The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

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

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monktastic
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The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by monktastic » Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:09 pm

Apologies in advance for the lack of rigor and sophistication I'm about to display. Also for verbosity. I just want to be as clear as possible.

tl;dr: If you recognize the impossibility of disproving solipsism, then it should be clear that consciousness is not meaningfully physical.

It can be argued that it's impossible to conclusively rule out solipsism. (I say "can be argued" because, although it seems clear enough to me, I'm sure many of you are smart enough to rule it out anyway.) In any case, I'd like to outline the intuitive argument.

The one thing you can be certain of is that "something seems to be happening." I wish I could be more precise, but I don't think I can. Nonetheless, if you look and listen, you will discover an unequivocal certainty that something seems to be happening. Very quickly thereafter (perhaps so quickly that you overlook the aforementioned flawless certainty) your intellect might deconstruct the concepts "seem," "something," "certainty," etc. and introduce doubt. But stay with (or return to) that initial "flash of recognition" if you're able.

Okay, so you are sure that something seems to be happening. You cannot be sure -- even in principle -- that such a thing is happening anywhere else. Maybe there's consciousness elsewhere, but this consciousness is the only tool you'd have to verify it. Even if you saw the world through someone else's eyes, it would be happening "over here," so to speak. Similarly, nobody (and nothing) else can verify your consciousness.

Now, if you recognize that (a) there is this undoubtable sheer fact of consciousness (shorthand for "something seems to be happening"), and (b) it cannot be verified in anyone else, then it cannot be the case that consciousness is physical. How could there be a physical property that cannot be verified, even in principle, by anybody else (or by any instrument)? No, the one thing you can be certain of cannot meaningfully be physical.

If you accept that you cannot disprove solipsism, then can you reasonably believe that consciousness is a physical property?

Wyman
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Re: The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by Wyman » Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:17 pm

monktastic wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:09 pm
Apologies in advance for the lack of rigor and sophistication I'm about to display. Also for verbosity. I just want to be as clear as possible.

tl;dr: If you recognize the impossibility of disproving solipsism, then it should be clear that consciousness is not meaningfully physical.

It can be argued that it's impossible to conclusively rule out solipsism. (I say "can be argued" because, although it seems clear enough to me, I'm sure many of you are smart enough to rule it out anyway.) In any case, I'd like to outline the intuitive argument.

The one thing you can be certain of is that "something seems to be happening." I wish I could be more precise, but I don't think I can. Nonetheless, if you look and listen, you will discover an unequivocal certainty that something seems to be happening. Very quickly thereafter (perhaps so quickly that you overlook the aforementioned flawless certainty) your intellect might deconstruct the concepts "seem," "something," "certainty," etc. and introduce doubt. But stay with (or return to) that initial "flash of recognition" if you're able.

Okay, so you are sure that something seems to be happening. You cannot be sure -- even in principle -- that such a thing is happening anywhere else. Maybe there's consciousness elsewhere, but this consciousness is the only tool you'd have to verify it. Even if you saw the world through someone else's eyes, it would be happening "over here," so to speak. Similarly, nobody (and nothing) else can verify your consciousness.

Now, if you recognize that (a) there is this undoubtable sheer fact of consciousness (shorthand for "something seems to be happening"), and (b) it cannot be verified in anyone else, then it cannot be the case that consciousness is physical. How could there be a physical property that cannot be verified, even in principle, by anybody else (or by any instrument)? No, the one thing you can be certain of cannot meaningfully be physical.

If you accept that you cannot disprove solipsism, then can you reasonably believe that consciousness is a physical property?
Yes, but only in so far as nothing is physical - that is, the argument goes not only for consciousness, but everything else too. But that just means we cannot prove that the physical world (and physical consciousness) exists - it does not mean that they must not exist. Am I right?

monktastic
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Re: The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by monktastic » Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:06 pm

Yes, idealism would fit the bill here. What surprises me is that there seem to be committed physicalists that recognize the irrefutability of solipsism. Perhaps I could have shortened the post and asked which of these they disagree with:

1. You can be certain of this "sheer fact of seeming" (i.e., consciousness).
2. You cannot prove or demonstrate it to anybody else.
3. Therefore you have discovered something non-physical: something that exists but cannot be objectively measured.

