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

Post by Greta » Wed Mar 29, 2017 2:20 pm

David Swift wrote:Greta wrote:
I agree with all of that, aside from the claim that I didn't realise it. That is not the point. The point is: where physically are these imperfect mental models within the stuff of reality? In the mind? That means in the brain. Where in the brain? That's my perception of the thread's conundrum.
What evidence do you have that the mind is in the brain? It seems to me that, that assumption has stymied any real advance in psychology for more than two thousand years. Time to wake up and consider alternatives.
The mind has been developed by evolution, albeit unwittingly, to produce homeostasis until reproduction. In that cause, it selects behavior in response to current reality using a four-step, two-stage algorithm. That algorithm selects on the basis of most pleasure/ least pain as reflexively felt in our evaluative sense organs.
Philosophy owes more to science than rehashing the same old concepts over and over. Who cares how many angles can dance on the head of a pin?
How do you mean that the assumption that the mind is the workings of the brain has stymied any real advance in psychology? Are you one of the "mind does not exist" crowd?

It seems that you are just parrotting materialist orthodoxy - all very obvious and completely avoids the question. BTW, your attempt to paint me as a theist was almost witty.

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

Post by raw_thought » Mon Sep 18, 2017 1:17 am

Can you visualize a triangle? Obviously you can. Can you prove to a third party that you are visualizing a triangle? Obviously you cannot. Does that mean that you cannot visualize a triangle?
For your visualized triangle to be verified by an outside observer requires that it is physical. Obviously it is not! Your neurons do not fire in a triangular shape and if someone were to open your skull they would not see a triangle. However, to say that therefore there is no triangle is to deny that you can visualize a triangle.

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

Post by raw_thought » Mon Sep 18, 2017 1:18 am

Here is a joke, Dennett only believes in third person narratives. He wakes up with his wife and asks, " it was good for you, was it good for me?" Obviously his position is absurd!

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

Post by Walker » Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:20 am

raw_thought wrote:
Mon Sep 18, 2017 1:17 am
Can you visualize a triangle? Obviously you can. Can you prove to a third party that you are visualizing a triangle? Obviously you cannot. Does that mean that you cannot visualize a triangle?
For your visualized triangle to be verified by an outside observer requires that it is physical. Obviously it is not! Your neurons do not fire in a triangular shape and if someone were to open your skull they would not see a triangle. However, to say that therefore there is no triangle is to deny that you can visualize a triangle.
If I visualize a triangle, then tell you to visualize a triangle, that’s what you will do, which by your logic makes the visualized triangle, physical.

Right now, I'm visualizing an elephant.

See? So are you, and no one told you to.

Verification.

surreptitious57
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Re: Leibniz's mill and the "Hard problem of consciousness"

Post by surreptitious57 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 9:11 am

raw wrote:
For your visualized triangle to be verified by an outside observer requires that it is physical. Obviously it is not. Your neurons do not fire in
a triangular shape and if someone were to open your skull they would not see a triangle. However to say that therefore there is no triangle
is to deny that you can visualize a triangle
Maybe the definition of physical is a bit too restricting here. Thoughts [ and emotions ] are not really regarded as being physical though they
are manifestations of a physical organ [ the brain ] but they cannot be regarded as non physical either as they can be experienced. However
I do now think of them as being physical albeit on a more subtle level compared to the more obvious physical things such as objects of mass
This of course does not help the hard problem at all but does make clarification of specific phenomena much clearer. At least to me anyway

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

Post by PauloL » Mon Sep 18, 2017 9:59 pm

Alexanderk wrote:
Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:08 pm
.





My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.

Fernando Pessoa, in: Book of Disquiet.




.

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

Post by Greta » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:22 am

Thoughts are physical. If thoughts were not physical then research like this would not be possible: http://news.berkeley.edu/2011/09/22/brain-movies/
Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and computational models, UC Berkeley researchers have succeeded in decoding and reconstructing people’s dynamic visual experiences – in this case, watching Hollywood movie trailers.

