Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

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

Expand Messages
  • bowmanthebard
    Personally, I think the hard problem of consciousness arises because each of us has difficulty identifying our self with a physical thing that functions in
    Message 1 of 33 , Jul 1, 2007
      Personally, I think the "hard problem of consciousness" arises because
      each of us has difficulty identifying our "self" with a physical thing
      that functions in the ways required to produce functional consciousness.

      Suppose we build a robot that has all of the necessary functional
      capacities: that is, it has second-level representations (of its own
      internal states, etc.) and all the rest of it. (If I've left anything
      out, just put it in.)

      There remains a difference between me and it: I am me, but it is it.
      This is not the difference between one thing having phenomenal
      consciousness and the other thing not having it, but between me
      experiencing my own phenomenal consciousness, and me not experiencing
      its phenomenal consciousness. If the extremely quick sketch of
      consciousness I offered yesterday is correct, then the robot has
      phenomenal consciousness as much as I do. It's just that I experience
      my phenomenal consciousness because I am identical with the physical
      object called "Jeremy Bowman", and it experiences its phenomenal
      consciousness because it is identical with the physical object called
      "Hal 9000" (or whatever its name is). Neither of us experiences the
      other's phenomenal consciousness.

      In other words, I think the so-called "hard problem of consciousness"
      is just a philosophical pseudo-problem that arises because of deeply
      ingrained difficulties we tend to have with the logic of personal
      identity. These difficulties are greatly exacerbated by the fact that
      we all have a terrible hangover, namely, the after-effects of dualism.
      (Dualism is the idea that our selves are not physically realized by
      matter, but by some sort of non-material "spirit" which cannot be one
      and the same thing as a physical object.)

      Everyone should do the following exercise once a day: point to a
      conscious robot (if you don't have one in your house, just pretend)
      and say: "I am one of those. I am not that actual one, but I have the
      same functional capacities as it, which explains why we are both

      Jeremy Bowman
    • Edgar Owen
      Jeremy, 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
      Message 33 of 33 , Jul 7, 2007

        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.)


      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.