measureThere were reports recently of a study which tested different methods for telling whether a paralysed patient retained some consciousness. In essence, PET scans seemed to be the best, better than fMRI or traditional, less technically advanced tests. PET scans could also pick out some patients who were not conscious now, but had a good chance of returning to consciousness later; though it has to be said a 74% success rate is not that comforting when it comes to questions of life and death.

In recent years doctors have attempted to diagnose a persistent vegetative state in unresponsive patients, a state i which a patient would remain alive indefinitely (with life support) but never resume consciousness; there seems to be room for doubt, though about whether this is really a distinct clinical syndrome or just a label for the doctor’s best guess.

All medical methods use proxies, of course, whether they are behavioural or physiological; none of them aspire to measure consciousness directly. In some ways it may be best that this is so, because we do want to know what the longer term prognosis is, and for that a method which measures, say, the remaining blood supply in critical areas of the brain may be more useful than one which simply tells you whether the patient is conscious now. Although physiological tests are invaluable where a patient is incapable of responding physically, the real clincher for consciousness is always behavioural; communicative behaviour is especially convincing. The Turing test, it turns out, works for humans as well as robots.

Could there ever be a method by which we measure consciousness directly? Well, if Tononi’s theory of Phi is correct, then the consciousness meter he has proposed would arguably do that. On his view consciousness is generated by integrated information, and we could test how integratedly the brain was performing by measuring the effect of pulses sent through it. Another candidate mught be possible if we are convinced by the EM theories of Johnjoe McFadden; since on his view consciousness is a kind of electromagnetic field, it ought to be possible to detect it directly, although given the small scales involved it might not be easy.

How do we know whether any of these tests is working? As I said, the gold standard is always behavioural: if someone can talk to you, then there’s no longer any reasonable doubt; so if our tests pick out just those people who are able to communicate, we take it that they are working correctly. There is a snag here, though: behavioural tests can only measure one kind of consciousness: roughly what Ned Block called access consciousness, the kind which has to do with making decisions and governing behaviour. But it is widely believed that there is another kind, phenomenal consciousness, actual experience. Some people consider this the more important of the two (others, it must be added, dismiss it as a fantasy). Phenomenal consciousness cannot be measured scientifically, because it has no causal effects; it certainly cannot be measured behaviourally, because as we know from the famous thought-experiment about  philosophical ‘zombies’ who lack it, it has no effect on behaviour.

If someone lost their phenomenal consciousness and became such a zombie, would it matter? On one view their life would no longer be worth living (perhaps it would be a little like having an unconscious version of Cotard’s syndrome), but that would certainly not be their view, because they would express exactly the same view as they would if they still had full consciousness. They would be just as able to sue for their rights as a normal person, and if one asked whether there was still ‘someone in there’ there would be no real reason to doubt it. In the end, although the question is valid, it is a waste of time to worry about it because for all we know anyone could be a zombie anyway, whether they have suffered a period of coma or not.

We don’t need to go so far to have some doubts about tests that rely on communication, though. Is it conceivable that I could remain conscious but lose all my ability to communicate, perhaps even my ability to formulate explicitly articulated thoughts in my own mind?  I can’t see anything absurd about that possibility: indeed it resembles the state I imagine some animals live their whole lives in. The ability to talk is very important, but surely it is not constitutive of my personal existence?

If that’s so then we do have a problem, in principle at least, because if all of our tests are ultimately validated against behavioural criteria, they might be systematically missing conscious states which ought not to be overlooked.

 

45 Comments

  1. 1. Philosopher Eric says:

    Thanks Peter for another interesting post. I’ve heard enough about Dr. Tononi in the few months that I’ve emerged from my “popular philosophy” isolation (you can’t be too careful about adopting the means of philosophy’s historical failure!) that it was certainly time for his project to be considered. My take on it is that he’s definitely “rightish,” but the basic problem is that he’s trying to do something far to small (simply “measure consciousness”) when the real need is to understand the conscious dynamic in general. If he were instead trying to give us a practical model of the conscious mind (rather than a machine that shows us “how conscious” a given entity happens to be) then I think that he would at least be considering the essentials. Notice that if he were able to provide us with such a model then we would at least know what it is that he is trying to measure, and so we might at least consider his project somewhat less Quixotic than it now seems. But given that I see myself as the proverbial “man from philosophy’s future,” my own work does provide such a model from which to assess his project, and as I’ve said, it does seem “rightish.”

    Consciousness might reasonably be considered “a special type of computer,” so perhaps the basic requirement is to figure out the “input” (“sensations,” “senses,” and “memory” from my own model), “processing” (“thought”), and “output” (“muscle operation”) elements of consciousness. I won’t offer much detail here, except to say that this seems to merely be “the cherry on top” of the human mind — perhaps the vast majority is “non-conscious.” (As always, my work is provided below for consideration.)

    As for his quest to “measure consciousness,” from my model this seems quite possible in a theoretical sense, because apparently consciousness can be degraded, eliminated, and be restored as well. Other than being alive but non-conscious, a person might be asleep and thus still have this degree of consciousness (so no surgery here please!). Alcohol does seem to progressively impair/dull the conscious mind, but notice that our pharmaceutical companies seem to offer various “beneficial drugs” that might help a given person become “more conscious.” (I’m just using a “functionality” definition, though other definitions could define a person that is quite “hopped up” to be “more conscious,” with or without any added “functionality.”) I can’t wait to see where this topic takes us!

  2. 2. Hunt says:

    “If someone lost their phenomenal consciousness and became such a zombie, would it matter?”

    I think it would because I think that in order for a zombie to be functionally equivalent to a phenomenally intact person, a layer of deception would need to be added to their interpersonal repertoire. Hence, the zombie “class” would be waging a kind of mass deception against genuine people in a way reminiscent of some scifi movies. There would only be a surface level, superficial equivalence, kind of like when the “Joneses” move into the house at the end of the street and are later revealed to be in witness protection.

    On the other hand, if it were an open deception, or play act, in many ways it would be even worse. So Bill has a lovely wife Jane, who is actually a zombie. Don’t worry, she acts and responds just like a normal person! This would freak people out even more, and by definition of course, also the zombies.

    By far the worst thing would be to ask a known zombie a question like:

    “When you say you know what green is like, are you telling the truth?”

    When they say “yes” (as, by definition, they will), they’re lying, and they will always lie. I think that would be chilling.

