Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

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

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Alexanderk
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Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by Alexanderk » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:08 pm

"Suppose that there be a machine,the structure of which produces thinking,feeling and perceiving; imagine this machine enlarged but preserving the same proportions, so that you could enter it as if it were a mill. This being supposed, you might visit its inside; but what would you observe there? Nothing but parts which push and move each other , and never anything that could explain perception."
Leibniz,Monadology, sect.17

"I think (Jonathan Shear) Leibniz's point applies not only to phenomenal experience but to many of the things whose explanation poses, according to Chalmers, only "easy" problems. I (Jonathan Shear) will confine my remarks in this paper to phenomenal experience, but if I am right, they apply to a much broader range of phenomena."

"Our skulls house machines of the sort Leibniz supposes. Although we nowadays liken the brain more often to a computer than to a mill, his point remains. If we could wander about in the brain (a la the movie Fantastic Voyage), we could measure electrical impulses rushing along axons and dendrites, ride neurotransmitters across synapses, and observe all the quotidian commerce of neurobiological life. We still would have no clue why those physical events produce the experience of tasting chocolate, of hearing a minor chord, of seeing blue.David Chalmers calls the problem of explaining why physical processes give rise to conscious phenomenal experience the "hard problem of consciousness"."

-Jonathan Shear, Explaining Consciousness:The Hard Problem

I would like you to express your own opinion on this subject.

raw_thought
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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by raw_thought » Tue Feb 28, 2017 3:15 am

I agree. If I visualize a triangle there is no physical triangle in my brain. My neurons do not fire in a triangular shape etc. This is a huge problem for the eliminative materialist. Since an EM believes that only matter exists he has only two options. 1. There is a physical triangle in your brain or 2. It is impossible to visualize a triangle. Some may object that the triangle is an illusion. That does not work. For qualia perception is the reality. In other words it is a fact that I am visualizing a triangle and can see a triangle.

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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by raw_thought » Tue Feb 28, 2017 3:20 am

The argument that the triangle is embedded in the brain in a non-triangular form is not a solution. That is like saying that holding a CD of Mozart is the same as hearing the music.

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Greta
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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by Greta » Tue Feb 28, 2017 5:22 am

Still, if you tested many people, each required to visualise a blue triangle, you would find much similarity in the patterns. So, in words an amorphous dynamic pattern will correlate to the visualised image. Ask subjects to visualise squares, and there should be many similarities in the new neuronal patterns.

In that sense, the mind is like a landscape, constantly shaped over time by internal (vulcanism, tectonics, life) and external (weather, space arrivals) impacts. Either may be rich, arid, soft, harsh, dynamic, stable, lucky, unlucky etc. Put together all the landscapes of human minds and you have the world of human minds.

Interlink the minds globally as we have done and it appears we start moving from being a mental colony to a mental organism (so to speak). This will will require large scale diminution of most people's minds, a loss of freedom, limiting people's functions and capabilities to more readily accord with the larger entity's requirements. To that end, I note that human brains have shrunk since the advent of agriculture and civilisation.

I suspect that the "super-organism" stage is a long way off. There are far too many renegades and ratbags like us ATM for that to happen any time soon :D

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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by raw_thought » Tue Feb 28, 2017 5:34 am

Perhaps, but that does not address the point of Leibniz's mill. The point is, is that there is nothing in the brain that resembles a thought or in this particular example a triangle. There is an insurmountable explanatory gap between the brain and our experiences.

mickthinks
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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by mickthinks » Tue Feb 28, 2017 1:54 pm

The argument that the triangle is embedded in the brain in a non-triangular form is not a solution. That is like saying that holding a CD of Mozart is the same as hearing the music.

I don't think this reductio ad absurdam is sound. Leaving aside the problematic terms "the triangle" and "embedded" (because I don't think it matters at this point in the discussion). That a CD encodes Mozart's music has nothing to do with the experience of holding it in your hand, and yet if, while holding the CD, you begin to recall Mozart's music (playing it to yourself in your head) then that is like hearing the music.
Last edited by mickthinks on Sun May 14, 2017 8:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

raw_thought
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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by raw_thought » Tue Feb 28, 2017 2:02 pm

I agree. The objection is unsound. The explanatory gap remains.

