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Qualia as a function of being alive

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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Greta
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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Greta » January 8th, 2019, 12:58 am

Consul wrote:
January 6th, 2019, 12:26 am
The brain is literally embodied. As I said, as an organ the brain is part of an organism—which is more than just a "brain-vat"—and not an organism itself. However, the brain is the (one and only) organ of consciousness, the (one and only) qualia factory. This is not to say that the brain is an isolated organ independent of and uninfluenced by extracerebral or extracorporeal factors or signals, but only that (the field of) conciousness is generated by and located in the brain, and by nothing else and nowhere else in the organism.

Here are quotes by Antonio Damasio that I just present for consideration. (Note that he agrees that "mental events are the result of activity in the brain's neurons", and that "the nervous system is the enabler of our mental life"!)
I'm not convinced that qualia is only a mental phenomenon, rather (as per Damasio) "mental states appear to be deeply embodied and cannot be accounted for without considering the reciprocal influences between the body and its surroundings".

Here I think it's instructive to consider the original relationship of brain and body in gestation. In a blastocyst the (inner) endoderm will grow to become the metabolic organs that handle energy throughput. The mesoderm (middle) becomes the structural support and physical strength - bones, muscles and ligaments. The ectoderm becomes the skin, nervous system and brains. So our physical and mental states are precisely matched - the brain, like consciousness, is literally the outside brought inside.

Consul wrote:
January 6th, 2019, 12:26 am
"We are commonly given accounts of mental life—of perceptions, feelings, ideas, of the memories with which perceptions and ideas can be recorded, of imagination and reasoning, of the words used to translate internal narratives, inventions, and so forth—as if they were the exclusive product of brains. The nervous system is often the hero of these accounts, both an oversimplification and a misunderstanding. It is as if the body were a mere bystander, a support for the nervous system, the vat in which the brain fits.

That the nervous system is the enabler of our mental life is not in doubt. What is missing from the traditional neuro-centric, brain-centric, and even cerebral-cortex-centric accounts is the fact that nervous systems began their existence as assistants to the body, as coordinators of the life process in bodies complex and diversified enough that the functional articulation of tissues, organs, and systems as well as their relation to the environment required a dedicated system to accomplish the coordination. Nervous systems were the means to achieve that coordination and thus became an indispensable feature of complex multicellular life.

A more sensible account of our mental life is that both its simple aspects and its extraordinary achievements are partial by-products of a nervous system that delivers, at a very complex physiological level, what simpler life-forms have long been delivering without nervous systems: homeostatic regulation. On the way to accomplishing the principal task of making life possible in a complex body, nervous systems developed strategies, mechanisms, and abilities that not only took care of vital homeostatic needs but also produced many other results. Those other results were either not immediately necessary for life regulation or less clearly related to it. Minds depend on the presence of nervous systems charged with helping run life efficiently, in their respective bodies, and on a host of interactions of nervous systems and bodies. 'No body, never mind.' Our organism contains a body, a nervous system, and a mind that derives from both."


(Damasio, Antonio. The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures. New York: Pantheon, 2018. pp. 65-6)
I like it.

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Greta
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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Greta » January 8th, 2019, 1:44 am

Consul wrote:
January 8th, 2019, 12:41 am
Greta wrote:
January 7th, 2019, 5:54 pm
"Sensory consciousness" seems to not be an easy concept to pin down. Sensing is also done at cellular level.

https://phys.org/news/2017-12-cells-exp ... ments.html
"Researchers have known cells are able to perceive spatial and physical information at the nanoscale."

What they call "sensing" is a (phenomenally) nonconscious/nonexperiential form of perception/detection/registration of physical or chemical information. It's objective perception without subjective sensation. Objective sensory information is not the same as subjective sensation, i.e. sense-experience. A single cell doesn't feel its purely physiological sensings.
Still, as you know, the same was mistakenly said about other mammals once! We keep underestimating other organisms.

