Picture: Peter Higgs. Is CERN, with its Large Hadron Collider, on the brink of revealing the ultimate nature of consciousness? Deepak Chopra seems to think that the Higgs boson, which CERN’s experiments might discover, has something to do with it. ‘Could this in fact be where materialism destroys itself from within?’ he asks, which seems like one of those Interesting Historical Questions To Which The Answer Is No.

My understanding of the Higgs boson is slight, but I don’t really see how Chopra’s conclusion follows here: if the existence of the Higgs boson is demonstrated, so far as I know that enables a resolution and tidying-up of some issues in physics, mainly to do with where particles get their mass from. (In my naivety I think I might have been inclined to think that mass was a metaphysical necessity on the grounds that you couldn’t make a coherent universe out of things which were under no obligation to keep still…)  That seems to be something that can only tend to strengthen materialism; but even if the boson isn’t found, we’ll merely be looking for a different account of mass. We won’t really be any worse off than we are already; arguably better off in having eliminated another blind alley; so if anything materialism is likely to be looking stronger whatever CERN may come up with.

It looks as though Chopra is really just using the Higgs as a pretext for raising again two earlier arguments. First, he thinks mere physics cannot account for the complex structures and the intentionality found in the world; we therefore need to invoke God – not in the form of an old man with a white beard, but a sort of universal consciousness.

I suppose you could connect universal consciousness with Higgs in a way. According to the Higgs theory, mass arises out of a universal Higgs field with certain interesting properties. We could hypothesise the existence of a comparable consciousness field, which endows certain entities passing through it with experience in broadly the way the Higgs field gives particles their mass. It’s not a theory I feel inclined to take up, but it might offer a way of developing an attractively clear panexperientialism, one where we might even be able to do some sums and make some predictions about the free-floating momentary experiences which I assume would be the equivalent, in this theory, of the famous boson.

But in fact that’s not quite what Chopra means: his second argument is rather that the role of the observer in collapsing wave functions in certain interpretations of quantum physics points us towards a reality in which consciousness is fundamental. He sees this as a step along the road to the perspective of Vedanta, where Brahman the all-inclusive consciousness is the self-interacting dynamic of observer, observed and process of observation.

Even on the most helpful interpretation of quantum physics, I think this reads much too much into the science: in fact I’d go so far as to say that if your reading of quantum physics requires the adoption of universal consciousness, a rather large ontological price, it seems a clear sign that your reading has gone wrong somewhere.

Generally I’d say the march of science is taking us away from universal consciousness rather than towards it. There was a time when it was reasonable to assume that consciousness was naturally out there in divine or panpsychic form and that human consciousness was best explained as some of that natural awareness taking possession of a body. Human consciousness was an inexplicable mystery and referring it to a hypothetical basic element of reality was an economical hypothesis.

Now, however, although consciousness remains mysterious, we can sort of see at least the broad outlines of the sort of way in which it might be naturalised as part of the functioning of a brain. There are some nasty gaps to say the least of it (the ‘meaning’ which Chopra alludes to can fairly be considered one), and many would still say the job is impossible, or impossible to our limited minds: but we’ve got a better hypothesis to work on and quite a bit of evidence that we’re broadly going the right way.

That partial clarification is enough to put the boot on the other foot, and leave us needing more explanation of God, or the universal consciousness. The story of human consciousness as we understand it now relies on the detailed physical interactions of biological material which is itself the product of a process of evolution: but this won’t do for divine or universal minds which have no physical structure and never competed for survival: they need some other explanation, of which there is no sign.

This need not be fatal for spiritual or panpsychic explanations: it might offer a bracing challenge and a spur to investigation and new theories. But it certainly suggests to me that waiting for quantum theory to vindicate Vedantic philosophy is, to put it mildly, optimistic.

(PS – The picture is meant to be Higgs, not Chopra.)

177 Comments

  1. 1. Mike Spenard says:

    I think it was Hofstadter who said this first:
    When physicists discovered antimatter, dualists and pan-psychists did not raise their voices and acclaim “Ah hah! At last evidence of what we have been going on about!” Despite physicists providing support for the idea that the universe contains two pronouncedly different kinds of stuff, the trouble for them was that the new discovery of anti-matter was within the scope of the scientific methods of investigation; and what Chopra is after, if verified, will be within the same physicalist scientific scope. What Chopra is after and really want us to accept is that which can never be understood.

  2. 2. Michael Drake says:

    “My understanding of the Higgs boson is slight, but I don’t really see how Chopra’s conclusion follows here.”

    It follows because his understanding of the Higgs boson is even slighter.

  3. 3. Kar Lee says:

    Peter,
    You did it! Another extremely interesting topic!
    Let’s de-mystify the Higgs Boson and see where we get. Lloyd asked for a brief explanation of how Higgs boson works in another post and I had not gotten the chance to do it. It seems to be a good time.

    A theory, in particular, the Standard Model, has to obey certain fundamental symmetries for it to be a viable physical theory. One of them is Lorentz invariance (demand from relativity). Therefore, inside a theory, which in here means the Lagrangian of the theory, cannot contain an explicit mass term. It is a kinetic terms with a multiplication parameter in front of it because it break the Lorentz symmetry. That renders all physical theory massless theory and it is then inconsistent with the physical world as we know it either. A clever scheme is devised by many geniuses to provide a solution to this problem. A background massless field is invented which interacts with all the “massive” fields we know of. This background field has four components and it has a potential energy in proportion to its field strength in some fashion. Up to this point, the theory is still massless, and still has all those symmetries one needs. The trick is (now scientist speak of tricks in a good sense, like technique, and some anti-environmentalists pick on inter-scientist communications and made a fuss about the “trick” scientists use implied there was misconduct or something) that if the potential energy function of this Higgs field is not the minimum when the field strength is zero, you have an interesting situation that the minimum energy point is actually at a certain non-zero field strength. So, naturally, the universe will roll towards and settle down at the point of minimal energy, which means a constant non-zero background field. As physicists cannot solve the Lagragian exactly, they resort to Taylor expansion (remember Taylor expansion?). They started out from the state of minimum energy, and did a Taylor expansion around this point on the Lagrangian, and what come out of this trick is the Lagrangian looks somewhat different from the original one. This effective Lagrangian now has a term that look exactly like the mass kinetic terms and a series of infinite number of terms, which if you manage to sum them up, you get back the original Lagrangian. But the point of doing a Taylor expansion is that you can throw away the higher order terms so that you get a very good approximation that you can work with. If you throw away all the higher order terms, you end up with a low energy effective Lagrangian, which is much easier to work with. On this effective low energy Lagrangian, you do perturbation calculation. Why is it low energy? Because once you throw away the higher order terms in the theory for approximation to work, the equation is only valid around the minimal energy point. The farther away you are from this minimal energy point, the worse the approximation. If you stay at low energy (which can include the CERN energy), your effective theory now has these explicit mass terms and the massless particles now “acquire” their masses through the interaction with the Higgs field, as a low energy phenomenon. The Higgs boson is really one of the four components that is left over of the Higgs field, the other three components are all used up in the generation of masses. At higher energy, the full symmetry of the theory must be restored and the excitation are massless again. Mass is a low energy phenomenon. This much I remember from 15 years ago when I was still in it.

    So, the Higgs field is a background field. All particles that have mass interact with it to acquire their masses.

    Now, how does that fit into the Universal Consciousness? It does not! If one wants to connect the Higgs field with the universal mind (I am a proponent of the Universal Mind concept), one might just as well connect it to the universal microwave background permeating the entire universe. Why not? I believe in this regard, we are reading too much into a physical theory.

    But then why do I like the Universal Mind concept? It is exactly because of the Hard Problem.

    The march of science is not taking us further away from the universal mind concept. The march of science makes the third person explanation of human (an other animals) behavior more accurate and more refined. But it has failed to explain the first person aspect of the our experience. From science, all we have is a zombie world where your existence and my existence is not explained. Replacing a Peter with a materially identical Peter, the universe will look exactly the same in all aspects, unless you are Peter. Replacing a Kar Lee with a zombie Kar Lee, the world will be exactly the same in all aspect, until you find yourself being me. Science as we know it today will fail to provide an explanation of why I exist instead of a zombie me exist instead at this point in time. It always will. It will always fail to explain why it is this particular NOW that is being the “now” of this moment, and not some point in yesterday being the “now” of this moment. Why isn’t it yesterday now?(This is NOT a word game). We need modifications to our understanding of what constitutes science. That’s why I like Paul Feyerabend’s view on science over Popper’s view.

    The failure of the march of science into the first person regime of phenomenology, in my view, actually demands the existence of something outside of materialism, be it universal mind or something else. Only that the concept of Universal Mind is most attractive to me, and the simpliest.

  4. 4. Mike Spenard says:

    @Kar
    “The failure of the march of science into the first person regime of phenomenology,”

    What would constitute a success? Or is the scientific march on phenomenology a failed one as soon as it leaves the gate?

  5. 5. Kar Lee says:

    @Mike
    You responded so quickly. Did you really read the Higgs part? :)
    You have a point. However, if I may combine Feyerabend’s philosophy and Sherlock Holmes’ (Conan Doyle) “If all other possibilities have been eliminated, what’s left, no matter how improbable, must be the answer” and give this statement a scientific salute, the “theory” of Universal Mind comes off the gate with flying color. That constitutes a success.

    Ok, semi-joking aside, as I keep saying, if you ask a SIMS character if it is merely a role-playing performed by the CPU according to some “physical law”, the SIMS character may dismiss your question with a “what are you talking about?” kind of look. To a SIMS character who lives in a virtual world, the CPU is completely transparent to it. For it to understand that there is a CPU completely outside of its immediate virtual environment (the virtual it is standing on, for example) is completely incomprehensible. For it to realize that it is actually the CPU playing a certain role, as are all other characters in its virtual world, is next to impossible, no to mention any proof that it can grasp.

    It is this metaphor that keep drawing me back the Universal Mind concept: We are the same conscious being, simply playing different roles, that is becoming you and me. Proof? NA (stands for Not Available).

  6. 6. Charles Wolverton says:

    “Replacing a Peter with a materially identical Peter, the universe will look exactly the same in all aspects, unless you are Peter”

    I keep encountering this type of assertion, but I wonder if we’re all taking “materially identical” to mean the same thing.

    One possible meaning (the only meaning that makes sense to me) is that in every respect, “MI-Peter” has the same physical composition as Peter, right down to the molecular level – including not only Peter’s DNA but also the neuronal structures that “capture” aspects of Peter’s unique life history up to time T, the moment of MI-Peter’s creation. In which case, it seems that the accurate description of the resulting situation (whether or not MI-Peter replaces Peter at time T) is:

    At time T, the universe will look a certain way to Peter, and it will look exactly the same to MI-Peter.

    I.e., at time T, it appears that there are two identical persons. Of course, starting at time T, if Peter is not replaced, they will cease being identical because their future experiences will diverge, hence so will their future material structures. In which case, after time T “Peter” and “MIPeter” are essentially “identical” twins – similar, but distinct, persons. If Peter is replaced, MI-Peter presumably goes on to live precisely the life Peter would have lived, assuming no awareness on anyone’s part that Peter has been “replaced”. (From this perspective, one must wonder exactly what this procedure might entail.)

    An implicit assumption in my version is, of course, the absence of some mystery “something” about Peter that somehow escapes the molecular cloning that produces MI-Peter. But it seems that an implicit assumption in denying my version is the presence of that “something” – which sounds a lot like C-dualism.

  7. 7. Mike Spenard says:

    @Karr

    “The failure of the march of science into the first person regime of phenomenology,”
    What would constitute a success? Or is the scientific march on phenomenology a failed one as soon as it leaves the gate?

    “You have a point. However, if I may combine Feyerabend’s philosophy and Sherlock Holmes’ (Conan Doyle) “If all other possibilities have been eliminated, what’s left, no matter how improbable, must be the answer” and give this statement a scientific salute, the “theory” of Universal Mind comes off the gate with flying color. That constitutes a success.”

    I’m still unsure where you stand… sorry :/

    It sounds like you are saying a scientific approach is a non-starter?

    Could you give an example of a question of phenomenology science is failing to answer. (I’ve provided a few of my own, on color phenomenology, in the past: e.g. ‘I experience yellow as the least saturated but brightest color’. And how science has explained these). But this seemed to me with an amount of dissatisfaction. So what would be a phenomenological report that science cannot answer?

  8. 8. Mike Spenard says:

    But this seemed to [meet]. This thing really needs a 5min edit option ;p

  9. 9. Mike Spenard says:

    @Kar

    “We are the same conscious being, simply playing different roles, that is becoming you and me. Proof? NA (stands for Not Available).”

    So your position on pan-psychism is one of faith?

  10. 10. Lloyd Rice says:

    Kar Lee: Thank you for your detailed reply on the Higgs boson. I will try again to understand this. My weak point is the Lagrangian. I think I have a meager understanding of the one-dimensional case. Beyond this, it gets foggy.

    As for the rest of your note #3, I believe your are wrong in saying that the phenomenal/science views are inherently irreconcilable. I have already discussed my views in some detail. But each time I come back to this, I seem to have new ideas about the core issues. I will not repeat earlier statements about the world model and the POVP layer. The core issue is, however, in the next layer, that which receives the POVP output in order to prepare motor activity. The central issue is this: what that layer receives from the POVP is exactly what is required as the phenomenal view, a “view” of the world (including sound, touch, etc.). If it were possible for you, as a 3rd person onlooker, to reenact the processing as done by that interpretive layer, the result would be the phenomenal view of the world as you experience it (as that layer experiences it). All the talk about zombie non-interpreters is a diversion. There is no such middle ground. The interpreter either has the functionality to experience the world so as to deal with it, or it does not. If not, it cannot function. There is no zombie intermediate.

  11. 11. Lloyd Rice says:

    Kar Lee: I realize, of course, that in asking you to put yourself in the place of the interpretive layer, I am asking you to use exactly that faculty you have as a conscious being to interpret a phenomenon which, for its successful operation, does not require that you supply such a faculty in the interpretation. The trick is to be able to reenact that processing while experiencing only and exactly what is available to that layer; in a sense, putting aside your consciousness. Impossible as that may be, that is what I am asking.

  12. 12. Charles Wolverton says:

    Lloyd Rice:

    “the world model and the POVP layer”

    This sounds like an approach I would like to understand (partly a Pavolovian reaction to “layer” due to having spent a lot of time in the world of layered comm protocols). Could you point me to some of your writing on the quoted topics? (I checked your website but didn’t find these terms in the essays I skimmed, and I gather that it is not up-to-date.)

    Thanks – Charles

  13. 13. Lloyd Rice says:

    Charles: I think we sometimes get into the idea that this blog is a closed community. I made the assumption that the readers would know the references. Sorry.

    Some of the things I referred to go back to rather old previous topics, maybe back to the discussion of Metzinger’s book (see topic “Ego Tunnel (pt 2)”, this blog). There is also an important part of my ideas based on Baars’ Global Workspace Theory. But the core ideas really got started with item #68 in the discussion “Sceptical sceptical folk theory theory theory”. Most of what I referred to was then developed during later posts under that topic. There may have also been a few more items posted under the topic “Self-assembly consciousness”.

    My use of the word “layer” is perhaps not so much as in the comm protocols as in thinking of software functions as being separable units. If only the brain were so neatly organized.

    You are quite right that my own site is horribly out of date. It’s way past the point of apology. And otherwise, I have not been able to get any other writing finished.

  14. 14. Lloyd Rice says:

    Charles: There was a good discussion of Baars’ theory in the topic by that name, “Global Workspace beats frame problem?”. That was when I really started thinking seriously that I might actually understand something about this ancient philosophers’ issue of consciousness. The other topic I mentioned, “Self-assembly consciousness” did not really get going like “Sceptical …” did.

    Of course, I have no idea (yet) whether my ideas have any real value. But I do believe there’s hope for AI.

  15. 15. Lloyd Rice says:

    Charles: There are also relevant comments at “Sceptical … #256 and #304″. Thanks for the interest.

  16. 16. Lloyd Rice says:

    I have referred to the layer which processes the POVP output as an interpreter. However, its primary function is the organization of motor output and so should probably be called the Motor Output Manager. As for brain implementation, this function could be considered as only that portion implemented in the cortical sheet, almost certainly in the premotor and possibly frontal regions, but it also depends heavily upon the pattern detection and memory loops through the basal ganglia (mainly striatum) and the cerebellum.

  17. 17. Charles Wolverton says:

    Lloyd Rice:

    I’ve now read a couple of comment exchanges in which you were prominent and think I understand the outlines of your position fairly well (and FWIW, I’m mostly in your camp). Two questions:

    Are you familiar with Donald Davidson’s take on language, in particular his concept of triangulation and the “Principle of Charity”? In one comment re zombies you said you would accept an entity’s claim to being “conscious”, which is along the lines of the Principle of Charity. Ie, there’s possibly a language-theoretic basis for your sense that you should accept the claim.

    And, are you familiar with the position espoused by Noe in “Out of Our Heads” re vision? I started out with the internal representation view of interaction with the world but for several reasons became uncomfortable with it. So the “why reproduce what’s out there for the taking” view of vision assumed by Noe and O’Regan resonated with me.

    My somewhat off-the-wall guess is that combining the important role of language in the mind’s doings and the Noe/O’Regan view on vision might help in attacking the “qualia problem”. (A guess partially motivated by a quote from Wittgenstein something like “How do I know that thing over there is red? Because I speak English.”)

  18. 18. Charles Wolverton says:

    Lloyd –

    Thanks for the pointers. I’ll jump on them tomorrow. (will I learn there what “PVOP” is?)

    I read some Metzinger (but not Ego Tunnel), listened to his Brain Science Podcast interview, and liked his approach, but have since let it all slip away. I’ll go back and give him another listen/read.

  19. 19. Vicente says:

    Kar, very good summary. I find interesting the coincidence of the quantum field Lagrangian expansion, with the rest mass (Newton) being the first order term of Taylor series for relativistic expression, it looks as we are living in a low energy oasis, or a graveyard paradise?

    Since it looks that the very high energies range phenomena is a place still to be explored, I have sometimes wonder if consciousness could hide in another very high energy universe tier, so that average cross section for collisions (interaction) with our low energy tier is very low, and then connect this idea with Popper-Eccles psychons, and noosphere concept of dual interaction through random processes biassing. We could think of the brain as a place where both tiers somehow connect (in Penrose-Hameroff microtubules for example). In a way we would be the unlikely collision of a high energy particle with a low energy one. Yes, being a physicalist-dualist-nihilist is a hard life.

    Unfortunately my knowledge of particle physics is much poorer than I would like it to be, and I can’t develope this idea, but if Chopra can write down the first thing that passes by his mind, so do I (and I don’t charge for it :-) ).

    Mike:

    “So what would be a phenomenological report that science cannot answer?”

    The whole of it. For the moment, all we can say is that mind (phenomenological)states and neurological states seem to be correlated to some extent. :-(

  20. 20. Kar Lee says:

    Charles Wolverton[6],

    “…the absence of some mystery something about Peter that somehow escapes the molecular cloning that produces MI-Peter….”

    Many people argue that quantum mechanics plays no role in the phenomenon of consciousness, and that a human body (brain) can be accurately depicted by a classical model. If this is the case, a Lego block type of interlocking atomic structure (classical materialism) is what a human body really is, then you have no choice but to conclude that human body duplication is conceptually possible (practicality aside). If that is the case, and if the philosophy of materialism is correct, then duplicating a person necessary captures everything that person IS, and nothing is left behind. First problem this view poses is when you take the first person point of view, and if you go into a duplication procedure, out come two of you. You go in with one single viewpoint, do you come out with two view points, one for each body? What is “you”?

    If we take another view, and conclude that you still have one view point, the one for the original body, and the clone is really a different person all together. Then let’s have the original murdered after the procedure, leaving the clone to take the victim’s place in the world and live the rest of that victim’s life. This scenario is what I meant when I said replacing me with a zombie me. My exact duplicate will not have me in it. From my point of view, it is not me. But for the rest of the world, nothing has changed. “I” still exist. Everything is exactly the same as before. Only from my point of view, the world is no long the same. Contemporary science fails to explain why it is me who exists at this moment instead of my clone. Language gets a little bit tricky at this point because a clone implies an original. But let’s just say a clone here really means a different person who has exact my same body structure and characteristic (from third person point of view) if I were to exist.

  21. 21. Kar Lee says:

    Mike[7],

    “…Could you give an example of a question of phenomenology science is failing to answer…”

    Vicente is right to say that science fails to explain the whole of all phenomenology. One example is the one I just gave above: The inability to explain my phenomenological existence instead of my clone’s.

    From our previous comments, I understand that your target of explanation is very different from mine. What I considered unexplained, you may considered explained. So, we could be arguing about something that is quite unrelated to each other. Case in point, the inverted spectrum problem. This is a real problem for me, but you seem to think it is a pseudoproblem.

    To me, what science has explained is not phenomenology. What science has explained is signal processing. Between signal and phenomenological sensation, there is this huge gap. What science is, is to explain things right up to the gap, and then gloss over it, and bang, there is sensation. My target of explanation is the gap, not the signals. This also answers Llyod’s comment. Lloyd has to invent an interpretation layer to fill the gap, but what make that layer my layer, and another layer your layer is not clear from the discussion. The gap remains.

    Some people even deny there is a gap. Some people deny the existence of the Hard Problem. I can imagine a discussion Issac Newton could have with a non-committing philosopher who had never been exposed to the concept of gravity.

    Newton: I am confused by why apples fall downward. It has to be some kind of force pulling them down.

    Philosopher: I think you are really confused. Apples of course fall downward. They simply have to because that is down. Nothing falls up to be sure.

    Newton: But without something pulling them down, why would they fall down?

    Philosopher: Your assumption that something will come down only if something else pull on it is interesting but not necessary. Haven’t you seen things just fall to the ground? Things always fall from high places to low places. That is the law of nature. Nothing needs to pull on them. They just do. If you claim some force pull things down, show me the force. What is the force made of?

    For Newton, apple’s falling down was a real problem that demand explanation, but to that philosopher, apple’s falling downward is just so natural and fundamental that it itself requires no explanation whatsoever. To the philosopher, inventing the concept of the force is more of a hassle than a benefit because now you have to find out what the stupid force is made of. Newton would have a hard time convincing the philosopher that there was a real problem and further explanation was required.

    All sciences operates within a certain paradigm. But paradigms come and go. The current paradigm is the monistic materialism. We are in it. If evidence surfaces challenging the existing paradigm, people go back and try to explain things within the paradigm. When it appeared that the sun was a better place as the center of the “universe”, people devised elaborate gear systems to make planets move right while keeping the earth at the center. Just like someone had written, if the current paradigm is “ALL swans are white”, and if someone found a black swan, people will try to find out who painted it. A whole generation could die holding onto the same paradigm, while a new generation grow up with the black swan, realizing that’s easier to have a new paradigm than to invent a painter. Paradigm shift in quantum mechanics happened that way.

    The current paradigm is materialism, there is no denial about it.

    I am basically a materialist, but I just happen to think it needs extension.

    On the question about faith, I will characterize it differently. I will call it the method of elimination. And the concept of universal mind is not pan-psychism either, even though pan-psychism can emerge as an extreme case.

    What constitutes as a proof is extremely controversial. To Einstein, the Brownian motion was a proof of the underlying atomic nature of the fluid. But that was not good enough for Ernst Mach (the Mach of “Mach’s Principle” Einstein liked to cite). Mach kept demanding visual proof. “Have you seen one yet?” He died a non-believer, an intelligent hostile non-believer.

    So, where do all these leave us? More interesting discussions! These are all very rewarding mental exercises.

  22. 22. Lloyd Rice says:

    Charles, re #17: I was not familiar with Donaldson, but I have printed out the Stanford Encyc Phil entry and will read it soon. As you may have gathered, I am not heavily into philos.

    As for duplicating nature, I did give this matter some thought and came to the conclusion that the POVP must in fact combine some things from the perceptual input, some from memory, and some from deduction (logical consistency?). Perception is notoriously spotty. It may be that the computational savings from using perceptual input (if indeed there are any) do not make up for having to fill in the missing pieces. I agree with Wittgenstein about “red”, but that does not answer why this shade of red has anything to do with that shade of red.

    I would like to hear more of your views on this.

    I read one or two Noe items some time ago, but do not recall the details.

  23. 23. Lloyd Rice says:

    Sorry. In #22, I should have said that the world model builder uses all these sources, not the POVP.