  3. 3. Philosopher Eric says:

    On the subject of how much philosophical zombies would “matter,” there is the inescapable conclusion that being changed from a normal person to one of these, would indeed “matter,” since existence would now be personally irrelevant. To everyone else, however, I suppose that these “liars” would not indeed matter given that they’d act just the same either way — your beloved child would remain so even if his/her sensations of pain, love, fear and so on, were all just “a lie.”

    One thing that we must be careful with, I think, is to consider such speculation as nothing more than hypothetical scenarios rather than reality itself. In reality we presumably experience sensations as a very critical engineering feature of the consciousness dynamic itself. Presumably evolution (or even God) simply could not make us what we are without our sensations. I suspect that without this “punishment/ reward” element, the conscious mind loses its motivation from which to function.

    One question on the engineering side, then, is what benefit does consciousness itself provide? In my auxiliary chapter entitled, “Why has Self Evolved,” I do present such speculation. The conclusion is essentially that while “instinctive life” must essentially be “programmed” to do what it does, “conscious life” has a punishment/reward incentive from which to figure things out for itself. Thus perhaps consciousness evolved as life began to require greater autonomy to personally figure things out.

  4. 4. Philosopher Eric says:

    Peter I could get into the nitty gritty of your “How do you test a consciousness tester” paragraph above, but it might be more effective to just give you my own thoughts and let you decide if I have things right.

    In order to test the results of a consciousness testing machine, all we would need is to check what it says about real people in various (presumed) states of consciousness. Does it show that a person under heavy anesthesia is not conscious? What does it say while the anesthesia is wearing off? How about sleep?… or various narcotics? If we had a machine that seemed to work quite well in general, perhaps it would work for other kinds of life also.

    There is only one scenario in which consciousness should not effectively be detected in the human, and this is where consciousness has no “output,” or associated input and processing “result.” Furthermore I know of only one such variety, and this is “conscious muscle function.” (I’d love to add more if there are any suggestions. In truth “conscious processing” seems to display output characteristics as well, though I do have reason to term this “impure.”) Thus a paralyzed person might be perfectly conscious, thinking about you, hearing you, loving you, and so on, and yet you’d never know (or at least not unless you had a good “Tononi machine”).

    Peter I wonder what you mean by a “phenomenal consciousness” or “experience”? I would naturally assume that you are referring to “sensations,” such as hope, fear, itchiness, jealousy, beauty, and so on, but I don’t know why such things would not have a cause and effect nature. Surely my pain does have both causes and effects (as I presume all reality does). In the end I think you may have just mistaken “a zombie thought experiment” for “an actual experiment.” Any thoughts?

  5. 5. Peter says:

    When I talk about phenomenal consciousness, Eric, I’m talking about qualia. Qualia, ex hypothesi, don’t have causal effects. The zombie twin thought experiment shows this: my zombie twin is exactly like me except he has no phenomenal experience, no qualia. He registers sense data but he doesn’t experience actual redness or pain or whatever. If you believe that’s possible, then you believe that qualia are real and they are not covered by the standard physical account of the world. If they had causal effects my zombie twin would not behave the way I do.

  6. 6. Vicente says:

    Peter,

    If you believe that’s possible, then you believe that qualia are real and they are not covered by the standard physical account of the world

    Not necessarily. I believe that’s not possible, since qualia are inherent to our human and neurological nature, as part of the Universe, and still are not YET covered by the standard physical account of the world.

    Regarding behaviour, it is possible to envisage a machine (let’s say an algorithm) that behaves like you, for certain situations, without having qualia, just processing “sense data” according to certain rules. I admit this is only possible for very simple scenarios, but it serves as a proof of concept. Coupling qualia and behaviour is not a straight forward exercise.

    Finally, to be the cause of something is not that easy to define, direct cause, indirect cause, what is the action mechanism involved? How is meaning included in a visual stimulus (a sign) to be the physical cause of an induced behaviour, just by neurophysiological processing of a visual pattern? how many stages are there between the cause and the effect, and additional secondary causes added throughout the process? cause-effect in the brain becomes too tricky.

  7. 7. Callan S. says:

    Hunt,

    Why is it a lie (I have to ask as you mentioned Scott Bakkers BBT last post)?

    The so called p-zombie is there, in front of a piece of red paper. Light hits the paper, some of it in the red spectrum hits the PZ’s eyes, sends off signals down the nervous system and the brain both sees the red but another part of the brain also has some capacity to observe the brain as it observes red. So it describes seeing red.

    If the PZ said 2+2=4, is that also a lie?

  8. 8. Philosopher Eric says:

    If I have this right Peter, you believe that qualia do not have causal effects, specifically because you also believe that it’s possible for there to be something without qualia that functions exactly like something with qualia, and therefore qualia cannot be physical, cause/effect elements of reality. I do see some major problems with this logic however, so please do let me know if I’ve gotten the premise wrong. (Furthermore I’m not entirely sure that this happens to be “your belief,” since you might just be explaining a standard argument.)

    One apparent problem here is that these “twins” cannot possibly function “exactly” the same, given that they are indeed different (by definition). Of course we might “perceive” them to be working exactly the same, but this would just be a function of our ignorance — hardly a position from which to conclude that qualia must be nonphysical. There is simply no getting around the fact that these subjects would function somewhat differently, and even if this merely happens “inside.”

    Secondly, how might one confidently state “Qualia, ex hypothesi, don’t have causal effects,” if this conclusion happens to be based upon nothing more that speculation about what “might” be possible? As we have recently discussed, Ray Kurtsweil likes to make such arguments as well, though you and I remain unconvinced by them.

    Thirdly, why should we worry about this question at all? The truth is that qualia may either be a physical element of reality, or it may be what I call “magic.” Regardless, shouldn’t we philosophers table such discussion to focus upon something that might indeed help us run our lives and structure our societies more effectively? Whatever it is that causes us to be what we are, this is indeed our reality. Thus we should seek practical understandings of ourselves (physical or not), given how elusive any such understandings have been for philosophers to reach.

    Here’s a thought: We take all of the things that seem to make existence positive and negative to the human, find the common element between them, and then use this idea to not only found a new scientific study of philosophy, but to also found our “mental/behavioral” sciences.

  9. 9. Hunt says:

    @Callan. Hmm, perhaps I’ve formulated this all wrong, now that you point it out. Contra Peter’s description, I don’t see how qualia could be described as non-causal. That seems to be self-contradicting. If they are non-causal, how is did we manage to identify them? Didn’t they “cause” us to formulate them as a concept? At very least, the PZ, when engaged in discussion about qualia, would not know what we’re talking about. Is that not a behavioral difference? I guess it boils down to the fact that I don’t believe PZs are possible.

