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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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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Belindi » January 14th, 2019, 8:42 am

Consul wrote:
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.

Yes. As I said, there remains a lot of research still to be done.

Also, I agree with Greta that brain-minds are embodied if I may say it like that.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Consul » January 14th, 2019, 2:45 pm

Greta wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 11:02 pm
Consul wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 6:38 pm
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.
You're wrong, because there is ample scientific, particularly medical (brain injuries, brain diseases, psychiatric diseases), and especially anesthesiological (general anesthesia) evidence for the assumption that experiential events are caused by cerebral events.

The neuroinformational input into the brain doesn't already involve any subjective qualia. The brain alone is the manufacturer of qualia.

"There is overwhelming evidence that the whole range of subjective conscious experiences—the entire phenomenal level of organization—does come into existence during dreaming. From this simple, well-attested fact it follows that the same physical or neural realizing basis of consciousness must be responsible for the sphere of subjective experiences both during wakefulness as well as during dreaming. The mechanisms of consciousness must be active in both states and furthermore organized in a closely similar way—otherwise dream experience would not amount to a faithful simulation of the perceptual world.

Knowledge of the physiological activity in the brain during dreaming could be utilized to constrain hypotheses about the locus of control of consciousness. Many of the sensory and motor systems that normally during wakefulness are in causal interaction with the phenomenal level, are no longer so in REM sleep. As the phenomenal level is fully realized all the same, the sensorimotor systems disengaged from phenomenal consciousness during dreaming can be excluded from the locus of control of the phenomenal level. Phenomenal consciousness cannot be ontologically dependent on any bodily or physiological state that is missing during dreaming. No state missing during dreaming can be absolutely necessary for the existence of the phenomenal level. Therefore, physiological states or activities missing during dreaming cannot be constitutive of phenomenal consciousness.

During REM sleep in the brain there is a sensory input blockade (preventing stimuli from reaching consciousness), a motor output blockade (preventing motor commands from reaching the muscles), and a highly active brain in between them. As a result of all this, the phenomenal level of subjective experience is brought about inside the brain. Yet, for an external observer the dreaming person's body appears to be paralyzed and unresponsive, revealing no behavioral signs of the vivid phenomenal world wherein the dreaming subject is immersed in all sorts of colorful adventures.

Even so, physical stimuli are received and processed by our sensory systems, but only at levels not involving consciousness."


(Revonsuo, Antti. Inner Presence: Consciousness as a Biological Phenomenon. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. pp. 86-7)

"The significance of the dreaming brain for the theoretical description and explanation of consciousness lies in the fact that dreaming effectively isolates the explanandum from the surrounding nonconscious biological mechanisms. When considering the dreaming brain we acquire a crystal clear distinction between the phenomenal level itself and what lies just beyond its borderlines: the preceding causes and the underlying microlevel mechanisms of consciousness, tightly surrounding the phenomenal level, but fundamentally distinct from it nonetheless.

The isolation of consciousness consists of the following elements: Sensory input is received normally by peripheral sensory organs during sleep, but blocked from consciousness at higher thalamocortical processing levels. Sensory input thus does not modulate phenomenal consciousness in any way. This is the sensory input blockade. Bodily action is experienced in dreams and related motor output is being produced by cortical motor areas during REM sleep. The motor output is blocked from reaching the muscles. This is the motor output blockade.

The isolation of consciousness in the dreaming brain establishes that sensory input and motor output (and the mechanisms involved in dealing with them) are not necessary for producing phenomenal consciousness. The dreaming brain furthermore provides us with insights into the internal biological mechanisms that are entirely sufficient by themselves for supporting the phenomenal level. During REM sleep, the level of general activation in the brain is similar to that during wakefulness.

The evidence gathered concerning the location of consciousness in the physical world now seems definite: the entire sphere of phenomenal consciousness resides within the confines of the brain. It is ontologically dependent neither on the sensory input mechanisms leading to the brain, nor on the motor output mechanisms reaching out from the brain.
Our sensory-perceptual and bodily presence in the world is brought about by wholly internal neural mechanisms that work in a similar manner during wakefulness and dreaming. The experience of a seemingly external perceptual world and the experience of being personally embodied and situated in the center of the world are grand illusions brought about by the internal workings of the brain.

The above conclusion about the place of consciousness in the world is highly controversial in philosophy, where several lines of thought resist the idea that consciousness resides in the brain. Now the burden of proof is on the advocates of those views. Anyone who denies that consciousness is in the brain should come up with an alternative interpretation of the evidence provided by the dreaming brain. Furthermore, he should come up with a clear answer to the question, If consciousness is not located in the brain, where then is it to be found?"


