In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

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

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Skepdick
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

Post by Skepdick »

Satyavan wrote: Sun Feb 02, 2020 9:21 pm The fact that all the functional aspects you describe are supposed to give rise to qualitative experiences of qualias. It is not about what neural correlate gives rise to what experience, but why correlates give rise to an experience at all? The fact that whatever complicate process in a brain with whatever molecular, neural and functional machinery is not limited to a data stream or inner representation but gives rise to a feeling, a perception of pain or pleasure, a subjective awareness of "Iness". This remains a complete and unexplained mystery and that also your description does not even begin to adress. The question is not which structure with how many unconscious layers determines how we feel. The question is why whatever structure makes us feel something at all?
When you ask a 'Why?' question you can ONLY ever get a causal answer. 'Why does B happen?' because A -> B. That's a limitation of logic. ALL of propositional logic is in the form of "IF A then B".

The 'hard problem of consciousness' is hard, not because of consciousness, but because we are using the wrong tools for the job. Philosophers fail to understand their own tools of inquiry and the kind of results/answers they can, but far more importantly - the results they can't produce. RED -> A -> B ->C ..... X -> Y -> Z -> Redness. That is no good - a causal chain is not what I am looking for! Why does Z give rise to redness?

Language is representational. Given the question 'Why does red give rise to redness?' what sort of linguistic representation (e.g an answer) do you expect any inquiry to produce? What sort of answer (that once internalised) would make you experience 'satisfaction'? - the feeling that you might experience when you finally read the correct answer to the question 'Why does red give rise to redness?'.

But I haven't really answered anything, have I? Because IF somebody somewhere produces an answer to the question ''Why does red give rise to redness?' and that answer satisfies you, you will immediately make yourself miserable again by asking this question: 'Why did that answer give rise to satisfaction?'

So if your tools/instruments (logic) can only ever give you a causal answer, and a causal answer can never satisfy you what exactly are you looking for? In what form/shape would the answer ever be produced in?

The 'hard problem of consciousness' necessitates that we first recognize the fundamental property of consciousness that classical logic doesn't have. You cannot represent self-reference/recursion/reflection/introspection with any logic that you can write on a piece of paper!

If the question will ever get answered - Philosophers need to learn a new language/logic first. A language/logic that can represent self-reference/recursion/reflection/introspection. A language that self-evolves over time. Philosophers are going to have to learn how to program.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflectio ... ogramming)

Only once they do that, will they develop the shared intuitions, insight and language necessary to move forward. Until then - they will continue chasing their own tails in circular or linear arguments.

But hey.... what do I know? I am just a ̶r̶e̶c̶u̶r̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ computer scientist.

If what I am saying is even remotely convincing to you then consider exploring this question "How an algorithm feels?"

https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/How_an_algorithm_feels

Here's a snippet:
Our philosophical intuitions do not rain down on us as manna from heaven; they are generated by algorithms in the human brain. Our philosophical intuitions, indeed, are how these particular cognitive algorithms feel from the inside.

To dissolve a philosophical dilemma, it often suffices to understand the cognitive algorithm that generates the appearance of the dilemma - if you understand the algorithm in sufficient detail. It is not enough to say "An algorithm does it!" - this might as well be magic. It takes a detailed step-by-step walkthrough.

Michael Vassar has observed that conventional philosophers seem to be spectacularly bad at understanding that their intuitions are generated by cognitive algorithms. This may be why works of serious reductionism get written by Artificial Intelligence people instead of conventional philosophers.
Satyavan
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

Post by Satyavan »

Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:06 am When you ask a 'Why?' question you can ONLY ever get a causal answer. 'Why does B happen?' because A -> B. That's a limitation of logic. ALL of propositional logic is in the form of "IF A then B".
Precisely. And where does this limitation of logic come from? The 20th century positivists tried hard to explain everything through formal constructs and failed. At the end of the story famously Wittgenstein recognized that with formal logic he wasn't able to convey the knowledge to others of him having toothache. I think this says it all....