  10. 10. Hunt says:

    Also, kind of what Eric said (I think), but I differ in that I don’t think it’s enough to just say they function differently “inside.” That’s the point of stipulating behavioral identity, that they can function differently but behave the same. However, I think Eric and I are on the same track, or perhaps we’re going off the rails together.

  11. 11. Peter says:

    Eric,

    I only mean to describe the theory, not advocate it. I quite agree with everyone who thinks it is seriously problematic in some respects. What motivates it is the feeling that after we’ve talked about wavelengths and neurons and so on exhaustively, there is still something more – the elusive ‘what it is like’ to see red, etc…

    Vicente,

    OK – if I say the current standard account perhaps we can agree!

  12. 12. Philosopher Eric says:

    I was very much hoping that this would be your position Peter — if not you might decide that it was now your mission to disprove my theory in order for you to maintain your own respect. (I personally have had enough such drama for a while.)

    I will say once again that in the age of science, we philosophers must finally “do something.” While this “What’s it like to see red?” business does indeed seem to involve an amazingly critical and unique element of reality, let’s nevertheless wake up from our stupor and get something done. We simply don’t know how to build that which has qualia, and probably never will. But what we do know is that this was indeed built by evolution (or God). From here we must figure out the dynamics of this reality so that we might effectively use such understandings.

    I say to you that this phenomenal experience, qualia, sensations… is the punishment/reward dynamic that evolution developed in order to build consciousness — something which merely helps certain forms of life survive. Whoever ultimately shakes philosophy out of its perpetual stupor to thus graduate it to the realm of science, should also cause a revolution beyond anything that humanity has yet seen.

  13. 13. Vicente says:

    Peter, yes, if not utter agreement, positions get much closer. Possible divergence stemming from the fact that while I’m quite confident that physics will, sooner or later, account for dark energy, I’m not so sure about qualia.

    In this sense, and w.r.t. the current post topic, maybe, a more accurate title could have been “measuring consciousness correlates“, rather than the actual one, no?

  14. 14. Vicente says:

    Eric,

    cause a revolution beyond anything that humanity has yet seen

    The only real revolution, indeed!

  15. 15. Vicente says:

    Eric, I can’t help it, your comment in the frame in this post (consciousness + evolution + revolution..), has evoked in me so intensively the old Police’s hit: spirits in a material world, that I have to reproduce here a verse of the lyrics…


    There is no political solution
    To our troubled evolution
    Have no faith in constitution
    There is no bloody revolution

    We are spirits in the material world
    Are spirits in the material world
    Are spirits in the material world
    Are spirits in the material world

  16. 16. Philosopher Eric says:

    I sometimes say belligerently radical things here, hoping that someone will then ask, “Okay Eric, why do you believe this?” Instead I’m often met with the awkward silence that you might experience after farting in church. Particularly here the last thing that I expected was agreement (and then a reference to Sting and his boys!). As detailed from the final point of my “Final Author’s Note,” here is why I believe philosophy will lead humanity to its greatest revolution yet.

    Science presumably teaches us about reality, and we effectively use some of these understandings to give us greater abilities. If fact if you consider how humanity has changed merely over the past few century rise of science, our transformation seems quite astounding. Nevertheless it can convincingly be argued that our situation has actually gotten much worse, and apparently because “power,” can also be “dangerous.” The more power that we have, the greater our need to understand how to effectively use it. So perhaps our problem is that science has not yet been able to teach us much about the nature of “human good.” Does this not describe the state of our world today? Virtually all of the great horrors of our world, I think, are a result of our inability to comprehend how to properly lead our lives, and structure our societies, in the face of our amazing new abilities.

    The solution, I think, is science — it must “rebalance” the very unbalanced mess that it has created. (Please, please don’t give me the standard “morality” crap here! We need “real understandings,” not this “judgemental” idiocy.) To rebalance humanity science will need to teach our species the fundamental concept of “good.” It is from this basic understanding, I think, that our “mental/behavioral” sciences would finally realize a solid foundation. Furthermore we would then gain a theoretical position from which to lead our lives, and structure our societies, “properly.”

  17. 17. Philosopher Eric says:

    Peter I very much like this “access consciousness and phenomenal consciousness” theory that you’ve mentioned of Ned Block. I do hope it has become reasonably accepted given that it may be an avenue through which my own theory could enter the mainstream. Furthermore I’m quite pleased to find a mainstream idea that correlates with my own theory — apparently his “two modes of consciousness” is very much like my own “two modes of thought.”

    Regarding his “phenomenal consciousness” idea, I theorize this essentially as how the conscious processor “interprets inputs.” In truth my own idea may be a bit more broad than his, since it not only includes experiencing “red,” and “pain,” but even recognizing a person that you might know. What I’m referring to here is the entirety of conscious input interpretation, where inputs are classified as “sensations,” “senses,” and “memory.”

    As for his “access consciousness” classification, this correlates with my own “scenario” element of thought. This is the normal “let me think about it” idea, where you might try to figure out uncertainties by constructing associated plausible “scenarios.” In general the theme is that we “interpret inputs” and “construct scenarios,” essentially in order to figure out what to “do,” and specifically given our potential to be punished and rewarded through the “sensations input.”

    So how then might I reconcile the fact that he is proposing two distinct varieties of “consciousness,” while I’m instead proposing two distinct varieties of conscious “processor”? Observe however that consciousness might conceivably exist with no “output” or “input” elements. Thus it may be useful to define my proposed consciousness directly as “thought,” and therefore I’m actually proposing two separate varieties of consciousness (as he is). Hopefully the philosophy community will be glad to finally have a relatively complete functional model of the conscious mind at their disposal, and both use it, as well as make adjustments wherever applicable.

  18. 18. Callan S. says:

    Hunt,

    Alternatively, rather than PZ’s being impossible, it’s us who are impossible.

    Or more exactly, our self concept that’s impossible.

  19. 19. Philosopher Eric says:

    My apologies for going out of turn here, (so don’t let this stop you Hunt) but Callan, do you really think that you happen to be impossible? I would think that your own reality would be the one thing that you are quite certain of. As the great Rene Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” (and this was even from a dualist!).