As yet, the technology can only reconstruct movie clips people have already viewed. However, the breakthrough paves the way for reproducing the movies inside our heads that no one else sees, such as dreams and memories, according to researchers.
So thoughts exist as patterns in the brain that can be decoded to represent visual stimuli, and other stimuli will probably be decoded in this way in time.

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

Post by Dubious » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:52 am

It is not the process itself which is read as something physical but what it produces which is sensed and collected. Thoughts are physical only if wave patterns are physical. What the article makes clear (unless I missed something) is that the brain can also be considered a broadcasting device whose emissions can be captured which is utterly amazing in itself.

Thoughts are not physical in themselves, as I see it, but a form of energy which can be captured and reprocessed. As with every broadcast station it's the physical which generates output in terms of energy which requires the corresponding transducers to recreate it. The brain being the most complex object requires an almost equal amount of complexity for its translation. Having said that it's still possible that in the quantum world, thoughts actually are physical.

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

Post by surreptitious57 » Tue Sep 19, 2017 4:11 pm

Dubious wrote:
Thoughts are not physical in themselves as I see it but a form of energy
But if energy is physical then that would make thoughts physical as well

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

Post by Dubious » Wed Sep 20, 2017 5:47 am

surreptitious57 wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2017 4:11 pm
Dubious wrote:
Thoughts are not physical in themselves as I see it but a form of energy
But if energy is physical then that would make thoughts physical as well
That is true depending on what level it's interpreted. In this case, as it seems to me, physical matter (brain) outputs energy (thoughts, visions, sounds, etc) which can be physically quantified without anything "physical" actually being there. In that sense, thoughts are indeed physical. In the quantum world everything in existence devolves to pure non-physicality which easily relates to everything being physical by virtue of being mathematically quantifiable...even the mental output of a hamster.

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

Post by thought addict » Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:53 pm

Hi everyone, I've just signed up and am excited to have found this forum. There's so much to discuss. I've read just about every post in this thread. Some of what I've written below I started to form before I got to the end but I don't think there's too much overlap with what's already been said.
raw_thought wrote:
Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:52 pm
The visualized triangle is not a part of the brain. It is nowhere in the brain. To say ( to repeat myself ) that the triangle is embedded in the brain in a non-triangular form is like saying that holding a CD of Mozart is identical to hearing the music.
raw_thought wrote:
Tue Mar 07, 2017 6:57 pm
3. It is obviously not physical as there is nothing physical that is in a triangular shape in the brain that is created by visualizing a triangle. Any scientist will tell you that you do not cause your neurons to fire in a triangular shape ( or that you create a subatomic particle that is triangular ) when you visualize a triangle.
It wouldn't be relevant for anything in the brain to be physically arranged in a triangular shape (except perhaps nerves on the retina) because neurons generally speaking don't care how they are laid out in space relative to one another. What matters is how the neurons are connected to one another. You can jumble up a bundle of wires without changing the function of the circuit they form.

It's clear to me that there is a strong representation of visual fields in the brain. I use the plural because it seems possible (though may be difficult) to view a real scene at the same time as vividly imagining an image of an object without the two images overlapping. There seems to be at least one separate sort of "mind's eye" for imagining images rather than them appearing sharply in the normal visual field (which would probably be dangerous and place a species at a disadvantage. Trajk Logik has already touched on this difference). Now in the original point you raised, the explanatory gap was a question of how can something in one of these visual fields have a physical existence.

As the brain depends upon electrical and chemical signals, it has to translate information about the environment into terms of these. A triangular pattern of light on the surface of a retina is not of direct use to the brain and so cannot be thought about nor remembered. The translation into patterns of neural activity clearly brings the information closer to what the mind can experience. We're intuitively so used to thinking of "real" things in terms of the shapes and sounds and objective measurements outside of our bodies in the external universe that we tend to expect that something has to exist in such forms to be real. And that obsession with only objective measurements being real is probably a key motive in the beliefs of most eliminativist physicalists. But to the mind, the patterns of information in the brain are the native language of what is real. Again, when we think about this objectively it seems very strange because we get caught up thinking about fleshy brains and masses of neurons and Leibniz's mills and how far removed they seem to be from any image of a triangle. But it's the information itself that I believe is where the triangle exists. The qualia seem to be some kind of manifestation of that information and, for me, that is where the explanatory gap lies, between the information and the qualia. Is the information itself physical? I'd opt for calling it metaphysical.