These objects, events, facts, etc. making up the chain are ALREADY constructs that require consciousness from the outset and its felt and experienced perceptual contents. One can't speak about light without referring to an experiential content, even not to electrons without a relation to some subjective qualitative experience of qualia (such as "I see a spot on a CCD camera", etc.) and which are related to each other by a logical construct and language. But one can't derive consciousness from the causal chain workings of a neural network because the idea of a neural network itself is already a qualitative construct in and of our consciousness. In other settings such as in math or other sciences, one can forget this because the preceding events in the chain are similar in its experiential nature, ontology and structure and can somehow be related and compared (an electron to a chunk of matter, an EM wave to the image of a wavy field, etc.) but here, in the case of consciousness, the last event at the end of the chain is suddenly a completely different object that has no relation to anything preceding it, other than itself. Which shows that consciousness must be fundamental and prior to matter. Therefore it makes not much sense to take logic and the causal chain argument for clarifying the problem of consciousness.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:06 am The 'hard problem of consciousness' is hard, not because of consciousness, but because we are using the wrong tools for the job. Philosophers fail to understand their own tools of inquiry and the kind of results/answers they can, but far more importantly - the results they can't produce. RED -> A -> B ->C ..... X -> Y -> Z -> Redness. That is no good - a causal chain is not what I am looking for! Why does Z give rise to redness?
What is then the tool of inquiry to do the job supposed to be?
BTW, the above chain seems to suggest you believe "RED" to be an objective reality. Panpsychist or spiritualist may reason with the above in this way but the physicalist is not allowed to posit "RED" at the beginning of the causal chain. If one claims that consciousness is to derive from matter then there can be no "RED" out there causing redness. The "RED" is the effect, not the cause. Eventually you can posit an electromagnetic wave with some frequency. One must then explain why an EM wave hitting a certain disposition of molecules causes the subjective experience of redness coming into existence.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:06 am Language is representational.
Exactly, but it represents only objects of experience. Say "a blue ball rolled down from an inclined red table" is a representation but there is nothing like a ball and a table "out there". It is only a convenient description of a subjective experience already. It is like the Matrix that makes you believe to be in a world made of virtual objects. But these objects do not exist "out there", in the film they exists only in a chip memory in forms of 1s and 0s. But someone in the virtual world will argue about the causal chains like: the table was inclined --> the ball acquired a kinetic energy --> it rolled down --> it fall to the floor, etc. But it is only a fiction created in the memory of a giant computer. In our reality the same happens. The question is how get the 1s and 0s get converted into subjective experiences?
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:06 am Given the question 'Why does red give rise to redness?' what sort of linguistic representation (e.g an answer) do you expect any inquiry to produce?
What sort of answer (than once internalised) would make you experience 'satisfaction'? (the feeling that you might experience when you finally read the correct answer to the question 'Why does red give rise to redness?')? But I haven't really answered anything, have I? Because IF somebody somewhere produces an answer to the question ''Why does red give rise to redness?' and that answer satisfies you, you will immediately make yourself miserable again by asking this question: 'Why did that answer give rise to satisfaction?' So if your tools/instruments (logic) can only ever give you a causal answer, and a causal answer can never satisfy you what exactly are you looking for? In what form/shape would the answer ever be produced in?
Again, there is no red giving rise to redness, it is a material disposition and energy exchange that makes it pop into existence, just like magic. Coming to the question: any answer which explains what is to be explained without inadvertedly positing the thing to be explained from the outset. That is, how consciousness comes into being without resorting to an entity that requires consciousness itself would be satisfactory. But I'm quiet sure that can't work even not in principle, because it is logically circular. Then the question is why is it circular? One can't express a causal chain explaining qualias because the events necessitate, in one form or another, qualias itself again. Therefore, it is circular because consciousness is prior and fundamental. This is what the dualist finally recognizes but the physicalist continues to deny. It is then easy to ask for the impossible. :lol:
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:06 am The 'hard problem of consciousness' necessitates that we first recognize the fundamental property of consciousness that classical logic doesn't have. You cannot represent self-reference/recursion/reflection/introspection with classical logic!
You can represent, perhaps, but not recreate it. I agree only insofar that, this is because, at bottom, classical logic necessitates consciousness a priori and is a product of consciousness, not the other way around.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:06 am If the question will ever get answered - Philosophers need to learn a new language/logic first. A language/logic that can represent self-reference/recursion/reflection/introspection. Philosophers are going to have to learn how to program.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflectio ... ogramming)

Only once they do that, will they develop the shared theoretical foundation and intuitions necessary to move forward. Until then - they will continue chasing their own tails in circular or linear arguments that lead nowhere.

But hey.... what do I know? I am just a ̶r̶e̶c̶u̶r̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ computer scientist.
Satyavan wrote: Sun Feb 02, 2020 9:21 pm Our philosophical intuitions do not rain down on us as manna from heaven; they are generated by algorithms in the human brain. Our philosophical intuitions, indeed, are how these particular cognitive algorithms feel from the inside.

To dissolve a philosophical dilemma, it often suffices to understand the cognitive algorithm that generates the appearance of the dilemma - if you understand the algorithm in sufficient detail. It is not enough to say "An algorithm does it!" - this might as well be magic. It takes a detailed step-by-step walkthrough.

Michael Vassar has observed that conventional philosophers seem to be spectacularly bad at understanding that their intuitions are generated by cognitive algorithms. This may be why works of serious reductionism get written by Artificial Intelligence people instead of conventional philosophers.
I'm neither a philosopher nor a programmer but strongly doubt that knowing how something is generated by a cognitive algorithm would lead us anywhere nearer to the solution of the hard problem. The "ability of a process to examine, introspect, and modify its own structure and behavior" is already something that presupposes objects of subjective qualitative perceptual contents making the whole issue circular again. Making the process self-referential, self-organizing and super complicate doesn't explain why it translates into an experience. An algorithm, however complicate and "introspective" reduces always to processes, not experiences. How do physical processes become experiences? As far as I know, there are already AI computers doing something on that line and, if the above would be true, we must conclude that they are at least partially sentient. I doubt that. And an "algorithm feels"? Frankly, I hardly can take this seriously. :wink:
Skepdick
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

Post by Skepdick »

Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm Precisely. And where does this limitation of logic come from?
Lack of knowledge. We don't have better tools. We haven't invented them yet.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm The 20th century positivists tried hard to explain everything through formal constructs and failed.
Did they really? There is a fundamental question to be asked here: What is an "explanation"?

The most successful discipline in all of science's history is physics. It's the one field that gives us deep and precise "explanations" about our reality.

The instrument (language?) of physics is Mathematics. Formal constructs, but without going into too much detail lets just say that Logic/Mathematics (and therefore Physics) concern themselves with Structuralism, and so the fundamental assumption we, humans, make when trying to "explain" reality using Logic is that reality has SOME structure that can be uncovered and described.

You cannot escape the claims of epistemic constructuvists: reality may be separate from the human mind, but all knowledge of reality is a social construct. Physics constructs formal models of reality.