(Revonsuo, Antti. Inner Presence: Consciousness as a Biological Phenomenon. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. pp. 97-8)

"A second view that I think equally implausible is that perceptual consciousness can exist outside the brain. One example is in the article by Alva Noe, 'Experience without the Head'. Noe gives several examples and arguments to attempt to show that the content, i.e. the intentional content of our perceptual experiences, is very often determined by very complex relations between ourselves, our dispositions and the environment. He concludes with the following thought (p. 419), 'Upshot: it is an open empirical possibility that our experience depends not only on what is represented in our brains, but on dynamic interactions between brain, body and environment. The substrate of experience may include the non-brain body and the world.' The problem with this is that the first sentence does not imply the second sentence. It is indeed the case that our experience depends not only on what is represented in our brains, 'but on dynamic interactions between brain, body and environment.' I take that as an obvious point. But the fact that the content of our experiences depends on these 'dynamic interactions' in no way implies anything about the substrate of experience. If the substrate of experience means what it is supposed to mean—namely, how the experience is realized—there is no way that qualitative conscious subjectivity could be realized, for example, in the table that I now see or the air that surrounds the table.

Remember, when you talk about conscious states, you are talking about actual empirical physical events that have spatial locations, temporal beginnings and ends, spatial dimensions as well as electro-chemical properties of various kinds. There just is not any question about that. And these are indeed the result of 'dynamic interaction', though of course that is not in conflict with the idea that the dynamic interactions are 'represented in the brain'. The mistake is to think that this would go any way towards showing that qualitative subjectivity, so to speak, floats around. It does not. It is located in human and animal brains. The first sentence contains an implicit opposition which is false. What is represented in our brains can well be dynamic interactions between brain, body, and environment. Specifically the dynamic interactions between the body and the environment produce effects on our nervous systems. Different neuronal structures in different neuronal architectures fire at different rates, for example. Such processes are sufficient to produce all forms of consciousness. What is the problem supposed to be?

The decisive argument against consciousness existing outside the brain is that like any other higher-level biological feature of the world, such as digestion, photosynthesis, or lactation, consciousness has to be in some biological system. It has to be realized, for example, in some system composed of cells. Perhaps we can create consciousness in non-organic systems, but the biological principle is an instance of a much more general principle which states that any higher-level features at all—such as the liquidity of water, the solidity of the table, and the elasticity of the steel bar—have to be realized in lower-level elements. If we think of consciousness as existing outside human and animal nervous systems as, so to speak, floating around in the air or in the structure of the table, then we have to suppose that the air molecules and the table molecules are realizing consciousness. The idea is not worth serious consideration."


(Searle, John R. Seeing Things As They Are: A Theory of Perception. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. pp. 50-1)
"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 14th, 2019, 3:07 pm

Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 2:45 pm
"A second view that I think equally implausible is that perceptual consciousness can exist outside the brain. One example is in the article by Alva Noe, 'Experience without the Head'. Noe gives several examples and arguments to attempt to show that the content, i.e. the intentional content of our perceptual experiences, is very often determined by very complex relations between ourselves, our dispositions and the environment. He concludes with the following thought (p. 419), 'Upshot: it is an open empirical possibility that our experience depends not only on what is represented in our brains, but on dynamic interactions between brain, body and environment. The substrate of experience may include the non-brain body and the world.' The problem with this is that the first sentence does not imply the second sentence. It is indeed the case that our experience depends not only on what is represented in our brains, 'but on dynamic interactions between brain, body and environment.' I take that as an obvious point. But the fact that the content of our experiences depends on these 'dynamic interactions' in no way implies anything about the substrate of experience. If the substrate of experience means what it is supposed to mean—namely, how the experience is realized—there is no way that qualitative conscious subjectivity could be realized, for example, in the table that I now see or the air that surrounds the table.…"
(Searle, John R. Seeing Things As They Are: A Theory of Perception. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. pp. 50-1)
Searle is absolutely right.

You might like this book:

* Jasanoff, Alan. The Biological Mind: How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are. New York: Basic Books, 2018.

An interview: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/201 ... -we-think/

"One of the underlying concepts in your book is what you call the “cerebral mystique.” Can you explain what it means and why this view of the brain is distorting our real natures?

This book is largely about two opposite ideas: the biological mind centered on the brain, in which influences from the rest of the body and outside the body shape what we think and do, and the cerebral mystique, a complex of stereotypes and ideals about the brain, which tend to treat it as an isolated and all-powerful entity, almost like a modern version of the soul.

You conclude the book with the words, “The brain is a biotic organ, embedded in a continuum of natural causes and connections that together contribute to our biological minds.” Bring it home for us, Alan; explain why it is so important to understand that we are not only our brains.

My overarching theme is against narrow thinking. If we want to solve our problems, we shouldn’t reduce them to problems of the brain. We need to keep a broad view, which recognizes how the brain is connected both to the body and to the environment; and look for solutions wherever they happen to lie. Explaining human behavior in terms of brain function alone stems from a kind of mystical view of the brain and keeps us from advancing in a way that science can encourage us."


