Consciousness and free will.

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

Moderators: AMod, iMod

Post Reply
Wyman
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:21 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by Wyman »

RG1 - sorry for the long reply:


This reminds me of some thoughts I've had on experience. Suppose that we begin with all experience - that is, treat any possible experience as the same qualitatively, so to speak. The question arises, how are we to make distinctions in this world of experience between, say, objects, or events, or causes?

You say that as far as causation is concerned, we ought not to distinguish between different experiences and say that one experience, such as what we posit as a 'judging' experience or a 'willing' experience, is the cause of another. I believe this is consistent with a materialist outlook - all distinctions in this phenomenal (to bring in a term of art) realm are merely posits, or general concepts we make up, to 'get around.' But the 'real' causes of differing experiences are only to be explained, if at all (and this is important), by physics - in terms of something like the interaction of quantum stuff. Anything else is just 'effective' theory and although extremely useful and necessary for daily life, should not be confused with a more in depth and real explanation of causation.

A good picture of this position is that of a film strip (before everything was digital). Each frame proceeds the other and comes together in the illusion of real motion. We speak of characters in the film as doing things to other characters (actors), such as shooting, loving, punching, speaking to, etc.. But it would be ridiculous to say that one character on film actually causally affects another - except as an inexact, metaphorical way of speaking (e.g. 'James Bond just killed Goldfinger'). But speaking of actual causation, we would say that a roll of film created the illusion of James Bond killing Goldfinger - what really happened (without getting into the production of the film) was that a series of still frames was rapidly run through a projector.

In this way, all talk of causation within our world of experience other than physics (theoretically) is metaphor, effective theory, etc.. What is really causing things to appear the way they do is _____________ . And philosophers constantly try to fill in the blank.

As some on this site relentlessly assert, this theory can be blown apart if only we find a counter example; a type of event or experience that cannot be explained causally by physics. They claim that qualia are a part of experience that cannot, even in theory, be explained by science. Thus, they make a base level distinction within the world of experience between qualia and everything else. The basis for this distinction is not metaphysical, but epistemological, as the only part of experience that cannot be causally explained by physics, even in theory. Some of them, when you point out to them that the 'idea' of qualia is just another experience, and that their base level distinction between qualia and everything else only came as an epistemological counter example to materialism, still try to cling to the distinction as somehow fundamental (but enough about qualia).

An interesting question is whether or not even physics is 'merely' an effective theory and the very idea of causation is on no firmer ground than 'free will' or 'thoughts,' etc.. Following this line of thought to its logical conclusion, I think most philosophers do take this latter view. Then the interesting question (giving up on causation and metaphysics) becomes how it is that we are able to acquire what seems to be knowledge about experience - i.e. we explore the problem from the perspective of knowledge, rather than causation, as being the primary connection between experience and the 'real' world - i.e. correspondence theories, pragmatism, etc..

And we end with two extremely complicated and problematic concepts - causation and knowledge/metaphysics and epistemology - which come together in the relation between experience and the world.

Sometimes it seems as if these two connected concepts are like the attributes of a quantum particle in so far as you'll never capture both at once. Physics chases after causation and gets closer and closer to explaining how the world works. But no physical theory will ever be completely satisfying from an epistemological perspective. Similarly, theory of knowledge can get closer and closer to explaining how we connect to the world (acquire knowledge) without ever coming close to explaining what is the underlying cause of experience.
User avatar
RG1
Posts: 181
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:49 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by RG1 »

Wyman wrote:You say that as far as causation is concerned, we ought not to distinguish between different experiences and say that one experience, such as what we posit as a 'judging' experience or a 'willing' experience, is the cause of another. I believe this is consistent with a materialist outlook - all distinctions in this phenomenal (to bring in a term of art) realm are merely posits, or general concepts we make up, to 'get around.'
Yes, agreed, also in a cause-and-effect event, we only experience the ‘effect’ component and NEVER the ‘cause’ component. The ‘cause’ component is ‘assumed’ to exist (via pure speculation) because of pre-conceived notions of how reality works.
Wyman wrote: But the 'real' causes of differing experiences are only to be explained, if at all (and this is important), by physics - in terms of something like the interaction of quantum stuff.
I like the “if at all” insertion (but not the "by physics" part), as it agrees with my view that the ‘real’ causes cannot logically be known, and “physics” cannot overturn/overrule logic.

Be careful relying and hanging your hat on “physics” to tell you ‘truth’ (or the ‘real’ causes). What is “physics” anyways, if not but a large compilation of thoughts? And what are thoughts, if not but a large compilation of experiences? -- Thoughts exist as a compilation of associated sensory experiences (language) stored in and activated as memory (and not as discrete experiences such as ‘urges’, ‘pain’, etc.). All knowledge (including the field of physics) is created by experiences; knowledge is a by-product of experiences. The truths of ‘Physics’ are reliant upon the thoughts/experiences contained within it.