The only way we know how to "explain" things is via formal models. If that's not good enough for you - then I am guessing you reject all of modern-day physics, chemistry, molecular biology and everything else that is built on top of formal models.

That which we call our "understanding" of the world is only possible through said formal models.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm At the end of the story famously Wittgenstein recognized that with formal logic he wasn't able to convey the knowledge to others of him having toothache. I think this says it all....
Because Wittgenstein didn't have computers. He didn't know what formal logic is or how to use it.

It's just a modeling tool. LEGO blocks for your mind. You construct models which help you compute consequences. Logic allows you to "run" thought-experiments in your head. Algorithms.

But logic is still only just a language. A formal language. Even if you could represent the algorithm which describes "consciousness" in a formal language and even if you could program a machine with said algorithm resulting in the computer running said algorithm becoming sentient, that will still get you no closer to answering the question "What is experience?". You will have answered the question "What is consciousness?" by virtue of having created it.

The scientific epistemology does not and cannot answer "what is the nature of" questions. Noumena are forever outside of our reach. We know this. When philosophy asks stupid questions like "What is the nature of qualia?" they allow themselves to forget that the question cannot be answered.

We know that it cannot be answered. So why bother asking it?
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm What is then the tool of inquiry to do the job supposed to be?
Better languages. Dynamic languages. Languages that can capture/represent the temporal dimension of reality.

Programming languages.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm BTW, the above chain seems to suggest you believe "RED" to be an objective reality. Panpsychist or spiritualist may reason with the above in this way but the physicalist is not allowed to posit "RED" at the beginning of the causal chain. If one claims that consciousness is to derive from matter then there can be no "RED" out there causing redness. The "RED" is the effect, not the cause. Eventually you can posit an electromagnetic wave with some frequency. One must then explain why an EM wave hitting a certain disposition of molecules causes the subjective experience of redness coming into existence.
I am not saying anything of this sort. I perceive the apple on the table as having 'redness'. The experience of redness is the phenomenon.

That which caused the experience is the noumenon. Call it 'red' - call it whatever you want.

In fact, because I subscribe to constructivism, I lean slightly towards anti-realism. Or perhaps more exactly Model-dependent realism. Michael Dummett's anti-realism is perfectly compatible with the Many-World interpretations of Quantum Physics, so perhaps it's badly named.
It should've been called "Many-Realism".
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm Exactly, but it represents only objects of experience.
Precisely why the the question "What is experience?" can't be answered.

The process by which "object of experience" move from the mind back into reality is called "creation". Creativity is a human skill.
We can re-create some of the objects of our experience to some degree of fidelity depending on our skill/knowledge.

We do that with language, art, engineering etc.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm You can represent, perhaps, but not recreate it. I agree only insofar that, this is because, at bottom, classical logic necessitates consciousness a priori and is a product of consciousness, not the other way around.
I think the represent/recreate distinction is only semantic. I can re-create music, movies etc. by representing them in digital format on my computer.

And lets not forget that digital music/movies are, fundamentally logic/mathematics. They are stored/represented as formal constructs.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm I'm neither a philosopher nor a programmer but strongly doubt that knowing how something is generated by a cognitive algorithm would lead us anywhere nearer to the solution of the hard problem.
Sure. We are putting the horse before the cart here. Before you or anybody can solve the "hard problem of consciousness" there needs to be some sort of consensus on what a "problem" is, and what a "solution" is. In general terms.

And then we need to agree (in particular terms) what the "problem of consciousness" is and what the criteria for a "solution" might be.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm The "ability of a process to examine, introspect, and modify its own structure and behavior" is already something that presupposes objects of subjective qualitative perceptual contents making the whole issue circular again. Making the process self-referential, self-organizing and super complicate doesn't explain why it translates into an experience.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm An algorithm, however complicate and "introspective" reduces always to processes, not experiences.
And why do you believe that experience is not a process?
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm How do physical processes become experiences?
If experiences ARE physical processes that question doesn't make sense.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm As far as I know, there are already AI computers doing something on that line and, if the above would be true, we must conclude that they are at least partially sentient. I doubt that.
I already made that point above, but I will make it again - even if a computer was sentient, that would not answer the question "what is experience?"
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm And an "algorithm feels"? Frankly, I hardly can take this seriously. :wink:
Sure. Lets drag you into a place that you are not at all comfortable. You have heard the "simulation hypothesis" right? Trivially it states that The Universe we live in is a computer simulation. We are in The Matrix!!! IF that hypothesis is true it has some implications that you aren't going to like...

1. The Universe has a creator (programmers of some sort)
2. Everything in The Universe is programmed e.g it's an algorithm. Yourself included.

Therefore you would be an algorithm that feels.
Satyavan
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

Post by Satyavan »

Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm Precisely. And where does this limitation of logic come from?
Lack of knowledge. We don't have better tools. We haven't invented them yet.
Whatever knowledge that might be it will have inevitably to be based on consciousness. Knowledge without consciousness is no knowledge at all.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm The 20th century positivists tried hard to explain everything through formal constructs and failed.
Did they really?
Logical positivism has failed, at least in the form it was presented in the mid 20th century. This is a historical fact and, as far I can see, there is a large consensus on this also among die hard physicalists.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm There is a fundamental question to be asked here: What is an "explanation"?

The most successful discipline in all of science's history is physics. It's the one field that gives us deep and precise "explanations" about our reality.