  24. 24. Mike Spenard says:

    @Kar

    “Vicente is right to say that science fails to explain the whole of all phenomenology.”

    Ok, so science is a complete non-starter. This has implications however, just to labor three: we’ll never be able to explain the content of consciousness in any verifiable way, we should pack our bags and go to church to understand it. And we are the ultimate authority on our mental lives, we have little reason to ask a psychologist for advice in determining things. I can never know your mental life nor you mine: solipsism is forced upon us.

    “One example is the one I just gave above: The inability to explain my phenomenological existence instead of my clone’s.”

    I should have been more specific here. ColorInv isn’t really an aspect of mental life itself, more of a possible problem one finds when considering such. Anyhow.. What is a phenomenological report that cannot be explained. That is, something that a person would say about his experience. For example, a subject could sit and introspectively contemplate his experience and state ‘X Y Z’ and then science could either succeed or fail at explaining the ontology of this. I’m asking for an ‘X Y Z’. …??? Or do you feel phenomenology is only describable by an exclusively private language?

  25. 25. Charles Wolverton says:

    Kar Lee:

    “Language gets a little bit tricky”

    And I think that is key. I’m relatively new to phil of mind/consciousness, but quickly noticed that not only is there is no widely accepted common vocabulary for discussing these issues, even the multiple vocabularies used are often not used with precision. My attempt at precision in these responses will involve inescapable tedium. Apologies.

    “First problem this view poses is when you take the first person point of view, and if you go into a duplication procedure, out come two of you.”

    First, let me rewrite the second part of this to be: If the organism called “Peter” goes into a duplication procedure, out comes a second organism which we will call “MI-Peter”.

    Now we can attack the first part, addressing the first person POV (1-POV) for these organisms.

    “You go in with one single viewpoint, do you come out with two view points, one for each body?”

    Rewritten, this becomes: Peter goes into the cloning procedure with a 1-POV; after he has been cloned, do he and MI-Peter have their own 1-POVs?”

    Yes, and at time T when cloning is complete, those 1-POVs are identical. Thus, I agree with this (rewritten)statement in your comment:

    There is still a single 1-POV, the one for the original body (Peter), and the same 1-POV for MI-Peter – who is really a different person all together, although at time T he is physically identical to Peter and has exactly the same 1-POV.

    “Then let’s have the original murdered after the procedure, leaving the clone to take the victim’s place in the world and live the rest of that victim’s life. This scenario is what I meant when I said replacing me with a zombie me.”

    There are some things in the following that depend on exactly what Peter knows before the cloning and what happens to him after the cloning (eg, does he know he’s to be cloned? If so, what does he know about the result? Where is he?) Instead of having to address multiple cases, I’m going to assume that Peter knows he is to be cloned and that at time T he is instantaneously teleported to a luxury existence on an isolated desert island, never to be heard of again and never to know anything more about the result of the cloning. Should you care to pursue this further, you can pick out specific issues for which you would like to assume a different scenario, and we can address them separately.

    In the assumed scenario, my rewrite is simply to replace the last few words with “replacing Peter with the indistinguishable MI-Peter”. (Calling the replacement a “zombie” seems prejudicial to the issue at hand.)

    “My exact duplicate will not have me in it. From my point of view, it is not me. But for the rest of the world, nothing has changed. “I” still exist.”

    The rewritten first sentence becomes “MI-Peter will not have Peter in him”. I interpret this as meaning “MI-Peter will not have Peter’s 1-POV”, which is true for t > T, but false at T. The second sentence becomes “From Peter’s 1-POV, MI-Peter is not Peter.”, which in the assumed scenario is false since Peter does not even know of MI-Peter’s existence. The last sentence becomes “From the world’s 3-POV, Peter still exists.” This is true, but that 3-POV is, of course, mistaken. But since MI-Peter at time T is indistinguishable from Peter and Peter has effectively disappeared, no one will ever know.

    “Only from my point of view, the world is no long the same.”

    Rewritten as “From Peter’s 1-POV, the world is no longer the same.”, this assertion is trivially true, but I don’t see the significance. I infer that it is intended to suggest something about Peter’s 1-POV, but aside from the obvious – that Peter’s life has been massively disrupted and that he knows that a clone of him may exist – I don’t see what.

    “Contemporary science fails to explain why it is me who exists at this moment instead of my clone.”

    Rewritten, this becomes: Contemporary science fails to explain why it is Peter who exists at this moment instead of MI-Peter.

    Since this is all an unrealistic thought experiment, I’m not sure how science could possibly “explain” any of it; but in any event, in the assumed scenario, both Peter and MI-Peter exist after time T, so this assertion seems false.

    I hope that in all this I have preserved the sense of 1-POV on which you seem focused. If I have, I don’t see any glaring problem, so I must be missing something.

  26. 26. Kar Lee says:

    Charles[25],
    The part that I think you have missed is contained in the subtle difference between my original sentence

    “Contemporary science fails to explain why it is me who exists at this moment instead of my clone.”

    and your rewritten form

    “Contemporary science fails to explain why it is Peter who exists at this moment instead of MI-Peter”.

    The difference is like rewriting “I am murdered” into “Some guy is murdered”. The meanings and emotional content they conveyed are very different. It is also like the difference between

    “There is a well cooked delicious lobster on the plate.”

    and

    “I have been cooked and am now on the plate.”

    You have to appreciate the difference in order to understand what I have been trying to convey.

  27. 27. Kar Lee says:

    Mike[24],
    So you want to send an atheist to a church to get answer? :)
    I should also be more careful with the words I use. I should have said “science as we know it today fails to explain ……” allowing for a future paradigm shift that will include elements that are considered non-scientific in today’s world.

    We do have different targets of explanation. (We are arguing about different things…) I don’t know if you realize that.

    You asked, “What is a phenomenological report that cannot be explained.” I would say none, in total agreement with you. All phenomenological reports can be explained. All outputs of any physical system (reports of a human included) can be physically accounted for by the science as we know it today, in principle at least, though not necessarily in details.

    But that is not my target of explanation. My target of explanation is not to explain someone else behavior (like making a report and the content of the report after the so-called introspection), but to explain my own existence/experience. Switching to a third person viewpoint will always mask out this target, rendering it invisible, and is therefore missed.

  28. 28. Mike Spenard says:

    @Kar
    “So you want to send an atheist to a church to get answer?”
    From what was being said we seemed to need the help of a man of the cloth! LOL
    Joking aside, the theoretic danger of solipsism should be taken seriously. It seems unavoidable with what you are advocating, and that seems to indicate that things have gone amiss somewhere.

    “We do have different targets of explanation. (We are arguing about different things…) I don’t know if you realize that.”

    Well, regardless of mine, I’m simply asking what yours is really. Lots and lots of talk on this blog about phenomenology not being answerable by science, but no one gives an actual instance of the desideratum. However, from the following you seem to say we cannot even give an instance at all?!

    “All phenomenological reports can be explained. All outputs of any physical system (reports of a human included) can be physically accounted for by … science… in principle.” … “But that is not my target of explanation.” … “My target of explanation is not to explain someone else behavior (like making a report)”

    Ok, so your target is something which cannot be stated publicly: Experience is only describable by a private language.

    You feel that the comparison of “experience of ‘redness’” with “spectral pattern s” and “neurological state x” is of heuristic value in our attempt to understand our resistance to speak of “phenomenal experiences” as reactions to stimuli. Since, if your “experience of ‘redness’” is to be of a purely physical nature like “spectral pattern s” or “neurological state x”, then this is like saying: When you experience a spot of red such is a bit of non-experiential spectral radiation plus a bit of non-experiential neurological firings. So we object that an unobserving thing in addition to another unobserving thing cannot be observation, and motion that this leaves out experience altogether.

    However, by advocating that the “experience of ‘redness’” (which science is alleged to be leaving out) isn’t publicly describable, you make experience featureless. It is featureless because there is nothing about it that one can discriminate. If one does discriminate something that appears to be a feature of the experience, this something immediately becomes either a feature of the stimulus in the sort of way that the spectral properties of the red in the red shape is a feature of the red shape, or a feature of his own behavioral responses to the shape. In attempting to advocate for features that we are leaving out one merely provides us with further information about the behavior that he does and can perform. The feature missing becomes the wrong one to talk about because we find it to be a feature. What you’re advocating creates this inescapable paradox. Luckily, there is good reason to consider private language impossible (which we can talk about if you’d like), and indicates that we should rewind and recheck our premises.

    Hopefully you reconsider your position so we have something to talk about. Otherwise, like Wittgenstein said, “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence” and you’ll have tend other gardens. Which, considering these blog comments are so fun to read, would be unfortunate ;)

  29. 29. Lloyd Rice says:

    I certainly agree that “language gets a bit tricky”. I have read the Stanford entry on Davidson. I can only say that I did not see anything (in his later work, at least) that I disagree with. In my view, the meaning of a linguistic utterance depends on the neural state of the utterer at the time (more or less) of the act of utterance. The same words will mean something different when uttered at any other time or by an other speaker. Fortunately for us, these meanings largely overlap. But for me, this spells death for any attempt to quantify what’s going on other than by performance of a pattern matching approach to understanding (as is done by our brains), coupled with a flexible (approximate) memory access method. Tough on linguists.

  30. 30. Charles Wolverton says:

    Kar Lee:

    “You have to appreciate the difference in order to understand what I have been trying to convey.”

    Oh, I think I appreciate the not-at-all-subtle difference between the emotional content of my 3-POV that “he is in pain” and that of my 1-POV that “I am in pain”. So, while that appreciation may be necessary for understanding your perspective, it doesn’t appear to be sufficient.

    I have spent a good bit of time trying to better understand the “Peter replaced by MI-Peter” scenario and your various statements about it and have found that when I dig into the details, there are enough problems with both to raise serious doubts about the scenario’s explanatory value. Eg, exactly what does “replace” mean; since “Peter” is the name of an object, if that object is “replaced” by an physically identical object, in what sense has anything at all changed from anyone’s POV including Peter’s 1-POV; what could “find yourself being me” possibly mean?

    So, I wish you good luck in explaining your perspective to others using that heuristic, but it doesn’t work for me. Thanks anyway for the exchange.

  31. 31. Lloyd Rice says:

    When a neurosurgeon touches a particular spot on the cortex of an open brain and asks the patient what he/she experiences, is that not a case of scientific access to the phenomenal? Suppose the doctor had detailed information on the exact correlates of each neuron. He could invoke a desired conscious content for the patient. Is that not 3-POV access to a 1-POV reality?

  32. 32. Vicente says:

    Lloyd:

    “When a neurosurgeon touches a particular spot on the cortex of an open brain and asks the patient what he/she experiences, is that not a case of scientific access to the phenomenal?”

    OF COURSE NOT

  33. 33. Kar Lee says:

    Mike[28],
    The discussions in this blog are indeed very interesting to read. It actually helps me to understand my own thoughts as well.

    I understand your comment about making “experience featureless”. It looks like as if I am always able to regroup some features that you want to study about experience into something that is not part of the experience. However, this is an illusion.

    Let me see if I can address this question from another angle: The objectivity nature of science.

    When I was growing up, I was instructed to use passive tense in my science report. Instead of saying “I observed bubbles forming inside the liquid after I added the chemical…”, I was supposed to say “Bubbles were observed forming inside a liquid after the chemical had been added…” I believe this is particularly true in the British system, and less so in the American system.

    The reason of using passive tense is that science is supposed to be objective. Who did the observation is inconsequentially. Who added the chemical is irrelevant. As such, a passive tense conveys this sense of objectivity. This is what science is supposed to do.

    Science, as we know it today, is designed to explain a world without you and me. The existence of your view point, or the existence of mine, is completely irrelevant as far as science is concerned. Science can explain a world in which there is no Kar Lee and Mike just as well as it can one that has Kar Lee and Mike in it.

    But for me, what I seek to explain, is a world that has a Kar Lee in it, a world that has me in it. A world in which I am not part of is not a world that I seek to understand. The Standard Model has many free parameters, any variation of any one of these parameters will give you a completely different universe, which can “exist” without your knowing it because you are not part of it. But I am not interested in any of this variant universes because there are just too many of them (actually infinitely many) and I am not part of. I am not an interested party in these variant universes. But, even for a universe that has exactly the same parameters as the one I am in, what guarantees that I will eventually exist in such a universe? If the Universe evolves as it has been evolving, following the exact same trajectory as the one we find ourselves in today, what can guarantee that it will give ME a viewpoint eventually at this point in time? Nothing!

    What science (as we know it) has been trying to explain how an “OBJECTIVE” universe works, how it and its contents evolve. Whether I am in it or not, is completely outside of the scope of science as we know it, by design. But this is what I seeking to answer: What am I here as a conscious being (there is no such case as I am here but unconscious, because then it means I am not here)

    That is the difference in what I called my Target of explanation, and your Target of explanation. You seek to explain the universe, independent of your existence. That is why I keep saying, science as we know it today, cannot explain why it is me who exists today with a view point, instead of a me-look-alike or a zombie me having a viewpoint to look at this world. To science (as we know it today), these two cases (me or me-look-alike) are identical. But to me, these two cases are completely different.

    I hope this clarifies it a little bit.
    (I also equate consciousness with existence, because unconscious existence is not existence at all)

  34. 34. Kar Lee says:

    Charles Wolverton,
    Thanks to you as well. It has been fun. See you in a different topic.

  35. 35. Charles Wolverton says:

    Lloyd –

    “the meaning of a linguistic utterance depends on the neural state of the utterer at the time (more or less) of the act of utterance. The same words will mean something different when uttered at any other time or by an other speaker. Fortunately for us, these meanings largely overlap.”

    Davidson addresses the process of initially establishing the meaning of an utterance within a community of users of language (but not a common language). I understand his triangulation thesis to be (roughly) that in trying to reach mutual agreement on a common utterance to “mean” that thing over there that English speakers call “cow”, each of two would-be common-language speakers has an utterance that he associates with that thing and is trying to guess what the other person utters when intending to indicate that thing. The third component of the triangle – the thing – is critical because that’s the referent that provides the possibility of correcting error. Suppose as an English-speaker, you have guessed that when I say “gork” I mean the thing you call “cow”. If a horse goes by and I exclaim “gork”, that suggests that you guessed wrong. (In “Dances with Wolves”, this procedure is quite effectively dramatized by Dunbar (K. Costner) and his Sioux visitors with respect to “buffalo” and “tatanka”.)

    The Principle of Charity (an unfortunately condescending word – a choice I think Davdson subsequently regretted), also critical to the process, is the assumption by each participant that most of the time the other participant is not in error; eg, when an English speaker utters “cow” with respect to that thing over there, that is in fact the “correct” utterance (in the sense of, for example, a naming utterance consistently having the same referent). This makes sense because if most utterances were in error, then what the utterers are doing wouldn’t actually be “speaking a language”.

    This a simplified description, but it should suffice for present purposes. I might note that the general idea of triangulation is found in Wittgenstein’s “Beetle in a box” thought experiment and Sellars’ concept of knowledge. My understanding of all of these is at best shallow, but I have a vague sense that they will play a role in some of the issues discussed in a forum like this. For example, I have noted several statements in comments indicating that either the commenter is unaware of Sellars’ assault on the Myth of the Given or disagrees with it. In particular, I understand Sellars to have pretty well given the coup-de-grace to any idea that we have privileged 1-POV knowledge of our own minds. If I’m wrong, I’d appreciate being corrected.

    I’ve only had time to start reading the 308 comment “Sceptical sceptical …” post, but have already found a comment of yours in which you emphasized the role of action in mental processes, a possible common aspect of our viewpoints. My hypothesis is that interpreting much (perhaps even all) of our mental activities in terms of actions – planned or executed – in response to stimulus is helpful. So far, it has worked for me most of the time. Given that perspective and Davidson’s theory of language, I would restate your quote as:

    The meaning of a linguistic utterance to the hearer is defined by the hearer’s reaction to it. This reaction depends on the complete physical state of the hearer at the time of hearing. This means that the same utterance will mean something different when heard at another time and/or by another hearer, but within a community of users of a common language and vocabulary, these meanings largely overlap by virtue of the utterance being “linguistic”.”

    This involves much more change to your quote than I envisioned when I started composing this, in particular the drastic change from speaker-emphasis to hearer-emphasis. So, I’ll try to motivate the change by noting two examples.

    In the US political arena, the different reactions by different hearers is played upon daily by partisans who skillfully tailor their speech to stimulate specific reactions to their utterances. The skillful partisan speaker knows precisely what meaning will be attached by the target audience, which is not necessarily the meaning the speaker would attach in a different context. It is true that the speaker attaches different meanings to the same utterance in different contexts (including his own physical state). But in a very real sense, this is because while the speaker is ostensibly speaking (say) English in each context, the speaker is actually changing vocabularies, ie, talking to different sub-communities within the larger English-speaking community. A similar phenomenon occurs when a devout religious person tries to explain certain things to a non-religious person; there appears to be a vocabulary used by the former that the latter simply doesn’t understand. (Unfortunately, there’s usually no cow or buffalo to help bridge the gap.)

    An immediate example is my exchange with Kar Lee, whose ideas about 1-POV I simply couldn’t understand. Applying the Principle of Charity, I am confident that Kar Lee is “correct” in the sense that within the sub-community of those who actively discuss such things, his statements are understood. But not being a member of that sub-community, I don’t “speak their vocabulary” – it’s all “qualia-talk” to me.

  36. 36. Mike Spenard says:

    @Kar
    “[the classic dichotomy of objective science vs. subjective phenomenology] That is the difference in what I called my Target of explanation, and your Target of explanation. You seek to explain the universe, independent of your existence. That is why I keep saying, science as we know it today, cannot explain why it is me who exists today with a view point, instead of a me-look-alike or a zombie me having a viewpoint to look at this world. To science (as we know it today), these two cases (me or me-look-alike) are identical. But to me, these two cases are completely different. I hope this clarifies it a little bit.”

    Well, it just puts as back where we started in this conversation. I took my target off the table, I don’t have one at this point–so consider me a complete newbie to this kind of discourse. And now I am asking “Just what are you going on about? What exactly is your desideratum (your target) in need of explanation?”

    From what you said above you advocated it cannot even be said publicly what your target is. Which, as a guy fresh off the street, strikes me as rather peculiar “the people in this blog are arguing over trying to explain something which cannot even by written or spoken about?!” And it becomes perfectly fair for someone off the street to say “this sort of thing needs to be taken into a church”.

    . . .

    So, to do a lame repost and recap of [#28], where in here is not what you are advocating?:

    (1)You feel that the comparison of “experience of ‘redness’” with “spectral pattern s” and “neurological state x” is of heuristic value in our attempt to understand our resistance to speak of “phenomenal experiences” as reactions to stimuli.

    (2)Since, if your “experience of ‘redness’” is to be of a purely physical nature like “spectral pattern s” or “neurological state x”, then this is like saying: When you experience a spot of red such is a bit of non-experiential spectral radiation plus a bit of non-experiential neurological firings. So we object that an unobserving thing in addition to another unobserving thing cannot be observation, and motion that this leaves out experience altogether.

    (3)If one does discriminate something that appears to be a feature of the experience, this something immediately becomes either a feature of the stimulus in the sort of way that the spectral properties of the red in the red shape is a feature of the red shape, or a feature of his own behavioral responses to the shape. In attempting to advocate for features that we are leaving out one merely provides us with further information about the behavior that he does and can perform.

    (a)Therefor, by advocating that the “experience of ‘redness’” (which science is alleged to be leaving out) isn’t publicly describable, you make experience featureless. It is featureless because there is nothing about it that one can discriminate.

    (b)Your target is something which cannot be stated publicly: Experience is only describable by a private language.

    …so I’m still confused what your target is. (Also, isn’t “target” the wrong metaphor? Targets are objective things. And when you’ve tried to say what IT (is it an “it”? or is that pronoun to objective?) is (the target of your explanation) it always ironically seemed to need a contrast to objective science; it seems impossible for you to speak of this target, which is supposedly independent of objective science, without mention of this domain that is its antithesis.) So I still don’t understand what your target is at all. And it seems you either have to, renounce (2) and (3), or defend (b) or take heed of Wittgenstein’s point above.

  37. 37. Kar Lee says:

    @Mike,
    Response as follow, using your numeration scheme:
    (1) right
    (2) right
    (3) Not right. One feature of experience is that it is private. I cannot feel your pain and you cannot feel my pain. I feel my own and you feel yours. Experience is not featureless. Just that it is private.
    (a) Not what I meant. See above.
    (b) My target of explanation has been stated publicly: My target of explanation is my own existence, of which the truthfulness can be confirmed through my experiencing the world.

    Funny that we both use English, but we cannot understand each other… definitely not for the lack of trying.

  38. 38. Mike Spenard says:

    @Kar

    In order for even an extended science to explain “experience” it will have to catalog the phenomenology. And doing such will require cataloging the various reports of it; but at the end of this cataloging process one is still left with a physical catalog of physical phenomena (acoustic or written speech). The paradox here reminds of of the one involved with ghost hunters looking for signs of ghosts with spectrum analyzers; if those instruments signal anything it is physical changes; what they need is a para-spectrum analyzer. Your phenomenological approach will need some sort of para-speech transcriptionist to catalog what your extended science is to explain.

    . . .

    Well earlier you had said, “My target of explanation is not to explain someone else behavior (like making a report and the content of the report after the so-called introspection)”. and “Switching to a third person viewpoint will always mask out this target, rendering it invisible, and is therefore missed.” (public speech, whether speaking or listening, is switching to the third person[objective reality]).

    That sounds an awful lot like (3).

    I still haven’t heard what your target of explanation is other then “experience” and “[phenomenal] existence”. I’m asking, as a Martian or naive guy off the street, for you to state what you are making reference (albeit not understood) to. Otherwise, how do I as a Martian not consider you to be chasing after something like Caloric? As a Martian I’ve stumbled upon some humans claiming that science cannot explain–at all–something to do with some noun “experience” but don’t seem to state a single instance of it.

    . . .

    But having read this Earth blog beyond just your posts I’ve seen that, ‘redness’, is sometimes mentioned as an instance. What is strange is that many Earth philosophers seem to want to put upon such color concepts is the burden of: finding a mode of explanation for ‘redness’ that a is purpose-free and context-free method of deciding what color is in a way that is consistent with the way they use the word ‘red’ in their behaviors and language. It has been argued by this Martian, while naive of human affairs, that there is no reason to suppose that such a method is possible or desirable.

  39. 39. Lloyd Rice says:

    Vicente (re #32): You need to say more than that! I am not asking whether the doctor would experience what the patient is experiencing. But that is not the issue. What I believe we are asking for is a connection between the scientific view of the brain (which neurons are firing and when) and correlating that with the current subjective experience. What more is needed to be able to provide a scientific description of the phenomenal?

    In #27, Kar Lee asks for an explanation for his existence. I agree that such explanation will not be provided by the correlation I am claiming. The reason for Kar Lee’s existence (or our’s) is another issue altogether.

  40. 40. Lloyd Rice says:

    Charles (re #35): I agree, particularly about the difference between the cooperative vs. antagonistic approaches a speaker can take with respect to the intended audience. Those are my terms. Perhaps cooperation is what Davidson intended by “Charity”, although my word still has something of a sense of condescension.

    As for the idea that the wiring for action output is a requirement for a successfully intelligent organism, I do know that many have made that claim, but I am not quite ready to put it in such stark terms. It is possible that having to provide for action output is a necessity for the evolution of intelligence to occur. But I also believe it is possible that, given an intelligent architecture, that system could continue to function without an ongoing action component.

  41. 41. Vicente says:

    Lloyd (39), ok I’ll try.

    In what concerns to our consciousness/phenomenological problem, what is the difference between stimulating your senses by any means or stimulating your brain directly? don’t let the surgeon touching directly the brain confuse you. If the subject undertaking surgery decides to tell none, the surgeon cannot even get any information.

    The only access you have to the inner experience of the subject is what you are told about it…. basically you have no access. If someone goes for a holiday trip and tells you about it, have you got any access to the “experience”, or just some information about it, that has some meaning because you can confront it with your own experience and hope them to match.

  42. 42. Lloyd Rice says:

    Vicente: “basically you have no access”. I disagree. I accept, of course, that there is the language issue (see #29, #35, etc). So we’re talking about what the patient reports, not his/her direct experience. But given that level of indirectness, and assuming as in #31 that the doctor has full detail of the neural structures he’s trying to touch, I claim we have direct examples of the long sought NCCs.

