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

Post by Graeme M » Fri Aug 07, 2015 12:07 am

Leo, I'm not sure I'm looking for a "real" model of consciousness, just an explanation for what we see and experience. But it is all straying from my original question and I suppose I am not sure how to compose it more meaningfully. But it is possible that I can't step outside the illusion of consciousness either.

Dennett, Chalmers, and Prinz seem to me to be explaining the 'how' of consciousness but not the 'what'. But then, I don't think it's consciousness I am after, as I agree with you that any organism that interacts with its environment is conscious. I also take the point Gingko raises about attention, but even that is still somewhat wide of the mark. I am conscious, and even to an extent aware, of my environment and mental state even though I may not be paying attention in a conscious way (though I agree that what passes for conscious attention is not necessarily what attention is in terms of the underlying physical processes).

There is 'something' that it is to be me, to borrow from Nagel. What exactly is that something? If we don't know that's fine, but none of what I have read so far really grapples with that. Again, I am not imagining a little person inside, what I am grappling with is that experiential sense that has a subjective point of view.

I mentioned vision earlier. When I look at the outside world, I "see" it as out there. Yet if I imagine the same scene, I "see" it in here. Where are both representations realised? There is a clear qualitative difference between the two and I imagine clear quantitative differences (in terms of where in the brain these representations occur), yet nonetheless I have an experienced unified appreciation of both.

I'm not posing this seeking an answer here, it's just that in reading these books, no-one explains to me exactly what this unified appreciation is. They explain how it arises and do all sorts of twists and turns of logic and terminology to escape from the sense of a "me", yet at the end of the day it remains.

Perhaps it's just me not getting it. I'll go have a look at the models versus reality thread when I get a chance.

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

Post by Obvious Leo » Fri Aug 07, 2015 12:27 am

You've set yourself a prodigious task in seeking the ding und sich of consciousness, Graeme, when all of philosophy is still at loggerheads arguing over the ding und sich of a rock but I wish you luck.

Personally I'm happy enough to understand consciousness in terms of what it does and leave it to others to worry about what it is. As I may have said earlier I couldn't care less whether I see red as the same colour as you do because i don't even accept that I see red as the same colour today as it was when I saw it yesterday. I can understand why this would be and that's good enough for me.

RG1
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by RG1 » Fri Aug 07, 2015 2:25 am

Ginkgo wrote:
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
Nope, I am saying direct (naive) realism is NOT possible.

We are NEVER privy to the actual objects themselves, but instead, only to our perceptions/experiences of them.

Therefore:
Anything that we perceive is just a perception.
Anything that we experience is just an experience.

Just because we 'experience' something, does not mean that a corresponding object exists. Remember -- experiences exist, objects may not.

RG1
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by RG1 » Fri Aug 07, 2015 2:29 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.
Obvious Leo wrote: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.
It appears you are doing a bit of strawman-ing here. But regardless, why do you persist in “science” being the path to truth? Why not simple logic?

If something is not logically possible, then why do you keep beating your head against the wall searching for a 'science' explanation? ...seems like a waste of energy to me. :?

Or, do you think 'science' can make the impossible, possible?

RG1
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by RG1 » Fri Aug 07, 2015 3:03 pm

If logic is the basis of our reasoning, then there can be no "Me" (a mind) that is directing the show (at the Cartesian Theatre). There can only be a 'me' (the body) that ‘experiences’ this show.

Note: This "mind" is just a 'concept' experienced by the body (the experiencer).

Is it really that hard to accept that we are just 'experiencers', that then in-turn auto-react accordingly? This solves ALL the philosophical problems/questions!!!

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

Post by Obvious Leo » Fri Aug 07, 2015 8:54 pm

RG1. I don't know what makes you think I would disagree with your above two posts. My entire life's work in the philosophy of science has been founded on the principle that scientific models which are logically indefensible must be false. Your position and mine are far closer than you might think on the nature of the Self, although we differ widely on your teleological certainty that the future is pre-determined. My respect for science does NOT extend to Newton's reductionist bullshit.

RG1
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by RG1 » Fri Aug 07, 2015 9:31 pm

Obvious Leo wrote:…we differ widely on your teleological certainty that the future is pre-determined.
What makes you think I hold this position?

