macaque and rakeDo we care whether the mind is extended? The latest issue of the JCS features papers on various aspects of extended and embodied consciousness.

In some respects I think the position is indicated well in a paper by Michael Wheeler, which tackles the question of whether phenomenal experience is realised, at least in part, outside the brain. One reason I think this attempt is representative is its huge ambition. The general thesis of extension is that it makes sense to regard tools and other bodily extensions – the iPad in my hand now, but also simple notepads, and even sticks – as genuine participating contributors to mental events. This is sort of appealing if we’re talking about things like memory, or calculation, because recording data and doing sums are the kind of thing the iPad does. Even for sensory experience it’s not hard to see how the camera and Skype might reasonably be seen as extended parts of my perceptual apparatus. But phenomenal experience, the actual business of how something feels? Wheeler notes a strong intuition that this, at least, must be internal (here read as ‘neural’), and this surely comes from the feeling that while the activity of a stick or pad looks like the sort of thing that might be relevant to “easy problem” cognition, it’s hard to see what it could contribute to inner experience. Granted, as Wheeler says, we don’t really have any clear idea what the brain is contributing either, so the intuition isn’t necessarily reliable. Nevertheless it seems clear that tackling phenomenal consciousness is particularly ambitious, and well calculated to put the overall idea of extension under stress.

Wheeler actually examines two arguments, both based on experiments. The first, from Noë, relies on sensory substitution. Blind people fitted with apparatus that delivers optical data in tactile form begin to have what seems like visual experience (How do we know they really do? Plenty of scope for argument, but we’ll let that pass.) The argument is that the external apparatus has therefore transformed their phenomenal experience.

Now of course it’s uncontroversial that changing what’s around you changed the content of your experience, and changing the content changes your phenomenal experience. The claim here is that the whole modality has been transformed, and without a parallel transformation in the brain. It’s the last point that seems particularly vulnerable. Apparently the subjects adapt quickly to the new kit, too quickly for substantial ‘neural rewiring’, but what’s substantial in this context? There are always going to be some neural changes during any experience, and who’s to say that those weren’t the crucial ones?

The second argument is due to Kiverstein and Farina, who report that when macaques are trained to use rakes to retrieve food, the rakes are incorporated into their body image (as reflected in neural activity). This is easy enough to identify with – if you use a stick to probe the ground, you quickly start to experience the ‘feel’ of the ground as being at the end of the stick, not in your hand. Does it prove that your phenomenal experience is situated partly in the stick? Only in a sense that isn’t really the one required – we already felt it as being in the hand. We never experience tactile sensation as being in the brain: the anti-extension argument is merely that the brain is uniquely the substrate where it the feeling is generated.

Wheeler, rather anti-climatically but I think correctly, thinks neither argument is successful; and that’s another respect in which I think his paper represents the state of the extended mind thesis; both ambitious and unproven.
Worse than that, though, it illustrates the point which kills things for me; I don’t really care one way or the other. Shall we call these non-neural processes mental? What if we do? Will we thereby get a new insight into how mental processes work? Not really, so why worry? The thesis that experience is external in a deeper sense, external to my mind, is strange and mind-boggling; the thesis that it’s external in the flatly literal sense of having some of its works outside the brain is just not that philosophically interesting.

OK, it’s true that what we know about the brain doesn’t seem to explicate phenomenal experience either, and perhaps doesn’t even look like the kind of thing that in principle might do so. But if there are ever going to be physical clues, that’s kind of where you’d bet on them being.

Is phenomenal experience extended? Well, I reckon phenomenal experience is tied to the non-phenomenal variety. Red qualia come with the objective perception of red. So if we accept the extended mind for the latter, we should probably accept it for the former. But please yourself; in the absence of any additional illumination, who cares where it is?

69 Comments

  1. 1. Scott Bakker says:

    Great piece–as always you do great job mapping out the perplexities, Peter. I think this debate provides a wonderful example of a theoretical ‘crash space,’ a place where our neglect of ecological boundaries dupes us into applying heuristics out of school.

    Think about the topic: ‘Where is x located (where x = ‘experience’)?’ Now, when x = ‘my car,’ say, or the ‘Battle of Waterloo,’ we actually have recourse to tremendous amounts of information to answer this question. But suddenly, when x = ‘experience’ that information, quite mysteriously, dries up, and the answer enters the realm of perpetual underdetermination.

    Since underdetermination is clearly the problem (not one, as these authors presume, of finding the magic argument), it serves to get clear on this first–pretty clearly I think. Now note that in everyday discourse the location of *this or that* experience isn’t problematic at all. Where did your experience of dizziness occur? On the seventh flight of stairs. In other words, the problem has to do when we ask the question ‘Where is experience *in general* located,’ which is to say, when we ask experience to answer a theoretical question.

    Which leaves us with the question: Why is it that locating experience is relatively unproblematic in practical contexts, then becomes maddeningly difficult as soon as we pose the question theoretically?

    The easy answer is that ‘experience’ doesn’t provide us with the information required to solve the question of where it is located in general.

    Why might this be the case? Well, a pretty plausible answer is that our ancestors never required such information to solve the kinds of problems confronting them. All our ancestors required, in other words, was a *heuristic comportment* to their ‘experiences,’ enough information to discharge certain practical tasks (largely communicative, I suspect) and little more.

    Add metacognitive neglect to this picture, and it becomes easy to see why philosophers are so prone to think there has to be an answer to this question, and to begin pounding on their conundrums.

    Of course this answer isn’t satisfying, but then that’s the point. Once we understand the fractionate, modularity of our cognitive capacities, we can begin to understand the limits on the kinds of questions our myriad inklings can and cannot answer. The fact is, the problem of where experience is located is the very kind of problem we should expect beings like us will suffer, once they begin asking of themselves the same questions they ask of nature. We’re like blind car mechanics in a weaver’s shop, dumbfounded that the tools that work so well over there just can’t seem to get anything done here.

  2. 2. Jochen says:

    The thing I can’t really get my head around in extended mind arguments is that those things supposed to extend our mind are themselves part of it, ultimately—the calculator we have in our hand is, actually, a representation of whatever our senses tell us, it’s a mental object, not a physical one, because there aren’t any calculators in our thoughts (that would seem like a category error). So we suppose that this mental object underwrites the very cognition that contains it, which seems at least strange, if not flatly contradictory.

    By analogy, suppose that, through some operation, your brain is removed from your skull, and laid before you on the table, so that you can see it (with eyes remaining lodged in your skull). (Or, if that’s too much to ask, suppose your skull is opened, and the image of your brain transferred by CCTV to a monitor in front of you.) Then, there would be a mental image of your brain—but that is not the brain that you use to do the thinking with; it would not itself contain a mental image of itself within itself, i.e. your mental image of your brain would not contain any mental image of its own, since it is, after all, just a mental image.

    So it’s somewhat strange to say things like, ‘that calculator is part of producing my extended mind’: no, *that* calculator, the one you’re talking about, the one this sentence refers to, is a mental image; but then, what exactly is the content of the extended mind hypothesis?

    Talking meaningfully about extended minds first and foremost necessitates a way to leap out of the ‘Cartesian prison’, as I think Peter Strasser calls it—who then posits that mind must always be ‘already outside’, i.e. in some contact with things beyond mere mental representations. But absent such (unclear, to me) moves, I think that there’s a knot to untangle at the basis of the extended mind.

  3. 3. Tom Clark says:

    The clearest refutation of the extended mind hypothesis (EMH) is dreaming. We can have full fledged experience in the absence of any sensory contact with the outside world, so the brain is the sufficient basis for experience. In Out of Our Heads, Noe says dreaming is only weak evidence against EMH but never actually rebuts it that I’ve seen.

