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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 11:48 pm
by Kuznetzova
Ginkgo wrote:
Assuming attention is an integral part of consciousness,wouldn't Chalmers' zombie be rooted to the spot? Would he be able to do anything?
As far as this rooted-to-the-spot thing goes, I understand this and think it is a good question. However, I would suggest that you might be conflating two thing. The conflating is between "a thing being conscious" -and- "a thing that has internal states."

I would point out that the microwave oven in your kitchen has an internal state. (It must have one in order to run the timer.) I don't think that microwave ovens count as being conscious. The computer you used to post here has a rich collection of internal states. It is not conscious and is little more than a very fast automaton. The same argument works for garage door openers.
Ginkgo wrote: I know that zombies are only metaphysically possible, not actually possible.
I'm not convinced that you know this. If you are making some argument about perfectly replicating a human body down to sweating , I can see your point. But outward behavior alone could plausibly be replicated with an unconscious automaton.

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 12:18 am
by Ginkgo
The Voice of Time wrote:
Ginkgo wrote:This of course, is assuming that consciousness is attention and attention is experience
To attend is an action, and attention the action viewed as a thing, making it an object to talk about. Consciousness itself is no action but rather a stream of information constructed as sounds, images, and so forth. Experience and experiencing is the accumulation of information, and differs from consciousness the same way as seeing the water differs from harvesting it in buckets, constructing wells and damming rivers.

I would agree that attention is a stream of sense data if this is what you are saying.

Being in a movie theatre with lots of visuals and talking on the screen tends to get out attention. Everyone is ignoring the sound of the air-conditioning in the background. This is assuming that the hum of the motor is detectible when the action on the screen quietens down form time to time.

Everyone can hear the hum of the motor is just that the majority are not attending to it. If you asked someone at the end of the movie if they thought the air-conditioning was a bit noisy they would probably say they didn't hear it. In fact they did hear it. It was just that they chose not to attend to the noise. This is sometimes better know as attentional blindness.


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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 12:15 pm
by The Voice of Time
Ginkgo wrote:
The Voice of Time wrote:
Ginkgo wrote:This of course, is assuming that consciousness is attention and attention is experience
To attend is an action, and attention the action viewed as a thing, making it an object to talk about. Consciousness itself is no action but rather a stream of information constructed as sounds, images, and so forth. Experience and experiencing is the accumulation of information, and differs from consciousness the same way as seeing the water differs from harvesting it in buckets, constructing wells and damming rivers.

I would agree that attention is a stream of sense data if this is what you are saying.

Being in a movie theatre with lots of visuals and talking on the screen tends to get out attention. Everyone is ignoring the sound of the air-conditioning in the background. This is assuming that the hum of the motor is detectible when the action on the screen quietens down form time to time.

Everyone can hear the hum of the motor is just that the majority are not attending to it. If you asked someone at the end of the movie if they thought the air-conditioning was a bit noisy they would probably say they didn't hear it. In fact they did hear it. It was just that they chose not to attend to the noise. This is sometimes better know as attentional blindness.


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OK

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 2:23 pm
by Ginkgo
Kuznetzova wrote:
Ginkgo wrote:
Assuming attention is an integral part of consciousness,wouldn't Chalmers' zombie be rooted to the spot? Would he be able to do anything?
As far as this rooted-to-the-spot thing goes, I understand this and think it is a good question. However, I would suggest that you might be conflating two thing. The conflating is between "a thing being conscious" -and- "a thing that has internal states."

I would point out that the microwave oven in your kitchen has an internal state. (It must have one in order to run the timer.) I don't think that microwave ovens count as being conscious. The computer you used to post here has a rich collection of internal states. It is not conscious and is little more than a very fast automaton. The same argument works for garage door openers.
Ginkgo wrote: I know that zombies are only metaphysically possible, not actually possible.
I'm not convinced that you know this. If you are making some argument about perfectly replicating a human body down to sweating , I can see your point. But outward behavior alone could plausibly be replicated with an unconscious automaton.

Chalmers would call this conflation you speak of as the difference between the hard and easy problems of consciousness. The computer I am working at does have a rich collection of internal states. In a similar fashion the brain is also a rich collection of internal states. For Chalmers this is the easy problem of consciousness. Our brain does work like a computer in some ways, but most people don't usually want to claim a computer is conscious. If this is the case then Chalmers is saying that as far as humans are concerned there is also the hard problem that needs to be considered as well. That, is the problem of why we have this thing called experience that flows from our rich collection of internal states. In other words, why do humans have experiences at all?