    I claim that the language question is not a killer here. All we need assume is that the patient is a cooperative reporter.

    The difference between the surgeon’s touch and inherent brain activity is that the surgeon knows what’s going on. That’s the point.

  43. 43. Vicente says:

    full detail !? in his dreams, and even if that were the case it makes no difference.

    I have said nothing about the language question, and I don’t think language has anything to do with this, except for the subject to describe his experience….

    Whether the patient is cooperative or not is irrelevant, the surgeon knows what’s going on as much a blind and deaf person “watching” a movie with somebody beside describing the scenes using braille writing.

    Can you imagine a scienific experiment with scientist saying, well… let’s see if today the instrument and the system are cooperative, last tuesday they told me all kind of lies and gave doctored data, aagg this naughty instrument….I’m going to turn it off….

  44. 44. Vicente says:

    Regarding NCCs, from the dictionary:

    Correlation:

    a statistical relation between two or more variables such that systematic changes in the value of one variable are accompanied by systematic changes in the other.

    Sorry Lloyd, for the moment you will have to stay in your island and not visit others, all you can do is to talk on the phone or chat in the net… too bad.

  45. 45. Lloyd Rice says:

    Vicente: I’ll try to get out more often.

    The cooperation issue is entirely a language question. If you throw out the latter, the former is not an issue.

    Apparently, we are both having language problems here. I still don’t see quite what you are complaining about. Surely, the patient’s reports correlate with which neurons the doctor stimulates. Do those reports then not tell the doctor something he/she did not already know? Specifically, the conscious content that was evoked by the stimulation. Apparently, that correlation is of no interest to you.

    Certainly I agree that full detail will not happen anytime soon. But I do not believe our issues hang on that question, although they certainly seem to be hanging somewhere.

    I have a feeling we’re barking up some very different trees.

  46. 46. Lloyd Rice says:

    Vicente: As I read the last part of #41, you’re saying that because the doctor does not experience what the patient experiences, there is no value in doing this. I am not claiming that the doctor experiences what the patient experiences. I am claiming that the doctor does not need to experience the patient’s world in order to learn what the patient is experiencing. Yes, it’s indirect. But that is OK.

  47. 47. Lloyd Rice says:

    Vicente:

    My consciousness is in my brain.
    Burt’s brain is in his consciousness.
    Your consciousness is somewhere else.

    Perhaps Peter needs to segregate this blog: One section for us physicalists, another section for … whoever.

    I welcome you to eat at my lunch counter as long as you don’t throw up on the other guests.

  48. 48. Lloyd Rice says:

    Actually, it’s not up to Peter to do the segregation. That’s our job.

    Watch your step. It can get messy in here.

  49. 49. Vicente says:

    There is no language problem Lloyd. I don’t deny that your consciousness is in your brain, I don’t endorse it either. The point is no human on Earth has got a clue of how that happens to be. ABSOLUTE IGNORANCE, including you, me, Burt, Plato, Dennett, Searle, Peter, my neighbour…. NOT A CLUE, tons of literature just to refine the question.

    So, get as messy as you want, the surgeon has no direct access at all to the patient’s inner experience, if he wants to make himself happy with the patient’s tale, very well.

    Very different is the progress of neuroscience, that of course has to rely many times on individual’s testimony or behavioural observation, I have no problem with that, is the best we can do, and we can have.

    Segregation is a word that makes me have shiverings… improvement and creation emerge from turmoil, chaos, fight, confrontation, debate… and at the end of the day we are having fun, are we not. Come on Lloyd don’t be like that, don’t segregate us, I (we) have learnt a lot from you.

  50. 50. Kar Lee says:

    Lloyd,

    “…The reason for Kar Lee’s existence (or our’s) is another issue altogether…”

    Now we are talking.

    “…I have a feeling we’re barking up some very different trees…”
    That is what I keep thinking.

    “..I welcome you to eat at my lunch counter as long as you don’t throw up on the other guests…”
    Let’s add a smiley face after that :)

  51. 51. Lloyd Rice says:

    Vicente: Cool. OK, segregation was a bit harsh. But surely we can keep talking.

    That said, I am still puzzled why the story is so absolute for you. Given that, for the moment, we’re talking about my consc. which is in my head (and I understand you don’t endorse that view), I fail to see how it can be so “ABSOLUTE CERTAIN NEVER EVER NOT A CLUE, …..”. Is the 1POV/3POV rift so forevermore condemning and unbreachable? Why should that be so? Thousands of years of opinions on the matter are no answer.

    All I’m asking is that one side of the breach be able to construct scientifically adequate descriptions of what goes on across the gap. If I understand you correctly, the scientific adequacy would be satisfied if the surgeon could in some way verify that the patient’s tale was reasonably (scientifically) accurate. Is that where the problem resides? If so, then I would think that after 100 different patients most journal reviewers would be willing to concede that the story was acceptably accurate.

    But I understand also that I’m talking about real-world approximations, not absolute quaranteed correctness. But if I recall, the scientific criterion was brought up by you (or maybe it was Kar Lee??). And I agree that the surgeon will never, never, ever experience the patient’s consciousness.

    I should note here that I am not really up to date on the various views of what science really is all about. I know there have been posts from time to time, maybe even on this page, about Popper vs others, etc. I don’t really know what that’s all about. So I concede in advance if that is the crucial gap which dooms my position.

    —– (pause)

    I have considered having a probe wired into my brain with as many neural taps as feasible. At one point, I was ready to circulate a petition to see who could/would do it. It turns out that the “human subjects” restrictions are so tight that anybody who even talked to me was in jeopardy of permanently losing all funding.

    Maybe someday my hippocampus will fail to the extent that they can justify cutting into my head. I can’t say I look forward to that possibility, however.

  52. 52. Lloyd Rice says:

    Vicente, Kar Lee: No, no, no. On further contemplation, the above is not at all what I’m asking.

    What I claim is that it should be possible to understand WHY there is a breach. Why should there be an uncrossable gap? How does the brain work such that it gives rise to a POV at all? THAT is my question, which I claim is (in principle) answerable.

    Once the scientist understands how the whole thing works, there is no need for her to experience the 1POV of the brain she is studying. My claim is that such a level of understanding should be possible.

  53. 53. Lloyd Rice says:

    And I suppose that’s where our respective religions get in the way. I well understand that if your consciousness, or even part of it, is somehow “out there” somewhere, then my quest to understand it is doomed.

  54. 54. Charles Wolverton says:

    Kar Lee:

    “My target of explanation is not to explain someone else behavior … but to explain my own existence/experience.”

    Being stubborn, I’ll recant and try once more. Another take on what I think Mike is trying to elicit:

    To whom do you want to explain your experience and using what vocabulary?

    The relevance of my references to Wittgenstein’s “beetle in a box” and Sellars’ “Myth of the Given” in my comment 35 is that if you only want to explain your 1-POV experience/phenom existence to yourself and assume that you can only do this using a language/vocabulary that is in some sense “private” to you, they have argued that you can’t do it. Of course, you can reply that they are wrong, but then you are contradicting two people routinely on lists of the most influential philosophers of the 20th C.

    If you want to explain it to others, it would seem that for them to confirm that they “understand” it in any meaningful sense, you would have to explain it in a vocabulary they can understand and in which they could parrot it back to you. But that would mean that either their version is a correct 3-POV “report”, in which case your assertions about 3-POV are incorrect, or it is incorrect, in which case you are stuck with your “impossible” (according to W and S) private language.

  55. 55. Charles Wolverton says:

    Lloyd (re #40):

    “I also believe it is possible that, given an intelligent architecture, that system could continue to function without an ongoing action component.”

    I’d say it depends on how you define “continue to function”. It’s hard for me to imagine what a disembodied mind or a mind in a permanently immobilized body would do, since planning or executing actions seems to be what we do most (all?) of the time.

    One possible objection to my hypothesis is the case of so-called “occurrent thoughts”, which I infer to be thoughts that ostensibly just “pop up out of the blue” and result in no identified action. But as a fellow Damasio fan (as I think you indicated in some item on your blog), I would think you – like me – would be a bit suspicious of such a concept given the role of the non-brain body in brain functions and vice versa. It seems entirely possible that some organic activity could stimulate an apparently occurrent thought for the “purpose” of causing some action in support of the organ’s activity, and similarly for one part of the brain with respect to another. (I should have noted earlier that I am including in “stimulae” sources internal to the body as well as external).

    On a related issue (that motivates my attachment to the stimulus-response paradigm), I’m curious if you are up on the current state of memory research. My understanding (which could be completely outdated) is that although there is ever-increasing understanding of the physiology of memory, there is little if anything known about what is actually stored in the brain when, for example, we say that we “remember” some fact, name, etc.
    I ask because another off-the-wall idea I have is that what gets stored are (in some sense that I can’t even begin to describe in neurological terms) the motor neuron stimulae that would cause vocalization of that fact, name, etc as a simple assertion. Then if someone asks, for example, “who played the title role in ‘Hud'” (obviously dating myself!), the answer – indexed somehow in terms of the outputs of the auditory sensor neuronal stimulae associated with the heard question – is essentially “played back”, possibly abbreviated (“Newman”), prepended (“as best I recall, it was …” or post-pended (“… , as best I recall”) with a stored multi-use phrase.

    I could babble on a bit about this, but just in case you have no response or a hypothesis-devastating one, I’ll only note that it might explain the phenomenon of being asked a somewhat obscure question out of the blue and producing an answer before the question is even completed and with little, if any, apparent “conscious” memory search. In other words, it might fall into the same category as so-called “muscle-memory” responses familiar to sport players, musicians, et al.

  56. 56. Lloyd Rice says:

    Charles: Not to worry. I won’t be devastating any hypotheses. I am just now finishing “How Our Brain Works” by George Millers. He admits that a lot of his “explanations” are as much speculation as supportable evidence. His background is computer hdwe and sw, not neurology.

    His explanation of the role of the hippocampus is the first clear description I’ve seen. His claim rests on a description of the extensive thalamo-cortical (TC) loop system in which each loop circuit “manages” a specific pattern as recognized by the cortex. But each loop also has a branch from the thalamus via the entorhinal system into the hippocampus. And the HC also is profusely tapped into the amygdala, which returns an emotion-level evaluation of each cortical pattern. If the HC says “go”, then the cortex records that pattern. If not, no memory. This scenario applies firstly to the so-called declarative (factual) memory, but also applies with some modification to procedural (action) memories.

    Although (so far) Millers has not said what the frequency might be of the waves of TC loop pattern detections, it is my suspicion that this might relate to the well-known beta frequencies. I have a paper by Edelman/Tononi which explores this, but that also awaits further scrutiny. Anyway, each cycle of the TC loop system can use the current pattern results to set up the next pattern in whatever sequence of recognitions is ongoing (think Hawkins-like hierarchies). So if a word and an object are both active on one cycle, then a phonetic construction could get started on the next cycle.

    I bought a copy of Kandel’s “In Search of Memory” several years ago, but have not yet spent much time with it.

  57. 57. Lloyd Rice says:

    Charles: I must retract my statement about motor-less intelligence. I tend to forget that speech output is motor activity.

  58. 58. Mike Spenard says:

    @Charles
    “Another take on what I think Mike is trying to elicit:
    To whom do you want to explain your experience and using what vocabulary? … if you want to explain it to others, it would seem that for them to confirm that they “understand” it in any meaningful sense, you would have to explain it in a vocabulary they can understand and in which they could parrot it back to you. But that would mean that either their version is a correct 3-POV “report”, in which case your assertions about 3-POV are incorrect, or it is incorrect, in which case you are stuck with your “impossible” (according to W and S) private language.”

    Thank you Charles! That is exactly the point I’ve been laboring. Asking for an explanation of X means putting the desideratum in public language, i.e, speaking or writing in objective reality. And explaining the desideratum asked about will require the same use of objective reality.

    As I put it: (3)If one does discriminate something that appears to be a feature of the experience, this something immediately becomes either a feature of the stimulus in the sort of way that the spectral properties of the red in the red shape is a feature of the red shape, or a feature of his own behavioral responses to the shape. In attempting to advocate for features that we are leaving out one merely provides us with further information about the behavior that he does and can perform.

    We now know that words get their meaning and reference from the public practice and social art of language. Or, as I like to put it, words are dead until we use them in a public context. This has implication, that as I’ve been annoyingly repeating over and over (sorry if I am flogging a dead horse!), that shouldn’t be skipped over.

    I got this point from Farrell(1950), but it trickles down like you said from big W. Phenomenology ultimately necessitates a need for supporting the theoretic idea of “private language”. And what I call Semantic Dualism.

  59. 59. Mike Spenard says:

    I might add:
    Even if it were proven or granted on a priori grounds that there is a private language for phenomenology (i.e. we grant a semantic dualism), it would be an altogether subsequent and different task to prove that one may translate from one to another, i.e., to show how one can translate from private to public language terms and visa versa.

    Kar Lee’s pro-phenomenological position has its work cut out for it, especially considering what we now know about language. Unless it can be demonstrated that the charge Charles and I have put forth (‘beetle in a box’ & my point #3) can be avoided. I should certainly be tried of course ;)

  60. 60. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    I really appreciate the confirmation! Since I’m on thin ice in every aspect of this stuff, I’m encouraged if anyone thinks I’m not completely off base, and absolutely ecstatic if there’s one or more who actually share my perspective.

  61. 61. Mike Spenard says:

    @Charles
    From what I’ve read you’re starting from the right premises: you’ve identified the linguistic problems that can be used as an indicator of having traded in one problem for a more difficult set of ones or having simply repacking the problem with a new label.

    And you’ve stayed away from metaphysics which almost always end up in a theoretical drowning. Leibnez is a good example. And Panpsychism is sort of it’s modern equivalent. Both advocate “since I can’t seem to understand how to get mind from mindless parts, we need rewrite our understanding of the entire universe” (Kar Lee’s “extended science” or Burt’s Dualism); i.e. metaphysics is needed.

    Your seriousness of the former and avoidance of this later trend is commendable :)

  62. 62. Vicente says:

    Lloyd(#52),

    I believe the breach arises from the fact of how each of us understands the HARD PROBLEM, as stated by Chalmers or Searle for example. I remember the exact day and moment I did realise what the problem is about, I felt real physical vertigo. In a way it is like when you realise that you exist, when you might have very well never existed. Throughout my life I have spoken to many different people on this topic, and I have realised that the depth of the understanding of the hard problem varies a lot, even within the set of high educated people. From many of your previous comments I have the impression that your awareness of what an answer to the problem really demands is not complete, that is why you are baffled by my statement about absolute ignorance instead of being baffled by the problem.

    I think it was John Davey who said that we usually get in circular arguments in these pages, and it is true, think how many times we have ended up in the “redness of red”, there is a reason for that, which is that the real problem works as an attractor, making all debates eventually drift into it.

    I have to admit that from your positions I have learnt a lot, now I clearly see that there is zombie within us, a being with its own will and systems, that leads his own unconscious behaviour and life as long as you allow him to do so. Neuroscience has a lot to say about that being, and we better beware of it. But there is a part somewhere, the true core of us, the conscious part that has no explanation at all for the moment, the one that sees the redness of red, or feels compassion, the one that dwells in the realm of qualia, and about that one, Lloyd, all we have is ABSOLUTE IGNORANCE, or maybe is the one we know all about….

  63. 63. Mike Spenard says:

    @Charles & KL

    “If we cannot speak of doubt we cannot speak of knowledge either. It makes no sense to speak of knowing something within a context of which we cannot possibly doubt it.” ~Wittgenstein

    “We can speak of knowing, and not merely /say it/, when there is a possibility of being right or wrong: there is a point in speaking of knowledge only where a contrast exists between ‘he /knows/’ and ‘he (merely) /thinks/ he knows’.” ~Anscombe

    You can really tell Anscombe was a pupil of W when you put these two points (roughly summarized by me) side by side ;)

    There’s a reason they were both saying this. And it’s not the obvious reason: the topic of saying things about objective reality. Most of us are glad to hear such a point and endorse it to the fullest.

    What W and Anscombe were really after was that: we can’t speak of knowing something about our mental life unless it can be doubted. This goes against our intuition (the one that fuels phenomenology): that we are the ultimate authority on what is before our own mind, and that while we CAN make errors of perception (illusions etc) we are infallible when it comes to the experience itself (who are you to say I’m not experiencing ‘redness’).

    . . .

    Also, I think it’s interesting how W was saying this in philosophy about epistemology — that knowledge itself depends on the very lack of absolute security in the domain. And that Godel was saying something o so close to this within logic. (I’m guessing because they were both in the Vienna Circle culture.) And I’ve always considered Godel’s proof one that overturns phenomenology (and private language) in a way.

    . . .

    I think this is why this blog goes around in circles. We can’t seem to agree on whether we should follow that intuition or heed W and A’s advice. My 2 cents ;)

  64. 64. Charles Wolverton says:

    Lloyd –

    Some responses to your comments on “Sceptical sceptical …”, hopefully sufficiently on-topic not to warrant accusations of thread-jacking. (The questions are, of course, for anyone who cares to respond.)

    13. Since I have only the vaguest idea what people have in mind when they use the word “qualia” (and I often feel they do as well), the following question may be essentially “Why are there qualia?” – or perhaps the broader question “Why do we have phenomenal experience”?

    [Note: Having now read your comment 68, I think the following could be reduced to simply "Since the combination of the WVP and POVP should be able to cause appropriate responses to stimulae, why do we need the experience (illusion?) of the CT?]

    Without regard to the exact mechanism, presumably there is consensus that for a given visual field comprising a specific pattern of colors, shapes, textures, etc, – and possibly motion within the field – there are specific neural correlates that can be processed to produce appropriate responses, eg, the motor neuron signals that implement hitting an approaching white ball against a green backdrop or commenting on a Hans Hofmann painting on a museum wall. But why do we need to “experience” the visual field as if it we were watching a movie, ie, as if we were in Dennett’s “Cartesian theater”? It would seem that once the visual sensory inputs have been processed into further processable neural correlates, appropriate responses can be generated without any need for that additional “experience”. Note that I am not asking “how?” but “why?”. Seems like Ockham’s razor has been replaced with a broadsword. And if we can’t answer the “why?” question, perhaps “phenomenal experience” is yet another illusion.

    41.”Sadness in humans is a matter of neural firing in the amygdala, striatum or other such places. Those firings stimulate the appropriate neurotransmitter chemicals and, lo, the rest of the day feels gloomy and bitter.”

    Since this describes in biological and stimulus-response terms what causes the “private” emotional sense of “what it is like to feel sad”, why doesn’t this apply equally well to the “private” phenomenal sense of “what it is like to see red”? A person’s emotional responses – at least as described in the quote – will be unique in that they will be based on all the physical factors that determine “who we are”, and so will our phenomenal responses. So, why should the latter be accorded the privileged position of being “ineffable”, “beyond science”, etc?

    51. “You say chemicals don’t compute. But neurons exude all kinds of chemicals.”

    Occasionally (though rarely), one finds advantages to being old – in this case, being old enough to remember analog computers. So, while the vocabulary of digital computers can be useful as a heuristic, I think is important to keep in mind – as you explain in this quote – that digital computers aren’t the only kind.

    52 – “Suppose you are talking to a non-human entity, perhaps from another planet …”

    I think you will find these entities to be the “Antipodeans” discussed in Chapter 2 of Rorty’s “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature”. You might find find it especially interesting since the Antipodeans speak “neurophysiology” (eg, C-fiber firings), but not “qualia” (eg, pains).

    “Blindsight tells us that it is possible to know without seeing.”

    In my stimulus-response paradigm, I would restate this something like “Blindsight tells us that we can respond to some stimulae that are not from the optic sensory system as if they were.” According to Sellars, “knowing” is a “linguistic affair”, not a sensory one.

    65, 66 (exchange with Kar Lee) – my answer to Kar Lee’s “beautiful girl” example is that she might very well not parse the sentence as he describes but instead simply use the neural correlates of the heard compliment’s audio-sensory inputs as an index that would locate and implement (possibly tailored to context) the stored motor neural activations(learned from past experience) that would produce a response (see my comment 55). (To repeat, this is my own totally off-the-wall hypothesis – caveat lector.)

    Definitely off-topic …

    167 – “I have some suspicions that I have less “verbal” content in my typical moment-to-moment consciousness than many other people. I do not typically “think in words”.”

    If you practice Zen or something equivalent, perhaps you have simply learned to “still the overactive mind”. :-)

  65. 65. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    “you’ve stayed away from metaphysics”

    Being a non-religious, determinist engineer (ret) with no formal background in philosophy, there was little or no chance of my going down that path!

    Re your philsophy of mind-oriented comments on the “Sceptical sceptical …” post: you might want to reconsider some of your positions voiced there since I was in agreement with almost all of them – which should raise serious doubts. :-)

  66. 66. Kar Lee says:

    Charles and Mike,
    Your persistence has definitely won my respect. The willingness in engaging a meaningful discussion is particularly appreciated.

    In response to Charles question “..To whom do you want to explain your experience and using what vocabulary?..”, I will say I am trying to explain my experience to myself, because I am the one who finds my experiential existence peculiar.

    But why am I talking about it publicly? Because I believe there must be other people who find their own experiential existence peculiar and seek explanations for themselves as well. So, no, I am not seeking an explanation for anybody else other then myself, but I am talking about it publicly so others can share. Hopefully, this part is now clarified.

    So, let’s take a look at the “beetle in a box”. If everyone has a box containing a beetle, and no one is allowed to peek into other people’s box but his own, then the word “beetle” or whatever name they come up with to refer to the thing inside the box can only mean “that thing in the box, whatever it is”. The argument is that it does not matter what is in the box because it is unverifiable. Even though some may have cockroaches, some have mice, and some may even have nothing inside their boxes, it does not matter. No body will know. Everybody will just refer to what is inside the box as “beetle”, or whatever they can come up with. It is inconsequential. The “beetle” is supposed to represent the mind. Isn’t the claim that it does not matter a typical example of utilitarianism?

    This example misses the point completely because it is addressing a different problem (again? how come the problem keep changing…no..not really…read on…). My problem, using this same “beetle in a box” thought experiment, is: Why is there a “You” to peek into any box at all? Where is this You come from?

    Looking in from the outside, you see a group of people, each holding a box with something in it, and they talk to each other as if they know what they are talking about referring to other people’s box content as beetles while actually some are holding cockroaches, some holding dogs and cats, and you realize that it does not really matter because they cannot verify it. This society of people goes on, without any hint of effect from the nature of contents in those boxes. That is fine, I agree with that, but why am I holding the box? Where does this viewpoint come from? And why am I holding this box, and not that box? Will I ever lose the box? Will I regain a box after I lose it?

    If you can see where I am going, you understand why these are different problems than your problems. These problems are the Hard Problem (or different forms of it).

    So, why do I equate consciousness with personal existence? The proof is really simple: If you are conscious, you must exist. On the other hand, if you exist, you must be conscious (if you are lying unconsciously in a hospital, you can only be said to exist in the sense that you are going to wake up at some point and regain your consciousness. If you are never going to wake up, it does not make any sense to think of you as being exist but unconscious.)

    So, the mystery of my consciousness is my existence. There is no mystery about other people’s consciousness because that term is undefined. (I don’t even know who has a beetle in his box and who is holding an empty box!) The question of “why I am conscious” is the same as “why I exist”. Now you can see why we have a tendency to talk pass each other. When we phrase the problem in this way, it is obvious that it is not a linguistic problem.

    Now, let me go on with the “beetle in a box” thought experiment. Suppose these beetle box holders are invisible to each other. The only way they can communicate with each other is by posting notes on their own boxes and let others read it. So, you can peek into your own box, write note and put it on your box, and read others notes on their boxes, that’s it. Since you cannot see other individual “beetle keepers”, you may just assume that there are as many “beetle keepers” as there are boxes. After all, you are writing your own notes and put it on your box. So, by inference, other people are doing the same thing. Therefore, there are as many fellow beetle keepers as there are boxes. All your fellow beetle keepers claim on their note that they have a beetle in their box.

    Then, a thought comes to you: “Could it be possible that there is really only one beetle keeper who moves from box to box and write all those notes? It could have been me all along who keep forgetting what I wrote on those other boxes once I switch to a new box.” If we use the beetle as the metaphor for the mind, and the box for the brain, once you get a new brain, how can you possibly “remember” what you did when you had your old brain? So, each time you get to a new box, thinking that it is your own box, you peek in, and you post a note describing what you see in your box, and then you look around, and see many notes on many other boxes, giving you the appearance that there are many other beetle keepers just like you. In this thought experiment, this one and only one beetle keeper, you, is the Universal Mind. This is the Universal Mind concept.

