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Fwd: Of Consciousness, Processes and Meaning: More from the PI

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  • Eray Ozkural
    SWM on Wittgenstein s Philosophical Investigations . ... From: SWM
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 15, 2013
      SWM on Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigations".

      ---------- Forwarded message ----------
      From: SWM <swmaerske@...>
      Date: Sun, Apr 7, 2013 at 6:24 PM
      Subject: Of Consciousness, Processes and Meaning: More from the PI
      To: Phil-Sci-Mind@yahoogroups.com

      Selections (edited for brevity -- full text available in any edition as needed and, I understand, on-line as well):

      412. The feeling of an unbridgeable gulf between consciousness and brain process: how come that this plays no role in reflections of ordinary life? The idea of a difference in kind is accompanied by a slight giddiness -- which occurs when we are doing logical tricks . .

      [SWM: Think of Dennett's talk about the Indian Rope trick!]

      . . . When does this feeling occur in the present case? It is when I, for example, turn my attention in a particular way on to my own consciousness and, astonished, say to myself: "THIS is supposed to be produced by a process in the brain!" -- as it were clutching my forehead. -- But what can it mean to speak of "turning my attention on to my own consciousness"? There is surely nothing more extraordinary that there should be any such thing! . . .

      Note that the sentence which I uttered as a paradox ("THIS is produced by a brain process!") has nothing paradoxical about it. I could have said it in the course of an experiment whose purpose was to show that an effect of light which I see is produced by stimulation of a particular part of the brain. -- But I did not utter the sentence in the surroundings in which it would have had an everyday and unparadoxical sense. And my attention was not such as would have been in keeping with that experiment . . .

      416. "Human beings agree in saying that they see, hear, feel, and so on (even though some are blind and some are deaf). So they are their own witnesses that they have consciousness". -- But how strange this is! Whom do I really inform that "I have consciousness"? What is the purpose of saying this to myself . . .? -- Now, sentences like "I see", "I hear", "I am conscious", have their uses. I tell a doctor . . . and so on.

      417. Do I observe myself, then, and perceive that I am seeing or conscious? And why talk about observation at all? Why not simply say "I perceive that I am conscious"? -- But what are the words "I perceive" for here -- why not say "I am conscious"? But don't the words "I perceive" here show that I am attending to my consciousness? -- which is ordinarily not the case. -- If so, then the sentence "I perceive that I am conscious" does not say that I am conscious, but that my attention is focused in such-and-such a way. . . .

      418. Is my having consciousness a fact of experience? --

      420. But can't I imagine that people around me are automata, lack consciousness, even though they behave in the same way as usual? -- If I imagine it now -- alone in my foom -- I see people with fixed looks (as in a trance) going about their business -- the idea is perhaps a little uncanny. But just try to hang onto the idea in the midst of your ordinary intercourse with others -- in the street, say! . . .

      [SWM: Again, think of Dennett's point that the idea of philosophical zombies is simply incoherent.]

      421. It seems paradoxical to us that in a single report we should make such a medley, mixing physical states and states of consciousness up together: "He suffered great torments and tossed about restlessly."  . .  we want to say that the sentence is about both tangibles and intangibles. -- But does it worry you if I say: "These three struts give the building stability?" Are three and stability tangible? . . .

      427. While I was speaking to him, I did not know what was going on in his head." In saying this, one is not thinking of brain processes, but of thought processes. This picture should be taken seriously. We really would like to see into his head. And yet we only mean what we ordinarily mean by saying that we would like to know what he is thinking. I want to say: we have this vivid picture -- and that use, apparently contradicting the picture, which expresses something mental.

      428. "A thought -- what a strange thing. -- but it does not strike us as strange when we are thinking, but only when we say, as it were retrospectively, "How was that possible?" How was it possible for a thought to deal with this very object? It seems to us as if we had captured reality with the thought.

      [SWM: Dennett's point about the illusions of consciousness]

      429. The agreement, the harmony, between thought and reality consists in this: that if I say falsely that something is red, then all the same, it is red that it isn't. |128| And in this: that if I want to explain the word "red" to someone, in the sentence "That is not red", I do so by pointing to something that is red.

      430. "Put a ruler against this object; it does not say that the object is so-and-so long. Rather, it is in itself -- I am tempted to say -- dead, and achieves nothing of what a thought can achieve."  -- It is as if we had imagined that the essential thing about a living human being was the outward form. Then we made a lump of wood into that form and were abashed to see the lifeless block, lacking any similarity to a living creature.

