The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Is the mind the same as the body? What is consciousness? Can machines have it?

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RG1
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by RG1 » Wed Aug 05, 2015 1:30 pm

Graeme M wrote:That said, I actually do not think that we do anything more elaborate than react to our environment.
Bingo. These ‘reactions’ to our environment ARE our ‘felt experiences’. We, in effect, are just “experiencing machines” auto-reacting accordingly. All we can do is experience, and nothing more! ...
RG1 wrote:I am too busy ‘experiencing’ the moment of ‘now’ to be able to change it.
Graeme M wrote:I don't think we are conscious in the way that most people might imagine.
Agreed....
RG1 wrote:Even though logic tells us that experiences are all there can be to life, many of us ‘insist’ that human life contains something special, something more. We call this special something “consciousness”. Consciousness has different meanings to different people, but in general, most would agree that consciousness is the word that represents the sensation of a ‘mind’ that is aware, that can think and feel, and one that possesses conscious control (i.e. ‘free-will’).

We sense this consciousness. We sense a mind-within called “Me” (a self-aware entity), one that is in charge and in control of ‘me’ (the body). We somehow feel that this “Me” (the mind), ‘is’ the entity, or the ‘self’, that does the experiencing. In other words, we feel that it is “Me” (the mind) that is the one that is aware, and is the one that is experiencing thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, we feel that this “Me” (the mind) not only can experience thoughts, but can also ‘think’ thoughts; meaning that it can create/construct its own thoughts for which then to experience. And, with these self-constructed thoughts, this “Me” (the mind) thereby possesses ‘conscious control’; the ability (i.e. the ‘free-will’) to make autonomous decisions that dictate and determine its direction and fate in this life. But this ‘insistence’ of a consciousness; of a “Me” (a mind), that thinks, and possesses the power of conscious control (i.e. free-will), is wrought with logical impossibilities.

If logic is the basis of our reasoning, then there can be no "Me" (a mind) that is directing the show of Life. There can only be a 'me' (the body) that ‘experiences’ this show. Although our thoughts and feelings (and desires) may want to tell us otherwise, it is simply not possible to do the impossible. Now if we can throw logic out the window, then truth can be whatever we desire!

Obvious Leo
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Obvious Leo » Wed Aug 05, 2015 9:46 pm

This representation of the self as a mindless automaton is Newtonian reductionist bullshit, RG1, as you've been told in countless forums before, both here and elsewhere. You conflate determinism with pre-determinism by failing to recognise that causation operates both top-down and bottom-up in physical systems because of the principle of EMERGENCE. Emergence simply means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and thus the whole has properties which cannot be defined in terms of the properties of the parts. I used the wetness of water as an example earlier. The wetness of water cannot be defined solely in terms of its constituent atoms because not all water is wet. The H and O atoms which combine to constitute water are always bound in the same way and yet this combination only produces wet water under certain specific external conditions. In the Santiago model of cognition we say that the wetness of water is specified for in the way the molecules cognise their environment but many may find this form of language confronting when applied to a simple molecule. All "cognition" actually means in this case is that the molecules exchange information with their environment and it is this information exchange which specifies the wetness or otherwise of the water.

The central point in this way of thinking is this notion of information EXCHANGE. The wetness of the water molecule is not specified for by its constituent atoms but by the the external conditions in which this particular configuration of atoms finds itself, but this is not a one way street. The molecule is both causer and causee in this exchange. It is CAUSED to take on the emergent properties it does by its interaction with the environment but in turn these emergent properties CAUSE changes in the external environment by the molecule which cannot be effected by the H and O atoms in isolation. This is a very simple overview of a non-linear dynamic system but this is how human consciousness is to be regarded.

For the sake of this explanation let's simply agree that self-awareness is the most complex emergent property that a particular configuration of matter and energy can acquire. It is NOT a property of what form this matter and energy takes but a property of the way in which this matter and energy BEHAVES in its physical environment, which means that self-awareness is the emergent outcome of a PROCESS. However the emergent entity that is self-awareness, like the water molecule in the example given, is both causER and causEE in this dynamic process. If the cells in your body need potassium they will send a signal to your liver to release more into your bloodstream and your self-awareness never gets to know about it. However if the cells in your body need water the signal needs to reach your self-awareness because this is a chemical which needs to be sourced from outwith the system. You feel thirsty. However the sensation of thirst does NOT compel you to drink water, which is the Newtonian bollocks that RG1 is attempting to peddle. You could literally die of thirst if you chose to do so, so we say that that the intake of water requires a conscious decision on the part of your self-awareness. This is where the idea of simultaneous top-down and bottom-up causation comes into the picture. When you walk to the tap to fetch a glass of water then every single atom in your body is caused to change its BEHAVIOUR and this in turn initiates a cascade of causal consequences which resonate throughout the entire SYSTEM that is you.