    The beauty of this way of reasoning (asking about this possibility, instead of simply accepting the apparent conventional view) is that you don’t have to explain the existence of your viewpoint, or when you are going to lose your box, or why you are having this box rather than another box. This way of reasoning violates nothing you know. Once you get to a new box, you necessary forget about the other boxes because the box is your brain and the beetle inside is your mind. Being a self consistent brain, your new brain will tell you that you have been that brain all along. So, you won’t be able to tell that you have had held other boxes before. If you are the only beetle keeper, you are the only game in town, and that is your nature. The mystery of existence solved! You simply exist, and that is your nature. Looking into a box with a beetle is simply a reflection of your nature: existence. Metaphysics? Absolutely! Can we prove it? We will see, and also depends on what constitutes a proof.

    On a different note, even though we all took a stab at Chopra’s view linking the Higgs field to the universal mind, his other point about the collapse of the wavefunction is a real problem. This is a true problem at the interface between classical and quantum mechanics. Even though Zurek and others provided a framework to tackle it in terms of the Existential Interpretation of quantum mechanics, it is far from being a solution.

    Enough said.

    This is quite a meaningful way to spend part of the 4th of July afternoon.

  67. 67. Mike Spenard says:

    @KL
    “No body will know. Everybody will just refer to what is inside the box as “beetle”, or whatever they can come up with. It is inconsequential. The “beetle” is supposed to represent the mind.”

    Almost… the box represents the mind. The beetle a phenomenal aspect, e.g. ‘redness’.

    So, that makes these questions somewhat off…
    “why am I holding the box? Where does this viewpoint come from? And why am I holding this box, and not that box? Will I ever lose the box? Will I regain a box after I lose it?” … “Why is there a “You” to peek into any box at all? Where is this You come from?”
    …since the mind (“you” as you say) is the box. Anyhow lets not get to worked up over the terms of the analogy.

    . . .

    “The only way they can communicate with each other is by posting notes on their own boxes and let others read it. So, you can peek into your own box, write note and put it on your box, and read others notes on their boxes, that’s it.”

    If they write public notes, and they want the writing on the note to have both meaning and reference, they will have to use the terms of public language. Which is contingent on objective reality; which is quite un-beetle like (with beetle representing ‘redness’ and other instances of phenomenology)! Therefor ANYTHING they write on the note that has MEANING will be the inverse of the supposed nature (objectively independent) of whats in the box e.g. ‘redness’.

    “All your fellow beetle keepers claim on their note that they have a beetle in their box.”

    Nope! Not even! As for all we know “Beetle” stands for ‘lack of all insects’ i.e. lack of phenomenal content!

    I can’t emphasis these two points enough; and this is why its wrong for you to argue that BitB and #3 “is addressing a different problem”; hopefully Charles backs me up ;)

    . . .

    “I will say I am trying to explain my experience to myself, because I am the one who finds my experiential existence peculiar.”

    Then why advocate for an extended science? as science is a public enterprise. Why bother with trying to hash out a theoretic framework? Don’t take this as being crass, but it seems a bit disingenuous to do this sort of move. One moment you seem to embrace public discourse, the dialectic method and science (all of which are dependent on language and the social art of it!) and the next moment, to escape this fact (i.e. BitB & my #3), you do an about face and say ‘Well, what I really mean to say is my explanatory effort is just for me’. You can hold onto this, it certainly makes the discussion here lively ;) , but it’s really a theoretic solipsism at the end of the day.

  68. 68. Mike Spenard says:

    @Charles

    “your philsophy of mind-oriented comments on the “Sceptical sceptical …” post: you might want to reconsider some of your positions voiced there ”

    Uh O, what foolish things have I been saying in there? ;)

  69. 69. Mike Spenard says:

    “This is the Universal Mind concept [...] The mystery of existence solved! You simply exist, and that is your nature.”

    Ok, which one of these :/ codes makes the face with the rolly eyes heh. … That’s altogether way to convenient and the last statement is awfully close to a testament to faith.

    Universal Mind / Panpsychism theory just brings the theoretic discourse to absurdity. Now we have to start talking about silverwear having consciousness and the dish running away with the spoon. It’s impossible for me to take seriously… from the “skeptical skeptical” post:

    “The Angel of Burt came unto me, snatching me up from my place of slumber. And took me on high, and higher still until we moved to the spaces betwixt the air itself. And he brought me into a vast farmlands of our own midwest. And as we descended, cries of impending doom rose from the soil. One thousand, nay a million voices full of fear. And terror possesed me then. And I begged, “Angel of Burt, what are these tortured screams?” And Burt said unto me, “These are the cries of the carrots, the cries of the carrots! You see, Reverend Spenard, tomorrow is harvest day and to them it is the holocaust.”

    And I sprang from my slumber drenched in sweat like the tears of one million terrified brothers and roared, Hear me now, I have seen the light! They have a consciousness, they have a life, they have a soul! Damn you! LET THE RABBITS WEAR GLASSES! Save our brothers!

    Can I get an amen? Can I get a hallelujah?
    Thank you Burt.”

    Panpsychism gives my ranting above something to actually stand on, when it’s clearly ridiculous. I guess if we have to start talking about it we might as well…sigh…I was just hoping to get some of these language issues sorted out first. IOU? :)

  70. 70. Kar Lee says:

    Mike,
    “..Almost… the box represents the mind. The beetle a phenomenal aspect, e.g. ‘redness’..”

    Obviously, the beetle refers to the mental content, no dispute on that. Nothing substantive change in my previous comment.

    “..“Why is there a “You” to peek into any box at all? Where is this You come from?”
    …since the mind (“you” as you say) is the box. Anyhow lets not get to worked up over the terms of the analogy…”

    Is it supposed to mean that since the mind is the box, there is a “you” to peek into the box? If this is what you meant, I don’t follow the logic. Seems to me there are awful lot of “yous”. Which box is your box? Why you?

    “..Then why advocate for an extended science? as science is a public enterprise. Why bother with trying to hash out a theoretic framework…”

    Science can be practiced in a public way, but it can also be a private solitary endeavor of an individual seeking to understand something. The word “science” has often been used by people to imply objectivity, quite appropriately especially when the phenomenon is an objective phenomenon, such as lightning. However, this usage also implies “science” cannot account for subjectivity, which I hope is not correct. I hold on to the hope that an extended meaning of science can also account for subjectivity. People often get accused of being non scientific, without being told of what being “non-scientific” exactly entails. Look closer, one may discover that many people have some distorted, rigid sense of what science is.

    Science is not a fixed set of methodologies, based on which you can easily judge whether one idea is scientific or not. Throughout human history, older scientists often reject new ideas as non-scientific, which after a generation or two, turns out to be the standard “scientific” view.

    To avoid becoming an “old scientist” who lightly rejects ideas as non-scientific, I keep an open mind on what science really entails, and hold on to the hope that some future science can embrace subjectivity into the scientific family.

    “..Now we have to start talking about silverwear having consciousness and the dish running away with the spoon…”

    It is not that bad. On the other hand, hmmm…I think I am going to give Steve Jobs a call, to see if silverware can run off with some dishes in the next Pixar movie :)

  71. 71. Mike Spenard says:

    “Science … can also be a private solitary endeavor of an individual seeking to understand something.”

    It can be a personal endeavour, but not strictly private. As if its not open to public verification its not science (and I think most here would agree with this). So I still fail to see how you are going to explain phenomenology scientifically without availing yourself of the public and social arts of language and science in a way that is not anchored to objective reality; and dependent on it for meaning and reference and conceptual verification. And make no mistake that really is your task: to free your explanatory discourse of objective reality ENTIRELY; you need to find “essences”. Since, as Dennett put it:

    “if it is admitted that one’s attitudes towards, or reactions to, experiences are in any way and in any degree constitutive of their experiential qualities, so that a change in reactivity amounts to or guarantees a change in the property, then those properties, those “qualitative or phenomenal features,” cease to be “intrinsic” properties, and in fact become paradigmatically extrinsic, relational properties.” [ http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/quinqual.htm (this is a must read) ]

  72. 72. Charles Wolverton says:

    Kar Lee:

    “I am trying to explain my experience to myself, because I am the one who finds my experiential existence peculiar. … I am not seeking an explanation for anybody else other then myself, but I am talking about it publicly so others can share.”

    But this ignores the points made in my comment 54 and by Mike in a comment reiterated in his comment 58. According to Wittgenstein, you can’t reliably explain anything to yourself in a private language because you don’t have any way of justifying your explanation (ie, your explanation could be wrong and you have no way of knowing that). In terms of Davidson’s concept of “triangulation”, the corner that comprises other speakers of a language – with whom you can “compare notes” – is missing.

    And in any event, others can only “share” the explanation you compose for yourself if you talk about it “publicly” in a public language. But that will only work if what you are talking about (here, your phenomenal experience) is accessible by others so that there is the possibility of verification – which you claim it isn’t; ie, in terms of triangulation, the corner composing the world is missing. But as Mike notes, this is exactly the “beetle in a box” situation with the box (inaccessible by others) being your 1-POV (also, according to you, inaccessible by others) and the beetle being your phenomenal experience.

    I assume what you mean by “This example misses the point completely because it is addressing a different problem.” is that we have not been able to grasp what problem it is that you are addressing, and this seems clearly to be the case. But then it doesn’t help to explore seemingly irrelevant variations on the fairly simple “beetle in a box” scenario, inject questionable assertions like “consciousness equates to personal existence”, and muse on the consequences of brain transplants – all instances of what Rorty describes as “explaining the obscure with the even more obscure”. Ie, if we are to understand, you’ll need to simplify, not complicate.

  73. 73. Lloyd Rice says:

    Vicente re #62: I believe I have been where you describe in the first paragraph. My initial sense about consciousness was a similar kind of (my I use the word with its real meaning?) awe. I spent years pondering the matter (late 90s, early 21st), during which time I read everything I could find and started the web site.

    But then, slowly, things started to change. The first defining moment was when I read Ken Wilber. I bought several of his “normal” sized books and got the huge one from a library. Sometime after that, Dennett’s views started to make more sense than they had before.

    I think I understand a bit about where you are. That’s clearly not where I am. A thought in my mind as a reply to Charles #64 is that I am now convinced that consciousness is not a special added capability. I now believe that consciousness is an automatic result of the POVP processing. Nothing else special happens. The mechanism is designed to represent the world and that’s exactly what it does. And awareness is the direct result.

    After reading Wilber, I stated the issue in my own mind as “the view from inside the box”. (I later learned of Varela’s similar phrase). My question at the time was, “What does it mean to look out of the box?” There is, of course, no box. Varela’s version is more accurate. But it served me, nevertheless. I put the question in terms of my software experience. What mechanism could possibly “look outward”? And about that time, Baars’ system started to make a lot more sense. I then used this blog to develop the ideas further, while also reading Metzinger.

    I never intended to criticize your views. With Burt, it was so easy to talk because his views were so radically different that there was never confusion between talking about myself and talking about him. With you and Kar Lee, it was never so easy as that. I do not expect you to take up my point of view, but likewise, I doubt if I will ever encompass yours, even though I think I more or less understand it.

  74. 74. Lloyd Rice says:

    Charles re #64: I think my reply to Vicente in #73 probably says most of my response, at least to the first half of your comment.

    There was a bit of confusion between Skeptical …, John[50] and my[51] in what was said about computing chemically. I certain agree with your comments about analog computers. (I was there, too).

    I think I will never try to catch up with you and Mike and John and others in the philosophy department. It has just never grabbed me as a compelling realm of study.

  75. 75. Charles Wolverton says:

    Lloyd:

    “A thought in my mind as a reply to Charles #64 is that I am now convinced that consciousness is not a special added capability.”

    The structure of my response to your comments on “Sceptical sceptical …” may have left a wrong impression. I agreed with almost all of what you said there (at least the parts I understood – the brain physiology was over my head, although I did do some wiki reading to try and understand a little of it), so my questions were intended to be along the lines of “Seems right to me … why would anyone think otherwise?”

    And FWIW, I too lean toward eliminative materialism wrt consciousness.

  76. 76. Mike Spenard says:

    @LR
    “I am now convinced that consciousness is not a special added capability. I now believe that consciousness is an automatic result of the POVP processing. Nothing else special happens. The mechanism is designed to represent the world and that’s exactly what it does. And awareness is the direct result.”

    I can fully agree with that. I’ve said such myself elsewhere on here. I’ll repeat to give some support to your claim…

    There are three possibilities of approaching the evolution of consciousness:
    (1). You believe in p-zombies, that it is forever a mystery because it is epiphenomenal and are therefor forced to give up on the task because Natural Selection can not operate on it. E.g. Chalmers

    (2). You reject p-zombies, and believe that consciousness is ‘something’ separable from all other skills and abilities we have evolved; in which case the task becomes to explain what this ‘something’ is, what this ‘something”s auxiliary adaptive function is, and how it evolved. E.g. Searle

    (3). You reject p-zombies, and believe that consciousness comes about when those skills and abilities evolve and the task is to explain why. E.g. Dennett

    #1 is a non-starter. #2 has the following fallacy, what I call ‘the fallacy of adaptive health and consciousness':

    “What is the adaptive advantage of health?” and “What is health for?”. I have a hard time believing health is something above and beyond skills and abilities, and I have an equally hard time believing consciousness is something above and beyond skills and abilities. Therefor, health is not a ‘something’ unto which Natural Selection operates, nor is consciousness–and neither evolved.

  77. 77. Charles Wolverton says:

    “I think I will never try to catch up with you and Mike and John and others in the philosophy department. It has just never grabbed me as a compelling realm of study.”

    Trying to catch up with others, especially Mike, may be a daunting challenge, but I assure you it would be a snap to catch up with me. Almost everything relevant to this discussion that I know came out of two books (Rorty’s “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature”, mentioned earlier, and Roger Scruton’s “Modern Philosophy”, an overview very useful to a novice, as it is organized topically), all in the last few years – and in my declining (or as my wife amends, “declined”) years at that.

    Now in return, please encourage me that I can learn what I need to know about neurophysiology!

  78. 78. Mike Spenard says:

    I for one welcome our neurophysiology overlords! (old Simpsons fan joke)

    What do you guys think of Lettvin’s and Barlow’s work? Specifically ‘What the frogs eye tells the frogs brain’. Reading this work was a turning point for me; or should I say I opener? knuck knuck knuck. I’d like to lay out a case for what their work means for philosophy of mind efforts; but I’m curious what you guys have thought about it.

  79. 79. Lloyd Rice says:

    Mike: The only problem I have with “Frog’s eye” is the old worn-out pseudo metaphor that the frog sees bits and pieces, like the one where the fly sees 1000 images. Hogwash. It’s exactly that kind of stuff that the first visual processing stage compensates. All creatures “see” a world, in more or less depth, resolution, or color range, but in any case, a coherent unity “out there”. I am convinced that the snake’s IR input is just as much a part of that unified world as the visual part.

    But I agree with your basic point. Brain has been a thriller for me since at least that time.

  80. 80. Lloyd Rice says:

    Charles[75] and Mike[76]: Thanks for the support.

  81. 81. Mike Spenard says:

    @LC
    “The only problem I have with “Frog’s eye” is the old worn-out pseudo metaphor that the frog sees bits and pieces, like the one where the fly sees 1000 images. ”

    Ya I’m bothered by how commonplace that conception is with people in general; I usually mumble “Hey, think of how the fly must imagine you with that naivety! As a biped with two looking glasses!”

    Luckily that’s not what Lettvin is going on about at all. If anything it over turns it, as it shows that the eye is not a camera sending a point-by-point representation of the world into the brain to be interpreted fully upstream on some mental canvas.

    (If any metaphor is appropriate it’s probably something like Marr’s “primal sketch”; not that that one helps us imagine it any easier.)

    Anyhow, Lettvin’s real thrust is that there is no strong bifurcation between sensation and perception; perception starts immediately when afferent stimuli impinge upon our CNS; and the eye is “an extruded piece of brain”. I think this work proves that there can be no strong bifurcation (i.e., it can only be ostensive in how we speak; and this is only a weak bifurcation) between unsophistiated sensation (i.e., “qualia”) and sophisticated sensation (i.e. stimuli).

    I’ll try and post something further on this in a bit that ties it in with the linguistic points that have been labored above.

  82. 82. John Davey says:

    Mike
    Re : “http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/quinqual.htm”

    I worked a while in the law – as should the guy who wrote this paper !

    Next essay – “The Emperor is wearing clothes” !

    John

  83. 83. Mike Spenard says:

    @john

    Huh? You’re Dennett?!

  84. 84. Mike Spenard says:

    O. “As should”. I read “as the guy who”. Damn tiny iPhone ;)

    Anyhow, still don’t follow! Why should Dennett work in law?

  85. 85. John Davey says:

    Is that him ? I think dennett is a genius I have to say. Not for any great contribution to philosophy of mind perhaps, but for advocacy he can show any budding lawyer plenty of lessons.

    I’ve read dozens of articles of his which start ‘today I’m going to show you what nonsense qualia are ….’ before a lengthy text which never … quite … seems to .. actually do that. As he travels on his linguistic soliloquies he reiterates his promise .. “so you are going to see, soon that mental phenomena are something that we can ditch etc” … whilst never quite doing that. He exploits the “vagueness” of the language of mental phenomena to trash the idea of mental phenomena brilliantly – like a good defence lawyer talking about a witness’s testimony – whilst never acknowledging the smoking gun with his client’s fingerprints on it.

    But guess what – you read it, get confused (they never quite make sense to me, Dennet’s essays – he uses a lot of Dennett-eese which nobody else seems to use ). But you still wake up in the moring, however ‘vague’ the idea ‘waking up’ might seem.

    The quote about Louis Armstrog is alas apt I feel, allowing room for this kind of advocacy. Consciousness is something we only know because we know it. Having said that, it’s not alone nonetheless. Time is time is time is nothing else. Time is what it is. Space is what it is. Physics tells us nothing about time and space per se, just how they interrelate. But just because ‘time’ and ‘space’ are difficult (I would say MORE difficult) to define than mental phenomena, does that mean to say they don’t exist ? That they don’y make sense ? That we can stop talking about them ?

    Just because something doesn’t make sense doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It just means they do’t make sense.

  86. 86. Mike Spenard says:

    @John
    I understand him to be asking for the smoking gun. He’s simply taking (1) a verificationalist approach (2) an explanation of phenomenology that coincides with how we actually use the words, which is purpose and context dependent. I don’t think their is much fault in that, other then perhaps his literary style. It’s very much like Russell’s Teapot in a way. And it’s much like I was doing back in post [#38]:

    I still haven’t heard what your target of explanation is other then “experience” and “[phenomenal] existence”. I’m asking, as a Martian or naive guy off the street, for you to state what you are making reference (albeit not understood) to. Otherwise, how do I as a Martian not consider you to be chasing after something like Caloric? As a Martian I’ve stumbled upon some humans claiming that science cannot explain–at all–something to do with some noun “experience” but don’t seem to state a single instance of it.

    But having read this Earth blog beyond just these posts I’ve seen that, ‘redness’, is sometimes mentioned as an instance. What is strange is that many Earth philosophers seem to want to put upon such color concepts is the burden of: finding a mode of explanation for ‘redness’ that a is purpose-free and context-free method of deciding what color is in a way that is consistent with the way they use the word ‘red’ in their behaviors and language. It has been argued by this Martian [and Dennett in QuiningQualia], while naive of human affairs, that there is no reason to suppose that such a method is possible or desirable.

    Anyhow, Dennett aside, I was hoping to help Charles out and probe peoples thoughts on neurophysiology more. Lettvin and Barlow seemed like the best place to start.

  87. 87. John Davey says:

    Mike

    I think the problem with Dennett’s approach is that it is too language oriented. He’s like a computationlist, 1990s logical positivist. But mental phenomena are ultimately a scientific issue, not a philosophical one. You can trash discussion of mental phenomena all you like, but ‘redness’ won’t disappear because of it.

    I know that mental phenomena can be difficult to analyse – and to be fair to Denett, he does acknowledge mental phenomena exist (surprising numbers of the 1930s behaviourists et al didn’t) – but that doesn’t make them unknown. We do know them.

    The martian concept is I think misleading. what if martians don’t understand time ? How do we explain that to them ? Would that mean that time does not exist, because it can’t be verified by them ? I don’t think being unable to analyze something gets rid of it.

    J

  88. 88. Vicente says:

    Charles[77]:

    I believe you should first make clear youself the difference between neurophysiology and general neuroscience (it includes n.physiology).

    If what you are really interested in is neurophysiology then I recommend you to get a good foundation in physics (continuous media electrodynamics/dielectrics, and molecular physics mainly), biochemistry and cell biology, before you start with neurophysiology.

    Probably you might find more interesting to have an overview of general neuroscience, although to have a good understanding of neurophysiology (limited by the state of the art, if possible to reach outside professional activity) will show you how far we are from understanding the hard problem of consciousness, well…unless glutamate molecules have a rainbow painted on them, and there is a phylarmonic orchestra playing in the neuron nucleus…

  89. 89. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    Do you have an opinion on “Mary’s Room”?: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary%27s_room

    I have a vague sense that this is relevant to my concern stated in my comment 64 reply to Lloyd’s comment 13. FWIW, my thoughts:

    Suppose the problem is stated as “Mary knows everything physical about colors … Will she learn anything when she leaves the room?”. It seems to me that the answer is “yes, but”.

    To the limited extent that I understand the concepts, I think the issue here has to do with “supervenience physicalism”. If one takes that posture, then “knowing everything physical about” seems to include knowing things that are supervenient on the examples of “physical” things about color that are given in the wiki entry.

    If one accepts Sellars’ claim that “knowing is a linguistic affair”, ie, that it involves a process analogous (or perhaps identical) to Davidson’s triangulation, then it appears to me that the premise is wrong – she won’t really know everything about colors, specifically what “big W” knows: “I know that thing is red because I speak English”. That’s because she will never have participated in triangulation with other persons and red objects.

    So, when Mary leaves her room and encounters an object that most people describe as “red”, she presumably will have an unfamiliar experience, but she won’t learn that it is the experience of “seeing red” until she has triangulated with people who describe some visually accessible objects as “red”. Then yes, she will have learned something new, but it won’t be because “qualia” are non-physical; it will just be because contrary to the hypothesis of the thought experiment, she didn’t really know everything about red.

    Make any sense?

  90. 90. Charles Wolverton says:

    Vicente –

    While I appreciate the suggestion, it appears to be based on numerous wrong assumptions, including that I am building a career, have unlimited capacity to learn new stuff, and am not lazy. My career days are long gone – this is all a retirement hobby to which I devote a lot of time and energy, both pf which are in limited supply. But I will keep in mind the distinction you suggest. Thanks.

  91. 91. Charles Wolverton says:

    “mental phenomena are ultimately a scientific issue, not a philosophical one.”

    I keep encountering this sentiment, which I think misses the point. Of course answering relevant “lower order” (your term, john, IIRC) questions about the mental is a job for science. But given that, I still see two issues that aren’t strictly “scientific”: how to allocate limited resources (ie, deciding which questions to ask), and performing system engineering, ie, pulling together insights from diverse areas. Being a systems engineer, I look at the problem from that perspective and find some of the insights from mid-20C philosophy of mind useful – as in my comment 89. (Not to suggest, of course, that I personally can contribute anything, just that there might be a role for some with my bent who possibly could).

  92. 92. Mike Spenard says:

    @Charles

    That’s a very interesting take on The Mary. If understand you right you are saying: the thought experiment is self refuting because she can’t possibly know everything (like it says she DOES) physical; because some of that knowledge is contingent on language, which she doesn’t have the full benefit of developing because shes locked in that room by herself. And while it may seem a valid retort “well she can read!” this fails to identify that proper understanding of language comes about via real interaction with other humans in discriminatory ways.

    I’ve refrained from trying to get to opinionated on The Mary. But one of the striking features, as it seems to me, is:
    We’re asked to imagine she knows /everything/ physical about color. So we imagine that she knows everything that is written in journals, books etc. Which is to say we imagine her having access to the entire scope of ‘propositional knowledge’ on color. And then we go “Ah hah! Propositional knowledge is not like color!” Accept most people don’t use that term. BUT, my issue is ‘knowing everything physical’ would include more then just propositional knowledge; e.g. she would also know every up to the millisecond thing to know, and I don’t have much of an argument yet for this but, I think if we start talking about speed and how fast she knows physical details this propositional knowledge takes on a whole new meaning: color.