Being an animalist, I fully agree that "we are not only our brains" but whole animal organisms; and I also fully agree that "influences from the rest of the body and outside the body shape what we think and do", and that "the brain is connected both to the body and to the environment". But, as Searle stresses, it doesn't follow that physiological or neurological processes in the organism-minus-brain participate directly in the generation of (the state of) consciousness. The brain is naturally integrated into an organism, but it is not the case that the whole organism is the organ of consciousness. The (whole and sole) organ (locus&creator) of consciousness is the brain. Qualia are part of the brain, and they occur nowhere else in the universe.
"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 14th, 2019, 3:48 pm

Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 2:45 pm
Greta wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 11:02 pm
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.
You're wrong, because there is ample scientific, particularly medical (brain injuries, brain diseases, psychiatric diseases), and especially anesthesiological (general anesthesia) evidence for the assumption that experiential events are caused by cerebral events.
Actually, I am not wrong and you have hoisted yourself on your own petard. I did mention the circularity of the this conversation ...

You just provided more examples of how correlation is mistaken for causation, and you have made the mistake many times here. Again, each instance you refer to is just switching and filtering.

Do you believe that the claustrum generates qualia because it switches it off? A brain no more creates qualia than a light switch creates electricity. If you want light or power, you need the switches, but they are not generators.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Consul » January 14th, 2019, 4:14 pm

Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 3:48 pm
Actually, I am not wrong and you have hoisted yourself on your own petard. I did mention the circularity of the this conversation ...
You just provided more examples of how correlation is mistaken for causation, and you have made the mistake many times here. Again, each instance you refer to is just switching and filtering. Do you believe that the claustrum generates qualia because it switches it off? A brain no more creates qualia than a light switch creates electricity. If you want light or power, you need the switches, but they are not generators.
What you need is a photon-generating light source that is switched on or off. The brain is the source of the light of consciousness, and nothing but brain processes are causally responsible for its being switched on or off. There is an evidential elephant for this being true, and there is not even an evidential mouse for its being false!

As for the anesthesiological evidence, the fact that anesthesiologists can switch consciousness off or on at will solely through the chemical manipulation of brain processes strongly confirms that there is a causal relation.

Generally, if the same manipulation of a variable X is always (without exception) followed by the same change of the variable Y, then this is strong evidence for X causing Y.

"A commonsensical idea about causation is that causal relationships are relationships that are potentially exploitable for purposes of manipulation and control: very roughly, if C is genuinely a cause of E, then if I can manipulate C in the right way, this should be a way of manipulating or changing E."

Causation and Manipulability: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-mani/

If you believe that qualia-containing experiential events are neither caused by brain events nor located in the brain, then what causes them and where are they?

"Anyone who denies that consciousness is in the brain should come up with an alternative interpretation of the evidence provided by the dreaming brain. Furthermore, he should come up with a clear answer to the question, If consciousness is not located in the brain, where then is it to be found?"

(Revonsuo, Antti. Inner Presence: Consciousness as a Biological Phenomenon. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. p. 98)
"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 Karpel Tunnel » January 14th, 2019, 4:55 pm

Consul wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 6:58 pm
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.
I disagree. We cannot measure consciousness, we measure functions, things like memory and behavior based on cognitive processes. We don’t know where consciousness is and is not. We do not know when it arose.
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.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/andreamorr ... akes-root/
http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/featur ... ave-brains
https://www.sciencealert.com/plants-sma ... conditions
https://www.theguardian.com/science/201 ... heir-roots
https://www.the-scientist.com/features/plant-talk-38209
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/09 ... ous-system
http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/featur ... ave-brains
https://qz.com/1294941/a-debate-over-pl ... uman-mind/
https://www.sciencealert.com/plants-sma ... conditions
https://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-a ... rous-help/
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/361/6407/1068
https://www.theguardian.com/notesandque ... 46,00.html

From my perspective, the bias is crazy. You see the world from the bias and axiom that conscousness is the radical exception. So it seems crazy to you. But it's just an axiom. In part there is a confusion of function with being an experiencer. There is no reason to conflate these.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Consul » January 14th, 2019, 5:56 pm

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 4:55 pm
Consul wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 6:58 pm
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.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/andreamorr ... akes-root/
"A Mind Without A Brain: The Science Of Plant Intelligence Takes Root"

Plant intelligence is one thing and plant experience is quite another!
"Some biologists argue that “neurobiology” has been too narrowly defined"

The term "plant neurobiology" is a misleading misnomer! There is such a thing as plant electrophysiology, but there's no plant neurology.
"Plants may lack brains, but they have a nervous system, of sorts."

The important part is "of sorts"! There are some analogies between neurological processes in animals and electrophysiological ones in plants, but they are much too weak to justify speaking (literally) of a "plant nervous system".

"A number of studies have shown that plants feel pain"

That's pseudoscientific rubbish!
"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 14th, 2019, 6:09 pm

"Plants have no defined nervous system." (p. 16)

"Plants do not possess a nervous system." (p. 77)

"A plant ‘brain’ is certainly a metaphor because Darwin recognized that plants have no nerves or nervous system, and he makes this very clear." (p. 155)

"Plants are obviously organisms that lack both a nervous system and a brain." (p. 201)

"Intelligent behaviour can be observed in organisms and cells that do not possess a nervous system." (p. 221)

(Trewavas, Anthony. Plant Behaviour and Intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.)