This is basically how embodied cognition works but it is a very sophisticated model, the details of which go far beyond the scope of this discussion. However you'll not find this sort of thinking in Dennett, Graeme. This is high-powered modelling strictly for the scientist and I'd strongly recommend you look into the works of Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela initially and then follow it up with the works of Antonio Damasio. These are the blokes to study if you want to understand consciousness, while Dennett and Chalmers et al are only producing learned papers on navel-gazing from opposite sides of a non-existent fence.

Graeme M
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Graeme M » Wed Aug 05, 2015 9:58 pm

I think I'll need to read some of Dennett, Chambers, Prinz etc before I progress to anything more complex Leo. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed or the fastest car on the track!

I actually would differ with you re the consciousness or intent embodied in your thirst example, but I'd find it hard to express what I mean and it's outside the scope of this thread as you note.

One thing I gotta ask tho, what is this wetness of water? "Wetness" is a subjective interpretation, nothing is "wet" if you are not there to experience it. Do you mean if water is liquid or gas or solid?

Obvious Leo
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Obvious Leo » Wed Aug 05, 2015 11:05 pm

Graeme M wrote:One thing I gotta ask tho, what is this wetness of water? "Wetness" is a subjective interpretation, nothing is "wet" if you are not there to experience it.
YES YES YES. You've got it. Emergent properties of matter and energy are entirely observer-dependent and have no objective ontological status. Water is only wet because that's the way we've mutually agreed to define its observed BEHAVIOUR. The same thing applies to all matter. A quark is only a quark because that's the way we've decided to codify our observations of a sub-atomic system. In any objective sense there's no such thing as a quark.

This very much harks back to the title of this OP because this is not the way Descartes and Newton saw the world. They believed that their cognition was being specified by their objects but this is to put des Cartes before des Horse. It is our objects which are being specified by our cognition. Therefore Descartes also got his pithy little epithet back to front. I am therefore I think makes sense whereas I think therefore I am does not.

Graeme M
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Graeme M » Thu Aug 06, 2015 12:24 am

Aaaargh! That hurts, sometimes stuff just stretches my capacity to "get" it.
Obvious Leo wrote:Emergent properties of matter and energy are entirely observer-dependent and have no objective ontological status.
I'm not quite sure I know what this means. The properties of matter are what they are, they don't require an observer for those to be. What's emergent in this case is the observer's mental state. Water is a liquid and does different things, but those things are predictable and seem to be describable. We have agreed on a property we call wetness, but that does not exist outside our own cognitive state. So wetness is an emergent property of mind, not the external object.

I may not be making sense in saying this, but it seems to me that all external objects simply are. The entire codification of those things and their relationships only has the status of locally described phenomena. We could for example say that the universe we know and 'understand' is just a public representation.

Obvious Leo
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Obvious Leo » Thu Aug 06, 2015 1:04 am

Graeme M wrote:The properties of matter are what they are, they don't require an observer for those to be
Not so. The properties of matter are solely defined by the observer. If you can imagine a species evolving to the same level of technology as us in a far distant galaxy there is one thing of which we may be certain. They will not model their world in the same way that we do. I suspect there may be some commonality of general principles but the details will be entirely different. We tend to think of matter in terms of sub-atomic particles, atoms, molecules etc but this is entirely arbitrary. Not only is there every reason to suppose that another species would model matter entirely differently there is also every reason to suppose that our own sciences of the future will also do so.

"It is the THEORY which determines what the observer will observe".....Albert Einstein.
Graeme M wrote: So wetness is an emergent property of mind, not the external object.
Yes and no. It is a projection of the mind onto the object of its observation. You're right when you say that the wetness is purely an observer construct but that doesn't mean that the wetness has no physical consequences. Wet water interacts differently with matter and energy than does solid water or gaseous water and these different interactions is what we codify and define as science. The way in which we do this is completely arbitrary but the fact that it happens is a fundamental truth of nature.