    Instead what I think you’re saying is that the human is not a cause/effect entity, and is thus magical in at least some regards. This belief places you squarely amongt the vast majority of humanity, so it’s certainly not strange. Furthermore I can’t ultimately show you that you’re wrong. Yes things can be demonstrated in the physical cause/effect world, but if someone then says, “Now show us that it’s not just a bunch of magic,” we simply cannot. Any void in cause and effect results in “magic,” and anything is possible here. (I even believe that many physicists today endorse a magical reality, and specifically through their belief in “natural uncertainty.”)

    The ultimate reason that I take the opposite position, is to preserve the institution of science. Without causes for effects and effects for causes, the study of reality is rendered quite impossible.

  20. 20. Hunt says:

    I think there’s at least a three way ambiguity there. 1. The impossibility of a self-concept that Descartes seems to trivially refute, 2. The incoherence of self-concept, or 3. The illusion of self-concept, as per Buddhism. 1 is a phenomenal statement, 2 is just an error, if true, and 3 is a deep insight that may or may not be true.

  21. 21. Callan S. says:

    Eric,

    I refered self concept being impossible. In terms of the chair under me and the table in front of me, I’m quite certain of those realities. But much as I don’t know how my liver works (ie, it’s chemistry), no, I’m not quite certain of how my brain works. It works, therefore I type this. Beyond that, its a black box. Even the question of how it ‘works’ is incestuously a product of it, thus it’s using its results to measure how it gets results.

    I made no appeal to non causal forces/magic.

    Hunt,

    Well, in regard to #1, it depends on what you define as self – if I call my computer a ‘self’ and have it show the text ‘I have a self concept’, then…it does. Ie, the self concept is as easy to achieve as it is to refute the impossibility of a self-concept.

    Who argues with anyone refering to their selves? No one – and so the man behind the black curtain remains covered. Or the absence of him remains covered.

  22. 22. John Davey says:

    ” Phenomenal consciousness cannot be measured scientifically, because it has no causal effects; it certainly cannot be measured behaviourally, because as we know from the famous thought-experiment about philosophical ‘zombies’ who lack it, it has no effect on behaviour.”

    This argument I don’t understand. Are you seriously suggesting that if we (the obervers) are only entitled to assume the person is conscious if we can hear him speak ?

    The statement “phenomenal consciousness ..cannot be measured .. has no causal effects” strikes me as just being a dogma. “Phenomenal” consciousness (which i think in this definition is simply consciousness ) – at one’s most sceptical – we might say may or may not be causal. What role consciosness may play in causality is impossible to discern if nobody actually understands it physically, which is currently the case. If there is no physical theory of “phenomenal consciousness” then it can’t be measured, like anything else for which we don’t really have a clue.

    Measurement of electricity wasn’t up to much until Faraday actually tried to understand it. Before Faraday, electricity was as “unmeasurable” as consciousness.

    When consciousness is better understood and quantified there will be a way to measure it. Maybe it is related to EM fields, or some such PHYSICAL metric. But it won;t be related to an ‘information’ metric because no such intrisic physical property exists, anywhere in the universe. Information is EXtrinsic, by definition.

    The zombie argument also strikes me as being the most umitigated drivel in the human history of philosophy. If a machine is the same as you and doesn’t reproduce the same mental phenomena, then it simply isnt the same as you is it ? Phenomenally, causally or in any other sense ? Being selective with your comparators is silly.

    I can make two cups of tea, one with sugar, one without, but if I decide to ignore the sweetness I can say “they are both the same”. In one sense they are – in another they are different. A zombie is not like a human being because it has no mental life. Is is therefore causally different too, as it’s physicality does not produce the same effects.

    It’s also bizarre – a crock of parallel universe fantasy land – to assume that the material that makes up a human brain, in two identical circumstances, produces no mental effects in one circumstance (the zombie) and does in another (the human). What kind of thought experiment – one that is meant to be about causes – is based upon a notion that the same material facts could produce, by some bizarre literary violation of universal laws, different physical outcomes ? The whole idea is ludicrous.

  23. 23. Philosopher Eric says:

    Good to have you aboard John — I just bitched Peter out about the very same thing in comment #8. His response (#11) was that he’s merely presenting a standard argument, and actually agrees that it has major flaws. Presenting standard beliefs is of course his purpose here however, and who among us doesn’t like to bitch about standard idiocy from time to time?

    Anyway I suspect that you might be interested in my own theory. Not only do I plan to use it to become “the father of science based philosophy,” but to found “mental/behavioral” sciences in general.

  24. 24. niv says:

    John: As far as I understand it, you are misunderstanding the real purpose of the philosophical zombie thought experiment, and so is Peter. Then again, Peter seems to know more about this stuff than I do, so I might be wrong.

    The zombie argument is about all about pointing out how we could conceive a functionally equivalent human being, i.e. a human being that from the outside looks the same as a normal human being, rooted in pure physicalism, without having subjective experience. You could ask this zombie the colour of an apple, and it would answer “red”, but it would not have the phenomenological experience of red, it would simply do information processing, not unlike conceivable AI.

    From this argument, what it follows is that if the world is pure physics, then WHY we have qualias? It would seem that there is no room and no need for qualias. But given that we *do* have qualias, pure physicalism starts to smell funny. I think it stank before this argument was even conceived though.

    What the argument does not entail as it conclusion is that in this actual world, not the theoretical world of zombies, subjective experience plays no role in our behaviour.

    In fact, the way I see it, Daniel Dennett et al actually see human beings as philosophical zombies, because after all, he does call this qualia stuff an illusion, and he does hold that both functionalism and physicalism is true.

  25. 25. john davey says:

    Niv

    The zombie argument is as old as the hills and it’s a dressed up form of behaviourism. It pretends we can ignore mental phenomena on the basis that it’s not ‘physical’. Note the use of the term ‘physical’ – a word nobody understands or can define – is hjjacked here in its narrowest sense to mean ‘that which physics, in its current state, can deal with’.

    So rather than admit that physics is a human art with limits, we are meant to literally ignore the evidence in front of our own eyes. Physics has been elevated to mathematics, and human beings, its producers, are elevated to angels who interact with the world not through the senses, like other animals, but with mathematics.

    it wouldn’t be so bad but these people are meant to be atheists ! They show themselves time and time again ti believe humans are perfect, like the saddest religious cults. Human minds are mathematics. Obviously never been to a few soccer games.

  26. 26. Callan S. says:

    Niv,

    rooted in pure physicalism, without having subjective experience.