Likewise, the truths of the Bible are reliant upon the content (words) contained within it. Therefore, claiming that physics/science can explain the ‘real’ causes, is the same as saying the Bible contains ‘real’ truths. (How do I know the Bible contains the ‘real’ truths? Because it says so on page 67 !) And therefore this is just ‘begging-the-question’.

And also remember: Todays Physics may be tomorrow’s Voodoo! (...this is my friendly jab at the science Nazi's on this forum :P )
Wyman wrote: As some on this site relentlessly assert, this theory can be blown apart if only we find a counter example; a type of event or experience that cannot be explained causally by physics.
But the “finding” of this “counter example” requires that we first ‘experience’ this “counter example”. There is no escaping, nor stepping outside of ‘experiences’, so as to objectively view or know the ‘real’ reality. Everything that we experience in this life, is still ……just ……an ……experience. We cannot escape our cocoon of experience. Therefore, we can only know those truths that our 'experiences' define for us.

All we can do in life is experience, nothing more! We experience moment by moment, and call this Life. We can't even think (create/construct our own thoughts), but instead ONLY experience thoughts. And if we can't think, then we can't choose, and if we can't choose, then we can't do. We are just 'experiencing machines'. Logic leaves us no other alternative!
Wyman wrote: Then the interesting question (giving up on causation and metaphysics) becomes how it is that we are able to acquire what seems to be knowledge about experience - i.e. we explore the problem from the perspective of knowledge, rather than causation, as being the primary connection between experience and the 'real' world - i.e. correspondence theories, pragmatism, etc..
We have no choice in the matter, and also no way of knowing the ‘real’ world (assuming it does exist). It is what it is. And if what is, is, then what will be, will be! So enjoy the ride!
Wyman
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:21 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by Wyman »

Well then, we're in agreement as to the logical consequences of empiricism (I accept your analysis of my caveat as to the limits of physics). So we get no further than Hume. And my question - given those logical consequences - how is knowledge possible?, echoes Kant. Of course, there is no problem - no question to answer here - if you do not believe that knowledge is possible.

My reaction, however, is not to accept such skepticism, but to start over and examine my assumptions. The only reason for doing so is the belief that either knowledge is possible and/or that causation can be explained by physics -i.e. empirically and rationally.

If the logical consequence of empiricism is skepticism, then perhaps either empiricism or logic (or our understanding of it) are wrong.
User avatar
RG1
Posts: 181
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:49 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by RG1 »

Wyman wrote:Well then, we're in agreement as to the logical consequences of empiricism (I accept your analysis of my caveat as to the limits of physics). So we get no further than Hume. And my question - given those logical consequences - how is knowledge possible?, echoes Kant. Of course, there is no problem - no question to answer here - if you do not believe that knowledge is possible.
What is it that you mean by "knowledge"?
Wyman
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:21 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by Wyman »

RG1 wrote:
Wyman wrote:Well then, we're in agreement as to the logical consequences of empiricism (I accept your analysis of my caveat as to the limits of physics). So we get no further than Hume. And my question - given those logical consequences - how is knowledge possible?, echoes Kant. Of course, there is no problem - no question to answer here - if you do not believe that knowledge is possible.
What is it that you mean by "knowledge"?
That's a very good question!

I suppose I would adopt the concept of 'justified true belief', meaning true propositions (or beliefs) about experience as at least a preliminary, working definition. But I wouldn't insist on propositions as being the units of knowledge.
User avatar
RG1
Posts: 181
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:49 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by RG1 »

Wyman wrote:So we get no further than Hume. And my question - given those logical consequences - how is knowledge possible?...
RG1 wrote:What is it that you mean by "knowledge"?
Wyman wrote:I suppose I would adopt the concept of 'justified true belief', meaning true propositions (or beliefs) about experience as at least a preliminary, working definition. But I wouldn't insist on propositions as being the units of knowledge.
Isn’t "knowledge" really just a large compilation of thoughts? And these thoughts themselves a large compilation of associated sensory experiences stored and activated from memory?

So, in a nut-shell, isn’t "knowledge" just 'experiences' (or a by-product of experiences)? And if so, then we have no ‘say-so’ in what we "know", (as we can only ‘experience’ what we "know"), true?

Therefore, there can be no 'absolute' knowledge. Knowledge is wholly dependent upon the experiences of the entity itself (...that is me and you, the 'experiencing machines'!).
User avatar
RG1
Posts: 181
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:49 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by RG1 »

Wyman wrote:My reaction, however, is not to accept such skepticism, but to start over and examine my assumptions. The only reason for doing so is the belief that either knowledge is possible and/or that causation can be explained by physics -i.e. empirically and rationally.