Was it because I said... "I am too busy experiencing the moment of ‘now’ to be able to change it."
and also said... “If what is, IS, then what will be, WILL BE.”

Although, it appears to me that (hard) determinism is true, I can't say I am ‘certain’ of it. (...as I only exist in the 'now')
Obvious Leo wrote:My respect for science does NOT extend to Newton's reductionist bullshit.
I know nothing about Newton, except that he makes a pretty good fig.

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

Post by Obvious Leo » Fri Aug 07, 2015 10:29 pm

RG1 wrote:What makes you think I hold this position?
I've seen you in action plenty of times before in a number of different arguments on free will. I have no interest in getting into such an argument here but to deny the reality of the human will is to assume a pre-determined reality. This was Newton's assumption and it remains the assumption of modern physics. Incidentally it was this inescapable conclusion from the spacetime paradigm which caused Einstein to insist that it should never be regarded as the model of a physically real world, a salutary caution which is nowadays mostly ignored in the cloistered priesthood that is academic physics.

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

Post by Graeme M » Fri Aug 07, 2015 10:34 pm

Interesting comments guys. Although I am but a 'beginner' in this whole thinking about mind/body/consciousness, I have thought a LOT about it. I ran into two disconcerting ideas quite quickly, and also established a basic principle for my own inquiries. I started from a pretty standard average Joe's position. I exist. I am the thinking observer. I have free will. I am a human being and hence sort of special. And I think I held that the universal spirit is expressed in me. I believed, or wanted to believe, in some kind of life after death.

The principle I established, after reading a bit, was that which I noted earlier - I am satisfied that things are what they are. For me at least, trying to discern what's beyond what we see and experience seems fraught. I hope we'll uncover a closer approximation to reality, but I'm not interested in wondering about what realty is.

The first thing I concluded is that we are the end result of an evolutionary process. The simplest organisms operated on simple fundamental principles. Evolution cannot add to that - it can only arrange things in a more complex fashion but the underlying chemistry and physics remain the same. Hence I am no 'spirit' or disembodied entity (or separate lifeforce or whatever). "I" must be simply the operation of physical mechanisms. Leo's comments about emergence and the whole being more than the sum of the parts I'll have to think about some more as I'm not sure of the meaning. I don't think you mean evolution has added something but that certain properties arise that aren't directly predicted from the combination of parts. I haven't intuitively taken that on board as yet.

The second thing I came to is that I struggle with the nature of 'now'. That is a topic outside of this discussion but simply put, at the moment now is experienced, it is fixed. I cannot change my now moment. But equally the past is fixed. I cannot change it. While I am unsure exactly what now is (and I accept that internally various systems are putting stuff together in a distributed fashion both physically and temporally), I am pretty confident that once I experience my now moment, I cannot change it. If my now is the sum total of all possible past moments and is fixed, then all future combinations have also been selected against. Only the state that arises from the current fixed state is possible. Clearly I am wrong in thinking this, but it' a disturbing thought nonetheless! :)

What I think I am saying is that I'm largely with RG1... And I am starting to have my doubts about free will!

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

Post by Obvious Leo » Fri Aug 07, 2015 11:05 pm

Graeme. The important thing to understand about the moment NOW is that is is actually the moment THEN. You can only experience something that has already happened so essentially you're living in the wake of your own past.

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

Post by Graeme M » Sat Aug 08, 2015 8:43 am

I was thinking more on this matter of the Cartesian Theatre today and I wonder if my problem is not understanding exactly what that term means? I had imagined that it was equivalent to the idea that there is some internal space where 'consciousness' is made visible or available to an internal observer. But Dennett and others still refer to consciousness or awareness and so I'm not sure I can see what distinction they are drawing between this theatre and consciousness itself. But perhaps what's wrong is that I presume consciousness in this sense to be the little voice inside.

That is, most of the time I am conducting an internal dialog. Like everyone else, I think in words and pictures - either describing what I've experienced, internally discussing ideas and ramifications, planning and so on. If I want to figure something out, I'll often see it as an image of sorts.

But perhaps this is not consciousness in terms of the theatre?