  93. 93. Mike Spenard says:

    “how fast she knows physical details this propositional knowledge takes on a whole new meaning: color.

    scrub the word “propositional” from that, I should have typed “this physical knowledge takes on a while new meaning beyond propositions: color” ;)

  94. 94. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    Again I suggest that you worry – you understood me perfectly, which raises doubts about your cognitive functioning. :-)

    Unfortunately, I have noticed a flaw in what I wrote, and therefore in your reiteration. Mary can have consensus public propositional knowledge (eg, facts she reads in authoritative texts, hears from experts, etc). After all, that’s the way most of us chronic “learners” get our knowledge of most things – second hand from trusted sources, not through triangulation – which we leave to the authorities and experts to do for us via conferences, refereed journal articles, etc. So, she can “know” that the proposition “Apples are red” is true because others have provided the justification. What she can’t do after leaving her room is come upon something – call it an “X” – the color of which she doesn’t already know, and learn that the proposition “X’s are red” is true until she herself triangulates, thereby justifying that proposition. And even if she knows “apples are red” is true and comes upon a red apple, she still can’t be confident in her correlation of her experience with “seeing red” until she confirms that the apple actually is red, again by triangulating with others who agree that it’s red.

    So, I think our dispute with the qualia-philes is as follows. When Mary encounters something – even something familiar – the color of which she hasn’t previously learned, they think she learns something because she experiences the qualia “red” for the first time and gains some new knowledge – perhaps that “Xs are red”. But while we admit that she may have a new experience, we don’t see what new knowledge she gains. By hypothesis, she doesn’t know that the experience corresponds to “seeing red” until she triangulates, so she actually doesn’t learn that “Xs are red” is true. So, the qualia-philes need to say precisely what they think she has learned.

    In the previous, emphasizing “may” relates to the “vague sense” I mentioned in comment 89. I wonder if Mary, who is in the position of a newborn with respect to colors, even “experiences” them; ie, could those experiences themselves also be “learned”? And even if they aren’t, for the reasons I expressed in that comment, could they be in some sense illusions? I don’t quite understand your second paragraph, but I think this may relate to what you seem to be addressing.

  95. 95. Vicente says:

    Charles[#94]: the point with Mary is not what she learns or doesn’t learn, or if it is for the first time or the second. The point is that the only way to learn it is by having the direct experience. No matter how much theoretical knwoledge she gains on the color perception mechanisms, unless she sees red, there is no way she can know what red is.

    The point is to decouple color “experience”, i.e. qualia, from physics and from theoretical knowledge.

    Try to explain a blind born person what a colour is.

  96. 96. Lloyd Rice says:

    Charles: There were a couple of points back in #64 that I want to say a bit more about.

    First was re my mention of sadness. I believe that is one of several experiences that do not have direct obvious perceptual values and so need some sort of internally created value. To this end, I spoke of “synthesized signals”. The experiential effect has been well covered under discussions of Mary’s redness, language, etc. But I do think it is useful at some point to list these percepts and their characteristics, so I would include pain, color, smell, taste and emotional valences as the primary examples. My only point about the “signals” was that they are internal and uniquely private. My “red” is not likely to be your “red”. Mike usefully referred me to his discussion of cone encoding. The output from that level of neural coding could be examples of my “signals”. Pain and other haptic percepts may have comparable neural encodings. Cases like the emotions require unique internally synthesized qualities suitable to be stored as memories.

    Second was your request for neural info. Vicente gave you a very thorough answer. Here is my shorter answer. As I started reading Donald Millers’ “How Our Brain Works”, I did not think I would recommend it. I thought his analogies between parts of the brain and floors of a building did not add to the presentation, but maybe that approach has its value. He says a lot in few words, less than 300 pages of large type, with good diagrams. I would say the level is freshman or committed high school senior, except that he covers a lot that would not come up in those contexts. For a reader with less than related professional experience, there is a lot of terminology, but mostly well described. On the other hand, the index leaves something to be desired. I clearly found the book to be of interest.

  97. 97. Mike Spenard says:

    @Vic & Charles

    “Charles[#94]: the point with Mary is not what she learns or doesn’t learn, or if it is for the first time or the second. The point is that the only way to learn it is by having the direct experience. No matter how much theoretical knwoledge she gains on the color perception mechanisms, unless she sees red, there is no way she can know what red is. The point is to decouple color “experience”, i.e. qualia, from physics and from theoretical knowledge.”

    Charles is on the right point. Because it’s not just being asked of us to imagine her “knowing all theoretical knowledge” but her “knowing every single physical thing there is to know”. Mary is about disproving physicalism. It just happens to do this by way of pumping our intuition that all physical knowledge must be in propositional form.

  98. 98. Mike Spenard says:

    @Charles
    “And even if she knows “apples are red” is true and comes upon a red apple, she still can’t be confident in her correlation of her experience with “seeing red” until she confirms that the apple actually is red, again by triangulating with others who agree that it’s red.”

    I guess I should be worried, you’re still making sense to me! But I think I’m in good company ;)

    Colors are context dependent. I think an interesting question is “What if all of a sudden a banana appeared inside her room?” Being a very knowledgeable scientist she will know color is not equal to only spectral wavelengths (see p.2+ of reference below). She will have a visual experience of color with the banana, but she wont be able to say if its truly yellow until she puts the banana in a purposeful context where she actually has to make a differentiation that is socially compliant; 100% yellow might be right (yellow), or 90% yellow and 10% red might be right (reddish yellow); she won’t be sure of what predicate(s) really apply. This is your “triangulates” and what qualia advocates think they can do without in speaking of color ontology: purpose and context. Additionally, spectral response varies between individuals (see the figure on p.32 of link below); these observations mean there is no “gold standard” to what “redness” /is/, there can be no core “essence” that is non-relative. However, if we consider “triangulations” and “the /entire/ scope of context and purpose knowledge” to be under the umbrella of what she knows, she will likely be able to use the predicate with certainty.

    Here’s my own account (its a work in progress) of color ontology: http://www.memeoid.net/books/Spenard/Spenard_OnTheInventionOfColor_DRAFT.pdf

    I haven’t dealt with The May in it yet. But there’s a section called “Use and Mention” (p.20) where I argue it’s a big mistake to try and argue for a strict bifurcation between using a color and mentioning a color (referencing the experience); which non-physicalists need to do.

    . . .

    “I don’t quite understand your second paragraph, but I think this may relate to what you seem to be addressing.”

    Basically, I was saying “triangulates” ultimately falls under physical information. The trick with the thought experiment, as I said in [#97], is that it gets you to consider “all physical knowledge” as only “propositional knowledge”; and propositional knowledge is dated. I.e. it’s not “up to the millisecond” information (e.g. we cant express the zero-crossings [see Marr] in our visual field propositionaly in any way that is stating their present state. We cant create semantics that fast). So this is why I think speed needs to be talked about. Once we start talking about “all physical knowledge” and it being (1) not limited to being propositional (2) up to the millisecond information on the worlds physical nature, the though experiment that is suppose to disprove physicalism starts to loose its teeth.

  99. 99. Kar Lee says:

    John Davey[85],
    I am quite certain that Mr. Dennett believes he has explained consciousness. But after I finished the book years ago, I remember thinking to myself that a better title for the book is actually “Consciousness Unexplained”. But I have to emphasize that it is probably just me. What constitutes an explanation to someone else may not be a convincing explanation to me, and it works the other way as well.

  100. 100. Kar Lee says:

    On science as a private solitary endeavor:

    The notion that science has to involve public language deserves some discussion. Imagine thousands of years ago, someone discovered a theorem called Pythagorus theorem (let’s just take that person to be Pythagorus himself) and was able to prove the correctness of this theorem to his own satisfaction. That is, he was able to convince himself that the theorem is true. Let’s further assume that he used a strange method that none of his contemporaries was able to understand (perhaps his contemporaries were all Martians who may not even have the concept of length?), thus his proof was essentially based on his private language which no one other than himself was able to understand. Does that make his theorem unscientific?

    Obviously not. If someone comes to him and said, since you convinced yourself with a language that only you can understand, your method is unscientific, what would he say? He would say, “I think that is your problem. My proof is scientific.”

    It brings out a concept that some kinds of knowledge cannot be taught, but they can be learned. Teaching involving using public language, but learning can only involve private language. When you get it, you get it. If you don’t, you don’t.

    In an earlier post by Peter on this blog “Abilities don’t matter”, a lot of discussions have been devoted to whether Frank Jackson’s Mary the color scientist learns anything new the first time she sees red. Ability is a manifestation of knowledge. The ability to discriminate red using a pair of unaided eyes is a manifestation of a type of knowledge about red, the kind of knowledge that Mary could never have obtained by studying physics textbooks and scientific journals.

    Some people can wiggle their ears. Can I teach you how to wiggle your ears? I don’t think so. Can you seek that knowledge on your own? I bet (though no guarantee of success!). After you learn it, can you describe it in public language to teach other people? I doubt it. Does the fact that you cannot describe how you actually manage to wiggle your ears in public language make wiggling ears unscientific? Making that knowledge unscientific? Not at all.

    Final example, self knowledge. I know I am conscious. Can I prove to other people that I am conscious (in philosophical sense, not medical sense)? I don’t think so. Does it mean this self knowledge is unscientific? Absolutely not!

    I think these examples completely refute the claim that science has to involve public language.

    However, science as we know it today, focus only on the third person point of view description. It therefore needs to be extended to the first person aspect of phenomenon such as qualia, so that people will not have a distorted idea of what science should be, and reject qualia as non-scientific.

  101. 101. Charles Wolverton says:

    Vicente –

    “The point is that the only way to learn it is by having the direct experience. No matter how much theoretical knwoledge she gains on the color perception mechanisms, unless she sees red, there is no way she can know what red is.”

    Precisely. And then you have two vertices of the triangulation process: the red object and Mary. But unless Mary can associate what she experiences with “seeing red” by having others (the third vertex) tell her that when looking at the object they are having an experience that they call “seeing red”, she can’t know that her experience is correctly described as “seeing red”. My understanding is that thinking one can ignore the third vertex and still “know red” is the essence of Sellars’ famous “Myth of the Given”.

    “The point is to decouple color “experience”, i.e. qualia, from physics and from theoretical knowledge.”

    I’d say it depends on one’s objective; ie, “the point” of what activity?

    ===========================================================

    Lloyd –

    “I do think it is useful at some point to list these percepts and their characteristics, so I would include pain, color, smell, taste and emotional valences”

    The point of my comment was to concur with your general theme, and specifically to ask qualia-philes: Since you seem to consider the “unique private experience” of qualia something special, why isn’t the “unique private experience” of emotions similarly special? Could it be that just as emotions are a product of the whole body, so are qualia?

    “Cases like the emotions require unique internally synthesized qualities suitable to be stored as memories.”

    Could you elaborate a bit on this? I think I understand your point about emotions being generated internally, but don’t see how memory fits in – what gets stored and why?

    Re Donald Millers’s book, unfortunately it isn’t in our public library. I’m willing to buy a book that comes with a ringing endorsement, but yours seems luke warm. For which reason, recommendations of on-line material are especially welcome.

    ==================================================

    For those interested in either the approach to language, knowledge, et al, that Mike and I have discussed, or the issue of irreducibility and non-translatability in the mind-matter distinction, seemingly of special interest to John D, I would strongly recommend the Bjorn Ramberg essay in “Rorty and His Critics”. I’ve been struggling with it for much of a year, so it’s not an easy read (at least I hope it isn’t an easy read!) and consider it time well spent. The essay addresses what Ramberg considers to be major misunderstandings on Rorty’s part of Davidson, one of Rorty’s major influences, specifically his positions on truth and the special status of the mental. And Rorty acknowledges his errors and recants some of his long-held positions. I think it’s a must read for those interested in these matters. (John should really like it since it addresses issues in ontology! :-)

  102. 102. Mike Spenard says:

    @KL
    “his proof was essentially based on his private language which no one other than himself was able to understand. Does that make his theorem unscientific?”

    Yes. If it can’t be stated in a verifiable way then it’s not science, and whomever will need to wield public language to do that (not to mention use it to find a problem worth asking). And I don’t see anyone agreeing with you that doesn’t have a mystical or religious agenda. E.g. Chopra would likely love this idea of yours. Which makes me think what you are talking about is awfully close to “revelation”. My friend Chopra Jr. says he has an unspeakable scientific proof for how many angels will fit on the head of a pin. Someone call Nature and tell them to stop the presses… O wait, nevermind ;)

    But our talk is cheap. Perhaps you can give us an example of a scientific discovery that hasn’t used public language /at all/?

  103. 103. Vicente says:

    @ Mike & Charles:

    The apple is not red, we experience (represent?) in our mind the apple in red colour. I don’t see why Mary needs the third vertex:

    one thing is to have an experience, another thing is to name it, and a third thing is to be sure of anything. Go to a magic show, the experience is what it is, and then you might eventually find out that it was an illusion.

    I agree with KL view of science failing to explain consciousness and I have no religious or mystical agenda. I just have the sense to see when something has been explained (at least to a certain extent) or we are still looking at the problem with astonished facial expressions.

    @KL: “consciousness unexplained” (what a pitty) I completely agree. Paradoxically physicists are prone to understand the flop of physics in this issue, probably because they are pretty aware of the limits of their field.

  104. 104. Charles Wolverton says:

    Vicente –

    “The apple is not red, …”

    Well, to quote a famous late 20th C philosopher, “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” So, let me offer as precise a definition as I can of the meaning of “Apples are red.” (Ignoring, of course, the irrelevant fact that apples are not necessarily red.) This is tedious, but bear with me.

    There are objects that produce readily identifiable phenomenal images, and by convention we name those objects “apples”, a name we learn by having other people, who already can make that association, point at one of those objects while saying “apple”. That process, which involves the learner, the others, and the object, is what we are calling “triangulation”. The to point at the object, state the proposition “That is an apple”, and be able to justify saying that (because of previous triangulations), is what it means (ala Sellars) to know what an apple is. (Note that “being able to justify” only means giving reasons that are typically convincing to others in the relevant community – fellow members of a political movement, fellow practitioners of a profession, followers of a religion, etc.; it doesn’t mean being able to prove that the proposition is true.)

    One of the attributes of the phenomenal image that occurs when we look at an apple is color. And just as we had to learn to associate the name “apple” with the overall image of the apple, we have to learn to associate the name “red” with the color attribute of the image. Again, we do this by having others teach us that association, after which we can justify saying “apples are red”; ie, we will then know that apples are red.

    By hypothesis (see my comment 94), before leaving her room Mary does not know that apples are red; otherwise, there would be nothing for her to learn about an apple’s color after leaving her room. Yes, upon her first encounter with an apple she would have a new experience, which might be quite emotional, and she might exclaim “Wow!”. But she would not be able to state a proposition about that experience and justify it by triangulating because although the person having the experience obviously has access to the experience, others don’t. So, with respect to her experiences, she doesn’t know anything new after experiencing red for the first time – ie, in that sense she hasn’t learned anything new.

    So, contrary to the hypothesis of the Mary’s Room thought experiment, although Mary knows all about the science and technology of color, Mary doesn’t know “everything about color”, in particular she doesn’t know that red is the color associated with apples. (Once outside her room Mary can, of course, by triangulating learn that apples are red, but that is irrelevant since we are challenging the hypothesis of the thought experiment, not the conclusion.)

    I have bolded “know” to emphasize that the focus here is on learning and knowing – as defined here – not the what, how or why of qualia. My attempt was to present this in a way that hangs together logically. I may or may not have succeeded, and would appreciate having logical errors pointed out. But responses along the lines of “Sure she learns something, she learns about experiencing red” or “who cares what Sellars thinks”, then we’re at an impasse. This is the best I’ve got.

    “we experience (represent?) in our mind the apple in red colour.”

    Yes, and that’s a mystery to me, as I noted in comment 64, replying to Lloyd’s item 13. Quite part from what that representation is and how it’s formed, why do we do that? What evolutionary benefit do we gain? Psychic health due to the associated pleasure?

    “one thing is to have an experience, another thing is to name it, and a third thing is to be sure of anything.”

    The person having the experience can name it, but can’t triangulate to confirm that the chosen name refers to the experience others give that name or that the experience is had by others but given a different name. (I think that’s the point of the inverted spectrum problem.) And I’d say we can be absolutely sure that we can’t be absolutely sure about anything. :-)

  105. 105. Mike Spenard says:

    Also… talking to yourself isn’t what is meant by using a private language; doing such uses public language as well. Perhaps this is why some here think they can do science without public language.

  106. 106. woodchuck64 says:

    Those using Mary the color scientist to disprove physicalism are also those who say p-zombies can be used to disprove physicalism. So what if Mary is a p-zombie? If p-zombies are conceptually coherent, then Mary the color scientist p-zombie is coherent. But then, on experiencing color, Mary the p-zombie acts like she learns something when really she learns nothing at all (since zombies don’t have experience/qualia). She says “Wow, so that’s what red feels like!”, but there’s nothing there, completely undermining the point of the thought experiment.

    If our intuition is both that p-zombies can exist and that Mary learns something upon experiencing color, then one, or both, of those intuitions is definitely wrong per above, seems to me. And if intuition fails in one, what confidence do we have for the other.

  107. 107. Vicente says:

    Charles,
    “contrary to the hypothesis of the Mary’s Room thought experiment, although Mary knows all about the science and technology of color, Mary doesn’t know “everything about color”, in particular she doesn’t know that red is the color associated with apples”

    This is the mistake, to introduce in a misleading manner the concept of colour in the first part: say that Mary knows about, optics, frequencies, refraction, etc, and forget the colour, no need for it at this stage. Optics books could very well be written without using the word colour one single time.

    Then, Mary experiences colour, fine, she could also name it with any other word, eg: locour, and then, we could realise that… oh, what a coincidence, each time the light wavelenght is X nm, the locour is, you name it: lleyow, or der, or… so there it seems to be correlation between locours and frequencies. And for this, Mary needs no triangulation.

    “Yes, and that’s a mystery to me”

    Welcome to the club/sect. Be careful, or you will be charged for mysterianism and you will have to hide in the forests, stealing food at night to survive…. Lloyd and Mike are watching, they never sleep… ;-)

    In my view, is not just the color, the apple, the molecules, the atoms, as concepts only exist in the mind, out there there is something (space+matter+energy+laws? which are also mind concepts), and the whole reality is constructed by your mind as a conceptual universe, and presented to ¿? (another mystery).

    @woodchuck64

    “Wow, so that’s what red feels like!”

    No, it is: Wow, I feel something !! let’s call it red. and then hmmm, this feel (called red) seems to be always related to the 800 nm wavelength… hmmm….

  108. 108. Mike Spenard says:

    “each time the light wavelenght is X nm, the locour is, you name it: lleyow, or der, or… so there it seems to be correlation between locours and frequencies.” .. “this feel (called red) seems to be always related to the 800 nm wavelength”

    Despite what we are taught in grade school, there is no isomorphism between wavelengths of light and a color. There’s a rich literature on this fact, yet so few people with philosophical interests seem aware of it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metamerism_%28color%29
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opponent_color_theory
    See Land’s “Experiments in Color Vision”

    “Lloyd and Mike are watching, they never sleep”

    Hehe, it’s one of the benefits of being a philosophical zombie.

  109. 109. Mike Spenard says:

    Oops “between [a] wavelength and a color”

  110. 110. Lloyd Rice says:

    “Lloyd and Mike are …” Gotcha. :-)

  111. 111. Vicente says:

    Ok Mike, there could be slight variations, and in the case of metamerism the effect arises because the source (or the reflecting surface) of the light is included. If you neglect the source, just considering the light beam, the problem dissapears, you have a colour for each spectrum (irrespective of the source), except for perception differences related to different individuals, i.e. a result of the subjective experience, but that underpins my view.

    Metamerism is also a way to prove that colours are not an intrinsic property of objects, isn’t it?

    So, I think you are right, we should make a difference between the physics convention for colours, e.g. sodium-vapor lamp yellow spectral line (yellow by definition), and colour vision experiments and other perception effects.

  112. 112. Mike Spenard says:

    “Metamerism is also a way to prove that colours are not an intrinsic property of objects, isn’t it? ”

    It shows that a strict Realism (for color ontology) is unlikely. But I think the lack of a “gold standard” for ‘redness’ (which is to say it has a relative nature) also shows a strict Idealism is unlikely as well; because of the dependence on purpose, context and a type visual system to say what a hue is. The point cuts both ways in my view*. I’ll just end this comment with that simple observation; which I don’t think is so objectionable. no?

    * See link in post #98. And this the view that Hardin takes in his much celebrated: http://books.google.com/books?id=Go2iU3j5dX0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=hardin+color&hl=en&ei=flw2TLiZB4GClAf5yfXUBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false

  113. 113. Kar Lee says:

    On science and knowing:

    Charles wrote: “…If one accepts Sellars’s claim that knowing is a linguistic affair…”
    Even before an infant develops its linguistic skill, it knows where to turn to for food. Knowing is a description of the possession of knowledge, which requires no linguistic skill. A tiger’s knowing where to find its prey in no way impose tiger’s possession of linguistic ability as a pre-requisite, nor on its need to “triangulate” to confirm its knowledge. If that is the only tiger left on earth before the species go extincted, the last tiger does not know anything because it lacks partners to trangulate? Anyone who claims that “I know that thing is red because I speak English” is either mis-lead or he means something else. Tigers do not speak English and tigers know red.

    Using Mary the color scientist as an example, if we insist that science is strictly limited to the area where public language applies, then Mary’s later new knowledge about the quality of red light after she experiences it comes through non-scientific means. This is the kind of knowledge that cannot be taught through public language (try it on a colorblind person), but can be learned using one’s private language (experience). Just go look at it and gain the experience! If one prefers to define science, or “scientific” in a specific way, then it is just a matter of definition and there is no cause for dispute. I personally will not define it this way. The trouble occurs then people armed with one definition of “science” and start labeling other approaches non-scientific, a debate ensured, which is not necessary a bad thing, especially when the debate eventually brings out the disagreement in definition. At the point, people can just agree to disagree about the definition.

  114. 114. Kar Lee says:

    On Universal Mind:
    No matter how this concept is labelled, it is an interesting concept worth exploring. In particular, for people who are dualists. One problem with dualism is the mind-body problem. In fact, there are two mind-body problems. One is how the mind and the body interact, the other is how one mind gets to associate with which body. Epiphenomenolism is an attempt to solve the problem, in a way consistent with physicalism (with physicalism as its first order approximation) i.e. Dualism has to reduce to physicalism when it is applied to physical objects, including the human body, just like Relativity has to reduce to Newton’s laws at low speed. Epiphenomenolism has its own problem, especially in coming to term with what Chalmers called “The third order phenomenal judgement”. But the worst is, epiphenomenolism does not even attempt to explain the association problem: which one of the many minds should be mapped to which one of the many bodies. And this is a very serious problem in dualism.

    As I argued in the comment in Peter’s posting “Decommissioning Physicalism”, taking the minds to be the “experience loci”, if the number of experience loci is any arbitrary number, it is simply too arbitrary. Any religion that claims there has to be N (say 39927) minds, one has to wonder how those numbers came about. In the lack of any specific reasons, which seems to be a very good assumption, the number of experience loci should either be 0, or 1. These are the two most natural choices. If it is zero, it is physicalism. But since I am myself an experience locus, I know it is not zero. 1 is therefore the only other natural choice, which means the Universal Mind.

    Universal Mind solves the association problem in dualism: There is only one mind, but there are many bodies, a unique one to N mapping.

    Is Universal Mind Solipsism? Not in the traditional sense. In the traditional sense, other individuals don’t even exist. However, in the Universal Mind hypothesis (I am sure there are many versions, and I am focusing on the one that I am proposing), all individuals are different manifestation of the same conscious being, the only one locus of experience.

    Some people like to go up in arms whenever they hear the words “Universal Mind” as if some kinds of auto-immune response just kicks in. But once you understand how physicists propose theories, this type of response is completely unwarranted. Does Steve Weinberg really believe in the “Standard Model”? Of course he does, and at the same time, of course he does not. He is one of the proponents who has done major contributions to build it. Of course, he believes in it. But no, because as he said on the radio few months ago, if the CERN people find the Higgs boson, it will be the most boring thing that can happen. So, he does not believe in the Standard Model. He is looking for surprises, looking for ways to make the model more “correct”. And that is the way to do physics.