    The weakness of the example is that no reason is given for why ‘subjective experience’ is both treated as something else and why it (‘it’ as in being treated as something other than physical, which is the implicit statement in the example) removed.

    It’s simply a semantic ball and cup game – merely a way of saying subjective experience/qualia is some special thing, by the fairly audacious trick of saying it is removed from the zombie. This rock stops dragons appearing – well, do you see any dragons? This zombie has no qualia – well, do you see any qualia? Both cases make make believe real as their very proof of principle.

    Why do we have qualia?

    Because the ‘zombie’ would not have the cognitive capacity to see that it’s apparent qualia do not exist, so it would keep on insisting it has qualia and even ask why do we have qualia? Also include millions of years of evolution with demands on food and replication. All of which form structures in the brain which make the brain respond to itself in ways which hopefully aid in these endevours. With those ways the brain responds to itself – when the brain has enough idle time (like in a first world country), it starts to (as much as it names many things) name the things it responds to as best it can sense the thing it responds to.

    If qualia are a trick and you can’t see past the trick, that’s why you ‘have’ qualia.

    I have another comment above seems to be in moderation limbo.

    [Sorry about the one stuck in limbo for so long, Callan – Peter]

  27. 27. niv says:

    John: I might be wrong, I don’t claim to be the ultimate holder of the truth about the zombie argument because I didn’t conceive it. But the way I understand it, the zombie arguments argues *against* behaviourism/functionalism/physicalism/qualias-are-an-illusion-ism, not *for* it!

    Callan: You are those that believe qualias are just an illusion. I have spoken to people that believe just that, and it’s a discussion that will never end.

    That’s what I personally dislike about the zombie argument: Most of the time, it serves to convince the already convinced, it only confuses those that are not already convinced.

    The basic point I can make in this argument is:
    Qualias are unobservable from the outside: They’re only observable from the inside.

    If you want to believe that is just a confusion that we “qualiaists” have, and ask us for proof that’s observable from the outside, I can only answer: Sorry, I don’t have anything observable from the outside. I can only tell you to pinch your finger, and *feel* the pain. The pain itself is the qualia. Whatever reaction you have to the pain, like fainting or saying “I feel pain” out loud, it’s just behaviour. But the feeling of pain is something else. This feeling cannot be explained in words, it’s not translatable to anything observable from the outside.

    You can call it a trick if you want to. You can conjure all kinds of explanations as for why I have qualias. I’ll even go as far as say this: If Strong AI is possible and can be built from mere zeros and ones, I don’t think I could explain to a Strong AI what qualias are, and I’m not sure if it would believe me. I’m pretty sure the Strong AI would make arguments similar to you, and would probably draw the conclusion that what I’m doing is something similar to its Reportability module.

    So, if -hopefully- you are a human being like me and has feelings, I can only give to you this argument: You won’t observe qualias on the outside.

    Pinch your finger, and tell me what you feel.

  28. 28. Philosopher Eric says:

    Callan you seem to be the token non-physicalist here, which can be a tough position to be in — I certainly don’t want you to feel “cornered.” As one rebel to another however, I do believe that it helps to know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. So what exactly might that be? In Peter’s recent “The Wonder of Consciousness” post he observed that many non-physicalists mainly spend their time arguing against physicalism, without actually developing their own theories. Thus Harold Langsam’s book was quite refreshing (even though his ideas did not seem very compelling to most of us). Personally I don’t think that I’ve engaged with you much in the past because I’m often not very certain about what it is that you’re saying. But if you personally do indeed know your position, perhaps you could state it plainly enough so that a very simple person like myself could understand?

    Nev I think you’ve got a great approach, so I do hope that we will be able to make some progress going forward rather than just validate the standard “just spinning our wheels” cliché of philosophy.

  29. 29. john davey says:

    “John: I might be wrong, I don’t claim to be the ultimate holder of the truth about the zombie argument because I didn’t conceive it. But the way I understand it, the zombie arguments argues *against* behaviourism/functionalism/physicalism/qualias-are-an-illusion-ism, not *for* it!”

    They are designed to be, but they amount to pretty much the same thing. The zombie argument states that mental phenomena are not ‘real’ in the physical sense (hence not measurable). Behaviourism has exactly the same view. In the case of the zombie argument, mots of its proponents come to the conclusion is that some sort of dualist reality must exist, and that mental phenomena are some kind of magic. Behaviourists conclude – after agreeing with the main premise- that mental phenomena can’t exist because magic can’t exist.

    The problem with both is deciding what “physical” is. If they simply dropped the idea that there were two types of “thing” – mental and physical – then they wouldn’t both come to these conclusions, both of which are at odds with a sensible reality.

    I find myself in rare agreement with Daniel Dannett on this occasion though – the thought experiment is simply ludicrous and impossible to take seriously.

  30. 30. john davey says:

    Niv

    “Qualias are unobservable from the outside: They’re only observable from the inside.”

    I think this is a misconception, a very wide one. Qualia are INEXPERIENCABLE from the outside. The idea that we can’t observe other’s qualia’s is flawed and brings to light (imho) common misconceptions of what it means to “observe”. When we see a person asleep we are observing their qualias; when we see them screech with pain we are observing their qualias. We just don’t experience them as such. Instead we see the indirect consequences of their presence, and in that they are like just about every other phenomena you can name.

    When I look in the mirror I might say I’m “observing” me, and I certainly am. But the direct interaction of me with the mirror is actually of photons that have orginated in the sun, reflected of my face, back into the mirror, and then into my eye. The interaction of me with my mirror image is extremely indirect.

    You never interact with any phenomena or thing directly , but tend to rely on communication of that thing’s presence through a mutual medium, be it air for light and sound or – for more sophisticated science – light, computation and theoretical modelling to do something like look at the atoms in a lattice of a crystal.

    “Observation” is, like “measurement” simply a process based upon an intrinsic or extrinsicly held theory. “Direct” measurement simply doesn’t exist. Even when you hold a ruler next to a piece of wood to measure it’s length, you are using theoretical assumptions that are actually incorrect, for instance. You assume that space is uniform between the ridges in the ruler upon which the numbers sit and the edges of the piece of wood. In fact, it isn’t, so even measurement with a ruler of a length of wood is a flawed, indirect, theoretical process that provides an accurate but imperfect measurement of its size.

    There are a group of medical professionals that have been measuring mental states for years – including qualia – and thank god they do.

