The Third Rail of Consciousness

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

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Toadny
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Toadny » Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:56 am

Dimebag wrote: We find it difficult to imagine how there can be no persistent self, something which is the real us.
That's because there is a persistent self. For example, I can look at a scar on my hand and remember experiencing the injury that caused it when I was 7.

Dimebag
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Dimebag » Tue Oct 16, 2012 1:32 pm

Toadny wrote:
Dimebag wrote: We find it difficult to imagine how there can be no persistent self, something which is the real us.
That's because there is a persistent self. For example, I can look at a scar on my hand and remember experiencing the injury that caused it when I was 7.
What I mean is, the self is constantly changing. Who you were 15 years ago is not the same person you are now, in many different ways likely. So if you are not who you used to be, how can "you" still be having the same experiences? It is actually memory which informs you of your past experiences, that gives you a sense of persistence through time. No doubt the self and experience are interlinked, however they are not the same thing. Experiences can occur without self awareness.

When we are on "autopilot", operating based on pre-learned motor responses, there is no need for the higher functions of consciousness, and our consciousness can be put into a sort of standby, whereby experience fills a very wide field and a form of peripheral attention takes over, waiting for something out of the ordinary to occur which may need a more focused form of attention. Once our peripheral attention detects something novel, the rest of the brain is called to play its part and allow more specialised, "on the fly" decisions, and attention becomes more focused. This to me is where the self enters back into the mix, allowing more complex scenarios to be dealt with.

Toadny
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Toadny » Tue Oct 16, 2012 1:45 pm

Dimebag wrote:Who you were 15 years ago is not the same person you are now, in many different ways likely.
However, in the way that is important for this discussion, I am the same person. The person who experienced the accident when I was 7 is the same person experiencing the memories of it now. The original experience and the memories of it both involved the same body/brain.

Ginkgo
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Ginkgo » Tue Oct 16, 2012 1:49 pm

Dimebag wrote:
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.
Hi Dimebag,

You call driving on automatic pilot ,'pure experience'. I am saying the same thing but I don't call it experience. I call it the functional role of attention. Generally speaking the functional role of attention is divided into two categories. Namely, the bottom up approach/exogenous and working from the top down/endogenous. I think there is a third category but I don't have a name for it. I would call it some type of 'superunity' of consciousness when we drive on automatic pilot. I know this phenomenon is covered under attentional theories; but I can't help but feel there is something wrong with these explanations. You call it ,"pure experience", but I don't see it as experience because in order for attention to be an experience we need to consider the functional role of consciousness. I think that it is this functional role of attention combined with the functional role of consciousness that creates the belief in a homunculus.

The problem is that the functional role of attention presupposes that attention has a functional role. A tautology obviously, but a very important point. Attention presupposes a conscious act on the part of the observer. On this basis the functional role of consciousness will always come into play at any level of explanation.. Hence it is very difficult to shift the homunculus.

I am suggesting that under certain circumstances, driving on a long trip being one example -we can undergo a special type of attention that doesn't require an inner persistent self that will appear to us upon reflection as being some type of experience. Under certain unique circumstances we have the ability to divide consciousness into two distinct features. The functional role of consciousness that necessarily requires a homunculus and the functional role of attention (superunity of attention) resulting in zombi-ness.

Toadny
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Toadny » Tue Oct 16, 2012 1:57 pm

Dimebag wrote:Experiences can occur without self awareness.
But not without a "self", isn't that right?

I think you are confusing matters by introducing the concept of "self awareness" in the present context.

Conscious experience automatically creates a "self", the self is the one having the experience, and there can be no experience which is not had by a self.

When we are driving on automatic pilot we do have the experience of seeing the road signs and the other vehicles. The fact that we may not be able to remember this experience later doesn't mean it didn't happen at the time. If we didn't see the other vehicles, we would have crashed into them.

Toadny
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Toadny » Tue Oct 16, 2012 3:09 pm

Ginkgo wrote: You call driving on automatic pilot ,'pure experience'. I am saying the same thing but I don't call it experience. I call it the functional role of attention.
Why?

Ginkgo
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Ginkgo » Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:04 am

Toadny wrote:
Ginkgo wrote: You call driving on automatic pilot ,'pure experience'. I am saying the same thing but I don't call it experience. I call it the functional role of attention.
Why?

Good question. I think the answer goes something like this. I might be wrong but this is how I see it

Chalmers doesn't believe zombies are actually possible, but he accepts that we can be partial zombies from time to time. Eg, long distance driving. It is important to keep in mind that when Chalmers talks about consciousness he is talking about experience. These terms are interchangeable. He accepts partial zombie-ness because he agrees that sports people, and I assume, driving on automatic pilot, can be regarded as partial zombie-ness. It can only ever be 'partia'l because no matter how good we are at suppressing our "what is it like experiences?" we will always have some type of experience. Dretske says the same thing when he claims that the long distance truck driver is always, to some extent conscious. He is not a zombie lacking all experience. Dretske says that the only sense in which the driver's mental state is unconscious(not having experience), is when the driver is not conscious of having those states.

