The Third Rail of Consciousness

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

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chaz wyman
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by chaz wyman » Sat Nov 17, 2012 2:27 pm

Notvacka wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:How about Consciousness is being aware of being aware??
A good suggestion. But what does it mean?

We know that a cat has to be aware of the mouse it is teasing, but we cannot tell if he has the self awareness that goes with that. I know that I am aware of my existence through what we call consciousness. In other words I am aware of being aware. Are you?


We know about consciousness because we are conscious beings ourselves, and we assume some level of consciousness in higher animals, because in some respects they behave like we do.

We also make that interpretation when we look at other humans, but cannot know another is also conscious.

But are fish conscious? Worms? Plants? How would we know?

How do we know other humans are?


Obviously, intelligence has nothing to do with it; we don't doubt that other people are conscious, even if their IQ is too low for them to ever pass the Turing test. A plant registers the direction of sunlight, and grows towards it. It's a form of awareness.

I agree that it is a form of responsiveness, but I do not necessarily agree that it counts as awareness.

Could the plant be aware of its own awareness? Certainly not in any way similar to human consciousness. Perhaps in some other way, then?

No I do not think a plant has awareness of awareness. The response we see is analogous to any photo-sensitive chemical response, like silver nitrate in development paper.


But it's not compex enough! Why? The human brain is a very complicated structure, and it produces human consciousness. Does that mean that only similarly complex structures could produce consciousness of some kind? Not necessarily. And how could we possibly tell?

There is a real difficulty here, as at the atomic level it is likely that the brain is also analogous to such simple mechano-chemical responses. Consciousness as we experience it seems to be a function of a collective field of neurones working in union



chaz wyman wrote:Tests have shown from scanning that choices are made before we are consciously aware of them.
Yes.
But that does not mean that the unconscious parts of the brain, where decisions are made, are not informed by consciousness at some point.
You should have read on...

Toadny
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Toadny » Mon Nov 19, 2012 3:15 pm

Dimebag wrote:[
Extremely disappointing response.
Actually, it's a pretty central question when it comes to understanding consciousness.[/quote]

I think it is a silly question based on silly and discredited beliefs, functionalism and behaviourism.

And it's still an extremely disappointing response to my post.

Toadny
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Toadny » Mon Nov 19, 2012 3:16 pm

chaz wyman wrote:How about Consciousness is being aware of being aware??
So what is "being aware" called?

chaz wyman
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by chaz wyman » Mon Nov 19, 2012 4:02 pm

Toadny wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:How about Consciousness is being aware of being aware??
So what is "being aware" called?
As you know what I mean, it requires no more explanation.

Toadny
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Toadny » Mon Nov 19, 2012 5:22 pm

chaz wyman wrote:
Toadny wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:How about Consciousness is being aware of being aware??
So what is "being aware" called?
As you know what I mean, it requires no more explanation.
I'm not convinced you know what you mean.

It isn't helpful to the understanding to define consciousness as awareness of awareness, because that is only one aspect or use of consciousness, and not a primary or foundational aspect: in order to be conscious of being conscious, you first have to be conscious.

chaz wyman
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by chaz wyman » Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:02 pm

Toadny wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:
Toadny wrote:
So what is "being aware" called?
As you know what I mean, it requires no more explanation.
I'm not convinced you know what you mean.

I'm not interested in that. I know you know what I am talking about. You know what it is to be aware of your own thinking. Case closed. THis is the basis of our existence; the ground of existentialism.


It isn't helpful to the understanding to define consciousness as awareness of awareness, because that is only one aspect or use of consciousness, and not a primary or foundational aspect: in order to be conscious of being conscious, you first have to be conscious.
As indeed you are, and indeed what you understand as being conscious. QED we have achieved understanding, there is nothing more to say.
And I suggest we understand nothing better.

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Kuznetzova
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Kuznetzova » Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:16 am

Toadny wrote: I think it is a silly question based on silly and discredited beliefs, functionalism and behaviourism.

And it's still an extremely disappointing response to my post.

Does David Deutsch think that functionalism is "silly"?

Or a more pressing question, would Deutsch every seriously suggest that functionalism is fully discredited?

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chasw
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by chasw » Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:01 pm

Lots of good dialog here, one of my favorite philosophical subjects. I have much to learn before I'm ready to address it in my onhumanaffairs blog. During my university days, I took 12 semester hours of Psychology, with great interest. The professors in those days took pains to define the scope of their scientific inquiry as human behavior, not human thought or consciousness. They knew better than to wander into "des geistes". Modern Neuroscience has since changed that position. Nevertheless, I now consider the philosophy of mind as superior to, and directly guiding, the science of psychology and the generally accepted ethics encoded in common law.

As for the OP's central question of human consciousness, dependent on its nervous system but still autonomous, I offer my own simple reference model of the mind, based on computer architecture. In some respects, we have created modern information systems in our own image, therefore, it only makes sense that its architecture can serve as a framework for speculation about the mind. The brain itself supplies two basic elements or layers of the model, a) it functions as the infrastructure consisting of the entire nervous system (network, routers, servers, data storage, etc.), and b) it supplies the instinctive impulses which are hardwired in our genome (operating system and firmware). Instinct covers more than we realize.

On top of the nervous system platform, runs a large, complex application with an extensive set of databases made up of information accumulated since birth. Just as we can imagine computers like Hal 9000 or iRobot who can think autonomously, so evolution has created an organic computer that runs a "consciousness program". The organic equivalent of a computer program, which is aware of itself and its surroundings. This program makes independent decisions and functions as the director of the organism, sometimes overiding its hardwired instinctive urges. - CW

Toadny
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Re: The Third Rail of Consciousness

Post by Toadny » Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:01 pm

chasw wrote:
As for the OP's central question of human consciousness, dependent on its nervous system but still autonomous, I offer my own simple reference model of the mind, based on computer architecture. In some respects, we have created modern information systems in our own image, therefore, it only makes sense that its architecture can serve as a framework for speculation about the mind.
Hi Chas,

Aristotle compared the mind to a wax tablet, receiving impressions. In the 17th century Leibniz compared the mind to a mill. Freud compared it to a steam train. And now when computers are a dominant technology we compare it to a computer.

This latter comparison is seriously misleading. The brain does not produce or generate consciousness by implementing a computer program. That may sound pretty dogmatic, but I think it is the kind of thing you can be pretty dogmatic about, once you understand the underlying rationale.

A digital computer running a program is simply the wrong kind of thing to produce consciousness, in the same way that it is the wrong kind of thing to produce stalactites. Stalactites are caused by specific physical processes, and so is consciousness.

Digital computation is not tied to any specific physical process. Any program can be run on a Universal Turing Machine. And a Universal Turing Machine is not in fact a physical machine, it is a notional machine, it is an idea, which we can represent in any number of different ways. Using 0s and 1s, perhaps written with a stylus on wax tablets. Or using electrical impulses. When constructing a physical computer, the programmers first have to decide what represents 0 and 1. That fact alone demonstrates decisively that consciousness is not caused by a digital computer. Whether something is a computer, what is or isn't part of its program, these are ideas in the minds of the programmers and users.

Ideas can't be the cause of consciousness, because ideas are manifestations of consciousness.

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