    They are anaesthetists. They have a bed of theory – crude from an atomistic perspective, but effective from a patient perspective – that enables them to steer patients’ mental states away from the agonising pain that normal consciousness would put them through in the course of an operation.

    I think you’ll find that here fortunately, anaesthetists don’t subscribe to the ‘unmeasurable’ theory. I’ll subscribe to their views anytime if I’m about to go on the slab.

  31. 31. john davey says:

    “In Peter’s recent “The Wonder of Consciousness” post he observed that many non-physicalists mainly spend their time arguing against physicalism, without actually developing their own theories.”

    But they don’t need to advance their own theories because they’re not asserting anything except that physicalism must be wrong. To do that it certainly isn’t necessary to prove what the state of things actually are.

    In fact “non-physicalists” are quite right not to advocate theories, as the science and experimental evidence isn’t there. I think it’s a false conclusion to state that because physicalism/functionalism et al are the only arguments widely propagated, they “win” by default of lack of alternatives. They lose, for the same reason that phlogiston theory advocates lost : they are theorising on the back of a body of scientific evidence that is way too thin.

    Physicalists/Functionalists/et al play with computers all day and, like old fashioned alchemists, conclude that two plus two makes five. It MUST be true, they theorise, because they can’t conceive of an alternative. The trouble is, the only thing we can say is that physicalism/functionalism MUST be wrong, as they ask us to ignore the evidence of our own eyes.

  32. 32. Philosopher Eric says:

    I do agree with a good deal of your comment #30 John, except that I’m far more optimistic that progress will soon be made — and hope to propagate this optimism in general. Furthermore I do not “assume” that reality is purely physical, but rather I only “presume” this to be the case (and specifically to preserve the institution of science). Even if qualia are indeed non-physical elements of reality, however, this shouldn’t actually affect the validity of my overriding theory. Whether evolution created us as perfectly physical entities, or “a god” created us with some kind of “soul from which to experience qualia,” we should still need to learn about what we happen to be. Regardless, I mean to help the ancient discipline of philosophy enter the modern realm of science, and specifically through plausible theory from which to describe human dynamics. (Oh the irony if it turns out that I’m actually doing “God’s work”!)

    The founding idea here comes roughly like this: If you take all of the circumstances which are “rewarding” to the human, as well as “punishing,” I think you’ll find that they only gain this distinction through “qualia,” or what I call “sensations.” So in one stroke I’ve now defined that which is “good/bad,” or theory from which the individual and the society could derive how to function “properly.” From here it’s just a matter of using this premise to interpret human dynamics in general. For an analogy, I believe that my sensations theory will do for “mental/behavioral” sciences, essentially what Newton’s force = (mass)(acceleration) was able to do for physics.

  33. 33. niv says:

    “The problem with both is deciding what “physical” is. If they simply dropped the idea that there were two types of “thing” – mental and physical – then they wouldn’t both come to these conclusions, both of which are at odds with a sensible reality.”

    Those two things I believe are quite likely to be related. But just like we’ve come to know that space and time are related, those two things are still experienced by human beings in a very different way. An example of this: even if you believe in pure physicalism and that everything we call mental activity is just a computation done in the brain, your own mental activity and your own brain still seem to be two different things, the latter would be matter, i.e. hardware, and the former would be something like a process running in matter, i.e software.

    That said I sort of understand your criticisms of other theories but I am not getting where your own theory leads to.

    “I think this is a misconception, a very wide one. Qualia are INEXPERIENCABLE from the outside. The idea that we can’t observe other’s qualia’s is flawed and brings to light (imho) common misconceptions of what it means to “observe”. When we see a person asleep we are observing their qualias; when we see them screech with pain we are observing their qualias. We just don’t experience them as such. Instead we see the indirect consequences of their presence, and in that they are like just about every other phenomena you can name.”

    You say I have a misconception of what qualias and observation is. I think you have a misconception of what I am trying to argue. What you call INEXPERIENCABLE I simply called observable, you can rewrite what I wrote before if you want to and replace observable with inexperiencable. They’re just words. My point remains: You won’t understand the nature of qualias unless you pay attention to your own experience them.

    Let me give you an example. Suppose John was born without the ability to feel pain, because of a genetic defect. Can John understand what pain is? Yes and no, depending what we mean by the question. John could understand that pain is a sensation, what role does it play, he could understand that his lack of pain causes him problems, he could understand how people react when they have pain and see Jack getting hit in the face and screaming and draw the conclusion that Jack is in pain. But John will never understand what pain *feels* like. Can he observe qualias from the outside, like what he saw in Jack? Sure. John could be an anesthesist? Sure. But he won’t be able to observe the qualia of pain directly (and by directly here I mean feeling it), and his understanding of pain is widely different to the direct understanding of pain that Jack has.

    And if we want to study what qualias are, if we want to understand what the hard problem of consciousness is all about, we need to observe them directly, with introspection. If you try to observe them only from the outside in the way you mentioned, you won’t get what this fuss is all about, and you can easily get the conclusion Dennett gets, that they’re just a trick, a delusion, a confusion.

  34. 34. Callan S. says:

    Niv,

    Perhaps consider that it’s the other way around – that pain is actually less observable from the inside than it is from the outside. For example, I’m sure you would agree there is a trail of nerves from yours and mine pinched finger tip, running down the finger, hand, arm, spine, neck and into the brain. Can we see the signals running along those nerves? Not at all. How many other parts involved with ‘pain’ can we not see?

    Pinch your finger, and tell me what you feel.

    Well it’s like if we were criminals planning a heist – I’m hardly going to go to the cops because that gets me in jail as much as it gets all fellow conspirators in jail.

    So sure, I feel and so do you – does that mean pain exists as some sort of thing, or that I’m a fellow conspiritor? I don’t want pain/to go to jail. Is going to jail something more than the physical properties of going to jail? Is pain something other than signals on a nerve wire?

    I can’t describe the very structure of the avoidance pattern that I’d be enacting – otherwise I’d be rich for being able to sell AI (and in my strong opinion, a slave trader).

    Eric,

    I think you’ve taken it that A: You know how your mind works (it couldn’t be more obvious to you) so when I say B: I don’t know how my mind works you think C: that I must be looking past how I can see how my mind works (because surely I must) and instead refering to the substance of my mind as somehow being non-physical. So you read me as a non-physicalist.

    As much as I don’t know the exact workings of my computer I don’t know the exact workings of pinched finger pain. In saying this I am obviously not saying my computer is non-physical. One merely needs to read it that I refer to my (lack of) understanding of my own brain in the same way.