    “..what we know about the brain doesn’t seem to explicate phenomenal experience either, and perhaps doesn’t even look like the kind of thing that *in principle* might do so.” [my emphasis]

    Well, we’re not completely in the dark (so to speak!) since – following Metzinger – complex behavior-guiding representational systems like brains, when modeling the world and the organism, will perforce have some basic, non-decomposable and cognitively impenetrable elements which can’t be directly represented *as* representations, which is perhaps what makes them qualitative/phenomenal and private/subjective. IOW, there are perhaps *principles* of representation that end up necessitating qualia for a sufficiently complex and recursive representational system.

  4. 4. VicP says:

    I like this video, and his notions of value, touch and “expanding the substrate”. In a rather Heidegerrian sense the rake would have no value (like the coin) if it were broken; because it’s real notion is to touch the ground.

    His notion to “expand the substrate” may touch on BBT, because that may be the very heuristic which the brain does, that he talks ABOUT and EXPANDS ON for the end of his interview.

    https://youtu.be/1aPeWc7Um1A

  5. 5. Cognicious says:

    Scott Bakker: “Now note that in everyday discourse the location of *this or that* experience isn’t problematic at all. Where did your experience of dizziness occur? On the seventh flight of stairs. In other words, the problem has to do when we ask the question ‘Where is experience *in general* located,’ which is to say, when we ask experience to answer a theoretical question.

    Which leaves us with the question: Why is it that locating experience is relatively unproblematic in practical contexts, then becomes maddeningly difficult as soon as we pose the question theoretically?”

    Well, those are two different kinds of questions. Your experience of dizziness occurred wherever you were (wherever your body was) when you felt dizzy. That question amounts to “Where were you when . . . ?” The answer is easy and straightforward. If the theoretical question “Where is experience in general located?” had the same meaning as the question about a dizzy episode, it could be answered with “Each experience is located in the surroundings of the person who has it.” But that’s not what it means.

    Experience in general isn’t in the category of things that have a location. Experiences are events, not objects like New York City or someone’s missing keys. You might as well ask where Thursday is located, or where the visible spectrum is located.

  6. 6. Arnold Trehub says:

    Cognicious,

    Depends on how you ask the question. If I am asked “Where do you feel your dizziness”, I always answer “In my head”.

  7. 7. Scott Bakker says:

    Cognicious: “Experience in general isn’t in the category of things that have a location. Experiences are events, not objects like New York City or someone’s missing keys. You might as well ask where Thursday is located, or where the visible spectrum is located.”

    ‘Category mistake’ is indeed a popular way to dissolve the problem, as are ‘language games,’ but the problem with these approaches is that can’t tell us what ‘category mistakes’ or ‘language games’ are, let alone why we’re so prone to run afoul them. They capture important angles of the problem, without being able to explain anything.

    Blind brain theory does, and in an empirically refutable way. Category mistakes and language games simply give us more philosophy.

  8. 8. Cognicious says:

    Arnold Trehub: “Depends on how you ask the question. If I am asked “Where do you feel your dizziness”, I always answer “In my head”.”

    Yes, of course. But that way of asking the question produces a different question, one that seeks different information, from the question that’s answered by “On the seventh flight of stairs.”

    Scott Bakker: “‘Category mistake’ is indeed a popular way to dissolve the problem, as are ‘language games,’ but the problem with these approaches is that can’t tell us what ‘category mistakes’ or ‘language games’ are, let alone why we’re so prone to run afoul them.'”

    Doesn’t everyone here already know what a category mistake is? I shouldn’t think the term needed defining, nor did I use it. Experiences aren’t the kind of thing that has a location, that’s all. I also didn’t think my comments in #5 dissolved the problem. The problem is still there.

    What I was getting at is this: You asked (rhetorically) why the theoretical question “Where is experience in general located?” is “maddeningly difficult” whereas identifying the location of an experience in everyday discourse isn’t problematic. However, you picked an example for everyday discourse that isn’t parallel to the theoretical question: the question about dizziness doesn’t ask where *in the person* a particular experience was located. It consequently isn’t odd or surprising that the two questions, the practical one and the theoretical one, differ in difficulty. Your particular practical question has an easy answer, “On the stairs,” and the theoretical question has no answer at all.

    A parallel question from everyday discourse might be “Where did your insight about Elizabethan literature occur?” In other words, the questioner would apply the theoretical question to one unique experience at a time. But people don’t ask questions like that in everyday discourse.

  9. 9. Tom Clark says:

    Cognicious: “Experiences aren’t the kind of thing that has a location, that’s all.”

    As opposed to, say, their neural correlates, which are locatable.

    This suggests to me that any kind of identity thesis has to be wrong. But I’d be interested to get your thoughts on what sort of things experiences are, if they aren’t physical, locatable goings-on.

  10. 10. Cognicious says:

    Tom Clark: “Cognicious: “Experiences aren’t the kind of thing that has a location, that’s all.”

    As opposed to, say, their neural correlates, which are locatable.”

    Yes. This just restates the hard problem.

    I use the word “experience” to mean any conscious phenomenon, such as thoughts, sensations, and emotions, from the point of view of the conscious person or animal. Those correlates, the physical, locatable goings-on, aren’t the experiences.

    Why does any identity thesis have to be wrong, and would an identity thesis be right if experiences had locations and nothing else changed?

  11. 11. Arnold Trehub says:

    Cognitious,

    If we want to locate experience, don’t we have to specify whether it is an exteroceptive or interoceptive experience? In other words, “experience in general” refers to all possible locations.

  12. 12. Cognicious says:

    Arnold, I don’t want to locate experience except to say that the nervous system of the experiencing organism produces it. For example, when you see an external object, the object itself has a location in space, but your experience of seeing is intangible.

  13. 13. Arnold Trehub says:

    Cognitious: “For example, when you see an external object, the object itself has a location in space, but your experience of seeing is intangible.”

    Do you claim that your conscious experience of an object has no physical existence?

  14. 14. Cognicious says:

    Arnold Trehub: “Do you claim that your conscious experience of an object has no physical existence?”

    Yes. My experience isn’t a material object.

  15. 15. Scott Bakker says:

    Cognicious: “Doesn’t everyone here already know what a category mistake is? I shouldn’t think the term needed defining, nor did I use it. Experiences aren’t the kind of thing that has a location, that’s all. I also didn’t think my comments in #5 dissolved the problem. The problem is still there.”

    I’m sure everyone knows some *definition* of ‘category mistake,’ but short some natural explanation of ‘category mistake,’ all you’ve managed to provide is more philosophy, have you not? Few things are more treacherous than conceptual definition!

    People always seem to forget that *philosophical underdetermination* is the problem here. We all buy into our different philosophies and so buy into the interpretations falling out of them. But all this does is impress those who already agree with us and our definitions. For someone like me, who once thought ‘category mistake’ was clear and distinct but now thinks it occult and benighted, such appeals fall on deaf ears.

    Put differently, the problem is one of naturalizing the issues, finding some way *out* of philosophical crash space.

  16. 16. VicP says:

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  17. 17. Cognicious says:

    Scott Bakker: “I’m sure everyone knows some *definition* of ‘category mistake,’ but short some natural explanation of ‘category mistake,’ all you’ve managed to provide is more philosophy, have you not? . . .

    People always seem to forget that *philosophical underdetermination* is the problem here. We all buy into our different philosophies and so buy into the interpretations falling out of them.”

    Questions about the “location” of experience(s) fall within the field of philosophy, don’t they, as well as the fields of psychology and neuroscience? Of course we all buy into our world views, at least, but I would hope for a discussion interactive enough to advance beyond a roomful of people all cheering for their respective home teams and refusing to consider the points that others make.