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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by raw_thought » Tue Feb 28, 2017 2:11 pm

You are correct! That was the point behind the argument. To say that the information as to what a triangle looks like is embedded in the brain while nothing in the brain resembles a triangle ( neurons firing in a triangular shape etc. ) does not fill in the explanatory gap. There is no explanatory bridge connecting our brain and our thoughts

Wyman
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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by Wyman » Tue Feb 28, 2017 2:28 pm

raw_thought wrote:I agree. If I visualize a triangle there is no physical triangle in my brain. My neurons do not fire in a triangular shape etc. This is a huge problem for the eliminative materialist. Since an EM believes that only matter exists he has only two options. 1. There is a physical triangle in your brain or 2. It is impossible to visualize a triangle. Some may object that the triangle is an illusion. That does not work. For qualia perception is the reality. In other words it is a fact that I am visualizing a triangle and can see a triangle.
I have a shot at an answer. Think of someone who makes shadow figures on walls using their hands. Some are so good at it that they contort their hands in complicated ways so that if you look at the hands you would not be able to see anything but two hands interlocked in a strange way (and if you did not know that the person was trying to show shadow figures on a wall, you would have even less idea of what the interlocked hands represented).

Now suppose, on a wall ten feet away, the shadow of a man on a horse is projected when a light shines upon the interlocked hands. Take away the wall and - nothing. Place the wall five feet away, rather than ten, and a small figure appears, perhaps resembling the same man on a horse, possibly not. If the wall is placed fifty feet away, all you would get would be a very dim, large blob of a shadow.

The microscopic goings on of the brain is very little understood. Of the trillions of sub-atomic particles flying around in there, there may very well be some representation of a triangle, but the exact circumstances during which it 'appears' to us upon introspection may be fleeting and vague, to say the least (my imagined image of a triangle is itself somewhat vague to begin with).

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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by raw_thought » Tue Feb 28, 2017 4:06 pm

The triangle doesn't have to be vivid. If it is fuzzy ( unless you are saying that there is a fuzzy physical triangle in your brain ) does not impact Leibniz's argument.
As for your other point, knowing that your visualized triangle is called [ represents ] a [ concept of ] triangle does not impact Leibniz's argument. The fact is, is that there is the form of a triangle and it is not physical. Suppose I do not know any word for pain. Does that mean that I cannot feel pain?

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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by raw_thought » Tue Feb 28, 2017 4:18 pm

Experience precedes concepts. We experience triangles and then group them into the universal "triangle".
If we say that concepts precede experience ( which is a very anti-empirical stance ) we run into the absurd conclusion that Plato did ( that we must be reincarnated ) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meno#Meno.27s_paradox
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_analysis

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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by raw_thought » Tue Feb 28, 2017 4:46 pm

Symbols have replaced reality in both academia and popular culture. If we don't have a representation of something it doesn't exist. To paraphrase Jesus, " What would it profit a person to gain all the world's symbols and lose reality?"

Wyman
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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by Wyman » Tue Feb 28, 2017 5:21 pm

raw_thought wrote:The triangle doesn't have to be vivid. If it is fuzzy ( unless you are saying that there is a fuzzy physical triangle in your brain ) does not impact Leibniz's argument.
As for your other point, knowing that your visualized triangle is called [ represents ] a [ concept of ] triangle does not impact Leibniz's argument. The fact is, is that there is the form of a triangle and it is not physical. Suppose I do not know any word for pain. Does that mean that I cannot feel pain?
I'm saying maybe it is physical.

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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by raw_thought » Tue Feb 28, 2017 7:56 pm

One creates a physical object in the shape of a triangle when one visualizes a triangle?

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Hobbes' Choice
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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Tue Feb 28, 2017 8:58 pm

raw_thought wrote:The argument that the triangle is embedded in the brain in a non-triangular form is not a solution. That is like saying that holding a CD of Mozart is the same as hearing the music.
Actually we have no idea just exactly how the brain codes these things, but there is no doubt that it does. Thoughts are physical, like it or not.

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