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

Post by Wyman » Sun Mar 05, 2017 3:04 pm

Londoner wrote:
raw_thought wrote:It is interesting listening to scientifically minded posters advocate a Platonic version of reality. They contradict their core beliefs by advocating that first forms exist and only then can we be aware of them. In other words , we DO NOT first empirically experience ( qualia ) a form ( triangle, or whatever) and then arbitrarily put it into a category. The scientifically minded posters at this site , do not believe ( if they are consistent in their beliefs) that triangles exist before we have a concept of what a triangle is!!!
If we follow Kant then we think that in order to make sense of empirical experience we have to have the notion of extension. But if we are to think of the world in terms of shapes, then we have to ignore that notion. Instead of thinking of the things I see as existing relative to me, such that my perception of them will change when I move, I have to imagine the world is on a flat plane, like a painting. Only then can I separate one bit of that world out and mark a single line that separates it from the other things in the picture, i.e. its outline.

Then, thinking only about these outlines, I have to simplify the parts and the wholes of these outlines. That bit is nearly a straight line, that is a sort of curve, that is a rough circle. Then using only these simplifications in my mind I can use rules to construct outlines of purely mental objects, like triangles. At that stage, the shape no longer corresponds in any respect to an empirical experience; a triangle is not identified as a triangle because it resembles a Christmas tree.

I think it is the same with numbers. We first have to simplify experience to exclude everything except quantity, then create a new world that consists purely of the abstraction: quantity. At that point, numbers have lost all connection to things. The number '2' is not attached to any object; 2+2 doesn't equal 4 because there are four apples in my fruit bowl.

So I do not think triangles already exist in some Platonic sense and that we become aware of them, nor do I think we ever experience triangles. I think abstractions are just that, things we create in the mind-mill, for our purposes.
But whether we create them in the mind-mill or they exist separately from ourselves, the question of their existence does not go away. You are just committing yourself to their existence 'in your head' rather than 'in the sky.' And if you admit that others have the same concepts as you - of a triangle, for instance - doesn't Plato's problem become your problem? If person A conceives 'triangle' and person B conceives 'triangle' and they conceive the same concept, then there must be an independent concept 'Triangle' of which they both conceive - where does it come from, what does it consist of, how is it possible? People like to make fun of Plato for his supposed mysticism of Forms, but aren't you committed to some sort of mystic dualism of 'mind-stuff'?

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

Post by Londoner » Sun Mar 05, 2017 4:33 pm

Wyman wrote: But whether we create them in the mind-mill or they exist separately from ourselves, the question of their existence does not go away. You are just committing yourself to their existence 'in your head' rather than 'in the sky.' And if you admit that others have the same concepts as you - of a triangle, for instance - doesn't Plato's problem become your problem? If person A conceives 'triangle' and person B conceives 'triangle' and they conceive the same concept, then there must be an independent concept 'Triangle' of which they both conceive - where does it come from, what does it consist of, how is it possible? People like to make fun of Plato for his supposed mysticism of Forms, but aren't you committed to some sort of mystic dualism of 'mind-stuff'?
I do not think 'existence' has to mean one thing; things can exist in one sense and not in another.

When you say two people 'conceive' the concept 'triangle', I'm not clear what that means. If it is really the concept, then that concept would only be a definition of what defines a triangle. It couldn't be any specific example of a triangle, since the concept 'triangle' refers to a range of different shapes with only certain things in common; if I thought one particular shape was the same as the concept 'triangle' I would be making a mistake. So there isn't really any single concept 'triangle' in the minds of everyone who thinks 'triangle', so we don't need to posit an independent source of that concept.

Having more than one sense of 'exist' is surely only a problem if we confuse categories of understanding, so that we say because 'dreams exist' therefore the things within our dreams exist, or because the concept God exists then something must exist to uphold that concept, and so on.