    In Posts #5 and 8, I didn’t mean to provide any philosophy, not that doing so would have been a bad thing.

  18. 18. VicP says:

    iThink what cuts to the heart of this argument is Peter’s discussion (and Alva Noe’s) that the brain has some “mysterious” way of representing outsideness or embedding us in the environment. I’m a fan of BBT because Scott captures the right metaphor, because the outer layer of the brain and its microcolumnar architecture actually resembles an eye so the objects in the outside world are “seen” as internal representations but felt outside the body. Experiences as opposed to physical objects are considered a special class, but are in fact just neural activity in other parts of the CNS.

    Apple names the iPad display; the Retinal Display.

  19. 19. Cognicious says:

    VicP: “I’m a fan of BBT because Scott captures the right metaphor . . .”

    Are you talking about Scott Bakker the discussant on this forum? If he made up BBT, that explains some things!

    “Experiences as opposed to physical objects are considered a special class, but are in fact just neural activity in other parts of the CNS.”

    In ordinary discourse, “experience” is–reaching for a description here–the subjective aspect of a mental event, or what happens from the first-person view. It’s what the neural activity is a correlate *of*.

    No wonder we aren’t communicating.

  20. 20. Arnold Trehub says:

    Arnold Trehub: “Do you claim that your conscious experience of an object has no physical existence?”

    Cognicious: “Yes. My experience isn’t a material object.”

    Do you consider an electromagnetic field to be a physical object?

    It is certainly a physical event and, as such, has physical existence and casual properties. Do you deny that your conscious experience might, like EM, be a physical event that is not a physical object?

  21. 21. Scott Bakker says:

    Cognicious: “Questions about the “location” of experience(s) fall within the field of philosophy, don’t they, as well as the fields of psychology and neuroscience? Of course we all buy into our world views, at least, but I would hope for a discussion interactive enough to advance beyond a roomful of people all cheering for their respective home teams and refusing to consider the points that others make.”

    And this requires moving beyond philosophy (on this set of unbelieveably tired issues certainly!), and figuring out what’s really going on. My question is simply what configuration of human cognition could explain why we find such questions so devilishly difficult to answer (or to abandon). ‘Category mistake’ belongs to the explananda on this view.

    Since helping cognitive science find its way past these debates is the point, asking how a proposed solution breaks out of the circle of philosophy strikes me as an important question, perhaps the question. We want a way out, not another black box to sit in!

  22. 22. VicP says:

    Cognicious: I appreciate your spirit of inquiry and wish we had a live forum for this.

    My comment is centered on the judgment that our ancestors evolved with an architecture that looks outward. I for one always accepted the common view that if it appeared on the retina, let alone the V1, then it was ‘out there’. Of course study of the brain and visual system show that the aboutness architecture is designed into nature as a feeling. Inner neural feelings of dizzyness, abdominal pain etc. Fall under the activity of introspection which I believe Scott was getting at.

    Jerry Fodor has also commented that the multiple retinal architecture is a common paradigm in the more advanced species. The dorsal stream is primitive and unconscious, also evolved for movement as opposed to the ventral which communicates with the amygdala and emotional drives. You can theorize that much of the folk language, introspective thought and philosophical confusions (category errors?) may reflect this multi path architecture.

  23. 23. Cognicious says:

    Arnold Trehub: “Do you consider an electromagnetic field to be a physical object?”

    It’s something physical. I’m not sure “object” is an appropriate term for it. A physicist would have a more informed opinion.

    “Do you deny that your conscious experience might, like EM, be a physical event that is not a physical object?”

    “Do you deny” brings along connotations like this: we’re in court, and I’m ducking some obvious and incriminating truth. A fair statement of what I’ve tried to convey is that the word “experience” means *phenomenal* experience.

    Example: A stream of photons from a star in the night sky hits your retina. Impulses go up the optic nerve. Your brain processes this coded information. As a result, you see a spot of light. Only your sensation of the light is an experience. There’s nothing experiential about the elements in the physical mechanism for seeing: the photons, the impulses, or the brain activity. That is, you aren’t aware of them. Only what is experienced can properly be called an experience. It isn’t given to us in nature to sense what goes on at our synapses, any more than we sense the actions in our livers when they break down chemicals. Such sensing would have been an evolutionary waste. Brains and livers do their jobs without conscious monitoring. Good grief, that isn’t controversial, is it?

    Second example: Heat results from movement of molecules, but the experience of feeling too warm doesn’t give a clue to this physical basis for a high temperature. The movement of molecules isn’t part of your experience. You just feel too warm.

    Mixing the experiential and the (physical) nonexperiential together can only lead to a blur in talking about consciousness.

    Scott Bakker: “My question is simply what configuration of human cognition could explain why we find such questions so devilishly difficult to answer (or to abandon).”

    I offered an explanation in Post #5. I’m sorry if you dismiss it as a move in “philosophy,” a discipline that evidently earns your disapproval. Could we call it just “thinking”?

    VicP: “Cognicious: I appreciate your spirit of inquiry and wish we had a live forum for this.”

    Thank you.

  24. 24. Anonymous Programmer says:

    If you don’t believe in libertarian free will — consciousness is nowhere because its probability of affecting anything is 0 everywhere.

    If you looked for the conscious force (libertarian free will) in the brain seriously you just might find evidence for it and change science forever.

    Imagine if the consciousness force (libertarian free will) were the 5th force of nature to go with the other four (gravity, electromagnetic, weak and strong force). You know like in the movie “The fifth element” :).

    If you understood the science of conscious identity you could move your soul to a carefully designed engineered body that would be a lot more durable than the human body — especially in space.

  25. 25. Scott Bakker says:

    Cognicious: “I offered an explanation in Post #5. I’m sorry if you dismiss it as a move in “philosophy,” a discipline that evidently earns your disapproval. Could we call it just “thinking”?”

    So you don’t want to solve the problem? I’m confused. I thought it was a given that solving the hurdles confronting cognitive science entails moving beyond philosophy. Otherwise, if you think these problems possess something ‘irreducibly philosophical,’ then you think these problems can never be resolved, and your position amounts to mysterianism FAPP. Does it not?

  26. 26. Sci says:

    Anonymous Programmer: I’m not sure how free will and consciousness have to be linked? Consciousness is simply the subjective feeling of the first person perspective.

    You seem to be saying something that is epiphenomenal doesn’t exist. I’m not sure that’s necessarily true, though I’d agree compatibilism is rather hollow while also saying determinism is, at least from what science is shown so far, false at the lowest levels of reality.

    I think it would take a lot of scientific discoveries for academia to be convinced of souls, better to start with examining whether the lowest levels of acausal, potentially anti-realist & atemproal lowest level of reality could have a role in the mind. If quantum biology bears fruit in explaining a variety of biological phenomenon (See Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology) there might be some possibility of mental content also requiring an explanation via some kind of quantum level behavior of matter. As the authors of that work ask, if quantum biology explains a great deal of the body why would the mind be wholly classical? Of course that’s so far a big “if”.

    Besides the previously mentioned Orch-OR one of the best bets, from what I understand reading the Mind chapter in Life on the Edge, is the idea that there are quantum level interactions in neuronal ion channels (G. Bernroider and J. Summhammer, “Can quantum entanglement between ion transition states effect action potential initiation?,” Cognitive Computation, vol. 4 (2012), pp. 29–37).

    These in turn would be coinciding by a potential EM field generated by the brain offering a kind of feed back loop (McFadden, “The CEMI field theory closing the loop.”)