If the logical consequence of empiricism is skepticism, then perhaps either empiricism or logic (or our understanding of it) are wrong.
We are screwed, unless we can somehow (logically) prove that logic is illogical. :P
Wyman
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:21 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by Wyman »

So, in a nut-shell, isn’t "knowledge" just 'experiences' (or a by-product of experiences)? And if so, then we have no ‘say-so’ in what we "know", (as we can only ‘experience’ what we "know"), true?
And knowledge is no more knowledge than not-knowledge and we are never justified in saying that one thing is true and another false. Ever read the Theaetetus? We've pretty much gone through the first half of the dialogue which concludes with a version of that sentence.

There remains the problem of our apparent ability to manipulate experience and communicate with others. And this happens, roughly, when we apply true statements or theories to our experience and predict future experiences. True statements and theories 'work' and false ones do not. I don't know that you can dismiss that (true v. false, useful v. useless) distinction. Along with it comes the intuition that we, the observer, have a causal part in the experiencing process - we shape experience.

This ties in with another idea of mine that the type of knowledge that is best described as an ability or skill or latent knowledge is not so easily described as an experience. You say that thoughts and memories are 'activated' by other thoughts, so even you have fallen in to a causal theory of perception and/or knowledge there. But how does the causal procession of thoughts activating other thoughts work? And why is this procession so obviously tied to past experiences if not because each - experience and the observer - are distinct and causally tied together?
User avatar
RG1
Posts: 181
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:49 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by RG1 »

RG1 wrote:So, in a nut-shell, isn’t "knowledge" just 'experiences' (or a by-product of experiences)? And if so, then we have no ‘say-so’ in what we "know", (as we can only ‘experience’ what we "know"), true?
Wyman wrote:And knowledge is no more knowledge than not-knowledge and we are never justified in saying that one thing is true and another false.
Correct. Knowledge is just a compilation of thoughts, of which we have no say-so over.
Wyman wrote:Ever read the Theaetetus? We've pretty much gone through the first half of the dialogue which concludes with a version of that sentence.
Never read this, though sounds interesting.
Wyman wrote:There remains the problem of our apparent ability to manipulate experience and communicate with others. And this happens, roughly, when we apply true statements or theories to our experience and predict future experiences.
We have NO ability to manipulate, apply, predict, or do anything. We only 'experience' our actions, NOT 'control' them.
Wyman wrote:Along with it comes the intuition that we, the observer, have a causal part in the experiencing process - we shape experience.
It is NOT possible for the ‘observer’ (the 'experiencer’) to have a causal role, but it IS possible for the 'experience’ itself to have a causal role. An effect in one event can be the causer in another event. For example, an experience (an effect/output) can be a causer (an input) in a cause-and-effect chain reaction (think of a line of falling dominos). Observers can only observe, not control. Just because we observe (feel via intuition) that we control does not mean that we control.
Wyman wrote:This ties in with another idea of mine that the type of knowledge that is best described as an ability or skill or latent knowledge is not so easily described as an experience. You say that thoughts and memories are 'activated' by other thoughts, so even you have fallen in to a causal theory of perception and/or knowledge there. But how does the causal procession of thoughts activating other thoughts work? And why is this procession so obviously tied to past experiences if not because each - experience and the observer - are distinct and causally tied together?
I said that thoughts are activated in memory. I do not know how or what causes this ‘activation’ (neural firing?), but certainly it was not me (the conscious me). Are you trying to say/insinuate/claim that we (the observers) are the causers of this memory activation of our thoughts?
Last edited by RG1 on Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Wyman
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:21 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by Wyman »

Wyman wrote:
Along with it comes the intuition that we, the observer, have a causal part in the experiencing process - we shape experience.

RG1:

It is NOT possible for the ‘observer’ (the 'experiencer’) to have a causal role, but it IS possible for the 'experience’ itself to have a causal role. An effect in one event can be the causer in another event. For example, an experience (an effect/output) can be a causer (an input) in a cause-and-effect chain reaction (think of a line of falling dominos). Observers can only observe, not control. Just because we observe (feel via intuition) that we control does not mean that we control.
My 'intuition' is a leap, I admit. But I am surprised that you take such a leap when you claim that experiences cause other experiences. That directly contradicts everything you've been saying. I think the consistent position is: everything is - or something of that, Parmenidean, nature. Again, 'logical empiricism' leads to something like 'experience happens,' or 'the one is one,' or 'whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent' or Cartesian skepticism. It is interesting to note that the authors of those quates - Parmenides, Wittgenstein and Descartes - were all logicians and/or mathematicians.
User avatar
RG1
Posts: 181
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:49 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by RG1 »