I'll grant you it does seem strange how vividly and directly the 2 dimensional nature (plus some stereoscopic depth information and color) of the visual field appears to us. And even as someone with dualist leanings, I have to ask exactly how much of that visual field is physical. I mentioned above why a physically triangular shape somewhere inside the brain wouldn't be appropriate to give a triangular experience, but it's worth noting that there are ways that neurons can gain some concept of relative position, shape and size. A good way to understand that is to look at how it is done with computer memory. An image to be displayed on the screen is held in memory but ordinarily, until it is displayed on the screen, information on the relative positions and shapes of objects drawn on it might not explicitly exist anywhere. However, computer software can be loaded into the computer's memory that can manipulate and compare memory addresses. By subtracting one memory address from another, effectively a sort of distance between those two memory locations is obtained and stored. This could be used to find the distance between two points on a triangle on the screen. A similar sort of process could find a sort of distance metric between two points on a triangle encoded by neurons that represent a visual field in someone's brain. Other algorithms, like the Hough Transform, can form a representation of the shape. When these mental representations are derived from the visual field and held in other neurons they could trigger further qualia giving impressions of shape, color, size and depth.

The really strange bit for me, stranger even than qualia, is why our experience of the universe seems to be exactly centered on the qualia of one particular brain and not another one nor several of them. Fundamentally physics makes no distinction between one human body and another. It's all just one pile of interacting particles. These are questions involving indexicality and personal identity and continuity of consciousness but I have a lot of reading to do on these and they deserve their own forum thread. To me though, this represents an even bigger explanatory gap and an even bigger problem for the eliminativist - unless they're content with embracing solipsism.
Last edited by thought addict on Fri Oct 13, 2017 12:33 am, edited 2 times in total.

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

Post by thought addict » Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:01 pm

Trajk Logik wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2017 12:48 pm
The problem here is that you haven't realized that your visual field is just a model, and an imperfect one at that. What you see isn't how it really is. This means that when you look at someone's brain, you are experiencing an imperfect model of their mental activity, or processes. You can never get out of this model and therefore never experience someone's mental processes as they experience them. You only experience a model. When you look at their brain activity on a computer screen you are looking at a model, not the real brain, and the model provides information about some state of the brain. This is no different from how we model the world in our minds. We don't experience the world as it is. We experience a model of it and to complain about the inaccessibility of other models is to not understand the nature of your own model.

I explained this a while back in this thread. You can never leave your own mill and you can only see other mills from the outside and only from within your own mill. So other models are out there, it's just you can only model their process of modeling the world and that model is the brain and it's activity.
Yes, I agree with this. When we try to reason about the qualia associated with mental images, we can only form objective, third person models of them which will always be pale imitations of the first person phenomena. This discrepancy is the explanatory gap that defines the Hard Problem and it apparently cannot be bridged by any direct objective reasoning.

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

Post by thought addict » Sat Oct 14, 2017 5:26 pm

raw_thought wrote:
Sat Mar 11, 2017 8:07 am
Wyman wrote: Where did this 'special equipment' caveat suddenly come from? You've never mentioned that before. Curious
You claimed that when we see a visualized triangle it is possibly physical. I am saying that that is only possible ( in your scenario ) if we can see it without special equipment. I am also saying that it is silly to say that one can see neurons ( firing in a triangular form and/or even subatomic particles that have the triangular shape) without special equipment.
What you were describing I think is a variant of the homunculus. If someone can literally see a physical object inside their own head that implies that this "someone" possesses extra organs for seeing physical things in that location, for example, a tiny extra pair of eyes. You're right - it is silly - in the sense that it's redundant. But there may be other ways that something physical inside the brain could be detected. It becomes a question of what precisely you mean by "seeing".
raw_thought wrote:
Wed Mar 22, 2017 2:43 am
Londoner wrote:I think it would be better if we avoided saying we 'see the visualized triangle'. To visualize something is not to see it.
OK, You believe that you cannot visualize a triangle.
This relates back to my point. If to "see" means to use a pair of eyes or similar to acquire and convert light from a physical object into a more convenient representation, then no, we probably don't "see" the physical appearance of any objects that are situated inside our brains. If we did, we would be homunculi.