The instrument (language?) of physics is Mathematics. Formal constructs, but without going into too much detail lets just say that Logic/Mathematics (and therefore Physics) concern themselves with Structuralism, and so the fundamental assumption we, humans, make when trying to "explain" reality using Logic is that reality has SOME structure that can be uncovered and described.

You cannot escape the claims of epistemic constructuvists: reality may be separate from the human mind, but all knowledge of reality is a social construct. Physics constructs formal models of reality.

The only way we know how to "explain" things is via formal models. If that's not good enough for you - then I am guessing you reject all of modern-day physics, chemistry, molecular biology and everything else that is built on top of formal models.

That which we call our "understanding" of the world is only possible through said formal models.
In fact physics tells us how things work, not what things are. At bottom we don't know what matter, energy, space, time, forces, etc, are beyond a mere abstract formal description. We have only a superficial view of reality far removed from what we would like to be an "objective reality" independent from our mind and consciousness. A reason more to place consciousness as fundamental.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm At the end of the story famously Wittgenstein recognized that with formal logic he wasn't able to convey the knowledge to others of him having toothache. I think this says it all....
Because Wittgenstein didn't have computers. He didn't know what formal logic is or how to use it.
So, then if he would have had computers he would have been able to do what? Explain someone what it feels like to have toothache?
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm It's just a modeling tool. LEGO blocks for your mind. You construct models which help you compute consequences. Logic allows you to "run" thought-experiments in your head. Algorithms.

But logic is still only just a language. A formal language. Even if you could represent the algorithm which describes "consciousness" in a formal language and even if you could program a machine with said algorithm resulting in the computer running said algorithm becoming sentient, that will still get you no closer to answering the question "What is experience?".
Not what experience is but why it arises due to a program. Because consciousness is prior to modeling. Modeling requires objects of perceptual and experiential content. Without that no model is possible in the fist place.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm You will have answered the question "What is consciousness?" by virtue of having created it.
I'm not sure on the terminology here. For me there can be no phenomenal experience without consciousness. Once one is conscious experience needs no further explanation.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm The scientific epistemology does not and cannot answer "what is the nature of" questions. Noumena are forever outside of our reach. We know this. When philosophy asks stupid questions like "What is the nature of qualia?" they allow themselves to forget that the question cannot be answered.
We know that it cannot be answered. So why bother asking it?

Yes, good old Kantian transcendental idealism. A step further and you will find yourself in the opposite camp. :wink:
Then science should admit that consciousness is beyond its reach, it was and remains a mystery.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm What is then the tool of inquiry to do the job supposed to be?
Better languages. Dynamic languages. Languages that can capture/represent the temporal dimension of reality.

Programming languages.
Many tried this path and when it comes to the hard problem it never brought us forward by a yota.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm Exactly, but it represents only objects of experience.
Precisely why the the question "What is experience?" can't be answered.
But nobody asked for this question. We know what experience is. Everybody of us knows for sure. It is the only thing we can state with absolutely 100% certainty to know what it is through our subjective inner life. The question has always been HOW does experience come into being?
Which makes it clear that experience is prior. Representations are objects of experience but do not cause experience.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm You can represent, perhaps, but not recreate it. I agree only insofar that, this is because, at bottom, classical logic necessitates consciousness a priori and is a product of consciousness, not the other way around.
I think the represent/recreate distinction is only semantic. I can re-create music, movies etc. by representing them in digital format on my computer.
I meant the representations in the brain. There is nothing that makes us clear why that gives rise to a conscious experience, no more no less than the digital digits itself.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm And lets not forget that digital music/movies are, fundamentally logic/mathematics. They are stored/represented as formal constructs.
And why do these representations alone not give rise to a conscious experience? (or do they?) Whereas why do those in our brain do? There is an obvious explanatory gap that leads us back always to the same point.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm The "ability of a process to examine, introspect, and modify its own structure and behavior" is already something that presupposes objects of subjective qualitative perceptual contents making the whole issue circular again. Making the process self-referential, self-organizing and super complicate doesn't explain why it translates into an experience.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm An algorithm, however complicate and "introspective" reduces always to processes, not experiences.
And why do you believe that experience is not a process?
I didn't say that. I say that a process is still not an experience. What makes it an experience?
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm How do physical processes become experiences?
If experiences ARE physical processes that question doesn't make sense.
If an experience is a physical process this does not imply that a physical process gives rise to an experience.
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:52 pm As far as I know, there are already AI computers doing something on that line and, if the above would be true, we must conclude that they are at least partially sentient. I doubt that.
I already made that point above, but I will make it again - even if a computer was sentient, that would not answer the question "what is experience?"
See my point above as well. The answer to this question we all know well. As the former member, you seem not to really appreciate what the hard problem of consciousness is exactly. It does not ask what experience is, it asks why a chunk of gray matter like a brain or a program or whatever complicate process are supposed to give rise to a subjective sentience in form of qualias and feelings. Why are we not all zombies or terminators?
Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm Sure. Lets drag you into a place that you are not at all comfortable. You have heard the "simulation hypothesis" right? Trivially it states that The Universe we live in is a computer simulation. We are in The Matrix!!! IF that hypothesis is true it has some implications that you aren't going to like...

1. The Universe has a creator (programmers of some sort)
2. Everything in The Universe is programmed e.g it's an algorithm. Yourself included.

Therefore you would be an algorithm that feels.
Even if that would be true I don't see why this is supposed to explain why and how an algorithms gives rise to feelings? There seems to me no logical connection, it shifts only the problem to a higher level without solving it.