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

Post by Wyman » Sun Mar 05, 2017 5:40 pm

Londoner wrote:
Wyman wrote: But whether we create them in the mind-mill or they exist separately from ourselves, the question of their existence does not go away. You are just committing yourself to their existence 'in your head' rather than 'in the sky.' And if you admit that others have the same concepts as you - of a triangle, for instance - doesn't Plato's problem become your problem? If person A conceives 'triangle' and person B conceives 'triangle' and they conceive the same concept, then there must be an independent concept 'Triangle' of which they both conceive - where does it come from, what does it consist of, how is it possible? People like to make fun of Plato for his supposed mysticism of Forms, but aren't you committed to some sort of mystic dualism of 'mind-stuff'?
I do not think 'existence' has to mean one thing; things can exist in one sense and not in another.

When you say two people 'conceive' the concept 'triangle', I'm not clear what that means. If it is really the concept, then that concept would only be a definition of what defines a triangle. It couldn't be any specific example of a triangle, since the concept 'triangle' refers to a range of different shapes with only certain things in common; if I thought one particular shape was the same as the concept 'triangle' I would be making a mistake. So there isn't really any single concept 'triangle' in the minds of everyone who thinks 'triangle', so we don't need to posit an independent source of that concept.

Having more than one sense of 'exist' is surely only a problem if we confuse categories of understanding, so that we say because 'dreams exist' therefore the things within our dreams exist, or because the concept God exists then something must exist to uphold that concept, and so on.
'If it really is the concept then that concept would only be a definition...' Yes, but passing off the ambiguity of 'concept' to 'definition' does nothing, does it? You are not clear what 'concept' means, but are you clear what 'definition' means? A criterion for synonymy of definition has caused great problems for analytic philosophers, from Quine's Two Dogmas to Kripke's Naming and Necessity. The related philosophical paradoxes are like a whack-a-mole - whack the problem of induction, the problem of meaning comes up, then the problem of other minds, then mind/body dualism, then realism v. idealism, then the problem of universals, then the analytic/synthetic distinction, then the third an argument, the problem of reference, etc, etc....

I certainly agree that by 'concept' we are not talking of a specific example. The problem is, what are we talking about? Unless you are advocating for pure nominalism, your ontology must include at least some universal concepts, I think.

Descartes' example illustrating the difference between imagination and conception (ideas) was the chiliagon (I think that's how it's spelled. It is a geometrical figure with something like a thousand sides.). Unlike the pentagon or Raw thought's triangle, which we can imagine, when we imagine a chiliagon, we use some random symbol in our minds such as a hundred-sided figure to represent figures with too many sides to actually construct in our imagination accurately. So, although we cannot imagine a chiliagon per se, we nonetheless have the idea of a chiliagon. That idea is no doubt something like your definition, or Kripkean and Platonic essence, or Wittgenstein's family resemblance. Whatever the case may be, it carries with it the familiar paradoxes.

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

Post by Trajk Logik » Sun Mar 05, 2017 11:42 pm

Alexanderk wrote:"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.
You have to remember that each of us lives in our own mill and can never leave. We perceive the rest of the world, which includes other mills, only from within our own mill. So we are stuck looking at other mills from the outside only and only from within our own mill. We can never visit the inside of another mill because we can never leave our own mill. If we did, we'd no longer be in our mill, but another mill, and we'd no longer be ourselves, we'd be someone else.

What this means in regards to our brains and our experience of other brains is that brains themselves are models, or experienced representations of other people's mental processes. We only experience the world through this model - or this information architecture - we call consciousness. This is the only way we know the world - through this model.

We know that when we look at something, we aren't experiencing it as it truly is. Our "brains" can only model the states of affairs outside of it, so our own "brains" must model the mental processes of others which we experience as a solid piece of matter that we call a "brain". The color, squishyness, shape, smell, etc. of the brain are all representations of the part of the body that processes sensory information. The world is really just a conglomeration of processes and relationships. Our minds model these processes and that is what we experience - not the real world, but a model of it.