    I don’t know if any of this necessarily resolves into the kind of free will you are looking for, and don’t believe you can call the EM field a “soul”, though I recall a paper by the physicist Ulrich Morhroff called “The Physics of Interactionism” suggesting the EM field was a better place to try and fit free will rather than quantum indterminism. (He has a now defunct but still available online journal about immaterialism called Antimatters, which is hit or miss though did have the excellent The Empirical Case Against Materialism by Andrew Clifton which IMO is the best case made by an immaterialist as it avoids Zombies & Colorless Rooms.)

    As for transferring bodies, I think this kind of thing would only be possible if there isn’t a need for a soul. Are you talking about the mind uploading from transhumanist fiction? I suspect that’s based on a fantasy bolstered by those computationalists who incorrectly think a conscious entity is just software. In fact it seems to me having an EM field as the solution to the binding problem would make uploading more difficult though arguably still possible?

    One final point is whether there is an EM field, as the physicist N. David Mermin argues it’s a nonexistent, a reification useful for calculation but not actual real. Think I should be okay with one link, as this one is hard to find:

    http://www.ehu.eus/aitor/irakas/mes/Reference/mermin.pdf

    So that would the closest I could see toward science getting to something akin to a “soul” by way of biology. The only other thing I can think of is if some of the predictions for quantum mechanics made by philosopher Marcus Arvan would turn out to be correct.

  27. 27. Arnold Trehub says:

    Cognicious: “A fair statement of what I’ve tried to convey is that the word “experience” means *phenomenal* experience.”

    I look at it differently. For example, sensations are brain events that are pre-conscious or non-conscious experiences. In my theoretical model of consciousness, sensory experiences/representations become conscious perceptions *if and only if* they are experienced as *something somewhere* in one’s egocentric space where they become a part of one’s subjective experience. For more about this see “Space, self, and the theater of consciousness” on my Research Gate page.

  28. 28. Diagoras says:

    I have not posted here before, but if I may…

    Cognicious: “A stream of photons from a star in the night sky hits your retina. Impulses go up the optic nerve. Your brain processes this coded information. As a result, you see a spot of light. Only your sensation of the light is an experience. There’s nothing experiential about the elements in the physical mechanism for seeing: the photons, the impulses, or the brain activity.”

    Could it be that ‘the brain activity’ and ‘the experience’ are one and the same event, merely considered from two different perspectives (i.e., roughly speaking, the ‘outer’/’third-person’ and the ‘inner’/’first-person’ perspectives, respectively)?

  29. 29. Cognicious says:

    Scott Bakker: “”Cognicious: “I offered an explanation in Post #5. I’m sorry if you dismiss it as a move in “philosophy,” a discipline that evidently earns your disapproval. Could we call it just “thinking”?”

    So you don’t want to solve the problem? I’m confused. I thought it was a given that solving the hurdles confronting cognitive science entails moving beyond philosophy.”

    It appears that our sets of givens don’t match. I understand the unresolved issues about consciousness as an arena where psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy meet. If you deem consciousness an unsuitable subject for philosophy, what are you going to do with Descartes? Oh, I know, throw him out the window, but that’s not what I meant.

    The problem that you described in #1, “Why is it that locating experience is relatively unproblematic in practical contexts, then becomes maddeningly difficult as soon as we pose the question theoretically?,” I don’t regard as an obstacle to further inquiry. My answer was that the maddening difficulty with the theoretical case is due to *experience in general* having no location, so that the difference in difficulty between locating experience in the two situations isn’t remarkable. We are asking about the “location” of experience in two quite different senses. You haven’t said what’s wrong with that answer, except to put down the concept of category mistakes generally.

    Arnold Trehub: “I look at it differently. For example, sensations are brain events that are pre-conscious or non-conscious experiences.”

    If you define experience that way, then phrases like “the neural correlates of a sensation” make no sense, because you’ve wrapped up the sensation as experienced and its neural correlates in one package.

  30. 30. Cognicious says:

    Diagoras,just now: “Could it be that ‘the brain activity’ and ‘the experience’ are one and the same event, merely considered from two different perspectives (i.e., roughly speaking, the ‘outer’/’third-person’ and the ‘inner’/’first-person’ perspectives, respectively)?”

    Agreed, that’s a classic way to characterize them. We’re still left with the question “How does this marvelous thing happen? What is the bridge between the physical and the subjective?”

  31. 31. Diagoras says:

    “Agreed, that’s a classic way to characterize them. We’re still left with the question “How does this marvelous thing happen? What is the bridge between the physical and the subjective?””

    But if it’s not a matter of two metaphysically distinct substances but rather of two different perspectives on one and the same event (or complex set of [neurophysiological] events), then no such bridge is needed. You simply have physical organisms with highly complex brains, brains which (if you will forgive the shorthand) evolved over millions of years to enable those organisms to perceive aspects of their environment. If, on other words (those of Arnold Trehub from another thread, as it happens) conscious experience is “the brain’s first-person representation of the world it lives in”, there is no metaphysical chasm to be bridged.

  32. 32. VicP says:

    Looks perfectly solvable to me.

    Even the bridge between religion and science.

  33. 33. Sci says:

    @VicP: Curious, how do you see the bridge between religion & science being crossed? I’m not saying such a thing is impossible, but curious what discoveries you see bridging the gap and if your conception of the enchanted world and/or divine is altered.

    For example Kauffman argues the world is enchanted, though IIRC his argument requires the Poised Realm Jochen criticized.

  34. 34. Cognicious says:

    Diagoras: “But if it’s not a matter of two metaphysically distinct substances but rather of two different perspectives on one and the same event (or complex set of [neurophysiological] events), then no such bridge is needed. You simply have physical organisms with highly complex brains, brains which (if you will forgive the shorthand) evolved over millions of years to enable those organisms to perceive aspects of their environment.”

    Agreed, humans are conscious because that’s one of the things the nervous systems of higher animals do. But- but-

    In your view, does the hard problem of consciousness, then, not exist? Are we mistaken about the need for anything to be explained? Framing the problem in terms of two perspectives doesn’t dispel the idea that experiences are rightly distinguished from brain activity – and this without believing in a second kind of “substance.” To talk about a difference in perspectives is to use a metaphor. When two literal (visual/spatial) perspectives on a sight differ, the viewers stand in different places but examine the sight in the same way. It seems to me that observing CNS activity and living with its subjective correlates, one’s thoughts, sensations, memories, and the like, differ in a deeper way than that. The difference is of kind, not merely of place.

  35. 35. Arnold Trehub says:

    Cognicious: “If you define experience that way, then phrases like “the neural correlates of a sensation” make no sense, because you’ve wrapped up the sensation as experienced and its neural correlates in one package.”

    I agree that it makes no sense to talk about the neural correlates of sensation. However, it does make sense to talk about the neuronal mechanisms/substrates/embodiments of sensation.

  36. 36. VicP says:

    @Sci: This is not the best forum for the back and forth discussion sometimes.

    Religion is reduceable to moral science and of course the consciousness in us can logically outlive our bodies. Not readily proveable but the scientific picture is incomplete and you have to subscribe to consciousness existing inside our cells as unique patterns etc. or some other scientific explanation. Incarnations are controversial. Just like the whole religion debate.

  37. 37. Diagoras says:

    Cognicious: “When two literal (visual/spatial) perspectives on a sight differ, the viewers stand in different places but examine the sight in the same way. It seems to me that observing CNS activity and living with its subjective correlates, one’s thoughts, sensations, memories, and the like, differ in a deeper way than that.”