  35. 35. Philosopher Eric says:

    For some reason Callan it did not occur to me that you might just be undecided, and thus that you might just be questioning what you should indeed be questioning. My apologies — please do keep questioning the arguments that I and others make. If no one presents a solid case, then you should by all means remain unconvinced. Surely if philosophical reality ever does gain effective articulation, a convincing case will indeed be made.

    Niv and John, I am extremely impressed with your discussion. It’s quite clear to me that each of you have great mastery of the crucial questions that need answering — no small feat! I do believe that if “philosophical reality” were magically provided somehow, many philosophers would still not comprehend this reality, simply given their ignorance of the critical questions themselves. While we can certainly continue to argue semantics (given fluctuating definitions and such) I do think that you both have intelligent positions that are based upon intelligent presumptions. Perhaps all that’s truly needed now are equally intelligent answers to address those great uncertainties.

    Last time I mentioned that my own answers are based upon a “punishment/reward” dynamic which I refer to as “sensations.” To support this I define “mind” as “that which processes information,” like my digital watch, while all remaining elements of reality are then “mechanical.” But whether considered “hardware” or “software,” this is all just normal stuff. Here reality remains perfectly “insignificant” — or “self” does not yet exist.

    At some point evolution (or even God) added another element to reality that caused existence to “matter” to certain subjects. Note that the mind which is associated with this “mattering” idea, is generally referred to as “conscious.” In fact I was even able to use my premise to build a very functional model of the conscious human mind itself, or something which should have enormous practical implications to “mental/behavioral” fields in general. I am now in the very early stages of promoting my theory, having only “come out” on January 25th with Peter’s “Do Zombies have Rights?” post. Regardless I am currently very much at the disposal of anyone interested in assessing my theory.

  36. 37. niv says:

    Callan: What you wrote goes over my head, I have to say I did not understand it. The only thing I got out of it was that you feel… but you don’t want to think about that feeling too much.

    About your first paragraph though: I think it should be obvious by now that “pain” is just a word and often words refer to a complex system where delimitations are hard to mark. You can argue that pain is a system that is meant to signal a harm done to a part of our bodies (if we’re talking about the pain of a pinched finger). But while it is that, I’m just talking about the qualia of pain, and by qualia I mean the feeling, not the whole system. I’m simply not talking about the rest, there is obviously a relationship between the feeling of pain, the brain, the nervous connections, the associated behaviour of recoiling, screaming “my finger bleeds”, etc. But I am talking about a small part of that whole system: The feeling itself.

    To give you an analogy of my profession, I am a software engineer (since you dabble in AI, I guess you can understand it, if not I can give you another example). If I tell you “I am working on a web application” and you tell me “show me the web application” I could open up a browser and show you how it looks. Or I could open the source code and show you the source code of the application. Or I could ssh into the instance where the application is deployed, and show you the processes running, or the binary.

    Which one is the real perspective? Which one is the real “web application”? None are, or they all are, because by “web application” I am loosely referring to everything I’ve mentioned and to nothing at all, I am talking about a system, a set of interrelated elements, language is fuzzy that way.

    The same happens with “pain”. But in the same way that if I showed you the web application in the browser, and you actually wanted to see the code, you would simply tell me “Yeah but I actually was thinking about you showing me the code, not how the app looks”, language is fuzzy but things can be clarified…. IF you want them clarified.

    So when I am talking about the *feeling* of pain and how the *feeling* of pain can only be seen from the outside, I am talking about THAT specific element of a system, a system bigger than the feeling.

    Eric: It looks like understanding your whole theory would take quite a bit of time, so I can’t say I have read your blog and found an actual hole, but the expression “a very functional model of the conscious human mind itself” leaves me puzzled, what do you mean by it? what do you mean by ‘very functional’, something like ‘complete’? It’s pretty hard (I don’t dare to say impossible, but…) to build a model of such a complex thing and actually verify that there is no behaviour you have left out of the model, not to mention verifying that the model actually corresponds with the system of the human mind.

  37. 38. Philosopher Eric says:

    Thanks for your interest Niv. By “functional model of consciousness,” I actually mean “useful” rather than “complete.” I’m saying that I have a basic framework of consciousness for Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Sociologists, Cognitions… and anyone that would like a more effective understand of him or her self. One need only consult Wikipedia (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness) to see how “dark” things still are. I plan to lift humanity from this very primitive age.

    I did not originally set out to solve “consciousness” however, but rather just the ancient philosophical question of “good.” Of course one thing does lead to another, so once I decided that my “good” theory had become quite effective, I simply could not resist using it to theorize the consciousness dynamic as well. At minimum I see this model as proof that I am no ordinary Utilitarian. In order to elevate the ancient field of philosophy to the modern realm of science (as well as help “mental/behavioral” fields become “non primitive”) consciousness may indeed need solving.

    I do hope to convinve you (and others) to explore my theory. The entire thing is less than 60 typed pages and many points (and 2 full chapters) are clearly marked “auxiliary,” meaning that they may be ignored without consequence if their description do not inspire. (The PDF has all such bells and whistles rather than the web site however, so I do recommend this version.) Furthermore there shouldn’t be much “head scratching,” since I use standard English terms and practically illustrate all of my own definitions. Finally, I am always available to answer questions through email (and particularly right now for talented software engineers).

  38. 39. john davey says:

    Niv

    “And if we want to study what qualias are, .. hard problem of consciousness is all about, we need to observe them directly, with introspection. If you try to observe them only from the outside .. you won’t get what this fuss is all about, and you can easily get the conclusion Dennett gets, that they’re just a trick, a delusion, a confusion.”

    But you can’t “observe them with introspection”, you can only feel them. I know they’re “just words” but words are important, in fact fantastically important in this discussion as it’s the vagaries in the meaning of words – mental/physical/functional/intelligence – that cause a great deal of unecessary discussion.

    Look – Dennett and the functionalists, from Skinner to Ryle, have all claimed that the Emperor wears no clothes. They know what qualia feel like and they know that they exist. But they pretend not to.

    But their conjuring trick is to say – hey ! I can’t touch it, I can’t see it, and I can’t hear it – so it doesn’t exist!
    That allows them to meet various peripheral agendas – usually connected to trying to say things about religion and other superfluous activities. Dennett is a committed atheist and fair enough – I am myself – but you don’t attack theological nonsense by pretending that a natural phenomena doesn’t exist.