I think I am right in saying that for Chalmers consciousness equals experience. So from Chalmers' point of view conscious experience exists as something extra that humans have, but machines lack. Sometimes this goes by the name of 'qualia' .A certain type of distinctive mental states that belongs to the individual. Chalmers calls qualia , "what it is like" conscious states.

Chalmers introduced the idea of the philosophical zombie to demonstrate that humans generate this extra subjective property when they have experiences. The idea is that a philosophical zombie a.k.a sophisticated robot would be exactly like us in every way except it/he/she lacks experience. Chalmers is of the opinion ( I think I am reading him right) that philosophical zombies are not actually possible; only logically possible. Through the philosophical zombie he hopes to demonstrate that the hard problem of consciousness actually exists.

From my point of view I think this exercise by Chalmers is somewhat pointless. If philosophical zombies don't actually exist then the whole thing remains a metaphysical argument. It is a bit like a Mary argument or the knowledge argument. It is just a thought experiment.

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:05 am
by Toadny
Kuznetzova wrote: There is a particular philosophical position on consciousness that can roughly be summarized as the following:
"Consciousness is a turing-computable function being performed by the biomechanics of the brain."
Since the early 1970s, philosophers, scientists, and intellectuals of all stripes have come to slowly learn to never take the above position. The above stance is what I am going to call the "Third Rail of Consciousness". Writers and debators have learned through trials and tribulations to never take the position, because they know that the philosophers will seize on it, and paint the claimant into a corner.
Hi Kuznetzova,

I am interested in this topic and I really enjoyed your post but there are 7 areas I would like to discuss with you.

1. Philosophers are scientists and vice versa, anybody capable of engaging in this discussion is to some extent a philosopher and a scientist. I think it is a mistake to oppose "philosophers" to "scientists".

2. Philosopher-scientists frequently adopt the Third Rail stance. Professor David Deutsch explicitly adopted it in an article published this week in Aeon Magazine and in the Guardian. Many participants at last year's online Conference on Consciousness adopted it.
To see how a philosopher paints the reductionist into a corner, we can imagine a fictitious conversation between a vanilla materialist, and a philosopher.

vanilla materialist: "I hereby claim consciousness is a function of the brain."
Philosopher: "If consciousness is a function, what does that function do?" etc.
3. Are either of these positions similar to your own views? It wouldn't be very interesting if you were presenting us with a dialogue between two speakers, neither of whom you agree with. That would leave your readers wondering who to respond to.

4. Certainly not every philosopher would agree with your fictitious philosopher about the best way to argue against the vanilla materialist.
Dennett's book appears superficially to be written to a general audience. Personally, I disagree. In my opinion, 'Consciousness Explained' constitutes a direct frontal attack on Nagel and Levine. Dennett drives his attack directly to the premises that started this whole modern discourse on consciousness.
5. I have a strong dislike of this book. I read it when it first came out, when I was just getting interested in philosophy. It didn't help me understand consciousness at all.
Dennett's arguments always lose something crucial in a summary,


6. I agree with what John Searle said about Dennett: "The crushing argument is always just offstage, in some review he or somebody else wrote or some book he published years ago, but he can’t quite be bothered to state the argument now. When I go back and look at the arguments he refers to, I don’t find them very impressive." The same is true of the arguments you summarised. They seem pretty worthless to me, and I am genuinely puzzled that anybody takes Dennett seriously.

7. I think this:
"Consciousness is a turing-computable function being performed by the biomechanics of the brain."
is the biggest mistake in contemporary philosophy of mind. Not only that, I think it's a really obvious mistake, so that I find it hard to understand how people keep making it, once the mistake has been explained. It commits the Fallacy of Reification or Hypostatization, which is possibly the most common fallacy. The error is to treat an abstract concept (the concept of a Turing-computable function) as if it were a concrete event or entity.

Looking forward to your responses to these points!

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 1:47 am
by sideshow
Ginkgo wrote: for Chalmers consciousness equals experience.
Do you mean the process of having experience or the content of experience?

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 4:20 pm
by chaz wyman
sideshow wrote:
Ginkgo wrote: for Chalmers consciousness equals experience.
Do you mean the process of having experience or the content of experience?
Why would it have a container?

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 10:07 pm
by Dimebag
chaz wyman wrote:
sideshow wrote:
Ginkgo wrote: for Chalmers consciousness equals experience.
Do you mean the process of having experience or the content of experience?
Why would it have a container?
Because people are still stuck on the idea that something has to have an experience rather than an experience just "occurring".