    Observing a brain is different than being one, granted, but I don’t find this perplexing in the least. As for the so-called “hard problem”, I suspect it’s a matter of explaining why people *think* it’s so hard — that is, why people tend to be intuitive dualists — which looks to me like a relatively easy problem, at least in comparison with most that neuroscientists have to tackle. Indeed, I think Metzinger has gone some way toward explaining it with his notions of autoepistemic closure and transparency (as discussed elsewhere on this blog: it was googling these terms that brought me here).

  38. 38. Diagoras says:

    To return to the theme of the thread — i.e. the question of the location of phenomenal experience — it has always seemed to me that we must recognise something like “phenomenal space” or “the space of experience”, which would be in some sense internal to the mind/brain. In that case, phenomenal experience would not be something we could locate within the space of experience. Rather, the entire world-as-experienced would in some sense be a high-dimensional model or virtual reality contained within a (if you will…) “noumenal brain”.

    I’m convinced that answer to the riddle (a riddle which, note, is quite other than the so-called “hard problem”) lies somewhere here, but it’s exceptionally difficult to think about, not least because we tend to think in terms of pictures and models that cannot but be misleading in this context.

    I won’t go further just now, but I wonder if this chimes with the thoughts of anyone else here. Anyone find the need to think about such things in terms of something like what I am calling “phenomenal space”?

  39. 39. Tom Clark says:

    Diagoras: “…the entire world-as-experienced would in some sense be a high-dimensional model or virtual reality contained within a (if you will…) ‘noumenal brain’….Anyone find the need to think about such things in terms of something like what I am calling ‘phenomenal space’?”

    Indeed, spaces need not be literally 3 dimensional and physically extended, but can be specified by multi-dimenensional coordinate systems, ala Paul Churchland’s neural state spaces and Tononi et al.’s “qualia space”/”concept space” as elaborated in IIT: “Concept space: Concept space is a high dimensional space with one axis for each possible past and future state of the system in which a conceptual structure can be represented.” See http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003588 and search on “space”.

    I suggest in “Respecting Privacy” that in approaching the hard problem (how and why experience is entailed by being certain sorts of systems), what we have is two representational, explanatory spaces, one physical (public, objective, quantitative) and one phenomenal (private, subjective, qualitative) that run in parallel, see http://www.naturalism.org/philosophy/consciousness/respecting-privacy So, re locating phenomenal experience, this means we shouldn’t expect to find it in physical space since, unlike the brain, it doesn’t appear to observation; rather, it’s a private representational reality for each individual subject.

    Btw, I think Metzinger is very much on the right track, see http://www.naturalism.org/philosophy/consciousness/the-appearance-of-reality

  40. 40. Cognicious says:

    Arnold Trehub: “I agree that it makes no sense to talk about the neural correlates of sensation. However, it does make sense to talk about the neuronal mechanisms/substrates/embodiments of sensation.”

    What vocabulary shall we use for talking about sensation as experienced, apart from the neural aspects of the process? When I say “sensation,” I mean only what is felt; you seem to use the term to refer to the whole process that includes generating a sensation and being aware of one.

    VicP: “Religion is reduceable to moral science and of course the consciousness in us can logically outlive our bodies.”

    Moral science would be nice if scientists could agree on its principles.

    Despite your “of course,” which purports to pre-empt disagreement with the statement that follows it, I don’t see how my consciousness could continue without a blood supply to my brain.

    Diagoras: “it has always seemed to me that we must recognise something like “phenomenal space” or “the space of experience”, which would be in some sense internal to the mind/brain. In that case, phenomenal experience would not be something we could locate within the space of experience. . . .

    I’m convinced that answer to the riddle . . . lies somewhere here, but it’s exceptionally difficult to think about, not least because we tend to think in terms of pictures and models that cannot but be misleading in this context.”

    If phenomenal experience can’t be located within “phenomenal space,” what’s phenomenal about phenomenal space?

    Unless phenomenal experience is found to have a literal location, any description of a “space” that contains it will be metaphorical. One will still be able to ask “How is this space like and unlike literal space?” I don’t believe that experience is locatable in a coordinate system (this is one way of saying what it isn’t), except that in a general way it’s associated with the experiencer wherever his or her body is. We can say certain things about objects in space, such as that they have mass; they can be approached or withdrawn from (other objects lie at definite distances from them); they can be either still or moving. We can’t say those things about experience. Experience isn’t enough like entities in literal space that I can find a spatial metaphor satisfying.

    Unfortunately, we may be stuck with spatial metaphors because we’re using mental tools that developed to deal with concerns about physical reality.

  41. 41. Arnold Trehub says:

    Cognicious,

    Yes, sensations are the responses to stimuli in our separate sensory modalities. These are pre-conscious/unconscious brain events. Our perceptions are the projections of these diverse sensory patterns, properly bound in spatio-temporal register within our global egocentric (subjective) space. These are our conscious experiences. See “A foundation for the scientific study of consciousness” on my Research Gate page.

  42. 42. Diagoras says:

    Tom,

    Thank you so much for your very generous and interesting response to my vague and badly worded question. I was actually called away in the middle of writing that and ended up posting it before I was ready, but still, this is precisely the kind of response I was looking for — i.e. one that suggests I am not completely mad to be thinking along these lines, and which provides recommendation for papers/research where such ideas have been worked through in detail.

    When you say that “what we have is two representational, explanatory spaces, one physical (public, objective, quantitative) and one phenomenal (private, subjective, qualitative) that run in parallel”, this is indeed precisely what I was trying to get at, and in a version of the above post that I deleted before posting I had begun by suggesting that we need to distinguish between an experience-dependent “phenomenal” space and a non-experiential “physical” space. The reason I deleted that version is that a distinction between the “phenomenal” and the “physical” would seem to suggest that the “phenomenal” is in some sense non- or extra-physical (as per Cognicious’s suggestion above that we need some kind of metaphysical bridge between the physical and the subjective), whereas I would want to insist that it is in some (very real but necessarily hard-to-imagine) sense “inside” our physical brains.

    In any case, it’s been a long time since I’ve engaged with such ideas, so rather than saying more now what I will do is go away and read the papers you have so kindly provided links to and then perhaps return should I have any queries. For now, many thanks again!

    Cognicious,

    As noted in my reply to Tom, my last posted was very badly worded and elliptical, but please see Tom’s reply (and my response)to get a better idea of what I was trying to get at: in my view, briefly put, phenomenal experience, indeed the entire world-as-experienced, is in some sense intracranial, a kind of multidimensional “virtual reality” construct of our brains. If that is so, the question of what you call “literal location” or “literal space” (as opposed to “metaphorical space”) becomes necessarily complicated, because you can have “literal locations” within both “phenomenal space” (the space of the-world-as-experienced) and “physical space” (the world-in-itself as described by physics). These two spaces are quite probably isomorphic to some extent (as Tom suggests above, they “run in parallel”, though I need to read his paper to find out what precisely he means by this), but they are *not* the same. In a sense I guess you could say that the “literal location” of experience is inside the brain, but here we would be talking about the “brain-in-itself” within real physical space rather than the “phenomenal brain” (i.e. the brain-as-experienced) within “phenomenal space”.

    To be quite honest, I am not at all happy or comfortable with such an apparent redoubling of the world, nor with such queer hyphenated entities as “the world-as-experienced”, but this just reflects the limitations of my current way of trying to think these things through. If there is a way of thinking and talking about these things that retains the insights of cognitive neuroscience regarding the way in which the brain models and maps the world, or constructs for itself a kind of “virtual reality”, *without* introducing such ersatz entities as “the brain-as-experienced”, I would be very glad to be introduced to it. At any rate, I am now going to go and read Tom’s reading suggestions, and hopefully these will provide some clues. Many thanks for your reply.