Why would you say this?
Graeme M wrote:all external objects simply are.
and then contradict yourself by saying this:
Graeme M wrote:The entire codification of those things and their relationships only has the status of locally described phenomena. We could for example say that the universe we know and 'understand' is just a public representation.
This last statement is the one which makes perfect sense. ( Which means it's the one I agree with. :lol: :lol: :lol: )

Graeme M
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Graeme M » Thu Aug 06, 2015 4:04 am

I think, Leo, that you are taking me into philosophical territory with which I am unacquainted. But I'll have a go at responding (although we are straying off-track and I'd like to come back to the original question at some point).
Obvious Leo wrote:The properties of matter are solely defined by the observer.
How can this be so? On what basis do you argue this? I would say that "the properties of internal representations of objects are solely defined by the observer" where by observer we mean a human subject.

These properties may or may not at any time closely approximate the true properties of the objects.

Our idea of a rock depends on the context of our evaluation of it. Is it the egg of the giant sky borne thunder dragon, is it a fragment of an igneous extrusion or is it an arrangement of molecules and constituent atoms obeying the laws of physics? At different times each is accurate, but which is closest to the true nature of rock? We may never know because all we are doing is using an organic ‘computer’ to evaluate these objects.

The object however does exist. Its properties are what they are, regardless of whether we have awareness of them.

Our internal representation and its agreed public state have their own properties. Considered thus, Einstein's quote then becomes "It is the internal mental state (theory) of the observer that determines the observer's mental state (observation)".

On the matter of wetness, we are still stuck in an entirely internal consideration. Water is not wet and its relationship to other objects does not depend on its wetness. In liquid form it just does what it does. It covers something, it flows, its molecules might find themselves within the strands of a fabric and by virtue of their properties cause the object to change its position in space or its relationship to other objects. A thing and its relationship to water is what it is regardless of any representation of that relationship as "wet".

You go on to observe that I contradict myself. I am not sure I see why you feel my statements regarding objects 'being' and internal representations are inconsistent. Objects are what they are, surely this much is uncontroversial? If all humans died tomorrow from virus, the moon would remain as it is and obey the forces that cause it to do what it does.

Our ideas about the moon and why it does what it does have been built over time and represent a publicly shared representation. Regardless of its shareability, the representation still can only be realised in the brain states of human agents (and even then it will depend on the complexity of those states which vary between human agents - some agents may still hold that it is made of cheese).

The properties of objects are theirs alone and are fixed at any point in time. The properties of internal representations can be shared (in human agents) and are not fixed at any point in time.

There is not necessarily a direct correlation between the two sets of properties. We hope there is, of course, and science and rational inquiry hope to bring the two sets to greater congruity over time. But the observer defined properties of objects do not have an independent fixed existence. They are separate from the object and fluid in nature. They are properties of mind.

Impenitent
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Impenitent » Thu Aug 06, 2015 11:56 am

esse est percipi

-Imp

RG1
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by RG1 » Thu Aug 06, 2015 4:32 pm

Obvious Leo wrote:This representation of the self as a mindless automaton is Newtonian reductionist bullshit, RG1, as you've been told in countless forums before, both here and elsewhere. You conflate determinism with pre-determinism by failing to recognise that causation operates both top-down and bottom-up in physical systems because of the principle of EMERGENCE. Emergence simply means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and thus the whole has properties which cannot be defined in terms of the properties of the parts. ...

... For the sake of this explanation let's simply agree that self-awareness is the most complex emergent property that a particular configuration of matter and energy can acquire. It is NOT a property of what form this matter and energy takes but a property of the way in which this matter and energy BEHAVES in its physical environment, which means that self-awareness is the emergent outcome of a PROCESS. However the emergent entity that is self-awareness, like the water molecule in the example given, is both causER and causEE in this dynamic process. If the cells in your body need potassium they will send a signal to your liver to release more into your bloodstream and your self-awareness never gets to know about it. However if the cells in your body need water the signal needs to reach your self-awareness because this is a chemical which needs to be sourced from outwith the system. You feel thirsty. However the sensation of thirst does NOT compel you to drink water, which is the Newtonian bollocks that RG1 is attempting to peddle. You could literally die of thirst if you chose to do so, so we say that that the intake of water requires a conscious decision on the part of your self-awareness.
Leo, you misrepresent what I say. I am just saying that ‘simple logic’ rules out any specialness (magic, mystical-ness, “emergence”) in the meaning of “consciousness”. Consciousness can be nothing more than an experience(s). You are playing games here, in an attempt to maintain a popular psychologically needed ‘mystical’ element to “consciousness”.