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 11:17 pm
by sideshow
The (memorable) content of the act of experiencing (maybe this is better phrased?) could be split either along elapsed time or be some fixed state. An experience could either be a flat image or an event over time.

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 4:04 am
by Ginkgo
sideshow wrote:
Ginkgo wrote: for Chalmers consciousness equals experience.
Do you mean the process of having experience or the content of experience?

I think Chalmers means 'content'. There is something it is like to be us.

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 9:04 am
by Toadny
Dimebag wrote:
Why would it have a container?
Because people are still stuck on the idea that something has to have an experience rather than an experience just "occurring".
People are right to be stuck on that idea. When experience does occur it automatically and inevitably is "had" by someone or something. It is (only) experience which effectively creates these someones or somethings.

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 9:51 am
by Dimebag
Toadny wrote:
Dimebag wrote:
Why would it have a container?
Because people are still stuck on the idea that something has to have an experience rather than an experience just "occurring".
People are right to be stuck on that idea. When experience does occur it automatically and inevitably is "had" by someone or something. It is (only) experience which effectively creates these someones or somethings.
I can have experiences without being self conscious, for instance when I am driving, I can become lost in pure experience; that is a case of experience being detached from the self, so if the self and experience are not the same thing then you can't necessarily say that experience must be had by someone or something. The thing which has the experience is the self, which can materialise and de-materialise depending on the needs of the environment.

I think we need to remove this idea that "I" HAVE an experience, and insert instead, "an experience occurs".

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 9:57 am
by Toadny
Dimebag wrote: I can have experiences without being self conscious, for instance when I am driving, I can become lost in pure experience; that is a case of experience being detached from the self,
It's still "you" who is having the experiences Dimebag, you said it yourself.

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 10:44 am
by Ginkgo
Good points

Chalmers would agree with you to a certain extent. I think you are referring to something like the long distance truck driver who becomes 'zoned out'. That is to say, drives on automatic pilot. We have all experienced this to a certain extent. We drive a familiar route every day and sometimes we cannot recall many details of the experience.

This is sometimes claimed as a partial zombie experience. What can also be claimed as a partial zombie experience is spots people who play in the zone. Professional tennis players are so well drilled that they play on automatic pilot. They do their best to avoid having to reflect on what they are doling. In other words, they avoid having, "What was it like to play tennis experience?"

Both these types of 'experiences' are put forward as a partial zombie explanation. Chalmers accepts that we can have such partial zombie experiences, but still claims that it is only partial because tennis players are still in some way conscious of their environment. Therefore, they are still having an experience in the normal way experience is understood.


All along I had this feeling that there was something not quite right with Chalmers' explanation of 'partial zombie-ness' and , "still having to experience their environment". This threw me for a while and lead me to try and wrongly fit together attention and consciousness.

It seems to me that such an explanation wrongly gives rise to the idea that partial zombie-ness has everything to do with narrowing attention or attentional blindness. The long distance truck driver actually experiences most things on the trip; he is simply not attending to the majority of things that are happening. Fred Dretske echos a similar claim to Chalmers when he says that the only way we can look at the drivers 'unconscious' state is in terms of him not being conscious of those states. This of course does not mean that the states themselves were unconscious.

What doesn't seem quite right is the distinction between the functional role of consciousness and the functional role of attention. What I am suggesting is that these so called partial zombie experiences are not actually attentional blindness or a narrowing of attention. To assume this automatically assumes that the functional role of consciousness is closely controlled by the functional role of attention.

I actually think the when people are 'experiencing' partial zombi-ness when driving a truck of playing sport the exact opposite is actually happening. They are not being consciously selective of their experiences; they are actually undergoing (for the want of a better word) a type of 'superunity of consciousness'. In other words, they are playing out the functional role of consciousness by being aware of everything in the environment. To put it another way, they are playing out the functional role of consciousness to a very high degree. They are able to do this because they are suppressing the functional role of consciousness.

Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:48 am
by Dimebag
Toadny wrote:
Dimebag wrote: I can have experiences without being self conscious, for instance when I am driving, I can become lost in pure experience; that is a case of experience being detached from the self,
It's still "you" who is having the experiences Dimebag, you said it yourself.
Just because I said it doesn't mean it's so. That slip up just goes to show how ingrained it is in us to attach experience to our self. We find it difficult to imagine how there can be no persistent self, something which is the real us. This typifies the problems found in explanations of consciousness whereby the problem of experience is avoided by creating an inner homunculus which "does the experiencing". These teleological explanations need to be done away with, as they just lead us in circles.