"A recent letter to Trends in Plant Science signed by 36 scientists criticized the newly named area of plant neurobiology. This letter stated that ‘Its proponents have suggested that higher plants have nerves, synapses, the equivalent of a brain localized somewhere in the roots, and an intelligence’ and that these provocative ideas had developed over the past three years. It concluded that plant neurobiology does not add to our understanding of plant physiology, plant cell biology or signaling. I know of no plant biologist who contradicts the centuries-old anatomical evidence that shows that plants do not have nerves or a brain. Plant neurobiology is a metaphor. The claim quoted above by Amedeo Alpi et al. is factually incorrect, which could lead an unbiased reader to question the accuracy of any statements in the letter. However, metaphors can have substantial value and these few examples given below, out of many, substantially illustrate the value of neurobiology metaphors to plant biology and signaling.

Darwin’s ‘brain’


It was in 1880, not 3 years ago, that Charles Darwin concluded that ‘. . .the tip of the root acts like the brain of one of the lower animals, the brain being seated within the anterior end of the body receiving impressions from the sense organs and directing the several movements’. Was Darwin’s brain metaphor correct? I believe so. In discussing bacterial chemotaxis, the brain biologist, John Allmann, states that ‘. . .strictly speaking bacteria do not have nervous systems. . .but some of the most fundamental features of brains, such as sensory integration, memory, decision making and the control of behaviour, can all be found in these simple organisms’. Darwin (…) had experimentally demonstrated that root growth was altered in response to signals (control of behavior); that signals such as gravity, light, moisture and touch signals could be sensed simultaneously (sensory integration), that growing roots could distinguish between these signals and judge which was the most crucial to respond to (decision making and memory). More recent confirmatory demonstrations of Darwin’s statements have been referenced.

Based on the known differentiation of function within complex brains, a few experimental questions can be posed about the root ‘brain’. Are internal signals from the shoot sensed in different cell groups from those sensing external signals? Sensory cells for gravity are well defined but are those for touch, light and moisture each sensed in separate cell groups? Are decisions about responses to any of the four signals found in different cell groups, and are these cells separate from the control of specific growth responses?

The value of metaphors resides in the experimental questions thrown up that may not be immediately obvious in their absence. Metaphors help stimulate the investigative imagination of good scientists."


(Trewavas, Anthony. "Response to Alpi et al.: Plant neurobiology – all metaphors have value." Trends in Plant Science 12/6 (2007): 231–233. p. 231)
"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 14th, 2019, 11:30 pm

Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 4:14 pm
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 3:48 pm
Actually, I am not wrong and you have hoisted yourself on your own petard. I did mention the circularity of the this conversation ...
You just provided more examples of how correlation is mistaken for causation, and you have made the mistake many times here. Again, each instance you refer to is just switching and filtering. Do you believe that the claustrum generates qualia because it switches it off? A brain no more creates qualia than a light switch creates electricity. If you want light or power, you need the switches, but they are not generators.
What you need is a photon-generating light source that is switched on or off. The brain is the source of the light of consciousness, and nothing but brain processes are causally responsible for its being switched on or off. There is an evidential elephant for this being true, and there is not even an evidential mouse for its being false!
Your elephant is a only a small plastic figurine. If the brain is the sole generator of consciousness then we can put aside the rest of the nervous system as a contributor, just a provider of inputs. Yet if we include the nervous system, do we include all of it, or just neurons? If we figure that glial cells and microtubules may also play a role then what of neuroendocrine cells like Chromaffin cells? Now we have the endocrine system included, and you can see where I'm heading.

The brain is obviously up to its ears (so to speak) in the phenomenon of consciousness but the handy divisions your "elephants" make are human creations designed to be practical. They do not properly describe the much more nuanced ontic situation, including subtle interactions that are probably essential to fine aspects of consciousness. I think of it in terms of fractals - the brain is the main player but surrounded by ever finer grained layers of influence from various body parts, especially the gut, lungs and heart.

This is why, as I said before, If we create an AI consciousness (even if using lab-grown wetware) based on the assumption that the brain does it all then I'd expect at best (if at all operational) unrefined and shallow consciousness compared with humans, like comparing the violin patch on a child's keyboard with a Stradivarius in the hands of a master.

Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 4:14 pm
As for the anesthesiological evidence, the fact that anesthesiologists can switch consciousness off or on at will solely through the chemical manipulation of brain processes strongly confirms that there is a causal relation.

Generally, if the same manipulation of a variable X is always (without exception) followed by the same change of the variable Y, then this is strong evidence for X causing Y.
That only tells us that the claustrum is a consciousness on/off switch (one can also switch consciousness on and off with a cricket bat and smelling salts.). Again, switches and filters are not generators, they are shapers of that which feeds into it. My light switch doesn't generate power either.

Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 4:14 pm
"A commonsensical idea about causation is that causal relationships are relationships that are potentially exploitable for purposes of manipulation and control: very roughly, if C is genuinely a cause of E, then if I can manipulate C in the right way, this should be a way of manipulating or changing E."
Changes in gut flora change people's emotions because they appear to change the brain structure (https://www.bbc.com/news/health-43815370). In terms of evolution, the gut is the brain's creator. It is the crux and the brain is the shaper of its products.

Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 4:14 pm
If you believe that qualia-containing experiential events are neither caused by brain events nor located in the brain, then what causes them and where are they?
As I said, I see phenomenal consciousness (qualia) as akin to water and functional consciousness (processing) as being the flows of the water down a river with a network of streams, their paths and shape conditioned by past flows. Everything bar basic composition that we learn about the river is found within its flow and paths, but without the water there are only potential paths.

Qualia is not your mind, it's basically the noise produced by your body in an environment that the mind shapes into what we think of as consciousness. It's not that the reality produced by a brain to protect an overall organism is not real, just that parts are exaggerated and other parts de-emphasised.

C. elegans has no mind, but it has a tiny brain and thus would have some small measure of consciousness of its environment. Then consider the larval sea quirt, moving in the water using its 177 neurons like a tadpole until it finds a safe place to cling to. From there, it absorbs its tiny brain and basically lives its life as a sessile water filter. This tells us that the neurons were used for movement with preferences based on simple parameters, basically a reflex (and then were no longer needed for the adult lifestyle). I would argue that mindless reflexes are in themselves quales, raw sensations that we shape into what we think of as consciousness.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Belindi » January 15th, 2019, 6:25 am

Greta wrote:
C. elegans has no mind, but it has a tiny brain and thus would have some small measure of consciousness of its environment. Then consider the larval sea quirt, moving in the water using its 177 neurons like a tadpole until it finds a safe place to cling to. From there, it absorbs its tiny brain and basically lives its life as a sessile water filter. This tells us that the neurons were used for movement with preferences based on simple parameters, basically a reflex (and then were no longer needed for the adult lifestyle). I would argue that mindless reflexes are in themselves quales, raw sensations that we shape into what we think of as consciousness.
Dreamers seldom are conscious of any 'I' during dreams which happen involuntarily. Sensations and moods in dreams are interpreted after the dreamer wakes up and experiences waking consciousness. I guess that tadpoles are dreamers that never wake up to experience 'I'. I suppose too that whether or not my guess is a fact can be ascertained by examining the neurochemical state or states of live tadpoles. The 'I' experience that humans get is located in a part of the human cerebral cortex. There are varieties of consciousness.

It's a fact that other animals besides humans are sentient and sentience includes awareness of emotions such as fear and pain. Sentience alone without any 'I' intelligence is enough to generate fellow feeling for all animals including those disabled humans whose 'I' intelligence may be diminished or gone
Whether or not qualia are allocated to sheer sentience, or to sentience plus 'I' intelligence too, is immaterial to the ethics of the dispute.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Greta » January 15th, 2019, 5:22 pm

Belindi wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 6:25 am
C. elegans has no mind, but it has a tiny brain and thus would have some small measure of consciousness of its environment. Then consider the larval sea quirt, moving in the water using its 177 neurons like a tadpole until it finds a safe place to cling to. From there, it absorbs its tiny brain and basically lives its life as a sessile water filter. This tells us that the neurons were used for movement with preferences based on simple parameters, basically a reflex (and then were no longer needed for the adult lifestyle). I would argue that mindless reflexes are in themselves quales, raw sensations that we shape into what we think of as consciousness.
Dreamers seldom are conscious of any 'I' during dreams which happen involuntarily. Sensations and moods in dreams are interpreted after the dreamer wakes up and experiences waking consciousness. I guess that tadpoles are dreamers that never wake up to experience 'I'. I suppose too that whether or not my guess is a fact can be ascertained by examining the neurochemical state or states of live tadpoles.
I like that! If I ever steal and re-use this, I will let you know :)

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Consul » January 15th, 2019, 8:01 pm

Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 11:30 pm
Your elephant is a only a small plastic figurine. If the brain is the sole generator of consciousness then we can put aside the rest of the nervous system as a contributor, just a provider of inputs. Yet if we include the nervous system, do we include all of it, or just neurons? If we figure that glial cells and microtubules may also play a role then what of neuroendocrine cells like Chromaffin cells? Now we have the endocrine system included, and you can see where I'm heading.
Of course, the general statement that conscious events/states (and the qualia they contain) are generated by and in the brain doesn't give us any detailed information about those special brain structures and processes which are the immediate or proximate causes of conscious events/states. This question cannot be answered a priori, because it's up to empirical neuroscience to identify, describe, and explain them.
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 11:30 pm
The brain is obviously up to its ears (so to speak) in the phenomenon of consciousness but the handy divisions your "elephants" make are human creations designed to be practical. They do not properly describe the much more nuanced ontic situation, including subtle interactions that are probably essential to fine aspects of consciousness. I think of it in terms of fractals - the brain is the main player but surrounded by ever finer grained layers of influence from various body parts, especially the gut, lungs and heart.
It is true that the brain is influenced by extracerebral factors, and this is also true of the contents of my consciousness; but it simply doesn't follow that extracerebral parts of the organism are co-manufacturers of qualia. Influencing the manufacturing of qualia is not the same as manufacturing qualia. The transformation of neural signals into subjective sensations or emotions takes place somewhere in the brain and nowhere else in the organism. There aren't any extracerebral qualia.
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 11:30 pm
That only tells us that the claustrum is a consciousness on/off switch (one can also switch consciousness on and off with a cricket bat and smelling salts.). Again, switches and filters are not generators, they are shapers of that which feeds into it. My light switch doesn't generate power either.
So you think the brain is in effect only an amplifier of consciousness, don't you? But, to ask the crucial question again, if that's true, where does the extracerebral production of qualia take place and what produces them? What is the qualia-producing organ of consciousness if not the brain?
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 11:30 pm
Consul wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 4:14 pm
If you believe that qualia-containing experiential events are neither caused by brain events nor located in the brain, then what causes them and where are they?
As I said, I see phenomenal consciousness (qualia) as akin to water and functional consciousness (processing) as being the flows of the water down a river with a network of streams, their paths and shape conditioned by past flows. Everything bar basic composition that we learn about the river is found within its flow and paths, but without the water there are only potential paths.
Qualia is not your mind, it's basically the noise produced by your body in an environment that the mind shapes into what we think of as consciousness. It's not that the reality produced by a brain to protect an overall organism is not real, just that parts are exaggerated and other parts de-emphasised.
There is an energy and information flow inside an organism, and also one between the organism and its environment. The informational input into the brain consists of physical or chemical signals, but none of them enter the brain ready-made as phenomenal qualities, i.e. as subjective sensations or emotions. The transformation of non-/pre-experiential signals into experiential qualities takes place only inside the brain.
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 11:30 pm
C. elegans has no mind, but it has a tiny brain and thus would have some small measure of consciousness of its environment. Then consider the larval sea quirt, moving in the water using its 177 neurons like a tadpole until it finds a safe place to cling to. From there, it absorbs its tiny brain and basically lives its life as a sessile water filter. This tells us that the neurons were used for movement with preferences based on simple parameters, basically a reflex (and then were no longer needed for the adult lifestyle). I would argue that mindless reflexes are in themselves quales, raw sensations that we shape into what we think of as consciousness.
You're confusing mere sensory signals with subjective sense-qualities, and mere neural information with subjective sensations or emotions.
Reflex behavior isn't the same as and doesn't even entail (phenomenal) consciousness.
"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 15th, 2019, 8:09 pm

Consul wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 8:01 pm
The transformation of neural signals into subjective sensations or emotions takes place somewhere in the brain and nowhere else in the organism. There aren't any extracerebral qualia.
Of course, the CNS cannot create qualia ex nihilo. The raw stuff it works with is a flow of electrochemical energy.
"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 15th, 2019, 10:52 pm

Consul wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 8:01 pm
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 11:30 pm
Your elephant is a only a small plastic figurine. If the brain is the sole generator of consciousness then we can put aside the rest of the nervous system as a contributor, just a provider of inputs. Yet if we include the nervous system, do we include all of it, or just neurons? If we figure that glial cells and microtubules may also play a role then what of neuroendocrine cells like Chromaffin cells? Now we have the endocrine system included, and you can see where I'm heading.
Of course, the general statement that conscious events/states (and the qualia they contain) are generated by and in the brain doesn't give us any detailed information about those special brain structures and processes which are the immediate or proximate causes of conscious events/states. This question cannot be answered a priori, because it's up to empirical neuroscience to identify, describe, and explain them.
Empirical neuroscience focuses largely on human consciousness, seldom never consciousness per se. That's where the funding dollars go. Neuroscience has nothing to say about qualia, and generally treats it as non-existent in much the same way as Skinner behaviouralists in psychology ignored the esoteric undercurrents for the sake of practicality, just recorded the cause and effects. So researchers no doubt will find brain structures causing all manner of events but not pertaining qualia as such. As things stand, it is generally framed as wakefulness or awareness, the practical side.

I can easily see the concept of qualia sliding from the public conversation as Dennettesque practicality is ever more seen as the only scientifically useful game in town. This echoes how Jung and the psychodynamic school of psychology fell out of favour as Skinner's behaviouralism became popular, until its superficiality and limits were considered further. Now it's not unusual qualia to be posited as a trivial side effect or perspective effect of processing.

Why would we treat that which is by far most important to us as if it's froth and bubble? It appears to stem from the notion that humans are inordinately self important and thus that we overstate the value of qualities associated with humans such as consciousness. So this great sense of being is thought to be largely an illusion, basically a hangover from overdoing the ego.

Yet, science must work for the many, and generally only works for the benefit of individuals if there is a utilitarian angle. Society as a whole clearly has no interest or stake in how its individuals feel within, only insofar as it impacts their functionality. So science necessarily provides much useful peripheral information about mental states but almost almost no answers at all pertaining to the nature of being and the self.

Trouble is, where do we find reliable information about the subjective? Buddhism does have a rich history of meditators recording their observations but I expect that parsing useful material from the vast amounts of guesswork and obvious superstition would not always be easy.