Your view brings us back to "biological machines", unfeeling feeling. I suspect that we rather underestimate the similarly robotic way we ourselves often feel things, yet it's not robotic. The cell does not emote in response to the sensing, no, but they may well feel something (and I suspect they do), just it's too trivial for us to notice.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Belindi » January 8th, 2019, 7:50 am

Consul, Antonio Damasio espouses Spinoza's dual aspect theory of being. So Damasio will claim the identity theory of mind.

Greta wrote:
Your view brings us back to "biological machines", unfeeling feeling. I suspect that we rather underestimate the similarly robotic way we ourselves often feel things, yet it's not robotic. The cell does not emote in response to the sensing, no, but they may well feel something (and I suspect they do), just it's too trivial for us to notice.
Life forms may be defined by 'irritability' a basic chemical response to stimuli. Damasio defines the difference between emotions and feelings. With referene to Spinoza's notes in 'Ethics' Spinoza defines basic emotions and describes how complex emotions become feelings by the addition of cognition. So cells which lack cognition respond to chemical stimuli as do whole human organisms. A human in a vegetative state will respond to some stimuli.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Karpel Tunnel » January 10th, 2019, 8:00 am

Greta wrote:
January 4th, 2019, 2:31 am
Daniel Dennett pointed out that consciousness is not especially any more exotic than digestion
This seems confused to me. Intelligence, behavioral patterns - like reactions based on what our senses pick up - are parallel to digestion. IOW bodies reacting to stimuli and engaging in reactions. Consciousness is a different category. Experiencing, that there is a subjective noticing from within matter is another type of something. 'Exotic' is a pretty charged word. It's different.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Greta » January 11th, 2019, 8:48 pm

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
January 10th, 2019, 8:00 am
Greta wrote:
January 4th, 2019, 2:31 am
Daniel Dennett pointed out that consciousness is not especially any more exotic than digestion
This seems confused to me. Intelligence, behavioral patterns - like reactions based on what our senses pick up - are parallel to digestion. IOW bodies reacting to stimuli and engaging in reactions. Consciousness is a different category. Experiencing, that there is a subjective noticing from within matter is another type of something. 'Exotic' is a pretty charged word. It's different.
Whatever the words that came to me at the time, DD's point was to challenge the assumption that consciousness is more special than other body processes. There is a subjective noticing with your metabolism too if there are issues with food, air or arteries.

Belinda's reply:
Karpel ,consciousness is different from digestion because brain-minds lack nerve endings and axons that convey digestive experiences to consciousness, that's to say, to that brain-mind itself.

If your conscious brain-mind were linked to Greta's conscious brain-mind by way of nerve endings and axons and dendrites then you would be conscious of Greta's subjective experiences . Technically, I think the synapse would have to be between the two brain-minds.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Karpel Tunnel » January 12th, 2019, 9:04 pm

Greta wrote:
January 11th, 2019, 8:48 pm
Whatever the words that came to me at the time, DD's point was to challenge the assumption that consciousness is more special than other body processes. There is a subjective noticing with your metabolism too if there are issues with food, air or arteries.
Belinda wrote:Karpel ,consciousness is different from digestion because brain-minds lack nerve endings and axons that convey digestive experiences to consciousness, that's to say, to that brain-mind itself.
Belinda wrote:If your conscious brain-mind were linked to Greta's conscious brain-mind by way of nerve endings and axons and dendrites then you would be conscious of Greta's subjective experiences . Technically, I think the synapse would have to be between the two brain-minds.
So far we do not know what causes consciousness. We know much of what affects memory, intelligence, intention...etc. But not what allows for the experiencing itself. To me this makes it very different from digestion or any other physiological activity. We know digestion down into extremely great detail. The chemistry of it. But we do not know the chemistry of consciousness. Right now mainstream scientists are starting to consider plants as experiencers. Based, obviously, on quite different physiology. We don't know if consciousness is a facet of all matter, affected by the complexity of the matter in question as far as all of its qualities, but still, everywhere. Conscousness may turn out to be a byproduct of tissue architeture, which we can map, and chemical interactions, which we may, at some point understand. But right now do not know why some matter, at least, experiences. Until then we cannot say it is like digestion, as if we know they are parallel processes in the same category. Like digestion and urination, say. Where we can speak with confidence about tissue and organ structure and chemisty for both processes and make a little diagram comparing and contrasting two processes that can be caterorized similarly. We can't do that with conscousness yet. We can look at, for example, sensory physiology, or the physiology of certain cognitive processes. But this is not consciousness. None of that, yet, explains why there is a subjective facet to us. We know no explanation for why in addition to congnitive functions, there is a subjective experiencing aspect. Why we aren't, for example, like processing units in computers, which we tend to think are not conscious, yet at least. That is highly complicated calculating machines, in our case chemical, without consciousness.