    That’s even crazier than claiming the universe was made by a third party in 7 days !

    It’s also incoherent to say that ‘consciosuness’ doesn’t exist. ‘Consciousness’ is an irreducible idea : you either know it or you don’t (I would say ‘to know is to be conscious’, but you could disagree).But if you refute consciousness (as opposed to having no cognitive conception of it) you MUST understand it. And if you understand it, you must know it exists. So the statement ‘consciousness does not exist’ is actually paradoxical. If there was no such thing as consciousness, you still have to know what it means in order to refute it, thereby proving it’s existence. If consciousness was something beyond comprehension then you can’t make a comment about it.

    Of course consciousness can be measured. The claim that by functionalists that it can’t is just a nonsense an in my opinion, a reflection of their non-scientific backgounds. Most were schooled in computers and/or mathematics, meaning that their idea of what ‘measurement’ and ‘interaction’ is is hopelessly flawed.

    They simply aren’t talking about science (whilst claiming to defend it) but about a pathway to allegedy enabling the to dispense with metaphysics.

    A bunch of old frauds if you ask me, too old and too well paid to change opinions.

    J

  39. 40. Paul C. Anagnostopoulos says:

    I’m not sure that Dennett and other supposed eliminativists are really trying to eliminate qualia entirely. I think they are only trying to eliminate various folk descriptions of them. The careful discussions of eliminativism appear to support this.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/materialism-eliminative/

    I’ve spent some time thinking about this: Imagine qualia have no causal effects. Now try to come up with an explanation for how it is that we talk about qualia. (1) Our conversations about qualia could have nothing to do with how they really are. (2) Our conversations could accidentally correspond to how they are. (3) A third factor could cause both qualia and our corresponding conversations about them. A fourth possibility?

    ~~ Paul

  40. 41. Philosopher Eric says:

    As I see it, we’re relatively all, relatively agreed. Even Peter quickly backtracked rather than attempt to make an intelligent case for “magic qualia.” But given all of this agreement, what I don’t see here is a whole lot of action. And isn’t this the point of it all? If some of us do indeed have some philosophical understandings, shouldn’t we be implementing them? Or perhaps instead we should just be… well… philosophers.

    I have spent over half my years developing practical answers to important philosophical quandaries — and done so from the ground up rather than use the wreckage of philosophy’s past. I offer my work, if nothing more, then to demonstrate what is required of us. If there are indeed some improvements to make, then please do continue on with the project yourself. At all costs, however, we must not remain “standard philosophers.”

  41. 42. john davey says:

    Paul C

    I’ve read about Dennets position and it amounts to same thing as his predecessors : the natural phenomena we know as consciousness is a cultural construct. At some point in Consciousness Unexplained i think he concedes that consciousness might be something other than an idea – which he resolves to being a “trick of evolution”. I rest my case. Dreadful stuff.

    “For example, Daniel Dennett (1978) has argued that our concept of pain is fundamentally flawed because it includes essential properties, like infallibility and intrinsic awfulness, that cannot co-exist in light of a well-documented phenomenon know as “reactive disassociation”. In certain conditions, drugs like morphine cause subjects to report that they are experiencing excruciating pain, but that it is not unpleasant. It seems we are either wrong to think that people cannot be mistaken about being in pain (wrong about infallibility), or pain needn’t be inherently awful (wrong about intrinsic awfulness). Dennett suggests that part of the reason we may have difficulty replicating pain in computational systems is because our concept is so defective that it picks out nothing real.”

    Or on the other hand, pain is pain is pain, we know what is, it’s not pleasant, but putting it into words is difficult. Like time, like space. We’re just stuck with it. I’d be more than happy to ask Mr Dennett if he’d like me to hammer him on the head ; after all, a man as clever as him must have a better conception of pain, so he should be able t handle it.

    When I read Dennett, I groan. He’s just awful. Why do people take him seriously ? Because he’s hip : he’s geeky : he’s amusing in a kind of garnfatherly way : he denies that God exists. So do I : but I don’t deny that pain exists, that it’s a concept.

    All the eliminativist writing has a wisp of the surreal about it. The elephant in the room is consciousness itself : it is ignored completely, treated as non-existent, and the millenia-old, perfectly successful words and concepts we use to deal with mental life as dismissed – patronizingly – as ‘folk psychology’.

  42. 43. niv says:

    Words are important, yes, but the ideas behind the words are important as well, especially when words have a zillion meanings depending on context. When in a context, the meaning is well estabilished, what’s the point of swapping the words around?

    when you say “you cannot observe qualias, you can only feel them” well I think I’ve already said that to observe them is to feel them, so I’m not sure what’s your point there. I hate dictionary disputes, but if you go to a dictionary, you’ll see that there are a lot of definitions of the word observe, and at least one of them matches my usage

  43. 44. Philosopher Eric says:

    Niv and John I am once again heartened by your mastery of the pertinent issues. Yes “words” and “definitions” should be amazingly important in the realm of philosophy, and therefore such problems should certainly contribute to existing failure. Observe how definition isn’t a problem in the realm of math, so in this sense it isn’t surprising that effective study occurred thousands of years ago, though the thought of an effective philosophy community today might seem preposterous. But I’m not just here to sling insults this time, as I do indeed have a potential solution.

    To put it very simply, we must never use the term “is” for definition, such as “What is…” time, space, life, consciousness, good, mustard, and so on. It is my position that all scientists that do so, have in this regard already failed their quests. Instead we must ask “What is a useful definition for…” time, space, life, and so on. The reason that there must be no “is” for definition, is simply because our silly little terms do not exist as the associated reality itself, but rather only as models of reality. Therefore standard philosophical forums generally degenerate, not simply because different participants use different definitions, but also because of the “is” factor — the conviction that our silly little words are required to indeed exist as this reality itself.

    One great achievement in the field of philosophy, then, would be for us to formally make this alteration (which is to say, present potentially “useful” definitions rather than potentially “true” definitions), as well as to actually use the definitions provided by an author whenever that person’s work is considered. Those of us that do make this change (as well as fix various other problems) should eventually enter the realm of science, and thus leave the perpetual failure of “traditional philosophy” well behind.

    My short auxiliary chapter on definition can be found here:

    http://physicalethics.wordpress.com/home-page-with-a-cocktail-party/chapter-5-the-nature-of-definition/

    In truth I could have easily placed this in the “bots” discussion ahead, but John is currently fighting a great fight so I don’t want to slow him down.

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