasonably assume I do have experiential states for several reasons -

- I behave in a similar way to you in similar circs. I cry in situations when you cry, laugh, yelp with pain, etc

- I have a similar body made from similar stuff which works in a similar way.

- If someone scans our brains we both react in similar ways at a behavioural and neural level to similar stimuli - there is correlation. Prick my toe, I yelp, specific brain circuitries light up. Same for you.

- And we both report similar experiential states to similar stimuli via language. Whether it's pricking a toe or seeing an apple.


So comparing notes on our experiential states via language is just one of the similarities which can lead us to the further assumption that we both have experiential states. Can we know for sure? No. Because they are private.

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Tamminen » January 13th, 2019, 12:43 pm

Gertie wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 6:31 am
You can know for sure if you have experiential states, but you can't know if I do.
I know for sure that you have experiential states. Solipsism is absurd, as Consul says.
You can know for sure what your experiential states are like, but you can't know what mine are like if I do have them.
You have them, and I know what they are like if you tell me. The only thing I criticise is your speaking about their pre-linguistic similarity or dissimilarity, as if the problem were only our lack of knowledge about that. Our pains are neither similar or dissimilar in themselves. Similarity is established in language, the possibility of which is based on structural similarity and similar behavior that is its expression in our common world. There is no private similarity between two individuals, only public. What does is mean that my pain is identical with or similar to your pain "in itself", outside of our speaking about it? I can say that two pictures are similar, and we can verify that by looking, but we cannot verify my claim that my pain is similar to yours. And as I said, this is not a question of knowing but a question of being. The fundamental uncertainty can only be fixed by language: similarity is verified at the moment we are able to speak about it.
So comparing notes on our experiential states via language is just one of the similarities which can lead us to the further assumption that we both have experiential states.
Right.
Can we know for sure? No. Because they are private.
Yes we can. Language makes them public.

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JamesOfSeattle
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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by JamesOfSeattle » January 13th, 2019, 3:06 pm

Gertie wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 4:56 pm
In other words, meaning and purpose are concepts which only enter the universe, when conscious critters create them.
This is incorrect. That’s kinda like staying stars are concepts which only enter the universe when conscious critters create them. “Purpose” (archeopurpose, teleonomic purpose) is a description of a pattern in physical stuff that arises without the need to reference a conscious being. “Meaning” likewise. This “meaning” requires “purpose”, in that, at some point, a mechanism was created and the (teleonomic) purpose of that mechanism was to create a sign. A neuron is such a mechanism. (Not saying the neuron was the first such mechanism, but it could have been). The output of this mechanism, the “sign” (neurotransmitter for neurons) is thus an affordance for “meaning”. It allows for a subsequent mechanism to generate a response appropriate to a “meaning” of the sign (there could be more than one), like a reflexive pulling away from something noxious. This is the “purpose” and “meaning” that arises naturally without the need for a conscious entity. This same “purpose” and “meaning” is what allows something that looks and acts like qualia to emerge from the physics.
Physics doesn't have meaning or symbols, without experiential states being present.
But as I just described, physics does have meaning and symbols, just like it has stars. If meaning and symbols are necessary and sufficient for consciousness, voila. Or maybe you also need qualia, but again, voila.

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Tamminen
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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Tamminen » January 13th, 2019, 4:04 pm

JamesOfSeattle wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 3:06 pm
...physics does have meaning and symbols, just like it has stars.
This would be logical if the subject were something that arises from matter. But it is not. It is original. Meanings and symbols belong to the subject's way of existing. It has its internal purposes. Matter is its fate and instrument. So we have something we can agree on, but our basic approaches differ radically.

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Consul
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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Consul » January 13th, 2019, 4:38 pm

Gertie wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 5:04 pm
Can you give me your definition of ''structure'' here Tam, apologies if I missed it earlier
(I know I'm someone else.)

"Structures are things in relations. Without relations, there are no structures."

(Grossmann, Reinhardt. The Existence of the World: An Introduction to Ontology. London: Routledge, 1992. p. 51)

The second sentence is true, but "structure" is ambiguous between "things in relations", i.e. related entities, and relating entities. That is, a structure consists either of objects-plus-relations or only of (a web of) relations. In the former sense, "structure" is synonymous with "complex" or "system", whereas in the latter sense it is not. For in this sense, a complex or system isn't a structure but it has one, with its structure being the set or sum of relations between its parts.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Tamminen » January 14th, 2019, 5:30 am

What I mean by 'structure of consciousness':

If Gertie sees 3 colors, her structure of consciousness can be desribed as (a,b,c).
If Greta sees 3 colors, her structure of consciousness can be described as (x,y,z).
We can say that their structures of consciousness are identical: (a,b,c) = (x,y,z).
But we have no justification to say that a = x or b = y or c = z.
Those identities can only be established in language, ie. if the similar structures make a common language possible. Without language a and x are separate concrete experiences with no meaning for the concepts of similarity or dissimilarity between them. I hope this clarifies what I tried to point out. I am afraid I cannot say it more clearly.

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Consul » January 14th, 2019, 3:11 pm

Tamminen wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 5:30 am
What I mean by 'structure of consciousness':…
What I mean by it is the spatial and temporal order or organization of the contents of consciousness.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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