It seems we can never claim a zombie in the full sense of the word ( person lacking all experience), because we are always conscious of our environment, so we always experience something. Even if it is only to a limited experience. This seems to be true if we consider attention in relation to consciousness. It is impossible to catch ourselves not attending to something. We are doomed to always experience the world in some way. This is basically why Chalmers rejects the possibility of actual zombies. Keeping in mind he is talking about a being that lacks all experience.

It is claimed by people such as Armstrong that the mental functioning of the driver could be considered the, 'not conscious' aspect of the driving process. Another way of saying this is that functional role of attention is the non-experiential aspect of driving on automatic pilot. As we have seen Dretske rejects Armstrong on the basis of the driver not being conscious. The accepted explanation is that the driver on his journey has many and varied experiences it just that he is not attending to the majority of these experiences and this is why he cannot recall the details of his trip. One important assumption here is that at the very least the driver was attending to something from time to time.

The other assumption that goes along with this that it is impossible for any human to be in a completely functional state. In other words conscious experience must always, to at least some extent, accompany the functional role of attention. It is impossible to catch ourselves not attending. To do so would leave us only in a functional state of attention, and this would be impossible. We need to experience something in order to function and of course, we can never catch ourselves in a state of non-attention.


Even though widely rejected in the above explanation, I actually agree with Armstrong. Yes, there are functional roles of attention and functional roles of consciousness. Yes, they operate together. But I think they can also operate as distinct entities. This goes back to the beginning.I think the assumption that one must necessarily experience their environment is actually wrong.

Toadny
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Toadny » Wed Oct 17, 2012 8:57 am

Ginkgo wrote: Chalmers doesn't believe zombies are actually possible, but he accepts that we can be partial zombies from time to time. Eg, long distance driving. It is important to keep in mind that when Chalmers talks about consciousness he is talking about experience.
Personally I have never found the zombie discussion helpful, and here I think it is confusing.

We do have the ability to respond to stimuli without being consciousness. If someone's foot is pricked with a pin when they are asleep, they will move the foot. We don't need to introduce anything as exotic as "zombies" to understand this.

We don't need to introduce "zombism" to understand what happens with long distance driving and sport: some actions which initially required full attention can gradually require less and less. But unless the driver falls asleep then he is still seeing the road and the other vehicles, still experiencing something, and this is just the way things normally work, it isn't "partial zombiness".
Dretske says the same thing when he claims that the long distance truck driver is always, to some extent conscious. He is not a zombie lacking all experience. Dretske says that the only sense in which the driver's mental state is unconscious(not having experience), is when the driver is not conscious of having those states.
The way you have phrased this isn't entirely clear, but I think I agree with Dretske.
It seems we can never claim a zombie in the full sense of the word ( person lacking all experience), because we are always conscious of our environment, so we always experience something. Even if it is only to a limited experience. This seems to be true if we consider attention in relation to consciousness. It is impossible to catch ourselves not attending to something. We are doomed to always experience the world in some way. This is basically why Chalmers rejects the possibility of actual zombies. Keeping in mind he is talking about a being that lacks all experience.
I don't follow your explanation here. When we are asleep we don't experience the world but we can respond to stimuli.
It is claimed by people such as Armstrong that the mental functioning of the driver could be considered the, 'not conscious' aspect of the driving process. Another way of saying this is that functional role of attention is the non-experiential aspect of driving on automatic pilot. As we have seen Dretske rejects Armstrong on the basis of the driver not being conscious. The accepted explanation is that the driver on his journey has many and varied experiences it just that he is not attending to the majority of these experiences and this is why he cannot recall the details of his trip. One important assumption here is that at the very least the driver was attending to something from time to time.
"Attending to something" is a different level of consciousness, even when he isn't attending to something he is still seeing the road, otherwise he would crash. I don't think it is "attention" that determines whether he can recall the details of the trip, I think it is a question of whether the experience was committed to memory or not.
The other assumption that goes along with this that it is impossible for any human to be in a completely functional state.
I don't understand what you mean by this. If I'm asleep and not dreaming and you p**** my foot and I move it, am I in a "completely functional state"? Perhaps it would be better to say a "purely functional state"; or perhaps it would be better not to use the concept "function/functional".
We need to experience something in order to function and of course, we can never catch ourselves in a state of non-attention.
No, but that doesn't mean we can't be in one.
I think the assumption that one must necessarily experience their environment is actually wrong.
One only experiences the environment when one is conscious. That's more or less the definition of consciousness. If someone isn't experiencing the environment they are unconscious.

You seem to be claiming you can be conscious without experiencing. Since you say they are synonyms, that doesn't seem possible.