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

Post by Atla » Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:07 am

Alexanderk wrote:
Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:08 pm
I would like you to express your own opinion on this subject.
Here is my explanation with a major plot twist:

The "hard problem of consciousness" is based on the hundreds/thousands years old assumption that there are two things happening: phenomenal experience (I'll call it consciousness) and the physical reality.

I think there are 5 major philosophical stances here:

1. Only the physical exists, consciousness is just an illusion/hallucination.
2. The physical is fundamental, consciousness somehow "emerges" from it.
3. Both are equally fundamental, and are somehow "connected" to each other, or create the illusion of being connected etc.
4. Consciousness is fundamental, the physical somehow "emerges" from it.
5. Only consciousness exists, the physical is just an illusion/hallucination.

The "hard problem of consciousness" deals with several or all of these. Maybe it mostly shows the absurdity of the first two stances: first it requires consciousness, to be able to say that consciousness is an illusion/emergence. And so after that, most people tend to move towards the 3-5. stances.

But still, no one has any idea how these two relate to each other, how they work together. The "hard problem" tells us that we don't understand something very, very fundamental.

Most people subscribe to one of these 5 stances.

However.

All 5 stances are wrong. There is no "hard problem of consciousness" either. People are trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist and doesn't make sense, of course they can't do it.

Remember what we assumed in the beginning? There are two things happening: consciousness and the physical. But there are no two things (nondualism). It is so wildly crazy and culturally outrageous to entertain the possibility that consciousness and physical are one and the same, and we just see double, that almost no one ever even thinks of investigating this possibility.

It's true however. We just split reality into two categories and go crazy. So this of course means that consciousness (phenomenal experience) is universal, we are reality, the world itself. It is just an illusion that we are only this human. The individual brain/mind is mostly in the head, but fundamentally we are also everything else. This is something not very well understood in the West.

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

Post by Londoner » Fri Dec 22, 2017 7:36 pm

Atla wrote:
Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:07 am

All 5 stances are wrong. There is no "hard problem of consciousness" either. People are trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist and doesn't make sense, of course they can't do it.

Remember what we assumed in the beginning? There are two things happening: consciousness and the physical. But there are no two things (nondualism). It is so wildly crazy and culturally outrageous to entertain the possibility that consciousness and physical are one and the same, and we just see double, that almost no one ever even thinks of investigating this possibility.
If we see double, then the problem is that the two images cannot be reconciled. Just as our internal experiences cannot be described through a physical description, our internal experiences cannot give a coherent picture of the physical world. We can go with one and disregard the other, but we cannot combine them. Yet nor can we entirely separate them; I cannot have a purely physical experience - it is always mediated by consciousness. Similarly, consciousness appears to be constrained by the physical; I cannot simply will phenomena. Hence we have a problem.
It's true however. We just split reality into two categories and go crazy. So this of course means that consciousness (phenomenal experience) is universal, we are reality, the world itself. It is just an illusion that we are only this human. The individual brain/mind is mostly in the head, but fundamentally we are also everything else. This is something not very well understood in the West.
Some would argue it is not well understood in the East either.

For example, you say 'It is just an illusion that we are only this human'. How do you know that? To say something is an 'illusion' you must be comparing it to some 'reality'. (But not 'reality' in the sense of the physical, since you deny that side of the duality too.) So to compare what it is like to be 'this human' to 'reality' you must have stopped being 'this human' and observed yourself from outside both your own human existence and the physical world as we normally understand it.

As a claim, this does not seem an improvement on the old 'ghost in the machine' type theories of consciousness.

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