If “self-awareness” is the mystical component of “consciousness”, then what exactly (without using spooky words) do you mean by “self-awareness”? Isn’t self-awareness just the awareness of self? How is this really any different than the awareness of your wife, or neighbor (or any other self)? So why is “self-awareness” any more special than, say, the ‘awareness of your own wife’ (herself a self!)?

Certainly, you are not trying to imply that self-awareness is something more than simple awareness (an experience)? Hopefully you haven’t fallen victim to believing that an ‘awarer can be aware of the awarer’, and therefore is 'self-aware'? That is logically impossible. Can an observer observe the observer? No, that would be pure nonsense and logically impossible.

As far as I know, it is still NOT possible to do the impossible, (no matter how many mystical/magical words, and scientific guesses/explanations, you want to throw at it!). All the science in the world cannot make the impossible possible. Logic 'always' trumps Science.

But of course, and again, if you want to throw logic out the window, then anything is possible! :P

Anything we perceive is just a perception.
Anything we observe is just an observation.
Anything we experience is just an experience.

That's all. Everything else is just plain 'story-telling'.

RG1
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by RG1 » Thu Aug 06, 2015 5:19 pm

Graeme M wrote:The object however does exist.
How could you possibly know this as true?
How do you know that you are not dreaming, or hallucinating?

There are only 3 things in reality that are certain (that do exist)
1. Experiences (self-evident)
2. The Experiencer (via logic)
3. Memory (via logic)

Although item 2 and 3 may be one-in-the-same, and if so, then only 2 things exist in reality (with certainty).

Ginkgo
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Ginkgo » Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:29 pm

Graeme M wrote:What is the 'hard problem' of consciousness, at least so far as David Chalmers sees it?

By the way, this still brings me back to my problem expressed on the Soul and Afterlife thread about what consciousness is. I don't think Dennett clearly explained his idea of consciousness in the part of his book I've read so far.The briefest of looks at Jesse Prinz's AIR theory of consciousness appears to suggest he shares Dennett's underlying idea of conscious attention as being a defining quality of consciousness but I am not sure why that should be so (having not read his book as yet). I suspect I am confused between consciousness and awareness.

Might I suggest that one is not conscious at all?
The hard problem of consciousness can be simply stated as, "Why do we have experience?"

Dennett keeps reformulating his theory of consciousness as time goes on, but in the end it is still a type of functionalist explanation. His so called, "Fame in the Brain" can be covered by the easy problem of consciousness, but it still doesn't explain phenomenological experiences. Granted that it it explains one aspect of consciousness, but that is all it does.

I don't think you are confused because attention or awareness plays an important part in the unity of consciousness and it also plays an important part in Prinz's theory of consciousness.

Ginkgo
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Ginkgo » Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:47 pm

RG1 wrote:
Anything we perceive is just a perception.
Anything we observe is just an observation.
Anything we experience is just an experience.

That's all. Everything else is just plain 'story-telling'.
I think you would need to specify a type of perception and experience. I suspect you are talking about a "naive" realism:

http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_an ... ct_realism

Obvious Leo
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Obvious Leo » Thu Aug 06, 2015 9:09 pm

Graeme. Your last post indicates that we are pretty much on the same page for most of the general principles and are merely using different forms of language. I still take issue with the idea of matter having objectively independent properties but that argument doesn't really belong with this OP. There is another thread going on Models vs Reality which is dealing more specifically with such questions but suffice to say that in my opinion the redness of an apple is the property of the observer of the apple and not of the apple itself. If this logic can be applied to a particular property of a particular emergent entity then it must be applicable to all properties of all emergent entities or else we need to confront the intractable question of an arbitrary scale at which the subjective magically becomes objective. Manny Kant would turn in his grave.

RG1. I specifically reject your charge that the principle of emergence implies some sort of dualist mysticism as Chalmers does. Neuroscience is a science in its infancy and I merely accept the facts for what they are and accept that some of the explanations may lie a long way in our future. Unravelling the secrets of the human mind makes all our other sciences look like kid's stuff but it makes sense to me that awareness is a purely physical emergent property of a purely physical consciousness. Where you and I differ is that you regard the mind as a linear information processor and I regard it as a non-linear one. Your model of consciousness is Newtonian and mine is not.