Consul wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 8:01 pm
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 11:30 pm
The brain is obviously up to its ears (so to speak) in the phenomenon of consciousness but the handy divisions your "elephants" make are human creations designed to be practical. They do not properly describe the much more nuanced ontic situation, including subtle interactions that are probably essential to fine aspects of consciousness. I think of it in terms of fractals - the brain is the main player but surrounded by ever finer grained layers of influence from various body parts, especially the gut, lungs and heart.
It is true that the brain is influenced by extracerebral factors, and this is also true of the contents of my consciousness; but it simply doesn't follow that extracerebral parts of the organism are co-manufacturers of qualia. Influencing the manufacturing of qualia is not the same as manufacturing qualia. The transformation of neural signals into subjective sensations or emotions takes place somewhere in the brain and nowhere else in the organism. There aren't any extracerebral qualia.
I do not think we have much difference in physical conception, rather in definitions and perspectives. The more I think about this, the more I think the brain, along with all other organs, is essentially an appendage of the gut. The brain and nervous system is the part of the metabolism that provides assistance and protection for the gut, while other organs filter, absorb, augment, support, circulate and perform conversions.

The brain is like the board of a company, but the gut owns it. I do concede that a hostile takeover appears to be in train which already has us thinking about this in reverse, treating brains as the central aspect of an organism. Brains have long minimised the importance of the gut, and this is reflected in the ultimate dream of digitising minds to be independent of vulnerable wetware bodies.

Consul wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 8:01 pm
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 11:30 pm
That only tells us that the claustrum is a consciousness on/off switch (one can also switch consciousness on and off with a cricket bat and smelling salts.). Again, switches and filters are not generators, they are shapers of that which feeds into it. My light switch doesn't generate power either.
So you think the brain is in effect only an amplifier of consciousness, don't you? But, to ask the crucial question again, if that's true, where does the extracerebral production of qualia take place and what produces them? What is the qualia-producing organ of consciousness if not the brain?
Yes, an amplifier but mostly a shaper. There would be no one organ that produces qualia just as no one organ produces life.

Consul wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 8:01 pm
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 11:30 pm
As I said, I see phenomenal consciousness (qualia) as akin to water and functional consciousness (processing) as being the flows of the water down a river with a network of streams, their paths and shape conditioned by past flows. Everything bar basic composition that we learn about the river is found within its flow and paths, but without the water there are only potential paths.

Qualia is not your mind, it's basically the noise produced by your body in an environment that the mind shapes into what we think of as consciousness. It's not that the reality produced by a brain to protect an overall organism is not real, just that parts are exaggerated and other parts de-emphasised.
There is an energy and information flow inside an organism, and also one between the organism and its environment. The informational input into the brain consists of physical or chemical signals, but none of them enter the brain ready-made as phenomenal qualities, i.e. as subjective sensations or emotions. The transformation of non-/pre-experiential signals into experiential qualities takes place only inside the brain.
The body translates information into the various chemical and electrical "dialects" of various body parts involved in passing along information.

Consul wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 8:01 pm
Greta wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 11:30 pm
C. elegans has no mind, but it has a tiny brain and thus would have some small measure of consciousness of its environment. Then consider the larval sea quirt, moving in the water using its 177 neurons like a tadpole until it finds a safe place to cling to. From there, it absorbs its tiny brain and basically lives its life as a sessile water filter. This tells us that the neurons were used for movement with preferences based on simple parameters, basically a reflex (and then were no longer needed for the adult lifestyle). I would argue that mindless reflexes are in themselves quales, raw sensations that we shape into what we think of as consciousness.
You're confusing mere sensory signals with subjective sense-qualities, and mere neural information with subjective sensations or emotions.
Reflex behavior isn't the same as and doesn't even entail (phenomenal) consciousness.
So you keep saying. However, our overarching consciousness did not come from nowhere. No, this kind of complex brainpower evolved from simpler kinds, and simpler ones before that, and so on.

The way I see it, the basic unit of consciousness is the reflex. Using the water analogy, reflexes are pools and consciousness are rivers, which could be thought of as a complex series of pools and, when there's enough of them then larger, riverlike dynamics come into play.

Emotions, for example, are huge evolved suites of reflexes that work in concert when a sufficiently-brained organism is presented with stimuli. They are, in essence, naturally selected subroutines, called under certain circumstances. Basic emotions like fear (fight or flight/startle) and pleasure/satiation are very common in nature, generally pertaining to equilibrium. More complex emotions will, of course, pertain to social living.

Emotions are just very complex reflex responses that intelligent machines, with their much faster processing speeds, will not need. A human faced with an attacker will go through all useful reflex responses - adrenaline, life in breathing, heart rate and blood pressure to force feed organs and muscles for quick response, plus tendency to fight or flee. In much less than the time needed for human bodies to prepare for such a problem, an intelligent machine would simply calculate the optimal moment and mode of attack or defence needed and execute it.

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Re: Qualia as a function of being alive

Post by Consul » January 16th, 2019, 11:51 am

Greta wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 10:52 pm
Empirical neuroscience focuses largely on human consciousness, seldom never consciousness per se.
What's the difference between consciousness and consciousness per se?