You can only see when there is light in the environment. No light, no visual experience. Well, you experience field of black, that's all, which happens to be the visual symbol for "no light in the environment". You also can't see things that light doesn't reflect off of - like a deep hole, or a transparent pane of glass washed to perfection, or atoms which are smaller than the wavelength of light. Other people's models don't reflect light, which is why we can't see them. So the simple reason why we don't have direct access to other people's minds is because the things our senses are sensitive to don't interact with their minds, but do interact with their bodies, which is why we can experience bodies, not minds.

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

Post by Impenitent » Sun Mar 05, 2017 11:56 pm

raw_thought wrote:
Impenitent wrote:regardless of position in space (physical or mental) it isn't a triangle until it is interpreted as such...

-Imp
If one has no word for pain, does that mean that one cannot experience pain?
not at all... it simply can never be completely communicated...

can any man know how it feels to give birth?

pain (as well as any subjectively experienced and defined term) is not simply expressed...

-Imp

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

Post by Wyman » Mon Mar 06, 2017 12:58 am

Impenitent wrote:
raw_thought wrote:
Impenitent wrote:regardless of position in space (physical or mental) it isn't a triangle until it is interpreted as such...

-Imp
If one has no word for pain, does that mean that one cannot experience pain?
not at all... it simply can never be completely communicated...

can any man know how it feels to give birth?

pain (as well as any subjectively experienced and defined term) is not simply expressed...

-Imp
You're getting a little wordy here, can you keep it short and to the point please? :wink: (I can't believe I've given in to these emoji things, a sure sign of bad writing skills)

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

Post by raw_thought » Mon Mar 06, 2017 2:04 am

I was not saying that one can visualize the universal triangle. I was saying that one can visualize a particular triangle. Perhaps, a better example then a 3 sided geometrical object would be a 9 sided geometrical object. I have no idea what a 9 sided object is called but I can still visualize one. Basically I am saying that a person can visualize things without knowing what they are called. I can visualize an elephant with a giraffe head, but I have no idea what such a thing would be called. However, then I can put it in arbitrary catagories and say its a giraphant, or whatever . In other words we experience something and then catalog ( conceptualize) it.

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

Post by Londoner » Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:32 am

Wyman wrote:
'If it really is the concept then that concept would only be a definition...' Yes, but passing off the ambiguity of 'concept' to 'definition' does nothing, does it? You are not clear what 'concept' means, but are you clear what 'definition' means? A criterion for synonymy of definition has caused great problems for analytic philosophers, from Quine's Two Dogmas to Kripke's Naming and Necessity. The related philosophical paradoxes are like a whack-a-mole - whack the problem of induction, the problem of meaning comes up, then the problem of other minds, then mind/body dualism, then realism v. idealism, then the problem of universals, then the analytic/synthetic distinction, then the third an argument, the problem of reference, etc, etc....

I certainly agree that by 'concept' we are not talking of a specific example. The problem is, what are we talking about? Unless you are advocating for pure nominalism, your ontology must include at least some universal concepts, I think.
I would take the view that a definition relates to language, to communication. I understand what you are referring to, but this isn't about the status of analytic propositions, it is about how we - in the mind-mill - understand and use ideas like 'triangle'. I absolutely agree that we cannot ground our statements about triangles on either empirical experience or within logic, but I am content to simply observe that this is the case. It may feel intellectually unsatisfactory, a problem that needs solving, but that doesn't mean it can't be true.

As I wrote before, I don't think it is really that much of a problem anyway. The definition, or concept, of a triangle is flexible - it depends on what we want to do. If I wanted to be difficult, I could show that any example of a triangle cannot represent the meaning of 'triangle'; because it was not only two dimensional, because the sides had width as well as length, because any specific triangle is not the same as the concept 'triangle' and so on. Or we could just agree that the shape of Christmas trees is a triangle. I do not see that one use has to exclude another - and since we are discussing the nature of human minds I can observe that it doesn't.