    So, let’s just try to appreciate the merit and beauty of a theory, a concept, a different way of looking at things, pondering their shortcomings, and beware of things that we are very sure about can all be wrong.

  115. 115. Vicente says:

    Kar Lee[114], you’ve made it again, good summary.

    I just finished reading your manuscript (paying due attention), I believe it is a very good text worth reading. Irrespective of the level of agreement I might have with the content, it is an inspiration source, for reflection and pondering interesting issues. I will convey you some comments on certain sections, properly off-line. Thank you, I encourage you to make it public.

  116. 116. Charles Wolverton says:

    Vicente:

    The statement of the thought experiment in the wiki entry on Mary’s Room (attributed to Frank Jackson) doesn’t use the word “color”. Instead, it describes the situation much as you propose. Unfortunately, the author of the wiki entry summarized it using language I copied. Mea culpa.

    But having said that, I don’t see that as important. I just read a couple of long discussions on Mary’s Room in which “color” figured prominently.

    In that reading, I discovered that Frank Jackson, the author of the Mary’s Room thought experiment has recanted his original conclusion that it refutes physicalism. (For what that may be worth.)

    Kar Lee:

    There’s a distinction between “knowing that” (eg, knowing that the host of this blog is “peter”) and “knowing how”. The topic under discussion is the former, your examples are of the latter. I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere down the line it will be found that the distinction is not as great as is apparently assumed currently, but until that time it seems appropriate to follow current practice.

  117. 117. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    I’ve been slow getting off the blocks wrt reading your draft book. But I’m off and running (more accurately slogging) and already on p. 5 I find the fascinating item about Land’s discovery. So, don’t interpret not getting a response from me as disinterest – as I get further into it, there will no doubt be questions. Stay tuned.

  118. 118. Kar Lee says:

    Vicente,
    Thank you. That is very encouraging. I will be looking forward to your comments offline.

  119. 119. Burt says:

    Deepak Chopra is a genius at using his consciousness to maximize the benefits of self promotion. I have seen him on TV and generally agreed with his assessments as to why humans behave as they do, but didn’t know much about him. I used Peter’s link to read his “God Particle” article and was pleased to find that he seemed to agree in principle with my thesis i.e., consciousness is the fundamental stuff of the universe.

    The article makes some assumptions that don’t comport with physics like stating that the Higgs Boson is literally nothing, and yet everything comes from it (although some physicists maintain the universe started from “nothing” – the original “Free Lunch”). He goes on from there attempting to link the HB to a God concept, QM and Vedantic philosophy. I also read his Wikipedia profile, went to his website and checked out a couple of recent posts on his blog.

    I believe (and this is a Chopra who is ginned from my beliefs) that he is “consciously” tapping into believers of quite a variety, most of whom are seeking the answers to life’s enigmas and its meaning. These are they who are most likely to buy books, pay for “educational” seminars and attend lectures by gurus who seem to be able to harness “higher” knowledge and will share it for a nominal fee. I think the reason he doesn’t follow his panpsychic premise to its logical conclusions and instead attempting to link it to New Ageism, Science and Religion is because it would diminish his Guru status with the new agers, theists and damage his “scientific” cachet with those who accept quasi scientific explanations at face value. BTW each of those philosophies taken to extremes is cultish and ripe for lucrative exploitation.

    In my opinion, the Higgs boson doesn’t exist except as a chink in the standard model (the seed of its destruction) – when it doesn’t show up the standard model will be revised until it is replaced by other models that also include consciousness. There are too many phenomena that can’t be neatly explained by the standard model – Higgs boson or not.

  120. 120. Burt says:

    “What is the adaptive advantage of health?” What evolutionary benefit do we gain? Psychic health due to the associated pleasure?

    To paraphrase the above, “What evolutionary benefits (adaptive advantages) are conveyed due to the ability to experience qualia?

    Of course this presupposes that natural selection actually is a process and not a tautology e.g., those who survive to pass on their genetic material to the next generation have been selected by their heritable adaptability advantage – survival of the fittest whereas the less fit (disadvantaged) perish and their line ends.

    As I said before The Theory of Evolution is a “Just So Story” and subscribed to by those to whom Creationism is an anathema (unless as some scientists attempt to reconcile the 2 i.e., God created the stage for evolution and sat back and rest is history) because there is no other choice and a system of logic can be intellectually applied to it that doesn’t offend their logical sensibilities. The problem is that there should be a continuum of evidence other than a priori deductions to support the theory and there isn’t. S.J. Gould’s rejection of gradualism in favor of saltation is an admission that this was considered to be one of the issues regarding continuity in the fossil record. This theory is not currently in favor and phyletic gradualism is still touted to be the method by which the TOE proceeds.

    If Natural Selection and the TOE do proceed as advertised, however, then it is easy to impute adaptive/evolutionary benefits to qualia experience. Red coloration in plants acts as an attractor to cause animals to disseminate seeds; in animals many times it acts as a warning to avoid interaction with them or enhances the ability to attract a mate. Learning to recognize items by color and other clues conveys the benefits of good to eat or not and best to avoid or not which enhance the probability of survival to reproduce.

    The adaptive advantage of health or lack thereof is a survival enhancer for many species as predators single out weak or unhealthy specimens as easier to prey on. Healthy individuals are more likely to survive and attract mates to reproduce.

  121. 121. Burt says:

    @Kar Lee [114]: The Universal Mind approach is top down and that complicates matters and leads to the conclusion that it is God by another name – your atheism notwithstanding, only a God could sort out and keep track of all the particulars. If one takes a bottom up approach starting with consciousness as fundamental then everything is manageable and each entity needs only to keep track of its own consciousness or gestalt of consciousnesses ad infinitum.

  122. 122. Mike Spenard says:

    @Charles
    No worries ;) The stuff in section (iii) I wanted to post in summary in here (posts ago when you brought up neurology), but the chance sorta got away from me. It ties together the linguistic points we’ve both been making with some neurological findings: If Ryle is correct then unsophisticated sensations = perceptions. And if Lettvin and Barlow are right there is no strict bifurcation between perception and stimuli.

    It’s one of the most fascinating things about neurology I think: that there is no strict delineation between afferent and efferent processes. Unlike with Von Neumann architecture (PC) where you can pretty much point to a spot or component and say ‘this here is consistently where input turns into output’.

    To me this signifies that color ontology will be spread out, i.e. it is without a finish line. In the later sections I try to get to terms with this. Just how can we say what a color is when its ontology is so multi-dimensional (in the sense like “molecular complementarity”). And also, what can’t our ontological theory of a hue do without? Can purpose and context really be non-essential?

    . . .

    Land’s experiment is quit fascinating to me too; for its brute non-intuitiveness. At some point I need to make my own demo of it, it would be as demonstrative as my little Benham Top. Theoretic explanations, i.e. metamerism, approaches us on an intellectual level, but demonstrations like these two really cause anyone to stop dead in their tracks to reconsider their own nature.

    . . .

    “As I said before The Theory of Evolution is a ‘Just So Story'”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVCtkzIXYzQ

    :)

  123. 123. Mike Spenard says:

    @Vicente[115] Was that 2nd bit to Kar Lee or me? If he has a manuscript I’d like to read it.

  124. 124. Vicente says:

    Mike, the bit was to Kar Lee, once I asked about literature regarding the universal consciousness idea, and amongst others (very few) he offered me his own unpublished manuscript, which I think it is worth reading for anybody interested in consciousness issues, universal or not.

    I have also read some parts of your manuscripts which I also believe very good, despite I disagree in some points as you probably pressume, but that is part of the philosophical arena daily life affairs. Can you imagine that we would all come to a total agreement… the simple idea makes me yawn…

  125. 125. Kar Lee says:

    Mike[123],
    Thanks for your interest. I have not made my manuscript public because I am still not happy with it. If you would kindly get my email address from Peter (Peter hides email addresses to protect participants privacy) and shoot me an email, I will gladly send you the draft.

  126. 126. Mike Spenard says:

    @Charles & KL
    Searle explaining Wittgenstein’s views on private language:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjZBNDW7DmQ

    Just in case you guys haven’t seen this before (I think this was filmed before I was born!). It goes over what Charles, and myself, were going on about with having to use social language terms to make sense.

  127. 127. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike – initial comments re your draft

    p. 8

    “when each receptor type receives a photon it produces a
    neural firing response that is independent of that photons wavelength: the
    principle of univariance.”

    Without explanation, this is confusing. I, of course, didn’t know the Principle of Univariance, so the statement seemed clearly wrong (otherwise, there would be no wavelength discrimination, hence, so sensitity curve). (Having found the def of P of U, I now understand it.) So, think about adding some words!

    p. 17

    “The sensory experience of a particular is very often contingent upon what it is
    taken to be. The Necker cube is the classic case. If we interpret a Necker cube as
    being below us we have a certain phenomenal experience of it. Then, if we
    interpret the Necker cube as being above us we have a different phenomenal
    experience of it, and these different experiences “flip” back and forth. ”

    (This is not directly color-related, but hopefully not totally irrelevant.) Recently, I had occasion to think about Necker cube-type figures, specifically rotating ones:

    http://neurochannels.blogspot.com/2009/09/consciousness-6-reversible-figures.html

    http://neurochannels.blogspot.com/2009/09/consciousness-7-more-ambiguous-figures.html

    My speculation is that since presumably a principle function of vision is to identify and predict motion (especially forward: charging tigers, incoming objects, etc), when we first start watching one of these ambiguous pictures, the brain makes a “guess” about the direction of rotation (and hence, forward motion), predicts subsequent motion in order to confirm the guess (in these ambiguous cases, either guess will be confirmed), then locks onto that mode.

    To see if this made sense, I stared fixedly at the figures to see if they would still switch “automatically”. In the case of the ballerina, even if I concentrated as hard as I could and tried to visualize the forward-backward motion (in an attempt to bias myself toward the current apparent direction of rotation), it would switch after roughly 10-20 seconds (as best I could tell, not due to blinking). But doing the same thing with the Necker cube, I could sort of override the switch by focusing on a corner. Perhaps that’s because either the cube’s shape is more familiar or has a better defined geometry. (I assume saccading plays a role here, but I don’t know enough about that activity to speculate on what that role might be.)

    Any thoughts on this?

  128. 128. Lloyd Rice says:

    I was watching the rotating Necker (#155, ref 1) and at first, the only time it would switch was either when I blinked or when I shifted the gaze from one part to another. The most stable was watching the middle of a horizontal surface: it always wanted to be an outside surface (top or bottom). But then, for just a moment, the cube illusion vanished and the whole thing was a mass of moving lines.

  129. 129. Vicente says:

    Lloyd[128]: the important thing about Necker cube and similar effects, is that you can use your will to make it rotate when you want to. What part of the brain is acting on the perception systems in order to select what presentation of the cube you want? and how does it do it? and what controls this “commanding” part?

    I believe (I read it long time ago) that: Varela, Eccles and Popper have important arguments based on this will process. I shall look for it, I remember the piece did quite ingrain me.

  130. 130. Lloyd Rice says:

    Vicente: I take a slightly different view on explanations. Having just finished the Millers book (#96), my approach would be to follow his description (speculation?) and say that the most likely explanation is that the prefrontal regions are set up by the conscious decision process to amplify the decoding mechanisms which produce one or the other view of the cube. That decoded result is then passed on to the other regions of the prefrontal where the world view is computed.

    The part of Millers’ description that does make a great deal of sense is the way the thalamo-cortical loops manage the implementation of a decision made elsewhere in the cortex.

    Obviously, I revel in such speculations. On the other hand, I remain open at all times to correction of my misinterpretations. I clearly do not know exactly where or how the world view is represented, but I speculate that it must be in the prefrontal regions.

    I appreciate your knowledge of different ways of looking at the question. I have several times tried to follow that approach, but have not particularly well succeeded. I buy the books and try to get through them, but often fail at that.

    Twice in the last few hours I have visited the Neurochannels blog, my firewall has trapped a worm.

  131. 131. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    Having read about half of your book draft, I have a question about describing “phenomenal experience”, “qualia”, or whatever label one prefers, as “what it is like to …”. In particular, “what it is like to see red”.

    I may be inferring something that isn’t intended, but rightly or wrongly I assume “red” is often chosen for that expression because it’s a color that is especially attention grabbing, possibly even emotionally stimulating. So we are perhaps instinctively receptive to the idea that not only is there “something it is like to see red” but whatever it is like is in some sense special.

    But if I understand the first part of your discussion correctly, a more accurate version of that catchy phrase would be something like:

    “what it is like for a person to experience the neural correlates and the internally generated mental image that result from the visual system’s processing of any of the SPD metamers which most people would describe as “seeing red”.

    The point being that describing it like that seems to move the discussion away from the romantic arena of poetry and toward the mundane arena of science and technology. Or maybe I’m being too cynical.

    I’ve just started Chalmers’ “Conscious Mind” and may be persuaded by the time I finish (I like it so far, the presentation being more in the style of mathematics with which I am quite comfortable). But I started his book skeptical of qualia and find what I’ve read so far of your explanation of color and color processing by the human visual system somewhat supportive of that skepticism.

    I’ll be gone a few days and probably won’t be able to respond to any replies until the weekend.

  132. 132. Mike Spenard says:

    @Charles
    “I may be inferring something that isn’t intended, but rightly or wrongly I assume “red” is often chosen for that expression because it’s a color that is especially attention grabbing, possibly even emotionally stimulating. So we are perhaps instinctively receptive to the idea that not only is there “something it is like to see red” but whatever it is like is in some sense special.”

    Sure, its certainly fair to bring up psychological factors involved in color perception; e.g. the “warm and coolness” to red and blue; how experimentation shows red to bring about anxiety because its an ambiguous signal that simply states “pay attention here!” without saying if its a good or bad thing to pay attention to, in of the hue itself (Humphrey 1976). I think its fair to say such cognitive processes, which are usually attributed to emotional not visual capacities, contribute as you say the “special sense” a hue has. Which leads me to think that bee-red and human-red, even if there is a direct opponency coding overlap, will not really be the same hue; e.g. bee-red may be psychological inhibitory rather then exciting as it is for humans. This is the point of my saying a hue’s ontology is spread out in a very multi-dimensional way (in the sense of “molecular complimentarity”), and as I state in the intro looking for an explanation that ignores such an approach is doomed to fall short.

    I wouldn’t use the terminology of NCC’s however. That program implicitly requires the idea of a finish line, which results in a Cartesian problem once again. And I think Chalmers and his cohort Searle involve themselves in a lot of trickery. E.g. Searle is anti-materialism but thinks “consciousness is just another biological process like digestion”, and then starts babbling about consciousness “fields” and the brain “generating” it; poor guy gives himself his own theoretic drowning without anyone’s help! And Chalmers seems to want to “extend science” in just the sort of funny way Kar Lee did with us. I won’t labor that again, unless asked ;), but we can talk about Chalmers some more I guess.

    The first half is rather.. theoretically deconstructive for the lack of a better term. Later sections start to give a positive account of color ontology once I’ve pointed out a few of the classical “trappings”. Its wholly unoriginal, however I think I’m the first to point out that the codification principle operates not only at the sub-personal level of the opponency system but that Lennebergs work also shows its at the core of language at the personal level. Demonstrating this point, that codification is central to color at both the sub-personal and personal level, is hugely important I think; and shows how, that despite whatever it costs us in intuitions (section iii), its the way forward in a theoretic framework for color ontology that earnestly wants to link these two levels of description.

    Also, thanks for the feedback on the PoU not being explained fully enough. Much appreciated. I’ll try and respond to your comment on Necker Cubes in a bit too.

  133. 133. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    “I wouldn’t use the terminology of NCC’s”

    Neither would I. I used “neural correlates” because I don’t know what else to call the results of whatever step in the visual processing sequence one is talking about. The idea I was trying to convey is that there appear to be no actual “colors” involved in vision except in the mental images we “see” in our heads. PSDs impinge on the retina which stimulate the photoreceptor cells creating outputs X, which are differenced to create outputs Y, which go to the blah-blah subsystem to produce outputs Z, etc. Ie, as visual processing progresses, outputs are produced at each stage, and I’m calling those outputs collectively “neural correlates”. (If there’s a better term, I’m happy to use it instead.) But sticking with my term for the moment, it appears to me that the visual processing system has nothing to work with other than those “neural correlates”. Hence, the “colors” in our heads are interpretations created by our brains for some unknown purpose by some unknown process (at least unknown to me). Which is why I replaced “what it is like to see red” – suggesting that there is something “red” out there that is being seen – with my longer version, an attempt to avoid that suggestion.

    And if this is a reasonably accurate description, …

    “Which leads me to think that bee-red and human-red, even if there is a direct opponency coding overlap, will not really be the same hue”

    … there would be no reason at all to assume that the bee’s brain creates any mental images of color, never mind creating anything close to the images human brains create. As I speculated before, if all a critter needs to do is move from one place to another and possibly distinguish a few shapes and/or “colors” (ie, PSDs), it isn’t obvious to me that processing the neural correlates of the visual scene isn’t adequate without the additional step of “visualizing” that scene.

    “we can talk about Chalmers some more I guess”

    After a promising start that appeared to reflect the precision appropriate to a one-time mathematician, it seems to me that his book quickly degenerates into less and less precision and more and more hand-waving. Nonetheless, I found it useful in that it clarified my understanding of supervenience and resolved some confusion about the term “reductive” – commonly used but often undefined or inadequately defined.

  134. 134. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    After a bit of a diversion (travel and revisiting “Empiricism and Philosophy of Mind”), I’m back on your book draft. Some comments/questions.

    First, I’ll describe – as clearly as I currently am able to do – two distinguishable responses to “looking at” (ie, having the retina stimulated by an SPD from) a specific color patch:

    – the neural correlates that result from the L-M-S processing of the SPD (what I will call the “neural response”)

    – the mental image formed, ie, what is “seen in the mind” (what I will call the “phenomenal response”)

    My current understanding/assumptions about the relationship between these two is:

    – for any individual, the former will determine the latter

    – the physical response to the SPD will in general differ for different individuals, in some cases dramatically (if, for example, an individual has significantly distorted L-M-S response curves)

    – the phenomenal response will also differ for different individuals, in some cases dramatically (for example, an individual’s phenomenal response to an SPD that causes in most people a phenomenal response they describe as “seeing red” could conceivably be like the phenomenal response that most people describe as “seeing green”, notwithstanding that the individual would also describe their phenomenal response as “seeing red” due to prior learning)

    Is this consistent with your understanding? If so, it seems that “what it is like to ‘see red'” will also differ for different individuals, possibly dramatically.

    If this is the sort of difference that is intended to be captured by “qualia”, why is this difference in responses considered any more mysterious than are the dramatic differences in some individuals’ responses to lactose? Is it a hypothesized difference in the emotional content of the response? If so, does that make the Manchurian Candidate’s dramatically different and highly emotional response to red queens a mysterious phenomenon explainable only in terms of qualia?

    On the other hand, if “qualia” is intended to capture the phenomenal response per se, while I agree that phenomenal responses are mysterious in the sense of “not currently well understood”, it seems premature to try to explain them in terms of new “fundamental entities” instead of getting to work on better understanding the relevant neuroscience.

    Re Leibniz’s mill. In Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Rorty observes that if one doesn’t know anything about the mill/factory’s function and functioning, walking around it won’t reveal any more than “walking around the brain” does. But as you learn things about function and functioning, you can come to understand the overall process.

    Soon after reading that, I saw an interview with a one-time auto assembly plant worker turned (apparently rather successful) poet. He recounted the time a new hire asked him (at the time, a veteran in the plant) what role the machine they were operating played in the overall assembly process. Neither he nor his foreman knew. Ie, they were doing much more than just “walking around the mill/factory”, but without the requisite knowledge they still couldn’t understand what was going on there. QED.

    This takes me up to about p. 20. More later as I work my way through the draft.

  135. 135. Mike Spenard says:

    @Charles

    Hey Charles, I think you have a really good grasp of things. Breath of fresh air on this blog (besides Peter) ;)

    I’d only tack on a few points:

    “[L-M-S processing] & [the mental image formed] – for any individual, the former will determine the latter”

    Strictly speaking yes. However, there can be top down stimulation: i.e. cortical areas (e.g. FPC & ITL) can cause activation in lower occipital areas (e.g. V1). But, those cortical areas are ultimately trained, i.e. take on the patterns they have which induce such top down stimulation, because there was bottom up (LMS->V1->ITL) LMS processing earlier. (This point mostly bears upon “mental images” in the normal imaginative sense; you were using it in the sense of “the current state of visual awareness” I think…which is fine)

    . . .

    “- the phenomenal response will also differ for different individuals, in some cases dramatically (for example, an individual’s phenomenal response to an SPD that causes in most people a phenomenal response they describe as “seeing red” could conceivably be like the phenomenal response that most people describe as “seeing green”, notwithstanding that the individual would also describe their phenomenal response as “seeing red” due to prior learning) [...] Is this consistent with your understanding? If so, it seems that “what it is like to ‘see red’” will also differ for different individuals, possibly dramatically.”

    Pointing out the variability of LMS responses and that there simply is no gold standard for what is redness is worth repeating; it forces upon any serious conceptual scheme a relative ontology. I’m glad to see you take this as a serious modus operandi in your thinking. However, color inversion only makes sense within a program of reification I think, i.e. if we treat a hue as a thing. With relative and multi-dimensional ontology for a hue there is a very large scope of determinants without any single critical part of the constituency. However, this color inversion isn’t the thrust of your point (I’m making the mistake so others won’t). “individual’s phenomenal response to an SPD”. We need to make sure we don’t consider an SPD as a color; then we avoid the old color inversion argument on this point.

    “‘see red’” will also differ for different individuals, possibly dramatically.”

    Just don’t go too far, we all share a common evolutionary history. There will be variance in receptor response, SPD and conditions but there are pressures on all of us for sharing /roughly/ the same hue foci and response.

    . . .

    “If this is the sort of difference that is intended to be captured by “qualia”, why is this difference in responses considered any more mysterious than are the dramatic differences in some individuals’ responses to lactose? ”

    Well, I personally think it’s because our language evolved to have a semantic dualism and makes us intuitively defend ‘The Gap’. Like I said back in #28 and section ii & iii of my draft: “…our resistance to speak of “phenomenal experiences” as reactions to stimuli. Since, if your “experience of ‘redness’” is to be of a purely physical nature like “spectral pattern s” or “neurological state x”, then this is like saying: When you experience a spot of red such is a bit of non-experiential spectral radiation plus a bit of non-experiential neurological firings. So we object that an unobserving thing in addition to another unobserving thing cannot be observation, and motion that this leaves out experience altogether. ”

    This seems to be at the heart of all the back and forths we’ve had on this blog with others.

    . . .

    “On the other hand, if “qualia” is intended to capture the phenomenal response per se, while I agree that phenomenal responses are mysterious in the sense of “not currently well understood”, it seems premature to try to explain them in terms of new “fundamental entities” instead of getting to work on better understanding the relevant neuroscience.”

    It strikes me as premature too. It’s as if our friends here walk into Leibniz’s Mill, look around, and say, “Welp. I don’t see anything that could be a part of redness! Time to rewrite the physics books!”. What is even more striking is the attempt to make everything have a ‘part of the stuff of redness': it’s quite like saying “Welp. We didn’t find it in the Mill (the brain), so we must have to say every part everywhere is a sort of ‘part of the stuff of redness'”. And as you pointed out with Rorty, its an odd sort of making as it detours us from thinking about parts working/functioning.

    . . .

    “I saw an interview with a one-time auto assembly plant worker…Neither he nor his foreman knew. Ie, they were doing much more than just “walking around the mill/factory”,”

    I had a similar experience years ago. I was taking a tour of a small 25 employee plant, with a company I did work for who was looking to buy this business. The reason for selling? the owner was going, sadly, senile. No one was in charge. This poor man had no sense of what was going on anymore, quite literally he’d be lucky to tie his shoes and sign a check. And everyone just continued to do their job despite it. No one was really in control of this business; yet it somehow, for months and months, was still managing to stay afloat. It was bizarre standing in the middle of a busy production floor contemplating that there was no central oversight and complete conceptual understanding of what was going on here by any one person. (I was part of a team that had to put that all back together). In recollecting that story I usually wish we hadn’t, it was like killing some new novel form of life ;)

  136. 136. Mike Spenard says:

    @Charles

    “Neither he nor his foreman knew. Ie, they were doing much more than just “walking around the mill/factory”, but without the requisite knowledge they still couldn’t understand what was going on there.”