  43. 43. Scott Bakker says:

    Cognicious (29): “It appears that our sets of givens don’t match. I understand the unresolved issues about consciousness as an arena where psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy meet. If you deem consciousness an unsuitable subject for philosophy, what are you going to do with Descartes? Oh, I know, throw him out the window, but that’s not what I meant.”

    Yes! Throw him out the window! Throw as much philosophy out the window *as we can.* It’s this ‘as we can’ that’s the tricky part. To wit:

    “The problem that you described in #1, “Why is it that locating experience is relatively unproblematic in practical contexts, then becomes maddeningly difficult as soon as we pose the question theoretically?,” I don’t regard as an obstacle to further inquiry. My answer was that the maddening difficulty with the theoretical case is due to *experience in general* having no location, so that the difference in difficulty between locating experience in the two situations isn’t remarkable. We are asking about the “location” of experience in two quite different senses. You haven’t said what’s wrong with that answer, except to put down the concept of category mistakes generally.”

    And my response was that this answer (which I actually think oversimplifies the matter), though intuitively appealing, needs to be empirically understood, not philosophically, if it’s going to do anything more than add to the heap of underdetermined claims regarding experience. It seemed to me that you thought your observation was somehow *decisive,* that if only people meditated upon this one fact long enough, they would all come to their senses and the controversy would be over. But the observation is old, and therefore not quite so decisive, given that the controversy rages on and on. You might as well as cited the ontological difference as your explanation, the confusion of experience with something ‘present-to-hand.’

    You need an empirically responsible general theory of human cognition to raise these issues out of the mire of perpetual underdetermination, something that naturalistically answers the question why experience has no location. People need to understand that the problem in these cases IS philosophy, and that simply heaping more philosophy on it solves nothing. Theoretical speculation is inevitable, quite necessary, but it needs to be naturalistic if it’s going to ameliorate as opposed to aggravate the perplexity.

  44. 44. VicP says:

    Cognicious (40): My statement better worded: Logically consciousness can live outside our body. Naturally speaking you can’t see it outside of a biological system.

    Consider the brain only weighs three pounds. Within that structure only a few ounces each account for structures like the visual system, auditory system, brain stem etc. Within the neurons, the molecular structures accounting for phenomenality may only account as a smaller percent, so we are moving closer to a virtual structure and phenomenal properties caused by forces occurring within the neurons and possibly between the neurons. Since these causes are still unknown, the above comments in this thread are predictable.

  45. 45. Cognicious says:

    Diagoras: “The reason I deleted that version is that a distinction between the “phenomenal” and the “physical” would seem to suggest that the “phenomenal” is in some sense non- or extra-physical (as per Cognicious’s suggestion above that we need some kind of metaphysical bridge between the physical and the subjective), whereas I would want to insist that it is in some (very real but necessarily hard-to-imagine) sense “inside” our physical brains.”

    Have I fallen into a nest of materialists? I haven’t asked for a metaphysical anything. Whatever is inside my physical brain isn’t experienced by me, though. It therefore doesn’t qualify as experience *as experienced*.

    Scott Bakker: “You need an empirically responsible general theory of human cognition to raise these issues out of the mire of perpetual underdetermination, something that naturalistically answers the question why experience has no location. People need to understand that the problem in these cases IS philosophy, and that simply heaping more philosophy on it solves nothing.”

    So you need a theory, but you mustn’t philosophize. What distinguishes theory from philosophy, as you use those terms?

    In Post #1, you seemed to posit that experience in general does have a location, which is “maddeningly difficult” to find. Now you say a theory is needed “that naturalistically answers the question why experience has no location.” Does experience have a location or not? Which post did I misread, #1 or #43?

  46. 46. Sci says:

    @VicP: I’m not adamantly opposed to a soul, or any other -ism, but I think you’d have to go through a lot of potential explanations before you arrived at that conclusion. For example above I mentioned the binding problem being solved by a feedback loop between an EM field and the neurons. If you then consider the EM field as nonexistent, like Mermin suggests the soul idea might come up…though you’d likely need something more than quantum biology to really get you toward a soul.

    I figure if materialism is false we’d have to be at the limit of scientific understanding of the body to accept it, or some other discovery would need to take place. (As Chomsky notes we still have a body problem in that our understanding of matter is rather weak.)

    But it’s not clear immaterialism definitely suggests a soul either?

  47. 47. VicP says:

    Sci: It is all a ‘matter’ of how things are made. Just as space and time as we know it exists because we live on a planet orbiting a sun or the emergence of massive gravity. How phenomenality emerges from neurons composed from large arrays of biochemical particles has not been proven or disproven. Like any word soul or God may be just placeholders. The one we are in search of may be ourselves.

  48. 48. Sci says:

    @VicP: Well that’s sort of Arvan’s argument (which I think he got from Gregg Rosenberg), that every reality has intrinsic qualities of relata that yield the relations science examines.

    Point of correction, the above makes it sound like Mermin is arguing for souls, what I meant was he doesn’t think EM fields are real things. He is an advocate for Fuchs QBism though which calls for a subjective stance, and Fuchs’ in turn is a William James fan.

    But it’s unclear to me what a subjective stance entials, as Wheeler was willing to think of QM as having an observer-dependent nature in Law without Law & It from Bit but as I recall in Law without Law he figured a computer/robot could qualify an observer.

  49. 49. VicP says:

    Sci: Thanks for comments, need to read up.

    Always felt that Chalmers had a driving subconscious intuition for the Zombie argument from QM observer dependency and role of QM on inner experience in the neurons.

  50. 50. Cognicious says:

    Tom Clark (#39): “I suggest in “Respecting Privacy” that in approaching the hard problem (how and why experience is entailed by being certain sorts of systems), what we have is two representational, explanatory spaces, one physical (public, objective, quantitative) and one phenomenal (private, subjective, qualitative) that run in parallel, see http://www.naturalism.org/philosophy/consciousness/respecting-privacy

    It’s interesting that you chose a spatial metaphor in that essay. The main point about the difference between the proper subjects of third-person and first-person investigations could be put in logical (nonvisual) terms without introducing the idea of two *places*, one for studying what happens in literal places and one for studying what happens else”where.” Is there something about consciousness, as a topic, that encourages people to think and write as if even a theoretical way of classifying forms of research into it involved space?

    Scott Bakker (#43): “It seemed to me that you thought your observation was somehow *decisive,* that if only people meditated upon this one fact long enough, they would all come to their senses and the controversy would be over.”

    I’m not that narcissistic, and my comment wasn’t that ambitious.

  51. 51. Arnold Trehub says:

    Cognitious,

    Propositions have no semantic content/referents outside of spatio-temporal representations. See, “Building a Semantic Network …” and “A foundation for the scientific study of consciousness” on my Research Gate page.

  52. 52. Sci says:

    @VicP: Not sure about that, as Chalmers has noted that just because both consciousness and QM are mysterious they aren’t necessarily linked. That said, he did give a lecture on how consciousness could conceivably collapse a wave function:

  53. 53. Cognicious says:

    Arnold Trehub: “Propositions have no semantic content/referents outside of spatio-temporal representations.”

    Oh? That’s news to me. When I studied symbolic logic, propositions given as examples commonly referred to real states of affairs, not to representations. “The cat is on the mat” and “The cat is not on the mat” were favorites.

    Whether those propositions are about a cat’s location or about something once removed from a cat’s location, spatial metaphors abound in language, including philosophical language. I suspect that sometimes they limit thought.

  54. 54. Arnold Trehub says:

    Cognicious: “When I studied symbolic logic, propositions given as examples commonly referred to real states of affairs, not to representations.”