      432. Every sign by itself seems dead. What gives it life? -- In use it lives. Is it there that it has living breath within it? -- Or is the use the breath?

      [SWM: Think of Searle's point about how understanding Chinese by a machine like his CR must lack something which we humans have and what that sort of something must be.]

      435. If it is asked, "How does one sentence manage to represent? -- the answer might be: "Don't you know? surely you see it, when you use one." After all, nothing is concealed.

      How does a sentence do it? -- . . .

      . . . when given the answer . . . one would like to retort, "Yes, but it all goes by so quickly . . .

      436. Here it is easy to get into that dead end in philosophizing where one believes that the difficulty of the problem consists in our having to describe phenomena that evade our grasp, the present experience that slips quickly by . . . -- where we find ordinary language too crude, and it looks as if we were not dealing with the phenomena of everyday conversation, but with ones that "are evanescent, and, in their coming to be and passing away, tend to produce those others".

      (Augustine: Manifestissima et usitatissima sunt, et eadem rurus nimis latent, et nova esta inventio eorum.)

      [SWM: Compare the idea that there is something peculiarly ineffable at work, something so deeply buried it must pose a uniquely "Hard Problem" with this Wittgensteinian view.]

      443. "The red which you imagine is surely not the same (not the same thing) as the red which you see in front of you; so how can you say that it is what you imagined?" -- But haven't we an analogous case with the sentences "Here is a red patch" and "Here there isn't red patch". The word "red" occurs in both; so this word can't indicate the presence of something red.

      [SWM: Red as a "quale"!!!]

      446. It would be odd to say: "A process looks different when it happens from when it doesn't happen." Or: "A red patch looks different when it is there from when it isn't there -- but language abstracts from this difference, for it speaks of a red patch whether it is there or not."

      447. The feeling is as if the negation of a proposition had first, in a certain sense, to make it true, in order to be able to negate it.

      486. Does it follow from the sense impressions which I get that there is a chair over there? -- How can a proposition follow from sense impressions? Well, does it follow from the propositions which describe the sense impressions? No. -- But don't I infer that a chair is there from impressions, from sense data? -- I make no inference! -- and yet I sometimes do. I see a photograph, for example, and say "So there must have been a chair over there", . . . That is an inference; but not one belonging to logic. An inference is a transition to an assertion; and so also to the behavior that corresponds to the assertion . . .

      508. If I utter the sentence "The weather is fine"; but the words are, after all, arbitrary signs -- so let's put "a b c d" in their place. But now, when I read this I can't connect it, without more ado, with the above sense. |140| I am not used, I might say, to saying "a" instead of "the", "b" for "weather", and so on. . . .

      [SWM: Searle's Chinese writing translated by rote vs. its representing something meaningful to a reader/speaker and what would a CR need to be the second rather than just to do the first?]

      509. What if we asked someone, "In what sense are these words a description of what you see?" -- and he answers: "I mean this by these words." . . . Why is this answer . . . no answer at all?

      How does one mean mean, with words, what one sees before one?

      Suppose I said "a b c d" and meant thereby: the weather is fine. For as I uttered these signs, I had the experience I normally had only by someone who, year in, year out, used "a" in he sense of "the" (etc.) . . . -- Does "a b c d" now say: the weather is fine?

      What should be the criterion for my having had that experience?

      [SWM: Searle says we can't articulate what happens when we understand a Chinese character but, if and when we do understand it, we know it when we do. But what do we know that we have? Dennett says we have lots of stuff going on in any instance of experience, including experiencing understanding, but that none of that stuff corresponds to THE experience of understanding per se. For Searle there is something uniquely bottom line, something that is "first person" which is inexpressible but experienceable. Dennett's view is more in keeping with Wittgenstein's here than is Searle's.]

      526. What does it mean to understand a picture, a drawing? Here too there is understanding and not understanding. And here too these expressions may mean various kinds of things. The picture is, say, a still life; but I don't understand one part of it: I cannot see solid objects there, but only patches of color on canvas. -- Or I see all the objects but I am not familiar with them (they look like implements but I don't know their use) . . .

      527. Understanding a sentence in language is much more akin to understanding a theme in music . . . (One says, "Don't you see, this is as if a conclusion were being drawn" or "This is, as it were, a parenthesis", and so on. How does one justify such comparisons -- There are different kinds of justification here.)

      [SWM: Well is this ineffable as it were? It is but not in the sense that there is some extra mystery at work here, a penumbra of meaning which the understander latches onto when understanding happens.]