Moreover, the most obvious question that always comes to my mind with this simulation hypothesis is who created the programmer then? If one resorts to yet another programmer who programmed our programmer one ends into an infinite loop which, at the end of the story, does not tells us nothing about our own universe. The same philosophical problems emerge all over again in another universe but remain rock solid without solution.
Skepdick
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

Post by Skepdick »

Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm Whatever knowledge that might be it will have inevitably to be based on consciousness. Knowledge without consciousness is no knowledge at all.
Too bad we can never answer the question "What is consciousness?"...
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm In fact physics tells us how things work, not what things are.
Exactly! Human Epistemology can only answer HOW questions, not WHAT questions. And so we can figure out HOW consciousness works, not WHAT consciousness is.

Richard Feynman said: what I cannot create I do not understand.

If we create/invent something that works LIKE consciousness, then we can reasonably say that we "understand" consciousness. Any other notion of "understanding" is incoherent and untestable.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm At bottom we don't know what matter, energy, space, time, forces, etc, are beyond a mere abstract formal description. We have only a superficial view of reality far removed from what we would like to be an "objective reality" independent from our mind and consciousness.
This is the fallacy of Gray. Matter, energy, space, time, forces are just models - they aide our understanding. They are the best concepts/ideas we have towards "understanding". Just because they are abstract it doesn't mean they are useless.

In fact, to reject them without offering better alternatives is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm A reason more to place consciousness as fundamental.
No, that's an error. Consciousness is made of all those abstract things: matter, energy, space, time, forces.

If at the bottom of the pyramid all of our "understanding" is abstract, then at the top of the pyramid (where consciousness is) you have no "understanding" whatsoever. The measurement problem in physics is directly related to this dilemma - our models of reality need to account for/explain "the observer".

Or, if you put "consciousness" as fundamental and you want to "understand consciousness" without appealing to "matter, energy, space, time, forces" e.g without resorting to reductionism - I am all ears. What ideas do you have?
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm So, then if he would have had computers he would have been able to do what? Explain someone what it feels like to have toothache?
He would've been one step closer than his predecessors towards modeling WHAT consciousness DOES.

Observe reality, Introspect, reflect, make decisions, act in the world.

Programming is nothing more than explaining to a computer HOW to do what you do. That's what an algorithm is - step-by-step instructions.
We do the "explaining" in formal languages.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm Not what experience is but why it arises due to a program. Because consciousness is prior to modeling. Modeling requires objects of perceptual and experiential content. Without that no model is possible in the fist place.
OK, but there are two thought-experiments here:
1. Consciousness can be posterior to modeling. IF we model it e.g if we invent a sentient machine.
2. IF we live in The Matrix there's consciousness inside (me and you) and there is consciousness outside.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm I'm not sure on the terminology here. For me there can be no phenomenal experience without consciousness. Once one is conscious experience needs no further explanation.
OK. How would you determine if a machine is sentient/conscious? What scientific test would you perform to verify it?

Hell! How would you determine if I am conscious? We have no test for it!
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm Yes, good old Kantian transcendental idealism. A step further and you will find yourself in the opposite camp. :wink:
Then science should admit that consciousness is beyond its reach, it was and remains a mystery.
Science admits this! It's Philosophy that's still asking questions we KNOW we can't answer. The question is Kobayashi Maru.

Consciousness WAS and WILL remain a mystery. The best that we can do is build Artificial Intelligence which mimics what humans do and passes the Turing test. If it passes whatever tests we design for it - it's "conscious".
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm Many tried this path and when it comes to the hard problem it never brought us forward by a yota.
Au contraire. Computers are taking humans' jobs. Mechanical minds are certainly a step in the right direction.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm But nobody asked for this question. We know what experience is.
You just admitted that we can't answer "what is X" questions, it follows that you can't answer the question "What is experience?'" How then do you know what experience is?
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm Everybody of us knows for sure. It is the only thing we can state with absolutely 100% certainty to know what it is through our subjective inner life.
I know that I have experiences, I know that I am experiencing when I am experiencing. I don't know what experience is.

This is a quirk in Western Philosophy and in language in general. Verbs vs nouns. The universe is in constant motion - there are no nouns

Experience is NOT a noun - that's why you can't know what it is.
Experiencing is a verb. It's something you DO.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm The question has always been HOW does experience come into being?
Experiencing IS being.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm I meant the representations in the brain. There is nothing that makes us clear why that gives rise to a conscious experience, no more no less than the digital digits itself.
Again. "Why?" can only give you a causal answer. And a causal answer will give you a model. And a model can be executed on a computer. And the computer could act "conscious".

But just like the noun/verb quirk before - consciousness is not a noun either. Being conscious is something you DO. And so if a computer DOES what humans DO, then that's that.

It's as much as we are allowed to say.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm And why do these representations alone not give rise to a conscious experience? (or do they?) Whereas why do those in our brain do? There is an obvious explanatory gap that leads us back always to the same point.
Because they need to be interpreted by signal processor of sorts. A CPU. A brain.

Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm I didn't say that. I say that a process is still not an experience. What makes it an experience?
Everything is a physical process - therefore experience is a process.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church%E2 ... _principle
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm If an experience is a physical process this does not imply that a physical process gives rise to an experience.
It does imply it. Unless you are making mystical claims. Are you not a monist? Thats precisely where Descartes went wrong!
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm It does not ask what experience is, it asks why a chunk of gray matter like a brain or a program or whatever complicate process are supposed to give rise to a subjective sentience in form of qualias and feelings.
I really can't give you any other answer here except... your strategy for dealing with questions/enquiry is flawed.