    Also, Matt Ridley just made a very very similar point (toward the end) at TED:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_ridley_when_ideas_have_sex.html

  137. 137. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    Thanks for the reply. Glad to know I’m mostly on track.

    A request: I know only the barest facts about brain physiology (eg, the primary cortices), though I’d like to know more. So, for a while it would help me if you would write out acronyms like “FPC” and “ITL” so I can look them up on wiki.
    ===========
    “‘mental images’ in the normal imaginative sense; you were using it in the sense of “the current state of visual awareness” I think.”

    Because this is what I’m primarily focused on at this point, I want to make sure you know precisely what I mean by “mental image” so that you can share any insights you have.

    When a person’s eyes receive sensory inputs from a FOV, the person has the “phenomenal experience” of viewing a “picture” that represents the input sources in that FOV. That picture is what I mean by “mental image”. In particular, suppose the only contents of that FOV are a uniform background and a single object uniformly reflecting light with an SPD metamer that results in a certain “apparent color” (in the sense used in defining metamerism). The mental image of that object appears to have a color (that corresponds to the apparent color) which I’ll call the object’s “image color”.

    Assuming this is a reasonably accurate description, there are a couple of observations to be made. First, it appears that neither the object’s “color” nor the corresponding apparent color is actually a “color” in the usual sense of that word. Since as far as I know the mechanism by which mental images are formed is unknown, whether the image color actually is a “color” in some sense is unclear. And it is unclear (to me) whether the response “that object is red” is stimulated by production of the apparent color, the image color, or both.

    In any event, since the only color of which we are actually aware is the image color, the qualia-talk phrase “what it’s like to see red” seems to be translatable into “what the biological process which produces the mental image that motivates us to say ‘that object is red’ is like”. This is, of course, not an explanation, but expressing it that way seems to improve the prospects for being able to answer the question. It also raise a chicken-egg question: to the extent that the production of a mental image involves emotions, which is the cause and which the effect? Do we react with different emotions to different colors or do emotions affect production of the mental image?
    ===========
    “We need to make sure we don’t consider an SPD as a color; then we avoid the old color inversion argument on this point.”

    One of the advantages of jumping into areas in which you’re totally ignorant is that you have a minimum of “old baggage” to overcome. Since reading your paper is pretty much my maiden voyage into color theory, it’s easy for me to think in terms of SPDs and LMS response curves instead of monochromatic colors and response spikes. (In fact, it’s natural since I am used to thinking in terms of broadband comm signals as inputs to wideband filters.) Hence, my description, which you may have interpreted as a variant on “the old color inversion argument” was actually motivated by looking at the differencing functions and imagining what might happen if an individual’s personal LMS response curves were distorted; in which case, for a certain SPD, differences that for most people would exceed the red-green decision threshold might not for that individual.
    ===========
    “Just don’t go too far, we all share a common evolutionary history.”

    Again, I was thinking in terms of abnormalities, not just the inevitable variations among people.
    ===========
    Re “experiencing” and “observation”: as mentioned above, I’m rereading Sellars’ “Empiricism and Phil of Mind”. In section 24 he addresses those two concepts. Although I’m understanding everything much better this pass than during the first, I’m not quite to the point of being able to say anything specific about it. But I have a sense that his insights are quite relevant to all this stuff. Hopefully I’ll have something substantive to add in a few days. (I’ve been stuck on one paragraph for a couple of days, so my progress is often measured in pages per week!)

    And leave it to a TED presenter to turn the intersubjective aspect of creative thinking – eg, triangulation – into a fantasy three-way!

  138. 138. Mike Spenard says:

    “write out acronyms like “FPC” and “ITL” so I can look them up on wiki.”

    O, sorry no problem ;)
    PFC: Prefrontal cortex (what is called the “executive branch” of the brain)
    ITL: Inferior Temporal Lobe (part of the ventral stream of vision)
    PVC=V1=Striate Cortex (this one is hard to get straight because of all the alternate names!): Primary Visual Cortex

    The basic flow is:
    -Optic nerves from each eye reach the optic chasm. 60% of the axons do a hemispherical crossing.
    -After leaving the chasm the combined axons from each eye are called the Optic Tract.
    -They then go into the Lateral Genicualte Neuclus (LGN; you’ll see this one a lot), which is part of the Thalamas. This area functions like a distribution hub. The axons from the eye’s retinal ganglion cells come to an end here. They then form synapses which continue the information stream to the PVC. Interestingly, the spacial relationship between retinal receptors is maintained up until here.
    -From the PVC/V1 there are two visual pathways Ventral (the what) and Dorsal (the where). Ventral goes into the ITL first. Dorsal… I forget (V2 & V3?) ;)

    It’s also worth noting that information “leaks” out of channels at every step of the way. [E.g. some of the axons in the optic nerve branch off to areas that deal with pupil dilation. And also the Supra-Chiasmic Neucleus, SCN, (a real 3rd eye!) that controls body rhythms (this is what makes roosters crow in the morning).] I mention this because it’s part of my favorite point of neurology, that there are no strict delineations between afferent (inputs) and efferent (outputs) processes; unlike what is found in Von Neumann architecture.

    . . .

    “When a person’s eyes receive sensory inputs from a FOV, the person has the “phenomenal experience” of viewing a “picture” ”

    I want to jump and say yes, that IS how it seems. But, if I sit on the thought some more… is my FOV really a “picture” or frame? Those words imply there is some sort of 2D plane-ular (my spelling is failing me tonight. the neurology stuff overloaded it lol) barrier. I certainly don’t experience any barrier, the world is my experience. Part of what I learned from Russell was his mistake of following “image” vocabulary just to darn far. I always struggle with image-centric descriptions, clearly there is no canvas or movie screen in the brain. We need better terms. I can’t fault you though, if you asked me after a few beers I’d be first to say it really does seem like Ultimate-IMAX.

    . . .

    “And it is unclear (to me) whether the response “that object is red” is stimulated by production of the apparent color, the image color, or both. ”

    Well, I could be fairly accused of hovering in between Realism and Idealism with color ontology. You can’t describe ‘redness’ without talking about a specific visual system /or/ SPD’s. Realists want to attribute ‘redness’ entirely to physical spectral properties and Idealists entirely to the mind. Who’s mind? With what LMS responses? With what SPD’s? Unfortunately, the ontology isn’t going to be neat and tidy. Which is what everyone is trying to do it seems, take shortcuts (universals of one sort or another) to avoid what is really a messy situation: relative ontology.

    . . .

    “In any event, since the only color of which we are actually aware is the image color, the qualia-talk phrase “what it’s like to see red” seems to be translatable into “what the biological process which produces the mental image that motivates us to say ‘that object is red’ is like”. This is, of course, not an explanation, but expressing it that way seems to improve the prospects for being able to answer the question. It also raise a chicken-egg question: to the extent that the production of a mental image involves emotions, which is the cause and which the effect? Do we react with different emotions to different colors or do emotions affect production of the mental image?”

    When we talk about things being red we don’t talk about an image. We say, “Hey that ball on the desk is red”. We make reference to something that is an object, the ball. But not all references have to be objects. The ball is, but the ‘red’ is not. Once we abandon reification we find using words like “produces” an “generates”, the redness, to be ill conceived. The ontology is so complex, and our auto-psychology so limited, that nature has wired language to treat redness as a thing in the predicate position. Like Dennett said, “It is of the essence of the trick that we cannot replace our dummy predicate ‘M’[redness] with a longer, more complex, but accurate and exhaustive description of the property, for if we could, we could use the description as a recipe or feasible algorithm for producing another instance of M or another M-detector. The only readily available way of saying what property M is is just to point to our M-detector and say that M is the shape property detected by this thing here.”

    The later part of what you said has great questions. From what I’ve studied higher level psychological phenomena can effect lower level stimuli and visa-versa. Sensation and perception, strictly speaking, is a false dichotomy. Whether emotional centers can effect perceptions I think is a question of degree; their power is probably somewhat limited I would guess… green isn’t going to turn into red (hue foci). But hue borders may shift, e.g. we may be more apt to call an orange a red. I don’t know enough to say really; a reference for that isn’t coming to mind.

    . . .

    “motivated by looking at the differencing functions and imagining what might happen if an individual’s personal LMS response curves were distorted”

    Taking that angle really helped me, don’t let me stop you! ;) That is, what should we think if a persons receptor response is augmented? And, what should we think if its “improved” (a 4th cone type)? Not only “what should we think of then”, but, what should they think of us?! Are we the ones with fraudulent color experiences?! This line of thinking was a revelation to me when I first came across it in Dennett 1969.

  139. 139. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    “there are no strict delineations between afferent (inputs) and efferent (outputs) processes”

    And I’m guessing that this is a key observation. I’ve suspected that feedback plays a role in all this and reading your draft has triggered my latest “off-the-wall” idea. Here’s an outline – hopefully, you can put some meat on it. Or more likely, shoot it down. :>)

    First, let’s revisit the Cartesian Theater. The brain takes the visual sensory inputs and somehow “brings it all together” in the CT for presentation to a viewer – raising the questions “where is the CT?” and “who is the viewer?” As I understand it, Alva Noe and Kevin O’Regan argue that there’s no need to recreate the visual field in one’s head, it’s out there to be sampled as needed. Hence, no CT and no viewer. Which sounds mostly reasonable to me.

    But that still leaves unanswered why – even if we accept that there’s no CT – we have the sense of being viewers in one, ie, why we “see a scene” at all. And I’m now guessing that the problem is that the visual field isn’t actually “there to be sampled” as we “see” it, but instead is to some extent constructed in the brain. Not that I’m resurrecting Berkeley-type idealism – I assume that objects are in fact “out there”. What I’m questioning is whether colors are “out there” in the sense we usually use that kind of terminology. All we’re receiving as input is a complex, composite SPD. Any perceived “color” has to be “created” somewhere.

    So, why do we “see” colors at all? If all that’s needed is to discriminate – is anything there or not; if so, is it moving; if so, is it moving L or R, toward or away – achromaticity suffices. But if we additionally want to distinguish – is that the kind of flower we get nectar from or not – augmenting shape with color helps (shape may even be irrelevant). And if an organism only needs to distinguish a small number of objects, a few colors suffice.

    Which leads me to the human visual sensory input processing. A couple of things seemed strange about the LMS processing implementation, at least per your simplified presentation. First, why difference LMS responses? OK, that makes sense – it’s a well-known approach to removing systematic biases; as long as both responses are biased the same, differencing removes the bias. But what about thresholding? The biases won’t be exactly the same, so at first I assumed that comparing differences to zero was a simplication; ie, that differences are really compared to a non-zero threshold. But then I recalled that what looks like a bug to one person can look like a feature to another. And it occurred to me that by adjusting those thresholds, one can in essence “paint the visual scene” as desired. And that adjusting can be done via feedback from downstream processing.

    Another strange thing is the uneven spacing of the LMS response curves. Because of the differencing, that suggests a coarse-fine distinction, perhaps for background (blue sky or water) and foreground (objects)respectively. And if the objective is to identify an object rather than just distinguish whether or not it might be of interest, fine color resolution will help.

    Which gets us back to Sellars and triangulation. To identify an object, you need to “know” what it looks like, which means you must learn that from others. And at this point my ignorance of that process precludes my going further. But I’ll throw out the speculation that when one is young, the process of triangulating includes a relatively long iterative phase during which the child learns to “paint the object” the way “seeing” it in the visual field works best for it. Which might help explain a Cezanne; perhaps he just “painted” on canvas what he had learned to “paint” in his mind, but the latter for him was a lot different from what it is for most of us.

    All very fuzzy, but maybe you can do something with it.

  140. 140. Mike Spenard says:

    I read Noe’s book this winter. I don’t agree with his anti-computationalism, but in some sense I agree with it. Even if we stick with a computational framework the situation could very well be that part of what goes into the ontology of a color can be attributed to information that lies outside the skull; SPDs obviously spring to mind, but I’m thinking more along the lines of that which operates on the SPD ensemble of information (e.g. squinting or glasses) before our neurology sets to work on it. I’m betting that the situation will be that distributed, relative and messy. However, I read Marr’s book right after Noe’s for some contrast. Initially feeling that all the talk of “representations” begets a “viewer” ergo the homunculus fallacy. But then after considering that Marr’s representations are highly distributed and composite, I think perhaps the only shortcoming might just be in our language with that word. It’s a struggle.

    “I assume that objects are in fact “out there”. What I’m questioning is whether colors are “out there” in the sense we usually use that kind of terminology.”

    It seems the relative nature makes it impossible to say they are “out there” in the sense when we point with reference to an object. But it shouldn’t bother us to much, we have the same problem with Alaska; I can’t really point to or touch Alaska. But I can experience it by going there and interacted with the highly diverse set of constituents (physical and socio-political) that subsume what it is. Some words just operate that way in our lives. (“Any perceived “color” has to be “created” somewhere.” Where was Alaska created?)

    “even if we accept that there’s no CT – we have the sense of being viewers in one, ie, why we “see a scene” at all. ”

    The scene(s)/FOV(s) is/are quite inflated. We think it’s highly detailed, cohesive, continuous (spatially and temporaly). It’s none of these things; it’s not like a painting at all. It just seems that way. We don’t have information that we lack information and the costs for retrieving information that we lack information are exceptionally high. So high that our brains make up guesses of how things should and will be (the source of the seeming). And those bits of brain whos function it is to guess almost always give some answer, even if it is way off: i.e. confabulation. (If the world struck an organism as falling apart, or existing incompletely spatially or in time, it would likely obsess over it and have a mental break down. So it’s little wonder we confabulate; just to get on.)
    We have the philosophical habit of setting out to explain a mental scene in a sense where it is held to be quite unlike this; i.e. complete, unfailing, accurate… a representation. This is why I think Marr’s project might have validity after all, it’s simply chasing after the how’s of what is really the case, and not a glorification.

    “First, why difference LMS responses? ”
    Genetics. Constraints on perfection etc. And nature’s modus operandi of don’t fix what is broken if you can keep on living with it as is.

    “But then I recalled that what looks like a bug to one person can look like a feature to another. And it occurred to me that by adjusting those thresholds, one can in essence “paint the visual scene” as desired. And that adjusting can be done via feedback from downstream processing.”

    Right this is what we were getting at with ambiguous images (and my first amendment in post #135). Accept these are real world cases, and the lay person’s trivialization of optical illusions as “O that’s neat, but so what” goes right out the window.

    “Another strange thing is the uneven spacing of the LMS response curves. ”
    Mark Changizi(2009) has shown how these overlap with the SPDs of skin. And posited that LMS reponse evolved to be good at mood detection via skin chemistry. It’s… interesting… and plausible. Not sure what to think yet on that theory ;) ..but I think his SPD data on skin might not take into account the wide scope of contexts for human skin.

    Your take on this point is interesting though. Perhaps LMS asymmetry allows for better triangulation at the sub-personal level. And the Sellars point, along with my points on Lenneberg’s “codification”, show how this principle rises up into the personal level and therefor our “mental life”. I’d love to know more on such a connection between asymmetry and triangulation.

    Your last point ties into what we were going on about with KL on public language. And the work of Lenneberg and Berlin&Kay shows the extent of language operating on color perception. Their work shows, at least, that the one thing that is undeniable at this point is that language operates on color perception (unsophisticated sensation) to /some/ extent. And even if this extent is the smallest of smalls, it forces color perception to be relative to public affairs and therefor extrinsic.

  141. 141. Mike Spenard says:

    Oops. I read this wrong “First, why difference LMS responses? ” DifferenCE not differeNT.

    Ratio’s have more information then absolute values. And neurology’s nuts and bolts revolve around
    “habituation and sensitization”, which is differencing. That answer can be broken into others… I’ll have to give an IOU ;)

  142. 142. Mike Spenard says:

    “Any perceived “color” has to be “created” somewhere.”

    I’d like to add on one other way of considering this: What we are really trying to do is resolve mental predicates. Lets go over a few options.

    Type Identity theory: We could say any M is a P. Any “mental predicate” is a expressible in the vocabulary of physics. Such that an agent is M only if it is P. (1) Every mental event is a physical event in the brain (2) What two agents have in common when they have a pain is having something physically in common (e.g. both brains are in the same physical state or both exhibit the same physical feature). This is highly unlikely. All clocks have something physical in common and are entirely physical, but is it really possible to insist that we can have a predicate–using the restricted language of physics–that singled out only all of the clocks and not say can openers? What these things have in common with each other is their function regardless of their physical make up. This observation beget functionalism.

    Functionalism: We could say that for any M there is a predicate F expressible in some language that is physically neutral but designed to specify abstract functions and their relations. Such that an agent is M when some Turing Machine K is in logical state A; essentially this is for two agents to run the same program and be in the same “place” in this program. This is a sort of Token Identity Theory, but alas its a theory of Types of functions. Its unlikely that we could describe that all ‘red’ experiencers are running the same program and are at the same logical point in it when experiencing ‘red’. That is, there is no more reason to believe that my brain and yours have the same exact program then there was to believe they had the same exact physical description (the problem with Type Identity Theory).

    Both of these attempts assumed that the mental predicate have integrity inherently. That we, right at the outset, are uncritical of talk of peoples thoughts, desires, beliefs, pains, sensations and experiences, and refer to them as though they are in good standing as distinct classes of items in the world. Why else would we attempt to explain these “types” are reducible to others? However, all of these familiar mental terms of the personal level fail at the task of lucid reference; they all embody conceptual incoherencies of various kinds. From this observation sprang what has been called Eliminativism.

    “Suppose we find a society that lacks our knowledge of human physiology, and that speaks a language just like English except for one curious family of idioms. When they are tired they talk of being beset by /fatigues/, of having mental fatigues, muscular fatigues, fatigues in the eyes and fatigues of the spirit. Their sports lore contains such maims as “too many fatigues spoils your aim” and “five fatigues in the legs are worth ten in the arms”. When we encounter them and them of our science, they want to know /what fatigues are/. They have been puzzling over such questions as whether numerically the same fatigue can come and go and return, whether fatigues have a definite location in matter or space and time, whether fatigues are identical with some particular physical states of processes or events in their bodies, or are made of some sort of stuff. We can see that they are off to a bad start with these questions, but what should we tell them? One thing we might tell them is that there simply are no such things as fatigues–they have a confused ontology. We can expect some of them to retort: “You don’t think there are fatigues? Run around the block a few times and you’ll know better! There are many things your science might teach us, but the non-existence of fatigues isn’t one of them.”

    Should we be moved by their objection? I don’t think so. It’s their language and they can go right on with using it as they do (some of their claims about fatigues are true after all). But we ought to remain critical of their term and not accept programs of explaining it that just take it to inherently have referential integrity. (This was what I was getting at with my saying “The scene(s)/FOV(s) is/are quite inflated.”)

    (Dennett 1978)

  143. 143. Mike Spenard says:

    Also this point from Dennett 1978 is applicable to our thoughts on Representationalism:

    “Any time a theory builder proposes to call any event, state, structure etc., in any system (say the brain of an organism) a signal or message or command or otherwise endow it with content, he takes out a loan of intelligence . . . This loan must be repaid eventually by finding and analysing away these readers or comprehenders; for failing this, the theory will have among its elements unanalyzed man-analogues endowed with enough intelligence to read the signals, etc. [i.e. we end up with homunculus(es)]”

    By using such personal level terms we cause a theoretic debt. I tentatively think Marr avoids this by explicitly isolating 3 levels of explanation, and by distributing both representation and representation user (e.g. the user of the primal sketch is the 2d sketch and both of these are distributed):

    (1)computational level: what does the system do (e.g.: what problems does it solve or overcome) and, equally importantly, why does it do these things
    (2)algorithmic level: how does the system do what it does, specifically, what representations does it use and what processes does it employ to build and manipulate the representations
    (3)implementational level: how is the system physically realized (in the case of biological vision, what neural structures and neuronal activities implement the visual system)

    Which is very much like Dennett’s 3 levels of description (I’m left wondering if Marr got this from Dennett?! Or was this just coincidence?):

    (a)The most concrete is the physical stance, which is at the level of physics and chemistry. At this level, we are concerned with things such as mass, energy, velocity, and chemical composition. When we predict where a ball is going to land based on its current trajectory, we are taking the physical stance. Another example of this stance comes when we look at a strip made up of two types of metal bonded together and predict how it will bend as the temperature changes, based on the physical properties of the two metals.
    (b)Somewhat more abstract is the design stance, which is at the level of biology and engineering. At this level, we are concerned with things such as purpose, function and design. When we predict that a bird will fly when it flaps its wings, on the basis that wings are made for flying, we are taking the design stance. Likewise, we can understand the bimetallic strip as a particular type of thermometer, not concerning ourselves with the details of how this type of thermometer happens to work. We can also recognize the purpose that this thermometer serves inside a thermostat and even generalize to other kinds of thermostats that might use a different sort of thermometer. We can even explain the thermostat in terms of what it’s good for, saying that it keeps track of the temperature and turns on the heater whenever it gets below a minimum, turning it off once it reaches a maximum.
    (c) Most abstract is the intentional stance, which is at the level of software and minds. At this level, we are concerned with things such as belief, thinking and intent. When we predict that the bird will fly away because it knows the cat is coming, we are taking the intentional stance. Another example would be when we predict that Mary will leave the theater and drive to the restaurant because she sees that the movie is over and is hungry. (wiki)

    Anyhow, just thought I’d toss this up as food for thought.

  144. 144. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    Replies to comment 140
    ===================
    “even if we accept that there’s no CT – we have the sense of being viewers in one, ie, why we ‘see a scene’ at all”

    Your reply addressed the fact that the content of our FOV isn’t actually represented in the mental image we experience as accurately or completely as we are accustomed to thinking it is (I pointed out to a friend that the resolution necessary to see any significant detail is confined to a very narrow cone and he seemed quite confident that I was wrong, notwithstanding that confirming that requires only a book and the ability to keep the eyes from “cheating”). Understood, but that wasn’t my point. I’ll try again.

    We know that the only thing objects “out there” are doing is reflecting light which stimulates the photosensors, which in turn begins a sequence of processing stages that produce what I have called the “neural correlates” of that sensory input. And it seems likely that in principle, those neural correlates are sufficient to allow determining and executing actions that are appropriate responses to things going on in that FOV, eg, ducking to avoid incoming missiles. But in addition to that capability we have the experience of “seeing” the FOV contents, ie, of objects in the FOV appearing in a mental image of the FOV. To simplify, if the FOV is fully occupied by a surface reflecting a fixed SPD from all points, we have the experience of “seeing” some uniform expanse of “color”.

    But if this description is accurate, the “mental” image of the FOV contents isn’t a “representation”, “recreation”, or “interpretation” of the “real” image of those contents, it’s the only image there is. And it’s in this sense that I “question whether “colors are “out there”, notwithstanding that I accept that objects are “out there”. An object represented in the mental image appears to have color, but that attribute is added by the visual processing.

    And I think this view is subtly different from what I take to be the CT view. In the latter, I understand the assumption to be that somewhere in the brain there is a point at which the external environment is accurately and completely “represented” as if on a movie screen (what I assume you mean by “inflated”), suggesting that “someone/something” is viewing it. I’m hypothesizing that while the mental image does leave that impression, that image is an internally formulated interpretation of the external environment which makes us think we are “seeing” the environment. But actually, we are just sampling the SPDs from the FOV so as to obtain the visual data needed for that interpretation. And that mental image includes attributes that we call “the colors of objects in the environment” but which are really added in the brain.

    With that view of what’s going on, I think the answer to the question “who is seeing the mental image” is “no one” – it’s all an illusion created in the brain to fool us into thinking we are “seeing” the external environment as it “really” is. I’m also wondering if the ability to construct such mental images is part of a child’s learning process.

    Presumably, something similar applies to at least some aspects of shape, eg, depth. Which perhaps is why the Nekker cube image is bi-stable – to complete the mental image, the brain has to assume a 3D shape, but the available input data is ambiguous.

    I’m now so comfortable thinking this way that it seems trivially obvious. Am I just restating in an unnecessarily complex way what everybody who gives even a moment’s serious thought to such matters already knows? Or perhaps just flat out wrong?