Wyman wrote:Along with it comes the intuition that we, the observer, have a causal part in the experiencing process - we shape experience.
RG1 wrote:It is NOT possible for the ‘observer’ (the 'experiencer’) to have a causal role, but it IS possible for the 'experience’ itself to have a causal role. An effect in one event can be the causer in another event. For example, an experience (an effect/output) can be a causer (an input) in a cause-and-effect chain reaction (think of a line of falling dominos). Observers can only observe, not control. Just because we observe (feel via intuition) that we control does not mean that we control.
Wyman wrote:My 'intuition' is a leap, I admit. But I am surprised that you take such a leap when you claim that experiences cause other experiences.
:( Sorry to disappoint, but I made no such claim. Look closer at what I wrote. Saying that “it is possible”, only means that it is a ‘possibility’, and not an assertion of a claim.

We have no way of truly knowing if experiences can be causes themselves (as we can only experience the effects, not the causes). But since there are no logical obstructions/contradictions to these chain-reactions (cause-to-effect-to-cause-to-effect-to…etc), then it is therefore a “possibility”, true?
Wyman
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:21 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by Wyman »

RG1 wrote:
Wyman wrote:Along with it comes the intuition that we, the observer, have a causal part in the experiencing process - we shape experience.
RG1 wrote:It is NOT possible for the ‘observer’ (the 'experiencer’) to have a causal role, but it IS possible for the 'experience’ itself to have a causal role. An effect in one event can be the causer in another event. For example, an experience (an effect/output) can be a causer (an input) in a cause-and-effect chain reaction (think of a line of falling dominos). Observers can only observe, not control. Just because we observe (feel via intuition) that we control does not mean that we control.
Wyman wrote:My 'intuition' is a leap, I admit. But I am surprised that you take such a leap when you claim that experiences cause other experiences.
:( Sorry to disappoint, but I made no such claim. Look closer at what I wrote. Saying that “it is possible”, only means that it is a ‘possibility’, and not an assertion of a claim.

We have no way of truly knowing if experiences can be causes themselves (as we can only experience the effects, not the causes). But since there are no logical obstructions/contradictions to these chain-reactions (cause-to-effect-to-cause-to-effect-to…etc), then it is therefore a “possibility”, true?
Yes, but then so is my theory. More importantly, perhaps, so is science. When everything points towards the existence of outside causes of experience such as an observer and the outside world (Descartes even thought it was axiomatic), why fall back to a belief that experiences cause other experiences? Your division of experience into discrete 'events' with causal power is no more justified epistemologically (logically), it seems to me, than the theories you attack. Science works, and that's the number one reason to believe it is at least on the right track. We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater and jump from 'science cannot provide absolute certainty as to its conclusions' to 'we ought to reject science and replace its ontology of objects with a phenomenalistic account of experience.' But, you're certainly free to try and I enjoy hearing new theories.

BTW, I did put words in your mouth before (you were just presenting a possible theory) and I'm sure I did it again in this post, so I'll apologize beforehand.
User avatar
RG1
Posts: 181
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:49 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by RG1 »

RG1 wrote:But since there are no logical obstructions/contradictions …, then it is therefore a “possibility”…
Wyman wrote:Yes, but then so is my theory. More importantly, perhaps, so is science. When everything points towards the existence of outside causes of experience such as an observer…
Note: logical obstruction/contradiction is the key. If it is ‘not-logically-possible’ for an “observer” (an experiencer) to “cause” an experience, then all the ("pointing" and) "science" in the world cannot make it so. Science has no relevance here. Logic always trumps science.
Wyman
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:21 pm

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by Wyman »

RG1 wrote:
RG1 wrote:But since there are no logical obstructions/contradictions …, then it is therefore a “possibility”…
Wyman wrote:Yes, but then so is my theory. More importantly, perhaps, so is science. When everything points towards the existence of outside causes of experience such as an observer…
Note: logical obstruction/contradiction is the key. If it is ‘not-logically-possible’ for an “observer” (an experiencer) to “cause” an experience, then all the ("pointing" and) "science" in the world cannot make it so. Science has no relevance here. Logic always trumps science.
Well, that's a big IF at the beginning of your second sentence. It's more probably a combination of causes, the observer just one of them. This lies in the observers' unconscious interpretations of incoming data whereby the brain combines with that data to produce what we call 'experience.' I don't see that as logically impossible.
User avatar
Hobbes' Choice
Posts: 8364
Joined: Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:45 am

Re: Consciousness and free will.

Post by Hobbes' Choice »

RG1 wrote:. Science has no relevance here. Logic always trumps science.
This is an unwarranted contagion from another thread.
You were wrong there and you are wrong here.

Experience always tumps science and logic, and pretty much everything else.
Post Reply