There are two ways to go about it.

1. Attempt to answer a question that you KNOW that can't be answered.
2. Dissolve the question

As far as I am concerned Option 1 is insanity - you have set yourself up for failure, you KNOW you have set yourself up for failure, and then you still attempt the challenge? In the spirit of charity - I choose to assume you have ulterior motives for asking the question. Kobayashi Maru?

I prefer the 2nd approach.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm Why are we not all zombies or terminators?
How do you know that we aren't? IF we live in The Matrix - you are a "zombie" with feelings and qualia!

You are ASSUMING that BECAUSE you "have feelings and experiences" you are NOT a machine. But that's by definition.

What if you are "just an algorithm" that has feelings/experiences? They need not be mutually exclusive things. It just means our definition/distinction is wrong.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm Even if that would be true I don't see why this is supposed to explain why and how an algorithms gives rise to feelings?
It's not suppose to explain it - it's merely supposed to raise its status to possible factuality.

Explanations are not necessary for something to be deemed factual. Some humans (the scientist kind, myself included) don't care much for explanations beyond a certain level of instrumentalism. We are content having models that predict how gravity behaves even though we don't understand how gravity works.

We accept gravity as factual despite our lack of understanding.

Similarly: we don't need to explain how/why an algorithms give rise to feelings to accept that they DO give rise to feelings.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm There seems to me no logical connection, it shifts only the problem to a higher level without solving it.
All of my previous questions all at once:
What is:
1. An explanation?
2. A problem?
3. A solution?

If you don't put goal posts on the field how do you expect to win the game?
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm Moreover, the most obvious question that always comes to my mind with this simulation hypothesis is who created the programmer then? If one resorts to yet another programmer who programmed our programmer one ends into an infinite loop which, at the end of the story, does not tells us nothing about our own universe.

You got that wrong! What you are observing is recursion. Recursion is a fact. Recursion is computation.

This is where the Mind-projection fallacy kicks in. Either recursion is a property of reality, or it's a property of our mind - we can't tell which!!!

The only question that interests me on my journey is thus: I know that I am self-aware (which gives rise to recursion). Is The Universe self-aware?
But then I remember that it's a question I can't answer and so I stop obsessing over it.
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm The same philosophical problems emerge all over again in another universe but remain rock solid without solution.
One more time:

What is:
1. An explanation?
2. A problem?
3. A solution?

You can't escape infinite regress! What caused the Big Bang? What caused the thing that caused The Big Bang?
And the thing before it?
And before that... ?

Whether it's infinite regress, or infinite recursion - Philosophy always prefers to brush this fact of human reasoning under the carpet. Job security and all... Welcome to the human condition.

So if infinite regress/recursion are "problems", what do you imagine a solution to this "problem" might look like? My solution is dissolving the question.

There was a story by Daniel Dennet that doesn't get much attention ( Two Black Boxes ). It makes an interesting point right at the end of it all - Philosophers keep obsessing/nitpicking about "problems" long after society has considered the "problem" solved and moved on.

Philosophy without technical input is sophistry, technical developments without philosophy end up answering questions of no interest.
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

Post by Gary Childress »

Skepdick wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 8:20 pm
Satyavan wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:09 pm Whatever knowledge that might be it will have inevitably to be based on consciousness. Knowledge without consciousness is no knowledge at all.
Too bad we can never answer the question "What is consciousness?"...
We may never answer the question of what consciousness is but does that mean there is no such thing as consciousness? That the word does not refer to something? I guess that's the thing I would like clarification on.
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

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We may never answer the question of what consciousness is but does that mean there is no such thing as consciousness? That the word does not refer to something? I guess that's the thing I would like clarification on.
Here's a stab...

Consciousness is the on-going state of being open to external stimuli. Consciousness is found among complex matter with peculiar structuring. Consciousness allows this peculiarly structured, complex matter to seek or favor certain stimuli and withdraw from or disfavor other stimuli.

Not very informative.

To paraphrase Potter: I shall not today attempt further to define consciousness, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

Post by Scott Mayers »

Satyavan wrote: Sun Feb 02, 2020 9:21 pm
Scott Mayers wrote: Sun Feb 02, 2020 6:30 pm But this is a digression that moves away from this topic or at least would be a subtopic digression that needs more depth by stepping back to logic and metaphysics.
Yes, we have gone somewhat beyond the initial topic but the point I'm trying to make is closely related to it. I don't go into each of the above details because imo they miss the point and suspect that you still did not let sink in what the real problem with consciousness in the philosophy of mind is. I mean the so called "hard problem of consciousness" which was elucidated by David Chalmers in the 1990s.
...
I understand what the problem is. What you and others do not recognize if you're confused is that we evolved in a way that prevents us from directly understanding why because to actually know is to have power over that consciousness in a way that would undo its effectiveness.

For example, we cannot force a memory into identical replayed experience because to do so would cause us to preferentially replay our memories as though in the present in a way that we could and would not survive for getting trapped into a real delusion that cannot distinguish our memory from the experience. If, for instance, you were hungry, you might pull up the association of food and to some pleasant preferred memory of eating. You might 'hallucinate' THAT you are eating even though it may be only an illusion and thus create a problem that may lead you to your death.