      531. We speak of understanding a sentence in the sense in which it can be replaced by another which says the same; but also in the sense |144| in which it cannot be replaced by any other. (Anymore than one musical theme can be replaced by another.

      In the one case, the thought in the sentence is what is common to different senses; in the other, something that is expressed only by these words in this position. (Understanding a poem.)

      532. Then has "understanding" two different meanings here? -- . . . rather say that these kinds of use of "understanding" make up its meaning, make up my concept of understanding. . . . .

      533. But in the second case, how can one explain the expression, communicate what one understands? . . . How does one lead someone to understand a poem or a theme? The answer to this tells how one explains the sense here.

      534. Hearing a word as having this meaning. How curious that there should be such a thing! . . .

      * ((A multitude of familiar paths lead off from these words in all directions.))

      [SWM: See my point about how conveying meaning involves reaching a threshold of commonality of associations between two or more communicating individuals.]

      540. . . . Suppose someone were to point at the sky and come out with a number of unintelligible words. When we ask him what he means, he explains that the words mean "Thank heaven it'll soon stop raining". He even explains to us what the individual words mean. -- I am assuming that he will, as it were, suddenly come to himself and say that the sentence was complete nonsense, but that when he uttered it, it had seemed like a sentence in a language he knew . . . -- What am I to say now? Didn't he understand the sentence as he was saying it? . . .

      541. But what did this understanding, and the meaning consist in? He uttered the words in a cheerful voice perhaps, pointing to the sky while it was still raining but was already beginning to clear up; later he made a connection between his words and English words.

      542. "But the point is, the words felt to him like the words of a language he knew well." -- Yes; a criterion for it is his later saying just that. And now don't say: "The feel of the words in a language we know is of a quite particular kind." (What is the expression of this feeling?)

      [SWM: Harnad argues that it is feeling or feltness that must be accounted for in any explanation of consciousness but that it cannot be accounted for via a description of physical or even functional operations. He proposes that this is what Searle is after with his CRA when he tells us that "that the Chinese Room doesn't understand Chinese and nothing in the room understands it either." For Harnad the missing element is the moment of "feeling" as in being aware of what is meant. (I prefer "awareness" to "feeling" for this usage, myself, because I think Harnad's choice has too broad a connotation but one can stipulate to the same meaning so it doesn't matter greatly which term we actually settle on.) Wittgenstein suggests that there is no such missing element but only lots of different things going on in any subject at moments of understanding and that the term "understanding" designates different things in different contexts. Moreover, he suggests that when we set out to recall any instance of understanding something we do not remember particular understanding feelings but, rather, different associations we had, experiences connected with moments that count as occurrences of instances of understanding or getting something. This is consistent with Dennett's view but inconsistent with the view of others like Searle, Harnad and Chalmers.]

      598. When we do philosophy, we are inclined to hypostasize feelings where there are none. They serve to explain our thoughts to us.

      "Here the explanation of our thinking requires a feeling!" It is as if our conviction answered to this demand.

      607. How does one guess the time? . . .

      But surely you must at least have put yourself in a particular state of mind in order to guess the time; and you don't take just any old idea of what time it is in giving the correct time! . . . I asked myself "I wonder what time it is" That is, I did not, for example, read this as a story, or quote it as someone else's utterance; nor was I practising the pronunciation of these words; and so on . . . -- But, then, what were the kind of circumstances? -- I was thinking about my breakfast, and wondering whether it would be late today. . . But do you really not see that you were in a state of mind which, though intangible, is characteristic of guessing the time, as if you were surrounded by an atmosphere characteristic of doing so. Yes; what was the characteristic was that I said to myself "I wonder what time it is" -- And if this sentence has a particular atmosphere, how am I to separate it from the sentence itself? . . . The picture of the special atmosphere forced itself upon me; I virtually see the atmosphere before me -- so long, that is, as I do not look at what, according to my memory, really happened. . . .

      [SWM's note: Think Dennett here!]

      608. The idea of the intangibility of that mental state in estimating the time is of the greatest importance. Why is it intangible? Isn't it |159| because we refuse to count what is tangible about our state as part of the specific state we are postulating?

      [And here! I'll stop for now since there are quite a few more remarks I'd like to bring into this but I don't want to make this overlong -- SWM]


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      Eray Ozkural, PhD candidate.  Comp. Sci. Dept., Bilkent University, Ankara
      http://myspace.com/arizanesil http://myspace.com/malfunct
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