Raw thought writes:
I was not saying that one can visualize the universal triangle. I was saying that one can visualize a particular triangle. Perhaps, a better example then a 3 sided geometrical object would be a 9 sided geometrical object. I have no idea what a 9 sided object is called but I can still visualize one. Basically I am saying that a person can visualize things without knowing what they are called. I can visualize an elephant with a giraffe head, but I have no idea what such a thing would be called. However, then I can put it in arbitrary catagories and say its a giraphant, or whatever . In other words we experience something and then catalog ( conceptualize) it.
I don't think I agree that we can visualize a 9 sided geometric object. I think that if I visualize it then I am trying to create in my head the equivalent of a perception, but none of my perceptions are purely geometric. ('Geometric' and 'object' are in that sense contradictory). I might imagine it as a shape drawn on a piece of paper say, but I cannot then fade out the paper and fade out the lines (because they only have length, not width) and 'visualize' the pure geometry. So I can say '9 sided object' and then a visualize a range objects that might be described that way when we communicate - but they are always something more than just '9 sided'. (9 sided coin, 9 sided drawn shape, etc.)

To relate this back to the OP, when we are wandering round the mind-mill looking for the particular moving part that explains perception, the reason I do not think we can find it is because perception is not a particular thing; we are not clear about what it is that needs explaining. All the cogs and levers contribute to perception; perception is a mixture of cogs and levers, not even in any fixed proportion.

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

Post by Wyman » Mon Mar 06, 2017 2:22 pm

raw_thought wrote:I was not saying that one can visualize the universal triangle. I was saying that one can visualize a particular triangle. Perhaps, a better example then a 3 sided geometrical object would be a 9 sided geometrical object. I have no idea what a 9 sided object is called but I can still visualize one. Basically I am saying that a person can visualize things without knowing what they are called. I can visualize an elephant with a giraffe head, but I have no idea what such a thing would be called. However, then I can put it in arbitrary catagories and say its a giraphant, or whatever . In other words we experience something and then catalog ( conceptualize) it.
I can't visualize a 9 sided figure unless I draw it first, for when I visualize such a figure, I don't know if it has 8,9 or 10 sides without counting them and it doesn't stay in my head long enough to count them. Just saying. The thread has taken several tangents though; I don't think anyone was disputing that you we talking about a particular triangle. I'll try this: I think of these images as themselves a kind of private, natural language. So if the object is a linguistic object like a triangle, then the linguistic concept must come first - that's a rough way of putting it. An image without a linguistic counterpart, such as a giraphant, may come first.

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

Post by Wyman » Mon Mar 06, 2017 2:43 pm

Impenitent wrote:regardless of position in space (physical or mental) it isn't a triangle until it is interpreted as such...

-Imp
I may be misinterpreting you here - no pun intended - but what if the image is the interpretation as is sometimes the case? If, as we are doing here, we specifically say 'Visualize a triangle' then we are telling ourselves to create an interpretation of the term 'triangle.' Or when we do a proof or problem in mathematics, we sometimes visualize parts of the problem just as we sometimes jot down on paper figures as we work the problem out. We use the visualized image as a tool in problem solving. Here, the visual image is the interpretation of the linguistic symbol. I agree of course that often it is the other way around - in perception or dreams, the images come involuntarily and thus it seems as though the linguistic interpretation is 'of' or 'about' the image perceived. The key distinction seems to be the voluntariness of imagining versus the involuntariness of perception and dreams.

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

Post by Wyman » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:04 pm

Londoner:
I would take the view that a definition relates to language, to communication. I understand what you are referring to, but this isn't about the status of analytic propositions, it is about how we - in the mind-mill - understand and use ideas like 'triangle'. I absolutely agree that we cannot ground our statements about triangles on either empirical experience or within logic, but I am content to simply observe that this is the case. It may feel intellectually unsatisfactory, a problem that needs solving, but that doesn't mean it can't be true.