The 'feeling' sensation cannot be resolved by implanting any other hypothesis, like some 'god' or magic as some cause, because that would then require the same 'power over that consciousness' ONLY if you could BE those magical forces or beings, 'knowing' what its own mind is. And IF such beings existed and could be knowable to us, we still would not be able to resolve the issue of whether that is not just our own delusion should we gamble in trusting those forces. That is, consciousness, if you perceive it is not about what I am saying on a mere neutral physical basis, would be just not anything YOU could understand nor question.
Yes, I also like to use the metaphor of the film Matrix. But for a different reason. It show that we are living inside an illusion recreated inside our mind. In a certain sense it could be used to exemplify Kant's concept of transcendental idealism. However, when it comes to the hard problem of consciousness it explains nothing. There is no hint whatsoever why an AI giant computer is supposed to create conscious experience. The magic is simply there without any apparent reason.
I mentioned my favor for "The Thirteenth Floor" by contrast and something you should watch. "The Matrix" author's interpretation added religious ideas along with a mixture of science fiction that only deepens the question rather than answer them. As an analogy it represents the mixture of ideas of everyone of different views of consciousness but lacks satisfying closure when transfering this to our real life conditions. By contrast, "The Thirteenth Floor", which was released along side of "The Matrix" and lost out due to its very new and clever special effects techniques and advertising, is more appropriate to follow what I am thinking. It is still science fiction at present but has potential realizable factors that need to be looked at to understand.

In Thirteenth Floor, selected for how many American buildings literally skip that floor out of fear of bad luck, has a virtual reality server center that is run by a scientist who was still in an experimental stage of development. We have the creator at the beginning of the show get murdered and so the show is about trying to resolve who did it. The main suspect works with this scientist and is the running star of this movie who needs to determine what some message the scientist was trying to get to him when he died. I don't want to spoil if for you but the theme is interesting and revealing about the conflicts of discovering things about ones' consciousness. We literally may be able to do these things in the future as it relates to Artificial Intelligence and it exposes how conscious awarenss of our own existence is just as much up to question of it being something 'virtual' in the sense of us being merely INFORMATION itself.

Consciousness feels real due to actual logical considerations that conflict between opinions among scientists today who separate logic as abstracted separately from reality.

For me, I have no confusion but about what consciousness is and though I can try to explain it, the emotional impact of how most default to accepting emotional impact without looking AT reality as abstract logical constructs is getting in the way. Our consciousness is evolved to only serve the cells survival as a collective in which the brain is only a type of governing 'consciousness' of the whole. The reason WE think our bodies belong to the conscious 'I', is due to the fact that our particular consciousness (as with most brained animals) are only functioning as an INTERFACE to a RELATIVELY unknown world that the body as a whole has to traverse through in order to get the input it needs and to dump out the waste we don't need. This illusion is necessary for functionality and normally is not as diverse for the average animal. Because we can effectively communicate and manipulate our environment with powerful supremacy over other animals, we also get deluded into thinking that WE have some significant essense above all other things in nature. We are no more nor less distinctively 'conscious' then the very electrons that exist other than to a DEGREE of complexity as a LAYER of software is to the architectural logic of the components of a computer.

I don't know how else to explain it. To me "consciousness" is just the common logical stuctures that exist everywhere and anywhere. The degree of such is variable and layered such that the world as a whole has a type of 'consciousness' as we are mere cells with respect to it. [See Gaia Hypothesis to get an idea. I'm not in favor of a religious interpretation that some may take from it and won't subscribe to James Lovelock's potential views apart from the idea of this in a good analogy. This theory is actually ancient in different lables but more often of a "mystic" interpretation of the Eastern beliefs.]

EDIT Addition: Plato's Forms or Absolutes relate to this idea as well. But his way of describing absolutes is 'elemental' abstracts that don't include complex constructs upon them in his works.
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

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Gary Childress wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 11:23 pm We may never answer the question of what consciousness is but does that mean there is no such thing as consciousness? That the word does not refer to something? I guess that's the thing I would like clarification on.
I don't understand that line of reasoning. You are using the word. Clearly you are referring to something with it. That which you are referring to is "what consciousness is" - to you. No different to a Christian using the word "God".

From where I am standing it doesn't mean that "There is no such thing as consciousness (or God)" - it just means that I am having trouble understanding what it is you are referring to when you use that word. I am having trouble seeing (in my mind's eye) what you are pointing at when you use the word "consciousness".

That's all it boils down to as far as I am concerned. You know how you are using the word consciousness (so you know what consciousness means to you) - I don't. You are unable to communicate your meaning to me.

As henry says "you know it when you see it". So two questions I might ask you towards understanding what consciousness means to you: Could you ever see/recognise something or somebody other than yourself as conscious? If not - why not?
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

Post by Gary Childress »

Skepdick wrote: Tue Feb 04, 2020 7:01 am
Gary Childress wrote: Mon Feb 03, 2020 11:23 pm We may never answer the question of what consciousness is but does that mean there is no such thing as consciousness? That the word does not refer to something? I guess that's the thing I would like clarification on.
I don't understand that line of reasoning. You are using the word. Clearly you are referring to something with it. That which you are referring to is "what consciousness is" - to you. No different to a a Christian using the "God" word.

From where I am standing it doesn't mean that "There is no such thing as consciousness (or God)" - it just means that I am having trouble understanding what it is you are referring to when you use that word. That's all it boils down to: you know how you are using the word consciousness (so know what consciousness means to you) - you are unable to communicate that meaning to me.

As henry says "you know it when you see it".


I thought you were of the mindset that you didn't know if you were conscious or not and that I don't know if I"m conscious or not. This seems like an abrupt about-face. Now you're saying "you know it when you see it".

