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55547Re: [evol-psych] Re: Can qualia be explained from an evolutionary perspective?

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  • Edgar Owen
    Jul 7, 2007
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      Well I agree with you on all three off these points though on the last it would be more accurate to describe variations in consciousness among organisms as simply corresponding to differences in their biological and cognitive structures rather than to the 'amount' or 'degree' of consciousness they have. In other words it is not a matter of amount (quantity) of consciousness, but rather of the quality (in the sense of what kind of qualia they experience the world in terms of, not better or poorer) of the consciousness, and that depends entirely on their physical and congitive structures.

      You are apparently incorrectly imputing commonly held misconceptions to me that I don't actually believe. I'm not sure why. If you want an accurate view of my ideas on consciousness I suggest you read my paper at http://EdgarLOwen.com/stc.html where you will find a simple elegant explanation of how consciousness arises from the physical world. It directly addresses, and I think solves, the 'hard problem' of consciousness.


      On Jul 7, 2007, at 2:38 AM, bowmanthebard wrote:

      Hi Edgar,

      You asked (about consciousness):

      > Can you then explain your notion of the
      > 'correct' way of thinking on the issue?

      Getting out of the "Cartesian Theater" usually takes quite a lot of
      time, reflection, even a sort of philosophical "therapy". I don't
      think a single e-mail is likely to change your whole understanding of
      who you are, what the mind is, etc..

      We are a religious animal, so we all find it hard to abandon one of
      the most basic assumptions of religion -- that we have an
      immaterial "soul". All the same, you might consider a couple of
      thought experiments as a bit of self-diagnosis, as a first step on
      the road to "recovery":

      1. A "teletransporter" scans the exact position and type of every
      single particle in your body, destroying it in the process, and at
      the same time precisely re-constructing a perfect physical copy at
      another location. Is that you?

      If you are inclined to say "yes", that is probably because you
      identify your self with the pattern of your atoms and molecules
      rather than with the atoms and molecules themselves, arranged in that
      pattern. (It's easy to see that "yes" is the wrong answer: just
      imagine that the teletransporter doesn't destroy you as it scans, but
      instead creates a perfect twin.)

      2. Imagine a mental "chain of being" that runs from things that have
      no minds (such as rocks) all the way up to conscious humans. Above
      rocks come plants, then thermostats, insects, fish, small mammals,
      etc.. Where does "consciousness" enter?

      If you think there is a sharp cut-off point, you are probably
      assuming that consciousness is like a "soul" that is either present
      or absent, despite your best efforts not to. (It's easy to see that
      there is no sharp cut-off point, because between any two links of
      this "chain" we can imagine another link in between.)

      Being conscious is a matter of degree, and it depends on the
      functional capacities of the thing in question. It is not a simple
      thing like an "eye" that is open or closed, but a range of abilities
      that are more or less well-developed in a range of animals (and
      eventually robots -- but we have a long way to go yet.)


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