    Yes, but the belief that our sentential propositions refer to “real states of the world” assumes that we we have *direct and unaltered* access to the world in which we exist. We now know that this is not the case. All of our cognitive efforts are about our brain’s *representation* of the world in which we exist. See “Where Am I? Redux” here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Arnold_Trehub

  55. 55. VicP says:

    Sci: Well I did say subconscious intuition on Chalmers part. I think he makes a case during this lecture that the wave functions really never collapses but only appear to collapse. To me this would explain why electrons jump because everything is essentially a field. Even feeling a sand particle is another appeared collapse. My theory is that the neurons essentially freeze in unity functionwise or as I call it Supercell Theory, or they form the basic unit of psychology which are used to build the parts of the CNS that are doing consciousness. Not only consciousness is a placeholder but time like color is another aspect of our manifest image.

  56. 57. Tom Clark says:

    Cognicious in 50: “It’s interesting that you chose a spatial metaphor in that essay. The main point about the difference between the proper subjects of third-person and first-person investigations could be put in logical (nonvisual) terms without introducing the idea of two *places*, one for studying what happens in literal places and one for studying what happens else”where.” Is there something about consciousness, as a topic, that encourages people to think and write as if even a theoretical way of classifying forms of research into it involved space?”

    By spaces I did mean (or meant to convey the idea of) logical spaces of explanation, not literal spaces, but I can see how that might get misconstrued as designating two sorts of places, one physical and one not.

    Re your question: I think it’s because we are natural-born naive physicalists that we tend to suppose consciousness must be located in physical 3-D space, even though when we go look for it (e.g., in the brain) we never find it. Panpsychists want to locate it in some sort of property of the micro-physical, others want to locate it as an EM field, or want to identify it with locatable neural processes. My bet is that none of these are going to pan out since experience isn’t a public, observable phenomena of any kind, even though we always find it *associated with* physical objects like brains that carry out certain representational functions.

  57. 58. Arnold Trehub says:

    Tom: ” My bet is that none of these are going to pan out since experience isn’t a public, observable phenomena of any kind, even though we always find it *associated with* physical objects like brains that carry out certain representational functions.”

    In science, whatever our intuitions, we place our bets on what the evidence reveals. The self- controlled hallucinations in the SMTT experiments give very strong evidence that conscious experience is not just *associated with* a particular kind of brain function, but is a *manifestation of a particular kind of brain function*. In my theory of the cognitive brain, phenomenal experience is a manifestation of autaptic-cell activity in our egocentric retinoid space.

  58. 59. Cognicious says:

    Arnold Trehub (#54): “Yes, but the belief that our sentential propositions refer to “real states of the world” assumes that we we have *direct and unaltered* access to the world in which we exist. We now know that this is not the case. All of our cognitive efforts are about our brain’s *representation* of the world in which we exist.”

    It’s been known for some time, no doubt antedating my encounter with symbolic logic (#53), that our everyday experiences of outward reality (i.e., “the world”) are filtered through the sensory and cognitive apparatus we happen to have. When we talk about cats and mats and everything else, however, we mean the entities out there, not our mental pictures of them. Our mental pictures are all we have, but in practice it doesn’t matter. We don’t say “My representation of a cat . . .”

    At least, this goes for external objects and events at the macro level. For other things, I’m not so sure, but let’s not stray so far off topic.

    By the way, referring me to your researchgate writings won’t help me. I don’t have the background in neurology to understand them. They may help others who are differently educated.

    Tom Clark (#57): “By spaces I did mean (or meant to convey the idea of) logical spaces of explanation, not literal spaces, but I can see how that might get misconstrued as designating two sorts of places, one physical and one not.

    Re your question: I think it’s because we are natural-born naive physicalists that we tend to suppose consciousness must be located in physical 3-D space . . .”

    No, I meant –

    I’ll try again. By “spaces” you did mean to convey the idea of logical spaces of explanation, not literal spaces. Those don’t get misconstrued as designating one physical space and one figurative space. I understood that both spaces were figurative. My question was, why call these two kinds of explanation “spaces” at all?

    Why a person might suppose that consciousness must be located in physical space is a different issue.

  59. 60. Tom Clark says:

    Cognicious: “My question was, why call these two kinds of explanation “spaces” at all?”

    The locution “logical space” is common enough in philosophy, so I was borrowing from that tradition in referring to explanatory spaces, e.g., see http://www.blackwellreference.com/public/tocnode?id=g9781405106795_chunk_g978140510679513_ss1-104 But instead of explanatory spaces one could say explanatory systems, or set of relations, or something along those lines.

  60. 61. Scott Bakker says:

    Cognicious (45): “So you need a theory, but you mustn’t philosophize. What distinguishes theory from philosophy, as you use those terms?”

    Charity, please. I reread my response and I have no idea how you can think I’m claiming anything so facile. Meanwhile, my question stands: Isn’t philosophy the very thing cognitive science needs to overcome?

    “In Post #1, you seemed to posit that experience in general does have a location, which is “maddeningly difficult” to find. Now you say a theory is needed “that naturalistically answers the question why experience has no location.” Does experience have a location or not? Which post did I misread, #1 or #43?”

    Both. As I state in #1, outlining the very naturalistic theory I mention in #43, our access to experience, insofar as location is concerned, is thoroughly practical. Given the expense of ‘accurate’ cognition, we should expect metacognitive deliverances to be heuristically geared to the solution of practical problems. It makes sense that we can locate experiences, while remaining stumped as to the location of experience. In fact, given what we’re learning about metacognition, it would remarkable were it any other way.

  61. 62. Arnold Trehub says:

    Cognicious: “When we talk about cats and mats and everything else, however, we mean the entities out there, not our mental pictures of them. Our mental pictures are all we have, but in practice it doesn’t matter. We don’t say “My representation of a cat . . .”

    Our phenomenal “picture” of the entities out there places these entities *out there*, not in our brain where these representations exist. In practice it doesn’t matter unless you are trying to understand that biophysical basis of consciousness, which I thought was the point of this blog.

  62. 63. Cognicious says:

    Tom Clark: “The locution “logical space” is common enough in philosophy, so I was borrowing from that tradition in referring to explanatory spaces . . .”

    I see. Thank you.

    The tradition you refer to is yet another example of spatializing. If humans weren’t such visual creatures, we might do better at understanding things that can’t be visualized.

    Scott Bakker: “Charity, please. I reread my response and I have no idea how you can think I’m claiming anything so facile. Meanwhile, my question stands: Isn’t philosophy the very thing cognitive science needs to overcome?”

    I read your #45 as saying that a theory is needed but that philosophical theories won’t do. (That’s not facile.) I don’t know what makes a theory philosophical or not by your definition. As for your standing question, I’m sorry if this sounds argumentative, but I don’t share your antipathy to philosophy. I don’t even know what you particularly classify as philosophy. Cognitive science and philosophy overlap, at least when it comes to the subfield called philosophy of science.

    Arnold Trehub: “In practice it doesn’t matter unless you are trying to understand that biophysical basis of consciousness, which I thought was the point of this blog.”

    It’s Peter’s blog, and my impression is that his articles and conributors’ comments range more widely than that. Not all are about the biophysical basis, although many are.

  63. 64. Scott Bakker says:

    Cognicious: “I read your #45 as saying that a theory is needed but that philosophical theories won’t do. (That’s not facile.) I don’t know what makes a theory philosophical or not by your definition. As for your standing question, I’m sorry if this sounds argumentative, but I don’t share your antipathy to philosophy. I don’t even know what you particularly classify as philosophy. Cognitive science and philosophy overlap, at least when it comes to the subfield called philosophy of science.”