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Kuznetzova
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Kuznetzova » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:17 pm

Toadny wrote: One only experiences the environment when one is conscious. That's more or less the definition of consciousness. If someone isn't experiencing the environment they are unconscious.
Woops. You have mixed up awareness with consciousness.
(Under that definition, garage door openers are conscious. And that's just silly.)

chaz wyman
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by chaz wyman » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:53 pm

Kuznetzova wrote:
Toadny wrote: One only experiences the environment when one is conscious. That's more or less the definition of consciousness. If someone isn't experiencing the environment they are unconscious.
Woops. You have mixed up awareness with consciousness.
(Under that definition, garage door openers are conscious. And that's just silly.)
That is a non sequitur.
garage doors neither experience nor are conscious of their condition, and Toadny did not say that.

You have falsely inferred a positive from a negative.
apples are fruit. not all fruit is apple.

Ginkgo
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Ginkgo » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:23 pm

Toadny wrote:
You seem to be claiming you can be conscious without experiencing. Since you say they are synonyms, that doesn't seem possible.

Chalmers says that philosophical zombies cannot exist, except in thought experiments. But when we examine his claim it boils down to the belief that he doesn't think it possible for a person not to experience their environment in some way. As you pointed out earlier even the long distance truck driver still experiences his environment even though he is not attending to the majority of things that are happening on the trip .On this basis a person could never be a philosophical zombie lacking all experiences. Although Chalmers will accept that it is possible for a person to be a partial zombie when they partake in a zone or flow response in relation to an all consuming activity.

So what would a philosophical zombie think about if they don't experience? I think Chalmers and Bayne have provided the answer when they came up with a unity of consciousness theory ( except they don't realize it). When we have a unity of consciousness experience it can have multiple parts that are members of a single experience. For example two conscious states can be subsumed into a another conscious state. This new conscious state has elements of the two original states but is no longer recognizable as having it its constituted parts.

If we were to experience a glass of wine I might enjoy its visual appearance and then I might enjoy its bouquet. These two experiences can be said to be subsumed into a new experience. This experience being the expectation of tasting the wine. I were to actually taste the wine then there would now be three experiences that have been subsumed into a new experience of tasting wine.

Attentional blindness must come into this wine tasting experience. I cannot subsume, and indeed- have no intention of subsuming all of the surrounding experiences into single wine tasting experience. When I am experience the beverage I am not attending to the music in the background, I am not attending to the person talking to me, I am probably not attending to the feel of the glass in my fingers.

What is generally accepted is that humans when they are doing certain activities that engross them they tend to narrow their attention. When you said the long distance truck driver narrows his focus I think you have come up with a classic example.

Philosophical zombies ( if they existed) would be the opposite. The don't narrow their attention they actually broaden their attention. A philosophical zombie actually attends to everything in their environment they subsume everything into a single unique experience. They do not suffer from attentional blindness.

I claimed earlier that Chalmers rejects a philosophical zombie actually existing on the basis that it is not possible to lack experience at all levels. The question I am asking is this. "Can this 'super-unity' of consciousness actually be regarded as an experience?" If it is an experience it doesn't seem to be an experience as we normally understand the word.



.

Toadny
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Toadny » Wed Oct 31, 2012 4:23 pm

Kuznetzova wrote: Woops. You have mixed up awareness with consciousness.
(Under that definition, garage door openers are conscious. And that's just silly.)
I don't think so Kuznetzova. Garage door openers are not aware in the way we are, and also I suspect Chas Wyman is right about the fault in your reasoning.

Any chance of you responding to the 7 points I made about your earlier post?

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Kuznetzova
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Kuznetzova » Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:40 pm

That's more or less the definition of consciousness. If someone isn't experiencing the environment they are unconscious.
We are going to use the medical definition of "consciousness" here? We are going to use the medical definition right in the middle of a philosophy forum? Even if we lean away from the philosophy of consciousness and lean towards the medical side of the spectrum, there is still room to differentiate having an experience of a dream versus being in dreamless sleep. In neither case is the environment being perceived.

The last thing to mention here is the danger that we are playing a subtle semantic game with the word "awareness" , which is a word that may or may not be constituted by the mere perception of stimuli by sense organs. A person can be "aware" of an abstract political movement, for instance, without ever implying they are physically looking at people from that group in the present time.

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Bernard
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Bernard » Thu Nov 01, 2012 11:24 am

Awareness is being conscious of being conscious.

chaz wyman
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by chaz wyman » Thu Nov 01, 2012 6:46 pm

Bernard wrote:Awareness is being conscious of being conscious.
Not only that. You can be aware without being aware of being conscious.
A dog can be aware of the presence of a rabbit, without being conscious of his consciousness.
But it might be a useful way of looking at it.

How about Consciousness is being aware of being aware??
I think this works just as well if not better.

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