Neuroscience is interested in nonhuman animal consciousness as well, but the big problem is that nonhuman animals cannot make introspective reports about their consciousness.
Greta wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 10:52 pm
Neuroscience has nothing to say about qualia, and generally treats it as non-existent in much the same way as Skinner behaviouralists in psychology ignored the esoteric undercurrents for the sake of practicality, just recorded the cause and effects. So researchers no doubt will find brain structures causing all manner of events but not pertaining qualia as such. As things stand, it is generally framed as wakefulness or awareness, the practical side.
It is true that consciousness had been neglected by neuroscience and cognitive science (now unified as cognitive neuroscience) for a long time (due to the dominance of functionalism in the philosophy of mind), but this is no longer the case. Neuroscience is no longer only a science of cognition, intelligence, and behavior but also of consciousness; and as a science of consciousness it is a science of qualia, since "the problem of consciousness is identical with the problem of qualia, because conscious states are qualitative states right down to the ground. Take away the qualia and there is nothing there." (John Searle, Consciousness and Language, 2002. p. 26)

THE NEUROSCIENCE OF CONSCIOUSNESS: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cons ... roscience/
Greta wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 10:52 pm
Trouble is, where do we find reliable information about the subjective? Buddhism does have a rich history of meditators recording their observations but I expect that parsing useful material from the vast amounts of guesswork and obvious superstition would not always be easy.
Of course, a science of consciousness needs both third-person data and first-person (introspective, phenomenological) data. The epistemic reliability of introspection and introspective reports is a central issue.
Greta wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 10:52 pm
The brain is like the board of a company, but the gut owns it. I do concede that a hostile takeover appears to be in train which already has us thinking about this in reverse, treating brains as the central aspect of an organism. Brains have long minimised the importance of the gut, and this is reflected in the ultimate dream of digitising minds to be independent of vulnerable wetware bodies.
The nervous system is larger than the central nervous system, also including the enteric nervous system. There is a "gut-brain axis", but the enteric nervous system is certainly not an organ of consciousness.
Greta wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 10:52 pm
Consul wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 8:01 pm
So you think the brain is in effect only an amplifier of consciousness, don't you? But, to ask the crucial question again, if that's true, where does the extracerebral production of qualia take place and what produces them? What is the qualia-producing organ of consciousness if not the brain?
Yes, an amplifier but mostly a shaper. There would be no one organ that produces qualia just as no one organ produces life.
But there is one organ which produces qualia, viz. the brain. There can no longer be any reasonable scientific doubt that subjective experiences or appearances are realized by and in the brain, and by nothing else and nowhere else in the universe.

The cerebral transformation of objective neural signals into subjective "impressions and ideas" is unlike a mere shaping of a lump of clay by a potter.
Greta wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 10:52 pm
Consul wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 8:01 pm
You're confusing mere sensory signals with subjective sense-qualities, and mere neural information with subjective sensations or emotions.
Reflex behavior isn't the same as and doesn't even entail (phenomenal) consciousness.
So you keep saying. However, our overarching consciousness did not come from nowhere. No, this kind of complex brainpower evolved from simpler kinds, and simpler ones before that, and so on.
Of course, there is an evolutionary prehistory of consciousness which is associated with the evolutionary development of nervous systems, which finally resulted in the development of central nervous systems (brains).

Of course, the psychological/phenomenological sentience of organisms is evolutionarily preceded by their electro- and then neurophysiological sensitivity (reactivity); but there is an essential difference: The former is constituted by ontologically subjective phenomena (sense-qualia), whereas the latter is constituted by ontologically objective phenomena. For there is nothing it is like for an organism to have nothing more than electro-/neurophysiological sensitivity.
Greta wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 10:52 pm
The way I see it, the basic unit of consciousness is the reflex. Using the water analogy, reflexes are pools and consciousness are rivers, which could be thought of as a complex series of pools and, when there's enough of them then larger, riverlike dynamics come into play.

Emotions, for example, are huge evolved suites of reflexes that work in concert when a sufficiently-brained organism is presented with stimuli. They are, in essence, naturally selected subroutines, called under certain circumstances. Basic emotions like fear (fight or flight/startle) and pleasure/satiation are very common in nature, generally pertaining to equilibrium. More complex emotions will, of course, pertain to social living.

Emotions are just very complex reflex responses that intelligent machines, with their much faster processing speeds, will not need. A human faced with an attacker will go through all useful reflex responses - adrenaline, life in breathing, heart rate and blood pressure to force feed organs and muscles for quick response, plus tendency to fight or flee. In much less than the time needed for human bodies to prepare for such a problem, an intelligent machine would simply calculate the optimal moment and mode of attack or defence needed and execute it.
Reflexes have nothing to do with (phenomenal) consciousness as long as they don't involve any subjective experiences. No matter how complex and sophisticated its reactive behavior is, an organism is nothing but a zombie agent as long as it doesn't subjectively feel or sense anything.

"The irreducible minimum involved in mentality would seem to be the fact which we express by the phrase 'feeling somehow'[.]"

(Broad, C. D. The Mind and its Place in Nature. 1925. Reprint, Abingdon: Routledge, 2000. p. 634)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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