He's jumping the gun, and based on assumptions about what future research will demonstrate. And that ain't science.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Consul » January 12th, 2019, 11:30 pm

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 9:04 pm
So far we do not know what causes consciousness.
Yes, we do: the brain.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Greta » January 13th, 2019, 12:03 am

Consul wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 11:30 pm
Karpel Tunnel wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 9:04 pm
So far we do not know what causes consciousness.
Yes, we do: the brain.
Earlier we agreed that qualia was most likely created by the whole body system, not just the brain. You may remember that we dismissed the brain in a jar idea very early on and thus moved on from the brain being the sole bringer of qualia.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Karpel Tunnel » January 13th, 2019, 4:38 am

Consul wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 11:30 pm
Karpel Tunnel wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 9:04 pm
So far we do not know what causes consciousness.
Yes, we do: the brain.
This would mean we know that anything without a brain is not an experiencer. But we do not know this, though we certainly have that bias. We do not know if consciousness is a facet of all matter, if there are other complicated or simple forms that are conscious, and in fact in mainstream science there is more and more evidence that it makes sense to think of plants, which do not have brains, as conscious. With brains we can measure behavior, the various complicated behavior reactions the organism has to stimuli. But we do not know why there is a subjective aspect to reality nor whether it is limited to creatures with nervous systems like ours at all. Our bias to assuming only humans, and even only certain humans, have certain cognitive abilities has been pervasive and consistently shown wrong through the history of science and various people who,working with animals, had to go through gauntlets of bias and before the 70s risk and lose professional careers for daring to think animals had intentions, emotions, and even subjecive experience. The same bias is present regarding consciousness which is often conflated with cognitive function or specific cognitive functions. A little humility seems wise to me.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Belindi » January 13th, 2019, 9:19 am

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
So far we do not know what causes consciousness.
Insofar as linking causes to effects is a matter of constant conjunctions, we do actually know what causes consciousness in its various forms, although there remains a lot of research still to be done. Still, we know enough of what causes consciousness to be able to put people to sleep for surgical operations , to give psychoactive medicines to banish uncomfortable hallucinations, and to have recreational fun with.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Felix » January 13th, 2019, 6:17 pm

Belindi: Still, we know enough of what causes consciousness to be able to put people to sleep for surgical operations, to give psychoactive medicines to banish uncomfortable hallucinations, and to have recreational fun with.
Not even close: knowing means to alter awareness is a long way from understanding the origin of consciousness.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Consul » January 13th, 2019, 6:38 pm

Greta wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 12:03 am
Consul wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 11:30 pm
Yes, we do: the brain.
Earlier we agreed that qualia was most likely created by the whole body system, not just the brain. You may remember that we dismissed the brain in a jar idea very early on and thus moved on from the brain being the sole bringer of qualia.
Being a natural part of an organism, the brain is not an independent substance; but it is the (whole and sole) organ of consciousness. Consciousness is realized by and in the brain, and by nothing else and nowhere else.