I observe that in fact I am rarely, if ever, actually aware of my thoughts WITHOUT words or images. If I absent that from my thinking, I see that all there is, seems to be experience or events. For example, I don't think of what to say, the words internally just appear. There is of course a sense of the context or meaning of what I'm saying, but this seems to be underlying my words and I think coincident. The forming of the words just happens. Similarly, while doing most things, they just happen. I don't think them through (unless I am planning to do something).

Thus, much of the time I am just doing, or more accurately, experiencing.

Which then is the consciousness that the idea of the Cartesian Theatre refers to? The internal dialog and picture show that I seem to apprehend. Or the awareness of experience?

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

Post by Obvious Leo » Sat Aug 08, 2015 8:52 am

Graeme M wrote: Which then is the consciousness that the idea of the Cartesian Theatre refers to? The internal dialog and picture show that I seem to apprehend. Or the awareness of experience?
It's probably largely a question of conceptual taste and you're merely over-thinking it. As a process philosopher I don't need to bother making the distinction.

RG1
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by RG1 » Sat Aug 08, 2015 2:59 pm

Graeme M wrote:Thus, much of the time I am just doing, or more accurately, experiencing.
…or, even more accurately, “ALL I can do is experience, and nothing more.” (…even when I experience myself doing something else! :P ). There is no escaping this fact.
Graeme M wrote:Which then is the consciousness that the idea of the Cartesian Theatre refers to?
Consciousness is a made up word to fill a psychological need for significance/specialness. Consciousness can be nothing more than experience. Conscious control (free-will) is not logically possible. The “mind” does not exist except only as a concept (an experience in itself).

We are just "experiencing machines" auto-reacting accordingly. That's it. That's all. The End.

Ginkgo
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Ginkgo » Sun Aug 09, 2015 12:52 am

Graeme M wrote:I was thinking more on this matter of the Cartesian Theatre today and I wonder if my problem is not understanding exactly what that term means? I had imagined that it was equivalent to the idea that there is some internal space where 'consciousness' is made visible or available to an internal observer. But Dennett and others still refer to consciousness or awareness and so I'm not sure I can see what distinction they are drawing between this theatre and consciousness itself. But perhaps what's wrong is that I presume consciousness in this sense to be the little voice inside.

That is, most of the time I am conducting an internal dialog. Like everyone else, I think in words and pictures - either describing what I've experienced, internally discussing ideas and ramifications, planning and so on. If I want to figure something out, I'll often see it as an image of sorts.

But perhaps this is not consciousness in terms of the theatre?

I observe that in fact I am rarely, if ever, actually aware of my thoughts WITHOUT words or images. If I absent that from my thinking, I see that all there is, seems to be experience or events. For example, I don't think of what to say, the words internally just appear. There is of course a sense of the context or meaning of what I'm saying, but this seems to be underlying my words and I think coincident. The forming of the words just happens. Similarly, while doing most things, they just happen. I don't think them through (unless I am planning to do something).

Thus, much of the time I am just doing, or more accurately, experiencing.

Which then is the consciousness that the idea of the Cartesian Theatre refers to? The internal dialog and picture show that I seem to apprehend. Or the awareness of experience?
Graeme, you might be overthinking this Cartesian theatre thing. Have you have ever seen the movie Pacific Rim with the giant robots? The control centre is in the head of the robot. There s a guy in front of a screen viewing the outside environment. He has access to all sorts of leavers and buttons that control the robot. That's the Cartesian theatre! When Dennett talks about consciousness being "smeared across the brain" he is actually talking about lots of guys in the control centre.
Last edited by Ginkgo on Sun Aug 09, 2015 1:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

Ginkgo
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Re: The Cartesian Theatre - What Is It?

Post by Ginkgo » Sun Aug 09, 2015 12:59 am

RG1 wrote:
Ginkgo wrote:
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
Nope, I am saying direct (naive) realism is NOT possible.

We are NEVER privy to the actual objects themselves, but instead, only to our perceptions/experiences of them.

Therefore:
Anything that we perceive is just a perception.
Anything that we experience is just an experience.

Just because we 'experience' something, does not mean that a corresponding object exists. Remember -- experiences exist, objects may not.
Then you are probably a Indirect Realist.

Representationalism (also known as Representative Realism or Indirect Realism or Epistemological Dualism or the Representative Theory of Perception) is the philosophical position that the world we see in conscious experience is not the real world itself, but merely a miniature virtual-reality replica of that world in ...

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