    I explicitly referenced the need for theory, but theory that can actually be arbitrated by experimental data. Philosophy, as I also explicitly stated, consists of theory that has remained underdetermined for centuries, and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future. Add to this the fact that other sciences have chased philosophers from their halls long ago and your equivocation between the two strikes me as strategic.

    Isn’t it obvious that the long term credibility of cognitive science turns on its ability to define its explananda in a definitive way? If not, then I submit you’re actually a mysterian, content to see cognitive science flail in perpetuity.

  64. 65. Cognicious says:

    Scott Bakker: “Isn’t it obvious that the long term credibility of cognitive science turns on its ability to define its explananda in a definitive way? If not, then I submit you’re actually a mysterian, content to see cognitive science flail in perpetuity.”

    Mysterian? Labels, schmabels! If it clarifies my opinion, I’ll say that I believe that any advance within cognitive science in understanding how we think about such topics as whether selves exist, or where experience is, or why dualism is intuitive, would also count as an advance in philosophy.

  65. 66. Ron Bar Lev says:

    This would be my first post here, AND I realize I’m late to the party. I have been following Peter’s blog and the community of commentators that has formed here for some time and I find both posts and discussions to be thoughtful and stimulating.
    I would like to crash in and try to tug this thread back to subject a little, by calling attention to an aspect of the notion of extended consciousness that is rarely brought up, if at all:
    It is generally assumed that the job of managing physical state, such that consciousness may manifest, is given to the brain. Sometimes the phrase ‘neural process’ is used, still it seems to be referring to neural processes in brain. Proponents of embodied consciousness see the inclusion of interaction with the extra-neural environment as providing some required contribution for the manifestation of consciousness, so they would have a system comprised of brain plus environment. These days even most pan-psychists would probably point to the brain as *the* essential organ playing a part in the orchestration of consciousness. But in the search for correlates of C and in the formulation of theoretical constructs of C there may be another critically involved stage that might have been pre-maturely relegated, by neuroscience, to lowly communication duties for reasons that might not be as substantiated as they should be, with very little contention. I am referring to the role of our sensory apparatus, which by definition shoulders a part in our interaction with the environment. Why is it that few seem to consider the possibility of aspects of phenomenality arising or manifesting upon our sensory perimeter? If there is to be, sometime in the future, an extension of theoretical physical science that produces an analytical model of phenomenality (I am not implying 3rd person measurable or observable), and especially if one is willing to accept some notion of proto-phenomenality in nature, would such a model not be hinged on that very interface between experiencing agent and it’s environment? Considering that sensory organs have evolved elaborate designs for purpose – could they be essential participants in the modality specific ‘modulation’ of phenomenality upon that interface? I am aware of time delays, dream states etc. yet I suspect the ruling out of sensory organs as vital parts of the phenomenality-manifesting system might be premature.
    The question of where *in the system* experience arises, is obviously different from the question of where it may be located by the system as goes about the business of maintaining it’s model of the world. I submit that it is primarily the brain that does a good job of modulating and positioning experience within an egocentric world model.
    [Welcome! Peter]

  66. 67. Tom Clark says:

    Ron Bar Lev: “Why is it that few seem to consider the possibility of aspects of phenomenality arising or manifesting upon our sensory perimeter?”

    Clearly the sensory perimeter participates in shaping waking experience by providing input that constrains its content. But it doesn’t seem necessary for consciousness, given the experience of dreams, which can be as vivid and detailed as any awake experience. Indeed, Metzinger says in Being No One (I think): “A fruitful way of looking at the brain is as a system, which, even in the ordinary waking states, constantly hallucinates at the world, as a system that constantly lets its internal, autonomous, simulational dynamics collide with ongoing flow of sensory input, vigorously dreaming at the world and thereby generating the content of phenomenal experience” (quoted by Evan Thompson in his book Waking, Dreaming, Being).

  67. 68. Sci says:

    Ron Bar Lev: Are you suggesting that consciousness requires the sensory apparatus to “emerge” in some sense, but afterward can be carried out without this apparatus as done in dreams?

    (I put emerge in quotes b/c if I understand correctly you are not talking about emergence in the usual sense of consciousness arising somehow from nonconscious matter.)

  68. 69. Ron Bar Lev says:

    Tom: “Clearly the sensory perimeter participates in shaping waking experience by providing input that constrains its content. But it doesn’t seem necessary for consciousness, given the experience of dreams, which can be as vivid and detailed as any awake experience.”
    The question I am raising is whether we might have dismissed the possibility of sensory periphery contributing to experience through paradigmatic scientific oversimplification.
    Our senses’ responses cover a very wide dynamic range (we can experience responses to very weak stimuli and the system is not saturated by very strong stimuli). The periphery that produces the input is generally noisy. Could it be that tonic peripheral sensory activity underlies, in part, the subjective experience of self and the flow of conscious contents, even in the absence of specific stimulation?
    Could afferent input-line noise be filtered into (or excluded from) the patterns forming the momentary experience of “I”, or be modulated into the contents of the “stream of consciousness”?
    There is a body of literature describing attempts to assess the vividness of dream experiences and the diversity of sensory qualities they tend to include. e.g. dreams tend to include visual and auditory experiences, kinaesthetic experiences that I think may have a different characterization than in the waking state, and tend to not include smell. Reports of pain experiences with no objective underlying objective cause are rare. During sleep we obviously attenuate the overall reactive state of our neural system, but not necessarily that of the peripheral apparatus, not even local “higher” activity. Many experiments involving V1 responses have used anaesthetised animals. Some correlation between ongoing tonic peripheral activity and dream phenomenality, maintained by selective attenuation and modulation upon afferent signal filtering may not be so implausible.
    Could a dream-like kinaesthetic quality be related in some way to the reduced muscle tone during sleep? My own dream experiences tend to be less vivid than waking ones, seeming “real” enough throughout the dreams but still impoverished in some way; perhaps for lack of full waking level correlation – of the slumbering “I” – with a full complement of sensory phenomenality?
    Tom quoting Metzinger: “(The) brain is as a system which… …constantly lets it’s internal autonomous simulational dynamics collide with the ongoing flow of sensory input…”
    What if it were not a collision, but rather an ongoing “tuning” of the momentary conscious state, correlating locus bound proto-phenomenal “substrate” into full-fledged phenomenality? The brain may be imposing the spatiotemporal patterns that “select” a structured (bound and isolated) experience in “I”, while at the same time sustaining that raw “what is it like to be” proto-self.
    Sci: I am thinking monistic pan-proto-psychism of sorts is an aspect of nature – for here we are, and phenomenality manifests in us. But I would also claim to be a physicalist, just that I believe we still have not formulated the chapter of physics that describes reflexive properties; a theory of the unobservable, perhaps.
    Even though we do not have possession of this knowledge, I think we may be able to narrow the explanatory gap.
    What may a proto-phenomenal reality imply in respect of the brain’s primary function? Above I tried to express my thoughts with regards to dreaming. The foundation of this thinking is anchored in a conviction that the brain exclusively handles patterning and spatiotemporal references, but doubting that phenomenality necessarily manifests exclusively in the brain (I am raising awareness to a possibility… I do not presume to know).
    If we allow some assumptions that constrain the proto-phenomenal aspect of nature, of which we have no clarity, then we can theorize regarding phenomenal binding and isolation, the transformations involved in representation, the predictive capacity applied in service of a resonant system, the formation of a dimension-free self-primitive and more. My relevant assumptions are that the proto-phenomenal manifestation, the reflexive quality, is locus bound and temporally and spatially very “fine grained”, however I do not naively appeal to “mind stuff” or “mind dust”.
    I invite all to take a look at http://www.invertedmind.org, where I have done my best to explain myself. If you do visit the site I recommend skipping the summary part because it is probably incomprehensible in it’s current state.

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