    As for Sellars, after my first pass through E&PofM I had a vague sense that understanding his argument was important for anyone dealing in these kinds of issues. As I approach the finish line on pass two, I am almost certain that’s the case. But my impression is that a lot of people who talk about consciousness aren’t familiar with Sellars at all and that even those who are don’t see his work as significant. But then my exposure to philosophers is very limited and all indirect. What is your impression of the position of his work among those who are major players in the field?

    Replies to comment 142
    ===================
    I am not very familiar with type-token or reductionist lingo or concepts. John Davey and I tried to have an exchange along those lines, but despite sincere efforts on both our parts, I felt it basically went nowhere. At the time (just a couple of weeks ago), any fault was no doubt mine because I knew even less than I do now. I have read a fair amount since then, but that has only increased my doubts about the usefulness of those vocabularies. So, I have some responses to specific statements in your comment, but I won’t try express them in either of those vocabularies.

    “Any ‘mental predicate’ is a expressible in the vocabulary of physics.”

    I like to use the analogy of a complex system like a sophisticated satellite. There is no question that it is top to bottom a physical entity, but there is also no question that it would not be possible to discuss it’s functionality at the system level in “the vocabulary of physics”. However, at each level of integration, there is a relevant vocabulary for describing issues about that level of integration, and most terms in that vocabulary – though not necessarily all – can be explained in terms of the next lower level of integration. Chalmers expresses this process as “reductive explanation”, but emphasizes that it doesn’t imply “reducibility” in the sense that term is (I assume) used by those who deny that “consciousness is physical”.

    Similarly, although I agree that mental events can’t be explained in the vocabulary of physics, I have so far not been dissuaded from the belief that there is a cascade of reductive explanations (some currently unknown) from the former to the latter.

    “Their sports lore contains such maims as ‘too many fatigues spoils your aim’”

    A typo, I assume, but at first I didn’t notice because it fits the context!

    Replies to comment 143
    ===================
    I am not familiar with either Marr’s work or Dennett’s book on the intentional stance, but your descriptions remind me of the levels of integration mentioned above, so of course I assume both make sense!

  145. 145. Mike Spenard says:

    “I’m now so comfortable thinking this way that it seems trivially obvious. Am I just restating in an unnecessarily complex way what everybody who gives even a moment’s serious thought to such matters already knows? Or perhaps just flat out wrong?”

    You’ve given a good articulation of the situation. But at times I feel the same, its become obvious to me that we can’t search for essences and the relative nature you’ve described is obvious. Then I read through this blog and talk to others and it seems anything but. Also, if you give this type of explanation to a lay person they might go ‘Hrm, ok that’s odd, but that makes sense’. Stop. Wait 10 minutes, start at the other end, the phenomenological end, that they know personally and feel authoritative on; i.e. their mental life. Stop. Then smoosh the two conversations together. 9 times out of 10 you’ll find yourself in a heated argument where ‘that makes sense’ has become ‘your scientificy makes sense’ vs. ‘their mental life’.

    It’s hard to, pardon the pun, paint a picture of the situation with words. Sometimes I think of my visual system as detecting shape and object features of the world (that are multimodal and therefor redundant; so we can think of them as being more objective in a way) and painting or hanging information on them that /is/ the color. But that way of describing it is obviously to Cartesian. (Dennett in ConExp talks about paint-by-number vs. bitmap coloring; two options if one desires to follow that line of thought).

    “With that view of what’s going on, I think the answer to the question “who is seeing the mental image” is “no one” – it’s all an illusion created in the brain to fool us into thinking we are “seeing” the external environment as it “really” is”

    In the classic ‘ego theory’ (where there is a central and unitary self or ‘one’ who x’s) sense this looks to be the case. But this doesn’t mean we have to completely was ourselves of there being agency. Our work would be to take all of the features we had attributed to the unitary ‘self’ and distribute the tasks around: ‘bundle theory’. Can we still call this agency? If we can then we have to constrain the illusion metaphor (and as I’ve said before, by definition that of an illusion exists, it’s just misinterpreted; this halts the jump to Idealism). Additionally, since there is no gold standard color perception of the world (not sure if you read my stuff on color blind vs. normal human vs. quad-chromatic person vs. a person with a receptor type for each wavelength) there can be no ultimate true color perception. Admittedly this leaves us in a very awkward situation, one completely at odds with our intuitions, but I think continued earnest inquiry has shown time and time again that asking to leave intuitions behind is not tantamount to hand waving or faith.

    . . .

    What I know of Sellar’s is mostly through proxy unfortunately; and that’s all to limited (from my understanding he was a Functionalist). There being so much literature and so many authors on these subjects is both mind bogglingly frustrating and inspiring! Dennett gives a good overview of him and others via comparison and contrast: http://books.google.com/books?id=78IW4xjd3akC&pg=PA339&lpg=PA339&dq=dennett+mid-term+examination&source=bl&ots=KKCNFX_0zT&sig=AoUZhNcIavTxgGotqp4KYWzsOPs&hl=en&ei=bXRMTK2iEoH78Aa2pp0_&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=dennett%20mid-term%20examination&f=false

    . . .

    “I like to use the analogy of a complex system like a sophisticated satellite.”
    Your point there was right on the money. It’s design stance vs physical stance. Sometimes one stance is more appropriate then another. E.g. if you want to describe a satellite to someone the design stance is appropriate, as describing every molecule and bond is to great a task. However, if a circuit flakes out you’ll need to adopt the physical stance to isolate and confirm the failure at some point (e.g. use an o-scope).

    The word ‘reduce’ carries with it baggage; it’s almost inherently derogatory (and when you reduce soup content is lost). Something better is needed… perhaps terminology from telecom is better.. simplex vs. duplex paths of explanation between fuzzy levels of complexity and predictability. Sigh, that’s rubbish too.

  146. 146. Mike Spenard says:

    completely was[h] ourselves

  147. 147. Mike Spenard says:

    “I am not familiar with either Marr’s work or Dennett’s book on the intentional stance, but your descriptions remind me of the levels of integration mentioned above, so of course I assume both make sense!”

    I noticed in another thread you wrote: “For those who are familiar with the concept of layered comm protocols, the distinction is between what is transported at the lower layers (raw data) versus by the top (Application) layer,”

    The OSI model right?! Because of my CompSci background OSI popped in my head years ago when I first studied Dennett and Marr’s approaches. I haven’t seen OSI put to use through analogy yet by anyone in print. It seems to perhaps improve on their idea’s by adding the idea of Nesting / matryoshka dolls.

  148. 148. Mike Spenard says:

    Also, if we think of each OSI stack as a person; with the physical layer being neurology and the app layer being Intentionality and Qualia. What might also be analogous is how, while it seems that each layer communicates with only itself App-to-App or Transport-to-Transport, they must descend up and down through the layers of the stack. This is the nesting aspect. And if we’re right, that OSI is analogous, then it seems to indicate that while App-to-App communication takes place directly, it’s only virtual; as it must really descend down to a purely physical layer and then back up again. And that in some sense we can agree in part with Kar Lee et al, that are pro-qualia / pro App layer content is only describable at that layer, there is that seeming. But we can account for it while still maintaining physicalism.

  149. 149. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    Once again, you’re on dangerous ground – thinking too much like I do!

    Re the OSI model: yes, that’s what I had in mind. And although in that thread I was addressing it in the context of actual communication, I had also been thinking about layering somewhat as you describe, as outlined in my comment 144; viz, viewing a person as a complex system.

    A complex system can be discussed at multiple levels of integration (ie, “layers”), in this case the top level being the whole person; the next level comprising “subsystems”, eg, the brain; the next level (in the case of the brain) including neurological components; down to the bottom (physical) level. And as noted in 144, the vocabulary at one level of integration (layer) may be entirely inappropriate for another level.

    The Ramberg essay mentioned in my comment 101 briefly addresses this view. In particular, it poses the question: When does moving from a vocabulary appropriate to one level to one appropriate to another level amount to “changing the subject”? Whenever it does, you presumably can’t translate between those vocabularies, which is how I interpret comments to the effect that “you can’t explain consciousness in terms of physics”. True, but so what? As long as you can explain each level in terms of the level below, you have a coherent story. I’m unclear whether or not that would prove “physicalism” or whether it’s all that important one way or the other.

  150. 150. Charles Wolverton says:

    But this doesn’t mean we have to completely was[h] ourselves of there being agency … Our work would be to … distribute the tasks around”

    After I had posted comment 144, I realized that my disclaimers notwithstanding, it sounded as if I was assuming a “bring it all together point”, AKA, the CT. Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of Dennett’s “multiple drafts” idea wherein there might be a “shape analysis subsystem”, a “color analysis subsystem”, a “motion analysis subsystem”, et al, all of which would contribute to defining appropriate responses to any activity determined to be occurring in the FOV. If the mental image actually is an “illusion” – possibly providing an a posteriori reporting rather than an a priori planning function, then its “creation” could be distributed in both space and time.

    ["Agency" is a concept I haven't gotten a good grip on (it seems to mean different things to different people). Does the above relate at all to the concern you meant to raise in using that word?]

  151. 151. Vicente says:

    Charles & Mike:

    A complex system can be discussed at multiple levels of integration (ie, “layers”), in this case the top level being the whole person; the next level comprising “subsystems”, eg, the brain; the next level (in the case of the brain) including neurological components; down to the bottom (physical) level. And as noted in 144, the vocabulary at one level of integration (layer) may be entirely inappropriate for another level.

    This is ambitious reductionism at it is proven to fail most of the time when applied to biological systems, the mind, or most systems showing complex behaviour, that cannot be explained by superimposing layers. I don’t see how the OSI model apply at all to the human body. Try to define the analogy in detail and you’ll see how it fails.

  152. 152. Vicente says:

    Peter, when I try to finish an HTML block, the format remains until the end of the text, what am I doing wrong?

  153. 153. Vicente says:

    Charles & Mike:

    A complex system can be discussed at multiple levels of integration (ie, “layers”), in this case the top level being the whole person; the next level comprising “subsystems”, eg, the brain; the next level (in the case of the brain) including neurological components; down to the bottom (physical) level. And as noted in 144, the vocabulary at one level of integration (layer) may be entirely inappropriate for another level.

    This is ambitious reductionism at it is proven to fail most of the time when applied to biological systems, the mind, or most systems showing complex behaviour, that cannot be explained by superimposing layers. I don’t see how the OSI model apply at all to the human body. Try to define the analogy in detail and you’ll see how it fails.

  154. 154. Vicente says:

    I found out.

  155. 155. Charles Wolverton says:

    “This is ambitious reductionism”

    Forget (IMO largely meaningless and diversionary) labels for a moment and focus on what I actually wrote:

    A complex system can be discussed at multiple levels of integration

    Whether the system is biological or not, surely you don’t dispute this.

    “I don’t see how the OSI model apply at all to the human body”

    Neither do I, but I find thinking in terms of “levels of integration” – “layers” – useful. Others may not. OTOH, when talking about communication systems – eg, human language – it is often useful to think in terms of layered protocols, although not necessarily in terms of the literal “OSI model”.

  156. 156. Mike Spenard says:

    If intentional idioms and mental predicates cannot be reduced or resolved to ones that are not (this is what CogSci is really after, and not simply explaining a metal predicate with another, which leaves a homunculus) than there is literally no work to be done. In the end it might be true, but if that is the defeatist position someone wants to maintain from the outset they should just pack their metaphorical bags and go home.

    Mentioning OSI was simply a means of bringing the idea of how a layer of description can appear non-transparent because of nesting.

  157. 157. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    Just a quickie to let you know that I’m still working through your draft. Actually, I’ve finished one pass and have noted several interesting items about which I have either questions or comments, but haven’t been able to formulate anything coherent so far (numerous distractions have recently intervened). Unfortunately, we are about to disappear for a week, so I may not get anything together before we leave. But check back here occasionally (the thread seems to be dying) – at some point I will have at least a final comment or two.

  158. 158. Mike Spenard says:

    Okey dokey. I’m sure we’ll catch up later :)

    I’m gonna toss up some more food for thought… I was doing some noodling today on Descartes. Trying to put into words what we were talking about earlier, on private and public language, and how it undermines his “method of systematic doubt”. He seemed to think that man’s mind could be completely removed from behavioral tropisms (stimulus and response) and at the core was some essence of pure reasoning not contingent on an environment for generative thought. He got this idea from Plato; the idea of man as being the animal of pure reason at its core.

    If I remember my Wittgenstein right this was what he was preoccupied with in the last part of his life; what language says about Cartesianism. The linguistic critique might seem purely historic, but I think it shows our critique above has something important to say against the modern reformulations of “essential mentalism” (for the lack of a better term) being put forth on here and elsewhere.

    –paste–

    Descartes asked us to bear upon ourselves the intellectual responsibility of calling into question even the most obvious of our beliefs; and, since he found it possible to doubt all but his own mind, that we should proceed from this conception of a mind without a physical world and construct the world upon it. This methodology rests on the traditional idea that the core to human nature is our ability to lay aside our tropistic habitual tendencies and to form propositions, deliberate and reason: to perceive, plan and act. Homo sapien the rational animal.

    Descartes error was to think that we could achieve complete mastery and subversion of our habits, and to conceive of ourselves free of them. However, forming propositions, making judgments and decisions always takes place within a context, and it is context—ripe with tropism and habit forming stimuli—that allow us to do so. For instance, I may perceive a desk before me and doubt its existence, but coming to such a judgment and forming the proposition of illusory desks takes for granted the concept of what a desk is. As forming propositions and reasoning requires language, and for the words of our language to take on meaning and for them to make reference requires public social practice in a physical world; a language cannot stand on one man’s mind alone. Making judgments requires us to interpret and apply categories, most of which are not left up to our own, and ours alone, devices to form, confirm and stipulate. There could be no Cartesian “method of systematic doubt” all the way down such a rabbit hole. Descartes’s fantasy of emancipating a mind from any presuppositions, other than its own existence, is just that…fantasy. And it is that human language is the outcome of shared social practice which saves us from solipsism found at the bottom of such a hole.

    . . .

    I need to fill this in a bit, any suggestions would be wonderful :)

    Out of a fear of always ending up with a Cartesian homunculus Skinners Behavorism seems to run in an equal and opposite direction. I’d like to think our line of thinking has been amicable in comparison to mentalism that wants nothing to do with environments, stimuli and responses, and Skinner’s Behaviorism that wants nothing to do with mental predicates: “You can have your mental predicates but you cannot use them meaningfully without the social art of language! And, there is S&R, and the Law of Effect, but the skull contains adaptive processes that can generate reponeses not based on prior stimuli!”

  159. 159. Charles Wolverton says:

    Since I know “Descartes’ Error” only by hearsay, I don’t feel qualified to opine on where, how, why he went wrong. However, at the risk of being tedious – which my wife assures me I am at all times – I’ll suggest tackling “Empiricism and Phil of Mind” which updates the issues you are addressing plus much more, including arguing that what Sellars calls “immediate impressions” – roughly what we are calling the 1-POV take on phenomenal experience – are, contrary to popular opinion, quite “effable”. (It appears to me that Sellars’ argument for this conclusion is a likely basis for Dennett’s heterophenomenology.) Which is why I keep bringing up the essay – it seems a refutation of at least some of the “qualia” claims and thus seems like something that should be addressed by anyone making those claims – but for reasons I can’t imagine, isn’t.

    I should note that the essay is only about 115 pages, although for me they have been a rather challenging 115 pages which I haven’t yet absorbed at much more than a superficial level. The version I have has an intro by Rorty, plus a study guide by Brandom which I have found helpful. You should especially like the essay because it consistently throughout uses color – “seeing red” – as the explanatory theme.

    “but the skull contains adaptive processes that can generate reponeses not based on prior stimuli!”

    This is an unfamiliar (to me) way of expressing it, but it smacks of the Myth of the Given – in our language, essentially the idea that we can “learn” things directly and in isolation, ie, without triangulating – which is the target of Sellars’ essay. Thus, I tend to think of us as being stimulus-response (S&R?) organisms in which the “higher order” responses (what we would call something like “mental events”) are necessarily learned. If this view is more-or-less correct, it appears that this quote must be wrong – assuming I am interpreting it correctly.

  160. 160. Charles Wolverton says:

    An article that is interesting in its own right (a review of Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini’s “What Darwin Got Wrong”) but also concludes with some observations about learning:

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n13/peter-godfrey-smith/it-got-eaten

    I think one assertion – “We can learn by watching.” – illustrates the danger (mentioned in my comment 116) of not distinguishing between knowing-how and knowing-that. We can learn-how by a variation on triangulating – watch some other organism acting for a purpose, ape that action, assess the result, make any necessary corrections. Verification of new know-how comes from trial and error. But learning-that doesn’t work that way. Verification comes from offering reasons for what you say that are accepted by your social and linguistic peers.

  161. 161. Vicente says:

    Charles[159]

    This is an unfamiliar (to me) way of expressing it, but it smacks of the Myth of the Given – in our language, essentially the idea that we can “learn” things directly and in isolation, ie, without triangulating – which is the target of Sellars’ essay. Thus, I tend to think of us as being stimulus-response (S&R?) organisms in which the “higher order” responses (what we would call something like “mental events”) are necessarily learned. If this view is more-or-less correct, it appears that this quote must be wrong – assuming I am interpreting it correctly.

    this smacks of the myth of the blank slate.

    What about information, behaviours, learning prerequisites, built-in skills, inclinations, a-priori knowledge structures, etc, that our brains have as built-in abilities or tendencies…

    although they might have got there in a triangulating and learning fashion throuhout evolution…who knows.

  162. 162. Mike Spenard says:

    “”“but the skull contains adaptive processes that can generate reponeses not based on prior stimuli!””

    “This is an unfamiliar (to me) way of expressing it, but it smacks of the Myth of the Given – in our language, essentially the idea that we can “learn” things directly and in isolation, ie, without triangulating – which is the target of Sellars’ essay. Thus, I tend to think of us as being stimulus-response (S&R?) organisms in which the “higher order” responses (what we would call something like “mental events”) are necessarily learned. If this view is more-or-less correct, it appears that this quote must be wrong – assuming I am interpreting it correctly.”

    Not without stimuli altogether; it’s meant to be taken in contrast to the Skinnerian system. E.g. If someone put a gun to your head you would give them your money. But you likely have no prior stimuli of guns to your head. Yet your brain generates the correct/adaptive response. Skinner’s Behaviorism can only explain the giving of the money in terms of prior gun-to-head stimuli. So I think you agree with the statement in this sense, otherwise the brain doesn’t do anything that allows us to deal with novelties–that’s the thrust of it.

  163. 163. Vicente says:

    Mike,

    “But you likely have no prior stimuli of guns to your head. Yet your brain generates the correct/adaptive response.”

    Yes, this is simply survival instinct, no need for prior stimuli, most serious threatens can be classified in the same category. And the response is not adaptive, there is no trial error process. To be adaptive, you should have been trained to take the guy’s gun and blow his head off, or arrest him until you get the police to come, if you are in a good mood. Nevertheless, you might find that different individuals have different responses in that situation.

  164. 164. Charles Wolverton says:

    Aha. I consider previous acquisition of knowledge to be “prior stimuli”, in which case inferred knowledge (presumably an example of output from an “adaptive process”) is “based on prior stimuli”. Eg, if you know that guns are lethal and that “your wallet or your life” is a no-brainer, acquiescence is the logical response.

    The inadequacy of available vocabulary strikes again!

  165. 165. Mike Spenard says:

    Vicente & Charles:

    See the following (p.67 specifically) for a fuller explanation of what I was getting on about with the “stick up” and novelty, and how Skinner’s Behaviorism doesn’t lend itself to answering how this is achieved. If you feel so inclined of course ;)

    “Skinner Skinned”. Which has become somewhat of a classic at this point:
    http://cognet.mit.edu/library/books/mitpress/0262540371/cache/chap4.pdf

    BTW, apparently MIT has messed up big and put the entire book online; although un-index and not directly visible. Just change the 4 to a 1-16 in the .pdf etc.

    . . .

    MS:”“But you likely have no prior stimuli of guns to your head. Yet your brain generates the correct/adaptive response.””
    VIC:”Yes, this is simply survival instinct,”

    It can be described as survival instinct sure, but not simply. As it’s not a tropism. For all my brain knows at some future date sticking a slice of bacon into a floppy disk drive slot may be a life saving response. But this reaction is not simply one explainable by leaning on tropistic survival instincts. Survival instinct makes me want to /find/ the proper response, but some other principle much more complex than tropism is governing the /generation and selection/ of the enacted bacon response. The above reference gets into this much better than I can explain.

  166. 166. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    Is your use of “tropism” widespread in the community or is it your personal generalization of the strict (per dictionary.com and wiki) meaning? I ask because (as noted above) I think it’s important to be careful about distinguishing responses that arise from learning-how (AKA “training”) and those that arise from learning-that (AKA, “coming to know”), and recognize the need for yet a third expression for responses that arise naturally, ie, are not learned at all (are “innate”?). So, if “tropistic response” is the standard, I’ll adopt it. But if not, I’d like to know what expression – if any – is.

    I read the Dennett essay on Skinner and was surprised to find that – as you suggested – he apparently did have a rather restricted view of the cause-response response relationship, viz (assuming I understand it correctly), that essentially all responses are the result of learning-how. It would never have occurred to me that in mid/late-20C anyone credible would have had that view, so I originally assumed I was misunderstanding what you were trying to tell us. Skinner apparently had not read Sellars!

  167. 167. Mike Spenard says:

    Tropism is commonly used; as the standard term to describe behavioral responses that are very “hard wired” non-plastic etc. E.g. something worm like: “Dampless. Run to it!” *Gulp* oopsy, that was a snakes moist mouth. Better luck next ti… o ya. Generate-and-test hypothesi in the brain would have allowed neural patterns to die in the worms place.

    Out of a fear of always ending up with a Cartesian homunculus (a perfectly legitimate fear) Skinner’s Behavorism seems to run in an equal and opposite direction to that of Descartes. And ironically ending up in the same position of solipsism. And also phenomenology and Freudian psychoanalytics were in their prime when he started out. Like you said it’s hard to believe he’d hold the position he did, but looking at it in historical context I can understand why; he wanted something empirical and verifiable. As there is an element in Skinner worth saving, as Dennett points out, mental predicates need to eventually get resolved into non-mental ones; otherwise you haven’t done the job you set out to do: explaining X without circling back and using X as an explanation. Which I’ve been going on about throughout this thread.

    I picked up a copy of Sellars’s EatPoM. Can’t wait ;)

  168. 168. Charles Wolverton says:

    Great! Sure hope after all my hype you find it worthwhile. I’ll look forward to your review when I get back next weekend.

  169. 170. Charles Wolverton says:

    Mike –

    In case you missed it, my promised comment on the rest of your draft:

    http://www.consciousentities.com/?p=586#comment-162977

  170. 171. Mike Spenard says:

    Hey Charles, I saw it. Replied too. But my reply is stuck in Peter’s moderator queue and he’s on a trip!

  171. 172. Charles Wolverton says:

    I assumed something unusual had happened given the abrupt transition of comment activity from vibrant to dead and eagerly await Peter’s return!

  172. 173. Kar Lee says:

    I think it is just because no one is talking.

    I have been trying to find time to write something regarding Noe, but haven’t been able to find the time to put together something coherent.

  173. 174. Gary says:

    I’ve seen the excepts of Stephen Hawkings’ new book, The Grand Design. In it he discusses the role of gravity and its part in the formation of the universe. He states that gravity was a lone force in creating it, and there wasn’t any need for God in the process. As I thought about this and realized gravity is generated from mass, couldn’t the same be said for brain mass generating a conscious? Or take that a step further, you could say cells, in general, have somewhat of a conscious, enabling them to create and maintain mass. A low scale type of gravity, and a high scale type associated with the laws of physics and really no need to say different for the low scale. Note to self, “Maybe scientist really know this, but they’re milking the public on their new pseudo ideas?”

    Now this is where the Higgs boson particle came into my line thinking. Since in all practicality, so far, the particle has remained invisible, wouldn’t it be more likely to think, the empty space in mass is nothing more than a force, such as gravity? I think this would put Deepak Chopra’s reasoning in better perspective. I don’t really keep up with him and to be honest, I didn’t know he had any such hypothetical on the Higgs boson. It is kind of Matrixess, and I don’t think it to be true. Nevertheless, I do realize the simplicity of mine, but rationality works best for me.

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