As I wrote before, I don't think it is really that much of a problem anyway. The definition, or concept, of a triangle is flexible - it depends on what we want to do. If I wanted to be difficult, I could show that any example of a triangle cannot represent the meaning of 'triangle'; because it was not only two dimensional, because the sides had width as well as length, because any specific triangle is not the same as the concept 'triangle' and so on. Or we could just agree that the shape of Christmas trees is a triangle. I do not see that one use has to exclude another - and since we are discussing the nature of human minds I can observe that it doesn't.
But ideas like 'triangle' are linguistic ideas. I don't think dogs could visualize triangles when 'visualize' is taken as a voluntary activity. Perhaps they could visualize the squirrel they chased yesterday when they are thinking about what to do when their master lets them outside.

Babies do not see colors at first. We give them books with black and white shapes and designs, since distinguishing shapes in black and white comes first. Every other concept builds upon that foundation and the ability to perceive and imagine do as well. We of course do not remember any of this on a personal level, so the picture of experience as 'given' and as the object of language and thought is powerful. Thinking of experience as a learned ability and an activity I think resolves a lot of the problems philosophers pose.

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

Post by Impenitent » Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:27 pm

Wyman wrote:
Impenitent wrote:regardless of position in space (physical or mental) it isn't a triangle until it is interpreted as such...

-Imp
I may be misinterpreting you here - no pun intended - but what if the image is the interpretation as is sometimes the case? If, as we are doing here, we specifically say 'Visualize a triangle' then we are telling ourselves to create an interpretation of the term 'triangle.' Or when we do a proof or problem in mathematics, we sometimes visualize parts of the problem just as we sometimes jot down on paper figures as we work the problem out. We use the visualized image as a tool in problem solving. Here, the visual image is the interpretation of the linguistic symbol. I agree of course that often it is the other way around - in perception or dreams, the images come involuntarily and thus it seems as though the linguistic interpretation is 'of' or 'about' the image perceived. The key distinction seems to be the voluntariness of imagining versus the involuntariness of perception and dreams.

"Here, the visual image is the interpretation of the linguistic symbol."

not really...

Delta

-Imp

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

Post by raw_thought » Tue Mar 07, 2017 3:47 am

If one is told or not told to visualize a triangle has no bearing on my argument. * My point is that one can visualize a form and that form is not physical. Neurons do not fire in a triangular shape, or in the shape of a giraphant... In other words there is information ( what a giraphant looks like...) that is not physical.
* I agree that if one does not know what a triangle is and someone tells you to visualize a triangle it would be an amazing bit of luck if you did.

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

Post by Londoner » Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:23 pm

My point is that one can visualize a form and that form is not physical.
What would we understand by 'physical'?

Whenever I visualize something, including ordinary perceptions i.e. 'seeing', I understand that the particular image before me is not identical to what I assume is causing the image.

If I call whatever I assume is causing the image 'physical', then the image in my head is the product of two physical things; the object and myself, as the perceiver, it is neither just one physicality nor the other, but that would not make it into a third, non-physical, thing.

When asked to visualize a triangle, what does that mean? I think we would understand it as 'imagine you are seeing' or 'give an actual instance'. I cannot imagine seeing the impossible to see, or give an actual instance of something that is purely abstract, so to visualize it I will instead have to use my past experiences of 'seeing', for example 'a shape drawn on paper'. (If the word 'visualize' was not meant like that, what could the word 'form' mean?) In other words, that visualized triangle would still be 'physical' in the same sense that our ordinary perceptions can be called physical.

I am picking on the words because I think the problem is one created by language. Or in the OP, by metaphor. Essentially we are trying to separate the meaning of 'the brain' from 'what a brain does', thus creating the mystery of 'how are the two connected'. But they are the same thing. If we were discussing any subject except ourselves, we would see no problem e.g. we never worry that 'when I dissect a rabbit I cannot find a rabbit in there' or 'where in the car engine is the bit that makes it go?'

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

Post by raw_thought » Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:43 pm

"My point is that one can visualize a form and that form is not physical."
ME

"What would we understand by 'physical'? "
Londoner
One does not make atoms form into a triangle when one visualizes a triangle. Nor do the neurons fire in a triangular form when one visualizes a triangle.
And even if they did ( and that is ridiculous ) It is silly to say that when one visualizes a triangle, one is seeing neurons firing in a triangular shape.

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