"To say that consciousness literally resides within the confines of the brain is to characterize the spatial location of the phenomenon in the natural world; to determine unambiguously where we should look for the principal explanandum in the science of consciousness. … There are many who reject this view because their fundamental background assumptions are different from mine. To accept the internalist view is to deny that consciousness resides in, or is necessarily dependent on, any physical or logical relations between the brain and its surroundings (a claim defended by externalists, e.g. Dretske…; Tye…), and it is to deny that consciousness resides only at the 'personal' level of organism-environment interaction (a position defended by Dennett…and O'Regan & Noe…); it is to deny that consciousness is somehow 'projected' or 'reflected' by the brain into the ordinary physical or some ill-defined nonphysical space (cf. Velmans…; McGinn…; J. Smythies…) and to deny that consciousness somehow pervades the whole body or is literally embodied in the physical body outside the brain (Thompson…). Like other biological phenomena, say protein synthesis or postsynaptic potentials, consciousness is, according to biological realism, located within the confines of the very biological system in which it is realized; it has no supernatural powers to escape from within the depths of the brain."

(Revonsuo, Antti. Inner Presence: Consciousness as a Biological Phenomenon. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. pp. 10-1)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Consul » January 13th, 2019, 6:58 pm

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 4:38 am
Consul wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 11:30 pm
Yes, we do: the brain.
This would mean we know that anything without a brain is not an experiencer. But we do not know this, though we certainly have that bias.
There's no "bias", because we have sufficient reasons to believe that brains are necessary for consciousness. This belief isn't infallible knowledge, but it's by far the most plausible and most reasonable one regarding the origin and place of consciousness in the world.
Karpel Tunnel wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 4:38 am
We do not know if consciousness is a facet of all matter, if there are other complicated or simple forms that are conscious, and in fact in mainstream science there is more and more evidence that it makes sense to think of plants, which do not have brains, as conscious.
No, there isn't. The purely electrophysiological sensitivity (reactivity) of plants mustn't be confused with psychological/phenomenological sentience!

Phytopsychism—the view that plants are conscious beings—is not as crazy as the rest of panpsychism, because it stays within the biological realm; but given the absence of a nervous system and particularly of a central one, there is no good reason to believe they're subjects of experience.
Karpel Tunnel wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 4:38 am
…The same bias is present regarding consciousness which is often conflated with cognitive function or specific cognitive functions. A little humility seems wise to me.
You're right insofar as (primary, phenomenal) consciousness or experience mustn't be equated with cognition or intelligence.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Consul » January 13th, 2019, 7:02 pm

Belindi wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 9:19 am
Insofar as linking causes to effects is a matter of constant conjunctions, we do actually know what causes consciousness in its various forms, although there remains a lot of research still to be done. Still, we know enough of what causes consciousness to be able to put people to sleep for surgical operations , to give psychoactive medicines to banish uncomfortable hallucinations, and to have recreational fun with.
We know that consciousness results from certain patterns of electrochemical activity in central nervous systems. What we don't know yet is how exactly that happens.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Greta » January 13th, 2019, 11:02 pm

Consul wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 6:38 pm
Greta wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 12:03 am

Earlier we agreed that qualia was most likely created by the whole body system, not just the brain. You may remember that we dismissed the brain in a jar idea very early on and thus moved on from the brain being the sole bringer of qualia.
Being a natural part of an organism, the brain is not an independent substance; but it is the (whole and sole) organ of consciousness. Consciousness is realized by and in the brain, and by nothing else and nowhere else.
Now the conversation is circular. "Tomaytoes" and "tomartoes". You claim that the brain is the sole creator of qualia and I see that is an ungrounded assumption without even a shred of empirical evidence. Time and again the misinterpretation of correlation with causation is presented as evidence that the brain generates qualia, when it's just the processing of qualia.

I see qualia, or phenomenal consciousness, as like the water in the river while functional consciousness is more like currents, eddies and ripples of that water, with the river bed's bends and furrows shaped by conditioning, just as neurons are. The river doesn't create the water, which comes from a larger source, the chemicals and processes of life itself.

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