Gingko. Judging by this and some earlier threads on qualia we appear to have arrived at a similar understanding of such questions. I think we could both also agree that none of this stuff is easy and in many cases sound arguments are being lost for want of a precision of language. I've been in and around this topic for many years in various forums and I wouldn't mind a dollar for every time I've found two antagonists hurling invective at each other whilst effectively saying exactly the same thing.

Graeme M
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Graeme M » Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:00 pm

I think the thing I am getting hung up on with Dennett's theory, and what I have sort of been driving at here, is what Gingko notes. All of Dennett's discussion explains something of consciousness but not the bit that intrigues me.

I know that I experience, and that my experience has the form of a linear narrative. But what exactly is having the experience? It doesn't help to keep pushing that problem away by labeling it in different terms. Whether my experience is a distributed parallel process or a little man in a red suit, what exactly is my subjective experience? Where is it?

Dennett dismisses the idea of a central place, yet constantly talks about things rising to 'consciousness' or 'awareness'. Whether there is one draft or one thousand, one of them is consciously experienced. Prinz's theory I am yet to read in detail, but I did read a couple of reviews of his book and at least one lengthy critique and although most of it went over my head it seems to boil down to "consciousness is what I think about".

I am still none the wiser about what 'I' is, even though how I come to be might have been explained to some degree.

The question of external objects having or not having existence is just so much mumbo jumbo to me. I understand the point, after all I could just be a subject in some experiment or a character in a giant simulation. But that's intellectually unsatisfying for the same reason as believing in God. Once you invoke possibilities that can not be determined empirically, you might as well give up and abandon any quest for understanding. Any possible model or idea might be real.

I start from the position that I and the world are real. I don't really care if maybe I am not - I am interested in uncovering how my reality works. As far as I can tell, this reality is shared by everyone around me. That's enough. It gives me a bounded space in which to operate. Because of this view, external objects exist and have their own properties. They just are. Regardless of what quantum mechanics may suggest, at a macro scale a rock is a rock. It is measurable by me and others in my experience and it can affect my experience and that of others. For the purposes of inquiry, it exists and exists independently on my conscious mind. Thus the redness of the apple is entirely a property of my internal model of an apple, not the apple itself. But that doesn't imply the apple doesn't have its own set of properties, properties I may not even be aware of.

Leo I take your point re language. I'm not sure I know what 'emergence' means and how you are applying it (although I have a general sense of the term), but a lot of your comments appear to pivot on your meaning of the term.

Obvious Leo
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Obvious Leo » Thu Aug 06, 2015 11:12 pm

Emergence is indeed a tricky concept, Graeme, and one not well understood by many lay people. In physics it is completely ignored but in biology it remains a central principle. For instance we might like to think of ourselves as a single "being" but this is simply an anthropocentric vanity. The biologist sees a human being as an entire biosphere comprising tens of thousands of different species of organism continuously interacting with each other. Only the tiniest fraction of all the DNA in our bodies is actually "human" DNA and indeed the whole idea of "human" DNA is nonsensical because DNA is just a complex molecule. The biologist makes no distinction between what the layman might term "life" and "non-life". All he sees is electro-chemical processes arranged in various hierarchies of complexity where each of these hierarchies constitutes its own causal domain. Emergence simply means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and exhibits properties which cannot be linearly specified by the parts. Each of the nested hierarchies of complexity is both causer and causee in a dynamic process which means that emergence is the opposite of Newton's reductionist approach where all of reality is constructed from the bottom up. The real world doesn't work like that because causation also works from the top down through this notion of emergent properties. ( Pay attention RG1).

I suggest you check into the Models vs Reality thread to explore the other ideas we discussed about what is real and what is merely an observer construct but the principle of emergence implies that all of the physical properties of all matter are solely defined by the observer. This doesn't mean that there's no such thing as an objectively real world but it does mean that how we choose to describe it is entirely our own affair.

This necessarily must also apply to this statement.
Graeme M wrote:Once you invoke possibilities that can not be determined empirically, you might as well give up and abandon any quest for understanding. Any possible model or idea might be real.
If you're looking for a so-called "real" model of consciousness then you may as well give up now because you're chasing a rainbow.

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