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henry quirk
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Post by henry quirk » Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:18 pm

Solipsism is manure.

Here's why...

I know, as fact, I'm too friggin' dumb to imagine the world around me, so: 'sumthin' exists outside of me, independent of me.

Solipsism: refuted, disproved, rendered into the fertilizer it always was.

OuterLimits
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Re: The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by OuterLimits » Wed Nov 22, 2017 4:42 pm

I don't know if I can assert that my consciousness is "non-physical" in origin. I can say that however thoroughly I examine the physical parts of another person, I will not find consciousness. Does that mean that their consciousness is real but not physical, or does it mean that their consciousness simply doesn't exist?

monktastic
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Re:

Post by monktastic » Wed Nov 22, 2017 4:52 pm

henry quirk wrote:
Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:18 pm
Solipsism is manure.

Here's why...

I know, as fact, I'm too friggin' dumb to imagine the world around me, so: 'sumthin' exists outside of me, independent of me.

Solipsism: refuted, disproved, rendered into the fertilizer it always was.
It's not my intention to debate solipsism here, but what you're describing isn't how I understand solipsism. In a dream, I may be an arbitrarily stupid character, but it is not the character that is dreaming up the (sometimes incredibly detailed and complex) world around him. And yet in a particular sense it is still "my" dream. As they say in eastern religions, "I am not this body or personality" (I am the perspective that contains them).
Last edited by monktastic on Wed Nov 22, 2017 5:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by monktastic » Wed Nov 22, 2017 5:14 pm

OuterLimits wrote:
Wed Nov 22, 2017 4:42 pm
or does it mean that their consciousness simply doesn't exist?
A wonderful question. Since I find it impossible to conclusively pin down the meaning of "exist," let me instead offer an exercise and you can tell me how it goes.

Check, very simply, whether it seems like something is happening. I predict you will discover, with flawless certainty, that indeed it does. Then, a split second later (perhaps only milliseconds -- watch carefully) the intellect kicks in and starts doubting or denying that recognition. The exercise is to reset your expectations, clear your mind, and check again very naively: doesn't it definitely seem like something is happening? Yes, definitely. Then the mind swoops in again: "... but maybe that's an illusion." Gently reset and repeat as many times as necessary.

It's not a thought experiment; you have to actually do it, often many times.

The process generally ends in one of two ways: (1) with frustration: "this is pointless, it doesn't prove anything", or (2) the recognition of a sheer fact that is meaningless to deny (and for which concepts like "existence" and "illusion" seem woefully inadequate). I think which way it goes depends largely on the aforementioned precision.

OuterLimits
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Re: The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by OuterLimits » Wed Nov 22, 2017 7:33 pm

monktastic wrote:
Wed Nov 22, 2017 5:14 pm
OuterLimits wrote:
Wed Nov 22, 2017 4:42 pm
or does it mean that their consciousness simply doesn't exist?
A wonderful question. Since I find it impossible to conclusively pin down the meaning of "exist," let me instead offer an exercise and you can tell me how it goes.

Check, very simply, whether it seems like something is happening. I predict you will discover, with flawless certainty, that indeed it does. Then, a split second later (perhaps only milliseconds -- watch carefully) the intellect kicks in and starts doubting or denying that recognition. The exercise is to reset your expectations, clear your mind, and check again very naively: doesn't it definitely seem like something is happening? Yes, definitely. Then the mind swoops in again: "... but maybe that's an illusion." Gently reset and repeat as many times as necessary.

It's not a thought experiment; you have to actually do it, often many times.

The process generally ends in one of two ways: (1) with frustration: "this is pointless, it doesn't prove anything", or (2) the recognition of a sheer fact that is meaningless to deny (and for which concepts like "existence" and "illusion" seem woefully inadequate). I think which way it goes depends largely on the aforementioned precision.
You are not talking about other minds at all. I don't see how any of that is a response to what I said.