So you do know what the word refers to?
So one question I might ask you towards understanding what it is you are referring to is: Could you ever see/recognise something or somebody other than yourself as conscious? If not - why not?
I can recognize something or someone as conscious. I do it all the time. I assume you are conscious. I can't prove you are. I can't look in your brain and find anything that tells me you are conscious versus just a super sophisticated automaton of some sort. I mean, it seems possible that you could be nothing more than a chat program installed on an iPad somewhere that just reproduces the rules of language and can mimic a conversation. There are some very sophisticated chat programs out there, Jabberwacky, for example. I suppose Jabberwacky could be conscious but I'm inclined to think not.
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

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In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

It's wrong because when he made the claim ( '' I think therefore I Am '' ) it implied that when 'thought' was present then so must be a ''someone'' who is being aware of the ''thought''

Descartes is implying there must be a 'someone' who is aware of the 'thought' and that this 'someone' exists soley because the 'thought' informs of such. But this whole process is a phenomena known as a ''phantom invertion'' in the sense that an unknown subject turns itself into a known object...as if it's the object aka the ('thought') who is the one aware of the 'thought'.

Objects aka ''thoughts'' ARE NOT AWARE... there is no such dualism there in reality, so he was wrong.As 'thoughts' do not 'think' nor are 'thoughts' aware.

.
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

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Gary Childress wrote: Tue Feb 04, 2020 7:38 am I thought you were of the mindset that you didn't know if you were conscious or not and that I don't know if I"m conscious or not.
Correct.
Gary Childress wrote: Tue Feb 04, 2020 7:38 am This seems like an abrupt about-face. Now you're saying "you know it when you see it".

So you do know what the word refers to?
No. It's just your inability to distinguish my perspective from yours.

I am not saying that I know it when I see it.
I am assuming that you know it when you see it.

Gary Childress wrote: Tue Feb 04, 2020 7:38 am I can recognize something or someone as conscious. I do it all the time. I assume you are conscious.
OK. So as far as you are concerned I am a referent for "consciousness".

That's useful - it tells me that you think consciousness can be objectively asserted about another entity, and not just oneself! That means this conversation is not entirely pointless.

It means that you can make some observations about some entity and answer the yes/no question "Is X conscious?"
Gary Childress wrote: Tue Feb 04, 2020 7:38 am I can't prove you are.
I am not asking you for "proof" - I am asking you for a procedure.

Given a room full of entities, all I am asking you is to sort those entities into two groups (categories): conscious and unconscious. I am sure you know HOW to do that (because you know what consciousness means to you), but what I am asking you to do is to teach ME how to do it.

I am asking you to put your sorting/categorization algorithm in language. So that I can reproduce it. I am asking you to explain to me (or anybody else) how you draw the distinction between "conscious" and "unconscious" entities.

Good ol' science.
Gary Childress wrote: Tue Feb 04, 2020 7:38 am I can't look in your brain and find anything that tells me you are conscious versus just a super sophisticated automaton of some sort.
OK.... what would you look for in my brain? What evidence/observation/measurement in my brain might sway you towards answering the question "Is Skepdick conscious?" with a "No"?
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

Post by Gary Childress »

Dontaskme wrote: Tue Feb 04, 2020 7:39 am In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

It's wrong because when he made the claim ( '' I think therefore I Am '' ) it implied that when 'thought' was present then so must be a ''someone'' who is being aware of the ''thought''

Descartes is implying there must be a 'someone' who is aware of the 'thought' and that this 'someone' exists soley because the 'thought' informs of such. But this whole process is a phenomena known as a ''phantom invertion'' in the sense that an unknown subject turns itself into a known object...as if it's the object aka the ('thought') who is the one aware of the 'thought'.

Objects aka ''thoughts'' ARE NOT AWARE... there is no such dualism there in reality, so he was wrong.As 'thoughts' do not 'think' nor are 'thoughts' aware.

.
How do you know Descartes was wrong in saying "I think therefore I am"? Did he not exist? Perhaps he doesn't now but at the time he thought up his self-evident axiom he presumably did.
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

Post by Skepdick »

Gary Childress wrote: Tue Feb 04, 2020 7:52 am How do you know Descartes was wrong in saying "I think therefore I am"? Did he not exist? Perhaps he doesn't now but at the time he thought up his self-evident axiom he presumably did.
Because your "being" is too important a thing to gamble on on the off-chance you have asserted your "thinking" abilities incorrectly.

I think therefore I am.
I don't think therefore I am not.

Does that imply that IF, at some later stage the claim of "thinking" can be falsified that I cease to be?

Nonsense. "I am" is good enough.
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Re: In what sense is Descartes's dualism wrong?

Post by Gary Childress »

Skepdick wrote: Tue Feb 04, 2020 7:58 am
Gary Childress wrote: Tue Feb 04, 2020 7:52 am How do you know Descartes was wrong in saying "I think therefore I am"? Did he not exist? Perhaps he doesn't now but at the time he thought up his self-evident axiom he presumably did.
Because your "being" is too important a thing to gamble on on the off-chance you have asserted your "thinking" abilities incorrectly.

I think therefore I am.
I don't think therefore I am not.

Does that imply that IF, at some later stage the claim of "thinking" can be falsified that I cease to be?

Nonsense. "I am" is good enough.
I don't understand Descartes' axiom in that way. If you recall his meditations he was responding to the question of whether he could doubt that he existed. He wasn't saying that if he didn't think he was not. He was saying that he couldn't not exist if he was thinking.
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