RustyBert
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Re: The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by RustyBert » Wed Nov 22, 2017 7:51 pm

How about this: If mine is the only mind, then I must have brought myself into existence. If I have that ability, I should be able to control all aspects of my existence. But clearly I can't (because if I could I wouldn't be here typing on this stupid keyboard, I'd be in Hawaii). Therefore I'm not the only mind, and in fact it's entirely possible there was a time when there were no minds at all, and that some other process lead to our minds' creation.

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Speakpigeon
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Re: The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by Speakpigeon » Thu Nov 23, 2017 6:34 pm

Wyman wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:17 pm
Yes, but only in so far as nothing is physical - that is, the argument goes not only for consciousness, but everything else too. But that just means we cannot prove that the physical world (and physical consciousness) exists - it does not mean that they must not exist. Am I right?
There's still one big difference, which is that I am absolutely certain of my own subjective experience (or consciousness) while I can only believe that there's a physical world. I know my subjective experience (by acquaintance), but I don't know that there really is a physical world, at least not as we usually think of it.
EB

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Speakpigeon
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Re: The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by Speakpigeon » Thu Nov 23, 2017 6:47 pm

monktastic wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:09 pm
Apologies in advance for the lack of rigor and sophistication I'm about to display. Also for verbosity. I just want to be as clear as possible.

tl;dr: If you recognize the impossibility of disproving solipsism, then it should be clear that consciousness is not meaningfully physical.

It can be argued that it's impossible to conclusively rule out solipsism. (I say "can be argued" because, although it seems clear enough to me, I'm sure many of you are smart enough to rule it out anyway.) In any case, I'd like to outline the intuitive argument.

The one thing you can be certain of is that "something seems to be happening." I wish I could be more precise, but I don't think I can. Nonetheless, if you look and listen, you will discover an unequivocal certainty that something seems to be happening. Very quickly thereafter (perhaps so quickly that you overlook the aforementioned flawless certainty) your intellect might deconstruct the concepts "seem," "something," "certainty," etc. and introduce doubt. But stay with (or return to) that initial "flash of recognition" if you're able.

Okay, so you are sure that something seems to be happening. You cannot be sure -- even in principle -- that such a thing is happening anywhere else. Maybe there's consciousness elsewhere, but this consciousness is the only tool you'd have to verify it. Even if you saw the world through someone else's eyes, it would be happening "over here," so to speak. Similarly, nobody (and nothing) else can verify your consciousness.

Now, if you recognize that (a) there is this undoubtable sheer fact of consciousness (shorthand for "something seems to be happening"), and (b) it cannot be verified in anyone else, then it cannot be the case that consciousness is physical. How could there be a physical property that cannot be verified, even in principle, by anybody else (or by any instrument)? No, the one thing you can be certain of cannot meaningfully be physical.

If you accept that you cannot disprove solipsism, then can you reasonably believe that consciousness is a physical property?
This doesn't work. Sorry.

The reason is simple: just because you don't know now how to prove the existence of any other consciousness doesn't mean it cannot be done.

There's still one crucial distinction. We know our own consciousness (knowledge by acquaintance) but we can only believe, at best, that there is indeed a physical world. We don't know there is one (for now at least).

And thus, for all we know, maybe there's only our own consciousness and nothing else (solipsism) although, apparently, we're really unable to stop ourselves believing there is indeed a physical world, with other people in it, and that these people all have consciousness exactly in the same way we do ourselves.
EB

Impenitent
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Re: The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by Impenitent » Thu Nov 23, 2017 11:16 pm

the irony of making arguments (to other people) about the absolute impossibility of their existence is delicious...

-Imp

EchoesOfTheHorizon
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Re: The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by EchoesOfTheHorizon » Fri Nov 24, 2017 6:28 am

Imp, if you are Taz (the Australian Artist) I'm fairly sure I convinced you that I was you several years back as a gag on another site. He goes by your user name on several forums, last name Anderson, first name starts with a C. That's not Solipism, what I did, but it is far more awesome, far more special.

To all the solipsist addressing the "physicalist", I applauded your ambition to teach us a lesson, it brings tears to my eyes. I can't argue with someone who thinks I'm but a figment of their imagination, that everything that is in existence is them.... that I'm not thinking correctly, and need set straight. This is wonderful, please, keep up the good work.

I do have some requests, as a figment of your imagination. It is only right that I make this request to you, as a mere figment of your imagination, as you hold all the cards regarding my world, my character, my state of being, my fate:

Can I please have more money, like several hundreds of billions of more money, and sex with Heidi Klum.... not the Heidi Klum of now, which is annoying, but back when she was a new model, always in a bikini, like when she was in that silver-grey bikini in the GQ magazine. I want you to set it up so she is my bisexual wife, and has all these other model friends, and wants to share them with me.

I would also like to be in better physical shape, age 20, nine inch long penis, thick too, and hair like Fabio, and muscles like the terminator. Like.... I want a sniper rifle that shoots 10 miles, in a straight line, no trajectory curve, straight like a laser, and that I fly around on a fire breathing dragon that follows my every command, and give me a castle made of the hardest materials known to man, 200 stories tall, in the center of a city, New York City..... oh, make my Castle in Central Park, and have a bat cave up high in it, like I'm Batman, so my fire breathing dragon can live in it, and that the dragon obeys my every command, and tracks down leprechauns at the end of rainbows on a daily basis, so I can take all their gold, and for the leprechauns to squeal like little pigs whenever I swoop down on my dragon, mouth open wide, to gobble them up or burn them. I also want little kids the world around to point looking up as I fly by, yelling I'm the leprechaun hunter, and applaude me as I travel from one rainbow to the next.

I also want the ability to telepathically make women want me, sexually, like how they did it in the Love Potion Number 9 movie, but without a potion, I just want telepathic mind control, ,.... you know what, screw Heidi Klum, she will become old and annoying, just give me that telepathic ability instead, and make it illegal for any man to stop me from having any woman I want, and for them to all think it is really a great idea for that to happen, cause I'm a swell guy.

Also, I want a little puppy, one that will lick my face and love me for who I am, and will take naps with me, and let me rub it's belly and play with it in the grass.

Now.... I don't want any excuses. You conjured me up in your imagination. You can't have a passive and active imagination as a solipsist, just one world.... and if you can imagine things, and feel the need to convince me I have no argument, that I'm really just you, then you can do this for me. If you can't honestly pull it off, then you need to stop insisting, but if you lie, and don't really try, then I'll know the truth, cause I'm really just you.

I'm willing to go along with this, if you do the above, I'm seriously willing to concede that only you exist. If not, lacking my dragon hunts and castle orgies with the finest lingerie models on a daily basis, and my loving puppy, I'm going to be forced to believe that I am separate, and that you have a shitty imagination and poor capacity to reason.... but not as shitty as my life.... cause I have none of that. Not even the puppy.

Just a little puppy to love. :cry:

Hop to it, I hope to be proven wrong by the awesomeness of your solipsistic imagination. If you can imagine some things, then you can imagine me into this. I ask you now, Where is my dragon?


Waiting.....

Impenitent
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Re: The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by Impenitent » Fri Nov 24, 2017 9:11 am

EchoesOfTheHorizon wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 6:28 am
Imp, if you are Taz (the Australian Artist)...

Waiting.....
No, I am not Taz. I used to post on killdevilhill, and I used to be a moderator on ilp. I don't post on other philosophy sites.

-Imp

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Re: The irrefutability of solipsism and the recognition that consciousness is not physical

Post by EchoesOfTheHorizon » Fri Nov 24, 2017 3:03 pm

Shame, I kept thinking you were him. Well, nice to know you're not.

Also very disappointed not to see my flying dragon sitting outside. I don't know how this Solipsism is supposed to work. :?

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